26 May 2017

Birkenstock Repairs

Well-loved, ~5-year-old Birkenstock sandals in need of repair

I bought my Gizeh-style Birkenstock sandals almost five years ago in Berlin, when Jane was just 9-months-old. What an adventure. These were my main souvenir (in addition to some wooden toys and Christmas decorations). They'd started to hurt my feet, with the cork cracked and parts of the soles rubbed flat. The part that touched my feet was disintegrating, or at least it felt that way.

I was torn between buying a replacement pair (the sparkly, blue-looking "snakeskin" style continues to haunt me across the Internet ... thanks, cookies) and paying for them to be re-soled. The cost was essentially the same. But if I didn't get them repaired what would I do -- throw them out? I've worn them so often and for so long. And the tops are still fine -- nice purple leather that just needs a little cleaning. And shiny, purple leather doesn't seem to be an option anymore, not even in purple-crazy LSU country!

I looked around online and found iBirks.com, which had been written about in the New York Times a couple years ago. There were good reviews, and I decided to take a chance. I sent my shoes off on a Tuesday. They arrived at iBirks (in Cincinnati) on Thursday and were back to me on Monday! So the whole thing, including shipping, took less than a week!

Birkenstock sandals repaired

I had ordered "The Package," which included an upgraded/longer lasting heel, leather conditioner and cork sealer. They didn't arrive with my shoes, so I wrote to ask about them. I don't think the heel can be added now (and I'm not sure if it actually is on or not, since I didn't fully understand that). The iBirks.com guy said he'd ship me the missing conditioner and sealer, so they should be here soon.

I can certainly tell a difference in the shoes, and it's taking a while for me to break them in. I'm wearing them as much as I dare. I think I read just 2 hours a day until you've worn them a few hours. At first they felt so tight because my feet were back up so close to the straps and I was used to them being very loose and floppy (realizing now I can adjust the buckles to keep them tight as the soles wear down). The new soles look great -- the cork and the nonslip base part. The leather uppers weren't actually cleaned (another thing listed in the package), but I have wiped them down and they feel like mine anyway.

Soon enough these will be my most comfortable shoes again!

23 May 2017

Tales of a Preschool Room Mom

When Jane started preschool three years ago I signed up to be one of her class room moms because the teacher said something like "it's really easy to do it now when they're small" ... and that was true. The time/energy input was very minimal. I can't remember anything I did except the teacher gave me an orchid plant at the end as a thank you (which promptly died because I have black thumbs).

We switched schools after that year, just because Jane became old enough and got accepted into the university's preschool program. I was pregnant so didn't act as room mom last year, but this year, her second in the program I did volunteer.

There was not a whole lot to do, because the teachers manage most everything. But the teacher appreciation stuff led to some work, not so much in time investment but stress and annoyance (and money). The school's parent committee did a center-wide effort to give the teachers' lunches during the week, but they needed money for that. I also needed to ask for money for our class teacher gifts (the whole school decided to just do the same thing -- Visa gift cards -- which is smart and surely more appreciated than tchotckes). The mom in charge of that center-wide effort certainly had more work to do than me, but my part with our class was certainly enough for me.

In reality it was just a few emails, accepting the money from people and then buying the cards and gift cards. I also took a class picture because the center didn't do photo day this year. A couple things I learned that could be helpful for other room parents:
  • PayPal does not take a percentage of money when it's marked as a gift. This was a gift for our teachers, so no ethical concerns either. I had assumed PayPal would reduce the money for the teachers and discouraged people from using that (just give me cash or check directly). But some did anyway and there was no problem. It was much easier for all involved, since I could just transfer it into my bank account. If I ever do that again I will definitely ask people to just do PayPal!
  • The bank sells Visa gift cards, at least our credit union does. And they only cost $2.50 each. At a store, where I intended to buy them, they'd be at least $6 each! That was a good tip from another mom who had been room mom before, and I'm glad she told me that!
I definitely had to pitch in more money than I probably would have had I just been donating to the effort. I wanted to get it to a round number, and I had to contribute more than our share for the center effort of lunches because the ask for that came late and most parents didn't even respond to that request.

We had almost 100% participation in the teacher gift. I put all the kids' names on the card of course though! The amount of money varied from $10 up to $65! The one family that didn't give was surprising to me, and it was hard to restrain myself from directly asking that mom to be sure she'd received my emails asking for the donations! In the end we collected $400, to be split between our two teachers. Not a bad thank you gift!