United States of Motherhood: October 2013

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Travel: Nightmare Hotel Stay at Extended Stay America Hillsboro With Priceline.com ((UPDATED 2))



Please note when fold out chair opens, it connects with
 TV cabinet. No walkway mean hopping over sleeping
 family member to leave
Eeeeeegads!!



I made my reservation through Priceline Express Deals.   It said it included a 2.5 star hotel--name not listed until booked--that allowed pets and included breakfast.  

It was a fair price so I booked it.  I got a room with Extended Stay America Hillsboro. Score!! Or so I thought...

I immediately called ahead to request a pet friendly room on the ground floor with two beds as suggested by Priceline and as I had done with many hotels in the past booked.

I was told they could only offer a studio and I needed to contact Priceline with any changes included floors. Priceline had suggested I call the hotel for any requests.  Confused here...

What a joke.


When I got there,  I was almost charged a daily fee that was MORE than what I paid for the hotel room each night for my pet.

I refused and they backed down.


Then, even knowing I had a arthritic dog that could barely walk 2 feet, they put me on the third floor farthest from the ONE elevator.  Again, the blame was placed on Priceline and they said it was out of their hands.


Filty lampshades covered in cobwebs and dust
The room was filthy with layers of dust on the lampshade, stained carpets, film on drinking cups (my kids drank nothing all week-end), hairs found under the pillows, no ice buckets nor apparently any ice machines to be found on the premise, thin towels, no bedding on our fold out arm chair (yep too cheap for a couch)  and much more.  



No dish soap, mismatched kitchen items and not enough forks and spoons. One load's worth of dishwasher soap and no maid service to replenish. The room vassilated between incredibly hot and frigid. The room was fantastically small and when the arm chair folded out, it connected with the TV cabinet, so you literally had to jump over the bed to get to the kitchen or door. 



Due to room location, I ended up having to lift my 70 lb dog, walk the 100 yards to the elevator or walk up and down  the four flights to get my dog outside in time for the bathroom.  Yes, I had to lift said 70 lb dog over the fold out bed as my children slept. Seriously no one could have taken heart and found us a ground floor room as I requested weeks before in my phone call? Employee after employee saw us struggling with our 16 year old dog and nothing. 



Let's continue with the fold out. It was 1/2 as narrow as a twin.  Yes let's call it a toddler bed that my 6'1" teen son was forced to use.  His feet actually came over the end. It came with no bedding except sheets.  We tried to call down, but the phone button to the lobby never worked...ever. 

"Blanket" provided for pull out arm chair
that my son received from lobby.
Yes, it's a mattress pad.
My son walked down late the first night and they gave him what looked to be a thin blanket.  It wasn't until we were leaving that I realized it was actually a mattress pad. No wonder he was freezing.



The good?  The bathrooms were fine.  The blowdryer did the job.  The wifi worked if a little slow. The water pressure was adequete.  



More bad? The ironing board and it's hanger actually fell off the wall. One small shampoo and conditioner was furnished for all three days we were there. 



Saving the best for last?  BREAKFAST.  Yep, we were promised a breakfast with our priceline purchase.  Breakfast was chewy granola bars, weak coffee, hot chocolate and oatmeal packets, sad looking apples, and prepackaged muffins...and that is if they were replenished. Often times, my kids went down and the baskets were empty.



No milk or yogurt or cereal.  No bread. No juice. 

No utensils or plates.  

They had a large breakfast room and we never saw anyone in there.  Basically breakfast was pre-packaged CRAP you would take for a snack.  Not even a toaster or cereal much less some eggs or protein. 

Do not tell me that is breakfast. 
All this packaging?  This was the
remnants of 3 days of breakfast.
Granola bars=breakfast apparently.
Bottled water because the water tasted
 funny & glasses were filthy.


So, you tell me is a granola bar breakfast, no maid service, and a flithy room without bedding and a non-functioning phone worth 2.5 stars that Priceline said? 




Nope! I will never trust Priceline again. 

For $40 more, I could have stayed closer to the aquatic complex with full delicious breakfast at the Homewood Suites Hillsboro/Beaverton .


On Trip Advisor, the hotel responded with a canned response:


"Manager_11525, General Manager at Extended Stay America - Portland - Hillsboro, responded to this review
October 29, 2013


Thank you for providing feedback about your stay at our hotel. Please accept my sincere apologies that your room and our grab-and-go breakfast did not meet your expectations. While the staff and I strive to provide guests with the accommodations they desire, we are unable upgrade a reservation made through our website or third party site without applying a charge. Still, I will be working with our staff to ensure we are more professional in how we communicate this and handle situations like yours better in the future. As well, our breakfast is meant to be more of an on-the-go treat for guests to enjoy. I am sorry if this was not conveyed to you properly, but will keep your comments in mind as we continue to make improvements to this offering.


Thank you again for your review. We hope you will choose to stay with us in the future so we can show you our enhanced efforts."


Add a couple granola bars, packets of oatmeal
 and prepackaged muffins & we have
 what they called breakfast
I have reached out to Priceline, but it seems so far, both are playing this pointing game and no one is taking the blame for a claim of 2.5 stars with breakfast and pet-friendly accomodations.  In my opinion, any third story room is not pet-friendly. It is also my opinion that a granola bar is NOT breakfast.

I was not asking for upgrades.  I was asking for a bottom floor room that was reasonably clean with the breakfast that was advertised. 

Don't suggest an "on the go treat" is breakfast like you are doing me a favor.  I had two hungry teens and we needed to go find breakfast all three days because granola bars were not going to do it.

I did notice that Priceline has now downgraded the hotel to two stars after many conplaints online about the "breakfast" provided.

  Hmmmm...





So have you had nightmare hotel stays or issues with Priceline or Extended Stay America in the past?





This torn up chair?  This was the fold out bed.
You be the judge of how wide a mattress comes out of that!!
Missing bedding as well...

Finally got smart & used luggage rack since they placed us
 with arthritic dog on 3rd floor farthest from elevator!!

Let's get another look at the filthy lamp shade.
Pretty much par for the course for this hotel room.

Only a portion of the very long stained hallway
I needed to carry my old dog down b/c they couldn't give me ground floor room

Linoleum floor in elevator stained with blood?  Wax?
Who knows.  There all 3 days....
Crossfit that weekend? Nope. Fitness center at hotel?
Nope. How about cleaning a 70 lb arthritic dog, walking
100 yards down a hallway, walking down three flights of stairs?
 Repeat to get back up to room. Now do that five times
 round trip a day for three days? Yep some people do farmer's
 walks. I do front loaded doggy climbs at crappy hotels.


Want more info:


My Trip Advisor Review with hotel manager response

My Yelp Review for Extended Stay Deluxe Hillsboro 

My 2nd Yelp Review for Extended Stay America-Portland-Hillsboro

 Looks like they are trying to change their name, but the address of 19311 NW Cornell RD, Hillsboro, OR 97124 remains the same


**Disclosure: As always, reviews are based on my own personal opinion and experience.
 I was not compensated in any way for this post.


UPDATE:


I just received an email from Priceline.  

This was their response:

"Dear Heather,


We are truly sorry to hear of your experience at the Extended Stay 
America - Portland - Hillsboro.



It is completely at the hotel's discretion to provide the items in 
breakfast and to decide the room location. It is not in our control. We 
appreciate that you have taken the time to provide us with your 
feedback.



Also, for the quality issue and pet fee, we have forwarded your e-mail 
to our Customer Relations team who will further research your concern. 
We will respond via email within 5 business days.



We thank you for your patience while resolving this issue.



Sincerely,



Gopi S.
Customer Service Specialist"

Nice so again, it's the blame game...Stay tuned!


My response to their canned email:

"FYI I am updating all my correspondance onmy blog post here:

http://www.unitedstatesofmotherhood.com/2013/10/travel-nightmare-hotel-stay-at-extended.html

As well as on social media on twitter to my 24, 400 followers here:

https://twitter.com/ScoutsHonor

And to my 3600 facebook friends/followers here:

https://www.facebook.com/murphyraines/posts/10152022014062269

https://www.facebook.com/murphyraines/posts/10152005942457269

I would like someone to take responsibility.  Extended Stay America
blames Priceline.  Priceline blames Extended Stay. By all means take
your time.  I'll just keep blogging about this FAILURE in customer
service by both parties.

~Heather"


Another canned response:

"Dear Heather,

We are truly sorry for any inconvenience that you had at the Extended
Stay America - Portland - Hillsboro.

We have already forwarded your e-mail to our Customer Relations team who
will further research your concern. We will respond via email within 5
business days.

We apologize for any inconvenience and thank you for your patience while
resolving this issue.

Sincerely,

Balveer A.
Customer Service Specialist"

Seriously??  FIVE business days still to respond to any concern???

My email response:

"If you were truly sorry, it shouldn't take FIVE business days to even look into the matter.  No worries.  I will just keep tweeting about it daily.

~Heather"



And maybe seven tweets in one hour later, their social media manager asks for my itinerary number on Twitter.  Hmmm...


Stay tuned...


Need a Laugh? Potty Talk in the Most Adorable Way




You needed a laugh today, didn't you?  Well, you're welcome!


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Need a Good Cry? [VIDEO}



Oh. My. Yep, this filled the bill this morning and I swear one of my creaky ovaries just screamed.

So sweet!


Monday, October 28, 2013

Perfect Holiday Teen Giveaway: My Husband's Review of #ATTSeattle HMDX Jam Classic Bluetooth Speaker

Hey there! My hubs Beau Raines wrote a post on a pretty awesome & affordable   HMDX Jam Classic Bluetooth Speaker . I thought those of you in the market for a holiday gift for a teen or other loved one for the holidays might want to check it out. As y'all know, my CG (computer geek) is a bit of a techie, so his explanation would be a whole 'nother ball of wax than what I would write. 


Don't forget to enter to win one for yourself at the end of the post!!


HDMX Jam Classic Speaker Review



I remember getting my first radio. It was the one from my Dad's workshop, with blobs of plaster dripped on it and a rather out of place replacement power knob. But it started my enjoyment of music.

My second was a boom box. I split the purchase with my parents. It was pretty cool, with detachable speakers and a tape deck. I could record music off the radio to listen to whenever I wanted. I started buying music, my first cassette was a Joan Jett and the Blackhearts album.

When I graduated from high school, I bought a pretty nice Denon receiver, CD changer.  It came to me with college and yes, my room mate and I had two 100+ watt stereos in our small dorm room.

A few years after getting out of the army, I upgraded my receiver and added as sub-woofer to the mix. This receiver was 5.1, so we stepped up to the world of surround sound on our DVD player.

I enjoy my music and listening to it in the best possible way; I've replaced my iPhone ear buds with some some noise-isolating Klipsch headphones.

However, I've never really gotten into listening to music on my phone--the built-in speakers just don't do justice for the music. Yet as more music is available with services like Pandora and Spotify, I'm beginning to listen to music on my phone.  It's been nice, as I read at night in bed, my phone is there charging and I listen to some music.

Just in time?

AT&T generously provided my wife with a HMDX Jam Classic bluetooth speaker, which means I get to play with it too.


The small, rechargeable speaker connects to my phone via bluetooth and does have a mini-stereo jack so I can use my iPod, too.  No wires necessary makes it pretty convenient; I just walk in my room, turn on the speaker and it automatically connects.

I only read for about 30 minutes a night and I charge every other week or so.  The user's guide indicates that it has 4 hour battery life, and do I think that the battery would last for a day at the beach or for a picnic.

The sound quality is good, considering the size of the speakers.  I can't turn it up to 11, but it does get pretty loud. I enjoy music that has a good deal of bass, and though this speaker won't vibrate my pants, its a huge improvement over my phone's built in speaker.

Its a great speaker for a kid's room, they're bright and colorful and could pair it to a computer, phone or any other bluetooth capable device. Maybe it'll get your kid started on a path towards being an audiophile. At $49, it's a steal!!  Hint!! Perfect for holidays...


Beau's Disclaimer: Just so you know, I wasn't compensated for this post, unless I get to keep the speakers, as they were really given to Heather to review. The post embodies my honest opinion.


It totally even comes in a "jam" jar!  
Perfect for stocking stuffers too!
Now it's my turn.  Giveaway time, my friends!! 

I am excited to offer one of my readers the chance to win a bluetooth, wireless speaker just like mine. 

Just tweet about the speaker with the hashtag #attseattle (see rafflecopter for more info below) and leave a comment below saying how you would use this nifty little speaker and be entered to win. 

Those are the only two required methods, but there are also additional ways to receive bonus entries.

Let's get jamming!!






Sunday, October 27, 2013

Her Father's Daughter: Facebook Tags & Scowling Men


There I was tooling around Facebook when it was suggested I tag more photos.  Ever a drone of FB, I complied.

Must. Tag. More. People.

And then?  This came up...



Yep a picture of my daughter scowling and who did Facebook auto-suggest to tag?

Yep, her Daddy. Like father like daughter.

Twinsies scowls. Why so ser-i-ous, my lovies.

Something tells me that if FB wants to auto-tag scowling faces with CG, someone needs to lighten up a bit, eh?

Smile for me CG!

Why sooo ser-i-ous?



Tuesday, October 15, 2013

My Peanut Butter Princess Baby Turns Fourteen??? #happybirthday





Happy, hapy birthday to my birthday princess PB. 

At 4 year old as in the picture above or a decade later at 14, I will ALWAYS ALWAYS love you because you are my dear one.



XOXOX! Happy birthday, sweetheart!! 

Monday, October 14, 2013

Yes My Teen Boy Buys Chocolate & Tampons #bigbrotheroftheyearaward

Ummm I've raised an impressive young man. 

At 17, his little sister convinced him to buy her feminine hygiene products while I convinced him to buy chocolate chips for cookies after his lifeguard's shift last night. 

Yes, chocolate and tampons!! 

He said he barely escaped being seen by some teen girls he knew from school at the self-check stand. 

#bigbrotheroftheyearaward

Friday, October 11, 2013

Just Say NO to Fat Shaming By Schools: Books Not BMI



When Lilly Grasso recently brought home a letter from her Naples, Fla., middle school, her mother, Kristen Grasso, became angry. The letter claimed that Lilly’s body mass index, or BMI, was 22 and she was at risk for being overweight. The 11-year-old star volleyball player carries 124 pounds on an athletic 5-foot-3 frame and eats healthy foods.“It says 'at risk,’ and then it tells you to go to their website, and when you do that, the ‘at risk’ then turns to ‘Lilly is overweight,’” Grasso said on TODAY.
So schools want to get into the medical business?  Really?  Our schools are failing.  U.S. students aren't keeping up in math and sciences. Yet schools want to add more to their plates by playing parent and doctor too? Sigh... So I was recently asked my opinion and was quoted in a this article, but I decided I wanted to know what you all think? 


Is this truly what we want school school to add to their responsibilities? 


My thoughts?  Schools have no @#$% right unless they remove the junk food, soda, sugary crap from the schools, and have healthy PE programs and plentiful recesses. Then?  Still no.


Kids who are fat know they are. No point in shaming them.   

Apparently this was at risk?
Kids with eating disorders? Just a whole new level of panic and stress.  This is NOT what schools are designed to do or be.  Having had a borderline eating disorder in high school at 110 lb at 5'8.5" and now struggling with my weight on the other side of the spectrum (down to size 12 from size 18), I can honestly say shame is the major cause of weight issues.   Schools putting sticky bureacratic fingers in the mix will only exacerbate the problem. 


Dont get me wrong.  I have had kids on both sides of the spectrum. 


My kids are competitive swimmers and are generally tall as well. I remember in 1st grade--at that point my daughter was swimming six days a week for 2 hours-- we got a substitute pediatrician. My daughter was measured at 90 percentile height and weight. In front of my child, this clueless and arrogant young doctor told me we should think about her losing weight or holding back a little at meals because, "Studies show kids over the 90 percentile end up being obese as adults."


At that point, I could have stabbed her. I pointed out lean muscle weighs more and blew her off, but in the next two weeks? My daughter dropped over 7-8 lbs. 

My friends?  This was over 10% of her body weight. She absorbed that horrible doctor's comments like a SPONGE. Imagine what harm a child could do to herself if given negative feedback at school. Incidentally, when the regular veteran pediatrician was back six months later, I asked her privately about weight and she said she was fine. She was furious when I mentioned her substitute had pointed out weight to my daughter. 

On the other side of the coin? 

More exercise, healthier food: Solved!
When my youngest quit swimming, but kept his swimmer appetite in 3rd grade, I didn't pay attention as closely as I should have. He played football, but that nowhere near burns the calories of twelve hours of swimming a week. It was not until he started to wear the same pair of jeans daily--hand me downs from his big brother that were inches too long--that I realized something was up.   

He had easily gained 15 lbs in 6 months.   

None of his pants fit his waist. I hadn't seen him in a swimsuit in months so I was a bit shocked when he didn't make weight at first for his football category. As a 4th grader, he was slated to play with 6th graders. We ended up eating healthier with no calorie restrictions and upped his exercise--he now crossfits with me during the off-season--three years later he weighs 7 lbs less than he did then and has gained at least 6 inches.  

See parenting--no need for the school to be involved. 

Still I think this is a very sensitive issue and one for pediatricians to subtly bring up to parents privately--not the schools. Kids will be kids and no matter how private the screening, there will be pressure and curiousity and yes, I think bullying. We had the caliper pinch test too when I was in school and I remember the boy teasing the "fat kid" and guessing what his monstrously high numbers must be.  


Obese According to BMI
Not cool. 

There is data that suggests something like 85% of parents of obese kids do not recognize their children as obese.  I realize this is a problem.  It took me six months to see it.     For the record, still crossfitting and dropping three pant sizes and gaining and incredible amount of muscle, guess what?  My BMI is 30.  Yep, I am obese under the BMI standards.

However, do we think a letter home with the stigma attached is truly going to solve this problem?  Furthermore do we think BMI is even an accurate way to gauge in the first place?

Age Has It's Privileges: Humoring An Old Dog With New Tricks



Someone pretended like he had to go potty. 

Someone did nothing to merit this treat...except being 16 years old and my best friend. 

So of course, someone always finds a reason to give this someone treats. 

Yep age does earn privileges! He plays this trick about 3-4 times a day.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Back To School & Priorities of Motherhood: #ATTSeattle Motorola HD Sweat Proof Wireless Headphones


School has been back in session about a month for us. Along with that comes the inevitable bustle and temptation to fall into old habits.

You all know that fitness took a priority when I turned 40 last year. I was a wreck, but my house was pretty clean and my kids were my life.   I have since sometimes let work slip.  My house is certainly a diasaster most days.  The kids, now teens/preteens, have realized that Mom doesn't drop everything for them like she used to do when they were little.

Nope, this mom decided that I needed to put myself in the front seat for once.

I take time for myself.  I will go work out rather than write a post some days.  I will cook a yummy paleo meal, but OFTEN the dishes don't get scrubbed immediately...or even the next day. The kids continue to make their own breakfasts and lunches. I go out more with my husband and spend less late night editing essays and posts.That doesn't mean I don't value my job or my house or my family.  It just means I prioritized my health and mental well-being until I can get to a good place.

Thirty-five pounds later and probably another thirty-five to go, I think it has been worth it.

Part of that new mindset was realizing I deserve to be a priority too.  Every parent does, but mothers often forget this as we change diapers, worry about high fevers through the night, and stress about out children's education. We happily chunk down fees for gymnastics or tutoring or school clothes, but often forget ourselves. There was a time where I would buy expensive clothes for my kids, but then go to the clearance rack of Ross for myself.  Don't get me wrong--Ross and TJ Max are awesome.  However I went to those places because I didn't think I deserved better in my current state.

My goodness did I let myself go...but no more.

I deserve nice things too.  Every mother and father does.  So I was really really excited when AT&T sent me these amazing headphones:


\
Yep, I have still been using the default awkward ear buds that came with my iPhone while the kids and the husband have upgrades. Squee!!!

Since charging these babies up, they haven't left my ears.  Phone calls, working out, washing dishes? No problem. I can listen to Lana Del Ray in HD sound without wires or knots while sweating since they have hydrophobic mesh and silicon seals.



I can take calls in stereo when driving with the flick of the button and no, these headphones are going nowhere. So snug and secure.  Crossfit will be no problem in these babies.



Did I mention 5 minutes for a one hour charge or 15 minutes for THREE hours of Hulu while at a practice?  This impatient mom ((fist pumps)) for this feature.

YES!  





Now don't get me wrong.  This headphones are also perfect for my kiddos. Whether it’s walking to school, riding on the bus or in between classes, my student could use these headphones.  Yep they are cordless Bluetooth headphones providing better-than-wired HD sound which won’t get tangled in pockets and backpacks. They are featherweight yet durable, adjustable to comfort, and are sweat-proof for a secure fit.  They also have dual noise-cancellation microphones and voice commands. 

Yep perfect for the kiddos and the old me would have given them to her husband or teens... but these are mine! 

Ha! Maybe Santa will bring them some...




Flexible fit, rock-solid sound: 
  • Better-than-wired HD sound
  • Featherweight - adjustable, comfortable, and secure fit
  • Durable, sweat-proof design
  • Rapid charge - 15-minute charge provides 3 hours of audio
  • Adjustable back support band for customized fit
  • Includes soft, double-shot ear cushions in multiple sizes
  • Sweat-proof
  • Dual noise-cancellation microphones
  • Voice commands
  • $99



Disclosure: Except for some lovely headphones, I was not compensated for this post.  As always, regardless of compensation, all my review are honest and entirely my own opinion.

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