21 Day Fix

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Work FROM Home Mom

The Work at Home Mom  

I’m sure we’ll all agree that Moms who are home all day, work long hard hours with their only compensation being the occasional “thanks” or the ever heart-melting “I love you Mommy”.   The Mom at home is in fact a work at home Mom no matter what anyone else would try to have you believe.

The crazy trick that I am trying to balance is the role of Work FROM Home Mom. 

I spent a good amount of last year unemployed, and while that did work out in the “not having to pay for child care” arena, it did very little to assist in the “putting food on the table” activity. 

As anyone who has tried to find a job in the past several years knows, there are not a whole lot of jobs out there right now and the job openings that do come up don’t seem to pay very well, and when you do apply for a job you know going into it that there are likely a thousand other equally qualified people applying for the same position.  It is very overwhelming and often depressing.  It seems that the holy grail of jobs is the work from home position, you don’t have to make as much money as you did outside the house in order to have a similar standard of living since you don’t have the commute or the clothing issues, the lunch cost issues and in many cases, the child care issue.  As all three of my kids are in school full time I thought this seemed like a good avenue to pursue – and my husband agreed.

Direct hire work from home positions are few and far between and the majority of jobs for the work at home employee are often in the “independent contractor” or “freelance” designation.  In effect you become your own employer and hire out your skills.  You may or may not be tied to one company with this set up and you are completely responsible for your own expenses, taxes, and equipment.  This is where I found myself, first on a “jobber” basis and finally on an independent contactor basis.  I LOVE the company I do work for, I really like the people that I work with (I actually wouldn’t mind seeing them in person more often), and the work I do is something I am good at and enjoy.  It is also part time which works with my schedule and as phone work is only a very minor part of the work I can often complete my tasks at any hour of the day.  Sounds great for the work from home Mom doesn’t it?

Nothing throws a wrench into the work from home dream like kids.  Kids who will be happy to be left alone to watch TV or ride bikes or read a book or play with friends have a sixth sense about when Mom is getting on a work phone call or is concentrating on something for “the boss”.  I am quite sure that if I had no idea where my kids were and needed them to all show up at once all I would need to do is try to get in touch with a client for something and they’d all come running needing something RIGHT NOW (of course).

I’m not sure how to balance it all, Monday of this week when the unexpected day off from school happened I barely got any work done, yesterday was a pretty balanced day and today I had to force myself to take a break to eat (and write this).  I’m looking for answers on how to balance it all, working (at home), raising kids, cleaning the house, making dinner, walking the dog and that big pile of laundry that needs folded.  I’m sure I’ll figure it out and the kids will adapt but for now I have to go, dog wants in, dryer needs emptied, need to send a work e-mail and go pick the kids up from school.  Wonder what is for dinner?

Monday, August 27, 2012

Unexpected School Closings

The kids suddenly getting a day off from school is usually a bit predictable.  There is usually a storm front of some sort to follow on the weather.  The forecast will show something that gets the kids all excited to get a “snow day” and they’ll go to bed with their pajamas on inside-out because, as school age superstition around here has it, that helps the snow storm pile up the frozen white fluffy stuff and cancel school for the day.

So when it is late August and 75 degrees outside and I get the kids up for school and take the dog out for a walk in shorts and a t-shirt, I really don’t expect to walk back inside the house at 6:45 A.M. to hear the words “no school today” coming from my husband as he is telling the older 2 kids they can go back to bed (the youngest was already in her gym uniform and walking the dog with me).  The verdict for today is broken water main on the property of the school and as they have no water in the building, they cannot have school. 

A couple of years ago this would have filled me with dread and a little bit of panic as I would have to figure out what to do with the kids so I could get to work.  When my Mom was still alive I would have called her and begged for the kids to have a day with Granny and she would have likely saved the day.  But it also might have meant ticking off my former employer by calling in with a family emergency and this would have angered the borg collective that I worked for since they aren’t very understanding of unexpected time off for family issues (heck, they are  a major hospital system and they aren’t very understanding of missing work when you are sick – but I digress).

Fortunately these days I am now at home during the day, I miss the full time paycheck, but the ability to adapt to days like today is one of the plusses that come with the lower income.  Instead today there was eye-ball toast, pancakes with chocolate chips and an ignoring of housework that really needs to get done – time to move everything on the “to-do” list over a day or so.  But for the parents who work outside the home full time and depend on a certain schedule I feel for you.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Volleyball Season -- Whoo Hooo!

Volleyball season starts today for my 13 year old daughter, this starts her last season as an SCS Lady Knight.  She loves the sport and we love watching her play.  She’s come a long way since she first stepped onto a volleyball court at 7 years old to play in the Police Athletic League, Windward Volleyball at Kailua District Park.  Back then the team was assigned orange T-Shirts and called themselves the Smashing Pumpkins (parents may have had some input on the team name).  Those “little” kids were so tiny next to the net and sometimes watching those games was downright painful.  But Volleyball is a kind of religion in Hawaii, girls college volleyball is often shown on TV and the bars will be full of people watching it so it was taken quite seriously, by even the youngest in the league.   Here in Ohio she didn’t re-start volleyball until 4th grade and she has been going strong with it ever since. 

She is now a 5’7” tall 8th grader with a mean serve and nasty block and I can’t wait to see how this year unfolds. 

Sports teach so much to kids and to parents.  It is hard to lose or watch a bad call happen, it is difficult to watch your kid ride the bench, it is frustrating to listen to the other team talk against your team.  It is exciting to watch a long and good volley, it is a proud moment when your kid spikes the ball or aces a serve.  Our kids play CYO (Catholic Youth Organization) sports and are regulated by CYO and there are rather strict behaviors required of the players, coaches and parents so it is unlikely you’ll run into headline making parent brawls or bench clearing altercations.  It reminds people that the sports are for the kids and they are there to enjoy themselves.  The kids say a prayer before and after each game regardless of the sport and ask for safety, fair play and a good game. I kind of like that.

At a recent meeting for all parents with kids playing athletics at our school this year – the president of the athletic association mentioned a study he had read about kids and sports and in the study, college age athletes were asked a series of questions including “what was the worst part about games you played growing up?”  The expected answers were “riding the bench”, “losing a game”, “bad officials” and others like that, and they did get those answers, but the main response that these young people gave was “the ride home”.  When the parents would re-analyze the game, talk about the players, the coach, the officials and say what could or should have happened.  I realized that I am sometimes guilty of this with sentences that start like “next time you should…”, or “why on earth did so-and-so do …”, or something like “that official clearly doesn’t have vision insurance” and probably a bunch more.  Probably doesn't make for the best ride home after all.

This year I am going to resolve to make a stronger effort to go with positive reinforcement on that ride home – she is 13 years old and has played this game for nearly half of her life.  She knows when she makes mistakes and her coach is there to see what needs worked on for next time.   

God Help Me

Thursday, August 23, 2012

School Lunch Follow-Up

It’s how you say things that matters

Last year I had a blog post about the quality of the school lunches at my kids’ school.  I angered some friends who defended the frozen and re-heated stuff the kids were getting, the multiple forms of pizza served a couple of times per week, and the feneral “healthiness” of the food.  I disagreed and hoped for the better. 

I have to say I was a bit happier with this year’s offerings as the school is being required to up the nutritional value and “quality” of the choices.  I’ve heard some grumblings about the menu, but mainly from parents as they read things like “Whole Grain Chicken Bites”, “Oven Roasted Potatoes”, “Whole Grain Bun”, “Whole Grain Rotini”, “Whole Grain French Bread Pizza” and other items.  These sound good to me but I understand that whole grain items can come in a whole range of “good-eats to bad eats” reactions and it is all how it is executed.  My kids get sandwiches from home a lot, the bread their sandwiches are made with are generally a whole grain or whole wheat bread.  They don’t really “know” this – it is just “bread”.  

So herein lies my commentary on the new lunch menu.  There has been a lot of chatter and talk about the kids rejecting the menu because of certain buzzwords. Kids won't eat it if it is "too healthy sounding" they say.  Kids don't like that kind of food etc.  If they are worried that kids would read the menu and freak out about the words “whole grain” and “baked fries” and such why on earth are they putting those words on the menu?  Put a line on either the top or bottom of the page indicating what the ingredients are and then just call the meal “French Bread Pizza” or “Rotini and meatballs” and such. 

Today was the first day of school and when my kids asked what was for lunch I left off all of the “whole grain” this and that and told them chicken, roasted potatoes and diced peaches.  All three wanted the school lunch, all three enjoyed their school lunch – even the picky eater said she ate everything.  I wonder how many kids heard the buzzwords and decided to avoid what was finally a good school lunch option.

It’s how you say things that matters

How is the menu at your kids school this year?  Better, worse, the same?  Favorite menu items?  Share in the comments section.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Mom's Taxi At Your Service

Mom’s Taxi – someday they’ll thank me – right?

My Mom used to have one of those stickers in her car that said “Mom’s Taxi” on it.  Sure I found it funny, in the way that adolescents find stuff their parents say “funny”.  Yes, my brothers and I were involved in a number of sports and activities but I never thought of it as being something that was out of the ordinary since from my perspective, taking us to those activities was what parents did.  It was part of their job in raising us, to give us opportunities and take us to those places. 

As a kid I took piano lessons, played softball and basketball, was on the local swim team, switched over to organ lessons and then added in guitar lessons and then back to piano lessons.  I was in scouts and took art classes and drama classes, I had to do service hours at my catholic high school and I participated in youth group. I also enjoyed going to sporting events and watching other teams play.  I have also probably forgotten a thousand or so other things that I did as well while I was growing up.  And that was just me, I was the third child – my two older brothers had similar schedules.  Looking back, even though we could ride our bikes to a number of the swim and sports practices in the summers, Mom’s Taxi was probably a very accurate description. 

I have great memories of nearly all of the activities that I was involved with growing up.  Most were fun, some were not, but all taught me something and all helped shape me into the person I am today.  The types of things that my parents encouraged us to participate in and the things they reluctantly took us to because that is what we “really, really, really,” wanted to do taught me more than how to play piano, or hit a softball or do a flip turn.  They also taught me how to parent. 

After we moved back to Ohio and the kids started getting really involved in various activities and the schedule really geared up my Mom would look at me, and say in a bewildered tone, “I don’t know how you do it all.” And I would respond “the same way you did it all with the three of us.”  And she'd look at me like I was crazy - I think it was selective amnesia.  Then like a good Mom she’d help out with pick-ups and drop-offs and doctor appointments whenever I needed help.

Now the position of Mom’s Taxi has fallen to me.  This summer alone we attended 36 softball games, 6 swim meets, multiple practices for each (while my husband was doing a show at a local community theater and had many rehearsals and 9 performances added to the scheduling mix).  During the school year there are scouts, music lessons, volleyball and basketball.  There are school meetings, birthday parties, outings and programs.  Dance, soccer and swimming and who knows what else will find its way onto the schedule.  Why do we do it all?  Because as I learned from my parents, taking them to those activities is what we do as Moms and Dads, it is part of our job.

My Moms been gone for a little over 9 months now and I’m trying to remember if I ever “really” thanked her for all of the rides and drop-offs/pick-ups that she did for all of those years, all of the music lessons and sports teams and more. All of that teaching me how to be a parent when I didn’t even realize that is what I was learning.  I think I did, I’m pretty sure I did at sometime, between all of my own kids schedules, when I really realized just how much my parents did for us.  I hope I did. 

I hope my kids will someday.  But even if they don’t, I’m pretty sure at some point they will realize it all and at least thank me in their heart. 

I’d write more about this but school starts tomorrow, have to pick up some last minute things, get one of them to volleyball practice tonight, softball practice tomorrow night and wonder why I haven’t heard from the soccer coach yet… 

Happy Parenting!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Strange School Supplies

School Supplies These Days...

What is the strangest thing on your kids school supply list?

The other day on facebook I was pondering the kid’s school supply lists.  This marks year 9 of school supply shopping for me and I guess I no longer find it strange that in addition to crayons, pens, notebooks, flash drives and filler paper my kids are required to purchase “classroom supplies” such as Clorox wipes, Kleenex, paper towels and copy paper.  I’m not sure when this started, but obviously sometime between 1986 and 2004 (from my experience).  Doing “the math” I found that I spent roughly the same amount on classroom supplies per child as I did on actual school supplies.  This doesn't make me happy and I'm currently out of white copy paper at home for my printer / but bought a bunch for the school. 

I realize budgets are tight, and kids are in general slobs and need all sorts of cleaning items in the classroom but the copy paper thing drives me nuts.  I had to supply the school with 5 reams this year between my 3 kids and I know that if the school just charged each family $15 for “computer paper fee” they’d be able to purchase it in bulk from a supply store for a lot cheaper than each family is dishing out for the stuff – and bonus for the school – they’d be able to choose exactly what type of paper they get and probably end up with less paper jams.

As for the Kleenex and paper towels I’m also quite sure that had these items been on my school supply list my Mom would have sent me with a cloth hanky and a dish towel and told me to use those if I needed them. As for the cleaning items, I remember cans of Comet and sponges for cleaning in the classroom – and I’m sure they lasted longer than a container of wipes.   

Other friends tell stories of needing 4 jumbo glue sticks AND 3 elmers school glue bottles for their 3rd graders, or multiple boxes of crayons and markers for one kid.  How many do you need?  So I wonder what are the actual school supply “needs” –vs- school supply “wants”.

A friend who worked for the school mentioned that at the end of one year she saw multiple teachers with a dozen or more Kleenex boxes left in their classrooms, at that point she stopped buying a lot of the classroom supplies on the list and focused on her kids actually school supplies – budgets at home are tight too after all.  

I wonder what will be on the school supply lists 20 years from now...

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Worlds Worst Blogger at it Again & New School Year Resolutions

Here I am – the worlds worst blogger at it again.

I realize of course that I should be updating things more frequently considering I started this blog just about a year ago and have had only 14 posts in that time.  What a crazy year it has been though. When I started the blog I never would have imagined that in just 12 short months so much would have changed in our lives. 

What I have come to discover about change is that while some people consider change to be a good thing, and other people consider change to be a bad thing, all that change really is – is constant. How you react to the inevitable changes in life will decide for you if the change was positive or negative to you personally.

It has been 8 months since my last update and sometimes I feel like no time has passed and other times like an entire lifetime has gone by. 

I have accomplished so little of what I set out to a year or so ago, and have instead done so incredibly much more in other ways that sometimes I wonder how I’ve gotten as much done as I have.  Especially with those helpers that I have around here.

The school year is starting again in a week, and for one final year all three of my girls will be in the same school – it is exciting but also brings on the list of things that I want to accomplish this year – much like last year, and a number of the same things are on the list. I think a new school year can be a lot like New Years since it can be a time for a reset of sorts.  Fresh notebooks, sharp pencils, new erasers – and of course cookies in the lunch box for a snack.

Rather than New Years Resolutions only happening on January 1st - I'm going to work on setting some New School Year Resolutions including, the usual exercise more, eat better, clean the clutter out of the house (that is a whole different post), write more in the blog, working more for EDGE, train the puppy (yes, there is a puppy now), manage money better, and so many more.  I'll keep updating the list as I go along.

Do you have any New School Year Resolutions?