Sunday, January 24, 2010

Hi Ho, Hi Ho, it's off to work I go!

So tomorrow is my first day. I'm worried that I'm not going to be able to do it all, but for now, I'm mostly excited. I really don't know what to expect tomorrow- I think a lot of paperwork, maybe a tour?? I'm looking forward to being out of the house all by myself and having some time to think and feel productive! I'm not looking forward to leaving my boy and not looking forward to hearing my husband complain about how difficult he was all day long! I am kind of looking forward to him realizing what I was dealing with every day.

I should have spent the rest of my week last week making sure that my house was spotless and my clothes were all ironed and ready to go. I didn't do that. The best I got was making a notebook for relevant household information, including a master calendar showing where I'll be when and who will be here to watch Tyler. It also has a list of daily tasks for me to focus on so I stay ahead of the mess. Thanks to my mom, I am pretty much caught up on laundry. She came over to help me fold! I spent Thursday and Friday relishing the last few days of stay at home "freedom", wearing yoga pants all day on Friday and spending lots of time playing with the kiddo. And shopping for a few new things for work!

I feel a little like it's the first day of school tomorrow. I had a dream last night that I overslept for my first day. That just can't happen! Here's to hoping and to starting a new chapter- still stay at home, but working too- hopefully the best of both worlds! 

I had a dream last night that I was

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Getting Ready to Go Back to Work: Energy UP!

Around the beginning of the year, I was sick and tired of always being sick and tired. I knew that I wanted to make more changes so that I had more energy and wasn't always feeling sluggish and like I wanted to go back to bed. My back constantly felt tight- my muscles always felt on edge and my mood did too. I decided enough was enough and I needed to make some changes. When the new job came along and I knew that my sleep was going to decrease, I realized that I needed to get serious about these changes. 

So what were my huge changes? I've really only accomplished two... there's a third that I'd like to work on, but we'll see. The first two that are really working for me- drinking more water and getting more exercise. The third that I would like to work on is cutting out a lot of the refined sugar from my diet. I am trying to incorporate more fruits and veggies, but the ice cream in the freezer keeps calling my name. My husband has a HUGE sweet tooth, so we always have M&Ms, cookies and ice cream in the house. And I apparently have NO will power, so I'm still eating way too much of said M&Ms, cookies and ice cream. Any ideas of what works for you in that situation?

Here's what IS working for me, though- more water and more exercise. On the more water front- I HATE drinking water. HATE it. I don't know why- just not my favorite thing. There are times that I will have a LONG drink of water and think, "Wow, that's really good!" and yet when I get thirsty, I am far more likely to grab a soft drink or worse yet, eat something. I have to trick myself into getting enough to drink. Target recently had Sobe flavored water on sale. They have a zero calorie version, so I stocked up. There was a peelie coupon on the water- buy 5 get 2 free, so I think that I ended up paying about $5 for 21 bottles when it was all said and done. I know that all of those plastic bottles are not great for the environment, so here is my compromise: I drink the flavored water from the bottle, then I refill the bottle with water and drink that. That's 5 cups of water right there. Then I refill the bottle with water again and mix in come Crystal Light or Benefiber drink mix, so I'm not drinking plain water. Now I'm up to 7.5 cups, and that's  pretty good for me. If there are hours left in the day, I might fill the bottle up with plain water again. I can bring the bottle with my anywhere I go throughout the day and it comes to bed with me so if I wake up in the night, I have something to drink. The next morning, the bottle gets recycled and I start fresh with a new bottle. I can really tell the difference in my energy level when I am well hydrated.

The other thing that helps me have more energy is getting more exercise. This is so much easier said than done! I was having a really hard time waking up in the morning. I found myself feeling grumpy and just really annoyed at the fact that I was someplace other than in bed! My muscles were very sore and tight. I could wake myself off with a strong cup of coffee or a Diet Coke, but I was not thrilled that I was so dependent on a drug to perk me up! My son LOVES to watch Baby Einstein- he begs and begs to watch and though I'm not thrilled with him spending a ton of time in front of the TV, we have a new morning routine that makes both of us happy. He gets to watch baby Einstein and I get a few minutes to wake up! I am fortunate in that I have a lap top. I either put Einstein on the computer of TV for my son. Then, whatever he's not using, I use to access Exercise TV. There are a TON of workouts available On Demand through my cable company, many of them only 10 minutes long. I can find 10 minutes to improve my mood and energy level for the entire day! The great news is that their workouts are also available on-line. I can find one for whatever muscle group I feel like working- lower body, upper body, abs or just general stretching- and it's free and there when I want it. When I'm done, even with that little short 10 minute burst, my muscles feel looser. I feel awake and ready to start my day. I'm slowly getting addicted! Last night I wanted more so I did a whole 20 minute yoga routine right before I went to bed. I slept GREAT and felt better when I got up this morning. I am hoping that if when I continue this when I go back to work, I'll continue to feel better and have more energy.

This is also part of Works for Me Wednesday. You can see more WFMW Tips at We are THAT Family.

You can see the first in this very informal series here: Getting Ready to Go Back to Work: Stocking the Freezer.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Getting Ready to Go Back to Work: Stocking the Freezer

I spent Saturday cooking. If you want to get technical, I spent Friday shopping and Saturday and Sunday cooking and cleaning like a mad woman. I decided that it would be a good idea to stock the freezer with some go to meals that I could put into play if I needed something on the fly. I visited Once a Month Mom, browsed through the January recipes, thought buffalo chicken pasta was something I'd like to try and jumped right into making 16 servings. In for a penny, in for a pound, I also decided to make mandarin orange chicken rice. I've been wanting to try Erin's Enchilada recipe for a while now, so I figured I'd triple it and freeze those bad boys, even though that's not a freezer recipe. I had about 2.5 pounds to ground turkey in the freezer and thought that needed to be made into chili. Finally, I wanted to put together and freeze three meat loaves.

I would love to tell you that things went great and I have a freezer full of nutritious, yummy meals for my family, but I'm not sure that's the case. We tried the rice dish and it was not exactly everything I hoped it would be. This is due, at least in part, to poor execution of what might be a perfectly fine recipe. After I spent all of Saturday afternoon cooking, washing, freezing, mixing and WORKING REALLY HARD, then eating a disappointing first freezer dish, I was feeling a little down, especially since we had two more dinners worth of that dish hanging out in our freezer and four servings going home with my mom. It was at this point that my husband asked me why I had bothered with all that, he would gladly just eat burgers and pasta three nights a week. I'm actually pretty proud that I didn't completely loose it at this point. But I didn't. And the real verdict is still out on the whole experience since we haven't eaten all of the foods yet.  So we'll see...

Here's what I wish that I would have done differently before attempting this whole process:

I would have made each of the recipes once prior to trying to cook enough of said recipe to feed a small army, or one family four times over. Although the recipes looked good one the sites, I don't really have any idea if we like buffalo chicken pasta or mandarin orange chicken. Trying one meal's worth would have been a lot better than experimenting with four meals worth. Also knowing what a normal version of the recipe looked like would have made a quadrupled version seem less strange. A lot of my difficulty came from not trusting the recipe. For example, the buffalo chicken recipe calls for one cup of hot sauce. This seemed all well and good until I realized that hot sauce, i.e. Tabasco sauce comes in 2 oz containers. Surely I was not supposed to add FOUR containers of hot sauce to my recipe??? Plus THREE bottles of ranch dressing??? It all seemed perfectly normal there on the page, but in my kitchen, it seemed a lot stranger.

I would have begged, borrowed or stole some seriously BIG pots. I had to boil my pasta in two batches because it didn't all fit in my biggest pot. I also had to delay cooking some of the other items because they didn't fit in my smaller pots. When you're cooking a bag and a half of rice in about 11 cups of liquid, you need a big pot. If someone else is helping you with your cooking day, ask to borrow their biggest pots. If you're going it alone, borrow what you can from friends or neighbors.

Finally, I would NOT have tried to do so many recipes in one day. I completely blame Once a Month Mom for making it look SO easy! It seems so organized in the excel spreadsheets and step by step instructions, but it's a lot of work, especially if you're used to cooking for a few people. I would have gone for one or two recipes, not FIVE!

Here's what went well:

My grocery store had bone-in, skin-on split breasts for $1.69 per pound. This is a decent price around here, so I bought a ton. Not enough, it turns out, to finish all my recipes, resulting in a frantic run to the grocery store and a second round of chicken cooking. But this is about what went RIGHT. I took the skin off the chicken on Friday night and put the chicken in my 4 quart slow cooker insert, then put the whole thing in the fridge overnight. The next morning, I turned it on as soon as I got up and my chicken was waiting for me at nap time (1 pm), ready to be picked from the bones and shredded. I did things exactly like Stephanie explains in this post from A Year of Slow Cooking. It was a great way to cook a lot of chicken with very little effort. I wasn't even home while the chicken was cooking.

The chili... it was yummy... I borrowed a bit from the enchilada spices and used the same combination in the chili. It came together very nicely and my husband didn't realize that it was turkey, not beef. SCORE!

The best part of the day was frantically tweeting "Help! @onceamonth mom, does hot sauce = tabasco?? 1 cup?? I'm halfway though the buffalo chicken pasta recipe!" and then actually getting a reply, yes, that's right. Very cool technology!

So that's it. Don't do what I did with the whole freezer cooking thing. Get your feet a little wet before diving right on in... and then let me know what went well for you, because it turns out I need a little help!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

A super HUGE, really BIG, WOW I'm EXCITED decision!

So this past week was a whirlwind of interviews for me! I literally lost count. I think, but don't quote me, that I had two in-person interviews and a phone interview Monday, one interview Tuesday, another phone interview Wednesday, and an interview Friday. Four in person interviews and two phone interviews in five days is A LOT. Each interview requires its own research and follow up emails and consideration and wow was I tired of talking about myself. First and foremost, let me express how absolutely blessed I was to be considered for each and every one of these positions. The job market is terrible right now, especially in depressed Florida. For me to get this much interest was AMAZING. I had calls back from resumes that were submitted six weeks ago. I also got a call back from a company I interviewed with in early November. They had another position open and wanted me to consider that. I was also fortunate enough to have a few offers to consider.

I was most excited about a job in the publishing industry selling textbooks to college professors and working with various universities to get those textbooks adopted. The position included a company car, decent salary and very generous bonus, paid annually. It also included a fair amount of travel, unfortunately. The manager I interviewed with told me that during my first year, I would be out in the field all day, then have about three hours of work to do when I got home at night. I was ready for the challenge- I know that I can do that work. Then I started thinking about all the work I already have to do around here at night. And how I've left my child overnight exactly one time and wasn't all that thrilled about it. Pursuing this opportunity meant letting this opportunity pass me by. And I realized that I wasn't willing to give up that possibility for this possibility. So I stepped out of the interview process and decided to move ahead with that "I think that I might be nuts" job- the one that requires working til almost 2 am and pays a pittance, but allows me to be home with my child almost all day, provides medical benefits, and allows for advancement.

A few other things factored into my decision. First of all, I recently remembered a conversation I had with a co-worker before I was laid off. I was lamenting the cost of the childcare and how I hated leaving my child everyday to come to work. I said to her, verbatim, "I wish that I could just find a job in a call center working nights so that I could keep the baby during the day and Matt [husband] could keep him at night. I know I wouldn't make as much money, but we wouldn't have to pay for childcare, so that would make up for some of it." Here I am, about a year later, with the very opportunity I wanted when I was working a "real" job! The thought process then went something like this- "You have the opportunity to have exactly what you said you wanted so shut up and be happy with that you moron." (I'm so nice to myself, huh. That's my interview question answer to what is your biggest weakness- I'm too hard on myself, just in case you were wondering.) In this case though, I think that the whole moron comment was deserved. When I was working a full time job, I wished for this job. That says something, right?

Second, I thought about what I would tell a friend if she told me that she were considering what I was considering- working a job with slightly unconventional hours in order to have more time to spend with her child. I would tell that friend that I thought she was an awesome mom to be willing to do that for her child. I would do everything I could to help support her and make things easier for her during this transition. I did, in fact, have a friend who took a job at Target working very early mornings so that she would be home in the afternoons when her husband worked. At the time, she felt that the job was not necessarily the best use of her talents, but was willing to do it anyway since it meant that she could be with her daughter. I thought it was fantastic and bought every red accessory I could find to coordinate with her new uniform. If I was willing to do that for a friend, why couldn't I be that supportive of myself? No good reason that I could think of, so I got behind that plan!

Finally, I thought of my own childhood. It was just my mom and me, so she always worked- she didn't have another option. I was always well-cared for and my mom did everything she could to make sure that she was there for important events and school programs and whatever. At the same time, there were many, many days that I came in second to an important project at work. She will admit to you today that there were times that she put work ahead of me. There were nights when she did not get home until very, very late and I was the one who made dinner for us both. I'm not sitting here crying a river or anything- my childhood was far, far better than many others. At the same time, I knew that I came in second to her job. And I didn't want that for my child. I wanted to be able to tell him, "You were so important to me that I chose to put you first and be with you instead of pursuing my career," which is really what it comes down to, right? I am sure that when he is a teenager he will claim that I made the complete wrong choice and ruined his life completely, but for right now, this seems like the right choice.

So that's my super HUGE, really BIG, WOW I'm EXCITED decision. I'm going to take the "I think that I might be nuts" job. And I am choosing to be really excited and focus on the positives of this job. I'm going to be excited about the cafeteria! Because I've never worked anywhere with a cafeteria before! And the employee discount! And the company store! And how easy I think that the job will be! I'm, for the most part, ignoring the late hours, weekends, holidays, pay and other crappy parts of the job. Quite honestly, I don't know how I'm going to do it. I wouldn't know how I was going to do any other job, though, so that's not any different. I also didn't know how I would manage when I had the baby and had to go back to work, and I figured that out, so I'm having a little faith that I'll somehow manage this too. Because I want to. Not because I HAVE to and I had no other option, but because **I** decided that this is what **I** want- for myself, for my family and for my child. I've made the decision and I'm owning it. Since I had NO say when I became "Suddenly Stay @ Home", to at least have some control in this decision is nice. I am feeling incredibly blessed to have this option- to have the job offer and to have the financial means the accept this, even though it's not the highest paying option. I recognize that this was not an option my mom ever had, or an option that a lot of other people have today, and I am grateful.

And I'm not truly ignoring the challenge of it all. I spent the weekend stocking the freezer with meals for when I go back. I've made some changes since the New Year which will hopefully boost my energy level even on little sleep. I will be spending the week tweaking some other things around here to make things run more smoothly without my constant attention. And streamlining- lots and lots of streamlining! I hope to share these things with you in the week to come, but we'll see... the best laid plans and all.

By the way, just a little disclaimer, this was the right choice for me and for my family. I completely acknowledge and recognize that this might not be the right choice for another woman and another family. I would not dream of judging another mom who did choose to take a traditional (9-5) job and enroll her child(ren) in day care or another child care arrangement. I hope that this post in no way makes you feel bad if that's the choice that you made- this is just my choice that I am choosing to be EXCITED about today and might blow up in face tomorrow.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

I was published on Parent Hacks!

Check out Parent Hacks tips today- Jaimie??? That's ME!!!! WOO HOO!  I sent in that tip forever ago and kind of forgot about it. And then I got an email today saying that it was up. How exciting! How's that for validation for a stay at home mommy! I'm so thrilled- thanks Parent Hacks! (Although is it just me or did they knock me for feeding my kid trans-fat loaded Ritz crackers???? Maybe I'm reading too much into it...)

So here's my super secret Parent Hack for the day... I read this in a book at the library and thought it was a little silly, but it was cheap and easy so I decided to try it... Get clothes pins. The really old an ones like these with no springs would be great- less pieces to break off and go into little mouthes. I got the wooden ones with the spring in them at Target for less than $2 and we have more than enough clothes pins for a long time of play. Anyway, once you have your clothes pins, get a container- the book recommended an empty 2 liter soda container. I used an old rubbermaid 2 quart jug that we had on hand. Show your child how to fit the clothes pins through the small opening and then let them go to town. I know it sounds silly, but my 16 month old was fascinated by the way the clothes pins plunked to the bottom. We got more advanced and started counting the clothes pins too... a little beyond him, but keeps ME more entertained. Seriously, this kept him entertained longer than some of the Christmas toys he got. Try it- I bet your kid will like it too! :-)

In other news, when I finally come to terms with this whole, "I will be working nights," thing, my child doesn't nap and I'm asleep in the chair watching TV about 8 pm... does not bode well, but I am forging on! More on that in a future post... maybe.... thanks for reading. Good night!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

I think that I might be nuts...

Those of you who know me in real life are going, "Ya think, really????" as if I've just announced that the world, is in fact, round.

My latest nutty idea??? Taking a job that pays less that unemployment for the first 7 weeks of training, then pays about half of the low end jobs that I've been considering and trying to get. I'm thinking about taking a job that would require me to work until 1:15 AM. (Yes, you read that right.) The same job doesn't recognize any holidays except Christmas. I would be required to work weekends. Every weekend.

So where's the upside? The HUGE benefit and the only real reason that I even applied for this position is that I wouldn't start working until 4:45 pm. That would mean the entire day with my child, then handing him off to daddy to go to work. This seems better than handing him off to relative strangers to go to work, which is what daycare feels like at this point. I could spend all day with him and not have to pay for childcare. That means, though, that I would be getting home at 1:30 am, if I'm lucky, and getting to bed by 2 am, then being back up with him at 6:30 am, again if I'm lucky and he sleeps that long. I would have to be super disciplined to sleep when he napped (if I'm lucky) in the afternoons. WAY too many, "if I'm lucky" disclaimers in there!!!

I would have two days off during the week, but be working weekends. I am thinking that we would have all day Saturday and Sunday to do family things since I would not have to be to work until 4:45. My husband and I would have two nights to spend together after the baby went to bed- my days off, basically. I know that some of this down time will be devoted to sleep too, though. This schedule would mean no more blogging and less drug-store gaming (getting stuff free at CVS and Walgreens). I would have to get super organized when it came to housekeeping, making lists and setting a schedule so that my husband can pick up where I leave off, because I cannot do as much as I do now and work too. And the sad part is I don't feel like I keep up with it all that well now! I think that if I took this job, I would do some once a month cooking deals too so that our freezer was well stocked with pre-made (hopefully healthy) meals. (BTW, side note, if you are looking for some scheduling tips/ routine for household chores, check out Totally Together Journal. Stephanie O'Dea of slow cooking fame blogs about how to get a routine going for your house, and it just started Jan 1. Plenty of time to catch up!)

The other HUGE upside is health insurance that starts the first of the month after I do. In this case, that means February 1. We are still on COBRA and still only paying 35% of the premium, thanks to the new laws that they've enacted. I am grateful for that, of course, except that my old company changed plans for 2010 and switched to something that involved an employer funded Health Savings Account and a VERY high ($7500 for the family) deductible before the health insurance actually pays on red cent. Except that when you're on COBRA, and no longer technically an employee of the company, you don't get the employer funded HSA. Which means that if any of us go to the doctor for anything other than a well-baby or well-woman exam, we pay out of pocket until we hit that lovely $7500 number. Then and only then do they start footing any portion of the bill. That means that if we were to have another child, we would pay for all of it ourselves. I know that people do this, but we are just not in a position to come up with those funds ourselves. With the new job, we'd have better coverage for about the same cost. Still not the best situation considering how little I'd be making, but better than now, I think. It at least puts the idea of another child on back on the table, something that's important to us.

I also know that this is a job that I can do without having to try too hard. It's customer service and I know that I am going to deal with angry customers, but it's not sales, not preparing detailed sales presentations, not having to follow up, not having to call on prospects day in and day out. It would be a lot of following scripts, hopefully a lot of handling routine calls, stuff that would not be a stretch for me, compared to what I used to do. After dealing with the illogic, non-sensical tantrums of a 16 month old who doesn't talk, an irate customer or two should be fairly easy, right??? ;-) Part of me wonders if I am so attracted to this position because I am afraid to fail at something more challenging. I was used to going into a job and being good at it right away- quickly being a top performer. With my last position, the one that I lost, I wasn't good at it immediately. There were times that I was downright bad at it and in danger of being terminated for lack of performance. I found my groove eventually, but then the market turned and everyone was bad at the job, relatively speaking! I think that the whole experience, then being laid off on top of that, has really shaken my confidence in myself and my abilities. I don't want to take this position just because I am afraid to try to do something else.

Finally, though this is an entry level position and I've more than entered the work force, thank you, it is with a big company in the area who promotes from within. That means that if I took this position, it would almost definitely lead to other things within the company- other things that I could not get unless I took this position. I kind of fell into a sales job after college and since I had one sales job, it wasn't hard to get another, then another, and now all I've done is sales. I like sales, don't get me wrong, but there are other places that I think I might be able to better use my skills. The problem, though, is convincing a prospective employer of that when all you've ever done in sales. This position would kind of give me a clean slate with this company and let me move into other areas, like training or compliance.

So that's my dilemma right now. I'm considering taking all the positives of being a SAHM and combining them with the positives of being a working mom. (I can't wait to get to use my very own semi-private bathroom stall! I'd also get a 30 minute meal break all to myself!!!) The flip side of that, though, is all the negatives of being a SAHM PLUS all the negatives of being a working mom. It would be a strain, no question, and I am very concerned about being the kind of mom I want to be and the kind of wife that I want to be on that little sleep, not to mention that little time to myself. I really wonder if I can handle working AND being the primary caregiver for our son. Working and having a child is a lot to manage when someone else cares for the child 8-10 hours a day. Remove that other caregiver from the equation and it becomes a lot for one person. (I know that my husband would have the baby for 8+ hours every night, but the baby would be asleep for all but 3-4 hours of that time.) I would loose any down time I had after bedtime since I would generally be working during that time.

I welcome to thoughts and ideas from anyone who actually managed to make it all the way to the bottom of this very long and winding blog post. Part of the perks of having your very own blog is that you get to type things out, right??? ;-)

(BTW, did Blogger move the spell check function for posts or am I just really tired tonight? I apologize in advance for any errors, I cannot find the silly button!)