Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Dipping a toe back into the waters of employment

As if eeking out every summer adventure we have time for while ignoring the impending reality of 'back to school', all while heading into Cake Month (as we call it around here) wasn't already enough, I also started a new job last week. 

Part time, from home, boring old lawyering.  Well, I should be more specific, because "lawyering" probably conjures an image of someone in a courtroom, whereas what I do is review commercial leases in my pajamas.  And I shouldn't say "boring old", because I'm really happy to have the work, it's just that during the past two and a half years of not having a paying job, I've spent my time daydreaming of several alternative career paths (who doesn't?).  Most of them were unattainable without the use of a time machine, but all were totally rad.  (And for the record, Joe, I'm still not ruling any out.)    

It's really premature for me to be discussing any of this, seeing as how I have not even had a chance to call my own mother to tell her about this, have not yet seen a dime, and I've only been giving it a whirl for a week, but it also seemed remiss not to at least mention that I have entered said whirl.

Who knows if it will last a month or a year or if you will ever hear of it again on this blog, but for the moment, I am excited to be earning a little extra money for our family and to have my foot back in the door of employment, if for no other reason than to patch the ever-widening gap in my resume.  I wasn't actively seeking a job right now, so it was very flattering to be approached, and hard to say no to at least giving it a try.  
      
It's going to take a while to work out the kinks.  Since I don't yet have a good idea of how many hours per week this will be, for the time being I'm getting it done "around the edges", i.e., without any childcare.  That's great for our bottom line, but not so great for me if it means that all billable work is a second shift that occurs after the kids go to bed, and not so great for the kids (or me) if it means trying to juggle paying attention to children and working at the same time.  With written or computer-based work, I have a prayer of getting things done while Waylon is napping and the girls are (ostensibly) entertaining themselves during quiet time.  But phone calls?  Fuhgeddaboudit.   

I am trying to be patient with the kids, because this is a transition time for them, too.  Even though I worked outside the home full time until just before Georgia's fourth birthday and June's second, Georgia has very few memories of our old routine, and June has none.  Waylon has only known me as a stay at home mom.  

So, last week when it came time to have a few phone calls, I set the kids up in front of the television (yes, I'm strategically using it as a makeshift babysitter - we're talking 15 minute increments here, not 8 hour blocks of time), and asked them if possible to pass me a note if they needed something, rather than interrupting my calls in their usual ways.  As great as TV can be, Murphy's Law dictates that the next episode of Wild Kratts is sure to cut out just when I need it most.  

This system worked pretty well for the call that was scheduled.  Our note passing system did not work so well for an unplanned call that I felt I had to pick up amidst everyone running around and playing.  (And yes, I realize that this system is particularly ridiculous given that 2 of 3 children here are illiterate.)  It's a work in progress...  

I felt a low-lying buzz of nervous, stressful energy on a day when I was expecting a call to discuss a document, and I found myself having to make strange new decisions, like leaving my cell phone inside while serving as a lifeguard outside.  There's no point in bringing the phone if you can't very well answer it, I decided.  When the low-lying buzz of nervous, stressful energy felt annoying, I had to remind myself that I was, after all, getting paid to experience it.  It's a work in progress...

So, I guess I've gone back to work.  Except I haven't really gone anywhere.  In an employment landscape defined by tradeoffs, I've traded my old office with a door for a child-sized kitchen table, occasional business lunches at Frontera for leftovers plucked from unfinished plates, coffee runs with adult conversations for being interrupted to wipe someone's bottom, and a salary with benefits for an hourly independent contractor wage.  But I've got windows!  That's one thing I didn't have working in Biglaw.  And flexibility.  Hopefully, gobs of it.   That, of course, is the real kicker.  

Please wish our family luck as we enter this new chapter, because we're certain to need it.  Joe has been so supportive, not only in the normal, "you can do it, honey!" sort of way that you'd expect from any spouse, but truly in the more time-consuming, "blowing the rust off the old lawyer gears" way that only a two-attorney family can appreciate.  I feel like I'm just slowly working my way through all the hats of motherhood...working outside the home, staying home full time, working part-time from home, who knows what else may come.  Weaving in and out of these phases is a sign of the times in some respects, but I also feel extremely fortunate, because not everyone has the luxury of opportunity to do so. 

And now for a few snapshots, which are sure to make you laugh at me.  

My temporary workspace, complete with crayons and dejected preschooler:  
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The notes I received:
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Seriously?  I've been back in the workforce for like 10 MINUTES!

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Okay, to be fair, I later got to the bottom of this, which turned out to be a sibling thing that had nothing to do with me. 

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This lovely pictogram clearly says, "Mom, may I please have some soap, a bucket, the hose, and a rag so that I can wash a riding vehicle on the driveway RIGHT THIS MINUTE?"  It was when I failed to correctly interpret and immediately respond to this that our note passing system broke down.

It's all luck in the timing.      

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Storm Preppers

Do your children have a particular imaginary play game that they like to repeat a lot? 

For mine, it's "HURRICANE!"  This involves running around, pretending to tape the windows, closing all the blinds and shades, speaking in a panicked voice that feigns that you are out of breath, going into a room and shutting all the lights off, and getting out a flashlight.  Depending on the circumstances, a hurricane might mean that you should go to the lowest or the highest available room in the house.  It might also mean that you should bring with you every stuffed animal known to humanity.   

Thankfully, I have never been in an actual hurricane, nor have our children.  The Midwestern United States is not known for taking direct hits from the ocean.  I think the origin of this game goes all the way back to a downloaded Sesame Street episode about preparing for and cleaning up after a storm that took out Big Bird's nest, which Georgia probably first watched on vacation when she was two or three, and which the kids have all since watched several times over.

I guess they're taking the game to the next level, because the other day I came in to find June prepping dollhouse windows for an impending storm.  Never can be too careful, can you?

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Sunday, August 10, 2014

And it looks like I'm the queen

(The scene:  post-dinner baths and kitchen clean up.) 

I don't know what made me giggle more, hearing Waylon sweetly singing from the bathtub down the hall, "Be the good girl you always have to be..." or walking through the kitchen two minutes later and catching Joe working on a sink full of dishes while singing, "Conceal, don't feel..."

The kids' bedtime routine this evening ended with them wearing blankets as capes, my three little Elsas belting out a group version of "Let It Go."  

Can you tell we watched Frozen (again) at Georgia's request for a family movie night on her birthday yesterday? 

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

A Sort Of Typical Summer Day

I'm having a great summer, and you have no idea how good it feels to say that.  I was one miserable puppy last year around this time.  That's a topic for a different post, but suffice it to say that I've got my eye on the calendar counting down the days until school starts, in the opposite way than I did a year ago.  This time around, I wish school would never start.

The funny thing is, if you had asked me back in May before school let out, I would've had to admit that while summer is my favorite season, I was worried about filling the wide open space of seemingly endless days with my kids signed up for very few organized activities.  How was I going to keep them entertained even more hours of the day without going crazy?  However, I soon realized  the simple reality was that in my case, given my kids' 2013-14 school schedules (or lack thereof, for Waylon), school wasn't providing me any reprieve in the childcare department, but it sure was adding a lot of hassle in the morning routine, bundling, buckling, driving, drop-off, pick-up, bathing, and bedtime departments.  Turns out it was a net negative for me in terms of total stress.  (I know, it's not all about me.  I'm all for education and socialization, don't get me wrong.)  The point is, right now, for our family, our summer "schedule" is way better than the alternative. 

I titled this post as I did, because the beauty of summer is that there is no such thing as a truly "typical" day here.  In any given week, my ideal schedule is an alternating mix of unplanned days at home and big city adventures.  Throw in a few house guests, occasional pool visitors, and a party or two or three (over the course of the summer), and we're all set.   

A few things I'd like to record for posterity:  (1) the children would be happy to go nowhere, ever, and do nothing, ever, besides whatever they feel like entertaining themselves with at home;  (2)  I lose my ever-loving mind after a maximum of two days of that;  (3)  the children pretty much stink at doing errands, so much so that it's usually just not worth it to bother.  Grocery shopping and Target runs have been moved to nights and weekends indefinitely, and for certain items, Amazon Prime shipping has become a good friend of mine.  This system is a minor inconvenience but usually causes me less pain than taking all 3 kids on errands, which results in a combination of complaining, whining, and mild misbehavior in stores.  (To clarify, they're not monsters or throwing tantrums.  They'd just really rather not go, and it often feels like herding cats with a whole lot of irritated motherly instructions once we're out there.)  I guess they've "won" this battle for now (nothing ever stays the same for long), but on the upside, I think it saves us a little money.  Since errands with the kids are only done when critically necessary, I'm never out there using shopping as a way to pass time;  (4)  despite the kids' preference for never going anywhere, they are always up for an adventure once it's been announced.  So, don't think I'm dragging them unwillingly when you see pictures of their smiling faces at the beach, Millenium Park, or whatever other cultural attraction I've decided to expose them to.  They'll thank me one day, right?  Ha!

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Our daily dry erase board.  This is my definition of structure right now.  It's flexible and always subject to revision.

For the hell of it, I decided one day a while back to write down the events of our day as it unfolded.  This was a day when we had nowhere to be and nothing to do: the kids' favorite kind.  I thought some of you might get a kick out of seeing both how creative kids can be, as well as how busy an un-busy day can be.  (Keep in mind that I wasn't writing down any of the other stuff I was trying to accomplish in the background, like cooking, dishes, or laundry.  Sometimes it's hard to get much else done, and there's a reason the place looks like a wreck at the end of the day.)  Anyway, I didn't tell the kids I was doing this or attempt to influence their choices, I just wrote some stuff down.     

This list begins as soon as breakfast ended and the kids were dressed:
-play on swingset
-play with dolls, get out 8 different cups of water for the dolls
-play a match of "World Cup" soccer in front yard
-set up teepee in front yard
My view of the teepee action from our family room window sill.
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The kids' view of more awesome construction site action next door.
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-have meltdown about losing to mom in "unfair" soccer match.  Ensuing discussion about fairness, practice, letting people win, not being a sore loser, not being a gloating winner, blah, blah, blah occurs.   No idea if anyone learned anything. 
-play with carseat in front yard
-discover slug.  Let slug crawl on arms and take pictures with slug

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-pull weeds from potted fairy garden
-get out buckets and shovels to dig for worms
-clean disgusting bathroom trashcan with dish soap, hose, and scrubber
-use hose to make mud to enhance digging for worms project
-Georgia gives up on worms, changes clothes
-take small table to backyard to draw (Georgia) while June and Waylon continue digging
-help mom dig up broccoli and plant eggplant in garden
-EPIC meltdown regarding failure of "Rube Goldberg"-esque design implementation in dirt due to interference of little brother.  [Note: I did not handle this well, either.  It was almost lunchtime, and I know that had a lot to do with it.]
-lunch is served.  During lunch conduct meeting of sorts to discuss how to better handle our frustrations next time.  No idea if anyone learned anything. 
-clean buckets and shovels with hose
-Georgia swims while June buries Waylon in a giant container of stuffed animals
-June and Waylon decide to come swim
-put Waylon down for a nap
-Georgia practices violin while June entertains herself making a love letter.  I clean the garage.
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-our planned activity of writing together in some way, shape or form during "quiet time" is scrapped because I don't like interrupting one type of fun for another unless I have to.  Girls are drawing in the backyard at a table and then in the top of the swingset.
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Sweet! I didn't even have to get involved in the writing.  I found this evidence of Georgia having tried to help June use the correct letters to go with the My Little Pony cutie marks she drew.  : )


-I am asked to set up a tent in the backyard "because we are Mary and Laura and the tent will look like a covered wagon"
-Georgia collects various snacks (with my permission) to take out to the tent
-Waylon wakes up and joins in
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-"Mary and Laura" ask to swim in the "lake" (aka, pool).  I make them pick up their room first.
-June reads a book on the kitchen floor buck naked while Georgia finishes cleaning and Waylon plays with a ball outside
-nakey swim time
At this point, I seem to have lost my last little scrap of paper, so I guess Joe showed up and we put those steaks on the grill. I wonder if anyone ever cleaned up the family room and playroom?  ; )

Thursday, July 31, 2014

We had a 4th of July party

We had a 4th of July party.  I'm sure this is not shocking news, as we'll probably continue doing this as long as we live in this house with a pool. 

So, I wasn't really planning on taking lots of pictures or blogging any, but then, you know, I got snap happy.  I turned them into a slideshow and set the whole thing to music because it was actually far easier than pasting a bunch of photos here.

The party was super fun.  But let me tell you, setting it to "Magic in the Air" also makes it look about 10x funner.  (If you don't believe me, try taking pictures of your boring day at work, yourself taking out the trash, or maybe doing laundry, and then set it to "Magic in the Air", and voila!  Super fun day.)  The song, an unofficial anthem of the World Cup 2014, is a summer favorite in our family and is particularly fitting since we rigged up an outdoor TV during the party to put on the Brazil-Colombia match.  Gotta keep our Brazilian-American/American-Brazilian friends happy! 


4th of July Party 2014 from Kate on Vimeo.


From my perspective, the biggest improvement on our party vs. last year's was that, well, we hadn't just moved in 3 weeks earlier with a one year old, a three year old, and a five year old, and a truckload full of boxes that as of the 4th of July seemed to have exploded all over the house.  Yea progress!