Wednesday, January 30, 2013

WMW: When Kids Get Sick

Kate has been sick all week, after being sent home with a fever midday Monday (her birthday—boo). So, the last three days have been a good reminder of why I made the switch from WOHM to WAHM. Yes, my primary motive was greater flexibility for the unpredictable needs of foster kids placed in our care, but I was also eager to be more available to my own kids when they are sick, have field trips, class parties, etc.

We haven't gotten any calls about foster kids yet (probably because our social worker recommended us for only one child at a time, close in age to our bio kids, and it's teenagers and sibling groups that are most in need) but I've been so grateful this week to be able to tend to Kate here at home, and get work done as well. Granted, not as much work as my new normal, and not without help; Matt's mom came over for a while yesterday, and today I took Kate to Matt's office for a little while while I went to a meeting.

A child's illness is one of the more difficult aspects of two-career households. Which parent will stay home from work to tend the child and take him or her to the doctor? Is there a family member, friend, or backup childcare service that could care for the child that day? Will there be a loss of pay? Loss of confidence from colleagues and supervisors?

It's no wonder that contingencies for such inevitable circumstances are among the elements rated in Working Mother magazine's 100 Best Companies rankings. 100% of those companies offer flextime and telecommuting (and an average of 77 and 50% of employees use such benefits)—so that parents can take the time they need to care for their sick children, with the freedom (and trust) to get the job done. For the times parents have to be in the office on a day their children are sick, 86% of the 100 Best offer "backup child care," and 65% offer "sick child care."

If you're among the 43-47% of U.S. companies that do not allow flextime or telecommuting, you may need to take preemptive action as suggested in this article—things that seem obvious but I never really thought about!
  • Always (or at least, when you suspect your child may be under the weather) try to get your essential tasks done earlier in the day, so if the day care calls just after lunch, you won't be in quite such a bind.
  • Talk to your boss in advance about his or her policies and preferences when you have a sick child. I did this when Kate was first born, but I had one or two new bosses in the time since then and never thought to ask up front.
  • Research backup care. According to the Working Mother data, only 3% of employers offer such a thing themselves, but you can find such agencies on your own to call when you're really in a bind. My employer actually did have an arrangement with a local backup care agency, but (and I feel silly to admit this) it was located in the federal building just a block way, and thinking of Oklahoma City's federal building bombing and the day care kids there killed, I just couldn't use it.
When I worked full-time in an office, Matt and my solution to the sick-child challenge was either to call his parents (and risk getting them sick—Kate infected at least six other family members with a stomach bug she had as a toddler!) or do the half-day split, where one of us stays home in the morning while the other goes to the office, and then switch around lunchtime. I'm glad to have the flexibility now to do most of the sick-child care myself, escorting to the pediatrician, etc., but even with flexibility and a home office, there are still challenges, and it still takes a village.

In closing, I have to note how the solutions I'm discussing here are specific to the corporate/office-type context. For moms working in fields that require your physical presence—teaching, medicine, retail, etc.—the issues and possible solutions are very different. I hope to address that some next week, so I hope you'll leave a comment about some of the issues faced by working moms beyond my obvious office frame of reference.

What is your workplace's policy on sick-child-care?

Monday, January 28, 2013

A (Mostly) Happy Birthday

Today is Kate's fourth birthday, and I'll start with the end of the story just to explain the "(mostly) happy" birthday. She's been home sick half of today with a fever. Ibuprofen brings it down and she perks up pretty quickly, but she was having chills for a while this evening which makes me think "flu." So, we'll probably take her to the doctor tomorrow, and she's definitely staying home tomorrow, either way.

But for the most part, our Katestravaganza weekend was a lot of fun.

Kate wanted to have her party at Monkey Joe's this year, a local bouncy place. You know how much I love to throw a theme party, so I was kind of bummed not to have a party at our house. I still designed an invitation for it, trying to incorporate a gymnastics-ish theme, since Kate loves gymnastics. (As you see, she was wearing her leotard while addressing the enveloped with me!)

 And I brought out the pennant banner I made for her first birthday so the house could be a little festive too!

Matt kept reminding me it was Kate's birthday and not mine, so I should quit fussing about it. :0) The party at Monkey Joe's on Saturday was a hit. Kate loved every minute of it, and that's what's important. The kids ran around and squealed and bounced and climbed and slid on all the inflatables.

Claire even got to enjoy the "under-3" bouncy with Daddy.

After an hour of bouncing, it was off to the party room for snacks and cake (from Publix—I heard they did good cakes, and it was indeed good!) We gave out star sunglasses as a favor, and the kids had a lot of fun with those.

Monkey Jane (Monkey Joe's sister or girlfriend, I'm not sure :0) came to visit.
This was Kate's reaction:

 And this was Claire's:
(Keep in mind it was Kate who was terrified of the Easter Bunny last spring, and Claire who was fine. Go figure.)

Kate was all smiles in the big, inflatable birthday throne. You'd think she would have been exhausted after all that—and generally, an afternoon car ride is our only hope for a nap these days—but no dice. She played with her new presents all afternoon until it was time for our "grandparent dinner," or the family party counterpart to the friend party (which the grandparents also attended) earlier in the day.

We had spaghetti and meatballs, ice cream for dessert, and then more presents! (I was relieved and proud that Kate voluntarily went through all her old toys and stuffed animals last night and today and filled a shopping bag of stuff to give away. That combats the influx of new stuff to some extent!)

Yesterday, after church, we went to our friend Emery's birthday party up in Clarksville. She made it down for Kate's the day before and we had fun celebrating her third birthday up there. (Kate complained a million times about the hour-long drive, and I reminded her that Mommy did it every day for four years not so long ago!)

Kate was up with a croupy cough in the night, but seemed fine in the morning when we blew out candles on a muffin and got dressed with her "I'm 4!" sticker. She was especially excited to take her Berry Blast Ice Cream Oreos to school for a birthday snack with her class.

Alas, she got sent home with a fever around noon, which subsided with medicine to the point she was playing  inside and outside (60-something degrees here today) before relapsing in the evening some. Her temp is back to normal now and she's sleeping soundly.

I have to say, it was really nice to be able to be home and trade off with Matt to tend to Kate just by walking up and down stairs, and to spend her "birth time," 2:07 p.m., cuddling and reading a book with her on the couch. My sweet little birthday girl. Happy birthday, Kate!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

WMW: What Do You Wear to Work?

I remember when I got my first full-time job; one of the first things I did was go out and buy a work wardrobe. Actually, I got the call that I'd gotten the job while I was on a mission trip in rural Tennessee, so I went out and bought a skirt at Walmart to celebrate. But when we got back, I went to Ann Taylor LOFT and went on a spree for dressy pants, blouses, skirts, dresses, etc.

I felt cute and enjoyed dressing up for work. My boss always dressed nicely and looked very cute too, but it wasn't too long before I noticed the overall more casual attire of most people in the company. They practiced "Casual Friday," but it wasn't all that uncommon to see jeans on other days of the week too, especially on the men, for whom ties were really only worn at board meeting time.

Me, I could barely force myself to wear khakis on Fridays. I wore skirts and dresses and 3.5-inch heels all the way through my pregnancy with Kate. After becoming a mom, I couldn't handle the heels quite as well and started heading toward the more casual end of "business casual." (I was having deja vu here, and found a Working Mom Wednesday post from that stage of my work-wardrobe-timeline, titled, fittingly, "Business Casual.") But still more committed to polish than comfort.

It was right around that time that I moved into my Ministry Matters role, and I felt a little overdressed for a "web" person. People who run websites are supposed to be all hipster-like, right? Pearls seemed somewhat out of place in the digital suite, and before I knew it, I was wearing jeans on Thursdays. (gasp!)

There are two "Work Wardrobe Rules" I've tried to keep in mind over the years, both of which I probably learned from my dad, who has traditionally been my go-to person for professional advice.

From Ann Taylor
Rule #1: Dress for the job you want.

This makes sense, as it puts a person in the right mindset for the career path she is pursuing, and sends a message to others that she is serious about her work. There are times when this doesn't make sense, though. Like when I worked in a day care one summer in college and never once wore jeans, shorts, or sneakers. What was I thinking?

This rule actually provided some guidance in my "year of discernment" these past twelve months. I used to want the metaphorical "corner office." I wanted to rise up the ranks and be the "power chick" Matt jokes that I am. But as my vision shifted closer to home, my attire did as well. When I started wanting to wear jeans on a Monday, I knew something had changed in me and I joked "if you're supposed to dress for the job you want, apparently I want to be at home on my sofa!"

Fortunately, with our office being so casual anyway, this wasn't a problem. Apparently everyone wanted to be hanging out on my sofa! And this brings me to the next rule:

Rule #2: Never dress nicer than your boss.

It was actually easier to follow this rule once I relaxed my "never dress down!" standards, and I actually love the way my boss dresses. I love cardigans, and the flowier and cozier, the better.

From J.Jill

This is my favorite piece of clothing right now. (I actually have it in green, but didn't like the shirt they paired it with in that pic.) I'm wearing it right now, actually, with jeans. But I'm not sitting on my sofa. I'm at my desk, in a work-oriented environment. Which brings me to newly-discovered Rule #3.

Rule #3: When you work at home, you still get dressed.

I've heard a lot of jokes about working in my pajamas since I shifted to working from home, but that is really, truly unadvisable (and not just because a deliveryperson might come to the door!) It's about getting into a "work" frame of mind, being productive and focused. It's a signal to your brain that it's time to be "on."

Admittedly, I dress more casually than I would if I were going to the office. Leggings or jeans every day and certainly no panty hose! But I do get dressed before sitting down to work. I even put on makeup and jewelry most days, even if I know I'm not leaving the house.

What's your typical work attire? How do you feel about it?

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Feeling Romantic (and Relaxed)

I'm feeling very romantic today, here in the beautiful surroundings of the Opryland Hotel. Matt is attending a ministry training event here with leaders from across the country, and since it's in our own backyard (just five miles from our church, maybe fifteen from our house) I am joining him for the weekend, to have my own little personal retreat.

After working much of the day yesterday, and handing over the young'uns to Granna and Opa, I enjoyed the evening just hanging out in our hotel room while Matt participated in the conference's evening sessions. I laid out all the photos and scrapbook supplies I brought, and indulged in four hours of wedding-related reality TV on The Learning Channel. (Or has their content made TLC stand for something else these days?) My goal is to scrapbook all our December/Christmas photos while I'm here, as well as do a little work and enjoy time with Matt when he can pull away from the conference. I'm feeling soooo relaxed, just having some time to myself, and I'm being reminded how important is is to get away as a couple now and again.

I'm feeling romantic because this is the site of Matt and my first date, almost ten years ago now. We'll be eating dinner at the Italian restaurant tonight where we ate on that first date, but there are also so many other places around this gorgeous hotel that bring back memories. Like the bench where we sat while waiting for our table, where we talked and learned how much we had in common. As I sit here working in sight of this gorgeous waterfall, I remember how we walked behind it on our first date, and it was so lovely and romantic, I was afraid he was going to try to kiss me and I wasn't quite ready for that!

(I've told Matt that story, so we laugh about it now. And kissed there last night, of course :0)
We spent the night here for our first wedding anniversary, and we come for dinner occasionally, or a business thing, but it's really nice to spend even more leisurely time here, just enjoying the views.

We brought the kids here at Christmas last year, but we realized we need to bring them over just for an ordinary Saturday to explore all the jungly pathways and waterfalls, take the indoor riverboat ride, and eat lunch. Next week is Kate's birthday party, but maybe the week after that. Can't wait to come back and share the fun with the kiddos!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Two Recipes I Just Have to Share

I only post recipes on this blog when I've raved about them to real life friends or strangers at least three times. That's not a hard and fast rule—in fact, I just now made it up—but it serves to emphasize the "must try" nature of these two dishes. I'm not a foodie, and the complete and utter simplicity of the two dishes I'm about to share with you will prove that. They are easy, tasty, and pretty healthy too.

I found this recipe via Pinterest, where it was posted from the blog High Heels and Grills (image credit to her as well). It is so easy. As the name says, it is just eight cans and a packet of taco seasoning.

  • 1 can diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can corn, drained
  • 1 can white chicken breast, drained
  • 1 can green enchilada sauce
  • 1 can chicken broth
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup
  • 1 packet taco seasoning
Mix all ingredients in large stock pot. Heat until warm, stirring occasionally.

I think I found this one on a grocery store mailer, and I've made it countless times in the last year. (Photo mine.) I'll admit, my husband doesn't care for the combination of flavors, so I make it just for myself, but if you're fond of strong, savory flavors, this just may become a new favorite.

  • Sweet potatoes
  • Spinach (approximately 4 oz. per potato)
  • Goat cheese crumbles (approximately 1.5 oz per potato)
Wash, pierce, and bake sweet potatoes in microwave (or oven, if you prefer). Saute spinach with a little olive oil and lemon juice. I've also tried it with kale, which was also good. Stuff potato with your greens, top with goat cheese crumbles. Pecans make a nice garnish. 

I'm linking up today with A Blonde Ambition's "Great Souptacular," so click over for more great comfort food! 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Return of Working Mom Wednesday

If you've been reading this blog for a few years, you may recall a little weekly feature called Working Mom Wednesday. You can read those and all posts on working motherhood here.

In light of my recent shift from WOHM to WAHM and the changes in schedule, environment, and mindset that shift entails, I've been thinking more about a variety of working mom issues and felt compelled to revive Working Mom Wednesday. (And to make a new button for it :0)

The awkward part of talking about "working motherhood" is the implication that stay-at-home-moms don't work. NOT SO. If "work" is defined as the use of energy (is that right, physics people?) I undoubtedly expend more energy per hour when I'm with my kids than when I'm alone at a desk. It is HARD WORK to care for young kids for their entire waking hours. I have absolutely nothing but the highest praise for SAHMs. So please never see me denigrating moms whose work is childcare- and home-based. (And in the same vein, I hope SAHMs won't accuse me or any mom who works for pay of not caring about her children or "letting other people raise them." That's insulting and untrue.)

All that said, let me restart the series by sharing just a few observations on my first week and a half of freelancing from "the home office."
  • To clarify, since many people have asked: No, the kids aren't staying home with me now that I'm working from home. They are still in day care/preschool five days a week, and foster children we are privileged to parent will also go to school during the day. I spend the bulk of my day in the office/craft room off our bedroom, doing much of the same work I used to do from an office downtown, and working on growing a client base.
  • I love the flexibility of this new arrangement, which was the main reason for the change in the first place. I can make the girls' dentist appointments in the middle of the day if I need to, be home for the plumber to come, or whatever else needs doing. When I need a break from the computer, I can put a load of laundry in; and rather than battling traffic at the end of the day, I can be getting dinner started.
  • I am the consummate introvert. I knew this before, and evidenced it whenever I returned to my office after a long meeting saying, "Ah, the blessed isolation of my cube!" And that isolation was only an illusion, since my wonderful coworkers were barely more than a whisper away. I crave alone time and don't mind having the house entirely to myself for up to eight hours a day.
  • I love my home office. My desk is a WWII-era piece my grandfather had. It has a panel on top you can lift to reveal and raise up a typewriter stored within. (My uncle has the typewriter, though.) Charlotte loves to hang out with me while I'm working, sometimes sitting right on the desk. I have to close the door when I'm not in there, though, because she will eat my plants. (I brought them back from the dead by taking them to my office about five years ago, and now they're back in her sights.) 
  • I don't always stay home, though. I'm enjoying working at Panera or Starbucks for a few hours at a time some days. (I love Starbucks, but Panera is my preferred place because you can drink endless refills of coffee for only $2.99.) I also go into the office for a weekly meeting, and have church and other activities, so I'm not totally cut off from humans outside my family :0)
  • I do miss standing up to work. It was a growing trend at my office, and I joined in on the "stand-up desk revolution" a few months ago, when I felt like I was always stretching and squirming in my chair. My muscles felt tight and I could never get comfortable. Standing (or sitting on a bar-height chair, as I often did) was great. Now that I've been sitting most of the time to work again, I find myself stretching and straining a lot. The kitchen counter and my craft table aren't quite high enough to stand, but barstools both places do help!
I hope you'll offer me some insight by leaving a comment answering any of the following questions:
  1. If you are a parent, what is your employment story? Did you stop working when you had kids? Did you or do you plan to work outside the home again at some point? Do you work from home?
  2. What topics would you want to see addressed in a Working Mom Wednesday post?
  3. Would you like to write a guest post for the series? I would love to share some other people's tips and insights, so please pitch me your ideas!

Friday, January 11, 2013

Holidays in Brief

I'm pretty behind the curve in getting any sort of "Christmas recap" out there, but I did want to share some of the sweet pictures and stories from Christmas 2012. I had illusions just now of summing it all up in something cute like "12 Pics of Christmas," but I just can't keep it to just a dozen. I'm still going to try to let the photos tell most of the story, however.

Behold, slightly more than twelve pictures from the Kelley family Christmas celebrations, 2012:

On the 22nd, we had dinner and opened presents at Granna and Opa's house. Kate's big gift was a collection of gymnastics gear: a new leotard, warm-up suit, bag, and water bottle.

The 23rd was Sunday, and filled with our regularly scheduled church services. On the 24th, Christmas Eve, we also had two services, but managed to squeeze dinner with some of Matt's extended family between them. Kate began the day in her new leotard, doing somersaults on the couch (a daily occurrence). The kids and I stayed home and went to bed after the family dinner, while Matt went back for the 11:00 candlelight service.

Back home by 8:30 or so, things were unraveling fast. No cute sister pics by the tree here.
We managed to get into jammies for a reading of "The Night Before Christmas,'" however, before Daddy headed back to church. 
Christmas Day, we enjoyed gifts and breakfast together before loading up the van to head to Louisville.

Kate holding the teeny manger-Jesus up to see his birthday cupcake that we shared during our breakfast.
Off we went, to Louisville!

The one thing Kate kept saying she wanted for Christmas was "star tights," and my mom got some for her. She was so happy!

We enjoyed several more days in Louisville with Nala and Popi, playing our new games, going to the science center, getting together with old friends, and even sledding in a little bit of snow!

We had a little weenie-roast and s'mores lunch out by the firebowl. What fun memories to make!

Matt and I came back early to see his Butler Bulldogs defeat Vanderbilt quite handily on the 29th. Though Matt graduated from both schools, and I never went to Butler, we were still bleeding blue. Undergrad loyalties trump grad school, right? (and we never see Furman play, so I'll put my UK Wildcat-loving blue toward the 'Dogs!)

My parents and I met halfway the next day to pass off the girls, and by New Year's Eve we were all ready to ring in 2013. Just before bedtime, we got out some noisemakers and fizzy orange juice to do a little countdown with the kiddos.

And the next morning, we started the year off right with banana/confetti pancakes.

Hope your new year is off to a good start!


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