Monday, November 30, 2009

A Transition in more than one way

For many, Thanksgiving is a time of resting and relaxation, of football and beer starting at noon, perhaps a little football tossing outside to justify the huge meal you're about to consume, a time to get together and enjoy.

Those people are called men.

In most of the Thanksgiving traditions I've seen and heard about, the majority of a woman's Thanksgiving is spent in planning, preparing, shopping, cooking, presenting, praying and eating, followed by clearing, scraping, boxing up and storing this thing called THE FEAST. And somewhere in there some child-rearing happens for many of us.

Which is why I am looking forward to these next three days between jobs. No job pressures at the old one, no job pressures at the new one, just...what do I want to do for three days? And you know what it entails, right? No, no trips to the spa, though I do plan to go to my chiropractor, which is just as if not more healthful for me.

I will be volunteering at both of my kids' schools for short periods of time. Because once I start my new job I won't be geographically close enough to them to be able to do this, nor will I have the flexibility to volunteer. And I LOVE my kids and know how much it means to them to have their mom or dad there.

I will be cleaning my closet of all the clothing I've been meaning to take to the consignment shop but they only consign Monday-Thursday from 11 to 4, so duh, obviously nothing I've set aside "meaning" to consign has ever made it there. I've got a stash full, I hope they take some of it before ripping my ego to the ground with a harsh, "Um....we'll donate this one for you."

The "side" project to this one is definitely a pleasant one -- I get to refill my closet a bit. My new company is business casual -- my old one was eh, as long as your tush or muffintop isn't out for everyone to see, it's good. So I got to wear jeans to work several times a week -- every day if I wanted. This led me to invest heavily in great, dark denim dressy jeans that were perfectly appropriate at work but doubled as going-out jeans, paired with an awesome blouse and heels and just the right jewelry. Now I have great going-out jeans, but alas, they have lost their dual identity as work jeans. So...I own one pair of khaki pants, 1 pair of black pants (kind of charcoal gray now), and a pair of brown cords. Those three are the basis of my new "business casual" wardrobe, which clearly needs beefing up. So that is another one of my 3-day projects...preferrably without blowing a budget.

I will be tackling my youngest's closet, the upper reaches of which I believe have not seen the light of day since the closet organizer went in there 2 years ago. I think I still see some baby things up there that should either be properly stored (i.e. not exposed to dust) or donated.

I will be tackling our desk area, in which the lovely file folder organizer that is so far away off in the corner of the desk cannot be seen for all the stacks of files and paperwork and random artwork that fills the entire countertop. One could get claustrophic sitting here.

And I said I would tackle all the toys areas in the porch and living room, but suspect that I will not actually get to them. And besides, this may be better tackled with children in tow (I know, really??) because otherwise it is guaranteed that I will throw away something that is very precious to someone that they cannot live without and cannot BELIEVE that I threw it away. I think if this project is jointly tackled as a way to make room for "new" toys from Santa, that it will be addressed with the proper goal in mind which is to PURGE.

And if possible, at some point in this I would like to go to lunch with a friend. What a concept -- a weekday lunch with a non-work friend, in which no one has to check a watch to make a meeting, make a conference call, how grand! And I believe I know who that friend is, as my husband is taking Wednesday off so he and I can do some Christmas shopping together, something we've never done as a couple since having children. So enjoyable!

A blog of an entirely different color

Just as I was leaving PM, I was asked to become a regular writer for PM's company blog. ParadyszMatera decided to create a blog in order to generate online content which could drive natural search to our site. (There is some marketing magic behind the reasons why companies do things such as this.) I am glad that I was able to pen a single entry to the blog before my departure:

I thought it was pretty clever, though perhaps it's going to get more pings of people looking for that Subway commercial.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A Transition

Now that I am on the eve of my last day of work, I am free to put it out here: I have a new job.

And as most people who know me know, this isn't something I do every day. Or every year. Or even every other year.

The last time I had a first day at a new job was 14 years ago. It was my second job out of college, and is the job I am leaving right now. I've been promoted, I've worked on different clients, different projects, and two years ago completely changed team members. But I was at the same company this entire time and never had to deal with walking into a situation I was completely unfamiliar with. There is a certain comfort in that.

That comfort, and the incredible people I work with, have been a part of why I've been there so long. Because to be honest, I love what I do. Our CEO jokes with me that I love my job so much, I would do it for free (not true, by the way). My other favorite saying is, "Love what you do and you will never work a day in your life."

Over the last 14 years I can probably count on one hand (okay, MAYBE a couple of fingers on the other hand) the number of days that I've awoken and did not look forward to going to work.

So why? Why, you ask, would I leave this?

Two reasons, and they are named Lindsey and Marissa.

Because I was finding myself not actually going to work as often as I was heading to the airport. Being in Minneapolis with a client base primarily in New York and DC, I found myself gone -- a lot. When I finally did the math, turns out I travel about 25% time -- I would have estimated that at 10%. At my high school reunion this past summer I had numerous people who know me on Facebook approach me and say, "Wow, you travel a LOT!" Looking back, I didn't realize how many of my status updates had to do with going somewhere, being stuck somewhere or coming home again.

I began looking around at how other working moms add balance to their lives; of all of the moms I keep up with from the neighborhood, I am the only one who travels frequently for my work. Our family life was suffering -- the demands were high, the stress was high, the patience for childish antics was low, and our coupledom was not in a happy place.

I did not want to be the parent who, upon reflection at her child's high school graduation, realized that I made the wrong choice years before, and that I missed too much of their precious, short childhoods. You can't get those years back -- once they are gone they are gone.

Once I made the decision that I wanted something different I began to search in earnest, and found a perfect fit with a position at Gillette Children's Specialty Healthcare, a hospital based in St. Paul that specializes in children with disabilities. Hmmm...a nonprofit, looking for someone to raise funds via direct mail and telemarketing channels? Who is analytical yet has enough people skills to build bridges across departments to meet their goals? I think I know someone like that, someone whose passion is children's causes. The more I heard about what they want to do, the more I felt impelled to try this challenge. This was just too good of a puzzle to not pick up and want to try to solve.

So next week begins a new journey for me. I may have a "first day of work" outfit, wonder where to park, which are the alternate routes to work when the freeways get clogged up, wonder when lunch is and who will sit with me. But I'm excited for this new chapter in my professional life, and the changes that it will entail in our family life. After 14 years of client services, I am the client. Wow, this will be different.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Marissa Blows Bubbles for Dax

Dax has always gone crazy for bubbles -- we have a video of him when Lindsey was just a baby chasing and catching bubbles in our house while Lindsey laughs maniacally -- wish I could figure out how to transfer that to digital to show you.

But here he is more recently, catching bubbles being blown by Marissa on a recent beautiful November weekend.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

A Present I Give Myself...Every Other Week

After years of holding off, saving, grumbling, sweating and working ourselves, we finally decided that we should get a house cleaner.

Housekeeper, house cleaner, maid service, whatever you want to call it, we finally gave in.

It was fortuitous that a neighbor of ours left us a message on our voice mail one day recommending her cleaning lady to us the same week Wayne and I had been saying that perhaps it was finally time. After all, we had once upon a time said we would get one when we had kids. We had one child, and we continued to clean our own house. Not that big of a deal then.

Then...we had kid two. One infant and one toddler, and two professionals working our respective jobs. This is a bit more work, and perhaps a housekeeper would be in order. But no, we said, they are all so expensive and we'd rather take that money and put it into college funds than spend it to have a clean house.

Then...this year we finally began spending LESS money on daycare expenses, now that Lindsey is in school all day. Hmmm....might be some money in the budget.

So we finally decided to get a housekeeper, and I cannot say how much I LOVE it!

Every other week, it's like a gift one night that week when I walk into the house. The carpets have been vaccuumed, the furniture dusted, countertops bleached, toilets scrubbed, floors mopped, and always a surprise cleaning item every time.

We use the lady that our neighbor recommended and she does a great job. She says for us to just leave notes about whatever special thing we'd like cleaned the next time, and she'll do it. A while ago I left her a note and asked her to clean the ceiling fans, which were literally black on the edges with built up dust from running all summer. Not only did she clean them of dust, but she actually got something like 10 years worth of built up black grease off of the ceiling fan in our kitchen. I had tackled that fan several times myself, and while I could reduce the dust build up, I could not get them un-blackened. That fan was spotless when we came home. It looked like a brand new fan.

Today we come home and she's cleaned and conditioned all of our leather furniture as I had asked. I hadn't realized how dirty they were until she cleaned them. No drips of apple juice on them, no dribbles of drool from the dog. We can actually have company over and not be ashamed to offer them a chair.

She makes up the girls' beds and folds their blankies so sweetly on their beds. She readjusts our furniture and occasionally the items on our countertop, which I find amusing. (Because all I'm going to do is put them back the way I want them anyway, but at least I know she moved everything and cleaned underneath them, which is why I think she doesn't put them back where they started.)

A side benefit is that every other week we have to pick up the house before she comes to clean. Items get put away that wouldn't have been put away, we purge things that are sitting around aimlessly, missing their eventual home in the circular file, and the girls chip in to clean up their rooms. Marissa even made her own bed this morning and offered to make Lindsey's too.

I am so grateful that we are in a position to be able to hire a cleaning lady. It is like a gift I give myself every time she shows up.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Why I Love Autumn

The before picture -- a lawn full of yellow leaves.

First: A goodly romp in the leaves to hear a satisfying "crunch."

Next: actual raking takes place.

Followed by throwing of leaves -- piling them up first makes it easier to grab a whole bunch at once.

Followed by a little "nap" and some posing.

Followed by more throwing.

There is no "after" picture -- the lawn didn't actually get raked, Wayne completed it 5 hours later after busting his butt on the front of the lawn first. But boy did we have fun!

Saturday, November 07, 2009

A Puzzling Piece

My mom and stepdad recently came for a visit. They brought with them the early Christmas gifts for our kids, since we don't usually see them over the holidays.

They bought a jigsaw puzzle and a Barbie for both the girls, and the girls immediately played with the Barbies, followed by puzzle making.

Marissa's puzzle was of a lamb with a baby chick, baby bunny and some other cute fuzzy things around and on it. But there was a part of the puzzle that was...let's just say, puzzling.

While we were putting it together, I found the corner piece, which was the section that had the lamb's tail wrapped around its behind. I said, "Oh look Marissa, what do you think this is?"

She looked at it, then turned to me and whispered in my ear, "I think it's her girl parts."

And upon closer inspection, she was actually not far off.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

The Flu Hits the Horsman's

And every time I say that I knock on wood, or whatever equivalent that's nearby that I can find.

Because when I say this household had the flu, I actually mean just Lindsey. At least to-date. And she had it rough. She missed four days of school, and not four days in a row, she missed a Thursday/Friday and the following Monday/Tuesday, so she was out cold for six full days.

She definitely gave us a scare when at first we thought she'd gotten off lightly. She had two days of 100.8 temps, then on Saturday she awoke and the fever had miraculously gone away! Wow, she's gotten off light, we thought, after hearing the nightmare stories of other children. Little did we know.

Sunday morning she woke up screaming and writhing like someone was killing her. She said her ears hurt soooooo bad, and she was running a low-grade fever. Luckily the Minute Clinic at Target opens up at 9:00, and she and I were there bright and early. Turns out she had a double ear infection. The PA took one look in her one ear, looked slightly startled and asked me, "How long has she been complaining of ear pain?" I said, "About 24 hours." He said, "Well, this ear is bright red and bulging, it looks extremely painful." The other one was infected too, so he wrote a prescription for antibiotics and we got the prescription filled there. The bottle was about the size of a pint of vodka.

We started her on antibiotics when we got home and she still had a low grade fever. We thought the fever was related to the ear infection and didn't think much of it. She slept poorly that night, as she was up many times coughing, and Monday morning she still had a fever so we kept her home.

By Monday afternoon Wayne called me at work and said, "I'm really worried about her, she's slept all afternoon; even when she's up she's lethargic and she's barely eating." Being the non-alarmist that I am, I thought, well, it's the flu, you sleep a lot. Then he called back later and said, "She won't really wake up when I try to wake her and her eyes are glazed over." Okay, now I'm concerned. I called the pediatrician's helpline and was the 20th caller in queue. I've never been the 20th -- I don't even think I've been the 10th. I finally got a live person 30 minutes later, and I described the symptoms and what was going on and she said to take her to the ER.

So that's where we went, as soon as I got home from work. That was about the longest commute home that I've ever had, and I think I got it down to 15 minutes that day.

Long story short, after a long wait at the ER, we get seen and get told that she's just got the flu, and yes, this year it's really this bad. No pneumonia, no secondary infection, she's processing oxygen well, and she's not even the sickest kid they've seen. Be prepared to be home with her all week, it takes a while, they said.

Later on I started to feel somewhat foolish for having brought her in. Then a friend of mine told me about someone she knew whose son spiked a 105 fever after being sick for days. They brought him to the ER, only to be told to take him home with several strategies for bringing his fever down. They called the ER back twice when the techniques that they'd told them to try didn't succeed in dropping his fever, and five hours later he was dead. Gone. So I don't feel bad for having brought her in. If it had indeed turned out to be something serious, I would've kicked myself forever for not having gotten her checked out earlier.

As it was, by the next morning her fever had broken and she was making up for the lack of energy she'd had the prior six days. She made Halloween costumes for her stuffed animals, then she painted with her easel and paints. Then she did her writing homework with me and danced around the house. She and I decided to celebrate her good health by going to a local restaurant for lunch. And by the following day, Wednesday, she was back at school.

As I mentioned earlier, no one else in the house is sick...yet. Marissa had a cold several weeks ago that she is still coughing from, and I had a sinus infection which is resulting in a lingering cough as it breaks up. We make a snazzy duo. But all in all, we're very fortunate.

I am hoping that in a day or two I am not regretting these words. Where's the nearest piece of wood again?