The New Normal


Since my layoff I’ve been doing 25+ hours of work a week from home. Without the cost of full-time daycare, plus some cutbacks, that put us financially about where we were before my layoff. ABOUT. Close enough that I’m not having nightmares about losing my home, but not close enough that I get to enjoy the weekend of Someone Else Cooks And Cleans like we used to.

However, until this week I did keep Wes in preschool two days a week because I didn’t want him to miss graduation. So, on Tuesday and Thursdays I would work as much as possible while he was at school. Then, the rest of the week I’d spread out my work by sticking him in front of the TV. He ended up watching more TV than is ideal, but not enough to make me feel guilty. Win/Win!

But he graduated yesterday. And his sister gets out of school for the summer on Thursday. So this is the adjustment week before ALL HELL BREAKS LOOSE.

Here’s the thing – the TV trick will still work! They’re pretty good about giving me time to work if they can watch TV. But – you know – dead brain cells and such. So! My goal is to try my best not to use the TV as the lure to peace and quiet so that I can work.

I’d really rather not try to squeeze in my work while they’re sleeping. My early mornings are my exercise hours and I try to go to bed about the same time as they do at night. I can definitely try to squeeze 5-10 hours a week out of time that Donnie’s home, and declare 1) NO TV! and also 2) If you need something SEE YOUR FATHER! That will work some.

But typically? When they’re left on their own without TV I have to deal with some sort of issue every 20 minutes or so. They only time they seem to play successfully is when they’re allowed free reign to destroy the house. Which I’ve done during desperate times. But then it totally backfires because – while they’re okay at picking up reasonable amounts of messes – they suck at clearing out total destruction. So who ends up doing it? ME! And that’s not worth the exchange of a little bit of peaceful work time.

I’m thinking of doing daily schedules. If you let Mom work until 9am quietly – then you can watch TV for an hour. I also need some sort of system for keeping them from doing the whole Come To Mom Every Time We’re Unhappy With Each Other thing. Do I reward them for an entire day of handling conflict themselves? I hate punishing them for coming to me because it’s a tough moment to punish the Tattler, because then do I acknowledge the incident they’re tattling about? What if it’s something I typically punish? Usually if I hear them coming I’ll just say, “Is anyone bleeding? Is anyone breaking something that belongs to Mom? Is anyone doing something that could end in a trip to the ER? THEN I DO NOT CARE.” But I’m not sure how effective that is.

So! Do any of you peeps work from home? How do you do it? What are your secrets? Do you stick them in front of the TV when you need to work and just make the other hours in the day quality play time? Because I think I may actually start with that. Do you have any parks that have free WiFi where you live? Because that would be IDEAL. I think there’s a park downtown here that does, but not a playground. So it would work if they just wanted to run around and throw ball and stuff, but not much if they wanted to slide/swing.

I’ll take any suggestions you may have!

Goofy Photos + Oatmeal + Charity = The Perfect Storm of Blog Awesomeness

I am not lying to you when I say that the ONE food my entire family eats? Is oatmeal. We all eat it in different ways, but there are some mornings when every single one of us has oatmeal for breakfast. MrZ just likes the plain Quick Oats version of their oatmeal while the kids and I all prefer the Maple and Brown Sugar version that comes in the packets. Yum. So, when I was asked to participate in a Quaker Oats EVENT that would allow me to compete for a chance to have Quaker Oats give $5,000 to a local foodbank? I had three words: Count. Me. In.

Here’s the dealio. There are 25 bloggers doing this thing. We each get one day to accumulate as many comments where people link to their photos on Facebook as possible. Today is my day. (Although it doesn’t officially start until 9am Central time).The winner? Will have $5,000 donated to their local foodbank from Quaker Oats.

Is there a downside to this project? NO. There is not. Oatmeal. Comments. Photos. Charity. It gets no better than this! Unless, of course, you add unicorns. Which I couldn’t do. BUT I TRIED.

Here is what you have to do:

  1. Visit Start With Substance to get to the Quaker Facebook fan page and to read the official rules.
  2. You need a Facebook page. I’m sorry in advance if you do not have one, but once you sign up? You will realize how big of an addicting time suck it is. Here is mine.
  3. Go to the Quaker Oats Facebook page. Download and print off the picture of the Quaker Oats man on the sidebar of that page.
  4. Take a picture (or video of you’re feeling adventurous) of yourself and/or your family with the Quaker Oats man.
  5. Click the “Add Photos” link on the Quaker Oats Facebook Page and upload your photo. Once it’s uploaded, get the link to that photo (which is on the bottom of the photo’s page) and leave it in the comments section here.
  6. Feel good about yourself for participating in such an awesome charity oatmeal event.

Now, Quaker Oats is sending me two Quaker Oats coupons to give away as well as sending a case of Quaker Oats oatmeal to my local foodbank as a “Thank You.” If that’s not awesome, I don’t know what is. If I get the most comments with valid links to Facebook photos, they’ll donate $5,000 to my local foodbank as well. So Quaker Oats? Doing their part. Now, for my part:

For every qualifying comment I get on this entry before midnight tonight, I’ll donate one can of food to my local foodbank.

So…go do your thing! And help me help my local food bank! Pretty Please with brown sugar on top…?

Get it? Brown Sugar? Because it’s OATMEAL! I’m funny!

To get you started…here’s my picture. And here’s the link to my photo on facebook.


If you want to know more, visit the Official Web Page of the Quaker Oats event. In the meantime? Get to snapping pictures of yourself with that handsome man. If you dont leave a link in my comments to your photo on Facebook before 9am Central tomorrow morning? It won’t count and I might lose and then I would cry.

The End.

(Sidenote: The blog that posted yesterday? Has the most amazing recipe using Quaker Oatmeal I think I’ve ever seen. YOU MUST CHECK IT OUT. And then make it for me because I think it’s too complicated for my novice skills.)

Playing Catch Up

I have been sharing out entries on my sidebar for a few weeks giving me pointers on how to catch up with all of the digital communications in my life. But so far? That’s all I’ve done. The emails still all go unanswered and unaddressed while new ones come in adding to the pile. I’ve read a bunch of good articles about the best solutions to this problem, but I’ve learned the catch that they don’t inform you of: Reading the articles doesn’t actually do it for you!

Can you believe it?

Turns out, I’m supposed to actually do more than just read the articles. I’m supposed to do the things they tell me. Otherwise, the email still piles up and people get angrier and angrier as they get ignored longer and longer.

I’m using the excuse that I haven’t decided the best method to take. I personally like Email Bankruptcy (Throwing it all away while asking people if to re-email you if it was important. Essentially giving you good “Start” point.) But, I don’t think that’s the best solution. I feel like it implies that I’m hoping your wants/needs are not important enough to contact me again. When in reality it’s just that (A) I have about 2 seconds of “free time” a day and (B) I’m really lazy during those 2 seconds and would rather soak in the tub than answer emails.

So, I’m going to stall a little longer by simply asking YOU.

1) Have you ever gotten really behind on emails? Did you rectify that? How?

2) Do you stay caught up on emails? How?

3) How do you feel from the other end? If someone finally responds to your email months later – what do you consider a “good” excuse? Are you just happy they finally emailed you back or do you want a good explanation?

4) Can you make up a good explanation for me to use? Something that would possibly involve me being preoccupied doing something noble and respectable. Like, feeding the world, or saving the planet. Something like that.

Why Can’t I Get Injured Doing Something COOL?

MrZ has had many sports-related injuries in his life. As an adult who doesn’t participate in organized sports, his injuries always relate to working out or running. BUT STILL. That’s a good way to get an injury, right? I mean – if you’re limping because of shin splints when you ran a 10K the other day…everyone understands. If you have to get a steroid shot because you pulled a muscle in your neck when you were working out – – that’s damn cool. But somehow, when you’re walking around with a stiff neck because you coughed too hard, you are officially the biggest dork on the planet.

It is only second to that time I strained a muscle reaching for a Kleenex. That was my finest injury ever.

I have more range this morning than I did last night, but seriously? I need a good cause of my injury. I refuse to tell people who say, “Did you hurt your neck?” that I did it by coughing. I’m thinking that it was a mountain biking incident. Except I don’t own a mountain bike. Or maybe I injured it rescuing small kittens from a quick flooding sewage drain? OR MAYBE…I chased down a guy who mugged MrZ and when I tackled him to the ground to get MrZ’s wallet back, I strained my neck. I like that one! Not only am I cool – – but MrZ is the damsel in distress! LOVE IT!

What Would Riggins Do?

I have a Gmail account I use for non-blogging purposes. It uses an initial/name combo that I probably only scored because I was early on the Gmail train. Since my name is incredibly common, I considered myself lucky it was available and have been using it loyally for professional purposes since. HOWEVER – because it’s a common initial/name combo (think: I get a lot of email not actually intended for me.

I’ve been signed up for various services that I’ve had to immediately “unsubscribe” to. I’ve been emailed coupons for businesses I don’t use and newsletters for organizations I’ve never been a part of. I don’t know if people just enter my email address as a random one knowing it’s not theirs, so they won’t get spammed. Or, if it is legitimately a mistake. Either way – it happens all the time.

However, I do also get a lot of personal emails not meant for me. Usually they are part of a group email sent to an entire family reminding them about some upcoming function. Or a list of friends who get forwarded the same religious chain letter. Easy to spot as not being for me, but also easy to ignore. But sometimes it’s a one-on-one email intended for one person who happens to have my last name – but is not me. When it’s a one-to-one email, I’ll pause and consider emailing the person to let them know they have the wrong email address. I’ve been contacted before by someone saying, “I finally found a person who knew your email address and I’m so excited to be back in touch with you. How are you? Love, Uncle Frank.” I emailed him immediately. That was obviously someone very excited to be in contact with the intended recipient, so I wanted to let Uncle Frank know he has bad sources for email addresses.

Most of the time I just archive the emails and go about my business. However, recently I’ve been emailed in a group of college students in New York about some sort of Student Action Coalition battle going on with administration. I get these emails that say things like “Emergency Meeting: We’ve Been Suspended!” They’re some sort of an Anti-War group that is protesting something and are all riled up over the suspension of some of their members. It’s actually kind of exciting, but when they started worrying there was a “traitor” on their listserve, I decided to tell the head of the group that he was emailing the wrong person by having me on the list. I didn’t want someone to spot my email and be like, “Her! I don’t know who this person is! She must be ratting us out!”

So – I contacted that person. And I’ll usually contact direct emails, but what about the other emails? What protocol should I use to determine whether I should respond and say, “Sorry. Wrong Number.” Should I respond to all family-type emails even if they’re generic “Jackie made the softball team!” emails? Should I consider that the intended recipient might be sad at not getting those emails? Or should I just assume it will work itself out sometime at the next gathering when that person pipes up about not getting emails? What would you do? Would you simply ignore them all?

And most importantly – is it sad that I am going to miss being on the protesting student email list?