Entrepreneur or homemaker?

My future entrepreneur/home maker

My future entrepreneur/homemaker

Avery went through my magazines this morning and asked to take Inc. and Southern Living with her in the car to school. Of course she can’t read and doesn’t realize the significance of her selections. It struck me though and that’s why I took a picture. It made me wonder which choice she’ll make as an adult: entrepreneur or homemaker or some combination of the two.

I’ve written before about the concept of women having it all – a fulfilling career and a happy home life. It’s a choice all moms have to make at some point. Finances often guide our decisions, but some women are meant to be stay-at-home moms and some are not. I’ve always considered myself in the latter category. I adore my kids, but I like working. I’m enjoying this break, but I still have the kids in school for part of the day, so I can work on business ideas and seek out potential work.

I was talking to a newly pregnant friend yesterday about working, telling her you really don’t know what is best for you until the baby is born. I have friends who I thought would stay home who went back, and others who I thought for sure would continue working, who quit. Some couldn’t imagine ever leaving their babies and others went back to work after six weeks.

I was lucky I had four months off with each baby, and I worked from home (with them) two days a week when I went back to work. I took my most recent job when Avery was nine months old and lost that flexibility. It added so much stress to our family, which I didn’t fully comprehend until the past week. My new schedule of working out in the morning, working at home during the day, picking the kids up early and having dinner ready when Chase gets home is pretty fantastic.

There is a balance between the Southern Living girl in me and the Inc. girl in me. My recent job loss is going to let me find her. I’m hopeful she’ll do great things!

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Goodbye work anxiety

Relaxing Sunday!

Relaxing Sunday!

For the past few months, Sunday evenings and Monday mornings have been hard. After spending the weekend with my family, it was time to go back to work.  With the exception of eight months of maternity leave, I’ve always been a working mom. I like working, and I rarely felt bad about leaving my kids. They were happy and safe, while I was doing work I enjoyed and contributing to my family’s financial well-being.

All of that being said, for me to be okay with leaving my kids for work, I need to like what I’m doing. When my job changed in recent months, I started to get anxiety at the end of every weekend. Leaving my kids for a job that did not use my skills gave me a pit in my stomach.

The anxiety would start Sunday evening, though I don’t think the kids could tell.  We’d have a great day and once they were asleep, and I was packing Clay’s lunch, doing laundry and setting out my laptop, my demeanor would change. Chase and I would watch Mad Men and try to enjoy our normal Sunday routine, but I wasn’t all there. The dread had set in: the idea of dropping the kids off the next morning and heading to the job that I no longer enjoyed.

For months, I dealt with the anxiety because my job paid the bills and I was too scared to make a change. I had ideas of starting my own business or finding a job that better fit my skills and interests, but it’s awfully hard to walk away from a well-paying job just because you aren’t fulfilled. Especially when you have a mortgage to pay and kids to feed.

Someone once told me that the universe occasionally forces you to “move or be moved.” Last week I didn’t choose to leave my job, yet being “moved” was probably the best thing that could have happened to me.

Yesterday was my first truly relaxing Sunday in a long time. I had a great Mother’s Day, then Chase and I watched a movie. I watched the whole thing (while folding laundry, of course) and didn’t feel the least bit anxious. The kids and I laid in bed this morning, and I took them to school late. I’m working on business ideas and writing today. Not feeling anxious, just feeling free. And happy that the crazy events of last week have allowed me to say goodbye to work anxiety for good!

Happy 5th birthday, mommy lost her job

My week started out great. I woke up early on Monday to get fresh donuts for Clay to take to school for his birthday. When I got to the office, I got an email from my boss requesting a late afternoon meeting, which seemed odd. I had a feeling right away that something was going on, since 1.) he rarely schedules meetings with me and 2.) the last time he did, he told me he was thinking about selling the company. The minute I walked in his office my suspicions were confirmed. I vaguely remember hearing something about the company “going in a different direction” and “letting you go.” I kept my composure, asked a few questions and went back to finish up my work before heading home.

Awesome timing, I thought. I find out I’m losing my job just a few hours before I’m supposed to host family and friends for my son’s fifth birthday celebration. I wasn’t going to let this ruin my kid’s birthday. I think I managed to pull it off, though Clay’s godmother and grandmother both noticed the vodka cocktail in my hand, which is not common for me on a Monday night. They were kind enough to not say anything until the next day when I told them about my job.

That night, with our guests gone and the kids in bed, Chase and I felt a lot like we did on the night Clay was born, exactly five years prior. He was five weeks early and born very quickly, so we were in shock. That night, we kept looking at each other and saying “what the f— just happened?” We did the same thing this past Monday. I woke up with a job and went to bed without one, just like the day in 2008 when I woke up without a baby and went to bed with one.

I spent two days in the hospital when Clay was born, and strangely enough, I only spent two more days in the office before leaving my job on Wednesday. I’m still in shock, but I hadn’t been happy for quite some time and wanted to start my own business, so in many ways it’s for the best. Like the day Clay was born, getting over the initial shock was the worst part. Having a baby was the best thing that ever happened to me and changed my life forever. I have this strange feeling that losing my job is the start of something amazing for our family.

Until I figure out the details, I’m enjoying more time with my kids, working out and just plain enjoying life more. God has a plan for me and that job wasn’t it. Tune in to find what is…with no day job, I will get to write a lot! Oh and let me know if you know anyone who needs a contract writer or content marketer 🙂

Clay turns five: “Welcome to the ‘big kid’ years!”

Helping daddy make smoothies

Helping daddy make smoothies this morning

Today is Clay’s fifth birthday, and I just got an email from BabyCenter that nearly made me cry. “Welcome to the ‘big kid’ years!,” the first line said. I guess it’s better than “your baby is going to kindergarten this year, where does the time go?,” which is what I’ve been thinking a lot lately.

I signed up for BabyCenter five years and eight months ago, when I was newly pregnant with Clay. I liked the weekly updates telling me how the baby was growing and comparing his size to various food items, though the shrimp comparison was creepy, and the jicama one had me frantically searching Google images.

As time passed, I no longer needed BabyCenter to tell me how big my baby was getting – I saw it every day. He was so tiny when we brought him home from the hospital five weeks early, but eating every two hours helped him grow quickly. He smiled and laughed and rolled over. All his dark hair fell out and he looked like Uncle Fester before it came back blond. He talked when he was 10 months old (and hasn’t stopped), but he started walking late, which Chase still talks about. “Clay didn’t walk until he was 18 months old, right?,” he’ll ask me. It was 15 months exactly. I’ll never forget. He was home sick, and my dad had spent the prior week practicing with him. He took five steps to me in the kitchen before falling. I screamed with excitement, which scared him. I kept quiet on the second attempt, taking video instead.

Clay is a typical first born. He’s very cautious, thinking about everything before he does it.  He has empathy for everyone and hates conflict, even in Disney movies. He’ll actually leave the room during fighting or “scary” scenes. He loves with all his heart. There is nothing he’d rather do than spend time with friends and family. He leads his cousin and his sister around by the hand, and I’ve seen him put his arm around the waist of his best girl friend when they play together. His teachers tell me he is a natural leader and though that makes me a little nervous (I’ve met Bill Clinton), it also makes me proud when they say he’s very inclusive and everyone likes to be around him.

That’s how I feel about him, too. When I was pregnant, people assumed I would rather be having a girl (which wasn’t the case) and would try to cheer me up by telling me how special a mother-son relationship can be. Watching Chase and his mom and my brother and my mom, I don’t think that bond ever goes away, which makes me smile.

I went to kindergarten information night a few weeks ago and it hit me that my first baby is turning a “big kid.” Watching him help around the house, write sentences at school and especially today, on his fifth birthday, I know in many ways he’s already there. I’m just glad I get to go along for the ride, because we’re going to enjoy the heck out of these “big kid years.”

Happy birthday, Munchkin!

April 25: A tough day on the calendar

Cinnamon cunch bagels

Cinnamon cunch bagels

My memory is particularly strong when it comes to dates. I can’t remember what I ate for dinner two days ago, yet I can remember my childhood friends’ birthdays. I associate a great deal of meaning with dates – the date I arrived in Tallahassee for college, the date I met Chase, the date I found out I was pregnant for the first time. Those are all happy memories, though. It’s the unhappy ones that I wish I could forget. I almost immediately forget the endings of movies I see, why can’t I get these dates out of my head?

My dad died on April 25. Fortunately, this year I’ve had a lot going on, including a fun trip to Disneyland, so I wasn’t in a funk for the 15 days between Avery’s birthday and the 25th like I have been in past years. Three years later, I’m doing much better. People say that “time heals wounds” and in some ways, that’s true.

Since my dad died, three people have come into my life whose birthdays are on April 25. First, was a little girl down the street I’ll call “C.” She turned one the day my dad died and turns four today. She suffers from epilepsy. C is so sweet and brave. My kids love to play with her and genuinely worry when she has a seizure or spends time in the hospital. She and her parents have taught us all so much. She’s an inspiration.

Second, was our nanny, “M.” She came to San Diego and stayed in a youth hostel to interview with me. M dressed up for the interview and planned to walk back to the airport afterwards (I drove her). She had a work ethic and maternal instinct that was possibly stronger than my own. M was only 20 at the time, but acted older. She had the most important job in the world, caring for our kids. Sadly, M moved back home to Washington, but she’ll always be a part of our lives.

Finally, comes my coworker, “A.” She’s my kindred spirit at work. Another non-economist and a working mom. She has two young boys and is divorced, so we discuss the challenges in finding work-life balance. We’re also not billing our hours to clients, so she is the only person who takes the time to chat on occasion. I need this interaction in the workplace, and she provides it for me.

While April 25 brought so much sadness, it also brought these lovely people into the world. I realized this morning one of my college friends has a birthday today as well. The worst day of my life – losing a parent – was one of the best days of their parents’ lives. Something about my obsession with dates makes me think they came into my life for a reason. In the future, if I meet others with April 25 as a birthday, I’ll take it as a sign.

I took my kids to Panera this morning to have my dad’s favorite bagel, telling Clay this was the day he died. He is still young, so I wasn’t expecting him to understand much, but he said “well, it’s not Grandpa’s birthday, but we’ll celebrate him today.” And celebrate, we will!

The Happiest Place on Earth: How to save time and money at Disneyland

Ready for the day!

Ready for the day!

We’ve been back from Disneyland for a week, and we’re still talking about it. Disneyland is not far from San Diego, but we were waiting until our kids were a  bit older to make sure they would really enjoy (and remember) their first visit. Since their birthdays are a month apart, we asked if they wanted to spend a couple of days at Disney instead of having birthday parties, and the Cars lover and princess fanatic thought this was a great idea.

I read some helpful tips for saving time and money before we went, so I thought I’d share what made our trip to the “Happiest Place on Earth” so much fun.

1. Buy tickets online
I buy everything online, so it’s no surprise I purchased our tickets that way. What was a surprise was how many people didn’t purchase tickets in advance and how long the lines were to buy them at the gates. Buy online and save valuable time!

Taking a break in the room for a nap and a snack

Taking a break in the room for a nap and a snack

2. Stay at a Disney hotel
I know some people may argue this, as the price is significantly higher than it is to stay at the local Marriott or Hilton. Time is money though, so it was worth the extra $100 to park our car on site and walk (not shuttle) everywhere. Another big advantage is that you can get into the parks an hour earlier than everyone else and avoid crowds. We were also able to come back to our room in the early afternoon. The kids and Chase took a nap while I did some work, then we watched the end of the Masters and had a drink and snack before heading back to Disneyland feeling refreshed.

Mmm...Pirate's Booty and fruit snacks

Mmm…Pirate’s Booty and fruit snacks

3. Bring snacks and drinks
I do this at every theme park (Sea World, San Diego Zoo), but it’s especially helpful at Disney where lines are long and prices are high. I bought Capri Sun waters and made individual bags of snacks for each kid. The obvious advantage is saving money since a bottle of water is $4 and popcorn is $6, but it also allows you to eat healthier than you would with most Disney options. Not to mention it keeps you sane, helping to distract the kids in long lines. And of course, you’ll be grateful for the time you save not having to wait in line with other hungry (and often grouchy) families.

Spent her gift card on Minnie!

Spent her gift card on Minnie!

4. Limit souvenirs
Disney is a marketing machine, and many attractions spill riders out directly into gift shops. We exited quickly, leading the kids off to new rides. Though the toys in the shops look fun, they were there for the experience and didn’t seem to mind. That being said, Avery got a Disney gift card from her aunt and uncle for her birthday, and Clay had a great week (of listening) at school, so we told him he could pick something $15 or less.  I was shocked Clay was able to find Cars he didn’t already have (he’s been collecting them for almost two years), and Avery chose a Minnie Mouse pillow pet. This was their first trip to Disney, so I was okay buying one thing each.  If you agree to buying a souvenir, I’d recommend buying it at the end of the day, so you don’t have to lug it around all day.

After his second ride on Radiator Springs Racers

After his second ride on Radiator Springs Racers

5. Get to the parks early
We got to Disneyland right when they opened and to California Adventure an hour before they opened to the public (thanks to staying on property). Lines are short when the parks first open, so head to the rides that are most important to you first. It’s also good to get FASTPASSES for the popular rides in the morning since they run out quickly. That was the case for Radiator Springs Racers in the new Cars Land. Chase and Clay went and got in line for the ride, while I stood in the FASTPASS line, which meant Clay got to ride again later that morning. FASTPASSES for that ride run out by 11:00 a.m. and without them, my coworker waited in line for three hours. No, thanks!

Our breakfast companion

Our breakfast companion

6. Book a character dining experience
Disney characters walk around the parks, but they have handlers like the celebrities they are, and kids have to wait in line to meet them. But, there is a solution for impatient people like me – character dining. I know $16 is a lot of money for a child’s breakfast, but for little kids, eating with Disney characters is pretty darn cool. At our hotel, the Paradise Pier, the food wasn’t bad either. They had an omelet station reminiscent of our Hawaiian honeymoon and Mexico trips, so Chase and I pretended we were on a tropical vacation. You have to eat breakfast regardless, so rather than spending time at the park waiting in line to meet Minnie, let her come to you while you enjoy some pancakes. We went early (7:00 a.m.), so the dining room was not crowded, and we got a lot of attention from the characters. Almost too much attention for me, but it was great for the kids. If you’re not staying at a Disney hotel, there are dining experiences at the parks, including Ariel’s Grotto, where you dine with the princesses (we chose the more generic Mickey & Friends option since Clay is not quite as obsessed with princesses as Avery is).

Cheers to a fun day and sleeping munchkins! Who cares that we're eating in the hallway?

Cheers to a fun day and sleeping munchkins! Who cares that we’re eating in the hallway?

7. Put the kids to bed, order room service and relax
Chase and I didn’t eat dinner at the park, choosing instead to order room service at the hotel. We brought a cooler with us, so we had drinks and the kids fell asleep quickly listening to a bedtime story from Cinderella on the TV (another benefit of the Disney hotel). The food was just okay and we ate in the hallway of our room with the lovely light of the bathroom, but it was nice to have some alone time and made it feel like a vacation for the adults as well.

All of these tips are specific to Disneyland, though for my East Coast friends, they’d probably work for Disney World, too. Chase and I joked that a fun drinking game (if they sold booze) would be to take a drink every time you hear a kid cry. Fortunately, it was never either of our kids. We had a blast!

I’m sure I’m forgetting some tips since I didn’t get much sleep on the trip and haven’t had time to catch up since. Do you have any tips for Disney, to make our next trip even better?

Avery turns three, still my baby girl

Back in bed, after her birthday visit

Back in bed, after her birthday visit to our room

We called her “baby girl” for years, but now it’s usually “Avery Gracie” or “princess.” She’s not a baby, as she so often reminds us, but she’s still my baby girl. Last night she came into our room at nearly the exact same time she was born. She doesn’t usually come in our room at night, so it’s almost like she knew that three years ago, at that time, something special was about to happen. Our world was changed forever when Avery Grace was born.

Avery has this charisma and upbeat personality that seems unusual in such a young child. I used to joke that if I were an illustrator, I would make a cartoon of her. Now I threaten to take her to Hollywood and make her get a job, but I don’t want her to end up like Lindsay Lohan, so we’ll keep her as our personal entertainment instead.

My first post on this blog was on Avery’s 2nd birthday. I said she was the perfect baby, which was true. About two months after I wrote that post, she learned how to climb out of her crib, moved into a toddler bed and still escapes a few nights a week. She’s not being naughty, she just doesn’t want to miss anything. She needs one more hug and kiss or a bite of whatever Chase and I are having for dinner.

Last year one of our friends, who doesn’t have kids of his own, made a comment that Avery is going to be that girl in high school that everyone loves because she is up for anything. I have mixed feelings about this (I will be monitoring her friends very closely!), but it’s a character trait I wish I had. If you ask Avery if she wants to do something, nine times out of 10, her answer is “sure!” The “nos” are few and far between and mostly occur when asking her to wear a certain outfit or to sit still to do her hair.

I hope our baby girl has a wonderful 3rd birthday!

Birthday outfit, I didn't have to fight her on this one

Showing off her birthday outfit, I didn’t have to fight her on this one