Monday, January 31, 2011

Germa-PHONE!

How many times a day do you touch your cell phone? Think of all the places you put your phone down during the day. Perhaps it hibernates in your pocket. I know my teenagers often sleep with their phones - clutched in their hands after falling asleep during late-night texting or perhaps tucked under their pillow so they'll hear the alarm go off in the morning. Well, I'm here to tell you, that's just GROSS!

Cell phones are little germ harbors. At any given time they could have staph, e.coli, or any number of other grossifications on them. Here's an example: yesterday we went bowling. My hands touched the bowling ball (God only knows what was harboring in those moist little finger holes), then my cell phone. I put my cell phone on the counter when it was my turn to bowl. I put my cell phone in my pocket occasionally. I ate a nacho chip and some french fries (in my defense, I did offer a round of "Island Margarita" hand sanitizer, which everyone readily accepted but that only goes so far in disinfectant power). I held my phone to my ear while talking, thus spreading makeup, sweat and whatever germs my hair, ear and cheek were hosting at that very moment onto it's touch-screen surface. I put my phone in my purse. I took it out. I put it on my nightstand and plugged it in to charge.

In the morning my phone felt..........dirty. Fuzz had collected on it's rubbery "skin", the touchscreen was a tad cloudy and I could practically SEE microscopic bugs crawling all over its surface. ICK! So, I took a lens wipe (mostly alcohol) and set to disinfecting my phone, something I try to do once a day, but only succeed in doing a few times a week. And I can't help but wonder, how often do cell phones make people sick? One study showed a cell phone had up to 18 times more bacteria than a toilet handle. Ew. In another study, 30 cellphones were swabbed for potential bacteria. Thirteen of them had dangerous bacteria on them - including staph, strep and MRSA. Plus, we often keep our cell phones in our pockets or our hands, which are warm and help breed bacteria at an alarming rate.

The bottom line? Wipe your cell phone down with an electronic or lens wipe at least once a day. And be wary of "borrowing" someone's phone. Don't lay your phone down on public surfaces, better to keep it in your pocket or purse. And DON'T sleep with it. All that ick just transfers to your bedding. Yep, cell phones are grosser than toilet seats. Would you carry a public restroom toilet seat around all day, put it to your cheek, hold it and sleep with it? Never. So, for God's sake, clean your cell phone. It's disgusting.

My husband wears tights.........

So, this morning I was folding laundry and I came across a lovely pair of tights. Which is funny because I have not worn tights since......well since I could squeeze my fat ass into a pair of tights which was when I was somewhere around the tender age of six. Anyway. These tights were my husband's. He wears them when he bikes to work, under his high-tech rainproof outerwear. They serves as a sort of "second skin" to keep him warm. Oh. Which reminds me. He calls them "skins". But, let's face it........they are tights. Tights for boys. Which, when you think about it, is just completely normal and fine considering all the amazing boys who wear tights. Like Superman. And Batman. And Peter Pan. And Robin Hood. Even Apollo Ohno wears tights and he's a bad-ass speedskater (as well as a real, live human, unlike all those previous fictional characters, but I digress...). The point is, superheroes wear tights and so of course Jeff wears them. For instance, he is faster than a speeding insult. Able to leap humongous laundry piles in a single bound! It's a bird, it's a plane......well, he can't fly, but that's just a tiny part of the whole superhero gig. This guy will stay awake till three in the morning to make pizzas for 40 teenagers at an all-night party. He built his own greenhouse. Just this weekend he made soap and I'm not talking the kind where you melt a neat little block of glycerine and add scent and some lavender buds. No, this was SOAP, like the olden days, made with fat and some scary looking chemicals he ordered online. He has on our dresser, right now, three kinds of animal "calls" used for hunting (although how long one could stand listening to the "dying rabbit" call while trying to entice a coyote is debatable). He competes in (and wins!) triathlons. He rides his bike to work because his transportation, a much-loved but definitely "work in progress" truck is expensive to drive. I should mention that he rides his bike rain or shine, and even when it's icy outside, even though he falls and gets hurt, he soldiers on to work (I had to put the kebash on the icy riding). He fixes toilets and picks up dog poop and isn't afraid to go camping on the beach even when it snows. He's definitely my superhero. So what if he wears tights? All superheroes do!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

How Much?

Ah, the big debate. How much is childcare worth to you? Parents who choose to or have to work find themselves in the position of having to pay for childcare. And being budget-minded (who isn't?), they often want to get the best deal possible. But what is the "deal"? How cheap are you willing to go to pay for childcare and expect quality? People demand the most from their caregivers. They want a person who will focus on their children, play educational games with them, foster their health and development, keep them clean and well-fed, and nurture them with all the patience and wisdom of Mary Poppins (who, by the way, is a fictional character, keep that in mind!). But, parents, I ask you - do YOU fit the bill? Do YOU do all of those things with your children when you are their primary caregiver? I know I didn't. When my kids were little, I was a busy mom - always initiating activities and projects with my kids, taking them on "field trips", purchasing educational games, limiting TV and junk food, holding them, nurturing them, doing everything all of the "experts" and books told me to. But I'm not too proud to admit I occasionally propped my firstborn up in a walker and plopped her in front of a window so I could get the dishes done, or put my toddler in front of an episode or two of "Blue's Clues" in order to fold some laundry. Believe me, if my kids were otherwise occupied with a game or activity, initiated on their own, and no one was getting hurt or maimed by it, I was all for those precious few minutes of peace and quiet. Sure, I could have played some more board games, or taken them to the zoo more. I could have built a rocket with them or taught them Spanish. But I didn't. I needed some balance. Still, I think I did a pretty good job of just being a mommy and my kids are healthy and well-adjusted and will (hopefully) be productive members of society one day, so I'm satisfied with a job well done. And I didn't make a penny.

BUT! I have worked in childcare for many years and I've earned many pennies along the way taking care of other people's children. And I treated it like a professional job. To me, being a childcare provider was NOT the same as being a mommy. I wasn't just "taking over" a mommy's job, I was providing a service. Sure, many parts of that job involved using my basic instincts as a mommy, and the loving and nurturing was natural and not contrived. However, while I might plop my own toddler in front of a TV show to do laundry, my job as a childcare provider was not to do laundry, therefore, interaction with the child was my main priority. Childcare providers' jobs mainly involve interaction and undivided attention given to a child - probably more than their own mommy can give, and the overall reason is that a childcare provider is being PAID. It's a JOB. As such, certain criteria are set forth and it's the childcare provider's job to follow them. As with any professional, you get what you pay for, and childcare is one area that I find shockingly underpaid. These are your CHILDREN! Your most precious possession is at stake here and yet people are willing to pay peanuts to the very person who spends the majority of their day with their child (same applies here to teachers, who are also grossly underpaid, and yet, we entrust our child's entire EDUCATION to them, but that's another blog post!). So, what's it worth to you? Ten dollars and hour? Twenty? Fifty?

But come on, you say, I only make SO much money. I can't AFFORD to pay that much for childcare. Well, I'm here to tell you, you can't afford NOT to. Having worked in the childcare field for over twenty-five years, I have seen the best and worst of childcare providers. When I was a teenager, and working in a very upscale and brand-new childcare center, I saw my fellow teen workers shunning the "icky" kids. The ones with runny noses, or mismatched clothing, or special needs. Only the prettiest, cutest and most adorable children earned the coveted place on the teen caregiver's lap and their undivided attention. Ok, you say, but that's a teenager for you. Really? I saw this same thing taking place with adult caregivers when I worked for the YMCA. Parents cannot really know what goes on behind the closed doors of the childcare center, and often they would find it appalling at worst, and hurtful at best. There are some WONDERFUL caregivers out there, but when you pay a caregiver less than $10 an hour, you can't expect the quality of a true professional, regardless of how upscale and wonderful your childcare center is.

Thinking of hiring a private nanny to care for your precious angels? Think of it this way. If you were in charge of hiring a highly qualified individual at your place of business, would you offer a competitive salary package with benefits? Of course you would. But many parents think nothing of hiring a nanny and paying them less than poverty-level wages, with no benefits. Accountability comes with responsibility and a respect for your career. Integrity comes from within, and wanting to do a good job because it's the RIGHT thing to do, is becoming a thing of the past. Let's face it, we all need jobs. We all need money. We need to make a living. Few of us are so attached to our jobs that we'd do it for nothing. Childcare is a job. It's a profession. And as such, expect to pay competitive wages for the BEST of the best. As parents, we often ask MORE of a childcare provider than we even expect of ourselves. And we want it for what accounts to pocket change. If you pay $100 for a crummy TV that has a bad picture and goes out in a month, you might adopt the attitude of "you get what you pay for". But if you pay $1000 for a TV and expect good quality, and don't get it, you expect some recourse. You expect the company to have some accountability. Same with your caregiver.

Sure, you say, but my caregiver comes to my home and hangs out with my baby all day. It's not that HARD. And she gets a BREAK when the baby is sleeping. Really? When you are at work, and there's nothing to do, does your pay get docked because the company did not provide you with enough work to fill your day? If you sit at a desk all day, and have access to your computer so you can sneak in a little online shopping or even Facebook while you "work", is your work really HARD? When I care for your children, you are not only paying me to provide top-notch childcare. You are paying me for my TIME. I have a family, too. I am  taking time away from my family, the same way you do each day when you drive to your desk job, to provide a service to your family, the same way you provide service to your company. But, you say, I attend trainings, I'm a PROFESSIONAL. As your childcare provider, I am happy to attend trainings. I am happy to obtain certifications. I am happy to further my degree if it provides you with the peace of mind that you have hired the most top-notch professional for the job. Oh, and by the way, I will also expect you to pay for it, the same way your company pays for YOUR certifications and continuing education.

So, what is it worth to you? Do you want a warm body who can call 911 in an emergency to care for your children nine hours a day? Or do you want an experienced professional, an experienced mother, a person who takes the job of child-rearing seriously enough to care about doing the very best job possible? It all comes down to this - you get what you pay for. What is it worth?

Friday, January 28, 2011

Hiatus

I have no idea why but I believe I just took the longest break ever from writing on my blog! What gives? Nothin' much, just plain ol' laziness or lack of inspiration or, probably, just too damn tired after reading my Facebook posts to write anything.

But here I am. The past couple of weeks have been chaos as usual. Here is a brief rundown: Jan. 12 the highlight of my day was meeting the neighborhood girls for drinks at The Rock. Jan. 13 I got the happy news that I had lowered my cholesteral! Jan. 14 I enjoyed an evening at home while everyone else was otherwise occupied (heaven!). Jan. 15 I worked backstage for "SeussOdyssey", Hayley's latest play, then watched the final show that evening. After the show, we hosted the cast party with 40-ish kids. Jeff made pizza till 3 a.m., we stayed up till 5 a.m. and I slept till noon the next day. Jan. 16 I (sort of) watched the Seahawks game. I think they lost miserably. Or something. Jan. 17 the kids were off school. I took them to get donuts and when we left the gusty wind took the box of donuts out of my arms and blew them upside down all over the sidewalk. Jan. 18 I actually worked out (yay me) and met Peggy for coffee at Country Village. Jan. 19 I worked as a recess lady, and took the kids to the doctor and orthodontist. Jan. 20 I worked at a jr. high and went to a mandatory parent meeting for the musical, which both Hayley and Hannah are in, and came home with my head swimming from the time and money required to pull it off. Jan. 21 I got up at an ungodly hour to drive Jeff to the airport for a weekend conference in Ft. Worth, then went to work at a jr. high for the day, after which I hosted book club - supermom day! Jan. 22 I enjoyed coffee with my great neighbor, Betty, who's wise words resonated with me, then took the girls shopping. Jan. 23 I cracked the whip on homework and chores then went to the airport to pick up Jeff. Jan. 24 I actually made it to yoga for the first time in two weeks. Jan. 25 I remembered to call my mom for her birthday and interviewed for a potential nanny job. Jan. 26 I worked out and went shopping. Jan. 27 I did yoga, had coffee,a massage, and went shopping - and marveled in the sheer miracle of having a day like that. Jan. 28 I went to a dr. appt., worked out, and spent the evening learning to Skype and listening to Arlie and her friend Bradee giggling in the other room. Sleepovers!

So, there you have it. Busy all the time.

And there was some excitement thrown in for good measure. I was at the mall on Wednesday and I got a call from Hannah. "Mom, we have a situation." Never a good way to start a conversation. "Harrison cut his finger pretty bad." So, I tell her to put some pressure on it for five minutes and call me back. Meantime, I frantically call their dad and Jeff to see if one of them can assess the situation. But no dice. So, I call Betty, my wonderful neighbor, who also happened to do search and rescue and EMT work in her past. She put a butterfly bandage on it and said it probably needed stitches. Another call from Hannah to tell me this and I put in a call to the dr. office. They are closing in 15 minutes but say I can go to their other clinic as long as we get there before 6:45. So, I finally get home, put Harrison in the car and Arlie suddenly decides she also needs to go. So, I wait while Harrison sits in the back with his finger in the air to stem the tide of bleeding. Arlie takes her sweet time and comes out with a BACKPACK filled with activities. WTF? We race off, hitting traffic and realize we're out of gas. Stop at the gas station to fill up. "Hang on, bud, we're almost there." I reassure Harrison while filling the tank. We finally get to the general area of the clinic and I get all turned around and end up driving up and down the roads around the clinic before finally finding it. We race into the office at 6:39 just in time to get checked in. The doctor, who's name I cannot remember, was funny and witty and took one look at his finger and said "oh yeah, that's gonna need stitches!" The best part was she let me help! I mean, I didn't get to actually stitch or anything but I assisted her which was cool. Harrison was a trouper through it all, and fascinated by the whole process. The blood was impressive! Who knew a finger could bleed so much? We finally got out of the doctor's office, hit the McDonald's drive thru, and headed home. THAT was a looonnngg day......

And now I'm tapped out of things to say and I'm afraid this blog post wasn't very witty or funny. Unless you think my life is funny in which case you might find this hysterical. It's never a dull moment around here. NEVER.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Colossal dinner fail.......

The first thing I had to do was look up the word "colossal". I spelled it wrong and I hate spelling things wrong. Anyway. This post is about a "colossal" (meaning: big, giant, of enormous proportions) mess I made out of dinner tonight. Let me back up a bit. I was home ALL DAY today, after working all day the past several so I was planning to get amazing things done. I would read! And do all the laundry! And clean the whole house! And make an amazing dinner for my family! They would arrive home to a sparkling home, with scented candles burning and a perfectly roasted hunk of meat waiting to be carved. Except I didn't have a hunk of meat. And none of that stuff happened. Well, I did read. So......along comes dinner time (and that bastard sneaks up on you, I'm telling you!) and I knew I had to make something. I had already done some early dinner prep in the morning so I'd be all ready when dinner time came. Ok, I put out a bag of potatoes and a chunk of hamburger to thaw on the counter. But still! I was going to make something delicious using those two ingredients and a few more things.

Dinner time came and I quickly typed into Google "what can I make with red potatoes and ground beef?" which brought up a surprising number of results, but my patience level only allows me to read the first four or so, so I decided to make a soup. I read the recipe, jotted down a few things, but of course I did not plan to follow it exactly. Do not blame me for this. My mom never followed a recipe exactly and her mother before her, so it's just the way we do things. Besides, I'm usually out of several of the main ingredients and have to improvise anyway.

So, I started making this soup. I filled a large pan with water and then decided it wasn't big enough to hold my delicious soup. So, I got out a bigger pan and put in more water. I added diced red potatoes, an onion, several spices, chicken bouillion. I browned the ground beef. I cooked and simmered and added the beef to the watery soup. Hm. Not thick enough. I know! I'll just use the potato masher and squish up some of the potatoes to make it thicker! Brilliant. Except it was still watery. No worries. I'll make a roux. (I can spell that AND I know what it means, how jealous are you?). I made a lovely bit of roux and added it to the pot hoping to thicken it. Eh. Not so much. So, I started over and made more roux. Only this time I added a hunk of grated cheese and it was a delectable cheese sauce, I must say. Add to pan. Stir. Still watery! I get out the hand mixer and decide to mix those damn potatoes up and make this a THICK soup, damn it! I whir and swirl and...........still watery. Desperate, I search for something else to thicken it. An image of laundry starch crosses my mind briefly but I dismiss it. I find a head of cauliflower in the fridge. Chop, chop, in it goes! Bring back to boil, cook until cauliflower is soft enough to blend. Blend again. STILL WATERY! And now it's taken on a dishwater grey color that is completely unappetizing. I take a tiny taste. Not bad but the watery texture broken up by bits of ground beef just isn't cutting it for me. I declare dinner a disaster and frantically look around for something else to make.

I glance at the Uncle Peteza's magnet on the fridge and entertain a fleeting thought of hot, fresh pizza delivered to my door. But then I remember I'm broke, so I pull out some bread slices and decide to make grilled peanut butter and nutella sandwiches with walnuts. Why? I have no idea. It seemed like a good idea at the time. Except it's really hard to butter one side of a piece of bread and spread peanut butter or nutella on the other side. My hands were greasy and sticky and I dropped a huge hunk of Smart Balance into the open flame of the gas stove (surprisingly that stuff is not very flammable. Lucky for me.). I am now shaking from hunger so I heap the sandwiches on a plate, slice up two apples and call it dinner. In the meantime, Arlie comes in and says "so are you going to my dance class with me?" I push my hair off my face, glance down at my stained t-shirt and say "what time do we need to go?" to which she replies "6:30" (it's 6:20). I decide to bail on that obligation so I can finish up dinner, clean up my huge mess, and EAT because by this time I'm about to pass out. She shoots me a look that melts me with equal parts guilt and resentment and leaves with the neighbors.

I finally sit down to enjoy this "feast" I've set before my family. I find myself getting angrier and angrier with each mouthful. My day did NOT go as planned. My yummy, hot, hearty soup was a grey, thin, watery mess. But the peanut butter/nutella/walnut concoction is surprisingly good and I bite off all my nails to deal with my stress. I still don't feel much better about my day - guess I set my expectations too high again. Oops. Lucky for me, now I'm too tired to care.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Ladies only?

Today at my sub job, I had to use the restroom. Wait. Stop right there. Why do we call it a "rest" room anyway? I mean, sure, it's sometimes the only "rest" I get in a day, considering I'm actually sitting down, but I can think of a many more places I'd rather rest than a public toilet. So, anyway. I had to go to the bathroom. And I noticed there were two bathrooms......wait. It wasn't really a bathroom either, because there was no bath. But I digress. So, the two bathrooms had male/female signs on it. Unisex bathrooms. Which led me to believe I could use either one. So, I just used the one closest to me. You know, because they were UNISEX and all. Right? Wrong. I should have been tipped off by the "Street Rodder" magazines next to the toilet. But I missed the obvious signs. I grabbed a "Waxie" butt gasket and put it on the seat. And I had a sudden flow a gratitude for those lovely, waxy, paper seat covers. Because, for one, how nice is that? A little slice of security between you and the nasty toilet. And for another, because once I exited the bathroom and realized I had so obviously used the WRONG ONE (as evidenced by the adorable "ladies" restroom just adjacent to the Street Rodder restroom - the lady restroom had proper lotions, adorable framed prints, even a mermaid statuette!), I was so grateful that there was that papery thin shield between me and a toilet used by MEN! Ewwww........because we all know men don't lift the seat, which means the seat I sat on had undoubtedly been "christened" and that just makes me.......ugh. I cannot even put it to words. Horrified, I vowed to engrain the location of the ladies restroom in my mind and never make that mistake again. If only they made hand-sanitizer-infused toilet paper!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Lock it up!

As I type this, my husband is installing a lock on our bedroom door. Not just your typical push lock that can be easily picked with a bobby pin, no this is an actual KEY lock. And it's really sad it's come to this but desperate times call for desperate measures. My kids have become way too comfortable using my room, my clothing and my makeup. They come in whenever they please, take whatever clothing items they want without asking, use my makeup, take the conditioner out of my shower and don't return it, use hairbrushes, hair dryer and flat iron and leave them out, or with hair covering them. They help themselves to our computers and lay in our bed while using them, or lounge in our bed while watching TV. We've asked nicely for them to ask permission, or to not use things in the first place - example - they have their own clothes, makeup, hair products, bedrooms - but their items are too messy, or too disorganized, or just plain missing because they don't take care of them, so they use mine. They run out of clean clothes because they're too lazy to do laundry, so they just "borrow" mine. Which means I won't see it again for months because it will remain crumpled up on their bedroom floor or will "travel" to their dad's house, in which case I may never see it again. It's maddening and there's only one solution - to disable their access. It's sad that it's come to this, really, they should respect boundaries, take care of their own things, put things away, keep up on their laundry. But instead, they use our room and all it's contents as a crutch.

I will really enjoy coming home to know my bed has remained made, no kids were sitting on it in their dirty school clothes, my computer will not have a DVD in it's drive that I did not watch, my closet won't have empty hangers in it, and my shower will remain stocked. I'm not looking forward to having to carry a key to enter my own room, but it's a small price to pay to send the message - KEEP OUT! I think I deserve one place in the house that is not constantly being messed up by kids. There's nothing wrong with asking to borrow things. And when one does borrow something, one returns it - in good condition. That's a lesson they'll have to learn at someone else's expense. For me, I'm putting it under lock and key.