Sunday, February 28, 2016

Random Observations: Work to Home Edition

Some thoughts about how life has changed a bit since I stopped working:


When I was working, I always felt like I was battling exhaustion. Always, always sleepy. When it was time for bed, I'd get in bed and go to sleep. Immediately. There was none of this falling asleep business. I was dead to the world within five minutes of my head hitting the pillow.

Now I rarely feel consistently sleepy. I always have the morning groggies, but that's a different animal. What's odd is that I get about the same amount of sleep, but the constant nag of exhaustion is gone. Now when I get in bed, it takes twenty or thirty minutes to go to sleep. I'd forgotten what it is like to fall asleep.


When I was working, my hips hurt everyday. Sleeping was painful. Walking was painful. Rising from the seated position was painful. Pregnancy did a number on my joints and pelvis--stupid relaxin--and I never was in a position to really get those support muscles back into shape. Exercise? Are you kidding? I didn't have time for exercise. So I just hurt. Every day.

Now my hips do not bother me near so much. I can sleep without waking up in agony. I am still not in great shape and my hips are not pain free all the time, but the difference is significant. The standing and moving necessary to carry out the home duties have lessened the pain to the point where I can go several days without noticing it. It's fantastic. I do need to implement an exercise regime to further improve it, but I have been given the hope that I am not irretrievably broken.


When I was working, I left this house five days a week. I got up, drove to work, drove home, and did it again tomorrow. How was that possible?

Now Sunday creeps up on me by surprise because didn't we just go to church. Oh, a week has passed? I've not left the house since then. I am not sure how I would manage to leave every day with all the responsibilities I have now. I'd like to get out more, but I've yet to unlock that level of competence.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Lonely Weekends

I think I might take the plunge and get myself a mother's helper occasionally for some weekends.

Dave works almost every Saturday and Sunday. He usually has a day off during the week, but we are doing school work then. I have entertained the thought of shifting some schooling to Saturday and leaving his day off (whatever day that might be) free during the week, but I think the children would mutiny. They have imbibed deeply on the idea that Saturday is a day off.

When the weather is decent, the children leave the house on Saturday as early as I will let them go. Then it is just me and Marian. Marian is at an age where starting big projects with her around is not wise. She likes to "help." I do not have the temperament to have "help" with tasks I am trying to figure out on the fly. She can help me unload the dishwasher. She can help me with the laundry. She cannot help me sort papers or clean out closets or reorganize parts of the kitchen or I will lose my mind.

Marian and I bop around the house. I snatch at chores here and there. She climbs onto surfaces where she does not belong. I scroll the digital landscape. The Internet has been abandoned for the time being. The usual friendly people available for chatting are off having a weekend. I hit refresh.

It isn't that I don't have anything to do. I just haven't figured out how to do them with Marian in tow. I've discovered I'm not that great with toddlers. I don't have the mental energy to keep up with her and also do other things.

So Dave is at work, the big kids are outside, nobody is in the digital public square, and a pile of work lies tantalizingly just out of reach as I pull the stool out of Marian's grasp for the five hundredth time that day. I think the time for a little outside help may have arrived.

NB: It's a short person hack to always have a stool within easy reach to climb up to all the things regular people can reach. It's also a boon to the toddler who uses it for the same purpose.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Tax Temptations

It's getting to be our favorite time of year again. Tax Time! Well, maybe you are already finished, but I haven't gathered the courage yet. I actually like doing taxes except the mileage. Calculating mileage kills me every year.

This year will be a little different because it will be the first time that we report significant income under Schedule C instead of nominal amounts. I expect that our tax amounts will not be very different from last year because Dave's real estate income pretty much matched the missing portion from the third of the year I did not have a job. Our refund is likely to be much lower since we will have to pay in the Social Security taxes, AKA self-employment taxes, that were not withheld for us. I am fairly confident we will not have to write a check, but if we do, the money has been duly set aside to do it. I also expect to meet the threshold to have to do quarterly payments during this tax year and into the foreseeable future. Joy.

I have often wondered about how sole proprietors get into tax trouble. It seems like a fairly straightforward affair to avoid it. You find a percentage of your gross income that should cover your tax bill and then set that money aside every time you get paid, whether through record keeping or through moving it to a separate account where you don't even have to think about it until tax time. Right now, I am pulling 15% out of every commission check and putting it into a designated tax account. This estimate might be a touch high, but I don't want to have to write a check out of our personal cash flow. As we get a better understanding of how our income will work, I can always adjust this percentage.

We knew when we launched into this real estate career that the financial year would be a cycle of feast and famine. The key to surviving is to plan ahead and save enough during the feasting time of the year (spring and summer) in order to weather the famine time of the year (fall and winter). This is the major reason it took me so long to submit my resignation. We wanted to make sure our surplus was in good order because we expected our first famine to be significant since Dave was not well-established in the business yet. And so it has turned out to be.

A couple of weeks ago at the beginning of February, the first commission check since September was deposited into our account. It was a great relief to finally see new money, and yet the amount left after taxes only covered a little over half of one month's expenses. Our surplus was gone. We now had to dip into accounts which hurt my feelings to withdraw from.

As I duly calculated the amount I should transfer into the tax account, a wild thought popped into my mind. What if I just made a note of the money due to the tax account and kept all the money for our use now? Then, when the cashflow was better later on, I would transfer that amount into the proper account.

I actually considered this course for several hours. Danger! There be dragons!

I was shocked that I would consider something so reckless. I was presuming the money would come later and I could set the accounts right. What if it didn't? I realized how easy it is for the lure of cash in the hand now to override common sense.

I am a person who feels pretty confident in my understanding of money and how taxes work. I, who calculates the likely percentage of taxes due and subtracts it from even the promise of a commission before determining a budget, was tempted to conveniently ignore all that for the extra padding of an amount of money under $400. Madness.

I understand how easy it can be for someone to unwittingly slip into tax trouble. It is always easier to think the money for taxes will come around later while you need the money for bills now. The abyss of seeing the end of the money can panic a person into rash decisions, especially if he isn't sure when the income will begin its upswing or if record keeping isn't a strong point.

Luckily for us, the end of the famine is in sight. By the beginning of April, our cashflow logjam should be freed, we will begin replenishing our stores, and hopefully next year's famine won't be quite so deep. But either way, I'll keep transferring money into the tax account because it's the smart thing to do.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

A Solution?

Grace is the oldest child of two oldest children, the oldest grandchild on both sides. She was doomed from the start. Grace is a take charge kind of girl. She always has some grand scheme or event she is concocting where all will be perfect if everybody just follows her instructions. I call her the program director.

She also, ironically, has had the most trouble with self-direction in her schoolwork. I attribute this to spending five years in public school being told what to do, how to do it, and when it must be done every moment of the day.

The other day, after piddling most of her day away, Grace had an outburst about homeschooling. She said she thought homeschooling sounded like a good idea in theory, but it obviously wasn't a good idea for her because she didn't know how to manage her time so obviously needed to go back to school to learn how to do that. I delicately explained to her that I was very familiar with that kind of problem and school classrooms make that kind of problem worse and not better. I told her that if she felt like time management is her biggest academic problem, homeschool is definitely the better environment to learn the skill set. She calmed down and began to ponder.

In the morning the next day, she requested that we do our readalouds early instead of late. Her reasoning was that having the day start with the readalouds would give her a defined beginning point to her school work instead of remembering to start while I tended to the rest of the circus. I thought it a very reasonable request.

My approach to readalouds has been to view it as the end of the school day. That time when everyone settles in and winds down and the toddler gets quiet in preparation for her nap. In the same way that you probably shouldn't goof off on the Internet until all your chores are done, I thought of the readaloud as a bit of a carrot to herd the children through their schoolwork. And if the schedule goes awry, missing out on me croaking out a chapter of The Secret Garden is no great loss on any particular day. I cannot say my approach has been very successful. I have documented the problem of the glazed eyes as they stare at their friends outside.

At about the same time as Grace had her passing crisis, I had to get up early one morning for something. Dave brought me a cup of coffee in bed to help get me up and moving. This was an old routine from when I was working but has since fallen out of practice. It occurred to me that if he brought me some coffee in the morning as he was heading into the shower--he's up a good hour before he showers--I might get a better jumpstart on the day, rather than fumbling around trying to make my own cup while children make demands. It's funny but I'd forgotten we used to do this every morning. If I have a little bit of caffeine and some calories flowing before I even get out of bed, I might have a fighting chance here.

Also, as part of my Lenten discipline, and let's be honest, I doubt I'd attempt it if it weren't Lent, I have decided to defer my showers to the evening, make the bed immediately upon getting out of it, get dressed immediately, put in my contacts immediately all before leaving my bedroom. Then I will start a load of laundry and unload the dishwasher before making another cup of coffee and eating some breakfast. This little series of events takes the better part of an hour and, thus far, I have had to fight the temptation to chuck it and go sit down in the kitchen every single morning. My hope is that making myself do mindless tasks first thing in the morning will become a habit and will clear out some room later in the day for other tasks.

Now here is where the stroke of genius lies! What if I made the Program Director in charge of rousing me out of my stupor after breakfast in order to start the day? It *was* her idea to do the readalouds in the morning. She loves telling people what to do. If I make it her job to prod me a bit and I still don't have to think very much because I am just reading words off the page, maybe we both win. She gets a definite starting point for her school day and gets to feel like she is running this operation. I get to pawn off some of my executive function and not think very hard.

Will it work? I'm not sure yet. Even though I had these ideas a couple of weeks ago, we have since had sick children, snow, more sick children, more snow, a sick me, a well me catching up from being sick, and at least three days where we were not home. So. My hope is that since this coming week should be pretty normal, we will get to try it out and see how it goes.

Stay tuned...

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Fasting While Short

A few weeks ago, Bearing wrote a post about the glories of trying to lose weight when short of stature and already calorie restricted because of that fact. There are other special decisions to be made for people who must eat while short.

Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are days that are hard for short people to figure out. The official fasting guidelines from the USCCB say:
Fasting on these days means we can have only one full, meatless meal.  Some food can be taken at the other regular meal times if necessary, but combined they should be less than a full meal.  Liquids are allowed at any time, but no solid food should be consumed between meals.
That seems pretty straight forward, yet for me, it's not. I am all of five feet, one and three quarter inches tall. My regular eating meals look snacklike to most people. How do you turn a snack into a smaller snack? I'm not really sure.

My regular breakfast is a cup of yogurt with coffee. My fasting breakfast this morning was one egg with coffee. Is that a snack? I don't know how to eat less and still eat something.

My regular lunch these days has been eating stray pieces of lunch meat and cheese with stolen handfuls of goldfish, pretzels, and peanuts. My fasting lunch today was a quarter of a grilled cheese sandwich with water.

This meal is definitely snacklike compared with my regular lunches, but if you combine the grilled cheese with the egg, it is likely more food than the regular cup of yogurt I normally eat for breakfast. Does that break the fast since combined the snack is more than one meal? Who knows. I am hungrier today than usual. Is that a good metric?

I do know that it is difficult to make small meals even smaller and still consume food. I figure I can just put in a good faith effort and not sweat the details about guidelines that were likely written for different people in mind. You know, people who eat adult portions. 

Monday, February 8, 2016

Toddler Help

I mentioned my struggles with Marian in this other post, but, really, I need some suggestions.

What in the world do you do with a toddler all day? I am not even talking about during homeschool necessarily. I mean what do you do with a child who needs to be watched and entertained when you have other things that must be done.

I swear, it's like I've never had children. In a lot of ways, that is true. I left for work when Grace was 14 months old and she could barely walk.  I was only home on evenings, weekends, and maternity leaves until Marian was 27 months old. In spite of having four children, I do not have long experience dealing with toddler crazy.

The truth is I am absolutely terrible at figuring out what to do on the fly. A real and repeated example of my in-the-moment forgetfulness is when the children are still babies, but are transitioning into bigger babies who to do not need to be held all the time, I have run around the house trying to do chores one-handed while carrying baby on the other hip--in the pre-Boba days--getting frustrated, and I have to be reminded I can put the baby down. Oh yeah, this baby plays on the floor now. Does not need constant carry. I forgot. **

When Marian starts the attention seeking behavior when I am busy, I am usually paralyzed in responding and end of spinning my wheels instead of accomplishing anything, either with her or my work.

I need a concrete, real list of ideas that I can reference and think about and that can be implemented with an energetic toddler in a house where rooms cannot be blocked, nowhere is really toddler proof, and we all basically spend all our time on top of each other in the small, stupidly-designed living room/kitchen. Help!

**So I probably should have another baby to remedy the fact that I discovered the life-changing magic of properly-constructed, structured carriers when my fourth and youngest child was 13 months old. It would be tragic not to be able to use my Boba with a baby and actually make my life easier.

Friday, February 5, 2016

A Scheduling Conflict

I am fairly certain I have not publicly mentioned this bit of news, even on the book of face, but if you have any kind of internet contact with my husband, you will probably already know this.

In the middle of December, Dave was asked to join a realty team at his office which is the most successful subgroup there. The way it works is that all the realtors in the group agree to take less commission on each individual deal, putting the rest into the hands of the team leader, and in return they get a piece of every deal that happens within their area. Dave's area primarily serves a subdivision under development in town. A huge subdivision filled with houses whose individual rooms are sometimes larger than my entire house. This arrangement is the closest thing to guaranteed money that exists in real estate. If all goes well, we should finally surpass the country's median income level. If all goes really well, we might actually surpass the point where talking about money becomes uncouth, although I probably still will because I'm like that. It's exciting, nonetheless.

In an ironic turn, one of the reasons the team leader asked Dave to join her team is because of his skills in online marketing and SEO rankings. He beat his head against closed doors for over a year while potential employers ignored his experience and said they couldn't hire him without experience. He took those same skills and used them for his own websites--in the same way he learned the skillset--but this time promoting himself as a real estate agent instead of a gardener. He kept popping up in the searches she was studying for her own benefit and decided she wanted him on her team. Just when he had given up on the idea of getting paid to do SEO work and turned in an entirely new direction, he is now partially getting paid to do SEO work. Life is funny, sometimes.

The biggest trade-off in this arrangement is there is an office that must be manned seven days a week. Instead of primarily working at home, he is now primarily working in an office at the subdivision. His total hours are fewer than the ones I worked when I commuted into Nashville and he is in town instead of 40 miles away. These are all great advantages, but he is expected to work six days a week. Saturday and Sunday are almost always included in those days. His new boss is very proactive about making sure he takes his day off every week, but there isn't a standard day off. It rotates according to everyone's schedule and how busy they expect to be on any particular day. We usually do not know which day he has off in a given week until Monday so it is difficult to plan around.

Dave leaves for work every morning around 9 and gets home sometime between 5 and 6 in the evening. On Sundays, he has to leave around a quarter to noon and gets home at the regular time. Any particular day is not extremely long, but working up to ten days in row without a day off has taken some getting used to.

Sunday is a bit of a mad dash now because we get up, go to church, take the girls to Sunday school while we go grocery shopping, run home, unload the groceries, and he shoves food in his mouth before running out the door. Then he is gone the rest of the day.

That was a rather long opening tangent.

Even though I have not had a job since September, I haven't been here alone with the children day after day until the week of Christmas. Before Christmas, Dave would need to visit the office and might be out for an entire day sometimes, but home was still his home base of operations. He would help me get the meals on the table and still did the majority of the cooking while I adjusted to all the changes. He was still here to go chase Marian and redirect a wandering and distracted child. Now he's not. I am officially running this ship. Whoa.

When left to my own devices, here is something I have noticed about myself: my brain does not wake up until at least an hour--actually closer to two--after my body is awake. My executive function doesn't exist before that point. I stare and bumble and have to have questions repeated before I can process them. I drink coffee, but coffee does not immediately remedy the situation.

The other night, after the kids spent time playing in the muck and snow, I decided to wash their heavy coats. I looked at the care labels, put them in washer, set up the machine properly, and set a delay timer to start the washer so it would be finished in time for me to switch them into the dryer first thing in the morning so the children would not lose play time. I was ahead of the game! In the morning, the washer finished and I stumbled, bleary-eyed, into the laundry room to put the coats in the dryer. I pulled out the coats and found them still somewhat muddy. I was dismayed. I was also paralyzed. I stood there staring at these coats for an absurd amount of time trying to form a coherent plan in my mind. Part of my paralysis was from inexperience in handling laundry that doesn't come clean using the care label instructions, but the vast majority of it was due to the fact that as I tried to think about what I should do, I got static and silence in return. "Uhhhhhhh.............What?"

In an ideal world, I would have two full hours to mentally wake up in the morning before I had to do anything else. We are talking mindless scrolling while drinking coffee, waiting for ambition and/or functionality to arrive. After that, I would have another hour to get dressed, make the bed, process the kitchen, start the laundry, and tend to Marian's physical needs. Then and only then would the children make any extra request of me. And I, being actually awake and dressed, would be ready to fulfill my motherly duties.

Ha! The way it looks in reality is very different.

The children are always awake before I am. They don't get up especially early and I don't sleep especially late, but it always seems to happen they are up first. They putter around the kitchen making themselves breakfast. Marian wants what everyone else is having, no matter how much she has already eaten, so a pile of half-eaten food sits on the table at her place. She races to open the garage door and the fridge door and the pantry door in search of some delicacy she has yet to try this morning.

I stumble in and attempt to make a cup of coffee. I am hit with a barrage of requests while I pull Marian out of her various locations and desperately try to keep her from letting the cat out of the house. It's cold. I don't want to have to go chasing the dang cat first thing in the morning.

"Can I have some tea? Can you get me a plate? I want some coffee. Can I have coffee? Why do they always ask for tea? I hate tea. Stop saying tea. Can you give me a spoon? I'm hungry. Can I have more juice? Can you get the cinnamon? Eat! Eat! Can you pour the milk?"

Um, what? Can I finish making my cup of coffee and take a swallow first? Now what did you say? I forgot. Ummm.....

They eat. I find a cup of yogurt. Sometimes Sam brings it to me. Dave is finishing his breakfast at the table. The girls are all spread out with their books and food and tea. Sam eats and hops down to start his games. Marian pops up and down out of her chair, nibbling from her pile and running back and forth, as I impotently tell her to sit still. There is no room for me to sit down.

I stand at the countertop and start scrolling. Dipping my toe into the public square helps me get my bearings. Reading to activate the brain. I sip coffee. Many times I am too scattered and spacey to eat the yogurt that is sitting right in front of me. After some stretch of time, Dave is up from the table, fixing his lunch, getting ready to leave for work. Oh right, I need to eat this yogurt.

Dave is gone. I need a second cup of coffee. I make a few intrepid comments full of wit. I can feel the brain starting to come online. The kids are all up from the table. They all want help. Marian needs to get dressed. I need to get dressed. Chores need to be started. All the schooling that can be done independently is mostly finished.

And here lies the choice: do I tend to myself first or do I tend to the children first?

I've done both. Neither works well.


On the days I choose to tend to myself first, chaos reigns. I go into my room to get myself put together. Nothing spectacular, but the very basic change of clothes, teeth brushing and the mounting of the contacts. No shower. Heaven knows I can barely manage a shower when I am by myself with the kids. I make the bed, process laundry and kitchen, and then turn my attention to Marian, who also needs changed and teeth brushed and hair combed.

Finally the bigger kids get my attention. It is usually eleven o'clock by this point. Olivia and Sam have started some elaborate game they are loathe to stop. Marian is running all over the house "ruining" their games. Grace has slunk away to stick her nose in a book. I help Olivia with her math and reading. Grace may or may not help keep Marian contained. I might have to stop multiple times to get Marian out of the fridge/pantry/garage/backdoor. We finish up Olivia's lessons and Grace is upset because she still needs my help and Olivia all finished.

Olivia and Sam start making themselves lunch. They go back and forth and back and forth. There, truly, isn't enough room in the kitchen for more than one person to be working at once. They run into each other more than once. I try to stay out of the way. They will put together a sandwich for Marian who is immediately drawn by the promise of food. They all begin eating while I finish up helping Grace. Marian is finished and down running around. As soon as Marian is finished, the option of my sitting to eat evaporates. My lunch consists of shoving a piece of lunch meat into my mouth as I help them make their lunches. I go by the pantry and grab a handful of peanuts. I try to remember to get something to drink.

The children are all finished and we have to do readalouds. It is usually after one now and I can't stop and do chores or anything else. If I lose them here, the day is over. The neighbors will hit the street around 2 o'clock and then my kids are D-O-N-E. We finish reading and they hit the door as fast as their legs will carry them out. I start picking up the table from lunch, chat a minute online, and get Marian ready for napping.

She takes about a 90 minute nap. I put her down around three and the clock starts ticking. Do I sit down yet or fold all the laundry that is waiting for me. It really depends on the day.

The days when I tend myself first are smoother housekeeping days where I have the opportunity to sit down mid-day, but the school day is rockier and the children are crankier.


On the days I choose to tend the children first, getting dressed and eating is a real problem. Instead of getting up and getting dressed when my brain finally shifts into gear, I sit in my pajamas on the couch to help Olivia with her math and reading. We begin between 930 and 10. Since we almost immediately begin working, the children have different expectations. Games are not interrupted because they really weren't started. Marian is still running wild, but since I am always close by, it doesn't get too crazy. Olivia gets her work done with me and I check her written work. I immediately go upstairs to help Grace with any math she might need help with. I manage to get Marian changed and dressed at some point. Grace does her grammar and other written work I check it. It's now lunch time. I am still not dressed.

The children make their own lunches plus Marian's and I use the opportunity to get dressed. It's nearly one. After I am dressed, Marian is down and off again. My opportunity to eat is gone. They all finish up and we settle down to read. The timer is ticking again. Two o'clock and they are done.

They leave and I start picking up. I try to get Marian down for napping as quickly as possible because I am now starving.

She still takes a 90 minute nap. During that time I eat whatever I can find, try to make the bed, unload the dishwasher, reload the dishwasher, and maybe fold the laundry. I will probably chat online too because I really need to checkout.

The days when I tend to the children first are smoother schooling days, but I am a hot mess who is barely dressed, doesn't really eat lunch, and has a pile of chores to do instead any down time.


When Marian wakes up from her nap, I am probably already in the kitchen. The kitchen takes up an extraordinary part of my life right now. I seriously am doing some task in the kitchen from about 430 in the afternoon until 9 or 10 at night. The decision about what to make is slow, the food prep is slow, the eating is late, and the cleaning is really slow. We put the kids into bed between 9 and 930. I spend about 30 minutes with them around bedtime. My hope is to be done with the kitchen before they go to bed. Sometimes. Sometimes not.

After they are in bed and if I am done with the kitchen, I try to get some ignored task done before bed. One night it was school checklists, another it was putting away turkey stock, another it was paying bills. Sometimes I just veg on the internet with a fried brain. I try to get in bed around 11 and then sleep and do it all again tomorrow.


I can see the weak point in my day is the first two hours with a non-functional brain. I know, intellectually, I should get up and immediately get myself ready for the day. When the moment comes to do it though, I stumble out of bed, head for the coffee, get pelted with questions, and try to remember, "Now what was I supposed to be doing right now? Uhhhh....." I have a scheduling conflict.

Monday, February 1, 2016


Friends, I have roasted a turkey. All you who host Thanksgiving, I salute you.

Update after the grand presentation: The breast was dry and overcooked. The underside was nearly raw. How that came to be, I cannot say, but there it is.