Mommying

I feel like there should be achievement badges for adult activities like parenting. For example, a couple weeks ago, Benji came crying to me and said he’d bonked himself; I looked and gave him a hug, but told him, “If it’s not bleeding, you’re probably OK.” It felt like a milestone in parenting.

The last week has reminded me of what being Mommy exclusively looks like. For example, take the last two days:

Wednesday

5:30 am – Wake up and go downstairs to start making oatmeal.
5:45 am – Benji wakes up and is starving. Give him some almonds and water to hold him for a while.
6:00 am – Benji officially “gets up” and wants to play.
6:00 am – 8:00 am – Help Benji make his own oatmeal; troubleshoot issues with oatmeal (not enough banana slices, need more oats, need more water); try to eat own breakfast before it gets cold; read Benji story while he eats; Ian takes over playing with Benji while I brush teeth and put on clothes; play games until school time.
8:35 am – Pack up nap bag; get Benji and self ready for going out in the 18-degree temps. Leave for school.
9:00 am – Drop off at school. Teacher reminds me that I volunteered to make play-dough for January.
9:05 am – Stop at potential daycare for discussion. Write check for first month. Feel conflicted. Get phone call from friend about date to go for a walk.
9:15 am – Put gas in car.
9:20 am – 9:45 am – Drive to friend’s house.
9:50 am – 1:30 pm – Go for walk at the Arboretum and out to lunch with friend. (Ellen Aagaard, who we try to see monthly and usually manage quarterly.)
1:30 pm – 2:15 pm – Drive to parents’ house. Pick up swimming suit for lessons starting this weekend.
2:15 pm – 2:45 pm – Walk with mom to grocery store. Purchase groceries (long line), walk back to car, drive home.
3:00 pm – Get home. Make play-dough for school.
4:00 pm – In-laws bring Benji home. He’s a in a good mood but tired from not napping.
4:00 pm – 4:15 pm – Try to plan logistics with in-laws but constant interruptions make it difficult.
4:15 pm – 5:45 pm – Play with Benji. Ian coming home late.
5:45 pm – Feed Benji dinner.
6:00 pm – Ian gets home tired.
6:00 pm – 6:30 pm – Play more.
6:30 pm – 7:30 pm – Ian puts Benji down for bed.
7:30 pm – Eat leftovers with Ian and discuss daycare.
9:00 pm – Go to bed. Sleep badly due to anxieties about daycare and new job situation.

Thursday

Another busy day; instead of going blow-by-blow, let’s do another metric. On Thursday, in addition to all the necessary stuff like getting everyone fed and dressed, dealing with kitchen cleanup and dishes, making lunches, dropping off/picking up from school, and putting down for nap, I:

  • Cleaned out the garage. Filled recycle bin and garbage can. Swept garage and tidied up remaining stuff. Figured out what will be given away.
  • Sorted through humongous pile of rags and retained only the ones good for bike cleaning. The extras filled up an enormous paper yard waste bag.
  • Sorted through all old bike parts and collected everything to be recycled. Tidied everything else.
  • Drove to recycle place and dropped of huge load of recyclable clothes and old bike parts, including a big pile of tires and tubes.
  • Stopped by Big 5 to buy new toe warmers. (Who knew they expired? They do. It’s disappointing to have tepid toe warmers.)
  • Cleaned out my bike area of the laundry room and broke down a bunch of cardboard boxes. Filled recycle bin with flattened boxes.
  • Researched Light & Motion light replacement (8 years old; amazingly, the battery still works, but is fading fast) and obtained existing-customer 30% off coupon (yeah!).
  • Continued to research childcare options. Filled out next year’s kindergarten registration form. Read daycare packet and began completing forms (there are a lot).
  • Did trainer ride with intervals during nap time, making it a whole 20 “miles” and finishing 5 minutes before Benji woke up.
  • Printed out planet pictures for Benji. Drew extra planets that were missing (all the dwarf planets, plus the Asteroid Belt, Kuiper Belt, Oort Cloud, and the Sun). Helped him cut them out. Played “planet game” twice before going totally crazy.

My days this last week reminded me how much work it can be just to be a full-time mommy. Every day this week has involved more activities and running around even than when I was working from home; after all, back then I had a responsibility to complete my work, so all my free time went to that. Now I have some time to get all those neglected around-the-home chores tidied up before I start the new job, and it’s reminding me how much unnoticed work mommies do to just keep life running smoothly. Kudos to all mommies out there! You deserve a gold star!

Gold Star

Now I’m off to join the ranks of the fully-employed, and only time will tell about when all those mommy jobs get done, and by whom!

Employment Evolution

At the New Year, people usually reflect on the past year. I’ll follow that well-trodden road with an emphasis on my employment situation, because this year and next year are shaping up to look so different as to be unrecognizable to one another.

This year saw me reach a tipping point with my Client Service Administrator (CSA) job at Kaizen Financial Advisors, a job I haven’t mentioned much due to compliance and confidentiality concerns. Remember that spectacular sunrise picture I’ve posted more than once?

Sunrise and Mt. Baker from San Juan Island

That morning, sitting quietly on the beach while a deer meandered by, I felt a strong sense that it was time to move on from serving as a CSA. Although I could complete the job tasks well enough, and I served my boss and our clients to the best of my ability, I never got excited about my work. I had the job not because I wanted to work in finance, but because four years ago, my boss offered a super-convenient work-from-home job that I thought would help me stay sane through all the diapers. And it has, so my thanks remain to the job for that.

Yet, this photo reminds me of that contemplative hour that, in some ways, led me eventually to my choices today. It’s when I started questioning our status quo, a tipping point.

Even though that’s when I started questioning whether I should stay at my job, I didn’t immediately give notice back then; I was too afraid of making big changes, and I felt loyal to the company and my boss. But in the intervening months, some personal things combined with a growing realization that I needed a change in my employment situation. I didn’t have any ideas what that might look like at the time, but by Thanksgiving, I knew something would have to change.

At the same time, back in September I went with Kaizen to a user group at Tamarac, a company whose software we’ve used for many years. Their software has dramatically improved in usability over the last couple years (and I’ve done more training, which helps), and using that software was a big part of my CSA job. During that user group, I arranged for us to get a tour of the company and meet our support team, some of whom we’ve worked with for years.

At that time, I found myself thinking how cool it would be to work in that environment. Their company culture seemed positive, and the people we met all seemed nice. I liked their vibe. I idly browsed their job listings, but didn’t see anything compelling — certainly nothing worth quitting my super-convenient work-from-home job in favor of a commute to the Columbia Center in downtown Seattle. But after that I occasionally would eyeball their local job listings to see if anything really compelling came up.

Meanwhile, I gave my notice at Kaizen, and had my last day yesterday, Friday, December 30. Earlier this week, I handed over all my home office supplies and my laptop, along with a big document describing how to do most of my tasks. It felt a little bit like graduating from college again — there’s no “homework” hanging over my head after four years! Hooray!

Last month, something really compelling at Tamarac did come up: a Technical Writer II position, the perfect blend of my previous writing experience and current financial experience. After some serious soul-searching and late-night conversations with Ian, we decided I should apply and see what happens.

What happened was that I got an interview last Friday, which (despite my still recovering from pneumonia) went swimmingly. I thought so, and apparently the hiring manager thought so, too, because he called last night with a job offer that had me bouncing with enthusiasm. I agreed without negotiation or hesitation. It will be at least two weeks before I can start, which is good, because that gives us some time to look into childcare options.

As those of you who know me well are aware, this is way, way, way outside my standard operating procedure. In our family, we act cautiously, with comprehensive planning ahead to cover every contingency, never making seriously big decisions quickly or without knowing as much as we can about how it would work out. But with this job, we don’t know what will happen for childcare and we don’t know about how my commute and being gone full-time would impact our daily life; but I do know this is a job I’m really, really excited about, for possibly the first time in my entire working career.

That, I will fight for. One, two free, here we go!

Resigning From My Job

“What I’m trying to do here is get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find your everyday human concerns are met.
Matthew 6:33-34 (Message)

“Breaking up is hard to do,” or so I’ve heard. I haven’t talked much about my job on this blog, because things said on the internet stay on the internet forever. I don’t intend to change that policy now, so this won’t be a long ranting post about all the reasons I’m leaving (it may be long, but not a rant, anyway). Suffice it to say that I’ve spent some substantial time considering my career path and existing opportunities, and after four years with my current job, it’s time to move on.

As many of you know, I never intended to get into the finance industry. I got a BS in Technical Writing, and my first job was writing lab reports at a preclinical testing facility. Some people object to the animal testing aspect, but I found the job to be quite up my alley. I probably would have continued doing that job quite happily for many more years, but alas, the company got into financial difficulties and laid pretty much all the technical writing staff off as expendable (“we can have the scientists do it in all their free time!” Uh, sure). That worked out fine for me because we were ready to move back from Massachusetts anyway.

Funny… that was six years ago this month.

Finance was never my passion. I’d not planned on rejoining the workforce for many years, expecting to remain exclusively a stay-at-home mom (won’t get into what a misnomer that phrase is!). When my boss offered me a super-flexible 10-hour-a-week job shortly after Benji’s birth, I thought, “Why not give it a try?” I had spent many hours biking with my boss before she hired me, and we certainly think alike in many ways. She knew I was a complete finance neophyte, and she was willing to take me on with the expectation of training me on the job.

All things considered, it’s gone amazingly well for the last four years. At first I worked maybe 10 hours a week, sometimes less, learning the business and my firm’s processes. Over time I’ve slowly taken on additional responsibility, until now I work closer to 80 to 100 hours a month, having absorbed tasks from a coworker who retired as well as taking on more of my own duties. I think I’ve gotten decently good at my job duties.

However, as my level of responsibility has grown, it’s become increasingly clear that my boss needs someone 40 hours a week to provide the support she needs. We’ve had frequent conversations about my boss’s concerns, but despite implementing several procedural changes to address the issue, frustration has remained. I remain constrained by the fact that I serve as Mommy first and Client Service Administrator second, and when wearing my Mommy hat, I stringently avoid working unless it’s an emergency.

I remember a few years ago, Ian and I had our couch cushions replaced. The upholstery place took our entire couch away, leaving us with a blank space in our living room. Time passed. By “time,” I mean a month. Then two. We’ll just suffice it to say that months went by, and I kept calling and asking about our couch. Finally, when they delivered the completed couch, they said, “We’re sorry it took so long. We had some clients with upholstery emergencies.”

WHAT THE HECK is a upholstery emergency?

I mention this because I know that sometimes emergencies are in the eye of the beholder. In the long run, however, I’ve come to realize that despite four years and two licenses in the finance industry, my passion remains with technical writing. I actually liked my first job, and I enjoyed best aspects of my finance job where I got to create documents or write or edit copy. That’s probably a good indicator that I need to look in that direction again.

To that end, I’m also applying for a technical writing job at a company called Tamarac. They write financial software, and I’ve worked with a fair bit at my finance job. This is a full-time job in downtown Seattle, so it’s a huge leap of faith to even apply. Ian and I don’t know what we’d do with Benji if I started a full-time job with that long of a commute. But I’m feeling really strongly that I’m meant to pursue this opportunity — much more strongly than I’ve felt about employment in years. So we’re going to take the leap and trust that God will provide if it’s meant to happen.

Time to go out on a limb. If nothing else, life will look very different in six months. If I could climb Mt. Haleakala, I can do this.

Top of Mt Haleakala, Feb 2016

Still Alive, Don’t Worry

It’s just been a busy few days. Last week it seemed like the days filled up so fast, I couldn’t catch up. There was work, bike training, and Benji — my life feels full.

I’m enjoying the bits I’m learning about the finance stuff for my job. It’s very reminiscent of my time with Charles River, in that both industries are heavily federally regulated and involve lots of paperwork. Apparently that appeals to me, because as I’ve started to do a bit of work for Laurie, it’s felt like coming back to a career I’m suited for. I’m interested and excited to learn more.

The big exciting thing for me was that on Saturday the 23rd I did my first-ever bike race, although it was really dipping my toes into racing. What I did was the Frostbite Time Trial, a 12.5-mile, perfectly flat course between Carnation and Fall City. The idea of a time trial is that you ride all by yourself as hard as you can go, racing the clock. There’s nobody around you and if you crash, it’s because of your own stupidity. I didn’t crash or do anything stupid, and I both started and finished. This was my icebreaker into racing, and I feel ever so much better having done it. Now I’m ready to do a race that plays to my strengths — wheelsucking, hills, and longer distances.

For the record, I placed 14th out of 35 Cat 4 women with a time of 36:25, for an average of 20.5 mph. Apparently I should be pleased; that’s good… “for a climber.” Hah. I’ll do better next race. But now I know I can ride that hard for that long, which I didn’t know before. Good data.

Meanwhile, Benji seems to be on a bit of a 6-month crazy baby kick. He normally has a very predictable sleep schedule, eats well, plays happily, and is generally my favorite baby ever. The last week, though, he’s waking up a couple times a night; spends the day grumbling; refuses to nap; refuses the bottle; and generally acts grumpy. But he’s also started deliberately trying to make sounds: “ma” and “ba.” He gets this look of intense concentration on his face and you can see his lips moving into the shape. Sometimes a noise comes out, sometimes not. It’s fun.

He has also figured out how to use the Johnny Jump-Up, and now jumps like crazy in there. This may also be what has helped him figure out that he can use his legs, because when we hold him, he’s starting to straighten his legs and put weight on them a bit. Even so, he’s still not rolled over back to front, and he doesn’t really move around when we put him down — for which I’m profoundly grateful. I know those days are numbered.

More details soon. I’m off to yet another team activity. Like I said, busy life these days.

Solid

Boy does time go fast! I can’t believe it’s been a week – and a busy week at that.

In addition to taking care of my yeast infection issues*, I started my new job as Client Service Administrator (aka “apprentice financial planner”) with Kaizen Financial Advisors. Fortunately, right now that means I closet myself in my home office for a few hours a few days a week and make arrangements for childcare to facilitate the occasional mandatory in-person client meetings. I anticipate learning a lot.

We also gave Benji his first taste of solid food: mushed-up avocado. He was less than thrilled. The first time, this last Sunday, I don’t think he actually swallowed any of it, but did manage to get it all over his face and hands. The second time, today, Deborah fed him while I held him and he actually seemed to swallow some. At least, avocado disappeared off the spoon and didn’t reappear on the bib or his face.

Additionally, I gave him a large chunk of peeled carrot, too big to choke on but small enough to fit in his mouth, to suck on. He sucked that with a fair amount of disapproval, then gave up. However, I attribute that to his being particularly sleepy at the time. His expression put me in mind of Frodo’s “tragic gaze” in Lord of the Rings:

Frodo in LOTR

image

image

Yeah, not super enthusiastic, but we’ll get there. If nothing else, I am excited to start him on solids, and I can’t believe he’s old enough for that already.

In other non-Benji news, I can’t resist mentioning I got a new fork (a Whiskey No. 5) for my pink bike, Artemis. It so dramatically improves the ride experience, it’s almost like getting a whole new bike. I’m exorbitantly pleased and can’t help raving about it. I’ll try to keep the thrilled comments to a minimum, though.

Finally, a friend of mine joined us and some folks from our church who helped us obtain and move in an armoire that, as advertised, required 4 strong guys to shift. It definitely did not get upstairs, as I initially hoped, but we found a good home for it downstairs. I’m quite pleased. A huge thanks to Karissa, Ian, Matt, Mike, and Isaac, who made it possible.

* This has been the final straw. After much painful deliberation, I have decided to quit pumping – and therefore stop providing breast milk – when Benji hits 6 months. Whole nother blog post there.

The Everything Job

Day’s Verse:
God’s temple is sacred—and you, remember, are the temple.
1 Corinthians 3:17

OK, so it’s been a week since I posted, and in that week, I’ve repeatedly opened up this blog post and tried to write something. But what to write? I’m going to hit the highlights, and leave it at that:

Last Tuesday I started working for Veronica Smith, principal at data2insight. She does data collection, evaluation, and visualization. If that sounds confusing, check her website. Her actual business isn’t that important to me, because she does all the revenue-generating work and she hired me to do executive assistant work, (ideally) everything that doesn’t generate revenue. So far, I have:

  • Set up and gotten working all my own web accounts at sites she uses — Dropbox, Google Apps, T-Sheet, etc.;
  • Reviewed various web hosting companies and provided summaries and my recommendation for which to use;
  • Converted two documents she wrote into blog posts and troubleshot bizarre blog behavior;
  • Made some basic edits to text on her website;
  • Worked with her web person to switch her web host, and troubleshoot issues that arose from that switch;
  • Reviewed travel options for her upcoming trip to Boston;
  • Done in-depth copy-editing for a 100-page report she wrote (and will input those changes when I have time); and
  • Begun reformatting the Word document of said report.

Although I’m also slated to begin some rather intensive organizing and filing next week, this job won’t be just brainless phone-answering. I’ve already learned a bunch about web hosting (more than I ever wanted to know, frankly), and I’m delighted to get my sticky fingers back into report editing and formatting. I hope she has more of that to do. From what I can tell, “I’m bored” won’t have the chance to flit across my grey cells for quite a while.

I work for her Monday through Wednesday, commuting to her home office on Capitol Hill by bus and riding my bike home. For now I’m on a 90-day probation, which takes us through the end of July. At that point I’m planning on “going on maternity leave,” such as it is, and once The Boy is born we’ll figure out what I can do to continue helping Veronica out while being a new mom.

This job is an interesting amalgamation of jobs I’ve had before: It’s some Charles River scientific writer time management/project wrangling skills and that scientific/engineering atmosphere (Veronica has degrees in architecture and electrical engineering) combined with some AmeriCorps “go be autonomously productive” but also super-flexible on the non-essentials atmosphere. I think I’ll do well and enjoy the combination of the two. Oh, also, Veronica and I have alarmingly similar personalities — I could be Veronica in 20 years, seriously, except she doesn’t have kids — so either we’ll get along great, or sparks will soon fly and I’ll hit the road. I’m rooting and aiming for the former.

So that is my new job. I feel very fortunate to have found something that I can do before The Boy makes his appearance, and the potential for flexible work after he’s born appeals to me deeply. Biking is great for clearing my brain, but I think I’ll need stimulating adult interaction once The Boy’s born, and this could allow that but with working from home. I am hopeful.

News!

Day’s Verse:
[Wisdom’s] benefits are worth more than a big salary, even a very big salary;
the returns on me exceed any imaginable bonus.

Proverbs 8:20-ish

I got a job.

At least, I got a job for a while.

Details! I’ll be working as an executive assistant to Veronica Smith at data 2 insight, her company. We’re starting with a 90-day trial period, which begins on May 8 and goes through the end of July. That’ll let us get to know each other and see how it goes before I have The Boy. By then it should be clear whether I want to continue trying to work, and if so, we can figure out what that might look like.

I’ll be working Monday through Wednesday, 9 am to 4 pm, commuting to Veronica’s home office on Capitol Hill. I can catch an express commuter bus there and bike home. It’s about an hour each way, biking or busing. If I stay on with her after The Boy comes along, we’d probably figure out a way to migrate more of my work home so I can work remotely.

To start with, I’m going to take on three major projects and a variety of other minor responsibilities.

I’m looking forward to this. It’ll be good for me to get back into having a regular work schedule, doing something interesting (the three projects are stuff I’ve never thought about before), and earning a bit of money. The pay’s nothing to write home about, but it’s reasonable enough for the work and my minimal experience as an assistant. I also appreciate that Veronica is willing to take on somebody who’s going to have a baby in just a few months, after which who knows what might happen. And she has a very sweet 11-year-old black lab named Bella who is clearly the supervisor in the office.

So that’s the exciting news.