Sunday, August 28, 2011

GSD Weekend

I declared it GSD weekend on Saturday morning.  GSD is, pardon the profanity, Getting Shit Done.  I busted my tail all day Saturday cleaning the house, as the budget does not allow for the housekeepers to come this week.  Husband spent the day on a geometry problem that involved figuring out where the most level place in the yard is for a 12' kiddie pool.  As it turns out, there is no such place.  But never fear, swimming did occur.  The pool was on clearance at Target, and we just couldn't say no.

I'm heading out of town tomorrow afternoon until Wednesday evening, which will have me back in town in time to keep the kids occupied while Husband has to go through fasting, etc. to prepare for an outpatient procedure Thursday morning.  With Boy starting preschool tomorrow and us trying to shuffle Girl around to the appropriate places, I worked on a couple of projects to hopefully make Husband's time a little easier while I'm gone.

We did our usual meal planning and shopping today, plus got Boy's haircut.  He is such an angel when he is getting his hair cut.  When we got to the store, it dawned on me that Boy's class is already having a birthday celebration on Tuesday and I'm not prepared to bring something GF/EF for him to eat instead.  I was already planning to send snacks for daily use, but a sweet treat is a must!  So we grabbed a bag of Pamela's Chocolate Chunk cookie mix.

While I was tackling cheerleading practice and taking the kids to play in the kiddie pool, husband made dinner for tonight (hamburgers and fried okra [from my neighbor's garden] and salad] and tomorrow night (which is an awesome homeade chicken noodle soup recipe).  He might even get two night's worth of dinners out of it!  He also prepped our smoothies for tomorrow and his for Tuesday.

In the meantime, I was working on a clothing organization system for the week:

I put a sign for each day of the week.  Then I made cards for each of the specials Girl has.  Husband put velcro on the back, so we can change it every week.  She has her entire wardrobe for the week picked out, and Husband can see what types of shoes she will need given the special she has.

Beyond the organizational aspect, we have some behavioral challenges to work on.  With Girl, we need to work on some general reward-based incentives.  She wants an American Girl doll more than anything.  I even tried to get her into the cute generic ones at Target, but she was pretty firm on it.  So Husband and I sat down and talked about what would make his life easier when I'm gone since she tends to be the catalyst to things going downhill.  Then he assigned values.  She has to earn 40 stickers to earn the doll she wants.

Additionally, Boy has been having a hard time going to sleep at night.  There is a lot of stalling and then, eventually tears.  He ends up staying up too late and is tired the next day.  He really, really, REALLY wants a Zurg toy.  I just happen to have one in my closet.  But no freebies at this house.  So he is being introduced to the performance chart.  We tried to explain it to him before he went to bed, but he's lost.  Hopefully, it will make more sense to him when he starts putting stickers on the chart.  Four stickers = Zurg.

 So wrapping things up for the night, we learned Girl lost another tooth.  I sure hope the Tooth Fairy comes through at the last minute.  I finished baking the cookies for Boy's party on Tuesday and ran a load of dishes.  Finally, I found some websites Girl might like, so I left her this note on the computer monitor:
Hope she enjoys them!  Thanks to the hard work of my family, I believe GSD weekend was a success.  Now off to OKC!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Coming or going? Anyone?

Okay, it's true.  I can't keep up.  I mean, I'm making it, but this blogging thing is not happening the way I had originally intended.  I thought I might blog with each trip, but no-ho-ho, that has not been the case.  I have traveled MANY times since my last blog post.  In fact, I have one flight to go (which I will take Monday afternoon) to get my A-List status with Southwest.  That means no more checking in exactly 24 hours ahead of time (which is not fun at 6:45 on a Sunday morning) to get a good place in line.  Yeah!

So what's the problem?  Well, oddly, there is not much free time at the hotel after a hard day at work.  I am usually doing admin work or staring at my Facebook page desperate to have some sort of connection with my friends.  My brain is not in a blogging place at that point.  Often, I'm zombified.  For instance, I was in Tulsa this past week.  I had a 6:45 AM flight Tuesday morning, which meant I was up at 4:15 AM.  Got into Tulsa, and headed straight for Staples to get some supplies.  Got to my class location and set up tables for the day.  Studied the material, as I had not taught this class previously.  My first class was at noon.  I then went on to teach three 2-hour food safety classes, finishing at 6 PM.  Someone left me this likeness of me in a notebook:


Set the room for the next day, then off to dinner with my colleague.  Tried to talk with my kids in the small window of time they are available to talk between dinner, bath, and bedtime while my childless co-worker sat patiently in the car with me.  Checked into the hotel around 8ish.  Chatted with Husband for a few, then worked on paperwork and prepped for class until 10:30.  Zonked out and got up at 6:15 AM on Wednesday.  Met my colleague in the lobby at 7:15 and headed over to prepare for the day's class.  An 8 hour food manager certification class for management.  Finished that baby up, and headed to drop off colleague at hotel by 6.  Off to the airport to return car and catch flight.  Oh, but wait, per usual, flight is delayed.  I finally got out of there at about 8:40, and by the time I walked in the door at home it was 10:30.  No dinner.  Back up at 5:45 to get the kids ready for school/babysitter, then off to meet the regional president's assistant to scout meeting locations.  I'm sure I was drooling by that point.

This is just a 2 day glimpse.  This is SOP (standard operating procedure).  Now, I say this not to complain.  I absolutely love my job.  This is largely to point out that my social life is dwindling, and I keep imagining passive/aggressive Facebook posts aimed at me.  Paranoia is a side effect of guilt.  Guilt I feel for not having the time to be the friend I want to be.  I recognize this shortcoming.  But beyond the waning social life, Husband is totally over it.  So to recap, I love my job for the first time in my life, and Husband is not pleased with the situation.  I don't blame him, which is all the more reason for me to be overcome with guilt on a daily basis.  I go out of my way to make things easier, but there is only so much I can do when I'm in another state and the kids are acting like animals.  I also cannot seem to get him to change his mindset, no matter how hard I try.  Self-fulfilled prophecy, yada, yada, yads.  I have to work, though.  For financial reasons and for mental reasons.  So, if I have to work, I want to enjoy my job.  It's hard to fully enjoy it with an anvil of guilt weighing me down, but I'm hard-pressed to find a solution to please everyone.

Girl started back to school last week and is involved in cheerleading (2 practices per week!).  Boy is starting preschool this week.  Husband is playing in a recreational softball league.  My school starts back up this week.  Scheduling has been ridiculous.  We have some amazing people in our lives that are stepping up to offer help, but it is no easy task for me to ask for/accept help.  My Cozi and Outlook calendars look like rainbow explosions.  I am not creating more things for us to do.  I'm just doing everything it takes to keep on track with our goals, while making life as easy as possible on my kids.  So the casseroles I meant to make for the friends with new babies and the phone calls I have been meaning to make (in spite of my serious dislike for the telephone) have fallen through the cracks.  And I feel like a jerk.  But every birthday party and playdate have been attended, because my kids' needs and social lives come first.  That is not a complaint, that is a fact.

So there it is.  Filled with sentences starting with conjunctions.  I'm going to go eat chocolate now.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Busy Mama, no time for bloggin'

So a month has passed, and since my last post I've had 3 overnights and 2 day trips by plane.  I am amid another overnight as I type.  Things are about to pick up with weekly trips.  Things have been crazy for me, which has halted my ability to document.  The hardest thing has been this past school term.  I was taking a course in Organizational Ethics, which is part of my Masters program.  The amount of reading and paper writing in the short 8 week term was overwhelming, to say the least.

My first 2-night trip since my last post was non-stop work.  I worked basically from 6:30 AM to 10:30 PM the whole trip.  There wasn't much time for studying, which meant I had to cram my reading and writing into the short window of time I have available at home.  I don't do any studying at all when the kids are awake.  There are a couple of problems with that.  One being that Boy no longer goes to bed easily.  He is in the excuse-making phase for calling us into his room 100 times.  When we stop coming, he comes out to find us.  In addition, some nights, Boy will go into Girl's room and they sit in her bed playing and giggling.  By the time I get them settled down, it's late and I have a short window of time before I keel over.  The other problem is that poor Daddy got seriously neglected.  If I was home, I was studying.  But he's been a trooper.

Now I'm on summer break for about 6 weeks, but major things are coming down the pipeline for work.  Never a dull moment!  But I am loving my job so much.  I've been with this company for 2 months, and it's the first time in life that I can honestly say I love what I do.

Boy is still a bit confused when I travel.  Tonight he asked me to please hold him.  We were talking on the phone.  I told him I couldn't because I wasn't there.  He then asked if he could get into Daddy's phone with me.  So sweet.

This post is pretty random and all over the place, but I wanted to reconnect and get back on track.  Oh, I did talk with a professional blogger a while back who specializes in travel blogging for moms.  She gave me some useful information, but given that I have no interest in being a for-profit blogger, I'm keeping it simple.  I just want a place for idea generation and support.  Please continue to spread the word.  I look forward to having many resources available for moms who travel for work.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Last Week.....This Week

So there was last week...

I had a 2-nighter in Austin last week. For me, it was a great trip. It was a quarterly meeting with my team, giving me an opportunity to bond with them and tap them as resources. We did some great team-building activities, while accomplishing some major tasks.

Meanwhile at the homestead, things were not going so smoothly. Day 1, I got a call from Daddy telling me he was picking up Boy from the babysitter's to take him to the doctor. He had been coughing all weekend, but it was just getting worse. He'd also been having a little tummy trouble. Daddy ended up having to take the rest of the day off for what turned out to be a small tummy virus and allergies. Poor kiddo and Daddy.

Then on Day 2, while I was at a movie with my team (Pirates of the Carribean 3D Imax!!), I got a text that there were tornadoes and hail looming near the homestead. By the time I called home, Daddy was in no mood to hear anything from me.  Particularly anything fun related!  The storms were stressing out the family (Daddy's job increases in stress level when hail strikes). Boy had an accident all over the carpet upstairs. And a few other odds and ends had tensions running high. My team was waiting on me to eat dinner, but I needed to attempt to smooth things over with Daddy and talk him off the ledge.

I was really overcome with guilt. Poor Daddy was really dealt a crappy hand.  I felt awful that I had been enjoying a movie and dinner with adults.  I was also fighting through being the one in the group who kept leaving to take calls. There are 5 of us on my team. One other girl has small children (4 under the age of 7...including twins, .though she rarely travels), one with teenagers, one with grandchildren, and one who is older with no children. Incidentally, the older one with no children would start a conversation with someone else any time I talked about my kids or my education. Kind of uncomfortable. This company is definitely a champion of family time, but it was still awkward for me. On top of it, I had knowledge that I was going to need to travel an additional few days in June making at least 2 overnights for 4 weeks in a row. I needed to find the right time to break it to Daddy. And he was in no mood to hear it. Truth is, I have training classes and certifications I need to get under my belt, and not all of my resources for this training are in my metro area. Things will even out in the next month, but right now it's a bit intense.

Oh, and I had my first paper of the term due on normative ethics theories later in the week.  It was a doozy, and I was really feeling uptight about it.

The good news is that our home remained in tact during the storms. I made it home in time to spend a few minutes with the kids before bed. Daddy and I had a long discussion when I got home about expectations and ways to manage stress. He expressed his continued support.  I booked him a trip to Las Vegas.  Win-win.

That brings me to this week...

I embarked on another 2-nighter today. Before I left, I did a few special extra things beyond the usual to take some stress off of Daddy. It's the last week of school, and we have to send things in every day this week (not to mention teacher gifts, etc.). I pre-bagged and labeled everything, so all he has to do is toss it in Girl's backpack every morning. I pre-cooked stuff for tomorrow night's dinner. I made sure everything was clean and put away. And then I made sure to go buy some stuffed grape leaves for Daddy, as he enjoys snacking on them as a special treat after the kids go to bed.

For the kids.... I took a picture of myself puckering up with the caption "Give me a kiss! I love you!" I printed it on a 4X6 and put a copy on each of their pillows. I also printed this map, put a yellow pin in our home town, and a red pin in the town I'm currently in. We can then change the pin each time I travel so the kids can see where I am, geographically. It's hanging in Girl's room.

I got into my hotel room tonight and immediately called the family to make it for story time. I hadn't had dinner, so I was starving, but it was cool to still be able to help Girl with her words from over the phone.  Hopefully, this trip will go better than last time for Daddy.

Action Item: As usual, I really need some help getting this off of the ground: Find mamas who travel for work and are interested in sharing tips for staying virtually hands-on with their children. Get them to follow this blog. I know we can build a community for support. Additionally, let's get some comments on the blog about inexpensive and creative souvenir ideas for kids....keeping in mind this is business travel and resources are limited!

Sunday, May 22, 2011


It's travel time again. I've been getting things ready in the same fashion as last trip. However, this time we add a new element. You see, about a month ago, I found a great deal on a Wii. I'm not exactly pro-video games. I have intentionally avoided such a purchase. But I'm a sucker for a good deal, and Girl just loves playing at other people's houses.

We don't just randomly bestow gifts of such magnitude around here, especially since we've been dealing with some poor attitudes and decisions. Thus, Daddy and I have been contemplating how to let the kids earn it. Mind you, they have no idea this thing currently sits in our house.

We devised an earning system which will be paid out with Monopoly money. For the list of particular decisions, a $1 will be paid. If there is a particularly good day, a $5 can be earned. As a bonus incentive to make Daddy's life easier, double earnings are possible when Mom is out of town.

Here is the sign posted near the menu board:

We'll use Monopoly money as payment:

I have trips scheduled for the next 3 consecutive work weeks. With this new job, there are a lot of trainings and meetings. Daddy is not thrilled, but I think we'll make it. I got my company laptop on Friday, and it doesn't have the bells and whistles my personal laptop has. It doesn't have a webcam or microphone, so I had to go purchase one in order to Skype with the family.  I will miss my personal laptop when I'm traveling, but the company one will have to do.

For those who don't know me, I'm also a graduate student. This week is going to be a tough one, because I have a paper due next Sunday. I'll be spending a lot of time in my hotel room reading articles to prepare. I'll check in after the trip!

Action Item for this post is the same as last two posts.  I really need some help getting this off of the ground: Find mamas who travel for work and are interested in sharing tips for staying virtually hands-on with their children. Get them to follow this blog.  I know we can build a community for support.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

First Trip

My first trip commenced on my first day of work.  I hopped on a plane to Houston for a couple of days.  Here's what went down....

1.  Getting my family ready
  • Meal Planning: We plan our meals every week and write them on a dry erase board.  This week, I consulted with my husband on which meals would be the easiest for him to prepare with Girl and Boy under his feet.  In an effort to save money and ensure we don't frivolously eat out, we follow our weekly meal plans closely.  
This is our menu board.  I also keep a running "meatventory" so I know what's in the freezer while planning.

  • Grocery Shopping: We only buy the ingredients we need for the week.  This helps for a few reasons.  1. We aren't loading up on junk that we don't need (this especially helps us keep from night time snacking!).  2. We have a specialized diet due to a child with food sensitivities and our conscious consumption values, so only buying what we need allows us to purchase higher quality products that might cost a little more.  3. Since we shop on Sundays, and our trips require multiple stores, we need to be as efficient as possible.  Our kids HATE to shop, especially Girl.
  • Schedule: We have an account with Cozi.  It maintains our family and individual schedules, as well as keeps our grocery lists (I have a tab for each store).  What's awesome about this site is that I can access it from my Smart Phone, and I can text the lists to my husband's not-so-smart phone.  Since it's web-based, we can access our schedules from remote locations.
  • Laundry: Make sure it's all done ahead of time! 
  • Other preparations: Wednesday was the day the house cleaners were scheduled to come.  I made sure to pre-write a check and get the cash for their tips ready for my husband.  I also briefed him on making sure to put out our cleaning products and preparing the linens to be changed.  I picked up the toys in the play room and organized/put away all of the "things" around the house that weren't needed for the next few days.  I also made sure my husband was up to speed with the things I do after he falls asleep on the couch every night: make the dogs go outside, take Girl to the bathroom, make sure Boy is covered and not hanging off of his bed, close the gate in the hall to keep the dogs out of the kids' rooms, turn off all of the lights, set the burglar alarm, set the alarm clock, and lock doors.
  • School prep: It is impossible for my husband to get both kids to the places they need to be and make it to work on time.  Girl can't be to school any earlier than a certain time, and Boy's babysitter is too far to drop him off first.  Thus, I arranged with another parent at school for my husband to drop Girl off at their house before school.
2.  Getting myself ready
  • Packing: This time was tricky...  Since I hadn't even started my first day of work, I played it safe with a more conservative business wardrobe.  This included my boots with heels.  I don't like to venture out of my hotel when I travel.  I usually just get room service, so the only other clothing I brought included: two tank tops, a pair of sweatpants, a pair of cotton shorts, and a pair of flip flops.  I also made sure to have all of my small travel bottles in my clear quart bag.  I made sure everything fit into a rollerboard suitcase that I could carry on.
  • Computer: Without my work laptop yet, I packed my personal laptop.  I wanted to be able to access Skype.  I am also in search of a way to play games live over the internet with Girl.  I need to research that some more.
The Actual Trip
When I got to work, I quickly learned that I was overdressed.  For three days, I looked pretty silly compared to everyone else in jeans and casual shoes!  I knew at the store level, things are very casual, but I wasn't sure about my level.  Now I know!  Sadly, I had no other shoes with me beside my flip flops, which I couldn't do.  I did not have a rental (my boss had the rental with him) to venture out and get shoes.  Luckily, I sat a good portion of the time.

I had an absolute blast at work.  Right after work both nights, I had to go to dinner with my team.  No complaints here about that, but it did push off what time I could call the family.  I think that worked out, as I didn't interrupt dinner and bath time.  Since I was calling around bedtime, I become a part of nightly story time via speaker phone.  We didn't get a chance to Skype this trip since I was getting back to my hotel later than planned both evenings.  But no one seemed to concerned about it.  I also had to use my mommy voice a couple of times during story time, which made me feel as if I was really there!

On night #2, I jinxed myself.  I told Girl I would be home before she went to bed the next evening.  My flight was supposed to land at 5:25.  Well, thanks to typical crazy Dallas weather, I didn't get home until 9:45.  Though it was way past her bedtime, her daddy let Girl stay up to see me.  I was glad.  I snuggled in her bed with her for a while.  Then I tip-toed in to give Boy big smooches.  I emailed my boss that night requesting to leave a bit early on Thursday so that I could spend some time with my kids since I got home so late.  He obliged.  I also got up extra early Thursday morning so that I was ready for work BEFORE I woke the kids up for the day.  This gave me some extra time with them before it was time to head to work.  I got out of work about 2:30, picked them both up and we went home and snuggled up to Return to Neverland until Daddy got home. 

We all survived and made it work, though I'm pretty sure my husband was going to have a nervous breakdown when he learned my flight had been delayed....

Action Item for this post is the same as last post.  I really need some help getting this off of the ground:  Find mamas who travel for work and are interested in sharing tips for staying virtually hands-on with their children.  Get them to follow this blog.  

XOX-- Mama Red

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Journey Begins

After spending 5 years as a stay-at-home mom, I returned to the workplace in October 2009.  I embraced the idea of going back to work, but the last 18 months have been spent in the wrong jobs.  When an opportunity with my dream company presented itself, I jumped all over it.  As I went through my first phone interview, I learned the travel portion was more extensive than I realized.  I was torn between what I really wanted to do career-wise and the guilt of being away from my children. 

My husband and I had many conversations as I advanced to the next round of interviews.  He was 100% in favor of the position.  As I was hesitant, he was insistent.  But I was still plagued with thoughts of how my children would be affected by my absence.  I traveled some with my previous position, but not nearly as much as this one would require.  I was also projecting my guilt through my perception of what others might be thinking.  Most of my friends are stay-at-home moms.  I was really concerned about looking selfish.  I am a confident person, but I am not immune to the effects of judgment.  When I revealed that I wanted the position, my friends rallied.  I am sure many of them would not make the same decision in my position, but they did offer support.

So after a quite a harrowing interview process, I got the job.  And the real work begins....

When preparing for the position, I searched on-line for resources for traveling moms.  I found articles describing how to make things more comfortable for a mom missing her kids.  That's definitely important to me, but more important is having a presence in my home for my children when I'm not physically there.  I'm hoping this blog can bring together ideas for moms in my situation.  My vision is to ultimately serve as a resource for moms who travel for business, and I will need help from other traveling mamas in the form of tips, tales, and suggestions.  I will share my tales from the road and what we do to make things work in my family.  My intention is to be candid and honest about when things don't work. 

Now for the rules...  I have zero tolerance for criticism on this blog.  My decision to take this job was not taken lightly, and I have intentionally not written about my beliefs regarding working moms because I do not want to alienate my fellow moms who make different choices than me.  I believe it is every woman's right to decide what is best for her family, and criticism of anyone (full-time moms or moms working at/out of the home) will not be tolerated here.

So now I give you your Action Item for this post:  Find mamas who travel for work and are interested in sharing tips for staying virtually hands-on with their children.  Get them to follow this blog.  

Next blog....  How the Red family prepares...

XOX-- Mama Red