Saturday, February 26, 2011

Auntie love.

Ethan really loves spending time with his aunties, and has enjoyed every minute he's spent with my sister Elena.
Ethan with Elena 02-2011 (Medium)

I love that they get along so well, and that I can use him as an excuse to drag her over to the house more often. Oh, the lure of those big blue eyes...
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They get me, too, so I totally understand their magnetic power over others.

Thursday, February 24, 2011


I long to live nearer the Bay Area. I yearn for it, like it's a piece of me that has been missing and is calling out for my return so that we can finally join together and become whole. I don't know exactly why, either; it's not as if I'm from there, after all. But every time I visit, I feel like I can breathe a little easier and every muscle starts to relax, little by little, until I finally feel as if I've come home again after a long journey. We used to be able to visit at least once a month, but our financial situation lately has kept us pretty close to home and we only get across the Bridge every 3-4 months. Each time we're out there, I come back to the Valley with a heightened sense of urgency about the path our lives are on, and how we can engineer things so that our family can live in the Bay Area somewhere. Someday, somehow... we'll get there.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


So, I did some more research and decided that Kaplan might not be the best choice. There are a lot of complaints about that university, and besides that it is really expensive-- up to $32,000 if I chose the MBA with specialization option. After checking out tons of websites, I found a very helpful site called Get Educated. It ranks, rates, and compares online schools and degrees, and has separate listings like "Best Buys" and "Best Public Perception" to help narrow your choices. I looked at quite a few different online colleges on the "Best Buys" list, and after a lot of deliberation I decided to apply to Frostburg State University.

FSU is an actual college located in Frostburg, Maryland, that has expanded its MBA degree to include an online program, and it appears to run only about $14-15,000. That is about half of what I was going to pay at Kaplan! Not only that, but Frostburg seems to be a bit more choosy about who gets into their program; applicants have to have a certain GPA, have to have taken the GMAT, and/or can only be allowed in provisionally depending on certain factors (GRE scores, work history, recommendations, etc.). I like the idea that FSU is both more selective and more affordable than Kaplan, and I also like that it is primarily an actual campus rather than purely located online. I've already ordered my transcripts, completed my application, and filled out my FAFSA for 2010-11 and 2011-12. Now all we have to do is wait and see if I get in, and when I can get started. I can't wait!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


Just got done with some drama, and boy is it draining. It's sometimes easy to forget, when you go through several days apart, just what it is you miss-- and don't miss-- about a person. Then, suddenly and without warning, it all becomes clear and you remember all of the reasons that you kept apart in the first place.

Anyway. Just a bit exhausted now. I have enough trouble keeping my emotions and temper in place without willingly inviting additional drama into my already unstable life. Next time, I'll opt out and go for some "me time" all by my lonesome instead.

Me Time

Sunday, February 20, 2011

MSE, meet MBA

I've made a major decision. The past week has been pretty rough because our financial troubles don't seem to be lightening up at all, and things just in fact keep getting worse. My degree in Social Science, shockingly enough, doesn't seem to be of much use while job hunting during a recession. My experience, working for a decade in nonprofits and schools, is also worth a whole lot nothing out in the real world. I need something more solid, more business-oriented, more marketable in order to compete with the rest of the job-seekers and actually get hired. So, in order to do that, I've decided to continue my education and go for my MBA (Master of Business Administration), possibly with a concentration in Human Resources. It'll take 1 1/2 to 2 years to finish the program online with Kaplan University, but at least I know that at the end of that time I'll be a much more marketable job candidate. And it'll look good in my current job search, too, that I'm pursuing higher education in the business field. At least, I hope it will! I should know within the next few days whether or not I'm approved, and how much of a loan I can get. The only way I can actually do it is with a loan, so hopefully we get good news next week.

Friday, February 18, 2011


Sorry, haven't been posting this week because I'm pretty down lately. Not only did zero of the interviews result in a job offer, but then our washer AND dryer broke down completely on Wednesday, plus on Thursday I got a letter from the state saying that we owe another $905 from our 2009 taxes. We're already paying state and federal back taxes, and now have to add this huge amount on top of those. Really? We're hardly making any money at all, and still have to pay this huge amount of taxes.


It's just all so overwhelming right now. And the stress is turning me into a crazy person. I keep blowing up and losing my temper, and it gets so ugly that I can hardly stand being in the same room with myself. I really don't know how to get positive and believe that things will get better for us. I only have around five more checks from unemployment, meaning 2 and a half more months left of income. What in the world are we going to do? And what is this, some kind of karmic retribution or payback for bad things I did in a former life? I just want someone to save us. :(

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

And, three for three on the job front

Just heard back from the last of the three job possibilities, the one where I actually got called back to a second interview. They said (as usual, lately) "Thanks but no thanks, we chose somebody else." I was kind of expecting it, actually, seeing as how I hadn't heard anything in awhile from them, but there was still that little inkling of hope trying desperately to stay alive for the past couple of weeks. It's just so frustrating and disappointing. I wish I could ask these interview panels what I'm doing wrong or what isn't working for them, so that I could change it for the next one, but of course they won't say a word for fear of legal reprisals. I just need to know what I'm doing to mess up these opportunities so that I can stop doing it and get a stinkin' job offer. My federal extension on unemployment only lasts another month or two, and then what?? I was so hopeful that one of those three interviews would pan out; I was even thinking I might have to juggle job offers, but to not have even one? What a huge let-down.

Gotta stay positive, but man it's getting tough.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Train Set Artist

My little boy loves to work with tools, take things apart and put them back together again, and work the on/off switch like it's going out of style. Yes, I'm saying that he is definitely his father's son. A little while ago, we found a train table at a second-hand store for under $30 and bought it so that Ethan could play with his trains in his own room. He loved it! He especially loves that he can build and re-build his train sets over, and over, and over again. In the past few weeks, he's gone from this:
train 2

To this:
train 3

And then to this most recent incarnation:
train 1

But don't think it's staying like that, because he already started taking it apart again. Maybe he's going to be an architect or an engineer when he grows up, and he can build me a funky house to live out my golden years in-- something with hidden passages and secret rooms would be especially cool. Now, how to guide him on to that path...

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Eat Your Beans!

Ethan has been starting to show signs of being a bit of a picky eater. This is not good news. It's actually quite annoying, when you get down to it. It isn't that he doesn't like vegetables, or doesn't like meat, or doesn't like one entire food group, either. It seems to be more of a texture issue, and possibly just the "newness" of a food item that is making him reluctant to try it. Sometimes, even something being new isn't a deterrent. He'll reach right out and grab a bite of food that he's never had before right off of my plate and shove it in his mouth without hesitation. Unfortunately, that only lasts two seconds, which is about how long it takes him to lean forward and let it fall out of his mouth.

He loves to eat things that are crisp or crunchy, so we've started to focus on snack type foods that are healthy and made from fruits or vegetables. So far he loves the Baked Snapea Crisps, veggie chips of any kind, and the fruit-flavored rice crisps...


They all seem fairly healthy, but I'd like to get him comfortable with trying regular, raw or cooked vegetables. You know, like green beans or corn or carrots. We're taking tips from books, the web, Super Nanny, and random strangers, so any suggestions are more than welcome!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

A Friend's Pregnancy Loss

A former colleague from the junior high where I used to work just had the worst week of her life. She went in to her 38 week prenatal appointment with no fears whatsoever, and received the worst news any parent could ever wish to hear: Her baby boy, Alexander, didn't have a heartbeat. The umbilical cord had wrapped around his neck three times, and he passed away in utero. She was induced, and had to deliver the baby the next day, which meant that she had to go home that night with that horrendous news weighing on her mind.

The thing is, a bad end to her pregnancy was completely unexpected. They had a totally uneventful and stress-free pregnancy, with zero complications and zero problems; she never even got morning sickness or stretch marks, it was that easy. Then, right at the last minute, this horrible tragedy occurs... it was devastating just to find out about it, let alone imagine what she and her husband are going through right now. They had just posted these adorable photographs of the way they'd lovingly and creatively decorated the baby's room, too; now they get to go back to that same room empty-handed, and decide what to do with it. I've now been through this with a cousin, sibling, and a friend, plus myself (very early stage of course), and I can't imagine the people who deal with this sort of terrible news all the time-- counselors, social workers, grief or hospice aides, etc.-- how do they do it?

My heart is breaking all over again to know that yet another woman has lost her child, and before she even got a chance to know him; I'm hoping and praying that she and her husband find the strength and support they need to find a way through the grief, the pain, and all of the other emotions surrounding this tragedy.

My Husband... Happy (early) Love Day

This is the face that I see when I think of Valentine's Day, or romance in general...
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Joel and I are coming up on our 4th anniversary next week, and the 6th year that we've known each other this summer, and it's been a pretty crazy journey so far. When we met, we both had good jobs and were on top of the world, so to speak; we could afford what we wanted and had no responsibilities other than ourselves. That first summer was amazing, full of adventures and road trips and random spontaneous acts of joy and exploration. A few months after we met, I bought the home I'd been living in, and a month or so after that, we moved in together... things seemed to be almost perfect, at that moment. How could anything possibly go wrong?

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Two weeks after Joel moved in with me, his job laid him off, and two months after that, the housing market took what was the beginning of its fatal dive. The financial crunch had just begun, and we felt it immediately. Still, we thought things would pick back up soon and we could get back to focusing on our lives together instead of how to pay bills. Instead, our lives just became more and more defined by our financial crisis. As our money issues increased, though, so did our affection for each other and our determination to make it through. The bright note that year was our engagement, and we followed it up with a small elopement witnessed by only a few friends the next February. Unfortunately, we followed that up by declaring bankruptcy and surrendering our home to the bank. It was a very tough time, finally admitting to the world and to ourselves that we were in way over our heads... but it was necessary. Things were a bit easier emotionally after that, because we didn't have the massive debt hanging over us anymore, and we moved into a rental home that would allow us to start trying for a family. We're both getting older, and didn't want to start our childrearing at age 45 or something. My favorite memory of that year was when Joel surprised me with a trip to San Francisco just before my birthday, and we saw "Monsoon Wedding" in a funky theater. It was very romantic, and definitely needed.


Again, though, life wasn't quite done teaching us some lesson or other. We enjoyed a mostly uneventful pregnancy until the last month, when we started experiencing some serious problems. There was daily bleeding, and days when we felt the baby wasn't moving, early contractions, and multiple visits to the birthing center. The day he was born via emergency c-section, I went through the worst fears of my life... trying to stay positive about your baby's chances while simultaneously hemorrhaging is a difficult task, and I definitely struggled to keep from bursting into tears every minute. But guess what? We made it through that with no major complications, and welcomed our darling boy into the world. Just a few months after that, I was laid off from my job, and then not two months later, Joel was laid off from his. Yet another challenge, but how could we even think about that, when we had a little one to focus on... or sometimes, less focusing and more just exhausted sleep was going on.

Dad son nap 12-28-08

After the initial sleeplessness and bizarre rituals of introducing a newborn into your household were established, we started to realize just how much parenthood changes a marriage. It changes every way you relate to each other, or at least it should... we struggled with learning how to stay connected to each other while building a connection to this new little person, and I think it's going to be a lifelong learning process. But it has been worth it; every time I look at my son's face, I know it was worth everything.

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And this brings us back to my husband... we've been through some very lean years together. Very, very lean. And those times aren't over yet. We're still in the midst of a major financial crisis, and yet somehow we are sticking together through all of the stress and worry and humiliation of asking for yet another loan or more support from family. I'm really looking forward to getting on our feet again sometime soon... not only because it'll be a relief to finally stop worrying about whether or not we're paying rent next month, but also because I want to see how this changes our relationship yet again. If we've survived these hard times, then how much better will it be when we're not struggling financially anymore? I can't wait to find out...

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Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Two No's and a Who Knows...

So far, two of the three jobs I interviewed for in the past couple of weeks have turned out to be a big "Thanks, but no thanks"-- and there's only one left that I still haven't heard back from yet. I know it's only Tuesday, and there's still hope, but I'm trying not to think that it isn't looking good that it's taking this long. Guess it's back to the job hunt, again.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Day Care

We just got back from visiting what we hope will become Ethan's day care center, once I've received a job offer. Notice how I'm assuming I'll be offered a job? Anyway, we were referred to this home day care by a friend of ours whose 13-year-old daughter went there as a child, and whose 2-year-old boy is currently there. The house is just lovely, and perfectly set up for little ones, with tables and chairs and cubbies galore. There are four other little boys there, all around the same age-- one is 2 1/2, one is turning 2 in March, and the other two are turning 2 in April.

When we got there, we set Ethan down and hoped for the best... and he immediately walked over to the play area and started interacting with the other kids. It was so awesome! It made me so happy to see him playing well with the boys, and being very careful with the toys and furniture, and even helping to pick up the chair when it fell over. I really hope that I hear back from one of the jobs soon with some positive news, so that I can get him into this day care; he would absolutely love it.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Daddy Time

Recently we took Ethan to the park, and he was able to get some play time with his daddy. One of the major accomplishments this time was getting him to go down the slide, which he hasn't done since he injured his leg several months ago.

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He did it, and didn't get hurt this time, and now it looks like all fear is gone!

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Why does that make me happy and a little nervous at the same time?

Wednesday, February 2, 2011


I'm really torn right now. In the past week I've interviewed for three very different jobs, with three different work schedules and very different pay scales. The first job is a Human Resources position in Stockton, the hours are from 6-3, and it pays about $18/hr. That would give me, if I'm doing my calculations correctly, just about enough to pay our bills without Joel having to work full-time while he's going to school full-time. The second job is an administrative assistant position and starts at $16, but I would try to negotiate up to $18 (their maximum starting pay for outside applicants) if I were offered the job. The hours on that one are from 8-5 p.m., and it's here in Modesto. Both of those jobs are different from what I was doing before because they are office-based and have none of the social work type duties that were making me feel so drained at my previous job.

The third job opportunity is the one that is causing me the most internal conflict. It pays the most ($42,000/year), has the least work days (187 days, as opposed to around 245 with a regular job), and is the one I'm most familiar with in terms of job duties. However, during the interview I found out that it also has the worst hours-- I'm expected to be at work from 9:30 to 6:30/7:00 every day, plus some early mornings every month for different school site meetings and late nights every month for school events, not to mention those days that students' parents are late picking them up, and so on. In the first place, day care closes at 6:30, which means I would have to make special arrangements to be there late every day. Then, Joel is in Stockton every day from 5:00 on, so if I'm going to be even later, or if there's an emergency, there is nobody around to pick up Ethan from day care. Add to that the fact that Ethan typically goes to bed at around 7:45/8:00, and it turns into a week where I only see my son for about an hour a day until the weekend. They also have the worst benefits package, which takes a huge chunk out of your paycheck every month; there's no way I could even add Ethan on to my insurance, for instance, and Joel would be out of luck for health benefits. I just don't know how that job would work out, considering everything, and it's really causing me some serious turmoil just thinking about it.

Lost and Confused Signpost

I wish I didn't have to be the only income here, and the whole conflict would be moot. If we had two incomes, I wouldn't have to sacrifice pretty much all of my weekday time with my child just to bring in enough to pay our bills by myself. I wish that we could have figured out a few years ago what we needed to do to get on track, and then pursued that before Ethan came along, so that we could have had everything where we need it to be career-wise and financially by now. I really hope with all my heart that I receive a job offer from one of the first two companies, so that I won't need to even worry about the third one any more. But, today has begun with blue skies and brightness, so I'm going to shelve my worries for a few hours and take my son out into the world, spend time with him, and enjoy our last few days at home together before I re-enter the workforce. Time to go hold on to him and squeeze out some giggles.

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Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Blog Collage, Wine & Fromage

Thank you to my aunt Kathy for the link to Tagxedo, where you can take words from a website (or any text source, including their own suggestions) and use them to create an image of your choice, either from a file you upload or from their library of shapes. The words are sized by frequency, so the more often it appears in your text, the larger it will appear in the shape. Hmmm, do you think I maybe write about my son a lot?


I really like the results, and there are so many options that you could play around with this forever. Kind of a neat idea to use for perhaps designing the mat surrounding a photo in order to give as a gift (as in, give a picture of a child with words describing the child framing their face on the mat), or even for making fun, personalized placemats for a dinner party, and so on. I could get all sorts of creative ideas from this site; now, putting those ideas into action is a whole other story-- one that requires serious amounts of wine and cheese to even begin contemplating.