Thursday, March 31, 2011

New haircut for a new job!

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Love my new short hair! It's been far too long... feels nice and light, easy, spiffy, and sleek. And I can funk it up whenever I want, too! Win-win situation.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Color Me Employed!

I'm so very happy to announce that I accepted a job offer yesterday from the real estate company that I interviewed with last week and Monday. It felt like a great match from the beginning, and I think the only thing holding them back from offering me the job last week was the fact that the position I'll be replacing is only 25 hrs/wk, whereas I need a full-time job in order to be financially comfortable. But they apparently wanted me on their team seriously enough to re-work the position description, increase the hours, add some job duties, and make me the offer! It's an almost indescribable relief to be employed again after so long, and so close to the cut-off date for my unemployment benefits (as of today, there is only enough money in my award amount to cover three more checks; how's that for cutting it close?).

Even if I were working in a dead-end job with nothing to look forward to but a paycheck, I would be grateful. Instead, I get this great opportunity that sort of comes flying in out of the blue, all because of an inquiry email I sent out to an employment agency just in case they might still have my file open. This is what they call "serendipity"-- or possibly "luck favors the well-prepared" or something like that, considering that I've been honing my interview skills for the past two years and building up an excellent portfolio for sharing with potential employers... Either way, it's a blessing, and I'm truly appreciative of it.

I will be working as an Administrative Assistant supporting a property manager at a real estate firm that specializes in HOA management. The company has been around for 30 years, and because they don't focus on the ups and downs of the market, they've been remarkably stable and profitable during these past few years of ugliness in real estate. I am really looking forward to starting my job this week, especially because I get to dress up for work. Tee-hee! Call me a girly-girl, but I do love to fancy it up a bit at work. Can't wait to wear heels and skirts and dresses and just get all gussied up during the work week. Pictures will be forthcoming, never fear. And on that note, thank you to everyone for the positive thoughts and great energy and prayers, and thank you to God for this wonderful blessing, and thank you to those who spported me in my job search with babysitting and happy messages and other gestures of pure friendship. I love you all dearly!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Surprise, surprise... surprise!

Three big surprises in my life: First, Joel got me an ergonomic wireless keyboard and wireless mouse yesterday... How sweet is that? It is going to be so much easier to type up the multitude of papers and essays required for my MBA program with thiese handy dandy little tools. :)

Second, today is Ethan's first day at daycare! He was able to get in to Miss Janet's daycare, the same one that his buddy Aidan goes to, which is so great because at least he'll have someone he knows there. I've got mixed emotions about it; I know that I'm going to miss him, but I know as well that he is going to really love being around other kids and playing and learning and all of that. He definitely needs the interaction time, and will really benefit from it. I've been so lucky, despite all of these financial woes, because I've been blessed to spend the past two years at home with my little boy. But now it's time for him to take one little step on the path towards growing up, and I'm sure he's going to have a great time!

Third, and perhaps just a teensy smidge more importantly, I have a second interview today at the firm I interviewed with last week. I'm so happy and excited about it! Candace, the placement tech from availABILITY, called and asked me if I'd be available for a 2nd interview at 10:00 on Monday. I told her yes, because Ethan was starting daycare Monday morning so we'd be all set for to start working from this day forward. She responded with, "That's great! Because you just might be working by Tuesday." WOW! Now that's what I call fast service. Well, we'll hope that things go well and that this position works out, but if not-- I'm confident that I'll be working by the end of April. Watch out, world, I'm a woman with a mission and I'm on my way!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Job Hopes!

I think renewing my contact with availABILITY was the best thing I could have done in my job search. Candace, the placement specialist I met with on Tuesday, emailed me back on Wednesday with information about an interview for Thursday. That fast, my job hopes were raised again and I felt a little bit more energy and life flowing through me. I put on my "professional outfit"-- a fitted purple dress that has a dash of Mad Men style to it, a black dress jacket and velvety black heels-- packed up my portfolio of work examples, dropped Ethan off with my awesome parents and sister Adrienne, and headed about four blocks down the road to the company for my interview.

The company is a real estate company that has been in business for about 30 years and focuses primarily on HOA management. They are very stable and are looking for someone who is going to be around for awhile. That might clash a little bit with my plans to move to the Bay Area sometime in the future, but for now at least it sounds like a great place to work. The job duties are challenging, the office seems very well-run and professional yet comfortable, and the people seem friendly and competent. The interview seemed to go very well and I hope to hear back from them very soon... although maybe they could wait a week and let me have some time at home while Ethan's in daycare to get more homework done. It would be like a vacation, at home!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Employment News

Wow, this has been a busy week! On Monday, I was contacted by a placement specialist at availABILITY Personnel, an employment agency just down the road. I had sent them an email indicating interest in a job they'd posted online, and asked them to consider the application I'd filled out and the tests I had already taken back in December 2010. I guess they liked what they saw, because they asked me to come in Tuesday and finish some additional tests in Microsoft Office 2003. Apparently, I did well! In fact, I scored a 93% in Word and an 80% in Excel. Not bad, considering I've been using Office 2007 for over a year now and haven't even seen 2003 in a long time.

When I finished the tests, the placement specialist took me aside for an informal personal interview and asked me several questions about what types of jobs I was looking for, the hours and salary I'd prefer, and so on. I stayed really upbeat and was completely open about the challenges I've had so far in my job search-- being overqualified for the jobs I was applying for, trying to break out of the fields of education and social services, having to work within the 8-5 time frame because of childcare constraints, and having to work for at least $14/hour because I'm the primary breadwinner. If I was the only breadwinner, I'd need a bare minimum of $18-19/hour in order to just squeak by with bills. Anyway, I also told her that I was planning to have Ethan in daycare by Monday so that I'd be available to start work right away. She was so positive and encouraging during the interview and ended it by saying that she was impressed by my attitude and capabilities, and that she was certain I'd be working by the end of April. Woo-hoo! Finally, some good news!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Cinnamon Allergy?

The other day, Ethan had an allergic reaction to something he was chewing on-- a Colgate Cinnamon Wisp Toothbrush. The strange thing to me was that he had already chewed on the toothbrushes twice before without any problems, so I had no idea that he would react the way he did this time.

It all began when I gave him one of the Wisp toothbrushes to keep him busy while I drove my sister home. After a few minutes, he started saying "Ow, ow!" and pointing to his mouth. I assumed that he was poking himself with the pointed rubbery end that is used for flossing, and told him to be careful with the brush. I kept a watch on him through the rear view mirror, to see if he was turning the brush around to poke himself on purpose, but all I could see was him using it correctly. Hmm... a couple of minutes later, he repeated "Ow, ow, mom!" and started rubbing at the left side of his mouth and cheek. I reminded him to be careful, but dismissed it and kept driving. A minute or so later, I looked in the rear view mirror to check on him again and saw that he had apparently rubbed his cheek/mouth area so much that it turned red. In fact, it looked almost raised. I kept glancing back and saw his skin turning even redder and more inflamed looking right before my eyes. And that's when I first suspected an allergic reaction.

I reached back and took his toothbrush and then called my sister Stefanie on speakerphone to ask for advice. She told me to get him immediately to a pharmacy and give him a half-dose of Benadryl to stop the allergic reaction. We were about a block and a half away from Save Mart at the time, so I got there as quickly as I could in 5 o'clock traffic and jammed into the store. By the time we got in to the Pharmacy and bought the Children's Benadryl, the left side of his face was bright red and looked a little swollen, with the red area appearing raised up a bit. The Benadryl said that it wasn't to be used for a 2-year-old, but I listened to my sister instead (she'd gone through something similar with her toddler many years prior) and gave him half of a dose right away. Within fifteen minutes I could see that the symptoms had stopped getting worse, and after about half an hour they actually started to fade a bit. By the time Stefanie came over an hour later to check in with us, the raised area had subsided and the redness had faded down to what looked like flushed skin instead of a burn. From now on I'm taking her advice and keeping Benadryl in the house, and maybe even putting some in the first aid kit that we keep in the car. Just in case!

FYI, I don't really think it was a cinnamon allergy. Toothpaste products tend to use cinnamic aldehyde for flavoring, and he has eaten food with cinnamon in it since the incident without any problems. I'll just keep him away from cinnamon toothpaste or cinnamon mints from now on, and hope we don't have any more issues.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Grad School

Last week was my first week back in school as a grad student, and let me tell ya-- being out of school for the past decade has not necessarily improved my study skills, my vocabulary, or my ability to think critically. I am so nervous about this program, partly because it is a business degree and therefore nothing I have really studied before, and partly because this time around I'm doing it without the kind of free time I had before. The last time I was in school I was single and lived alone, and could arrange my schedule however I wanted to in order to get my homework, papers, reading, and prep work done. This time? Yeah, not quite. Instead, I have a husband and a toddler, am a stay-at-home mom (until I start full-time work within the next month), and have a full-time job hunt going on right now. Needless to say, my study time is somewhat limited at this point.

It has been tough enough to get my work done in the hours that Ethan sleeps this past week, and I can't imagine it will get any easier when I start working again. Not only will I lose his nap-time (about 2 hours) for school work, but I'll also lose all that time I normally get to spend doing things around the house like laundry, cooking, cleaning, and so on. How the heck do people do this?!? I am going to be either a master time-management expert or completely insane by the end of this program. Still, I'm not changing my plans or quitting. This is my goal: MBA with Human Resources specialization by September 2012. No matter what, I'm going for it. Watch out, world!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Egg Success!

Today we had a major breakthrough: Ethan ate eggs! I know, I know, it doesn't seem like much, but this boy hasn't eaten more than a bite or two of eggs since he was born. I even remember the only other time he did; his father and I were sharing a lovely Waffle House omelet and Ethan decided that he wanted to take a few bites of our delicious breakfast. He only had a little bit before he moved on to the banana and orange juice, but I was thrilled with even that minute amount.

Unfortunately, my happiness was short-lived, because that momentous occasion took place over a year ago-- and it's been that long since he's done more than just take one taste of the egg before spitting it out in disgust. I was starting to wonder if he'd end up being one of those people who just never eats eggs, period, when he finally broke the barrier tonight. Maybe it was because of what I made... I beat together three eggs, some finely chopped cooked chicken breast, a handful of leftover cooked veggie penne that I chopped up nice and small, shredded "Mexican" cheese and some milk. I buttered a pan and then threw it all in there, sprinkled on some onoin and garlic powder, salted and peppered it, then covered the pan and cooked it for about five minutes. I folded it in half, and voila! A lovely, complete meal with protein, dairy, grains/carbs, and vegetables. And the leftovers will be perfect for Joel's breakfast before he heads off to school tomorrow morning, too. Betty Crocker, eat your heart out!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Vision Statement

My first major assignment for my Management Communication class is to develop a personal vision statement. Sounds easy, right? Yeah right. We were directed to several resources online, but I found another one that I really enjoyed using on the Franklin Covey website.

It has about ten or so pages of prompts that help you to start breaking down your personal goals, internal and external characteristics, strengths and weaknesses, dreams and goals, so that by the end you have put together a fairly comprehensive vision statement. I really liked it, and only wished that it were easier to go back and edit one section or another before printing or emailing yourself the final version. I'm definitely going to be using it for my assignment, which I plan on writing tomorrow sometime (it's due Sunday). After this week, though, my plan is to start doing all of my assignments ahead of time as often as possible, so that I can keep the stress level down and keep one step ahead. That way, if something comes up last minute and I'm strapped for time, I don't have to worry about missing an assignment because it'll already be done. That's the plan, anyway; we'll see how it pans out.

St. Pat's Day Menu ideas...

So, right now I'm salivating because the entire house is filled with the aroma of corned beef, potatoes and onions in the crockpot... YUM! I absolutely love corned beef. I could probably eat it once a month without any problems whatsoever, and I have a pretty good number of recipes geared towards ways of making the leftovers into a variety of meals so that we can cook a huge amount of meat and not get sick of it. Not that I think that's even possible, but it's nice to have other options if you don't want a thick slab of corned beef with spicy brown mustard, tender red potatoes and juicy onions, crisp cabbage and perhaps even a slice of Claussen's dill pickle on the side...

Need I say it again? YUM! One of the leftover recipes I like to use is Reuben Soup, which is so rich and flavorful that my mouth waters just thinking about it. I think I actually posted the recipe on my blog last year sometime. This year, I'm thinking about making Reuben Sliders on those small Hawaiian butter rolls. I'll cut open the rolls, then layer on my ingredients: cheese (Monterey Jack instead of Swiss because I'm not a big Swiss fan), corned beef slices, brown mustard, a slice of dill pickle and a little Thousand Island dressing, and a tsp or so of sauerkraut; next, bake it for five minutes at 300 F, until it's a little toasty and warmed through. Add some red potato salad on the side, and you've got the makings of one ultra-tasty dinner. Can't wait!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Interview Bust

So, yet another group interview, except this time we all had to get up and tell each other-- the other applicants as well as the interviewers-- why we were most qualified for the job. It just gets more and more humiliating the longer I'm out here, I swear... after all that effort, too, it came down to the very end and I finally got to ask a question about the hours. Thank goodness, too, because there's no way I could have even done the job when they want me there from 1-9 p.m. four days during the week plus Saturday. I don't really think a lot of people understand just how difficult it is to look for work when you have a toddler that needs daycare and a husband who isn't available in the evenings to watch the baby.

I have a new-found appreciation for single parents out there who are trying to make it in this economy. How the heck are we supposed to work for low wages, put our kid(s) in daycare at $550/month for home care (if you can find it) or $990/month for center care, both of which close at the latest by 5:30 (home) or 6:00 (center) every night? How is that supposed to work? And how are people doing it when they have more than one child, too? It's ridiculous, really; sometimes I get so frustrated by the whole thing that I just want to scream.

Monday, March 14, 2011

School + Job Updates

I posted my first assignment in my online MBA class today. What a great moment of excitement, anticipation, and nervousness all rolled into one overwhelming feeling... I think it is going to be really wonderful for me to get back into education for awhile. I need this sort of mental stimulation and the reminder that I am more than just a one-dimensional character at this point in my life. It'll be tough to go to do a Master's degree while still being the primary one responsible for the house, the child, and then also work full-time, but there really isn't another option right now-- so it's full steam ahead, no holds barred, put the pedal to the metal time!

PS, I also got called to come in for an interview tomorrow for a position with Heald College here in Modesto. My friend T. said earlier that, because I just started classes, *now* I'll get a job-- now that I'll have way less time and energy, because that's just how the universe works. We both laughed about it, but then a couple of hours later I got the call from Heald about the interview. Hopefully T. was right! :)

Friday, March 11, 2011


But hopefully feeling better soon. At least the fever is gone.


Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Isn't It Romantic

Romance... what a strange word to think about, really. It encompasses so many emotions and actions, and means such different things to each person that you can't really define it in a simple phrase. For my husband, romance is something similar to the image that the media has pushed on us for marketing purposes for our entire lives: Flowers, chocolate, a nice dinner, expensive gifts, jewelry, weekend trips, and so on. He can't seem to separate the idea of romance from a cost factor; if it doesn't cost a lot, it must not be romantic. To him, inexpensive flowers aren't romantic; a date night that involves coupons can't be romantic; and if for some reason you think that you don't need money to be romantic, you must be either a cheapskate or broke.

To me, on the other hand, romance involves far less money and far more attention to the needs of your partner, and consideration of their likes and dislikes. Romance for me would involve a situation where my husband wakes up in the middle of the night and tends to the baby so that I can sleep in, or gets up in the morning and makes breakfast for all of us so that I can get a break from the usual chore. It would be romantic if he left a note on my desk saying how much he loved me, or texted me a sweet little message out of the blue, or brought me home a bottle of my favorite wine so that we could share it later that evening. It doesn't take much, really, in my view; just a thoughtfulness and a sense of caring or affection that expresses itself in simple, everyday situations instead of grand gestures that take on a life of their own.


This week, for instance, Joel did something that I consider one of the most romantic things I've ever seen him do... I was having a pretty bad day for some reason, just feeling run-down, exhausted, drained, and dealing with a migraine as well. I was having a hard time dealing with Ethan's energetic interactions and trying to lie down on the couch and rest, when Joel came out of his office and said that he was going to Walgreen's. I just murmured "okay" and pushed play on Ethan's movie, expecting Joel to leave my rambunctious two-year-old with me while he drove away. Moments later, I heard him taking Ethan out to the car... and then drive away together. Even when they got home later, he took Ethan outside to play for a little bit longer, just so that I could have a bit more time to recover. I was so impressed, and humbled, and shocked, and deeply pleased by his gesture. It meant so much to me that he did that without even asking.

I know that for some people, that might not be so far out of the realms of possibility that it would seem like a big deal, but I can count on one hand the number of times he has taken Ethan out *by himself* since Ethan was born. One hand. So that is a big thing for us, and I totally appreciate it for what it is-- romantic, and generous, and loving. Now, if I can just figure out how to get a repeat without having to conjure up another migraine....


Going through the final steps before classes begin on the 22nd... starting to get a little nervous, a little excited, a little curious about what it will be like to go back to grad school after such a long break and this time, with a two-year-old on my lap. Still haven't had any positive responses from the job applications, but I'm trying to stay positive and hope for the best. My unemployment extension runs out at the end of April; that gives me a few weeks left to get things sorted out, right?

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Friendly Boy

My son is a constant source of pleasure and pride for me. I love that he is such a friendly and outgoing child, and that he feels so comfortable (usually) with people. Lately, every time we go out to a store he walks up to a stranger or two and starts a random conversation about something...

For example, we were at Rite Aid for to drop off a prescription and he found some trucks he was interested in on a shelf near the door. Every person who came in or walked out of the pharmacy got a greeting from my boy, plus a toddler-style chat about the dump truck and its critically acclaimed role in "Team Umizoomi: Umi City Race" (Ethan's favorite episode to watch and re-watch for the past week or so). It was so sweet! He would walk up to them and, depending on their age, call them "Baba" (his name for Grandma) or "Fie" (his name for my sister Stefanie) to get their attention, and then just start chattering away about dun-duck (dump truck) and his various exploits in the cartoon. And it was so nice to watch how everyone responded to him; each person got a huge smile on their face, spoke to him a little bit, and walked away a little bit happier than when they came in. All because of my boy. Now, that's what I call a proud-mama moment.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

He Shoots, He Scores!

Ethan's auntie Elena brought him a glow in the dark basketball hoop and backboard, and he immediately became an athletic marvel the likes of which I'd never seen before.

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It took him a little while to figure out how this whole "ball-goes-in-basket" thing worked, but as it turns out-- he's a fast learner.

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And man, did he get a kick out of seeing that ball swoosh through the hoop!

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Of course, there was also a bit of a learning curve in terms of what body part my little athlete was supposed to be using in order to get the ball over to the hoop in the first place...

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But at least he had fun. And we had even more fun, I think, just watching him. I also like that the ball will glow ever so gently each night when he's getting ready for bed; it reminds me of the color of phosphorescence in the Gulf waters, that otherworldly blue-green-yellow shimmer, so soothing and calm. I used to think it must be the color of mermaids floating just out of sight beneath the still, dark waters, gazing back up at us as we stared out into the sea...

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Giver of Hugs

I took Ethan to the Library yesterday morning so that he could spend a little time surrounded by books, and he was in heaven. Not so much because of the wide variety of books in the toddler/child area, but because of the other kids who were there waiting for story time to begin. He has so little interaction with other kids because we don't have him in day care right now, and every time he gets around other children he absolutely blossoms before my eyes.

On Sunday, for instance, I took him to church for a friend's daughter's confirmation and stayed with Ethan and his little buddy in the "crying room"-- a separate room where parents can take their little ones so that they don't feel they're disrupting the service. Ethan was very antsy to get out of there, but when the other kids arrived he started to perk up and play more happily. He wandered over to his buddy A. a few times and wrapped him up in a hug with this sweet smile on his face the whole time, saying "Hug! Hug!" and looking up to make sure I saw what he was doing. It was so adorable! The first few times, that is; after that, I had to gently tell him that A. had had enough hugs, because there is a limit after all.

hug monster

He found another friend at the Library on Monday: "Teddy," a tiny little blond girl around his age who sat at our table and played with puzzles and books right alongside Ethan. They spent the first fifteen minutes or so just playing near each other and glancing up every so often, but then they broke the ice and started openly acknowledging each other. From then on, it was like love at first sight. They darted around the children's library, checking out doors and sculptures and scattered books, then they wandered together over to the windows and gazed out at the buses passing by. They were having a wonderful time together, and Ethan couldn't stop grinning with delight. He even walked over to her and gave her one of his famous hugs, and patted her on the head when he was done. He turned towards the window again and her grandmother said, "Can you give hugs too, Teddy?" So Teddy, not to be outdone by a mere boy, leaned towards Ethan and laid her head ever so gently on his back for just a moment.

And those are the moments I want to remember, so that I can tell him about them when he has forgotten what it meant to be a child.

And in case you've forgotten, here is a link to The Official Hug Guide.