A Long Hiatus

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Hello….It’s me.  I was wondering if after all these years you’d like to meet (thanks Adele).  I am sorry for my very long absence from Five Spinning Plates.  I have accumulated dozens of half complete blog posts and probably have 100+ blog titles with a few words or pictures on the page from the past few years.  The problem has not been lack of ideas or experiences, it has truly been a lack of time and prioritization.  I just have not made this blog the priority like I would have liked to.  I started Five Spinning Plates when I was working only 3 days a week.  I had a little more time on my hands and a lot of things I needed to say with 3 little babies at home.  Now, I still have the 3 not so little kiddos and plenty to say, but I also have a very busy full-time job and the usual demands of home weighing me down.  I have prioritized quality time with the kids, time with Les, exercise, and other personal pursuits like reading and travel, over taking the time to sit down and write.  Something has to give when you get too many plates spinning at the same time, and unfortunately the writing plate got shelved for a while.

Writing is something I have missed over the past few years.  I miss the nightly therapy of sitting down and putting my thoughts into words.  I have missed the recording of life’s poignant and mundane moments, snapshots into this amazing time of life.  I miss having a written record of all of this craziness and having witnesses to it all.  My problem is that I am not a fast writer.  It takes me a long time to write even the simplest of posts.  I enjoy writing, and have been told that I am an above average writer (not sure about that, but I try to accept a compliment when one is given), but the words don’t flow freely enough to complete a decent post in under an hour.  I will never be able to write for a living because of this.  It is hard to justify sitting down to an hour of nightly blogging, when I can’t manage to pay bills or get an expense report in on time.  I am envious of all the bloggers out there that can turn out amazing posts in just 15-30 minutes.  I am a perfectionist writer – I don’t like to rewrite or revise anything.  I want the thoughts that end up written on the page to be the final draft.  This is how I wrote papers in high school and college.  I put a lot of thought into the planning and writing, but very little time editing or revising.  This method usually worked well for me, but I am not sure if it works for these purposes.  At this point though, I am not planning for my posts to be read by many people or have them move beyond friends and family and the occasional curious reader from the web.  In order to try to finish some of the many posts I have started in the past few years, and to encourage me to write more in the moment, I am going to try to write faster and not be quite as deliberate in my writing style.  If the quality of my writing suffers, ya’ll will just have to forgive me.

The title of this blog is still so appropriate.  I still feel like I am spinning AT LEAST 5 plates at all times.  There are some things, like the sheer level of neediness and physical demands of parenting babies and toddlers, that have become so much easier as the kids have grown older, but other things, like activities and school, have gotten more complicated.  My work has kept me very busy and Les’ career has undergone a lot of changes.  We continue to try and Carpe Diem and live life to its fullest!  We have not forgotten how quickly things can turn bad and how the health, money, love, or luck that you have always counted on can simply run out.  As I am getting older, it is not that unusual to hear stories about people my age or a little older getting sick or dying suddenly from a heart attack.  Life can be too short for some.  It sounds so cliche, but we do feel very blessed and try not to take anything for granted.  I have too much to do and say before my time on this earth is cut short.  I want to document as much of it as possible, and I want to continue to spend as much time as possible enjoying my family and the things that give my life meaning – friends, travel, books, my home,  my health, and all my spinning plates.

 

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These are a few of my favorite things…

My favorite things about parenthood (thus far):

  1. I love the moments where memories are being made for my kids.  It is that moment when your kids walk into Disney’s Magic Kingdom and see the castle or Mickey for the first time.  It is when your daughter learns to ride a bike after days of practice.  It is that moment when your son realizes he can climb up the bounce house and slide down all by himself and wants to do it over and over again.  It is when your child is upset because they feel bullied at school and you role-play how to handle this situation the next time.  It is all those times (however few and far between they may be) where you sit down to dinner as a family and talk about the best part of your day.  I believe you can feel these moments in a visceral way.  It is as if I can see and feel the snapshot or memory being made in all of these instances.  These moments often bring me to tears because I am so full of joy, love, and gratitude.  These are the moments where I truly think there is no greater gift than being a parent.DSC_0328
  2. I love the comedy.  I have laughed (and cried) more as a parent than I ever did before kids.  Sometimes I have even found myself laughing through the frustrating, challenging, and messy moments of parenthood – laughter can be a very healthy and necessary coping mechanism.  Kids say and do some pretty funny things.  My kids literally make me laugh every single day – intentionally or most often unintentionally.  I love the way my kids talk, their questions (even if they can sometimes get a little repetitive), and observations on the world.  I wish I wrote more of these funny things down because I have forgotten as they get older.  One of my favorite things to do at the end of the day is sit down with Les and share funny stories or things that the kids said or did during the day.  The rest of the world may not be as amused, but they always make us smile and giggle.                                                                          DSC_0903
  3. I love to watch them learn and find their way in the world.  It really does seem like they grow up so fast.  Isabella recently learned to read and it was a truly remarkable thing to watch.  I mean one day she was my cute little toddler that knew her alphabet and a few sight words, and now she is reading to me and writing stories at school.  How did that happen?  I can’t even really say that we “taught” her how to read.  I mean we read to her every night and we had her practice sounding out words and trying to read sentences and she just got it.  It seems like she learns so much every week – from school, from us, from her friends, and just her surroundings.  Kids really are like sponges, and I love watching each of mine soak up the world around them.     DSC_0255
  4. Parenthood makes me want to be a better person.  I have always been pretty self-motivated and tried to lead a good life, but now there are three little people watching my every move and counting on me.  That can be a lot of pressure, but also a moral compass like none other.  I am always thinking about the example I am setting for my kids.  For instance, I am a screamer.  I yell at my kids way more than I would like to.  I know that when I get frustrated, am trying to juggle too many things, or am in a hurry – I tend to yell louder and more often than I should.  I don’t want them to think of me as a mom that is always raising her voice or losing her cool.  I want to set an example for how to remain calm and graceful under pressure.  I want to show them how to manage those frustrated and angry feelings in a constructive way.  I will not be perfect.  I would never want to put that kind of pressure on my kids anyway, since no one can be perfect.  I want them to see that I try to do the right thing and the kind thing as often as I can.  I want to show them how to handle mistakes when they inevitably happen.  I want to show them how to live their best life and be the best person that they can be.  In doing this, I am trying to do the best that I can and live the best life possible for myself and for my family.  DSC_0712
  5. Parenthood has brought me closer to my family.  I appreciate my parents so much more now that I am a parent.  I understand them and can relate to them on this entirely new level.  I can finally appreciate the sacrifices that they made for our family growing up.  If I ever blamed them for anything, I have long forgiven and forgotten those things as I have come to understand that they did the best they could with what they had (time, money, energy, patience, etc.).  Watching my parents as grandparents is one of the most unexpected joys I have experienced since becoming a parent.  My parents give their time and their love so freely, and I am immensely appreciative of all they do for my kids and our family.  I appreciate my mother-in-law and father-in-law on an entirely new level too.  I already knew that they were wonderful grandparents because I had seen them in action with my nieces, but it is still so special to see the way my kids light up when they get to spend time with Grammy and Pop.  I feel lucky to have three wonderful sisters, an amazing sister-in-law, and an awesome brother-in-law that are the best Aunts and Uncle my kids could possibly ask for.  I have three beautiful nieces and an adorable nephew who will be their forever friends and playmates on the road of life.  I value family so much and am so thankful that parenthood has allowed me to appreciate my family on another level.  DSC_0358
  6. We are in this together.  No matter what happens, no matter what kind of crap comes our way in life, we will face it together.  We have each other’s back.  We are not alone.  There is great comfort in this knowledge.  There is a love and a connection that will forever bind us together because we are family.  I am yours and you are mine.  I took my vows seriously when I got married over 10 years ago, but that sense of forever means more now that we are not just Les and Jess.  We are Les, Jess, Isabella, Jacob, and Noah – Levin party of five.  I know that nothing in life is 100% certain, but there is certainty in family – that we are connected to someone else, that we are part of something bigger than just ourselves, that there is a love there that is binding and forever.  IMG_0760

Winter Break Fun

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The holidays are officially over and we are back to our regular routines again.  Gone are the days of sleeping in until 8 AM,  figuring out which museum to explore each day, what wonderful friend or family to visit with, and how many yummy treats to indulge in after each meal.  The kids are back to school, I am back at work (full-time at that), chocolates and cookies have been replaced with fruits and veggies, and we are back to the hustle and bustle of our busy life.  The holidays are busy too, don’t get me wrong, but it is a different kind of busy.  There is gift buying and wrapping, a busy social schedule of holiday parties, and long days of no school to fill for three little kids, but that is certainly a fun kind of busy.

In our house, the “holiday season” seems to run from November 15th – January 8th.  During that time we have Isabella’s birthday, Thanksgiving (which we host every year), Hanukkah (what we celebrate in our house and with the Levins and Stevahns), Christmas (which we celebrate at my parents), the New Year, and Les’ birthday.  It is two months of nonstop eating, spending money, socializing, and fun.  It can be a little exhausting and overwhelming, but I love it.  This winter break seemed especially great – for the kids, for us, and for me personally.

As the kids get older, they seem to get more into the holiday spirit and understand more of what is going on.  Isabella really got into Hanukkah this year.  She has always enjoyed getting presents, but she was much more interested in some of the culture and tradition that comes along with the holiday.  By the 5th or 6th night of Hanukkah she could almost say the entire prayer over the menorah, making Les and I very proud.  She loved having her Grammy and Pop as special guests at her school to teach her classmates about Hanukkah.  She lead dreidel games and even tried her first potato latke – a big deal for our very picky eater.  Jacob and Noah both got into the spirit of Hanukkah and Christmas, relishing the unwrapping of the gifts as much, if not more, than the gifts themselves.  We all got a kick out of Jacob’s squeals of delight and laughter as he unwrapped a gift or Noah’s exclamations of “Whoa” or “cool this” each time he opened a new toy or book.  The kids had a blast on Christmas day at Grandma and Grandpa’s house, opening their stockings and presents, and playing with all their new toys.  I love experiencing any holiday through my children’s eyes, especially Hanukkah and Christmas.  There is just something magical about that look in your child’s eyes as they open that special gift they have been wanting all year.  I don’t think there is any gift I could receive that would equal the excitement and joy I get from giving my kids gifts.  I know that the holidays are not all about the gifts, and I want my kids to know that too, but when you are three or five – it kind of is all about the gifts.

This winter break was really great for Les and I because we got to have some pretty awesome dates.  We had an overnight trip to Richmond for a delicious dinner with friends and a day of holiday shopping and time alone in the car and at lunch with just the two of us.  We try to go out on dates regularly, but there is just something different about being away overnight that feels more luxurious and special.  We also got to see our close friends John and Corynne for a dinner date.  These are friends that we don’t see nearly enough of, and it was great to catch up on the exciting things coming up in the new year.  Les and I have also been on three movie dates in the last month – pretty amazing considering that we probably had not made it to three movies in the theater in the past five years total.  Although Les always works a lot around the holidays, I had a lot of time off as I transitioned to my new job.  The overall pace in our house was slower, more relaxed, and less stressful – making for a happier marriage.

I was thrilled to spend quality time with my sister Emily.  We don’t get to see her nearly enough since she is in California, so we try to spend as much time as possible with her when she is in town.  We even got to go out for sushi and a movie date to see Les Mis (a fantastic movie, but glad I spared Les on that one).  I was able to tackle some home organization products (freezer, refrigerator, pantry, and only a small part of the office).  I completed home study for my new job and went away to San Antonio for a week of training for the new job.  I am very happy with the job change and very impressed with the new company so far.  I really enjoyed being home for a few weeks.  Of course, getting paid while being at home probably made the whole experience more relaxing and enjoyable than if I were not employed.  Now if I could only find a way to stay at home for work AND still get paid – that would be the ticket.

We rang in the New Year with our neighbors and friends at a fantastic grown-up party.  We got all fancied up and danced the night away.  I look forward to this party every year and am so appreciative of the Hempecks for throwing such a wonderful bash.  We got together with the Reuter family for a fun play date and gift exchange.  Even though we only live 30 miles from each other, it seems impossible to get our 6 kids and crazy work schedules aligned for more frequent family fun.  We’ll have to do better at this in 2013.   We did our annual trip to the Great Wolf Lodge with our dear friends Zach and Parul and their adorable daughter Madeline.  That place gets better and better as the kids get older and more independent in the water.  This is one of our favorite ways to kick off a new year and celebrate Les’ birthday with some of our best friends.

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All in all – we have had a blast these past couple of months.  As I have been able to sit back and reflect on the past year, I feel so fortunate to have the life that I have.  We feel so blessed to have our health, our amazing family and friends, jobs, and a wonderful life.  I know how quickly life can change and the good times can turn to bad in just the blink of an eye.  In 2013, I am trying to cherish each moment  and be grateful for the many gifts that I have in my life.  Now if only I can remember this resolution during the crazy, stressful times that will inevitably occur in my world of five spinning plates!

Goodbye Bristol-Myers Squibb

Thanks for the memories BMS…

Pinnacle Trip to Mexico with Bristol-Myers Squibb – 2005

Last week represented the end of an era for me.  I said goodbye to the company and job that I have had for the majority of my adult life.  I started working for Bristol-Myers Squibb in the summer of 2002.  Les and I were married in June of that summer and moved to Orlando, Florida so that he could begin his residency training.  We packed up our belongings in a U-Haul and made the long drive to Florida, moving into our first apartment together.  I started working as a sales rep in the Cardiovascular/Metabolic sales division of BMS on July 1st, 2002.  I came to pharmaceutical sales after spending my first two years out of college in another sales job.  I knew that I was getting into an innovative and exciting industry and profession, and I felt lucky to land this job at a relatively young age.

After only two years, I was promoted to a specialty position in the Neuroscience division, representing a great product that was making a big impact on the mental health community.  I was a Psychology major at the University of Virginia and was very familiar with the consequences of mental illness, through my academic studies and through personal experiences (loved ones, whom shall remain nameless).   The Neuroscience division felt like home.  I was a Neuroscience representative in Orlando for two years, and was lucky enough to transition to the Virginia Beach BMS Neuroscience team when we moved back here in 2006.

Although I don’t like that my job is coming to an end and that Bristol-Myers is essentially getting out of Neuroscience for the time being, I understand that they have business reasons that led them to this decision.  Bristol-Myers Squibb and Otsuka have worked together to launch and promote Abilify and that partnership is drawing to a close.  The timing was right for Otsuka, the company that discovered Abilify, to take over the sales and marketing of the product from BMS.  Otsuka remains committed to Neuroscience and Abilify, and luckily they have decided to expand their sales force to compensate for the loss of the entire BMS sales team.  As a matter of fact, I recently accepted a position to go over to Otsuka and continue promoting Abilify.  Basically I am going to continue doing my exact same job, only for a different employer (more on the how and the why behind this decision in future posts).  As my time with Bristol-Myers draws to a close, I need to say thanks for a wonderful 10+ years.  BMS has been good to me, and I am truly appreciative for all they ways they have helped me.

Thank you for the opportunity to work with so many wonderful, talented people (cliché, but true).  I have been fortunate to have some really great managers during my time at BMS.  I continue to view three of my last four managers as friends, coaches, and mentors.  I have always worked with terrific partners that I have learned so much from, not only about the industry and the business, but about myself as a teammate and professional.  I count many of my current and previous partners and colleagues as personal friends.  Their friendship and support has helped me during the good times and the bad.

Thank you Bristol-Myers for helping to bring to market a truly revolutionary product like Abilify.  It has been an honor and a privilege to promote such a remarkable product for the past eight years.  I am passionate about mental healthcare – the amazing physicians, NP’s, PA’s, Social Workers, Nurses, and Psychologists – and the resilient patients that too often suffer silently among us.  I don’t think I would have stayed in the pharmaceutical industry as long as I have if it weren’t for the opportunity to sell such a great product.  I sold other good products for diabetes, high blood pressure, and antibiotics, but none of those products had the tremendous impact on individuals and families like I have seen Abilify have.  Mental illness can devastate a person’s life – I have seen this too many times.  Seeing a medicine like Abilify help a person return to functioning and get back to being a mom, sister, Uncle, husband, or child is a beautiful thing.  If I have been able to play even the tiniest role in making that happen, I feel good about my work.  Thank you for the research, marketing, and vision that went into the development and promotion of this drug for the last 10 years.

Thank you Bristol-Myers for making medicines that really do extend and enhance human life – a corporate mission that I got to live through my work, but more importantly through my personal experience.  My husband’s life was literally saved by the miracle of medicine – an amazing doctor, a clinical trial at Sloan-Kettering, and four Bristol-Myers Squibb cancer drugs.  When the standard treatments for Hodgkin’s lymphoma did not work for Les, we ended up at Sloan-Kettering in New York City hoping and praying for a cure – something that would make the cancer disappear and stay away forever (God willing).  I will never forget sitting down with the best Oncologist in the world (yep, anyone that cures my husband of cancer gets that title – and he really might be the best in the world) as he described the clinical trial protocol that Les would be undergoing.  I felt tremendous pride and hope seeing the name of the company I worked for next to the names of the drugs that would soon be used to try to kill the cancer cells that had rocked our world.  It felt like we were meant to be at Sloan-Kettering, with this doctor that developed the treatment protocol with these drugs that my company made.  It had to work and thankfully it did.  I will be forever grateful to our incredible doctor, nurses, and to Bristol-Myers Squibb for giving my husband his life and his health back.  That is truly living the mission.

Thank you Bristol-Myers Squibb for your generous benefits.  As I described in my previous post, I have worked in some hard jobs for not very much money in the past.  I know how frustrating it can be to work in a physically and/or mentally demanding job and still not be able to pay the bills.  It sucks.  One of the reasons I got into sales, and have stayed in for as long as I have, is that I feel like I am compensated fairly and the benefits are good.  Many times, when sales are good and the job seems easy and fun, I honestly can’t believe that they pay me to do it.  I think back on  some of my work days in high school and college where I would work on my feet all day at a hotel front desk job and do an overnight waitressing job at a truck stop for only slightly more than minimum wage.  THAT was hard work.  This job has been challenging (in a good way), enjoyable, interesting, and rewarding with decent pay AND benefits.  I am beyond grateful and blessed, and I have not taken my job for granted.  I know that I had a good thing going.

One of the things I have been most thankful for is amazing health insurance.  If you have ever had a serious medical problem, you know that health insurance can be the biggest blessing (if it is good insurance) or your life can be ruined if you are uninsured or under insured.  We had great health insurance that paid for the majority of Les’ cancer treatments and know the importance of being adequately insured.  Now that Les has a pre-existing condition, we also know how expensive it can be to get a good, affordable health insurance plan as an individual (if you don’t work for a big company).  Hopefully the Affordable Care Act will help other people in America get good coverage at affordable prices, but we may be years away from the realization of this goal.  One of the reasons I have continued to work, even after the births of our three kids, is for great medical insurance.  In fact, our kids might not even be here if it were not for the incredible health insurance that I had access to through Bristol-Myers Squibb.

As a result of the cancer treatments that saved Les’ life, we were unable to get pregnant on our own.  We knew that this would probably happen and made preparations before he underwent treatment to make sure we could have children one day, with the help of IVF.  Infertility and our journey to become parents will likely be the subject of another post one day, but let’s just say that it was not an easy road to parenthood.  Infertility treatments, especially IVF, are very expensive.  I don’t know if we could have handled the financial and emotional stress of three rounds of IVF (to get two of our children) without the very comprehensive medical insurance provided by BMS.  All of the shots, drugs, ultrasounds, lab work, office visits, and procedures would have been that much more difficult if  I was constantly worried about paying the total cost for each item.  Most companies do not include infertility coverage in medical benefits, so I know just how fortunate I was that this was covered.  This is yet another reason why I continued to work after having children.  I have to thank a really gifted infertility doctor and Bristol-Myers Squibb for helping to give me two of life’s greatest miracles – Isabella and Jacob.

Last, but not least, I have to thank Bristol-Myers Squibb for giving me the opportunity to job share and work part-time for the past three years.  There are very few pharmaceutical companies that offer this benefit anymore and too few working moms that get to take advantage of any kind of flexible work arrangement when they have babies at home.  After Jacob was born, I was not sure if I could handle going back full-time.  I wanted to continue working, for all of the reasons above and so many more, but I did not think I could be away from my two very young children five days a week.  My supportive boss offered me a chance to apply to job share and work only three days a week (with a partner working the other two days of the week).  I jumped at the opportunity.  The job share position had its share of challenges, but I would not have traded it for anything.  I did not know when I started job sharing that I would have a third baby (no IVF – a surprise miracle), and it made coming back to work after Noah was born a no-brainer.  I was able to be home more days than I was at work when the boys were babies.  I was able to be there when Jacob needed me the most, as we figured out how to help him with all of his delays.  I would have loved to work part-time forever, or at least one more year until Noah was three, but I knew that it would probably not be a permanent thing.  It was almost too good to be true.  I am thankful I was able to job share as long as I did.  I thank Bristol-Myers Squibb for giving me that extra time with my kids, to really be able to have some work-life balance when it was needed most.

I say goodbye to Bristol-Myers and welcome the next chapter of my professional career.  Thank you for a great 10 years!  I can only hope that the next 10 or 20 years can be as fun and rewarding as my time with BMS.  Bristol-Myers is not perfect, but in my experience they lived their mission with patients, customers, and employees.  I hope my next experience with Otsuka will be as positive as my experience with Bristol-Myers Squibb.  Best of luck to you BMS and all my colleagues that remain!

Work History and Resumes

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I never really knew what I wanted to be when I grew up.  Some kids grow up dreaming of being a doctor, a journalist, or an artist.  Very few actually grow up to fulfill their childhood career dreams.  I went through phases where I dreamt of being a teacher, an astronaut, a ballerina, actress, singer, television host, writer, lawyer, and psychologist.  Some of those dreams were more realistic than others.  I did not have a lot of guidance regarding career choices when I was growing up.  My parents just wanted to me to go to college and get a good job one day, never really pushing me or directing me into specific career paths.  I don’t feel like the schools helped provide any sort of direction either.  The message was basically that if you did well in school and went to college, you would get a job and do well.  That advice is partially correct, but a bit simplistic and naïve, especially in today’s job market.  It takes a lot more than good grades and a college degree to get a good job and succeed.

Since getting laid off, I have been busy preparing my resume, references, cover letters, and “brag book” (a compilation of your career accomplishments – practically required in the medical/pharmaceutical sales world).  It had been six years since I last updated all of this stuff and it felt like starting over since so much time had passed.  On the plus side, I had a chance to  reflect on my history of work – during my time with Bristol-Myers Squibb and all the years before.  This walk down memory lane helped me realize a few things about myself and what I am looking for in my next job.

I have always been a hard worker.  I started babysitting for my sisters at the age of 10 and for neighborhood kids shortly thereafter.  I lied about my age to get my first real job at the age of 14 (4 months shy of the required age of 15) at a gift shop at the Virginia Beach Resort Hotel.  We were not poor, but money was tight growing up.  My dad was in the Navy and my mom ran a home daycare, and they were doing the best they could to support 4 kids.  There wasn’t extra money for new school clothes, trips to the movies on the weekends, or even school activities like debate or cheerleading.  There was not going to be a car to drive or gas money for me when I turned 16, and I knew I would be on my own for college.  I realized from a young age that if I wanted certain things, I would need to work to earn the money to buy those things myself.

I loved the independence and financial security that work gave me.  I learned a lot about myself, about money, and the workplace through these high school and college jobs.  I worked 3 jobs in the summer of 1994 to buy my first car.  Similarly, I worked 2-3 jobs at a time while at the University of Virginia, all while maintaining a very high GPA.  By the time I graduated from college in 2000, I had worked in gift shops, the Gap, Abercrombie, worked at the front desk of a hotel, waited tables at a truck stop, waited tables at a fine dining restaurant, been a hostess, bused tables, worked as a secretary, worked in the library, and worked in catering.  The lessons I learned through working have shaped me in countless ways.

I learned the value of work.  When I was 17, I was awarded Employee of the Month at the Virginia Beach Resort Hotel, possibly the youngest person to receive that honor.  During that summer I would work a double or even a triple shift, most days of the week.  I was working at the front desk in the morning and working in the nice restaurant of the hotel busing tables or working as a hostess in the evening.  If they needed someone to pick up a shift in catering or fill-in at the gift shop I was eager to volunteer.  More hours meant more money, which meant more freedom and security to me.  I took great pride in doing a good job.  I thrived on praise and appreciation from my bosses and loved being part of a team with a tangible goal (even if that goal was keeping tables clean or making a guests check-in process as pleasant as possible).  I was hard-working and reliable.  I only missed work once, because of a bad case of food poisoning.  All of these things made me a valuable employee, and I liked being valued.  I realized at a young age that no matter what I did in life, if I showed up, worked hard, and did a good job – and did that job with a smile – I could succeed and eventually move up in almost any job.

I also learned the value of a dollar.   I was never the best math student, but I could do the simple arithmetic to figure out how much money would be needed to pay for new brakes on my old car, go to a concert with my friends, or pay my share of the rent and bills in college.  Since no one was giving me money for my expenses, I could only count on my student loans and money I earned to pay for necessities and extras.  I knew how much free time I had and how much money I needed to make to take care of my expenses.  It was frustrating to work at my library job during the day for $7/hour, when I could make $10/hour + tips at my catering job on the weekends.  I prioritized the higher paying jobs, but I had to fill as much of my free time with work as possible at whatever pay I could get.

When I was waiting tables, I would sometimes work incredibly hard with less-than-pleasant customers, for $30-$40 at the end of a shift.  There were other busy nights with great customers where I could walk away with $150 a night.  As a waitress, your hourly wage is primarily determined by how many customers you can see and on the generosity of those people whom you take care of.  Waiting tables is hard work and you really do earn every dollar you make.  You can make a living waiting tables, but I figured out after one summer that I never wanted to depend on that as my primary source of income.  I took comfort in knowing that I could support myself by waiting tables if I needed to, but that I would hopefully not have to do that job again after college.

When it came time to choose a profession, there were several things I considered doing.  I am passionate about education and pursued the teaching path for a while, but quickly realized that I would not be able to support myself on a teacher’s salary.  I would be coming out of college with piles of student loan debt and the math just did not add up.  There was no way I could pay rent for my own place, a car payment, my large student loan bills, and basic living expenses on a teacher’s salary.  I guess I could have made it work if I had roommates to share the rent and expenses, or taken a summer job teaching or waiting tables (see previous paragraph), or if I took 30 years to pay back all my loans instead of 10, but I knew there had to be a better way.  I thought about grad school to become a psychologist or law school, but many of my friends were getting good paying jobs in the business world, and that seemed to be a good way to go.

After graduating from UVA, I took a job in sales that was filled with risk and promise.  The risk was that it was 100% commission – I would only really make money if I made sales.  The promise was that there was no limit on my earning potential.  If I worked hard and was good at my job, I could make a lot of money.  This sounded perfect for me.  I did well those first two years and learned that I liked many aspects of working in sales.

I loved the idea of upward mobility – that your income could be tied to your productivity and your skills – in salary and/or in bonus.  I never questioned if I would make money in a sales job, because I have a good work ethic and a personality well suited for sales.  I liked flexibility, especially as I thought about having a family.  I did not want to have to be at a desk at a specific time every day and have to stay in the same place all day.  I love working with people and talking to people for most of the workday, and this is an essential aspect of any sales job.  I could not be happy in an office or cubicle all day staring at spreadsheets or a computer screen.  I decided to look for other sales jobs that would afford me the opportunity to work with great people, make decent money, and have an independent and flexible schedule conducive to having a good work-life balance.  Pharmaceutical sales offered all of this and so much more.  I quickly realized that I could have all of the benefits of other sales jobs, while getting to talk to smart and interesting people about the science and medicine behind products that really could extend and enhance people’s lives.

Since I did not really know what I wanted to be when I grew up – this sounded like the best possible job –  given my background, skills, and interests.  I started with Bristol-Myers Squibb in the summer of 2002 and it has been a terrific 10+ years.  I have been through promotions, a move, a spouse’s cancer battle, IVF, and the birth of my three children in those 10 years.  No job is perfect, but this job has been pretty darn good through it all.  I still don’t really know what I want to be when I grow up (thirty-four is not grown-up, right?).  Maybe it is ok to just have a good job and a full, meaningful life as a mom, wife, and part-time blogger.  Maybe that IS what I always wanted when I grew up – and now I have it and am losing it.  Hopefully the lessons of my past will help guide and inform me as I take these next steps toward my future.

This post may make you itch

 I am suffering from PTSD.  We are finally done with the four letter word parents dread – LICE.  There, I have admitted this simple, yet ugly reality that we were facing almost two weeks ago.  I know – Yuck!  I was almost too disgusted and embarrassed to write about it, but there really is nothing to be embarrassed about.  Head lice can strike anyone, regardless of how “clean” you are, regardless of socioeconomic status, and no matter how careful you are to avoid getting lice.  We suffered through lice several times as kids.  When one of us would get lice, the rest of us would get it.  My mom would line us up for the hours long process of shampoo and combing out the hair.  Unbeknownst to me, she was also suffering through the endless laundry and bagging up stuff as well, usually on her own while my dad was away at sea.  I had also watched my sister-in-law, a working single mom of three beautiful girls with long flowing hair, go through the awful lice drill.  My sister-in-law is one of the cleanest, most protective, and vigilant moms I know and seeing her girls get it really showed me that anyone can become a victim of these nasty little bugs.  When she was going through the first, or even the second bout of head lice, I remember thinking that she was overreacting or going to extremes to get rid of it.  As with many things you think or say before kids – I get it now.  She knew exactly what she was doing and had every right in the world to be upset and a little traumatized, in addition to being extremely cautious to make certain that they never have to deal with lice again.

We had just returned from a wonderful vacation in the Outer Banks complete with great friends, lots of cute kids (9 kids under the age of 7), an abundance of beach and pool time, terrific food and drinks, and plenty of relaxation and fun.  When we finally arrived home from our trip and put the boys to bed, I was tired and felt like I needed a good shower.  As I combed my hair before the shower, I saw it – a tiny, disgusting, live white bug on the teeth of my comb.  The panic set in and I began to furiously comb my hair searching for others.  I found three little suckers in all, but it was more than enough to make me itch from head to toe and imagine nothing but hundreds of these gross things crawling all over my head.  I interrupted story time with Les and Isabella to inspect her head, thinking that she must have it too.  I did not find anything on her head that night so I let her go to sleep.  Les was clean too.  It appeared that I was the only one with a bug problem, for now.

The next six hours involved an expensive trip to Walgreens for lice killing supplies, lots of laundry and bagging of anything that could not be laundered, cleaning. vacuuming, and hair washing and combing for me.  Les was going back to work at 6:00 AM the next day so he was somewhat limited in his ability to help.  I called my mom and asked her to come over the next day.  She thoroughly inspected my head and found no more live bugs.  I treated my head a second time and let her comb through my hair.  We decided to check Isabella’s head again and lo and behold, we found several eggs and a few live bugs.  We spent all of the boys nap time shampooing and combing out her hair – trying to remain calm and not totally freak out (which is what we were really doing).  I had completed 5 loads of laundry (on hot cycle that takes 1.5 hours and hot dryer setting) and had another 8 loads on deck.  I sprayed and cleaned furniture, carpets, and cars.  I stripped everyone’s beds and bagged up all pillows and stuffed animals.  My mom was a lifesaver that day in helping me go through hair, clean, and most importantly trying to help me not lose my mind.

I was close to losing it.  You become paranoid about getting all the eggs out and making sure that they are all dead.  I followed my sister-in-law’s advice and treated Isabella and myself with something every day for a week.  The harsh chemical shampoos are too strong to use daily, but I tried tea tree oil, LiceMD (non-pesticide shampoo), Cetaphil, and olive oil.  We used over-the-counter pesticide shampoo and one of the very expensive new prescription shampoos.  Even though we did not find anything on the boys, we treated them with Cetaphil and with LiceMD for a few days in a row.  Jacob, my hyper-sensitive kid, is now probably forever afraid of combs and won’t let me near him for even the nightly brushing after bath.  I slept apart from Les for the past week to make sure that he did not get anything.  I have never done so much laundry in my life – every day washing all clothes, towels, and sheets. We had no pillows on the couch, no stuffed toys, no Barbies or American Girl dolls.  I threw out all brushes, combs, and probably $100 worth of bows, headbands, and hair ties for Isabella and myself.  That hurt.  I could have probably bagged them up for a few weeks or washed what I could, but I was taking no chances.

I think we are finally through the worst of it.  I am sleeping in the same bed as my husband again.  We now only have to do laundry every few days, the typical amount for a family of 5.  We aren’t boiling the brushes and combs for now.  We will begin taking stuff out of bags soon and again have pillows, stuffed animals, and Barbies to play with.  The PTSD may linger for a little while.  We are still not doing story time in the kid’s beds with them, doing it on the floor instead.  We still put Isabella’s hair in two braids for camp and on weekends.  We continue to look through everyone’s hair at the end of the day during bath or shower time.  Right now, I am debating on whether to Let Isabella go on the camp field trip to a bounce house on Friday.  One of the kids in the neighborhood thinks they got lice from the bounce house last year, and that is stuck in my head, feeding the paranoia and fear about going through this again.  I hate to make her miss her first field trip, but I just don’t think I can handle that right now.  I might just have to take her somewhere better, maybe Busch Gardens or Water Country instead to make up for not being able to go on the field trip.

I know I’ll have to get over this and eventually return to normalcy.  I mean, I was a pretty careful mom because of my history with lice as a kid and my sister-in-law’s experience.  I never let Isabella share brushes, hair things, crowns, hats, or anything.  She knew these rules from a very young age and even independently told a little friend at a dress-up birthday party that she could not put anything on her head that was not hers.  What a good, responsible kid.  It doesn’t matter though.  I still don’t know how Isabella and I got lice.  No one else staying in the beach house, 16 other people, had any lice or even any sign of eggs.  The only thing we did that was different is that Isabella and I went to a movie theater the day before we left the Outer Banks.  It is completely possible that someone who sat in those movie theater seats before us, even days before us, had lice and an egg or a bug transferred from the seat to my head and then to Isabella’s as we snuggled.  I know that movie theaters were one of the popular ways that bedbugs spread throughout major cities and maybe lice can be the same way.  Who knows?  We will never know, and that is part of what can drive you insane with lice.  Unfortunately, I don’t think this will be the last time we have to confront this dreaded pest.  The kids will go to school with other kids, sleepovers and birthday parties will happen, a bounce house or gym will happen again (maybe just not this Friday), and we will go to a movie theater again.  We might just have to bring a towel to put on the seat at the movie theater, and I’ll know to have plenty of wine on hand to get me through if there is a next time.

What is at risk with the Supreme Court’s healthcare ruling today?

I continue to be surprised and disappointed by the lack of knowledge about the Affordable Care Act and lack of support by the general public.  Polling shows that President Obama’s healthcare reform remains unpopular, despite pretty broad public support for the individual items contained in the Affordable Care Act, with the exception of the individual mandate.  You see, when you ask people if kids should be allowed to stay on their parent’s insurance until 26, or if people with pre-existing conditions should be able to get insurance coverage, or if there should be no lifetime dollar caps on what your insurance will pay for your care – most people are all in favor of these things.  What most people fail to understand is that you can’t have all those things without the individual mandate.  Those go hand in hand, at least if we want to have a free-market healthcare system.

I understand how people who have never been really sick, or never had a close family member with a major medical problem, might wonder how the Affordable Care Act helps them and therefore be against it.  I think that is a short-sighted view since almost everyone will get sick at some point, but I can sort of see where they could be coming from.  Almost everyone else who is against the Affordable Care Act falls into one of two camps:  1)  They are misinformed about what the reform does and/or does not do.  There are a lot of lies and misrepresentations about this issue out there.  If you are against the Affordable Care Act because you don’t know much about it or because you only watch Fox News or listen to Rush Limbaugh, please do me a favor and take 5 minutes to learn the facts (links to a few good sources below).   2)  They are against it because it came from the democrats and/or Barack Obama. I hope that this does not represent too many people, but I do believe some people are against it based purely on ideology – kind of ironic considering that the individual mandate idea originally came from a conservative think tank and was a central part of a Republican plan presented against the Clinton healthcare plan.

Today we will find out if the Supreme Court upholds all or part of the Affordable Care Act.  There is plenty of speculation about which way it will go – will they strike down or uphold all or part of it?  What will the ruling mean for healthcare reform and for the presidential election in the fall?  I will leave that talk to the journalists and political pundits.  I am interested in what this ruling will mean for me, for my children, for my family members.  I have a personal stake in this decision and so does every single one of us.  The Affordable Care Act is not perfect and it probably will not solve all the problems with our healthcare system, but it is a huge step in the right direction, in my opinion.  The Affordable Care Act will help me, my children, my family and friends, and you too.

Here are 10 things that the Affordable Care Act does that can help you or someone you love, and all of this is at risk today with the Supreme Court’s ruling.  Much of this information came from the Healthcare.gov site and from Ezra Klein’s Wonkblog at the Washington Post.

1.  Making healthcare more affordable to those that can’t afford it.  Ezra Klein describes that “Families making less than 133 percent of the poverty line — that’s about $29,000 for a family of four — will be covered through Medicaid. Between 133 percent and 400 percent of the poverty line —  $88,000 for a family of four – families will get tax credits on a sliding scale to help pay for private insurance.  For families making less than 400 percent of the poverty line, premiums are capped. So, between 150% and 200% of the poverty line, for instance, families won’t have to pay more than 6.3 percent of their income in premiums. Between 300 percent and 400 percent, they won’t have to pay more than 9.5 percent.”

2.  The individual mandate is not really much of a mandate at all.  Ezra Klein explains, “When the individual mandate is fully phased-in, those who can afford coverage — which is defined as insurance costing less than 8 percent of their annual income — but choose to forgo it will have to pay either $695 or 2.5 percent of the annual income, whichever is greater.”  So, there is an out for all those that don’t want the government telling them what to do with their healthcare or making them buy something they don’t want to buy.  You won’t get thrown in jail or have your house taken away if you don’t buy health insurance.  Pay the small penalty and guess what, you still get the benefit of being able to get health insurance when you really need it – because you are hit by a bus or have a baseball size tumor in your chest – thanks to the Affordable Care Act mandating coverage for people with preexisting conditions. You know what though, the individual mandate works because people generally want to buy health insurance if they can afford it and if it provides adequate coverage.  Based on the individual mandate in Massachusetts, about 95% of the residents are now covered thanks to the individual mandate.

3.  Insurance companies are not allowed to discriminate based on preexisting conditions. They ARE allowed to discriminate based on age (limited to 3 to 1 ratio), premium rating area, family composition, and tobacco use (limited to 1.5. to 1 ratio).  Before the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies could deny you coverage because your kid has a developmental delay or autism, because you were pregnant, because you had cancer 10 years ago, because you have high blood pressure, or because you have a history of back pain.  Insurance companies could also choose to cover you, but charge you insanely high rates because of anything they deemed a preexisting condition.  For example, A 22-year-old woman could be charged 150% the premium that a 22-year-old man paid, just because of gender.  Under the Affordable Care Act, insurers can’t charge women higher premiums than they charge men.

4.  More of your premium dollars will be used for your care.  Ezra Klein explains that “The law requires insurers to spend between 80 and 85 percent of every premium dollar on medical care (as opposed to administration, advertising, etc). If insurers exceed this threshold, they have to rebate the excess to their customers. This policy is already in effect, and insurers are expected to rebate $1.1 billion this year.”

5.  Insurance Plans will be required to cover preventive services without out-of-pocket costs.  This means you will not have a co-pay or any out-of-pocket expense for things like mammograms, well-baby and child visits, breastfeeding support and equipment, vaccinations, and colonoscopies.  To see a more complete list of preventive services that will be covered, go to the healthcare.gov site.

6.  Kids under 26 can stay on their parents’ insurance policy.  This makes very good since so many young people are still in college or technical school, graduate school, or trying to get established in a job or profession during their early 20’s.  This allows many more young, healthy people to be covered for a reasonable cost.

7.  Insurance companies can no longer put a lifetime cap on your medical expenses.  Before the Affordable Care Act, many plans put an individual dollar cap on lifetime insurance payments , often around one million dollars.  That may sound like a lot of money, but anyone who has ever really been sick can tell you otherwise.  Healthcare is expensive –  insanely expensive.  For example, if you get cancer and need a stem cell transplant in your 20’s, you could use $500,000 of your lifetime benefit – not leaving much room for another major medical problem.  If you have a baby born prematurely, you could easily rack up hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical costs, before that child even leaves the hospital.  The Affordable Care Act prevents lifetime caps on insurance benefits, meaning you will actually be able to use your insurance when you really need it, even if your needs exceed some arbitrary dollar amount.

8.  The Affordable Care Act helps people with Medicare by protecting current benefits and offering new ones that will reduce costs.  It also helps to close the “donut hole” (gap in pharmaceutical drug coverage) for seniors by cutting the cost of prescriptions in half, saving them money.

9.  Increased coverage for workers at small businesses and tax breaks for small businesses that provide health insurance to employees.  Ezra Klein describes that “small businesses that have fewer than 10 employees, average wages beneath $25,000, and that provide insurance for their workers will get a 50 percent tax credit on their contribution. The tax credit reaches up to small businesses with up to 50 employees and average wages of $50,000, though it gets smaller as the business get bigger and richer. The credit lasts for two years, though many think Congress will be pressured to extend it, which would raise the long-term cost of the legislation.”

10.  Healthcare reform without increasing the deficit?  There is widespread disagreement and conflicting reports all over the media on this, but Ezra Klein noted that “the law is expected to spend a bit over $1 trillion in the next 10 years. The law’s spending cuts — many of which fall on Medicare — and tax increases are expected to either save or raise a bit more than that, which is why the Congressional Budget Office estimates that it will slightly reduce the deficit. (There’s been some confusion on this point lately, but no, the CBO has not changed its mind about this.) As time goes on, the savings are projected to grow more quickly than the spending, and CBO expects that the law will cut the deficit by around a trillion dollars in its second decade.”

We’ll find out very soon what the Supreme Court decides on the fate of healthcare reform and the Affordable Care Act.  Even if you disagree, what do you think about all or part of these 10 features and benefits of the reform?  If you agree that our healthcare system needs reform, but are not in support of the Affordable Care Act, even after educating yourself about what it includes, how would you propose we reform the system?  As a family with several preexisting conditions – cancer, developmental delays, 3 pregnancies and c-sections – I need the Affordable Care Act to be upheld.  As a citizen, taxpayer, consumer, and part of the health care delivery system, I anxiously await this important decision and hope it is upheld.

A few links to read more:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/ezra-klein/wp/2012/06/24/11-facts-about-the-affordable-care-act/

http://www.healthcare.gov/news/factsheets/2011/08/women.html

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/ezra-klein/wp/2012/06/26/the-irony-of-the-individual-mandate/

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/ezra-klein/post/health-reform-with-a-mandate-the-massachusetts-story/2012/06/18/gJQAfohImV_blog.html


Happy Father’s Day Dad

Happy Father’s Day to all the wonderful dads out there, especially my dad!  I am so incredibly proud of my dad this year because of his remarkable physical transformation. He is a new man. I was worried about my dad for a long time. He has spent much of his adult life battling his weight and other health issues including high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, and diabetes.  He never had the healthiest diet, and I only really remember him exercising when he had to for the military.  About 69% of adults in America are either overweight or obese, so he was not in the minority with his weight or poor lifestyle and health history.  My dad’s weight and medical concerns only increased since retiring from the Navy, until he was forced to make some serious changes or risk loss of his career or even his life.  My dad’s side of the family has a pretty bad track record with a number of deaths from heart attack or stroke, things that probably could have been prevented with lifestyle changes.  I think he probably knew that he would face a similar fate if he did not take control of his weight and health.

My dad also had a lot to lose if he did not make the necessary changes.  He is a husband and a father to four grown daughters.  Perhaps most importantly, he is Grandpa to my three kids and now to my sister’s newborn son.  With a 20+ year career in the military, my dad was gone a lot, too much with young kids at home.  He missed plenty of big and small events in our lives, and I still really don’t know how my mom managed so much on her own while my dad was deployed.  I also know, although he has never said this, that it must have been hard on my dad to miss all those precious moments with us.  I know that this is the fate of so many military families right now while our country is at war, and it breaks my heart because I know firsthand how hard it can be on the members of those families.  Since retiring from the military, I have seen so much more of my dad and been able to get to know him so much better as an adult.  All of my sisters are probably closer to my dad now as grown-ups than we ever were as children.

I have also been able to watch my dad become a Grandpa, perhaps one of my greatest joys over the past few years.  I know my father loves each one of his daughters, but I also know that my parents always wanted a boy.  They had a name picked out and everything.  My dad is naturally the strong and silent type, but having five women in the house (all fighting to get a word in) left him without much to say.  I don’t think he quite knew what to do with Barbies, dolls, make-up, boy trouble, and the hormonal teenage angst that was ever-present in our house for years.  Now there are three grandsons in our family, some sort of poetic justice in my opinion.  My boys, especially Jacob, adore their Grandpa.  Jacob loves all of his grandparents, but there is an amazing connection between Jacob and my dad.  He loves to take Grandpa on walks in the woods, play choo-choos or cars, and go to the park.  My dad enjoys following Jacob around wherever he leads, making him #1 in Jacob’s mind.  Jacob even resembles my side of the family, especially my dad.  Before my dad lost all of the weight, he had a hard time getting down on the ground to play with the kids and struggled to keep up with my active toddlers.  He could not physically be the Grandpa he wanted to be – active, engaged, and playful.  I am so appreciative of my parents and the role they play in my children’s lives.  Yeah, the babysitting is nice, but mostly I just love to see the way my kids get so excited to see them.  My dad needed to get healthy so he could be around a lot longer, especially for Isabella, Jacob, and Noah.

I always admired my dad’s work ethic, tenacity, and pride.  These are traits that I hope I have inherited and learned from him.  He relied on these character traits to totally transform his weight and his health.  My dad underwent gastric bypass surgery a year and a half ago and has lost over 100 pounds since that time.  Some people feel that this is “the easy way out” or somehow not as impressive as losing the weight without surgical assistance.  I understand where some of those people with that opinion are coming from because there are plenty of examples where surgical weight loss does not work as a long-term solution.  I do not feel that my dad will be one of those people.  He committed himself to long-term success.  He is doing it for the right reasons.  He did the mental work to prepare for the lifestyle changes and has followed through on those changes even after the weight loss.  My dad is a runner now – a real runner who belongs to a running group and does 10K and half-marathon races on weekends.  He does not take any medicine to treat health problems anymore.  He actually managed to get off all his blood pressure, cholesterol, and diabetes medicines before the surgery, as a result of the significant dietary changes leading up to the surgery.  He makes better choices about the foods he eats, liquids he drinks, and portion sizes.  He looks awesome and I know he feels great too.  He has a new lease on life and is making the most of it.  He has always worked hard for his family and for his job, but I am so proud to see my dad working so hard to take care of himself.  I admire my dad for many things, but I am inspired and moved by the complete transformation he has made over the past 18 months.

Congratulations on your remarkable accomplishments Dad!  Thank you for taking charge of your health so that you can be around for many more years.  Keep up the good work with your diet and running.  We are all so proud of you!  Lots of love to you on Father’s Day and every day!

My Plates are Crashing

Wow, it has been over a week since returning home from our anniversary vacation, and I am swamped!  I feel like I am literally trying to juggle 20 different spinning plates right now and any minute they are all going to come crashing down.  I probably should not even be typing this message right now because my real job (the one that pays me to work 3 days/week) has several pressing deadlines staring me in the face.  Oh well, I loaded up on caffeine in preparation for a late night and early morning.  I need to vent for 20 minutes on this blog and then I will be able to tackle those work projects.

Coming home from vacation was bittersweet.  We were actually ready to leave Florida because we were dying to see the kids.  They made us a “welcome home” sign and showered us with hugs and kisses upon our return.  Noah, my baby, was especially clingy and maybe just a little traumatized from our absence, but he is coping (and I am coping with my mommy guilt about leaving him).  While we were thrilled to be back with our  children, we were not ready to leave the relaxation and stress-free days of vacation.  I was doing pretty well sticking to a diet (I still need to lose 10 pounds or so that I have kept on since my 3 pregnancies and kids) and surviving on 6-7 hours of sleep a night.  However, my body got spoiled on vacation and got used to at least 2 delicious meals a day (in addition to dessert) and 9-10 hours of sleep.  Needless to say, my body and mind have been fighting to get readjusted to a more deprived state and are not happy about it.  Coming home also meant coming home to our insane schedule.  Here is a little taste of our last week since returning home:

Wednesday:  Back to work for me, kids at home with Les for part of day and Nanny part of the day.  Jacob had 1/2 day at school.  No school for Bella.

Thursday:  I worked ALL day – left at  7 AM and did not get home until after 10 PM.  This sucked even more since I usually don’t work on Thursdays.  I switched my days around since I had a few presentations I was responsible for on this day.  Jacob had his last day of school.  Les did the speech drive with Jacob and brought Isabella along for the drive.  Nanny stayed with Noah during speech.  Les (super dad) did dinner, bath, and bed routine.

Friday:  I was off, but Les had to work all day.  Packed tons of kid gear for a big day in Virginia Beach.  Took kids to VB for 11 AM speech.  After speech, we picked up my dad, got smoothies for lunch, and took Noah for his first haircut.  Dropped my dad off,  went to my in-laws house for naps for boys and to celebrate father-in-law’s retirement (Les met us in VB after work).  Late night for kids.

Saturday:  Needed household supplies – groceries, home depot stuff, craft supplies, and Father’s Day gifts.  Schlepped kids to multiple stores, went to Chick-Fil-A for lunch and playtime.  Les went to work at 2 PM, and I did afternoon and evening routine with kids on my own.

Sunday:  Big Day – Father’s Day!  Gave Les father’s day presents and we took a family trip to Super Wal-Mart for MORE groceries and supplies that we did not get Saturday.  Had all of husband’s family over and made Father’s Day brunch.  Cleaned up and helped Isabella and cousins organize a lemonade stand.  Prepared food for my family to come over for Father’s Day BBQ.  After the BBQ, Les and I left to go to a Dave Matthews concert (self-imposed craziness, I know, but totally worth it).  My parents did bath and bedtime with kids.

Monday:  Les worked.  I was off because I am working Thursday again this week.  Took Isabella to camp at Virginia Living Museum.  Took boys to museum and for a walk.  Had one of Isabella’s friends from camp over for a playdate and helped them with some craft projects while boys napped.  Packed up stuff for a late afternoon outing to Busch Gardens (we have season passes and love being able to go for just a few hours).  When Les got home from work, we went to the amusement park for 4 hours and put the kids to bed a little later than usual.  Les and I stayed up late pre-cleaning the house because we were having a cleaning person come the next day.

Tuesday:  Work day for me.  Les has to sleep during day because he starts working the overnight shift tonight = the beginning of a crazy few days ahead where we won’t see each other much.  My to-do list is a mile long – work to do for my job in preparation for my meeting, Jacob b-day invitations to mail, more grocery shopping, bills to pay, birthday gifts to buy, and another trip to get ready for over the 4th of July.

Wednesday:  Les sleeps and goes right to work when he wakes up because he has a meeting before his shift.  I will be gone all day and evening because I have a big work meeting.  The nanny will be with the kids all day and my parents will do dinner/bath/bed.  I will come home at 10 so my parents can go home.  I should be staying at the hotel where my meeting is, but I have no one to be home with the kids since Les is working overnight so my boss said I could stay the night at home as long as I am back bright and early.

Thursday:  Out the door as soon as nanny arrives and at my meeting all day.  Finally home Thursday evening, but Les still working two more nights so we won’t see him until Saturday.

Friday:  A nice long day spending time with my kids – finally!  Lots of stuff to do, but probably won’t do anything except play and snuggle my kiddos.

So….. this is my life.  I know it is not much different from anyone else’s crazy life, but it mine and most days it feels like I am just trying to survive.  I have many moments during weeks like this where I really question whether I am making the right choice to work outside the home, away from my kids.  These busy work weeks make the balance seem very off and make me feel like my priorities are not quite aligned.  I also don’t have any time for the things I really do enjoy, like blogging!  I have started 5 different posts – my Fifty Shades of Grey review, Cancer Recap, Father’s Day post, my take on the attachment parenting debate, and my synopsis of the Lance Armstrong investigation and the sham that it is.  This is the good stuff I really want to be working on, along with planning Jacob’s birthday, catching up on scrapbooks, organizing my office, finally getting my finances and bills in some sort of order, and just spending more quality and consistent time with my children.  I know it will settle down and the balance will shift back soon.  It usually does, at least long enough for me to decide to keep up this balancing act of working in and outside the home a little while longer.  I just need to get through this week.  I need to look forward to a great 4th of July vacation with family and friends.  I need to stop writing and get to my work so I can maybe get 5 hours of sleep tonight.  I need to take a few deep breaths and   move forward with the tasks at hand.

Hang in there with me as I get through this week.  I will finish those posts I mentioned soon and probably start several more that take me too long to finish.  I would like to promise that I will be a consistent blogger, but I am just trying to do the best that I can managing the other very important plates that are spinning out of control at the moment.  Once I get those under control, my fun side project of blogging can resume.

Dance Like No One is Watching

There are quite a few things that a 4-year-old can get away with that a 34-year-old simply can’t quite pull off:  smocked clothing, light-up sneakers,  licking the bowl after eating ice cream, and possibly dancing by yourself to a steel drum band in the middle of town center.  I guess a 34-year-old could get away with these things, meaning they would not be carted off to jail or checked into a psychiatric hospital, but they certainly would be looked at a little funny.  However, a 4-year-old doing any of the aforementioned things is a pretty adorable sight.  Last night we enjoyed a wonderful family dinner at Bravo in the Virginia Beach Town Center to celebrate our niece Emily’s 13th birthday.  It was a more relaxing dinner than usual because my parents were watching our two youngest children while we took our daughter Isabella to dinner.  Isabella is pretty good at restaurants, but she is still a picky, restless 4-year-old who has a hard time sitting through a two-hour meal at a restaurant that does not have television, video games, or a playground.  Right outside the restaurant was the temptation of fountains, a steel drum band, and lots of people.  Needless to say, someone would be going for periodic breaks with Isabella and our  7-year-old niece throughout the meal.  Because my husband Les is awesome when it comes to all things kids, he volunteered to take the girls out so they could dance and prance about.

There are many things that rock about being four years old.  My husband and I often remark how awesome it is to be our daughter Isabella.  I mean last Saturday she woke up to homemade pancakes, played soccer, went to a carnival, went to an afternoon birthday party, played with her friends, watched a movie, and got a bath and bedtime story before settling in for a restful 12 hours of sleep.  THAT sounds like an AWESOME way to spend 24 hours!  Heck, if I could just get some exercise and a grown-up movie in the same day I would feel like I was on vacation, or I would feel guilty about taking too much time away from my family.  Exercise, movie, AND a play-date with my friends or my husband – that would just be crazy talk.  Twelve hours of sleep – LOL – that is really crazy talk.  I am telling you, it is good to be four years old!

I think many of the adults, and even teenagers, in the courtyard of town center probably felt like dancing to that steel drum band last night.  Some people were swaying side-to-side, tapping their feet, or had a little bounce in their step, but only the children were really dancing.  They weren’t just dancing either – they were dancing as if no one was watching them.  Spinning, cartwheels, arm waving, jumping, and dancing without a care in the world, as a kid does best.  It was a delight to watch and almost made me want to get out there and dance too, except for the fear of people watching.