Sunday, January 31, 2010

P.S. Don't Fly With Kids

They were good. Well, as good as one can expect from a 3-year-old and an 8-month-old. Only about an hour each of real whining and sleep each way.

Hey, some people have much worse circumstances. I'm not complaining.

But don't fly with kids. Seriously, it sucks.

Not that you have a choice, mind you. Excuse me, not that I have a choice. Wife hates road trips. She gets car sick easily and can't do anything except to stare straight ahead and listen to top-40 music (from the 80s to present.) I love road trips. My philosophy is that if I can drive there within 8 hours, I'm driving. F the airport and the airplane. Wife wins.

As I mentioned in Trippin Out, Wife's maternal Grandmother (last surviving grandparent between us) lives in Ft Lauderdale, FL. According to Google Maps, it would be around 1400 miles and 22 hours of driving. I figure I could do it in 2 days, maybe 3. Wife would have no part of that and it would probably suck with 2 little one like we have. If they were 10 and 8 or even 6 and 4, I could handle that. But a baby screaming for an hour on an airplane would probably seem like Mozart compared to 6 or more hours of screaming in the car. I digress.

From parking the car, pulling the car seats (I'm too cheap to rent car seats there), getting through security (having to put the stroller through the x-ray machine, then they test the water in the baby's bottles for vapors), and waiting to board, it can be a real challenge.

Oh, then doing it all over again when you get off the plane.

Then doing it all again when you return home.

But I love my family (yes, I call my wife's family my family). I love Grandma Syl. We had an amazing time. Perhaps I'll write about the actual vacation soon.

But I'm having some family issues that I'll probably share soon.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Trippin' Out

To Florida we will go . . .

Ft Lauderdale, Florida, that is. Wife's Grandmother is turning 96 this year. (How cliche, a Grandmother in Florida. Yes, we're Jewish. What's cliche in Yiddish?) Wife's parents will be married 45 years this month. Or next month. Yikes, I don't know their anniversary date. Well, it's the years that count, not the date, right?

We're going not only with Wife's Parents, but with her older sister, Tante, and younger sister 'Susie'. Susie and her husband (I don't have a name for him yet) have two kids, JR, a 5-year-old girl and Pee-Wee, a 14-month-old boy. We are renting a house on North Atlantic Boulevard, literally across the street from the Atlantic Ocean. Thursday - Tuesday. Totally psyched.

You know what I'd forgotten about? How much it costs to travel. Forget the airfare. Let me see if I can list the things I've purchased for this trip: sunscreen, bathing suits, UV shirts, shorts, sun dress, magazines, snacks, headphones, luggage (including a Diego carry-on with wheels for JD - it was immensely cute seeing him pull it all excited through Target), and DVDs. I think I racked up enough for another plane ticket. And we haven't gotten there yet.

Not available in Chicago at Target in January are swim diapers. At least not the Target on Elston Ave. I mean, what if I still belonged to East Bank and was taking Toodles and JD for swim lessons? I'm sure they'll be available in Florida. I miss East Bank but not the $285 + everything per month it cost to 'belong'.

Like I was saying, we've rented a house. Comparably priced to getting hotel rooms, if not cheaper, and we'll save big money on groceries instead of eating out every meal. Well, that is if I'm not cooking every meal. And the likelihood is that I'll be cooking. Let's be honest - if you've got a gourmet in the house, why not? And I'm the Kitchen Nazi as my buddy Smooch called me when we lived at 3823 N Clark. I can't stand watching other people cook. They don't have proper technique and . . . I could go on. So if someone else is cooking, I have to go far far away or I'll be really annoying and over their shoulder and giving unsolicited advice. Maybe I'll just grab a beer and sit out by the pool.

I'll let you know what happened and post some pictures of my wicked hot bod. Or maybe just the kids doing sill stuff.

Oh, Wife and I have a question: is the intensity of the February Ft Lauderdale sun comparable to June or July Chicago sun, more intense, or less intense? Thanks!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Another Giveaway!

My friend, Couponing for 4, has another giveaway! Win a Glee Season 1 soundtrack.

In case you're new here, Couponing is a great way to save money by using coupons, advertising, and patience (as well as a lot of astute shoppers) to get the best deals on everything from groceries to household items to over-the-counter pharmaceuticals. Couponing for 4 claims to have saved and made over $10,000 between coupon deals, sweepstakes winnings, and focus groups.

Getting a Head Start

For months, I've aspired to get up as early as my wife, or at least get up as she's leaving. With the latter, I'm going to work when she's going to work. Let's not forget: when a homemaker wakes up, he or she is at work and doesn't get off work until bedtime. And is on call overnight. But I digress.

For the last couple of days, I have been getting up extra early. What are the advantages?

Wife wakes up around 5am. Or at least gets up from bed. (Sometimes she's up in the middle of the night thinking about work, other times she doesn't wake up until she's had 'her coffee'.) She's out the door by 5:30 or 5:45. That's when she wakes me up.

I have a hard time waking up, but I am a morning person. Doesn't that seem contradictory? But it's true; once I'm up, I'm up with full energy. Coffee is not one of my staples, but an occasional luxury. But waking up, getting up; very difficult.

So I get up anytime between 6 and 7.

Back to the advantages of getting up early. My kids wake up anytime between 7 and 8, but usually after 7:30. Here are my goals for that time:
-unload the dishwasher / wipe down the kitchen (if it wasn't done the night before)
-load the washing machine
-plan & defrost dinner
-coordinate my shopping list
-make a schedule for the day
-online work: check email, blog, pay bills, audit credit cards and bank accounts
-make a bottle for Toodles, cut up fruit for the day for her

I could easily go on and on, but those are the most common things I try to accomplish. Certainly not all of them!

So on the days I get up at 6, I get a lot done. 7, not so much.

I have to develop the fear. I believe that's what gets people like Wife up in the morning. They fear staying asleep. They fear missing work, forgetting a project, being late. I don't have that unless I'm going on a trip. Then it's just fun. Maybe that's what I need to do - plan something fun first thing. I'll try that.

I'll make a deal with myself. If I wake up by 6am, I get to play a game of NHL 10 or golf. If not, then I don't. But then again, if I miss that deadline, then I'll just say F-it and keep sleeping because I missed my opportunity. Hmmm... gonna have to think about this one.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

3rd Birthday!

We've kept him alive.

That's what I joked when JD turned 1. Then 2. We've made it.

We have been struck neither by life-threatening illness nor by mortal injury. He's had fevers and his feet burned. He's accumulated scrapes, bumps, and bruises. He's driven me to the point of insanity and forgetting my sense of right-and-wrong.

But we've worked through it all.

JD is 3!

When he and Toodles woke up, I went in and asked, "What do you want to eat?" to which he replied, "Doughnuts." "Well, I don't have doughnuts, but how about pancakes?" "Doughnuts and pancakes!" Sigh.

So I changed Toodles, then JD and I took a shower because I couldn't remember the last time he took one; 45 minutes later, we were out the door.

To Jewel for the doughnut (Dunkin' is just a bit closer, but doughnuts at Jewel are only $0.59.

Then we walked to Sam & George's Restaurant and had pancakes and bacon, his favorite breakfast. We are regulars there, so they know us. When he was done, they gave him a little ice cream sundae with a candle and sang "Happy Birthday."

Now my babysitter is here and I should be writing this during nap instead of wasting valuable babysitting time!

Monday, January 11, 2010

What to do when the kids go to school...

Thinking about what I'm going to do, professionally, when the kids are both in school full-time has been on my mind for a while.

For a long time, I've wondered what I could do to bring in an extra $1000 per month to the house. I figured that, even if I was a fast-food manager, I could make around $40k per year, working 40-50 hours per week. So couldn't I make $12k per year working from home, putting in 15-20 hours per week?

But the reality is that employers want some structure to their workforce and I can't provide that. As a homemaker, what are the hours that I could put into a job?

I figure I could put in at least 1-2 hours per day in the afternoon while the kids are napping. I could get up early and put in another hour before they wake up. I could put in an hour after they go to bed. So, conservatively, that's 12-15 hours before infringing on my weekend time.

What I've learned about being a work-from-home professional is that you have to have some entrepreneurial drive. For us homemakers, that probably means a home-based business.

What about consulting? I don't have enough professional experience to be much of a consultant. I'm an expert EA Sports NHL series video game player. I've got a BA in Creative Writing with a minor in Business Administration. I've got some Spanish. My most developed non-video-game-related hobby is cooking. But I have no interest in cooking in a restaurant.

Since graduating, I've waited tables, have been a line cook, tire and wheel sales, and managed the garage at an auto service center.

But I've also done a couple of other things that have interested me. One is investing. The other is business writing.

Part of my homemaking duties is to watch the money. For our IRA & 401k accounts, we have a professional financial adviser. He is great. But I'm not the kind of person who will just hand over money and let things happen. I've educated myself on investing terminology and strategy so that I can understand why he's making certain moves.

Since then, though, I've started making some investments. Some went well, some tanked. What I have learned, though, is that I love researching companies. (It was when I didn't do the research that I got my butt handed to me.) So I'd like to learn more about investing and finance. Not only to invest for myself, but perhaps to help others do so.

Occasionally, my brother sends me letter for editing. Sometimes they deal with the hockey team he coaches, other times they are for business. I have found the I like business writing. Sales and marketing have always been interests of mine, but have not pursued them with focus. I enjoy learning about the business and the project for which it is intended. To properly write something like that, you have to do what attorneys call 'discovery'. You have to learn about the company, not just about project. It's interesting and fun.

Since I have a degree in writing, a writing career would require less training. Both writing and finance would require a great deal of entrepreneurial drive. I would be able to start writing sooner. Finance has a greater potential for income.

I'll let you know if I decide on one or the other.

Kid Updates

Toodles is 8 months and JD will be 3 tomorrow!

Wow, how time goes crazy when you're not looking.

Toodles is a great joy to us. At 8 months, her favorite things are finger walking, playing with action figures and blocks, and eating real food. I don't recall whether I blogged about this, but at about 10 weeks or so, she was creeping, as much as 10 or 12 feet at a time. I think that stopped when she got too big to push herself easily. Or it became boring for her. She is doing it again, moving to get toys she wants or to face her mother, brother, or me.

At the table, she went from pureed baby food to finger food in less than six weeks. As soon as I started giving her Cheerios she was hooked. Back to pureed carrots, squash, and peaches. No way! So I've had to change my routine to having various veggies and fruits ready to go. This becomes challenging in two ways. First, having the things on hand while keeping a variety. Second, the time it takes to prepare. I went from pre-packaged food to having to cut everything, every time. Green beans, grapes, banana, avocado, nectarine, blueberries, carrots, zucchini . . . But in the end, when I'm putting a piece of food up to her mouth and she attacks my fingers gums first, well it's all worth it!

JD is a typical 3-year-old. He loves attention and misbehaves when it doesn't come his way. He knows his ABC's, single digits, and his way around the keyboard. We used Fisher-Price's website to help teach him the alphabet. This morning, I asked him to find each animal, from Alligator to Zebra, and he got the letter on either the first or second try. I've learned that counting to 10 every time there's a countdown is bad. Now, he only knows to count to ten. When I'm being extra-conscious, I will count to 7 or to 13 or any other variation. The next step will be to count to 100 by tens.

JD continues to love playing hockey, but his sports repertoire includes soccer, bowling, golf, and baseball. When I take the time to figure out posting video, I'll show you. He's a big boy, too - when asked what size clothes to buy him for his birthday, I'm telling people 5T shirts and 4T pants. Crazy! He sill loves playing peek-a-boo, though in more sophisticated and high-energy ways. Some of those include the beginnings of hide-and-seek, while others are more like meteors colliding. He also loves when I throw him in the air (we get about 2 - 3 feet of separation, much to my wife's dismay) and wrestling.

When we take the time to read and write, he's made his first intelligible drawing and, for a while, was obsessed with drawing people riding skateboards. I don't understand why, but he would always tell Wife or me, "Draw Mommy riding skateboard. Draw Uncle Matt riding skateboard," etc. He would try, too. Markers over crayons, unfortunately, is the preference. He loves reading, though we have inadvertently made it a bedtime thing, not an anytime thing. He's memorized about 15 books, including Dino Hockey by Lisa Wheeler and Barry Gott, Too Many Toys by David Shannon, Green Eggs and Ham by Dr Seuss, Thump, Quack, Moo, Click, Clack Moo, and Giggle Giggle Quack by Doreen Cronin and Betsy Lewin.

The kids are great and give me great, big headaches. Well, I don't get headaches, but if I did, they would be great big ones! But when they wake up and are talking to each other (JD talks, Toodles coos) it's so sweet, I forget about the nagging, the crying, and the messes and can only think of hugs, kisses, and laughter.