How to Balance Work and a Sick Child

When the inevitable happens, i.e. an up-all-night sick kiddo or a phone call from the school requesting a pick up, the dread and anxiety set in…. are they ok? What is my plan? What will my boss say? Working parents have all been there – balancing work demands with mommy/daddy demands. How do we balance it all?

Family Comes First

For me, family always comes first. I tell that to myself and to my employees. If you have to go, go. If you have to stay home, stay home. Work will be there tomorrow.

Family Communication

When my fiancé and I first started on this co-parenting journey together a few years ago, we made sure we laid out an action plan of what to do when these sick days came. Our particular situation relies heavier on me to be the emergency contact parent and the one to stay home as I have a much more flexible and supportive job (I can work from home if need be and I get a ton of sick days). Its not that Chris doesn’t have a supportive job but he is required to travel for work and often is unable to answer his phone or is out of range.

Employer Communication 

I make it a point to communicate with my supervisor initially about what our child care plan is. As a supervisor I appreciate when my staff tell me what their demands are. It helps me to know what is a legitimate issue versus what could be perceived as abuse of PTO.

Work Backup Plan

If I have to leave early, I hand off projects to those who are familiar with them and can do the basic things to get us through the remainder of the day. If I have to miss an entire day, I log in from home and delegate any work I am unable to complete to those who are in the office. Most of the time one day isn’t going to be a catastrophe but making sure key players can complete needed tasks is key.

Backup Babysitters

Once we moved away from our hometown we didn’t have Grammy or Pop Pop nearby to act as a backup babysitter. Most of the responsibility fell on me and I was fine with that and communicated it to my supervisors. As we settled into new areas and befriended others, I asked them if they would be willing to be a backup pending there was an emergency as I could not get there fast enough. Everyone we encountered agreed and fortunately we never had to use them. Look to someone you trust your children with to be this person if it is only for emergencies. For a more constant on-call babysitter, do background and reference checks on potential sitters so you don’t experience a surprise down the road.

Finding a work/life balance is difficult at baseline, but throw ill children into the mix and the anxiety level rises exponentially. Employers should be supportive of family responsibilities and can hopefully work with you to make stressful times as smooth as possible.

 

 

 

Helping Others to Grow

Today I had a conversation with one of my new supervisees that I wish someone would have had with me when I started out on my professional journey. Although I have only known Kim for a short period of time and my interaction with her has been limited, I can tell she has is struggling. She is struggling to find her place in a world that insists on shoving square pegs into round holes, a world where “good” is never enough.

Kim is a young, intelligent, unmarried female with no children who just completed her Masters last winter and wants desperately to promote to a level she feels she deserves. While some might argue that is the stereotypical Millennial mindset of entitlement – I totally get where she is coming from. I, too, was once that girl fresh out of school and full of energetic drive to conquer the world. And then reality slapped me in the face.. hard.

But Kim’s story is more complicated than mine as she has the added pressure of cultural demands of success from her Asian family. Her exact words to me today were, “I come from a very Chinese family, where success is measured by salary”. Although I am a Caucasian female born and raised in an Irish-German city, I can appreciate the cultural pressure that is very real in modern society.

Our conversation began when I attempted to do what I can only describe as “damage control”. Kim recently interviewed for a promotion that is also supervised by me but was not selected. She wasn’t selected on anything she did wrong – there was just a more qualified candidate who presented as a better fit for the position. I learned that Kim was notified on Friday that she was not selected and I felt it was my due diligence to follow up with her on the why behind my selection – not because I have to (because I don’t) but because I wanted to (and wished someone would have done for me years ago).

My leadership style can best be described as a desire to set others up for success. when my team succeeds, I succeed. So I asked Kim to come to my office and I dove right into it by letting her know I was aware she had been informed she was not selected for the position, but I wanted to let her know it was not because she performed poorly during the interview. In fact, as I informed her, she had done exceptionally well, but the truth was that someone else had done better. A harsh reality in a world of participation trophies for everyone.

The conversation led into what she was doing well in her current role – taking on additional responsibilities, self-initiating directive, demonstrating a performance improvement mentality, etc.  I also touched (gently) on things she could improve upon – having tact in sensitive situations, remaining professional when dealing with difficult co-workers, and self-awareness. The key part of constructive criticism is delivering the message in a way that doesn’t make your employee hate themselves, you, or the organization, and that is something that takes time and experience.

I then asked Kim what her future goals were… what did she want to be when she grew up? She didn’t know, so we started to discuss some things she was interested in – data analytics, management, etc. I reminded her that she was young and that her next job was not her end all, she didn’t have to do that for the rest of her life. We also discussed the possibility of leaving our organization to find a better fit elsewhere. Now, this is tricky water to navigate, but I believe I did so successfully. I flat out told Kim that while I do not want her to leave our organization, I also support personal and professional growth and that it’s important to recognize that what may be a good fit for one person is not for another. I also reiterated that I didn’t think she was a bad fit for her current position (she isn’t) but she has a lot of talent that can be used elsewhere – and that is what I want her to explore.

I encouraged her to explore other options within our organization and together we looked online at fellowship opportunities. I forwarded her some useful links and some info that I have amassed over the years. I also let her know that other organizations within our industry offer the same thing, and that she shouldn’t limit herself. I also squashed any false hope that she may have been given. What I mean by this is that people have good intentions when they would tell her “you should do this” or “I heard this can help you” but have no real experience or knowledge in what they are talking about. I have been interviewing, hiring, and disciplining people for a few years now and I know the ropes, loopholes, and what’s possible v. what’s not. I let Kim down easy by telling her what was bad information coupled with what was an actual possibility in her situation.

One of the things I stressed to her was to not make an emotional decision! I told her she will have days when she leaves the office pissed off at the world, when she tells herself she isn’t coming back the next day and that this is it! we all have those days, but I reminded her that is not the time to go home and apply for 50 jobs on Indeed.com. instead, I encouraged her to apply for internal positions, apply for external positions, interview and ASK QUESTIONS! The grass is not always greener on the other side. She may find out the reality of another organization is not what she thought it was and that she is better off here. But she won’t know unless she seeks out that information. I also let her know that building relationships is everything in business. I encouraged her to talk to others who worked for other companies, who used to do other jobs and find out what they have to say. We all have our own story, our own path. Life is not a one size fits all.

I felt like I was talking to myself years ago, reminding her that this is not her end all but that she must work her way up. That these other little silly jobs (as she may see them) are actually preparing her for jobs that carry the burden of responsibility. That us hiring officials see the type of jobs that she is currently working through as stepping stones that build the foundation of knowledge that those at the top have. I told her that we hire for skill – we see talent and teach you how to use it. That is our job as managers.

I also told her I would delegate to her what I could so she could build her skillset and get a better glimpse of the 30,000 foot perspective. How can we as managers expect our people to grow if we don’t plant the seed? It took me a long time to lay down roots, and I want to provide the knowledge I have gained along the way to the next generation.

Who knows, maybe one day Kim will be hiring me.

15 Minute “Doctored-Up” Dirty Rice with Chicken

Dirty rice is one of my favorite meals to make – I love the flavor mix of spice and veggies, rice, and chicken. It reminds me of my time spent living in the South, which is where my love for all things Creole blossomed. I don’t always have time to boil rice and add all the spices and ingredients from scratch, so I came up with a conglomeration of store-bought ingredients  that when cooked together, create a similar taste.

Here is what I used, along with some pre-seasoned chicken my fiancé picked up at the store one day (tasted like it had a BBQ dry rub on it. flavor wasn’t super strong but just enough to compliment the other flavors).

My chicken was already thawed, but if yours isn’t, add an extra 15 minutes to your prep time for approximately 1 lb of chicken to defrost in the microwave. I then sliced my chicken into small, bite size pieces and placed them in a pre-heated skillet with about 1/4 cup cooking oil in it. I covered the skillet and occasionally stirred the meat to ensure it was cooked al the way through.

I added 2 cups water and 1 tbsp. cooking oil to a microwavable dish and microwaved it for 8 minutes (box says 12 but we live at a high altitude so things cook faster) and microwaved the veggies for 4 minutes (again, quicker cooking time).

I strained the chicken and placed it on a paper towel lined plate to soak up some of the oil, and then mixed all the ingredients together in a larger bowl and served it to a very hungry family.

Bon appetite!

Sunday Brunch French Toast

One of my go-to Sunday breakfast/brunch meals is French Toast. And not to toot my own horn, but I make a pretty darn good French Toast (toot toot)! Here is my simple and delicious recipe that I’m sure your family will love the same as mine does!

Start with your normal ingredients: Bread (we use white, but Texas Toast would also be a tasty option), eggs (1 per slice), and milk. Mix eggs and milk together in a bowl. Then comes the magic… add a splash of vanilla extract (I don’t measure but it’s literally just a little splash since it is strong) and a few shakes of cinnamon.

Saturate each slice by flipping it several times. Place bread on a butter-greased frying pan or skillet. Add a pinch a sugar on each side before you flip, letting each side cook to a golden brown.

Place on plate and serve with topping of choice!

While it may not seem like much, the vanilla, cinnamon, and sugar made a huge difference to your taste buds!

 

What am I most grateful for right now?

One of my family’s annual Thanksgiving traditions is to state what we are thankful for that year. Historically, my (step)daughter has said her family or times she was able to make memories with certain people near and dear to her heart. My fiancé usually chimes in with some funny tidbit such as football or the rare times his daughter is quiet. I usually say I am thankful for the opportunities we have had as a family the last year.

This year was different. Cliché, I know, but so very true on a deeply personal level. This past year I watched a friend I have known since middle school get diagnosed with a brain tumor, undergo surgery to have it removed (thankfully, it was benign), and tough out physical and occupational therapy to once again function as an adult. This year, I watched my aunt barely sleep as she waited for pathology results to return on the tumor my cousin had removed from her neck (also benign). This year, I watched an old co-worker watch as her husband battled cancer, just to find out she had the same diagnosis a few months later.

This year I said goodbye to my uncle who passed suddenly after a catastrophic cancer diagnosis just a week earlier. This year I watched someone I went to high school with disappear, just to be found deceased a few weeks later. This year I watched yet another person I went to middle school with pass away unexpectedly, leaving behind a 3-year-old son.

This year I watched family members tear each other apart after a long-buried feud resurfaced. This year I watched my own relationship with my future mother-in-law deteriorate due to actions blinded by selfish ways. This year I watched my best friend’s sanity be shredded by a battle with post-partum depression.

This year was different. This year, for the first time in many, I was so very grateful for my own physical and mental health. This year, I was grateful that I wake up daily with only minor aches and pains, no broken bones, and no surgeries needed. This year, I was grateful that my fiancé and my (step)daughter are healthy, do not require daily medications, and are generally happy. This year, I was grateful for a roof over my head, grateful that I don’t wonder where my next meal will come from, and grateful to be surrounded by those I love and who love me.

This year, I am so very grateful.

4 Ingredient Crockpot Buffalo Chicken

I don’t know about you, but my crockpot is probably my favorite kitchen item. It just makes cooking SO EASY! Here is one of the easiest recipes in my arsenal of crockpot recipes,

Ingredients

  • 3 lbs frozen chicken breasts
  • 12 oz hot wing sauce (I like Frank’s, but any brand will do)
  • 1 package rank dip mix
  • 2 tbsp. butter (optional)

 

Directions

  1. Place frozen chicken, hot sauce, and rank dip mix in crockpot
  2. Cook on low 6 hours
  3. Using 2 forks, shred chicken (I took the chicken out of the crockpot to do this for easier logistics).
  4. Return to crockpot, add butter, and simmer cook another hour on low
  5. Place on buns and add cheese if desired

And that’s it! An easy, delicious dinner that’s prepared in a few simple steps.

 

 

Unique Christmas Wrapping Ideas

One of my favorite things about gift giving is presenting a gift to someone in a unique package. Christmas allows me to replicate this over and over again on a larger scale – making it my favorite holiday of the year! I’m always looking for new & interesting ways to wrap gifts, and here are some of my tried & true gems:

  1. Call me old-fashioned, but I love sending and receiving traditional Christmas cards (ones that aren’t photos). In the past, I’ve wrapped a foam board in Christmas fabric and pinned cards to it to double as décor (idea came from here). This year, I’d like to create décor using cards in the shape of a tree on the wall (like this one). But I always save the cards to create future gift tags (an example is here).
  2. Years ago, I bought a large roll of brown craft paper and started stenciling my own designs onto it. I did themes (snowmen, Santa, Christmas trees, etc) and used coordinating bows to complete the job. Since then, I have moved into not only doing stencil designs but also creating polka dots, lines, chevrons, lace, stenciled letters, you name it!
  3. Toilet paper roll and cellophane (this idea uses rolled coins, but it’s the same concept). I know, sounds crazy – but it’s a great wrapping idea for kids’ small toys! I did this one year for my nieces and nephews and they loved it!
  4. Burlap bags with a stenciled design. Or burlap wrapped around a gift with a ribbon bow on it. Burlap bags can be bought or made.
  5. Decorative accents on wrapped gifts. I love adding things such as twine & ribbon, bells, pinecones, twigs, berries, flowers, greenery, etc.
  6. Cloth. I’ve gone to Goodwill and gotten curtains and tablecloths and then painted words or designs on them (inspiration generated from this post).
  7. Ditch the traditional box or bag idea and wrap gifts inside another gift. Like a coffee mug filled with candy or a fuzzy glove filled with nail polish and nail files. Cellophane is also a great option to let the recipient see what they are getting before it’s opened. Baskets are another great idea – they don’t require additional wrapping.
  8. Money tree! I once took a glittery Dollar Store decorative tree and tied folded bills to it with ribbon and gave it as a gift.
  9. Wire edge ribbons. They are beautiful, easy, and can be re-used over and over!
  10. The Dollar Store has some great wrapping paper and bags (I prefer to not spend a lot of money on things that get tossed). I also save any bags or wire edged ribbon I get and re-use them.
  11. Shop clearance after holidays to stock up for next year!

I hope some of these ideas help you this holiday season. Happy Wrapping!

 

50 Stocking Stuffer Ideas for Tween Girls

Shopping for tweens is difficult in and of itself, but finding stocker stuffers they will actually like can be almost impossible. Here are 50 stocking stuffer ideas to help you fill your tween’s stocking:

  1. Fun socks
  2. Nail polish
  3. Hair ties
  4. Bobby pins
  5. Headbands
  6. Lip balm
  7. Hairbrushes
  8. Nail art decals
  9. Gift cards (Starbucks, Justice, Hobby Lobby, Amazon, Target, etc)
  10. Money
  11. Candy
  12. Necklaces
  13. Earrings
  14. Rings
  15. Bracelets
  16. Tumbler
  17. Water Bottle
  18. Keychain
  19. Nail file
  20. Artificial nails
  21. Hair chalk
  22. Lotion
  23. Soap
  24. Ear buds
  25. CDs
  26. Terrarium kit
  27. Rubik’s Cube
  28. Books
  29. Notecards
  30. Gel pens
  31. Markers
  32. Adult coloring books
  33. Henna kit
  34. Journal
  35. Phone case
  36. Sunglasses
  37. Hand sanitizer
  38. Washi tape
  39. Coin purse
  40. Dreamcatcher
  41. Body Mist
  42. Hat
  43. Scarf
  44. Gloves
  45. Slippers
  46. Flip flops
  47. Wireless mouse
  48. Selfie stick
  49. Phone charger
  50. Makeup brushes

15 Gift Ideas for Tween Girls (as told by a tween!)

It’s that time of year! Tis to season to try and figure out what to get the pre-teen girl in your life for Christmas. Thankfully, I just so happen to have a tween living under my roof, and she volunteered some ideas to help everyone else out.

  1. Fujifilm Instax Mini 9 Instant Camera

A fresh twist on an old classic! This camera comes in a variety of colors and film packs can be bought on Amazon or at Walmart.

 

2. Henna Tattoo Kit

With parental OK, tweens can create their own henna tattoo designs. Don’t worry – these designs don’t last as long as the real hennas. They wash off in a few days.

 

3. Inflatable Air Chair

Think lighter and more affordable version of the futon chair. Available in 3 colors

 

4. Reversible Sequin “Mermaid” Pillow

Fun sequin pillow available in 26 colors!

 

5. Color Changing Bluetooth Speaker

Color changes to the beat of the music. Rechargeable battery so you don’t have to keep purchasing AAs.

 

6. DIY Bath Bomb Kit

Who doesn’t like a little fizz in their tub?

 

7. DIY Lip Balm Kit

To keep with the DIY theme, check out kits that allow her to make her own lip balm.

 

8. DIY Spa Kit

Also consider more comprehensive kits that will allow her to make face masks and other spa essentials from your kitchen ingredients.

 

9. Bluetooth Microphone

2+1 microphone and speaker. Download any karaoke app and make it a party!

 

10. Mermaid Tail Blanket

Any mermaid-loving girl will enjoy this cozy gift – available in 14 fun colors

 

11. Lava Lamp

They’re baaaack! And available in lots of fun colors

 

12. Converse Shoes

My kid likes the high top ones, but the traditional chucks are in style as well. Multiple colors (metallic, glitter, designs) are available to choose from.

 

13. Cell Phone Cases

SO many cell phone case options are available on Amazon.  And it’s easy to search by phone model to find the right one.

 

14. Cell Phone Fisheye Lens

For the special effects Instagram loving kid in your life, consider a fisheye lens. This attachment gives the illusion of being in a fishbowl.

 

15. Squishies

Yup, that’s their actual name. They remind me of cute stress balls. They come in several sizes and can be bought individually or in packs.

 

Happy Shopping!

Easy Crepes

(forgot to snap a pic of Hazel’s creation, so borrowing this one from Bit of the Good Stuff – check out her vegan recipe here)

 

Happy Sunday Morning! Chef Boy-At-Hazel was at it again this morning with her version of crepes. Inspired by a recipe she found on Facebook (I tracked down the original recipe here)

She didn’t make chocolate ones but instead melted some milk chocolate and spread that along with cinnamon on this morning’s breakfast. She has also used fresh fruit in the past, preferably strawberries, but we were out this morning 🙁

Crepes are easy, delicious, and kid-friendly and I highly recommend them as for a morning treat!