Saturday, August 29, 2009

Playing Catch-Up

Weekends are for rest and relaxation, right? Then why am I spending it playing "catch-up?" I'm catching up on homework, catching up on laundry, catching up on quality time with the kids...and I'm STILL not caught up! Maybe I should just accept the fact that I never will be. Motherhood seems to be one of those occupations where there is no "I'm finished!" moment followed by permission to kick up your heels and relax.

Still, I am feeling a bit better now that I started a day without being woken up by an alarm clock. It also feels good that I've somewhat gotten a handle on my homework. I am concerned about a couple of things (one being a group project--only two other people have communicated with me about it, we haven't started anything and it's due next week). I keep thinking that if I can just get through a couple of weeks, I'll begin to get back into the rhythm and flow of things....or at least figure out the homework schedule.

On the upside, I'm SO glad I took my professor's advice and dropped a class before the semester began. First of all, I'd never be able to handle 12 hours of classes and a full-time job (especially since the class was a research class).

Another piece of good news is that the Education class I am taking for my teacher certification does not have assignment due dates; the only rule is that assignments must be completed in corresponding order. Then again, maybe this is bad news. I'd really hate for December to roll around when I'm being blasted with the Christmas holiday rush and suddenly realize that I've put off all of those assignments while trying to stay afloat in my graduate classes!

At any rate, I don't feel guilty hanging out with my kiddos, watching iCarly and painting our toenails tonight. At least I've caught up enough to do that!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

My Brain Feels Like Scrambled Eggs.

Let's see if I can make a cohesive sentence or two....

Have you ever felt like your brain is just a glob of scrambled eggs? Have you ever really tried to concentrate on something but felt like you were wading through a fog? Have you ever read one passage over and over in circles...and gotten nowhere?

This is how I've felt for the past few days. Actually, my days have been starting off fairly well. I'm not even complaining about the wee hours of the morning that I must get out of bed. But somewhere after 2 p.m., my thoughts become a little less defined. I think it's partly a drop in blood sugar, partly my body's realization that I need a nap and partly the thought of going home to tackle homework and grad school classes.

Since classes began last week, I have met my fair share of confusion and frustration. While I am truly thankful for web-based classes, they are the most frustrating thing in the world if you have a professor who is not on top of his/her game. You have to be VERY structured and VERY prepared if you are going to teach a web class. That, sadly, is not always the case. So, I have been dealing with the typical start-of-the-semester chaos AND trying to figure out, "Exactly what do you want me to do?" The latter has been made extremely difficult in some cases (in one class, we were given last year's syllabus...with last year's assignment deadline dates on them!). To make matters worse, some of my best study buddies that I meet at summer school have been moved into other class sections. (We are crying, "Conspiracy!"--lol!). I'm so thankful that I am not a first year student in this grad program or I would be lost. Sadly, I kind of know how things operate, so I just roll my eyes and keep on trudging through.

Meanwhile, I'm thinking of instituting a daily toast regimen to complement my scrambled egg brains. :)

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Week in Review

Exciting. Apprehensive. Overwhelming. Invigorating. Structured. Challenging. Exhausting. Fulfilling. Enjoyable. These are just a few words that describe my back-to-work experience this week.

A few people may wonder how a simple position as a library assistant could possibly be invigorating or fulfilling. I can hear it now, "Don't you just shelve and check-out books?" There's actually much more to the job than that, but most people think that's all a bonafide librarian does anyway. However, because I am working on my master's degree in the field, I am privy to much more than a typical library assistant would be. I'm so excited to be working under a wonderful librarian who is basically treating the opportunity as a mentorship. We look at budgets and Accelerated Reader testing. We discuss policy and brainstorm on how the library could be rearranged. We are much more of a "team" than a typical librarian/assistant would be.

I have been pretty well exhausted this week, though. First of all, I'm not used to being on my feet all day. This is one aspect of the job that I didn't expect: I rarely get to sit because we are constantly busy and on-the-go all day. That adds to the tired I'm already feeling from trying to get back into a school sleep schedule rather than a "wake up when you want to" summertime schedule. I admit that I'm not doing very well on getting to bed early enough, but I have forced myself out early enough to get a tiny bit of exercise in (this week I need to work on doubling my exercise time).

My freezer meals have been a tremendous help so far. I'm already worried about running out of "goodies" because I either don't have time and/or energy to get to the grocery store after school.

I am a bit anxious about my grad school classes beginning this week. I'm taking nine hours this semester (glad I dropped one class earlier this summer; I could have never handled 12 hours and a new job!). I'm not exactly excited about coming home and getting started on homework when I have plenty of chores to take care of, dinner to cook and when I need to be supervising my children's homework/chores. I'm wondering where I will find the energy? Where will I find the time? The evenings are so short as it is...and we haven't even begun extracurriculars like soccer and piano lessons for the girls, yet. Still, I keep reminding myself that others are in the same boat. They lived and survived; so will I.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Too Tired to Blog

I have plenty to talk about since I started my new job & the kids have started back to school, but I'm too tired to type. Instead, I'll just share the most recent reason for smiling: my first publish in a "glossy" magazine. You can check it out on my photography blog HERE.

Monday, August 10, 2009

HI Ho, Hi Ho, It's Off to Work I Go...

Today's the day! I'm starting my new job as Library Assistant at our local school (K-12th grades). Wish me luck!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Preparing for a New School Year: Meal Planning

Recently, I mentioned that I was trying to make meal-planning a bit simpler. Well, apparently there's nothing like getting a full-time job to put your organizational efforts into hyper-drive! Here's what I've been doing to get prepared for the new school year:

Purse-Sized Meal Planning Grocery/Recipe Cards
Inspired after reading Nannygoat's 30 day meal plan, I downloaded some trendy & stylish recipe cards (here) and filled them out the most commonly eaten meals in our home. On the cards, I also included suggestions for vegetables and side dishes which are often a difficult decision in themselves. Since I made the JPG recipe cards and filled them out using Adobe Photoshop, I decided to send them to my local photolab for printing. I am slipping them into a small 4x6 photo album and will carry them in my purse. Now, when I'm out shopping, I can make sure I don't forget to buy that one pesky ingredient that I always seem to forget!

Once a Month Cooking (or OMAC)
I've heard a lot about Once a Month Cooking over the years. I've always meant to give it a try, but lacked the motivation and/or a free day to devote to cooking. However, the combination of the husband being out of town on Friday-Saturday and my desire to get things together before my first day on the job Monday gave me an opportunity to try it this weekend. The basic premise is that you buy groceries in bulk, spend a day cooking said groceries, package for freezing and enjoy your bounty of prepared meals out of the freezer for days to come. Many people actually try to make enough meals for an entire month, but I decided just to cook as much as I could and call it "good."

The most important part of this OMAC thing is the menu planning/grocery list stage. I spent many hours on the internet looking up recipes and tips for freezing. I found most of my recipes at where you can search "OMAC" or "make ahead" and find loads of recipes. Some people plan their meals based on which meats are on sale, but I simply chose things my family would actually eat. Then, I made out a huge grocery list and divided it by the sections in our grocery store (fresh, cold, frozen, canned) to help find things quickly and easily. I was dreading the trip to the store. In my mind, I imagined that it would take hours on end to find everything. However, since I went at the end of a long day of back-to-school shopping and I was ready to get home, I simply stuck to my list and got out rather quickly. I was also dreading the final tally on the check-out receipt, but it was actually just bit over what a typical excursion to the grocery costs. (Another reason why people like OMAC: it prevents waste and saves money in the end.)

Saturday was cooking day, and--I'll be honest--it was a long one. I started cooking at 8 a.m. and finished at 4 p.m. I'm sure I could have been a bit better with my cooking organization and saved time, but my "method" was to look around and ask, "What needs to be cooked next?" I also had two little kitchen elves who were a great help (and it felt good to be teaching them some cooking skills). I had to overcome my desire to constantly clean up and, instead, waited until the end of the day to clean up just once (though I did wash some dishes along the way). I used all my resources including my trusty crock pot and my bread maker. Here's what I ended up with at the end of the day (links provided to the recipes I used):

*Meat for tacos/spaghetti
*1 Chicken & Rice Casserole
*10 Breakfast Burritos (will do more after we see how they taste post-freezer)
*Shredded chicken (to use in casseroles or soups)
*6 Calzones (using this bread maker dough recipe)
*Pulled Pork for sandwiches (frozen in individual servings for lunches)
*Chicken Relleno (a new recipe, but quite tasty)
*6 Hamburger Steaks
*2 packages of homemade chicken broth (left from cooking chicken)
*10 slices of breakfast sausage (ready to be microwaved for a quick meal)
*Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread (thanks to my parent's overflowing garden--we made muffins instead of loaves)
*Fried Rice with Chicken (actually, I have the rice ready but I need to finish this meal today)
*2 packages of brown rice to be used as a side

I also froze pork chops and a roast beef that can be thawed and thrown into the crock pot. And, while I was at it, I decided to try my hand at Sticky Roast Chicken which I prepared and will be cooking for lunch today.

Yes, it was a long day, but I feel a little more under control and relieved knowing that, if all else fails, there is something in the freezer to eat!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Big Changes Ahead

First, I had to make the transition from "Mama" to "University Mama." Then, I had to get used to commuting three times a week rather than twice a week. Then, I had to figure out how handle summertime and summer school. After that, I had to get into "life-after-college" mode when I finished my undergraduate studies, and quickly transitioned into accepting "life-in-graduate-school." Then, there were the three weeks where I had to remember how to live in a dorm and eat in a college cafeteria. Yep, I'd say I've had to make plenty of changes and adjustments over the past three years....but none as big as this one.

After 11 years of being primarily a SAHM (stay at home mom), I'm going back to work full-time!

I was excited to learn that I'd been hired as a library aid at our school. This is excellent on-the-job training for me (not to mention that I'm now getting paid for practicum hours I needed to fulfill anyway). A great resume booster and I'll be working with a top-notch librarian. For someone in my position who is studying to be a librarian, you really couldn't ask for more.

While my photography business has kept me busy, I've never had a steady work routine. I've always had the freedom to schedule doctor's appointments or hair cuts during the day. I've never had to fight the crowds at the grocery store when the hungry masses are just getting off work. I've always been able to leave town for anything from funerals to visits to old friends without major scheduling issues, even while a student at the university. I realize that those days are over to some extent, and that I will have to make significant changes in the way I do things.

I guess a part of me is a little sad to see the SAHM part of my life pass by. It was good while it lasted, but my girls aren't so little anymore. Our plan was for me to stay home until our youngest went to kindergarten. I did, and now it's time for the next step in life. To be honest, I do perform better when I'm adhering to a fixed, regular schedule.

Then, there's the part of me who is nervous about juggling graduate studies with a full-time job. I've always felt sorry for my classmates, most of whom are full-time teachers trying to get homework done while finishing their lesson plans, too. Still, I should be grateful that as an aid, I will not have such a significant work-load. I don't even have to be at school on teacher in-service days or anything.

There are so many questions and ideas and plans rolling around in my head these days, I can hardly sleep. Monday--my first day on the job--will be here soon. I feel like there's so much to do to get ready!