Thursday, May 5, 2016

For the days when you just can't...

It has been busy lately. Too say the least.

I have two kids graduating (you cannot imagine how much momming goes into a 5th grade promotion), two jobs, several volunteer positions, an event to plan, a dog, a cat, and six chickens. They're all vying for my attention. Plus my entire family is coming to visit in just a couple of weeks and my living room is only a quarter painted. My husband does his best to help me keep my sanity, but there is only so much he can do. He works full time, and the status of my sanity is pretty fluid anyway. My kids help too. They do the dishes, take out the trash, and pick up their dirty socks. They would also tell you they clean their own rooms. I would tell you that they try.

Even with the help of my family, I am the one at home all day. By default, this means that I am the one stuck in the chaos. And most of the time, I have to tell you, I just can't. I seriously cannot. I have absolutely no can left. With normal daily life and a couple of work-at-home type jobs combined with my inherent laziness, I am looking for some ways to cut corners. To lighten the load. To be able to not rush out to the grocery every evening or feel like I'm going to be swallowed whole by an overflowing laundry hamper.

If I'm looking for the corners to cut, and I'm in my house all day, I can only imagine what parents who have jobs outside the house feel like; who can't throw in a load of laundry between calls; who work until 5 or 6 and still have to have dinner ready before soccer or ballet.

After some extensive research (5 minutes on Google), I have found some things I think will make life easier. And, because I'm a helluva gal, I've decided I will test them out so you don't have to.

Worst case scenario: I will know better than to cut corners in the future.

Best case scenario: I will provide myself and other stressed out parents a few precious minutes of downtime.

 AMAZON FRESH: I'm not really sure what I've been doing with my life that has not involved Amazon Fresh. I'm not really sure at all. So many wasted days...

Basically, Amazon Fresh is an offshoot of Amazon Prime. For a Prime Fresh membership, it will run you $299 for the year. But they like to tell you it's something like $3.84 per week in addition to your annual Prime payment. Isn't it cute how they do that? Normally, I would laugh heartily at that price point and keep scrolling, but, guys, desperate times...and also, FREE MONTH TRIAL! They got me with that one free month. I love free junk almost as much as I love lasagna. I set up an alarm on my phone notifying me when to cancel my membership (Yes. I am that cheap.), and started shopping.

Right off the bat, I could tell that I had found my happy place. Browsing the virtual aisles of this grocery store from the comfort of my sofa with a sleeping baby on my chest? YES PLEASE. EVERY DAY. My goal was to get all the non-perishable things I need for the upcoming weekend, and to spend no more than I would at Ralph's. It was very easy to find everything, even the same brands I use, either through the search bar or scrolling through the different departments. The way the site is set up, it is actually difficult not to find (more than) what you are looking for.

I double checked my cart, and discovered that if you spend $40 or more, delivery is free. Who doesn't spend more than $40 per grocery trip? I spent $67 this time around. About $20 less than I anticipated spending at Ralph's. Not too shabby. I saved 20 bucks and never had to leave my living room!

On to booking my delivery time. Since I was a rookie, I didn't realize that you could set your delivery date/time before you start shopping. I highly recommend doing this. You set your time, and they give you 60 minutes to shop. Because I didn't check, I had no idea that there weren't any available times left for today. So much for instant gratification. I set my delivery time between 10am and 1pm tomorrow, and reminded myself that patience is a virtue. But, ughhh. Patience is hard.

All in all, this shopping trip took me about 10 minutes start to finish. That includes the time I took to start my free trial. When I factor in the time it takes me to drive, shop, wait at the register staring blankly at Kardashian headlines, drive home, and unload the car, I'm estimating this saved me about 50 minutes. 50 beautiful minutes. That's nearly an hour of bonus sweatpants time!

I can't imagine that I will ever pay $299 annually for this service, but for a crazy month like this one is turning into, it is absolutely worth the $3.84 per week.

SAUCEY APP: Have you ever had one of those days where you have baby vomit in your hair, no clean pants, a dirty dish mountain forming in your sink, your kids look like they're reenacting Lord of the Flies, and there is not one drop of wine in your house?

No? Neither have I. Because I always have my shit together. But if I ever did have one of those days, I would think that Saucey was created exclusively for me. Some kindred spirit in a mom group brought this service to my attention, and I thought it needed further investigation. You know, just in case my shit isn't together one day.

You can download Saucey for Android or iPhone. You can even use the link above and order from your home computer. Enter your zip to make sure you are in the delivery area, then start shopping!

First you click the cool little icon representing what type of booze you're looking for. They have everything. I am serving swordfish for dinner, so I shopped in the white wine. From what I can tell, it's safe to say you'll be over charged by as much as $5/bottle. I expected that. We'll call it a convenience fee. They have to make money... The nice part is that if you reach a certain dollar amount, I believe it's $35.00, delivery is free.

They have a "mixers" section too. As I have forgotten to buy ginger beer the last 89348574 trips I've made to the grocery, I took a look for that as well. And limes. Because a Moscow Mule doesn't sound too shabby. They had both, and so much more. Marg salt, pre-mixed concoctions, maraschino cherries. They even sell ping pong balls and Solo cups for all you classy broads.

I hit a little glitch about this time. I'm not going to lie. This very easily could have been user error. The first few times I proceeded to checkout, it emptied my shopping cart and I had to start over. Annoying, but not a deal breaker. I was only getting 3 things so it didn't take long to refill the cart.

After you checkout, Saucey sends you a text letting you know your delivery will be there within the hour. They also give you a play by play of the action through the app...
Roshawn is on the way, guys!

The only notes I have on this otherwise flawless service are that you can't place an order before 4pm, so do not expect emergency mimosa deliveries for your 11am brunch, and there is no information on the site regarding a tip. Because this is a delivery service with a local driver, not a shipping service like UPS, I think tipping is the way to go. In fact, I am of the mind that only savages and Trump supporters fail to tip people in the service industry. You choose your own path, but know I will be silently judging you if you stiff Roshawn.

I have more services set up for the future, but it would be insane for me to try everything in 2 days. I have thoughts on Ubereats vs. Grub Hub and EAT24. I will also be utilizing a cleaning service after I find out who will give me the best price to restore my home to its former glory (former like before we moved in). I have to tell you, for the price, even that $99 topless maid van is in the running...if only I believed they actually cleaned anything.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Try Something New 2016

Every year, leading up to my birthday, I try something new. It is my way of proving to myself that I'm not too old for new experiences. Also, it keeps me from being bored and/or boring. This year, my Try Something New has had me living on pins and needles for nearly the last two months.

In February, I heard about this show called Listen to Your Mother. They were looking for stories about moms, being one, or having one. I jotted the information down on the back page of something important in the pink binder I have become physically attached to, and decided this was it. My Try Something New. I scheduled my audition before I could think better of it, then I set out to write the perfect story.

Only there wasn't a perfect story. So I wrote a few okayish stories instead.

One was awful. (You will never read that one. It has since been lost to the abyss that is my MacBook's trashcan. But it used words like 'meconium' so we should all be ok with that decision.) One made me cry every time I read it. I ruled that one out through choked back sobs. One was about my kids doing basic kid things. It wasn't Shakespeare, but it was about being a mom. Good enough.

I write things all the time. People read the things I write all the time. Granted, they're usually reading them in the form of a school newsletter, but they read them nonetheless. So, I shouldn't have been nervous about reading this non-Shakespearean mom story to a couple of people. And I wasn't. At all. Because 'nervous' doesn't come close to the level of gut-wrenching, soul-crushing anxiety I felt that day. Nervous doesn't even live in the same galaxy.

I thought that would be it. My Try Something New. My goal had been to audition. And I did. I was so confident that I wasn't going to hear back, that I celebrated the conquering of my fear, my successful Try Something New, and worked to put it out of my head.

A week later, I was busy working and received an email that stopped me dead. "CONGRATULATIONS!" was as far as I read before my eyes started to tear. Was I excited? Terrified? Going to vomit? The answer was yes. At first I contemplated the very real possibility that a mistake had been made. Perhaps there were two Joannas? But more details followed. There was no mistake. I had somehow tricked those directors into thinking I was a competent person. They had faith in me. They complemented me. An early April Fool's joke? Probably. But they just kept including me in emails, then the table read, and the rehearsal. They even put my name on the flyers and programs. Nobody said "April Fool's!" so I kept going along with it.
It wasn't until yesterday that I truly realized my Try Something New had morphed into Try Participating in a Nationwide Show Which has Included Actual, Real Live, Published Writers like Jenny Lawson. (YOU GUYS. I LOVE JENNY LAWSON.) It was too late to run and hide somewhere in the desert. Besides, I don't like being hot, and my family would just use Find My iPhone to locate me. I had to go through with it.

So, there I was. Standing backstage with a group of fantastically talented people. Trying to convince them (and myself) that I was not there by mistake. Trying to quiet the loud voice in my head that kept screaming "IMPOSTER!!" Trying not to barf. I refreshed my insane looking make-up, sprayed a smelly powder something in my hair, and steeled myself up to face the audience.

Me before the show, looking awkward in a dress. With several of the fantastically talented people mentioned above (Juanita Mantz, Angela Riggs, Patricia Willson, Ashley Alteman), who look decidedly less awkward.
Then it was my turn. Just me. On stage. All by myself. Alone. I temporarily forgot how to read. Took a breath. Remembered. Then, just like that, it was over.

For two months I've thought about that moment. I've panicked on it. I've faked confidence. I've even pictured myself contracting some terrible illness that would keep me bed bound the night of the performance. Two months of preoccupation and worry instantly replaced with relief, and an amount of pride that almost embarrasses me.
Me immediately after leaving the stage. This is 'relief' personified. Not a single worry in the world.
I did it. With my friends and family there watching, I slipped on some heels and jumped outside my comfort zone. So far outside that by the end of the night I was even hugging strangers. (That's correct. I let people in my hula hoop. On purpose.) It was a Try Something New I won't forget as long as I live. And I can't wait for an opportunity to do it all over again. Barfs and all.

Thanks to Suzanne, Taia, and every one of you who gave me kind words and encouragement leading up to last night. Especially those of you who gave me Snickers bars. I'll never find the words to be able to express what your support means to me. So, I'll just say thank you, and thank you again, until you get tired of hearing it. Thank you.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

SBAC Testing a mom's last nerve

I wrote this about a year ago. My feelings on testing have changed very little in the time since. I still don't blame the teachers or the administration for the testing or for stressing its importance. I'm not naive enough to think that school scores and funding happen without taking SBAC test scores into consideration. The only thing that has changed in the year since I wrote this is me; my willingness to put my kids through the stress again, my failure to do something about it. So? I'm not going to deal with it this year. At all.

I'll be opting my kids out of testing this time around. I have no idea what they will be doing while their classmates are in testing sessions. Reading? Drawing? Sitting in the office? No clue at all. But, I do know they won't be having nervous tummies or worries about college.

I don't for one second even pretend to know what is best for your child, what pressure they can take, what is too much for them, but if your kids are like mine, and the testing is too much, I want you to know that it's not hard to opt out. I was a little intimidated by the idea of it at first, but after asking around, I discovered all I had to do was send a note. Our district asked for our principal's name, student name and grade, testing year, parent or guardian's name, and a signature. That's it. That's all it cost me....

April 14, 2015

Before anyone jumps to any conclusions reading this, I will say first and unequivocally: I love my children's teachers. I love their schools. I really do. And in the words of mothers everywhere, I'm not mad, I'm just disappointed.

As far as I'm concerned, we hit the educational lottery. The teachers in our schools are wonderful. The administration is supportive. They have always seemed to really understand the children (and the parents) they are serving. But then, Common Core and the subsequent standardized testing happened.

It's not their fault Common Core happened. It's not their fault that it wasn't introduced incrementally, or you know, in any sane kind of way. It's not their fault that they haven't received funding to buy all the new materials and books they need to implement it successfully. And it's definitely not their fault that after only one year of Common Core curriculum, our kids are being subjected to week-long standardized tests that they don't understand, and are almost guaranteed to bomb.

None of that is their fault. I understand that.

This is the second week of testing in our house since each grade tests during a different week. We went through it with Child Number One, and this is the first day for Child Number Two. I have approached this round of tests with an extremely laid back attitude. It's not because I don't care about their success. It's because THESE TESTS DO NOT MATTER. Our state has decided not to hold our schools accountable for test scores this year, so I have decided not to hold my children accountable for test scores this year.

Now, mind you, we are still doing the early bed time thing and healthy breakfast thing...blah, blah, blah...but I am not stressing the importance of the exam. Because, again, IT IS NOT IMPORTANT.

Which leads me to the focus of my disappointment: Knowing that this test means nothing, why are we still stressing the importance of THE TEST. Both of my kids were under the belief that colleges will look at their results. Are they actually supposed to think that their futures depend on doing a great job on dragging and dropping sentences, and clicking 'submit,' or 'next,' or whatever? That essentially they will be judged for their performance on this exam for as many as the next eight years??

No pressure kids!

At first, when this story came home to me in the form of a 13 year old boy, I thought maybe the educator who delivered the message was trying to prep them for high school. Maybe precedents were being set for things like the SATs, ACTs, or that California High School Exit Exam thing. So, I just reassured my kid that no college will care at all how he did on this particular test, then I let it go. Until my daughter woke up for school on Monday.

She was flustered and anxious. "Mom! I have to eat a good breakfast. I need to be my best! Testing starts today!" I told her the same things I told her brother, that she should always try to do her best, but this test really isn't the kind of thing we need to get upset about. My reassurances seemed to fall on deaf ears. I couldn't figure out why, until her friend came to walk to school with us. The nervous energy was palpable. There were even upset tummies. That's when I was told "colleges will look at this test!"

You've got to be freaking kidding me.

I couldn't really say what I wanted because I was talking to kids. I couldn't tell those two 10-year-olds that colleges will give exactly zero f***s about how they did on a test in 4th grade, but I did my best to convince them that they have plenty of years to worry about college. 4th grade is definitely not one of those years.

I don't think teachers have given the kids this impression on purpose. I don't even believe they actually said the words "colleges look at this test." I have no question that there was some adult to kid language that was lost in translation. I'm sure something like "when you're in high school, this is one of the tests that colleges will look at." was said to the kids, but they heard "if you don't do a great job on this test, you won't get into college." I am absolutely certain it was a misunderstanding. But it was two misunderstandings, at two different schools, with two different educators. That makes me think that aside from a misunderstanding, it might also just be a dumb thing to say to kids.

I am not against motivating children, and I believe they do need to know that there are natural consequences for not doing your best. However, I would contend that kids are stressed out enough already without our piling on. That is one arena where they really don't need our help at all. They have pressure to make fantastic grades, maintain their extra-curriculars, and play on sports teams that are ridiculously competitive. They have parental pressures and social stressors that, as children, we would never have been able to imagine.

My kids are perfectionists. They take things very seriously. They put so much pressure on themselves that sometimes it scares me for them. I love my kids' teachers. I know that nobody did anything intentionally to freak them out. No one needs to feel badly or apologize. I don't even think it needs to be mentioned again. In fact, that's more my point.

I would love it if we (all of the people who impact a child's life, parents and teachers alike) would calm down a little. Tone down the rhetoric. Let them play in the dirt without worrying what a college might think about it. That's as much a reminder for myself as it is for anyone else. I want the best, the most, and the greatest for my kids always. I want them to have everything. Everything except a prescription for Zoloft.