iCate

laid off and learning to love it… my journey from corporate sprinter to life marathoner

sahm: a year in rewind 01/22/2011

Filed under: General — ccatet @ 3:09 pm

has it really been almost a year since i posted a blog? gosh, where does the time go? wait, i know… it was a tough year, probably one of the hardest ones i have had. first, i lost a good friend, my maternal grandmother to old age. then i spent the better part of the remaining year struggling with a medical issue, only to end the year with no real answers. overall, it was a year with too much stress and anxiety, thankfully, none of it stemming from my beautiful children and amazing husband. i try not to wish time away, but i was grateful to kiss 2010 goodbye! i am ready for a new year!

i typically don’t make resolutions, but i do believe in learning new things. this year, as a family we have decided that we will read new books, go new places, try new foods, play new sports, and continue to learn new things. with a 4Y and 2Y, and an insatiably curious husband, i have no doubt i will learn a lot this year too, probably without trying too hard.

 

sahm: the monthly meal plan 02/01/2010

Filed under: Saving Money — ccatet @ 11:38 pm

it seemed a little too planful when i first heard about it on the 5dollardinner blog, but i was intrigued by the monthly meal plan idea. last summer, i had done a weekly plan but it seemed as though we were spending more money than we needed to. i also found that there was not enough flexibility to change things around if a last-minute outing came up. to top it off, i was always reworking the plan… and it was only meant to cover a week!

some people might think we’re crazy, but doing a monthly meal plan has actually reduced my daily/weekly stress about meals, simplified planning around weekly shopping, reduced food expenses and also contributed to greater variety and enjoyment around cooking in the house.

taking into account the stockpile concept, monthly meal planning is actually not too ridiculous. tp be honest, it does take 1-2 months to build up a stockpile big enough to even think about a monthly meal plan. but once you have the stash of dry goods and enough go-to recipes, you realize how much flexibility it can offer.

most weeks when i shop, i am only after produce and dairy to accommodate whatever is on the meal plan for that week, then i stock up on any great deals that are available.

i admit that we flip the plan around a fair amount during the month. i am human… and often forget to thaw pre-cooked dishes, run out of key ingredients, or decide to run errands in the evening and stop somewhere for dinner instead. the beauty of the monthly meal plan is that it’s soooooo easy to swap a planned future meal for tonight’s meal. when this happens, i also make sure any missing ingredients get on next week’s grocery list!

and yes, we do repeat meals. 3 of 4 family members eat pizza happily and we plan that for 1-2 times a month. one day, we will all eat pizza – i just KNOW it! also, when one parent is gone for dinner, which is at least once a week, the remaining members usually have cold cereal (with 20 boxes of cereal in the stockpile, you would too!) finally, my kids love pancakes. if everything else goes out the window, we make pancakes, turkey sausage and fruit. i can only hope that one day my kids will eat eggs!

a monthly meal plan works for us and i plan to stick with it. i love how organized our meal planning is and how little i worry about feeding my family of four. we do this on a small budget which is pretty amazing to me. however, what would be even more amazing is if the meal cooked itself. if anyone has a tip on that, i am all ears.

 

sahm: mama wants a new dress (or two) 01/23/2010

Filed under: General — ccatet @ 10:40 pm

sure, i bought a wedding dress less than 5 years ago. but since then, nada on the dresses. oh wait, i did buy a cute gap maternity dress that was extremely functional, at the time. who knows where that thing is now… i gave it away, or sold it. my point is that i am not a girl who typically wears dresses. i prefer yoga pants and dri-fit tees, jeans and sweaters, track pants and fleece zip ups.

yet lately, i see all the spring dresses coming out and i long for a beautiful dress. i have no idea why.

my brother is getting married this year and i am thrilled for him. he also asked me to stand up for him which in the world of siblings is pretty amazing and wonderful. this is especially true for us since we used to beat the crap out of each other. we had a love/hate thing going on for most of our young lives. when he moved within 20 minutes of my family a few years ago, it was nothing short of fabulous.

i have decided that his wedding and the reception (which will be held in another place on a different date) are the perfect occasions to buy pretty dresses.

for me.

wow – does that mean i will get two dresses this year? i am chomping at the bit to start looking.

and the shoes? i am salivating at the thought.

i have already decided that i will be saving my pennies for this. i will focus on design and fit versus cost and coupons. this will be hard considering most days i am laser locked on savings.

secretly, i have a feeling it will be very easy to spend a lot of money, even just for a moment.

but i can do it. i am up for the challenge.

 

sahm: mama’s night out 01/18/2010

Filed under: Daddy,Parenting,SAHM Choice — ccatet @ 9:41 pm

a few months ago, I was in a rut. although my kids were happy, my husband was happy, our budget was on track, the house was clean and organized, and we had plentiful friends and playdates – unfortunately, i was not really happy. for several weeks i wracked my brain but i could not figure out why.

then it hit me. when was the last time i left the house and spent time alone with a friend? TOO LONG. in fact, when i realized it had been a long time, i looked at the calendar and noticed it had been almost 6 weeks. SIX WEEKS without quality time with a friend. how had i let it happen?

oh, but life got in the way.

being the type A that i am, i knew if i didn’t schedule/dedicate a time to getting out, perhaps once a week, i would never do it and time would continue to pass me by. i love being with my family – the four of us. but i was torn by the need to breathe, slow down, be with friends and feel like something other than a mama for a few hours.

i picked a day that seemed good for my husband’s schedule. for planning purposes, we agreed this would be “daddy-night” every week: he would take care of the kids and i would leave sometime after 5pm to either have dinner or coffee with a friend, run errands or just go somewhere and relax by myself. in my excitement, i immediately sent a few emails to get some “dates” on my calendar. i never looked back.

it’s been over three months and i reflect back on the time i have spent with these amazing friends with a great deal of happiness. they make me laugh, cry and keep me connected to the world with something other than facebook. everyone is busy and i appreciate their friendship and time now more than ever since i am a bit isolated in my new world. however, i am a better mom when i can make the time to do something for myself.

i have some sahm friends who never get away from their kids and rarely take time for themselves. to each his own, but that is not me. not only do i want my kids to see that it’s alright for me to go spend time with friends, but i also want them to know that their daddy is fully capable of caring for them. he seems to enjoy this time with them an enormous amount which makes me love him even more, if that’s possible.

sahms don’t get a break: we’re always on. we also have the same challenge as moms who work out of the home in that there are never enough hours in the day. i never understood this until i became a sahm after working outside of the home for several years. even now, i am NEVER caught up on EVERYTHING, but i don’t know many moms who are. such is life with little ones.

however, later this week when i go out, i will have dinner with a good friend whose company i really enjoy. thankfully, i will forget all about the things i am behind on… at least for a few hours.

 

sahm: coupon intimacy 01/10/2010

Filed under: Organization,Saving Money,Stockpile — ccatet @ 11:00 pm

i am often asked where i find the time to organize myself and my coupons to maximize our savings. here’s my secret: coupon intimacy. i seriously know my coupons inside and out… of the binder. yes, i am a nerd: i have a coupon binder, fancied after one i saw put together by a fellow (albeit much more active) blogger. click here to check out her version.

putting the damn thing together was a big time investment and medium cost investment: searching for and buying materials, creating categories and labels, and finally, getting the coupons in. i spent about 3 hours and $50 completing these tasks before i was pseudo-functional.

now comes the maintenance: i try to take 45-60 minutes every week to maintain the binder: pulling out last week’s ads, reviewing the new week’s ads, removing expired coupons, sorting and filing any new coupons, and finally making my list. if i have time, i go back and look for price matching opportunities for items on my list. most weeks, i am lucky to get these tasks completed prior to my shopping trip. usually my daughter is belly-flopping on the coupon stacks or my son is asking which coupons he can have. i want to scream, “NONE!” i do restrain myself and typically give him a few expired coupons to play with, which he loves.

overall, i do the best i can with the time i have. what i have learned in almost 9 months of living with a coupon binder is that the most important thing is coupon intimacy. if i have only a few minutes, i have to know my coupons. if i don’t know what’s in that binder, i cannot save.

at a minimum, this means that i take the time to see what coupons i have (plus the ones that just came in the paper) and compare them to what is on sale in the store ads. when making my list, i aim to purchase items that fall into the sweet spot: where they are on sale and we have a coupon. over time, i have been able to build a mental list of “buy prices” for every item. often when i get to the store, i stumble on unadvertised sales. if i know what coupons i have, i can easily determine if the cost is at or below my buy price and make a quick decision on whether to buy.

the beauty of the coupon binder is that you can drop it entirely for a few weeks if you run out of time (or just need a break) and pick it right back up when you’re ready to invest the time again. i have not had to walk away yet, but it’s nice to know it’s possible.

also, my husband is verbally appreciative of the time i invest with the binder. i know he recognizes the financial benefits and reaps the rewards when i stumble on a good deal for him (usually peanut butter or gatorade). however, he would prefer that i keep the binder out of the bedroom… too much competition.

 

sahm: preschool days 01/04/2010

Filed under: Laid Off,Parenting,SAHM Choice — ccatet @ 10:00 pm

one would think that preschool would be no big deal for someone who put their child in daycare starting at 12 weeks of age, right? wrong. even though he attended full time until he was 27 months old (and i became unemployed), this adventure feels very different.

when i was laid off last year, i quickly sought out a preschool for my son to try to keep him socially engaged. however, i could not find one for kids under 3. i found an “early 3” program but he couldn’t start until january 2010… so i completed an early enrollment in my excitement and wondered where life would lead us in 2010.

since then, i have grown quite fond of spending the days with my two kids. i like our slow, easy mornings. i also like our playdates and new friends. i like letting them relax and explore whatever appeals to them on the days where we have no plans. as the snow fell this morning, it was stamps and ink pads followed by building the tallest cushion tower ever (which of course the kids had to tumble down)!

when november 2009 rolled around, i had to make a final decision on enrollment. i hemmed and hawed. i cried to my husband: i could not imagine being away from my son and would miss him too much! my husband reminded me that it was only two hours, two days a week. plus, it would give our son a chance to learn new things and give me solo time with my baby girl. i took a deep breath, signed all the papers and mailed in our payment.

next week is his first day. guaranteed, i will be the one crying.

the big difference to me is that he is now a walking, talking, potty-using preschooler. he has grown into an observant, loving and articulate little guy who i love spending the day with. i have to remind myself that preschool is not daycare. yes, he will learn new things but thankfully in a small class with a low key setting. also, he will still get to share the majority of the day with his sis and i – for which i am extremely thankful.

he must know change is coming. tonight as i carried him into his room, he whispered, “thank you for taking care of me, mommy.”

i miss him already.

 

sahm: working all the time 11/06/2009

Filed under: Laid Off,Parenting,SAHM Choice — ccatet @ 11:40 pm

since i was laid off in february, we have done pretty well getting our family onto a tight budget. no major missteps. however, a few months ago i realized i had fallen short in the “me” category. i found it hard to justify money in the budget for any splurges for me, including dinners out, coffee on-the-go, and my haircuts and color. my gray hair was taking over!

i review job postings regularly and try to stay connected overall. until something fantastic came up in the full-time category, my goal was to find a part-time job that let me work from home while the kids slept: before they woke up, during naps and in the evening as needed. something legit. i did not quite think it was possible.

as fate would have it, something fantastic fell in my lap with all of the above criteria. i started in july and hence, have much less time for this blog. 🙂 however, it pays me – this blog does not! plus, the work keeps my brain moving differently than singing Christmas songs and playing at the local park does.

the content is mildly entertaining, the people i work with are normal and the pay is good. i also never have to deal with office bureaucracy – something i will never miss. however, since i do not have to dress up for work anymore, i do sometimes miss cute shoes. (sigh)

anyways, we use my pay for extras and will fund Christmas entirely with it. i pick up a latte every once in a while with no remorse, save a portion for my retirement, pay for things like the zoo membership, and treat the kids to lunch every few weeks when i think they (and i) can manage through dining out without daddy. this mainly happens when i start to crave first watch…. YUM… first watch.

most sahms i know seem to work FOR PAY in some way – they own a small business, work a few hours out of the home after their spouse is home, etc. it’s not for everyone, as it pretty much means you never slow down and always have something to be doing. i am more productive when i am busy, so it has been alright for the most part. however, it has its challenges too. i am managing pretty well but often have to remind myself to prioritize the work behind the important things.

i am sad for those people who put work ahead of the important things. i was that person once and i hated the feeling that my family was coming behind work. i will never be that person again. even if the shoes were really cute…