Sunday, March 24, 2013

10 Ways the Family Changes When One Chic Mom Returns to Work

These two questions were posed to me by my sons, independent of each other on back-to-back days: "So Mom, will you have to work all summer like you've worked all winter?" Yes. "You'll be around all summer right? They won't make you work will they?" No, Unlike you my new job does not take a summer vacation. I could see them pondering whether or not this was a good thing or not. Free reign of the house, but no rides to friend's houses, the pool, or basketball camp.

In my mind summer remains far off because my yard is still buried under a couple feet of snow. Perhaps I'm in denial, but I have a difficult time imagining summer and three children at home for most of the work week. This will be another phase of adjustment following the past three months of family adjustments when I started working four days a week.

Here are 10 ways my family changed since this chic mom returned to work:
  1. Make Your Bed or Risk Critters Crawling Between the Sheets. All my years at home meant that I usually was the one who made the beds. Not anymore. The children must make their own beds in the morning, and there is an added incentive: critters. If you make your bed, the dog is less likely to curl up on your pillow and any random box elder beetles and ladybugs coming out of hiding for the winter are less likely to crawl around on your sheets.
  2. Forgot Your Homework? Too Bad. Tough love and no other option. If you forgot an assignment at home or left a textbook at school, Mom is not around to bail you out anymore. 
  3. Want Cheezits or Frosted Animal Crackers? Add it to the Target List. My new job gives me Fridays off, and that day fills up with errands like the weekly grocery run to Target. The family keeps a running list of what we need. The kids have learned if Flavor Blasted Goldfish are not on the list, they are not coming home from Target.
  4. Empty Your Pockets. I'm notorious for not checking every pocket before putting a pair of dirty jeans into the washing machine, and I've washed (and ruined) far too many electronic devices. We tried to get the kids to to their own laundry but that is a work in process. Now that I have even less time for fun household chores like laundry, I don't even bother to empty out pockets. Remove the iPhone or face the consequences.
  5. Take a Cab If You Miss Your Bus. A couple of days a week my 14-year old son must get himself and his 10-year old brother out of the house by themselves in the morning. My husband travels to Washington, DC for work, and I am usually at work when the school bus arrives. Missing the bus is not an option. However calling a cab and paying for it with your own money is a good incentive to watch the clock.
  6. If It's Not on the Calendar, It's Not Happening. Calendars now rule my life. In addition to the huge wall calendar near the phone, I now use a Google calendar to keep tabs on both my home and work life. Unless an event, practice, or appointment is entered onto these calendars it will not happen. Life is planned down to the minute especially during the school week. If only someone other than me would figure out how to use the calendars!
  7. Independence Is a Good Thing. This applies mainly to the 10-year old. You don't need your Mom around to help you with your homework, nag you to take a shower, remind you to brush your teeth, or clean up the mess you left after playing X-Box in the basement with your friends. Growing up just is not easy is it?
  8. Let the 16-Year Old Drive. My daughter received her driver's license a few months ago and now is technically and legally able to drive her brothers around. Problem is that she is not always willing to drive her brothers around . . . too much snow and ice, too tired, I don't know where your friend lives, my hair is wet, etc. Excuses will fall flat this summer when she is the only driver at home and the snow has finally melted.
  9. Walking the Dog Is Not Negotiable. Our poor Cairn terrier has had the biggest adjustment. There is no one home during the day to play with him, let him outside to chase random trash trucks, or to take him on a long walk. He sulked around the house and tried to ignore me for the first few weeks of my job. I think I've finally been forgiven. Someone is required to walk the dog or at the very least let him outside before leaving the house for the day. He has been forgotten on occasion, but luckily he has very strong bladder muscles and avoided any accidents.
  10. Just Let It Go. This is the most difficult change for me, but easiest for everyone else. Letting it go means leaving behind the dirty breakfast dishes in the sink, not having a perfectly clean house, slogging your way through the mounds of dirty laundry littering the laundry room floor by Wednesday night, living with a stinky dog who really needs a bath, or eating far too much pizza, tacos, and pasta for dinner. I have a hard time letting it all go especially when it comes to the food and eating a somewhat healthy dinner before running off to baseball practice. Fast food is not an option!
Somehow everyone is actually adjusting to the new way of life, even the dog.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Knives, Bowling Balls, and the TSA

I'm sure you have all heard that as of April 25, 2013 the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) will allow passengers to bring knives onto planes in a carry-on bag. This complete reversal from 9-11 security policy does not surprise me. This recent policy change is actually right in line with TSA's inconsistent security procedures.

According to the TSA, knives with blades no longer than 2.36" and no wider than 1/2" are now allowed inside airliner cabins. Despite the fact that knives (specifically box cutters) took down three planes on 9-11 and most air travelers have a stigma in their mind that knives and planes don't mix, the TSA is allowing knives. I've discovered two main reasons why the TSA will permit knives on planes:

  1. A knife can no longer take down a plane because the cockpit is locked and the pilots will not open the door for any reason. 
  2. Allowing knives in carry-on luggage will free up more time for TSA screeners to look for explosives.
Both viable reasons if you are a TSA bureaucrat and not the random flyer. I fall into the latter category and do not buy into these reasons.

First even a short, dull knife can do major damage. Has the TSA never watched the movie 127 Hours? In his best "You know Mom" voice, my teenage son filled me in on the many ways you can kill a person with a pocket knife. Secondly perhaps the TSA should look at and talk to the people going through the security line instead of searching for non-existent explosives lodged in elderly grandmother's hips or tucked in a 9-year old boy's socks. Can you tell I've had a few too many TSA-related travel incidents on my occasional travels?

TSA security policy does confuse me, and I would love an explanation why certain items are not considered a security threat. In the United States a passenger can bring onto a plane the following assortment of items: knitting needles (the long steel ones, not just plastic), ice skates (talk about a sharp blade with a serrated edge), hockey and lacrosse sticks, small baseball bats, two golf clubs (one for each hand), and bowling balls.

Don't you think that any one of these items could cause bodily harm or create chaos on an airplane if they were used by a passenger as a weapon? I don't know all that much about airline security policy, but I know I would not want to face someone wielding a hockey skate or lacrosse stick! The TSA seems more concerned with keeping airplanes in the air than with passenger and flight attendant safety in the cabin.

Tomorrow the TSA chief John Pistole is scheduled to testify before the House Homeland Security Committee in Washington? I will be interested in hearing his logic when he defends the return of knives on airplanes.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Snow Hype

Do you get this where you live as well? The National Weather Service issues a Winter Storm Warning, and the Weather Channel latches onto the warning, giving the snowstorm some ridiculous name like Nemo. (I guess this one is Saturn.) Then the local networks grab the blizzard ball, and before you know it your local grocery store is sold out of milk, bread, and toilet paper. I expect this in Washington, DC but not really in the Midwest. However Minneapolis-St. Paul media is also guilty of exploiting the weather and hyping snow.

The forecast was 12 inches last night with 5 inches of snow falling today. My part of the Twin Cities received a dusting. Oddly enough my husband's iPhone Weather Channel app and my Weather Channel website gave two vastly different snow forecasts for our Minnesota town. We were only sitting two feet away from each other, but my snowstorm totals from my Mac were a mere 3 inches compared to his phone app reading from the couch—10 inches. How could Hugo, Minnesota have two separate snow totals from the same source? Hugo is not THAT big.

The winter storm may finally be starting up tonight as I see a bit of accumulation, and the dog came in covered in fresh snow. Snow hype does get viewers and sends the snow weary Minnesotans onto their smart phones in search of the latest forecast. Now that it is the 21st Century and meteorologists have all the latest technology, wouldn't you think the Weather Channel could at least provide an accurate snowstorm forecast? Foregoing snow hype must be difficult to give up, but we always seem to fall for it.