Wednesday, April 26, 2017

4/25/17- The Daycare

Choosing a daycare was a difficult decision for Bobby and I (I don't think most parents are like, yes, I do want to hand my child over to a stranger).  But as parents who needed, and wanted, to work outside the home, we had to choose childcare for Jack.  We didn't have family nearby who were able and capable to watch Jack, or else family would have been our first choice.  My mom really wanted to watch Jack, but she has such bad arthritis and prone to falling.  Telling her thanks, but no thanks, that was painful, but the right safety decision.

Some people are able to ask a friend, and we kind of had that option.  We have a friend who watches a couple of other children, but she lives 20-30 minutes away from home and work. She's really awesome, and if it wasn't for that pesky location thing, she would be Jack's caregiver while we work. We also know a stay-at-home dad who was willing to, but again, location, location, location! So the friend option was out.

It was on to finding an in-home daycare or a daycare center. We choose a daycare center.  Look, I know a couple of people that have lucked out with a stranger who runs a daycare out of their home (it was based on friend's or friend of friend's recommendation).  But I just could not put Jack into a home where I did not know the person before hand.  Fault me for having trust issues, but my comfort level of leaving Jack with complete strangers was at a facility that had tons of other adults, kids, and the occasional state inspector.  Just because my level of comfort was with a state inspected daycare center doesn't mean it has to be yours-- it's cool if we have different comfort levels, and this will sound hippy, dippy, but your instinct on which daycare is right for you, it will be there. Just trust it.

So Bobby and I went from daycare to daycare center within a five mile radius while I was 32 weeks pregnant, interviewing the directors and teachers of each facility.  That might seem really early to some people, but daycares in our neighborhood, especially ones that take infants, fill up fast.  Plus Jack came 4 weeks early, so that moved up our need date for a daycare.  If you're new to this finding a daycare or preschool thing, then talk to some other friends that have kids and that live in your town/city.  You'll get a feel for 1) what the various daycares are like and 2) when you need to start looking and register.

Happy Jack at Time Tutor; picture text messages during the work day are the best!

So Bobby and I got the good feels off of 2 places.  There was a 3rd where the infant teachers seemed great, but the preschool teachers, not so much.  We definitely wanted a place that Jack could grow at and potentially graduate preschool from there (nope, not even thinking of when he goes to kindergarten; he still has 2.5 years; he's still a baby, la,la,la). When interviewing in-home caregivers or daycare centers, we used a list to ask questions about the centers' rules and practices. I can't find that list now, but this one from Child Care Aware is similar.  So these 2 places both checked off most of the questions on the list, and we overall liked these 2 places.

One, let's call it Horizons Bright, I liked slightly more, but it was way more than what we wanted to pay.  So number 2, let's call it Time Tutor, won out.  Jack's been at Time Tutor for over 2 years now, and he's made some friends, learned some things, and overall seems content.  We like that he gets feed there (we don't have to pack lunches or snacks, which is really nice as a working parent to not stress over what to pack in his lunch), that we can easily talk to the teachers and directors about fixing issues, that he gets to paint, read, tumble, play ground, craft, sing and other learning activities, that they send electronic updates throughout the day (see picture above), that he's made friends, and that he seems content most days there (separation anxiety on both sides comes and goes).

Of course there's been some hiccups.  The first week leaving him there, I was a complete wreck, crying everyday.  Maybe it was more than a week; I don't fully remember at this point. Then one of the aide's was forgetting to write down bottle feedings, so we thought 10 month old Jack wasn't being feed. Let me tell you that we talked to the director about that and that the director fixed that right away.  Then there was the time, around 18 months, that Jack seemed to be picked on by another kid in the one year old class. We also raised concerns about the bullying (not sure what to call it when toddlers terrorize each other), and the kid got moved.  Of course, then there was the time that Jack was the bully (shortly after his bully was moved).  That got addressed too, and happy to say we haven't gotten a biting/punching/pinching report in over a year (knock on wood).

The point of all that no daycare is perfect, but a good daycare knows how to address issues and concerns.  I'm pretty sure 18 month old Jack would be biting me if he stayed home with me. And that he'd be crying at daddy leaving for work/having separation anxiety.  I hear all the stories from friends about their daycare experiences, and they've had their hiccups too. Of course there's a difference between hiccups and big issues that won't get fixed.  For example, forgetting to write down a feeding vs. forgetting feedings (on more than one occasion) is a big issue.  Repeated bullying where the director doesn't address it is a big issue.  Anytime we've had a concern, it's been addressed and fixed. Big issues are hardly ever fixed.

Any daycare provider worth a shark will answer your questions and address your concerns.  If the daycare provider can't calmly talk you through "well, this is kind of normal, but I understand your concern, so let's talk and work through it," then red flag, red flag!  If you have that nagging little voice in the back of your head that it's time to leave, then leave. Sometimes it is hard to know when you're just being a narcotic, sleep deprived parent and when you're right that this place sharks.I think it's when the same concern never leaves your head; that it keeps coming back to you/you keep dwelling on it. I haven't dwelt on any of the above once we talked to the teachers and the issue got fixed.  As Bobby and I kind of get the hang of this parenting thing (I don't think we'll ever have a complete hang of it, haha), we kind of get a better feel for what works.  And to any parent trying to find daycare out there, you will too.  You'll know which kind of daycare works for you and your family.  Your instinct on which daycare is right, it will be there.  You'll just know.

For more clarity and help on the "you'll just know": it will be a warm fuzzy feeling where you can picture your child talking fondly of Ms. Olsen or eating ice cream with grandpa or hugging teacher before leaving or making all kinds of baby friends or painting pictures with his/her tiny hands while your friend/caregiver sings "Wheels on the Bus" and so on.  It's where you can envision your child spending his/her days, growing into a smart and beautiful jellybean and donning that adorable mini-cap and gown for preschool graduation. You'll get a little misty eyed when you have that vision, and you'll know, this is the place. My final thought here: I am so glad that I don't have to look for a daycare anymore (I hope never again, but things can change). No jealousy loss there.  Happy daycare/preschool wishes to us all-- may we all have wonderful daycare/preschool experiences!  

Here's practical advice versus my hippy, dippy "you'll just know":

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

4/19/17- The Proposal

Bobby and I commemorated our 8th wedding anniversary last week with a nice, not much fan fare, lunch at Olive and Ivy.  Our wedding still lives on in infamy with friends and family-- 60 degrees and rain in April in Phoenix really seems to stick in people's heads.   As I look back, I (mostly) remember the proposal; can't really have a wedding without a plan/discussion/proposal to actually get married.  And I found our wedding website, which just happens to have our proposal story.  From my point of view and from Bobby's.  Hope you, dear reader, find it as silly and heart warming as I did!  Happy birthday, Anniversary, Easter to Bobby and I!

*Bobby's Side*
First off, no I'm not one of those guys who proposes at a Cubs game. Although I did think about it.
I first wanted to propose to Suzie while we were just watching TV the night before we left. We spend some good time together on that sofa watching TV and I wanted to make that special. Needless to say, when was the last time you weren't running around all hectic the night before you took a big trip? Yeah, we didn't spend that night just resting and relaxing watching TV. Nope, we spent the night packing.

Instead I thought it would be great to propose to Suzie Saturday night at Navy Pier, on the Ferris Wheel with the fireworks all around. That didn't happen. Suzie wanted to go to Navy Pier during the day, so she could see everything. That's ok, I took the ring anyways. As we started to go up in the Ferris Wheel, she was listening very intently to the audio guided tour of the skyline of Chicago. She loves architecture and was just too into it to interrupt with a silly little proposal.

That's ok, I figured we'll go to a really fancy dinner and I can propose there. Yeah, no. Suziewanted to go to the House of Blues for dinner. Now, if you haven't been, the HoB is nowhere near what anyone would call a dive. However, it ain't fine dining either. And, given my usual demeanor, it would have been fairly out of character for me to protest too much here. So, in the name of keeping it a secret, HoB for dinner it was!

The night was great. We went bowling (classy for sure), had dinner, went to Harry Caray's bar, and had a blast. As the evening wore down, I suggested dessert at the steakhouse down by the Chicago River called Smith and Wollensky's (apparently, it's a chain, but it's nice). It was wonderful, Suzie and I split the coconut cake. Before the cake got there, I excused myself to the "restroom".

Fortunately for me, the restaurant is set up in small rooms, so Suzie didn't see me grab waitress and manager over. I gave the waitress the ring and asked her to slip it in the bill book.
The cake was great! We were engaged in some conversation - of which I can't recall - when the bill was dropped off. Honestly, I was just rambling on and on so that I wouldn't be so nervous. Normally I would reach for the check, but I think Suzie was getting tired of the conversation and grabbed the check. When she opened the bill book, there she noticed the ring.

At first she said, "oh no, some poor woman lost her ring!" I looked and muttered something along the lines that it was a shame.

Now at this point, I had it all planned in my head. As she realized that it was meant for her, I would swoop down to one knee and ask her to marry me. In reality, here's how it went:

Suzie's voice kinda faded off as she stared at the ring and suddenly it dawned on her that the ring was meant for her. Her eyes shot up and in them were big wonderful tears welling up inside, just bursting to frolic and flow down her cheeks in happiness. It was those eyes that got me. Rather than play it cool, I began to choke up too. I could barely spit out the words "Will you marry me?" Those tears in Suzie's eyes got an opportunity to flow after all as she vigorously nodded and smiled, shaking the tears out.

The manager and waitress brought over a very nice bottle of champagne for us to celebrate with, compliments of the house. At first, the tears in both our eyes made him think that things didn't quite work out as I had planned, but we both reassured him that she said "YES!!!"

*Suzie's Side*
Bobby was totally acting weird that day. He kept on insisting we see the fireworks at the Navy Pier. I was like, 1) I've seen fireworks before and 2) we're not doing anything this morning, let's go to the pier. I finally told him, I'm not opposed to seeing the fireworks, so let's see how we feel tonight- if we're up to it or not. Plus, Bobby had been to this town with an ex and they had seen the fireworks I think is what he told me, so I wanted to go do things that he hadn't done before and have firsts with him in this city (and what a first it was!). I had never been to Chi-town and wanted to make it a unique visit for the both of us. So I got my wish to go to the pier in the morning. We rode the Ferris wheel there, and I remember Bobby trying to talk to me during the ride, but I was like, "shhh, I'm trying to listen to the audio tour of the skyline!" I would later feel bad about quieting him as he told me he wanted to pop the question when we were in the Ferris wheel. Of course the way the proposal did happen, I don't think anything else would have been as perfect. But I'll get to that.

He also kept on insisting that we eat dinner at Smith and Wollensky's. I worried about how we can't really afford a place like that. Plus, we were staying at the House of Blues, and I really wanted to check out their restaurant/bar and music. He finally gave up and let me book us a dinner reservation at the House of Blues. Oh my Jeebus, they have the best mac and cheese, and even if it wasn't romantic, it was very good and fun.

After dinner he was like, let's go to the pier for fireworks. I said, but you have never gotten to go to Harry Carry's, and it is just right around the corner. I think I even started walking that way, so Bobby had to follow. I really enjoyed Harry Carry's. The bartenders were totally friendly, the beer was really good, and the company was even better. And I could tell that Bobby was totally happy to get to have a beer in the world famous, one of the mecca spots for Cubs fans, Harry Carry's.

We decided it was time to leave the bar. As much as we both enjoyed it, we were ready to do something else. Of course, Bobby's true motive for leaving was to find a place to propose, and my true motive, might have been because I was hungry and wanted dessert (those who know me well, know I love sugar and probably aren't surprised by my true motives to leave). Bobby suggests dessert at Smith and Wollensky's. I finally agreed to one of his suggestions. I'm sure glad I did.

We went there, got a great seat near a window, ordered one of the best coconut cakes evor, and started to have one of the greatest conversations evor (yes, evor not ever). I can't really remember exactly what was said, but we talked about everything, like our friends, families, hopes and fears. And we talked about our future, not specifically about marriage, just about how we were going to do this or that in the future (like more trips together, fixing up more of the house, etc). In the midst of this deep and profound talk, Bobby said he had to go the bathroom. Little did I know that he was talking to our waitress. I definitely did not see them talking. A few moments later, he's back, and we picked up where we left off.

The bill gets dropped off and we're still way involved with what we’re talking about. After a few minutes, I thought, it's getting late, I'm sure the server would like us to pay and leave soon, so I reach for the bill book (which isn't that common, but not that uncommon, as we have a joint account, and we pay for a lot of our meals that way, so I was willing to pull out my card to our joint account). I open the bill book, and to my surprise, there is a ring. For some reason, I thought someone had lost or misplaced their ring. I didn't think it was mine, but that was only for like 15 seconds because in those 15 seconds, it dawns on me that this ring is intended for me! It is from Bobby to me! It's an engagement ring. I totally got tears in my eyes, and I finally met Bobby's eyes, and he spits out something like will you marry me, and I nod my head yes quite vigorously, and then the tears totally start to pour. The tears are very hard to stop. And Bobby totally tears up too. That's why I love him.

It was kinds funny when the manager and waitress comes over with the champagne, starts to say congrats, but then is like, is everything ok, did she say yes? I guess we looked like I had said no and were breaking up. We reassured them I said yes, and that these tears were tears of happiness. We made a toast to us with the very tasty champagne, and then rushed to our hotel room to call and share the good news with our friends and family. Bobby tells the story in a very funny way that makes it seem like I was trying to ruin his plans for the perfect proposal, but I didn't know that is why he was acting all weird, assertive and insistent. Looking back, it all makes sense as to the way he was acting, but if I had known, we wouldn't have ended such a great day in the best way possible. And we wouldn't have this story!  Perfect ending to a not so perfect story. :)

Thursday, April 6, 2017

4/6/17- What is it Worth?

This week I got my annual merit increase, also know to most as a raise.  It was the expected 3% that my company usually likes to good performers.  My guess is excellent performers don't really get that much either.  Unless you're in the C suite or a different site, it seems like most of the engineers at my company are paid below the median.

I am taking this educated guess because I recently talked to a male colleague, who I found out was being paid way below the median for his engineering job title and years of experience. And my company recently tried to rectify the gap for us by changing titles and increasing salaries. They know they're not paying more "tenured" engineers well.  I'm not sure what my male colleague received in terms of an attempt to fix the salary gap, but I got a whopping $300 more a year.  That totally fixed the salary gap, not!  And now with my 3% raise, I'm still 10K below the median salary for a Staff Systems Engineer with 13 years experience in the Phoenix metro area. I've come along way since last year's: The Salary. Of wait, not really.

I know, I know, I know!  Problems of a privileged, upper-middle class, tech worker. I do get paid better than a lot jobs.  My mom was a teacher, she told me how sharky the pay was, and that was one reason why I studied engineering in college. I knew I'd be paid better than a lot of jobs.

I also have the ability to search for a new job, get hired, and potentially get a better salary at a new company. I am just having the hardest time leaving because it also potentially means giving up the flexible schedule that I currently have. With being a RA patient, with being a parent and with being a writer, I'd really like to keep that flex schedule. The inflammation and joint pain has been bad this week, and I've been able to log on and work when I can. Get my hours done whenever I feel good. That is a really nice benefit for a chronically ill person.  Of course on the flip side, part of the inflammation could be from the stress and unhappiness that the current job is causing me.  Something I really need to think about.

But the hardest thing to give up will be the flexibility to go drop off Jack late, or pick him early from preschool/daycare, or staying home with him when he's sick, or being able to take Friday afternoon to submit writing samples to magazines, agents and publishers.  This time (to do these things) is what I truly love, and I am afraid of losing that time with the start of a new engineering job.  That time is worth so much to me.  Of course, having a engineering job that I somewhat like (I don't need to love my job, but not hating it would be nice) is also worth something to me.  

I can't tell you today that I have a decision.  One minute, I'm ready to apply to new places and quit this sharky job.  The next minute, I'm like, I can stick it out for a few more years and maybe "retire" (aka move into a whole new industry).  I don't think I'm alone in my career dilemma.  Otherwise we wouldn't hear about so many "jungle gym" resumes and careers. The question for myself, is what is my career vs. my time worth?  I don't have that answer right now, but ask me again in few months. Because my tolerance for my current job situation won't last forever.  Tolerating something that makes me miserable just for a little free time...well, that won't be worth it in the long run.

Take care friends! Enjoy some pictures of dogs for your work afternoon.