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First Day and Family Drama

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Hi all! Thank you so much for all the well wishes for my first day of work (it was this past Monday) and all of your comments about our plans to start saving for a house after all our consumer debt is paid off (hopefully by December-ish). There were a TON of great comments and I plan to dedicate some posts specifically to the house topic in the future, but that will have to wait for another day.

Right now, indulge me a little in talking about my first few days of work!

To be 100% honest, the first day was….a little boring. I had to do a lot of administrative type stuff (getting a new employee ID card, submitting key request form to the key authorization office, filling out paperwork, ordering instructor textbooks, etc. etc. etc.).

Here I was ready and rearing to go (with a huge, long To Do list already compiled) and I ended up spending much of the day doing non-job related/administrative stuff. It was fine and I got a couple hours of “real” work in, but not what I’d expected.

So Tuesday I hit the ground running with about a 30-item To Do list and started knocking things out left and right. Wednesday was more of the same (along with several meetings), and now I feel like I’m chugging right along!

I will say that I feel a real struggle in regard to spending. On my first day I bought lunch (even though I’d made and brought a lunch with me), Tuesday I bought a soda, and Wednesday I had to fight the urge to buy a Starbucks on the way to campus. At least I’m aware of the temptation to spend, so I’m trying to psychologically combat the urge. Eventually I’ll build a little stockpile of sodas and snacks in my office so the urge isn’t as strong. Right now I’m in a temporary office so I’ve been holding off on bringing a lot of stuff in just yet. My new office is supposed to be painted soon – hopefully! (The bureaucracy in academia is alive and well because I’ve been told it could take up to a month until the painting is completed due to permissions, other building/maintenance work orders, etc.). After that’s done I’ll officially “move in.”

I know we’re still only a couple days into the new job, but one big surprise is that it hasn’t been as hard emotionally/psychologically to leave the girls at preschool as I’d anticipated. I thought I’d be a wreck driving to campus but – nope! And they seem perfectly happy too, which certainly helps. Right now they’re still at the JCC but we switch to our new preschool in mid-August so we’ll see how that transition goes.

Work stuff aside, I’ve got to say I’ve been dealing with additional family health-related drama lately. I really wish I could just gush all the details to you guys because – as weird as it seems – you do feel like friends in a sense (and I get SO MANY helpful comments!!! I’d love to pick your brains on the health issues). But I want to maintain my father’s privacy so…..yeah. Just…stuff sucks. I hate what he’s going through. I don’t like that I’ve been thrust into the role of caregiver. It’s hard to be someone’s advocate from across state lines. And just the whole thing is a steaming pile of poo.

I’m going back next week for another doctor’s appointment. Again – the devils in the details and, unfortunately, I just can’t divulge his personal info. But you can imagine. Lots of stress. Anxiety. And so on.

I don’t believe we’ll be getting an official diagnosis yet – there’s one more scan the doctor wanted to order but its very expensive so insurance only covers it once everything else has been eliminated (and my Dad’s had many, many appointments the past couple weeks). But this is the appointment with the head honcho specialist so my siblings and I feel it’s important for someone to be there. I was elected. My sister will probably go back for the diagnosis, and my brother will likely be the one to go retrieve my father if/when its time for him to move closer to family. So at least we’re trying to share the burden (not that my father is a burden by any means, but you know what I’m saying. We all work, have families, etc. so logistics are difficult).

In terms of finances, I believe that my Dad will reimburse me for my flight expense (like he did last time). This time I’ll be flying in and out in a single looooooong day (flight there departs Tucson at 6:00am, return flight lands back in Tucson at 10:30pm). I know there are businesses people who do this type of commute all the time, but this is my very first out-and-back in a single day type excursion. I’m grateful its worked out this way since now I have a job I’m expected to be at, but I also wish I was going to be there a bit longer. The logistics of what the future holds (selling two separate properties in two separate states; clearing out said properties, etc.) makes my head ache. I know surely others have been in a similar spot before. Words of advice or encouragement? I know its hard without knowing specifics, but you can kind of read between the lines a bit I’m sure.

One thing I’ll say about this new job (sorry to jump around on topics), is that it has made my days feel extremely long! I’ve been waking up at 5am to have time to get a quick jog, shower, dress, make lunches (for me & the girls), make breakfast (for me & the girls), do dishes and general clean-up, wake the girls, get ready, go to preschool, go to work/school, back to preschool, home, cook, eat, clean dishes, do a load of laundry, baths, girls to bed, more work (for part-time job), then bed for me and hubs. I’m definitely not complaining! I’ve been so, so lucky to work from home part-time for the past 3 years with a killer make-my-own schedule so its just an adjustment. Not bad (no “poor me” attitude here! Still super psyched about the job!), just different. One huge perk of working in academia is that we tend to have more flexible schedules than other professions. Right now I’m here all day every day working furiously on prep, but once things settle down a bit and we get into a routine during the semester I think I’ll have more flexibility to run out if I have a doctor’s appointment, or whatever. But for the time being, I’ve turned into a super-planning ninja! I have to be in order to have food for dinner every night (as opposed to ordering take-out). It’s also a good transition, but still a transition nonetheless. Really, I like being back in the world of the gainfully full-employed. There were perks to the work-from-home part-time thing, too, but I really feel this is where I belong. : )


26 Comments

  • Reply Shauna |

    I’m sorry you’re going through this health stuff, it really can be “a steaming pile of poo”. I do think you’re on the right track to get through it the best you can. Planning ahead when possible can make all the difference. And it’s great that all your siblings are able to help out too, I’ve seen great rifts in families during times like this when you all need each other the most.

    As far as getting used to a full time job again, I’ve noticed that you seem to be keeping all the household duties you had before when you were working part time. I know I’m guilty of this. Maybe try and see if you can share some of the lunch or breakfast duties with your husband before the pressure of the fall semester comes up. Sometimes just a small change can make a big difference.

    • Reply Ashley |

      Thanks! I really do think the health issues have actually brought my siblings and I closer together. I hope it stays that way!
      Regarding domestic responsibilities, etc., my hubs definitely helps with cleaning and laundry. He’s a grill master so he does some cooking, too (just not lately – perhaps I need to plan some grilled foods ; )). His work schedule is difficult to help with making breakfast and lunches (he’s usually out the door by 6am), but he’s around when we get home from preschool so he’s been a huge help in the evenings!

  • Reply Laura |

    I am sorry your father is so ill.
    I have worked full time since my son was 9 weeks old, and my advice would be to do as much the night before as you can, like packing lunches. It makes the morning so much smoother. And as shauna said above enlist your husband to help. When you were home more it made since for you to do more of the household chores but now that you both work full time it would make sense to split things more evenly.

    • Reply Ashley |

      Yes! I’m learning that things I used to put off in the evenings (like cleaning the dinner dishes – I’d always put it off and do them in the morning) can NOT be put off anymore! I definitely agree that taking care of that stuff in advance makes the morning rush go much smoother!

  • Reply Jenna |

    Another thing that can ease a wee bit of the morning & evening chaos is spending a few hours on the entire week’s pre-meal preparation on Sunday afternoon. It stinks to give up a hour or so of your weekend – but you will gain mucho sanity back during your morning and evening rush.
    Mason jar salads can be a lifesaver for work lunches and a great deal of kid lunches can be pre-portioned and packaged in tupperware [they can ‘help’]. Have all the veggies washed and chopped or the meat prepped for the bbq for a few dinners. Lots of ideas on the internet for how to prepare everything on Sunday for the week ahead!

    • Reply Ashley |

      I LOVE these ideas! Perhaps the topic of future blog posts???
      I 100% agree with you about the whole week meal planning. This week was kind of rushed since we’d just gotten back from out-of-town vacation (I did a big grocery haul, but not a detailed daily meal list). I think that’s going to be absolutely invaluable moving forward!

  • Reply Den |

    I think you are doing an incredible job of keeping things organized, but please remember to take care of yourself too. My advice would be to let as much go as you possibly can during the week (I agree with making lunches in the evening and meal prep on the weekends) and then catching up on the weekends. Yes, it stinks to spend your weekends taking care of household duties, but I’ve found that giving myself even an hour each weeknight to read some books with the kids, watch a mindless show, go for a walk around the block can really help my sanity so the week isn’t just a blur…..I’m sure you will get into a routine that works for everyone soon.

    One minor trick that worked for us was pizza night on Monday! A lot of people do pizza night on Fridays, but to me Mondays were always the hardest day for everyone – back to school/daycare, back to work, etc – and looking forward to not having to cook that first day of the work week was great! Fridays were already a happy day as we looked forward to the weekend.

    Also, best wishes to your family during this difficult time with your dad. Regarding selling two out of state properties and moving – can that wait a bit or does it need to be done right away? If your dad doesn’t need the money from the sale, maybe that can be put on the back burner for now. Maybe you and your sibs can divide and conquer – one take charge of medical visits/keeping a journal of visits/appointments/treatments, one take charge of financial issues (including will, medical directive, property sales), and one take charge of communication/home upkeep/misc….. and of course, all visit as much as you can.

    So glad to hear about your exciting first week!!

    • Reply Ashley |

      I love the pizza Mondays idea!!!!
      Regarding the real estate – the properties won’t need to be sold immediately (thankfully), but my personal preference is to get rid of them as soon as possible (and as soon as my dad’s comfortable). Realistically, he’s going to need to move by family and his care/treatment is already going to be emotionally draining enough. The responsibility of continuing to pay the mortgage, taxes, utilities, and upkeep, of these two vacant properties will fall to us (the children) and it’s just more than I think any of us want to deal with. We also don’t want to strip my Dad’s properties from him before he’s ready but I’m a realist. He’s never going to move back to either of them again, so continuing to keep them is just an ongoing (and exhausting/stressful) expense when we could sell the properties while he’s still alive and use the equity to help pay for his treatment. With my new academic-year schedule my ideal plan would be to do property make-ready over Christmas time and put them on the market in early Spring. My best guess is that he’ll be moving closer to family within the next month or two, which leaves the properties vacant for about 4-ish months until they’re listed. Again – all of this is my own personal preference and thoughts. Obviously we’ll take into consideration Dads wishes and my siblings and I will need to discuss it more.

    • Reply Maureen |

      I love pizza night idea… and it doesn’t have to be order in pizza. It can be a frozen pizza you used a coupon for, or recently I started making my own pizza crust (and I am not baker or chef by any means). I think the recipe I found said you could freeze or refrigerate. You could make a couple of dough balls and then just roll it out and throw the toppings on-if using veggies you can precut on the weekends too. I don’t have kids and a husband that travels, but I commute via train into downtown Chicago every day AND I am not a morning person. I try to push the clock until 6am and I have to catch a 7:14am train and need to drive to the station 10 min. from my house. I find that I must get my lunch ready the night before and even go as far as to pack my bag (with lunch and a go-to breakfast option) and lay out my clothes. It takes the stress out of decisions in the morning and I only have to worry about getting ready and making sure the dog has her needs met. Then, I can get out the door knowing I have everything and avoid (most) temptations to dine out, etc. I do find myself wanting to “dine” out more often, even when I bring my lunch. There are so good options and the big corporate downtown building I work in has a different food vendor in every day (today it’s a Brazilian steakhouse). The compromise that I have found is I try to bring my beverages but don’t stress if I don’t b/c I have to carry them a mile from the train to my office and I can get cans of pop (can you tell I’m from the Midwest-what is soda…LOL!) for 35 cents a can in our office. The one luxury (which I feel a little guilty about) is I allow myself to eat lunch “out” once a week-something off a food truck, Chipotle, Jimmy Johns, local deli, etc. This gives me something to look forward too and allows me a little variety without breaking the bank every day. Food in Chicago is expensive and they just raised the tax to almost 11%! I try to stay under $10 each meal and combine it with water or my cheap pop options. The more you are into your new routine, the easier it will become to avoid the tempetations.

  • Reply Jean |

    Don’t you wish we could just sit down and chat over a cup of coffee?

    When my dad was having radiation a few years ago, 5 days/week for 3 or 4 weeks, I took one day a week to give my mom & sister a break. It was a 6 hour drive round trip but I felt like I needed to do it. I still take him to dr appts occasionally but it’s time to spend with him. Does the hospital/dr where your dad is being seen/treated have “MyChart”? I set it up for my dad so I can see his appointments and test results. My sister set it up for the dialysis center so we can see those test results as well. He’s been going to the monthly dr appts at the dialysis clinic by himself, but I can always go or send my mom or sister if I don’t like the looks of the results. It’s a tough situation to be in, when you have to start caring and advocating for your parents. But whatever the outcome, you will have good memories of the time you spent with him and know that you stepped up to do what you could to help.

    You might look into doing some freezer meals. Erin Chase, the 5 Dollar Dinner Mom, has a TON of them on her website. I’m going to do one of the Costco freezer meals once I can get my husband to stop buying meat and throwing it in the freezer! I’ve also done a freezer meal pack from WildTree (think of Tastefully Simple but more organic). My husband scoffed at the price I paid for the spice pack from them, but he changed his tune once he tasted them. Erin’s might be better since hers are ‘kid tested’ (not sure how picky the girls are).

    I’m excited for your new job! You were blessed to be able to stay home with the girls when they were younger (can’t imagine what FT child care for twins would be!). Now you are in a new season of life; it’s a transition (not just with your job but with your dad as well), but I think everyone will rally together and make the best of it.

    • Reply Ashley |

      Thanks for your kind words and the tip about Erin Chase! I’ll look up some recipes from her website!

    • Reply Katie |

      I’ll warn you, I did her $5 Costco plan, and about half the recipes were lousy. Really tasteless meals. We are them, but there were a lot of miserable nights at our dinner table. Never again.

    • Reply Ashley |

      Thank you for the link! It was scary to see the annual figures presented for how much caregivers spend, but good information to have!

  • Reply Jackie |

    I liked what Jean said about “my chart.” I’ve done scheduling for lots of doctors offices out west and lots of them have a patient website/portal that can be used for patients (or family if patient allows them access) to look up their appts, check test results and sometimes ask questions. It depends on how it is set up. This is very helpful to patients and family. It helps keep people in the loop better and also can help with access to billing info too if needed.

    Glad the new job is going well!

    • Reply Ashley |

      I’ll have to double check about My Chart. We had it set up for my hubs when he had a mystery illness in 2013, but no one mentioned it at the appointment I went to last month for my Dad. Might be that it just didn’t come up, so I’ll be sure to explicitly ask about it for next week’s appointment.

  • Reply Jen from Boston |

    I’m so sorry your dad and your family are going through this. I’m glad, though, that you and your siblings are sharing the burden. If you haven’t already, it might help to set up a Google calendar or similar that all of you can view and update to keep track of your father’s appointments and care schedule. Also, joining a caregiver support group might help you deal with your emotions as things progress.

    As far as your new job and its effects on your daily routine a slow cooker might help. You could get one that’s programmable. Spend part of the evening prepping the ingredients, then in the morning toss everything into the pot, program it, and walk out the door. When you come home dinner is ready. You can also use the slow cooker to make breakfast!

    There’s a slight learning curve when it comes to cooking meat – the newer slow cookers run at a higher temperature so you run a good chance of overcooking the meat. This isn’t a problem if you like everything medium well, though. The Set It and Forget It cookbook series is handy – it’s designed for slow cookers and many of the recipes are from readers, so lots of real life conveniences are built-in.

    • Reply Ashley |

      I’ll have to check and see if we’ve got that cookbook at my library! I’ve got a slow cooker, but maybe its one of the newer models because it definitely runs hot. I’ve found that when programmed to the 10-hour option, foods are actually cooked within about half that time (5-6 hours), so I think I may encounter issues with having overcooked/dried out foods. Still though, once the academic year begins I may have the flexibility to be able to leave work early enough to turn it off so I can avoid overcooking issues and just have the food sit warmed until its time to eat.

  • Reply Charlotte |

    To piggyback on what Jackie/Jean said, have your Dad put a list of medications and treatments on an index card in his wallet. Some hospitals actually have one you can use. It would include prescription, dosing and how often it is taken. Also include allergies,OTC meds, vitamins, and blood type. So if there is ever a case he has to go to the ER and the doctors ask what he is on, he can just hand over the card in the wallet. It is also good if he goes to a new dr – easier to hand over to the nurse to put into the chart vs. telling them each time. It will also help the docs be able to avoid any sort of possibly bad interactions with the drugs he is on with new treatments/medications.

  • Reply Kiki |

    Congrats on your new job! You are being pulled in many directions right now with job, family, father etc. Be sure to take care of YOURSELF too or you are not good for anyone!

    The one thing I have always done is pack the lunches right after/during the dinner clean-up. It’s extremely helpful to do this at that time and avoid it during the AM rush. Leftovers are there ready to pack, and the kitchen is in an upheaval anyway.

    Also, I hope that Hubby is pulling his weight through all this! During your long list of chores listed in your last paragraph, I wasn’t sure if this was a combined effort between you and your husband, or if you are shouldering the load yourself. Make sure he gets on board with household duties if he has not! That’s too much for you to do alone.

    • Reply Ashley |

      That’s a great idea, especially since I love to eat leftovers for lunch!
      Hubs is definitely helping! With his work schedule he’s not around in the morning (he leaves usually about 6am for work), but he’s always around when we get home in the late afternoon and has been invaluable with helping clean, occupy girls while I cook, help with laundry, etc.

  • Reply Kim |

    We like to make up extra PB&J sandwiches and put them in the freezer. Then, if we have a crazy morning or one of the kids decides at the last minute that they don’t want the school’s lunch, we just pull one of the sandwiches out of the freezer and pack it in their lunch. It thaws by lunchtime (when you are making them, put the peanut butter on both slices of bread and the jelly in the middle – that way the jelly won’t soak through) and we’ve never had any complaints.

  • Reply debthaven |

    I’m so sorry about your dad’s health issues.

    With 4 of you at home, when you cook, double (or even triple) the recipe, and freeze half. If you can do that even once a week you will get ahead and begin to have a stock of homemade meals in your freezer. Chopped meat can work for spaghetti sauce, stuffed veggies, lasagne.

    I actually hate cooking, but as a mom of 4 I didn’t have much choice LOL.

    I “cheated” at least once a week with ready meals. They are still much cheaper than take-out, even if they aren’t as economical as cooking from scratch (which I usually do).

    I think that this transition from spending a lot of time at home to working out of your house mom is going to be rough on you, so I think you need to make your life easier. I would try to “batch cook” once or twice a week. I would use ready meals once or twice a week. I would go order in once a week and go out once a week.

    I would try to stick to some sort of schedule though. But know that for at least the next few weeks, that schedule may be a “work in progress”.

  • Reply Karen |

    I’m glad to see that hubby helps out around the house as I got the impression from your post you were doing it all. Hey super mom – slow down. 🙂

    I definitely agree with packing food the night before. I try to do that and it really helps as all I have to do is walk my dog, grab my stuff and premade cold press and I am out the door.

    Another option and this is just a suggestion but may not work in to your grocery budget is Blue Apron. I recently signed up [it’s just me and BF] and we have really enjoyed the meals and the opportunity to not worry about what is for dinner some nights. There is a two person and four person option. I think the first week was discounted too.

    They send you everything to make an entrée and side in a refrigerated box. All packaging is recyclable. All the food is local and fresh. They literally provide everything down to red wine vinegar or butter, even herbs, garlic, lemons [if you need it for the recipe]. All you have to have on hand is olive oil, salt & pepper. It’s been a great way for me to learn some new recipes!

    I can choose to not have a delivery if I don’t want [they take the money out of your account after it’s shipped]. Many of the sides have lasted more than two servings and they give you a recipe card so if you want to recreate that recipe you have all the ingredients and amounts listed.

    A person I know in blog world has three small kids and orders for the four person one and it’s definitely enough food four her family.

    Good luck to you!

    • Reply Ashley |

      I’ve heard of Blue Apron (there are a couple other similar sites too), and have even debated trying it out but its just so costly – still about $10-12/person. That’s about what we’d pay for take-out so it’s not a savings in terms of money, though I’m sure it saves time given that everything is pre-measured and ready to cook. Just not “sold” on it right now.

So, what do you think ?