SEPTA Stories – Excuse me. May I please sit there?

I am a SEPTA Regional Rail Commuter. This blog will feature stories from the rails. Some are funny, some not so funny & some are very very strange!
My first entry is entitled “Excuse me. May I please sit there?”
To set the seen; It’s my morning commute from Jenkintown to Suburban Station. I take any train between 6:00 AM & 7:00 AM. If you’re not a Regional Rail Commuter; most SEPTA trains have one side with 3 seats and the other side with 2 seats. At each end of the car there are the 4 seaters (my favorite). Oh, by the way. It’s important to know I am 6’4” and weigh 260 lbs.
Question? How many times have you gotten on the train and said to yourself. “Where Do I Sit!”
I scope out the train and realize the only open seats are the middle seat on the 3 seat side of the aisle. I find the row with the 2 smallest & thinnest people. Why? Because, I’d like to fit in the seat and not sit on top of someone!
As I walk down the aisle some people are looking up at me with the look saying “You better not sit here, I’m not moving!” While others are pretending they’re reading or asleep.
I choose my row carefully. I look down and the middle seat is filled with a briefcase or a bag or something else.
You stand there waiting for them to move their stuff. There are people standing behind you waiting to get by. The seated passengers just look at you.
Their look is saying: “Oh you want to sit here? Well my things are here” Or they just stare at you and don’t move anything. (If only looks could kill)
You look down again and they make you say “Excuse me. May I please sit there?” They grunt and groan & eventually move their things. You have now officially ruined their day!
I didn’t ask for their first born. I wasn’t trying to steal their things. I just wanted to sit down for the next 20 minutes. What happened to plain old common courtesy?
So if you see me coming down the aisle on a crowded train & I’m looking at you, it means; I’ll most likely say “Excuse me. May I please sit there?” I’m sorry, but I really didn’t mean to ruin your day.
Happy Rails!

Maybe the Poet Laureate reference was an embellishment

 
The Working Mom is working hard….My house is back to school/daycare and though the hum of our routine is barely audible just yet, we’re getting there.
As I was packing up my 2 older children for the first day of school, I realized I had a tip to share with you fine folks….and when I began this blog, I promised tips every now and again…so here it is:
If your children require “nap” items for school or daycare…i.e. blankets, pillows etc., send them in to school zipped in the clear plastic packaging of a comforter or sheets that you’ve purchased.  It’s a clean way to neatly store them at school, plus there’s usually a little sleeve on the front where you can stick a piece of paper with your child’s name on it, for easy recognition in the classroom.
I started doing this a couple of years ago so now, I’m careful to save any kind of zippered plastic packaging…you might want to do the same.
Now that the tip is out of the way….let’s talk homework.
Is it me, or has homework changed?  When I was growing up….I had worksheets (or “dittos” as they were called) with blank spaces all over them.   My job was to fill in the blanks, in my room, with a pencil…end of story.
Apparently, times have changed…my first grader comes home with multi-media, seek and find, you may need to contact your nearest Poet Laureate for this….homework.
Ok, maybe the Poet Laureate reference was an embellishment but I’m telling you, my Journalism degree will only take me so far with this stuff and I fear that I can see the “so far” in my rear-view mirror already.  I’m telling you, we are cutting and pasting our way to whole new Homework reality.
After week one…really, after day 1, I knew we were in trouble (though my Husband has yet to fully admit this). 
To combat the Homework haplessness in my house (and by that I’m strictly referring to my husband and myself as our son has done really well with his part of all assignments thus far)…I’ve established a Parental- Homework buddy system.  I reached out to one of the Moms with whom I’ve become friendly, and was perfectly candid with her….the initial call went something like this. 
Ring, ring (really, I was calling her cell phone so it was probably less of a ring, ring and more of a snappy ringtone).  “Hi! May I speak to Lauren? (It was her husband)….it’s Heidi, Zachary’s Mom”.
Her Husband “She’s putting the kids to sleep….but let me guess,  this has something to do with Math Explorations”.
Me, ”You got it! Can I leave a message?  Here goes, please write this down.  If you don’t help me, help Zachary with his homework….we will never get out of week1 of Math Explorations—urgent assistance needed”. 
To which he responded (after he finished laughing) “Will do…us too!!”
So when she returned my call, promptly I might add as her Husband clearly passed along my message with the necessary crazed inflection I’d intended, she and I started a judgment-free dialogue (usually over email) that has since been shared with several other parents in the class…where we essentially “whisper down the lane” (But with accuracy) our way through the nightly homework assignments..



In the Math Explorations book, it says that we’re supposed to be discovering new concepts around every turn.  See…here…I DID make a discovery!!!! After talking with my homework buddies,  I discovered that I wasn’t the only adult relying upon a 6 year old to guide me through the “learning with my Adult” section of the nightly homework…and I felt better about that.

But…to be truthful, I have to tell you that even with this newfound support-system…I truly relish Fridays now because of our Teacher’s (and I say “our Teacher” because in my house, we are ALL learning from her) policy of “no homework” weekends.  It gives me 2 free nights to get geared up for what Math Explorations has in store for me in the week ahead J.
 
 
Sincerely,


The Working Mom
 
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I’m going to be claiming “it’s baby weight” until my kid is 18!!!!

I’m baaaack……
The Working Mom is now Mom to more…..3 to be exact.  We’ve recently added a beautiful baby girl to our family, and you’ll be happy to know that in the 8 short weeks since her arrival, I already have filled 2 notebooks with notes to be included in future WM posts!
 
I am back to working full-time now, but I’m doing it from home until the beginning of September.  I’m lucky because my job can be done from home when necessary (ie someone is sick etc.) but I’ve never in my 15 years in the workforce, worked from home full-time, for any length of time.  I’ve always wondered what it would be like, and now I have the opportunity (thanks to a VERY understanding Boss) to find out. 
 
I’m entering my third week at home and I can tell you that I’ve learned a few things already:
  • Staff meetings are key–  So in my home office, my staff consists of my Husband, son, and now my 2 daughters.  They are pretty great at their jobs which while I’m home consist entirely of pretending like I’m not at home.  Before I went back to work, I sat everyone down and explained the difference between “school-day” (as my Son calls Monday-Friday) Mommy and “weekend” Mommy.  I used two Barbie dolls to illustrate my point with my middle Daughter shouting out, “Paradise Pool Barbie doesn’t go to work Mommy”. In any case, they seemed to get my point that while I’m working from home, everything is the same as it is when I’m working in my office….in other words, all questions go to Daddy until I get “home from work”.  So far so good.
  • Casual every days are over-rated–  Now I can honestly say that I’ve longed for a “Casual Friday” now and then when my jeans and a sweater would be acceptable work attire, however, even with the opportunity to work in my pajamas (lovely visual I’m sure!), I’ve decided to get up each morning the same way I do when I’m commuting into the office….putting on my regular work clothing.  Now you’re sitting there reading this and thinking “this third kid has really done her in…she’s lost her mind”  but in fact, I feel more productive and able to tackle my workload when I’m dressed in work clothes, than I ever could dressed in sweats and a t-shirt.  The clothes get me into the “work” frame of mind and out of the “housework” one.
  • Warning….Lose the belt Working at home is NOT good for the diet.  So while I’m sitting at my desk zipping through my work, I’m able (quite easily) to tune out all of the other things that might need to be addressed in my house (ie the floors that need mopping, the clothes that need folding etc).  The one thing I cannot tune-out however, is the giant pantry sitting in my kitchen that is filled to the brim with every snack imaginable.  You know all of those things you buy for your kids that you swear you’re never going to eat yourself (think cookies, fruit snacks and tastykakes), well I’m eating them.  It’s aweful!  Their ready availability is my downfall.  I am working on some resolutions to this situation but so far, none have worked, so for now,  I’m writing this off to “baby weight”.
  • Savor the commute-  The absolute worst part of my job, is my commute.  It’s easy…don’t get me wrong…I just jump on a train and walk a bit and I’m in my office.  But when all is said and done, I spend a good two and a half hours out of my day, commuting.  On the contrary, the BEST part of working from home…is the commute.  Taking that short stroll down the hallway, I am able to get my workday started MUCH earlier than when I’m working in my office and I’m also able to work much longer.  I enjoy the fact that when my workday is done, and I turn off my computer, I simply step out of my home office and immerse myself in whatever’s going on in the house…..typically a lot.  I end up getting more quality time for my work, and more quality family time as well!  It’s win-win!
 And so…my experiment continues and I’m hoping for continued success.
 
Just keep your fingers crossed that I rectify this snacking situation and quick!  Or else I’m going to be claiming “it’s baby weight” until my kid is 18!!!!
Until next time…
The Working Mom
 
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Note To Self…Wear More Blush To Birthday Parties

There’s a certain pattern to conversation topics that make their way around the birthday-party circuit. 
Right about this time of year, the popular subject is “What’s little Bobby going to be doing this Summer?”
The first time I was asked this question as it pertained to my 2 children, a sudden pang of panic overcame me and I felt the color in my face start to drain (note to self…wear more blush to birthday parties)…I suddenly bolted towards the birthday cake and started offering my assistance with slice distribution…anything to remove myself from the conversation.
Why the worry?
While Summer is supposed to be a carefree few months of warm weather, sunshine, day-trips and the Ice-Cream Man….for working parents everywhere it becomes something akin to a giant connect-the-dots puzzle where the object remains the same as it is the other 9 months of the year-  To have your children safely cared for between the working hours.  Throw in the challenge of trying to make sure their Summer is full of fun and frolic AND doing it in a cost-effective manner, and you mine as well call the Army Corps of Engineers for help cause this is going to be a project.
Seriously…this process is enough for me to lobby Washington for a year-round school schedule and in my free-time, I just might.
So let’s discuss some of the options:
  • Traditional Summer Camps– Harkening back to the days of swinging vines over a lake, and arts and crafts in a wall-less “tent”, many Summer camps haven’t changed much since the days when you or I might have slapped on some sun block, hopped on the big yellow bus and headed for the Great Outdoors…and for good reason.  There’s an appeal that is as strong today as ever, to children spending their Summer days outside involved in a variety of activities (the key part of that word being “active”)- from swimming to sports to theatre to arts and crafts, traditional Summer camps offer it all
Perks:
Very often, transportation and lunch are included with the cost of the camp
Drawbacks:
Your children may leave after, and return home before, the traditional work-day would start or end, thus requiring a plan for supplemental beginning/end of day care or a modification to your work schedule.
  • “Day Care Camps”–  Very often, the day cares where you send your children during the year, switch gears and morph into a “camp” from June-August.  While the hours that the camp is open are the same as the hours the day care is open, they swap out more organized or academic programs for a less stringent and  more relaxed group of activities.  Very often, they provide small pools for water-play and allow extra time for outdoor activities.
Perks:
If your children already attend the daycare at which the “camp” will be held, then they are already comfortable with the staff and surroundings and there will be no adjustment period.
Drawbacks:
There’s often an additional fee of some sort associated with the “camp”
  • Overnight/Travel Camps– For those of us who are daring enough to send our kids out of town for the Summer, overnight  and travel camps offer a wide-range of programs and specialties making it easy to find a camp geared towards the interests of your particular child
Perks:
Your child will experience what is very often their first taste of independence (please note, this could also very well fall under the “drawbacks” section)
The camps operate 24/7 thus eliminating any scheduling conflicts with work
Drawbacks:
Overnight/travel camps are typically the most expensive options for the Summer and also might include additional costs associated with transportation to and from the camp (i.e. plane fare)
As you embark down the path of “What’s Bobby going to do this Summer”…I wish you good luck and lots of patience.  Very often, it takes a million phone calls to get the answers to seemingly basic questions.
However, once you’ve found the right option for your children, you’ll take pride in hopefully seeing them bound off to camp with an enthusiasm unparalleled by any day at school/ day care….heck, you’ll probably find yourself trying to scheme your own way onto the big yellow school bus for a day in the woods making popsicle-stick figurines.


Sincerely,


The Working Mom
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Hold The Morning Muffin

 
I turned on my television the other morning to hear the news that said (something to the effect of…)
                       
New research shows that children of Moms who work (regardless of marital status) show an increased rate of obesity
In listening to the report, I felt myself split into 2, separate but equal parts both of which were peering through the threshold into my family room, to where my kids were watching a video and evaluating their physical “shape”…that is until I slapped myself.
One part of me was sad while the other was irate (the irate side won the battle and prevails as my standpoint on this subject).
Anything that starts with “Women who choose to pursue a career….” is going to be a tough pill for me to swallow, and on this morning, true to form….That statement is where Ms. Irate started to gain her stronghold.
Don’t shoot the messenger….
 Listen here you woman with the perfectly coiffed hair and  airbrushed makeup speaking to me from in front of the fake NYC street-scape…for most of the women I know who work full-time outside of the house (and there are MANY!), there was not much of a “choice” involved…unless you consider feeding, housing & clothing their families a “choice.” 
In so many of the relationships that surround me, both adult partners in the household must maintain employment outside of the home, in order to keep the household going and keep the family together.   In the families I know headed by a single Parent, the need of that parent (regardless of their gender) to maintain employment outside of the home becomes even that much more critical.
That being said, I was also angered by the fact that the child-obesity statistic at the heart of the report centered upon “Mothers who work”…to say nothing of the Fathers who work.  Are you kidding me?  So now….not only am I responsible for the overall denigration of the fabric of the American family, but I’m also literally tipping the scales for my kids????  What’s next…I shot J.R.?
 A POUND of Panic is worth….
Buried until the VERY end of the segment was the fact that the increase in weight at the heart of this study, amounted to about 1 pound per child.  So really, what amounts to a child indulging in an extra scoop of mint chocolate chip, is what ALERTED the media to the pending doom we Working Moms are subjecting our children?
Every time I read or hear about a guilt-laiden “study” such as this one, I immediately think “Oh right, silly me, I should’ve known 15 years ago that having/raising healthy and happy children and working to provide for those children, was an “either/or” situation.  I missed that in the parenting manual that came strapped to my child’s arm on delivery day.
In any case…back to the morning muffin and here’s to no more morning television!
Sincerely,
The Working Mom
 
 

Purple Gloves and other ponderings

While I was in the car with my family the other night, my daughter could be heard saying (with her mouth turned in a frown and in her best, most pathetic sounding voice)

“Mom, I NEED a pair of purple gloves”.

My 5 year old son quickly chimed in “You WANT a pair of purple gloves, you don’t NEED them”.


Intrigued that he’d made the distinction, I asked him what the difference was between Need and Want.  He said “A need is something you need to survive but something you want is just something that would be nice to have”. 

Pretty astute I thought, and it got me thinking about needing and wanting, in terms of my own professional/personal life.

I remember, very clearly, as an early 20-something just starting out on my own and in the workforce, how every so often I’d think to myself “Wow…I NEED a vacation” or “I need a new handbag or a skirt or a stereo” etc. etc. etc.  My needs (or so I thought) were many, but my funds were few.  

As I’ve gotten older, and life has changed with the addition of more challenging positions at work combined with a Husband and now 2 children, it’s funny how my needs and wants have changed dramatically.  What I thought I needed in my 20s, I really just wanted…the vacation, the handbag etc.

As life situations get more complicated, those same things really do become needs.  A vacation, just for the sake of getting out of town, is something I aspire to take however these days, my vacation is typically spent catching up on any outstanding errands/appointments/chores that I haven’t gotten to since my last “vacation”.  You certainly won’t find a picture of the kids and me waiting on line at the DMV for my registration renewal, to appear on any of the destination brochures you see at the travel agency…and if you do, let me know- they owe me royalties!

You know how “staycations” have become all the rage in this latest economic downturn?  Well I’ve been doing staycations for the last 6+ years!  Who knew I was a trend-setter?

But at the same time as it seems nearly impossible to take a vacation in the traditional sense of the word, I probably need one now more than ever.  I, as I’m certain is the case with most adults, could really use a few days to disconnect from all of the daily goings on, and just sit somewhere…on a beach perhaps,  with no responsibilities other than relaxation.

As for handbags….who needs a new one of those (even when you’re schlepping around with a broken strap and missing clasp) when there are Playstations and Pillow Pets, Barbies and bicycles…let alone school tuition, daycare, food and the list goes on and on and on?

For a while, I tried to deny the shift in my reality.  In my own mind, I insisted that my wants (the new shoes, highlights for my hair etc) were equally as addressed as those of every other member of my family- clearly that’s not the case yet surprisingly, I’m perfectly ok with that.

It’s the needs…..taking a break just to do nothing, that I’m working on addressing.  I think those things or better yet NOT doing those things, will in the long-run sabotage my best-efforts at personal and professional success.

I think that we, as dynamic professionals with dynamic personal lives, can do it all and make it all work…but making it work takes work and that’s a concept that I struggle with each and every day.

How about you?

-The WM 
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Take the escalator….take the help

I love a good escalator.

It’s a well-established fact about me….. If there’s a stairwell and an escalator right there next it, I can guarantee you that 100% of the time…I’m taking the escalator.

I thought about this, this morning as I was making my usual commute into my office via the NJ-PA train line I take every day. As I approached the part of the station where there is an escalator next to a stairwell, I watched a few of my fellow commuters running up the steps and I thought to myself (as I boarded my moving staircase to the sky) “No way….I’m taking this escalator because it’s the littlest bit of help I’m going to get during my rush into the office this morning. Exercise be damned!”

Once I was seated on my train, I thought about it again (in writing this…I’m beginning to think that I think about escalators WAY too much) …”Take the escalator…take the help”. Like a weird chant heard at a political convention…. “Take the escalator….take the help”.

In this day in age, everyone is in a hurry…overwhelmed with responsibility….worried about the finances (personal and global)….concerned about our communities and the list goes on, and on, and on and then on some more.

Sometimes I think that when I spend so much of my time focusing on the “big problems”, most of which I have no control over, I forget that I do have some control over the smaller issues I face on a day to day basis.

I think that very often, in an effort to keep myself running on the treadmill that is my life, I’m afraid to accept an offer of help (someone offering to pick up one of my kids for a playdate or someone offering to help with one of my Room-Mother projects, or someone offering to help me with a situation at work etc.) for fear that it will somehow catapult me off the treadmill only to take me that much longer to get back on and get balanced again.

Sidebar….I once did get “catapulted” off of an actual treadmill when I set the speed too high in an effort to keep up with the MUCH more in-shape people running next to me at the gym.  It wasn’t pretty.  I haven’t shown my face in that gym ever since.

I have no problem offering my help to someone in need, and yet I think twice before accepting the help myself.  This is RIDICULOUS….and I need to realize that right now.

It does “take a village”…and sometimes, the village finds you before you find it, often in the form of someone extending an offer of assistance.  I’m not suggesting that everyone should rely on the help of others to accomplish their daily routine (job, role etc.).  I’m simply suggesting that accepting a little bit of help when it’s offered, or asking for a little bit of help when it’s needed, isn’t going to somehow impair our success at being a parent, employee, spouse etc. In fact, it’s much more likely to make us better.

Sincerely,

The Working Mom

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From The Desk Of The Working Mom and Her Working Kids

If you’re anything like me, you’re always searching for ways to shave minutes off of your morning routine in an attempt to NOT have to set the alarm any earlier than it’s already set. I treasure every second of every minute that I am able to sleep…allbeit with a stray elbow or knee shoved into my back on the nights when we get a visitor (or 2) in the middle of the night.

In my ongoing quest to be more efficient and less crazed in the morning, I borrowed a tip from one of my Daughter’s teachers. In her class, everyone has a “job”. There’s the “line leader” and there’s also the “end of the line leader”. There’s the child who gets to supervise cleanup after lunch and the child in charge of pushing in the chairs at the tables.  Rumor has it that the cleanup kid is mighty quick to dispose of your uneatens, so if you want those Cheez-Its than you’d better get to it.

My Daughter’s favorite job is the “end of the line leader” and when I asked her why, she told me…because the end of the line leader gets to turn off the lights before the class leaves the room.  To a 3 year-old, flipping that light switch is a VERY big deal.

So back to thinking about being less crazed in the morning…….”Ahaa” I thought. Jobs….right.

There are so many little things that make leaving the house in the morning something akin to scaling
Mt. Everest. In an attempt to apply my “jobs” idea to the morning hustle, I decided to itemize all of the little time-wasters and distribute them to my children as “jobs”.

We have the “leash getter” i.e. the one who gets the leash for our dog’s morning trip outside (That person is coincidentally, the “leash putter awayer” as well) There’s also the “Bookbag filler” i.e. the one who puts the lunch boxes in each bookbag and zips them up. NOTE: I always make sure to check the Bookbag Filler’s work because we did have an instance where a lunch was mistakenly NOT put into the bookbag, and I came home to a VERY pouty kid because they were subjected to the school lunch.

In total, we have about 6 jobs distributed amongst the two children. So far, they’re pretty good about taking care of their responsibilites. As a bonus, every once in a while a day will pass when they don’t pester me for a “prize” for doing their jobs.

So far we’ve seen two benefits….I’m getting out a few minutes earlier (aka on-time) and they’re feeling more a part of the routine.

Now…if only I could get them to walk the dog, do the grocery shopping, wash and fold laundry, pay the bills, etc. etc. etc.

– The WM
WorkingMom@AccountantsForYou.com

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From the desk of the working Mom…..

Welcome to “The Desk of the Working Mom”…..My desk, as is my life, is messy but in the end and after some digging, I can usually get things pretty well straightened out.

These recurring blog posts are going to be related to the trials and tribulations often experienced by working parents (not just the Moms).  I hope to offer tips and  tales and create an overall “experience share”. I encourage your feedback, questions and by all means….SOLUTIONS, if you can offer any suggestions to the dilemmas we’ll tackle.

Today’s subject….random non-school/daycare days.  By random, I’m referring to those days not designated and/or noted on the calendar as holidays.  While they are often scheduled and I am alerted to these at the beginning of the school year, they still seem to sneak up on me.

In NJ, there is a week in November that’s cut short due to the annual Teachers Conference that’s held in Atlantic City.  As a kid, I remember this being a very cool, pre-Thanksgiving vacation.  As a Parent, it really throws a wrench into the schedule considering I’m forced to juggle the work schedule while trying to find “fill in” daycare.

One smart solution I’ve found and I wanted to share are daycare centers that offer “drop-in daycare”.  Very often these centers require very little notice for a reservation for your child and they will charge you a per hour or per diem rate for the care.  Until recently, these centers were tough to find however in the past couple of years, I’ve seen more and more of them springing up around the area. 

Please let me know what suggestions you may be able to offer regarding “random non-school/daycare days”….I’m happy to pass them along.

–The WM (aka Heidi)
WorkingMom@AccountantsForYou.com

Watch Out For Job Scams

The Wall Street Journal has a great article that job seekers should read.  I have pasted the story below and provided a link to the original article.  Always be careful giving out your personal information!



“With the jobless rate still high, more job-spamming websites than ever are popping up to prey on the unemployed.
The Better Business Bureau recently released a report on how to spot such sites — which typically promise to help you find a job after you provide payment or personal information upfront. The people running the scam sites then take off with the money or use the personal information for identity theft.
“Folks looking for jobs, maybe even desperate at the time, are more apt to consider these opportunities that might not be legitimate,” says Felicia Thompson, a vice president of communications for the Better Business Bureau.  The biggest red flag is a request for your sensitive personal information, such as a bank account or Social Security number. Such information is never requested at the start of a legitimate job-search process.
Job hunters also should be wary of sites that only allow you to communicate with someone via email. If there’s a hiring company and contact information listed on the site, do an online search on that information. Also check the Better Business Bureau (bbb.org) for complaints.
Another red flag: A testimonial from a “working mom” claiming to be supplementing her income while working from home. And if a site makes “As Seen On” claims from national or local news outlets, verify that the story was reported.”