Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Working from home

Today, I'd like to discuss working from home. On the whole, it's a pretty good thing. I don't have to buy clothes for work (professional clothes, that is-I don't work naked) or gas to get there or food to eat while I'm there. I also don't have to deal with customers anymore. Much like Randal on "Clerks," I felt retail would have been great if it wasn't for the effing customers. Oh, there were some really nice ones. But when they were bad, they were horrid. And I don't have to pay taxes upfront. So far, our deductions have been large enough that I could just take the taxes out of our yearly refund, even without itemizing. This obviously means I need to make more money.

It can be hard to concentrate at times, especially with little ones around. But another benefit is that I can stop what I'm doing and attend to whatever I need to anytime, unless I'm having a frazzled day. In those cases, I will scream like a shrew at Mr. Snarky to go take care of it. I'm kidding. Maybe.

I started my adventures in working at home in 2007, when Princess was 1 and Lightning was a wee one. Mr. Snarky's job took care of the bills, but I wanted some breathing room and to contribute again. I started doing SEO writing for a woman on a pregnancy board. Boooooooring but I was getting paid.

A few months after that job dried up, I found ChaCha, a text message answer service, in August 2008. It was really great. I don't really recommend this job anymore, however, unless you're willing to work very long hours for very little pay.

ChaCha has always maintained that the job is meant for fun money only, but most Guides were paying decent amounts of bills when I started there. It's hard to adjust. With ChaCha losing customers who use Sprint/Nextel (meaning *I* can't even use the service I work with!), T-Mobile and Boost, I really don't know how much longer they can keep a free answer service paid for by advertisers going.

I have worked in every role ChaCha offers, with the exception of Voice Transcriber. I changed roles and took pay cuts due to concerns over being able to get enough traffic. Prior to my first role change, ChaCha instituted a pay scale based on question category, so most questions paid less than when I originally started anyway.

There was a period in late 2008 when traffic came to a virtual standstill. It's actually why I changed roles then and again later because I was scared of a repeat. It became pretty apparent to me that I needed to broaden my work at home horizons in case ChaCha went under. So in 2009 I began looking for other things I could do from home so that I could continue as a stay-at-home mom and not just work to pay the daycare.

I kept coming back to writing. It seemed to be the best fit since I had two children and one on the way. I couldn't work the phone jobs due to background noise, and the other text message services either didn't pay any better and required a schedule or were dirty texting (ew) and still didn't pay any better. Plus, I now had a little experience with SEO writing and always did well on essays and reports for school. I surfed work-at-home mom boards, looking for places that would hire with little experience (or none, since I could not verify my previous experience because I was no longer in contact with the lady) and chose to apply to Textbroker in July 2009. More on that in my next post.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

RIP, DJ Leon Botha

Some time ago, Mr. Snarky discovered Die Antwoord. He showed me their video for "Enter the Ninja" which I quickly dismissed as a bit of straight up effery. Then DJ Leon Botha popped up on the screen all quick, like effing Captain Howdy in "The Exorcist" and scared me half to death. I said, "What is this sh...AAAAHHHHH!" I watched the rest of it and got the chorus stuck in my head for roughly...well, forever. It's back again now. I-yi-yi. I am a butterfly. GAH!

He and our friend Jason have had an unnatural love for all things Die Antwoord ever since. They find the group zef. Me...not so much. I think the rapper dude is actually pretty talented, but the chick is out there and the group's image is just silly. I prefer Michael K's commentary on the group. Like when he called the girl a "trailer pixie"

But so Botha was apparently one of the oldest living people in the world with progeria, a condition in which the body rapidly ages. And he died on Sunday,the day after his 26th birthday. That is sad. He certainly got a lot accomplished in his life, though-DJ, artist...he did a lot to be remembered for.

And now, without anyone to do the art for Die Antwoord videos, they will probably all be like the "Zef Side" video with a closeup of the rapper's crotch and his little rapper bouncing around in his pants in slow motion. Skip past 1:13 in that video if you don't wanna see it. Seriously.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Summer Reading Programs

Reading is one of the most important things to pass on to our children, IMHO. I spent my entire childhood with a book in my hand and so far my kiddos are following in my footsteps quite well.

Summer Reading Programs not only encourage children to read, but reward them as well. My city's library (Louisville, KY) has one every year for kids from birth to 5th grade. We began participating in 2008 with the older two kids and Spongebob is joining in for the first time this year. The kids read 10 books(or in Spongebob's case, have them read aloud.)They keep a log and turn it in for a backpack, coupons for things like Frostys, etc. The backpacks are pretty sweet. One year they got a guitar-shaped backpack, another year a silver space backpack, and last year a smaller green bag with a lizard. Perfect size for their Leapster 2s and about three games still in the cases. Check out this year's backpack (not my kid, picture is from the library site):

Isn't that cool? It's a pretty good size, too. So we are working on our lists now. Princess has three read, Lightning has two and I read one to Spongebob so far. I used to impose a strict 20-book minimum so that each kid listened to ten different books. However, this year the older two not only wrote their own names on their logs, but they are also reading the vast majority of their books by themselves. My little library nerd heart is full to bursting at that. They were reading together earlier, with a book Princess already read. She was helping him read it for his list. It was precious. Didn't last too long, of course.

Check your local library for a Summer Reading Program. They are so fun and a great way to spend time with the kiddos.

If you have a Half Price Books in your town, they are doing a "Feed Your Brain" Summer Reading Program, too. Kids 14 and under can read and log 600 minutes of reading time over the months of June and July and turn in the log for a $5 off coupon to the store and a chance at a $20 gift card to the store. We are doing this one as well.

Also, Barnes & Noble has a Summer Reading Program here. Kids can read and log eight books and choose from a list of books to receive for free. Parents can enter to win a Nook Color. I'd root that sucker in a heartbeat. E-readers aren't my thang, I love PAPER books. :D I don't see any age limits on this one, but the prize books are divided into Grades 1-2, 3-4 and 5-6. The selections are sort of simple for the age groups-at least one in the Grades 1-2 section would be too boring for the older kids. But since this is an actual free book rather than a gift card/coupon, supplies are limited and you just get what you can get. I think just the older two will do this one, as they are supposed to tell who they'd recommend each book to. Spongebob would recommend them all to me, Daddy, Bob-bob or cat.

Know of any other Summer Reading Programs out there for kids? Leave me a comment and let me know!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Adventures in Baking

I had hoped to have a review for you on the Crispy Creamy Doughnuts. Alas, I have been sidetracked by other baking projects.

First, I got some strawberries. Not *quite* in season yet, so I made a strawberry shortcake with this whipped cream. Yum.

Lightning just had his fourth birthday, necessitating a cake. He wanted a white cake with white and blue icing and sprinkles. It wasn't pretty, but I made it. It tasted good, though, and that's what's important.

Then Lightning pulled his banana trick again so I had to make banana bread last night. This recipe calls for three bananas, but I find it's better with four. I have substituted banana baby food left over from Spongebob's baby days for one banana, as I did last night, and it works just as well. Follow the advice of the comments re: adding 1 tsp of vanilla, 1/2 tsp of cinnamon and using 1/2 cu each of white and brown sugar instead of 1 cu of white. Nom.

Despite all this baking effery, I have lost another pound and now stand at 131 pounds, six pounds from my goal weight of 125. Pretty good, if I do say so myself, but I'm definitely going to hold off on the doughnuts for a bit. Especially since I'll soon be making lemon bread. Lordy.