Categories
Education School

Be nice to your bus driver.

“Substitute bus driving is one of the hardest jobs ever, but it is so rewarding.”

Sure, the title of school bus driver isn’t exactly the sexiest one out there. When I was younger, I’ve always thought of the bus drivers who drove us around before and after school as cranky, embarrassing old people at best who maybe had hobbies besides driving the bus outside of school hours.

But after this experience I’ve had, I can understand why there is actually a school bus driver shortage as of late. I didn’t realize how much I had taken these guys for granted.

I remember when I finally got my 1992 Buick Century station wagon, complete with the wood panel trim and all – it was my ticket to freedom from the confines of the yellow tank filled with noisy students and limited legroom from all the equipment I was lugging around back in the day. I carried my 20-pound backpack and student violin case everywhere I went.

After getting my parking permits for the high school parking lot, I never really thought about school buses again until about 10 years later, when I found myself in a classroom at a facility where I almost finished my high school diploma. And that facility was Penta Career Center.

I ended up applying for a substitute bus driver position during my job hunt, and I was in the beginning stages of obtaining my Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) in the state of Ohio. I didn’t quite know what to expect, as I haven’t stepped foot in this neck of the woods for literally over a decade.

Instinctively, I sunk myself in the back row of the classroom as the instructor entered behind me.

“Oh no, this ain’t a church – you get to sit in the front seat!”

Wonderful.

 

 

2011_Blue_Bird_Vision_dashboard
I’m still trying to remember what all of these extra buttons on the dash do… like opening the door. That one is important.

 

The first day wasn’t bad. I was in the room with a bunch of other rookies until the second day, where we had veteran drivers come in to get re-certified. Joe Dietrich was our instructor for the class, and he lovingly referred to the school bus he drove as “Big Yellow”. The veteran drivers filled the entire back row and ended up being about a third of the class. That was when things started to get a little real.

Joe asked, “How many of you guys have had a car pass you and blow your stop sign while you’re dropping off kids?”

Every veteran driver raised their hand.

Joe then showed us some pretty scary videos like a driver’s ed class should. But this time, after having a kid of my own and seeing some of these kids on buses die from cars that did not stop for school buses hit me hard. I was looking forward to putting PJ on a school bus to send her away for the day while I enjoyed the house to myself, but now I was terrified. What if my kid ended up in one of these accidents?

The general public AND the state of Ohio expects the school bus drivers to be perfect and nothing less. They are responsible for the safety of some precious cargo in a nearly 15-ton yellow metal tank that can cruise around at speeds up to 65 MPH on the interstate. That’s a huge responsibility these guys take on every day alone.

Not to mention that kids will be kids and do just what kids do. They are loud. They don’t pay attention to you. They do some pretty stupid stuff (like snorting Crystal Lite drink mix) and can be messy. Very messy. This job is not for the fainthearted. Or for those who value their privacy and space.

When you drive a school bus, you are basically a big yellow brick on the road. Anyone can and will watch what you do. Because you’re big and yellow and loud. You also have the school’s name conveniently right on the sides of your bus, so you are also a glorified Public Relations Manager for the school district you drive for. The parents will just think you are able to just work your magic and be little Johnny’s personal chauffeur… even though there may be 25 other kids on that bus.

I haven’t even started to drive one of these things yet, but just from taking this course, I’ve found a new appreciation for school bus drivers everywhere. You guys take a lot of crap to do a very important job.

So parents and guardians everywhere, be nice to your bus driver. Next time your kid gets on the bus, give them a note or a card to give to the driver that just says thank you for what they do for your child. You’ll have no idea how much that will make their day.

These drivers that are left in this line of work are not in it for the money – they are in it for the kids.

“Those are my kids.” one veteran driver said as we held our group discussions. “During the school year, you watch them grow up, lose teeth, get through some tough stuff. They grow on you.”

Even if I don’t make the cut to be a certified bus driver in Ohio, I’ll definitely take home these stories and experiences to bring awareness to other parents and friends of mine. At least I can be a bus driver’s favorite (or least irritating) parent from this experience someday.


 

**Special thanks to Joe Dietrich for giving me permission to write about my class experience! You can find out more about the Bus Driver Pre-Service Training Program he teaches here. Know a person who could be a great school bus driver? Click here for jobs in the Toledo area!**

Categories
Food

College food hacks you can use now that you’re a parent.

You needed to be crafty when all you could afford was ramen.

And you couldn’t eat this stuff exactly the way you’re supposed to make it every single day without getting sick of it. Even if you love ramen, there has to be a little variety so it doesn’t feel like you’re depriving yourself completely… even though you might be.

Here are some tips and hacks I use to stay afloat while managing the chaos. These little gems have served me well while in school, and have proven to be quite useful during the moments of parenthood when you just can’t even anymore.

1. Get ingredients that work hard.

Here’s my personal list of pantry staples for when things get tight. Good staples are non-perishable and versatile ingredients that can be used in many recipes.

  • Pasta, rice or ramen
  • Flour, sugar, salt and pepper (the basics people take for granted)
  • Canned or frozen veggies/fruits
  • Canned cream of something (Cream of Mushroom, Chicken, etc.)
  • Canned meats (I haven’t resorted to Spam yet, but chicken, tuna, and ham are great ones)
  • Dry or canned beans
  • Broths for soups or bouillon cubes to add for soups
  • Favorite condiment of choice, like ketchup or soy sauce

Some ready to eat canned foods are great to have on hand as well, such as soups and ravioli. Whatever you like is fine, as long as you will be able to eat it.

2. Add veggies to feel a little healthier.

I actually just used this one for dinner tonight. There was about a cup’s worth of leftover frozen broccoli, and I threw that together with a box of (maybe ancient?) Hamburger Helper I had lying in the depths of my kitchen pantry.

You can do this with just about any pasta or soup dish. Just follow the instructions on the packaging of the pasta you are using, then either add a can of drained veggies or thawed and drained frozen veggies.

Who cares if it’s covered in sauce or some cheese to hide the weird textures? You’re still eating them. Go you.

3. Hack your ramen.

Tired of your standard instant ramen? Play it up with other ingredients you have on hand. I love to put a fried or hard boiled egg in with my ramen, along with some scallions, some pork and some other veggies like carrots and onions.

You can also ditch the flavor packet and put in your own sauce or condiment. This opens up a new world of flavor you can have with your little square of nourishment. Or you can try putting the noodles in a salad. I absolutely love this recipe for crunchy ramen salad here.

4. Break the rules.

Here’s a little confession – I know I just said I was making Hamburger Helper for dinner tonight, but I didn’t have any hamburger. But I did have some canned chicken. It was a cheesy pasta mix, so it ended up working out pretty well! Heck, I could have probably made it without any meat. You could probably also use canned tuna for boxed pasta like that and be fine.

You don’t always need to follow the recipe every time to the letter – Try throwing a bunch of stuff you like on its own in a bowl and see what happens.

OK, I’m not saying you throw some vanilla ice cream in with some sriracha sauce, but if that’s your thing, I’m not gonna judge. I’ve thrown someone else’s leftover puppy chow on top of a Arby’s roast beef sandwich before – and I liked it.

5. Breakfast for dinner.

Who says that toast is just for breakfast? Along with the classic buttered toast, you can top that warm and crusty bread with jam and peanut butter, or some egg and avocado for breakfast, tuna and tomato for lunch, or just have it with some soup for dinner.

Also, leftovers from dinner were also packed for lunch many times. I would make enough to pack quickly the night before to take with me to work the next day.

6. Take advantage of free stuff.

You know when you go to Taco Bell every once in a while and see all of the sauces in their little bins near the napkins? Go grab a bunch of those. You can use them at home when you manage to make your own tacos. I’ve also used some of these to spice up bowls of instant ramen, chip dips, and even thrown it on my eggs for breakfast.

Of course, you can also browse for other condiments at other restaurants (maybe pay for something so you don’t get in trouble). Ask for extra ketchup and mayo packets, and you will never have to go buy a bottle of those things ever again. I still do this today.

Have I mentioned that I’m a bit of a cheapskate sometimes? Though I prefer the term “thrifty”.

You can also go to events on college campuses for free food, or go to your local church – some might have soup kitchens or events where you can get free food at. If you’re in need, they may also let you leave with some leftovers, or point you to some other resources that you can use, like food banks. Speaking of those…

7. USE your local food bank.

Finally, if you are really hurting to make due, try and contact your local food bank. They may need you to fill out an eligibility form or something, just to prove you are in need of food assistance. Some criteria they may look for are:

  • Job loss or being laid off
  • Change in household that affects income
  • Flood, fire or other natural disaster

There’s absolutely no shame in making sure you are fed and getting the nutrition you need. Some college campuses even have their own food pantries now. Check with your college to see if they have a program on campus that provide food assistance – they may be able to hook you up with other resources as well if you are struggling financially.

Have any other tips to keeping food on the table? Share them! I’m always interested in finding new ways to not spend all of my money on food.

Categories
Life Uncategorized

No more mommy guilt.

I literally only have three wrapped presents under the Christmas tree for PJ. Her first Christmas is coming up, and I feel like I am a horrible person for only getting her three things, and two of those things are just re-gifted hand-me downs. But still, I’m thankful that after this rough year there are even any presents under our Christmas tree.

PJ is definitely still too young to understand what this holiday is even about or how it is celebrated, but I definitely have my work cut out for me when she DOES understand what is going on. I remember my Christmases fondly when I was younger – my mom (with the help of Santa, or course) made sure there was a huge mountain of presents waiting for both my sister and I on Christmas morning. Those were some of the most exciting days of my childhood.

But why am I feeling like the world’s worst mom right now?

Maybe it’s all of the things I ended up doing to get by this month. Dropping her off at my mother-in-law’s has become a weekly thing. Am I not spending enough quality time with her? Or maybe it was the one time last week we got McDonald’s and I ended up giving PJ some of my cheeseburger and fries. So much for having a healthy baby. Even the TV has become a babysitter in a pinch. I needed to dust off my resume, so I sat her down in front of Little Einsteins for an hour or so to prepare for an interview. But the American Academy of Pediatrics says to avoid screen time for children under age 2. How can I help that if she is already trying to grab my phone from me? All she knows is that its a pretty bunch of lights coming out of a flat, square-looking thing.

It’s difficult, especially with parenting abilities easily judged these days from keyboard warriors behind the screens of the Internet, trying to reinforce the fact that you aren’t doing enough for your kid, or you aren’t doing something the right way. (Have you ever googled ‘sleep training’? Just don’t.)

Did these guys even have kids? Or did they forget what it was like?

I’m so grateful to have a small group of moms (including my own) in my life that can easily say “been there, done that” and remind me that I am not so horrible after all. It may seem silly to others, but someone randomly coming up to me to tell me that I am doing okay is always refreshing to me and it is definitely needed. Especially when moms like us fall in the trap of comparing ourselves to other moms out there, it’s really easy to get discouraged and feel like we are not living up to the ideal standards that are out there today.

Today is one of those days where I feel like a sub-par mom, but I know that these feelings are temporary and they will pass. Especially now that PJ is awake from her nap. As soon as I walk into the room and she sees me, the smile she gives me is enough to melt all of those thoughts about being a bad mom away. And I’m so thankful for that.

 

Categories
Life Uncategorized

I’m not going to do it all.

The universe doesn’t care if you’re Beyonce or the President of the United States – we all get the standard 24 hours in a day. Granted, we don’t have the luxury of having special assistants or personal managers to help schedule and block a day’s timeline perfectly like a game of Tetris. No, we are usually left to fend for ourselves when it comes to managing time. And even with help, things don’t always go to plan. I groan whenever a decently sized plan ends up falling apart, only to hear my mother in law tell me later in a coy but I-told-you-so way – “If you want to make God laugh, make a plan.” (Love you, Alyce!)

I’ve always managed to do just fine with time management in my life before baby. I mean, I had to be good with it, my survival at the time depended on it. I worked three different jobs while in college (full time), and I was also actively participating in three student organizations. I’ve learned more than once that burnout is a nasty beast, and it takes forever and a half with 5 shots of espresso in a Venti sized Starbucks coffee to manage to pick myself back up from the fallout and get moving once again.

I’m still trying to adjust after throwing a baby in the mix, even 8 months after coming home from the hospital. Guys, I still don’t feel “back to normal” yet. In fact, I’m just coming to terms that my life will never go back to what it once was – being able to enjoy a hot cup of coffee is something that I have to literally force myself to have. It is one of the little things that help keep me sane during this time of transition and keeps a sense of normalcy alive, even when everything else around me seems to be going up in flames. Frankly, I was relieved to be going back to work after my medical leave was over, but I was still struggling with how much life had changed when I came home. There was a baby to care for, and chores to be done, and bills to be paid, and errands to be run, and laundry, and cooking, and doctor’s appointments, and… I think you get the point.

My to-do list got way out of control. There was no balance left. There was no “me time” anymore. Something had to give.

I’ve found that adding the little things back into my life has helped me shape firm boundaries that need to be respected so I can be a happier person. (I NEED MY COFFEE.) First, it was the coffee. Then, it was a shower. A good hot shower, not the rushed 5 minute ones just to get myself clean. After that, it was a good meal. I wasn’t eating properly because I was placing the needs of others before me, and it showed. I slowly kept adding things back into my life that made me feel like a person again. Laundry and dishes be damned. They could wait. I had to put myself before the pile of stinky diapers that needed to go out that night.

The struggle with a new identity such as “MOM” can be overwhelming, as new expectations for how you should be as a person are just magically thrust upon you once that baby is conceived. It doesn’t help with the most recent set of standards for moms that have popped up on the picture-perfect Instagram photos and Pinterest posts. Cloth diapering. Organic, homemade baby foods and snacks. Breastfeeding. Cute and stylish outfits that put your 90’s clown-like childhood photos to shame.

You don’t have to do it all. I’m certainly not. Disposable diapers are my time trade-off for a cuppa joe in the morning. I’ll take it! And remember, social media tends to show the better side of a person. People like to post the best of themselves, while hiding and editing out the not-so-perfect aspects. (Like how I need mascara to make it look like I have lashes.)

Do what works for you. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. There is no shame in calling someone to watch your kid if you need a time out from life. And maybe a margarita.

 

 

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Uncategorized

I’m feeding my almost toddler oatmeal while I’m typing this.

And as usual, she’s dropped everything on the floor in hopes to regain my attention. Luckily, my husband has come to the rescue and has scooped her up for a moment while I figure out what to type next for this post.

Motherhood requires an enormous amount of multitasking. And from here on out, I shall cast no judgement on mothers who do similar things –

Ope, hold on – the toaster went off. Husband wants his pop-tarts.

*burns self with hot pop-tarts*

*runs back to laptop*

Okay, I’m back! Where was I again? Oh yes, the multitasking bit. You need a lot of it. I understand how some women end up with the dreaded “Mom Brain” condition. This is when you often lose your train of thought due to constantly switching between tasks and then forgetting what you were originally trying to do in the first place.

So, why did I start this blog? Hold on – I actually legit forgot for a moment… It will come back…

This blog is dedicated to those who are trying to navigate the new perils of what parenthood is like, while trying to find a new normal in their own lives. I want to use this as a place to vent during my own experiences and struggles. I’ve gotten past the point of being afraid of judgement from other people. I’ve just come to accept that, well frankly, haters gonna hate.

So if you’re reading this, welcome! I’m glad you’ve decided to join me in documenting this wonderfully exhausting and crazy new life I’ve jumped into. Enjoy! More posts coming, as soon as I can get my child down for another nap…