Tuesday, October 20, 2020

What to do the day you lose your job

Job loss.  Layoffs. Getting fired.  No matter the reason, losing your job is scary.  We've been through it before.  I remember being surprised at how BUSY we were even though neither of us had a full time job (I was a stay at home mom at the time)!  

If you're reading this, you've likely just found out your job has been cut.  I'm here to share with you the first things to do when you lose your job.

1. Don't beat yourself up.  

Layoffs happen. People get fired for reasons that are stupid.  Hold your head high and march forward.

2. Find out how to continue your health insurance.  

It's unfortunate in our country that our health care is tied to our employment but it's how things are for now.  You may be eligible for COBRA insurance.  Try your very best to not go without health insurance even when you are unemployed.

3. Look up the hours for your unemployment office.

If they are still open, call them.  Find out what you need to do to file.  This process takes awhile so you want to start filing for unemployment benefits ASAP. 
What to do the day you lose your job

4. Call the local WIC office

If you or your spouse have children under the age of 5 or are pregnant or breastfeeding, you may be eligible for WIC (Women Infants Children).  The eligibility is less strict than food stamps and you would have a good chance at being eligible. 

WIC doesn't provide all your food for the month but they do give things like milk, cheese, carrots, cereal, bread, some baby formula if you formula  feed, etc.  It can be a huge help to your finances.  Click here to see the eligibility requirements for WIC.

5. Visit your SNAP office

SNAP is the food stamp office.  You can find eligibility information on the USDA website here.  Like unemployment, filing for SNAP benefits is a process that requires you to gather various pieces of paperwork and submit an application.  Start by visiting or giving them a call to find out how to proceed.

6. Stop all non-necessary monthly bills

If you're paying monthly for HBO, a cleaning service, subscription boxes like ipsy, or any other kind of monthly bill that's not necessary...cancel it TODAY.  We don't have cable or satellite any more but when we did we preferred Dish Network because you were able to quit at any time without a penalty. 
You will need to keep internet and cell phone service if at all possible. It's extremely hard to job hunt without home internet.  Your local library is an option but for now I'd try to keep your home internet.  
Many people don't have a home phone and just have cell phones now.  Perhaps you can move to a cheaper plan or have one with less data.  Call and see if you can lower the monthly bill.

7. Sell stuff online

When my husband lost his job I immediately listed 3 or 4 things for sale in one of those Facebook sales groups.  I had photos taken and posted before he even got home that night.  It was just a few Longaberger baskets worth $75 or less but it was something.  If you've got a few things laying around that you know you don't need, go ahead and list them online for sale.

8. Organize your contacts

So you've lost your job and now you need a new one.  Make a list of some contacts you know who may work for competitors or at jobs in a similar field.  Plan on calling them today or tomorrow and letting them know you're in the market for something new and do they have any leads.

9. Update your resume

Some advice I got years ago was to keep your resume updated regularly.  Hopefully your resume is fairly up to date but regardless, pull that bad boy out and update it so that you can start attaching it to applications and applying for jobs.  There are free templates online if you need to start from scratch and I've also had success with the basic Microsoft Word resume templates available.  

Keep your resume to 1 page unless you have very technical job certifications and experiences.  As a general rule, those of us under 45 years old shouldn't have more than a 1 page resume.  Employers aren't going to read every little thing on there.  You just want them to look at it and think "YES, we need to interview this person!"  
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I hope doing these 9 things immediately after you lose your job will help you make it through and find your next opportunity!  Remember, keep your head high and don't take rejection personally.  When I was job searching, I read that it takes an average of 100 "no"s before you get a yes.  

Good luck!

Lost your job? Do these 9 things ASAP!

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

The #1 Trick That Gets People to RSVP!

You've spent money buying invitations or spent time hand making them yourself.  All the perfect party details are ready. You wait to hear back. *crickets*.  

When no one sends an RSVP, it puts the party host in a lurch. Do you plan goody bags for 5 kids or 25?!  Without an RSVP you can't be sure whether to tell the caterer 30 people or 100 people for the retirement party.

A few years ago I stumbled upon one trick that gets guaranteed RSVPs.  It's simple and effective.  I first tried it for one of my children's birthday parties and got RSVPs the day after mailing invitations and had nearly 100% of people reply, even the ones who couldn't come!

Knowing who was going to be at the party made it much easier to plan!
One trick to finally get those RSVPs

Are you ready to know the secret to getting RSVPs?

Offer a door prize for the first person to RSVP.  

That's it!  On the birthday invitation, or as a slip you include inside the envelope, let guests know "Door prize for the first person to RSVP!"  You could even offer it as "The first 2 people to RSVP will get a prize!"

What to offer as the RSVP prize?  

Anything you want!  It could be a gift card, a houseplant, locally made snacks, or a small candle for a grown-up party.  For a child's party you might give the first RSVP a pack of bubbles, or the $1 size giant box of movie candy, a gift card to a local store, playdoh play pack, etc.  

What you offer doesn't so much matter (and the guests won't even know until they show up to claim the prize) but just putting "Door prize for first person to RSVP!" on the invitations guarantees you'll hear back from most people and be able to plan your party accordingly.

I absolutely hate not getting RSVPs when I've worked hard to plan a party!  This rsvp trick has helped me be able to better plan for party day!  

Try it out and let me know if it works for you too!
One easy way to get people to rsvp to your invitation

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Feed Your Family of 4 on just $99 / week!

Meal planning and grocery budgeting.  The bane of everyone's existence. Groceries are the most flexible spending category when it comes to budgeting so it is the area we all work at being the most frugal in when trying to save money.  And yet. It seems so tedious sometimes. 

I've created a week's worth of meals that will feed your family for $99, including all breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and a couple of snack items too.  Whether you're on a tight budget or just looking to tighten up the wallet a bit, hopefully this meal plan will give you a starting place!  
Budget meal plan and grocery list free printable

*Your costs may likely be lower than $99 for the week if you already have a few of the items on hand such as pancake mix and salad dressing.

*The estimated costs are based on my mid-west existence at stores like Kroger and Target.  If you live elsewhere or shop at pricier places, obviously, your expenses could vary.  

*Likewise, if you can get these items at an Aldi near you, you may spend EVEN LESS than $99 to feed your family of 4 this week!

Ready to meal plan and save money?  Here's what we have:

Inexpensive breakfast ideas

Oatmeal ($2 for a container that has 30 servings)
Banana (.25 each. $7 for the week)

Breakfast Costs: $9 total
Oatmeal- $2 for large container
Bananas- $7 (.25 each, x 28 bananas)

Inexpensive lunches

1- PBJ, celery sticks, pretzel sticks
2- PBJ, strawberries, yogurt
3- PBJ, hard boiled egg, yogurt
4- PBJ, yogurt, pretzel sticks, apple slices
5- PBJ, strawberries, yogurt pretzel sticks
6- PBJ, apple slices, celery sticks
7- PBJ, apple slices, yogurt, pretzel sticks

Lunch Costs: $23 total
Yogurt- 3 lg tubs at $2 each=$6
Pretzel sticks- $2 
2 loaves bread- $2
Jar PB- $2
Jar Jelly- $2
Bag of apples- $4
Eggs- $1 
Celery- $2
Strawberries- $2

Dinner ideas on a budget

1- Whole roasted chicken, mashed potatoes, frozen peas
2- Spaghetti with sauce, garlic bread, organic salad w/ dressing
3- Soup, grilled cheese
4- Baked potatoes, baked beans, frozen broccoli
5- Frozen pizza, green beans, baby carrots, fresh or canned peaches
6- Pancakes and scrambled eggs, fresh oranges
7- Tacos, frozen or canned corn

Dinner Costs: $52.50 total
Whole chicken- $5
Bag of potatoes- $3
Frozen peas- $1
Spaghetti- $1
Spaghetti Sauce- $2
Garlic bread- $2
Organic Salad- $3
Salad dressing- $2 (you may already have)
Soup (2 cans)- $2
Bread for grilled cheese -$1
American cheese slices-$2
Baked beans- $1.50
Frozen broccoli- $2
Frozen pizza- $4
Green beans- $1
Baby carrots- $1
Peaches- $2
Pancake mix- $2 (you may already have)
Scrambled eggs- $0 (use the remaining 8 eggs from the $1 eggs you bought for lunch)
Fresh oranges-$3 (about .75 each)
Ground beef- $3
Taco Kit- $3
Sour cream- $1
Tomatoes- $2
Taco cheese- $2
Frozen corn- $1

Now that meals are planned for, there are a few extras you may want.  Sure no one needs coffee but really?  Let's try to work it into the budget.  Along with creamer. If you're able to drink your coffee black, more power to you.  But I've gotta add some vanilla creamer.  Also included are string cheese and popcorn in case someone in the family needs a snack between meals.
Grocery list for families on a budget

Grocery Extras Total: $14.50
Milk- $3
Coffee- $4.50
Creamer- $2
Popcorn- $2
String cheese- $3

Grand total of all groceries for one week for a family of 4: $99!
Feed your family for $99 this week with this free printable menu and shopping list

Honestly when I started planning this post, I was just trying to be under $110.  And it came out even less than $100 to feed our family of 4!  Humbling (we can definitely be spending less than we have been!) and encouraging (holy smokes, we can really lower our food budget and free up money for other things!).

Monday, September 14, 2020

Do this 1 thing on Sunday to make the rest of your week easier!

1 simple hack to make your work week easier

Ahhh Sunday nights.  I love my job as a teacher but I still get that back-to-work anxiety setting in on Sunday nights about the upcoming work week.  You too, eh?  After having been a stay at home mom for about 12 years, I entered the workforce full time.  With 2 adults working full time and 2 children in school, mornings can turn stressful.  Yet, stress while getting ready in the mornings is NOT what I need!

About 1 year in to working full time, I discovered that doing 1 simple thing on Sundays made the entire rest of my week (and the mornings!) go much smoother.

It sounds like the simplest trick to getting ready for the week, I almost feel silly posting it.  Yet a lot of people I talk to DON'T do this!

Here it is:

On Sunday afternoons/evenings, I choose my clothes for the entire week and hang them in the closet in order (Monday-Friday).  The kids ALSO do this. 
I sit with my kids and have them choose their outfits for each day of the week.  Theirs go into a hanging divider in the closet.  I forget where I go theirs (the picture below is a closet divider from Amazon) but you can also find them at Target, Walmart, and sometimes even Aldi sells closet organizers!
The top shelf is their Monday outfit (including socks and underwear!), next is Tuesday, and so on.  

For the kids: The benefit of planning clothes for the week ahead eliminates any morning arguments ("But I don't want to wear the green shirt!") because the kids picked the outfits themselves.  This trick also wards off laundry panic ("You have to wash this for me so I can wear it tomorrow!!")l

For me: Planning and laying out my clothes for the week helps me see what I have available and make sure I have enough nice teacher outfits for the week ahead.  Often if I plan to wear a certain necklace, bracelet, or scarf with the outfit, I go ahead and add that on the hanger too.  It stops me from standing in front of a full closet with "nothing to wear" in the mornings!
Laundry mem
From Kayden Hines

For all of us: planning the outfits for the week ahead also allows us to plan for those special days without being frantic.  Oh, the school is doing spirit wear on Tuesday? Cool. We'll throw your logo shirt in the Tuesday divider.  You have to wear crazy socks on Friday?  Alright, neon orange and green socks are in your Friday spot.

If I have a conference on Thursday and need to dress up extra, then I can make sure Thursday's outfit includes a blazer. Staff is told to wear your school themed shirt for Monday? Check.

See?  It's so simple: plan your clothes and set them aside on Sunday.  Yet it prevents morning meltdowns, laundry panic, and work worries.

As we get into the grove of getting up and ready for school every day, this is really helping us and will help you too!  

Are you going to try it out?  Let me know how it works for you!

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

What I Wish I Had Known As A 1st Time Mom

My oldest child is now 17.  One year left before he's a legal adult.  As cliche as it sounds, it truly does feel like just yesterday I was feeding him in the middle of the night, then potty training,  and then signing him up for Kindergarten.

That first year as a mom was hard.  Bless my heart, I had no idea what I was doing.  No first time mom knows what she's doing!  Here's what I wish I had known when I first became a mom:

  • Babies need fed, changed, and loved. You don't have to do it on a schedule just because your friend does.  Feed, change, love. That's it.

  • You WILL sleep again, but it will be a few years.  

  • You will also eventually be able to walk and stand without pain but it's going to be awhile. Also. You'll bleed for every second of those 6 weeks postpartum.  Your friend who felt the need to tell you that she only bled for 3?  Uh...you're not going to be that lucky. 

  • You can shove ice inside baby diapers and wear it as a pad. This is both horrifying and wonderful. You're welcome.

  • Breastfeeding is great. Formula feeding is great. Do what works for you and your baby and tell everyone else to bug off.

  • The sacrifices that you're making for this baby right now?  The pain of those?  You won't regret them 17 years later.

  • Some poop stains will not come out. Throw away the outfit.

If you're a new mom: Hang in there!
If you're in the teen-trenches with me: *raises solidarity fist*

What I wish I'd known as a first time mom

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

3 Crucial Things New Special Ed Teachers Should Focus on (and 1 to avoid!)

Hello new special education teachers, welcome to the wild world of sped! If you are new to teaching children with disabilities, there are 3 crucial things you need to focus on in your first year of teaching.  And one to not worry about.
3 things new special education teachers should focus on

1. IEPs

This is a doozy. You have to follow them, write them, present them to parents, and progress monitor.  The first year can be overwhelming with how long it takes to write an IEP.  But don't panic.  It gets easier the more you do it and I can whip out high-quality IEPs in warp-speed these days.
Reach out to your mentor, other special ed teachers, and your principal for help on writing goals.  SLPs are a fantastic source of help as well!

2. Quality Instruction

Focus this year on delivering fabulous instruction.  Lessons don't have to be "cute" but they should be engaging and standards based.  If you don't get to visit other teacher's classrooms for support in the general education setting, or for observations, ASK to visit some.  It's great to see how other teachers manage the classroom and present information.
Find a professional development and ask your admin to send you.  Participate in Twitter chats.  Look for a free webinar.  Make your goal to deliver superb instruction.

3. Build Relationships

With staff: 
  • Don't gossip!  
  • Be friendly to everyone.  
  • Say 'thank you' every time the secretary or janitor does you a favor. These people are THE key to school.  We know teachers are underpaid.  School secretaries and janitors are paid even less! 
  • Participate in the staff events. Dinner night out, lunch time pitch-ins and secret pal swaps all let others get to know you and will help you form relationships.
  • Let others overhear you talking POSITIVELY about someone else "Did you see Mary's bulletin board? It's so clever!"  "I heard one of Mrs. Jones' students say the cutest thing..."

With parents: 
  • Send newsletters with updates on lessons you've taught, a resource (article from Understood.org or local event happening). Always include your contact info. Never include photos of students due to privacy laws.

  • Send positive notes home with students frequently.  A ton. As much as you can.
    Sammy told a cute story.
    You're so glad to get to work with Tom. 
    Alice read 4 new sight words today! 
    Maria helped tidy the room. 
    Luis had a wonderful day!

  • Call all parents the first week of school.  "Just wanted to say how much I am enjoying getting to know Ayden.  He's got such a good sense of humor!"     "Tanya is just precious! I'm so glad to get to work with her this year."
With students:
  • Greet them by name.
  • Show an interest in them. Discuss the character on their t-shirt, ask about the Pokemon backpack when you see them in the hall.  Compliment their headband.  
  • Smile. A lot. 
  • Celebrate successes with them.  "Mr. Jones said you were so good at the recorder he had you helping other students! Man, that's awesome."     
    "You read more sight words today than ever before! A new high record!"
    "I saw you out there with the hoola hoop.  You go girl!"
  • Leave them positive notes on their desk. I like to leave one before I go home for the day so that they will discover it when they come in the morning "Hi Alice!  Hope you have a great day!"   

The one thing a new special ed teacher should not worry about:

A cute classroom.
Some of the best teachers have the ugliest classrooms.

Sure, there's nothing wrong with having an adorable classroom. However, cute classrooms don't make students learn more effectively.  A perfect double-border bulletin board with a punny saying has 0 effect on whether or not your students learn the difference between long  and short vowels.

And quite honestly, if you have students with emotional challenges, the cute decor you spent hours laminating can get ripped off the walls and destroyed in a matter of seconds.  

You can have a theme. You can hang cute stuff. But don't spend hours and hours on it right now.  Book bins can be labeled with hand-scrawled post it notes.  Even if your handwriting is meh.  

Sometimes the best teachers have the blandest rooms.  

Your hours are better spent on webinars, learning the curriculum, hanging out with the kids at recess if you have the chance, fine-tuning lesson plans, and observing other seasoned teachers.  Let's not forget, you're going to be busy writing IEPs too!

Monday, August 10, 2020

Dear Mom, (A Letter From Your Child's Special Education Teacher)

As we head into a new school year, in the midst of a pandemic no less,  I wanted to share some thoughts with moms of children with disabilities.  When your child is a different learner than most, school can be a new challenge.  This open letter to moms of children with disabilities is from me, a special education teacher.  I hope it gives you peace and comfort at this time of year!

Dear Mom-of-a-child-with-a-disability,

Welcome to the new school year!  I know that this time of year is exciting and scary for you as your child heads back to school.  We're in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic still, your child has a disability, and the world can be a beautiful, frustrating, place.  Even though I don't know you personally, there are some things I know about you.

  1. I know that this is scary territory for you.

  2. I know you wonder where they will end up in 5 or 10 years. 

  3. I know you are exhausted.  No matter whether your child has a learning disability, ADHD, emotional disability, Autism, etc... you. are. tired!

  4. I know you may have doctor and therapist appointments to keep up with, meltdowns at home (the child's.  Also, maybe your own), and of course, the homework battles.

  5. I know you may be grieving this diagnosis.  You grieve the life you thought you wanted and the life you have.  You grieve the hardship your child may experience.  You grieve that others don't really understand. Anger, denial, bargaining.  It's all part of grief and I've seen parents in all of those stages.

There are some things you should know about me and the staff at school:
  1. All of the staff at school are on Team YourKid.  Team Joey. Team Allie.  Team Rosa.  My colleagues and I want your child to be safe, healthy, and learning.  Everything we do revolves around that goal.

  2. When we have an IEP meeting with you, everyone sitting around that table is focused on YOUR child.  Yes, it can be daunting to walk into the office and have 6 professionals sitting there (I think my record is 10 staff members in one conference).  The entire world has stopped and we are JUST there for your child. 

  3. We know you are doing the best you possibly can!  

  4. We know you love your kid. 

  5. When your child starts to get frustrated in the classroom, I go and help.  If he needs a break, we go get a drink of water or play with play-doh.

  6. If your child has a full on meltdown? I'm not judging them. Or you.  Whatever your child did today---they weren't the first and they won't be the last!  I'm unfazed and will gently help them re-regulate themselves.

  7. I'm always trying to do better.  There are countless webinars, twitter chats, conferences, and articles about teaching students with disabilities.  I spend as much time as I can attending and reading so that I can do the very best job for your child. 

Mom, that's all I have for you today.  I hope you walk into this new year knowing we are on your side. Whatever this next wild school year brings, we're in it together!  

With Love,
Your Child's Special Education Teacher

An open letter from your child's special education teacher