Archive | July 2013

Balancing Work and Family during Summer Break: Ideas Wanted

my guys

“My Guys”

By Jen Ashenfelter

Sorry, you’re not going to find inspiration or words of wisdom from me right now. This time, I need your advice—and I’m confident I won’t be the only one to benefit from sharing stories and ideas. I know I’m not alone, so for everyone who has weathered summer break and made it through without losing all of your hair, we’d love to hear from you.

The challenges of being a working mother are nothing new. I’ve been in the game for a little while, but working through the summer while the boys are home is a first for me. In previous years, I’ve had the good fortune of not working during the summer months so I could focus on my boys without the added responsibilities. I have many luxuries with my current job, but taking off the entire summer is not one of them.

I truly love this job and I’m glad to have projects to keep me busy and engaged. I have the opportunity to work from home and my boss, the mother of 3 boys herself, is understanding and flexible. My hours range from 20 to 30 hours a week—makes for a good paycheck and still gives me time to devote to my family and myself. Easy, right?

No problem, I thought. My boys are older and more self-sufficient. I won’t have to see the youngest to the bus stop, so I can get started early in the morning and still hit the pool by 2pm.multitasking nick

I’m organized, clever, and planned for their every need so I could hit the “To Do” list hard. There’s food in the house. Summer- reading books are set. I gave them the “reminder” about all the things they do have so I don’t have to hear those two fingernails-down-the-chalkboard words: I’m bored. I prepared a list of things for them to accomplish, like organizing closets, drawers, and cleaning up the massive Lego display occupying two-thirds of my basement. And I signed them up for a few half-day camps to keep them socially connected. I thought to myself: I got this under control. They’ll be happy. I’ll be happy. This summer is going to be the best ever!

I know what you’re thinking and you can stop laughing now! Wow, was I wrong—at least about last week. My complaints are not new or unique, but talking about them makes me feel better. Let’s have a brief rant session—add your frustrations to the list too.

  • Oldest to camp by 9am, pick up at noon.
  • Drop by office to take care of a few things.
  • Youngest to a friend’s house for a couple hours, then home again.
  • Youngest to camp by 5pm which means making something simple for dinner at 3:30 and eating by 4.
  • To the store for last-minute birthday gift.
  • Five minutes after reaching the office, a text from youngest that oldest wouldn’t let him watch television. Really? Three televisions and only two of them. My A-students in math can’t solve this simple word problem?
  • Power outage moments after returning home and finally starting a new article.
  • When? Who? Where? What? Come see this. Can I? Why, why, why? My youngest really should become a lawyer, an investigative reporter, or work for the FBI, because he certainly knows how to ask relentless questions.
  • Flat tire which required two trips, back and forth…over two days, to the shop before it was finally fixed…blah, blah, whine, moan, etc.

Four simple hours of work takes all day! I spent more time driving here, there and everywhere with brief smatterings of writing, phone calls and planning in between. Frustrations mounting, the next person to ask for something while I was typing got the death stare! By the middle of the week, I was tired of trying to keep the plan together and gave in to the constant derailment and unrelenting requests to go to the pool.swim tube Had I actually felt like I accomplished something, it would’ve been a well-deserved break. Regardless, I needed it…and so did my boys. Is it September yet?

Ah, another week on the horizon. There are no camps scheduled, so the shuttle driver gets a short break. The tire is no longer losing air; shh, don’t jinx it. The chores are done. I remain optimistic—yet positive that uninvited challenges will crash my perfectly planned party.  

Maybe it’s guilt. Am I wrong to feel bad when the boys spend too much time playing video games or watching television so I can actually get something done? Clearly, they’re happy and I’m the one with the problem. I know, it’s best to go with the flow. Am I missing something?

I know what you’ll say, “Work after they go to bed.” One is an early bird and the other a night owl, so if I thought I’d be productive between midnight and 7am, I’d entertain that suggestion, but I’d rather hear what else you’ve got…

Here’s where the whole “a place for community and inspiration” really gets interactive—now’s your chance to weigh in with war stories and suggestions for maintaining sanity. What challenges do you face with balancing work and kids being home for the summer? How have you dealt with frustrations, solved dilemmas and managed to live to tell about it? What brings peace to your chaos? What’s your best advice?

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Sweet Tea Brined Chicken

A star-spangled summer centerpiece

A star-spangled summer centerpiece

By Karen Hendricks

Sweet Tea Brined Chicken... sizzling on the grill!

Sweet Tea Brined Chicken… sizzling on the grill!

Happy 4th of July!

Looking for an alternative to the traditional burgers and dogs for your summer cookouts? Four words for you: SWEET. TEA. BRINED. CHICKEN.

Ok, I am guilty of pinning a gazillion recipes on Pinterest, but this is one of a handful that I have actually tried. And my family loved this chicken so much that we’ve made it numerous times. Even though I discovered it on Pinterest, it’s originally from Southern Living.

If you like sweet tea, trust me, you’ll LOVE this chicken. The chicken stays very moist and retains a lemony, tea flavor with the zing of rosemary.

Sweet Tea Brined Chicken:

  • 2 family sized tea bags (or 8 regular sized tea bags)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup kosher salt
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 lemon, thinly sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 2 sprigs rosemary
  • 1 Tablespoon crushed black pepper
  • 2 cups ice cubes
  • 3-4 pounds chicken pieces
  1. Rosemary is one of my favorite herbs, so I keep a pot outside my kitchen door. Which herbs are your favorites? Please share your tips for growing/cooking with them!

    Rosemary is one of my favorite herbs, so I keep a pot outside my kitchen door. Which herbs are your favorites? Please share your tips for growing/cooking with them!

    Boil 4 cups of water, add tea bags, and steep for 10 minutes.

  2. Stir in sugar and salt until completely dissolved. Add onion, lemon, garlic, and rosemary. Add ice and cool completely. Put the chicken into plastic bags or covered mixing bowls and pour the brine overtop. Let the chicken sit in the brine for 24 hours. (The recipe does not specify, but I refrigerated the chicken at this point.)
  3. Take the chicken out of the brine, and throw the brine away. Dry the chicken off with paper towels. Heat the grill to medium, but only on one side. Put the chicken skin side down, on the side that is not lit. Weird, but it works. Cover the grill and cook for 20 minutes. Flip the chicken and cook for 40 to 50 minutes or until cooked through.

Enjoy! And if you give the recipe a try, jot a note below to let us know.

I have added this recipe to the Off the Merry-Go-Round Pinterest page.  In need of more summertime inspiration? Give us a follow, and find many more summer recipes, ideas for kids’ summer activities, and much more–even a board we call “Giggles.”

Wishing you many delicious summertime moments… 🙂