Saturday, August 5, 2017

I am so ready for the workday to be over

It's 5:15pm and I am so ready for the workday to be over. It's been one of those days. Stress at every turn, difficult coworkers, menial work that feels overwhelming because of the stresses of the workplace. I'm tired, frustrated, and about to go over the edge. But at least it's 5:15pm.

I am unbelievably ready to wrap up what I'm working on, walk out the door, get in the car and drive. Sure, wherever I go will have its own responsibilities with different people to deal with, but with any luck maybe those people will be in a good mood and tonight will end on a relaxing note.

But I can't walk out the door. Because I don't work outside the home anymore. I stay home and homeschool our children. So at 5:15pm, even though I've already been fully on the job for 10 hours, I have at least four more to go, and that's if the kids actually go to bed on time and stay there. More often than not with my three year old lately I'll be looking at another six hours, minimum.

No drive by myself, listening to music to help me unwind. No change of scenery. No heading out to see if the next group of people in my life will be in a better mood. Nope. This is it.

It's been a rough day. Meltdowns, tantrums, tears, yelling, frustration, blatant disobedience and disrespect. All day.

I'm not saying there weren't good moments, because there were. But interspersed throughout the day, all day, many, many times were these moments, these difficult moments. These stressful, frustrating moments. I have yelled more times than I care to admit. It was a hard day.

But I can't pack up my desk and leave, and hope things will be better at home. This is my home, and my workplace. So I have a choice to make.

I can choose to focus on the negative, be a pessimist, and let it bring me down, which will continue to spiral my daughters' adverse behavior, or I can choose to try to see the positive in the day, be an optimist, force a smile on my face, and try to pick my girls up and make their day better. I'm the leader here. It's up to me to at least try to turn things around.

So I gather the supplies for a craft, get everything set up, tell the girls we'll do a craft. They're excited. They love crafts. This will be fun.

After reminding Jena that she needs to follow instructions or the craft won't turn out right, she yells at me that I'm ruining her art by making her follow directions and breaks down in tears because I "ruined" her project.

We take a break, but eventually finish. But no ones very excited about the craft anymore. And I'm starting to wonder why I bother.

Now it's time for dinner. I decide to make a new recipe, but one that is simple and kinda fun and I'm absolutely sure both girls will like. Jena refuses to admit that it's good, instead telling me everything that's wrong with it. But she takes a second helping. And a third.

Sometimes you can't help another person's bad mood. You can try. And especially for the ones you love, and the ones you're living with, you should. But ultimately it is all up to them. They have to decide to look at the bright side for themselves.

Dinner is over. The run baths for each girl in turn. They get into their pajamas, brush their teeth, get into bed.

It is now 11:45pm. Jillian is still awake. She just called me into her room a few minutes ago. The fourth time she's been out of bed, that I know of.

When you're a mom there is no end to your work day. Even when the kids aren't directly demanding my attention, I'm tending to housework, or school planning, or cooking, or pet care, or, or, or... The list goes on and on. And it doesn't matter if you work outside the home or stay home. The only difference is when you work outside the home you get a change of scenery, a break from one set of responsibilities, even if it is quickly replaced with another set.

I've done both. I was a mom who worked outside the home for six years, and now I've been a stay at home / homschooling mom for three years. They are equally demanding, equally stressful, just in different ways. I'm not going to lie, there are days when I think back longingly on my days as a working mom. Days when I have to remind myself how many years I spent wanting this, praying for the opportunity to stay home with my family. Days when I have to remind myself of the stresses of working outside the home. Today was definitely one of those days.

The truth is I miss working outside the home more than I ever thought I would. And while I was never one of those people who thought being a SAHM was an easy job, I definitely underestimated how difficult it can be at times. And then I decided to add homeschooling to the mix, LOL. I had no idea what I was in for! Despite all that, I remain convinced that for our family, at this moment in time, me staying home and homeschooling our children is the absolute best choice for us. I have to remind myself of that at times like today, but it is the truth.

So here's to all you working moms, wherever you call your "office". Keep your focus on what's best for your family, on why you do what you do, and keep on pushing through those hard days. There's a good day right around the corner. Promise.

As always, thanks for checking in.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Small Business Spotlight: Cheap Toilet Tank Lids

Today's Small Business Spotlight features one of the most unique & interesting small businesses I have come across so far: Cheap Toilet Tank Lids.



The company is the brainchild of Tom Herbert, who has been running the company since its inception eight years ago. One question I have wondered since hearing about his company was how in the world he came up with such a unique idea.

Tom tells me:

I was working a sales job for a company during the recession. We sold nurse call systems to assisted living facilities, and during this time everyone cut their budget and I had nothing to do, so the owner of the company put me in charge of finding a replacement toilet tank lid when someone broke one in our office. I looked online, found one for $175, and asked him for the credit card to get it ordered. He said that was a ridiculous price and directed me to a local salvage yard where he had seen a bunch of toilets from the street. I went there, found a tank lid that was close enough for $10, and thought everything was done.

Then I sat at my desk and realized maybe there could be an opportunity to make some extra money selling at a lower price online. I built a website, but didn't own any tank lids. All of the companies I saw online listed the item brand and part number, color, and dimensions. I just simply wrote 'Our inventory is constantly changing, so if you need a tank lid please tell us which one, and if we have it, it is yours for $50'. Someone actually contacted me and needed a Briggs 7421, which I didn't know at the time was the most common tank lid. I bought it from the salvage yard for $10, sold it for $50, and instantly had a profitable business on the first sale.

Necessity, meets inventiveness, meets profit.

Tom's background provided all the knowledge he needed for this new endeavour. Everything, that is, except actual knowledge of toilets. He has a degree in engineering, previous web design experience, and recent experience in the sales industry. Now he just needed to teach himself about toilets. And so he did.

For several months Tom continued the way he began, selling tank lids one at a time as requests came in. And then... an unexpected offer. One day a plumber who was preparing to retire contacted Tom and offered him 1,000 tank lids. Tom borrowed some money from his parents, purchased all 1,000 lids and rented a storage unit. He slowly started learning about these products that he now owned. The more he sold, the more he was able to invest back into his business in the form of advertising. The more he advertised, the more people found Cheap Toilet Tank Lids, and the more he sold.

But who exactly is buying toilet tank lids? A large portion of Tom's customers are renters coming to the end of their lease, and needing to replace a broken toilet tank lid in order to assure the receive their security deposit back at the end of the term. They also see significant sales to restaurants, preschools, and gas stations.


But why do they choose Cheap Toilet Tank Lids? With literally thousands of different tank lids & color options out there, they have most of the possible options on hand, and can manufacture others, making them one of the few vendors able to supply almost every possible need their customers might have. Tom has also become quite the expert on toilets and toilet tank lids, and can usually identify the lid a customer needs just by looking at a picture they send to him. That kind of mastery and customer service sets Cheap Toilet Tank Lids apart from the competition.

Speaking of customer service, Tom wants to pass out this helpful tip for anyone living in an older home and considering a toilet replacement:

A lot of people don't realize if their house is 20 or more years old, the plumbing wasn't designed for the new low flow toilets. A house designed for a 3.5 gallon or more per flush toilet has its pipes angled at less pitch than newer ones. If you are convinced that changing to a low flow toilet is going to save you money and save the environment, consider two things. The new toilet took a lot of resources to be manufactured and transported from Mexico or China or Venezuela to get to you. Using the low flow toilet will cost you money every year when your pipes back up. Sludge will build up in your pipes and the flow will be blocked to the street. You'll need to have a rooter company come and clear the pipes out regularly. It is much more economical and better for the environment to keep an old toilet working as long as possible than to put in a new one. 

The growth of his company has allowed Tom to go from just him, getting toilet tank lids from salvage yards and rummaging thru trash bins after hours to find boxes & bubble wrap for shipping, to having three additional employees, over 8,000 tank lids & 400 tanks on their shelves, and even manufacturing their own when needed to meet their customers' needs. In fact, the porcelain-looking wooden tank lids they manufacture for custom requests has given them additional ideas for growing the company even further.

Growth is often an instigator for change, and so it was with Cheap Toilet Tank Lids. They started with one 10'20' storage unit in Largo, FL, then expanded to two unit. An influx of 3,000 lids all at once instigated the move to a 2,000 sq ft warehouse, and then Tom really felt like it was a real businesses. They remained at the warehouse in Florida for several years before taking the plunge and moving to the mountains of North Carolina.



The move across several states also proved to be the largest challenge they've faced to date. Just for logistics alone, the move took four 53' semi-trailer loads of product, plus countless hours tearing down, packing, unpacking, and setting up their inventory.

While most entrepreneurs will tell you that the flexibility it provides is one of their favorite things about owning their own business, Tom also credits that flexibility for his success. Especially with an internet-based company like Cheap Toilet Tank Lids, the ability to set his own schedule allows Tom to be more productive, and also gives him time to pursue his other interests, like travel, hiking, cooking, etc.


Another advantage to entrepreneurship is that running your own business creates a built-in drive to keep trying new things. Tom admits that he's had his share of failures along the way, but even those missteps keep him working toward a more successful enterprise.

His advice to other small business owners is to not fear spending money on advertising. He recommends 10-20% of revenue as a good target for advertising spend. But don't forget to keep an eye on your advertising dollars to check for areas where advertising in that area isn't driving sales. By cutting spending in those areas you free up money to try different, potentially more successful marketing efforts.

The future for Cheap Toilet Tank Lids is definitely bright. With a simple goal of increasing revenue each year, they have succeeded in doing just that every year thus far, and see themselves continuing that trajectory for years to come.


****

All photos provided by Cheap Toilet Tank Lids and used with permission

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Top 10 Items We Use with a Three Year Old

Every time I go on Pinterest I see all these "must have" lists for bringing home a new baby. You know what I don't see? Hardly anything about anything for older kids. So let's do something about that.

This is a list of items that are used on a regular basis by us or Jillian, our 3 year old.



1. Pull-Ups.
No, Jillian is not potty trained yet. Yes, we are working on it. But in the meantime, pull ups it is. Definitely something we use on a daily basis. Multiple times.


2. Wipes.
Yep, if we're still using pull ups, we're still using wipes. I've come to love the Huggies Cucumber & Tea scented, but that's just me.

3. Baby Shampoo

Yep. She's 3 years old and we still use baby shampoo. Actually, with Jena's sensitive skin (8 years old) she still uses it as well. Over the past 8 years we've definitely bought plenty of baby shampoo, and I don't see that stopping any time soon.



4. Sippy Cups

Can she drink from a regular cup? Yes. Does she also do thinks like put food in her cup, dump it on the table on purpose, and put her hand in it just because she wants to? Yep. So we still use a sippy for most drinking throughout the day. Regular cups pretty much just for dinner time when we can try to keep a closer eye on her.




5. Pacifier

Yeah, this one is as much for me as it is for her. She only uses it when she's tired or really upset, and then not usually for long. My oldest never took a paci, so this is new territory for us, and quite frankly I'm not ready for her to give it up.



6. Play Doh


This is definitely one of our favorite play items right now. Luckily for us it's pretty cheap. We picked up a Melissa & Doug play dough play set at the homeschool convention back in April, and it's been a big hit. Keeps both the girls playing quietly just about every day of the week.




7. Books

Right now Jillian loves to have someone read to her. When we're done reading a book she'll usually take the same book and go "read" to one of the pets or her dolls. It's fun for her and I know we're setting her up for success in reading later. The Llama Llama books are some of our favorites.




8. Band-Aids


Our little Jillian is our little monkey, which means like a lot of 3 year olds she gets lots of owies. Lately we've been going thru a box of bandaids just about every week. And that's just for legitimate owies. Her latest injury is a fingernail that fell off. She hurt the end of the same finger 4 times in a row, and unsurprisingly a couple of weeks later the nail started to fall off. I anticipate us continuing to use lots of bandaids until the new nail finishes growing in.




9. Baby Dolls

Our little Jillian is also a little momma. She has loved dolls since she was old enough to let us know her preference. Three years later she still loves playing babies. Baby Alive dolls are one of our favorites for both of our girls.




10. Bubbles


One of Jillian's favorite activities is blowing bubbles. It's nice now in the summer because I can send her outside with a big bottle of bubbles and I know she'll have a great time just blowing bubbles and popping them.




Well, I think that's our Top Ten for Jillian. Anything you'd add?

Check back soon for a list of the Top Ten Items We Use with an Eight Year Old.

As always, thanks for checking in!
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