Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Church Meeting Brawl Instigated by My Toddler

At church on Sunday, while other people where being quiet and reverent, my sweet little toddler unintentionally started a bit of a brawl.  It began when he tried to make friends with a two-year-old sitting across the aisle.  She was holding a cute little purse and proudly described the purse as, "Mine."

My little boy is at that stage of development where he likes to learn new words by repeating words he hears other people say, so he parroted back, "Mine."

The little girl was shocked at this apparent challenge for her beloved purse.  She clutched the purse more tightly and repeated, this time with greater vehemence, "Mine!"  My son repeated the word again, absolutely delighted with himself for successfully articulating the word a second time.

The exchange continued in this fashion for a few more rounds. My son was becoming more and more excited that someone was willing to chat with him during this annoyingly quiet and somber meeting, and the little girl was also becoming excited, but in a different way.  She started throwing in some other words like "no," and "bad,"  and my son was happy to practice pronouncing these words, too. Finally, she couldn't take it any longer and threw herself into a full force, screaming, kicking, temper tantrum.

This is when her father intervened and removed her from the premises.  My son sadly watched his new friend leave, appearing completely befuddled about her unexpected and sudden exit.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Progress Report: My Child Development Projects

The One-Year-Old
My one-year-old has developed an interest in "helping" which makes it even more challenging for me to do any household work. I am sure he will lose interest in helping before he is old enough to be useful. My husband and I spent the last week building a patio, so my  one-year-old was constantly digging gravel with his little plastic shovel and placing tiny fragments of flagstone, announcing that he was "helping." He also said his first sentence during our patio project. He saw my husband in the bobcat and said, "Dad helping." He has wanted to join the nursery at church ever since we walked past it once just as the door opened and he got a peek at all the age-appropriate fun going on in there.  His dreams to attend nursery have finally come true.

The Three-Year-Old

My three-year-old is at an adorable, affectionate stage where he frequently comes to me to say, "Mommy, I very love you." (He tells Dad that, too.) He has recently developed a passion for the color orange, preferring to dig a  dirty orange shirt out of the laundry hamper over wearing a fresh, clean shirt of some other, inferior color. He loves to play piano, probably because we have the electric keyboard hooked to a laptop with cool, cartoon-filled piano instruction software. He also likes playing outside on the swings and the trampoline and is fascinated by the sunflowers that have recently appeared by his tire swing.

The Six-Year-Old
My six-year-old begins first grade tomorrow. She is transferring to a new school to do Spanish Immersion. At first, she was not pleased about going to a new school, but she has been excited about it ever since we took her to visit the school last spring and she verified that it was an adequate facility with a good playground, plants growing in the Science classroom, and acceptibly normal teachers. She has practiced her dozen or so Spanish words all summer. She enjoys being the ringleader, and lucky for her, her little brothers like following her lead. When it comes to parent/child relations, she is going through a whiney phase right now, which seems particularly annoying in comparison to her younger brother's current affectionate stage, but I am crossing my fingers that it will pass soon (her whiney phase, not her younger sib's affectionate phase).

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Gymnastics Attire

I had no car today, so I put all three children in a bike trailer and pulled them to gymnastics. Apparently, the ride was bumpy. My three-year-old became motion sick and threw up. His pants were soaked. I am not a fast enough biker to go home and get other clothes and get back in time for him to make any use of them at his class, so I asked the staff if the gym sold any children's shorts: soccer shorts, maybe, or swim trunks. The best they could do was an extra large swim diaper.  My three-year-old loves his new outfit.

Help Us Pass a Bill to Fix the Utah Work Week Law

I met with my state senator today, Aaron Osmond, R-West Jordan, to discuss the Utah work week law. (For more info, see my previous posts here and here.) He is willing to sponsor a bill to offer employees more flexibility, such as either removing the work week law or changing it to match the wording Governor Herbert included in his executive order, which limits the requirement to critical, public-facing services and allows these services to be offered either by Internet, phone or in-person. He also supports removing the definition of "agency" that makes small units including "offices" subject to this law.

He asked for my help in finding state employees who are willing to contact him and describe the hardships the work week law imposes on their organizations so that he can use this information to support his bill. He is willing to accept anonymous feedback if necessary.

I would appreciate anyone who would be willing to share this information with other state employees. Feel free to share this post with others.

Senator Osmond's contact information is here.  If you would like to leave comments here, I could also share that information with Sen. Osmond.  (Please let me know whether it is okay to use your name or if you would prefer to be anonymous.)

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Turning State Employees into Outlaws (and other side effects of the new Utah Work Week law)

I have prepared these talking points for a meeting this week with my local state senator, Aaron Osmond, who has kindly and responsively agreed to meet with me about the new work week law (explained previously here).  Did I miss anything in my talking points?  (My local state representative, Merlynn Newbold, has so far ignored my emails and voice mail.)

The work week law will cost Utah taxpayers at least $800,000 annually, in energy, janitorial, overtime and transportation expenses (Reference 1).  Of course, this number was derived by comparing costs of the 4-day work week to previous costs under the non-mandated 5-day system.  I predict the overtime costs will be even higher because of new demands on employees to work overtime to maintain legal compliance.

The work week law adds at least 10,000 annual metric tons of pollution to Utah air, by requiring buildings to operate heating and cooling systems on Fridays and requiring employees to commute 20% more often (Reference 1). Again, I predict that the effect on pollution will be even greater, since my agency is helping to pay for the extra workload by eliminating employee public transit passes.

The work week law turns state employees into outlaws.  Here is the text of a letter I recently wrote to the Deseret News describing the ludicrous difficulties of complying with this law:

Here's another side effect of the new five-day work week law, besides the annual $800,000 price and the 10,000 annual tons of new pollution. This legislative management requires state agencies, including "offices," to operate in at least one physical location nine hours per day, Monday through Friday. 

My office employs two and a half full-time employees and does research and web design. We do not do any customer service like issuing licenses, accepting applications or collecting fines. However, this new law forces us to guarantee an employee is present at the office every day, all day, all week.

Here are just a few ways our tiny office could break this new law:

Two employees could eat lunch together, leaving the office empty for an hour.

One employee could get sick on a day when another employee is on vacation.

One employee could quit or go on maternity leave. The remaining employee could continue to take her required lunch break (Reference 2).

Of course, I only spoke to my personal situation in the letter. Other state "offices" have only one employee. They will always be out of compliance with this law, unless that one employee works overtime every day and never gets sick or takes a vacation.

The work week law prevents state employees from doing their jobs. The legislators who wrote the law were apparently under the impression that all state employees are receptionists; people whose top work function is to be available at their desks to greet visitors.  In fact, the state employs about 17,000 people, very few of whom do direct customer service.  The vast majority of state employees need flexibility to conduct business away from their desks, just like any other business person.  During the nine years I have worked for the state, I have frequently worked late or on weekends to meet with people in different areas of the state, participate in special events or meet pressing deadlines.  I avoided unnecessary overtime by taking time off on a different day of the pay period.  Now that I am legally required to man my desk from 8 to 5 every day, I do not have these options. 

The work week law is anti-progress.  Who really wants to travel to a state building to pay a fee or process an application in person? Instead of forcing state employees to be available in person for such tasks, legislators should be encouraging employees to make services available online or by phone, so people can conduct state business in the privacy of their own homes at any hour of the day.

The work week law prevents state agencies from fulfilling their missions. Take this example. I have been invited by a national organization to travel to Washington, DC at their expense to participate in a policy planning meeting with important implications for my agency and the state of Utah. However, the meeting coincides with another employee's previously scheduled annual leave in which she will be traveling out of the country. The only remaining employee in the office has been coerced to work 45 hours that week to keep us in compliance with the work week law. Next time, I will think twice before accepting such an invitation, no matter how beneficial to our agency mission. 

The work week law is anti-family. The co-worker I just mentioned, who is being required to work a 45 hour work week to comply with this law, is a mother who will have to make special arrangements for her children so she can work overtime. 

The work week law is bad for customer service.  In a survey of Utah citizens, only 20% wanted to return to the 5-day schedule and lose the extended hours Monday-Thursday (Reference 1).  I have spoken with state employees who actually do work in customer service and they have said that their busiest time of day is after 4:OO pm until 6:00 pm. People like to be able to do state business after they finish working at their own job.

The work week law makes Utah look bad.  Legislators recently “normalized” Utah liquor laws so Utah could stop being so weird, just to turn around and become possibly the only state to legislate employee work hours and legally glue state employees to their desks.  The 4-day work week experiment had been generating good PR for Utah, with flattering articles in such national venues as Time (Reference 3) and the New York Times (Reference 4).  But just when the founder of the successful program, Jon Huntsman,  began officially running for president, the Utah legislature scrapped his program.


Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Amusement Park Fun

My parents gave us and our sibs' families season passes to the local amusement park for Christmas. Here are some photos of us enjoying them.

My niece makes an impassioned case for my mom to try out a certain roller coaster.
Cousins ready to play
Hubby and Baby
My kids love reading amusement park maps, possibly because they are such Dora fans.  I think their cousins have less interest in the maps, but humor them.
Maybe I watch too many musicals, because this photo looked choreographed to me.  I picture my son singing, "Out there, there's a world outside this hick town, Barnaby..." or "O-o-o-klahoma..." or, with a bit of a costume change, "I can show you the world..."
My baby loves to watch the rides.  He is not such a fan of riding them, and since I believe that the sole purpose of amusement park rides is amusement, I don't make him ride any if he doesn't want to.  His actual riding repertoire is only three rides, since most of the few rides he has tried he hated.  He loves the Wild Kingdom Train, where he points out every animal he finds.  He also likes the kiddies cars (but refuses to try the baby boats).  His first ride on the carousel got mixed reviews, but the second time he liked it, and the third time and ever since, he gets angry when the ride ends and he has to get off.