Blog Posts by Lylah M. Alphonse

  • Quiz: Do you work for a bad boss?

    Gary Cole as Bill Lumbergh in Office SpaceGary Cole as Bill Lumbergh in Office SpaceLet me start off by saying that I don't. My bosses (more than one job = more than one boss) are pretty great, and I feel very lucky because, about a decade ago, I had one that wasn't.

    That water has long gone under the bridge, but still I wish I had noticed the problem earlier -- or, at least, felt confident enough to question what I was experiencing. Bad bosses aren't as glaringly obvious as Bill Lumbergh from Office Space ("Aahh, now, are you going to go ahead and have those TPS reports for us this afternoon?"). It can take years to recover from one professionally, not to mention emotionally; bad bosses can really do a whack job on your self esteem.

    If you're wondering if you have a bad boss -- or if you want to measure just how good your boss is -- put your red stapler somewhere safe and then ask yourself:

    1.) Would she be willing to do what she just asked me to do? A good boss knows how to delegate; a bad boss will order you to do things that he wouldn't -- or couldn't

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  • Confession: I'm not in love with my slow cooker

    Getty ImagesGetty ImagesIt goes against every fiber of my working mom being, but I have to admit it, right here, right now: I'm not in love with my slow cooker.

    Oh sure, it's a fine mini appliance. It does its job well. We can probably be friends, but I'm not sure that my crock pot is, you know, "The One." Obviously, the problem in this relationship is me, not it. It's done nothing wrong, it functions perfectly well, it does what it's designed to do.

    It's me. I don't think I have enough patience for the crock pot.

    I got a hold of a few slow cooker cookbooks, perused the recipes, and immediately eliminated most of the ones that contained salsa and/or Velveeta, on the grounds that I'm just not all that fond of semi Tex-Mex food and Velveeta evokes memories a nasty childhood incident involving some rogue shells 'n' cheeze.

    That narrowed the playing field considerably. Perhaps I needed a different cookbook?

    I grabbed another one. Then I ruled out the recipes that require multiple steps on the

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  • 10 ways to keep your little kids occupied while you work from home

    Getty ImagesGetty ImagesIt's a fact of life for most working moms: At some point or another, whether you work from home or out of the house, you're going to be trying to get your work done with a little one at your side. Maybe your caregiver has the day off. Maybe it's a school vacation day but you can't afford to take one of yours to cover it. Maybe your child is sick. Maybe you're snowed in. Whatever the reason, here are 10 things you can do to help keep your little angel occupied while you make deadline:

    1.) Set up a workstation near yours. Stock it with workbooks, coloring books, pens, paints, stickers, play-dough, gak -- whatever you like, just make sure they're all projects or activities your child can do with little or no supervision, and try to include items that they only get to use while you're working. An old computer keyboard makes it especially appealing for little kids. My preschooler keeps her collection of toy cell phones on hers, as well as a wonderful play laptop from her grandmother

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  • Brush up your skills or learn something new -- for free

    With the economic outlook plummeting and the cost of tuition on the rise, now is the perfect time to go online to further your education or supplement your child's.

    You won't be able to earn an actual degree for free, but if you're trying to increase your expertise at the office, wondering whether to switch careers, or just wishing you had taken that film course back when you were in college, there are some truly amazing opportunities out there.

    (I'll admit, my first thought was "I don't have the time!" But the beauty of learning online is that you can do it at your own pace. And if you have a chance to study something you've always wanted to, and to study it for free? Find time. You're worth the investment.)

    If you're looking for ways to give your kid a boost in the science, vocab, history, or math departments, there are plenty of great online resources to choose from, and you don't have to be a homeschooling veteran to find them. Here are five of my favorites sites for getting an awesome, and free, online education for adults, plus five more online destinations for educational games that your kids will enjoy.

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  • Talk to your kids about money (without freaking them out)

    Getty ImagesGetty ImagesOur kids are 15, 13, 10, 4, and 2 years old. We can't really sit down and have a family discussion about finances -- two out of five of them don't even know what that word means. But in this economy, and when both my husband and I work in print journalism (a field that's not exactly a. lucrative or b. thriving), it's imperative that the kids understand that we have to cut our budget back right now, and why.

    But how do you talk about money to kids who range in age from "Oooh, something shiny! Can I eat it?" to "But all of my friends have new 8GB iPods" to "What car will I be driving when I get my license next year"? Throw into the mix the fact that we're a blended family, and have no idea or control over how money is handled in our biggest kids' other household, and the discussion can be quite a minefield. Here is what's working for us, so far.

    1.) Be open and honest. Sharing household budget constraints can make it easier to save money and lets kids feel like they're helping,

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  • Is housework really "work"?

    Getty ImagesGetty ImagesI was up late the other night, working, and when I finally rolled up to bed, I was upset that I hadn't gotten enough work done. But I was wiped out, battling yet another cold, and really needed to sleep.

    The next morning, I reassessed my to-do list.

    What was crossed off: Edit articles, write blog post, update journalism blog, unload dishwasher, make pumpkin bread, reload dishwasher, fold laundry, put away laundry.

    What wasn't: Prep interview questions, test product, write review, clean downstairs bathroom, clean upstairs bathroom, clear off dining room table, take books to library, clean kitchen.

    On paper, it looked pretty good: eight down, eight to go. But I still, somehow, felt like I had wasted time the night before when I should have been working.

    And then I realized... for some reason, there were certain things I'd had crossed off that I wasn't counting as work. Things like "make pumpkin bread" and "fold laundry."

    Interestingly enough, when someone else

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  • Shut off your inner control freak

    Getty ImagesGetty ImagesI am a control freak. If any of my friends or family members are reading this, they are probably laughing because that may be an understatement. Basically, I feel more secure when I know what's going on, and I'm more likely to know what's going on if I'm the one holding all (or most) of the cards.

    Not realistic. Or healthy. And it only gets worse around the holidays or when we're visiting family, which is where I am right now.

    I read a great article a while back about getting along with that super-controlling coworker, I quickly realized I could easily apply it to myself. From there, it didn't take too much brain power to understand that ditching my inner control freak could make my life a little easier all around.

    Here are five ways to shut off your inner control freak.

    1.) Respect other people's turf. In a blended family like mine, this means that you need to accept the custody agreement and work with what you have. At work, this may mean delegating work -- and letting people do

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  • How often do you clean out your inbox?

    Getty ImagesGetty ImagesI've been trying to get organized -- quite a feat for the self-proclaimed Queen of Procrastination and Duchess of Lazy Perfectionism -- and since my desks at work and at home are just too much to tackle right off the bat, I've decided to take it slow and clean out my inboxes, clearing out the virtual clutter instead of piles of paperwork I really should be sorting through and throwing away.

    In doing so, I've discovered that a.) my pack-ratting tendencies extend to electronic communication, b.) I get a lot of pitches from PR people, and c.) I seem to have acquired more email addresses than may be normal. Or practical. Like, eight of them. More...

    My personal account currently has 186 unread messages out of... gulp... 2047. My professional ones are worse, though in trying to procrastinate at the office I inadvertently became productive and winnowed my main work address' inbox down to a mere 667 messages, total. And I'm not counting spam, here -- spam goes into a different box of its own

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  • 5 ways to boost your energy without leaving the office

    Getty ImagesGetty ImagesI'm always going on and on about how much I hate it when people advise me to sleep when the baby sleeps or just go to bed earlier. But, rather than write yet another rant about it, I thought I'd do a little research and find five tips for boosting my energy and beating fatigue -- preferably tips that don't involve ridiculous amounts of caffeine, sugar, and/or anything illegal -- and share them here with you. Ready?

    1.) Work in a work-out. It may seem counter intuitive (why expend energy when you feel like you have none to spare?) but a little bit of exercise can bring a big energy boost. You don't have to devote a big chunk of time to it, either; just 10 minutes can make a difference. Try taking baby steps: Park your car at the far end of the lot and power walk to the office door, stand up and stretch at your desk, or try any of these great work-out suggestions from Work It, Mom! members.

    2.) Eat protein. Don't marathon runners eat a ton of carbohydrates for energy before a

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  • Making extra money without getting a second job

    Who couldn't use a bit of extra money right now? With the job market tightening up and our time at a premium to begin with, taking on a second job to earn some Christmas cash may not be an option, but there are other ways to bring in cash without having to commute.

    I recently took a look at the great number of things taking up space in my home and decided that there must be a way to put it all to better use and make a little money at the same time. Here are five ways I was able to create cash out of clutter -- without resorting to Craigslist or Ebay (though those are good options, too): More...

    1.) Sell your extra books. I'm a book fiend, a book addict, a book enthusiast. My family has come close to staging interventions for me over my first-edition addiction, but I culled through my collection and made about $200 selling some of them to Cash4Books instead. Cash4Books accepts audiobooks and text books as well as softcovers and hardback tomes, and they even pay shipping -- type in

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