Friday, April 24, 2015

To change or not to change my last name??

As I'm going through all of the steps to get my drafting business up and running I'm finding I keep coming back to one question: should I change my last name now or wait until my fiancé and I actually get married.

We've already decided we're not going to get married until life isn't as hectic as it is right now with my business getting started, our new baby, getting ready to move, settling custody issues with Leo's kids, and all the other fun things life has been throwing at us. We've decided that adding a wedding on top of all of that isn't practical for us or fair to the kids, who've already had enough changes over the past 2 years. We're both ok with that, and don't mind waiting. 

The problem is that while I'm starting my career I'm also setting up my brand and establishing myself both on- and off-line as 'Jennifer Levitt'. If we get married in a year all that hard work will have to be done all over again when I re-brand myself. 

With SEO being such an important part of branding, and a persons brand being even more important to a small business owner, to change your name or not has become more complicated than simply considering traditions and attachment to your maiden name. It's become important to consider the ramifications of changing your name when it comes to people googling you and your online presence. 

Sure, I can change my name on Facebook, LinkedIn, my website, and my blog; but what about things other people write about me (I'm hoping there will be lots 😝)?

After googling my predicament I've found a few tips for making the transition a smooth one:

1. Send out an email to all of your contacts letting them know you're changing your name
This gives people the opportunity to make the change in their contact list, and it also gives you a chance to reconnect with people you haven't spoken to in a while. They will probably congratulate you and then you can continue the conversation from there, or politely thank them and move on, it's your call.

2. Change your name on all social media accounts and websites at the same time
Don't make the name change a long drawn out process, this will just confuse people and that's exactly what we're trying to avoid. Make a list of all the places you've used your maiden name and take a few hours to change them all at once. 

3. You could write your name like this for a short period of time: Sarah (Frankfurter) Smithinson
This will give people a chance to get used to your new last name before you actually change it for good. The more people associate you with your new name the easier the transition will be for everyone. You could consider doing this while your engaged or while your planning your wedding, then when you get married get rid of your maiden name all together. 

4. If you change your email address, setup an automatic message with your new name and email address
"Thank you for your message but I no longer use this email address as I have changed my name to..., and here is my new email address...". Keep this on for about 4-6 months. You may also be able to forward the email to your new email address so that you don't miss anything. 

5. Expect people to call you by your maiden name and to ask a lot of question
Everyone has an opinion and I find that they are more likely to voice them the more personal the choice is (as if it's any of their business why you chose to change your name). Answer politely, or don't, that's up to you, just be prepared for it to happen. I find that when I'm caught off gaurd with a question I don't answer it as well so for me expecting the unexpected is a matter of keeping my foot out of my mouth. 

6. Start adding as much as you can online with your new name
The more things come up when people search your new name the better so get started as soon as you can. If you had a strong online presence before your name change, or if you've been in your industry for a long time this becomes even more important because you have lots of content to make up for. 

7. Don't get destracted by your name change and forget why you changed it
You got married! Waaaahoooo! That should be in the front of your mind. Don't spend too much time concerned with who will be able to find you under your new name because chances everyone who really matters knows you were getting married, it's not the kind of thing people keep to them selves or forget. Plus, with a wedding, in-laws, and a future to plan together you don't need more things to be worrying about. 

I've chosen to continue going by my maiden name until we decide to get married. I don't wanna spoil the day by rushing out and doing it sooner, or smaller, just so I have my forever last name now, when I'm starting my career. And even though I hate having to explain to people why my son and I have different last names he's too young to remember this stuff. Beside, I'd rather the story he's told be that his mommy and daddy loved him so much that they decided to share a last name when the timing was right, not mommy didn't wanna rebrand herself so she married daddy at city hall... Where's the romance in that??

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Back into the Swing of Things

This past week was the first week since I was accepted into the SEA Program, a program that helps people start their own business by providing mentoring, guidance, and a very intense 4 weeks of classes.

In order to be accepted into the program I first had to take 4 classes about writing what they call a "Business Concept Proposal" (BCP). A BCP is basically a condensed, preliminary version of a business plan. This is then reviewed by a committee who decides if your business idea meets programs requirements and is a viable business idea. 

Once you're accepted into the program you get 4 weeks of business training in things like marketing, law, accounting, sales, and book keeping. The objective of the classes is to help you polish and prepare your business plan. By the end of the 4 weeks your business is expected to be up and running. 

I am starting an architectural drafting company called 'Precision Drafting'. I recently graduated from the architectural technology program at St Clair College and was having problems finding a job with my limited experience. I was also having trouble finding day care services for Cameron that didn't cost pretty much all the money I would be making had I found a job. When I heard about the SEA Program I figured this was a great way to gain some experience and be able to stay home with Cameron, at least until he starts school. 

So far the planning part has been going well. I'm almost ready to register my business, I just have to finalize the name by making sure its not being used by another business with in my market. I already know the name is being used in other countries, and I am not panning on doing business over there but I want to make sure they aren't doing business over here as well, just to be safe.

Making everything work at home has been another story. Leo is used to me being home, taking care of things. Me working means that, for now, we see each other very little and neither of us have much down time. Tonight we were excited to spend the evening together but Leo's already fallen asleep... And I can't blame him.

There have been a lot of challenges that we weren't expecting throughout this adjustment. We are having to re-define our roles and responsibilities, and without much time to talk about things there have definitely been some stumbles along the way. 

My husband's un-ending support continues to amaze me. Having someone willing to work as hard as he needs to so that we can having the kind of future we both want is such a welcome change from some of my past relationships. I know I don't tell him enough, but he's my biggest, and most effective source of motivation quite frequently. 

Having Cameron has also been a great motivator. I want him to see his mommy and daddy make and attain goals. I think it's an important lesson in work ethic for kids to see their parents working hard, no matter what they're working hard at. Kids emulate their parents so better to have good habits for them to adapt. 

Besides giving him good role models, I want to be able to give him a life without worrying about money or if the bills are going to get paid. Even though family budgets and bill paying are 2 things I think all kids should be taught, I don't think they should have to worry about any of that stuff. 

*Yawn*... well I should stop playing around here, I've got lots of work to get done and it's getting late. Night Night

Monday, April 6, 2015

Is your 1 year old ready for their first birthday party?

A year has gone by since that amazing little face entered your world. You made it through the first night together, and maybe even your first night apart. You made it through first smile, first laugh, first time sitting up, and first time falling down. You've made it through a whole baby book full of memories and probably even more saved in your memory bank. Now you're probably thinking you've got it from here on in. Although you (should) know there are more surprises to come your pretty confident you can handle them. But there's one hurdle you may not have even considered: the first birthday party!

Sure, you have the guest list, picked out a theme, entertainment, decorations, and maybe even loot bags, but there's a few things you may not have considered planning (or practicing) for: you're little guy/girls reaction to their first birthday party!

Have you been to a first birthday party where the baby wasn't interested in the gifts? Or the baby totally ignored their cake (what a waste of a photographer for that cake-smash picture!)? Or seen the baby who's just completely overwhelmed by all the people? I have. 

I was a little worried all of this would happen to me and Cameron so I got proactive and decide to practice all of this very important stuff during the months leading up to his very big day. 

I know it sounds silly. All of my girlfriends were laughing at me too, until I explained what I meant. 

The Cake: I have been working hard trying to teach Cameron, my almost 1 year old, to eat without making a mess, so imagine how confused he'll be when I put a cake infront of him and expect a cute-mess!
My Solution: We're lucky enough to have a bunch of cake-occations during the months leading up to Cam's big day. At the last 4 events I started showing him how to "eat cake". At first he was a little timid and mostly just poked it, but after the 2nd cake I was convinced we were going to get a great  cake-smash picture, and Cameron had a blast. 

Alternative: If you aren't as lucky as we were having all these birthdays leading up to your party you could always buy a small cake and let them practice at home. One caveat: expect lots of clean up! Both the baby and the area around them will need serious clean up. Avoid strawberries if your son/daughter hasn't tried them yet, apparently they are a common early allergy. 

The Presents: I remember opening all of Cameron's gifts at Christmas and wishing he could be a little more involved by his first birthday. Unfortunately he had no idea what to do with all that shiny paper and ribbons a little more than a month before his birthday. 
My Solution: Easter happened to fall a month before his party, and being the first grandchild on my side Cameron was spooooooiled. We practiced opening bag gifts mostly, which is fine because I've casually mentioned to most people coming to his party that he can open gifts in bags, hoping they'll take the hint. 
Alternative: Wrap some of their favorite toys in bags and wrapping paper and let your little one find their it once they get into the package. You'll probably have to help the first few times but they'll learn quickly with the reward of their toys. Do this a few times and they'll be a pro, and won't stare at their gifts blankly. Be sure to get rid of small pieces of wrapping paper, tape, ribbons, and packaging so nothing can be put in little mouths that they might choke on.

The Entertainment: I decided to hire a company called Zoo To You for Cameron's party. They bring about 20 different animals to your house, or in our case backyard, teach the kids about them, and let them interact. 
My Solution: Cameron loves animals which I why I chose this for entertainment but I've still been exposing him to animals other than our pets over the past few weeks. Start with other pets who are used to small children, or maybe animals at petting zoos. 

Alternative: If you are having another form of entertainment, like clowns, a band, or a bouncy castle, expose your baby to that experience well before their birthday so you can judge by their reaction if they need more exposure or if you need to completely re-schedule something else. Small children can be scary to animals who aren't used to the speed at which they move, and their tendency towards not being gentle so always keep an eye on any child around new animals. Safety first!

The Guests/Comossion: Some babies go through a shy phase around the one year mark. Some babies find it very scary to be around a lot of people, even if they are people they have met. Some babies just aren't used to being around a lot of people. Whatever your situation its a good idea to get an idea of how you son/daughter will react when there are a bunch of people all wanting a piece of them. 
My Solution: We have a very large family with lots of kids so every event is crazy and full of comossion so Cameron's already pretty cool with being passed around from relative to relative.
Alternative: If you're family doesn't rival the Bradeys try taking your baby to play groups or other kids birthday parties. You can even take them to a place like Chuckey Cheese to see how they will react. If they don't like it at first, try gradually increasing the amount of time you spend there, or start at a quieter place like a McDonalds Play Place during the day. 

The Backyard: We are having a backyard BBQ since Cameron's birthday is at the beginning of the nice weather. The last time we had nice weather Cameron was not even crawling, and now he's standing on his own which will be tricky on the uneven grass, but I want him to be able to show off his new skills and be able to play with the other kids without paying too much attention to the grass (or ratting too much of it).
My Solution: I've been taking him to the park a little bit each day so he can get used to the feel of the grass. I also bought him some good walking/standing shoes so he can work on his balance. Lastly, on the day of the party I'm not dressing him in good pants, instead some jeans that are almost too small so I'm not so worried about him crawling outside. 
Alternative: If you're baby really doesn't like the grass and you tried easing them into it (it might just be too weird for them, or they could be allergic) consider relocating the party indoors, bringing a large play-pen outside, or renting a dance floor (the kind they have for outdoor weddings). It's ok for you to give a little too. 

The Outfit: Cameron has worn his suit a few times, mostly at Christmas, but he didn't like it too much. Walking shoes are also a relatively new thing for him as well. With both he spends most of the time he's wearing them pulling at them and squeegleing around. 
My Solution: I started Cameron in walking shoes a month before his birthday because it was his time, but the benefit of that is that (hopefully) by the time it's his party he will be used to his shoes, they will be broken in, and the novelty of these things on his feet will have worn off. 
As for his suit, as I said earlier, because we're having a backyard BBQ I'm not going to bother with nice pants but he will be wearing a cute top, with a tie. Again, I've been getting him used to it slowly in the weeks leading up to his party.
Alternative: If he/she hasn't worn "uncomfortable clothes" you can try them in it, and gradually increase the amount of time they wear it. Same with shoes. 
The other option is dress them in something comfortable for them but presentable. 

A first birthday party is a lot for anyone to take in, even for you. Make sure you're special guy/girl has a fabulous time by eliminating as many things that could scare them as possible. Now is not the time for party horns, or fireworks, or whatever else is new and scary too them, unless they've been exposed to it first. You don't wanna spend the whole party inside calming your child down anymore than they want to be scared on their big day... Even if they don't know what their first birthday really means quite yet.