Millennium Mom

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Holiday Decor

It's that time of year again...time to decorate for the holidays for most of us. If you are non-Christian, it is certainly easier and less involved for sure, but if you are Christian let the fun begin. The easiest way to make it "less of a pain" (sorry - but I just couldn't say fun) is twofold - being organized and "fake".

First, go to your local Target, WalMart, Sears, Sam's Club, Costco, etc and get some good storage bins. Not too big, as then stuff can break and you have to be real careful about what goes on the bottom, etc. I buy all mine at Sam's club, I think they are 3 for $10. Once you have your bins the key is to label them for each "area" of your home. Some examples might be front steps, family room mantel, living room mantel, front door, garage, tree and so on. For stuff that can not fit into the bins, which for us is our 3 feet trees that line our walkway, get heavy duty garbage bags.

It is amazing how much smoother the decorating goes when you have your stuff organized. We came home a day earlier from our family visit this year (and thank god as it was 50 degrees vs. raining and 25 degrees today). My husband and I partnered in bringing the gear out, which for us is about 10 bins, some random boxes and 8 garbage bags. About 10 minutes later everything was upstairs and the work began.

We decided to head outside first to take advantage of the daylight and weather. Of course I got the cords wrong, no matter how many times my husband said male parts to the left, someone I got it the wrong way. But even with that, about an hour later everything was up as we had laid out the bins and bags in the right placed and simply had to plug it all in. I think my extra prayers worked again this year with the weather, as my Jewish husband was a true partner going up the latter to hang our large wreath and working the painful staple gun.

The other key component of making things simple is "fake." I have "fake" wreaths for every window, fake trees to line our walkway, fake greens/garland for the mantels and stairways. The only thing real in our house is our tree, and I think this may be our last year. There are many reasons for doing this. The first is cost. Real greens and wreaths are really expensive, for our house we would easily spend $500 at least each year. Instead the year before we were moving back to the states from Belgium, Joanne's fabric had them on clearance after Christmas while I was visiting my parents in NY. I bought 20 wreaths and a ton of greens/garland. My parents drove them out to me on their first visit...maybe I spent $150 total and that was 6 years ago. Today I even found gorgeous fake poinsettias at Sam's club for $30, the real ones were $20, less than 2 years and it will pay out.

So, to bring in the holiday cheer sooner, and not be depressed by the decorating, pray for good weather and get organized. Putting away and putting up become so much easier, so easy in that even your Jewish partner/spouse doesn't mind all that much :)

Friday, November 28, 2008

True Partnership

The first cardinal rule in my book is "it takes a partnership." In all honesty, the original heading was "marry the right man." When I shared the manuscript with friends, they gave me the honest feedback that maybe the heading wasn't right. As I didn't want people to feel bad about their marriage if they didn't have a partnership, instead I wanted women to get some tips for how they could go about forming a better partnership with their husband, particularly around managing the home and children.

It would be and is nearly impossible to have a job/career and children if you do not have a strong partnership with your spouse or partner. This doesn't mean it has to be 50/50. It has to be enough that you will not go crazy and you feel you have the support you need. The important thing is you determine what level of support that is.

I have a "cheat sheet" of common tasks in the household in my book that you can go through and "assign" ownership to them. The easiest way to start the conversation is to be open and honest with your spouse. Let him or her know that you are struggling a bit and need more help. After you open up this conversation, then just ask him or her "what don't you mind doing?" What are the tasks that don't bother them. For example, in our house for Arnie it is mowing the lawn, doing some laundry and bathing the kids. Then ask them "what do you really dislike doing?" If you both dislike the same tasks, then determine if you can afford to outsource it. If you can't, then maybe split the tasks.

When you are done you should have a list of who will do what. In our house it is still about 60/40 me, but that is fine. I can manage that amount and still love life. Every now and then I will begin to lose it. After trying to "hide it" or not let it show for about three weeks, it builds up too much and then I break down to say "I need you to do more." It's a bit of swallowing your pride...I still haven't figured out why doing a lot is pride, it must be in female DNA or something.

So as you give thanks, and hopefully your spouse or partner is something you are thankful for, and look forward to a new year before you know it, I encourage you to take a look at the workload and have a conversation if it is out of whack. For those of you reading this who are not married, I recommend having the conversation before kids enter your life, as it will come like a brick wall so you should be prepared.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Keeping up

I think anyone who works constantly goes through the debate in their head of "should I check in" while I am on holiday or not? I have a pretty hard and fast rule that I do not take my computer when we go on vacation. Nothing could possibly happen at an $84 billion dollar company that would require me and only me. There are lots of smart people who can keep things afloat until I get back. It is my (and my families) time to get away and rest.

I have a harder time on long weekends like this weekend. Thanksgiving is only a US holiday...yet I work in a global job. So everyone else is working as usual while we are out for a few days. Yes, you could argue "they all know this" and that is certainly true for most. I just really don't like Mondays after holiday weekends if I don't check email. You want to go back and ease it, but it hits you like a brick wall.

After a few of these, I have decided I will clear out email during the time off. I don't do "work" in that I am not writing documents, memos, calling into meetings, etc...but I do keep in touch to reduce the angst of going back on Monday. So the side for "staying on top of things" won the debate in my head. Somehow it makes my long weekend seem much more restful then waiting and logging in Monday morning to 200 plus emails...this way I enjoy my time with my family, while finding 15 minutes a day to log on, delete a lot and know no fires are erupting.

What do you do?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Pumpkin pie and long drives

When holidays arrive, for many working moms it means traveling to family. Often, but not always, our job has taken us away from our home town. This means on some, if not all holidays, you have to again pack the bags and travel. In our home this is the norm rather than an exception. Each Thanksgiving we head north to Detroit where my husband is from. Every other Christmas we head to NY where I am from.

So once you know you will be hitting the road, the question then becomes - plane or car? If it is a financial decision the car will always win. Today's airfares often make it just impossible to have that luxury. But even if money isn't your biggest issue, you must weigh in all the other factors. Let me illustrate a bit. When we had one child it was a given that we would fly to NY. Until he was two he was a free ticket and could sit on my lap (and sometimes you would get lucky and there was an empty seat next to you). It was simple to check the one car seat, or borrow one on the other end. Remembering food wasn't a bit deal, comfort toys, books, etc were only for one and you could all fit in a normal car on the other end.

When we hit two kids, we tended to still opt for the car on the trip to NY. My sister often had many of the necessities when we arrived and the baby was still free. Three simply put us over the top. Trying to check three car seats, fit in a car with luggage on the other end, put my family out by having to borrow someones car the entire time we were there, etc just didn't make it worth it. Since Sarah was born we have driven to NY every other Christmas at minimum each year.

For Detroit is has always been to drive. By the time we factor in the drive to the airport, arriving early, and drive to Arnie's parents house on the other end, it is a wash on time. This way we have our van, car seats, and more equipment than we could ever need with us. For New York we have to plan the trips a bit more. It is an eleven hour drive with one meal stop (meaning getting off the road and actually sitting down to order). The constant debate is when to leave, what is best time, etc. We have found there is no real good time. We aren't that into waking the kids at the crack of dawn, etc. We tend to have a normal breakfast at home and then hit the road, which normally puts us in my hometown between 8-10 at night.

Before you go make sure you have the following: videos (and ask each kid what his top choice is to reduce stress in the car), snacks for the ride, extra clothes (in case juice, etc spills), blankets and pillows in the car, CD's (for when the kids do sleep) and extra patience. Every time we do this trip all I can think of is "how did my parents and three kids drive to Florida every year in a sedan without a video player"...truly amazing in hindsight.

So enjoy your road trip and pack accordingly to make your holiday season "jolly" despite the at times trying travel to get there.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

My first parent teacher conference

Last night I had the privilege of having my first parent-teacher conference. Arnie and I went to meet Ben's Kindergarten teacher at 6:20 (a big thanks to my neighbor Catherine who watched the kids, we are repaying today by watching hers). We sat down in the tiny chairs and had a wonderful conversation about how Ben is doing, getting to see some of his work and ask any questions about his development.

She is very happy with where he is at, as are we. We both asked questions and felt very informed and happy with what we heard. I say that this is a "privilege" because not everyone has the opportunity to speak to the children's teachers. In some countries there aren't even education systems. What a wonderful opportunity it is to have a 1-to-1 conversation with the person single-hand idly most responsible for your child's learning. This is a gift so we should all treat it as one.

I am sure they will get much tougher as time goes on, but for now it was a pleasant evening and fun to congratulate Ben when we got home and give him a "treat" for his great report card - a new book to read, so he can continue to develop his skills.

Finally, thankfully as a working parent, they did offer evening conferences. I know not all schools offer this, so hopefully your employer allows you the flexibility to go during the day as this is very important. If they don't, it may tell you something about how they think about families and work-life balance. It is these "subtle" hints that paint the most vivid picture about what a long-term career would be like, with regards to "balancing it all." Pay close attention and challenge the policies, you will not only benefit, but make the life of those coming behind you much easier. I would also challenge the school district to offer more flexible conference hours.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Paying it forward

As a working mom, most days are full and busy with just the normal routine. Taking care of the kids, work, dinner, baths, schoolwork, laundry, cooking, etc. There isn't really "extra" time just laying around. But yet there is always enough time to help someone out, a neighbor who just had baby, or a friend whose spouse is traveling and could use the help. Make the time to lend a helping hand as it will always pay itself forward and come back to help you in the end. Let me give and example.

A few weeks ago my neighbor Tod had a 10 day business trip. This was a bit unusual as Tod doesn't really have to travel much, but it happened. A couple of times during that time we had Patty and their girls over for dinner, or had the girls over to play so Patty could have some downtown, or just get some things done. This was no extra work for me or Arnie at all. We would be cooking anyway, and frankly when the girls are over, my kids are more behaved and quiet, as they play terrifically together. Of course Patty was very grateful, but that is just what friends do.

Then time passes and just two days ago I get an email at work inviting me and the girls over for dinner on Friday. They had heard that Arnie and Ben were going to watch Michigan play hockey up at Miami of Ohio and knew I would be alone. So we headed over after work, bringing dessert with us and had a great night. We weren't alone and instead in good company, requiring little effort by Patty and Tod, but showing how helpful friends can be.

Last night on a whim I decided to make lasagna. Like any Italian meal, it is always easy to make it in large quantities (sometimes without even trying). So we made a few phone calls and had some neighbors over for dinner. The discussion over the card game became "what a pleasant surprise it was" to get our phone call as they were staring at leftovers.

Lend the helping hand and you will be sure to get it back. Working women and men need support and nice surprises every now and then. It takes a village and what a better way to start building yours than make the meal for the new mom or have your neighbors over sometime.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Thank god for technology

Today I had one of those moments that made me say to myself "how did we survive" without the technology we had today. When I went to grab my blackberry at 6:30 this morning it wasn't in its normal place...and I haven't found it still. So off I went to work without it. My entire morning was spent in a 4 hour meeting with my Group President and his entire leadership team. Not that I would have been sneaking a peak too much, but it was "odd" not having it, just knowing emails were piling up.

But worst of all was the drive home. Did I mention I also don't know where my cell phone is. I swear this is not normal for me...I am usually pretty good with both, as they are either in my car, purse or getting charged. But with so many "unusual" evenings lately, things are a bit out of wack. I know I had my BB last night while volunteering and brought it in when I got home, but I must have run to see the kids so quickly I forgot to plug it in.

Anyway...I left the office at 3:15 as Arnie and Ben are going to watch the Michigan hockey team play tonight against Miami of Ohio. So Kirsten was going to bring Ben downtown by 4:15. That gave me a15 minute cushion. Well, 4 miles into my drive and I was in bumper to bumper traffic...and no cell phone. I totally felt trapped. I was almost tempted to roll down my window and ask someone to call my husband!!!

I finally arrived home at 4:05, taking twice the normal time. All I could do was apologize and rush Ben and Kirsten out the door.

It begs the question how did we live without technology...

I can remember the days back in college when 25 girls shared a pay phone on the floor. When it would ring and you would pray it was for you or have to "wait around" for your boyfriend or parents to call. When I went abroad in 1990 the only mail was the postal kind. I would run to the mailbox each day waiting for a letter. Now they call the Millennial generation the generation of helicopter parents because the "hover" and are never "not connected" to them via email, text or a phone.

The same is true for work. Theoretically you are always connected with wireless and blackberries. The key is to use them to make you more efficient and productive vs. letting them dictate your life. Today I was completely helpless for those 50 minutes, instead of being able to call home and update them, kill some emails or call my family or friends, I sat listening to music. Perhaps I should have taken advantage of the "down time" to de-stress after a very stressful day, but all I could think about was "I can't believe I forgot my phone."

Thursday, November 20, 2008

So, so tired

I am the type of person that needs 8 hours of sleep a night...that's during the week. On weekends I am more like 9-10. Maybe its because I don't exercise, or maybe its my DNA, any way you slice it, I need my sleep. I can usually go about 2 nights on less than 8 before it starts to show.

I am also the type of person that likes to take my vacations, and spread them throughout the year. Our routine has become a week in April, July, October and December. But this year because of my book release in November, we only took 3 days in July and none in October. Not knowing what the release would bring we decided to "save our vacation" so we could be flexible over November and December.

On top of all this, since our nanny started in August my work schedule has become 7am to 5pm 4 days of the week. That means up at 6 at the latest. Before that I was more like 6:30-6:45. I seemed to be hanging together for a while, but the combination of my favorite shows being back on and just wanting some down time after the kids have gone to bed means I am often not getting my 8 hours. That combined with the no days off, and my weeknight events with my book has led to just about exhaustion for me.

I am looking forward to the holiday, though sleeping in really won't be possible with so many young kids in my in-laws house. More so I am looking forward to December. I have a week off, to catch up, do some book stuff, shop and just relax. Then my parents arrive and I have another week off to spend with them and my grandmother who is coming...10 days and counting until my rejuvenation month...I don't think I have ever looked so forward to the holidays.

For all you working moms out there, who will be more busy then ever over the next 6 weeks, be sure to find some time for yourself to relax and recharge...this way you won't end up feeling like I do now.

Those "big" meetings or moments

Regardless of what job you have, there are "moments" or "meetings" that could end up having a big impact on your career or job. Perhaps when the regional manager is in town visiting, or when the Principal or Superintendent is observing your class. These are the moments when making a good impression, be it the first or 100th is important.

Hopefully you know when these moments are going to occur and can plan for them. My advice would be to not "over plan" as you will look rehearsed and "stiff". Be sure to know your stuff and look like the expert. I always try to anticipate the questions I think they would have, but going through my presentation or demonstration as if I were observing it...what is missing? what isn't clear? If you are someone who just gets nervous in front of others, I still remember being told in a public speaking class in college to just pretend the audience or person observing you is naked...maybe that will work for you.

Yesterday I was "lucky" enough to have two of these meetings. My Group President is in town and I had to meet with him on a project (and lucky me I have to do it again on Friday). Then a General Manager, who works in another category but has the "marketing" responsibilities for my business unit. They were back to back and could have been incredibly stressful, but I knew my stuff and the key messages I wanted to get across. Be knowledgeable, approachable and passionate about what you do and hopefully these "moments" will give a great impression and help you prosper in the future.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The constant balancing act

For those of you who work, be it part-time or full-time, you know the constant balancing act you face, each hour, day, week, month and year. You make choices and take shortcuts to make ends meet, but there are times when things are "out of balance." Unfortunately this doesn't normally happen where the "home or personal life" is the one taking up more of your time. Instead your "work or professional" life takes up more than it should.

In general I think I am pretty good at this. I put strong parameters in place around my time in the office, travel schedule and other areas that allow me to keep the balance. But there are times and the last couple of weeks have been one of those windows in time. The combination of my book launch, a family bat mitzvah, peak recruiting season and my group president in town have created the perfect storm. In the last two weeks I have had 2 book events at night, a work dinner for Michigan recruiting to host, a women's event at my house, a work dinner with my group president, and an evening event at Ben's school where I volunteered (as they are few and far between so I try to help when I can).

That means 6 evenings away from the kids. While they have definitely bonded with Dad, I miss them. In most cases I was home before bed time and got to see them, or they were home with me in the case of my event at my home. But that is just not the same as our family nights at home. We love our family dinners, truly cherish them. We talk, laugh and sing together. I learn about their days and what made them happy or sad. I get to talk to my husband (sometimes :). All of this is missed, even when it is just a two hour dinner away.

I know with the holidays coming I will get that balance back. Things will slow down and I will weather the storm. Until then I cherish the time I have with them, make the most of weekends and look forward to my time off in December.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The importance of family

We just returned from a quick 48 hour trip up to Detroit, where my husband is from. Arnie is from a very small family. His father only had one sister, his mom an only child. He only has one brother. This is in sharp contrast to my family, which is well "huge" (think Italian catholic). I remember being a kid and trying to keep all my great aunts and uncles straight, I think at one point I had over 10 of them (it started with 18 but some had passed away before I knew them). But I was around them all the time, as most of them lived in my home town and many worked in our family business.

Now that we don't live in a town near either of our families, you realize the importance of exposing your children to their family. So this weekend, even though we are going up to Detroit again for Thanksgiving, we all got in the van and headed up to attend Arnie's first cousins, daughters Bat Mitzvah. We really don't get a chance to see Arnie's first cousins much, so it seemed like the perfect excuse.

We began "educating" the kids on who they were going to see a couple of weeks before. Arnie's one cousin lives about 2 blocks from his parents, so we see them and their three children the most frequently. Because of this we used them as our reference point. So the girl whose party we are going to is their first cousin, just like P&A, or E, K, J & J are your first cousins. Needless to say we got lots of blank stares back at us.

In the end they had a total blast. While I still think they are totally confused, and J (whose bat mitzvah it was) likely had no idea who we were, the adults all had it figured out and had the chance to catch up a bit. Already the kids are asking if we can walk over to "their cousins" house when we go back up for Thanksgiving.

So I am glad we took the time and headed north (to snow!). The kids likely will have no memory of the event, except for the cool dance prizes they one and t-shirt to remind them. But for the next few weeks I am sure it will be all we talk about.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Like traveling without the plane

The last 48 hours felt like a business trip without the plane...

How is it that you can stay within your city metro area, never get on a plane, sleep in your bed, but not see your kids? Unfortunately, that is what my last 48 hours were like. In order to manage the schedule of our nanny, four days a week I am in the office by 7am, and leave at 5:15. This gives me my 10 hours that I need to get my work done completely and not do any work at home. That is the routine I like and how I am most effective.

That also means on a "typical" day I may not see the kids in the morning. Yesterday was one of those mornings. Nobody heard me in the bathroom and got up, so I was in my car without having seen the kids. Then, because it was our anniversary we went out to dinner and the theatre with our friends Andrea and Bob. Andrea was one of or bridesmaids and it was fun to talk about the 8 years and what has happened.

The show didn't have an intermission, which made me very excited as I thought...for a glimpse of a second that maybe the kids would be up when I got home. I was home by 9:30, but as I should have expected they were in bed...somehow they always go to bed earlier with a sitter...I like to tell myself its because they like us so much they want to stay up...but likely not reality. I did talk to the girls on my way to dinner, so that was great, but Ben was at a friends house.

So, I gave them lots of kisses, hugs and lay ed next to each of them for a few minutes. This morning I couldn't bring myself to leave without giving Ben a kiss. Not talking to him the night before made it seem like forever. So I went to kiss him, knowing all well that he was going to wake up and he did. He asked me to get him ready for school and we had our time together before I left.

I couldn't wait to get home tonight to see the girls. We had a little love fest and a wonderful family dinner of soup and grilled cheese. On the damp rainy night we are having, nothing could have been better. So now I am off to put them to bed (dad is getting them ready) and will read a few extra books, cherishing a normal night and being home from "my trip"

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Keeping the spark alive

Well today is my 8th wedding anniversary!!! Boy has a lot happened in 8 years. We had the wonderful experience of an extended honeymoon while we were in Europe, have welcomed three beautiful children, both have changed roles twice, bought a home and partnered on my book. It has been a wonderful ride.

Certainly along the way our relationship has grown, and it has also changed. I remember those days when they only other significant other in our lives was each other. We lived thousands of miles away from our family and truly bonded as a couple. Then children came, a move back to the US and other relationships to manage, etc.

As you get older and more settled in your relationship, be sure not to forget about the most important person in your life - your spouse. Always remember if you didn't have him or her (or didn't at some point) you would not have those beautiful little ones running around. I am always surprised when people describe the days they gave birth as the best days of their lives. They certainly are in my top five, but by far the best was my wedding began my new life with my life partner.

But...there are times when I have to remind myself that make time for my partner. I can get so caught up in doing what I am doing, being tired, etc that you have to ask yourself when was the last time we took time for one another? were intimate? I know this may be hard to believe for the younger ones reading this, but it does happen...I promise you. The key is to remember and make the time.

So tonight I am blogging before leaving work so I can go have dinner and go to the theatre with my husband to celebrate. The kids are well taken care of and we get a night alone...pure bliss.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Book signings, events and so on

Tonight I went to a local elementary school for their "community vendors night. " The had tables set up in their gym to allow local vendors to come ranged from a DJ, to purses, Tupperware, lotions and books. I went with my book. I keep thinking "just get out there" as we are relying on word of mouth (WOM) to drive awareness.

I realize, really, really realize now how fortunate I am at P&G to have millions of dollars in marketing support for the brands I have worked on. To know that I have the money to make my target audience aware of my new products.

Oh, how I wish we had that. I know exactly who my target audience is...working mothers with young children. I know where to reach them...daycare centers, large companies (particularly those who do well on working mother's list), parenting magazine, babies r us, baby showers, blogs and more. But how to get to them on no budget is another issue.

So for now I go and sell my few books at a time, hoping that the person who reads it will like it and tell some of their friends about it, and so on, and so on...until then, I will continue to take a couple of hours here and there, to make an appearance and keep the dream alive.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Managing Church

As I write this Sunday, or "church day" as my kids like to call it, all is well. But usually at around 11:30 when we start preparing to go to church, all is not well. Let me give you a bit of background. I am Catholic, but married to a Jew. We were married by a priest and a Rabi. Our children are being raised in the Catholic faith by me. My husband has a different faith than mine which I respect 100%, hence I do not expect him to "co-parent" with me when it comes to religion.

This means of course that he does not attend church with us...just me and the 3 kids. I have been taking all three of them for about a year, since Sarah turned 2 I felt I had no more excuses for not taking them. So off we go each week to the 12 noon mass. I chose this mass very strategically. It is not very crowded, not tons of kids (as they would often want to chat with them) and not very long (i.e. not the choir mass). We have our normal seats in the front (though I constantly get asked why can't we sit someplace different) and friendly parishioners around us.

But, with each week I never know what I will get. For a long time I brought books or coloring for them. But once Ben turned six I really felt we needed to pay more attention and listen, so that stopped. It hasn't been as bad of a transition as I expected. Now they get to bring one thing in with them, as long as it is quiet.

I usually hold Sarah the entire time, just to keep her happy and content. We rotate who gets to put the envelope in the basket each week and who gets to pass it to the row behind us. Now I attempt to get them to stand, kneel and sit on demand, but often this is asking too much.

I often think the people in church think I am either nuts or a saint, not sure which. It is very important to me that they go to church, learn about their religion and have a faith. And I know this won't come to them unless we go to church. We now pray each night when I put them to bed too, which they love. Perhaps I am insane for expecting three kids to want to go to church, and like it. I don't recall much that I liked it. And it is harder when "dad gets to stay home"...but tough choices is what makes us parents and each Sunday I make that tough choice and off we go.

If any of you have great tips for getting children to behave in, like or enjoy church, please pass them along...I could use them.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Indulging yourself

The hardest part about working full-time at work and at home is simply finding time for yourself. No matter what anyone tells you it is really hard not to find yourself at the bottom of the totem pole. You have to seriously put effort into making time for yourself, as it won't just happen.

One of the tips in my book is to "indulge yourself." The key to this tip is that your indulgence happens on a regular basis. Going to a spa once a year may be really nice and make you feel good for a while, but it won't get you through each day, week or month. Find something that makes you happy and gets you away from the chaos consistently.

My usual indulgence is reading People magazine cover to cover every Friday night (though lately is has been arriving on Saturday more than the usual Friday delivery). After dinner and perhaps cards with the neighbors I settle into my bed and read. I am a pop culture addict and just love staying up on "what's happening." Even the puzzle of "what six things are different" is a fun weekly splurge.

Last night however, was a bit different. I guess my indulgence was falling asleep on the couch at 8:30pm. We didn't do our normal pizza night, as we had tons of left overs. I ended up making pizza bagels for the kids and a coupe of friends of theirs who were over. Arnie and I made due with what was in the fridge. The kids were playing nicely in the basement and I turned on TLC and What No To Wear. That was enough to scare Arnie away and I found myself alone on the couch. So I grabbed my throw and settled in, before I knew it I was out.

Sarah woke me up a bit before nine and I limped up the stairs, washed off my make-up and went to bed. Perhaps the extra work on my book during my spare time has made me even more tired, or perhaps I just took advantage of the silence and found that my weekly indulgence this week was a bit more sleep :)

Thursday, November 6, 2008

When your partner reads your mind

Today was one of those days where I came home and had a smile from ear to ear. When I left this morning (after 8, as Thursday is the one day of the week I stay "late" to wait for our nanny to arrive) I looked at our yard and all the leaves that have fallen. Perhaps it is my memory, but it seems like the "fall" of leaves is much later this year.

I sighed, because I had heard cold weather and a storm was rolling in. All I could think of was wet leaves everywhere and how long it would be until they would be dry and we could get rid of them. But, there was nothing I could do so off to work I went.

The day went smooth. I worked from our downtown office as I had some meetings there. Those are always more peaceful days as you can hide a bit and not be easily disturbed. I had a speaking engagement at the end of the day and was in my car by 5:45 to head home. I called home as usual, just to make sure Arnie had made it home in time and all was well.

Then the happiness began. When I pulled up the (dark) driveway (it's that time of year) a bit after 6 I saw my husband in the backyard sucking up all the leaves. Pure delight on my face. It was as if he read my mind. Then it got even better. Because he arrived home before five he had taken out meat to defrost, had the oven pre-heated and knew what we were having for dinner. Needless to say he got a nice kiss from me.

While you can't expect your husband to read your mind, and I highly suggest you don't rely on this method, every now and again when you are on the same brain waves without knowing it, it is pure was one of those days.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The joys of children

The blessings in children are infinite, and each day brings a new, unexpected one. As of late our middle child is really blossoming into her own person. She has always been the independent one (I know stereotypical middle child) but now she is very personable and gaining a lot more confidence. With this is coming a talent of constant giggling and singing/dancing around.

Today she just had to tell us all dinner long that she was happy because "she and linda (our neighbor) voted for barrack obama and he won." Our baby would then respond (and she is 3) "well I like john mccain, but he didn't win"...when we probed Claire on why she "voted" for barrack obama her response was "I like saying his name better"...

It is these joys that make life all worthwhile. The last line I get out of my son every night as I leave his room after tucking him in, usually and "I love you mom" but other times a "I love you to the moon and back" or "to Pluto and back". Sarah asking every night "mom, will you check on my in five minutes" even though I have never gone back in her room (but she won't settle down unless I say I will), or Claire asking for the short prayer vs. the long one.

I cherish these moments and try to create more of them by having a routine with the kids that let's us get into habits like this. Find those times, be it bath time, at the dinner table, walking home from the bus stop or the car ride home from daycare to sing songs, play a game, have a chat with your child. It is amazing how inquisitive, smart and funny they are...I think you'll be entertained, warmed and surprised every now and then.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election day = work from home

Today was one of those weird days. When I looked at my calendar last night before leaving I only had two appointments. One downtown as a meeting place (more like a loft that has become the hot place to hold off site meetings) from 10-12 and another phone call for 30 minutes in the afternoon. As I thought about when to vote, where to work from (my location is about 15 miles north of downtown, so often I will work from downtown if I have meetings there) and how to handle the day I decided "I am just going to work from home."

In all honesty with technology so advanced, it truly is easy to work from home. Wireless, high speed, and printing technology have all made the home office efficient and functional. For me the harder part is the kids. Even though they are with Kirsten all day, just knowing mom is upstairs in the office is too much of a temptation. But today I knew they would be pretty busy and I could handle it.

It was great. It allowed me to vote during the day, so NO LINE (not that we ever have one, I guess we are lucky). The only downside is we didn't have our usual family tradition on election day. I remember vividly from growing up in NY every election day. My parents voted at the firehouse, about 2 blocks from our house. We would eat dinner, then walk over together to vote. Afterwards we would stop at the Commodore Chocalatier (on Broadway in Newburgh, NY...still there) and get their homemade ice cream sundaes. It was GREAT.

Arnie and I try to establish "traditions" like this in our home and election day is one of them. But this year we decided that Arnie would vote when the polls opened at 6:30 am and me during the day. So tonight won't be "special" but it still is as our 3 year old keeps talking about voting for "John McCain" and "Bama"...too many TV ads in Ohio, we have a 3 year old to prove it.

Back to working from home. When you can give your self this flexibility. You need to be disciplined, but I think you will be surprised how productive you will be..."at work" and "at home." You don't have the commute so you gain all that time. You also don't have nearly as many distractions, the walks to get coffee and lunch, etc. Instead you can throw a load of laundry in, empty the dishwasher, etc...try it if you job allows, as its good to get a break from the normal grind just to think more and get some work done.

Monday, November 3, 2008

When work keeps you away for dinner

Tonight was one of those nights when work would keep me away from our family dinner table. We had our quarterly Hair Care marketing get together. We try to make it half training, half time to connect. Tonight we had one of our Wella stylists from the institute in Chicago come and make over the hair of five people. He then explained how, what he did and a bit about the products.

Unfortunately it started at 4:30 which meant I was going to either miss or be really late for dinner. On nights like tonight, you always want to have "easy to make" meals on hand. And when I say easy, I am talking easier than the normal less than 30 minute meals I make. The same can be true for when you have a babysitter during meal time.

Tonight my husband made soup and sandwiches. No real prep time needed, the kids are happy and very little clean-up. Breakfast for dinner is another good one, as well as grilled cheese, mac n cheese and frozen pizza (babysitters love it).

This makes the night easier on the person left alone with the kids, both in turns of mind space needed, stress in preparation and time to clean-up.

The good news is I made it home by 7pm, so I still get a couple of hours with the kids.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Managing the transition of months

I don't know what it is, but I have a real problem managing my calendar as we move from one month to another. I have an even worse time when the change in months happens over the weekend, like it did this past weekend.

I don't know why this is the case, but I can offer up a few thoughts:

1) they say you have to tell/show someone something at least 3 times before it sinks in, the whole tell them, tell them again and then tell them again cliche. For me I am a very visual person and need to write things down. The fact that I do my monthly calendar board for the family at the end of the month, means I don't look at it as "often" for the beginning of the month...maybe this is why I TOTALLY FORGOT about my son's "mother-son" dance on Saturday night November 1st...what a bad mom;

2) I am such a planner I think in "months" meaning I don't really look that far ahead. I book my babysitters months in advance, etc. November is a "down month" for us in that we try to rest up before the holidays. This month I knew we had to go to Detroit twice so I wasn't really thinking of the 3 other weekends. In fact I kept saying to my husband "this is a low key weekend" so I didn't think of it;

Regardless, my mind was not in touch all weekend, I almost forgot about my book signing yesterday. It was October to me for a day too long. Maybe it is just me and how my mind works, but my tip would be to be extra careful around the change of the month as you plan out your activities, as just like with the new year, it takes a while to sink in.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Finding working moms out there

After our terrific launch party on Thursday night, I took Friday off. I thought I would relax a bit when I originally planned for it, and spend the day with the kids, getting ready for Halloween that evening.

But that's not how it ended up. Like with any "new product" the most important thing is making your target audience aware it is out there. For my book "working moms" are my target audience, particularly those with young children (or expecting a child). As I thought about how I could reach the, of course daycare centers came to mind. We used a daycare center for 5 years and all the moms were like me, women trying to manage it all. The key was how to make them aware of the book.

My husband and I brainstormed all the things we finally came up with the idea of a 'teachers appreciation promotion" where the daycare would keep money for each book they sold during the month of November and put it towards a holiday teachers appreciation gift or event. If they sold more than 50 books I would do a workshop for the parents and staff.

So, on Friday I was dropping off the cases of books at the 12 participating centers around Cincinnati. To introduce myself and thank them for participating. I hope it makes them some money to give an extra thank you to the staffs who every day help make life easier for the working moms out there. I also hope it makes some moms aware of the book, and that they like it and tell some of their friends.

In between my courier duties, I went into the office for a mentor program kick-off, because I didn't want my mentee to be left out. I also met one of my Michigan recruits who was in town for her re-visit weekend. We met for a quick coffee while I was on the road. So even personal days are about 'managing it all" time for a wonderful Halloween that evening. I'll tell you more about that tomorrow.