Millennium Mom

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A Christmas Carol, lessons and listening to messages

We have had a lot going on the past few days. So relaxation and doing nothing, and yesterday I actually got lots on my to do list checked off.

The highlight of Monday was going to see a Christmas Carol that evening. I had never seen the play, even though it is a Cincinnati holiday favorite. I had heard very good things, and was told the kids would be okay, but I was nervous. I tried to explain to them while we were sitting and waiting for the show to begin that there would be ghost, and to just hold our hands if they were scared, etc...but given they had all fallen asleep on the way to the show and were not the "happiest" to say the least, I didn't go into much detail. We did have some "why did you take us to this" at intermission, but some ring pops (they were so prepared at the concession stand, with fruit snacks and other kids favorites) did the trick.

In the end I think all eight of us, including the youngsters really enjoyed it. Scrooge was amazing and while the ghost of Jacob Marley was a bit frightening (even for me) they kids understood that all the ghosts were trying to teach Scrooge a lesson and to be a better person. I would go ahead in a heart beat.

Yesterday I finally felt like I could get some things done. I had planned on doing a bunch of "book stuff" over the break, but just hadn't gotten to it. As I said in my last blog, I can't blame lack of time, I have been sleeping 9+ hours a night and had the days free, but just wanting to spend time with my parents and grandma took priority. Well yesterday we all chipped in and got the big job done, the mailing that went out to the Top 100 companies named in Working Mother magazine. I had the mailing labels ready and list in excel. My mom and I got all the envelopes stuffed with a book and brochure on Sunday, as well as address labels on. Yesterday we made an assembly line, me typing the letter (just had to change addresses), signing it, then Arnie and my mom stuffing it, sealing it and getting it boxed and ready to go.

We headed off to the post office with 65 of the packages at 4:40. My mom had to mail something that day and I was afraid to walk in too close to 5pm with 100 envelopes. As it ended up, they close at 6pm and they just gave me the stamps to do it myself. So we set up on the hallway table and got those into the mail. After dinner I finished the last 35 and dropped them off felt good. Let's hope some of the companies are interested in giving my book to their female managers.

My dad and I also got a ton done outside. I have wanted to trim our trees in the front of our house for the past year. Arnie kept saying we'll get a tree guy to come, and I just lost patience. So I borrowed a took from my neighbor and my dad and I got to work. We got them all done in about an hour and a half. I think we did okay, but spring bloom will certainly tell for sure. We pulled up all the seasonal plants, got them into the compost bin and started a fire in our fire pit to burn everything we cut...a great afternoon's worth of work.

Having time and extra hands to make dinner we made Chicken Parmesan and Pasta which everyone loved. Ben was at a friends playing and for dinner, so just the girls and us. Today is movie day. Ben woke up sick, so Papa will stay home with the kids while Arnie, my mom and grandmother and myself head out to see The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. We never go to the movies, but a built in babysitter and likely Oscar contender, coupled with looking at Brad Pitt made it seem worthwhile.

Tonight we have the neighbors New Years Party. It is an annual tradition and a great one, what could be better than walking to your party and being able to come home with the kids whenever. We are so thankful for them. Happy New Year and talk to you in 2009.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Off kilter

Staycations - the term coined for taking time off but going nowhere, other than your home is I guess what we have been doing for just about a week now. My parents arrived last Monday evening and we have been on "staycation" ever since, and we have another week of it. There are many pluses to a staycation - they're cheap, require very little planning and can be quite efficient in getting through a to do list. On the downside, the days run into one another and it is very easy to get "off kilter" my word for falling out of your routine and doing a whole lot of nothing. While this seems fine on a vacation, it sort of drives me nuts on a staycation.

Let me explain. While I should have plenty of time on my hands to do everything I normally do and then some, I have found it nearly impossible to come upstairs to the office and get online, to check my book email account, do my blog, my tip of the day, etc. I just haven't been able to do it. Why I am not sure. Instead of being home for about 4-5 awake hours, I have 12-15...yet I can't find the time. Maybe I feel that I have to entertain everyone else, or that holiday TV is too good to pass up (NOT!).

So tonight, it felt so good to put the kids to bed and do "my routine" - throw a load of laundry in and then escape to the office. I play my game of free cell and then get on my blog. It must be the little things in life that keep us going.

We have had a good time the last couple of days. We actually took a day trip yesterday to Columbus, Indiana. I had heard about the town and how charming it was. Then when I read an article in National Geographic Traveler magazine this week that ranked the best preserved towns in the world, it was ranked #1 in North America...and only 90 minutes away. I had to go. So off we went yesterday. The kids, Arnie and I hit Kidscommon, their really cook kids museum that taught you a ton, even how water works, by flushing you down a huge toilet!!! My parents and grandma went on the architectural tour.

The then gave the tour to Arnie and I. I put a lot of my tips to work -- packing snacks, telling the kids about what we were doing ahead of time, planning the drive for nap time, etc. I also learned a ton, in the museum and about how giving back can do so much. The Miller family that started Cummins engine is really the spirit behind that town. Their money and spirit made the town what it is by bringing in top architects at their expense and constantly keeping the town up by giving back to renovation projects and more. When you are working it is easy to spend that next raise on a nicer car or home, instead think first about saving most of it, and second about giving even more back to your community, it will pay itself forward exponentially and leave a legacy behind far greater than a nice car or house.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas week- overwhelming and relaxing all the same

It's funny how time off can be so relaxing on one hand and completely overwhelming on the other. I find that often true with Christmas week. Given the planner that I am, there really isn't "last minute" running around to do. But, I was cooking this year, for Christmas eve and day so there was some grocery shopping to do, and when there are 8 people in tow vs. the normal 5 things can get nutty.

We decided to do Italian for Christmas eve - lasagna, meatballs and sausage, and then prime rib with potatoes and asparagus on Christmas day. Neither meal was too hard, just had to plan accordingly given we were going to 3pm children's pageant and then church at 3:30 on Christmas eve. Arnie was home so he put the lasagna in at 4pm, thank goodness as it would have been a late start otherwise. This allowed us to eat earlier enough so the kids could be in bed by 8:30pm. That is the only day they have gone to bed early, I find we stay up so much later when my parents are here, and sleep late too :)

Christmas day the tough scheduling part is to time it so you really only eat 2 meals - breakfast and dinner, with some light snacking in between. We split the rounds of gift opening, as it was overwhelming. On Christmas eve night the kids opened from my brother and one gift from grandma and papa. The morning of Christmas they opened from Santa and mom and dad. Then in the afternoon they opened from my sister, my two aunts, the rest from G&P and their great-grandma. With my large family it can get quite overwhelming the amount of stuff. It all adds up. Later this week we are going to 'box up" some old toys to bring to a women's shelter, to teach the kids about giving and make room.

I think Christmas went fine. I put out some Italian antipasto, cheese and pretzels with dip. That seemed to hold everyone over until dinner at 6pm. We had a wonderful meal followed by dessert and some games. The kids have loved playing with all their new stuff and have been pretty well behaved. Today we even found some time to make some returns (just my mom, grandma and me). Tomorrow we are going to go to Columbus, Indiana...we have never been and something to do. Believe it or not it is supposed to be 70 degrees here tomorrow, a record high, so we will take advantage of it and head outside.

I hope your holidays went well and you enjoyed the time with family and the blessings it brings.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The grandparents are here

In the case of dual-career homes, it can be common for one or both of the spouses to not live in their hometown. Often your job or finding a job means leaving the comforts of "where you are from." This means you "get visits" from grandma and grandpa, versus regular dinners or them stopping by. Either situation has pros and cons of course.

In our house, Arnie left the Detroit area his sophomore year of college and never moved back. In my case I finally truly left the east coast (or at least within an hour of my parents) when I was 25 and headed to Ann Arbor for graduate school. The "funny" thing is both of our parents are still in the houses we grew up in, and the towns they grew up in, so its not like we came from similar situations. It was truly our careers that took us to where we are.

So, when you live away from family, holidays often bring you back together. That is certainly the case for us. Every other year my parents come to Cincy to visit us. This year we are blessed to have my grandmother (maternal) with us as well...we call her "Mimi." They arrived last night after a long drive, deciding to do it in a day vs. the plan to stop and spend the night. We of course loved that and the kids were so excited to see them. They will stay for 10 days with us.

It is so nice to have the extra hands to help out. To cook the big meals, play with the kids or do handiwork. In our case my Arnie isn't too handy so having my dad (or his) around is a godsend. They are both REALLY handy and can do just about anything. I often have a list waiting for them to arrive. My mom loves house stuff. At this point I think she has painted at least four rooms in our house. I can't say enough how great it is to have them here.

My advice to you all would be to cherish the time you have with them. Spend quality time together as a family. Do things you wouldn't normally do, we are going to go to the Conservatory to see the holiday plants on Christmas day. Take time with your husband while you have a built in baby sitter. Cook more, try new recipes...and so on. Before you know it they will be gone, but sure to have lots of photos and video to document the time here.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Prepping for the holidays

The holidays are obviously a very busy time of year. Lots of shopping, entertaining, baking, cleaning and so on. Because my husband and I are both "from" cities that we don't currently live in, we have never really hosted a big holiday. It is sort of expected that we will travel back to our families for the major holidays. This means for the first 34 years of my life I had never really had to "cook" and "plan" for the big day.

When we returned from Europe and moved to Cincinnati this really didn't change. Taking one or two children to NY or Detroit wasn't that big of a deal. We would drive more than fly, particularly at Christmas with the gifts and all, but still manageable. When Sarah arrived three years ago this was our "excuse" to change things a bit. The first Christmas we actually did go to New York because we were having her baptized while we were there. But every other year there-after my parents have been gracious enough to come to us.

So in 2006 and now again this year we have hosted my parents. It makes for a very different Christmas. Instead of the 40 or so extended family, in one house, with lots of kids running around it is the 7 of us in Cincy. We have to have a really good excuse to change out of our pajamas all day, as we go to mass on Christmas Eve so we don't have that one. This year my grandmother is coming with them, so we will be 8.

I decided this year that I would plan the meal, to make it easier on my mom. They are not arriving until tomorrow, so this way the shopping is done and they can relax. While it has been fun, it is a bit nerve racking as well. What to make? Do I do Italian and traditional (which is what we have in NY)...but for only 8 people, etc. I have decided to have Italian on Christmas Eve and a more traditional meal on Christmas. I am even going to have people over on New Years day to make it feel like a real holiday season. I am excited and nervous, but ready for the challenge.

The real challenge will be Arnie grocery shopping today. He is home with the kids while I work and decided he would go to the grocery store. That may change given the wind chill temp outside in Cincinnati is -15 today, but if it doesn't he will be a true gem and help me out a lot. Hopefully it won't snow too much tomorrow and my parents will be here by noontime to start our holiday celebrating.

I wish you all a happy, safe, stress free and loving holiday season. Be sure to send my your tips to make it as easy as possible.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The debate on number of children to have

Two people entering a marriage often come from different backgrounds and family situations. This typically means they come in with different thoughts on things like finances, how many children to have, how to discipline them, etc. This was certainly true for my husband and I. We came in with a lot of similarities; two stable homes with marriages of our parents at 38 and 34 years each when we married (now 46 and 42!), a lack of divorce in our families, a strong work ethic and commitment to each others careers and more. But we also came in with some differences. My mom worked while Arnie's did not, we came from very different financial situations and very different "extended" family situations -- mine a very large Italian family that got together for every birthday, anniversary, communion, graduation, etc and his from an extremely small family (only one sibling, parents were only child and the other one sibling).

The financial and size of family differences brought us into our marriage with different thoughts on how many children to have. I wanted five. I came from a family of three and always wanted more than that. I knew we could afford more and really desired a large clan. Arnie came in wanting two, the size he grew up in. Of course we talked this often and even before we were married and Arnie quickly came up to three and I went down to four. But then we were stuck. We agreed we would have the children and see what God brought us.

As you all know we had Ben in 2002. Then much quicker than we expected we had Claire, 18 months later. Given how close in age they were we decided to have our third about the same age difference as the first two. Thankfully God went along with our desires and Sarah was born 18 months later. When I was pregnant with Sarah I secretly would pray she would be a boy, because I knew Arnie was very nervous with little girls. He only had a brother and in general is a guys guy. I still dreamed of a fourth and knew it would be easier to get if I had a boy. In the delivery room the doctor quickly said you have a beautiful little girl and I think I saw my dream of a fourth go out the hospital window.

I didn't give up thought. Sarah was an extremely good baby, some say a typical third. She was easy going, happy with anyone, slept through the night early, etc. We could not have asked for more, but Arnie still wasn't there. He wanted to get back to our "active" lifestyle and vacations and knew the sooner we were out of diapers and without and infant the better. I tried every negotiation tactic I knew, but he just wasn't budging. At some point I quickly realized this was important to him, and my marriage and love for him were more important than another baby. I would still "ask" but he never wavered. He would beg me to let him go "take care of things."

So finally yesterday "we took care of things" and had V-day. I am still not totally comfortable with this so we did freeze some sperm, just in case. My advice to you all is to talk about this subject early and often, really before you marry. We really differed on the number for many reasons. For me having children is about love and caring for them. For Arnie it also means saving enough to pay for 100% of their college education, because that is how his family did it. Mine did not, I had plenty of student loans and that was just fine with me. I still got a terrific education and did just fine. So talk about what having children means and how many you will have.

I would be crazy if I didn't say you also go child by child. If you were to have a child with health problems or have difficulty getting pregnant, of course that can change things. So take them one at a time, love them, admire them and figure out what is next. I loved having mine so close to together and in hindsight wouldn't' have it any other way...except maybe if there was a fourth :)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Social Networking

I find it truly amazing the impact that Facebook is having on "friendships". It is a fabulous tool. I had created an account to "get more in touch with my consumer", as we know in marketing land that the millennial generation is using online networking and digital significantly more than my generation (which is only one older than it). This means in order for us marketers to reach them, we must be online where they are. So I created a page and really did nothing with it.

Then I published the book and a friend of mine who is an expert in the online arena (he publishes a book about social networking) gave me all these tips for what to do online. How to link my blog to Facebook, to give a tip a day to get my friends excited, etc. So I have been trying to do that each night, or at least every other day since.

In the meantime, it has allowed me to broaden the circle of friends I am in touch with. I thought I was pretty good at staying in touch with my friends via an occasional email, here and there. But this is so much better. The photo postings, notes they post, the fact that it reminds you of their birthday!!!! I feel more "whole" as a person and a better friend, even though I may not be "talking" to my friends any more often than before.

Try it out, they have wonderful tools on how to find people you know, from your company, your high school or college, searching other friends and who they are linked to, etc. Try to get back in touch with 5 people from your past in 2009, I bet you will be happy and bring back some great memories.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Christmas Cards, oh Christmas Cards

That has been the theme of my last two days, Christmas cards. I think I have mentioned in the past that we have a tradition of taking our Christmas card photo the day of our brunch. We continued that tradition this year (a little later in the day, but none-the-less). I finally remembered to bring my camera and cord into work on Tuesday and uploaded the photo of choice to snapfish and designed our card. Given we are an inter-faith family, I try to find a card that says Happy Holidays and doesn't have anything too Christian in design (like a Christmas tree). I was afraid to do the normal shipping so for the second year in a row I had them sent to my Walgreen's -- at least I thought I did.

I left work forty-five minutes early because it had snowed a bit and Cincinnatians are not very good drivers in bad weather. Thank goodness I did. It took me 35 minutes to get 1.5 miles due to an accident. After that it was smooth sailing but I barely had time to go to Walgreen's before relieving Kirsten. I ran in only to find they didn't have my order. I have been using snapfish long enough to trust them immensely, so I new I had made a mistake. The problem was I use my home email account not my work account, so I went home to check. Sure enough I had them sent to the next closest Walgreen's.

Thankfully my wonderful husband was on his way home and went there to pick them up (this is what I get for not doing it all on Sunday night like I normally do and trying to multi-task at work). That night Arnie and I put them into the envelopes, got return addresses on them and I began to address them. I got through about 50, the other 130 got done tonight. In total about 3-4 hours spent on our cards. I love doing it and thinking about all the people we are sending them to and what they mean to us.

From family, childhood friends, high school friends, college friends, grad school friends, work friends, neighbors and more. They span over 40 years of relationships. It also makes me think about our wedding, as many of them were there with us. Also because I still use that address list. I have never been taught to do an address list online, so I do the old fashion way of keeping them all in a folder and writing them each year. I know this is incredibly inefficient, but have never gotten someone to show me how to do it on the software we have. Maybe a new years resolution for 2009.

So now they are stamped except for about 40. I am taking a 1/2 day tomorrow so I will go to the post office for some more stamps. Hopefully our family photo will bring a smile to some faces and bring back fond memories from the past, as sending them did for me.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Traditions and a book, all in December

December is such a wonderful month, filled with holiday events and fun traditions. Yesterday we had our annual holiday brunch. We had a smaller crowd than normal, about 50 people, but still lots of laughs, great food and friendship. It is really odd how "short" the holiday period feels this year, apparently it is 5 days shorter than last year and it feels every bit of it. We felt it in our RSVP's, so many people had conflicting obligations, given one less weekend this year. So for those of you who still have shopping to do, the big guy in red comes in 10 days, so only one weekend left (for you working moms).

This December, on top of all our normal traditions, has been quite busy with book obligations. Each Saturday and Sunday I have a signing somewhere. As one author said to me in a conversation "its the dues you have to pay" and he was right. As I have said in the past their is nothing fun about sitting at a table with books in front of you, unless you like cold call selling. I don't, I am not a salesperson and genetically am not wired at all like them. I have even begun to take the kids with me. Yesterday Sarah and Claire came. We bring our books -- coloring, workbooks, reading books, etc and have fun. Sometimes they are on my lap and others on the floor, we even made a "fort" under the table yesterday which was fun. It helps pass the time and gives me time with more example of being a millennium mom.

Even harder than the signings on the weekends are evening events. Tonight I went to a wonderful event at Fidelity investments, sponsored by SOAR an organization that sponsors the advancement of women in the workforce. They were giving out my book in the goody bags, so I went to show support. I enjoyed it very much, but still miss not having dinner with the kids...which will be a recurring theme this week as I have events on Thursday, Friday and Saturday night at local Kroger's who are selling my book.

If I could only get on Oprah, or Ellen or even Regis and Kelly and get the word out maybe I wouldn't have to miss dinners. Until then I will continue to get out and spread the word, one book at a time and one more women a little less tired and stressed.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The art of entertaining

Hello friends. Well tomorrow is one of our big annual parties at our home, our holiday brunch. Anywhere from 60-100 people will come and over a 3 hour window. I love this event, our biggest in number, and in a season where you should be welcoming those closest to you into your home.

Today and last night were "prep" days. We have been doing it for six years now so Arnie and I pretty much have it down pat. Last night we put the tables out (where the food will be), got the tablecloths on them and took all the serving pieces out. Here is a tip for you. When your parents or in-laws ask you what you want for your anniversary, think about what you need to entertain. We now have chaffing (SP?) dishes (the nice ones) in a couple sizes, a large coffee urn, beautiful platters, a punch bowl, a gorgeous etched glass juice dispenser and more from anniversary gifts. They are for the both of us and really help make entertaining so much easier.

Today was shopping day. I took the girls while Arnie and Ben went to hockey. We hit Sam's club first, then on to Meijer. Less than 2 hours total and we were done. Just in time for me to change and head off to a book signing from 2-4pm (thanks to those who bought my book at the Tri-County mall). Tonight I prepared the fruit salad and baked french toast to reduce the amount of prep tomorrow.

The key to big events like this is make it easy on yourself. We do bagels, muffins, munchkins (for the kids), fruit salad, yogurt, egg casseroles, baked french toast, scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, coffee, OJ and other beverages. There is plenty of food for all ages, and we can enjoy it and not be cooking while people are here. Right down whatever menu you use and all the specific ingredients you need to make it (like if you put cheese in your scrambled eggs, what type of sausages you like, etc).

Keep the menu in a folder with the invite list and last years invitation (with the file name and location on it) so all you have to do is update the invite, send it out and take the list to go shopping. It is so simple there is no excuse not to entertain.

Can't wait for tomorrow.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Change of plans

So much for heading to Sam's and getting a head start on preparations for our brunch. As I was about to get the kids into their coats so we would be ready when Arnie arrived home, I glanced at the calendar and realized it was "movie night" at Ben's school. The big fundraiser for his school each year is a walk-a-thon. For each donation level they earn a prize. Ben earned quite a few and one of them was a "movie night" with your family. Tonight was the night "N-Z" got to go watch Wall E.

For a brief moment I was tempted to just not tell him. But that wouldn't be fair. In our family everyone gets a vote on all important issues. So we talked about it. I could see in his eyes he really wanted to go. And in my heart of hearts so did I. So when Dad got home we made some quick pizza, had dinner together, grabbed our pillows and blankets and headed out.

None of us had seen the movie. While I think it was quite a bizarre story line for children, it was a sweet movie that we all enjoyed (even Claire who fell asleep with about 15 minutes left). So as I type this, I should be in bed, as I still feel under the weather, and now have even more to do tomorrow. On the other hand, Meijer is open 24 hours, the menu is prepared so I am ready to go shopping, and we did lots of setting up while waiting for the pizza. We'll be ok in the end, just like we are every year, but this year we got to see "Wall E" too.

Thank god its friday

TGIF - boy is that true today. Since my kids were young I would always say to them on Thursday night "tomorrow's Friday" and then in the morning since "Thank God It's Friday" in a very funny tune/tone (I am not a musician, so not sure what the right term is). They get a kick out of it and it is still a tradition today.

We love Fridays in our house. The kids love pizza night and the fact that it means mom and dad will be home for two days with no work after it. Arnie and I love it because it means we get to sleep in the next day and relax a bit. This week I am really loving it because with Arnie gone for most of the week, and life not slowing down, I find myself fighting a cold and really sore throat, so I look forward to a bit of R&R.

Of course, as I say that I know we need to run to Sam's tonight (so our pizza will be from there) to do all the shopping for a big holiday brunch on Sunday. Ben has a hockey game tomorrow and I have a book signing (B. Dalton in Tri-County mall for those in Cincy) so the day will not allow for shopping and we go tonight. Either way, even with the busy schedule we will have, I can still steal a nap at some point, snuggle with the kids, drink tea all day long, be in comfy clothes, and all the other things that I can't do while at work.

So I am thankful that it is Friday, that we didn't get the snow the East coast got, that the weather forecast is great for Sunday and that in less than 48 hours we will be surrounded by our dearest friends in Cincinnati bringing in holiday cheer.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

What is a normal day?

I thought I would title tonight's blog "a sense of normalcy" but when I thought about it I am not sure what is normal. Is a standard day at my desk, sleeping in my bed, eating dinner at my kitchen table, tucking my kids in normal? Or does our life require other schedules frequently, like working from two locations today, having a work dinner, Arnie arriving back home normal? Certainly the former is what I would prefer, but I think the thing I realize most in life is "you need to go with the flow." That I can have it all in life, just maybe not at the same time. That sacrifices have to be made each and every day.

I am sure tomorrow will seem more normal. We will both wake up in our bed after Arnie being away for 5 days. We will both be home tomorrow night. I still have to be at two different sites tomorrow, but that is more the norm than the exception lately, so for now it will feel normal. The good news is we will cherish the normal things, that get rushed...our family dinner conversation, reading to the kids, my prayer with each of them when I put them to bed. Those things are normal to me, and while sometimes dinner only has one parent, or I only read 2 books each instead of more, to my children every day is normal because they are loved, cared for and in the loving care of one of their parents.

My advise is be flexible and don't set too high of standards for a routine. When you choose to work and have a career, there are certain commitments that come with them. Be clear up front with your manager what you can and can't do and then go with it. Tonight I had a wonderful dinner with my colleagues, one of whom was in from Europe for a training class, another who is an expat from Bulgaria and my R&D partner. We talked about our children and other non-work topics and it was a terrific evening, one capped off by getting home to spend some time with my kids, put them to bed and say our prayer...just perfect.

Monday, December 8, 2008

The cause of stress

So, what is the cause of stress. The dictionary says "a mental or physical tension or strain caused by urgency, pressure, etc." I guess due to the fact that I don't really exercise any more, the physical part is out for me, so all mental and tension for this women. I am sure there are lots of things that could cause stress, I am even more sure that I am experiencing lots of them right now...

- your spouse being out of town and taking the load on by yourself...check

- projects at work a bit crazy and just trying to keep things a float....check

- your routine totally out of whack (due to traveling husband and holidays)...check

- taking on too much (as usual)...check

More important than dealing with stress, is understanding why you get stressed. What are your hot buttons? What can throw you off track faster than you can think? What are the consistent times or things that make you stressed. The reason why I stress this (no pun intended) is the better you know yourself and what makes you tense, the faster you can snap out of it and move on.

As I was trying to get last minute emails sent, and think of "what do I need for the next two days" as I would be working from another site, I had one of those moments...which led to a rant to co-workers about how I hate when Arnie is out of town. It totally throws me off, having to stay at home late and leave at my normal time really throws me off, I lose at least an hour a day of work. While this may seem like no big deal, I know myself and how I get my work done. I also am that efficient at work because I don't like to work from home. So when Arnie is gone, less time in the office means I have to work from home, which means I have to stay up later or get up earlier, which means less sleep, which makes me cranky and creates more stress.

I also know that if I count to 10 in tense situations or just take a few deep breaths, it is over before I know it. Tonight while reviewing our family calendar I realized the drop off dates for our Salvation Army adopt-a-family are today and tomorrow. Needless to say I didn't get there today. So, a bit of a panic. The first thing I did was just get the gifts in my car. While I was doing that I thought about my day tomorrow and how I could get there during the afternoon and still make it home early for the work party I am hosting tomorrow (did I say taking on too much). So, tomorrow will be an even shorter work day, that will start with a 7:30 am call, but I will just get up super early and try to crank through some stuff before the kids are up, so I can get them dressed before my call begins.

It may not go as planned, but the world won't stop because of my work issues - that is my other biggest piece of advice for dealing with stress -- have a reality check. Think of all the people in the world who have it much worse than you do, then your problems don't even register. Or if you are stressed or scared about something, think of all the other people who have done it with less. That was my tactic when I was pregnant with my first child, I was quite nervous about giving birth, so I would just think of the women in Africa and other developing nations who would give birth without drugs, in un-sanitary placed and have healthy children, if they could do it so could I.

Know thyself, what causes it stress and have some simple tactics to break out of it quickly...a recipe for life made simpler and easier.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Santa, signings and Sarah

phew...that is all I can say to sum up this weekend.
As you know, Arnie is in Vail, left on Friday, doesn't come back until Wednesday.
So I am single momming it for 6 days.
However, just because the spouse is not around things don't stop in place, life continues and you make we did all weekend.
In hindsight I think we survived, but let me at least humor you with a few stories.

Sarah - you are likely thinking Sarah is my daughter, but in this case I am referring to Sarah Palin, or "hockey mom" as she called herself. Before yesterday I have never dressed my son in his hockey gear. That is daddy's job. In fact, I have never gone to a practice with him. I have gone to games, when the girls agree, but have never stepped foot in the locker room. So Saturday morning was my first time on the job. To try to make it easier on me I decided to put Ben in his gear first thing, heck he could eat breakfast in it. We left the house at 9:30 for a 10am game. Little did we know it would be our first snow storm in Cincy. It had been snowing for about an hour, and was below freezing, so the roads were not fun. For those reading this not in Cincy, this is not a great place to drive in the snow. People are not very comfortable and it pretty much shuts things down. But off we went.

Our normal 25 minute drive took 40 and we arrived at 10:10. Good news for us is the game wasn't until 11!!! So instead of being a little late we were really early. There was a big hockey tournament going on so we plenty to watch. About 15 minutes before his game I finish getting Ben ready putting his skates on...uh, oh...where are his gloves? No were to be found. Apparently he put them on at home too...and when it was time for breakfast, he took them off somewhere. So I go running to the front desk and find two big gloves in lost and found, they worked. The other blunder was Ben walked on a normal floor with his skates (because of course we were in the heated snack area vs. the locker room :). I treated him to a skate sharpening after the game, as his first words when he hit the ice were "mom, my skates aren't working!" I guess Sarah Palin I am not.

Signings. Two of them this weekend. Have I said how much I hate them. There is nothing fun about sitting at table behind your books with people walking by. I am so not a salesperson. I am a marketer. I think of great ways to talk to people and what products they want and then someone else figures out how to get them to buy it. I never have to convince my consumer personally. Well not with this. I brought the kids on Saturday. We were running around and it was just easier. We had coloring, puzzles and more and in general it made the time go by faster. Today I just took Ben which was great too. Not sure if it was a Saturday vs. Sunday crowd or the part of town I was in, but yesterday's patrons were SOOOO much nicer. All Ben kept saying today is "why are they so mean." Only a few more left thank god, as I get no pleasure in them. If only I could reach every working mom or expecting working mom more easily.

Santa. I did do one thing right and that was Santa. After a long day of hockey and a signing, we went to our towns Christmas night last night. It was so cold but we managed to see Santa arrive, sit on his lap (not Sarah), see some carolers and get balloon animals. Then we came home to a warm house and decorated our tree. It was the first time all three kids really got into it (maybe it was because Scrooge...aka Arnie was not around). They all behaved, climbed the step stool and had a great time, all while watching the High School Musical marathon on Disney. Now that is truly a Disney moment for you.

So, at 9:30 I am physically and mentally spent. Two of the three kids fell asleep while I was reading to them all, so I am not alone in the exhausted camp. But we survived and actually had a great time of it all. Less than 72 hours to normalcy again.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Fitting in days into hours

Yesterday I had a realization late in the day that "I only have 4 hours left of Arnie" meaning that evening would be the last time I had him before he left to go skiing for 6 days. While this should not be a big deal I also realized two important things: 1) we needed to interview another nanny candidate before he left, and 2) we had to get our Christmas tree.

You may ask "why" did you have to do this. For the nanny, I feel strongly that we need to give them two weeks notice before they start, which would be around December 16th/17th. Arnie comes back home on the 10th. Theoretically we could have waiting until he got back, but we always have them watch the kids after the interview so they get a vote too. Trying to fit that in, that close to the holidays was too risky for me.

On the Christmas tree front, I had lunch with one of my mentees yesterday and she said as we were leaving "see you on Tuesday." I thought I would die as I realized, yes you will. That is the night I am hosting all the women in Beauty care marketing at my home for a holiday gathering...and I don't have a TREE!!! Again, maybe not a big deal, but to host a holiday party with a tree just doesn't seem right.

So what to do??? I got in touch with the nanny candidate and scheduled her to come at 8pm. I knew we would have Chili for dinner as I had meat defrosted for that, whomever got home first would start it. Arnie was supposed to be the early one home last night as it was Thursday. I had booked a hair cut at 5pm. Well, that didn't work either. Arnie had just called to apologize to Kirsten and say he would be late when I called him and told him I would be home by 6. So, I arrived home to find the girls with Kirsten, Ben was down the street at a friends and was having pizza for dinner. So I called our neighbors and told Ben I would pick him up. Arnie met us there and we were off to the Boy Scouts to get our tree.

We got there by 6:20 but they weren't quite ready. So after waiting for the extension cord and saws we made it home by 7pm. I quickly started dinner while Arnie brought the tree in. By the time the nanny arrived, dinner was done and staying warm on the stove and I was holding the tree trying to balance it. We took a break and talked to the candidate, she used to teach at our daycare so we knew her and it was a great conversation. She left around 8:45 and Arnie and I had dinner (I fed the kids leftovers earlier at 7). Our neighbor bailed us out with twine (which we couldn't find in the garage, because I had put it with tree decorations!!) and we had the tree up by 9:30.

The kids and I will decorate it this weekend, giving us something to do. The nanny is here today while I work from home watching the kids which worked out great, and Arnie is on a plane to skiing right now.

So our 4 hours worked out, not a typical night, but a fun one filled with holiday cheer, a warm meal and potentially a new member of our family with the nanny.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

A "wholesome" day

Today was a good day. Not super special in any way, but a good day. Perhaps it started with a full nights sleep. I didn't even here Arnie come in from Michigan, which apparently was around 11:30pm. And finished with no little ones coming in before 6:30am which has become quite the norm. I did hear Arnie's alarm go off at he could go swimming at the Y (I know he makes me look REALLY bad in the exercise arena). But I went back to sleep and got a jolt when my alarm went off at 6:15.

I was in my car and off by 6:50pm when Arnie got home, in between Ben woke up (must have been my heals on the hard floor downstairs) so I got to dress him and get him ready for school. Work was work, but productive. I only had 2 meetings so I cranked out work and made some good progress on a few projects, that coupled with some great consumer research results from the UK was enough to make my day.

Though it ended on a high note. I had my 1:1 with my boss and talked a few tough projects and got some feedback and then my career. I am due to move assignments in about 6-8 months so it was my first real "check in" to see if things were still on track. She re-assured me as much as possible that they are...I can't really ask for more than that, and it was great feedback and reassurance that things are cooking.

The great work day spilled over into a great night...which is often the case, work effecting home that is. We went to the Zoo. I am sure you are thinking 'the zoo?' in December? In Cincinnati we have a wonderful zoo, probably top 2-3 in the country. During the holiday season they have the Festival of Lights which is sponsored by PNC bank. We have some accounts with them so we were invited to a special evening. They had great food, drinks and even Anthony Munoz (for you sports fans) there, and then you could go into the zoo. Of course a lot of animals were sleeping and not out, but the lights are beautiful, we took a train ride and couple of carousel rides and had a wonderful evening out and about...all in 50 degree weather on a Wednesday.

So a great day is coming to a close (late for me) - let's hope for another great one tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Life of a single parent

Today was one of those days where I got to experience what it feels like to be a single parent (well not really, because I knew it was just for one day...but you get what I mean). As I said in my book, I have the utmost respect for single parents...I truly don't know how they do it, be the sole bread winner, guardian, disciplinarian, housekeeper, bookkeeper and so on. I do it for a couple of days in a row and am exhausted. But many do it every day because they have to and I respect back.

So back to my day as a single parent. I realized after doing it how much more productive my day was in some ways, and how much less productive it was in others. Let me start with the less productive. Because I was alone today that meant I had to stay here until the nanny arrived at 8am. While I could have gotten up early to log onto email, Ben had come into bed around 6am after Arnie left and it was nice just to snuggle and chat with him, a much better alternative to email. Waiting for the nanny means you sit in your desk chair at 8:45 am (versus my normal 7am) that is an hour and 45 minutes less productivity to start.

On top of that you must be home for the nanny at the end of the day. And because "your the only parent" that means you have to pick-up the Market Day order which arrived today at the elementary school. So at 5pm I am leaving my desk to make sure I can pick up the order and still be home before 6pm. So a bit less time on the back end. I guess you could say I worked a normal 9 to 5 day, but when that is not the norm, that equates to less productive (thankfully its December and not too crazy).

On the flip side, I find when I am home I am so much more productive. Dinner is fast and efficient, the house is quieter, we played card games already and now the kids are happily snuggled on the couch watching a Christmas special. When either Arnie or I are alone with the kids, they are always bathed and in bed by 9pm at the latest. When we are both home it isn't before 9:30 pm. Why is that? Is it because you are tired and rushing it? Is it because there is "less going on" in the house? I'm not sure what it is, but it is so consistent that often if I am out at a work dinner, I will call and ask Arnie to make sure they are awake when I get home (say around 9pm). I was disappointed a few times arriving home in what I thought was enough time only to find them fast asleep.

Regardless of whether I am more or less productive, I am so thankful that I have my partner to help me. The stress level is so much lower and allows for flexibility that single parents aren't afforded. That is why I respect them so much, but thank God each day for the wonderful husband I have.

Monday, December 1, 2008


Being a part of a dual-career family requires that you become very flexible. Not the yoga pose flexible, but the comfortable with last minute changes, meet in the middle flexible. This past week has been a true test of our flexibility, let me illustrate to bring the point home.

When we left for Detroit on Wednesday we knew that our nanny Kirsten would be calling us on Friday to let us know which days off this week she would need. She had thought it would be Sunday (which would require no days off), Monday or Tuesday. When we got her message on Friday it was Tuesday and Friday. Of course, Tuesday was the bad day for me. I could handle Monday no problem, but Tuesday was more difficult. Friday was doable so I immediately signed up for Friday, I would work from home. This also took away a bit of guilt, as I have a work holiday event Friday night and Arnie leaves to go skiing with his dad, so the kids will be with a sitter. This way I get to spend time with them on Friday before I leave.

So, we had Tuesday to deal with. We came home on Saturday to attend an event and scheduled a first meeting with a potential nanny on Sunday. She was recommended by our service, giving Kirsten is moving to Cleveland. Arnie came up with the idea that if we liked he after meeting her, we would pay her to watch the kids on Tuesday, go through the normal routine and then get the report from the kids on what they thought. We did this with Kirsten and it was a great way to see what the kids thoughts. Well, we liked her and she was available on Tuesday. So phew...we have that covered.

So things were looking good until about 2pm today when I found out my finance person who was supposed to present a workshop for me at the University of Michigan (I run the recruiting team) had a business trip to attend and we couldn't find a sub. Thank god for me that my husband is in finance and I called in a favor. I pitched a "you can call in and present via phone" while the marketing person is up on campus. But go figure, after many calls with the University they don't have speaker phones, and we can't bring one to hook up as the phones are bolted to the walls so no access to the wires. Being the wonderful husband that he is, Arnie stepped up and will now drive up to Michigan with another team member (his third trip to Michigan in 3 weeks, he knows Route 75 really well). Yes, the kids won't see him tomorrow night, but I (and P&G) were in a bind and he got us out of it.

That is what flexibility is all about, stepping in, making changes, adapting your schedule and going with the flow. I think we have become masters of it. We used to fret when a child was sick and someone had to stay home, but now we just deal with it. Most meetings can be called into, working remotely is a breeze and 9 to 5 isn't what it used to be anyway. We certainly give way more than 40 hours a week, so taking the flexibility when we need it is not a problem. Always remember, take a deep breath and it never seems quite as bad when you are through.