Millennium Mom

Friday, January 30, 2009

Trying to conceive

For the moms reading this I hope I don't bring up any bad memories.
For those reading who are not yet moms, I hope this provides some helpful tips and insight as you think about starting a family.

Wanted to start a family is a wonderful thing. This means you have found the man of your dreams, and the two of you agree you are read to bring a human being into the world. While it might be pathetic, I had a rule when I was dating someone that I wouldn't go past the two month mark without knowing two things about the person. First, did they want children (and if it was no or I am not sure we usually didn't get to month three) and would they be okay with them being raised Catholic. I remember having this conversation with my now husband. We were in my apartment when it came up. He was very quick to say yes on children. He hadn't really thought about how many (and ended up leaned towards a low number) and wasn't nearly as comfortable as me around them (as he never had babies in his small family) but he did want them.

Then I thought to myself "here comes the hard part." Arnie was Jewish and I knew this from the first day I met him (I always say he as a stereotypical Jewish look and he gets mad at me, but really the name gave it away). But I really hadn't gotten a good sense of how religious he was. I knew he didn't go to Temple and he knew I went to church each week (one time bringing me breakfast as I walked cute), but as far as importance of religion we never really talked it until that conversation. Amazingly it went fast and smooth. He said he knew how important my religion was and would support me raising me children in it. He also pointed out he would not convert and wanted the children to understand his faith and how it was different from mine.

So anyway, back to having children, my point is be sure to have those hard conversations before it is too late, meaning before you are married. Ask the tough many, religion, will you work or not, who will care for them, how far apart in age, when to start trying and so on.

We started talking about kids about six months after we were married. We were loving life in Europe but knew we wanted a family. At that point I had been in my assignment at work about nine months and they typically last around two years. I knew I wanted to take a long leave and the best planning would be to have me go out on leave around the two year mark. This happened to coincide with around our one ear anniversary. So we would start then. In the end we ended up starting to try in September of '01 (two months before our anniversary). We had no luck the first month and I happened to have to go to the UK for some consumer research. I always tried to stock up on toiletries there because I could read the label and they were OTC (over the counter) versus in Belgium where you had to go to a pharmacists for anything (even Tylenol).

I picked up an ovulation kit and pregnancy test while I was there. We used the ovulation kit and I got pregnant the next month, it was the best thing on earth. No guessing, tells you exactly when you are ovulating. Sadly we lost that baby the next month. We were on a long weekend away with friends who had visited in Ireland for our one year anniversary. We came back and the next day I lost the baby, right after our one year anniversary. God was very nice to us and I immediately go pregnant the next month while in the US visiting family. I was scared to death that something would be wrong with the baby because I didn't think it was good to get pregnant that fast, but my doctor reassured me it was fine. Ben was born 38 weeks later on September 6th.

The next two were a whole different story, but another good lesson to learn. I was home with Ben for ten months, so able to breastfeed the entire time. He really didn't have any formula until after ten months, so my body didn't have a period for the entire pregnancy and breastfeeding time. I weaned him for a couple of weeks and then returned to work. I had a very lite period the week I went back to work, but nothing normal. The next month I didn't get a period, so I thought my body was still figuring itself out. Then I started to throw up and kept throwing up. After much pushing from my husband I finally took a test (still left over from Europe) and was pregnant...we were bitten by the "stop breast feeding and immediately get pregnant bug."

As I was educated after the fact. Your body goes into massive egg production after you have been breastfeeding. Almost like putting it in overdrive, it over produces eggs to kick start itself, so you are really fertile. Needless to say I was in SHOCK. We new we wanted our kids close in age, but I wasn't thinking that close. Because I had taken ten months off with Ben, it ended up I was only back at work three weeks when I got pregnant, and would leave for maternity leave after only nine months. I then took four months off (so they could hold me job) and Arnie took four months so we could keep Claire out of daycare until she was six hero.

Now that we had two a little less than 18 months apart, we decided to try to keep the next two that close. This time it was planned. I would have been in my role for two years so a good time to go out. Again I breastfeed Claire for about ten months. I would pump at work in a room they made for the five moms who had had children (it was great). I made it to nine months and then on the tenth month we conceived Sarah, again working like a charm.

I know we were very fortunate in that we got pregnant fast the first time, so we never had the stress build up that can often happen. They say stress is your worst enemy when trying to conceive. But more so then not having stress we used technology with the ovulation kit and biology with the natural cycle of our body to help us on our journey. We ended up with three kids in three years and three days, and love it that way. It was tough and I hated only having four months home with Claire, but now that they are getting older and experiencing everything together, I am so glad our little surprise happened and God taught me a bit about how the female body works.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Snowed in again

For the 2nd day straight Cincinnati was ice - snowed in. Schools were cancelled and the roads were a mess. We told Amber to stay home today, it wasn't worth risking it for her to get here. Arnie and I would both work from home. The kids of course think this is great, but also get a bit upset when they realize this doesn't mean we are going to be sledding all day.

Thankfully between all our neighbors being home to, we actually got some work done. It's times like this when you realize how lucky we are with the technology we have. We could both be on the phone at the same time, either on speaker, with a ear piece, cell phones, blackberries and our normal lan line. It was funny to hear everyone's reaction when they would hear the kids in the background. It is totally normal and people were fine with it, at one point the women who works for me had her 7 month old on her lap cooing, my kids are playing pbskids on the computer which is singing and the singletons or empty nesters on the phone were just loving it.

I have gotten pretty comfortable working in informal "flexible" arrangements. I often start my day at home, drive to one site for a meeting and then on to my normal site and desk. As you advance in the company and have mentees spread out all over town across the sites, and corporate committees or teams you are on, it requires a bit of flexibility. The blackberry helps, as does wireless just about everywhere. The key is for you to be comfortable. Some people need to be at their desk with their "stuff." Others would prefer to always work at home and be on the phone. My husband was the polar opposite of that when he worked on a sales team, he couldn't wait for them to open an office so he could see people.

What I like to tell people who ask for advice on how to manage it all...the key is getting your work done. No one really cares how you get it done or where you are so long as it gets done. Of course you need to be accessible to people and can't live in a hole, but outside of that, it can get done in any way in my mind. These past two days have hopefully taught people that.

Just remember to take your laptop home. I remember the days when I would lock it in my drawer each night. Then I had Ben and all it took was one fever and him staying home without me having my laptop to teach me a lesson. It comes every day now, often spending the night in my car, never making it inside...but I am prepared just in case.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

What a wacky day

I really don't know where to begin today's blog. Maybe I will start with last night. I started watching the weather around 6pm, because it did seem like we would get our first really big storm and the weather man/women might actually be right. They were predicting snow starting in the middle of the night and going straight, with some mixture of sleep/freezing rain for about 42 hours. I immediately looked at my calendar to plan for a day working from home. I had even told Amber to call me in the morning.

At 4:45 am the phone rang with a recording from the school district - no school today. I slept in until around 6:40 and then got up. I had logged on to my computer before anyone has woke up. Finally around 7 Ben and Claire got up and I got them their PJ's...Amber told them they would have PJ day if it snowed.

Amber called and we told her to come in, but take her time with the roads, safety mattered most. Arnie left around 7:20 to go downtown, his commute wasn't that bad, only about twice as long or 45 minutes. I quickly fed Ben and Claire before I got on my first call at 7:30. A bit before 8 Claire came into the office and I gave her one of those "don't interrupt I am on a call" and she replied "mommy this is really important, Smokey is dead." Smokey is our older cat, 12 years old to be exact. She then went on to say "we tried to pet him and he didn't move, he's dead." She took me to the stairs, where he was lying peacefully as if he was sleeping, and yes he was dead.

Of course I lost it. We said a prayer and I explained to the kids what had happened. In hind sight I now think, he was lethargic, not himself, a bit aloof, but nothing would have led me to believe this was coming. It was devastating. I then also realized I had never been this close to death. I went and got a box and Ben got an old blanket. As I lifted him he was already very stiff and heavy. The first box was too small, so we got a bigger one. A few minutes later he was safely tucked away and I put him into the garage, hoping it would be cool enough until Arnie got home. I then called Arnie in hysterics before getting back on my call. All of this is before 8:15.

Amber arrived around 8:40, and then Sarah woke up. I was able to get a lot of work done, even with the kids sometimes on the computer next to me. We all had lunch together which was great, and then back to work. The kids played outside a bit, had friends over, watched Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and in general had a great day, despite how sadly it started. Ben was the most effected by it, even though Claire is my animal love (and says she wants to be a vet). He kept going into the garage to check on him and asked Amber to drawer a picture of Smokey that they all wrote notes on and put in his box.

I sent Amber home before 4 as it was starting to sleet then and I wanted to give her an early jump before it got busy and dark. Arnie was home around 5pm. We then all headed outside again, the kids to play with friends, Arnie and I to do the driveway and dig a grave for Smokey (and my other cat Callie who died 3 years ago and I never buried her ashes...we were away when it happened). Thankfully my mom was right in that once you break through the topsoil, the ground isn't that hard. A good pitchfork did the job and about 20 minutes later in freezing rain we had a big enough hole.

We said our last prayers and goodbye to good friends and companions. Inside to make dinner for our family plus Drew who is Ben's best buddy. We all sat down for a nice meal and now are letting the kids watch some PBS, so I am online. So that was my wacky day. Tomorrow may be similar in that it is now supposed to snow another six inches on top of ice. My all day Beauty Trends offsite at the convention center has already been cancelled, so I am planning another day on the phone. This time I will have Arnie home with me and we will likely just tell Amber to stay home and handle it, versus risking her driving (that is if the weatherman/women is right two days in a row).

For now I ponder when to get another cat. When we lost our first cat and went down to just Smokey I was paranoid for 9 months and finally told Arnie I wanted a cat for my birthday. I just didn't want the kids to be without an animal, and I guess me too. So we got Speckles to keep Smokey company and make sure we always had a loving animal in the house. Arnie asked me today, so we getting another one. I guess I'll start looking at the shelter's web site, this time for a nice male cat to keep Speckles company and be part of our family.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The flood gate has opened

One of the tips in my book is to avoid too many organized activities for your children at an early age...particularly team sports. I am such a fan of team sports, played nothing but them my entire life. They teach you lots of things from coordination, to sportsmanship, sharing and working together towards a goal. I just don't think they are the best way to teach three and four year old. Arnie shares the same philosophy, so we "pledged" early on that we would try to hold Ben out of these activities until he was six.

We did enroll him in other activities that we thought were a bit more necessary in our mind - swim lessons for one. From the time we moved back to the states Ben was in swim lessons, first with us in the pool and then with a teacher. The girls followed the same path. We thought it was really important for them to be comfortable in the water. I am not very comfortable in the water, just don't enjoy it, and didn't want that to be my children. We would also enroll them in zoo classes on weekends as a family activity.

Believe it or not, we resisted all temptation and pleas from the neighbors to have him play. He was officially the only child above four not playing soccer in our neighborhood (those most never went back after their first experience). When he was five we gave him ice skating lessons for his birthday. He had told us he wanted to play Ice Hockey as his sport of choice when "he was old enough" so to prep him for this we enrolled him in skating lessons.

On his sixth birthday he was officially enrolled in "learn to skate" Cincinnati, run through the Cincinnati Amateur Hockey Association. The first session we only enrolled him in the learn to skate lessons. From November on he has been playing games as well. So each Saturday he has a game (now plays in back to back session, as he is getting better and okay to play with the bigger guys) and each Sunday he has his learn to skate session. So...our floodgate has opened. Thankfully we still have our family dinners each night and the entire family goes to the games. Even the girls (if it is at "the warm place" of the rinks is much colder than the other, so thankfully this session both games and practice are at the warmer of the two) head out on average every other Saturday. If I have errands to run I will take them with me and give them a weekend off.

Sunday is time for dad and son. The often go out to lunch after and have some bonding time. It has disturbed our Church schedule. Up until this session practice was late Sunday afternoon, which worked out great. They would walk in to dinner on the table. But this session it moved to 12:30, and we go to Noon mass. So now we try our best to get there on Saturday night at 5:30. If we don't make it the girls and I go as normal on Sunday, like today.

For better or worse Ben LOVES it, and is doing quite well. The downside, is as I look at my peer at work who sons play travel hockey, every other weekend seems to be out of town at a tournament, sometimes heading to different cities than his wife as they split which son they go with. We will cross that bridge when we get to it, as only God knows what is in store for us.

We did sign Ben up for coach pitch baseball and Claire for t-ball this spring. I thought for sure she would say NO WAY but she didn't, so we will see how she does. Our floodgate is open and we will try to balance the load. The important thing for us is we do it as a family and it doesn't get overwhelming to any one of us. If it does we will re-evaluate and make some choices. I'm just so glad it didn't start until now as I look back at the incredible memories we made as a family on random weekends over the last two years versus shuttling from activity to activity.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Tina Fey and me

Did any of you watch the Golden Globe awards a couple of weeks back? I always love awards show season, I guess its my secret obsession with pop culture. In case you didn't, let me tell you a bit about one of the highlights of the show. Tina Fey continue her amazing year with wins for Best Actress in Comedy and Best Comedy Show for 30 Rock. I do not watch it, but most critics would say it is pretty good. And unless you didn't turn on a TV over the last six months, you are aware she took her stardom up a few notches more with her impersonation of Sarah Palin.

Well, during her acceptance speech she thanked everyone for the wonderful year she had. Then went on to say that your head could get big except for that thing out there called the internet. She explained how there are so many people on the internet who are not fans of her and then listed some of the login names and location and said "suck it" to each one. It was pretty darn funny. The point was, no matter how much you try, how well you are doing, or how nice you are there are always people who don't see it that way, and in fact they are more than happy to tell you that.

Well, I felt like Tina Fey this week. I noticed on Amazon that I had another review for my book, so of course I read it. Well, let's just say NG from California was not a fan. She hated that I recommended products by name, and actually made dinners in my microwave. Apparently Kraft Cheese (and I meant the grated cheddar kind) is horrible and I didn't have many original ideas. I am glad for the feedback (not that I can do much with it, given it is in print) and was very humbled by the comment. I felt bad for about 24 hours, actually had an upset stomach, which makes me human I guess.

I knew when I wrote the book we would be looked at differently and get criticism, that was the risk in making it so personal. But I truly felt like I could help some women like me and that was worth it, even if some others didn't think I was much help at all. I still continue with that quest each day, and that is what gets me through the NG's of the world and back to my normal state within 24 hours or so. When I had coffee with a mentee on Friday and he told me how much he loved my facebook tips, and he is 26 and single I think I fully came out of my "I feel bad for myself" period. On we go, trying to make the life of working and non-working men and women each day.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

If I just communicated and did't assume

My day did not get off to a very good start today. I was up at 6, dressed and ready to go by 6:25. Had my tea, packed lunch and banana in the car by 6:30, decided to warm up my car, and at 6:40 when I came back inside still there was no sign of my husband.

Instead there was Ben looking for a parent (with a bit of a scared look on his face). So I took him upstairs and got him dressed. Finally at 6:50 Arnie walked in. Like many mornings he had gone to the Y to swim. That is normal. But what wasn't normal was the time he got home. He often got home a bit after 6:30, but I could still get to work by 7 or a bit after. Given I don't have a 7am everyday I didn't say anything to him...and that backfired this morning.

I should have either said -- can you check with me on what time you need to be home each morning, or last night reminded him I had a 7am. I simply should have over-communicated. Instead I assumed he knows my schedule and he would be home . It ended up being a nightmare. The call in number my Japanese colleagues sent via email was wrong, and I couldn't get into the call. Finally they called me, but we needed to be on the line with others so that wouldn't' work. It ended up they had to wait until I was in the office to link up with my teammate.

So at 7:20 ish we started. Not the end of the world by any means, but not a good start to the day. So, don't assume, always go over your schedule with your spouse and just over-communicate. It would have saved me some stress, pacing, choice words for my husband and 20 minutes of many colleagues time (though that was partly their fault too).

Monday, January 19, 2009

Yeah for MLK

To me there is something extra special about the "smaller" holidays; MLK and Presidents day. First they don't fall into a larger holiday season that often requires traveling for us (i.e Thanksgiving and Christmas). Second, they aren't in the summer, which usually turns into a bar-bq or going camping...I love them to, but it's the winter holidays that I find myself really enjoying an extra day off.

Today started nice and early with my third appearance on Fox 19 Cincinnati. Rob interviewed me today on "getting organized." Everything went smooth, with the exception of Arnie and the kids missing me live. We had our first official sleep over last night, so he was making pancakes for five, so easily forgiven...and isn't that was a DVR is for anyway :)

Once home I changed quickly and took the girls to dance. Our dance studio is very different from the two others I am familiar with, being the once I went to and the one my sisters daughters went to. In both of those cases there were glass windows to look through and observe. Not at this center. Completely closed room and the parents are invited twice a year to sit in for 10 minutes. But it was great to take the girls and spend time with them. Sarah and I even got Arnie's car washed while Claire was in class.

After lunch at home we headed to the movies with our neighbors the Taylor's. We saw Hotel for Dogs and it was really cute. We all enjoyed it quite a bit. After the movie we went to Gameworks to play some games. I had gotten 3 hour all you can play cards from a work event, so it was free and we could all play at once. From pop-a-shot, to race car driving and more we had a wonderful time. I had packed snacks for the movie and afternoon, so no cash outlay with the exception of the movie, which if you are wondering is $35 for a family of five these days.

Dinner consisted of Tacos, which is always a fun family meal. Somewhere in the middle of the day I made chicken soup with the chicken left over from yesterday's dinner. Not as good as my moms, but a yummy lunch for the week. I will sign off now to head upstairs and lay the clothes out for the week. Thank goodness, Carol who helps me clean the house comes tomorrow, as the house seems extra messy...must be the snow getting tracked in. I love walking into the house the day she is here - always brings a smile to my face.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Getting Ready for Baby

For those of you who are reading this, have no fear, we are not expecting another baby. Rather, we had friends stop by today to take some of our baby stuff as they await the arrival of their first, a son. Going through all of our stuff made me realize that many of you reading this may like some tips on how to prepare for the baby, so I will dedicate this blog to that.

Let's start with your first child. There are some key things you must have ready, but most of the others are "nice to haves." In case you have never heard this fact, as a marketer I feel compelled to share it with you all. There are only three "occasions" in which there is no price sensitivity for the most part. The easy translation of that is "people will pay anything", they are: babies, weddings and funerals. Think back to your wedding, was that the case? If so, you will likely get pulled into the same "registry" trappings as you did for your wedding. Going through the store with that great little gadget that has a way of getting you to say "oh why not" vs. "do we really need that"...heck, it's not your money right?

Arnie and I were fortunate to have had our first in Europe, which meant no showers, and no registry. Most people felt bad for us, and perhaps for a second we felt bad for ourselves. But then we learned one of the many lessons living in Europe taught really don't need all that stuff. So I will write this blog will a little broader view than our first birth, but still with an essentials versus nice to have attitude.

You absolutely need to have the following at least 6 weeks in advance for a normal pregnancy. If you are an "at risk" pregnancy then get these three months in advance: a car seat (which you know how to work and is in the case safely), a place for the baby to sleep (this will likely be a bassinet or cradle vs. their crib in their room as most first time moms like to have them in the room with them), diapers, wipes and cream for baby, nipple cream for you if you will breastfeed, baby soap, thermometer, a stroller, lots of onesies (I would say 10 so you don't have to do wash frequently), sleepers for baby and about 10 outfits, a first aid kit, a grooming kit (with nail cutter, etc) and one "seat" of some sort to lay the baby in on the non-sleeping floor.

Here is what you don't need but do help if you have the money; a baby sling or Bjorn, a nice boppy or breastfeeding pillow aid, mirror for car (it really does make it safer to not turn around).

What you don't need is any fancy clothes for less than 9 months. They just don't get used. The baby spits up or leaks and frankly you just want really comfy clothes for them. Return them and get a bigger size. I was never a fan of wipe warmer, bottle warmer, sanitizers, etc. That was what a dishwasher (which disinfects) and hot water did for me. Europe had no swings, so we survived without it and did just fine. I finally bought a vibrating seat when I had my 2nd in the US and both of my girls hated it, so much for that.

Once you have the baby you will become best friends with your postman/women with how many boxes will be delivered. Resist the temptation to wash everything immediately. You will be surprised by how quickly the baby outgrows clothes and how little outfits you really need at a young age. I know so many people who washed something only to wear it a couple of times and then have the baby gifts run out after 6-9 months. If you get a receipt with it, definitely keep it together with the outfit and take inventory by size to figure out what you need.

With your second child there are a couple of addition musts. First, transition your older child to their new room well in advance of the baby. The rule of thumb is to try to not have the older child ever thing something is "because of the baby." So get them excited about their room by having them pick out some things for it and do it before the baby arrives. We hadn't really thought of this with Ben when we had Claire. The previous owners had a "boy" room with baseball border and all, so we knew where he would go, but not when. Unfortunately he had other thoughts. When we returned from the holidays in NY where he slept in a port-a-pen, he rejected his crib completely, would not sleep in it. After two weeks of me sleeping with him in the guest room we put a double mattress on the floor in his "new room" with portable guards on it.

That works, but I had no furniture in that room. I did some research and decided to order direct from North Carolina ( it). His big boy furniture was delivered on schedule March 28th. Ironically Claire decided to come 3 and 1/2 weeks early on the same day, about four hours after the delivery men left (and I was still home :O).

With the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and so on you also want to have the infant seat cleaned and ready to go, clothes out of storage and cleaned, swaddler diapers ready to go and the bag for the hospital packed. All those things you were totally prepped for with the first are harder to do when you have a little one running around. Most importantly you need a plan for who will watch your child when you go into labor, who can you call whenever to take care of your child. This can be stressful so be sure to think about it in advance and line it all up.

Hopefully this is helpful. I encourage you to think less is more, just to save space and clutter if nothing else. That's it for now. Wish me luck as we are having our first ever "sleep over" tonight with Ben's two buddies (they are brothers) from up the street. We have off for MLK day tomorrow so it seemed like a good idea, that was until I reminded Arnie I am on Fox 19 again tomorrow and will be out of the house by 7:15...oops.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

A true partnership

If any of you have read my book you know the first cardinal rule is "it takes a partnership." The original title for that rule was "marry the right man." I think I have said this before. You would also know that I consider my husband a true partner. He has proven to me yet again how lucky I am.

Every year I have to do at least one trip to Asia. The past year I have done an "around the world" trip. Let me explain. There are four major sites that I need to get to at least once a year. Kobe, Japan where our conditioners R&D group is, Guangzhou, China where our Rejoice Brand Franchise team is (that is a big brand in Asia), Darmstadt, Germany (outside of Frankfurt) where our Styling R&D group is and Geneva, Switzerland where the Head & Shoulders and Professional (think salon brands) Brand Franchise teams are. Thankfully the Pantene, Herbal Essences, Gillette and Shampoo R&D are in Cincinnati with me.

I started (and thankfully my team members went along with) around the world to limit my time away from home. If I took a full week I could see all four sites in one go versus 5 days for Asia and 4-5 for Europe. We figured out we could leave on Saturday to get to China on Monday morning. We go straight into meetings and head to Osaka that night. Spend the night in hotel and go to meetings the next morning. Head to airport that night and go via Bangkok to Frankfurt (you sleep on plane) to arrive on Wednesday. One time we asked the China team to come to Japan, which made life a little easier. We spend Wed in Frankfurt and either that night or the next morning head to Geneva, which is less than hour flight. Meetings in Geneva Thursday and Friday AM. Go to Paris Friday night and home Saturday, one full week away.

This year we really need to spend more time in Asia, including in-home visits with what we refer to as China II consumers. These are low income consumers, well below what we would call poverty level in the US. We as a hair care company are trying to figure out how we meet their needs given their washing habits and infrastructure are very different from the developing world or China I where consumers have heated water, showers, etc. I can't wait to be in their world and experience first hand their living conditions so I can work to make their lives better. I also have a project where our test market is Japan, so I need to spend extra time there too.

One would think this would make travel easier but it doesn't. If you have ever traveled internationally, the hard part is going one direction then turning around and coming back. I am fairly experienced so I don't really get jet lagged. Going around the world you are always heading the same direction, so it is much easier. When you come back from Asia you leave there in the afternoon and get back in afternoon (the same day) after 15-20 hour flight. So the key is to take a long enough nap that you can stay awake a few hours when you get back, but not too long that you think it is morning when you get home.

The trip also ends up being longer. When you work globally you need to be conscious of other culture holidays, and Asia has a lot of them. This time of year is Golden week in Japan and Chinese New Year, so to work around them we are going to Japan on a Thursday, Friday and then China the next Monday and Tuesday. But to enable that I have to leave Cincinnati Monday night and won't return until Wed night, 9 full days for 4 days of work. The good news is I have to spend the night in LA so I will see my high school friend Chrissie who I haven't seen in years.

So going back to my title, I am reminded my husband is a true partner as he will handle the kids by himself this entire time. Normally we bring in our parents to help, but mine just left, and Arnie's are coming President's weekend right after I get back so Arnie and I can go away. So he said "I can handle it" and we will try it out. I am sure our neighbors will help a bunch, I will make a lot of meals ahead of time and partner from afar, as much as I can :)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Finding the time for one another

I once went to a training on work life effectiveness given by one of our brilliant GM's Jim Lafferty. Jim is a terrific business person but even better people person. He has lived outside the US for over a decade and it shines through in how he deals with people. He is very passionate and accepting to all.

One of the big things Jim stressed in his training was "you can only have 5 roles in life" at any given time. Your roles can change over time, but he found if you do more than 5 you get in trouble. His for reference were Husband, Dad, Fitness (guru), P&G manager and Coach (of track). He was very humble in saying son and brother were not roles for him. His parents had passed away and he had lived so far from his siblings (he came from a very large family) that that role had diminished for him.

I think often about my roles. I personally believe I can handle six at any given time. If you made me choose five at this time it would be Wife, Mom, Daughter, P&G Manager and Author. I think for me Daughter and Sister are the same, as my entire family is in the same town, and they are all phone conversations to stay in touch. My parents are young so I haven't gotten into the caregiver role, likewise for my husband's parents. I have found my roles changed over time. Volunteer or Athlete used to be past roles, but as my children came my priorities shifted (and body :).

The important thing to do when you decide your roles is to make time for each of them. I find the role I "sacrifice" too much is actually wife. It is so easy to take for granted your significant other. When I step back and think, it is the most cherished role, as I wouldn't even have some of the others like mom and author without it, but on a day-to-day basis when work and the kids demand of you, you can often forget this. While I thank God for Arnie each week in Mass, often I don't thank him enough personally.

We have created an annual tradition for ourselves, to refresh our relationship as partners. Each President's day we go away without the kids. We didn't take our first trip without kids until after Sarah was born. When she was 9 months, and for the first time in 4.5 years I was not pregnant or breast-feeding, we went to Jamaica for 5 nights. It was glorious...and then a year and a half went by. Thankfully my beautiful friend Silvia was married in Ixtapa, Mexico last year and we used it as an excuse to get away. It has now become a tradition.

So on Valentine's day we are driving down to Ashville, NC to stay at the Grove Park Inn. We can't wait, a beautiful setting, good massages and good food await, what a better way to say I love you.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Women Supporting Women

Today I went to a lunch at work sponsored by the Advancement of Women's task force. Perhaps some of you are thinking - what is that? or what a name? or why do you need that? Well reality is, that despite all our best efforts, without such a network, women would not advance at the same rate as men.

Today at P&G we hire in about 52% females among our managers. Yet when you get to hirer levels this number falls greatly, even though we have hired at least 50% for over a decade. Some of it is natural choice, women choosing to "off track" or leave their job when they have children. Another portion would happen regardless, like women leaving to move closer to family. And some of it is preventable, it is females choosing to leave P&G for another job. This task force's goal is to retain our best talent and not lose them for professional reasons.

The lunch today had a female general manager, which at P&G is a very senior level speaking to women about her career. She chose to focus on what she feels are natural female strengths that you can use to our advantage and three watch-outs, in an effort to have Women Supporting Women.

In total honesty, I wrote my book because I didn't see enough role models on top of me at P&G when it came to work-life balance. While they were brilliant business women and had braved new paths in many areas (like being the first female to do xxx or yyy) they often made personal sacrifices related to family to do that. I knew that I would not be willing, nor would be husband to do that. While we make personal sacrifices every day, I would not sacrifice a family with respect to when to start one, how big of one and so on.

So when I managed to "manage it all" as I advanced and my family grew, I felt it was really important to share these tips with others, it would be selfish to keep them to myself. And that was the genesis for my book. The tips are simple and pragmatic, anyone can put them to use (including stay at home moms, dads, singles and so on). More importantly they make life easier, as the easier life is made, the easier it becomes. When you work for a company like P&G with fairly high powered and high stress jobs, you must be sharp and efficient, so any tips to allow for that are beneficial. On top of natural smarts, intuition and others skills comes balance and effectiveness in your holistic life - which enables you to be the best manager you can be.

So as a women, I wanted to support other women. I hope each of you reading this chooses to do the right thing, then maybe we won't need task forces with funny names to ensure we are equally represented at the top.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Flexible work location and a visit from the in-laws

I have found that over the past six months I have become very comfortable working from just about anywhere. My job can often take me to other P&G locations in Cincinnati. There are seven major sites, and in an average month I have to be at 4-5 of them at some point. I used to always go to my desk first, then head to the meeting at the other site and return back to my location when it was over. It wasn't until gas rose above $3.00 that I realized this was just silly. Even though P&G would compensate me for the mileage, it made me realize this was just not efficient.

Thankfully most P&G sites have drop-in centers, or open spaces that are either wireless or have Internet connections. So there was really no need to run back to my desk. At the downtown office, where I am most frequently, it was very simple to map the printers there so I could print from there as well, so really all the services I needed to be productive.

So a few months into it and it is remarkable how much time I am away from my desk. Sometimes I start work from home for a couple hours, then head to the other site. Other times I'll split my days. The past two days I have worked from the headquarters downtown. At one point yesterday I was at my friend Laurie's desk, who is also my HR manager and she was there too!. She had a spare power cord, and we grabbed a chair from a huddle room and were all set.

As I think back as to why this is so different from my earlier working days, I think technology is the main difference. It is just so easy to get onto the network from anyplace, laptops are the norm and don't weigh a lot (so easy to transport) and a more senior position requires you to be on teams or networks that are more spread out. In many ways I like it, I am very productive and get to see peers that are at the other locations, check in with mentees there and so on. It also makes you comfortable for the times you are forced to work from home when you have a sick child or problem at home.

So after working remotely yesterday, the day ended with meeting my husband in the lobby (because he is located downtown, we carpooled together) and heading to happy hour to bid a fond farewell to good friends who are moving to Seattle. My in-laws came down from Detroit for the weekend, and arrived at 4:30 so they relieved Amber which meant we didn't have to head home. My mother-in-law had dinner taken care of as well so we had a date night. It was nice to see so many familiar faces and catch up with people at the happy hour for a bit. We then headed to the Clifton area where the Univ of Cincinnati is, I love to get there as it has the very liberal and college feel to it, with local shops, restaurants and a pulse to it. We grabbed a burrito (not at Chipotle) before heading to see Gran Torino the Clint Eastwood movie which was terrific, bringing tears to my eyes at the end.

We are so thankful that Arnie's parents are able to come down every 4-6 weeks. The children love it and it gives Arnie and me time for ourselves. Today we all went to see Ben play in his hockey game before relaxing this afternoon. Tonight we are heading to the Cincinnati Cyclones game (our local amateur) hockey team with some friends (so a hockey day I guess). My in-laws always push us to go out both nights, but we have never felt comfortable doing that. With us both working we really cherish the time with the kids on the weekend. We have never done the date night every Saturday because of it. We probably average every other or a little less often, which suits us. We have plenty of friends who do a weekly night out and that works for them. The important thing is to know what you need as a couple and always schedule the sitter well in advance.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

The irony of life

For the past few days, I guess really all week I have had a strange cough and soar throat. The odd thing is during the day it wouldn't be too bad, but as the day progressed and before evening I would get very congested and start to cough which made sleeping tough. The morning was the worse - I won't go into details, but lots of coughing up stuff.

I have tried to drink a lot of tea, water, take cough drops and so on but it is still hanging around. I am finding quite a bit of irony in this happening to me. Let me list them out:

1) Every night this week, with the exception of last night one of my children has waken me up in the middle of the night. THEY NEVER DO THIS. Ben had an accident one night, Sarah must of had a nightmare another, and Claire just decided she wanted to be in our bed. When the kids were young and this was normal to breastfeed, etc it really didn't have an impact on me. But once you get beyond that, getting disturbed in the middle of REM is not an easy thing to do with;

2) I just blogged about how generally healthy I am. I think this is God trying to send me a signal. Not that this is any big deal, I took Tylenol PM last night and slept like a baby, but there is a little irony in it.

3) Work has been crazy busy. The lull of the holiday is over and I have quite a bit of things to get done. It was also our nannies first week, so wanting to leave a little earlier to get home for her to review things means I need to be even more why is this the week I get no good sleep.

4) Fox 19 called and I would be on TV. My son even said to me in the bathroom this morning, "what if you have to do that when you are on TV" (meaning cough stuff up). We were all a bit concerned, but I think it turned out fine.

So, it reminded me to take care of yourself. You can't care for others if you don't care for yourself. I was a bit selfish the other day when for the 3rd time that night I was woke up I made Arnie take care of it, I couldn't even pick my head off the pillow. Why is it by the way that they call from a distance is never "Daddy" but always "Mommy?"

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Managing others

For many working moms, work isn't just about managing your job, work load, schedule and so on but actually managing other people and their well being. Often this is exponentially more challenging then managing your job. At P&G where I work, when you manage another person you are responsible for their work plan which outlines what they will work on, what deliverables they have, success criteria for the deliverables and so on. Then on an annual basis you have to do a Work and Development plan which reviews their accomplishments and present them for calibration. This is a very important task in marketing, as we are a promote from within company and what rating your person gets become critical in them advancing. It is also tied to salary. So it can be stressful as you always want to be a strong manager and set your people up for success.

I have been without a subordinate for 7 months while my brand manager is on maternity leave. While I didn't have the stress of managing her (not that it was stressful, but it does take time), on the other hand I didn't have her. Which meant work that she may typically do now fell on my hands. I was so glad she decided to take a long time off, and that she wanted to return to her role with me, but that meant holding her job which we don't typically do for that long. But we made it work and in 2 weeks she returns, I could not be happier.

So over the last month I have been putting a lot of time into developing her work plan, to make sure she is set up for success. She will only be working an 80% schedule, so I wanted to make sure it wasn't too much, but not too little either. This is my first time doing a reduced work schedule work plan. She was happy with the plan and aligned to it.

This week and next I will be walking on egg shells a bit, around how to best re-integrate her. I don't want to send her too many emails before she returns, as she is on leave and should enjoy it until the last minute. But I also don't want her to feel like she hit a wall and had to start running from day one. I would like to ease her in a bit. So I am trying to create background documents to catch her up, action plans for her first month and so on.

In some ways I wish people did this for me when I returned, but I really only went back to my same job once...and I hated it. They held my job for 4 months. I had 4 people reporting to me and when I came back to work I suddenly felt like I had 6 kids, my two at home and the four at work. They were so needy, as they got no coaching, feedback or attention while I was gone. The place was a mess. In this case it is the opposite going on, as my subordinate was on leave vs. the boss being on leave. But I am trying to remember what would have been helpful then and do that for E.

I hope I am doing the right thing and that her transition back goes as best as can be expected. She will of course miss her little girl, but that will happen regardless. She has asked for some guidance on that and I have given her some thoughts on how to handle it, to make the first week as smooth as possible, etc. But a lot of it is sheer emotion that has nothing to do with work.

So I head back into the land of managing others. I look forward to having her great skills back, a friend back and another mom in the group.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Yeah for Amber and Fox News

Hooray- Amber's (our new nanny) first day went fantastic. She came a bit early so Arnie could give her the details on the house, where everything is (when she was here on our try-out she couldn't find the Ziploc bags), the daily schedule and so on. I then came home early to see how everything went and answer any questions. Of course, I don't know why I would think otherwise, the day went perfectly smooth and everyone was very happy.

The girls had dance which they couldn't wait to get back to. When I came home Ben was at the neighbor's playing football with his three buddies on the lawn. Their was tons of artwork, the laundry was put away, things were clean and I was smiling ear to ear. Amber even wants to start a "cooking day" with the girls each week...I love her already.

Arnie and my "re-integration" back into work went fine. We had really checked out for two weeks, truly amazing. This was the "hot topic" at work today, how there really wasn't email traffic. Normally around the holidays, while you may want to check out, not everyone does so you end up having to answer emails, put out fires, etc. This year that was not the case at all. I think everyone is just so tired and over-worked, on top of worried about the economy, etc that they truly de-compressed. It was awesome. Of course it took a few hours to get back into things, but it all comes back, just like anything else in life. The business is still running, consumers are still buying and all is well in hair care land.

I have some exciting news for me and the book. Hopefully some of you saw the interview I did with Fox 19 news in Cincinnati when my book launched in October. You can search on You Tube and find it if not. Well Fox 19 anchor Sheila Gray contacted me before the holidays and told me they would like me to be a regular contributor to the show. I pulled together some thoughts on what I could do, sent it to Sheila and this morning we spoke when she got off the air (she too took time off over the holidays, like most working moms). As of this week I will be a regular contributor to their morning TV show. My first day is Thursday, the 8:20 am segment. I am very excited and look forward to joining their family and continuing to help working moms out there. I will do my best to post the videos to You Tube for you all to share as well. This week's topic is "New Years Resolutions for the working mom."

Take care. Joanna

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Back to work and our first day with the new nanny

Well our staycation is about to end. Back to reality tomorrow for the adults that means work and for Ben back to Kindergarten. I think Ben is more excited then we are. He misses his friends and teacher, which is good. The parents on the other hand don't miss work so much. I haven't mentally prepared yet, will attempt to in the next couple of hours. Go over my to do list, refresh my memory on where each project is, etc. But for now, I am enjoying just sitting and watching the end of the football game (as it will tell who the Giants play next week).

Today was the day to run around to miscellaneous places, the only thing in common to them all was a really good deal. Arnie headed to hockey practice with Ben, so I had the girls to myself. We started at Office Max. We got their "15% everything in this bag" brown bag today, so I headed out to get some printer paper, print cartridges, mailing envelopes, etc. Thankfully I remembered glue sticks and dry erase markers too while we were there, also got a great deal on holiday paper (for invites to parties)...$1.65 for 100 sheets.

From there we went to Dick's trying to get Ben some sweatpants but struck out. I got a great deal on a golf outfit (that I probably didn't need, but justified it as my Christmas gift from my grandmother who gave me money). Then to HH Gregg. Of course, the TV we bought last week was reduced this week by $100 which was worth the trip to get the credit. Then finally Michael's who was having a good sale and I wanted to get some more art supplies for the new nanny...who starts tomorrow.

I don't think I have gone into detail on our nanny search and how it went. Thankfully we were blessed again with a very easy search and a fantastic result. Kirsten moved to Cleveland with her husband and gave us six weeks notice per our contract, she actually worked eight weeks for us which got us to the holidays which was terrific. We enlisted a nanny search firm in October and they gave us one person whom we met. She was terrific when we met her and with the kids for her trial run, which included swim lessons which can be tough. Ironically, the day after her trial run, another person whom used to teach at our daycare contacted me (as I heard she was back in town and looking for a job). She came out to the house that evening (as I didn't want to drag along our first contact) to meet Arnie and I. We were happy enough to have her come watch the kids the following Monday. That is dance day for the girls so a tough day, but she did just fine.

Like we do with any babysitter or caregiver for the kids we talked to them about who they wanted for their nanny. Either person was terrific. Both in mid to late 20's, both with plenty of childcare experience and both seemed to do wonderful with our kids. All three said the same person, and not surprising it was the women whom they had a history with from their school. While she never taught in their classrooms, they knew who from the playground and muscle room and likely felt more comfortable because of that.

For Arnie and I we felt the person from the nanny service likely would have done better with Ben, a bit more of a disciplinarian. And the old teacher from their center was better with the girls, more creative, playful, etc. Given in eight months Ben will be in school for a full day and Claire a half-day we decided to go with the ex-teacher given our situation. Anytime you don't hire someone you feel bad, and we did. We really liked the first girl and would recommend her to others, we just got lucky with having the choice of someone we knew. I pray the other girl finds a job in this tough economy, but I have faith she will.

So tomorrow is our first day. Amber starts tomorrow, coming at 7:30 to get a run-down on the house, where things are, schedules, etc. I will come home early to see how the day went, answer any questions and prep her for the week with daily schedules, etc. I know the kids will again be in terrific hands and look forward to seeing them blossom with Amber as they did with Kirsten.

I better sign off now to finish last minute prep for tomorrow, making sure the girls dance bags are ready to go, Ben's backpack, my work clothes, and so on.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Feeling ill and "un-decorating" the house

Some of the worst days for me as a mom are when I have not feel well. Knock on wood, I am a fairly healthy person, blessed with good genes I guess. I really never get sick. At the first sign of "not feeling right" I will take some Tylenol, drink a ton of tea and in general can nip it before it starts." As you all know, there is nothing worse than being sick when you need to care for young children. The want attention and TLC but you can't even get off the couch.

Today started off just fine. My parents planned to leave around 10 so we all got up, had some breakfast and waited for everyone to be ready to leave. During that time I managed to get some Christmas decorations down, including all the ornaments from the tree. We had a awful tree this year, it must have drooped 2 feet in total, the lower ornaments were just rolling off of it. I guess that was my final omen to go fake next year (already bought it on sale after Christmas). I secretly was hoping I could utilize my dad one last time to help us get the tree out and it worked out. We had to cut some branches off of it, as it would not go out easily, but we got it to the curb (yippie).

So we said our goodbyes around 10:30 and settled into peace and quiet. It was a bit eerie after ten days. Sitting and reading the paper without noise and two conversations going on seemed unusual all the sudden. Arnie and I talked about what to do with the kids today. We agreed we would hang out and do puzzles, play around the house, etc and then head to a High School basketball game this evening. Unfortunately around 3 o'clock I started to get a pretty bad headache. I am guessing it was the "end of my period" lack of iron headache. I tried to put up with it but couldn't so I took some Tylenol around 5. I was hoping it would kick in so I could go to the game, but no luck.

Arnie volunteered to take the kids alone, which I hated, but it made the most sense. I just felt horrible. I am such a fan of our family outings, but I am sure I would not have been fun. Of course, less than 30 minutes after the left, and after a bowl of salad I felt tons better. I was tempted to go meet them (they went to KFC for dinner) but I decided to finish taking down the rest of the decorations. It is really simple given I have taken the time to get it all organized in the past. I have bins for everything all labeled, so I brought them all up, filled them 2 at a time and then walked them downstairs. For the new fake poinsettias I simply put them in a kitchen garbage bag to protect from dust.

So while I didn't get my family outing, my husband will be so happy that all the decorations are down and he didn't have to do it. And I got some R&R and my blog done, which means extra books at bedtime.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

A new year and lots of football

Happy New Year everyone. I can't say that I "saw the ball drop" and welcomed the year in fashion. Sarah was tired at around 10:30 so she and mom headed home early. Ben and Arnie made it up, Claire fell asleep on the neighbors couch at around 11:35...poor thing (though she will tell you she made it, just like she never takes a nap during quiet time).

Instead I fell asleep with my baby laying next to me, a cup of hot tea and a Suduko puzzle, it was perfect. I have many wishes for the new year. My usual wish - that we see a new place, meet some new people and learn much during the year. I hope my new job, that I am due to get is a great one, and preferably in another location. Arnie and I are really getting the itch to move so it would be nice if that happens, for our family to have another growth opportunity, but of course we would be very happy staying in our home as well.

I wish for continued good health of my grandmother, parents and in-laws. We are so blessed to have them all in our life and hope that it continues in 2009. I hope my children continue to blossom as people, learn much and have strong morals and manners. I wish Arnie and I many more fond memories together, and Arnie a great half-ironman that he is training to do.

Today we kick off 2009 with a last minute gathering of friends. My great friend Andrea, who was in my wedding and I am lucky enough that she too is still with P&G (13 years for her) is coming over with her husband, dad (who is in from San Fran) and maybe even her sister and her family (who I haven't seen in ages) who are also in from San Fran area. We also are having our neighbors over - two families and their kids. Before we know it there will be 20+ people with lots of food, fun and football.

The menu is simple, as any of you reading this would have guessed. We are having meatball sandwiches (I had my mom make a lot extra when she made them for dinner last week), a ham (pre-cooked that I am warming) either on sandwiches or just sliced, salad, various chips and dips, a cheese platter, shrimp and a sweet potato bar. All in all took my less than 30 minutes to do. Using crock pot for meatballs, ham is in the warmer, sweet potatoes in the oven. Made the salad, cheese platter and shrimp and they are on back patio staying cold. Arnie picked up a pre-made pizza from Kroger, to make kid food easier (I thought we were fine).

It is never too late to ask people over. A quick run to your grocery store or warehouse club can make the entire buffet. I hope you are starting your year in great company too.