Millennium Mom

Thursday, February 26, 2009

MM Blog 2/26: The calendar

Your calendar, you either love it or hate it. It can be your best friend, marking important days, vacation of a lifetime, or your salon appointment. Or it can be your worst enemy, when you stare at it and find back-to-back-to-back meetings the entire day or week.

This week I have been on both sides of the equation. For the first three days of this week it was my worst enemy. On Sunday evening, when I did my normal "reality check" at about 9pm to see what the next day entailed, I realized it was a 7 to 7 day. This did not make Arnie happy, as although I wrote "Jo work PM" on our family calendar, I didn't tell him and put it on his calendar. This was a miss on my part...I broke one of my own tips. Thankfully he could be home by 6pm to relieve Amber. So off I went at 6:35 am to start my day. A 7-9 am call with the Head & Shoulders team, a 9-11 am Video link with the Professional team, only to leave at 10:30 am to drive to another location where my next video link was from 11-12:30 with the Hair Leadership Council. I slipped out at 12:35 to be back downtown by 1pm to begin judging a case competition where we had six of the top business schools come to present a recommendation for a problem we gave them. That would last until 7pm with cocktails and dinner.

Tuesday and Wednesday thankfully were not 12 hour days, just my normal 10 from 7 to 5. But booked solid, I had two 30 minute breaks on Tuesday and one on Wednesday. It was painful. I was so looking forward to getting to my desk this morning and having time to get through my emails and think. It is the latter that I miss most often. I have to keep sticky notes in my car as I find the commute allows me to think more than anything else these days, so I jot down notes to myself while driving. It isn't because there is something magic about my car or the route I take, it is simply time to think without interruption.

If I know I need to get something I will block the time on my calendar and put in "write 60 memo" or "analyze xyz report" but as you rise in management, you find your work is done by others, which means you need to meet with them for updates, etc. But it doesn't mean you can stop thinking and coming up with great ideas, so figure out how to carve out time for that, regardless of your level.

Thankfully, today was back to my love my calendar day. I had a few openings in the day and I found myself walking to the peoples desk to talk vs. emailing them. Perhaps it was because I could, that I wasn't so frantic rushing to another meeting and I could actually have the conversation vs. a quick email. It felt refreshing to connect with people. Then tonight I did our family calendar for the month of March. I realized Oriana our Spanish teacher will be back from her six week trip to Columbia. That made me smile as I know the kids will be glad to see her. March also marks Claire's birthday, she will be five and I can't believe it, time really does fly. I remember the day she was born and the doctor saying "it's a girl" to my disbelief. I will also get to go home to New York this month and see my family, which of course made me really happy.

So it was an up and down week with respect to my feelings about my calendar, like most I am afraid. In the end they are a wonderful tool that helps to keep my organized. I just wish they weren't so full every now and then.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

MM Blog 2/24: What to do for Spring Break

It's that time of year, the kids will soon all have their spring break. Most schools, at least in the Midwest where we are fall between March 15 and April 12th. So now, or perhaps if you are well organized and a planner a few weeks or months ago, is the time to plan your vacation. I gave some tips on this during my Fox 19 segment last week (check it out at youtube, just search my name) and thought I would share them with you all.

There are really four types or levels of vacations: Staycation, close-in driving, more distant US destination or international. A staycation is the name given to when you have time off from work but do not leave your hometown. This doesn't mean your week off becomes like a normal weekend. Make the most of it. Plan a different activity each day -- the zoo, aquarium, water park, museum, bike ride, skiing or other fun things in your area. Then in the evenings each night make a meal you haven't done before, as if you were going out to dinner -- Mexican one night, Italian another, Chinese another. Have fun with it and make it memorable.

If you can afford to spend a little more, do what I call the "get to know your surrounding area" trip. A trip where you add in a hotel bill and gasoline, but not airfare. From Cincinnati this would look like two days in Louisville, two days in Indianapolis and two days in Columbus, Ohio. If I still lived in my hometown of Newburgh, NY this could look like two days in Philly, two days in NYC and two days in Providence, RI. Find a few cities/towns/areas within 2-3 hours of your home and go explore them. Google the city and "what to do" and find out the hottest spots.

From the "local" drive vacation you can step up to a further US get-away that you can drive to within a day. Head to Disney world, Washington DC for an educational trip, a larger city to spend a week exploring, kids friendly areas like Branson, Missouri or Gatlinburg, Tennessee. If you are trying to escape the cold weather head to the beach. If you love the cold head to a ski mountain. Three ski areas outside of Denver rank in the top five for family friends: Vail, Copper and Steamboat. Some of these places have all inclusive deals so try to find them online.

The easiest type of trip to take with kids of any age is an all-inclusive vacation. If you live near a larger city, most of them have companies that operate out of their airports. In Cincinnati Apple Vacations and Vacation Express operate. You can also fly any carrier to locations that have Beaches or Club Med resorts. These are a bit more expensive, but offer many more amenities for the kids. All inclusive vacations may seem expensive at first glance. But when you add up the cab fare or rental car to get to your destination, three meals a day plus snacks, airfare, entertainment and more they are a steal in many cases. If you know the week you have off, and are a bit of a gambler, waiting until the last minute often saves you a lot of money. Also, if you are willing to drive to a larger airport/city to fly out of the prices are even better and they go to significantly more destinations.

The last option which is another "all inclusive" is a cruise. Cruise ships were the first real all inclusive vacation and are terrific for families. Royal Caribbean, Carnival and Disney rank highest for cruise lines that cater to families. Be sure to find a ship that has all the activities you need, this is more important than the ports you will stop in, particularly if you have young children.

Wherever you go, have a great time, take tons of pictures and remember the sun screen (even on the ski slope).

Sunday, February 22, 2009

MM Blog 2/22: My love-hate relationship with the DVR

DVR - or digital video recorder. Many may also refer to this as TiVo or TiVoing. I remember the first time I heard about TiVo. We went to visit our friends the Wolfe's over the holidays I believe at least five years ago, likely. Michael, who is very tech savy had a TiVo and was telling us all about it. I remember thinking, this is my worst nightmare. A big part of my job is developing a marketing plan to drive my brand's sales. If people stopped watching commercials, which was a likely outcome with a TiVo machine, then how would I make people aware of my great new product or new news. Michael of course was in advertising sales for magazines, so he was still safe.

As I sit here watching the Oscar's, knowing I will be in bed by 10pm to give myself enough sleep before my 7am video call begins at the office, I am thanking someone out there for bringing this technology to me. Like most working moms, I try to be as efficient as I can be. I love my blackberry because it lets me be very efficient with my email, utilizing minutes here and there. The DVR is my "leisurely" efficiency machine. No longer do you have to feel guilty that you want to put the kids away in time for your favorite show to begin. Or try to throw a load of laundry in during a commercial break, only to realize you were a minute or two too long.

So while the DVR has made my day job more challenging, it has made it more exciting and fun. I now must reinvent how I communicate with my consumers, as they like me, or the average American who has a DVR has it for a reason. Because they want to watch the show, not the commercials or at least not endless commercials. So me and my colleagues work hard to find our consumers when they are more receptive and talk to them there.

So after some guilt, now after about two years with my DVR I can say I LOVE IT. I love that I know if I don't start Grey's Anatomy until 9:20, I can cruise straight through and be done by 10pm, saving me 20 minutes. Or if I have to go to the bathroom in the middle, it is now big deal. Or if I didn't understand something, I can play it again over and over. And frankly, that when I go on Fox 19, I can watch myself that night just to see how I looked.

For the smart techy people out there, I wish you could put a USB port on the DVR and be able to copy the saved shows to it and then download to my PC...that is my dream.

Friday, February 20, 2009

MM Blog 2/20 A tough work week

It's hard to believe that I only worked three days this week. My apologies for being absent the last few days. One would have thought I would have been totally refreshed from our weekend away. Yet, somehow last night I went to bed at 9:15 after taking two Tylenol PM to help ensure a good nights sleep. I had a headache all day and was just exhausted.

I think it is mostly stress induced. The last two weeks have been extremely busy and stressful. As I mentioned last week a couple of my projects are at crucial points right now, and are being presented to the category leadership council on Monday. Preparing for meetings like this are normally no big deal for me. Like most things at my job, I take the 80/20 principle in preparing them, provide an update, get the critical decisions and move on. Unfortunately one of these projects has such large strategic implications that my normal process just isn't cutting it.

Instead I meet with my sponsor, the Pantene global general manager, the R&D manager and others to try to line up our recommendation. And it seems after each call it went in a different direction. I was so happy Wed night when at 10pm I sent the documents off to be shared as pre-reading. At least that meant I didn't have to do any more edits. But that wasn't the end of the stress. On Thursday we found out the meeting time had been moved (we were trumped by the Vice Chair...), which meant our video link was not longer available at the same location and so on. Now Monday will begin at 7am for me in one location, I have to shuttle to another by 11am (leaving a meeting early) only to return back to the original office at 12:30.

You would think little things like this wouldn't bother me, or work themselves out, but I guess it is just icing on the crazy cake I have been eating since the New Year. I hope Monday will bring some resolution, so my team and I can move forward in one direction. So about 30 hours of work felt like my normal 50. This made Friday night even more precious. I came home early to get extra love and care from the kids. Now we are sitting on the couch watching family movies and snuggling around the computer.

This weekend is what is called the Fine Arts Sampler weekend. It is the annual fund drive for the Fine Arts Fund which supports the arts in Cincinnati. P&G is highly invested in driving the Arts so we do quite a bit at work to support it. Then this weekend all the Arts Organizations offer free concerts, plays, lessons, face painting, puppet shows, museum admission and more. We went through the schedule tonight and have picked out what we will do. This weekend is extra special to us as Arnie and I started dating one week before it and went to many things together eleven years ago, so many fond memories we occur throughout I am sure. Then again, they are predicting snow tomorrow so we may end up playing lots of games and having hot cocoa, which will be great too. All the best to all of you.

Monday, February 16, 2009

MM Blog 2/16 - A weekend away

One of the tips in my book is to take time to get away with your spouse/partner at least once a year, even if just for a night. We didn't start doing this until after our third was born. Our children were so close in age (18 months between each of them) and I breastfed, which made a get away seem impossible. It really wasn't, but for whatever reason I didn't feel comfortable leaving. Finally when Sarah was nine months old we went away without the kids to Jamaica for 5 days, 4 nights.

The time away is important to note. We did a lot of research in talking to our friends who had gone away, and we consistently heard "don't do a full week, you will be miserable." We probed further and it seems that four nights away worked best, long enough to get away and relax, not long enough that you are homesick for the kids. The time worked great for us. It was a bit of a pain to get to Jamaica and we spent too much time traveling, but all in all a great trip.

Since then we have done a long weekend each year, the last two on Presidents weekend. Last year we had a friends wedding in Ixtapa, Mexico so that was the perfect excuse. Again we did four nights. This year we had no excuse so we had to figure out where to go. My husband voted for Vegas. I have actually never been to Vegas, and would like to go, but that just wasn't doing it for me. I just couldn't picture it being relaxing, and with the incredibly stressful and busy January and February I have had, I needed relaxing. I wanted a spa, preferably in the mountains.

I recalled an article I had ripped out of National Geographic Traveler (our favorite by the way) about four years ago. I had put it in one of my organizers and thankfully found it. It was for the Grove Park Inn Resort in Asheville, North Carolina. It looked as divine as I remembered it. That was my vote. My husband wasn't too thrilled, but I called and booked it. Given it was Valentine's weekend it was not cheap, not at all, but we work hard and it was time for a nice getaway. We asked Arnie's parents to watch the kids, so we were all set.

It took less than six hours to drive down from Cincy, a picturesque ride through the rolling hills of Kentucky and Tennessee. The hotel is great, very old charm mixed with a great spa. I had an amazing facial and massage and Arnie a massage. They get you access to the full spa so we hung out for about six hours today (given how expensive they were we wanted to get our monies worth). Indoor and outdoor waterfall hot tubs, mineral pools, lap pool, sauna, steam rooms and more, all wrapped in yummy soft robes. It was great to just spend hours relaxing, reading and pampering our bodies.

After the spa we went to play tennis for an hour. Neither one of us are really good, but again, its just something you never get to do anymore and felt great. As did ping pong, pool and the other fun activities.

Be sure to take time to get away with your spouse. You don't realize how little time you spend together as a couple, talking, "playing", relaxing until you have uninterrupted time together. Every time I leave our getaway I think "we need to do more of this at home" and we try, but a year later we very much look forward to getting away, just to "catch up" :)

Sunday, February 15, 2009

MM Blog 2/15 - A state of exhaustion

Well, it has been a while since I wrote and to my loyal readers I apologize. I really had no good excuse except being exhausted and not having a free minute to blog. I am finally blogging now from North Carolina. This is Arnie and my weekend away, so I have some free time finally. Unfortunately that was not the case this past week.

I definitely did not have a normal week. Three of the five work nights I had evening work commitments. Most of it was due to my Asia trip being cancelled, so I had to have some evening video or conference calls to make up for the lost face-to-face time as I said. On Wednesday I had some consumer research. The good part was I was inside all day listening to great women and learning a lot. I even missed the big wind storm completely. The bad part is I didn't get home until 8:30. Then on Thursday I had an 8pm call, it is once a month and happened to fall during my crazy week. On top of the late nights, I have two big management meetings next week so my mind was pretty occupied in thought, which meant I was up later.

All this before a much needed weekend away. At 10:30 pm Thursday night Arnie and I were packing as it was at that point we realized we wouldn't have any more time to do it. Friday night we drove up to Columbus to see the Red Wings play the Blue Jackets. We had booked the tickets months ago, before we planned our weekend away. I was cursing myself the entire time for not packing the weekend before like I normally do, but I had figured it would be so easy (and it was) as I didn't have to pack for the kids. None the less, it just added to my exhaustion and stress level, both of which I didn't need.

I thought it would all crash down when Arnie called his mother Thursday night to check in. Given we were going to be gone on Friday we wanted to make sure we were all set for the weekend, as they were coming down to watch the kids. I could tell from Arnie's voice something wasn't right. It ended up his dad wasn't feeling well. His mom was still planning on coming down, but this would change things as she wasn't comfortable doing some items that his dad would normally do. I was too tired to stress out and had to pack, so off I went.

Thankfully his dad felt much better on Friday and our plan was back to normal. We still called on our neighbors for a favor to watch the girls until his parents arrived. This way we could take Ben to hockey until his parents met us at the rink, then we would head to NC.

So, here we are, resting in the beautiful Grove Park Inn. Today we went to the Biltmore Estate, our first visit and loved it. The hotel here is wonderful with great service and an amazing spa. Tomorrow we both have massages which we can't wait for and will spend some romantic time in the spa area. We both needed some R&R and time away and this weekend could not have come at a better time. I encourage you all to have some time with your spouse away from the kids. As much as I love my children more than words can say, my relationship with my husband is numero uno and taking time away once a year is our way of nurturing it.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

MM Blog 2/10 - Gifting made easy

One of my favorite tips from my book is "have gifts on hand." I remember the day when we got our big screen TV. We had been back in the US for over a year, I had finally found an entertainment center I liked down in North Carolina that we could buy direct, so it was time for the TV. This meant we had to find a place for my armoire. I grew up in a house that always hid the TV in an armoire, so when it wasn't being watched you didn't see it. So of course, when I got my job at P&G one of the first pieces of furniture I worked to save money for was a nice wood armoire for my TV.

It served us well through our move to Belgium and back, but it was now time to re-purpose it. We had a random "space" in our house that was part of the addition, really a walk through room so I told Arnie to have the delivery men take it there. He gave me a look of "why?", but I convinced him. This would be my gift armoire. We were in the years of all of our friends giving birth, so I was constantly sending gifts out and really wanted to stock up, it would just make life easier. I also like to buy Christmas gifts as I think of them and see something great, versus all between Thanksgiving and the big day. This would give me a place to keep everything (as I have forgotten I got something numerous times only to find it hidden months or years later).

This was the best move ever. I love my armoire (you can even see a pic in my book). The kids love it when they get a glimpse of what's inside. Which is not often. As it is usually followed with "I want that" or "can I have one of those" or "why is that for someone else." They know it is a special place and never, ever open it when I am not around (at least I like to think that).

Tonight I dipped into my armoire to get my niece and nephews birthday gifts out. My in-laws will be here this weekend and my plan is to give the gifts to them, as I am guessing they will head to Iowa before or for Allie's birthday in March. I pulled out their gifts I had bought, found two gift bags, went to my card stash and got two birthday cards and a little tissue paper. A few minutes later I was done, and they are downstairs in the kitchen (so I don't forget). It is so much easier than wrapping. I do wrap, when it is odd shaped, etc but given these will travel the gift bags will hold up better.

Check out your local warehouse clubs for bags. Sometimes they have a box with 20 or 25 for around $16. I have also started to go to Dollar Tree for birthday bags, as usually warehouse clubs only have "all occasion" bags. Don't forget tissue paper too, as that is important with bags. On cards, I have also bought the 40 assorted at Sam's club, or I will use the kids stationary and have them write a note, that works too. This saves a lot of time and stress, knowing you don't have to run out for a gift and prepare it all at the last minute.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Another late night

As my husband said to me today "no big deal, I would rather have you out a few nights than in Japan or China", but as I sit at my desk, getting ready to microwave my dinner (my third meal today out of my house) before heading to a 8-10pm video conference, I am not feeling that it is better. Yes, I am glad I was home with my family all weekend versus being away, but I feel so bad when I miss them at night (like today) and then again in the morning (like I will tomorrow due to a 7am). I think I have said this before - it feels like traveling without getting on a plane.

My advice when you find yourself in this situation is to make the most of it and make up for it. Making the most of it is I will call my kids and talk to them for a while on the phone. Each one individually so they can tell me about their day, what happened at ballet or school and so on. Making up for it is finding more time with them at the end of the week. Unfortunate for me I can't leave early tomorrow and Wed I have consumer research the entire day, into the evening. Essentially my week is shot until Friday, so I blocked from 2pm on and will head home. We are going to see the Red Wings play up on Columbus so this way we can leave early and have a meal before going into the arena, a nice family outing.

My husband is also so great in reminding me they are kids and not really effected by me not being there for dinner one or two nights. Call it the working mom guilt, but of course this is the first thing you think of. They will love the extra attention from dad and likely do something fun one of these nights (I'm guessing pizza or McDonald's) so in their mind mom not being home to cook dinner means something special for them.

So now, I will head to the microwave to make my Thai Kitchen meal, then call the kids before hopping in the car. Not only do I have an 8pm, but the only room available was at another site...which is 10 minutes further from home :(

When it rains, it pours...

Friday, February 6, 2009

Managing a dual career

Typically when you are a working mom, you are in a dual-career household. Meaning both your and your spouse/partner work in some fashion. There are some instances where the dad is a "stay at home dad" but they are certainly in the minority.

As I talk in my book and have shared in many blogs, there are pros and cons to being in a dual career. Hopefully some of the positives you have experienced are - both parents in jobs that they love and enjoy doing, more financial freedom, challenges and constant learning for both people, and so on. On the negative side, dual-career brings lots of scheduling issues, and at times one person have to make sacrifices for the other. Let me illustrate a bit.

My husband and I are fortunate (I think) in that we work for the same company. Some may say this is bad; putting all your eggs in one basket, no distance, too risky, etc. We work for a pretty stable company, that is very good to its employees and actually encourages dual-career. Let me explain a bit. P&G is headquartered in Cincinnati, Ohio. While I have come to love Cincinnati, it is not a "destination" city in America. Which means it is hard to get people to come there (if they are single) and harder to keep them there. So you can imagine, that when one finds a mate within P&G the chances of them staying go up significantly. That was certainly the case with Arnie and I.

Because they encourage marriage of employees (or at least don't discourage it), they have ways of managing them, as there are so many. For instance, each time one of us is due to change assignments or get promoted, we will get asked "who is the lead career." You may be thinking, they have no right to ask you that, but I actually like it. It makes Arnie and I talk about our careers and how to manage them as a family. At one point it was my career, and that got us moved to Brussels. Then it was Arnie's and it got him a promotion while I was on maternity leave with Ben, and now it is back to mine. We flex according to where we are in our careers and our family situation. I encourage any of you out there in dual-careers to think about that question of who is the lead career, as it will allow you to see the present and future as you plan things out.

I said I think we are fortunate because I have a lot of colleagues who's spouses work at other firms or companies. This can be hard to manage. What do you do when your company needs you to move? or asks you to? Do you ask your husband to sacrifice and uproot him from his job? Do you give up the amazing opportunity? This is why it is so important to talk through this. The good news is companies are more flexible than ever. I moderated a panel a couple of weeks back and one women on it worked from her home in New Hampshire. Her husband had to do a field assignment there, and P&G allowed her to do a location free assignment. Yes, she has to be in Cincy for one week of the month, but it allowed her husband to continue on his career path, as well as herself.

Talk to your spouse, and then once you are forced to cross a certain bridge talk to your employer. Provide some options for how you may manage your role differently, given your family situation and I bet you will be pleasantly surprised. Also remember that the next time your are managing someone who is in a dual-career. It is not always easy, and you don't want to lose a great employee, so be flexible and see how you can all work it out.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Keeping the romance going

Today I shared some tips on "keeping the romance going" on Fox 19 Cincinnati.
I guess I should start off by saying neither my husband nor I are romantics at heart.
We have never "sweet talked" to each other, had special nicknames for one another and so on.
We have also reached the point of "oh don't worry about an anniversary gift, we'll just go out for a nice dinner" stage. But having said all of that, I try to keep our "love life" strong.

It all starts with just talking to one another and never losing touch. Taking time each day to be the best friend to one another, letting the other vent when they have to, pass an idea by you, talk about what the kids did that made them laugh and so on. It is also about telling them how great they are, as a person, father, husband, son and so on. They deserve thanks and praise just like anyone else. We constantly give it at work, but not often enough at home.

The next important thing is to have time away from the kids with one another. As much as "your time" at home is great, it is often interrupted. I can't tell you how many times I have heard one of my girls say "mommy stop talking to daddy, I want to talk to you." It really drives them crazy if "they" aren't in the conversation. So take a night here and there to go out. You figure out what you can afford and what you are comfortable with in terms of frequency. I have never been a "every Saturday night" person, every other or even less frequent works for us, but you figure out what works for your relationship.

If you do do the weekly date night, find a babysitter you love and put her on a retainer. The kids will be comfortable and you don't have to worry about finding a different sitter each week. If you do less frequent like me, plan the dates out well in advance and book the sitters early. Be sure to get the sitters 30 minutes early so you can get ready in peace and feel great leaving the house versus stressed. I also recommend Saturday night vs. Friday. You are just so tired on Fridays and it also means you either don't see the kids, or for a very short period of time which can be tough on them.

On top of date night, I am a huge fan of getting away on a trip without the kids. even if just a weekend away. We take Presidents weekend each year to do this. Three nights away is fine, but it is so refreshing for your relationship. You sleep in, have long meals, take a bath and do all the things that are so hard with three little ones needing loving care.

Finally, make a gift wish list for your husband. Give the guy a break and just list all the things you love, from inexpensive to your ultimate dream. He can refer to this on the special occasions, or even yet those random ones.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Bad weather when you need to get home

Phew. I have had enough. I love the winter, but living in a part of the country that doesn't deal with snow well can ruin it for anyone. And after a week of it, I am ruined I am afraid. Today when I looked outside the windows are work (we are so fortunate at our site that we have one entire side of our area that is exposed to woods, just beautiful) again I saw flakes coming down. For the first hour or so it wasn't accumulating at all, so it was tempting to ignore it. I knew Ben was safe and sound at home already, so I continued my meeting. Then at 2:30 it was heavier and I was a bit concerned. My 3:00 meeting was there early, and had driven to my site so I couldn't just say "see yah."

At that point I could feel a little bit of anxiety building up. The planner in me kicked into overdrive. I reviewed my to do list and shot off all the critical emails that I needed to get out. By 3 o'clock I was ready for my meeting and had all the critical items crossed off. The meeting finished on time at 4 and I returned to my desk to "shut down" collect my computer and key files and head out.

By the time I got to my car, cleaned it off and headed out it was 4:20. I knew I was in trouble when we couldn't even turn out of the parking lot onto the main road due to traffic. By 4:45 when I hadn't made it the 1/2 mile to the highway I called Arnie and said please leave. Thankfully he had looked outside and was leaving his desk the. I was worried about Amber having to drive home so I also called my neighbor who was home to see if Amber could bring the kids over. This way she would be driving home in the daylight vs. dark.

Arnie and I managed to get phone lines every now and then to stay in touch. Ended up that where I was on the highway in Cincy was the "heaviest" hit area, very low visibility, so I barely went above 20 MPH the entire way. Arnie went non-highways from downtown and ran into no trouble . The last call we made he suggested I go a different way to avoid a very steep downhill then uphill to get to our street. That is when it all fell apart for me...I didn't listen to my husband.

I went my normal way, going 2-3 MPH down the steep hill and then attempted to go up the steep hill. I was doing fine until I realized a van was stuck at the top. I couldn't go up because it was a blind hill, so I couldn't go around. It ended up being my neighbor in her mini-van. I reversed down the hill and tried a few more times, calling Arnie in between. Nothing worked (and I have a Volvo SUV). I then tried another route, with a less steep luck. At this point it had been 20 minutes since my first attempt.

I had no choice but to try to go the way Arnie said. The only problem was I had to go up the hill I went 2 MPH down. I knew there was a semi stuck at the top but prayed I could get by. Bumper to bumper the entire way, sliding all over the place, I finally made it. Arnie called a couple of times but I was so stressed I just hung up quickly after saying where I was. In the end I got home at 6:25. The kids were still happily playing at the neighbors, Arnie had a hot meal ready and all was well, except my heart rate.

As I said in one of my daily facebook sure to leave early in inclement weather, especially if you have kids. The first thing I did when my meeting ended at 4 was to go to the women who works for me and said "leave" and go get your little girl. This is only her third week back from maternity leave and I didn't want her thinking she had to stay. It ended up after she hit the road she didn't think she had enough time with traffic to make it, so her husband went. Be sure you always leave early, if you have to "go back to work" later at night to get stuff done, that is better than being stuck on the highway with or without your kids in the car.

The other tip I would give is to always have snacks/food in the car, especially if you have children in the car with you. Today I was so happy to find some cookies in my car. I was very hungry, had taken a vitamin at work that was making my stomach upset (or maybe it was the stress) and finding those cookies was like hitting the lottery at that moment. Be prepared, leave early and be safe. And please no more snow.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Family Night In

Being a working mom, your minutes and hour with your children are limited to weekday nights, weekends, holidays and vacations. So you need to make the most of it. I have three awake hours each night with my kids, well usually three and a half by the times reading books, saying prayers, kisses and hugs are all said and done. But often my kids want to watch "their shows" (which means Noggin, PBS or Discovery Kids) or play the Wii.

It's not that I mind their shows. They are educational, keeps them happy and content and gives me time to clean up dinner or throw a load of laundry in. The issue is when it becomes every night, and before you know it you fall into a routine of a show or two a night. In fact, often the kids will ask when you are busy trying to clean up or just have a five minute conversation with your husband, so the "yes" response is almost like being on auto pilot.

Tonight, like many nights we deliberately said "No." Of course we get the normal "but Mom" or "but Dad" but we stay consistent and don't give in. The important thing is to be prepared with all the things you can do. In the summer it is easy, get outside, go for a walk or bike ride. In the winter you may want to try some games, workbooks, puzzles or dancing. Tonight we played Go Fish, Uno, Memory, Candy Land and had a little catch (with the soft football). We had the Kids music station playing via cable TV and had a great time. Ben wasn't too happy at first, but like always he comes around. In the end we had a nice evening.

So, either pick a night each week and designate it TV night, or just when you think you need it and I think you will really enjoy the experience. For the single women or men reading this, I would encourage you to do the same. Take a class, play a sport, volunteer or just read a good book. It's so easy to find something to watch on TV each night, much easier than getting out and doing something. But you will meet really great people, socialize and feel better about yourself the more you are out and about and the less sitting in front of the TV you do.