Millennium Mom

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Tips on how to make the most of the Holiday season...Fox 19 Dec 21, 2012

Making the most of the holiday season…for busy moms

It’s that time of year, where days seem like minutes and the stress level is through the roof. So much to do, so much to buy, the holidays can often seem like more work than fun. But they shouldn’t be, they should be about creating memories that last a lifetime and taking time to reflect on the past year and year ahead. Here are some tips on how to get the most out of the holidays.
1. Take your kids to your old holiday traditions. Think about memories from your childhood and what made the holidays special and re-create that for your kids. In my hometown we have Christmas on the Farm with Eggbert the talking egg. For years it was no longer in operation but this year they started it again, I can’t wait to take my kids. Here in Cincy it may be Festival of Lights at the Zoo, the trains at Union Terminal or others, but take the time to cherish what makes Christmas time so unique.
2. Pay a special visit to someone. If you haven’t seen a relative or old friend for a while, make a call and set up time to re-connect. I like to catch up with old high school friends when I return to NY for the holidays and it really does make them seem more special. Start sending emails now so you can find a time that works for the both of you.
3. Make a holiday treat and hand deliver it to your neighbors. A few families in my neighborhood do this and I think it is terrific. Make a yummy treat (we get chocolate sprinkled popcorn, pretzels with melted M&M’s on them and others) and hand-deliver it to your neighbors. It gives you time to say hello and personally wish them a wonderful holiday season and a great activity to do with your kids.
4. Give special gifts that money can’t buy. Many of us stress when we can’t get our hands on the sought after toy, or can’t afford the latest gadget. Think about gifts in other ways, gifts that money can’t buy like family game night, 1:1 time with your children or date night with your husband. Any child would take a special day out with mom and dad over the toy they will likely only play with for a few weeks. Make certificates and hand them out to make it official.
5. Write a journal about the past year and your hopes for the year ahead. Steal away 30 minutes and think about the past year and its highlights. What “firsts” did you or your family experience…lost tooth, special vacation, sports victories, good grades…take a moment to reflect on the year and think about 2012 and your hopes and dreams for the year ahead. Write down a few things you hope to accomplish to drive you as you enter the new year.
6. Next year start shopping earlier – if I can leave you with one thought it is to buy throughout the year. I know this isn’t second nature and top of mind, but your stress level will be significantly reduced if you just buy things throughout the year, when you see something you like for someone. Keep a running list so you don’t forget what you have purchased. I guarantee this will make next year’s holidays even more special as you will have more time to enjoy them.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Getting to know Vietnam

So frustrated, I just wrote my blog for the day and lost here I go again.

Yesterday we spent the day getting to know Vietnam. The first half was a cultural tour around the city. Our first insight was locals don't call it Ho Chi Mihn, they still call it Saigon, the name before the war. Ho Chi Minh was a hero from the north whom they re-named the city after when the war ended, so a bit of an insult to people in the south. We started our tour in the city center, not far from our hotel, at the post office.

This gorgeous building was originally built to be the train station, but at the last minute they switched to a post office. It definitely looks like a train station for sure. The architecture was beautiful and it had a buzz about it for sure. Outside a large Catholic church (who was holding mass in English when I went in) was surrounded by about six bride and grooms getting their pictures taken. Our guide explained that there are certain days that bring good luck for bride and grooms, so they get their pictures taken on these days. It can be as much as 8 weeks prior to the wedding itself. Yesterday was one of those (or just a beautiful day) and we saw tons of them. Their dresses were beautiful and not all that different from Western weddings, and like Western brides, they were happy to pose for a picture.

Next we hit China town. 10% of Saigon's population is Chinese, a bit less than 1MM, but China town takes up 25% of land, so it is huge. We walked around quite a bit looking at various shops, like India these are very busy store fronts with various types of rice, herbs, etc. For a good three blocks they were all TCM (traditional chinese medicine) places that smelled very interesting. They had every root, tree bark and oil there is - including snake oil with a King Cobra right in the bottle...totally true.

We ended up at a Chinese temple dedicated to the sea goddess. While hundreds of years old and not very well preserved, it was still breath-taking. The ornate detail was unbelievable, what craftsmanship. We learned a lot about how Vietnamese Chinese get ride of bad spirits and make wishes. I bought what they call a seven day cone and made a wish for my family, the incense (spelling?) will burn for seven days with my wish on it.

Next was lunch, and like Korea it was a 6-8 course meal. So much food, you wonder how they are all so skinny. But then you realize it is quality not quantity here that drives their health. Everything is fish (so arnie would not survive) and veggies - no rice, no break, no meat. We had fish in lettuce, fried fish, fish stew, fresh crabs, shrimp in garlic and on and on. So yummy and filling but all very good for you. Maybe not the beer we had with it.

Our last stop was the War Museum, the departing words of our tour guide (who did not go in) were "please don't hate me" after. Of course the story is from Vietnam's POV, as you would expect. Given I don't know much about the war, can't say I had factual data either way, but it was moving. I could only get through 2 of 3 floors, the graphic details go to me. Had never seen photos like that, as I don't normally wish too. Those of you who know me know I can't even watch movies with that much blood and guts. Hardest parts were rooms on chemical warfare and seeing the multi-generational effects.

After our tour ended, three p&G folks from the Vietnam office (the country manager, HR manager and a sales guy) took us to stores to understand more. We went to a "modern retail" store called Lotte, like W-M or Target in US, then lots of HFS (high frequency stores). We don't have these in US, but they are huge in LA, Asia, CEEMEA, little stalls that sell products, often in smaller quantities, and often limited categories. So the one who sells rice, doesn't normally sell shampoo, who doesn't normally sell coffee. Great to learn more, P&G is "younger" here but growing fast so great to see.

Tonight we head to Beijing, our last stop. We are counting down, four more days until we are home, very exciting. Can't wait to see everyone live, versus via Skype. The trip has been easy from keeping in touch perspective, I start every morning by talking or skyping with the kids to see how their days went. Being 12-14 hours ahead is easier to manage for me than even Europe. So far the trip has been great, and last night's dinner at The Deck was our best yet, let's hope it continues in China.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The tropics of Singapore

What a shock it was to exit the airport in Singapore...I think the last time I felt the heat and humidity like that was on my honeymoon...boy are we close to the equator. The weather in Seoul was about 40 degrees, in Singapore it is closer to 90. Most would celebrate that change, but those who know me know I don't like the heat, and dislike air conditioning even more. Despite all my R&D colleagues telling me all the time you can't get a cold from temperature change, it is a virus and it comes from germs, I get a cold from temperature change ALL THE TIME. So, while I am not wearing my winter coat here, I am wearing a blazer or sweater everywhere I go, and then die of heat when I walk outside :)

The island is great. For those who don't know where Singapore is, essentially it is in Southern Asia, North of Indonesia, and South of Malaysia. It is a tiny island (I would get maybe 25-30 miles wide by 20 miles high) with about 5MM people living on it. There is a bridge connecting it to Malaysia. The gov't keeps a short leash is is fantastic at driving growth. There are SO MANY cranes here building buildings, all high rises to house people or companies. They incent companies to come here with big tax breaks (hence why P&G moved it Asian HQ here about 7 years ago).

They also make sure it is a great place to live. You probably heard about the American teenager who got caned (spelling?) for using graffiti while he lived here. There is no gum allowed in the company (just ends up on street), you can get the death penalty if you are caught with large amount of cocaine or heroine, alcohol and tobacco are REALLY expensive (think $15 for glass of beer) because of extremely high tax rate. They check your gas levels before you leave the country to ensure you don't buy cheaper gas in Malaysia when you go there. Yes it is a bit big brother, but people who live here LOVE it because it is safe, clean, growing economy and easy to live.

There are SO MANY malls, everywhere, but not like US. But they are about one city block, by one city block, and about 5 stories high. From the high end designers (people are really rich, so lots of high end shopping and nice cars) to Zara and others. The food is very diverse because the population is diverse, so you can get any type of food you want - a burger, pasta, pizza, Korean, Italian, Sushi, Indian and so forth. We have some free time tomorrow before flying to Vietnam so hoping to see some more.

I have been able to talk to Arnie and the kids everyday which has been great. We are now 13 hours ahead so my morning is their evening and vice versa. Not sure why I am up now, got up at 6:30am after going to bed at midnight (had a 3.5 hour leadership team call...yuck), but I just couldn't sleep anymore. So I cleared out email (they all come in while I sleep as it is daytime in US) and now get to blog.

I hope everyone's holiday parties, shopping, plans are going great.
I need to do some in China to make sure I am all set, and then of course the last minute dash before we go to NY like every year :)

Finally, yesterday was my dad's 66th birthday. Of course I think he is the greatest dad EVER. It was great to hear his voice, and even better he arrives in Cincy tomorrow with my mom, so my kids get to have a week with Grandma and Papa...doesn't get any better than that.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

So much for shopping...Asia here I come

I guess I should have said, so much for shopping in Cincy. I guess this year will be online or in Asia. I am writing this while sitting in my hotel room in Seoul, S.Korea. I arrived yesterday after my 14 hour flight from Detroit. Actually flew on a new Delta jet with the new business class...will take a picture on the way home if I have the same. You have your own little "pod" feels very futuristic in fact, and not very "social" as you are completely blocked from view of everyone around you based on design. Good news is the beds lay flat, so I got a lot of sleep, probably too much given I woke up at 5am, but overall, already adjusted to the 14 hour time difference.

I will be in Asia for 12 days, 3 in Seoul, 3 in Singapore, 3 in Vietnam and 3 in China. I have never been to the 4 cities I am going to, so should be a great trip...if not for the timing. Hard to believe that someone I squeezed in a 2 week trip between Thanksgiving and Christmas, not standard timing, but the calendars were pretty clear as you would expect.

You all know me, I am pretty good on the holiday planning. Only major shift is I decided to have our "annual holiday brunch" after the New Year. I only have one weekend to host my team for a dinner and do the brunch, and it is the one after I arrive back from this just too much. My great husband said 'just postpone it' vs. me staying up to midnight the night before my flight to get the invite out to everyone. He was big deal in the grand scheme of things.

The kids are not happy, wish I was there, as do I. Good news is my parents arrive on Friday, coming up from Florida to help. Claire has her first Reconciliation (Catholic sacrament) while I am gone so they will help with that and overall. Good news for me is they will still be there when I get back and be able to help me cook my dinner...maybe I should have had that brunch after all. My dad is actually in the hospital right now, but they say he will be out soon and able to travel. Had an odd bite looking thing on his forearm and went to an urgent care. Two days later he is being admitted with a big infection, ends up it is Staph MASR, probably got it in the clinic when they opened it up to drain it...hear these nightmare stories all the time, now he will live with it for the rest of his life.

I already spoke to the kids twice since leaving, and set up my Skype account when I arrived to be able to "see" them as well. Hopefully it will make the time fly. I actually find Asia time difference easy to manage as my night is there morning and vice versa, so with school, etc it is very manageable. I just need them to get home today before I leave for my day, cross your fingers. Since I am ready so early I am going to watch Tiger and see if he can pull out a win. Korea like Japan is GOLF OBSESSED (and US football too) so you get a lot of sports on TV...just in Korea, mute button here I come.