Friday, June 28, 2013

The Having It All Project: Monina Wagner

I reconnected to Monina, a classmate of mine at good old Solon High School, through the magic that is Twitter. Monina was a year ahead of me at SHS, and I can't remember what class we shared, but I do remember her bubbly and effervescent personality, which comes through in both her professional writing career and on her blog. Here's how Monina is having it all.
Briefly describe your life and what you think makes it unique.  
I'm a single mom living in my hometown of Cleveland, Ohio. As ordinary as it may seem on the surface, my life is anything but. I have a sassy 10-year-old daughter who has gone through more heartache than any child should have ever had to endure. We recently rescued a senior Jack Russell terrier even though some days I'll skip dinner to make sure we have enough money to get us to my next paycheck. I have as close to my dream job as I can get right now - just in the wrong city. And I've done well for myself professionally but life sometimes deals you lemons so your wallet gets drenched with lemonade. Everyone leads a unique life. 

What are some of your favorite tips and strategies for coping with the chaos? 
On my wedding day, one of our groomsmen gave me a piece of advice that has stuck with me to this day. And surprisingly, it's a philosophy I take with me to this day. One of the most common pieces of advice is to have a great relationship, you must compromise, compromise, compromise. But my groomsman told me this: Marriage is not 50/50. It's not about compromise, but about bringing your all to the table daily. It's 100/100. 

Shouldn't all aspects of our lives be that way? Only we can control our own actions, our own destinies. You shouldn't cave, but make thoughtful decisions.

Please share a moment where it all broke down, and how you got through it. 
At some point in my marriage, I realized the algebra equation was off. We were closer to 50/50. I was losing a part of myself. Dreams went unfulfilled. Life was unhappy. We tried counseling. Years went by, and eventually we separated. Having the burden of my daughter's well being on my shoulders, reconciling my feelings and determining my financial future overwhelmed me. I tried to internalize it. I became intimate with Jack (Daniels) and Jose (Cuervo). But what brought me through this and other trying times were my friends. There are still days when I'm stressed out and think I should face it alone, but my friends are there to remind me not to be stubborn.

Do you have any balance role models? Anything you try to avoid because it wouldn't work for you? 
I went from college to career to motherhood to whatever stage I'm in now. I'm forging my own direction and beginning to learn who I am again. Once I identify who I am, I can stop trying to be someone else or looking to another as a role model. We all lead such different lives. And no one leads a balanced life. If they say they do, I'm convinced they are lying. Live life the way you want.

Think back to your 18th birthday. How is your life different from how you expected it to be then? 
Had I hoped to divorce before age 40? Did I want to build not one but two houses in the suburbs? Did I think a career at an ad agency would be the path I would end up on?

No. Yet ask if teens graduating high school know exactly what the future holds and I will answer honestly. I did.

On my 18th birthday, I guarantee I said I didn't want to be married until I was 40 because I wanted to establish my career. Apartment living is tailor-made for me. Little upkeep, small it. I began my journalism career in high school, but I knew my longevity in the field would be dependent on many factors. So I knew there would eventually be a detour. 

I'm living life exactly how I want. I only hope I can predict the future now as well as I did then.

Relate to what Monina is saying? Leave her some love in the comments. Read other posts from The Having It All Project here. Want to participate? Send me an email at!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

OMG, It's Today.

I stayed up too late on Thursday night, and struggled to get myself out of bed the following morning. I stumbled through putting in my contacts and brushing my teeth, and after a minute or so in the shower, my mind finally snapped to attention and I nearly yelled out loud, "Oh my G-d, it's today!" Friday, June 21.

I'd mentioned here before that this June feels a bit like a December with all we have going on, and I'd definitely been caught up in the cycle of getting through each day, with almost everyday having something special or different about it. So when it suddenly struck me that it was that particular day on the calendar, the start of Hannah's last weekend at home before overnight camp, with the packing left to finish and many social events for her to attend ahead, well, now I was fully awake. I knew I needed to get through the day and this weekend, bringing my A-game to all she needed to accomplish.

And then I was suddenly transported back in time to another Friday, June 21. This time, it was in 2002, and it was just two days before my wedding. That morning, I was staying at my parent's house, and I came downstairs just in time to hear the announcer of The Today Show begin that morning's broadcast. Hearing the booming voice say "Today is Friday, June 21, 2002," I was struck dumbfounded. For the past thirteen months, Marc and I had planned all of those tiny wedding details, referring to events on Friday the 21st, Saturday the 22nd and the big day, Sunday the 23rd, as these far-off, almost imaginary moments in time. It didn't seem real that it was finally all happening, but the Today Show announcer forced me forward, starting that momentous weekend at 7 am in my mother's kitchen.

Eleven years later, I'm not sure I truly imagined what our life would be like now. Sure, we danced to song lyrics of "come what may" and "the best is yet to come," but what do we really know on those bright, shiny wedding days? We hope and we pray and we dream, but the actual logistics of attending the neighborhood block party and re-packing the just-packed an hour before duffel bag? It was beyond what I could have imagined then, but I feel so fortunate for it to have turned out this way.

Happy 11 years, Marc. I couldn't be this busy with you.

Friday, June 21, 2013

The Having It All Project: Astrid Muhammad

Astrid was led here by one of her clients, work at home attorney, mom and Having It All Project participant Danielle Van Ess. I love the idea of creating the job that works for you. Here's how Astrid is having it all.

Briefly describe your life and what you think makes it unique.
I live in Charlotte, NC with my husband and two kids. I’m a transplant from Boston, Massachusetts.  We have a 9 year-old son and our daughter is 5 years old.  I have worked in the legal field for over 10 years. I started out working as a receptionist and worked my up to working as a legal assistant. When my daughter was born in 2008, I dreaded the thought of having to go back into the corporate world after my 6 months at home with her were up.  With all of the experience that I had, my husband suggested that I become a virtual assistant. He couldn’t see why I couldn’t do what I was doing for years in someone’s office, from the comfort of my home. See, that’s why I married my wonderful husband! He has the greatest ideas! We have been married for almost 6 years. My husband is a song writer and has written a children’s album called Kids Pop 2.0. He has a passion for music and is currently pursuing his dream in the music industry.

I’m currently working from home as a Virtual Assistant and in 2011 I became a licensed Zumba instructor. I teach a couple classes on the weekends and at night. I love dancing and exercising so it’s the perfect activity for me. There’s a correlation between my two jobs. I feel a real sense of gratification knowing that I’m helping to make my client’s work life smoother by ensuring that they are on task with their work and helping my students with their weight loss and health goals.

What are some of your favorite tips and strategies for coping with the chaos?
My tips for handling chaos are:
Prayer – when things are getting really crazy, I need to have someone that I can call on to get me through the crazy and bring me back to that peaceful place, which in turn helps me to put things back into perspective.
Exercise – I exercise daily. Whether it’s training for my ½ marathon next year, teaching a Zumba class, taking yoga or taking a strength training class, I make sure that I do some sort of exercise. I’ve always enjoyed exercising and it’s a great stress reliever for me. After I exercise I feel refreshed and I like knowing that I did something really fantastic for my insides!
Team work – kids have messy tendencies and it gets really laborious having to constantly pick up after them. I’m not Superwoman (although sometimes I wish I were) and I can’t do it alone.  My children both have their assigned chores. My husband is always there to help with whatever it is I need at the moment. When I’m having a really hectic day, he has no problem taking over and helping Jaden with his homework and helping Amayyah with her home school lessons.  My husband does the laundry, makes sure that the kids are fed and that the house is in order. We have to work as a team. Point-blank-period!
Organization – there are times when I have to do things in half-hour or hourly increments. It helps me to focus on that one thing, ensure I get it done, and move on the next. 

Please share a moment where it all broke down, and how you got through it.
I can’t recall the exact day, but it happened this year.  I was trying to complete something that I was working on so that by the time my son got home from school, he could have my undivided attention without having to talk to me while I was still at my computer. Well, that didn’t work out so well on this particular day. When he came home, I wasn’t finished with what I had been working on. It really doesn’t matter if my husband is home or not. Jaden just wants to be able to come home after his long day of school and chat with me (as he should). I had more to do than I realized and I told him that I’d be finished before long. He kept coming into in my office after I asked him numerous times to just give me a couple more minutes because I needed to finish up work.  I yelled at him! I mean adult temper tantrum yelling! “Jaden didn’t you hear what I said?!” “Please leave me alone!” I felt rotten. After I slapped myself back into reality, I went into his room and apologized to him and told him the truth. The truth was that it was just one of those days for mommy and that sometimes I get frustrated and overwhelmed with work and that it’s never, ever his fault and that I didn’t mean to take it out on him.  He accepted my apology.

Do you have any balance role models? Anything you try to avoid because it wouldn't work for you?
I have many great balance role models. My parents, my husband, my family & friends have all shared different practices that work for them. I take notes and apply some of things to different areas in my life. However, I’ve learned that I have to figure out what works best for me and my situation. I learn from what didn’t work.

The one thing that I must avoid – NOT GETTING ENOUGH SLEEP! Everyone who knows me knows that unless I’m taking care of a newborn or a baby, I need to get at least 7 hours of sleep nightly. I love to sleep. I love giving my body a break from “me.” It is so beneficial.

Think back to your 18th birthday. How is your life different from how you expected it to be then?  
I think my life has gone according to plan. I never really had this big vision of what my life would look like today. My thinking was pretty simple. I knew that I wanted to be married to a wonderful guy, have children (at that time it was 6 because I loved the Brady Bunch and thought it’d be so “cool” to have 3 boys and 3 girls, and just enjoy life. It’s the simple things in life that bring me the most joy. To me, “having it all” is knowing that my family is healthy, we are spiritually grounded and that we are surrounded by love.

Relate to what Astrid is saying? Leave her some love in the comments. Read other posts from The Having It All Project here. Want to participate? Send me an email at!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

More on "Lean In" - Questions of Age, Asking and Authority

On Tuesday night I went to see my friend Nanette speak on a panel at the Waban Library about, you guessed it, "Lean In." Yes, it's the book that keeps on giving, whether we like it or not (and just as a reminder, I did not like it). But there's just so much to it, that each time I discuss it, I find more to think about. So here are three more topics I want to keep exploring.

1. The target age for who should be "leaning in." The audience skewed a bit older for both this panel discussion and at Sandberg's appearance that I attended a few months ago. I think Sandberg was hoping to address a younger crowd, perhaps in their 20's, in her book, especially regarding her "don't leave before you leave" message directed at women who slow down their careers even before they have children. I wonder how much women in that younger decade are paying attention to all this. Does it even seem relevant? I'm not sure I would have thought it was as relevant to me back then. Are we seeing these issues once it's too late to address them?

2. The need to keep asking for what you want. In chatting with other attendees at the end of the panel discussion, I mentioned that I work from home one day a week. Someone said she'd asked to do that as well, and her company said no. But my company also said no when I first asked, and while it took years to get a yes, I'm really glad that I didn't stop asking. And as Marc said when I discussed this with him, maybe there's another company out there that will say yes, and a change is necessary.

3. The sweet spot of authority and responsibility. One of the panelists related that she'd once been told that workplace success is related to having the right combination of responsibility within the job and authority for getting the job done well. Finding the balance of these two things is a struggle I've been grappling with, without being able to boil it down to such simple terms. I definitely feel I have enough responsibility in my current role, but lack the authority I should have to really do the job well. I think this will be a useful framework for discussing upcoming changes in my role at work.

So, lots more to keep thinking about. Have you read the book? Are there any new questions you've had since then?

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

We Made It

It seems like only moments ago when I let the countdown begin - the last year of daycare.

Today's the last day.

All month, we've been counting down with Max. The last soccer class. The last swim lesson. The last Shabbat. And there was the "moving up" ceremony.

(Side note: I really dislike the controversy over the word "graduation" and how its meaning has been deluded by calling everything a "graduation," so we make up other things to call it, and end up sounding more ridiculous than we did when we say "graduation," but alas.)

Anyway, I cried. I was expecting the slideshow, produced by Udi Edni of Pix-R-Me, who has been the informal photographer at the JCC through all four years Max was there, but I wasn't expecting the photos to go back to 2009 and feature so many shots of my platinum-haired toddler. Or for it to be set to the Israel Kamakawiwo╩╗ole version of "What a Wonderful World," the song that Hannah also sang at her "graduation" four years ago and that gets me going anyway...oy, it was all too much and I was blubbering away in the darkness. But I managed to pull it together by the end, having watched Max age four years right before my eyes. For all of my complaints about daycare (and if you know me at all, you know I have a lot of them), I am so incredibly grateful that he has been able to learn and grow in a safe, caring environment. Looking at the photos above, I know it's only the good stuff that I'll be remembering from here on out. 

For the past seven years, the JCC has basically been a daily part of our lives. I'm ready to move on, and so are my children. At least, we'll be taking a few weeks off before they're both back there for a month of camp. I guess we're not really going that far.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Why Not Just Do What Makes You Happy?

As soon as I saw the New York Times article, "Mommy Blog or a Glossy Fashion Magazine?", I knew it was prime for the response article which quickly followed. That response was on in the form of "Glamorous Chaos: The Tiring Pursuit of Art-Directed Motherhood." And both articles feed into dueling anxieties that probably most of America has: "OMG, look at that, I'm not good enough" vs. "screw it all, I'm not perfect and not going to compete to be perfect." But those are just the end points on a very long spectrum, and most of life isn't lived in the extremes. Most of us are muddling through somehow, having our good moments and our bad.

If you're reading this, you've probably noticed that I don't have a problem sharing things on the Internet, but I am very conscious of the things that work *for me* in this vast forum. I obviously like the written word, with my most thought-out moments appearing here on the blog, the high- and low- light reel of life appearing on Facebook, and the minutia appearing on Twitter. I post pictures on all three forums, but I'm not on Instagram, as adding a filter doesn't appeal to me. I've played around with Pinterest, but it's too visually stimulating for me, and I keep wanting to just get back to the content. I'm not artistic, and the efforts I've expended on PicMonkey to make a cute graphic here, while seriously easy, and not all that enjoyable for me.

Well, most of the time. Because the other day I made a seriously cute collage of photos I'd been squirreling away to mark the end of Max's daycare experience (it'll be up on the blog tomorrow). I'd seen other collages recently and thought to myself, "gee, that's cute, I could do that." What I didn't think was, "wow, that must have been really difficult - I can't ever be that creative - I'm just going to sit here and feel bad about myself instead." Yes, I'm probably naive, but I believe that no one is posting anything like this - be it about their vacation, their gourmet dinner, their laundry pile - to make someone else feel bad. I don't think they're doing it to brag, either. I think they're doing it because of a need to connect, to make a day a little less lonely, because they're proud of something. I think they're sharing it because it makes them happy. Even if it's something stressful or sad, having shared it makes their life a little better somehow.

So why not give them the benefit of the doubt when you come across a post that's outside of your comfort zone? Instead of finding a way to let it tear your down, look instead to find some inspiration, or a way you can feel happy for the other person. And if it's your own finger hovering over the "upload" or "send" or "pin it" button, why not just do what makes you happy? Because I'm always looking for that next thing to connect over, to make my day a little less lonely, to feel proud and happy for you.

And now, a picture of my laundry pile that I tweeted a couple months ago. You know you wanted it.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Working (Mom) Moment: Daycare and Days Off From Work

Hannah was just two years old when I had the amazing discovery that my office closes for Good Friday, but her home-based daycare did not. I can't remember the details of how I passed that particular day off, but I was likely packing to move from our condo in Brookline to our new house in Newton. Regardless, knowing that there was a day like that - daycare open, work closed, for a reason that didn't apply to me - was such a miraculous thing that I eagerly anticipated the next Good Friday for the coming year and many of them since then.

And you know what happens with all of that anticipation? Yes, you set yourself up for a tremendous letdown when all doesn't go according to plan. The extra special hitch in the plans for three year old Hannah's Good Friday was that I had signed her up to Shabbat Helper. I'm sure you can imagine the giddiness involved in it fiiiiiiinally being her special day to lead the class in their sacred Friday morning rituals, especially when you have no concept of time and it's been approximately forever since it was your last turn to be the leader. I was thrilled to get to enjoy this special time with her, and then leave her happily ensconced in school while I fiiiiiiinally got the alone time I'd been craving too.

All of that build up? Leads to a major case of pink eye when Hannah awoke that morning, of course. I honestly can't remember who cried more over the disappointment of that particular day.

You'd think that would have taught me a lesson - to not put so much expectation into one day - but I still can't help myself. There have been a few of these magical times over the years, including a couple of vacation days taken on purpose so that I can get things done - or not - while the kids have been in school or daycare. But using my own vacation time is less than ideal since that runs at a premium as it is, covering all of the days off that the kids have that I don't. Plus, the office continues on without you when you take a vacation day, and I've surely experienced moments when the vacation day wasn't worth the being put behind in your work upon returning. Having a closed office is really the key to how special these days are.

With this being our last week of daycare, it's unlikely I'll have many of these days in the future, but I will always be on the lookout for these mythical unicorn days. And if you haven't looked through the school calendar yet to find a unicorn of your own, go do it now.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Having It All Project: Marc Stober

Today's Having It All Project participant really needs no introduction around these parts - he's my husband of almost 11 years, Marc. Who better to post than the father of my children in advance of Father's Day? I hope all the dads out there have a good one. Definitely check out Marc's blog, especially this old post that won him a bit of Internet fame back in the day. Here's how Marc is having it all.

Briefly describe your life and what you think makes it unique.
As working parents, Cheryl and I have both had salaried, individual-contributor career in offices for over ten years. We’ve lived within a small area west of Boston, bounded by Route 9 and the Green Line, since we’ve been engaged. We haven’t started or sold a company, relocated for a job, traveled on business much, lost a job, or gone back to school full-time. We haven’t been executives, doctors, teachers or balloon artists with people really depending on us being present as a specific place and time. (Although we’ve dreamed about most of those things.) It all seems very ordinary, but I’ve come to realize our career paths have influenced our family life anyway. For example, center-based childcare has worked well, with its predictable hours and budget, and because we were never both doing something so important at work that we couldn’t miss to take care of a sick kid. As another example, we’re home on Friday nights and weekends which is why, over time, we’ve gotten involved in our synagogue as regulars on Shabbat morning. The point is that we could have done a million things differently and I could have ended up as a stay-at-home dad, or hiring a nanny, or volunteering less at synagogue and more in the PTO. We didn’t have some perfect plan, it’s just the unique way life our life happened.

 What are some of your favorite tips and strategies for coping with the chaos?
A few years ago I came up with “logistical bankruptcy.” It’s not like financial bankruptcy; perhaps it’s inversely related because it can involve spending money. It’s my version of “Just Do It.” It means stop planning, do the things you can do, and let go of the things you can’t. The most extreme example was buying a car: we’d been thinking of replacing our second car for years, and one day I went into the dealer on my lunch break, and came back after the longest lunch break ever in a new car. It was just time to do it and stop thinking about doing it. Sometimes it’s recreational: I’d wanted to visit Walden Pond ever since I’d read Thoreau in a high school, and one afternoon a couple months ago, even though I could come up with a list of other more pressing things to do, I decided to take a walk there. A related strategy is getting things done in the morning even if it means getting to work late. My first paying jobs were ones where I needed to punch in on time, so I still have pangs of guilt about it. But working in software requires focus more than punctuality, so taking a little extra time to pay that bill or do that errand that I’d otherwise be thinking about all day is worthwhile. And sometimes, logistical bankruptcy means letting go. I might finish watching Season II of Game of Thrones someday. I know I’d enjoy it. But I’m not going to keep it hanging over me on a to-do list.

Please share a moment where it all broke down, and how you got through it.
It all breaks down for me on a pretty regular basis. A few years ago, when I thought things were breaking down especially badly, I came to realize that often when the stress feels overwhelming it’s just that: a feeling of stress. Rather than problem-solve, I need to take a deep breath, step back, maybe meditate, and realize that this is something I will get through, people love me, and my whole life isn’t about to fall apart. Of course, sometimes things really do seem to break down—someone gets injured, or in a car crash, or the roof is leaking—but those situations are rare and concrete and I can overcome my anxieties to deal with them.

Do you have any balance role models? Anything you try to avoid because it wouldn't work for you?
My parents! My mom is the original working mom; not only did she have a career, she was an attorney, a job with which even now people struggle with to find work-life balance. She was pregnant with me in law school, managed to have an accomplished career, and still picked us up and made dinner every night. And she did this in an age before VPNs, when flexible schedules weren’t a thing and after-school-care programs were more an experiment than an institution.

My dad’s career had years when he was busy with long commutes and night classes, and other years where he had more free time but wasn’t earning enough money. But he made sure we never missed an important family vacation, class trip, or youth group event because of the ups and downs, and that my sister and I could afford our first choice private colleges. My dad also made sure we had all sort of opportunities to learn life skills and participate in quality activities. He would let us tag along on errand, show us how to fix things, and make a can of soup for lunch if mom wasn’t around; and he also stepped up to be a cub scout leader and go to after-care board and synagogue youth committee meetings. In these ways he was a role model for me as a dad.

Think back to your 18th birthday. How is your life different from how you expected it to be then?
My 18-year-old self would be surprised how easy some things have been, and how difficult others have. Getting married, finding a full-time job, having children, buying a house, even buying a car were insurmountably difficult when I was 18. But over time, I’ve managed to do a pretty good job. On the other hand, I thought I was going to be architect. There were career and personal decisions in my 20’s that didn’t go at all the way I expected when I experienced them in real life. And, the world has changed: I always expected to have enough computer skills to do my own typing, but then I’d hand off a disk to my secretary to print and mail the letters. I wasn’t expecting e-mail. 

Relate to what Marc is saying? Leave him some love in the comments. Read other posts from The Having It All Project here. Want to participate? Send me an email at!

Monday, June 10, 2013

An Unbalanced Week

As I'm writing this, it's Sunday night, and a week ago I was kind of a mess. Stressed out really doesn't cover how bad it was - every fiber of my being was on high alert. I had spent the day mostly in bed, trying to rest as I was in the clutches of a summer cold, but scraped myself together to meet friends for dinner before an epic workweek began. I was thrilled to be with my friends, though, as they helped to pass those last few weekend hours that I might have spent obsessing over the week ahead otherwise.

It was a really unbalanced work week, especially considering how sick I was. Max was sick too, and spent Monday at home, which Marc and I split with me at work in the morning to make a meeting, and Marc at work in the afternoon. I worked as much as I could with a cuddly, coughing boy at my side, and thankfully he was able to go to school on Tuesday. I did my usual work from home Tuesday routine, including a long international conference call, and fitting in a trip to CVS to buy more medicine. Wednesday began very early for Marc, who had a software release at work, and after I took the kids to school I was back in the office. I was still coughing miserably, but I cheered up when the four of us went out for dinner that night. And then it was finally Thursday, the start of a two day meeting, including a dinner we hosted, that was a really big deal at work. This series of meetings was the source of all that stress I'd experienced the weekend before, when I just wanted to get the show on the road already. I knew I was prepared, but I just wanted it all to go so well. Thankfully, looking back now, I can say that it did.

But my companions for the week were my cough drops and my tissues, and not much of Marc and the kids. After the meeting ended on Friday, I left work early and got some much-needed rest before picking up the kids and starting the weekend. I missed my family - on Thursday, I hadn't seen either kid out of their beds the entire day, since I'd left at 6:30 am and returned home at 10:15 pm. Fortunately, that's not my normal situation at all, and I appreciated Marc pitching in extra when I wasn't there.

Anyway, I don't usually write much about work, but I wanted to remember this week when I look back. It was an extreme one, but it went as well as I could imagine. Although I kind of can't believe I have to go back to work again in the morning - how is there still more work to be done?

Ever have an extreme week of your own?

Friday, June 7, 2013

The Having It All Project: Faun Zarge

Faun is a member of my wonderful "Lean In" women's networking group, and quite the work/life guru. She might say below that she doesn't always have it all figured out, but in my mind, she's got a really good handle on life. Here's how Faun is having it all.

Briefly describe your life and what you think makes it unique.
I’m pretty sure that my life isn’t terribly unique…it’s both wonderful and insanely chaotic at times…both of which are true for many of the families I know. Jonathan, my terrific husband of 15 years, and I have three crazy kids, Livia (12), Jeremy (11), and Ilan (8), who definitely keep us on our toes!

If there’s anything which makes my life unique, it’s probably the fact that I’ve been working in the Work/Life field for 20 years now, the last 16 spent running my own Work/Life training and consulting business.  Work/life issues have always been front-of-mind for me, even before I had kids, so people often expect that I should always have it “all together.” Actually, the most important thing I’ve learned from being in this field is that I’d be crazy if I tried to have it all together all of the time. I once forgot to pick my kids up at school, I’m regularly late with birthday presents, and I feed my kids cereal for dinner at least once a week. This must sound terrible—I’m really not a negligent parent—but I just have to make choices. I’d rather sit down with my kids and listen to them tell me about their day over a bowl of Cheerios, than be so exhausted from cooking a meal that I’m too distracted to pay attention to them. I’m not suggesting that this is the right choice for everyone, just that it’s the right choice for me.

What are some of your favorite tips and strategies for coping with the chaos?

·      We’ve lowered our standards. This is probably obvious from my comments above!

·      Involve kids in running the household. Our kids do laundry, unload the dishwasher, pack their lunches, etc. The kids know we expect them to share family responsibilities, and that when we all help, we’re all less stressed.

·      Ask for and accept help from friends. I don’t know how we’d do it without their support.

·      We don’t sign up for big commitment activities like Little League unless we know we’ve got others to carpool with.

·      Regular adult-only time! Jonathan plays soccer weekly, and I have my morning workouts—we work hard to make sure that we each get to keep those commitments. We need to be better about getting out for date nights, but we’re pretty good at making sure we each have time to take care of ourselves.

Please share a moment when it all broke down, and how you got through it.
Mother’s Day, 2003. Around 2pm, after hosting a family brunch, everyone left our home, including my husband who was leaving for a four day business trip. That left me with a party to clean up, an energetic 2 ½ year old, and worst of all, a very sick 1 year old son who couldn’t hold any food down.  I was completely overwhelmed. But I got through it by calling a friend (thanks, Norah!) who reminded me that the only thing I needed to do at that moment was take care of my kids, and in particular, make sure my son didn’t wind up in the ER. Everything else could wait. It was good advice that I clung to as I spent much of the next three days literally sitting behind my son in his high chair, slipping drops of Pedialyte into his mouth with a medicine dropper, as his eyes stayed glued to Elmo on the television. The apartment remained a disaster, and we all went a little stir-crazy being housebound, but slowly my son got better. From time to time, I think back to that awful week, and try to remember my dear friend’s advice about only focusing on what’s most important in the moment.

Do you have any balance role models? Anything you try to avoid because it wouldn’t work for you?

I have many role models—I have so much admiration for my friends and how they manage their lives—but, without a doubt, my biggest parenting role model is my older sister, Edina. What I admire most about her is that although her schedule is astoundingly busy with a demanding full-time job, a myriad of volunteer commitments, and a husband who is concurrently working full-time and getting his PhD, she still manages to be incredibly present with her daughters. She genuinely knows what’s going on their lives, knows their friends, and most importantly, recognizes when to compartmentalize the rest of her life so she can give her daughters her full attention. Though I tease her about it, she has no problem leaving her house a complete disaster if it means that she’ll get two hours of quality time with her kids. I have a much harder time doing that, but I’m getting better, and my sister inspires me all the time.

Think back to your 18th birthday. How is your life different from how you expected it to be then?
My life doesn’t look remotely like anything I imagined! And having graduated high school in the 1980’s, everything I pictured included big hair and even bigger shoulder pads! Now my life is big in other ways…professional work I find gratifying, volunteer work that’s deeply meaningful, and most of all, a family which brings me joy beyond words. It’s not perfect, sometimes it’s downright messy, but it’s big and full and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. 

Relate to what Faun is saying? Leave her some love in the comments. Read other posts from The Having It All Project here. Want to participate? Send me an email at!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Working (Mom) Moment: A New Use for the Camera App

Despite my love of the blog and all things social media, I still maintain a pen and paper to do list at work, in a basic, spiral-bound notebook. One of the best feelings in life is being able to physically cross off a completed task (I'm a big fan of a large X through the task). I also bring the list with me to meetings, so that I can add any tasks to it right then and there, and to my boss's office as we prioritize items and add more on. At the end of the year, when writing my self evaluation, I flip through the year's worth of lists to try and remember just how I've spent my year at work. So the pen and paper works well for me.

Until I'm sitting on the train, trying to strategize about my day ahead. Or I'm unexpectedly working from home, and left my list at work. Or it's Sunday night and I'm trying to get my mind back into work mode, wondering if there's anything little I can knock off my list first thing on Monday morning.

So somewhere along the way, I decided to start taking pictures of my to do list. Since my phone is always with me, my list is always with me too. I'm not spending much time transferring the list to another device, nor am I remembering to add or delete things to more than one location. If I've made significant progress over the course of a week, I might take an updated picture even though I haven't rewritten my list yet (something I do about once a week). I even consulted my photo when rescheduling a doctor's appointment - my calendar wasn't as helpful because I don't have every task scheduled there by its due date.

It's just another way that technology has improved the juggle for me; the addition of the camera app is a tiny change that helped removed some of the burden of remembering everything no matter where I am. I hope sharing it might help one of you too!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

General Busy-ness: May 2013

Yes, it's June 2 and I'm just getting to the May edition of General Busy-ness, but you'll have to cut me some slack as I'm also rocking a cold at the moment. So is Max. Who doesn't love a gorgeous 90+ degree summer day spent inside with a box of tissues? Well, at least it's giving me the time to spend on this.

May started off with Marc's cousin's wedding in Annapolis. Everything was lovely and our tightly configured travel schedule went off without a hitch. I love spending time with Marc's extended family - they're all such great people.

 The lovely bride and groom at the US Naval Academy

Kids posing in their wedding finery

I've been wearing suits to work a lot more often. It's an interesting change, and I'm trying to figure out how to wear a suit but still feel like myself. So far, that's with the use of a few new necklaces and fun nail colors. I've got two days of meeting this week and I'm hoping they find my "Jet Set"-colored nails - a kind of dark grey - a bold but sophisticated choice.

 Getting used to suiting up

Religious school has ended for the year and afterward we attended the annual Bowen Spring Fling. Except the only pictures I took there were of Max, because Hannah was off doing her own thing with her friends. Max really loves the playground there and he can't wait to start there in the fall.

On "The Spider" at Bowen

And finally, over Memorial Weekend we ended up spending a day in the city, checking out the Museum of Science and the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit there. It was an unexpectedly nice day weather-wise, so we decided to walk over to the Holocaust Memorial, visit Faneuil Hall, have dinner at Durgin Park and pick up some cannoli at Mike's Pastry. It was a very Boston-y day.

Apparently, cannoli elicit strange reactions from Max.

And now it's June. Which, since schools get out so late here in Massachusetts this year given all the snow and hurricane days we had, kind of feels like the busy-ness of December. There's the long-awaited preschool graduation, and Hannah will be leaving for her first longer stretch at overnight camp. I'm also hoping to spend some time on all things blog as I gear up for my first BlogHer. So yea, it'll keep being busy. But I love it, too.