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Monday, February 25, 2013

What Day Is It Today?

Pajama day. Crazy hat day. Red Shirt Day (start at the 0:25 mark). In the life of a preschooler, these oh-so-important days happen, well, all too often.

Confession: I actually did remember Red Shirt day. But the criticism and judgement I'd been subjected to resulting from some other oversight along the way still stings, even if I can't remember exactly what it was I'd forgotten then.

See, I still forget things.

There is so much to remember on just a plain old regular day. My badge to get in to the office. Enough insulin and needles to get through the work day. If Hannah has an aftercare field trip and I need to pick up Max first. To move the laundry from the washer to the dryer. So layering in one of these extras can feel completely overwhelming to me.

In elementary school, Hannah has had a few pajama days along the way, as a reward for good classroom behavior. The whole class gathered enough "cubes of kindness" or what have you, and they earned it. Hannah carefully selected her pajamas, and other than making sure they were clean on the appropriate day, not a lot of extra work for me. But preschoolers don't know the difference between Monday and Saturday, and therefore it's all on the parents. So the other night I stopped at CVS with both kids after dinner, a special extra errand, to purchase hair product for Max. Yes, the five year old had silly hair day and he was adamant that he wanted a mohawk (thanks to Hannah for giving him that idea). When we got home we did a test run, and Max appeared to love his spiky hair...until it was the morning before preschool, extra early to accommodate my schedule, when he flat out refused to let me do his hair.

And the worst part of it was that a week earlier, I told Marc I wasn't going to stress about the week of "crazy" days they'd planned. We were only home for two of the days, and I was planning to ignore it completely. But that old guilt came rushing back, and when he was talking about what he wanted to do, I couldn't *not* do it. Even though I suspected that the outcome would be exactly as it was.

I understand special outfits for a school performance. I get how special "show and tell" can be. But for the five and under set? My kids didn't seem to get much out of these special days, and yet I've been scarred enough to become a frequent user of calendar reminder alerts.

What about you? Do your kids love these special days? Or am I doing it all wrong?

Friday, February 22, 2013

The Having It All Project: Carla Naumburg

My neighbor Carla completed her PhD in social work while embarking on a writing career and parenting her two young daughters. Just typing that sentence wears me out. Check out how Carla is having it all.


Briefly describe your life and what you think makes it unique.

I don’t know how unique it is, but I work part time from home, and my daughters (ages 2 and 4) are in daycare and preschool during that time. On the one hand, I love the flexibility of being able to work from home (as well as the comfort of wearing my yoga pants every day!). On the other hand, it can be somewhat isolating at times, and I have to be super disciplined about getting my work done. It’s so easy to spend a day cleaning the house and running errands rather than focusing on my writing.


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

My husband, Josh, is a wonderful partner and father. He works full-time out of the house, so it’s really important that we communicate often and support each other. Josh has some flexibility at work, so he can work from home on occasion, and I know that other times I need to cover for him when he needs to work late or travel for work. Sometimes it feels like we’re tag-teaming, but when we’re lucky, we all get to be on the field at the same time.

Other things that help keep the chaos in order: a shared Google calendar, obsessive list-making, and a healthy sense of humor!


Please share a moment where it all broke down, and how you got through it.

Just last Friday, actually! It was the end of a long week in which my daughter had been sick, and we had been to the ER and the pediatrician’s office twice in the span of four days. I was also sick and exhausted, and I woke up on Friday morning and realized that I was facing yet another day at home with both girls. Josh was able to work at home, which meant he could help with the meals and bedtime and dinnertime. On days like that, the usual rules go out the window, and the girls get to watch a little extra TV because I need a break!


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

I don’t think I know any other mothers of young children who have truly figured out how to balance everything, and that’s actually really helpful to me! It’s good to know that we are all in this together, and that there is no one right answer for everyone. I am actually totally inspired by all of my friends—they are making the choices that work for them, whether it’s to stay at home with their children, go back to work, or some combination. It’s not easy to figure out.

In terms of what I would try to avoid—I don’t know if it’s about avoidance, but for right now, I have chosen not to pursue full-time work outside of the home because it would mean a major transition for our family. Josh travels a couple of times each month for work, and the girls eat dinner by 5:30 and are usually in bed by 6:30, so the logistics of having them in a full-day preschool or daycare would be tricky. At some point I might change my mind, but right now, I feel very lucky to have the flexibility of working from home.


Think back to your 18th birthday. How is your life different from how you expected it to be then?

I’m not sure if I can even remember back that far. I think I was dreaming of living in a mountainside village in South America or something crazy like that. I certainly never imagined that I would be living in the suburbs with a husband, two kids, and a cat. Having said that, I am so happy with how everything turned out!

Relate to what Carla 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 havingitallproject@gmail.com!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

General Busy-ness: February 2013

I am taking my blog to a new level with this post: 37,000 feet, to be exact. I'm writing this on the return flight from our trip to Little Rock, Arkansas, so I won't have my usual slideshow attached, but will follow up with that soon. I'm also eating cereal from some fancy cereal bar, which is simply weird, but isn't travel just weird nowadays anyway?

I have to admit I'm a more nervous flyer than I used to be. I do have to blame LOST, but I also remember watching a plane crash movie alone late at night, in my bedroom growing up, actually the night before I left for one of my summers at GUCI. It was a Hawaiian flight between islands where the roof of the plane ripped off in flight, and I have scanned the roofs of planes for cracks ever since. Thank goodness I loved camp as much as I did, otherwise I may not have gotten on that plane the next day.

So, we went to Little Rock to visit Marc's sister Rachel, her husband Jon and my niece and nephew, Evie and Nate. Marc visited them about a year ago, but it was the first time there for the rest of us. We had a great time exploring Arkansas, visiting the Big Dam Bridge, the Discovery Museum, Central High School (site of the "Little Rock 9" who began the process of integrating schools), the Clinton Presidential Library (which I thought included a great deal of Hillary too), Petit Jean state park and a Heifer International Ranch. The cousins had a lot of great bonding time, and we're excited to all be together again for Passover next month and in May for a family wedding.  I'm so glad we got to see the new life they've been building in Arkansas!

Whoa, this flight is really turbulent. Just spilled cereal milk down my shirt. Anyway...

What else have we been up to this month? I already told you about the blizzard, and there's been more snow since and more snow still coming. I'm still very grateful for my Yaktrax. The kids are busy with their usual stuff. Max has started new music and karate classes at the JCC. Hannah has had a few basketball games with her after school program. Both kids had their annual well visits, where I realized we hadn't seen the pediatrician ALL YEAR for either kid, other than flu shots. That has to be some kind of daycare immunity that they've built up. Granted, there have been illnesses, but nothing serious enough to require a doctor visit. I'm wondering when the other shoe will drop on that one.

Life continues to feel hectic. I'm still adjusting to my new work schedule, which has me leaving the house at 7 am, then commuting home from work at 4 pm and hopping in the car to pick up both kids. I feel busier than ever, being hyper aware of the time to make sure I leave on time and get where I need to go. The lack of wiggle room will get better when the school yer ends and both kids will be in the same location, but for now it's a bit rough for me. Thankfully Marc is happy at his new job, and this is making it easier for me to accept this new (and hopefully temporary) stretched routine.

Oh, and I haven't been to Zumba in weeks, with the snow and just general life creeping in. I hope I get back soon. And somehow, some way, I still need to study for that licensing exam for work. Sigh.

So that's all the news from high up in the clouds. I hope it's will actually post, and please excuse any typos!

Friday, February 15, 2013

The Having It All Project: Leslie and Adrian Gonzalez

Okay, so it's the day after Valentine's Day, but you're all still feeling the love, right? So in the interest of all things sappy, I offer up Leslie and Adrian Gonzales, one of my favorite couples. Parents to four children from a seventh grader down to a pre-kindergartner, they share below how they make it work. Here's how Leslie and Adrian are having it all.

Briefly describe your life and what you think makes it unique.
Leslie: I live a very simple life. I have a traditional marriage where my husband works and I am ‘home’ with the kids. In today’s world, I believe that is unique. I actually feel very fortunate regarding my decision to stay at home for 2 reasons: I can stay home, financially speaking; and I want to stay home. In fact, even though I worked very hard in school and went to a great college, my ultimate dream and goal was to be a mom and be at home with my kids. I never had any conflict with my decision to stop working.


Adrian: I am a first-generation American of Cuban decent, who grew up Catholic and speaking Spanish in Brooklyn, NY, above the bodega my father and uncles owned. My paternal grandfather was illiterate, my father got as far as the 5th grade, and I‘m a Cornell grad with a degree in engineering.

I met my wife Leslie almost 20 years ago in the Arizona desert, and today we have four beautiful children who don’t speak Spanish (my fault) but are learning Hebrew, and I am as Jewish as you can be without being an official member of the tribe. I even keep kosher at home, except when my Cuban genes flare up and I sneak in a rack of pork ribs (outside the house, of course).

My ancestors cut sugarcane in Cuba. I write a blog and host an online video talk show.

Unfortunately, as you can see, there is nothing really unique about my life.


What are some of your favorite tips and strategies for coping with the chaos? 
Leslie: Keeping it ‘simple.’ With 4 kids, that is not easy, but it’s necessary. It is very easy to get caught up in the parenting frenzy of over-scheduling kids in the name of doing what’s best for them. But I firmly believe that less is more. It is good for kids to feel ‘bored’ sometimes and to figure out how to entertain themselves. Our job as parents is not to constantly entertain our children, or model them into the best athlete, artist, Spanish-speaking mathematician.

In addition, the kids know that our family is a team and we all need to chip in and help out around the house. So, each of the children has a designated ‘job’ and they are also responsible for taking care of their personal items.

I also make sure I have some time to myself- exercising is very important to me. I’ve always made time for it by either getting up very early in the morning, or exercising while they’re at school.

And finally: Carpooling!


Adrian: Taking a step back and realizing that there are plenty of people in this world who would gladly trade their chaos for mine.

If that fails, I shut down email, give up on multi-tasking, and focus on getting just one thing done for the day. Better to finish something than nothing.

Learn to say “No” more often (except to my wife). I don’t do it enough, but I should. There’s only so much chaos a person can handle in a day.


Please share a moment where it all broke down, and how you got through it.
Leslie: My oldest daughter and I joined a mother-daughter book club when she was in third grade. At the first meeting, the girls were asked to introduce their moms, and tell a bit about them. My daughter introduced me and had no idea what to say about me. The other 4 mothers in the group all work- either part time or fulltime. I’m the only one that does not have an outside career. All the girls were introducing their moms by her career. Having my daughter stare at me with nothing to say honestly broke my heart. I felt awful…

From the time my kids were born, I was volunteering: for Hadassah, for my Temple, for the Nursery school, and elementary schools. It was my outlet for exercising my brain and keeping contact with the adult world all while contributing to making the world a better place.

When my daughter had nothing to say about me, I knew that I had to start educating my kids about what I do during the day, why I am ‘playing’ on the computer, what meetings I’m going to at night and why. I want them to know that although I really love my full-time mommy/ wife job cleaning, cooking and schlepping, there is more to me than just those things.
 

Adrian: I threw up just about every morning during the spring semester of my junior year in college, and I barely ate for a few weeks, losing 10 pounds (which I couldn’t afford to lose) in the process. I think I was depressed, either by all of the crazy engineering courses I was taking, by the long distance relationship I was having with a girl who was all wrong for me, or by both.

I got through it by calling my parents one night and letting it all out. It felt good to complain out loud. I think it was the first time they had ever heard me complain, which is why my sister called me the next morning to tell me everyone in the family was worried about me – and that several care packages were heading my way.

When the semester ended, and the day after I broke up with my girlfriend, I spent a long weekend with my friend Jonathan at Lake Powell. Jonathan and I were roommates freshman year, and then
he went off to Japan on a religious mission, so I hadn’t seen him in two years. Maybe it was being in the company of a good friend (who years later would be my best man), or spending a few days away
from civilization, but when I got back to shore, I vowed never to let anything or anyone drag me to the point of vomiting every morning ever again. And I’ve been happy ever since.


Do you have any balance role models? Anything you try to avoid because it wouldn't work for you? 
Leslie: No, not really… I think it’s just how I was raised- the values instilled by my parents. I do avoid doing too much- but by the time there’s a sport, religious school and an instrument, you can see that that is pretty much impossible!
 

Adrian: I avoid yoga.

In terms of balance role models, I look up to my wife. She doesn’t give herself enough credit, but managing a household with four young kids (five if you count me) plus managing all of the volunteer work she does is inspiring. The first time she went away with her mom and sister for a long weekend and left me in charge, I nearly collapsed from exhaustion trying to keep the kids and house in order. And that was just the first hour.


Think back to your 18th birthday. How is your life different from how you expected it to be then?
Leslie: That’s a tough question… I don’t seem to remember much! Just snapshots over the years! I think my life is generally as I had expected while the specifics are a little different. When I was 18, I fully expected to fall in love and marry someone who was Jewish. Well, that didn’t happen- but I fell in love with and married my best friend. The fact that he is not Jewish but open to a Jewish life has also created an unexpected outcome- we live MORE Jewishly than I did growing up and more than I expected I would as an adult. Because he didn’t grow up Jewish, we learned together, created a Jewish home together and chose our own traditions independent of family pressure. I am very proud of the Jewish life we have created for our family.


Adrian: When I was 18, the future seemed so far away, like Pluto, which was still a planet back then. Aside from hoping that one day I would fall in love with a girl who would fall in love with me, I didn’t spend much time thinking about the future. Maybe I wanted to be surprised. And what a pleasant surprise it has been.

Relate to what Leslie and Adrian are saying? Leave them some love in the comments. Read other posts from The Having It All Project here. Want to participate? Send me an email at havingitallproject@gmail.com!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Nemo 2013

Okay, fine. I will cave to the blogging pressure and write a post on the blizzard known as Nemo. Yes, we got a freaking ton of snow. No, there is no place to put it. Yes, we were all a bit stir crazy (and here's the Huffington Post piece I was quoted in to prove it). No, Hannah doesn't have school again today. Yes, Max does!

I didn't take as many "kids in the snow" pictures as I might have in prior years, because my kids seem to have wised up and generally agree with me that snow is not fun. Max went out for about twenty minutes and then said he was "getting splinters and freeze bites." Hannah did well until she lost a glove and realized just how truly cold it was out there. I haven't been past the end of my driveway since Thursday night, when we had the good sense to go out to dinner before we'd be trapped inside. Poor Marc got a bit too much quality time with his snow blower over the past two days.

So instead I offer up cute pictures from past storms. You get the general idea, right? Hope you're all somewhere safe and warm.

Um, Mom, what is this stuff? 
 
Start 'em young.

Snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes.

That face slays me.

All good til the snow gets on her neck.
 

Friday, February 8, 2013

The Having It All Project: Alison Kenney

This week's Having It All Project features Allison Kenney, a connection I've made through Twitter. Working alone at her own public relations company means she lacks the coworkers to turn to over the course of the day for some water cooler babble, and she's turned to Twitter to find that connection. I've done the same! Here's how Alison is having it all.

Briefly describe your life and what you think makes it unique.
Like most of us, I’m just trying hard to be good at both my career and at parenting. For me that means working in a flexible job during the kids’ school day and then being hands-on with them in the afternoons and evenings. When my first child was born I left my job at a big PR agency and started a new career as a solo consultant. A few years ago, when my second (and youngest) child entered kindergarten I changed my work hours to align with the kids’ school day so that the three of us are on the same schedule. I work primarily from a home office so I don’t have a long commute and I can hop in and out of the office very easily when needed.

What are some of your favorite tips and strategies for coping with the chaos?
I am a list-maker and list-lover. One of my newest strategies is to create lists for particular times of the day, i.e. here is the list of things I’ll do in the morning when it’s quiet and time is stretched out in front of me vs here is the list of things I’ll get done in the afternoon when kids are running in and out of the house. Because the school schedule doesn’t change—it starts and ends at the same time every day—it’s hard for me to “stay late” or “go in early” to work. But I create those pockets of time when they’re needed by getting up extra early before everyone else and jumping on to the computer or bringing my laptop out of the office to tackle something at night.

Another strategy:my daughter is a pre-teen and this school year has brought a few social and emotional challenges that come with growing up. I started taking her out to breakfast once a week before school starts, which she absolutely loves. At first it was mostly about ordering her hot chocolate and me trying just to relax and enjoy a half-hour of being together with no agenda. This morning she surprised me and asked me a bunch of questions about what I had planned for the day and what I was looking forward to.

Please share a moment where it all broke down, and how you got through it.
I think I’ve blocked out the really terrible “breakdowns” but here are several situations that cause me a lot of stress:
  • Trying to work in my home office when the rest of the family is “running free” in the house
  • Leaving work at 2 pm to get to school pick-ups. This is the middle of the day for all of my clients.
  • Having to scheduling work conference calls during family time
  • Summer!
My husband is terrific. His job is not flexible at all, but he’s been therefor so long that he has a good amount of vacation time stored up.If we run into scheduling problems, he’ll take time off and pick up the slack.

Do you have any balance role models? Anything you try to avoid because it wouldn't work for you?
I have a lot of role models. Other parents, including those who aren’t balancing work outside the home, are inspirations to me. Social media has been a god-send to me because it’s enabled me to connect via blogs and Twitter with others who share my parenting or career challenges. I am trying to be better about not comparing myself (negatively) to others and social media helps me find more constructive role models to compare myself to or learn from.

One thing that I avoid because I’ve never done it well is babysitters. We just don’t use them frequently enough. So if we find someone who’s a great babysitter, chances are they’re likely to get snapped up by a more regular gig or they move on by the time we call again. Since it’s an odd occurrence for us, my kids get over-excited when sitters come which also causes problems! When they were younger we relied on a daycare and summer camp programs and now that they’re getting older we are experimenting with leaving them alone for short periods (my daughter recently completed a babysitter training course).

Think back to your 18th birthday. How is your life different from how you expected it to be then?
At 18, I was wishing for a fun, rewarding career and to be with people I love. I definitely got both of those wishes.

Relate to what Alison 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 havingitallproject@gmail.com!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Thrill of Being Asked

Just as I expected after my big YouTube debut, someone immediately came calling with compliments and wanting me to contribute my expertise.

No, seriously, it happened. Another blog asked me if I'd like to be a monthly contributor. And at first, I was seriously flattered.

I was flattered because I'm still not used to being asked, really, for much of anything. I wasn't asked to play on your team at recess. I wasn't asked to Homecoming, or on many dates in general. Or maybe I was left off the planning committee, or just not included on that email. Whatever. I may seem confident to you, and I like to think that I am, but there are moments along the way that have stung and stuck with me. So being asked was really, really nice.

But the writing gig for someone else meant that they'd be earning money from my words, and I've never made a dime from them myself. They promised payment in the form of eyeballs, which is definitely a great way for someone to get started. I would really love to have more eyeballs here. In my ongoing quest to figure out what I'm doing here, I know that I want to develop this writing into something more. It's not clear what that is just yet, but in the meantime, I think I want my words and concepts to stay my not-earning-a-cent own.

So the video series, which helps promote the work of Combined Jewish Philanthropies, a charity I donate to annually? Sign me up. Ask me to contribute to the monthly newsletter at my synagogue, another place I feel passionately about? I'm there. But at least for now, if the writing is just to feed my soul, and not my family? I think I'll be keeping it right here.

Monday, February 4, 2013

My YouTube Debut with JewishBoston.com

Confession: I have always wanted to be a commentator on The Today Show. Yes, partly for the authority of being an expert on my given field so that the masses would want to listen to my every word...and partly to have someone in charge of doing my hair and make up. My dream got a little closer to reality when my friends at JewishBoston.com invited me to take part in a panel discussion on working moms, led by journalist, filmmaker and author Michelle Cove in honor of her new book, "I Love Mondays and Other Confessions of Devoted Working Moms." Along with two other Boston-area moms, we discussed the challenges and joys of balancing work and parenthood.

Check out the JewishBoston.com write up here and all of the video segments here, but I'm posting my two favorite clips below.

Balancing Act



Jewish Community



So what do you think? Am I ready for the big leagues?


Thanks to JewishBoston for including me! I had a great time discussing all my subjects. Photos courtesy of David Levy.

Friday, February 1, 2013

The Having It All Project: Liz O'Donnell

Liz and I first connected as part of the Boston Parent Bloggers Network, and I follow her blog Hello Ladies religiously. I was honored when she interviewed me for her upcoming book on working women, and I can't wait to read the finished product. Here's how Liz is having it all.

Briefly describe your life and what you think makes it unique.
I am the mother of two elementary school-aged children and the sole breadwinner for my family. My husband runs the house and is the primary caregiver. We knew this was how we wanted to structure our lives even before we knew we wanted children. While there are moments when I wish I could bail out of corporate America, our arrangement works well the majority of the time. In addition to my full-time job in public relations, I run the blog Hello Ladies and am the author of the forthcoming book, “The Truth about Working Women,” to be published by Bibliomotion November 2013. My day job feeds my family and my writing feeds my soul. I know I have it easier than many working mothers because I have a spouse dedicated full-time to our kids and who is an amazing cook. That helps a lot.

What are some of your favorite tips and strategies for coping with the chaos?
How do I manage? First, I live in a very, messy house. My husband doesn’t like housework and I won’t pick up the slack. It’s just not how I choose to spend my free time. So, I live in fear of someone stopping by for an unannounced visit. Second, I don’t have a social life. I have two and a half friends. I choose to spend my little free time with my kids or writing so I don’t make time for going out or talking on the phone. Third, I am crystal clear about my non-negotiables. My family, my job, my writing, and exercising (when I feel like it) are priorities. Everything else is optional. I have no guilt about my choices and I am comfortable saying no. And finally, I don’t believe in should. When I help a family member or volunteer at school, I make sure I’m doing it because I want to; not because I should. When I respond to “should” nobody wins; I am cranky and make everyone around me cranky too.

Please share a moment where it all broke down, and how you got through it.
My life works, until it doesn’t; and then it really doesn’t. I have elderly parents and when they have a health crisis, my life goes out of whack. This past summer, for instance, my mother fell and was badly hurt (she’s okay now). She was scared and I was too. I worked remotely from her house so I could help with meals and doctor’s appointments. But I was fragile; I was exhausted, stressed and I missed my kids. I got through that incident because I wanted the opportunity to help my parents, not because anyone told me I should. I asked my sisters for more help than I usually would, and, I ran every day in an attempt to stay sane.

Do you have any balance role models? Anything you try to avoid because it wouldn't work for you?
One of my best friends and former bosses is a role model in how she lives her life and runs her business. She is crystal-clear about what is important to her and she prioritizes based on her non-negotiables. She, however, somehow manages a social life and a clean home too. 
What do I try to avoid? Comparing my life to other women's lives. It's a no-win. The grass always looks greener, especially on Fakebook, oops, I mean Facebook.

Think back to your 18th birthday. How is your life different from how you expected it to be then?
When I was 18 I thought that after college I would move to New York City and be a city-girl. I didn’t have any plans as far as career or family, I only knew I wanted to wear all black and be hip. Now I’m a suburban mom who takes the Acela to New York once a week for work and who does wear mostly black. But that’s because it’s more slimming than color, not because I’m cool. I am so not hip. Never was. Never will be.

Relate to what Liz 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 havingitallproject@gmail.com!