Never miss a post! Subscribe to Busy Since Birth by entering your email address below.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

I Made It! #NaBloPoMo

It's the last day of May, and once I hit publish, I'll have posted something here every day this month. It's a thing, "National Blog Posting Month," and most people do it in November, but I needed a post-LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER challenge, and so I imposed this on myself. And I truly did write most days this month, though there were a few posts written in advance and scheduled.

So what have I learned? A few things.

1. I actually do have time for a bit of writing on most days. Some days I clearly phoned it in, but I had a few hundred words to spare a lot of the time.
2. Coming up with a daily topic is a challenge. I didn't just want to write something that happened that day, or post just a photo and a bit of text, I wanted to try to write. Some posts are better than others.
3. But, posting every day meant I had the chance to try out different things. I talked about clothes. I talked about music. I talked about email. I talked about diabetes. I told you a bit about when I got engaged, and shared a memory from overnight camp. It's fun not having to stick to a niche, and to share different parts of who I am.
4. I cared a LOT less about promoting posts. With something new every day, you either read or you didn't, and maybe you'd catch the next one. If I only write once or twice a week, I always felt the need to promote the posts more. I started caring a lot less as the month went on, and I think that's a good thing.
5. If I have time to blog everyday, I probably have time to exercise too. Or at least a few days a week. Okay, I probably knew that already, but I'm trying to force myself to put it in to practice. I've been to Zumba four times in the last eight days. That probably has more to do with better weather and the lack of Hebrew school commitments than blogging, but I'm choosing to make the connection. I can take the time to blog, and I should make the time to exercise.

The big question is whether I'll keep going. I'm not sure. Probably not. Maybe. It seems scarier to say I definitely will. There were days when it felt silly to publish something. But at the same time, I really liked it. It hasn't grown my audience, or had a huge impact on my pageviews, but I think it's been good for me. So I guess what I'm trying to say is: don't be surprised if I'm back here tomorrow.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Suiting Up

My official work photo. And the suit I'm wearing now.
For the last year and a half, I've been attending higher profile meetings at work, and that means I wear a suit. I've got five of them now, though if I'm being honest, one is a skirt suit and I don't wear it as often. I clearly prefer my black suit, because it has good pockets, and I like being able to have my phone with me but not on the table. My purple suit and my brown suit are pretty good too, but no pockets.

I had a meeting shift on to today's schedule, and so the new dress and cardigan I'd been planning to wear were no longer acceptable. I actually discussed it with one of my bosses, and he thought a cardigan would probably be fine, but I felt it wasn't up to our standards. He suggested I tell Hillary Clinton to give up her pantsuits and embrace the cardigan, and then I might not feel like my suit was necessary. Hillary, call me, let's talk.

I'll be honest: my suits are hot and not very comfortable to wear. I hate the high dry cleaning bills they require. I'd rather just be judged on my words and not what I'm wearing. But...I do have to admit the suit has its strengths. I've had some really good meetings in these suits. I do feel fairly confident wearing them. It does separate out that today is a bigger day (even when it's three days a week).

Guess I'll keep suiting up. (But Hillary, seriously, feel free to call, anytime.)

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Rare Day

It's one of those rare days where I'm fitting in work, parenting, blogging and exercise all in the same day. It's my third Zumba class this week. I'm letting the kids stay up too late to "watch" the Spelling Bee with me, but they're too busy trying to spell their own words. And I'm blogging while sitting next to them, meaning this post is being written very slowly and succinctly.

Okay, so maybe I'm not *really* fitting in much blogging. :) Or successful parenting since Max is refusing to go to bed.

Well, I did get the exercise.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

That Time with the Water

I can't remember if we were asked, or if we volunteered for the job. Opportunities to be unsupervised at camp came so infrequently, that we might have been halfway out the door before the order was completely given. In fact, we probably were halfway out the door given how we failed the assignment so completely. But that's not what I remember.

We were tasked with carrying a huge bowl, filled with water, from the girl's cabins up a hill to a common room where that night's activity was to be held. We were having a costume night--Jewish camp, we didn't call it Halloween--and the bowl was to be used for bobbing for apples. She and I were dressed in black and white, our best approximation of salt and pepper. It wasn't easy coming up with costumes from our limited selection of camp clothing, but we thought we were inventive.

It was our second summer at camp, between sixth and seventh grade, and though we'd known each other a while, she was my best friend of the moment. Best friends changed fluidly at camp. At times, it depended on who was in your elective, or who you paired off with best at free swim. She and I had already gotten in a bit of trouble for waking up too early and singing show tunes in the showers at the top of our lungs. We must have been really, really loud, because the showers weren't even in our cabin. The closeness in our friendship was still new, and I probably wanted to do my best to seem cool, to make her like me more. A paired off costume seemed so, so cool.

We scrambled down the hill quickly, and filled the large silver bowl from the hose outside the bathrooms. And then we tried to pick it up. The wet, slippery bowl was really, really heavy once filled with water. I'm strong, and I was strong then, but we couldn't manage it. Water kept escaping the bowl as we tried to push it up the steep, rocky hill. Our "costumes" got wet. By the time we were halfway up, the bowl had so little water in it that we decided to try again, and refilled the bowl. It never dawned on us that the bowl could have been filled at its destination, that we just needed to bring the empty bowl there.

I think a counselor eventually came looking for us. It couldn't have been long, maybe seven minutes in total, but I remember laughing the entire time. She was laughing too, and all night long she kept asking me if I remembered when we went to get the water, like she was aware we were creating a memory as it happened. She kept asking me every day afterward, too.

She didn't come back to my camp the next summer, and she probably doesn't remember this even happened. But I still do.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Coming Soon

Two months from today, I'll be on my way home from my second BlogHer conference. Not too much has changed since I attended last year, if I'm being honest. I came home so energized, so ready to tackle more, and I did, I guess. The New York Times Motherlode blog happened, but I knew that was happening before I left. LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER happened, and that was a huge happening. But the blog is basically the same.

I have different goals for this year's conference. I haven't spent time with the agenda yet, but I plan to challenge myself and take a look at some of the more technical things they offer. I haven't done much of anything to grow this blog, and that's because I simply don't know what else to do. I'd like to pitch my writing to more sites, but I haven't had that flash of inspiration that hit like the NYT piece did, other than the one I wrote for LTYM. Maybe inspiration is just a once a year thing for me. I hoped that with writing every day in May, I'd hit upon something too, but no, not really. Though I have enjoyed not promoting myself as much. And yet, that brings me back to one of my original issues. Growth, more readership.

My other goal for the conference is to attend more parties. Last year I focused a bit too much on what I was trying to take away from it all, how I was going to be so serious about writing. This year? I want more friendship, more connections. I met some amazing people last year, and I want more of it, on a deeper level this year. So, more parties.

I'm getting ready. These next two months are going to fly by.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Keeping Up

We were supposed to spend more time in Connecticut this weekend, after my father-in-law's birthday party, going to the beach and staying in a hotel. I'd been excited to do this, but when Max got his cast, they strongly advised against a trip to the beach. I knew it would be too tempting for him to even be near the beach, and so I was bummed when we had to change our plans.

But it actually worked out really well. I'm not falling further behind, like I would have if we'd been away. Instead, I'm staying caught up. I took the kids to a movie, and they're each going on playdates today. We bought birthday gifts for the five events they have coming up between them. I watched a movie with Marc too. I'm going to get a little bit of time to myself.

The weather hasn't been great here this weekend, and if it had been perfect beach weather, I might have been sadder about missing out. But there will be more beach weekends, and I'm happy to have had a little bit less activity this time around.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Chicken Bones

Hannah and I are Memorial Day BBQ failures.

Max put "drumsticks" on his portion of the meal plan. So Marc gassed up the grill, and drumsticks were made.

Hannah and I had peanut butter sandwiches instead.

No, we're not vegetarians, but I guess Hannah has inherited my true disgust at animal bones. We just can't eat the meat when it's that close to resembling the animal still. I try, and sometimes I succeed a little bit, but not so much tonight.

Max LOVED his dinner. Relished every bite. Even played with the chicken bones.

Oh well.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

65 Celebrations

Twenty-four members of the family in attendance!
We spent today in Hartford to attend my father-in-law John's 65th birthday party. My mother-in-law Fillis did a fabulous job throwing the party, gathering many of our extended family members, friends and colleagues of John's. I spent a good portion of the party taking photos and getting to hold two of the newest members of our family, Cody and Lily, who are both children of Marc's first cousins (Josh and Michelle and David and Torrie, respectively). Both Fillis and Marc gave lovely speeches, and I'm glad so many people could come together to celebrate.

Since Fillis turns 65 in the fall, she and John have decided to have 65 celebrations in the approximately six months between their birthdays. I think it's a fantastic goal, and hope we'll be included in many of those events along the way.

Happy birthday John. As Marc said, may you live to be one hundred and twenty.

Marc's first cousins Meagan and Graciella, playing with Cody and Lily, and Hannah and Max

Friday, May 23, 2014

Stress and Strategies: What's For Dinner?

To put it simply, I am not the cook in my family. It's not that I can't cook, exactly, but that Marc is better at it than I am, and over time, it's become the division of responsibility in our home that he's responsible for food. Not just cooking dinner, but the grocery shopping as well. I pitch in on occasion, both with the cooking and the shopping, but I don't enjoy it. If I've cooked the dinner, particularly if it involved raw meat, I'm usually too grossed out by the whole thing to actually want to eat it. When I do the shopping, I inevitably can't find something in the store, or buy the wrong version that isn't acceptable given the allergies or Kosher issues in our home.

But knowing all of this doesn't stop my kids from asking me "what's for dinner?" every night immediately upon pick up from after school. One strategy that has helped was something I picked up from Having It All Project participant Heidi Rybak: five week dinner plans, with five meal choices each week (eating out twice, or filling in with leftovers or something else). Heidi is even more organized than we are, as she has her list of needed groceries all predetermined too. But we've been trying to make the decisions further in advance, and the kids have been fairly helpful in making those decisions. It definitely cuts down on the middle-of-the-week decision fatigue, and we've gotten better about eating more of what we buy because it's on the plan, after all. We also end up eating more of a variety, trying not to repeat meals too close together. It's not perfect - meetings come up, we don't always hit the grocery store on schedule, but it's a good effort towards making this daily chore a little easier.

What about you? How is dinner handled in your home? Share you stress and strategies in the comments!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Hannah-Approved Picks

It's a cliche, I know, but she is growing up so fast. At 10, I'm acutely aware of the speed with which the ball is rolling down the hill of childhood. She has opinions, good ones at that, and she's smart. I love spending time with her, and there is no higher compliment than, "Mom, I like your outfit."

One of the things she's into right now is watching videos, and so I find myself looking for ones to share that I think she'll appreciate. Here are a few Hannah-approved picks.

I found out about this one through the New York Magazine Vulture column where they interviewed 11 year old Maddie Ziegler of the reality show "Dance Moms." Hannah hasn't seen "Dance Moms" but apparently this encouraged her to go look for it today. Here is Sia's "Chandelier."




Darren Criss, who plays Blaine on "Glee," tweeted out the link to his performance in A Great Big World's "Already Home." And then it also featured "Gossip Girl" actress Jessica Szohr as a bonus. Had this come out when Marc still lived in New York City, I would have been playing this song A LOT.




Finally, I'm a sucker for proposals of any kind, and Hannah and I love singing along to "I Choose You" by Sara Bareilles. I've been waiting for this video from the moment I first heard the song.




Enjoy these Hannah-approved selections! What are you into these days?

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Who Else Do You Read?

I'm not just a blogger, I'm a voracious blog reader, too. I wouldn't have known where to begin with my own blogging if it hadn't been for other bloggers leading by example, as well as sites like Salon and Slate, which often feature personal essays that lead to blogs. My husband has a blog. Some of my best friends are bloggers (not that there's anything wrong with that... ;) ).

I have about 135 blogs that I follow using a service called feedly. It's an aggregator, bringing the content in for me, so that I don't have to visit 135 individual sites to get fresh content. I don't read every post that comes in word for word, but I do read an awful lot of them. I click over to the site and comment when I can, too. Gosh, we bloggers love comments. And shares. Those are awesome too.

But I'm wondering who you read. Can you introduce me to another blogger? Are there sites or other tools you use for blog reading? I'd love to hear all about it.

In the comments, of course.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Highs and Lows

I started today getting some blood work. I actually requested it a month early, because something was off with my thyroid on my last draw, and I was worried it was still off. But it's back in the normal range now, so the way I'm feeling now probably isn't related.

It probably is related to diabetes. And I probably need to get back to using a continuous glucose monitor to get myself back in line.

I first used a CGM back in 2011, and wrote about it then, when I was still really happy about it. But as time went on, I found I was having more and more issues with its reliability, and finding it was harder to manage. Plus, at the time, my results were so much better. I had figured things out, and adjusted, and so I gave myself a break. I swore to myself that if I ever got too far off track, I'd look into using the CGM again.

I'm not that far off track, but before I completely derail, I think I need to get back on. Too many highs, too many lows. Knowing this makes me sad--I want to be able to manage without more interventions--but it's better for me to give in and do the work. The CGM has supposedly been improved in the past couple years as well. Summer is a somewhat quieter time of year for me, so I can make the time. I have no big trips planned (well, other than BlogHer and a trip to Pennsylvania). I can always stop again if it doesn't work.

But I think it's time to try.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Nourish

So in case you haven't noticed, so far, I've been blogging every day this month. It was a little post-LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER goal for myself, as I let my blogging slide a bit in the months leading up to the show. I needed to get back in the swing of writing again, and I thought this would be a useful exercise. Blogging every day for a month is actually a thing, called NaBloPoMo, and BlogHer lists day-by-day topics to help you out.

Only I didn't like May's topic: Nourish. Lots of prompts about food.

Of course, I love good food, but not enough to wax poetically about it for an entire month. So, I was going to go it alone and just focus on what I wanted to say. But here, day 19, I am tapped out. So I went to the prompts.

"Monday, May 19, 2014
What do you do to nourish yourself apart from food?"

Are they kidding me?

I BLOG.

Until tomorrow, friends.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Inbox Zero

This is by no means a humble brag. It's just an outright brag. As of this moment, my personal inbox is at zero. That hasn't happened for an incredibly long time for me, probably more than nine months. And for a person who tries really hard to always be at that level, not being there for so long has been a challenge.

Now this doesn't mean I don't still have things to do. I have a to do list at work, and another one in my Google calendar. I have aftercare forms to return on my little table where I put my purse when I'm not out and about. But I actually have a good grip on things, and not having plans yesterday truly did help. So when I took photos at the religious school assembly this morning, I was able to stay on top of it, load them to our temple Dropbox account, send a few out to friends, and crop a couple to put up on facebook all without my normal delays. That feels really good.

It won't last long. Something with throw off the balance soon I'm sure, probably even tonight as my international colleagues start their day while I'm still asleep. But it's the second Sunday in a row where I've found a few minutes to type outside on my front stoop. This time, Max is "washing" my car with a tiny towel. It's maybe not as productive as my inbox zero state, but he's certainly having a lot of fun.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Elusive Goals: Jennifer Senior's TED Talk

I finally got around to watching Jennifer Senior's excellent TED Talk last night, and I recommend it. In it, she dissects some of the anxiety around parenting today, how children have gone from economic resources to, in some ways, more work for parents, and how we lack a script for family life with two working parents. Senior recognizes that there are no easy solutions, but that we might benefit from redefining what most parents, myself included, say we want most for our children.

We say we want our children to be happy. Right?

I've said it a million times. Probably even in the same paragraph as a scold or admonishment, something that would decidedly make my child unhappy. Happiness, Senior says, is too elusive of a goal, as it is the byproduct of other things. You can't just force a kid to be happy. We've all been there: you think you're doing exactly the right thing to make your child happy, and they've thrown an epic tantrum in the middle of it all. Think of all the meltdowns kids have at Disney World, the supposed happiest place on Earth.

So instead? "Focus on making productive kids and moral kids, and to simply hope that happiness will come to them by virtue of the good that they do and their accomplishments and the love that they feel from us," she says. 

I don't believe that children should see themselves as the center of the universe, even their parent's universe. It's hard work disciplining, and at times disappointing children. But I think it's harder work down the line not to have done it. And it seems that children who lack that discipline, and never suffer from disappointment, don't usually end up that happy anyway.

Friday, May 16, 2014

It's Handled

I write to you this Friday afternoon from a place of almost calm. It's been a hectic few weeks, starting with the time period just before LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER, up until, well, now.

The show itself and all the prep that went into that. My mom and brother visiting. The temple retreat. Max's wrist. Running practices and MCAS for Hannah. Marc being in school. My job being a bit more intense and demanding than usual. 

I'm pretty close to inbox zero, something I haven't seen in maybe six months. We have no official plans tomorrow, and I plan to spend some time assembling my photo album from our trip to Israel and catching up on my DVR. I'm so excited for a day without a plan. 

Have a good weekend, everyone. 

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Boston's Keytar Bear

Reason #1763 that you should be on Twitter: you'll be in the know when the mysterious Keytar Bear is performing outside your office during the morning commute.

Or whatever the mysterious, trendy thing is in your town. For Boston, for the last several months, it's been sightings of Keytar Bear in and around various train stations. I'd been seeing reports of sightings, but he's been gone for a while, slipped under the radar a bit. But then this morning, Universal Hub tweeted a picture of him outside South Station's glass entrance enclosures, and I knew just where he was. And then when I got off the train, I heard him before I saw him.

He's a very skilled keytar player, and he seemed to be picking up a good bit of cash for 8 am on a Thursday. I asked before taking his picture, and he gave me a photo button with a picture of him on it.

Boston Magazine posted this interview with him (warning for language), a busker's perspective that I don't usually think about, despite encountering them often. Seeing him in person, I felt like I was a bit more tied in to things. And when I tweeted my photo, it was "favorited" 18 times, more than anything I've ever tweeted before. A bit of fun for what was just another commute until then. And it far surpassed the public nail-clipping I endured listening to on the way home!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Triage: Part 2 of Probably Many

The happiest person to ever get a cast.
Remember Max's sprained wrist last week? Not sprained. Fractured. We didn't know until we went for his follow up appointment yesterday, where we were then told we needed to see an orthopedist instead. We did that this morning, and Max is now the proud wearer of a camouflage cast for the next three weeks at least.

I stayed calm in the doctor's office when they told me the fracture hadn't been communicated to us, but broke down in the car afterward. Mommy guilt through the roof. I should have called to investigate it myself, because they said fracture was still a remote possibility, and I should have known that meant 100% certainty given this is a child of mine (again, that's me blaming me, not blaming the kid). Max assured me that "the world didn't explode when Hannah broke her wrist" a few years ago, and it wouldn't explode now. But it still broke my heart.

When Hannah broke her wrist in 2011, I wrote about my brief stint as an EMT and my first exposure to the word "triage" as a medical term. I said,

"I knew, however, that I wasn't going to hack it as a "real" EMT when I discovered the concept of triage. Our book said the concept originated with the French, and the translation of the word was "to sort." I was horrified by the idea that I'd be responding to some major disaster and have to determine who would get help and who would have to wait, and really, who was beyond help and would have to be passed over. The idea has stuck with me, and while I'm not responding as an EMT, my life often feels like a constant triage."

I'm still in a constant state of triage. Or when I'm not feeling fancy and French, I'm playing Whack-a-mole instead. I try to respond to things quickly, because I know something else is probably going to pop right up, and I'll need to smack that one down too. And to be clear, these things are not all problems, like a mole in your garden might actually be, but just the stuff of life. I've developed my processes (like my incessant Google Calendar use) and my techniques (leave the sunscreen on Hannah's placemat so she remembers to use it after she's eaten her breakfast) to try to control as much as I can. But I still struggle that I will never stop playing the game. There will be moments when it slows a bit, sitting on the porch in the sun, but it never really stops. The game has been rigged and never needs more tokens.

In moments of injury, the triage seems a bit clearer, at least I hope it would. But even when you do everything right, things can still go wrong. Max will be okay, his wrist will heal. My guilt over it will take more time. And I don't even get a cool camouflage cast.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Not Every Day

Not every day is worth remembering with a blog post. Especially when it's a day you probably won't forget for quite a while, anyway. 

Besides, I'm too busy spelling words out loud for Max to transcribe on our old iPad  based on the Magic Treehouse book I've been trying to read him. Apparently re-typing the book is actually more fun than reading on to see what happens. 

Better day tomorrow, right?

Monday, May 12, 2014

Rock On

Hannah's second birthday
It was a lifetime ago, or so it seems. Eight years later, after the rocking horse was gifted to Hannah on her second birthday by Fillis and John, we're ready to let it move on to more cousins of Marc's.

The horse has been well-loved, though it never got a name. It still looks brand new too. It joined our family when we still lived in our condo in Brookline, and seeing it among the toys in Hannah's old room practically breaks my heart. She had the coolest nursery. A circular room at the corner of the building, we painted it three colors, a green grass below the window ledge, a blue sky, a purple accent wall. We painted a small dresser white and each of its drawers are painted one of the colors. The wood was cheap and is buckled now, but the dresser still sits in Hannah's room. She probably doesn't recognize it for what it is, but I remember. Max rode the horse in every room in this house over the years. He often preferred to drag it into my bedroom, which gave him more room to rock as the floors weren't littered with other toys and blocks. He's been wanting to get rid of it for a while now, but when the day came, there were a few tears.

I get sentimental about stuff. I wrote an ode to a couch, after all. But this time, I'm ready to see the horse go on to another branch of the family. Rock on, little buddy.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Mother's Day

I'm sitting on my front stoop to type this in the middle of a busy Mother's Day afternoon. Marc is away visiting with relatives from his side of the family, and I am home with the kids. This arrangement is perfectly acceptable though, as I got to go out with friends last night, and was given lovely Mother's Day cards and a gift this morning.

The kids only have a few more sessions of religious school, so that's why we kept them at home today. There's a little festival here for the weekend, right next to the library, which we needed to visit anyway. I honestly didn't want to go--didn't think the kids would cooperate and be patient with each other and just me--but it worked out surprisingly well. We had a picnic lunch, they went on rides together and apart, and watched friends in a dance troupe. They had ice cream. We came home, and they rode bikes for a few minutes before deciding it really was time to go inside and get out of the sun a bit.

Oh, but the sun. It is so, so welcome after this long, awful winter. So I'll sit out here just a bit longer, enjoying just the hint of a spring breeze, the sound of the traffic nearby, and the fast click-clacking of my keyboard. We need groceries, and there is a mountain of laundry that I'm trying to scale, but for now I'll just take in this little respite from thing-to-thing.

There will always be more things. But the sun doesn't always shine so nicely in the middle of a busy Mother's Day afternoon.


Saturday, May 10, 2014

LTYM Providence

I was privileged to be in the audience of LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER Providence tonight. In a way, I owe a debt of gratitude to Providence, as it is where Jessica met Phyllis, and they decided to try to bring the show to Boston together with me tagging along.

It was the first time I've actually sat in the audience for a LTYM show, and it was a wonderful perspective. Just like the Boston production, there were amazing stories that I'll be continuing to think about long after tonight. But I think the thing I loved most is seeing the little interactions between the cast. The way the person sitting next to you congratulates you after you read, maybe squeezing your hand briefly, the way eyes lock from one side of the stage to the other. LTYM is a team sport - no one shares their story alone. We all sit on stage together on purpose. Your cast and your production team literally have your back should you falter. And that way, no one actually falters. 

Congratulations, Providence 2014. Thanks for a lovely evening. 

Friday, May 9, 2014

Songs on Repeat and the Song Lyric Index

I think I've talked about this here before, but I love listening to songs on repeat. It's not something new for me, but it's particularly helpful in terms of the commute. There are some days when I don't actually want to *listen* to the music, but I just want sound in my ears to drown out the other commuters and conductors yelling on the Green Line. So putting something on repeat is an easy way to mindlessly block sound.

The past few days I've been listening to Marie Miller's "6'2." It's sweet and simple and lovely. I've heard it enough that I don't have to listen, but then the music swells in just the right way as I'm reading anymommy's latest blog post and suddenly it's getting very dusty on the train and there might be something in my eye.

Also, I've noticed a trend in music lately. Conventional wisdom is that much of popular music is about falling in or out of love, but I keep hearing songs that are basically just about things being okay. In fact, there's Oh Honey's "Be Okay", with its lyric "can't complain about much these days, I believe we'll be okay." And Barenaked Ladies' "Odds Are" spouting, "the odds are that we will probably be alright." Another? American Authors "Believer" with its hook of "I'm just a believer that things are gonna get better."

In 1926, the Hemline Index was created. According to Wikipedia, "the theory suggests that hemlines on women's dresses rise along with stock prices." Well, you're hearing it here first, friends. The Song Lyric Index. Things are getting better. Hopefully for all of us.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Dinner Out

Marc worked late tonight and so I took the kids out for dinner. Dining out is one of my most favorite things to do, and it's not just about avoiding the dishes. I love that we get a chance to linger together at one table as we're waiting for our food. That never happens at home.

At home, while Marc is usually cooking dinner, Hannah and Max are off doing their own thing, and so am I. Sometimes I hang out in the kitchen with Marc, but other days I'm cramming in a bit of work, folding a load of laundry, supervising a bike ride outside or (gasp!) just sitting on the couch watching TV. We sit as a family and talk over dinner, but at a restaurant, we get another 20-30 minutes of catching up on life together.

It's not perfect. Tonight, Max spilled his water all over the table, and both kids needed to rearrange their seats as the setting sun came streaming through the windows. And Marc wasn't there. But I got to watch Max try a mustard I thought would be too spicy for him, and see his reaction when he actually liked it. I saw him color only the portions of the picture that would logically match the crayon color choices he had, and leave the rest uncolored. I heard about the latest fourth grade drama from Hannah, and we talked about the MCAS test she has tomorrow morning, and made a note to stop to buy gum for it.

We talked more than we would have at home. And I still didn't have to do the dishes.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Wrapped Up


Today didn't go as planned. Most days don't--"normal" isn't something I see too often--but I don't usually feel too wrapped up in my expectations for the day that I can't let things evolve. Today, I was wrapped up.

I was supposed to be on my way back from Paris today. But that work trip got cancelled, so I'm home. Silver lining: the back up plans I'd made for Hannah in my absence meant that I was looking at an entire work day alone in the house. I had phone calls scheduled for 9, 10 and 11:30, and then I planned to go to the dry cleaners, Staples and the post office over lunch. I was going to enjoy the quiet afternoon before picking up Max from school.

Instead, I spent a couple hours with Max in the emergency room for a sprained, thankfully not broken, wrist, and it was followed up hours of Disney Junior and Wild Kratts in the background. He's in a splint, and fortunately not very crabby, but also not up to doing much more than flailing around on the couch and begging me to take off his splint.

Today there was a lot of worry. There's too much laundry, and too much mail. There is not enough work done, and too much struggle over what did get done. 

It isn't the day I'd planned. Some of today will spill into tomorrow. But I need to remember to be less wrapped up in my expectations. My plans don't need to be as tight as Max's splint.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Stress and Strategies: Sleep


I recently admitted here that I'm not the greatest sleeper. The thing is, I love to sleep. I'm just not very good at it.

A complete eight hours is a rarity for me, and I'm probably the poster child for doing all the wrong things. I get too hot, too cold, too stiff. My blood sugar isn't perfect, so I end up going to the bathroom (too high) or needing a snack (too low). I can't fall back asleep, so I look at my phone. And check my work email, which tends to roll in at all hours due to my international client base. And then I start thinking about work. Or figure out how little time I have left to sleep, and get anxious about how tired I'll be if I don't get back to sleep soon. I know these are all bad habits, and a cycle I need to break.

I'm usually up by 5:45 am to get ready for work. I try to be in bed by 10 most nights. I've never been good at taking naps either, but sometimes the stars align on a weekend and I'll catch a little rest then. But I should get more sleep than I actually do.

What about you? How do you get enough sleep? Share your stress and strategies in the comments!

Monday, May 5, 2014

Love and Lilacs

I'm generally not a fan of flowered clothing. This disappoints my mother greatly, but I think it all started with a horrendous flowered teal suit I had to wear to my brother's bar mitzvah. It had large flowers of white and hot pink, with gold buttons and if I'm remembering correctly, gold piping as well. But it fit, and that was the main criteria I needed to fill at that point in my awkward sixteen year old life.

So it shocked my mom when I told her I'd found a flowered shirt I was actually willing to wear, and I'm wearing it today (the photo to the left is from a few weeks ago, when I wore the shirt to Passover seder). The shirt is covered in purple, pink, yellow and white lilacs, and lilacs I love.

Marc and I got engaged on May 13, 2001. I knew it was coming, and yes, you could probably accuse me of pushing the issue a bit. My friend Betsy was coming to town the following month, and I thought it would be the perfect time to throw an engagement party. So when I couldn't find Marc one evening--no answer at his apartment, his job, or on his cell phone--I was fairly certain I knew what was up. He was ring shopping. When he finally arrived at my apartment hours later, he looked more exhausted than I'd ever seen him. While he didn't want to admit it at first, I later offered to go look at what he'd found with him the following day, and he gratefully accepted. I chose something from his final picks, but that wasn't the official proposal.

A few days later, on what was Mother's Day and my future father-in-law's birthday, Marc took me to the Arnold Arboretum in Jamaica Plain. It's the only day of the year that food is permitted in the park, and the lilacs are in full bloom. We found a secluded spot, and Marc proposed, giving me a statue of a wedding couple that he had custom painted to match our particular hair colors (because how would we ever find a redheaded guy and dark-haired girl?). We called our parents from the arboretum, and enjoyed a picnic with sparkling lemonade. It was perfect.

A few years later, we took both kids back to the arboretum, this time on a Mother's Day when I was the mother of two. We have a small lilac bush in our front yard now, too. So no, I don't usually wear flowered clothing, but I have a feeling this shirt will be in rotation for quite a while.

Mother's Day 2008

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Being a Writer

I ended up in Brookline on Marathon Monday so that I could attend a book reading given by Ayelet Waldman, who was there to promote her latest book, Love and Treasure. I'd been a long time fan of Waldman's and her particular brand of stirring up parenting controversy, but her latest book is a fictional account of the time just after the Holocaust and the present-day effects that time period still has. Jessica had given me an advance copy of the book after our conversation turned to the Holocaust in between some LTYM auditions, and I rushed to finish it before Waldman came to town.

I loved the book, but I loved getting to be in the room with Waldman even more. Instead of doing a traditional reading, she talked about her childhood interests, the other books she'd written, and how it all lead her to write this latest book. She spoke of how she evolved beyond writing about parenting, that even though writers are instructed to "write what they know," she felt she'd written all that already, so she decided to write about what she wanted to know. Waldman talked about the research process, and I found the entire thing enthralling.

Jessica and I had tweeted with Waldman in advance, and she must have looked at my blog, because when we came up to have her sign our books, Waldman said, "you're a writer, right?" I back-pedaled and laughed, as I've discussed this before with Jessica too. "Well, I work in finance..." and as my voice trailed off, Waldman cut me short and said, "no, you're a writer." We told her about LTYM, and she made me promise to send her my piece. I sent it to her yesterday, and she kindly shared it with her followers.

I left the reading joking with Jessica that if a writer like Waldman says I'm a writer, that it must be true. But I will probably always struggle with accepting that label. My blogging friend Sarah just wrote a post about this too. I can easily accept so many other mantles, but this "writer" one is tough. My inner critic, despite any external successes I have, refuses to let me believe that this part of me is valid. I'm not sure what it would take to change that, but maybe I don't need to accept it. Maybe writing is this thing I do mostly for me. Maybe if I admit how much I'm really trying, I have to also admit that it's the least successful part of my life. And maybe someday I'll just wake up one morning, and it'll be more clear.

I think Waldman struggles with this too. She mentioned a few times that she's a former attorney, that she even went to law school with Barack Obama. Perhaps we all get a little too tied up in labels, anyway. For now, I'll keep on writing what I know. Because I know I can't stop.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

On the Radio

In my attempt to promote Listen To Your Mother, I had the truly fun opportunity to be interviewed by Henry Santoro of Boston.com's Internet radio station, RadioBDC. I'd never done radio before, but I know I can talk. I give presentations for a living, after all. And considering how passionate I am about LTYM, I figured it would be a breeze.

It really was. Henry had done his research, and conducted a flawless interview. I was totally impressed by the way he wove all the details together, and promoted the show date, time and location so effortlessly. The conversation flowed smoothly, too, until he started talking about an event at Mass General Hospital, which I hadn't heard about. 

I was a bit panicked inside, since I had no idea where the story was going. He said the story was major news the prior day, but I'd been out and about and heard no stories at all. Apparently, a woman had delivered a 14 pound baby. Off the cuff, I was able to respond and say she's definitely got a story to tell, and that she should audition next year!

All in all, it was a great experience and something I'd love to do again. When I finished the interview, Marc texted me that Max asked if I was famous. I'm clearly on my way. ;)

Hear the complete interview on Radio BDC's blog.

Friday, May 2, 2014

The Rest of My Life

A little girl made her way into the world this morning. 

Baby news is my absolute favorite. I might barely know you, but will still feel complete joy upon your news.

This little girl, though, is special. I've already dreamt of her presence at the big moments to come. There will be apple picking, and sleepovers, and she will seem like family. This one, I know I'm going to love for the rest of my life. 

Welcome, little one. I'm so glad you're here. 

Thursday, May 1, 2014

The Kitchen Sink

This is the piece I read for Listen To Your Mother Boston, on April 26, 2014.

There are few things in life that I can say with one hundred percent certainty that I excel in doing. But I am truly excellent at cleaning my kitchen.

Seriously. I’m a decent wife, a pretty good mom, can do a solid job at the office. But my best work is with a spray bottle, a paper towel, and an green apple martini-colored counter top.

I trained long and hard to become the champion dish-doer that I am today, under the tutelage of my own mother, who took no prisoners when it came to leaving a clean kitchen at the end of the day. I spent many teenage evenings at the sink, the epicenter of it all, in our U-shaped counter configuration in suburban Cleveland, Ohio. With hands tired from outlining history chapters or struggling through geometry proofs, I did the dishes and learned my mother’s ways. The careful stacking of items in the dishwasher and on the drying rack. Which items needed more time to soak along the way. Countless washes of the fragile glass coffeepot from which I never drank a single cup of coffee, the heavy blue salad bowl we used almost every night in winter, the circular Tupperware for cantaloupe and watermelon in the summer. Like the sponge in my hand, I absorbed my mother’s strategies for soaking, scrubbing and stacking as well as her advice on my friends, my grades, and what I should do with the rest of my life.

The plan for the rest of my life that I internalized during those sessions was as follows: work hard to get into a good college, work hard at said college, get a good job, marry, have kids. So I did just that. I worked hard and I followed the plan.

Now, in my own home on any given day, I’m usually doing my best kitchen work between 7 and 8 pm. I’ve worked all day, spent an hour each way commuting on the Green Line, picked up my kids at school, opened the mail, supervised homework and settled television disputes before inhaling a dinner that’s usually been prepared by my husband. Prepared lovingly, I might add, but also while using every last pot, pan, utensil and appliance we own. Most days, there are breakfast dishes too, that have been waiting around for a dozen or so hours, and Tupperware containers from packed lunches.

This mess is the last thing that separates me from pajamas and my beloved bed. Part of me wants to cop out, do the minimum, let it wait for another day. But that’s not how my mother raised me, and so each night I clean.

First, put away the items in the drying rack and clean that section of the counter. Look for anything that might need to soak for a bit and fill it with hot water. Empty the dishwasher. Clean the far side of the counter that has no business getting dirty, but still seems to everyday. Load the dishwasher: glasses, plates, bowls and silverware. Often, even though it’s been years, I rejoice to be past baby bottles and sippy cups. I count the colored plastic plates, that set of six from IKEA that everyone has, and I worry about the pink plate that’s been lost somewhere along the way. With nothing left but the hand washing, I straighten my back and assume the commanding position in front of the sink.

Am I allowed to love my sink? Because I love my sink. My mother’s sink was small, porcelain, and divided into two sections, down the middle. I’d always end up with a wet shirt from trying to accommodate pans that were too large, and spent too much time scrubbing at stubborn stains in the porcelain. So when I had to renovate my own kitchen, along with those green apple martini counter tops, I found my dream sink.  It is deep and wide and undivided, stainless steel and under-mounted so the counter top crumbs can be easily swept inside. I love my sink, but there’s just one problem.

That sink, which I acquired after working hard to get into a good college, working hard at said college, getting a good job, marrying, and having kids, is in a house here in Boston. Not Cleveland. Location was the only part of the plan upon which we hadn’t agreed. And so my careful following of the rest of the plan is nice, but I know my mother wishes I was a lot closer to home.

Sometimes, as I’m standing at my sink, I daydream that it would be fun for my mom to drop by right then. She’s six hundred miles away, so there is no dropping by, only carefully calculated visits every couple of years. But if she could, I’d make her a cup of tea, like I used to when I’d finished doing the dishes back in high school, and we’d sit chatting at the table just outside my very clean kitchen. And she would be proud of me--for the day’s success at work, the cute thing my children said or something else that would fit the guidelines of our careful life plan--and because the kitchen was clean.

I know that no matter what I accomplish in this life of mine, I am most like my mother when I am washing the dishes.

I am snapped out of my reverie by a well-timed run of the garbage disposal. In my house, the heavy wooden cutting board is usually the last item added to the drying rack. Without a dog to help, I sweep up any crumbs or trails of flour from the floor. I spray Simple Green across that one last stretch of counter top just to the right of the sink, wiping it down once-twice-three times until it’s dry. I refill my blue plastic cup of water, slip off my well-worn fake Crocs and turn off the light.

I am most like my mother when I am washing the dishes.

I am most like myself then too.