Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Do You Want Me To Go Back To Work?

I'll be up front.  I knew when I asked this question that it likely wasn't fair and it felt kind of icky coming out of my mouth, but sometimes you have to give your kids a good dose of reality.

Mornings are hard.  Getting two kids ready for school 5 days a week is hard.  Making sure weather appropriate clothing is on their bodies, healthy lunches are in lunch boxes, hair is brushed, socks and shoes are on feet (bonus points if the socks match), backpacks are packed with snacks, lunches, homework, library books, etc...  I'm exhausted just writing this.  And heaven forbid if there are any adverse attitudes, overtired kids or the dog is running circles around the house - literally.  I teeter on the edge some mornings.

Today was actually going along nicely.  The kids got up on time.  No one woke up with the 'grumps' and we were plugging through our morning to do's quite nicely.

Then I made a mistake...

I asked Abby if a turkey, cheese and lettuce wrap was okay for lunch.

A volcano erupted.  Eyes were rolled, a body threw itself on the couch and let out a wail..  "I dooonnnn'tttt wwwwaannntttt tttuuurrrrrrkkkkeeeeyyyyy TTTTOOOODDDAAAAYYY!!!!!"

I asked her if another option was okay (I don't even recall what it was)..  More volcanic activity, more eye rolling and "you don't understand me, I don't want any of that for lunch".

Feeling a tad under appreciated I suggested she reply with "thanks mom for making healthy lunches for me and making sure I have clean clothes.  Thanks also for helping me with my homework and driving me all over the place for my activities and also coaching my soccer team.  THANKS MOM".

Another eye roll...

I then asked, and here it comes..  "Abby, do you want me to go back to work and have someone else do all of this for you?  If it's such a problem, then I'm happy to go back to work.  I'd like to be around people who appreciate me and say thank you once in a while".  Without skipping a beat, she asked if we could get our old  nanny back - OUCH.  I told her she could think about it while she was at school today and we would talk about it later.      

Emily piped in with "mom, I love spending time with you".  Emily has really high EQ and knows the right things to say at the right time.

Fast forward to after school..  Abby was in her room tackling the mess.  I poked my head in and asked if she had time to think about whether I should go back to work or not.  She looked at me with the sweetest smile and said "mom, I want to be with you, I enjoying spending time with you".  Ahh, there we have it.  Outside of the heat of the moment and after giving her time to think, it's what I think we both needed to hear.

**Note - Due to the guilt I was feeling, while the kids were at school I confirmed with a mental health professional friend of mine that it was a perfectly okay question for me to ask.  She told me it was perfectly okay.

Coming next - a sneak peek of some things I'm making for Soddie's Place.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

I Thought I Had More Time

A few weeks ago both of my daughters went back to school.  Abby started 3rd grade and Emily started Kindergarten (having left her beloved preschool of 3 years).

Abby and I would hold hands while walking to her class.  This happened through 2nd and I was expecting to do this with Emily as well.

Today, I dropped them off at school and waited to walk Emily to her classroom.  Abby is a 3rd grader now and walking to class isn't allowed for me.  She's 8, I get it.  I still get a hug and a kiss so I'm happy with that.

Emily is in Kindergarten and I was looking forward to holding her hand and walking her to class.  The rest of the week she starts school later (9:35am, since the Kindergarteners has staggered starts).  On Wednesdays she lines up with everyone else.  

This is how it went down today.  I'm still recovering.

The kids line up on the playground and parents aren't allowed to be out there with them.  Abby walked Emily to her line to make sure she found it okay.

Emily's teacher walks the students to the classroom and passes by where I stand.  I saw Emily, smiled and reached out my hand.  She looked at me above her glasses, slightly embarrassed.  I asked her if I could walk her to class.  She shook her head no.  WHAT???  I asked again, still no.  I asked her again, asking her if she was really super duper sure.  Still NO!

Her teacher high-fived her for being such a big girl.  I was proud for her, but sad for me.  I love the feel of her little hand in mine and sending her on her day at the door of her classroom.

I'm going to go mourn the loss of this experience and celebrate her independence.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Why the Debate - Working Moms vs Stay at Home Moms?

It's been nine weeks.  Nine weeks of being a stay at home mom after being in the workforce, working in finance for over 20 years.  In my job, I did a lot of analysis, understanding how things are similar or different and the impact.  I'm going to use those skills to assess the difference between working and stay at home moms, because quite honestly - I'm tired of the debate!

Based solely on my experience, there are not a lot of differences between working and stay at home moms.  The skills needed to excel at both roles are similar.  Here are my findings:

Politics:  You have to deal with politics in the workplace, as well as dealings with people involved in school activities.  Someone almost always has more power or influence.  How you navigate these situations can determine your success whether you work or not.  Having good EQ helps too!

Communication Skills - Setting Expectations:  It's important in roles at work and at home that communication is clear, concise and people (adults and children) understand what is expected of them.  Without this, chaos ensues.  When I managed a team, I would create calendars for known deliverables.  At home, I have daily discussions with my kids about their schedule for the day.  When you have these conversations, there are less surprises and people tend to be more calm.

Choosing Your Battles:  You have to chose your battles at home and at work.  Do I let my daughter go to school with her hair in disarray because she did it herself or wear clothes that don't exactly match?  Of course I do.  Do I push back on my manager when I don't agree with something?  Sometimes, but other times I need to nod and smile and execute the way I'm expected to.  It's okay to battle for something you believe in (no shorts in 30 degree weather or dealing with a poor performer), but at other times, you just have to let it slide.

Knowledge Sharing:  There are teachable moments both at work and at home.  I recently had a discussion with my older daughter about a class mate that was being made fun of.  We talked about how it made the girl feel and if my daughter wanted to stand up for her the next time it happened, then she would make her friend feel supported.  At work I would share my experiences with others on how to communicate with executives, deal with difficult people or how to approach a complicated request.  There really is no difference...

Mediate Conflict:  At work I would sometimes get caught in the middle of a disagreement (or perhaps kick one off).  I'd have to do my best to make both sides see the point the other was trying to make then help come up with a solution that everyone could live with.  It's no different at home.  My kids are 2 -1/2 years a part.  They fight.  I try to objectively understand what happened if I wasn't right there with them and then make sure they understand both sides.  Honestly, mediating conflict at home is so much easier.

Dealing with Sub Par Performance:  I've dealt with sub par performers at work, having tough conversations with them and spelling out performance improvement plans, etc..  It's no different at home.  I have to talk to my kids when they are not keeping their rooms clean, have trouble staying focused while getting ready in the morning or most any other task I request of them.  The emotions I encounter and the challenges are the same.

Time Management:  At work, there was always 80 hours of work to do each week.  At home it's no different.  I have taken over a lot of tasks that others were doing and added some new ones that were being neglected (purging closets, cleaning out the garage, doing more cooking, sending more time on homework, spend time in the classroom with my older daughter, etc).  Regardless of whether you work or not, there is never enough time in the day.

I have NEVER heard any working dad belittle or make snide remarks to a stay at home dad.  Perhaps I've been lucky enough to not be involved in those conversations, but I have known a considerable number of stay at home dads, or dads who take on a bigger role in child rearing in their families.

I would like to ask moms, regardless of their role/occupation/choices to stop being mean girls on this topic.  It defeats what really needs to happen (longer maternity leaves, more family friendly companies, better benefits - medical and sick leave, higher quality and more affordable childcare options, more flexible work schedules to accommodate people who want to be more involved in their children's lives, etc).  Let's redirect all of this energy and do something positive.  Stifle that judgmental/rude comment about the 'other' class of moms, appreciate people for their contributions whether at work or at home, be supportive and find ways to get involved in pushing the cause for all women forward.

Friday, May 2, 2014

How We Met Anna and Elsa at Disneyland

We went to Disneyland last week.  There were two top attractions that we considered investing time in to see.  One of them was the Anna and Elsa meet and greet in Disneyland.  The other was the Radiator Springs ride in California Adventure.   We didn't have the option of doing both because of timing.

Like any good strategy planning session, we evaluated our audience.   2 girls, ages 4 and 6.  We can't get them to watch the Cars movie, but we've seen Frozen at least 15 times.  The meet and greet it was going to be.

The second strategy was to determine how we minimize time away from the ride time (tea cups, Dumbo, carousel, big thunder railroad, you get the idea).  This meant we had to get there early by investing wait time before the park opened..

This is what worked for us:

The park opened at 9am that day.  There was not a Magic Morning for anyone.  This is important.  If you are up against people who get to the park an hour before you, by the time you get to the Anna and Elsa line, the wait will be over 4 hours.

Steve took a cab from the hotel to the park at 7am.  He was one of the first in line at the park entrance.

When he was let into the park, he quickly went to the next line.  This is the rope line at the end of main street.  He was one of the first in line there too.

Around 8:45am, my mom and I arrived at the park with the kids.  We were about 30 feet behind where my husband was standing.  Let me tell you, that 30 feet makes a big difference.

When the park officially opened at 9am, Steve very quickly went to the Anna and Elsa line.  He was 10 people back from the front of the line, which translated to a 20 minute wait for the meet and greet.

By the time my mom and I met up with him, about 5 minutes after 9am, the Anna and Elsa line wait time was over 4 hours.  Yes, in the matter of 5 minutes the wait went from 0 to 4 hours.

Steve wins dad of the year.  The girls were absolutely thrilled to meet Anna and Elsa.  Did those two play their charters perfectly.  Anna was spunky and quirky and Elsa was classy and proper.

A couple hours later we had lunch at Ariel's Grotto and they met even more princesses.  Abby told me is was the best day ever.

Here are a few pictures from our meet and greet:

Emily showing Elsa the braid in her hair.  We did a special Elsa braid that morning for her.

Abby talking to Anna, she was so happy.

The official picture from the meet and greet.  Look at those smiles.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Mommy Guilt - A Way to Ease the Guilt

"My name is Susan and I experience mommy guilt on a daily basis."

Please don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to diminish the importance of 12 steps programs (my dad when through one when I was in my late teens).  Mommy guilt is my daily struggle.

I've been struggling with the mommy guilt a lot recently.  Both of my kids have been sick and on some days I had to put my grown up panties on and go to work.  I left the care and nurturing of my children to someone else, someone who was not their mommy.  Ouch, it really hurts on those days when I get in the car and drive away.

This is the first time in a long time that I have felt my employer values what I do.  Being appreciated for what I do at work brings me joy and satisfaction.  Being away from my kids when they are sick brings me sadness and a heavy heart.  How can I have my cake and eat it too?

I came across this post on the Working Mom's Against Guilt blog earlier today.  It talks about A Simple Solution for Mommy Guilt.  It was perfect timing!  The post encouraged me to ask my kids "what do you like to do with Mommy?".  Here are their answers from tonight:

Emily (4 years old):
Cuddle with you
Play with my toys with you
Spend time with you

Abby (6 years old):
Spend time with you
(then went into a silly giggle fit)

Seriously, they don't put my handcrafted valentine's for they classmates at the top of the list?  They don't like the fact the kitchen counters are free of clutter (well, they are never really free of clutter) or the fact I tracked 950 boxes of girl scout cookies for their troop?  They don't value the fact I keep their clothes organized in their closets or get creative with what they eat?  Hmmm, I need to rethink my priorities!

Talk to your kids, ask them what they like best about being with you.  The answers are simple and humbling.  Time to cuddle more and worry less about a stack of mail on the counter.  


Friday, January 31, 2014

Best Guacamole Recipe Ever!

I was looking for a guacamole recipe recently.  I wanted something a little different, but that also still had some of the regular guacamole ingredients (red onion, tomatoes, cilantro, etc). 

The Grilled Corn Guacamole from The Pioneer Woman is the recipe I wanted to try.

It was super yummy!  I loved the sweetness the corn added.


Rounding Up Healthy Recipes and Snacks

I'm currently participating in a 60 day Body, Mind, Soul challenge with numerous other people.  It's a fun, competitive points based program that lasts 8 weeks.  On the last round I lost 11 pounds.  This time around my goal is lose more, 15-20 pounds.

I'm rounding up some of my favorite recipes to share with other challengers and anyone else interested in easy, healthy recipes.

Even my husband loves this one!  Thai Coconut Curry Shrimp from skinnytsate.com.  We serve this one with brown rice and add red bell peppers for a little more veggie punch.

Pad Tai using brown rice pad thai noodles from Annie Chun's.  I love Pad Thai and I almost think I'm cheating eating this.

I've been looking high and low for an overnight oatmeal recipe that does not use greek yogurt.  No matter what I try, I can't eat greek yogurt.  This recipe for Overnight Oats in a Jar from skinnytaste.com calls for almond milk and is super tasty.  I feel great and energized after eating it!  I've been using walnuts for the topping and a small dose of vanilla extract instead of sweetener.

This past weekend I made a big pot of Split Pea Soup in our slow cooker.  I've used this recipe from Whole Foods several times and it never disappoints.

I just stumbled across these today and I think I'll give it a try.  A cookie with positive or neutral ingredients, who knew this existed?  Scroll down to the Interception Cookie.

We are subscribed to Nature Box monthly snack delivery service.  They have a lot of healthy options and allow you to pick what you want delivered.  I highly recommend them if you are tempted to try a subscription service (they are a very popular trend right now).  I also made their Quinoa, Kale and Chickpea Salad recently.  It's so light and fresh tasting!  They have great recipes on their blog.

I'm not a fan of mayo, so finding a tuna recipe without mayo can be difficult.  I came across this Tuna Salad Recipe from Framed Cooks that I love!  No mayo, has lot fresh herbs, capers, tuna, etc..

A lot of the recipes I come across call for panko bread crumbs.  I refuse to pay an arm and a leg for whole grain panko bread crumbs when I can actually find them in stores, so I make my own.  I find the healthiest, tastiest whole grain bread and use this recipe from How Sweet It Is and make my own whole grain panko bread crumbs.

These aren't recipes, but some of my other favorite foods that help me adhere to the challenge positive foods list and healthier eating.

--Low Sodium V8 juice when I need those extra veggie points at the end of the day
--Kind Almond Walnut Macadamia with Peanuts + Protein Snack Bar
--Roasted unsalted almonds and cashews from Trader Joe's
--Crunchmaster crackers (thanks April for the lead on this from the last challenge) with peanut or almond butter
--Lesley Stowe Gluten Free Crackers - super yummy with some burrata cheese (a neutral) drizzled with olive oil!
--And of course any fresh fruits and veggies I can get my hands on at our local year round farmers markets.

Best of luck to everyone on the challenge this round!  I'm on team In It to Thin It with a group of 3 other amazing women!