Hear crickets when you ask your kids how their day went? Me too. I don't know if their memories are too short or they just don't want to share, I rarely get anywhere with generic questions. And even if they did speak up, they probably wouldn't share what I really want to know. As an alternative, here are questions I came up with for my kids. You can try these two or come up with your own versions to get the information you want and need to know about how you're doing as a mom.Read More
Last night, we squeezed in the last* of our Summer "Learn to Try" challenges and hosted a mega dance party. Our friends and neighbors joined us in the driveway for drinks, cookies, and lots of silliness to celebrate the end of summer and start of school.
Thank the lord, I wasn't sure this day would ever come. So, on this high note that is the last day of summer, I'm thinking I should focus on something like I did on the first.
More than getting to check fun things off a list, I feel fortunate. We won summer. To be more precise, my kids won summer. I got to drive the team support van with the snacks and towels. And, most days that felt like winning.
If I were giving an award acceptance speech and had unlimited time, here’s what I’d say. I've thrown in some random, never-before-posted pictures. I know, I'm excited too.
I’m thankful for Youtube videos. There’s a lot of random shit out there, but some of it is really helpful. Thanks to all the girls who took time to shoot, edit, and post cartwheel training videos.
I’m thankful for our neighbors for, like, 1,000 reasons. One of those reasons is that they don’t mind (or call the cops) when you go in their yard at night with kids in pajamas to catch a bug.
I’m thankful for food- whole, healthy food. I’m thankful for the one gazillion recipes out there on the internet. Without trying every single one of these, we wouldn’t have found the three my kids will eat. Eating whole foods in our house isn’t easy. We’re not “there” yet (and where “there” is changes daily.) So, I’m not giving up on this moving target.
I’m thankful to have time off from work and money going on vacation. My kids are the second generation to enjoy regular, planned family trips. A vacation is not something either of my parents really had growing up. And, they changed that for us with some tortuous drives to beautiful places. Now, we seem to be upping the ante. Instead of a stack of coloring books and the single of Whitney Houston’s “Greatest Love of All,” our kids get a stack of DVDs and access to literally every song ever recorded.
I’m thankful for our Falls Church, VA community and the value we all put on giving back to others. I’m also thankful for the encouragement that comes from those around you when starting something.
I’m thankful for natural beauty all around us. Creating a bouquet became a metaphor for me about arranging the things I have (possessions, activities, obligations, etc.) in a way that brings more happiness. Nature is also a reminder to enjoy the moment. It doesn’t last forever, and that’s okay because it comes back in other ways. I’m also thankful for wine.
I’m thankful for people who rush in to help- even when it’s gross and inconvenient. I spend most days trying not to ask for too much. But still every single day, I cross paths with people going out of their way to make things a little better for me, for us. I love you and thank you.
Lastly, I’m thankful we can stop and be silly. To choose to spend a couple of hours dressing up, dancing, and eating too many treats is a gift and privilege so many people don’t have. And, I struggle with this. How can we laugh when others are hurting? Eat chocolate chip cookies when others haven't eaten in days? Stay up late playing with a glow-in-the-dark balloon when some places it’s unsafe to go outside after dark?
I search daily for the right answer. Today, it’s to be grateful. It’s also to stay aware and vigilant, do what we can through encouragement and support, keep others in our hearts and heads, and to learn with my kids how to steer into a better future for all.
I’d especially like to thank the following people. Brian for being my Superman. Mom and Dad for being the change. Lynda for always being one call (or emoji-laden text) away. My sisters Anna and Molly who make me laugh and make me think. My friends Carrie, Sarah, Benita, Jen, Aime, Christy, Sara, and Katharine for keeping things in perspective. For my cherished clients who trust me. For all of the people- Jesus, Rosario, Bill, Clara, my beloved UPS drivers, and the team of Peapod delivery men who help keep our life more or less on schedule. I'd buy you all a Pumpkin Spice latte if I could. Bring it, Fall. We got this!
*For those keeping score at home, you'll note that 2 summer challenges are missing. The girls did ride horses. My mom took them to a lesson last week while they were enjoying some time at Grandma and Opa Summer Camp for spoiled grandchildren. She has some great insights regarding girls and horses that she's going to write. I'll share her guest blog post later in the month. We also haven't yet slept in the massive 8-person tent (more like my first apartment) we bought last Spring. Brian is scoping out weekends this Fall. More to come on that too.
In this week's "Learn to Try" summer challenge we head to the Rock Creek Park planetarium... and get more than we bargained for. This is a great activity for kids anytime of the year- assuming they're feeling up for it.Read More
Want to create a beautiful flower arrangement? Here's how in 18 simple steps (with wine!) Whether you're looking to build a new skill or for something fun to do with the kids, flower arranging is easy, fun, and has the immediate benefit of a beautiful decoration for your home.Read More
My oldest daughter Marin looked wistfully out the window the other day and said, "Someday, I wish I could have my own phone."
I thought to myself, "I hear 'ya, sister. Me too."
In our house, there's Dad's phone and "the" phone. I try hiding it at the bottom of my purse and then hear, "Mom, where's the phone? MOM, where's the PHONE!? MOOOOMMMMMM, WHERE'S THE PHOOOONE???!!!" It's less charming than it sounds.
The phone in my name is no more mine than my moments in the bathroom or precious tins of breakfast sardines. (The grocery man only brings 5 per week and when they're gone, they gone. Sigh.)
Anyway, there's their stuff, Dad's stuff, and the common good. When I do get to use the phone, it's not uncommon to find 43 selfies of her pretending to be asleep.
And then this started...
Marin writes in the Notes app. I hadn't realized the extent of her note-taking until the other day when I opened the app to write myself an actual, important note. Okay, it was a Target shopping list but still.
Here are a select few of the 30+ messages I found with my reactions below each.
He’s also so sweaty. I’d back up before he comes in for a post-run hug.
It’d make a long bumper sticker but I like it. Also, it's good to know that you can make stripes in two widths.
There are first world problems and then there are Generation Alpha (kids born after 2010) problems. I have no problem deciding between these emojis because I choose “none of the above.” But, don't let that stop you. I’m just a grouchy, sleep-deprived Gen Xer who doesn’t understand the appeal of a (mostly) body-less animal with creepy eyes.
This little message reminds me of that quote, “Roses are red, violets are blue, I'm schizophrenic, and so am I” but okay. And grandma has all of the flowers I can think of too. That’s a lot.
Oops. I'll just delete this one before Dad sees it. Let's take a break from “Barbie: Life in the Dream House” on Netflix for a little while.
Did I miss a moon landing? WTF? Random.
Obviously, you haven't yet been introduced to my friend the Oxford comma or commas in general. Punctuation aside, you're right. You're welcome. Now, give me back MY phone! :)
Before writing and posting this, I asked Marin if it was okay to share her notes. She immediately said yes. "In fact," she went on, "That'd be a help. I've been spending a lot of time trying to get you to read these and you always say you're too busy making dinner."
Oh my lord. Is there an emoji for "guilt trip?"
Procurement, manufacturing, pricing, marketing, sales, and customer service are all part of any simple lemonade stand. It’s an enduring, practical, and charming way to introduce kids to the basic concepts of business- if your business is backed by an angel investor who can drive to Giant and reach the sink.
When I pitched the idea as one of the Summer “Learn to Try” challenges, the kids enthusiastically agreed. Looking back, I realize they had no idea what they were signing up for. They heard lemonade (and because I’m ultra-stingy with juice) reflexively shouted “YES!”
Part of the deal was to donate the money raised to A is for Africa. They wanted to do this piece because they hear Grandma and Opa talk about Africa and the school there. The kids were especially interested in funding school lunch because…all kids like lunch.
So, that was the goal with this week’s Summer “Learn to Try” Challenge:
• learn a bit about business and
• fund raise for a good cause.
To start, we reserved the space in front of the Falls Church Community Center. The Center staff offer this fantastic opportunity to any kid with a homemade product raising money for a nonprofit. This space is strategically important because it’s close to the Farmer’s Market. There’s way more foot traffic than we’d get in front of our house.
We then made a trip to Giant for the ingredients and came back home to make a sign.
There was a little social media marketing on Facebook, and our friends in the neighborhood helped spread the word. Our neighbor Nate even offered to help. Yippee! Set up on Saturday morning was simple. Then, we hit the first roadblock.
The kids wanted nothing to do with the actual selling. Drinking the lemonade, playing with the cups, and dumping out the straws took precedence. They hung-out behind the pillars- partly out of shyness and partly out of distraction from the Farmer’s Market activity.
Then, two things happened to change their outlook.
They got their first customers- a family of five. These weren't just any old customer. They were super fun, enthusiastic, and encouraging. When the dad handed over the $5, Marin looked at it for a second before stuffing it into our Ziplock “register.” I actually think a saw something click. Marin later told me that the best part of the day was making the customers happy and getting the money. A win!
Then, their friend Nate arrived, and it became less of chore and more of a game. All of the kids moved out in front of the stand shouting, “Good morning. $1 lemonade!” Baya told me she was scared to speak up the first time but it got easier throughout the morning. Another win! Marketing and selling are most difficult in the beginning. Then, you realize that some people will buy, some won’t, and nothing bad will happen either way.
Nate also immediately improved our process and started pre-pouring cups so there’d be no delay for our next customers. Unfortunately, Linc drank these before anyone else arrived but it was a good idea.
Over the next hour and a half, we had a steady stream of totally awesome people come by- including many friends and neighbors. Each person was there for the kids (ours or theirs), not so much the lemonade. They were upbeat, encouraging, and genuinely interested in hearing about A is for Africa. It made me love our Little City that much more.
They also pretended not to notice the chaos that ensued after simply saying, “one lemonade, please.” There was sloshing and spilling. Some of the shortest members of the staff might have even been screaming and crying, “It’s my turn!” Every. Single. Time.
In retrospect, I should have worked out our order fulfillment process to avoid the confusion about who’s turn it was to pour, dole out stickers, and take the money. I would have also mentioned that most people don’t care to have ice handled directly by the server's grubby, bare hands.
So, I’d say this was another successful week of our Summer “Learn to Try” challenge. The kids raised $86 and got dad to make it an even $100. That’s enough to fund lunch for 900 kids for a day—pretty incredible! I also believe some entrepreneurial seeds were planted, as well as, a small lesson in overcoming your fears.
What’s up next? Come back next week to find out!
There are some things I think I’ve never done but can’t say for sure. It’s one of the nice things about having a crappy memory. Riding in the front car of a roller coaster was one. Either way, I knew the girls hadn’t because their roller coaster riding experience is much more recent and I’ve been there for every click, click, click along the way.
So, that’s why we picked this as one of our summer “learn to try” challenges. And, I’m happy to report- SUCCESS- at least for 2 of us.
Here’s what happened.
Dutch Wonderland was the second stop on our week-long family driving vacation, “Tour of Kid-Friendly Spots in the Mid-Atlantic.” (The Travel Channel will probably be covering this exotic locale in an upcoming show very soon.)
2017 is our fourth year going, and we’ve progressively tried more challenging rides each visit. If you’ve ever been there, you might be scratching your head. It’s a tiny, totally adorable, and retro park geared towards little, little kids. There isn’t much there anyone would consider really daring.
However, there is one roller coaster, and we were determined to sit in the front row. Marin, Baya, and I headed over while Brian and Linc tackled the toddler bulldozers.
Unfortunately, Baya was too short—even with her hair puffed up. The teenage ride operator was stern and said “no exceptions to the rule.” Bummer. So, we quickly worked out a scheme for Baya to stay behind on the other side of the gate. (Sugar-filled promises were made.)
One of the great things about Dutch Wonderland is that there are never any lines. So, getting the top spot only required waiting for one spin around the track. Then, we were in!
Little did we know we’d be “in” for a while.
Boarding the car, two Boy Scouts in tie-die got a little jumpy, and one dropped his water bottle on the track. Our rule-following operator wouldn’t reach down and just grab it. Instead, she radioed maintenance per the standard procedure outlined in the manual she’d apparently memorized.
To say maintenance was slow getting there is an understatement. I’m not sure exactly how long it took, but I was bolted down with one nervous kid watching another on the other side of the gate with tears welling up (or looking like a little wacky.)
I should note that a super nice mom volunteered to stay with her until Brian arrived. (He did moments later and took her off to another ride.)
We then waited and waited and waited. It seemed like a long time.
The maintenance guy finally arrived and removed the bottle in less than a second. He then informed the teenager that she’d ruined his day and walked off. Now, I felt bad for her... but quickly got over it when she yelled at me to put my phone away.
Then, off we went! I only caught the first couple moments in this video so I'll just tell you. (Yes, I was afraid of getting in trouble with someone driving on a learner's permit.)
From the front car, the clicks are louder, the hills steeper, and the ride is faster. We screamed and laughed the whole way. Pulling back into the station, Marin said, “I think I left my stomach back there,”- precisely the feeling I was going for.
So, how’d it go? The “whole foods, nothing processed” for a week thing? Oh, let me tell you.
- Thursday=laying on the kitchen floor crying ‘uncle.’
Last Sunday, we kicked off a week of eating like it was 1947. The goal was nothing processed from bag or box. I wasn’t particularly interested in WWII-era recipes. We just had to make food at home that our grandmothers would recognize.
Why? It was challenge to me as the main food-fixer. My style is semi-homemade. Each meal is a mix of scratch and prepared foods and I thought I could do a little better. It was also a challenge to the family as the main food-eaters. I’d give us a B+ in family eating overall. We only eat out once a week. We even have a garden (that I’m pretty sure is trying to kill me- but that’s a story for a different post.) And, no one is super picky but, again, I thought we could do a little better.
The plan was to make dinner at home each night as we normally do. Only, I was going to sub-in home-made versions of familiar foods that I typically buy pre-made such as meatballs and fish sticks.
I’d also found 3 non-dinner recipes to try for foods we typically buy: bread, breakfast sausage, and cheese crackers.
To help you gauge the level of difficulty for me, I assign a “sweat score” on a 0 (easy) - 10 (crazy hard, never doing this again) scale for each.
Monday: Sweat score = 1.
We started off nice and easy on Monday. All I had to do was open a can of beans, put some brown rice on the stove, and microwave some sweet potatoes. I hate to brag but I could have made this on the back of the van with only a knife, a bottle of Aquafina, and a strong magnifying glass. I’ll concede the point that I should have baked the sweet potatoes but the heat index made it feel like 104 degrees outside. I couldn’t stand the thought of turning on the oven for 45 minutes. With a quick chopped salad and a couple of hard-boiled eggs for Brian and me, we were all set.
Because I have awesome ideas, we also made lemonade. No surprise here. They liked it. And, I’m pretty sure they were eating spoonfuls of sugar when I turned my back. Oh well.
Tuesday: Sweat score = 3.
Taco Tuesday was up next. The recipes weren’t complicated but the circumstances made things a little tricky. We’d planned to go to the pool and eat. That means packing everything up in the cooler. It seems like one extra steps that is actually about 40 extra steps and as many dishes to wash. There were a couple flashes of heat lightning which meant the pool was closed. We were back around the dining room table and eating out of our 40 little Tupperware containers. Part of this menu was corn tortilla chips from scratch. It’s one of those non-recipe recipes where you cut up corn tortillas, fry them, and then put as much salt as as your little heart desires. I typically like these, but I burned almost every single one. The kids ate 1 or two and Brian mercifully ate the rest. Love that guy.
Wednesday: Sweat score = 6.
Wednesday’s spaghetti and meatballs meal should have been easy. Marinara is the first thing I learned to cook in college from my dear friend and cooking mentor, Lianne. I managed to get the basic sauce and meatballs into the pot before I picked up the little kids. Win! And, then UGH. I started to sweat. I felt crunched for time when we got home. Brian had a late meeting, so I was on my own.
All I had to do was make the pasta and shred some zucchini for myself and that suddenly felt really hard. I’d promised the kids a make-up trip to the pool but didn’t want to pack everything up. They were bouncing around as they changed. Little balled up socks and underwear were all over the kitchen. They couldn’t have cared less about eating. Meanwhile, I’m stressing about checking the box on some arbitrary challenge I created for myself and asking myself why.
Thursday, Thursday, Thursday. Sweat score = 43.
I was on my own again because Brian was working late. (I should say for the record that is incredibly rare and should have made me reconsider making this “whole foods” week.) I’d been in back-to-back meetings all day (meaning no time for food prep) and had to pick up all of kids. You’d think being reunited with your children after a long day would be a joy. Well, let me tell you, this “joy” of motherhood get sucked right out when it gathering them up takes an hour+ round-trip in Northern Virginia traffic. So even before things got bad, I’d been doubting myself and my plan for the night.
- 2pm: Consider scrapping the whole thing and just going to Panera. I’d forgotten to take out the fish and the dishwasher was already full of dirty dishes- two seemingly little things that felt insurmountable.
- 2:15: Scold myself for being so weak. “Just stick to the plan, just stick to the plan” is the self-talk in my head while nodding politely to my client across the table talking about her upcoming retreat.
- 3:15: Leave client meeting, running behind schedule. Pick up hot and sweaty kid 1 and hotter and sweatier friend 1. Deliver friend 1 to her house and head home for no more than 10 minutes of email to close out the day.
- 5pm: An hour and 45 minutes later, leave to get kids 2 and 3. Tell them in the car that if they cooperate while I’m making dinner I’ll take them to the concert in the park.
- 6pm: Get home. My bribe backfires. The kids start fighting over camp-made slime while commanding Alexa to play Imagine Dragons 45 times in a row. Linc polishes off 4 packets of applesauce while deploying all of his emergency vehicles. He must have had a feeling some shit was about to go down. The firetruck, police car, and ambulance were around my feet.
Meanwhile, I’m frantically trying to bake salmon and bread fish sticks.
I manage to get those in the oven and then read the tater tot recipe for the first time.
The most ridiculous tater tot recipe in the history of the world starts something like this…
Boil your bazillion potatoes and, then while they’re still hot, peel them, grate them, and form little balls with a bunch of other sticky stuff. Gently place your little balls in 100 gallons of boiling oil and poke them softly with a spoon so they cook evenly while the splatters burn off all of the skin on your hands.
No. Just no. Fuck that. I’m sorry. No fucking way. Nobody even really tater tots (this is a lie.) You're a poor excuse for a spud. I fucking hate you food.com. While I’m cussing out this recipe (in my head, Dad!), my salmon caught fire.
I scream. Then, like magic, the kids stop screaming. They look at me. Blinking. If the floor wasn’t so disgusting, I would have literally laid down. Uncle!
- 6:38pm: Wipe a little tear from my eye and put what I have on the table: scraped salmon, fish sticks, every piece of fruit I could find, and a couple of lonely carrots from the bottom of the fridge. For the first time in their lives, my little people had a dinner with no starch. They nibble politely.
- 6:54pm: Walk out the door. Every dish in the house is dirty. Bits of slime, flour, and an ambulance are on the counter.
- 7:04pm: (I'm now settled on our blanket at the park listening to this adorable polka band while the kids play.) Get frantic call from Brian who’s now home and has seen the mess. He’s sure we’re in the emergency room somewhere. “Nope, honey. I just gave up. See you in a few. Kisses!”
- 8pm: Bring happy and still-hungry kids home to a sparkling clean kitchen. Feed them ice cream for dinner and give them extra squirts of chocolate syrup to help erase their memories.
Friday. Sweat score = -8.
We order pizza by the pool while I drink Chardonnay from a paper cup. Life is back to normal and all is well.
Reflecting on the week, here’s what I learned:
- The kids didn’t miss the chips and pretzels. They were fine.
- I CAN bake! I conquered this overnight bread recipe on the second try (and after getting some yeast that was younger than Linc.) It might have been the best thing I’ve ever made. I’ll work on the breakfast sausage and cheddar crackers later in the summer.
- Semi-homemade works for me. Taking a couple of short-cuts saves the whole meal. If I had to do everything from scratch all the time, I’d ‘cry uncle’ and hit the drive-through way more often. That’s a 2017 advancement I think the grandmothers would approve of.
The experience gave me even more respect for Connie, Frances, Emily, and Jesse- four amazing women, our grandmothers. I can only imagine their “sweat score” feeding 27 kids with less money and less time. By the time I got to know them in their 60s, they seemed pretty chill as they sat back with their white zin with an ice cube in it watching their kids (our parents) sweat it out. Circle of life, I guess.
So, what's on the agenda for our Summer "Learn to Try" Challenge for Week 4?
Ride in the first car of a roller coaster. No sweat!
We’re doing a summer “learn to try” challenge with our family. In the ten weeks between me saying “I can’t believe it’s over” school-year edition and “I can’t believe it’s over” summertime edition, we have one new activity planned.
These mini-stretch goals are supposed to be fun. Brian and I want everyone in our house to learn a process for how to try new things. (The things themselves weren’t as important)
That simple process is:
- Prep- learn what you can via a book or video
- Plan- figure out the first couple of steps to take (OMG, I just wrote “determine your approach” as if I was writing one of my federal project proposals without even thinking-bleh), and
- Do- then, like Nike, just do it.
We’ve also done a little post-challenge analysis to talk about what worked and didn’t and what we’d do differently next time. My hope is that the kids get into the practice of seeing new things not as intimidating and impenetrable but just like everything else- something you can try by breaking it down into a couple of do-able steps.
This was a really long lead-in to the preview of what we’re doing this week. We’re eating whole foods for a week- nothing processed. Another way to think about it is, we’re eating like it’s 1947.
This time 70 years ago, all four of our kid’s great grandmothers had young families. By the time it was all said and done a couple years later, Connie, Frances, Emily, and Jesse would together have 27 children. Among them was MaryAnne, Ricky, Lynda, and Jimmie.
What were these little kids eating? Of course, a lot of whole, unprocessed foods. There are a couple of reasons for this: fewer processed foods existed, money was tight, and all four of them had strong beliefs about right and wrong. Food was just one.
Pretending it’s the summer of 1947, here’s our meal plan for the week.
The idea is to make everything from scratch. Okay, okay. Not everything. Instead, the question I'm asking myself is this: would the kids’ great grandmothers recognize this as food?
With that rule of thumb, here are the exceptions:
- Tortillas. Forgetting the regional differences, Connie in San Diego would have definitely seen these before. I'm buying 'em.
- Pasta. It might not have been popular at the time in Alabama or California, but Emily in New Jersey would have had boxes of dried pasta in her pantry. Jesse, being first generation from Italy, was still be making pasta by hand. We’re going with Emily on this one.
- Other exceptions to the no processed food rule include flour, sugar, peanut butter, jelly, and condiments, of course. Yes, that last one might be cheating, but I want my kids to enjoy this and not completely revolt. If a little hetchup helps me accomplish that goal, it’s in.
You’ll notice it’s just dinners. Luckily, the kids are all in camp or daycare serving breakfast and lunch each day. One of the reasons we love these programs is that they already provide whole foods for each meal. We’ll likely do this challenge again once school starts. Marin brought her lunch each day and what I packed gradually deteriorated into a lunchbox filled with little packages over the course of the year ☹
So, I’ll be thinking about Connie, Frances, Emily, and Jessie this week. From what I remember and what I’ve heard from our parents, these women had many things in common. Like so many of their peer group, they were resourceful, worked really, really hard, and made things special for their families every chance they got.
As we kick-off our Week 3 summer “learn to try” challenge, I’m imagining them sitting together- each with a new pair of these awesome shoes and a glass of iced tea- looking down laughing, critiquing, and cheering us on.
To catch and release a lightning bug was our summer “learn to try” challenge of the week.
Like Week 1’s Do a Cartwheel, I thought this was going to be a gimme. And, I was happy about that. I’m easing myself into this new summer routine and congratulating myself each day everyone makes it where they’re supposed to go (various camps, daycare, work, runs, etc.) by 9 am or so.
So, it’s not that catching a lightning bug is hard. It’s just that I never realized how semi-serendipitous it is. Before I get to the story of our bugs, let me back up…
To prepare for this week, we made a trip to the library. We had to go there anyway because the kids needed more books. Marin and Baya are in a fierce competition to see who can fill out the lines on their summer reading lists first. This race isn’t exactly fair for a couple of reasons, but I’m just the supplier in this case- not judging. We loaded up on books with covers that caught their attention. We then moseyed over to the animal section and picked out a couple on fireflies. Linc insisted on getting one on marsupials because you never know when a kangaroo might hop by while we’re out catching bugs. He wanted to be prepared.
We then had like five nights in a row of being busy doing other things. So, our bug catching had to wait.
Finally, it seemed like a good night so we cracked open the books. I immediately put the first one back into the bag- too many words. Seriously, people, I’m not trying to lay here all night reading. The second was much more what I had in mind.
- Fireflies aren’t flies. They’re beetles. (I’d suspected as much because I don't hate them.)
- They blink to find a mate.
- And, they come out at dusk.
As I read this, I looked out the window. It was entirely dark. Oops. We ran outside and wandered around the yard for a while. Nuthin’
That meant corralling the kids back inside with a promise to try the next night.
On our do-over night, we dutifully sat on the front step and waited. The blinks did come, alas they were across the street. We kept looking and hoping to find one in our yard. Nuthin’
Finally, we decided our neighbors wouldn’t mind and we all headed over to catch one and transplant him (and a friend because you know) to our side of the street.
This week’s challenge had me feeling nostalgic and concerned. Growing up, I remember zillions of them in our backyard in Silver Spring, Maryland. Why weren’t there any fireflies in our yard here in Falls Church?* I don’t know.
- Maybe it’s just bad luck
- Maybe it’s our landscaping. We don’t have any “leaf litter” or many low trees or bushes where they seem to enjoy growing up and hanging out.
- But, maybe it's because we get sprayed for mosquitoes. There are conflicting statements on the web but, sadly, it seems to make sense. This article from the Post outlines the possible contributors- include pesticides. It’s something to consider next year.
Now we can check the box “complete” on Week 2’s summer “learn to try” challenge.
The kids seemed to enjoy the release even more than the catch itself. Our pair of bugs wasn’t in the jar for 2 seconds before the girls were hollering to let them go. So, we did. We’re hoping they like our yard. We’d love for them to settle in and raise a family here. As the second took off from the edge of the jar, Marin said, “Go on, little buggy. If I could fly, I’d be up there too.”
*Maryland friends: Yes, I remember many, many more fireflies growing up in Silver Spring than I see now in Falls Church. Settle down. This anecdotal observation isn’t additional evidence add to your very short list of things that make Maryland better than Virginia. Until you have wine in your grocery stores (ALL OF THEM), Virginia will be the better state. Love you! Blink, blink.
Week 1 of our Summer “Learn to Try” challenge was do a cartwheel- or in my case- attempt to do a cartwheel after spending 20 years hunched over a computer.
When we were brainstorming with the kids, I have to admit that I liked it because it sounded easy. I figured I’d show them a couple of YouTube videos, do one myself for old times' sake, and then they'd be off and 'wheeling. That didn’t happen. Here’s what did and the lesson I didn't see coming on coaching your own kid.
Like every other athletic training program I’ve ever started, we began...by sitting comfortably on the couch doing “research.” By this I mean we watched 45+ minutes of YouTube videos like this one. We actually only needed to see one but they were all so cute. We sort of binge watched, and I decided this was going even easier than I thought.
After doing some wrist stretches (as the 8-year-old in the video's advised), we headed outside. We went straight to the front yard because the grass is literally greener and there is no dog poop to dodge. I was feeling so confident that I didn't even mind that everyone in the neighborhood was going to see what we were up to.
Before I go on, I should tell you that this challenge idea came from my oldest daughter Marin. So, not surprisingly, she was the most interested. Correction: She was the only one interested. Baya and Linc were invited to our after-dinner practice session, but they insisted on goofing off, doing somersaults, and playing hide and seek. Even after I explained the purpose of the summer challenge program AGAIN, they didn’t seem to grasp the opportunity.
Because I have a keen eye for indifference and we had no time to waste, I made the right call and cut them from our fledgling gymnastics team. With confused (and relieved) looks, they went back to hide and seek.
With my focus back on Marin, we picked a soft-looking spot and shot this “before” video.
Then came the moment I’d be dreading: my cartwheel- the first in 20+ years. It was harder than I imagined. Being upside down for that split second just reinforced how utterly weak and inflexible I am.
Feeling incapable and deflated, I reminded myself that this challenge was more for Marin and I didn’t need to participate actively. I could coach from the sidelines.
Then, things got tricky.
We went out to the practice field (corner of the front yard) each night last week. She certainly made progress, but the perfect cartwheel didn’t just “snap” into place as I’d imagined it would. As I stood there trying to offer helpful suggestions, I realized I was at a loss for two reasons:
- Cartwheels aren’t my thing either. I didn’t have any specific tips to offer and found myself repeatedly saying “try to straighten your legs more.” Not helpful.
- This was a self-imposed challenge that was supposed to be fun. How hard should I really be pushing her?
On the second point, I’d always assumed that you couldn’t (or shouldn’t?) teach or coach your own kid. So, I emailed my brother-in-law Kenny, explained the situation, and asked for some advice. You should know that Kenny the middle-aged, bald, white-guy version of Bo Jackson. Kenny knows baseball, basketball, football, and karate. He’s been coaching his four sons since birth, and they’re all outstanding athletes.
When I picked up his call, he barely said hello and launched in with: “3 words: DON’T DO IT.” He was joking but this demonstrates how conflicted he is on the topic. When he got serious, he said:
- Know what you’re talking about- or, at least, really sound like you do. You have to have the physical ability and game experience to offer specific, nuanced advice and direction.
- Know yourself and know your kid. You have to be self-aware about your style and know whether or not that works for your kid. Some parents have a one-to-one style match. Both parent and kid respond well to an aggressive “in your face” approach or both have a softer, more nurturing and encouraging tone. Some family pairs are complete opposites. If you have a match, there is a big opportunity to do a lot of coaching. If you don’t, it’s better for everyone to bring in a third party with a coaching style that matches your kid.
- Be able to turn it off. Kenny is the first to admit that he struggles with this. He realizes that he’s in coaching mode 24/7, 365 days a year. He wishes he could turn off his urge to correct his sons’ technique when they’re just goofing off in the yard with friends.
So, why do it at all?
Kenny- like a lot of parents- is proud of his kids and sees their potential. When they hit a home run over the fence or pitch in a championship game, parents like Kenny can’t help but feel happy about their kids’ accomplishments and their role in getting them there. He added there is a greater sense of control over their sports experience and sees the benefit of the extra hours together.
When I asked my nephew Ben (now a pre-teen) what he liked about being coached by his dad, the answer was simple. “We get to work more at home, and he’s very supportive.” What doesn’t Ben like? “When he’s sometimes hard on me.”
The key, according to Kenny, is to figure out quickly how to push them to do their best-- without damaging the relationship.
So, where does this leave me and my ability to coach Marin on her cartwheels? Well, we're going to keep at it but not on any specific time frame. I mean, seriously self, there's no rush to check this little box. I'm also going to do as many as I suggest she do. Lastly, since I'm clearly not the expert, I'll give her a chance to coach me back.
While our cartwheel challenge was small in the scheme of things, it did provide a window into the world of coaching your kid. It’s an entirely different dynamic than regular parenting.
Overall, this was a fun challenge that wasn’t as easy (or engaging) for all as I’d imagined. However, it got us all playing outside with something specific to do- which, for me, was a bonus.
Catching a firefly is up next. More to come next week!
I've included a couple outtakes from practice below.
If the school year is all about learning reading, writing, and math, summer is supposed to be the opposite, right? Summer is messy, sticky, unstructured, unscheduled, made-up fun. At least, that’s how I remember the 80s. And since everything 80s is awesome, I don’t want to stray too far from that free-spirited approach to summer. But, I will, just a bit, with our 10-week summer “learn to try” challenge.
Here’s the scoop.
Our oldest, Marin, just finished kindergarten. So, for our family, this is our first summer on the school schedule. In previous years, the seasons blended together for our kids in the same way they do for adults. Nothing was really different about our routine except what kind of shoe they were told 487 times to put on so we could leave the house.
All of that changed when she got off the bus last Thursday. The last day of school meant the first day of summer, and I felt ready-ish (which means I made a spreadsheet.) Camps and a vacation were booked for each of the ten weeks. Sun-screen permission slips were signed, carpools arranged, dog-sitters reserved, and new flip flops ordered. We also planned to swim and grill and put a serious dent in the summer reading list.
So, what else? We came up with a weekly summer “learn to try” challenge aimed at learning about how to set a goal and try something new. We hope each will be fun and offer a chance to pick up some less-than-academic (but handy) life skills.
Here’s our family-sourced list:
- Do a cartwheel
- Ride a horse
- Cook and eat whole foods for one week
- Ride in the front car on a rollercoaster
- Host a mega dance party
- Spot constellations in the night sky
- Sleep outside in a tent
- Catch (and release) a firefly
- Pick and arrange a bouquet of flowers
- Have a lemonade stand to raise money for A is for Africa
Each week we’ll pick one. While none are particularly challenging in this "challenge," a few require a bit more planning and logistics, so we’re going to be flexible on what we tackle each week. I’ll document the process and take some pictures to share here on the blog.
Come back each week to check on our progress!
It’s June 22th, and I can’t believe it. It’s not June’s fault. I’m just amazed that the month is two-thirds over. And since summer is only three months long, two-thirds of one-third equals, like, some significant portion over. There’s a reason Brian does our taxes.
Today also is this sneaky fox's last day of kindergarten.
Every time I take a precious minute to reflect on time, I feel a little disoriented and out-of-breath. Still all I feel like writing about today is time and how it’s flying but, I won't. We all know it and saying it over and over again doesn't seem to help. There isn’t a thing any of us can do to slow it down, you know, aside from standing in line at Target with a toddler who has to pee. Unfortunately, I can't do that everyday.
So instead of talking about flying time, I'll do what I think Oprah would want me to do and focus on gratitude. And, what specifically am I thankful for this school year? I don't know- a lot.
While my brain was getting warmed up, I asked Marin in my awkward mom-to-6-year-old concept translation, “what happened that made you really happy this year?” Of course, she immediately rattled off all four of the right answers: her teachers, the fun stuff she got to do, meeting new friends, and lunch. And, of course, she’s totally right.
Here are her teachers. They’re seriously awesome. These two people are smart, creative, and infinitely kind. And perhaps most importantly if you have to work in a confined space with 24 people repeatedly calling your name, they are a really fantastic team. We couldn’t have asked for a better start for Marin. They’re so great, in fact, that we're hoping to go kindergarten again with them next year when Baya starts school. Yep. It only took about six months for me to do what I said I never would. I became "that parent" and name-requested these teachers for my kid. Actually, I name-requested these teachers for Brian and I. We're not quite ready to leave Room 2.
To her second point, below are just a handful of the great things she got to do this year. There were field trips, art shows, music shows, high school sports, community events, special classroom guest speakers (Grandma!), and more, more, more. It made me want to be back in elementary school—except as an adult who could drink wine at night with her chicken nuggets after a long day reading, adding, and gluing tiny pieces of paper together.
And yes, she made some new friends. They’re delightful. I get to overhear their hilarious conversations when they compare knowledge on reptiles and Sketchers shoes. They sing loud and demand attendance at impromptu talent shows that, frankly, would benefit from a little more planning and rehearsing.
Lastly, lunch. I guess I understand why she was thankful for food each day but lunch definitely did NOT make my list. Lunch-making must be the most mind-numbing, monotonous task ever. It makes me want to do laundry. Night after night after night, I made the exact same thing: a sandwich with one slice each of ham and turkey (no mayo or nothin’) cut in half and put into the baggie, one bag of Fritos, one Tupperware with fruit, and an occasional stray cookie. It looked nothing like the fresh and colorful bento boxes that all the better moms on the internet were fixing. Sigh.
In addition to Marin's list, there are a handful of other things I’m thankful for…
I'm thankful for the couple extra minutes she and I had by ourselves on my drop-off and pick-up days. I'm not sure what we did with this time except take a lot of silly selfies.
I'm also thankful for these two. Seriously, they’re wonderful friends and are the only reason we never missed the bus. Not once. People who know me know what a truly remarkable feat this is. They’re like a Swiss train and could be counted on to be on our corner at precisely 8:10 every day with a cheerful “good morning!”
I’m also thankful for our community and how everyone just shows up- both literally and figuratively- for our kids and each other.
Last but not least, I’m thankful for Brian. Few people know his "less is more" communication style was the inspiration behind Twitter’s 140-character limit. And though he says few words, the ones he does make a ton of sense.
So, I might not be able to stop time but I can say thank you for the gifts. Through the blur, it was a truly been a wonderful school year.
Some people don’t like them, but I won’t eat dinner without ‘em. It’s not just about whining-prevention- they enhance the experience.
The picture below is the line-up from the other night. These jars and bottles are patiently waiting to be transferred to the dining room by wobbly little, table-setting gnomes.
I'm not sure it matters but I'll tell you anyway. We were having salmon, potatoes, peas, salad, and watermelon... and each of these condiments was ESSENTIAL! Here's the issue. I’ve gone way back to basics recently with cooking so I don't have to consult a recipe amidst the chaos that's common in my kitchen. This basics-only approach frees up the time and mental energy I need to repeatedly yell, "BACK up, that’s hot!”
So, our dinners are super simple: a protein, veggie or starch for the kids, salad, and fruit. It’s like eating an outfit from the Gap. Because the menu is so dull on it's own, accessories become pretty important. That's why at Chez Camarote, we have a "thing" for condiments.
Allow me to make some introductions.
I’ll start with the reining king and queen: ketchup and honey mustard. Purchased separately, these two are always combined on the plate to make “hetchup.” Hetchup goes great with everything. From fish sticks to apple slices, my kids don’t eat without it. These two darlings are so essential to dinner that we keep backups in the pantry. Running out of one would mean one of parents would be running out to the store for more. If you look closely in the picture above, you can see the ketchup top is broken. That was my fault. Those bottles get slippery after being handled by thirty small, slimy fingers. I was trying to put it away the other night when it hit the kitchen floor head first. Now Linc reminds everyone, every single dinner that “Mommy broke the ketchup. It was an accident. No problem.” Aw, thanks bud. It's like he's heard those words himself 1,000 times before.
Butter. While a condiment in most people’s book, butter is considered a side in our house. The dish goes to the table last. Forget knives and matches; my kids require constant supervision around butter. Without one of us hovering, they’d eat an entire stick with their bare hands. We're so proud.
The olives, sundried tomatoes, and feta in the back were for me. I love Greek salad more than I should admit. I have fantasies of someday laying on the beach in Mykonos on a bed of spring mix with a bottle of SPF15 vinaigrette. I'm alone.
Remoulade. I have a problem. I love having stuff and hate clutter at the same time. I’m in a constant cycle of buying and then immediately trying to get rid of whatever I just purchased. I got this remoulade for crab cakes a month ago. It was pretty good, but we’re not getting through it fast enough. In fact, there has been no progress in weeks. I keep just putting it on the table hoping someone (the kids, maybe) will be confused, think it’s hetchup, and eat some. No such luck.
Panera salad dressing. This cutie is just one of five siblings that live in our fridge. One more trip to Target and I'll have the complete set. I love Panera. I love their salads. And, I love that I can now buy their dressings at the store. Store-bought dressings are such a gamble. With these, I already know how they taste. Delicious.
One of my “go to” homemade dressings, a jar of pesto, and a ramekin of dijonnaise complete the picture.
- The dressing in this recipe is super simple: lemon, garlic, onion, Dijon, and olive oil. It’s like my hetchup. It truly can go on anything.
- I’ve talked before about my love of pesto and Ina Garten. I typically use this on eggs, but it can parachute in to save any other boring protein on a moment’s notice. It’s another one that’s always in the fridge.
- Lastly, I throw together the yummy mayo/Dijon combo just for salmon. If you like patronizing recipes, here’s “expert advice” how to assemble these 2-ingredients from Epicurious. Thanks, assholes.
Salt might be the spice of life, but there are an army of condiments in the running for second place. I don’t know how we’d get through our meals without them.
What about you? What are some of your must-haves for dinner?
(especially when she asked nicely, and you’re not doing shit)
I occasionally ask my husband to take my picture like when I've just given birth to our first child, or I just got my haircut. It’s a rare request and here’s why. He acts like a big baby about it and doesn’t do a very good job.
So, when there is an urgent need to document a moment and a random stranger isn’t available, I take a deep breath, quickly lower my expectations, and say, “Hey honey, can you take a picture with my phone?”
A perfectly fine and nice way to ask, right? I think so but...
I know what’s going to happen next. First, I get an eye roll. Next, he puts his hand out like I’m giving him a dirty diaper. And then, I have .2 seconds to get ready. Sometimes, he’s not even looking at me or the camera. I know going in that he only has the energy to take one. It’s like it’s 1987 and we must conserve film to avoid another trip to Rite-Aid in the Taurus. So, before he halfheartedly clicks, I make a little wish to the universe that it turns out okay. It never does. Let me show you.
Below is the picture he took last Saturday of me and my lovely friend and neighbor, Jen. At least, I’m pretty sure it’s Jen. It’s hard to tell because it’s WAY too dark. No filter is going to fix this. Our other neighbor’s house looks great though.
Here’s another example. Now, I should have set this up better and just swiveled around on the stool. I blame both Brian and sleep deprivation for missing this chance to document baby Linc and I bonding over our love of stripes.
Aw, here’s one with me and my girls after hiking up a large-ish hill to see this waterfall. It’d be an okay picture except my eyes are closed. Of course, that’s not technically his fault either. But can anyone explain why he is only capable of shooting a single picture?! Asking for a tap, tap, tap is apparently too, too, too much.
Here’s one of me and my friend Liz getting ready to run a half marathon. I specifically asked him to get the start line in the background. Check. But in the excitement, I apparently forgot to ask for her lower jaw, as well. She has a chin but I guess you’ll just have to take my word for it.
An actual photographer told me once to be careful not to indiscriminately cut off limbs in pictures. Subconsciously, it makes people uncomfortable. I see his point. This picture makes me squeamish, but that might be because I look like a hard-boiled egg.
Let's move on.
Here’s a recent shot of the extended family heading out for a wedding. It’s not often that we’re all together in metallics. Let me be clear about my issue with this picture. Yes, my daughter Baya was distracted by something on TV. Annoying but no problem. Kids are kids, and they’re notoriously difficult to pin down for posed pictures. I have 7,256 pictures on my phone that prove that point.
No, my issue with this picture is that a large sea creature appears to be either sucking my brains or telling me a secret. Either way, I don't like it.
Again, I take responsibility for not anticipating this problem with the background in advance. However, a little input from his vantage point would have been welcomed. He doesn't robotically execute any of the rest of my commands so, why just this?
Brian didn't actually take this last example. (I’d already cropped the fuck out of the similar ones on my camera.) However, they're worth including because they illustrate a common problem: WAY too much background.
My otherwise darling brother-in-law, Mike, took these pictures of my sisters and me after lunch (and a lot of rose) at their house. Mike is very smart and has an actual Ph.D.-- just obviously not in photographic composition.
He took a couple pictures and proudly handed the phone back. Upon getting clear and immediate feedback about the amount of brick wall, he did something interesting though. He smiled and took the camera back to try again. He then shot 22 more identically bad pictures, but I appreciated the effort. He’s Canadian.
In the hopes of getting a different reaction to my most recent request, I tried a different tactic. I told Brian that the picture was for his mom. I was thinking he'd see the obvious value in having two women he cares about happy at the same time. No such luck. The words he said back were deeply concerning. “No need. I send her pictures of the kids all the time.”
So, Lynda. Mrs. Camarote. I’m sorry. I didn’t realize that was happening. If you don’t mind, please delete everything he’s sent you over the years. I'll forward a new batch straight away. Forget whether they’re too dark, too far away, or oddly cropped, you shouldn’t be receiving any pictures that aren't prescreened for cuteness and cleanliness. If any made you think the carpet needing vacuuming, I assure you that’s not the case. It’s an optical illusion created by your son’s crappy photography.
I’m occasionally surprised. It doesn’t often happen because I have ESP. A fortune teller told me so. When I asked her directly if I had psychic powers like hers, she said, “a little bit” which means I do. Being psychic is like being pregnant. You are, or you aren’t. I think she downplayed my abilities because she worried I’d set up shop next door and steal away business with my lower rates. She also might have been a little thrown off by the fact that I didn’t ask anything about future love or money.
Anyway, it’s not a good sign that this post got so off-track so fast. I sat down to write about gardening.
We have a garden. It consists of 3, 4x8 foot raised beds. The royal "we" grows lettuce, herbs, tomatoes, peppers, and snow peas. So, that’s the thing. This garden is totally my husband, Brian’s, baby. I just get to enjoy the veggies of his labor.
So, what was the surprise? I’ve known Brian for roughly a gazillion years—which seems funny because I still sometimes think of him as my new boyfriend. Kisses, honey! When we met, he was an government IT cost estimator. Yes, that’s the job and, yes, I’m pretty sure that’s what he wanted to be when he grew up in New Jersey. He drove a Porshe and liked to shop. Actually, I don’t know if he liked to shop, but he liked to dress nicely. You could blindfold and spin him around in the middle of Brooks Brothers, and he’d be able to find a matching shirt and tie. He just didn’t strike me as someone who’d dig in the dirt.
Years later when he floated the idea of starting a garden, I was taken aback. I was so shocked, in fact, that I immediately called my mom (master gardener) and said, “Get this! Brian wants a garden! Hahahahahahaha.” By sharing this detail, I set into motion a series of events I should have been able to predict. My parents immediately packed up their car with all the materials, soil, and seedlings he’d need to get started. It was like reliving the moment when he asked for their blessing before getting engaged, they saw their opening and sprung into action- perhaps afraid he’d change his mind?
They helped get everything set up and then we waited. Even with my parents' help that first year, I wasn’t terribly optimistic. How was this going to work? How were we actually going to grow stuff?
Then, I was surprised again. Most everything we planted grew, and it was fun. And this about when my interests diverged from Brian’s. He leaned into the work: the strategies, planning, building, buying, weeding, watering, pruning, checking, and nurturing. I conserved my energy for clicking on recipe sites. That’s it- no surprise there. Four years later, it’s a pretty good system.
So, if you’re looking for actual gardening advice, I have none. Instead, I might offer some words of encouragement. From where I sit on the patio watching with a glass of wine and cookbook in hand, gardening doesn’t look that hard. Your husband could totally do it too. The kids seem to enjoy it and are presumably learning some valuable lessons about where food comes from. Though, I mostly just see them fighting over whose turn it is to squirt the hose.
Here are some pictures from where our garden is now.
Apparently, this is what happens when you dump an entire package of seeds- just to see. Surprise!
We also have kale for green smoothies and herbs creeping along. In the come weeks, we’ll probably have some snap peas. Sometime in July, I’ll be wishing fresh mozzarella grew on trees because we’ll be inundated with tomatoes. And when it’s too late in September, I’ll think about how nice it would be to have planted Halloween pumpkins.
Although rare, surprises like this can be fun- and delicious.
So, you think YOU’RE a procrastinator? I had this baby in a car.
It was just about 5am, and I was in the front seat. My husband Brian- completely calm- was driving about 80 miles per hour towards the hospital. Though we were only a few miles away, I knew we weren’t going to make it. The speck of my brain that was still thinking rationally was telling me not to push. But when I say I had to, I HAD to. It’d be cliché (and not quite right) to say it was like trying to stop a train. It was more like I’d jumped off the high-dive and changed my mind mid-air. There was just no way to stop this gravity-like force. The baby was coming out whether I was in the stirrups or not.
My body took over, and after a couple of hard pushes, the head was in my yoga pants. Then slip, slip, slip as they do, the rest came out. I pulled the little body to my chest. There was no cry but just the sound of strong, raspy breathing in my ear and my husband casually turning to me to ask, “Is this where we turn?”
Minutes later, we pulled into the ambulance bay at in front of the emergency room. Brian got out to tell someone, anyone. I sat there stunned and alone with this new baby. We were now in the light, and I could see it was a boy. It was Lincoln!
The only thought I had was, “thank god it’s over.” The pain, I mean, the pain. The chaos of the emergency room, the doctors and nurses, the car mess, wondering if my mom had made it to our house, and the transition to being parents of three, three and under was just starting.
Within seconds the car was surrounded by dozens of people- including several people who appeared to come from the waiting room (like that guy on the far right!) The emergency room doctor opened the car door and said, “Hi Mom, how are we doing?” And before I could answer he started giving instructions to someone else, “…I need an OB kit with a plastic clamp…”
I looked up at him and said, “The cord is still attached.” The look on his face said, ‘Dumb Ass: You’re the one sitting in the front seat of a car with your pants down in front of 25 people holding a slippery baby. Who’s the idiot here?’ Instead, he just said, “I know.”
From there it was a blur. I got on the rolling bed. Hospital staff checked me, and they checked Lincoln. Fine and fine. They patted Brian on the back and handed him a pack of industrial-sized wipes and wished him good luck with the car. Not so fine.
I briefly wondered if they’d let us stay. They did. (As a side note for anyone considering this strategy to save money, please don’t. You pay twice.) Anyway, we then went up to Labor and Delivery to get our ice packs and paper underwear. We were completely average again.
When I tell people this story, they immediately ask, “Are you kidding?” When they realize I’m not, they ask, “How did this happen?”
My canned answer is that he just came really fast. That’s sort of true. The reality is that I didn’t leave my house in time. It was my third pregnancy and I was totally “fucking over it.” This is the actual medical term for the 40th week of gestation. (The language only gets more colorful for those moms who go into week 41 and beyond.) I was big, worn out, generally sweaty, and anxious to meet this baby.
Leading up to my due date that holiday weekend, I put my multi-pronged eviction strategy into effect. Brian and I did a 4-mile hike and I'd tried on clothes from my Stitch Fix. I’d had labor-induction foot massages and was eating a whole pineapple per day. The day before, we took the girls to the zoo, set them up with art projects outside, and then walked to dinner.I was trying everything Google suggested- except for the “Italian method” which was out of the question.
I was trying everything Google suggested- except for the “Italian method” which was out of the question. The problem with using any multi-pronged approach is that you have no idea what works. So, I’m sorry. When I approach in line at the grocery store with unsolicited advice, I’ll tell you to try it all too.
The night labor started, the signs were there. I’d woken up with contractions. I laid there for a while switching between timing them on my phone and reading about Lucky Lindy in “One Summer: America, 1927” by Bill Bryson. I’d hoped this would be a funny distraction, it wasn’t. The contractions came every 18 minutes, then every 12, then 7. When I got up to go the bathroom and get a drink, suddenly it was 5, 4, 3, 2… grunt. I had the urge to push and knew I then I was officially running late.
My mom wasn’t yet there to watch the girls, our doula was 45 minutes away, and I hadn’t even called the midwife yet. When labor started, I’d hesitated. I knew as soon as I made all those calls, several people were going to spring into action. I didn’t want to bother anyone until I was sure. By the time I was certain, it was too late. I kind of set myself up.
Oh well. They say, and I believe it, that- all’s well that ends well. Linc’s arrival was dramatic but uncomplicated. The girls slept through the whole thing- only waking up after grandma had arrived. Brian was able to trade in the car without having to confess to its gory past. And, of course, we got another great kid to go with a story we’ll never forget.
My typing fingers are still pruney after my run this morning. I was soaked.
Like many, managing work and life for me means striking a balance between my plans and staying flexible and open to whatever might come. I set my running schedule for the week on Sundays, and it’s one of the few things that I try to stick to no matter what. So some days, that means I’m out in the driving rain looking like a fool. That was today.
A couple of things from my week:
- I came across this playlist with the 100 most (surely subjective) uplifting songs in Apple Music and am loving it. If you’re looking for something different for your workout or commute, you might enjoy it too. Which, by the way, my toddler unwittingly bought Apple Music for me when playing with my phone a couple of months ago. I’ve never gone back in to cancel because it does come in handy when you need the latest Kids Bop tune in a hurry.
- I met a man named Noah Currier this week. He’s a paralyzed vet and entrepreneur who created Oscar Mike, a rad t-shirt company. He has an inspiring story that you can check out on his site’s “About” page here. In short, he started the company six years ago as a way to fund other paralyzed vets’ participation in the adaptive sporting events and adventure races he credits with saving his life. I snagged a shirt this morning and am looking forward to the next sunny day to wear it.
- Lastly, the Kentucky Derby is tomorrow! I don’t care for juleps, and my only suitable hat is rather unspectacular. However, this is one of the few sporting events I look forward to each year. My kids and I have a complicated horse-selection process that starts with the question- Is there a filly in the field? If not, we move on to picking by saddle blanket color and horse name. We'll be watching and doing some friendly betting with neighbors tomorrow.
Employee morale is often taken for granted until it's too late. One proactive leader wrote and asked me how to improve and keep spirits high at work. Here are my thoughts...
In short- think connection, recognition, and resolution. These are the three essential pieces to building and keeping morale high.
I got a question from a reader last week about how to prepare for his boss's return to work from maternity leave. I answered here with some help from my little guy, Linc.
For the team welcoming someone back into the office after any extended absence: let them set the pace. Ask when when and how they get briefed on what's happened while they were out and then honor those wishes the best you can. By the middle of the second week, the person transitioning back into work should largely have their routine down and start feeling somewhat "normal."
Answering this question, though made me think about the flip side-- what if you're the one coming back?
My take is this. When coming back from maternity leave, your first two words in the office should be, "thank you." And you should mean it.
Some (thankfully few) returning moms come back with the completely wrong attitude. If you expect to be an exception to the rule now that you have a family at home, think again. Of course, no one would say this out loud. However, thinking you're owed something because you're a mom now becomes obvious when your problems suddenly become everyone else's to solve. Spreading this unique brand of entitlement around the office only fuels frustration and resentment on your teams. And if you're the boss? Woah, it's just worse. Avoid the heartache and hassle with a little appreciation for everything that was accomplished in their absence.