Tuesday, May 27, 2014

A little boost goes a long way!

So as you all know, this blogging world is very new to me. It has really been fun to explore and learn new things. I have enjoyed sharing with this wide open world out there. The hard part is feeling like I am spending energy and time doing this and it just goes out there into the ether. To no one? To anyone? Sometimes it feels like I am connecting with others and then other times it feels kind of lonely. Sound crazy? 

Anyway, today I got a note from a friend saying "Love your blog :) Proof below!" with this picture attached. 

A friend's refrigerator with my "Alone Time" post in action! 

It was just the boost I needed to keep at this fun new gig! Plus I absolutely adore her dual purpose turtle magnet with a bottle opener! I am so happy something is resonating with someone. 

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Landscaping with Kids in Mind

Mikey and I are embarking on a landscaping project at our house. We are so excited to refresh our space and modernize the feel of our outdoor world. A big componet of our outdoor space is kid zone since we have little ones now and will for quite some time. 

Here are some concepts for a kid friendly outdoor space I have found. Does anyone else have ideas on how to incorporate kid friendly elements into a nice backyard? 

Love this concept of adding a removable cover to a firebowl. Keeps  kids safe during the times it isn't being used and also doubles as a table for warm day parties! 

This kids zone in a back yard is just plain awesome. The hanging wall chalk board looks like something my kids would enjoy playing with.  

How cool is this multi-level kid space. My kids really enjoy climbing and I think this is a great use of a hill in a backyard. Pretty cool. 

Digging in the sand must be Harrison's all time favorite thing. I like the idea of this raised planter box being used for sand. Long term when the kids are done with the digging phase it could easily turn into a veggie box. 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Chaos Remedy

Love this card from my BFF. I keep it on my desk so when I am in the crazy I am reminded of the good stuff in life. Plus a little sparkle never hurt anyone! 

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

New Reality: Work During Maternity Leave

For all three of my kids, I had very clear maternity leave plans. My partner, firm and clients all knew the plan. I knew the plan. But I didn't follow it. I was and am addicted to working on so many levels. Work is wrapped up in who I am. 

The kids welcoming Hannah home from the hospital. 

Does that mean I missed out on my babies when they were brand new? Probably. Am I sad about that? Yes and no. That sounds terrible.

I think the reality of maternity leave for women like me (and maybe some not like me at all) is that work doesn't really stop. Yes, there are plans and ways to minimize responsibility or people to transfer some work to but all of it doesn't just take care of itself. So when I was on all three maternity leaves, I checked email daily. Yep, daily. Even the first week after each baby was born. In a way, that first week is easier to check email than at two months. Brand new babies sleep all the time and have you up at crazy hours when no one else is awake. Two month old babies are alert, interested and have pretty regular schedules. 

What's my point here? 

I guess my point is that maternity leave isn't really a "true" leave anymore. Cell phones, lap tops and the feeling of being constantly connected is pretty normal these days. Same goes for people's vacations. People don't turn off. Some might have the choice but they still elect to stay connected. For me, that connection to the office kept part of who I was before the baby(ies) alive. It kept me grounded. At the same time, that connection to the office probably held me back from bonding with my babies in the most significant way possible. 

My opinion on this is mixed. I love the idea of a working person having total flexibility to stay connected from wherever whenever. I love the idea that people can strive to "do it all." I don't think the expectation from a company, boss or colleagues for accessibility during a time like new motherhood (or fatherhood for that matter) is okay. I have been lucky that my business partner didn't expect my addiction to being connected. I am sure there was appreciation of me staying in the loop, but not an expectation. That is a big difference. 

At the end of the day, I think we all need to openly acknowledge this shift in the realities of maternity leave. Women need to be honest with their willingness or lack of willingness to be connected during maternity leave. Hopefully people can make these decisions before they are in it and stick with it. Make a choice about how clear they want the line in the sand to be. I choose a pretty fuzzy line and it worked for me. 

I'm curious how fuzzy other people's connection to the office was during their maternity leave. Any one want to share?  

Monday, May 19, 2014

Wildfires Impact on My Bubble

Last week in San Diego made national news. The wild fires the randomly broke out across our county were absolutely devastating. At one point there were nine fires burning within 10 miles in a densely populated area of the county. Thankfully, the local, State and even the Marine Core all deployed resources to combat this situation. 

The effect on everyone was different. For our family, we were safe and sound in our little coastal town. But my mom, brother and our beloved nanny and her family all got evacuated from their homes. I have had this experience myself back in 2007 in the last major firestorm. Being evacuated from a home is a big deal. The emotional roller coaster is wild. I am lucky that in both situations, my home and the homes of my immediate circles all remained safe. For all those less fortune, I wish there was something I could do to help.

The impact in my bubble was big in its own way. I was a "stay at home mom" on Friday. Wow. I have played this role once before but I am very inexperienced at this gig. The last time I tried it, I only had two kids and I had trouble with it. Friday was a loooooong day for me! 

Reflecting on this day has yet again proven my ultimate respect for anyone who manages kids all day long. During the day, there were a lot of wonderful moments where I thought to myself... This is going pretty well; maybe I could actually do this or Wow, these kids are amazing. But all of that lovely talk was overshadowed by them countless times they were running in opposite directions, pulling hair, putting a blanket over the baby's face and ultimately, me loosing my cool and screaming to STOP IT. STOP IT NOW!  

I really wish I was great at being a mom. I work really hard at it. I take parenting classes, I engage with my kids teachers to learn from them and learn about my kiddos, I try. I try really hard. The effort I put forth is a step in the right direction but I still have a long way to be good at this parenting gig. Maybe everyone feels like this? I don't know, but Friday made me feel like a total failure on the parenting role I play. 

The weekend came and I still struggled. Was it because my routine and the kids routine got thrown off? Was it because I really need to have my independence from the family life? Maybe I was just tired and "off." I wish I knew. What I do know is that I am thankful for my family, everyone is safe and really happy to be back at the office! 

Happy Monday. 

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Middle Child Play Dates

Let's be honest, the middle child has a tough gig. Harrison is our middle. When Hannah arrived, our pediatrician gave us the advice that he is now a big brother and a little brother, a very special role in the family. We have been doing our best to keep that attitude and language with him but it is hard. It is also pretty easy to see how middle children get "stuck" sometimes. 

Harrison "monkeying" around on his playdate at the Zoo.

Hadley is so vocal and eager to push her agenda. Hannah on the other hand has such immediate needs that she is often quite compelling. Then there is sweet Harrison. Not quite as skilled of a negotiator as Hadley and more self efficient than Hannah. I am starting to see this dynamic in action. Mike and I have really made a concerted effort to make sure he is heard, he gets what he needs and he has special time with each of us. 

One area I noticed lacking was his social calender. He isn't interested enough in play dates yet to proactively request them. But when Hadley was three she had lots of social interactions planned by me or our nanny. So Hadley continues on her social parade and poor Harrison is stuck at home with a baby. 

So I reached out a friend with a little guy the same age as Harrison who also has a big sister. We both chatted about how these second kids get less play dates just by the nature of the big kid's demands. Then she offered to do play dates with Harrison and her little guy when the big sisters were at school. This has turned out to be so awesome. Both the boys get so excited for their very own play dates. I am lucky my friend is carrying the load since our nanny still has the baby which is pretty limiting. 

I am so grateful for a circle of friends and families willing to pitch in to help each other. I hope to return the favor in a way I can someday soon. 

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Wish for My Kids

This quote from Oprah strikes me as just right. "Follow your passion. It will lead to your purpose." My wish is for this passion pursuit will lead to great happiness for my kids. 

Side note: I was perusing some old pictures and came across these ones from when Harrison was about three months old. Time flies so fast!! Look how little Hadley was. She was a pretty adorable 2 year old! 

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Belize Adventure

Belize was pretty incredible! I definitely recommend it for an adventure for couples. It is doable for families. Our kiddos travel well but all the plane rides and boat rides did push our limits. 

Writing about this adventure has puzzled me a bit. So for now, I have decided to share the journey via the amazing images taken by Tara and Matt Theilen. They are truly creative genius photographers and a TON OF FUN to travel with!! I think they did a fantastic job capturing our family in motion. 

Monday, May 12, 2014

Jiggly Legs

Today was the day I finally did it. I finally got a work out in after being back to work full time. I have been back full-time since March 31st... so it is looooong over due. This is my greatest challenges in trying to balance family, work and anytime for myself. Usually, when I have a free hour I sleep, drink wine or go grocery shopping! 

But a few friends on the block workout every Monday morning and invited me to join. I said I would go last week, but last Sunday night Hadley had an asthma attack so I was up ALL NIGHT LONG. So last Monday morning workout quickly turned into a Starbucks run before getting to the office. 

Today I actually did it. I moved. Now my legs are all jiggly from such an intense workout after not really moving for over a month. Tomorrow is going to hurt. But right now, I feel great for following through and doing something good for my health. Plus summer is right around the bend. It also feels great to start Monday off with a bang! 

Friday, May 9, 2014

Mothers Day Messages

As a mother, I appreciate my own mother and grandmother more each day. The perspective is so dramatically different it still catches me off guard. This week at school the kids made adorable handmade gifts for me. Priceless.

The messages, transcribed by their teachers are so telling. So insightful into my babes' minds. Each of their messages were wonderful but stung in a way too. Harrison's message: 

"My mommy is beautiful because she has licorice. Licorice is candy... I love it so much. My mommy sprays the hose to clean very good. I love doing truck puzzle with mommy. My mommy is so pretty because her blue eyes... Blue eyes." 

Who knew he liked licorice? Or that I ate it often enough to be memorable! I love doing puzzles with him too but I do not have blue eyes. I wonder if he says this because he has blue eyes? Or if because the whole family does except me. Hmmm. 

Hadley's message was telling too. The sting was more like a bite. 

"My mom is 16 years old. 
My mom likes to work. 
The best thing she cooks is pasta. 
Her favorite thing to relax... A little music. 
She is really good at knitting... So is my grandma." 

I guess I have to take the good with the bad. Only 16! But I like to work. Why does Hadley knowing and acknowledging that I "like" to work "bite" me? It hurts. It makes me sad. But it is true. Maybe I want her to see me for the mom I am when I am with her. Yet she is keenly in-tune with who I am when I am away too. Maybe even more so. 

Cheers to Friday afternoon sunshine and a wonderful Mother's Day with family. 

Ps - Isn't the pasta necklace Hadley made me awesome??!! 

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Book: Never Eat Alone

Today I was reminded of a great business book I read about creating relationships. It is called Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi. Years ago I hired him to speak at a conference for some sales professionals and he rock'd it. His whole theory is about building intimate relationships quickly so both people can benefit one another. 

There is a chance people take his concept a little too literally and create a bunch of "fake" and only self-serving relationships. That would be a shame. But if you approach relationships in a genuine way, his tips can be extremely beneficial personally and professionally. He also has some great tips on how to stay connected with people even if you can't spend a lot of time with them. 

The phrase "never eat alone" resonates with me. I use meal times as a time to really connect with my family, colleagues, friends and clients. Mike and I love hosting dinner parties mixed with people who all love each other already or who we know will love one another. Connecting people is fun! 

Private vs Public

The question of what is private and what is public has become much more prevalent since I started writing this blog. When I decided to start writing publicly, I knew I had to make a choice about what was public. But until I actually starting publishing and proactively sharing it didn't become real. 

Love this quote. "A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats." I hope to contribute to the tide.

Recently, I have received a lot of comments in my personal circles that are closely associated with my career. Everyone has been very positive about my work here at Blazers and Babies but they wonder how it will impact my real job. The women in particular seem to be enjoying reading about the challenges I face in my combo world but admit they wouldn't write as freely as I have been. A few have cautioned with me that I might be sharing too much for the type of career I have. Hmmmm. They might be right. 

There is always risk with sharing personal thoughts publicly. Heck, there is even risk sharing your personal opinions at a dinner party. People all have so many opinions. People judge. 

So I wanted to be clear with myself and anyone taking the time to read. I do have a line in the sand. Here it is: If I were at lunch with anyone (strangers and clients included) I would share openly about my life. About my struggles. About my good days. I would trust my openness would receive reciprocal openness. 

On a blog, there isn't much reciprocation (except in the comments people post) so that is tough to judge. But I want to be open here. I want to be honest, genuine and real. I don't only want to share the good stuff. I want to open discussions about tough topics. I think there needs to be more openness about the world I live in. 

So I take this risk boldly. If anyone has a problem with it, let me know. Otherwise, I write on!! 

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Look Alikes

I think Hadley and Hannah look alike. Here is a picture of both of them at 2.5 months. Pretty cute! Sisters! 

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Way too close to home

Today I found out a friend of mine's daughter was recently diagnosed with Leukemia. I am in shock. Complete shock. How? Why? How can I actually help her and her family? I am sure they will need meals and some practical things. But is there any way to actually make a positive impact? A way to make the hospital environment more like home? 

I need to think about this. Hard. I am so sad. 

I'm gonna take a break from this one... 

Since I was so stuck on if there was anything I could "do" I decided to Google "how do you support a family with a child with cancer?" Just typing out this question made me feel like I might have a chance to "do" something. Why is my reaction this need to "do"? 

Regardless, my search returned this great blog post from a woman who went through one of her daughters having Leukemia. She gives five ways (outlined below) to support a family dealing with childhood cancer. It made me realize, there are a few things to "do" but really, just reaching out to show support and love will go a long way. 
  1. Don't just ask; do. 
    • Taking initative. Simple things but just go ahead and put it out there. 
  2. Give a gift card. 
    • Financial stress for these families is very real. Anything helps. One of the comments included a suggestion to buy gift cards for the hospital parking lot or cafeteria. 
  3. Don't forget siblings.
    • Light bulb for me. The siblings would love some extra attention. Maybe a play-date or a new toy too. 
  4. Help later. 
    • Like me, most hear this news and want to spring into action. It is great to help along the whole long road. 
  5. Say something. 
    • I can relate to the "not knowing what to say" syndrome but I must say something now, often and through the entire journey. 

Lemons are Cute!

Aren't these the cutest lemon note cards ever? When I saw the fresh yellow, it just made me excited for summer. So I went for it and ordered some from minted... so cute! 

Note: It is possible to get these in time for mothers day but it would cost an arm and a leg (aka $24.95 just for shipping). Anyone have any good Mother's Day gift ideas for last minute people like me??? 

Monday, May 5, 2014

Philosophy: Kids as a Part – Not the Whole

So many parents get completely consumed with their kids. I get this. It is a very natural reaction to having a baby enter your life and “take over” your entire world. Before we had Hadley, we were on vacation in Asia. Actually, the timing for this trip was pretty incredible. We found out about being pregnant the night before we got on the plane to Beijing. Pretty mind blowing. During that trip, we consciously decided not have our kids be the entire center of our life.

Obvious: Great Wall of China. 
We still wanted to live as a couple, and as individuals. We made a similar commitment to one another when we were getting married. In order for us to be a happy couple, we had to be happy individuals first. This commitment is part of the reason I write this blog today.

In my opinion, the same goes for introducing kids into a marriage. The kids need to be incorporated into your life as a couple, not your marriage into the baby’s world. Yes, at first that is a little crazy. But after just a couple weeks, we started bringing Hadley with us to dinner at least once a week. Now yes, this “date night” wasn't the same as it was before Hadley but she was becoming a part of us, extending our family. Over time, Hadley would stay home with Gammy or a sitter so Mike and I could have a true date night… to really connect with each other. Then when she was 6 months, we took a big leap. Most of our friends, and most parents would think we were nuts. We left our baby, our adorable baby, and went to Argentina for 10 days.  

Mikey and me making a wish for our family's future. 
 We applied the same approach when Harrison came and overall it kept working. We did date nights and trips abroad. We are trying to keep it alive now that we have three kids under five. A new challenge! So far no big trips without our "posse" in toe, but soon enough I know it will happen. 

Now this philosophy really isn't about travel at all. It is about kids being a HUGE part of our day and the biggest focus of our time but not everything. I think there is a big difference here. Here is why…. I want to be a mom, but I don’t want to be a single mom. I want my kids to have a dad in their daily life. I want their dad to be my husband. I also want to be happy… so the marriage has to be healthy. So here is my order of priority.
  1. Me (I know this sounds selfish, but without this, how can I be a good wife and mom?)
  2. Mikey
  3. Kids
All three, are webbed into a family circle, always connected. But each person has their own sphere of influence on the circle, contributing or depleting from the whole.

Disagree?  I would love to hear why. Please post your thoughts on if kids should be first on the priority list? Or if the marriage/spouse should come first? 

Friday, May 2, 2014

Chicago Family Style

Chicago is one of the best cities in the world to visit. Last Fall, Mike and I went there for a wedding and decided to take our kids with us to explore the city. It was a wonderful family adventure. Here are some of the details if you are considering a trip to Chicago. 

Double rainbow and lake view from our hotel. 
The key to traveling with a family in a city is a good hotel. It doesn't need to be glamours, but you need a great location and a good amount of space so everyone doesn't go nutty. For our Chicago trip we stayed at the Embassy Suites on North Columbus Drive and suited our needs perfectly. The rooms actually have a bedroom with two beds and a small living space which made it possible for Mike and I to hang out after the kids were in bed. The hotel included a great buffet breakfast that offered custom omelettes, bagels, some cereals our kids normally don't get to have and donuts. HUGE hit! Having breakfast at the hotel is a key with our kids because otherwise they melt down before the day even begins. 

One of our first stops was Navy Pier and the Chicago Children's Museum. Navy Pier is one of those places you have to visit but it is a classic tourist trap. We wandered around and the kids loved it, but we didn't stay long. What we LOVED was the children's museum. It was remarkable. They had so much to explore for a wide range of kids ages. Our kids loved their hands on exhibits. If we had been smarter, we would have bought an annual pass and come back every day of our trip. That was the favorite thing for both our kids and we barely scratched the surface of what it had to offer. 

Chagall's Windows at the Art Institute of Chicago
I am big art lover. So I made my entire family go to the art institute. The one thing I wanted to see in person was Chagall's windows. They blew my mind. This picture, or any picture, doesn't even come close to capturing their beauty. I could have stared at them for hours but my belly was pretty big with Baby H#3, my feet hurt and my kids were running around like wild banshees! Once I got my fix, we wandered through the museum to the kids section. I was pleasantly surprised by this wing of the museum. Most weekends they have special art classes for kids to take that appeared to be very interesting. My kids were wishing they had been signed up... but they were sold out. So next time I will do that in advance! After dropping them off next time, I will wander back to the windows to gaze much longer. 

Date nights in the city!! 
While we were in the city, we did two date nights neither of which I had to plan anything. What a treat! One night was the wedding and the second was a double date with one of my favorite cousins and her hubby. For our double date, my cousin made all the plans which worked out perfect. A local perspective always makes for a better evening. Plus my cousin is a huge foodie. For cocktails we met at Howells and Hood which was very hip and had an awesome beer selection which Mike enjoyed. For dinner we went to La Madia and the pizza wasn't the classic Chicago style, it was more contemporary and was as expected, stellar. Dessert was at this tiny donut shop called Firecakes Donuts. Yum. 

For our date night babysitters, I did a ton of research and ended up with a family referral, but I would recommend the Sitters Studio Chicago. They were extremely professional and the screening process they go through for their sitters is extensive. Plus the sitters all have these special creative talents. 

Other touristy things we enjoyed with the kids, but I don't want to bore you: Could Gate at Millennium Park (kids thought this was super cool to explore), Sally at The Field Museum, the train ride, taxi cab rides and of course food. 

Just because here are some links to great food in Chicago. 
  • Portillos - Classic Chicago foods such as Italian beef, hot dogs, etc. Chain restaurant so there are a number of locations and the food is just plain old good. 
  • Gino's East - The "original" Chicago style deep dish pizza. Can't go wrong. 
  • The Purple Pig - I hear it is pretty trendy and great. Someday I'll get there... 
  • Goose Island - Great local Chicago brewery with good food. 
PS - We also did a tour of Wrigley Field. Mike thought this was the highlight of our trip. I completely disagree because we had our kiddos with us and it was tough. If we were to do it again, I would let him go on his own and taken the kids back to the Children's Museum. 

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Alone Time

Getting alone time when you have a family is not an easy feat. It is not only important for women, but men too. Women who stay at home during the work week, often expect their husbands to "do their fair share" on the weekend and they want a break from the kids. Rightfully so! While I do agree, men should chip in on the home front, everyone needs a break from their daily grind. 

How do people do this? Here is how we have done it.... 

Weekend Plan of Attack  

Mike and I heard** about a "quadrant system" when Hadley was little. It is a way for both people to actually get some alone time every weekend. It takes some disciple and planning. If you don't plan out the weekend in advance, it slips away in the craziness. 

The concept is to divide Saturday and Sunday (or any two days you like) into four blocks of 4 hour windows. Then assign each part to the following categories: 
  • Family Time: Everyone together doing something as a family. 
  • Divide and Conquer: Each parent has one (or more if you have 3 or more kids) kid. They spend "special time" with that kid(s). The arrangement of kids should alternate so mom and dad get this special time with all the kids over time. 
  • Mom Alone Time: This is a window when she can do ANYTHING she wants or needs to do: manicure, sleep, brunch with friends, shopping, errands, etc. 
  • Dad Alone Time: This is a window when he can do ANYTHING he wants or needs to do: surf, golf, sleep, read, etc. 
Keys to success: 
  • The window of time must be 4 hours. If it is any shorter it isn't enough time for someone to actually enjoy their activity. It becomes rushed and creates stress which is the exact opposite of the goal here. 
  • The windows must be respected. No calling your spouse on their alone time to do a favor, ask questions or anything other than urgent needs. 
  • Plan early and make sure your plan incorporates the kids' napping schedules. 
** If I remembered who shared this idea with us, I would definitely recognize and thank them. If you shared this idea with me, please remind me. I owe you BIG!!!