Hubby Away and I’m Going Insane

To all you single mamas out there – I bow to you.  I have no idea how you do it.  MJ is out of town for four days on business and, while I like to think I can keep things totally under control, it’s not happening.  Exhibit Aphoto(5)The Ice Cream Disaster.  I took my oldest to her soccer party at a local ice cream parlor this evening.  I’m flying solo with two kids and this is the mess that occurred with Little A while I left her eating ice cream for 1 minute so I could take pictures of the soccer team.   Yes, she has purple ice cream all over her nose, mouth, neck, shirt, and pants.  I need to watch this little one at all times.

To make things worse, I went temporarily insane a few weeks ago and decided I would throw a tie dye birthday party for my oldest this weekend.  Seriously, what was I thinking?  I now have to figure out how to cover my entire kitchen in plastic to avoid tie dye splatter.  To add to the already-existing stress of my temporary single parenthood, my oldest’s birthday is on Halloween so I volunteered to bring food for 23 kids to her school’s “Harvest Party” on Thursday.   So, while MJ enjoys entertaining clients in Vegas, of all places, I will be doing the following:

  • Making food for 23 kids (I have no idea what I’m bringing yet)
  • Buying plastic tarps to cover my kitchen
  • Making a birthday cake
  • Wrapping presents
  • Setting up my dining room for 10 kids to eat cake and ice cream
  • Buying t-shirts and tie dye supplies
  • Giving Little A multiple baths due to her susceptibility to messes
  • Work full-time

I digress.  And, yes, I bring this stress on myself when I go crazy and volunteer to do things I don’t have time to do.

In all seriousness, while MJ travels, I think a lot about what it must be like without a partner.  One of the mothers of a little girl on my oldest’s soccer team pared this down even further for me when she explained that she is not a divorced parent, she is a single parent.  With divorced parents, there are usually two parents sharing responsibilities at different times.  This mother explained that she is a single parent, with no father in the picture.

This particular single mother was brave enough to ask for help when she needed it.  She sent an email to the entire email list of soccer parents asking for help in transporting her daughter to practice on days when her son had another commitment at the same time.   A parent stepped up and her little girl made it to every practice.

I solute you single parents.

Maternity Leave

Do you all like ?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????my very clever Post title?  The last 30 days have somehow stunted my creativity.  Nevertheless, I have maternity leave on the brain.  No, I’m not pregnant, but it seems to be all around me.  I am thrilled to report that my Dear Friend finalized her adoption and is on maternity leave for the next couple months.  My sister-in-law just returned to the work force after a five-year leave, which she took by choice to raise my nieces.  My friend over at Game of Diapers is on the back end of her year-long maternity leave.  And, my assistant’s daughter is about to give birth to twins and has been placed on medical leave until the little ones arrive.  So, all of these things have me thinking:  How long should employer’s provide for maternity leave?

A friend of mine was only given six weeks of leave.  This is not nearly enough time and actually seems cruel!  I had twelve weeks and was horribly sad to return to work.  A new mother’s hormones are in no shape to return to work after twelve weeks – especially to a courtroom full of men who have no idea what it’s like to lock yourself in your office twice a day to pump the gold, that is breast milk, from your boobs and hope you don’t leak for all to see.  Six months would have been so much better and a year sounds wonderful.

If my leave had been six months or a year, I admittedly would have had to find ways to keep my mind sharp.  I was so tired that I found myself on the couch while my baby slept, watching the same three shows in the morning, which included Regis & Kelly, Ellen, and The View.  Wow, after three hours of talk shows, which I loved, I needed to read a newspaper or a book.

My sister-in-law has been out of the work force for more than five years.   She started looking for a job more than a year ago.  Thankfully, she recently started a new job in medical equipment sales.   Her time off of work made me wonder how technology has changed in the last five years.  When my sister-in-law left the work force, there was only one iPhone (the first one), Twitter and Tumblr did not exist, there were about 200 million fewer websites on the Internet, and Microsoft Word 2008 had just been introduced (three new versions of Word since then).  I can’t even imagine how medical equipment has changed in the last five years.  This ever-changing technology makes it difficult for mom’s on extended leave to stay current.  You really have to work at keeping up with the technology or you are at a great disadvantage when and if you decide to return to work.

How long was your maternity leave and was it long enough?

Making Memories (and other mama tips)

Target Field, Minneapolis, MN

Target Field, Minneapolis, MN

Five years ago, my Dad, who is a baseball fanatic, decided he was going to treat my brothers and me to a yearly weekend road trip to a different major league baseball park.    No kids.  No spouses.  Just my Dad, my brothers, and me.  We explore a different city for a weekend and catch a Saturday game.  So far, we have visited Baltimore, Atlanta, Washington, Pittsburgh, and, this year, Minneapolis.


My Dad has not mastered the art of the “selfie.”

During our time in Minneapolis last weekend, I had two, unrelated realizations.  First (and the more important of the two), I realized that it is never too late to start new traditions with your kids.  Traditions need not end when your kids head off to college, get married, or have kids of their own.  Your children are still your children, no matter how old they are.  My brothers and I are adults.  We live in different parts of the country, have jobs, spouses and kids of our own. That didn’t stop my Dad.  He decided he wanted to start a new tradition with his kids.  Of course, we didn’t argue.  What a great treat for us – weekend on Dad, in a new city, spending time with each other, and watching America’s favorite pastime.  Yes, this is very Americana of us.   But in all seriousness, what a wonderful thing that we get to do with our Dad.  It doesn’t have to be a baseball game; and it doesn’t have to have a large price tag.  Traditions can be whatever you want them to be.  What my Dad has instilled in me is that starting new traditions does not end with childhood.

Second, and much less meaningful, I realized that major event venues are paying attention to what parents need for our little ones.  For example, Target Field has family restrooms (see earlier post about how much I love family restrooms), it allows all children under 30″ in free as long as they will sit on an adult’s lap, it has private baby changing stations upon request (if you want something more private than the changing station in the restrooms); as well as private locations for nursing mothers.  It allows families to bring in sealed water bottles, milk and juice containers.  And, finally, every Sunday home game is KIDS DAY.  With a ticket to a Sunday game, each child under 14 years of age is invited to a pregame autograph session with some of the players and to run the bases after the game.  I was impressed.  So, before you avoid going to large event venues out of fear of those not-so-comfortable moments with kids, check out the venue website.  You may be surprised at the mama-friendly accommodations.

If any of my readers are from Minneapolis, I love your city.  What a great place.

70 Years of Marriage

70th anniversary I just left a family dinner at which we celebrated my grandparents’ 70th wedding anniversary.  I asked them for the secret to a long and happy marriage.  My grandfather said “age.”  By that, he meant that they reached their 70th because they keep living.  My grandmother said “understanding” and  “a 50/50 split of the tasks.”   She then went on to say, with a hint of sadness in her voice, that a 50/50 split of the tasks was different then, than it is now for women of my generation.

She explained that during their young married life, and into their senior years, my grandmother has always been the caretaker.  She makes every meal, does the laundry, and tidies up the house.  My grandmother raised four children and never worked outside the house.   While I know she loves my grandfather deeply, she is also aware of the fact that he is so accustomed to her care, that he does not understand the effort that it took, and still takes, to put three home-cooked meals on the table (among the many other chores she completes), especially at age 93.

I have had conversations with my grandmother, during which I hear a similar hint of sadness in her voice.  I say “hint” because she is not sad.  In fact, she is incredibly energetic and chipper.  But when we talk about working motherhood, I hear just a hint of something in her voice.   We’ve talked about what it’s like to work outside the home, get dinner ready at night, get the kids clean and put them to bed.  We’ve talked about the logistics of school, daycare, soccer practice, and family time.  She said to me, “I understand why you girls all take birth control pills these days.  I would have too if I had this much going on.”

While I’ve never specifically asked my grandmother about the hint, my theory is that she feels a hint of sadness for both herself and the busy working mothers of the world today.  I believe there is a part of her that wishes she had been part of the working world; to hold a job, get out of the house, and engage with other working folks.  But I also think she feels some sadness for me, and women like me, that we don’t have the same amount of time with our kids that she did.   There are 54 years separating my grandmother and me and yet we share similar thoughts and struggles.

Regardless of our different life circumstances, my grandmother is someone I aspire to be.  She raised four wonderful children, has eight grandchildren who adore her, and four great-grandchildren (who also adore her).  She is the strong matriarch of the family and one that we all look up to.  She is beloved in her community.  For her 90th birthday, she hosted an all-female party and more than 60 women attended.  She loves having her family home for the holidays (all 22 of us) and refuses to give up making part of the Christmas dinner.  She has an incredible sense of humor.  Just two weeks ago, she joked about how she and my grandfather had so many aches and pains in their old age that they could probably qualify for a medical marijuana card.   She follows baseball, reads People Magazine, and beats all of us at Trivial Pursuit.  She’s maintained her New England accent (born and raised in Maine), even after 50 years in Ohio.    She and my grandfather have traveled the world.   When she leaves the house, she looks impeccable.

I can only hope to have such a life!

What Is Making Me Happy This Week (Sunday Edition)

Cupcake4I usually post my What’s Making Me Happy posts on Friday so please excuse the delay.  This week (or now officially last week), two things are making me happy.  First, Shannon at Game of Diapers nominated me for the Super Sweet Blog Award, for which I am so grateful.   Thank you so much, Shannon!  Please check out her amazing motherhood blog and Facebook page.

The rules for those nominated:

1. Thank the blogger who nominated you.

2. Answer 5 Super Sweet questions. These can be found down below.

3. Include the Super Sweet Blogging Award in your blog post.

4. Nominate a baker’s dozen (13) other deserving bloggers.

5. Notify your Super Sweet nominees on their blog.

1. Cookies or Cake?

Cookies, definitely.  Cookies are my kryptonite.    I CANNOT say no.  My only complaint is when they have nuts in them.  I don’t like nuts.

2. Chocolate or Vanilla?


3. Favorite Sweet Treat?

Milk Duds.  so good.

4. When Do You Crave Sweet Things The Most?

Usually around 2:00 p.m. on any given day.

5. Sweet Nick Name?

My Mom calls me Honey.  I call Little A Sweet Pea.  I call my oldest Sweetie.  I actually never thought about this before.  That’s funny that they are all sweet nick names.


Fat Mom No More

Mummy Says

Winding Road

Lessons From My Daughter

Normal is the New Boring

Mental Mom02’s Blog


Cupcake ‘n Sunshine

Parenting Tips for Children

Pink Butterflies

So Many Right Ways

Momma Needs Coffee

How To Ruin a Toddler’s Day

Thanks again to Game of Diapers.

The second thing making me happy this week is reviewing my Maine pictures.

maine 1

maine 2

I love this place.

Have a great week everyone.

Advice Revisited

photo(2)During  one of my baby showers in 2004 (pregnant with my oldest), the host gave me a book of advice.  The book was a small photo album.  Instead of photos, each of the shower guests wrote a piece of advice on a 4 x 6 note card and placed the cards in the photo slots.  I recently read the advice pages after probably 6 or 7 years.  The advice is still solid and worthy of sharing.   The shower guests were (and still are) friends of my mothers.  Each is a wonderful role model.

“Sometimes you have to reset your expectations to match the reality.  I used to say ‘my child will never have green snot on their nose’ but they did and it was ok.”

“Giving ‘praise’ to your child for accomplishments is so important, and ‘unconditional love’ is a must.”

“Grape Kool-aid makes baby poop green; Triscuits leave a haystack in the diaper; and Pepto Bismol can turn a baby’s tongue black.”

“Just two thoughts….. Read to your children from the day they are born and never let them be the last picked up from day care.”

“So, what would I tell you about caring for your daughter?  You can’t play with her too much.  You can’t hug her too much.  You can’t read to her too much.  You can’t praise her too much.  You can’t love her too much.”

“Cleaning your house while the kids are still growing is like shoveling the walk before it stops snowing”.

“Remember that you are the parent, but choose your battles carefully.  Your reward will be a wonderful friend when she is a young adult.”

“Read, read, read to your child.”

“Too much love never spoils children.  Children become spoiled when we substitute ‘presents’ for ‘presence.’  Your unconditional love and your time are two of the greatest gifts you can give your children.”

“People who say they sleep like a baby probably don’t have one.”

“A Mother:  When you’re a child, she walks before you to show you the way.  When you’re a teen, she walks behind you to be there if you need her.  When you’re an adult, she walks beside you to be your friend.  It’s always good to know your place in life.”

Go read to and kiss your kids tonight!

Thank You Mummyflyingsolo

Thank you so muchwordpress-family-awardMummyflyingsolo for the WordPress Family Award.    I can’t believe I was nominated for another award.  This makes me so happy.  Please check out Mummyflyingsolo, who has insightful, funny, and heartfelt posts.  If she had not already nominated me for this award, I would be nominating her for it.  I truly appreciate the love.

I looked into the origins of this award and its turns out it is relatively new and was created by a blogger named Shaun.  You can go pick it up for yourself here on Shaun’s blog.

Discussing the award’s origins, Shaun writes:

This is an award for everyone who is part of the “WordPress Family.”  I start this award on the basis that the WordPress family has taken me in, and showed me love and a caring side only WordPress can.  The way people take a second to be nice, to answer a question and not make things a competition amazes me here.  I know I have been given many awards, but I wanted to leave my own legacy on here by creating my own award, as many have done before.  This represents “Family” we never meet, but are there for us as family.  It is my honour to start this award.

The Rules:  (1) Display the logo on your blog (Check!) (2)  Link back to the person who nominated you (Check!) (3) Nominate 10 others you see as having an impact on your WordPress experience and family (See below!) (4)  Let your 10 family members know you have awarded them (Will do!).  My nominees are (I realize some of you have already been nominated but you have shown me the WordPress Family love over and over and you deserve the second nomination):

1.  MagicalChaos

2.  Highly Irritable Blog

3.  Game of Diapers

4.  Black.Bunched.Mass.Mom

5.  Atlantamomofthree

6.  Mummyshymz

7.  Mommytrainingwheels

8.  Momma Needs Coffee

9.  Media! Tech! Parenting!

10.  Long Live Go

Enjoy the blogs and thanks again to Mummyflyingsolo!

Traveling Alone with Toddler…… Enough Said

????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????I returned from my short vacation to Maine yesterday full of Blog material.  I traveled alone with Little A and survived.  This post is about what I learned with the hope that it may help some of you.

Maine is not an easy state to reach from Ohio via air for a short trip.  I took a plane from my city to Detroit.  I jumped on a second plane to Boston.  Then, I took a two-hour bus to Portland, ME.   My parents picked up Little A and me in Portland and we drove another hour to our cottage.  Yes, I did this without shedding any tears or having children services called for yelling at my child.  So, some tips that may help you:

If you must travel with a car seat, make sure to clean it first to avoid looks of disgust from strangers.  Luckily, I thought of this before I left and cleaned the car seat.  Traveling with a car seat is not easy.  If you prefer not to travel with a car seat, most car rental companies will rent car seats either with or without a car rental.  If you must travel with a car seat, I recommend checking it.  I believe most, if not all, airlines allow you to check a car seat at no cost.  If you choose to take it with you through the airport – don’t.  But if you still decide to, check out this apparatus.  I did not use the apparatus but I did use a luggage strap to strap my car seat to my roller suitcase just to get it in the airport, where I checked it.

Pack healthy, non-sticky, and hard-to-spill snacks.

Avery with sticker

Little A with sticker book

Pack toys that will keep your child’s attention for a while.  I started paying attention to what toys kept Little A occupied for longer than five minutes.  It turns out she LOVES those sticker books in which you place reusable stickers on pages of scenes.  It’s more of a sticker activity book.  I bought three.  I also downloaded Dora and Diego episodes on the iPad and tapped into the free Wi-Fi networks of each airport.  This was huge.

Go to the bathroom (both you, and Toddler if potty-trained,) before sitting down to eat.  Inevitably, you will order your food, sit down at a table, and then little one has to pee.  If you are traveling alone you have no choice but to throw all of your food into your bag and run to the bathroom.  This can be avoided.  Make child pee before eating!

Use “family” restrooms.  It was so nice in the Boston airport to have the choice to go to a family restroom.  It is a private restroom, as opposed to 50 stalls.  You can avoid embarrassing moments like when Little A yells “I tooted on you Mommy,” or “Mommy, are you peeing?”  You also do not feel rushed.

Take advantage of airport play areas for the kids.  In the Delta Kidport A3terminal at the Boston airport, there is a great toddler play area.  We arrived at the airport  early and Little A played there for almost an hour.  It was close to our gate, and you can hear the announcements from the entire terminal in the play area.  Check out this article, for a list of  major airports with play areas.

Pack wipes, an extra outfit for toddler, a blanket for cool airplanes, and a favorite (hopefully small) stuffed animal in the hopes of encouraging a nap.

Happy traveling!photo-1

Off the Grid

?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????Tomorrow, I leave town to join my extended family for a short vacation in Maine.  I’ve vacationed in Maine almost every summer of my life.  It gets in your blood and you crave it.  My oldest traveled up there last week with my parents.  Little A and I begin our traveling adventure tomorrow morning (without MJ).  I’m scared.  We take two planes and a 2-hour bus.  Yes, I realize what I’ve gotten myself into and that is why I’m scared.  If you have not figured out from earlier posts, Little A is a handful.  I took her to my office for a few minutes today and she managed to email someone a blank email, unplug something from my computer and write on one of my files with a yellow highlighter, all in a matter of 30 seconds. The airport is going to be a complete nightmare.

As I take a break from packing this evening, I recall something a colleague recently said to me.  During her vacation two weeks ago she “went completely off the grid.”  In other words, no email, no phone calls, no computer.  She said it was wonderful.

It is hard to go off-grid these days but I believe it’s important to try.  We all need a break from work.  In fact, I believe it is important for our physical and mental health to disconnect and relax.  I will never understand people who think it is noble or career-advancing NOT to take vacations.  We need them.  They make us better, more refreshed, productive workers.  I will never forget a seasoned attorney bragging, during my second year of practice, that he had not vacationed with his family for more than five years.  I’m not kidding, he was proud of this fact.  I just felt sorry for him.  That same year, I attended a seminar for female attorneys during which we discussed work-life balance.  One female attorney told us a story about how she left her two young kids at a child care center at Disney World, flew back to Ohio for a meeting with a Judge, and then flew back to Florida to enjoy the rest of her vacation – WHAT?  Come on people, that is ridiculous!  After ten years of practicing law, I have concluded that my clients can live without me for a week.  Everyone survives.  I am not that important.   With some good planning, we can all go off-grid if we choose to.

So, how does a working mama go off-grid?  I have a few suggestions.

First, create an auto response for your email.  When someone emails your work account, they will immediately receive an email message informing them that you are out of the office.  This is extremely helpful to your clients or customers.  They are not waiting around for you to respond.   If yu use Microsoft’s Outlook to view your email, click here for step-by-step instructions on setting up your vacation email response.  If you do not use Outlook, simply Google “auto email response” and the  name of your email service and you will likely find step-by-step instructions.   Here is my auto response:

I will be out of the office from July 10 – July 15 with limited access to email.  If you need immediate assistance please contact my assistant XXXXX at (email and phone number).  I will respond to your email when I return to the office on July 15.  Thank you.

Second, contact clients or customers whom you know need a little extra attention (a/k/a needy) and let them know you will be out of town for a few days.  Provide them with an alternate contact (someone in your office) whom they can contact in case of an emergency.  If not someone else in your office, how about another colleague in your profession?  I have a friend who is a psychologist and while she is on vacation, another psychologist in town takes her calls.   I realize this tip does not work for all professions.  However, the week before I leave on vacation, I either email, call, or write a letter to my needy clients to let them know I will be out of town.  I do not give my clients my cell phone number.  We have three attorneys in my firm and I update at least one of them on potential issues that may come up while I’m away.  This helps eliminate client freak-outs.

Third, if you have a voice mail system, set up a vacation message notifying callers that you will be out of the office from X-date to X-date and will return calls when you are back in the office.  Your staff will let callers know during the work day that you are out of the office but many of my clients call me in the evening and leave messages.  Those clients will know not to expect a return call for a few days.

This fourth tip requires some restraint on your part – don’t check email on a laptop or your phone.   There are actually ways of turning off the Wi-Fi on your phone – try it.  You can leave your phone on for emergencies if you want but don’t call the office.  Let your staff and colleagues know that you will not be calling the office and that they should only call you in case of an emergency.  Sometimes you may have to define what constitutes an emergency.  The fact that a client calls upset that I’m not in the office is NOT an emergency.  People can calm down and wait.

Fifth, ask a trusted assistant or colleague to review your mail.  My line of work is chuck full of strict deadlines.  Have a knowledgeable person in your office review your mail carefully and determine whether something needs immediate attention.  If so, have your staff forward it to someone in the office that can address the issue in your absence.

With a little preparation, notification to clients/customers, and preparing your staff and colleagues for any issues that may come up while you are gone, you can go off-grid.

Let me know what you do to prepare for vacation.


What’s Making Me Happy This Week

theinterestingsFor those new to the blog, I’ve stolen an idea from NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast, and I share with you what is making me happy this week.  This week, two things are making me happy.  First, I recently finished The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer and really enjoyed it.  I do not pretend to be a skilled book reviewer but this book sucked me in and made me look forward to picking it up and reading.  I love it when I find a book that does this.  The story begins in 1974 at an arts camp for talented teenagers.  It follows the lives of six kids, as they grow into adults, and how their life paths cross.  The story spans 40 years and contains all sorts of twists and turns.  You can read an excerpt on Amazon.  Just click on the image of the book to read the first few pages.

Second, on Friday evenings MJ hangs with his buddies after the kids go to bed (they call it Friday Night For Guys) and I have a few hours to blog, watch the movies I want to watch, or read.  I chose to watch a movie tonight that was surprisingly entertaining.  I watched Pitch Perfect.  Yes, I accept and embrace my lameness but I also enjoy laughing and this movie made me laugh out load several times.  For those of you who do not typically watch musical comedies starring college-aged actors, you might be surprised by this one.  I challenge you to watch this video and not want to jump off your couch and dance.  I’m not admitting I did this – just sayin’.