Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Midweek check-in

This has nothing to do with this post. I just like this redone movie poster from the tumblr fuckyeahmovieposters
Holy holy this week is bananas.

Late meetings. Unexpected toddler bed wettings. Baby needing bottles in the middle of the night. I managed to kind of get a good amount of groceries Sunday so we have food at least - but we are already out of milk and bananas. How did that happen?

At least tomorrow is Thursday and the housekeeper comes so there will be some sense of calmness around a clean house.

I'm trying to get organized on a list of things I want to do for the rest of the summer this week too. Things with the kids and at home I mean. What should I put on it?

What about you? Your week as bananas as mine?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Yes, Maternity Leave Is Necessary

A good friend of mine, who is home with her now-three boys during the day, having left her public policy job when number one was born six years ago just had number three. When I saw her first photos, I wondered what it would be like to have another baby without the looming deadline of maternity leave.

My first born was born three days after my maternity leave started. Not because it was scheduled, but because it was a three-day labor. But then I took 15 weeks off, paid for two of them.

With my second a year ago, I took 12 weeks off - paid for nine of them - and worked from home the first week back. It was also the  middle of December so it was fairly quiet in the office then. I wanted to take more time and return in the new year, but there was an implicit threat that I ought not take more that the FMLA limit of 12 weeks.

At 12 weeks postpartum, I was just figuring out how to be a mother to two littles. I was getting used to my new body. I was shocked at how tired I was. And I was just entering the postpartum depression that has largely consumed me for the last six months.

I could have taken much much more time, to get to know my baby, myself and get a grip on my new role but that didn't seem reasonable.

And now, we're being asked if we have to take maternity leave at all. The New York Times' headline asks if maternity leave is necessary. And I say, yes it is.

We can't deny how motherhood changes us. Not even the physical changes, but the emotional and psychological changes as well. To argue that we can continue with business as usual - whether we are the CEO of Yahoo! or a mid-level executive - denies us, and our babies, that magical time of focusing on only one another.

We can have dual roles as mothers and executives, but we can't bypass the time it takes to learn how to do both.

It's said you can learn a lot about a country based on how they treat their women and children. In the US it seems we care more about business, and as we slip further and further behind in the world economy, it seems that isn't working out so well.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Friday Links - Birthday edition

Today is my birthday! I'm 29, again! ;)

Here's a birthday wishlist to celebrate.

A pretty little bag: Baggu Of A Kind Suede Pouch

A new commuting bag: Baggu Duck Bag

Brightness in the winter: Heart Sweater (yes again)

A special time away from the noise: A weekend at the farm via Momfilter

Datetime!: A fun movie

XO - Happy weekend!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Another amazing mama-to-be

Nur Suryani Mohamed Taibi
On the heels of yesterday's news about the new CEO of Yahoo being pregnant, we have a new pregnant rock star.

When she competes in the shooting competition in London 2012 Olympics later this month,  Nur Suryani Mohamed Taibi from Mayalasia will be eight months pregnant!

This feature in today's New York Times describes her concern that her baby, a girl, will kick when she is shooting. While not the first pregnant competitor, she is the most far-along competitor the Games have seen, the article says. Also, she has gotten better in her shooting as her pregnancy as progressed!

I love stories of women continuing with their amazing lives through pregnancy. Certainly I worked and went to the gym and generally kept up my routine, but I was definitely not at the level of these ladies! Especially by month eight!

What about you? How hard did you go into the end of your pregnancy?

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Working Through Maternity Leave

Three-week-old baby Z, 2009
Marissa Mayer, the 20th employee of Google, is the new CEO of Yahoo. Being female, being young and being young and female in the tech world doesn't really matter to me so I haven't really followed the news.

But my ears perked up, waaay up, when I saw that she is pregnant. Congratulations to her! She is due in October with a boy. She is believed to be the first pregnant CEO of an American company. Amazing that it took this long!

But the news made me kind of sad, too, because she says she is planning on taking a maternity leave of only a few weeks and working through it.

I realize it's tough being at the top, but a few weeks and working through it?!

Come on girlfriend!

That's hardly time to snorgle your new baby and get to know him and the new you. My maternity leaves were two of the most special, magical times of my life and went by waaay to fast. Granted I am most certainly not the CEO of a major company but I think every mother, not to mention every child, deserves that special, undivided attention.

Many people say the glass ceiling is self-created by women placing their families and children priority over  their careers, and I won't argue mine hasn't been slowed by my family-first choices. But there has to be a middle ground between slowing our careers and working through short maternity leaves.

Monday, July 16, 2012

The Other Mothers

I still feel jealous when Z comes home singing a song I don't know that she learned at school or when I first pick up G and he smells like his caregiver.

Have you read this essay from yesterday's New York Times Magazine about nannies? The photos and the online interview is heartbreakingly beautiful.

There are lots of quotable passages from the essay, but this stood out to me as I read it over:

No one can dispute the importance of raising a child. Most parents, holding a new baby, face the most monumental work of their life. Perhaps the reason we often deny caregivers the social position and the respect they deserve is that we are uncomfortable with our absence from the particular chair they occupy, many hours of the day, many days of the year.
No one will say their child is not worth $X amount that the caregiver is asking, but no one will really volunteer to pay more than they are. And everyone finds a balance between the cost of the care, the kind of the care, the situation to meet their family's needs. But cost remains a big factor I think.
I know we are very fortunate to have care for our children that is as outstanding as it is. But sometimes we still grouse about the cost.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Sick day

My favorite little girl started puking at 1130 last night. For three hours.

I then had so much work today while trying to be home with her. I am really grateful for a job that I can work from home and have paid sick time, but it was really annoying and I just wanted to be home with her.

So all that's to say I didn't finish the post I planned for tonight on family dinners. Tomorrow I hope!

Stay well. XO

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Let's go swimming!

Let's talk about swimsuits.


No really!

If you have littles and you live anywhere that it is summer, you're going to need a swimsuit. Kids need the water and you need to be there with them. I myself love going to the pool or the beach. Especially with the kids.

But, there's nothing worse than being at the pool or the beach and feeling like crap because you're hating your swimsuit. Even before I had kids, I could quickly ruin a nice time by deciding I hated my suit. (Quick aside: almost 25 years ago we had a family reunion in Mexico on an island over Christmas holidays. My Gma and I showed up with the same black bikini from Victoria's Secret. She looked better than me in it and looked better than anyone else on the beach.)

Ahem. Let's get down to business. A good suit for wearing with your kids not only looks good, but is comfortable to wear. For me, that means it can't easily slip down (no strapless!), be too high cut (butt creep) and it can't dig anywhere when I move around. In my summers of research at the pool, I can tell you with 100% confidence, that no matter what the mom's body looks like, she looks good outwardly and is having fun when she isn't concerned about how she looks.

So, this summer I got my first "mom" suit - it tightens and lifts and tucks and flatters and I'm not gonna lie, makes me look really good. And from Target! Who knew?!

$49.99 from Target.
When I got the mom suit, I also got this one. It is also very flattering, but doesn't provide as much oomphf, so I'll save it for skinny days. Har.
 $34.99 at Target
When I was skinny and spent more money on clothes, I got a lot of suits at J.Crew. There's a few styles in the current catalog that are mom-friendly too.

The one-shoulder, draped style of this one is beyond lovely.

$118 at J.Crew
The higher-waisted briefs, combined with the whimsy polka dots, it super cute and would be flattering to "mom butt" or belly issues, I think.

$50 at J.Crew
The paisley is both distracting from body issues and really unique.

$125 at J.Crew

Anthropologie also has some very pretty, but spendy, suits.

This one is very sexy-retro.
OK well that's all pixelated and crappy looking and I can't fix it. Grr.$148 at Anthro
This one is sort of bizarre looking, but I saw a picture of a woman wearing it on Instagram and she looked amazeballs sexy cool chasing her kid on the beach.
Again with the pixelation. $59.95 (bottoms only) at Anthro

Finally, can I put in a plug for Hanna Andersson suits for the little ones? They are the best, I think. The week before Memorial Day, they go on sale. Swoop in and get your little a swim suit that is 1) age appropriate (please for the love of all things innocent do not put your little toddler girl in a bikini!) 2) includes SPF coverage 3) is well made and 4) covers their fresh little skin.

Baby G wears a swimmy rash guard suit and Z wears a short-sleeved rash guard and skirt (no longer available).

There's still a few on the clearance pages, if you're still looking, or find one for next year.

What are you doing about the suit this year? Let me know what you've found!

Monday, July 9, 2012

I took a nap! I saw a movie! I made food! (aka, a long weekend!)

This picture reminds me of Jim and I walking down the aisle when we got married. No idea why, because I wore a strapless gold dress and he most definitely wasn't wearing a coonskin hat! Moonrise Kingdom
It was a glorious five days home. No responsibilities, no plans, no visitors, nothing going on but the four of us, a massive heat wave and a long-needed break, including date night to cheese and wine dinner and Moonrise Kingdom.

We took full advantage of our five-day "staycation" too. But Friday, we were all mixed up on what day it was - always a good sign!

There was long naps, lunch outside after sprinkler time, early morning playground visits when we had the place to ourselves, yard saling, cake making and enjoying and general rest and recharging. Just what we all needed.

This week will be busy enough. But this weekend was a good reminder of why staying home and doing nothing is so important sometimes.

Look for dinner ideas, swim suit ideas and some other fun stuff this week.


Friday, July 6, 2012

Have a fun weekend!

What are you doing this weekend? We are halfway through a five day "staycation" and have reached the point where we are not sure what day it is! I haven't spent much time online so I only have a few things to share.

It's rediculously hot in the Midwest this week. I wish I saw this hair accessory before we stopped at Target earlier today.

Speaking of Momfilter, this series of interviews with working moms this week was great stuff. I especially loved the interviews with Yolanda and Pilar, Momfilter authors.

I feel awkward wanting a sweater in this heat, but this isn't just any sweater. It's the heart sweater!

Have a happy weekend. I want the rest of the weekend to be like yesterday with Z in the mirror room at the local children's museum.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Fourth of July

Fourth of July is my favorite holiday. It is the epitome of summer to me. The parade, the food, the fireworks, the general fun.

But this year was a humbling one. In an effort to pack in as much fun as possible, we let Z get completely overtired. Like hours in the heat, willfully missing a nap so we could go to the pool, dinner later than usual. Every sign we gave her said the day was out the window. So then when it was bath time and she lost it, we lost it.

After much yelling and arguing, we carried Z up to bed and she fell asleep crying.

It. Was. Awful.

She slept like a rock and woke up so happy this morning, but it is not worth repeating.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Guest Post: My Gpa "The More Things Change, The More they Stay The Same"

Read this first.

Like I said, my Gpa is the smartest person you'll meet. He is very wise and so kind in how he responds to people, especially those with different views. Here is his reply:

Hello Lena,
      I was so pleased to get your response to mine about raising children.  I was concerned some might take it contraryto my intent.
      I agree with you completely about expectations for even young children.  A well know human behavior finding is that rationalpeople, even very young people, behave as they are expected to behave.  Letting, or rather expecting, Z to accept responsibilities and thereby be more and more independent, is a priceless gift.  
     Of course the other reward is that Z rightfully feels as more of an equal as testified byher complimenting you when you do something by saying, “Good job Mommy! I’m proud of you!”  No one wants to feel inferior.  Often people, of most any age,when feeling inferior act bratty.
         G Pa.

PS  If you will indulge a memory – Back in my working days when I was running the K Company we had an annual Christmas party for all employees and their spouses, complete with a band and open bar.  We were frequently warned about the open bar.  However, all of our employees were fellow owners in the Company and we treated them all, not as employees, but as responsible fellow owners.  We never ever had a problem with the open bar even though we had our share of young people who might otherwise drink irresponsibly.

Whenever I think about not working (which let's be honest is A LOT these days), I think about a conversation I had with him when Z was about nine months old. We started out talking about my work, and I expected him to head down a path of how it would be better if I didn't. Instead, he said he was so pleased I did work and could see the benefits of me working outside the home in Z. He said among his grandchildren, he could see benefits among those who's mothers worked. That meant the world to me in that moment and always.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Overindulged American Child

My Gpa and some of the ladies in his life, from 2009, that is a baby Z! Also, I was so thin!
My grandfather, Gpa, is one of the wisest people you will ever meet. I am not exaggerating.

Everyone thinks so.

He was a very successful businessman, running a manufacturing company in Milwaukee, an active participant in raising five children, and a dedicated scholar. He got an MBA from the University of Chicago while working full-time and is an amazing example of a lifelong learner as he continues to read, consider new ideas and pholosophies and take on new behaviors.

Last weekend he emailed the family a review from The New Yorker of a book called Slouching Toward Adulthood: Observations from the Not so Empty Nest. With the review he said:
Rearing kids is so complex today compared to the simple days of our young parenthood when I believed the greatest gift a parent could give to a child wasindependence.   I still believe that concept has validity.  It is a hard gift to give although in our day it was a easier to practice ‘less is more’ because‘less’ was often not an option.
This passage in the review stood out exceptionally to me:
With the exception of the imperial offspring of the Ming dynasty and the dauphins of pre-Revolutionary France, contemporary American kids may represent the most indulged young people in the history of the world. It’s not just that they’ve been given unprecedented amounts of stuff—clothes, toys, cameras, skis, computers, televisions, cell phones, PlayStations, iPods. (The market for Burberry Baby and other forms of kiddie “couture” has reportedly been growing by ten per cent a year.) They’ve also been granted unprecedented authority. “Parents want their kids’ approval, a reversal of the past ideal of children striving for their parents’ approval,” Jean Twenge and W. Keith Campbell, both professors of psychology, have written. In many middle-class families, children have one, two, sometimes three adults at their beck and call. This is a social experiment on a grand scale, and a growing number of adults fear that it isn’t working out so well: according to one poll, commissioned by Time and CNN, two-thirds of American parents think that their children are spoiled.
Here is part of what I emailed back:
I am very proud of Z. Her chores are to feed the dog, help empty the dishwasher and help make salad for dinner! Children do nothing because nothing is expected of them. Positive reinforcement also works wonders; I love it when I do something and Z says, good job Mommy! I proud of you!

Jim and I are very conscious to not spoil the children because it is so easy to do so, we think. Especially for us. We grew up in very working class homes. There was much love and we were never in need of anything, but there was little excess. So as such, excess is easy for us to fall into the muchness. Especially with the kids. The piles of toys, the bags of clothes, the Starbucks "treats" that are more routine than treat sometimes. So we try to counter it with reasonable expectations, like feeding the dog, setting the table, putting her own shoes on, etc. etc.

But it is hard. It's hard to say no sometimes. And the muchness is easier to fall into in part because I work. We *have* the money to get what we need and then some. And the "some" is often not necessary but remembering that can be hard in the moment.

What about you? How do you avoid the muchness?

Also, this: "Two-thirds of parents think their OWN children are spoiled!" That is bananas. What are we going to do with those children as adults?! 

I'll share my Gpa's reply tomorrow.

Monday, July 2, 2012

This was the weekend.

And then my heart exploded.
Not many pictures this weekend because we didn't do much. And that is what made it awesome. After four weeks of family visits, we had no one in town, so we did pretty much nothing. It was so restorative to hang out, take naps, go to the gym, make dinner and just reset ourselves.

The kids and I took a steamy stroller run in the humidity when I snapped this picture. I ended up going five miles and I am just a bit sore...

A few weeks back, Z and I were driving through a nice neighborhood headed to the pool when I noticed a jogging stroller parked at the edge of a yard sale. And the weekend before, we had walked to the playground and I noticed a woman with kids the same age as mine in a jogging stroller. She had gone for a run and then stopped at the playground. Win-win for both mama and kiddos! I thought she was brilliant. Until I looked up the stroller she had on Amazon. $600! Uhm, no.

But a yard sale stroller, yes! I pulled around the block like a sort of maniac and practically ran up to the women doing the yard sale. "How much for the stroller?! Why are you selling it?! Can I take it for a test run?!"

For $30 I got this bad boy! The front wheel doesn't swivle, so it's best for going straight, but it totally gets the job done. And the kids? They LOVE riding side-by-side.