Trick or treat

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Halloween is my favorite holiday.

Don't get me wrong. I love Christmas as much as the next girl. Thanksgiving is a great time to connect with family. Flowers and chocolate - always a good thing for Valentine's. But Halloween stands above the rest for a few reasons. First of all, there's very little prep work. There is no festive meal to prepare, no RSVP's to coordinate. Sure, there are decorations but those are fun. Spiderwebs! Pumpkins! Scarecrows!

I think it has a lot to do with the candy (I discovered my mid-30's surprise allergy to coconut after eating my body weight in Almond Joys a few years back). But mainly it's the costumes. There is something empowering about choosing who you will "be" each year for Halloween. You have the opportunity to play up your favorite traits - guilt free! Want to be a bad ass? Superhero costume. Silly? Clown. Sexy? Pick just about anything in the women's section (even the plus-sized costumes are more-than-a-little-racy these days).

How great would it be if we could choose WHO we were going to be every day? If we could decide to be bold, flashy, confident, silly, powerful or fun. If it were as simple as slipping on a costume and stepping into your day, feeling just a bit stronger, a bit more prepared to face whatever awaits outside the front door (or the bedroom door!).

I've decided to take a bit of the Halloween spirit with me every day. While I don't have the kind of job that allows me to wear a Spiderwoman outfit every day (although I have seen some crazy get ups around 1515...), I'm going to endow key pieces of my wardrobe with special powers to help me get into character. My pink patent leather pumps are now my ass-kicking shoes. My pave cocktail ring - a crown. My CK jeans are my young hottie costume. My Prada platforms are a Superwoman cape. I haven't found my "perfect mom" outfit yet, but I'm working on it (if you figure it out first, drop me a line, OK?).

For Halloween 2010, we went as the Spider-family. Angel was Big Boy Spiderman. Victor, Big Baby Spiderman. And I was Spiderman Mommy. My husband doesn't dress up. He doesn't do roller coasters either, so in a very odd way I am both the hard-ass and the "fun" parent all at the same time.

It took me a while to find an un-frumpy yet appropriate to wear whilst trick-or-treating with the daycare costume. The years of of the sexy Spiderwoman costume have long past (likely related to the eating-my-body-weight-in-Almond-Joys incident). At the end of the day, I felt sassy-yet-appropriate and my kids looked at me like I was a rock star (or a crazy person...whatever works).

Tomorrow, it's back to the grind. I'll be wearing my crown AND Superwoman cape to the office, just to be safe.

I think it's going to be a good day...

Tick Tock

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My boobs are a ticking time bomb.

Let me explain.

I have a very strong family history of breast cancer. My mother is a 3 time breast cancer survivor. An aunt, also a breast cancer survivor. I've seen a breast specialist every 6 months for the past 10 years. Mammogram, sonogram and MRI once a year.

I am 37 years old.

My doctor has been pestering me to get tested for the "breast cancer gene" (BRAC Analysis) for years. This February, I relented and shortly thereafter learned that I am positive for the BRCA 2 gene. Women with the BRCA 2 mutation have:
- a 33-50% chance of developing breast cancer by age 50 (the general population has a risk of 2%)
- a 56-87% chance of developing breast cancer by age 70 (the general population has a risk of 7%)
- a 27-44% chance of developing ovarian cancer by age 70 (the general population has a risk of <2%)

Now, in addition to my twice-yearly visits to the breast specialist, I've added a gyn-oncologist to the mix. Ovarian cancer is a much peskier disease than breast cancer. While breast cancer screenings are not foolproof, they have a rigorous clinical history and are relatively effective. Breast cancer can be detected by a lump or a shadow on a mammo/sono/MRI. Ovarian cancer is much more nefarious, with annoyingly general symptoms including abdominal bloating and irregularity. Screening is possible, but not as effective as that for breast cancer.

Ten years ago when I began the process of special screening, I looked at it from a very clinical perspective. My genes are out to kill me, so I will do everything in my power to stop them. While the screening was nerve wracking, I never gave it much thought. I kept my appointments like clockwork and always assumed that the results would be negative.

Fast forward to February 6, 2007. After my first son was born, I felt it was my responsibility to not die. There was a tiny (very tiny, at the time) human being who depended upon me for everything. I couldn't get sick, take a vacation, work late or die. It was simply out of the question.

Ridiculous, I know, but that's what I believed (and sometimes continue to believe...).

In November of 2007, I had my first breast cancer scare. I had a central duct excision (basically, they cut out a cross section of my breast to examine the ducts). Thankfully, the growth was benign, but my approach to the bi-annual visits to the breast specialist was forever changed. While my life was always at stake, for the first time I actually felt like I had something to lose.

Fast forward to January 9, 2009 - now I had twice the number of reasons to not die.

I had my first MRI in 4 years yesterday (impossible to inject the body with radioactive contrast solution when you're pregnant or nursing). I forgot just how loud the entire process is. Actually, I don't think that I so much forgot as the sound took on a much more forboding tone. Each clank of the tremendous electromagnetic cylinder reminded me that I had something to lose. The test HAD to come back negative.

I passed both my mammogram and sonogram with flying colors this year. I'm certain that the MRI will get the "all clear" as well. The results will be in by Monday - maybe even by end of day tomorrow.

As Breast Cancer Awareness Month 2010 comes to a close, I encourage every BadAssMama - every woman - to take her breast health seriously. Perform your monthly self exams. Have a professional breast exam annually. If you have a strong family history of breast cancer, consider getting BRAC Analysis.

The goal of this post is not to instill fear, but to remind you that knowledge is power. When it comes to our health, ignorance is not bliss. Take action. Know the facts, and take care of yourself.

Be well. A message of health, courtesy of the BadAssMama.

Stretch Armstrong

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It's 10:45pm on a Monday. I just walked in the door from business trip #5 in the past 6 weeks - this one involving 12 hours of travel for a 20 minute meeting.

Literally.

The meeting was fabulous. The pitch rocked. I was brilliant (if I do say so myself), particularly given the travel drama I endured to get there. I don't want to dwell on the details, especially since it's 10:48pm and I've been up since 4am. Suffice it to say that after 8 hours en route including a 90 minute delay in North Carolina (since all direct flights to Dallas were sold out - damned baseball!), I walked into the meeting mere seconds before the client.

And now I'm confused.

I don't know if I'm exhilarated or just exhausted. At this very moment, I'm not sure if I enjoy what I do or if it is just TOO crazy. Add in the fact that I have to be back "on" for my real job when Hurricane Victor comes blowing through tomorrow by 5:45am, and it all just seems a bit overwhelming.

I love the sense of accomplishment that I get from my career - the confidence that I am good, sometimes REALLY good, at something helps to counter-balance the often overwhelming sense of mediocrity that I feel as a mother. But days like this just make me feel like an old Stretch Armstrong toy. Pulled in so many directions that I'm a shapeless blob of my former silly superhero self.

I'm going to bed now. Hopefully I'll feel better in the morning.

Just another day in the life of a BadAssMama...

Deprivation

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My body is officially rejecting the act of dieting.

Let me explain.

I have been on a diet for the vast majority of my adult life. Come to think of it, it started around the 6th grade. That was the first time I noticed that not everyone's thighs rubbed together when they wore their gym shorts. I didn't come to this realization on my own, actually. Two skinny girls from an opposing softball team felt it was their civic duty to comment on my stretch marks (mind you, I had no idea what stretch marks even were at that point - I just thought that everyone's upper legs looked like a zebra...)

So began the cycle of fad dieting - everything from cabbage soup to fasting, Jenny Craig to Weight Watchers. Most recently, I resorted to Quick Trim and The BluePrint Cleanse to get rid of those pesky last 5, 8, 10 pounds.

Today, it hit me. I am physically unable to deprive myself of anything else. As mothers, we go without so many things. Sleep. Clean clothing. Lazy Sunday afternoons. Hopes and dreams (ok, a tad bit dramatic but you get the picture). I have found it damn near impossible to lose these last few "baby" pounds (eh, hem...my baby will be 2 in January), and I think I know why. My body is in protest!

So, I've decided to go with the flow. While good health is important to me (my parents blessed me with a loving and supportive family structure, nerd-like academic tendencies, stunning good looks and a few less-than-desirable genetic markers), I think it's time to focus on nurturing my body rather than depriving it. I cannot imagine trying to keep up with my two Energizer-bunny-rivaling children with more than the 8 pounds-or-so of junk that remains in my trunk, but it's no longer worth starving myself to reach my goal weight.

I will continue to exercise and abstain from overindulging in random cookies and french fries. But, for what may be the first time in my adult life, I declare that I am no longer dieting. I am sleep, relaxation and privacy-deprived already. I need to eat.

Angel

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I'm no angel.

I've been known to drop the f-bomb at work. I'm often inappropriately loud in public. On occasion, I burp out loud. I am opinionated, outspoken and oftentimes inappropriately bold. And I'm OK with it. Over the course of the past thirty-more-than-I-care-to-admit years, I've become comfortable with who I am.

As mothers, it's time for us to drop the pretense of effortless perfection and GET REAL. The never-ending attempt to achieve the 1950's relic of the perfect mother with the perfect children, perfect hair, perfect outfit, perfect manicure, perfect home-cooked meal, perfect turn-of-phrase and perfectly pleasing demeanor is leading many a mother to an early grave.

Stop it. Stop it NOW.

We owe it to each other as mothers, as women, to stop making each other feel like we must live up to this pie-in-the-sky, unattainable vision of perfection.

Not only is it driving us to the brink of insanity, but it is setting a dangerous example for our children. Life is not all straight lines and pretty pictures. Military corners, dotted i's and crossed t's. Shit happens! Plans change. Fate comes to collect (points to anyone who can name THAT kiddy pop culture reference...).

I am no angel. And neither are you. There is no such thing as the perfect mother. We are going to miss the piano recital or the big game, be late for preschool pick up or the breakfast meeting. We will have un-colored roots, chipped manicures, fried nerves and microwaved meals.

There will be days that approach perfection - a peaceful summer Friday at the beach, presents on Christmas morning, the unexpected kiss from a 2 year old while you're waiting for the bus.

But by and large, as a mom you are just trying to make it through the day. And that's enough. Stop pretending to be perfect. And stop making the rest of us feel guilty by pretending that it's EASY to be perfect.

Screw you, Martha Stewart.

The BadAssMama is the new normal.

Stuck in the desert

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Motherhood can feel like the longest, driest, most punishing desert in the world. We put our kids, our husbands, our careers, our extended family, our friends ahead of ourselves every day. You're tired, dirty, uncomfortable, hot (but not necessarily the way you USED to be!) and above all, thirsty.

In the early years, the newborn haze, it can feel like you'll be trapped in the desert forever. While there may be fountains of reprieve in the distance, the mountain of diapers and feedings and sleep-deprived-stupor can prevent you from even wetting your lips from the rim of a glass.

The toddler days provide some relief - a bit more independence, less ever-vigilant care, but new challenges arise. Separation anxiety. Tantrums. The need for speed (how can I NOT catch up to you when my legs are 5 times longer than yours??). In the blur of the preschool years, the water is closer at hand, but you simply don't the have time to take a sip.

As the years go by, the challenges change but the desert remains the same. We feel relief is on the horizon, but somehow the blooming oasis seems always just out of reach. We tell ourselves that it will get easier - when they stop nursing, when they're potty trained, when they start school, when they learn how to drive, when the finish high school, when they go to college, when they find a job, when they get married and start a family of their own... As the years go by, there is always another challenge. Another reason for the mother to lose sleep or burn the candle at both ends.

The other day, I took a moment to ask a mentor - an amazingly accomplished and professionally successful woman who has just entered the empty nest phase how she did it. How did she make it through the early years, the mean and not-so-lean years, without completely losing her shit. As she smiled, I could see her reflecting on years of diapers and work demands, colic and conference calls, toilet training and business travel. Then, she told me something both simple and profound.

You have to create a little oasis for yourself - EVERY DAY.

At first, I wanted to laugh. An oasis? Really? Like I'm going to have time to do that.

Then, I recalled one of the the most basic human truths. The body can survive for months without food, weeks without sleep. But after just 1 day without water, you're toast.

I think much the same can be said about motherhood.

Sleep, proper nutrition, personal hygiene - at some point or another during the course of your child's life, you will go without one or all of them. Often for longer than you care to admit. But none of us will survive if we treat the first 18 years of our children's lives like a never-ending marathon. You MUST find time to relax and recharge every day. I'm not talking about a 3 hour lunch or morning-long pampering ritual. I mean stealing moments of time that are just for you - even hiding in the bathroom for 10 minutes to read a magazine in peace (I happened to do that myself today, while both children were screaming and running around the house like lunatics and my husband was pulling groceries from the truck).

So, here is my challenge to all of you. This week, your assignment is to find 10 minutes daily to chill. Whatever that means to you - just do it. We cannot traverse the desert of motherhood with the majority of our senses and common sense intact without spending some time in the replenishing pools of an oasis every day.

Come on in. The water's fine...

A new approach

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So, Operation Treat-My-Kids-Like-Little-Employees has officially been terminated. It has been replaced by Operation Fake-It-Till-You-Make-It.

Let me explain.

This morning, I began Operation Treat-My-Children-Like-Little-Employees 2.0. It started off well enough. I skipped the morning workout to try to shake off the remainder of the BadAssMama Travel-o-Rama hangover. Because God is good (and clearly took pity on me), Hurricane Victor remained dormant until 6:05am (inconceivable!) and remained at Category 1 vs. his standard 5+. Angel began to stir shortly thereafter, but remained wonderfully mellow.

Until the pinch point.

At 6:50am, I moved out of mellow mode and began to rally the troops to get out the door. Long story short, they weren't buying it. Angel threw a fit and the yelling began. By mommy and son.

As I sulked all the way to the 7:32am train, I was determined to do better after work. As I went through the course of my day, it hit me. Opposites! Every time I wanted to yell, I would whisper. The louder I wanted to yell, the more quietly I would whisper.

I took an earlier train than usual and got home with a bit more time to spare. I picked up the kids and made good on the morning promise to allow them to watch their new DVD while I made dinner. I made their favorite meal (tacos! mac and cheese!) and at 6:25 announced that it was time to turn off the movie and eat dinner. Angel made clear that he preferred to finish the movie rather than transitioning to dinner time. So, I whispered.

I walked to the kitchen with Victor to wash his hands, then asked Angel if he would join us. After a short moment of deliberation, he agreed and we proceeded to have a lovely family dinner - with Harry Connick Jr's funk classic "She" as our soundtrack.

Homework time went along smoothly. Whenever it threatened to take a turn, again, I would whisper. We got through 3 pages of letters in his pre-K workbook (Y, Z and A) AND completed all of his speech therapy practice.

Bathtime went swimingly (pun intended), and while he attempted to launch into the standard jumping-on-the-bed pre-PJ routine, the whisper continued to reign supreme. We got through books, kisses and bedtime. My husband and I went downstairs to clean up the aftermath of dinner. Twenty minutes passed and I took a peek at the monitor. Victor was peacefully sprawled across the crib. When I flipped the switch to Angel's bed, it was empty.

Crap.

Now I have to go back upstairs and yell.

But, I remember the mission. Fake-It-Till-You-Make-It. So I put a smile on my face as I climbed the stairs. Put on my best happy voice and sweetly asked, "Angel, what's going on?" He then told me that he was going to make poo. I said, "OK, I'll come in with you." We made it through the poo, I put him into bed, gave him a kiss goodnight and went back downstairs.

Ten minutes later, both kids were fast asleep and I successfully made it through an evening without yelling at my children.

Score one for the BadAssMama...

Experiment Update #1

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So, I'm entering Day 5 of the speak to my children like employees/clients/peers experiment. Let's just say, if I yelled at my employees/clients/peers the way that I yell at my kids - on nearly a daily basis - this blog would be called the BrokeAssMama Chronicles because I would be virtually unemployable.

The day started off well. I got home last night around 10:30 after business trip #6 in the past 6 weeks (a.k.a. the second-to-last leg of the BadAssMama Travel-o-Rama). Rather than doping myself up with caffeine and denial, then dragging my butt into the office after nearly 48 hours with no sleep, I decided to acknowledge my humanity (for once) and work from home...give myself a chance to relax a bit before diving headfirst back into the daily grind. I kept both kids at home until 8:40, when we walked first to drop VIctor to daycare, then Angel to preschool. The first conference call of the day came at 9:05am, and I alternated between emails, calls, strategy writing, preschool pick up and speech therapy drop off - ending the day with a mommy-big boy date at Baskin Robbins before picking up Victor from daycare. No yelling from 5:30am - 5pm...

My husband worked late (likely by choice as he's been flying solo with the boys for at least 48 hours straight for each of the past 6 weeks), so I popped in a DVD to make dinner in peace. Dinner went smoothly. Things began to waver around "homework" time. Victor wanted my attention, and Angel was more interested in making Victor laugh than focusing on matching shape patterns or practicing the sound of the letter S. It was 7:15. I felt the impatience rising at a low boil in my gut. My voice got a bit sharper, but still I didn't yell.

Vitamins and medicine were dispensed and we headed upstairs for bath/books/bedtime. And that's when I lost my cool. No one wanted to cooperate - splashing, poking, laughing, peeing was followed by bouncing on the bed and trying to smack each other in the face (playfully, but still!). Before 8pm, I was screaming like a lunatic once again.

The good news is that I now can see a pattern. The yelling occurs at the pinch points - when we're running behind schedule (late for school, late for the train, late for nap, late for dinner, late for bed). While I'm able to take a beat early in the day when I'm still fresh and focused, by bedtime I tend to let it rip. And then the guilt keeps me up half the night.

So, new gameplan. I will allot extra time at the pinch points. Since we seem to run perpetually 10 minutes behind schedule, I will find a way to allot 5-10 more minutes at the pinch points - getting out the door in the morning, running to the train after work, getting dinner on the table, getting upstairs to bath/books/bed. I find a way to squeeze almost everything else into a given day (well, everything except sleep or relaxation). I can find another 10 minutes here and there if it will stop me from yelling at the ones I love most.

Wish me luck...

< a mom

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I had another mommy breakthrough this weekend. I am happiest as a mom, when I feel like more than a mom.

And all it took was a little night on the town.

It all started last Wednesday. A good friend sent out a message inviting a bunch of folks out on Saturday. Usually, I would have thought that it was too little notice and not even tried to get a sitter. In all honesty, I could probably count on one hand the number of official date nights that we've had since the kids were born. But, after the BadAssMama Travel-o-Rama (now hitting week 6), I knew that I could use a break. So, we reached out to a few of the usual suspects and hit paydirt with my sister-in-law. Since the plan was to hit the city post 9pm (ridiculously early pre-kids, relatively late post...), it was an ideal situation . We could tuck the kids in bed, get dressed and out the door without them ever being the wiser.

We went to a trendy little rooftop bar/lounge with a spectacular view of the Empire State Building and much of the midtown Manhattan skyline. We danced, we laughed, we drank (not as much as we used to, but cocktails were involved!), AND we stayed out until after 2am.

The next morning, Hurricane Victor started to squal around 5:30, then blissfully agreed to relax in mommy and daddy's bed for almost an hour. At that point, Angel woke up giving me the perfect opportunity to give my kids some "bonding time" while mommy and daddy stole a few extra winks of sleep.

While both kids had periods of cranky-whinyness during the course of the day, both the hubs and I were truly able to relax and enjoy our family - even moreso, I think, than we have in months.

Just because we spent a little time out as a couple.

It wasn't an official date night, just an opportunity to relax with other grown ups - without talk of diapers or day-jobs, potty training or pacifiers. A chance to be our non-parent, non-working selves.

I must admit, I don't particularly miss the club scene. The music was mostly good, but I put a premium on personal space these days. I probably enjoyed the people watching (especially the drunk people - really, what were they thinking?) more than the partying. It was all just a little too loud, but by the end of the night I felt renewed.

We got even less sleep than the average sleepless night, but still felt more refreshed than the once-in-a-blue-moon 8 hour snooze.

Why?

Because for the first time in a very long time, my husband and I took a break from the seemingly endless cycle of work-time, family-time to find some just-you-and-me time.

They say you can't really have a successful romantic relationship if you're looking for the other person to complete you. More and more, I'm coming to realize that the same thing applies to your kids. You can't ever feel truly fulfilled if your entire world revolves around them.

It's OK to be more than JUST a parent.

Fact...courtesy of the BadAssMama.

TLC

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It doesn't take a lot of time to take care of yourself.

I used to pine for the days when I could decide on a whim to take a long run, read a new book, take a spa day. After my kids, these luxuries seemed lost forever. Looking in my calendar to find a chunk of free time is an exercise in futility. According to my Outlook, the first opportunity I have for a full spa day in somewhere in the vicinity of April 11, 2011.

That's just depressing.

Or, it CAN be...if you let it.

Today, I discovered a little known mommy truth. It really doesn't take a lot of time to re-charge. It's all about focus. And by focus, I mean the ability to clear your mind of the dirty-laundry-screaming-children-never-ending-to-do-list waiting for you at home and focus on enjoying the moment.

For the first time since I had kids, I was able to do that today.

It started like any other Saturday. Hurricane Victor comes blowing through around 5:15. We ignore him until 6 when, exhausted, he goes back to sleep. Blissfully, both children remain comatose until roughly 7am (a new record in the Torres house!). Checking the family calendar, I realize that both boys have a dentist appointment at 8:30am. Tooth brushing-clothing-breakfasting ensue and we're off to Garden City. Since we were in the neighborhood, and my children's hair grows like wildflowers, we stopped by the barber then hit a car show at the Coliseum. Lunch and a sorry-excuse-for-a-nap (by the boys, not me) followed.

In the early afternoon, my husband and I took shifts finishing a few odds and ends for work. Around 4 o'clock, I made my way to the kitchen to start my weekend ritual of cooking for the week (it's MUCH easier to warm up leftovers from a "real" meal than to actually prepare one after work). Then, it hit me. The dinner could wait - I needed a pedicure. BADLY.

So, I asked my husband if I could sneak out for an hour (no, I didn't really need permission, I AM the BadAssMama after all - but I didn't want to be rude!) Then I skipped my happy butt up the block to the nail spot.

Instead of my typical rushed pedicure (why even bother with a manicure given all the hand-washing-poop-and-pee that I deal with on a daily basis?), I traded up. I agreed to a spa pedicure (oooohhh!!!). I added a manicure, eyebrow and lip wax (yes, I need it...you know you need one too!). While I waited for my nails to dry, I even sprung for a 10 minute massage.

At 5:04, it was all done and I felt like a new woman. I walked in the door with a fresh attitude. Haven't yelled at anyone once - and trust, there have been MANY reasons to scream in the past 2 and a half hours!

So, here is your assignment. At some point during the week, take 1 hour for yourself. Do anything that makes you happy - but, here's the catch. You MUST focus on the moment. Don't think about the kids or your to-do list. Don't feel guilty. Don't rush. Be in the moment and enjoy.

One hour truly enjoyed can feel like a full spa day.

Score one for the BadAssMama...

Yelling

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I spend most of my waking hours at work, talking to people. In meetings. On conference calls. Sometimes one-on-one, face-to-face. Almost without fail, for at least 11 of the 24 hours in a workday, I am speaking kindly, professionally, constructively. Controlling my tone when I'm disappointed in the work product of a team member. Flexing my powers of persuasion when it's time to gain consensus among peers. Using my patented firm-but-fair tone in third party negotations. Practicing active listening and empathy when coaching a junior staff member.

And then I get home.

I yell at my family. A lot. I've even been known to yell at the cat.

It's really quite sad when you think about it. I use all of my management-consulting-MBA-training to maximize business conversations. Then when I come home to what matters most, all of my professional etiquette goes flying out the window.

So, for the rest of this weekend, I am going to conduct an experiment. I am going to speak to my family in the same tone that I use with my employees, peers and clients.

This may sound ridiculous, but I've got to try something. I'll let you know how it goes. It certainly can't get any worse!

Time

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"Something to keep in mind: Being productive does not mean filling every minute of your day. Steal some time just to breathe."

I haven't been able to stop thinking about this quote since yesterday. In theory, it makes complete sense. I understand that I need stretches of time to relax, sit and just be.

So why I am scheduled every minute of every single day?

It's ridiculous, actually. From the moment I wake up to the moment that I lay down in bed and TRY to fall asleep (remember, the insomnia monster has reclaimed the throne...), I am perpetual motion. Workout, fill the bottle, change the baby, take a shower, dress the big boy, feed breakfast, race to daycare, sprint to the train, back-to-back-to-back meetings, sprint back to the train, dinner, bath, books, bed. Lather, rinse, repeat.

My husband seems to think that I like being scheduled. I love to-do lists. I must, otherwise why would I be so structured all the time? In truth, I do like a bit of structure. The fast pace of my career choices for years has been exhilirating.

Add kids to the mix, and it's just exhausting.

Today I took a moment to think about what my schedule was like before I had kids. It was still really jam packed. My days started a little later, usually with the gym around 7:30 (oh, rapture!), but I would routinely stay at the office most nights until 8pm or later. Since my days were long and, even after I was married, I had no particular reason to rush home at a given time (especially after the advent of the DVR), I had the opportunity to have lunch with a girlfriend or engage in water-cooler chats more than a few times each week. The meeting culture of my company still kept me back-to-back-to-back, and I traveled nearly on a weekly basis for 8 years or more.

But then, the weekend would come. I would sleep until noon. Not out of laziness (heaven forbid!), but out of sheer exhaustion. I'd allow myself to laze around the house or get a casual pedicure. Brunch was a necessity, as I rarely saw the morning sun outside of the work week. Sundays were even better. Green tea and the morning paper. Farmer's markets. Car shows (yes, I actually DO like them almost as much as my husband!). Then, I would get to bed early to rest up for the challenge of a new work week.

My weekday schedule is not terribly different - work was just as intense, I just had more TIME to do it all and steal moments of peace in the fray. Now, I'm 10 years into my position, more senior with more responsibilities. And 3 out of 5 days each week, I'm running like a bat-out-of-hell to make the last possible train that will get me to day care before closing time. I'm on the "second shift" with the kids from 6-8:30. Then back on Blackberry to clean up any end-of-day drama, as well as checking the damned thing before my 5am workout to see what blew up overnight.

My weekends are even more intense than the work week, because I have to entertain two energy-filled-mommy-entertain-me-demanding lunatics.

And therein lies the issue. There is no downtime. EVER.

It is simply not possible to survive with no downtime. Correction - you can survive, but you're not really living. You're just making it through the day. Often by the skin of your teeth.

My husband tells me that I should schedule downtime - that this is the only way that I'll ever get to it.

It's a great idea.

I just don't know where I'll fit it in...

Epiphany

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Read a FABULOUS quote from a Facebook friend today (thanks, Cindy!)

Something to keep in mind: Being productive does not mean filling every minute of your day. Steal some time just to breathe.

Love it!

What Matters Most

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It's been a busy week. I've gone from grounded and centered after a long weekend, to frazzled and frustrated after several days of professional drama.

When things begin to spin out of control, I usually take 1 of 3 routes: a) assume the fetal position and turn into a great-big-ball-o-nerves; b) become a certifiable be-otch to everyone around me (my husband in particular); or c) focus on what matters most.

I decided to shake things up a bit this week, and ran through a cycle of all three within 48 hours. The good news? I ended the cycle with what matters most.

I wrote this list a few years back, when I was in a dark place - trying to remember who I was before I became a mom, and what I wanted to be "when I grew up" career-wise. A few weeks ago, I took another crack at the list - this time, from more of a happy and settled place. Amazingly, those things remain the same.

Here is what matters most to the BadAssMama:

- To be strong and healthy: mentally, physically and spiritually. If I don't take care of me, nothing else that matters WILL matter

- A strong, loving, passionate partnership with my husband - to reinforce our bond and to provide a solid foundation for our family

- Healthy, happy, confident, loving, kind, spiritual, intelligent, well-rounded and responsible children. To have the resources to provide them with options in life, and the wisdom to use those resources wisely

- A fulfilling career that amply provides for my family's wants and needs - both present and future

- The flexibility to be a TRUE presence in the lives of my children (a physical presence most days of the week and EVERY weekend)

- Strong, loving relationships with our extended family

- Loving, supportive friendships with regular time to re-charge and re-connect

- To help others, particularly other working mothers. To make their lives a little easier, to help assuage the often overwhelming "mommy guilt" and to help them realize that in order to truly love and support our families, we must love and nurture ourselves.

This is a big list. I know that I may not achieve everything, but these are my goals. And when life throws me for a loop, they are my foundation.

This is what matters most to me.

What matters most to you? Take the time to make a list. Write it down and DON'T SHARE IT WITH ANYONE (yes, I realize that I've shared mine with YOU, but that's part of what matters most to me). You need to write it for you and only you - don't edit to make it seem more honorable or politically correct. Focus on what really matters to you and only you.

Make it your rock in the storm.

I quit

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I considered writing a letter of resignation as my post today. After the weekend that we had, I was ready to hang up my mommy boots and call it a day.

The details don't really matter. Suffice it to say that the weekend involved a day trip to Maryland with both kids in tow, car sickness (By Victor, not me), a face-plant by Angel onto a concrete driveway and a seemingly never - ending traffic jam on I-95 until well after midnight.

Yes, all of that was enough to make any mama want to give up the ghost. But what really got me was the overwhelming sense that I was on my own. Now, don't get me wrong. My husband was there all weekend, and as always was great with the boys...with the fun parts, that is. When it came down to the planning, packing, fussing, pushing, disciplining, don't-you-talk-back-to-me-ing, it was all me. When it comes to the not-so-fun-stuff of parenting, more often than not, it's just me, myself and I.

Or is it? My husband is no pushover. OK, maybe he's a little bit of a pushover and definitely one relative to me. But when he's had enough, he will draw the line. The difference is that my line seems to be roughly a marathon's length shorter than his. I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing. What I do know for sure is that this weekend (and for most of today) it felt like a VERY bad thing. Every other word out of my mouth was "Stop!", "Don't!", or "Are you kidding me?!", all at steadily increasing decibels until I was all but screaming at the top of my lungs.

Here's the crazy thing. I was miserable, but my kids seemed to tune me out. They were completely unphased - almost like I wasn't even speaking at all. My husband has long since mastered the art of ignoring me when I'm losing it. It's an art really...one that I have yet to master.

So, at the end of yet another day filled with tantrums and tears, poop and pee, over-eating and under-sleeping, I sit on the verge of defeat. Ready to turn in my mommy badge and declare that I am woefully under-qualified to fill this position.

But I can't.

I am Angel and Victor's mom. Whether they like it (or me!) or not, I'm the only one they've got. I may not be the best, most patient, most fun mommy on the planet, but I love them. And on days like this, I hope and pray that this is enough.

Resigned, but not resigning. Overwhelmed, but not over.

Just another day in the life of a BadAssMama...

Mommy tantrums

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My oldest started speech therapy this week.

It's actually somewhat of a relief. We noticed that folks who didn't regularly spend time around him couldn't always understand what he was saying. Then, he would act out when his peers didn't understand him. This, we figured, was the root cause of his escalating tantrum issue.

We started with a hearing test followed by an evaluation by a speech pathologist who informed us that Angel has some articulation issues with his back sounds (g, k) and extended sounds (m, s, v). The good news was that he was physically able to make these sounds (something that takes many kids up to 6 months to learn), so it was really just a matter of practice. We committed to 30 minutes of therapy twice a week, with the hope that we could take care of the issue in a few months.

Since my husband has committed to work from home on Mondays and Wednesdays to take Angel to preschool in the morning(I cover Fridays), we decided that it made the most sense to add in speech therapy on Monday and Wednesday afternoons.

This should have been a relief. One less thing for me to do.

Yeah, right.

On Monday, I left for work unfazed. I confirmed that Angel had the checks for Scholastic Book Club and the speech therapist, then ran off to catch the 7:32 train. I went through my morning meetings and jumped into the normal Monday routine.

Then it hit me. My child was going through speech therapy without me.

I am the one who makes and attends the pediatrician appointments. Dentist appointments. Shops for school clothes. Refills prescriptions.

I was supposed to be with him at speech therapy.

Practically, this was simply not an option. I could not work from home more than once per week, and my Fridays are filled to the brim as it is. Angel is perfectly capable of getting our son back and forth from speech therapy, and ensuring that we follow the exercises laid out for the week.

So why was I so upset?

By the time I got home, I felt the panic rising in my chest. I asked how the speech therapy went. Angel replied, "Fine." I asked for more details - What did they cover? What do we need to do at home? Was he successful with the first session? How long did she think we would need to continue?

Yes, I know it was the first session. But I would have asked these questions. How could he NOT ask these questions?

After dinner, it was "homework time." We went through a few pages of a Pre-K workbook and did the first set of exercises from speech therapy. That's when it happened. I wanted to do the exercises with little A so I could feel a part of the process.

Correction - so I could feel like I was driving the process.

Victor needed something, so I reached over to help him and my husband started the speech therapy exercises.

That's when I lost it. I turned to my husband, completely unprovoked, and said, "Fine! I guess I'm just not included in all this."

Or something equally ridiculous.

Needless to say, the rest of the evening did not go well.

This type of thing happens more often than I care to admit. As much as I sometimes resent taking the lead on most things related to kids-and-home, I relish the sense of control. I know every appointment, every birthday, social event, grocery list, dollar spent. My husband is stepping up more and more these days to help carry the weight, and rather than being grateful or relieved, I'm having a temper tantrum.

I am blessed to have a husband that is truly engaged with our kids. He is saddled with a control freak who likes things done her way.

I think he got the short end of the stick...

Scarlet Letter

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So, I land at LAX for week 2 of the BadAssMama business-travel-o-rama. Feeling a bit more working than mother, I get off the Hertz bus and thank God for my Gold status (since the weather has morphed, in less than a week, from 113 degrees in the shade to 55 degrees, raining cats and dogs). I find my name on the board and make my way to spot 102.

Then, I see it...a minivan.

Really? I don't even drive one of those at home!

My first reaction was to suck it up and drive to my meeting. It's just a car, right? It doesn't matter.

So, I throw my purse into the passenger seat, slide open the back door to deposit my suitcase and take a seat behind the wheel.

And then, I am frozen.

I can't do it.

For a moment, I felt ridiculous. I can't seriously entertain the thought of marching up to the Hertz counter to ask for another car! That would be WAY too diva. So, I start the sensible family transportation unit and proceed to the exit.

Then, I stop. And put the car in reverse.

I am NOT driving a minivan.

I have sacrificed sleep. Leisure time. The dream of ever having a flat stomach.

I WILL NOT DRIVE A MINIVAN.

So, I sheepishly walked up to the Hertz Gold counter to plead my case. I explain that I might sound crazy but I'm a working mom on a business trip and would really prefer NOT to drive a minivan if at all possible. The woman behind the counter looked at me, smiled, then pulled out a photo of her kids from her ID badge holder.

Two minutes later, behind the wheel of a basic Toyota Corolla, I head out of the lot with a smile on my face.

Just another day in the life of a BadAssMama...

Best of intentions

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On the eve of my second cross-country business trip in as many weeks, I dashed to the last possible train that would get me to daycare in time for pick up (again...) and whispered a silent prayer. "Tonight, I commit to be a patient, loving, kind and fun mommy. Tonight, I commit to be a patient, loving, connected spouse."

Well, one out of two ain't bad.

The kid part worked out pretty great. I called my husband from the train to let him know that I planned to sneak in the house, quickly pack for my trip, then commit the rest of the evening to hanging out with him and the boys. He was cool with it, so I came into the house, sneaked to the office to print out my boarding pass and write a check for the Scholastic Book Club, then turned to go up the stairs.

Then, I smelled it.

Was there a nasty diaper in the office garbage can? Well, it was poo alright. But it was on my boots.

EWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW!!!!!!!!

So, rather than sneaking upstairs while my children were blissfully unaware of my existence, I had to take off the boots, go to the backyard to hose them off, come back in through the kitchen (where my children were blissfully eating dinner), mop my route from the front door to the office several times and THEN head upstairs to pack.

That's ok. The whole bit took just under seven minutes, so technically I was still on schedule. No one was screaming, so I went upstairs to pack. The main gift from my stint as a management consultant (in addition to my robot-like ability to function on less than 5 hours of sleep) was the ability to pack for any trip, of any length, within 20 minutes in a single carry on bag.

Really...I'm that good.

Now, where was I? Oh yes - patient, loving, kind mommy engaging with her children and husband before the second business trip in as many weeks.

While I was packing, I noticed that both laundry bins were full. Since I would be landing at 5:45am on Friday to a full day of meetings and errands, followed by a jewelry party at 7:30pm (yes, I know, I am insane...), I decided that it would be best to take care of the laundry before my trip. So, I hauled down the dirty clothes, threw them in the wash, then came up to engage with my family.

It was 6:25. I was only 15 minutes behind schedule.

The kids finished dinner and I got down on the floor to play. We really had a ball! There were dinosaurs and castles with moats and car crashes and animal encounters. It was AWESOME. Then it was "homework time" for Angel. We decided to commit 15 minutes every night at 7 to go through 2 pages of a Pre-K workbook and do any exercises that he might have from the speech therapist. Last night was not so great (my fault...topic of tomorrow's blog). Tonight was really good.

At least with Little Angel.

That's where the second part of my commitment for the evening was all shot to hell.

I won't go into any detail, because I don't like to make my husband the topic of these blogs, but I will say that there was a misunderstanding over my handling of the homework/two child situation. Tempers flared, feelings were hurt. I tried to explain that I wasn't fighting (especially since I was the source of the temper tantrum the night before...again, the topic of tomorrow's blog), but it didn't really matter. I struck a nerve and there was tension.

So, I finished homework, got the kids to bath and together we did books and put the kids to bed. After the post-bedtime-poop-and-pee routine (Really? You didn't know that you needed to poop 20 minutes ago??), both kids were asleep and I came downstairs.

Instead of engaging with my husband as a patient, loving, caring wife, I am in the office writing this post.

Why?

Because I need some space. The "driver"in me (hello, Social Styles Inventory...) wants to go in the living room and talk it out. Explain why I took the approach I did, how I don't want to argue before the trip, and blah, blah, blah.

The realist in me knows that if I go in that room right now, it will just be a big-ass fight for no particular reason other than pure-and-simple-working-parent-induced-exhaustion.

So, I will type.

Then I will check my email.

Then I will go through the kitchen, to the basement, to fold the laundry.

Then, if I am certain that the urge to talk has left the building, I will sit next to my husband on the couch.

I think this is the best way to be a good wife this evening.

We'll see...

Ice Cube

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As I prepare to enter week 2 of the BadAssMama travel-o-rama, I find myself strangely excited.
While I'm still exhausted, (I think it will take a few YEARS of uninterrupted sleep to shake this hangover) and I feel yet another cold creeping on, (damned nasty preschoolers and their boogers!), I do feel like I'm still in a relatively good place.

I've gone through another weekend that didn't pass with a blur. I truly enjoyed my kids roughly 98% of the time I was with them. Saturday was errand day - because I have now learned to allow myself to do errands with my family so that I am not SO exhausted by Saturday that I do not even want to look at them. We did haircuts, to prep for a family wedding next weekend (can you say "Road trip"?), a stop at The Children's Place to get outfits for said wedding, a quick stop at Target for winter kid clothes and the weekly BJs run (where do they PUT all of that food? They're not even 4 feet tall!!!). After nap (the kids', not mine - silly! That would be the topic of an ENTIRE post in and of itself), we spent the rest of the afternoon just hanging out and playing at home.

Today, we had our first WeBop class at Jazz at Lincoln Center. I know that my kids LOVE music. We play a different genre for them every night. We tried the Gymboree music thing (whack!), but when I heard from a new friend at work that Lincoln Center had a class for kids, I rushed to sign up. They LOVED it. Correction...Angel loved it (it plays to his need to be the center of attention - I wonder where he got that from? Hmmmm....). Victor needed a while to warm up, but was having a ball by the end of the class. When we went to see Harry Connick Jr. for my birthday, he thanked his parents for exposing him to great musicians at a young age. I was sold. I now want to find as much REAL music and musical events as possible for my kids to attend. They have an affinity for good music, and I want to nurture it before the videogames and comic books eat their way into their tiny brains...

So, as we wrap the day and prepare for the bath-book-bed routine, I am hopeful. I had a truly great weekend with my family. Nothing awe-inspring. Just truly enjoying my kids (again, 98% of the time. They are still preschoolers and I am still me!). I find myself anticipating another productive work week and feeling less overwhelmed as my new one-thing-at-a-time approach to work (and life) is starting to settle in. I'm now starting to actually put time limits on tasks. It sounds like it would make things MORE stressful, but it actually helps me to focus and bang things out, rather than wandering from task to task via the myth that is multi-tasking.

I know that this is a bit of a random post, but I'm feeling pretty optimistic about all things BadAssMama today, so I wanted to make note.

I take a lot of time writing about the bad days...this was a good one.

An old friend

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Hello, anxiety. It's been a while. Can't really say that I'm happy to see you again, but I can't really say that I'm surprised...

So, the BadAssMama was thrown for a loop this week. After kicking off with an amazing business trip - the first in several months - where I felt focused and strategic, I returned home one great big ball-o-nerves.

I didn't think that I was anxious, then I started to notice the telltale signs:

- Bruise-like dark under eye circles that extend to my cheekbones
- Ulcer activity
- Shedding/breaking hair
- Insomnia

The last sign, which tipped me off that I was rapidly approaching a meltdown, was my disproportionately emotional response when the jerk-of-a-train-conductor literally shut the door to the 7:15am train on my nose, began to pull out of the station, stopped and opened the doors in the BACK of the train to let one man board, then pulled out again without opening the doors for me. This resulted in a screaming-crying-profanity-laced phone call to my husband.

It was all going so well! My post-vacation mellow continues to impact my day-to-day family life. I'm yelling less and truly enjoying my kids more (if only for a moment) every day. I am sticking to my newly found skill of non-multi-tasking. This is helping me to feel less frazzled and producing better results in my work, I believe. And I am truly enjoying the feeling of being focused and strategic at work.

Then why am I falling apart?

Even though I am consciously trying not be be perfect or get it all done in one day, I continue to burn the candle at both ends. There is so much that I want to get done, but clearly am physically not able to do it all.

At least not without my body screaming for relief.

No blinding insight. No big message.

Just another day in the life of a BadAssMama...