Just a minute...

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It's time that I spent more time actually BEING with my kids, rather than just DOING stuff in their vicinity.

Let me explain.

Like the heart of The Grinch, from the moment my first child was born it seemed that my never-ending-to-do-list grew three sizes each day. Sterilize the bottles, wash the clothes in Dreft, freeze the breast milk, mop the floors, change the diapers. Lather, rinse, repeat.

As my son got older and the second came along, I developed a bit of a system. I learned how to check items off of my to-do list at the same time as caring for my kids. True, the big things like grocery shopping, balancing the checkbook and laundry were done primarily between the hours of midnight and 5am, but surely I could unload the dishwasher or prepare dinner while the kids played on the floor. And thus, the pattern began. A pattern I like to call the "incredibly shrinking mommy" syndrome.

I bet you know what I'm talking about. And, no, it is not a weight loss plan (although wouldn't THAT be nice?)

The symptoms are less than obvious at the start - they sneak up on you, really. First, you find yourself repeating the phrase, "Just a minute" or "I just have to do ONE more thing" each time your child asks you to come play. You begin to prioritize finishing things over reading them a book. Become annoyed when the kids keep asking you to bring them milk or remind you that they have to pee while you're trying to dial through just a FEW more emails. Maintaining the schedule becomes more important that maintainingte friendship with your children. Before you know it, it's bedtime and once again you have spend NO time actually BEING with your kids. You just checked things off of your to do list while they were nearby.


In my quest to be more present and in-the-moment (because clearly being of-the-moment is SO last year...), I've decided to STOP putting my to-do list ahead of my kids. So, I'll unload the dishwasher after bedtime. Balance the checkbook during my lunch break. Put away groceries during nap. My kids want ME, not an empty in box.

And so do I...

Raising little stinkers

I heard a great quote the other day. People can be classified into two camps: skunks or turtles. Now, before you assume this is some OCD cleanliness comparison (although given my propensity, it most certainly could be...), the analogy was related to how we express our anger.

When some people get angry, they retreat into their shell. They clam up, pretend that nothing's really bothering them or worse swallow their anger until it slowly festers into resentment, indifference and eventually hatred. These are the turtles. Skunks, on the other hand, react to feelings of anger by stinking up the place. Set them off, and get ready to get sprayed! Emotional outbursts, angry words, generally creating an overwhelming funk that impacts everything and everyone around them.

The BadAssMama falls solidly, unequivocally into the skunk camp (shocking, I know). Yup, when I'm pissed off chances are I will explode like a sixth grade science experiment. Sure, I may keep it together well in professional settings or around folks that mean very little to me. But around those I hold near and dear, I am a certifiable stink bomb. Maybe it's because I hold them to a higher standard, or because when someone you truly love makes you angry, it means more than when a random stranger cuts you off in traffic (not that I have a road rage issue or anything...).

I have known for quite some time that it might be best if I got this whole constructively-expressing-my-anger thing under control. Over time, I have gotten better. But if I had to give my self a letter grade on the whole self-control thing, I'd earn around a C- (on a good day...). And while this habit of letting the stink fly with my dearly beloved might be hard on my marriage and in my closest relationships, the real impact is on my kids.

Funny thing - you ask God for smart children and before you know it, they start mimicking all of your behavior like tiny little parrots. Or in my case, adorable little stinkers. Rather than expressing their feelings of frustration or impatience in words, my boys are more likely to resort to yelling (maybe because that's what their mama tends to do when her patience is running thin). Instead of thinking through their feelings and trying to deal with them constructively, they are prone to fits of hysteria, wild tantrums and general crazy-making. Yup.. they learned that from me too).

So, The BadAssMama is turning a new leaf. It's never too late to teach an old dog new tricks, and it's high time I start teaching my boys how to express their feelings constructively - rather than stinking up the place...

More confessions of a BadAssMama...

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I love my kids. I do not love parenting.

Let me explain.

There is nothing better in life than walking into the door after a long day at work and hearing my boys scream, "MOMMY!!!" like tiny, deranged lunatics. I love the way they smell (well, most of the time). I love their smiles, their laughs, the way they are full of imagination and wonder and so much love for SO many things. I love the way they give my life dimension and reason and purpose. I love taking care of them, snuggling with them, reading to them, practicing piano, doing homework, watching them play together, learn new things, discover something amazing for the first time.

And then there is the day-to-day parenting.

I hate being responsible for the lives of two tiny humans. It is crushingly, impossibly overwhelming. I hate worrying about their future, their health, their dispositions, their behavior, their lack-of-self-control, their impulsiveness. I hate wondering if I am too hard on them, too easy on them, too present, too distant, too much. I hate whining, crying, teething, tantrums, growth spurts, birthday parties and picture day. I hate the smell of little boy pee at 4 in the morning. I hate washing clothes every day, screaming "JUST GO TO BED!" every night.  Trying to impose some semblance of order to the chaos that is life with two-under-the-age-of-six.

And I hate that before I know it, they will no longer be little boys with pot bellies who squeal like pigs when they laugh. I hate that far too soon, the sweet smell of pickly toes will be replaced by sweaty gym socks and football uniforms. I hate that my babies are growing up before my very eyes, and if I'm not careful I might let the day-to-day annoyances of parenthood blind me to the joys of being Angel and Victor's mommy...

Prepping for re-entry

In every space movie I've ever seen, the most dangerous part of the trip is always re-entry. Hurtling back to Earth at high speed, searing heat and vibration threatening to break the ship apart. Gasps of relief when the heroes make it safely back home.

I never thought coming home from a month of non-stop business trips would feel the same...minus the hero's welcome part.

Let me explain.

I've always been an expert traveler. It started early on in my career, from my consulting days. On the road five days per week, a different city every month. Literally living out of my suitcase. I can pack for a trip of any length within 20 minutes, and rarely if ever forget anything at home (or in the hotel room). Once the kids arrived, I travelled less but business trips are still a regular part of my job. Now, instead of traveling once or twice each month I find it works better if I lump my trips into a few weeks of non-stop travel 2 or 3 times each year.

I'm always fastidious in my preparation for the trip. Bags packed, school events prepped for, kids' outfits picked out in advance, grocery delivery set up for the day of my return and meals planned and prepped before take off. No matter what time zone I'm in, I do my best to speak to my kids each morning before school and we have a new habit of catching up via Facetime after dinner. I don't know about you, but my kids could care less about the telephone (they're much more interested in getting back to whatever game they were playing or movie they were watching than hearing Mommy's voice come out of a box). But seeing Mommy on the iPad? Now THAT'S cool. It makes me smile to see their little faces each day, and makes me feel like I'm still part of the daily routine even when I'm on the road.

The problem is, I'm really not. Hence, the challenges of re-entry.

Even though the kids (and The Hubs) miss me while I'm away, they get into their own groove without Mommy. When I come back, I can't help but feel like a third wheel - part of the family, sure, but not really fitting quite like I did before the latest BadAssMama Travel-o-Rama. True, some of it is my own paranoia (or guilt, take your pick). But I can't help but feel a bit left out whenever I come back from a long business trip.

The good news is that I'll be back into the normal routine for the next several weeks, with only a few random overnight trips until Summer. But next time, I'll be careful to prepare just as much for re-entry as I do for departure, so that no one gets burned...least of all me. 

Teaching my boys how to love

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I spent this Valentine's Day on the road, in the midst of yet another BadAssMama Travel-o-Rama for work. Because my husband is a keeper, we exchanged cards with each other and the boys on Monday night before my flight. I flew out to the West Coast on a 9pm flight so I could say goodnight to my boys in person one more time before 4 days on the road.

Come to think of it, The Hubs and I have never really been big on Valentine's Day. Not so much in protest of yet another "greeting card" holiday, but more as a reflection of his utter practicality. Even when we were in our early courting days, we never went out to dinner on the big day because the restaurants were too crowded. While we would always exchange cards, we never really did the Valentine gift thing.

If I really step back and think about it, I don't think that Angel's aversion to Valentine's Day is so much about practicality as a reflection of his penchant for action above words (get your minds out of the gutter people...oh wait, maybe that's just me). While I am more of a talker, Angel is your classic strong-yet-silent type. Rather than telling me he cares in words, Angel shows his love through the little things. Keeping the gas tank full in my truck, buying my favorite-yet-impossible-to-find natural black cherry soda, asking the waiter if there is coconut in anything on the menu (I developed a freakish coconut allergy in my mid-thirties). He sent out a link to my first published article, reads every blog post, cheers on every professional victory and believes in me more than I believe in myself. He is an amazing husband and father, protective son and brother, fiercely loyal friend. Angel shows his love every day, not just on Valentine's Day.

As my boys transition all too quickly from babies to little men, I'm proud that they know their parents love them. One of my best parenting memories actually happened Monday night before my flight. I laid in the bed with Victor (I literally climb into their teeny toddler beds and snuggle with them each night) to tell him good night. As he drank his water out of a sippy cup and stroked the side of my face, I told Victor that I loved him. His response? "I know, Mommy."

While I'm proud of the job I've done showing my love to Little Angel and Victor, I believe that they will learn the most about how to love through the example of their incredible father, my extraordinary husband. Angel is the most patient, involved, deeply caring parent I have ever met (present company included!). Not only do my boys have a brilliant example of how to be a great parent, they have a living testament of how to truly show love to your wife, friends and family.

It's true. The BadAssMama may not always get this parenting thing right, but I hit a home run in the husband department. Happy Valentine's Day, baby...

Potty training, Take 3

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I look forward to the day that every other room in my house no longer smells like little boy pee.

Let me explain. 

As you may know, I have two boys under the age of six. Victor (age 3) has just started the potty training process (meaning, he goes to the potty when he feels like it and has no sense of direction when aiming for the bowl). Angel has been fully potty trained during daylight hours for the past 2 years, but still has a hard time making it through the night. 

At first, I thought he was being lazy (as in "I'm wearing a pull up and my crazy mother will just clean all this nastiness up in the morning anyway, so I'm just going to lay in the bed and pee everywhere.") Besides being a horribly cynical point of view (well, consider the source...), it did not take into account that we never actually TRAINED him to get up and go to the bathroom in the middle of the night. In my head, I thought it would just happen organically. If he could figure out that he needed to pee during the day, why would night time be any different?

This solid logic failed to take into account that my five-year-old subscribes to the "play hard, sleep harder" school of thought. Meaning, once he finally hits the sack he is O-U-T. We have tried to rouse him from bad dreams or talking in his sleep with no impact. You can shake him, sit him up, tickle his feet. Once this kid is asleep, it's lights out. 

I spoke to girlfriends who'd done the whole night training thing before. The advice was varied - everything from "Don't worry, he'll grow out of it" to "Have you spoken to your doctor? He IS already five..." After many sleepless nights (and harried mornings washing yet another set of sheets), The Hubs and I decided to ride it out. We'd let him figure it out at his own pace. We stocked up on overnights and bought extra sheets.

Then, a few weeks ago Angel started to apologize for peeing in the bed. Mind you, we never scolded him for it. He just seemed embarrassed about it. When I would tell him that it was ok, that he just had to practice going to the potty at night, he would reply (in typical dramatic fashion), "I just CAN'T do it mom! I will never wake up dry." Then he would walk away pouting or in tears.

It was too much for me to take. 

I didn't want to pressure Angel into night training because I didn't want to make him anxious or embarrassed. But, since God has a since of humor, this kid has (un)fortunately inherited my Type-A-perfectionist-anxiety gene. So, I jumped onto the internet and bought a pee alarm. Technically, it's called a bed wetting training system but, let's be real - it's a pee alarm.

That night, I told Angel that I'd ordered an alarm to help wake him up when he needed to go to the bathroom. You would have thought that I ordered him a lifetime supply of Legos! He was ecstatic. Really, I felt more than a little guilty (does this kid have such a rough life that a pee alarm is a treat?). 

Fast forward to this weekend. We gave the alarm a test run on Saturday night. After a few beeps (we set it on vibrate with a flashing light since the sounds were just too crazy), Angel woke up completely dry on Sunday morning. Last night, he went to the bathroom about 1000 times between 8 and 9, then slept through the night, waking well-rested and dry again this morning.

And he is SO proud of himself. The look of accomplishment on his face when he announces that he wore big boy underwear to bed AND woke up dry? It's truly amazing. 

Now if only I can get Victor to stop hiding behind the couch when he makes poo...

(p.s. I fully realize that this is one of the posts that my boys are going to KILL me for when they are old enough to read my blog. Mommy loves you, boys. Now please learn how to aim and use Clorox wipes...)

Taking the long road home

I am the queen of efficiency. I embrace the fact that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. I believe in completing tasks in the most time-effective manner possible. I make an effort to touch mail, paperwork or anything that needs to be filed/sorted/managed once, rather than moving it from one spot to the next and waiting to deal with it later. I answer email almost instantaneously. If something needs to be done, more often than not I do it right away – partially to be efficient, mainly because if I don’t I will likely forget about it (darn you, sleep-deprivation-induced short term memory loss!)

But here’s the thing. Being efficient may save time, but it’s f-ing exhausting! I find that the more I do, the more I find that needs to be done – then I’m adding all of those things onto my to-do list as well. More often than not, I even find myself putting off a game of Bingo or watching a movie with the kids to “just finish one more thing”. That might be efficient, but when it comes to what really matters in my life, it sure as hell ain’t effective…

And it’s not just my kids that get the short end of the stick. Connections with friends are all-too-often relegated to a quick browse of my Facebook timeline between meetings. On a good day, maybe a text or phone call on my commute home. I haven’t had a date night with my husband since roughly 2007. But the person who REALLY gets the shaft is me. In my zeal to get it ALL done EVERY day, I cut corners on sleep, pampering and generally sitting still doing nothing. I am perpetual motion from the moment I rise until my head hits the pillow much later than it should every night.


There is more to life than efficiency. Completed tasks are over-rated! My new goal is to spend more silly time with my kids doing whatever the hell they want. I will stop telling them to wait, “just one more minute” unless the task at hand is life-or-death. The work will be there when they go to bed. It can wait until the morning. My kids want to play NOW.

On the husband front, we’ve made a deal to schedule in time once a week to re-connect. True, there are rarely roses and violins involved, but knowing that Monday night is coming puts a smile on my face at the end of a long work week (and sometimes an even longer weekend with our two tiny lunatics).

As for me, I’m making more time to stop and smell the roses - or at least sit my butt on the couch for a few minutes after work. I’m 6 weeks in to my Bikram yoga kick, and I’m truly enjoying my 90 minute moving meditation a few times each week. Although a full blown vacation is not in the cards right now, I am taking the time for a few mini-breaks in my otherwise hectic schedule.

This month is yet another BadAssMama Travel-o-Rama (6 cities in 3 weeks). My old routine was to hit the airport at the crack of dawn and return on the first thing smoking to spend less time away from my kids. But after weeks of 6am flights followed by a redeye back home, I usually found myself to sick or cranky to even enjoy them. So, I’m trying a new approach. I’ve been flying into town the night before each meeting and adding some cushion to each itinerary to allow the opportunity to have dinner with a friend in town, order room service and go to bed early, find a local Bikram studio or hit the gym at an hour other than 5am.

These small changes – focusing on the journey rather than how fast I get to the finish line – are already making a huge difference in my stress level, my joy and my patience with life in general. I’ll always be a fan of getting things done quickly, but sometimes it’s better to take the long road home.

Expanding my definition of success

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I'm having an early mid-life crisis.

OK, so it's probably not all THAT early and I actually think that I have come through to the other side with the help of a few wise and wonderful women in my life.

For the past few weeks (or months, or several years...but who's counting?), I've been pondering what the next step in my career should be. Don't get me wrong. I adore my job and continue to learn every day. I'm just one of those spoiled-advanced-degree-having-whipper-snappers who likes to measure my success by how quickly I can get the next promotion/award/feather-in-the-cap/gold star thingy.

At least I used to be.

It really started when I had my first son. More than once during my maternity leave, I had the sneaking suspicion that something was changing. Not that I was losing myself, I simply didn't FEEL like the self that I always knew. A few months after returning to work, the feeling began to pass and I got back to something resembling life as normal. Just shy of two years and baby number two arrives on the scene, bringing with him the return of the sneaky-yet-non-descript feeling that something was different about me. More than just the whole "I'm a mother" thing - it seemed that my whole central operating principle had changed.

That bizarro feeling crept up on me again near the end of last year and hung on until about 2 weeks ago when I met my wonderful friend and executive coach, Dr. Melanie Katzman (check her out at katzmanconsulting.com. She's the epitome of awesome sauce...). I talked to her about my desire to define the next phase of my career, figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up, blah, blah, blah. After listening to me blather on for about 3 sessions, Melanie told me that my story was very similar to that of most people (men and women alike) at "mid-career". When you've had a fair amount of success and grown accustomed to a steady upward trajectory, at some point you realize that what you REALLY want isn't necessarily the next big thing, but to enjoy more of the life that you have.

She told me that I needed to broaden my idea of success.

I felt like a genius and an idiot all at the same time. Like The Bluebird of Happiness, the life I wanted was right in front of me all along. I was just SO busy looking for the next step that I almost missed it.

So, these days I'm expanding my definition of success. I want a bigger life, not just a bigger job. I want to play with my kids, practice yoga, volunteer with organizations I believe in, write more, read more, date my husband, bake cookies, use my Crock Pot, write thank you notes, visit my grandparents, hang out with my girlfriends. I want to LIVE my life, not merely exist.

Thank you, Melanie. I think I might just like this whole mid-career thing...