Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Dear Marissa Mayer, I'm glad I'm not a Yahoo!

Marissa, I want to champion you, I really do. At 37, and one of only 19 female CEOs of a Fortune 500 company, I want you to succeed. Taking the reigns as CEO of Yahoo while 6 months pregnant, I was hoping you would blaze trails for working moms everywhere. But first came the stingy two week maternity leave, then the declaration that the whole baby thing was easy, and now this...turning back the clock on workplace flexibility by banning your employees to work from home. I hate to think what's next.

The truth is, if I worked for Marissa Mayer I would most likely have to leave my job. I've said previously that the most important reason I am still successfully advancing in my career with young children is flexibility (a supportive spouse and nearby grandparents are close seconds). I am fortunate that I can read academic journals, write grants, review papers, prepare class lectures and draft emails all from home. I also have leadership responsibilities to my research lab and other organizations on campus that require my presence on a regular basis - so I couldn't do my job from home full time and I wouldn't want to. I know I am fortunate that I can make the choice to work from home when I need to and this autonomy contributes in large part to my career satisfaction. There are jobs and industries where face time is crucial, I know. But in a two-career household that includes children, flexibility to work from home on occasion is key.

For those of us that don't have $117 million five-year contracts, flexible work hours are crucial to keeping all the balls in the air. Because someone still has to meet with teachers, take kids for regular physician check-ups and to the dentist. There are pancake breakfasts, school birthday parties, field trips, recitals and games to attend. (And sick days. Don't forget the sick days!) These obligations still typically fall to mom, whether working or not. While it isn't always easy, these are obligations I cannot avoid. And perhaps more importantly, these are aspects of my children's lives that I don't want to miss. On days when doctor appointments or school events are scheduled, I can maximize my time if I work from home, eliminating my commute and any unplanned distractions in the office.

As Anne-Marie Slaughter discussed in her piece in the Atlantic last summer, corporations need to go further in accommodating working parents, not backwards as companies like Yahoo and Bank of America are doing. As Slaughter extolls, the notion that face time in the office is a marker of productivity is long past. And, eliminating flexibility from the workplace affects women and men. Today, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, almost as many men telecommute as women. Working fathers today seek a greater balance between work and home. And while men are still loathe to take advantage of policies like paternity leave even when it is available to them, flex time is something men are eager to have. Even in a traditional, male-dominated law firm like my husband works for, he has the autonomy and flexibility to work from home when I absolutely cannot.  

I get it Marissa - you have a big ship to right in your new gig as top Yahoo. I know you have to make drastic moves and establish your leadership style. But can't you prove yourself and your ability to lead without setting back working families in the process? No, you didn't ask to be the poster girl for working moms. But must you separate yourself from that role to the extent that you work against us? I find it hard to believe that you will never work from home yourself. Do you not want others to have the same career-life happiness I'm sure you wish for yourself? Without hired help and the option to build a nursery next to our offices at work (really? I'm not sure I would want that luxury even if it was an option), working parents in the 99% need flexible work schedules to have at least a crack at work-life balance.

In the past year, there has been a lot of attention given to this idea of women having it all, and a national conversation on women and work is a positive step in the right direction. Marissa, I understand if you don't have the time or inclination to join the conversation, but I wish you would. 
From the home office...

Sunday, February 24, 2013

SoCal from my iPhone

Just a few pics from my iPhone of our sunny get away...just what we needed!

Ready for flight...

I had an arsenal of tools ready to get us through our long flights - ipad, leapfrog, crackers, raisins, food and more food (Charlie will zone out with the digital toys, food is the only thing that keeps Iz calm and entertained).

This is the view from our balcony in sunny California. Not bad. A beautiful flat, sandy beach is just behind that line of palm trees - perfect for morning runs and building sandcastles.

This awesome park (check out the views!) is also just across the street and directly in front of the beach. We would take the kids over in the morning for some play time. On Saturday morning it was packed with baby-wearing, stroller-pushing Dads. Ryan fit right in.

Saturday night we went out for San Diego's best fish tacos in a dive bar in Ocean beach. We were not disappointed.

I took a Pilates class with my Mom one morning - I could get used to the SoCal lifestyle for sure.

It took us a really long time to get back with a 48 hour delay in Denver. You can imagine how tough this was with two little ones. They had a great time on our 'adventure' as Charlie called it, but Ryan and I were maxed out by the time we got home. I could tell you all about the diaper blow out we had in the airport one morning that forced me to literally throw away a set of clothes, and the fact that our car battery was dead once we finally got home to KC...but instead I am going to focus on and remember the great times we had in sunny California. Can't wait to go back (on a direct flight, NOT through Denver in February!).

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Snowed in

The day started with such promise. A short drive to the airport and kisses to Gram and Grandaddy - saying goodbye to a fun California visit.

By the time we boarded our flight, our connecting flight was cancelled out of Denver. KC is expecting a snowpocalypse. I was hoping we could get ahead of it. But no such luck.

We have a hotel room and a morning flight. If we get out of here in the morning, the night will be remembered as a fun adventure in a nice, kid-friendly hotel (board games in the lobby, coloring books given to us at check in). Kids are finally sleeping - they were so excited to be in a hotel room. We secured a bottle of wine and are watching the KU game in comfy hotel beds (overtime!).

If we don't get out of here tomorrow, we will remember this night (and days?!) as...I shudder to think, so I won't for now. G'night.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Show your heart some love...

Happy Hearts Day! Did you know that February is American Heart Month?

The best thing we can do for our hearts is not to buy a box of chocolates - which I love as much as the next person (my Valentine gave me Christopher Elbow chocolates! He knows me well). The best thing we can do for our hearts every day is exercise.

I haven't written much about exercise here lately. The sad reason is that I just have not been prioritizing exercise in my life. I have a million excuses, trust me. But they really are only excuses. I resolve to do better. I'm putting it in writing here on the internet where it will live forever.

Since moving from our old house to the downtown loft, I lost a few of my best approaches to getting exercise. First, we moved away from the awesome Brookside trolley trail and great neighborhoods for running. I miss my old routes! And I miss being able to go out the door in the morning, even in the dark. I just don't feel safe doing that downtown and thus my morning running is nonexistent these days. And leaving exercise to later in the day is just not a good strategy for me - too many things come up and interfere.

Another thing I miss about living in our old neighborhood, was my ability to run and pick up the kids from daycare with the jogging stroller. This was a great way for me to fit in a 3-4 mile run, only half of which was pushing the full load with the kids. Even if I just did this once or twice a week, it was easy and convenient for all of us. Now that is one to two runs a week that I am not fitting in.

I could bemoan the lack of these exercise options (which I sometimes do) or I could figure out some new ones. And in the interest of my health and happiness - I choose the latter. Here goes!

Loft Living Exercise Options:

1. Climb some stairs. There are seven flights of stairs in our building ready and waiting to be utilized. No one ever takes the stairs in our building so they are vacant and quiet. I take the stairs two at a time going up, and jog down. In just 20 minutes I am sweating and my quads are burning. If I do this a couple days a week, I might get some strength back in these restless legs.

2. Hit the treadmill. Our building has a gym free for anyone to use. See? I told you I had only lame excuses for not getting exercise. The truth is I hate the treadmill and it is very hard for me to make use of this option. But it is convenient and Ryan and I have both made use of the gym in the 6 months we've been in the building (6 months!). On the occasional sick day, we've taken a kid down there with us when the room is empty, which only sort of works - they get bored quickly. But I need to just put on some music and get on the dang thing. No excuses.

3. Play like a toddler. This last option is actually a lot of fun. If I just followed in Charlie's footsteps all day, I would get plenty of exercise. In our stir crazy days this winter, we've discovered the wide open and long hallways in our building's basement. We set up a soccer goal at one end of the hall and everyone gets their exercise. Interval training at its best!

If I do each of these options just once per week, I will be well on my way. Apparently, even a few exercise sessions a week are better than none. So, no excuses, have a happy (and healthy) heart!
I'm always looking for more suggestions - what tricks do you use (or could you use) to squeeze in a few more minutes for exercise?

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Getting crafty

I've said it before and I'll say it again, I am not crafty. We went to a birthday party Saturday morning for one of Charlie's classmates at a ceramic making place. I heard several of the moms talking about how often they go there, and how they have a stash of 50 some-odd pieces of prized ceramics at home made by their little ones. I had never heard of the place. Charlie was not especially thrilled with the activity - Ryan finished painting Charlie's monster figurine after he got squirmy and bored. And I know better than to attempt to paint something myself. I know my limits.

But the kids are always doing fun crafty things at school, and so I try. I can't seem to help myself. I'm like a stray cat that keeps going down the same alley hoping to find food, and getting in a fight instead.  Every time. And yet I just keep going back.

The grandparents had the kids Saturday night so I had some time to prepare before we picked them up. Preparation is key! I got out the paper, glue, and various baubles I had left over from previous creative attempts, and prepared to make Valentines with C and Iz.

It wasn't a complete disaster, but these attempts never seem to go as planned. Charlie and Izzy covered one piece of paper each with a gazillion stickers and they were done. I cut out hearts, gave them some ideas of how to glue things together, etc. Not interested. And yes, the adult beverage was necessary.

But I have to say, I was much more relaxed this time around about the potential mess. And that's because I came up with a GENIUS plan to contain the mess. Genius I tell you! Check it out...

This is one of Izzy's old crib sheets over our kitchen table - a perfect fit! The sheet had gotten a bit gray and I wasn't using it anymore. Now I have the perfect use for all our old crib sheets. The table was protected from marker and glue and the worst thing that happened was paper scraps got on the floor. It made the whole experience so much more relaxing. If you have a small-ish table to work with, I highly recommend you give this a try. A plastic crib mattress cover would be even better!
I may not be crafty, but I came out the champion in this creative attempt: Valentines done +  mess contained + beer consumed = Success!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Charlie turns 4!

Charlie held fast to his request for a Green Lantern birthday cake this year, so I could not disappoint...

Ta da! Green Lantern!

The best part is that I didn't have to make it myself (not that I could). This is once again the fantastic work of a co-worker of mine, she is amazing. And at least at this age, as long as we have an awesome cake and a few presents, the birthday boy is very happy.

I feel like I dropped the ball a bit on Charlie's birthday this year. It always sneaks up on me post-holiday, and I couldn't seem to find a date to get the whole family together. That, coupled with being in our small apartment, putting together a birthday shindig this year was a challenge. I've noticed a pattern developing here where I seem to gear up for birthdays every other year - compare birthdays 1 and 3 with birthday #2. Next year, Number 5, in our new house, I will be ready.

So instead of one big party this year, we had a couple smaller ones with each side of the family (plus the party at school) - I really don't think Charlie minded.

Singing Happy Birthday to himself - why not?!

Charlie was a little under the weather for his birthday weekend, but cake and ice cream seemed to do the trick. We stayed home together the day after his birthday so he could recover a bit more and it was one of those rare unplanned sick days that was actually enjoyable. He was content to watch movies while I worked from home - as long as I sat near him on the couch. He was quiet while I took a couple phone calls, and when he started feeling better we played a little soccer. It was a quiet day, just the two of us. He was mellow and sweet, calling me "Mama" as he sometimes does when he's sick or just being silly. It was a nice day and a good start to our 4th year together.

Blowing out his cupcake at his second birthday celebration with family...

Charlie picked out his Jayhawk jersey to wear on both birthday occasions. The jersey was handed down from one of his cousins and I didn't realize until putting this post together that he was wearing number 4! 

He's either really smart or a big Jayhawk fan. As a proud mom, I'm going to say he's both. 

Next up...Izzy's second birthday! It will be hard to beat her St. Patrick's Day Rainbow party from last year. Her only request so far has been "my cake."

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Modern on Meadow remodel tour - week 9

It was a busy day at Modern on Meadow yesterday. Plumbers, a sound guy (speakers in the bathroom? Yes, please.), and the crew working on adding new support pillars in the basement were all in and out of the house during our weekly tour.

Monday, February 4, 2013

The curse of Apartment 1B

Apartment living has its pros and cons. These days I'm noticing the cons much more than the pros. I'm ready to be in our new house.

When we first moved in, we had a little run in with our neighbors in Apartment 1B. (Remember this?) I felt so defeated, and we'd only been in our loft for 1 week. I knew noise would be an issue for us in our current digs. With two small kids that cry, yell and scream on a regular basis, I knew we might not have it easy with our neighbors. I know from experience that you can hear us when you are walking through the building lobby. I only hope our noise is somewhat contained - there is no one below us and I hope, given how high our ceilings are, that those above us don't hear much. That leaves our neighbors on either side - the ones in Apartment 1D still smile at us in the hallway when we see them...a good sign, right?

Our apartment door is visible just behind the wall of mailboxes...

As for the hipsters in Apartment 1B, they moved out at the beginning of January and the apartment has been vacant until this past weekend. With the apartment vacant for a month, I realized just how loud our previous neighbors were. We used to hear the pumping and thumping of their surround sound at night, to the point that we could just about determine what they were watching (such violent taste in movies). They had two giant and very loud dogs - a St. Bernard and a large black lab - that just about brought the walls down whenever their owners were gone. But even more bothersome than the tv and the dogs, were their arguments. Neanderthal guy, as we affectionately called our neighbor with the giant black truck and preference for wife-beater tees, was a shouter. And his girlfriend was a yeller. They would have epic fights which you could hear word for word while standing in our bedroom closet. He was tired of her nagging, she was tired of him in general. I'm pretty sure they broke up and then moved out. Good riddance.

As of this weekend, we have new neighbors in Apartment 1B. They knocked on our door Saturday evening as I was putting the kids to bed. They wanted to tell us they would be hanging a tv on the wall and to apologize in advance for the noise. Ha! I introduced them to our little noisemakers and assured them it was no problem. What a different first interaction compared to the one we had with the previous occupants. But alas, I think Apartment 1B is cursed.

With a full belly from a Superbowl/birthday party and a kicking, restless Charlie (still sick) in bed next to me, I couldn't fall asleep last night. That's when I heard it - the yelling from next door. It surprised me - after a month of having no neighbors, I'd gotten used to the quiet. Our nice new neighbors that apologized in advance for drilling into our joint brick wall, were having a loud and angry argument. There was cursing and yelling - mostly in a woman's voice as the deeper male voice doesn't carry through the walls. I don't know what they were saying, but it made me think - is it the curse of that apartment? Or is it simply an aspect of communal living that I've forgotten? I haven't lived in an apartment building since graduate school, having rented houses both in St. Louis and when I first moved to KC. Is it because we're living in a loft building downtown with a younger crowd? Are the arguments and fighting a reflection of youthful, bad relationships? Or is it that all couples argue and we just usually aren't privy to hearing them in the middle of the night when tucked into our own houses? I wonder....

But I only wonder for as long as they are keeping me awake. I am past the stage in my life of being curious about the lives of others. I don't really care to know the stories behind their arguments or, for that matter, to know their preference in movies. And I'm sure they would do just fine without knowing about our kids' sleep issues. When our house is done this Spring, I will say good-bye to apartment living and to knowing more than I ever want to about my neighbors' personal lives.

Friday, February 1, 2013

And a cherry on top...

It was a big day for Charlie at school - all the kids wore pajamas for his birthday. When we arrived in the classroom, they all ran up and shouted "Happy Birthday Charlie!" and showed us their special pajamas. Charlie suddenly got really quiet and shy. They all looked super cute in their PJs.

Ryan got to sit through morning meeting. The teacher talked about the calendar and compared January to the month of February, pointing out Charlie's birthday, Valentine's Day and the upcoming school pancake breakfast. The teacher asked Charlie what song he would like to sing with the group, and he very fittingly requested "Happy Birthday."

After morning meeting, the kids all moved towards the sink to wash their hands and then the chaos began...

We brought in all the ingredients to make vanilla cupcakes (minus the eggs, because one of the kids has an allergy) and the kids all helped.

The night before, Charlie and I wrote up the recipe for everyone to see.

The little girl in pink and yellow to my left was my helper, marking off each item on the recipe list as it was added to the mixing bowl.

These guys have done this before and they knew the drill. If they sat quietly in their seats, they would each get a turn to add an ingredient, stir the mix.

Oh boy, this is when we were in the thick of it - check out all those kids! How do the teachers do it every day? They were really very good, but the din in the room is just constant and they are so squirmy - especially on a Friday of a very cold week that included almost no outdoor play time.

The two little girls in front of me were watching closely. I told them we needed two cups of sugar, but I split the second cup into half so more kids could help. They quickly asked why I added three scoops when we only needed two. Smart.

Charlie seemed to really enjoy making the cupcakes - although he didn't understand why he couldn't lick the bowl like we do at home.

The recipe turned out pretty well considering all the hands in the kitchen. Charlie helped me take the baking tray to the kitchen and the cook put them in the oven just after lunch. We brought some pink frosting and maraschino cherries (Charlie's very strange and insistent request) to top them for snack time. I really wanted to make it back for snack time, but I had a grant deadline by 5:00 and it just didn't happen. But no guilt, right? I was there, we made the cupcakes. I was there.

As I'm looking at these pictures, I notice something that I didn't see this morning - Charlie didn't feel very well. When he doesn't feel well, it is written all over his face.

How did I not see it? Because it was his birthday, he was excited about wearing PJs to school and making the cupcakes. And I was focused on finishing my grant. He crashed by the end of the day and we gave him some chicken noodle soup and put him to bed. Poor buddy, turning 4 just maxed him out. I hope he recovers for the weekend, so he can actually enjoy his birthday.