Monday, December 30, 2013

2013 Rewind

Are your New Year's Resolutions set? This year I'm setting some healthy resolutions for the whole family that are pretty simple. Move often. Eat (more) veggies. Drink water (and wine, for the adults). I think it's doable and I'm excited for a healthy New Year.

To wrap up 2013, I thought I'd include some links to some of my favorite posts from the past year. Hard to believe this is where we were with the new house at this time last year. What a difference a year makes!

I wrote this post last year on Charlie's birthday. Is he really going to be 5 this year? Our annual trip to California was very memorable for the wrong reasons. We thought we'd never get home!

We endured a few sick days in the winter months, like this one when Iz played on the floor while I taught class...

Spring finally arrived, bringing Easter and Charlie's first soccer game

Iz was baptized on her second birthday, on St. Patrick's Day...

By May, our house looked nothing like the old version, yet it was far from finished. And no matter what I did, I just couldn't seem to make time stand still.  

As our move date approached, I realized just how much we packed into our year of living downtown. We made a quick trip to Washington D.C. for a wedding, celebrated my 40th birthday, and celebrated the 4th of July (and Roxie's birthday) in our new home.


I spent a lot of time this past year pondering work/life balance and whether there is any way to juggle career and family and keep my sanity. I don't have all the answers, but between t-ball games and learning to swim, our life found a comfortable rhythm in our new home. 

We've just about survived the terrible twos, and I had fun writing about my childhood home and my very talented grandmother. And the kitchen at Modern on Meadow has become my favorite place to be with family. 

Our new cousin Max was all the rage when he arrived in September and he continues to impress as only a super adorable baby can.

When I wasn't traveling down memory lane, I made sure we soaked up everything fall had to offer this year (baking and crafts!) and these were my favorite Halloween costumes yet! 

I faced and finished a new challenge at work, and Ryan made partner at his law firm.

Many friends wrote (here and on Facebook) and reassured me this change is not as bad as I imagine. And the amazing responses I got from this post remind me why words and shared stories can be so important in our lives. Thank you for your words of encouragement and inspiration. 

I end this year feeling incredibly thankful and full of hope and resolve to be a better parent and a better person in the coming year. In December, we had a big birthday bash and then proceeded to limp into the end of the year. But the forced slow down helped me relax and ease out of 2013. I feel rested and ready for new challenges.  

Our biggest accomplishment in 2013 was surviving a year of being displaced and settling into our new home. It was a tough challenge and we learned a lot about ourselves as a family in the process. What we missed most during our year in an apartment was not having family and friends over to share weekend dinners, holidays and birthdays. I look forward to many, many occasions when our home will be full of people we love. 

I can't slow down time and I can't make time stand still. But I can be present in the moment and make every day count. 2013 was a jam-packed year. I did my best to make it all count. 

Whether you are a regular reader or just a sometime visitor, thanks for sharing the past year with me and I wish you all the best in 2014!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

A merry, sniffly Christmas

Someone in our household has been sick almost the entire month of December. We limped into Christmas with colds that knocked each of us on our backs for days, and then lingered for well over a week. It's been 10 days since my cold hit full force and I'm still draining and stuffy. Poor Charlie held out the longest and was the last to get this monster cold. He was sick two days before Christmas and we had to cancel our Christmas Eve plans with family to keep him home. He rallied for Christmas morning, but he was still only about 60% that day - you can see it in his eyes.

Nevertheless, we had a very nice Christmas Day with family - and I think the kids got all they wanted from Santa.

Lovely, I forgot to put the vacuum away for pictures...

Unlike Charlie who changed his mind daily about what he wanted from Santa, Izzy only had one request - a guitar. I found this little yellow ukelele and she was happy as could be. She plays for us and sings - it really is the sweetest thing. I see guitar lessons in her future.

Despite the great holiday, I'm ready to say goodbye to December. I'm hoping for a very healthy 2014 for all of us.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Family Court

This basketball goal and court have existed in my parents' backyard since 1957. My grandfather poured the concrete court, experimenting with a slightly different concrete mix on each section and keeping a detailed record of his efforts (which is framed and hanging in my parents' basement). Three generations of Geigers, our friends, and neighborhood kids have banked, bricked, swished, and dunked baskets on this industrial-strength metal rim - until today. Today this rim came down to make room for a major home remodel - good change, but nonetheless sad to observe.

I spent countless hours practicing on this court - shooting morning and night with the benefit of a bright external light that did nothing to endear our neighbors. I've heard stories about my Aunt Susan battling my Dad and his friends on this court - they never wanted to let the girl play. Growing up we had epic games with my three cousins on 4th of July and Labor Day holidays. These 4-on-4 matches (6 cousins plus my Dad and my Aunt) usually ended with some blood drawn and tears shed.

The grandchildren - the third generation to use this court - also practiced their shots against their older and younger cousins. If I compare the use of the court across the three generations, I would say that girls gained full acceptance on the court, and the games became considerably more friendly - though still just as competitive.

Times and places change, but memories are forever. I understand the goal was saved and may make a return appearance at some point in the future. I vote for that.

There's no place like home (#tbt)

For a little throw back Thursday (#tbt) today, I'm revisiting this post from last year. I am currently at the same meeting in Chicago where the events described in this post transpired. Being here brings it all back and makes me think about all the same issues. I still have the same feelings of not measuring up as a scientist or as a mother, and not giving either my work or home life the focus they deserve. There was the same chaos before this trip (a sick kid, a sick dad, frantically calling sitters to patch up care for the kids during the day, and don't get me started on Christmas being NEXT WEEK!)

I don't have any answers that make me feel better about these issues one year later. But here's hoping this trip is not as eventful.

There's no place like 

I want to be home. I'm finishing up 8 days of work travel in the last 14 days, and all I want to do is be home with my babies - make pumpkin bread, carve pumpkins, catch falling leaves, and snuggle.

I spent 11 hours today reviewing grants in a hotel conference room in Chicago. A room full of brilliant scientists, judging the work of other brilliant scientists. I'm not sure how I got here. I'm not sure I can ever get another grant funded. We made decisions today about which research projects are worth millions of dollars of government money - my money, and your money - and I'm not sure how I'm qualified to make those decisions. The whole process makes me feel small and not very smart.

I spent the whole day trying to keep my emotions in check, to not think about Charlie and how he just wants his mommy. It was torture, really. His first broken bone, and I wasn't there to dry the tears, to hold him and hug the pain away.

I think this is really what wears working moms down. It isn't the big roadblocks or the bias we encounter, it is the little things that add up and make us feel like we're not there for our kids when we should be. The little things that make us feel inadequate as a parent. You can't explain to your 3 yr-old why Mommy isn't there when he breaks his arm. He just doesn't understand. He will be ok in the grand scheme of things, but I might not. And that's what hits home.

I tried to make the most of this trip, staying out and talking way past midnight with the other scientists. I know  it doesn't sound like work, but to this introvert, it is. After 11 hours of reviewing grants and worrying about Charlie, all I wanted to do was retreat to my room and be alone. But I went to dinner, and I made conversation and I was social. I went to the bar after dinner and kept making conversation. I was part of the last group to close down the bar - because this is where the real connections are made, this is where the friendships are formed that lead to favors and life-long loyalty in a very competitive field. I thought of it as work and I forced myself to engage when I really wanted to retreat and hide. If I had to be here, away from my family, then I was going to make it count.

I'm not sure I am doing what it takes to succeed in science, and I'm not sure I am doing what my family needs to be happy and whole. How will I know? Who decides and who tells me what's working? There isn't an expert panel ready to pass on their judgment of my parenting. I almost wish there was. An expert panel can give you specific suggestions and recommendations for changes to ensure future success. The critique can feel harsh, but it ultimately leads to success. Where is my parenting review panel?

Ryan has done double duty in the past couple weeks while I've been traveling. We've had pink eye, a broken arm, many sleepless nights - it's so complicated. Ryan has to give a lot to make my career work. I know it would be so much easier for him if I managed the kids all the time and he could focus on work. That is a luxury many of his peers enjoy and I worry that his career suffers because of mine. For my career to work, he has to give and the grandparents have to be on speed dial at all times. It takes a village. Some days I feel like its worth it. Other days, I'm not sure. Some days I just want to be there when it matters. I want to be there when my kids need me. At the end of the day, that's all that matters and that's how I'll be judged.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Izzy the folk singer

Could music be in her future? She loves to sing and check out how she holds her guitar (ukulele) - like a pro. It was too noisy to hear her singing in this video, but she still captured her cousin's attention. This little crooner is getting her own ukulele for Christmas!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Lucky Friday the 13th!

Lucky because his birthday is on the 13th, and so is mine. Lucky because he is mine. Lucky because he is their Dad. Just plain lucky.

Happy birthday to the best friend, husband and Dad we are lucky enough to know and love. 40 looks good!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

No Wall Street Mother

I don't want to be a Wall Street Mother. WSMs make a lot of money, keep crazy hours, traverse the globe, and give up a lot of time with their families. I have no desire to earn that much money or reach the top of the ladder if it means I miss out on back-to-school night, class trips and occasional play dates. Some might say I'm not ambitious. I think I just want to be happy.

The problem with this article about Wall Street Mothers is that it is just more of the same - sacrificing all to get to the top - except this time they are highlighting women at the top instead of men. The women succeeding on Wall Street are the ones that have husbands that stay home full time. That shouldn't be a surprise to anyone. Managing an intense career would be a hell of a lot easier if you were free to focus on work and not experience the constant pull from home and family - whether you are a man or a woman. Success requires immense hard work and dedication, of course. But does it have to come with complete sacrifice of any and all life balance?

Update: some interesting responses to this article...

I'm happy to see that there are increasing numbers of women with husbands supporting their careers full time, especially in a male-dominated profession like finance. But I wish there were more examples of the middle ground - happy families with two successful, working parents.

I bet Wall Street Mothers Parents never do this.

Both my husband's and my own career would benefit from having a spouse at home to manage daily family life. The possibility of that becoming a reality is slim to none for both of us. While there are many aspects of our domestic life I would gladly hand over to someone else (grocery shopping, housekeeping, laundry!), there are many I would not want to hand over (birthday party planning, sending holiday cards, cooking - though I'd give up the dish washing in a second).

If I had enough money, I guess I could pay someone to do all the things I don't care to do and this would free up time for my career. In lieu of said money, paying more attention to my priorities and letting go of the things that suck up time and don't really matter in the big picture is another strategy.

Lists are forming in my head. Priorities are coming into focus...stay tuned!

In the meantime, what daily tasks would you gladly turn over to someone else if you could? Which ones would you keep?

Monday, December 9, 2013

Catch me if you can

Ryan's surprise 40th birthday party. Check.
Tree up & decorated. Check.
Star family gifts delivered to the church. Check.
December birthdays with my side of the family celebrated. Check.

If I had even a quarter of Charlie's energy, I wouldn't need a weekend to recover from our weekend.

This is such a perfect picture to depict our moments at home, no matter what we're doing. Charlie never stops moving. 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

My Girl

Guess who has basically potty-trained herself? This girl. I put it off as long as I could. Her teachers kept telling me she was ready. Finally, I bought some of the cutest little Hello Kitty undies one weekend, and that was all it took. She hasn't had an accident yet. Way to go Iz!