Thursday, January 24, 2008

Feeling Snacky?

Popcorn is a whole grain so, according to the latest dietary fads, that makes it good for you. Even if it's covered in chocolate or cheese. At least, that's what I say, and the folks at Dale and Thomas obviously agree, given the amazing selection of flavored popcorn treats they have to offer:

January 16, 2008
Short Orders

Top of the pops
By Lylah M. Alphonse
Globe Staff

If your sweet tooth is aching after all of those holiday treats, chef Ed Doyle at Dale and Thomas Popcorn has got you covered. Well-known for his decadent, chocolate-spattered DrizzleCorn creations, the chef and the New Jersey-based company offer savory selections at two local shops. Alas, the wildly delicious Southwest Cheddar Chipotle popcorn is on hiatus in some places, but the White Cheddar & Black Peppercorn option is a good runner-up. Or try a 12-pack sampler of current flavors ($48). Another hearty choice, Halftime Chili and Sour Cream, will be available in time for pregame munching on Super Bowl Sunday. And if you can't make it without something sweet, dig into Chocolate Chunk N'Caramel. Available at Dale and Thomas stores in Quincy Market and Terminal C of Logan International Airport, or go to [More]

An Interview with the Co-Founders of Little Jet Set

I'm undercover as the Work It, Mom! Team today, with a new interview with Hana Wolf and Nisha Cordero, co-founders of Little Jet Set. Both women left their careers as lawyers to raise their kids, and, in June of last year, launched their first entrepreneurial venture together -- Little Jet Set, an online boutique catering to parents and children who travel often.

You can read all about them here, but among the revelations was this little nugget: Working from home is sometimes more difficult than visiting a foreign country with your children in tow.

Which has been more difficult, traveling to another country with small children, or working from home with them?

Hana: Working from home! I’ve mastered traveling solo with one child (at least my own).

Nisha: I find it hard to “quit” for the day when I have an idea in the works or an obstacle to address. ... The issue is knowing when to stop. I recently traveled to India with my children (over 25 hours of flight time) and I can honestly say that my kids and I weathered the journey well ... [More]

There are plenty of other interesting offerings in the Work It, Mom! article archives...

No Sick Days In Parenthood

I hab a code in by nose. Actually, almost everyone in our household is sick again, but you know what? There are no sick days in parenthood. Over at The 36-Hour Day, I explore the phenomenon of "Presenteeism," also sometimes known as "The office is the only place where a working mom can get any rest."

I'm sick. Again.

(Of course, I'm at work. Why do you ask?)

The other night, my husband remarked that, in the past few months, both he and I have been sick more frequently than ever before. But why? Sure, we're overworked, but not any more than we've always been. We've been eating more healthily, exercising more often -- OK, that's a lie, he's been exercising, I've been, um... look over there! Something shiny!

Really, though, we couldn't figure out why we were caught in this cycle of sinus headaches and hacking coughs. We feebly tossed around a few more ideas (is it the weather? Do we need vitamins?) while my husband reminded our 3-year-old to cover her mouth when she sneezed and I wiped the baby's streaming nose for the umpteenth time, and then it hit us ...


This is the first year that any of our kids' have been in daycare. They're thriving and socializing and learning amazing new things. They're also coming into contact with amazing new germs that they bring home and generously share with the rest of us.

Recently, all five of our kids were sick at once, taking turns spiking fevers and playing "toilet roulette." My husband took a few days off, and I was psyched to hightail it to my office rather than work from home (editing copy is a breeze when you don't have a fevery 9-year-old watching "The Suite Life of Zach and Cody" at top volume 10 feet away while his woozy 11-year-old sister races to the bathroom to regurgitate a pint of blue Gatorade).

Besides the obvious (no diapers to change at the office, though there are plenty of metaphorical blowouts) the biggest difference between my full-time job as a newspaper editor and my full-time job as a mother is this: There are no sick days in parenthood.

But, even though I am lucky enough to get sick days at work, I rarely take them when I'm sick.I'll weigh the pros and cons of sending a coughing kid to school or daycare, but I tend to assume that I'll be heading in to the office whether I'm hacking up a lung or not. Toddler has a fever of 100.5 degrees? She's staying home. Mom has a fever of 102 or more? See-ya-later-buh-bye, I'm going to work.

Studies have shown that "presenteeism" -- when sick employees show up to work -- can actually hurt a business, resulting in everything from a decreased productivity to lower product quality to actual monetary losses of about $150 to $250 billion annually.

But if it's so bad for business, why do so many people haul their aching and sniffling selves into the office? Lots of reasons. Some people simply don't have enough -- or any -- sick days. Some fear they'll be penalized for not putting in enough face time. Some feel bound by deadlines, others feel guilty for being "a burden" to their coworkers. And there's another reason -- one that, maybe, you have to be a working mom to really understand...

Sometimes, the office is the only place where you can get any rest.

Read the rest here, and tell me: What do you do when you're sick? Do you take time for yourself?

Thursday, January 17, 2008

A Confession: I Keep Everything

In my latest installment over at The 36-Hour Day, I have a confession to make: I'm a pack rat. Now, this will come as no surprise to those who know me. But, finally, there's some sort of an explaination for the madness:

There's a reason why I don't have a house cleaner. In addition to the fact that I can't afford one, I mean.

The reason is: I'd have to clean my house before the house cleaner came over to clean my house. Really, I would. Hiring help might actually create more work for me in the long run.

I have a tendency to clutter. I can't bear to part with things that might come in handy. I try to practice the three R's -- reduce, reuse, recycle -- but, while I dutifully do the latter and try hard to do the former, most things seem to fall into the "reuse" category. The problem is that not everything can be reused immediately, which is why our kitchen cuboards are overflowing with plastic take-out containers and mismatched lids.

My husband, on the other hand, doesn't need to save things "just in case." I wouldn't call him a neatnik by any stretch of the imagination (and the amount of car paraphernalia he has in the garage boggles the mind) but he can let go of things in a way that I can't. He is OK with getting rid of something and re-purchasing it if he wants it later; it's anathema to me to shell out money for something I used to own but threw away.

I say it's a mindset: If you pinch the pennies you'll save the dollars. But I'll be honest: It's not just the tightwad side of me at work here, I'm sentimental to boot. My journal from 7th grade? It's in a purple plastic bin in the basement. Our 14-year-old daughter recently wrote a letter to her friend on stationary I was given when I was 9. On our toddler's bed is the blanket my mother wrapped around me when she brought me home from the hospital when I was born.

Also: We have five children. That makes for a lot of stuff, even without a packrat in the house, and, of course, I keep all of their things, too. I swear there's a method to my madness -- why throw away clothes that another child will wear in a year or two or five? The baby may be too young for the toys his 9-year-old brother doesn't play with anymore, but hey, they won't go bad.

My husband understands this logic, but he also knows that the more space I have to fill, the more likely it is that I will fill it. (Incidentally, this is why I don't carry a purse; I'd end up hauling around hand luggage instead of a cute Coach clutch.)

I suspect my problem may be genetic -- my parents' pantry has an even-larger cache of plastic containers, and my mother's cooking magazine collection dates back to the late 1970s. At the very least, it's longstanding: My father likes to remind me of how he tried to clean out the attic and give my old stuff to the Salvation Army once when I was very little, only to see me sobbing in the back seat as the bags went down the donation chute.

At any rate, I never intend to keep so much stuff around. It's just that I can't seem to find time to sort through it all. So, my husband takes things into his own hands.

When he thinks I'm not looking, my husband will go around the house with a plastic grocery bag (reuse!), scooping up my stash of whatever is irritating him at the moment (reduce!), and taking it out with the garbage (recycle! Sort of). I watch him out of the corner of my eye and, later, poke through the trash to rescue things I "need" to keep. It's madness. Most couples fight about money; our last fight was about margarine tubs.

Recently, we reached a compromise: Give things away or sell them on Ebay. It softened the blow to think that the stuff lying around the basement could be put to use by someone else. I donated (most of) my 400-plus cassette tapes to Goodwill. Some of my husband's Saab parts sold almost as soon as he listed them online. I gave away bags of kids' clothes that even I understood had to go -- our 14-month-old son will never wear the adorable pink overalls that our 3-year-old daughter outgrew. And the Christmas cards from 1996 went into the recycling bin.

It's enough, for now, but we still have a long way to go. I know that, one day, I'll come home and my decade-old stack of Bon Appetit magazines will be gone. (But I swear, I'll rip out and keep the pages with the most interesting recipes before my husband gets to them. He'll never know.)

An Interview with Aruni Gunasegaram

Aruni Gunasegaram is an entrepreneur, small-business owner, and a working mom to two kids. I interviewed her for a short Q&A at Work It, Mom! (under cover as the Work It, Mom! Team), but wanted to share the piece with all of you!

Here's a snippet:

What lessons from your first company are you applying to your second?
Put things in perspective. To many people, business is a game. A high-stakes game, in many cases. Those who realize that have a much easier time with the process, I think. Of course, when you are an entrepreneur, your business and your life are very closely intertwined, but it’s always good to step back and make sure you understand hat they are two separate things and that your business is just one part of your life. ... [More]

Read the rest at here, and take a minute to explore Aruni's company, Babble Soft, and her blog, entrepreMusings.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Doing the childcare juggle

In this week's post over at The 36-Hour Day, I share how my husband and I deal with working fulltime jobs while taking care of five kids, two of whom are still too young for kindergarten. Obviously, it's a juggle.

Before I had kids, there was a point to be made by working fulltime: “Sure, I would like my kids to have a stay-at-home parent,” the much-younger, idealistic, child-free Lylah declared. “But who said I had to be the one to jettison my career? Why couldn’t my husband do it for a while?”

Then I actually had kids and, as it often happens, found that I didn’t know what I was talking about. My point was all well and good, but there was reality to contend with: My paycheck paid the mortgage. Not working wasn’t an option.

Our finances dictated that my husband couldn’t put his career on hold, either, so, for years one of us worked nights, the other worked days, and we traded off with the kids in the middle. It was tag-team parenting at its finest. And it was a stress fest.

My husband and I rarely saw each other. The kids had plenty of time with each of us, but very little time with both of us together. To make matters more difficult, my husband and I only had one day off in common, and that day was filled with each of us trying to "get stuff done."

We thought we'd suck it up and manage until the littles were old enough for kindergarten, but my husband got a job offer with daytime hours that was just too good to pass up. I had just returned from maternity leave and felt like I had already used up any good will I had banked, along with all of my vacation and sick time -- the big kids were older (and much more independent) by then, but I couldn't take time off while we figured out childcare for our youngest two kids. What were we going to do?

We looked into and decided against hiring a nanny -- our youngest daughter was 2 1/2 and technically too young for preschool, but after having emulated her older siblings all her life, she certainly was ready for a more social, more structured environment. We looked into a home-daycare situation, but couldn't find one that was both stimulating enough for L. and easygoing enough for our laid-back baby son, who was 5 1/2-months old at the time. That left daycare centers, and here, we lucked out; a brand-new branch of a well-established company had opened up just months ago, and just minutes down the road from our house.

Fast-forward 6 months... The initial guilt I felt about having my youngest kids in someone else's care was eclipsed only by the shock of the first monthly tuition bill, and both feelings were replaced by relief and amazement when I saw how they were thriving. They’re so active and social -- much more so than when I was home with them during maternity leave. It was absolutely the right choice for our family.

Working moms: What do you do about childcare? How did you decide what worked best for your family?

Dealing with Working-Mom Guilt

I'm masquerading as the Work It, Mom! Team today, with a quick-tips article about alleviating some of the guilt we feel as working mothers.

No matter whether you’re working full-time outside of the home or freelancing an
article a week from the computer in your family room, as a working mom you have
to deal with something that most men don’t: Guilt. Our members took a moment to
talk about the ways they did – or didn’t – cope with it. ... [More]

Read more at Work It, Mom! and join the discussion.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Family Traditions and Staying Organized at Larger Families

Two new posts over at Larger Families. OK, one of them is brand new, the other is one from last month that I totally forgot to link to from here.

In December, the Moms-of-Many wrote about their families and their holiday traditions. What's mine? Making memories, for the most part. But a few of our traditions are a little untraditional:

... We get the tree at the last minute, string it with tiny lights and decorate it with silvery ornaments while listening to Christmas music (and trying to stop the baby from eating the glass balls). We leave cookies and whiskey by the fireplace for Santa -- a family joke, but one my father and my husband love. ...[More]

My most-recent post there is about organization, and how staying organized is my key to staying (relatively) sane:

... There are a lot of things to coordinate: My work schedule. My freelance deadlines. My husband's work schedule. Daycare and preschool drop off and pick up for the youngest two kids. School and school-related activites for the older three kids. The older kids' mom and stepdad and their schedules need to be taken into consideration when making travel plans and, since the big kids are with us for most of their school vacations plus a long weekend every month or so, there's a lot of travel going on. Birthdays. School vacations. Soccer practice. Track practice. Debate meets. Karate. (And something else I'm sure I've forgotten because I don't have my list with me as I'm writing this.)

A calendar is essential, and ours is also electronic. Google Calendar, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways... [More]

Missed my earlier posts? Here's a link. And, while you're there, check out all of the contributions at Larger Families; even if your family is of a smaller size, there's still a lot of great tips, advice, and stories to read and relate to.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

The 36-Hour Day: A Roundup

I've been working it over at Work It, Mom!, but haven't had a chance to post the links over here. So, a quick roundup:

I neglected to take enough time off for myself during the holidays, so Life stepped in and made me slow it way down:

Life Teaches Me a Lesson

... The snow started falling gently late Wednesday night.

The baby started throwing up early Thursday morning.

By 10 a.m. Thursday, not only were we semi-snowed in, I had done several loads of pukey laundry, changed myself and the baby three times, and told my colleauges that I had to work from home. It was a challenging day. ... [More]

As if I didn't already have enough to do, back in September I started staying up really late to get other things done. I discovered I can't stay up the way I used to in college...

Project Insanity

... I’ve never been good at just taking a day off and not trying to get a million things done during it. Back in September, right around Labor Day, I starting pulling non-newsroom-related nearly-all-nighters.

I wasn’t out partying. (I wish!) I wasn’t up late reading or watching TV. I wasn’t up with a sick or crying baby. Nothing like that.

I was painting my big kids’ bedrooms. ... [More]

As managing editor, I also "ghost-write" a bunch of articles for the Work It, Mom! team... head on over to Work It, Mom! and check it all out!

Bedbugs Begone

It's never happened to me, but I've always worried that it will, and now I can rest easy the next time I'm stuck in a questionable hotel overseas...

December 30, 2007
One way to prevent the bedbugs' biting

By Lylah M. Alphonse

There are few things more stressful than unexpected guests, unless it's a few hundred of them that hitch a ride on your luggage and then infest your home. We're talking bedbugs here, and they're not pretty. Keep the little bloodsuckers at bay with a safe, easy-to-use spray that protects your bags and everything in them when you travel. Rest Easy Bedbug and Insect Control for Luggage is water-based, so it won't leave sticky or oily residue on fabrics, and it's also effective on fleas, ticks, moths, spiders, and cockroaches. Made by J.T. Eaton, Rest Easy is EPA-certified. It costs about $15 a bottle and is available in many ACE Hardware stores or by calling 800-321-3421. [More]