Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Join This Clubhouse!

I recently spent time in the new Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse at Logan Airport, working on a feature about the design of the new space for the April 27 issue of the Boston Globe Sunday Magazine. And, let me tell you, this clubhouse is absolutely amazing. The design team left no detail out -- the place is infused with natural-looking light (in spite of the fact that there are no windows), the furniture is fantastic, and the self-serve snack areas and full-service deli are stocked with fresh salads, cold smoked salmon, hot soups and seasonal dishes made by their on-site chef.

The only catch is that this clubhouse is for the airline's business- and first-class customers only, so the rest of us can only look at it longingly through the ruby-red glass at the entrance...

Click on the images below to read the text.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Shine On: Finding Time to Exercise

This week on Yahoo's new portal for women, Shine, I wrote about finding time to exercise, and threw in five tips for good measure:

What’s stopping me from joining a gym? Myself, I guess. And time. I don’t know when I’d go, even if I really wanted to sweat in public. (Yeah, I don’t have a good answer for this one. Especially since some experts say that three 10-minute workouts can be as good for you as a single 30-minute session.) Compounding the problem is the guilt. I already spend so much time away from my kids; how can I justify taking more time for myself?

People do it all the time, though, so there's got to be a way for me to get fit. Let's take a look at how other working moms work in a work out... [More]

Read the rest at Shine. What, no time? Here are those five tips, in brief:

1.) Make time. Get up early or stay up late.

2.) Schedule it in, just as you would any other appointment.

3.) Stay positive. Focus on the positive thoughts associated with your goal ("I want to be fit!"), and eliminate the negative ones ("I should exercise more").

4.) Work out with your kids. Watching soccer practice? Walk around the perimeter of the field.

5.)Be creative. If you can multitask -- and what working mother can't? -- then you can make your everyday activities burn a few extra calories.

So, as I was saying... read the rest over at Shine!

Monday, April 28, 2008

Are You a Working Stepmom?

I was talking with a new friend recently, and the conversation touched on the differences between motherhood vs. stepmotherhood. In my case, the only real difference has been in the way other people see me -- and that includes at work:

People who know me well often say that I grew up taking care of other people’s children. I started babysitting when I was about 11, and mothered — or smothered, as the case may be — my brothers well before that. I worked as a nanny for years during college and ran a playgroup for toddlers when I was in my early 20s. So it wasn’t much of a surprise that when I got married, it was to a man who already had three kids of his own.

Contrary to popular belief (think Snow White, think Julia Roberts in Stepmom, think pretty much any soap opera or sitcom) stepmotherhood has been neither traumatic nor dramatic for me. The kids were very young when I came into their lives — just 5, 3, and 1 year old — and on my wedding day, four years later, I exchanged vows with them as well as with their dad.
Interestingly enough, life as a Working Stepmom was different than life as a Working Mom. After all, they were somebody else’s children, right? Wouldn’t their “real parent” handle all of the rough stuff, leaving me ample time in which to work?

Well, when you’re parenting, step or not, you’re a parent. That’s really all there is to it.

For years, I arranged playdates, kissed boo-boos, changed diapers, soothed away bad dreams, packed lunches … the list of real, honest-to-goodness “Mom”-type stuff goes on and on. But things didn’t really change at work when I was “just” a Stepmom.

I still worked nights, usually 3 to 11 p.m., so my colleauges never saw me race to meet a daycare deadline (they do now that I’m on days). My annual performance reviews still ended with a little tidbit about what I needed to do in order to advance through the ranks (oddly enough, they don’t now). It wasn’t that I was expected to work overtime as much as it was that I was expected to want to work overtime, because I wasn’t “really a parent.” “You can stay late tonight, right?” my then-boss once asked as he got ready to duck out early. “It’s not like you’re rushing home to see your stepkids, right?”

Um… actually, I can’t. Because, yes. Yes, I am.

Working stepmoms: Do you feel like you’re considered less of a working parent than your colleauges? Why or why not? Read the comments and weigh in at The 36-Hour Day, peruse the archives, and check out the discussions going on at Work It, Mom...

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

An Interview with Autism Activist Mika Bradford

Mika Bradford became involved in the autism community nearly a decade ago, when her youngest son was diagnosed with autism. She works for Kirkman -- a leading providor of specialty nutritional supplements -- as an outside sales rep and certified nutritionist, has held a variety of positions with Families for Effective Autism Treatment -- North Texas, founded Natural Foods and Nutrition Consulting, Inc., and recently became a content specialist for AutismSpot, a web-based support site for parents, medical professionals, and educators that offers an online video reference library, blogs, and a wealth of unbiased information for helping children with Autism Spectrum Disorders.

April is National Autism Awareness month. For readers who don't have
children on the spectrum, could you please share a couple of facts that surprise people when it comes to autism?

I think people are most surprised to learn that children with autism can get better, so much so that some children are considered to be recovered, losing their diagnosis. While this is not the outcome for every family, what we do know is that the quality of life for each child with autism can be improved.

Your readers may also be surprised to learn that many everyday things like what the children eat and drink can impact their moods and behaviors greatly. Research from major teaching universities are confirming what parents and a handful of professionals have known for over a decade -- that this condition is not only about the brain, but is affected by the other systems of the body.

Many people think that all children with autism are gifted, having special abilities. Only a handful of individuals with autism have "special skills." Most individuals with autism have difficulties in communicating, which can lead to inappropriate behaviors. The general public may see how parents handle these situations and not understand the reasoning of what is being done. Many parents, including myself, have spent thousands of hours and dollars learning how to parent using a positive approach, shaping the responses of the child (which ultimately hinges on our actions and behaviors as parents and caregivers). That may sound like common sense, but it is amazing how many parents of neuro-typical children never look at how their actions are impacting the responses of the child.

There are so many disorders that fall on the Autistic Spectrum -- Asperger's, ADD, SID, PDD-NOS, just to name a few. What are some of the "early warning signs" that a parent should watch out for?

Some of them are listed in this exerpt from Unraveling the Mystery of Autism and ervasive Development Disorder: A Mother's Story of Research and Recovery by Karyn Seroussi. [Published by Simon & Schuster. Reprinted by permission.] If a parent is concerned about their answers to some of these questions, then they need to speak to their physician about an autism screening.

  • Does your 18-month-old child's language development seem slow?
  • Has he lost words that he had once mastered?
  • Is he unable to follow simple commands such as "Bring me your shoes?"
  • When you speak to him, does he look away rather than meet your gaze?
  • Does he answer to his name?
  • Do you or others suspect hearing loss?
  • Does he have an unusually long attention span?
  • Does he often seem to be in his own world?

At 18 months old, a child will typically do the following:

  • Point to objects
  • Interact with his/her siblings
  • Bring you items to look at
  • Look directly at you when you speak to him/her
  • Follow your gaze to locate an object when you point across the room
  • Engage in "pretend play" such as feeding a doll or making a toy dog bark

Autism is a developmental disability that impairs social and language development. It occurs in families from every class, culture, and ethnic background. It is not a mental illness, and it is not caused by trauma -- it is neurobiological and its symptoms can be greatly reduced by early diagnosis and treatment.

You've taken on a lot of different roles in the autism community. Tell us a bit about the different things you do and the companies with which you work.

I began working for Kirkman in December of 1999. I had personally become familiar with their nutritional supplements when I had introduced changes to my son's diet. I had removed the dairy (casein), and gluten from his diet and added a multivitamin called Super Nu-Thera [which is made by Kirkman]. Within weeks of making these changes, I saw an increase in eye contact from my son, something that I had not seen in a year. I began calling Kirkman, asking for samples of the Super Nu-Thera to share with other families. I wanted other parents to know that there was hope and that there were things that we could do that would impact our children's lives. I then met the owner of the company at a few autism conferences and we began a dialogue. A few weeks later, I was asked to join the company as a customer support representative. I later acquired my certification as a nutritionist.

That same year, I was asked to join the board of directors of a local autism support group, Families for Effective Autism Treatment -- North Texas. I have held various positions within the organization, ranging from President to Program Director and currently Director of Community Outreach. I became involved in state and nationwide legislative efforts regarding autism, education, and the development of services for future needs of individuals with autism.

In 2007, I created Natural Foods and Nutrition Consulting, Inc. My desire to support families who struggled with making dietary changes was the driving force behind this business. NFN provides comprehensive consultative services relating to natural foods and nutrition. We help individuals work through the maze of dietary modifications and nutritional supplementation programs that they may require due to allergies, gastrointestinal conditions, metabolic disorders, and behavioral/ developmental delays. For retailers that serve this growing population of consumers, we provide a wide variety of services and support. Last, but not least, is the Wellness program we offer to private businesses that want to support their staff in reaching their optimal level of health.

I met Jay Espaillat through FEAT about a year and a half ago, providing information on supports he should consider when trying to help his daughter with autism. One year later, Jay contacted me, sharing how autism was changing the course of his life just as it had mine. Jay had joined with other dads in a ground breaking partnership to create the world's first web-based video library dedicated to autism -- AutismSpot. I met with Kent Potter, the founder and CEO of AutismSpot, two days later.

It was what I would say was an "ah ha" moment, when you know you are exactly where you are supposed to be. I instantly knew this would be the beginning of something great. I was asked to join the AutismSpot team as the virtual web host, content specialist, and nutritional support expert. I also assist them in developing partnerships with private businesses who want to support the autism community by making information available on AutismSpot through monthly sponsorships of the website.

AutismSpot is different in that there is no agenda. The information we provide is unbiased and unedited. We provide information on a variety of topics that people may not have been introduced to due to their demographic location or financial resources. AutismSpot allows the viewer to see, hear, and feel the many emotions, challenges, and triumphs that are associated with living in the world of autism.

How has the autism community -- resources, research, treatment options -- changed in the 10 years since you first became involved with it?

Well I guess you could say it is completely different. When I started in the world of autism, very few people had even heard of dietary or nutritional support for autism. Families were told to just go home and love their children the way they were and instructed to look for long-term care and placement for the future. In just 10 years, the amount or resources has more than doubled. We now know that environment does affect autism and that this condition is not static as once believed. Researchers from prestigious universities like Harvard are confirming that this population has gastrointestinal and immune-mediated conditions that directly impact the behaviors and coping skills of these children. Treatments that are now available range from vitamin therapy to Applied Behavior Analysis to Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy.

One of the most defining moments for the autism community happened just a month ago: The American Academy of Pediatrics announced that they were dedicated to partnering with organizations like DAN (Defeat Autism Now, which has lead the way in autism research) in finding effective treatment options for children with autism. This was a welcomed but overdue step in the right direction.

Many mainstream doctors tell their patients that changes in diet won't necessarily hurt autistic children, but say that there's no proof that it helps, either. What has been your experience with dietary and biomedical intervention?

My experience early on in my journey through autism was devastating and downright humiliating. I am not alone when I say that many medical professionals belittled me and the questions I asked on behalf of my son. In the beginning, I had resentment but, over the years, I have come to realise that in many ways the physicians are just as much victims of the system as we have been.

If I were to put a gallon of milk in my car's gas tank, people would think that I was nuts. But when I suggested that what my son was eating affected his moods and behavior, I was belittled. We know that what we eat can affect our weight, blood-sugar levels, and how we feel. Dietary intake is directly related to medical conditions like Celiac disease and diabetes. Why would we diminish its role in other states of disease or behavioral diagnosis?

What do you think about the thimerosol/vaccine issue and the idea of a "toxic tipping point"?

I do believe a "toxic tipping point" is possible when considering most chemicals. I am continuously amazed when I hear medical professionals defending the vaccination program as an entity versus showing genuine concern for the children who are involved in the process. When any practice is held in higher regard than the people it was designed to protect and serve, we have a problem. It makes one ask, why are so many people unwilling to consider that we may be inundating the immune systems of these children with so many shots in such a brief period of time? While we, the autism community, believe genetics plays a part in the autism epidemic, the reality is that a genetic epidemic is scientifically impossible.

Most parents, including myself, are not against vaccinations. We are for improved safeguards that ensure we are protecting the child who is receiving the vaccine. Vaccination is a medical procedure that is done in hopes of altering the immune system's ability to respond to a specific virus if encountered at a future date. We must also remember that a vaccine is comprised of many components -- not just a virus and preservative, but with additional chemicals that are used in the production of the product. If we did not think it could impact the immune system, then why do we give them to begin with?

This controversy should be about the science, not about biased science or big business. We want to have happy, healthy children just as much as anyone else. As a community we also believe that there are many contributing factors leading to the autism epidemic. To name a few ... we know that air pollution and chemicals from refineries as well as pesticides may very well play a part. It is my opinion that we can not afford to leave any stone unturned. The future generations of children depend on us.

According to US Department of Education data, the number of autism diagnoses in children in the US has risen 644 percent from 1992-1993 to 2000-2001. Are doctors simply more aware of autism, and so are able to better diagnose it? Are things previously dismissed as "quirks" now considered symptoms?

The diagnostic criteria have not changed that drastically in the past 10 to 15 years to account for the monumental increase in Autism Spectrum Disorders. If this was a condition that has risen due to better diagnoses, then where are all the adults with autism that should be accounted for? If the increase were due to children being reclassified, we would see the autism diagnosis increase and other disabilities decrease -- this has not been the case. The children who are now being diagnosed would never have "passed" as just being quirky. These children clearly have significant communication and social deficits that are debilitating.

What has been the most challenging part, for you, of balancing (or juggling!) work and family? Has this changed as your children got older?

The greatest challenge I have had has been trying to find the line where work ends and my personal life begins. When first entering the world of autism advocacy, I would find myself giving every minute of each day to parents and professionals who were seeking information, support, and hope for the possibility of a brighter future for their child. As the years went on, I found myself searching for a better balance where autism was a part of my life but not my life in its entirety. I began focusing more on my own family's needs and began the process of creating healthy boundaries. With that being said, I can easily admit that I am still very driven and passionate about my work and the people I serve within the autism community. I believe the difference is that I take the time to be involved with my children and my husband in times when they need me the most. Working from home is a trade off. Most people think that it will simplify their life, but if you are driven and passionate about what you do then it can actually become more difficult when trying to end the work day.

Parenting a child with special needs can be difficult even on the best of days. How do you recharge your batteries?

There are days when having a special needs child is harder than others, but I am still able to see the blessing autism has brought me. I have been extremely blessed to have very dynamic people in my life. My family and the friends I have made along the way are irreplaceable, but the primary support that has sustained me through the journey of autism is my faith in God. I have found we can always find purpose in the pain if we are able to look beyond the immediate circumstances. I believe that my purpose is to blaze a trail that will allow others to have access to the resources their children need. Finding these same resources and supports, learning how to navigate through the system, took me many years and sleepless nights. I wish I could say that I had some routine or special way of pampering myself, but the thing that recharges my battery the most is seeing how the information or support I have given a family ultimately changes their life for the better. I continually find joy in watching my son reach milestones we were told he would never reach, along with the successes all of my children continue to realize.

What would you tell a parent whose child has been newly diagnosed with PDD-NOS?

I would encourage parents to leave no stone unturned when looking at what is the right therapy and intervention for their child. I would encourage them to give everything they have when trying to meet the educational and behavioral needs for their child. We have a saying in the world of autism, "You either pay now or pay later." This means that you ultimately have to find an effective way to deal with the challenges of autism. By providing the resources and support the child needs early on, you may bypass secondary consequences that would have arisen from those needs going unmet.

Parents must also give themselves grace. You must pace yourself to prevent burn out and, regardless of your financial resources, know that you can positively impact your child's life. Autism is an expensive condition to treat and live with, but resourceful families have found ways to work the system regardless of what funds are or are not available. You can do autism on a budget, it just may require a bit more planning.

Last, no matter what levels of functioning your child may be at, know that there is HOPE!

Gluten-Free Grocery Shopping

Todays Boston Globe's Food section has a fantastic piece by Louisa Kasdon about a newly diagnosed foodie who finds she needs to revamp her entire diet when she's diagnosed with possible Celiac Disease. I was able to put our family's experience with the Gluten-Free Casein-Free (GFCF) diet, wheat allergies, and gluten intolerance to good use helping out with this list of "safe" restaurants and easy-to-find gluten-free foods.

As always, read labels carefully, and ask plenty of questions; ingredients can change, cross-contamination can be an issue, and you never know where gluten may be hidden.

Shine on: Super Moms


Over at Shine, we take another look at the idea of Super Moms, whether working moms really need our own action figure (probably), and whether they come with support staff (alas, no)...

Welcome to the Chore Wars

The Mommy Wars are so passe. This week, we're talking chores -- who does the housework in your household?

I hate to vacuum. I checked with my mom on this one, and, apparently, I’ve hated vacuuming since well before I could walk. Alas, some of the people who live in my home routinely put bits of whatever they find on the floors into their little mouths, so vacuuming is a necessary evil. I still try to avoid it as much as possible. Unfortunately, so does everyone else in my household, so it usually falls to me anyway.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

How to Feed a Large Family

My latest post is up over at Larger Families, where the moms of many are discussing how we keep the crowds well fed...

Confession: I do not own a crock pot.

No excuse for it, really -- I simply never got around to buying one. This means that, in order not to be devoured by five ravenous children the instant I step through the door after work, I really, really have to plan. ... [More]


I also share one of my family's favorite recipes -- Murgh Dopiaza, or Chicken with Onion curry. Read my Larger Family archives here, and take a minute to see what some other moms (with far more kids than I have) are up to!

Monday, April 14, 2008

New! Thursday Tips at The 36-Hour Day

Every Thursday, I post tips and life hacks over at The 36-Hour Day. So far, I've touched on ways to deal with business trip guilt and how to get the most out of your money. This week: going green for Earth Day:

Tuesday (April 22) is Earth Day, the 38th annual celebration of environmental awareness. While “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” has become the eco-friendly mantra of our generation, there’s more to going green than adhering to those three Rs and toting your groceries in cloth bags (though if you’re feeling crafty, try sewing your own). Here are a few other simple things you can do to preserve our planet. ... [More]

What are the tips?
  1. The next time a light bulb burns out in your home, replace it with a compact fluorescent light bulb (CFL).
  2. Do your spring cleaning naturally, with baking soda, vinegar, and olive oil.
  3. Eliminate junk mail, either yourself or by using a service like GreenDimes.
  4. Get rid of your gas guzzler, and explore biodiesel or raw-vegetable oil-fueled cars.
  5. Get your kids in on the act, with PBS television's “Trash to Treasure” competition for kids age 5 to 19.

Read the details over at The 36-Hour Day! And, while you're at Work It, Mom!, take a moment to celebrate the site's first birthday. Great prizes are being given out daily -- all you have to do is leave a comment on the Contest page.


Opting Back In: Navigating the On Ramp

Writing as the Work It, Mom! Team, I took a look at on ramping -- that is, what it takes to rejoin the workforce after an extended leave of absence. It's something that more and more parents, especially mothers, face as they find ways to juggle career and parenthood.

According to the Center for Work-Life Policy and the Harvard Business Review, about 93 percent of the highly qualified women who opt out of the workforce want to return to work later in life. Unfortunately, the study shows that only 74 percent of those women end up rejoining the workforce and, of those, only 40 percent are able to get a full-time job with benefits.

“Many talented, committed women take off-ramps but an overwhelming majority can’t wait to get back in,” says Sylvia Ann Hewlett, President of the Center for Work-Life Policy and an author of the report. While work-from-home options -- like starting your own company, joining an online business, freelancing, or consulting -- are available for many working moms, others prefer to return to full-time employment outside of the home. There are things you can do to make opting back in to the work force a bit easier. ... [More]

So what can you do? In a nutshell:

  1. Be determined.
  2. Ask for help.
  3. Develop an "elevator pitch."
  4. Invest in yourself.
  5. Keep up (and really use) your network.
  6. Be realistic.
  7. Stay in the same city, if possible.
  8. Consider going back full-time.
  9. Overcome emotional obstacles.
  10. Opt back in sooner rather than later.


Read more about each of those tips here, and check out Work It, Mom!'s new Quick Tips and Lists section for easy-to-digest information and printable lists that make the juggle a little bit easier.

Why this Working Mom Loves Facebook, Plus Shine on: Multitasking

We all know about the importance of networking and how career coaches are encouraging their clients to look beyond their professional contacts. But when you're juggling your career, your commute, possibly an extra job (or two) on the side, as well as housework, homework, and parenting, how on earth is a working mom supposed to find time to socialize?

My solution: Facebook. Here's why:

When you work outside the home, networking with your business colleagues is nearly a no-brainer, even if you can’t make it to the big conferences. You sit near them at the office, you run into them in the cafeteria and local lunch spots, you trade ideas after meetings, you can subscribe to industry newsletters and publications and keep up with the trends that way.

But networking with old friends? When you’re juggling more-than-full-time work and parenthood, who has time for that?

That’s why I love Facebook. Love it with big, puffy hearts.

Between my commute and my full-time job and my freelancing and my kids and the never-ending laundry and housework, there are too many days when answering email ends up at the bottom of my to-do list. I’d love to socialize more, in real life, but the place where free time and affordable childcare intersect is increasingly hard to find and besides, most of my dearest friends live far away. Catching up on the phone? Good luck — chances are, I’m multitasking like a madwoman and the only time I’m really free to talk is when I’m driving (and that’s illegal at worst and just a bad idea at best, though of course I do it all the time anyway).

I prefer LinkedIn for making and maintaining professional contacts online; I’m not big on MySpace, because, honestly, the barrage of bad music on people’s profile pages is, um, not conducive to work (and there’s only so much “CRZY 4 U!!!! U R GR8″ crap I can be bothered with before it just makes me feel old and irritated). But Facebook? Facebook, I love.

If I have a little downtime during the day, I log on to and see who else has joined. (My company even has a little network there.) If I’m up late with a crying kiddo, I can fire up the computer and commiserate with other mom friends without having to email each one individually (a new chat function went live just last week). Plenty of family members — including my mother-in-law, one of my sisters-in-law, my godmother, and several cousins — are on it; one glance at my friends’ status updates and I can see what everyone has been up to.

The whole Six-Degrees-of-Separation theory really comes into play, too. Make a friend, check out his or her friends, make new friends — and rediscover old ones.

I recently reconnected with some people whom I haven’t seen or spoken with in close to two decades (gah… when you’re only 35, it seems so very wrong to be able to say you haven’t seen someone in that long!), and it’s absolutely fascinating to see what they’re doing now.

Your network can — and should — be made up of more than just the people you work with. Other professionals in your field should be included, of course, but many career coaches suggest you also think of people who might not be directly involved in your career — people in your every day life, old and new friends, the people you come in contact with outside of the office can also play a valuable role. Think about creating a “mentor panel,” with key people in and out of your office — your network can help you in more than just your professional life.

Not sure how to network? There are some great networking tips at Work It, Mom! Or surf on over to Shine, where I take another look at the working mom's weapon of choice: multitasking.

Taking in the Technology

A recent visit to the revamped MIT Museum prompted this piece for the Boston Globe's new Saturday Sidekick section. All five of the kids -- ages 14, 12, 9 1/2, 3, and 17 months -- loved it, and we were there for more than an hour before our preschooler began asking what we were doing next (as any of you with preschool-age children know, that's a long time).

April 12, 2008

Technology for tots - and teens

Lylah M. Alphonse, Globe staff


When your oldest kid is a teenager and your youngest is in diapers, finding activities that won't bore either of them to tears can be a challenge. But the kid-friendly, hands-on exhibits in the new Mark Epstein Innovation Gallery at the MIT Museum thrilled all five of our kids. Our toddler glued his drooly self to the zebra fish tanks; our 3-year-old asked to adopt Kismet, the "sociable robot" from the 1990s; and our older kids practically camped out in the cool holography exhibit and in "Flashes of Inspiration: The Work of Harold Edgerton," where they ogled iconic images captured with the help of a stroboscopic flash.

History buffs will be interested in the retrospective on the university; wannabe engineers will be fascinated by Arthur Ganson's mechanical sculptures; and geeks of all kind will be happy to know that, if you take a wrong turn on the way out and accidentally stumble upon MIT's Tech Model Railroad Club, you can play a Tetris-like game on one of the model skyscrapers while the non-directionally challenged adult in your party figures out the way back to the elevator. Ahem. Not that we got lost or anything. [
More]

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Shine on: Presenteeism

In honor of this horrible cold and flu season being just about over (knock on wood, please!), this week at Shine I revisit the idea of presenteeism and how sometimes, the only way working parents can rest is by going to the office when they're sick...

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 L. to cover her mouth when she sneezed and I wiped O.’s streaming nose for the umpteenth time, and then it hit us …

Daycare.

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. [More]

Read the rest here, bookmark my archives there, and check out all that Yahoo's new portal has to offer!

Finding Time to Exercise... It CAN Be Done!

Undercover as the Work It, Mom! Team, I spent a while rounding up readers comments and suggestions for finding time to work it a work out. Feeling the flab, but lacking the motivation? It may seem impossible, but if you can multitask (and what mom can't?), you can work out.

The article fleshes these 10 tips out, but, in a nutshell:

1.) Make time. Wake up early, stay up late.
2.) Schedule it in during the day, like any other appointment.
3.) Stay positive.
4.) Being pregnant (or having recently been pregnant) isn't a reason to avoid exercise.
5.) Work out with your kids.
6.) Exercise at home, on equipment or via video.
7.) Walk more.
8.) Do it all year round, even when it's cold outside.
9.) Look into ways to burn more calories in less time (like interval training).
10.) Enlist a friend to work out with you, or at least hold you accountable.

Read the whole thing over at Work It, Mom!

Working Moms: Make Time for Date Night (or Day)

Over the years, Date Night has somehow turned into Nonexistent Date Night. It's a problem many working parents face, but instead of trying to make time when we're exhausted after work, we decided to date during the day.

On a recent national holiday, as I was scrambling to figure out how I was going to juggle work and childcare, I realized that I didn’t actually have to drive in to the office that day and, for some reason, my kids’ daycare was actually open.



My husband didn’t have to drive in to the office, either. But he’s so used to having to catch up on work from home, and I’m so used to having a big bunch of freelance irons in the fire, that it took us a while to see the potential in the situation: Work (optional) + daycare (open) = pre-paid childcare and time to ourselves. Alone.

He did the math more quickly than I did; when he asked me if I wanted to go to the movies after I dropped the wee ones off, I almost told him that I had been planning to work from home that day and wouldn’t have time. Sad, isn’t it?

When you and your partner are both working and juggling all the time, its easy to let your relationship simmer along on the back burner. When we first started dating and everything was new and shiny and the angels sang each and every time we gazed at each other over the candle-lit dinner table, we were sure that we’d always make time for Date Night. It was easy then; even though we already had kids (from his first marriage), when they were with their mom, our time was ours to divide between work and play as we saw fit.

As life got more hectic and we got married and added our fourth child to the family, Date Night was still a regular thing, it was just rarely outside of the house. My husband worked nights, I worked days, Friday and Saturday nights were the only times that we both had off, so making time to be together was a priority. We’d tuck everyone into bed, turn up the baby monitors, turn down the lights, crack open the wine, pop in a movie, et voila – Date Night.

Then our schedules shifted again. The end of maternity leave with child number five coincided with my husband taking a job on the day side. Money got even tighter once we had to pay for childcare (before, the kids were with my husband while I was at work, and vice versa). I took on more freelance assignments. His new job required him to do so much that he often brought work home with him. The office hooked him up with a BlackBerry, and suddenly he was double fisting the workload, laptop on the table, infernal CrackBerry by his side.

More and more often, Date Night morphed into Both-of-Us-Working-in-the-Same-Room-with-the-TV-On-Night. And, after a while, we weren’t even in the same room.

Sad.

So, when he asked me if I wanted to go to the movies that day, my first thought was, “But I have so much work to do!” (Thank goodness, I had already had some coffee, and my second thought followed quickly: “A date! Say yes!”)

I said, “Yes.” We caught a movie, and rediscovered how cheap a matinee can be. We drove past a new restaurant and stopped and had lunch and rediscovered that we actually had more to talk about than work. We got home and rediscovered how quiet the house is when the kids are all at school.

By the time we picked the kids up late that afternoon, we had rediscovered the importance of “Date” — and that the “Night” part was optional.

How do you stay connected?

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Lylah's Latest: Writing for Yahoo.com


My latest gig went live this week: Writing about work and money for Shine, the new portal at Yahoo.com! My posts will be published there every Tuesday, and will be featured on the main "Work + Money" page.


My debut revisited defining the term "Working Mom," and the discussion going on in the comments has been great. Take a look, register as a Yahoo.com user (it's free and easy) and leave a comment of your own!


In Focus: Money

We've started a new feature over at Work It, Mom! -- In Focus. Each month, I'll take a closer look at a specific topic (under the guise of the Work It, Mom! Team) and offer five tips and links to go along with it. April's topic is money; here's a sneak peek:

3.) Take care of your taxes for free. Tax day is fast approaching. If you're one of the 25 percent of US taxpayers who have not yet filed (or one of the 10 percent who plans to file an extension and deal with it by October), there are online options out there for you. If your income is $54,000 or less, you can use Free File. And eSmart Tax is a great alternative to expensive tax-prep software. Wondering about that rebate from the IRS? Take a look at SingleMa's fabulous article on the Economic Stimulus Payment and what you can expect.

Read the rest over in the Work It, Mom! article archives, and stay tuned for next month's installment!

Walking the Fine Line

This week, at The 36-Hour Day, I write about walking the fine line between clever and stupid (thanks, This Is Spinal Tap) as a parent and as an employee:

The Clever: L.’s hideously croupy cough resurfaced a few weeks ago, and I took her to the doctor. Our pediatrician wasn’t in, so the appointment was with one of her colleauges, whom we’d never seen before, but hey, my child was sick and had been for a while, it was starting to affect her sleep and her school, and so I took her in.

The Fine Line: The doctor we saw didn’t know us, didn’t take more than a minute to listen to her breathe semi-deeply exactly four times (without coughing), and didn’t take more than 30 seconds or so jump to a big conclusion about me — that I must be an overly anxious, first-time mom who felt guilty about sending her kid to daycare — and diagnose accordingly.

The Stupid: I didn’t push. Kids get sick all the time, and it had been a particularly bad flu season. I didn’t tell him that I’ve seen colds and flus and viruses with all five of my kids, and this one seemed different. I didn’t request a chest x-ray, or ask him to have her cough or listen to her lungs again. I repeated that her cough sounded phlemy and awful and it was so bad that it made her throw up sometimes and, when he brushed me off, I left, stopping at the drugstore for more cough suppressant on the way home.

I took her back last week, and she saw her regular pediatrician. Who is an angel. She listened to L. breathe and cough for nearly 10 minutes before ordering a chest x-ray and a round of hardcore antibiotics. The x-ray showed dense Bacterial Pneumonia.
Just put that Mother of the Year award above the fireplace, with all the other ones, M’kay? Thnx. (She’s getting better rapidly, and really is no worse for wear, for which I’m grateful. )

When I cross the clever/stupid line at work, “all better” doesn’t come nearly as quickly. For instance:

The Clever: Overtired and up against deadline, I printed out a bunch of stories to edit from home, while I spent a long weekend “relaxing” with my kids. (There should be air-quotes around those quotes — the weekend was a wonderful whirlwind, but hardly “relaxing.”)

The Fine Line: I got it all done, staying up late and editing in snatches in between watching movies and running from appointment to appointment — S.’s first job interview (aced it); A.’s X-rays (big toe is broken); buy groceries (didn’t I just do this?); pick L. and O. up from school (yay!); run back to the school to pick up all of L.’s and O.’s stuff that I forgot (boo!); back to the doctor to get a soft-cast-boot-type-thing for her foot; make dinner; do laundry; etc., etc., etc.

The Stupid: I left all of the printouts at home and had to re-do it all electronically once I got back to the office, thereby saving me exactly no time at all.

I tell you: Sometimes, my clever/stupid meter goes up to 11.

Take a minute to click through the archives at The 36-Hour Day or jump in to a discussion at Work It, Mom!