Cleaning and Scrubbing...

 2011-12-29

When I was a little girl, my mother had a picture frame hanging in her bedroom with a particular saying that I absolutely loved.  When Roland was born, I asked her if she still had it; she searched the house and was unable to find it.  This Christmas, I was completely surprised when she presented it to me!


As I thought about the saying as a new mother, it helped to ground me, and realize that being perfect or attempting to be perfect at everything wasn't necessarily my most important task - learning to slow down and cherish the special moments in life with my new family was.  I now have a visual daily reminder for when life gets chaotic and the small things start to take over.




I hope you enjoy this saying as much as I do!

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Left Neglected - Book Review

 2011-12-27

Left NeglectedLeft Neglected by Lisa Genova

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This book is an A+. I found out about the book from my friend Kellie and after our discussion, was anxious to read for many reasons. Through personal experiences, I have always had a keen interest in neurological disorders and how they shape and impact our lives. Additionally, the main character Sarah Nickerson portrayed a woman that I could see in my future; but did I want that woman in my future?



Sarah is a corporate executive for a HR recruiting firm and is driven by success. She has three children, and a husband who is equally driven. It is immediately apparent that their careers shape their lives and I found myself instantly judging the family for their particular lifestyle. Mornings are overcome with blackberries and emails, they drop the kids off for school, daycare, or with the nannie; work continues throughout the day and into the evening hours. A quick dinner with the family at 6 and then its back to the grind. Their nanny plays a huge role into the development of the children and unfortunately, their son Charlie is suffering from ADHD, which goes unnoticed for quite some time.



Their lives suddenly change when Sarah is in an accident and finds herself suffering from Left Neglect - a neurological disorder where the brain fails to recognize the left side of the body. Imagine a world where you don't know or can't feel your left arm, leg, can't read words on the left side of the page.



There are many themes throughout the book that could have been more developed. For example, Sarah's relationship with her mother as well as the focus on Charlie and his ADHD. Nonetheless, I found myself contemplating the life of Sarah and questioning myself on if that was the life I wanted. Through numerous avenues, I have been exposed to the challenge of 'finding your passion' and there was a particular passage that caught my attention:



Ever since business school, I've had my head down, barreling a thousand miles an hour, wearing the flesh of each day down to the bone, pointed down one road toward a single goal. A successful life. And not just run-of-the-mill success. The kind of success that my fellow elite classmates would envy, the kind that my professors would cart out to future students as a shining example of achievement, the kind that even the exceptionally prosperous citizens of Welmont would aspire to, the kind that Bob (her husband) would be proud of. The kind of visibly successful life that would in every way be the exact opposite of the broken, shameful life of my childhood.



For that passage, I am grateful. Up to this point, I have been trying to define a successful life, and have struggled quite like Sarah; I do feel that I'm closer or rather, more exposed to the world around me to help shape and define what success means to me. Like Sarah, I'm wondering if I am defining success through the lens of my peers, rather than through my own personal lens. I don't believe this is something that can be answered instantaneously, but rather through deep thought and over a period of time.





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Blue Ribbon Blog Award

As a blogger, I often wonder if my blog posts are relevant, interesting and provide meaningful information to my readers.  I love the comments my readers leave and use that as reassurance that the posts are interesting and appeal to others.  I was pleasantly surprised and excited when Katie from 'Mommy with a Selective Memory' selected my post on "Picky Eater? Perhaps Not." as runner up in the Blue Ribbon Blog Award!

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I started this blog with the intent of eventually expanding on and compiling my blogs into a book for Roland so he can gain insight into the transition between 'Husband and Wife' to the start of a family all while balancing work and life at the same time. Thanks for the motivation, Katie!!



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Merry Christmas!

 2011-12-25

Today was a special day in our family history; it was the first Christmas we spent together as a family in New Jersey.


The hubby and I grew up in western PA and spent every Christmas for the past 29+ years back in good old Indiana, PA (for you trivia lovers - it is the Christmas Tree capital of the world!) We've been in New Jersey since 2003 and typically, every Christmas goes something like this...

We usually make the 6 hour trip back to PA a few days before Christmas, spend Christmas Eve with my family enjoying a delicious home-cooked meal featuring seafood - shrimp, scallops, and my favorite, crab legs! After what is typically a long, long night, we get up early Christmas morning, open some presents and head over to the Hubby's family - an afternoon at Miss Amy's house.  It is a very fun, but hectic few days as we reminisce over years past (ah-hem Roger's 12 hour turkey) and find ourselves with only a few days to catch our breath before the new year starts.

This year, we decided to spend Christmas in NJ since Roland is somewhat aware of Christmas and Santa Claus.  I must say, this had to be the most relaxing Christmas we've ever had and quite memorable too!


Roland woke up around 7:00 this morning and spent the next 1 hour and 45 minutes carefully opening up his Christmas presents.



We enjoyed a beautiful Christmas breakfast (recipe to follow), delicious ham dinner all while spending the day in our Christmas PJs! It was fabulous!


You often hear that 'marriage is the beautiful blending of two lives'; while I believe that to be true, sharing a child has made me appreciate even more the wonderful relationship that I share with the hubby.  As we were wrapping gifts last night, we talked about our favorite Christmas memories we had as children and decided which traditions we would carry over with our family - for example, each child will get a solid color wrapping paper with bows (his favorite) and the stockings will hang in their regular spot, rather than end up under the tree (my favorite).

I did miss seeing our family today and spending the day with them, but I thoroughly enjoyed making our own memories!

Merry Christmas!!

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Rollie's Neiman Marcus Chocolate Chip Cookies Anthesis

 2011-12-21

I started off today completely excited that we were about to bake THE NEIMAN MARCUS CHOCOLATE CHIP cookies.  I've heard so much about them and was completely confident that our baking skills were up to the challenge.

My father-in-law 'Rollie' gave us the recipe last night and I did a quick google search to ensure that we had everything we needed.  To my surprise, I was comparing two totally different cookie recipes!  Turns out, Rollie's recipe wasn't even close to the Neiman Marcus recipe! A bit upset, I figured that we might as well bake them since we had all the ingredients...and boy am I glad we did! These just might be THE BEST chocolate chip cookies I've ever had!



Ingredients

  • 2 cups butter
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 4 cups flour
  • 5 cups blended oatmeal
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 24 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 8 oz Hershey bar grated (we actually used 2 regular sized 4.4 oz Hershey bars)
  • 3 cups chopped nuts (optional, we did not include)
Directions
  • Measure oatmeal and blend to fine powder

  • Cream butter and both sugars.  Add eggs and vanilla.
  • Combine flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda and sift to combine ingredients.  
  • Combine oatmeal and flour mixture to sugar mixture

  • Add chocolate chips, grated Hershey bar and nuts. 
  • Roll into ping-pong size balls and place 2" apart on cookie sheet




  • Bake at 375 for 10 minutes (please note this depends on your oven; we baked for 15 minutes)
  • Rollie said it makes 10 dozen, we got 86 cookies (a little over 7 dozen)


Notes: The quantity of dough near the end of the mixing process is entirely too much for my standard Kitchen Aid mixer.  We had to get creative mixing in the last bit of the oatmeal by separating the batter into two manageable batches and then combining at the end to add in the chocolate.  We later found out that the recipe can be cut in half to manage the batter!!



Now, I think it's time to make the Neiman Marcus recipe and compare!!





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Rollie's Christmas Sugar Cookies

 2011-12-16

This past weekend, the Hubby and I were preparing for my friend's annual Christmas Cookie Exchange.  Typically, we make 'Eggnog Thumbprints' but this year, we decided to switch to an old favorite...Rollie's Famous (my father-in-law) Christmas Sugar Cookies.

The recipe is easy, just mix up a quick batch, let it rest in the fridge for a few hours, put the kiddo's to bed, pour a glass of wine, roll out the dough and start cutting!


Sugar Cookie Recipe

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 5 and 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • 1/4 tsp salt
In a large bowl, combine sugar, sour cream, eggs, butter and shortening.  Beat at medium speed until light and fluffy.  In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and gently tap through a sifter to remove lumps from flour and combine the ingredients.  Add the flour mixture to butter mixture, add almond extracts, vanilla and salt.  

Beat at low speed until soft dough.  Divide dough into 4 quarters, cover in plastic wrap and place in fridge for at least one hour.  (You want to work small portions of the dough to ensure that the dough stays cold.) 

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Starting with one quarter, roll out the dough on a well floured surface to 1/4 inch thick.  Using 3" cookie cutter, cut desired shapes into dough and place on cookie sheet 2" apart and bake ~10 minutes until lightly golden brown...

Keep in mind, my father-in-law's recipe indicates you should bake for 6-8 minutes...we baked for 16. 

Let the cookies cool and then begin the icing process! 

Sugar Cookie Recipe

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 3-4 tbsp milk
  • food coloring (optional)
In a large bowl, combine buter, shortening, vanilla and beat until creamy.  Add powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time, and beat at low speed until well blended.  Add milk, and beat on medium speed until fluffy.  

HOPE YOU ENJOY THE COOKIES!! 

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A Three Part Journey. Part 3: Lessons Learned

 2011-12-06

A short note:  As I was contemplating writing this post, I realized that there was a strong possibility that the post could end up being quite lengthly.  As a result, I decided to tell this story in three parts: 
1. The Ego - provides background information on a struggle I recently faced at work.  
2. It's Complicated - a realization that we are human, and being human, stress can affect us in many ways 
3. Lessons Learned - summary of what I learned from the struggle


First, let's start with lessons learned from 'The Ego.'  


The night after I had the bizarre conversation with my mentor, I was telling my husband the story of what happened.  He encouraged me to just let it go, "It's just a saying, you're looking too much in to it."  Being the analytical person I am, I couldn't just let it go.  


I started thinking, "Ego, what would prompt him to say Ego?"  Coincidentally, a few days before the conversation with my mentor, I was flipping through channels on the TV and stopped on OWN, where Oprah was talking about the ego (bizarre, right).  She categorized an ego as one's association with material items, titles, status, etc.  Thinking back to her statement, coupled with my puzzling question, I started to ponder...


- Ah-ha 1: I recently gave a presentation where I introduced myself as VP of our local Society of Women Engineers chapter - the presentation was a dry run for my seminar at our National Conference, so naturally, I would introduce myself with my affiliation with SWE.  Now, how could my association with SWE be mis-intrepreted?  Basically, a lack of understanding for why I am involved.  When I graduated 'high-school', I was certain that an engineer drove a train.  I had no clue the vast nature of the engineering field and was gradually exposed to it through my higher education.  SWE has provided me with so many opportunities and has inspired me in many ways.  I feel that it is now time for me to give back, to introduce young girls to the field (young girls who may be confused about engineering), and to do my part in trying to make sure our country can reverse our decline in math and science national rankings. 


- Ah-ha 2: I've created and presented numerous presentations discussing 'Negotiation Strategies for Women', 'The Diary of a Working Mother', and 'Benefits of Engineering Rotation Programs.'  In every instance, I was faced with a difficult situation, a situation I didn't understand and immediately realized that there may be others at my level who are in similar situations.  That realization prompted me to put together my knowledge into a seminar and share my knowledge with others.  In every instance, I caveat that I am not a professional negotiator, or a registered psychologist.  I'm just little ole' me sharing my lessons learned with whomever is interested in listening.  As I was waiting for my MRI last week, I picked up and read the article in The Oprah Magazine that referenced Maya Angelou's quote 'When You Learn, Teach."  And I realized that is exactly what I do...I don't wait until I'm a dominant force in the particular field, I share knowledge as I go.  


Now let's assess 'It's Complicated': 


- Ah-ha 3: The combination of my work responsibilities and my extra curricular activities definitely heightens my stress level and I'm more aware of it now than I was before thanks to the migraine.  I've come to the realization that there are things in life that you have to do, and things in life that you want to do.  If you can minimize the gap between the two...essentially, if you are fortunate enough to find your passion, you no longer have a gap.  Your 'have to do' will become your 'want to do'.  


- Ah-ha 4: I am not perfect, I am not invincible and I am not exempt from stress.  Stress effects everyone and I'm grateful for this experience, realizing that I need an effective way to manage stress so that it doesn't impact my future plans with my family.  


- Ah-ha 5: Passion is good, but don't be too passionate.  Recently at work, I was given feedback to 'not take things so personally.'  Initially I thought, 'How is this possible? How can I not take this personally? I spend 40+ hours a week at my job, it defines me as a person.  I spend more time at work than I do with my family, so how do you not take it personally?'.  I don't have an answer to this, but I am making an effort to work through it.  At the end of the day, people are just trying to get the job done in the best way they know how.  I'll keep you posted as I learn more about this one...I think this one is an ongoing process.  If anyone has any advice on this subject, please chime in! 


As far as the customer goes, I really have no hard feelings against them.  And in fact, I'm grateful for the experience.  I've learned a tremendous amount about myself as a person over the last year.  And in an effort to 'not take things too personally', I realize that there may be circumstances on their end that cause them to act or react the way they do.  I have no control over that, so all I can do is to do my best.  


A big thank you to Oprah on this one, too! An unbelievable teacher with amazing insight.  

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A Three Part Journey. Part 2: It's Complicated

 2011-12-03

A short note:  As I was contemplating writing this post, I realized that there was a strong possibility that the post could end up being quite lengthly.  As a result, I decided to tell this story in three parts:
1. The Ego - provides background information on a struggle I recently faced at work. 
2. It's Complicated - a realization that we are human, and being human, stress can affect us in many ways 
3. Lessons Learned - summary of what I learned from the struggle

Hope you enjoy :)

Part 1 set the foundation for the frustrating work situation I was experiencing.  As you'll read in 'Lessons Learned', I'm actually grateful for having to go through that entire experience.  At the same time, I was extremely lucky to be offered a position on another technology development effort and the plan was for me to transition my original role on to one of our younger PMs.  Everyone decided that it would be best to wait to transition that role until our customer situation was in a better position.

The delay of the transition meant continued additional work on top of my already crazy work load.  It also meant that I would be putting more stress on myself - stress that wasn't necessary.  I try to keep a very conscious effort on my work time vs. home time, almost to the point where I lose sight of what I am actually trying to accomplish.

In a typical day, we get up around 5:30 am, eat breakfast and get out the door by 7:00.  By the time drop off occurs, or if we have any morning delays, I usually make it to work between 7:30 and 8:00.  Days filled with meetings leave little time to actually get work done and I'm usually on pick-up duty which means that I need to leave work around 4:30 pm.  By the time we get home, prepare/eat dinner, prepare tomorrow's daycare food, play with Roland and put him to bed, it's close to 8:00 and yes, I'm exhausted. Needless to say, the last thing I feel like doing is logging on to do work at 9:00 at night.  At the same time, my pre-baby work ethic kicks in and I feel guilty about not logging on to do work.  If I could just finish this one report, or review that one financial report.  It's a 'damned if you do, damned if you don't' type feeling.  It is a struggle to know when to say enough is enough.  Again, in an ideal world, you would have unlimited time, be able to perfect every report before it goes 'prime time', but...we don't live in an ideal world, so I'm learning to say 'good enough' and go with it.

Until this point in my life, I thought I was invincible.  I would often hear of other people suffering from 'stress-related' or 'stress-induced' illnesses, but I never thought that would happen to me.  Well...

The hubby had jury-duty in a neighboring town, so we all jumped in the car to map out his route.  I was driving and I looked up in the sky and saw a plane which had an extremely bright light.  Instantly I experienced a pain in my eye and then, something just wasn't right.  But what was it?  There's a car in front of me, a car in the right lane but I didn't really notice anything to my left.  We were stopped at a traffic light and there was a construction vehicle one car ahead and to the right with a sign on the door.  "Hey Ro, what does that sign say on his car?"

In an instant, I was immediately frightened.  I couldn't see anything out of my left eye.  I carefully worked my way to the right lane and pulled off the road so we could switch drivers.  My vision started to come back, however I could see an arch shaped illusion in my left eye that started at the bottom of my field of view and worked its way to the top.  When my eye-sight was back to normal (after ~10 minutes) and I got a numbing sensation down my left arm where my thumb and pointer finger went numb.

An hour later, I experienced the most excruciating, horrendous pain in my head.  Yes, I was experiencing my first migraine.  Slightly paranoid from the loss of vision and numbness, we decided to call our friend to watch Roland while the hubby took me to the ER.  Four hours later, with no pain and a lot of medicine, I was released from the hospital with direct instructions to follow-up with a neurologist.

Two days later, I found myself sitting with the neurologist, describing the event in detail.  After an hour and a half in her office, paperwork for blood-work, an MRI/MRA she was ready to give the diagnosis.  "You definitely experienced a migraine, however you have what is called a 'hemiplegic' or complicated migraine. Basically, it's a migraine where you experience stroke-like symptoms with sensory and/or loss of muscles." 


The good news was that all of my symptoms made perfect sense...the blood vessels constricted, stopping the blood flow to the back of my brain causing me to lose vision in my left eye.  When the blood vessels opened, there was a surge of blood, hence the rainbow shaped illusion I saw in my field of view.

The bad news...no wine, no chocolate, no coffee...no stress (ok, so perhaps not 100% bad news).  She was convinced that stress played a big part in the migraine.  Knock on wood, I haven't had a repeat in three weeks, but I have realized how much self induced stress I put on myself.

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A Three Part Journey. Part 1: The Ego

 2011-11-30

A short note:  As I was contemplating writing this post, I realized that there was a strong possibility that the post could end up being quite lengthly.  As a result, I decided to tell this story in three parts:
1. The Ego - provides background information on a struggle I recently faced at work. 
2. It's Complicated - a realization that we are human, and being human, stress can affect us in many ways 
3. Lessons Learned - summary of what I learned from the struggle

Hope you enjoy :)

After I returned to work from maternity leave, I decided that I was going to be a "Mom" first and put my career on hold.  That lasted, oh, about 3 weeks, when I was approached about a position that really fit my interests and had a lot of opportunity for growth.  About 5 weeks after I was made aware of the position, I was offered and accepted the position as a Program Manager for new technology development initiatives and proudly went to work each day eager to learn.  On one hand, I thought I was crazy; I accepted a position with WAY more responsibility, customer visability, travel requirements and did I mention I was trying to learn how to balance being a working mother and wife?  On the other hand, I was excited to learn; everything was new and I approached each day in my usual passionate, energetic and bubbly fashion. 

That energy carried me through eight months in to the position, until I was faced with a challenge.  My first real challenge.  Unfortunately, I was faced with an extremely difficult customer.  In an ideal world, your customer would be more of a partner, where you work together to achieve their goals and everyone ends up in a 'win-win' scenario.  That's the "Steven Covey" scenario and it was clear that just wasn't what I was handed.   I soon realized the importance of clear and concise communication - both oral and written.  If I had a phone conversation with my customer, I immediately followed up with an email documenting our discussion so there was a paper trail.  Any proactive steps I took to quickly come up with a solution to a problem or request, was soon transformed into reactive scramble due to her unwillingness to cooperate or pure oversight.  I was slightly relieved to see that I wasn't the only person who had this problem - it seems that every person she dealt with had the same impression I had (which was a relief!!)

Unfortunately, in the grand scheme of things, her dislike or displeasure with our company showed in our evaluation from the big customer.  I wasn't pleased, and in fact,when I saw the evaluation, tears filled my eyes.  Suddenly all of the hard work, technology development and advancement our team achieved over the past year was completely overshadowed by a misunderstanding that caused her to be relentless in the evaluation.

After the tears and disappointment passed, a new found passion emerged.  I was determined to get this right.  This customer recently told me how she had her last PM fired and I was determined not to let that happen to me.  I developed a written response to the evaluation and presented it to my senior leadership team.  Before presenting, my dear hubby (who works for the same company), sent me an IM  "Stay strong, don't lose your temper. If you do, you'll lose credibility.  Talk slow.  They will understand. You'll be great"  I did just as he said and even emerged at the end with a smile.  I believe my concluding remark was "Boy, have I learned a lot!" 

I was afraid of the response from my leadership team, however they were more than supportive and completely understood the difficult situation. One of my mentors came in to my office about a week after this happend; the conversation was less than pleasant.  To caveat, I have a great deal of respect for this person, so I was quite baffled as the conversation progressed.  It went something like this...(and I'm only skimming the high points):

Mentor: You need to set your ego aside and fix this. 
Me (thinkig): Ego? Did he say ego? Did he say big ego? Really? Me. Ego?

I don't know if I even heard much more of the conversation after this.  But I do remember:

Me (thinking): Ego? Seriously?
Mentor: Welcome to the real world.  This is a real job. If you want happy-go-lucky and everything-is-perfect, go back to what you were doing before. 
Me (thinking): Did he say Ego? (Wall starting to go up...still thinking...) Whoa...did he just diss my old jobs? How does he know what I did and that it was insignificant to this job?  Really. Ego. Hmm.

Yes, all of that was in one conversation.  Talk about MOTIVATING!  At that moment, I had no clue what had just happened.  This person that I admired and respected, came in to give me a pep talk and all it did was completely demotivate me. 

Well, I grabbed the bull by the horns and am happy to report that I (think) I've turned the situation around.  The difficult customer was assigned to a new role and I am now working with a new customer.  We had a face-to-face crucial conversation where I explained the difficulties that I and the team experienced in the previous year and developed a business rhythm to keep him informed. 

As far as The Ego goes, I learned alot about myself from that one, simple statement and am actually grateful to my mentor for saying those words.  Come back for Part 3 on Friday to learn about what I learned from this entire experience.  I will say it circles back to Maya Angelou's saying 'When You Learn, Teach." And a shout out to Oprah's article "Oprah's Biggest Aha Moment Yet - and How It Could Lead To Yours."  (It's all interconnected - read that article today as I was waiting for a test you'll read about tomorrow in Part 2). 


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Happy Thanksgiving!

 2011-11-24


Happy Thanksgiving 2011! 

Wishing all of you a few quiet moments to among the hustle, bustle and excitement of the holiday season to reflect on the many blessings of life! 

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Tell Me About Yourself Blog Award

 2011-11-18


A big THANK YOU and smile :) goes out to Julianne from Sew Fantastic for awarding me with the "Tell Me About Yourself" blog award!!  I was so excited when I found out earlier this week and couldn't wait to pass it on to others!!

There are only two rules for this award...share 7 interesting facts about me and pass on to 15 other bloggers.

7 Things About Me
1. I am an over-achiever go-getter
2. I LOVE Christmas...and I mean LOVE! I'm the person who starts listening to Christmas music in July.
3. I married my high-school sweetheart and have been with him for more than half my life...and I'm only 29.
4. I love to cook and tried out for 'The Next Food Network Star'. (Stay tuned for my famous New Year's Dinner recipe!)
5. I was born on my Grandmother's birthday and plan to write a book about her one day, thus you can say I'm an aspiring author.
6. I've been on National TV.  The Hubby and I went to a taping of 'The View' and they selected us to tape the commercial. The Hubby messed up his lines so I got 3 minutes of fame!
7. Of all the things I love, and there are many, I love being a Mama, most of all!!

I now pass this award on to these 15 AMAZING BLOGGERS!! 

1. Bumber's Bumblings
2. Huppie Mama
3. Mama Do It All
4. Modern Mommy Magic
5. Mommy Bags
6. A Mom Just Winging It
7. The Epic Adventures of a Modern Mom
8. 20 Going on 80
9. Little Mudpies
10. Peace Love Recipes
11. Simply Kelly B
12. Never a Dull Moment
13. The Domesticated Mama
14. Mommy with Selective Memory
15. Mama's Musings

Thanks again Julianne!!

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PHD? Not This Time!

 2011-11-17

I finally did it! I mastered PHD syndrome - Projects Half Done, that is!

This journey started back in May when a Groupon was offered for The Little Shop. The Little Shop is a quaint quilting and sewing shop located in beautiful downtown Haddonfield, NJ.  I wanted to learn more about sewing so I purchased the Groupon for myself and my friend, Jennifer.  

As I periodically scanned their class schedules, one class caught my eye - the Amy Butler Sunday Sling


A lover of Vera Bradley bags, I knew I just had to sign up for this class.  The class schedule was quite enticing, as well.  The class met every Thursday from 7-9 for 3 weeks and at the end of the class, you had a bag.  Really?  Knowing my track record for completing projects, I was a bit skeptical.  Keep in mind I have a quilt that is nearly complete and about 20 knitting projects stashed in our guest bedroom a.k.a. the craft room

It turns out, the class stayed true to its promise. In just 3 weeks and a total of 7.5 hours, I completed the bag.  We were all shocked, even the dear hubby who said "Get the hell out of here! You completed it!"







The class is perfect for working mothers who want a night out with minimal commitment to do homework outside of class.  Our instructor, Debbie, was fantastic as well.  She was extremely laid back, easy going and was extremely helpful stepping through the various steps and even helping us with our mistakes.  She even taught Jen how to measure! ;)  (Poor Jen, a brilliant individual, yet she had the most difficult time measuring and cutting fabric to the correct pattern size.) 

Jennifer and Kim

Debbi with Cindy and Lana
Cindy Anxiously Turning her Bag

Lana and Cindy Proudly Showcasing Their Creations
A big Thank You goes out to Debbie and The Little Shop for helping me overcome PHD!!  To my new friends Cindy, Kim and Lana, I greatly enjoyed our conversation and company!  Hope to see you in the next class!  Happy Sewing!

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Work Love Pray Book Online Book Club

 2011-11-12

I was navigating through my dashboard on Thursday night and saw a blog post that caught my eye "Why I'm Leading the Work Love Pray Online Bookclub" by Susan DiMickele.

I just said a few weeks ago that if I had more time (hahaha), I would start or try to find/participate in a book club.  And I also realized that while my blog is titled 'The Diary of a Working Mother', I have focused thus far on balancing the "home" portion and not much effort has been spent detailing the challenges of dealing with the work force.  After I saw the schedule, there was no way I could resist.

The book club will be meeting every Tuesday at 4Word to discuss the books over the next six weeks:
    
     November 15: Chapters 1-3
     November 22: Chapters 4-6
     November 29: Chapters 7-9
     December 6: Chapters 10-12
     December 13: Chapters 13-15
     December 20: Chapters 16-18

Best of all, you leave your comments on the 4Word blog and don't need to worry if you fall behind! The 4Word website was founded by the author, Diane Paddison, and is a "national nonprofit designed to connect, lead and support young professional Christian women to fulfill their God-given potential."



I went to Amazon, ordered my copy and read the first chapter yesterday (yes, within 24 hours the book was here!) After I read the first question for reflection, I knew I made the right decision in adding yet another activity to my already over-committed schedule (I'm being totally serious!)

1st question: Describe your dream job - either one that you already have, or one that you wish you could have.  

So how about it? Are you up for participating in a book club that will prompt you to look inward and hopefully provide some tips/tricks for balancing and climbing that corporate ladder with Mommy-hood?  I know I am :)

Hope to see you there!


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Vacation = Cleaning?

 2011-11-10

I blinked in July and somehow traveled through time to land in November.  Where did the past four months go?  I traveled the US from San Diego to Hawaii to Chicago and back to Philly for work forcing the Hubby to play Mr. Mom while I was away.  Needless to say, the past few months have been quite hectic.

During that time, we had to prioritize and the house was at the bottom of the list.  We were doing the bare minimum to get by with a semi-clean house, but it seemed as though any free time we had at home, we spent cleaning.  Not fun.

Two weeks ago, the hubby and I decided to take two vacation days - Friday and Monday to give us a four day weekend.  We sent Roland to daycare and tackled the house.  We cleaned, we sorted, we snuck in a few naps and prepped the house for the upcoming holiday season.  After spending some much needed time and attention to the house, we seem to be functioning much better as a family.  Why? Because everything has a place and there is a place for everything!

We have one room left to tackle (the den) and a few bins of baby gear to sort through and after that - we will be finished!  We truly had a great time spending two days together without interruption and are committed to doing so more often!!

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Picky Eater? Perhaps Not.

 2011-11-06

Until today, I was thoroughly confused as to how Roland could be a good eater throughout the day, and yet such a picky eater at dinner time.  Dinner time is not pleasant.  At all.  At least, not pleasant 80% of the time.   And thus, I often wonder if we're putting our kiddo to bed hungry...


He loves a wide variety of food including avocados, greek yogurt (referred to as "Yo-Yo"), salmon patties and asparagus (yeah, I know...not the typical foods you would think a 1.5 year old would like). We sat down for dinner tonight hopeful that the left over beef braciole would be a hit, but were not surprised when he pushed it away and said "Noooooo".  

As I was preparing his lunch/snacks for tomorrow, I calculated the calories in his favorite daily sandwich - the PB&J.  340 calories between 1tbsp of jelly, 2tbsp of peanut butter and the bread!  I started to wonder how many calories he consumes throughout the day.   By the time we reach 4:00 PM, he consumes nearly 1100 calories!  I did some research on the internet at found out that he should be consuming 1000 calories in a day. (Dietary Guidelines for Americans, Appendix 6) Perhaps he's just not hungry for dinner, and we were interpreting his lack of hunger as a picky 1.5 year old! 

That makes sense.  The fact that he eats a wide variety of foods throughout the day and doesn't appear to be interested at dinner supports my new found hypothesis.  It could also explain why Roland gets up so early in the morning (5:30 am after a 7:30 pm bedtime); it could be that he's hungry! I plan to test my hypothesis throughout the week and will report back next Sunday to see if my new theory holds. 

(I am by no means a calorie counter (in fact, if asked today, couldn't even tell you how many calories I should be consuming); I do know how important it is for Roland to get the proper nutrition so that he can grow mentally and physically.)

 

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Happy Halloween!

 2011-10-31

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A Mother for Choco

 2011-10-29

A few months ago, my parents came to visit for the weekend and hauled in box after box of childhood memories - from my elementary piano books to my much loved reading books.  We sorted through books, pulled out the ones that were age appropriate for Roland and stored the rest for later.


There is one book in particular that I would like to share with the Mommy Community, "A Mother for Choco" by Keiko Kasza.  It is by far my favorite, for multiple reasons...


The story details Choco's quest to find a Mommy and he realizes that his Mommy doesn't have to look just like him.  Mrs. Bear helps him recognize that its the mother's love and affection (hugging, kissing, playing) that is important in life - not that his mother must look just like him.  

As we progress through our nightly bedtime ritual which consists of at least 10 bedtime books, I often wonder how much Roland is remembering from the stories.  This week, I realized that he's retaining A LOT more than we thought. 

In the story, Choco is all alone and starts crying, "Mommy, mommy, I want my mommy!!" When I read the story, I try to invoke the feeling of the characters through my voice (just as my Grandma did for me!) So when I get to that part, I imitate a sad, sobbing Choco who is desperate to find his Mama.  Choco proceeds to tell Mrs. Bear that a Mommy would hug, kiss and sing and dance with him. 

On Wednesday morning, Roland woke up from his nightly slumber and called for Daddy - "Daddy, Daddy....Daddy" in the exact same voice I use to imitate Choco.  Coincidence...or so I thought...

That night, we were putting Roland to bed and once again, read 'A Mother for Choco.' We got to the part in the book and this time, he imitated Choco in the same voice that I use...'Mommy, Mommy....'  I looked down at him and realized he was in total actor mode - face all scrunched up, sad bottom lip extended - he had the part down.  Perhaps I have a little actor on my hands.

I started writing this blog post this morning.  I was sitting on the floor with the laptop on the coffee table and when Roland saw the image of the book,  he literally put one had on the lid of my laptop, forcing it closed and insisted we go upstairs to get the book.   We got the book and he sat in his rocking chair.  It was clear that he was going to read the book to me.  

He flipped to the page with the Mommy..."Mommy, Mommy...Mommy" he said in a sad voice (he can't say all the words yet. 

"Roland, what does a Mommy do?" I asked.  He immediately extended his hands and gave me a BIG BEAR hug! 

"Roland, what else does a Mommy do?" He puckered up, leaned in and planted a big kiss on me.  

"Roland, what else does a Mommy do?" And he rocked back and forth as though he was dancing. 

To my surprise, shock and amazement, he practically remembered the entire story!! I am absolutely amazed watching the entire learning process first hand.  

I hope you enjoy the book!! 

I would love recommendations on YOUR favorite books, too! 



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Wordless Wednesday: JDRF Walk for a Cure

 2011-10-26

On Sunday, we participated in our 14th Annual (I'm starting to lose track) Walk for a Cure for Diabetes! 





In honor of my dear brother, Bear! Here's hoping for a cure and soon!! 


Little Roland in Uncle Bear's Cowboy Boots! 

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Liebster Blog

 2011-10-24

Earlier this week, Miss Ashley from 'Modern Mommy Magic' selected 'The Diary of a Working Mother' for the Liebster Blog!


I was so excited, I screamed (yes, literally...it doesn't take much to excite this Mama) "I GOT MY FIRST BLOG AWARD!" So thank you my dear for making this Mama's day!!

Now, you may be curious, as was I, about the Liebster Blog.  The Liebster (German for friend or love) Award highlights up-and-coming bloggers with less than 200 followers.  And, by just typing it into Google, you can see the span of awardees!!

There are a few rules (but they aren't so bad!)
1. Show your gratitude to the blogger who gave you the award by linking back to them.
2. Reveal your top 5 picks and let them know by leaving a comment on their blog.
3. Post the award on your blog.
4. Bask in the love from the most supportive people on the Internet - other writers (and in this case, a fellow Mama!)
5. Best of all...have fun!!

The Diary of a Working Mother's Liebster Awards Go To...


The Domesticated Mama A dear friend, and super-talented, crafty Mama of two adorable kiddos! Check out her blog for the latest crafts and easy recipes! Hard to believe this Mama has only been sewing for a few years.  She's one talented lady!

Ritty's Adventures in Writing Another dear friend, this time from high-school, who is an aspiring author. Join her on her journey and her Mid-week Writing Challenge (Rhonda - I promise I'll participate soon!)

Susan DiMickele, an inspirational mother who recently published her first book, 'Chasing Superwoman'.  Susan - I hope to follow in your footsteps one day! Susan shares her experience as a working (outside the home) mama at a law firm, has 3 kiddos and (like me) married her high-school sweetheart!

Our Little Bubble, join Christa and her beautiful family (soon to be expecting a 4th child) as she shares her experiences through life - documenting everything so she can remember it!  Wonderful, wonderful blog! (And inspirational too - fellow Mama who ran a 5k this summer!)

20 Going on 80 "A Twenty Year Old With Hobbies The Same As Your Grandma"...a blog about baking, cooking, knitting, crocheting and DIY crafting.  A blog I can relate to, and I hope you can too!!

Ladies - you have all been so inspirational and motivating in my blog journey thus far! Thank you for sharing your experiences.  Rhonda, if I may take from one of your favorite quotes...which is now one of mine:

"Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: "What! You too? I thought I was the only one." -C.S. Lewis

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Recharge and Reenergize

 2011-10-13

My career path has been anything but normal. I didn't follow a traditional path to get to where I am today. What do I mean by that? Well, some people go to school because they know EXACTLY what they want to do - they like numbers, major in business and finance and end up as an accountant, or, they want to be a teacher so they pursue a degree in education.

When I started college, all I knew was that I wanted to be an IUP Majorette. That dream (or reality) was short lived, and after that period was over, I wondered from major to major - music education to math education to applied math. One thing was certain, I had no clue what I wanted to be 'when I grew up.'

I knew that having an internship was important however my department didn't have a formal internship program. What did I do? I blazed the trail for other students in my department and helped lay the foundation for establishing internships.

After I started my job with my current employer as an 'Engineer' (not formally trained working for a Defense Contractor), I found out about an organization called 'The Society of Women Engineers.' I thought it would be helpful to associate myself with an organization that had such a powerful message - 'Aspire. Advance. Achieve.'  I knew that I could learn a lot from an organization that focused on advancing the role women play in a predominately male driven field and encouraging women to pursue degrees in engineering.  Being that I worked in a male-dominated industry, I knew SWE was critical to my success.

I quickly became involved and participated in my first SWE Conference.  The conference was held in Kansas City and the theme was 'Women Blazing Technology Trails.' Quite fitting for my journey thus far.  I was absolutely amazed at the conference - the sessions on engineering, leadership, struggles and triumphs validated my reason for wanting to join such a wonderful society.

I wasn't getting the opportunity at work to develop my presentation skills, so I naturally looked to SWE to assist.  I submitted an abstract for the next National conference and imagine my surprise and delight when I was not only asked to present, but to make the session a 4 hour Career Enhancement Series.  Talk about a challenge!  For the past 5 years, I've developed, expanded and perfected my public speaking skills and all because SWE provided the opportunity and I decided to take advantage of it.

After taking a year off to experience the joys of motherhood without any added activities, I'm back at the conference speaking on 'Guilty: The Diary of a Working Mother' and sharing my lessons learned for navigating the first year of motherhood and parenthood.  




After participating in today's sessions, filled with wonderful information to take back to the work-place (and I do plan to share them with you, too!), I realized why I love participating in the 'sWE' National Conferences - motivated, engaged, and enthusiastic participants who feed off of the energy of the other participants and, knowingly or not, REENERGIZE, RECHARGE and INSPIRE their fellow SWEers to be the best they can be.  Yes, SWE Members, YOU are TRUE LEADERS!

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Ishmael: An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit

 2011-09-25

Ishmael: An Adventure of the Mind and SpiritIshmael: An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit by Daniel Quinn




Ishmael was definitely an interesting book and one that will require me to re-read to ensure I gain everything out of the book. Originally, I didn't like the book because it forced me to think of concepts that I usually ignore. Daniel Quinn uses Ishmael, a gorilla and a well-educted gorilla at that, to explore basic concepts: "The world was made for humans to conquer thus the world belongs to humans" versus "Humans belong to the world." He compares and contrasts modern society with our ancient ancestors and identifies ways that demonstrates how we are essentially destroying the world we live in just to conquer it.

This book is definitely worthy of a book club discussion...now only if I could find one...and the time to participate :)



View all my reviews

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Superwoman!

I work in a male-dominated environment.  One where the majority of men either (1) don't have kids or (2) have stay at home wives that take care of everything.  Sometimes I just want to wear a sign that says:

I choose to work and have a career however, I am also the woman who:
-...does the laundry and most likely will never be caught up
-...does the grocery shopping, meal planning and cooking in the house
-...pays for a cleaning lady because something has to give
-...manages the household finances
-...is in charge of keeping the occupants in the house up-to-date on their medical appointments
-...is most likely sleep deprived
-...in one word, is SUPERWOMAN!

And because of all this, I promise to give 40 solid hard-working hours, but cannot commit to anything more!

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First Soup of the Season

 2011-09-17

The past few weeks have been hectic, to say the least.  Last night, I realized that it has been a long, long time since I've made something yummy in the kitchen.  Long days at work and catching up on over-due errands prompted the food situation for the past few weeks to be canned soup and easy quick foods.


Of course, the 'G' word (guilt) tried to break through again, but I quickly squashed it.  I'm doing the best I can, right?!  Roland and I headed to Wegmans (our favorite grocery store) this morning and bought all of the ingredients for Rachel Ray's Fall Minestrone soup - a hearty, fantastic soup that is the perfect accompaniment to this beautiful fall day!!


Tips:
1. I always make my noodles separately and add them as I make a bowl of soup, otherwise, the noodles tend to absorb all of the liquid in the soup.
2. Don't forget to drizzle some olive oil over the noodles after you strain them - the olive oil will prevent them from sticking.
3. Fresh, warm bread is a wonderful accompaniment!

Highly recommended for any fall day!! Hope you enjoy :)

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Super Dad (or Mr. Mom?)

 2011-09-14

I've noticed that every working mother seems to have a similar persona of SUPER GO GETTER meets JACK OF ALL TRADES and MS. FIX-IT while balancing PERFECT PLANNING (or MAINTAINING CONTROL) of all 101 (Dalmatians?) HOBBIES and HOUSEHOLD ACTIVITIES.

Can I just tell you that this past weekend, after 13 days without my guys, a 13 hour flight back from Hawaii and an at-work email inbox full of tons of items that were "due yesterday", I had the blessing of coming down with...THE FLU!

It was horrible, terrible but most importantly, put Mr. Mom back on duty.  Now why in the world would I call it a blessing?  Well, it made me realize again how simply wonderful my hubby is...with a little joking, he graciously accepted the task at hand, again and even took some time to take the little guy shopping for his school picture outfit!  Love, love, love!



It also made me realize that things will still continue to operate, even if I am not in control (how could I be? I was in bed in a feverish stupor!) and to just take a moment to pause and thank God for all of my blessings.

Funny, in a conversation at some point over the weekend, Roland (big) said "How do those single mother's do this?"  High-five to all the single mothers, fathers and parents who know how to step in when duty calls!!

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The Garden Isle

 2011-09-04

During my time in Hawaii, I decided to make the best of it and exercise my adventurous side to explore the island. Typically, I'm the conservative one and the Hubby is the curious, free-spirit tourist when we travel. I decided to take a lesson from his book and see what I could find.

Spouting Horn - water rushes under a lava shelf and bursts through a small opening at the surface.


Beautiful waterfall at 500 feet elevation on the way up to Waimea Canyon. The following six photos are taken at the canyon lookout.






Next stop was the Pou Hinahina Lookout...



Photo at the Ni'Ihau Lookout (it's the little island at the horizon).



Stop # 3 was the Kalalau Lookout...absolutely stunning view!


On Sunday, I decided to have dinner at The Plantations Garden Restaurant located in Poipu Beach.  Being an orchid lover, I was sure to snap a few photos!






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