Saturday, November 29, 2014

Thanksgiving

We had a lovely Thanksgiving. I should have gotten more pictures of some of my awesome dishes. But I guess I was a little too busy cooking. You know how it goes. (I also should have gotten some pictures of my lovely family, whom I am incredibly thankful for. But yeah. That too.)

For the first time, we moved our meal to later in the day. It was actually kind of awesome. I don’t know why we hadn’t done it before. We had brunch snacks and drinks out all morning and afternoon and then Thanksgiving for dinner. I didn’t have to wake up crazy early to put a giant turkey in the oven, which was huge. And it was just way more relaxed, all around.

We also tried that spatchcocking thing. I hope it is a verb, because if not, I just made it one. It went really well! Except most of the directions we found, didn’t seem to provide really clear cooking times. We had just read sort of vague “90 minute” or until the bird is 165 degrees guidance. Turned out, it was more like two hours for our giant bird. NBD. It's not like we were timing everything else around the turkey. 




I was really proud of the table setting. Because I’m not naturally good at this sort of stuff. So it means a lot to me. It looks even prettier when you dim the lights. But I’m also not good at photography.


My cheese tray, the cheese is supposed to look like a turkey. I made a face in the dip. I didn’t try that hard because once I had this amazing veggie tray that looked like a turkey and nobody ate it. Because vegetables, maybe? Anyway. My sister said something about my snowman dip. Eh. Close enough.


Here’s one of the dishes I did get a picture of, Brussels sprouts and bacon. it was my first try and it turned out pretty good.

Here is our broke back turkey before we cooked it (obvs).



Here are two worn out girls. And they needed their holiday rest. Because after thanksgiving is CHRISTMAS SEASON.



And yeah, we got the decorations out right away.


I hope everyone else had a wonderful Thanksgiving!

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Monday, November 24, 2014

What I’m Thankful For

Something I like about November is that it gives me a good excuse to come up with a list of things that I’m thankful for.


I bought this from Pottery Barn Kids (and plan to keep it up year round, because I love it) and we have started talking about things we are thankful for at dinner. Except the girls sort of get stuck in a rut where Hannah is always thankful for the iPad and Maggie is always thankful for macaroni and cheese.

We are working on it.

But keeping track of things you are thankful for is pretty much the best idea ever because it is the easiest and most rewarding happiness habit. I love to look back at old lists (I started keeping them on my phone). Highly recommend.

In No Particular Order.
  • Cold Weather. I always love cold weather in the fall (I stop loving it at the end of the winter, obviously). It’s so festive at the beginning of the fall though!
  • Warm Clothes. I love warm clothes. Like fleece lined tights. I think everything should be lined in fleece. Or sherpa. Or fur. (faux fur, of course)

  • Seasonal drinks. Hot chocolate, seasoned lattes, warm apple cider.
  • Fireplaces. The smell of families in the neighborhood using their fireplace. I don’t really like using the fireplace that much because smoke weirds me out. But sometimes we do it, around Christmas. But I like the smell of other people doing it.
  • Play Time. When the girls are playing together nicely. I especially love it when they are doing it all on their own and I didn’t have to encourage it in any way. (i.e., take away an iPad.) It is like, I want to go back to myself as a mom of babies me and say, hang in there. it gets better.
  • Big Girls. Ditto when the girls dress themselves, or put their seat belts on themselves, or get themselves water or a snack by themselves. It is like some kind of parenting miracle. It is about that time Cork will chime in with, hey! let’s destroy all our progress with another baby! And a little piece of my happiness sets itself on fire and goes up in flames. Just kidding. A baby brings its own special happiness. That is immediately cancelled out by all the hard work they demand. kidding again. kind of. No, seriously though, having babies and becoming a mom brought out this whole new, kind of awesome if I do say so myself, part of me that I’m forever grateful for. Kids are super hard though. like for real.
  • Going to Bed Early. I don’t know why I didn’t go to bed early starting in college. Like I know it isn’t “cool” but neither was I, so it would have worked out nicely. Going to bed early is my favorite. I go to bed early all the time these days and it is everything I ever dreamed it would be.
  • Pinterest. Don’t judge me, but I freaking love Pinterest. It has introduced me to some of my favorite recipes, decorating ideas, fashion bloggers, and craft/learning projects for the kids.
  • Marriage. I really lucked out with the whole marriage thing. I found someone who cooks (as in, dinner every day. Yeah, it is awesome) and cleans. He let’s me take naps on the weekends. I mean, sometimes we may want to punch each other in the face (which is kind of nbd, I sometimes want to punch everybody in the face a little) but we haven’t ever done it. Not once. (fyi, ditto everybody else I sometimes want to punch.) And he makes me laugh. (a lot.) Also, he reads directions, which I’m pretty much too lazy to read ever. So he’s pretty awesome to have around. And he never embarrasses me. EVER. A million years ago, I thought I’d never get married because I’m super judgmental about people saying nonsense or terrible things. And it seemed inevitable. People would be talking and I’d just be like, oh gosh, that was logically disastrous or super distasteful what you just said. and I can’t be around you any. more. ever. starting right this second. oh god. now. make this stop. And Cork never makes me feel that way. He’s really smart and compassionate. Like, really really. Which is huge. Because, I’ve seen other people with husbands who say stuff and I cringe for them and immediately love my husband even more. I mean, yuck. I don’t do second hand awkwardness very well. Plus, I’ve probably never been happier. So there is that.
  • Preschool Pick up. Drop offs still suck for Maggie (and therefore, me). But she makes up for it when she runs screaming to my arms at the end of the day. Or when I come while they aren’t outside playing and I see her jumping up and down at the window, saying, “MOMMY!” over and over again. 
  • Work BFFs. Work can be pretty rough sometimes. And yet it is bearable because I have these amazing friends who I get to see (almost) every day. Except they keep quitting (because see above). But I’m still forever grateful for their friendship and everything I’ve learned from them and all the times they have been there for me.
The corner of my desk that I used to cheer myself up
  • Extended Family. I have so many family members so close by, and it is amazing. I can call my sister and ask if my husband can borrow her car for the afternoon because his just got towed off right by her office parking garage. I can call my other sister and ask if she can watch the girls while I run and get my eyebrows done. I can stop by my parents house on the way home because the traffic is ridiculous. And best of all, we can all get together Saturday morning for pancake breakfasts. Plus, my brother’s in-laws live in Austin too, and they are pretty cool. Not that I’d borrow their car or anything (yet) (just kidding). But compared to moving to Washington, DC and NYC where I knew almost no one and had to move myself in and out by myself, and stuff like that, this is like heaven and I will never take it for granted. Feeling the opposite of lonely, and knowing you always have people you can count on, all the time is basically the best thing ever.
  • Puppy Dogs. I love having dogs. I love how every morning, when we feed the dogs breakfast, they will lick their plates clean and then simultaneously switch sides of the kitchen, running to each other’s plate to make sure the other dog didn’t miss a speck of food. I love how they are such creatures of habit (like me), and how Junebug is always cold (like me), and down for an extra blanket, and how much Maggie loves Tybalt (not like me, but still). I just love how they are always so happy to see us, and vice versa.
  • Crazy Baby. The girls have invented this game they play together called Crazy Baby. It is sort of like preschool with their dolls. The best part is, they have “special” versions of it, like Crazy Baby Halloween. And since they play on the iPads (#sorrynotsorry) they sometimes refer to adding new versions of the game as “downloading” them and retiring certain versions of the game as “deleting” them. As in, “if you’re not nice to me, I’m going to delete Crazy Baby Special Surprise!” or, “Thank you for letting me sit on the driver’s side! For being so nice, I’m going download a brand new Crazy Baby. It’s called Crazy Baby Christmas Time!” It is like, life imitating apps.
  • Shopping. (Just ask Cork.) Sometimes when people try to help me figure out what I should do with my life, they ask me what my favorite job was. And I always look back fondly on my time at J.Crew. Is that weird? I don’t think I could really make it in the retail business, though. Because Black Friday through Christmas conflicts with my favorite time at home (back then, not so much). But. One of my secret joys in life, I’m not even going to hide it, is shopping for clothes. If anyone ever needs help shopping for a big event or even a small one, shopping is pretty much my favorite thing. I basically deal with this unrequited love by filling up online shopping carts and closing the browser and walking away. Or not (Just ask Cork). 
  • Halloween through Christmas. I never want this part of the year to end. It is amazing. I love coordinating costumes. I love planning family meals. I love decorating. I love twinkling lights. I love all of it. September through January first needs to last longer. Or they need to get better holidays in the spring.
  • Cute Animals I found on Social Media. Self explanatory. But if you need any examples: Marnie the Dog, Pygmy Marmoset, Baby Eisleigh and Clyde the pit bull 
  • That I Could Go On And On... I could talk about how I’m still in touch with my elementary school teachers who are the most amazing women. How much I enjoy reading silly kids’ books to my girls. How thankful I am to own a home in a neighborhood I love on a quiet street where cute little kids walk with their parents and stop to stare at our pumpkin with the ghost that pops out (during Halloween, obviously). How much I love it when the girls put their plates up after dinner without being asked. How much I love it when my sister is better with my girls than I am, because that way I don’t have to get that awful, “nobody can mother them like I can” feeling (who knew that feeling replaceable would be such a relief?). That I have a minivan with doors that open remotely with the push of a button (it is awesome, TRUST ME). That I have friends all over the country from all different times in my life that I'm still really close to and can confide in and ask for advice about all sorts of random things. That I have great in-laws who love my little girls and treat me really well. That my family is healthy and none of us is under the care of an oncologist. And I could keep going and going, but I'll stop.
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Saturday, November 22, 2014

A Rape on Campus: my thoughts on a chilling, must-read article

If you haven’t read Rolling Stones viral, haunting article, A Rape on Campus: A Brutal Assault and a Struggle for Justice at UVA and you think you can handle it emotionally, I strongly recommend that you do so right now.

It is horrifying.

There are no words.



It isn’t horrifying because it is shocking. Its power lies not it the fact that it is some nightmare pulled from the deepest crevasses of the darkest, most depraved corners of American higher education. Its power comes from the fact that it is almost a right of passage for young adults. UVA is, unfortunately, not an outlier. It is not a long drive from Duke and has a similar demographic. Greek life is huge at both schools. In fact, with all the bad press Duke gets in this arena, I was almost surprised we managed to dodge this bullet. (While some UVA students and alum are saying Jackie is not alone, others are saying UVA isn’t alone. They are both correct.)

Obviously not every girl who goes to college will be brutally gang raped. But many will be sexually assaulted. And almost none will see justice. While Jackie’s story was particularly tough to read, its important to know, she isn’t an outlier.
Psychologist David Lisak's 2002 groundbreaking study of more than 1,800 college men found that roughly 9 out of 10 rapes are committed by serial offenders, who are responsible for an astonishing average of six rapes each. None of the offenders in Lisak's study had ever been reported. Lisak's findings upended general presumptions about campus sexual assault: It implied that most incidents are not bumbling, he-said-she-said miscommunications, but rather deliberate crimes by serial sex offenders.
We are so fond of giving women advice about what they drink (there was nothing to indicate Jackie had anything to drink, not that it matters) or who they go out with. We overlook the fact that there is this very clearly defined group of men who are raping women, without facing a single consequence. They know exactly what they are doing. They are admitting to it in these surveys: Using force. Without consent. Against her will. Giving her more alcohol than she can handle. Using drugs. Just don’t use the “R word” and they’ll admit to exactly what they are doing. There is no misunderstanding. They know.

The only thing more horrifying to me than the rape and the school’s pitiful response, was the response of her friends. It is like, they are so inured to assaults like this that they are more concerned with the social consequences of reporting rape than the emotional and physical consequences of being raped.
"Is that such a good idea?" she recalls Cindy asking. "Her reputation will be shot for the next four years." Andy seconded the opinion, adding that since he and Randall both planned to rush fraternities, they ought to think this through. The three friends launched into a heated discussion about the social price of reporting Jackie's rape, while Jackie stood beside them, mute in her bloody dress, wishing only to go back to her dorm room and fall into a deep, forgetful sleep. 
 It is time we take a break from giving advice to our daughters and we take a good hard look at our sons and have the hard talks with them about what is not okay. It is time we hold our universities responsible. It is long past time for stuff like this to STOP.




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Pictures of Your Children You Shouldn’t Post Online

Every now and then, it seems like there is all of this advice everywhere about how I should be doing the digital equivalent of locking my children in the basement and pretending like they don’t exist. I get that social media is relatively new and we are making the rules up as we go. But it is really hard not to laugh when people are like, KEEP YOUR KIDS COMPLETELY OFF THE INTERNET! Because CONSEQUENCES!


Like this stupid post. It is much better if you saw it on Facebook with all of the comments mocking it. And then you’ll sometimes hear the, Your Kids Won’t Get into College Because You Posted a Baby Picture of Them fear mongering (college admissions officers will know your kid was once a baby; Harvard and Yale don’t have time for that). I mean, take a deep breath, guys. 

Maybe time will prove me wrong. Maybe I will be like the internet equivalent of the people who used to just throw kids in the back of a station wagon with a can of Tab while chain smoking unfiltered cigs. People will look back at me and think, how scary was that?! How lucky that nothing went terribly wrong? But I like to think I’m more like the person who read the urban legends about stuff like Pop Rocks making kids explode and thought, mmkay, guys. Whatever you say. And then went about my life without losing any Pop Rocks-related sleep.

via etsy


In the spirit of keeping your kids EXTRA, SUPER-DUPER SAFE, I’ve provided some evidence-based guidance to help you figure out what could happen if you post certain pictures of your kids online.


THINGS TO NEVER, EVER, EVER POST. EVER.


Pictures of children looking cute

Never post pictures of your kids looking cute. If you’re children are unattractive, this does not apply to you. If your children are cute, and you can find a way to “redact" their cuteness (through black boxes, for example), I urge you to do so. A Yale researcher found that people react to cuteness with aggression. Basically, people will see your cute kid and will want to squoosh him/her. They will most likely, hunt your children down and SQUOOSH THEM. Or perhaps worse. The only way to protect your kid is to only share not-cute pictures. Lock up any cute pictures, and don’t even look at them yourself. You probably shouldn’t even look at your own kids, IRL.


Pictures of your children being happy


Posting pictures of your kids being happy makes people sad. According to a Stanford grad student’s research, people see your happy kids on Facebook and think they are always happy (spoiler alert, they’re not) and it makes the people sad because their own kids, or lives, or whatever aren’t always happy. When they get all sad, I mean, who knows what a sad person will do!? Probably something AWFUL!!! And this is YOUR FAULT. Probably. Because everything is your fault if you’re a mom. You should know this by now.


Lots of Pictures, Regardless of the Content

Apparently, people hate over posters. I get it. I mean, babies don’t do that much. So posting a hundred pictures of them doing nothing is, maybe on the “a lot" side. (To be fair, over sharing isn’t limited to parents/kids; but I mean, hey, you look totally different in your car selfie today than you did yesterday, kind of.) But if you find yourself providing super frequent photographic updates about grocery store trips and potty training escapades, just a heads up, people might stop liking you. And if people stop liking you, then who is going to let you join their impromptu militia during the zombie apocalypse. So think twice about over sharing the pictures, because zombies.

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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

To Time Out or Not To Time Out

So one of the big parenting debates of late is whether or not time outs will ruin your kids. Because, you know, everything ruins your kids these days. (THE HORROR!!)


Like how, a couple years ago they were all yelling at us for being helicopter parents who wouldn’t let our kids take risks.


And now they are yelling at us for ignoring our kids and obsessing with our smart phones so now our kids are getting hurt too much.


Whatever. We do everything wrong, the end. Amiright?


ANYWAY.


Time outs. The American Academy of Pediatrics is all, one minute for each year of a child’s age. And insist it isn’t a punishment, per se. But rather a chance to regroup. 


But then Time Magazine is all, Time outs are hurting your child. They make some good points. And Amy McCready, who wrote one of my favorite books If I Have to Tell You One More Time is all, Why Time Out is a Waste of Time.


But then Parent-Child Interactive (PCI) Therapy, which is research-based and has had very positive impacts on a huge spectrum children, uses time outs. I believe their time outs are only for one minute and the goal is to eliminate the reliance on time outs altogether. I think. It was a while ago I read about it. But I think you are supposed to get to the point where you just warn your kids and they stop misbehaving. Like magical angel spawn. 


So here is what I have done. I read conflicting advice throughout my parenting career, and alternate between different approaches as I go. Because everyone knows that the foundation of good parenting is inconsistency. Amiright?


Shoot. You guys. What the heck, you know??


I think the goal of PCI therapy is to give the kids something negative that they are motivated to avoid.  What is that? Negative reinforcement? Punishment? Oh, intro psych, you were SO LONG AGO. (when did I get so OLD? jokes. kind of.) My point is, the time out is short and not life ruining (Oh, THE HORRORS, Time Magazine!). That seems fine. An alternative would seem fine too. So whatever. I like the idea of time outs, as in sports, where you strategize and trouble shoot with the kiddo. But a pissed off preschooler is not much of a strategizer. They have a ton of other skills though, like screaming, kicking, and generalized terrorizing. So if you find a way to put those to good use, let me know. Mmkay, thanks.


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Monday, November 17, 2014

Sacrifice? Please, I’ve heard Mambo Number Five

So the LDS church has gone public with what everybody who had read Under the Banner of Heaven has already known. Joseph Smith was a kind of sketchy guy. I don’t know, they sort of hedge it with stuff like, the 14 year old was only sealed for eternity (that is Mormon for, he didn’t commit statutory rape. mmmkay sure, guys). Then they go on to say how plural marriage (that is Mormon for polygamy) was a religious principle that required personal sacrifice. I mean, come on. It was like guys sleeping around and saying, it’s cool, y’all. The angel made me do it. No seriously. The angel was going to KILL ME. Meanwhile, the women were left behind. As usual.
There is so much I like about the teachings of the Mormon church. Just like there is so much I like about the teachings of mainline protestant churches. But yeah. As long as there is this vibe that, as my friend John so awesomely puts it: Religion, made by men, for men, join today! Then, I’m just like, really? REALLY?!! Come on. As religious people are so fond of saying, why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free. Why buy the sketchiness when you can get the “be a good person, find a caring community, and hope for the best” for free?
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Saturday, November 8, 2014

Good managers, like good parents, focus on solutions instead of problems



I’ve talked before about how useless and counterproductive it can be to interrogate your children when there is a problem.
  • First, “Why Questions” are like thinly veiled accusations. “Why did you do that?” means, “You shouldn’t have done that!" Kids need you to be clear with them. (And speaking of being clear, “Don’t hit your sister!” requires double processing and emphasizes the unwanted action. Meanwhile, "We use gentle touches!" is easier for children to understand and emphasizes the WANTED behavior!)
  • Second, “Why Questions” can imply there is a correct answer when there obviously is not. “Why did you hit your sister?” Um, is there ever an appropriate reason to hit your sister?! Or ANYONE? 
  • Finally, “Why Questions’ can imply you need to justify your emotions when, NOPE. Emotions are inherently valid. What you do with them may not be appropriate, but you never need to justify your feelings. 

Another reason this approach is not effective is because it focuses on the PROBLEM. When you should be focusing on the SOLUTION.


This is true whether you are a parent or a CEO. However, just like it is so tempting to ask, “Why did you color on the walls?” even though you know you won’t get a satisfying answer, it is also tempting, in a professional setting, to immediately focus on a problem instead of a solution. It is much more salient. There is something emotionally compelling about negative feelings generated by a problem that makes human beings itch to place blame on someone. There is probably also something that compels people to think that we have to start at the problem, to move forward. But to quote Christine Comabford in Forbes, “being problem-focused really sucks.”



Image Credit: Christine Comaford Assoc.


Focusing on problems actually distracts you from fixing them. And it makes everyone miserable. I discussed before in my posts about parenting about how, instead of berating your kids for not being born with perfect table manners or social skills for navigating playground disputes, you need to actively teach them those skills. It is the same way in the workplace. Instead of berating your employees for not having every skill you need them to have, just go ahead and teach them. Or examine and improve the the environment if there are issues that could be contributing to workplace issues. The same with parenting.


Focusing on solutions in the workplace (or the home) begins by asking the right questions.



Image Credit: Christine Comaford Assoc.



If you start off the conversation looking for common ground, instead of looking to assign blame, then you start off on the same team. Both parties are more likely to feel seen, heard, and understood. And you are much more likely to reach a solution when that is actually your goal.


Unfortunately, bad managers tend to be more punitive and want to “teach someone lesson” (i.e., make them suffer in some way for their “mistakes.”) To do this, they must focus on problems and assigning blame. Bad managers don’t know that punishments aren’t very effective. Bad managers probably don’t care, or bother to keep track of the impacts of their decisions. Bad managers tend to rationalize low morale or high attrition. 


Good managers, on the other hand, know that “teaching someone a lessons" literally means empowering the person with the skills and tools to work effectively avoid mistakes in the first place. They know that punishments aren’t as effective as rewards, and that being successful is a reward unto itself. Good managers have more efficient employees who are happier, more productive, and more likely to stick around.


Focusing on solutions is better, whether your a parent or a CEO. It isn’t always intuitive. But it is worth the effort.



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