Another year older, and what do you get?

This past Tuesday was my 34th birthday. This is a ridiculous number. I don’t find it exactly depressing. It’s more that my mind soundly rejects the number and instead clings to the image of my college self as the real me. (The continuing discovery of gray hairs would perhaps tell a different story. As would the fact that my 15-year high school reunion is a few short weeks away. Then there are the forehead lines… Okay, now this IS getting depressing.) My dad kindly pointed out that I could probably remember his 34th birthday, when I was eight years old.

I locked my two children in the car after a hair cut appointment Tuesday morning, which led to wondering whether this is the year my mind begins to go. (Don’t worry, it was a lovely, cool day, Lina slept and Corin was thoroughly occupied with his sucker and the police officers who drove out to stand guard in rather useless fashion while we waited for Jon to rescue us.)


Corin thought the whole thing was a grand adventure.


The day improved from there, however, and I had a fantastic dinner and homemade birthday cake provided by my parents and brother- and sister-in-law. Then I fell asleep on the couch.


Uncle Justin

On Thursday evening, I left for a girls’ weekend in Chicago with a few very dear friends. The trip expenses were my only birthday gift request this year, and it was an excellent choice. I had a fantastic time and came home excited to see my husband and kids and ready to tackle motherhood with renewed enthusiasm. One conversation from the trip reminded me how nice it is to be at a place in life where I am confident and comfortable with myself and the life I have built, well beyond the insecurities that made portions of childhood and adolescence so difficult. The truth is, I wouldn’t go back for all the tea in China, not even to my 20s. I am happy in this nowhere-near-perfect life, with the little ones I adore, a deeper marriage, and friendships growing more beautiful with the patina of shared joys, struggles and heartaches.

So, I will take this opportunity to say thank you to my family for sending me on the trip, to my husband and in-laws for keeping things running like a well-oiled machine in my absence, and to my dear friends who helped make some awesome new memories.

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That sweet face – 5 months


Eline at 5 months:

  • Weighs about 12 lb. 8 oz.
  • Rolls from back to stomach, practices crawling motions, has good head control, bears weight on her legs, sits with support and reaches for and grabs some objects
  • Coos and smiles, has giggled a few times, and loves to be tickled and played with
  • Really focuses on up-close details and also notices longer-distance objects and people in her surroundings
  • Seems to be teething off and on
  • Has had several rounds of sickness (croup, then a bad cold that’s still hanging around), which have made feedings difficult and highly inconsistent
  • Feeding schedule has remained at six feedings of 4 1/2 oz. bottles
  • Goes down for the night around 9:30 or 10 p.m. and sleeps until 6 – 7 a.m., with one dream feeding around 11:30 p.m.
  • Had been napping between every feeding but recently has gotten inconsistent with daytime sleep
  • Hearing screen at Vanderbilt today showed both ears still blocked, indicating she will likely need to see an ENT to deal with fluid that is not draining and is interfering with her hearing
  • Continues to show signs of a happy, people-oriented personality

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This just happened in our house tonight


Corin’s crib has a very low mattress setting that these many months kept him from climbing out. We got a lot of mileage out of that bottom setting. But he will be three in a month, and it really was time. So tonight, Jon took the front off the bed and installed the toddler railing. I can tell you someone was very, very excited about this new development.

Tonight, I tucked the blanket around my sweet boy, his lovey and his stuffed zebra. His head rested on a full-sized pillow for the first time. I sat on the edge of the bed as I rubbed his back, and I remembered the tiny body that once looked so lost in that giant crib.


I needed this tonight. I needed a reminder, amidst the exhausting drudgery of more sickness and terrible feedings, that tiny babies grow up awfully fast. The reminder is two-fold: time with little ones is fleeting and to be treasured. And also, it gets easier.

Work and family: Thoughts on a cultural struggle

I had a very interesting discussion this morning with several girlfriends in an online conversation thread. It started with a comment on this image of Licia Ronzulli, a member of European Parliament, and progressed to a broader discussion about feminism, U.S. work culture and the way we individually and as a society relate to children and parenthood.

Some of us were mothers, some were not. We had very different perspectives (which did not align according to childbearing status), and it really got me thinking.

My reaction to the photo was, “Good for her.” In contrast, some friends felt it was inappropriate to bring your child into your professional workplace as a likely distraction to colleagues and yourself. The sentiment was something like, “Any woman who does this is asking for a loss of professional credibility.” And also, “No way would I be able to get any work done with my kids around. Work and parenting do not mix.”

Here’s the thing: I believe we do a terrible job in this country of finding the right balance between our professional lives and our family lives. We are a stressed-out culture facing issues of growing mental illness. The U.S. has grown up with the belief that hard work should and will be rewarded. Americans are driven to succeed. We admire professional achievement and dedication. Those are good things. But I believe this has progressed to a serious cultural problem with balancing work with personal time, and particularly time with our families. We have a work culture that rewards and often expects focus on work to the exclusion of all else. This has clearly become an issue for women, given they often carry the larger share of responsibility for children, but it also affects men.

One friend on the conversation thread this morning said she was told by her boss not to even mention her children at work, because it was career suicide. This raises my hackles, for myriad reasons. Yes, this manager was stating reality. But a man would likely not be given similar instructions, nor would he risk being viewed as less competent for having a child, as if parenthood had robbed him of his ability to function in the professional realm. But the problem goes deeper.

The moms on our conversation thread all have young children, and we have all chosen to leave various careers to stay home with our kids. But I was a working mom for the first 10 months of Corin’s life, and I hope to someday make some type of professional contribution again. And the reality is most moms do not have the luxury of staying home as we have. Many of these women are likely to be working for the employers least likely to make accommodations for the needs of children and family.

What happens when the demands of work leave little room for family? I suggest one consequence is a nation of highly-stressed, exhausted and dissatisfied adults. Another is an increasing number of women who, feeling they are facing a choice between career and family, choose the latter. A third is the notorious “mommy track,” in which capable professional women with families face stigmatization and narrowed opportunities. And on the male side of the equation, husbands and fathers are absent from family life because of the outsize demands of work.

I do not mean to suggest women who stay home are living with an unfortunate choice forced upon them. I chose to leave the professional work force because I believe this is the best thing for our family, love being with my kids, and have chosen this as my current full-time job. I suspect many full-time moms feel the same. However, as I mentioned, I would someday love to return to a greater professional contribution. This is no easy task for someone who has been out of the work force and is looking for an opportunity that will accommodate the continuing demands of family. Had I a better opportunity to maintain some level of professional involvement while raising young children, I likely would take it. (In many ways, this issue of work-family balance is related to my earlier post about the unrealistic expectations we have set for ourselves.)

I know the tension between career and family will never entirely disappear. There are huge challenges for any adult attempting to juggle the demands of a job and children, regardless of how family-friendly the culture or employer. I think we do a disservice when we communicate to parents that you really can “have it all.” However, we in the U.S. have a much greater problem with finding work-family balance than do many other cultures around the world.

I am familiar with the arguments against efforts to create a more family-friendly work environment. Often, a political argument frames the issue in terms of entitlement or asking someone else to solve what should be personal problems. Businesses argue that they cannot sustain the costs of more flexible and family-friendly policies. There seems to be resentment that employees who are fully compensated would somehow expect more from their employers, and a belief that family-friendly policies would damage our ability to compete in the global market. (This article makes an excellent argument for the opposite, as do real-world examples of top-tier companies such as Google.) But I think those lines of argument miss the point. Ultimately, the question seems to me to be: What values do we as a culture wish to embrace and encourage? We currently seem to be sending a very mixed cultural message that says, “Family is so important,” but that ultimately emphasizes professional achievement and material success at the expense of family life.

Obviously, the solution is not for parents to all bring their children to work. But I really believe we, as a culture, have to decide to place greater value on our families. More flexible schedules and part-time opportunities, a more open-minded attitude towards the co-existence of professionalism and parenting, a reward system that acknowledges hard work and achievement but also encourages a balanced approach… These are things I would wish for myself in the years ahead and even more so for my children in the next generation.

Hurrah for Punxsutawney Phil

We enjoyed about 10 days of good health, and now we’re back to two sick kids and mom and dad trying desperately to fight off the aches and scratchy throats. Corin’s on his third day of fever (it spiked to 103.5 night before last, which is not unusual for him) with a horrible, hacking cough, and Lina is coughing and eating barely enough to stave off dehydration. Church today? Nope. Corin’s neighbor friend’s birthday party? Missing that, too. Super Bowl party with friends tomorrow? Not so much.

I would like to propose that since we got some decent snow today, we officially call an end to winter and usher in spring a month early. Anyone with me? Anyone? (Turns out Punxsutawney Phil agrees with me.)

But it hasn’t all been misery and plague around here. The kids are growing, Lina had a great 4 month visit with her pediatrician, who was very pleased with her progress, and we have had time to play and enjoy each other.

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Playing with the neighbor’s kitty

Here’s to recovered health sometime this season.