Sunday, May 10, 2015

The Best Job Ever

In sixth grade, I was on a mission to replicate Au Bon Pain's tuna salad. They had perfected the recipe in my mind; light on the mayonnaise, shaved carrot, seasoned with a hint of lemon; and I was convinced, armed with a can of Chicken of the Sea, I could bring it home. By the third trimester of that school year, I believe my version rivaled theirs, and buying a better baguette from Breadworks was my trump card.

That Spring, as I was mixing up yet another batch, I asked my Mom if she wanted me to make her a sandwich as well. She nodded as she told the school secretary, Mrs. Feeley, that I wouldn't be coming in today. Instead, I would be shadowing her, participating in Take Your Daughter to Work Day. I was so excited; not only to miss school, but to ride next to the Road Warrior all day, solving the mystery of what makes her power suits so powerful.

After dropping the kids off at school, my Mom and I used the car phone (novel technology in 1994) to check in with the office. Through a sniffily nose, her secretary Chris said everything was quiet so far. We hung up, then made our way to Mount Pleasant, a small coal mining town about an hour outside of Pittsburgh. We had one mission today: take a deposition. It was a term, like asbestos, toxic torts and dictation, that I had heard a thousand times around the dinner table, but like everything my Mom, esquire, did, I had a (very) limited understanding of what the legalese meant.

During my day on the job with my Mom, I learned that a deposition happens outside of a court room, that lawyers ask a lot of questions, that small towns have comically gigantic books where they record all that has gone on in their sleepy history, and that people from Mt. Pleasant speak a mean Yinzer. The thing I remember most though, was sitting side by side in my Mom's maroon Buick Park Avenue eating tuna salad sandwiches after the deposition was over. There in the car, my Mom broke out of her litigator tone, laughed with me about the size of the massive ledger, called Grandma to give her the play by play, and complimented me on a sandwich well made. Sure, she was one of the top lawyers in Western Pennsylvania, but in that moment I could tell her favorite job was being my Mom.

Despite not digesting the finer points of litigation, I learned a lot on Take Your Daughter to Work Day. Namely, that I wanted to be just like my Mom when I grew up. I wanted to have a career, and a car phone, and silk blouses tucked into tailored pant suits. More importantly, I wanted a family that I was working to support. I knew, judging from the occasional angst my Mom directed toward the PTA Moms, it would be a challenging pursuit, but I couldn't imagine doing it any other way.

After all, there was something more magical about my Mom pulling up in Sewickley to watch me play Field Hockey, or seeing her smiling face in a pew at Chapel or opening the lunch she had packed for me, labeled with her stylized handwriting. I knew how busy she was and how stressful her job could be, but my brother, sister and I always came first. And in her way, she took us to work every day - framed and arranged on her desk, as dividends of her pay checks that made private educations, vacations, dance classes, piano lessons, ski school and Au Bon Pain lunches possible, and in her thoughts and prayers as she road the interstates from Pittsburgh to Wheeling, West Virginia.

My mom taught me that motherhood is the best job of all. That family always comes first. And that paychecks are much better spent on the people that you love. As I head back to work on Tuesday, I will keep my Mom's example close, and my family closer.
To my Mom, on her special day, thank you for loving me so much and working so hard for me.

To my husband, on my special day, thank you for making me a mommy two times over. I am so (SO) blessed.

To SGS, thank you for hosting such a lovely, bubbly celebration at the Chicago Yacht Club today.

And to all the other mommies in my life, thank you for passing along your tips of the trade. Your support over the past two years has been invaluable.   
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No doubt about it. I have the best job ever. 
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Sunday, May 3, 2015

A Happy Hour

Several months ago, BB (before Bobby), I attended a seminar put on by the Working Mothers Network at my company. I typically 'tentatively accept' these kind of invites and never actually attend; a last minute meeting pops up, I need that extra hour to finish a presentation, I'm pregnant and can't get up, or I'm in no mood to network. But something told me to attend this particular installation.

Midway through the engineer and mother of two speaker's narrative, the story of balancing two high profile careers while raising a family strayed. She found herself at a crossroads, making a difficult decision after her family's third or fourth corporate relocation. Then and there she said goodbye to her career and hello to a full time role raising her children.


I have to admit, I lost a little interest. And in a room of women grappling with their own life choices as well as a persistent sense of guilt and desire for more time with their families, I'm sure I wasn't the only one who felt pangs of jealousy.

I started to drift off into my own stay at home mom fairy tale, but was grounded again by an astute comment. She said that on Fridays everyone was always toasting to TGIF. But that in her world, there was no such thing. "TGIF?!" she said, "what does that mean?" There was no quitting time, no weekend break; if anything Saturday and Sunday brought their own challenges. I chewed on it, although admittedly, with a little skepticism.

Fast forward to now: one more kid, one testy two year old, three months of maternity leave, and one tired mama. I now understand what she was talking about.  

I used to think I knew what made the exclamation TGIF(!) so joyous; the work week was over, there was a cocktail in my hand, life was good. Now I have a deeper understanding of quitting time; mostly because as a parent, the job doesn't end on the commute home. TGIF requires a little something else. One word; three syllables. Babysitter. Oops, that's four syllables. Without one, as a (working or stay at home) parent you are basically always on the job. And on those days when your two year old refuses to take a nap, it can be downright exhausting.

It's not that I don't want to smother my kids with love every second of the day. It's just that sometimes, as a parent you need to press reset; you need to find time in your own space to connect as adults. For the past couple weeks, Peter and I have been doing just that on Friday evenings (thanks to one word, two syllables: Mimi.) It's just an hour or so - but they have been some of the happiest hours I've ever had.

My new found advice - it's doesn't have to be Friday or the end of the day or a national holiday - but find time for you and him to reinvent your own kind of TGIF moment each week. Or if you're lucky enough to have a stylish, party planning cousin who knows just how important happy hours filled with beautiful bites, signature cocktails, fabulous hats, and cute cater waiters are as well, get a sitter and race on over to her house pronto.  
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Thanks Cousins Katie and Eric for giving quite a few mommies and daddies some fabulous hours way from home at your epic Derby Party yesterday. 


Thursday, April 30, 2015


Eleven years ago, I graduated from Notre Dame with a degree in Art History, a Monogram ring, a bunch of great friends, and four erupted wisdom teeth. Because there was plenty of room in my big mouth for them to nestle into their warm home, my adult dentist gave me a choice that summer: I could let them be or he could yank them out. Since my pediatric dentist and bearded orthodontist had spent years nurturing my family of teeth, I told Dr. Gruendel that I was ready to be a mother once again - to four massive molars at the very back of my jawline. Besides, without any job prospects or general direction in life, I thought I could use as much wisdom as possible.

One by one they came through without a problem, giving me a shark-like ability to bite through anything. No matter how stale the baguette or how crunchy the biscotti; now matter how chewy the caramel or sticky the toffee; no matter how tall the sandwich or wide the slice of pizza, my epic line up of teeth could gnaw through it. And I felt some pride in that toothy grin.

About three years ago though, I received the inevitable news. My four ferocious friends had cavities - big ones. The Naper dentist advised me to bid them a fond farewell immediately. But pregnancy, then another pregnancy prolonged their lifespan. It was at my last Naper check up that my X-rays revealed cavities so deep they were about to hit the nerve. So after a couple nightmares and a warning from Dr. Dad, consultations and arrangements were made with an oral surgeon and Michigan grad named Dr. Huvar.

Yesterday was the doomsday for my wisdom teeth. Early in the morning, on an empty stomach, Peter and I pulled up to a Naper suite for surgery. I was sedated shortly thereafter and within thirty minutes, each of my deep seated chompers was pulled out. I could actually still feel each of their departures from my mouth; my drugged goodbye was painless but bittersweet. We had been through a lot together - so many delicious morsels - so many butts of crusty French bread.

I asked if I could see their remains after I woke up. Through my foggy vision, there they were: darkened by ware and tare and cavities beyond repair. They looked so sad. I asked if I could take them home - but I was told they were a bio hazard. (Seriously?) So somewhere in Naperville my teeth were buried and laid to rest yesterday.
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My nostalgia sounds silly, I know. But whenever you lose a piece of yourself it hurts a little. So to the savviest, smartest part of my mouth: thank you for more than ten years of amazing bites. You will be sorely missed.


Saturday, April 25, 2015

Body Language

I have a very curious, very vocal two-year old. From the moment she wakes up in the morning until her bedtime protests are silenced by a couple lullabies and sheer exhaustion, she wants to talk (or sing) to anyone willing to listen. While she has mastered identification of most everything in our house and the surrounding community, in her books, and in the wonderful world of Walt Disney's Cinderella, Bobby and her role as a big sister have inspired some additional language lessons over the past three months.
Like how she feels ... hot, cold, frustrated, sad and happy.
I want chocolate.
I want chocolate.
Mary frustrated. I need chocolate.
No, honey.
Mary sad. (Followed by a dramatic exodus to the sun room where she puts her head on the ottoman and pretends to sob.)
(And because it's really hard to keep saying no to her ...) Well, since you have been such a good big sister, you can have one Kiss.
Mary happy!

We've also been working on timing ... today and tomorrow, sleeping in between.
What's Mary, Mommy doing today?
I blow bubbles today.
And I go wimming (swimming) today.
I go Park today. Blue park.
Mary, Eva library today.
I eat kepitch (ketchup), drink milk today.
Mary, Mommy run, eat doughnuts today.
I want Daddy, basement, train tracks, Legos today.
I ride train, see Nanny Opa today.
Mary no nap today.
Mary wake up today.
Mary NO NAP!
And on ...
And on ...
And on ...
Until she passes out.
In her mind, tomorrow brings the end of the weekend, Monday, work, and the end of my maternity leave. So everything has to happen today.
And we've learned a lot about mommies and their babies.
Mommy feed em. Milk in there. Two milks. I help. Empty. All done.
I want to hold him. I need wash cloth. (Positions burp cloth on her lap.)
Bobby spit up.
Mommy take em.
Mommy weep (sweep) it.
And she's starting to investigate boy stuff.
Bobby go first. Mommy change em. Poop in there.
Okay, Bobby's all clean. Mary's turn.
Poop in there.
No, he's all done honey. Come on, you're next.
No. Poop in there.
Poop in there.

And this is where I'm stumped. While I feel very comfortable guiding Mary through the dictionary and thesaurus, there is one category of verbiage that challenges me. Body language. I've got bum and poop and my bovine nature covered, but when it comes to identifying those other things that make boys and girls different, I want the conversation to end.

See, I grew up in the opposite of a naked house. It was more of a no shirt, no shoes, no service kind of place. And with it, I never became at home with the finer points of humanity's anatomy. Sure maternity, particularly labor and delivery and a general state of over exposure in the hospital have made nakedness less awkward for me, but I still find the communication of it uncomfortable.

I've been thinking through the other terms - the made up ones you hear other parents using - trying to figure out a pleasant way to spin certain truths. But the reality is, even as a marketer, there's no easy way to publicly converse about private parts. So I've decided that I will just be forthright about it. They are what they are. Done and done.

Anyway, what I really want my kids to know ultimately, is that even though we're all made a little different, it's okay for both boys and girls to wear the pants in life.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

In the Name

During the Church's required Baptism class for parents of children receiving the Sacrament, the facilitators talk to you about the different symbols used throughout the ceremony: the water, light, fragrant chrism oil, and white garments that your baby is bound to burp or in our case poop all over. They teach you about your role and those of the Godparents. They lay out the order of events, prep you for the terse responses to the Priest's questions, and reinforce how important the ritual is. What they don't mention though is how many times they will say your child's name throughout the service; and just how important that name is. Bobby's full name must have been called a dozen times throughout his Baptism on Sunday, and at each mention I think I beamed with a little more pride. 
While at the end, the Priest petitioned for St. Robert to pray for us, I was hoping that four other men would provide their intercession as well.

Bobby was named after his four great grandfathers; four men who helped make the Greatest Generation even greater. A baker, a bricklayer, a banker, and a builder - each man never solely defined by a profession, but by all the electric elements of their well lived lives.

Bobby was baptized with the name Robert. With the turn of the century. With flour, salt, water and yeast and the sweet aromas of bread filling the small Midwestern city of Quincy, Illinois. With tailored suits and shined shoes. With a bombshell bride whose style rivaled his own. With a mean golf swing and a passport into the most amazing swimming pool on either side of the Mississippi. With a storyteller who always broke after the punch line. With grasshoppers and divinity. With an artistic hand that could bring a boy's imagination to life on a blank piece of paper. With tees, and tackle, and sharp ties. With roses, geodes, lightening bugs and summer clouds outside, and a very hot house inside. With a polished politico who loved playing Mayor or just making a new friend.
He was baptized with the name Bob for short. With a thick head of wavy black hair tucked under his Navy cap. With a room on the Pacific to receive and report radio signals, carrying news from every corner of the War. With an old time Domer, cheering for the Irish in their hey day. With a train ride to Union Station where he met his super soul mate. With a special table for two in a favorite Paris bistro. With an invitation to join us on the Shirley B, docked at Slip Number Six in Burnham Harbor. With Chevys, Cadillacs and cars that were OK! With wheat, corn and soy trades, options, burgers, and safe deposit boxes. With a serial entrepreneur, dressed in blue, always looking for his next venture. With a man who marched to the beat of his own drum, encouraging each of his children and grandchildren to do the same.
He was baptized with the name Barry. With bright red hair and freckled Irish skin. With steel and iron and Pittsburgh pride. With a ruptured ear drum, that kept him on U.S. soil and out of a tank destroyer unit that mostly perished during the War. With a blessing in disguise that brought eight children and their offspring into the world. With rich earth and the potatoes, asparagus and tomatoes that sprout from it. With the skill to jitterbug with his beloved Croatian bride. With a hearty laugh that would shake a belly filled with the Chef's beef birds and baked goods. With a voice that was never on key, but confident enough to belt out any melody. With Easter eggs, apple cider, and burgers. With mason jars ready for their pickled fillings, a shot of Jameson, and a closet full of intermediates. With a stubborn streak, a will to survive and an emotional side reserved only for the people closest to him. 
And he was baptized with the name Schultz. With a war hero who built the bridges over the Rhine, leading the Allied Troops to victory. With a handsome GI who marched through the Arc de Triomphe to find his bride and bring her home. With a humble engineer whose mind could tackle anything from the most complex compounds to the most delicate dollhouses. With potato pancakes and brats for dinner, and kaffe and kuchen for dessert. With the faith that the Cubs would someday be #1. With over engineered doors for the cats to go out and see the brilliant blue skies of Colorado. With cement, Warsteiner, hammers and nails. With the will to fix anything, no matter how broken. 
On Sunday, Bobby was baptized with the names and love of his four great grandfathers, shining down on him from heaven. But ultimately, Bobby was baptized in the name of the Father, and the Son and and the Holy Spirit, who I pray will continue to bless and keep him throughout his days. And naturally we feted, toasted, and celebrated the newest, cutest little Catholic all weekend. 
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A toast to the ever inspiring Greats. We will continue to do our best to fill your legendary shoes.