Mommy CEO

CEO Mommy: Embrace the Imbalance!

*This post is part of a monthly series called CEO Mommy which will be guest written by a few amazing ladies in my personal and professional network. This month’s post is from a very good friend of mine, Mercedes Kane, who is  founder and president of Daisy May Films. Enjoy!

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A few weeks ago at a party, I met Terry, a retired professional and mom. Talk drifted to daycare strategies, as happens with working moms, and Terry revealed she had to drop her kids off at daycare at 6 a.m. in Connecticut to make the two-hour drive to her high-powered job in New York, retrieving them close to 6:30 p.m. most days.

It was 25+ years ago for her, but Terry still grimaced as she remembered her initial search for child care, and how, after revealing her start and end times to daycare facilitators, many would bluntly ask, “Why did you even bother having children at all?”

Shocking, right? Not really.

I’m pretty sure almost every working mother, at any time in history, has been on the other end of a similarly critical question, or has even wondered such things about herself a time or two. I know I have.

A typical Type-A personality, I’ve always taken pride in my ability to approach my work, my home and my creative endeavors in an organized and efficient way. It’s how I’ve been able to work full-time, direct and produce three documentary films, teach a class or two and still find time for fun.

It’s with reluctant acceptance that I now admit: those days are long gone. I don’t know about you, but for me it seems downright unachievable to divide my time equally every day between parenting, my professional life, my partner and my creative passion projects.

This may not be a popular stance, but what I’m here to tell you is that true balance is, in fact, impossible. Unachievable. Impracticable. Unrealistic. We’re setting ourselves up for failure if we’re trying to do it all, all of the time.

This can be a hard concept to grasp for driven women who become moms. And while, nearly 20 months in, I’m still trying to figure it all out, I do have some truths I’ve learned to live by, that might benefit you too:

It’s okay to want to work.  

I often hear mothers speaking in such a way that it sounds like they’re only working because they have to, and not because it might actually be what they want to do. That’s certainly the case for some people, but if you love what you do – professionally, creatively or both – then own it, give it the time and attention it deserves and don’t hold back out of guilt that you could be doing something for your child instead. I firmly believe your child will take notice of this dedication and even hopefully emulate it one day.

Something is going to suffer, so get used to it.

In order to fully devote yourself to anything, you need focus. Therefore, on a daily basis, it’s inevitable that you will direct your attention towards one thing over another. Some days you’ll have a late night at work and other days you’ll skip work to care for a sick child, and in-between there will be a whole lot of less-defined compromises you’ll make to meet tight deadlines and be there for your family. Take it day by day. It’ll all even out in the end.

Practice a truly equal partnership.  

I know so many women who are co-parenting with equally smart, kind and capable partners. The problem is that many of these women are still parenting under the assumption that they are the “primary” caregivers, even when they’re working just as many hours as their co-parents. Not me. I am proud to say that my partner packs my son’s diaper bag better than me. I was happy when his tenured teaching position allowed him to take more maternity leave than I could. Do I feel bad grabbing the occasional after-work cocktail every so often while my spouse puts our son to sleep? Nope. And I’d do the same for him.

Sometimes it pays to pay.  

With children come added expenses, so it can be tough to justify paying for things you could technically take care of yourself. My question is, what is your time worth? If something is taking up valuable time and you can afford to do it another way (or not at all), I say go for it. Is cooking dinner stressing you out? How about a meal delivery plan? Do you despise spending Saturday afternoons cleaning your house? Why not splurge on a monthly cleaning service? Whatever it is, weigh the time versus the money and make the call that will keep you sane.

If you don’t have a village, build a village.  

Not everyone has a family they can lean on at all times. Some people live far from their family, or their family is busy, too. But regardless of your family situation, you need a support system you can count on. So I say, FIND THEM. I am so lucky to have people in my life who love my son almost as much as I do and want to be around him, who will give me advice when I need it, and who will come over to hang while my kiddo sleeps, in lieu of a night on the town. We all need support, so whether yours comes in the form of friends, family, or both, let people help – and then help them back.

Of course, I don’t blame you if you don’t want to take advice from a novice like me, but it turns out I’m in good company. Renowned astrophysicist, TV-host, parent and all-around genius Neil deGrasse Tyson, recently shared his own similar, yet superior, thoughts on embracing the work/life imbalance.

“You don’t go to the amusement park roller coaster and say ‘I want to be balanced,’” deGrasse Tyson said. “No, you want to be as unbalanced as possible, because that’s the thrill ride.”

Buckle up, moms. It’s bound to get bumpy.

3148c7cMercedes Kane is the founder and president of Daisy May Films. She recently completed her third feature length documentary, the award-winning “Breakfast at Ina’s” which premiered at the 2015 Chicago International Film Festival and is currently screening at film festivals nationwide. Her previous films, “Today We Saw the Face of God” (2012) and “Hearts of Hope” (2009) both screened internationally, winning awards and accolades from critics and audiences alike. Mercedes was associate producer on the feature film “Chicago Heights”, named One of the Best Art Films of 2010 by Roger Ebert. She lives in Chicago with her partner Sanghoon and their son Jasper, and works as a Creative Director at Kindle Communications.

For more information on where you can see “Breakfast at Ina’s” or any of Mercedes’ films, visit: www.daisymayfilms.com.

 

Education · Higher Education · Op-Ed · Professional Development

Op-Ed: How current events will affect your career

Ever Monday night I teach ORGC 201 Business & Professional Communications at DePaul University.  I have 23 students in my hybrid class this quarter mostly made up of sophomores and juniors in a variety of majors. I’d like to think the students take my course because of the professor’s witty lectures, but the reality is that it’s a required course for most majors.  It’s one of those “life skills” courses combining public speaking with employment interviews that many students wait until their junior year to complete, but wish they had taken sooner. According to the ORGC 201 course description in the DePaul course catalog:

Employers demand strong communication and presentation skills. In order to compete effectively in the job market, students need to acquire and practice the written and oral communication skills needed to interview successfully. Furthermore, as a professional you will not only be expected to be a confident speaker, but also to organize and prepare clear, concise and interesting presentations. You will also need to communicate effectively while working as the member of a team or in other group contexts. In developing the knowledge, competencies and skills needed to communicate effectively in these and other contexts, this course will embrace opportunities for both critical thinking and applied problem solving. (Formerly CMNS 201)

As part of the course, the students can obtain an easy five points of extra credit when they bring in a news article they recently found and present to the class 1) a summary of the news article, and 2) an explanation of how this current event will impact his or her career path.  This is a concept that I introduced to my course when I first started teaching in 2005.  I wanted my students to realize that the current events of today will make an impact on their future career paths.  After taking attendance, I start each class with, “So does anyone have a current event they’d like to talk about?”  This week my students and I discussed a variety of topics from the Iowa Caucasus to the State of Illinois possibly expanding medical marijuana for PTSD patients.

The reason I bring current events into the classroom on a weekly basis is that, while I was a college student, I was greatly impacted by events that happened in 2001 which, in turn, impacted my career path.  In the fall of 2001, I was about to graduate from Eastern Illinois University with a BA in Speech Communication, focusing on broadcast journalism.  With the experience I gained and the amazing resume tape I created at WEIU-TV, I thought I had my job search in the bag.  However, a number of entry-level positions were eliminated from many Chicagoland stations in the post 9/11 broadcast era, including a morning writer position I had my eye on at WGN.

With no job prospects on the horizon, I had to quickly develop a Plan B and found a digital editor position.  I was extremely grateful to a cousin of mine for connecting me with the owner of NuWave Productions in Palos Hills for a non-paid internship opportunity.  My time with NuWave allowed me the opportunity to explore different editing software and even participate in an infomercial.  During my internship I continued to apply for other positions and, eventually, I landed a full-time position as an assistant editor at Daily Planet, a post-production house in Chicago.  I was so excited to commute into the city for a 12 hour work day while making a cool $19,000 a year (ah – young, naive Colleen! She’ll learn).

While my dreams of reporting the daily news were quickly diminishing, I knew another career path would be just around the corner.  Then I was offered the opportunity to help students plan out their own career paths in higher education at Robert Morris University in Chicago, and I had a new calling.  Working and teaching in higher education has been the most rewarding career path that I could have ever imaged!

To remind students that current events are affecting their career planning, I started a scholarship at EIU at few years back which the department still funds.  Per the College of Communication website:

Fashing Speech Scholarship – Established in 2006 by communication studies alumnus Colleen Fashing, this award supports a student who demonstrates strong public speaking skills and an ability to connect current events to a future career. The student receiving the scholarship must complete a manuscript connecting a current event with a future impact on a career and then present a speech to a faculty panel.

With the lack of state funding in Illinois for public colleges, many students are beginning to see the direct impact current events can have on their future career paths and, realistically, their college education, especially students who rely on MAP funding for scholarship dollars.  The students at EIU recently started a social media campaign labeled #FundEIU via Facebook and Twitter hoping to bring a spotlight on the very real impact the state budget is having on their university.

If you’re so inclined to support the students in the College of Communications at EIU through this scholarship opportunity, please feel free to donate to Eastern Illinois University via their annual fund giving page.  Please note that if you are working full time your company may offer a matching gift opportunity for the university.

Take a look back at your own career path to see if you can pinpoint a current event that impacted you.  This might be a topic that you’ve never thought about until now.  Once you can recall this said event that made an impression on you and your career choices, share that experience with a young professional.  Your shared experience will allow the young professional to be aware of current events and how it really can make a different in the career path they choose.

What's Going On

Must See TV: Something New to DVR

I recently had a friend post on FB the following status, “HELP! I’m in a tv show rut. What’s your must not miss show right now?”  Have no fear, Beth, I’m hear to be your 30-something TV Guide.

As a busy adult, (i.e. wife, mom, FT job, PT professor, blogger…) I don’t have much time to watch TV. So I rely heavily on my DVR to record shows I might be interested in watching at a later date. Now, my husband and I have an agreement (which im pretty sure were in my wedding vows) that I can DVR anything I want, as long as I don’t fill the memory with reality TV or shows from Bravo – seems fair.

Each fall I go online to read new show reviews to see what might be of interest to me.   Then I start setting the DVR for series recordings without reruns. Now, being totally realistic, I don’t get to all the shows I set to record due to lack of time in the week as I tend to watch my DVR’d shows during my son’s nap time on the weekends. Some shows that were recorded but I didn’t have time to watch were Quantico and Heroes Reborn.

I do, however, have a few selections which I never miss so, to help my friend out with her TV blues, my absolute must-see shows are listed below. I’d also like to point out that these are mostly shows on basic or extended cable packages. Even with 200+ channels, I like sticking to my basics.

American Crime Wednesday 9:00PM CT – ABC

I intended to watch this show last year because I’m a huge fan of anything Regina King is signed on for, but I never got around to it in its first season.  This time I really made a point to watch this show, especially because of this season’s storyline (which pushes the boundaries of our socio-economic comfort-zones).  If you’re not familiar with the show, each season the show takes on a new challenge facing America, the returning actors play completely different characters, and the setting and storyline changes from year to year.  Here is brief overview of this year’s storyline from the ABC website:

The second season of American Crime is set in the U.S. Midwest, representative of the canvas that is America, at two high schools, one public and one private.

Issues of sexual orientation and socioeconomic disparity come to a boil when lurid photos of a high school boy, Taylor Blaine, are posted on social media following a school party. Circumstances become more complicated when Taylor accuses two players on an elite private high school’s championship basketball team, Kevin LaCroix and Eric Tanner, of drugging, assaulting and then posting the pictures of him online. The team’s head coach, Dan Sullivan, tries to unite the players, while overlooking the dysfunction of his own family. Headmistress Leslie Graham struggles to maintain the school’s reputation in the face of accusations of privilege and cover up.

Taylor’s mother, Anne, remains a steadfast supporter of her son, despite being publicly assailed by the school’s wealthy families, principle among them the LaCroixs. Taylor’s girlfriend, Evy, deals with racial tension at her own school, led by Principal Chris Dixon. While the two schools at the center of the story are worlds apart in status, the lives of the students and teachers at both become inextricably linked.

Ultimately, support for Taylor comes from an unlikely place – a person who Taylor and his mother have never previously met, and who inhabits the fringes of the online community.

“American Crime” stars Felicity Huffman as Leslie Graham, Timothy Hutton as Dan Sullivan, Lili Taylor as Anne Blaine, Elvis Nolasco as Chris Dixon, Trevor Jackson as Kevin LaCroix, Connor Jessup as Taylor Blaine, Joey Pollari as Eric Tanner, Angelique Rivera as Evy Dominguez and Regina King as Terri LaCroix.

Recurring guest stars this season include Andre Benjamin as Michael LaCroix, Hope Davis as Steph Sullivan and Richard Cabral as Sebastian De La Torre.

“American Crime” is created and executive-produced by Oscar®-winner John Ridley (“12 Years a Slave”). Michael J. McDonald also serves as executive producer. “American Crime” is produced by ABC Studios.

Jane the Virgin Mondays 8:00PM CT – CW (Local Chicago WGN channel 9)

This is one of my favorite shows from the fall of 2014 and is still going strong.  Long, LONG story short Jane is a virgin who went in to the OB/GYN for her annual pap and was accidentally artificially inseminated…with a millionaire’s baby.  That plot line alone piqued my interest!  If you’re new to the series, the show always gives the audience a little recap in the beginning to catch you up on anything you missed a-la telenovela style. Will this show still be around next year?  I think so and it helps that Chicago native Gina Rodriguez, who plays the lead character Jane, has won a few awards, including a Golden Globe, which I hope helps keep the show on the air for a while.

Life in Pieces Thursdays 7:30PM CT – CBS

The storytelling on this show is great.  It’s about a larger extended family with each episode having four different story lines, all going on at the same time, broken into quartiles over the 30-minute episode (as opposed to the typical structure of alternating between the main story and the sub-plot).  My husband and I are guaranteed to have more than a couple laugh-out-loud moments as we watch this underrated-but-stacked cast, which includes James Brolin, Dianne Wiest, Colin Hanks and Thomas Sadoski from The Newsroom.  Here is a brief overview, according to the CBS website:

LIFE IN PIECES is a single-camera comedy about one big happy family and their sometimes awkward, often hilarious and ultimately beautiful milestone moments as told by its various members. Of the three siblings, middle child Matt may have just found his true love, his co-worker, Colleen; his coddled youngest brother, Greg, and his wife, Jen, are overwhelmed by the birth of their first child; and the eldest, Heather, and her husband, Tim, are dreading their impending empty nest so much, they’re considering having another baby. Their parents are Joan, the family’s adoring matriarch who would do anything for her kids – as long as she agrees with it – and John, the gregarious patriarch who’s searching for ways to soften the blow of turning 70. As the family’s lives unfold in four short stories each week, they try to savor these little pieces of time that flash by but stay with you forever, because these moments add up to what life’s all about.

Younger Wednesdays 9:00PM CT – TV Land

I. LOVE. THIS. SHOW.  I truly believe this show is what has been missing since Friends, 90210 and Sex in the City all went off the air.  The Executive Producer is Darren Star so you know this show is going to be extremely entertaining.  The best way I can explain this show is that it’s about 40 year old housewife who finds herself recently divorced and needing to reenter the workforce. Relying on her past skills in the publishing world, she decides to lie about her age and say she’s in her 20’s and pray that no one suspects she not a millennial…that is until is all starts to unravel at the end of season one.  Season two just started this month and it’s amazing!

Sadly, I think I could’ve added a review for the ample amount of “Super Why!” episodes that are clogging the current DVR memory, but I’ll save my kid show reviews for another day.

So what show are you watching this season?  Feel free to add in any additional show that you think others should be watching too!

 

Education · Family · What's Going On

Parent & Tot classes for Working Moms

As a working parent, I wanted to make sure that I’m giving 100% to my son as if I was home with him all day long.  During the winter months, I’m noticing that cabin fever is starting to settle in on my little toddler who needs room to run, play and be a kid.  While there are some park districts and private community organizations that offer classes for kids over the age of 3, finding classes for 1-3 year old toddlers is extremely challenging, especially for nights and weekends as well as finding something nearby.  Recently I’ve been in contact with Rory Halperin who is the Editor-in-Chief at Mommy Nearest.

Mommy Nearest is the fastest growing mobile community for parents and caregivers in the United States. We believe in forming consensus when it comes to the places that we take our children and that the opinion of the masses outweighs that of the individual. We encourage our community of parents and caregivers to share their experiences with others so that, at the end of the day, we can all make the best decisions for our children.

Rory and I recently emailed about how working moms lament on parenting blogs that it is challenging to find Mommy & Me classes that accommodate after work or weekend schedules.  Another challenge I’ve personally encountered was that many websites were not updated with the most recent information when searching for dates/times when their classes were offered. So you may need to do a little research to see what tot classes might be the best for you and your little toddler.

I recently found a few classes in Chicago’s southwest suburbs which I’d like to share with local parents to help combat the winter cabin fever that you and your kids might be facing (I’ve listed the evening and weekend times for the working moms, but other dates and times are available for these programs).

Evergreen Park Recreation Department – Mom & Tots classes (Dads always welcome!)

A comprehensive gym and movement experience designed to allow the child, with the help of the parent, to learn basic stretching and flexibility exercises. Also, movement education principles to increase balance, coordination and body awareness. These classes include songs, finger exercises and equipment exploration, as well as socialization for the children. Classes held at the Community Center (3450 W. 97th Street).
Classes start Weds. Feb. 3rd.
Fee: 8 week class. Residents – $50.00, Non-Residents  -$55.00
For ages 13 (must be walking) – 27 months Wednesdays: 6:00—6:45 P.M.
For ages 28 to 48 months Saturdays: 10:15—11:00 A.M.

Frankfort Park District – Family Swim

Get out of the cold and join us indoors for swimming! Registration is done at the door at the Lincoln-Way East Aquatic Center.  Children 18 & under must be accompanied by a parent/guardian.

Location:        Lincoln-Way East Aquatic Center
Day:                Sundays
Dates:             Jan. 10, 17, 24 & 31  Feb. 7
Time:              2:00-4:00PM
Fee:                 $2 per child and $5 per adult.

You’ll notice that I’ve listed resident and non-resident fees.  I live in the City of Chicago, but many of the tot classes through the park district and private centers are during the day which don’t fit my work schedule.  I’m so grateful these classes are offered to non-residents for a very minimal additional fee.

There are other park districts in the south suburbs like Tinley Park, Orland Park and Palos Heights just to name a few.  Many of them, along with the Chicago Park District, have lots of classes for tots especially during the day and for kids 3 and over, but these classes fill up quickly.  When looking for classes check the dates offered and when registration opens.

Like in many different situations, you need to be your own advocate for your child. I would suggest calling to find out more information regarding parent and tot classes, especially with your local park district. If you see a class description for a class that would be of interested to your toddler, ask them if the class is really for kids over the age of 2.  If you have a 20 month old child who you feel has the skills and abilities to be successful in a particular class, speak up.  Bottom line, these toddlers need to stay active year-round and to get out of the house, so help get them involved!

Education · Learning 101

Learning 101: Toddler Learning Milestones

*This post is part of an ongoing series called Learning 101 which will be guest written by a few amazing educators (and friends) who are parents themselves. The first installment is by a former tenure teacher, current stay-at-home mom of four, author of the blog raisingwills.com, and one of my best friends, Cally Will. Enjoy!

When Colleen asked me to write a Top 5 List for The Two-Minute Mom about toddler learning milestones, I hesitated. What the heck do I know about what kind of milestones or even skills toddlers should be reaching or working on? She quickly reminded me that I have spent the majority of my life around young children, both professionally and personally. I was a special education teacher for 11 years and and I am a mom to 4 crazy kids. So I have learned a lot about adorable, sweet, and often sticky young toddlers. It really is such a fun, amazing age group. Toddlers are grown up babies and are quickly learning how to become independent. However, they are not quite the total monsters that they will become once they hit the dreaded 2 year mark… or even worse, 3 years.

Toddlerhood is a challenging, yet beyond fun, stage. These littles have so much that they are working on and learning, without even realizing it. My list is in no particular order but just skills that I value and feel are important to work on with your toddler.

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1. Develop those fine motor skills…
Toddlers love to touch everything. Take advantage of this by helping your little one work those fine motor muscles. Pinterest is filled with “safe” play-doh or cloud dough that you can make at home. I mostly just use regular play-doh and my kids love it just the same. It really works their hands and fingers and is just addicting to play with. Experimenting with crayons or markers is great for this age too. Toddlers love to color or “draw” and it helps strengthen those hand muscles. Puzzles with large pieces, that are easy to grab, are also fun to try at this age. Think of those Melissa and Doug puzzles, that have the big, chunky pieces. Painting is another great way to get their hands and fingers moving. Pick up some finger paints or even water colors and a larger paint brush and let that baby get messy. It’s how they learn!

2. Let Them Play – Work on those gross motor skills too…
Toddlers need to move. They don’t stop moving throughout the day, so make sure to give them both structured and unstructured time to move. You can make simple games both inside or outside, as long as it’s simple and fun. Throw and kick a ball, chase bubbles, play “Mommy Says”, play tag. However, they should also have time to just be able to run around, without structure. Whether it’s in the backyard or at the park, let them go and follow their lead.

3. Communication Skills
A huge worry that most parents have during this year is whether or not their child is talking enough. This is where I urge you to talk to your pediatrician if you have legitimate concerns. I’ve had both early and late talkers, so I understand both ends of the spectrum. I do know that one of the recommendations from our pediatrician is to talk, talk, talk. Luckily, my husband and I both love to hear our own voices, so this was not a problem. Talk to your child all the time. Even when you think it’s ridiculous, like when you’re changing a diaper or getting them dressed. With all children, but especially children in this age group, everything is a learning opportunity. Of course, the teacher in me loves to remind people to read, read, read to your child. Toddlers have a tough time sitting still. Picture books with flaps to bend or books with tactile pages (fuzzy, bumpy, prickly make great toddler reading material.

4. Identifying body parts
Toddlers love to explore their independence and usually want to begin learning small self-help skills, like putting on their coat or shoes. Learning their body parts helps lay the foundation for this. This is also a great way to practice those communication skills too. Start with the easy ones – nose, eyes, mouth, ears, hands, feet. You can make a million games out of it – “Find mommy’s nose!” “Where’s your eye?” When reading, you can work on this too. “Find Bear’s ears.” You can also play Mr. Potato Head – “Let’s put the eyes in.” Toddlers also love music, so don’t forget that there are million different songs to work on this too. “Hands are for clapping” and “Head/Shoulders/Knees/Toes” are some of my favorites.

5. Put them to work – Yes, I’m talking chores
Ok, I’m not talking about giving your toddler a list of chores and expecting them to get them done. Laughable. But let your child help you. If you’re filling the dishwasher, let them get in there in help. The Dollar Store sells great little brooms and dustpans and mini mops. When I’m desperately trying to get something done and my almost two year old wants to help, sweeping the floor becomes her chore. It can be annoying and will probably slow you down. Believe me, I get it. But by letting them see that you want them to help, not only are you laying the foundation for early responsibility, but you are also showing your little one that everyone in your household has a job to do. No matter how big or small.

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My little lady helping peel potatoes. It only took her 27 minutes to peel one-fourth of it, but that’s 27 minutes she left me alone to make dinner. -C. Will

c379030acae8436844aa91d1283bf3bcCally Will is a professional mom and former teacher. She lives with her husband, four children, and needy dog in the outskirts of Chicago. Her hilarious writing can be found on her blog, when she remembers to update it, www.raisingwills.com

 

 

Food and Nutrition

Healthy Snacking Options in 2016

In an effort to help feed my daily snacking fix at work, I did a little research on a few new healthy snacking options for 2016.  As many of my co-workers can attest, I always have a drawer full of snacks, some good and some not so good.  For 2016 – out with the junk food and in with the healthy alternative snacking options.  Here are a few of my favorite new treats that I’ve recently tried and wanted to share.

The Good Bean – Crispy Crunch Chickpeas

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I wanted to incorporate good, healthy snacking options that were tied to adding more protein in my diet to help me feel full longer.  So I read an article on The Good Bean company and their products.  I recently tried the Thai Coconut Lemongrass chickpeas and I will say that I am hooked!  To me these snacks are a cross between a soy nut from their roasted quality and a corn nut snack from their crunch.  The flavor is amazing and I’m interested in trying more.  Just a palm full is all you need to get your snack fix.  A 6oz package was just over $6.00 on Amazon.

Nature Valley Granola Thins

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I have always loved granola bars ever since the Market Day chewy chocolate peanut butter bars my mom would get for us kids. I always have a box of granola bars in the pantry.  While trying to curb my sweet tooth fix, I ran over to Walgreens to find a snacking option.  This is when I discovered the Nature Valley Granola Thins in dark chocolate.  This 80 calorie snack square is packed with tummy filling granola and lightly dipped in dark chocolate to help satisfy any sweet tooth.  A 10-piece box was around $3.50 at Walgreens.

Simply Snackin – Dried Chicken Breast Jerky

chicken-jerky

I love jerky!  After watching a recent episode of Shark Tank talking about the booming gourmet jerky industry, I thought I would research a few options.  I stumbled upon the Simply Snackin company and I was impressed to learn it was a Midwestern product made in Oshkosh, WI.  According to their website, “Simply Snackin’s® all natural, gourmet jerky snacks have become the preferred on-the-go, protein-rich snack choice of people looking for a snack to support their health and wellness goal.” So I ordered a variety pack of 12 snack bars on Amazon for about $18.  So far I have tried their chicken jerky varieties and each one has been very flavorful and kicks the hunger cravings at 10am and 2pm.

Have you tried any new snack items lately that you’d like to share?  Please comment below as I would love to try anything new to substitute my daily banana and boring baby carrots.  Happy Snacking! 🙂

Food and Nutrition · Recipe Review

2MM Review: Chicken Zucchini Poppers

As many busy people can relate to, I really appreciate Facebook’s recent addition of the “save” feature which allows me to bookmark posts I’d like to save and read at a later time.  While I don’t know when this function started, I know some people still don’t know it’s there as I still see posts like, “posting this to save for later.”  The save feature allows me the opportunity save stories that I really want to read when I have two minutes to myself, like riding the train or in between my set wake-up time of 5:30am and my actual roll-out-of-bed time of 6:00AM.

Recently, with the turn of the new year, and my new year’s resolutions to eat smarter, I’ve been seeing a lot of healthy recipes posted on Facebook that I want to try, and the save feature has allowed me to find these much more easily when I want to use them.  On weekend days, when my husband is at the firehouse, I tend to stay home with my son (pajama day), clean the house, do laundry and try new recipes.  For last Sunday’s dinner I tried a recipe that my friend Chrissy posted on Facebook called Chicken Zucchini Poppers from TipHero.com.  I thought this would be a great dinner for me and my toddler because it seems to be an easy, healthy dish that was finger food friendly. Also, when there is an award show on, who really wants to be chained to their stove?  Instead, I want to be chained to the TV watching E!.

I prepared the dish almost exactly as described, although I did omit the cilantro, as I didn’t think my toddler would like the taste.  Prep time was about 15 minutes, which was plenty of time to heat up the pan.  One note: when I was shredding the zucchini I noticed that it was creating a lot of liquid – more than necessary for the dish – so I drained it out.  Next time I would shred the zucchini on  paper towel making it easy to ring out to drain the excess liquid before adding the zucchini to the chicken mixture.

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Once the poppers were cooled, I cut them up for my toddler’s dinner with a side of strawberries.  He loved them!  Anytime I can sneak veggies into his food, (especially ones he’s never tried before), I chalk that up as a big win for this mommy.

Review:  While this dish was easy to prep and my toddler loved it, I would say that the dish was lacking in flavor, which may have been caused by omitting the cilantro.  Next time I would add a little lemon juice and fresh dill to the chicken mixture for the poppers and make a cool Greek yogurt lemon-dill dipping sauce.

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Two-Minute Mom rating – Four out of Five Bottles. Overall, very toddler friendly, not quite flavorful for the adult palette, but short prep time and easy to make.  Great for a quick weeknight dish!

Mommy CEO

CEO Mommy: Oh, You’re a Mom?! Well then, You MUST DO IT ALL.

*This post is part of a monthly series called CEO Mommy which will be guest written by a few amazing ladies in my personal and professional network. The first installment is from Heather K. Terry, the woman behind NibMor Chocolate, and the author of the recently released book, From Broadway to Wall Street: Cautionary Tales of an Unlikely Entrepreneur. Enjoy!

Nothing was more thrilling than becoming a mom. I wasn’t born with the mom gene (I actually never thought I’d get married, let alone have a child) but when I had my daughter, I was equally excited and terrified (which oftentimes is a sign that you are on the right path, by the way). I was overwhelmed, full of gratitude and had no idea what I was doing (kind of like when I started my first business, nibmor.com). Everyone spends so much time getting you prepared for the delivery of a baby, but not very much is spent on discussing the next 18+ years that follow. 

You share your body with this baby ‘tenant’ for 10 months and then…guess what? You share your life! Like not just a little bit of it, but a whole lot. I was not prepared for this – at all. I was already in my 30’s when I had my daughter. I was set in my ways. I had MY way of doing things. I could watch TV whenever I wanted. I could go out at 10pm on any given night. When my business had a fire that needs to be put out, I could go extinguish it at any hour of any day- no one depended on me to BE there (except maybe my dog, but he had an amazingly strong bladder). My life was all mine but now it isn’t. 

No one sympathized. I was one of the first of my group of friends to have a child. I was expected to have this baby and assume my usual responsibilities. I was back to work within the week of having her – from home, but still working (when you have a start-up it’s tough to lose a pair of hands when all hands are on deck all the time). I didn’t know how to take a shower and watch a baby. I would touch her every five minutes to make sure she was breathing while I was ordering inventory for my business and answering emails. You get the point. The whole thing was bananas. 

I thought it would all get ‘easier’ but what I realized after a while was that it was just going to be different. I was going to have to accept the fact that society expects a whole lot more from us moms. We have to be the primary care giver to our children, we need to work, we need to take care of our home, pay our bills, still find time to work out, look perfect and be on top of everything. HA! This is the biggest joke, ladies. See the thing is, you do the best you can. You have good days and bad days. It’s life. Please, I beg you, stop trying to be perfect at everything. You will drive yourself mad. 

With that said, I have some helpful tips and tricks for keeping it together. Some of these were created so you can stop driving yourself bonkers. My personal and professional plates are VERY FULL because I choose to do A LOT with my time. I am pretty “type-A” and I can’t sit still, so I have a kid and a business, I’m in school, and I think I’m a pretty good wife and friend (I’ll let them judge!). Also, I get help. I have zero shame in admitting that. You don’t have to do everything to still be amazing. However, if you choose to do a lot (because you want to), these suggestions should help you out:

1. Figure out what you really want and need in your life. This is key, ladies. Don’t do things you hate – it will spill over into everything you do. If you love yoga and need it, find a way to get it into your schedule. If you go to a spin class because you think you are supposed to and you despise it, stop and find something else. That spin class might keep your waste line trim, but you will just be in a bad mood, which doesn’t help anyone. 

2. Get on a schedule. This is a really serious point. I wake up at 5am to practice yoga (because it makes me feel good), I shower, then I spend time with my daughter before I get on the train to the city at 7am. I have my day and I haul ass back home to be there for bedtime because it is important to me (there are days I have to stay late – life happens and so do meetings). I cook dinner and then I work on classwork and my biz for the rest of the night. I am lights out at 10pm. That is the way it goes in our house. Get on a schedule, get in the important things and get your sanity back. Schedules change everyone’s lives. 

3. Schedule things to look forward to. Plan a trip or outing either with or without kids that everyone can look forward to so the monotonous day-to-day stuff is more bearable. I am a big fan of the spouse trip without kids. If you don’t have a spouse, go with your significant other or go with your sister or your mom, I don’t care just get away and do something for you, without kids! IT’S IMPORTANT!

4. Negotiate with your partner. My husband and I both need downtime and we know how important it is to our sanity. We take five minutes on a Friday and negotiate when we’ll each get a little alone time to do whatever we want over the weekend. Not because we don’t love each other or our kid, but because we do. 

5. Get help. Get it in whatever way you can. I cannot stress how important this is. 30 years ago most of our parents had family, of some kind, living nearby to help out, but that is generally not the case today. You know the saying, “It takes a village?” They were referring to the village that supported you in your life – we don’t really have that anymore, so barter, pay someone, do a nanny share, get someone to help clean your house – ANYTHING! It will be the best money you ever spent!

Fellow mommies, you are not Superwoman. It is impossible to do it ALL on your own. Find what you need and what makes you happy and you’ll be doing just fine. 

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Heather K. Terry is the chocolatier behind NibMor Chocolate, which can be found in thousands of retail locations nationwide. Entrepreneur, yogi, food enthusiast, author and mom, Heather is a health aficionado and an advocate for eating real, simply prepared, organic foods (especially chocolate). Heather is also big on empowering women in business to live their lives while bringing home the (nitrate free) bacon and inspires thousands via her Instagram feed (@heatherkterry) by sharing her entrepreneurial experiences, yoga practice and food choices. She holds an MFA from Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University, is a graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, and studied chocolate making at The International Culinary Center (where she is now pursuing Pastry Arts). Heather’s first book, From Broadway to Wall Street: Cautionary Tales of an Unlikely Entrepreneur, hit bookshelves November 2015 (heatherkterry.com). Heather also feels kind of weird tooting her own horn and writing about herself in the third person.

Op-Ed · Professional Development

An Op-Ed: When Company Loyalty isn’t Enough

In the past, part of my career path involved advising on professional development and career planning for college students, community members and adult learners.  Today, I still teach professional development courses and offer advice on career planning when asked.  With 12 years of experience and two major dips in the economy, I have heard and seen many challenges facing job seekers in their quests for better employment opportunities.

One recent frustration I’ve witnessed on now two different occasions is when long-time workers are being “pushed out” of their current positions by their employers.  These hard-working individuals who have been with their employers 15-plus years and who are nearing retirement age are being asked to step aside for a young generation of workers (who have little to no experience).   One example I saw was when a full-time job description was modified to encompass fewer work responsibilities and made a part-time status.  While some people may consider this reduction of work as a blessing, to a hard-working, highly-motivated staff member who is dedicated to his or her profession, these changes may make one feel unappreciated and inadequate while doing a job for a company to which they have been loyal for many years.  Plus, when an employer modifies an employee’s job description from full-time to part-time status to save money on benefits, the employee may be forced to seek alternative employment in order to continue their medical benefits and retirement savings.  I have also seen an educational requirement for a position be upgraded from an associate’s degree to a bachelor’s degree with CPA preferred, all while the job duties and responsibilities remain unchanged. Why would an employer attempt to make these modifications to a job description unless they were looking for new talent to fill a roll that already exist within the company?

While it’s cheaper for employers to hire a fresh college graduate who may accept a position with a reduced salary compared to the current salary being earned by a loyal worker, my question to these employers is, what happened to having loyalty for your employees?  An interesting fact is that the millennial generation (which is replacing the seasoned workforce) is more likely to have a greater number of jobs and career paths in their lifetimes than any other generation.  This now-acceptable bouncing around from career to career is likely due to wanting more challenging opportunities at work, higher salaries, more room for professional advancement, and to fulfill a desire to work for a company with a socially responsible mission statement. So riddle me this: why are employers hiring this generation who are not loyal to their company, but are more loyal to themselves as individuals?

In a recent PRNewswire articleMillennials and their employers: Can this relationship be saved? Businesses at risk of losing top talent, according to Deloitte’s global annual survey, “Two-thirds of Millennials express a desire to leave their organizations by 2020.”  If you’re an employer thinking about replacing a seasoned worker who could be retiring within the next ten years with a millennial who may be leaving your organization within the next 4 years for a new opportunity, you may want to think twice.

To bridge this gap, my suggestion would be for more companies to initiate mentoring programs, partnering seasoned workers with newly hired staff, especially if the new hires are millennials.  One concept human resource offices have been exploring is the notion of “reverse mentoring,” as highlighted here in a 2010 article from the Harvard Business Review.  While I agree that allowing millennials to help mentor the seasoned employee on social media may be beneficial to the organization, I think adding in a subliminal component of allowing the seasoned employee to help train and mold the millennial as a replacement worker for when they retire is the key factor missing from this equation.

While there are many pressures which companies face, especially in today’s economic uncertainty, cutting costs cannot always be the driving force for hiring and staffing decisions.  I encourage all managers to take a good look at their workforce to see where there are gaps, try to implement cross-training opportunities when available and be a kind human with appreciation for your workforce as many of them spend more time with you and on your business than with their own families. The hard working Baby Boomer generation needs to be shown appreciation by their employers over a bottom line.

Education · Product Review

2MM Review: Toddler Flash Cards

As a working Mom, I have great anxiety to making sure that my little one is learning everything he can, especially because he’s not in a daycare learning center, but being taken care of out of our home.  I’m constantly reading up on what learning milestones should toddlers reach by certain ages, (which will be a future blog by Cally Will of raisingwills.com).

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My son has always loved to look, feel and listen to us reading him books ever since he was a baby.  As posted in many magazines and journals including this article in Parents Magazine, there are great benefits to reading to your infant. We’ve always tried to read to him daily since he was a newborn and he loves to cuddle up on my lap and read his favorite story of the day, (really who am I kidding – this kid will sit and listen to me read 5-6 books at a time).

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While recently reading a few parenting blogs I noticed that some toddlers were starting to develop their vocabulary through the utilization of flashcards.  So I went online to start researching which products I think would be the best fit for Jimmy.  Knowing that he loves his touch and feel books, I wanted to incorporate this in my choice of flashcards.  I found a product on Amazon.com called,  DK My First Touch and Feel Picture Cards (First Words).  After reading a review from a father of a 16 month old child who loved them, I thought, let’s give this a try!

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When I received the box the first thing I noticed was the sturdy construction of the box and the Velcro closure which kept all the cards secure in the box.  The box is small enough for a diaper bag so it’s a great travel toy.  The cards are made from a harder card stock than I would have anticipated with a laminate on the front of them, in case your little one spills on the cards.  The touch and feel aspect of the cards is really nice for little ones who might not be as verbal yet, but can still listen to you read the cards and feel the touch sensations.

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I got these cards for Jimmy when he was about 12 months old and from the first moment we opened the box he loved them.  I would take them out one by one and tell him what the item was on each card. He would look at it, feel it (sometimes taste it), and then we’d move on to the next.  After a few weeks of doing this, he was hooked on flash cards.  Now, he opens the box, dumps all the cards out and finds his favorite ones to play with around the house.

I’ve notice that through this playful and educational interaction with him, he is starting to become more verbal and attempting to say more words than before:  Shoe, Sock, Boot, Dog (his favorite).  And while not saying all the words on the flash cards, he is starting to recognize the pictures.  We’re playing a game now when I put about 3-4 cards on the floor and I can ask him to identify a particular item from the cards. For example, if I ask him “which one is the baby?”  He’ll pick up the card with the baby on it, give it a hug/kiss and then toss it to the side for the next item.  It’s so much fun!

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Two-Minute Mom rating – Five out of Five Bottles! These cards are great for early learners and very easy to use for parents.