She is 5

she_is_5_redshuttersShe is five years old today.

With big blue eyes and one missing tooth, she is a girl, no longer a baby. She is funny and loud and so excited about growing up. She is embracing her fifth birthday with joy and pride. She is especially interested in understanding how little she once was, now that she is, in her own words, so big.

“Mommy, do you remember when I was zero?” G asks, as I tuck her into bed for the night. I know she means when she was an infant; she was never a zero.

“Yes, when you were firstborn,” I say, smoothing her pale hair from her forehead.

“How big was I? Was I this big?” She holds her hands wide, stretched out almost as tall as she is now.

“No,” I reply, bringing her hands together to a space of about 21 inches. “You were this big.”

G thinks about this for a bit, but she is tired, so sleep pulls her in. I kiss her good night, and leave the room, turning down the light.

“Good night, baby.”

I’ve had 1,825 days of good mornings and good nights with her, and they have gone by so fast.  I measure time now by the steps she takes, the new words she learns, and the questions she asks.

She woke up early this morning, slipping into my bed for a snuggle.

“Mommy!” she whispers. “Mommy, today I am five!”

I hold her close. “I know. Happy birthday!”

I softly sing her the Happy Birthday song. She is indeed happy, already dreaming of the perks of five: permission to swim in the big pool at the recreation center, an upcoming birthday party, and the start of kindergarten. She looks ahead. I, for this moment, look back. I see a small baby sleeping in her crib, a toddler taking her first steps and laughing at something funny her big brother did, and a preschooler learning to use scissors and playing dress up. I see a head full of curly hair that has now straightened out, I hear her first word (“dada”), and I remember the awful day when she broke her arm. But that is the past, and she has much ahead, with many good mornings and good nights.

Her brother reminds her that there may be presents for her birthday, and they are off, out of my bed, to search for the small pile I placed in our den last night. Soon, I am called to join them, to start the birthday celebration, to welcome five.

Read my post to my daughter on her fourth birthday here.


9 More Job Search Tips


Last week, I shared 9 Job Search Tips I had gleaned from a recent spout of recruiting at work. In the comments of that post and via Facebook, I received some great responses from friends and colleagues and thus decided a part two was in order. Happy hunting!

  1. Be prepared – This one is so important it should be shouted from rooftops: BE PREPARED! It means that you should research the company where you are interviewing. Be able to explain to the interviewer what the company does and the responsibilities of the job. Run through potential interview questions with a friend and be able to answer all of them. Have a great answer to the “why should I hire you?” question; it’s a classic and often gets asked.
  1. Use the cover letter to your advantage – One of my pet peeves (only one, you ask?) is when someone applies for a job for which I am recruiting from outside of my state/region and I don’t know if they are really interested. Are they moving here? Or, are they randomly applying for jobs? This is important because often I am hiring in a compressed time period, and I might not have the flexibility to consider someone who has to relocate. This is where the cover letter can be helpful. Use it to explain anything that you really want the hiring manager to know (e.g., I’m moving to Boston in August, my family lives in New England and I am looking to move closer to them, etc.). It’s also a good place to note any people you have in common or if you know someone at the company who recommended that you apply for the position. Oh, and no typos!
  1. Try the informational interview – Asking for an informational interview can be a way to make a positive impression without the pressure of applying for a job. While informal, these meetings can provide you with a chance to learn more about the industry and make a valuable connection. Ask the person you’re meeting with for their advice about your career, bring your resume, and always send a thank you note afterward. Try to do these meetings in person versus over the phone (this is from personal experience), and, if it goes well, ask if you can get introduced to someone else, thereby extending the connection. I once had informational interviewing explained to me as “planting seeds for an opportunity that can grow down the line,” which I love. Make sure you cultivate those connections, and you never know what could come about.
  1. Be a grown-up – In other words, bring your best self to the meeting. Don’t chew gum during the interview (this happened to a colleague of mine), don’t talk about the party you went to last weekend, and don’t tell personal stories that present you in an immature or unprofessional light. Not sure if what you plan to share makes you look bad? Ask a family member or current co-worker.
  1. Don’t complain – About the commute to the interview, about the parking, about former or current colleagues, about your boss, about anything.
  1. Don’t lie – Your goal in the interview is to be your best you. I’d guess that your best you isn’t a liar, so be mindful of how much you embellish a story or your experience. A good reference check can draw out inconsistencies in your story, and you’ll be dropped from consideration.
  1. Use social media – This advice is from my husband, a LinkedIn power user. Years ago, when he was a full-time recruiter, he used LinkedIn as a tool to find candidates by searching on key words in their profiles. This can be a very successful technique for both recruiters and job seekers, so make sure your profile is up-to-date. As a prospective candidate, use sites like LinkedIn or Twitter to find people who work at the company or companies you’re interested in; it can be a helpful way to understand the corporate culture and what opinion leaders in your field are saying. Hand-in-hand with using social media to find a job is the concept of protecting your online presence: clean up your own social media profiles before beginning a search. I, for one, always Google a candidate, and the last things I want to find are inappropriate pictures on Facebook or a rant-filled Twitter feed.
  1. Ask first – Excellent references are a must. Be courteous of your references by asking them in advance to serve in this capacity and then give them a heads up when they will be contacted. And, send a thank you note afterward!
  1. Know your worth – In a recent Parade magazine interview about work-life balance, First Lady Michelle Obama talked about how women have to advocate for themselves in the workplace. “Negotiate hard and know your worth,” she advised. It’s a good tip – intimidating, too, but one that can change the workplace if we all try it.

As with my first post on this topic, I’d love to hear your additional ideas. Feel free to share them in the comments or over on the Red Shutters Facebook page.

Business Travel and Family

business_travel_and_family.jpgI’m writing this post at an altitude of  38,000 feet, as I fly more than 3,000 miles across the United States. This journey—from Boston to San Jose, California—is underway so I can attend BlogHer, an international blogging conference that will bring together thousands of bloggers and will feature keynote speakers like Arianna Huffington and Kerry Washington. It’s my second time at BlogHer (learn about my experience attending last year here), and only the second time I’ve traveled to a blogging event out of state. Since my blog is a professional—and personal—responsibility, I place this trip into the “work” travel category.

This isn’t my first business trip. I average about two to three trips a year for work (i.e., my career in nonprofit management), and have done so for years. At a previous job, years ago, I traveled much, much more, with so many trips on my calendar that I had to get extra pages for my passport. That was more than I wanted for a life filled with family, so my current two to three annual trips work out well for my life right now.

What’s fascinating to me is how much this trip to BlogHer has caused my kids stress. Typically, when I’ve traveled, they’ve been keen to Skype or FaceTime, send texts with short “I love you” videos or dance montages, and talk to me on the phone. Facing the prospect of my departure, however, this time, they both melted down.

R, my nearly seven-year-old son, held it together until I tucked him into bed last night. He started crying the minute I smoothed his outer space comforter around his growing-so-fast body. The tears started without warning, and I found myself getting under the covers to hold him close. After six minutes of snuggling (“six minutes, Mommy, not five”), I managed to distract him by eliciting his promise that he wouldn’t watch “Return of the Jedi” while I was away. While effective at stopping the upset, it did prompt The Star Wars Inquisition, otherwise known as “How many questions about Anakin Skywalker can I ask Mommy before she breaks?” (For the record, I did very well on this round.)

G, who, shockingly, will turn five next week, was a different story. She started crying at dinner, clinging to me and practically sitting on my lap while we ate. If I had suggested that we share forks, she would have been thrilled. She continued with the intermittent wailing throughout the bedtime routine, my snuggle time with R, and until I got into bed with her for (again) six minutes. (My mother always lectured me about the need for equality in parenting; now, I get it.) Despite her crocodile tears, she was a bit funny.

“I hate business trips,” she continued to wail, kicking off the covers.

“Why?” I asked.

“Because I will miss youuuuuuuuuu,” drawing out the “you” for longer than normal to drive home her point. “And, I can’t fit in your suitcase!”

I’ll admit that traveling so far from my family always makes me a little uneasy. I like being with them, knowing about the details of their days, and taking care of them. Yet, a break is likely good for all of us. It teaches my kids that, while they are my heart, I do have a life independent of them that I also need to nurture.

So, we will stay connected over the next few days via text, call, Skype, and FaceTime, and they will have a great few days with their Dad (thanks, love!). I, too, expect to have an invigorating, fun, and all-around exciting few days. And, we will all be happy when I return home.

Photo credit: elchinewolf via photopin cc

Summer Fun with Stonyfield


This post was created in partnership with Stonyfield. All opinions are my own.

My kids love yogurt, and they love “helping” in the kitchen. (Helping is in quotes for a reason.)

Often, when I bake or cook, my kids want to participate, but they don’t want to follow directions. So, they sit at our kitchen island with big bowls and spoons, and make “experiments” out of bits of the ingredients that I’m using. They stir everything together, laugh a lot, and leave the kitchen significantly more messy than when we started. 

Since this is not the best way to teach them about cooking or healthy eating, I have been searching for a fun way that I could turn those “experiments” into deliciousness. 

Enter Stonyfield Organics

I was invited by Stonyfield, as part of its Yo-Getters program, to develop a Summer Fun recipe using Stonyfield Yogurt. Immediately, I thought of dessert (who wouldn’t!). Specifically, homemade yogurt pops. 

I promise you: this is super, super easy. Plus, it’s a great way to get your kids involved in the kitchen. 

What you’ll need: 

  • Yogurt (Stonyfield, of course!)
  • 5-ounce paper cups
  • Wooden popsicle sticks (or, do what I did: use plastic spoons)
  • Foil
  • Fixins (chocolate chips, nuts, berries, coconut — whatever is yummy to you)

stonyfield-yogetter-redshuttersWhat you do:

  1. Layer the yogurt into the cup.
  2. Swirl in fixins.
  3. Wrap the cup with foil, leaving a gap at the top to slide in the stick (or spoon), being careful not to have the foil touching the yogurt (or else it will freeze against the yogurt which can be tricky to remove).
  4. Put in the freezer for at six to eight hours (or less, perhaps, if you have impatient/eager kids).
  5. Take the pops out of the freeze, remove the foil, and peel away cups.
  6. Eat!

Ta da! Easy, right? 

The kids and I made two flavor combinations: vanilla + chocolate + chocolate chips and vanilla + banilla + peach-mango (a delicious new Stonyfield flavor we tried for the first time making these pops). My biggest challenge making these was preventing my kids from eating all of the yogurt (“don’t eat the chocolate yogurt” was repeated several times). 

The kids loved, loved their pops, and have already asked to make more. I found that the pops made great mid-afternoon snacks when the day was hot and muggy and the kids were in need of a healthy pick-me-up. They were great after dinner treats, too. Enjoy!

What yogurt flavors will you use in your pops?


Six Word Story, 7.16.14

I haven’t done one of these posts in a while. (See my first Six Word Story here.) Sometimes, succinct is the best way to go–especially when the week has been as hectic as this one’s been for me (“It’s Wednesday? How’d we get here?”–that kind of week).



PS: A week from today, I will be in San Jose, CA for my second BlogHer conference. (Read about my first BlogHer here ). I’m looking forward to the pre-conference session—known as the Pathfinder Day—that will go in deep on the life of a published author. I’m looking forward to reconnecting with blogging friends I made last year and the chance to meet new people. I’m looking forward to spending time with my roommates, Cheryl and Phyllis. I’m very much looking forward to being immersed in the community of blogging and learning new strategies for Red Shutters. And, I can’t wait to tell you all about it!

Weekend Reading, 7.12.14

R during our first CSA visit this season  - Now that we've fully embraced summer, it's hard to remember back when we had to wear coats!

R during our first CSA visit this season – Now that we’ve fully embraced summer, it’s hard to remember back when we had to wear coats!

Happy Saturday! 

How was your week? I was lucky to fit in time with a dear friend and for an incredibly enjoyable book club gathering (we read Together Tea by Marjan Kamali and it got high marks from our members), and I had a busy week at work. I’ve also started watching “Orphan Black” on BBC America – have you seen the show? It’s completely addictive.

My kids started swim lessons, went to Drumlin Farm, and got a lot of time outdoors. We had our fifth CSA pickup and now our refrigerator is filled with vegetables: carrots, red onions, lettuce, chard, green beans, squash, and zucchini. We have a week of healthy eating ahead of us. 

This weekend, we’ll be busy: my husband will be working on our treehouse, I’ll be getting ready for BlogHer14 (only two weeks away!), and the kids will be attending playdates and birthday parties. 

I found a few things I wanted to share with you; hope you enjoy them, and hope your weekend is terrific…

1 | I started using a FitBit this week, and found the tracking of my steps fascinating. It’s a helpful to way to understand just how active I really am. Then, I read this hilarious piece by David Sedaris in the New Yorker

2 | Have you see this story about what happened to one family at a baseball family?

3 | Have you seen these illustrations? I love their combination of beauty and political statement.

4 | This powerful piece about one woman’s miscarriage is a must-read. 

5 | Yesterday I was speaking with a friend and my kids were interrupting our conversation by yelling “Mommy, mommy!” It made me wish I already had this strategy in place 

6 | To round the Amazon-book publisher fight, here’s an interesting take on book buying and selling in France

7 | I was moved by this poignant story about the parting gifts of a friend who passed away


9 Job Search Tips

jobsearchtipsRecently, I’ve been doing a lot of hiring at work (I work for a nonprofit in the Boston area), and I have been amazed how job applicants miss out on some very basic best practices in job searching. I keep my coworkers entertained with the job search don’ts that I’ve encountered, and I thought I could do more with what I’ve observed. So, here are 9 job search tips. If you’re looking for a job, I hope you’ll find them helpful.

1. Don’t have typos in your application materials. Proofread!

2. Respond to the job that’s listed – not one for another company (you wouldn’t believe how many times this happens). 

3. If the listing says no phone calls, don’t call.

4. Don’t show up at a company without an appointment (or a resume). (Exceptions can be made if you’re applying to a job in retail or food service where “help wanted” signs are an invitation to ask about openings.)

5. If a job listing asks you to submit multiple documents (e.g., resume, cover letter, writing sample, or salary history), send them in. There’s a reason you are being asked to do this, and not complying can remove you from consideration.

6. Show up on time for your interview, dress professionally (no sandals!), turn off your phone (off not silenced), and make eye contact.

7. Say thank you. Say thank you to the person who greets you and gets you a glass of water and to the person who interviews you. Send a thank you note (email is fine) to your interviewer. Send it right away. It’s good manners, and it’s an excellent way to solidify your interest in the job.

8. When a hiring manager reaches out to you afterward with questions, answer in a professional manner and in a timely fashion. 

9. (This last one is a personal pet peeve.) When offered a job, don’t say “let me talk to my husband/wife/partner.” Say “thanks for all of this information, I’d like time to think it over.” Saying you need to talk to someone else implies you cannot make decisions on your own! And, even though you, of course, want to talk to the important person in your life about this (great) new opportunity, be mindful of how you phrase your response so you project confidence. 

There are gazillion more tips out there (I could go on and on), but the most important strategy is  to be yourself. 

What would you you add to this list? Tell me your favorite job search tips in the comments below. 

The Boob Post, Part 2 (or a Mammogram in 15 Steps)

When my husband and I got married nine years ago, we registered for a fancy panini press. It was the kind of one use appliance your mother advises you not to get (after all, it only does one thing), but we loved it. We used it so much, in fact, that it broke. Just stopped working. I miss it sometimes; it made the best sandwiches.

I was reminded of that panini press yesterday morning when I squashed my breasts inside a mammography machine. I felt like I was bread, being squished inside of our panini press. 

This mammography was my second. (Read about the first mammogram here.The first one, done two years ago, was fine. In fact, if you read my post about it (go ahead, do it; I’ll wait), you’ll see that I was awfully positive about the whole thing (“I’m so grateful” was the essential theme). So there should not have been any problem with getting myself back to the mammography center last year for my second mammography, but, for some unknown reason, I didn’t go. I should have. Now that I’m completely settled into my forties (nearly one week at 42!), I’m, on the advice of my doctor, supposed to get a mammogram each year. I skipped it for no particular reason except I didn’t get around to it. Which is ridiculous of course. I have a good friend who is alive today because a mammogram caught her breast cancer early enough for her to get treatment, so I should have been more vigilant.

I can beat myself about it (and you can too if you’re 40+ and have been skipping out), but the good news is that I made it there yesterday. I got myself up super early to take a 7:15 AM appointment (perks: no traffic, no wait, and plenty of parking). I had the world’s most cheerful technician, which was helpful because she and I became very familiar very quickly. 

The appointment went like this: 

1. Arrive at center. (Why are these places always decorated in pastels?)

2. Check-in at front desk. (The attendant is surprisingly pleasant for so early in the day.)

3. Complete paperwork (even the paper is pastel-colored) which asks several questions about my medical history and breasts. (So many questions about my breasts!)

4. Hand in paperwork. (Where’s People magazine?)

5. Sit down for approximately two minutes, which is enough time to read one People magazine article. (And skim an “article” on Hollywood bachelors.)

6. Get called back to the changing area. (Too bad—that was too fast to read the “article.”)

7. Take off my top, wipe down chest so no perfumes, deodorants, or creams are present on the skin, as they can mess with the results. (Wonder what the point of showering was all about.)

8. Put on fancy hospital gown, open in the front. (Wonder how many people will see my breasts today. Consider this another perk.)

9. Wait one minute, which is enough time to skim Country Living magazine in changing area anteroom. (Consider painting my kitchen blue after reading an article about a kitchen with a blue stove. Decide that’s too much work.)

10. Meet Eileen, the technician. Exchange stories about our kids and local amusement parks. (That’s what moms do.)

11. Go into exam room and notice enormous mammography machine. (My breast is going in that?)

12. Begin procedure. (Ouch. Oof.)

13. Hold breathe and wait while picture is taken. Two per breast. (Realize I am standing on my toes.)

14. Move to next breast. Two pictures. (This time, I have to bend my knee and stretch out my arm. Wonder if I could have been a contortionist.)

15. Done. Breathe.

I asked Eileen to show me the images of my breast, and they were pretty interesting (the ones below aren’t mine but they give you a sense of what the images look like). I, alas, definitely have the breasts of a fortysomething. This means I have a mix of fat (in the image below, it’s the lighter area of the breast) and dense (that’s the more intense white color area of the breast)  tissue, with more fat than dense tissue. The curse of getting older. Eileen noted that the fat in my breasts was quite good for mammography readings. I decided to take that as a compliment (great fat, Kimberly!). 


The results should come in by next week, sooner if there is something of note (fingers crossed). 

In the end, the mammography machine might be like my sorely missed panini press in that it only has one purpose, but it’s purpose that’s meaningful to many women. 

So, I put a reminder on my calendar to make an appointment for next year.  

Photo Credit: slgckgc via photopin cc

Today I am 42

I am writing this post, on my forty-second birthday, surrounded by reminders of what makes such a day special. I do love birthdays, though enthusiasm for my own has waned since my children came on the scene. My birthday is now more quiet and reflective, less piñatas and punch. I like my birthday “evolution,” and today has been perfect.

My birthday started off with two small people, snuggling into my bed (though it was a ridiculous hour), murmuring “Mama.”

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Weekend Reading, 6.27.14

I love this picture of my kids and husband fooling around during our trip to Georges Island, Boston Harbor Islands.

It’s the weekend! What are you up to? We have family activities planned and a lot of open, unstructured time for my husband to make progress on the tree house he’s building in our backyard (I’ll show pictures when he’s done), for the kids to run around, and for me to complete the assignments for the writing class I’m taking at Grub Street. It’s a recipe for a weekend that will go by too fast.

Before you head off to your own weekend fun, here are a few pieces of Weekend Reading I wanted to share with you…

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