EVPHO

Executive Vice President, Home Operations

Archive for the tag “#Management Tips”

Respect The Safe Word

The Associates are growing up and have discovered, as all brothers do, the joys of wrestling and roughhousing.  Things are a little nuts around here these days.  At any given moment there are squeals of laughter followed by sharp cries of pain.  No one has had to be taken to the ER yet, but our boo boo buddy is seeing a little more action than usual.  It is only a matter of time really.

Associates Wrestling

Associates Wrestling

So in light of their new found love of indoor tackling and body-slamming on the couch, we’ve had to amend a few house rules.

  1. Use inside voices….. Amended to “Use inside voices when the CEO is working from home.”  All other times you can assume it is loud as heck up in here.
  2. Be kind to each other…. Amended to “Mutual aggression is fun, but it is not ok to sucker punch.”
  3. Listen to your mother… Amended to “Respect the referee and do not attack her.”  They still ignore this rule.
  4. Use your words…. Amended to “Respect the safe word.  Only use it if you are in real pain.  Stop hurting your brother immediately if he says it.”
  5. Help clean up your messes….. Amended to “Don’t destroy things.  If you destroy a room, help clean up the mess.  If you break a thing, well, we will deal with that on a case by case situation.”
  6. No jumping on the couch…. Amended to “No couch olympics when company is over.”

That should cover us for now.  As long as they are playing together, having fun and leaving me out of it, I honestly don’t care what they do to each other.  I just want to pee alone.

I’m Famous!

If you are here looking for another funny story about my adorable Associates and poop, sorry to disappoint.  This post represents a bit of a regression in my recovery as a former Political Operative (sounds so mysterious and important, right?!?).   In the days after Obergefell v. Hodges I fell off the wagon.  I have read more news than I have in 2.5 years… since the day Associate A was born to be exact.

My former self, Campaign Kathryn, is fired up. It is my job as EVPHO to keep her in line.  But lately I can’t stop thinking about the issues, the politics, the future of our country.  I’ve lost sleep and scared the CEO with ideas of getting involved with a race in 2016.

I have been interested in the overall reaction to Obergefell, but was specifically looking for the responses of leaders of my party…. the Republican Party.  Polling clearly indicates that the American public has moved to agree with Marriage Equality, and I was looking for any glimmer of hope that a leader would emerge to help move our Party away from arguing semantics and fear.

I didn’t expect an about face, but I did hope there would be one or two brave leaders able to recognize this was a civil rights issue, firmly rooted in the 14th Amendment, and to speak up and address the fears of Christian conservatives who worried this would affect their church and faith.  (It doesn’t affect the vows you made in your church before your God one bit.  Your Christian pastor will still have no legal obligation to marry two Buddhists, two Hindus, or two women.  The decision doesn’t affect your tax break, your right to visit your spouse in the hospital, or your right to be listed on their death certificate.  But our government will no longer deny those rights to your fellow Americans.)   We have so many who claim to love the constitution, would they be able to recognize this as consistent with the ideals laid out there within?

Anyway, seeing the lack of leadership, my mind then turned to the thousands of hard workings young professionals who work for our leaders.  They do everything from answering the mail to writing talking points.  They research issues and help craft the message.  They set the meetings and the agendas, and then they do the work to follow through on what was decided.  And for many young professionals, they develop trusted relationships with the Members they serve.  Their opinion is valued and their advice heeded.

So as my mind raced, I wrote a letter hoping to inspire even one young GOP staffer.  A former colleague at Famous DC blog agreed to run my letter, and there you have it.  I’m on FamousDC.

famous-dc

I put my money where my mouth was, of course, and reached out to my former boss and had a conversation about how he will respond to this issue.  I hope my letter will encourage others to do the same.

Call me an idealist, but I agree with Voctor Hugo,

Nothing is as powerful as an idea whose time has come.

*** For those of you who knew me in my grunge phase in Junior High, and don’t think I am a Millennial, may I just point out that I was born less than 30 minutes before MTV went on the air at 12:00am Aug 1st 1981.  I’ve never known a world without MTV and Apple computers = Millennial. ***

Talking About REAL Issues With Your Kids

As a recovering politico hiding out in playgroups in suburbia, I am not, how do I phrase this, culturally aware.  I don’t watch the morning news, I watch Curious George.  I don’t have a ‘first hour at my desk before my real job begins” to cruise the web aimlessly reading whatever interests me.  Most days I am lucky if I click on 1 article from my Yahoo daily new digest app.  We don’t really watch live TV at all anymore, and in the car it is christian radio or Raffi on Pandora… you know, things “safe for the little ears.”

I often joke that facebook is my link to the outside world, but it is a terrible, terrible news source.   My facebook feed is almost always exclusively filled with pictures of other people’s children, other parenting blogs and silly meme’s about women, wine and exhaustion.

But some things are so big, so culturally important, they shine through to my little suburban existence and remind me that there is a great big world out there, and I am still a small part of it.  And these last few weeks, I have been reminded that we as a country are still tackling some pretty big issues.

Marriage equality, police brutality and explosive racial tensions that flare up now and then and bring out the worst in us.

The CEO tries his best to keep me up to speed on current events.  I think we are both as interested and passionate as ever (about the news people… focus!) but talking about some of these big issues, that weigh on our hearts and shock our minds, is hard to do with those cute, innocent little ears always around.   Always listening.  Always asking questions.

For example, the CEO was working from home one day and had an audible reaction to a news story.  Of course I notice and come over to ask if everything is ok, and Associate P does too.  The CEO tells him it is nothing and sends him back to play, but then shows me the video of a cop in Texas treating a teenage girl so brutality I have an audible, expletive-laced reaction.

Well now both little Associates are aware that mommy and daddy are upset and something is going on.  The questions begin…

What is it Mommy?

What happened?

Can I see?

It’s nothing.  Someone was being mean.  No, I’m sorry sweetie –  It is not an age appropriate video.  And I try to move on, and pretend the rock in the pit of my stomach isn’t there.

I have been caught, too often lately, wondering how to respond to my little associates when they see mommy sad and distracted, or yesterday joyous and giddy.  Part of me wants to have this big adult conversation with them about what is happening in our world. I want to begin their education right now. Today. But I don’t want to merely brainwash them with my opinions.  I want to raise them with a foundation of solid morals and clear values, and hopefully have them be able to decide for themselves what and why they believe in things like equality, mercy, tolerance.

So I turn to the good doctor.   Dr. Seuss has a way of discussing big ideas…. modesty, humility, kindness, faithfulness, fairness, open-mindedness, patience, equality respect and love… in a way that illustrates them so beautifully and fanciful, we can discuss them with our children and they will understand.  Almost every story he wrote has an underlying  message, from Horton to Yertle the Turtle, Bartholomew to The Zax.

So if you are a parent that, like me, wants to talk about the REAL issues happening in our world today with your young kids, might I suggest you read and watch three of his best lessons: The Sneetches, The Zax, and Green Eggs and Ham.

The Sneetches teaches about discrimination and equality.  The Zax teaches that the world won’t stop for your pride and stubbornness (I’d like to send this one to every single GOP Presidential candidates.) And Green Eggs and Ham teaches that you shouldn’t say you hate something unless you’ve tried it, and perhaps more subtle, but equally as important: you shouldn’t dislike anyone because they like and advocate for something you disagree with.  Sam is an alright guy!

So yesterday, with tears streaming down my face, I read the happiest of happy endings to my associates:

But Mc. Bean was quite wrong.  I’m quite happy to say

That the Sneetches got really quite smart on that day,

The day they decided that Sneetches are Sneetches

And no kind of Sneetch is the best on the beaches.

That day, all the Sneetches forgot about stars

And wether they had one or not upon thars.

Top 5 Parenting Tips From UNBROKEN

(Spoiler alert – I do reference scenes and points from the book and movie “Unbroken.” proceed with caution)

This past December I read UNBROKEN, the amazing true story of Louie Zamperini, a US Olympic track star and Veteran who survived a as a WWII POW.  The CEO had read the book before me, and loved it.  We were both looking forward to seeing the movie, and made a date night out of it shortly after it was released.  We sat through the entire movie with no snacks, popcorn or drinks.  We wanted to be focused, undistracted.  It was utterly captivating to watch and we both left the theater in awe of the sheer reality that men can be so strong, of body and spirit.

We walked quietly our of the theater, listening to the conversations around us.  Both of us were a bit shocked by what we heard.  In the ladies room a sassy young thaang in her late teens had complained to her friends, “Well that was a drag.  I mean I get it, he was tortured and survived. Big Deal”  And on the way out we heard another young group complain “I just don’t get the point.  There was no plot.”

WHHHHAAAAATTTT?!?!?!?!

Needless to say the CEO and I were aghast.  Our conversation on the way home quickly turned to our disappointment in the response from those young adults.  Could they really be so numb that they don’t recognize true heroism when they see it?  Were they expecting Louie to have super powers and fight his captors in direct conflict with choreographed fight scenes and a dramatic escape?  Where there not enough explosions for them? Could it be they didn’t know enough about the Atomic Bombs to find that conclusion to the largest war in human history dramatic enough??  Really?

And I don’t think the fact that they didn’t read the book before seeing the movie is an excuse for their response.  I had not finished the book yet myself, and so hadn’t read about the insanity he endured in the prison camps in Japan.  I was still in tears during the scene where The Bird forces Louie to lift the huge pillar of wood above his head, and had to burry my head into the CEO’s arm because I simply couldn’t watch that intense, and long scene.  I whispered to him, “Did that really happen?” just to hear him confirm what my mind couldn’t fathom.  Yes. Yes it did REALLY happen.  To a man who had already endured over a year and a half of hellish starvation and physical abuse.  And yes, he really did stand there and hold it for an incredible, surprisingly long time, proving that while the body may be defeated the human spirit can endure.

So in the days and weeks since seeing the movie, finishing the book and thinking about those bratty kids from the theater, I have been obsessed with thinking about how I can raise our associates to be less like them and more like Louie Zamperini. Obviously those kids needed better understanding of world history, but since I can’t easily influence what is taught in schools these days, I compiled the top five parenting lessons I learned from UNBROKEN.   I don’t think Laura Hillenbrand intended to write this as a parenting manual, so I apologize in advance if my mommy-brain is misinterpreting her masterpiece.

5) “Dirty Food” and “Nutritional Meals” Are Relative Descriptions

Our family policy has officially been changed from the “5 second rule” to the “Does it have maggots or fecal matter on it” rule.  I’ve certainly already been more lax than most moms about food cleanliness and I never really flinch to let my kids pick something off the ground if in our home or at the park. A little dirt never hurt anyone, and Associate A still gets a majority of his fiber from mulch.  But when cookies fell on airplane seats, restaurant floors or most recently the sidewalks of a major theme park, and one of my kids picked it up and popped it in their mouths before I could stop them, I worried.  I even panicked a little, with a few stern words, grabbing his head and forcing open his mouth trying to dislodge the offending, contaminated animal cracker. NO MORE!  Seriously people, I know there are risks with eating germs, and I will continue to teach them that is not a good idea to eat food off the ground, but no longer will I overreact and mommy-guilt myself to death over this.  They will survive.  I may have to amend this rule if they ever get a bout of dysentery, but we will cross that bridge when we get there.

And the same is true for worrying about their poor nutritional intake. Associate P is in full on toddler pickiness, and he refuses to try just about everything but his short list of pre-approved meals, assuming they are served in the correct bowl and with the appropriate construction themed utensil.  I have spent countless hours worrying if he is eating enough or good variety.  NO MORE!  Reading what Louie and Phil survived on in the Ocean for 46 days is unbelievable.  The military directions provided with the rations on the lifeboat were to eat a (as in 1) square of chocolate and a few sips of water a day.  So from now on, if all Associate P wants to eat today is two squeeze yogurts so be it. As long as I can give him good clean water, I’m over trying to force him to eat or giving in and letting him eat crap.  I will wait it out, and then when he is hungry enough he will just have to eat whatever healthy ration I offer him…. its not like the options I present him are raw seagull or fish.

4)  You Do Not Need To Be a Cruise Director Mom To Be A Good Mom

Associate P has always been clingy to me (likely because his entire first year of life I spent every moment of his awake time entertaining him, talking to him and stimulating him) and Associate A is currently in a major mommy-obsession phase.  It is hard to ignore there cries for attention, help and assistance in providing entertainment for them, but NO MORE!   I hereby give myself permission to ignore their cries and begin insisting they occupy themselves.  It’s not that Louie’s mom ignored him, but she certainly didn’t follow him around everywhere and schedule his every waking moment.  Moms were not expected to be entertainment directors and chauffeurs.  If kids wanted to participate in an activity they rode their bike, public transportation or walked there.  And most importantly, kids then were allowed to roam, play and live in the world, not just in their own backyards.

Louie had a daring childhood, filled with frequent confrontation with the law, bullies, and adversities that he overcame on his own, or suffered the consequence of his actions.  I’m not saying I hope my kids are stealing, drinking and smoking while in elementary school like Louie was, but it is very clear from this story that Louie had an independent spirit, confidence and survival skills at a very young age.  He took responsibility for his choices because he was allowed to make them… something I don’t think we let kids do enough of these days.

3) Love Your Children, No Matter What

Number three comes directly from number 4.  Louie’s parents led a good life and were good role models, they loved their children and cared for them, but they didn’t try to manipulate their kids to be something they weren’t.  Louie was a handful, and wild and refused to follow the straight and narrow path as a young kid, and they accepted it.  He was disciplined when needed and they let him know they expected more from him.  But his mother still loved him dearly.  And in time, thanks to their unconditional love and the encouragement of his big brother Pete, Louie began to believe that he could be more than just the town thief.

I think all to often parents set a vision of what they hope their kids will be and try to manipulate them to fit into that dream.  Some are more dramatic than others.  I have only seen one or two Toddlers in Tiara’s episodes, but I got the gist of the show.  It was pretty clear those moms should spend a little 1:1 time with a therapist to work through their own body image issues rather than playing dress up with their own living daughters.

But I myself am guilty of this manipulation already… I’m scared to death of my associates wanting to play contact sports, and already hear myself telling them “You see how mommy and daddy like to kayak and row? Did you know it is a sport and you can do it with a team. That will be fun, right?!?!?!”

So NO MORE!  I pledge here and now to love my kids no matter what and to accept them for who they are, and trust that my unconditional love and support will help them realize they can do anything they put their mind to.  And if that means they turn into a soccer star, fine.  I’ll get over my fears.  If they want to play dungeons and dragons all day and DOOM! all night, cool with me.  For them, I will be willing to learn and play too. (No, that does not mean I am willing to learn and play with you CEO.  Sorry. You have to take me to dinner and on romantic dates)

2) Don’t Let Your Kids Be Numb To Real Bravery

Superheroes and legends of bravery have been favorite stories for all of mankind.  From Odysseus to Ironman, everyone likes a good hero story.  But I think more and more, in this society of abundant TV, movies and video games, kids are loosing sight of what real heroism is.  The more I thought about the reaction of those young adults in the theater, the more I began to think about the true subtlety of the violence, bombing, and struggle portrayed in the movie.  I thought the beauty of the movie was the realistic portrayal, and that they didn’t overdue it with fancy graphics, sound effects or gratuitous blood and guts. Maybe without all that jazz, those kids were genuinely bored.  But could they still not recognize that this was a “based on real life story” and that someone actually survived all that?

ES-Louis-Zamperini

Maybe the media doesn’t report the stories of everyday heroes enough.  Maybe society doesn’t celebrate them enough.  But I can’t change any of that.  What I can do is raise children who will know and respect real heroes – veterans, policemen, fireman and the brave citizens who step up in unexpected ways to prevent an accident, solve a problem or challenge status quo.  I want to raise my children to admire astronauts, and understand those REAL men strapped themselves to REAL rockets, filled with REAL rocket fuel, and most of them lived to tell about it and we honor those brave souls who didn’t.

1) The most important thing I learned from UNBROKEN is that the gift of faith in God is by far the best gift I can give my children.

“Though all three men faced the same hardship, their differing perceptions of it appeared to be shaping their fates. Louie and Phil’s hope displaced their fear and inspired them to work toward their survival, and each success renewed their physical and emotional vigor. Mac’s resignation seemed to paralyze him and the less he participated in their efforts to survive, the more he slipped. Though he did the least, as the days passed, it was he who faded the most. Louie and Phil’s optimism, and Mac’s hopelessness, were becoming self-fulfilling.”
Laura Hillenbrand, Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption

Phil’s father was a methodist Pastor, and how proud he must have been to know that his son was strong enough in faith, not just to save himself, but to share the hope that he found in Jesus with his friend in their hour of need.  The book goes into much more detail of Louie’s faith journey than the movie portrays.  It was more than just the conversation with Phil on the life raft that brought Louie to Christ, but it is that scene, if you will, that stuck with me.  When I think about the kind of men I want to raise, hands down I want my sons to be the one sharing eternal hope, not cowering in fear of human suffering.

It is so easy to feel alone and helpless in this world.  I imagine floating on a raft in the middle of the pacific is about as alone as anyone might feel.  But when three men looked up at the stars.  Two saw the wonder of the Lord’s creation and renewed their faith that all things are possible through him.  One felt small and insignificant, alone and hopeless.

“What God asks of men, said [Billy] Graham, is faith. His invisibility is the truest test of that faith.”
Laura Hillenbrand, Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption

If you haven’t read the book, I highly encourage you to do so.  But if you are an exhausted mom or dad and picking up a book isn’t in your immediate future, then I hope these five ideas can inspire you to raise the next Louie Zamperini or Russell Allen “Phil” Phillips.

My Little Minion

This was one of those weeks where I really had to remind myself to unconditionally love the annoying little person who won’t give me a moments rest or do anything without being within eyesight of me (preferably arms reach, of course).  More and more I find myself losing my temper at Associate P, a three year old who is proving to be more needy, clingy and whiney than the 18month old Associate A.   I don’t know if it is because I now expect more of him –  I see other kids his age sufficiently coping with moments of separation from their mothers and even interacting with other children – or because I am just over his clingy MO.

I joked this week that he is abusing the word mommy to the point I am tuning him out.  For all I know the middle of his whiney rant is a groundbreaking theory of astrophysics, but I wouldn’t hear it because when he starts the sentence with half a dozen “Mommys” I stop listening.

So just when I thought I had enough this week, my sister very randomly texted me this picture.

Image

The picture had spoken to her because her kids are tweeny-age boys now and driving her crazy in ways I can’t yet imagine.  She is still sacrificing a great deal for them on a daily basis.  Putting her needs aside to cater to theirs.  Exhausting herself caring for them, only to have her guidance balked at and her emotional efforts shunned.  She was in a “Just leave me ALONE!” mood.  She saw this picture and thought longingly of me, lucky to be home with two sweet little toddlers who still adore me and think I’m the best person in the whole world.

It was a gut check for sure.

I was in a “Just leave me ALONE!” mood too, and had been all week.  In fact, I realized I had been down right mean to Associate P lately, shunning his affections in effort to reclaim moments to myself. …. to do what?  Clean? check emails?  Look at the child, sublimely happy to be in a special moment with his mommy.  That is all P wants.  And I’ve been too annoyed to give them to him.

After lunch I put Associate A down for a nap and Associate P and I get some 1:1 time before his quiet time.  All he wants to to is play Garbage Dump for the millionth time, and lately I just don’t want to.  I’ve tried diverting to puzzles or playing all those educational activities we just can’t do when the little one is up, but P is tired and not at all in the mood for thinking.  He wants to mindlessly make truck noises and dump and pick up little pieces of paper, over and over and over.  And he wants me to be the front loader moving it around the dump.  Exasperated by even the thought of this monotonous drill, I barked at him “Mommy has better things to do than play garbage dump.  You can do that by yourself.”   And moms everywhere know the response he gave me… “But Mommy I want to play with YOU.”   But in the mental state I was in, that response just annoyed me further.

My sister’s innocent text reminded me that I should be treasuring these precious 1:1 times with him, because they are fleeting.  Reminded me that it doesn’t matter what we do, as long as we are together it IS special to him.

Then yesterday I read this post “8 Awesome Things About Toddlers.”  As I read, I realized perhaps my growing annoyances were because Associate P is moving out of this sweet toddler stage.  He’s no longer napping, nor does he find joy in every little thing.  I can no longer plan a day that I think will be fun and count on him being excited about it too.  More and more he has his own opinions and ideas, and we end up butting heads when he refuses to go along with MY plans.  And while I appreciate where the writer is coming from on her first bullet, The Adorable Way They Butcher The English Language, his speech development is a constant stressor for me these days.  Sure, he talks all the time.  But most people still can’t make out what he is saying because he doesn’t yet articulate most consonant  sounds.  I’m trying everything from more reading and over pronounced speech to watching edu-movies about letter sounds.  … but I digress.

Perhaps most heartbreaking, was I realized he isn’t “Perfectly Cuddly” anymore.  He is so big when he sits in my lap to read, I often can’t see the book.  And if he squirms around on my lap when reading or putting shoes on, we can both get hurt if he throws his head back, straight into my face.

He is growing up.  My sweet little baby boy is growing up.  And I need to grow up too.  The game has changed and he is no longer My Little Minion, gleefully doing as I say.  Perhaps Associate is a more appropriate term now than it previously has been –

noun   -it/
  1. a partner or colleague in business or at work.

He is my Associate and our professional relationship can only succeed if I give him the respect I demand of him.  So as the need for discipline and instruction increases, so does the need for me to listen to him and respond to him.

I am already sad at the realization my little man is growing up.  It does happen way too fast.  But I know we have many more fun days together ahead of us, and hopefully I can be better about enjoying each and every stage as much as I loved the precious toddler days.  So I’ve spent the last three days listening for his “Mommy come play with me” requests and trying to be ready for the call, even if it is another round of Garbage Dump.

 

 

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