The monkeys learned the song My Funny Valentine at preschool for Valentine’s day. (I love the monkey’s preschool!) They’ve been singing it for a few weeks now, and I’m finally learning the words. But between the three of us, we all mess up the song almost all of the time. Tonight at dinner, the wrong word led to screams and shouts.

I don’t know about you but screams and shouts are two of my least favorite things to have for dinner. So I decided to put a stop to the arguing by listening to the song on You Tube. We listened to this version by Chet Baker, this one by Etta James, and this really great oneby AJ, who I’ve never heard of.

Listening to different variations, we heard different singers use a few different words and treat the vocals very differently. I tried to tell the monkeys that these variations are what makes music interesting. I talked about how different singers interpret the song differently, and that’s what makes it interesting. How you can learn from each version, or listen to them all and decide which one you like best. I promoted this approach to listening to and making music over their current approach, which involves screaming and fighting over whether the words are “is your finger less than Greek” or “is your figure less than Greek.” 

But I have to admit I was  talking for the sake of pleasing myself, instead of actually teaching them anything.

As music novices, they’re still sticklers for rules. They learned the song one way and that’s how it goes. As they get better at singing, and learn more songs, they’ll become more comfortable trying varying approaches. But not until then.

It’s kind of like how it’s often harder to work with a client who is new to an organization than it is to work with someone who has learned the rules and knows which ones can and should be bent. Or like how a seasoned researcher can divert from textbook research methodologies and still get insights that are interesting and valid, because she knows the rules that underlie the methodologies, and therefore can alter the way the research looks without altering how it works. But someone who is new to the field will tell you that things  MUST BE DONE A CERTAIN WAY.

With experience, comes appreciation of variation and diversity. When you’re still learning something, that variation is confusing and consistency reigns. It was fun watching all the videos, and the monkeys did enjoy them. But I’m still going to have to weigh in and resolve the argument: it’s figure, not finger. Go figure.


Today, I’m in the bathroom with the monkeys, one on the potty and the other one just hanging out, and we’re talking about ‘public.’

“Mommy, if you and me, and Monkey #2 are in the potty, we can say butt,” proclaims Monkey #1.I’m trying to teach them that some words are OK at home, but not in public. “Yes, we can say butt at home, in the potty.”

“But if we’re in the potty with Lucy, we can say butt,” he continues.

“Well,” I said, first of all, “you shouldn’t really be in the potty with Lucy. But if you are, it’s kind of public, because she’s not family, so you shouldn’t say butt.” I know, it’s shoddy logic, but it’s been a long day.

“Well I want Lucy to be family,” says Monkey #1. “She can be family, even though we don’t live together.”

“Not really,” I say, “If you want Lucy to be family, one of you has to marry her.” Between Cinderella, The Sound of Music and 2 family weddings this fall, the monkeys are pretty into the idea of weddings.

“I’ll marry Lucy,” says Monkey #2.

“OK,” I say. “That makes you, Monkey #1, Lucy’s brother-in-law. And you, Monkey #2, her husband.”
“What does a husband do?” says Monkey #2.
“Daddy is my husband. What does he do?”
“Cooks,” he replies. “But I don’t want to just cook.””Ok,” I say, ‘you can also…take out the trash.”
“I want to work,” says Monkey #2, earnestly. Then he thinks for a second, “but I don’t have a computer.”

I must admit I’m quite pleased that my son wants to be a husband who cooks and works. I’m sure Lucy won’t mind taking out the trash.

Working from home, I have many days when I’m mostly sitting at my desk, working on a variety of things that don’t require a lot of interaction with other people, don’t require getting up, and don’t require movement. But I can’t sit at my desk for more than about an hour at a time without going a little bit crazy.

 I find that those are the days when I overeat, snacking not because I’m hungry but because I need an excuse to walk downstairs. I’m trying to shift those snacking breaks into less caloric forays. If I need to take a walk downstairs, I could just as easily do it with my arms full of laundry – which has the added benefit of getting laundry done. Or, if I just need a mental break, I’ll allow myself 5 minutes to check out the blogs I read, or watch a video at Momversation. These 3-5 minute video conversations between mommy bloggers are always kind of funny and sometimes even informative.

I’m pretty sure that replacing real snacks with virutal snacks will impact my waistline. Hopefully it won’t kill my productivity.

After several hours of a rough morning with the monkeys, I found myself threatening thus: “I’m going to call your father.” To which the monkeys literally responded: “Why?”

And really, I’m not sure why I said it. They’re not afraid of him, and really, he was working at a cafe. What was he going to do?

I must have gotten it from my mom, who would routinely make the same threat. While it might have been somewhat more effective, because my dad was much more removed from the day-to-day  parenting than Mr. Daddy is, it couldn’t have really been that effective. After all, in the house where I grew up, my dad was the softie and my mom was the disciplinarian. It’s a good bet that had my mom called my dad, he would have been as likely to brush her off or talk her down from her anger as he would have been to punish me.

I can only guess that my mom was doing the same thing I was, using a threat that her mom used. And from what I know about my grandmother and grandfather, I’m guessing that the ‘I’m going to call your father’ threat was actually effective three generations ago. I think my grandfather could be pretty scary when he wanted to be.

This kind of passing on of tactics from one generation to another doesn’t just happen in households, it happens in offices, too. Just as I learned how to parent – both how to parent well and how to parent less well – from my own parents, I learned how to manage and lead from those people who have managed and led me. And I’ve got to say, I think I’ve had better role models in the house than in the office.

Either way, though, it’s really easy to find yourself parroting a voice that you heard long ago. We think of legacy systems as technology or organizational structure, but there are implicit ‘systems’ of leading and managing that get passed on in organizations, too.

As a parent, I feel like it’s my job to make sure that the monkeys don’t resort to an ‘I’m going to call your mother,’ when they’re trying to wrangle their kids. And I think most parents are already pretty concious about not repeating what we see as our parent’s mistakes. As a leader, I feel like I need make sure that I’m equally concious of not repeating the mistakes of mediocre or bad leaders or managers that I’ve encountered during my career.

We had a rough bout of the stomach flu the other night, with each monkey up every hour or so throwing up. At first, I went to sleep with Monkey # 1 and was taking care of him. But then Monkey # 2 started, and I switched beds (and rooms), thinking that Monkey #1 was probably done puking. He wasn’t. And he wasn’t pleased to wake up to find Mr. Daddy next to him in bed instead of me.

We talked about it a lot the next day. How there’s only 1 mommy and 2 sick boys, and I needed to try to be with both.

Monkey #2 said, ‘I wish there two mommies.’ Monkey #1 seems to be a bit better at conceptual math. ‘Next time, each of us could have half a mommy and half a daddy to sleep with us. That would work.’

Not willing to be outdone by his brother, Monkey #2 topped him with this: ‘If we had 100 mommies, a few could sleep with each of us, some could sleep with daddy, some could sleep with Misha and some could sleep in the basement.’

And some could cook dinner, and some could fold laundry, and some could work. I’m liking that last plan.

I had two whole weeks off for the holidays. 

Here’s what I planned to do:
Blog every day
Reflect on the past year, create goals for the new year
Exercise frequently
Hang out with Brett
Host a party
Have friends over for dinner
Go out
Read some business books, some novels

Here’s what I actually did:
Wrote 3 draft blog entries; published none
Reflected for a total of about 2 hours
Read 5 novels, 1 nonfiction book, 0 business books
Exercised about 5 times
Hosted 1 party, 1 cocktail hour, 3 dinner parties, 1 play date
Went out with friends
Played 7 games of Zingo, 2 games of Ned’s Head
Acted in 8 performances of Jack and The Beanstalk
Cleaned the house about 6 times (see hosted)
Saw 1 movie at a theater, 4 movies on DVD
Went to 4 parties

There was a lot more play and socializing than I expected, and a lot less writing and reflection. It’s amazing that even if you set priorities in advance, your true priorities will emerge in the doing.

As I reflected on the past year over my long staycation, what struck me most was that I’m entering 2009 in the same work/life situation as I entered 2008. I was a little surprised. At first, I worried that I’d made no progress in the past year. But after thinking about it for a while, I realized that things aren’t exactly the same. While technically my situation is the same, my attitude about it has changed, and that does make a difference.

As someone who agitates for things to look and feel different, it’s a big deal to shift to a mindset where growth doesn’t always mean that you’ve changed a situation, but it can mean that you’ve changed your response to the situation.

Happy New Year, readers! More soon.