Blogs > Media Moms

We are two working mothers — Lauren Rose, the director of business development for Name Bubbles, and Betsy DeMars, the assistant managing editor at The Saratogian. Try as we may to be really good at both, balancing motherhood and career can get pretty messy. As professionals, work schedules and mommy schedules often collide. So, we plow through, hoping at the end of the day, our kids — Lauren's 5-year-old son and Betsy's 11-year-old son and 9-year-old daughter — know how much we love them.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Halloween Safety Recall

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, Dollar Tree has recalled Halloween Lanterns due to fire and burn hazard. For product photos and more information, click here

Be safe & have fun!

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Halloween fun starts today

I couldn't be more excited about Halloween which is, in part, due to the fact that my four year old really "gets it" this year. He's costumed and ready to be Buzz Lightyear. "To Infinite - And Beyond", he says...constantly...

Today's going to be a busy one. I'm heading to the office early to get a jump on my laundry list of projects and meeting prep. It's going to be a busy day and I'm planning to leave early to attend my boy's final costume parade and Halloween Party at daycare/preschool. The first costume he wore at six months old was a Pea Pod. It nearly brought me to tears. Last year he was a Sheriff. He looked - and acted! - the part. This year as Buzz he looks so grown up and boyish.

After the party, we'll head back to my office for some Trick or Treat fun which in actuality is an employee run bake sale to benefit the local charity for received the most votes. My son is bringing the $3 he received in a Halloween card from Grandma and Papa. After hearing me explain what a bake sale was, he wanted in (mostly for the goods, if you know what I mean). I explained that he'd need to bring money for a cookie or cupcake and that all the money collected would go to people in our local community who need a little extra help. After sharing with him the fact that some people don't have extra money for treats, and just want a nice lunch or dinner he said "should I save my lunch for them, too?".

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Sunday, October 24, 2010

Am I too plugged in?

After meeting a new friend and fellow tweeter for coffee this past week and hearing that she and her husband, like me an mine, spend a lot more evenings than we'd like to admit sitting on the couch with laptops, iPads or iPhones in our hands, I had to ask myself the question "Am I too plugged in?"

Is being too "wired" contributing to me being too wired?

As I sit here blogging (um, you know where I'm going with this...), I have to admit that the answer is a resounding Y-E-S. Oh and, well, no.

Let me give you a little back story on how I got this way. For starters, I married my husband Scott. Two decades ago, I didn't even own a TV! It was all about yoga and meditation for me. Sure I worked in media, but I wasn't about to let it control my life. Fast forward to 2005 when I met (again), fell in love with, and married my techno-opposite. My husband's work as a manager of global connectivity solutions means it's his job to stay connected. Add to that the fact that he's an early adopter of Apple and Sony technology, and has purchased within the first week of launch virtually every Apple (iPod, iPhone, iPad...) and Sony gadget known to man, and you know what I'm dealing with. I stopped counting computers when buying one wasn't enough and he decided to build one himself just to house his music collection.

Needless to say, his years of influence rubbed off on me. Not that I was a technology idiot, I just didn't invest the time it takes to stay plugged in. But as the media industry began to change, so did I. Today's technology makes it so darn easy (and fun) to stay connected.

I post, I tweet, I blog.

As a quintessential extrovert, the social media explosion was just what I needed to connect, reconnect, and meet people all over the world who have the same interests I do. It's amazing, really. I use social media in business, network with other professionals and amuse myself with the goings-on of family members, former classmates and coworkers.

So being plugged in has its benefits. I stay close to family and friends, read up on local, national and world happenings as well as garner business info and intelligence I never had access to before. Sure it's a bit of a time suck, but so is watching TV. It's not so bad, right?

Don't answer that.

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Thursday, October 21, 2010

When a parade turns into a road race

With my crazy schedule, it's a wonder I don't screw up more stuff. I pulled a good one last week, though.

On Friday evening, scrambling as usual, I made my way from downtown Saratoga Springs to Ballston Spa so my daughter could ride on a float with her Pop Warner cheerleading squad in the high school's homecoming parade. With the arrival time at the parade's starting point firmly cemented in my brain as 5:45 p.m., I left work at 5:25 (a.k.a. the last possible second) and called my husband to have him meet us at the parking lot by the football field where the parade would end.

We could pile into one vehicle and ride over to the other side of the village. He could just leave us his truck to take home when we got to that end. Bonus for him: I would take both kids (my son wanted to walk with me) so he could go home and get the woodstove going. Brilliant, right? Well, I thought so — until the my plan completely unraveled, that is.

Of course, I didn't get there until 5:45, and then we had to high-tail it to the staging area. My husband dropped us off about a block away, and the kids and I rounded the corner onto the main parade route and started jogging up the hill, only to realize something was definitely wrong.

"Look, there's already some candy on the ground!" (Clue No. 1.)

"Why is our meeting spot completely void of people?" (Clue No. 2.)

Did the parade get cancelled? I checked my BlackBerry — no texts or e-mails to that effect.

"Just call the coach," my son pleaded, as we stood on the sidewalk looking down the hill at the parade route, traffic flowing normally. When I reached her, I could hear the girls in the background doing a cheer. They were already on the backside of the route. The parade started at 5:45. We were supposed to meet at 5:15.

Daggers came out of my daughter's eyes as I relayed the information. "You ruined this for me!"

Instead of launching into a tirade of how ungrateful they are for all the insanity I endure to get them to everything they want to do, I just started running. I shot a look back at them, "Let's go then."

So we booked — all the way down the main drag of Ballston Spa, across Route 67 and up to McMaster Street. We ran the whole way, with the kids grabbing candy off the ground and shoving it in their pockets as we went. "That's one good thing about this, Mom," my daughter said. "We get to pick up the leftover candy!"

And I was one step closer to being forgiven. I also was relishing how awesome my kids are at adapting when faced with such a situation. No one was whining about the running, or being cold or hot or thirsty.

When we arrived at the end of the route for the parade, which we managed to miss in its absolute entirety, they both wanted to stay for the football game. So we strategically spent the 6 bucks I had in my pocket at the concession stand and found a seat with some of my daughter's cheer-pals.

We ended up staying until half-time. My son loved watching the high school football players, and my daughter had a ball doing cheers with her two friends who stayed to watch the game. (She was also super cool for having candy to share with her friends.)

So in the end, I believe all was forgiven. It's certainly not the last time I'll mess something up. My kids probably just need to get used to it — if they aren't already.

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Friday, October 15, 2010

Butternut squash

Most kids are all about pumpkins and costumes this time of year. They're everywhere (grocery stores, department stores, on TV, etc.). What's not to like about carving pumpkins and playing dress up when you're four? Unlike other four year olds though, on a recent Saturday morning trip to one of our family's favorite fall destinations, Saratoga Apple, my son fell hard for a butternut squash. Here's the back story:

We were enjoying our cider doughnuts on a crisp fall morning with coffee and warm cider when my son became mesmerized by two men working on a project near by. Turns out they were carefully wiping excess dirt off a crop of butternut squash. They'd lift them one-by-one from a crate, wipe them with a cloth and then place them in a fresh display crate. "Very interesting", my son said to us as he watched them. After 15 minutes, I asked him if he wanted to go over and ask the guys what they were doing. My son jumped up enthusiastically, took me by the hand, and pulled me toward the men and their squash. "Excuse me. What are you doing?". These two burly, flannel shirt wearing guys stopped their rhythmic routine to give my son their take on all things "butternut squash". He listened with careful intent and nodded periodically, never saying a word. We thanked them and then made our way out into the orchard for some apple picking.

We returned some thirty minutes later with a big bag of Crispin apples. "Come on over. I have something for you" one of the same guys yelled to my son. After receiving mom's nod of approval, he walked over and looked up as a butternut squash was ceremonially placed in his hands. I yelled "thank you" and my boy came running over to show us his squash. I've never seen anyone this excited about a squash and probably never will again.

As we drove home, I saw in the rear view mirror that he was cradling the squash carefully in his lap. When it was nap time an hour later, he asked if he could sleep with his butternut squash. I told him he could keep it on the bedside table. "So I can keep it close by, mom?". "Yes", I nodded.

While he slept my husband and I shared a laugh about our son's fascination with the squash. What we didn't anticipate though, was that this fascination would turn into a now two-week-long obsession! Although I knew he was listening closely to the fellas at Saratoga Apple, we've now come to understand what he learned. For one, they're "baked in the oven and covered with brown sugar and butter". "The guy says that's the best way to eat them, mom", he shared. Since my husband and I both agree with this cooking methodology, we tried to convince him to release the butternut squash from his grip long enough for us to "try out the recipe".


So it is. I suppose the only thing I can do now is police the squash to keep and eye out for rot. In the meantime, the butternut squash is just part of the family.

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Monday, October 11, 2010

Pizza and a movie night — the end of an era

It's official: my Friday nights are ruined.

Well, perhaps that's a tad bit dramatic, but a ritual I had carved into many a Friday evening is now a thing of the past.

You see, unlike many jobs, we don't look forward to Fridays here at the newspaper. Fridays mean a very long day of preparing for three days worth of papers. Everything for Saturday, Sunday and Monday papers have to be planned out so that those of us who (supposedly) work Monday through Friday can (hopefully) have the weekend off.

My husband knows the drill, and he's found a way to capitalize on it. It's become our Friday night thing: Mom stops on the way home for pizza. And often that includes picking up a movie for the fam on the way.

I'm usually heading out the office door with my husband harrassing me via phone that "we're all starving here," and "the pizza police already called here looking for you."

One of my favorite places to order from was Sonny and Jeff's in the Carousel Plaza on Route 50 in Ballston Spa. I'd pop in there, order my pizza, and then run next door to the Movie Store to browse for a family flick. By the time I'd found a movie and checked out, my order at Sonny and Jeff's would be ready, and off I'd go with all the ingredients for starting the weekend.

When a "for lease" sign suddenly appeared in the window of the the pizza place a couple months ago, I mourned the loss of that convenience. Of course, other nearby pizza places would do fine. I'd just have to plan a little differently.

Then -- doomsday for this old-school movie renter. This past weekend, my beloved Movie Store died the death every other movie rental place has in recent years. After learning the store planned to close, I checked to see how many "video bucks", each good for one movie for two nights, I had leftover. With six remaining — each worth $2— I thought perhaps I could negotiate transferring them into a couple of the DVDs they were selling to get rid of their inventory.

Driving home Friday night, the place looked busy. I had to pass by, though, as the pizza police were on my tail — my order getting cold on the other side of the village. I'll just go tomorrow, I thought.

Well, as it turned out, there was no tomorrow. I walked in Saturday afternoon, my $12worth of video bucks in hand, to COMPLETELY empty shelves. "We're out of business," one of the people inside told me. I feined being upset about the lost money, but truthfully, I had hoped in my heart of hearts this video store would make it. I wanted to cry.

But I guess it's time to move on. People tell me this Netflix thing is pretty cool. Or, perhaps it's time to try Chinese takeout and board games on Friday nights to shake up the routine.


Sunday, October 10, 2010

Witching hour

This past weekend I read an article in Parent's Magazine titled Remedies for the Witching hour: tips for preventing evening meltdowns. I knew right away that the author was talking about the kids (mostly), but somehow I wished there was advice on how to avoid meltdowns of the mom sort. If I were to compile the list it would look something like this:

1. Act like the baby you are. It was a rough day and you need some transition time between work and daycare pick up. So what's a mom to do? I say crank up the tunes in your car and sing like a banshee. Or on those really bad days, have a good cry on your way to pick up the kids. In other words, just force it out of your system. It's in everyone's best interest.

2. Bring back the 50's cocktail hour. How on earth did this ever go out of fashion? I just can't think of a good reason.

3. Give kids what they want -- TV & treats. Sometimes (not always, of course) just give in and enjoy the much needed peace and quiet that comes from the contented bliss of a kid on gummies and Olivia.

Don't you feel more relaxed already?

All kidding aside, the article is here and worth reading.

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Tuesday, October 5, 2010

It's just a little eye twitch, right?

You know stress has seriously begun affecting your body when a nagging eye twitch won't subside.

About three to four weeks ago, I noticed a strange pulsing or twitching in my left eye. Its onset seemed to coincide with an uptick in the demands in all areas of my life. While I always operate at a high stress level, once school started and the getting my son through fifth-grade homework (exhausting) was piled onto an already demanding work and fall sports schedule, there it was, a strange sensation like my eyeball was beating.

"It's lack of sleep, stress, and too much caffeine," a co-worker told me.

Hmm, I'll have to work on those areas.

Wait, what's this? My right eye also has now developed the twitch. I stared at myself in the mirror the other morning to verify that, indeed, the problem had spread. What had exacerbated the problem?

Just when I thought the pace couldn't get any more harried, last month my side-job as adviser for the Skidmore News student paper kicked in for the semester. Yes, it's basically a once-a-week commitment, but preparing for my meeting with them on Sunday nights takes a good chunk of my Sunday afternoons. Once we get home from church on Sundays, it's lunch time. Then I have just a couple of hours to try to catch up on laundry and clean the house before I need to settle into work mode.

It hit me this past Sunday — a beautiful fall day — when my husband had a great idea of taking the bicycles to Spa State Park for a ride. And I just couldn't go — so depressing.

All work and no play makes Mommy very cranky. Just ask everyone else in my family.

So I've come to the conclusion that something has to give. I keep thinking things will slow down — after this big project at work, or this sports season ends, or people in my house stop making dirty clothes. But at the risk of my face exploding, I probably can't wait any longer for something to change.

Stay tuned — it's time to prioritize.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Undercover Customers

During my recent trip to Atlanta, my sister and I noticed something. All in all we had a super time during our visit, but what we didn't have a lot of was superior - or even good - customer service. Sure the staff at the Ritz made the grade, in particular the valet who brought us each a bottle of water while we waiting for the shuttle (the Ritz version of shuttle means navy blue Mercedes). And the cab driver from India who not only drove us to his favorite Indian Restaurant in the city, but also walked us into the restaurant and asked the manager to "take good care of his friends". Both examples of stellar service.

A little side note: My sister has the unique ability to hone in on a designer item and score it for less. It's a gift. Whether a designer purse at T J Maxx, a killer pair of boots at Marshalls or a room at the Ritz, my sister means business. Each of us had stayed at the Ritz for business travel (she's at the Chicago Ritz now), but this was the first time we'd stayed at the Ritz without a corporate card backing us up.

Although the Ritz is well-known for attention to detail and expectional service, we're still laughing at the fact that although Guest Services changed out our non-functioning high tech alarm/iPod player, the defective one remained in our room for the entire visit. It quickly became useful as a door stop when we noticed that the bathroom door wouldn't stay closed OR open. Hard to explain, unless you were sharing a room with an alarm-clock-door-stop. But alarm clock aside, the folks at the Ritz were down right peachy.

I can't say the same about the day spa we visited. We remembered this particular day spa fondly from years prior because it was our favorite when we lived in Atlanta in the 90s. The reason it was our favorite had more to do with the little things like well-trained therapists, casual conversation, relaxing scents, and great products. It was just an overall pleasant experience. This particular visit, though, got off to a bumpy start. The staff seemed a tad detached and unfriendly and the atmosphere lacked the enchantment of days gone by. What was it exactly? I put it out of my mind while waiting for our therapists to emerge and escort us to the healing sanctuary we remembered. We were in serious need of some pampering, and I wasn't about to let a little annoyance get the best of me.

For the record, I personally have never met a facial I didn't like - and my facial was great. To be perfectly honest, I'm so starved for pampering of the spa-sort, that I could have just napped there and felt pretty darn good. But my sister was the birthday girl and I envisioned her emerging from her spa treatment an hour later announcing "That was the best facial E-V-E-R!"

When I came squinting back into the waiting room light an hour later, my sister had been finished with her (identical) service for ten minutes already. "Really?", I said. We both looked radiant, but I could tell something had turned her off so I asked. Her therapist seemed rushed, she said. In an effort to get outta dodge and move on to our next adventure, I stepped up to the counter to pay and very politely the manager if she could assist us in getting a cab. She turned to me and very unapologetically said "I really don't have time". "What?", I said, looking puzzled. "Sorry" she said with a shrug. Not even a phone book or the name of a cab company? What the heck happened to raving service, I thought.

Not about to ruin our afternoon, we headed out the door to hail a cab or get busy searching cab companies on our phones. Ten minutes in the blazing Georgia sun with freshly scrubbed faces and no sunscreen was - let's just say - not ideal. We spotted a cab who already had a fare, but who's car had a phone number on it. Within five minutes, the company had sent a car with a cheerful driver to shuttle us back to the hotel. Back in our room we laughed it off and got on with my sister's birthday celebration, but we found ourselves discussing the indifference we felt from the spa staff at dinner again that evening.

What happened in the last decade? In this case, we learned that the little company we loved went franchise on us. Not a bad thing, in theory. From a business standpoint, we get why the owners would pursue this path. So the business model changed, still no reason for lack-luster service. Right? Is good service just a thing of the past?

In our jobs, me as an advertising director with a staff of 13 serving nearly a thousand clients and my sister, a VP of product innovation working with some of the nation's largest corporations, we are customer-centric or customer-focused. In other words, we give a crap. We were brought up at a time and in a generation that was born and raised to care, I suppose.

The next time you even think about giving shoddy service sans a smile, remember this: there are undercover customers in your midst. One of them might even write about it.

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