Amaro e Dolce

Life, unfiltered


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On raising girls

Yesterday our friend was over with his 7 year old daughter, and as they were leaving, she made a funny (not as in “ha ha”) about being afraid of being a tom boy. My gut response was, “what’s wrong with being a tom boy?” (She didn’t answer).

Her dad immediately jumped into the conversation and told her that it’s good to practice sports now because it’s good for her. And that lots of girls end up going to the gym when they are in their 20s and it’s totally normal.

Our friend is an amazing dad. His daughter is bright and funny and active. She’s spunky and personable. He supports her 100% in her passions – which include dance, skateboarding and cats. It’s clear that he eschews the gender stereotypes of what girls “should” do.

And that got me thinking about raising my own girls.

It’s not uncommon for me to have to explain that my daughters are girls in the supermarket, and I’ve had to defend my choice to not pierce their ears, or dress them in pink every single day. I mean, I like pink but there are other colors on the spectrum that are also awesome.

When a friend gave my daughters a red toy car, someone asked if I was going to exchange it for a “girls toy”. Ummm, no. Why would I make that sort of effort? (Side note, they love that car and it’s good for them, developmentally.)

When I grew up, I had dolls. But my favorite toys were legos and brio and lincoln logs. They weren’t “girls colors” and we all played with them – including my brother. That’s when we were playing inside. Most days we were running around outside with our friends. Whether on bikes or running through the woods around our houses. We got dirty, we scraped our knees and that was ok. My brother, sister and I all played sports – whether we liked it or not. Sure, I took ballet and gymnastics, but not for more than a few months.

My dad also took us outside to play basketball, baseball and soccer. As a family we went hiking and biking very frequently. I doubt it ever crossed my parents’ mind that they should hold my sister and I back from any of these things, just because we were girls.

Now as an adult, I’ve sat in meetings where I’m the only woman and held my own. I’ve spoken in front of large groups of people – including executives and held my own. I’ll never forget one of my colleagues walked past a meeting room and stared – only to ask how it felt to be in a room “with all those men.” My reply, “I didn’t even think about it.”

Yes, I have definitely experienced more than my fair share of gender inequality and it sucks. It happens more often than not, and it’s infuriating. But as I’ve really started analyzing my experiences with this, I’ve realized that I never assume that I’m going to be relegated to a corner because of my gender – not until it actually happens.

So why is this? As I listen to the advice I’m given on how to raise my daughters, I realize this may be part of the problem. When we continue to push a social construct that says that it’s not appropriate for girls to play with the same toys, or play the same sports, or listen to the same music, we ingrain the belief that girls should live by more restrictions because they are inferior, or weaker. That girls should be pretty and soft. That you can’t be both feminine and strong. Well, I disagree.

If my girls love princesses and dresses and frilly things, cool. If they love being outside and sports, awesome. If they love art and drawing or math and science, or maybe all of these things or just some of these things – then I’m all for it.

I want my girls to grow up and be excited for all the adventure that the world has to offer. And if that ruffles feathers, that’s ok.


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Freelancing – what keeps me up at night

I started freelancing about 6 months ago. As I delve more into the world of self-employment and working with different clients, I find that the things I focus on are slowly starting to change.

Oddly enough, money is not one of these things. Some months I don’t net any profit and others I do. I don’t worry about this because I know it takes awhile to be consistently profitable and I know that, to some degree, the amount of work that I take on will vary based on my client’s needs.

Instead, I find myself dwelling on other, less concrete concerns. Addressing these things directly tends to help me relieve my anxiety, and the more I talk to other freelancers, the more I learn that these are common things to worry about.

So what kind of worries are keeping me up at night? Here are the main ones:

  • Am I picking up the right kind of work and the right kind of clients?
  • Are my clients satisfied?
    • If not, what should I do about it?
    • If so, can I do more? Should I do more?
  • Am I satisfied with my current clients?
    • If not, what can I do to improve this situation?
  • Am I picking up the right amount of work? Have I bitten off more than I can chew?
  • As I work to take care of everyone and everything else, am I taking care of myself?
  • Am I keeping a firm line between personal and professional brain space?

As I look at this list and talk to others, I think there’s so much value in talking through how we overcome these worries. So over the next few months I plan to talk a bit more about how I manage these things in a segment called “Working Wednesdays.”


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My food philosphy

Yesterday I cooked up a storm for the babies, and as my husband popped a BBQ turkey meatloaf-style meatball in his mouth, he asked what we would serve it with. I explained I would break it up and serve it with veggies. His response, “this is for the babies? I thought this was for us.”

My baby food philosophy

You see, I know that I was a picky eater when I was a kid. My husband is still a picky eater. I realize you can’t escape this, but my philosophy is that the more I introduce now the more we broaden our daughters’ palates – both in terms of flavors and texture. So they now are happily eating fish, meat, chicken, pork along with rice, pasta, risotto, quinoa and barley. They love veggies and fruits – we are lucky here.

Store-bought vs. home-made baby food

Many people don’t enjoy cooking, or they are too exhausted at the end of the day to fire up the stove. Since I work from home, I take advantage of down time to food prep and cook. I prefer the cook food for all of us because it’s more affordable in the long run, I know what goes in to the food and I enjoy cooking. This last point is important. If you don’t like cooking or you are intimidated by trying, making your own baby food is probably not a good idea.

When I make food for the girls, I divvy up my recipes in to things that I am exclusively serving them and things that the whole family can eat. As they grow older, I am moving away from exclusive food for them and towards family meals. When I look back, I don’t remember my mother ever making individual meals for us on the daily. And as much as I enjoy cooking, this is our home and not a restaurant. I don’t want to build an expectation that we have menus available.

Finger foods & babies feeding themselves

Z & E are becoming increasingly more independent. Crawling, walking and wanting to feed themselves. They are all about their sippy cups (and tossing them to the floor 752,000,000 times in one meal). This independence is fun, but also frustrating.

You see, I believe that they should have the autonomy to feed themselves, but at the same time I don’t want them to associate their meals with play. Perhaps it’s my European upbringing, but I believe that food should be respected and not played with. What I’ve started doing is prepping food that they can eat on their own, and we alternate hand feeding with spoon feeding. For example, today’s breakfast included scrambled eggs, waffles and ricotta mixed with homemade strawberry jam. So I put a piece of small waffle on their tray for them to pick up and eat. Once they were done, I spoon-fed the eggs. Then we finished with the ricotta/jam mix. This makes meal time cleaner and easier for all of us.

breakfast for babies

Z & E’s (and my) breakfast this morning

On toys at the table (or high chair)

When we first started feeding in the highchair, we put toys on the girls’ trays. Perhaps this is surprising, given my above statements about meal time and play, but hear me out. With our girls, we quickly realized that training them to sit in a high chair was actually more challenging than introducing them to foods. They don’t like feeling confined and they are naturally squirmy. So as we were feeding them, we needed a distraction so that they would get used to swallowing their food without being in our laps.

As they got used to the high chairs, we started taking the toys away. We did this slowly – experimenting with removing the toys towards the end of their meal, then halfway, then after the first few bites. Now we don’t use toys during meal times (this will probably change when they are toddlers, but whatever), but we talk (and sing on fussy days) throughout feedings. The theory here is that we get used to sitting and talking as a family over meals, instead of individually focusing on toys, phones, etc.

I realize that I probably sound old-school in my parenting philosophy when it comes to food, and that’s fine. I believe that one of the most important times you have with your family is around the table and it’s important to me to start now with enforcing these eating habits with my girls. I remember always sitting down as a family to dinner (whether we wanted to or not.) Now that I look back, I remember sitting with my family, chatting over dinner and I believe this was one of the things that makes my family so tight-knit.


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Four of my travel must-haves

It’s no secret that I’ve got a bad case of wanderlust. Over the past decade, I’ve perfected the art of “pick up and go” and I’m quite proud of the fact that I can go overseas for a week and still only take carry-on luggage.  But there are a few things I take with me on every overnight trip:

  1. My Kindle. I read quickly so this has become a major space saver. Even though I don’t read as much as I used to (because twins) I still like to sneak an hour or so in each day.
  2. Face masks. I picked up on this during business travel to Denver. The plane ride plus the altitude killed my skin, so I picked up a couple of sheet masks at Target. And then I became hooked. They take up barely any space, and there’s something relaxing about kicking back with a face mask at the end of the day. Especially now that I’m usually back in our hotel or AirBnB by 8 pm because of the girls.
  3. Socks. I have a serious disgust for gross floors, and now that my girls crawl everywhere, it’s eye-opening how dirty hotel floors are. Unless they are vacuuming and steam-cleaning with a high degree of frequency, those floors are a cesspool of germs. gross.
  4. Snacks. Especially for long road trips or plane rides. Plus there’s something cool about getting local nibbles for the trip back home. My go-tos are coconut water, fruit, energy bites and some form of candy (usually the kind I would beg my parents for on our road trips).

What are your must-haves for being on the road? Do tell!


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That freelance life

I’m 10 months into this whole parent adventure and five months into the remote/contract/freelance world. To say that it’s an adjustment is putting it lightly. I knew that there’s some grit that goes into working for yourself, but what a rollercoaster!

Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t trade it for the world and I feel that this is definitely my path right now, but the learning curve is real, people. Now that I’m getting into my groove with this, I thought I’d take a moment to talk about my experience thus far.

The struggle’s with working from home with kids

I am pretty disciplined and routine-oriented. However Z & E haven’t clung to a routine until recently, so the whole “work/nap/cook/live your life while they nap” concept has been non-existent.

I also have a sitter, because anyone who says you can work with two babies at home is either a liar or a superhuman. But occasionally I get a meeting scheduled when I don’t have my sitter and the girls are awake. Which results in conference calls with babies peeking over my shoulder, screaming hysterically and/or trying to attack the phone or computer.

Professional Self-care

Part of the reason I started my freelance career now (versus a few years from now) is because I wanted to keep my brain active in my industry. But at times I’ve felt that I’ve picked up more than I can chew, so I found myself sacrificing my time for myself (what little I have) to finish work.

Once I came to this realization, I’ve adopted the attitude that I need to treat myself like my best client. If I let myself go then it trickles down into my family and my work and that’s a spiral that’s best avoided.

My goal is to focus on building my own brand a little bit at a time. This way, as I inch closer to freelancing full-time, I have a name built for myself outside of my former professional contacts.

The thrills of freelancing

One of the reasons I left my last job was lack of inspiration. I loved the people I worked for but my career path was not one I wanted to continue. I knew I wanted to eventually work for myself so I saved up along the way so that I could give this whole freelance thing a go.

While it sometimes gets overwhelming, there’s something so satisfying about working on projects and campaigns that I’m passionate about. I also contend that there’s nothing more exciting than working for clients who are passionate about their business and excited to make their business grow. Call me a nerd, but I love leaving strategy meetings with the feeling of excitement.

Being accountable for your own success

I’ve been managing clients, campaigns and projects for years now. But I’ve never managed my own business. Because we’d planned for this, I’m fortunate that I can be choosy when it comes to who I work for and what I work on. Long story short, I am only working on projects that are exciting – either in terms of the business or how it gets marketed, clients that are passionate about their business and view me as a team member.

But it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. Even in my short time, I already recognize that not every project is the right project. Part of being accountable for my own success involves stepping back and away from a project for the good of myself and/or for the client. It’s not easy, but these conversations need to happen for the best of the relationship.

For those other WFH momtrepreneurs, how have you found your experience?


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Working from home

Before I deleted facebook, I had a few different people ask me for recommendations regarding working from home. You see, even without kids around, working from home is a bit more challenging than it sounds.

If you’ve ever tried it, you know what I’m talking about. The temptations abound. “I’ve got to send this email, but first let me do the dishes…” three hours later you realize, “oh shit! I forgot about…”

Many people will tell you how great working from home is, but once you dive deeper, they admit that the lines between personal space and work space start to blur after awhile.  Knowing this, and having taken the opportunity to work from home whilst working for “the man” at previous jobs, this is what I found worked for me:

Establish a work space. Currently I work from my kitchen, but until I could focus, I worked from our office area. Both my husband and I found that putting the desk against a wall with minimal decor has been helpful because it provides enough visual interest without visual distraction. I recommend finding a place in your home that also has the right amount of (or absence of) noise. I can’t work in dead silence or extremely loud spaces. I eventually moved in to my kitchen space because I get the noise from our AC unit, which is just the right amount of even, quiet noise.

Establish a schedule. Since I only work part-time, I set reminders in my phone to do things like check in on projects at a certain time every day. This way I know generally when I need to feed myself and the kiddos. It’s also forced  me into a routine with the girls, which is always a good thing. I also have a general schedule for when I do stuff around the house vs. work.

Make a list. I keep physical lists of things I need to do for work, home and myself. I keep these lists right next to my computer because this is how I’ve always worked and it works for me. Other people integrate their lists on their phones or computers. I happen to like the satisfaction of crossing things off. It helps me understand how much I have left to do in a week, and how much I’ve accomplished.

Establish a break area. This is something I always advocate for – no matter where you work or how much you work. El Hombre has put a lot of love into our patios, and when I need to take a minute or two for myself, I hop outside for a deep breath of fresh air and sunshine. Even if I’m not working that day and the girls are fussy, I find myself taking a break outside. It’s never a bad thing to refresh your mind sometimes.

Set boundaries. If you work from home, your lines tend to blur between work life and personal life. Unlike an office, you never really leave so you find yourself checking emails, etc. at all hours. Make a commitment to get your work done within a given period of time and then “clock out.”


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Minimalism

When we got pregnant, we quickly realized that we needed to divest ourselves of a bunch of stuff. You see, with no plans to move, we had to convert El Hombre’s office/man cave/storage to a nursery. I vividly recall the satisfaction of a cleaner living space, so as the year progresses, I’ve vowed to slowly reduce the amount of things I own.

I’ve discovered that I tend to hang on to clothes and makeup so that was the first thing I groomed. Out goes old exercise clothes, freebie shirts and general things I haven’t worn. In stays well-made, classic pieces.

Next month I’ll go through accessories and shoes. With less stuff junking up my space, the easier it is to put outfits together!