Amaro e Dolce

Life, unfiltered


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Friday faves

It’s been a busy week and Friday got here before a blink of an eye. Between work, life and motherhood, I’ve had lots on my mind and I’ve been feeling a little sluggish and a lot of wanderlust. It’s a strange combo, to say the least.  As I reflect on this week, there are certain bright moments that make me smile, so I thought I’d share a few with you.

Mothers Day flowers

El Hombre brought me beautiful flowers for Mothers Day, and every day they get bigger and brighter. When this lily opened it, it changed the whole dynamic.

Cuban Coffee

Coffee is life these days. There’s rarely anything fancy about Cuban Coffee – it’s cheap, comes in a small styrofoam cup and it’s strong. We have several beautiful coffee shops here in Miami, but they don’t replace walking up to a cafesito corner.

mia nonna

My aunt found several old pictures of my grandmother when she was young, back in Italy. She posted them for Mothers’ Day. My grandmother was a beautiful, dynamic, passionate and admittedly complicated. The timing here was interesting because El Hombre and I got our ancestry DNA results back this week, and I’ve been fascinated by them. Side note, I now know what a haplogroup is.

The Standard Miami Beach

Yesterday we left the girls with the sitter and rode out to South Beach. We started out on Lincoln Road, where we grabbed wine and appetizers while we waiting on our friends to check into their hotel. As we started to walk to their hotel, it started to rain. So we nixed the walk and hopped into an Uber instead.

It’s been years since we’ve visited the Standard, but it remains one of my favorite hotels on the beach. I snapped this picture as we were ducked under an umbrella, walking through the gardens to the bar (hence the blur). There’s nothing like sitting under cover, staring at the bay as water pours down while sipping drinks with friends.


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Working Wednesday – Client work

Clients. As freelancers, we need them. Some clients are great – they invigorate you. You leave meetings totally jazzed about upcoming work and challenges are exciting. I left a meeting with a client yesterday on top of the world. There’s a ton of work to do and it’s all stuff I love to do. When I got home, I immediately filled in El Hombre on what’s in the pipeline.

Other clients, well… Let’s just say that not all client relationships are a match made in heaven. There’s nothing worse than feeling like your client isn’t engaged – especially when you feel like there’s tons of potential. But like personal relationships, there’s not always a spark.

A few weeks ago, I talked about my clients being one of the things that keep me up at night. Specifically, whether I am happy with my clients and whether they are happy with me.  As someone who’s worked in the client world for almost a decade, you come to trust your instincts on these things, but sometimes you can’t help but wonder.

These are my top three warning signs that signal when clients may not be happy:

  • Are my clients less responsive than usual? If they are less responsive and they aren’t traveling or up against a deadline, this is usually a sign that they might be shopping around.
  • Are my clients enthusiastic about new ideas or do they propose new projects?
  • Is conversation stilted or awkward? Has familiarity been lost in email conversations?

So what do you do when clients aren’t happy?

  • Schedule an in-person meeting or go to coffee. I work remotely for the majority of the time, but there’s nothing like face time. It’s my number one way to reconnect – we tend to hide behind computers and phones, and so much gets lost in translation.
  • Provide extra data or analytics, if possible.
  • Let it go. Sometimes the best thing to do is part ways. If this is the case, I always recommend providing a wind-down period. Sometimes there’s changes in budgets or priorities with the client. By bowing out gracefully, you leave the door open for future work.


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Mama MonDaze – Getting out of the rut

Last week I fell into a major rut. We have two teething babies, which means lots of crying and not a lot of sleep. It’s crazy to think about how lack of sleep deprives you of so much.  It’s no exaggeration to say I probably got a combined total of 3 hours of sleep across 4-5 days.

I now understand the term, mombie (mom + zombie). I lost a week of work because there wasn’t enough coffee in the world to replace those precious hours of sleep. Both el hombre and I were irritable and anxious. I felt myself trailing off in the middle of sentences and having to read things over and over.

So what do you do when your kids can’t sleep and it impacts your life?

When El Hombre and I started snapping at each other in the middle of the week, I knew I had to do something. So I packed up the girls and took them to the park. We walked around outside for 30-40 minutes in the stroller, then went on the swings and the playground. On the way back I stopped at my favorite local running store and bought much-needed new running shoes for El Hombre and me.

Getting out is critical to staying healthy with babies.

Because we are firing up our own business ventures, El Hombre and I are home together much more than we used to. This means that our personal time to ourselves is nil. Combine that with TWO screaming babies all day and all night and you can see how this can be negative.

I know that when I don’t get my blood flowing, my anxiety goes through the roof. So taking the time to walk in the stroller outside was almost magical. Even though the girls were awake, they were calm and excited because they got a change of pace. I got time to think (I find that I get my best ideas when outside on a brisk walk) and El Hombre got a few hours of time to focus on his projects.

Getting the blood flowing is good for mama and papa. And what’s good for mama and papa is good for babies.

The next day our sitter came, and instead of focusing on cramming out work (which would have been crap work), El Hombre asked if I wanted to go to the gym with him. So we left the girls and went to work out. That hour break, what can I say? We don’t work out together so we had our own quiet, exercise time. Absorbed in music, sweating out the stress and coming back to center. At least for me.

Accept that productivity comes in different forms.

Sometimes you just have to accept that you can’t do it all. And last week I accepted that. If the girls are having a rough week, just getting through it while being supportive and caring is better than forcing things.

Baby Tylenol is good.

Getting out and about definitely helped the girls during the day, but the screaming all night was not getting better. They were miserable. And when they were crying real tears half the night, I realized the issue was probably teeth cracking through. So I gave them a bit of Tylenol. Game changer. I was so tired that I didn’t even think of it at first. Especially since I don’t like to use medicine on the girls as an immediate first reaction. But sometimes you need it. And now that more teeth have cracked through, the girls are feeling better. Being in pain plus being sleep deprived is misery for me, so it’s got to be worse for them because they can’t express themselves the way we can.

Sometimes you need a change of pace.

Once we started getting a bit more sleep, we started feeling better as a family. And on Thursday, El Hombre casually suggested getting lunch in the keys the next day. We woke up to rain and my stomach sort of sank, and I think El Hombre saw that. So he pushed me to check the weather and when I saw the storm heading north, it was on.

By the time we got to Islamorada, the girls were up from their naps and ready to get out of the car. We stopped at one of our favorite little beaches where we walked through the boardwalk and brush to scout the perfect beach location. The girls gleefully crawled through the shallow surf, played with sand and hung out on the little beach while we listened to El Hombre’s 70s spotify playlist. By the time we were ready to go, they knocked out for a good nap. After all, what’s better than a good nap after a beach day?

My overall thoughts on challenging weeks with twin babies.

This past week I learned that there are going to be rough weeks. This was definitely not our first rough week, but after a few months of progressively better sleep, this sleep regression plus the crankiness of teething and growth spurts hit us much harder than I expected.

As I felt the struggle of anxiety and failure creep up, I had to sit back and be realistic about my priorities and what I am capable of. To stay balanced I need to sometimes sway away from one priority (work) to keep another priority going (family life.) To do that, sometimes I have to set aside one of the balls I juggle through the week and pick it up when I’m ready to. And that’s ok because that’s life.

 


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Working Wednesdays: Picking the right client (or job)

We’ve all been there or some form or another – after sitting down with someone to talk about potential work, the offer comes through. But is it the right offer? Should I take it?

In some cases you jive with your potential client (or boss) and there’s no hesitation.

But in many cases, there is that pause. Maybe it’s because the offer isn’t enticing enough – but often it’s because some nagging voice in the back of your head is whispering that it’s not the right fit. I’ve made that mistake – both in my freelance career and the corporate world – enough times to know that I should follow my instincts and decline the opportunity.

As you find your footing in a new venture, like freelancing, it’s tempting to take any work that comes your way. But there’s a danger in this – you might pick up something that becomes toxic, you may burn through a lot of time on projects that can’t be used in a portfolio, or you may end up generally unhappy with the work you agreed to.

So how do you avoid picking up the wrong clients or taking the wrong job offer?

These are the questions that I ask myself, and if the answers to any of these questions are no, then I decline:

  • Is this the right type of working environment for me? I know myself well enough to know that I like a fast-paced, start-up environment where I wear many hats. But if the organization isn’t operationally sound, I don’t do well.
  • Does my work philosophy align with the company’s?
  • Are there open communications across teams and with the person I report to?
  • Do I like the type of work that’s being offered?
  • Will this help me grow professionally and/or add to my portfolio?
  • Do I think the compensation is fair for the type of work I’d be doing?
  • Can I work remotely? If I have to be in an office for part of the time, can I handle the commute?

Because my husband and I are both building up our businesses as contractors/freelancers, we both occasionally get tempted by positions that have good pay. When either of us feels like there’s hesitation, we refocus on looking at both short-term and long-term goals to prevent ourselves from making that emotional decision.


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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.