Thursday, July 30, 2009

A Mompreneur Closes The Door On Business

I just filed papers for the dissolution of a business entity. Which means I'm closing down the business.

It was a very hard decision because I had invested so much blood, sweat and tears into the whole thing. Not just me. But, my family, too. I promised Hubby that it'll all be on me. No sweat off his back.

All I've got to say is that I couldn't keep that promise.

Don't let anyone tell you that starting a business is a piece of cake.

Just do it! the Nike commercial cheers!

Well, starting a business is thrilling.

No one starts a business envisioning it’s doors closing. No, in the eyes of the entrepreneur, the land appears ripe for opportunity, just waiting to be claimed. The market won’t even know what’s gonna hit them. Watch out, ‘cuz here I come!

Just two years ago, I was a doe-eyed new mommy, with a plan to generate income while being a stay-at-home mom. The work I did previously didn’t come in a part-time role. So, I figured with over a decade of experience successfully leading product teams at Fortune 500 companies to capture new markets, I had what it took to run my own business.

Finally, a chance to be my own boss and run things the way I wanted! A mompreneur. I liked the sound of that!

I settled on creating USA-made quality, designer shopping cart covers. I spent nine months doing the market research, creating a business plan, and developing the product before launching in the fall 2007.

Everything started off well. Customers loved the product. Soon, I saw myself placing my second and third production orders. I was ecstatic. I was even receiving unsolicited requests from boutiques to place orders.

It looked like my dream of enjoying motherhood with a flexible work-at-home schedule was coming true.

Then, the stock market crashed in the fall of 2008. And it was just awful.

Along with every other business in America who was stocked up for the upcoming holiday shopping frenzy, I was stuck with a ton of product. I thought back to what Jedi Master Yoda said to young Luke Skywalker about being afraid, “You will be. You will be.” And I was. Very.

The funny thing is that Just Peachy Baby did survive the economic winter. I slashed prices and put everything on clearance. Thankfully, I was able to clear inventory and got out of the mess relatively unscathed, compared to what could have been.

Something unexpected happened in that terrible time of stress and uncertainty, when the business was on the ER table.

I was hit with a moment of clarity around what was really important to me.

Is this business really my passion? Would I willing to go through another round of going into the red for this “child” of mine?

I was poised and positioned to take the business to the next level of retailing and creating new distribution channels. But, did I still have any fight left in me? Did I want to put another chunk of our family finances on the table during these difficult economic times?

The answer was no. Although there is something to be said about cutting your losses, my story did not end in the negative.

You see, I discovered what my true passion was through the back window of this online business. Jill Asher, co-founder of Silicon Valley Moms Blog, contacted me, after checking out my business blog, Just Peachy Baby Blog. I joined the SVMoms team of writers, and my lifelong passion for writing finally found an outlet.

I found that my passion for writing grew bigger and stronger than any work I had given myself to. I started out with a business blog, but it evolved into a space for me to express my parenting adventures. Now, my writing passion has launched a more personal blog about my spirituality, FaithBarista.

Blogging stayed with me through my seasons of motherhood and running a small business. I hit my true stride in writing.

I have always wanted to be a writer. But, due to family circumstances, I choose an engineering degree, the more practical choice for reliable income. At the time, writing was a luxury that was there for others, but not me.

This is no longer true. Thank goodness for mishaps in life. Sometimes, they bring us a gift unexpected.

When I started this business, I would've never guessed that one day I'd be closing it's doors, only to walk through another that would open up a hidden life passion.

One dream has ended. But, another dream has begun.

I am a blogger. I am a writer. I am alive.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

A Shout Out To Formula Feeding Mommies

Psst... I'm bottle feeding my second child. Yes, I'm letting it be known. Formula feeding has been in effect since week three of my baby's new life. And I am at peace with not breastfeeding.

There. I've said it. I formula feed with pride. This is a shout out for all the mommas who felt like I did initially. Guilty and in the closet.

You see, I breastfed my first baby 100% until he was self-weaned at seven months old. I was brainwashed with the mantra that if I wanted to mother responsibly, breastfeeding was at the top of the list, next to making sure I had a mobile hanging over his crib.

I was told I'd be giving the gift that keeps giving: high IQ, impeccable immunity, resistant to allergies, and the big zinger: bonding with my baby, which led to faster language acquisition and baby/child connection.

Well, I'm here to tell you that I was a case study in breastfeeding from hell. I had overactive letdown, which meant baby got sprayed, I had to feed practically upside down, at a backward incline to slow the flow. Add on top of that my baby had acid reflux, and that meant no acid inducing allergens: no gluten, no pasta, no pasta, no tomatoes, no broccoli, cauliflower, beans, peas, no seasoning except salt. I lost 25 lbs in six weeks!

The outcome? TJ still got hit with a bad virus that attackes the lungs at two months and inherited a bad case of eczema at four months. Not to mention a string of every other cold that winter (no, baby was not in day care).

So, when my second baby, CJ, came on the scene and I became a mom of two boys, the thought of ditching breastfeeding crossed my mind, like a secret escape hatch in a prison cell. I told myself, if this baby has acid reflux also, and I end up going crazy trying to breastfeed with a three year old pulling at me, breastfeeding has got to go.

I placed my sanity above breastmilk.

Of course, I was racked with guilt as I even considered feeding CJ formula.

But, it turned out my decision to stop breastfeeding was eventually made for me.

CJ did end up having acid reflux, just like his brother. Crying 24x7 for 5 days straight, CJ was writhing in pain from the breastmilk. I weaned myself from all the possible allergens, but baby was still throwing up from the acid coming back up his esophogus.

After hearing baby scream and cry out of pain one too many weeks, I hesitantly switched to formula. And guess what? The lactose free formula gave my baby hours of rest and pain-free sleeping.

And that meant everything to me.

It has taken me a couple months to accept that I am doing nothing but the best for my second baby, without breastfeeding. And now that CJ is four months old, happy, giggling, babbling, and super cute, without a sneeze (no colds at all!), I know that I did the right thing.

I am happy, feeding times were quick and easy, which made the transition to having two boys smoother. I've been able to read to TJ while bottle feeding CJ easily. And big brother loves helping with feeding times, too.

Encouragement also dropped by early on when I was guilt racked about considering formula feeding, but putting having this blog post cross my path from SVMoms: Is There A Case Against Breastfeeding?

It prepared me for all the questions and "helpful" advice and comments I was sure to receive as I was out and about bottle feeding my baby. The post mentioned a journalist case study in the a journalist's case study by Hana Rosin, in the Atlantic:

"The evidence on IQs is intriguing but not all that compelling, and at best suggests a small advantage, perhaps five points; an individual kid’s IQ score can vary that much from test to test or day to day."
Okay, 5 points less on his IQ. I can handle that. Heck, Hubby and I both grew up on formula in the 70's, and we didn't turn out too shabby (although Hubby still thinks I was dropped on my head as an infant).

Now, as you can see from today's posted picture, I am so comfortable with formula feeding, that I orderd a teapot of hot water just for that purpose. And bottle fed him on a lunch "date" with Hubby.

A pain-free baby and a happy mommy? Thai never tasted so good.

So, next time you see a mommy bottle feeding her baby, just smile and say, "What a beautiful baby." I promise you, it will make the noon day sun shine on that mommy's heart.

And to all the formula feeding mommies out there.. You are giving the best to your baby, whenever you make a choice for a happy family, a happy baby, and a happy mommy!

Are you a formula feeding mommy?

How do you feel when you see a mommy bottle feed her baby?

Friday, July 17, 2009

Fav Foods: NOT! Deep Fried Twinkies

Deep fried twinkles. Yes. Someone actually sells this atrocity. I caught sight of them at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk here in Northern California.

What's worse is that they're being sold is because people are actually buying and injesting these things.

This is just wrong, people!

Deep fried twinkies don't even qualify to be called food. I took a peak because I was curious what they looked like. Uh. They didn't even look tempting. At all.

Would you eat one of these? Or if you have, tell me, what was it like?

Don't get me wrong. I eat plenty of junk food when I'm out on vacation. But, this? No, thanks. I'll stick to my ice cream, popcorn, and candy apples.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Book Review: Freaky Friday, Except Dad Becomes Mom For A Year

Oh, I love a good "payback" movie. You know what I'm talkin' about. Sometimes, someone needs to learn a lesson the hard way. By the time only popcorn kernals are left and you're trying to avoid crunching your molar caps off, the unappreciative sinner changes into a repentant believer, never again look at life the same ever again. This is the conversion storyline in Michael Miller's What Happened To The Girl I Married, as the author steps into life as a stay-at-home mom for an entire year.

And boy, did I love the "payback". Every page I turned, I was shouting, "Honey! Come here! LISTEN TO THIS!" And I'd start following Hubby around the house, reading excerpts aloud to him.

Hubby rolled his eyes when I first picked up my review copy from the mailbox. "Oh, great. Is this book gonna make you mad at me?"

No. In fact, it wasn't the husband bashing book my Hubby feared. I was just making him sweat. I knew he'd like what I was gonna read to him because Miller voiced my husband's unspoken complaints.

Especially about the laundry.

"Just listen, Honey. You'll like it. The author feels the same way you feel about laundry."

"Okay." Hubby concedes, as he mixes CJ's evening bottle. Hubby is already a wonderful husband, starting his night job after coming home from his day job at the office.

Hubby actually doesn't deserve any bashing at all. But, um, laundry has been silent sore point for Hubby. Although he never has said anything, I can always read his brain waves about this.


"As a customer of the existing laundry process [Hubby starts laughing], I had a good idea where the problems lied.

My very logical theory was that by changing the sorting criteria, folding frequency and put-away methodology
, I could quickly streamline the process [Hubby cheers "YES!"] ...

Gone would be the giant pile of clean, wrinkled laundry that moved from room to room ["EXACTLY! Hubby pontificates.] ...

.. that means clean clothes folded into our dreawers when we need them -- without it taking days to complete ["THAT'S WHAT I SAY! Doesn't that make sense? Why is this so difficult?"] Hubby emerges from his shell!

.. I was confident it was achievable."
Ah, I got Hubby where I want him. Miller pins him down for me. And voila! In just a few paragraphs later, The pile wins. Miller learns through actually executing his methodology, albeit streamlined, inefficiencies eliminated just *does *not *work.

One of his own has 'fessed up. Hubby has conceded on the laundry because of this mini-book reading that early evening.

Unlike Miller, Hubby actually does not want to take a year off his wonderful day job to live my life as a stay-at-home mom in order to learn this lesson first hand. He is smart and is willing to take Miller's word for it.

Miller spends ten chapters writing out his confessional of his error-of-his-ways, as a spouse who was the sole breadwinner of the family. And they are spot on. My favorites were "It's Just an Inefficient Process -- Household Chores" and "So Where's the Applause? -- Recognition and Appreciation".

The great thing about this book is that my Hubby loved me reading it to him too. It wasn't Hubby Bashing material, and I wasn't mad at him after reading it.

In fact, we've had lots of laughter from it. Miller writes from a office guy's perspective, meaning full of Dilbertesque buzz words, from my prior corporate life. Since we're both from cubicle-land professionally, we appreciated a corporation's perspective on the stay-at-home job.

By the end of the read, I felt even more empowered about my life as a stay-at-home mom. It re-emphasized the monstrosity of the job. It lessens the the guilt I often inflict on myself when I take what little time off for my writing, my walks, my girlfriend outings, and spending money on regular date nights.

Being a stay-at-home mom is all consuming. And if you let it, it will completely burn you up, your marriage and your life. Hubby and I are committed to avoid that at all cost. This book helped us review where we were at as a couple, talk about areas in domestic life that bugged us, and re-commited ourselves to prioritizing my well being, as we raise our two boys, just three years apart.

How about you? What are the ways you unwind, to recover a part of yourself as a work-at-home or stay-at-home parent?

What's a job you wished Hubby/Wife appreciated better?


Full disclosure: I received a copy of Michael Miller's book, as a part of Silicon Valley Mom's Book Club July Selection.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Do You Speak Toddlerese? A Glimpse into the Milky Way

I remember the moment my baby became a toddler. It happened during the evening bath. I noticed, under the suds, his baby belly wasn't there anymore. Not too long after that, I got misty missing his adorable diaper waddle, as TJ strutted around in his new Elmo speckled underpants, freshly potty trained. Thankfully, I still have one last piece of the preschool wonder years: Toddlerese.

As a three year old, TJ is extremely articulate, able to conjugate past, present and future tense. But, TJ still has remnants of babyhood in his speech. He tells me when he's on a search for lost cars, "I'm looking for sumbing". Or when I ask him what he did at preschool, TJ answers, "I played with my flends."

Every time he says one of these words, my heart just melts and I want to tickle him to death. It's just so a-d-o-r-a-b-l-e.

Toddlerese is not only learned by figuring out the semantics of their speech, though. It's a state of mind, from which their words flow. Receiving a question from a toddler is like getting a glimpse into the milky way, one of the universe's wonders.

I'll forever remember this special conversation between TJ and me. After hearing me call my mother "mama" on a number of occasions, it dawns on his toddler mind that "Poa Poa" (Chinese for Grandma) is my mommy. His brain quickly computes another data point, and he further clarifies, "And Grandma is Daddy's mommy, right?"

"Yes. That's right," I answer.

A short silence. Then, a question reverberates from TJ Toddler Universe: "Mommy... why don't you and Daddy live with your mommies?"

I explain. "Well, when kids become grown ups, they get to live in their own house. They don't live with their daddies and mommies anymore. And if they find someone special, they get married and have their own kids and live with them."

I was happy to start inserting thoughts of independance into his little world. My scheme to launch him into the Grown-Up Universe at eighteen years of age was beginning it's early stages.

"WWWWAAAAAHHHH!!!!"

Wailing and tormented cries erumpt from the toddler universe. A total frowny face contorts my troubled son's countenance. His brow is furrowed with sorrow, and his voice trembles as I ask him, "What's wrong, sweetie?!"

"BUT, I DON'T WANT TO LEAVE HERE! I DON'T WANT TO LIVE WITH ANYONE ELSE! I WANT TO LIVE WITH YOU & DADDY F-O-R-E-V-E-R!!!!"

Big, fat crococodile tears make their treks down the sweetest of angel faces. Underneath my tough talking pirate, car crashing speed devil, my baby still lived and thrived.

I drop down to the ground, scoop his long, gangly legs, once chubby and stubby, onto my lap. Rocking him, I offered words of reassurance, "It's okay, it's okay. Don't you worry about anything like that. You'll be living here for a long, long time.."

As his sobs calmed to whimpers, TJ shouts, like a gold miner hitting pay dirt."I KNOW! I KNOW! I KNOW!"

"What?!"

"I know how I can stay here forever... I will marry YOU! Then, I'll never leave here!"

A big happy smile lights up TJ's eyes again. A crisis averted, he wipes the tears from his face and I get a tissue to blow his nose.

I wanted to remain his one true love forever, but I know I wouldn't be keepin' it real. So, I gently reassure him, "Well, I don't think anyone marries their mommy. But, don't you worry, we'll figure something out, okay?! .. C'mon. I think we might have some ice cream around here. You wanna ice cream cone, sweetie?"

"Yeah," TJ pauses a bit. Hoping he'll just forget about the whole growing up thing for now, I rise up with his hand in mine, as I lead him to the fridge.

"Yeah, Mommy... I think ice cream will make me feel better... I love you."

I love you, too, TJ.

All is good in Toddler Universe once more.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Fave Foods: Did You Know Kiwifruit is a SuperFood? I Didn't

Knowledge, they say, is power. In this case, it's SuperFood power. Just a week ago, I thought of kiwi as has-been fad fruit. You know. Every once in a while, a fruit hits celebrity status. It grabs all the "Did you know -this fruit- can cure cancer?" headlines among the chit chat circuit, and listeners chime in with "Oh, really?" choruses. Kiwifruit used to enjoy such attention, but it fell to the wayside as summer fruits like peaches, cheeries, and plums grabbed the spotlight on my weekly farmer market treks.

Well, last week, after New Zealand's Kiwi company, Zespri, sponsored a VIP luncheon at Calafia Cafe in Palo Alto, I found out kiwifruit is a SuperFood. And it's now my personal superstar favorite. As in over-the-moon-can't-wait-to-eat-it-again favorite.

Does that ever happen to you? You just get ga-ga over a certain fruit and the thought of eating it makes you swoon? I love it when that happens!

Three things about kiwi cast it's fruit obsession spell on me:

1st Importance. It's super healthy: one serving can knock out three nutrients with one kiwi.

By eating one kiwi, I get a day's worth of vitamin C, potassium (1/2 a banana), and 2 grams of fiber. And if you happen to find a gold kiwi (sold at Asian markets) rather than a green one (just check out the label, it'll say), you'll get double the dosage.

How that translates to me? I can break out of my daily routine: skip oatmeal for that day and still get my fiber (yeah!), pass on the banana, and get the same nutrients in a kiwi instead! All in just 45 calories, which is awesome, since I'm trying to lose my pregnancy baby fat.

2nd Importance. It's super easy to eat: I used to feel that eating kiwi was like eating a mango. This meant it was good fruit for my pre-mom era, but not a practical luxury with a newborn and toddler. One is yelping for milk while the other is hollering at me to watch him stand on one foot.

What changed all that is the spife. A spife is a spoon and knife combined. I can eat a kiwi by cutting it in half and scooping it out like ice cream (my other not-so-diet-friendly obsession).

Karen Brux, Zepsri's US Market Manager, passed out the spoon-on-one-end, knife-on-the-other spife to us, along with some kiwis to try out. Chef Charlie, owner of the classy eatery, demo'd it for us in a flash (Amaaazing food, btw. Must go again. Charlie Ayers was the chef that fed Google as it's Executive Chef).

I couldn't wait to try out the spife myself. After all, like Hubby says, "It's all about the tools."

For once, I totally agree. We went to the beach that weekend and actually ate our kiwis (three year old TJ included!) in the open air. Can you imagine eating anything with sand everywhere mess free?!! We were all kiwifruit converts!

3rd Importance. It's deliciously beautiful and sweet to eat. Hey, you won't find this girl crunching on bran or dry oats with a smile. I just can't sustain eating boring but healthy foods indefinitely.

But, now that I've found kiwi, it's on my list of Healthy Foods That Make Me Happy!

So, if you haven't given kiwi a chance to be your fave food, check out the Zesprikiwi.com website, get a spife (I bought some kiwis in at Safeway this week and it was packaged with one), and make sure it has the Zespri label on it. Then, you'll know it's actually from New Zealand and not from Chile or someplace else.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Going Down Memory Lane of Divorce

Not to alarm anyone. It's not my divorce. Sadly, a divorce I saw first hand, up close. I grew up avoiding the topic altogether, even though anyone and everyone would always ask me the same questions, "Have you seen your father? Do you miss not having a dad?"

No. And No. (This was my answer growing up. Now, I do miss having a dad, after seeing my Hubby as a loving father. I never knew what I missed out on, until it came back to me in such a beautiful way.) I never saw him after a few visits on the weekend after the split. My parents had a blow up and it was bad enough that I never laid eyes on my Dad since.

I've never allowed myself to think too much about the impact of not having a Dad. Life was too busy and I've always thought, What's the use in looking back? I couldn't wait to grow up and just get on with my life and pursue my own dreams.

But, now that I'm a mom, it's funny. Painful childhood memories keep cropping up now and then. Flashbacks to scenes in my life I thought were already over. Outtakes that have been locked away in the vault of a past life I'd lived.

I've never watched Jon & Kate plus Eight. 'Cuz c'mon. I have enough kiddie drama in my real life. I don't need reality TV to dish out anymore toddler potty training episodes filling up my free time.

But, news of their arrival in Splitville a week ago sent me back to my trial by fire as a child of divorce: the moment I was launched from an intact family, to one that crumbled into a broken up one.

I wrote a post on SVMoms about it. You can read it here: Jon & Kate's Divorce: Not Just Another Tabloid Story.

Yeah, I know there's a lot of different takes on divorce is good, divorce is bad, blah, blah, blah. But to a kid, that moment of reckoning is never easy to swallow. And that's reality.

So, I hug my TJ and CJ tightly and cover them with kisses and tickles until they scream for mercy. That's my therapy, and oh, it's a good life. I'm back in the now.