This week has been killer. I just started a new role (which I am incredibly excited about, and will describe a bit more later) and in this transition period ended up working very, very long days (I had 22 calls this week, many spread across a 10 hour day, and then additional work after all the kids were finally in bed) while still juggling 3 kids all day long. It’s been exhausting. I need to talk a little bit about the exhaustion I feel.

I find my work energizing. I get a lot of satisfaction from working hard, finding solutions, and talking to the clever, thoughtful people I get to work with. Working while dealing with Grant, however, is probably one of the most draining things I’ve ever had to do. I can do it, and I can continue to do it (which is great, because I don’t see any alternatives), but the deep knacker that lies like a weighted blanket on me all day every day is hard. The constant context switching between thinking about a work problem to solving a Grant problem is relentless. I literally had to stop between “context” and “switching” in the above sentence to answer him. 20 minutes ago, he was cleaning out my ears (for giggles, not because I wanted him to) while I was working through my to-do list.

I love Grant (and the other two as well), but giving him part of my attention is not sustainable in his opinion. The twins are 8.5, and are happy to find things to keep themselves busy, and they also like getting focused attention when I’m not working. Grant prefers focused attention all the time. I don’t blame him. He’s nearly four, and this is his childhood.

I think some of my frustration is that this wasn’t supposed to happen. Like every privileged person, my problems are small potatoes when you think in a global context. In fact, I couldn’t feel more ridiculous. That self-assigned shame is also part of the problem. I’m grateful that I can work from home, and that I’m good at it and my company is excellent at it, and I could sob with relief that everyone I work with is patient beyond words with Grant being on my calls. But I wish he wasn’t. I wish he was somewhere learning how to write his name and singing songs with other 4 year olds, spending time with kids his own age, and learning how to function in a society without me. Even as I type this, he’s leaning on me trying to get me to read my Echelon manual to him.

But since this is reality, I’m finding new ways to work. I do a lot of work at night and after my husband gets home (in the afternoon). Since I have calls routinely with people in APAC and EMEA, I end up having calls during my morning, too, which is where things get a little hard to juggle. With the new role I have, I will be able to work mostly at times optimized for Grantlessness. There will still be calls at non-optimal times, but not as many. A sad side effect is that he is learning to be ignored. Which is good for him, to be clear. A bored kid is a creative kid. But Grant’s creativity still takes the form of destruction and generalized mayhem. When Grant is quiet, things are going to hell. But I have mixed feelings about him learning to not need me. Which I know is directly counter to everything I have just said! This is a confusing time.

My rank exhaustion is also emotional as well as mental and physical. I switched into a new role, as the lead of Happiness Experience at Automattic, where I will oversee Happiness Hiring (an existing team that has been doing an amazing job for years), and begin to put centralized effort to improving the Happiness Experience. It’s bringing together two separate spheres of effort into one team, where we can coordinate to make the Happiness experience consistent from trial through the entire HE career, and flesh out leadership opportunities and individual contributor opportunities, so that growth and development within Happiness is robust and fruitful. Some of this is an extension of work I’ve been doing already in my Lead of Leads role, so I can’t wait to dig in deeper. A big change always has some kind of toll to pay eventually, including self-doubt and impostor syndrome. It’s very exciting that I don’t necessarily know precisely what my work will look like in 6 months. But that uncertainty also carries with it a weight. At the top of my mind is making the Happiness experience world class, and working with many people throughout Happiness proper to make that happen is essential. Knowing how much coordination this will take, as well as understanding that it is impossible to produce immediate results for everyone, can be a little daunting. But I still am resolved and eager. A new challenge, counter-intuitively, couldn’t have come at a better time. I have something to focus on that dwarfs my little problems with homelife coordination. For today, I’m going to turn off my computer for the night early, and save the rest of my to-dos for another day.

Grant says hi.


I’ve got a pretty good crew. Today they let me sleep in, and while I slept, they cleaned the whole house and made me breakfast. And coffee! I played the Game of Life with Eleanor and played with all the kids outside. Everyone hugged me a lot and I got a hanging basket and home made cards. Is there any nicer day?

Tot Mess

It took seven years and a global pandemic, but I’m finally meeting my co-workers’ kids.

After everything shutdown, one of my friends (and co-worker) and I arranged for our little boys to meet over Zoom. They’re just shy of a year apart in age, and very much interested in the same things: potty training fails, Lightning McQueen, and being the apple of their mama’s eyes. Being the deeply social being that he is, Grant adored it.

Fast forward six weeks, and I’m hosting a Zoom every Friday morning (our Friday morning; 1430 UTC) for other kids to meet Grant (and socialize amongst themselves, too, of course). Grant and I have hosted six times so far, and have no plans to stop.

Throughout the week, the twins have class Zooms, often over lunch or at dinner time. These calls are, therefore, quite “public” — Grant knows they’re happening, and he badly wants in on the action. He attends every call I have for work that he’s awake and under-supervised for (while we have a handoff schedule, I have some calls in my morning with folks in Europe and Asia that I refuse to just cancel, and my husband is at the office during those times). He’s become something of a mascot. He demands my headphones, and then I hear “What’s your name?! <pause> GRANT. Grant Ring! <pause> <pause> <pause> OK. Bye.” It’s almost always the same. Sometimes he’ll talk to them about bikes or ice cream or something else that’s top of mind to the toddler set, but lately he’s ringing off after the first exchange of pleasantries. Towards the end of the week, Grant asks me over and over “When do I talk to my kids? Today?” And every day I say “On Friday. It’s (X) days away.” And he counters with “Tomorrow?”

So we hang out for thirty minutes with whoever wants to join us. Sometimes it’s just us and another family. Sometimes it’s four or five families. Our maximum was something like fifteen over the course of the call. Grant doesn’t care. He warms up to being around people virtually, and he goofs around. Sometimes he “co-plays” (playing near the computer while the other kids are also playing nearby, and us parents chat). Other time he wants to have everyone’s attention. We read stories to each other, we show off toys, and we play Eye Spy. Grant really lives for these calls. I can tell he thinks about them a lot. He also has ideas for what he’s going to do on the call; for example, today he dug out an old toy of Henry’s that I personally hadn’t seen in a LONG time ahead of the call specifically to show it off (a Very Hungry Caterpillar that zips inside out to be a Beautiful Butterfly).

I’m so glad that I can arrange this gift for Grant. I’m grateful that other parents at Automattic find value in it as well, and it’s been really cool to meet other A12s who are parents and small talk about our small ones. It’s soothing. It’s a normalcy I don’t have anymore right now. Of course I can talk to parents, like my other parent friends, but there’s something of the “meet at the playground” randomness that’s missing. It’s hard to explain, and I didn’t even know I was going to find it through these calls. There’s a freeness in these calls. I find it refreshing to come to these calls and catch a fellow parent in their jammies, coffee in hand, and just chat kid stuff. There’s a feel of the GM to it, too, (stay with me here) in that you just don’t know who is around the next corner. I don’t require people to sign up, so I never really know who will be there. There’s a pleasing organizational chaos to it.

Ahead of the first call, I was excitedly talking about it in the Slack channel I share with my boss and peers, and when I said it would be a hot mess (and was very pleased by the prospect) my boss, Andrew, said “you mean a tot mess.” And so it was named. Each week I take vast pleasure in naming the Zoom call (which I don’t think anyone but me can see) when I schedule it. So far we’ve had “The Toddler Zoom” (I didn’t name that one, but it’s nice and descriptive), “Tot Mess 2: Electric Bugaloo,” “Tot Mess 3: Escape from Ghost Island,” “Tot Mess 4: Toddler’s Revenge,” “Tot Mess: Wrong Kind of Tot,” and “Tot Mess: The Band Gets Back Together.” Suggestions welcome.


My mom is 77!

My mom is 38 years older than me. Last year I turned 38 and then a week later we were 38 years apart again, which is pretty cool (but we didn’t dig into it last year because mom was in the hospital having lung cancer surgery). And now we have another birthday combination under less than auspicious circumstances.

During quarantine I’ve been thinking a lot about how my mom managed 3 unruly children, mostly while living overseas, and often alone while my dad traveled for work. We all turned out amazing so she got it right, but I bet she was as frustrated as I feel a lot of the time. She was parenting during a time when there was no internet (at least not in homes) and no electronics for young kids. What a world! She must have heard so much whining about boredom (not from me, I was an utterly perfect kid, but my sisters…). We had computers in the house from the time I was pretty young, because when my dad was housebound after gallbladder surgery, he needed something to keep him occupied. I remember playing Chuckie Egg, and fighting with my sisters for computer time. As the youngest, I was probably the scourge of my older sisters (again, this is their failing, not mine), and managing the relationships between siblings is difficult and mostly just breaking up fights.

But my mom managed it all, and came out the other side! Now she enjoys wine afternoons with my dad on their sunny porch, tea mornings on the back deck, and living for the pets (they dote on their pets). I know they’re missing their grandbabies, but they’re gamely joining Zooms together, trying out technology that’s new to them while taking the opportunity to see everyone they love on one screen.

So happy 77 to my mom today; it’s going to be another great year and just the start of many new adventures.


This is fine.

Today I’m 39. I’ve been looking forward to being 39 – since three times itself is nine, and also, it just seemed like it’d be a pretty killer year. It has yet to live up to hype.

I’ve been feeling very fragile lately — extra anxious, losing patience really quickly with the kids, prone to frustration. I wasn’t really looking forward to having a birthday like this. But, if I’m very honest, each year is only what we make it, and I am who I am — this is all I get to work with, so I need to work with it best I can.

If nothing else, today is an opportunity to reflect and think about how I want thirty-nine to trend, so that when 40 comes around it’ll be the balm dot calm.

Here’s the direction I’d like to continue moving this year:

  • Hold my children on my lap, now, while they’ll still let me. Make sure they know they’re safe and loved, even when I’m not being lovable. Even when they’re not.
  • Continue to grow at work. I’m sure I’ll (keep) making mistakes, but moving forward is important and can’t wait for perfection.
  • Mentor more women, in either formal or informal situations.
  • Continue reshaping by changing my relationship to food (and wine) and increasing my normal daily movement (a bit challenging at the moment). I’m down 25 pounds of fat and up some amount of muscle. Looking forward to the increased freedom.
  • Stop being afraid of the basement. It holds up the house, we need it.
  • Continue being visible. It’s to me to state my views and correct misunderstandings clearly and openly — this mainly applies to work, where I have been working for about a year on representing myself transparently on an anonymous workplace blog we have. But I think it also matters here, on my own blog, and in social situations. People can’t agree with me if they don’t know what I think! And I can’t learn more if people can’t discuss nuance with me.

I’ve had a fairly nice day, and only spent a little bit choked with anxiety, and it’s far from over! It’s nearly 5pm here, but because of the shifted schedule I work now with COVID-19 and children home and all that, I don’t start work until 2 or 3, and don’t finish until 8 or 9. Then I do end-of-day childcare stuff. So my day doesn’t usually end until midnight or so. So it’s early! But here’s what’s happened so far:

I’m not sure what the next couple days and next couple weeks hold. I don’t know if we’ll go back to school this year (I don’t think so). I don’t know if daycare will open over the summer (I don’t think so). I don’t know when I’ll be able to balance my life to better prioritize work. But I do know that right now my family is prioritized, and while it’s exhausting, I will look back at the way 39 started, and I’ll be jealous of the time I have now.

Unregulated art

Every wall in our house has some drawing on it, either a marker dragged in a chubby fist as a certain small boy has walked up and down corridors and stair cases, or crayon more deliberately applied, or some combination of the two.

This is something that doesn’t bother me. We have gorgeous wallpaper in our house and it will definitely need to be replaced now. We have walls we will need to paint or repaint. We have moulding we will need to sand and refinish. I don’t see it as a destructive act, but an additive one. There’s a creativity that kids slowly grow out of, where everything is possible, and any surface is ripe for a doodle.

I noticed today that he has added to an older scribble with a technique he’s been very taken with lately, and has been experimenting with a lot. We’ve all tried it — holding a number of crayons and coloring with all of them at once. The happy violence of color is pretty reflective of his personality. He’s been doing it in books (coloring in black and white illustrations) and on coloring sheets. This is the first wall one I’ve found so far in the house. Found on the moulding between the hall and the living room.

A life of Grant

This worldwide pandemic is scary and weird, but we are privileged enough that we are doing ok. We are lucky because we both can continue to work from home (indeed, I always have, and I can give Bob some Slack pointers), our kids are smart and resourceful, and we are all healthy. We are around each other 24/7 which is, and I mean this from the bottom of my heart, scary and weird. Kidding! Kind of. It’s wondrous in some ways; we really get to be around the very best people all the time. But it’s exhausting, too, because, as the adults, we are always tuned in, with no way to tune out. With the twins, this isn’t so much a problem, because they’re eight point five, and they have interests. Henry is putting together a very large Harry Potter Lego set. He also puts together his Kiwi Crates, and then makes other inventions (a lot are focused around the cats and incorporate liberal amounts of catnip). Eleanor creates hidey holes in her bedroom for reading in, primarily. Both of them enjoy their tablets (both playing games and watching videos). They get a lot more screentime than ever before (right now we’re watching “A Series of Unfortunate Events” on Netflix, because we are almost done listening to the series on Audible as our bedtime stories). They also have homework and Zoom calls with their classmates. On nice days (not today, it’s snowing again) we also all spend a lot of time outside, which we are fortunate to be able to do.

But Grant. Grant is a different breed, despite being literally the very same breed. Let me give you an example of Grant. He has a parent with him nearly all the time (sometimes he wanders between us and is out of contact with one or the other for a few minutes), and yet, he still can cause a shocking amount of mayhem in a frighteningly short amount of time. Everything that comes next happened in one day (yesterday). First, some background: Grant starts out sleeping in his own room, but inevitably makes his way upstairs to our room, and there upon spends his time kicking, hitting, and grinding his head into kidneys. We move him to a cot mattress on the floor, tuck him in, and go back to sleep in relative peace. The night that preceded the day I’m going to describe, Grant came up to our room, coughing. He laid down on his little cot mattress, but couldn’t stop coughing, and asked for a breathing treatment. So I took him to his room (where his nebulizer is) and gave him one. From the time we went downstairs until he fell asleep after the treatment, about an hour elapsed making it around 3:30am. I put him into his own bed, and went back to my room, and could not fall asleep the rest of the night. So that’s the background.

I was dozing in bed when Grant flopped on me, holding a cup that he had filled with chocolate syrup. He had been drinking fairly liberally from it.

I got him hustled downstairs to clean him up and dump out the syrup. Throughout the course of the day, he:

  • Threw a dumbbell at me
  • Picked up a cat upside down
  • Slammed a door on a cat’s tail
  • Created a mountain of cat food on the floor
  • Brushed the “teeth” of several of his toy cars
  • Took all the couch cushions off the couch (this one just gets under my skin)
  • Kicked Henry’s Legos
  • Laid down on Eleanor so she couldn’t get up (this one is pretty funny)
  • Laid down on several cats so they, too, couldn’t get up (this is not very funny)
  • Invaded several Business Style calls
  • Screamed for lunch, then refused to eat his lunch
  • Refused to poop on the potty (but did still poop)

And then it was time for Bob to take over for the afternoon. There was some quietness (from my perspective), but before I wrapped up my workday, Grant had visited me with an open jar of peanut butter under his arm, which he was eating out of with his fingers, and had apparently thrown my phone at the TV, and had broken the TV. So. That was all one day with him. Shortly after that, it was time for him to go to bed. He screamed at me and hit me because I wasn’t the one putting him to bed, and then he demanded two very grumpy kisses.

He slept very soundly last night. (As I type this, he has pushed my laptop out of my lap and has kicked my keyboard and laptop several times while telling me I’m Jesus Christ. He is why people say “I can’t even.”)

There’s a trope of the naughty little boy (Dennis the Menace, Calvin, Bart Simpson for some examples); little chaos agents who cause trouble that belies their tiny stature. And these boys aren’t bad, they just do bad things. There’s always some incident where their better nature surfaces, and we’re reminded that they are, in fact, small humans trying to make their way, to not be ignored or forgotten, with little bird hearts beating in their narrow chests. Last night, as I was walking Grant down from my room to dinner, after work, he said in his deliberate way “Mom, I am very sorry I broke your TV, very sorry mom.” It’s not a grand gesture by any means, but it’s enough.