1. Where are you from?
I was born in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. (It’s the state capital.) But technically, I grew up in the smaller towns of New Cumberland and Mechanicsburg. I spent my entire childhood in Central Pennsylvania, except for an 18-month period – around second and third grade -- when my dad took a job in Manhattan and we lived outside of Philadelphia.
2. What do you do?
Right now, I spend more hours of my day working as a full-time mom to very busy 3-year-old triplets. But I’m also a part-time writer and editor for Netflix, and I write a handful of television reviews each month for a nonprofit website called Common Sense Media, which is what I used to do full-time before becoming a mom. My writing/editing work accounts for maybe 10-15 hours of my week on average now, whereas parenting is more like 70.
3. How would you describe yourself?
Like anybody, I’m full of contradictions. I’m outgoing when I need to be but prefer lots of time to myself, so I’m pretty quiet and introspective most of the time. I’m a person who craves order and respects rules, but I can also think very creatively. I’m pretty intellectual in terms of my taste in books and movies, but I also love Pee-Wee Herman. Just try to figure me out. ;)
I will say this: When I’m excited about a project, I have a laser focus on it, and I’m very methodical about preparing for it. I put in a lot of “think time,” sometimes months in advance if I can, and I do a lot of research to come up with the absolute best way to pull something off. There’s perfectionism there, yes; but I see it as more of a drive to create something amazing that’s personally satisfying to me, something I’m proud to put my name on. If I’m doing something, I’m doing it full out. Not to impress other people, but to challenge myself creatively and see what I can do. Of course, when I’m not particularly inspired by something or feel stumped about where to begin, I can be a horrible procrastinator. I really can.
4. What is a typical day like for you?
I don’t set an alarm; I let the kids wake me up, which is usually around 7:30 a.m. Then we go through our usual routines getting ready for the morning, eating breakfast, and maybe watching some TV. But I always try to have somewhere to go with them – or at least something tangible to do around the house, like a game or a craft – around 10 a.m. so that we can break up the morning. On Mondays, we might go grocery shopping. (Yes, all of us!) On Tuesdays and Thursdays, we go to the YMCA, where I run the track for a bit while they play in the child care center, and then I take them to an on-site gymnastics program. On Wednesdays, we might go to the Champaign Library for story time or to an indoor playground. On Fridays, we go to an amazing playgroup at the Tolono Library, where they mix with all kinds of kids. So the secret is, we just keep moving. After three years with these kids, I’ve learned that they need that stimulation, or else they go a little stir crazy. (And, by extension, so do I.) We almost always do lunches at home, followed by a nap (for them) around 1:30 and some much-needed alone time for me, since I almost never get more than a few minutes to myself while they’re awake. And I really, really need that alone time to recharge. They get up again between 4 and 4:30, and then they play or watch a movie while I make dinner. We eat together as a family around 6, and then bedtime is at 7:30 p.m.
I used to use nap time to do my paid work, although lately I’ve found that it’s much better for me to save that until the late evening when they’ve gone to bed for the night. I get a longer stretch of time to myself then with fewer interruptions, so it’s a lot more efficient. If I’m working a “full day” then, that means I’m with the kids from roughly 7:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., then again from 4 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. And then I will give myself a short break before logging in to do my paid work from 9 pm to midnight. It’s an exhausting day even without the paid work, no matter how you slice it, so I obviously can’t pull that kind of schedule off all the time. But I try to give myself at least 2 nights off a week where I don’t do any paid work whatsoever -- usually Monday and Tuesday since I have to submit my work hours for the week on Sunday -- and that becomes my “weekend.” That might sound strange, but that’s my life right now.
5. What do you and your family like to do for fun?
The kids actually think that it’s fun to do the mundane stuff we have to get done every week, like grocery shopping, cooking and cleaning. So we always involve them in that. For special things, usually on weekends, we might go out to dinner or on some type of fun daytime outing to a children’s museum, a movie or the Y. We keep things pretty basic now because the kids are still small. But when they get older, who knows?
6. What is one of your life dreams or goals?
I’m a goal-setter for sure, but I don’t think anyone who knows me would describe me as a “dreamer.” I’m too practical. Taking exotic trips, having a glamorous career – at this point in my life, those types of dreams feel very alien to me. I wanted to have kids, and boy did I ever. So for now, I want to raise them to be awesome people to the best of my ability.
On a personal level, I’d love to get to a place where I feel like I’m physically fit and healthy enough to be a good role model for my children, especially my daughter, because that’s something I’ve struggled with my whole life. So I’m setting short-term goals for myself in the next year like working out three times a week, running some more 5Ks to improve my pace, drinking enough water -- things like that. I feel better when I set smaller, more achievable goals for myself and build from there, rather than targeting a “dream goal” that feels so out of reach.
7. What is your best cleaning or organizing tip/trick?
When the kids are awake, messes and clutter are inevitable, so I just let it go and try to encourage them to clean up on their own when possible. But my husband and I always put everything back in order each night so that we can start the next day fresh, kind of like hitting a “reset” button. I personally find living, and especially working, in clutter really distracting -- like, almost suffocating. Thankfully, I’m lucky enough to have married a guy who’s even more orderly than I am, if that’s possible. He actually does the lion’s share of the “resetting” these days while I’m dealing with other things, and I’m so, so grateful for that.
We also believe in streamlining our “stuff” on a regular basis -- and with three young children, we have a lot of it. It’s so much easier to stay organized that way. So if I have two or three items that serve the same purpose, I keep the best one and sell or donate the items we no longer need. It actually makes me happier knowing that they’ll be going to someone who needs them more than we do.
8. What is your favorite local business/group/place in town that you would recommend to everyone?
I think the Champaign Library is an amazing resource. The facility is beautiful, with a great selection of books and movies, and the librarians at the children’s desk have been part of our lives for years. I feel like they know my kids and really care about them. We’ve logged a lot of hours there.
I also love the Stephens Family YMCA; we got a family membership as a Christmas gift from my mother this year, and it’s been literally life-changing for me. With the on-site childcare, I can budget my exercise time into my daytime hours with the kids now rather than having to do it at night, when I’m already physically exhausted. (I can’t believe I used to work out after 8 p.m. when they were infants, but I had no other options!) The kids have also done so many fun new things at the Y – from the open gymnasium time to rock-climbing – so I have nothing but positive things to say about it so far.
9. What is your favorite dish/recipe?
I’m known for baking desserts; I used to make fondant cakes and cupcakes before I had children and had more time. But I think my personal favorite thing to make is homemade soft pretzels. Soft pretzels are my favorite food, and not many people attempt to make them from scratch, so it’s a nice surprise to make for somebody, as long as I get to have one too.
10. How do you choose happiness in your life?
I have perfectionist tendencies, and I set really high standards for myself. In the past, that caused me a lot of stress and anxiety, most of which was self-created. But particularly since I’ve become a mom – and to triplets, no less -- I’ve learned that perfectionism on all fronts is impossible, so I prioritize what’s most important to me and let the rest of it go. Instead of being ruled by some sense of obligation or other people’s expectations, I’ve learned to listen to myself. If something in my life feels “wrong” -- whether that’s a job, a pattern of behavior, or a person who’s draining my energy -- I work to change it by taking small steps toward something (or someone) that feels “right.” Those small victories make me happier, and I eventually get where I want to go.