Okay Working Parents, Let’s Triage This

Our society tells us that we must be perfect parents.  Both spouses are expected to work full time, shuttle the kids between after-school enrichment activities, help with homework, read bedtime stories, smile through it all, and then fall exhausted into an overwhelmed stupor called sleep each night.  Then we must rise at the crack of dawn to do it all over again.  Sound familiar?  Wait, that was life before COVID-19.    

One month into our state’s stay-at-home order, which happens to coincide with a cold and dreary Connecticut spring, I was ready to pull my hair out.  I still had to do all the above, much of it as a “Zoom cameraman,” AND teach elementary school, AND tend to the emotional needs of children who desperately miss their friends . . .  F**k that.  

Rather than yanking out large clumps of hair and going bald, I took a deep breath and reminded myself that it is impossible to do everything – those who say that they are on Facebook are LIARS – and I went into working-parent triage mode.     

Take care of the gunshot wounds first

Triage happens when you visit the emergency room—a sadly apt analogy these days.  Those who have gunshot wounds see the doctor right away; those who need a couple of stitches can wait for hours on a busy day.  Take care of life’s gunshot wounds now; the stitches can wait. 

Everyone will have a different calculus, but for most people the “gunshot wounds” are doing a good enough job at work to remain employed (if you’re lucky enough to be working these days). Taking care of your kids’ and—this is important—your own emotional needs is also at the top.  Submitting completed assignments to teachers in Google classroom is secondary, particularly if the process creates extra work for parents without a countervailing educational benefit for the student.  At the very bottom of the list is folding laundry. Your pet doesn’t care if your clothes are wrinkled.  If it makes life easier, eat all your meals off disposable dinnerware to cut down on chores.  In short, cut any and all non-essential corners that you can.  Lastly, I’d put obsessively watching the news at the bottom of the triage list—stay informed, but limit it, or you might curl yourself into a ball and stay in bed until there’s a vaccine.  

Keep happiness in the mix

During this time of sadness, depravation, and isolation, it’s easy to feel guilty about having fun.  Don’t. While we are in a time of mourning for sure, making ourselves and our families as happy as possible keeps us sane and allows us to endure this seemingly endless marathon. Keeping our spirits up will also allow us to be kind and supportive of our families, friends, and communities.  

I love being outdoors, so if it is a beautiful day outside, my kids and I go off the lesson plan and take a field trip to a nature trail, or we collect shells on the beach and I “teach” biology.  When the weather warms up, I look forward to boating and spending even more time outdoors.

The vacation may have been cancelled, but don’t cancel your time off

For spring break, we had planned to go to Disney World and had rented a beach condo and (of course) a boat in Florida. It was a long-awaited splurge after several difficult years.  Obviously, it didn’t happen.  Many families just cancelled their trips and slogged through April break working from home without doing anything fun as a consolation prize.  We still took time off, which has been a game-changer.  We took long drives and spent every possible moment in nature (albeit far from other people). We cooked ourselves decadent meals, watched movies, and tuned out work, school, and the news.  Life felt somewhat . . . normal.  Moments of normalcy are so rare now. Grab them whenever you can.

So, these are my two cents as a veteran far-from-perfect working parent.  Take care of yourselves, stay safe and healthy, and grab moments of joy when you can.  We’ll all get through this together.             

The Daily Daycare Dash

You’re stuck in traffic running way behind schedule.  Your palms start to sweat, your heart is pounding.  Is it because:

  • (a) You’re late for your best friend’s surprise birthday party—the surprise will be long over by the time you get there?
  • (b) You’re late for a flight at a busy international airport with massive security lines?
  • (c) You’re late for an important court hearing (you’re the lawyer or the litigant)? or
  • (d) You’re late for daycare pickup?

For most working parents, the correct answer is (d).  

  • Your best friend will forgive you; you’ll laugh about it together one day.  
  • I’ve cajoled my way to the front of TSA lines at airports—most fellow travelers and TSA agents will take pity on you in those circumstances.  
  • And, despite the formidable black robes, most judges will exercise leniency so long as you have a decent excuse and don’t make a habit of it.  

But daycare providers?  Forget it. They are merciless.  Many daycare contracts state that you will be charged $5 to $10 per minute  for late pickups, no exceptions.  And then there’s the guilt factor.  You walk in to find your sweetie-pie sitting in the director’s office looking forlorn.  “Mommy, did you forget me?”  

And, joy of joys, there’s an opportunity for working parents to experience this road-rage-and-parental-guilt-inducing stress Monday through Friday most weeks of the year. 

What’s a frazzled working parent to do?

For parents with long commutes, try finding a daycare close to your workplace.  That removes the traffic/commuting-time variable, although you may be forced to listen to the Paw Patrol theme song repeatedly while driving in traffic, which is its own form of torture.  

You can also hire one of your child’s daycare teachers, put her on the sign out list, and pay her to sign out your kid and play with him outside on days when you’re running late.  It will cost much less than $5 to $10 per minute.  

If you have family members near your daycare who are willing to help in a pinch, you truly are blessed—thank them profusely.  

And when, despite your best efforts and a few creative interpretations of how long that light was yellow, you arrive ten minutes late, do what your child does when she’s in trouble.  The sad eyes. The apology and explanation. The promise, “I’m usually so good about picking her up on time. This won’t keep happening.”   

Sometimes even daycare providers will relent.

Healthy, Hearty Cranberry Apple Oatmeal Cookies

We’re gripped in a polar vortex; it’s cold, dark and dreary outside- what’s a boater girl to do?  Rather than pining away for my boats, I’ll perfect some boat friendly recipes during the off season.  And, okay, maybe there’s just a little bit of pining happening as well, but . . . sigh . . . nothing I can’t manage.  

Here’s a recipe that my colleagues have been asking me to publish for quite some time (yes, Beth and the 18th floor, this one’s for you!)  This recipe takes oatmeal cookies to a whole new level (or so I’ve been told), and these are reasonably healthy so you won’t feel guilty about feeding them to the kids for breakfast.  What’s more, because they’re compact and portable, they are easy to grab on the way out of the house in the morning (or as a snack for a boat ride).  


  • 14 tablespoons of butter
  • 3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • pinch of salt
  • 1¼ cups of dried cranberries
  • 1 medium-sized golden delicious apple
  • 3 cups of Quaker Oats, uncooked
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  The oven must be hotter than for typical oatmeal cookies so the extra moisture from the fresh apples evaporates.
  2. Beat the butter and sugars in a stand mixer until creamy.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl periodically to make sure the ingredients are thoroughly combined.
  3.  Add the eggs and vanilla to the stand mixer and beat until combined.
  4. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt.
  5. Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and mix thoroughly using the stand mixer.
  6. Add the oats and mix them into the dough on slow speed.
  7. Core and peel the apple and cut it into ¼ inch squares.  I core and peel the apple using an apple peeler/corer device and then slice up the rings into smaller pieces (see below).
My apple peeler/corer device (though not with a golden delicious apple) and apples chopped to the correct size for these cookies

8. Add the apple pieces and cranberries to the dough and mix them in by hand.  Mix the cookie dough just enough to evenly distribute the fruit.  If you overmix it, the dough will become soggy from juice released by the apple slices, which makes for soggy cookies.

9. Drop tablespoons of cookie dough onto a nonstick baking sheet.  Bake the cookies for 10-12 minutes until they are golden brown and firm. Cool the cookies on a wire rack.

The cookies should keep for about one week.  They also can be frozen and thawed as needed. Enjoy!

Like a Kid in a . . . Shoe Store (?)

It’s that crazy holiday season, when we’re all busy shopping for gifts, attending/hosting holiday parties, decorating, baking, and sending out cards . . . Phew!  I’ll keep this one short because who has time to read long blog entries (and, frankly, I don’t have time to write long blog entries).

My kids’ size Ugg slippers are still going strong after three years

If you’re looking to treat yourself (or to treat that woman who does it all) to a cozy pair of Uggs, here’s a great money saving tip that I learned from my friend Analis.  Buy the kid’s size equivalent.  For example, on Zappos, the Ugg Dakota slipper costs $70 for the kids’ version and $100 for the women’s version of the exact same shoe.  Just Google a kids’/women’s shoe conversion chart to figure out the kids’ equivalent of the adult shoe size.

This trick works for many of the high-end casual shoes, winter boots, and outdoors and hiking brands.  Just don’t buy her pink light-up Elsa sneakers, or you’ll end up sleeping under the tree.  Happy holidays, everyone!

Easier Thanksgiving Apple Pie

In my family, Thanksgiving and apple pie go hand-in-hand.  As the family baker, my job is to get dessert on the table for the big meal.  (When I retire from the law, I’ll open a bakery called the Torte Lawyer, featuring . . . you guessed it, “appeal pie.”  We’ll also feature subpoenaed brittle . . .)

All joking aside, however, I’ve developed some techniques that make apple pie baking go as quickly and smoothly as possible, which is crucial if you’re juggling kids, work, and holiday travel.  The first trick is this marvelous contraption:

It cores, peels and slices the apples in one easy step, and the kids get a kick out of turning the handle and collecting the apple skin ribbons that it produces.  Mine was manufactured by “Back to Basics,” but any heavy duty cast iron/stainless steel device will work.

My second trick works for all types of pies and tarts.  Roll out your pie dough on a piece of parchment paper or wax paper.  That way, you skip having to scrub down the countertop before and after you roll out your dough.  Plus, when it’s time to transfer the dough to your pie dish, you can simply pick up the paper and flip it upside down into the dish.

And, yes, technically the photo is of a tart, not a pie, but the same concepts apply either way.

Have a happy, safe, and delicious Thanksgiving!


Combine and Conquer Those Snow Days

Cooler weather inevitably leads to the dreaded snow day.  I’m not talking about those Nor’easters when everything shuts down and the whole family gets to curl up at home with hot chocolate and a roaring fire.  I’m talking about those days when school shuts down (or is delayed) for 2” of snow, you have a 9:00 AM meeting with a client, and your spouse has a meeting at the exact same time.  In other words, those days that send two-career families into a frantic frenzy of rescheduling, lining up child care, and arguing over whose meeting is more important—all before that first cup of coffee.

Here’s one trick that saved us time, money, and sanity.  We banded together with a small group of parents, and we switch off watching our collective group of kids when school is cancelled.  One parent watches all the kids while the other parents work, and on the next snow day, a different parent has kid duty.  Each parent misses one day of work for every six snow days, and because the kids play together, the parent who is on kid duty can usually work from home.  Plus, with six parents in the mix, it is unlikely that everyone will have an important 9:00 AM meeting.

Not only does this arrangement save our collective sanity, it also allows each parent to conserve his or her vacation time/PTO.   Snow days and sick kids used to eat up all my time off.  Now I can use my PTO for fun activities—such as vacation days or . . .  you guessed it, boating.

To give credit where credit is due, this plan is the brainchild of our friend who is a game theorist—thank you, Alex!