Carol Shen, blogger

I love learning from other women - hearing their stories, learning from their life experiences. But usually the women that get the chance to tell their stories are the famous ones - celebrities, corporate executives, women whose career choices have propelled them into the public eye. But most of us moms aren't famous - and we have just as much to share, just as much to teach even if we are never in the limelight. So this section is a chance for us to hear their stories, our stories. 

Before I ask others to share their stories - I'm starting with mine. 


Life's curve balls

We lost our first pregnancy at 23 weeks. When we went in for the second trimester sonogram, all we could think about was finding out if we were going to have a boy or girl. Instead, we left with terrible news: the baby's heart had not formed properly, the baby was missing organs, including its pancreas, and the positioning of the organs it did have were reversed. We were devastated - I cried a lot for many months. Turns out what happened to us was an anomaly - 1 in 20,000 chance. We were fortunate in that there was no genetic cause that could be found. Eventually we were blessed with two healthy, beautiful children. Our daughter's middle name Hope is in memory of our first child. 

Parenting challenges

Having the patience to be a good parent. It takes a LOT of patience to be a parent. Why? The list is long... all the hard questions I get from my daughter, all the Why? questions I get from my son, all the spills and messes to clean up (bloody noses, pee accidents, projectile vomit, spilled milk), all the times I use adult logic on my kids and am then frustrated when they don't behave the way I expect them to. Then there's the whining - it's incredibly annoying. And the potty training. It's like moving - it just sucks.  I thought I was a patient person before I became a parent. Apparently, I'm not that patient. 

This got me through the tough times

Kids that sleep through the night = happy parents. Kids that don't sleep through the night = cranky parents. Sleep books that helped me teach my kids how to sleep through the night, and fall back asleep on their own: Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Dr. Marc Weissbluth and The Sleep Lady's Good Night Sleep Tight by Kim West

Why I'm a stay at home mom now

I always thought I'd be a career woman. It's easier said than done though, especially if you choose to have kids, and your spouse works full-time as well. I had no idea how challenging it would be to juggle home ownership, two careers, two kids and a dog. When our most recent nanny's husband was diagnosed with lung cancer last spring, and she was no longer able to work for us - I found myself not wanting to find another nanny.  I was done finding nannies to raise my kids - I wanted to raise my own kids. In life, you can't have it all - it's all about making choices that's best for you - so I was OK with taking a break from my corporate career in exchange for more time with my family, and a more manageable pace of life. 

Parenting bliss

So many moments during the day. Taylor: He makes my heart sing. He's got the best dance moves. He makes me laugh, all the time - he's a goof ball at heart. He's a cuddler, and knows how to sweet talk his mommy with compliments. He can't pronounce the s in front of a consonant, so it's, "Mommy, you (s)mell nice." Addie: She's my strong, curious, crazy independent girl. She takes such wonderful care of her little brother. She asks very insightful questions all the time. Whenever I get mad at her (usually it's for doing something I specifically asked her not to do), she gets upset as any kid would normally do - but then moves on by drawing me a picture or making a card for me to show that she's sorry. Her maturity and thoughtfulness never cease to amaze me - my girl will change the world for the better, and I'm already a better person for being her mom.  

Morning routine

My husband leaves the house at 7AM, so I usually wake up to a good-bye kiss from him. Now that Addie is in Kindergarten, and tardies are real, I have to get her to school on-time (unlike with Taylor who's in preschool 3 mornings a week). I'm better at being late than being on time - so mornings feel chaotic for me (throw in my son's potty training, and it can turn into a hot mess).  I'm working on making mornings feel less chaotic, here's what's helped:

  • Making sure Addie picks her outfit out the night before. 
  • Starting the morning with ME time, if I'm lucky enough to have any. Before the kids are up it's all about me: blogging, catching up on e-mails, taking a little extra time to do my hair. Feels good to start the day focused on myself. 
  • Giving myself interim morning deadlines. 8AM - kids need to be up. We have a chime clock at home that plays a song on the hour - which works well as my audio cue. 8:15 - kids need to be dressed, have their teeth brushed, and be downstairs at the breakfast table. 8:45 - kids need to start putting socks and shoes on, and I need to do Addie's hair. 9AM - once again audio cue from chime clock, and it's time to get in the car to get Addie to school by 9:15. 

Between 8:15 and 8:45 I pack my kids warm lunches and get about a half breakfast in me. I try to leave the house each day looking somewhat presentable - meaning 5 minutes worth of make-up and hair. And then there's remembering to the let the dog out. No coffee for me, since it kills my stomach. If I need a caffeine kick - it's tea. 

What I miss

Talking to my husband without being interrupted by my kids - which explains the importance of date nights! We get a date night in once a month, and during the week we try once a week to treat an evening at home as our "at home date night."


Having time to shop at the mall, alone. Getting a mani/pedi or drinks with girlfriends. Taking my daughter up to NYC for the weekend. Making photo books after a trip. Heading to Italy every 5 years with my husband (we went there for our honeymoon, and have a made a promise to ourselves to go back every 5 years). 

Life wisdom

"I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."
Maya Angelou

About me

I call Northern Virginia home, although always a Northern California girl at heart. My parents were first generation Chinese immigrants - and I grew up speaking Mandarin at home. Because my dad worked in pharmaceutical sales, we moved around a lot. I've lived in Indiana, Hawaii, Shanghai and major cities in California - including LA, San Diego and San Francisco Bay Area. I graduated from UC Berkeley with a degree in Psychology. After college, I took a chance on love, and moved out with my then boyfriend and now husband of 10 years to the DC region. While he pursued his pharmacy and business graduate degrees, I obtained my MBA in the evenings while working full-time. I've always worked in HR related fields, most recently as Director of Learning and Development at CEB. I worked full-time until my daughter Addie was 3 and my son Taylor was 1, then worked part-time for 1 year, and last summer decided to be at home full-time. While I gave up my corporate job, I continue to serve on the Board of Directors of The Reading Connection - a non-profit whose mission is to help at-risk kids in shelters become lifelong passionate readers to help break the cycle of poverty. I'm looking to start my second career as a blogger/writer - with my first gig beginning this summer as a guest blogger for WETA's Start with a Book and Reading Rockets sites.