Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Birthday Adventures....with a Toddler

As a December baby, my birthday usually isn't a big blowout party extravaganza. Maybe if it was the beginning of December, but mine falls two days after Christmas. Instead, my birthday week has become a week of presents and shopping (and who wouldn't want that?). First, I get amazing Christmas presents, then there's after Christmas shopping, birthday gifts and on New Year's day, it's the biggest shopping day of the year (more on this later). To my husband's credit, he has always tried to make my birthday extra special. Unfortunately for him, Murphy wasn't having it this year.

Everything started off really well with breakfast in bed (for me) and some quiet time to read my book. We're reading The Invention of Wings for our January book club book and it didn't take long for me to get wrapped up in the story. Later in the morning, I opened my birthday presents (why wait until dinner? Pssh.) and was truly spoiled this year. And believe it or not, my Stitch Fix box (check out the post here) showed up in time for my birthday!

And then things went south.

One of the gifts Nate got me was a Garmin Vivofit. One of those fitness bands you wear and it tracks your sleep and steps and all kinds of stuff. It connects to the computer so I tried to sync them only to find out my operating system is way out of date. This really shouldn't surprise anyone, least of all Nate. So I dutifully deleted all the crap on my desktop and freed up some space so we could upgrade the system. This led to a series of failures, lots of calls to Apple and eventually a trip to the Apple store in Austin. I thought all of my wedding, baby, and travel photos were gone forever. Of course, just that morning we were talking about copying everything to an external hard drive and putting it in the safe. Oh hello, Murphy. Needless to say I was in tears thinking everything was gone. It's my party and I'll cry if I want to...

Monday, December 29, 2014

Stitch Fix Box #7

My seventh Stitch Fix box showed up the day before my birthday (did they know? Or was that just awesome timing?). I have to say, I've been really pleased with my boxes since I started sticking with one stylist. At this point, I'm being extra critical of everything coming in, but even if the fit isn't perfect, it really is more my style. Here's what came in my box.

A trench coat. I love coats, especially the ones with lots of buttons. Think military type jackets. Or Duchess Kate. This one was cute, but didn't do much for my shape. 

Monday, December 22, 2014

DIY: Toddler Friendly Ornaments


Like many parents of toddlers, we struggle with our tree balance. After losing two ornaments at the middle of the tree, we decided to put most of our ornaments at the top of the tree. Unfortunately, this made it look a bit bare on the bottom half. Sure we had candy canes for a couple of hours (E broke those quickly) and there are some soft ornaments (but Layla has already demolished one. She chewed the face off an owl), but for the most part the ornaments are out of reach.

So when we pulled the "make a new ornament" slip out of our advent calendar the other day, we decided to bake some ornaments. I found the recipe online and it made two cookie sheets full of ornaments. We used some rather large cookie cutters so if you used smaller ones, or even regular sized ones, you could probably increase your numbers by at least 25 percent (percentages make my guesstimates sound really official, don't they?).

Most of our cookie cutters were holiday related, except for the lab cookie cutter. Because of course, we had to make dog ornaments. To her credit, Layla doesn't show preference to them though. Nope, she's an equal opportunity chewer. Hearts, bells, snowmen. She likes them all. Which is another reason baking your own ornaments is nice - the contents won't kill your pets or teething children.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Quick and Easy Treats: Candied Pecans

The holiday season is in full swing, which means our schedule has been crazy busy. We've just gotten over the work hump (kids party, holiday reception, holiday formal...) and wrapped up a visit with my mom, which was way too short. Last year, Nate took candied pecans to work to share with his coworkers and he wanted to do the same this year. So I spent Sunday afternoon putting together pecans while Nate made jerky. Our house smells like meat and spices. Not sure I'd recommend it as a new candle scent.

Anyway, this recipe is super easy and probably takes about an hour and a half tops, mainly because it needs about an hour in the oven. If you like pecans and sugar, this recipe is for you. (Here's the link to the original recipe - thanks, Cooking Classy!)

First, whisk together your egg white, water and vanilla until it's frothy. *Note* My bowl looks dirty because it is. It didn't occur to me to take a photo until I started the second batch. Oops.

Next, mix in a pound (about 4 cups) of pecans. 

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

December Stitch Fix - Box #6

I have to say, I'm glad I chose a stylist. This is our third box together and I feel like she has a pretty good idea of what I like. She actually apologized in her note to me this month because their inventory is low so she didn't a lot of options to choose from. But to her credit, the tops actually fit me (yay!) and I liked the style vibe she put into this box. Was everything perfect? No. But, that's probably a good thing because buying all five pieces would get a bit pricey.

Here's what she sent me:

A long sleeve raglan shirt. This is the one I decided to keep. 

Monday, December 1, 2014

DIY: Handprint Reindeer Shirts


Obviously, my new obsession is the stitch witchery known as Heat N Bond. Who knew you could make such cute clothes without a sewing machine? Plus, I can totally convince people I'm crafty now.

Since E's turkey shirt turned out so well, I decided to try my hand at reindeer shirts. Yep, plural. I made us matching shirts. I know half of you are probably rolling your eyes right now because you think it's super lame, but I'm pretty certain there's only a small window where E will actually wear matching shirts. I'm taking full advantage of it while I can.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Black Friday Shopping on Thanksgiving?


I love a good deal. A personality perk (it's not a flaw!) that I'm fairly certain I got from my dad. I vaguely remember my mom complaining when he bought a whole case of marshmallows just because they were so cheap. I also vaguely remember them passing out said marshmallows at Halloween when they ran out of candy. Obviously the marshmallows were a win then, right? So when Nate complains about my deals, I point out that it's ingrained in me and I can't help myself.

And I'm starting to get excited because my three biggest shopping days of the year are coming up.

In order of importance:
1. Dillard's New Years Day Sale (my all-time favorite)
2. Dillard's After Christmas Sale
3. Black Friday

There isn't any controversy around #1 and #2, but Black Friday continues to make headlines as it seeps into Black Thursday (is that a thing? Probably not). People are up in arms because retailers shouldn't be open on Thanksgiving, especially when their sole purpose of opening is to make a buck. Correction - make a lot of bucks.

On the one hand, I completely agree that Thanksgiving is a holiday and everyone should have the option of staying at home with their families and friends. Absolutely.

However, the realist in me knows that this simply isn't possible. There are professions out there that require people to work holidays. Ones that come to mind include police officers, firefighters, emergency room personnel, movie theater workers and military personnel. Many of these people don't get the option to stay home on Thanksgiving or any other holiday for that matter. And you could argue that they know what they're getting into when they sign on for a particular job, which is true. But I'd argue right back that so do retail workers.

I worked retail for several years and I knew that if I didn't ask off in advance that my name could end up on the schedule and it would be my responsibility to find a replacement. It pays to plan, folks. It pays to plan.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

DIY: Turkey Shirt


About a week ago, I realized that E didn't have a Thanksgiving shirt. Obviously, this isn't a necessity but when they're this young stores usually carry holiday-specific clothing. Besides, it's pretty cute. I didn't find much in his size locally so I went online to see what was on Etsy (talk about going down the rabbit hole). I found some really cute iron-on decals and embroidered shirts, but I didn't want to pay $15 plus for a shirt he'd only wear a couple of times. If I had thought of it in October at least he could've worn it for the entire month of November, right? Anyway, the iron-on idea got me to thinking. If I could iron something on a shirt, I could make it myself. This led to Pinterest, which is probably where I should've started my journey.

I found some cute handprint turkey shirts and decided to try and make one for E. Keep in mind that I don't sew. In fact, I think the only needle in the house is part of a travel sewing kit we got at a fancy hotel several years ago. This is a needle-free project.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

DIY: Activities for your Advent Calendar

I love the holiday season. It takes every fiber of my being not to cover the entire house in Christmas decorations in early November. Poor Thanksgiving. It doesn't get the love it deserves. Normally I wouldn't post about Christmas so early, but this particular piece requires prior planning so...that's kind of a loophole, right? I mean, you can't build an advent calendar on Dec. 1. I mean, you could, but what fun is that?

And I'm SO excited about our advent calendar this year. I bought a reusable one last year at the Dillard's clearance sale and can't wait to get it on the wall. It's got little felt pieces and you hang them on the tree each day. To make it even more fun (how is that possible?! - you, I know! - me), I'm printing off activity cards for each day.


I've come up with about 30 activities and I'll assign them according to our calendar of events (we're official like that). For example, I have one that says "Work Party with Daddy" because our unit is having a kids Christmas party one Saturday. And I have another that says, "Spend Time with Great Grandparents" because we're taking a mini-trip to Fort Worth when we pick up my mom from the airport (see also: "Spend Day with Mimi"). So these will have to go in certain slots, but there are plenty of other activities I'm going to haphazardly add to the calendar. Maybe I'll fold them first so I won't know where they're going. You're about to faint from the excitement, aren't you?

Here are some of our other activities:
Make a Christmas Craft
Build a Gingerbread House
Spend All Day in Our Pajamas (that's for me - ha)
Watch Holiday Movies
Donate a Toy or Book
Choose a Child from the Angel Tree
Bake Christmas Cookies
Look at Christmas Lights
Visit Tree Farm

You can see the complete, printable list here (there's a PDF version ready to print and a Word file you can tweak to meet your family's needs. Note - you'll have to download the Word file to manipulate it otherwise it takes you to a viewing page.). I'm printing them off on scrapbook paper. I wanted a holiday theme, but E was nearing meltdown mode at the store so I grabbed what I could and headed to the register. Here's one of the pages:



I'm really hoping that E enjoys doing all of the activities. Not sure if he'll relate it back to the advent calendar, but you never know.

Anyone else doing a special advent calendar this year?

Cheers!
Jen

Friday, November 7, 2014

Stitch Fix #5

My stitch fix actually got here a day early this month. It was waiting for me on my doorstep when I got home from the mall on Tuesday. It was perfect timing because I needed a little boost after E's epic meltdown. Stitch Fix, you know me better than I know myself.

This time, I requested my stylist from the second box since that had been my favorite of the four. She sent me four clothing items and a piece of jewelry. It's been awhile since she styled me so I think we're going to get into a groove in the next few months. Yep, I've decided to keep requesting her. I mean, both of our names start with a J. Obviously, that's a sign.

Here are the pieces she sent me this month. I decided to keep only one. Can you guess which one is now hanging out at my house?

This is a reversible wrap dress. The neckline is actually different depending on which way you choose to wear it. 

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

I owe you an apology

I owe you an apology. Moms, dads, caregivers - all of you. I'm sorry. I'm sorry that I criticized you. Maybe not to your face, but definitely in my head or in a snide remark to a friend. I judged you and now the tables have turned. Karma is, and always will be, a first-class bitch.

Earlier today, my son decided to throw an epic tantrum in a department store. He was having fun in the fitting rooms and didn't want to leave. He's been anti-stroller lately so I picked him up and what ensued wasn't pretty. In fact, it was downright ugly. The kid absolutely, 100 percent lost control. He turned his body horizontal and thrashed his head like he'd been trained by a rock star with long, wavy locks. He screamed at the top of his lungs causing people to stare and probably question if I was actually his mother or someone trying to abduct him. He flung his body on the ground and turned so red I thought his head might pop off. I tried putting him down, talking to him rationally, then sternly, then threatening a time out only to pick him up and start all over again. Each time I'd retreat to the fitting room out of sight only to realize I was land-locking myself. Finally, in what seemed like an hour but was only minutes, I told my friends to go on while I took E outside (to our friends - I won't be offended if you didn't claim us at that point. I wouldn't blame you.).

Taking E outside almost always calms him down right away. Naturally, the one time it doesn't work was today. We parked our stroller next to a concrete wall right outside the store and sat down. He then continued to scream hysterically and turned onto his belly to push his way to the sidewalk. Now we had a huge scrape on his stomach, which provided enough pain to amp up the hysterics. At this point, I realized the only way to calm him down was to throw him the boob. Seriously, if I wasn't still nursing I'm fairly certain he'd still be sitting on the sidewalk crying. He calmed down, we went back inside and finished our shopping (sort of). It was mentally exhausting for me and physically exhausting for him, I'm sure. It also made me realize that in the past, way before I had E, I was a jerk.

I would've thought the same thoughts people were thinking about us today. "What a horrible parent, why can't she control her kid?" "What a horrible kid, why can't he act right in public?" "Why isn't she spanking him to get him under control?" "I hope that's not because she spanked him. What a child abuser!" "Maybe he's hungry. I bet she doesn't feed him." "I bet that kid walks all over her." And on and on and on. Boom. Clap.

But here's the thing. I'm not a bad mom. Sometimes I feel like I'm floating around in space, but I'm not a bad mom. And E is not a bad kid. Was he having a bad day? Absolutely. But is he horrible all the time? Of course not. He says please and thank you and gives hugs and kisses and likes to snuggle with his dog and no. No, he's not a bad kid. We've just entered a new phase. Probably the terrible two's early, but maybe something else entirely. He doesn't get what he wants, he throws a tantrum. End scene.

But how to deal with that in public? At home, it's a non-issue. It's either ignored when it's minor or he gets a time out when it's deserved. He's been spanked before, but it has zero impact on him so we don't bother with it anymore. Time out usually does the trick. The problem is that he's usually screaming during time out. So using that tool in public isn't going to work when, let's be honest here, I just want him to stop making a scene. And even if we did spank him, can you imagine the glares? Geez. Sometimes it's really hard to be a parent. So I'm going to dig out my copy of Happiest Toddler on the Block and figure out what to do from here. This is his first major meltdown in public and I was horribly unequipped to deal with it. The best word I can use to describe it is helpless. I didn't know how to make the crying stop. He was so far gone that everything was spinning out of control. It's not a nice feeling. Knowing everyone is watching to see how you're going to handle it didn't help either.

In the future, I hope I can handle the situation in a better way with a quick fix and less drama. For now, I want to apologize again to all of those caregivers I've judged in the past. You were doing the best you could and while there wasn't anything I could've done to help you, at the very least I could've minded my own business. That's what I'll be doing from now on.

Cheers,
Jen

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Halloween Wrap Up

The past 72 hours have flown by. On Thursday, we hosted a Halloween party for our moms' group, on Friday morning we went to the zoo with our friends and last night, we had Halloween festivities (basically passing out candy and chasing E down the street).

This morning, I went to the clearance sale at Target (my tradition) and came home to start getting the house back to normal. By the end of the day, I'm hoping to have everything packed away. As much as I enjoy decorating for October, I really love putting it all up. It's a sign that we're that much closer to my favorite month of December (hello, Christmas and birthday). I'm posting this here in hopes that I remember to look at it next year as a reference. Maybe it will give you some ideas as well.

For our party, we did a lot of DIY crafts. Mainly to keep E busy during the weeks leading up to the party. So we had a Halloween garland, a spider hanging from the ceiling and a little ghost scene covering our can goods rack. I really should've taken better photos at the party (I meant to do them before it got started and ran out of time), but what can you do? I was doing good to get snacks on the table and while I probably shouldn't admit it, was mixing punch after people arrived. This is why party planners don't take their toddlers to work.


Our trash bag spider. 

Saturday, October 25, 2014

DIY: Toddler Step Stool

E checking out his new stool: How sturdy is this dowel? Can I sit on it??
In the past few weeks, E has decided that he wants to be front and center whenever I'm doing something in the kitchen. In fact, he wants to be in the middle of it when I'm not doing anything at all. He'll walk over to the pantry, pull my apron off the hook, wait for me to put it on and then push the dining room chair to the counter so he can climb up and get into position (for what, I don't know). Then he looks at me expectantly like I've got a zillion fun things up my sleeve. Seriously, talk about pressure to perform. Side note: that's how he ended up with oatmeal cookies at 10 a.m. this week. In my defense, it was his half birthday (if I say it often enough, I think I can make it a thing). 

Right so, the chair situation isn't exactly what I would call safe. I'm able to push the chair next to a corner of the counter, which means only one side is exposed, but sometimes he bumps the back of the chair and I swear he's going to take the whole thing down. A friend of mine (hey, Jody!) recently built her daughter a step stool with rails and I decided this would be perfect for E. Even better, it's easy to build and affordable to boot. Here's the original post from Mint in the Middle. My friend's stool looks just like that one, but she painted it different colors. Our stool ended up slightly different because we had some measurement issues. 

Here's K enjoying her new stool.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Shrimp & Bell Pepper Tacos

Several months ago, I was looking for healthy, kid-friendly recipes. More specifically, I was looking for ways to hide veggies in E's food. I came across this recipe for sneaky veggie burritos, but it didn't go over well with E. So, I tweaked it a bit and now we, the adults, have it for dinner once or twice a month. It's healthy, it's easy and it tastes great.

First, you want to dice your veggies. We prefer ours in larger chunks because a) we like bell peppers and b) my knife skills are not so great. I used one red bell pepper, one orange bell pepper, one yellow bell pepper, about 1/2 a cup of sweet onion and a large piece of kale. Side note: why do they call packages of orange, yellow and red bell peppers "stoplight" peppers? Shouldn't it be red, yellow and green?

Now the original recipe didn't have shrimp in it, but I added it to ours because it needed some protein ("where's the meat?" - Nate). We buy precooked frozen shrimp because it's so much easier than cooking it from scratch (also, cooking raw seafood always makes me nervous for some reason). After you cut up your veggies, season your shrimp. I leave my shrimp (about 1.5 - 2 cups) in a separate bowl and sprinkle it with cumin, garlic powder and about a teaspoon of coconut oil.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Stitch Fix #4

This week, my fourth Stitch Fix box arrived. This time I didn't include any additional notes other than what was already listed in my style profile. As you know, I've had some issues with fit in the past but this stylist did an excellent job sending me tops that actually fit my frame. Here's what she sent me.

This is an embellished t-shirt that fit me really well. I probably would've kept this one, but I didn't like the extras around the collar. Not really my style and a little too far out of my comfort zone to try something new. 

I love that they send me blazers. I have a few in my closet that I'm starting to rotate between as the weather cools off. I used to wear jeans and a blazer to do interviews for the paper. For some reason, I've always associated that outfit with being a "real" journalist. Unfortunately, this one was too short in the arms. A common problem for me when it comes to blazers. 

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

9 Busy Bag Ideas for Toddlers

I'm sure I've mentioned this before, but in case I haven't, you should know that I have THE BEST mommy group. Earlier this week we had a busy bag exchange and the ladies went above and beyond with their crafts. If you've never heard of busy bags, they're crafts/games/toys that typically fit in a gallon-sized bag that you can tote around with you. Trip to the doctor's office? Grab a busy bag. Going on a road trip? Grab several busy bags. You get the idea. It's an easy and effective way to entertain your child. Of course, these can be modified to fit your child's age. These just happen to be perfect for our toddler group. 

This time I opted for something easy. Last time, I had a bit of a Pinterest fail. This was more my speed. I bought five boxes of flash cards for $1 each at Target. Then I split them up into 10 groups, punched holes in the middle and added a binder ring (also available at Target). 

Friday, October 3, 2014

DIY: Functional Halloween Centerpiece

I've been toying with the idea of a mason jar centerpiece for about two months now. One reason it took so long to get this project off the ground is because I couldn't decide on mason jars. The ones I wanted to use looked too small and the next size looked huge. I was at Target a couple of days ago and the huge jars were on sale for $4. Decision made.

From there, I decided to make the jars more functional than decorative. Originally, I had considered using candles or fall leaves inside, but I discovered I needed storage space and this seemed like the logical answer. Previously, my candied pecans were stored like this:

Sunday, September 21, 2014

8 Ways to Use Produce Before It Spoils

Part of eating healthier meals means buying fresh produce at least once a week. And unfortunately, sometimes that produce spoils before I get around to using it. I'm not sure if I forget that it's there or I'm not sure what to do with it....I just know that I've been working toward the goal of not wasting food (and money). So I made a list of all the ways I can use our produce before it goes bad. For those that are in the same boat, here are eight tips for making the most out of your produce.

1. Just eat 'em. This is obviously the common sense answer and probably one of the least used when it comes to vegetables (at least, in our house). Although, I do enjoy raw zucchini (random, I know). I also recommend using dips if you're struggling to eat produce by itself. Hummus, fruit dips, guacamole, even ranch dressing would work.

2. Grill 'em. If we're already cooking on the grill, I try to throw some veggies out there, too. Most of the time we don't even use skewers or a grilling basket. I tear off a piece of foil, chop up large pieces of veggies, toss some olive oil/salt/pepper/garlic powder on them and fold up the foil. I recommend using two sheets to make sure it doesn't leak. Poke some holes in the top and throw it on the grill. Bada-bing. Bada-boom.

Fill-in-the-gap meal: Pasta Salad

I used to think of pasta salad as strictly Italian. That it had to have tri-color pasta, Italian dressing and the seasoning packet with dried olives that comes in those pasta salad kits at the grocery store. But in an attempt to use up some produce, I started experimenting with pasta salad and decided to push back the barriers. Why set up boundaries for myself when it isn't necessary? By removing the Italian constraints, pasta salad has become a bonafide fill-in-the-gap meal (also known as, I didn't know what to make for dinner and/or I needed to use up this produce that's going bad in the fridge). Here are some pics of the one I made today for lunch.

I had some leftover bell peppers from earlier in the week so I started with those.

I added some corn, fresh basil and tomatoes. 

Fill-in-the-gap meal: Homemade Pizza

I love fill-in-the-gap meals. These are my go-to recipes when a) I'm not sure what to make for dinner and b) when I really need to use up ingredients in my fridge before they go bad. For example, this week I bought six bell peppers, but only needed three for my tortilla roll-ups (way better than they sound). So I decided to make a homemade pizza to use up half of the bell peppers that were left.

I recommend the Muir Glen Organic Pizza Sauce. Only $1 at the commissary and tastes great.

We've tried lots of pizza doughs, but the Pillsbury one is currently our favorite. It requires a quick pre-bake in the oven. 

Pile on your toppings.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Learning to love my food dehydrator & homemade granola recipe

A couple of weeks ago, Nate bought a food dehydrator. His basil plant was running wild and basil doesn't freeze well (learned that one the hard way). At first, I wasn't too happy about the purchase. Not because I'm an advocate of spoiled foods or plants gone wild, but because of the work involved. But Jen, you say, you just throw it on the tray and plug it in. True. But then you have to wash said trays. By hand.

Every time I look at the dehydrator I think work, work, work. And it also takes a lot to make a lot. It's kind of like juicing. Like you need a bag of oranges to make a glass of juice. With dehydrating foods, you need half a melon to make a handful of melon candy.

But I can't argue with the results. We dehydrated two trays of basil and crunched it up and put it in the same bottle as our store bought basil. Can you see a difference?

Before.

After. You can see how the color changes right above the line of the label.

Monday, September 15, 2014

DIY: Toddler friendly fall garland


Last week, a friend of mine (hey, Rachel!) posted about a super cute DIY fall garland she did with her son. So I did what any person trying to entertain a toddler 24/7 would do - I stole her idea (muahahahahaha - no, seriously, thank you). I hadn't previously attempted anything this crafty with E because I wasn't sure he could handle it. I'm the mom that worries about her kid choking on a dry bean instead of gluing it to the paper. And yes, I realize I won't be winning the title "cool mom" in the near future ("we could've told you that" - you). But it actually went really well. So well that I don't mind recommending this project to other parents that have toddlers. Here we go!

First, put something down to protect your floor. I am a clearance nut so when Target had their Easter clearance I bought this waterproof tablecloth for a couple of bucks. It's now used to define our crafting area. Layla approves.

Next, get your materials together. I bought some foam cutouts at Target in the dollar spot. We only used the large shapes this time, but I'm sure we'll get around to doing something with the smaller shapes as well. We bought pumpkins, leaves and turkeys. I also got a box of red plastic table scatter shaped like leaves for $2. Bonus: Right now you can use a 30% off Cartwheel coupon to get your foam shapes for only $.70 each. 

Friday, September 12, 2014

Stitch Fix #3

My third Stitch Fix showed up this week and I have to say, I was a little disappointed in this box. In my previous two boxes, the blouses they'd sent me were way too big so I made sure to tell them that when I critiqued each piece. So I was a little irritated when two more blouses showed up that were again, way too big. 

I decided to send an email to them to see how I could better explain my sizing issues and received a lovely email from their customer service rep. She was very apologetic about the size problem and said it normally takes a few boxes to get the sizing right. She also said their stylists read all of the comments and take them into consideration before they pick out your fix. Finally, she gave me store credit because I was so disappointed in the fix and she wanted to make sure my styling fee was covered for next month.

I have to say, I'm impressed with their customer service. Not so much with this box...but definitely with them in general. For this fix, I mentioned that I was serving on the board for a local organization and that I'd like some more business casual type stuff to wear to meetings. Here's what Erika sent me: 

I know there are people that can pull off the oversized blouses, but not me. It looks like I'm playing dress up in Blanche's closet at the Golden Girls' house. Also, that pink is not a great color on me...

The back of this blouse is sheer with polka dots. It's actually pretty cute in person and would've been great if it hadn't been so big. 

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Dirty Diapers & Car Damage = Rough Week


Well, the first part of this post is kind of gross, but if you can make it to the end there's a nice payoff. So there's your incentive (or you know, you can scroll down). Anyway, the past few days have been rough around our household. Mainly because E is battling a bout of teething diarrhea.

The first day, we changed 11-12 dirty diapers. The poor kid couldn't keep anything in his system. What went in, immediately came out. He also repeatedly stated (and by stated I mean pushed his cup over) that he does NOT like pedialyte. He's also now traumatized about having his diaper changed because his bottom was so sensitive. Needless to say, it took TWO people to change a dirty diaper at that point.

The second day, there were only a handful of dirty diapers - yay! And since Nana is in town, we wanted to go do something fun, but not too fun (no diarrhea water fountains at the splash pad for us! PS - you're welcome). So we drove to the Topsey Safari Ranch on the other side of Copperas Cove. E wasn't as into as the last time, but I think it's because he was still recovering from the day before. He did throw feed out to the animals and he liked sitting in the driver's seat. We were literally going 2 mph. Please don't yell at me. This time, we also got to feed the zebras, which was pretty awesome. And of course, the camel stuck his head in through our sunroof. Oh and a baby elk tried to make his way into the backseat with Nana - ha! I digress. The second day wasn't so bad. Things were looking up.

And then we got to the third day and the flood started at about 2 a.m. (nothing good happens after 2 a.m. - HIMYM). E was rolling around trying to get comfortable and I put my hand on his back. Big mistake. Because when I removed said hand it was covered in liquid poop. Not a good sign. I woke Nate up, turned on the lights and thanked our good fortune that we invested in a mattress cover. Because there was E, covered in poop in the middle of our bed, which was also now covered in diarrhea. The sheets, the blanket, his arms, his legs, my pajamas (the frack) - everything fell victim to his blowout diaper. So we go upstairs and clean up E and I throw all of the bedding into the washing machine and put new sheets on the bed. Good to go, right? Fast forward about four hours and E gets off the bed and starts walking around the room because he can't sleep. Ten minutes later his butt erupts (just like a volcano) and you know it's going to be bad. Nate and I briefly argue about whose turn it is to change him, but in the end, it required two people. We get upstairs and it's all over his pajamas and his back (how does poop go UP his back when he's already standing up?). It's on Nate's clothes because he carried E up the stairs. The smell is...not pleasant. And overwhelming. Nate decides to get in the shower with E and in turn, the house is filled with screams because he doesn't want to be in the shower (E, not Nate - figured I should clarify since it could go both ways). It is approximately 6:15 a.m. Then I started another load of laundry. And used bleach. Lots and lots of bleach.

It probably goes without saying that we are exhausted. And Poor E. He's the real victim here. 

And for those of you who stuck around for the whole story, here's the payoff. While we were at the ranch, my car was attacked by a pony. Yes, a pony. I was taking its photo and it got impatient with me so it KICKED my car with its hoof. It's times like these I wish I could swear like I used to...

Nate attached a GoPro camera to the car so we even have video of the little sh...pony doing the damage. Too bad the ranch isn't liable. Ugh. And don't worry, it wasn't harmed when I flung food at its face. Don't send me hate mail.

video

And here's a double bonus. The first time we went to the ranch, an ostrich snatched the feed bag right out of my lap. The back story is that I fed this giant ostrich and I thought it was gone. Then it snuck up on me. Mean little bugger. Here's the video: 

video

Anyone else having a rough week? 

Cheers, 
Jen 

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Fitness Fusion Challenge: PiYo

I had been doing Supreme 90 Day Workout, but I think I'd hit a plateau. Sure, I could've increased the weights I was using, but I wasn't motivated to do it. And once I lose motivation, it's hard for me to give 100 percent (or even 75 percent). So when I saw my friend's Facebook posts about how awesome PiYo was for her I decided to check it out. And by check it out, I mean go to Amazon and order it (honestly, I didn't even watch the clips).

PiYo is a blend of Pilates and yoga bodyweight moves (no equipment required!) and the workouts are usually about half an hour (perfect since E only sleeps about an hour). The host is super chipper, but not in an annoying way. She also says random things like, "get it, young blood" which I find hilarious coming out of these teeny blonde woman's mouth. Anyway, I'm really enjoying PiYo and started my fourth week today.

I randomly mentioned to my friend that I was doing PiYo because of her and she invited me to join her fitness challenge group. We started today and now there are people holding me accountable (uh oh) for working out. I'm determined to finish the 30 days though because I can tell that PiYo is making a difference in me. Better posture, stronger, more flexible, more toned - you name it, PiYo does it for you. Correction. YOU do it for you. Hard to believe I'm getting such awesome results when before I was using dumbbells and stability balls to stay fit.

And if you think that yoga and Pilates isn't work, you aren't doing it right. Today, I did the "sweat" workout and I was literally dripping sweat onto the carpet. "This ain't recess" - she really does make me chuckle. You know, when I'm not gasping for air.

So if you're looking for a new workout program, I highly recommend giving PiYo a try. Take a look at the clips online (or blindly trust me) and order it. I'm not getting anything from endorsing them so know that this is coming from a neutral standpoint. Also, they push a shakeology program, which seems helpful but I'm not doing it. I'm not huge into shakes (I ordered a protein shake a few weeks ago and it was so gross) and we eat pretty healthy for the most part anyway. Plus, my favorite part of working out is the post-workout snack and a shake just doesn't make the cut.

Is anyone else doing PiYo? Let me know what you think of it!

Cheers,
Jen

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

DIY: Art Display Board for Kids

About a year ago (yes, a year), I decided I was going to make this super awesome DIY frame that I saw online. Nate took me to Lowe's and we had the boards cut to the right size and bought stain - the whole nine yards. I managed to get the board stained and the frame sprayed, but that was about it...Fast forward a year and Nate is ready to throw out my project because it's taking up valuable space in the garage. To appease him, I decided to finish. Except, I totally changed the project because I realized the other one just wasn't going to happen.

I'd seen some display boards for children's art and decided to use my materials to make one for E. I had to buy the wooden letters, but you can get them for at Hobby Lobby pretty inexpensively (I think each letter package was $1 and there were four letters in each set).

I still have some work to do before it's completely finished, but it's been two weeks since I last posted and that's a bit slackerish for me. So here you go, my attempt at an art board (art plaque? art display board? I seriously have no idea what these are called).

Here's the obligatory shot of my materials (OK, not all of them are pictured, but you get the point): 2 types of stain, brushes, a four foot long pine board, binder clips, wooden letters, disposable gloves, hanging set, gorilla glue and one adorable painted dog (also found at Hobby Lobby for about 65 cents).


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Wardrobe Crisis Update: Stitch Fix #2 & Twice.com

My second Stitch Fix came in the mail yesterday! It's a little ridiculous how excited I get about these boxes, but I can't stress enough how nice it is to get something fun in the mail that's just for me. Anyway, this time a different stylist put my box together. I've heard that you should request the same one to get into a rhythm, but I kind of threw caution to the wind. I'd say my box was about the same as the first one. Some of it was good, some was OK and some wasn't me at all. What I did appreciate about this stylist was that while she put in items that were on the expensive side, she also included items that were on the lower end. For example, one of the shirts was $28. Since you have to pay the $20 styling fee when your box is shipped I already had a $20 "credit" of sorts (if you don't apply it to your box, you lose it). In the end, I would've been out an extra $8. Not bad at all, especially since you want to buy at least one piece and put your styling fee to good use. Here are the items she sent me:

This was cute. I wish it wasn't so transparent though.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Your child's positive body image starts with you

Another day, another article about a young woman suffering from low self-esteem and body dysmorphia. It's tough to read as a parent because it makes me sick to think about my child going through those issues. It's such a different world than when I grew up. I'm sure people made fun of my looks in school, but it wasn't posted all over the internet and I was never bullied by strangers. I didn't look at photos of thigh gaps or implants and think yes; yes that's what I need to be complete. And yet, all these kids are obsessed with fitting a cookie cutter mold. Or did it used to be like that and I was simply out of the loop? That wouldn't surprise me.

So this particular article was about a celebrity's child who grew up in the spotlight. At 20, her body has been starved and manipulated. Her mind has been broken from hateful comments starting at the early age of 13 - way too young to have people (adults, no less) criticizing your appearance. And while a lot of the blame goes onto strangers, others speculate that her mom may have been a poor influence. Famous in her own right, she's had a troubled past riddled with cocaine benders and lots of plastic surgery. To her credit, her daughter said she said all the right things, but they rang hollow. Her actions spoke louder than words. Insecurity breeds insecurity.

Whether it's fair to blame her mom or not, it got me to thinking.

Like most parents (all parents?), I WANT to be a huge influence on my child's life. I want to help shape the way he sees the world. I want him to inherit my morals and values (and Nate's, of course). I want him to be confident and self-assured. And I want him to take me seriously. If we have a daughter, I would want the same for her (everyone has body issues, but girls seem to have it worse, don't they?). But I don't want to inadvertently pass along my insecurities. So what do I need to do to make sure I give him the foundation he needs?

As Michael Jackson would say, I'm starting with the man (woman) in the mirror. Everyone has insecurities when it comes to their body ("I don't" - you, "Liar" - me). That's not to say you're so upset about it that you've taken drastic measures like starving yourself, but to say there are things that you'd change if you could. Like I'm OK with my post-baby stomach, but if well defined abs showed up overnight, I wouldn't cry about it. Anyway, I've decided to make a pledge to myself that whenever I have ones of those days where I'm not happy with my body, I won't mention it to my kid. I won't walk around saying I shouldn't have eaten XYZ because now I feel fat. I won't complain about how my skin won't tan (it's an Irish curse) and how tan people are so much prettier (it's really in the eye of the beholder, don't you think?). I won't run out and get botox because I've had some wrinkles show up and I don't want to look old. I will not live on lettuce and carrots or yo-yo diet because I'm watching my weight. I will not put my insecurities on my child. I. Will. Not. Do. It.

Likewise, I'm going to be very careful about how I phrase things going forward. Words are used to make people feel things. You can try to tell me that words don't mean anything if you don't let them, but I'm here to tell you they matter. Especially when the words are coming from your parents. And I've heard some pretty cruel things from parents (not mine) over the years. Shaming my child in public or private about his appearance is a non-starter. I'm all about educating him about healthy eating, clean living and physical fitness. But not about shaming. I'm a firm believer that almost everything is OK in moderation. A box of cookies at one time is not cool. A couple of cookies here and there is fine. I want my kid to experience life, not be afraid to live it because of what others might say.

So who is with me? Make a pledge to yourself and your kids that you'll build them up, not tear them down. That you won't put your insecurities on them. That you won't make offhand remarks about looking fat today (because sometimes I don't even think people realize they do it). That you'll practice healthy, clean living but still make room for cupcakes. And for the love, please don't let your kid get plastic surgery to look like Justin Bieber (I'm looking at you Botched guy).

Cheers,
Jen

Saturday, July 26, 2014

10 Amazing Sam's Club Buys

Warehouse clubs like Costco and Sam's Club can be hit or miss when it comes to saving money. In some areas, it's simply not worth the trip (I think one of the reasons Nate doesn't like shopping with me is because I walk around saying, "I can get this cheaper at the commissary/Target/HEB with coupons."). If you're using a warehouse club, do yourself a favor and steer clear of things like boxed cereals, sodas, detergent and other cleaning supplies. You really can get them cheaper somewhere else. The produce is also hit or miss because local grocers change their ads once a week, which means one week HEB is cheaper, the next Sam's Club is cheaper. It requires a lot of attention to detail, which doesn't happen with E, so I kind of use my best judgment (FYI - $1.50 for a pound of strawberries is a good price). 

However, there are some things that I tend to buy exclusively at Sam's Club. Paper goods (because I'm too lazy to look for coupons/deals and we're very brand loyal) and some other items. I thought I'd share some of the "other items" with you since they're almost always a bargain at Sam's.



Vanilla Extract: If you look on Amazon, you can find this for about $10. At my local grocery store, it's about $6-7 for 4 ounces. This bottle, at 16 oz, is a steal in my opinion. I especially like to buy this around the holidays because I never have enough vanilla.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Growing your own organic food

Freshly picked acorn squash and cucumber. 

It's been awhile since I've posted anything remotely crunchy so I thought that today I'd highlight my husband's efforts in the crunchy department.

One of the ways he works out stress is by gardening. However, he doesn't have a typical garden. He's created an aquaponics garden on our patio. He literally put in blood, sweat and tears (OK, maybe not tears) to create this awesome garden that provides us with organic fruits and veggies year round.

So what is aquaponics, you ask? It's a self-sustaining water garden. No soil required. Basically, you have a fish tank (ours has tilapia, catfish and we recently added koi) and the dirty fish water is sent to your grow beds where the dirty water fertilizes the plants. The plants then send filtered, clean water back down to your fish tank. All you have to do is feed the fish (although we have an automatic fish feeder now) and trim the plants. Oh and when one fish starts to get too large and dominate the tank, you take him out, throw him on the grill and enjoy a nice meal. Seriously.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Stitch Fix: Spruce Up Your Wardrobe

Several weeks ago, I cleaned out my closet - when you look through your clothes and see college t-shirts, nursing tops and old work clothes you know you need a new wardrobe. Even Nate agreed that adding a few pieces here and there would spruce things up (hey, I have to attend his work events. I can't look raggedy and I can't wear the same thing every time). So as a reward for cleaning out my closet, I joined Stitch Fix.

A friend of mine (hey, Jenn!) had posted about her experience on Facebook a few times and she was so pleased with the service I wanted to give it a shot. If I had to describe it in five words, I'd say it's a personal shopper monthly subscription box. 

For $20 a month, a personal shopper takes your sizes and preferences and picks out boutique clothes and accessories that are trendy and fit your personal style. The stylist picks five items, puts them in a box and mails them to your door. You try on the five items, pick out the ones you want to keep and mail the rest back (within three days). If you choose an item, the $20 service fee is put toward the cost of that item. If you pick all five items, you get a discount. If you pick zero items, you're still stuck with the $20 service fee (hey, they have bills to pay too).

When I signed up they were so busy that I couldn't get my first box for six weeks. And much to my delight, my first box showed up yesterday! Here are a few photos. 

This would be perfect for a work event or even more casual with jeans.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Unexpected Poop

Yep, that pretty much sums up my day. Let's break it down, shall we?
  • Poison control. This morning, E decided it would be a super idea to eat some of Nate's deodorant. And before you get onto me about watching him better, I was standing right there. Apparently while I was brushing my teeth, he was "brushing" his with a finger full of blue deodorant. At first, I thought he was only playing with it and then I got a whiff of Old Spice coming from his mouth. Sigh. Made a call to poison control and she told me not to worry and not to feel bad. Apparently, they get this call all day long. Not sure if she was trying to make me feel better or if that's true (either way it made me feel better). And no, we can't childproof the drawers because we're renting and have no desire to buy new cabinetry. Hopefully the taste was deterrent enough for the future. Ugh, poop. 

Monday, July 14, 2014

#Pleasesaveme


There are days when the only place E wants to nap is on my lap. Usually he starts out in his crib, wakes up about halfway through his nap and wants to snuggle for another 30 minutes to an hour. I really enjoy that time together because we get some extra bonding in (he is SO peaceful when he sleeps) and it forces me to sit down and relax. Forget the laundry, the dishes and yes, even my workout. It's time to put our feet up.

One other bonus is that I can catch up on my television shows. This is great because I rarely sit down to watch primetime television anymore (hooray for on demand). In the summer, it's not such a big deal because programming sucks, but in the fall it's my link to Scandal. Right now, I'm only watching Naked & Afraid and Ladies of London so the other day I went searching for something new to watch. I stumbled down the E! rabbit hole and wasted several hours (not all at once) of my life watching #richkidsofbeverlyhills. Yes, there's literally a hashtag in the name of the show. That should've been the first red flag.

Because it's kind of a train wreck. The people on the show aren't "kids", but rather adults in their mid-20's to early 30's. Oh and they are legitimately loaded. Most of them are spending their parents' money, not their own, but either way they are rolling in cash. Are they part of the famous Instagram account? This must be where they found these people.

There's not much of a plot to any of the shows. They host a blood drive in one. They take an anniversary trip to Cabo in another. They have fights (fake fights?) about itemizing the bill after a night out (seems a bit cheap, doesn't it?). For the most part they sit around drinking or go out shopping. The people are...quirky...but it's a contrived quirkiness for sure. When I watch them talking it's like they're behaving how they think reality stars should behave. I should say XYZ because it's expected or because it's funny (it's not) or because I want to play to the camera (bingo).

But I keep watching because a) there's nothing else on television and b) the way they spend money is obscene and I can't help but watch. The amount of cash they drop on a whim is totally nuts. Thirty grand on a purse? Or a night out at the club? Or to rent a yacht for a few hours? The frack. It really shows you how the other half lives. Then again, are their parents (the ones who actually earned the money) spending cash that way? Somehow I doubt it. The rich don't get rich by blowing all their cash on handbags and champagne.

At least when I waste time watching the Ladies of London there are some charity events thrown in the mix (their tiny blood drive barely counts) and they have real jobs. I need to find better programming to watch. Any suggestions? Oh look. Abbey Lee Miller has a new show where she saves dance studios!

Why yes, I would like to watch this episode from June. And...play.

Cheers,
Jen

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Reinventing breakfast: Chia Pancakes

If you've been following my blog, you know that E has become a wicked picky eater (sigh). If he could eat ham at every meal he'd be one happy camper. I thought I had found a new option for breakfast with the oatmeal cups, but he's recently started turning his nose up at them (or rather, pushing it away with his hand and saying "ba", also known as "no"). However, he loves pancakes (who doesn't?) so I decided to make our recipe a bit healthier so I wouldn't feel so guilty about feeding it to him (it has to be better than bagels, right?).

First, start off with Heart Smart Bisquick. If you want to get really crunchy, you could make your own pancake base and keep it in a sealed container in the pantry. I'm not there yet (man, I love Bisquick), but let me know if you have a good recipe and maybe I'll try it out (maybe). So, 2 cups of Bisquick, 1 egg and 1 1/4 cups of almond milk (we prefer the vanilla almond milk).


Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Upcycle your clothes


My closet is was a wreck. Nate thinks that I'm a hoarder (I'm not. I've seen the show) and to be fair, I do have a tendency to hold on to clothes. I don't know if I think they'll come back in style or if I might need them someday because my weight fluctuates...the excuses vary. He could've picked out any item and I would've had an excuse to keep it (but the color! the fit! the memories!) even if I hadn't worn it in years.

But no more. After going through a pregnancy, there are certain things that will never fit again (and that's probably for the best in some cases) and it's time to update my wardrobe. So I went through everything in the closet and made piles - keep, donate, sell.

Unfortunately, I'm horrible at selling things. And I know that using eBay is "easy" but it's just not for me. I don't want to post something there and then keep track of it and worry about shipping it if it sells. Drag a toddler to the post office? No thank you. And I know you can print labels from home, but I don't have a scale and I don't want to stockpile flat rate boxes (the color! the fit! the memories! - excuses, right?). Instead, I decided to "upcycle" my clothes by selling them to a website that specializes in used clothing.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Toddler-Friendly Day Trip: Waco

Now that E is doing better in his car seat, we've started venturing farther out on the weekends. About two weeks ago, we decided to take a day trip to Waco (an hour away from our house). I'd read about a farmer's market online and wanted to check it out, although we went cautiously since we've been burned before (I'm looking at you "farmer's market" in Austin).

Right, so the farmer's market website made it sound amazing and...it was! One of the best features is that the market is run on an 80/20 ratio meaning that 80 percent of the products being sold have to be agricultural. This is perfect for us because while I don't mind skimming a handmade soap booth, I really go to the market for food (much like our dog, this is one of my primary motivators). 

The market is also in a great location (downtown by the water) and they had several food trucks throughout the area. We stopped for crepes (Nate got the seasonal peach one and it was amazing. My blackberry one was just OK), but there were other hot options like a brick oven pizza (literally saw an oven there), breakfast burritos and a tempting bakery truck. We also picked up a basket of peaches, some blackberries and a loaf of cinnamon raisin bread. There was something for everyone, especially if that something falls into the organic meat, wine, sweets, tamales or kimchi arena (yes, even kimchi). 

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Reinventing Breakfast: Oatmeal Cups

At least, it's reinventing breakfast for us. Lately, the only thing E has wanted for breakfast is half of a bagel or a muffin or pancakes. And who can blame him? I love all things bread, too. But when I read about how bagels are horrible for you the mommy guilt crept in crashed in like a tidal wave and I decided I needed to make some changes.

Enter baked oatmeal cups. You've probably seen them on Pinterest boards or heard about them from the crunchy types that like to flaunt their nutritionally sound "baked goods" in our donut-loving faces. I made some a couple of weeks ago and surprisingly, E took the bait! He ate two at breakfast with his yogurt and I gave myself a big ol' pat on the back - job well done, me. Job well done. The recipe actually made about 40 oatmeal cups so I froze some before they dried out. Unfortunately, E doesn't like them reheated from the freezer (they are a little dry so I just slather butter all over the top. What? It's still oatmeal).

This time, I decided to make half a batch and to add some extra goodies to the mix. This should appeal to both cooks and bakers because while there is some measuring involved, there's also room to tweak it and make it your own.

Friday, June 6, 2014

A Mommy Confession


I have a parenting confession.

I no longer cloth diaper.

Yep, the cloth is gone (OK, technically it's still in E's room, but it's no longer on his butt). Me, the supposedly "crunchy mama" who couldn't wait to dress her baby in adorable cloth diapers has failed decided to quit for good (or until the next one shows up).

If you've read my blog before, you know that I was seriously gung ho about cloth diapering E. I bought different types, read up on laundry practices, even convinced Nate it was the way to go. And for a while, it worked. The laundry wasn't a big deal and E didn't seem to mind the cloth at all. And his butt was adorable in cloth (it really was).

And then one day - like so many other things recently - it wasn't working anymore. That card was punched for the last time. There are a few reasons why we decided to stop and while I probably don't need to explain them, it would make me feel better if I hit the highlights.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Should spouses get military discounts?

A couple of days ago, I read an article on Army Wife 101 about a spouse who was denied a military discount and proceeded to leave the store...and make a bit of a stink on television (gotta love the local news).

Basically it went something like this - she asked for a military discount (10%) when she checked out at Home Depot. The clerk said the policy had changed and she couldn't use the discount so she asked to see a manager for clarification. The clerk muttered something about her not being the active duty person anyhow and walked off. So she and a few other people in line left their items and the store. She's saying it's not the money (which would've saved her about 5 bucks), but the principle.

She said if you advertise that you support the military that should include the service member's family. I kind of agree. I believe a military discount is a perk, not a right, and what's more is really intended for the service member, not necessarily dependents (that being said, most establishments also give the discount to spouses as well because they do most of the shopping). On the flip side, military families are very much a part of their service member's career (moving, taking care of the home during deployments, attending unit events) so I can kind of see where all of the benefits should extend to the service member's family.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Response to: Apology to All Stay at Home Moms


Last week, an article went viral (OK, it popped up on my Facebook feed from several people) and while I applauded it at first, I'm now having second thoughts. Scratch that - I'm still applauding it, but I have some additional concerns. Let me explain.

Daddy Fishkins, a stay-at-home dad blogger, wrote an open letter about how hard it is to be a stay-at-home parent. He openly admitted that prior to staying at home, he was guilty of thinking things like "must be nice to sit around and watch TV all day." To prove how difficult it is even on a good day, he broke down a typical day with his kids by the minute. One minute he's trying to get work done, the next someone is on his head. Or his kids are still in their pajamas at 2 p.m. when it's time to walk to the bus stop to pick up their older sibling. And the chores don't get done in a timely manner because frankly, who has time for that? Basically, he's not sitting around watching Judge Judy all day.

And all of us stay-at-home parents applauded him and sent his blog post around the world on a viral mission of enlightenment to better inform our spouses who are probably thinking we sit around watching TV all day.

So, what's my issue you say? My issue is that it took a MAN to legitimize the role of a stay-at-home parent despite the fact that the majority of stay-at-home parents are in fact, women.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Mother's Day Ramblings (coherent thoughts are overrated, right?)

While some would argue that Mother's Day is an opportunity for businesses to cash in on our emotions, I like to think otherwise (does this mean they got to me?). Or rather, I should say that even if that's the case, I don't care. With the chaos of everyday living, it's important that we pause one day out of the year to show our moms some gratitude. And no, I'm not just saying that because I am a mom (or because I saw that viral video from Cardstore.com about it being the toughest job on the planet).

Although I'd be lying if I said my perspective hadn't changed in the past year.

I'm not going to say that "you never understand what it's like to be a mom until you are a mom" because some people might find that offensive. Two years ago, I would've argued that I appreciated my mom just as much as anyone with kids. How dare someone suggest otherwise, right? But once you become a mom yourself, it does make a difference. 

Last year, I was only about three weeks into motherhood when Mother's Day rolled around. And while it was special, I still had no idea what I'd really gotten myself into. I was so sleep deprived you could've told me the Easter bunny was making dinner and I would've said great, make me a plate. A year later, I have a better understanding of what it takes to be a mom and in turn, appreciate mine that much more. 

Because just like I have struggles with E, she had them with me. I look back at myself walking in circles trying to calm a crying baby and know that she experienced it firsthand. I remember the initial frustration I felt with breastfeeding and know I wasn't alone. I think of all the times I held E sleeping in my arms, counting my blessings and know she looked at me the same way. I appreciate how much she did for me - the long nights, the diaper changes, the feedings, helping me learn to walk and talk and sing songs. I know now that it wasn't always easy and she did it anyway and loved me in a way that I didn't fully understand. We share unconditional love between us, but a child's love for a parent is different than a parent's love for a child. I get it now. 

Thirty years after being born, I'm able to relate to my mom in an entirely new way. Going through childbirth and the ups and downs of raising a child - those are experiences that we'll share forever. 

I could ramble on and on and I'm not sure I'd make any more sense than I'm making now (am I making sense? I've read this several times through, but I'm still not sure. Putting how much you love your mom into words is tough). All I know is that I love my mom. I appreciate my mom. And I will forever be grateful that she showed me the way during my first year of motherhood. 

She may be a Mimi now, but she will always be Mom to me.

I love you, mom!

Cheers,
Jen


Tuesday, May 6, 2014

I Wanna Marry "Harry"


I am no stranger to trashy television. Rock of Love? More than one season. Flavor of Love with Flavor Flav? An unfortunate full series viewership. Marriage Boot Camp on WE TV? Ugh, yes, the whole damn thing. The only layer of scummy television I've yet to tap is the Kardashian trash and I refuse to go that low. Hey, I have standards.

And sitting firmly in the gray area is the new reality series called, I Wanna Marry "Harry." It's Joe Millionaire redone with a "prince." This guy - I seriously don't even know his real name - pretends to be Prince Harry and 12 American women (they would be American) try to date him, fall in love and get engaged in the span of five weeks. Of course, they're whisked away to live in an amazing house with a lovely staff in the UK so you know, it must be real.

Sigh. If this were really Prince Harry, I'd be glued to the screen. Can you imagine? An actual ROYAL on a reality dating show? The queen herself would probably keel over from utter humiliation (and this is a woman that survived him playing naked billiards in Vegas).

But a fake Harry? Eh. I'm also on the fence because I'm both amused AND embarrassed by the 12 women on this show. This guy may look similar to Harry, but anyone who has seen a photograph of him EVER can tell it's not the same guy. Um, and I mentioned the whole royal humiliation thing, right? So what person in their right mind would ever believe this is real? See - it could be amusing and definitely embarrassing.

Obviously these women are a) in it for the title, b) not what I would call real world savvy, c) probably don't understand royal standards and d) not the brightest America has to offer (why do they have to be American? Why?!).

I'm fairly certain in one of the show promos a contestant said she didn't care if it was Prince Harry or Harry Potter. What the what.

Maybe the twist is that they tried out for the show and had no idea it was "Prince Harry?" Maybe they just know it's a "Harry" and that's it? I could cut them a little more slack if that's the case. Somehow I doubt I'll get that lucky.

Ugh, I'll probably have to watch the first episode at least. Damn you, Ryan Seacrest. Side note - this guy has his finger in every pie. Do you remember that in the first season of American Idol he had a co-host named Brian? He quit because it was too hard to watch the criticism from the judges. Big mistake. HUGE (and yes, I am using the Pretty Woman voice there).

Cheers,
Jen

PS - You know that the real Prince Harry is going to watch. How could you not watch? If I had a lookalike doing a reality show, I'd totally watch. So if a royal is watching this trashy show, then maybe it's not so bad if I watch it. I'm in good company, right? What you say? Did you just rationalize watching this trashy television program? Why yes. Yes, I did. You're welcome Fox. I just upped your summer ratings.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Relocation Itch


As I was driving through our neighborhood today, I saw a moving truck parked along the curb. Usually I don't think twice about them, but today was different. Today, I felt the itch. And at almost two years in Texas, it's right on schedule.

I think it's from growing up as a military brat (I've literally spent 30 years around the Army in one way or another) and moving so often. The longest I've lived anywhere was five years and that was when I went to college. Even now, five years seems like an eternity. When I graduated and got accepted into the intern program I packed up and moved to Baltimore.

Let's see...one year in Baltimore, two months at Fort Meade, three-four months in DC, one year in Heidelberg, two years in Bavaria, one year for Nate's training and now two years in Texas. Yep, it's time to move.

And the thing is, I'm not unhappy here. I love Texas, we have great friends, my family is nearby -- I really don't have any complaints. The urge to move is just so ingrained in me that I can't turn the switch off. What are we going to do when it's time to retire and put down roots? I can only hope that by then I'll be ready to settle down...though somehow I doubt it.

I love being able to pick up and move every few years. It's a new adventure and an opportunity to meet new people and try new things. When we were overseas, we traveled once a month (a perk I could never afford here in the states - seriously, airfare to get over the ocean is obscene). I wish I knew what our options were going to be when it's time to move. Then I could analyze all of them endlessly (only to end up somewhere unexpected, ha).

Maybe I should go get E's passport in the meantime. Maybe that will help minimize the itch. Or it'll make it much worse. Hard to say.

Am I the only one like this? Say it ain't so.

Cheers,
Jen

Friday, April 11, 2014

Healthy Baby Home Party

What one of our party-goers took home. Photo courtesy of Caitlin (thanks!)
One of the things I've stumbled across while couponing is a trend in home parties. But unlike say, a Tupperware party, these aren't events where you purchase products. Instead, the company sends you a box full of goodies, you invite people to your house and you share the samples. Who doesn't like a freebie?

A couple of months ago, I applied to host a Healthy Baby Home Party sponsored primarily by Seventh Generation and much to my surprise, I was selected (I apply for parties all the time and never seem to get picked). They sent me a huge box of goodies including full-size products for prizes and samples for all of the attendees. Their customer service was also fantastic. One of the products - a squeeze pouch full of organic baby food - busted open in the box en route and almost all of the dish liquid and laundry detergent samples got soaked (naturally, they were packaged in paper). I emailed the team to let them know and they sent another box of goodies to me within the week.

Originally, I was going to host the party at home but with all the extra samples we moved it to the park so more people could attend. The event was yesterday and even though the wind was out of control, I think everyone had a good time. We even had enough full-size products that almost everyone left with one.

We love Seventh Generation and some of the other companies that participated (some are new to me so I'm looking forward to trying out their products). And they've actually got an online petition going to ask Congress to reform the Toxic Substances Reform Act of 1976 to protect families from harmful chemicals with suspected links to cancer, birth defects, asthma and more. If you're interested, you can view a video and/or sign the online petition here.

This particular home party was done through Facebook, but there's also a website dedicated solely to different house parties. You can check it out here. One of the recent ones included a free Keurig for the host. Why didn't I get picked for that one?!

Oh well. Probably better to focus on toxin-free living anyway. You're welcome, E.

Cheers,
Jen