Tuesday, September 29, 2015

STEM Storiez

I was asked to check out STEM Storiez and I'm really glad I was, because we will likely incorporate these into our homeschool preschool lessons.  STEM Storiez are accessible STEM e-books for young children and children with special needs.  I took a look at their website to learn more and discovered these e-books are really pretty amazing. 

From their website:  STEM Storiez is a set of switch-accessible e-books focused on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). STEM Storiez incorporate narration, interactive visuals, animations, sound, and adjustable print into an accessible format for inclusion of all children with or without special needs. The unique interactive methods incorporated into STEM Storiez are designed to support the diverse learning needs of children, while making learning fun and interactive.  Touching the screen activates the interactive visuals and sounds – each touch provides a different experience. Or use Zumo, a lovable and huggable smart toy made by engineers that makes the math and science come to life.

Using this technology, a child can learn math and science without even really realizing they are learning, which is really the best kind of learning, don't you think?  STEM fields are so important, and this is an area where I struggled as a child, so I want to give my kids every possible advantage I can.  An interactive e-book that helps teach them math, shapes, money, and so much more is something I can certainly get behind.  And one that uses a plush turtle to help with those lessons is even better.  So check out STEM Storiez and see if it is right for your child.  I'm pretty sure that turtle named Zumo is going to be under our Christmas tree this year.    

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Dear Nathan (3 years old)

Dear Nathan,

How is this even possible?  My heart, my love, my little baby.  You are 3 years old!  Time flies when you're having fun - it's so true.  Since you came screaming into our lives, time has gone so quickly.  When I think about the last three years, I can't help thinking the next three years are going to go just as quickly.  Then you will be 6.  And then three more years and you will be 9.  It's almost too much to bear, to think of you growing up so quickly.  To think of you being 6, or 9, or 12... or 21.  It's scary and sad and exhilarating all at the same time. 

I can see pieces of the you that you are going to become - and that person is remarkable.  The way you look at me with such love.  The way you are so gentle with your brother and with the dogs.  The way your eyes and nose crinkle when you're being funny or smiling your giant cheesy smile.  Your brain is amazing.  Having conversations with you, hearing your jokes, the unbelievable comments that come out of your mouth, are some of my favorite things in the entire world. 

You are, and always will be my heart, my love, and my first baby.  The boy who made me a mother.  The sweet baby who nuzzled your face into my chest and the big, bold, boisterous boy who crawls up into my lap and lays his head on my shoulder.  And when you are 6, or 9, or 12 or whatever, I want you to know you can always come to me.  You can always trust me.  You can always tell me whatever is on your mind.  Because you are my boy.  And I am your mommy.  Today, and always. 

Happy birthday, little love. 

A sweet children's book

I was asked to review this book, What Do I Do Well? and I'm so happy I got a chance to read it!  This book is just absolutely wonderful. 

It begins with a young girl's excitement and worries about starting a new year at school.  She talks about missing her best friend from the previous year and hoping she will be in the same class.  The first assignment is to draw a picture of what the student does well.  She thinks about all the things she does well and comes to a very sweet and wonderful conclusion.

I enjoyed reading this book because it has a lovely story and beautiful illustrations.  As a mom, it was very heartwarming to read a story that ends with a child realizing the greatest thing she can do is give love and to care for someone else.  This is a fantastic story to read to or with an older sibling. 

This book is by author Patricia Franklin and is available for preorder right now at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.  The book release date is October 22.

Saturday, September 05, 2015

Slow Cooker Beef Stew

I posted this photo on my personal Facebook page a few days ago and had people asking for the recipe.  I had no idea this would happen, nor that this beef stew would be recipe-worthy, otherwise I would have put it on the blog already!  It's one of our stand-by recipes that we have at least once a month.  The leftovers are great lunches for the week and it is really delicious.  It's also super simple.

I just saute some minced garlic in a pan, then throw the stew meat in there to brown. I use the big package that they sell at Sam's. Brown it, then throw in slow cooker with some baby carrots. Seasonings can be anything you like. McCormick makes a seasoning packet for beef stew that I used before we got married, but Jon doesn't care for it, so now I just throw some spices in there. Usually some garlic powder, Italian seasoning, salt, pepper, etc. I make sure it is covered with some sort of liquid - either beef broth or water, and put it on high for 4 hours. I then cut up half an onion and 4 small potatoes (peeled). Cook for 3 more hours on high. The stew meat is falling apart by this time. The carrots are nice and tender and so are the potatoes, without becoming mush.

I serve it with some kind of bread, usually French or Italian with butter and garlic or Italian seasoning, but even regular wheat toast works. That's what we had the night I took this picture because I forgot to buy a fresh loaf of bread, lol.

Super easy and very good.


Don't have a slow cooker?  Where have YOU been?  ;)  It's okay, now is the perfect time to buy one, since we are headed into Fall, otherwise known as soup/stew season!  Check out this site for great slow cooker ratings and reviews.  You can find tips for choosing the best slow cooker for your needs and lots of ratings and reviews of all the top slow cookers on the market.

If you try this recipe, let me know how you liked it in the comments!

Thursday, September 03, 2015

Progress

So I'm just going to put this out there.  I did photos on July 1, but didn't really start trying until August.  While I still have a LOT of work to do, seeing a difference, even a slight one, makes a difference to me.  At first, I couldn't see it.  After talking to some people about the pictures and having some of the changes pointed out, I feel pretty good about it.  You see, all I can see is FAT.  But others are seeing something else.  I need to work on this blind spot so I can see and appreciate the results of hard work.

I have no idea what my starting weight was in the first pics.  I know I am down 5 pounds since August 1.  I'll take it.  And I'm going to keep it up.  120 pounds left to lose. And I am determined to do it.

Monday, August 31, 2015

FitBit Addiction

Three weeks ago, I bought a Fitbit Charge HR.  I'm addicted.  In the last three weeks, these things have happened.


- My resting heart rate has gone down from 83 bpm to 74 bpm consistently.  Resting heart rate is a good indicator of heart health and overall fitness.

- My weight has gone down 5 pounds.

- I have been intentionally physically active every day except three of those days, and those all had circumstances that were beyond my control (sick kids, sick me, etc)


- I have stayed under my calorie goal of 1600 per day every day with the exception of a couple of days.

- I have burned my goal of calories for the day, which is 1000 more than taken in, every day with the exception of the sick days.

This data is eye-opening for me and I can see exactly where my successes and failures lie.  And it's fun!  I have been known to walk in place for 30 minutes or so just to make sure I get my steps in for the day if it has been a light day for me.  Jon thinks I'm nuts.  But hey, anything to get a little exercise, right?

I can't wait to see what else happens on my Fitbit weight loss journey.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Chasing Grasshoppers

The other day, my parents and I took the boys for a walk.  Last week we talked about animals in our preschool lesson, so we decided to identify as many animals as we could on our nature walk.  Nathan's favorite were these giant black grasshoppers.  He got down as close as he could and studied them, jumping back as they jumped away.  We decided to count them, because there were so many of them around us.  On our way back to the car, he found a patch of grass where a bunch of them were resting.  He decided to chase them.  I strolled Nicholas into the shade and watched my oldest baby run around and chase the grasshoppers.  The joy in his face - the pure and beautiful in-the-momentness (did I just make up a new word/phrase?) was amazing.  And it made me think.  If I had been in a hurry, we would have missed this moment.  If I had been talking or playing on my phone, I would have missed his joy.  It is so easy to get caught up in the things we have to do every day.  And I understand the need for schedules and watches and being somewhere on time.  Sometimes you can't avoid it.  But right now, in this season of my life, the important thing is to make sure my boys feel free to chase grasshoppers.  And I need to do some of that myself.  I think we all do.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Memoirs Made Easy

I've often thought about writing down my life story.  Of course, I still have some living to do, but it's something I've been really thinking about lately.

This looks like an excellent resource to make that happen.  "Memoir Writing Made Easy" is a book by Gail Woodard, with Dudley Court Press.

The book is a great resource for anyone who wants to write down the story of their life, even if they have never written a story before.  The exercises are simple and quick, but very effective.

It takes a step by step approach to writing your own life stories, starting with brainstorming and moving on from there.  There's also a great section on how to organize your stories - I had no idea there were so many different ways to organize memoirs!

This generation is losing something valuable - the time we used to spend talking with each other.  I remember sitting at my grandmother's house on Sunday afternoons after church and listening to her talk about her life as a child and a young woman.  We don't have that anymore, because even when we are visiting with each other, we're distracted by technology and everything else in the world.  Writing down your memoirs is a way to guarantee your story lives on in a Legacy Book that you can pass to your children and grandchildren.

This book is an instant download that costs $27.  Having previewed the book, I have to say I think it's worth it for anyone who wants to write their memoirs, but is unsure how to do it.  This book takes the guesswork out of it and makes it easy, just like the title says!

Friday, August 07, 2015

Homemade dog food for your furbabies




If you're like us, you're always searching for the very best food to give your dogs.  I like to call Kaylee our "special needs" furbaby because she has so many stomach issues and can't tolerate most dog foods.  We end up having to give her boiled chicken and rice several times a year because her irritable bowel flares up.  (Did you even know that dogs could have that?  I didn't!)

I wish I had known about this sooner, so we could have been using it for Kaylee when she needs something special.  But really, this looks easy enough to do every week.  Check it out - Coco's Canine Cuisine.

The description on their website reads:

Coco’s Canine Cuisine is a healthy mix for homemade dog food. Coco’s is an inexpensive, quick way to make food for your dog at home. We created Coco’s in 1998 based on a family recipe we fed our dogs throughout our childhood. We wanted to create a way busy dog owners can quickly make about a weeks worth of healthy human grade food for the dogs they love.

Sounds pretty cool, right?  But what about making dog food - aren't we too busy for that?  I mean, with work and kids and taking care of said canines, do we really have time to create homemade dog food?  According to Coco's Canine Cuisine, absolutely!  Turns out it only takes about 25 minutes to make a week's worth of food.  You do need to provide some type of meat to mix with the package of Coco's Canine Cuisine food, but that's all you need - a package of the food, a pound of meat, and some water.

There's a lot of mistrust in the dog food industry right now, with people wondering if the food they buy is really everything it claims to be.  There are claims that processed foods can lead to health problems and even death.  Making your own dog food is a good alternative to buying the processed bags of food.  Coco's homemade dog food uses human grade ingredients and is veterinarian approved.  And you can get a free sample if you want to see how your dogs like it.  I'm pretty sure I'm going to be ordering a free sample for our furbabies!

Breastfeeding Week



It's time to weigh in, and it may not be pretty.  Some people know my journey with breastfeeding was not a good one.  It was filled with difficulty and ended way too soon, when it was clear I was not producing enough milk to nourish my growing boy.  And before you say anything about how any woman can breastfeed if they really, really try.  Not true.  I did try.  I power pumped, ate lactation cookies, drank Mother's Milk tea, drank stout beer, and tried to breastfeed every hour.  I never got any more than a couple of ounces at a time on the pump, and my baby was always hungry.  And he was almost "failure to thrive."  That's when we decided to supplement.  I supplemented and breastfed for two months with Nathan and then stopped.  It was too emotionally and physically draining to keep trying at that point.  I was becoming depressed and had to go back to work, so I reluctantly breastfed my son for the last time.  I knew it was the last time, and it was hard to give it up, but I did because I felt like I had to.

Enter baby #2.  We were very successful with breastfeeding.  I exclusively fed him for two months and then started weaning because I knew I was going back to work.  But then I didn't go back to work.  My supply had already tanked and I just couldn't get it back.  So again, I fed my baby for the last time and said goodbye to that relationship.

But I kept feeding my babies.  Nathan got formula (and baby food starting at 4 months with our pediatrician's blessing) until he was a year old, and by that time he was interested only in real food, so that's what we did.  Nicholas is on formula and is enjoying baby food as well.  Nathan is an incredibly healthy, well-adjusted kid who is happy and intelligent and completely normal.  Actually, he is probably above average in intelligence, based on some of the assessments I've gotten from friends who know about these things.  Nicholas is thriving on his formula as well, and he just started crawling - at 7 months old.

I say all that to say this.  Breastfeed, bottle feed, do whatever you want, as long as it nourishes your baby.

All this competition, all these Mommy Wars, and really, shouldn't we be focused on taking care of our children - and each other?  Motherhood is hard.  It is made even harder with the constant stream of judgmental remarks, memes, articles, and everything else we see, screaming at us from our phones and computer screens.  For a moment, let's just stop and say to each other, "you're doing okay."  For a moment, let's stop judging each other and start caring for each other.  In fact - let's do that for ALL the moments.

Do I think we need a Breastfeeding Week?  Sure I do.  Here's the thing.  Women are kicked out of restaurants and stores for feeding their babies.  If my baby gets hungry in the store, I break out the bottle and nobody cares.  While some formula feeding moms face judgment and scorn for not breastfeeding, I have never heard of someone being kicked out of a restaurant for breaking out the bottle.  Or told to cover up her baby while feeding.  So yes, I think we need awareness.  And yes, I think we need laws to protect breastfeeding mothers and their babies.

But what I KNOW is that we shouldn't use these occasions to shame others.  To shame those who feel that their bodies failed them.  To tell other moms that some babies will have more success in life because they were fed a certain way.  To call formula "poison" and say that moms who feed it to their babies are giving them inferior nourishment.  To scorn someone or judge someone for feeding her baby the best way she can. 

When Jon and I had to take Nathan to the pediatric allergist, we saw a baby drinking a bottle - with Coke in it.  I hoped it was juice, but he shook the bottle and it was clearly carbonated.  That's something we can judge.  ;)

Formula is nourishment, scientifically formulated to be as close to breast milk as possible.  And my two boys have thrived on it.

Do I feel guilty?  I did at one time.  I don't anymore.  As long as my babies are healthy, and as long as they are getting the nourishment they need, that's okay with me.  I mean, Nathan does eat dog food sometimes, so I can't be too fussy about how he was fed as an infant.

So let's live and let live, Mommys!  Let's forget about our labels and our parenting styles and our controversial issues and just be moms.  And just love our kids and do the best we can for them.  That's what's important in the end anyway, not what they were fed for the first year of their life.

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Whatever Happened to Being Nice?

I've seen it so much lately, and it scares me.  People being ugly, rude, and intolerant to other people.  It's almost like we can't stand each other, can't stand having another person occupy the same space we do at any given moment.  And if that other person isn't whatever ideal we hold, they are stupid, ugly, worthless, and so on. 

You see it in real life sometimes, through the jeers and sneers people direct at each other.  When a family with a small child enters a restaurant, for example, people stare at them with a look of utter disgust.  Before the child ever even opens his or her mouth!  This hasn't happened to us that I am aware of, but I have seen it happen to other people. 

But online - that's where the real abuse happens.  Facebook comments in particular have gotten so ugly.  Have you ever read the comments on a news story?  Take my advice - just don't.  It's a black hole of the worst of humanity, spewing hatred and rage about whatever they can for no reason at all other than to spew. 

Whatever happened to being nice? 

I have a theory.  If people would show respect for each other, and if people would have compassion and empathy for each other, this would solve a lot of our problems.  Most of our problems.  Shootings at movie theaters?  Wouldn't happen if the shooter had an ounce of compassion for others, or a respect for human life.  We just don't care about each other anymore.  And that's scary. 

I was with a group of friends not too long ago and someone started talking about The Purge.  And the question was asked: If you could kill anyone without repercussions, who would you kill?  No judgment to those in the room who said they had some people in their list (because I know them and I know they wouldn't actually kill anyone even if they had the chance) but I had to say nobody.  I've been mad at people, sure.  I've wished maybe some really unpleasant stomach trouble or something like that on someone when they hurt me, but would I kill someone?  NO.  Because I have respect for human life.  The only way I could see myself wanting to kill someone is if they hurt someone in my family.  And even then, I'm not sure I would be able to do it.  Unless it was in the moment that my kids or someone else I love was being threatened, then I would likely find the strength to pull the trigger.  But random violence?  Or violence toward someone who hurt my feelings?  No. 

So what did this?  How did we get this way?  How are we now in a world where people kill each other for no reason.  Gunmen walk into movie theaters with weapons and hurt or kill strangers.  Kids shoot up classmates at school.  How did we get here? 

I don't know how we got here, but I do know how we get back.  My main goal in life is to raise my boys to not be the kind of people who could ever consider shooting others just because.  (I know mental illness is a big part of this and of course, if either of them ever showed any signs of that I would get them help immediately.)  I think we, as parents, need to pay more attention.  We need to teach compassion, empathy, and respect to our children so that they will not grow up to be callous people who hurt others, whether the weapon is a keyboard or a gun.  And if they do show signs of mental illness, it is our responsibility as parents to take care of that too.  We can change society.  We just have to put in the work.  And you know what?  We need to model the behavior.  We need to show compassion, empathy and respect too.  Be an example of what kind of adult we want them to be.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Summer Treats: Watermelon

Summer is full of great, cool treats.  As our family moves more toward a healthy, real food lifestyle, the subject of summer treats is a tough one.  How do you treat yourself, but still stay healthy?



One of my favorite healthy summer treats has always been the fresh, chilled watermelon.  Yes, nothing brings back childhood memories more than that refreshing, sweet, taste.  We had one last weekend, in fact.  And as I sat there, introducing my youngest son to this tasty treat for the first time, I wondered about the health benefits of the watermelon.  Research to the rescue!

Did you know that watermelons can help regulate the body's pH factor?  They also help reduce high blood pressure and can help reduce heart disease.  They are also very high in water content, nearly 92% of their weight is water, so for those of us who don't love to drink water, eating some watermelon is a good way to hydrate.  They are high in vitamins A and C as well.  And if calorie counting is your game, no worries here!  Watermelons are very low calorie, making them a great snack when you have a craving for something sweet but don't have a lot of calories left for the day!

While clearly very good for you, do practice moderation with watermelon, as with anything else.

Some fun facts that I didn't know about watermelon:
- Dogs CAN eat watermelon, though you would not want to give them the seeds
- While humans can eat the seeds, most don't because they can cause digestion issues
- Watermelons are considered both a fruit and a vegetable.  Fruits are grown from seeds, have sweet flavors, and are refreshing.  Vegetables are harvested and cleared from a field.  Watermelons share all of these qualities, and are considered a member of the same family as cucumbers, squash, and pumpkins.  Thus, they are considered a fruit AND a vegetable.


Wednesday, July 08, 2015

"Driving Grandpa" is a delight






Every once in awhile, a story will come along that warms your heart, makes you laugh, and really touches you because the characters are so REAL.  Driving Grandpa is one of those books.  It is a simple story of a man who takes on the job of driving his Grandpa around after he is no longer able to drive himself.  One would assume Grandpa is the one getting the benefits from this arrangement, but the narrator (and the readers) are the ones who truly benefit from Grandpa's entertaining stories and perspective.  Grandpa is a WWII Vet who has lots of stories to share.  And while his grandson takes him along while he drives for work, Grandpa shares those stories and so much more. 

I can't help thinking about my own grandfathers, both of whom passed away before I was an adult.  I wonder what their stories would be like if they were alive today, and I find myself envying the narrator for the time he has with his grandfather, knowing how quickly that time passes.

This book is family-friendly and a lot of fun!

Potty Training = Nightmare

Have you ever taken on a huge project, done the research, did all the tasks assigned to you, spent hours working through every step - only to have the project returned to you as if you had never even started, when you thought you were finished?

That's what potty training has been like for us.  Over and over and over.  I read the three day potty training method.  I bought charts and stickers.  I bought potty treats and an Elmo book about going to the potty.  I read books to him every night about going to the potty, encouraged him, and even established a "potty cheer" for when he would successfully go potty.  We were even able to take him out INTO THE WORLD without a diaper a few times. 

We were set.  Successful.  And nothing could stop us now. 

Until... regression.  I hate regression.  It's a cruel trick - a joke of Mother Nature.  It happens with every big, exciting child milestone.  Sleep, eating, potty training, even talking sometimes.  (we went through a period of time when Nathan started talking like a baby because of the baby, which is totally normal, but pretty irritating when your toddler usually talks in complete paragraphs!) 

But the potty training regression is pretty much the worst.  He's going on the floor again.  On the walls.  On the doors.  Everywhere but the potty. 

Any tips and tricks would be appreciated.  This mommy is at the end of her rope!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Henna Tealights

Everyone has that friend who is really hard to shop for.  I know I have at least one of those, and I'm sure you do too.  They love unique items, or they seem to have everything and not really want anything specific.  While shopping for such a friend, I came across a site that is really going to help me shop for certain individuals in my life.  And guess what - I'm going to buy some for me too, because I like them that much!  Check out these henna tealights.

The henna tealights from http://designsbynn.com/ are beautiful and unique.  Just like your friend. And just like you. 

Because I'm interested in knowing what I'm supporting, I checked out the "about us" section of the site after drooling over all the beautiful tealight designs.  I loved what I found.  The creator of these tealights started this business in 2013 to share a love for henna inspired art.  The design inspiration for these tealights comes from the artist's Asian culture, from nature, and from architecture.  It is pretty obvious by the descriptions on the site that the artist is passionate about the work.

The next time I need to buy something for a friend who appreciates artistry and beauty, I'm going to buy her a set of these lovely henna tealights.  And I'll be making my own order soon too!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Creative Recharge

I don't know about you, but I find when I'm busy doing creative work, sometimes I have to stop and take a break.  It's important to recharge.  Here are some ways I like to recharge when I've reached a creative block.

Games
I had been playing games on my phone, but that requires a download for each different game, and then I'm sitting in front of a computer and holding my phone at the same time.  Then someone showed me a site that has a cool collection of games that I can use when it's time for a creative recharge.  It's called funbrain Games.  Their goal is to provide fun and relaxation with a variety of games on a single site. 

You don't have to go anywhere else to find lots of different games to play because you can find it all on funbrain!  From arcade style to the kind of games you may have downloaded in the past, this site has it all. Playing games is a great way to take a step back and work your brain in a different way.

Arts and Crafts
Another way I love to recharge is to color.  Yes, you heard me right.  There are lots of adult coloring books out there just for this purpose.  You can break out your colored pencils or fine-tip markers or pens and have a blast creating something beautiful.  Coloring is great for mental relaxation.  Along the same lines, crafting does the same thing for me.  I'm always happy to break out the hook and some yarn when I need a creative break. 

Meditation
Let's talk about meditation a little bit.  Just taking a mental break and clearing your mind helps.  Listening to calming music and not thinking about anything can get the creative juices flowing again.  Focusing on a single word or image can help you come up with creative solutions to your problem.

Exercise
And last but certainly not least, get moving!  Exercise is a great way to recharge your creativity - and with an added bonus of making you healthier and happier (yay, endorphins!)  So get up and get moving, even for a few minutes.  It will make a world of difference.

Those are just a few things I like to do when I need a creative recharge.  What are some things you do?  Let's share our ideas!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Perspectives

I actually may have written about this once before, but I wanted to do it again.  Can we talk about perspective for a moment?  More specifically, a shift in perspective and what that can do for a person.  Because I'm learning that this is pretty much the key to staying happy with life.

I'm not talking about joy - that comes from a good relationship with God.  I'm talking about being happy with life.  Genuinely happy.  Because you can have joy but still be sad.  You can have joy but still be dissatisfied.  And that's where a shift in perspective is required.

I've been struggling lately with various aspects of being a stay at home mom - especially with a toddler who wants to test everything right now.  I have joy.  I even have happiness with my life and the way it is right now.  But I find myself becoming angry easily, frustrated more often, and upset about the smallest things.  A shift in perspective is required.  So I listened to this song, thinking about my personal journey and my life, and decided to make that shift.


So how do you shift your perspective?  Do you think about people who have it worse than you?  Do you pray?  Do you meditate on your blessings?  There are many ways to do it, and of course you should choose the one that is right for you.  I personally like to do a mix of these things.  I find if I take a moment to actually stop and think about my life and the good things in it, the problems I'm upset about tend to become very small.  I find if I take a moment to do something nice for someone in need, it helps me (maybe even more than it helps them) because I gain a new perspective. 

What is your perspective on perspectives?  (See what I did there?)

Monday, June 15, 2015

Excited about "Go Set a Watchman" by Harper Lee

If you are as bookish as I am, chances are you've heard about this (and even if you aren't bookish, since it's pretty big news!) new book.  Raised in the South, of course "To Kill a Mockingbird" was a book I read early and often.  As with any other book by an Alabama author, I studied it closely, being an aspiring author myself.  And now we have another fantastic work by Harper Lee, "Go Set a Watchman".  Seriously, I can't wait. 

In fact, I just found out I can pre-order the book and get something extra, so I'm extra excited!  Check this out.  Ol' Curiosities & Book Shoppe, a bookstore in Monroeville, Alabama (Harper Lee's hometown) is running a very special offer.  This description of the offer is from their website:

SPECIAL OFFER FOR THOSE WHO PRE-ORDER: To commemorate the special occasion of Harper Lee's new book Go Set a Watchman, we are going to be providing certificates of authenticity and embossing the title page of this hard-cover first batch of first editions we get here at Ol' Curiosities and Book Shoppe. We want you to have a one-of-kind special edition that signifies that your copy came straight from Ms. Lee's hometown of Monroeville, Alabama. This service will be free of charge to anyone who pre-orders Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee through us. These first edition books from Monroeville, AL, will go fast, so don't miss out!

This is so cool, y'all.  A first edition from her hometown!  You can bet I'm going to be pre-ordering mine.  You can use this link to get directly to the offer - either in hardback, paperback, or audiobook!

http://ocbookshoppe.com/pre-order-go-set-a-watchman-here.html

The book will be released on July 14.  Pre-order your first edition now!  I know I'm going to - right this minute.   

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Poop Happens



There's a saying I've heard most of my life.  I'll make it more family friendly by saying "poop happens."  You've probably used the phrase or something similar in your own life.  It usually doesn't mean literal poop.

Unless you're the mother of a potty-training toddler and an infant.  If you are, that phrase takes on a whole new meaning.

The Gargantuan Toddler (aka Nathan) had a day without any accidents the day before The Incident. Our potty training method seems to finally be working.  (If you want to know our method, it is very complicated.  He gets a sucker for going teetee and a piece of chocolate for going poopoo.  Don't try to point out the irony of using chocolate for poop - he's two and doesn't understand.  He just knows he likes chocolate.)  Not the best method, probably, but it is working for us.  When he wakes in the morning, I take off his diaper and put on "beebee wawawear" which is his way of saying "big boy underwear" and then he tells me when he needs to go throughout the day.  It's a pretty good system, and the accidents are fairly rare.  My mistake was allowing myself to relax.  NEVER relax, people.  Never.

So I'm feeding the baby a bottle and watching an episode of Gilmore girls while Nathan is playing with his train table.  He suddenly jumps up and runs out of the room.  This would ordinarily seems suspicious, but my kid is extremely unpredictable and hardly ever has a reason for doing abrupt things.  So I was a little curious but didn't worry.  He was gone for several minutes.  I called out to him, asking if he was okay, and he answered "I'm okay," so I assumed everything was fine.

After a few more minutes, when he didn't return, my curiosity turned into fear.  What was he doing?  Why was he quiet?  So I put the bottle down, got up, and started down the hallway.  I saw him in the shadows, holding out his hands.  He was naked.

He said "Mommy," weakly, as if he was afraid to say the words.  The dogs rushed past me into his bedroom and I knew.  I knew something was wrong.  And then the smell hit my nostrils like a fist.  I got close enough to see his outstretched hands and yes, my worst suspicions were confirmed.

Poop.  Everywhere.  I shouted "Don't touch anything" and ran past him into his bedroom.  His carpeted bedroom.  And then I found the dogs.  I don't even want to tell you what they did - I will just say I didn't have much to clean up at that point.  I choked back my own vomit for a moment, and somehow managed to get Nathan cleaned up.  I also put the dogs out in case they got sick after their snack.  I really, really didn't want to have to clean that up.  Ugh.

So after cleaning him up as much as I could, I got him into the bathtub and let him play around a little, just to make sure he got very, very clean.  I also scrubbed his hands to get everything out from under his fingernails.

When I finally got him settled in the bathtub, I went to get the baby.  When had I put him down?  I didn't remember, but he was safe on Nathan's unsoiled bed.  I picked him up and he immediately became redfaced and gave that telltale grunt.

"No way," I thought to myself.  "Et tu, baby?"

I guess it's true what they say.  Poop happens. 

Monday, March 16, 2015

Shadow Boxes for Baby

I'll never have a completed baby book for either of my boys.  I tried with Nathan, but it just didn't happen.  I plan to keep a memory box for each of them with special items from their childhoods, but that's probably the best I can do.  It's sad, because I always thought doing the baby book would be the most fun activity - but I have found my priorities are different and I just haven't made the time to do them.  Plus, it's a LOT of information to find and fill out!  I mean, who knows the price of milk when their baby is born? 

One of the projects I did want to do, though, was this shadow box.  The onesies were gifts from their grandmother, and I picked other small items to include from their birth of just after.  So, here's how I did it. 



Frames
They came from Hobby Lobby.  I kept an eye on the sales until I found them 50% off, so I was able to buy them for cheap.  :)

Background
I really struggled to figure out just the right background for these.  In fact, Nathan's had black felt as a background for two years, but I never really felt right about it.  So, when I got ready to do one for Nicholas, I pulled Nathan's down and revamped it.  I'm completely happy with the result.  I decided to go with a receiving blanket for each one as a background.  I would love to tell you it was the blanket they were brought home in or something special like that, but it wasn't.  I just picked a blanket that I thought would look best with the items I had in mind for the box.  For Nathan's I chose a blue one with white elephants on it because the print on his onesie was blue.  For Nicholas, I didn't have a green receiving blanket, but I did have a great white one with beige dots that I think works well with the other colors.  I cut the blankets to fit the backing exactly and then attached them using double sided tape. 

Items
For each boy, I used their birth announcement, a diaper out of their first pack from the hospital, their first pacifier, a tiny baby hat, and a photo of us.  I had a little extra room in Nathan's, so I put in a photo of just him in the hospital.  The hospital gave us the cute button with his footprint on it.  I wish the hospital we used for Nicholas had done that, but they didn't.  They did, however, have little old ladies who crocheted hats for all the newborns, so I included that.  It wasn't the first hat he wore, but it was one of the first. 

Placement
Honestly, it was all about how to fit everything in without it looking too cluttered.  Using the larger birth announcement for Nicholas really took up a lot of room and I may eventually pull it down and substitute one of the small ones instead.  I used straight pins to pin each item to the backing.  Be careful not to push the pin all the way through, or you will have a nightmare on the back of your frame.  Your fingers will thank you for keeping it angled and shallow!

Hanging
I hung them on the same wall, side by side, with a decorative wreath that we were given when Nathan was born between them.  I may move them later, but I liked having them on the same wall, beside each other, so I can look at them together. 

Some Tips
  • Don't put too much in there!  I know you want to preserve every little memory and item, but remember that this is a display and if you cram every little thing in there, you won't be able to see much.  Pick the most important pieces and do something else with the rest.
  • Choose a good background.  I love the idea of using receiving blankets, or even those striped blankets from the hospital.  We had a million little blankets, so it was easy to find and cut two.
  • Do include a special onesie or outfit.  Remember that you will forget how tiny they were.  If you use the outfit you took them home in or something that they wore during their first week of life, it helps you remember just how small they were.  I love these little onesies with all the stats.  You can find lots of vendors on Etsy who do them, or go with someone local the way my mother in law did.  
  • Do include a diaper.  I know it sounds gross, but putting a diaper from their first package is such an amazing way to show how little they were and how much they have grown up.  I look at that tiny diaper that Nathan wore and I think, "no way did he ever wear that."  But he did.  And it was actually too big for him at the time.  
  • Do include a birth announcement.  If you had them made.  Or a photo of the baby if you didn't do birth announcements.  
  • Have fun with it! 

Thursday, March 12, 2015

"To Do"

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles
at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Every day, I get out of bed with one thought in mind.  I will get something done today.  And I probably shouldn't. 

You see, I've been doing this stay at home mom gig for about a month now.  But before that, I worked in the corporate world (and the nonprofit world) where the entire day was ruled by my schedule and my "to do" list.  But when you are a stay at home mom, what is on your "to do" list?  What are the priorities?  And how do you balance the "need to do" with the "want to do" in a way that makes everyone happy?  I don't have all the answers, but I do have some ideas on how to make it all work for me.  Maybe some of them will resonate with other moms, too.

A Master List
I do so much better with a list of items to cross off.  If I do a list for each day and something throws me off, it's a problem.  I won't get to everything on the list because Nathan will poop on the floor or Nicholas will need lots of extra attention that day.  Or one of the dogs will vomit in my shoes.  Making a master list of things I want to get done eventually helps keep me on track but doesn't put me under too much pressure.  If your house is anything like mine, you probably have dozens of projects you want to do.  Organization, rearranging, deep cleaning, crafty stuff - anything beyond the routine of cleaning the kitchen, sweeping/mopping the floors, straightening rooms, cleaning bathrooms, and doing laundry - these are all on the master list.  I try to cross at least 1-3 of these projects off my list per week.  But guess what - more projects are added every week.  Just like at the office, the list is never-ending.  But it feels so nice to cross things off.  Side note - a few days ago, Nathan spilled milk on my master list.  I rewrote the entire thing, including the crossed-off completed projects, just so I could cross them off again!

A Loose Schedule
With a toddler, a schedule is pretty much required.  We try to follow a loose schedule every day that includes play time, TV time, craft time, learning time, meal/snack times, and nap time.  Just as important as having a schedule is being flexible with the schedule, however.  If something derails, I have to remind myself that we are not missing a client meeting or losing out on a million dollar contract.  If we miss the MOPS meeting this week because Nathan had a fever the night before, it's totally okay.  This schedule includes leaving the house as much as we can.  It keeps us sane. 

Multitasking
Yep, one of the best skills for the corporate world works in the mommy world too.  My best tip is cleaning up while cooking.  My mom would always do this and it saves so much time. 

Make It Fun
If you have a toddler, get him or her in on the action!  We are working on this right now.  If you make it fun, they are more likely to help.  Sing a song or do a dance while picking up toys.  Alternate the task, "I put a toy into the box and you put a toy into the box."  Anything you can do to make it fun for your child will work.

Spend Time Playing
I'm still working on this.  I've been working so hard to make sure my staying at home is "worth it" to my husband (by making sure the house is clean and the clothes are washed and dinner is on the table) that I haven't been making it "worth it" for the kids.  Or for me.  I've realized the main reason I'm staying at home is to be with the kids, so I need to BE with them.  The priority should always be them. 

Me Time
Every single article or blog post about balancing life and work recommends "me time."  Why?  Because it is the way we recharge.  Right now, we alternate bedtime so that one of us takes the toddler and the other takes the baby one night, then we switch the next.  If I have the baby, I can watch something on TV while feeding him and getting him to sleep.  After they are both asleep, I can have some "us time" with my husband or we can both have time for ourselves.  He likes to paint miniature gaming figures.  I like to crochet.  We sit in the same room with something on TV as background and pursue our hobbies.  Or we watch a movie.  Or we go to bed early and talk.  Or have "adult time," as I like to call it.  ;)  Whatever we choose to do after the kids go to bed, it is always something for US.  It is so important. 

What are some of your tips for doing things on your "to do" list when you are at home with the kids? 

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Recipe: Bacon-Wrapped Stuffed Chicken

I was looking for something good to make for dinner one night and didn't have all the ingredients for any of the recipes I found online.  Tell me that happens to other people too!  Anyway, I didn't feel like going through the entire ordeal of getting the kids dressed, shoed and in the car just to pick up a few things for dinner, so I improvised.  The results were pretty amazing!



Bacon-Wrapped Stuffed Chicken

Ingredients:
4 chicken breasts
1 package of bacon
1/4 package of cream cheese
1 cup mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup onion, chopped
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 tsp olive oil
Salt, pepper, garlic powder, and oregano to taste.

Instructions:
1.  Heat oven to 350 degrees.

2.  To prepare the stuffing, saute the chopped onions and minced garlic in a tsp of olive oil.  Remove from heat when onions are transparent.  Combine cream cheese, mozzarella, garlic powder, oregano, salt, pepper, and the sauteed onion and garlic mixture in a bowl.  Stir well and set aside.

3.  Cut a pocket into the largest portion of the chicken breast, careful not to cut all the way through. 

4.  Carefully fill the cavity with the stuffing mixture using a spoon.

5.  Now for the fun part.  Wrap the chicken breast with bacon strips.  Be sure you cover the opening thoroughly or the stuffing mixture will escape!  It took about five pieces of bacon to completely cover each chicken breast.  If you have any bacon ends exposed, place a toothpick through the bacon and into the chicken breast.  If you do not keep it down, it will curl and singe in the oven. 

6.  Bake for 30 minutes to an hour, depending on the size of your chicken breasts.  Mine were very thick, so it took an hour.

I served this chicken with herb and butter rice, green beans sauteed with garlic, and some toasted bread with butter, garlic, and oregano.

We're a BIG garlic family, if you haven't figured it out. 

Friday, February 20, 2015

"I will not yell today."

Image courtesy of 
imagerymajestic at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
I'm a yeller.  I admit it.  I've always been a little louder than the average person.  It helps on the stage, because there it's called "projection," but in real life, it's just talking loudly or yelling.  I also have a temper.  It's not something I'm proud of, but there it is.  My ex husband can attest to my temper as he has had the unique experience of seeing a cast iron skillet flying toward his head after calling me a bitch during a particularly nasty fight.  My current husband can attest to the fact that I'm better at controlling my temper than I was back then.  So at least there's that.  I'm easily frustrated.  I lack the patience that my mother has in spades.  I wish I had inherited some of it.

"I will not yell today."
I start every day with this mantra.    It usually lasts about five minutes.  Then the toddler sticks his hand down his dirty diaper and fingerpaints on the wall.  Or headbutts his little brother.  Or pulls a dining room chair into the kitchen, climbs up onto the counter, and throws half a box of Krispy Kreme doughnuts onto the floor for the dogs to eat.  Dogs who, by the way, eat dog food that costs $60 a bag and is grain-free.  (honestly, they eat better than we do!)

"I will not yell today."
But then I do.  And he shudders.  And says "I'm sorry, Mommy.  It's okay."  I sink down onto the floor and give him a hug, fighting back tears as I say to him "I'm sorry, baby.  It's okay."

I can navigate a board meeting like nobody's business.  I can handle myself at a networking event like a boss.  I can create marketing plans and crisis communication plans and create winning copy for brochures, magazines, and anything else that needs words, but I can't figure out the right gentle words to use with my two year old, who I love more than life itself.  I struggle to figure out how to apply the business skills I worked so hard to attain to this new job - this full-time Mommy job.  I know they have to apply somehow.

"I will not yell today."
It's almost 10 a.m. and I have so far succeeded.  I know it's inevitable, but that doesn't keep me from trying.  Every single day.  Because I know he doesn't mean to frustrate me and because I know that he's the best boss I've ever had.  Even if I fail, I know I can keep trying.  Because he's the most forgiving boss too.  I mean, it's not like he can fire me.  Not yet, anyway.

What do you struggle with as a mom?  Do you use any kind of mantra or something else to help you?  Let's share with each other so that we don't feel so alone.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

A new face

What Happened?
Those of you who have been coming here since 2004 will notice something different.  In an attempt to breathe new life into this old blog, I've changed the name, purchased a new domain, and will be writing a lot more.  What started out as a blog to chronicle my life as a recent college graduate working her way through her chosen career and writing fiction for fun is evolving to a blog about being a mom to my two boys and building a freelance writing career while staying at home with them.  It's always an adventure, right?

Why Not Just Start A New Blog?
Well, this one has been with me for nearly 12 years.  It's impossible for me to even fathom losing all that history.  It seems to me that it might be fun for other people to go back and read posts from when I was single, from when Jon and I started dating, from our wedding, and so on.  If you like what I'm saying now, take a walk through the archives and see how things have changed.  It has been an interesting ride from there to here.

Why Girly BoyMom?
Well, like most women, I always thought I would have a little girl of my own.  I grew up thinking about how I would share Anne of Green Gables with my own little Anne, using the Anne of Green Gables cookbook to make special treats from Prince Edward Island to delicately nibble on from our white-gloved hands (because we would also be playing dress-up, not because we ordinarily would be wearing white gloves, lol)  Buying prom dresses, planning a wedding, make up, tea parties, ballet recitals.. all of those uber-girly things were the things I was looking forward to doing.  And then God decided to give me two boys.  Don't get me wrong, I'm THRILLED beyond words about my two boys.  They are the lights of my life and I wouldn't have it any other way.  I'm embracing the #boymom life as wholeheartedly and enthusiastically as I would have embraced tea parties and gloved hands.  And I am also aware that boys can have tea parties and may enjoy wearing white gloves.  (Not Nathan, he's what the older generation would call "all boy.")  All that to say, this girly girl is learning how to live with boys for the first time ever, and it has been quite an adventure.

PS.  I am still planning to make them watch Anne of Green Gables and prepare and eat Prince Edward Island treats with me.  ;)

What Will I Find Here?
Well, pretty much the same stuff you've always found here!  It is still a blog about me and my life.  It's just a very different life than it was when I started this blog.  Look for posts about being a stay at home mom, a freelance writer, starting a business, crafty things, cooking/baking, and of course, my boys.  So it's not really a mommy blog and it's not really a writing blog - it's a blog about all the things that make me... me.  I hope you enjoy it.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Boardroom to Playroom - The beginning



What happens when a working mom becomes a stay at home mom without really preparing for the transition?  Chaos!  That's my life right now, and while it is, at times, very hectic, I couldn't be happier about the way things are working out.  But why and how has it worked out this way?  Let's start at the very beginning...

Our second son was born on December 18.  I had arranged for a 12 week maternity leave, but as the weeks went on, I started to worry about my coworkers and whether or not the company could spare me for that long, so I decided to go back sooner than originally planned.  It turns out, they could spare me after all, as my position was eliminated while I was on leave and just a week before I was supposed to come back, I was offered a new position.  I told the management team over two years ago that if I didn't enjoy my job, it wasn't worth it for me to go to work every day.  If I was going to leave my children for 11.5 hours a day, it had to be for something I loved.  The new position was not going to fulfill that requirement, so we talked about it and made the decision for me to stay at home.  

So here I am, with little mental or physical preparation, finding myself in the role of full-time, stay at home mom to our 2 year old and 2 month old boys.  It is quite a change, let me tell you!  I'm currently approaching everything like I would approach it at a job.  Playdates are meetings.  The kids are the bosses.  Each task or activity we undertake during the day is an assignment.  It's working so far, helping me approach this with the amount of dedication and seriousness that it deserves.  (Is seriousness a word?)  

From the boardroom to the playroom... who knows what will happen next...

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Valentine's Day Scavenger Hunt

I like to keep things fun and sometimes a little silly.  I didn't get Jon anything big this year, just a few random small things.  To keep it interesting, I set up a scavenger hunt in the house.  Here's what I did, and how you can do it too!



Step 1
Pick out a few random gifts.I did 3, which I would consider to be the minimum.  You probably don't want to do more than 5 or so.

Step 2
Decide where each one will be located.  I went simple and used the kitchen, living room, and bedroom.

Step 3
The clues.  I wrote silly poems.  You don't have to rhyme if you don't want to, but I think a cute poem makes it more fun.  Clues can be as easy or as difficult as you want.

Step 4
Wrap the gifts.  I used the same paper for all of them to keep things uniform.

Step 5
Write or print the clues and attach to the gifts.  Don't forget - put the clue for the next gift on the current one.

Step 6
Write an introduction to the game so the person knows what's going on.  I put the intro on a card and set it up on Jon's nightstand so he would find it when he woke up in the morning.

Step 7
Place your gifts - I recommend doing this when the person is asleep or not at home.  You could also send them out to get something from the car or something if you can place the gifts quickly!

Enjoy watching your loved one hunt!

This is also an awesome activity for kids, especially those who are learning how to read!