Monday, December 30, 2013

From Start to Finish:: Christmas Edition

I hope your Christmas was merry and warm. 

For someone who has always enjoyed the spirit and sights of this holiday, having a toddler in the house blew all previous Christmases out of the water. Her gasps, "ooohhh"s, and squeals pretty much made me forget what we ever did for Christmas before she was around. It must have been pretty dull. Here's a quick highlight reel:

Happy accident:: stuck at Nana's Christmas Eve (thanks, germs)

Round 2:: Christmas morning with Peaches, Pip, & the cousins

One toy. Two happy cousins.

Round 4 (#3 not pictured):: Christmas night. Home at last.
It's worth noting she was incredibly sick for all of these (and another Christmas not shown). And it was still the best Christmas ever. Such a trooper!

But, now Christmas is over. I know the holiday was last week, but we took our tree and decorations down this weekend (they typically are up until New Year's Day) so it is OVER. Except for the view out of my patio doors of an empty Christmas tree. It's a sad, lingering reminder of what was. Kind of like letters from an old relationship. Time to toss it to the curb (or in our case, pass it to a fishing friend who has other plans for it).

While it was here, we loved every minute of it. The smells, the lights, the yummy food...oh, and the presents. On the other hand, my second most favorite part about decorating for Christmas is cleaning up the decorations. It feels like a bigger (cleaner) house when it's all safely packed away. A mini "spring" cleaning. I think even Hayley appreciates the clean look. More room for her to adorn the space with new toys. By tomorrow, this clean space will once again show the aftermath of a toddler tornado. But, for today, it is a breath of fresh air.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

From Presents to Stockings

Christmas is less than a week away.

Picture at The Grove Park, post Christmas Jam fun.

For some, that means it's time to scramble to complete the wrapping, the shopping, and the baking. For others, that means it's almost time to start shopping. That would be me and Graham, respectively. This year, for budget purposes (we have a toddler, enough said), we agreed to only do stockings. Well, I proposed the idea, and he sort of grunted. I assume that means he will have no recollection of that conversation come Christmas morning. But I, for one, stuck to the stockings-only policy. Here's the thing: stockings can actually be one of the best parts about gift selection. Trying to find fun, meaningful, and needful things that fit into a sock?! And, not to brag, but I do say I've done a pretty decent job. On the offchance he were to get a wild hair and read my blog, I won't post his stocking stuffers quite yet. Instead, I'll share the contents of Hayley's stocking and some wishful thinking (ahem) for my own stocking.

Snowmen at Christmas :: My mom started a tradition of a book on Christmas Eve for me as a child. I love it. It's something I always wanted to continue with my own children. So this is Hayley's second annual Christmas Eve book. I'm just so thrilled she adores books. I mean sits-in-her-crib-alone-slowly-flipping-pages adores. Makes my heart happy.

The Snowy Day :: So, of course I had to include a book in her stocking. This is a classic.

Christmas Ornament :: I also got an ornament every year. I am continuing that for Hayley, as well. I snagged a good sale on this one (in ornament form, not a mobile), and I love supporting small businesses (especially mommy-owned!).

B. Fun Keys :: She loves keys and has lost or outgrown her sets. So, to avoid handing mine over on a permanent basis, I thought these would be a fun introduction to the car toy bag.

Toddler Apron (similar, but waaaay more expensive here) :: I snagged a deal in the Target dollar spot (Cartwheel sometimes offers additional discounts on those items!). We had originally planned a hand-crafted play kitchen for this Christmas, but we since decided to hold off one more year. But, this apron will still be fun as she starts being more helpful in the kitchen. And I'm pleased with my $2.40 purchase. Sure, it may not be as cute, but it was a tenth of the price. I'll take it.

iPhone 4s case :: What?? I don't have an iPhone 4s, or any iPhone, for that matter. That's about to change. Graham gets the upgrade, and I adopt his castoff so I can ditch the ever-disappointing Android. I was solidly in the Android corner. Until I had a child and had no patience for lagging apps and cameras that miss EVERY good photo. Also, the little income I do get relies on me having a fast, dependable phone. Buh-bye, Droid.

Moccasins :: I have literally worn holes through the bottom of mine. I love them. But, I would be just as happy if the mister used the coupons and Cartwheel offers available to get these similar ones.

Brookside Dark Chocolate Pomegranate :: Yum. And readily available at stores.

Target gift card :: It seems odd to ask for this from the hubs, but when you don't really have income, and you spend a good portion of your life at Target buying necessities and toddler things, a little momma shopping would be welcome. Especially at after-Christmas sales!

A pedicure :: Do I really need to explain this one? (and I wouldn't mind repeating the day I had with these ladies)

A finished, edited copy of Hayley's one year video. Currently, this is still in pieces.

Anyone else love picking out stuffers for stockings almost more than buying presents?!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

From My Favorite Tunes to Yours

Gosh, Christmas Eve is a week from today. How is that even possible? The good news is I'm nearly ready, though I have several post office trips to make this week. And a few last minute goodies (aren't there always last minute errands?) to grab, including one stop actually on Christmas Eve. Yikes. Fingers crossed Hayley will cooperate...

In the meantime, I thought a few fun, festive posts would be a good change from the serious and the stress. So, I'm sharing one of my sanity-saving secrets for the holidays: feel-good tunes. I love Christmas music. I'm always ready to give it up by Christmas, since we listen to it nonstop. But, it's also bittersweet to know I won't hear it again until after Thanksgiving. So here is a list of my favorites. You know, those songs that I crave and can't help but sing along to while decorating, wrapping, or recovering from the store crowd battles. Pipe in with some of yours. Happy Howling!
Thanks to Scribbles from Emily for free image

  • Christmas in Dixie :: Alabama
  • Tender Tennessee Christmas :: oddly, also Alabama
  • All I Want for Christmas :: Mariah Carey
  • Miss You Most at Christmas Time :: Mariah Carey (she might be one of my fave holiday singers)
  • Baby, It's Cold Outside :: So many good versions (and some not so good) Leon Redbone + Zooey Deschanel (Elf) is great, and you can't go wrong with the classic Dean Martin
  • It's a Marshmallow World :: Dean Martin
  • Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) :: Mariah Carey (told you)
  • A New York Christmas :: Rob Thomas
  • O Holy Night :: As long as a person can sing, it's hard to find a bad version. Here's a poll on this
  • Merry Christmas, Baby :: Ray Charles
  • That Spirit of Christmas (featured in Christmas Vacation) :: Ray Charles
  • Grown Up Christmas List :: I like Amy Grant's & Kelly Clarkson's versions
  • Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays :: N Sync (don't judge)
  • I'll Be Home for Christmas :: Oodles of versions, but Bing is original
  • Someday at Christmas :: Stevie had the original, but Jackson 5 also did it justice. Justin Bieber can stop ruining Christmas songs anytime.
I love so many other songs during the season, but these are the ones I long for in July and can't stop singing between Thanksgiving and Christmas. If Graham hears All I Want for Christmas, or sees me watching Love Actually, one more time, he might hand me divorce papers for Christmas. I'm kidding (I hope).

As a special bonus, here's an oddball song you might not know. It's quirky, fun, and will absolutely invade your brain (and a funny video parody): Dominic, the Christmas Donkey. You're welcome.

Merry Christmas singing!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

From Stressful to Joyful

Maybe it's the holidays (the most wonderful-ly stressful time of the year) or maybe it's just the anticipation of the coming new year. Perhaps it's just life, and I've simply taken more notice. In any case, anxiety seems to be all around me lately. Worry over events yet to happen in my own life. Concerns from friends over relationships and futures. Family struggles with new and ongoing issues. Even Sadie, our ever-happy 9 year old pup, seems to have some stress. (That may be from her recent experience that led to the cone of in the fur.)

It, all of it, can feel overwhelming. It can feel hopeless. And it can certainly feel never-ending. But that's where hope can come in because the stress, the situation, the pain, the fears, the all does change, stop, or take a break. Hanging on until that happens, though, can be tough.

It seems we all have grateful and blessed hearts at Thanksgiving. We see the daily posts of things people are thankful for. Then Black Friday comes, and the magic spirit from the day before seems to quickly fade to...well, black. Stress kicks into high gear. The holiday season, which should be a source of joy and goodwill, is widely acknowledged as the peak of depression and anxiety. Maybe we need to continue our thankful posts through the holiday season. Maybe we need to reread what we wrote. Or maybe we just need a shift in perspective.

I had a dear friend recently give birth to a handsome little man. Her pregnancy and delivery served as a great reminder to me of the emotions I went through just over a year ago. The overpowering worry that plagued me on and off throughout pregnancy disappeared when I got to hold my little girl. Gratitude washed away all concern. Until we got home, and then the late night feedings reignited my Googling and, subsequently, my anxiety. The things that once seemed dire were no longer a part of my life, but their rapid exit left space for new concerns to set up shop. Being a new mom was such a duality of feelings: joy and helplessness. And perhaps that is what happens during this season. What got me through those early challenges is the same thing I've been doing to help myself and others who have been dealing with some discomfort this year: encouragement. Encouragement through listening, kind words, advice when appropriate, displays of love, and prayer. Encouragement to enhance the joy. Because enough joy can start to shine light on the shadows. Perhaps that is why one of the most recited verses of the season is from the angel sent to dispel worry, "Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy".

So let me encourage any of you who may be experiencing a less than holly-jolly season. Direct your focus and energy on those people and things that enhance your joy. Remove those that remind you of the stress or the anxiety. In the immortal words of Clark W. Griswold, "I hope it enhances your holiday spirit". Whatever "it" may be for you.

Friday, December 6, 2013

From Thanksgiving to Christmas

Plans don't always rarely seem to work out when there is a kid involved. Thanksgiving was another casualty of that phenomenon. Hayley and I both got sick Monday morning before Thanksgiving and didn't recover in time to travel to either of our planned celebrations. So...we spent a very quiet day at home. Just the two of us (Graham had committed to making the only turkey product served at his mom's dinner). I actually didn't mind. Thanksgiving has always been a perk holiday for me. It's nice, but at the end of the day it's a meal and a time to reflect on being thankful. It's really something you can do anywhere. And that's exactly what we did.
She clapped along with the TV :)
We watched the parade. We napped. We made our own feast of chicken and rice, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, corn, and pumpkin cake. (Plus, we got to enjoy leftovers when Graham got home!) We played outside, took walks, and even spent time just being thankful. Hayley did this while eating. No surprises there. Don't get me wrong, this isn't how I want to spend every Thanksgiving. But it was a gentle reminder to go with the flow and to make the best of everything that comes along. Even if it's the flu/cold/cough/general icky-ness.

Finally, the germs seem to be leaving. Just in time to decorate for and celebrate the Christmas season! (I'm sure we'll see germs again soon, but I'm trying to savor the healthy days.) Against my better judgment, we are going to put up a tree this year (cue the No-No Patrol). We'll see how it goes...

 Keeping it simple: laughter
And letting a toddler go nuts in Christmas paper.
I tried to keep it simple this year. Very simple. The décor is minimal. The lights outside will be (they are not up yet...) few. The tree will be mostly lights since a lot of our ornaments are breakable and not toddler-friendly. Even my gift buying was kept small this year (although I need to stop shopping all the great sales!). It just feels like a good year to focus on the things that really matter. (Also, overboard equals overbudget.) Baking cookies, surprising the neighbors with goodies, participating in an Angel Tree drive, enjoying family, and making memories. It's astonishing how putting yourself in this mindset is so freeing. There's still plenty I wanted to do this year (pick out a tree with Hayley, create a few special gifts, do a Christmas photo shoot) that I didn't get to do. But, there is so much to enjoy, who cares??! Next year is another chance to try. But, for this year, I just want to enjoy the everyday moments of the season and reflect on the true source of our joy at Christmas. Love. Christ. Joy. Peace.

Side note, Graham has decided to teach Hayley how to throw the peace sign. It's adorable.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

From Day 1 to 30

Happy Thanksgiving!

November :: Thankfulness. Everyone is riding the holiday wave, coming off of Halloween and heading into Christmas. So, somehow, Thanksgiving gets nearly a full month of focus. Not that I'm complaining. If it were up to me, I would stretch fall throughout the entire year. Maybe one month of spring and one of winter. But, pretty much just fall. Rather than trying to make myself write a Facebook post of thankfulness each day of the month, as is the trend, I thought I'd spare everyone's newsfeed space (and also, there's no way I would be able to keep that up every day) and just do one post dedicated to being thankful. A whole 30 days worth. Without further ado...

Day 1: I am thankful to be a child of God. It makes everything else I am thankful for possible.

Day 2: I am thankful for grace. Both holy and that of those I love. Because I am deeply flawed (anyone else?) and mess up sometimes a lot. It might be something small like dropping my phone on my child (you know, hypothetically) or something big like putting my selfish needs before that of a good friend and failing them in a time of need or forgetting to make prayer a priority. But, by grace, in all of these scenarios I am able to acknowledge the mistake, apologize, and try again. Grace is a wonderful thing, and I do hope it is something others see me extend to them.

Day 3: I am thankful for my little family. My husband, who is not only my friend and partner but my oh-so-needed gut check and our current provider. My baby girl who helps keep my ego in check. On a daily basis. Being a stay-home mom has narrowed my world view a little, and I am so thankful these two are my world. Even at their worst (which isn't often), they are still the best parts of my life. Love and cherish them both dearly. And Sadie. She's a good pup.

Day 4: I am thankful for my mom. She raised me, and that's reason enough to be grateful. But, she continually provides me with a great support system and friendship.

Day 5: I am thankful for my in-laws. It's not easy to incorporate yourself into someone else's family, and it's not easy to also incorporate them into yours. But, I have a pretty great group of people who have really adopted me into their lives.

Day 6: I am thankful for food. Don't judge me. I love and appreciate good food. That's part of why I married my husband. (not joking...)

Day 7: I am thankful for fall. It's football, leaves, cozy clothes, jeans, fires, cocoa, cider, pumpkin everything, baking, cool breezes, and beautiful.

Day 8: I am thankful for coffee and wine. They each have a job to do. And they do it well.

Day 9: I am thankful for the internet. Seriously, I am old enough to remember times when we didn't have it, but how did we function??!

Day 10: I am thankful for a home. It may not be the home I want forever, but I am humbled by having one and knowing there are so many who would love to be homeowners.

Day 11: I am thankful for small businesses. They keep the American dream alive, and they feed the middle class.

Day 12: I am thankful for cell phones. They annoy me, but they've also kept me sane, safe, and in touch.

Day 13: I am thankful for digital photography. I wouldn't be able to afford taking pictures with film. 200 files from a two hour stint at Halloween. Yep, that's me. Thank God for digital.

Day 14: I am thankful for stay-at-home moms. I so admire each woman's decision to do this. It's not soap operas and bon-bons.

Day 15: I am thankful for working moms. I so admire each woman's decision to do this. It's not easy.

Day 16: I am thankful for little ones sleeping through the night. (or at least putting themselves back to sleep)

Day 17: I am thankful for formula. I never thought we'd need or use it, but I am so appreciative that it was an option for us since breastfeeding was not.

Day 18: I am thankful for pizza. Not much else to say about this.

Day 19: I am thankful for music. It has so much power over me. I can use it to change, enhance, define, or ignore a mood. I wish I could contribute musically in life, but I can appreciate it.

Day 20: I am thankful for pillows. All three of mine. Graham would argue I should be thankful for less of them, but I say more is more.

Day 21: I am thankful for good friends. So many times I have learned the harshness of people, but I know I am blessed to have a few good people to call friends. I love each of you.

Day 22: I am thankful for TV and good books. There is such a value for things that entertain and/or distract us.

Day 23: I am thankful for education. I loved it (though I hate paying for it), and I am so grateful to live in a country where education is valued.

Day 24: I am thankful for clean sheets. Mmmm......

Day 25: I am thankful for blogs. They are a great environment for sharing personal experiences and opinions.

Day 26: I am thankful for chocolate. The fact that I was able to put it this far down the list shows great patience on my part.

Day 27: I am thankful for literacy. My life and knowledge base would suffer without the ability to read the wisdom and creativity of others or the ability to chronicle my thoughts and feelings.

Day 28: I am thankful for chocolate chip cookies. This is different than my appreciation of chocolate. There is something so therapeutic about baking cookies and passing them out to loved ones. 

Day 29: I am thankful for the holiday spirit. The collective feeling of warmth, giving, appreciation, excitement, joy, anticipation, love, and friendship is never stronger than the days leading up to Thanksgiving and Christmas.

And, finally, Day 30: I am thankful for the beautiful blue mountains that surround me (or are closeby). They are constant reminders of the beauty life offers and the promise of finding something precious and familiar in this crazy world. They let me know I have found my true home.

As a bonus, I'm also thankful for you, dear readers. However few of you there may be, I am grateful that you took a few minutes of your day to share in my gratitude. Would love to hear your reasons to be thankful!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

From Party to Party

This summer and fall were filled with events. (I mentioned them here.)  I thought it would be fun to share some of the ideas I used, the results, and the stories from these events. I had a blast planning/hosting/attending but I am so glad to have some slower time (kidding, it's the holidays!!).
Note: my wonderful mom helped in some form or another with all of these events. Yay for moms! I also got great help from my mother-in-law for the first party on the list!

A Dear Friend's Wedding Reception (Following Destination Wedding)

"We don't need a reception." Yep, one of my very good friends uttered those words. I was unable to travel to attend the wedding. I am a romantic sap. And, I couldn't have been happier these two were tying the knot. So, of course, I decided that was an invitation for me to plan a reception for them back home after their destination wedding and honeymoon (yes, they got both!).

Of course, while I would have loved to plan a reception with an unlimited budget, I didn't really have that as an option. So, the challenge was to create a party that was big on celebration and love but small on cost. After much collaborating with other friends and family members, and oh-so-much Pinteresting, here's what the party looked like.


My cooperative husband did the big food items...Brunswick Stew, Barbecue, Baked Beans, and a keg in his homemade kegerator. The dessert table (in B&W above) was one of my favorite features. Candy + yummy sweets? Sign me up. And the couple's photos were so lovely, I had to use them as a major part of the décor. The venue was perfect for what we needed. Plenty of space for tables, food, sweets, gifts, and dancing. Plus, it overlooked a lake and was set back from the rest of the public area (which happened to be a park). I stayed within my budget and was able to repurposed MANY of the items for other events. Perfect. I had so much fun doing this, and I am so thrilled they let me be a part of their celebration. My only regret? I planned and planned...but I planned too much for myself to do night of to be able to break away for taking pics. Luckily, I had several amazing helpers who snatched the camera throughout the night. One of those helpers would have the favor returned at her baby shower...more in a minute.

Next Up: A Bachelorette Party in My Home State
Sometimes you know someone so long you've actually already planned future celebrations. Like a bachelorette party. The only problem? Timing. We've been friends for 20 years, and somehow the ideal party I'd envisioned for her a decade ago didn't seem appropriate now. We needed a sophisticated celebration that reflected who she is and what she enjoys. And I had to plan it several states away. So while I might have done something completely different, like host a grown up slumber party, if I lived in the state, I decided to throw a progressive bachelorette party. Only, rather than different homes, we traveled to different locations in the course of a day where people could come and go as they were able. And, it was a blast. Our agenda:
  • Lunch at a quaint tea room (perfect kickoff...though the bride and I got drenched in a torrential rain on the way in. Ah, stories)
  • Wine at a local winery. So relaxing and so easy.
  • Spa time (mani/pedi) for the bride and I. A great way to take a break and still keep the celebration going.
  • Check in to a hotel where we met up with the other bridesmaid to have a quick toast and change before heading off to...
  • Dinner (at a super yummy pick of the bride's).
Post celebration, we headed back to the hotel and worked on last-minute wedding details. Easy enough to plan from far away and a great way to incorporate several fun elements throughout the day. It also helped work into different people's schedules so they could attend. Another fail on pictures, I'm afraid. But here are two great ones...

Next: Returning the Favor--A Baby Shower!!!
When someone does an incredible job throwing a party in your honor, the first thing you probably want to do is thank them. Next on my list: throw them a party in return. When one of my awesome friends threw me a perfect baby shower last year, I immediately started thinking of the day when I could return the favor. Luckily for me (okay, and them!), that day came sooner than expected when my friend told me they were expecting earlier this year. Yes!! A new baby and a baby shower were on their way. This friend had also helped with the wedding reception, so I knew I could count on the help of the new bride to help pull this off. In addition, another friend of the mommy-to-be co-hosted (and held the shower at her house) to also return the shower favor. We had so much fun putting this together! I was able to repurpose some of the items I had from the other events, as well as purchase some new ones to tailor the décor to the theme (which was a jungle/fun type of shower). Here's what it looked like:

Seriously, so much fun. And such a deserving momma-to-be (well, as I write this, she is momma-in the-making...). I can't wait to meet her little man!!

I had one more big event this little's first birthday party. Partly because I might still be in denial and partly because this is already a freakishly long post, I am saving that for another day. But, I have committed to 7 prescheduled posts from now until Christmas, so stay tuned!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

From Finally! to So Soon?!


It's fall. My favorite season. Bring on pumpkin everything (so far muffins, bread, PSLs, munchkins, waffles, tassies, & pie), apple cider, chilly mornings, amazing colors, and boots.  Though I still have more decorating to do (for the season & for someone's upcoming fall birthday bash), here's a sneak peak at my DIY fall décor. Most of this is upcycled/reused. Partly because I love the environment & mostly because I'm cheap. Especially when I am not making a paycheck. That's the great thing about fall...nature does a lot of the decorating for you! (Note: the Via pack is not part of our display, but it is what I turned to this morning when I realized I had burned through my pumpkin k-cups. Emergency stash.)
Smith Harvest Décor

So Soon?!
It was bound to happen. Hayley is now only 9 days away from leaving babyhood (if we're being honest, she left it about 4 months ago) and becoming a runner toddler.  I, of course, loved her as a baby, but I must say this kid gets more personality and is more fun (and exhausting) each day. I love that we can really interact, play games, have "conversations", and enjoy each other's company more now than ever. And, I look forward to seeing all that she will do in the next year. On the other hand, it is a bit surreal that I will have a one year old. Time flies when you're running around and not sleeping, I guess.


The kid is a ham. And adorable. And mischievous. And she knows it.
Happy October 1st!

Friday, September 20, 2013

From Paycheck to Paycheck

During the Great Recession, many people, some for the first time, might have experienced the humbling living of stretching a home, a family, and a refrigerator paycheck to paycheck. It's stressful, and I think a majority of us have been there at one point or another. I'm blessed to not currently be in that situation (I think you have to make a paycheck to be a part of that crowd), but I have been reflecting lately on what it was like to work and live on an emotional paycheck to paycheck regiment. I might have just made that up, so here's my explanation.

A person gets a new job. This person is glad to have a job. And a job that offers lots of growth and promise, at that. Yay, job! New job is wonderful. Boss is wonderful. Coworkers are wonderful. Life is good. Over time, boss shows a new side that is less wonderful. Job promise starts to dwindle. Growth shrinks. Soon new job feels more like new prison. Yikes. But, hey, no complaining because person has a job. Except, person does complain. To coworkers. To spouse. To friends. To parent. And worst of all, to self. Once person begins examining job to self and seeing the whole picture, each paycheck seems farther and farther away. Because the paycheck has become the only perk. The only good feeling. Between checks, person is stressed. Person is not sleeping well. Person is battling an inner struggle. Person is feeling guilt for being so negative. Person tries to put on a good front for others, but that just makes person feel worse inside. Then the next paycheck comes, and things seem okay for a few days because maybe that's the price to pay for taking care of bills and splurging on retail goodies.

See? Living paycheck to paycheck emotionally. Sometimes there isn't a choice. Or it doesn't feel like there is. But, for this particular person, (can you guess who?) there was a choice. It was just a hard one to make. After making the choice, every step of the way has only served to show this person that it was the right one. God has a funny way of answering our prayers for relief sometimes. We think we need to conquer our emotions, but our emotions are there for a reason. If it doesn't feel right, it probably isn't.

That's a lesson I continue to learn with jobs. If the interview doesn't go well, even though the job seems to be perfect for you, it wasn't meant to be. If you can't find the job you're looking for, it's not the right time or you aren't looking in the right place (meaning something is available for you, you just don't know or see it yet). If you hate your job between paychecks, it's probably time to take the lessons you gained from that job and pack 'em up to find another. Change is always uncomfortable, but it's also the only way to grow.

I know several people seeking jobs, looking to change jobs, trying to get hired for jobs right now. And every. single. one. has struggled with the "right" job whether it be in the search, in the change, or in the interview. It's okay. I've struggled too, and I know I'll struggle again. The thing that must happen is relinquishing control (ideally you are giving it to a power much higher than yourself) and acceptance that all things really do come when they are meant to. That doesn't mean the next job will be the perfect one, but that's okay because you might still have a lesson or two to learn before you find THE job. After all, getting what you what too soon, while you aren't ready and ultimately lose it is worse than never getting it at all. But keep the faith! It is out there, and you will find it. It just may be a few paychecks down the road.

Happy Friday! (Cue mass resignation letter writing!)

Friday, September 6, 2013

From This to That

So...I had a great idea for a post a week ago. Unfortunately, like the planes over my house, the idea flew past me two minutes after it arrived. Rather than wait on another strike of inspiration, I thought I'd put together a random list of things for you. All kinds of things. A cornucopia of thoughts, if you will. Happy Friday!

  1. The Mom of the Year nominations keep rolling in. Okay, I know every kid gets into things/gets hurt. But sometimes they manage to cluster those things into a few day span. It's quite humbling what a mom can fail to prevent, even under close surveillance. A sampling: iInjury. It's an injury to the eye caused by an iDevice (in this case an iPad. Falling from a speaker. Because someone yanked the cord.) Oops. It has almost healed. In the meantime, the gash reminds me daily of the dangers of listening to uptempo bluegrass.  Next up: Soapatizer. This was my first encounter with the Poison Control hotline. I hope it's my last for a very long time. She's fine, and it wasn't a toxic substance. Can't blame her...who doesn't like a little Palmolive before dinner?? Side note, it would have been a bigger deal had I purchased anything but the original formula. 
  2. It's Fall. Starbucks, as us Americans know, officially kicks off the season with the return of the pumpkin spice latte (psl for those in the know). I got mine Day 2. Even the beer companies follow the lead of Starbucks. Immediately after PSL returned, pumpkin beer flooded the store shelves. Also, fall TV returns, football kicked off, and tourists stopped crowding the Carolina beaches. See? Starbucks started it all. I couldn't be happier to kick summer to the curb.
  3. Except I'm Celebrating Summer for One More Week. For months, one of my best friends, my mother, and my inlaws have been planning for a weeklong retreat to the beach. It starts this weekend. Hard to believe it's finally here. Which means our week of packing and prep is in full swing. Work really hard for a week to get ready, travel with a pre-toddler (joy!), and unpack/stock pantry/get distance from whoever you rode with leads to a much-deserved week of relaxation. Except we are bringing babies. Oops. At least we'll be entertained!
  4. Ready to Read a Good Book. Any suggestions? Normally, I have one (or three) lined up for a beach trip. But, I'm guessing the only reading I'll get done is works by Eric Carle. And, let's be honest, by now it's just reciting. And rewriting.
  5. A Year Old. Hayley has just one month and four days left in the months-old crowd before she joins the year-old ranks. I guess I'll be party planning at the beach!
  6. Speaking of Parties...My summer consisted of party planning, hosting, throwing, and attending. I think I'll do a mini series for the blog of some of the highlights. It was super fun. And super exhausting. Turns out, things I used to do easily are a bit tougher to do while (literally) chasing around a walking kiddo. On the bright side, I can not only chew gum and walk, I can also make banners, write notes, send emails, and assemble favors while walking.
  7. For Your Viewing Pleasure. Here's a photo from a past beach trip.
This is actually from Tybee, but I love beach sunrises.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

From Then to Now

It was 10 years ago this week (early June) that I graduated high school. Which means it's about three weeks shy of being my 10 year anniversary in North Carolina. Because once I left, I didn't go back, save for the occasional family/friend visit. It's funny to think how some days the decision between jam or syrup on waffles will stump me for an hour, but the decision to move to this state was as easy as knowing either way, butter goes on the waffles first. Since my blog is inspired by the transitions in my life, I figured this particular transition, one which truly changed the direction of my life, was due a post. So let's take a look and then and now.

I was in a serious relationship and was convinced everyone had a person meant for them.

I'm married to someone who knows as well as I do that relationships are serious work. Not at all like the stuff Nicholas Sparks portrays in his novels. More like the slogan for Lowe's: Let's Build Something Together. But, the payoff with this view is that much greater.

Side note: I am clutching this piece of delicious cake because it was one of the only things I got to eat that day. Don't worry, I had plenty of liquids.
I drove a sweet ride. (Don't laugh. I was a teenager, it was paid for, and I had friends who drove much worse vehicles).

I cruise in a mommy mobile. At least it's still adventure-based (according to Subaru's convincing messaging).

I knew I'd get my bachelor's degree and a great job. End of story.
I have my bachelor's, my master's, and I work for an 8 month old. And I love it.


I had good friends, and I loved Friends.

I have strengthened friendships, gained some great new ones, reconnected with a best one, and I still love Friends. But it does sting a little to see it on Nick at Night (when did it replace Happy Days???).

I had no idea about Facebook and barely used email. I didn't drink coffee, sip wine, or know anything about teething.

I loved writing and had aspirations of having an audience one day.

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

From Jar to Kitchen

So I received this book from my baby registry (what seems like eons ago). Cooking for baby sounds like a great idea, but it also sounds a bit too Martha-y for my mommy style. Until recently. I have been doing some introspective analysis (fancy phrase...translation: thinking about me) and realized I need more creative outlets. Although lately I have been questioning the amount of projects I have agreed to this year, I realize most of them I accepted and volunteered for because of their appeal to my creativity. Babies are fun, but all this routine stuff can really be a downer for a girl who used to thrive on only one routine: lack of routine.

So even though I feel like I never have any time, I realize I made time every week to watch The Voice. Now that the show is over for awhile, I know I have at least two hours a week to do something else. Now...what to do??

I have really been struggling with Hayley's meals. She does great and eats everything but peas (who can blame her?). But, I feel the urge to begin giving her more balanced meals and introduce meats. I take issue in feeding her meat from a jar. Mostly because I force myself to sample all her foods, and I don't want to eat meat from a jar. Enter the stroke of genius to start using my baby cookbook. I love cooking. She loves food. I have two extra hours a week. What could go wrong?

Rather than napping or relaxing during the oh-so-cherished morning nap, I busied myself with planning, scheming, preparing, and cooking some actually delicious "real" baby food. Minced pear with pork, nutmeg, and sweet potatoes. Pureed Chicken Parmesan leftovers from last night (sans parmesan). Turkey with cinnamon apples and pumpkin. Yum. Even made the kitchen smell delicious. The hardest parts were waiting for lunchtime and deciding what to serve. I felt like a kid myself on Christmas morning. 11:30, she wakes. I am feeling like a total rockstar momma. Or Martha. Maybe a rockstar Martha.

Any experienced parent can probably guess where this is headed. Did you notice a word I used too much in this whole idea? I.

First up, pork with pear and sweet potato. I pureed it some, thinning with homemade baby stock (don't fret, it isn't made from a baby). Drumroll, please...

Not what you would call an overwhelming success. In fact, my child actually refused food.

Well maybe she wants a bit more flavor. Let's try the leftovers from grown-up dinner last night. Chicken Parm without the Parm:

No go. Though, to be fair, the face was less of disgust and more of uncertainty with this one.

Another stroke of desperation genius: Make fun shapes from the pureed food and let her self-feed. All food is better when eaten with fingers. So the chicken parm puree became tiny chicken parm meatballs. And...


It worked. Back to feeling like a rockstar. Turns out, she is my kid after all. She isn't picky about flavors. She is picky about texture. Like her momma. I have a long-sworn hatred of cottage cheese, steamed oysters, pulpy orange juice, and other such "foods".

Summary: I haven't given up. I think she is ready to start on more "real" food, especially at the biggie meals like lunch and dinner. Finger foods (even those not really meant for fingers) seem to do the best. The baby experiment continues...

Friday, May 24, 2013


Ever have one of those days where you just want to spill your guts to someone? Those times where you actually don't want to have a conversation; you just want a captive audience. No? Just me? Well, you can guess where this post is headed so if you came expecting to read something insightful, forget about it for today. Today I am going to be selfish and blurt out some confessions and thoughts to a blank screen. And maybe it will make someone else feel a little less selfish for wanting to do the same thing. Or, at least, that's what I will tell myself. Here goes.

  • Sometimes I think I only work out so I can eat junk food that day and feel less guilty. Hello Friday.
  • I love playing with my girl, but there are days where I count the minutes until naptime. Those are usually the days where Karma calls in the No Nap Ninja. Ever had a visit from that guy? He's delightful.
  • One of the hardest things about being a mom and staying home is following routines. I despise them. I guess you would call this me being stretched for growth. So far, no luck.
  • Another reason I am not a workout fanatic is because of this resistance to routine. I like the feeling post-workout, but I truly hate doing the same thing every day. Which is a bit ironic, since I do drink coffee everyday while checking email and Facebook. Hmmm.
  • I talk to myself while I cook (I also do this other times, but let's focus). I have always pretended I am hosting a cooking show, even when I was little and "cooked" with a microwave. I also used my mom's cookbooks for pretend school (my brother was the lucky student). I have no idea where this came from. If nothing else, narrating my day or my cooking was not a mom adjustment I had to make. I talk outloud whether Hayley is around or not. (I think I hear them coming with the straight jacket.)
  • Since it's almost summer and since I rarely get to drink coffee while it's hot anyway, I've given up and started making iced coffee. And I almost like it better. Jumping on the iced coffee bandwagon.
  • I hate keeping secrets. (Gosh, I bet this is shocking considering the post topic.) I will keep secrets for a friend, but that leaves very little room for mine. So I am pretty much an open book if you get me talking (which isn't hard to do).
  • I could never live at the beach. Give me cool mountain air anyday over waves/sand/sun. I actually only enjoy the beach one or two times a year. I get bored.
  • I wish I could sing. I truly can't hold any (good) notes. I always dreamed of being a singer, but it seems you have to have some talent to do that. Or have kids. Poor Hayley...
  • I resisted the peer pressure to get an iPhone for years. And now I want one. Android keeps letting me down. The final straw is the crappy cameras on nearly all Android phones. 
  • My favorite holiday is still Christmas. I love decorating, baking, and wrapping presents. I hope to be able to host Christmas more now that we have a kiddo. See next confession.
  • I LOVE hosting. Maybe that's why I found myself planning/hosting four parties and a beach trip this year. It relaxes me to organize parties (mostly), and I love the joy a party can bring to the honoree. Makes me feel like a chocolate chip cookie...warm & gooey inside. (I also love chocolate chip cookies.)
  • I NEVER wish for summer. I wouldn't shed a tear if I never saw another thermometer above 80. I dread summertime. I hate shorts. I hate mosquitoes (though they love me). I hate being hot. From the time it warms up (in Charlotte that is typically April) until it cools down for fall (not until October), I count the days and hibernate indoors as much as possible. Being pregnant during this time was rough last year. I see why people have spring babies.
  • I only visit Illinois for my friends, and that says how much they mean to me. Because I hate flying back there. I actually get nauseated thinking about it. I don't mind Chicago, but the rest of the state gives me a yucky feeling inside. It always has, and that's why I left. But, I will be headed there in August this year for a friend's wedding and to meet another's baby (Hayley's best friend). I love you ladies! 
  • I always wanted three kids. Then I had one. Now I am more reasonably considering two as the final count. (Graham was right on this ONE thing.) 
  • I have a HORRIBLE long-term memory. Honestly, I think I've blocked a lot of time periods from my mind without realizing it. That unfortunately leaves a lot of gaps. If you ever see me smiling and nodding along, it's nothing personal. I've been through some stuff that my brain doesn't want me to relive. My short-term memory, on the other hand, is spectacular. Which is why I always cram-study. Does me no good to start earlier than necessary (my procrastinator self just high-fived my crappy memory).
  • Ironically, I have a tough time letting friends get close (which speaks volumes for those I do let in). I think it's because I do open up so much when I trust someone. I've learned to be more cautious with handing out trust cards than I was in the past. So I keep a very small circle of friends and a much larger circle of acquaintances. 
  • I want to do something great. I just don't know what that is. I have dreams of writing, of being an event planner, of helping Graham open a restaurant, of starting a business, of working for a great cause, of raising great kids, of winning the lottery...I guess time will tell what happens. Though, sadly, I doubt it will be the lottery thing. Spoiler alert: I would truly be someone who would pay off debts for friends/family. I'd spend some, too. 
  • My five year anniversary is Saturday. Crazy how fast time goes. 
Whew. And there you have it. Happy Friday!

Monday, May 20, 2013

From Hayley up to Mommy Down

So the traditional line is sun up to sun down, but since we are heading into longer daylight hours, neither part of that description would describe our "day". Like many mommy bloggers (and others too really), I thought it would be fun/entertaining to do a post of our day in pictures. Also, it will probably make you feel better about your day (or at least more sane if you feel alone in the throes of mommyhood). I follow several wonderful mommy bloggers. Unfortunately, they're also mostly Martha Stewart types. (Thank God Martha didn't have a handle on EVERYthing in her life!), and while they inspire me, they also make me feel a bit like I'm living on the wrong planet. So, maybe this post is really just for me so I can see something published that I can relate to. But, maybe, it's also for you. Join me for a day on Planet Chaos.

Warning: These pictures may contain dirty (no really, dirt might be there) images. I have a cat, a dog, a husband, and a baby. My house can be messy, even if I am cleaning it. It just makes way for new messes. I hope you can relate. 


 6:28 am: Hark! The gentle crib-kicking and squealing sounds of my precious little girl. I am not exaggerating...I had a visitor at the house and she sweetly said, "I know you have a six-month old, and who else am I hearing upstairs?" To which I had to sheepishly reply, "That IS my six month old. We call her the Hayl-storm."  Anyway, this isn't a HORRIBLE wakeup time, unless of course your child didn't sleep until 11 pm and was up at 3 am. So my hopes of starting my day before she got up went straight to the trash, along with the delightful diaper I found her squirming in when I walked into the room. And so it starts.

8:00 am: It's time for a workout while she naps. As if all I just did wasn't workout enough. Quick recap: messy diaper; changing a baby while she's kicking, trying to crawl, and rolling; downstairs in time to see a very relieved Daddy head off to work as he shouts "Good luck!"; jumperoo while I make her oatmeal and peaches; highchair while she blows bubbles as she eats; floor time while Mommy cleans bottles (most frequent activity in my life), and floor time means getting into everything so constant pulling away from danger is needed; swing for a minute with a teether while Mommy FINALLY has time to gulp some water (forget breakfast); and then a bottle and a nap. Anyway, now I'm ready to hit it with Jillian. Really, for someone who hates working out, this is a fun workout. Still, that's like having the best root canal you've ever had or the best load of laundry you've ever done.

9:50 am:  Snuck in a shower after workout and half a cup of lukewarm coffee. I'd like to tell you that my morning snack was a banana or yogurt, but today it was a brownie. Hey, I worked out! Since it's raining, I'm feeling lazy, and the only people we'll see today are Target mommies and a good mommy friend with two boys, my attire is a jersey tunic and leggings. And wet hair. Because who has time to blowdry?? She's up we go.

12:30 pm: Just finished a lovely chat with a good friend (sometimes called my twin. True to form, we dressed alike today). Hayley was good for most of her visit, though a bit fussy. A walk, followed by a bottle and nap allowed us to have a good talk though. Now I'm cramming in a quick lunch of a turkey wrap and rice cake chips. And water. I always forget to drink water. I'm also getting my list and coupons ready for Mommy Mecca aka Target. Good sales this week, which is nice when you are spending someone else's money (thanks hubby!). Oh yeah, and must think of something for dinner. Preferably something easy that appears to take a lot of work. (The slow cooker is my BFF.) That way, I can actually finish it and impress the man without having to stress. Hmm...thawed homemade soup and fancy sandwiches!

2:40 pm: Back from Target. She loves her newfound freedom of riding in the cart (not in a carseat), so she enjoyed the trip. I grabbed several storage totes along with our baby and big people groceries, so my cart was filled to the max (and I still had to carry two totes). Plus, I had a baby. This led to several kind folks asking if I could manage to my car, a few more staring as they passed, and me demonstrating my talent luck in getting it all safely to the car. Basically the people offering help were politely saying "Honey, you look like a mess. Let me help." Ah well. Back for a bottle and NOT a nap. Although tired, her teeth decided to keep her from sleeping. Which prompted me to brew another cup of coffee and munch on a few strawberries with Nutella. Mid-afternoon pick-me-up. Also, I did get a 15 minute nap in before we headed to Target. Trying to scrounge up some energy wherever I can!
The blurriness of this photo is one example of the awful phone I had to substitute for this post.
4:58 pm: Still no nap thanks to those teeth. She's going on four hours of awake time now. Yikes. Now we are up against an awkward period...if she naps now, bedtime will be stretched, but it's also dinner time...and she's had almost all her bottles for the day. Fun. Luckily, it has cleared up outside so we can go for another walk to kill some time. Good thing I planned on an easy dinner. For now, she's sitting in her swing gnawing on celery. Waiting on Daddy to get home (puh-lease don't let today be a late night for him)...

5:46 pm: Thank the Lord. A 33 minute nap and now Daddy's home. Dinner for Hayley: cereal and sweet potato apricot. Yum? She likes it. Next up is playtime with Daddy and a small run to the store (alone) for Mommy.

The aftermath of bathtime (add).
7:50 pm: A walk for Hayley, shopping trip for Mommy, a bath & a change into PJs, a dose of Advil for teething, and a bottle later, and she is still awake. Trying so very hard to rest, but her teeth are agonizing her. Let's cross our fingers that the Advil works!

8:25 pm: Finally. Sleep. Two exhausted parents collapse on the couch to tune out to mindless TV. Tonight it's Bones, How I Met Your Mother, and The Voice. All on DVR (no commercials).

11:00 pm: Holy cow. It's late. Off to bed.

And there you have it. Our not-so-perfect-but-completely-real day.

The reason for the shoddy photos (and not many including Hayley) is because this weekend I ruined my phone and had to resort to powering up an old (and really awful) phone. 

Added note: I got my replacement phone running the next day so I did add a few additional photos. Marked with (add).

Another added note: I found this article on Pinterest and blogs causing stress for those who feel less than perfect. I think my post will help cure you of that. It may also help to know I wrote this a couple weeks back and forgot to post it. You're welcome.