Wednesday, April 2, 2014

New site!


I'm writing this post to let you know my new site is
Please find me there! Thanks!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

From Blink to Blink

"They grow up so fast."

Before you're a parent, it's just common rhetoric. When you first become a parent, the bleary-eyed days and the endless nights seem to contradict the words everyone says to you. Then, suddenly, you're the parent of a toddler, a kindergartner, or a teenager, and you realize those people were on to something. Because suddenly, you realize you are raising a person. Not just a baby. A full-blown, pint-sized, personality-saturated person. For me, it has been both the most terrifying and awe-inspiring moment of my parental career.

They start so small, so helpless, so dependent. Everything in their lives is passive. They wait for you to hold them. Change them. Feed them. Rock them. Soothe them. Entertain them. (Of course, they wail to let you know when you're failing and smile/coo to let you know there's still hope for you to succeed yet.) But, they don't show you what hurts, express complicated emotions, engage in two-way play, and they absolutely don't tell you what they're thinking. Until the day they do.

I had heard talking was an overnight process. (Yeah right, this is coming from the same morons who told me blinking would make them grow.) turns out (once again) they sure know what they're talking about. Sure, Hayley had a few words here and there (go figure most of her first words were food-centric), and she's been assigning and demonstrating animal sounds for months. But one day it just...clicked. And ever since then, she is adding words daily to her vocabulary.

You might say her vocabulary is really "taking off".     :)
 As an exercise in curiosity, I thought I'd compile a list of her words. It took me longer than I thought (mainly because it's hard to sit down and compartmentalize everything you hear in a day). So over the course of a week, I made the two lists below. And, I have to add to it every single day.

To be fair, I did include a column for animal sounds. But, still. Where did this come from?? I can't really pick a favorite, but her phrases and recognition astonish me. Also, she is willing to try most any word, so one of our favorite bath/car games is "Can you say...?". I might get slightly more enjoyment out of it...

Making these lists also made me realize how much she will change between now and 2 (only six short months away, if that is even possible). She certainly has her tough moments, as does every toddler, but she is also amazing, if only in my eyes. I can't wait to see more pieces of her personality come through. We know she is VERY active, quite the entertainer, loves making jokes, adores the center of attention, hungers for outdoor adventure, devours everything in sight (speaking of hunger), and is smitten with books. I can see so much of both of us in her, but I can also spot the ways she is becoming her own person.

What a thrilling blessing it is to be a parent and witness it all firsthand. It's the little things, every little day, that truly make you want to stop blinking, even for just a moment, to take it all in.

Little Things Link-Up via here and here

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

From Race to Regiment

A total detour from my other posts.


Why? I've joined up with The Little Things link-up {hosted by Jess and Ashley}. The goal of the link-up is to celebrate the little things in life. It's a fun challenge to not be repetitive with the celebrations. And, this week, I've been grateful for growing up a bit in the area of skin care.

I was one of those lucky skin people who never got massive break outs. I had smallish pores, very few problems with oily or dry skin, and a general consistency with my face. Sure, my skin was sensitive and pale, but with a little common sense and self-tanner, even those issues were minor.

Then I had a kid.

I'm a little embarrassed to admit this, but until a few months ago, my basic skin care routine was:
-- wash face
-- dab of some moisturizer {usually whatever I got cheaply}
-- apply makeup
-- wash face at night {sometimes with facial soap}.

Yikes. That probably should have ended with my high school days, but it worked so I saw no need to change it. Pregnancy convinced me otherwise. Suddenly, my skin was a ricochet of dry to oily. I had weird textures pop up. I had breakouts. I had extra-sensitive skin. And, I started noticing the wrinkles popping up, especially on my forehead and eyes.

I knew I needed a change, but none of the bloggers I followed {my #1 source for everyday life news} really had skin issues I related to. Until I was inspired by this post.

I took a few elements from that, a few from other reviews/posts, and a few from things I wanted to try. So here's what I came up with:

Cleanse with facial soap {currently using the remaining supply of Clinique but may switch this up}
Apply toner {Thayers alcohol-free Rose Petal w/ witch hazel & organic aloe}
Moisturize {Boots no7 Protect & Perfect Day Cream with SPF 15}
Try to drink extra water. This is a biggie for me. I'm terrible at it.

Cleanse with organic coconut oil {it removes makeup!!} and facial soap every other time/oily days
Apply toner
Moisturize {Yes to Carrots Intense Hydration Night Cream}
Eye serum {Oil of Olay Regenerist Eye Lifting Serum}

It's been just under a week in my new routine, and I really notice a difference in my skin's color, feel, and moisture. The most surprising {and important} feature is the small amount of time it takes to do all this. I actually can get some of it done while using my Sonicare. If you have at least one kid, you know how valuable every minute of the day is. Which is why I think I hesitated to give up any more time to a "beauty" routine. Until I realized it's more about skin health, and beauty is just a by-product. Also, this is a good way to get some "me" time in, which is pretty hard to come by some days.

Oh, and in case you're curious, here is Hayley's skincare routine:

So, this week I'm recognizing these little things, the changes in my attitude and regiment, that have made a big impact.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

From 28 to 29

I'm always amazed at how something so routine as a birthday is so powerful as an agent for reflection. I mean, it's just a Wednesday this year. A drizzly, gray sky blanketing half-dead grass and flowerless gardens. It also creates the perfect canvas for introspection.

Perhaps it's because I'm now just under a year from hitting 30, but this birthday feels particularly heavy. If that makes any sense. I am overwhelmed with the need to take inventory and "clean up" the books for the coming year. Which brings me to this post.

Turning 25 was by far my hardest year. No special reason why. Things were great in my life, but I really struggled with it. Like depression struggled. Luckily, my slump somewhat dissipated with a drastic change of scenery during a trip to Sedona with my mom. Moms always know when to sweep you out of the everyday. (I got to go away again this year!) From there, things improved. And, I'm nowhere near that feeling this year (I can't promise that for next year, however). Instead, I feel...grateful.
Sedona circa 2010.
Savannah with my mom 2014

My life still feels so foreign sometimes. I suddenly look around at the tornadic damage in our living room and my grinning toddler and realize it's me on the other side of the picture. The surrealness of everyday life. I'm so blessed to have already had so many experiences in my life, and this is just one more to add to the list. Of course, adding in additional work to this beautiful chaos hasn't been without challenges. But, it is another experience. And another accomplishment, if I do say so myself.

So...gratitude. I'm so blessed to have a support group in my life. Though we may not always see eye-to-eye, I know they're standing with me.

I am lucky to share this chapter of life with a semi-crazy toddler. Even at 3 am, on my birthday. While she's sick. The blessing here is spending the rest of the night sleeping not sleeping and cuddling with someone whose only need for comfort is my presence.

She's even cute sick.

I am glad chocolate exists. Even if it means I made my own birthday cake (cue smallest violin), and I forgot to add the eggs (thanks Mommy Brain), I frosted it with Nutella buttercream and enjoyed a slice with my hubby.

A fudgey, delicious cake. Frosted in Nutella buttercream. And I don't know what happened to the frosting edge...

Speaking of, I am glad to have a partner to go through life with. He may drive me crazy some a lot of the time, he also keeps me sane. And, he keeps food, good food, on our table. Oh, and he made me French toast this morning.
Different kind of cake, but one of my fave pics. From all the way back in 2008.
A final note: while jamming away at the keyboard, pounding out work ahead of a looming deadline, my computer keeps beeping, letting me know someone else has left some love on Facebook for my day. And then my phone chimes in. I'm loved, lucky, and pretty happy with life. Sure, there's a lot looming in the not-to-far future, but if I can stare down the face of 30 and boldly claim to be happy, I know I can tackle the upcoming obstacles this year.

Thanks for indulging me and helping me to celebrate all of life's little moments. Love to you all!

Visit the It's The Little Things link-up hosted by Ashley and Jess!

Friday, January 24, 2014

From Pet to So Much More

It's amazing how selfless pets are, especially considering how selfish us humans can be. We expect from them a constant companion. We confide in them our secrets. We burden them with our sorrow, which they take on as their own. We turn to them for comfort. We drag them through our life changes and ask them to change. We might move them several states away, a few times. We move their homes. We change their routines. We introduce and remove other humans and animals. We take, demand, require, and decide. They give, obey, trust, and adapt.

The bond between us and our pets is like no other. It stands to reason, then, that there is no good way to prepare for a goodbye. No matter how many times you might feel ready. How much you might know it's coming. Or how much you know it's time for them and it's for the best. Selfishly, a part of you always expects they can stay around.

Today, we lost a treasured companion. Tigger was always so much more than a cat. She had an old soul, a spunky personality, and unlike so many other cats I've known, was always available when needed. She loved interacting with everyone and had a purr that rivaled a boat engine. She was the runt of her litter and was left in my uncle's barn as a kitten, deemed unworthy of keeping around by her family. But, I think that's just because she was meant for ours.

We shared our lives with Tigger for 19 years, and she gave her whole 19 to us.

She was in good health until recently, and she went peacefully while with my mom. For that, I am eternally grateful. But, I'm also heartbroken. It's really the only way to feel when you've lost a friend you've had the majority of your life.

For awhile, I questioned the decision I made to send her to my mom's this summer. But, since Hayley was born and Skitzy (our other cat that Tigger was kind enough to tolerate for 8 years) was gone, I knew she wasn't getting the same attention she used to and the attention she still wanted. She actually found a surge of youth being around other animals and my mom. And, she lived out her last several months surrounded by love, attention, and friends. I don't know that she would have stayed as long as she did had she been here.

To Tigger. The one creature who probably knew and remembered more about me than I would ever care to admit. She graciously lived with, throughout her life, six other animals. And, she made friends with all of them. She lived in seven houses. She lived in two different states, twice. She made several long roadtrips over 11 hours. She survived the birth of a new baby and adjusted.

She was a good friend and will be missed.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

From Motivation to Inspiration

I suffer from a very serious condition called Domestic Block. It's similar in nature to Writer's Block, but people suffering from DB will often be found staring idly at a wall with a puzzled look on their faces, or clicking away at nothing on their computers, or even wandering their homes looking lost. You see, people with DB forget all the things they need and want to do around the house whenever they have the time to tackle such projects. They may be overwhelmed with a mental task list while chasing kids around, showering, or running errands. But, given the time and freedom, they can think of none of those things they have to do. It's a very aggravating condition.

I make lists. I LOVE lists. Sometimes, though, I try to make a list only to be struck with Domestic Writer's Block, a secondary condition associated with DB. I can't think of what foods I need for the week to make food; I can't think of things to make for dinner; I can't think of the chores around the house I need to do; and I can't think of the projects I've been meaning to attempt. Until naptime is over, or I'm stranded without a phone/pen & paper, or I've fallen asleep for the night. Dangit.

Recently, a friend sent me a helpful link to a premade agenda with tasks lists already filled out for the days of the week, all the way through the year. Wow. I know there are lots of sites and blogs that talk about various things to schedule for yourself to do on a daily/weekly basis, but this one actually has the list completed. And, it's free. Yay! (Sound good? You can find it here.)

I printed out the first month as a trial for myself. Here's what I like about it: I don't need or want to do everything on the pre-assembled list. However, it does inspire me to add tasks I do want to do. And, that's where this post's title comes from. The friend who sent me the link commented that it is helping her stay motivated. I need motivation in lots of areas (hello, working out), but in this area, I really need inspiration more.
For me, Pinterest is a place where I (obviously) pin ridiculous things I will never have/do/try, but it is also a place where I pin things that inspire me to other things. There are a lot of things on my boards I will never use, but there are also a lot of things I do in life I don't pin. It can, of course, be a time waster. There's so much to get lost in. But, I also know that it helps me by providing DIY organization projects that inspire me to think outside of the box (store) and look around for items in my house to repurpose.

Today, after printing the premade agenda for the week, I followed about 5 of the items and then added 7 others. Like clean my Keurig. Reorganize my coffee station (might have come from standing at the Keurig for an hour while I cleaned it). De-static my upholstered ottomans. Dust behind the entertainment stand. Write a blog post. Eat some pretzels and Nutella (side note: why was that not on the to-do list??)

Anyway, doing things I could cross off the "stock" list and then adding and crossing off things I needed/wanted to do made me feel pretty accomplished. Which then motivates me to spend this evening catching up on a few work projects. And, because it's one of the best shows ever made for TV, Parenthood.

So, I guess I really should have called this From Inspiration to Motivation. Except, none of this motivated me to work out today. Especially not the Nutella indulgence.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

From Mom Work to Mom + Work

This week, I started a part-time (10ish hrs/wk) job, with the potential for additional hours/responsibilities. The challenge for me is that we aren't sending Hayley to a daycare or parent's morning out program. The morning out program may eventually come to pass, but for now, I am still staying home with her for financial and logistical reasons. Also, she can be pretty fun to hang around with.

The great thing about the new role is the ability to work any hours, from home. That said, I am feeling the challenge of balancing play time, work time, other work (additional side project) time, house duties time, meal time, errand time, and oh yeah, maybe me time. With everything else we have going on (more on this later this week), it is definitely filling my plate. Lucky for me, I love a good challenge.

I posted this article on Facebook this week. It's a fantastic (and quick) read. I encourage you to take a few moments to look at it. But, if you don't, the gist is the author working through "owning" being a mom. Just a mom. Because as progressive as we like to think we are as a society, there is still a stigma around staying home with your kid(s). My good friend, Niki, did her master's thesis on women opting-out of the workplace (taking a break to focus on family). Bug her for a summary of her paper and results...maybe an upcoming post for The Take3??

Anyway, when you do choose to be a parent at home, it is an emotionally taxing decision. As is choosing to work. I don't want to marginalize either choice, so I'm just focusing this post on the choice to stay home. But, both choice deserve equal respect. For me, it was incredibly challenging to find an internal justification for staying home. Even though I worked remotely (mostly from home) for 18 months before Hayley came along, dropping the external work role felt...awkward. Almost wrong. I kept a side work project as a contractor, partly to give my mind a reason to stay sharp in the working world, and partly to feel like I was still contributing, both to the workforce and to the household income.

The thing is, I was trying to justify a decision we made. I know I don't watch TV, binge on junk food, and shop all day. My family knows it. My mommy friends know it. But, I still felt the need to justify what I was doing, if only for myself. The article really speaks to me in needing to completely dedicate myself to my mommy role. Because it is my full time job. The difference is I know the employers pretty well and I don't have a blood-pressure-skyrocketing commute. Sure, the pay is pretty awful, but I've had jobs on the outside that weren't all the great in the check department.

Maybe it would have been easier to own if I had interviewed with my husband and a few other people. If I had prepared to discuss the ways in which I would enhance the organization and support my coworkers. If I had negotiated days off (really wish I had done that!). If I had waited to receive an acceptance email or call, welcoming me to the new position. Maybe then I would have mentally acknowledged this as a job. One that is recognized in the world, and one that I can claim at any event and in any group, without having to quickly say I also kept up my contracted clients. That I also volunteer. Yada, yada. My title could simply be Mom, and I would be okay.

My office/playroom (from Instagram...follow me here).
After much reflecting at onset of the new year, I truly can say I am proud of what my husband and I chose to do, and I am blessed we had the choice as an option. Sure, it's been unbelievably tough at times. But, all jobs have their challenges. Mine just has a way cuter boss. And better office. And stress-free commute.

So, even though I am adding more to my workload with a new job, it is really more for the mental sharpness, resume updates, personal passion, and bank account assistance reasons. I may not even mention it to every person who asks what I do (unless it helps the company to do so). Instead, I think I will say I started a small enterprise about 2 years ago, and for the past 15 months, I have been in charge of leading and shaping the primary product for future growth. While juggling day-to-day operations of the facility, balancing the budgets, vendor negotiations and ordering, and human resource functions. Or, I could just say I'm a mom.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

From Lazy to Fancy:: Cupcake Edition

So it's a cold, gray Saturday. My husband and I have the itch to do some home-cookin'. My immediate attention turned to dessert (because it is important to plan and prepare, and maybe sample, that before anything else). Of course, I hopped on Pinterest, scoured my printed recipe pile (housed in an organized book), and searched the pantry. Then my 15 month old says, "cupcake". Clear as day. Graham heard it too. Either that or we both wanted cupcakes and she actually said something like "ccckkcckkaaa". Anyway, she said cupcake. Kid is a genius.

I needed a quick and affordable recipe. I found a strawberry box mix in the pantry and remembered finding ways to doctor those on Pinterest. God bless Pinterest. I found some Nutella (a pantry staple) and some strawberries I had to use in the fridge. The dream was starting to come together. A few hours later...

Strawberry cupcakes with Nutella buttercream, garnished with a chocolate & Nutella dipped strawberry.

At the request of one very pregnant lady (c'mon baby!), I am sharing the recipe with you. But it's embarrassingly simple, so let's call it a technique. Here's the technique::

 I'm-Lazy-But-Wanna-Look-Fancy Cupcakes 
  • 1 Strawberry box cake mix, prepared as follows: follow package instructions for temperature and egg amount. Double the amount for the oil, but use melted (and cooled) unsalted butter instead. Add 1 tsp to 1 T of vanilla, depending upon taste preference. Use milk instead of water.
  • Nutella buttercream: Buttercream is a very easy frosting if you have a stand mixer. And you should have one. Use one stick (1/2 cup) softened (room temp) unsalted butter. Add 1 T vanilla. Add about 2-3 T of milk. Add about 1 cup of powdered sugar. Start the mixer (using wire whisk attachment) on lowest setting to carefully incorporate powdered sugar/milk. As it starts to be more of a combined solid, increase the speed to medium, gradually. While mixing, add about 1/3 (or more) cup of Nutella, heated slightly in microwave (and slightly cooled) just to change consistency to a more pourable spread. Increase mixer speed to medium high and mix until frosting is light, creamy, and spreadable. If you need more moisture, add milk 1 T at a time (decreasing the mixer speed to add). If you need more solid, add powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time (again decreasing the mixer speed while adding). You really can't mess this up. 

  • Frost cupcakes once cooled (duh), and then garnish with a dipped strawberry. 
    (Dip strawberries by melting 1/2 cup chocolate chips--any sweetness you prefer--and add about 3 T of nutella. Easy to do this is the microwave...30 seconds on, stir, and repeat until melted. Let the chocolate cool ever so slightly then dip strawberries. Place on baking sheet, lined with wax paper, and let harden in refrigerator. Once set, gobble all but a few down, put the rest on the cupcakes, and take a picture.) 
 And, now you too are fancy. Even when you're lazy. Oh, and Hayley was pleased with her dessert decision. Even though she didn't get to eat the frosting. Or the chocolate on the strawberry. If you have met Hayley, you know why I didn't think she needed any extra sugar. I did give her a piece of cupcake and a plain strawberry as a reward for a good idea.


Wednesday, January 1, 2014

From One Year to the Next

Happy New Year!

From our New Year's celebration 2011. It's good to live in this state.

It really hasn't hit me that another year has come and gone. My time measurement has been off since I stopped working full-time. As in every day is a blur and I'd be just as surprised to learn that it is, in fact, Wednesday as it is 2014.

Anyway. I hope you had a fun and safe sendoff for 2013. I did a little reflecting (before falling asleep at 11:30--shameful, I know). 2013 was a year of change, for sure, but then, is there a year where things don't change? I haven't met one of those yet, and I'm not sure I would want to. Good or bad, change means things are moving forward. Even when we can't see the pieces falling together, things are shifting and arranging themselves in our lives to create a change. To that end, I want to explain why I hate resolutions.

Resolution. Meaning: firm decision to do or not to do something. In 28 years (gulp), here's what I've come to learn about being firm about a decision. Be prepared to change your mind. Things rarely go the way you would expect or plan them to happen. Unforseen events, new people, tragedies, windfalls, and interruptions arise in the middle of a plan. Some people focus on those disruptions and get stuck. And that is unfortunate.

Maybe you can tell by the setup of the blog. Or by its title. Or by the description. Or by the posts. But, I am all about transition. That includes transitioning my plans to fit the situation. I am, by no means, all-knowing. Despite what I may try to convince my husband. I can't predict the future, and I definitely have absolutely no idea what God has planned. If anyone does, please give me a call. I have questions. 

So, I don't believe in making resolutions because I know it will only set me up to feel as though I've failed myself when I don't meet some or all of the plans. Even though it's just life. I choose to not shoulder that kind of responsibility. Instead, I take a quick rearview glance at the previous year(s) and then think about where I am in life. And then I think about the things that I hope for. I don't even limit my hopes to the coming year. I take what I've learned, what I've gained and lost, and what I missed and open my mind and heart for the things I hope for in my life. 

This doesn't mean that I make wishes on stars. I know that those things I want for my life will all require effort, work, and commitment. But I also know I won't be in control, and I know if it's not a part of the Almighty's plan for my life, it probably won't work the way I think it should. Instead of making a list of resolutions (aka certainties I must achieve), I open my eyes for possibilities of what I want in my life. I also open my mind to the idea that new things may come along for me that I will never even know to hope for or expect. 

Here's the bottom line: this sort of free-falling isn't for everyone. There are personalities that hold firmly to the adage "If you fail to plan, you plan to fail," and they would call this a planning fail. For me, though, it is planning. It's planning to take risks, to know what I want and ask for it, to reach for things but be okay if it doesn't happen. It's planning for a person who absolutely hates strict diets, restrictions, deadlines, permanent endings, and, oh yeah, absolutes.

Here's what I hope for myself for 2014::
  • I hope to spend less of my day stressing over getting things done despite a crazy toddler and more time with my crazy toddler.
  • I hope to hike in the mountains in the fall. I've missed the color for a couple of years now.
  • I hope to read more books and watch less TV. Maybe I should put the books on the TV screen...
  • I hope to get back to some grown up stuff. Some work, some friend time, some hobbies. Maybe even some music that doesn't talk about marching ants, picnicking teddy bears, or twinkling stars.
  • I hope to shore up my wardrobe. Actually, I'm not sure I used that term correctly. So I hope to learn that term and align my wardrobe with my current style (as opposed to the things I still have from college/pre-baby years). 
  • I hope to learn more about my camera and take more photos.
  • I hope to find a forever-ish house. At least one that I can envision growing into and loving.
  • I hope to be an inspiration, even if only for Hayley, and set an example of a life well-led.  
And, I'll leave you with this::
Year’s end is neither an end nor a beginning but a going on, with all the wisdom that experience can instill in us. Cheers to a new year and another chance for us to get it right.
--Oprah Winfrey