Thursday, March 21, 2013

Returning to Work

I got a job! (YAAAAAAY!) I'll be working as a team leader in the HR department of Target. It's an ideal job that is fully benefitted, rotating schedule, fast-paced work environment, a great discount, nice people, and great opportunity for upward mobility.

As I approach my first day of employment, we are in the process of finding a place to live and finding childcare: Do we live in an apartment? Do we find a townhouse? Do we look for someone that watches children in their home? Do we find a childcare facility? Do we want a longer commute and a better home or a convenient location and less square footage? Do we want a yard or a community playground?

The only question that was easy to answer was this: Should I go back to work or stay home with my daughter? Work. I want to work. I love to work. Loving work doesn't take away the love I have for my daughter. 

The working mom culture and stay at home mom culture can be at odds with each other in a vicious way. In my perception of (Southern) Christian culture, many young mothers the goal of staying home to raise their children. Personally, I never had dreams of being a stay at home parent - I had dreams of being a leader. I love to train, equip, and empower people. I especially love to do it in a place that offers a salary and full benefits. 

When I lived in the South, I had to be very careful in who I spoke to about my desire to work. "I wish I could stay home like you do," or "Being home is such a blessing for your children," and "God has you at home for a reason," were common responses. I also hear(d), "It's the hardest job in the world, but it gets better! Hang in there!" [To be clear, I'm not "quitting" being a stay at home mom because it's hard. I'm choosing to work because I want to.] That brings me to my all-time favorite reason from society of why I should stay home: "It's important to make sacrifices in those early years so children can grow up to pursue their dreams." Do you see the cycle? That means moms should give up 5 to 10 years of their life so their daughters can give up 5 to 10 years of their lives so their daughters can give up... and so on.  I stayed home for a year and a half and I'm glad I did. Now I'm glad to have a job and I'm glad I'll be able to send my daughter to day care where she can continue to learn and play with other kids.

I'm thankful to have a choice between the ability to stay home and the ability to work. I am pursuing a career that my daughter can be proud of. I am using my education, experience, and work ethic to make a difference - and I want to be a role model for my children. If my daughter wants to be a stay at home mom, then awesome! If she wants to be a teacher and have the Summers off to spend with her children, then awesome! If she wants to have a 9 to 5 and pick up her children from day care and have them run into her arms and eagerly tell her about their day, then awesome! I want her to have a choice and not feel pressured by society to pursue something because she "should."

So here I am eagerly returning to work, moving out of my parent's home, and beginning our next chapter! The blog will continue, the name "Housebroken Mom" will stick, and the trajectory of our journey will continue to ebb and flow.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

How to Shop at a Thrift Store

You wanna pop some tags? Only got $20 in your pocket? I'll show you the way, my friend. I've been thrifting for about 15 years and I still can't get enough. It combines 4 of my favorite hobbies: saving money, reusing / up-cycling, treasure hunting, and having one of a kind pieces that no one else will have.

Tips for Thrifting
  • Pace Yourself. Thrifting can be like a road trip - keep a full stomach and empty bladder! If you go into the store hungry and irritable, you've already lost. You should plan to spend at least 1 hour in the store so you can really dig and find great bargains. 
  • Location Counts. If you're searching for something in particular, location will determine what you will find. Rich neighborhoods yield higher quality and more current items. Older neighborhoods have fantastic vintage items. Southerners love Vera Bradley, Yankees love leather, young neighborhoods have children's items, etc. 
  • Dress appropriately. Not all thrift stores have a dressing room, and the thrift stores that do have dressing rooms are usually packed with other people. With that in mind, it's easiest to wear slim fitting pants, a slim fitting top, and slip-on shoes so you can try things on over your clothes. 
  • Know your brands. You may be surprised how many high-quality brands end up on the racks of a thrift store. There's also a better chance of re-selling the item later if its a recognizable brand.  I bought an Oilily dress for Joanna for $.75 at Goodwill. She wore it about 6 times before outgrowing it. Because of the brand, I was able to sell the dress on eBay for $12! Here are two more examples:
Gap Tunic Dress
Bought for $4.00 / Sold for $64.00
Dallas Mavericks Jersey
Bought for $2.50 / Sold for $23.00
(Be careful - selling on eBay can be very hit and miss. Major brands and professional sports team apparel are more likely to sell, but there are no guarantees.)
  • Discount Days. Some locations offer discount days. Our local Salvation Army takes 25% off every Wednesday. The DAV has $5 bag days where you pay only $5 for whatever you can shove into a bag. Call ahead to see what kind of discount your local thrift store offers.
  • Go with your gut. If something catches your attention, check it out! If it's fabulous but too big, it can be altered. If it's gorgeous and too small, you could use it as something else. A skirt, apron, scarf, etc. Check out New Dress A Day for some incredible before and after photos. The things she comes up with range from simple to genius. 
  • Most things can be fixed with some TLC.  If you can patch a hole or create a hem, you can turn many things into a functional piece of clothing. If something has a stain that doesn't come out, you can dye it to a new color. 
  • Have fun! Thrifting is best enjoyed as an adventure with others. If you can, try to go with others that aren't your size. You may find yourself fighting over bargains. Especially shoes.

Macklemore and Ryan Lewis say it best (with many 4-letter words). 
"I'll wear your granddad's clothes. I'll look incredible. 
I'm in this [real big] coat from the thrift store down the road." 
And I've definitely bought a broken keyboard for $.50. I fixed it by replacing the batteries.

Dwight Halloween Costume - $13.00 total
Tie: $1  |  Coat: $7  |  Shirt $3  |  Glasses: $2
Favorite Leather Jacket - $15.00
(And Briana - my partner in crime!)

Dooney and Bourke Leather Bag - $30.00
Retail (new) - $200 to $300
Child's Bin Organizer - $10.00 (Retail $45.00)
My Senior Prom Dress (with shawl) was $4.50.
We added a lace trim and I wore gloves from Claire's - 

those $5 gloves cost more than the dress! 

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Review and TWO Giveaways: Nuby Utensils, Plates and Bowls

We love going out to restaurants. When Joanna was still car-seat bound, it was pretty easy to get her in and out of a restaurant with relatively little stress. When she started sitting in a high chair, we could keep her entertained with cheerios. Now that she's a strong, independent woman, keeping her entertained and happy requires a bit of creativity.

And with that said, I now say thank you, Nuby. I am excited to talk about Nuby's Mealtime Travel Set. It includes 4 forks, 4 spoons, and a spiffy carrying case. Joanna loves playing with spoons, rattles, and boxes - this combines all 3. It's dish washer safe (top rack), fits easily in the diaper bag, and looks kind of like a popsicle. Win win win. This set is available for $6 on Buy Baby Direct

The forks are the perfect size and the prongs can actually pick up food. Joanna still prefers her hands, but its a start.

And check out that bowl and plate! I'm also very excited to present Nuby's feeding bowl and rectangular plate. The bowl is genius: it is asymmetrical so one side is slightly higher than the other. It keeps more macaroni and spaghetti inside the bowl by having a higher edge on one side. The plate is equally as genius - it's SQUARE! I know it may not seem like a big deal, but it absolutely is. All of our plates are round, so the spaghetti splatter zone is larger. The square plate doesn't cut the corners (budum ching) so it's less mess. They are also top rack safe, adorable, and durable.

So what's better than a giveaway? TWO giveaways! This week you have twice as many chances to win a great product from Nuby!

Nuby Mealtime Travel Set

Nuby Bowl and Plate Set


Few things bring more clarity than a sobering medical diagnosis.

When I was 17 years old, I missed 14 days of school because of intense migraines. We saw my doctor and he recommended a neurologist. After several tests and an MRI, I was diagnosed with an Arteriovenous Malformation (AVM) of my right temporal lobe.

In very basic terms, it means my arteries and veins aren't connecting properly in the lobe that processes memories, language, senses, and comprehension. AVMs can cause headaches, seizures, vomiting, vertigo, memory loss, and a variety of other symptoms. In extreme cases, it can cause a stroke. Most cases of AVMs aren't diagnosed until a person's autopsy. The neurologist recommended we then meet with the top neurologist at Johns Hopkins for further consultation. Their next opening was 6 months later.

There is little I can say about the emotions I experienced. Having already been diagnosed with depression, I tried to keep my head above water and process everything through logic instead of tears. "There is no productivity in asking, "Why me?" But I can suck it up and make the best of it." Because it was 2002, there was no Wikipedia. We called our search engine 'Jeeves'. My only information came from WebMD and the pieces of paper distributed at the doctor's office. If you've ever read those pieces of paper, you know that they outline the worst case scenario followed by a quick, "but that is unlikely." What I learned is that AVMs come in a variety of forms, produce many different symptoms, are not genetic, and are rare because they are mostly diagnosed during autopsy's. If a doctor wants to operate, it can be very risky - just like any other brain surgery.

I named my AVM Daisy because it was like having an unwelcomed weed in my head. During what should have been my most memorable year of adolescence, I have very few memories as a senior in high school. I know I took the SATs but I don't remember. I know I went to Homecoming and Prom, but I can only recall the photos. I know I was the President of several clubs and put on blood drives and decorated parade floats, but I can't remember doing it. While my classmates submitted college applications and planned their senior prank, I proactively chopped off my hair, just in case I needed brain surgery. While friends partied, I withdrew from my social circles and focused on keeping busy. I had to come to terms that because the AVM was in a temporal lobe, I may need to re-learn basic motor and language skills. I continued to plan my future while having the thoughts that there was a chance I could die at any moment.

Six foggy months go by.

On May 27th 2003, my dad’s 50th birthday, we went to Johns Hopkins. The doctor met with us, went into the other room with our MRI for about ten minutes, and returned wearing a poker face. “From what I can see, this is a Cavernous Malformation (CVM). They are essentially harmless. Follow up with your neurologist in about 6 months about those headaches.”

We left the room with tears in our eyes, hugged in the hallway, and got onto the elevator to leave. I don’t remember the song that played but I remember it was a female voice from the 1970s. I was shocked. Those six months of preparing to die at any moment. My non-existent senior year of high school. The auditions I skipped.  The friends I alienated. The parties I missed.

But those “missed” 6 months didn’t make me angry – I was relieved. I had a new perspective. I had a new life. Part of me could be angry that the neurologist read the initial MRI incorrectly and caused us half a year of grief. Part of me could be scared that the Johns Hopkins doctor lied to us because a majority of doctors prefer to not operate on AVMs. Part of me could continue to withdraw from life because I could die at any moment – but that would suck. Why the hell would I waste my life with that kind of worry?

I could die of a stroke. I could die in a car crash. I could die from choking on a grape. I only know one thing about my death: it will happen. Fear is a useful thing. It’s like anger in that it is neither good nor bad. It's not that we have fear; it's what we do with it.

Malformation be damned – I was going to live my life and do things I love! A month after my CVM diagnosis, I participated in a National Theater Program and performed 3 featured roles at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. A week later, I moved to Texas to pursue my education in Opera. I went sky diving, I sang in the Czech Republic, I escaped from a horrible relationship, I learned guitar, I changed my major 4 times, I got depressed, I got two tattoos, I studied Spanish in Spain, I married my best friend, I earned 2 degrees, and I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl.

If I let the fear of death envelope my attitude and intensify my depression, I’d be dead by now. If I let my fear of death propel my positivity into the stratosphere, I’d be a CEO by now. I’m living in the balance and I’m okay with that.

Daisy is still an unwelcomed weed, but even weeds can be beautiful flowers. 

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Review and Giveaway: Nuby Pocket Bibs

"A bib? You're reviewing a bib?"

"Not just any bib - this bib has a POCKET!"

"Why would you want a pocket on the bib? It gets filled with crumbs and yogurt?"

Well, that's exactly why you want a pocket on the bib. The more things that fall into the pocket, the fewer things fall into your child's lap.

I was thrilled when Nuby sent me 2 pocket bibs to review! My toddler is fiercely independent (like her mother) and loves feeding herself. Thankfully, these bibs are big enough to cover the entire torso and shoulders. They're easy to clean with a damp cloth, have a clear pocket so you can see all of the food that is caught, and they pass the restaurant spaghetti test:

The worst part was trying to put into the diaper bag so we could clean it at home. It caught so much spaghetti that it was pretty gross! We wiped up as much as we could with a napkin before carefully folding it up and stuffing it into the to-go bag. When I checked later, the mess remained on the bib and didn't leak into the diaper bag. WIN!

After a good rinse, we used the same bib the next day (along with our Nuby bowl and plate.)

A baby can never have too many bibs - so why not win 2 Nuby Pocket Bibs for your home? Nuby is generously giving away a pack of 2 bibs to a lucky winner! Enter below for your chance to win:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Review and Giveaway: Nuby Booster Seat

Nuby has come through once again with a great product for our family. The latest addition to our home is the Nuby Booster Seat! Not only is it a great booster seat, it's the perfect addition to our current living room set up as we live in my parent's house. Joanna isn't a climber (thank you, God!) so she usually ends up sitting on the floor or on top of big toys. She doesn't mind sitting in laps, but we could tell she wanted something of her own.

Then I got a giant box in the mail - it was my next batch of Nuby products to review and give away! The first thing I pulled out was this chair. I handed it to my husband and Joanna began to inspect this large, BPA-free, green thing with handles. She looked at the front, she looked at the back, she sat in it, then began carrying it with her all over the room. For the rest of the night, she and her chair were inseparable.

The seat comes with a safety restraint for the child and another restraint to stay on top of a chair. There are really nice rubber grips on the four legs so I have no worry of it sliding, especially when the restraints are correctly adjusted. We already have a high chair so we'll be using this chair when we visit other homes. For now, it is Joanna's new beloved chair.

When we visit a home that doesn't have child seating, this booster seat is wonderful! It's sturdy, supportive, and safe. It fits on every chair that we have tried. It works best on chairs with arms, but it's also fine in chairs without. It also supports up to 65 pounds - holy crap! That's an Olsen twin! I think this will become our new transitional chair when she outgrows her high chair. You can tell she feels like a grown up when she sits in this, too. I mean just look at her crossing her legs in the photo!

These seats are extremely affordable and durable. It is available for purchase at Buy Baby Direct for less than $14. Or you could be the lucky winner of my giveaway and get it for free!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

STAY TUNED! I'm giving away an item every week in the month of March!  I think the only person more excited than I am about these new things is Joanna.

Friday, February 22, 2013

16 Months of Words

We are very blessed to have a social and verbal toddler. Joanna's physical and mental development are ahead of schedule. Her verbal skills are amazing and hilarious. She makes us laugh everyday with all of the things she picks up. On a related note, we've cleaned up our language quite a bit.

Signing "more" to Grandma
Words (we can understand)
  • Hi (hai) - with a wave
  • Mom (mama)
  • Dad (dada)
  • Waffle (wwwaah!)
  • No (no) - can be accompanied with a nod or a shake of the head. 
  • No More (no mo) - with an "All Done" sign
  • Shoe (shoos)
  • Cat (cah)
  • Dog (guh)
  • Duck (duh)
  • Pretty (pih-ee)
  • Dumbledor (dubba-doh)
  • Book (booook)
  • Door (doo-ah
  • Toes (towss
  • Shh (shh) - with finger over mouth

Signing "help" to Mom to take off the mustache
(This isn't the actual ASL sign, but it's Joanna's version.)
Signs (usually in this order)
  • More
  • Please
  • Food
  • Thank You
  • All Done
  • Help

In addition to using words and signs, Joanna's eyes speak volumes. We can understand what she wants, needs, and what she's trying to get away with. We are so thankful we taught her sign language at an early age! It minimizes her frustrations and helps us better understand if she's hungry, hurt, or tired. I think it helped her with her verbal skills as well.

After working with children on the autism spectrum, I know how blessed we are to have a child that is able to communicate so clearly. After knowing families that lose their child(ren) to SIDS or other child-related illnesses, I know how blessed we are to have a healthy little girl. After knowing many women that have trouble conceiving and women that have difficulties keeping their pregnancies, I know how blessed we are to have a child.

There's no other word for it; we're just blessed.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Hunting Season

Job. Not as depressing as the Book of Job in the Bible, but it can seem hopeless none the less.

I have been searching for a job for a year. When Joanna joined our family in October of 2011, I chose to stay home with her for several reasons; the biggest was so I could care for her in her first months. In January of 2012, I began searching for a position so we could move back to Northern Virginia. One year of applying has yielded 5 decent interviews and 1 offer I wasn't able to accept. This is what a year of searching looks like:

50 applications on numerous websites and a Facebook status update. 
My friend contacted me via Facebook and let me know about an opening:

Job: Registrar of a Private Christian School
Details: Great job, low pay, no benefits. Hours from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Interview: My interview lasted 2 hours. I had the experience and the personality they were looking for, I clicked with them immediately, and we had a great time in the interview.
Outcome: I was offered a job on the spot. I was given time to converse with my husband and pray about it. Because it didn't offer health benefits, I wasn't able to take it.

Then I got a positive pregnancy test, so I held off on the applications. 
After we lost the baby, I began my job search again.
This time I placed about 20 applications directly on several University HR
websites and corporations. This was the only interview I received:

Job: Building Manager at a Public University
Details: Okay job, decent pay, and benefits. Hours varied from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.
Interview: The interview lasted 4 hours and was comprised of 3 separate panels with 5-10 people per panel. The first panel was a group of HR representatives, the second were the people I would work with, and the third panel were my potential supervisors.
Outcome: 2 months passed and I finally received a phone call: I did not get the job.

Jonathan was able to find a job in D.C. so we moved back into the
Northern VA area. I then submitted 50 more applications and scour
websites like Craigslist, Monster, and Indeed for openings.

Job: Assistant Director of a Childcare Facility (Found on Craigslist)
Details: Good job, good pay, good benefits. Hours varied from 5:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
Interview: The first round was a phone interview - I aced it. The second round was an in-person interview with the site director. We connected and it went really well. The third round included the site director and regional director. We laughed, we cried, we had a fantastic interview experience. They made comments like, "You're exactly what we're looking for," and even joked, "Can you start tomorrow?" They said I would know within a week.
Outcome: One week passed with no word. I emailed a polite follow-up asking if they needed any additional information. 4 days later, I emailed the corporate office with a similar email. Two weeks later, they said they decided to pursue another candidate.

Job: Insurance Call Center Customer Service Representative (Found on Indeed)
Details: Okay job, decent pay, great benefits. Hours are 3:45 p.m. to 12:00 a.m and every other Saturday.
Interview: First round went wonderfully and I progressed to an in-person interview and computer assessment.
Outcome: I decided to not pursue the computer assessment because I was unable to find a childcare option that would allow us to keep Joanna there until Jonathan got home from work. There would be a one hour overlap each day where we would have to hire a babysitter.

Job: SAT Prep Instructor (Found on Craigslist)
Details:  Part-time job with great pay, flexible hours, no benefits. Evening hours.
Interview: First round interview required me to complete a practice SAT and record a 3-5 minute video of me teaching anything I wanted. I was selected to continue to the next round which was a 4 hour web conference interview/training with 6 other candidates from around the U.S. We had a 70 page curriculum to study and youtube videos to watch prior to the interview/instruction/training/whatever. I was the only candidate to dress like it was an interview while the others treated it more like a training. I was also the oldest candidate and the only one with a Master's degree.
Outcome: Several hours after the interview, I received an email saying they decided to pursue other candidates.

So here I am with a Bachelor's degree, a Master's degree, 5 years of experience, 2 years as a supervisor and hiring manager, and a 16 month gap in my employment history. I live in my parent's house with my young child and patient husband. I clip coupons, sell things on eBay, and make the best of each day until we're able to get a place of our own. 

But you know what's awesome? The interviewer from the SAT Prep job wrote me a detailed email about what I can work on. I was shocked that she took the time to give me constructive criticism and encouragement on my journey to employment. She said my presentation skills and professionalism were great and I was very personable. The reason I wasn't selected was that I struggled to interact with students using the digital platform she showed us prior to our "pop presentations". She gave me ways to improve and books I could read. And she concluded the email with the best part:

"I learned in food service that the one thing you can't teach someone is how to care.  And it is deeply, immediately evident to ANYone that you care by the bucketful, Laura - which is why I have no doubt whatsoever that you will *demolish* any obstacle to your success, and shine radiantly in any organization lucky enough to have you."

So take that, Unemployment Monster! I'm going to DEMOLISH you!!

- - - - - -

I interviewed for a position in the HR Department of Target and was offered a job on the spot - but it only paid $9.00 an hour and insurance wouldn't start until 1,000 hours. I kindly declined the offer and explained our situation to them. They said they'd keep me in mind if something else came up that offered insurance right away. 

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Nail Polish

All women want to feel beautiful. Some women want to feel smart, some women want to feel sexy, but all women want to feel beautiful.

With tight finances and limited time, my concept of beauty became less about appearance and more about confidence and contentment. Minimal makeup, low maintenance hair, and a wardrobe from Goodwill.

But then there's nail polish. I'm a little obsessed. When Joanna goes to sleep at night, I get my black shoebox full of polish and start digging. I either add french tips to existing polish, clean up a chipped nail, do a design on my statement nail, or start fresh with a new color. It's inexpensive, easy to store, and a great creative outlet.

My stash in December 2012
It's grown by about 10 bottles since this point.

i heart you

For my birthday / Valentine's Day gift, Jonathan bought me nail art brushes! My days of simple french tips are over - now I can do sweet things like swirls, flowers, and complicated designs! Be sure to follow me on instagram at @housebrokenmom for photos. 

I may need a better camera phone for my next birthday.. 

Monday, January 28, 2013

15 Months and Cloth Diaper Update

Ladies and Gentlemen, we have a 15 month old.

Joanna is independent, talkative, and social. Her favorite word is "no" and will respond to any question with it. No can mean yes, no, goodbye, and hello. She still says cat, dog, mama, dada, and occasionally says moo. Her favorite things are "walkies" with Grandma, hitting Daddy in the stomach, flying through the air, climbing stairs, chasing the cat, reading with Grandpa, and watching Elmo.

To celebrate her 15th month, Joanna contracted some kind of mucousy illness that made her a pitiful mess. She was very generous and decided to share it with me. It was really helpful to feel what she was feeling so I could help her. We bought a humidifier and some dissolving decongestant tablets. We've been using our Nose Frida, too - IT IS AMAZING. It sounds gross (and it is), but it is extremely effective at removing snot from a child's face.

Speaking of a sick baby, I just cleaned up after the worst aftermath bean-induced poo-slosion of my life. And the cloth diaper still contained it. The non-blowout inspired me to update you all about our diaper stash and my continued love for cloth diapers.

We received our converted diapers a few weeks ago and I am very impressed with the result! did a fantastic job and she was wonderful to work with. We ran into some postal issues and she had a family emergency of her own, so the total turn around time was a month rather than a business week. I'm still extremely happy with my experience!

The photo is a comparison between a bumGenius pocket diaper I bought new for Joanna and the same diaper that was given to us after going through 2 kids from birth to potty training.  There is pilling on the used one and some cosmetic wear, but it works just as well as my new one. They are just as absorbent and just as "blowout proof". The used diaper was originally a velcro (or hook and loop) that I had converted. You can really see the wear when you look on the inside of the tab and see what the velcro used to look like. There was zero "stick" left in the velcro so they were useless without being converted or having the velcro replaced. ( also replaces velcro if you don't want to convert to snaps!)

All in all, our experience with cloth has been simply lovely. Yes there is poop, yes there is pee, but I find myself having nothing but gratitude for the entire experience. It was a much easier transition than I anticipated. It is much more enjoyable than I expected.

Now when it comes to the running total, I hesitate on including the full cost of conversion. A friend of a friend gave us 30 used diapers for free so I gave away 5 to friends, I gave 11 to my sister in law, and then kept the rest. We converted 18 of my sister-in-law's diapers as a Christmas gift. If we're just talking about our own diapers, the cost of just conversion was $21. For the sake of our own stash, I'm only counting the $21 in our tally rather than the full $90. Spending only $21 to add 6 diapers to our stash? Don't mind if I do!

Personal investment: $384
Savings: $1,407
Return on Investment: $1,024

That's right! We broke the $1,000 mark!

Oh, cloth. I just can't quit you.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

My Favorite Recipes

And now we go to the kitchen to hear about what's cooking!

I contribute to several parenting blogs that frequently ask their writers for recipes. I am great with opinions and humiliating stories, but I'm horrendous at creatively cooking. If you can add water and pop it in the oven, I'm all for it. If I can take some raw ingredients and put them in a bowl, consider it done. So here are my favorite recipes that are fast, easy, and painless.

  • Breakfast for Dinner
    • Scramble some eggs, toast some toast, and defrost those frozen sausage patties you bought on sale a few months ago but never knew what to do with.
  • Pasta Salad
    • Boil pasta. Add italian dressing. Add other things like pepperoni or mozzarella cheese. 
    • Put in the refrigerator to chill. Or eat immediately. I won't judge.
  • Taco Night
    • Get taco shells and ground beef. Cook beef. Chop some lettuce and tomatoes and other toppings. Add hot sauce.
    • Promise yourself to make it again soon because you don't need utensils to eat it.
  • Crock Pot Anything
    • Throw random ingredients into a crock pot for 4-5 hours and pray it fills the house with a delicious smell.
  • Chicken and Rice
    • Add chicken to instant rice.
  • Chicken and Beans
    • Add chicken to a can of beans that you nuke in the microwave.
  • Chicken and Rice and Beans
    • Add more chicken to the leftover rice and beans from your previous chicken meals.
  • Frozen pizza
    • Add extra veggies on top so you feel better about yourself.
  • Hamburger Helper
    • Just add meat and water! 
  • Burritos
    • Take leftover ingredients from the week's meals and roll it into a flour tortilla.

"But what about your favorite baking recipes, Laura?" asked no one ever.

If I just add water, I'll make it. If it comes refrigerated and all I do is put it on a sheet and into the oven, I'll do it. If I can chop up fruit and put it in a big bowl, I'm game. If it involves more than 3 ingredients, I have to be very inspired before I attempt it.

I'm very thankful for my creative husband - he's the real cook in the family! He is innovative and adventurous when it comes to food. I sometimes help him in the kitchen, but I usually keep my distance so I don't muck it up!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Review and Giveaway: Nuby IcyBite Keys

This is a review I created when Joanna was 9 months old. My how time flies! We brought the keys back out now that Joanna is working on molars. She also likes to hold them in her hand while mommy has her car keys. Adorable.

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Joanna's nine month old mouth now has eight teeth. Rather than have a missing finger, I gave her a Nuby Icy Bite Hard and Soft Keys a few months ago that can go into the freezer for added numbing power. It's perfect!

This teething toy has 3 keys attached to a key ring that can link to other things. The keys have a gel that freezes like an ice pack so its perfect while her teeth are celebrating their arrival.  I've attached them to my baby carriers, stroller, car seat, or restaurant high chair. I can also wash them whenever I wash her bottles so they stay clean.

Joanna has discovered that she can make noise by shaking and hitting things. These keys don't disappoint. As you can tell from the first photo, she enjoys shaking the keys almost as much as biting them.

I personally like that it has bright colors that are gender neutral. I'm a huge fan of primary colors when it comes to kid items - pastels belong in a museum. A child's world is bright and full of new things - their toys should be bright and interesting, too!

And now you can brighten your own world with a chance to win this for your home! Nuby USA is once again sponsoring a giveaway on my blog and I am so excited about it. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I am a Mommy Blogger for Nuby USA.  I don't receive monetary compensation, but I do get to review products and keep them for free! I also get to give away their products - how fun is that? If you'd like to learn more about this and other Nuby Products, please visit

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Dear uterus

Dear uterus,

I know you're very excited to not have a baby stretching you out, but these monthly celebrations are far too rowdy. Can you take it down a notch?

We haven't been on the best of terms lately. I took pills to try and control you, and I know that was pretty Type A of me. My bad. But c'mon, that was so long ago! We've been through so much together. The least you can do is not make me hate being a woman this week.

Your carrying case

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

14 Months - Chatty Cathy

As we approach our behbeh's 14 month, we are faced with a barrage of talking, laughing, and walking. She's a jibber jabbering motor mouth, and sometimes it's in English.

Her current vocabulary includes:

  • Gah (cat)
  • Gaw (dog)
  • Baby (baby)
  • Ree (read)
  • Shoos (shoes)
  • Buh (book)
  • Oh she / Oh sha (what's this / what's that)

She's also repeated "Kim" when we introduced her to our friend's baby Kim, and she's repeated "Peh-tee" for pretty. She understands far more than she speaks. We're able to speak in complete sentences to her and she can pick up what we're asking of her or what we're telling her. It's incredible to see how much children pick up. We've been more careful about what TV shows we let her watch because we noticed she would get more whiny after watching certain shows where the characters whine to their parents (aka Caillou, etc). When we made a conscience effort to avoid those shows, her behavior changed back.

My favorite new trick is to run my finger over her mouth and make her sound like she's in front of a fan. She laughs and then does it to herself. I will get it on video one of these days.

Joanna is still in cloth and we've been able to add 2 new diapers to our stash! We also had a minor fiasco in getting our velcro cloth diapers converted into snaps. The converter is wonderful and has been working with us during our trials and tribulations. I underestimated how annoying it can be to send a package during the holiday influx. The converter also had an emergency of her own. A process that usually takes a week and a half took over a month. But it's okay! Because we'll soon have 6 newly converted diapers and my sister-in-law will have 18! (Which means she'll be able to cloth diaper full-time!) Yay cloth!

14 months. Crazy.