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.