Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween everyone! Up until the last few years I've always hated this holiday. My dad was the neighborhood pain in the ass, calling parents and truancy officers on errant kids. So, getting our house egged or firecrackers thrown into our carport was my experience of the holiday.

Additionally as a strict Christian family we never were allowed to participate in trick or treating. Some years we did attend Fall Festivals or Hallelujah Parties at our churches. One uncharacteristicly fun memory is of riding to the church with our neighbors. That year I dressed up as Queen Esther in my Childhood BFF's mother's belly dancing skirt and it was the closest to "sexy" I'd ever gotten. Later that week though, I about sucked the skirt up into the vacuum cleaning before returning it to her. I couldn't have been 10. It's strange what your brain chooses to hold onto. Why can't it hold onto where I kicked off my shoes last night!

This memory was overshadowed though by the year my mom dressed me and my brother up as Kenneth and Gloria Copeland. If you don't know who that is, don't worry about it. But trust me; it was by far the scariest costume I've ever worn!

Anyway, I've never been one to enjoy being scared. I am an anxious person by nature. I don't need help! I love rollercoaster but never the first time. Marginally scary movies give me nightmares. And I anxiously await the passing of Halloween so that my decorating and party planning blogs will move onto something other than candles dripping blood and food that looks like body parts.

So, all around, Halloween is just not my thing. That is, until I started studying the ancient Celtic calendar. For the ancient Celts, Halloween (or Hallowmas) was the new year celebration. For this one night the veil between our world and the next was thin, allowing your loved ones who had passed on to return and commune with the living. That's why we carve pumpkins. It allows the familiar spirits to find their way home while scaring off any spirits that would do you harm.

This really spoke to my spirit and changed my entire outlook on Halloween. As Turtle grows up I think I will present Halloween as a day to talk about and remember those of our family who have gone before us. Maybe even a day to visit family graves and decorate them for the holidays. But for this year, I think I'll go through my pictures and take some time to "talk" to Turtle about my great-grandmother Bonnie (my name sake) and how she was always watching out her kitchen window when we would pull into the drive way. Then there's my mom's mom with whom Turtle shares a middle name. She would stand out on the front porch and watch us pack up our car. We would have to drive past her house to turn around and she would still be standing on the front porch waving at us as we went back past. Something about these two simple gestures always made me feel loved and wanted. I miss them both, and I'm sad that my Turtle never got to know them. But maybe through our Halloween celebrations she will come to feel like she did.

Before we go, here's a little traditional Halloween treat... my little geeklette in her Princess Leia costume. And yes, I'm taking full advantage of her being too little to voice her own opinion! This may be my only opportunity! I'm hoping to get some better pics tonight. If I do, I'll make sure and share them with you later in the week.

What special traditions make Halloween special for you?

Friday, October 28, 2011

A Guest Post

Today we have a very special guest blogger. JJ is one of my oldest, dearest friends. I like to say (borrowing from Grey's Anatomy) that our husbands are the loves of our life, but JJ and I are soul mates.

She's my confidant, my sounding board, my partner in crime, my comic relief, and my style envy. I don't think I could get through the day without talking to her. We got married just weeks apart from each other and a year and a half later found out that we were pregnant just 2 weeks apart from each others.  She is a beautiful person and a wonderful mother and I am honored to have her guest blog for me.

The idea for a guest blog came up a few months ago. JJ always saw herself as a career mama, and I always saw myself as a stay-at-home-mama. Strangely enough, we have found ourselves in the reverse situation. Thankfully, we have each other to remind us that the grass isn't greener on the other side. You can check out her blog here.

So, today, I proudly present to you JJ's Pros and Cons of the Stay-at-Home Life


- I get to spend all day with my daughter. She is my little shadow. She goes everywhere I go. She drools; I drool. Ok, we aren’t quite that close.

- I set our routine. No one else is stating when Caitlyn eats, sleeps or poops. I decide when she eats and sleeps. She is in charge of the pooping schedule.

- Because I’m home all day, I don’t have to spend all evening getting housework done. It gets done during the day or throughout the week allowing for things like walks, going to the park and the occasional playdate.

- Mid-day/week shopping! I hate crowds. Being able to shop during the week when there are hardly any crowds is awesome.

- I can go three days without a shower and no one cares. Seriously, my husband doesn’t even notice my greasy hair anymore.

- I don’t have to get up before the butt crack of dawn to get ready and get Caitlyn to daycare. My husband’s 5am alarm does however, wake me up. Have fun at PT, sucker!

- I get to wear whatever I want everyday. PJ’s all day – sure. Jeans and the tee that I slept in, why not? Cocktail dress with sneakers, not quite, but I technically could if I wanted to.


- I have NO “me” time. I haven’t spent more than 3 straight hours away from my daughter. Don’t get me wrong, I love that little drool monster, but “Ma Mama” needs a break every once in a while. And dear husband, going to the grocery store by myself does not count as a break.
- Umm who wants to be able to go three days without a shower and not have anyone notice? Gross!

- Naptime is not “Mommy time.” Nope that’s laundry, dishes, and clean the house time. Actually, I haven’t taken a nap since the baby was born. Thank god for coffee!

- My adult interaction includes the checkout people at Target and saying “hi” to the neighbor. Oh and random conversations with the dog. What in people years, she’s 21 so it counts. When my husband is actually home, we do get to talk in the evenings so that helps.

Being a SAHM has been quite an adjustment for this former career woman, but I love every minute I get to spend with my daughter.


Thanks JJ for giving us a glimps into the your world! You can follow her over on her blog Wife of the Party. P.S. If you want to check out my long winded Ode to the Working Mama Life, you can find that here.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Hey Baby

"Hey, Baby! Whatcha doin' back there?"

"Not much, Mama. Just bein' cute. It's hard work!"

"Yes it is, Baby! Especially at 6:45am!"

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Pinterest Challenge

One of my favorite bloggers (Sherry over at Young House Love) has extended a Pinterest Challenge to encourage herself and all of us to stop pinning and start doing! And this time I'm participating! As you all know, I'm a total Pinterest addict and horribly guilty of pinning tons of beautiful, inspiring things and then never getting around to doing them. So, I decided this challenge was right up my alley! Posting about it will give me even more incentive to get off my butt! (Is that enough "!"s for everyone? No. One more!)

There are a few pins I've had my eye on for a while. First, something I've had my eye on for MONTHS! We are in desperate need of these at our house but I also want to make some for my girlfriend's baby shower. (So, Angela, if you're reading this... look away!)

We are a binki family. I know they are controversial but we love them. However, there is nothing less fun than retrieving a dropped binki for the eleventy billion time in Target. Plus Target floors... eww! So, binki clips rule in our house. We have a couple and I refuse to buy anymore given how easy they look to make. When it comes to details, I like the "universal" binki clips because we have binkies with handles and without and it's nice to not have to worry about which clip goes with which binkis. So, a few weeks ago I ran across an awesome tutorial (via Pinterest) about making the universal binkies. I'm hoping to make at least one for me and one for my friend. Possibly more than that. We'll see.

Then for a holiday themed project. I've been looking to make something for Turtle to wear for Thanksgiving. We don't really dress up around our house so a fancy dress just wasn't going to work. Then I ran across this tutorial, of course, on Pinterest.

So, hopefully, with a plain white onesie or t-shirt, some scrap fabric and some fusible interfacing, I'll have a cute little outfit for Turtle.

So, there you go. That's the plan for this weekend. I'll be sharing the finished projects next Wednesday so check back. Same bat time, same bat channel.

Monday, October 24, 2011

A Time Honored Tradition

I think children's music is specially designed to grate on the nerves of adults. I'm not sure what the evolutionary explination is for this, but none the less, it's true. But if I have to be annoyed by it, I might as well have fun with it. I think making up new verses for time honored songs is my right as a mommy. So, for my contributions, I present to you two of my favorites.

Sung to the tune of Someone's in the Kitchen with Dinah
(usually sung while I'm dragging her exersaucer into the kitchen so she can hang with me while I cook or clean)

Someone's in the kitchen with mommy.
Someone's in the kitchen I know-ow-ow-ow.
Someone's in the kitchen with mommy.
Drooling on her old banjo.

The Wheels on the Bus

The thugs on the bus go, "yo, yo, yo",
"yo, yo, yo", "yo, yo, yo"
The thugs on the bus go, "yo, yo, yo"
All through the town.

How do you keep yourself sane when children's music threatens your sanity? Am I the only one that makes up new verses for age old songs? (Please tell me I'm not!)

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

A Day in the Life of a Working Momma Turtle

Our weekday schedule is crazy. So, I decided that I would bring you guys along with us for a day. I can pretty much guarantee it's not going to pretty all the time, but neither is life. So, follow along and feel free to share a day in your life.

5:30am  Jay's alarm goes off and he jumps in the shower (this is assuming that Turtle hasn't decided to wake up before this). Turtle and I snuggle.

5:45am  He fixes Turtle a bottle and feeds her while I desperately try to wake up (read: check my email and facebook on my phone).

6:00am  I get in the shower while Jay plays with Turtle in the bed. (Oh who am I kidding it's at least 6:15 before I even get out of bed).  Oh how I love a casual work environment!

6:30am  Jay leaves for work.  I finish getting Turtle ready and do a few things around the house...

... like starting a load of laundry.

Then I load us up. We require a lot of bags around here. That's my purse, lunch bag, and crochet bag (to work on at lunch) and Turtle's diaper bag.

7:00am  Turtle and I leave for Grandma's house. But first a stop at McDonalds for an Iced Coffee.

7:15am I drop Turtle off at Grandma's house and start my 45 minute commute to work. My sanity is brought to you by The Bob and Sheri Show.

8:00 am  Work Starts (technically my clock is 3 minutes fast so I was right on time). Thankfully the traffic wasn't too bad. I grab a power bar or oatmeal for breakfast once at the office.

12:00pm  Lunch Break. Yesterday that meant a run to Michaels.  Today it means some time to catch up on Hulu and some crocheting.

5:00pm  Fly out of work and fight rush hour traffic to get my Turtle.  My sanity on the commute home is brought to you by NPR's All Things Considered. Jay leaves work and heads straight to school.

5:45pm  Pick up Turtle from Grandma's house and hang out for a little while. Since our fridge is still thawing out, I grab a quick bowl of cereal at before heading home.

6:30pm  Arrive at the house and try desperately to get a few things done. Tonight's goal: clean off the table. Lily hangs out on my back while I clean.

6:15pm  Turtle gets hungry and begins demanding a bottle.

7:30pm  Bottle done, diaper changed, jammies on. And it's play time in the bed while mommy plays on the computer or crochets. And yes, no matter what I do she won't stay asleep.

8:30pm  Mommy and baby are both ready for bed. (Yes I know my 8 month old and I have the same bedtime but it's the only way I can manage our schedule).

11:30pm  Daddy arrives home from school and kisses us goodnight. Sometimes I wake up pleading with him to tell me it's not 5:30am. :-)

And then we do it all over again! It's hectic, it's crazy and it's exhausting, but I wouldn't trade my little family for the world. What's your day like?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Things I've Never, Ever Done...

I've never, ever...

1)  Told my almost 8 month old daughter to put her "big girl diaper on and deal with it."

2)  Let her chew on a wedding invitation only to notice a corner missing and said corner stuck to the roof of her mouth.

3)  Bangged her head on the door seal (while carrying her on my hip) because I misjudged the clearance.

4)  Given her an old tv changer because she refused the toy one I bought her with a look that said, "Um mom. I KNOW this is a toy!" And I swear she rolled her eyes at me.

5)  Used said discarded toy tv changer to shoot at my friends, illiciting the following phrase from my husband, "Um, that is not a phaser."

6)  Ordered a Princess Leia costume for her first Halloween (and no it's NOT the gold bikini).

7)  Turned on the TinkerBell movie so that I could get just one more moment of sleep on a Saturday morning.

8)  Made her wear multiple articles of clothing with bear ears attached to them.

8)  Bought her multiple pairs of brightly colored striped tights.

9)  Contemplated matching mother-daughter outfits.

I expect my Mother of the Year Award to arrive any day now!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Watering Your Grass

There's not much I find more useless than the so called "Mommy Wars". Working Moms vs. Stay-at-Home-Moms, Formula Feeders vs. Breastfeeders, Babywearers vs. Stroller Pushers, "Natural Childbirth" vs. Medicated Birth... because when you boil it down it just turns out to be a I'm-better-than-you or who's-life-is-harder pissing contest. I've found (in my few short months as a mom) that being a mommy is hard. For everyone. Period. End of story!

Sure I'm a single working mom 4 days a week, but my girlfriend is a single working mom every day of the week... with an autistic kindergartner and a dazzling handful of a preschooler. My best friend is a Stay-at-Home Army wife and mom who's husband has been overseas for more than 2 years of their 3 1/2 year marriage including the first 5 months of their daughter's life. I think I'm going to pull my hair out when Turtle cries for more than a half an hour or so at bedtime. My good friend's baby has cried multiple hours of every single day of her 5 month long life. Gotta love colic!

So, who gets the My Life Sucks More Than Yours Award? The Military Mom, the Special Needs Mom, The Colic Mom...? No one does actually, because I've realized that we each have our own special challenges and things we have to over come. Everything is relative and in each person's life, in each person's shoes, life is hard and it takes strength and courage to overcome. So, instead of warring with each other for life-sucks bragging rights, lets pull together.

Got a chore list that might be helpful to other moms? Share it! Got a meal planning strategy that works for your family? Share it! Found a magical way to keep the puppy from using the bathroom IN YOUR LIVING ROOM and forcing you to take time out of your precious evening cleaning it up? Share it! (No really! I need that information!) Just make sure you share it in a this-is-what-worked-for-us-and-MIGHT-work-for-you way.

This doesn't mean we don't share about our struggles. Sharing our situations can give us perspective. For instance, when I'm talking about how much I'd love for my husband to go on deployment, my best friend reminds me of all the sadness and loneliness that comes along with it. When my friend envies my ability to pee by herself or have some adult conversation, I remind her of the overwhelming guilt I carry if I even contemplate taking time for myself since I get so few hours per week with my daughter. Amazingly instead of feeling sorry for ourselves we walk away thankful for what we do have and understanding that we are not the only ones dealing with unique challenges.

We are all fighters. We are all strong. We all have our mountains to climb. All of our situations are different and give us different challenges to face. No situation is perfect. And no the grass is not greener on the other side. In fact...

 What are you doing to water your grass? What are you doing to help your friends water their grass?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Homemade Frozen Dinners

I have a love hate relationship with frozen dinners. They always look so appealing in the freezer section of the grocery store, they smell so good when they are cooking in the microwave, and then they taste like, well, hammered doggy doo. I mean really. What kind of meat do they use in them? There should really be an episode of CSI to solve that mystery!
But they are quick and easy, so I buy them anyway. But I dread eating them and end up going out to eat half the time. So, I decided this weekend that I'd take advantage of Jay being home and try to make our own frozen dinners. I've done some bulk cooking before and L.O.V.E.D it! Cook once. Clean up once. Eat for a week (or more)!

I chose three of my favorite meals: pasta with meat sauce, chili, and vegi soup... all recipes that used similar ingredients, were fairly easy to assemble and froze well. The fact that all the recipes called for ground beef was AWESOME! I got out both my large skillets and put 2lbs in each. Within a few minutes I had all the meat browned for all three dishes.

I added cooked noodles and jarred tomato sauce to one lb of ground beef; frozen vegis, a diced potato, a large can of diced tomatoes, and a jar of Heinz chili sauce to another lb; and another large can of diced tomatoes, a can of black beans, and the spice packet of the most awesome chili mix in the world to the remaining 2 lbs. The whole prepping process couldn't have taken much more than a half an hour.

I left everything to simmer while I snuggled with Turtle and Jay.

The dishes needed to simmer for various times so as I felt things were done I turned them off and let them cool. Once they were cool, I divided them into individual portions in freezer bags and layered them flat, which couldn't have taken more than a half an hour, either.

We ate vegi soup for dinner, so I'm a little short on that recipe. If I had frozen all of it, I would have ended up with 5 portions of vegi soup, 5 portions of chili, and 3 portions of pasta and meat sauce. I probably could have had more servings, but I erred on the side of larger portions. There's nothing worse than being at the office and not being full from your lunch.

So, there you have it. Half an hour of prep time, a couple hours of simmer time, and a half hour of portioning and a week's worth of frozen dinners (for both Jay and I). I sat down and added up what I spent (because I'm just a geek like that) and it averaged out to about $2.70 a lunch. The frozen dinners I get are at least $3.00 and that's for food that I don't even really like. $2.70 for food I enjoy and look forward to eating sound like quite a steal!

Will I be able to do it every weekend. I don't know, but I'm excited with how quick and easy it was. And I'm happy with how we are thriving under our challenging situation!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Sniff, Sniff

After picking up Turtle at my mom's house last night, we headed to the drug store for a few essentials. One of those was body wash. Beyond anything else, how a body wash smells is the most important thing to me. I like light, crisp and usually citrus smells. This particular evening, I was also looking for cheap. After finding one that fulfilled most of my criteria, I offered it to Turtle who was in my PeanutShell sling (dude! What would I do without that thing?!?!). At first she of course tried to eat it because that's just how she rolls. So I pulled it away, put it up between our noses and tried to show her (in an overly exaggerated way... remember we're still smack in the middle of my local Walgreens) how to sniff the body wash. I really didn't expect much but after a few times she starts doing this panting breathing thing that she's been doing for a couple weeks now. She then looked up at me with these big doe eyes that said, "Did I do it right, Mama?" I swear I just about died of cuteness right there in the middle of Walgreens. I could tell she was trying her hardest to mimic me but just couldn't quite figure it out. She was thoroughly proud of herself though.

We did it a few more times and then I snuggled her even closer to me and gave her a kiss. I'm really not sure what I did before this amazing little bundle of awesome came into my life. Happy Friday everyone!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

A Little Comparison

Oh my! She was such a little squishy! I can hardly remember this phase! Maybe it's because I hadn't slept in a month!

Oh yes! By three months we had rolls!

I think we are beginning to see the start of Turtle the Little Girl instead of Turtle the Baby.

Although this is really a more accurate six month portrait! I'm afraid by nine months we may be crawling. God helps us all!!

I started out taking these pics every single week. Then I went back to work, and it sucked the get-up-early-on-a-Saturday-morning-so-you-can-get-the-best-light right out of me! So I started doing every month and then it has become every quarter. But I'm at least glad I have what I do. When you see her every day like I do it's hard to see the subtle changes. It's amazing to look at these pictures. I highly, highly, highly recommend taking regular pictures of your babies. They grow so fast in that first year. But I do recommend thinking about how, where, and when you'd like to take them before the baby get here. Those first few sleep deprived foggy weeks are not the time to be figuring that out.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Thriving... just maybe not as elegantly

In case you didn't know, I named this blog after my all time favorite quote (and that's quite a distinction to have because I'm kind of a quote junkie).

Surviving is important; thriving is elegant. ~ Maya Angelou

From the first moment I read that quote (on a Hallmark card of all things), I knew it would be the theme of my life from then on out. One day I will have it tattooed on my body but for right now I'm still trying to find the perfect spot. When I went to name my blog, I knew it could be none other than Thriving is Elegant. Someone once asked me what that meant to me and after some thought I responded that it was about rising above. Instead of cursing the rain, it's about learning to dance in it. (Side note: My mom told me the other day about how she was always having to drag my Childhood BFF and I in from the rain when we were little girls. Apparently putting on our rain boot and grabbing our umbrellas was one of our favorite pastimes.)

Don't get me wrong! I'm no Pollyanna by any means, but I do find inspiration in people who have been able to rise above their circumstances. Because of my Type II Bi-Polar disorder, sometimes rising above is more challenging than others, but I'm sure it's that way for everyone.

Life has been rather challenging lately. I always expected to be a stay at home mother (not because I thought it was my "duty" but because it was what I wanted to do). So, when Turtle was born and that wasn't possible it was difficult for me to bear. Thankfully it wasn't as difficult as I feared.

But then I had a pretty rough bought of depression which got so bad I was all but forced to see my psychiatrist. Because he has moved offices and is not set up with my insurance just yet I had to pay out of pocket which caused some major financial stress, on top of the crazy financial situation we were already dealing with. To alleviate that stress my husband decided to go back to school. I know that sounds counter intuitive but because of his military service he's eligible for the Post 9/11 GI bill which pays housing allowance. He was able to find a school with a schedule that has allowed him to continue to work full time. But that means he's going to school at night.

So on top of being a working mom, I had to learn to be a single working mom two nights a week. Thankfully that wasn't as difficult as I feared. My mom helped out some on the nights I was alone. Our friends offered to come over and keep me company any time I needed it. And I found out that I kind of like having some time to myself and some time to just snuggle my Turtle. (I bet you didn't realize Turtles were so snuggly!) We were just starting to figure out what worked for us those two nights a week and a new session started.

Now Daddy's gone four nights a week. We see him for about a half an hour in the morning and then we are asleep when he comes home. I found myself becoming very anxious over the weekend. I didn't realize that it was tied to my apprehension of this new schedule and it kind of came spewing out all over everything Sunday night. I had forgotten one of the cardinal rules of preparing for deployment is to watch out for sadness and anxiety masked as anger. It's easier to be angry at your deploying service member than it is to say how much you are going to miss them. (Editor's Note: Please do not think that I'm comparing my measly 4 nights a week alone to 12 and 18 month deployments!) But just like all the other challenges this past year, this has one turned out to be one we can handle.

I've realized that organization is going to be the key to thriving in this new challenge (that will probably last the next couple years of our lives). I only have an hour or so after I get home that Turtle is content to play by herself (and because we get up so early she and I have about the same bedtime). So, I have to be very proactive about what needs to be done. Jay brings a load of laundry down in the mornings (since I have a baby in my arms when I come down). Before I leave for the morning I throw it in the washer. When I come home I switch them over and fold the ones in the dryer that we started the day before. I load or unload the dish washer depending on what day it is, and I do one other chore type thing like pick up clutter, wipe down a bathroom or sweep and mop the floor. (Vacuuming has to be done on the weekend because Turtle is DEATHLY afraid of the vacuum cleaner. I mean she will scream like she's being tortured and try to climb out of the sling if she's on me when she hears it!)

By staying focused and knowing what I have to do, I can accomplish what I need in that hour and then be free to spend the rest of the evening cuddling with my Turtle which she pretty much insists on (and I totally understand since she sees me so little during the day). Is it easy? No. Do others have it harder? Absolutely! Am I trying to learn to thrive in the midst of the chaos? As elegantly as possible! And this time it's not only for my sake, but for Turtle's too.