Wednesday, September 7, 2011


So, this is a nice two-part, manic depressive post. In the first part I tell you all about the gripping fear I have of visiting that most common of human fears, the dentist's chair. But don't you worry, because I'm hoping the second part will be a fun roller coaster ride of hilarity.

They say (they, meaning wikipedia, the source of all internet research of mine) that odontophobia in severe cases is typically brought about by traumatic dental experiences that lead someone to develop a fear that makes them avoid the dentist at all costs. I guess I have that in my history. I wish I could seriously post a pic of how screwed up my teeth were circa 1988. I had a constant stream of dental, orthodontic, and surgical appointments to give myself a big old pretty smile. It started out ok and I loved my orthodontist, but somewhere between getting my braces off at 17 and becoming an adult who had to figure out how to PAY for my dentist check-ups I just...stopped going.

And then I got really scared, remembering the shame and admonishment I felt when the dentist told me I didn't floss enough or brush enough or visit often enough. So then it became a fear of just-what-the-hell-will-they-say-when-I-tell-them-it's-been-seven-years kind of anxiety.

But finally, things clicked into place. I was going to get married, I had insurance, and I wanted to look good for my husband. I found an ad for a brand new one-man dental practice that not only specialized in high-fear, sedation dentistry, but also had a coupon for a free teeth whitening treatment. When I called to make the appointment, my palms were sweaty and I was already breathing heavy. I nearly passed out when the receptionist said "oh, well, most people don't need sedation just for a cleaning and exam".

I couldn't have felt like a bigger freak of nature. I was literally crying on the phone. When she told me there were options and that they could certainly help me out, I at least made the appointment.

I was 10 minutes early and sat hyperventilating and crying in the office, with the poor receptionist watching me with pity eyes. (I wish I were exaggerating, but my heart literally speeds up and I have a physiological reaction to seeing the dentist) I was almost ready to bolt when the next words out of her mouth were a balm to my beating heart.

Nitrous. Oxide.

My life has never been the same. I now see the dentist at least once yearly, and if I remembered to make the appointments and he weren't nearly 40 minutes away, I'd go every 6 months. I'm no longer scared of the dentist. At least not mine.

And now, I'd love to share my stream of consciousness (what I can remember of it) from being happily sedated during my dental appointment today.Please, try to keep up...

"Is this lady ever going to stop talking? I don't care where her daughter works. Say Yes to the Dress is on...I hope it's Katiekate's episode. I've been trying to catch it. Damn, this mask is blocking the TV. What's he saying about North Carolina brides? I feel kind of like I'm on a tilt-a-whirl at the fair. Falling backwards. I'm going to crash...just kidding...there's my head again. Whooooooooooo. Wow, I'm gripping this chair pretty tight. Strange, because I'm super relaxed. Katiekate...hmmm...maybe that's her sister there. Oh well, I can't really see it. Hey, these chair arms feel weird...I must be making a face, because she keeps telling me sorry and 'you're doing great'. It feels like she's using a super duper high powered water pic to clean my teeth. But I'm pretty sure they just scrape them, unless they have some really high-tech stuff at this office. I'm never trying another dentist again. Wait, did she just say uh-oh? What if that's blood spurting out of my mouth instead of just water. OK, calm down. That's not blood. Or if it is, I don't care, because I'm falling again. Breathe deeper. Am I grimacing? She thinks this hurts me. I wonder if they're rougher on people with nitrous because they know we don't really care? Hmmm...I could never do this without laughing gas. I MUST remember Katiekate. I should write this down as soon as I get in the car. I don't have a pen. Maybe I'll ask if I can take one. Is that weird? Who cares. I wonder if this is what ether feels like. Cider House Rules was really not the best of John Irving's books, not by a long shot. "" as Jacob says. They really do call this laughing gas. I wish this lasted longer. I think she's almost done. I bet I'm the only high fear dental patient to ever wish my cleaning didn't end. Oh, did he say Outer Banks beach wedding? It's pretty indisputable that North Carolina is the best state ever. Damn. She's almost done. One more deep breath, one more ride on the tilt-a-whirl and....

And she switched me back to oxygen.

I'm counting down to March for my next appointment, with glee.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Cape Lookout

It's a vacation within a vacation. My absolute favorite place in the world.

And hopefully, it's still there Sunday...

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

"It's a Doggy-dog World."

Remember the good old days when dogs slept outside, ate whatever Purina dry food was on sale at the local supermarket, and got kenneled during family vacations?

Yeah, just barely for me, too.

I'm just as guilty as the next gal of treating my dog like a princess. Case in point, after my "big" gender reveal ultrasound with my son, I came home, hugged her neck, and said to her (as if she understood), "you're still my only baby girl!"

She comes on vacations with us, swims in the pool with us (thanks mom and dad), and very occasionally if I know she's just-bathed, sleeps under the covers in the winter.

And today I realized just how much we spoil our pets now compared to 25 years ago.

I went to Pet-Smart to pick up some food. That's all we needed, food. (Which, by the way, usually runs $45 a bag but luckily was on sale so I got it for a steal at $35.) Then I figured, well, they're having a big sale, so I bought some treats that don't expire until October but were almost half off.

Then I wanted to get her a treat I can give her tonight to make up for not taking her with me to the pet store. ::eyeroll at how obnoxious that is::

So I decided to browse and remembered we are going on vacation soon, so I grabbed some coconut scented shampoo b/c she gets frequest baths after playing in the water/sand all day.

Then I decided it would be nice to buy the family dogs (we have no less than 4 dogs that come on our yearly, week-long family vacation) a new toy to have on our trip.

So, $54 later I was walking to the car and thinking about how much the times have changed, how much we spoil our pets now, and what a huge billion dollar industry this must be.

It doesn't matter, though. My dog is truly "part of the family" and we would do anything for her, including buying expensive food and fish oil supplements, taking her to the best vet in town, and making her feel like a valued friend as often as possible.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

A Tragic Loss...

I had a post planned for today.

It was going to be about Big Brother and the comparisons that could be made between the shenanigans on a reality TV show and the whole "Gang of Six" and "Cut, Cap, and Balance" crap going on in Washington.

And then I got an email at work from a friend.

Someone in our community lost her husband yesterday. He was 27 years old. They have a child Jacob's age and a daughter that will be 4 months old next weekend.

Since then, I've been unable to focus on anything except how many frivolous things I get involved with on a daily basis and how much more rich and full my life would be if I put that energy into loving my husband and making our home a calm and peaceful retreat from the stress of everyday life.

If you are the praying type, please send up prayers for this young mother, who now has to make a multitude of decisions about how to move forward from this painful moment in her life.

And if you're not, then give your husband a kiss when you get home, forgive him for the annoying mistake he made yesterday, and be glad that you have him at all.

**If I get any news about memorial funds or anything that can be done for this family, I will post for you all to share. I would prefer to keep her anonymous for now as her blog has not been updated (can you imagine) and I don't know how far into the interwebs she wants this information to travel. Some of you, however, know the story and the names already. If you don't, God will know who your prayers are for.**

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

One of Those Moments

I knew we had made a mistake within three steps.

It was a rare night in our household, where it was nearly 9PM and my little guy was still crying in his crib after 30 minutes. My husband had just come upstairs to find me at the computer, trying to shut out the crying, nerves frayed, and gave me some much needed relief when he said, "this isn't normal...we should go check".

So we walked in, and I saw Jacob turtled on his "pillow" in the corner of the crib, not standing as I'd expected. ::sigh:: Wrong move, mom. Confirmed after he sat up, glared at us, and shouted "No, Mommy! No, Daddy!" before continuing to sob.

But, we were in, and there was no turning back. So I shooed daddy out, picked up my sweet baby boy, and sat down in the rocker as he frogged me, his sobs turning to gentle hiccups as he relaxed. We sat like this for a long while, me just smelling his hair and kissing him way, way too much above the ear.

After a little bit (who is to say, time was standing still), I whispered to ask if he was still awake, he lifted his head and just looked at me, exhausted. 

"Do you want to get back in your bed?" I tried gently. He shook his head no. "Do you want me to hold you like a baby?" This is our code for his favorite pre-bed position since he was six weeks old, roughly. He didn't answer, but leaned as far to his right (facing me) as he could, and I let him relax. Holding him in my lap, his head on my left arm, with my right arm supporting his legs, his left arm draped over mine, he finally succumbed.

And for the first time in over a year, I got to watch my baby fall asleep.

Y'all, nothing else matters. This was a gift, and I would have gladly given up chocolate and cheese for a year of holding this child while he slept in my arms.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Oh, am I Lucky...(WMW Post)

I'm linking up for the first time in a while with Julia and the gang at Working Mom Wednesday. Are you a working mom? Check us out!

As I am not a very good scheduler in the least (you can expect if I say "we'll be there no later than 10" you will see me around 10:30) I have chosen today's second prompt: would you rather have a large salary and crappy benefits or a smaller salary and stellar benefits?

As someone who has been in both positions, I can definitely say "Option B, Alex".

See, before kids I worked in retail management and I did this in some capacity or another for almost 10 years. I was 26 years old, in the mid-2000's, no kids, newly married, buying my first house, making close to 50 grand with no college education. I felt special, as if I had somehow charmed my way into being someone I shouldn't be. (Looking back, obviously I worked hard for that position.) Our benefits were better than most retail companies: I got 3 weeks of paid vacation, 4 personal days a year, and sick time when my store wasn't too short-staffed to manage without me (ok, so I rarely got sick time).

On the other hand, I only got one full weekend off a month, had to work until 10PM twice a week, and some weeks (during floor changes and inventory) worked well over my salaried 40 hours. I had to bow out of last minute weekend trips to the beach and turn down free college football tickets while all of my friends went tailgating on Saturdays. I was beginning to imagine raising a child in all of this and thought we could make it work, but looking back, I am SO GLAD I lost that job. The company has gone through rough times, been bought and sold and their commitment to a "work-life balance" is nearly non-existent at this point.

And then there's my job now. I started at the ground floor, doing a job that a lot of people feel is suited for a retiree or college student, and taking a cut in salary back to what I was making as a 21 year old in my first assistant manager retail position. But as I've learned this new world of banking and all of it's intricacies and regulations and audits, I have fallen in love. Sure, I have the occasional complaint about the battle between salespeople and operational people. Sure, I have clients that sometimes are like a stump in the thick mud I'm trying to navigate. Sure, I occasionally talk my husband's ear off on our commute home at the crazy thing that happened this morning. But overall, I love being able to pack up at 5PM (ish...sometimes 5:30) and head home.

Friday nights have a new meaning: a relaxed family night where we're not as strict on Jacob's bedtime and we don't feel the rush-rush-rush to get dinner made, eaten, baby bathed and in bed within 2 hours of getting home. And I now know the feeling of having the whole (3-day Holiday) weekend stretched out before me, with no mind paid to work whatsoever. I traded in my lovely weekday off for having off Columbus and President's Day, Memorial Day, Labor Day, Veteran's Day, and any other day the Federal Government deems a holiday. I was paid in full for 8 of the 12 weeks I was home on maternity leave for doing absolutely nothing for this company.

The typical benefits are pretty similar to what I was getting in retail, comparable vacation-sick time. Slightly better health benefits (I paid $750 total for my entire pregnancy from the first visit to the surgery to the 6 week follow up.)

But the work-life balance benefits are incomparable. And worth every bit of the $48,000ish (before taxes) that I've "lost" over the last 3 years.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

"Discipline" Success!

I mean, my kid is 22 months old, so there's really no such thing as discipline right now. I'm still figuring out how I feel about the whole "discipline" thing with a toddler. I've been reading up and I guess I fall somewhere in the middle: I don't think he "gets it" all of the time, but I do feel that in my home it's important for us to start laying the foundation of what is acceptable and what is not early.

I have a few friends that are all about the "redirection only" methods and to be honest, it just sounds like they live in households centered around their child and what he wants. For me, that feels like it would create a kid a few years down the road that would have a really tough time accepting rules and boundaries and other people's wishes.

So far, discipline has been frustratingly exhausting, mentally, physically, and emotionally. Jacob either doesn't realize he's being punished and sits in time out chattering to himself and playing with his shoes until I come over to have our "follow up", where he looks me in the eye and tells me what I want to hear so he can go play, or I get all-out tantrums complete with hitting, kicking, screaming and wailing. Neither is fun, or feels like we are getting anywhere.

But yesterday, I MIGHT have had a breakthrough!

Lately he wants us to carry him ALL.THE.TIME. He has begun refusing to walk on his own to/from daycare or anywhere, and just whines and tries to block our way until we cave. So I didn't cave. The process looked a little like this:

"Mama, hold again," while reaching up.
"No, we're going to hold hands and walk today," so I take his hand, and he instantly becomes a sack of potatoes, throwing himself to the ground and trying to wrench his shoulder out of socket. So I let go, let him tantrum, and say "I'm going to keep walking now".
"Bye," he screams at me through tears, until I get too far for comfort, then he runs towards me crying hysteerically as if I have just dropped him off at a baby insane asylum, never to return.
I stop, let him catch up, say, "are you ready to hold hands and walk now?"
"No, hold again," and lather, rinse, repeat.
This was our process all the way from his classroom to the front door. It took over 10 minutes.

I finally carried him outside and we sat on the bench. We had a nice chat while he was sitting in my lap about how I needed him to be a big boy and walk, and how I was never going to leave him behind, but I couldn't always carry him. And then I made a deal. "How about you hold my hand and we walk all the way across the parking lot, and if you can walk with me like a big boy, we'll go look at the bus up close?" THAT got his attention. And then we did...walk all the way across the parking lot. He was awesome, and I told him so.

And then I picked him up and carried him to the car. As a reward for both of us for staying calm (me) and listening to mommy (him).

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Long Time Coming

I've needed a change. For a while, now. I mean, in most every area of my life. So, let me fill you in on what's been going on with me.

I'm fat. That's been established. I tried to start a "lifestyle change" in January, lost about 8 lbs, then gained 15. Three weeks ago, I was at my heaviest weight ever (not including pregnancy): 248lbs. So I joined and hooked up with some amazingly motivating ladies from a message board I am on, and have lost 9 pounds in 3 weeks. My food diary is public, so the real motivating factor has been me knowing that other people can see what I'm eating. I do not like being judged on weight, especially not when I know it's utterly my fault for looking like this.

What I am even MORE proud of than the weight loss, though, is the fact that I have had fast food only once in the last three weeks, and had a Coke only twice. It's getting a craving, and still making the choice to eat something different when my mind is saying "Godiva chocolate cheesecake" that impresses me. I hate those diet articles in magazines that say crap like "when you want salty chips, eat veggies and hummus instead" or "choose a piece of fruit instead of a chocolate chip cookie". WTF? I don't want a freaking apple, and my body is smarter than that. If I give it nuts and an apple, it's going to cross it's arms and roll it's collective eyes and be all "this bitch HATES me". And then it will rebel.

But it hasn't. I feel more confident than ever that I can make the right choice 85% of the time, and forgive myself and let it go the other 15.

Also, in other news, I'm raising a toddler. And coming off the heels of the 18 months that I was most terrified of, I thought, this parenting thing is going to be so much easier than I expected. Pre-schoolers have always loved me, listened to me, and done whatever I asked them to. Um, yeah right. Schooled me. The last 6 months have been incredibly difficult as I have dealt with feelings of intense mommy guilt, not feeling like a good parent, not being patient enough, not giving my son enough credit for the great things he does, dwelling on the negative, and basically thinking that he would be better off with anyone besides me for a mom.

It's almost been like I caught post-partum depression, 18 months late.

So I started seeing a counselor. And while I won't go into detail, it has so far been so wonderfully freeing to listen to someone tell me that I'm normal, that I don't need to be embarrassed that I have more internet friends than real life friends, and that I should work on not worrying as much about what other people have going on and how it compares to me.

The only thing that has helped me get through this rough patch more than these appointments (other than a supportive husband who has definitely pulled more parenting duty lately to release some of my burden) are 22 of the most amazing women I have ever known. Every day they confirm for me that my child is not a hellion (or at least not the only 22-month old hellion out there) and that we will all get through this. So far it's been 3 years, give or take, that we've "known" each other, and I hope that it lasts a lifetime, whether we ever get to meet in person or not. And even though I tell them this on our page on occasion, I wanted some PUBLIC way to let them know how much they mean to me. You all know who you are, and I thank God every day for that fateful day when a handful of assorted women climbed into a "tub" together and let their guards down.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

"Talent is Universal, Opportunity is Not"

Even my cold, dark, anti-socialism Libertarian heart can agree with the title's sentiment. People in all parts of the world, advantaged and disadvantaged, have the talent necessary to change themselves and the world around them. Unfortunately, in some areas, these people are struggling to survive and need a little boost to be able to activate that talent. One of my very best friends in the world works for an organization that helps give the people living in the largest slum in Kenya the means and motivation to do just that.

Goodreads is giving away a wonderful Memoir/Social Activism Manifesto (my words) book called It Happened on the Way to War by Rye Barcott. I recently had a chance to see Rye speak and give a presentation on the book and his charitable organization Carolina for Kibera. The book itself costs $26 in hardcover, a reflection of the $26 loan that Rye gave a struggling nurse to start a vegetable selling business. I have not finished my copy yet, but eventually this nurse turned this $26 (along with help from some others) into a health clinic in one of the poorest parts of the world.

I implore all of you to read this book! No matter where you stand politically, I think we can all agree that helping out our fellow human beings with no expectation of anything in return feels good and right and just, and this book and organization provides me with the drive to want to do more, as much as I can, physically and monetarily to help out people in need. Even if you do not have the means to buy the book or donate to this cause, check out this website:  and take the 26-day challenge to find out more about what life in Kibera and other slums may be like.

And if you'd like a chance to win the book, please go here to enter the giveaway, there is only one day left! is an awesome website for anyone who likes to read. You can find new books based on friends and strangers reviews of books they've read, and enter reviews of your own.

Monday, May 2, 2011


Today is quite a day for our American spirit, isn't it?

Last night as we were getting ready to go to bed, just before my husband clicked the power button on the remote, we saw that there was a Special Report coming. Strangely, my husband and I looked at each other as if we knew this was going to be big news. Special Reports come through all the time seems that our media can't get through a regularly scheduled program if something so mundane as Lindsay Lohan leaving a club drunk or the Obamas' dog taking a leak on the South Lawn happens, so typically we just watch with mild interest and little to no expectation that something meaningful has actually occured.

And then we heard. And unexpectedly, tears started rolling. Now, some of my emotional reaction may be attributed to hormones. I am female, I was in that prime week for tears between ovulation and menses, when something as small as the dog deciding to roll in something nasty can send me into a fury that only ends with me crying while bathing her, a sobbing mess.

But the more I mull my feelings over, the more I feel that the tears were an entirely appropriate reaction. I lost no family in 9-11. I have no close family or friends that are active duty military, or even firefighters. But I am American, and I am human. I cried for all of the servicemen and women that have fought for our freedom for so long, and tried to explain to my husband how I felt so proud and happy for them, that they can finally feel as though all of this war has not been futile. We have now killed the mastermind behind the attack that changed so much about our country forever.

And as a Christian, I cried because the feelings of revenge and jubilation at another's lost life are difficult to reconcile. I am not supposed to rejoice over another human being's death, even after hearing him laugh at how the destruction of 9-11 was more than even he had imagined in all of his optimism. This is a man that rejoiced that more lives were lost than even he hoped for. What's wrong with mourning the death of a monster? Mostly, I rejoice because my Faith in Christianity comforts me. It helps me know that when I die, I will not be in the same pane of existence as Osama Bin Laden. Whether he has 99 virgins or the fires of hell, I will not be there with him.

Sadly, a day that all Americans should be enjoying is instead colored by the inane political punditing that follows any big announcement. I prefer to stay out of that fray. To imply any conspiracy theories about this being a political ploy to kick-off President Obama's re-election campaign is ridiculous and asinine. It is also calling our president a liar. That does not sit well with me. Policy-wise, I may disagree with how our President wants our country to be run in 90% of the major decisions to be made, but that does not diminish this important victory that our troops have carried out under his command. And I say shame on anyone who wants to make this about something it's not.

I, for one, and feeling vindicated.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

WMW: A Perfect Day.

Linking up with my fellow WM's over at Working Mommy Wednesday!

Days like today are the best thing ever about being a working mom.

My son is sick. He has an infection in his left eye and left ear. (Sidenote: last night in the tub I asked him to show me his left hand, right hand, left foot, right foot, and he KNEW them. CRAZY!) There is a possibility that it is viral, so he had to stay home from daycare today.

Now, I have been swamped at work, I'm already short an employee, and I have a duty at work that I really have to be there to do. I don't have the kind of job that I can ever "work at home". But, being a om comes first and always will, and Wednesday is the best possible day for me to skip if I must. My mother, who usually can watch Jacob on short notice, is in Philadelphia visiting my week old nephew, and my hubby will already be staying home with the baby on Friday when daycare is closed. So today, it's mommy.

I did have to get some things done, though, so after the doctor's appointment and picking up antibiotics, we drove into Raleigh to my office and my coworkers played with Jacob while I took care of some things. After that it was almost time for Daddy's lunch break, and we were passing his office on the way home anyway, so we swung by to show our greatest achievement off and then all had a family lunch date.

Now, the boy is getting some much needed rest while Mama is catching up on some much needed blogging (and online bra-shopping) time. I have been needing to purchase some new bras for ages. I weaned completely two months ago, and stopped nursing during the day when I would be wearing a bra LONG before that, so there is NO excuse for me to still be wearing nursing bras. Except that work has blocked my favorite bra website as inappropriate, so I can't even shop during my lunch break.

So, that's what this mama is doing today, and it's glorious. Now I shall retire downstairs to inventory and put away everything that arrived in our Produce Box today and do some cooking.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Proud to be...From NC!

I know, I know. It seems like the once monthly posts I've been making have all been asking for money for one charity or another. But as a Libertarian who feels very passionately about not letting the government decide what causes my money needs to support, the flip side is that I feel very strongly about people who are thankful for what they have (and by all accounts recognize that there are others in more dire straits than they) give passionately and freely of their time, money, and resources to help those that need a boost.

This weekend and today, I am proud to see these mantras in action across my community as locals mobilize with the Red Cross, the SPCA, and other non-profits to help their neighbors that fared less fortunate from the rash of tornadoes that bombarded our state. Our local radio shows this morning were broadcasting from sites around Raleigh, helping drive food and cash donations to the areas that need them most. I was one of the lucky ones: sandwiched safely with at least a 5 mile buffer from either tornado that passed northwest and southeast of us.

Don't get me wrong, having a child makes those of us who used to be the vaguely amatuer storm-chasing type turn suddenly into Supermom. Luckily we never had to wake our sleeping babe up, but I can promise you that if my downstairs half bathroom had anything else stored in it during the two hours we watched the local newstation and waited to see if it would be our turn next, we would not have been able to fit in there. I had blankets, an overnight bag, for DS, snacks and juice, a weather radio, a flashlight, my purse with all keys and cell phones and wallets stashed safely inside, and our video and point and shoot cameras. If we had to leave our house after a tornado, I was prepared.

For others in my community, like the mother who lost two of her four children while huddled inside their trailer's closet, or the families who have lost everything but their lives and the clothes on their backs, I am impassioned to help as I have seen so many others doing today. I need to donate my bag of food to the food bank, and I also need to take that small bonus I got from work and put it to good use with the American Red Cross. If you feel impassioned to do the same, I would be ever so appreciative. As one of the rare North Carolinians who were actually born and raised here, I care about it's people. My people.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

I'm Doing Something Good for a Change!

The March of Dimes is one of those organizations that just work. Who doesn't love babies, right?

I have personal experiences with premature birth. Without the technological advances made possible by the research and development supported by the March for Babies, I wouldn't have my son. Mostly because my husband would not have survived after being born at 32 weeks way back in the 1970's.

I cannot imagine how different my life would be if I hadn't met my husband. I may have never wanted kids, I wouldn't have the awesome network of in-laws that are really just my family as much as my own blood relatives are. I wouldn't have the most hilarious, precocious, prissy 3 year old niece in the world, who makes me laugh the way she loves to boss her little cousin Jacob around. I may have never understood the blinding pain that a loss to premature birth causes for the parents and everyone who already loved a little girl we were waiting to meet.

I am walking this year in honor of all of these things, and I hope that any of you who feel moved donate to help prevent more heartache in the future. You can use the button on the side of my page to donate, and I never see any of your info: your money goes straight to the March of Dimes.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Feeling Blah About Dinner?

Please, allow me to help, with my second installment of a "kitchen sink" type recipe, when you just pull out whatever veggies you need to cook in your fridge/freezer and go to town.

I was lucky enough to shop at Trader Joe's on my lunch break yesterday, and was inspired by seeing the broccolini and blue lake green beans, two family favorites. (I was also inspired by their hella cheap French wine selection.) But I could just as easily make this without grocery store shopping with the frozen peas, frozen broccoli, and cream cheese that I almost always have on hand.

I hope you enjoy as much as me...please let me know if you do!

This is a very easy weeknight meal, esp. if you use presliced veggies or do prep the night before. If I hadn't had to do the cutting board prep, I could have easily had this meal on the table in 25 minutes.

3 cups penne pasta, uncooked
2 Tbsp. Italian Dressing (feel free to omit and use whatever herbs/vinegar/oil you have on hand)
3oz prscuitto, cut into strips or diced (I roll them to dice easier)
1 bunch broccolini
1 1/2 cups fresh green beans, cut into 2" pieces
8 oz mushrooms (I used presliced baby bellas and rough chopped them smaller)
1 cup fat-free reduced-sodium chicken broth
4 oz. (1/2 of 8-oz. pkg.) Philadelphia® Neufchatel Cheese, cubed
1 pint cherry tomatoes, cut in halves
1/4 cup Parmesan Cheese, grated

(You can sub or add so many things to make this different each time: red bell pepper, asparagus, zuchinni, frozen peas, chicken cubes, any veggie in season or whatever you have in the fridge.)

1.) Cook pasta as directed on package.

2.)Meanwhile, heat skillet over med-high heat and add proscuttio, cooking until crispy. Remove from pan and set aside.

If there is not enough oil leftover to coat the veggies, add a little olive oil to pan. Add vegetables; cook 10 to 12 min. or until veggies are beginning to soften, stirring frequently (you can also cover to let them cook a little quicker after you saute them a bit. The liquid released from the mushrooms will "steam" them.)

3.)Add broth and cream cheese; cook 1 min. or until cheese is melted, stirring constantly. Once sauce starts to come together and cream cheese is mostly melted, add tomato halves and stir just until they start to "wilt".

4.)Drain pasta; return to pot. Add proscuttio and vegetable mixture; toss lightly. Cook 1 min. or until heated through. (Sauce will thicken up standing.)

5.)Top with fresh grated parmesan and black pepper, if desired.

My husband told me that it may be the best thing I've ever made. ::swoon::

The original idea for this recipe should be credited to Rachael Ray, but I took major liberties with the execution, so this is indeed "my" recipe.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Whole Debt-Free Thing?

Thank you to TurboTax for sponsoring my writing about household finances.Learn more about how TurboTax can help you find every tax deduction you deserve. I was selected for this sponsorship by the Clever Girls Collective, which endorses Blog With Integrity, as I do.

 Yeah, so back in October my husband and I attended a Dave Ramsay seminar. It was inspiring, it was relevant, it was motivating, and we were going to come home, make a budget, and be debt free within a year. To our credit, we are lucky enough to not carry as much debt as the average American household, but we knew if we didn't change some things we eventually would reach that number.

We had switched back and forth about managing our family's finances for a while, but one thing we had rarely done was sit down and have a budget meeting, and make decisions together. Dave's comments about the roles of the two heads of household and why budget meetings were tough fit us to a tee. My husband makes excel spreadsheets of our income and output, including the amount we pay in taxes and social security, in his free time for fun. 

He also does supernerd things, like this one time when he made himself a fake student ID to get basketball and movie tickets.
I check our balances each week, make payments as I feel like it, and forget our online banking passwords. If you even say "budget meeting" to me I get the hives.

I try to contribute to the family finances in a positive way, too. I am a coupon QUEEN, and love finding good deals. I will not pay more than $2 for a box of cereal or $1 for a pound of pasta. I have a very well stocked pantry, so if we have to go into hiding we'd be okay if we found some clean water.

I have about 4 priorities when I get on the computer for personal use: email, facebook, blog, Amazon. Now and then I might think to Twitter, or shop for bras (that never ends up well), or visit my favorite mommy message board, but I never, ever think "It's time for our budget meeting!"

So, things I like to do to procrastinate on the dreaded budget meeting. Because I am a master procrastinator.

1) Say I want to put a new background on my blog. Since I am HTML-illiterate, this could take upwards of three hours, and is good for multiple excuses.

2) Tell my husband that I couldn't get my blog template to work, so that he spends budget night trying to help me upload a new one.

3) Sign up to be bracket manager for our March Madness pool, and then remind him each night that he needs to get his picks set.

4) Feed my little guy spaghetti for dinner, guaranteeing a bath night.

5) Offer to do laundry for my hubs, and therefore spend multiple hours folding the backlog of clean, wrinkled laundry in the bonus room floor.

6) Make sure there are plenty of back episodes of Kill It, Cook It, Eat It on the DVR.

7) Remind husband that I do occasionally have a blogging deadline, that I procrastinate to the last day (as usual) and I MUST use the computer that night to blog.

I could go on, but I think you get my point!

No, really, next week, we HAVE to have a budget meeting.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

WMW: Advice for Returning to the Workforce

I love, love, love linking up to Julia's Working Mommy Wednesday prompts. Sadly, the reality of being a working mommy is sometimes that the blogging takes a back seat, and boy has work made me re-rpioritize my needs lately!

But I'm here now, and ready to give advice to any mom out there about to return to the workforce.

My own experience has been great: the number one catalyst to that is the childcare experience. I know some people out there think that daycare is the devil and that no one could ever care for you child as well as you. Sometimes, I think that's just not true. My son has had about 5 different primary teachers, and several assistants and other teachers come into contact with him in the last year and a half, and I am so thankful for every single one. We have loved them all for different reasons, but you cannot argue with a child who chants his teachers' names when we pull into the parking lot, or runs in to see his friends. He is HAPPY there, and that is the number one most important aspect of finding childcare that mom will feel comfortable with.

Of course, as happy as he is, nothing beats the feeling I get when I walk in the door to pick him up and that slow grin just spreads across his face because no one will ever replace mommy.

In the early days, I must say that I was very thankful that my little guy's daycare was so close to my work. Being able to go and nurse him during my lunch break just made the transition to being away from mommy for 9 hours a day much easier. Even if you are not breastfeeding, that little break in the day to cuddle your infant can really rev you up for the rest of your work day. Nowadays, there's no way I could drop by in the middle of the day and leave him there, or I would cause an epic meltdown.

As far as mom's health goes, reach out to your boss before returning to work and discuss the expectations. I know that you may work in a job where you need to "catch up" as soon as you get back, but don't let than mean working long hours. You need to be a mommy first, and no matter how hard it is, work has to come second. Make sure you discuss how things will be if baby gets sick: who will stay home, how much sick/vacation time do you have available for that, how does your boss/company/state laws feel about pump breaks? I know the logistics are hard to think about when you're home with your baby with nothing to do but take care of them, but I highly recommend a conversation about these things before returning to your job. Once you arrive, it will stress you out even more to have expectations sprung on you.

Other than that, know that your emotions are valid, that every mom goes through the guilty feelings, and that your child can and will thrive even without you there 24/7. In fact, although I can admit it doesn't work for every family/child, I think my child is more advanced in every area and is rewarded by the social interaction more than he is held back by not being with his mom as much.

I am so proud of him, and I cherish every weekend and evening even more because our time together is so valuable.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Ahem...we Have a Winner!

So, I did not fall off the place of the fanet. (I seriously just typed that, and it will not be corrected.)

I have been super-swamped at work, and we have a little internet rule at home about no computer time while my son is awake. And sometimes I really do like to spend time with my hubby, so instead of blogging or twittering at night, I've been spending some quality time (and also keeping my kitchen clean).

That being said, I DO have a winner for my Celia Rivenbark book giveaway!

True Random Number Generator Min:1 Max:17 Result: 3 Powered by RANDOM.ORG

So, Kelley from Kelley's Break Room, shoot me a line and I'll put you in contact with Celia herself! I know you will be excited!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

TWO Giveaways!!!

So, I want to give everyone ample time to enter my giveaway!

Remember that I am vote-whoring, so you can vote for me EVERY DAY to gain additional entries: just click that little link on the right that says "Picket Fence Blogs" and that will gain me a vote.

I also want to share another giveaway with you: KDBuggieBoutique is giving away a nursing wrap from the cutest Etsy shop ever. (Seriously, this mommy makes these adorable little take-along horse and race tracks to throw in your "mom" bag to take along to restaurants, waiting rooms, etc. I have never seen anything like cool!)

Monday, February 14, 2011

Sexy is Invalidated.

So, in honour of "V-Day" or that holiday that shall remain nameless (kidding, my husband is sweetly spending extra time today to drive all the way to my office to take me to lunch at P.F.Chang's, where we had our first date) I thought I'd bring up the rampant use of the word "sexy" lately.

I've noticed that it's become such a frequently used word in our lexicon that it seems to have lost it's value (kind of like "love" and "obese"). This morning I was listening to a fairly conservative radio talk show and they were discussing a visit to a military base and how "sexy" the young producer looked firing a grenade launcher. I mean, her older female and male peers were all calling her sexy left and right like it was old hat.

I don't consider myself a prude my any means, but I feel like calling someone sexy pretty much should be limited to myself and the hubby in the privacy of our homes or emails, and maybe reserved occasionally when referring to Marky Mark and/or Tim Thomas.

Do you feel like sexy is overused today? What about other words? I'd love to have a real discussion today!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

And Now We've Cooooommmmeeee....

To the end of the road. And I just can't let go.

No, seriously: and here we are.

Tomorrow morning I will nurse my baby boy for the last time.

Honestly, I think that I am doing pretty well this week: I have cherished each wake-up nurse to the best of my ability, and even though I don't know how much he can understand I have talked LO through them, saying things like "this is your last week of mama milk, buddy, are we going to be ok with that?" He either doesn't understand or couldn't care less: he's much more interested in running to the window and saying full sentences like "There goes the bus!"

Overall, I have an overwhelming sense of pride and accomplishment in the bond we've managed to create over the last almost 18-months. Or technically, the last 27 months, as I kind of see breastfeeding as an extension of that "part of each other" bond that started as soon as I began carrying that little zygote way back in November of 08.

I hearken back to a conversation my sister and I had when I was 7 months pregnant. "Are you going to breastfeed?" she asked. "I think I'll try to go until at least 6 months if it works out, but it will be hard to make it after I go back to work full-time." Her response with a sneer: "Why would you only go 6 months? You KNOW 12 months is better!" I'm sure she understands now how frustrating it is to get parenting/pregnancy advice from someone who is not even a parent or pregnant herself, but then I just let it go.

I approached breastfeeding as a good part of our bond, but I had watched too many of my friends beat themselves up when they had a low supply or something prevented breastfeeding from working out for them. So my tactic was "I will try my best, and if it doesn't work out, I'm not going to stress about it." Luckily my guy had a great latch from the first time out of the gate, and I didn't have any issues until I had been at work full time for a few months.

As I got into it and really began to enjoy the ease, the bond, the simplicity of the task of breastfeeding my child, I decided that best case scenario would be for him to self-wean around 18 months. And here we are. Two weeks shy of 18 months and he's no longer asking for it and hasn't batted an eye since his last bedtime nurse two months ago. So it's time for my baby love to be my little boy.

::sigh:: Hopefully I won't be a total hot mess after tomorrow's nursing, but even now just thinking about it is making me cry.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

WMW: I Could Use Some Consistency.

Time for my favorite blog hop, through which I've met some wonderful moms who know all the ins and outs of being a working mother and can commiserate and celebrate with me. Working Mom Wednesday over at WorkWifeMomLife has really kept me blogging when I just feel like I can't come up with anything creative at all.

Which brings me to my point today: my strengths and weaknesses. And I'm not going to focus on the "mom" part, because the prompt is pretty open-ended. Today I will just focus on the "life" part.

Here's the truth: I lack consistency.

I came to this realization while contemplating my strengths and weaknesses. I am in the process of doing my first ever giveaway that someone else is sponsoring, and I get to share it with you guys by my own agressive stab of presentation to the author of my favorite Sunday column. So I was thinking, I can present myself pretty well, right? Yesterday at work I got a quick visit from one of the more executive supervisors in my company, and I think it went really well. I presented myself well. But then I remembered last week when a different executive was visiting, and I worked from home in the morning while waiting for a plumber to come over, didn't bother to do much "presentation" before heading to work, and looked like a hot mess with zero makeup, wash-and-go hair, and a maternity top over my black pants. Not a day where I was so great at presenting myself.

Then I was thinking maybe time management is my strength. My job requires the ability to prioritize (I prefer that term to multi-tasking: I honestly cannot do three things at once very well, but I can do one thing really well while thinking about the next 6 things on my list). I think I manage my time pretty well. But then we have a week where I fall behind slightly, and then decide that I'm too overwhelmed to do anything and end up surfing Amazon for random mom items instead of blogging or actually working on a task for my career.

So my point is: I need to be more consistent. That's my real shortcoming, is that I can never sustain my patience, task management, or presentation skills for very long before I just shut down and become an Internet Zombie who does crazy things like google image search pictures of Marky Mark to drool over. Also, Firehouse Subs sound tasty right now. (See, wandering mind...)

Now that you've read all about my lack of consistency, help me out by voting for me on Picket Fence, following me on Twitter (Ali_LastSplash), retweeting or blogging about my giveaway, and rack yourself up a chance to win a really, really cool book by a sarcastic funny lady. And join us at Working Mommy Wednesday to share your own strengths and weaknesses!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Giveaway: She's Just Like Me, Only Wittier

I cannot tell all of y'all how excited I am to do this giveaway. First of all, I got to email back and forth with my very own favorite D-list celebrity (she calls herself that, I'm not being mean, andplusalso she is WAY funnier than Kathy Griffin). Her name is Celia Rivenbark, she's a weekly columnist with a syndicated newspaper service so you may already be reading her weekly columns (if not, go HERE and you can...every week) and she also happens to write a series of books that are the perfect antidote to women with senses of humour who need a break from all that "Chicken Soup for the Soul" crap.

Like me, she was raised in North Carolina. Not like me, she's cool. And ROFLMAO funny. And she uses curse words in the most deliciously appropriate way. She's a mom, but not like all the scores of us mom bloggers out there who can think of nothing to talk about except our tots. She actually references other things in life. (They do exist, google it.)

Her books have titles like "Stop Dressing Your Six Year Old Like a Skank" and "Bless Your Heart, Tramp" and "We're Just Like You, Only Prettier" (long before a certain country singer released a song with curiously the same name, as one of Celia's columns recently pointed out).

Seriously, whether you are from the South or not, if you are female, you will be able to identify and laugh along with the stories in this book. I was laughing from the first page, and it was a welcome, refreshing break to read her book after finishing a serious and heart-wrenching novel. My favorite kind of person is one who doesn't take herself (or those around her) so damn seriously, and Celia accomplishes that with a style and flair that I can only be jealous of.

I highly encourage you all to check out her books and BUY them. For yourself for Valentine's Day, for any lady you know going through a tough time who needs a pick-me-up, for a pregnant friend or new mom who barely has time to pee and probably is sick of reading all the "What to Expect" series. The format (short chapters of separate stories) is perfect for busy moms. Or the beach. Or those of us that only seem to get alone time when we're in the crapper.

Being a fellow North Carolinian and a very nice person, Celia has offered to send an autographed copy of her most recent accomplishment "You Can't Drink All Day if You Don't Start in the Morning" to one of my loyal readers. To ensure you get in on these goods, you must be a follower of my blog (or become one) and leave a comment telling me so.

You can also gain extra entries by voting for me on Picket Fence blogs up to once daily, "liking" Celia on Facebook, and finally (THE BIG REVEAL) following me on Twitter @Ali_LastSplash. Please. I don't know how the Twitter thing works, so I'm going to need some friends to educate me. (AJD+Three, I'm talking to you.) Leave a comment for each time you do this. I guess if you "retweet" or mention my giveaway post on your blog, that is an entry, too. Oh Lord, what have I done?

Contest closes 2 weeks from today, winner announced Tuesday Feb 22!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Fill in the Blanks Friday: All Star edition

For those of you that don't know, I am a huge hockey fan. And my nice little city (or big town) of Raleigh, NC, is playing host to the NHL All-Star game this weekend. You know what that means: downtown is turned into a crazy melee of drunk Canadians, local rednecks who appreciate what it means to be a 'Caniac, and just generally people who like to party.

I'm lucky enough to have a mother in law that loves my little guy (and us) so much that she is babysitting for him tonight so that we can join in the craziness. Woohoo...we're going to party like we did in our early twenties.

Now on to one of my favortie blog hops: Fill in the Blanks Friday over at the little things we do.

1. If my house was on fire and I could only grab 3 things I would grab Jacob, the external hard drive with all of his sweet baby pics and videos, and my wedding dress, all the time yelling to make sure Sidney Bear was running down the stairs behind us (or right under our feet as she tends to do).

2. A smell I really like is there are so many. Camu Camu in my Scentsy warmer, Jacob's neck skin and hair after a bath, the Hermes cologne my husband and I discovered on our honeymoon, and my new perfume, Delices de Cartier. I smell so good I'm attracted to myself since I bought it.

3. Something you might not know about me is my favorite genre of music is old school motown and 60's. I could listen to Sam Cooke, Otis Redding, Marvin Gaye, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Mary Wells, etc. all the time, and I'm dying for that type of music to be made again.

4. Some of my favorite websites to putter about on are TSN.CA (for hockey), Blue Nile (we are finally thinking seriously about replacing my wedding set), and of course the new version of the Bump which shall remain nameless and private for mom bonding and parenting advice. I also highly recommend going through ebates for any online shopping you do to get coupon codes and cash back!

5. This weekend I will Party it up like it was 2002 in downtown Raleigh. First stop: a craft brew and bison burger at the Raleigh version of our favorite college haunt, Natty Greene's. Hanging out for All Star Wide Open. Maybe checking out 3 Doors Down's free concert. And lest you think I am leaving my child all weekend, we plan to take him to NHL FanFair tomorrow and expose him to the hockey culture.

6. Nothing makes me happier than picking my child up from daycare, and that slow sweet smile that spreads on his face when he sees "Ma-MA". And his laugh. And the way he copies me from the backseat.

7. A bad habit I have is procrastinating...break time over. Back to work!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

I'm an Old Lady Now?

So, I can excuse the few instances of "excuse me, ma'am" that I've gotten since I hit my mid-twenties a few (several) years ago. I can excuse not being carded anymore at the ABC store or when buying beer. And I can even forgive my cousin's 8 year old daughter who answered "um, 40?" when she was asked how old I looked. She doesn't know any better, bless her heart.

I work in an industry where I can see people and their birthdates all the time to compare, and while sometimes I think "wow, she does not look a day over 26" when I see a particularly well-kept middle ager, a lot of times I am surprised to look down and see someone younger than myself who looks pretty ragged. For reference, I am 31 (and a half). And I think I look pretty spot-on early thirties.

But recently two occurances have happened that make me think that the stress of life as a mom must really be dragging me down. First, there was that phone call a few weeks ago from a friend at church who needed advice. Now, I'm very flattered that anyone looks up to me when it comes to spiritual/marital advice, truly I am. And I'm very happy to lend an ear and the best advice I can muster when someone trusts me enough to share a tough life situation with me. Especially for this particular person, who I have grown close to.

But the dagger really felt deep when she said, "I mean, I'm so young, I'm only 29, and I really am glad I have an older woman who has experienced so much to confide these things in." My husband can attest that for one of the few times in my life, I was rendered speechless for a moment, almost like someone had thrown a bucket of ice water on me and it jumbled my poor, senile brain. How old does she think I am? was the question on my mind, then and now. I'm scared to ask her.

I had just recovered from this incident when my dear loving husband told me as we were lying in bed last night, "I was looking through so many old photographs from when we first started dating and our honeymoon, and man we look so much older now," he paused briefly before continuing, "I mean, you've aged a lot more than me in that time, but..." ICE WATER IN THE FACE AGAIN. As soon as I could speak without spitting fire at him I said, "yeah, you can file that statement right under 'things you should never, ever say to your wife under any circumstance." He needed more explanation. So I said, "babe, it's right there with 'yes, sweetheart, those pants make your ass look 10X bigger'."

After he tried arguing with me for a while, I finally just had to say "Well, fine then...the only reason you haven't aged as much as me is because all of our friends have told you for 10 years that you look like a 40 year old."

That "don't go to bed angry" rule? Yeah, not so much last night.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

WMW: A twofer

Today, I am participating in both prompts at Working Mom Wednesday. Mostly because I find number one awesomely intriguing and way better than the second, in the scheme of things that matter. But also because I've had it out for Courtney Mazza for a few weeks now.

Yes, I admit it, I am being a judgy breastfedding Nazi. And I don't care if you know. The whole celebrity pregnancy/celebrity raising children thing just befuddles/fasinates/infuriates me on a regular basis. I wish I could sort out who actually does the cooking, cleaning, raising in their household, and who has nanny times 3 to do most of that so that they can come and go into their children's lives exactly as they please. I am very, very lucky to have so much family in the area, and I know some moms are either jealous or judge me for having date nights or adult-outing nights (sans Jacob) at least monthly because we have 3 sets of grandparents as well as an aunt and uncle that are always offering to babysit. But I see some of these celebrity parents going out 2 or 3 nights a week.

What disgusts me even more, is Courtney Mazza (Mario Lopez's baby mama) touting her use of some diet pill to lose her baby weight. First of all, this thing contains Hoodia, which has not been researched enough to gain widespread medical approval for use in weight loss products. It can be a really dangerous substance, even though it's "all-natural". Second of all, her baby is like 6-months old. Why the need to get back into her size-0 jeans so fast? Shouldn't she be concerned with her daughter's health and well-being before worrying about if Mario's eye is straying to a younger, skinnier model yet? (Oh, that's right, kid's fine...nanny's taking care of her.) Third, (and this is where I have to enter my judgy-mom disclaimer) it's obvious that she's not breastfeeding, because that crap she's putting into her body is in no way safe for the possibility of passing it through breastmilk to her daughter. The thing that bother's me the most is that by proclaiming this substance as an ideal alternative to being healthy and losing weight the right way, she is encouraging new moms to run out and buy a dangerous substance to take to lose weight. If they are breastfedding, this is dangerous is so many ways to mom and baby, not to mention the fact that new moms have enough trouble trying to find the time to eat: who needs an appetite suppressant? I seriously worry that new moms will not take in enough calories to sustain the energy to care for their newborn.

Ugh. Rant over, I'm stepping off my soapbox now to bring you a letter from my son.

Dear Mama,

Even though I love it when you let me sleep late on the weekends, and even though I went to bed late last night and only got to sleep for 10 hours, as soon as you walk in I am going to jump up and greet the day. I know you and daddy aren't morning people, so I don't know where I got this energy from, but I love mornings in our house!

It was still dark this morning, and even though it was cloudy, when you opened my blinds and let me look out I tried to tell you that the moon is still out there. I know it is. But that doesn't matter, because it was time for my mama milk, and I got to cuddle with you while you whispered that this was the most relaxing part of your day. I like when you get my blanky out of the crib and wrap it around us. I feel so close to you, mama.

Thanks for reading my favorite Hippopotomus book, too. Since I went to bed late I didn't get to read it last night, so when I asked for a "buh" and pointed to it this morning, I was hoping you wouldn't tell me we didn't have time.

I know you worried about me when I played with the ABC Puppy by myself in the bonus room. You asked if I was coming to your room while you got dressed and seemed surprised when I said "no", but you let me hang in there in the dark with my puppy. It's ok that I'm independent, mama. I still love your cuddles when I feel like it. I'm just a cool dude who is okay sitting in a dark room across the house from you sometimes.

And I miss being around you while I'm getting dressed, but that is my fun time with daddy, and he touches my belly and makes me laugh because it's tickly, and I love when he tells me what a big boy am I because I took the arms of my "supersuit" pajamas off all by myself. It's our time, mama, and it's worth being away from you when I see daddy notice that you spent that time straightening your hair and he tells you it looks pretty.

As much as I love you guys, I love riding to school reading my Barney the Backhoe book and copying the sneeze and cough noises y'all make in the front. And I love when you put me down in front of my classroom and let me walk in by myself. Don't worry about me while you're working. I have so much fun with my friends, eat seconds at snacktime, and my teachers are so nice, but I always remember that you will be there at the end of the day to get me.


Monday, January 24, 2011

Yes, I Cut in Front of You...

I must be a really demented person to get some kind of sick joy out of cutting people (legitimately) in line.

Take today for lunch. I am trying to make a lifestyle change (we don't call it a diet in these parts...) but I am also sick for the umpteenth day in a row and had no interest in eating either a frozen lean cuisine or the barley and sausage gruel I brought from home for the 3rd day in a row. What I wanted was a yummy, tasty, hot Philly cheesteak and fresh cut fries fried in trans-fat free peanut oil.

And I know just the place to get it, 4 minutes away by car. Mmmmm......except...they don't publish their nutritional numbers online. My SparkPeople has a problem with this. Not to mention the fact that looking at the amount of sodium in fast food usually curbs the craving just enough for me to resign myself with settling down with the frozen dinner and a People mag.

However, I noticed a nice little kid's meal at the bottom of the menu: "mini" sandwich, smaller than a small fries. PERFECT! I called in my order for a mini grilled artichoke and provolone sandwich with no mayo, add mushrooms, tomatoes, banana peppers, and spicy mustard. I figure that cut about 627 calories by not getting a steak, right? My answer: 10 minutes.

Yum. I walk in 10 minutes later to a line out the door. All the soccer moms with their gaggle of kids out of school for some reason give me the mean eye as I waltz past them. I know they are whispering "is she really cutting us in line?" to each other, but none of them have the balls to say it to my face. Second step, bypassing the herd of healthcare workers with their "free sub" coupons that are just as obese as me and definitely NOT ordering kid size anything to park my behind under the "pick-up orders pay here" sign.

I can feel the healthcare ladies closing ranks behind me, trying to inch closer like they are definitely NOT letting me anywhere near that register before they get their sandwiches. Meanwhile I can see my tiny sub on the back counter, ready to go. So I kindly wait for a break, inform one of the only two people working this busy lunch rush that I'm there for my pick-up order, pay before ANY of those chicks, and walk out happy.

Sorry, ladies, you just got smoked. Next time, call ahead.

Friday, January 21, 2011


I am spending a chunk of my week shopping/working our local kid's consignment sale. I know that in a lot of areas around the US, these sales can be hit or miss, but the one I'm talking about is Ginormous. Seriously. It takes up two buildings of our State Farigrounds, and is 150,000 square feet. Hundred thousand, you read that right.

As in, an eyebgall estimate puts the amount of play kitchens selling b/t $5-55 around 140. As in, I checked out a family of 4 yesterday buying their entire summer wardrobe. It was 78 pieces of clothing, they probably spent around $200 total. As in, 36 aisles of clothing for children ages preemie through 9th grade.

I love some consignment shopping, and when I'm there I always want to kick myself for buying something at a store, like "why would have ever paid full-price for a lifejacket, when I can come here and find one with tags for $7?" My other finds? A very clean and solidly built toybox for $25, a Kelty hardframe backpack carrier for $30, an Aquadoodle that looked like it had been used 3 times for $2, lots of books and CD's for just a few dollars.

And my favorite: the super-cool and retro Fisher Price cassette player that was just like the ones my husband and I had as kids.

The best deal I saw all day from checking others out? A beautiful vintage Strasburg ivory chiffon overlay dress for $2.

Another reason I love going to these sales are to see the "serious" moms. Now, I'm still pretty much a novice at these events myself...I've only been to three or four. I know enough to go for the big items first, pay and have them reserved, then hit the other rooms. I brought two of my own shopping bags to carry things in, but made the mistake of hitting the books/media room first. No biggie, I needed the exercise of lugging 20 books and DVDs around. It was after I found the Aquadoodle and adorable purple butterfly baby doll stroller that folded up just like a Maclaren that I started to struggle. Specifically, trying to keep track of all of that while shifting through a table of cloth diapers for my sister. Luckily, just when I hit my breaking point I found the Kelty and all was good.

Some of the veterans amaze me, while I secretly judge them for feeling so superior with their fancy home-rigged set-ups. Lots have clothing racks that they wheel around, often with bins duck-taped to the bottom and/or top to put toys. Most have strollers (sans baby) or at least the big plastic Step 2 wagons. My favorite are the ones with rolling trash bins.

And as I contemplate the clutter in my own home and why I feel the need to buy this child even MORE clothes and books, I often wonder if any of the shoppers there are hoarders. I wonder if their children have more stuff than they know what to do with because mom just can't pass up a $1 Gap t-shirt for no other reason than "it's so cheap".

But unlike me, they are probably not so lazy that they don't weed through their own stuff and purge for the sale beforehand, pretty much breaking even.

Sigh. I could get more organized if I didn't sign up to work these events, right?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Behind Her Walls...

I just finished what quickly became one of the best books I have ever read. It was very tough at times to get through it, as a woman and as a mother, and there were nights I put the book down and cried myself to sleep because I was so invested in the lives of the women in the story.

Although I have been an avid reader from a very young age and I have an active enough imagination to slip into the world of a lot of books I read, rarely does a book affect me this way.

I should also backtrack and point out that I have read several books by American authors of Middle Eastern descent, and the writing is always astounding to me. These are people who speak my language secondly, yet the way they have with words is beyond any imagery I could create.

"A Thousand Splendid Suns" by Khaled Hosseini was on my Christmas list after I read "The Kite Runner" a few years ago and loved it. I knew I would enjoy the book, but I had no idea that as a free Christian woman, I would become so involved with the characters and the storylines. I'm not meaning this to be a book review, and I hate giving spoilers, so I will just wrap up with the thought that this book taught me so much about human nature, as well as how lucky I am to live in this society, in this time and age, when elsewhere in the world women and families are forced to make unimaginably heart-wrenching decisions every day.

Even better, at the end of the book was an answer to the questions that hung around in my subconcious as I was reading: How can I help the people who are living this devestation? And since my goal is to highlight 12 worthy charities in 2011, it is only fitting that I begin with the Khaled Hosseini Foundation. January is even more fitting a time to donate to this organization, as somewhere in Afghanistan a family is struggling to stay warm in a makeshift tent with temperatures of only 19 degrees. Right now, one of these mothers' children the same age as my son is suffering from starvation and clinging to life, while I complain that Jacob's runny nose and cough caused him to wake up at 11PM suddenly, interrupting my viewing of "The Bachelor".

No matter what position in life you are, if ever person who reads my blog only donates $10, we will likely have enough to provide shelter for a family this winter. What could make your January more warm and fuzzy than that?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

WMW: The Two Greatest Things From My Kitchen!

Okay, maybe 3 if I can find the other one.

Today is share your favorite recipe day over at Working Mommy Wednesday, and I am totally, completely unprepared. As you can see by my post this weekend, I have spent my evenings with my husband watching various sporting events (the National Title Game should start an hour ended after MIDNIGHT Monday!) and have not prepared for today's prompt.

Luckily, I love to blog recipes from time to time, so I am linking to a few of my favorites. First up is my go to meal for the nights when you are just too busy to do anything else: chicken and apple sausage. So, so easy. And so good. And perfect with a good local craft beer. Yum!

Second, we'll go with something I'm really proud of: one of my first fly-solo, no-recipe, throw-some-crap-in-a-pan-and-see-if-it's-good recipe. I guess this is called American Chicken and Pasta. I promise, it's easier than you think, and tasty.

And then for dessert. I love to bake. Seriously love it, and it's becoming a hobby of mine. When I'm cash-strapped, one of my fave things to give someone for their birthday is a fabulous birthday cake. I make a carrot cake that has had more than one person say it was the best they've ever had, and one year I made my mom a beautiful white chocolate, lemon, and blueberry cake. But the recipe that I have gotten the most compliments on from people who have tasted it and made it themselves, is my Banana Cupcakes. You HAVE to make this, if you even like banana a little bit. Absolutely delicious. And it has fruit it in. No worries!

If you have something tasty to share, or have just discovered our Working Mommy Network, head over to Julia's blog at Work Wife Mom Life to link up. Even if you don't cook, you can blog on our other prompt today!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

I'm Becoming the Woman My Husband Married...Again.

Yes, folks, I have changed.

My dear husband loooooves to talk about how "all the guys at work" warned him that his beer-swilling, sports-loving, foul-obscenity-at-a-hockey-game-shouting girlfriend would, within 3 months of the wedding, shrivel into a ball at the other end of the couch, engrossed in a magazine with a mug of hot cocoa and look up slightly annoyed at him when he asked her to watch that play again. I used to scoff. I mean, really, I was the one that talked my husband into spending the $1500 we planned to use on a honeymoon to Europe on Stanley Cup Finals tickets (and it was worth every.stinking.penny). I was the woman who made sure that if there were ever a day that her Sunday evening was clear, it was definitely Selection Sunday.

It was my idea to fill his brother's office with orange and blue balloons when the Tigers beat the Yankees in the playoffs. It was I who stayed up until after 1AM watching Dave Roberts steal a base and jump start the Red Sox on their way to coming back from a 3 game deficit to win the ALCS (shame on him for falling asleep, who DOES that?) I was the first one of us to participate in a Fantasy League (and win), the girl who bought a one-way ticket to DC a few hours before the flight on a whim to go watch NCSU play in the NCAA tournament, the girl who was excited to win a bus trip to an away hockey game on a dial-in radio show, the girl who once peed in a parking deck in Philadelphia.

Okay, I'm not sure what the last one had to do with sports, but you get what I'm trying to say, right? I was a guys' girl.

Only they were right. Fast forward a little way into our marriage. Fights ensued over if we were watching Grey's Anatomy or the hockey game. I stopped watching the NFL playoffs, lost interest in the World Series unless the Sox were playing (or the Yankees were losing), and stopped requesting off the Thursday and Friday of the NCAA tournament. Over time, other things have grabbed my attention, seemed more exciting. I've become entranced in my world of blogging, literature, and let's face it, tabloid magazines. I will admit that a few times this season, I missed an entire NCSU football game, even once due to choosing to take a bubble bath. I have not owned up to my end of the "sport's wife" bargain.

But this week, something changed. I don't know if it was my husband's excited reaction when one of "The Bachelor" contestants mentioned that her entire life revolved around sports, or if it was watching our college basketball team annihlate an ACC opponent for the first time, um, ever, but my love for b-ball has gotten a swift kick in the rear. What has happened to me, I asked myself? I used to read the sports page, used to know who was in the top 25 in college basketball and football, who the points and goaltending leaders were in the NHL, who the Chargers had to beat to make the wild card (unfortunately, I know what the outcome of that one was this year). Whatever it was, I have found myself excited to watch basketball this weekend. More than excited...I left my family at the dinner table at my parents' house tonight to watch the Kansas-Michigan game go into OT. I am trying to wrap this post up as fast as possible so that I can go hopefully watch Duke kick some serious Maryland ass. I can tell you who the unbeaten teams are in the NCAA b/c I looked it up as soon as I got some internet time this weekend.

I'm already thinking about March Madness. And who will be in my Final Four. Madness. We call it that for a reason.

I have to go now, but my husband thanks you for sparing me. Despite the fact that I'm female and therefore will never know quite as much about basketball as he does, he appreciates having his sports-watching wife back. Sans magazine.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Warmer Weather Will Arrive Eventually. Right?

Ah, here it is: a rare moment to blog from home, peacefully, with a napping, sick babe in the next room. I was kind of looking for an excuse to sleep late, cuddle with my son for a few hours just the 2 of us, and spend the morning in my pajamas. I know I have to go to work eventually today, but after the week I had, I am spending Friday morning blissfully alone except the child and the dog.

And I can participate in Fill in the Blank Friday without having to bang out a 5 minute post while frantically trying to finish my sandwich/fruit/whatever else I'm eating these days. Today, it's all about daydreaming for those warmer days to come.

1. Winter is Fun for a few days, but I would much rather be watching the spring buds come out, or having one of those freakish 70 degree days that we get in January in NC sometimes, instead of watching the news reports of more impending snowfall to come next week.

2. Summer is way too hot around here, and the heat lasts too long. But it is most definitely a good excuse to drink that Red Oak I finally found bottled in a grocery store and think about grilling a fantastic burger with cheddar and pickle slices.

3. If it were summer instead of winter right now I'd o swim in my parents pool this weekend. I never thought I'd live only 5 miles from my folks, but at the top of my list of good reasons to be close by is the fact that a cool pool beckons any time I can't take the heat, and I can put to good use my old Water Safety Instructor and Lifeguarding courses by teaching my son to swim.

4. My favorite thing to do in winter is spend a Saturday morning in PJ's with my family. Hubby makes breakfast and then we relax in the living room, watching last night's 20/20 while the boy brings us books to read to him.

5. My favorite thing to do in summer is No doubt, grill out. A steak, brats, hamburgers, doesn't matter. The grill is king at our house in the summer.

6. The ideal outfit for a sunny summer day is denim capris (I don't do shorts) and my favorite light, gauzy, flowered button down cap sleeve shirt. And barefoot, with flip-flops by the door for going outside.

7. The ideal outfit for a frigid winter day is JEANS. I love jeans. And probably a sweater, boot socks, boots, and my lovely black peacoat. And gloves.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

WMW: I Challenge Myself to Enjoy a Holiday

People keep asking me "How was your Christmas?" And I'm not quite sure how to respond. I think mostly I feel guilty, and I must move past that, like yesterday.

The truth is, I didn't enjoy Christmas this year. I tried to force myself to, and I had my moments like the Friday night date shopping with my husband and stopping for cupcakes at a downtown shop afterwards that were absolutely memorable, but overall, I felt so stressed, so overwhelmed, and so let down by the weather that I just couldn't move past it.

I think I set up a lot of expectations for my son's first "real" Christmas (he was 4 months old last year) that I forgot all about just letting myself enjoy the season, no matter what traditions we accomplished. I really wanted to take my son to go see lights this year, but every weekend it rained or snowed, which is in no way normal for NC and really thrw a kink in our plans. I'm sure we could have figured out a way to go on a weeknight, but December was a tough month at work as well. Demands and goals and expectations have changed, and lately it has not been the kind of job where I can "take off early" one afternoon on a whim.

I also was excited to put our Christmas tree up, but again, with the weather, we never got around to it and the last weekend we were left staring each other, saying "it's not worth it to go through all that effort for one week". So my sweet toddler did not have a tree in his own home. Santa had to leave his presents laid out on the couch. My husband at least managed to dig out our stockings, so that was a tradition left unharmed. (Sidenote, kind of gross: apparently at some point in Dec 2009 my son spit up on a corner of his stocking...ewwww...what a surprise!!!)

We also started some new traditions of sorts: we attended the Christmas Program at our church, and invited our closest friends and their kids over for a spaghetti/Festivus gathering. I hope that these will be added to our busy Christmas event season, because I actually enjoyed them so much.

Jacob's nap schedule threw a kink into our plans as well: we ended up showing up anywhere between 30 minutes and 2 hours late for our family events. I'm not even kidding: we made it to exactly 2 out of 6 actually on time. This is not what I want to be known for. I also stress-ate my way through the holidays. I am not lying when I say I gained almost 10lbs since Thanksgiving.

Despite all of this, I feel very blessed to have a healthy, loving son who was the life of the party all December, a wonderful husband who has been my equal partner the last few months when it comes to childcare and getting everything done, amazing family on both sides of our marriage, a home, two jobs, two cars that run, and plenty of good food.

And my challenge this year to myself is to let these things go. I have to get past trying to get everything perfect. I stress so much, that I spend valuable time worrying about stress and what I have to do next that I forget to just live in the moment and enjoy it. Even if the kitchen is dirty. Even if I don't have a plan for dinner. Even if I shouldn't be taking a 10-minute break to blog because I have a deadline at 5PM that I cannot miss today.

To quote my friend Candy, this year, I will own you.

(Prompted by Working Mommy Wednesday. Please join us, it's FUN!)