The Storm Returns

A game plan for when the game becomes a complete shit show.

It has been a hell of a week, so it seemed fitting for me to resurrect the blog. Sorry for the extended hiatus. A baby, a new career and a remodel project all but eliminated my free time.

This week my company was forced to lay off 55 employees. I, for better or for worse, was retained. My friends lost their jobs. My office is a ghost town. Of course I am grateful for my continued employment. But wow, the emotions that come with it are overwhelming. There’s guilt, but then confidence. There’s heartache, but then hope. I’m comforting my friends and also building my plan of attack. It’s a difficult dynamic to say the least. Some days I feel like an asshole. Other days I feel like a rock star.

Miss Macy Gray, our beautiful, raspy-voiced feline

Because that wasn’t enough drama, we also had to put our cat down this week.  Macy was 15+ years old and her health started deteriorating rapidly over the last few days. We’d tried several measure to prolong her life over the last year, but ultimately, we knew it wasn’t fair to her. Having to explain that to a three-year-old is one of the shittier things I’ve had to do as a mom. Sometimes she’s more together and mature than I am, which she reminded me of when she said, “You don’t have to cry, mom,” as I wiped snot and tears from my face over and over. That kid is my rock, or as my friend likes to say, my anchor. She’s keeping me sane during insane times. Saving me from just totally blowing off course.

Today, I’m trying to see the little things that make this kind of bullshit worth it. I’m reading a good book, I’m thoroughly enjoying Stranger Things, and I swear I heard my youngest say “mama” today. I’ve survived worse things in my life, so I’ll persevere.

My friend has been helping me through this very stressful, anxious time by teaching me to take small bites. If you’ve ever eaten a meal with me, you know that sounds very out of character. But, thinking about what I need to do only in the immediate future is what’s keeping me from totally losing it. What can I do in the next hour? What can wait until tomorrow? Small bites = big wins.

 

Moms Doing Awesome Things on The Internet

I saw this article in the Star Tribune the other day and I just thought, “Moms are awesome!” We do all these regular mom things every day PLUS we are killing it online. Check out these two examples that are guaranteed to make you say, “That is SO me.”

The Wild Morning 
This is a soon-to-be book and cool Instagram account that chronicles morning routines for moms in my neck of the woods. I mean these women are much more photogenic than I am, but basically we all tackle the same stuff while we’re trying to get caffeinated and make sure our humans are properly cleaned.

Cat & Nat: For Moms Like Us
The #momtruths on this YouTube channel will likely result in you peeing your pants (note: the chances are higher among moms of multiple children). Check out their website, I promise you’ll want to be friends with these two.

Child-Rearing by Sara Walters: Advice on Preschool from Your Weirdest, But Most Direct Friend

I am a weirdo, which results in me having a limited group of close friends. My humor is similar to that of a 14-year-old boy, so not a lot of grown women are into it. I’m also a little overly direct. No fluff happening here. And inappropriate. Definitely inappropriate. Also REALLY LOUD. But I do have some pretty awesome ladies in my squad that keep putting up with the strange shit my brain comes up with. Here’s a snippet of text messages to give you a little sample of what they endure.

Me at the hospital trying to get fluids while battling the stomach flu:
Sara: I told her I was I was “pro IV” and she just stared at me.
D: Well that probably was taken differently than you meant it…
Sara: Thought of that after. I’m now part of a narcotics investigation. I looked like shit, so I’m sure that helped convince them I was a dope fiend.

Upon learning that there is such thing as “porch pirates” who steal your delivered packages:
Sara: I just ordered one. Great. I’m getting delirious from staying up past 8pm.
K: Bahahaha. I love that.
Sara: Hopefully it doesn’t get stolen by an Iranian man in a pantsuit.  

And then most recently, me giving parenting advice in regards to the pros/cons of 3K:
Sara: Just read him some books and teach him to say please and thank you and you’re good. That’s my plan. 

Basically, if you can put up with the bizarre stuff from samples 1 and 2, you’ll get the valuable nugget in 3. The friend who I gave this advice to said I should blog about it because she is one of the rare ones who knows I’m not a total lunatic and maybe even occasionally benefits from being friends with me.

I’ve been investigating a 3K for Caroline in the last couple weeks. We found one we liked at our church and I’m sure she’d love it. But she’s got a great daycare and I’m not sure she’d learn much more than she’s getting now. So we’re not going to send her and I refuse to feel guilty about that. Andy and I are pretty hands-on parents. We read C books, talk about colors with her, count things together, show her how to do daily things like brush her teeth and put her dirty clothes in the hamper. When kids are 2 and 3, do they need more than that? I’m not sure they do. We make her say please before she gets a snack and she has to clean up her own toys when she creates a tornado. I know I’ve stressed out about learning and education and structure and all that stuff, but my new motto is if she’s happy (I mean in general, when you’re a good parent your kid is going to be pissed at you sometimes) then I’m happy. When she’s truly unhappy, we’ll figure it out. If you’re active in your kid’s life and make an effort to teach them to be kind, you can do whatever you want about school. Send them to 3K, that’s great. Don’t send them to 3K, that’s great too. No judgement here.

And make sure to get a friend like me who can blow up your phone with weird texts and the occasional reassuring tidbit. That also helps.

 

Books for Bad Ass Ladies: A Review

If you’re a mom, you probably only have time to read when you’re locked in the bathroom or in the middle of the night when all the other humans FINALLY leave you alone. And if you’re a working mom like me, you sometimes need a little extra reassurance that being a woman with a career is okay too. These two books helped push me through a tough stretch of work and helped me refocus on what I want out of a job. So if you’ve got a few minutes alone (I got the stomach flu, that helped), check these out.

#GIRLBOSS
Sophia Amoruso


Before I read this book, I wasn’t familiar with the story of Nasty Gal and the amazing path of its CEO. A big takeaway for me from Sophia Amoruso is that sometimes unconventional education is the best education. I have the stereotypical B.A., liberal arts education that you’d expect from someone who has a blog for fun. She doesn’t and she’s killing it. When she didn’t have money and didn’t know how to do something, she just Googled it and watched free videos on YouTube. Don’t get me wrong, I am pro-school. I come from a family that deeply values education. But I do think there’s something to be said for teaching yourself something on your own. When I was like, “I think I should start a blog,” I had no idea how to do that. I bought a book, read some articles online and when things started to get technical, watched some YouTube videos. Figuring shit out by yourself is what you do if you’re a true #GIRLBOSS and I’m definitely on board with that.
I also dig Amoruso’s ideas on functioning in the workplace. In my current role, I’m often asked to do things that are not quite on par with what I believe my position entails. Amoruso describes scenarios where she’s out packing inventory, working in the warehouse. She’s the CEO. This was kind of a kick in the ass for me, reminding me that nobody likes the co-worker who won’t lend a hand. Last month, I was thoroughly disgusted when I was asked to warm up the tea of an upper level manager, thinking (not saying) something along the lines of, “I’m not a personal assistant.” But the reality of this is sometimes you’ve got to suck it up for your end goal of being a #GIRLBOSS and I need to do more of that.
I devoured this book in a week. Put it on your list, working mom. We need more #GIRLBOSSES.

Better Than New
Nicole Curtis


If we talk about these books in terms of their similarities, Better Than New and #GIRLBOSS are both about women paving their own way. But where #GIRLBOSS represents what I’m capable of achieving in the future, Better Than New is a glimpse back at what I’ve left behind and kind of want to forget. Curtis had a string of bad jobs, terrible boyfriends, cross-country moves and tough parenting decisions that hopefully do not represent where I’m headed. What Curtis does is definitely bad ass, and she looks like a babe doing it (Rehab Addict is the only Andy-approved HGTV show, wonder why…) but she still seems like she’s not super together. Maybe there’s something redeeming in that. Sometimes it’s good to know that celebrities are real people and we’re all kind of in the same boat when it comes to being a hot mess. I mean I can totally relate to the terrible jobs (minus the Hooters experience). And I can’t imagine what it’s like to be a single parent, let alone one who is on TV. From Better Than New though, the takeaway for me was that women can venture into uncharted territory, like rehabbing houses, and come out alive. It might not be pretty, but Curtis did it, and so can you, reader of the mommy blog.

 

Ready for MJ: Our Nursery Project From Start to Finish

We are no longer living in a construction zone! Remodeling our office to become MJ’s nursery took about a month, but based on how dirty it made my house, you’d have guessed it had been going on much longer. Luckily, I have a husband in the trades. It’s easier to keep the project on track when the labor lives with you (sometimes).

Since we’re trying to save for the unpaid portion of my maternity leave, we outlined a budget before we started. Without decor/furniture we estimated the project would cost us $850. The room we were tackling was a walk-through off the kitchen that we had never touched, not even painted. Our house is a 1970s ranch and this room was keeping The Brady Bunch relevant with its paneling.

Andy started the demo while I hunted for a small dresser to fix up. It’s a small, 126-square-foot room, so space is precious. I found one for $40 at the Habitat for Humanity Restore. Some sanding, a few coats of paint/primer and some cute new pulls and it was just what we needed for baby girl.

Andy ripped down all the paneling to reveal some extra space behind the stairs, which he decided would make the perfect place for a built-in. He framed it up, Sheetrocked new walls/ceiling, textured and painted. Here are photos taken while I observed the work (without actually doing any).

Caroline has a coral/grey themed room, which is pretty fitting for our spunky little girl. I wanted MJ to have something just as cool and similarly non-traditional. Andy calls the local Sherwin-Williams more than he calls me, so he gave his two cents and we decided (after returning one gallon) on the colors Naval, Lotus Flower and Marshmallow.

We were generously gifted new trim from Andy’s employer, the leftovers of a different job. We picked up the remaining we needed and added some chair rail. At this point Andy decided to hire out the labor. He knows his limits (I’m glad one of us does), and finish work isn’t his strength. It cost a little more, but we’re not remodeling this room ever again so we wanted to do it right.

We rounded out the project with new carpet from The Home Depot and a new cordless window shade for the paranoid mom. This is how the expenses broke down:

$168 paint/primer – Sherwin-Williams (Andy always recommends the Cashmere line, which we used. It looks great and cleans well.)
$40 dresser – Habitat for Humanity Restore
$455 carpet – The Home Depot (plus we received a $150 gift card for our late install, score!)
$90 window shade – The Home Depot
$100 trim/chair rail/shelving – Menards
$250 trim labor – local carpenter
$120 drywall – Bond Drywall
$40 vents/switch covers – Menards
$74 decor – Hobby Lobby, Target

$1,337.00 Total

We obviously missed the mark on the $850 budget, but we’re happy with the outcome. Here are some shots of the finished product:

People You Should Know: Shameless Plugs for Good Humans

To say my week has been stressful is an understatement. Work has been a bear cat, germs are taking over my house and every single person I’ve tried to get in touch with in the last three months schedule meetings with me for this week. Perfect. It’s finally Friday and even though I’m wiped, I’m in better shape thanks to a few good humans. In return, this is my shout out to them and their businesses, which you should definitely check out.

  • My friend Jose is so creative. He went out of his way this week to have coffee with me, take me to his networking group and to listen to my pitch for a product idea. He’s an awesome designer and has his hands in every single kind of project you can image. Here’s his website as well as one of the games he created.

  • OZ Lifting Products LLC is an awesome company to be associated with. I often work on their manuals for them and was able to take a tour of their facility this week, courtesy of my friend Greg Lucas. Let me tell you, if you’re in the market for industrial products, these are your guys. They are true believers in quality.
  • My friend Katy is the ultimate #ladyboss. She runs her own insurance agency while also managing to be friends with me, hot-mess-express Sara. She’s who we should all aspire to be in the business world. See what American Family Insurance services she provides here.

Puke Buckets and Sleeping Bags: The Stomach Bug Strikes

Caroline came home with a stomach bug yesterday. She was a little extra snuggly and never asked for a snack. She was vomiting within the hour. When little kids get sick, it’s so hard. She doesn’t really know what’s up and she just wants mom. Meanwhile, mom is trying to simultaneously comfort and clean (try this Clorox Urine Remover next time you have a barfy kid, I know it says urine, but it seriously works). Andy is a great helper and both of us handled it like champs–much unlike we did on his 26th birthday. Let’s just say our neighbors were probably wondering why we were washing our car in the middle of the night.

C’s fine today after a night spent camped out in sleeping bags on the living room floor, bucket in hand. But the whole experience of dealing with the stomach flu had me feeling a little reflective, hence the “Evolution of Puking” timeline above (not intended for the queasy).

Let it Go: The Authorized True Story of How One Toddler Became a Disney Princess/Pop Star

Kids are like little mirrors. Parents can look at them and see exactly how they’ve acted, good or bad. This is super alarming and has made me spend a significant amount of time questioning my dance moves.

My mom’s family has the musical gene and only a small portion came my way. I was in band in high school and can play the piano, but that’s about the extent of it. I’m not totally tone-deaf, but I’m not about to karaoke anytime soon.

Like many little girls her age, Caroline is OBSESSED with Frozen and the hit song, Let it Go. I dig it too, so I get it. But this weekend a trip to Grandma’s meant listening to the song on repeat. Luckily for us, it also meant that we got to witness this performance multiple times:

If we’re looking at my mirror theory here, I have to assume that at some point my child saw me sing with my eyes closed with my fist in the air (has she seen the photos from our wedding reception?) I couldn’t really put this together because mostly we just sing I’m a Little Teapot in the bathtub. No dramatic ballads to report.

But then today I turned on my 90’s Pop Pandora station and jumped in the shower. The Pandora Gods were looking down on me and gave me two excellent shower jams in a row, brought to you by the likes of Mariah Carey and Celine Dion. It was halfway through Because You Loved Me that I had my light bulb moment. This is where she gets it. And then…OH GOOD LORD, THIS IS WHERE SHE GETS IT!

We’re either going to have some very interesting Christmas programs in our future or we’ll be trying out for America’s Got Talent. Only time will tell.

Caroline’s Custom Kitchen

I don’t mean to brag, but I’m a good shopper. Andy would probably correct that sentence to say “good spender.” This last Christmas we were discussing what to get for Caroline. We just wanted to do one big gift (less toys to clean up, always an ulterior motive) and we had decided on a play kitchen. I, of course, thought I would just Craigslist one (it’s kind of my thing). But Andy had a better idea…DON’T TELL HIM I SAID THAT. He immediately pulled up some images online and showed me how he could build a kitchen for Caroline instead. I can’t be trusted with a pizza cutter (more on this), let alone a power tool, but he’s good at this kind of thing, so my skillful shopping would have to go on the back burner. Sorry for the bad kitchen joke, I couldn’t resist.

I relinquished control to Andy and put him wholly in charge of this project. He didn’t disappoint. Here’s a breakdown on what he did to pull this off, as told by a person who did 0% of the work and has absolutely no technical knowledge.

  • We scrounged up an old cabinet that served as the basic structure for the kitchen. One cabinet functions as a cupboard, where we store play food, and the other as an oven. Andy rotated the hinges to the bottom on the oven side. He installed chains on the inside so that the door wouldn’t fall to the ground and smash little toes.
  • Burners for the stove were created out of cork board, black spray paint and adhesive spray. Oven knobs are real replacement knobs, attached with screws so that they can still spin. 
  • The sink is a stainless steel bowl, dropped into a cutout that matches its diameter (it hangs down into the cupboard side, but takes up little space). Andy added a faucet with twistable knobs to help it feel more real for Caroline.
  • The oven rack is fashioned out of a cooling rack. Andy also added a battery-operated motion sensor light to the top of the oven so that when you reach inside, the light turns on. Caroline loves this part.
  • All surfaces were sanded and repainted and we purchased new hardware. Total, the project ran us about $60-$70. It was worth every penny.

Not only does this look better in our house than a plastic kitchen, it has been a major source of entertainment for Caroline this winter. I’m actually attending a picnic with food prepared in her kitchen as I write this. Gifting it to her was also one of the best Christmas memories I have to date. We honestly sat and watched her play with it for hours, just happy to see her so happy.

If you want actual details on how to build this, send me a message and I’ll let the expert respond. You know, the guy who can actually cut a pizza.

Toys for the inbetweener: What to buy for the not quite three-year-old

In my office, I’m the youngest mom. Other people have kids, but I’m the only one living the toddler tornado as we speak. That means I’m the go-to person for Christmas and birthday ideas for young nieces, nephews and grandchildren. Age always comes up in these requests, something like, “What do two-year-olds like?” But kids are only exactly two for a hot minute, so I’ve compiled a list of toys that I’ve purchased for kids (including my own) in that two to three-year gap.

Pretend Play
Little Tikes Count ‘n Play Cash Register Playset
Kids this age are always being dragged to the store with their parents. Caroline even knows about pushing the buttons on the credit card reader (note to self, hide my wallet). I gifted this cash register to a little guy for Christmas and it was a hit with both him and C. It incorporates two of their favorite things, opening drawers and acting like mom.

KidKraft 63330 Tasty Treat Pretend Play Food Set
Andy built Caroline an awesome kitchen out of an old cabinet this Christmas, so all things cooking were on top of our toy list. This is a HUGE set of play food and it’s held up pretty good in the month we’ve had it. The pieces have endured multiple toddlers and a rambunctious pup with little destruction.

Melissa & Doug Stainless Steel Pots and Pans Pretend Play Kitchen Set for Kids
These are adorable. They might actually be nicer than my own pots and pans. We bought them for C’s kitchen and they’re the perfect size for a two to three-year old. Added bonus that they look and sound real so there is less raiding of mom’s cupboards.

Prepping for a Sibling
Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood Cute and Cuddly Baby Margaret Plush
Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood is a favorite in our house, so when we stumbled upon the episode about Daniel getting a little sister, we jumped on it as an opportunity to introduce the idea to Caroline. This plush is adorable, comes with its own blanket, and pairs nicely with the book listed below. A lot of two to three-year olds are about to become a big brother or sister, so this is a great gift if that’s the case.

The Baby Is Here! (Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood)

Bath Time
Bath time ranks pretty high with toddlers of this age. Caroline will drop everything (including her drawers) when I ask if she wants to take a bath. Two bath products she loves are the Crayola Color Bath Dropz and the Little Tikes Bath Time Tea set. The Bath Dropz are a fun experiment. She likes to pick a couple, toss them in, and see what the color of the bath water is going to be that night. These don’t stain the tub, the kid, or the towels, if you’re wondering. She also loves this tea set and sharing a cup with Zoey, who happily drinks the bath water (she’s gross, I know).

Little Tikes Bath Time Tea

Crayola Color Bath Dropz 3.59 Ounce

On the Road
Fisher-Price Doodle Pro Trip

Kids this age are often at the mercy of their parents and siblings, being hauled over the place in the car. We bought this miniature Doodle Pro for C when we went on a road trip last summer. It’s car-seat sized and provides endless entertainment. I bought this on a recommendation from another parent of a similarly aged kiddo. She was totally right.