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.

Heart Melter

My kiddo is the real Sweet Caroline. She’s just full of love. At Christmas, she said to my parents and siblings, after big hugs for everyone, “I really love you guys.” And she means it. She sometimes just wakes me up by gently stroking my cheek or my hair. She cares about other people at a level that is inspiring. I slammed my finger in the bathroom door last weekend and she asked me if I needed a Band-Aid for three straight days. She’s also been smuggling Milkbones in her pocket to share with the daycare dog, Toby. There’s so much love to go around.

I’ll keep the sappy post short, but how awesome are kids? In the sales world I’m exposed to so many sleazeballs. I’m happy to come home to someone who just says, “I like you, Mom,” instead of, “Don’t call here anymore.” It’s a nice change of pace.

I’ve had lots and lots of parenting fails. Caroline probably watches too much TV and doesn’t eat enough vegetables. She’s a little bossy and still has a pacifier. But in today’s world, the fact that she is kind feels like a huge win for me. I hope that’s something she never grows out of and that I can continue to nurture. We could all use a few more Sweet Carolines in our lives.

Ice Ice Baby

The most challenging part of this pregnancy has been trying not to fall down. January sucks on its own—all the parties are over, it’s freezing, there are no holidays off of work, everyone is sick. It’s a big time bummer. But this year, God was like, “You know, that Sara girl looks a little extra uncoordinated with that big ol’ belly, I think I’ll just make every outdoor surface into a SKATING RINK! That’ll be fun!” Honestly, I’d take a foot of snow every day over our current weather situation. Last week I went to the gas station and my gas cap was frozen shut. I looked like a maniac out there with my ice scraper, trying to chip it open. Today, muscles I didn’t even know I had are hurting, all from trying to brace myself as I do really exciting things like take out the garbage and get the mail. I’m probably a little bitter because last Christmas I went for a run with my sister in similar conditions. I had sprained my ankle a month prior and we were just chatting about how it was feeling pretty good…and then we turned the corner into my parents’ driveway. I slipped, of course, and got the worst sprained ankle of my life. I mean, I’ve had my share of sprains (basketball games and an unfortunate event at Ripley’s Believe it or Not, don’t ask) but this one took the cake. Photo evidence below. If you need help identifying, that’s a foot and those are toes. Hard to tell, I know.

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Luckily, this hasn’t happened this year (knocks on wood), but I’ve had a few close calls. Being top-heavy isn’t helping.
Caroline has been really into Happy Feet lately (thank you, Amazon Prime) and I feel like it’s very telling of our current life. We’re all just waddling around, singing Prince songs. Thankfully this egg isn’t due to hatch until May when no one has to look like Yukon Cornelius at the gas pump.

 

How to avoid Craigslist weirdos (and other helpful tips)

I am a skilled Craigslister. I’ve successfully talked my way into some incredible sales, but more importantly, I’ve avoided being murdered. I even have a friend who runs her Craigslist buys past me before purchasing (Craigslist Consultant, potential career?). Here are some tips for when you’re shopping. I’m sharing because I like you and would prefer you get a good deal and live to tell about it.

  1. Avoid the bad spellers. If I inquire about an item and I get an incomplete sentence, that one’s out. Wrong there/their/they’re? See ya. I prefer to buy from relatively educated people. If they take the time to spell check, they’ve usually taken the time to care for the item they’re selling. See what I did there? A+ for me. You can officially buy my stuff.
  2. Stay away from stock images. It’s 2017, if you don’t have a phone or camera to take a picture of what you’re selling, something is fishy. I know your house doesn’t look like the staging area for Target.com.
  3. Clean house = clean items. For real, you didn’t have time to pick up your laundry before you took that picture? Come on. Pass.
  4. Email always. I use a separate email account for Craigslist transactions and never give out my cell. Just a little extra precaution to safeguard against the tech-savvy Craigslist creeper.
  5. No price flexibility. Putting “price is firm” in your post immediately makes me think you’re an asshole. It’s one thing if you later deny my offer for a lower price, but advertising your rigidity up front rubs me the wrong way. Do you want to sell your stuff or not?

I’m not going to list the no-brainers (avoid the weird email addresses, don’t meet anyone without telling someone first, wear shoes you can run in if need-be). Craigslist gets a bad rap (thanks a lot, Lifetime) but as a mom on a budget, it’s saved me lots of cash over the years. Need proof? Here are a couple of my Craigslist successes:

  • I once bought a 1978 Honda Hobbit pedal-start moped for $200 on Craigslist (see photo above). It was awesome. I rode it around town for the two years right after college and then sold it again for $180, also on Craigslist. $20 invested? I’d call that a win.
  • I’ve purchased two BOB strollers, which if you’re a mom who runs, are the cream of the crop. I mean I think these things have better suspension than my SUV. They were both less than half of their retail price and have great resell value. This baby’s got a few miles on her, but still looks great.

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  • Another running score, I bought a barely-used Garmin watch for $50. It still works after about five years of use. And I’m really sweaty, so that’s saying something.
  • About 75% of Caroline and MJ’s baby gear was Craigslisted. A high chair, Bumbo, Diaper Genie, swing, walker, Kelty and car seats with multiple bases, to name a few. If a tiny human needs it, another tiny human’s caretaker is selling it. Plus used stuff requires less stress about spit up, destructive toddlers and the usual wear and tear.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not about to start buying my underwear on Craigslist. There’s definitely a time and place for using it. And generally I only buy things I can disinfect, because you know, eww.

In closing, use your spell check, stop watching Lifetime movies and call me if you have a pedal-start moped for sale. I think I could probably get a baby seat on the back…

Confessions of a White Girl: I Have a Beyoncé Problem

This is my coffee mug. I’m drinking out of it right now, posted up…flawless.

I’ve always loved the Queen Bey. I mean, Destiny’s Child? Pshhh. Best girl group ever. Totally hooked. Drunk in love, if you will.

Then came some bomb ass albums in the last 10 years. Artists don’t make albums anymore. Bey does. And she makes visual albums. I haven’t watched a music video since MTV Spring Break was a thing. But I watch these. If you haven’t, do it.

Do I have a girl crush? Definitely. Has it evolved into a bit of a problem? Meh. Decide for yourself.

beyonce

Two pieces of evidence to consider:

First, when Caroline was in utero, I called her “Baby Beyoncé.” She was a very active baby, so I told people she was dancing in there. In my defense, Beyoncé had just done the Superbowl halftime show, so she was still on the brain.

Second, last night I had a dream that I was at some kind of sip and paint, creative canvas, girls drinking wine and pretending to make art place. For whatever reason, we were all contributing to a group canvas and we were supposed to add things that were “inspirational to women.” When it was my turn, I just took my paintbrush and wrote:

#beckywiththegoodhair

Why in the world my subconscious thinks that Jay-Z’s side piece is inspirational to women is beyond me. Also, I’m hash-tagging in my dreams. I may need a break from my phone for a while.

Until someone tells me that my Beyoncé problem has negatively impacted their life in the following ways, I’m riding the wave. Keep the jams (and the dreams) coming. And Jay-Z, I’m watching you, bro.

I Can’t Cut Pizza

I feel like I need to preface this post by saying my husband is incredibly hard-working, and I’m not just saying that because I married the guy. He is ALWAYS busting his ass for his family, working extra hours, taking on extra projects. I totally love him for it. He’s also the apple of Caroline’s eye. He’s an active participant in parenting his daughter, which has been particularly evident while I’ve been pregnant (I have a pretty serious napping schedule to adhere to). I’ve never ever stressed about leaving him in charge. I mean, sometimes he even takes Caroline with him to the grocery store ON A WEEKEND…BY HIMSELF. Like, whoa. The dude is  a champ.

That being said, long hours for Andy equals an extreme demand for mom. Most days I can hack it. Caroline, as far as toddlers go, is a pretty easy kiddo. She’s wonderful at being independent and playing by herself. But when we’ve gone a stretch of a few weekends in a row with minimal dad time, she seems to forget that Andy is also capable of getting her more milk, or opening her fruit snacks, or putting on her hat and mittens. Apparently you must have special mom powers to do this stuff.

In my short time as a parent, I’ve learned that your kid reaches a point where they go from a cuddly little lump to a full-fledged human. And like everything else, it happens overnight. We passed this point a while ago, but now we’ve seemed to reach a new tier, which appears to be classified as “tiny human with the ability to mimic regular-sized-human qualities/tendencies/mannerisms.” Case and point: this weekend Caroline, while cutting me a piece of pretend pizza, said, “Mom, I can’t do it. I’m really frustrated!” This kid is 2 years, 9 months old. And she just used “frustrated” perfectly in a sentence. Say whaaat?

The takeaway for me from this interaction was that although I’m glad C’s vocabulary is rapidly growing, I might need a new approach to solo-parenting. I’ve probably vocalized my frustration a little too frequently and now it’s influencing her ability to cut pizza. I mean, if you’ve ever seen me try to use a pizza cutter, you’d understand my concern. For real, I have to use a scissors (much to Andy’s amusement) so that I don’t maul the whole thing. It’s more likely that I can adopt a better attitude about being the go-to parent than I can the skill required to cut a pizza. And if I don’t teach this kid to do it for me, I’m doomed. I can handle a little more mom demand if it means I can prepare pizza without adult supervision. #worthit

A Tale of Two Gators

I have a four-year-old German Shorthaired Pointer named Zoey. She’s your typical bird dog, full of energy and quick as a whip. She’s also the reason I had to ask Home Depot if they have any carpet that can double as a racetrack. Zoey is the best running partner/pace setter I’ve ever had. Her and I have logged many miles together. We’ve logged an equal amount of time napping together on the couch. Andy and I affectionately refer to her as “the Velcro dog” because of her incessant need to be touching one of us. We love this girl and she loves us. Life is good for Zoey.

Zoey isn’t big on toys (outside of a deflated football she’s lovingly carried around the yard for years), but she does have a preference for her stuffed gator. Andy found this thing on clearance at Target one day and she’s treated it like a baby ever since. Then one day the gator mysteriously disappeared. In all honesty, Andy and I kind of blamed Caroline. She’d been fighting Zoey for it for months, claiming it as her own. We figured she stashed it somewhere, never to be found.

Fast-forward to Christmas 2016. I’m on a last-minute Target run and I spot a new gator out of the corner of my eye. It wasn’t on clearance anymore, of course, and now it was $17. A sucker for the holidays, I threw it in the cart as Zoey’s Christmas present. Of course she attacked my shopping bags when I returned home and forced me to give to her early. Many joyous laps with gator #2 ensued and gator #1 was all but forgotten.

Fast-forward again to two nights ago. A long weekend had left all of us dragging through an unbearable Tuesday. We were tired, out of our routine and long hours of solo parenting meant that I was ready to check out the minute Caroline went to bed. I put her to sleep and immediately went to work making myself a milkshake. Yes, this is a stereotypical pregnant lady snack, but no, this is not out of the norm for me, regardless of my reproductive state.

I took my milkshake to my bed (STOP JUDGING) so I could watch one non-animated show before I conked out. But of course, I could not find the remote for the TV. Someone, who shall remain nameless, was watching Fwozen in there just an hour earlier.I became frantic. This mom just wanted a break, people. I was overcome with the fear that my beloved milkshake would melt before I could enjoy it (also if you haven’t noticed, I’m the bomb.com at being irrational). I am also the worst at looking for things, so I called for Andy’s help. We tore apart the entire bedroom, which included Andy searching in the opening under our dresser. When I heard him start laughing I could feel my irrational anger start to rise. “That better be the funniest damn remote you’ve ever seen,” I said. He responded by holding up a dusty gator #1 like a cast member of Swamp People who just bagged the ultimate trophy. I was about ready to choot ’em.

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Zoey quickly inserted herself in the commotion and was pleased to see that her long-lost buddy had survived a sabbatical under the dresser. The remote was located shortly after, buried in a basket of laundry, and the Velcro dog was happy as a clam, curled up in the spot in which I had planned to eat my milkshake—accompanied by two gators.

 

Just Call Me JoJo

For our anniversary in December, Andy gave me The Magnolia Story  by Chip and Joanna Gaines and Mark Dagostino. Somehow I’ve given up Fixer Upper and HGTV for a cable-free life (the ultimate sacrifice, I know) so he felt it was safe to indulge my inner JoJo. He was wrong. Not only have I been on a decluttering kick for a week straight, I’ve also concluded that my life has the potential to be a mirror image of Joanna Gaines’. Just to clarify,  I haven’t brought home any rusted fences to hang on the wall and I have yet to suggest shiplap for MJ’s nursery. Instead I’ve found inspiration in Joanna’s journey as a mom. There is a point in her story where (spoiler alert) she decides to close up her shop and focus on being a mom. Our family has recently been tossing the idea of me staying home with our girls. I’m super freaked out about it from a monetary standpoint and also from a social perspective. But Joanna just dropped everything, right at the peak of her success, and raised her babies. And look how things turned out for her! I mean, I realize that if I take a hiatus from the working world for a while, HGTV is not going to come calling (I’d have to wash my hair on a more consistent basis and we all know that’s not happening). But her faith in the fact that all would work out in the end amazes me. As I’ve discussed in previous posts, I often lie awake at night, overcome with mom thoughts. I wish I could just make a decision, feel confident in it and trust that all will be fine. I’m not sure I have the cojones to take it to the Joanna Gaines level, but I’m going to give it a shot. And until then, maybe I’ll refurbish a piece of furniture or install some subway tile, that should tide me over for now.