The Power of the Written Word

Today, I have absolutely nothing domestically related to share.  Well, I do, but that won't be what this particular post is about, because I am just not there in my mind.  Why not, you ask?  Well, I'll tell you!

I have been reading a particular book series since my Junior year in high school (The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan for those who are just dying to know).  A few hours ago, I finally read the last word in the last sentence on the last page of the last book...ever.  Boom.  Suddenly, the nearly twelve year journey I had been on was at an end (this makes me 29 for those of you who are frantically trying to do the math to figure out just how old I really am.  I, personally, try not to think about it (Math or my age)).  

James Oliver Rigney, Jr.
Pen Name: Robert Jordan
Jordan and I, we'd been on a pretty wild ride together.  I mean our relationship has lasted longer than my marriage, longer than the Mr. and I have even known one another!  We've laughed and we've cried together.  One of us even died, but the story went on (thanks to his wife and editor, Harriet, and Brandon Sanderson, the author who stepped up and completed the works.  Way tah beeee!).

This all has me feeling a bit drained, mentally, physically, emotionally, but in that generally satisfied way that comes with knowing you've completed something.  At the moment, I'm having a hard time deciding how I feel.  Mainly I think I may be in shock that, after all this time, it's over... for now.

The greatest theme in this particular series has been that there are "neither beginnings nor endings to the Wheel of Time.  But it was a beginning."  The final words, perhaps inevitably, were "There are no endings, and never will be endings to the turning of the Wheel of Time.  But it was an ending."  

The journey may have ended for me, this time around, but (as I have done several times over the years, when a new book was set to be released) I can start the journey all over again, back at the beginning.  I can share these and other stories with those I love.

I digress.  This, believe it or not, Ripley, isn't specifically about the series I've been nattering on about for 20 minutes (though to readers, it's probably more like two?).  It's about the kind of devotion that the written word can instill in people.  For me, it was these books (and I'll be honest, many, many, others, but this was the Big Kahuna), for others it may be a simple poem or a news article that really reaches down and grabs something in you.  For those people who maintain they "don't read" and don't have a care to, I pfft! at you.  Have you ever seen a movie that was just da-BOMB (...I am so not pulling off that slanguage...)?  Guess what, somebody put the proverbial pen to paper (these days "fingers to keys" is more likely) for that too.  Songs too!

The point is, that there is so much power in words.  We can use them to entertain, sadden, hurt, or delight.  We can create entire new worlds or explore the one we're living in with just some nouns and consonants pushed together!  Whoa.  That is epic.  

As a self proclaimed writer (though maybe my degree (English-Creative Writing) gives me more street cred than that?), I am very careful about what words and use and how.  Like Spiderman says (or, rather, the writer who created Spiderman's dialogue) "with great power, comes great responsibility."  I don't know if I will ever be one of the greats like Tolkien, Jordan, Martin, or Lewis (What?  I loves me some epic fantasy.  Way better than a angsty girl in Washington obsessing over a sparkly vampire man-boy), but that's not the point.  

The point is the transcendence beyond yourself that can be found in the written word (even if you watch it in pictures on the TV screen) and isn't that worth more than words? (Like the play there, words are more than words, get it? *wink, wink*)


Traveling with a Tike

As promised in my much belated vacation notice, I am going to share a few of the ups and downs experienced during Baby J and I's road trip to visit family in what everyone from the tri-state area refers to as simply "the cities"  (Minneapolis/St. Paul = The Twin Cities).
Firstly, this post is brought you roughly 12 hours later than the original intended deadline thanks to an incredibly long day of attempting to re-right my house after a weekend away.  More on that coming up...

So!  First road trip!  (Just Baby, Dubby, and I, Mr. J has to work on Sunday evenings, making it difficult for him to get away for a weekend trip.)  I tried to plan everything carefully to make sure it would go as smoothly as possible.  Some things worked, others not so much.

Tidy entire house before leaving, hoping to have a clean, relaxing place to return to.

This was an amazing idea in theory.  There is nothing more exhausting than returning from a long weekend away, especially one including a lot of driving, to find your house a disaster that you can't relax in.  In practice, this would have been much more successful if the entire family was going on the vacation.  Mr. J did his best to clean up after himself, but dishes and laundry (my nemesi!) needed to be done, of course, and all the counters needed to be cleaned off and wiped down and the floors all needed to be swept and mopped.  (I don't know if it's just my husband, or if all men are oblivious to the existence of crumbs?)

Neatly pack everything I could think of.

This one sounds like I over prepared, but, really, it worked out pretty well.  Changes of clothes and jammies for two nights and two days for both of us, a handful of toys (nothing that I would cry about if it got lost), plenty of diapers, wipes and formula, two bottles that could be easily cleaned and alternated, wet and dry dog food (Dubby has some allergies and it's better to make sure we have the right stuff on hand, even though there was another dog where we were going), all our necessary toiletry items, Baby's highchair (strap to the chair model), and the pack-n-play.  I even managed to get everything into my average sized suitcase and the diaper bag!

Arrange driving times around Baby's sleep schedule.

I did this thinking it would help him get as close to regular naps in as possible.  According to "Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child" (my pediatrician brother says this is the book for sleep everything), sleep in the car is not as high a quality sleep as stationary sleep (in the crib, etc.), but I knew for a fact that he would not be able to stay awake once we started going, regardless of whether or not it was nap time.  So, my plan was to leave right at the beginning of his usual afternoon nap time, hoping he would sleep roughly his normal two hours, which would be 2/3 of the total drive time.

It was a bit hit and miss.  Both on the way there and the way home, Baby did sleep almost immediately once we were underway.  Both ways he made it about an hour and half, so only half the drive.  I had placed a few toys within arms reach and he played with those for a bit longer.  Then boredom set in and he began getting cranky.  Taking this a queue, we made a pit stop and he got some time out of the car and some fresh pants.  This helped for a little while, but he was still sick of the car and wanted to be done.  Queue second stop to whip up a bottle and feed him, even though we were within a half hour or so of our destination.  This still wasn't the ticket to happiness for Baby, but it got us through to the end! Both times, once we arrived and got out of the car (for good this time), he perked back up!

Attempt to keep roughly on a normal sleep schedule to keep a happy baby!

Again, a hit and miss effort.  The drive-time naps went so-so and he managed to take his morning naps on time and roughly for the normal duration the two days we were there.  Beyond that, however, there really is no hope for a sleep schedule on vacation!  Bed times were an hour (or two!) later than usual and the afternoon nap was painfully short or non-existent all together.

Night time was the worst.  I'm not sure if the issue was being in the pack-n-play in a strange place rather than his crib at home, the fact that Dubby and I were in the room with him (he is used to being in his own room, alone), or a combination of the two, but staying asleep was a struggle and he frequently needed comforting/to be fed/etc.

Thankfully!  Baby J is a sweet, happy little guy and he managed to maintain his usual demeanor, despite the yucky lack of sleep on his part.  Me?  I had coffee, the excitement of seeing loved ones, and super mom skills at functioning like a human being regardless of the level of sleep deprivation. 

Have FUN!

This one was a hands down success.  The little bumps in the road didn't deter from getting to spend time with beloved family that we rarely see.  Many met Baby J for the first time and everyone agreed that he was the cutest baby!  I'm naturally inclined to agree!  We talked, we brunched, we shopped and otherwise enjoyed ourselves.

For the future?  The only major change I may give a try is going immediately after a nap rather than before.  Perhaps then the happy, awake time would eat up the beginning of the trip and the tired cranky part would result in a nap for the end?  Another perk will be as Baby gets a bit older, he can be trusted with his own car snacks and drinks, cutting out some pit stop time...then again, it will also increase his ability to vocalize things like "Are we there yet?" and "But Mommy, I have to potty now!" 



Terribly belated notice (since we're back now), but Baby J and I were on vacation from the 20th through today, making no time for my usual entertaining posts!  I will be back tomorrow with some personal stories and tips and tricks I picked up on about traveling with a little one!


Joys of Parenthood

Last night, I spent over an hour trying to get my son to sleep.  He's getting at least one new tooth in, causing all kinds of angst and discomfort on his part, which in turn causes it on my part.  After I finally got him down and walked out of the nursery, I was muttering to myself about teething being just another one of the "joys of parenthood" (sarcasm abounds).

Then I started the nightly routine of picking up his toys and the blanket we use for a play mat on the living room floor and started smiling.  Everything about parenthood, even the hard, annoying, frustrating bits, is a joy.  It's a joy simply because I get to be a parent.

I'm the girl who always wanted to be a mom.  It was simply part of who I was and deep down I was always just a little afraid that I wouldn't have children.  Despite that, I was still terrified when I found out I was pregnant.  I mean, holy crap!  This was happening!  I can only imagine what people who hadn't dreamt of being a parent for ages went through.

Now that the initial shock has worn off, I am learning to appreciate all that parenting encompasses.  Teething tantrums, self-feeding messes, and the epic diaper blowouts all come with their own (completely strange) innate joy.  Every screaming fit I endure and mess I clean up is a reminder that I have a healthy, happy (and very vocal) child.

To all my fellow new parents, I know how hard it can be to smile during the worst of it (like when your child constantly pulls your hair out of your scalp because they don't understand the words "owie" or "no" yet), but what other parents have been saying long before us is true, "It's all worth it."

So laugh at every poopy diaper you change and every midnight feeding, you are enjoying the joys of parenthood!


The In-Law Lottery

You met the man or woman of your dreams, you fell madly, deeply and irrevocably in love and got married, a real life fairy tale... but what about the in-laws??

It seems like there is some kind of lottery system that all couples enter when they decide to merge their two families.  Some people win big, others break even, and the remaining unfortunates lose it all.

I happen to be one of the incredibly fortunate.  I married my best friend's brother, so I had years to get to know the J family even before Mr. and I began dating.  By the time we were married I had been part of the family for what felt like forever.  We visit usually twice a week besides the family get togethers and Grandma and Grandpa J are our number one go tos for babysitting.  Like I said, I pretty much won the jackpot in the in-law lottery!
What about those who aren't so lucky?  Some in-laws are the well-meaning type of difficult.  They know their child so well and their comments and actions that may come off as a bit (or a lot) critical are meant to be helpful.  They want you to know exactly how they handled your spouse all their life, what worked and what didn't and they drive you completely mad with their attempt at education.

The best advice I can come up with (as an outsider) is that you sit down with mom or pop in-law and have a polite and mature conversation about how their comments are making you feel.  Yes, you understand that your spouse was their little boy or girl and that it may be difficult to let go, but the two of you have decided to make a life together.  That might include doing things a little differently than they used to do at home.  This is your home, your spouse, and things will be done your way, but you would gladly accept advice when it is asked for.

Then there are those type of in-laws.  The nasty, resentful, guano-crazy (get it? guano? ha ha!) type.  You know what type I mean.  They're angry that you took their baby away.  You're never good enough for their child.  You have become the enemy.

These situations are hard on everyone: you, your spouse, your children (if you have any).  You're dealing with having to defend yourself (either mentally or verbally) for just about anything they have decided to take up arms against.  Your spouse is caught between the person they chose to spend their lives with and their parent(s).  Even if they are on "your side," nothing can be worse than being caught between two people you love, and the children lose out on enjoying a happy, healthy relationship with their grandparents.

Ideally, this kind of conflict could be worked out by using the same strategy as above, but, as is often the case, these situations are degraded beyond a simple chat and make up.  Maybe it's time to call in the professionals: get some family therapy, in-laws included.  They can help you dig down to the roots of the under lying issues.

If neither of these are possible or the situation is truly beyond redemption, then there are only two things I can offer: First, keep your distance.  If all interactions with them turn toxic, then the best you can do is attempt to keep them to a minimum.  I wouldn't suggest blocking them out of your lives (except in the extremist situations), but it may be easier to keep things pleasant and civil if you're not having to do so constantly.  Secondly, (and this is important!) remember that they are your husband or wife's parents.  Whatever problems you may be having with them now, they created and raised the person you fell in love with, they are part of them, so they can't be all bad.


Apologies - Sick Day!

I wanted to put up a quick note for those who were desperately looking forward to my "In-Law Lottery" post today.  For the first time since my son was born, I am feeling truly under the weather! *sad face*  In other words, for the first time, I am attempting to take care of him while all I want to curl up in bed and sleep.  I am not, by any means, complaining, but it is a new experience and will definitely take some getting used to!
Luckily, my immune system generally operates like an elite ninja force on speed.  I rarely, rarely, get sick and so I anticipate this passing quickly at which point I will write the previously mentioned promised post!  

Thank you to all my followers who continue to read!


Operation: Mommies' Night Out - Success!

I had mentioned last week that I was planning a "Mommies' Night Out" with some fellow mom friends on Saturday night.  I over planned for Mr. J to be home alone with Baby and Dubby.  Food was pre-chopped and put in a container in the fridge, supper for the Mr. was also ready to go and waiting, the dog food was set on the counter so as not to forget, jammies laid out on the changing table, the whole nine yards!

I put Baby J down for his afternoon nap and went about getting myself ready, including *gasp* make-up.  Nothing fancy, but a dash fancier than I have been doing for my "around the house" look.  I even tried on three different tops before I was satisfied that I looked "nice, but not trying too hard."  (Can you tell it's been awhile since I went out?)

I had planned on leaving at about 3 p.m. to meet up with an old co-worker at for a Hobby Lobby adventure.  Baby J woke up from his afternoon nap early and so I got him up and had about a 20 minute good bye session with him and Mr. J.  By the time I finally got myself into the car and on the way, it was a bit later than I had originally anticipated, but the roads were clear for a change and so I made good time regardless.

Shortly after our planned 4 p.m. meet up, I arrived at Hobby Lobby (actually beat her there) and began the usual meandering around.  My friend arrived and we continued to putz (that's a local colloquialism for just walk around aimlessly, by the way), picking up a few desired items, some of which will be highlighted in future DIY posts!, until roughly 5:30.  Since the plan was to meet up with the ladies at six at a local downtown mexican restaurant, I figured, better get to!

I hadn't previously invited the friend I was shopping with to our night out, but seeing as though she is pregnant with a June Boy of her own, I dropped the invite while we were checking out.  She was happy to be included and so the four became five.

So far, all of this sounds a bit like boring background, so sorry for that, but the real delight is the meal I shared with these four awesome mommies!  With mexican food and margaritas (or in my case a daquiri, tequila and I do not get along, and a slushy for the expecting mom) as a backdrop, we sat, we ate, we talked and talked and talked.

Topics come from all over the place!  We talked about our kids, of course, the funny and frustrating things they accomplished on a day to day basis, our husbands, who do many of the same things the children do, our work and home lives, our in-laws (more on that topic in tomorrow's post!), and just about anything else we could think of.

One incredibly interesting thing I have noticed about interactions between two or more moms.  One topic that nearly infallibly comes up at least once, is our pregnancy, labor and delivery stories!  Why we feel the need to share them over and over, I have no idea!  But, especially with an expectant mother in our midst, we all broke them out, one by one.  I'd say this is something that is likely to fade with time, but two of the moms have older children (10 and 8 years, respectively) as well as a younger one and they still talk about their firsts!

In my "Shift in the Friend Dynamic" post I had talked about how much I had been feeling alienated from my non-parent friends and that I was increasingly drawn to friends that were.  Mommies' Night Out was a great way to feel like part of a social group again and our status as parents drew us closer together rather than being something awkward between us.  It was exactly what I (and I think the rest of them) needed!
One of my closest friends and I even went to a movie after dinner and I only broke down and called home to check on my boys once (in the car on the way to the theater)!  

All in all, the night was a complete success and I am henceforth mandating a once-a-month repeat!  For those of you who missed this time, clear out a Saturday in May and we'll make like Tim Gunn and "make it work!"


Shift in the Friend Dynamic

Obviously, it's no surprise that your social life changes when you become a parent.  Mostly to "Social life?  What's a social life?," but I'm talking about more than that.  Even if you rarely get to "go out" or do adult activities with people anymore, it's still pretty likely that you talk to others.  Your spouse, parents, in-laws (if they're the good kind! ;) ), and your friends.  Please keep in mind that none of these labels are exclusive, i.e. your spouse, your parents, even your in-laws, can be your friends too!

Since the birth of my son, I have been noticing a definite change in who those people I talk to are.  Conversations and activities with friends that I was inseparable from before becoming a parent have slowly faded into rare occurrences, while others that I rarely saw or spoke to have become my daily text and chat companions.  The dividing factor?  Parenthood.

Suddenly, it seemed as though my non-parent friends were calling or texting less and less.  They were doing things and making plans and I wasn't involved.  We were still friends, there was no falling out or anything, we just simply no longer interacted on a daily basis, which then became a weekly basis, a monthly basis, and so on.  

Sometimes, this made me incredibly sad.  I felt like a favorite toy who had been placed on a shelf to make time for all the exciting new toys:  Not unloved, but quietly set aside for some indeterminate time in the future.  I hadn't changed, had I?  I was still the same person who's company they had enjoyed only a few months before.  I couldn't understand why I was suddenly so unimportant to them?  Then I really began to think about it.

I have friends who had children several years before I did.  After they became parents, it seemed like I rarely saw or heard from them.  I was in college and meeting new people at the time and thought nothing of it.  I assumed that they were busy with being parents now, that they really didn't have the time to reach out and if I called to ask them to do something, they wouldn't be able to go anyway, right?  They had a kid.  That kid would have had to come with us, and that wasn't fair to the child or the parent, or my friend would have to try and find a babysitter and I assumed they wouldn't want to deal with that hassle.  The parent friends I did make plans with frequently had reliable family sitters, so if we made plans, their children were safely out of sight and out of mind while we went about our social interactions.

I had been ignorant of how my (at least partially faulty) logic was causing me to ostracize my friends, simply because they were now parents.  I had not been doing it consciously, and I certainly had not done any of it maliciously, but it had been happening all the while anyway. 

And now, oh how the tables have turned!  I am, for the first time, fully aware of how I may have made my other friends feel at the time, but, to be fair, some of my un-parent logic wasn't completely wrong.  I  am busier and more distracted with my home life than I had ever been before.  I do need to bring my child along for shopping trips and dinner dates or find a sitter if we're doing something outside of the "family friendly" zone, and both those scenarios can be a hassle.  What I didn't know then, was that sometimes it's a hassle I want to deal with, and even when I don't, it would still be nice to be asked.

Once I stopped being gloomy about being put on the back burner with my non-parent friends, I realized that I had been maybe doing a bit of the same to them.  I assumed they didn't want to deal with the new complications of my parenthood or listen to me talk on and on for hours about my baby and our new life, which, having been there, is at least partially correct.

So, what to do? What to do?  I still needed friends.  I still (really) needed to talk to people about what was going on in my life and with my family, but who would I turn to now that my closest friends were on the other side of the parental divide?

Lightbulb! Talk to friends who are also parents! (Duh moment.)  While I had been reaching out to those friends who I'd previously "had on the shelf" already, I suddenly realized I was preferring to talk to other parents (mostly other mommies, but daddies are accepted too).  It wasn't weird to talk about the color of my baby's poop that day, because another mom would have a similar story to share and we could laugh about it and swap advice.  We could set up play dates for our little ones and get some adult interaction in for ourselves at the same time, all without the feeling of guilt that accompanies having to bring your child along for adult time or having to leave them with a sitter.

This Saturday I have arranged a "Mommies' Night Out" with as many of my mommy friends as were able.  We will go and have dinner and even some drinks, maybe even catch a movie!  (Super, super excited about this!  Mr. J will have Baby so I can have a night off and we won't have to worry about a sitter! Bonus!)  Even though I fully intend to not talk about Baby J all night, these ladies will understand when I do mention him and they'll respond in kind with comments about their own little guys and girls.

Maybe I haven't changed, I mean, my personality came through the parenting vortex pretty intact, but my peer group certainly has changed.  I just watched "Wreck-It Ralph" the other day (What? I like the kiddie movies, they're funny without being gross!) and I keep hearing an altered version of the "Bad-Guy's Creed" or whatever it is in my head. "I'm a mommy and that's okay!"  

Any other moms (or dads for that matter) who are feeling bummed out like I was about "losing" their child-free friends, reconnect with other parents, or, if you don't know any, seek out some!  There are always other parents at the parks, doctors' offices, etc. that you frequent with your own little.  Build a mommy support group (or join an existing one, like MOPS)!  Just because you're a parent now, doesn't mean you have to be only a parent now, you get to have friends too! 


Xtreme Grocery! - Update

I have been talking about my intense monthly grocery shopping trip a lot lately.  Now, after all the talking:  It.  Is.  Done!

And the question that has everyone holding their breath:  Soooo, how'd it goooo?  Was all the prepping worth it?  Did watching all those episodes of Extreme Couponing help?  Did I really save anything?  Was it all worth it?!?

The answer is longer than one word, but the general tone is "yes."  If that satiated your need to know, feel free to skip ahead.  If, like me, you need to know it all, let's go into detail shall we?

First of all, the prep work.  Here's me with all my spreadsheets listing recipes with all their ingredients, using the recipes to make a calendar and the ingredients to make my shopping list.  Then I remember our printer is not working properly and I don't have time to run over to the in-laws to print stuff out.  Crap.  All that work for something I'm going to have to handwrite out now?!? Boooooooooo!

I figure there had to be an easier way to deal with this.  Yup, there's an app for that!
I started digging around the app store on my Kindle Fire and found this little gem.  I am usually pretty skeptical of apps, they almost never do all the things I want them to and I stop using them after a few tries.  Our Groceries is a keeper!

All the reviews talked about how great it was to be able to add items to any of the lists created from any device that had the app installed (i.e. Mr. J could put "crackers" in on the iPod and it would update to show on my Kindle, the laptop, etc.).  I didn't care too much about this feature as the only likely time I wouldn't be the one updating the list myself would be while I was actually out shopping.  Seeing as though my Kindle doesn't have 3G (WiFi only), it wouldn't update while I was out and about.  Perhaps, in the distant future, when Baby J is "Big J," he'll make use of this?  Either way, like I said, I was skeptical about downloading it, but I just wanted a grocery list on my device and this had five stars, so why not?

I am so glad I did!  The nifty little thing does all the work my spreadsheets do!  You can add recipes or list items individually (or import them, making it my best friend), organize them into categories (Dairy, Meat, Produce, etc.) and into separate lists.  I used this to make a list for each store I planned on shopping at.  For the first time ever, I did not forget something!

Seems like this shouldn't have been a problem in the past with my awesome list, but when you're dealing with a hard copy that you're crossing items off on as you go, it's actually pretty easy to visually skip over items.  Our Groceries lists your items by category and alphabetically (or by "popularity," depending on your settings) and a tap will cross off each item and move it automatically to the bottom of the list in the completed category.  I worked my way methodically through each department at not one, not two, but three! stores, grabbed everything I needed and GTFO'ed.  Best part?  The app with ad support is free (the ads are seriously minimal and I didn't even notice, but you can reportedly upgrade to the pro and go ad-free).

With this in my arsenal, my grocery list population task will go even faster, but the most time consuming (and mentally exhausting) portion of prep involved checking each online site for which store would have the best deal for each item we required.  Took foooreeeeveeerrr.  But! On the bright side (there's always a bright side, right?), I have learned a few things.

  1. For most of the items I needed, Sam's Club did have the best price per unit.  So, as long as I didn't mind getting 2 (or 3 or 4!) times what I would need this month, that was the go to.
  2. The perishable items that I simply could not (or would not) buy in bulk were cheaper at one specific grocery store in town 99% of the time, often by just a penny, but cheaper none the less (clearly their strategy).  (Cashwise for those of you in the area who care).
  3. The items that were cheaper at another store were so only because they were having a specific sale on that item.  Knowing this, in the future I will only research ad circulars for items on my list and compare them, rather than comparing every last item.

In the end, was the prep worth is?  Well, what used to take me five or more hours at the end of an exhausting day at work took me only two and a half using my mad organizing skills, new app, and a little bit of shopping during the slower part of the day (though to be fair, the "slower" part refers to the people who are there too!).  You be the judge of that one!

The "Extreme Couponing" marathon did help me in one way.  I needed to get about eight bags of various frozen vegetables.  The supermarket had a coupon in their add for .88 each, but the limit was three and only one coupon per transaction.  So, I got nine bags of veggies (and a couple of other things that I could do double transactions on to use more coupons) and split them into three transactions at the self-checkout (my preferred check out at this particular supermarket, because it's a "bag your own" store and I can bag as I go that way!).  Beyond that?  I spent roughly what I usually do on groceries, but I have the added bonus of knowing that several of my Sam's purchases will last for the next several months, thus saving money on future grocery bills.  All in all, not as much as I would have liked, but I did save some.  The next phase would actually be combing and clipping coupons.  We shall see.......

All in all, I consider my grocery trip a success!  Mr. and Baby J and Dubby are all happy with my "haul" and I am happy knowing that I have everything I need on hand to make whole, healthy meals alllll moooonnth looooong! Boom.

Baby J and Dubby celebrating Mommy's awesome shopping skills!
P.S. LOOOOVE reusable bags! (These enormous bad boys were $3.50 for 2 at Sam's)
My pet peeve is all those crappy plastic ones left over after shopping!  Only use I
have for them is a bathroom garbage liner!  These eliminate the pile of them under
my kitchen sink AND are much more Earth friendly, win-win!  Yay, Earth!


Gooooooood Mooorrniiiiiiinnngg ViiiiiiiP!

I feel like I'm going to jinx it, but, so far, today is AWESOME!! I accomplished almost all of my grocery shopping yesterday (I had to cut it just a tad short in order to be home in time for Mr. J to head back to work, but will finish up the last few items today).  After shopping, getting Baby J to sleep, and putting all the groceries away, I still managed to get all the dishes *cough* from the entire weekend *cough* done, the kitchen tidied, Mr. J's work clothes washed and dried, and made supper! (Freakin' Super Mom, right here!!)

Just had to include this ad.  A reminder that "gay"
didn't become synonymous with "homosexual" 
until fairly recently!
Is there any better feeling than waking up to a tidy, well stocked house?  Only waking to a tidy, well stocked house after a full night of uninterrupted sleep!!

Around here, with the unique work schedule Mr. J has, a "full night" is still just under six hours, but it's the uninterrupted part that has me so jazzed!  For those who are my nearest and dearest, you have heard frequently (and loudly) that Baby J does not sleep through the night and hasn't since he was born.  So, when you add in the better half of pregnancy that I was getting up in the night for random pregnancy discomforts or the oh-so-frequent bathroom trips, I haven't had this sort of blissful rest in over a year.  My great hope is simply that this is the beginning of a beautiful trend and not just a fluke!

(For those of you without children yet who are reading this and having night terrors just thinking about how horrible it would be, don't.  While it is considered "normal" for a nine month old to wake during the night to be fed, it is really not very common.  Most babies move to sleeping a full 10 to 12 hours a night much, much earlier.  I'm just lucky I guess, ha ha!)

B from Modern Day Juggler had posted this on Facebook this morning and I literally laughed out loud ('cause, you know, when you usually SAY "lol," you just kind of chuckled mentally and moved on) and had to include it.  Sooooo muuuuuch truuuueeeee!

I'm so tickled about Baby sleeping all the way through the night that I have been chipper all morning (and I am not a morning person)!  I woke to the sound of my son talking to himself and flopping around in his crib, as usual, accompanied by actual sunlight peeking through the curtains of our bedroom.  I glanced at the clock and saw the magic numbers: 7:05

Best. Day. Ever!  I even made breakfast for Mr. J before he headed off to see the ladies (and by ladies, I mean cows).  FYI, home-made Egg McMuffins, way better than the McDonald's kind!  And easy!

I cheated.  This is a picture of the McDonald's kind.
We devoured ours before I thought of snapping a pic!
Home-made Breakfast Muffin!
  • 1 English Muffin, toasted
  • 1 Egg, "waved"
  • Choice of Meat
  • Choice of Cheese
  • Butter (optional)

For those of you who have never "waved" an egg, do it, it's fun!  Find a microwave safe dish of an appropriate size.  I happen to have a little snack container that is just about exactly the diameter of an english muffin.  Crack open an egg of your choice, whisk it a bit to make sure the yolk is broken, and stick it in the microwave.  Make sure you do this!  If you don't "KABOOM!" k?  Also, it's best if your container has sides roughly twice as tall as the level of the egg before you cook it.  It expands!  Depending on your microwave, 45 seconds to one minute should do the trick.  For our breakfasts this morning, I added some diced ham we had in the freezer (left overs from Easter) that I had pre-warmed into the uncooked egg.  Kind of like a ham omelette in a cup!

While the egg (and ham) nuked away, I stuck an english muffin in the toaster and pulled out a slice of cheese (American for the hubs and cheddar for me, because I'm a snob and don't like American cheese... >_>).  The first egg made a very disconcerting "popping" noise right at the end (see what happens when you don't break up the yolk good enough?) but it survived the explosion, intact.  FYI, I didn't butter the muffins out of the toaster.  With the cheese and the ham and all that, I didn't feel like they needed it.  Do as you will with your own!

Go all sandwich on the english muffin, cheese, and now waved ham and egg, then eat!  Fast, easy, and portable!  Plus, you can use whatever meat and cheese (or lack there of) combo you want = Awesome.


Upcoming Topics

Since, between Baby J having an awkward nap schedule lately and my preparations for the monthly grocery shop, I have been falling behind on my daily posts, I thought I had better leak a few teasers!  Look later today and for the rest of the week for some posts on the following subjects:

The Friend Dynamic Shift

No big secret that parenthood changes your social life, but there are always surprises!  I'll talk about a few of the pleasant and not-so-much ones I've run in to.

The In-Law Lottery

You married the man or woman of your dreams, but what is the family like?

Xtreme Grocery Update

How did my strategy work out?  Was all this worth it?!?


Thanks for your patience!

Hello, ViP readers!  My apologies for the lack of regular posts that past few days, but I have been plugging away at my epic shopping list (as mentioned in my Go, Go, Grocery Mom! post) amongst the usual daily domestic dance at my house.  Check back starting on Monday for more posts about more home-making adventures!


Go, Go, Grocery Mom!

As I have mentioned before, we live in a rural area.  This means I don't have the convenience of just running to the grocery store to grab something for dinner on a daily basis and definitely can't make a quick run for something I forgot/we ran out of.

This has definitely been an adjustment for me, having grown up in a city with all the conveniences that includes.  So, to cope, a few months ago, I started xtreme meal planning.  Yes, it has to be spelt "xtreme" because "extreme" doesn't convey how truly extreme it is.
I start with your basic calendar template in word and put labels for "Lunch" and "Dinner" on each day. Then it's time to fill in main and side dishes for suppers.  I, personally, am crazy, and do choose different meals for each and every day.  I know several other, significantly less crazy, people who do a bi-weekly rotation and just rinse and repeat.  April will be my third month of xtreme-ness and I've learned a little something each time.  This month, I've decided I should separate my calendar into weekly theme nights:

  • Monday = Meat & Potatoes (Special for the Mr.)
  • Tuesday = Mexican
  • Wednesday = Hotdish (We live in Minnesota, it's what we do.)
  • Thursday = Italian
  • Friday = American (Burgers, brats, sloppy joes, and, yes, pizza!) 
  • Saturday = Crockpot (because I don't "work" on Saturdays)
  • Sunday = Something New (New recipes I've found on Pinterest/in a cook book, etc.)

This makes choosing the meals easier and ensures we don't have too many "like things" together.

Once all my suppers are filled in, I go back and write in "leftovers" for any lunch the day after something I know has them (this is most of them, I cook for the two of us the way I would cook for my family of four growing up).  The remaining days get average lunches like soups/salads and sandwiches, burgers, and, once in awhile, things like fish sticks and chicken nuggets (these I do try to limit to just once or so a month each, preferring healthier options).

Now I have all the food we will consume in one month all planned out, sans breakfasts.  Admittedly, we suck at doing breakfast (Bad J family!  Bad!), but I intend to use a tip I picked up from B over at The Modern Day Juggler and start making a week or two's breakfasts ahead of time.  These items will be added to the list once completed.

And how do I create this list?  Well, I am admittedly a bit overly organized when it comes to things like this, so take that into consideration.  I use an Excel spreadsheet to organize everything I need for every meal I intend on making.  The first column lists the main and side dishes.  The second column is split out into individual ingredients, including pantry items, which are so marked.  

(Note:  You do need to have a rough knowledge of how to split/merge cells to get this to work.  If there is interest, I'd be more than happy to post the templates I use for those of you who are spreadsheet illiterate.)

Once all the meals are listed with each of their coordinating ingredients, I copy the second column into a separate sheet and use the sort feature to list them alphabetically.  This puts all the like ingredients together so I can see how many of each item I will require.  Please note, it's important to always write ingredients the same way for each meal (i.e. tomato sauce can be written as "tomato - sauce, 1 can," or "canned tomato sauce," or "tomato sauce.")   Use whichever method you prefer to list your items, but be consistent through out the list, otherwise your like items will not always filter together.  Also, do not use a number at the beginning of an item ("1 can tomato sauce" vs. "tomato sauce, 1 can") for the same alphabetical filtering reasons as before.  Then, to make things a bit easier on myself (and to save paper) I consolidate all the like items (changing "tomato sauce, 1 can" written four times into "tomato sauce - 4 cans" and deleting the now unnecessary extra lines).  A quick look through the pantry to check on which items from the list we are out of and which we won't need to replenish this trip, add in breakfast items and anything special or snacky that Mr. J requests (try to keep these to a minimum!) and I have my list!

(P.S.  The BEST thing about the meal plan calendar, meal/ingredient list, and shopping list is that I can save them and re-use them every month.  All I have to do is add in any new ingredients for things we haven't tried yet.  I never delete anything once it's been added to the meal/ingredient list, I just grey out anything we won't be having that month so I know to remove those items from the grocery list.)

The past two months I have done this major meal plan/shopping trip, I have done a very loose job checking for the best prices/coupons/etc.  I get what I can at Sam's and the rest at a local grocery store.  Now that I have a bit more time, I will be doing my research and trying to get the best possible price on everything we need.  That being said, please understand I am not extreme couponing (I was watching  the TLC show on Netflix last night to try and pick up some tricks, but that sort of intensity is out of my depth).  I am sure that if I went all out, I could feed my family for pennies the way they do, but I don't for several reasons:  
  1. I don't believe in taking more than you need.  There may be others who really needed mustard that day and you bought all 62 bottles that were on the shelf because you could get a good deal?  O.o  Really?
  2. We have a small home and even if I was willing to sacrifice all of our basement and garage storage space for a "stash," I wouldn't feel comfortable keeping so much of it, not to mention the difficulties that arise when you start dealing with perishables.
  3. Most of the food we buy is whole, which means we don't get a lot of pre-processed "box" food, which tends to be what most coupons are for.  When they start offering sweet coupons on fresh produce and such, I'll be there!
Now that I have ranted to unnecessary length on the matter... on to the shopping trip!

Since this is my first month doing this as a stay-homer, my strategies are going to change a bit from the previous months in which I went Friday night after work because Grandma would take Baby J home from the nanny's for me and I could power through on caffeine and determination!  I was successful both months I did this, but there were unfortunate side effects like I would just grab everything at one place because I didn't want to deal with a several stop-shop and things tended to be accidentally over looked because I was tired and ready to go home.

This month my plan is to go during the regular work week, during the early afternoon when traffic is the slowest at the stores.  As in previous months, Baby J will be staying at home, either with daddy or an aunt who lives near by.  He is a trooper when we shop, but this kind of intense trip is just too long a day for him!  Since I plan to do research ahead of time about where I can get the most bang for my buck, I will have my list separated out accordingly (along with any coupons we can use) and have a plan of where I will go first, second, etc. My greatest weapons?  Really comfortable shoes and an Audible book on my iPod.

The first is a given, but the audiobook is something (perhaps) uniquely me.  I am an avid reader.  Love, love, love the written word, but I can't read and drive or shop!  So, in comes the audio!  I stick my ear buds in and work my way methodically up and down all the rows at each store, grabbing my items and crossing them off my list.  (One of these days, I'll be a bit more tech savvy and just have my list electronically).  Listening to a good story (especially if it's from a great narrator, like the Dresden Files, read by James Marsters.  Best.  Ever!) makes the time speed by and I don't get all antsy and bored and try to rush through things and then end up forgetting stuff.  For those who aren't so much into literature as I am, just rock out to a bitchin' play list!  I only avoid this because I have to surpress the urge to sing along and that's just awkward in the supermarket.

I hope this (much more detailed and lengthy than originally intended) guide gives you an idea for an incredibly useful tool to make one more chore a little less stressful!


2 Week Status Update

Well!  Today marks the official two week mark of Vacuuming in Pearls and my new life as a home maker (homemaker? home-maker? Anybody know the standard way to spell it?), and I thought it would be prudent to do a sort of status update on how things are going and how well I'm doing with my self-imposed guidelines.

(P.S. This post was previously scheduled to go up at the normal 10 a.m., but Baby J has had a bit of a sleeping issue lately, growth spurts or teething most likely, and I was preoccupied.  I'm sure you'll all forgive me!)

Everyone keeps asking me "What's it like to be a stay home mom now?" and I am not really sure how to respond.  It sounds weird, but it doesn't feel different to me.  I don't feel like I'm all the sudden in this whole new world and I had to make this huge adjustment or anything.  Logically, I know that I actually did, but somehow it feels like I've simply been doing this forever.  Not "forever" in the whiney, I'm sick of this way, but in the comfort of longevity kind of way.  I like to think this must mean that I am on the right path, that I have finally found something fulfilling to do with my days.

Understand that I do not, in any way, mean that other parents are not fulfilled if they do not choose to be stay-homers!  I simply did not have the kind of passion for my line of work when I was working for the corporate world that breeds fulfillment in your career.  Many, many others do have work and home lives that complete them just as they are!

That all being said, I'm sure everyone is mainly curious to see how I'm fairing with following my "Guidelines to a Stay-Homer's Sanity."  The answer is, never perfect, but, generally, pretty good!  I am glad to report that I have had no symptoms of the "Domestic Dumps" I outlined in my post yesterday.  My schedule, posted the day before, has been incredibly helpful!

I will fully admit I don't follow it to the letter, day in and day out, but I do adhere to it's basic structure and it has been helping to slowly but surely tame the chaos that was my house.  Dishes and laundry especially remain my old foes.  No matter how hard you work at getting rid of them, they just keep coming right back!  The good news is, by making sure I do the unloading/reloading consistently, my counters have been blissfully dish-free.  Laundry is seeing success also, though to a lesser degree.  My defense will be that we have some serious projects to do in there to make it a clean, efficient place!  (All the cool DIY-ness will be shared once it starts happening!)

I feel like I've been doing a pretty bang up job sticking to my other guidelines as well.  This past Saturday, Mr. J and I dropped Baby off with Grandma and went to do a few quick shopping errands.  Since he was taken care of, we took the opportunity to have a bit of a mini-date. *gasp!*  Thai food and my husband all to myself = success in my books!  

This is what our street should look like by now, but no.
I only feel like I'm lagging a bit in two areas.  The first and most significant is keeping myself active.  It's Minnesota and it hasn't gotten the memo that it's SPRING, so there's still several feet of snow hanging around, which nixes the opportunity to get out with the stroller and go for the jogs I've been dreaming of and I've only fit my "quick workout" in the morning schedule in about a third of the time. 

The second is the TV blackouts until after Baby J goes to bed for the evening.  Before anyone jumps up and says "A HA! I told you so!," it's not me turning it on.  Mr. J likes to have a bit of tube time when he comes home between milkings and since our "playroom" is also the living room, the TV is a bit unavoidable.

Goals for the next few weeks:  

  • Get that work out in!  Even if it's just 15 minutes, it's something right?
  • Add a few more things to the cleaning schedule as the daily tasks become easier to complete quickly (like making the bed daily as opposed to once in awhile, etc.)
  • Make some play dates/mommy dates!  While we've been out and about lately, it's always great to connect with other mommy friends!

Guidelines to a Stay-Homer's Sanity - Recap!

Good morning everyone!  Now that the Guidelines series is completed, I thought I would do a handy-dandy recap to easily link to any and all of the individual rules without having to search the archives!  (Yes, I know, you're welcome!)
#1        #2        #3        #4      #5        #6        #7        #8       #9        #10


The Why Behind "Guidelines for a Stay Homer's Sanity"

First of all, thank you to any and all of you who have been following the "Guidelines to a Stay Homer's Sanity" series and/or Vacuuming in Pearls!  As a shameless plug: please feel free to like on Facebook, follow by email, and especially join as a member and comment on any post you've seen so far!  (Makes me feel like I'm not talking to an empty room ;) )

That being said, it's time to delve into the reason why I came up with my 10 Guidelines to begin with.  Stay-at-home parents (moms or dads) are particularly susceptible to battles with depression and anxiety (what I call the "Domestic Dumps").  People generally don't talk about it, or if they do, it's brushed off as whining from someone who is living the dream by "not having to work for a living."

Stay-homers are often characterized as "lazy," "moochers," "breeders with no greater ambition in life," and even "kept women."  For anyone who thinks we must, as a society, be more enlightened than this: most of these were pulled from comments on a recent article on Huffington Post.  Even well meaning working parents can let slip "how much easier" their spouse has it by being at home and keeping the house and raising the children.  ("You're so lucky!  You get to stay home and play with them all day!")

Add isolation from peers (no co-workers as a stay home parent), under appreciation (being a good home-maker is rarely met with daily praise at having accomplished cooking meals, cleaning the house and keeping children safe, sound and happy, it's simply expected), and being beyond over worked (imagine being no less than on-call 24/7!) to a projection of self-worth that is constantly being bombarded by societal and internal criticism and BOOM!  Hello to a caustic mix that can hardly help causing sadness, loneliness and feelings of overwhelming worthlessness!

These reasons are all part of why I set forth to lay down my ground rules, to try and keep the Domestic Dumps at bay!  Having a schedule, getting up and dressed for the day, and keeping active (Rules #1, #2, and #7) are all designed to give a purpose and sense of accomplishment to each day, something that all people, regardless of status, crave and require.  

Keeping a tidy (if not always spotless) home, avoiding the television, and getting out of the house (Rules #3, #4, and #8) are about creating a positive environment, where you can feel motivated and worthwhile, both in and out of the home.  You should feel good about where you spend your time!

Making time for your spouse (Rule #6) sounds like yet another duty to add to the already enormous list, but it's actually to make sure to reconnect with your partner.  It should be a reminder that you are not in this alone as well as a time to genuinely enjoy yourself and who you've chosen to share this life with.

Taking breaks on the weekends, time for yourself and simply being yourself (Rules #5, #9, and #10) are exactly what they appear to be!  Being a homemaker is too often referred to as "not real work" and so time off from the standard duties is seen as unnecessary and something to be resented.  Probably one of the most important deterrents to all the negative feelings that accompany the Domestic Dumps is breaking through those stereotypes and misconceptions and accepting that it is okay to relax, have breaks, and reconnect with what makes you, you.

Like the Hokey-Pokey you "put it all together" and at the very least, you have a solid immunization against the Domestic Dump syndrome!  Go forth and be happy, my friends!