Monday, April 29, 2013

Lazy Mom's Guide: One Store

Another in a series of posts to make you look like a better mom. Although this tip is good for pretty much everyone. 

This weekend I needed groceries, baby shoes, TP and sunscreen. I had a coupon about to expire for the grocery store, so I went there for the food. I went to a box store with an incorporated shoe store for the shoes. I intended to buy the sundries there, but for some reason they didn't sell those items (or they made it impossible to find - several laps later, I gave up).

So today's lunch break was dedicated to buying TP and sunscreen. It would have been much easier to make one trip and buy all the things. Plus, I made impulse buys at each of the three stores, so I would also have saved money.

Shopping at one store does sometimes require planning. For example, had I used the coupon last week I could have avoided the grocery store this week and just picked up fresh things at Target. And it may mean you can't play the coupon game (a habit I think sounds cool but have never actually done), but your sanity is better. Plan ahead. Go to one store per week (or every few days if you need). Buy paper goods at the grocery or groceries at the big box store - the savings will even out, and your sanity will be worth it.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

The First Six Months

Thanks to Revanche at A Gai Shan Life for the idea ...

Nick and I met online. And for several months, that's where a lot of our relationship took place - we IMed a lot (remember when you did that not at work?). We were living about an hour apart from each other - me in an apartment, he in a house with his sister. So for several years we drove back and forth every other weekend.

And in that first six months (or what I remember as the first six months - some of these things may have actually happened later, but memory is subjective), we learned a lot about each other. The role of family in our lives, and the role of friends. How we felt about and related to money (hint: we learned to actually talk about it). How we spent our free time. And what we saw in the future.

And we created a lot of memories in those months. Inside jokes we still use today. Fun times, and silly times. I knew right away this was it - after our first or second date I told a co-worker I wouldn't be dating anyone new anytime soon. And seven years later, I still don't think I'll be dating anyone else. And now we've created more memories, created our own little family and learned more about how to relate to each other. But if we hadn't had those first six months, I don't know where we'd be today.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

A Grown-Up House

You know those people who can entertain at the drop of a hat? Their house is always picked up. The house looks like someone actually thought about the decor. There's always something to serve, even if it's baby carrots and coffee ...

Yeah. I don't have one of those houses. I grew up like that (my mom's actually a very good entertainer), so I know it's not that the house is uncomfortable for the people who live there. I'm just too lazy. Even before I had the baby, I wasn't good at picking up - much less vacuuming, etc. Sometimes I notice cobwebs in the corners. Rarer still, I do something about them.

And sometimes it bothers me. This weekend I have a group of friends coming for breakfast. Luckily, they're laid-back friends who care more about the company than the actual house - and I'll make bacon, which means it will be a winner. Hailey's birthday party is in a few weeks. That's the type of event with mothers and grandmothers in attendance, so I'll probably tidy up for that and serve food out of serving dishes (thanks to my previous job, I have them in extreme abundance).

And someday, I probably will get in the habit of regularly doing just a little bit of maintenance to add up to a nice home. But for now, we finally have a couch that matches and isn't broken - so that's enough for me today. If you come to my house, pay attention to my delightfulness rather than my messiness.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Give Yourself a Break

This morning I woke up to a dusting of snow (which was expected to and did melt quickly). Hailey slept late (until about 8:00, which is a solid hour later than usual). And the house, as expected, had not cleaned itself overnight - the dishwasher remained unloaded, the floors remained neither swept nor vacuumed, the dust was solidly in place and the birthday party invitations were not yet addressed. And tonight is the night I have to make supper so that we can have leftovers for the rest of the week. Add that to my work stress (which is improved from a week ago, but still not a good situation), and I was one unhappy Juliet. 

So I made an executive decision. I did not want to go to work. Do I gave myself a work from home day. Baby got to sleep in before being bundled off to daycare. I took some chicken out to thaw, and I put it in the oven before going to pick up the little one. And I used my lunch break to vacuum. Things are still dusty and the invitations will be done shortly, but it was a good day overall. The work stress was still there, but I had time to get it done without worrying about pick-up time. 

I gave myself a break. And that little decision made my day. If you can work from home, do it. If you can't, maybe your break is waking up 10 minutes earlier to tidy up. Maybe it's calling a friend during your commute. Maybe your break is letting the house stay dirty for another day or two. Getting a pedicure while the kids are with their dad. Or maybe it's picking up pizza so you don't have to cook. I've done all these things at one time or another, and it's almost always worth it. Trust me - you're no good to your family or your work or even yourself if you're too tightly wound. You know your breaking point - give yourself a break before you get there. 

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Books: Dark Places

Dark Places
Gillian Flynn
345 pages

Dark Places is one of Gillian Flynn's earlier books (by "earlier," I mean before this summer's ubiquitous Gone Girl, which I liked but did not love). I happen to remember Flynn from Entertainment Weekly, which is my favorite magazine.

Dark Places follows Libby Day, and adult whose mother and sisters were murdered when she was a child. Libby testified that her brother, Ben, was the killer, and he's been in jail for the 25 years since. Libby has been drifting and living off donations, which are almost out. So when Lyle and the Kill Club (a local group of people obsessed with various murders and murderers) contact her and offer to pay her for helping them solve the crime (they believe Ben to be innocent), she takes them up on it for the money.

And to reveal too much more of the plot would be spoiling it. I can say that the narration shifts between Libby in the present day, Ben the day of the murders, and mom Patty the day of the murders. It's a stressful day for a lot of reasons (family is poor, Ben is a teenager, several pieces of bad news are delivered etc.). By the end of the book, Libby, the Kill Club and the reader all know true story of the murders.

Did I like it? The action was well-paced, the dialog is believable, and the story was enjoyable. However, I thought the ending was a little too tidy. A quick scan of Internet reviews show that I am in the minority here, but I though the deus ex machina was a little too unbelievable. So, my final verdict is that it's well-written but ultimately I wouldn't recommend it.

Did it pass the Bechdel test? Yes. Libby doesn't necessarily interact with many women (she's a loner), but Patty interacts with her sister Diane, and childhood Libby and her sisters Debby and Michelle talk amongst each other a lot.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Three Years

Today was our third anniversary. It was a cold, snowy day - quite the contrast from our beautiful, springy wedding day. We planned to go to the restaurant where we had our reception for a smelt fry (my first), but sick baby means that plans are postponed until tomorrow.

How has my life changed in the past three years? We lived together before we were married (scandal!), so it's easy to say not very much. And we've since had a baby, so it's easy to say in every way possible. But I think the real answer is somewhere in between.

I've learned that it's OK to sometimes give up control. We combined checking accounts, so I never even check it any more ... I used to check it at least once a day. But I know we both know how to live within our means, and I know he's honest with me when I ask how we're doing. And I do know how to check the account, so there's always a back-up plan.

I've learned to take other people into account. When you're single it's sometimes easier to make decisions, since it really only affects you. But it's nice to have a fully invested sounding board, as well as someone else to occasionally make decisions.

I think the best thing about our relationship is that we're great partners. Not in the sense that we split all chores 50/50 (although we each pull our weight) or that we always agree (although usually we can come to a conclusion we're both happy with). It's more about being complements. I'm somewhat prone to losing my shit, and Nick is a great calming influence on that. We each have skills the other lacks. And we know we don't have to take the world on alone. I loved being single, and I was great at it, but I love being married. I love you, Nick.

Monday, April 15, 2013

And Here's Where This Becomes the Mommy-est of Mommyblogs

Today, a good friend of mine ran the Boston Marathon. 25 miles of it, because some asshats bombed the finish line. She's OK, but obviously shaken. Running the marathon has been a goal of hers for years, and while 26.2 miles was going to be tough, I imagine it's even tougher to be forced to quit 1.2 miles from your goal.

In smaller news, my workday was not one I'd describe as gratifying. To put it mildly. To put it more directly, I counted the days left until my severance arrives. More than once.

And then at the end of the day I had to buy dishwasher detergent. Which isn't a big deal, unless one is cranky.

Anyway. I knew I couldn't bring my work attitude home. My family doesn't deserve that. And after being in a downward spiral (and being around others who were spiraling even faster), I was sick of it.

So I called my mom. And I picked up a pizza (already planned, but as it happens the best idea ever). And I made myself a vodka grape juice (which is a thing if that's the only mixer you have on hand). Strapped baby into the booster and gave her bits of cheese from my pizza.

She bounced up and down with each bite and made a yummy sound. I laughed at her. Nick laughed at her. And she pretended to get the joke, so we were all laughing together. And I forgot what I ever did for entertainment before I had a baby. And then she took a bath and I vacuumed and then smelled her clean baby hair. This is why I do it. This is why the world goes on. This is why people set goals. Not just because of babies. Because there's good things in the world. Because the small, simple moments can be the best. And because if there wasn't bitter, there wouldn't be sweet.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Through My Daughter's Eyes

I was invited to a wedding where the mother of the bride sang a song she wrote for her daughter with the title above. Not being much of a singer, here's my attempt to capture life through my daughter's eyes. 

In your eyes, the moments between when you wake up and when we get you must be the saddest of your day - you haven't seen your parents in about 10 hours, your diaper is full, you're hungry, and you're in a cage. Hopefully that sadness is balanced by the moments when you are snuggled on our chests sleeping - you were under the weather this weekend, so there were many warm baby cuddles. You sacked out on top of me, I covered you with a blanket, and we slept - or you slept and I read or watched TV. Lovely moments for all.

In your eyes, having a full diaper is usually better than having it changed. But a diaper change does mean being cold and wet, being on your back, and being totally out of control. I'll never understand the allure of a poopy diaper, but I can see why you wouldn't like the change.

In your eyes, a bucket is amazing. It's a hat, it can hold toys, it can be upside-down or right-side up. It echoes when you stick your face in it and talk. You can bang on it and make noise, or you can bang it up and down to make a different noise. You love toys that you can pound or pound on - including utensils, blocks, books, whatever. It would be great if we could all take such pleasure in simple toys and manipulating objects. Your smile every time you get the exact same result is my miracle.

In your eyes, clothes are just objects that hang off you. Your hair (which is getting thicker) doesn't cause angst. Baths are fun (but Mommy's showers are torture). Your pants are getting too short -another reason I wish it was summer - but you don't care. Socks and hats are the best, because you can take them off. We could all learn to be less self-conscious and distracted by the material.

You're an amazing baby, Hailey. I love when you discover things (today you played with the light switch and watched the light go on and off for a long time). I love your snuggly body. I love you. And I love seeing the world through your eyes.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

LMG: Baby Food

So there's a huge industry making baby food. And another industry selling items to make and store "healthier" baby food (steamers, processors, fancy ice cube trays for storage, etc.). I'm here to tell you that babies need none of these things (or at least not very much). Here's a short list of what a baby can eat that you can make in seconds. 
  • Steam in the bag veggies
  • Applesauce
  • Yogurt
  • Cottage cheese
  • Ripe bananas
  • Tiny pieces of bread
  • Baked or mashed potatoes (or sweet potatoes)
  • Avocados
  • When the baby gets a few teeth: sliced cheese, small veggies like peas, tortillas, cheerios, noodles, eggs, small pieces of basically whatever you're eating
See? Save yourself some money and hassle. I bought one box of rice cereal, and I've bought I think two small containers of baby food for travel. There's so much false hysteria in the baby industry - that doesn't mean you have to buy into it. 

Friday, April 5, 2013

LMG: Candles

Another in a series to help you look like a super-mom without doing all the work ...

When hosting any type of gathering, use candles to disguise the fact that you didn't have time (or, let's be honest, desire) to scour everything. 
  • Candles can mask odors (especially in the bathroom). 
  • Candlelight provides great ambiance, and dim lighting in general hides dust and dirty corners. 
  • Bordering the gathering area with candles sends a subtle message: Stay in this area (this is where I cleaned!). 
  • A candle grouping makes a great centerpiece/talking point/distraction. Just be sure that a large candle grouping includes unscented candles so the smell doesn't overpower the party. 
  • Candles in a glass vase (or cute juice cup or even empty jelly jar) will reflect off the shiny glass, which lets others believe that all your glass is that clean. 
Candles are cheap. You can put them nearly anywhere. They look great with greens (from the yard or a houseplant), or you can put them in a glass container with a little salt for an elegant look at a low price. Keep some on hand now. Stock up when they're on sale. 

Thursday, April 4, 2013

LMG: Every Other Night

Another tip from my future book, The Lazy Mom's Guide to Half-Assing It.

Cook lots of food. Way more than your family can possibly eat in one night (I realize this is probably easier with smaller families). Then you can have leftovers, and you'll only need to cook every other day.

Don't like leftovers? While some things are fine to serve again as they are, sometimes you may need to turn your leftovers into "new food." Here's a short list of foods that can easily be made with leftovers.

  • Soup: Shred or cube meat and/or veggies. Simmer with some broth or stock, or put it in the slow cooker. BAM! New food. Crusty bread really takes this to the next level. 
  • Pasta dishes: Again, cube meats or veggies. Toss with a jar of sauce and some noodles. To really fool 'em, top with cheese and heat through. 
  • Quesadillas/nachos: Cheese, tortillas or chips, and leftovers. That's it. You could also make burritos using basically the same principles. 
  • Loaded potatoes: Bake some taters (in the microwave for even more speediness) and top with leftovers. Use big potatoes and put a veggie on the side to make these a whole meal. 
See how easy this is? Now you can cook every other night!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

I'm Facing a Layoff

I've posted about work before, but now there have been some significant changes in my situation. So, to catch up:

  • I went back to my job after my maternity leave (August 1). But the commute was getting ridiculous, so I remained on the lookout for a new job.
  • I found a new job with, which I started February 4. 
  • On March 6, I was told that I'll be laid off effective May 10. DealChicken is restructuring, and nearly everyone in my position was let go (plus the person who hired me, and a number of other people). 
So I'm back on the hunt for a new job. I have some applications in, and I've made a few follow-up calls, but so far no hits. I have nearly six weeks before my job ends, but since I'm not spontaneous I'm looking at my options. 

Work full time
  • Pros: Will likely replace my full pay and benefits
  • Cons: 40 hours per week gone (obviously this is something I'm used to now, but it's a con nonetheless - there's a reason they pay you to work!), I don't actually have a job. 
Work part time
  • Pros: Steady income, free time to be an earth mother or freelance or catch up on Netflix
  • Cons: Likely an income hit, I don't have a part-time job lined up, no benefits
  • Pros: Total flexibility, potential income
  • Cons: Lack of security (this is huge for me), no benefits, I will have to hustle and do business-y stuff I'm not necessarily good at/motivated to do
Live off my severance/unemployment
  • Pros: Unlimited free time
  • Cons: This is a finite amount of money, and what exactly would I do all day? Also, if I give up my daycare spot there will be an added barrier if I go back to work, no benefits
Any thoughts/suggestions? Anyone been here before? Right now I'm leaning toward collecting unemployment and extending that by doing freelance work, possibly taking temp jobs, selling plasma and etc. But if the right job comes along and will take me, obviously I'll go that route. 

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Make Quick Cash

Note: I am not affiliated with Delve in any way besides what I've outlined below. I am not being compensated for this post, it's merely useful information I feel compelled to share. 

A few months ago (last year sometime) I signed up with Delve Research, thinking nothing would ever come of it. I figured I'd fill out a survey and promptly forget about it. I don't live in a large city, I'm not a noted expert in any field, and there's nothing in my demographic that set me apart from millions of other people.

But today I got a call about my third focus group opportunity. My first one took an hour and paid $100. My second one took two hours and paid $75 (and I got supper and one to go for Nick). I'm told this one will take about half an hour and pay $35 (this one is via phone). I'm pretty sure that's about the most money I can make legally ... and it's incredibly easy to share my opinion.

Here's a link: I don't know if there's a way to get referrals, but if there's an opportunity and you feel like mentioning I sent you there, go ahead. Otherwise, sign up. Maybe nothing will ever come of it ... or maybe you'll make some quick, easy cash.

Monday, April 1, 2013

The Lazy Mom's Guide to Half-Assing It

Part one of a series of tips designed to help moms (or anyone, really) look pulled together while doing the least work possible. 

Don't make cookies. Each one has to be dropped and formed, and most likely they end up odd-sized and/or touching. Make bars - use the exact same batter and press it into a greased pan. It will probably take a few minutes longer to bake, but you're not actually doing anything during the bake time. You still get a tasty, gooey dessert with much less work!