Monday, May 21, 2012

Finding My New Balance

Today is the first day of my second week on my new job. I am officially a work-at-home mom, running my photography business, going to school to get my MBA, and of course, taking care of my little munchkin! You can read more about my decision on my photography blog. I'm still in shock that I am officially self-employed and I get to spend my time doing the things I love most. I feel so incredibly blessed and lucky.

As with most things in life, this transition is requiring me to consider balance. Balance is something I've struggled with for a long time now, which is why I felt the need to grow my business and work for myself. Working a 40 hour work week, running a business, taking care of a baby, a husband, a cat, a dog, and a house, will only last you so long before you break into a cold sweat every night and think you're going to have a heart attack. I know, because I was just about there.

One week in, and I'm realizing how much my life has already changed. Little things that I took for granted, like a schedule, or a work calendar, or my standard work outfits are all over the place now. Instead of having very little time to do the things I want to do, I have all the time in the world to do everything - and everything is a lot. My business is growing - as are my kiddo and the amount of reading I have to do for school. The last thing I ever expected was to feel overwhelmed by this change. I didn't expect to be more off-balance before becoming more balanced.

It's like cleaning the house - you start with something simple, and before you know it, the entire contents of that wretched junk closet are in your living room. It gets more organized eventually, but the room and the closet get a bit messier before they get cleaner.

I'm excited to find my new balance. I also know it will be a process, and may include a few more of those cold sweats before things become their new "normal." I do know though, that when I get there this change will be one of the best things I've ever done.

Monday, April 16, 2012

What's for Dinner? Crock Pot Lasagna

This weekend I had a photo shoot late in the afternoon. I knew there was a chance that I may not be able to make it back in time for dinner, and wanted to have something ready to go for my husband and kiddo. I needed a quick and easy crockpot meal, that required zero additional steps once everything was in the pot. Of course, I turned to Pinterest, and found a bazillion pins for crock pot lasagna. I've seen this before and turned my nose up to it, because really, who the heck makes lasagna in a crock pot? But I was desperate, so I threw it together, crossed all my crossables, and fully intended to pick up a pizza on the way home.

It was awesome. In fact, I'll say it was the best lasagna I've ever had. (Sorry mom). Slow cookers are great because they can be convenient, but are also wonderful because they give food so much more flavor. I even forgot the ricotta cheese, and it was still awesome. (By the way, if you ever do that - just double the mozzarella, parmesan, and egg, and add a little sauce to the mix to keep it moist). It's a quick cook in the crock pot, so this isn't a leave it all day meal, but if you need something quick and easy and will be gone for a few hours, this rules.

Crock Pot Lasagna

Photo Credit - Kraft Foods

  • 1lb ground turkey or lean ground beef
  • 1 jar pasta sauce (about 2.75 cups)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1.75 cups ricotta cheese
  • 1.75 cups mozzarella cheese, divided
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese, divided
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
  • 6 lasagna noodles, uncooked
  • Brown meat in a large skillet and drain.
  • Stir in pasta sauce and water, warm slightly.
  • Mix ricotta, 1.5 cups mozzarella, 2 tbsp parmesan, egg, and parsley.
  • Spoon 1 cup of meat sauce into slow cooker.
  • Layer as follows - noodles (break to fit), cheese, sauce, noodles, cheese, sauce, noodles, sauce, cheese (or really, however you want to layer it). I topped it with more mozzarella and parmesan.
  • Cover with lid. 
  • Cook on low heat. This part will depend on your crock pot. The recipe calls for 4-6 hours, mine took about 3 hours.

Source: Kraft Foods

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Motherhood is Not a Competition

A few weeks ago I saw a quote on Pinterest. It read "Good moms have sticky floors, messy kitchens, laundry piles, dirty ovens, and happy kids." Looking around my house with floors that haven't seen a mop in weeks, stainless steel that hasn't seen love in months, and an overflowing laundry basket, I re-pinned it. It made me feel better.

This morning I popped onto Pinterest (dangerous when you're in a time crunch, by the way). And saw the same quote. The "pinner" had captioned it with "This quote really pisses me off! I have clean floors, folded laundry, toys put away, family fed, clean bathrooms (most days anyway...) Does that make me a bad mom, or just good at time management and organization????"

Before I go any further, I need to say that the pinner, and fellow commenters are good friends of mine. They will read this post. I have SO much respect for them, and this post is in no way aimed at them directly.

The hair on my back went up. My pinning friends are stay-at-home moms. My working mom defense went on full alert. I'm good at time management and organization. I also work two jobs, work 7 days a week, and on weekdays, work anywhere from 12-15 hours, with travel thrown in. We do this and still barely make ends meet. I work my ass off, and yes, I have dirty floors, and yes, I am a good mom.

I hopped in the shower, fuming quite a bit at what I'd just seen, and I realized, this whole thing, this whole quote, this whole competition between mothers, is just freaking ridiculous. Of COURSE the quote made my friends angry. I saw a bumper sticker a few weeks ago that said "People who work hard, vote Republican." Being a very hard working democrat, I wanted to drive the car off the road. It hurt my feelings. So for my SAHM friends, who also work very hard on raising their kids and keeping their homes, I can see how the quote would make them feel that their clean floors and folded laundry makes them poor mothers. For the record, it's not true.

Why are moms so competitive?? Is it because we are incredibly insecure? Or is it because we are crazy control freaks who feel like the entire world needs to agree with our every move as parents and wives? I've never ever met a mom who doesn't have a little snark in them about the way another mom parents. I think some of it is jealousy (most days I would give anything to be able to have the time to be with my kiddo all day and have a cleaner house), but I think a lot of it is that we need to believe that what we are doing is the best possible thing for our children.

Newsflash mommies - it is. You do what is best for YOUR children, and YOUR family. You do what you NEED to do for YOUR children and YOUR family.

So, moms of the world (myself included), get off your high horses. It doesn't matter if you stay at home, work, breastfeed, bottle feed, co-sleep, baby wear, cry it out, ferber, schedule naps, play outside, or wear freaking wool in the summer and hide in a cave with bears. Stop being so damn defensive. Be happy with your choices, and respect others' choices. You have nothing to prove to anyone but yourselves.

I've removed the dirty floors pin from my Pinterest page. I know my mom friends with clean floors, folded laundry and happy kiddos are just as good of a mom as those of us (SAHM and working moms) whose homes may not be so neat and tidy. In the end, it doesn't matter, and judging others for their parenting choices and housekeeping skills is just ridiculous. In the end, we all have one thing in common - we love our kids. Motherhood is such an incredible gift - embrace that you get to share this gift with other moms. It really would make this whole "mom world" much more enjoyable.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

You Know You're a Parent When

I spend a lot of time thinking about all of the things I say and do now that I'm a mom that never would have come out of my mouth or happened before parenthood. I've decided to share these instances in small, quick "You Know You're a Parent When" posts, but here's a list of some of the things that have happened to me so far that make me giggle.

You Know You're a Parent When...

1. You can brush your teeth, change your contacts, make an entire meal, brew a pot of coffee, put on your makeup, and get completely dressed...with one hand.

2. You are walking out the door, baby in tow, and you realize there is poop on your shirt. Instead of rushing inside to change your shirt, you shrug and hope the Tide Pen will do the trick when you reach your destination.

3. You find yourself singing to "Yo Gabba Gabba" at the top of your lungs in the car, when you realize the kid's been asleep for 15 minutes.

4. You tell your husband you have to go potty.

5. You take a bite of your dinner and exclaim "Yum yum!"

6. You don't even know the real words to LMAFO's "Sexy and I Know It" but you sure can belt out the Elmo version.

7. You sway. Even when you're not holding a baby. Like at work when you're talking to co-workers, and they wonder why they feel sea-sick when they talk to you.

8. You have a song for every routine thing you do. Like the tubby song. Or the socks and shoes song. Or the wash your hands song. And you find yourself singing them out loud in public, even when your kiddo isn't with you.

9. You wear a baby monitor on your hip. Because, really, what's sexier?

10. You get slapped in the face, bit on the arm, headbutted, and pinched, but you still can't resist smooching that perfect little face when they look at you and say "Sowwy Mumma."

This gig makes me laugh. Every single day.

What are some of your "Wow, I'm a parent" moments?

Monday, March 12, 2012

Toddlers and Television

When you have children, there's a long list of things you "shouldn't" do. Don't give them a pacifier in the first week. Don't react every time they cry. Don't put them in their crib when they're newborns. Don't give them a bath every night. Don't let them watch TV.

Guess what? I've done every single one of them. And you know what? My kid isn't damaged in the least. In fact, I have to say, she's pretty damn smart.

The point of today's post isn't to demean or put down any other person's parenting style. In fact it's quite the opposite. As I talk about how we use television in our house, I encourage parents who struggle with the "do's" and "do not's" of parenting to do what works for them, in their house, with their individual children.

I'm warning you, this will be a brutally honest post, so if you are squeamish towards moms and dads that do things in their own way, I urge you to stop reading here.

My child watches television. She watches it almost every day. While we try to limit it to 30 minutes, max, occasionally she'll watch up to an hour of tv. Recently a report came out that said that children under two should not get any screen time at all. Of course this created an internet flurry of worried parents wondering how in this day in age they could re-arrange their lives so that their kids avoid the screen completely. While I'm not trying to de-bunk the research done by any organization regarding children and television, I am advocating for parents to know their children and know if television is right for them.

Warning - this is about to get a tad braggy.

Molly is 17.5 months old. Her vocabulary is above average for her age. She is incredibly social. She understands and follows directions regularly. As parents, we do not feel that a little television is going to hinder her development.

Here are the four ways we use TV in our house:

1. As an Educational Tool
One of my favorite things to do is watch TV with Molly on my lap. We sing, we clap, we dance - television gets her EXCITED! There is a segment on Yo Gabba Gabba (her favorite show) called the "Dancy Dance." Famous people, like Tony Hawk, Elija Wood, and the band Sugarland join the characters and come up with their own simple dance moves which they teach the characters and all do together. My jaw dropped to the floor a few months ago when Molly began to correctly do the "Chippy Chippy Chomp" along with her tv friends. Over the past few weeks she's began playing along with DJ Lance as he jumps, claps, "raises the roof" and spins around. She points to doggies, kitties, and babies, and she sings along to the Elmo theme song. She's learning to be a mover and incorporate dance and music into her life. Are there other ways to have this happen? Sure - we sing and dance without the tv all the time, but this is another means that truly speaks to her.

2. As a Babysitter
Gasp!! I said it! Any parent who allows their child to watch tv and swears up and down that it has never ever been used as a babysitter, even for a few minutes, is lying to your face. Sometimes it just makes life easier. Our mornings are very hectic (as they are for most families). One of us showers while the other has breakfast with Molly. Then we switch, and the non-showering parent gets her dressed. Then she grabs her blanket, her doggie, her milk, and her rocking chair, and settles in for an episode of Yo Gabba Gabba while we run around pulling together lunches, walking the dog, getting ourselves dressed, pounding a cup of coffee, and eventually sprinting out the door. For us, it's necessary, and for her, it literally is the highlight of her morning. (Really - you should hear her squeal as her Gabba friends come on the screen!)

3. As Quiet Time
Have you ever just wanted to crawl under a blanket, lay on the couch, and watch TV? Well, so does my kid. Kids are BUSY. They're loud, they run around, their brains are working overtime trying to just take in every little thing in this new world around them. And sometimes that makes them tired or cranky - just like you, and just like me. When Molly needs quiet time, she reads books, or she watches TV. It helps her to re-charge, and it makes her a happier person.

4. As Bonding Time
How many times have you taken your kids to their favorite playground, or made them their favorite meal? As parents, the greatest feeling we have is doing something we know our kids love. I absolutely love sitting down for a segment of Elmo's World with Molly, and on my sleep-in mornings, she and Daddy hang out in the basement in front of the big screen and watch Gabba or Fraggle Rock. All we need is that one look or big hug that says "Wow Mom, wow Dad, thanks for doing this with me." We snuggle and sing, and sometimes, that 30 minutes in front of the tv together is really, really special.

As I said before, you need to do what works for you and your family.  This works for us, and tv time can be a really beneficial and special time in our house, along with story time, meal time, and play time.

How do you use television with your kids? Share your ideas. It's a judgement free space. 

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Our Dinner Scare

Last night I had quite a scare at home. Jim was at class, so it was just me and Molly hanging out together for dinner. We had pulled chicken and cucumbers, both of which Molly has eaten before without any problem.

At one point, late in the meal, she put a whole cucumber slice in her mouth. She's a good eater, and chews well, so I told her to be careful and watched her closely. Because I watched her closely I noticed her eyes get large, her mouth open up, no sound come from her throat, and her skin start to turn purple. Because I let her have an entire cucumber slice, my baby was choking.

I panicked hard. I remember screaming "No, no, no Molly, NO, NO, NO" and I swiped my finger down the back of her throat. The piece was down there quite a ways, and was most definitely blocking her airway. Luckily it was easily removed, and I crumbled in a heap on the floor crying and rocking my baby girl. I have never in my life been so terrified, and even as I write this hours later, I'm tearing up.

I'm not writing this to be scolded for giving my child a piece of food that was obviously too large for her. I'm writing it because I think that as our kids get older, we start to get more comfortable, and begin to forget some of those safety measures we were so anal about in the first year or two of their lives. Once they get the hang of it, things like eating, or climbing, or running become such a normal part of our days, and we forget that our kids are still little, and not fully capable of taking care of themselves. And while cuts and bruises are bound to happen, it doesn't take much for something routine to become quite serious quite quickly.

My husband associated it with riding a motorcycle. He says the motorcycle becomes deadly when you stop riding it like a motorcycle, when you take it for granted and forget the dangers that come with riding. Don't take your kiddos independence for granted, and don't forget they are still kiddos. I'll be watching with a much closer eye after last night.

Monday, January 30, 2012

What's for Dinner? Tortellini Bake in Creamy Lemon Sauce

If you've never heard of Pinterest, you are either living under a rock, or in your third year of law school (that was for you V). If you're not on there, find your closest friend, (who most likely is not living under said rock) and offer to trade just about anything you have for an invitation (husbands included, kiddos excluded). Within the site you'll find everything from gorgeous home decorations, photo ideas, wedding details, funny quotes, and recipes. And I'm not just talking "how to make a taco salad" recipes, I'm talking "how to make a taco salad that you'll be eating and talking about for the next week" recipes. Deeeeeelish.

Photo Credit - (Because
mine didn't look like this, and let's be honest,
yours won't either). But it still tastes
damn good!
Last night I tried out a new Pinterecipe (I made that up, like it?). My husband took one bite and said "Yup, this is what eat from now on." Sadly, if that were the case, we'd weigh in at a million pounds a piece, but for every now and again, this dish rules.

I made just a few teeny tiny changes to the original recipe. Here's my version, and the original is linked below. I highly recommend prepping the ingredients before you begin to cook unless you are some sort of crazy kitchen cooking wizard.

Tortellini Bake in Creamy Lemon Sauce


  • 20 oz cheese tortellini (I used garlic and herb)
  • 4 oz bacon (about 5 strips), crumbled and divided
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 2 tbs flour
  • 2 c milk
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp dry basil
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 medium lemon - zested (2 tsp) and juiced (1 tbsp)
  • 2 cups loosely packed fresh spinach, roughly chopped
  • 3/4 cup grated mozzarella cheese, divided
  • 3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese, divided
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • Fill a large stockpot with water and bring to a boil. Add tortellini and cook according to package instructions (NOTE: Do not overcook - tortellini only takes 3-5 minutes to cook). Drain and return to stockpot.
  • While tortellini cooks - in a medium-sized skillet, cook the bacon over medium heat. Cook until crisp. Remove and place on paper towels to drain and cool. 
  • Reserve two tablespoons of bacon drippings in the pan, and discard the rest.
  • Add garlic and cook until fragrant and tender, about 1 minute.
  • Add flour to pan, and whisk for 1 minute.
  • Slowly add milk and continue to stir with a whisk until smooth.
  • Add salt, pepper, basil, and red pepper flakes, and bring sauce to a simmer.
  • Add lemon zest and juice. Continue to whisk until thickened, about 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat.
  • Crumble bacon. Reserve one tablespoon, and add the rest to the pasta mixture.
  • Add spinach, 1/2 cup mozzarella and 1/2 cup of parmesan cheese. Add sauce and stir gently to combine.
  • Place mixture in a casserole or baking dish and top with remaining mozzarella cheese, parmesan cheese, and bacon.
  • Cover with foil or baking dish lid, and bake for 20 minutes. Remove foil or lid and bake for an additional 5-10 minutes until cheese on top is melted, and dish is bubbly.
I hope you like it. It's a bit of work, but so very worth it! Yum yum!