Thursday, October 30, 2014

DIY Halloween Costumes: Finding Nemo

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This year I wanted our family to have a "theme" costume. I know it sounds dorky but come on, it's so cute!! After weeks of researching and trying to find the best DIY costumes, Hubs suggested that LW go as Nemo, his favorite character (we just learned).
Through good 'ole Pinterest I found this tutorial for No-Sew Finding Nemo Costume. I bought brand new hoodies from Kohl's for this costume and I know it sounds ridiculous, but they were really nice and definitely will work for us for the rest of the winter, so I wanted to sew the stripes on and remove them after Halloween rather than hot glue on the stripes and ruin the sweaters.

I used the instructions from this tutorial (same as above link) and bought 1/2 yard of both black and white felt to use for the stripes. I also wanted to make a Dory costume for myself, so I bought a sheet of yellow felt to make my fins and tail.

The whole process was a snap. I simply measured by eyeballing how much felt I needed for each section of stripe and cut with a rotary blade.

I stitched everything together with a long basting stitch (4.5) and that was it! For all three costumes it took me under two hours.

Hubs had the most difficult costume to sew because I bought his hoodie in a high-performance fleece, which had WAY too much stretch. The stretch in that material vs. my machine vs. cheap felt was pretty rough. His costume took the longest and still didn't come out beautifully, but the theme is obvious, especially when standing with LW and I.

My Dory took about 5 minutes and LW's Nemo costume took about 45 min. Dory only used one sheet of yellow felt, a scrap of black and a blue sweater:
For Dory I just tacked those little ovals on the elbows with a few basting stitches for "fins" and used the center of the felt between where the ovals were cut as my "tail". I stitched the yellow to a matching scrap of black felt that was slightly larger so it looked like it had piping.

In total with hoodies and felt materials (I already had needles, thread and a sewing machine) this family costume cost under $40. I used coupons for both Kohl's and Hobby Lobby.

Here are the finished Nemo and Marlin. Full family photo coming soon!
If you're stumped on what to be this Halloween, it's not too late! This costume comes together in no time.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Monday, October 20, 2014

Meal Plan: 10/20-10/24

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Monday: Chicken Saag with naan and hummus – I soooooo rarely buy anything premade, but this weekend while Hubs and I did our Costco shopping he was hungry for Indian food and that is something that's out of my wheelhouse so we picked up a package of Basus brand Chicken Saag. I love giving LW hummus as a snack to dip anything in so since we were already buying the saag and hummus I splurged and bought naan as well. I hope it's all delicious!

Tuesday: Chicken Noodle Soup – I made a big pot of my pressure cooker chicken stock  this weekend so it will be put to good use on Tuesday in my own recipe of chicken noodle soup. I don't do anything fancy, but having homemade stock to start the pot makes the soup way more tasty. Half of this batch will be going to a family from church who just welcomed a little bundle two weeks ago. Welcome to the world, Isla!

Wednesday: Leftovers!

Thursday: Hamburger Pie – This recipe is a winter staple in our house. I use about equal parts spinach and ground beef for the "meat" portion to bulk up the healthy greens in our diet - which always seem to be lacking! I love winter cooking because I can put spinach in every casserole and no one notices. I will be making one XL hamburger pie this week to split as it's my week to cook for our friends family.

Friday: Tortellini w/ Spinach & Tomatoes – Because I had to buy spinach for the hamburger pie, I wanted to make sure I utilized it as much as I could this week (I plan on blanching and freezing the rest). This recipe I found on Pinterest and have seen it marked, like so many others, as "the best crock pot recipe I've ever found on Pinterest" which usually red-flags me into thinking it's a scam link but this recipe is CRAZY DELICIOUS. It truly is the best recipe I've found on Pinterest and I think about this tortellini in my sleep. It is so, so so good and couldn't be easier. I use: Cream cheese, spinach, tortellini, 2 cans diced tomatoes (I like to use the Italian blend when I have it, otherwise I add an onion and a few cloves of garlic) and home made chicken stock. Low for 5-6 hours and HOLY MACKEREL my mouth is watering. Try this one!!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Meal Plan: 10/14-10/17

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Due to travel I didn't meal plan last week and I'm a day late this week, but here it is!
Tuesday: Sloppy Joes This is my favorite recipe for sloppy joes. I add a little BBQ sauce to it to make it a little saucier. It's so delicious! 

Wednesday: Creamy Tomato Orzo Soup It's Lauren's week to cook and this is her pick! I can't wait to try it for lunch on Thursday - I will be at SYTYCD with my best friend Molly on Wednesday night!

Thursday: Shrimp Scampi Pasta w/ Tomatoes I feel like comfort food this week, if you couldn't tell. This buttery, garlicy, carbohydrate-filled dish fits the bill. 

Friday: Chicken Pot Pie w/ Biscuit Crust Every Friday night I love to host a crowd. This dish will be hearty and homey and fill our bellies with delight! Our guests will be bringing dessert :D Mmmm. 

Traveling with a Toddler

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Hello!!! We just got back from a magical Disney vacation and I'm not exaggerating when I say...it was REALLY Magical!

This was the first time I had traveled by air with LW. I always seem to underestimate his uncanny ability to adapt to any situation and any environment. I will save how amazed I am by him for another post (perhaps) but just know that I learned a lot about myself as a mother and a lot about my son as a toddler on this trip!

Now, onto the goods. We were in Disney for 5 days, 4 nights. We did the parks 3 of the 5 days - the first and last days we reserved only for travel and visiting relatives. Here are some things I learned:

Baby carriers are priceless.




I babywore throughout the trip, but particularly for flying, wearing LW in the Ergo was absolutely invaluable. I didn't worry about chasing him through the airport or even have to take him off of me to go through security. I simply walked through the metal detector (since there's no metal on the Ergo you can wear it through) and was on my way with him. We own the Ergo Performance and I strongly suggest every current or expecting mama acquire something from the Ergo line. On the plane, I was able to wear him for take off and landing, which was helpful since he was asleep for part of the trip home. 

I also used my home made ring sling a thousand times throughout the trip - while waiting in lines for rides (and on the rides) especially. This is an easy carrier to shove under the stroller and it's super breathable. It wasn't too warm at all to wear him and he goes in it very easily. The ring sling evenly distributed his weight across my back, shoulder and hip and gave me two free hands so I was able to comfortably stand and rest or enjoy the rides without worrying about keeping a hand on him. He was securely fastened to me and the rides amazed him so much that he sat very still every time. 

Don't plan for naps, just take them as they come.

LW was a champ at napping on the go this trip, which he's never been great at before. I think he just got so tired he realized he better catch some Zzz's when he had the chance. He took several ring sling and stroller naps. In the stroller, we made sure to have the canopy open, his hat on (when he'd allow it) and a personal fan blowing on his face. Because the weather in Florida while we were there was extremely hot and humid, I wanted to be sure he was as cool as possible. Also, we took up every opportunity to visit an air conditioned attraction at the parks.

Let toddlers run. And SWIM!
Our first day was spent traveling to arrive to our destination and because of the extreme change to routine, LW was really good about clinging to me and sitting in the Ergo. However, this meant he wasn't out and about exploring on his own two feet the way he usually is at home. I learned the hard way by his lack of sleep the first two nights that this kid needs time and space every day to run around. Of course I didn't let him more than a few feet away from me at any time but anywhere I found a nice, quiet wide-open space, I let him run around and explore. 

Another thing we learned that helped wear him out was swimming. Every day we took about an hour to teach him to swim. He had to blow bubbles, reach to "swim" to someone and kick his feet. When he had enough every time he would put his arms up and say "Done!". This was a great, fun way to help him burn off a little steam, teach him something, and stay cool. 

Don't have any expectations for sleep. 
LW never sleeps with us at home, so I naturally expected travel to be the same. However, he proved me wrong immediately the first night of our trip. I thought for sure he'd be exhausted from all the travel, but instead he spent most of the night squawking and being a tyrant. I brought him in bed with me and was able to get a few hours of sleep, but it wasn't very restful...it was actually really frustrating for me. Once I let go of the notion that he "had" to sleep in the provided pack n' play for his usual 12 hours per night and just followed his lead, the nights were much more restful and enjoyable for both of us. 

There is no such thing as too many toys, diapers or snacks on a plane. 

The flight down we got lucky and he was just occupied enough by the two figurines and one book we had for him....in addition to my wallet, the Skymall magazine and safety brochure for the plane. During the trip, we made sure to acquire little things everywhere we visited and kept them in a secret bag until we were on the plane. I filled my regular diaper bag with toys and books he'd never seen before so the entire plane ride home he was entertained. When he seemed disinterested in one toy, we rotated to a book and when that got old, we went to a snack. Toy, book, snack, repeat. He was an angel on the flight...except....

I didn't expect him to need so many diapers on the flight. I changed him 3 times in 3 hours and it wasn't enough. "Things" had gotten a little "irregular" for him while we traveled and he opted to make up for it while 33,000ft above sea level. I will never make that mistake again! We decided that everyone in the party must have at least 2 diapers and a small pack of wipes in their bag at all times throughout the trip. There was one other time on our trip where I had no more diapers with me and he had to go commando on the ferry ride out of Epcot because I didn't want the dirty diaper to irritate his bottom. OOPS! Luckily, he held it together and didn't have any accidents sans diaper. 

Don't be shy about changing diapers.
Don't get me wrong, we were discrete every time but when you're traveling to/from Disney World...nearly every person around you has children with them so no one is offended by changing diapers. I changed LW on my lap or on the floor almost anywhere we were. In the parks there were bathrooms at every turn with nice changing stations but in the airport or on the plane? Forget it. I whipped a diaper change out right on my lap or on the floor in the terminal and no one minded. I made sure to ask, "Are you offended if I change my son's diaper right here?" to those around me but everyone laughed and said, "Not at all.". It was a courtesy to ask, and I was relieved to hear no one minded a bit. 

Umbrella strollers are a necessity. GOOD umbrella strollers. 
Traveling is one of those things that you hurry up and wait to hurry up again. An umbrella stroller is one of those things I had but never really used because I love my "Escalade" (aka Graco Trekko) so well. On this trip I learned how important a really good quality umbrella stroller is because you can't always bring your super stroller with you

I'm not talking the little one you got from your registry. I'm talking....do your research and get a pimp-ass-mack-daddy-bitchin' umbrella stroller. Because the canopy on the some umbrella strollers isn't wide enough to cover baby in the sun, some seats do not recline enough to accommodate a nap and the wheels have a mind of their own....not to mention, folding flat in the time between running to catch the tram and the tram leaving without you is e-s-s-e-n-t-i-a-l. I saw many a parent get left behind because their strollers were stubborn. Not cool. I will be doing my research and saving my pennies for one of those "pimp-ass-mack-daddy-bitchin' umbrella strollers" for the next trip. 

Car seats: Bring your own!
Having my own car seat with that I knew how to install myself and how to adjust was a beautiful thing. A friend let me borrow her car seat bag for the flight and car seats are free to check. On the way home I was able to fit my actual luggage (I travel very light) inside the car seat bag so I had another hand free. Unfortunately, the airline definitely drug the car seat bag without using the wheels provided on the bag, so I will be replacing my friend's bag as there are now holes in it. The good news is, because I had my luggage in the bag as well, the car seat had an additional layer of protection and didn't get any wear from the trip. 

Now, I know many prefer to purchase a seat for their child on the flight and fly with them in the car seat. This choice is purely your own to make. For our family, I felt what was best was to travel holding LW. However, when it is time to buy him a seat after he is 2 years old, I will most likely have him fly in the car seat for comfort alone. He knows his car seat and is very comfortable in it. We have the Combi Coccoro and it was the perfect seat to travel with. Super compact and lightweight. It fit with plenty of room to spare in this car seat bag and in the rental car, which was a VW Jetta.

There it is! Sorry, I know it was a beast but these are all things I hope will help other parents travel a little easier with their tots! 
Have a Magical Day :) 

Thursday, October 2, 2014

On Being a Work At Home Mom...and Marriage

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A post has been floating around the mom forums lately titled "Being a Stay-at-Home Parent is a Luxury...for Your Spouse" and it's lit the fire in me to write the post about what it's like to both stay at home and work.

If you don't know; I work from home four days per week and go into the office one day per week. I truly have the best of both worlds because I am able to be home and experience every first that our son experiences and still take a day to put on my career hat and slip out the door without being covered in scrambled egg mush.

My husband works a traditional office job away from home full time. On my days in the office, one of our moms spends the day with our son.

A few weeks ago, both grandmas were on vacation and Hubs had to work from home while I went into the office for the day.

Typically on my day in the office, I rush home after work to pick up our son or get dinner on the table if one of the grandmas is dropping him off. On this day, I had no reason to rush home so I went out after work to run some errands.

About 10 minutes from when I would normally be home from work Hubs called me in a desperate tone, "Where are you? When will you be home?"

During the day he had posted a status claiming that while he never considered it easy for me to work at home and raise our son, he had no idea how truly difficult it was until he had to do it himself.

While on the phone with him I chuckled, "So...what's for dinner?" and he said (while our son crashed through the house in the background), "I don't...I don't know. I can't...We're going out. I'm done."

I can try to say how I feel at the end of the day in so many words but having him experience it was such a huge sense of relief to me. Not because I wanted him to feel miserable, but because I wanted him to understand. I felt so alone having to take on the career world and the mom world myself I just wanted someone to say, "You're right. It is damn hard." When I heard his tone I felt a whole bucket of empathy and satisfaction, all at once.

Now I don't want anyone to misunderstand, my husband is a wonderful man. He has always been a stellar father but something about our experience in this "Life Swap" that day changed the way we both parented. We became so much more understanding of one another's needs and experiences.

Recently, he was feeling very fatigued. He said, "Gosh it's 9:30 and for the second night in a row I could just go to sleep right now. I'm so exhausted. What have I been doing so much that has wiped me out like this?!" and I laughed. "You're being a great dad." I told him, followed by, "That's how I feel every day."

Now when I'm ready to turn in at 9:30 he doesn't say, "Won't you stay up and watch this show with me?" instead, he nods in understanding and says, "Goodnight. I love you."

Every day I love that man more and the longer we are parents, the stronger our marriage grows.

Working is hard. Parenting is hard. Doing both is really hard. But knowing someone has felt what I'm feeling and is there to hold me up when I'm fumbling through it is the biggest blessing of all.

So let's all stop placing blame on who has it worse...or better. Life is just hard. But it's also really worth it. You're where you are because of the choices you've made. I'm so thankful because marrying that dude was my best choice ever. 

Monday, September 29, 2014

Meal Plan: 9/29-10/3

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Monday: Sweet Potato, Chicken and Quinoa Soup 

Tuesday: Slow cooker beef stew w/ peas and mashed potatoes
Hubs requested this one and I HATE using canned cream soups (or any canned soups) but I do have some from my never-ending stash from before I was wise to the world of food. Best to use them than waste them. This is the meal I am sharing with my friend Lauren's family this week – we share the mindset of 'everything is okay in moderation', including canned soups :)
Wednesday: Leftovers (My office day)
Thursday: Quesadillas
I love having cheater nights of something so simple for dinner. Some families make breakfast for dinner, we make quesadillas when we want to be lazy and eat comfort food.
Friday: Whole roasted lemon-herb chicken, roasted parmesan broccoli, pasta.