Thursday, December 31, 2009

Best of Laughing Through the Chaos - 2009 - Right where I want to be

We've been doing good letting the baby cry it out at night lately. We haven't caved, and we're all surviving.

But, tonight? Tonight I really needed to cuddle my baby. I needed those quiet, tranquil moments when she's cuddly and close, when she's out like a light and even snoring at times.


Yesterday I started reading, Down Came the Rain. The book is written by Brooke Shields, and it's all about her struggle through postpartum depression after the birth of her daughter, Rowan. I can clearly remember the exact place I was standing in Barnes and Noble the first time I saw her book.

I was pregnant, picked up the book, and quickly put it back after thumbing through a few pages. Some of the words I was reading were just appalling. I didn't want to read more. It seemed pretty dark, and I wasn't going to go through that - so, I put it back and didn't think much of it. I moved on to other books about fetal development, labor, and baby showers.

But, after having Kaylee and waging my own battle with postpartum depression, I've really been curious about what she shared in her book, and what she went through. I think it's a pretty brave thing for a celebrity like herself to share her story and put it out there.

Well, let me tell you that I'm glued to the book, and although there are things she writes about that I can't relate to, there are plenty of things that are stark reminders of my early postpartum life.

She talks about feeling disoriented in her own home during the few days following her daughter's birth. Feeling like everyone but her was caring for her baby because, physically, she could not. She talks about how the majority of her time spent with the baby was when people would bring the baby to her for feeding. She talks about feeling like the neverending cycle of crying, sleepless nights, and feedings wouldn't end. And she talks about feeling like a failure for not being able to do some of the most basic tasks of motherhood, and therefore feeling disconnected from and unfamiliar with her very own baby.

Those are things that resonated with me. And it took me back. It reminded me how far I've come. It was not a place I wanted to be. It was certainly not where I envisioned I would be.

I remember feeling almost like a bystander in my baby's life for the first week - just standing by and feeling completely helpless. In some ways, I was. It hurt to turn over in bed, to get out of bed, to walk to the bathroom, to go to the bathroom. I was in so much pain that it was hard to focus on anything else.

And my family knew that. And they were there for me every step of the way. They alternated nights staying with Dennis and I for the first week. They assumed full baby duty during the nighttime hours so we could attempt to actually sleep.

I remember thinking to myself that I would never be able to sleep again. I really believed that. I was so exhausted and tired that it seemed that the ability to fall asleep had escaped me. I was too busy trying to sleep and not being able to, that everyone else had to take care of my baby for me. I felt like the show was going on without me. I wondered if my baby even knew who her mother was, because I certainly wasn't the one spending the majority of the time with her. In my illogical and sleep-deprived mind, I wondered if I'd be able to bond with her, or if some magical window of prime bonding time had passed us by.

I loved my baby the instant she was born. She amazed me. I was in awe of her, and I loved her with everything I had. But, not being able to have a deeper involvement in her care made it harder for me to feel that connection with her right away because I physically could not do the things I wanted to do. I couldn't just sit awake - even during the day - and stare at her, holding her, rocking her. I couldn't change many of her diapers, clean her up, or wash and fold her clothes. I couldn't even breastfeed my own child, for pete's sake. I felt like the epitome of failure.

My family was (IS) amazing, and I have no idea how we'd have survived that first week without them. They stayed up through the night and never complained once. They did way more than we ever expected them to do. They were by our sides through it all. And when I couldn't be there for my baby, they were. It was because of them that I was finally able to get to that place of being able to be there for my little girl.

So, tonight, when I read more about Brooke's struggles that mirrored my own, I felt an overwhelming need to just hold my baby for more than a quick hug before I put her in her crib to cry it out. Tonight was certainly not a night for crying it out.

I needed to hug her, and hold her close, and tell her how much I loved her. Because tonight I was reminded of a time when I wondered how I could possibly make it to the place I'm at today.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Best of Laughing Through the Chaos - 2009 - Tribute to Elmo - the original gateway drug for babies

I swore we would have nothing to do with Elmo.

Then, my aunt sent me some DVDs her boys outgrew. When I saw the Elmo video, I paused for a moment as I envisioned driving down the interstate doing 75 and chucking it out the window with a blissful smile on my face.

But, logic took over. I decided I better hang on to it. Kaylee might want to watch it someday. Maybe she'd wake up and decide she was just too cool for the Veggie Tales. One never knows about these things, so I put it with the rest of our DVDs, and hoped it stayed right there. In the DVD box. With the lid on. Never to come out. Ever.

Now, I could be wrong, but I'm pretty sure it was my husband who eventually dug it out, popped it in the DVD player, and introduced Kaylee to the gateway drug known as Elmo. I fear that this may lead to other even more powerful and annoying baby addictions such as the Wiggles. God help me...

Anyway, Elmo now runs through her veins. I can hardly tell her no when she looks at me with her pleading puppy dog eyes, a hopeful look on her face and utters the cutest little, "Ewmow???" you ever heard in your whole life.

Her face lights up, her smile becomes a mile wide, and she claps like a fool as soon as the movie starts.

And now, as we've been at home for 2 days giving her breathing treatments for the beast called bronchitis, Ewmow (in combination with a pacifier) is about the only thing that can get her to calm down.

Stupid Ewmow has also caused me to cave in ways I never thought I would. As we waited for her prescription at the pharmacy yesterday, we strolled down the baby aisle and found the thing I am ashamed to admit that I've been looking for - a stuffed Elmo that does. not. make. NOISE.

Oh, sweet miracle from Jesus.

She got the stuffed Elmo.

And this morning, when I drove to Wal-Mart at 6:30 in the morning to get a temporal lobe thermometer so I didn't have to hold the old fashioned one under her armpit for 87 minutes, I also got her a new Elmo DVD and a Sesame Street songs DVD.

Dang frickin' helium-filled Elmo got inside my head, too. I've already watched his DVD five - count 'em - FIVE times today, and I'm already getting jittery and sweaty, just jonesin' for another episode. I hope I can resist the temptation until Kaylee wakes back up from her nap.

So, you little crazy-eyed monster, this week, my tribute is to you. Not because I think you're even the slightest bit funny, cute, or entertaining (even though you look totally bad ass in your rapper costume when you sing hip hop songs)...


...but because you make my baby so happy. And for that, I'm grateful.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Best of Laughing Through the Chaos - 2009 - How I Kicked Postpartum Depressions Ass - The Series

I'm finding it really hard to balance work, family, blogging and overeating these past couple weeks, so blogging had to take a back burner.

This week is still full of family time, working, and - well - the consumption of more holiday treats because, frankly, the holidays aren't over until January 1st. So...here are some of my favorite posts from this year. Enjoy them while you take breaks from your family. :)

Click the links below to read the five-part series I wrote about my struggle with postpartum depression.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Best of Laughing Through the Chaos - 2009 - I've Come a Long Way, Baby

I'm finding it really hard to balance work, family, blogging and overeating these past couple weeks, so blogging had to take a back burner.

This week is still full of family time, working, and - well - the consumption of more holiday treats because, frankly, the holidays aren't over until January 1st. So...here are some of my favorite posts from this year. Enjoy them while you take breaks from your family. :)

I've Come a Long Way, Baby

March 12, 2009

It's been a big year for me.

The biggest thing that's happened for me in the past year was welcoming sweet Kaylee into the world. She's going to be ONE next month - a concept I still can't wrap my head around.

I've learned a crap load of things about myself since becoming a mom. There's things I can do now that I could never do before, and believe it or not - a handful of these things actually have nothing to do with being a mom.

After Kaylee was born, I doubted myself so much, especially in those first few weeks. I had a really hard time making the adjustment from being just a wife to being a wife and a mother.

But, this past year, my confidence has grown a lot. I think it started when I realized that I can't be a "perfect" mother. I had to face it - Kaylee wouldn't always get a bath every day, a hot, home cooked meal was not always going to be on the table, I wouldn't get to shower every day, and there would not be one single day of my life since the day my baby was born that my entire house would be clean.

Go ahead and insert a big sigh right about here.

Finally realizing that I couldn't live up to my idea of the perfect mother/wife was directly related to a boost in my self-esteem (don't get me wrong - there are still plenty of days when my confidence goes down the crapper...) While I was becoming more confident in my role as a mother, my confidence starting growing in other areas of my life as well.

A year ago, there were so many things I just simply couldn't do.

I couldn't establish and stick to a strict budget without buying "little things" here and there that we may or may not have needed. Now I can.

I couldn't sit on the toilet and pee, while holding a child and talking on my cell phone - all at the same time. Now I can.

I couldn't imagine what it would actually look like to have my living room floor covered in ripped up tissue in a matter of seconds. Now I can.

I couldn't talk on the phone while wiping someone's ass. Now I can totally do that.

I couldn't spend less than about $100 on groceries in a week. Now I can.

I couldn't fit into my favorite pants. Now I can!

I couldn't imagine letting my child sit in front of the TV for 30 minutes (ok - 45 sometimes...) before she was even a year old, just so I could have some peace and quiet. Now I can.

I couldn't walk in to a patient's room at my job and ask them to talk to me about why they wanted to end their life. It was too scary for me, and I just couldn't do it. Now I can.

I couldn't understand why some moms yelled at their kids in the grocery store. Now I can.

I couldn't look at a tiny little turd and even think about just fishing it out of water bare handed - no way in heck, dude! But that changes when you run the risk of your kid eating that little turd. No way I could have done it a year ago. Now I can.

I've come a long way, baby.

I'm a proud, money-savin', butt-wipin', waist-shrinkin', domestically disabled, barehanded turd-wranglin' mom who loses my patience more than I wish I did, and who lets her baby watch TV.

But, I can hold my baby and talk on the cell phone while I pee, so that makes up for everything else, because there's probably a lot of people out there who couldn't do that even if they tried.


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Holiday How-To #5: Decorate for Christmas if you've got a rambunctious toddler (or a cat)

Decorating for Christmas presented a whole new set of challenges this year. Kaylee is a climber, a daredevil, and loves to put things around her neck, so the thought of having a Christmas tree up this year was starting to give me heartburn.

I figured she'd do one of four things:

1. Climb the tree
2. Pull the tree over on herself
3. Try to make the lights into a necklace
4. Remove all ornaments from the tree and hide them wherever it is she is currently hiding 22 of her 24 crayons and all but one of her pacifiers.

I hate heartburn, so we opted to do things differently this year.

First order of business?

We downgraded from last year's tree...

...to this year's tree...


We're pretty partial to our Christmas tree ornaments, some of which were our very first Christmas ornaments on our first Christmases. We don't have a Martha Stewart matching tree and we never will (although I will admit part of me would love to have an elegantly decorated color coordinated tree - I think I'd go with pink and silver). We love our collection of ornaments that commemorate special events that happened each year, and Christmas just wouldn't be Christmas without them.

So...we came up with this idea for our entryway, which - believe it or not - was not inspired by anything in Better Homes and Gardens or the Martha Stewart magazine.


And, for the part of me that loves decorations that are beautiful and color coordinated, we have this, which Kaylee cannot destroy - I hope.


Now, I realize that it's a bit late in the game to be giving you tips for Christmas decorating. I mean - shoot - it's just a couple days away. But, hopefully this will give you some inspiration for next year.

And, I'd just like to throw it out there that I got all my Christmas decorations for 90% off at Target and Michael's during their after Christmas sales last year, so get in on that bit of shopping heaven a couple weeks after Christmas and you'll be set for next year.

Also - for you cat lovers out there, my totally rockin' and not the least bit cheesy wall display of ornaments will work wonderfully if for some reason you decide to opt out of a Christmas tree as a result of an adventurous cat (my dear friend Deb got to experience this first hand this year).

This post is my 5th Holiday How-To post, inspired by Summer's Holiday How-To Blog Carnival at Le Musings of Moi.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Making it on to my very first Top 10 list

Today Katherine Stone, author of the the most widely-read blog in the country on depression and anxiety during pregnancy and the postpartum period - Postpartum Progress - named the top 10 writers on postpartum depression in 2009.

When she emailed me last week to inform me that I was one of her choices, I was honored beyond words. Katherine has the most comprehensive site that I've ever come across when it comes to all types of postpartum mood disorders.

Katherine is a survivor of postpartum OCD and is an incredible advocate for women who suffer from postpartum mood disorders of all kinds. Her site shares information for women, their families and spouses, and information for practitioners.

She shatters the stigma associated with mental illness, and she does an amazing job of showing that we are not in this alone - there are so many others going through the same struggles as we are, and there is help out there for us.

Mosey on over and take a look at her selections for the year...

Top Ten Writers on Postpartum Depression in 2009

This is the post that she selected of mine:

"I'll Huff and I'll Puff and I'll Blow This House Down"


Tremendous thanks to Katherine for including me in this list of incredible writers and survivors.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Holiday How-To #4: Make to-die-for orange cream cookies

It's no secret I love food. Especially food with lots of sugar. And carbs. Sugar and carbs are where it's AT!

So, it shouldn't surprise you at all that one of my very favorite things about the holiday season is all the yummy goodies. Fudge, cookies, warm rolls straight out of the oven, pie, mmmmm...

One of my favorite memories of Christmas as a child was making sugar cookies with white frosting and rainbow colored sprinkles to leave out for Santa. What is that is just so darn fun about rainbow colored sprinkles on white frosting?

So, this past weekend I went to my first ever cookie exchange, which gave me a perfect excuse to bust out some recipes from my new Betty Crocker Christmas cookie cookbook. I'm trying not to have too many sweets in the house, but hello! I had to make 3 dozen cookies for this party, so the cookie making just had to happen.

I fell in love when I saw the words, "Orange Cream Cookies."

Holy toledo, Batman. Orange cream is one of my favorite flavors in the whole entire world. Orange cream soda, orange cream candy, orange cream ice cream treats, and now you're telling me I can have all that delicious goodness in a cookie? I love you, Betty Crocker.

So, here's the skinny on how you can make these rip-roaring tasty cookies. Now, keep in mind that in the picture in the cookbook, these cookies are a very calm, pastel-ish light orange color. That's because the recipe calls for 5 drops of yellow food color and 2 drops of red food color. Well, I decided to be cheap and buy the store brand food coloring. What I didn't realize is that there are no droppers on the store brand food coloring. I'm guessing I was off in my estimations of what the equivalent of 5 drops of yellow and 2 drops of red were.

Hence, the neon cookies that almost make you want to wear sunglasses.

Ingredients:

1 pouch (1 lb 5 oz) Betty Crocker sugar cookie mix
3 Tbsp. butter or margarine, melted
1 tsp. orange extract
1 tsp. vanilla
1 egg
5 drops yellow food color
2 drops red food color
1 bag (12 oz) white vanilla baking chips (2 cups) **I think 1.5 cups would be perfect - 2 was a bit much)

Directions:

1. Heat oven to 350. In a large bowl, stir all ingredients except baking chips until soft dough forms. Stir in baking chips.

2. On ungreased cookie sheets, drop dough with 1 1/2 Tbsp-size cookie scoop or by rounded Tbsp about 2 inches apart.

3. Bake 9 to 10 minutes or just until dough is set (do not overbake). Cool 1 minute; remove from cookie sheets to cooling racks

Nutrition Info: Ahhh, who cares. Seriously.

This post is a part of Wordful Wednesday at 7 Clown Circus and the Holiday How-To's Blog Carnival going on at Le Musings of Moi.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Holiday How-To #3: How to make healthy food choices {Giveaway for FREE Healthy Choice food}

If you haven't checked out your calendar today, it's December 13, which can only mean one thing...

With less than 2 weeks until Christmas, it's officially crunch time.

There are presents to buy, houses to decorate, Christmas cards to send, parties to plan, food to buy, and plans to be made. And, as much as we'd like to think we can do it all, we just can't.

While we're all trying not to lose our minds, it's important that we remember to delegate things, to ask for help, and to accept help.

Shoot, if you're workin' your little booty off trying to get 36 hand-decorated cookies made for tonight's cookie exchange while religiously watching that ebay auction so you get the best deal on this year's latest annoying singing, dancing, neurotic Elmo AND ironing your pants for work, for goodness sake - make your husband do a load of laundry, tell your kid to put away his OWN Legos, and declare tonight a "Cook Your Own Dang Dinner" night.

We may be burning the candle at both ends at this point of the year, but there's at least one area that we can choose to simplify, and that is cooking for ourselves and our families.

Healthy Choice realizes we're juggling a crazy amount of stuff right now, and these are just some of the ways they can help us this holiday season:

*This is the best time of year to enjoy hot soups, but if we're being realistic, this may not be the best time to spend boat loads of time starting from scratch. Healthy Choice has a variety of hearty soups that are as good as homemade, like Traditional Lentil and Tomato Basil. This is a great idea for yourself, your family, or your guests. Shoot, you could even put a few containers of it in the crock pot, and when your dinner guests arrive, they'll never know you made it in the microwave 10 minutes before they got there.

*We're all struggling to fight the temptations of all the holiday treats, and our trips to the gym have probably dwindled, but having some options from Healthy Choice on hand will help you stay on track. They have the Weight Watchers Points value for their foods right on the package. One idea Healthy Choice has is to enjoy a yummy Cafe Steamer or a Healthy Choice soup with a salad for lunch or dinner. And did you know that Healthy Choice is the only brand FDA approved to call their products healthy?

*Eliminate the stress of wondering what to feed those pesky unexpected guests by keeping some quick appetizers on hand like Healthy Choice All Natural Entrées Asian Potstickers or Pumpkin Squash Ravioli.

We've all got our own stresses about food when it comes to the holidays, but there are several ways Healthy Choice can help us eliminate stress related to preparing foods, and making sure our families and our guests have full bellies.

Now...here's the fun part!

Healthy Choice has offered to treat one lucky reader to some coupons for FREE Healthy Choice frozen foods, and here is how you can win:

1. Leave a comment telling me one way Healthy Choice can help YOU this holiday season.
2. Earn an extra entry by visiting the Healthy Choice website (www.healthychoice.com) , and tell me which frozen food item you want to try most! (you'll also find coupons on the website!)

Giveaway ends December 18! Be sure to leave your email address in each comment so I can contact you if you win.

During my recent trip to Las Vegas for SITScation I had the opportunity to attend a luncheon sponsored by Healthy Choice, and I was so impressed. That particular luncheon was one of the reasons I decided to become VERY picky about which companies I would agree to partner with on my blog because this is a company that really care about moms and families, and aside from providing frozen foods that taste like they came from a restaurant rather than your freezer, they do some amazing charity projects to fight hunger. I'm so excited to work with them, and I can't wait to share more about them with you in the future!

Thanks to Healthy Choice for providing coupons for free Healthy Choice foods for myself and one of my readers.

***This post is also a part of a Holiday How To blog carnival going on over at my dear friend Summer's blog - Le Musings of Moi. She's teamed up with a few other bloggers, too. So, head on over and get tips on everything from how to stay fit during the holidays to how to feel guilty about everything (you read that right).***

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Holiday How-To #2: Mr. Potato Head like you've never seen him before... *Edited with new info!*

***EDITED INFO...

Ok, so after posting this, I went to Wal-Mart - totally excited to score 2 Mr. Potato Heads for a buck, and the crankypants old lady at the checkout informs me they do NOT price match for Dollar General. Stupid radio ad says, "We will match any competitor's price." So, sorry if any of you tried this at Wal-Mart and it didn't work. But, if you've got a Dollar General - then hop to because the deal will still work there!


So, ever since Summer from Le Musings of Moi announced her Holiday How-To blogging carnival that's going on through the whole month of December, I've got ideas for holiday how-to posts just coming out my ears!

Coming up in the next few days you'll find these holiday how-to's on my blog...

*How to make a fun, inexpensive gift for your child or a child you know
*How to prioritize your week so you don't get overwhelmed with all the holiday hullabaloo
*How to let Healthy Choice take away some holiday stress (this one includes Healthy Choice coupons for one lucky reader)
*How to make some of my favorite holiday foods.
*How to put your Christmas ornaments up without putting up a tree to hang them on because your child will climb to the top of it, get tangled in the lights because they look like a "pitty neckick" (translation - "pretty necklace"), or choke herself with garland.

Today's idea is all about how you can get your child (or a child you know) a Mr. or Mrs. Potato Head doll for just 50 cents, and at the same time, you can get another Mr. or Mrs. Potato Head to donate to a child this Christmas.

This really takes care of two things for us this holiday season:

1. You're getting a fun, brand-new, not annoying or loud toy for your kiddo, or for some little munchkin on your Christmas list for a whopping 50 pennies. I don't even know if Goodwill would sell you Mr. Potato Head for that cheap. Even if they do sell them for 50 cents, this way you're guaranteed to get one that won't have snot from someone else's kid on it.

2. It allows you to give this holiday season without breaking your bank. So many of us are not in a place where we can just bust out the checkbook and give to charity right now, but what a great opportunity this would be to help out a little cutie pie in your town this Christmas.

I think most communities have toy drives going on this time of year, and they usually want new, unwrapped toys. If you're unaware of any, contact your local Salvation Army, shelters, children's hospitals, or your local Child Protective Services office - they're always in need of toys this time of year.

Ok, so how do you make this magic happen? It's easy.

First of all, go to www.coupons.com and print out 2 of the $2 off Mr. or Mrs. Potato Head coupons. The site allows you to print just two.

Next, head on over to your local Dollar General store where these toys are currently on sale for $2.50. So...$2.50 minus a $2.00 coupon = 50 cents.

Now, if your Dollar General store is out of them (like mine was), go to www.dollargeneral.com and print out the ad (or, pick up one of the actual ads if you're in the store) - the Mr. Potato head sale price is on page 7. Take the ad to Wal-Mart, where they match any competitor's prices from a print ad.

Now grab 4 quarters and a few pennies for tax and go get you some Mr. Potato Heads! I would also recommend getting yourself a chocolate bar while you wait in line. You deserve a tasty reward, you frugal woman, you!

Back to the real world tomorrow

I'm at the tail end of six days off in a row from work. Normally, that would be a really bad thing, but I managed to pick up several extra shifts the second have of December, so it was actually just fine.

Usually, when I have that many days off in a row, I cram each day full of things to get done, places to be, and before the time off even starts, I can see a panic attack at the end of the hallway.

But, this stretch of days was finally different. Finally. Lowering my expectations of myself has been so freeing.

I have by no means mastered balance, and I know I never will, but I'm learning how to let go of some things, and I'm figuring out how I can add more enjoyable things into my life every day.

Like I mentioned a few days ago, by breaking up all my stuff to do into just a couple things per day, I was able to get stuff done that needed to get done, but I was able to relax, enjoy my baby and the rest of my family, and not feel like I constantly had to be doing something.

Kaylee and I played outside. I read books - books that were written for grown-ups! We knocked down towers of blocks over and over. and over. and over. and over. We colored. I did some Gilad workout videos. I got caught up with some friends. The house didn't blow up. The dishes didn't pile up to the ceiling, and miraculously, we all have clean clothes to wear and we have eaten food every single day. Crazy. I know.

So, while I get ready to have a whirlwind of days at work from now to the end of the month, I can actually look back on this past week and be proud of the fact that I was able to fill it with fun memories instead of unrealistic expectations and high levels of stress.

Now...time to dig out those work clothes and bring home some BACON!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Holiday How- To #1: Take the stress out of cooking and ENJOY your Christmas {$25 American Express gift card giveaway}

I'm all about keeping things simple and eliminating stress. And, I'm a big believer in the fact that you don't need to spend a lot of money to eat good food and keep your family (and dinner guests, should you have any) happy.

Hellman's (as in Hellman's Mayonnaise) has partnered up with this guy...

...chef Bobby Flay in order to bring you a website that is sure to make your holiday easier.

When you visit the Hellman's Real Holiday Helpings site you'll find easy recipe ideas for everything from turkey, leftovers, main dishes, appetizers & dips, sides, and my favorite - DESSERTS.

So, no need to stress about your holiday menu. Seriously - this site has all the bases covered. And the recipes are made with ingredients that normal people actually EAT, so you don't have to worry about tracking down some obscure spice or something you've never heard of.

While you're there, you can download a coupon for Hellman's mayo (because the recipes on the site are made with Hellman's - duh). You'll also be able to enter to win free groceries for a year, and you can waste away your day playing a matching game while you try to win a $50 grocery gift card.

Now, we all know I've scaled back on the giveaways in order to make sure I'm only giving away stuff that I get really excited about, and that I think you'll love, too. I am so excited about this because - hello?! - who doesn't need some extra cash flow right now?

Not only did Hellman's send me a $25 American Express Gift card as part of the Hellman's Real Holiday Helpings program, but they're giving one away to one of YOU, too!

Woo hoo! So...you can use it for turkey, stuffing, cranberries, cookie mix, frosting, chocolate, or for whatever your little heart desires.

You all know that we've been doing our best to cut back on things and save money in as many ways as we can think of, and I am sure most of you are doing the same thing.

So, I'm super excited that one of you will be getting $25 this holiday season. Can I get a "What, WHAT?!?!?"

How can you win?

Leave a comment (please include your email address so I can get your info if you win) telling me what your favorite holiday food is. Good luck!

Contest runs until Sunday, December 13th
so you can get your moolah in time for Christmas.

A BIG thank-you to MomSelect and Hellman's for sponsoring this awesome giveaway.

***This post is also a part of a Holiday How To blog carnival going on over at my dear friend Summer's blog - Le Musings of Moi. She's teamed up with a few other bloggers, too. So, head on over and get tips on everything from how to stay fit during the holidays to how to feel guilty about everything (you read that right).***

Monday, December 7, 2009

Oh, the weather outside is frightful...

And I wish the fire inside was delightful, but we don't have a fireplace, so I'll settle for the heat brought to us by our lovely and oh-so-attractive propane tank. Ahhh...Sweet Lady Propane (that's for all you King of the Hill fans...)

Today is one of those ideal days that I usually only dream about.

Dennis decided to take a personal day to spend with Kaylee and I - what a guy, right?

It has been SO lovely.

We had planned on going into town so Kaylee and I could go to our exercise class, but then we realized we were in the middle of a winter storm warning that lasts until noon tomorrow. So, it took us about - oh, 5 seconds to decide we'd park our little booties at home for the day.

I looked outside and the ground was wet from rain, and the skies were nothing but gray.

I sat and hoped for lots of snow.

And then it came.

We've been sitting at home, relaxing, watching these big huge FAT snowflakes fall outside our window, and I couldn't think of a better way to spend a day with my family.

No plans. No agendas. Just being together. Being warm and cozy in our little house while the snow falls outside. (Kaylee keeps looking outside at the snow falling and yelling, "Noisy! Noisy!" Not quite sure what that's all about...)

It's days like this when simplicity reigns. I feel at peace. I feel content, and I am oh-so-thankful for all that we've been given.

Now, time to bust out some Frank Sinatra and Beyonce Christmas tunes while I dig out the Christmas decorations and toss back a mug of chai. Mmmmm...

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The redundant whiner

Several times today I formulated a witty and humorous blog post in my head.

The particular post was going to discuss the irony of writing a post in which I whined about the excessive amount of whining that my child did today.

But, I thought it would be redundant and hypocritical, so I decided to spare you the details.

You're welcome.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Improving myself, one fudge covered Ritz cracker at a time...

So, I'm on Day 2 of this new concept of lowering my expectations of myself and making realistic, achievable, non-crazy-lady goals for each day. Yesterday I planned out my whole week, and all the tasks that need to be done have their designated day.

I've gotta say that I'm likin' what's going on.

For the past two days, everything on my list has been done before lunch. And, even though Kaylee doesn't always nap, I still put her in her crib for 2 hours to rest - and to give myself a break. And I no longer feel bad about that.

So, I find myself scratching my head wondering what to do. Today I watched some TV, and I did a little extra picking up around the house.

Part of my mind instantly goes to the place where I feel that - hmmm...since I can accomplish these small tasks, I better add more to the list. I can do more. I can get more done. I can be more productive.

But the key is learning to be content with doing what's on my list, and to avoid putting further pressure on myself to go over and above that. Everything that needs to be done will get done at some point this week because every menial little thing has an assigned day. But it's so hard to get it through my head that I don't have to be constantly plowing through the to-do list all the live long day. It's such a weird concept.

To not be constantly busy and doing something is really, ridiculously difficult for me.

But, I'm enjoying the quiet and the stillness.

I'm enjoying the fact that I no longer feel like my anxiety-ridden heart is going to pound right out of my chest due to feeling utterly overwhelmed.

I'm enjoying the fact that I can count things like watching my favorite shows as a way of taking care of myself.

And, to change the subject, I would also like to share with you that I ate nearly an entire box of fudge covered Ritz crackers - today. Just today. They were that good.

And that's all for tonight.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Let's bust out the dayplanner and schedule time to watch Grey's Anatomy, shall we?

One of the things I did while I was on my recent blogging hiatus was to start talking to a counselor.

Last week we talked about what it is that triggers my anxiety and depression, and what I can do for myself to try and prevent things from getting overwhelming, and from getting to the point where I feel like I am just going to friggin' snap.

I'm going to tell you a bit about what I learned because I having a sinking suspicion that as women and/or mothers, we all struggle with this - at least to some degree.

Here's what I learned:

I put WAY too much pressure on myself. For everything. I seem to have this all or nothing attitude, and it's high time for me to knock that crap off.

I continue to struggle with mommy guilt. If I spend too much time getting stuff done, I feel guilty for not playing more with Kaylee. If I spend all my time playing with Kaylee, I feel guilty for not doing more around the house.

Guilt, guilt, guilt. It's gotta go. It's not going to be easy, as it seems to be a theme that is ingrained in my head, but I'm working on it...

My counselor had me list all the things that pile up and and stress me out, and then he drew a picture of a person with this big boulder on their shoulders, and he sectioned off the boulder into all the different roles and responsibilities I have.

Work. Housework. Meal planning. Budgeting. Chasing a toddler around all day. Paying bills. Scheduling our family. Being a wife. Being a mom. Having a social life. And on and on. I'm sure the list is very similar to what many of you would put on your lists.

After he was done drawing, he looked at me and said, "Well? Anything else? That's a lot of stuff right there. That's a lot of pressure."

I couldn't think of anything else, and he said, "Uh, what about self-care?"

Ahhhh, yes. That funny little thing called self-care. That concept I'd slowly grown to eliminate from my mind.

The board was filled up with all his little scribbles describing all my stresses and worries. And as soon as he put self-care up there, he erased everything else.

He said, "How about you just focus on one thing at a time?"

So, I'm slowly but surely working on eliminating this kind of thinking...

"But...I've got 5 loads of laundry and a sink full of dishes. I've got to get to the store because we've been out of milk for 3 days. But...I can't go to the store. I've gotta balance the checkbook and pay the bills. What? Is that a poopy diaper I smell? Ughhhh....Why can't I just get it together and do what needs to be done around here!?!?"

One thing that's been great for me about talking to a counselor is getting to the root of things. After just short while, he pointed out to me that I have an awful lot of "have to's and should's" in my vocabulary, and he said that I need to lower my expectations of myself.

WHAT? Are we both speaking English here? How can I lower my expectations when I can't even get done what needs to be done???? You are a crazy, crazy man!

But, he's right. He reminded me I need to be realistic.

Sure, there's a lot that needs to be done. But, is it really necessary to balance the checkbook 2 times a week? Do I really have to do 4 loads of laundry in one day? What's going to happen if I don't?

Nothing. Nothing is going to happen. The world will go on.

So, the game plan is that I schedule my week, and that I consciously make the choice to have time for ME.

As far as the scheduling things goes, rather than have a huge, looming list of things to be done hanging over my overwhelmed and frazzled little mind, I'm breaking it down.

I'll set a couple goals for the day. Today? Today I accomplished everything on my to-do list by 1 p.m.

Kaylee and I went to exercise class.
I called 2 places to make payments for Kaylee's mountain of medical bills.
I did a load of laundry.
I paid one bill online.
I spent time blogging.

My aim is to have one outing a day with Kaylee, whether it's to the store or to park - just something to get us both out of this house.

Next, I will choose one or two things to accomplish around here, but they will be small, realistic, reachable goals. No more page long lists of things to do in one day, only to reach the end of my day and feel that I accomplished nothing.

As far as the self-care aspect goes, I had to make an effort to schedule that as well. Dennis has karate Monday nights, so my parents agreed to watch Kaylee after work that day so I can have a night just for myself. I can go to the gym, go out with a friend, sit around in my pj's and watch TV all night - whatever I want - it's my night. And, I've designated the hour between 9 and 10 every night for reading, and then hitting the hay no later than 10 so that I get enough rest.

Now? Now I will go watch Grey's Anatomy because I haven't done anything JUST FOR ME today, and that whole self-care concept? Leaving it out of my day is just not an option any more, and I am not going to feel guilty anymore for taking care of myself.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A little time away.

It's been about a week and a half since my last post, and since then, there have been lots of things I've wanted to write about, but just didn't.

Anxiety. Self-care. Changing habits and changing perspectives. Realizations.

I've had a lot of things to think about and to straighten out, and in order to accomplish that, I needed some time away. Time to really focus on stuff without distractions. I've also been offered some extra shifts at work these past two weeks, which has made life a bit crazier, but it's also lifted a good deal of financial stress for the time being.

I have so missed writing, and I've missed reading blogs and keeping up with what is going on with all of you out there.

But, it was a much-needed hiatus.

Now, of course, we're coming upon Thanksgiving (I'm drooling just thinking about all the deliciousness that awaits me tomorrow as we'll be having two Thanksgiving feasts, neither of which I will have to cook!) I'm excited to relax, eat, and be with my family - especially my brother, who just got home from college last night.

I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving, and I'll be back to regular posts soon.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Tweetin' for a good cause

Those of us involved in the world of Twitter love it because we can talk about silly little things like how we spent 2 hours watching Grey's Anatomy episodes and ate massive amounts of chocolate instead of doing the laundry or balancing the checkbook. And people care. They actually have conversations with you about things like that.

It's a fun and easy way to connect with people. We all know about the other fun things Twitter has to offer, like the fact that you can follow celebrities or the fact that you can find out about fun giveaways or online coupon codes. It's more than just a site that allows you to announce to the world that you are about to eat a peanut butter sandwich or that you've got some mad indigestion after the chimichanga you snarfed down at lunchtime.

One thing I LOVE about Twitter is that it's such a social media phenomenon right now that people are realizing we can use it for good. We can spread the word about important causes, and we can make a difference.

Today I found out about one of these great causes, and I hope you'll join me in supporting it, because all you have to do is tweet.

Simple. No money. No time (ok, 5 seconds of your time). Just a simple tweet.

Here's the deal.

There's a little kiddo named Jacob (he's 4) who was born with a life-threatening disease called Atresia, and the Make-a-Wish Foundation and LeapFish have teamed up to grant Jacob's wish of going to Disneyland with his family. The cool part is, they're using Twitter to raise the money.

LeapFish is donating 5 cents - until they reach $10,000 - every time someone tweets this:

Just tweeted 2 grant a childs wish, #leapfish donates to #makeawish foundation for each tweet RT pls http://bit.ly/3KgyQX Please retweet!

How stinking cool is that?!

It's so easy, and it will add up quickly. Head on over to Twitter and send this quick tweet so we can help get this cutie pie to Disneyland okay? Okay. Just copy and paste the tweet in bold above, tweet, and you're good to go.

And click this: tweet-a-cause to see a picture of this little dude. Oh, my goodness - he is absolutely adorable.

In a time where we can't all just whip out the checkbook to donate money, all we've got to do to help this little guy is to send a tweet, and LeapFish provides the moolah. Who says you can't help charities when you're broke?

---

About LeapFish
LeapFish is an evolved search engine that captures the traditional, multi-media and real-time Web, through a single, connected search platform for both searching and sharing content. Founded by Ben Behrouzi (co-founder of Reply.com), LeapFish is a privately held, 100-person corporation headquartered out of CARR America Corporate Center in Pleasanton, California. For more information, visit blog.leapfish.com.

About Make-A-Wish
The Make-A-Wish Foundation grants magical wishes for children with life-threatening medical conditions to enrich their lives with hope, strength and joy. For more information, visit www.makeawish.org


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Friday, November 13, 2009

The impermeable wall has busted and crumbled.

By impermeable wall, I mean - my immune system. My rock solid, only-gets-a-cold-once-a-year immune system has somehow been compromised, and I'm rather irritated about the situation.

Dennis usually gets sick a few times a year. Especially right about now, being that he works in the germ infested land known as an elementary school. Shoot, I work in a hospital for crying outloud - you'd think I'd get sick, but I rarely ever do.

I was such a good little lady...getting in line for my seasonal flu and H1N1 vaccinations, yadda yadda yadda and then KABAM.

Frickin' fever of 102 hits me like a Mack truck Wednesday. Then the body aches and sore throat.

Fever's been gone since Wednesday afternoon, but the sore throat persists. Dang swab for strep throat came back negative, so it looks like I'm just gonna have to wait this one out, just like all the other people who get sick every year.

Along with my fabulous sore throat, I've had killer headaches on and off, which makes the whole concept of writing coherent blog posts a rather undesirable activity.

So, whatever. Hopefully it will go away soon. Pshhhhh - stupid frickin' sickness.

And is it just me, or does anyone else think of that hilarious SNL skit with Will Ferrell and Christopher Walkin whenever you hear the word "fever"? You know...Christopher Walkin... "I've got a feva, and the only prescription...is more cowbell!"

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Wordful Wednesday - Dragon Smiles


Even though you can't see her whole dragon ensemble in this picture, it's hands-down my favorite picture from Halloween. You don't see the floppy hands and feet or the shiny iridescent wings or - my favorite - the way the tail wiggled back and forth when she walked.

But this is the smile.

The smile that makes my bad days seem not so bad. The smile she busts out right after doing something bad. The smile that makes me less mad when she does something she knows she shouldn't. The smile that precedes belly laughs (from her and us).

The smile that says, "This is me. This is who I am. I'm a kid filled with joy and spunk and utter delight."

I love you, my little Kaylee Bug.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Ugly Mommy Moments

We all have them, don't we?

Today I let myself stay in a funk. I shouldn't have. But, I did.

I was halfway to work and I got a call from my boss stating there were hardly any patients at the hospital, so I didn't need to come in. Second time this pay period. OUCH.

I came home. I cleaned for an hour and a half straight. Hey, being mad has it's advantages, and for me - it often means something gets cleaned.

We'd already paid the babysitter for the 2 days she is scheduled to have Kaylee this week, so I figured I'd just get some stuff done. I spent the day cleaning, working on bills, working and re-working the budget, trying to make the numbers look prettier than they are, and found some stuff to sell and put it on Craigslist.

I packed up some clothes Kaylee's outgrown, as well as some other baby paraphernalia, and I had grand plans to haul it off to the resale store and take what they didn't want to Goodwill. Then...I was going to go to the library (because I cruised through A Girl Named Zippy in less than a week and read The Time Traveler's Wife in 2 days) and get some new books.

But...I realized I left my wallet in the diaper bag. The diaper bag that was with Kaylee. At the babysitter's. And I decided it would be best if I didn't drive without my license.

And I let the funk creep into my day. I hate it when I do that, but by the time Dennis got home, I was on the verge of tears, until I finally let some fall and I just told Dennis how stressed I was.

I feel crappy that I keep getting called off work. I hate that money is so tight. I hate having to worry.

So, I cried and vented for a short while, and then I went to the library, where I picked out 4 new books.

I hurried back home so Dennis could leave in time for karate, and then I listened to Kaylee have a toddler breakdown when he left. Which she tends to do. Pretty much every time he leaves.

Really - I swear I'm fun to be around, but she's such a Daddy's girl, and I've come to accept that. Sometimes she'd rather cry that he's gone than just calm down and have fun with me.

So, I'm still feeling a bit funky and between her screams, tears, and pleas for Dada and EWMO- PEAAAAS?!?! I had zero patience.

I was so frustrated with her. I was upset that she couldn't just get over the fact that Dennis was gone. He would be back, but I hadn't seen her all day. Come on, child! Have some fun with your mother already, would you?!

She wouldn't eat her dinner. She was mad when Elmo (yes, I finally caved and put on Elmo) wasn't on the screen. She was all done, all done, all done, all done with her dinner, but she'd hardly touched it.

So, I let her be. I let her sit in her chair, and I didn't watch her. She ate a few bites. I layed down on the couch and I said a quick prayer. Just asking for a little help. Apologizing for being such a cranky, whiny mommy to my adorable little girl who still can't quite communicate so I understand what she wants and needs all the time. For taking out my frustrations on her by not being patient.

And I asked for help tomorrow. Because tomorrow is fresh and new, and it's a clean slate. Ugly Mommy may have reared her head today, but it doesn't mean she has to tomorrow.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Let's just go ahead and start things off with some cake down the dress.

Hands down, the funniest thing that happened at our wedding was during the cake cutting at the reception. Dennis and I talked beforehand about how it would go, and we didn't have plans for anything to get too crazy. Maybe a little bit of smeared frosting, but nothing crazy. Nothing crazy was the plan.

And then, the cake Dennis was about to give me took a nosedive straight down the front of my dress. We won't share the comment my dad made. You can just use your imagination. :)

*This post is a part of Writer's Workshop at Mama's Losin' It.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Wordful Wednesday - Gettin' crazy with menu plans - yeah, baby!


I already told you about how we're having to pinch our pennies like crazy this month, and that our grocery budget is a measly $150.

How can a family of three possibly manage on that?

Well, it helps that our child refuses to eat pretty much anything besides goldfish crackers, graham crackers, yogurt, eggs and milk, but that's beside the point. And, eliminating non-essentials like sodas, cookies, etc., helps as well (but, since we stopped buying soda can I just tell you how bad I want a Diet Coke???)

Over a year ago, I started getting into coupons. Yes, I became *that* crazy coupon lady.

I joined a website called Coupon Sense that helps you organize coupons and matches up grocery store sales with coupons to maximize your savings, often resulting in free groceries.

They also teach you the strategy of stocking up on certain items when they're on sale, such as canned goods and anything that can be frozen.

So, I try to keep stockpiles of things like boneless, skinless chicken breast and 93% lean hamburger in my freezer. I also stock up on cereal when it's on sale (like the time I got 15 boxes of name brand cereal for $13.84), as well as things like diapers, baby wipes and personal care items. CVS is one of my favorite places to get those types of things for free.

Anyway, at the end of October when I tirelessly crunched the numbers to attempt to get our budget balanced, I realized our grocery budget needed to be cut - waaaay down. I hadn't been too gung ho with the coupon usage (I tend to go in spurts with it), and I realized I needed to hunker down and get back on the bandwagon.

I started with a menu plan, and I was able to come up with an entire month's worth of meals based on just the ingredients we had in our house (of course, things requiring dairy and other perishables would need the occasional ingredient here or there).

Sure, we don't have much of anything extravagant - you'll see things like bean and cheese burritos, blueberry pancakes, sloppy joes, Hamburger Helper, and spaghetti, but really - those are the kinds of things we like.

When it comes to side dishes, I've got things like Betty Crocker boxed potatoes and frozen veggies that I got for free or nearly free with coupons.

So, looking at that calendar and seeing what I was able to do for our family as a result of using coupons, stockpiling, and planning ahead made me feel really good.

We've got roughly $37.50/week to spend on groceries, and for the rest of this month, I'll be telling you how that goes. So far this week, I've gotten 3 gallons of milk, a carton of eggs and some Egg Beaters.

I love a good challenge, and I'm confident we can do this. When times get tough, we just need to get creative.

Your turn: What are your favorite meals that are cheap to make? Do you do menu plans? How do you save money on food?

*This post is a part of Wordful Wednesday, hosted each week by Angie at 7 Clown Circus.

Because it's a curl up with good book and a hot cup of chai kind of day...

The only thing that could make this day more cozy would be huge snowflakes outside my window and some fuzzy slippers.

But, for some odd reason, our weather has decided to take a break from the frigid temperatures and grace us with some warm sunshine.

So, no fuzzy slippers for me, but I do plan on a cup of chai (along with a good book) as soon as I'm done writing.

I am just about finished reading Your Oasis on Flame Lake, by Lorna Landvick, and I have loved it from the very beginning. The first book I read of hers was Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons, and from then on, she's been a favorite author of mine.

I hate to be without a book to read, so I figured we better high tail it to the library so I'd have a book waiting for me when I finish this one.

Kaylee and I made a trip to the library this morning and picked out some new books, but as soon as she started going ballistic, we bee lined it to the car and came back home.

I really, really wanted to read Hunger Games because Tiffany has put it right up there next to the Twilight series classifying it as official "crackliture." I've heard raving reviews about here and there on different blogs, and so I'm dying to get my hands on it. But, the library didn't have a copy available, and I'm an instant gratification kind of girl, so I moved on to my second choice.

I chose this little gem - A Girl Named Zippy - which I am fulling expecting to be fabulous because Jenners, author of the blog Life With a Little One and More (one of my very first blogging buddies) recommended it on her book blog, Find Your Next Book Here. The book is a memoir of a girl who grew up in a small town (I, too, happen to be a small town girl), and it's supposed to be just delightful.

Which is something I need more of in my life - delightfulness.

Kaylee and I got home, and I proceeded to put in her newest video - some variation of Play With Me Sesame that she picked out at the library. I did my best to provide her with cheese, milk, crayons, and lovable, furry old Grover while I sat there on the couch and read more of my book.

Eventually, the movie ended, so we moved into her room for a change of scenery. The sun hits her room about midday, so I opened the blinds and curled up there on the floor in a patch of sunlight just like my old cat, Molly, would have done.

Kaylee played and I read, basked in the sunlight and relaxed. And of course, we played here and there.

Sure, there were other ways we could have spent the time. We could have gone to the store, done the laundry, or cleaned the house.

But, we didn't.

Because it's a curl up with a good book and a hot cup of chai kind of day.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Learning to get by with less

With the crazy influx of medical bills that are steadily streaming in, it was high time to sit down and come up with a rather strict budget for November.

I sat down, listed all our expenses, figured out our estimated income and came close to a few tears when I saw that we weren't going to break even, and that was before we paid anyone for all of Kaylee's medical expenses.

I'm a firm believer that if you're smart with your money, you can make things work, and no matter how life gets, it seems like we'll never go without the essentials.

Right now, things are about as tight as they've ever been, and figuring out how to make things balance was nothing short of a monumental task, but I think we've managed to do it.

It started with a few cuts.

The home phone had to go.

Our monthly pest control had to go (and I'm just crossing my fingers that the cold weather keeps the nasty bugs out in the meantime!).

We downgraded to the lowest DirecTV package. And with it went CMT, GAC, TLC and Discovery Health...waaahhh!

The membership to the gym had to go.

The grocery budget is also a slim $150, but we already have enough food for dinner for the entire month (more on that Wednesday).

The allowance for eating out and "fun" stuff is at a big fat zero.

And, we're in the process of working with www.naca.com to try and negotiate a lower monthly rate on our mortgage.

We're down to just the essentials, folks, but we're going to break even, and if Craigslist is good to us and the lovely locals want to buy some of our unused crap, we might even be able to put some money in savings or pay extra toward the medical bills.

Times are tough for ALL of us. What have you had to cut back on, and what are you doing to save money?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Wordful Wednesday - Ghosts from Halloween Past

If I said that we are the type of people that go all out for Halloween and really prepare ahead of time, I'd totally be lying to you.

So, let me tell you how it goes every year.

Each October, on either the 30th or the 31st, Dennis and I look at each other and say, "Uh. Well. Um, so what should we dress up as this year?"

Our first year of marriage we lived in married student housing at our university, and we were so excited to hand out candy to all the cute little kids. Unfortunately, when you go to the store to get a costume on the afternoon of October 31st, there's pretty much squat left to choose from.

I ended up with a black witch hat that had purple hair attached to it.

Dennis got a crazy Frankenstein mask, and I think we stuffed socks under the shoulders of his jacket to make him look even more...monster-ish?

Last year we pulled our costumes together literally a couple hours before we had to be somewhere for Halloween. I ended up going to my parents' house to snag my brother's baseball gear and I dressed up as a baseball player.

Dennis somehow ended up with a rather nasty looking beard, put a stuffed squirrel in it (not an actual stuffed squirrel - see picture below for what I'm talking about), wore a checkered shirt, and actually ended up being quite a believable lumberjack.

But, last year I did plan ahead for Kaylee. She was just 6 months old, so we didn't get too crazy, but boy, oh, boy was she ever the cutest little ladybug you ever did see.

And this year, her costume is even cuter. Just you wait and see.


Head on over to 7 Clown Circus to check out more fun Wordful Wednesday posts AND enter to win a SWEET Flip video camera while you're there.

Little moments of dizzy joy.

Last night was a rough night - just stressful and overwhelming and emotional.

Put quite simply, my little dumpling was about to push me over the edge, and I was at my wit's end.

She's been on this crazy napping strike, so I've just been letting her stay in her crib during nap time, even if she's not asleep. She doesn't cry. She just talks. And talks. And talks. (And I have absolutely no idea where she gets that trait...)

Even though she's in there and I'm able to actually get some things done around the house on my own, it still drives me crazy. I'm going in to see if she's awake because there's a monster dump in her diaper or what (because she has a convenient way of crapping either as soon as I lay her down for her nap, or right after she's fallen asleep), or I'm going in there to give her The Look and do my best, "KaaaayLEE? LAY. down. NOW. It's NAP time!" in my low, scary mom voice.

It just drives me nuts. This kid didn't nap for her first year of life, and now, after 6 months of awesome naps every day, she's deciding that naps are maybe, just maybe, something that she's is above at this point in her little life.

Well, apparently spending an entire afternoon confined within the 4 walls of the crib charged her up like the freakin' Energizer Bunny. She was an absolute nut case once we finally let her out, and it made our night so memorable.

As I was trying to feed Kaylee her dinner and she was just messing around and irritating me, Dennis told me he'd stay home from karate because it looked like I needed a break. Praise the Lord, I may not lose my mind after all was my first thought...

So, I step into another room to get my composure back, and before long, Kaylee's out of her highchair and creating little whirlwinds all throughout our house.

She starts making this noise she does when she gets really excited about something. To me, it sounds like she's about to hyperventilate, but she gets the crazy baby eyes and this huge trouble-making grin, and then she proceeds to start spinning around in circles and laughing her head off. Then she takes off to try and walk straight and looks nothing short of a 2 1/2 foot tall drunk.

She had to be doing this for a good 15 minutes. And every time she fell down, she'd laugh at herself and get back up to do it again.

The kid drove me absolutely nuts yesterday.

Then, on that same day, all I could do was sit back, laugh my butt off at her, and realize that - without a doubt - one of the reasons she was brought into my life was to remind me not to take life to seriously...to just let go of the stress and the tension - to realize that what really matters is forgetting about all the other junk taking up space in my head and causing me stress - what matters is enjoying little moments like that and just laughing.

So, that's exactly what I did last night. And I enjoyed every minute.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Ahhhhh, finally. The fresh start I've been waiting for.

I'm sitting here right now with a big old sense of relief.

I just hit the publish button on my last review that I committed to do, and I feel like I've finally got the freedom to get back to the basics on my blog - to write for the reasons I began writing, and to not be bogged down by other obligations.

Recently I wrote about how I want to head in a new direction on the blog - stepping away from doing so many product reviews and giveaways (yet not being closed off to them completely), and actually sitting down to figure out exactly why it is that I have a blog in the first place.

I felt the need to establish a clear direction and clear set of goals for myself so that, in the future, I won't get distracted by all the other stuff that's out there that I don't necessarily need to be a part of.

Doing this final review on my to-do list was a huge wake up call to me. I agreed to do a book review, and it didn't take me long to decide that I was so not into this particular book. But, I was committed, so I invested my time in finishing it so that I kept my word. I love reading - it's one of my favorite things to do in the whole wide world, so to be spending time reading a book I did not love made me wake up and smell the coffee.

I realized there is no sense in doing something I don't want to do. My time is more valuable than that. So, I will only be writing about things that mean something to me and that do not cause me any more stress than I already have.

So, here's what I've come up with. I hope you'll stay along for the ride.

*Stick to the basics. The name Laughing Through the Chaos says it all. That's what I strive to do - to be able to laugh at myself and to be able to laugh through the tough stuff. And I hope I can help you do the same.

*Keeping it well-rounded. I may be a mommy blogger, but I don't always want to talk about all things mommy. There's plenty of other things that make me who I am, so I'll be talking about other stuff, too.

*Provide more information and resources relating to postpartum depression/postpartum mood disorders. I've become very passionate about this in the last year and a half, and I want this blog to be a place you can come for resources, support, and information.

*I want to use my blog to make a difference when it comes to certain social causes. I've been honored to use my blog as a way to get the word out in the past about an amazing non-profit group called The Fresh Air Fund (a group that provides inner-city kids with the opportunity to experience things they may never have the chance to do otherwise, such as fishing, chasing butterflies, or camping in the woods), and I hope to bring awareness about other organizations that mean something to me as well.

*I'm cutting way back on product reviews and giveaways, but - at the same time - I am not going to close my blog off to them completely. I am aiming to make product reviews few and far between, and they will only make it on to the blog if I'm absolutely crazy about them, and if I think they will benefit you in some way as well.

*On a related note, I am hoping that by cutting back on reviews and giveaways, it will allow me more time to create a sense of community among my readers. That could mean more interactive discussions in the comment section, actually having time to respond to some of your comments on an individual basis, and being able to visit some of your blogs. I continue to be amazed by the sense of community there is when a few of us all say that we've gone through the same thing.

So, that's where I'm headed. Those are my goals, and I think it's good to step back and re-evaluate them from time to time.

Thanks to all of you for actually caring about what I have to say and for sharing your own experiences along the way as well. You rock my face off. :)

Friday, October 23, 2009

The lowdown on my Vegas vacation

Time for a recap of my recent trip to VEGAS, baby!

It was a girls weekend filled with decadent food, nights on the town, relaxation and friends.

I arrived at the Venetian and was absolutely floored by how fancy it was. Paintings on the ceilings, glitz and glamor everywhere, little Italian men walking around the indoor fountains playing the accordian - it was unbelievable. And then I got to the room, which looked like THIS:

Cushy, heavenly blankets and pillows...















... a living room to hang with the girls...















... and one incredible bathroom...















Yes. That is a TV in the bathroom. Facing the tub. And yes, I watched TV in the tub while I ate a Krispy Kreme donut. At 1 in the morning.

My roommates, Rachel and Summer, arrived shortly after I did, and we wasted no time in getting ready for our night out.

Here's Rachel and I getting all glamorous.



















We clean up rather nicely, wouldn't ya say?














So, after we got all beautimous, it was off to the SITS dance party, in our own private ballroom. But first, we all got to walk the red carpet (seriously - they had a freakin' red carpet!) and stop for a pose.



















Here's a bunch of us hotties getting down with our bad selves at the party.













(Rachel, Kathy, me, Jen, and Summer)

After the SITS party it was on to Club Tao, which was THE "it" place to be since Kim Kardashian was there for her birthday. We saw her throw a fit before the party (surrounded by her massive bodyguards), and some shrimpy guy was standing in front of her videotaping the whole thing. She's so tiny! And gorgeous, of course. I didn't have my camera with me, but here's a picture of Kim, just for good measure.



















Come to find out, K Fed was there that night, too. I'm so heartbroken I didn't get to feast my eyes upon that. (Kidding, I'm kidding...seriously.)



















The next day was filled with speakers, a catered lunch, and then another evening out on the town, but toned down quite a bit. No celebrity sightings and no mobs of crazy drunk people.

This, my friends was my delectable dessert at lunch. And yes, I was so excited about it that I took its picture. Do you SEE that huge piece of curled chocolate. H-E-A-V-E-N.


















In between lunch and our night out, I had some time to myself, so I went frolicking about, pretending I was in Italy. I never did get my gondola ride, but one of the Italian gray-ponytail-toting accordian players did say it was time for "my song" and proceeded to play The Chicken Dance for me. Anyway, isn't this just a heavenly sight? And to think - the sky is not even real - it's a painting. Loved it...















After my time pretending, me and some other hotties hit the town for dinner and some shopping for the kidlets. Here's me and the girls, posing with the likeness of the hotness known as The Rock. Mmmmm.














Me, Kristi, Bobbi, Alicia, Margarita, and Connie

Hands down, my favorite part of the whole weekend was getting to meet friends for the first time, and getting to meet so many new friends. The girl time was the best. And the break from reality wasn't bad, either.

Thanks to Tiffany and Heather for putting together one heck of a weekend for all of us!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Real motherhood.

Motherhood has changed me in so many ways. I could talk about the cup size reduction, the fat relocation, the lack of sleep, the fact that I now eat things off the floor on a regular basis and occasionally partake of toddler foods for my own snacks, but today, I just want to focus on one aspect of how motherhood has changed me. And that, my friends, is the fact that I'm no longer as judgmental toward mothers.

Before I entered the world of motherhood, I will admit that I was totally judgmental.

I'd see moms in their sweats and messy hair and think, "Man, she's let herself go. Would it hurt to spend 5 minutes with a brush and a tube of mascara?" Mean, I know.

On the other end of the spectrum, I'd see those moms who were just totally gorgeous wearing the nice outfits, toting around their beautiful, well-behaved gorgeous children with perma-smiles on their faces and think to myself, "See? She took some time for herself? She hasn't let herself go. Look how cute her kids look in those trendy little outfits! Awww!"

Aw, BARF is what I think to myself now, as I sit in my sweats with no mascara on trying to pick spaghetti and peanut butter out of my hair.

Barf to the lady with the perfect outfit, the perfect children, and the smile that never fades. I'm calling her bluff because that's not real motherhood.

Now, hear me out. I like to look nice when I go out in public. I usually wear makeup every day, and I, for the most part, try to be presentable. Nothing wrong with that. But, there's also nothing wrong with going to the store in your sweats and crazy hair. To each his own.

What bugs the heck out of me is when women put this crazy pressure on themselves to act like they always have it together and that every single moment of every day with their children is filled with nothing but love and laughter and hugs. Oh, and no one ever farts or burps or says a cuss word in their little world, either.

Sure, there are moms who may have a better handle on things than others. Some may be more organized, more calm, better able to cope in stressful situations, but let's be honest - trying to act like it's all fun and games is just silly.

It's hard - plain and simple, and to me - it's really refreshing to be able to talk about the way it really is. I've been so blessed to have friends (and readers!) who are also willing to tell it like it is.

Frankly, I don't have time for sugar coating in my life (unless that sugar coating is on a piece of cake - in that case, I have PLENTY of time). I want people around me who can relate, who can be open and honest and not afraid to admit that this motherhood gig is no cakewalk.

When we give ourselves permission to admit that we have days when it feels like we weren't cut out for this, I think it helps us to enjoy and appreciate and relish in the multitude of fun and down-right hilarious days of motherhood as well.

In real motherhood, you can't have one without the other.

*This post is a part of Mama Kat's Thursday Writer's Workshop, hosted at Mama Kat's Losin It.
 
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