Category Archives: General post

Oh hello again

Is anyone out there, still reading? It’s been so long since I last posted – but hey, I’ve been busy! The last few months have brought great change – a new job, a real vacation, holidays, sleepless nights, and getting through the daily grind.

Every day I think of something else I want to write about and it will all come pouring out of me. Now, please excuse the hiatus and get ready for some new words.

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Greetings from Camp Coxsackie

If you were driving down the Post Road today and saw a box of Arcuri’s pizza somewhere between Cos Cob and Byram, it was probably ours. And I would have gone back for it had I not been hysterically crying in my driveway over the lost pizza while my daughter wailed along with me from the back seat. There was a perfectly good explanation for how we arrived at such a low point. You see, we had tried to leave Camp Coxsackie – otherwise known as our home – and the universe punished us.

Let me back up a few days. My husband was going to New Hampshire and my daughter and I were going to have a girl’s weekend. Our plans went to hell when she woke up with a raging fever early the other morning, puked all over our bed and me (not that this was the first time in recent memory that I was covered in puke down to my underwear or anything), and cried and cried and cried. So, there was that.

Friday or “The Day Coxsackie Struck” 

By the time her fever broke, the telltale blisters on her foot told me this wasn’t just any old fever… it was the dreaded coxsackie virus – also known as “hand, foot and mouth disease” – a nasty bug that usually brings with it blisters on the hands, feet and mouth. Later that day the doctor confirmed my diagnosis, reminded us how contagious it was, and wished us luck. Given that this was our last taste of freedom for a few days, we went into CVS to pick up some supplies for her – like infant Tylenol – and for me – like chocolate and Lysol.

It was supposed to be a quick trip, an easy one. Just grab and go. Except that I couldn’t find what I needed and was pretty desperate at that point. A woman waiting on line made a quip about how long she had been there – and voiced her frustration that the pharmacist had stepped aside to help me. Obviously she had no idea that in the blink of an eye, my daughter was going to go from tolerating this shopping trip to doing everything in her power to get the f*&! out of the stroller and wipe her highly contagious slobbery drool all over everything within reach (at which time I would point her in the direction of my “friend” on the check out line). By the time we got home, I was ready to pass out but Ellie had other plans – most of which included being up all night.

Saturday or “The Hottest Day of the Year” or “The Day that No One Was Kidding Me” 

Daybreak the next morning brought with it a lot of excitement – like an unplanned trip to the vet for the dog to get probiotics for his belly – don’t even get me started. On top of his bellyache, Cooper was panting because it was so hot and I can’t imagine the heat felt good on the coxsackie blisters, so I cranked the A/C for both of “the kids.” Except it wasn’t working. Are. You. F*&*ing. Kidding. Me? Our A/C shits the bed on one of the hottest days of the year while our daughter is covered in blisters and my husband – an electrician and HVAC repairman – was in the middle of the New Hampshire woods with horrible cell service? Would it happen any other way, though?

By the time I got him on the phone I was sweating. A lot. I had opened the windows and turned on the fans and I think it went down approximately 1 degree upstairs in our attic-less Cape. He began to walk me through whatever he planned to walk me through which apparently brought along with it the risk of electrocution.

“Go outside and find that grey box next to the A/C unit.”

“The one that says ‘DANGER! High voltage!’?”

“Yup, that’s the one. Now open it up and pull the t-shaped lever.”

“You’ve got to be f*&^ing kidding me, right?”

Needless to say, it was beyond my skillset to repair the unit so we once again simply accepted our lot in life. (At this point, I feel like I should point out that this entire situation could have been WAY worse. WAY, WAY, worse.) Luckily, my father-in-law was able to come over and soon had cool air circulating throughout the house. I wish my story ended there, because that’s pretty upbeat.

Sunday or “The day we shouldn’t have tried to do anything, ever” 

In the morning I was feeling ambitious. I thought if I kept Ellie confined to the stroller we could quickly cruise the mall – this was girl’s weekend dammit! And I was hoping to find a new dress. After 10 minutes of browsing with a screaming child and valiant but unsuccessful attempt to find a dressing room (and being told that the one I was trying to get into was “locked forever”), I tossed aside what I wanted to try on and we left. It just wasn’t worth it. And because I hadn’t learned anything at all, I thought it might be nice to walk around the beach instead – except that I realized I had the wrong pass on my car and we wouldn’t get in. Fail #2 of the day, all before noon. We really, really should have thrown in the towel at that point.

You’re probably wondering how the pizza comes into play – well here it is. We hunkered down at Camp for the rest of the afternoon, but around dinnertime I decided we should take a ride to pick up some takeout for a change of scenery. I put the pizza box on top of the car while I loaded Ellie into her carseat, making a mental note to put the box in the car, too.

Except I didn’t. I just drove off with a box of pizza on top of my car. And you know when I realized it? When we pulled into the driveway about ten minutes later and I put my car in park. At that point I was so delusional that I even looked on top of the car thinking that one day we would all joke about how absentminded mom was the time she left the pizza on the car; that somehow it had survived the ride home and would magically be sitting my the roof of my CR-V, intact.

Except it wasn’t. So, I did the only thing left to do: I laughed until I cried, and then I laughed some more. It was, by far, the funniest thing that had happened in days. DAYS.

 

Books for days.

Books for days.

Not a bad weekend after all?

And as much as this weekend wasn’t anything like I had planned – we canceled a trip to the beach, estate sale hopping, and playdates – it was full of silver linings. It gave us a great excuse to slow down a bit and bum around the house – something we don’t typically do… ever. Family members helped out in a pinch – my mom brought by groceries, my father-in-law fixed the A/C, everyone checked in on us. We played outside with the water table. Blew bubbles. Watched Cooper chase birds in the yard. And we snuggled and read books – lots, and lots and lots of books – into the wee hours of the morning. Now, that’s my kind of girl’s weekend.

Here’s to hoping that this week brings fewer doctor’s visits, cooler weather and what I should have ordered in the first place: delivery.

7/12/2014 – update: Bad news. Last Wednesday I told my coworker, “I feel great, there’s no way I’m getting coxsackie! Definitely would have gotten it by now!” As soon as those words left my mouth, the fever hit. Almost 48 hours of fever later… I’m on the mend. Next week will be better… next week! 

 

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Furniture tip-over safety in memory of Hailey

Hello. A very sad post today… a mama from Lil Mamas – the group of women that has helped me survive the first year of parenthood – is mourning the loss of her 13 month-old daughter, Hailey. Hailey passed earlier this week in a tragic accident when a 3×3 cubby storage shelf fell on top of her.

The most important thing you can take away from this is that securing furniture in your home is not an option – it is an imperative. This applies even if you don’t have children.

The outpouring of love and support and mamahood that I’ve seen over the last 48 hours has blown me away. Most of the mamas in this group have never met one another in person and through the power of social media, they came together and took action: mamas around the world contributed to airfare to get Hailey’s family to South Carolina to support her mom, pronto and also to cover the cost of funeral expenses, etc. WOW. Just wow. It sure as hell takes a village.

All her mom has asked is that we spread the word about this very real danger inherent in everyone’s home. Walk around your home, inventory your furniture, and secure the hell out of it. Tie-downs are available at your local hardware or baby store and if you can’t find them there, you can order them online. There are baby-proofing consultants who will come to your home and help you figure out what you need to do. There is no excuse not to take action. It’s so easy to think that we will be the exception to the rule, the lucky ones. Sometimes we are, and that’s great but there will come a day when skimping on safety could have dire consequences.

If you want to do more, please consider making a donation through YouCaring in Hailey’s honor to help cover her funeral and travel expenses for family or visit thelilmamas.com to learn how to donate through Lil Mamas.

Last, but not least, hug your babies tight this weekend and always.

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The mile high pumping club

I just survived 60 baby-free hours traveling to and from Denver. They were filled with trains, planes, automobiles, uninterrupted meals that I was able to eat with both hands, and the first time I’ve slept through the night in a long while. I missed my family terribly, but I would be lying if I said it wasn’t nice to get a bit of a reprieve from changing diapers, endless laundry, cooking and more. I wasn’t off the hook completely though – as a breastfeeding mom, I still had to pump about 15 oz. of milk each day to maintain my supply.

This meant dragging my breastpump – encased in a stylish shoulder tote – and all of its glorious accessories, chargers, and spare parts with me. That bag has an unspoken power to connect people who know what it is. And now, after many months of pumping, my pump should probably be considered a significant other – we spend a lot of time together, things get pretty intimate, we’re never far apart, and we were finally taking our first plane trip together.

The inspector gadget of pumping bags - you'd never know!

The inspector gadget of pumping bags – you’d never know what’s inside…!

Want to see how it works?

On my way through security in LGA, TSA pulled me aside, inspected my bags, and swabbed the pump for explosives. We began talking about breastpumps, starting with the TSA agent asked me what “it” was. I mean, shouldn’t he have asked “who” it was? (My boyfriend, obviously.) Plus, he just got pretty personal with my pump when he started prodding with the swab. I explained it was a boob-squeezing, milk-sucking, monster of a machine.

“I need you to tell me how it works,” he said. “I’m going to open this bag with you. Would you like to go in private? I know this is a sensitive topic.”

Little did he know that in the recent past I had given birth to an audience in the hospital and along with the baby, pushed out all sense of shame I could ever possibly feel for the rest of my life about natural bodily functions. Private? AS IF.

I then did what any brazen, super-duper-pro-nursing-in-public-mama (who thinks the only way that we will normalize breastfeeding is by talking about it) would do: I offered him a demo with a straight face at 5:30am on a Wednesday. Not surprisingly, he declined. We then talked about how it worked, how I planned to bring my milk back, and he sent me on way to board my flight – another adventure in and of itself.

Joining the mile-high pumping club

Just some of the interesting places I’ve pumped include: a car parked in a pull-off on the West Side Highway, the bathroom of the corner deli somewhere around 49th and 10th, a locker room, and perhaps the most random: in a closet during a climate-change event being held at the Jewish Heritage Museum while listening to the audio of a movie about World War II.

The time had come for us to join the mile high pumping club. I thought about discreetly pumping at my seat, but the bathroom was a better option than sitting through another moment of being subjected the make out sesh going on between my row-mates – I’m surprised they weren’t capitalizing on the unoccupied bathrooms, too. Their loss, because “we” were headed in there to get down to business.

At this point in time I’d need to acknowledge how critical it is to have a battery adapter for a breastpump. Sometimes outlets are nowhere to be found, and if you don’t have the battery pack you better get to squeezin’.  Also, if there is someone out there who can shrink a monster computer into a handheld rechargeable marvel of modern engineering and technology that is also a mobile phone then there has got to be something they can do about THE DUMBEST, MOST ENORMOUS, LOUDEST F&*KING MILK MACHINE CONTRAPTION EVER THAT REQUIRES EIGHT AA BATTERIES TO OPERATE. I repeat: EIGHT AA BATTERIES.

I got set up and things started flowing. My mind was wandering to places like, “I wonder how altitude impacts milk production?” when we hit a pocket of turbulence that almost knocked me off my feet. Becoming a parent has encouraged me to jump to the worst possible scenario so I immediately thought, “I DON’T WANT TO DIE WITH A MEDIEVAL BOOB TORTURE DEVICE ATTACHED TO MY CHEST. I WILL NOT GO DOWN LIKE THIS. THIS IS NOT HOW IT ENDS.”

The plane evened out, I finished up, and asked the flight attendant for a handful of ice. A handful turned into about 2 pounds. Since beggars can’t be choosers, I shoved it all in the cooler, settled in for the rest of the flight and crossed my fingers that the ice didn’t start to melt out of the overhead bin and onto someone’s head. After we landed, I made a pit stop in the airport bathroom to unload some of the ice when a woman spied my pump bag (I TOLD you so) and said she was a lactation consultant. She then went on to say the single nicest thing a complete stranger has ever said to me (yes, even better than that time the creepy pet store guy told me I had “nice thighs”): she told me that she was proud of me and that it made her day to see a nursing, traveling mama with her boyfriend breastpump. Lactation brings people together in some strange ways.

Just for lunch 

48 hours and about 35 oz of milk later, I found myself back at DEN. Despite my best efforts to alert every TSA agent I saw that I was declaring breastmilk, I managed to hold up the line for a good 10 minutes while they found someone “authorized” to test my milk. I offered the agent a swig; he refused. Since my pump was the only one NOT rejecting me, I repeated my “pumping in an airplane bathroom” trick on the way home, again asking for ice from a flight attendant. He dutifully filled up my Ziploc bag and when he saw me putting it in the cooler he said, “Oh, I thought it was for a sprain or something. Turns out it’s just for lunch!”

“You’re right,” I said. “Just not for my lunch.”

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Clutter, or the lack thereof

In stark contrast to the last post I reblogged from Dugan InCahoots, I writing to say that I’ve figured out how to keep your home clean and uncluttered: put your house on the market and live in fear that at any given moment someone might want to come inspect every nook and cranny, judge you (hard) for your decorating choices, and consider buying it.

The best part about selling our house? It’s never been so spotless, uncluttered, and clean… because it forces us to put things away and make sure everything is presentable all the time. The worst part about selling our house? It has never been so spotless, uncluttered, and clean… because it requires constant cleaning, decluttering, organizing, sorting, vacuuming, scrubbing, and picking up an unbelievable amount of dog shit… UNBELIEVABLE.

The initial cleaning frenzy was horrifying. I took some time off work and was like a rabid animal, foaming at the mouth as we decluttered, threw out, and donated things as quickly as possible. My husband was more than happy to go to the store and pick up more storage bins and hangars when I started freaking out about needing more places to store things, MORE! Although he never said it, I know that anything at that point, even going out to find the perfect snap-top bins to hold our precious crap, was more enjoyable than dealing with me.

In all seriousness though? I can’t organize everything without these watertight bins [clicking the pic will take you to Amazon].

We got everything to a point of ultimate cleanliness. The hard part has been keeping it that way with a baby, 90-lb furball of a dog, and two working adults living in our home. While it has been a bit exhausting making sure everything is clean and/or ready to be thrown in a box and put in the car during a showing, after about a week keeping things sparse started to feel routine. And more and more I’m realizing how much I like it.

I’m less stressed when I walk in our house and way better balanced. There’s room for me to put down my bag when I get home – I’m not setting it on top of a pile of other things that needs my attention, too. Cooking is easier because I don’t have to rearrange the room to find enough counter space. I can make a mess because it’s easier to clean up when I’m not worried about spilling sauce on a pile of important mail. Dry, clean dishes don’t sit around next to the sink because they are tucked away in the appropriate cabinet. The little tchotchkes that I hate to love aren’t collecting dust on the windowsill. Cleaning countertops and dusting furniture is a breeze when they aren’t covered in crap. LOOK! IT’S SO … CLEAR!

Don't open the dishwasher, everything from the counter is in there!

It almost looks like no one lives here… and apparently I like it that way.

Our mudroom has always been a catch-all for crap... until I put it all away.

Our mudroom has always been a catch-all for crap… until we put it all away.

This is not to say that when this journey is over, and we settle into a new home, that things will always look so naked – I mean, it will be nice to put the pictures back up at least – but there will be way less “accessorizing” going on. I’m not ready to give up the tchotchkes all together, but I am starting to think that the Gretchen Rubins and Real Simples of the world who tout all this decluttering just might be on to something.

We can’t be friends.

To a T! Help me fold my laundry, I’ll help you fold yours.

Dugans InCahoots

Moms,

See that picture above?

Thats my life. 90% of the time- that beautiful mess is my life. Despite my best efforts, it is crazy, chaotic and absolutely unorganized.

I like you. I think you are sweet, and fun to hang out with. But let me give it to you straight. If I have to clean for three hours before you come over…

We can’t be friends. We just can’t.

It’s just way too stressful, and trying to keep my home perfectly neat in this stage in life is impossible and overwhelming. I used to be more put together, believe it or not, I am naturally organized ( and a little OCD) . But then my kids became mobile, they ganged up on me, and my life and time were no longer my own.

If you do come over, and I really want you to, I won’t pretend that I…

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Super easy crockpot lasagna

OK, it’s been a while since I’ve shared a recipe so here is a SUPER INCREDIBLY EASY recipe for crockpot lasagna.

Our oven was on the fritz and we had people to feed! In a pinch, I threw together some ingredients we had on hand for a crockpot lasagna and it came out SUPER AWESOME. It was like magic, and did I mention this is an easy recipe? Perfect for a weeknight, and yummy leftovers to boot. Enjoy!

Super easy, quick, and brainless crockpot lasagna

Super easy, quick, and brainless crockpot lasagna

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1 small onion
  • 3 15-oz. cans of tomato sauce
  • basil, mushrooms, whatever misc. veggies you have on hand
  • 1 package of uncooked whole-wheat lasagna noodles
  • 1 15-oz container part-skim ricotta cheese
  • shredded mozzarella (2%)
  • 1 egg
  • grated parmesan cheese
  • salt to taste

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Combine tomato sauce, basil, mushrooms and other vegetables – blend with an immersion blender and salt to taste. Set aside.
  2. Brown meat in a large pan. Drain grease and add tomato sauce.
  3. Mix ricotta, 1 cup of mozzarella, sprinkle of parmesan, and egg.
  4. Layer some tomato sauce, broken (uncooked) lasagna noodles, and cheese mix in crock pot. Repeat – sauce, noodles, cheese – with final layer being sauce.
  5. Cook on low for 4-6 hours, or until noodles are cooked.
  6. Once cooked, turn to warm and top with remaining mozzarella until melted.

Serve with garlic bread and a side salad. BAM. Meal complete!

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Ah, 27!

It’s official – 27 is “late twenties” (at least according to me). With everything on my plate in early September (between work and busy weekends and travel), trying to make plans for my birthday stressed me out so much that I quickly decided that I was going to cancel my birthday this year. I made it clear to everyone that if there were no celebrations, I would not be the least bit offended.

That all changed when Korea was cancelled. Suddenly, I had two relatively free weekends with no plans. Wait, a free weekend? What IS that? After some thinking, I un-cancelled my birthday – it was back on! I didn’t want anything crazy, but 27 was a great excuse to drag bring Chris over to Westchester and do something new.

For years I have been talking about checking out the mansions along the Hudson in Tarrytown but we’ve never made it over. With spare time, I figured this was the perfect excuse to make a day out of it. (Also, there was an enormous craft fair at Lyndhurst Castle on my birthday so the timing couldn’t have been better.)

Lyndhurst Castle is a REALLY COOL Gothic revival mansion on a 67-acre estate right on the Hudson River. Former occupants of the mansion include former New York City mayor William Paulding, merchant George Merritt, and railroad tycoon Jay Gould. (I really don’t know what “Gothic revival mansion” means other than it looks super badass. I also am not really familiar with these people other than they have famous names. Full disclosure: I borrowed all of this information from the Lyndhurst website which has way better pictures).

Lyndhurst, in all its gothic glory

We walked around the grounds, checked out the mansion and I picked up a couple of gifts at the fair. After nibbling our way through the food section (fresh salsa, sweets, dips, and more), I enjoyed looking at pretty, expensive hand-crafted things that are not at all Cooper-proof.

After that, we ate at Red Hat on the River, a yummy spot that’s situated, wait, you guessed it… right on the river! It had been cloudy on and off all day, but the rain held until after we finished eating, and during dinner the cloud cover made for some breathtaking views. We rounded the day out with a stop at Carvel (Brian – if you’re reading, this is proof that I don’t force-feed Chris healthy food, despite what you may like to believe).

That’s pretty glorious.

So far, 27 hasn’t been so bad or scary. I feel like we’ve hit a nice stride in our lives and good things are happening all around – our friends and family are happy, healthy, and celebrating weddings, babies, and more. As it turns out, we’re not the only ones to hit a stride in our late twenties – check out this article from The Awl about the magical age of 27…

My poor neglected blog

Seriously, I’ve been slacking. I know. This poor blog is incredibly neglected. As if the month of August wasn’t busy enough, September also kept me on my toes! We had our one year anniversary (photos to come!), a bridal shower for my dear friend Christina, birthdays, and more… all while I’ve been furiously preparing to go to a conference in South Korea for work. I’ve been crazy with the planning and was excited to travel to Asia for the first time. After more planning this week, I spent yesterday preparing to leave and was ready to go this morning, until I saw my emails… Typhoon Sanba is barreling towards Okinawa and the Korean peninsula – exactly where we were supposed to go! We decided that those who had not yet left for Korea were not going to leave for Korea – that group included me. The risk was too great.

As I sat in my home office living room, staring at my carry-on (into which I had proudly managed to pack a week’s worth of clothes!),  I couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed. I had to cancel my commitments and miss some opportunities, but as reality set in I knew I was more relieved not to be in harm’s way – getting caught on the other side of the world in the middle of what could be a pretty serious natural disaster would be majorly scary. 

On the bright side, I have an unexpectedly free weekend and pretty open week coming up. Hey, maybe I’ll even get to the grocery store this weekend and cook up a new dish – I have been so pre-occupied that I haven’t even been cooking that much! Stay tuned for some fall and winter recipes… including lots of new crock pot experiments!

A moment to reflect…

I feel a bit guilty because I haven’t been posting much – I’ve been a crazy traveling wild woman lately. I have been all over the place – from taking photos of an event at the United Nations (disclaimer: I am not a photographer) to traveling all around the country for business meetings, to weekends filled with wedding celebrations, bachelorette parties, and barbeques… there has not been a dull moment! While I’ve been running around, I had some time to reflect a bit.

20 years

Last weekend, we were at a wedding and I chatted with a friend from elementary school – someone I’ve known for over 20 years (and lived next door to for 15 of those years). We traded stories about buying houses and moving away from our parents, being independent, and making sense of it all. When we talked about just how long we’ve known one another, I had trouble believing that was true.  

10 years

Yesterday, I hopped on a 6am train to DC and spent the day in meetings. Before jumping on my return train, I had dinner with one of my best friends from college. We spent our meal catching up with one another and talking about who got married, who’s getting married, who moved where, what we each want out of our careers, and more – a far cry from drinking flaming volcanoes at Fortune’s in Fredericksburg and finding the best parties. After we ate, we took a picture in front of Union Station and my first two thoughts were, “We’ve known each other for almost a decade and we look really grown up in this picture.”

Five years

It was just five short years ago this summer that I began working at my current company and during the interview, my soon-to-be boss asked me, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” It was the most difficult question I’ve ever had to answer – I was a 21-year old recent college grad trying to get through a job interview. I didn’t know what I was doing that afternoon, let alone five years down the road. Instead of blurting out the first response that came to my head (“Hopefully working here!”), I spoke from the heart and said, “I want to be happy. Wherever I am, whatever I am doing, I just want to feel fulfilled.”

Now

I could never have known five years ago (or even 10 or 20!) that the answer to my interviewer’s question could have been, “Happily married with a big furry dog, learning the ins-and-outs of home ownership, while spending time with family and friends, and always trying to figure out how to balance those things with a career that has ever-expanding responsibilities.”

That’s not half bad… I can only hope that luck and happiness grows exponentially in the next five years!

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