I’m so honored and excited that my birth story is featured on Gabrielle Blair’s blog Design Mom. Gabrielle is a rockstar in the blogging world and a mother of six (!!!!!!). She also recently published a lovely book called Design Mom: How to Live with Kids: A Room-by-Room Guide. It has tons of wonderful ideas and strategies for keeping a house kid-friendly while still being beautiful and functional.
Preschoolers produce a lot of “art.” Nolan comes home with at least three or four projects a week, not to mention the doodling, drawing, and writing (I use that term loosely) he does at home.
We display items that are seasonal or especially cute up on the mantle, and put some away in a bin in his room. But a lot of it…goes away. I’ll leave it out on the dining room table for a few days or a week, and if he doesn’t seem to be especially attached to it, in the garbage it goes.
In my hasty cleaning up on Wednesday, I put a project in the garbage and thought to myself, hmmmm, I should probably hide that a little better in there, but then I forgot about it and went about my day.
Shortly after Nolan got home from school he went to the garbage to throw away his yogurt container, and I heard him gasp, “Oh no!!!”
PANIC. I immediately knew he saw his art in the garbage and my mind started racing, Oh my god he sees his art and now he knows I threw it away and he is going to be so sad I did that and who has the number for a good child psychologist who takes my insurance?
He looked up from the garbage and said, “My beautiful project fell in the garbage!”
Huge sigh of relief. Yes, sweet little one, it fell. It absolutely was not purposely put in there. What evil mother would do that? Not this one!
I plucked it out of the trash and answered, “Wow! How did that happen? Oh! There’s some tape on the back and it must have stuck to some garbage I was throwing away. Good thing you saw it!”
We eat a lot of chicken in our house. For a while, I almost always bought skin-on split chicken breasts because they’re easy to roast and use in a lot of different dishes. They are also pretty much the only chicken parts that Ina Garten’s recipes ever call for, and we know how I feel about her. (Side note: if you like Ina Garten, you need to Google Ina Garten memes – so funny)
I used to avoid buying boneless, skinless breasts unless I was making chicken cutlets. I never knew how to cook them without them being dry and boring. However, in my efforts to save a few bucks, I’ve been buying big packs of them, so I had to find some tasty ways to use them. Good news…I found some!
Caprese Chicken – I found this one on Pinterest and I love it because it has a ton of flavor and requires very little prep or chopping. I shave two or three minutes off the cooking time on the chicken and use regular mozzarella instead of buffalo because I’m strange and don’t like buffalo mozzarella.
On a whim, I bought this Balsamic Reduction glaze and it’s so good. The caprese chicken is perfectly delicious with regular balsamic vinegar, but when you can drizzle this sweet syrup on it, why wouldn’t you??
One-Pan Chicken Burrito Bowl – Here’s another one I found on Pinterest. I loved it so much that I think I made it three times in the month after I found it. As the title indicates, you only use one pan, which makes clean up easy IF you don’t use heat that’s too high. The second time I made this I guess I left it simmering a bit too high and there was a whole layer of cooked rice stuck to the bottom of the pan. Ugh.
The other change I make to this recipe is that I swap out the can of diced tomatoes for a jar (or really three quarters of a jar) of salsa. It adds some extra flavors and with the huge variety of salsas on the market, you can really customize the recipe based on your taste.
Chicken Chili – This one comes from Dinner: A Love Story (a great place for solid recipes) and it’s another fast and easy one. When I read through the recipe for the first time, I saw four tablespoons of chili powder and thought, “whoa! That’s a lot of heat.” I like a little spice but not too much. To be safe I used two tablespoons and I thought that was plenty of heat.
I had serendipitously just bought Whole Foods Organic Fire Roasted Corn and it was PERFECT in this recipe. Obviously regular frozen corn is fine too, but the flavor from charred corn was delicious and added zero extra work. If you don’t have a Whole Foods nearby, I’m pretty sure Trader Joe’s carries a similar product.
5 Ingredient White Chicken Chili – yet another Pinterest find! It’s really more of a soup than a chili and it’s so fast and easy that I felt guilty just pouring everything in the pot and saying, “Ok, I made dinner!” The secret to this recipe is salsa verde. If you’ve never had it, it’s a very mild salsa and it’s delicious.
The base of the soup is only the salsa verde, chicken, chicken stock, cumin, and Great Northern Beans but then you can add so many delicious toppings at the end. I like cilantro, avocado, sour cream, cheddar, and broken up tortilla chips.
Do you have any go-to recipes for chicken breasts?
We moved in to our new house last October after doing extensive renovations. While I love our home and it has come a LONG way from where it was when we bought it, there are still some major projects that will need to be tackled down the road (like when we have money). There are also some small projects that I hope to accomplish in the next weeks and months, including planting some herbs and vegetables, putting together flower boxes for the front windows, doing something with our fireplace, and fixing up our corners of shame.
I call them corners of shame because they are two corners of our home, right out in the open, that are messy eyesores and not functional. Or in some ways, maybe they’re too functional.
Today I’ll address the living room corner. I could definitely use some ideas and help! The focal wall of our living area has a fireplace with three to four feet of space on either side. Our television is mounted above it and a sound bar sits on the mantle (not my choice). To the right of the fireplace is my first corner of shame. Behold:
It took a lot of willpower not to clean it up before posting pictures, but hey, this is what it looks like on any given day so I’m being honest. Let’s review what’s housed here.
Baxter’s crate that he goes in when we aren’t home
Mason jar of dog treats (because doesn’t everyone have that?)
Subwoofer for the sound bar
That yellow and brown piece of “art” is a tree from The Lorax that Nolan made
Random dirty white balloon that we use to play the occasional game of balloon volleyball
Behind the crate are white plastic hockey boards in need of repair for Nolan’s hockey game
I stare at this corner for much of the day and it pains me. With few exceptions, we need all these things and we need them there. But what the area has become is just a tower of ugly. In an ideal world, I want a cabinet-type piece of furniture to house the wine fridge and all our electronic mumbo jumbo; however, we still need the remote controls to work on the cable box. The fridge needs to “breathe” so the cabinet has to have some sort of open back.
There are tons of armoire-type pieces on the market, but ideally I want something no taller than the mantle, which is about four and a half feet high. I also haven’t forgotten that any piece of furniture will require a new home for Baxter’s crate, and there aren’t a lot of options.
The internet is a melting pot of advice and opinions, especially when it comes to child-rearing. On any given morning you can read how offering your child choices will make him spoiled and controlling and then click to another site to learn about the importance of choices so your little one feels empowered. (For the record, we haven’t had success giving choices or making choices for him so I need another idea!)
Being a parent for the second time has helped me feel a little more confident in my knowledge and abilities but sometimes I hear people’s advice and think, “Wow, this would really screw with a new parent’s head!”
The prime example of this is actually something I experienced in the hospital after giving birth to Will in November. First, let me say that I loved Huntington Hospital. I delivered Nolan at Winthrop and had a bad experience from start to finish (aside from getting to meet Nolan, duh). That’s one of the main reasons I switched practices and hospitals when we moved to Greenlawn. On the flip side, everyone at Huntington was kind and helpful and didn’t make me feel like I was a burden, which is exactly what I felt like at Winthrop.
Over the course of my two and a half days in the hospital, I encountered maternity nurses, maternity nursing assistants, nursery nurses, nursery nursing assistants, hospital pediatricians, and my own midwives. And this is what they had to say about feeding:
Newborn babies aren’t born that hungry. Don’t force it.
Even if he doesn’t seem hungry, wake him up and feed him if it has been more than two hours.
Feed the baby every three hours on both breasts.
Feed the baby every two hours, alternating breasts.
Nurse on demand when the baby seems hungry; don’t worry about the timing.
We don’t give out pacifiers anymore because giving one to a baby younger than one month old can cause nipple confusion and then he’ll have trouble nursing.
There’s no such thing as nipple confusion. Pacifiers reduce the risk of SIDS so you can start using one right away.
Breastfeeding shouldn’t hurt, so if it does, your baby probably isn’t latched on properly.
Of course breastfeeding hurts in the beginning while your body adjusts.
Now, I’m someone who likes instructions. I like steps to follow. I like schedules. Thankfully, since I’ve done this once before, I could smile and nod at all this conflicting information, but it made me feel terrible for the first time mom who would be so confused!
I can’t even decide for myself what I believe in. The two baby/parenting books I like the most are Bringing Up Bebe and The Happiest Baby on the Block, which basically preach entirely opposite outlooks on parenting. Yet when I read them, they both make TOTAL sense.
And the conflicting advice doesn’t stop at nursing. It applies to how your baby sleeps, poops, plays, eats, etc. New parents need advice (I think?) and yet when it’s given it sometimes causes even more anxiety. Did you receive any conflicting or confusing advice when you had kids (or got married? or bought a house? or started a new job?). How do you muddle through it without making yourself crazy? Any tips?
I have clear memories of car rides on the Belt Parkway with my mom, me sitting in the front seat (no airbags!), driving home to Canarsie and playing the quiet game. Do you know the quiet game? It’s the “game” to get your children to be quiet for just. one. minute. pleeeeeeease. Whoever talks first, loses. I lost a lot.
Fast forward twenty-five + years and sometimes I play that game with my own little one. Nolan talks from the moment he wakes up (around 6:30am) to the moment he gets into bed at night (at 8pm), plus all the moments after that when he climbs out of bed to tell me things.
I try to write down some of the funny things he says, but of course I can’t keep up. For every keeper I remember to record, there are ten other bizarre things he comes up with that I’ve forgotten before dinner. Here are a few recent ones…
While getting dressed in the morning:
NOLAN: Do you want to see my tushy?
ME: I already know it what it looks like. I made it.
NOLAN: You didn’t make it! You just pooped it.
While having breakfast:
ME: Yes honey?
NOLAN: … Mommy?
NOLAN: … Mommy?
ME: Oh my gosh, Nolan, what???
NOLAN: Um, the mosquitos are hibernating now.
While getting dressed in the morning…
NOLAN: These are my nipples. They’re little.
ME: Yup, they are.
NOLAN: Do you want to touch them?
ME: No thanks.
NOLAN: You have nipples on the front of your boobies.
ME: Yes. I do.
NOLAN: Can I see them?
NOLAN: I think you have bigger nipples than me.
At this point I didn’t know whether to explain to him that it’s generally frowned upon to talk about your mother’s nipples, or to tell him that using “me” is incorrect in that sentence, and he actually should have said, “I think you have bigger nipples than I have.” I decided to just leave it alone.
Finally, there is the occasional sweetness that makes all that talking worth it.
ME: Which do you like better, home days or school days?
Is there a dirty way to clean your hair? Actually, yes. Artificial fragrances, phthalates, and parabens abound in our haircare. These are ingredients shown to be irritants, hormone interruptors, carcinogens, etc. When I first started my efforts to reduce my exposure to harmful chemicals, the shampoo selection was slim. I probably tried five or six different brands over the past few years before settling on a few products that not only work, but are also safe. The brands that didn’t work shared a similar problem, they didn’t clean my hair. When you’re talking about a shampoo, that’s kind of important.
I should point out that I have extremely oily hair. When I compliment a friend’s hair and she says, “Thanks! I actually haven’t washed it in days!” I’m totally flabbergasted. (I think one friend in particular knows I’m talking about her here!!) I absolutely have to wash my hair every day, preferably in the morning. If I shower before I go to bed, my hair will start to look a little greasy by lunch. On multiple occasions, my mom has mistaken my greasy hair for wet hair, and that was probably about 36 hours after washing it.
All that being said, the past few years have seen a lot of new brands who are focused on making healthy products and are transparent about ingredient screening. If you’re unsure about the products you’re currently using, try searching for them in the Skin Deep section of the EWG’s website. If they’re in the database, you’ll see a score between 0 and 10 (10 being the worst). If they aren’t in the database, you can look up the individual ingredients.
Here are some of my favorites:
Beautycounter’s Clean Everyday Shampoo and Rinse Everyday Conditioner are both excellent and you absolutely can’t beat Beautycounter’s stringent ingredient screening. Because of the harsh chemicals Beautycounter leaves out, both products are great for color-treated or dry hair. The conditioner goes a long way and I will probably use 2-3 bottles of shampoo before I finish the conditioner. (FYI: I’m a consultant for Beautycounter since I love the products and mission!)
With my hair being as oily as it is, I find that I need something a little stronger if I’m washing it the night before. When that’s the case, I use Kiss My Face shampoo. I’ve tried all three varieties, and they all feel pretty much the same to me. If you’re looking for one to soak up the most oil, you should probably try the Big Body variety, but I use the Whenever more often.
Finally, when I’m too rushed for conditioner or if my hair seems especially knotty (sidenote: why is my hair so knotty all of a sudden?? Ever since I had Will, the back of my hair is in a perpetual tangle), I spray on Honest Conditioning Detangler after I shower. It’s light enough that my hair doesn’t get greasy, but it’s effective for getting out knots. I imagine it would be a life saver for parents trying to comb out kids’ knots!
Unfortunately, I can’t help you out when it comes to styling products because I don’t use any. My hair is so flat right now since I’m at the height of my “postpartum shed.” Seriously, at the end of every shower my drain has enough hair to make wigs for a family of small animals.
Do you have any safe hair products that you love? Or are there some bad ones that you simply can’t bear to get rid of?
**If you haven’t done so already, like my Beautycounter Facebook page. In addition to sharing news and info on healthy and safe products, I post promotions and deals! I’ll be raffling off a free hand cream to a Facebook fan this weekend.**