3!

The number 3 has been important to me my whole life. It was my favorite number, then my lucky number, and at 2:22 pm today it’s the age of my Baby J. I remember my whole world changed— I was handed a small wrinkly, warm, wiggly thing — it had stolen my heart before I had a chance to lay eyes on it. As the days went by it changed me, almost as much as it changed itself. He is my light at the end of every tunnel, he is as sweet as honey but as stubborn as a nail — but I wouldn’t have him any other way. They say the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree but man it’s like looking into a little personality mirror and it drives me oh so crazy. As the days pass and I watch him grow and become more and more his own person I become overwhelmed with emotion, on one hand I am proud of all that he has learned and all that he is able to do on his own, on the other I miss having a small, loving creature that doesn’t mind laying on me when I need a cuddle.

Three is an interesting age. He tries so hard to be independent but still needs so much help. His sass is at a whole new level. He knows what he wants but may not always know how to tell me. I can’t imagine life any other way, he is so active and caring, but just like any child he needs to be prodded along in the right direction. He already loves checking on his baby brother and his favorite thing to say seems to be “I OK MOMMY” as he dives into the ground, momentarily stopping my heart. I have a daredevil of a child who fears very little and loves the world of books.

Baby J
0-3. It’s like I blinked and I had a toddler that could talk and walk and had opinions.

As I sit here reflecting on how different my life has become I can’t help but wonder who I would be without him; its a weird thought, but I have changed so much, become so protective and obsessive about his daily life. I have somehow lost track of the person I had been. I have lost my identity, often referred to as “Jason’s mom” or “Jason’s wife” I sometimes feel as though I have lost me. I used to be Wadad, known for how stubborn and capable I was and here I am sitting in front of a computer wondering who I am. I am a wife, a mother, a personal chef, a housekeeper, I am still a person who cares and trusts too quickly and gives all that they can without thinking yet it seems like my identity doesn’t matter nearly as much as being “Jason’s mom” and I seem to be OK with that. My identity has changed and adapted to ensure that my baby boy is the best person I can make him, I realize that there is nothing I wouldn’t do for the sassy, angry, stubborn mess that I call a son, that is the biggest change that parenthood has brought, the fear that I am not doing enough, not being enough, not enough to ensure that he has the best that is possible. As the days pass I wonder, how did our parents make it through the maze of parenthood? How did they know they were on the right track? What are your biggest fears as a parent?

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The Battle of the Kitchen

I absolutely hate the kitchen. It is the place I feel most uneasy and that I feel as if I am the most incompetent. From grocery shopping, to meal prep, to clean up — I hate all the aspects and dread meal times like it’s my job. Over the last four years I have managed to bring things that I am comfortable with into the Kitchen World – lists, organization, step by step directions, attempted perfection; it drives my creative husband crazy (the man can walk into the kitchen pull out whatever is in the fridge and make something completely amazing – its so hard to compete with him). As I started my SAHM journey earlier last month I realized that I now have an interesting system that others may benefit from.

My first step is deciding what we’re going to eat. I normally go major grocery shopping every other week so I try to pick 14 meals that I think will work. I scour the Internet (Pinterest, Facebook, Google, etc), a couple of cook books I have and the plethora of apps on my phone to come up with my list. I fill in the meal and the ingredients for each of the 14 days (so that I can keep track of which meals my husband stole ingredients from and I don’t start making a meal that I don’t have the things I need for). You can see the printable right here.

Next I go through my cabinets and mark off the things I already have, I also have a little whiteboard on my fridge where I try to keep track of things I know I’m going to need as I think of them. I keep track of what I need in an organized manner on a nice little piece of paper that I have transferred into a PDF for y’all. It organizes the groceries into categories so I’m not getting bread and then milk and then going back for some bagels.

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When I am done with my OCD organization I hop online, I love shopping at Kroger even though it is a 40-minute drive for me each way. I go through the online coupons and load my card with whichever ones are relevant to my shopping list. Once that’s done I hop onto my iBotta app where I watch some ads and clip some offers. If you haven’t used iBotta it is awesome, it gives you cash back for things you normally buy anyways, go ahead and download it. If you use my referral code we’ll both get a $5.00 bonus for signing up and redeeming your first offer (my referral code is bxotqxc)! It’s a great way to find “extra money”– in the last three years I have made $155.45 (that’s $155.45 that I would not have had if I didn’t follow the simple steps – some stores require you to link their loyalty card to the app and automatically find your rebates for you, others make you scan the items that you have rebates on and the receipt, just follow the directions as you create your account!)

Finally I am ready to go. Grocery trips that used to take me at least an hour and a half are now done in 45 minutes or less, and that includes the time it takes me to argue with my 2 year old, better yet I have 14 meals and all the ingredients I need to make them! I let my husband decide what we’re having for dinner each night and as long as its on the list I am golden, I pull up my recipe and get my life together all without going completely insane and trying to make something on the fly.

I hope you found this useful! I know I wish I had some guidance four years ago. What are your favorite shopping tips and tricks?

Birthday Wreath

My little man’s birthday is coming up so naturally I had to come up with a clever door decoration this year. We’re celebrating his third birthday with a Paw Patrol Theme and I’m sure I’ll have a whole post about all the decorations and the cool things we found for that.

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Tools:

Materials
Wire Wreath, Wire Garland, Ribbon, Tissue Paper

Step 1: Get Your Materials

Make sure you pick the tools you need, the worst thing about starting a project is having to stop mid-project to go get something you forgot

Prep Balloons and Tissue Paper

Step 2: Prep Your Materials

  • Cut your tissue paper into strips that are approximately 2” by 5” then you need to twist them into little bows.
    • I used 1 sheet of each of the 5 colors I chose (green, sparkled white, blue, lime green, and pink)
  • Unravel your garland
  • Cut however many balloons you need in half (I used 5 balloons, but I wanted color variation – you only need one to cover the little spokes of the wreath)
  • Make sure your hot glue gun is hot.

Step 3: Assembly

  • I like to start on the outside and work my way in.
    • I wrapped my garland in two layers, first the colored stars and then the gold stars, through the top two rungs of the wreath, this allowed me to have lots of color and to have less of the actual wreath showing. I used hot glue to secure the wire when I got about eight inches of wreath covered to ensure that it didn’t move too much and stayed as condensed as I wanted it.
    • Once I was satisfied with the amount of garland I had I used super glue and the half balloons to cover the 6 sections where the wreath had vertical wire in it (the spoke looking things).
    • I moved on to the innermost rung of my wreath, I laid my tissue paper out in the pattern I wanted it and threaded it between the innermost rung and the one above it, hot gluing the tissue paper to itself on the lowest rung so it had a nice spring to it. This was definitely the most tedious and time consuming part of the process where I burnt myself multiple times.
    • Once you are satisfied with the fullness of your wreath you can go ahead and cut some ribbon (or crepe paper if you like that better) and secure it in the center of the wreath.
    • Hang it!

The Life of the Mom Friend

Do y’all have a friend who does everything? One who just finds the way to make everything work? Buying a car while your husband is out in the field and unavailable, go ahead and call her — she’ll go to the dealership with you give you the pros and cons on leasing and buying and let you make up your own mind. Need a pedicure, go ahead and call her and she’ll do it herself, watch your kids while you go to get one, or go with you and get it done. Need help with that assignment you’ve waited until last minute to start? She’s a whizz with words. Moving to a city near her and can’t make it down to look at homes? She’s got you, she’ll meet your realtor and go look at the houses – give you her opinion and tell you about the neighborhood, she’ll go to the home inspection and Facebook video your husband. Need childcare to run to the store, a doctors appointment, for a little free time? Home improvement project you need researched? Running late and need someone to grab your kid from gymnastics? She’s got you.

I’m that friend. The one who just wants to help – people ask why I get so involved, what the benefit is to me, why do I care so much? The answer is I like to help. There have been so many times in my life where I wish someone, really anyone, would just step up and out of their comfort zone to help. I’ve been called nosey, bossy, told I’m all up in people’s business for no reason, but I really don’t care. I feel like people need to care about each other and help each other out – they say it takes a village to raise kids, and I want my village to have the best that it can. Often it takes me a minute to warm up to people, I’m not the social butterfly my husband and son are – I’m awkward and never know what to say (Exhibit A) having the two of them as ice breakers is amazing (they have no idea what stranger danger is). I have learned to let them mingle and to just wait for my turn to become part of the picture — I know it’s cheating but it seems to work so well.

Over the last four and a half years my little family has not spent more than a year and a half in the same home, we have moved with the termination of our leases and when we finally decided to purchase a home only lived in it for eleven months before putting it back on the market and moving out of state. Many of our friends have been in the military and so we have experienced a lot of change when it comes to who is in our lives. There are some bonds that seem to last (i.e. Amber) no matter the distance or the circumstances and others that seem to fizzle away as soon as the convenience of being right down the road expires, no matter the promises that are made.

I am blessed; along with Amber I have a small community of moms I know I can count on. I’ve got Keaira who is my sounding board whenever it comes to anything fashion or difficult (thank you for my hair) – I haven’t seen her in four years yet the texts fly back and forth whenever we need each other and the Google Hangouts sessions last for hours. Kristynn was my Baby J’s second mother for over a year and a half: planning a baby shower I had to bow out of, feeding him, changing his diapers, making baby friends with him all while I pursued my career in retail – her timeline for life seemed to match up perfectly with mine until she left me for Texas but some bonds are just a little too hard to break. This brings us to Carissa who I currently can’t be more thankful for – as fate would have it her little boys are less than a year older than mine, Kristynn threw us together on her way out the door, ensuring that Baby J had a friend and that mommy had another mom nearby to depend on. She has watched my kid on so many occasions I’ve lost count and as fate would have it will be less than an hour away from me by the end of next month! We go on so many adventures together toting our kids and trying to ensure we’re doing this parenting thing correctly. I’ve got Amy – she is the sweetest, kindest, most selfless person I know. I strive on a day to day basis to emulate her kindness, patience, and love – watching her with her three boys gives me the hope that one day I will be able to handle my own boys like she handles hers, she is always there to make me laugh with a ridiculously timed snap and to give me advice about how to handle the tough things like potty training.

As my journey into motherhood has progressed I realize that my mother has become an instrumental part of my daily life. We spend hours every day on FaceTime; she helps me cook, answers any questions I have about caring for a rambunctious two year old, and has become my day to day lifeline. As the days progress I seem to become more and more thankful for her. I realize many moms don’t have such a community, they don’t have people they know they can call on a day to day basis and that no matter how tough my life gets my community of moms is something others wish they could have and I understand the struggle. The best advice I can give is be genuine, be yourself – not everyone is going to like you (heaven knows most people tolerate me at best) but don’t hold back. Life is short and people forget rather quickly, dance with the punches and remember it’s not your job to be everyone’s cup of tea: the most important thing you can do is be true to yourself and your family (a lesson I learned from my Js). I always bring all of me to the table, my talent seems to be that I am the Jack-of-all-Trades; Google is my best friend when I have questions, and I have an opinion on everything (just ask my husband).  It took me almost two years in Savannah to make my first friend and that was by accident (thank you lack of work-life balance) I’ve been in Phenix City for a month and have already started my little community of mom friends (my son ran over and asked if their daughter wanted to ride in his truck, completely bypassing both parents who stood their in relative shock), I have no idea if it will last but I can tell you that library dates are so much more fun when your kid knows another kid. Whether you have your own community or understand the struggle of not knowing what to say I hope you join mine, I hope you come by to stay and share your stories, your fails and your victories, your pride and your doubt with me – because life is better when we all understand that no one is perfect and that failure is part of life – go ahead and leave a comment, send a message, shoot me a tweet, however you want to tell me your story.

Friendship

When I opened my mail today I was confused, there was something other than the normal assortment of bills, there was a bright pink envelope that I wasn’t expecting. As I tore into it I realized that my best friend is the worlds most wonderful human being. Thoughtful, kind, selfless, genuine, caring, I could go on for an eternity. She had sent me a Mother’s Day Card with the most wonderful message inside, reminding me that she is always there for me—always more thoughtful and caring than I could ever hope to be.

Amber and I met at college orientation, she was the only other female in the political science group and so I quickly latched on, informing her that whether or not she liked it she was going to be my best friend. She went home and told her mother how crazy I was; yet here we are nearly eight years later navigating this thing called life together. We’ve been through so much together: breakups, bad jobs, poor decisions, graduating, long spells where we can’t figure out how to stay in touch, each of us independently moving down the coast and into a new life, kids, my kid pooping up her arm on our way to Savannah from Boston, we’ve even lived in each others guest rooms for short periods of time. She’s the best thing that I could have ever wished for – she never misses a beat (not a birthday, not a Christmas, not any reason she can find to celebrate). She is my sunshine at the end of every long tunnel and I know that no matter where I am and what I need she will be there.

Everyone has his or her rough patches, the times in life when you don’t like yourself let alone anyone else. I seem to have one every other year where I just immerse myself in myself, finding fault with everyone and everything for about a month, hating life. These are the times she shines, she busts through making way for others. There are many people who have entered my life leaving small traces (memories, changed habits, new ideas or notions) but there aren’t very many who a) want to stay and b) are allowed to stay. Amber is my oldest friend, she is the one who for some reason I have latched onto like Rose latched onto the door while the Titanic sank—she is my life jacket. We don’t always agree with or like each other’s decisions but we are always there for the victories and defeats. She is one of the few people who can say she has supports my decisions no matter how dumb she thinks they are, and she doesn’t hesitate to tell me how dumb they are either.

I hope everyone has their Amber, their crazy who drives over a thousand miles to attend a baby shower and turns around and does it again four months later with a newborn in the car, and then a year later for a first birthday party; the life jacket that they can depend on when the waters get tumultuous. Somewhere along the line she crossed the boundaries of friendship and became family. She cries with me, laughs with me, celebrates with me—she makes me a different kind of me when I’m around her, a better me. I’m so glad I was able to call dibs on my Amber when I did, cause without her I have no idea where I would be.

A Mother’s Day Reflection

“Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself. They come through you but not from you, and though they are with you, yet they belong not to you. You may give them your love but not your thoughts. For they have their own thoughts. You may house their bodies but not their souls, for their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams. You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you. For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday. You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth. The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrow may go swift and far. Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness; for even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.” -Khalil Gibran

As the day progresses I am thankful for my ability to be a mother, and thankful for all the mothers out there — without you your children would not be the people they are today. Many cultures view mothers as the backbone of society, they are the ones who bring children into the world and often nurture them, creating the next generation of society, and so they are an essential part of the natural progression of a culture.

I am especially thankful for all the mothers in my life — whether it is my own or the mothers of the people I love and adore on a day to day basis, only now do I understand how hard of a job it is. Mothers (whether it is the one who gave birth to you or someone else who CHOOSES to be part of your life) are the people who shape you. Often they are the people who show us how to be us, teach us how to do menial tasks, and teach us wrong from right; sometimes however they teach us what not to do. I am thankful for the fact that my mother is an example for me to follow, she is to this day the most important person who has shaped me. She is always there: to watch my kid, walk me through a recipe, teach me how to fix something that’s broken–it doesn’t matter that she is over 1,100 miles away. My appreciation for my mother has grown with the distance, it has grown with my becoming a mother. I am thankful for her everyday of the year, but I am especially thankful for her on this day.

The Journal of the Potty Training Mom

DAY ONE: Today was my first full day of the mommy journey – my little man got in a little before one yesterday and boy am I thankful for my sister. She flew him in and is staying until Thursday night, so I have some help while we adjust to this new situation. We had some trouble falling asleep, Baby J apparently is used to falling asleep with a TV on so I let him fall asleep on the couch and carried him to bed sometime around 10:30 last night. Big J cooked dinner so cleanup was definitely a chore. I finally made it to bed sometime around 11:00 and fell asleep pretty quickly. 4:30 AM comes pretty quick, as my husband’s alarm went off I sprung into action, first and foremost my pregnancy bladder is always full and second, this was little mans first night in his own room. As I walked in I knew something was off – Baby J was asleep on the ground. So pregnant belly and all I squatted down and picked him up and put him back in bed, I meandered back to my room where I turned on Netflix and passed out until 8:30, I got up and went through my daily routine, only to hear Baby J calling mommy. He had wet the bed. So bath time and washing sheets took up my morning, we went through the day trying to get accustomed to each other’s routines.

Cooking Baby
Baby J whipping up a meal, apparently moms cooking isn’t up to par.

DAY TWO: No accidents. Yay! We played all day, and adventured out to the river playground in Columbus to explore. Our foray into Best Buy to try and find a TV for little man’s room was not successful. Baby J loves the store, especially the gaming section. He ran around and played as if it was a playground for him. He ate ok, requesting some mac and cheese, which I happily obliged him with. We explored the neighborhood in our Sierra Denali but it was so hot we decided that was an after dinner activity going forward. We did meet our neighbors across the street and Baby J hit it off with their little girl right away.

Library Date
Baby J enjoying his library snacks

DAY THREE: The Library – it’s my new favorite place. The librarians are amazing, they have all these different events that are geared towards children and saved me from having to figure out what to do with a bored toddler for an hour. There were three different books and they even made a flower from foam! It was a Mother’s Day celebration complete with cupcakes, pretzels, cheese balls, and juice! We read a book that I am going to be buying for both of my boys Love You Forever by Robert Munsch, it is the sweetest book ever and I’m trying to think of the right thing to write inside the cover, if you haven’t read it yet I really recommend it. We also read Llama Llama Misses Mama by Anna Dewdney and Are You My Mother by P.D. Eastman. Baby J seemed to enjoy all of the books, but was not excited about any of the songs or dances we did. He did however love running around chasing the other children who were there. We adventured out to the dump where we brought our trash and then made dinner (my best so far, Mediterranean Stuffed Peppers – even Baby J had seconds)! We even ran through the sprinklers after dinner!

Baby J Sprinklers
Enjoying some sprinkler action

DAY FOUR: We had a lazy day. It was time to bring my sister back to the airport so she could fly home. We did some laundry and made a wonderful Lemon-Basil Orzo and Veggie dish for lunch. We got ourselves ready and headed to the Atlanta airport. Big J drove and we made it there in record time, we decided to do some exploring on our way home and poor Baby J took a three-hour nap, this did not work in mommy’s favor later on since he wasn’t tired when bedtime rolled around. He laid there and watched TV until at least midnight and complained that his belly hurt.

Car Nap
Car Napping at its finest

DAY FIVE: Our hardest day yet. I passed out in the toddler bed and woke up around 1:30 AM to crawl into my own bed. I got woken up at 2:50 AM because Baby J had wet his bed – bath, peeling wet sheets and toys off his bed, sanitizing the bed, and then convincing him to wear a pull up ensued. Finally getting him to cuddle into mommy and daddy’s bed around 3:45 AM. All of a sudden its Baby M’s turn, he apparently needed a snack –strawberries were a necessity and as I sat there at 4:15 AM snacking on strawberries while my husband was still fast asleep I was pissed. I was tired and cranky and very pregnant. He hadn’t done anything wrong; I was just pregnant and doubting my ability to do this whole full-time mom thing. I finally passed out just in time to wake up to my husband getting ready for work, as I dozed off again I realized this was going to be my life until further notice. As 8:15 marked the clock Baby J was waking me up to get ready – he was super excited about Toddler Time at the Library. We ventured back to the library where we signed up for a library card, borrowed some books, and got a whole lot of information about all the different activities they have going on. We stopped for chicken nuggets on our way home and continued to clean and do chores for the rest of the day, including a foray to the store for some ingredients we didn’t have for dinner (this is about the time Bay J decided it would be really fun to run around the store and have me chase him seven months pregnant). As I was making dinner Baby J decided to pee on the carpet, like pull his pants down and wee-wee right there in the middle of the living room. I would not have been angry had he not asked to be brought to the bathroom and then just stood there and stared at me like he had no idea why he was there. As I covered it in baking soda (my remedy for all the carpet mishaps we have),  I wondered what I had done wrong, why couldn’t I get this parenting thing under control. Baby J proceeded to help me whip up a batch of chocolate cupcakes (it was the cutest thing but I couldn’t get a picture since he was standing on a chair and I didn’t want him to fall). I just hope that I might actually get some sleep tonight and that we are done with accidents for a while.

Lost

Have you ever walked into a house that was once filled with the pitter-patter of small feet, a tiny person’s mess, an ungodly number of pictures and toys, and an endless amount of noise to find it empty? No longer are the toys that littered the floors, no longer are the pictures that adorned the walls, no longer can the hum of the refrigerator be heard even at the quietest time – the silence is unbearable, the empty rooms and empty walls barely show any signs of what used to be, yet it is so filled with memories. Christmas trees and birthday cakes, muddy tracks and whiny boo-boos, that first moment when it became yours and the moment you knew it would no longer be that. Have you ever felt the kind of lost of opening a door and expecting to find so much to be greeted by such emptiness? It’s hard. The words escape me.

As you stand in the entryway and wonder how there is so little, how is it so empty, how is it like there had been no one there? There is no one there to greet you, it smells empty and lonely; who knew lonely had a scent? It takes everything you have to push forward. You are alone. The house is empty. You plug in the air freshener, walk up the stairs to gawk at the emptiness from above – hoping there is some sign of the life that this home once held so it isn’t just a big empty house. Again you are greeted with nothing. The little scribbles that once lined the staircase are painted over, the permanent marker drawing that was once on the shelf is gone, the carpets are clean, and the closets are empty. You are impressed. Less than three days ago the house was full – it had couches and beds, pictures and toys, a sense of purpose, and here it sits empty waiting for its next inhabitants to find it and make it their own.

A part of you cries. It remembers the first boxes, the first time you turned the key in the lock. It remembers the countless hours you spent moving your things in, painting your colors on the walls, changing that lock and doorknob so that it better reflected who was living there. It remembers the fights that the walls had witnessed, about paint and decorating and who was more right. It remembers when you told your husband you would be having another baby. It remembers the moment your husband came bursting through the door to tell you he had finally got it, he finally had his own center, and it was in that moment you could see him bursting with pride but felt a dread knowing that your whole world was about to come tumbling down. It remembers the friends and family that helped you make your first memories there, helping you move your things in and then helping you celebrate your victory, funny how those are the people who also helped you make some of the final memories in your space. As you aimlessly wander through the house looking for a purpose to being there you realize there is nothing left. The cleaning supplies your realtor asked you to leave are there, there is a router that keeps your security system running but really there isn’t anything that is you.

As you walk out to get the mail you wonder how often you will be coming back to do that. How many more times will you walk through that door that you spent so much time painting? How much longer will you be able to hang on to this piece of your past? You have a new house – your husband is there, the toys and pictures that once gave this house its character are all waiting to do the same there, yet you feel lost. There is something about the challenge of taking a house and making it a home that you are reluctant about facing. It’s not the first time you’ve moved, and it’s not the farthest you’ve moved, but something about this house you are standing in front of makes you wonder how anything will match up? How will anything be so yours? It wasn’t the perfect home, but it was your home. How will the next chapter begin? As the small person you are still carrying makes their presence known you climb into your car and start it, reluctant to leave but knowing that you have to, you slowly back down your driveway and make your way towards the future, still eyeing the piece of your past that you are so scared to leave.

Parenthood

Pregnancy is a weird thing. Have you ever really thought about it? You are growing another person inside of you; you’re kind of like a host to a living thing that has a lot of trouble communicating what its wants, needs, and desires are. Communication is rough and all you know most of the time is that something is off – never really sure of what.

For a lot of people the journey starts with a little test and some pee that changes your whole life. I know the only reason I thought to take it was the nausea that I was plagued with, the first of the multitude of ways my guest was trying to let me know he was present and accounted for. Soon the nausea took on new meanings. If I was nauseous he might be hungry, hot, or thirsty – I just had to guess which of these the little prince wanted me to remedy. As time progressed the nausea turned into flutters and the flutters into cute little kicks. Today I feel like a beached whale, at 31 weeks pregnant the cute little kicks feel more like being body slammed from the inside – my body hates me. My back can’t figure out why it’s being punished and my poor toes look like Vienna sausages. I’m convinced he’s redecorating his temporary home on an almost daily basis, he must really need more room cause I’m confident that he’s trying to move the walls that confine him. My need to pee increases by the day, and sneezing is not pretty.

This is my second time down this road and it feels like the time is flying this time. In about nine weeks I should have my new baby boy and an even more destroyed body to complain about, but there is something about the way they look at you that makes it worth it, the way your heart beats when they hand this tiny, slimy, wrinkly thing to you and the pride you feel with each of the milestones your baby hits. There’s something about the way they seem to know that their dad is there and kick right where he’s got his hand, like they know it’s him.

Sure there are a ton of things that suck about being a parent (loss of freedom, a little person who has the same sassy attitude you do making it really difficult not to punch them in the face, the messes, the destruction) but there are so many things that make it worth it. There is a special kind of love that just comes to you; the minute you lay eyes on what to you is immediately the most beautiful thing in the world you feel it – or at least I did. That’s not to say you don’t contemplate putting it in a basket and leaving it at the front of the fire station at least once a week for a while, but you get past it. As you watch them learn how to communicate, how to roll, crawl, walk, talk, annoy the living shit out of you this sense of accomplishment starts to take over and you become invested in this person who is becoming their own person by the minute. They have their own attitude, thoughts, feelings, desires, and sass. They start having their own ways of doing things and it bothers you, soon they are these miniature independent beings that wreak havoc in your life and have a hard time listening when you most need them to, but you love them, even at their worst you love them more than you knew you could love anything—and that my friends is parenthood in a nutshell. It is loving something more than you knew you could love anything, unconditionally and wanting the best for them. It is being what they need you to be not what they want you to be and guiding the little hellions you have acquired (whether by birth, marriage, adoption, gift—however you got them) through life even when its hard and time is thin. It is about being there for them even when they have their own families, their own children, their own problems and making sure that they are the best them they can be.

Year 1: The Baseball Birthday

Birthdays are always exciting, but first birthdays are stressful. I remember Baby J’s like it was just yesterday, coming up with a new theme every year has become one of the most daunting tasks I have experienced. Each year it becomes more and more difficult and each year I dread it more and more.

For Baby J’s first birthday party we went with a baseball theme. From baseball themed invitations to baseball themed cakes, and decorations – we went all out. I made the cards and decorations myself but it was a planning disaster. I had forgotten that naptime coincided with the birthday and so when it came time for people to show up and the smash cake I was waking a one year old up from nap time. I’ll let you imagine how that went.

Invitations: 

1st Birthday Invite
1st Birthday Invitation

For the invites I found a picture of a baseball and used powerpoint to add a picture of my little man. I saved the slide as a picture and sent them off to be printed, making sure to buy some 4 x 6 envelopes (like these) to mail them off in. One thing I noticed I always forget to do is add an RSVP by date, and I always find myself scrambling to get a headcount the night before.

Decorations:

I love making things myself, so for my baby’s first birthday there were many arts and crafts that took place. I did however buy the standard Happy Birthday banner from the store along with the plates, cups, and party hats. I made sure they were sports themed so that I didn’t have to spend too much time minding them.

Rookie of the Year Banner
Rookie of the Year Banner

Rookie of the Year Banner: I went all out on this one decoration.

1) I bought 12 hollow baseballs (similar to these) and hand painted the lines onto them, I started out using paint and quickly switched over to a red permanent marker. I then wrote “rookie of the year” on the balls (I gave each letter of “rookie” and “year” its own ball while giving “of” and “the” just a single ball).

2) I bought some furniture needles (similar to these), I needed these to push the twine I was using to link the balls together through each individual ball, this was the most tedious part seeing that I had to make sure that each ball was centered with the letter, I made sure that there would be enough room to hang a 4 x 6 picture between the baseballs.

3) I got 12 pictures of my little angel (one from each month he had been alive) and glued them on some poster paper, I made sure to get the last picture the day of the party, printing it right then and there and adding it to the banner. On each of the pictures I marked the month and added “It started out a little rough (month 1) but (month 2) we (month 3) seem (month 4) to (month 5) be (month 6) getting (month 7) the (month 8) hang (month 9) of (month 10) it (month 11)” around the pictures.

4) I hung this up on the wall and made sure the spacing was pretty decent, I cheated and used some tape to keep the letters facing the right way – good news is I recycled this decoration into a piece for his room.

Balloon Keeper
Balloon Keeper

Balloons: I bought some extra hollow baseballs and used these to keep the helium balloons on the ground. I marked them “Jason’s 1st Birthday” but did not bother to draw the lines on them. I again used the furniture needles to thread the balloon strings through them. I gave many of these away at the end of the party to kids who had come because I did not want to deal with the 30 balloons my Ballon Time Tank had blown up.

Memory Baseball
Memory Baseball

Memory Baseball: I bought a single baseball and asked all my guests to sign it with a permanent marker before they left. This was an awesome way to remember who had come and now serves as a memento from his first birthday.

Outfits:

I made sure to get him a little bow tie for his cake smash, I wanted him to look cute but didn’t want him to ruin the “1” onesie I had gotten him for the actual party – this worked out perfect, because just as expected he got cake all over himself. I stuck with the red, white, and blue of baseball to make the day flow a little better.

Menu:

Baby J's Smash Cake
Baby J’s Smash Cake for 1st Birthday

We kept it pretty simple. We grilled some burgers and hot dogs, these were served with chips and soft drinks. The majority of the people who attended were really close friends and family so we kept to the basics. We did get a cake and a smash cake – these were both baseball themed and relatively simple. I went to Kroger because they were close and I liked their cake – everyone there is always so willing to help. We did the smash cake at the beginning of the party so that it would be out of the way, I forgot to buy tablecloths to lay out so we improvised with black trash bags.

Baby J's 1st Birthday Cake
Baby J’s 1st Birthday Cake

Thank You Cards:

Thank You Card
Thank You Card

I think it’s important to thank people. I again used powerpoint to create a simple thank you and saved it as a picture so I could print 4 x 6 photos. I used the baseball theme we had and just added some pictures from the party. Again, I sent these off to get printed and used the 4 x 6 envelopes I had to mail them off.

Brussel Sprouts and Cheese

Are you looking for a new way to bring life to your dinner table? My favorite method is to find new things to do with foods we already love. Check out this amazing and quick recipe I have for Brussels sprouts. I choose to serve this with pasta.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 lb. Brussels Sprouts washed and halved
  • 4 cloves of garlic minced
  • Lemon Zest
  • 2/3 cup of milk
  • 2 oz. of crumbled goat cheese
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 a juiced lemon
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes (or as many as you’d like)
  • 1/4 cup of chopped basil
  • 1/3 cup of Grated Parmesan Cheese
  • Kosher Salt
  • Black Pepper

Tools:

  • Oven Safe Skillet
  • Food Processor/Blender
  • Wood Spoon

The Steps:

  1. Preheat your oven to 400°F
  2. In an oven safe skillet heat your olive oil over medium heat, add your Brussels Sprouts (1 lb. washed and halved). Stir until they start to brown, this should take 4 to 5 minutes.
  3. Add your garlic (4 cloves minced) and lemon zest and cook until fragrant.
  4. Put your skillet in the oven for 10 minutes (your Brussels sprouts should be tender)
  5. Preheat your oven to Broil (Medium)
  6. In your food processor add your milk (2/3 cup), goat cheese (2 oz.), Dijon mustard (1 teaspoon), and lemon juice (1/2 a lemon) – pulse until the mixture is smooth then add a pinch of red pepper flakes and basil to the concoction and mix.
  7. Add your blended contents to the skillet and stir to combine fully
  8. Sprinkle with 1/3 cup of Parmesan Cheese.
  9. Return to oven for 2-3 minutes (your cheese needs to melt)
  10. Season to taste with salt and pepper
  11. Serve

Patio Table Revamp

Who out there has a table on their patio that’s seen better days? Maybe its a little rusted? Maybe you’re just bored with the way it all looks, maybe you just have nothing better to do. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to put a fresh spin on an old table.

Tools:

    • Furniture
    • Screw Driver (or whatever you need to get the top off the table – otherwise you can use painters tape to keep the paint where you want it)
    • Sponge and Soap
    • Heavy Duty Gloves and Latex Gloves
    • Face Masks – please don’t inhale all the dusts and fumes you’re about to be in the middle of
    • Sander and very Coarse Sand Paper – this is to get the paint off
    • Coarse Wire Brush – this is to get the rust off the table
    • Steel Wool – again to remove rust (I didn’t use this but I wish I had)
    • Spray paint (I personally like the Rust-Oleum) – I needed 2 cans to completely cover my table
    • Clear Coat – I only needed one can and again, I stuck with Rust-Oleum Satin Clear

      The Project
      This is the table I had that needed loving

Step 1: Get Your Tools

  • Make sure you pick the tools you need, the worst thing about starting a project is having to stop mid-project to go get more spray paint (just ask me).
  • Pick a color you love, I went with Satin Lagoon which is a nice turquoise color (as you become more familiar with my lifestyle you’ll see that’s a color I go to a lot when I’m looking for change) and a finish you like (there are many different finishes like matte, gloss, satin)

The Tools

Step 2: Get it Clean

  • I always start every project by washing and drying what I am working on. I used dish soap and a sponge to get all the grime off, don’t toss those because you’re going to need to do this step again once you’re done getting all the paint and rust off.
  • Put your mask and gloves on, these should be heavy-duty gloves that will protect your hands from the steel wool (steel wool splinters hurt really bad). Use your Coarse Wire Brush and Steel Wool to get all the flaky paint you can off, follow this up by using the steel wool to scrub any of the rust you can off.
  • Once you are satisfied with the way your piece looks go ahead and hit it with the sander, make sure there aren’t any large divots or uneven spots – spray paint will not hide those, it will however hide any weird colors you’ve got going on. Once it is sanded to your satisfaction go ahead and make sure you wash it down again, ensure there’s no dust from sanding stuck to your piece, ONLY DO THIS WHEN YOU ARE READY TO PAINT, OTHERWISE YOU WILL FIND YOURSELF SANDING AND WASHING AGAIN.

    Table Brushed and Sanded

Step 3: Paint

  • Make sure your table is DRY. Spray paint and water do not mix.
  • Put on your gloves and make sure your table is somewhere you won’t be too upset about getting overspray on (grass gets mowed so that’s normally where I head if I don’t have cardboard to lay under whatever I’m painting)
  • READ YOUR SPRAY PAINT
    • Apply your first coat – start at one end of the table and move to the other, keep your spray paint about the same distance from the table throughout the process and ensure you let go of the trigger between strokes, this ensures you don’t end up with paint bubbles.
    • I like to make sure my strokes overlap so that there aren’t any spots I miss. A best practice is to move with the piece, if you look at my table you can see how it looks like its made of different planks, I attacked it by painting each of those planks individually.
    • I waited 20 minutes between coats, when I went back I made sure that when I touched the table it wasn’t still wet, I applied my second coat the same day.
  • Apply your Top Coat
    • Again, please read your spray paint, I again applied 2 coats of topcoat to make sure that there wouldn’t be any chipping in the near future. I applied the first coat the next morning and then waited 20 minutes before applying the second one, I tackled it the same way I had originally – plank by plank.

Step 4: Wash and Decorate your Masterpiece

  • I went ahead and waited 24 hours before washing my table because that’s what my spray paint advised me to do. I went online to try and find some cushions for my chairs that wouldn’t break the bank but would look good with what I had painted. And Voila!

    Finished Project
    I decorated mine with a flower I had gotten as part of my good-bye gifts and accessorized my chairs with cushions. I sat the flower and bug repelling candles on a Berwyn Cambria Tile to add some neutral colors.
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