Random things I have learned

20130307-221856.jpg Here are some random things I have learned. In no particular order.

1. Use two packs of alphabet cards to play a matching/teaching game with your child. Spread the first pack on the floor. Use the second pack to have your child (or children) name and sound out the letter, and then find its match.

2. Dollar stores are awesome. Seriously. Cleaning rags, hangers, some even have educational supplies. Not to mention tissue paper and gift wrap supplies.

3. Fresh garlic in your vagina can cure a yeast infection. However, you have to catch it early. Also, you will randomly taste garlic.

4. Potty training. It’s a process.

5. Trader Joe’s has awesome and reasonably priced spices. Speaking of which, their South African Smoke Spice makes any meat dish taste better.

6. Saving money is important, but sometimes, you gotta go for quality.

7. Organizational tip: Give things you use or lose often a “home.” Designate a spot for things like pens, puzzles, library books, keys, etc. Don’t be lazy; put those things back in their home every time you use them. That way, you’ll always know where that stuff is and won’t tear your house apart looking for what you need.

Thanks and goodnight. *bows*

Schoolin’ life

My mother, a former teacher who can’t stop teaching, gave me a set of those alphabet strips designed to stretch around a classroom. I held on to them for a few weeks because I couldn’t figure out what I wanted to do with them. She suggested cutting them up to make cards, but I already have alphabet cards.

I decided to put them up inside of this closet door in our living room. I can open the door for our lesson, then close them away so the house doesn’t look like a kindergarten classroom.


Hi-tech Mommy

I’m in the midst of potty training Grace. I’m…um…doing some…potty training fine-tuning with Cameron (I don’t want to talk about it). That means I have to be consistent about sending them to the bathroom. How do I do it? I set a little alarm on my phone.

We have new activities that we’re involved in now that the fall is here: a twice weekly play-date/pre-school thing and a couple of reading times that take place at some local libraries. How do I remember what’s happening when? I put in on the calender on my phone.

I have been completely outvoted on what we get to watch on television (no Disney, no peace) so what’s the quickest way for me to stay updated (read: freak out over) the presidential election? The internet on my phone, of course.

Recipes? Parenting question? Kids’ videos? Phone, phone, phone.

I’m sure my grandmothers would both be both confused and amused to know that they have a granddaughter who uses technology so much to parent and run a household. I actually find it pretty funny, too. But, one of the things I learned early in this whole parenting thing is using the tools that you have. It’s not like I’m using old t-shirts to make blankets, or catching and plucking my own chickens, but this is my small way of trying to be better by using something I already have in my purse.

Oh. And when I’m feeling like doing something a little out of the ordinary, I even make a phone call or two on it. Crazy, right?

Organization, I Will Make You My B*tch

A preamble – I have not historically been the most organized person on the planet. Actually, I am not even usually the most organized person in my car. One of the reasons I even have this blog is that it’s a way for me to fumble my way through this parenting/adulthood thing learning as I go, with the end result being not only have I not dropped my children or left them in a bar – but that I’ve turned out a pretty good family.

And now I will write about a rudimentary part of organization that I am just now using in my 31st year of life: list making. This summer, like last, I have the kids all day every day.

Last summer didn’t go so well. It actually went very poorly. For me, it felt chaotic and anxiety producing. I’d careen from random thing to random thing, always feeling like I was late for something else. It was too late to be taking them to the park because it was almost lunch time. I should have already thought about what we were having for lunch instead of waiting until 11:59 am. I should probably get some education into them so that they will grow up to be co-presidents of the United States. Except then I would just let them watch another two hours of Sesame Street and the Wiggles while I talked myself out of a guilt-hole. It wasn’t pretty.

Oh, last-year-Lisa. I want to go back and hug myself. Then pat myself on my poor, dumb head. Lists! Lists make life better! Lists mean I know what options I have for fun activities to get out of the house (and away from Sprout), what other adult responsibilities I need to handle, and I can even get some writing done in the process (see: this post). Instead of walking around fretting about the seemingly million things that need to get done, I write it down and have a good handle on what actually needs to get done and when.

Sam’s Club: The Final Frontier

"Oh, that? That's just Great Mount Capri Sun. Grandpa says we're never to go there."

My parents have been trying to get me to join Sam’s Club for several years now. They are ardent supporters and, should the US be struck by famine or war, just report to my parents house. They’ll be able to keep you fed for several years.

“You might save yourself some stress,” my mother in law said after a visit in December, “if you’d go and stock up on meats and things for the freezer.” Fine. Maybe God was speaking through my and my husband’s parents.

Plus, I hate grocery shopping. The endless possibilities are a little too much for my little frazzled rodent brain. I was beginning to feel like I was traveling a constant, vicious circle in my quest for ground beef and drink boxes. So, if this meant less visits to that brightly lit, poorly organized hell-hole, that’s not a bad thing.

I went. I got the $40 membership. I loaded up on Capri Suns, ground beef and chicken thighs. I have a container of salsa larger than my head. I got a hot dog and soda for less than $2.

It wasn’t so bad. I’m planning on cooking and freezing a bunch of meals today. Woop woop.

Mother’s Little Helper

Self care. It’s so incredibly important. I know I wrote about the importance of resting a while back, but that’s just a small piece of a larger picture. I think that the demands of parenthood can make us put ourselves on the back burner. We sacrifice not just our sleep, but sometimes our hopes and dreams, our health, our bodies, our hobbies. We do it because they are precious, our children; they’re invaluable. But please remember that you are invaluable, too.

This leads to something I’ve been wanting to write about for a while, even though it terrifies me to do so: depression. I have battled with depression with and without children. My first bout came when I was in the middle of my 20’s and trying to figure out what I was supposed to do with myself, moving from the extended childhood that college allowed me into for real for real grownup stuff.

My second episode came this summer. Being a working writer, a mother and a wife are all difficult things to do in and of themselves, and extra hard to do all at once. I think it can be done, but at the time I wasn’t equipped to do it. I was struggling and, on top of that, berating myself for struggling. It was a painful time. Medication was what helped me end my cycle of struggle/anger/pain.

Now, there is a lot that we still don’t know about the human brain and DNA and all that. Maybe I have a brain that’s wired to be more prone to depression. Maybe it won’t get that bad for you. But if it does, please know that you’re not alone. And if it doesn’t please know that you can still get tired – and that’s ok.

Please don’t be ashamed if you need help. Please don’t be ashamed if you can’t do it all.

ETA: Here’s an interesting article about suicide in the black community from Ebony. It’s a good read.


Unsolicited Parenting Advice: Rest Hard

Gratuitous cute baby picture

I firmly believe that you can’t work hard unless you rest hard, too.

This last few months have been full of transition for me. First I transitioned back to Maryland from living in the U.S.V.I., then I transitioned to living with my parents (we’d rented out our house to Johns Hopkins students while we were gone and they hadn’t moved out yet), then to job searcher, then back into our own home, then to stay at home mom, then, then then.

And I have it pretty easy.

But there have still been rough patches. I’m not saying anything that hasn’t been said a million times before, but I’m going to say it again in case there is one person out there for whom today is the day that it sinks in: PARENTING IS HARD. ADULTHOOD IS HARD. YOU NEED TO TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF.

When I’m not taking care of myself, I suffer and our household suffers. I am irritable and make stupid decisions. I snap at my husband and my kids. I look sloppy and everything around me gets sloppy. Ironically, I always think that by cutting corners in taking care of myself, I’m saving myself time. Nope. It takes longer because I veer off into insecurity and indecision. Or I get distracted because I need to have a fight with my husband for some reason or another.

When you are well rested, you can prioritize your time better and make smarter decisions.

Before I came to this realization, I’d always feel like if was stopping, I was slacking. So, I’d be with the kids, put them down for their naps and then immediately find another task to do. In my mind, I was only being productive if I was working. If I took a break, I felt guilty. But – now I find that the best thing I can do for my sanity is know what tasks I need to do, do them, and then take a break.

For example, I spend my mornings giving the kids breakfast, cleaning up the house, writing, and taking the kids out for some excercise. Then we come home and have lunch. After lunch is nap time. When they are asleep, I have more work to do – cleaning up dishes, getting dinner started, laundry, whatever – but I won’t do it until I’ve rested by either napping with them or taking some time to do something I’d like to do. I know that once the kids are up, there is a plethora of work awaiting me.

Granted, not everyone has the exact schedule as mine. A working parent’s schedule is going to look a little different – but I’ve also found that we can do pretty much anything if we try. Look at your schedule and find spots where you can take a break.

Unsolicited Parenting Advice: Sally Hanson Insta-Dry Fast Dry Nail Color

I’m putting this nail polish in the parenting category because the reason why I love it directly relates to my children. I can put it on and keep it moving.

I never wear anything but clear polish on my finger nails because I’m always washing something or wiping somebody, but I love having color on my toes. I don’t have the spare time or cash to get regular pedis *weeps softly* but this gives me a pop of color to keep me feeling like I at least put in an effort.

It actually does dry very quickly. Also, the color goes on thick so you only need one coat and it doesn’t run and bleed all over the rest of your foot.

The color I have is Rapid Red, but here’s a complete list of the shades.

***It should probably be obvious, but in case it’s not – no one is paying me to endorse this product.

Unsolicited Parenting Advice: Target Diapers

 We don’t do the brightly colored Dora the Explorer or Mickey Mouse or Sesame Street thing when it comes to diapers around here. Not because I’m above commercialization or bright colors or whatever, but because I love, love, love my Target diapers.

They are, in my experience, the perfect mix of affordability and reliable functionality. The thing with less expensive diapers, is that they can be pretty crappy. They can leak or be made with shady materials that can lead to diaper rash. When we lived in the U.S. Virgin Islands, diapers were expensive. Like, $30 expensive. So, we always tried to buy the cheapest, random brands, to less than stellar results.

When we moved back to Maryland, I was so happy to live in close proximity to a Target again. They always seem to be the best bargain on the giant Target wall of diapers, and more importantly, they work. We’ve never had issues with random, mysterious leaks or blowouts with these babies.

***It should probably be obvious, but in case it’s not – no one is paying me to endorse this product.