New Blog Launch + WINNER of the Book Giveaway Announced!

Book Giveaway Winner
UPDATE 10/20/15: To view my new blog and find out who won the Blog Launch Book Giveaway, click here!

It’s been quite a while since I last posted, but I have excuses reasons!

A lot has been going on lately.  In the past six months, I have:

  • Gone through a (thankfully temporary) health condition that put me on a Medical Leave of Absence from work
  • Made the decision to resign from my high-powered corporate job – and actually did it!
  • Found out I was pregnant (surprise!) with my 3rd child
  • Begun building a freelancing/writing business

Phew!  Makes me tired just thinking about it.  But boy – it has been super exciting and I can’t wait to see where this journey takes me.

My new blog will be launching on Tuesday, October 20th, 2015.  It is called Leap of Faye and will chronicle my journey from 8-5 Corporate American to new Freelancer/Writer.  It will include my thoughts and experiences on earning money, saving money, leaving my “regular” job, parenting, pregnancy, and all of my other favorite topics.  I will continue to post here as well, but hope to make Leap of Faye my new primary personal blog.

I am excited to launch, and am hosting a Facebook contest to celebrate.  The contest will run until October 18, 2015.  One lucky reader will receive two of my favorite books:

Now, Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham

This fascinating book includes an online test to help readers identify their top 5 personal strengths.  It then goes into detail discussing each of these strengths to help readers better understand their goals, motivations, and how to best leverage their strengths for success.  I love this book and activity, and have conducted it with many teams I’ve led in the past.

The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich (Expanded and Updated) by Timothy Ferriss

This motivating book explores a change in perspective as to how we think of work and making a living.  It discusses the many options available to move away from a rigid 8-5 job to building your own income streams in the pursuit of greater flexibility, more time, increased fulfillment, and greater income opportunities.

Of the many books I have read over the years about making the leap, these have been the two that have resonated the most.  They are also the top two books that I continue to come back to time and time again.  I hope they inspire and motivate you as much as they do me!

You can enter the Facebook contest by clicking here: Leap of Faye Book Giveaway!  If you prefer not to use Facebook, you can still enter here: a Rafflecopter giveaway.  You will receive 1 entry for Facebook interaction, 1 entry for a Twitter follow, and 3 ENTRIES for subscribing to my new blog.  Good luck!  The contest ends on 10/18/15, and I will be announcing the winner upon the launch of my new blog on 10/20/15.

And although I will continue to see you here, I would love to have you join me on my new journey as well!  Please go to Leap of Faye to subscribe to my new blog,  or to join me on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest.  I hope to see you there!


Can Mothers Really Have it All?

working momI know – it’s the billion dollar question.  The question that has been debated for generations, and yet remains unclear.  Can mothers really have it all?  Or is it a myth, an unattainable rung on the ladder that serves only to remind us that we are failing?

I don’t know.

I am trying, dammit.  I grew up in the generation that was taught that we women could do anything and everything.  And do it well.  And with grace.  And beauty.  And charm and wit and manners and all the rest of it.

Were they right?

For my first 35 years, I would say yes.  I would probably say a resounding yes.  The formula simply worked.  I studied hard, I worked hard, and I soaked in every experience that I could.  My achievements were recognized and I was rewarded.  And so I worked harder… for greater achievements and larger rewards.  I was striving towards my potential, and slowly but surely realizing it.

I felt that I did have it all.  The education, the career, the house, the travel, the husband, the enriching friendships.  All it took were some goals and elbow grease.  I was smug.  If others worked as hard as I had then they, too, could have it all.  Perhaps those whining about not having it all were just a bit… lazy.

And then as the story goes, my first child arrived.  Then my second.  And then all hell broke loose.

Cracks began to appear.  A child is shushed on a Saturday because Mommy needs to finish something up “really quick” for work.  A project proposal draft is halted because a feverish child needs to see the pediatrician.  My new greatest fear is the nanny calling in sick.  Or an out of town business trip.

When I am with the children, I am worrying about all the things I need to remember to do at work… and emailing myself reminders.  When I am at work, I am missing and worrying about my children… and emailing myself reminders.  I am juggling, as millions of mothers do every day.

Suddenly I am torn.  My former 100% at work has doubled with a new additional 100% towards the children.  Some say that it becomes 50/50.  I don’t agree with that.  If I don’t give 100% at work then, well, my work will suffer and I will not achieve and that begins a downward professional spiral.  If I don’t give 100% to my children then, well, I don’t even want to think about what could happen.  So we try to pull the additional hours out of thin air.

Sleep suffers.  Relationships suffer.  Stress levels skyrocket.  But above all else, I feel like I’m not doing anything well.

Is this what “having it all” means?  Trudging through day by day, checking the endless boxes on a laundry list of tasks to simply make it to bedtime?  Refocusing constantly between kids… work… logistics?

But on paper, I have it all.  The family and the career.  I am living the American Dream.

Maybe this is temporary.  My children are young, ages 3 and 1, and we don’t have any help that is unpaid.  Perhaps this is the tough stage before it gets easier.  Maybe when they are ages 15 and 13, I will be so grateful that I powered through this stage to have it all… my wonderfully raised children and my flourishing career.

And maybe I won’t.  Maybe I will regret the time I missed with my children.

Or maybe having it all isn’t a destination at all.  Maybe it isn’t a societal prescription of accomplishments.  Maybe instead it is simply a frame of mind.  A focus on gratitude for whatever decisions we make in our lives.  The work-outside-of-the-home mother being grateful for the ability to nurture both her personal and professional sides.  The stay-at-home-mother being grateful to experience every moment with her child.

Maybe once we peel away the expectations of what we think having it all is supposed to mean, then we can begin to understand what it actually means for each of us.  And then our natural priorities can begin to shine through.

I still don’t know.

But I do know that the answer is not nearly as clear to me as it was a few years ago.

In the Words of My Toddler 2

And they just keep on comin’!  My toddler has become quite the unintentional comedian.  A few more jewels of wisdom for your reading pleasure.

Me: [driving to doctor’s office for son’s potential ear infection] Does it still hurt, Sweetie?
Toddler: Yes.  I think I hit my ear when I was running.  I have to be more careful.
Me: Does it hurt on the inside of the ear or the outside?
Toddler: On the inside.
Me: What does it feel like?  Is it a sharp pain?
Mom: [in a eye-rolling kind of tone] Nooo Mommy!  A shark swims in the OCEAN!  Not in my ears!

Hubby: [getting toddler up after an early nap for misbehaving] Are you in a better mood now?
Toddler: Yes.  I sorry, Daddy.  I sorry for hitting.
Hubby: Why did you hit?  Were you tired?
Toddler: Yes, I was tired.
Hubby: If you’re tired, you can just tell us and we can leave the park.  You don’t have to misbehave.  You don’t have to hit.
Toddler: [stunned] I no have to hit?!
Hubby: No.
Toddler: [still in shock] I no have to hit when I’m tired?!  [pause, thinking]  When I’m tired I just tell Mommy and Daddy?  Then we go home??  I no have to hit?!

Toddler: [with his toy doctor kit] Mommy, let me listen to your heart!
Me: Okay. [toddler listens with toy stethoscope]
Toddler: Okay, now I will look in your ear.
Me: Okay. [toddler peers inside]
Toddler: Turn around, Mommy.
Me: Okay. [I turn around but startle as toddler tries to insert something sharp into my you-know-what] Hey, what are you doing!?
Toddler: [holding up his toy thermometer] Taking your temperature!

Toddler: [with list and pencil] Mommy, what do you want to eat?
Me: Hmmm… I would like an ice cream sundae.
Toddler: Okay! [runs into the kitchen, then back] Here you go!
Me: Can I get a cherry on top?
Toddler: We have no cherries.
Me: Can you go get some?
Toddler: Okay! I am going to the store now! [starts walking across the living room]
Me: Okay, start your car…
Toddler: [shaking his head, exasperated] MOMMY!  There is no car in here!  This is the LIVING ROOM!

Toddler: [standing shirtless in front of the mirror and repeatedly pressing his outtie belly button in roughly] AARRRGHH!
Me: What are your doing??
Toddler: I’m trying to fix my belly button!  It broke and I can’t get it back in!

Baby: [crying at the dinner table]
Me: Aw, are you all done with your dinner now?  What’s wrong?
Toddler: [earnestly] I think he wants some mint chocolate chip ice cream now.

Toddler Friend: [helpfully, after having just beat my toddler in a foot race] You should really try some more vegetables.
Toddler: They will help me go faster?
Toddler Friend: Yes they will.  You should really think about it.  Try it and see.

Toddler: [running ahead of us on a walking path] I’m fast, Mommy!
Random Couple: [smiling as toddler runs by them] Wow, you are fast!
Toddler: No!  I am SUPER fast!  I eat my vegetables.  The vegetables make me go SUPER fast!

Seriously… Can I just freeze this age??

7 Best Gift Ideas for a New Mom

GiftWe’ve all been there, moms and childfree women alike.  You get the text message, the announcement, the phone call: So-and-so just had their baby!  You’re thrilled, of course, for your dear friend who is finally at the end of her pregnancy journey… And at the beginning of her lifetime one.

You want to celebrate with her, yet understand her need to withdraw temporarily from her public, to bond and care for this new human being.  Yet you still want to express your sincerest congratulations, share in her joy, and give her something she can use.

So – what to give?  More clothes for the baby?  A swaddling blanket?  Diapers?

Perhaps… Or perhaps something a bit more memorable.  Following is a list of the most memorable congratulatory gifts I received (or heard about) after having each of my two children.

1. Dinner at a nice restaurant.  With you, her friend.  Oh – she will fight you.  She will hem and haw, and lament at how she cannot possibly leave her infant yet for an adult meal away.  I’ve been there.  I had a friend who insisted that I shower, put on something other than sweats, and leave the house for a nice dinner away from my precious baby.  I didn’t want to.  I felt guilty about leaving.  I REALLY didn’t want to.  And as the hour drew nearer and nearer I began to panic about leaving my baby.  But, it was too late to cancel and she was on her way.  So I went.  And we sat.  And ordered a bottle of wine.  And ate.  And talked… A bit about the baby, but more about me and how I was doing.  And it was one of the most memorable gifts I was given.  I think we often neglect to remember the mother once the baby is born; the celebrated vessel of life is suddenly delegated to the role of a walking feeder/pooper-scooper.  Add a good dose of post-partum hormones to that mix and it is a recipe for complete deflation.  So giving your girl friend the gift of focus on her, the gift of your time, the gift of reminding her that she is an individual in addition to being a mom – is in my opinion one of the kindest things you can do.

2. A few hours away.  Trust me, your girl friend is drowning.  She is a walking zombie who has lost all track of day and time.  She may or may not let you know this (for some reason, our society dictates that we must be cheerfully doing it all with a smile plastered across our exhausted faces).  But know that she is temporarily lost in the abyss of insanity that occurs right after a new baby is born.  She won’t ask for your help.  But what if you just offered it?  Not the vague “call me if you need anything”… But a real, tangible offer of help.  Something along the lines of, “I am coming over this Wednesday at noon and will be staying with the baby until 5pm.  I will not be talked out of it and you cannot keep me from this precious baby [play on her emotions, folks!] I encourage you to go out and do whatever it is you want to do.  Go to the gym, take a walk, go to the spa, go the movies – heck, go to Target.  That time is yours and whether you stay or go out, I will be there.”  This type of an offer – the firmness and concrete-ness of it – will be something she never forgets.

3. A nap.  Same as above, your assertiveness will be critical.  But let your friend know that you will be coming over, taking the baby out (for a walk, to your house, etc). for, say, 2-4 hours so that she can simply sleep.  Blissful, uninterrupted, deep sleep.  Ask for the key so that you don’t have to disturb her when you return.  Reassure her that you will call or text the absolute second you have any questions about the baby.  Bring over a few of her favorite magazines, a few snacks, make her a cup of chamomile tea and honey, and send her to bed.  If you are an amazing friend (and who isn’t??), give her the night off completely.  Stay over, learn her feeding routine, and let her know that you will be the one to answer every cry, every diaper change, and every feed for an entire night.  The key here is to actually DO it too – within a timely manner so Mommy doesn’t wake.  Yes, I know, it is a night lost… But you will likely be rewarded with sobs of gratitude, and a rested and more rational girl friend.

4. Media gift certificate. For as busy as new moms are, there is a lot of down time too.  By “down”, I mean a baby laying down on Mommy while she breastfeeds, formula feeds, and rocks her to sleep.  And while a good portion of this time will be spent caressing the baby’s hair and gazing into her eyes, another portion will be spent not-scratching-that-itch, not-sneezing, and not-moving-a-muscle in a desperate attempt to not wake the baby.  This is the perfect time for Mommy to NOT Google, but instead to watch, read, or listen to something entertaining.  I highly recommend Amazon gift certificates here, folks.  Let her pick her poison – a movie, a book, a show, or music – and have at it.  Make sure you write clear instructions on the gift card, advising her that the gift must be used for some form of media entertainment for her and her alone.

5. A house cleaning/organizing. Chances are, your friend’s house looks like a tornado hit.  Keeping the house tidy is likely at the bottom of her priority list.  Even still, the mess is bothering her, contributing to her feelings of frazzle-ness, and just plain making it difficult to find anything.  Help a girl out!  Hire a housecleaning or organizing crew to come out and complete a one-time deep clean or organization.  Allow her to clear her head with a fresh and clean house.  Getting her to a point where it just needs to be maintained instead of deep cleaned will lighten her load and immediately eliminate some of her stress.

6. Food. You can never go wrong with food, but make it thoughtful.  If she is breastfeeding, make her something to assist with lactation (several cultures have lactation soups or dishes to help with this).  If she has a family of five, bring over a fully prepared meal for everyone.  Heat it up, set it out buffet style, and for an added bonus – clean up afterwards.  Bring a treat for the poor dog who likely hasn’t been fed in days.  Bring a bottle of your girl friend’s favorite wine.  Bring juice for the kids.  Paper plates, cups, and utensils – all the better.  If you’re not much of a chef, order your friend food.  There are multiple restaurants that cater, or you can simply send a pizza and breadsticks to her home – she will be just as happy.

7. A personal item to mark the occasion. Find your girl friend something for her that is special.  She will already be receiving flower arrangements, baby clothes, toys, rattles, and diapers.  While helpful, these types of gifts tend to blur together.  You’re looking to do something special, something that she will remember.  So get her something to celebrate her.  A pair of earrings (perhaps yielding the birthstone of her baby), an engraved locket, or a personalized bracelet.  A nice wallet or handbag (NOT baby bag) that she has been eyeing.  Steer away from clothing until her body has had the opportunity to get back to normal.  Think perfume or candles.  A nice robe.  Slippers.  A homemade quilt.  Tickets to see a favorite band or sports team.  A tablet if she is techie.  Anything that is for her, her comfort, or her enjoyment.

I think the overall theme here is to focus on your girl friend as your friend first, finding her something that lets her know she is still an individual, that you still love her for her, and that she is important just by being her (in addition to now being a mom).  Celebrate her.  Listen to her.  Support her.  She will be more grateful than you can imagine.

Moms, what were some of your most memorable gifts received after having a baby?


Photos from a Toddler’s Perspective

After having children, I quickly learned that relying on pricey photo shoots and the gracious generosity of dear photographer friends was not practical to capture all the moments I wanted of my two babies.  So… I took up the hobby of Photography.  Hesitantly at first, but embracing it more and more as I continued to learn.  A couple books here, a new lens there, and a photographer friend’s advice to boot – and I am slowly but surely starting to improve.

This means practice.  Lots and lots of practice.  Pictures of everything.  Kids playing.  Kids sleeping.  Kids eating.  Kids crying.  Everything.  At these beginning stages, I rely on the theory that if I take 1000 pictures, at least 1 of them is bound to turn out.  I figure that my semi-obsession peaked once my toddler began carrying around a coaster, plastering it over his eyes, and yelling “SAY CHEEEEEEESSEEE!!” every 3-5 minutes.

Well.  We can’t let the poor guy walk around with a rubber coaster glued to his face.  So we talked Santa into bringing him a toy camera for Christmas (the VTech Kidizoom Camera).  A heck of a step up from a coaster, if you ask me.  (Really?  Kids’ cameras these days have memory, zoom, and a video recorder??  That’s better than my first 10 adult cameras).

Back to the point.  Our son now walks around with a kiddie camera glued to his face, constantly imploring us to “WAIT” while he counts to an arbitrary number (sometimes 3, sometimes 10, sometimes 17) before yelling “SAY CHEEEEESSEEE!!”

It finally dawned on me that we could actually download the pictures he was taking – and so I did.  And it has given me a glimpse into his world, these photos through the eyes of a toddler.

To begin, a few atmospheric shots.  Here is one of his kitchen – specifically the fridge and cupboard.

Kitchen, by Toddler

Kitchen, by Toddler

And another one, of the counter.

Counter, by Toddler

Counter, by Toddler

Now for a close-up.

Counter Close-Up, by Toddler

Counter Close-Up, by Toddler

And the floor is also very important.  Glad he captured this.

Floor, by Toddler

Floor, by Toddler

Don’t forget a perspective shot.  At dinner.

At Dinner Table, by Toddler

At Dinner Table, by Toddler

And he couldn’t forget the Christmas tree!

Christmas Tree, by Toddler

Christmas Tree, by Toddler

Now that he had better familiarized himself with the camera, he decided to move on to some live subjects.  First, the dog.

Dog, by Toddler

Dog, by Toddler

Then an artsy close up.

Dog Napping, by Toddler

Dog Napping, by Toddler

And finally, a pretty impressive head shot.  At eye level.

Dog Head Shot, by Toddler

Dog Head Shot, by Toddler

Not too shabby!  At this point, he was ready to tackle something a little more challenging – his brother.  A nice action shot, with professional-like off centering of his subject.

Brother, by Toddler

Brother, by Toddler

And finally on to his taller friends and family.  Notice the technique of cutting off the heads… To keep it interesting.

Friend, by Toddler

Friend, by Toddler

Daddy, by Toddler

Daddy, by Toddler

Mommy, by Toddler

Mommy, by Toddler

Mommy, by Toddler

Mommy, by Toddler

And here he captures the top half!

Daddy, by Toddler

Daddy, by Toddler

And finally, he is ready to bring all his experience together in the quintessential couple photo.

Mommy and Daddy, by Toddler

Mommy and Daddy, by Toddler

Mommy and Daddy, by Toddler

Mommy and Daddy, by Toddler

And let’s not forget the Selfie.

Selfie, by Toddler

Selfie, by Toddler

I clearly have a budding Annie Liebovitz on my hands.  I can only hope that I am able to nurture and encourage his talent despite my lack thereof.

In the Words of My Toddler

I am slowly finding that if I can navigate through the stubbornness, tantrums, and ever-increasing messes, one of the hidden joys of toddlerhood is listening to the things that come out of my little guy’s mouth.  Watching as he attempts to piece conclusions together has given us the comic relief so desperately needed at this stage.  A few recent gems:

Me: [Wearing mascara – a very rare occurrence]
Toddler: [Squinting up at me, head cocked] Mommy, what’s wrong with your eyes?  Why your eyes black?
Me: I put some makeup on for the Christmas party.
Toddler: [Thinking it over, and then suddenly the light bulb goes off] OH!  Mommy wants spooky eyes!  Spooky eyes like Halloween!  SPOOOOOKY!

[Cuddled up with toddler on the couch, fighting a cold]
Toddler: [Doing “projects”] Mommy, you’re not feeling well?
Me: I just have a little cold.
Do you want me and Daddy to make you a project to feel better?
Me: Why, sure!  That would be very nice.
Toddler: [In earnest] Daddy, Mommy is not feeling well.  We need to make her a kite so she can feel better.

[Pulling car out of the driveway with toddler buckled in his car seat]
Me: [Annoyed] No, we don’t go faster in the car.  We drive carefully.  Who taught you that?
Toddler: Daddy said go FASTER but only when Mommy not in the car.

[Returning from public restroom at amusement park as husband leaves for his turn]
Toddler: [Excited] Mommy!  I ate a chocolate bar!
Me: What?  Where did you get a chocolate bar?  You know you’re not supposed to have candy in the morning.
Toddler: Daddy gave to me when Mommy go potty.  Daddy said, ‘Don’t tell Mommy’!!

[Talking to baby at dinner table] Are you all done now?  You’re finished with your milk?
Baby: [Laughs]
Me: [To baby] I think you enjoyed your dinner.  Are you all done?
Toddler: [Seriously, shaking his head] Mommy, Daddy, he can’t talk.  He is just a baby.  He can’t talk yet.

[At dinner table] Mommy, I don’t like this one.  I don’t want this one!
Me: What do you say if you don’t care for something?
Toddler: [Sighs] May I, I don’t want this one, please!

[Driving toddler home from preschool] I missed you today while you were gone.
Toddler: Everyone miss me when I am gone?  Everyone sad?
Me: Yes, we all miss you.  Even the dog!
Toddler: Yeah.  Everyone sad when I am gone.  Everyone get happy when I come home?
Me: Yes, we look forward to you coming home.
Toddler: Yeah.
Me: Do you miss us when you’re gone?
Toddler: No.  I want to see my friends.

[At dinner table] Did you have a nice nap?
Toddler: Yeah.  I had no dreams. [Pause, then seriously] I had a fart in bed.  I had two farts.  Just small farts.  No big farts.

New (Second) Favorite DHA Supplement

BottleWithout diving into a debate about breastfeeding vs. formula feeding (other posts cover some of my thoughts on this topic: Judgements: Breastfeeding vs. Formula Feeding and Encouraging Breastfeeding: How Far is Too Far?), suffice it to say that I have always had to supplement.  I was very proud that with baby #2 I was able to provide about 75% of his sustenance through breast milk through 9 months; however that means that I was still relying on formula for the remaining 25% and 3 months of the first year.

As such, it has always been critical to me to find the highest quality and most natural formula and supplements that I could.  And I was thrilled when after months of trial and error with baby #1, I finally found Nature’s One Baby’s Only Organic LactoRelief formula (try saying that 10 times quickly) paired with their DHA & ARA Fatty Acid supplement.  Finally something checked all the boxes: organic, natural (as possible), lactose free for sensitive tummies, and a DHA/ARA supplement that is egg derived via a water process – instead of being derived from algae and fungus and treated with hexane solvent, acid, and bleach (like the DHA/ARA found in all other commercially available infant formulas).

In fact, I was so pleased with the DHA/ARA supplement by Nature’s One that I continued to order it long after my eldest was off the bottle; I continue to give it to him to this day, mixed with his milk or yogurt.

So I was extremely disappointed to find the following message on Nature’s One’s website last night when trying to reorder:

Unfortunately, due to low demand and rising packaging/ingredient costs, Baby’s Only Essentials DHA & ARA Supplement will not be available for purchase going forward. Nature’s One made this difficult decision so that we can continue to focus our efforts on providing the best products possible while maintaining competitive prices.

That means that after our last two boxes, I am out – and will need a replacement as I definitely still want to supplement DHA for both children.  Fortunately, it appears that all Nature’s Only infant formulas remain in production; most notably, the Dairy formulation which includes their water-processed DHA/ARA.  Unfortunately, their LactoRelief formulation does not, at the moment, offer an option inclusive of DHA/ARA – so that leaves me trying to find an alternative.

After some research, I plan to switch to Nordic Naturals Children’s DHA Liquid.  I had always been reluctant to use cod liver oil due to concerns with mercury, so had previously steered away.  But in researching Nordic Naturals, I found that they surpass international standards for levels of mercury (< 0.1 ppm).  They additionally surpass international standards for other worrisome heavy metals such as lead, arsenic, and cadmium.  PCBs are concerning as well – and fortunately this product surpasses international standards (including standards under California’s Prop 65).  Most comforting is the fact that these statements are backed by third party – not Nordic Naturals – analysis.

But how are the fish sourced?  I was pleasantly surprised here as well.  Nordic Naturals maintains that their Arctic cod is wild-caught from Norwegian waters.  Furthermore, that their fishing practices align with the Norwegian fisheries management system to prevent overfishing; that they use responsible fishing gear to prevent the unintentional capture of other species; and that they use regulated line and net fishing methods to prevent damage to the seafloor and ecosystem.

I did have one final thought pop into my head that I wasn’t sure would be addressed on their site… And that was if there were ANY fish sourced from areas that may be impacted by the Fukushima nuclear power plant situation.  Lo and behold, Nordic Naturals does address this!  They indicate that since the initial incident in March 2011, they have been proactively testing their fish oil for any indication of radiation.  To date, they have never had a detectable result.


I placed my first order this morning.  To be fair, it is definitely not the least expensive option.  Today’s discounted price was $37.41 for a 16-oz bottle on Amazon.  BUT the responsibility of this company along with their commitment to carefully testing, researching, and analyzing their products gives me the peace of mind necessary to make the purchase worth it.

The final test will be the taste.  I plan to hide it in milk, yogurt, or other “mushy” foods… But my two little critics will be the ultimate judge.  Will keep this post updated.



Holidays – Then and Now

Christmas TreeI love the holidays.  Truly my favorite time of year.  The festivities, the crisp in the air (well SoCal crisp, anyway), the music, the food, the lights – all of it.  I look forward to it all year, and then miss it once it’s gone.

And having children has only heightened (changed?  evolved?) my joy of the season.  Never will I look at Christmas the same way again.

Then, during a typical pre-child holiday season… After a leisurely Thanksgiving feast, we would enjoy another glass of wine and begin thinking about our Christmas plans.  Should we travel?  Hawaii for the holidays?  How about Aruba?  Is Australia too far?

Now… You take the kids and I’ll do the dishes.  Hey, we don’t throw pumpkin pie in this house!  We need to start getting ready for Christmas – so much to do.  Did you get the decorations out of storage?  Do you have a list?  Add the kids’ x/y/z events to the calendar.  Don’t hit your brother!

Then… We’d take a quiet stroll around the neighborhood to enjoy the holiday lights.  Look at that house – that’s creative!  Should we put up our lights?  Eh, we’ll get to it.  Oh, I booked our flights to Hawaii.  Need some new clothes!

Now… Daddy, what are THOSE lights?  Mommy, wow, look at these lights! LOOK DADDY MOMMY LOOK LOOK THERE IS A SANTA CLAUS LIGHT!  Daddy, STOP TALKING TO MOMMY AND LOOK AT THE LIGHTS!!  Ohhhh wooowwww, purple lights!  Look MOMMY DADDY LOOK IT’S PURPLE LIGHTS SEE IT IS PURPLE SEE MOMMY DADDY STOP TALKING AND LOOK!  Daddy, when are you putting up our lights??  Can we get purple lights too?  I help you Daddy.  Can we put lights up tonight??  Let’s put lights now!  I want PURPLE!  MOMMY GO HOME WE ARE PUTTING PURPLE LIGHTS UP NOW!  OH LOOK, RUDOLPH!  Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle allll the wayyy….

Then… Okay, let’s start our Christmas shopping.  What should we get so-and-so?  Maybe we can personalize something.  I will look at a few catalogs and check out a few stores.  Oh, and maybe we can stop by that cute little specialty shop in Santa Barbara this weekend.  What would you like?  A weekend away?  How about a new TV?  Surround sound?

Now… Hurry up, we have a lot more shopping to do!  Sit down in the cart, boys!  What?  Yeah, yeah that’s fine.  It’s ripped?  Oh it’s fine, it’s the last one, they won’t even notice – throw it in the cart.  Quick – grab that sweater!  We don’t throw things out of the cart!  How many more people do we have on the list?

Then… Yay, wrapping night!  Honey, can you make me a candy-cane-tini?  Turn up the holiday music.  I can’t wait to wrap this gift in the fancy paper and with that adorable tag idea I found on Pinterest!  So pretty.  I can’t wait until she sees it!  Let me take a picture of it under the tree.

Now… Put the kids to bed.  I’m running to the Dollar Tree to stock up on a mountain of wrapping paper and gift bags.  Okay, I’m back.  Quick – help me wrap these.  Only have a few hours.  No talking – just wrap!  Cover the tear with tape; he’ll never know.  Throw them under the bed.  WTF – no more gift bags??  We need more bags!  Go get more bags!  My back hurts.

Then… [In the mall] How adorable!  Look at those sweet children sitting on Santa’s lap.  Isn’t that cute?  Imagine if we had children, and they were waiting in line to see Santa.  So darling.

Now… Where’s Santa?  Mommy Daddy where is Santa?  He is on a break?  Why?  Whyyyyy?  Why do we have to wait?  Is that Santa’s brother?  Santa went potty?  I want Santa NOW!  Mommy, is he in the North Pole?  He went on a break to the North Pole?  Where is Rudolph?  Is he outside?  MOMMY HE IS COMING BACK THERE HE IS!   LOOK LOOK THERE IS SANTA!  Is it my turn?  When is it my turn?  After that boy?  Now?  Is it my turn now?  Now?  After her it is my turn?  Now?  Can I see him now?  Yes? … Noooo!  I don’t WANT to see Santa!  NOOOO!!!  NO!  No SANTA!  I don’t want a candy cane!  I don’t WANT TO!  AAAAAHHHHH, NOOOO!!!!  I no LIKE SANTA!!!!  WAHHHHHH!!!

Then… Holiday parties!  Lunches!  Cocktails!  Dress up!  Dancing!  Music!  Bubbles and fun!  Presents!  White Elephant!  Mistletoe!

Now… Threats.  Santa is watching you ALL THE TIME.  You need to be good or Santa won’t want to bring you gifts.  Yes, Santa saw you hit your brother.  Yes, the Elf tells Santa what he sees.  Stop that right now!  If you don’t stop that right now, I am going to be making a phone call to Santa!  I talked to Santa last night and he is NOT happy.

Then… Ahh, Christmas Eve.  Let’s have a drink in front of the fire and watch the lights on the tree.  Tomorrow, Hawaii!  One more drink and then let’s call it a night.

Now… How is it already Christmas Eve!?!  Here’s the game plan: I’ll take the kids to the park and you wrap the remaining gifts; I will come back and drop the kids with you and then run to the store for the gifts I forgot to buy you this year; then when I come back we’ll put the kids down for a nap and I will wrap the new gifts and you can go buy a few gifts for me and then we can start on Christmas dinner.  OH NO – tree!  We need a Christmas tree!  Okay, go get the tree and I will find the lights.  YES BOYS, Santa saw that and he is NOT pleased right now – we do not throw toys in this house!

…. And at the risk of cutting this piece awkwardly short, just know that I could go on and on but, frankly, am exhausted.  And let’s face it – these gifts ain’t gonna wrap themselves so Mama’s got some work ahead of her!  I wish you and yours a happy, healthy, and joyful holiday.  And restful.  Did I say restful?  Get some rest and relaxation in there as well.  🙂

6 Reasons Why I Love Having my Boys Share a Room

Throughout pretty much my entire second pregnancy, one thing – of the hundreds – that I worried about incessantly was having my two sons share a bedroom.  We only have a three bedroom house which means a room for Mommy and Daddy, a room for the office (a requirement of my job since I work primarily from home), and a room for the kiddos.

Moving was not on the table, and the layout of our house made a potential addition impossible.  Even alternative options such as cornering off a portion of the master bedroom for a small office were not feasible (hey – we live in a small house!)

So what to do?

I couldn’t fathom the boys sharing a room.  The horror!  Isn’t every child entitled to their own bedroom?

Beyond that, what about the logistics?  We don’t keep babies in our room for very long, so what if the toddler was trying to sleep and the baby woke up crying?  Would we have a double meltdown on our hands?  Worse still, what if the toddler taunted or woke the baby?

But the weeks went on, and at some point we were forced to face the fact that there was no other option.  So the boys would have to share, at least for a while.  I just hoped that one day they would find it in their hearts to forgive us.

We decorated as best we could, keeping the two cribs strategically separated to prevent book-throwing (our toddler forgoes a teddy bear  to instead sleep with about 40 books each night).  We divvied up the closet space in half for each.  And picked up another dresser.  It would have to do.

Fast forward 11 months and now, I have to say, room-sharing was the best thing we could have done for them!  In fact, should we move to a larger house with an extra bedroom, I would continue to have them share a room.  Why?

  • They’ve learned to tune each other out.  This, my friends, is something that will continue to benefit us for years to come.  All my worries about one waking the other up?  Completely moot.  Within a week of sleeping in the same room, my toddler had learned to sleep through crying, screaming, lights on, lights off, feedings in the rocking chair right next to his crib, smelly diapers, and general raucous while we tended to all things Baby.  In fact, during those early weeks I was a bit worried about him – and would gently tap him just to make sure he was actually okay… and he was.  The baby, similarly, adjusted quickly.  Tantrums?  Crying?  Banging on the wall?  “Reading” books?  Nothing phased him.  At worst, he would startle, take a deep breath, and fall back asleep.


  • They comfort each other.  Perhaps the cutest thing I hear on the baby monitor, to this day, is my toddler comforting his little brother.  If the baby begins crying, and my toddler is still awake, I will soon hear him with his little high-pitched voice of concern: Don’t cry… It’s okay… Mommy will be coming soon… Are you hungry?  The baby, for his part, comforts the toddler in a different way.  At times when the toddler is tantrum-ing in his room, I will hear the baby start to laugh (why can’t I have the same response??)  This is effective at often stopping the toddler mid-tantrum to ask what is funny and why he is laughing; and then forgetting the tantrum altogether.


  • Mess/smells/dirt are confined to a single room.  A wonderful silver lining indeed!  Two boys = double the mess, double the dirt, double the stinky diapers.  How nice to be able to shut the door to one room to block it all out.  And to only clean one room with eventually two boys helping.


  • They are bonding.  The highest quality time the boys spend together (read: when they are not fighting over toys or for attention) is when they are in their room alone together.  We do keep them both in cribs until we trust that the toddler won’t throw his heavy Tonka trucks into his brother’s crib, knocking him out.  But they both walk over to the corner of their cribs to see each other and communicate.  The toddler “reads” books to his brother, and the baby claps in appreciation.  The baby pulls down the baby monitor, and the toddler laughs with delight.  Half the time I don’t even know what they’re doing, but I hear one laugh, then the other, then some banging, then more laughter.  As long as they’re not killing each other, I am grateful for the bonding opportunity.


  • All supplies in one place.  This wouldn’t have occurred to me except I was recently at a friend’s home as she tended to her son in his room. She couldn’t find his hat and was looking, looking, looking until it was finally reclaimed in her daughter’s room.  I, for one, will never have that problem.  Sure, there may be an item that is misplaced within the room – but it is only one room to search vs. multiple.


  • They’re forced to figure it out.  Now that I’ve gotten beyond the hardship I’ve forced my poor boys to endure with sharing a room, I’ve begun to embrace it.  I can’t seem to find when the law was implemented mandating separate bedrooms for all children.  Look at the Brady Bunch boys – three to a room!  And they all turned out okay.  Maybe it’s not a bad thing to prevent the option of escape into one’s own territory (cue slamming doors).  Maybe learning how to share and negotiate while being considerate of other human beings in tight quarters isn’t such a bad thing after all.

So if you are (or will be) in a similar situation, don’t stress it!  I wish I hadn’t spent so much time worrying about what ended up being a non-issue and, in fact, a benefit.

Now off to look for bunk beds….

TV for Toddlers? (Or, why I love the Roku)

TV for toddlers?Roku3

In our case, it’s a YES.

A Yes that we are aware of the “no screens” philosophy.  A Yes that as first time parents, our toddler likely watched less than 80 hours of television during his first three years of life.  And a Yes that we have now loosened the reigns, and allow him to watch (probably way too much) more.

And, after much indecision, a HUGE Yes to the Roku 3 and the Roku Streaming Stick.

Until 6 months ago, we enjoyed the granddaddy of cable packages with DirecTV.  Truly – more channels than we could ever watch nor even want.  Once the kids went to bed, we would flop on the couch in our zombie-like state, and flip through channel after channel, staring at (but not really watching) the screen.  Trash reality TV for me, cheesy sci-flicks for the hubby, and international home buying programs for the both of us.  Fun stuff.

Alas, our contract was coming to an end and in our new spirit of minimalism, the price increase was steep.  In fact, the price we had already been paying was steep.  Considering the fact that with two young kids, our time spent watching television had dwindled to mere minutes a day, it just didn’t make sense.

But we hemmed and hawed.  We were not the Cable Cutters type!  That seemed a bit extreme.  Hippy-ish.  Tree-Hugger-esque.  Millenial-like.

But the savings were attractive.  I’m talking over $100 a month.  Plus it might be cool to put our super high-speed ISP to the test.

So we bit the bullet and cancelled, ultimately opting for the Roku 3 as our replacement.  We looked at Apple TV, Fire TV, and Chromecast but a few things about the Roku 3 stood out.  First – it’s performance.  They’ve been doing this a while now, and have got the speed and issues mostly figured out.  Apple and Fire were still a bit buggy, and Chromecast doesn’t really achieve the same purpose (although it is definitely the best choice for screen mirroring and casting).  Secondly, I am not completely committed to the Apple eco-system, which would have made it tough to go with Apple TV – especially considering the fact that their programming was much more limited than Roku.  Where it got difficult was deciding between the Roku 3 and Fire TV.  Because – unlike with Apple – I am completely committed to the Amazon eco-system.  I am a happy (make that thrilled) Prime member, I spend a significant portion of my shopping dollars on their site, and I simply love their Kindle Fires for media consumption.  At first blush, Fire TV was the leader of the pack.

But it was still so new.  We could live with that, but there was one thing we couldn’t accept.  Amazon’s Fire TV didn’t have a clean option to display Prime titles on the device.  In other words – we couldn’t search or filter by Prime only.  WTF?  Free media content is one of the best things about our Prime membership, but to not allow filtering capability on Fire TV basically eliminated the edge that Amazon had.

Fortunately, Roku DOES provide Amazon Prime filters.  And that was the tipping point.  We purchased both a Roku 3 for the living room and a Roku Streaming Stick for the bedroom.  Difference between the two, you ask?  Really not much.  I do think the Roku 3 is marginally faster (although not enough to really notice unless you were comparing the two); and I like that it allows for an ethernet connection – an option we do take advantage of.  But if you have a strong wifi signal throughout the house, save yourself the $50 and get the stick.  An added bonus is that the stick is portable – plug it into TVs in hotel rooms, friends’ homes, etc.  Easy peasy.

Both units come with a separate remote (different than the Chromecast, which uses your phone as the remote), although you can download the Roku app for your phone/iPad to control the device that way.  The remote is nice and surprisingly easy to navigate.  I had been worried about typing out titles in the Search box, but it is quick and easy.

Set up took all of 5 minutes.  Plug it in, enter your network details, and wait for the initial load.  Boom – you’re ready to go.  Begin adding channels offered on the device and also do some Google searches for the so-called “Secret Channels” you can add as well – there are hundreds if not thousands; something for everyone.

What about the paid channels?  In our case, we already had a Netflix subscription at $7.99/month, so we kept that.  We also already had an Amazon Prime membership, so kept that.  The only paid channel we added was Hulu Plus, at a cost of $7.99/month.  Not sure if we really needed it, we took advantage of the 3 month trial and found that we did like the programming offered.  Even better, new episodes of popular shows become available the day after initial broadcast, so you can stay current with all your faves.  The downside is that there are commercials.  BUT there are only 1-2 commercials at a time (rarely 3) between segments, far fewer than regular television.  You can’t fast forward through them, but we don’t really mind.  It is not as big a deal as we had anticipated.

Between the three paid channels, the additional free channels we’ve selected, and some of the secret channels we’ve added, we don’t feel as if we’re missing much.  The only exceptions for us would be HGTV (we are admittedly a bit obsessed and Hulu Plus doesn’t yet offer the shows we’re most interested in), certain sporting events, and some local programming.  As far as the sporting events and local programming go, we have been able to mitigate much of that impact by purchasing a Mohu Leaf 50 Indoor Antenna, which picks up over 250 additional channels in our area.  Well worth the extra cost.  So overall, I would say we have replaced about 95% of what we would normally watch – at a savings of over $100/month.  Definitely a good trade-off.

Now – how does this all relate to our toddler?  As far the TV-sphere goes, we have realized some amazing unanticipated benefits of making the switch:

  • No Commercials.  Let me repeat: No Commercials (exception being, of course, Hulu Plus).  This isn’t about us worrying about our toddler’s impatience as 30 second ads flicker across the screen… It is about zero marketing.  No commercials for toys, movies, sugary cereals, junk food, or annoying cartoon characters.  Nothing for him to ask for, beg for, throw a tantrum for, or to even realize is available.  It is wonderful.  We select a show, he watches the show, and all is good with the world.
  • The free channels alone have more childrens’ programming than we could ever want or need (I’m talking to you, PBS Kids).  Free TV!
  • When we want something different, Amazon Prime and Netflix both offer a plethora of shows just for kids.  Seriously – anything that anyone could ever want.  And again: No Commercials.
  • There are many shows that are less than the standard 30 minutes slotted for regular television programming, and they tell you how long the programs run upfront.  Shows for 6 minutes, 12 minutes, 8 minutes.  This is great for us as we are in the midst of potty training, and unabashedly using the TV as the mega-award for going #2 in the potty.  Since mega-award doesn’t mean I want him plopped in front of the TV for 30 minute intervals at a time, it is great that I can select a short cartoon of 7 minutes to reward him and then move on.
  • Control.  The ability to truly control what he is watching.  With traditional television, you’re pretty much stuck with whatever they’re broadcasting at the time you start watching.  But with the Roku, we consciously pick everything we and the children watch.  Which means there is no more mindless vegging in front of the TV.  And, for the toddler, means that I can at least try to select the most educational options available.
  • Wifi issues.  I know this doesn’t sound like a perk, but hear me out.  Until we connected our living room Roku via ethernet (using Powerline – which I highly recommend as long as you remember to encrypt it), we were having some intermittent wifi issues in that dead zone area of the house.  Definitely annoying.  But our son, not knowing any better, began to simply accept that sometimes “the TV is not working.”  And move on.  Yes – a toddler – accepting and moving on.  Suffice it to say that that since we have picked up on this, there may be times we use this to our advantage… “sorry Honey, the TV is not working right now….”
  • The other cool things you can do with the Roku.  We’ve downloaded our Pandora stations (including the kiddie stations, which the boys love), our YouTube channels, and other media for a more personalized experience.  It’s nice to have everything consolidated in one place on the “big TV”, leading to more than just television watching.

So for all these reasons and more, I give an enthusiastic Thumbs Up to the Roku (the 3 or the Streaming Stick).  More conscious television watching, limited to no marketing, a personalized media experience, and a significant cost savings make for one happy mama – and little guy.