Jan 26, 2015

Why Hiring a Housekeeper Is One of the Best Things I Ever Did

There's this notion—especially in today's society and with social media—that moms have to do everything. They need to keep the kids fed, dressed, and alive, all while making sure they don't get too much screen time and educating them at the same time (by playing, getting creative and artistic, and letting them run around); they need to keep the house clean from clutter, and everything dusted; they should always do all the laundry, and keep the floors clean; they need to wear makeup, get their hair done, put on clothes (other than yoga pants), and look "put together"; they need to have breakfast ready, lunches packed, and dinner on the table at night; they also need to schedule some "me" time from time to time, and by all means, they most certainly need to have enough energy at the end of the day to make the husband happy...if you know what I mean.

All of that, my friends, is not possible. (And if you say that it is, I say that you're lying.)

When my husband deployed over the summer I was at my wits end trying to do everything and keep myself sane at the same time. I almost failed at the sanity part, but I luckily decided to do something about it. I figured out where I needed to change things in order to make life easier on myself. When I sat down and evaluated where I was struggling, one of the biggest challenges that came to mind was keeping the house clean.

It wasn't the clutter that bothered me, because I could handle that (or at least move piles of stuff around enough to make things clean enough for our lifestyle); it was the floor situation. Our dog was shedding beyond what I could sweep, and the toddler was making messes everywhere her tiny toes stepped. Cleaning up when she was around was worthless, and I was worthless after she went to bed—that was my time relax; I had no motivation or desire to clean.

I felt silly broaching the idea of a housekeeper with my husband—I was supposed to be able to do it all, after all, isn't that what a stay-at-home parent does? But when I finally suggested it, he was more than on board. To start my search for someone, I asked around and found a gal who appeared good on paper. She came over, gave me an estimate and we set something up for the next week. I was beyond excited. Unfortunately, she didn't work out (personalities and work styles didn't match my expectations), so I started asking friends who they used. I was hesitant to ask people I knew, because it seemed like a personal, taboo topic (and honestly, I hated to admit that I couldn't do it all on my own), but it turns out that many of my friends have someone come by to help them clean; I was shocked and relieved to discover that they didn't do it all on their own. I suddenly felt so much more relaxed and normal about needing some extra help.

On the high recommendation of a close friend, I found a new lady to do the job. Her price was reasonable and after the first time she cleaned, I knew she was a keeper. Right now she comes over every two to three weeks, and she cleans the floors, the counter tops in the kitchen, and the bathrooms. She's here for about three to four hours and does an outstanding job. It's so good that I actually try to eat out or bring in take out for dinner the day she cleans, because I try to prolong the the cleanliness of my kitchen for as long as possible.

I've had people ask me what I do to prepare for her coming over, and it's not a whole lot. Since she cleans the floors, we do pick things up off the floor and put it elsewhere (usually the couch, bed, table, etc.), and I'll try to make sure that the dishes are put away and the counters in the kitchen are cleared, but that's about it. I'm sure she would pick things up, but I'd rather she use her time to do what needs to be done. I don't necessarily "clean" up for her, so you won't see me sweeping or busting out the vacuum before she arrives.

Most of the time I also leave the house while she's here. I take Julia to a mom's morning out program and I go somewhere to write. That's my me time, and I thoroughly enjoy it. If I do stay home, I usually keep to one room—the office, typically. Whether I leave or stay, I definitely try to take Julia somewhere since she's at the stage now where she'll just follow our housekeeper around and make things messier for her.

I know some friends who have a housekeeper come over have them do a lot more than us (some do laundry, make beds, fold towels, dust everything, etc.), but this is what works for us right now. I'm glad I started having someone come over while I was pregnant, but before I have two under two, just so I could get a feel for how things work. If I thought keeping up with a house was hard now, I can only imagine what it'll be like to keep things clean with a toddler and a baby!

Do you have a housekeeper come over? 
What was your breaking point and deciding factor to call in extra help? 

Jan 23, 2015

Julia's Nursery Tour {our georgia home}

This post is long, long, long overdue. Much like this baby of mine who apparently has no desire to make her grand entrance into this world. Okay, she's really not overdue at all—I'm actually still two weeks away from my due date. But, two weeks is enough for me to start busting out some old wives tales in order to get this baby party started. Anyway, I realized I've shared a few different elements of Julia's room, but I never actually showed you what her room looks like, like as a whole.

Part of that is because I'm lazy and didn't want to clean it up for pictures, and the other part is that my camera's been finicky lately, well for the past couple years since I accidentally dropped it. I really need to send it in for a fix-up, but procrastinating always gets the best of me, and my iPhone is just so darn handy.

But here I am, sharing them now; I wanted to share them sooner rather than later, because Julia's room is likely to change once her baby sister moves in. Yup, we're going to have the girls share a room (once the baby's sleeping through the night, of course)! Any advice for me?

So here's Julia's room. It's similar to her first room in Italy, but just developed a little more. I went with a travel-themed, soft and feminine look that was heavy on a pink, grey, and white color scheme. It's easily one of my favorite rooms in the house!

I've always loved her room. Yes, there's a lot of grey, pink, and white, but that's what makes it so feminine. The travel touches make me happy, and I love the personal touches we added to the room.

Below you'll find where we bought things along with links, if applicable. If I'm missing anything or you have a question about something, just ask (but make sure to leave your email in the comments—I've been getting a lot of messages without a way to get back in touch with the person!)

What's in her room (and where to find it):

+ Dressers and side table: Ikea Hemnes bedroom series
+ Crib: Delta Enterprise "Glenwood" 3-in-1 Sleigh Crib (bought at the BX in Italy)
+ White bookcase: was my husband's from back in the day
Bookshelves on wall: made by my husband using this tutorial
+ Rocking/Recliner Chair: The brand is called "Best Chairs," and this is the Irvington in "Ash" (found at Buy Buy Baby) 

+ Gallery wall info about the wall here
+ "My Roots" framed art: from Etsy shop, Kindred Sol Collective
+ "Julia Grace" canvas: made using this tutorial 
+ "I Love You" Italy print: from Etsy shop, Lisa Barbero

+ Eiffel Tower Lamp: bought it from Target back when I was in high school
+ Lampshade DIY tutorial for the lampshade here
+ Pink Globe: found at TJMaxx
+ Venice Globe: bought from Zulily, but this is their website
+ Pink faux suitcases: bought in Savannah, GA, but these are similar 
+ Map pinwheel: decoration from my baby shower, DIY tutorial here 
+ Pink Polka-dot Piggy Bank:  Tiffany & Co. Piggy Bank (full disclosure: bought this in Italy at a ceramic store for a 10th of the price)
+ Three-tiered cake stand: Marletto Antique (Bought in Italy at a ceramic store for 10th of the price!)

+ Curtains: from Target (they have them in white, but not the pink anymore) 
+ Paint color: Valspar "Rocky Bluffs"
+ Main Rrg: from Joss and Main (Agadir Rug in Light Pink)
+ Pink Shaggy rug: garage sale find

Jan 21, 2015

Easy Peasy 2-Minute Mango Salsa

“This post is part of a social shopper marketing insight campaign with Pollinate Media Group® and Del Monte, but all my opinions are my own. #pmedia #makemangosalsa http://my-disclosur.es/OBsstV

If you've been reading this blog for awhile, then you probably know how much I love just about anything spicy. Salsa falls at the top of the list for foods I could eat and eat and eat all day long, and I'm trying desperately to get my daughter to like it, too. She loves dipping her chip in salsa, tasting it (without biting it, mind you), and then repeating that scenario several times—"double dipping" is a bit of an understatement. She'll say "spicy?!" and then continue to just keep on dipping. Gotta love her!

When I was trying to think of a salsa that would be good to enjoy during the Super Bowl this year, I immediately thought of mango avocado salsa since it's both parent and kid friendly. We make a seriously chunky version of this to go on top of fish, but knowing that I could be short on time and energy (if this little bun in my oven decides to make her appearance soon), I wanted something a little bit faster and easier to make, but I still wanted to use roughly the same ingredients.

Enter this 2-minute mango avocado salsa! It's as easy as popping open a can of mangos, unscrewing a jar of salsa, and dicing up an avocado (something I could do in my sleep since my almost two year old loves "cado.")

Side note: Have you ever tried cutting up a mango? It's easily one of my favorite fruits to eat, but gosh darn it, that sucker is slippery once the peel comes off! I've tried every trick in the book to cut it successfully, but I always feel like I'm doing it wrong. When I make my fresh salsa I honestly use pre-sliced mangos from the store and then just dice it myself. So when I discovered that Walmart now carries Del Monte Diced Mangos, I practically jumped for joy, tossed it in my cart, and never looked back. (Want to try it for yourself? Select Walmarts will have a sampling event tomorrow through January 25!)

Okay, enough talk about the salsa, here's what you do to make it, step by (easy) step.

Easy Peasy 2-Minute Mango Salsa

Del Monte Diced Mango (1 can)
Your favorite salsa (1 jar)
1 ripe avocado, pitted and diced into cubes
green chile, jalapeno, red pepper flakes (optional for an extra kick of heat)

Dump all ingredients into a bowl. Gently stir together. Grab some chips; eat and enjoy! 

I dig the sweet and spicy flavors together, but since my daughter likes to eat this—it includes two of her favorite foods, avocado and mangos—I skipped using the "hot" kind of salsa and dished up some in a little bowl for her. To make it more palatable for myself and my husband, I'll add a touch of heat to our bowl later.

Speaking of what she likes and doesn't like: she's totally into movies right now. I blame myself for letting her have so much screen time lately, but it's been a lifesaver so that I can get my feet up during the day. I plan on popping in the new movie, "The Book of Life" DVD for her (available at Walmart on January 27) to watch during the Superbowl. That way, we get to watch the game, and she can be entertained with a new movie. (Although, I may sneak some peeks at the flick...I believe Channing Tatum is one of the voices in it. *Swoon*)

Do you have a ridiculously fast, Super-Bowl worthy snack that you make? 
I'd love to hear about it! 

Jan 19, 2015

Spontaneous Potty Training {And How it Actually Worked}

I've been holding off writing about this, because I didn't want to jinx things. But here we are— long after the days of letting her run around our house buck naked—with a potty-trained, not-quite-two-year-old little girl.

Let me back up a minute...I titled this post "spontaneous" potty training, because I really wasn't prepared for it like most people probably are. It was a spur of the moment thing, and with the exception of reading a few blog posts here and there, I didn't research how to potty train*. I didn't check any books out of the library, I didn't go on a potty-training pinning spree, I didn't talk to any friends about it, and shoot, we didn't even have "big girl panties" on hand. The only things we had going for us were that she was ready and the timing was right, so I jumped on the opportunity.

(*I actually skimmed blog post {this one}, pinned it, and sent the link to my husband who ended up actually reading the whole thing. Then, after reading the post, he bought the e-book that went along with it...and we read it after she went to bed on day one of potty training.)
photo credit: Saklakova // dollarphotoclub
This is the tale of how we spontaneously potty trained our (then) 20-month-old daughter:

The day before Thanksgiving was as normal as could be. My husband told me he'd be home early (around 2ish), so I was looking forward to prepping for the holiday. He came home, and soon after, Julia told us she went poo-poo (in her diaper). She'd been telling us this for awhile, which I knew was a sign that she was ready.

Actually, let me back up even further. She was ready since around 18 months, possibly a smidgen earlier. She'd tell us when she went poop, and would sometimes even tell us that she needed to go before she went. BUT (there's always a but), even though she was ready, I wasn't. My husband was still deployed, and had zero desire to spend days locked inside our home (hello, cabin fever), and I really didn't want to be on my hands and knees cleaning up messes—bending was beginning to be like an Olympic sport, because of my sprouting belly. Since I wasn't ready for the big potty training experience, I did the next best thing and bought a potty seat, so she could start practicing. She always followed me into the bathroom anyway, so I figured she could at least start learning to sit on a potty. (I later read that it's a good idea to narrate to your child the actions you're taking while you go to the bathroom. I never did this. The most I ever said was, "Mama's going potty.")

That was basically the extent to our pre-potty-training planning. Okay, now that we're caught up, we can go back to the day before Thanksgiving. So my husband came home, she went poop, and I had the genius idea that we should keep her naked for the rest of the day/night and start potty training. Just like that! I quickly realized that we weren't going out of the house the next day since it was Thanksgiving, and that my husband took Friday off, so we could stay at home that whole day if we needed to. He was on board (he wanted her to be potty trained before the new baby arrived just as much as I did), so we went for it.

We basically kept her bottoms off that whole first day afternoon. She had a couple of number one accidents...not that anyone could blame her! But the third time she started peeing on herself and the floor she held it and we ran to the potty where she proceeded to empty the rest of her itty bitty bladder. Success!

Apparently a lot of people suggest you offer the kid something as a "reward" for going potty. Yeah, we didn't do that. I didn't want to be at Target or some place like that without a sticker or a piece of candy in my pocket and then have a meltdown from my toddler because she didn't get a reward for going to the bathroom. We did, however, make up a couple songs to sing, and we totally cheered for her—loudly—when she went. The cheering included lots of "high fives" and fist bumps.

Our Thanksgiving Day was similar to the afternoon before. As soon as we woke her up, we took her to the bathroom, where she went pee-pee on the potty right off the bat. Throughout the day she'd start to pee, catch what she was doing, hold the rest, and we'd race to the bathroom. She only had two accidents that day! We tried to keep her hydrated, and we'd ask her constantly (every 30 minutes or so) if she needed to go potty. At one point she even told me she had to go numero dos, so we went, she did her business, we all cheered, and life was grand!

photo by: danr13 // dollarphotoclub

When I say that this was a spontaneous ordeal, I mean it; I didn't think it through, because we didn't have any big girl panties on hand for that Friday. And do you know what the Friday after Thanksgiving is? It's Black Friday, and this Mama wanted to shop!

That morning, we took her potty just before we planned on heading out, and then we put a pair of (thicker fleece) pants on her and headed to Target to buy some undies (and other things, of course). She didn't have to go when we got to the store, so we thought we were safe. We had our travel potty seat with us in an extra bag, along with some extra pants, so we went about our shopping. Just as we were about to get in line, I remembered that we forgot to grab some undies (whoops!), so we went to go check them out. First, HOLY COW, they're expensive! Second, our store was out of the characters she'd know and all they had were Frozen (she's probably the only child in America who could care less about that movie) and superheroes. I grabbed both packs and as I put them in the cart I heard something familiar...like as though I spilled a cup of water in the cart. And that's when I realized she was peeing! It freaked her out and stopped almost immediately, so we raced to the bathroom, where she proceeded to empty her bladder. Luckily, we had new undies on hand and some spare pants! That was our first accident out of the house. We ended up shopping for several more hours with no more accidents, but with a few more potty sessions in public toilets.

The other thing I didn't plan for was the mini vacation we were taking the next day—whoops. She'd be sitting in the car for two hours while we traveled the back roads of Georgia (i.e. no bathrooms along the way). That Saturday, we put her in her new big girl undies and then put a diaper over the underwear just in case. It turns out that she held it all the way until we got to our destination with a restroom. Woohoo!

We made/make potty time somewhat fun by singing songs, and letting her tell her pee-pee and poo-poo "bye-bye," and then having her flush it away. She's a pretty smart cookie, too. Over the course of the next couple weeks we'd have a few pee accidents here and there, but every time she didn't tell us (and would pee on herself or on the floor), she'd say, "uh-oh...mess?" and ask for some "paper" (towels) to clean it up. We'd usually run to the potty right after the accident (and she'd proceed to pee more), and then we'd go back and she'd help clean up her mess. I think that helped her own up to it a little more.

Seriously, if anyone told me that after a two and a half days of potty training, it'd go that well, I would've laughed in their face. I was so nervous about it, but she was ready and I think that made all the difference. We still put her in diapers for nap time and bedtime, and I'm not sure when that will end, but this works for us for now.

I don't even want to say this, but it's been almost two months since Thanksgiving and I can't really remember the last time she had an accident. She does have a fair amount of false alarms, but that's another blog post for another day! Seriously...stay tuned for a post titled "The Five Things Nobody Tells you about Potty Training."

In case you're interested, here are the potty seats we use:

  1. This was the first one I bought that she practiced on at the beginning. It sat on the floor in the bathroom and she'd sit on it whenever I went to the restroom. Now we keep it in the car for emergencies or for her to use while we're on road trips. 
  2. We have two of these seats by Arm and Hammer. One stays in her bathroom and the other stays in her "potty bag" along with an extra diaper (just in case), a couple pairs of leggins/pants, and some wipes. 
  3. We also use this lovely cushion to sit on while we wait for her to do her business. It's designed to help keep our knees from killing us during bath time, but it doubles as a butt cushion during some long potty sessions!
  4. I recently bought this travel potty seat, because I'd like to downsize the bag I'm taking everywhere, but we need to use it more—right now if she shifts while sitting on it, it almost falls in the seat. 

I'm so thankful we potty trained her when we did, and that she was ready. I'm also thankful for my husband and his patience with dealing with her and with me. I'm at the point where bending to help her get up on the toilet and bending to help pull her panties/pants up and down is an Olympic sport, so I'm extremely thankful he helps out at home and while we're out in public places.

Did you potty train your child early? How did the experience go for you?