Category: Lisa

Posts written by Lisa.

Love Your Leftovers

Look how fancy! And it’s cheaper than Tupperware.

Confession time: I’m one of those moms. I’m forever trying to make every little thing myself. I make my kid’s lunches from scratch and package them in mason jars (so Pinteresty). I love green smoothies. I soak all the beans and roast all the beets. We eat quinoa. My kid likes chia pudding.

I love to cook from scratch. In a perfect world I would make every food item, raise my own chickens, compost, and grow all of our produce. But if motherhood has taught me anything, it’s that I’m not a superhero. I WANT to do it all. I CAN’T. And I struggle with that daily.

Sadly, while my husband Craig loves whatever I cook, he doesn’t love dealing with the aftermath. In fact, when I told him I was writing this post, the first thing he said was “I regret the you-cook, I-clean arrangement!” He also does not enjoy trying to corral our son who desperately wants to be underfoot while I try to cook gourmet meals at 5:30pm. Lindsey’s right–it’s the witching hour.

Making a mess.  Just like Mama.
Making a mess. Just like Mama.

So, time for a compromise. How do I keep my family healthily fed in a timely manner, without “using every dish and utensil in the house to make a dinner for 2.5 people”? (Craig’s words.)

Enter my new friends: Crockpot, Pressure Cooker, and Icebox.

As a clean eating enthusiast, I was slow to embrace my crockpot. So many recipes seemed to involve Cream of Something, or Dr. Pepper, or an entire bottle of barbecue sauce. I was terrified of the pressure cooker as a child. And until I discovered freezer meals, my icebox was for my stockpile of frozen bananas and other smoothie mixins.

But thank goodness for Pinterest and its endless supply of recipes! I’ve found so many good “slow food fast” dinner recipes there. I also found Once a Month Meals through Pinterest, which is now one of my favorite recipe resources.

So now, instead of scrambling to make dinner every night, I like to cook in batches. I make a big batch of something in the crockpot at the beginning of the week–this Turkey Chili, or Tortilla Soup for example–and BOOM! That’s three weeknight meals taken care of.

Then it’s casserole time. Right now we really love these Avocado Enchiladas. I use corn tortillas and just layer everything like a lasagna. And speaking of lasagna, I’m a huge fan of the Engine 2 version. You don’t have to be vegan to love it, and you’ll be packing your sweet mouth full of vegetable goodness.

If I’m feeling super organized, I’ll prep TWO batches of something and freeze one. Works for smoothies too. This is how freezer meal hoarding begins.

If those don’t get us through the week, a pot roast in the pressure cooker can be done in 30 minutes. And if all else fails, it’s time to dig something out of the icebox. Maybe a freezer meal from the previous week…or maybe frozen fish that can be dressed up with miso and thrown together with rice & a quick broccoli or kale/avocado salad. But it’s just as likely to be a frozen pizza.

This all sounds so organized, right? Oh, it is so Not. Even. Close. I’m incapable of remembering to make school lunches before 9pm. I sometimes forget dinner altogether and have Craig pick something up on the way home. I made a meatloaf last week and forgot about the leftovers…until the odor in my fridge demanded my attention. And I could write a whole other post of Pinterest recipe fails!

But for the most part, this system is working for now. The chickens and composting and making-my-own-ketchup will have to wait the little dude is older, or until I’m more organized. Which could be never!

Mama Style

My Mama Style Intervention

Mama Style

Last weekend, I took my son to the bookstore for a post-illness treat (a book and a new toy).  He was getting over the flu, and after a few days holed up on the couch we needed a little sunshine and a change of pace.

On our way back to the car, I caught a glimpse of myself in a window reflection.  I was mildly horrified.  Tired eyes.  Unbrushed hair.  Basic tshirt and jeans.

Who the hell is that??

I used to LOVE getting dressed.  I worked for several boutiques in my 20s, so it was kinda part of the job.
I teetered around in platform heels and artfully “mismatched” pieces.  I took on styling clients.  I designed window displays.  Work was about inspiring others with the art of fashion.  T-shirts and jeans were strictly for behind-the-scenes.

Then I got a job in a very casual corporate office.  I bought flip-flops.  I wore jeans.  I got lazy.  When I was pregnant, I rallied.  Maternity dressing was surprisingly fun!  I wore tons of cute dresses.  I even wore heels…at least until I hit 8 months, when my feet became unrecognizable marshmallows.

I knew I was going to breastfeed, but as a newbie I had no idea what that meant in sartorial terms.  Have you SEEN the nursing wear that’s available?  It’s a nightmare of frumpy jersey tops.

And so it happened.  My fun, eclectic 20’s wardrobe got smooshed to the back of the closet to make room for…?

Nothing.  Crap.  Frump!  T-shirts and basic cardigans.  And that’s where I am today.  The worst part is, I KNOW BETTER!

So this week, I FINALLY took action.  I lugged an Ikea bag full of old clothes to Buffalo Exchange.  I packed a Balikbayan box full of MORE clothes to send to my cousins in the Philippines.  I prepped a rack full of vintage pieces to sell on Etsy.

My closet is bare.  It’s kind of exciting.  But now what?  I don’t really have time to go shopping.  Well, actually…I really really hate going shopping.  There, I’ve said it.

Stitch Fix to the rescue!

I’ve been hearing about this service for about a year now, and I’m pretty excited to finally try it out.  My first Fix is arriving next week, so after I get it I’ll be sharing with you what I got, what I kept, and why.  I’ll also share my thoughts on a functional mama wardrobe that is NOT frumpy.

If you’ve tried Stitch Fix already, I’d love to know what you think of it.  And if not, I’ve added a link over to the right so you can try it with me!

That %&#! Minivan

We started this little blog to share the Real.  The Embarrassing, the Funny, and sometimes the Difficult. But despite my endless supply of just such moments, I haven’t actually shared any of them yet.  What?  So, here we go. This will be the first of many. So many.


I drove a used Honda Civic coupe for 8 years.  It wasn’t fancy (it was the “value model”), but it was the nicest car I’d ever owned.  Not only was it newer than the clunkers of my high school/college days, but NOTHING went wrong with it.  Ever.

When I was 6 months pregnant, my in-laws gifted us their old Dodge Caravan. And, we were happy to take it.  I was happy to not have a car payment for a little while longer, and while it was a MINIVAN (blah!), it was free.  Can’t argue with free, right?

But after driving it for a month, the AC broke. Then a door broke. Then the locks. Then a window stuck shut. All in the first 8 months of owning it.  Remember what a mess my morning routine used to be?  Well, I saved this part because it deserved its own post.

I’m not a morning person.  Actually, we’re not a morning FAMILY.  So in the beginning we were late for school a lot.  Which obviously isn’t a big deal for a 5 month old, but the source of my tardiness anxiety was this:  The school gates closed at 9am sharp.

Which wouldn’t be an issue…IF I had a car with functioning doors and windows.  My window didn’t open at all, and my car door only opened from the outside.

So picture this mortifying Chinese Fire Drill scenario:

  • Put the car in park.  Climb around to the back of the van.
  • See another late parent pulling up behind me.  Panic.  Don’t panic!!  Be cool.
  • Open the sliding door and attempt to step out casually.  Did I mention it’s pouring rain?  Crap crap crap.
  • Run around to the keypad.  Step in massive puddle.  Gate opens.  Success!
  • Open my car door. Feel bewildered gaze of waiting parent on the back of my head.
  • Hustle into school to avoid crossing paths with other parent, who surely thinks I’m a moron.

 

As you might guess, this was powerful motivation for me to drag myself out of bed just a little earlier.

We eventually fixed the door/window. But now the van makes a loud robot-fart noise when it locks. And the locks work, but never all at the same time.  It’s a finicky old van, but a gift that I’m grateful for despite its funny shortcomings.

BUT you can bet I’m saving up for my next used Honda.

Home Office

A Week in My Life: Building a Parachute

I returned to work after 10 weeks of maternity leave bliss. The fact that I still use “bliss” for this period of exhaustion & mastitis might give you an idea of how much I dreaded adding “work” back to my newly long list of responsibilities.

From day one, I hated the routine. Hauling my work bag, pump bag, school bag & cloth diaper bag out to the car, then the baby & car seat. It was like leaving for a camping trip every morning. Pump pump pumping every 2-3 hours. Trying to focus on spreadsheets and numbers and phone calls and meetings and oh, can you do this other thing right away? Rush out to pick up my son by 5:15. Dinner, nurse, bedtime, make his lunch, pass out. Start over. Life via hamster wheel.

I barely saw my own family. The family we had worked so hard to have. Work was fine, but my schedule made me feel like I was on a runaway train.  Something had to change.

Almost a year ago, I stumbled upon code by accident. Mostly because I wanted to start this blog and wanted to design it myself (typical). I took a web design class to see if I would like it, and became obsessed with learning to code. Months later, my husband got a much better job. So I jumped off the proverbial cliff. I quit my job and decided to see where this new passion would take me.

Home Office
Step into my office. No, not the “teepee”.

My routine now? Well, I could tell you that my house is always spotless and that I have a cocktail waiting for my husband when he comes home. But I hate cleaning, remember?  And my husband’s an adult.  He can mix his own beverages. 😉

  • Hopefully, I’m up and dressed before I hear “Mama? Mama?” from my son’s room at 7:30. If not…it’s yoga pants and a quick swipe of under eye concealer to the rescue.
  • If he’s not teething (and it feels like he’s ALWAYS teething), he’ll sit on the potty. Sometimes, he’ll actually go in it! Otherwise, he’ll wait ’til we’re leaving to take a massive life-changing dump.
  • We usually get to his Montessori school slightly late. He’s just moved to the toddler room, so I brace myself for the Mega-Tantrum. I guiltily shoo him into class and avoid eye contact with that More Experienced Mom whose son is perfectly happy to be at school.
  • I come home. If my house is TOO crazy looking, I’ll clean. Then I start working. Usually, I’m building a website, or working through my web developer classes.
Work Screen Shot
Let’s pretend I never get distracted by Pinterest or Amazon.
  • I pick my son up early. We’ll play. Or maybe he’ll have a tantrum and I’ll placate him with TV. Who knows?
  • We usually eat a home-cooked meal. I’m a big fan of making a big batch of something and eating it all week!
  • Then it’s bath/story/bedtime/lunchmaking. And I stay up too late. Always.
Bathtub Aftermath
The aftermath.

My routine isn’t that different. He still goes to school. I still don’t clean as much as I should. I still don’t make much money, although that will change. I still look up from my computer and think “Crap, how is it 3 already??”. In my mind, I still don’t get “enough” done. But my pace is less frazzled. My house is (sometimes) cleaner. I’m more patient with my son AND my husband. And I get to watch Sailor Moon by myself while I eat my breakfast!

All it took was jumping off a cliff.

Kids & Screens: The Magic of Toothpicks

I rarely watched TV as a child.  We watched things like the Marx Brothers or Alfred Hitchcock films on “Friday Movie Night”.  We almost never watched anything current.  In fact, my childhood wasn’t too far from this Onion article.  Even now, I don’t watch TV much.  We have Netflix & Hulu, or if we want to watch something current (like Downton Abbey or Walking Dead), we have an antenna & an Apple TV.

But you should also know that my son LOVES Winnie the Pooh (he calls the TV “Pooh-Pooh”).  He also loves dancing to the “Creature Report!” segment of the Octonauts.  I usually let him watch Sesame Street while I get him ready for school, and Octonauts or Baby Genius while I make dinner.  We also use iPhones as Emergency Entertainment during flights or grocery store meltdowns.  I feel okay about the fairly limited amount of screen time he gets.

Unfortunately, screen time has become my cure-all for the insane (and sometimes public) meltdowns we’ve been experiencing as my little dude enters toddler-hood.  Anything to prevent the top-volume “no-No-NO-NOO!!!!” and the dirty looks from other moms with well-behaved children.  This NEVER happens to them.  Doesn’t it feel that way?

But the temporary reprieve comes with a price: MORE meltdowns!  When the TV turns off?  Meltdown.  When he spots an iPhone or iPad and hears the word “No”?  Meltdown.  I’m at the point where I’m shoving all screen-like devices under pillows and contemplating mounting my TV on the wall and hiding it behind a canvas.  TV?  We don’t have a TV, son.  What is this “TV” you speak of?

Over the holidays, he was cutting 2 teeth, surrounded by 5 other boisterous children, and spending lots of time in the car as we shuttled from one activity to the next.  After a few days of this chaotic holiday schedule he was OVER IT.  Loudly.  And in public places.  He was a little ticking freak-out bomb every time we sat down in a restaurant.  He was spending a LOT more time with our iPhones, as my husband and I ate and socialized in shifts.

At our last dinner away before heading home, I took our little Grumpus outside while we waited for a table.  I was about to whip out my phone, but at a nearby table I spotted a shaker full of toothpicks.  Ding!  Those pointless hours perusing “DIY montessori activities” on Pinterest paid off!  For the next 15 minutes my son was completely absorbed by putting toothpicks into the shaker, one by one.  Phone?  What phone?

This was such a great reminder for me to be creative in the ways I keep him busy, especially in public.  I just ordered these: SO Awesome portable wallet & cards.  And instead of resorting to the phone, I now keep a shaker of toothpicks in my purse.  While I know we’ll still watch a little bit of TV, I’m trying to be better at enduring those tantrums.  Because guess what happens after 5 minutes of screaming?  He moves on.  And finds something else to do.  Meanwhile, if you have a bit of something in your teeth, I can totally help you with that.

What about you?  How do you manage screen time with your kiddos?  Tell us in the comments!

Lisa Bonked Out

Pregnancy Delusions: You’ll Be Different

I hate advice.  I’ve even gone out of my way to do the opposite of whatever advice I’ve been given.  I once painted our kitchen BLUE because a loved one tried to talk me out of it.  Suddenly I HAD to use that color, because I’m just so dang stubborn and GAH I know how colors work, dammit!  Yeah, three years later, we painted it Reasonable Adult Grey.  Because I got bored with blue, of course.  Not because blue was a giant mistake or anything…

Almost the minute your pregnancy goes public, you are inundated with advice.  Hand-me-downs. Doomsday parenthood warnings.

The Classic:  You’ll never sleep again.
The Oddball:  Make sure your belly gets a lot of sun!  (Huh?)
The False Compliment:  You’re too small to push a baby out.
The Man-splanation:  That ball chair will make you go into early labor.
The Old Wives Tale:  Spicy food will make Baby angry!

Naturally, I filed these away as Things to Contradict Out of Spite.  I’ll sit on this ball chair and eat Thai food Every. Damn. Day. I’ll do every random thing I read about to prepare for a natural birth.  Prenatal belly dancing?  Hypnobabies?  Eating dates for 2 months?  Check check check.  I’M going to be Different.

DSC_0238copy
Aww. So sweet & naive.

I was obsessively over prepared for birth.  I still have 48 “labor popsicles” in my icebox to prove it.  And of course I was delusionally “prepared” for the whole motherhood part.  Obviously I’ll cloth diaper. Obviously I’ll breastfeed.  I can totally home school.  We’ll never watch TV.  BIRTH was the hurdle, and everything after would be easy in comparison. Right?  I couldn’t wait for my 3 months of cute PJ’s, sewing projects, and cleaning the house while wearing my baby in a sling.

Just kidding. I never fantasize about cleaning.

So, despite my inability to fart cinnamon & sunshine (just ask my husband), I had the birth I wanted.  It was freaking awesome, and yes I’m still proud of myself.  I know, no one cares.  People only want to hear your birth story if it was a hot mess.  If it makes you feel better, yes I pooped.  And I looked like a bedraggled cat lady:

Lisa Labor pic
My husband looks like a kid at Christmas. I’m exhausted and probably thinking about cheeseburgers.

The End, right?  Hooray, I won, where can I pick up my Awesome Mom trophy?

Ha.  No.  After 2 days at home, my son spent 4 days in NICU with severe jaundice, & I burst into hysterical tears when a nurse told me to “Go home & rest”.  Less than 2 months later I went through THREE Mastitis surgeries.  The L&D nurse that commented on how calmly I labored, wasn’t there to hear me screaming expletives when a surgeon cut into my BOOB.

Aside from those anomalies, I just wasn’t prepared for how…nonstop motherhood is.  I know that sounds ridiculous.  But there are no breaks!  My son nursed constantly.  If he wasn’t nursing he was pooping. I ate a lot of microwaved frozen meals in the beginning.  I did wear cute PJ’s…but for 3 days in a row.  And I did more laundry than I ever thought possible.

Lisa Bonked Out
I passed out halfway through folding a pair of tiny pants.

How did my delusions work out?  So-so.  I do mostly cloth diaper.  I did breastfeed for a year, despite Mother Nature’s psychotic attempts to discourage me (See?  Still stubborn).  But I’ve (mostly) given up my home school fantasy.  And I do let him watch TV sometimes.  Because it buys me 20 minutes to make dinner, or go to the bathroom alone, or to just cuddle with him and doze off a little.  I DID sleep again.  But it’s still different, and sometimes in unexpected places.

Guess what?  You WILL be different!  Just not the way you think.  Lots of things WILL go as planned.  But other things won’t.  And things you never thought of will come out of left field.  There are little failures almost every day.  But it doesn’t really matter.  You’ll have a baby, and it’ll be chaos, but it’ll also be totally awesome.  Any “plans” you think you’re making will be thwarted by a tiny little person who is now your whole world.

So don’t get hung up on plans.  Don’t take things too seriously. You look beautiful. It’s going to be so, so great.  That’s pregnancy advice even I can handle.

Welcome to the Chaos.

Hey! I’m Lisa. I’m a working mama who recently left my 8-5 to freelance and spend more time at home. I’m happily married, and a proud mama to my 16-month old little dude.

I love puttering around in my organic garden, whipping up homemade clothing for the whole family, and renovating our east Austin home. I also enjoy crafting homemade Montessori materials and reading chapter books to my remarkably astute toddler.

Haahahaha. Who am I kidding?? My garden is almost completely overgrown. My sewing machines haven’t been touched since before my son was born. We only just recently hooked up the second sink in our master bathroom. Should I tell you how long that project went unfinished? Well, the last time I used my sewing machine, our bathroom had only 1 functional sink. I think you can figure it out from there.

I’m a hot mess! That’s why I’m here. And maybe, just maybe, that’s why you’re here too.

Joining me soon here are my dear friends Lindsey & Kensley. We’re starting this blog as a sort of antidote to the perfect-seeming mama blogs that are out there. It’s so easy to only show the best parts of mom life to the world. But there is great value, and often a lot of humor, in the most embarrassing bits. When your kid dumps coffee in your lap at a restaurant. When you accidentally laugh when another mom’s kid locks himself in her car. When your male coworker asks you where you’re going, as you tote your ugly Medela pump bag to the bathroom for the millionth time.

Or maybe you’re perfect all the time. In which case, feel free to laugh at our misadventures.

Welcome!