Thursday Stream of Consciousness #2

This week has been a freaking roller coaster. Continue reading “Thursday Stream of Consciousness #2”

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Dream Journal 6/27/17 | Cake

Kyle and I were at a large grocery story, that looked sort of like our local Walmart, only a bit fancier, and we were looking for a cake for our son’s third birthday, which wasn’t for several more months. We were standing at the bakery counter, looking through a large book of cake designs, when an employee walked over to the counter. Continue reading “Dream Journal 6/27/17 | Cake”

Sorry for the Silence

So we’re all stuck in this sinking boat of misery.

Hello, friends. It’s been quite some time since I’ve had the chance to sit down and write a post (just over two months), and a lot has happened. Most of the things that have happened aren’t really worth mentioning, but there are a few things that I’d like to share with you.

15995039_10208147301339761_8093609280292525493_oFirstly, and most important in my eyes, yesterday was my son’s second birthday. He’s two. I have a two year old. Trying to wrap my head around the fact that I have been a mother for two years is just… insane. I was babysitting all day, so we really couldn’t celebrate, and my entire household has been battling the cold from hell for a few weeks, so we were all more than happy to lay low. We had a cookie cake, took some pictures, and enjoyed some family time at the end of the day. Liam had an actual party a little over a week ago, when we went up to visit Kyle’s grandmother, and the whole rest of his family, for the big, annual family Christmas party. We bought Liam a really nice, super delicious cake, and he got to open a massive pile of Christmas AND birthday presents. He’s gotten so many amazing gifts this season, I might have to start doing some more toy reviews. There’s plenty to report on!

Luckily, we got all of our holiday and birthday shopping done early this year, because as you all know, whenever things are going too well for us, something goes wrong. Now, I went off on Facebook and Twitter recently, ranting about the medical lab where Kyle had his blood tests done last year when he was starting his new job. He had to be screened for diabetes, which we then discovered he had. Well, what I may not have mentioned, is that the clinic ordered a number of other tests, which we did not ask for, and in the end, we were charged roughly $1,000 from the lab, and nearly $500 from the clinic. For BLOOD TESTS. Gotta love America…

So, since Kyle is unable to afford insurance through his employer (oh, he no longer works two jobs, just the one driving now), and doesn’t qualify for state aid, it all had to come out of pocket. His mom agreed to help us with the clinic bill, since she was supposed to put Kyle back on her insurance and forgot about it, but the rest was on us. We were making the minimum payments for a while, but since Kyle’s job pays pretty well, he decided to pay half of it all at once on the site. Well, he screwed up and accidentally hit “Pay In Full”, and over $800 was taken from our bank account… and we didn’t have that much in there.

We got slammed with an overdraft, and a fee to go with it. Of course, he didn’t tell me this was his mistake until after I went off online, blaming the company, but when we reached out to see if we could maybe get half of the money back, they wouldn’t work with us. Not even a little. Luckily, I got paid enough the next day to pull our account back from the negatives, but we’ve been riding on $32 in the bank for over a week. Thank goodness for Christmas cash and gas card gifts. Tomorrow, Kyle gets paid, and then I get a few dollars on Friday from babysitting, and we will be all set again. But it sure threw us for a loop.

And speaking of babysitting… that’s all over.

It’s been rough. I had to put my Twitter as protected, because I found out that someone has been stalking my tweets, taking screenshots, and sending them to people who don’t follow me there, which has caused me some drama. Ridiculous, high school drama. I have a good feeling I know who it might be… though I’d like to think it isn’t one of my friends who follows me. I don’t trust anyone anymore.

I feel empty. More alone than ever. I feel like there’s been too much to deal with, but I haven’t been letting myself deal with any of it, because there was always something that needed to be done. Something more important than me, and my feelings. I didn’t let myself feel, or deal, or vent. Blah.

I also recently became an aunt again, to a little girl whose name I don’t even know, and who I’ll probably never meet, we lost my grandmother’s husband, Richard, to cancer right before Christmas, and I gained 45 pounds in 2016.

Oh, and Trump. That happened. So we’re all stuck in this sinking boat of misery.

Thanks for reading, friends. I should have more time to do writing prompts, reviews, etc… I missed writing. Talk soon.

Jan

From Sunshine to Storming

Hello, friends.

Yesterday was… well, it was something. For the last couple of days, Kyle and I had been compiling a list of projects and things to buy that we wanted to complete on Friday (yesterday), since it was his one day off. I’ve really been stressing out about my mom’s visit, so I’ve been pushing to get as much done as possible around the house. Since Kyle’s other job put him back into a full-time position, he’s been working a lot more, and hasn’t been able to help me with some of the bigger projects I want to do, so yesterday was our big push day. We still had plenty of money in savings to spend on some needed things, thanks to his new hours, so we were excited to get it all done.

Our to do list for yesterday was:
1) Lower Liam’s crib
2) Clean out the hallway closet and laundry room (both still filled with boxes of crap from when we moved in 1.5 years ago…)
3) Clean out our kitchen junk drawer
4) Finish the dishes and throw out old/unwanted dishes
5) Hang my new paper towel holder
6) Fix and install our AC unit
7) Buy a new organizer for Liam’s room so I could re-organize his stuff
8) Buy new throw pillows for the couch
9) Vacuum and deep clean the living room carpet
10) Transfer Kyle’s tools into his new, larger tool box, and store them away
11) Hang up my DIY scarf holder in the bedroom
12) Buy a new inner tube for my stroller tire
13) Go grocery shopping

Yeah… QUITE the list. Did I mention that we had to do all of this while Liam was awake and running loose, because it would all make too much noise if he was sleeping? That was fun. Luckily, when we put our strengths together, we make a really productive team, and in just two hours, we got all of that list done, with the exception of lowering the crib, because the ONE tool we needed, we could not find in our collection, and all of the shopping stiff, which would come later when we went out. Liam was very well-behaved the entire time!

We left the house a little after 1:00, and it was gorgeous outside. 72 degrees, sunny, and not a cloud in the sky. We stopped in at two local hardware stores to try and find a new inner tube for my stroller tire. Both places did not have the size we needed, but told us about a bike shop nearby that probably had it. Before going there, we stopped at my bank so that I could cash the check my mom sent me for my birthday (5 days!) so I could put it into Kyle’s account. The woman informed me that I couldn’t cash it all… because I only had 14 cents in my account. Oops… So I deposited some into my account, cashed the rest, and off we went.

The bicycle shop ended up being next door to a bra boutique that I had been wanting to check out for YEARS, so while Kyle went to get the inner tube, I went bra hunting with Liam. I got fitted by an amazingly nice woman, and began the process of trying on expensive pieces of cloth to cover my boobs. I’m quite a large size, so cute, cheap bras at Walmart and Target are not an option for me. I found the perfect, most amazing bra, but could only buy one due to the price. I let it be my birthday present to myself, since the inner tube only cost us $8. Kyle and Liam chatted with the ladies in the shop, who all absolutely adored my son, and then we left, happy with our finds, as well as our accomplishments thus far.

Next, we stopped at Menards to buy the tools we needed to lower the crib, and some CLR for another project I decided to add to the list. Then, we went to Arby’s and grabbed a late lunch for Kyle and I (Liam ate at home), before heading to Walmart to grab the rest of our items.

This is where things start to go bad…

As we pulled into the Walmart parking lot, Arby’s in hand, we noted that the skies had started getting darker, and clouds were rolling in. We turned off the car to quickly eat our food, but when Kyle turned the key to roll our windows up before we went in, the car would not start. We tried, and tried, and tried. Nothing. It sounded like it was trying to turn over, so it wasn’t the battery, but nothing would get this car to start. Kyle, having the temper he has, immediately got frustrated, as we have had nothing but nonstop car troubles for the last 3 years. We JUST had to have this car looked at, due to an unrelated issue we were having a few weeks ago, and now this.

We gave up, went in, and got only about half of our list, as we didn’t know the outcome of the car situation, and did not want to grab anything from the freezer. Sure enough, the car still wouldn’t start, and we had to call Kyle’s mom for a ride, and a tow truck to get our car to Sears. While waiting outside for his mom, it started pouring rain, thundering, lightning, and there was some crazy wind. We had left our coats in the car because of the nice weather, and quickly retreated in. We were still waiting, when I grabbed Liam to change his diaper, and discovered that I had started my period as well.

Fan-freaking-tastic.

The tow cost us $85 to tow it less than half a mile, but we have roadside assistance, so we won’t have to pay it, but Sears couldn’t look at it until 3pm Saturday (today). Kyle’s mom showed up, and we loaded our stuff into her van, and I had to put Liam into his cousin’s car seat in the back. Not only was it front-facing (he’s still just a bit too small for that), but the straps were twisted, uneven, the clip was caked with food and goop, and the car seat in general was filthy and sticky. I was trying to wrestle him into the car seat, which was impossible because there were cars honking at me, and almost hitting me (his mom did not park wisely…), and rain falling on me, and wind blowing me around, and my kid was NOT happy about any of it.

I finally got him in safely, climbed in the front seat, soaking wet, and we went home. We got all the groceries and items in, I thanked her for the ride, and she left to meet Kyle at Sears. Liam and I put the groceries away, realizing only then that we had left the inner tube, stroller tire, completely full drinks from Arby’s, and my sweatshirt in our car. Ugh. Nothing we could do about it at that point.

I quickly made some broccoli and a sandwich for Liam as a late dinner, only making toast for myself, despite feeling famished. Afterwards, we sat in front of the TV, watching Monster Fish, both completely exhausted from the day. I had a cramp that could have rivaled a contraction, a headache that could knock down a horse, my nerves were shot, and I was shaking. When Kyle came home, he was in an awful mood, understandably. I tried my best to play with Liam until bed time, but because he missed a nap during the day, he was a cranky mess. All he wanted to do was pull my hair, grab at my face, and hit me with one of his toy bucket, which was making me cranky. After he bit me on my leg while we were playing on the floor (he’s been teething like crazy lately), causing me to bleed, I put him down for bed half an hour early, and he passed out instantly. Not even our neighbor’s ridiculous noise woke him up. Kyle and I sat down and watched Chopped on Netflix, but ended up going to bed early as well. Luckily, Liam slept through the night, because we were SO tired.

Kyle was able to find a coworker to give him a ride to work this morning, but our car still can’t be looked at until 3pm. We don’t know what’s wrong, or how much it will cost us, but we don’t have a choice. We need the car, so we need to get the problem fixed.

So much for my birthday money… Why does this always happen to me?

Thanks for reading, friends.

Jan

Baby’s First Birthday Toy Haul Review

Hello, friends! As some of you may know, I wrote a 3 part series of reviews for all of the toys that Liam got for his first Christmas (if interested, here’s Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3). Well, his first birthday was less than a month later, on January 23rd, and he got some great toys! About a week has passed, and we have had time to thoroughly explore and play with all the new toys, and I thought it would be fun to do another toy haul review! Unlike my Christmas toy haul, I’ll be doing just one post for these reviews, as I am only doing 6 toys.

As with the previous posts, I will post the name and link for each toy, as well as an image. Beneath these, I will be using a 4-star system, rating each toy on their:
Attractiveness: Colors, shapes, detail, and how well it captured and kept my son’s attention.
Interactivity: Age settings, movement, how much can he do with it, etc.
Noise: (If applicable) Music, sounds, volume control, sound quality.
Quality: Flimsy plastic, not baby-proof, etc.
Overall Score: A mix of my opinion and my son’s opinions.
I will also list Pros and Cons.

Here we go!

1. Fisher-Price Laugh & Learn Learning Table
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Attractiveness: 🌟🌟🌟🌟
Interactivity: 🌟🌟🌟🌟
Noise: 🌟🌟🌟🌟
Quality: 🌟🌟🌟🌟
Overall: 🌟🌟🌟🌟
Pros: Amazing learning toy! Very interactive. Power and volume control, as well as four ways to play (learning time, Spanish, music time, and play time with real sounds). Very colorful and eye-catching. My son attacked it and wanted to play before I had even put it together. The piano keys are our favorite!
Cons: None!

2. Bizzy Square – The Buckle Toy
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Attractiveness: 🌟🌟✰✰
Interactivity: 🌟🌟🌟✰
Noise: N/A
Quality: 🌟🌟✰✰
Overall: 🌟🌟✰✰
Pros
Colorful, soft material. The back has several numbered tabs that baby can lift to reveal animals. Clips are very easy to clip and un-clip, great for babies who like to play with and chew on clips, with little risk of pinching their fingers. Comes in several colors/characters.
Cons
Toy is smaller than it appears in pictures, has a cheap feel for the price.

3. Fisher-Price Little People See n’ Say
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Attractiveness: 🌟🌟🌟✰
Interactivity: 🌟🌟✰✰
Noise: 🌟✰✰✰
Quality: 🌟🌟🌟✰
Overall: 🌟🌟✰✰
Pros: 
Colorful. Features a variety of animals, a song option, and a little game.
Cons: 
Lever is a bit difficult for my 12-month old to pull, and can be awkward. So power or volume control, and volume is VERY loud. Animal noises are unrealistic and sound a bit weird.

4. Fisher-Price Laugh & Learn Smart Speedsters, Monkey & Sis


Attractiveness: 🌟🌟🌟🌟
Interactivity: 🌟🌟🌟✰
Noise: 🌟🌟✰✰
Quality: 🌟🌟🌟✰
Overall: 🌟🌟🌟✰
Pros: 
We have the full set of 3, and they make excellent learning tools, that double as great, cheap toys, and my son loves them. Colorful and eye-catching. Move very smoothly.
Cons:
No power or volume control. The volume on the Monkey car is much higher than the other two, and his voice is very shrill. I actually get headaches from that little green car.

5. Fisher-Price Laugh & Learn Smart Stages Tablet
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Attractiveness: 🌟🌟🌟🌟
Interactivity: 🌟🌟🌟🌟
Noise: 🌟🌟🌟🌟
Quality: 🌟🌟🌟✰
Overall: 🌟🌟🌟🌟
Pros:
Great learning tool, features power and volume control, as well as 3 stages of learning. Each button has the option of saying the letter, character/object, and the sound it makes. Plays several different songs, different on each learning setting. Lights on top and sides light up in several, bright colors.
Cons: 
NOT a touch screen, which is fine, but baby does need to press a bit on the buttons, which seemed to put my kiddo off a bit. When you are playing with the alphabet buttons, it randomly cuts you off and plays music, which is a bit annoying.

6. Mega Bloks Jeep Lil’ Off Roader Building Set
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Attractiveness: 🌟🌟🌟🌟
Interactivity: 🌟🌟✰✰
Noise: N/A
Quality: 🌟🌟🌟✰
Overall: 🌟🌟🌟✰
Pros:
Instantly caught my son’s attention in the store. Great size for toddlers. Looks like a realistic, tiny Jeep! Comes with 7 pieces, which includes a little removable character, and 6 Mega Bloks blocks. Blocks can be played with on their own, or can be arranged on the roof of the Jeep.
Cons:
Very basic, limited interactivity. A bit expensive for what little it does.

There you have it! I have to say that my favorite toy is definitely the Fisher-Price Laugh & Learn Learning Table. I love how many settings it has, and I actually really enjoy composing short piano pieces with the 4 colorful piano keys. Liam loves the piano keys, too, and plays with me! I’d say his favorite toy is probably the Learning Table as well, but he is definitely a fan of his Mega Bloks Jeep, as well as his Fisher-Price Tablet (but only if I’m using it with him), and his Fisher-Price train that he got for Christmas, of course!

We are really loving all of the Fisher-Price learning toys! I love toys that have multiple learning stages, and look like “real” items that mommy and daddy use, and these are all just fantastic! I hope this helped out a few folks out there who are hunting for gifts for little ones!

Thanks for reading, friends.

Jan

Dream Journal 1/25/16

Present day.

Kyle, Liam, and I were shopping at Target. Our cart was piled high with toys, and topped with a few frozen pizzas, and a bottle of juice. We walked to the front of the store, and walked out the front door without paying for anything in our cart. Dozens of others were also leaving with carts filled with merchandise that wasn’t paid for. No one noticed.

As we drove home, the roads were lined with people carrying comically large cardboard boxes, all staring and waving at us as we passed by. The closer we got to our apartment, the more people there were, crowding the sidewalks and streets. As we pulled into our driveway, we were shocked to see that all the people with cardboard boxes were gathered on our lawn. As we rushed to push through the crowd to get inside, they started taking  wrapped gifts from the boxes, in all different shapes and sizes. In unison, they started singing Happy Birthday to Liam.

We quickly shut our door, shutting them out, and turned to see that our living room and kitchen were piled from floor to ceiling with boxes and presents. I picked up my phone and called 9-1-1, but the officer laughed at me, telling me to be grateful that so many people would give us gifts for our son, but I was too freaked out to be thankful.

The officer hung up on me, and Kyle and I started boarding up our windows, trying to block out the many strangers still standing on our lawn, and their singing.

And then I woke up.

Egg-less, Oil-less, Boxed Cake Recipe

Hello, friends! Today is Liam’s first birthday! In honor of this momentous day in our lives, I decided to write a post about Liam’s birth story, which you can read (if you want, it is a birth story after all) by clicking here.

We quietly celebrated this special day yesterday, since Kyle is working all weekend. Unfortunately, Kyle’s mother was also working, so we celebrated at home, with just the three of us. We started the day off with blueberry birthday pancakes, which were a hit, but the real treat of the day was Liam’s birthday cake!

Well… cupcake, that is.

Liam doesn’t have any allergies to eggs or anything, but I still wanted to find a cake recipe that was a little bit on the healthier side. I also don’t bake, and couldn’t really afford to go out and buy a bunch of baking supplies and ingredients, that I will never use up. After hunting around online, I managed to stumble across a “healthier boxed cake” recipe, from the Dr. Oz Show, and decided to go with a boxed chocolate cake recipe (because it had the lowest calorie count and sugar content, surprisingly), though I did have to tweak it a bit.

The recipe reads as follows:

  • 1 package cake mix
  • 1/2 – 1 banana, mashed
  • 3/4 – 1 1/12 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • water (amount not specified)1. Just use a normal chocolate boxed cake mix (that calls for you to add water, egg, and oil), but make the following substitutes:
  • Instead of egg, use a mashed banana (1/2 banana per egg).
  • Instead of oil, use 3/4 cup plain Greek yogurt per cup of oil.

2. Then follow the instructions on the box to finish making          the cake.

Now, I ended up using the recommended amount of bananas, but needed DOUBLE the amount of Greek yogurt (my recipe called for 1/2 cup of oil, but I used about 3/4 cup of Greek yogurt). Since the amount of water wasn’t specified, I used only 1/4 of a cup, but I probably could have used a bit more. I also added a bit of cinnamon to the mix, since I planned to top it with cinnamon graham cracker crumbles. It was very difficult to mix by hand, and the batter was very thick and sticky. This also made it quite difficult (and messy) to put into the cupcake liners. Usually when I bake cakes, cookies, cupcakes, etc. the cooking time is fairly accurate, but I needed to take these out about 3-4 minutes earlier than called for, and they still felt slightly overcooked.

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They smelled amazing, and the batter (which I shamelessly ate from the bowl) was delicious. However, it ended up not making 2 dozen, which it should have. We ended up with 16 total cupcakes, and they were yummy! The bottoms did end up being slightly overcooked, but the cake itself was surprisingly moist, all things considered. The banana and chocolate combination was really tasty, and reminded me of banana bread, or even cocoa zucchini bread, both of which I love!

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I topped Liam’s birthday cupcake with whipped cream, instead of icing, cinnamon graham cracker crumbles, and a blueberry. His favorite part was the whipped cream and graham crackers, but he did finish the entire thing! He didn’t care for the blueberries, however, which were still slightly bitter and firm (which is how I like them). But overall, as you can see, he loved it!

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I’ve also been snacking on the cupcakes, and love them! They are slightly better for you, as far as boxed cake mixes go, and are a good alternative for moms who can’t bake, or don’t want to waste baking ingredients that they may never use, and kiddies with allergies. I recommend!

Thank you for reading, friends!

Jan