Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Doctor Mom

For some time now Snuggle Bug has had a small, but persistent patch of cradle cap.  In the past few months I tried  to remove the dry, scaly patch of skin.  I tried combing the spot, changing baby shampoos and using grown-up dandruff shampoo on her hair.  Nothing got rid of that patch.  Then yesterday, I tried something different: I rubbed extra virgin olive oil on my baby's head.  Fifteen minutes later, I very gently combed the spot and sure enough -- the dry, scaly skin came off.  I couldn't really see the full results until after Snuggle Bug's bath (which, of course, was immediately after the combing.  Because really, who lets their kid go around with olive oil on their head?) but when she was dry and sparkly, I couldn't believe the results.  There was a slight red mark where the patch had been, but that was it.  I was pretty impressed by the results. 

Ever the pessimist,  I thought for sure the scales would be back by morning.  But I was wrong: baby work up this morning with a nice, smooth scalp.  Even the red mark was gone!  And that got me thinking: if cradle cap can be "cured" with olive oil, there must be a million other mom-remedies out there just waiting to be shared.  In fact, when I really thought about it, even I had some (not-so-original-but-effective) mom tricks I've learned over the years.  For example, I've learned:
  • A drop of warm olive oil in the ear will immediately ease the pain of an ear infection until you can get baby to a doctor;
  • Daily use of a coco butter stick on a scab will reduce or eliminate a scar (thank you Ms. Jautani!); 
  • That you can (sometimes) prevent a case of croup from sending you to the hospital by taking baby out into the cool night air;
  • That you can remove even the driest skin by soaking it in a mixture of vinegar and water and scrubbing with a pumice stone (I admit, this has nothing to do with kids, but it substitutes as a pedicure when it's midnight and sandal season);
  • Nothing clears up diaper rash quicker than exposure to air; and
  • The best use of a Mr. Clean Eraser is to remove soap scum from a shower door (try it - it's better than any bathroom cleaner IMO). 
And those are just the things I can think of off the top of my head. 

I know I'm not the only mom with tricks like these.  While on maternity leave with Snuggle Bug I met up with a friend of mine who has five kids who happened to mention that you can get pen out of couch fabric with Germ-X.  And I know that was just the tip of the suggestion iceberg for her.  So, let's share our best ones, Moms!  List your coolest/most helpful/ most unique tips in the comments below!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Party Girl Part 2

As I type this blog and sip my Diet Pepsi, I have a slight headache, my arms and feet ache, and I'm tired. I had to dodge bags, toys, and paper plates as I walked to my computer...yep it was a party weekend for sure.

Yes, this weekend we celebrated L's birthday with a Cars Party built for a race fan! I was so worried about the weather but it held out and was a beautiful (and humid!) day. Last night while I was exhausted after countless late nights getting ready for the party I wondered to myself if it was worth spending weeks planning a party when it was over in a matter of hours. But then as I tucked my son in he smiled and said "Mommy can I have my party again tomorrow" and my other son chimed in "Can we leave the Cars in the backyard?" Yep, its worth it.

Yes, I go way overboard for my kids parties and I have been called crazy by numerous people. But I'm celebrating the lives of the three most important people in my world. And I'm getting to relive a little bit of what it is like to be a child. That my friends, is why I am a party girl.

Here's how the Cars Party came together:

Welcome to Radiator Springs!!

My son L is obsessed with cars. So it was only befitting he have a Cars 2 party. Allow me to welcome you to Radiator Springs. L's birthday is in May and so I knew I wanted to do something outside. So I transformed our yard into Radiator Springs. The road is simply one of those black rolls of table covers cut in half, secured to the grass with golf tees and white duck tape was the center line. The flags in my bushes are two long rolls of flags from Oriental Trading. The tree house Car Wash is simply blue streamers hanging down. It turned out really cute!!

Mack the Truck: 

My favorite party decoration was definitely Mack the Semi Truck table. I think he was my favorite because I didn't find this idea on the Internet or Pinterest...I just came up with it and with the help of my husband we made it work!! Here's how we did it:

Step #1: Find really large Boxes. Okay, so this was one project I actually did buy cardboard boxes for (instead of asking friends and family to donate extra boxes from around their houses). I went to UHaul and Bought 1 large wardrobe box, and two small wardrobe boxes. Arrange them with the small wardrobe box, completely taped shut on both ends in the front, the small wardrobe box with the flaps left open for the 2nd one (stand it open flap end down) and the large wardrobe box again with one set of flaps open. His hat was simply a box a friend gave me. with one flap left open for the bill of the hat.

Now the fun part -- painting. I learned the hard way that the writing on boxes are hard to paint over. Best thing to do is spray paint the words of the box with white spray paint before painting - boy I wish someone would have told me this tip before I did it!! It took me forever to paint it!!

Of course I brought in a "professional" paint crew to help!!

With a box knife cut out long rectangles to make the grill and spray paint with silver. I also used silver to accent the yellow lightning bolt. I drew his eyes tracing a role of duct tape for the eye ball and hand drawing the black center.

Place two long rectangle tables behind him and presto he's done. I was going to make wheels for him but I honestly ran out of time! but the presents made great wheels!!!

Cars, Cars and more Cars: 

 A big part of the party - were the Stars of the movie - in Cardboard form. This is actually easier than it looks. If you Google how to make cardboard cars there are a ton of videos and pictures by people who can explain it much better than me. The eyes are simply posterboard glued onto the cars. If you google a picture of the particular character it shows you exactly how their eyes are shaped. Trust me I have ZERO artistic ability (I can't even draw stick people right) and I could do this.

Yep, these cars are so easy anyone or any cat can do it! Trace the pattern of the car on the side of the box cut with your box cutter and use hot glue to glue the hood. Easy peasy!

The kids had so much playing with the whole cast of characters!

Inside I continued the Race-car theme. Even the bathroom became the Pit Stop.

The menu was a BBQ with hot dogs and loose meat hamburger. The snacks were all of my son's favorites with Chocolate Doughnut tires and Oreo Hubcaps. The arrangement is simply a vase filled with all the hundreds of matchbox cars around my house and some flags.

But outside was where the fun was at. One of my favorite ideas was the gas station. I put one of those beverage containers with the spout inside a box and cut out a hole. The kids drove up the gas station and got a drink! The Mater cut out is from Oriental Trading.com.

We had a such a great party!! Now, to start thinking about my daughter's Fiesta themed party coming in July!! Stay tuned!!


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

A Long, Slow, Beautiful Dance

Today is my ninth wedding anniversary.  Nine years.  Where has the time gone?

It doesn't feel possible that nine years have passed since Husband and I said "I do."  I can remember *exactly* how I felt about him nine years ago.  How much I loved him.  How I wanted to be with him more than any other person in the world.  Forever. 

Nine years, three kids, two jobs and one house later, we're celebrating our anniversary over 700 miles apart.  I'm traveling for work and Husband is home with the kids.  Husband will spend more time with the babysitter today than he will with me.  Not exactly the type of anniversary celebration a girl dreams about. 

But it is apropos for how we've been treating our marriage lately.  It would not be an overstatement to say that our marriage could use some work.  Between work and school and the kids activities, Husband and I are stretched pretty thin.  Right after Snuggle Bug was born Husband took a new position with his company that came with a teeny tiny bit more pay but tons of extra overnight and weekend work.  And my job has required a lot of unadvertised travel.  Throw in three kids, a bunch of activities, school and regular day-to-day obligations and we are pretty much at capacity.  Husband and I barely have a chance to talk about the basics, let alone discuss anything that might nurture our relationship.  And you can forget about going out.  Husband has always been a homebody and difficult to get out of the house.  Add in complications of needing a babysitter and being on a time table, and it's a sure bet it isn't going to happen, even if all he has to do is show up.  And that gets you where we are now: needing some maintenance.

 I've been telling Husband we need a tune-up for quite some time now.  For a long time I've felt like my only value to Husband has been as a workhorse:  I'm expected to have a job and provide the main income for our family so that we can have a house and car and food.  I'm also expected to do all of the tasks that go along with taking care of our children, maintaining a home, and coordinating the kids activities.  It doesn't sound like much in that list, but if you think about all of the steps in just one task in one of those categories, you can understand how at times I feel overwhelmed.  And why I want to feel like something more.  But, if the morning's lackluster exchange of cards says anything at all, it says that Husband isn't likely to look at me any differently any time soon. 

A marriage isn't a one-way street, however, and I've got work to do too.  I'll openly admit that I don't know how to make Husband feel valued and special.  It's hard to convince Husband that I'd rather spend time with him than anyone else in the world when I fall asleep on the couch every night 27 seconds after I finish packing all of the lunches, snacks, and school supplies for the next day.  I want it to be different, and it is up to me to make it so.  Now I've just got to figure out how (and stay awake to do so). 

It's been an amazing nine years with Husband.  The past nine years have been filled with some challenges but many wonderful blessings.  Our children, our family and our home are so much more than I ever thought they could be.  I am truly blessed beyond words.  And I still feel about Husband the exact same way I felt nine years ago -- there's no one else in the world I'd rather be with.  And I'm even more in love.  To borrow the lyrics from one of the songs in our wedding, "it's a long, slow, beautiful dance" and while we may be a bit out of sync right now,  I'm so glad we're dancing together. 

Monday, May 13, 2013

Party Girl - Part One

Here lies Mandi…

She threw one HELL OF A PARTY.

Okay, so maybe that is not what my gravestone is going to say – but a girl can hope right?

I’m a party girl. I don’t mean literally….as my idea of a Saturday night is usually a glass of wine and some scrapbooking. What I mean is I love to throw parties, especially birthday parties.

And I’m a crazy party Mom…meaning I have been known to move furniture out of my house, construct cardboard semi trucks, and transform my house into an island. Birthday parties take on a whole new meaning in my house. I try to make parties that my kids will remember someday.

I get a lot of my party ideas from Pinterest, websites, etc. A few my husband and I come up with on our own just from late night brainstorming sessions. Oh, I guess I should explain my husband’s role in all of this…I come up with the ideas, he is usually the one left to figure out how were are going to execute them. He is the one that decides how we will build a large pirate ship, or make a Batmobile in our house. When I am stumped at how to create something, that's when I bring in Todd to help me create my dreams.
The key to throwing amazing parties on a working Moms calendar and clock is to start planning way ahead of time. I literally start planning my parties about 2 months ahead of time. I do a little bit here and there to help me get it all done.
I thought today since I am in the midst of preparing for my next party (Cars theme for my son L), that I would share some of my favorite party tips. Just because you are busy doesn’t mean you can’t throw an amazing party. Hopefully some of these ideas can help inspire your next party!
Tip #1 - Create a party room - All my parties are focused on one room, a party room so to speak. I may dabble here and there with some decorations in my kitchen, etc., but to me its easier to just focus on decorating one room. For my  house - my long and narrow family room is the Party Room. I clear out most of my furniture from the room and set up the party.
Here's how I transformed the party room for a Star Wars themed party. I used a cheap roll of table covers to cover my walls and drew stars all over the walls with silver Sharpie marker. My kids loved helping with this. I painted sytrofoam balls to be planets turned folding chairs into Storm Troopers.

The Party Room Looked this for my son's Team Umizoomi Party.... I used just plain paper for the shapes and my daughter and friends help color them. I bought dollar store water bottles to add color to the table and filled up dozens of balloons for the ceiling.
And for my daughter's Rock Star Party it looked like this...different themes. Same room!
Tip #2 - Dress up Parties are always more fun
 For my parties everyone gets involved, parents and children alike. The best way to do this is to encourage people to dress up. Now I have done this on each end of the extreme from just setting out some fun Pirate Hats and bandanas for a Pirate party....

...to telling everyone to come dressed as their favorite Superheroes. Having your guests dress up for your parties gets them involved and everyone (adults and children alike) have a blast.
Tip #3 - The Centerpiece
At my parties I try to think of one big centerpiece for the party -- something big and eye catching that brings the Wow factor. For example, at my son's pirate party I wanted to build a big pirate ship. To do this I purchased a large wardrobe box from Uhaul for $12.00, and used spray paint and a table cloth for the sail. The kids spent the party climbing through the ship. It was great! 

 For my son's upcoming Cars party this weekend I'm making Mack the Semi Truck for the centerpiece of the party. His tractor is made of 4 cardboard boxes and his trailer will be the tables.

Tip #4 - Party Theme Your Food

One of my favorite ways to play with my party theme is with the food. I get a lot of these ideas from Pinterest. For my son's Superhero party we served a Superhero AtTACO bar. For my son's pirate party we did HambARGHers. And for my son's Star Wars party I decked out the snack table with Light Sabers, and Wookie Cookies, etc. Pinterest is definitely the spot to check out for these ideas.

Tip #5: Think OUTSIDE of the Box
For each of my parties I  try and bring the party outside. It helps get your guests ready to party even before they walk in. For my daughter's Rockstar party I made a walk of fame with spray painted gold stars (made out of poster board). 

Tip #6 - Some of the Best party decorations are completely free
I always make sure and have a party budget, but surprisingly some of the things I have made for my parties that are completely free are the things I get the most compliments on. For example, I took old CDs (that have long been placed on my iPod) and taped them to my french doors to give a fun decoration to my Rock Star party.

 My favorite decoration for my son's superhero party was the Batmobile made out my son's Cars toddler bed some garbage bags and some  cardboard in my recycling bin for seats.

Tip #7 - Cardboard is your friend
And while we are mentioning cardboard - I will tell you it completely your friend. I use cardboard in every party - to create buildings like I did at my son's superhero party, or construct cars which I am doing for my party this weekend. Best part - I usually just ask people to give me their old cardboard boxes they aren't using so its a very cost effective way to decorate!


Happy Party Planning...I'll post more tips in Part 2 next week!!


Tuesday, May 7, 2013

When the Child Becomes the Parent

As I left off from my last post, I had just received a message from my mom stating that my dad’s bleeding had not stopped and they needed to head to Madison. As my dad takes blood thinner, this is no easy fix. Additionally, this was his eye we were talking about. So many thoughts and emotions at this time…

-Was my dad going to be ok?
-Was he going to lose sight in his eye?
-How were we going to get to Madison? And where would we go in Madison once we got there?
-How was I going to explain this to my girls?
-And (selfishly) what about the rest of our trip to the Dells?

I am an only child and have always been a Daddy’s girl. Now, my invincible father was now hurt. And my mom needed me to help. We needed to figure out a plan. But where to start? All of my solutions only had more questions?
-Would it be easier for Dad to go back to Des Moines?
-Could he make it in the car for that long without bleeding again?
-Should we head home too?
-How do we get a rental car in southern Wisconsin on a Sunday morning?

After much debate and many calls between doctors and hospitals, it was decided that my parents would get a rental car and head back home to see my dad’s eye doctor. This led to hours (yes, literally hours) of my husband and I on the phone searching for an open rental car place. HA! Madison was the only viable option and that was an hour in the wrong direction. Plus, my parents had never needed to rent a car, so this was another concern. 

Then came the guilt – should we go home and cancel the rest of our vacation? Would it be any fun without my parents? My dad became so upset when we told him we were headed home, he started to cry. And that is something I couldn’t take.

So, with prayers and heavy hearts, we headed to the Dells. And my mom and dad headed home.

Luckily, everything turned out ok with my dad. But I realized that my parents are growing older. And maybe I have to grow up too.

But I don’t want to…

Jean Anne

Monday, May 6, 2013

What's an Attorney?

I’m an attorney.

It seems like everyone has their own definition of what an attorney is.

There’s my mother who believes my job is exactly like all those legal shows she watches on tv.

There’s the “haters” who throw attorney jokes into every conversation.

There’s those who wonder how I can defend insurance companies.

There’s those who think I am the mecca of legal advice, but unfortunately most of the time they want advice on areas of the law I don’t have any experience in.

Being a defense attorney is something I love. I think I am meant to be on the defense side of the v. From a very young age I was always the one who defended everything…whether it was my questionable choice of coloring with red lipstick on the walls, or defending someone on the playground, I am just a person that is meant to defend.

In just a couple of months I will be celebrating my 10th anniversary as an attorney. Almost a third of my life has been spent as an attorney. I love my job because everyday is different. I’ve sat at a bar and turned down shots from witnesses, tiptoed carefully through a molasses factory, been stopped by federal marshals because of matchbox cars in my bag, tried cases with judges who have called me everything from “sharp shooter” to someone “who should have been in a theater”. Yes, the one thing about my job is it’s never dull.

But what is even funnier is how my job is viewed to my children. My children have grown up around my job. They’ve been all around this state traveling with me for work. They know that the best place in the office is the front conference room where they climb on the table, and play the computer or watch a movie on the jumbo-tron. They know my office is a mecca of post it notes of every color of the rainbow. And yes it is common for one of my partners to find toys around the office from time to time (like a blue elephant in the senior partner’s office…yes true story).

So a couple weeks ago while eating dinner with my kids I asked them to tell me about my job. What do I do when I go to work?

So allow me to present what an attorney does in the eyes of my children:

1.     You yell at people.

2.     You play on a computer all day.

3.     You get on a coat and go to the courthouse.

4.     You talk on the phone.

5.     You yell at people. (wow…second time mentioned… guess I better be nicer).

6.     You sit with paper

7.     You put post it notes in files

8.     You write “stories”

9.     You go to "deppersissions". (depositions).

10. You help people in BIG TROUBLE…by yelling at people (wow again!).

Through the midst of my laughter at some of these comments…my son looked at me with his big blue eyes and a full mouth of macaroni and cheese and said…

11. You make money so we can have toys.

BINGO. There you go. I think that about sums up my job. I am the phone-talkin’ post it note carrier, people yeller who makes money so my kids can have toys.
And that my friends is what an attorney truly is.