Babycare, Level: Expert

To mix some metaphors, parenting is a lot like a circus act. You’re juggling two apples, three apples, four. One falls, you lose your rhythm, but you pick it up and start over. The next time one falls, you’re able to pick it up while keeping the other three in motion. You keep going. Eventually no apples drop your entire act, and you breathe a sigh of relief.

Then, they up the ante on you.

Some crack-pot ringmaster throws in a fifth apple. A sixth. Maybe a poodle. And a flaming baton. Sometimes a bowling ball.

But you just keep going, and hope that poodle doesn’t catch on fire too.

Two case studies:

  1. Diaper changing. First, you’re just trying to get the hang of it with a baby that lies there, practically motionless. The first couple of days it takes you a solid 10 minutes for the whole process. Months pass, and you gain confidence and skill akin to a pit crew at the Indy 500. Tires off, tires on, back on the track. Then, they get wiggly. And curious, and indignant. And it’s like wrestling a bowl of spaghetti to get them to lay flat on their back for longer than 3 seconds. (And you only need 15 seconds, if they could just hold on that long, dangit!) To the point where we now keep toys on the changing table specifically to hand him as a means of distraction. (Which he has now grown accustomed to and starts screaming immediately upon being laid flat on the table until you hand him his toy.) His toy, by the way, is an old prescription pill bottle filled with three pennies. One, because it makes a great noise when shaken, and two, because…
  2. Baby toys. I remember trying to get Teddy to play with toys when he was just a couple of months old. Even just getting him to reach or grip was a success. We would dangle the toys and play with them and ooo and aaaa to try to get him interested. Now he is a swift and unrelenting pick-pocket with an innate knowledge of which things exactly he is NOT supposed to play with. Turn your back for a second, he is chewing on one of those real antler dog bones. Or crawling for the electrical cords. Or, his absolute favorite, chewing remote controls. We’ve now learned our lesson. We don’t introduce toys anymore as exciting or fun. We introduce them as something mundane that he is not allowed to play with. Last week, we bought a universal programmable remote with absolutely no intention of programming it. Instead, we pretended to change the channel with it and then absent-mindedly leave it in places he could reach. Yes, we really did this. (Can’t believe I’m admitting to it…) He spent the rest of the day crawling around with it sticking out of his mouth, happy as a clam.

Yep, it’s amazing what a difference ten months makes. And if that isn’t enough, just look at these photos comparison:






Baby Step 1.2: Embracing the Generic

This weekend, I finally stopped resisting and embraced the inevitable: I am becoming my parents.

(Thanks, Dave Ramsey.)

More specifically, I am becoming my dad and adopting his complete color-blindness when it comes to grocery shopping name-brand vs. generic. The man only sees prices, and he goes for the deal every time. (Unless it’s Blue Bell, because he learned his lesson the hard way on that after the Bravenec girls revolt of… whenever it was. The sooner forgotten, the better.)

So, last Sunday afternoon, my husband and I did all our grocery shopping at Aldi.

I have to admit, once you relinquish your brand loyalties (something that’s VERY hard for me to do as a marketing person), the shopping experience is actual rather pleasant. Oh, you need shredded cheddar? Here it is. There is one choice and only one choice for each product. It makes shopping simple. And quick.

One of my issues I held on to briefly before this conversion was the fact that I often compare nutrition facts on labels in an attempt to make healthier choices. It makes me shudder that the only spaghetti sauce Aldi offered had a whopping 480 mg of sodium. But the solution is something I’ve needed to do for a while: turn away from packaged goods! If I just stayed with fresh ingredients I wouldn’t have to compare incremental differences in preservatives and saturated fat, I could eliminate them altogether.

Meanwhile: A cup of low-fat yogurt for 26 cents? I think I can handle the fact that it’s not Chobani.

By the end of it, we had bought EVERYTHING we needed for a week (probably more) of meals, including snacks for the baby, produce, raw chicken, deli meat, at least 4 boxes of cereal, and some other splurges like seasoned mozzarella, brie, sweet potato chips and English toffee – 66 items in total – all for $120.

Note my glamorous bruschetta snack made entirely from Aldi products:




I think there are still some things we will have to go to Walmart for, like the hypoallergenic laundry detergent we use, our favorite brand of toilet paper, and a few other toiletries, but after this experience, I am a total convert.

It may be a while before I conquer Baby Step #1, but I am certainly feeling a little more peaceful about my finances already.

Baby Steps

e34ac280436af29d71053b064df9255eThis week, I attended the first of a nine-session course called Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University. (Which I knew was long overdue, but even more so after seeing this chart on compound interest and saving money. Ouch.)

The course is divided into six baby steps to financial peace. Baby step #1 is to save $1,000 as quick as possible for an emergency fund.


I have literally no idea where all that extra money is going to come from, but I do know we get fast food WAY too often and like to shop a little too much, so I’m starting there. (I also posted some shoes that don’t fit on a local Facebook trading post, so fingers crossed.)

And Baby Step #1/2 that I came up with myself is to UNSUBSCRIBE for all the emails that tempt me to buy things. So far this week, I’ve unsubscribed from Carters, Babies R Us, ModCloth, Petco, Keds, Kate Spade, Cartwheel by Target and Kohl’s.

Then I took a shot of whiskey. (Just kidding.)

I’m already pretty thrifty in the sense that I refuse to pay full price for anything if I can help it, and I love to coupon. So I figure if I subscribe to these newsletters I will get the best deals, but it’s a two-edged sword of purchasing more often to get the deal in the first place. And in the words of my father, “Yes, you saved 40%, but if you didn’t buy it at all you would save 100%.”

I have always hated when he said this.

But as I learned in the class last week, we cling hard to our bad habits. We are “like a baby in a dirty diaper – it’s stinky and it’s wet but it’s ALL MINE.”

So, my husband and I are all-in and we are going to try to break our habits so that we can maybe pay off our student loans before dementia sets in and we forget everything we paid to learn.

With any luck, we will end up like Bill Murray in What About Bob, and not so much like Richard Dreyfuss.

In The Middle

About two months ago, I bought a new car.

Yeah, I know, I’m really good about announcing things as they happen. Long story short: the Jetta lived a good nine years and 99,870 miles, but in the last year of our relationship, she cost me over $3,200 in repairs, which was coincidentally more than the value of the entire car.

After being stranded in 100 degree weather with a baby in the backseat, and a $1,400 “doctor” visit in July, we parted ways.

Since then, I’ve been using my three-month free trial of XM Radio to relive my youth and listen to all the music I couldn’t afford to buy on CD in middle school. Yep, the dial pretty much never leaves the 90s and Pop2k stations.

Driving home today, a 2002 “classic” from Jimmy Eat World came on, and suddenly I was seventeen again and the memory of the newness of driving came back to me in a flood.

I had completely forgotten.

Remember the novelty of being in the car alone? How scary and exhilarating and liberating to be the only one? Totally fresh, brand new freedom? Taking to the streets, I was like a wobbly-legged baby deer (and just as good at navigation).

I’m now on my 15th year of driving and my fourth car, and yet the lyrics of that song still mean everything they did when I first heard them:

(I know, posting lyrics to a song – a total throwback move in itself…)

Don’t write yourself off yet
It’s only in your head you feel left out or looked down on
Just try your best
Try everything you can
And don’t you worry what they tell themselves when you’re away

It just takes some time
Little girl, you’re in the middle of the ride
Everything, everything will be just fine
Everything, everything will be all right

You know they’re all the same
You know you’re doing better on your own so don’t buy in
Live right now
Just be yourself
It doesn’t matter if that’s good enough for someone else

It just takes some time
Little girl, you’re in the middle of the ride
Everything, everything will be just fine
Everything, everything will be all right

Almost 31 years old (in just four more days) and I’m still right there in the middle of the ride. And things are crazy. And I feel stressed. And sometimes I don’t know what to do with myself or my life or that new little creature that calls me mom. But I know everything will be just fine. Everything will be all right.


Furniture Project Fails

Since college, I have redone or painted, let’s see… at least 7 pieces of furniture:

hutch1-nostuff ombre babygreen
graybeforeafter before-after


And the one that started it all…


Then, during all the baby-having madness, I took a long hiatus.

Somewhere in that time period, I must have lost my knack for bargain hunting, because I have really been striking out lately on furniture projects lately.

Fail #1:

About a month ago we started looking for new nightstands for our bedroom so we’d have more storage, and we found some great ones on Wichita Falls Trading Post for only $20.

It wasn’t until we got them home that we realized they absolutely REEKED of smoke.

Overnight airing out wasn’t enough, neither was three more days of airing out. After researching ways to get rid of the smell, we realized we’d have to coat every square inch with Kilz and it might not even completely take away the smell. (And painting just to find out would cost us more than we spent on them to begin with.)  I thought about bringing them back, but honestly $20 wasn’t enough to shame the lady about her unhealthy habits and reload them back into the car. And I couldn’t just sell them to the next unsuspecting person.

So we did the only thing we could – we put them in the trash.

Ladies and gentlemen, that is how disgusting smoking is.

Think about it – if that’s how much it permeates solid wood in your home, imagine what it is doing to your lungs.

(Okay, rant from a former American Cancer Society employee officially ended. But if you do smoke and want resources for quitting – click here.)

Fail #2:

This week, I found a large dresser on Facebook that I thought could replace one in our bedroom that I have never liked. Even better, it was already painted in a color I liked, so for the first time in my life, I was just going to buy something someone else had redone and leave it as-is.

Well, it was $135 for a reason because the paint job was not smooth (I doubt there was any sanding involved), there were a few splintered away section on the drawers where there was no attempt made at patching, they were simply painted right over, and even worse, all the cute knobs and drawer pulls we liked in the picture ended up being cheap plastic and all need to be replaced.

So right now I’ve got two nightstands in the trash and a major project waiting for me in my garage.

Maybe this is a sign?