Friday, May 16, 2014

35 Reasons Why Being A Parent Is Awesome

Fort! 
1. There is someone that loves you unconditionally no matter what you do.
2. There is one person in the world that smiles when you wake him in the morning because he is happy to see YOU!
3. You have a reason to play with cool toys from singing dogs to blocks to fire trucks
4. You can build awesome forts on rainy days and it is perfectly normal
5. Its okay to eat Cheerios by the handful on the kitchen floor with your little man at breakfast
6. Pancake Sunday and other small traditions take on new importance
7. Holidays are so much more exciting!
8. You can go to places like Liberty Science Center, the zoo, and the circus and see them through a new set of eyes
9. You have an excuse for having yogurt in your hair.
10. You now have the ability to make up songs about everything
11. You can add poet, chef, architect, maid, and a host of other skills to your resume.
12. You always have someone to hug
13. There is always someone waiting for you to get home from work.
14. You move more.
15. You find yourself eating healthier and taking better care of yourself
16. You can order from the kids menu
Happy Mother's Day
17. You have an excuse to get out of events that start too late, start too early, or have a designated start time in general
18. Mother's Day and Father's Day take on new meaning.
19. You love and respect your parents more - and say thank you more often.
20. You have more dance parties.
21. You discover your inner Martha Stewart
22. There is always someone there to laugh at you, laugh with you, and make you laugh
23. You appreciate the small stuff
24. Bodily fluids gross you out (a little) less
25. You get to buy little clothes for little people
26. You learn life lessons again - like loving yourself and not worrying so much about how you look.
27. You are more patient - or you try your best to be more patient
28. You are a master at the Magic Bullet
29. You appreciate alone time with your partner more and learn date nights don't necessarily have to be at fancy restaurants
30. You make new parent friends
31. You get homemade gifts!
32. You learn the true meaning of selflessness
33. Red wine tastes better
34. You learn the best stain removers, carpet cleaners, and other tools of the cleaning trade.
35. You say "I love you" more.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Muffins!

I have a new appreciation for muffins. Muffins get a bad rep because your mind and your salivary glands often go to the butter sugar-laden pieces of heaven from Dunkin Donuts, bake shops, and diners. I recently had the most delicious blueberry crumble muffin at the bakery in my town and yes, I'm sure I consumed my daily sugar intake for the day by 10am but it was worth every single calorie.

In my effort to eat less processed foods, I have been trying to make my own midmorning snacks and muffins have been my secret weapon. Obviously I can't indulge everyday with a muffin the size of my 18 month old son but with a few swaps, you can find a happy medium.
Apple Cinnamon Muffins

I found the original recipe for these muffins on Pinterest, obviously (http://www.pinterest.com/pin/247557310737623036/) but changed few things in their preparation. First, I'm not sure if the author knows a "t" is for teaspoon and a "T" is for tablespoon. I caught the error when I read the amount for baking soda. I don't bake at all but I knew that was a bit much. Also, the original recipe called for a cup of Stevia - again, I thought that was too much so I trimmed that down.

Anyway, here is the skinny:
1 cup of whole wheat flour (I used Bob's Red Mill)
3/4 cup of Truvia Baking Blend
1 tsp of vanilla
1 tsp of baking soda
1 tsp of cinnamon (or more if you love it like I do!)
1/2 of unsweetened applesauce
2 egg whites OR one whole egg

Preheat oven to 350
Mix liquid ingredients and then add the dry
And add to muffin tins

Now this recipe CAN make 8 muffins BUT I made 10 mini muffins so I could bring two with me to work for my 10am snack.

What I also love about muffins, especially these, are that 1) you more than likely have all of the ingredients in your house so you don't have go to out, 2) they freeze well, 3) you can create new versions by simply adding more stuff like nuts, berries, and chocolate chips without really having to think.

Nutrition Facts
Servings 10.0
Amount Per Serving
Calories 81
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 1 g2 %
Saturated Fat 0 g2 %
Monounsaturated Fat 0 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0 g
Trans Fat 0 g
Cholesterol 22 g7 %
Sodium 132 mg6 %
Potassium 2 mg0 %
Total Carbohydrate 13 g4 %
Dietary Fiber 1 g5 %
Sugars 1 g
Protein 3 g5 %
Vitamin A0 %
Vitamin C0 %
Calcium0 %
Iron22 %
* The Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet, so your values may change depending on your calorie needs. The values here may not be 100% accurate because the recipes have not been professionally evaluated nor have they been evaluated by the U.S. FDA.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Ok so I was angry....

One of my more recent posts was a bit angry. I was angry about my job, angry about winter, angry about being a working mom, and angry about winter. Well, although I will always be angry at NJ Transit and, despite the date being March 27th, I am still angry about winter, I reassessed my life, was victim of a tiny intervention with my husband, and learned to make the most out of my less-than-perfect work life balance. 

Endorphin Party!
It isn't ideal but I have been a champ at getting up early and exercising before work. Not only is this better for my mental health and the mental health of those around me - it is my Me Time before the start of the day, it is my time to be selfish, let out aggression, and keep my waistline in check. Because no one else is a wake, I don't feel like I am sacrificing any family time and it actually helps me stay awake during the day. Oh those crazy endorphins!

I may have jumped the gun with my professional angst in some ways because I seemed to have forgotten than I haven't been a "new" employee since 2008. I was so used to having accrued vacation days, having a strong relationship with my boss, and a firm understanding of the organization's culture that I forgot how to adjust and adapt to a new company. Once I remembered that I had to earn my stripes, I found myself more at peace with the do's and don't of the Employee Handbook (however asinine some of the bullet-ed points are). I needed to be patient and see what responsibilities developed as I grew into my new role and met more people in and around the office. People I would be working with directly or indirectly. I needed to be trained before getting my wings and, it is slow going, but I am beginning to see why they needed someone for this position. 

I also found that I wasn't the only working mom. I may be the lone wolf in my department but there are a few of us that have Proud and Not-So Proud Working Mom moments and want to vent about them. These moms also want to advocate for change in policy, management support, and the earlier mentioned bullets in the handbook. Some, but not all, managers realize times are changing in the workplace and creating an environment of work/life balance is a huge retaining feature. Since I am new, I kind of skulk in the shadows of these meetings and offer my vote, but I love the way that the talks are going - and even that such a group even exists in my office. 

My commute is still gross but a little less gross than it was thanks to Daylight Savings Time. Walking out of the office, on to the train, and even into my house(!) in the sun has done wonders. I feel like I have more time and that is all I want - with my son, my husband, and in sweatpants. 

I know there are a lot of Proud Working Moms out there and I would love to know their tricks of the trade. Personally, I now leave any frustrations I have with my commute on the train. I make sure to listen to my husband's day and even though I don't get the quantity, I make sure each minute I have with Austin during the week is quality!

Monday, February 24, 2014

Proud Working Mom

As a working mom, I am proud of many things but one of the top three is that we have a home cooked meal for dinner at least five nights a week. Usually by Friday, I am spent and take out seems like a fantastic option but since I have the ability to spend Sunday's prepping for the upcoming week - things usually work out okay.

I am not one to create my own recipes and Pinterest has become a close personal friend of mine but the other night I was craving meatball subs and decided to take a stab at creating my own. I also had some random items in the fridge that I was looking to use and this is what I came up with:

Pesto Meatball Subs, serves 4 or 5; 
1 pound of ground meat ( I used
http://www.laurasleanbeef.com/products/ground-beef
but you could use anything from beef to turkey)
1/4 cup of ricotta cheese
1 tablespoon of pesto sauce 
1 egg
Fresh Mozzarella
Tomato Sauce
Buns (we used whole wheat hot dog buns)

Preheat oven to 375*
Add the first 4 ingredients into a bowl and mix well, but don't over handle, and make into mini meatballs. I was able to make 14. 
Bake between 20 and 25 minutes. 
Meanwhile slice mozzarella into thin slices and place buns on another cookie sheet. 


Once the meatballs are done, place 3 in each bun and top with cheese. 
Broil for about 5 minutes or until cheese melts to your liking.
(Make sure this step has your undivided attention and you don't start playing magnets with your 15 month old or else you might have crispy buns)

Once out of the oven, top with sauce and serve! 

What I like about adding the sauce last is the bun doesn't become soggy and the flavor of the meatballs isn't lost. 

This meal can also, easily be made ahead, frozen, or adjusted to meet the needs of your eaters. 

Friday, February 14, 2014

My Little Valentine

About a year ago today, I went for my IVF transfer and walked out of St. Barnabas Hospital with a bun in the over. As magical as October 28, 2012 was, this day is a close second because it was the day that ALL of our hard work paid off. Every shot, every alcohol swap, every dollar was not a little embryo in my belly. Amazing.

Every day I think of how much our lives have changed and every now and then I have a "mom" moment when I think - "my parents did this for me too!" Yesterday afternoon, as snow (once again) barreled down on the North East, I found time to write out Valentines for Austin to bring to school. It was obviously something I had never done before, this being my first time sending a child, a child of mine, to a Valentines Day party and I realized my parents must have done the same for me. It is little things like this that really make you appreciate all the "behind the scenes" things parents do for their children without being asked.

Of course, filling out Valentines and getting him ready for a party is nothing compared to other life events and milestones, but it is still something that reminds me that parents are such unsung heroes.

The 2014 Sochi Olympics have been on our TV, mostly as background noise, all week and every time I see that Proctor and Gamble commercial, I stop and watch - frozen. I think of all Austin's stumbles, falls, trips, and tears.  Genetically and athletically, I don't know if he will find himself on slopes, skates, skis, or bobsleds in the future - but he will learn to run and bike and jump and climb - and he will fall. But as long as we are there to pick him back up, in every sense of the phrase, he will do fine. 

Friday, February 7, 2014

My Place in the Sun

Place in the Sun
I graduated from college with a degree in English (Creative Writing) and Communication Arts. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but to be honest – they were majors for undecided majors. My dad put it, I have Bachelor’s degrees in written and oral BS or as I put it, I can communicate with you effectively in English. No matter how you slice it, I graduated with a “now what?!” expression on my face and almost 8 years later, I am still looking for my place in the sun.

Now, I haven’t been floating around aimlessly since 2006. I got my Master’s in Higher Education which shed some light on a whole world of professions I didn't know existed and I haven’t been waiting tables, but I am ready to be excited about my job again. I thought I found my “career” at Ross. I was there for almost 5 years, but hit a wall when the time came to move up, over, or onward. Despite efforts to create positions to move laterally, it wasn't in my stars. I floated for a little and am now working at XX (name changed to protect the innocent). When I applied, and later accepted, the position – I think it was for the wrong reasons. For me, XX was education's equivalent to Google. They have a nice little benefits package, they are the makers of prestigious and well respected education tools, the office is right near AAA BBB, and I would be the international department. How sexy!! Wooed by all of that, I neglected to really read the job description (which didn't make much sense anyway).

For days I came to work not knowing what my role was and thinking my supervisors didn't know either. Who did I report to? What is my 30-60-90 plan? Why is everything in Excel? Is it 1999? Although there were a lot of “Elizabeth will do that’s”, they were all menial tasks that required an update to a spreadsheet, an email to be sent, or a meeting set up. Am I a secretary? A data entry specialist? A liaison between the international institutions and our website? The glitz and glamour I had created in my mind was quickly fading.
Additionally I was/am amazed by how antiquated the processes and practices are here. Aside from the fact that there is no web-based or other modern data management software, there are spreadsheets upon spreadsheets of contacts, numbers, enrollment goals, and facts. There is no rhyme or reason to this duplicity only that there is the Elizabeth's Spreadsheet, the Master Spreadsheet, Tom's Spreadsheet with Enrollment Numbers, and Spreadsheet 2010. All of which contain similar information but are  just different enough  that a new title must be created.  Equally frustrating is that if Kristen is looking at the Elizabeth's Spreadsheet on her computer and I would like to make updates, I have to kindly ask her to close it. I am the least tech savvy person and I have no interest in it in my personal life, but c’mon man! This place is supposed to be a leader in academics and they don’t even have a Student Relationship Management System.

AND because there isn't a website system, working from home is blasphemous. I asked about a flex schedule when I was hired or forgoing a lunch and you would have thought I asked if we could bring hookers to the holiday party.

All of this angst is further fueled by the hell that is New Jersey Transit. How this operation still runs is beyond me! Coming into the city for work, I am quasi at peace because, to be honest, to start the day – what is the difference between walking in the door at 9:00, 9:05, or 9:10 – especially when most of the office is relying on similar means of unreliable mass transit. It is getting home that kills me for the following reasons:

1.       Our office hours are 9-5:30 which means I have to bolt out of my office, down towards the subway and over to 34th/Penn Station to catch the 5:45pm home.
2.       Said 5:45 train never leaves on time so every night, our little conductor who thinks he is funny has to apologize for leaving late. Screw you, sir. I got here on time so you should leave on time.
3.       NJ Transit is expensive. When I was considering acceptable salary options, I had to ensure I would be earning enough to cover the cost of commuting and still “make” money. Getting to my office from Metuchen, NJ is somewhere in the range of $5000/year. Gross.
4.       Paying this much for commuting would not be as gross if NJ Transit didn’t suck.
5.       There is no rhyme or reason to the crappiness of NJ Transit. We are delayed in the snow, in the cold, in the heat, in the spring, in a Leap Year, during Passover, and the Christmas season. Delays on NJ Transit are not racist, prejudice, sexist, or biased. They are equal opportunity and daily.

I understand my gripes with work and NJ Transit are two unrelated issues but with their powers combined, I have truly been forced to reevaluate my life choices.  The Olympics are staring this week and as they interview the athletes, I am envious of the passion they have for their sport, their desire to practice and improve.  I want to have that mentality at my job. I want to shine when people as me what I do for a living.

Some math: I am commuting at least 3 hours a day with 8 or so more in an office. That is 11 hours a day allowing me a solid hour with Austin before and after work and an extra hour or so with DJ. Fifty-five hours a work week doing something I don’t love versus 15 hours spending time with people I do……




Thursday, January 16, 2014

Things I have learned from working in Manhattan:


1. Walk with purpose. Streets near main commuter hubs, all over NJ Transit, and metro stations are filled with people trying to get somewhere. This isn't the time of place to stroll, walk 5 across, and sight see. 


2. Walk in a straight line. For every person you are trying to pass, there is at least someone trying to pass you. Keep your course as direct as possible to avoid trips, collisions, and dirty looks. 


3. Look up. Get off your phone, tablet, or whatever. You're annoying and see #s 1 and 2. 


4. No one has patience for your suitcase or rolley bag. I'm sorry.  Again, see #1 and 2. 

5. Yes - commuter shoes are unflattering and unsexy but they get you from point A to B a helluva lot faster. I keep dress shoes in my desk drawer so I don't have to do as much schlepping. 


6. Keep a medicine cabinet in your desk. After I was hired I went to cvs and stocked up on everything from Aleve to feminine hygiene products. You never know and since you are spending much of your time at work, you will probably use it. 


7.  Similar to #6 get snacks. It is much cheaper, healthier, and effective to bring snacks from home than run out or to a vending machine every time hunger strikes. 


8. Always look for new routes. The other day I discovered the C train. If you are a seasoned NYC commuter this is probably not a big deal, but it is so much less crowded than the A and the 1 and takes me to the same place. Where have you been all my life, C? Look to see where other people are going - why are crowds where they are? How do I make sure I come through that exit? These small finds can save a lot of hassle. 

9. Even if you don't go out to eat, go out to lunch. Because the city is an expensive place, I bring my lunch to work every day but I still try and take advantage of the time and step out of the office. Depending on your location, you can run errands rather than save them for the weekend or just walk around the block. Although the tasks seem mundane, it still breaks up your day and gets you away from the computer. I am fortunate enough to work in Columbus Circle so even on cold days, I can walk through the mall and window shop.

10. Still make "you" time. I have a long day - probably 11 hours out of the house from door-to-door. I come home to a fabulous husband and son, and between 6:30 and 8 - we dine, clean up, bath, play, and put our little man to bed. Its a little bit of a whirlwind but it works and my husband and I have our time together from about 8 to 10pm. Although this second part isn't for everyone, I also get up at 5:10am to workout and shower. I call it "negative time" because both of my men are still asleep, I have the time to myself, but I'm not taking away from any bonding time with my family. 

11. Treat yourself. Although lunch in the city can be costly, you can still go out from time to time and try a new place, buy coffee instead of relying on the office supply, or find a little shop and get yourself or a friend a little something. The other day I got my nails done and it just make my day a little nicer. 

12. An escalator can never be broken - it just becomes steps - and that makes me happy. For the most part, people walking up steps move faster than people gliding up an escalator. Unless you are the unfortunate soul with a suitcase (see #4), everyone's morning commute has been cut a little shorter because of this malfunction. 

13. Hug the walls. When you are walking from point A to B - whether it is in the subway terminals, the side walk, or the stairs - the closer you are to the side, the less people should be in your way. I am still conducting research on this study, but so far I have had more success on the sidelines than up the middle.

14. Being a petite female has proven to be advantageous.
       a) people are willing to give you that last bit of space in the crowded subway. Otherwise, you are like the people who missed the Titanic life boats, staring sadly as the doors close and train sails away.

      b) you become an excellent bobber and weaver, allowing you to make it through the crowds a little bit faster
     c) petite people are awesome


15. Remember why you are working in Manhattan. The least favorite part of my commute - well there are a few - but one is when everyone piles out of the train and trudges up the steps to Penn Station. I feel like a cow being herded and think "am I going to do this until I am 60?" Maybe I will, maybe I won't but I keep my family in mind and the trips we can go on, the healthcare and benefits we have, and that I have a job that allows me to even think about retiring. I work so my family can be comfortable and my son can have the life we vision for him - and I am lucky enough to be going to a good place once I get out of the herd and into my office.