This House of Love


Leave a comment

Go with the Flow

I am an extremely anxious person by nature. I always have been. When I became a wife my anxiety doubled, and the day I became a Mom I think it must have quintupled. That first glimpse I took of my infant daughter I instantly fell in love, and then only moments later I began to worry – would she sleep? Would she latch? Would we have a secure attachment? I read article upon article that told me what my child may be like and how I could work with each scenario. But as it turned out, she did latch and she also slept, and we were madly in love with each other from the getgo (with some occasional setbacks here and there on all accounts).

Then came teething – would we both survive the pain and infinite outbursts? My friends warned me that it would be Hell on Earth. But, here we are – still living to tell about it. Oh, and let’s not forget sleep training. It was a shit show not because of anything pertaining to my daughter or her schedule, but rather because I couldn’t sleep in the days approaching this first attempt at the modified CIO method her pediatrician had supplied me with.  My anxiety was so high; I had been scared out of my mind each time one of my parent friends shared their own horrific experiences. And the millions of articles about how CIO is basically neglect didn’t help either. But soon enough, Charlotte was “trained” (after only two nights) and my worry was all for naught.

Then came time to wean. I was completely beaten down by all the bad experiences I had been warned of over time – the stories of mastitis and women still breastfeeding their children at the age of four because weaning had never been too successful. And then one day, when Charlotte was eleven and a half months old, she just stopped breastfeeding. She wasn’t interested any longer, so she quit cold turkey, and my months of anxiety had once again been a total waste.

And so it went with her waves of picky eating, welcoming her brother home from the hospital, starting school, getting a big girl bed, etc. With each passing milestone, I slowly learned that my rituals of anxiety surrounding them were the absolute worst thing about  them all. Each time I had to guide Charlotte through one of these huge accomplishments, I noticed that if I simply allowed things to happen naturally with little intervention on my part, things went a hell of a lot smoother. I’m not saying that it was all perfect, or even enjoyable. What I’m saying is – I’ve learned to trust my own maternal instinct and the fact that I just know my kid. Screw everyone else’s experiences. They aren’t parenting my daughter.

So when C turned two and people started asking me about potty training, I had no answer. I’d know when she told me she was ready. Months went by, if I asked her if she wanted to use the potty, the answer was always a resounding, “No!” And so, I assumed I’d get her out of diapers when the little guy entered the world, and I stopped worrying. Soon enough baby brother arrived, diaper box stacks seemed to be reaching new heights in both children’s bedroom, and I canceled my Amazon size 6 diaper subscription preemptively. I thought, “hey! little guy is in a diaper, big sis won’t want to be in one, too.” I was wrong. But, I didn’t worry.

Then she started school. I figured she’d watch her friends use the potty and want to do the same. Nope. I had to renew my Amazon subscription, and she kept refusing the potty she had received for the holidays four months prior. The school year finished (C had only started attending in late April), and summer session started. I ordered pull-ups instead of diapers this time. Maybe she’d want to be potty trained? My husband was asking non-stop when we’d try to train her. Friends were asking. Family was asking. The pressure was on. But, still – I stood fast and waited until I could sense Charlotte’s readiness.

The day after summer session ended, knowing we had two weeks off before school commenced again, I told her she was going to learn how to pee and poop on the potty.  And she said, “OK!” And that was that. I was met with least resistance because she was apparently ready. It wasn’t at three years and three months, this magical deadline people told me she’d hit. And it wasn’t at two and a half, the age people had informed me was “average.”

So, as I started to prep for potty training, I naturally educated myself on some suggested techniques. In the literature I found, I was warned not to use food as a reward if and when she pooped and peed on the potty. I was told to use stickers. I told C she would get a sticker if she used her toilet. She told me, “I don’t like stickers. They rip too easily. I want M ‘n’ M’s.” Ok, fuck stickers then, I said (I mean, not out loud, of course – I wouldn’t want her saying the F*** word… again). M ‘n’ M’s it is.

I also read that I should supply her with her own cute, little toilet. In the end, she was almost fearful of pooping on Minnie’s face (I don’t blame her). After that, we chose a kid’s seat that attached to ours, so she could feel like she was actually learning to use the restroom, and not vegging out in front of the TV and pooping Idiocracy style.

Amidst all the rest of the inane advice, I read I was to strip my daughter naked for three days and make her earn her underwear. I was informed I should not leave the house at all in those three days. I was told to never ask if she had to go, but rather make her attempt to use the toilet every two hours. I was told to reward her on each marked two hour attempt, but never in between (unless she actually goes potty). I was told it would be messy, hard, and likely months would go by until she defecated on the potty.

Amidst training, her only accident occurred on Day #1. But, she also peed in the proper place an infinite amount of times. She was SO proud of herself. We went out to dinner the night of Day #2. I didn’t put her in a pull-up, and she used the restaurant restroom. I stopped rewarding her with M ‘n’ M’s on Day #3, and she stopped reminding me she deserved them. The thrill of being potty trained was enough for her. I listened to her and she listened to me. We collaborated on a very hard lesson.

Fast forward about a year and in retrospect, potty training wasn’t all that messy (a slightly urine-soaked couch never hurt anyone), nor was it painful. All because I said “fuck it” to the warnings, the cautionary tale-tellers, and the rules that have been designed to serve the “average” kid. We waited until we both felt it was the right time, and I trusted my instinct based on my child.

In the end it took her two and a half days to be fully potty trained, and only two weeks later we swapped her out of diapers at night. Since that final ditching of diapers, she has had three accidents total (when she’s just having too much fun to stop and pee ::side eye::). So, what’s my potty training advice/hack? Just listen to your child and go with the flow (pun intended)*.

*Results may vary because kids do, duh. 🙂


Leave a comment

Mermaid Merriment

My eldest will be celebrating her fourth birthday soon, and accordingly, she has been planning her party for a couple months (she’s so my daughter). We’ve been throwing around theme ideas for a while, but can never get farther than her current obsession: mermaids!

Thus, I’ve been spying adorable projects for Charlotte’s party like a hawk, leaving no blog unread and no DIY tutorial unwatched. And when I noticed Maria Provenzano‘s adorable Sand Castle Cake on Home and Family, I knew I had found the perfect centerpiece for my little mermaid princess’s shell-ebration! Not only is it gorgeous, but it’s full of delicious chocolate and coconut, too. Yum! Below are the instructions (as provided by Maria Provenzano), as well as a tutorial video as seen on Home and Family.

By the way, beyond the chocolate-y deliciousness of this cake, I now have a bigger budget for other party stuff – like this amazing Mermaid Tail or this gorgeous stand-in Photo Booth backdrop! We are in beach heaven over here!

SandCastle

Ingredients
  • Chocolate Cake; I used 2 8 inch rounds for this specific cake
  • 5 icecream cones with flat bottoms
  • Buttercream Icing:
  • 1 cup unsalted butter; room temperature
  • 1 pound powdered sugar
  • 2-5- tablespoons whole milk; room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Sand
  • 2 cups ground graham crackers
  • 2 cups coconut, toasted and finely ground
  • White Candy Coating Chocolate
  • Candy Seashell mold
Instructions
  1. Buttercream Icing:
  2. Beat the butter until it becomes light
  3. Add in the powdered sugar and slowly begin to mix together
  4. Add in the vanilla extract
  5. With the mixer running (stand mixer or hand mixer works) add in a couple tablespoons of room temperature milk; add more if the frosting is too thick; you are looking for it to be spreadable and smooth
  6. For the “sand”
  7. Preheat oven to 350 degree
  8. Place the coconut onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and spread it out so it is in an even layer
  9. Place in the oven for 5-10 minutes or until lightly toasted, and the color of sand you are looking for
  10. Allow to cool
  11. Place the graham crackers and the cooled toasted coconut into a food processor and process until it looks like sand!
  12. White Chocolate Seashells:
  13. Place the white candy coating chocolate in a bowl over a pot with simmering water, being sure the water isn’t touching the bowl
  14. Stir frequently until the chocolate has melted
  15. Pour the chocolate into the clean candy molds
  16. Tap on the counter to help the chocolate spread throughout the mold
  17. Place in the fridge to harden
  18. Once hardened, the chocolate can be removed from the mold
  19. For the Cake
  20. Place the cake on a cake stand
  21. Apply the “crumb coat” which is a single layer of icing to hold down any crumbs
  22. Place in the fridge for 15-30 minutes
  23. Take the cake out, and immediately apply another clean layer of icing, smoothing it out with an off-set spatula to make it look clean
  24. Use your hands to apply the “sand” around the sides of the cake
  25. Cover the ice-cream cones with frosting, and coat them with sand
  26. Place the ice-cream cones around the top of the cake
  27. Cover the top of the cake that is still showing frosting with the “sand”
  28. Place the white chocolate seashells around the cake as desired

Check out the video for full instructions and a step-by-step tutorial!

 


Leave a comment

The Best Gift to Give this Summer (I promise).

It’s the end of the school year and the summer holidays are approaching. You  know what that means, right? All the amazing Pinterest-y Moms will be at it full force. They’ve designed insane end-of-the-school-year presents like hand crafted paperweights made from real unicorn hairs. And that’s just so not me.

Im the one who loves to get creative, but really… I don’t have much time. So, this year – because my daughter’s teachers worked themselves into the ground with what sounded like a thousand three year olds all day every day, and put up with my neurotic antics all year long, I decided to encourage them to “‘Taco’ Load Off.” Yep, that’s right. As a way to celebrate the end of the school year, I am gifting my daughter’s preschool teacher a Taco Tuesday, complete with margaritas (alcohol optional).

The whole process took me one trip to Target and a few EBay purchases (because free shipping and buying in larger bulk, so I can make MANY of these awesome gifts over the summer!). Each gift cost me about $30 and did I mention it includes homemade taco seasoning?? Read below for the full list of items included (seasoning recipe, too), as well as links to score them!!

IMG_7593

Taco Tuesday in a Tin Basket

wire basket (or container of your choosing)

1 gift card ($15-20 towards a store that would have fresh items such as meat, lettuce, taco shells)

1 seasoning shaker – taco seasoning recipe/shopping list below

2 plastic margarita glasses

1 cilantro growing kit

2 ready made mini-bottles of margarita (includes tequila)

1 50 mL bottle of tequila (optional)

 

Taco Seasoning (Auntie Sam Style)

4 tablespoons cumin

4teaspoons paprika

2 teaspoons onion powder

2 teaspoons garlic powder

2 teaspoons cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon chili powder

1 teaspoon black pepper

IMG_7569

Wrapping this beauty up doesn’t have to be fancy – the important thing is that you’re giving someone tequila and tacos – how could you go wrong? I’d say a simple cellophane wrapper and a cute gift tag is all you need! A cute play on words like “Taco Load Off” or a phrase like “Taco Break!” will help tie everything together. Happy gifting(and summer)! Be sure to follow along for more summer fun, travel tips, recipes, and more!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


4 Comments

Fresh is Best

I recently found myself amidst a very stale routine. After spending the day doing various errands or going to classes with my son, I would pick up my daughter from school and allow her to plop onto the couch the second we got home. She would remain there for quite some time while I tended to her brother, cooked dinner, and waited for Daddy to get home. Of course, she’d take bathroom breaks and occasional toy breaks, but television had become her main source of entertainment.

Then, at the beginning of May, I ran through my daughter’s school papers and noticed that the monthly lessons would be devoted to learning about and growing plants. After her first day of garden-centric lessons, I watched her large eyes glow while she regaled me with what she had learned at school that day. She was physically within the confines of her car seat, but in her mind she was tending to a beautiful garden with her newly green thumb.

IMG_7160

So, instead of heading home to our big, old couch, we went straight to a local hardware store to buy some seeds and plants.  Charlotte picked out pots and apparatus galore – she was thinking big. I soon realized I’d have to hit up the internet for more kid-friendly gardening solutions than our tiny, local hardware store. On to Amazon and E-bay! Before I knew it, my pre-school aged daughter was planning dinners she’d make with the foods she wanted to grow. We went a little crazy, and decided we’d have to upgrade some of our plans. I ended up buying her (and I) early birthday presents: matching kitchen knives (okay, so NOT matching, but in her almost four year old mind, she’s got legit knives now: Mommy’s Knives // Kids’ Knives ). For anyone who has a little one that’s interested in cooking, these ^ kids’ knives are a MUST. #mommyisinheaven

IMG_7157

Since then, our new daily post-school routine has been to go outside and water. Then we harvest the freshest ingredients right off of the vine, and bring them inside to include them in our dinner. For now, we’re only working with homegrown herbs. But, soon enough, Charlotte will see the fruits of her labor (or mostly veggies, rather), and have tons of healthy, fresh foods to choose from every afternoon. Quite obviously, a much healthier habit than gluing her tush to the couch and her eyes to the TV.

With that said, the first recipe we’re sharing from our garden is a delicious, light take on Eggplant Parmesan. The tomatoes and basil were harvested from our backyard, but the organic eggplant and mozzarella were both sourced locally.

IMG_7223

Ingredients (serves 2)

1 eggplant (sliced into steaks around 1/4″ thick)

1 1/2 cups of grape tomatoes, sliced in quarters

1/2 white onion, thinly sliced

1 ball of high moisture mozzarella, thinly sliced

1/4 cup white wine

4 cloves of garlic, minced

White wine vinegar

Olive oil

1 sprig of lemon basil

Italian seasonings (either prepared mix, or dry oregano/thyme/basil/sage mixture)

Salt & Pepper

Directions

Mince garlic. Slice eggplant into steaks, toss in olive oil & white wine vinegar to coat. Add as much salt and pepper as you prefer, as well as half the garlic. Chop tomatoes and onions, toss in a bag with olive oil, white wine, dry oregano, second half of garlic, and salt/pepper. Allow both mixtures to marinade in the refrigerator (quickest meal prep ever)!

When you’re ready to bake, lay eggplant steaks in single layer on a roasting pan. Bake them in the oven at 450 for 25 minutes, then take them out and top them with the tomato/onion mixture and (one to) two slices of mozzarella cheese. Lower the oven temperature to 425 and make for twenty more minutes, or until the cheese is brown and bubbly. To serve, place one steak on top of the other, top with basil leaves, and enjoy!

IMG_7236