Dear Mollie the Five Year Old

Dearest Mollie,

How are you one whole hand? I remember the day you were born – I am sure you will hear this story many times over, so I won’t bore you with the exciting details of your grand entrance again.

I am writing this to you as I fly from Maryland to Texas which gives me lots of time to think about what this year has brought for you. You didn’t become a sister this past year, but you really felt what it was like to have a little sister, especially one who required some extra attention. I was so impressed with how easily you bounced between houses, hung out in doctor’s offices and explained to everyone, even strangers, about your sister’s lip.

Uncle Sammy and I got to see you in action at your first (hopefully of many) ballet recitals. You also discovered My Little Ponies this year much to my excitement. Grandma and Grandpa got you the set for Christmas and you happily explained who everyone was. They have changed quite a bit since I was a little girl!

Your personality hasn’t changed one bit since you were born. You are still headstrong and sweet. One time, when we were going to the park to feed the ducks, you asked if I knew your Daddy. I explained that yes, I did know your Daddy, he is my brother. Well, you were having none of that and insisted it couldn’t be true. You were so adamant that I wasn’t your Daddy’s sister that I started to believe it myself! I can easily see law school in your future, but you could also be a superstar sales executive with your determination and sweet smile.

You and Mike have reached a new level of friendship that melts my heart. You both spent more time together this year and have shown him how things are done since you are a whole two months older, thus making you wise to the ways of the world. You could easily be one of his favorite people!

My sweet Mollie, happy 5th birthday. I hope this year brings you new adventures, new friends and more giggles. And selfishly, I hope you get more Barbies who need their hair brushed and outfits changed.

Love always,

Aunt Jay Jay

Brave Trails

Hi friends! It’s a yucky day in Maryland and work is crazy busy, but I wanted to take a few minutes to let you know I am raising money for Brave Trails via Facebook for my birthday tomorrow (don’t let that stop you from buying me a present though).

This blog has taken me in some interesting directions like meeting Matt Marr of the Dear Mattie Podcast. You might remember he asked me to be a guest and talk about the 12 For 1 Diaper Drive a few years ago. Well, Matt is someone I deeply admire for so many reasons. One big thing he’s done (and he’s done plenty) is help bring Camp Brave Trails to fruition.

Growing up I went to Camp Mardela and it was such a transformative experience. A lot of my summer memories were made there as well as lifelong friendships. It helped shape who I am today. Camp Brave Trails is a camp specifically for LGBTQ teens to cultivate their leadership skills.

I’ve watched a lot of their promos videos and read lots about Brave Trails and I realized as a straight cis female I didn’t need a place to fit in. I fit in almost everywhere. But for LGBTQ teens – they need some safe spaces and Brave Trails not only offers that, but more. They do the regular camp activities like archery, skits and campfires but they also do social justice, learn about self acceptance and fundraising for causes close to their heart. In short – Brave Trails is shaping our future leaders and damn if we don’t need a little hope for future leadership these days. 

Other good news – Brave Trails is not only going to be doing 2 week long sessions in California, but they are coming to Maryland for a week! If you have a chance, like them on Facebook and look at how happy those kids are.

If you’d like to donate, here’s how: http://www.bravetrails.org/donate-here/

So far my birthday fundraiser has raised enough money to sponsor a day of leader training. Leaders training leaders – I like that. And I will leave you with a picture of me during my Camp Mardela years.  It basically sums up camp – bucket hats, jorts, gimp bracelets and rosy cheeks.

Hello, It’s Me

Hello, it’s me.

If I am being honest I think about blogging and Muddling Momma every day. Mostly on my way to work, or on the way home from work and in the shower. But I haven’t posted in ages. I think the main reason is I am not sure what I want this blog to be. I originally started here as a way to share my infertility journey. That morphed (thankfully) into life as a pregnant person. Then into life of a new mom. And most recently, life as a mom in general. I am obviously still a mom, but I am not sure I want to share every detail of my son’s life. I carefully curated a lot of stuff on this blog with him in mind. Who knows what kids will be doing in 10 years when he is 14, perhaps blogging will be a thing of a past, but I don’t want his high school baseball/math club/DnD club/band members stumbling on this and finding out he pooped in the bathtub (he didn’t, FYI). I share enough of the funny stuff on Facebook.

But I am not ready to give up the idea of blogging. I am hoping to have another baby soon. I started working again full time in an executive level position, I am preparing to travel for the first time since Mike was born. I am stumbling on cool products for him, me, and families in general. We are exploring Maryland and I want to share that.

But let’s face it. I’m tired. Parents get that. So I might not post daily, weekly – hopefully monthly. But I am excited to produce new content that is useful. Stay tuned, and thanks for hanging in with me through this season of life.

Radio Silence

I’m still here. I honestly have lost some motivation to blog lately. I think about it daily, but when push comes to shove, I don’t feel like I have much to say. Things have gone a little sideways with my career – I have been unemployed since Halloween, but I am hopeful that after the holidays the interviews will pick up. In the meantime I have been making sugar scrubs and there has been a bunch of local interest in them for gifts. I even opened an Etsy shop!

We moved into our new home – our first home! And we are looking forward to celebrating the holidays here. It feels like a mansion compared to our previous rentals. We are planning on growing our family in the new year with the help of Shady Grove again. I am not excited to start the infertility process again, but we’ve learned the end result is well worth the hassle.

I’ll be back in a few weeks when I am out of my funk. We’ve all been there. In the meantime, my kid is beyond adorable …

 

Happy Birthday Marcie Jane!

Dear Miss Marcie Jane –

You are 1 (and a few weeks)! When on earth did that happen? Some days I feel like you are still a couple months old, but then I remember how much you’ve been through and I think you should be 16 by now. But alas, you are wonderfully one.

My sweet niece, you came into this world with so many people loving you and wondering what your future held – more so than other babies – because of your cleft. Once you were here it was obvious you were not going to be held back by that or anything else for that matter! We spent a lot of time together in the hospital MJ and while I hate that you had so many hospital visits, I am glad I could be there for you and your Momma and Daddy.

You have a personality bigger than I think we were ready for and that is going to take you places! If I had to place a bet, I think you are going to be the one to stand up to injustice. Why you ask? Well, you sit quietly and observe. You take in what’s going on and who is doing what. THEN when you think you’ve been wronged you voice your concerns. Loudly. More ice cream, warmer bottle, being picked up … we know what you want. I think you are going to use that quietness to see things that aren’t right in the world and then use your loud voice to make a change.

Your cousin Mikey is smitten with you. He always says ‘Mah-see is coot’. He will see a toy commercial on TV and say he wants to give it to you. I think between him and your sister you have quite a posse.

You have such an exciting life ahead of you with so many people in your corner. Sweet MJ, if you need anything ever Aunt Jay Jay has your back. I love you!

Happy Birthday,

Aunt Jackie

Since You’ve Been Gone

Whoa, it’s been a hot minute hasn’t it. I am finding that after the 12 For 1 Diaper Drive I tend to take a break from blogging. It’s not really planned, but it tends to go that way. Which is a shame since we’ve had a lot of fun the past month! I’ll catch you up.

Mike had his first screening for Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy and tested just fine with no restrictions. This was great news to confirm, but we already had a feeling he was just fine.

Mikey started his 2nd year of preschool at the same place he was last year and over the summer. His favorite color is red and he wants to be an astronaut.

I started a temp job in Annapolis and this is my view – fingers crossed it goes permanent in a few weeks.

We took our first family vacation (where we didn’t stay with family) to Ocean City. Mike loved the beach!

He wasn’t too keen on the rides, but did jump on the boats for a spin.

Did I mention we stayed in a hotel? Mike loved letting either Mommy or Daddy sleep in ‘his bed’.

Oh yeah, #12for1 raced passed the 15K goal and went right to 22K diapers. No biggie 😉

The Gift of Redbox

Who doesn’t love a movie night? I remember the days of Blockbuster (or if you grew up in my hometown – Video Scene). Wandering around looking for a movie that was in stock then rushing back before noon the following day to return it. Ah, the things our children will never experience.

Now we hop online, find the latest release and reserve it on the Redbox down the street at Harris Teeter so we can swing by on our way home to pick up a movie and a pizza. Family night for under $15!

That’s why I am a huge fan of giving Redbox promo codes, which is what we gave Mike’s teachers this year at Christmas and the end of the year. I purchased the codes (a five code minimum), had them emailed to me directly, then a code on a card and taped it to a box of popcorn. Easy, less than $5 per person AND everyone raved about how nice it was to have an ‘experience’ and not another mug. If you really want to spoil someone, add some movie theater candy and fuzzy socks in popcorn bowl.

So as the summer comes to a close and you are rushing around for a thank you gift for your babysitter, baseball coach or swim instructor, don’t break the bank. Give the gift of a movie night!

Here are some gift cards to print, just add the promo code and popcorn!

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Notice how there isn’t a fancy disclaimer about how Redbox sponsored this post? Good. Because they didn’t! I just think they offer a great way to have a movie night and make it easy to give a gift. Unless Rebox wants to throw a little something my way … (hint, hint, nudge, nudge). 

Find Cheap Diapers (and then donate them!)

In just one short day we will be officially launching the 4th Annual 12 For 1 Diaper Drive! I can’t believe it’s been 4 years and 30,000 diapers since this whole concept started. The good news is in those 4 years there has been an interest in the diaper gap thanks to Obama addressing this as well as celebs such as Kerry Washington and Jen Garner taking it up as one of their causes. But even cooler is how the 12 For 1 has collected about 30,000 diapers to help close the diaper gap on Delmarva.

Since we relieve a lot of our donations through monetary donations (donate here) I work very hard to stretch those dollars into the most amount of diapers for the least amount of money. I have been so surprised with where I find diapers! Whether you are trying to stretch your dollar for your family or to donate to needy families, here are some places to look for cheap diapers:

{Consignment Shop or Thrift Store} Our local consignment shop takes closed diaper packs and sells them for a fraction of the price and I have picked up open diaper packs at our local Goodwill. It’s obviously a crap shoot if they have any, but next time you are browsing the used books or baby clothes ask if they have any diapers!

{Marshalls/TJMaxx} Last year I hit the jackpot at Marshalls. It seems like Marshalls regularly carries Naty and Seventh Generation brand diapers.

{Zulily} Are you a member of Zulily yet? I love their deals, and they are known to have ‘shops’ for Naty and Huggies diapers. The key is to sign up for alerts and make your purchase quick – they go super fast!

{ANY Sale Shelf} I often wonder how frequently diaper companies change their branding because when they make a small change, the current product has to go on discount. I’ve found diapers on sale shelves in grocery stores, big box stores (hello Walmart!) and kid specific stores like Toys R Us.

{Facebook Marketplace} When I did a quick check of the Facebook Marketplace (which is an aggregate of all the yard sale groups you belong to) and within a 19 mile radius of my suburban home there are OVER 30 listings for diapers. If the thrill of the hunt is your thing, start there.

{Amazon Warehouse} Amazon is a given when it comes to buying diapers (and books and fire extinguishers and dog food and lemonade and …). But did you know you can buy open boxes of diapers for a discount? Just search in the Amazon Warehouse. No one who needs diapers cares if the box is a little banged up.

So now that you have some new diaper shopping tips, why don’t you pick up a few packs (open or otherwise) for the 12 For 1 Diaper Drive? Here’s how you can donate.

Finding Work From Home Opportunities

I seem to have become the ‘work from home’ go-to person among my friends, probably because I have worked from home for a few years and, despite the pros and cons, I really like it.  So as my friends realize that the 9-5 cubical stay isn’t the best option for their productivity and life, they are reaching out to me to figure out how to work for a company from their couch.

I’ve done some research and here are some resources for finding employers who hire virtual (or semi-virtual) staff. But first, understand these are not direct sale opportunities. While I can appreciate the hustle, a lot of us need stable income and a 401K.  Also, none of these are affiliate links.

{Flexjobs} I grew up hearing you should never have to pay for a job, but times are changing and Flexjobs is worth paying for because the listings have been vetted by real people. The interface is a little clunky, but it curates jobs that have a remote, part-time, freelance, or flexible option. They have plenty of payment options and a really easy cancellation policy for when you find that virtual job! Try using the code saving30 to save 30% off (if that doesn’t work, check RetailMeNot).

{Work From Home Mom Revolution} WFHMR is a blog that has a ton of resources and a free weekly email with a roundup of opportunities.

{FlexProfessional} If you are in the Washington DC or Boston area, you should check out FlexProfessional. They are a VA based placement agency focusing on companies looking for flexible staff. You will find a lot of part time or flexible hour positions and sometimes strictly teleworking. Their service is free and have great resources on re-entering the workforce.

{remoteok.io} Remote Ok is another great job board resource for finding remote work. It tends to be technical work for startups, but sometimes there are customer service and non-technical roles listed.

{Research} This one takes more work, but if you look at your local ‘Best Places to Work’ publications you can often find local companies who hire virtual staff (or at least provide some telework options).

As I mentioned, I am a big fan of alternate work environments, but it’s painfully obvious that companies and organizations are slow to adapt. Despite what research says!

Don’t forget to add me on LinkedIn!

An Out of This World Birthday Party

I try not to be the type of parent that tries to ‘keep up with the Jones’ but Mike’s first ‘non-family’ birthday party gave me a stomachache. I wanted it to be fun for the kids (most of whom I only knew by sight) and not a horrible experience for the parents. Turns out I had nothing to worry about! Mike and his friends had an awesome time at his astronaut birthday party.

Anyone who knows me knows I love a good theme. Thanks to Amazon, Etsy and Pinterest we were able to dive into Mike’s chosen theme – Astronauts. Our menu was simple:

  • Asteroids: Chick-Fil-A nuggets
  • Rockets: Fruit Kabobs
  • Energy Packs: Single serving chips
  • Sunbeams: Mini-Corn dogs
  • Space Salad: Macaroni Salad with space pasta
  • Space Ice Cream
  • Rocket Fuel – Water bottle/Lemonade

We decided to jump on the ‘no present’ bandwagon. Of course that doesn’t mean no gifts from family, but there is no need to ask his friends to bring a gift. Instead, we asked them to bring diapers for the 12 For 1 Diaper Drive. I wasn’t sure how this would go over with Mike, but we didn’t hear a peep about it. He was plenty spoiled by his family and that’s okay!

For activities we had a craft table with space themed stickers and paper plates to decorate. I also discovered an awesome Etsy seller, Unusuaisle, who makes personalized coloring pages. She made one for Mike that was space and birthday themed. It was a great way to make a regular craft table a little special. 

We also had an idea ‘fail’ that turned out okay in the long run. We wanted to make one of the small closets a ‘planetarium‘ with a constellation nightlight and glow in the dark beach balls. The nightlight wasn’t as vivid as we hoped (but I HIGHLY recommend it for a bedroom), but the kids liked kicking the beach balls to each other (or playing a very intense game of dodge ball).

The biggest hit, I think, was the two boxes of moon sand. Even the parents liked feeling the soft ‘sand’ and using the space figures to move it around. It was worth the mess and the last minute hunt the night before for baby oil.

Another Etsy win was printable photo booth props from PaperBuiltShop- space themed of course! I just printed, cut and then taped them to thin dowels. We bought a cheap (and very LONG) roll of galaxy background and we instantly had a photo booth!

In keeping with theme, I had to make sure we were dressed appropriately. Which is easy for the boys, both Mike and S. got t-shirts from Amazon. I hemmed and hawed because finding a plus sized themed shirt (that was truly plus sized) is a struggle. BUT, TwoStringJane pulled a miracle shipped me a shirt just in time (despite the typical timeline). We are pretty fabulous space people, right?

There you have it folks, an out of this world 4th birthday party!