Monday, September 15, 2014

Five things about working late (when you're self-employed)

  1. It's much harder to concentrate at night. For me, at least.
  2. It's much more tempting to shop online, read blogs, check celebrity news ... hmm, who was Mindy Kaling's ex? ... Then you slap yourself and remember that you're wasting time. Your manta must become: "The longer I frig around on the internet, the longer I'm going to be sitting here."
  3. The only real benefit is that you're not snacking in front of the TV, so I'll go as far to say that working late = skinny? Maybe? Hopefully?
  4. You are wasting your precious kids-in-bed time, and it's sad. What a sad, sad, sad waste of a few hours of free time. The TV is lonely. The couch is crying fuzzy tears.
  5. You don't get overtime when you're self-employed. You just get ... to stay employed.


Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Dusty jeans + boots + deep-fried Oreos

Nearly three years ago, we moved from the city to the country in order to live a different kind of life.

We’re happy with that decision every day, but on the days we spend traipsing around a farm in dusty jeans and boots, we’re especially pleased. There is a special place our family goes every single fall, and it’s become our ultimate destination for fall family fun.

RiverBreeze Corn Maze is just five minutes from our new house, and you can usually find us there most weekends from mid-September until Halloween.

 Our kids call it “The Pumpkin Farm,” and one of the highlights is always clamouring up onto bales of hay and taking the bumpy ride out to the pumpkin patch. As the wagon creaks past the cornstalks, we hold the kids tightly on our laps and try to keep them from jumping over the sides. The tour guide tells the same punny corn jokes each year — “Be careful what you say, because the corn has ears!” — and each year, we laugh.

Continue reading in my weekly parenting column, The Mom Scene ... 

Sniffing my life away

Seasonal allergies or a fall cold? Who knows? Who cares?

I have hardcore "seasonal" allergies that require me to take allergy meds ever day of the damn year, but sometimes the symptoms get worse than ever. Sneeze City, population: me.

Ew, this makes me glad I don't work in a real office anymore.

Ragweed kicked my booty for all of August, it seemed, and now I'm going through another Horrible Allergy Phase, like I do every fall.

What am I even allergic to? Well, I haven't been tested since I was a kid -- which is something I should remedy, considering I write for the most kick-butt allergy, asthma, and eczema site on the web -- but ... dust, dog and cat dander (almost typed "danger"), any basically every form of outdoorsy plant, grass, flower? Pretty boring, as allergies go.

Of course, we suspect D has a cold -- BUT WE ARE ALSO KIND OF BLAMING ALLERGIES, TOO, BECAUSE WHO EVEN KNOWS ANYMORE? -- so maybe I am just sick, on top of my usual allergies?

Perhaps this would be a good day to take DayQuil on top of my regular allergy medication? (So not recommended) Probably not, because then my head gets fuzzy and my articles are like dskhfksjfhdsfhjksdhksf.

I think I am just blogging at the moment because I am SO VERY VERY ANNOYED at my running nose and itchy eyes. They make it difficult to work without sniffing, difficult to concentrate, difficult to stare at the computer monitors with pathetic, itchy, watery, squinty eyes.

Is there a hashtag for this? #journalistswithallergies or #selfemployedallergyprobs?

/end rant

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Chipaholics Anonymous

I've been diligently tracking everything I eat -- and all of the exercise I get -- since Wednesday, when our group weight loss challenge began at Zumba.

Here is what I have learned so far, in this highly-detailed research into my bad habits ...
  • I do OK for breakfast. Eating two soft-boiled eggs for breakfast each day is just fine. Only 66 calories! Verdict: Go onward!
  • Bread is tricky. Some types of white bread actually way less calories than whole grain bread (like HALF the calories) which is stupid and unfair, because whole grain is way better for me. Verdict: Frustrating! (I'm eating a little of both, depending on what we have in the house)
  • Butter is a little bitch. When I did Weight Watchers, I used "I Can't Believe It's Not Butter" because it was way lower in points. But, of course, it tastes like bland oil. So now our household uses real butter (no chemicals!) and it's much higher in calories. Verdict: Worth it.
  • We eat too many convenience foods. We may do homemade spaghetti sauce and pancakes from scratch, but we still a fair amount of frozen fish sticks and chicken burgers/nuggets. This crap is high in calories and salt, and it doesn't even taste "worth it." It's just ... so easy? You know? Verdict: I can't promise we will cut out these convenience foods, but I'm certainly more aware of it.
  • I eat way too many chips. But we knew that, right? Chips are my absolute No. 1 weakness, and I know it's ridiculous because who feels so strongly about chips (except for me)? No one! I'm tracking every one I eat, and the results aren't pretty. I bet if I gave up chips entirely, I would be 115 lbs. and look fantastically supermodel-esque. Verdict: Darling Husband is at the grocery store right now, as I type this, and he is NOT buying any chips. That's saying something.
  • I feel disappointed at myself when I make bad choices ... and see them written out for me. There's nothing like seeing that you ate chips twice in one day -- right there, in print, on your phone's screen -- to make you feel guilty. This is why tracking your food intake works, guys. There's no running from your choices. Own the shame, embrace the guilt, and use it to power through.
  • I really am starting to miss exercise on my non-Zumba days. This is a HUGE development, because I was never, ever, ever one of those people who enjoyed exercise or ever missed it. Ever. But I'm hooked on the endorphins it gives me, and I'm disappointed on non-class days. When I found out earlier that I have to miss tomorrow's class (Darling Husband works) I was really, really bummed. WHO AM I? WHO HAVE I BECOME?
I weighed myself this morning and I was down a pound, BUT I weighed in at Zumba wearing sneakers, so I suspect I'm really only down half a pound? Maybe?

The official weigh-in isn't until Wednesday, so I'll keep you posted.

In the meantime, I leave you with one of my favourite Pinterest quotes ... 

I CERTAINLY use food as an anxiety drug -- as well as a reward -- and until recently, I certainly haven't been using exercise the way I should -- and it really does make me happier.

Have a good week, everyone. Make good choices (i.e. put down the chips with me).


Wednesday, September 3, 2014

I'm missing nacho cheese crumbs already

I've never signed up for any kind of formal weight loss challenge before. 

I've only ever attempted things on my own, and ... that was really only ... like once? If I'm only counting serious efforts?

But thanks to my newfound love of Zumba, I've signed up for a lengthy "Fall Back to Fitness Weight Loss Challenge." It runs from today (September 3) through November 26, which is ... a long commitment, to say the least.

See my little picture? I'm officially signed up!

You get points for attending Zumba classes, points for staying late to complete additional exercises (planks, push-ups, etc.), points for tracking your food/exercise using MyFitnessPal, points for bringing new people to class. You also get points for losing weight, which is measuring by a percentage of your overall weight.

The weigh-ins are done before class begins -- tonight was the first one -- and the instructor writes them down in a notebook. I am quite possibly the biggest in the class (SKINNY PEOPLE! EVERYWHERE!) so I was nervous weighing in tonight, and showed up before anyone else arrived.

Right now, I'm 18 lbs. heavier than the milestone weight I reached when I lost 60 lbs. after having Baby C (23 lbs. heavier than the lightest-I-ever-was-as-a-Mom weight).  I'd like to get those 18 lbs. off, but I fear the only way I got that low was because I was (A) breastfeeding, and (B) on Weight Watchers.

That time I documented my ass ... you know, for posterity!

I'd be happy to lose 10 lbs., thrilled to lose 15 lbs., and overjoyed to lose 20 lbs., but I really have no idea what's possible. My only real weight-loss experience has been through breastfeeding those calories away.

HOWEVER! I wasn't exercising at all back then -- breastfeeding is like exercising by sitting on your bum and watching TV, and IT'S GLORIOUS. These days, I'm getting to one or two Zumba classes a week -- possibly three, now that I'm in this challenge.

Today is the first day I've been tracking what I'm eating, I went to Zumba tonight, and I'm well within my calorie range for the day. I've been looking through my old weight loss posts and reading about what I used to eat "back then" when I was on Weight Watchers (lots of salsa, apparently?) and I've been feeling half-motivated and half-anxious about the whole thing.

Let's do this!


Friday, August 29, 2014

Office makeover reveal + giveaway

Let's talk about my office, shall we?

Since I work from home on a freelance basis (more about that here), I carved out a little office in a teeny tiny room in our basement.

I made a terrible decision to paint it pale pink after moving in, because I was newly pregnant with Baby C and assumed "she" was a "he." I wanted glittery Mary Janes in my life SO BADLY that I was pretty much convinced I would never get a daughter ... and I totes wanted a pink room.

So I had a nice-enough pink office, and I made some really cute white, black, and pink chevron curtains. I hung my shadowboxes in a row (Hiiiii, Jennifer Aniston), and that was it.


C wound up being a girl (yessss!) so I got my fill of girly-bedroom upstairs. I didn't need a pink office, and I got sick of it very quickly. I had zero desk space, zero interest, and zero ... passion to be in that room.

Let's fast-forward to the "after" picture, before I have to look at that pink any longer ... 

Why yes, my fabric is arranged by colour! #OCD #FTW

Much nicer, right?

I'll be back another day to share tutorials on making the curtains (for newbie or non-sewers who need some gentle hand-holding) as well as the chevron photo mats and the gallery wall itself.

For now, let's talk about this handsome little storage bin ... 

Oh yes, this one!

Modern Littles let me choose this gorgeous black and white chevron storage bin for my office makeover, and I love, love, love it.

It's 10.5" tall, wide, and deep, which means it fits perfectly in those IKEA/knock-off IKEA cube systems (which I have all over my house, but not in my office). I want to order a full matching set for the toyroom shelves, but that's a post for another day.

I was just a LITTLE bit excited to get my bin in the mail!

I loved this bin so much, it inspired me to choose the coordinating fabric for my curtains and the photo mats.

Now here's the fun part! One lucky reader is going to get their very own Modern Littles storage bin -- and guys, they have TONS of colours and patterns.

Here are just a few:

Want to throw your name in the hat to win a funky Modern Littles storage bin? Leave a comment telling me which one you'd like to win -- visit their site to view all of the colours/patterns -- and I'll choose a winner at random on Friday, September 5.

<<EDITED TO ADD: This contest is now closed. Congratulations to Michelle Young for winning the Modern Little storage bin of your choice. Stay tuned for more giveaways, and thank you to those who entered!>>

Good luck! 

But remember, we're all winners.
(Except one person who really will win)
(And I'm the real winner, because my office is 200% better-looking now)
(Good luck again)


Disclaimer: Modern Littles provided me with the chevron storage bin in exchange for a review here on Laptops to Lullabies, and I asked them to do the giveaway because you guys are the awesome-est. All words, opinions, and gushing over storage bins are my own.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

The thing I never expected to love ... and did?

I wrote the other day about how I tried to become a runner, succeeded at it for a while, and then promptly dropped it like it was hot (it was hot!).

So what did I replace it with?

Pretty much the last thing I EVER expected to be doing!

Let me start by saying that I originally knew absolutely NOTHING about Zumba, except:

  • You wore funny clothes, like baggy pants with lots of zippers and pockets
  • The clothes look annoying
  • People seem to get obsessed with it
  • I get annoyed when I see too much of it in my Facebook newsfeed
That doesn't sound like someone who would ever try Zumba, does it?

But a friend started chatting about it at playgroup one day, saying it was really good exercise and lots of fun, too. My good friend had tried it a few times, too, and spoke very highly of it. I decided to try it with her, just for a class.


Wait, I'll back up. I was nervous for the first class. I handed the instructor my $7, found a spot near the back, and waited for the music to start. I wasn't wearing Zumba clothes like some of the other people. I had on black short leggings, a work-out top, and sneakers. I certainly didn't have bells dangling around my waist like some of them. WHAT IS WITH THE BELLS, I kept thinking.

Then the first song started -- and it was #Selfie (one of my current favourite silly songs to listen to while I'm sewing). All of the lights in the room were off, the windows were blacked out, and there were colourful lights flashing all over the place. It was like a nightclub (from what I remember about them). 

The instructor took the stage, and suddenly I was doing my best to follow her through the routine. I couldn't stop smiling! It was the most awesome combination of dance-y moves and exercise moves, and that's really the best description for Zumba. I was sweating and could feel my body working, but it was also as fun as dancing around my kitchen.

(If you're curious, this is one of the actual routines from my class -- it's the only one I could find on YouTube that is identical to one we do).

The hour-long class was over too soon, and I've been going back ever since. I'm there once a week for sure, tonight I'm going for a second class since Monday. The instructor warned me that Zumba is addictive, and it really is. 

Official List of 10 Nerdy Reasons You Might Like Zumba (even if you're sure you won't):
  1. You feel like you're one of Beyonce's dancers, up on stage under the lights
  2. The funny Zumba clothes are optional -- you can wear any workout clothes (but you will soon start to wonder if you actually like them and want them yourself ... I think? Maybe?)
  3. It burns 500-800 calories in a single (hour-long) class
  4. You don't care about how you look, because everyone is focusing on the instructor and no one is looking at you
  5. It's almost like being a character on Glee, in one of those dance scenes
  6. People with zero natural dance talent (ME) rejoice in finally feeling in sync with other people
  7. It goes by so quickly that you can't believe you've been exercising for a solid hour
  8. It gives you a joyful feeling -- you're happy the whole time you're there, and you leave in a great mood
  9. It gets you out of your house and away from your family for over an hour (see above)
  10. You can't stress or worry during the class, because you're daaaaaaaaaancing
I don't know if this is something that will hold my interest for months, years, or even just a few more weeks. But at this moment, I LOVE going to Zumba class -- and if you've never tried it, I'd encourage you to try it.

Now if you'll excuse me, I've some some funny-looking pants to purchase on Amazon ... 


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Puzzles and sports bore me, but you should see me act out a Playmobil scene!

One of my friends recently confessed she felt guilty because she never played Playmobil with her son — whereas I, um, name all of our Playmobil figures and probably play it more than most children.

But she is way better than me about playing games outside — I’m kind of a vampire when it comes to sun — and she also spends more time helping her son learn to print.

 As parents, we all have different styles of playing with our kids — and all of them are equally good! So what kind of player are you?

The Athletic Player 
Some moms and dads seem to be full of energy. They’re always up for tickling, tackling, chasing, or kicking around a soccer ball. Kids definitely know which parent is up for this kind of hands-on fun. My husband can walk into a room and sit down, and suddenly both kids are throwing themselves onto him and demanding piggyback rides. They seem to (rightfully) sense that Mommy isn’t into that kind of play — it would just end with someone accidentally yanking my hair.

The Creative Player 
 You want me to sit on the carpet surrounded by Playmobil figures and act out an elaborate camping scene? I’m your girl. I’ll also get very involved in orchestrating Barbie adventures, building LEGO houses, or playing out a complex cross-over story of the Polly Pockets meeting the Calico Critters. This is how I loved playing when I was a kid, so I’m still totally into it — but my husband has absolutely no idea what to make a little figurine say or do. He looks at me like I’m crazy when I start making a plastic horse totter around and organize a picnic in a high-pitched voice.

Continue reading over in my weekly parenting column, The Mom Scene