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February 9, 2017

A long time ago, I set an alert to tell me when the OK to Wake clock went down in price. Then we went ahead and bought one before any sales happened and haven’t looked back since. But for the last week, camelcamelcamel.com has been alerting me of the latest low price, and I keep wanting to share this exciting sale with someone… but who? And then I thought of someone who might appreciate this information: YOU!

So today I’m here to share about this, and some other sanity savers that I hear myself talking about a lot. There are a gazillion amazing products for kids out there, but here are some of my unsung heroes. Some I came across by chance, and some are recommended by loads of people. What they all have in common is that they are beneficial for my children while also making my days smoother and happier.

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January 31, 2017

We were at Home Depot a couple weeks ago checking out their after-Christmas sale. My 3-year-old daughter sat in the cart quietly waiting while I studied the options- there were many. I mean, everyone’s going with LED’s these days, but did that mean we’d have that “cool” glow happening, because I was really looking more for a “warm” gingerbread house kind of look. And what about light clips? Did I have to get those too, and which kind would work for our hou-

BANG!

Something slammed so loud and hard that we both jumped. It was a big warehouse, and the sound resonated loudly and I felt my heart skip a beat. After my brain took a few milliseconds to assure me there was no danger at hand, I looked at my daughter and saw it on her face: WHAT WAS THAT, MAMA?!?!

Suddenly, BANG!! The loud crash happened again! It didn’t help that I jumped again. I’ve always been easily startled. This only added to her anxiety. I saw panic in her eyes and in a flash, I knew what she was going to do. She was going to throw her arms out for me to hold her, begging, Mamaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa hold me hold me I’m scaaaaaared!

Before she could say anything, I suddenly heard myself cut in with a lighthearted smile, “Oh!” I giggled in a high pitched voice, “That was loud!” I said, throwing my hands in the air in exaggerated surprise.

She laughed, so I did it again and then I told her to try it. She did.

Guys, I don’t giggle. I’m just not a giggler. Anyone who knows me can attest to that.

But I do it for the 3-year-old. Anything for the 3-year-old.

I made a fool of myself there in the warehouse… but you know what I didn’t have to do?

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January 24, 2017

“See, this is a corner,” I say slowly, poking my finger against the point of the puzzle piece. “There are only four corners in this puzzle, so there are only four places th-”

“Here?” she interrupts, trying to shove the piece in, “Here?” she continues, trying another spot haphazardly.

“Well, look at the colors-”

“Here?” she says, sticking it on a non-corner spot.

Ugh. Okay, new strategy.

“Well, look there’s also a border. This line right here,” I pull her finger along the bright blue line, “This is a border. So turn the piece so the lines connect on the outside.”

I know I’m losing her, even as I’m trying to make it tactile for her.

WHY ARE THE PUZZLES SO HARD.

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January 18, 2017

I’m super excited to share this printable with you! I’ve created a customizable chore chart to help your toddler or preschooler gain independence in getting herself ready at the start and end of each day. She simply looks at the picture, follows the activity, then flips up the magnetic flap to to mark off each accomplishment. It has been working wonderfully for us, and I think it would be a great way to start getting your child ready to get ready on his own!

A few weeks ago, my little girl graduated out of her crib and into a big girl bed. With this move came the freedom to get up and go potty whenever she needed, to fiddle with the light switches in the middle of the night, and to come and go from her room as she pleased. But she’s not the only one who was about to get some lifestyle upgrades: so were we! As sad as I was to see her finally lose all traces of babyhood, I was also ready to charge forward into big girl life. That is, a life where Ben and I could sleep in!!! 

You see, with great freedom comes great responsibility… for her! And a little bit less for us. Little did she know that as much as I would miss the crib, I had also been anticipating this day. As soon as she gave us the green light and the crib was gone, I put my grand plan into action. Ideas had been brewing in my mind for months, and now the day had come. We were ready to commence Operation Sleep In.

Someone in my favorite mommy Facebook group had once posted a picture of a cool magnetic chore chart, but I couldn’t find a good template online. I quickly slapped together my own chore chart, drawing simple pictures of five activities I wanted her to learn to do on her own, then gluing strips of magnets down for each flap:

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January 11, 2017

Oh man, it’s January 10, and I think I forgot to say HAPPY NEW YEAR last week! HOPE YOU HAD A GREAT ONE! Are you a resolutions kind of person? I always like to set some goals for myself. Even if they don’t last all year, at least I got a good month or two in of self improvement, and that’s better than nothing. This year, I’m working on a few things, including being more flexible and laughing more. I think this will improve the quality of life for both me and my family :D. What about you? I’d love to hear your goals and intentions at the start of the year.

I’ve also got several posts I’m really excited to share with you! They’re the kind that keep me up at night until I finally I pull out my phone and jot down notes so I don’t forget. Unfortunately, my desire to spend hours writing conflicts with my goal to improve at brush lettering which also conflicts with my goal to play more sports (WHICH I’VE BEEN DOING AND IT’S BEEN AWESOME) which conflicts with my goal to study up and learn how to teach my daughter music. Not to mention spending time with Ben, or watching TV or something.

And I think I maybe had friends or fellowship or something at one point in my life… but… there are only so many things I can cram between 8pm and whenever I finally make myself go to bed. Good times! So today I’m buying myself some time by pushing up a recipe that I was planning to post later. If one of your resolutions this year is to eat more healthily, you might want to go ahead and skip this one. The way I remember the ingredients is literally: two types of sugar, two types of sodium, two types of fat, two types of carbs. The only way you can make this less healthy is to add bacon and ice cream to it!

But it’s super delicious and snacky and addictive :D.

My friend Wendy introduced me to the addictive and craveable flavors of this Hurricane Chex Mix, and I am always delighted to get a little tub of it from her. It’s the perfect snacky combination of sweet, salty, and crunchy! I love the Asian take on the Chex Mix since it uses some soy sauce and Furikake, a dry Japanese rice seasoning. I had fun making this snack with my 3-year old as a little packaged gift for family this year.

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January 3, 2017

Brrr it’s been cold here lately, and on chilly days like this, there’s nothing better than a hot bowl of congee to warm you up! Congee, or “jook,” is the Chinese equivalent to porridge. It’s the ultimate Chinese comfort food, and every Chinese kid has grown up eating this for breakfast or sometimes lunch. My husband loves it with fish fillet, and I enjoy it with pork and uh, special Chinese egg (I’ll skip the explanation on that one for now). Yummy stuff.

I am Chinese American and I have struggled to get the right congee (or “jook”) consistency for the last 10 years. But it has eluded me time and time again. How could this super easy staple in Chinese cooking be so hard for me?

I’ve tried cooking it over the stovetop for 6-7 hours.

I’ve tried it in the slow cooker for 4-6 hours.

I’ve tried it in the Instant Pot for 2 hours (it’s supposed to be only 30 mins).

I’ve tried each of these methods MULTIPLE TIMES and have only really liked it maybe twice. But I could never replicate the consistency of the one that I liked. Was it the type of rice I used? Had I used day-old refrigerated rice? Was it the temperature that I cooked it at? Was it the liquid to rice ratio? WHAT DID I DO RIGHT AND WHY CAN’T I DO IT AGAIN?

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December 27, 2016

When she was a baby, all I had to do was poke a cool toy in front of her face and she was distracted from her crying.

As she hit the early toddler years, I found that offering a little snack was my easy out when I was desperate:

Crying child: “WAHHHHH!!!

Mother: “Here, have a Cheerio.”

Child: *nom nom nom*

But as she neared three, I found it increasingly difficult to calm my toddler when she was in the crying-so-hard-she’s-gasping-for-air stage. HAVE A CHEERIO. HERE’S AN APPLESAUCE POUCH. LOOK IT’S DANIEL TIGER! LET’S PLAY CATCH! WANNA GO FOR A WALK? LET’S FACETIME AUNTIE JAMIE! …SQUIRREL!

Nothing was working, and she’d cry for what felt like hours. In reality, it was probably under half an hour, but it was torturous. I’d hold her little brother on one side and I’d hold her on the other and she’d just go at it and I would just sit there tracking Ben on my phone like a creepy stalker: Refresh. Refresh. Refresh. Leave. Work. Now. Leave. Work. Now. 

Guys, I know I get all sentimental and nostalgic on my blog a lot, but there are definitely rough days. I guess I haven’t found a constructive and encouraging way to talk about them without complaining or entering an unhelpful negative zone, so I don’t usually go into much detail there. Also, I don’t want my kids to hate me in ten years for exposing their less angelic moments here…

But the crying. It’s real. The inconsolable tantrums. They happen. And I have a new favorite trick to calm the crying child down, and I wanted to share it with you just in case it works for you, too. Because when it’s one of those days, it’s these tricks that get you through the day.

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December 22, 2016

My friend David posted a recipe for salted caramel cream cheese brownies last week. They are completely over the top. I mean, brownies. With a cream cheese mixture swirled in. Scratch that- a caramel cream cheese mixture. WAIT, I mean, a SALTED CARAMEL CREAM CHEESE.

Yum. Decadent and perfect for those I need chocolate NOW emergencies.

I made them that very day. I just happened to have a ton of cream cheese, heavy cream, and corn syrup on hand. (I know, I’m probably going to die an earlier death =P But at least I will have enjoyed eating well?). After skimming the recipe, I decided I would double the recipe. If I’m going to make such a big mess, I want more than one 9×9 inch pan of brownies! Of course I got lazy and used a 9×13 inch pan, which turned out UBER thick brownies (and took about 30 minutes longer to bake!).

Not complaining. But they’re not as pretty, either.

Anyway, I’m so glad I tried this recipe, because inside this brownie recipe was a GEM: A MICROWAVE SALTED CARAMEL RECIPE.

YUMMMYYYYY!!!!!! I don’t usually love making salted caramel because I always get too close to burning it over the stovetop. But I do love eating it. By the spoonfuls. It’s seriously addictive, and this recipe solves my stovetop problem: microwave stuff for 4 minutes, add in other stuff, DONE. Stir it into your hot cocoa, blend it into brownies, top your ice cream… or do like I do and just eat it by the spoonful. MmmmMMMMmm.

Merry Christmas, guys.

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December 18, 2016

Little did I know when I picked her up and out of her crib this morning, it would be the last. The last time I would walk into her room to see her standing there, patiently waiting for me. The last time she’d be cozy in her blue sleepsack, fluffy and as squeezable as a teddy bear. The last time she’d need me to help her start her day.

I carried her up to our room, “Let’s have some morning snuggles!” I said, hoping I could relax in bed for a few more minutes before her baby brother woke up, too.

We snuggled in bed, warm under the covers when her face suddenly popped in front of mine. She looked at me with wide, serious eyes, and whispered, “Mama, today I want to nap in a grown up bed. So I can get up and go potty all by myself and wash my hands and get back into bed.”

I looked back at her, my mind processing this sudden request to grow up.

She nodded seriously as she saw me considering, “Yeah, Mama, I think that’s what I want to do. Can I nap in a grown-up bed?”

Ben and I had been talking about switching her out of her crib. Eventually. But it never feels like the right day to change up routines that are working beautifully for the family, so it took this confident, determined request to finally bring about the change.

“Okay,” I smiled, simply. I knew the time had come. She was ready.

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December 7, 2016

busy-doing-nothing

I’ve been very busy doing nothing in a land of sunshine and beaches :]. This also means I took a break from writing for the week, and now it’s time for some Christmas merriment with the family!

I did want to take a moment to thank you all for staying with me here and reading along with me each week! It still boggles my mind to think that people let me into their inbox each week- a privilege I do not take lightly! Thank you so much for letting me share my life and thoughts with you!

Wishing you and yours a wonderful holiday season!

JoEllen