Why I decided to return to work after having a baby

I returned for work for multiple reasons. Finances played a role. I am proud to contribute to my family financially. Although my husband makes more money than I do (he works in a completely different field), we still could not easily get by with just his salary alone, mostly due to our student loans. However, my job does have good health insurance benefits, so that is another reason why I returned to work.

But besides the financial reasons of working, I returned because I love my job. While I miss my daughter greatly throughout the day, I don’t think I would be happy if I didn’t work. Perhaps part of this is because of the nature of my job; I work for a cancer institute, the same cancer institute that saved my husband’s life and made my daughter’s life possible. It’s something that has a lot of meaning to me personally.

When I was home on maternity leave, I loved being with my daughter but I hated being home all day. As much as it was nice to not have a strict early morning routine like we do now, I didn’t feel fulfilled and was constantly looking for time when I could stimulate myself intellectually, to do things like read or write. I don’t feel that as much now that I am back to work. My intellectual/social needs are met at work and when I am with my daughter, I live in the moment and spend time focusing on her. Our time together is very special because it is limited. I am much more excited to go home at the end of the day than I used to be because I can’t wait to see her.

I also believe she receives a number of benefits by going to daycare every day. She spends time around babies her own age and slightly older, something that wouldn’t happen if I stayed home. I believe it will also help her be more independent.

I believe every woman has to find what works for her, what makes sense for her family financially and what makes her most happy. I’m glad that right now, I believe I’m living my best life. Now if I could just find a way to fit in time to exercise and clean!

On my decision to become a mom

While becoming a mom wasn’t my only life goal, I always thought I wanted to have children. I hadn’t thought much about when, though.

I knew I wanted to establish myself in my career and it was nice to spend a few years married without kids. Granted, since my husband was diagnosed with cancer less than a month after we were married, we didn’t have much choice, as the doctor recommended we wait at least two years after his treatment ended before trying.

It’s amazing how something horrible and unexpected like cancer can change your life plan. If he hadn’t had cancer, I don’t know if we would’ve decided to have kids as soon as we did. But going through that made me realize our time might be limited. Your life  course can change permanently in a matter of seconds, and then there’s no going back.

We got to a point where he was far enough out from treatment that it would be safe. I had a job that I loved and an employer is supportive of families. We had a house that we’d been in for a little bit and that had extra room to welcome a baby.

I worried about the money aspect. If we didn’t have student loans, we’d basically be filthy rich. I won’t tell you how much a month we pay because it’ll make you sick, but having those, combined with a mortgage and all the other bills that come with being an adult made me nervous to talk kids. They’re expensive! I thought about waiting until I was 40 and hopefully more financially stable.

But who knows what will happen in the next 12 years? We aren’t guaranteed tomorrow. If you know there’s something you want out of life, you shouldn’t wait to do it, or at least to start pursuing it.

My husband is in a good place health-wise now. But if something ever were to change and I hadn’t pursued that dream of being a mom and having a child with him because I was waiting for the circumstances to be 100 percent perfect, I would be devastated.

I believe it’s better to take that leap of faith. Money will work itself out. It was the best decision I’ve made. My daughter is amazing and I love my growing family!

Review: TAZO chai vanilla caramel latte

I am a coffee girl through and through. I drink about 1 to 3+ cups a day black. That means no cream and sugar for the fast food workers who always ask if I want cream and sugar after I order a black coffee… but I digress.

I was hesitant to try the TAZO Chai vanilla caramel latte concentrate mix because I don’t like beverages that are too sweet tasting, too milky tasting or too calorie-dense. However, by using your own milk, you have some control over the amount of calories and the final taste of the beverage.

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All you need to make this tasty drink is TAZO chai vanilla caramel latte concentrate mix, found at your local Wegmans (or other grocery store if you’re so unfortunate as to not have a Wegmans) in the tea aisle, and a type of milk to mix with the concentrate. The package recommends 2% milk but I never drink that. In fact, I hardly drink milk at all these days. What I happened to have on hand was unsweetened Silk AlmondCoconut Blend milk. At 35 calories per 8 ounces, I save about 100 calories compared to the 2% milk they suggest on the box. And the tasty sweet and spicy is still there with the lower calorie milk.

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This couldn’t be easier to make. Literally a 4-year-old could do it. I had just a small mug to fill, so I used a half cup of the Tazo chai concentrate and a half cup of the coconut almond milk. You could make more or less, but just make sure you have equal parts milk product and chai concentrate. The concentrate comes out looking really dark, but don’t worry. It will lighten when you add the milk. (In case you are curious, I took a swig of it without the milk and it really wasn’t bad to just drink straight.)

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Mix the two liquids and then pour that mixture into your mug. I microwaved mine for a minute because I didn’t want it to be super hot, just warmed up. If you like yours hot, microwave longer or heat on the stove if you’re into dirtying more dishes…

That’s it! Enjoy. If you follow the steps above using those ingredients, you’ll only set yourself back about 105 calories – that’s less than a skinny peppermint mocha at Starbuck’s, although less caffeine. But it’s still got some to get you going but not so much to make you jittery.

I don’t think I’ll stop drinking coffee but this is a tasty drink I could see having once in a while as a treat. If we ever end up getting snow (It’s Dec. 12 in Rochester, New York, and still no sign of the white, fluffy stuff!) this would be a great replacement for hot cocoa after sledding. It’s probably around the same amount of calories, but it has that little bit of caffeine that hot cocoa lacks. It could help you resist that post-sledding nap.

It’s also worth mentioning that it’s other than a little bit of calcium and vitamin a, it really doesn’t have a lot of stuff (good or bad) in it. The ingredients list is fairly wholesome: water, black tea, black pepper, ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, star anise, natural flavors, cane sugar, honey, natural flavors, ginger juice, vanilla extract, citric acid. While it’s not as good as a tea bag straight from the box, I can bet you’ll find a lot more crazy chemicals in your average pouch of hot cocoa.

What’s your hot beverage of choice? Have you tried chai? If not, get a coupon and give it a try. Then let me know what you think.

Disclaimer: I received free product in making this review. However, the opinions shared here are my own.

 

2015 Super Bowl Ad Favorites

It’s all over, the Patriots won, I rocked my office Super Bowl Squares and tweeted my heart out about the ads. Did you miss them? You can watch all the national ads here.

This year, we had a lot less humor than we usually have. Many ads were inspiring, caring, loving. Positivity seemed to be the name of the game. In my last post, I shared how the McDonald’s McLovin promotion helped to spread positivity and that’s something that is so greatly needed in our world. I’m glad that some of this year’s Super Bowl ads did just that.

Dads were another theme this year. I’m fortunate enough to have an awesome father who has always been there for me, so I could really relate to these ads and in fact they made me feel quite emotional

Here’s a rundown of my five favorite 2015 Super Bowl Ads:

5. Toyota – My Bold Dad

Being in my twenties, I’ve realized how much my parents in general have done for me. Moms get a lot of deserved recognition but we don’t always recognize everything our dad does for us. It didn’t completely relate to the brand/product, but it was a memorable ad that was entertaining and I enjoyed watching it.

4. Budweiser – Lost Dog

Animals saving animals? That’s almost always going to be a guaranteed win. My husband and I have been thinking about getting a dog soon so this ad was especially touching for us.

3. Always – Like a Girl

This ad was not new but I still love it just like I did the first time I saw it. A girl can do anything, including be a fast runner, a smart student, an innovative scientist, or anything else in the world. Society has put the “like a girl” label on things as a way to say you are bad at something which is just sad. Females of all generations need to stand up for each other and prove that we are strong in whatever facet of life we prefer. Ads like this that bring attention to the issue of gender inequality can help spark conversation and perhaps bring about change. Any ad that does that is very important in my book.

2. Coca Cola – Make It Happy

As I mentioned in my last post, I feel like I see so much negativity these days, especially on social media. And we’ve all heard the tragic stories about youth who are bullied online. I think Coke’s idea to spread happiness is perfect and right on brand. If you haven’t done so yet, check out gomakeithappy.com. It not only shows the real-time “sentiment” based on how people on Twitter are talking, but it allows you to share a happy post when you see a negative post on Twitter, Facebook or elsewhere. Definitely worth keeping an eye on that site.

1. Dove Men+Care 

See number one, pretty much. My eyes welled up as I watched that one. I was quickly brought back to life when they showed the product, but for a few seconds, they really had me.

What ad or ads were your favorite this year?

McDonald’s Spreads the McLovin’ – Literally

McDonald’s is sort of a guilty pleasure for me. I don’t want to like it and I don’t want to go there because I know it’s not healthy, but every now and then on a super stressful day or when I have no time, I’ll stop and treat myself. According to recent news, I’m not the only millennial wishing to avoid the food chain, and they have started efforts to improve their brand image among millennials. For example, recently I caught their SnapChat ad and have heard their catchy, folks-y songs on the radio.

They’re great marketing pieces and they got my attention, but they didn’t grab my heartstrings. What did was a promotion they are currently running that allows select customers to “pay” for their McDonald’s order with hugs, “I love yous” to mom and dancing.

In fact, they’ll be airing an ad during the Super Bowl talking about this promotion, which I think is quite smart. In today’s world, we often go through the motions and forget the things that really matter. We don’t tell our moms or siblings or significant others that we love them as often as we should. And our worry of looking silly might cause us to dance less frequently, if ever, and forget about the importance of smiling, having fun and enjoying life.

Working in social media and reading comments people make to news stories in social media these days, I see there is a lot of negativity in our world. But little acts of kindness can add up. I think what McDonald’s is doing is smart and helpful to our world. Even if that call to your mom is tied to you getting a free hashbrown, maybe it will help you to step back and think about your actions. Think about how you can appreciate others you care about or even how you can comfort those in the world who might be suffering.

A little positivity – whether the objective is to sell burgers or just to be nice – can go a long way in our world!

Clump & Seal Litter Gets Two Thumbs Up!

I am a proud mama of two kitties whom I love to death. (No seriously, I always try to ElmyraHuggingBuster&Babshug them and they just want to run away. My husband calls me Elmyra from Tiny Toons…)But one thing I do not love is the litter box they cats need in our relatively small apartment (at least small compared to a house), and litter box changing is my chore. A few months ago we got a covered litter box and that helps a little bit with the smell and the dust, but it’s still so dusty inside the box. We had been using Arm & Hammer Double Duty and it kept the smell at an acceptable level even if it is a bit dusty.

After receiving a coupon for a free box of Arm & Hammer Clump & Seal litter, I don’t want to ever use the Double Duty kind again! Clump & Seal is awesome. It’s so much less dust and less mess. It smells better for longer and the cats don’t seem to shoot it out of the box quite as much (don’t get me wrong, they do a little bit. But it’s much better with this litter).

For me, the only drawback of this litter is that they don’t (yet) carry it at my local grocery story, Wegmans, which is where I buy my litter 99 percent of the time. As soon as they start carrying it there, I will give it five full stars! I was able to find it at Petco and Target, both of which are just a short drive away. It seems a shame to make a drive just for kitty litter, but it really is a lot better than our old litter!

I know tons of cat lovers out there who are probably sick of the dusty litter, too. If you are, check out the NEW ARM & HAMMER (TM) CLUMP & SEAL (TM) Cat Litter. (Click the link for a coupon!)

Try it and tell me if you like it, or share what your litter of choice is. And don’t forget to tell you about your furbabies, too! Here are my kitties, Gabby (looking up) and Bonnie (the hipster, looking cool by looking away from the camera). ImageFull disclosure: I received this box of litter for free as part of a mission with Smiley360.com. You can join Smiley360.com, too, and have a chance to receive missions with free samples to try!

A healthy dinner is just a zip away

Lately I have been trying to eat healthier and one way to do this is by steaming more veggies (rather than pan frying them on the stove all the time). I have also thought about steaming meat or seafood but did not know how to go about this.

This picture is blurry because I couldn't wait to go eat this fish I made with Old Bay in a Ziploc Zip'n Steam bag!
This picture is blurry because I couldn’t wait to go eat this fish I made with Old Bay in a Ziploc Zip’n Steam bag!

When I was shopping for Ziploc baggies today and saw the Ziploc Zip’n Steam bags, I had to try them. On the bag, it shares that they are great for cooking seafood, and I happened to have an uncooked tilapia filet at home for dinner, so I thought I would give it a shot.

I can’t lie, I was nervous to cook food in my microwave. Don’t get me wrong. I love using the microwave. But I am very picky when it comes to fish. I don’t like fishy fish. It is especially odd since half of my family lives near the Virginia coast and lives off seafood, but I am not a fan of eating something I can taste came straight from the ocean.

Fish is pretty easy to cook anyway, but these bags just made it even easier, and the fish was so good! Moist, flaky, perfectly cooked. I can’t wait to try chicken in the bag.

Here is how I made the fish:

  1. Remove fish from packaging (I used tilapia from Wegmans). Rinse and then dry with a paper towel.
  2. Put a little garlic powder and a teaspoon or so of Old Bay seasoning (best stuff ever for seafood) and rub it all over one side of the fish. Flip and repeat.
  3. Put the fish in the bag and seal tight, making sure any air is out.
  4. Stick in the microwave. I cooked my filet (about 6 ounces) for about 4 minutes and 30 seconds and at the same time, also cooked a small baked potato at the same time. While the fish is cooking, the bag will expand. This is normal.
  5. Take a look to see if it’s done. I am always nervous that my fish won’t be done and prefer it overcooked rather than undercooked, so I ran mine for another 30 seconds just to be sure. By then it was so flaky it was falling apart.

Voila! I did still eat this with my signature “tartar” sauce (ketchup and mayo – it’s definitely a childhood comfort food for me but hey, it’s only about 60 calories). For sides, I put a tablespoon of sour cream on my potato and I also had some fresh baby spinach (with a splash of apple cider vinegar, another child comfort food as I would only eat green veggies like spinach with vinegar as a kid) that I had steamed on the stove.

All together, this meal was about 350 calories and took me less than 10 minutes to cook with very little clean up. Just throw away the plastic steam bag!

Has anyone else had any luck with using the Ziploc Zip’n Steam bags or any other steaming relate products?