7.31.2014

How we got our baby's leg out of the crib slat (again and again and again)

OK, so I guess he's technically not my "baby" anymore. Judging by his full-blown tantrums, insatiable appetite and the current "18-month-old sleep regression" we've entered, I've got a toddler on my hands.

Another fun thing he's been doing for the last month and a half? Oh you know, just shoving his chunky thighs through his crib slat EVERY chance he gets. Yeah, we're not talking about "oh, he accidentally rolled over in his deep sleep and got tangled," no, we're dealing with a "purposely shoving his leg through there and then wailing when, SURPRISE, his sweet toddler thunder thighs won't come back out." 

Sigh. I think this boy is going to give me grey hair. 

You'll be even more amused to know that crib slats are not the only things he tries to stick his body parts through. He also does is with the kitchen chairs backs and his arms, floor vents and his fingers and the occasional head-through-the-porch railing. Yeah, is there a milestone for sticking his limbs in inappropriate places? Because check and check, we've totally surpassed that bad boy.

And then a little over a week ago, Braeburn jammed his leg REAL good. So good that I couldn't get it out. And when I tried to, he cried and writhed in pain. And I panicked. Every other time this happened my husband was home. He would pry the slats apart and I'd slide Brae's leg out. But now, this particular morning, I was home alone. I was by myself with Braeburn screaming, reaching up for me, wanting me to stop his pain and I had no idea how to. 

Thousands of things ran through my mind, from getting a hand saw to just breaking the damn thing with a hammer. But I worried about the impact those would have on his little knee. Chubby Vegan Dad was a good 30 minutes away and I couldn't wait that long. So I did it. 

I called the fire department. Yep. I was that mom. 

And sure enough, three burly dudes show up at my door, in their big ole' truck and gear. I've got giant raccoon eyes from bawling and apologize OVER AND OVER to them. (Why do the stupidest things happen to me?) They reassure me about a jillion times and ask me for some dish soap. They were able to grease up Braeburns leg, and each one pulled on a slat while the third lefted him up and out of it. It took about three minutes total and I felt like a moron.

They were kind enough to inform me that he had really jammed it in there, this wasn't the only call like these that they've gotten and one of them was even going through this with his baby at home.

His advice? Keep a block of wood nearby that can fit in between the slats and help "separate them" so I can get his leg out if I'm home alone. Bless these men. Seriously, bless them. For three seconds I didn't feel like the worst mother in the world. And Braeburn got a plastic fire hat out of the deal, so that's a win.

This was the last straw. After the embarrassment of having to call the fire department and weeks of waking to a pain-addled, leg-jammed-all-the-way-to-his-hip, screaming-bloody-murder little boy at two or three in the morning, I did what any overly protective and sleep-deprived mother would do: I googled "how in the hell do I stop my baby from getting leg stuck in his crib slat."

We tried your run-of-the-mill breathable bumper - no such luck (and I'm not starting a bumper war here, so please don't incite one). He simply put his leg over the bumper, shoved it down and jammed it up a bit higher. We tried readjusting it so he couldn't force it down, he just tried to hit a ride on the bumper and climb out of the crib. Yeah. Super fun. 

Eventually, we surrendered ourselves to the idea that we'd just have to put him in a toddler bed, although, I was more worried about all the other stuff he could get into that way and the lack of sleep he'd be getting because this boy is not ready for a toddler bed. We started Braeburn-proofing everything, which, is almost an impossible feat for this curious little boy.

And then, I came across a few reviews for Go Mama Go Designs Wonder Bumpers. These bumpers zip on each crib slat individually and have a layer of foam with cloth surrounding it. You can buy them in a 2, 24 or 38 packs.So there's still a small space between each slat (helping them be breathable and so you can still see in), but not enough that babies can jam limbs through them. They're super soft and I imagine it probably feels better to bash your head on these than the bare crib slats, so bonus points for that. 

Plus, we put the zippers on the outside and at the bottom, so Braeburn hasn't been able to take them apart or get his little hands on them! 

And they're long, so they can't use them to hitch up on and get out the crib. Seriously, they've solved like every problem we've run into. 

Let me tell you parents, these babies worked. I mean really, really worked.  (And side note, this is not a product I was asked to review. This is something I found doing my own googling and absolutely LOVE). 

There's one downside to them, they are not the cheapest things in the entire world. We purchasaed a 38-pack on Amazon for $120, which I get it, probably sounds pretty extreme for "bumpers." 

But please trust me on this, they have been a lifesaver. An absolute lifesaver. Our little boy no longer wakes angry in the night because he can't free his leg. In fact, the most he's been able to get his leg through is just to the ankle. And that was when he was really, really trying to force it in there. 

They're soft, they're cute and are worth every.last.penny. It is the one thing I have now recommended to my parent friends. I don't have a tiny newborn of course, so while the company promotes this as a "safe alternative" to bumpers for newborns and what not, I can't validate that statement. However, I would certainly talk about it with our child's doctor if we had another baby, because it seems like a viable option. But once your out of the SIDS risk and you don't want tangled limbs or bumps and bruises because of those hard slats, Go Mama Go Designs Wonder Bumpers ARE THE ANSWER.

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7.24.2014

Vegan Beanfields chips, lick-the-bag good

So a few weeks ago I was hanging out reading some emails, when I came across a super awesome one from the marketing director for Beanfields chips. She was a fan of my blog, a mom herself and wanted to know if i had any interest in reviewing some chips. (Clearly I did a small dance of joy and then replied back a resounding 'heck yes!')

Here's the dealio. My family has had a few Beanfields chips before. (Just the sea salt variety at a party one time). And they were good. They were crunchy. And yummy with salsa. But I didn't realize the whole spread of flavors Beanfields offers.

The entirely VEGAN spread of flavors.

A couple days later a large box appeared at my doorstep. I received the mecca of all delicious vegan goods, I just didn't know it yet. Not knowing what it was or who it was from, I got out my trusty box cutter and opened it up. And guess what was inside? The most delicious snack I've eaten. For reals, folks.


Yep. I received the mecca of vegan chips. And let me tell you, whether they sent me one bag or 900, my opinion of these would remain the same. These are the only chips you'll ever need to eat again. The beauty of the package I received was they came complete with Beanfields' assortment of flavors and we got the regular "shareable" size (I use quotes because they're so delicious you won't want to share them), plus the pack-in-a-lunch, "fun" size.

Now, let's get the deets on these fabulous chips. There are seven mouth-watering varieties: unsalted, sea salt, salt and pepper, barbecue, pico de gallo, RANCH and NACHO!!!!! I'm sorry, did you read that? RANCH AND NACHO CHIPS, VEGAN, VEGAN RANCH AND NACHO CHIPS. Yeah, you'll basically never think about Doritos again, they're that good.

So are you ready for the surprising part? Despite everything I thought, my absolute favorite of these chips was the pico de gallo. Don't get me wrong, I loved and ate every last crumb of the ranch and nacho flavors (heck, I might have even licked the bag, don't judge), but the pico de gallo was so complex and delicious and amazing. Right after that would have to be ranch and then the nacho ones, but that's mainly because of my taste profile, not because the chips weren't all equally delish. Also, no worry about getting those straggler chips that seem to have NO flavor on them whatsoever, these bad boys were covered in deliciousness. All of em.

We put them up to the real taste test, our picky-eater Pear Bear, and packed some in her lunch for preschool. She gobbled the barbecue ones right up.

The best part? These aren't just amazingly good, they're also a complete protein (hello beans and rice in chip form), they've got more protein and fiber in one ounce than a tortilla chip, potato chip or egg (ew), and they're FREE of the eight most common allergens. Oh, and did I mention they're CERTIFIED gluten free too? Yeah, so you basically have no reason not to run out and by these in hoards. Legit people, HOARDS.

After we ran through our supply, I started googling to find out where I could find them in a store by me. We have a few varieties in the health food section of big stores and the health food stores themselves, but even if you can't find them in your area you can order them on the Beanfields website. You purchase them in a case of either 12 large bags or 24 small bags, and you can even customize them as to what kinds you want. Which you totally should, because if you didn't read up there, they're DELICIOUS. Once you factor in shipping and handling, you're around $4 a bag for the large ones, which, believe me, is a steal!

Are you familiar with Beanfields? What is your favorite flavor or which one are you dying to try now?

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7.17.2014

Sometimes I forget to count my blessings

A few weeks ago I came across something on my Instagram that made me think. (Yeah, Chubby Vegan Mom is on Instragram, where have you been!?) It said "Go 24 hours without complaining, not even once. Then watch how your life starts changing."

Do y'all realize how much stuff we grumble about in a day? It's probably A LOT more than we think. Over the next week I started making mental notes about the things I was unhappy with, what was causing me stress and what was keeping me up at night.

And that's when it hit me. How utterly ironic it is that the majority of things I find to complain about, the main things I let myself get all sorts of worked up about, are all things I wanted. All things I prayed for. All things I am over-the-moon blessed to have.

And while I can't say I'm magically cured of all my complaining, I can say it really opened my eyes to how much lighter my life would be if I could see the positives. It's so easy to focus on the negatives, but when I really thought long and hard about what I was so frustrated with, I found it wasn't because I was really, really upset, it's because getting upset was the easiest reaction to have.

So what exactly have we been grumbling about in the humble Chubby Vegan abode?

1) The children. I know, right? I love my kiddos with every fiber of my being. Literally. I even love my friends kids. I love the kids in my family. I adore the girls I get to coach. I like kids far more than I ever dreamed I would! (I used to be one of those 'I'm never having kids' folks') And while I want to keep having gobs and gobs more (who knows whats in the cards for us!), they are one of the things I complain about the most. "Oh Brae wouldn't sleep last night, we were up 100 times with him," (probably, Chubby Vegan Mom, because he is cutting four bajillion teeth. How dare he be in pain and interrupt your beauty rest)! Or, "Pearyn wants to play cash register for the 900th time" (geez, why does this young child want to learn about numbers and money? Shouldn't she be staring at a screen somewhere, then I could paint my nails)!

See what I mean? Of course I don't want my daughter to be glued to some television screen while I'm doing my nails. She is doing absolutely nothing wrong, she's wanting to play and learn and grow. But after an eight-hour work day, trying to keep up with the house, making dinner and the boatloads of other things I can use as an excuse, it seems easy to roll my eyes as I purchase the same five things over and over again.

Once I found myself doing this, I took a trip to the bathroom, looked in the mirror and thought back to how it felt to see her smile for the first time ever. How it felt when she stacked her first blocks. The time she first said "I love you" and how it hugged my heart. And suddenly, when I went back to play cash register, I didn't see "another thing to do," I saw my little girl that I prayed for, hoped for and will do absolutely anything for.

2) My house. This is another completely ludicrous complaint. Are we ever happy with our houses? Even after we endlessly search for, find, rent, purchase, whatever, our dream home, are we ever actually happy? We paint it, we rip things out, plant crazy flowers, complain about the trees and their cascading limbs, all the while we love the shade they provide, the leaves our kids can jump in, but damn them, why must they grow over the roof! Didn't Mother Nature get the memo that it is EXPENSIVE to have your trees constantly serviced?

Why is it that I spend 90% of the time seeing the bad about the wood floors. Like the way the dog and cat hair rolls through the halls in tumbleweeds, or the way it collects along the ledge of our fireplace (the one I was enamored with when I saw the photos online). What happened to those wood floors I fell in love with? The ones that I knew would be easy to quickly wipe up a spill? The ones that wouldn't show those stains of fruit punch or vegan chocolate chip cookies. Why don't I see that when I look at my beautiful floors?

Because it's easier not to. It easy to grumble about having to sweep the floors five times a week than to say "well at least I'm not scrubbing it off my white carpet, at least I'm not forced to run a vacuum cleaner in every nook of my house, now."

3) The things that don't go my way. I'm pretty sure we all complain about this more than we should. What is this Universe doing to me? Doesn't God know I have the best ideas and I know what should be happening to my life? Clearly SOMEONE has missed the memo and it wasn't me.

How vain and selfish is this complaint? Seriously? Do I really think I know everything? Heck no. And this one can be a really, really hard one to stop grumbling about, because, usually, I do this when I didn't get something I really, really wanted. And there's no magical answer to cure this. Sometimes, what we want isn't what we're supposed to have. Sometimes, the plan we envision isn't nearly as great as the one He has in store for us.

So most of the time, when I find myself upset because something didn't go my way, I try to think about other momentous times in my life when things didn't go the way I planned. Like meeting my husband. I was barely out of a relationship I had been entangled in for years when I met him. I was devastated when that unhealthy relationship came to a close, if I had been doing all my own planning and selecting, who knows if I would have ever recognized the amazing man I had in front of me.

But thankfully, because in this world, not everything goes MY way, I discovered just how OK it is to relinquish some control. Maybe "my way" would have been OK, but His way was so much better.

Of course, I haven't unlocked the secret to life  here. There are still days when I have to push through my negativity, days when I have to remind myself the right way isn't usually the easy way. And there are days I lose my mind completely and throw it all out the window. But the point is that I'm trying.

I'm trying to take a walk on the positive side of things.

I'm trying to count my blessings.

Have you been counting yours?

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7.08.2014

The best vegan cupcakes in a mason jar

In case you didn't know, Fourth of July is by far my absolute favorite holiday in the history of EVER. It's perfect if you ask me. I mean for starters, it's all about freedom and how awesome this country we live in is (which, really, it is, even if we complain about a zillion things), so it's always a nice reminder of how blessed we are.

But the other really, really great thing about this holiday, is that you can do whatever you want with it! Want to have a cookout and set off a trillion fireworks, cool, go ahead! Want to sit on your butt by the pool and read a book? You got it! Want to throw a killer party and bake a fancy schmancy cake, it's your right! Literally, this is the perfect holiday for anyone. Don't like holidays? Great! You actually don't have to do ANYTHING with this one.

Of course I'm the kind of person that wants to do crazy extravagant things with my Fourth of July, but luckily, with two small kiddos in tow, it helps keep me grounded.

This year we had our best friends and their daughter over, and we made Luna Burgers (ZOMG you have to try these Columbus-made bad boys!), Tofurky kielbasa and Smart Dogs on the grill, in addition to vegan coleslaw, baked macaroni and "cheese" and a traditional fruit salad (complete with Tofutti sour cream and Dandies vegan marshmallows)! I won't lie, it's probably been 10 years since I had good ole' fashioned fruit salad, so even though I put cantaloupe in it (which I really, really disdain), it was still delicious!

Oh, and I can't leave out the dessert. Thanks to a bunch of different ideas on pinterest, my daughter and I decided to make "firecrackers" in a mason jar! Remember those delicious popsicles with different layers, red, white and blue? Well, we made a cupcake version of those in a mason jar. And let me tell you, these were absolutely phenomenal! Everyone raved about how adorable they were and they traveled SO well! The only downfall? We had to wash them afterwards, but after everything was said and done, it was totally worth this step. I was able to purchase a dozen 8-oz quilted mason jars for $8, and I'm SO going to use these again and again and again. I actually spent most of my holiday weekend daydreaming about what else I was going to bake in these magical jars!

So have I convinced you to hop on the mason jar express?


Vegan firecracker cupcakes (in a jar)
Makes: 12 (really big, almost "double" cupcakes)
Cupcake ingredients:
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup cake flour
1 1/4 cups white sugar
2 tsp baking soda
1 stick vegan butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup vanilla coconut milk (don't worry, the coconut flavor is hidden, this is just for extra moistness)
1/3 cup water
3 oz cherry applesauce
3 oz blueberry applesauce
(red and blue food coloring, we use a homemade natural kind I picked up at a lovely local store, but word on the street is that Wilton icing colorings are plant-based and vegan)

Frosting ingredients: 
3 cups powdered sugar
1/2 stick vegan butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup vegan whipped topping (I use MimicCreme Healthy Top because it's ridiculously amazing)
Sprinkles!

Directions:
In your fabulous mixing bowl, add all purpose flour, cake flour, white sugar and baking soda. Stir in coconut milk and water. Add your softened butter and beat on high using your stand or hand mixer. Add vanilla extract.

Now, you're going to preheat your oven to 350.

Next, get out another bowl and pour half the white batter into it. This is how we're going to get the two different colors! In one bowl, add 3 oz cherry applesauce and some red food coloring to your preferred color). In the other bowl, add your blueberry applesauce and blue food coloring. And tada! Red and blue cakes!

Line your mason jars on a cookie sheet and spray them or grease em' up to your liking. Add the blue cake batter into a piping bag (I used the biggest tip I had) and then pipe a little under one inch of this at the bottom of each jar. In another piping bag, add the red cake batter and then pipe a little under one inch on top of the blue. (You can omit this step and just spoon the stuff in there if you're not uber-worried about straight lines, but it'll get messy too).

Put these babies in the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes, until it's all puffed up and still a little squishy. Pull them out and set them aside to cool.

Now, for the frosting! I love rich, crazy thick frosting as much as the next gal, but sometimes you just want that light, fluffy, whipped, tastes-like-a-store-bought-cake frosting. I've found it's pretty achievable by just adding in some vegan whipped topping (but I swear by the MimicCreme brand, I can't attest for the others). In your stand mixer or with your hand mixer, blend together the powdered sugar, softened butter (but not melted!) and vanilla extract. Add in one cup of the Healthy Top vegan whipped cream and blend on high until all mixed together.

Once your cupcakes have cooled, pipe this on top or spoon it on, whichev, and top with your favorite sprinkle assortment. To keep these moist and awesome, make sure to put lids on when storing overnight. And that's all! JUST lids! Woo hoo!

What was your favorite part of the holiday weekend?

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7.03.2014

The five people you definitely won't meet in Heaven

OK, so I'm just kidding. These people might be in Heaven. God is a forgiving dude. And these people aren't all that bad, they're just the kind of bad that really irks you on a less-than-stellar day. But for some reason when I was trilling this idea around in my head for a blog, all I kept coming back to was Mitch Albom's book, The Five People You Meet in Heaven.

I've been contemplating this idea for quite some time now, all the way back to my college days when I was a wee student teacher who thought she could make a difference. (Don't worry, I realized the difference I'd be making on today's youth was probably not the ideal one, so I ran like hell from that job. I settled on something that didn't psychologically traumatize anyone on a daily basis, myself included. You're welcome).

 And then the other day, while pulling into Target with a mere 30 minutes to spare before closing time, I met the fifth person to complete my list. One ring to rule them all. (Sorry, I don't know where that came from, I haven't watched "Lord of the Rings" in ages).

So here goes, the five people you will not be meeting in Heaven.

1) That lady in the Target parking lot who steals the spot you've been waiting on for three minutes. Seriously, lady in the Honda SUV with your poorly-dyed blonde hair, oversized purse (for reals, that means a lot coming from me, because I am like the bag lady of all bag ladies) and ugly kitten heels, you succeeded in pushing me to my limit. I was minding my own business, waiting on a semi-decent space (which is impossible to find at Target), when low and behold you turned down the aisle and what, thought I was just hanging out in the middle of the aisle with my turn signal on because it was fun?

I'm sure your giant purse was incredibly heavy and you couldn't bear to haul it in from the parking spot that should have been yours, a trillion lanes away. It's cool. I just had my two small children, one of which was passed out in her car seat, the other only 18 months old. Have you ever tried to go to the store with two small children? It's like trying to herd cats. They just keep wandering off everywhere and while I'm strong, even my arms couldn't outlast the trek I had to make because you were, what? Inconsiderate? Having a bad day yourself? Yeah, I get it, but I still don't like it. (shakes fist!)

2) That person at the grocery store who makes passive aggressive stabs at your parenting ability. Look, maybe I'm lazy, maybe I'm crazy, maybe I'm a dirty hippie parent, whatevs. But if I have one more person ask me where my child's shoes are when they're sitting in a cart or a stroller, I'm going to go all exorcist, spinning head, green pea soup on someone. And trust me, I'm not being sensitive about this. If they were just making conversation it'd be one thing. But these people are NEVER making conversation. Especially when they ask the same question 149 times before they let me walk away.

Seriously? Why are you so worried about my children's bare feet? It's not winter, they won't be getting frostbite. And considering I have them strapped into this cart I don't see them accidentally stepping on any used heroin needles, so, legit, shut up. You want to know where my kid's shoes are? Probably in aisle 9. Or the produce section. Or hell, maybe even the parking lot. Guess what? My kids, they take their shoes off A LOT. So unless YOU want to chase down the shoe every time it drops or pay to buy me a whole new pair, quit asking where my kid's shoes are. They're probably wherever your butt-the-hell-out gene is.

3) The HVAC dude who tells you the evap coil in your furnace has a ridiculous amount of ice covering it and not only will they NOT be able to fix your air conditioning today (the one that is dripping and leaking EVERYWHERE), but you're going to have to turn the air off and run the "fan" ALL NIGHTALL NIGHT. When it's like 90 out with 100% humidity. Yeah, ain't nobody got time for that. Especially a mom with two kids, one who sleeps naked in the winter (because it's "too hot") and the other who sweats when he's eating a veggie dog.

The good news is the HVAC gentleman was able to squeeze us in at 8 a.m. the next day, so he gets brownie points for that!

4) That friend you have who complains about being "fat" or "overweight" when she actually weighs less than your Thanksgiving Tofurky. Look, I get it. As women, sometimes it doesn't matter how beautiful we are and how everyone else sees us, all we see is droopy skin and stretch marks. But look, there's also something else you should know: tact. Tact means not bitching about your (non-existent) love handles to your friend whose ONE love handle equals your entire body weight. I'm all for a good ranting session and if you want to talk about how crooked your boobs are, I'll totally reassure you that they're not and they're awesome. But if you weigh half of what I do and you want to talk about love handles, well, I suggest you go find a skinny friend to complain to, because I'm just not that big of a person (ha, get it, you see what I just did there?)

5) The chick who said the following. I have a friend who has an awesome job. She's a boss lady and she's a good woman. She and her husband are waiting to adopt their first child. And anyone close to her knows the process they've gone through to get to this point and how excited they are for the day they become parents. And once that time does come, she'll take her maternity leave and love on that baby and everything will feel right in the world. And then in six, eight, 12 weeks, when she decides she's ready, she'll come back and continue to be the kickass boss lady she is. And she'll feel good about that decision. Except that one chick, after hearing she planned on returning to work, had the nerve to ask her "what's the point, then?" Why go through all the trouble to adopt a child if you're just going to, what, desert it forever and be a working mom?

Is that reality? Did I just take a warp through time right back into the 1950s. Newsflash ladies. Despite what some people might believe, having a vagina does not mean we're incapable of multitasking. Having a baby does not mean we should stay at home. Becoming a mother does not mean we can't be other things. And if you're going to tell some awesome boss lady who's been waiting and praying to grow her family that she's doing some disservice to her family because she wants to work too, well, I think we need to see what kind of disservice you're doing to YOURS by letting them think women don't have a choice. It's not about being a stay-at-home mom or working mom, it's about being whatever is going to help you be the best YOU, duh.

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