Monday, December 31, 2012

Make It Count Monday: New Year's Edition

Well, it's here. Today is the last day of 2012. What a year. On New Year's Eve last year, I had just a tiny bump (it felt ginormous at the time, go figure!) and right now, I'm writing this from a hotel room bed, with two littles rolling around playing next to me on the bed. There's a steady stream of "ma-ma, ma-ma" coming from Erin as she grabs her toes, and next to my right elbow, Emily is playing with a plastic frog and trying to figure out the trick to opening a screw-top bottle. My belly might look pretty much the same as last year at this time, but my life has changed completely. And I love it.

I shared my goals for the New Year last Friday. Some will take more time than others, but I think most of them are attainable within a year. There aren't any that apply specifically to Emily and Erin, but all of them are aimed at making our family's home a simpler, healthier, and calmer place - so they will benefit anyway.

It's tempting sometimes to think that you can take yourself and flip a switch on January 1st. Just because the calendar changes, you can automatically start exercising, eating healthier, and keeping everything organized. For the most part, however, the same challenges apply as they did in the past. I think my goal for this week will be to identify the obstacles which prevented these things from being achieved in the past, and then try to figure out how best to overcome them.

Motivation (what I accomplished last week): Last week was one of those where we were really busy, but it didn't feel like anything was actually getting accomplished. I have to remind myself that I did get all of our homemade Christmas gifts put together and wrapped for our friends and family, and we managed to navigate numerous gatherings with family and friends throughout the course of the week. Emily and Erin went with us to six family get-togethers in three days! Since our culture is one that equates busyness with productivity, it can be frustrating to feel busy yet unproductive. Around the holidays, however, simply seeing family and friends is really what matters. My back-of-my-mind goal was to make sure that Emily and Erin were included in everything, and I'm pretty sure we accomplished that :)

Direction (what I'd like to accomplish this week): I want to identify and figure out how to overcome the obstacles that have prevented us from achieving our goals in the past, so we can achieve them this year.

Accountability (how I will make this happen): We have a nice long drive ahead of us tomorrow, so what better time to identify the obstacles and plan to overcome them?

I'm linking up with Megan for Make it Count Monday!

Positively Imperfect

How we celebrate New Year's Eve

Good morning, all! Today I'm over at Call Her Happy, writing about how we celebrate New Year's Eve as part of her Celebrate Like a Catholic series. Head on over to read the rest of the post and find out what we're up to!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

7 Quick Takes Friday, Vol. 27: New Year's Resolutions

Thanks to Jen for hosting! This past year has been the most eventful of my life. Since this is the last Friday before New Year's, I thought I'd share some of my resolutions for the next year! In an effort to fully enjoy all that God has blessed our family with, we are going to try to live and more intentionally - live our life instead of letting life live us. I've selected 7 ways that I'm going to try and help us do this, and we have 7 takes here. Coincidence? I think not. Anyway. Here we go!

--- 1 ---

Take one thing off. Have you ever heard the saying about getting dressed in the morning and taking one thing off once you think you're ready? I think you can apply that saying to day-to-day life. It's so easy to plan way more than is practical or feasible for a day or a week. "All the things" might get done, but they won't get done well and it won't be enjoyable. So this year, I'm going to look at my plan and find one thing - just one - to postpone. I think the difference will be almost immediately apparent, and I'm excited to see how it works!

--- 2 ---

Make a daily priority list. There's usually one thing that I know needs to get done at the beginning of the day, and if I write it down, most of the time I can at least get it started. If I take the time to write it down and say it out loud, I find myself going back to it if I have a free moment. A whole to-do list can be overwhelming, but a list of one or two tasks is definitely doable.

--- 3 ---

Eat real, organic food 90 percent of the time. I think it would be really difficult for us to do this all the time. It's just not feasible, since I'm not home every evening to cook dinner, to avoid resorting to something packaged. What I think we can do is to stick to the healthier versions of packaged foods, and avoid buying junky snacks and sodas to have around the house. Truth be told, we'd always done really well at this. This past year, especially once the restrictions of pregnant eating were lifted, I got lax. I bought what sounded easy and good, and I drank more soda than I had in a long time. I could definitely feel the difference, and I'm ready to feel better. As I've said before, I also don't want Emily and Erin to grow up with a taste for junk food. I don't plan to be one of the moms who forbid their kids to try anything with refined sugar (though I admire their determination!) because I know that the real world demands moderation. I'll go into more details on this in an upcoming post - look for it soon!

--- 4 ---

Pray for each other and for our marriage. This one sounds kind of obvious, but I so admire couples who say that they pray for each other and each other's needs on a daily basis. I think that it's really important to incorporate your faith into your life, whether it's through Bible study, prayer, or devotionals. I saw a link the other day to a devotional book for wives, and I might pick that up as part of fulfilling this resolution.

--- 5 ---

Exercise. At this point, I've taken a little over a year off from running regularly. I can't think of any better reason to have done so, but I know that I need to start again soon. There are tons of great reasons to exercise. The ones I'm using as my main motivation are energy and stress relief. It's easy to tell yourself that you are way too tired to even contemplate exercise, but the truth is that exercising makes you feel more energetic. It's also a really great stress reliever, and it makes you less grouchy even when you're tired. I know I'm capable of running about 2 miles at this point, and I don't know that with the stroller I'll be able to get much more than 4 miles in at a time, but I figure any running is better than no running at this point. We're headed to the coast this weekend, so I may treat myself to a new long-sleeve top - nothing like new workout gear to get motivated!

--- 6 ---

Become a debt-free family. This might be easier said than done, and it might take longer than a year. I've heard great things about Dave Ramsey - any other suggestions?

--- 7 ---

Be able to answer "Where's my...?" I remember reading in a 1940s-era book on marriage that the most important quality in a wife was to be able to tell her husband where anything of his was at any time. I must confess, I somewhat dread this question. I do know where most of my things are at any given time, but if someone else puts them away, I'm lost. That should give you a hint as to my default organizational system - it's not 100 perent foolproof! As for Dan's things, I don't even try. This needs to change. Any and all suggestions and advice welcome!

Well, we're headed off to the coast this weekend for New Year's. I hope you all have a great, safe, long weekend! What will you be doing to celebrate the holiday?

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Thoroughly Thankful Thursday, Week 9: The simplest gift

I turned 27 this past week. While I don't really feel old, I definitely feel as though I've gotten to the point where birthdays can be less than exciting. It's rare to get to devote an entire day to celebrating a birthday once you're an adult, and I'm definitely past the point of "going out" to celebrate. I actually don't know that I ever reached that point; regardless, it's not something I'd do now.

For my birthday this year, two of our friends offered to babysit Emily and Erin so we could go out for the evening. I really believe that they enjoyed watching the girls as much as we enjoyed getting a couple of hours out, which made it much easier for me to leave them. Dan and I got to go out for dinner, and we made an effort to converse like adults. I enjoyed a glass of wine with my chicken Marsala, and he enjoyed a craft beer. It's funny how something we did all the time before we had kids is so much more special now.

Towards the end of the week, Dan needed to use our car for work. Now, we are a one-car family, and since Dan works from home, I use the car much more than he does. I typically have the girls with me wherever I go, so the interior and the trunk look like a baby's closet exploded - toys and clothes scattered everywhere, with a few coffee mugs and water bottles for good measure. It's been too rainy and dark the last few weeks to even contemplate cleaning it up, so I just moved things into the trunk as they got in the way and figured I'd get around to a major cleanup later on.

Enter this fabulous guy I married. When he told me he needed the car for work, my only reaction was that he needed to be home in time for me to make it to work in the afternoon. With that issue resolved, I didn't think any more of it. That is, until he announced he needed to transport some things and had to clean out the trunk. I braced myself for a scathing criticism of my slovenly habits as he backed the car up to the garage door.

Immediately after he finished, I had to head to work. As I got in the car, I noticed it was not only devoid of clutter, it was spotless. Immaculate. No water bottles rolling as I stopped and started (one of my pet peeves) and no heap of snowsuits and blankets in between the two car seat bases. Every surface, including the front floor mats, had been freshly vacuumed. I'm usually slightly frantic as I leave for work (chronic disorganization, anyone?), but the sight of the freshly cleaned car sent a wave of calm sweeping over me.

Twenty years ago, I wanted a day that was all about me. I don't remember what presents I'd asked for, but I know that I anticipated the presents and the cake more than anything. I've always been a fan of strange cake flavors - I think I had "cherry chip" cakes for several birthdays around that time. Ten years ago, I finally decided to go get my learner's permit. I'm sure I'd outgrown the cherry chip cake by then and moved on to something more grownup (though I can't remember what), but I was still excited about getting presents. Last year, all I wanted was to know with certainty that everything would turn out okay and I would be able to carry our twins to full term.

If you'd told me that I'd be writing about how grateful I was this year for a simple dinner date and a clean car - a clean car - this year, I probably would have stared at you as though broccoli was growing from your head. This year, however, I'm too busy enjoying my clean car and reminiscing about our nice dinner (not to mention soaking up my baby girls' childhood) to stare. I'm just grateful. Our life is truly abundantly blessed.

What are you thankful for this week? Link your post below or share in the comments! I can't wait to hear!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

7 Quick Takes, Vol. 26: Shock, Sadness, Goals, and Six Months!

Thanks to Jen for hosting!

--- 1 ---

As I'm sure is the case for everyone, the shootings in Newtown, Connecticut, have been on my heart and my mind this week. I can't fathom the amount of pain the families of the victims must be in right now. Most of all, I am saddened by the disrespect with which the issues raised have been treated by the media and the public. Mental health care and better gun regulation need to be priorities in our country - no matter where you stand on these issues, you can agree they need to be discussed. We owe it to the memory of the children and adults who were shot last Friday to do it in a rational manner; recognizing that while we may not all get exactly what we want, the best answer most likely lies somewhere in the middle.

--- 2 ---

Emily and Erin turned six months old yesterday! They got quite the celebration, since it also happened to be my birthday. Actually, as far as the celebrating went, we didn't do a ton with them - Dan and I went out to dinner and the girls stayed home with a couple of friends of ours. The real treat for Emily and Erin came today, when they got to go get their six-month shots. It was quite the appointment. I think we were there for almost an hour and a half. Everything looked good, apparently, and both girls are still growing as they are supposed to be. We're going to start working on feeding them more food, but I was relieved to hear that it's not really necessary for them to eat a lot of real food until they are a little older.

--- 3 ---

Our cloth diapers arrived! I washed them on Tuesday, the day they arrived, but I haven't actually used them yet because I realized they need liners. I went and bought fleece to cut up and make into liners, and I think that will be the easiest way to go. We have covers and inserts - basically a two-piece diaper - that go together. The liner is to protect the baby's skin from the microfiber insert, and also to protect the diaper from any diaper cream, which hinders absorbency. I'm pretty excited to try them out tomorrow and write a review!

--- 4 ---

Along with the cloth diapers, I'm making a concerted effort to really focus on eating less processed food and more vegetables. I know I don't have a chance of getting Emily and Erin to love vegetables if we don't include them as a matter of course - I love vegetables, but I sometimes forget to include them when we're eating in a hurry. I need to make sure they are a more constant part of our diet. Creating as healthy a diet as possible for our family is one of the best gifts I can give them, because lifelong eating habits are formed at a young age and are very hard to change.

--- 5 ---

Another thing we've been doing for a while now is trying to use fewer toxic cleaners. There are so many great green cleaners out there these days, so this isn't really that hard - there are a few things that need the heavy duty cleaners, but for the most part, it's easy to find a nontoxic option. I have been using Method cleaners for a few years now, and I really love the variety of scents. Anybody else use nontoxic cleaners? What are your favorites?

--- 6 ---

Now that Emily and Erin are six months old, I can say that I've met one of my major goals for the second half of this year: we're still nursing! I honestly didn't think that we would make it past two months, then I figured it'd be three months, and then I fixated on six months. Around three months, I realized that this was the easy way of feeding and that it was much simpler than bottle-feeding, especially when I figured out that nursing actually helped put the girls back to sleep at night. Now I feel pretty confident that we'll be able to make it the full year, and maybe even a bit beyond - we're still supplementing a bottle or two a day, but at least 80 percent of their nutrition comes from me, and that's the best possible start they can have. There are so many things that my body has done this year that amaze me, but this is one of the most amazing.

--- 7 ---

Christmas is coming! In honor of the season, I thought I'd share this cute video with you. The images to go with the song are just beautiful, and gave me a sense of peace in the midst of this chaotic, sorrowful week. I hope it can do the same for you.

I hope all of you have a very blessed Christmas!

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Thoroughly Thankful Thursday: It's Back!

One year ago yesterday was my 26th birthday. I'd been anticipating it for weeks, not because I was excited to turn 26, but because my first OB appointment had been scheduled for that day. I would be 12 weeks pregnant, and my doctor wanted to see me for the first time.

I'd already had an ultrasound that confirmed we were having twins at 7 weeks, and from what we knew, there wasn't really anything to be concerned about. That was, until two days before my birthday, when I found myself hemorrhaging in the ER. Another ultrasound confirmed that both babies were alive and kicking, but ultimately raised more questions than answers. My anticipation became dread, alternating with moments of sheer panic where I was sure something was terribly wrong - God didn't want me to have these babies, He wanted to take them away before I even got to meet them.

The first thing my OB did was bring in an ultrasound machine to check on the babies again. Both still had strong heartbeats, and looked very healthy and active. My doctor said this was a good sign. Then she turned her attention to the clot behind one of the placentas. Compared to the tiny babies, it looked enormous. It was positioned so that it pushed the placenta away from the wall of the uterus, which meant that if it got too much bigger, the baby (I don't remember which for sure, but I think it was Erin) would be in grave danger.

My doctor's face grew serious as she wrapped up the ultrasound and had me sit up on the table. "I wish I could tell you everything is going to be okay," she said. "But it's fifty-fifty. Maybe you'll be fine, but you might miscarry. I don't have any placenta glue. There's not much I can do."

She prescribed bed rest for the next two weeks, meaning that I would be in bed until after Christmas, and scheduled another appointment for 14 weeks to check on the babies and the clot. I'd expected to leave feeling elated, nearly done with the first trimester of pregnancy, but I left with a heavy heart. Fifty-fifty. I couldn't stop thinking about those words.

After hearing about the shootings in Newtown, Connecticut last week, I have dwelt on that moment often in the past few days. Somehow, now that Emily and Erin are 6 months old, the idea that we came close to losing them weighs more heavily on my heart. I know the joy that being their mother brings, and the pain of the parents who lost their children has permeated our every activity this week. I think of the hopes and plans those parents had for their children, how they had college funds and Christmas presents for them. They changed their diapers and sat up all night when they were sick, and loved them fiercely, as all parents love their children. More than once this week, I've heard it said that parenthood is as if you have your heart outside your body. Truer words have rarely been spoken.

This week, I am thankful for every dirty diaper, sleepless night, and moment of frustration that comes as a part of motherhood. I've never been more thankful for the ability to simply love my children, deeply and sacrificially as God loves every one of us. And I know I join millions in praying ceaselessly for the families who are missing their little saints in heaven as Christmas approaches. It is my prayer that they may find some measure of peace.

What are you thankful for this week? Link your post below or share in the comments!

Monday, December 17, 2012

One Year Ago Today: An ER Visit

One year ago today, my Saturday began relatively uneventfully. In pregnancy terms, it was a milestone: 12 weeks, 1 day! All the books assured me that life as an expectant mama was smooth sailing after the twelfth week. I would feel energetic and vivacious; food would smell and taste good again. The latter part was debunked as soon as I got out of bed, and as the day wore on, so was the former. But I was excited about 12 weeks for a different reason: the risk of complications was supposed to drop drastically as well. Although we'd already announced my pregnancy after the first ultrasound, I still felt that I could breathe a sigh of relief at having made it to 12 weeks. If I'd known what was in store for us, I'm sure I would have held my breath until I passed out!

As I headed out to my car after work, I suddenly realized something was not right. I was bleeding. Fear and panic welled up inside me. What could possibly be going on? Will the babies be okay? I called Dan, weeping as I explained what had happened. He told me I needed to call the doctor, so I dialed the number for my doctor's office. I hadn't seen my OB/GYN during my pregnancy, so I figured I should call my regular doctor first. A few phone calls later, I finally spoke with the on-call OB for the evening, who told me I should be seen as soon as possible to find out what was going on. She seemed encouraged by the fact that I wasn't in pain, although I was bleeding profusely. I tried to tell myself that maybe everything was okay, but I couldn't muster much conviction.

In my initial panic, I'd planned to head straight to the ER from work, not thinking that OF COURSE my husband would want to come with me. After a quick detour to pick him up, we found ourselves in the ER waiting room. Despite it being a Saturday evening, we barely had time to choose a place to sit before my name was called. The immediacy with which we found ourselves in the triage room renewed my panic. The EMT helping to check us in smirked when I explained the situation, and I had to suppress a strong urge to scream at him. Then he and the nurse both left the room, and we were alone. I panicked again. Dan reassured me that everything would be okay, although I'm sure he didn't really believe what he was saying.

The rest of the evening passed in something of a blur. I was taken into a room and told to undress; a nurse came in, then a doctor. They examined me and decided I needed to have an ultrasound, since the Doppler heartrate monitor would not be able to distinguish between the two babies so early in gestation. Despite my panic, I felt a thrill at getting to see my babies. The thrill quickly turned to anger as I snapped back to reality just in time to hear that Dan wouldn't be allowed in the room with me. We frantically dug my phone out so I could communicate with him, and I found myself being wheeled down a maze of hallways.

The ultrasound tech was young and sweet, and very sympathetic to my plight. She quickly arranged her equipment and began the first scan. I felt my stomach drop as the image appeared on the screen - but there was movement! I was so thrilled, I almost forgot to text Dan as I watched the tiny bodies kicking and wiggling furiously. I suddenly knew exactly how Mary had felt when she found out Jesus had risen from the dead. Overcome with gratitude, I prayed fervently that the tech wouldn't find anything wrong.

After nearly an hour and a half of scanning, the tech announced she'd gotten all the measurements from the babies she needed. I found myself rolling through the hallways once more. After what seemed like an hour, the doctor came back in to tell me he really didn't think I had anything to be concerned about. He explained that I had a blood clot around the placenta causing all the bleeding, and that he really didn't know what would happen. He seemed confident that activity wouldn't have any effect, and told me to rest if I felt like it but otherwise go back to life as normal. He added that if I did start hemorrhaging again, I needed to come back immediately because I might need a blood transfusion. He told me to follow up with my doctor at my appointment on Monday.

Fear began to compete with the gratitude. Just when everything was supposed to be okay, something terrible was happening. Worst of all, even the doctor didn't seem to think there was anything we could do. Dan squeezed my hand as we walked out the door to our car, telling me it would be okay. I still wasn't sure he believed it. The drive home was excruciating. We stopped for dinner - meals had been forgotten in the chaos - and we talked about how tiny the babies' arms and legs had looked on the ultrasound screen. I couldn't help but wonder if I'd ever get to see them grow large enough to enter the world. For the first time since my positive pregnancy test, I was grateful for exhaustion - I don't think I could have slept that night, nor the next, without it.

Friday, December 14, 2012

7 Quick Takes, Vol. 25: Christmas Lights and Diapers

Thank you, Jen, for hosting, and congratulations on the premiere of Minor Revisions! I had to work tonight, but I'm excited to check it out soon!

--- 1 ---
First things first - we have a Christmas tree!
We got our tree over the weekend, but it took until Tuesday to get it decorated. We switched to LED lights this year, and I am really impressed so far! The colors are less harsh than when the lights first came out, and overall I like the look. There's something sweetly nostalgic about our old incandescent lights, but the energy savings make such a big difference I'm willing to switch. The bubble lights are just traditional bubble lights, not LED, but there are only a few of them. Bubble lights are so fun! It should be noted that we still have at least 40 ornaments to squeeze on the tree, most of which are snowflakes of some sort. I love snowflake ornaments. Maybe that's my version of a white Christmas - except most of mine are silver. Oh well.
Emily and Erin really seem to like the tree, although to see their reaction I have to compete with the tree. This never really goes well, because they end up looking at Mommy instead of the tree (and I have no problem with that!). But if I turn the lights on, they seem interested in the colors and the twinkling lights. Being a parent adds a whole new dimension to Christmas - one I'm really excited about. Everything seems so much more exciting as you imagine seeing it for the first time.
--- 2 ---
Speaking of lights, we have lights on the house too! I don't have a good picture of those, but we ended up with "warm white" (read: traditional white, not bluish-LED glare) LED lights along the gutter in the front, and larger, twinkling colored LED ceramic lights around the living room window. Dan valiantly conquered his dislike of ladders (and put up with my tutelage - I'm sure that was ten times worse than the ladder!) to hang the lights, and they look awesome. I love the feeling of helping to bring the Christmas spirit to our neighborhood, and I can't wait to go out with the girls on a Christmas light drive (or maybe a walk!) to see everyone else's!
--- 3 ---
We had an epic errand-running session this week. On Monday, I decided to take Emily and Erin out to get some things done. I packed the diaper bag full of diapers, wipes, a change of clothes for each girl, and plenty of entertaining toys. All three of us had a snack, and we headed out. We went to the dry cleaners, the bagel shop, Target, and the grocery store, with frequent pauses for feeding and diaper changes. It went much better than I expected, although the grocery store ended with a major meltdown. I could pretty much chalk it up to both girls being sick of confinement, so it was my fault for dawdling (and not having a list!). We were gone for about six hours, and we ran four errands. Well, three errands. The bagel shop was just a treat. The confidence I gained from the expedition was very valuable - there are always errands I end up putting off because I can't go on my own, but I guess there really isn't a good reason for that.
--- 4 ---
I wrote a post this week about planning to fail. Lest it sound like I loathe planning, let me tell you that I don't. I really don't. I kind of think that people who have it all planned out might be (read: absolutely are) exaggerating a little. Or maybe they don't have kids. In which case, the planning is a totally different story. It's kind of funny how these things work, though, because after I wrote the post, I decided to make chicken in the crockpot. The chicken was too big, or the crockpot too small. One of those things. So I decided to use the foil roasting pan I picked up at the dollar store. Except it turned out to be a cake pan. But I had been cooking the chicken in the crockpot for about half an hour, so I decided to just use it. I emptied the crockpot into the pan and turned over cooking duties to the oven. All went well - I even used the remote thermometer! - until I went to take the pan out of the oven. It buckled under the weight of the chicken, and chicken drippings, onions, carrots, and celery went everywhere, all over the floor and all over the pots and pans in the bottom of the stove. Removing the drawer just spread the mess further - I ended up mopping most of the house! Oh, and did I mention we somehow pried the drain stopper out of the bathtub drain during the final cleanup of the pots and pans drawer? Yeah. If you want to deep clean your house, cook a chicken in a foil cake pan.
--- 5 ---
Emily has taken to communicating with her mouth closed. It's sort of like a kazoo technique, if you remember those (wax paper over a toilet paper tube) and it sounds pretty much the same. She only seems to express frustration this way, but it's hard to tell for sure. I find it entertaining. So does her sister. So she does it more and more, trying to get Erin's attention. It really is hysterically funny to watch! Erin has decided she really likes to be carried. She's spent a lot of time riding around on my right hip, checking out what Mommy does during the day. I can't say I really mind (though my right arm is getting much stronger than my left!) but I also think it would be good for her to play with her sister without me there every minute. The arrangement where they played on their activity mat in the pack and play worked fine up until - last week, was it? It's hard to say. I pretty much do what they want to do, as long as they're safe and we're not talking about bedtime. We'll see how long that lasts, but whatever works, right?
--- 6 ---
We'll be making the switch to cloth diapering part of the time, as soon as our new diapers arrive! I'm pretty stoked about this. It'd been my plan to switch once the girls got a little bigger, and now that they're in size 3 diapers and will be until they are around 28 lbs, I think we'll be able to do it. Even half of the time would cut down soooooo much on the number of diapers we go through! I'm working on a post about the change, along with some other changes in the works right now, and I will definitely review the diapers once they get here and we get a chance to try them out. I'm so excited - is that weird?
--- 7 ---
I'll leave you this week with this hilarious link - put your beverage of choice off to the side while you read these, because coffee-spewed computer screens are SO 2011. (Or SO 2012. If it's almost 2013, is it not cool to be so 2012 anymore? I don't think I understand.) Feel free to explain if you do understand - but go read this first! Did you notice the new blog graphics? I'd love to hear what you think - I made them myself, and I think it turned out pretty well. I love the progression of our life together, and I always love pictures of my babies!
I hope you all have a great weekend!
For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Advent Acts of Kindness: Day 5

This is the sixth in a series of posts on "Advent Acts of Kindness." Advent, the period of time leading up to Christmas, is a period of reflection and preparation for the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. Historically, this meant a period of fasting, charity, and penance to ready the soul. Fasting isn't really part of the preparation anymore, but charity and penance still are. So while Advent calendars are a convenient way to count down the remaining days until Christmas, the season is marked by more than decorating and wrapping gifts. Even if all the rest of your tasks are done, you're not ready if your mind and heart aren't ready.

One great way to truly prepare for Christmas is to show kindness towards others, especially those less fortunate. With this in mind, I thought I'd put together a list of ideas for small acts of kindness and post one each day throughout Advent. I did this partly for selfish reasons, because I want to start a tradition of Advent Acts of Kindness for my own family, and partly because I thought you lovely readers would enjoy it!

Advent Act of Kindness #6: Think outside the box when donating to your local shelter. One of the most creative drives I ever heard about was for a women's shelter here in town, and took place when I was in college. A group on campus was collecting razors, shaving cream, deodorant, tampons, pads and other necessities for women who had left their homes as domestic violence victims. While it's not necessarily the first need that comes to mind when you think about a homeless person, these basic necessities are welcome donations. Soap, shampoo, underwear, socks, and gloves are also needed - check with your local shelter or your church to see exactly what's needed in your area. Coupons can be helpful here, or you can hit up your local dollar store, or even check in your own home - chances are you have some unused toiletries that could brighten someone's day more than you can imagine!

Planning to fail

I have a love-hate relationship with planning. That is to say, I love the idea of planning, and I'm pretty sure I'm not the only mom who feels that way. I truly admire those who can say with confidence that they know exactly what they will do each day, espousing the virtues of weekly menus and chore charts. I also think they're lying. Well, maybe "lying" isn't exactly the word I want. Exaggerating? Being overly optimistic? The fact is, every time I attempt to make some semblance of a plan, life happens. I'm too busy, too tired, too sick, or I just plain don't feel like following through. And then I feel like a failure, because I made a plan and didn't stick to it. I have to remind myself that if we're all reasonably clean, fed, and alive at the end of the day, things are going okay. Riiight. It's pretty easy to say, but much harder to believe, this idea that simply surviving can be succeeding.

There really isn't anything wrong with planning, per se. The problem is in the execution. It's all very well to make a list of things you want and need to do in a day and figure out when to do them. The problem comes when, at the end of the day, you know you did things that needed to be done, yet the to-do list remains unchecked. Incidentally, these are the nights I dream of being chased by pencils, unending lists of chores with their teeth bared (what? Your dream chore lists don't have teeth? Get with the program!) and the house collapsing under the weight of the undone chores. The laws of physics clearly do not apply in the land of nightmares, because it would obviously be the crawl space collapsing and not the house, but... I digress.

Maybe the answer is to plan to fail. I know, it sounds preposterously dumb, but hear me out. If you anticipate life and its twists and turns, maybe planning works. For example, this might mean picking up a frozen pizza along with all of the from-scratch ingredients at the grocery store, knowing that you won't be able to get dinner on the table every night without it. Maybe it means only washing one load of laundry each day, instead of trying to do five in one day. Maybe it means allowing six hours, as I did today, to get four errands done. The funny thing about planning for failure is that when the inevitable happens, it's not nearly as frustrating. I smell a catchy slogan - "planning to fail takes the fail out of failure!" Yikes. Maybe not. But you get the idea.

After all, we moms plan for failure all the time...if we didn't, there'd be no such thing as diaper bags or bibs. But collectively (with the help of Pinterest) we seem to have fallen short when it comes to allowing for life to intervene on a daily basis. So my goal this week is to plan for failure. Won't you join me? I have a feeling we'll get a lot more done!

I'm linking up with Megan at Positively (Im)perfect for Make it Count Monday!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

What I Wore Sunday, Vol. 6: All Dolled Up - and it wasn't that scary!

Sweater, Ann Taylor LOFT (thrifted); tank, Motherhood Maternity; skirt, Banana Republic (hand-me-down); wedges, Target

As you may have guessed from the title of this post - I dressed up for Mass today! Look ma, no boots! There wasn't really anything different about today, except that we had our company Christmas party last night, so I acquired stockings to wear with my party dress, and we got my box of pre-second trimester shoes down out of the attic so I could wear heels. How does a Saturday night party make dressing up for Mass easier, you ask? Well, with the stockings already broken in and a whole BOX of shoes to choose from plus a new-to-me skirt - dressing up was easy! I just had to find the sweater. Which I'd planned to wear anyway. And you know what? It wasn't as scary as I thought, being all dressed up with baby Erin in my lap. Ok, I'll admit it - I covered my lap with her blanket - all in the name of baby comfort, right? ;) Nothing comfortable about Mommy's nice skirt! 

I'm kind of fascinated by the bygone era in which my outfit would have been considered casual - nice enough for shopping or school, but not nearly dressy enough for Mass. I know it doesn't really make any sense to go back to that, but maybe it's worth trying to make it easy to dress up when the occasion calls for it. Know what I mean? If you've ever read Hallie's post on figuring out your daily uniform, you are familiar with the concept of creating different versions of the same outfit. My new plan is to try this with dressy clothes. I figure you can have a capsule church wardrobe just as much as a capsule daily wardrobe, right?

I'm sure I won't be able to pull this off every week, but hey, I'll try (most) anything once! I already ordered another skirt to expand my Mass repertoire, and I have two pairs of wedge heels I'd forgotten about (swollen pregnant feet, anyone?) that are much easier to wear while rocking a baby. I'd still rather be at Mass in jeans and a shirt than home because I couldn't get dressed up, but since my skirt and heels proved themselves unworthy of my wary glances over the past few weeks, you should be seeing more of the above and less of a few weeks ago.

I'm linking up over at Fine Linen and Purple for What I Wore Sunday! Head on over to check out Kendra's cute top and her adorable little boy, and make sure to see what everyone else wore too!

Advent Acts of Kindness: Day 4

This is the fourth in a series of posts on "Advent Acts of Kindness." Advent, the period of time leading up to Christmas, is a period of reflection and preparation for the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. Historically, this meant a period of fasting, charity, and penance to ready the soul. Fasting isn't really part of the preparation anymore, but charity and penance still are. So while Advent calendars are a convenient way to count down the remaining days until Christmas, the season is marked by more than decorating and wrapping gifts. Even if all the rest of your tasks are done, you're not ready if your mind and heart aren't ready.

One great way to truly prepare for Christmas is to show kindness towards others, especially those less fortunate. With this in mind, I thought I'd put together a list of ideas for small acts of kindness and post one each day throughout Advent. I did this partly for selfish reasons, because I want to start a tradition of Advent Acts of Kindness for my own family, and partly because I thought you lovely readers would enjoy it. 

Advent Act of Kindness #4: Pick something up that you didn't drop. This one might sound a little weird, but bear with me. It's easy to just let a shirt fall off a hanger or knock something off a shelf and go on your way when you're shopping. After all, you have things to do, and someone gets paid to pick those things up. But think about it. Unless there is one employee doing nothing but following customers around and picking up after them, it's going to take a little while to get that shirt or box picked up and put back. This time of year, it probably will take even longer. In the meantime, the store becomes a mess, and that doesn't really add to the civilized society we'd all prefer to live in.

Obviously, it's impractical to pick up some dropped items, since you may not know where they go. But if you see something on the shelf that's obviously out of place, you can always take it along to the checkstand with you and give it to the cashier - this at least hastens its return. If you see a piece of clothing sliding off the hanger, you can put it back. I've worked in a store since I was a year out of high school, and I can tell you that putting things back in the right place at the end of the day takes time. I'm sure a busy store employee would be very glad to see someone not only picking up after themselves, but picking up after someone else as well. I know I would be!

I hope you all are enjoying your Sunday! Happy second Sunday of Advent!

Friday, December 7, 2012

7 Quick Takes: Volume 24: Pearl Harbor, Mental Hygiene, Babies, and Stay-at-home Moms

Thanks to Jen for hosting! I'm oh so glad it's Friday. Well, in my world, not quite Friday, but there's something about it being the weekend for the man of the house - makes it feel like the weekend for all of us! So even though I work on Saturdays, I'm very thankful for Friday. Plus I get to write my 7 Quick Takes. It doesn't get much better than that!

--- 1 ---

Today is December 7th, "a day that will live in infamy." Seventy-one years ago today, Japanese planes attacked the American naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. America subsequently declared war on Japan, and later on Germany and Italy. Millions of lives were lost over the following four years. Today is a day to pray for the repose of their souls - may they rest in peace. It's safe to say that the events of December 7th, 1941, changed the lives of millions while altering the course of history. The patriotism and resourcefulness of this era is truly inspiring, however, and is a timely reminder of how our nation has banded together and overcome adversity in the past.

--- 2 ---

I love the song "White Christmas", and the two films in which it plays a starring role: Holiday Inn and White Christmas. Don't get me wrong, though; I'm not necessarily dreaming of a white Christmas for myself! We definitely get snow here, but not usually until later in the winter. I love the nostalgia of a snowy day, but I almost always have to go to work and driving in the snow is kind of scary! Ok - last year, driving to work in 6 inches of snow at 5 am when I was 6 months pregnant and Dan was out of town was REALLY scary. But I did it anyway. And I was proud of myself. Back to a white Christmas, though - after watching news footage of cars chaining up on the passes this morning, I think the snow should stay where they're better prepared!

--- 3 ---

Advent is upon us, and this year I'm doing a series of posts dedicated to "Advent Acts of Kindness." Each post describes a small act of kindness (read the first three posts here, here, and here). Yesterday's post is a giveaway! Yep, that's right. You can enter to win a set of grippy cookie cutters! Head on over for details.

--- 4 ---

I just heard about a new app that was developed in a nearby city, and I have to admit, I'm a bit perplexed. The app claims to solve the problem of buying items you don't need and having the return deadline pass before you can bring the items back. Now, I must confess I've purchased things I don't need, or things I later changed my mind about. In fact, before Emily and Erin were born, I often bought things on sale with the idea I could return them if they didn't turn out to be something we needed. Now that I don't work outside the home full time, I shop only for items we really need or want, and I don't tend to return things unless they turn out to be the wrong size or are defective. I guess I'm perplexed by the need for such an app. The method of operation does sound pretty cool (you snap a picture of your receipt and all the necessary information is stored to give you reminders of the upcoming return deadline) but unless it was also keeping track of spending and helping with budgeting, I don't know that I'd want to need to use it. I may be forgetful, but I don't want to be this careless with my money! What do you all think?

--- 5 ---

I've had a lot of fun this week curling up with the girls and watching those old black and white "mental hygiene" films on YouTube. I love the glimpse into 1940s and 1950s life - families sitting down for meals together; girls and women wearing flattering, modest clothing; a no-nonsense attitude towards good manners and clean living. What I like best of all is that the overall message is to do the right thing, not to be yourself at everyone else's expense. I think that the "be yourself" message can be a good one for kids to hear, but it's also important to know that there are expectations in society that might clash with individuality. It's our job as parents, and the job of our children's teachers, to show them when it's okay to "be yourself" and when they need to conform to social standards. Being different simply for the sake of being different isn't always a good idea.

--- 6 ---

Emily and Erin are starting to interact! It's even cuter than I had imagined. Dan actually got a video over the weekend of Erin rolling over (she doesn't do this very well yet) and Emily watching her. As Erin started to struggle and get frustrated, Emily looked concerned, and then reached over to pull her sister's shirt - "it's okay, I'll help you!" Emily spends a lot of time trying to get Erin's attention, and Erin loves watching Emily. They are starting to sit up and play with toys, instead of just gumming their toys, and they do something new almost every day! Being their mommy is so much fun. I can't begin to describe how blessed I am to be their mommy!

--- 7 ---

I've been contemplating something over the past week, and I'm curious to hear what all you readers have to say. In the past, almost all mothers stayed home when their children were young, choosing to take care of their families and make do on their husband's wages. Now, a fairly high percentage of mothers work outside the home. Obviously, times have changed, but it seems to me it's a "chicken and egg" situation. It's hard to say if more mothers are working because there is truly a need for two incomes, or if our overall standard of living has simply adjusted to reflect the trend of two incomes because more mothers decided to work outside the home. What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments!

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Advent Acts of Kindness: Day 3 - a giveaway!

This is the third in a series of posts on "Advent Acts of Kindness." Advent, the period of time leading up to Christmas, is a period of reflection and preparation for the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. Historically, this meant a period of fasting, charity, and penance to ready the soul. Fasting isn't really part of the preparation anymore, but charity and penance still are. So while Advent calendars are a convenient way to count down the remaining days until Christmas, the season is marked by more than decorating and wrapping gifts. Even if all the rest of your tasks are done, you're not ready if your mind and heart aren't ready.

One great way to truly prepare for Christmas is to show kindness towards others, especially those less fortunate. With this in mind, I thought I'd put together a list of ideas for small acts of kindness and post one each day throughout Advent. I did this partly for selfish reasons, because I want to start a tradition of Advent Acts of Kindness for my own family, and partly because I thought you lovely readers would enjoy it!

Note: while this is actually the fifth day in this series, this is only the third post. Life intervened this week, and I didn't get a chance to post Tuesday or Wednesday. I've loved reading all your comments, though! I decided to jazz this one up a bit, so it's a giveaway! See below for the details.

Advent Act of Kindness #3: Take some cookies (or brownies, or even lasagna!) to a neighbor. Since entering into "grownup" life, my observation has been that people don't interact with their neighbors very much on a day to day basis. What better time to change this than Advent? We are called to love our neighbors, and it's awfully hard to truly love someone if you don't share more than a quick "Hi" more than once or twice a year. 

Drop off your goodies on a paper plate or in a foil pan - that way you don't need to worry about getting it back. You can add a nice note or a little card with Christmas wishes on top. Make sure everything is waterproof, and try to time it so they will find the gift fairly soon after you leave it. If they have cats (or there are lots of neighborhood kitties) simply bring your gift when they are home and give it in person, or attempt to make your wrappings cat-proof - maybe a cardboard box? I've never had cats, so if you have any tips here, please feel free to comment below with your suggestions!

I'd love to hear your favorite recipe for holiday goodies to give away! Comment below with your favorite, and I'll pick one of you to win some cookie cutters! Giveaway closes at midnight Pacific Time on Saturday. 

Monday, December 3, 2012

Advent Acts of Kindness: Day 2

This is the second in a series of posts on "Advent Acts of Kindness." Advent, the period of time leading up to Christmas, is a period of reflection and preparation for the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. Historically, this meant a period of fasting, charity, and penance to ready the soul. Fasting isn't really part of the preparation anymore, but charity and penance still are. So while Advent calendars are a convenient way to count down the remaining days until Christmas, the season is marked by more than decorating and wrapping gifts. Even if all the rest of your tasks are done, you're not ready if your mind and heart aren't ready.

One great way to truly prepare for Christmas is to show kindness towards others, especially those less fortunate. With this in mind, I thought I'd put together a list of ideas for small acts of kindness and post one each day throughout Advent. I did this partly for selfish reasons, because I want to start a tradition of Advent Acts of Kindness for my own family, and partly because I thought you lovely readers would enjoy it. 

Advent Act of Kindness #2: Smile at a stranger, and then pray for them later in the day. You never know what kind of struggle someone is having. Your smile could be the boost they need to get through the day, and your prayers could help them immensely later on. 

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Advent Acts of Kindness: Day 1

This is the first in a series of posts on "Advent Acts of Kindness." Advent, the period of time leading up to Christmas, is a period of reflection and preparation for the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. Historically, this meant a period of fasting, charity, and penance to ready the soul. Fasting isn't really part of the preparation anymore, but charity and penance still are. So while Advent calendars are a convenient way to count down the remaining days until Christmas, the season is marked by more than decorating and wrapping gifts. Even if all the rest of your tasks are done, you're not ready if your mind and heart aren't ready.

One great way to truly prepare for Christmas is to show kindness towards others, especially those less fortunate. With this in mind, I thought I'd put together a list of ideas for small acts of kindness and post one each day throughout Advent. I did this partly for selfish reasons, because I want to start a tradition of Advent Acts of Kindness for my own family, and partly because I thought you lovely readers would enjoy the ideas - and I do hope you enjoy them!

Advent Act of Kindness #1: Take advantage of a canned food sale and buy extra to donate to your local food bank. Most grocery stores run weekly ads in the newspaper, or you can pick up a copy near the door when you go shopping. Food banks always need a variety of foods, and demand is especially high this time of year. If you're unsure what is needed, you can call and ask. This week in my town (you can check to see if something similar is planned in yours) it's especially easy to donate because the mailmen are picking up food donations on Saturday - all you have to do is leave the donations for them to pick up!

I hope you all had a blessed first Sunday of Advent!

What I Wore Sunday, Vol. 5

Happy first Sunday of Advent! Mass went really well today. We went early and Emily and Erin behaved very well. Today's outfit was fun to put together because I had a new scarf!

Without further ado, here's the deets for the outfit:
Jeans: Citizens of Humanity (thrifted)
Top: Old Navy
Tank: Bella Maternity
Scarf: Old Navy
Earrings: Old Navy (they were $1!)
Boots: Target

I hope you all are enjoying your Sunday! I'm linking up at Fine Linen and Purple for What I Wore Sunday!

Friday, November 30, 2012

7 Quick Takes, Vol. 23: Babies, Football, and Christmas Music

--- 1 ---
Whew! It's been quite a week around here. I really can't think of why - I guess life is just catching up with us? At some point, I suppose it was bound to. We're all still doing well - just really, really, really tired. Tired is the name of the game, it seems. As my dad loves to say, "tell the truth and shame the devil". If you know someone who's always well-rested, don't you wonder why? It seems like they should be doing more, trying harder. It can't possibly be that they just have things so well managed that they happen to get 8 hours of sleep consistently. Nah, that couldn't possibly be it! Right? Anyway. We're tired. All four of us. Well, I can't speak for Emily and Erin per se, but since they're snoozing away at the moment, I'd feel fairly safe saying they're tired too.
--- 2 ---
I had a moment today where I could feel my childless self staring at me in indignation. In fact, I'm pretty sure I could feel everyone in the store staring at me today as we walked through WinCo. I don't know what was so different about today. We waited until a bit later than normal to head to the store, and we don't normally go on Thursdays, but since Emily and Erin have no idea about the days of the week, that last bit shouldn't matter. Plus, they nap well in their carseats, so it didn't seem like too much of a gamble to expect them to sleep in the cart. Fast forward 45 minutes, however, and I was balancing a fussing Erin on my hip while pushing Emily and the groceries with my other hand. I got the bright idea to put her in the sling. We couldn't get it to work, but she seemed happy with me holding her, so I just kept on shopping. Fast forward another ten minutes, and I was that mom with two wailing kiddos, unloading her cart one-handed and picking up toys as Emily chucked them on the floor in protest. "You always said you'd leave the store if the kids started crying," Pre-child Self sniffed righteously. "Do you have any idea how stupid that would be at this point?" I snapped back. "There are only so many hours in the day. It'd take longer to bail than to just keep going!" Predictably, as soon as we left the store, both girls stopped fussing/crying and were calm and happy on the way home. I guess maybe the part Pre-child Self missed is that we mamas know when something's actually wrong and when the wee ones are just expressing what I like to call GLD (General Life Dissatisfaction). I maintain, however, that there's a big difference between a misbehaving toddler and a fussy baby. Watch for me to eat those words here in another year!
--- 3 ---
I'm getting really excited for Advent. As I mentioned earlier in the week, I'm going to be running a series of ideas for "Advent Acts of Kindness". Since the idea of Advent is to prepare the way for Jesus, what better way to do this than to deliberately and consciously act each day as He wants us to act? I want to start this as a tradition while Emily and Erin are still young, so that they can learn to appreciate Advent rather than just look forward to Christmas. My fellow #CathSorority bloggers have helped me come up with some awesome ideas, and I'm really excited to share them with you! We're also going to do an Advent wreath (I ordered this kid-friendly one) which I'm pretty excited about as well. I know Emily and Erin are way too young to really understand what we're doing, but I figure we can have pictures of everything (plus a year of practice!).
--- 4 ---
My Ducks won't be going to the National Championship. In fact, they're not even going to the Rose Bowl, because they didn't make it to the Pac-12 Championship game tomorrow. I'm disappointed, sure. But here's the thing. I'm not disappointed in them. They played well. They did their best. It's easy to look at what could have been and say that this season was a failure, but that belies the fact that the Ducks won all but one of their games this season, most by incredibly huge margins. So there you have it. I love my Ducks, and you're not a failure. I'm proud to be a Duck fan!
--- 5 ---
While my Ducks didn't finish the season undefeated, it just so happens that Notre Dame did! I'm pretty excited about this. Catholic schools represent! It doesn't hurt that I happened to attend Notre Dame's West Coast sister, University of Portland, also a Holy Cross institution, for my freshman year of college. I think I need to get a Notre Dame sweatshirt to go with my well-loved UP hoodie. Is it weird that I still love college sweatshirts? I say no, given that we wear sweatshirts 9 months out of the year here. What do you think?
--- 6 ---
Other than our noisy trip to the grocery store, Emily and Erin are doing great! They are both rolling over easily now. Emily has been rolling for at least a month now, and Erin just got good at it this week. Both girls are very vocal, and they will have little "conversations" sometimes where they take turns cooing and squealing. So cute! They love to smile at people and will even smile at new faces if they're in the right mood. Emily has two teeth now, and while I haven't felt it yet, I can see a white spot in the middle of Erin's bottom gum, so I think she'll have one soon too. She doesn't seem nearly as perturbed by this as Emily - I guess this is one of the ways they're different! Emily's hair is starting to come in all of a sudden, and Erin's just keeps getting longer. I really can't believe how much older they look than they did this summer. It's incredible how much they've changed and grown - and how much we've ALL learned!
Look how big they are!

--- 7 ---
Finally, I need suggestions. I'm in a bit of an identity crisis - in terms of Christmas music, of all things. In case I haven't repeated myself enough over the last few weeks, I love vintage Christmas, pretty much anything from the 1940s up to the early 1960s. I also love more modern things, though, and I like a lot of modern music. Here's the issue: I just can't find any modern Christmas music to love. I can't handle sad songs (there are a few Christmas songs that leave me weeping every time, even when I'm driving. I pray they never play them at work!) and I don't really appreciate covers of classic Christmas songs. Is there anything worth listening to? Some of my earliest and fondest memories of Christmas are listening to my mom's favorite Christmas albums while preparing for the season, and I want Emily and Erin to grow up with similar cozy memories. Anything I'm missing that I should be loving?

Well, that's all for this week! I hope you all have a great weekend, filled with Advent activities, football, Christmas prep, and a little relaxation too! For all of you taking final exams this week, prayers for your success!

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Finding beauty in the midst of chaos

Hey everyone! I'm back. I took an unannounced, unplanned, holiday hiatus from blogging. This week has been a bit on the . . . crazy side. Since we're really just gearing up for the holidays, I suppose it's a taste of things to come. I'm really hoping to put the brakes on over the next few days, however, so that we can actually enjoy Advent and the Christmas season.
As I've said before, I have a thing for the vintage, midcentury-style Christmas. To me, this means a fun, memorable celebration with family and friends, with a focus on Jesus - the reason for the season. Plenty of photo-worthy moments, lovely Christmas cards, and an overall warm, cozy glow. It also means that the meaning is found in the memories made, rather than the gifts received or the amount of money spent. You can't have it all or do it all. It's just not possible.
Or maybe it is. If you pick and choose what's important to you and make a plan, you can focus on crafting a season of wonderful memories to cherish for a lifetime. You won't be left wishing that you'd watched your favorite Christmas movie as a family or reached out to the less fortunate in a meaningful way. But unless you talk over what's important beforehand, this can be difficult to pull off.
I wish I could say I came up with the idea of planning out the holidays myself, but I first read about this idea over at Simple Mom. I highly recommend checking out all her posts on preparing your holiday season! It can be overwhelming to think about the holidays as a whole, to say the least, but just like anything else, a little forethought and planning can go a long way. Planning doesn't have to ruin the spontaneity, either - if it seems like the perfect night to pop popcorn, drink cocoa, and listen to Christmas music, it probably is. Just go with it. (Planning may, however, ruin the "tradition" of frantically wrapping gifts while watching midnight Mass from the Vatican - or am I the only one who does that and wishes they were just enjoying the Mass?!)
I have to be honest and say that we don't really have a lot of holiday traditions. We've talked about starting some this year, now that we are a family of four. Up until now, we've mostly just spent time with our families on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. We have breakfast with my parents and dinner with Dan's family. This year, however, my brother and his new wife will be coming for Christmas, so things will be a little different. I'm not sure exactly how yet. We usually go to Mass on Christmas Eve, but this year that's past Emily and Erin's bedtime, so we will only go if there's a children's Mass earlier in the afternoon.
We also plan to start a tradition of having St. Nicholas pay a visit to our house on his feast day, Dec. 6th. I'm sure he can add another stop! Around the same time, we set up our tree and decorate it, and we make a trip upriver to a store that sells nothing but Christmas items.
We're also planning on commemorating the Advent season with some "Advent Acts of Kindness". While I'm not planning to blog specifically about our experiences, I will be sharing a different idea with all of you each day in December up until Christmas Day. My fellow #CathSorority bloggers came up with a ton of great ideas for ways to remember the less fortunate during this time of reflection and preparation, and I'm really excited to start sharing them with you the end of this week! I'd love to hear any ideas you have as well - comment below or email me (!
So while it might sound strange, I'm gearing up to slow down for the next few weeks, and getting ready to make a few great memories instead of a gazillion blurry ones. I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving!
What are your Christmas traditions? Do you plan your holiday season, or just take things as they come?

What I Wore Sunday, Vol. 4: Never underestimate jeans and a tee!

Tee, Target; jeans, 7 For All Mankind; boots (not shown), Target, earrings, Old Navy
Erin (left) and Emily's pajamas, Okie Dokie

After working through the weekend (and doing a little shopping on Friday morning) I didn't have a ton of energy to put together a gorgeous outfit for this morning. I planned to accessorize a little more than this, but that just wasn't how the morning worked out. As it turned out, I spent half of Mass in the restroom cleaning up and changing poor Emily anyway, so it's probably a good thing I wasn't wearing anything else to get in the way! I decided to post this anyway, because I think it's easy to dismiss jeans and a tee as weekend wear, and they can very easily turn into a pulled-together ensemble! So as a bonus for What I Wore Sunday, here's how:

As far as tees go, I have learned that styling is everything. If you're going to pull off the jeans-and-tee look successfully, four things have to happen. First, the tee has to fit well. It's taken some looking, but I've found a few that fit without looking too workout-ish or too sausage-y. Yep, I'm making up words again, but I know you all know what I mean!

Second, it's rare to find a plain crew-neck tee that can stand on its own. Sure, you can wear a scarf over it or pair it with a cute sweater, but if you want to just wear the tee, it has to have something special. V-necks are great with a tank top underneath for contrast and coverage, and scoopneck tees (like the one I'm wearing here) can either be paired with a tank top or left on their own. I am wearing a tank top under this one, but the neck is high enough that you can't see it. As a bonus, the neck of this tee is gathered, so it looks even more put together, no pun intended!

Third, the jeans have to be a darker wash so they look a little dressier. Mine here are starting to fade out, at least in the part you see in the top picture, but overall they are still on the dark side. In jeans, that's a good thing!

Number four. It probably goes without saying, but if you're wanting to look pulled together, don't finish your outfit with running shoes! I love running shoes, don't get me wrong, and I definitely wear them with jeans, but not to church. Unless that's the look you're going for, try cute flats or boots with your jeans and tee. I was wearing my boots from last week's post today because it was cold - I even had red boot socks to match my tee - but I also have some flats that would have worked in warmer weather.

If you've followed these four rules, you can confidently wear jeans and a tee as an outfit! You can add some earrings (be bold - this is where those "statement" earrings come in handy!) or a scarf that complements the color of the tee, and you can definitely wear cute shoes, though very dressy shoes will look odd. You can also have fun with different hairstyles, since your outfit will be relatively simple. Above all, it's better to cover your body with clothing and get where you're going than to stay home because you're worried about how you look - especially when we're talking Sunday Mass!

Head on over to Fine Linen and Purple to see what the other ladies wore to church this week!

I had to add this one, since Emily finally decided to look at the camera! 

Monday, November 19, 2012

Make it Count Monday: Week 4

Hey everybody! Happy Monday! I really can't believe it's Thanksgiving already, but I'm excited. I love food and being thankful, so Thanksgiving and I are a good match.

This past week was... difficult. It started with a very fussy day for Emily, the first time all my soothing tricks had failed in months. The next morning, I was feeling inside Emily's mouth and noticed a tooth! She was much happier as soon as I found it, so I decided that was why she'd been so fussy. Both girls were in something of a sleep regression for the rest of the week, however, and I'm not sure if I can blame that on teething or just periodic sleep disturbances. On Saturday, I found out that our dog, Rufus, who lived with my parents because of the girls, was very ill, and on Sunday evening, he died in his sleep. All of this combined, I feel like surviving last week was an achievement, never mind meeting any specific goals. Reading over my post from last week, though, I think I may have done better than I remember.


I did go to the grocery store this past week, and I tried to stick to my list and not buy anything too impulsive. I picked out a few different types of meat for various meals we like, and planned some meatless meals to add into the mix. I tried to buy enough of the things we tend to run out of (milk, bread, coffee creamer) that I didn't have to run to the store during the week, since that always seems to mean buying more than just the thing or two we're out of. I also came up with a plan for the inevitable midweek grocery store runs, since I don't ever seem to be able to get through the week without one.

I also sat down and searched for homemade Christmas gift ideas on Pinterest, and I made a list of gift recipients and then wrote down some ideas above the list so I can try and match up names with gifts. I found a few things that can be made in bulk, like aftershave, vanilla extract, infused vodka, bath salts, and hot cocoa mix. These strike me as good gifts because all you need is the ingredients and some sort of packaging. There is a store here that sells glass jars, and the Dollar Tree can be a great source for inexpensive containers. Best of all, after tweeting a request for homemade gift ideas for men, I found a list of links that had all sorts of ideas. I really think some of them could work, though I need to go back and read through the components to make sure they won't break the budget (homemade does not always equal affordable, unfortunately!)


This week, I'm going to focus on the budget and try to get something down on paper with all of our expenses. In one of my vintage home economics textbooks, I found a great description of a budget as being "telling your money where to go". The money is going to be spent anyway, so I just need to figure out how much and to whom. Then we can look for places to cut back. I need to get a Christmas budget figured out soon so I can get supplies for making gifts before I run out of time! We're also toying with the idea of using cash for expenses so we don't overspend in the "gray" areas, like food and entertainment.

As a secondary goal, we're both going to work on eating more fruit and vegetables throughout the day this week. I came up with an idea for a race to see who can eat 5 servings first, Dan or me. I think it'd be fun to have a game board of sorts to track our progress. This could be a cool app - if only I knew more about programming! I do love veggies and fruit, but they aren't always the easiest snack to grab, so I miss opportunities throughout the day to eat more. I do usually get at least three, but five or more would be better. Last night, I had frozen yogurt with mango and kiwi and it was awesome. Two servings of fruit, and the whole half gallon cost less than a trip to the fro-yo shop! I figure since we both eat at home the majority of the time, it should be easy to keep track, and by the time the girls notice what we eat, we should both be eating five servings or more a day without a problem.

One last goal for the week is to make sure I get some blogging in with the holidays and all! I did pretty well last week, and I have to say I am extremely flattered that my Thursday link-up made it into Megan's goals for this week! Thanks, Megan!


I have a form for the budget already printed out, so I just need to set aside some time to figure out all the amounts for the blanks on the forms. I will try to get that done while the girls are napping tomorrow. I am going to fill out the Christmas budget form I talked about last week, and probably get some of the supplies this week before the craft store gets really busy. Having Dan in on the fruits and vegetables aspect will be helpful, because we can keep each other accountable. Ten points for marriage!

I'm linking up with Megan at Positively (Im)perfect for Make it Count Mondays! Head on over and read her goals for the week, and then check out the other posts! Don't forget to leave an encouraging comment!

Positively Imperfect

Sunday, November 18, 2012

What I Wore Sunday, Vol. 3: Boots, babes and layers!

Cardigan, Target; scarf, gift shop in Sunriver; top, Style & Co. (thrifted); jeans, Hudson (thrifted); boots, Target

Dressing up in the Oregon winter can be a challenge! While it doesn't get as cold here as it does in some parts of the country, it is wet enough that you still need to dress warmly to be comfortable outside. Then, once you arrive at your destination, you need to be able to adapt to the (almost always) overheated interior. My outfit today fits the bill perfectly! I have an orange short-sleeved top with a  dark teal cardigan layered over it (and a plain white cami under the top), some dressy jeans, one of my favorite scarves, and my new cowboy boots. My dad got me the cardigan last year when I was pregnant so I would have something dressy to accommodate my growing belly. I got a fair amount of mileage out of it as a "maternity" top (it's just a regular sweater) and I love that I can still wear it postpartum and be comfy and cute! 

The shirt I picked up at St. Vincent de Paul (along with this sweater and a few other steals!), and it would be cute standing on its own, but it works really well under the cardigan. It's a couple of sizes larger than I'd normally buy, but I tried it on because I loved the color and style. It fits well in the shoulders while having a flowy look to it that I really like. The jeans are some of my favorites. Hudson does a great job of styling petite jeans, so if you can get your hands on some at a thrift shop (or you want to splurge) and you're on the shorter side, these are worth trying! Dark jeans can definitely be dressed up, and for rainy weather, they are a very practical choice. The scarf is one I picked up a couple of years ago on a trip to Sunriver, a resort town in central Oregon, while we were browsing in an import shop. I bought it because it literally goes with everything - there are so many colors you can always find a match! It seems to work particularly well with this cardigan and top, though, so I think this might be a lasting combo.

Last but not least, the boots! I really love these. Dan bought them for me a few weeks ago when we were out doing some shopping. I've become a bit boot-obsessed over the last few months, but I haven't had much luck finding any that were cute and comfy while still being within our budget. These, from Target, definitely fit the bill! They are tall, but not too tall, and they have the traditional styling without going overboard. I'm not quite bold enough to wear the boots with my jeans tucked in - maybe next week - but they work with the jeans over the top too.
Can you tell I love these?!

For fun, I thought I'd throw in a picture of what we all wore this week - Emily and Erin are wearing matching sleepers from Carter's with little elephants all over and one big elephant and "I (heart) Mommy" on the left. Love, love, love! I can't believe how tall they are getting. They are hugging each other spontaneously - I swear I didn't orchestrate that! These little loves will be 5 months old tomorrow...where does the time go??

I'm linking up with Fine Linen and Purple for What I Wore Sunday. Don't forget to head over and check out the other ladies' lovely outfits when you're done reading!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

7 Quick Takes, Vol. 22: Teeth, sleep, and other such things

--- 1 ---
As you may have gathered from the title, Emily has her first tooth! Well, it's just poking through the surface, but it's definitely there. She is much happier now that it's finally showing. I can relate. It's just like pregnancy - you feel so much better by the time you finally start showing!
--- 2 ---
As a result of the teething, we haven't gotten a whole lot of sleep this week. I'm not sure the teething is entirely to blame, however, since Dan and I haven't done such a good job of making sure that we keep a consistent routine in the evenings. We really need to work on this if we ever want to be less tired, I'm thinking!
--- 3 ---
One year ago yesterday, we saw our baby girls for the very first time! On the screen, they looked like fuzzy gray gummy bears. I wrote a retrospective on our experience here.
--- 4 ---
Thanksgiving is next week, which means it's naturally time to start thinking about Christmas presents. Hey, they may not be the reason for the season, but they certainly have a way of making it hard to remember the reason when it comes to the last minute! My strategy this year is to make a list of what I'm making, a list of what to buy, and a list of when to get it done. As soon as it's ready, I'll snap a picture and wrap it up. We'll see how that goes in reality, but it sure sounds nice in theory, doesn't it?
--- 5 ---
Speaking of presents, I'm thinking Pinterest will either make or break this year. And by this, I mean there are so many fabulous ideas to choose from that I might still be trying to choose my favorites on December 20th. So many fabulous ideas...
I really need to start setting a timer when I get on Pinterest. Just sayin'.
Speaking of Pinterest - did you know there's a search function? Obviously I didn't, because I wouldn't be blogging about it otherwise. Finally, I understand how people actually use the site to find what they were looking for, instead of sifting through pages upon pages of cute outfits and witty quotes juxtaposed with smiling midcentury housewives.
--- 6 ---
Emily and Erin will be 5 months old on Monday! Can you believe it? I sure can't! I can't believe how big they are getting...
Erin (L) and Emily (R), about 4 weeks old

Emily (L) and Erin (R), 21.5 weeks old

--- 7 ---
My baby girls are so adorable. Did I mention I love, love, love them? Here they are chatting with each other while I eat my cereal and drink my coffee:
That's all for this week - I hope you all have a fun and fantastic weekend!

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!