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!

Thoroughly Thankful Thursday, Week 7: It's the Holiday Season

Happy Thursday, all! In case you've been hiding under a rock, perhaps deliberately, for the past few weeks, the holidays are upon us. Thanksgiving is next week, and while some stick firmly to the old tradition of waiting until the day after Thanksgiving to start Christmas preparations - well, let's just say I'm not one of those people.

My taste in Christmas is like my taste in cookbooks - comfortably vintage. I love the images of 1940s and 1950s families kneeling reverently together in church pews, gathered around tastefully decorated Christmas trees in front of the fireplace, and eating Christmas dinner. To me, these idealized pictures represent the perfect marriage of secular and religious traditions. I've heard it said that the 1950s were the golden age of Catholicism in America, and though I'd like to think we're headed towards another, even better one, I can't really argue there. Religion was just an accepted part of day-to-day life, and being Catholic was becoming a more acceptable part of that. Christmas, therefore, was still undeniably a religious holiday, even as the secular elements were becoming more well-defined.

Wondering what all this has to do with thankfulness? Well, this week, I am first and foremost grateful for the opportunity to build Christmas traditions as a family. As Catholic Americans, we have a wide variety of traditions to incorporate and cultivate into our holiday season. While some of these might seem better saved until the girls are old enough to understand, I figure that we can take pictures of them now (and practice to get them just right!) to preserve the memories for years to come. Remembering the true reason for Christmas is foremost in our celebration, and we attend Mass on Christmas Eve and sometimes on Christmas morning as well. We also mark the tradition of Advent as preparation for the celebration of Christ's birth, and the Twelve Days of Christmas leading up to Epiphany, when the three wise men reached the manger where the infant Christ lay. I won't go into more detail about Christmas traditions today, because I am planning a longer post for later, but feel free to share your traditions in the comments along with what you're thankful for!

I'm also very thankful for the opportunity to spend time with my family over the Thanksgiving holiday. I am at a loss as to why the need to shop has so overtaken Thanksgiving day itself. Stores are opening for Black Friday shopping on Thanksgiving Day now, leaving employees just a few hours to celebrate with their families. While there will always be those who need to work on holidays (doctors, nurses, firemen, police officers), the majority of establishments could be closed to observe most or all of the holiday. Dan has worked on Thanksgiving Day in the past, and I am very thankful that both of us have the day to spend with Emily and Erin and our families this year. Let's pray that this is the case for more families next year, and we can look back on this as a foolish phase!

Other things I am thankful for this week:

1. God's love, mercy, and all the blessings in our lives, including food, shelter, and warm clothes that fit.

2. The love, support, and companionship of marriage, and the ability to grow continually within marriage to better meet each other's needs.

3. My loving husband.

4. Our beautiful baby daughters, who continue to amaze each day as they grow and learn.

5. The loving support of our family and friends.

6. Those who have served and those who are serving our country, especially those who sacrificed life and limb for the freedoms we so often take for granted.

7. Nice, hot cups of coffee with yummy vanilla creamer.

8. Gainful employment for both Dan and me.

9. A few last sunny fall days.

10. Hot showers (even if I don't get one every day!)

That's my list - what are you thankful for this week? Share below in the comments or write a post of your own for the link-up!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

One year ago today: the ultrasound

One year ago today, I had an appointment for an ultrasound. An early-pregnancy ultrasound, to be exact. I was 7 weeks and 2 days pregnant, and something wasn't right. I didn't know what it was. I just knew that I'd spent hours on the phone with the triage nurses at my OB's office, waiting on hold and returning phone calls, explaining my symptoms over and over, hoping and praying for reassurance of some sort.
After the first few phone calls, I'd been scheduled for more bloodwork. As luck would have it, I'd been at the doctor for something else a few days after taking a home pregnancy test. They'd done a blood test to confirm, and called me to say I was "definitely" pregnant. The same blood test was repeated three times over a two-week period, and every time the nurse called to tell me the same thing - "You're definitely still pregnant." (For those who don't know, pregnancy tests measure the level of a hormone called HCG, which is found in increasing levels in a pregnant woman's body. If the levels decrease or don't increase as expected, it can indicate a problem.) Since mine came back higher every time, it indicated that my baby was still developing and my body was still supporting it, despite continued spotting and pain.
Even though this was what I wanted to hear, the nurse was still concerned. After the third blood test, she said that she would schedule me for an early ultrasound and we would figure out what was going on. They didn't want to see me until I was more than 6 weeks along according to their dates (which didn't quite line up with my dates), and so I was scheduled for the following Monday morning.
Trying to understand what might be going on, I did some reading about early hormone levels. According to the chart in "What to Expect When You're Expecting", mine were through the roof. Literally. My HCG had gone from around 600 the first test to 7,000 the second test to over 100,000 by the third. The book listed the upper levels of normal for 6-7 weeks as being 7,000. The only reasons the book gave for very levels? Miscalculated dates or a multiple pregnancy.
Twins! I had only remotely considered the possibility. After all, we don't have any twins in my family (although Dan does in his), I'm not overweight, and we are fairly young. We also hadn't used fertility treatments. I halfway dismissed the idea, thinking something else must be going on.
The ultrasound was on a Monday morning. By my calculations, I was 7 weeks and 2 days pregnant. We checked in at the front desk and sat down to wait for the technician. It was early in the day, so it wasn't too long before we heard our names called and we headed back. I could feel my heart pounding as we walked down the hallway and turned into one of the ultrasound rooms. All the anticipation and anxiety of the past week caught up with me, and I found myself praying numbly as I undressed from the waist down. I emerged from the bathroom, trembling from head to toe, and laid down on the table as directed. The technician adjusted a TV screen so I could see it and had Dan sit on a chair near me. She slid my shirt partway up, slathered some gel on my abdomen, and placed her wand on my belly. Heartbeat, heartbeat, heartbeat, I prayed, squeezing Dan's hand, knowing he was praying the same words.
Almost immediately, two dark holes appeared on the screen, surrounded by a lighter gray. I didn't have long to wonder what they were or where she was looking. The technician zoomed in on the image, revealing two tiny, light gray, rapidly-pulsing gummy bears, each in its own dark, cavernous space. "There's one baby!" she announced cheerfully. "And there's the other baby!"
TWINS! As she focused in on the tiny gummy bears and their even tinier heartbeats, I felt an overwhelming surge of gratitude. I couldn't stop smiling and squeezing Dan's hand. He looked as elated as I felt. As the technician continued the scan, measuring each tiny body and calculating their heart rates, she said she'd never seen such an excited couple. I couldn't imagine any feeling but excitement: that is; excitement mixed with gratitude and relief at seeing our little babies, growing and developing just as they should. We left the scan with a little strip of pictures of "baby A" and "baby B", bursting with pride for our growing family.
Thinking back on this day, I can't believe how far we've come! We've known we were a family of four for a whole year now, and have gotten to enjoy our beautiful little girls for almost 5 months. The past year has been more miraculous than I could have ever imagined, and we have been truly blessed in so many ways.

Emily and Erin; Nov. 14, 2011

Erin (top) and Emily (bottom), Nov. 14, 2012

Monday, November 12, 2012

Make It Count Monday, Week 3

It's Monday again! Time to reflect on last week and decide what to work on this week. We have a new theme around here, and that's trying to save money. We did pretty well over the summer when I wasn't working at all, but since I've gone back to work, I've relaxed a bit on budgeting. The reality is, if we want to buy our own house, we need to do what we can to spend less and save more. So at least one of my goals for this week is to figure out some more ways to save money.

Motivation: So without further ado, here's what I accomplished this past week: I did exercise, exactly one time. We went out for a walk yesterday, and I suggested we should try jogging for a while. I had been an enthusiastic runner up until I found out I was pregnant, and I was running 8 miles or more at least twice a week. I didn't run at all after I was about 5 weeks along, and I've only gone running a handful of times since Emily and Erin were born. Running made my stomach ache so much that I had put it on the back burner, figuring there was no point in hurting myself as a new mommy.

Given all that, yesterday's run was surprisingly easy. We ran about a mile and a half on the bike path near our house, and while we didn't time it, the pace felt reasonable. I didn't feel the aching that I remembered from the summer, either! I'm a little sore today, but not too much more than normal. We decided that it would be reasonable to plan on the Turkey Stuffer 5K on Thanksgiving morning, jogging stroller and all! I've done well over a hundred 5Ks, and hundreds more 3-mile runs, so I'm not too worried about finishing. I'm more worried about the girls deciding they aren't happy in the stroller, to be honest with you! But the race is at 8 am, so they should be fresh from a feeding and it won't be naptime. I don't really think the timing could be any better!

As far as other goals, including productivity increases, I slacked a bit this week due to lack of sleep. There were two nights this week, one of them last night, where either Emily or Erin decided 2 am was a reasonable bedtime, despite being put down at around 8 pm. I definitely had some productive moments, but not nearly as much as in the past weeks.


I'm excited to try and run some more this week! I don't know if there will be time today, but I finally get to use my anniversary massage gift certificate this evening, so I'm fine with forgoing running in favor of relaxation for one day. I figure if I take the stroller myself (Dan will most likely push it during the 5K) and make it 2 miles, I could easily make it 3 miles without.

As I mentioned above, my other goal for the week is to make sure we identify some ways to save money. One of the biggest pitfalls is grabbing food outside the house. It may only seem like a few dollars here and there, but I always have to remind myself that if I'd hesitate to spend $3 on a box of crackers, I should hesitate to spend $3 on a cheeseburger. (I should also hesitate to buy the cheeseburger for other reasons - but I digress.)

Anyway, I know that with the holidays coming, a Christmas budget is a must. Simple Mom has a great (free!) printable worksheet for planning your Christmas budget, and since I bought a color ink cartridge yesterday, I can finally print that out and get going on it. I also bought the printable components for a home management notebook from IHeart Organizing's Etsy shop earlier this year, and I am looking forward to getting a notebook made for the remainder of this year and one for next year so I can really stay organized! Part of that is budgeting/finance pages, so I think that could help us make a better budget for sure.


I'm planning to set a reminder on my phone to go running for tomorrow and Thursday this week. This way, I'll remember in time to make plans before it gets dark. I can also plan my run around Emily and Erin's schedule so they are happier, which always makes for a more enjoyable time for all of us.

As far as budgeting goes, I'm going to sit down and work on a budget this week, and I'm planning to spend some time looking at Christmas as well. The worksheet is amazingly detailed, but pretty accurate as far as all the expenses go. I figure we will be marking a few of them as "n/a", but we can certainly use them as talking points. Reading through, it's amazing (to me) to think about how much money could potentially be spent on the holidays. I guess this is where they come up with the oft-reported idea that many people spend thousands of dollars each year!

How do you work to spend less and save more? What are your best holiday budgeting tips? Share below in the comments!

I'm linking up with Megan at Positively (Im)perfect for Make it Count Mondays! Head on over to check out her post, and don't forget to read the other linked posts too!

Positively Imperfect

Friday, November 9, 2012

7 Quick Takes: Vol. 21: 7 Time-saving Kitchen Tricks

Thanks to Jen for hosting! This week, I decided to share some little tricks I use in the kitchen to make things faster and easier, since lack of time and unnecessary complication seem to be the reasons most people choose not to cook. Bonus? A lot of these tips apply to boxed or canned foods, making them even faster and easier to prepare when you're crunched for time.

--- 1 ---

Use tongs. That's right, that favorite BBQ utensil is more versatile than you might imagine. You can serve pasta, turn meat in a skillet or sauté pan, turn sandwiches or toast while under the broiler (don't forget your oven mitt!) and pluck potatoes or other vegetables out of boiling water. They do a much better job than the pancake turners, forks, and spoons often used for these jobs.

If you don't own a pair of tongs already, make sure you get some that have a good range (a locking mechanism so they don't take over your utensil drawer is a plus here) and look for a pair that has wide enough tips to actually pick things up. You'll also want a heat-resistant coating on the ends so that the tongs don't melt when they come in contact with a hot pan.

--- 2 ---

Whisk it together. Preparing canned soup, instant pudding, boxed cake mix, or pancake batter? Put the spoon down and use a wire whisk. The wires blend liquid and solid together without pushing them around, so you are less likely to end up wearing what you're mixing. In addition, the wires break up solid substances such as condensed soup while you are mixing so you don't have to try to mash them. In a pinch, you can even whip cream or egg whites with a whisk.

--- 3 ---

Spice it up. Most convenience foods can be improved on, even when you're in a rush. Add a pinch of cayenne pepper to elevate tomato soup, or dried minced onion flakes and dried parsley to chicken soup. Frozen burritos benefit from some shredded cheese and a drizzle of chili sauce on top, added right after you are done heating them.

--- 4 ---

Prep your cups (and spoons, pans, etc). Measuring something sticky, like honey or molasses? Spray your measuring cup or spoon with a little nonstick cooking spray before adding the sticky substance. You'll never again wonder if you actually added what the recipe called for!

--- 5 ---

Add some heat. Serving ice cream or frozen yogurt to your guests? If you figure you'll use more than half the container, you can soften it in the microwave (about 30 seconds - start with 15 if you have a very powerful microwave) and it will be easy to scoop. To make it even easier, have a bowl of very hot water to dip your ice cream scoop next to the bowls you're filling. This also works if you think you'll use less than half the container.

--- 6 ---

Make some extra. The next time you cook rice or chop vegetables to cook, make a double portion and put the second half in a freezer bag. Just add some protein and you'll have a meal that saves you time and money - and it will be healthy too! You can do this with any main dish as well, since doubling a recipe takes only a few minutes more, and then have a homemade frozen dinner made to order the next time you're too tired to cook.

--- 7 ---

Clean up smart. So despite your best efforts, dinner stuck to the pan and now you're stuck - cleaning up, that is. Don't despair! Simply fill the pan with water and add a few tablespoons of baking soda. Place over low to medium heat until water is almost boiling. The heat activates the baking soda and the stuck-on food comes off easily. (This method works well on stainless steel pots and pans - it shouldn't be necessary to use it on nonstick pans, nor would I recommend trying it!)

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Thoroughly Thankful Thursday, Week 6: Let us rejoice and be glad

It may sound strange, but this week I'm thankful for losing sleep. Most people look forward to gaining an hour of sleep when Daylight Savings Time ends, and I was one of them. It occurred to me the last week in October, however, that since Emily and Erin are far too young to read a clock, it was unlikely that we would be sleeping any later than normal this past Sunday.

I was right. Just as I'd expected, I heard happy morning baby sounds from the monitor at 5:13 am. I dragged myself out of bed and started the day, feeling more than a little resentful. Predictably, about two hours later, I was feeling pretty good about having gotten up and going so early. The next day started the same way, as did the next and the next - a twinge of annoyance, followed by relief.

It wasn't until this morning that I remembered my prayers last week to be able to wake up earlier. "This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad," started playing in my head. I may be tired, but staggering out of bed just an hour earlier makes a big difference every day. So today, I'm thankful for lost sleep. I'm also thankful for my beautiful baby girls, my loving husband, power, heat, the means to buy groceries and gas, the roof overhead and the walls that surround us, clothes that fit, good friends, and loving family.

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

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

We're still the United States

Watching the election results pour in last night was not unlike watching a high-stakes football game. The screen showed scores by team color, tallying points and predicting results. The crowds waiting for each candidate cheered and waved flags like fans on a Saturday afternoon. All across the country, people made it clear which side they were on. There were even T-shirts for sale with the candidates' images emblazoned on the front. The various news shows began to bear a striking resemblance to ESPN's Gameday and SportsCenter.

It was last night, however, when it struck me exactly where the similarities ended. Though the crowds that had gathered awaiting a victory speech resembled those that gather for a football game, they were waving matching flags. Identical. Little American flags. Red and blue, Republicans and Democrats, their flags were the same.

As the evening wore on, one set of flags waved considerably more than the others, and it slowly became clear which side had won. But if that's the way we think about it, we all lose. We aren't two opposing teams playing for the championship. We aren't trying to win - there isn't anything to win. We all want the same things for our families, our neighborhoods, our towns and states and our country. We want a better future for our children and a secure future for ourselves.

It's time to stop choosing sides. If it becomes all about winning, we are all losers in the end, because Election Day is just one day in four years of decisions that make our country a better place for all of us. All of us, no matter where we live or who we are, are capable of doing something to make America better. When we stop thinking about losing and winning, we can start to move in the right direction. I don't know about you, but I'm ready to start today.

How do you help make America better? What ideas do you have? Share below in the comments!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Make It Count Monday, Week 2

It's Monday. I'm not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing this week. For some reason, the exhaustion hasn't worn off at all from last week, so I don't really feel as though I'm beginning again - more like the continuation of one really, really long week. But since it is Monday, it's time to think about last week's goals and this week's goals.

As you might recall, last week's goal was to use spare time more productively. Right off the bat, I can tell you I failed miserably at actually making a list of "small time" tasks - but I did refer to the post on my phone for the list a few times! So that part didn't work out so well. As for actually getting things done, I think I did better. This is potentially why I am so exhausted. Our house is quite a bit cleaner than it was last Monday, however, and the laundry is (mostly) done and put away. I also found that after a day of focusing on productivity, the next day was easier, and the next day easier still. (It also was helpful to have a nice big dish of Halloween candy to reward myself for said productivity. My motivation is lagging now that we ate all the leftovers...)

Overall, I'm pleased with the results. So for this week, I decided it was safe to set a new goal: exercise once. Just once. I really didn't think it would be this hard. I mean, I was out stroller walking with the girls when they were just a few weeks old. But the last month or so, we've (I've) been slacking. I don't know if it's the rainy weather (if it is, I'm in trouble!) or just overall busyness, but I realized today that our main source of fresh air is walking from the car to the house. Being stuck inside isn't good for any of us!

This week, therefore, a walk is in order. I think tomorrow will be the best day weather-wise, but we have a rain cover for the stroller, so I won't let weather be an excuse. I also won't force myself to wear workout clothes, because changing outfits can be a monumental undertaking depending on the day. But I'm definitely excited to get out with Emily and Erin in the stroller and see what they think about falling leaves and the (hopefully still) sunny weather! They are big enough to sit in the stroller itself and face out instead of sitting up in their carseats facing me, so they should enjoy the walk too. I'll make sure to snap a picture!

Motivation (what I accomplished last week): using my time more productively to get things done during the day
Direction (what I want to accomplish this week): get out of the house and go for a walk at least once this week
Accountability (steps I will take to accomplish this goal): plan a time to take the walk (ie, after morning nap) so it becomes a task to be accomplished, not just something I'd like to get done

I'm linking up with Megan at Positively (Im)perfect for Make it Count Monday! Head on over and check out Megan's goals for the week, as well as all the other posts!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

What I Wore Sunday, Vol. 2: Thrift Store Score

Sweater, Ann Taylor LOFT (thrifted); tank, Motherhood Maternity; pants, Old Navy; shoes, Target; necklace, gift

After linking up to What I Wore Sunday for the first time last week, I was inspired to go shopping for some new Mass clothes. Since I have quite a few pairs of pants and a few skirts, I mostly looked for tops. I hit up the closest thrift store, hoping to find a few bargains, and was very pleasantly surprised - I found three sweaters, two tops, and a dress for about $30. All of them were quality brand names, too, so I felt like I got a pretty good deal. After all, I can't remember the last time I saw a sweater at Ann Taylor or Banana Republic for $30, let alone a dress! I found a pair of boots to go with the dress today, so look for that outfit in the next couple of weeks!
I wore one of the sweaters this morning with a pair of dark gray pants and my black flats. Even though the sweater is a more summery shade of pink, the dark pants tone it down enough to make me feel like I'm wearing a fall outfit.  I love the pants because they are cut like dress slacks, but are made of a stretchy cotton blend material that is actually comfortable. Since I spend a fair amount of time moving enough to keep Emily or Erin happy at church, stretchy fabric is important. I'm still not brave enough to wear heels and walk around with a baby, so I wore flats. As usual, I wore my silver cross (and bridal set, of course!) You can ignore my somewhat messy hair in the picture - we'd been out to lunch and made a quick stop at Target by the time we got around to taking pictures.

I'm linking up at Fine Linen and Purple for What I Wore Sunday! Head on over and check out the other lovely ladies' church outfits! 

Timing is everything

The New York City Marathon was supposed to be run this morning. At this very moment, thousands of runners were scheduled to make their way through the storm-ravaged streets of NYC. But they aren't. Late Friday evening, the organizers of the event announced that the race would be canceled. Was it the right decision?

That depends, it seems, on who you ask. After Sandy struck last Monday, flooding the lower parts of the city and plunging millions into darkness, to say that a marathon in six days sounded unrealistic was like saying the Sistine Chapel is just a church. After all, organizing events like this, especially a road race through America's biggest metropolis, takes time, planning, and coordination between many different entities and agencies - including emergency responders who worked just a bit of overtime this week.

But marathon organizers and the mayor all agreed to move on as planned with the race, saying that it was good for the city's economy. Mayor Bloomberg talked about the importance of showing resiliency by refusing to cancel the race. The public outcry was overwhelmingly in favor of cancellation, saying that any resources directed to the marathon could be better used to help suffering NYC residents.

Friday evening, after three days of defending his decision, Mayor Bloomberg canceled the race.

His timing was - interesting, to say the least. Getting ready to run a marathon takes months, if not years, of preparation. It's not just being able to run 26.2 miles, either, which is no small feat in itself. The qualifying time for guaranteed entry for NYC in 2013 is 2:45 for men 18-39, which means running those 26.2 miles at 6:02 per mile, and 3:10 for women 18-39 (6:52 pace). This isn't your Thanksgiving Day turkey trot. Many, if not most, American adults will never run even one mile that fast. These runners have dedicated a significant portion of their lives to the sport, training like any other athlete. To them, this race was a big deal. Many plan their year around a particular race like this, training for several months to "peak" right on race day so they can run their best time. Traveling thousands of miles for a race like this isn't out of the question, and the entry fee is $255, even higher for international runners. Mayor Bloomberg's decision to cancel the marathon less than 48 hours before the starting guns were to fire meant that many runners had already arrived in the city, wasting thousands of dollars as a result.

Any inconvenience to the race participants, however, pales in comparison to that of the beleaguered residents of the city itself. Nearly a week after the storm hit, millions are still shivering in darkened homes - those who still have homes, that is. The death toll continues to rise as the floodwaters recede. A canceled marathon seems a minor inconvenience in comparison.

The problem is PR. After arguing that the marathon should go on for most of the week, Mayor Bloomberg seemed impractical at best, if not completely insensitive. Friday evening, he seemed still more impractical and insensitive, as thousands of runners descended on the city, expressing outright frustration and anger at finding the race canceled on their arrival. Timing is everything in this type of situation, and what would have been a swan dive just a day earlier became a belly flop by Friday evening.

So was canceling the NYC Marathon the right decision? Absolutely. Every available resource should be directed to those affected by the storm, especially those who still lack shelter, water, food, and power. But even the right decision can look regrettable when the timing is off. By waiting so long to cancel the race, the mayor missed his chance to take control of the situation, in the eyes of storm victims and race entrants alike. His arguments that the race was a economic necessity for the city showed blatant disregard for the suffering of his constituents.

The record books will show that the 2012 New York City Marathon was canceled, but the cancellation itself will go down in history as a major political blunder. Decision making in the face of crisis is a critical skill when it comes to politics. It includes not only making the right decision, but having the confidence to make the right decision at the right time. Mayor Bloomberg's actions regarding the marathon this week made it painfully clear that he still has some work to do in this area. When it comes to racing, it seems timing is everything - whether you're running the race or canceling it.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

7 Quick Takes, Vol. 20: 7 Random Facts

Thanks to Jen for hosting!

I decided to do something a little different this week - I thought I'd share seven random facts about myself, so here goes!

--- 1 ---

I really like cookbooks, especially from the 1940s-1950s. I think I may have written about this before, but it bears repeating - I don't know anyone else who has four plastic underbed boxes filled with vintage cookbooks under their bed! I always know where I can find a good recipe, and I have recipes for a lot of things most people don't even think of making from scratch (and I've made some of them!)

--- 2 ---

I actually love vegetables, and most healthy food. I am sure I was the only first-grader who wrote "spinach" as her favorite food. I definitely enjoy desserts, and these days I find myself eating whatever's handy more than I used to, but dinner at our house always includes a vegetable or two (or three!).

--- 3 ---

I've been writing since I was a little kid. I used to write and illustrate stories with my dad, and he got me my own toy printing press with little rubber letters (yes, toys used to actually make you do things) so I could print my own newspaper. I was hooked. I've been writing ever since, and I went on to major in journalism. These days, I write about our fun-filled life as a newly made family of four!

--- 4 ---

I like grocery shopping. Yeah, I know, sounds a little weird, but it's my favorite thing about being a "grown-up". I love to cook (see #1) so getting the ingredients is naturally something I enjoy

--- 5 ---

I like to make things. While I wouldn't call myself crafty, I have a lot of fun with Pinterest-style projects, and I think there is a lot of value in something homemade. I have big plans to make Christmas presents this year - stay tuned for some upcoming gift-themed blog posts!

--- 6 ---

I also like to fix things around the house. Hey, I work at a hardware store. My mom told me when I was pretty small that her mother (my grandmother) had told her it was important for her to know how to fix things around the house, since her husband would either be at work or be too busy or too tired to fix it for her. To me, this rings true even 50-some years later. It's important to know how to fix things! She taught me how to do simple fix-it projects myself, and when we got married I got my own tool set. It's served me well so far!

--- 7 ---

I really love going for "coffee walks". In case you aren't familiar with the concept, we like to get a cup of coffee (or bring a travel mug) and go for a walk. Sometimes we walk to get the coffee, sometimes we get it on the way, but it's definitely the best kind of walk. Emily and Erin's stroller has cup holders, not just for kiddos but for Mommy and Daddy, so they can join us in this tradition. If you've never tried this, you definitely should!

That's all for this week. Thanks for reading! I hope you all have a great weekend!

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Thoroughly Thankful Thursday, Week 5: Saints, Hurricanes and the Right to Vote

Happy Thursday, everybody! I hope your week is winding down nicely. Today is All Saints' Day and tomorrow is All Souls' Day. Both of these holidays have pretty fascinating tradition behind them. The short version is that today we are honoring those who have achieved sainthood and tomorrow we are remembering those who have left this world. Definitely a whole lot of people to remember in just two days! Our priest suggested keeping one particular saint in mind today, and then those close to us who have left this world tomorrow. In case you're wondering how this ties in, the sacrifices of the saints are worth giving thanks for, so I thought it was an appropriate intro! Who is your patron saint or confirmation saint? Why did you choose them?

Remember that reset button I wrote about? I've been having a bit of a hard time finding it this week. The devastation flooding the television screen has left me grateful for all we have and still have. At the same time, it's so hard to see innocent people who are suffering so much. Such events are called "acts of God" - but why would God do this to a people he loved so much that he gave his only son to save us? Even though we are on the other side of the country, I find myself asking "why?" as often as I am saying "thank you."

The other feeling that has stirred within our family in the last week is one of mild panic, as we realize just how unprepared we are for such a disaster. While true hurricanes don't really hit the Northwest, we have our share of devastating storms, and the season for such weather has just begun. More to the point, we live just about a block from a drainage slough that runs through our town, meaning we live in a flood plain. I suppose one of the few positive aspects of the past week is that we have a sense of urgency when it comes to getting prepared for an emergency - stocking water, food, and emergency supplies, keeping our important papers safe, and having a plan to keep all of us safe as well. Hearing people talk about having prepared for this storm, knowing it was coming well in advance, and still losing almost everything was quite possibly the wakeup call we really needed.

On a completely unrelated note, by this time in the "election season", it can be really hard to muster up a smidgen of gratitude for the right to vote. All of the ads, doorhangers, phone calls, and news spots are nothing more than annoying. Yet, as a very wise man told me a few weeks ago, this right is something you can only fully appreciate when it is taken away. Imagine a government appointed by wealth or birth, or worse, by military might. Imagine having no voice in any political matter, or worse, fearing imprisonment or death for even opening your mouth in regards to politics. Imagine a single person in charge of every political decision, with no representative input whatsoever. The right to vote might seem like a chore, but it is a privilege many have died for and many continue to die for. Filling in a ballot should seem comparatively simple, no matter where you fall on the political spectrum. This has been said more often than you've heard "...and I approved this message" in the last week, but your voice is no less important because you are only one person. Imagine the reality if everyone decided not to vote just because they were only one person. If you're 18 or older, use that voice to express your opinion, whatever it may be!

Now it's your turn. Tell me what you're thankful for! Add a link to your Thoroughly Thankful Thursday post or leave a comment below!