Friday, December 20, 2013

From the hospital

This is just a quick update to say that Emily is in the hospital for testing and observation. Won't you keep us in your prayers? She's been running a fever all week and has been very lethargic, with no other symptoms that we can determine. So we're here to find out what's wrong. We've been here since yesterday morning. They are taking good care of her and doing their best to keep her comfortable. We know we're in the best hands.

Thanks to all of you who've prayed for us over the past days already, and blessings in these last few days of Advent!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Life lately

Emily in her flower-girl dress for Dan's sister's wedding. Isn't she just adorable? (Erin was asleep by this point - I promise to add a picture of her from the wedding when I get one!)

Our adorable jack-o-lanterns, complete with tutus, rainboots, and cute pink hats. You'll notice they're not standing next to each other - apparently they were so excited every time they saw each other they shrieked and ran around.
We have Dan's grandma's rocker in the girls' room now. Erin has claimed it as her own. 

Me in my bridesmaids' dress for Dan's sister's wedding - lovely wedding for a lovely couple!

Emily and Erin sharing lunch one afternoon. The eating of apple slices is a big deal 'round these parts. 

That day that we smelled burning insulation around the dryer, and when I went to unplug it, something was wrong...scary stuff! Thank the Lord for guardian angels who are on the job!

What? You don't get exhausted while you're eating your lunch?

Boots are a big hit with this one. Also Mommy's headbands (see Erin's "necklace").

One evening where I had the energy to clean before Dan got home from work. A rarity, I can assure you.

Miss Emily, all dressed up after Mass a few weeks ago.

My dad picked out these adorable overalls. He has fantastic taste in clothes, don't you think?!

This is Elmo-the-jack-o-lantern. Emily and Erin were beyond thrilled when he lit up.

Erin is actually just obsessed with shoes at the moment, particularly mine. She struggles a bit with the Birks though.

One night, Emily went to bed at 5 and Erin fell asleep at 6:20. I suddenly had no excuse to put off painting our new bathroom cabinet any longer. 

...lesson learned from above painting project? Paint will always drip beyond the best-laid newspapers.

I succumbed to the boots and tall socks trend for Saturday night Mass last week. Love.

I chased Erin around long enough to get her hair into pigtails. She was greatly distressed, so we haven't tried it again despite - despite - all that cuteness.

One day, I wanted granola with yogurt and we were all out of granola. So I made my own. I am officially a "crunchy" mama now, I suppose. Coconut oil makes excellent vanilla granola, just in case you were wondering.

Emily's favorite new game is to put toys up on the windowsill and play with them. It's quite adorable. (Her second favorite is to walk around the house with a toy in each hand, waving them and singing. I don't have a good picture of this, for somewhat obvious reasons, but I'm working on it.)

This guy whisked me off to the coast for our first date since July - he arranged for the girls to stay with his parents and everything! He's pretty awesome. And, like all awesome husbands (right, Grace?) he likes to read plaques.

I probably shouldn't be bragging about the fact that it's taken me a solid 2 months to get this completed, but all (all!) of our clothes are put away. (Did I mention that we share a 2' deep, 4' wide closet? Vertical space usage was a necessity. There's a step-stool hidden at the bottom.)

This is the one where I attempted to get their attention. I cannot compete with Elmo board books or IKEA cars. It's just not possible. They're just a day shy of 17 months, though, so this could be one of those cute milestone photos - except I don't have a "17" sticker for their fronts. You can imagine it, right? Right.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

So. I haven't been around in a while. I feel sort of silly admitting it, but I guess it's kind of obvious since I haven't posted in about 6 weeks. Suffice it to say that a new job for Dan, coupled with a solid month of sickness (all of us) and a whole lot of extra hours at work (me), have pretty much made it impossible to spend much time writing.

Things have calmed down a bit, so here I am! I'd love to hear what you've all been up to - any fun and exciting news to share, fall happenings, Christmas plans? Tomorrow, I'll let you in on our fall so far (I've been taking pictures, even if I haven't had the chance to go beyond the 'gram with them).

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

LIving Well On Less: Zero-based budgeting

Welcome back! Today we're going to talk about zero-based budgeting. If you've never heard of this concept (and you think like me), you probably are wondering if this is some kind of cruel joke based on bank balances, or wondering how on earth you are supposed to survive without spending money.

Luckily, it's a lot simpler than it sounds. It's also really practical, because when you write a zero-based budget, you're taking all of your income and directing it somewhere. You're either spending it, saving it, or paying off debt with it, but you know where it's going. When you're done with your budget, you have zero - a zero-based budget.

That's it. Pretty simple. Until it comes to the execution, that is - the part where you're spending the money and sticking to your lists and resisting ALL the impulse spending. Yeah, that part. That's the hard part. For today, we're going to take the first step and talk about writing a budget that works for you and your family.

So how do you budget for your family? This depends on a few things - your income, your family's needs, and the way money is spent. First, let me say that I'm no financial expert. I do have a family and a budget, however, and I'm happy to share my experience in hopes that it might help someone else on the path to frugal family life.

In terms of income, it's helpful to know precisely how much you will make in a given time period. If your paycheck comes monthly, a monthly budget might be easiest to start. If your paycheck comes every other week or twice monthly, this gets a little trickier. In our family, we have two sources of income, one paycheck which comes every other week and one paycheck which comes twice a month. To make things less complicated, we have a monthly budget. For some things, like groceries, we break down the amount by week and adjust the budget as needed (and as possible). If you're not sure which will work best for your family, try monthly for one month and biweekly for the next two weeks, or vice versa.

If your income is unpredictable, it can be even more difficult to budget. One recommendation I've heard (though haven't used) is to create a savings account and build it up over time so that monthly expenses can come out of there, rather than from each month's check. In this way, you can work up towards living off the previous month's check and putting the current one into the account for next month.

Once you've figured out your budgeting interval or decided which one you'd like to try, start by outlining your basic expenses. These will probably look something like rent, utilities, food, insurance, giving, and transportation. You'll have other expenses too, though they may be irregular; such as insurance and taxes. Try adding up the total amount spent in a year on these things and dividing by your budgeting interval to figure the amount you should set aside. Don't forget to set some money aside for savings each month.

The biggest key to making a zero-based budget is accounting for all of your income. You can add amounts for eating out, fun spending money, or travel. If something is important to your family, try to find money for it. This might mean cutting expenses in another area (we'll talk more about that tomorrow) but it will ultimately help budgeting work better for you and your family. A budget should make your money work for you!

This is a great article about zero-based budgeting:

Living Well On Less: 31 Days of Frugal Family Living

I’m pretty excited about this. If you’ve never heard of the #31days challenge before, bloggers take a topic and write about it every day for the month of October. Ok, so it’s enough of a challenge to write about anything every day - but infinitely trickier to write about the same thing every day - for a whole month.

I picked frugal living because it’s very near and dear to my heart right at this moment. My husband is starting a new job this next week, and as a family, we’ll be taking a significant pay cut. To make ends meet, we’ve had to be a lot more intentional about how we spend our money. It doesn’t mean we don’t spend money, and it doesn’t mean we don’t get to spend it on things we enjoy, like coffee. It just means we have to be intentional. We plan. We try our best to execute our plan. We come back and figure out what worked and what didn’t, and make a new plan.

Living frugally doesn’t have to mean constant deprivation. It means spending the necessary money on the absolute essentials, and then planning the rest of your spending on those things that are essential to you and your family.  What’s essential to one person or family might be totally unimportant to another family. The key is to prioritize your spending and try to save money wherever you can, and that’s what we’re going to talk about this month.

This will be the home base for all things “Living Well on Less: 31 Days of Frugal Family Living”. As new posts go up, a link to each post will appear below.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Five Favorites: Elmo and some things that make me smile

1. Toddler menus
I really struggle with planning balanced meals for my girls, so I was excited to find this menu planner for kiddos at various stages. I like that you can customize the nutrition to match your child's development, preferences, and beverage - my girls drink whole milk, but there are breast milk and formula based menus available too. We waste a lot less food with these meals!
2. This furry red monster
My daughters are obsessed with everything Elmo. It's like a reverse "I Spy" game whenever we go shopping - they have to find Elmo and then I have to find where they found him. Hearing them sing his song and say "Hi Elmo!" is one of the sweetest parts of our life right now. So I love him, too.
image via Google

3. This hand soap
I wash my hands a lot, and this soap smells great and leaves my hands really soft. Love it!
image via

4. This great-smelling dish soap
I wash a lot of dishes, but this soap smells so great I don't really mind. It makes my kitchen smell fantastic, too, and it's a lingering reminder that I washed the dishes already :)
Original Dishwashing Liquid
image via
5. This song, which not only makes me smile but makes me want to go out and live for Him.

Thanks for hosting, Hallie!

Monday, August 19, 2013

To be a grownup

Me as a toddler, with my mom on the beach.

I remember sitting at the dinner table, watching my dad crush a cracker into his soup with one hand. "If only I could do that, just like a grownup!" I thought to myself. I wanted to whistle, to snap my fingers. I wanted to write beautifully and read grownups' books and sign checks. I wanted to cook and use everything in the kitchen by myself. I wanted mail to come with my name on it. I wanted to get married and be a mother.

There were plenty of grownup things I shied away from - I hated answering the phone (I've gotten over that) and I didn't relish the thought of being in the dark by myself. I didn't want to make phone calls either. Nor did I want to navigate the spooky outhouses at the beach on my own, where surely dwelled the most dangerous of...well, whatever lives at the bottom of an outhouse.

Life has changed quite a bit since I formed my grownup aspirations. People don't write letters much anymore, and checks are fast becoming a thing of the past. I never envisioned reading grownup books on a tablet - but I do, and I love it - and I couldn't have imagined a day where cooking would be seen as optional. I learned to whistle and snap my fingers, and while my kids find both very amusing, I don't feel like a big shot every time I do one or the other. I could probably crush a cracker one-handed into my soup - except that I don't like crackers in my soup, as it turns out. Sorry, Shirley Temple.

On the other hand, my husband commented yesterday on my remarkable knack for using everything in the kitchen when I cook. I love being married, and I love being a mother. I like writing checks more than the average twenty-something (hello, Dave Ramsey budgeting!) and I pride myself on my handwriting. I find lots of mail with my name on it.

I suppose, crushed crackers in my soup or not, I've arrived as a grownup.

...I think I like it.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

What I Wore Sunday

Sweater: Target clearance rack
Tee: St. Vincent de Paul
Skirt: Target clearance rack
Shoes: Toms 
Glasses: Essential Eyewear (Lenscrafters)
Earrings & necklace: gifted

Mass is getting to be a little more challenging now that Erin is walking. She thinks that she should be running around the whole time, which isn't going to happen. I'm really going to have to get going on something to quietly entertain her. I'm thinking something with buttons, maybe - any suggestions are welcome! We also should have brought her a little snack, since she didn't eat much breakfast and her bottle isn't enough to fill her up anymore. I'm not big on feeding kids to keep them quiet, but I think hunger was one of the culprits this morning. Overall, I'll give Erin a B+ and Emily an A, since she snuggled in the Ergo and fell asleep eventually. 

Linking up with Fine Linen and Purple - head on over for more Mass attire!

Better picture of the outfit - pattern mixing FTW!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Why you shouldn't steal a blogger's laptop

As you may have guessed from the title of this post, I haven't been blogging for a few weeks because my laptop was stolen. This happened while we were all away from the house, thanks be to God, but it still involved a smashed window, blood and broken glass all over our little house, and a sense of security that vanished with one phone call. I'll never forget the panic that gripped me when my husband called me at work and told me I needed to come home, someone had broken into our house. I spent the ride home on the phone with the insurance company while a police officer searched our house. He gravely informed us that this is a frequent occurrence in our city, and reassured us that they'd do what they could to help.

It took a few days for the reality to sink in. The burglar stole my laptop and my jewelry box, which I'd carefully filled with all of my holy cards, a scapular that was given to me by an order of Carmelite nuns during my pregnancy (unfortunately not the most practical thing to wear with small children), various saint medals, a saint bracelet, and nearly three decades' worth of jewelry. My grandmother's engagement ring, the string of pearls my mother gave me to wear for my wedding day - I'll most likely never see them again.

I felt a deep, wrenching sense of loss when I stumbled upon a Buzzfeed article about "things Catholic girls like." As I read through the list and recognized things I, too, loved, I pictured the drawer in my jewelry box where I'd find each of them.

And then I remembered it was gone. Smashed in some Dumpster somewhere, or crushed unceremoniously by the side of the bike path that runs through our neighborhood.

I was overwhelmed by sadness from the first moments I spent inside our house after the police investigated. I found a medicine bottle that had held one or two Percocet, left over from my C-section over a year ago, stained with bloody fingerprints inside my sock drawer. The bottle lay empty, separated from its lid. I pictured the desperation of a thief who would smash double-paned glass, squeeze through an opening too narrow for even my petite frame, and splatter blood from his wounds everywhere as he searched frantically for valuables. I was overcome with pity for this man and his miserable existence. I wished I'd had the chance to offer him food, drink, a pair of clean socks. A part of me wished he could come into his right mind and realize the sentimental value of the things he'd stolen - the pictures we can't replace, the emptiness I feel each time I remember the blank spot on my dresser.

I've tried to pray for this man when I think about the break-in. I pray that another family will never have to go through this, that perhaps he looked at the holy cards and saw the beauty of God's love for all his people. I pray that he will get treatment for the addictions that undoubtedly plague him. I pray that even when we who are so blessed must endure such things, we realize the magnitude of our suffering in comparison with the rest of the world, and act accordingly. Please keep him in your prayers as well.

I did get a new laptop (more on that soon) so I'll be back to blogging more regularly now. I can't wait to share some great posts with you in the upcoming weeks! It's great to be back.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

What I Wore Sunday: Throwback outfit!

Top - American Eagle (2008)
Skirt - American Eagle (2004)
Sandals - Target
Earrings and necklace - gifts

I realize the title of this post may be a tad misleading. I've never worn this exact outfit before here on WIWS, but I've owned both of these long enough to make this a throwback outfit. I got the shirt before we got married, after eying it for months on the table at American Eagle. I got the skirt years before that, while I was still in high school. I really didn't think they'd ever fit again. But they do! I'm so excited. I love that there are actually things in my closet that are classic enough to be worn for nearly a decade and still feel stylish. 

I tried something different today, and actually took time to read the readings and a reflection before Mass. I've done it before, but it's been a few months. It helped me refocus quickly once I could actually hear what was being said. Emily was relatively quiet during Mass today, but Erin was not. The heat didn't help our cause -  it's been in the mid-90s here for three days now, after beginning the week with highs in the mid-60s. Poor Emily hit her head on the pew and snuggled up to sleep on my chest in the Ergo after crying and screaming in Dan's arms. Erin fussed and talked and finally found happiness sitting in a grownup chair, looking like she owned the place. I still give her a B, since she could have been much noisier and crankier, and she's only 1. I'll give Emily an A, since she had a valid reason to be screaming at the beginning, and was sleeping until the very end when we left. 

Hope you all have a great Sunday and a wonderful week - try to stay cool! Linking up with Fine Linen and Purple, as always!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

7 Quick Takes, Volume 43

Thanks to Jen for hosting!

--- 1 ---
Emily and Erin had their 1 year checkup yesterday! Other than showing up 20 minutes late for their appointment, it went great. For the record, we were late because I made the appointments 3 months ago and I only got a reminder for Emily's appointment - which was second, not first. Oh well. They were very accommodating and saw us anyway. Our girls have really grown this year! They are both 10 inches taller, their heads are about 5 inches bigger, and they have definitely gained weight too. Erin has almost quadrupled her birth weight (6 lbs 2 oz to 22 lbs) and Emily has almost tripled hers (7 lbs 2 oz to 19 lbs 14 oz). It was really humbling to realize how tiny they once were and how God has blessed our little family over the past year. The shots were not too fun - it's so scary to hear your child wail in pain and fear. But it's nothing compared to the diseases they protect against, so it's worth it in the end.
--- 2 ---
My brother and his wife recently moved back to Oregon from Arizona, so we went up to Portland to visit them this week. We planned a trip to IKEA with a quick stop at H&M - two of my favorite in-person stores - as well as a visit to their new house! The trip went pretty smoothly, overall. We timed the driving with normal napping and sleeping times, so the girls were happy in the car. The only time that we drove while they were awake, I squeezed in the back seat between their car seats to keep them company. Did I mention my mom drives a Corolla?
Erin, watching a plane in the IKEA parking lot

Emily, watching a plane while we load up the car

--- 3 ---
I wrote a few weeks ago about how Erin called me "Ah-ma". I really thought she was just trying to say "mama", but apparently she had other ideas. We were playing with her Elmo doll, and suddenly she looked at the doll and said "ah-ma!" Watching their favorite Elmo video on Youtube later in the day, she pointed at the screen and said "ah-ma! ah-ma!". Everywhere she sees Elmo, she can name him. Sometimes she says "mama!" but mostly? "Ah-ma!" I am so proud of how she's aware that Elmo can be in a book, on TV, on my phone, or in her hands - what an amazing little girl!
--- 4 ---
Emily, quite proficient with saying "bye" whenever anyone makes a move towards any door, has also added "yeah" as her response to any question. She's got the inflection idea down, which is impressive. I can't get over how snuggly Miss Emily is - wearing her around in the Ergo will never get old. I love wearing Erin too, but Emily is just a cuddlebug all the way.
--- 5 ---
We had a fun little episode yesterday evening, involving something that had really never crossed my mind until earlier in the week when I read Mandi's post. I was giving Emily and Erin a bath, and they were playing while I sat beside the tub. I looked away for about a minute, and suddenly there was silence. I whipped around just in time to see an ominous smear on Emily's chest. Yep, she'd pooped in the tub. For the second time in two days. Only this time, she'd gotten curious and decided to grab some. Lovely. Much to her delight, I rinsed her mouth with the handheld showerhead, drained the tub, and got everything and everyone cleaned up. We topped it off with a tooth brushing, complete with strawberry banana baby toothpaste, and fervent prayers that my babies would be healthy. I really hope we never repeat that. Lessons learned: don't put all the toys in the tub, and bubble bath can be dangerous camouflage. All you moms know what I mean.
--- 6 ---
Our trip to H&M was really more of a mission, involving some shirts that I just had to have. For reference, I have to wear collared shirts for my job, and most often that means polos in the summer. After eight years, most of my polos have had it. I knew I didn't want more polos, since they tend to shrink and have thick, itchy ribbing around the sleeves. So I polled my friends and got a lead to these shirts. I love them. They are perfect for work - nice and cool, with cooperative collars. I also can wear them outside of work, which I can't say for polos. That's a plus for sure. Here's the first one on its inaugural outing today:
I finally got brave enough to post a makeup-free picture!

--- 7 ---
Last but not least, I shared my thoughts on feminism and why I can't align myself with the mainstream feminist movement over at Fine Linen and Purple today. How do you feel about feminism? Would you call yourself a feminist? I'm really curious to hear what people have to say on this topic!
Showing off a few of my favorite things.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

What I Wore Sunday: Birthday Party Sunday Best

Emily and I. Prior to the cake-smashing. Isn't she adorable?!

On me:
Top: Fred Meyer sale rack
Skirt: Speechless (thrifted)
Shoes: Target

On Emily: 
Dress: thrifted
Sweater: Carter's
Shoes: Okie Dokie

We got together with some friends and family today to celebrate Emily and Erin's birthday. We planned the party for a park near our house, so that we'd have plenty of space to play and eat cupcakes. It was a very enjoyable little party, and the rain even held off until well after we were safely home! My suspicions were confirmed as far as cake - Emily was very offended when I offered her a taste of frosting from the bottom of her "1" candle, and when I handed her the whole cupcake to try, she smashed it on my shirt. Lesson learned. I suppose there are worse things than babies who prefer healthy food, right? 

Mass today was a success in a few ways. All of us were dressed up (even Emily and Erin!) and we managed to find a spot in the parking lot. We also didn't get a flat tire from driving through the leftovers of a car accident all over the street on the way. Emily and Erin were a little fussy, particularly Erin, but we made it the whole way through and didn't have to make an early exit. I did spend a good portion of the Liturgy of the Eucharist in the cry room with Erin, but she wasn't as cranky as she has been in the past. Overall, I'll give Emily an A- (bonus points for politely saying "bye! bye!" to everyone during the Sign of Peace) and Erin a B-, since she never yelled so loudly we actually had to go outside.  

We found a small diaper bag on the clearance rack at Target last week, and I took it to Mass this morning for its inaugural outing. I love our big double diaper bag, but it's too bulky to take everywhere, so I often find myself unprepared if I leave it in the car. Now I can have the best of both: a small bag for carrying around and a larger bag for longer excursions. The trial this morning was very successful, and I felt much better prepared than in weeks past. As a bonus, my outfit from Mass translated well to the party (other than the shoes - I ended up barefoot for most of it). Gotta love comfy dress clothes!

Linking up with Fine Linen and Purple and Camp Patton!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

7 Quick Takes, Vol. 42: First Birthday Edition

Thanks for hosting, Jen!
--- 1 ---
Emily and Erin turned one this week! That's definitely the headline - our girls are officially a year old. They are such a blessing in our life, each and every day. We had lots of fun celebrating their birthday with our families last night.
Erin (L) and Emily, waiting for cake.

--- 2 ---
I made their cake myself. I think it turned out pretty cute! I found the circus cake idea in a vintage kids' cookbook years ago, and I finally got to try it out. We had vanilla ice cream with it (thanks Grandma!).

We had cupcakes too, mainly because Emily and Erin aren't quite old enough for a whole piece of cake yet. We wanted each girl to have their own little cake with a candle, so cupcakes seemed like the perfect solution! I made them from the same confetti cake mix as the big cake, but I used smaller, more baby-friendly sprinkles on the frosting. 

--- 3 ---
Erin (top) and Emily, enjoying their cupcakes. 
The girls didn't quite dive into the cake like I expected. Actually, I'm not sure what I expected. They each gave it a good taste - Erin had a few more bites than Emily - but they seemed much more enthusiastic about the graham crackers Grandma offered afterwards. I guess I can't really complain about kiddos who prefer healthy food! Emily definitely enjoyed smearing the frosting around and making a mess with it. It was a very fun evening overall, and we all slept well last night.

--- 4 ---
I came up with a great idea for Dan's homemade Father's Day present (even better than the $5 barbecue grill!), and I even had time to write a DIY blog post on how to make your own Jar of Awesome. If you're looking for a good, budget-friendly anniversary or birthday present, I definitely recommend this!
--- 5 ---
Speaking of budget-friendly, we're really working on the grocery budget. It's hard - food costs money! There really isn't a way around that, either. I mean, there are ways to save money, such as coupons and buying in bulk, but at a certain point, you just can't save much more. I was really relieved to see a document that talked about food costs for families - while I'd love to go to the store and get a lot for a little, maybe there are better things to stress over. We're doing fine according to this!
--- 6 ---
I was over at Fine Linen and Purple this past week, writing about building a postpartum wardrobe (link just in case you missed it!) and sharing my favorite postpartum clothes and outfits. And more love for all the new mamas out there: Katie wrote a fantastic post today about loving her postpartum body for what it does, not how it looks. She's got it right, and it's definitely worth a read!
--- 7 ---
Today is the first official day of summer. It's been cooler and rainy this week - definitely not hot summer weather - but school got out this week and the neighborhood kids have been playing in the park during day, so it really feels like summer. The weather will catch up soon enough.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Happy first birthday, Emily and Erin!

Emily and Erin are turning one today! One year ago today, we met our sweet baby girls just after 9 pm.
Erin (L), Emily (R)
They've grown a lot since then:
Hanging out chatting - 2 months old
First Halloween - 4 months old!

5 months old!

Headed out shopping with Mommy and Grandma 

Baptized! August 6, 2012 - 6 weeks old.

A very interesting conversation. ~6 months.

7 months old.

8 months old!

9 months old!

Walking with their activity table - 10 months!

Our first Mother's Day together - almost 11 months old!

11.5 months. All ready for bed, drinking bottles like big girls! 
The last year hasn't always been easy, but it's been filled with more joy than I ever thought possible. Happy birthday, Emily and Erin! I love you more than you could ever imagine. God truly blessed us when you joined our family.