Sunday, May 26, 2013

What I Wore Sunday: The Cry of the Poor

I went with prim and proper today.

That doesn't mean you can't strike a pose, though!
Cardi: Old Navy
Shell: Banana Republic (hand-me-down from a friend)
Skirt: Banana Republic (hand-me-down from a friend)
Wedges: Target
Earrings: Old Navy 
Necklace: gift

I think today was the longest Mass Erin and Emily have ever attended. It was just shy of an hour and a half. The upside of that was that they were asleep around the Consecration - the downside was that Dan's arms were pretty sore by the end! I'm sure Erin will be taking her first steps any day now, but I'm not sure that will make church any easier. Emily just snuggled in the Ergo, with plenty of big dramatic "I'm SO tired!" flings backwards before she finally fell asleep. I discovered tickling under her chin brought her back to me pretty quickly, so I started doing that every time she flopped her head back.

The visiting priest we had today talked extensively about a program called Food for the Poor which helps feed needy families both here and abroad. I wish I could tell you exactly what they do, but I got stuck on the idea of what it might be like to not have food to feed my children. I can't tell you how many hours in the past year I've obsessed over what I'm feeding them. I plan to go into more detail about why that is in a future post, but suffice it to say that I'm an overthinker when it comes to food. 

At any rate, I am blessed not to have heard the cries of my hungry children and know there's nothing I can do about it. Sure, there's the odd grocery trip where we don't coordinate meals well and they are upset and hungry, but I've never had to choose between feeding one child one day and one child the next day, like the priest talked about today. I've had to choose who will eat first, but I've never had to postpone for more than about twenty minutes. It's an amazing blessing, and I don't think I can ever thank God enough for it. I definitely plan to look into Food for the Poor. I'm sure God was speaking to me and trying to get me to listen, but I was too distracted by the initial message to hear more about the organization.

I love the Church's teaching on the Holy Trinity. I love that we know God to be three persons - the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Last Sunday, Pentecost, the priest talked about how praying for he intervention of the Holy Spirit required "the faith of a fool - a fool for Jesus, that is." The way the Holy Spirit can work in us is proof, if any was needed, that God can change our hearts without warning or effort. We know that God, the Father, loved us so much that He sent His son to die for our sins. We know that Jesus, His son, came as man to live amongst us and die for our sins. God's presence in these three ways comes out of His love for us and the mercy He chooses to show us. Every time we make the Sign of the Cross, we remember the presence of the Holy Trinity. Something I think I might try this week, in honor of Holy Trinity Sunday, is to imagine that with any action I question: would I do this in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit? If not, why not? Should I be doing this?

I'm linking up with the wonderful ladies over at Fine Linen and Purple for What I Wore Sunday! Hope you're feeling better, Kendra!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

What I Wore Sunday: Pentecost

Sweater - birthday present from my dad (Target)
Dress - St. Vincent de Paul (Xhilaration brand from Target)
Cami - Kirkland brand from Costco
Leggings - Target (girls' section)
Boots - present from my husband (Target)
Flower clip - Claire's, at least 5 years ago

I have been wanting to jump on the dress with leggings bandwagon for over a year now, and the only reason I hadn't is because I didn't own leggings. I just couldn't remember to buy them. Finally, a couple of weeks ago, I saw a display near the checkout at Target in the kids' section. I grabbed my size (yes, I have a kids' size, I'm that short), fist-pumped at the $6.99 price tag, and took them home. I figured if nothing else, they'd maybe be more durable than the softer grown-up sized ones. I have to say I'm hooked. I own at least five dresses that are just too short to wear without leggings, and now I can wear all of them! I know you're probably wondering why I buy things that I can't wear, and the answer is that I just meant to buy leggings to wear with them. Or in the case of two of them, I bought them online on clearance and didn't realize they were so short. Plus, my definition of "too short" has been refined now that I bend down all the time as a mom. Anyway, now that I am a legging lover, I can rock them all, even for Mass. My next purchase will be capri leggings, and maybe some of the denim-look ones. Thoughts? What are your favorites?

So I think the project this week will be quiet books. Emily and Erin have reached this semi-awkward age where they really want to be entertained if they're going to sit quietly anywhere. I don't imagine that I'll get them done in just a week, but I figure even one or two pages would help. Has anyone ever made a quiet book, or seen one for sale somewhere? I figured I'd try Etsy, but I'd love to make them myself. My desire to simply have them may win out in the end, however. We shall see. 

Mass behavior grades this week are a bit tricky, because I don't really think either girl misbehaved for their age. They are 11 months today, and sitting quietly just isn't in their repertoire yet. They'll get there. I'm not too worried. However, Erin cried at least half the time (and spent the end of Mass sitting outside with Daddy), and didn't want to have her bottle, didn't want to be rocked to sleep, didn't want anyone else to hold her. She is just on this side of walking, so her ideal scenario would be to hold the wall and walk along the edge, thumping loudly at intervals and shrieking with delight. It's not going to happen, but that doesn't mean she doesn't try! Emily sat in my lap and then in the Ergo, and snuggled like she was going to sleep but then didn't ever quite make it. We went to coffee and doughnuts afterwards, and both girls had some milk while we caught up with some old family friends. Erin even got to try some chocolate doughnut. She loved it. Emily had a bite of my maple bar, but she wasn't as enthusiastic about it. Overall, I think I'll give them both a B, since their behavior was not very quiet but was age-appropriate. 

The homily today was interesting, since the priest talked about how the Holy Spirit is the truly life-changing side of God. He said that when we pray for the intervention of the Holy Spirit, we are fools - fools for Jesus, that is. I hadn't ever really thought about it that way, but I suppose it's true. To pray for God to change our hearts and minds and lives to do His will is daring and foolish and the ultimate sign of faith. Pentecost is considered by many to be the birthday of the Church, so we could light 1,980 candles on a really big cake today - or just pray for the Holy Spirit to touch our minds and hearts and let God's will be done. 

I hope you all have a wonderful Sunday and a blessed Pentecost! Thanks to the lovely Kendra and Emily over at Fine Linen and Purple for hosting!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

7 Quick Takes, Vol. 40

Thanks for hosting, Jen!
--- 1 ---
I'm oh, so, glad it's Friday. It's been nice to breathe again this week - the rain showed up for the first time in a few weeks, and the pollen has finally abated. I do miss our morning walk/jogs, but it'll be sunny again soon enough.
--- 2 ---
In case you missed it, I'm a new contributing writer over at Fine Linen and Purple, Kendra and Emily's lovely blog. You can head over and check out my post today about body image and how I'm starting to learn to love what I see in the mirror.
--- 3 ---
I've been making my way through a couple of Michael Pollan's books, The Omnivore's Dilemma and In Defense of Food. Although neither one is particularly new, I think the topics are still fairly relevant - I'm finding his assessment of corn in our diet especially interesting. It's amazing how many different ways scientists have found to use corn. Amazing and frightening all at the same time. Part of me wants to dig in and eat as clean as possible (I'm sure this is an entirely healthy way to fall asleep every night) and part of me feels like it's somewhat futile to try and avoid everything we shouldn't eat. I'm interested to see how the books conclude, though - I should be done by next week's Quick Takes.
--- 4 ---
I started a new job about a month ago, and so far I'm really liking it. I still work for the same company, but I am in a new department with a completely different position and set of responsibilities. Since I'm in a new department, I have a lot to learn, but the constant learning is challenging in a good way. I like it. I do miss Emily and Erin when I'm at work, but I'm quite blessed to be able to be home with them as much as I am. Enjoying my job makes it easier, too. They love their time with their grandmas and their daddy, and I love that they're getting to know their family so well.
--- 5 ---
I don't know how much you've heard about Elizabeth Smart speaking out against abstinence-only education in schools, but I love Calah Alexander's response. We owe our daughters more than implying their worth is solely based on how "pure" they are when they get married.
--- 6 ---
Speaking of worth, Amanda's now a published author! Her book, Worthy, is available now and you should definitely check it out. I'm getting really excited to finally read it here soon!
--- 7 ---
Despite (or perhaps because of) all my reading about healthy food, I really want to bake something.  I may have to take advantage of the cooler, rainy weather for tomorrow before work and make a yummy treat. Anyone got any fabulous recipes to share? Send them my way!

I hope you all have a fabulous weekend and a blessed Pentecost!

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Of crunchiness and caution labels

I found a "caution: keep out of reach of children" label on my facial scrub yesterday. I'm not sure why I hadn't noticed it before. I have to admit, up until now I've been a bit skeptical of all the hype surrounding the dangers of conventional personal care products. I love the idea of having perfectly safe soaps, cleansers, makeup, and lotion, but the reality is that they can be expensive. In addition, many "natural" brands aren't necessarily much safer than the conventional ones. They're just much more expensive.

I rationalized yesterday that I'm just washing the scrub off right away, not allowing it to linger on my skin. I've used it for years and I love the scent. But it terrifies me to think about it being a danger to my children. If it's dangerous for them, how safe is it for me? I've tried the en vogue method of facial cleansing, the oil cleansing method (OCM) which is simple, easy, and inexpensive. However, I have yet to find the right balance for my skin - I break out like crazy whenever I use it for more than a couple of days. So that's a possibility. I'm just not sure how long the breakouts will last, hence my resistance.

I've come across the same thing when purchasing products for Emily and Erin. It's hard to know which is safe and which is just labeled as such. It's also hard to resist the traditional clean baby aroma from that familiar pink bottle. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don't. After all, the bottle makes a lovely changing table distraction, so we'll be keeping it even if just for that.

I read the book Organized Simplicity a few years ago and was enthralled by the idea of using simple household ingredients to make your own personal care products and cleaning supplies. I've realized, though, that unless I take a week's vacation from household chores and work, it's unlikely to happen. I might have the time to mix up one or two things, but there's just too much going on to make that work consistently. (See yesterday's post.) So, for the moment, I do my best to buy what's safest for us, while still trying to purchase things that are enjoyable and functional enough to get used. Sometimes that means striking a balance between that yummy clean-baby smell and the castile soap. Sometimes it means bleaching the white laundry - including a badly stained cloth diaper. And sometimes, like with the OCM, I take the plunge and make my own. It doesn't happen very often, though - this mama just isn't that crunchy ;)

What about you? Where do you strike a balance? What are your favorite conventional, green, and homemade products?

Monday, May 13, 2013

There's only so much you can do

Mother's Day 2013. Clean babies and matching pjs, courtesy of Grandma.
Mother's Day yesterday was a much-needed break. No, we didn't go off to the coast for the day or up to the mountains. We did, however, take a break from yard work and chores, and my in-laws babysat so Dan could take me out to dinner. All in all, it was a pretty great day! We went to breakfast with my parents after Mass, and I even got to lay on the couch for an hour while Dan cleaned up the house and played with the babies.

While I was relaxing on the couch (and feeling guilty about being in a horizontal position before 9 pm), I got to thinking about how we as mothers sometimes expect much more of ourselves than others do. Sure, there's always something that needs doing, and most days the list of chores feels endless. But in reality, what you see on Pinterest or even in a blog post can become the lens through which you view your day. So simply having dinner on the table doesn't feel like an accomplishment, because the meal wasn't worthy of an Instagram shot and you're using paper towels for napkins. I've written before about the dangers of living your life by others' standards, but it's possible to get caught up in this even if you're confident in your parenting choices. Around Christmas time, I saw a meme on Facebook that said something like: "All those other moms are posting pics of their decorations and baking reindeer shaped treats, and I'm all like, 'hey, I took a shower and kept the kids alive.'" The truth is, in the moments of exhaustion after a chaotic day, the latter two seem like a much bigger accomplishment! But I know when I read a blog post the next morning about a DIY project or a wonderful, healthy, home-cooked meal, I start to feel unworthy.

What's worth remembering in all this is that while one mom might cook fabulous meals, another bakes from scratch every week, another's house is worthy of a magazine spread, and another sews her own clothes, they aren't doing it all. You don't have to either. Raising and nurturing children is a job all in itself. I think we - at least I - tend to amalgamate these various moms in our heads and feel as though we're being evaluated constantly by a hovering Supermom who can do it all better than we can. I mean, think about it. If there really was a Supermom, she would be swooping down to sweltering parking lots, rescuing the mom who finds herself suddenly out of diapers mid-change, and soothing inconsolable babies at 3 am so the exhausted mom and the exhausted baby can get some sleep. She'd hardly have time to be judgmental!

So if there's something you find great enjoyment in doing, like sewing or cooking or organizing, by all means do it, and do it well. But don't hold yourself to an unattainable standard. Remember, there's only so much you can do. Give yourself a pat on the back when you check something off your list, and don't   lose any sleep -  or sanity -  thinking about how much better someone else does it.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

What I Wore Sunday: Mother's Day Edition

The outfit:
Cardigan: Target (a few years ago)
Cap sleeve sweater: Banana Republic (thrifted)
Skirt: Gap (thrifted)
Sandals: on sale at Target yesterday!
Necklace: gift 
Earrings: gift from my husband a few years ago

I'm wearing my glasses because the pollen is in high gear here, my friends. I have been so sniffly and puffy this week, I decided to give my eyes a break from contacts this morning. I guess that's what we get for the last few weeks of gorgeous weather! 

This is my first official Mother's Day. We celebrated last year, when I was enormously pregnant (see below) and still not allowed to go out, but I feel like it's a real holiday this year.
This is from around Mother's Day last year - same sweater!
We got to go to brunch with my parents after Mass, which went better than I expected although we forgot to bring Emily and Erin's baby food with us. They were limited to goldfish crackers and tastes of banana muffin - I think they were unimpressed. Or maybe just not as hungry as I expected. They behaved pretty well, though. Their Mass behavior this morning gets a B from me, since both girls were fussy and we ended up pacing around a lot, trying to calm them down. It's to be expected from babies, I  suppose, but they are getting harder to calm as they get closer to being toddlers.

Ironically, the homily today was about sacrifice - both that of Christ on the cross and the sacrifices inherent in raising children. I suppose one of those would be teaching little ones to behave during Mass and keeping them calm. I don't know that I feel as though it's a sacrifice as much as doing the right thing, but I guess as compared to the alternatives it would be. For the most part, we've been pretty lucky with our girls, as long as we go to a Mass with some background noise from other kiddos!

I hope all you moms and moms-to-be out there are enjoying your Mother's Day!

I'm linking up with Fine Linen and Purple for What I Wore Sunday! Head on over to see more Sunday attire!

Monday, May 6, 2013

What I Wore Sunday: Flowered Skirt

I realized this morning that Emily and Erin will be 1 year old just 6 weeks from today - where did this year go?! It's incredible to watch these girls grow up. I've said it before, but I'm so blessed to be their mama.

In front of our new flower bed 

Outfit deets:
Skirt: American Eagle via St. Vinnie's
Top: Merona from Target
Necklace: gift from my mom
Wedges: Target

The convoy of priests and brothers who headed down for Mass this morning was slightly delayed by a flat tire, which meant we had plenty of time to try and get both babies sleeping beforehand. Emily fell asleep right away, but Erin was awake for almost all of Mass, talking and fussing the whole time. Dan had to sit outside with her, but I could still hear her (and I'm sure everyone else could too!). I suppose there's really no reason to worry about it, since she's too young to be expected to be quiet. It's only hard when we know she's tired and would go to sleep, but she won't because we're at church. Everyone had a lot of fun visiting with Emily and Erin afterwards, though.

I'm linking up with Mandi this week for What I Wore Sunday! Head on over for more Sunday-best!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

7 Quick Takes, Vol. 39: Sunshine, sunshine, and baby personalities

Thanks to Jen for hosting!

--- 1 ---
The weather here has been really nice this week - especially for the end of April/early May in Oregon. It's been 70 degrees for the last three days, and it was even warmer last weekend. The only cooler, rainy day was Monday, and it still felt like spring. We spent most of Monday running errands and going to appointments anyway, so it didn't really matter what the weather was like outside.
--- 2 ---
It's supposed to be even warmer this weekend, getting into the mid-80s by Sunday (you have to realize how strange that is for this time of year!) and that's gotten me dreaming about time in the backyard with my babies. Of course, then reality hits. Having worked in a garden center in the past, I know all about the hidden dangers of the backyard (despite the fact that we've never had one before) and I'm petrified to actually go out and start playing. I feel like we need to cover the whole yard with a giant blanket. Then I laugh at the absurdity of being afraid of the ground. I mean, really. What have kids been doing for centuries? You know, those old pioneer pack n' plays. It probably doesn't help that I put Emily down in the grass for exactly fifty-one seconds the other day and she fussed at me the whole time, lifting her hands up one at a time like she was balancing on a cactus. So maybe this whole fear of grass thing is instinctive. I'm sure Erin wouldn't be afraid, but her lack of fear is another kettle of fish entirely.
--- 3 ---
I've said before that Emily and Erin have entirely different personalities, but it's starting to become clear exactly what those personalities might be. They take turns being "drama queen" - each really likes to get her way. Erin will literally have a tantrum if she doesn't get what she wants, complete with flop to the floor, kicking and sobbing. If you're holding her, she will flail backwards and burst into tears. Needless to say, we try not to upset her. The best way to accomplish this is not to let her have forbidden things in the first place. This sounds simple enough, but the mere sight of my keys and phone is enough to provoke a meltdown. (Side note: someone should make a realistic looking set of baby keys with a little car remote. I would buy them.) The rest of the time, Erin is vivacious and outgoing. She loves to get anyone's attention by smiling and shouting joyously. She also learned to bark a few weeks ago, and she'll happily bark for you - most of the time. She will eat just about anything. And I mean anything. I caught her trying to eat a snail about a month ago. However, if she doubts the sincerity with which you present the food, she will clamp her lips shut and shake her head back and forth in a true display of will.
--- 4 ---
Emily is a little less outgoing than her sister, and if she's going to make friends, she'd prefer to be safe with mommy while doing so. She doesn't really want to be sitting in the shopping cart waving at strangers, like Erin loves to do. Unless we're at Costco, with the double carts, and then she loves sitting next to Erin and grinning toothily. I suppose she would potentially prefer a little more attention, but she knows how to get it - Emily can scream louder than almost any tiny person I've encountered. I don't want to generalize because we're sort of on the cusp of toddlerhood here, but we're talking serious noise. She wants you to know she's unhappy. It doesn't simply end when she gets picked up, either. Erin calms down almost instantly unless she's hurt, but Emily will keep sobbing and sniffling for several minutes. These frightening displays of emotion seem to coincide with waiting a little too long for a nap, meaning that we have at least one a day. I'm not very good at timing naps for two babies. Fortunately, getting in the car sometimes does the trick. Sometimes. Getting in the crib, on the other hand, makes things much worse. Lesson learned the hard way. Trust me on that one. Her cuddles are one of the sweetest things I've ever experienced, though - Emily is a mommy's girl if I ever met one. It's so heartwarming to see her crawling up to sit in my lap.
--- 5 ---
I find dressing my girls to be challenging as they get older. I'm sure there's no baby rulebook that says babies must wear cute little outfits every day, complete with shoes and socks, but I'm fairly certain society frowns upon almost-toddlers leaving the house in footy pajamas every day. Not to mention it's hard on the footy pajama supply to wear them 24 hours a day. See #1, also - it's getting a bit warm to wear fleece in the afternoons. So getting dressed in the morning has become a must. I should mention that, while I love clothes, I'm not big on getting myself dressed in the morning, so I find this task somewhat daunting. For one thing, Emily and Erin don't like having their clothes changed. For another,  they are clamoring for daredevil status by trying to leap off the changing table these days. If they are laying on their back, they try to flip on their tummies. At least baby clothes tend to come in sets so it's easy to find outfits - getting them on the baby is another story. They haven't started objecting to specific pieces of clothing yet, though, so I suppose I should count my blessings!
--- 6 ---
I've concluded this week that I'm not really a morning person. It's one thing if I have to work in the morning - I'll get up and make it happen, even smiling. But it just takes me a while to wake up. I can do things to help this process along, like program the coffee maker the night before, but there's not much else that works. It's a good thing I generally don't have to get up and start the day very early! I have tried setting my alarm to get up earlier, but have yet to succeed. I'll try again tomorrow, though I doubt I'll feel more like getting up, since it's getting pretty late. If any of you out there are morning people, what gets you out of bed? And how to combat the desire for a clean house in the evening? I might be a hopeless evening owl (I'm still usually in bed by around 10:30) but I'm willing to try and change!
--- 7 ---
Our power went out this week, and it was a really eye-opening experience. Dan had gone to a meeting for work, so I was home with the girls and he had the car. We had been playing and doing chores (I'm sure you can guess the breakdown there) and suddenly the background music stopped, the light dimmed, and the ceiling fans slowed. Luckily, I'd just started the washer on cold, so I could make some bottles with the remaining warm water and put the girls down for a nap. I put some more warm water in two more bottles, put them in the sun on the windowsill, made a frantic phone call to the power company, and realized there was nothing on my list of things to do that could be accomplished without electricity. Except weed the garden. So I went out and weeded our front flower bed (really the ground in front of our laurel bush where the mailman insists on walking from our mailbox to the neighbor's) and prepped it for the marigolds I'd bought. I watched several utility trucks drive around our neighborhood before they all congregated behind our house. Apparently whatever happened was quiet, but it only happened about 40 feet from our fence, judging from all the activity. I'd love to say that I learned a lot from this experience and am much more conscious of how much I rely on electricity, but I was mostly just frustrated at my lack of preparedness for the situation. Definitely food for thought, since storms are pretty common here. For now, at least it was sunny enough to leave the house. All's well that ends well, right?
For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!