Wednesday, November 26, 2014

What do I want to make?

Happy Thanksgiving!  I wanted to jump on quickly in the midst of my preparation frenzy - and since I already had this post almost ready in my drafts, it's what's going up tonight (very ironically, I might add, since it was written a few weeks ago when I was more on top of things, and if I had spent the earlier part of this week following my own zealous advice, I wouldn't be in the midst of a preparation frenzy tonight....but perhaps that only adds an exclamation point to this post, because it's tried and true - I was happier and more peaceful (not to mention, organized & productive) when I was on this kick).

I find myself spending a lot of time writing blog posts in my head, and then when my conversion rate from mental to internet is pretty low, I spend more time thinking about what my priorities are in terms of time management.  Now, granted, I'd like to think I have my big priorities in order (95% of waking hours (and some sleeping ones, too) are devoted to caring for the kiddos, the husband, and the house) but then I end up with a leeeeetle bit of time when I can do what I want.  Most of the time, I'm too tired to do anything other than fritter away the time with clicks on Facebook and blogs I like.  And then I resolve: next time, I'm going to write instead.  Tomorrow, I'll sew something.  For better or worse, I have a personality trait that leaves me feeling guilty if I'm anything but productive (even in leisure time).  And so I framed the question: what is that I want to MAKE with this extra time?

I cannot make all of the 58 quilts on my "Quilting" Pinterest board, or the 83 "Sewing Inspiration" projects.  Heck, I haven't even managed to make a dent in my "current" projects stash, let alone the "someday" pile.  Most days, I can't sew AND blog, and I definitely can't also fit in crochet, embroidery, and card making (I think I have a craft problem).

I think the answer, ultimately, is all the things, just not at once.  I can't blog every night and I can't sew every night, but I can pick something to work on each evening.

As I was thinking about this question, it reminded me of a theological discussion I heard recently regarding the translation of the creed: is God a creator, or is he a maker?  Prior to this conversation, I would have said - eh, He's both, they're the same thing.  It was explained, however, that God is truly a creator, because He created the world from nothing.  We humans are mere makers when we take existing matter and put it together into something else.

It hit me that everything I do - in leisure time or not - can only be "making" because I will never create something out of nothing.  I can make dinner, make babies, make a quilt, make a home...but I've got the starting materials (or the resources to go get them).  What flows naturally from this realization is a recognition of all of the raw material I have out of which to form things (and I don't mean my ridiculous fabric stash).  I have been given resources, and it is my opportunity - nay, my responsibility - to use them well.  I - all of us, really - have an abundance of material, physical, and temporal resources from which we can make something.

Most of all, we have the gift of time - 24 hours each day from which we make our lives.  Yes, there are plenty of external factors that influence how we spend our time, but ultimately we are at the helm, making the choices and using the moments and the resources we've been given.

I've been narrowing my focus whenever possible through the day - is this what I want to make of this hour?  Is it the best use of my resources?  Is this the person I want to be?  I've been so guilty for so long of frittering away my time on things that don't fundamentally contribute to the person I want to be - and when I'm mindful of the fact that I want to be the kind of mom who is fully present, and not with my eyes on a screen, or that  I want to be the homemaker who always cleans up the kitchen after meals, it's  much easier to do those things, even on the exhausting days when I  long for a break.  I can see then that my selfish desire to ignore the dishes or the constant requests to "Play dollhouse  with me, mommy" is a temporary selfishness that robs even myself  of what I really want.

So, Carpe diem. Seize the day.  Make it  - and  your life  - what  you want  it to be.

Perpetual  self-improvement  kick fueled most recently by the following two books: 

For more book recommendations, check out my (in progress) "On My Bookshelf" tab.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

{pretty, happy, funny, real} volume 1

You probably know I read a lot of blogs.  Many of them, I do so for the feeling of "yeah, sister, it's not just you" from the comrades in the trenches of motherhood.  And then there's others where it's a depiction of the noble goal, proof and reminders that this is not just possible, but so very worth it (and beautiful along the way!)  There is no better in this second category than Like Mother Like Daughter {written by the author of this book I shared a few months ago}, and Auntie Leila has so much to recommend and demonstrate about having achieved the "former glory" of homemaking.

So you know their weekly link-up titled "{pretty, happy, funny, real}" is right up my alley, especially since the subtitle is about "capturing the contentment in everyday life."

I had a very {real} night last night - perhaps Julia's worst to date (whaddya think, correlated with it being her first night sans swaddle?) - and woke up (the time I had to stay up, that is) feeling really, really tired and really, really grumpy.

That probably wasn't the context that most people would chose to introduce tempera paint, but having been buoyed by my two cups of decaf coffee (yes, I'm sensitive enough to caffeine that decaf does it for me in the wake-up category) and needing something to distract myself from...well, myself and my grumpiness, we went for it.  And pretty/happy/funny/real contentment commenced, including a mini photo shoot of the kitchen while my little artist worked.


Makes me miss my old kitchen and how pretty it looked in the fall.  Makes me excited for having "my" home again sometime and all of my things can come out of storage.  Makes me realize that "home" can still be wherever we make it.  

(I'm probably the only one who thinks this much about the corner by the microwave).


Buy your stock in Crayola now.
Also in Bounty.


I should have predicted that was coming after this...


I guess I wasn't the only one tired from last night.

Awake at night, sleeping during craft time...

and content now only snuggled up next to Mama in the Ergo, which is why I'm blogging and not sleeping myself.  Or doing the very real pile of dishes (not my favorite task with the carrier on!)

Check out more {p,h,f,r} here.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Five Favorites - the week in my life edition

One of my favorite things about reading blogs is all of the great recommendations & reviews I've read.  I can't keep track of how many tips and tricks, recipes, and products I've found through the suggestion of other bloggers.  In our modern world where few of us actually have another mom across the backyard fence to recommend a new laundry detergent while we're out hanging laundry, this is a pretty good substitute, I guess.  Here's 5 of my favorite things recently, which I will wholeheartedly recommend.  I wrote this post (in my head, of course!) last week since it gives you a pretty good picture of a week in my life right now ;)

You'll have to excuse the low quality pictures (or lack thereof).  If I wait until I get good shots of all these things, I'll never post it.

5 favorites


Anna got this Fisher-Price My First Dollhouse for her birthday, and she plays with it non-stop.  The first words out of her mouth 9 mornings out of 10 are "I ready to play dollhouse now," and almost every night when we tell her it's time for bed she asks, "play dollhouse a few minutes?"  I am always so impressed by how long she'll actually play with it, and Justin and I love to watch the scenarios she creates and the things she has the people say (it's hilarious the observations she has made about our own family that come out during her play!)

Anyway, if you have a 2 year old girl on your Christmas shopping list, I highly recommend this!  I originally wanted a fancy all-wood dollhouse, but I'm glad I went with this one.  Just a tip, don't buy it new - the price for the house itself isn't bad, but the different room sets are astronomical.  I found a great deal on eBay for the whole set.  Oh- apparently it makes sounds, but ours doesn't work, and I'm happier that way (and Anna hasn't missed any noises!)


I just looked through 12 months of photo files and I can't believe I don't have a picture of Anna reading these...but in the toddler gift department, I can't recommend the Highlights Hello magazine enough.  My mom has gotten the subscription for Anna for her last two birthdays, and I can tell you that they have been loved and well worth every penny that she generously spent!

The magazines are really well done - cute poems, stories, pictures.  They also have all sorts of smart features like non-rip/waterproof pages, rounded edges, no staples, etc.  You can transfer your subscription to the two other Highlights magazines intended for older kids whenever they're ready.  I switched Anna's because she met all the readiness suggestions they had for the next level, but she goes back to her Hello magazines far more often than she looks at the new ones, so I sort of wish I'd waited.  She loves, loves, loves these things, though - she has most of the contents memorized and can look at the cover and tell you what story is inside (I don't remember half the time what story she's even talking about, but she'll say "read itty bitty baby" and go to the shelf and find the right one!)


And in the mommy category, my current favorite toy is my Eureka cordless vacuum.  I have to wage a serious battle with dog hair now since our house-sitting gig includes a pet-sitting component.  This vacuum keeps me sane - because it's easy enough to use that I actually do it and not just let the dog hair tumbleweed drive me nuts!  It's ridiculous to say, but if I had to plug something in, I'd do it far less often.  I can just grab this and zip around the kitchen (even one-handed while holding Julia).  It does a good job picking up the hair and small crumbs.  It's not strong enough for larger crumbs (like a dropped raisin or piece of pretzel, for example) but I still recommend it.

I bought the one with 2 batteries so I can just swap them out and always have one charged.

Bonus: it's apparently fun for toddlers, and I figure she's sort of like one of those random automatic room vacs.  (This photo situation is deteriorating quickly - I had a shot of Anna using it but now I can't find it!)


I have finally found the perfect water bottle.  Especially with nursing, I like to call myself a "heavy drinker" (of water, of course).  Actually, that's my biggest tip for successful nursing that I share with my new mom friends.  Drink a ton of water.  And then drink some more.  (You'll realize how important it is when you empty the trashcan full of diapers and realize that all of that water weight has come through you!)  I'm pretty sure that the times I've had mastitis (which Justin describes as the worst shape he's ever seen me in, labor included) were times when I got out of routine and didn't drink enough water.

Anyway, the perfect water bottle: doesn't spill, can be operated one-handed, doesn't have a straw (personal preference), and holds enough for my heavy drinking standards.

I bought three (theoretically - one upstairs, one downstairs, and one in my purse, although it's more likely to be wherever I was last sitting, wherever Justin was last sitting, and behind whatever furniture Anna decided to hide one).

Tangentially related bonus favorite - I won't elaborate for the sake of my male readership, but nursing mamas, check THESE out.  Worth the (steep) price and far better than anything you'll find in a panic at Target.


Finally, a shout-out to my Ergo baby carrier.  I seriously don't know how moms of more than one kids do it if they don't ever wear a baby!  Actually, I'm not sure how moms of one do it without a carrier!  (That's probably why I ended up sitting on the couch frustrated that I couldn't do ANYTHING for so long with Anna ...we didn't end up getting this carrier until she was about 9 months old).  I wear Julia a lot while cooking, at night when she's fussy (Justin will also wear her and stand at the kitchen counter grading if she just wants to be bounced), whenever we go outside or out in public, to Mass....etc, etc, etc.  Bonus - it's really comfortable (far more so than pregnancy, at least in my case! ;))

Throwback photo to little Anna picking apples last year.

I was going to crop this picture, and then I noticed that my beloved water bottle made the shot ;)

Visit Jenna at Call Her Happy for some more favorites :)

Saturday, November 15, 2014

One tiny turkey

So, as you probably guessed from Thursday's sorry excuse for a post, I sort of fell off the Week In My Life today instead here's the tale of one tiny little turkey.

Yesterday, I made this turkey.

And I think he's pretty darn cute, so that makes me happy in and of itself.

But it also makes me happy because it shows that my wonderful husband realized that mama could use a little respite from being at the beck-and-call of a newborn 24-7.  And it makes me really happy because it means that we moved to a place where there is an existing community of Catholic moms who meet regularly for craft nights (seriously, how cool is that?!)

It also makes me happy because it reminds how much I've been enjoying this toddler stage (but who would have guessed from my last few posts gushing about just how adorable my Anna is?!)  

It's just that recently, with her vocabulary explosion, it's been this exponential increase in how much fun it is to be a mom.  Granted, it's always pretty amazing (slash super humbling) to realize that God has sent you a little person to hold and love and teach.  But I have to be honest, I didn't always love the baby stage.  I think I'm just realizing in retrospect how profoundly lonely I was - and kinda bored - with only the companionship of a nonverbal little one.

And then, all of a sudden, Anna started spouting hilarious and creative and intelligent sentences, and she became just so genuinely fun.  

The things that we can do and the conversations that we have freed me from the monotony, and from the frequent guilt at not having that much fun stacking blocks over and over again.

I've heard/read about so many women who said they wanted to be a stay-at-home-mom, but after trying it for a year they couldn't stand it and needed to go back to work for some intellectual stimulation, and that makes me sad.  Not sad if it's truly wanting to get back to work, but sad if it's a decision fueled by guilt and disappointment - because I know those feelings of thinking that maybe motherhood is not all you expected it to be, or that you're not all you expected you could be.  But now I've realized that I was looking at the problem through an unfair lens, and that the first year or so isn't an accurate representation of what being a stay-at-home mom is all about (spoken, of course, with the wisdom of all of my two years of experience ;) )

But there are craft projects!  And story-telling!  And hilarious mis-pronunciations ("the computer dived again" after the laptop battery died (again) during a Skype session).  And "I'm so thirsty, mommy" or "I sooooo tired" instead of a frustrating guessing game with a crying baby.  And coloring pictures.  And "I love you so much!"  And seeing understanding and connections develop. And singing the ABCs.  And a stack of library books about Thanksgiving.

And an excited little girl when I showed her her new finger puppet :)

It probably sounds annoyingly chipper to read this post - so I apologize if there are too many rainbows/butterflies/felt turkey projects.  I just have to put it out there how excited I am by how much fun I'm unexpectedly having.  My rosey glasses have most certainly been tinted by the relief at having reached the end of an overwhelming stretch of preparing/house-selling/moving/adjusting since Justin accepted the job this time last year....not to mention the extreme relief at having a beautiful baby girl instead of a really painful pelvis.

Don't worry, there are plenty of times (like this morning's 2 hour stretch of defiance during which Anna's verbal capacity was tapped to narrate everything as "please not say 'Anna Rose.'''  "please not brush mine hair."  "Please not hold me tight."  "Please not say no."  "Please not put me in mine big dirl bed." when I wonder what business I have writing a post about loving toddler hood.  But then she wakes up and says "I wuv you, Mommy.  Snuggle me." and I realize that overwhelmingly, I do.

P.S. Can't forget to mention that that tiny turkey also represents how much I continue to love love love my new camera & lens.  I realized yesterday that our bedroom gets the perfect afternoon light for photo shoots, and voila:

And lest anyone be worried, I love that tiny little baby just as much as her big sister.  She's just not quite as funny (yet!)

Friday, November 14, 2014

WIML, Thursday

I've been trying to say something coherent about our day and my observations thereof for the last 45 minutes, but nothing seems post-able.

A Thursday-in-my-life?  Pretty darn similar to the Monday through Wednesday in my life ;)  Although today I did manage to take an afternoon nap - bonus!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

WIML, Wednesday

Hello, again!  Are you sick of the daily updates yet?

After yesterday's run down, one of my high school friends commented on my facebook page, "so the baby only ate once in the van on the way home?" pointing out that my play-by-play was, in fact, missing a lot of plays (because, yes, little one wants mama milk far more than once a day!)

I had that comment in my head as we were getting ready this morning, and I was laughing at how ridiculous a true play-by-play would be.  I mentally narrated the process of getting dressed with all of the intermittent pacifier retrieval and dress-up assistance (Anna had layered her pajamas with a maternity dress she found in my mending pile and her new play apron, and her baby doll was not staying in this "tarrie ay" (carrier) [the apron] as she thought she should), and through this exercise, quickly gained an appreciation for just how much of the day I spend doing 3 (plus) things at once.

A few minutes later, I found myself basking in just how previous Anna was - I had called her a silly goose, and she said "nooo!  I'm Anna Rose, Mommy!" and she leaned her head on the door frame and looked at me with her big beautiful eyes and started singing "Rock-a-bye, Anna Rose."  And in that moment, I felt a great loss for how many of these beautiful moments that I cannot adequately capture or remember.  Over the course of the day, she makes me laugh and smile over and over again with her hilarious and sweet comments, and by the time Justin gets home I'm lucky if I can think of even one of them to tell him, and even then, the retelling is never as sweet as her little voice or her little head tilt.  I wish I had a constant video camera stream to replay all of those moments - for my own sake and for sharing, too.

How's that for a recap of the day, huh?  I do a lot of things and I can't remember most of them.  Ha.

The only picture I happened to take on my phone today (ironic since I'm so worried about forgetting the memories with the girls??).  I was pumped about having greeted this chilly day with vegetable soup and homemade bread.  I've had "find a good vegetable soup" recipe on my to-do list for a while, because it strikes me as old-fashioned and homey necessity.  This recipe didn't disappoint (reduce the water, add green beans and shredded cabbage).  The bread is this one that Rosie recommended (mine doesn't look as good as hers, though, so perfecting that is next on my homemaker to-do list).

Aaaand, I think I'm too tired to make any other coherent thoughts!  Goodnight  (And because I have a toddler, Goodnight moon.  Goodnight red balloon.)

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

WIML, Tuesday

Today was a long day, but such a wonderful one.

At 7:45 am I was regretting my habit of scheduling doctor's appointments first thing in the morning, but by the time we were in the car at 8:45 I was again glad that I did it (such a morale boost to be fed, dressed, and out and about at that time of day...especially considering that I showered and changed out of my pajamas at 2:30 yesterday afternoon!)

Julia had her 1 month check-up, weighed in a whopping 1 lb, 13 oz more than three weeks ago, and was deemed to be "excellent" by her pediatrician (who refers to herself as "Dr. Anna" to the kids - a big hit with my Dr. Anna!)  I was thrilled when she told me she thought it was time to start getting out and about.  We're very conservative with germ exposure, but Dr. Anna (the real one) said she thought it was reasonable to start taking Julia to stores or things when she's in her carseat or my carrier.  I had previously been told (by a pediatrician whose opinion I respect less) to wait until 2 months, so I walked out of the doctor's office today going FREEEEEDOOOMMMM!  With Justin's work schedule, it's been stressful for both of us to find times for me to go grocery shopping, let alone any other errands I need or want to do.

I tell (little) Dr. Anna that this is the "helper chair" and that she needs to sit there so that the doctor knows she's the helper.  She takes it very seriously.  I swear you can motivate toddlers to do almost anything in the name of helping.

After a morning of getting things in shape around the house (mercifully, Julia slept in her bouncy chair, so I was able to do some of the difficult-to-do-with-a-carrier tasks like emptying the dishwasher, things that went undone with her fussiness yesterday), we had an early lunch and early nap time, and as soon as Anna was awake we headed for the park.

I stood there in the sunshine thinking: there is truly no where else I'd rather be.

After the park, we were off for some groceries.  I'm not a huge Wal-mart fan, but beggars can't be choosers when the closest Target is 20 miles away, and I wanted to browse a few things beyond the standard grocery fare. 

Julia slept in the carrier the entire trip (except for the check-out line, when she'd had it and was ready for a milk snack in the van before heading home) and Anna sat in the cart the entire time (a marvelous improvement over the constant climbing she was doing right before Julie was born).  I kinda wanted to high-five people as we went like "hey!  I'm out of the house!  We're back in business!  No more isolation!"  but then again high fiving random strangers in Wal-mart = germs.  ;)

It was so nice to be able to take care of things, and as I was putting things away (while simultaneously serving Anna's dinner, reinserting Julia's pacifier 89 times, and making dinner), I was thinking about how good it felt to be able to completely fulfill my roles again.  I'm always amazed by the bounty when I've returned from a grocery store trip, and it was especially evident today.  Although we've been blessed by our community with home-cooked meals for the last month, part of me is excited to get back to cooking and to our familiar and healthy menus.

I promise, I did not arrange the food for a photo shoot!  I was in a hurry trying to find some things for the meal in progress, so I emptied all of the bags before putting anything in cabinets/the refrigerator.
The 6-8 pm hour was its typical craziness, but not enough to totally derail my "it's a wonderful day."  Julia had it with the bouncy chair, so I juggled her fussy self through a variety of will-this-help-your-bellyache? positions while checking the fish and finishing the potatoes.  I quickly ate my dinner, still holding Julia, and using my third free hand (ha!) to help Anna with her various requests...

but when the requests are as adorable as "Mommy, can you please unbow my tie?" you can't really complain.  (She meant tie my bow, and by bow, she meant the legs of the turkey hat.  Love it.)

Julie was content to lay in her crib for almost all of Anna's bath time, and then we weathered a brief dual meltdown during tooth brushing.  (Anna, for whatever reason, was distraught at remembering that I needed to return the shirts I got today at Wal-mart - I bought them without a fitting room visit for obvious reasons, and tried them on before bath time.  I was disappointed that I misjudged the size, but Anna was beyond upset that the blue one needed to go back (through sobs - "pwease not take bwue shirt to grocery store, Mommy!!")  

I settled us back into our big comfy chair and rocked them, and both girls were sleeping (albeit Julia temporarily) when Justin came in at 8:30.  He was just in time to move sleeping Anna to her bed (avoiding the ridiculous contortions I normally do to extricate myself from the bottom of a pile of sleeping babies and get them to their respective sleeping locations without waking anyone!)  Julia had her bath and after a little struggle (likely due to overstimulation from a big day!) she finally settled in the carrier, where she's nestled contently while I type. 

And so ends a wonderful day.  Proof that (like Julia's birth story) I can't write anything brief.  I intended to spend just five minutes giving a quick update today.  Oh well ;)  More tomorrow for the Week in My Life (thanks, Kathryn for the inspiration and link-up!)