Saturday, November 29, 2014

Saving Money on Christmas

Definitely never thought I'd be writing this post, HOWEVER.

This year we actually started planning Christmas gifts in November, which although is probably late for most of you, is actually pretty early for us. Advent is a hectic time for Tom and I can get so swept up in it, that I get lost too. This year, however, we really needed to budget and so we had to plan ahead, and this is what we did...


Well, first we ogled pictures of Zuzu dressing up 'as Baby Moses.'

-1-
Plan.
Don't roll your eyes! Planning helps. I bought Catholic Icing's Christmas and Advent Planner, which was seriously the best investment EVER. It's an entire binder of printables that helps you be organized and gives you things to do for the season, prayers, etc. She encourages you to pick and choose what works for your family and to NOT try to do it all.
Included in this binder is a gift planning section! It has a section for planning DIY gifts, budgeting, and the gift list itself. We used that and it was very, very helpful to keep us on track so I wasn't scrambling around for the scrap of paper that I wrote my ideas on. For $12, it's a complete lifesaver.

Other life savers: seeing how cute your child would be in winter clothes, but being thankful you don't have to go through the boots-hat-coat-mittens routine every day

-2-
Shop around & Stack Discounts/Cash back Offers 
The big face-off is between brick and mortar and online: many discounts are only available online and others, only in store. I won't even consider online if I don't get free shipping, which most offer during the holidays anyway. The key to shopping around, though, is considering how you can get money back. For online shopping, you should ALWAYS have an eBates account (gives you money for going through their website to buy things at other websites - Dwija endorsed!!) and check to see if your credit card gives you money back too (Discover does).
I use Google shop to compare prices between big box stores like Walmart, Target, Amazon, etc. Also, since a lot of stores right now are offering $25 off of $200, etc., consider stacking presents at one store so that you can save overall. Even better? Use the website Cash Back Monitor to see where the greatest cash back offers come from, and see if you can get accounts/cards that offer the best ones, just to use for these gifts.

-3-
DIY It
Don't shudder with terror - lots of DIYs are perfectly lovely gifts that aren't as time consuming as you'd think.
How about all those people you want to give gifts to, but can't afford to buy for? Like if you have 4 kids and a bajillion teachers? Mix up a big batch of salt scrub and place it in cute glass jars with a tag - a useful gift that's fun to make. I always do cookies for the neighbors - platters from the dollar store, plus some no-frosting Christmas cookies are very lovely and appreciated.
Have you given up sewing homemade gifts? My tried-and-true hand sewn gifts are lap duvets (just big pillow cases! no reason to be intimidated!) and table runners. Really, these are very easy gifts that can be dashed off in an evening - even for people without sewing experience! Although fabric can be expensive, I often look at table cloths/old sheets at Goodwill - some of them have very lovely patterns and are very inexpensive for the amount you need.

-4-
Family Gifts
We simply can't afford to give a gift to everyone in our extended families, as much as we'd love to. But we can afford to do family gifts that can be enjoyed by everyone! We usually do a box of citrus (because we're the FL branch of Tom's family), boxes of our favorite chocolates (it's a Christmas tradition to have this around in my family), or a new board game.
If you feel you have to give gifts to individuals, but know you can't afford, just make this year the year to make a new tradition - send a nice Christmas card with your family gift, explaining how much you love everyone and hope this token lets them know you're thinking of them/missing them this Christmas season. Bite the bullet!


The Minnie and Mickey pictured are courtesy of my parents - as is her coat, hat, boots, the dress is from Tom's aunt and uncle, and the tights are from Tom's parents. Suffice it to say, we'd never be able to take care of our child without our families! 

-5-
Pool Your Resources 
If there's a big gift you've been eyeing for one of your children or another family member, see if you can get everyone to go in on it. Jen's family all went in on her camera one year, enabling them to get her a great camera and great accessories to go with it (bag, strap, etc.). One year I had everyone go in on an eReader for my mom and a diamond bracelet for my sister - gifts that would've been out of reach for each of us individually, but that worked all of us together.

-6-
Don't Give
We don't give Zuzu presents yet, really. There's not a reason to - her grandparents are very generous, as is the rest of her family, and how many presents does a 2 year old really need before she goes numb with toy overload? I usually buy one or two nice books that I've wanted to add to our collection - ones that I know we'll treasure for years and that are more expensive. Then I call it a day.
Make sure that the present you're considering buying is intentional and meaningful before you go in on it - there's no need to add to the materialist noise if you know it won't really make a difference for your family.


Grandparents spoil her in so many ways - in gifts and time.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Slippin' Through My Fingers

A quick update from the frozen tundra of northwest Indiana...

Zuzu continues her love for all things musical (it comes to her naturally). She memorizes most all the songs we sing and knows all of the sung parts of Mass, with the Gloria being her favorite. Lately, however, her great love is Winnie the Pooh and the attendant theme song.

When she started to sing it, she would sing "A donkey named EEEE-yore was his friend!" Instead of going down on the "eee," she went up -WAY up! Shouting his name out of key. I loved it, it was precious, and we said to each other, we really ought to record that yes we should, as we went along with our days.

And then, just like that, she stopped and started singing it correctly. Even when I intentionally sing it in her old way, she sticks to the 'right' way. No amount of cajoling brings back that joyful abandoning of the written music. It breaks my heart a little - this smallest growing-up sign, this very tiny blip on her developmental phases. It's like this every second, learning something, learning it better, mastering it, moving on - and I'm just watching, trying to keep up with all the wonder and joy of her growing up.

This is the strained necessity of motherhood: the quiet witnessing and keeping in our hearts of all the beauty of our children, while also guiding the process of their leaving us. Sometimes I wonder that women are regarded as weak, when it takes such strength to raise these babies into big people who will walk humbly with God.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

5 (Possible) Favorites: Pregnancy Beauty Edition

Now hosted by Jenna at Call Her Happy!

Well everything is my draft box is S U P E R  H E A V Y and I'm not just not feeling it, so here's some beauty/fashion blather to get us all through.

I'm pregnant again - 20 weeks now - and unlike last time, I am not interested in disappearing into a cocoon for 9 months. No, really - there are all of five pictures of me pregnant with Zuzu and they are NOT PRETTY. I was bigger anyway and didn't really take care of myself during my pregnancy, so I just didn't feel very great which automatically = zero pictures. No maternity shoot, no 'bump dates' (thank goodness, #weird), and only one bump selfie on the Insta (which is now private after this total stranger liked EVERY SINGLE picture of Zuzu where she wasn't fully clothed - no seriously).

View my attempts this time around to not look slobish: makeup, blow dried hair, etc.

This time around I'm 30 pounds lighter and more interested in not being a hibernating Mama. I'm trying to be vaguely cute. But y'know what I realized? All the maternity clothes I bought last time reflected my disinterest in my image, or more accurately, my total self-loathing. Most of it is weird silhouettes that aren't flattering, poor quality fabrics, and styles I don't even like. Yup, sounds like the wardrobe of someone who has lost hope! So I'm trying to re-do things, slowly, and I have some better ideas about what I like...

-1-

First things first, shape wear is my life and this sucker is on my major wants list: 


A lot of women seem to need it for support, but I'm mostly interested in uh, smoothing my silhouette. Read: everything cuts in weird places now making unsightly bulges. Clothing that actually fits is more flattering no matter your size, so I need this sucker even under regular tshirts, $68 price tag be hanged.

-2-
Bodycon Maternity Dress
via Asos



I have always looked better in form fitting styles: pencil skirts, sheath dresses with plenty of lycra, etc. It shows off my curves. But I have no idea if the same will be true for my pregnant shape, since I've only ever been interested in hiding it. My deepest fear is that I will not look like the Swedish model goddess above and instead look like Kim Kardashian (it was bad, trust me). 

-3-
Lovely Jubblies 
from Lush 



This cream is designed for stretch marks on the d├ęcolletage area, but I've heard several reports that it works elsewhere - amazingly well. The price tag is hefty, but honestly, I'm intrigued by people saying it has a delightful floral smell (I love all girly smells all the time in my personal products) and that it's incredibly effective.  My stretch marks aren't intense, but I hope to have many pregnancies to go, so I'd like to flatter my vanity while I can pretend it does any good. 

-4-
Nursing tank tops



I didn't buy or register for any with Zuzu and I feel that was extremely foolish. I realize this is looked at mostly as a postpartum necessity, but as they are usually longer they can also double for maternity tanks - ever essential in the third trimester when you are constantly in danger of flashing your belly to all asunder. Although theoretically the Blanqi would also solve that problem, living in Florida means there will be plenty of winter days where a tank top and light cardigan will be plenty to ward off whatever 'chill' is in the air. 
I've heard the ones from Target are great, but I have no basis for comparison - anybody have a favorite they want to suggest? 

-5-
Strong lip colors 



Deepest berry, bright pinks, candy apple reds...I am feeling LIPSTICK. It's a great way to add color and I love that I cannot wear lipstick without wearing concealer and mascara, i.e., it forces me to put my face on. Oof and if there's one thing that's been slipping since I came to southwest Florida, it's my  beauty routine! Gotta get it together girls...husbands don't inspire themselves. ;) 
Lately I've been all about Raisin Rage by Revlon - which, by the way, is one of two lip colors that my mother has worn for thirty years. It's either Raisin Rage or Toast of New York, forever. My go-to red is No. 34 by Sephora, but I'd like to have a good pink and a berry color too. If you have suggestions, again, I look forward to hearing all about it.  


Thursday, October 23, 2014

Oh Boy



Our new baby is a boy. 

We got the NIPT test, which is a new prenatal blood test available at 10 weeks that can tell the sex and any chromosomal abnormalities with a much higher degree of accuracy than previous tests and cut the need for amniocentesis (which carries a miscarriage rate). Word to the wise: because it's a new test, most insurance doesn't see it as necessary and will not cover it totally - although Medicare will.  -_-



But! Despite this, at least it's good for me to know, so I can stop planning on having sisters close in age and instead focus on my impending doom, i.e., raising a boy. 

I'm kidding! Mostly.

Yet I have had my mental struggles with raising a male child. Girls come naturally to me - because I am one? Because I am close to my mother? Who knows, but I feel like I know how to raise girls: I know the behavior to nip in the bud, how to recognize different girl personality types and not squash developing interests, how to encourage modesty but not induce body-shaming, etc. I think I have the map for dealing with Girl-land and even if that (ok it definitely will) proves false, at least it's a comforting illusion. 

This wasn't ever my experience, but I hear it's quite common


What I am worried about with boys is that I will confuse natural 'boyness' with misbehavior, poor character development, etc. I don't want to force my expectations of behavior on a child if they're inappropriate or unrealistic, either developmentally or otherwise. And while I agree that little boys and girls often develop the same for the first little bit, my friends of both assure me that there is something to the idea that boys are just...different. What I don't ever want to do is squash that differentness, or punish it, because it is unfamiliar to me. 

As a mother, I hold myself to very high standards. I did a ton of reading, researching, and praying before we had Zuzu to make sure I was making strong informed decisions about parenting. Obviously, two years later, I am reforming some of those decisions based on what works practically on the ground. Now I'm trying to research how to raise a boy without being completely...sexist? Crazy? Overthinking too much? 

Gorgeous 1950s mom says "yes, you are overthinking"


Anybody out there in blogland have any thoughts or resources? If you want to tell me I'm crazy, don't worry, I already agree with you. 


Thursday, October 16, 2014

PHFR


round button chicken


Today is making my dreams come true. What's that? Did I win the lottery? Get Zuzu to sleep on command in her own bed? Hire a maid? Learn how to grow hydrangeas in southwest Florida?

No, unfortunately, to all of those things (and now you know my wildest fantasies). But today felt like real fall, at least for us. Windows open, cool breezes, much less humidity. In honor of the day, I'm joining up with Like Mother, Like Daughter to share my joy (and woes).

{pretty} 

My foxtail fern:



Fox tail ferns are actually not ferns at all - but they do have such lovely green color to them and are very hardy down here. They do so well anywhere, but I haven't settled on where to put mine just yet (hence letting it sit in the pot a bit more...hopefully NOT getting root bound). I am comforted to know it's done fine wherever I've put it, so it's permanent place is very much up for debate.

{happy} 
Flowers! In my garden!




Flowers! I love flowers that aren't waxy or insect looking, like most things down here. This lovely tecoma sans is a flowering bush/tree that has really taken to this spot on the south side of the house, but with some shade from the mahogany tree. It can get up to 15 feet tall and 10 feet wide, but I'm trying to keep it well pruned so we can still walk around on that side of the house.


{funny} 
Is this a bougainvellia or a weed? 


It's actually a bogie, that we had trimmed back and hacked out from the potato vine. But now something else has sprung up - a humongous weed, right in the midst of it. To get at the weed, we have to hack the bogie back (I don't want to wrestle with 2-inch thorns) and then try to wrestles its roots out or else find some sort of poison that'll take out the weed but not the bogie.
I do think it's funny that it looks like we are actively cultivating this hideous weed. Bogie flowers are actually quite pretty, but they're being obscured by this wretched demon.
See? Pretty.


{real}
My house - it struggles. 

Haven't quite dried out the couch cushion covers yet...or found a new place for that huge stroller in my tiny house.

Why, what a pleasant assortment of objects: canned corn, pledge, magazine, tshirt (dirty? clean? who knows!), Irish Coke bottle, ancient joke books, etc. 

Roach killer next to cutting board and bread - obviously a good idea.

Breastfast dishes, general clutter, and a tablecloth that is half falling off the table: my Little Oratory is in GOOD shape.

I have done several big projects lately (washing all of the couch cushion covers, switching bookshelves, weeding out bookshelves, organizing our 1K+ books). But whenever I devote myself to big, deep-clean type ordeals, my regular daily chores get sorely neglected and despite maybe being cleaner, my house ends up messier.
How's that for a fine how-do-you-do??





Sunday, October 12, 2014

Zuzu is Two-Zu

Remember when she turned one? I thought she was big then - now I look back and see a chubby baby!

But now it's been another year, full of trips and milestones.

Ireland:

Playing piggies in Galway

Foam courtesy of hot chocolate!

Time change struggles

Aruba

Nursing beachside

These are the macaws, "that tried to bite me!" as she'll tell anyone who will listen

Indiana:

The car show had popsicles! 

Dancing with Cousin Raf, post-Mass


Hanging with Grandma Jean, Grampy, and cousins at the car show


This year she's fallen even more in love with books (which she'll choose over movies, ice cream, or nursing), she's discovered pretend play ("I'm a cat!" or "oh babies, time to go to bed, ok wake up 'ave ice 'eeem!"), and she's become quite the mimic ("oh lorduh" thanks to Daddy, "I have a tummy ache" thanks to my morning sickness complaints). 

I realize now how dangerous it'd be for her to stay an only child. In truth, everything she does astounds me: listening to her play under the table, having her 'read' her books (she's memorized every one we own), having conversations with her where she speaks in full sentences. I love watching who she is becoming, seeing what interests develop, and what about the world enchants her. I love introducing her to new tastes, books, and beautiful places - what a joy it is to discover the world with her! 

We had a small family party at home yesterday, first going to the beach:

Paddle, paddle, paddle! 

with her BFF and neighbor, Macie

Then post-nap, we had presents...

a slide from Grampy and GG! Her face really lit up for this one

lots of new books from loved ones near and far

And Nemo cake!! 

She blew out her candle all on her own - but she's been practicing for months!

Low key, but fun, a day with some of the people she loves most. It was hard for me to resist going overboard - huge party! decorate house like an aquarium! buy her everything! invite everyone! - but I realized that if I want her to focus on love and celebrating the gift of life, I have to start now. Small parties are okay, when the love is so big.

As we've gone through this year as a family, I have marveled at the gift of being her mother and watching Tom be her father. We are so looking forward to another year with our little girl and seeing her become a big sister. 

Another year with our girl - what could be better than that? 


The Orams, October 2014

Monday, September 22, 2014

The Pattern

I will take the easy way out and blame my silence on:

No, not dear St. Gerard. 
Baby Oram #2: Coming to a birth center probably nowhere near you, sometime around March 21!


Coming quickly on the heels of losing Louisa, and in fact having a very near-loss experience with this one as well, I have been really low-key about this pregnancy. It's hard to get too excited when I'm preparing myself for more loss, but I've tried not to focus on that or beat myself up for not feeling more excited. Feelings are just fleeting things, after all.

We confirmed our pregnancy suspicions shortly before we left for all our whirlwind summer vacations, culminating in our trip to Ireland last week with our parish's choir. Oh Ireland - you are lovely, cool, and beautiful. I'm ready to move whenever you are, Mr. Oram.

Hotel Dunloe in Killarney...already making plans to go back

We took a horse drawn carriage around the Killarney National Park...yes. 

While there, we decided to look for an Irish name for the new baby. Susannah got her picture taken at St. Susannah's in Rome, so her name is vaguely associated with our Italy trip, so why not go with an Irish theme for this baby? 

We are hyperconscious that once you have two kids, you are setting up a naming pattern. All S names, all Old Testament names, all folksong names - you get the idea. For this reason, several likely candidates have been summarily shot down. But searched as we might across the Emerald Isle, asking every porter, waitress, and stranger their name and its (crazy Gaelic) spelling, we found nothing that struck home or even rung some bells. 

Instead, today, as I was making my bed, I realized I had forgotten - we don't have one named child. We have three. Our children are Francis Marian, Susannah Marshall, and Louisa Frances. Whether there's a pattern or not, I have three named children. This new baby, whether s/he makes it to my arms or not, is Oram baby number four. So I have to think of names that go with Francis, Susannah, and Louisa. 

That takes some of the pressure off, doesn't it? 

Any suggestions - Irish or not! - are welcome!