Thursday, February 12, 2015

Beyond Friendship Bracelets

Adult friendships are such a tricky thing. I knew they were tricky long before I got married, but post-wedding bells, they've gotten even more complicated.

I used to think that my best friends would always be on speed dial. I would drop everything for that 3am phone call from my BFFs, ready to chat about anything, ready to jet out on a plane to solve any crisis. But reality has set in: my phone at 3am will always be on silent, because I don't want the baby to wake up. Sometimes, I really can't chat - not for days or weeks, because the season I'm in is hectic, and all my emotional energy is being eaten up by trying to maintain my marriage and love my child and offer something to my Savior. My friend themselves are busy, with their own families, work, volunteer responsibilities. We all have our own seasons of crazy.

But that is the modern narrative for friendship: "being there" for someone, which means attending to them excessively in their hour of need no matter what. What happens when you suddenly have other real responsibilities in your life, that means you can't 'be there' for someone the way they need you to at that second, because you already promised before God that you'd 'be there' for someone else for your whole life?

For my part, I have ended only a few friendships, most for egregious actions not on the 'being there for someone' spectrum. I rarely begrudge people for growing apart from me, and I enjoy renewing acquaintances with long-lost friends. Although it's hard when I reach out and someone doesn't reach back, I try to understand that I am not their primary responsibility. Unlike what Sex and the City portrays, I don't have only my friends - and they don't only have me. We live in a wider world of responsibilities and relationships: we have extended family, husbands, children, and work, to name a few. I don't expect my friends to be everything to me.

It seems that lately, what really makes a friend, is actually being able to work through a genuine disagreement. It's easy to be a friend when together you and the other person are putting up a united front against something else, but much harder when you feel at odds with one another. It's at that point that you have to dig deep: be willing to be honest and humble and uncomfortable. It doesn't mean just covering over or ignoring our differences or default apologizing just to assuage the other person, but really getting to the heart of the pain or difference. I'm beginning to realize that most people just aren't willing to do this; they either don't want to examine the hurt or they don't want take the time to hash it out - they don't want to feel discomfort. It's easier to ignore it or write off the friendship entirely.

I'm finding what this means in practice is that I have fewer and fewer good friends as I get older. There's nothing wrong with that, but the shifting landscape of my adult friendships often leaves me feeling lonely and confused. It seems all the rules have changed and it's hard to learn the new ones since they vary from person to person. Sometimes, it means I just let all of it go and try to survive without nurturing friendships. It can feel like so much work - work that feels one-sided, with no standards to hold the other person to. If I feel like my husband were not pulling his weight, I would have a standard to appeal to - but friendship? I'm not sure what I'd say if I felt the same way about a friend.

How to make friends, keep them, and flourish within these friendships has only gotten harder once we move past the stage of friendship bracelets. You out there in internet land - how do you balance your friends with...everything else? And how do you navigate difficult times within the friendship itself?

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

5 Favorites: New Baby Edition

Linking up with Jenna from Call Her Happy for my favorite materialistic blogpost!

So I'll take a break from talking about the items I love for myself (although I really could do another pregnancy one) and do one for ze babies. I've only had one! So I'm no expert - but this time around I have a refined idea of what I want and need...and y'know, what babies actually LIKE. These are my picks for my favorite things for the baby:


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Hear me out - I know it's a mucho expensive bouncer thingy. I like it because from the reviews, it seems to last for a very long time (so the money is worth it? maybe?), it doesn't look dumb (I hate baby items that are hokey), and it appears to work magic. With Zuzu, I was not concerned about never holding her - because that's all I did. Hold her. For the first 8 weeks.
That was great! But I don't think I'm going to have that option this time around and I'm beginning to value things like showers and household cleanliness more than I did in the past. So I am counting on this sucker to be my ticket to 20 minutes of hardcore cleaning. Thanks to my incredibly generous parents, I am indeed the proud owner of one of these babies - so I'll let you know if they deliver.

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I am not actually anti-stroller, but Zuzu hated strollers when she was little (along with carseats! you can see the source of my craziness!) and I hated not being able to go anywhere. Enter in the Boba. Although I also own a sling, Baby Bjorn Air, a Moby Wrap, and a Baby K'tan, the Boba is by far my favorite. I have since gotten rid of the Moby wrap because it was way too much fabric and SO HOT. The sling I can use till 10 pounds before it kills my shoulder, the Baby Bjorn is great fun once they have good enough head control to face out, and I haven't actually tried the K'tan yet, but imagine it to be a stress-free Moby, so I'll let you know.
BUT! The Boba! I love it. It buckles, so there's no confusion about tying things. You can use it from birth - 45 pounds (i.e., I still use it to get through airport security with Zuz), you can nurse in it (I swear - it's really easy), and it carries on the front or the back. The patterns are very cute - I have the Soho, pictured above - and you can wash it, if you need to (though I've only washed mine twice - mostly I spot clean it). It has been worth every penny, especially since we traveled a lot when she was little and this was the easiest way to get around with her.

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So my thing about hating baby items that look dumb? It extends to highchairs, majorly. Why are they all made of plastic with these horrible nooks and crannies that you can NEVER EVER EVER CLEAN? I'm all for the ones that hook onto the table, which are far easier to clean and space efficient, but I still fear my child plunging to their death.
Wooden high chairs are actually becoming popular again, which just means that you can't find a cheap vintage one on eBay and Babies R Us hasn't caught on yet and started carrying them again. Once again, my mom to the rescue with the Keekaroo. Pricey? Yes. But also made of real wood, extremely durable, can morph into a toddler chair, and then an adult chair. So those are my justifications. (I'm really good at this justifying thing, as you can tell) There are no hard to reach nooks or crannies, you can get it in the wood finish that matches your dining room, and I don't find it hideously ugly. I will say - it is big, so it's not a space saver. But I like it!

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Don't laugh - I know, what could be more unnecessary than baby leg warmers? But they are more useful than they first appear. First of all, they serve as a great anchor for elusive baby socks that never want to stay on skinny little feet. Tuck the socks under there and they stay put! Secondly, I hate it what I have to get the baby nearly entirely undressed for a diaper change - especially because then they get so mad because they're so cold. Baby legs to the rescue again! All you have to do is unsnap the onesie, but their legs stay covered as do their feet because of aforementioned anchored socks.


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It's not necessary they be Aiden+Anais that everybody loves, there are some knock-off brands that are sold that are just as great! But living in a warm weather climate, I found these blankets to be really indispensable. They weren't too heavy to be used constantly, washed up easily, were very soft, and fit very easily into my diaper bag. Also, they're huge, so they're really easy to use as a nursing cover if you happen to forget yours.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

5 Favorites: MOAR Pregnant Beauty Things

Last time I did 5 favs, I posted the five things I WANTED to help me look less...frumpy in this pregnancy. I have tried some of them and found some others and thought I'd share with you all what has worked...


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I know, where most of you live it's freezing, but not all of us are in the frozen tundra - and some of you maybe are just beginning to plan for your summer vacations. If so, I highly recommend this reasonably priced ($36.99) and slightly retro one piece. I bought it in a hurry last week in preparation for Jen's 30th birthday weekend at Captiva and despite my concerns about looking like the hugely pregnant uggo all weekend, I actually felt confident and cute. And for THAT, I would've paid way more than $36! 


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The skinny jeans for all of us thick-thighed ladies that swore we'd never rock skinny jeans. I am not built like a stick figure - when not housing another human being, my body shape closest resembles Nani from Lilo and Stitch. But my normal bootcut jeans just don't cut it when I'm pregnant, they look weird on me! Especially if I'm trying to rock a flowy top...suddenly I'm just wearing flowy stuff all over and it's like a badly stitched moo-moo.
These jeans! They are comfy, with mucho stretch, and their fit really isn't super skinny - it's more like a fitted jean. Plus! They are on sale right now ($26.99) - but don't try to use the additional 40% off, because that's NEVER good on jeans (because Gap is a jerk).



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I bought a batch of things from Asos in November and every single one of those pieces delivered, except for one which is just much bigger than I thought it was going to be. But one of them stands out as very comfortable, constantly stylish, and easy to pair with anything - this tunic (for only $24.62, although now sadly only available in a small). I have to consciously try not to wear it every day, especially with my gold flats and a red headband.
Side note: I'm not sure why it looks so long in the picture (maybe because that gal's probably not actually sporting a real belly?), but it really isn't appropriate to wear as a dress - even on me, and I'm only five feet tall! It rides up quickly because of how ruched the sides are and how stretchy it is. Even with tights, I feel pretty self conscious if I'm not wearing pants. 

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I cannot get away with just concealer under my eyes, because my skin tone is fairly uneven and gets worse in pregnancy. But I don't have the time to put on war paint like those Pinterest contouring tutorials tell you to! Actually, most of the time, I'm doing my makeup at red lights or in the passenger seat. Also, I really don't have the money right now to figure out if the fancy pots of skin paint at Ulta or Sephora are worth the half-my-grocery budget they cost. 
Enter in this lovely, under $12, available at Walmart so I don't have to make a separate trip, CC cream. Apparently CC cream stands for 'color correcting' and is supposed to correct redness and other issues, but I'm not expecting any miracles - I just want something more sheer (sheerer??) than foundation. It's easily applied with my fingers, covers my unevenness, but doesn't cream "I have a mask on!" Sold.


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I do not look like this in this product. I am not claiming this product will make you look like this.

The one product I considered last time really delivered. Form-fitting clothing in pregnancy is more flattering (and can be comfortable with enough stretch!), but my body has odd lump and such, so I find this my invaluable companion to getting dressed in anything other than sweatpants. Also, since age-old wisdom holds with very small panties to avoid VPL (visible panty lines), and I am completely against very small panties at any point in pregnancy, I am grateful that the Blanqi successfully smooths out any of that as well. TMI? Too late!
I will say that it is so tight it sometimes rides up, which is annoying when worn under a dress. But I'm also an hour glass figure and a bit on the curvy side, so I think it has more to do with my childbearing hips than the product itself? It seems most reviews by women who have a different shape indicate it's not a problem for them.


PS I never did try the product from Lush, after discovering a dust-up over Lush's support of an anti-Israel group. Although I couldn't find any current info on their site indicating they still support this charity, I then became curious as to what they ARE doing with all the money they earn from their overpriced products. Their full list of supported charities is here and I felt uncomfortable with their support of the 'Hate Crime Hub' (I don't agree that we should criminalize words) and Education for Choice. I'm not a big boycotter, but if I have the choice, I'd rather avoid throwing tons of money at a company that probably sees me as a criminal. 




Saturday, January 31, 2015

A Girl Who is Big

Today is Jen's 30th birthday! She is, without a doubt, the best godmother to my child and the best friend that I could have. In honor of her lovely birthday, a bunch of us are hanging out in Captiva enjoying a girly slumber party. So I left Zuzu overnight for the first time and enjoyed a full 24-hrs away...

It's a feeling like restlessness. 

When we got to the beach, I didn't know what to do with my hands. My hands! They are always active - caressing, fixing, stirring, fetching, pointing, teaching, holding, playing. They aren't still very often - mending, washing, changing, dressing. Even when I'm attempting to enjoy some contemplation or time in relaxation, they are doing something - writing, praying, gardening. Even when I sleep, they are poised on the cusp of action, waiting to be called back into service, and morning finds them, more often than not, holding a little someone anyway. 

Being without her felt like learning to ride a bike - awkward, scary, anxiety producing. I felt so devoid of purpose, like I was constantly forgetting something, and had to keep stopping to think "what is it that I'm supposed to be doing?" Every child that made a noise drew my immediate attention, because all of my senses were putting out feelers, straining, and searching for her: the one they are attuned to, the one that they focus on, the main thing that I marshall all my energy for every day. 

And then I was fine. Like someone flipped a switch. It wasn't forgetting, because I was so terrified that it would be like forgetting. It was just - new. I knew she was okay, I knew I wasn't far, I knew he was with her and all was well, all was well. It wasn't not missing her either, or relief, which is good because that frightened me too. I just enjoyed where I was and let her enjoy being daddy's girl. 

At night it was harder; I prayed through a great deal of missing her, missing him, missing being the one to take care and do for my little nest. In the morning, too, I realized it was the first time ever in her life I had not seen her wake up face. It stung and gnawed at me. But I relaxed, forced myself to relax, to sit and enjoy morning silence (my favorite thing). 

Then I was home. Home and she shouted "Mama! Look it's my mommy!" when I pulled in the drive. "Where have you been?" she wondered, and when I held out my arms she stared at my fingernails. "oh where did you get this?" She was fascinated with the entire idea: Mama went away and came back in a red bathing suit with red fingernails. She didn't cling, or cry - she ran back to the neighbor girl and kept playing, invited me to play, didn't mind when I didn't, went on with her childhood work. 

It was a full 24 hours away and I came back to a girl who is big. 


Saturday, January 3, 2015

2014 in Review

I am bad at remembering: I don't like to look back - I'm always looking forward. Sometimes this causes me to overlook some wonderful moments or fail to learn from some difficult ones. So I'll join Dwija in this stroll down memory lane:

January

I was also in my third month of leading the youth ministry and took a bunch of them to the St. Augustine March for Life

The first of the year in 2014 found me longing for order, the word I chose to guide me throughout. I wanted to be pregnant, we were considering adoption, I wanted my life to have a proper sense of proportion. I was very much searching.

February

Then in February, Tom's parents rented the condo across the street from our house and that was such a blessing. Having grandparent's literally across the street, along with some lovely cool weather, gave us a month where I did little blogging, except to note the fun MLK parade attended. Lots of time with Tom and his parents, lots of dinners on the patio, lots of wonderful memories!


March



St. Patrick's Day was Confirmation last year, so March flew by as my work life was very busy. I found myself struggling with being a working mom and trying to find my peace fulfilling two roles I never saw myself doing at the same time. We were also re-doing my office at work, so Zuzu was spending A LOT of time at the parish.

April
This was also the year that Zuzu got THREE Easter baskets, because Jen, my mom, and I are all incapable of communicating.
Last April was a busy, angst filled month - we had our Rummage Sale to benefit the youth group, Easter of course which is a very busy season for Tom, and then both of our birthdays. I dyed my hair red and struggled a lot with the point of (me) blogging.

May


This month brought one of the most fun vacations we've ever had when we visited the Christensens in  Missouri. Zuzu thoroughly enjoyed their four lovely children - and their chickens! Tom and I loved time with another family that is striving to raise their children focused on Christ.

June



In the middle of the year, we confirmed the news that we had lost the baby we had been so excitedly anticipating. Nevertheless, we enjoyed a great trip to Pittsburgh to visit my friend Colleen and Miami to see my friends David and Jennine - trips that were fun, relaxing, and a much-needed distraction.

July

We took our big trip this month and went to Aruba! I discovered that Aruba is a lot further away than I had thought (4 hour flight from south Florida...19 miles off the coast of Venezuela!), and that having your picture taken on a beach vacation can be kinda hard. Edel happened, and it wasn't everything I wanted it to be, but I learned a lot about myself so that's worth something, right?

August
Time with GG and Grampy at the sail club! 

We spent some much-needed time with Tom's family. The annual hang-out at the sail club, trips to the zoo, and summer weather that did not necessitate constant AC: summer in Indiana.

September



We announced our big news - second baby on the way! That and sleep dominated my life...at least, until we went to Ireland for ten days. The cooler weather did a lot to alleviate some of my fatigue and queasiness, and we had a lovely trip without a single drop of rain.

October


Zuzu turned two and we found out we were having a baby boy!


November


I decided that I wanted to NOT look like a total slob this pregnancy, and started to get on top of Christmas gifts (in the thriftiest way possible). We spent Thanksgiving in Indiana with Tom's family, where we got a white Thanksgiving and lots of time in the cold (this really helped me with my desire to look cute - good hair days are plentiful when there's no humidity).


December


Last month I didn't make my 2-post a month goal, but did manage to get all my Christmas gifts out on time - and half my Christmas cards! So I'm really counting that as a win. It was a busy month celebrating all the lovely feasts in Advent (St. Lucia Day, Our Lady of Guadalupe), keeping vigil with the Lenaburgs, and getting my house ready for Christmas. My parents came to visit for a little bit during the Christmas season - and man, we got a LOT done during that time! I'm not quite ready to do a post on Zuzu's new room, but I really want to because their hard work deserves a post of it's own.

And THAT makes for quite the year!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

I'm So Happy You Found Me?

The other day, out of curiosity, I checked my stats on here. I always wonder what my most popular posts are or how people find my blog.

But I never thought I'd see this:


Do you see that? It's how people find my blog - what search terms lead to my blog, at some point in the Google rabbit hole. Do you see what is at the top?

BBW mom.

BBW means 'big beautiful woman' - it's a term used in personal ads mostly to convey 'a sexy fat chick' according to Urban Dictionary, which I do NOT recommend reading at leisure unless you want to scour your brain with bleach afterwards.

I have briefly considered using this revelation to redefine my blogging attempts: new year, new look! I will now be the big beautiful mom blogger! I will post lots of pictures of myself in stylish outfits, showing how to be gorgeous and sexy at any size, while having any amount, or age of, child. I will find out how to pose against edgy backgrounds like train yards or brick alley ways, often looking wryly amused or hipster-thoughtful.

This image is quickly dashed by the realization of my bank account (small) and the current state of my closet (more practically than fashionable) - and the fact that sometimes I forget to shower for frighteningly long periods of time (when it's cold, what's the point really?).

So thank you, dear Googler, for coming to this page looking for, um, inspiration? A new muse? Or something more nefarious. But I'm pretty sure, you just won't find that here.

Merry Christmas Eve! 

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.'

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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

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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.

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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.

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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! 

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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.

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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.