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.

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...

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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.

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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). 

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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. 

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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? 

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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! 


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Youth Ministry: Should It Be Cool?

Youth ministry shop talk, just for fun.

Currently, I am using a youth ministry program called LifeTeen. It is Catholic and in fact probably pioneered the modern Catholic youth ministry model. It's definitely had it's ups and downs since it's inception (notably, it's founders have become heretical felons and it's liturgy was a bit wonky at first), but it's teaching has always been orthodox and it continues to be so to this day.

My major critique of LifeTeen is that it perpetuates the Culture of Cool. It is an unspoken message of LifeTeen that to get teens to come, we must be cool. Young adults only on the Core Team (the name for the group of volunteers that enables LifeTeen to be so great), dress hip (jeans, tshirts), reference pop culture. To be fair, I don't think this is limited to LT; I think it's an unspoken rule at most youth groups.

Here's my main program with that concept: I'm not the salesman of cool. Eventually, youth become adults - and they will not care so much anymore about cool (God willing). They will care about what is True. And if I'm caught up with selling cool that THAT is my focus, more than showing them what is True, then whatever faith they develop will not last. It will not develop deep roots and grow into a mature adult faith. It will be a phase - along with the pop music, the fashion trends, and the iPhone 6.

My philosophy of youth ministry is more or less based on two ideas: use relational ministry (more on that later), and offer them only Truth. I do not try to be cool because I am not cool. I am a chubby 29 yo bookworm homebody - I'm not going to fool any teen into thinking I am actually setting trends (or even following them). But I am confident that when a teen is facing hard things, when they are suffering or questioning or wondering - I can be there with them. I can show them where I found peace & joy, and show them how to grasp these things themselves. I can introduce them to Christ as I found him: waiting for me in Adoration, coming to me in the Eucharist at Mass, speaking to me in the silence, embracing me in mentors and friends.

The only thing I can see that youth group offers that they cannot get anywhere else is Truth. Everyone else is selling them something, but I am offering them not a lifestyle, not a fashion choice, not a club to join, not another class of human being to try to be - but the knowledge that they come from Love, must live in that Love, and at the end of their life, must make an accounting of that Love to God Himself. This Truth is hard, because unlike the claims of platitudes we enjoy plastering on our walls, Love is not the easiest path. This is why others hesitate to offer this message in plain terms - they are not hearing it from pulpits, from media, from friends. No one else will say "Love is sacrifice. Love is the Cross." But I can't believe that sheltering them from this at all benefits them, since they already experience suffering - shouldn't they know what it's for? Shouldn't they have the chance to have this suffering redeemed?

 Cool will never have a prominent place in my Catholic youth ministry because suffering will never be cool. Since I trade in Truth, suffering in love and its necessity to salvation is the concept that underlies what I do. I believe that this message is what the youth hunger for - these 'words of eternal life' that they can get nowhere else, except from Christ. I'd much rather offer them that than cheapen our teachings with trappings of modernism.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

7QT: Still Reflecting on Edel Edition

This is actually a post I tried to get up LAST week but failed miserably and then I finished it on Thursday night and Blogger ate it and I cried and now finally it's here. Futility, thy name is blogging.



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I have yet to really reflect on some of the bigger messages of Edel (Cathedral building, etc.), but the connectedness really stayed with me - the need for moms to break out of isolation and fear, to have camaraderie again with one another. This week, as we've been at my in-laws, I've really tried to let this concept settle in my head so that when I see another mom, I automatically see her for being MORE like me, rather than less. Turning that switch makes each  mom interaction into a potential affirming experience for both persons, instead of one where we approach one another with wariness or fear.

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Despite this, I still have some definitely feelings about parenting. At least, I have feelings about how I should parent my child (since I think that's the only child I'm qualified to parent). I think there's a fair question there: how do you respect and affirm other mothers, but still honestly acknowledge (maybe even discuss?) your parenting differences? I tend to gravitate towards other women who parent like I do, but there have been a few friends that break the mold. Do you see yourself doing that - choosing friends based on parenting styles? Is that good/bad/neutral?

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One of the best aspects of Edel, and one that has been really on my heart lately, is the space that it made for work outside the home moms. So often, in the Catholic world, that terms feels wrong - or maybe only reluctantly right. So devalued are women who stay at home and who mother, that we have gone 180 degrees and turned our backs on women who choose a different path. Yet we forget that some of our greatest female saints who were mothers, worked outside the home! St. Gianna Beretta Molla isn't going to be accused of being a slouch in the mom department anytime soon, and she was a doctor. St. Elizabeth Ann Seton became a nun and founded an order - while she still had children at home! We forget that God's calling is individual, and while we can discern that something would be wrong for us, it doesn't mean it's wrong for everyone.
I'm really praising God lately for that freedom to embrace what He's calling me to.

-4-
The other thing that has really been on my heart has been children and what a deep blessing they are. Could Edel have affirmed that anymore? Those babies there were so lovely and it was so wonderful to be in a space that affirmed their existence as an unqualified good. Seeing that many women there, all of whom believe the same and are living their lives in that way, made me realize that we are starting a revolution - a revolution of love. By God's grace, our children will grow up knowing they are precious to us, and to Jesus Christ. In a world that is eroding the dignity of human beings more and more each day, this message can be nothing short of transformative!

-5-
Another great aspect of Edel has been the posts that have come out after it addressing the crosses of infertility, sub fertility, etc. There was a good deal of Twitter conversation about the place of wives who are not mothers at Edel, and I think a valid question is, should Edel have sections of it geared towards women who are not mothers? But Danielle Bean provided another great take on this question in the first chapter of her book, Momnipotent, which was in our swag bags at Edel. Disclaimer: I did not want to read this book; I think the title is hokey, and the cover juvenile. I only read it because I ran out of reading material on vacation. And guess what? It's fabulous. 
The first chapter discusses how motherhood is the essence of womanhood, because motherhood is not necessarily tied to physical mothers. Incredibly powerful, and moving. Give it a read if you can! 

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A truly mind-bending part of Edel was meeting bloggers IRL whom I had only previously known by their blogs. This was odd for me because I don't have an interest in meeting my favorite bands, authors, or actors. I went to Edel to meet - you. But it did reveal to me that the internet, as much as it is a great good and helps connections, can also increase objectification. To see that each of the 'big names' were real women - women with postpartum bodies, babies, wounds, needs - that was very important for me. It's easy to disconnect the words on the screen from the very real people who write them. I am hopeful that Edel served as preventative medicine against that. 

-7-
The big theme to all of this is adult female friendships. How do you make them - and keep them? I have a lot more to say on the topic, but it seems to me that most of these friendships are formed around a common activity (exercise, sewing, homeschooling). But do you require complete parity in friendships - same age, similar aged children, same faith, same interests? I don't think I could find even one person that has complete parity with me! (or is that narcissistic??) Some women even seem to have these large groups of friends, where everyone is friends with everyone else and hangs out regularly. How does this happen? 
Hoping crowd-sourcing has the answer here.

Post script on a personal note - we just returned from about a month's vacation and I'm sick plus work is looming over me. I'll be lucky if August doesn't eat me alive.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Edel Revealed My Weakness (And Thank God for Twitter)

I am among the elite but happy few who went to the Edel Gathering this weekend. And I hate to admit it...but oh, y'all, it was hard

I really identified with what Nell said in her blogpost "I felt left out voluntarily. I missed opportunities to really meet everyone." That's exactly what I felt like: I knew I wasn't having the same amazing experience as everyone else, but I knew it was my fault, not anyone else's. I kept looking at everyone else and wondering, "how do they know so many people?" 

That I didn't have THE BEST TIME EVAH is hard to admit. Every time I heard one of the speakers talk about targeting our isolation as mothers, that the point of this event was to break down barriers, I knew the message was for me - but I just couldn't figure out how to actually do that. I knew these were my people, that I should be eating this up - but I couldn't. I was worried about Zuzu, I hated leaving her, and while everyone else looked so relaxed having left their no-doubt huge families, I was crazily checking my phone over my one 21mo that was a few blocks away.

Despite my own crazy neuroses, I had some great experiences. The talks were really fantastic, and I'm so glad I got to see Kelly do the most amazing rap ever. I got up the courage to talk to Crystal, who was very sweet, and I wanted to make Nell my BFF because she was so calm and her baby so lovely. Also, Hallie recognized me, so I'm pretty sure she studied everyone's blog ahead of time, and I got a blurry selfie with Jen (my only picture of the entire weekend - also a clue that I am freaking out). I had several other awkward moments: preeeetty sure I told Haley that people from north Florida were 'psycho,' which is normal Florida trash-talking silliness for me, but I realized was probably really insulting to her, so y'know, go me! Also, my only ability to talk to Jenny? Handing her a Sofie that had been lost and then blurting out that when I took my 2mo to Italy, the Italian women were all up in my boobs.  Very classy. Oh - in case you were wondering, Heather has an intense New York accent! Meeting her and hearing her voice forever changes how I read her blog (in a totally good way). 

My one claim to fame is that Marion asked me to sing karaoke with her. My other claim to fame? I SAID NO because I apparently have serious problems.

The other thing that allowed this crazy introvert actually break out? Twitter. I love Twitter, and through Twitter, I felt like I was part of the event still - I was tweeting under the #edel14 hashtag, and reading others tweets, and felt like I was getting to know certain people better. I made a ton of new connections this way, and it saved me from feeling 'out of touch' with the Conference, even though I was sitting right there. Through my paralyzing fear, I could still reach out - and so many reached back. It's why I'll never really give up on technology and live in a yurt (although the thought is never far from my mind).

The best part of this entire experience was probably that, as I sobbingly confessed all this to my husband in the middle of the Austin airport on Sunday, apologizing for making us spend so much money on a conference I didn't even make the most of, he looked at me very kindly and simply said "well you'll have to go every year until you have the experience that you need." Real love, ladies and gentlemen. I'm really glad I DIDN'T marry a normal person, who would've sputtered "I spent how much money to get you and me and the baby to Austin in the middle of the heat wave from HELL, and now you're telling me you didn't make the most of it????" 

So yes, Edel revealed my crucial weakness: that just when I am so close to feeling the love of Christ, I am too afraid to come close enough to actually let Him touch me. I want so badly to have a life-giving community, but I am so nervous that it's just not right for me right now - that I can't have it because I'm still nursing Zuzu and she never really sleeps; because I work; because it's too big of a time commitment; because I don't actually have anything in common, with anyone, anywhere. I know these are lies, and now that I see what a big impact they have on me, I'm hoping to spend some real time combatting them. Next year, I hope I will have invested in some online - and real life! - friendships, and that I'll have a very different experience. At least, you have it in writing that I promise I'll try! 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Beauty and the Mother

Greetings from Aruba, friends.

Sunset last night


Tom, Jen, the babe, and I all jetted off yesterday after a weekend of hard work at the Steubenville Youth Conference in Orlando, FL. It was a longer flight than I realized (4 hours), but I guess that's what happens when you're 19 miles north of the Venezuelan coast. Quick jaunt to Caracas, anyone?

We got here around 3:30pm yesterday, and by 4pm, were in our suits, exploring the grounds of the hotel. Zuzu stared at exotic birds and chased after several iguanas - I guess my Florida girl has no fear of reptiles. We hung out at the pool for a while, before having dinner and then going for a post-dinner ocean swim. Why not? We're on vacation.

Loveliness courtesy of Jen

I grabbed Jen's camera and started snapping away - images of Jen, Zuzu, and Tom frolicking by the ocean. Passerbys smiled indulgently, and I realized the scene looked the opposite of what it was: I was the friend taking pictures of the family. But as I've reflected with Jen before, I like it better taking pictures of her with Tom and Zuzu - because they look like what I think a family should look like. For me, Jen looks what a young mom should look like: her silhouette is slender, no pouching tummy, or big thighs. The images with her in them, silhouetted against that Aruba sunset, were almost like make-believe for me: this is what my family should look like. 


Jen and Zuzu have a kiss

But then Zuzu asked me to get into the water (which I'm not going to do with Jen's very nice DSLR camera). And I knew Jen or Tom would take the camera and then take pics of me, and they wouldn't look the way I think they should look. I thought about all the pictures of my mom and I from when I was young, and I revisit them again and again because I think she was (and is) so beautiful, so young, so my mother. But would I love my mother any less if she looked any differently? I love my mother for who she is, for who she's always been: she's beautiful because she loves me. Zuzu thinks I'm beautiful because I love her - love refines, love makes beautiful. 

Jen

I can choose to show her that I believe in the lies of the world: that only certain people deserve to have their pictures taken, that we should be ashamed of bodies that are different, that fear should motivate how we feel about ourselves. I can show her that there should be a division between women who 'fit' the stereotype and those who don't, I can use phrases like 'real women' to devalue others' bodies, striking back in my self-consciousness by declaring thin women to be 'fake.' 

Or - and this is a big or - or I could choose to show her what God believes about beauty. That beauty, although it exists as a concept, objectively, is also something that exists in actions, in our souls, in who we strive to be. I create beauty, and I am beautiful, in relation to how much I love. 


Jen


Jen 
Jen

I still believe Zuzu will look at these pictures when she's older and think I am beautiful. I will work to convince myself of this too; to conform my mind to the mind of Christ. To believe that beauty is about who we are as much as what we look like. 

Jen


Be beautiful, be loving, be Christ to your family today - and take some pictures to remember it all.