Friday, May 29, 2015

7QT: Reader Input Needed!

Quick Takes Friday!
In which I have some sincere questions and would love your input.

So yesterday, I finally got Zuzu settled on the couch (she's a horrible sick person), and David in the Boba, then got down to mopping my really gross kitchen floor (and the bedroom for good measure).  Since this is a good time to listen to something, I started listening to the Visitation Project podcast. To my surprise, I enjoyed it - surprise because I'm not really a podcast person. But I really felt the sincerity in their words and enjoyed hearing them speak - plus that line in the first one about encouraging walkers/runners, made me laugh really hard. If you're looking for something to listen to, check them out!

Still one of my favorite pictures - the sun coming in our back sliders in the morning is phenomenal.

In one of the moms groups I'm a part of, a gal posted an article about moms feeling touched out. Granted, the tone and verbage is a bit...hippy? me, but I appreciated the message. Too often mothers go to two extremes in dealing with our gut reactions to a parenting situation: either we power through, shoving down feelings we deem unacceptable, or give in to our first instinctual reaction. The article paints a helpful third way of considering our reactions and allowing them to inform, but not control, our parenting practices.

The article above is really helpful, especially since I'm tandem nursing right now (I realized I outed myself as a tandem nurser in a previous post). If I was going to start a new blog, I'd call it Confessions of an Accidental Tandem Nurser, because I really never thought I'd get to this point. Many mothers I've met have been so complimentary of me nursing Zuzu for so long and I've always protested that I'm just too lazy to wean. Well, I think I've now proven that - I really didn't want to deal with weaning and so now I'm dealing with nursing two kids at once. Which also proves that laziness is usually it's own punishment, since tandem nursing is NOT easier and is actually really annoying, for me, most of the time.

Any one have weaning advice for a much older toddler?

This June, we will be taking the kiddos to Disney for the first time. I'm beyond excited, since Disney was a huge part of my childhood, as I grew up in a suburb of Orlando and nearly all of my family has, at one point or another, worked for Disney. This might explain why I am NOT doing Disney at all like the amazing Kathryn Whitaker. I read her Disney posts and my head nearly explodes.
In all my years of going to Disney, never once have I done a character breakfast or planned out my fast passes or synched our Magic Bands or even taken nice pictures there. Disney to us was like the park down the street - you went often, sometimes just for the afternoon, and it was fun but not novel. I'm feeling sort of bad that I'm not making it the huge experience for Susannah that she'd have if she was coming from out of state, but then again, we probably couldn't afford it if we weren't staying with my parents and getting Florida resident rates!

Amelia's reflections on her cleaning style were sincerely fascinating to me, since I am the exact opposite. Without a cleaning schedule, my house is cleaned sporadically at best. What usually happens is once I have a few minutes without someone attached to my body, I just start frantically cleaning whatever is in front of me - then someone needs me so I walk away - then I forget what I was doing and start frantically cleaning some new area - repeat all day resulting in an entire house that's half-way messy. But if I have a list? Oh it GETS DONE because nothing excites me more than checking off those boxes next to my list.

Someone tweeted Jen Fulwiler's old blog post about her realization of what is ACTUALLY relaxing for her, which is not a day at the salon. I can really identify, because for so long after Zuzu was born I kept thinking I needed to get some time away from the baby to relax - isn't that what everyone says moms need? But in reality, I have to realize that I am NOT  a person who can relax away from my children right now. I feel more relaxed when they are close by, but we are in an environment where everyone can enjoy themselves freely, i.e. kids can be loud and messy, I can nurse comfortably. So for my birthday we ate at this dive on the beach - Zuzu could eat french fries and run around in the sand, nobody batted an eye at my nursing cleavage (because hello, there was a girl playing beach volleyball in a THONG 10 feet over), and there was plenty of beer for all the adults. That was way more relaxing than going out to a nice dinner or doing something away from the kids, where I'd just be worrying about how they were doing the whole time.

Tom has very generously gifted me with a blog redesign! I have hired a very talented designer (she did Jen's!) and am starting to gather ideas. Anybody have advice or any helpful posts out there on figuring out your design aesthetic? I am having a slight existential crisis, not unlike the one going on in my wardrobe AND my home. I think these are all connected. Choosing how to present myself visually - in my home, my wardrobe, my online presence - places me in the position of reconciling my love for two very distinct styles that I have always loved. Choosing one or the other makes me feel as if I am making a forever statement about who I am, but trying to embrace both usually results in visuals that are incongruous and not in harmony. Talk to me, design people: how do you choose a visual representation of yourself - or is it something you're not extremely concern about at all?

Ever realize how hard it is to find a picture of yourself? Baby Zuzu and I in 2013!

Thursday, May 28, 2015

{pretty, happy funny, real}


Joining my parents on their nightly walk in our suburb of Orlando where I grew up. That mulberry tree in the second picture is still a favorite of mine - I have eaten mulberries for years and even made a mulberry pie! If I can beat the birds to the harvest, they're one of my favorite twice-yearly treats.


Zuzu was re-united with one of her best friends, Nala, at a splash pad last week in Orlando. Her joy at their meeting was really wonderful to behold! Even though they are complete opposites in personality, they love one another so and had a great time playing Ring Around the Rosy and ignoring all the other kids that were there. 


Ever know someone who makes funny faces when they're trying to smile for the camera? Zuzu inherited it from Tom, unfortunately - but at least their faces when caught candidly are exceptional! ;) 


This cake, although lovely, is the Pentecost cake...that I finally got around to making on Tuesday! 

I had gotten all the ingredients and planned to make it on Sunday for dinner, but once Zuzu got sick, all of my time with hands not filled with children went out the window. I actually baked the cake on Monday, but then had to put the layers in the fridge because I ran out of time to make the frosting and this is the cake that was four days in the making! 
Even more {real}, I wasn't totally happy with the results. Anybody have a really good yellow or white cake recipe? This was Betty Crocker's standard and I was unimpressed. 

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Grace for Mothering

Since I'm on a self-deprecating streak, I'll keep it going.

My immediate postpartum period was very difficult, as I've alluded to. Zuzu wanted to be picked up, she was constantly following me around the house begging, "hol' me! hol' me!" At first, it made me cry - she just wants to be held and I can't pick her up! Then I began to get frustrated - I just held you for an hour, sheesh. And two weeks ago, I just got mad. 

I was mad because all I could see was what I did for her, every day: made her meals, changed her diapers, spent time talking to her, cuddled her down for naps and bedtime, read to her while I nursed David. I knew we weren't getting as much one-on-one time as before, but hey, life wasn't so different. And she was being crazy whiny. I was hitting my breaking point - at one point, I even...yelled. 

At my low point, I was just angrily staring at her thinking, "what more could you POSSIBLY want from me??"

Deep breath.


We went on a short trip to Orlando last week to see my parents. On the drive I was mulling over my suddenly horrific relationship with my first-born, wondering where it all went wrong, and what exactly my angel-turned-demon child wanted from me. 

And then it hit me: she was telling me. She was telling me exactly what she needed and I was refusing to listen to her. She would say "hol' me" and I would say "not right now," since I was cleaning or cooking. She would say, "read to me!" and I would say "in a minute" because I was enjoying a few minutes of blog-reading while nursing David. She would ask "nurse me?" and I would say no, because it wasn't one of our standard nursing times before David came and I wanted her to be nursing less, not more. 

My list of priorities looked something like this: 
- David
- Tom
- household

And she knew. Despite me doing so many things just as we had before, she knew I was doing them perfunctorily; I was rushing through activities to get to something else, doing them to pacify her. I was not relishing my time with her anymore - and she knew that. She was begging for more of me because I wasn't giving her any of me in the first place. 

I don't know how this happened or why, except that I'm human and concupiscence is real. In that moment, I realized I had to repent - and I did. I asked God to give me a heart for my daughter again; deep and overflowing love and compassion for her. I told Tom about all of this and we agreed we needed to be better - more self-donative, more giving, more aware of her meeting her emotional needs. 

toddler-aided selfies

We've been home for four days and she's been sick, so her neediness level has been way up. I can't say I've been perfect, but I'm definitely getting better. When I'm not better, I apologize - to my two-year-old, which is supremely humbling. Today, she kicked over a vase of flowers and scream/whined as I cleaned them up; I yelled at her. Immediately, I realized that although she wasn't right to do what she did, me having my own temper tantrum wasn't helping. I pulled her onto my lap, and said gently, I'm sorry I yelled at you. She nodded through her tears and whispered, I'm sorry I was naughty. I was startled; I hadn't asked for an apology. I forgive you, I said and she smiled up at me, I forgive you too. Then she fell asleep in my arms. 

And that's what grace looks like lately at my house.

Family love at DGO's baptism! 

Monday, May 25, 2015

Say It Again, Now

I think that's a look of terror on his face

Gentle - be gentle! Remember he's just little so - DON'T BITE THE BABY. Gentle remember geeentle. Aw, what a good big sister you are to give him kisses wait are you - DON'T BITE THE BABY.


[Repeat ad infinitum until tantrum or binge drinking, whichever comes first.]

Friday, May 22, 2015

7 QT

Jumping back on the link ups train with 7 quick hosted by Kelly at This Ain't the Lyceum.

Tom's grandmother passed away this week. She was the last of both our grandparents and we both have felt so grieved by her passing - and our distance from his family. I keep thinking of all the amazing things I knew about her, how it seemed she could do so many things - how she made my mother-in-law's wedding dress, how she not only collected but made dolls, and the darling little Winnie the Pooh set of dolls she made for my husband when he was a boy. Such talent and kindness in one person. Please keep our family in your prayers as we mourn such a lovely woman.

I've been thinking lately about how sartorial choices define a person - and how as an adult, I really should have a set 'style' to define already, right? And yet I still find myself drawn to clothing, jewelry, and home choices that have two distinctly different aesthetics. I feel this is a failing of my adult self. Anyone else have thoughts on this?
(partly triggered by Laura Scanlon's quick take about the parent company of Dress Barn buying out Ann Taylor - which made me really turn my nose up, honestly)

David's baptism was the other weekend and wow, did I do so many things differently from the first time! Not having grown up in a Christian household, I'm really making most of our traditions up from scratch - and this whole kids-receiving-sacraments thing is new to me too since I'm an adult convert. With Zuzu, I really didn't do much of anything right except having a great huge party - but I didn't even blog about it successfully! (Part II never materialized) This time, greatly aided by Kathryn Whitaker's excellent baptism series, I arranged for someone to hold the camera during the baptism, ordered personalized holy cards to give as favors, ordered godparent gifts in advance, and even coordinated my family's outfits. The pictures were taken by Jen and I've just gotten a few sneak peaks - they make me eager to see them all!

The gals over at LMLD have had some GREAT posts on nursing and the postpartum period, probably inspired by all the adorable babies they're having over there! Rosie and I were nearly pregnancy twins, and it was so exciting to see the news of her welcoming her new little one not even a week after we had David.
What I most appreciated was Auntie Leila's point that although not everyone can breastfeed their baby, everyone can nurse the baby. It's so easy to lose the point of breastfeeding - so easy to forget that we're not just making sure the baby doesn't starve. We're also teaching him that love and food should always go together, that his mother will meet his needs, that it's good to be close to her. These are the reasons I love's so wonderful to begin a child's formation from day one, and to have the lessons be so eternal.


On a much less sentimental note, do toddlers have another volume besides super duper loud? and how can I access it? Good thing she's cute...

Any favorite picture books that you feel are off the beaten path? Our favorites include The Selfish Giant (the version with illustrations by Lisbeth Zwerger is really phenomenal), Mirette on the Highwire, and A House Is a House for Me (possibly one of THE BEST books for rhyming and vocabulary growth!).
Not that we have any more room for books in our house...

The BBQ restaurant that my sister and brother-in-law are general managers for won an award - one of the top 25 BBQ chains in America! If you're ever in Leesburg, FL, stop in!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

{Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real}: Life Lately

Joining the lovely ladies at Like Mother Like Daughter to 'capture the context of contentment' in my everyday life! Be prepared for picture overload...there's just a lot of goodness to savor right now.

We're spending the week in Orlando with my parents and siblings - a long-overdue visit so my siblings can meet David, and Zuzu can spend some time with her cousins. 
You know the best part about Orlando with toddlers, don't you? Tons to do - including Disney water parks! 

Enough hair for hairstyles! Finally! 

I am struck over and over again by how beautiful my daughter is! How did we get such a darling (and precocious!) towhead? A good friend of mine said it best as she remarked, "as soon as you bring home that second baby, you're amazed at how big your firstborn is!" And that is the truth - when did my little girl get to be so...big? 

Enjoying morning snuggles in Mama & Daddy's bed - one of my favorite times of day


Thanks to some generous friends who gave us a very nice gift card, we attended the children's matinee at the Naples Philharmonic - a performance of Peter and the Wolf, with live animals! It was our first big outing as a family of four and couldn't have gone better. Zuzu is a true daughter, and granddaughter, of musicians - some of her favorite books are about opera houses and her favorite car ride music includes 'Ride of the Valkyries.' 

Few things are better than getting to see your family love on your children - and few families love newborns like MY family! And since I'm the only one still supplying those, my children will never suffer from a lack of attention. David was passed around a good deal at our 'girls night' the other night - no one wanted to be left out of loving on our sweet boy. Isn't my mom so sweet holding him?


I captured the exact moment that David had a blowout on Auntie Kim's lap! It was pretty impressive and very, very funny.

Girls night May 2015: I can't tell you what joke I made here, but it was reeeeally funny. We have a nearly identical picture from my wedding. Amidst all the hilarity someone said, 'wait, where's the baby??' We were having so much fun and he was so quiet, we forgot all about him - but he was sitting right there in his car seat on the sidewalk, looking like this - 

A bit bewildered by all these shrieking women, I think.


After several days of non-stop fun, I caught this one of the Zuzu-girl last night. Waterlogged from so much fun, a bit fuzzy from a very late nap, she went to bed happily - and even went down for a nap today at her 'regular' time. Vacations, and family, are great for wearing out active toddlers! 

Monday, May 18, 2015

Good to Know - I'm a Horrible Person

If you ever wanted to find out just how much of a horrible person you are, become a parent. Then, if you're still not sure, become a parent again. I'm not positive, but I think you can lather rinse repeat until you're totally convinced on this one.

Before I had children, I would have sworn that I was walking proof of the fruit of the Holy Spirit - in some nascent form, at least. To some degree, I believed deep down, I am loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle, and okay maybe I struggle with self-control.* The good news (non-capitalized) is that I now suffer from none of those delusions about myself.

I know now that I am a horrible person.

Children are little sanctity makers, I had heard. The family should be the school of love, John Paul the Great said. I nodded along while reading these things in my copious amounts of free time, right before I took a leisurely shower and had a full night's sleep. The fact is, when my life was generally of my choosing with few responsibilities, it wasn't very hard to be the person I wanted to be. Given that I normally had a great deal of sleep, ate what I wanted, had time to work out, pray, and see my friends, I did not struggle to be virtuous.

In other words, previously, I had never really been virtuous at all - because being virtuous is having a "firm and habitual disposition to do the good." (Catechism) Turns out, my disposition towards doing the good was neither so firm nor habitual. It had been shallowly developed in an easy, rather selfish stage of life and as soon as it faced true hardship, my virtue revealed itself to be just an expression of my temporary wants, instead of a true habit.

There isn't a single virtue I have even come close to mastering, or even just getting a grip on. The ones I thought I was starting to approach mastery with have fallen to sub-par levels, and the ones I thought I might be gaining some proficiency in have completely disappeared from my radar: self control? what even IS that? pass the leftovers of the cross cake, please.

This starting point - true humility, knowledge of one's sinfulness - is actually step one for most spiritual exercises or true growth in the faith. So I guess what I'm saying is: it took me until age 30 to even get to step one on the path to mastering virtues that I thought I had mastered 8 years ago.

Cheers to you, vocation of marriage - you'll get me to Heaven, eventually.

*Obviously all of that is like a huge red sign going DING DING CONFESS PRIDEFULNESS, but hey adult converts have a steep learning curve, okay.