Sunday, December 30, 2012

Hanging up the... computer?

I don't remember when I started this blog... Some time earlier this year... 109 posts ago.

When I started this blog, I did so because I wanted to create a space for all of the middle-of-the-road (or "Whatever Works") moms out there, whose parenting philosophies didn't really align with any particular school of thought. I also wanted to display the life of a working Catholic mother who tried to juggle it all. Admittedly, I wanted to be able to say, "Hey! It can be done! Here I am doing it! See? No problem!"

Between working full-time, taking care of the two kiddos once I got home from work, and other aspects of family life, finding the time to blog has been challenging. Sometimes I blogged from work. Other times I ignored pressing chores like dishes or laundry to post. Sometimes I let the TV babysit the kids for a while as I sat down to blog. Sometimes I rattled off a post at midnight.

I love the idea of a blog. But the reality is, I just can't do one myself. For a while I tried posting daily, tried participating in link-ups and connecting to people via Twitter. And it was awesome. But the more I got into it, the more other aspects of my life got neglected. Not cool.

The New Year is upon us, and when asked what my resolution is, my response is:

To focus on what matters most and 
stop getting too caught up in trivial things.

So what matters most? 
1. My faith.
2. My family.

What are the trivial things?
1. Facebook.
2. Twitter.
3. This blog.

Thanks to those of you who have been following. Hopefully you won't stop, so when I return, you'll be here.   


Thursday, December 27, 2012

I fell off the face of the earth.

For many reasons, I've lost track of blogging. The holidays was part of it, but really they were just an easy go-to excuse. Our 24 days of Christmas continued after my last post, but creating the images nightly before bed became a challenge, and I burnt out. On top of everything else.

Lately my enthusiasm for blogging has died off... more to come on that. I'm planning a sort of "wrap up" post for the end of the year. What a year it's been!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

7 Quick Takes: Christmas Music edition

Christmas music is playing on my radio 24/7. I thought I'd do a 7 QT entirely dedicated to Christmas music!


O Holy Night.

One of my favorite Christmas songs of all. When I was in 6th grade at a Catholic school, our music teacher was an Armenian woman who had been an opera singer years before teaching. For our Christmas concert that year, she decided to sing O Holy Night. I have NEVER been as awe-struck as I was when I heard her sing it at the concert rehearsal. I think my mouth was opened then entire time. I was so incredibly disappointed when the night of the concert she had laryngitis and couldn't perform. 

There are so many versions of O Holy Night out there--I'm not sure which one makes me feel the same way her rendition did. I do love Celtic Woman, though, so here's their version of O Holy Night.


O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

Ever since I was a small child, I have loved the deep, meditative sound of O Come, O Come, Emmanuel. Many churches I've attended open every Advent Mass with this song, so in my mind I associate it with a call to prayer. When I hear it, I always hear it in choral form... so enjoy the Mormon Tabernacle Choir singing!


 Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree

Whenever it comes on the radio, I just can't stop myself from singing along. And from envisioning the scene from Home Alone. Listen to it, and try not to do the same.


Mary, Did You Know?

In 2000 I interned for a Catholic youth magazine named YOU! Magazine. There was a plethora of Catholic and Christian-related materials on-hand, and one day I came across a book and CD titled Mary, Did You Know? by Mark Lowery. I read the book and was like--wow, I never thought of it like that. The book and song left an impression on me. In 2006 I came to work for the Christian publisher I work for now, and at that year's Christmas luncheon there was an African-American woman who had the most beautiful gospel singing voice. You know, the kind that can bring you to tears? When I heard the intro bars to this song, I knew it was going to be a doozy, and it was. As she sang, all I could think of was my own experience of motherhood to my then-two-year-old Bebe. And now, with Dois in my life, my connection to this song is even more powerful.


The Chimney Song

At some point during my high school years, I was introduced to The Chimney Song and it's been one of my favorites ever since. It just makes me giggle. And now that I've shared it with Bebe, it's one of her favorites as well!


The 12 Days of Christmas

I heard a version of this song the other day by Relient K and loved it.

But I confess that whenever I hear this song, in my head I always think of the John Denver and the Muppets version.


One More Sleep 'Til Christmas

Speaking of The Muppets... Have you ever seen The Muppet Christmas Carol? One More Sleep 'til Christmas reminds me of all the magic and excitement I felt on Christmas Eve every year as a child.

So, now that you've learned about some of MY favorite Christmas songs, I want to know--what are some of YOURS?!

(Thanks as always to Jen of ConversionDiary for hosting these Quick Takes, as always!)

24 Days of Christmas: Day 13

Tonight was a flurry of activity, because most of it was taken up by Bebe's concert rehearsal. As a result, I knew when I was planning our 24 days of activities that tonight's would have to be something quick. Today Bebe called someone to sing them a Christmas song. I got to work early this morning, which meant we got home earlier, which meant instead of CALLING someone we were able to SKYPE someone, if only for a few minutes. My older brother loved Bebe singing "The 12 Days of Christmas" to him, while Dois played peek-a-boo behind her back.

24 Days of Christmas: Day 12

Another service-oriented activity was assigned to today. I wanted to make sure that as we prepared for Christmas, the kids realized that there are people who will not be with their families for the holidays because they are defending our country. Today we made Christmas cards to say "thank you" to them for what they do. Even Dois joined in!

24 Days of Christmas: Day 11

Today's activity was to read a Christmas book before bed. Bebe chose the book "The 12 Days of Christmas" by Robert Sabuda. It is a BEAUTIFUL pop-up book. We have several of his Christmas pop-ups, actually.

It's always nice when D is around to join us for our activities!

Monday, December 10, 2012

24 Days of Christmas: Day 10

I didn't want to miss documenting today, but I also don't have photos to accompany it.

Today we went to adoration for a little while after Bebe's choir rehearsal.

When Bebe is at choir I try to stop in the chapel for a bit with Dois, but I rarely, if ever, take Bebe to the chapel. So it was a very nice 10 minutes or so in the chapel with Bebe, Dois, and my mother-in-law.

Dois is usually very still in the chapel, but not today. No, today he was restless and easily frustrated. He wanted so badly to kneel on the kneelers and fold his hands in prayer on the armrest part. But he couldn't reach! I love how gentle he is, and when I see him, I'm reminded of how my recent renewal in the faith has influenced him. I hope that as time goes on the same can be said for Bebe as well.

24 Days of Christmas: Day 9

Today's task was for Bebe to choose 10 coins from her bank for the bell ringer/Salvation Army kettle. I think next year I need to up the ante on this one. 10 coins seemed like SO MUCH when she was 4 or 5, but now that she's 8, she understands that it doesn't go far--so we added a little bit more to the kettle.

We talked about the sort of donations the money goes towards--she asked if the SA would buy someone a house. In our expensive little area of the country, I explained to her how the SA could spread out its resources to many people instead of buying ONE house for one person/family. We talked about fairness and also about resourcefulness.

(Note: The kettle photo is a stock photo, as the bell-ringer didn't feel comfortable being photographed.)

Sunday, December 9, 2012

24 Days of Christmas: Day 8

Tonight Bebe performed in a holiday gymnastics show. I wish her gym would think more about how they set up the seating (instead of bleachers, it's rows of chairs on the floors, with the girls performing on the floor in front)--it was very difficult to see/film her (D had to work). Add to it the fact that it was 7:30pm (Dois' bedtime) and it was very frustrating, but we survived!

Bebe did a great job, and she really loves gymnastics. It's been great for burning off some of her energy on Saturdays!

Friday, December 7, 2012

24 Days of Christmas: Day 7

As I mentioned when I first started the 24 days of Christmas, I planned out each day's activity in advance so when it came up, I'd have the necessary supplies on-hand. Now, I changed the 24 activities once or twice to make room for certain events, but I was certain I had the finalized copy. Every day I've been checking it and saying, "Okay, so tomorrow is ____. I need ____." Well, yesterday I looked and today was supposed to be something that needed no supplies. So imagine my surprise when Bebe pulled out the paper and said, "Bake Christmas cookies!!" And, well, we had no sugar or flour. Guess where I went on my lunchbreak?

We had a lot of fun baking cookies together, and then decorating them. Dois didn't really want anything to do with it, though.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

7 Quick Takes: I'm back!

I haven't done 7QT in a few weeks, but I'M BACK! 
Thanks as always to Jen at ConversionDiary for hosting.

— 1 —

You may remember that in November I was participating in something called NaNoWriMo, short for National Novel Writing Month. The goal was to write 50,000 words in 30 days. Well, guess what? I DID IT! That's write, I "won" NaNoWriMo. I got the sheer excitement and energy of knowing that when I buckle down I CAN do something like write a novel! I am far from publishing it, but the fact that I DID IT is no small feat! I did get this cool "web badge", though. I'll wear it proudly!

— 2 —
How are you doing with your holiday shopping? Do you shop for everyone or do you and your spouse split the duty? I do pretty much all of our gift-buying, although the decision-making is mutual. The gift I am most excited to give someone is this one.

No, it's not a fraternity paddle: It's a gnocchi board! My brother and his girlfriend have recently discovered their love of pasta-making and I thought that this would be an awesome addition to their kitchen. Don't worry, I got them more than just this.

— 3 —
My mother-in-law is staying with us for 5 weeks. Have I mentioned that? And since D works 2 jobs, when I come home at night it's herself, me, and the kids. And, um, I speak no Portuguese. And she speaks no English. Let's just say we have some VERY interesting "conversations" involving gestures and frantic paging through the English-Portuguese dictionary.

— 4 —
Besides my "24 Days of Christmas" posts, I'm finding it hard to return to the blogging/Twitter world. I guess because I was using all my time and resources into writing, that now I'm struggling to get back to "normal".
— 5 —
I'm only on the 5th QT and I'm already running out of steam. Okay, what is your favorite Christmas movie? Here's a little clip of mine. It was part our "getting ready for Christmas" every year that I can remember as a child. The opening just makes me so happy.

— 6 —
Confession: I told DD about St. Nick's day last week some time, but I forgot to actually do St. Nick today. I know, I'm a terrible mom. Get me to a confessional!

— 7 —
I'm glad these QTs are done now. I've never felt so boring in my life. I promise I'll ask Santa to give me some quick-wit, or an amusing life or something.

24 Days of Christmas: Day 6

Today's activity was to go buy the gifts for our angel tags that we got off of the tree at our church. We had selected a 1-year-old boy, a 2-year-old boy, an 8-year-old girl, and a tag to provide some supplies for a transitional living center.

What was really eye-opening was how as we shopped for people who had so little, Bebe had THE WORST case of the "gimmes." "Can I have this?" "Oh I really want this!" "Can you just buy me this?" It was really, really hard to be patient. I just kept reminding her that we were shopping for people who had so little, when she has so much.

D and I realize that we went way off track for Bebe when it comes to gratitude and appreciating what she has. It's a struggle every day to get her to realize that there are people out there with much less. The childhoods we had are just a story, an illustration to her.

Why we avoid artificial colors, flavors, and HFCS.

This is not a brag post, or an I'm-better-than-you-post, or a you-should-do-this-too post. This is a post to explain why we have come to avoid artificial colors, flavors, and HFCS for our children (and ALMOST entirely for ourselves).

Last night, if you saw yesterday's post, we went to a craft/Christmas party hosted by my coworker. I hadn't thought too far in advance to think about what sort of food would be offered. I knew we were ordering pizza but I thought that was it. WRONG.

Within 5 minutes of arriving, Bebe and Dois were offered a cookie covered in colored sugar and a juice box that contained HFCS. Bebe looked at me and begged and I said, "Oh, what the heck! You can have them for a treat!" She was SO excited.

When we'd entered my friend's house, Bebe was fearful of the 2 dogs there. To the point where she didn't want to come in. She finally did and I eventually got her to sit in a chair at the table (with her legs up) to participate.

15 minutes after her "treat", Bebe went to the bathroom. After a few minutes we heard her open the door and then immediately shut it. I wondered what was going on so I went and told her it was fine, there were no dogs out there, etc. She kept yelling at me through the door but with 14 other kids in the house, there was NO WAY I could hear her. Finally I got her to unlock the door, and she says, "there's a cat out there!" Now, I knew she was afraid of dogs--but cats?! I tried patiently to convince her to get OUT of the bathroom, and then I just lost my patience. I told her I was counting to 5 and if she didn't come out by 5 we were leaving as soon as she came out. I was just so mortified that she was acting this way in front of everyone.

She came out when I got to 5...and I had to pick her up on my hip like I do DS. Mind you, she's 8 and 60 or so pounds...

She eventually settled down, but the rest of the night was just horrible in terms of her behavior. Every time we asked her a question we had to repeat it 2-3 times before it would register and she would respond. When we were walking around "Candy Cane Lane" she COULD NOT follow directions. She was OFF THE WALL.

I hate seeing her this way. She has a hard enough time controlling herself when she's NOT ingesting such things. At the same time, it's really hard for her to accept that she can't eat everything other kids are. And since she's not allergic, she really doesn't get it. Telling her it doesn't make her feel good doesn't work, because she doesn't notice the difference like we do. We try our best to find suitable alternatives but sometimes there just AREN'T any. It's frustrating.

Tonight just reaffirmed why we do what we do for her, though.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

24 Days of Christmas: Day 5

This year we once again took part in a tradition my coworker and friend started last year: We gather at her house for the kids to make crafts, then head out to a local Santa (that only is there on Wed. nights), then back to her house for pizza, then we make hot cocoa and take a walk down the local "Candy Cane Lane."

This year the party was bigger than ever, with 15 kids attending! We sort of rushed through the crafts (ornaments) to get to Santa right as he arrived, and we were greeted to no line at all. Hurray! (Last year half of our group left because the line was out the door and wound around, and it was cold.)

Dois was indifferent to Santa. There were women dressed in old English costumes and he was staring at one of them. At least he didn't cry. Bebe, of course, loved Santa. And told him something she wanted that she didn't have on her list. Our shopping's done so now I have to figure out what to do...

Drinking hot cocoa and walking around Candy Cane Lane was really nice, ESPECIALLY because it wasn't bitter cold as it has been in the past.

All in all it was a GREAT night!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

24 Days of Christmas: Day 4

Today we made paper snowflakes to hang in our windows. We even got Daddy in on the action!

Adventures in Cloth Diapering: Where we are at 2.

I know I posted about our cloth diaper experiences through 1 year old, but I thought I'd update now that Dois is 2 to share all things cloth-diaper related in our world.

What types of cloth diapers do you use?
I wish I could be the type of person to use only one brand/kind, but I'm not.
The diaper that Dois wears most often are Bumgenius 4.0s. I bought most of them as seconds and they came without inserts. Others I bought secondhand on diaperswappers.We started with Aplix diapers, but the Aplix started to curl and not stick, so I traded a bunch of my Aplix ones for snaps. Unfortunately, a few months later our daycare provider requested that we return to Aplix, so then I had to buy some new Aplix ones (I kept the snaps, though). I would say we have approximately 8 snap diapers and 6 Aplix ones. I will note here that I still prefer the snaps, as once again the Aplix ones are starting to wear.

We don't use microfiber in our diapers, though. I have a variety of items that I stuff them with, hemp + bamboo being the best combination for our heavy wetter. Some of the inserts I love include JoeyBunz hemp inserts (we have both regular and premium), Alva Baby bamboo inserts, Artsy Fartsy Foo Foo hemp inserts, and CottonBabies preemie sized prefolds (for added protection in the wetzone).

Monday through Friday Bumgenius 4.0s are our go-to diapers. On the weekends and at night, though, we like to mix it up a bit.

Overnight I prefer to have natural fibers (not suedecloth like is in the BGs) against Dois' skin. I prefer to use fitteds for the long stretch of sleep due to how absorbent they are. We have two from Twinkie Tush and two from BuBuBeBe. Both brands are fabulous WAHM (work-at-home-mom) companies that make diapers that are large enough to fit big boys like mine (more on that in a minute). WAHM fitteds can be pricey, but let me be the first to tell you that they are DEFINITELY worth the price! On top of his fitted I either use a Swaddlebees Capri cover or a pair of fleece pants (fleece is not absorbent but it wicks away moisture; if you have enough absorbency in your diaper, you won't have leaks).

On the weekends I use a variety of "other options" (to save our BGs for daycare). I have three Flip diaper covers that I use with several different options: organic cotton inserts, Thirsties Duo hemp prefolds (size 2), or Peanutbutter and Ellie organic bamboo velour prefolds. I also have a dozen Imagine Smartfit prefolds that I LOVE and use paired with a Swaddlebees Capri cover.

Isn't it gross dealing with toddler poop? 
I think this is a common question from people familiar with disposables, and one I asked myself (since I didn't use cloth with Bebe) before I had Dois. The answer? No. When we've had to use disposables with Dois, I've found them to be much, much grosser. I mean, with cloth, I take the diaper off and plop his poop into the toilet and flush. With a disposable diaper, it would sit in our trash and smell... and get gross. Yes, we've been blessed with "ploppable poop" but even when it's not, there are ways of getting it off fairly easily (I hold the diaper in the toilet with a pair of tongs designated for this use and swish/flush).

But ewww there's poop in your washing machine!
Yes, but when your child pukes do you throw out the clothes he/she was wearing? If you bleed on something do you toss it? No! You wash it!

What's the laundry like?
I'm the QUEEN of I-hate-laundry, so it's something when I say that it's not that bad. It really isn't. My wash routine goes something like this: 1 rinse cycle for any diapers with poop on them, 1 rinse cycle for all diapers, one "super wash" cycle, an additional cold rinse cycle, then one cold rinse cycle. I dry everything together on low for one cycle, then remove all the pocket diaper shells and covers and dry the remaining inserts and prefolds for another cycle on low. If anything, the most challenging thing has been finding the right detergent. I have tried many and although it's not recommended, the only thing that works with our hard water for me seems to be Ultra Tide powder. So it is what it is.

How much have cloth diapers cost you so far?
We've probably spent about $600 in cloth diapers thus far. For 2 years' worth of diapering. Whenever I have to pick up a pack of disposables and spend $20 for it, I can't help but catch myself thinking, "I could buy another diaper for this price!"

Do you really think cloth will last you until potty training?
I'm not sure, but I'm really going to try. Bebe did not potty train until she was almost 4. I'm hoping that's NOT the case with Dois. He's long and lean and because of this, many of his cloth diapers are beginning to look like bikinis (see photo above--that's a Flip cover with a PB&E bamboo insert). The diapers we have that I think will fit him the longest are the Swaddlebees Capri covers, the Imagine Smartfit Prefolds, and his Twinkie Tush and BuBuBeBe fitteds. 

Thanks for reading this! If you have any questions not addressed here, please feel free to ask!

Monday, December 3, 2012

24 Days of Christmas: Day 3

Today we decorated our house for Christmas. As is typical where we live, the exterior of our townhome is stucco, and NOTHING sticks to stucco. So there's not much opportunity to decorate OUTSIDE. Therefore, we decorated INSIDE. We put up some window decals, hung our stockings, and decorated our bannisters and stairs with garland. Dois especially loved the garland: the texture, the feel, the shiny pieces.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

24 Days of Christmas: Day 2

Today's homily served as a reminder that I really should be calling this the "24 days of Advent" because Christmas doesn't start until December 25th. Ooops.

Today our activity was to set up our Advent wreath on the table. This is our first year of having an Advent wreath in our home. I'm viewing it as a challenge: usually we don't sit down all together for dinner. It's a sad-but-true reality. When we walk in the door I usually set Dois up to eat because he's STARVING. Then I head to the kitchen to make Bebe's dinner. By the time I'm done, Dois is done, so he gets down and Bebe sits down to dinner. Then I make my dinner (since due to my food allergies I usually don't eat what they do).

My plan is for us to sit down and eat together nightly, and read the Advent reflection for the day. light the candle, and pray before we eat. I'm glad my mother-in-law is here until after Christmas. She will definitely be helpful in aiding me in getting us all to sit down to dinner together.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

24 Days of Christmas: Day 1

Today was our first day of the 24 days of Christmas.

The kids set up our Nativity sets. Bebe & Dois put together the Fisher Price Little People nativity down on our shoe shelves, where Dois can easily get at them. Then Bebe set up our Willow Tree nativity display on our mantle.

Already there's excitement abounding--Christmas is coming!

Friday, November 30, 2012

Our Advent calendar

Tomorrow we begin the "25 days of Christmas". Last week, Bebe and I prepared our Advent countdown. I had seen this idea in Parents Magazine and Bebe was eager to help me duplicate it.
Here was the process: We bought "treat cups" from the $1 spot at Target for 70% off. They were 30 cents for 10. They are the same width as normal drinking cups but only about 2" deep. We traced 25 circles onto green tissue paper and numbered each circle. Then came the tedious task of cutting out each circle. Once the circles were cut, I place a piece of paper with a pre-determined activity on the back of each circle. (So the circle was number-side down.) We then used a glue stick around the rims of the cups and placed them open-side down onto the tissue paper circles, therefore trapping the paper inside of the cup. Once they dried, we used Elmer's glue (although I'd recommend a glue gun, which we don't have) to glue them to a foam core board.

Here was the result:

Bebe has been asking daily when she can start "punching out" each day on the calendar. Tomorrow I can actually say, "TODAY you can!"

I'm hoping as Advent happens, I can post daily about what we're up to. I love this season!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Happy birthday, dear boy.

Today my beloved "Dois" turned dois (two). I just can not believe it. For the longest time after Bebe was born I wanted another child, I longed for another child. I knew our family wasn't complete.

My patience was rewarded in the form of this little boy. He has helped me to embrace motherhood in a way that I was unable to when Bebe was younger.

When Luca was born, D said to me, "If I had known #2 was going to be like this, we would've had #2 sooner." We had no idea how much adding another child would enrich our family.

Luca has brought us so much joy. He is your typical happy-go-lucky, energetic little boy. He is lovey and snuggly and cuddly but only on his own terms. His latest thing is to shout, "Owww!" when he doesn't want anyone near him. It's his way of saying. "Get away!"

I am such a lucky mama to have this boy.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

"I do."

As we walk down the aisle together
we will vow to be together 'til we die.
So in love are we two,
just can't wait to say, "I do," 
So in love,
in a world of our own.

I, Anne, take you, Andre, to be my husband. I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. I will love you and honor you all the days of my life.

Nine years ago, Thanksgiving Day fell on November 27th.
What better way to celebrate a day filled with thankfulness for all of God's blessings, then to celebrate by promising yourself to one of the greatest blessings of all in your life?

Nine years ago, D and I stood in front of a collection of family (mostly mine, some of his) and friends, and vowed to stay together all the days of our lives.

And we meant it.

We have seen good times, and we have seen bad times.
We have seen sickness, and we have seen health.

And may we have many, many, many more days of our lives.

It has not been an easy road, these last 9 years. 
We have faced several struggles that seemed insurmountable: and yet here we are.

It is our commitment that has kept us moving forward every. single. day. It is the reminder that we promised to spend our lives together "until death do us part" that helps us to keep working on our marriage, even when things seem bleak. 

And when all is said and done, we're blessed with a joy and a comfort in knowing we made the right choice: in knowing that with God's help, we can overcome any obstacles in our marriage.

--Mark 10:8

Thursday, November 22, 2012

I love Thanksgiving.

I love Christmas and the Christmas season--and I love Thanksgiving because it has always marked the "gateway" to the Christmas season!

Almost nine years ago, on Thanksgiving Day of 2003, D and I promised to love one another until death do we part. What better day to exchange those vows than on a day when we all take the time to reflect on and be thankful for all the blessings in our lives? Through all of our ups and downs, D has always been one of those things I am thankful for. :)

After being diagnosed with my numerous allergies, Thanksgiving meals with family and friends became very difficult to navigate. I didn't feel comfortable partaking in many elements of the meal when butter, eggs, etc. abounded in the various foods on the table.

In 2010, I made a decision: We'd do Thanksgiving at home. That year, I was VERY pregnant with Dois (he was born 4 days after Thanksgiving), so we did Thanksgiving at home just D, Bebe, and I (with a turkey breast instead of a full turkey). That year, I also started this tradition, which we have done every year since (including today!):

We make a "family cornucopia" of all that we are thankful for. I save them when the holiday is over, too. Today we have 3 to put up on the wall!

Last year I absolutely loved going all-out for Thanksgiving. My brother came from NY, and we also had my sister-in-law and her boyfriend join us. We had quite the feast! Perhaps the funniest thing of the entire night was how Dois (a few days shy of 1) enjoyed the turkey leg we offered him!

This year I've got the turkey roasting as I type. We have a full spread for the table again: potatoes, sweet potatoes, peas and onions, stuffing (the only thing I'll be making that I can't eat). I just LOVE cooking Thanksgiving. I've been excited for weeks!

No Thanksgiving post would be complete without a list of everything I'm thankful for, but that would take FOREVER. I'm so thankful for a husband I love, for two beautiful children, for my parents and brothers and all of our supported extended family. I'm thankful for employment, for the things we are able to afford, and for our health. And most of all, I am so thankful for the God who created me, who created us, who loves the world SO MUCH that he sent His Son.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Today was an AWESOME day!

Have you ever had a day where at the end of it you look book and say, "Wow, today was AWESOME!"

Yeah, today was one of those.

And it was the little things that made it so awesome.

For starters, I wrote over 5000 words of my novel today. As if that wasn't awesome enough, I also hit 25,000 words!! Two pretty big accomplishments in one day.

Then, after work today, I was NOT looking forward to the long list of errands I had to run.

#1 on my list was dress shopping. After finding this dress for myself for this Saturday's upcoming wedding, I waffled on whether to buy something online without trying it on. When I went to order it, it turned out that my size wasn't even in stock, nor was one size bigger or smaller. I was really, really bummed. I kept holding out hope that it would return to stock, but that wasn't the case. So tonight, I headed out in search of a dress to wear instead of the dress I loved. I was planning to go to a few stores, but as I was leaving work, I heard on the radio there was major traffic in the direction I was heading to. There's a Burlington Coat Factory right around the corner from my work, and something inside of me said, "Hey, go ahead in there and see what they have."

So I did. I was browsing the racks of dresses and everything was too short, too flashy, too... not my style. As I was about to give up I said to myself, "I wanted something gray--is there really nothing gray here?" and as I walked by the end of the rack, I spotted it. A gray dress. Upon closer inspection, I couldn't believe my eyes. It was THE gray dress! The one I coveted from Sears! I had to search the racks to find a size I could wear, and then I went to try it on. As soon as I put it on, I gasped. It looked just as good on me as it did online! And the best part? It was ON CLEARANCE for $17! $17 for the cutest dress!

I walked out of there all excited about my new dress!

Then I was off to get a haircut. I was wishy-washy on the whole haircut thing, but in the end I decided I wanted one. It was a new lady and I was a bit nervous, especially as she kept calling me "baby." But she did an AMAZING job! I took about 2" off and I just love it!

My awesome night continued when I went to the store to get some items and everything I bought (unintentionally) was on sale! BONUS!

And then I went to Ross and got a wedding present that was an AMAZING deal.

Yeah, it was a good day.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

7 Quick Takes: Avoidance edition

— 1 —
It's NOVEMBER! Do you know what that means? I shouldn't be blogging, because it's NaNoWriMo! 
But I'm blogging, because NaNoWriMo is going terribly. As of this posting I only have 13,000 words written. Going at this pace I will hit 50,000 by Christmas, not November 30th. I'm discouraged, but I'm not waving the white flag until December 1st.
I am avoiding writing my novel.

— 2 —
Mass chaos ensues next week. Mass chaos = Thanksgiving, my mother-in-law's arrival from Brazil, a wedding rehearsal, a wedding, D and I's 9th anniversary, and Dois' birthday all in a one-week span (the 22nd to the 29th). On the 1st I will sleep. A lot. (I hope.)
I am avoiding getting the house ready for this chaos.

— 3 —
We're starting a new tradition this year. As I blogged in my last post, I love Advent. I love Christmas. This year we are going to have an advent wreath at home. I am hoping that every night before dinner we can light it and say a prayer or reflect on it. 
 I am avoiding the truth that usually I have good intentions but don't follow through.

— 4 —
Dois is in such a fun stage right now. He's tantruming left and right as he struggles with transition and independence, but when he's not melting down, oh my gosh is he funny! Here's a little video of him from Sunday. This was 7:30am. He INSISTED on going out on our patio, despite the fact that it was in the 50s. And then once out there, he felt the need to dance.

I am avoiding the fact that two weeks from now this boy of mine will be TWO. 

— 5 —
D's sister and her husband have asked us to be their "godparents" (tradition in their culture--instead of a best man/maid of honor, they choose a married couple as their "godparents" to mentor them in marriage). She asked us last week. My friends who know me best know not to ask me to be in their weddings. I just DO NOT feel comfortable standing up in front of people.
I am avoiding the fact that the dress I found and planned to buy is out-of-stock, and I have not found a dress yet.

— 6 —
Bebe's Christmas list is a mile long. Dois has plenty of toys left-over from Bebe. 
I am avoiding Christmas shopping.

— 7 —
 This morning I heard a song that truly moved me. Bebe is in the choir at church and they are singing it at the annual Christmas concert. It's called "The Holy Family" by Danielle Rose. Check it out!

I am avoiding crying now, thanks to that beautiful song.

Thanks for stopping by and reading! Now head on over to Conversion Diary for more Quick Takes!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Anticipating Advent.

Chaos is starting to set in--I thought we had another week between this week and Thanksgiving. NO! Thanksgiving is in 9 days! In 9 days my mother-in-law arrives. I'm excited, but WE'RE NOT READY! And once she gets here, a whirlwind begins... my sister-in-law's wedding, D and I's 9th anniversary, Dois' 2nd birthday.... Then follows the usual hustle and bustle of the holiday season.

I absolutely love Christmas. With families so far away from us, spending some Christmases away from home and some at home, I wanted to make some traditions for Bebe (and now Dois) that we could carry on no matter where we will be. Four years ago I struck gold:

The Twenty-Four Days of Christmas!

I am seeing it on other blogs, but I didn't know much about blogs then. I came up with this all on my own. What I did was created a giant calendar on poster board. Some days had activities already filled in (for example, if we were attending a party or a Christmas concert). Then I had a bag full of papers with activities on them in a bag. Bebe would pick one on any day when it was blank, and we would do that activity. At the end of the day I would write the date on the slip of paper, take a pic of it, and Photoshop it on to a pic of what we did that day.

Here was our first ever 24 days of Christmas activity, back in 2008:

I try to find a balance between fun Christmas (the Santa-and-Reindeer side of it) activities, charitable activities, and the religious aspect of Christmas.

This year I'm taking a SLIGHTLY different approach. With 2 kids to juggle last year, I struggled to keep up. Bebe would choose, "Bake Christmas cookies" and I would come home that night and realize that we didn't have the ingredients to do so. What a bummer. Knowing things will be a bit chaotic with my mother-in-law staying with us, I decided my best approach would be to pre-plan every single day of the 24 days, and have the activities be a surprise to Bebe and Dois.

I can't wait. I really, really love Christmas. I just love this time of the year.

This year I am also hoping to institute a new tradition at home: having an Advent wreath to light during dinner every day.

How do you celebrate Advent? How do you prepare for Christmas in your home?

Thursday, November 1, 2012

7 Quick Takes--It's NOVEMBER?!

— 1 —
It's NOVEMBER! Do you know what that means? I shouldn't be blogging, because it's NaNoWriMo! 
 I was dead-set on participating this year, but with the way I've been feeling lately, I wasn't sure if I had the stamina to give it a go. Buuuut.... I'm giving it a go! Wish me luck!

— 2 —
I found out on Sunday that my mom has breast cancer. I wasn't expecting it, at all. I talk to my mom nightly. I didn't see this coming. On Tuesday she had a lumpectomy and they removed all of the tumor, so now we wait for the pathology reports. This experience once again dredged up all of my deep regret about living so far from home/my parents/DH's family and not allowing our children to see them as often as I would like. So I've been in kind of a funk. I hope we have many more years to come.

— 3 —
Dois is starting a new daycare in January. Yes, we finally decided it was time for us to move on from his current place. While there's no doubt that he is loved and well-cared-for there, the expense is just too much for us to continue (especially because elsewhere, the cost goes down at age 2). We were determined to not sacrifice quality for a cheaper price, though. It turns out that the child care on the campus where D worked has an opening, and although 5 years ago we visited it with Bebe and weren't thrilled, this time around we LOVED it! So Dois will start there on January 2nd. A new year, a new daycare, and more money saved. Woo-hoo!

— 4 —
My mother-in-law is coming! My sister-in-law is getting married this month, and I just found out that my mother-in-law is coming for sure! She is planning to come for a month, and we are trying to convince her to stay through Christmas. Fingers crossed! She came to visit us for a month when Dois was 5 months old and the kids (especially Bebe) just loved having her around. It will be such a wonderful thing for her to come back again. (Remind me of this when I'm complaining about how she cleans up things before I'm done with them or when she's putting my silverware away in the wrong place.)

— 5 —
Holiday clothing disasters continue. In my last Quick Takes I posted about our Christmas clothing disasters. I was excited at the end of my post because I decided to go ahead and order something I thought was going to work perfectly. WRONG! (See people, THIS is why I start planning early!) I received our Gymboree order, and while this dress works perfectly for Bebe, the shirt, tie, and sweater vest I ordered for Dois DID NOT. An 18-24m top was tight on his belly (hard to button) and a 2T was HUGE on him. So, back to the drawing board I went. I went on eBay and found a sweater vest that would coordinate with the green in Bebe's dress and ordered it. Well, it showed up on Monday and it's a 3T, not a 2T. ARGH! Tuesday found me searching high and low for another option, and thankfully I walked into Crazy 8 (after almost passing it by!) and found a shirt to match Bebe's dress. Of course, now I'm struggling to find the OTHER pieces I need (gray pants in a 2T that can fit a cloth diaper butt, and a black sweater vest that DOES NOT cost $50!). Little by little. SO GLAD I started early.

— 6 —
Would you ever buy a dress sight-unseen? Buying clothes for the kids for the holidays made me realize that I really want to get myself a new dress to wear for the wedding/holidays. I browsed a couple sites and found this dress from Sears. I love love love it, but no stores around me carry it! Would you buy a dress that you couldn't try on first? I could return it if it didn't fit, but I would be out shipping.

— 7 —
I sound materialistic, don't I? I swear, I'm not. But I am a perfectionist. And I want things to look JUST RIGHT for the wedding and holidays. Hence my insanity. 

Thanks for stopping by and reading! Now head on over to Conversion Diary for more Quick Takes!

Sunday, October 28, 2012


It's been a while since I've blogged. I'm too lazy to even look at how long it's been, but I feel like it's been a while.

So many things have happened in the last few days that I feel like my entire world is upside-down. Like nothing is familiar anymore, and I'm one giant ball of confusion.

I can't find my footing, and it sucks.

Just keep us in your prayers?

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

I suck at discipline.

Really, I do. I don't subscribe to any one particular method of discipline. I'm sure that's an issue in and of itself--I deal with different situations in different ways. Consistency is lacking, I'm sure.

Dois' behavior lately is insane. I get that he's being a toddler. I get that things like, "MINE!" and refusing to do things and tantrums come with the territory. But it was never this EXTREME with Bebe. And as much as we're trying to weather it, it's not working.

At daycare they use time-out. I'm not a fan. I'd prefer redirection. But redirection isn't always possible when there's 5 minutes until we need to leave and I can't get him to lay down for a diaper change. I can't exactly take a naked child to daycare.

It's just lately EVERYTHING is a battle! And he hits, he kicks, he's just ROUGH. Telling him to "be nice" and signing "nice" does nothing. I can't get him to comprehend that what he's doing HURTS or that it's NOT OK.

I am just so lost. I feel like nothing's working.

Any advice? 

Saturday, October 20, 2012

I'm not done yet.

Today I went to a baby shower for a coworker, and my heart started screaming at me loud and clear, "I'm not done yet!!!" I'm not done yet, I'm not done yet, I'M NOT DONE YET.

I have had moments of being content with two children, and then I have moments like this. Moments where I JUST KNOW that our family isn't complete yet. I'm not done yet.

Of course, the challenge is that D *is* done. He feels maxed out at 2 (yes, I admit, I feel maxed out at 2, too! I mean, I have a hard enough time getting things done at night with only 2!). We are TTA for that very reason, despite these inner tuggings in my heart. He thinks they're just envy, not true desire.

It took me 5 years to convince him we should have another. It was a very long three years for me (I had been wanting another since Bebe was 2). I was really patient, but it was very, very, very hard for me.

I'm wondering if I'll be able to convince him again. Or if God will speak to his heart. Or if we really are done.

I know it's all in God's hands, but I'm not ready to be done yet. Our family doesn't feel complete. I want another baby. And not just for their squishiness and their cuteness--I want another baby because I'm ready.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

7 Quick Takes

I have been relatively "quiet" this week, but I can't resist Quick Takes. Hopefully I didn't lose any new readers by laying low for a day or two!

— 1 —
My work has slowed down to the point where my desk was EMPTY for a day! That's unheard of, seeing as how I am now doing the job of at least 3 people. I got to arrange my new desk (after having been there for a few weeks), and then I got bored... so I asked for more work! God made it so that my "free time" happened to coincide with the same time our company is prepping for a photo shoot. The person who used to do them was laid off, and the person who volunteered to help with them will be gone during the shoot week... so I've stepped into the role! TOTALLY not proofreading work, but work nonetheless! And when that's over, I've been given the opportunity to write a lesson or two for our Sunday School curriculum. I love the idea of mixing up my job--and all these new opportunities are giving me such a renewed energy (that I really needed, after reading all day for 6 years)!

— 2 —
This week I've been spending a lot of my free time thinking ahead 2 weeks to the beginning of NaNoWriMo. Yep, once again I am going to attempt to write a novel in a month. I've been thinking about the WHATs, but mostly about the HOWs. You all know how busy my schedule is--HOW will I fit in writing 50,000 words in a month?! I don't know yet, but I'm going to try.

— 3 —
This week was a week of Christmas clothing disasters. As I had mentioned a few weeks back, I need nice Christmas clothes for the kids and struggled to find something appropriate and affordable for Bebe. Well, last week I got so excited because I found this dress from Hartstrings and thought it would be perfect. I ordered it in an 8 (her size). And then later that day I looked at their sizing (WHY I didn't before is beyond me)...and realized she needed a 7. It was too late to alter Order #1, so I placed Order #2 for the correct size. I figured I'd resell or return whatever didn't fit. While I waited for this dress to arrive, I happened to spot a sweater vest in Target for Dois that would match perfectly. I was on top of the world! Until the dress came... and it turned out that what looks navy blue, red, and white plaid is actually navy blue, HOT PINK, and white plaid. No HOT PINK belongs in my holidays, so it's going back. I decided to throw my hands up in the air and order the dress I'd originally found for her from Gymboree. Thankfully, it's now marked down AND I had a coupon. I spent more than I wanted to, but in the end we're getting a dress that looks nice and will be perfect for the wedding as well as Christmas Mass.

— 4 —
Halloween is coming! Bebe is going to be Cleopatra.

I intended to make a Super Why costume for Dois but gave up (couldn't find kelly green sweatpants), so he's now going to be a pirate parrot. (Seriously, does it get any cuter than this?!)

Which, of course, means D will be a pirate. (Black pants, white ss shirt, black vest, eye-patch, and pirate hat.) Now, what about me? My work gave up on the 7 Dwarves idea so I am back to the drawing board. I have 2 yards of brown felt to create a costume with. Besides Mrs. Potato Head, any other suggestions? I'm not too keen on that one.

— 5 —
I hate to exercise. Yes, you read that correctly. I hate it. I get bored SO easily of it. I can barely stay on any apparatus for longer than 15 minutes. But the other day I managed to use the exercise bike for THIRTY minutes (a miracle!). My secret? Saying the rosary while working out! It kept me focused on something besides the time that was passing or how bored I was, and I got some prayers in, too!

— 6 —
 It has been HOT HOT HOT here this past week. It's always so weird when it goes from being 90 down to the 70s and then back up in the 90s again. Where I work is coastal and today it got to 87--that's pretty much unheard of! Just last week the kids were going to bed in fleece PJs and now they're in summer PJs again. I wish the weather would make up its mind.

— 7 —
I miss fall. Fall here in Cali definitely isn't the same as fall in Upstate NY. It's not as pretty, there's no apple picking, going to the pumpkin patch in tank tops and shorts is just odd, etc. I wish I'd appreciated it more when I lived there. Instead, I couldn't wait to move somewhere else WARMER.

Thanks for stopping by and reading! Now head on over to Conversion Diary for more Quick Takes!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Talkin' 'bout the birds and the bees.

When I was growing up, my mom never talked to me about sex. I learned about my body, sex, etc. from other sources. Friends, school classes, and just accidental (like I'd deduce XYZ and friend would say, "No, that's not how it happens..."). I felt like sex was something to be ashamed of, and it was very, very confusing when I was in my first relationship at 16, because I was both curious and clueless.

I swore many, many years ago that I would do things differently with my daughter. That I would be open, honest, and provide her with whatever information was necessary to help her to understand her body and how it worked, the act of sex and its consequences, etc. I've been plotting such discussions in my head for years.

I've been ready, now, for a while... but I've been waiting for Bebe to ask first. Even when I was pregnant with Dois or after I had him, she didn't seem to have any questions. That did surprise me. Well, today on the way home we got to talking about something and finally, the question came:

"Mommy, how does a baby get inside a Mommy's tummy?"

We were almost home and I knew when I got inside that Dois would be begging for dinner and things would be chaotic, so I told her, "That's a great question and I want to answer it, but I want to take the time to talk to you girl-to-girl, so let's talk more after Dois goes to bed."

Once Dois went to bed, she and I started playing Legos and talking. I *think* I did OK. I confused her once or twice but we talked through what was confusing.

I hope I did okay. I never had anyone model for me appropriate ways to talk to your kids about sex, so I'm seriously flying by the seat of my pants.

The good thing is, I left the door opened. I told her if she ever had any questions, if she ever heard a word or something she didn't know about or understand, or if she heard kids talking about something and it didn't make sense, she could talk to me.

I hope she believes it, because she can.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Set the world ON FIRE

Yesterday on Twitter, I saw someone refer to a conference with a similar name to the NCYC. It made me stop and think, "Hey, I wonder where the next NCYC is going to be."

If you don't know what the NCYC is, it's the biennial National Catholic Youth Conference. Every two years, a city plays host to over TWENTY THOUSAND Catholic high schoolers and their chaperones for four days of faith, friendship, and fun.

I attended my first NCYC when I was in 10th grade, and, to be honest with you, it was NOT because I wanted to go hang out with other Catholic Youth. It was because I wanted to go to The Mall of America. (Hey, they say God will do whatever He can to get you where He wants you!) You see, in 1995, the NCYC was in Minneapolis, Minnesota. And one of the "side trips" my diocese was offering was to go to the MoA.

I had NO idea what I was getting myself into, and I had NO idea how my life would change as a result.

The NCYC promo video for 2013 sums it up SO WELL. I watched this video (when searching for the answer to my question) and I couldn't say it better myself.

I walked into the auditorium on the first day and saw 20,000 other kids who were PUMPED UP for Jesus. I couldn't believe it. I had been Catholic since the day I was born, but not the same Catholic as them. I made my sacraments and went to Mass, but what was missing was a relationship with Jesus. I remember seeing punk and goth-dressed kids and noting, "If I had seen them anywhere else, I'd probably think to myself, 'They don't care about God.'" I remember stopping for lunch with some newly made friends from California, and when one of them bowed his head in prayer for almost 10 minutes before eating, I remember thinking to myself, "I WANT THAT!" I left CRAVING a deeper relationship with Jesus, and actively pursued one through various avenues (at my parish, at my Catholic school, eventually as a part of our Diocesan Youth Council, etc.).

I was blessed to attend NCYC two more times since then.

 In 1997 I attended the NCYC in Kansas City, and represented my diocese on a special panel dedicated to raising awareness about violence amongst youth. I reunited with friends from around the country that I had met in 1995, and the feeling was just overwhelming throughout the 4 days we were there: "I am not alone."

In 2001 I once again returned to the NCYC as a chaperone. At that time I was considering changing my major from education to theology, and attending NCYC just solidified the fact that I wanted to become a youth minister.

Watching the promo videos for NCYC 2013 just brought so many memories flooding back. I can not WAIT for the day when Bebe is old enough to attend, and for me to join her, and for her to know and learn that SHE IS NOT ALONE.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

7 Quick Takes: Food Edition

I've mentioned a few times that I suffer from severe life-threatening food allergies. I'm allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, shellfish, seafood, wheat, eggs, milk, soy, green beans, and black beans. I also have a severe form of Oral Allergy Syndrome that makes it impossible for me to eat any raw fruits or vegetables. Yes, it sucks. But I've learned that I FEEL better when I'm avoiding all of these things (not all are life-threatening, some only do major gut damage).

A question I hear ALL THE TIME is, "So, what can you eat?" Today's Quick Takes are an answer to that. Here are the 7 major staples of my diet:

— 1 —
I feel like I need a disclaimer here. Not ALL people allergic/sensitive to wheat can consume oats. There are trace amounts of wheat found in oats. Gluten-free oats do exist, too, but some say it's debatable whether or not they are truly gluten-free. Anyway, for me my wheat allergy is one that affects my gut, and apparently the trace amounts in oatmeal don't matter. I eat oatmeal for breakfast. I bake with oatmeal A LOT. Did you know oat flour is just ground oatmeal? Yeah, and they try to sell it separately in the grocery store! One of my favorite recipes is blueberry oatmeal pancakes. Yes, you can make pancakes without wheat, eggs, and soy. And they're goooood, too!
— 2 —

I get really sensitive about all the information in the news about genetically modified corn. I know that most corn is genetically modified and I shouldn't eat it (we're pretty "green" around here), but I just can't "let it go." To take corn out of my diet would be devastating. I snack on corn-based cereals and corn chips, we eat quite a bit of polenta, I use corn-based pasta occasionally, and corn tortillas and corn taco shells make it possible for me to enjoy some varieties of Mexican food.

—3 —
I love potatoes. I really, really do. I love them for any meal. I tend to have them at breakfast (hash browns, or Potatoes O'Brien), and love roasted potatoes or mashed potatoes (especially reds--with the skins--mixed with garlic and olive oil). One of the foods I miss the most is potato salad.

— 4 —

 There are many, many, MANY products involving rice that I use almost daily. Whether it's straight-up basmati rice with lunch, or Enjoy Life's Crunchy Rice cereal (which they recently discontinued--BOO!) ground up as breading for chicken or pork, or a bowl full of rice pasta for dinner, I could NOT survive without rice.
— 5 —

Cooked Fruits.
 THIS is a tricky one. Any fruits you can buy canned are pre-cooked, so while they are ALL safe, for some reason I struggle to find ones that agree with me. Right now, I buy Del Monte's Diced Pears in light syrup and Treetop applesauce. Those are the only precooked fruits I buy and consume. The rest, we do. I love living in an area where fresh produce is available year-round. During strawberry season I make strawberry "sauces" (just strawberries, sugar, and water and some thickener like pectin or cornstarch) and eat them straight-up or add them to pancakes, applesauce, etc. I bake apple crisp as often as possible. During blueberry season I go wild making the aforementioned blueberry pancakes, as well as blueberry sauce. I wish I had more variety in terms of fruit, but I try to remind myself that it's better than nothing. And, I eat PLENTY of veggies.
— 6 —

Oh yeah, no way this girl could be a vegetarian. NO WAY. Because of my allergies, we eat very little processed meat. I do have safe hot dogs (Foster Farms Turkey Dogs) and safe turkey burgers (Jennie-O) that I eat occasionally, but for the most part we buy our meat in bulk and cook it up daily. I love dark meat chicken. I'm not a HUGE fan of beef, but it's always good to have when I'm feeling anemic. I love salami, and it took me YEARS to find a Top-8 Free Salami. Thank you Hormel Natural Choice! We grind our own meat, too, and I make a lot of meatballs, meatloaf, burger patties, etc. that I can have. So, yeah, meat. And lots of it. 

— 7 —

Okay, this isn't a major staple of my diet, but everyone needs a treat some time. Believe it or not, there ARE some candies out there that I can eat! I love Enjoy Life Food's Boom Choco Boom Crispy Rice bars. They're me-safe "Krackels." Surf Sweets' Fruity Bears are not only allergy-friendly but they're dye-free and natural as well, so I eat those A LOT. And for the occasional indulgence, I am also a fan of Swedish Fish, Sour Patch Kids, Sour Patch Watermelons, and Dots. There are other candies out there safe for me, but these are the few that I seem to gravitate toward in the checkout!

I just want to give a shout-out to some of my favorite allergy-friendly brands in case food allergy families come by: Enjoy Life Foods, Ener-G foods, Surf Sweets, Hormel Natural Choice, and Cherrybrook Kitchen.

Thanks for reading my QTs! Make sure to head over to Conversion Diary and read more!