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!