30 November, 2014

My Advent and Dirty Laundry (literally)

Last year's Advent was spent in prayerful discernment about my career.  Not really focused on Christ's birth, but it was spent in profound prayer.  It was much needed and very therapeutic. I still received peace as a gift through the season.

As we head into Advent today, the phrase "Prepare ye the way of the Lord" has been on my heart.  I have noticed how impulsive I have become with purchases, how blind I have been to distinguish needs and wants, and how lazy I have become with my house keeping.

It's time for me to "prepare the way" for Christ to live in us. And this year, that means in my house...literally!

I am tired of being embarrassed with drop in company seeing my house look like an F4 just blew by.  I'm tired of making excuses of "it's been a crazy week, sorry for the mess".  And for being too overwhelmed with clutter that I don't even know where to start.

For me, right now, this isn't a pride thing. It's a sin-of-omission by not keeping house for our family because of my hoarding (I use this term very casually) and laziness.

I talked with Eric about this and he agreed - it's time to make room for Christ in our home.

We're going to tackle an area of our home each week.  Each of them are on the main floor and affect our day-to-day well being and the pulse and feel of our home.

Together we're going to clean the laundry room, kitchen, coat closet, and under stairs closet.  Not just tidy these spaces up, but take everything out, assess (keep, donate/sell, throw away), clean, and put back.

The goal is to remind us of how much we truly have.  And to get back to a more minimalist lifestyle. When we did this three years ago for Lent it was a fruitful exercise for both Eric and I.  We hope to learn and grow from this again.

We'll be employing methods and ideas from The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide: How to Declutter, Organize, and Simplify Your Life - a super easy read with very practical how-tos for each section of the house.

Ready for our dirty laundry?   Seriously.  We NEEEED to do this!

In addition, I will be using Nap Time Diary's Advent calendar + devotional to pray daily.

28 November, 2014

Thanksgiving Table - Katie's How-Tos

My sister hosted her very first Thanksgiving.  She had my entire family (10 adults + 4 kids), her husband's family (6 adults + 2 kids) over for dinner, games and pie.

She literally wowed each of us with her table scape looked like a page out of the Pottery Barn catalog.  The best part is that she didn't pay Pottery Barn prices for this look.

My sister was gracious to pull together the details of her table to share with us!  Use her ideas and tips for your Christmas table or future Thanksgivings!  Get out and get those deals :)

Macy's: Fancy pieces and candle: Last year's after Christmas sale. $25 total,  Also, Charter Club china (wedding gifts)

Hobby Lobby: flower holders, candle holders, and ornaments. Regularly $12 each. On sale for 50 % every thing Mercury glass because ... Hobby lobby.

Pottery Barn: Pumpkins, and all the candle pillars. Ranging from $20-60 each. All 30% off because it was "end of season". And additional 15% off because we asked.

Michael's:  Burlap table runner-- regular Burlap fabric. 5 yards long 1 yard wide. $9 after 40% off coupon from their website.   DIRECTIONS: Cut along 1 strand and frayed ends. Ironed. Bam! Burlap table runners made from stores can easily be $40+. Homemade was super easy, cost effective, and looks exactly the same.

Amazon: Silver napkin rings-  $5 for a set of 4.

Trader Joe's: Pumpkin place cards-- real pumpkins  (59 cents each). DIRECTIONS: Spray painted with chrome colored spray paint.  Hand cut tags from brown paper. And I wrote everyone's name on them with "thankful for_____". Tied them to the stem of the pumpkin with burlap string- from Michael's for $2 a roll. Would only recommend using real pumpkins if thanksgiving / dinner is soon. Some pumpkins started to break down since they were real. And now I can't re use them ever.

Crate and Barrel: Silver Chargers, Elizabeth's wedding present

List of everything: 
1 table runner 
1 roll of burlap ribbon
5 silver/ pearl twigs
2 fancy pillars
8 large candle pillars,
4 pumpkins
2 ornaments
7 votive holders 
3 mason jars
1 owl
Priceless: happy family members :) 

24 November, 2014

Sweet Genevieve's Medical Adventures!

Our poor Evie Pie has been put through the wringer these last 10 days or so.  She has navigated it with such strength and calmness. I am so proud of her!

Evie has been slowly working on her potty skills but is SUCH a perfectionist. She freaked out last weekend; a full 45 minute tantrum about wanting to wear a diaper.  All commentary/methodologies/judgements aside, I caved. I put her in a diaper and didn't think much about it.  That night and the next night she threw up (once all over the carpet, the other all over herself in the car)

We're not sure if it was nerves or snot from her cold.  She stopped eating, only picking at her food for 3-4 days.  She was running a very low fever.  She was starting to pee in small bursts (she's normally a mega flooder when it comes to pee) and it smelled terrible.  And I realized she hadn't pooped in a week.

By Wednesday she was getting worse. She couldn't stand up.  She was hyperventilating from the pain in her stomach.  She would only lay on the floor curled up in a ball.
 According to WebMD she likely had a Urinary Tract Infection that was working it's way up to her stomach.

Thankfully Eric was working from home so he could keep Maggie. I picked up my Mom and she went with Evie and I to her pediatrician.

The pediatrician examined her and suspected the UTI, but was leaning towards constipation because she wasn't running a fever.  Since Evie can't/won't pee in a cup (I laughed out loud at the request because, OMG NO!) the Doctor gave Evie a catheter to check her urine.

Man, y'all, Evie was seriously a saint. She was whimpering quite a bit, but held very still and wasn't reactionary at all.   I had to turn my head to cry because she was being so brave. I was so proud of her.

The doctor's diagnosis was pretty severe constipation.  She gave us a list of home remedies to try: prune juice, Milk of Magnesia and a nice warm bath.

Twenty four hours later she still had no relief. We tried another round of those treatments plus others (I'll spare you the details).  And FINALLY. Sweet relief.

This had taken place over the course the week. Evie was finally eating again. Like five-waffles-two-eggs-and-bacon in one sitting.  She was feeling much better.

Cousin Zachary came to town so I sent Evie to the park with my mom and Zachary while I ran some errands and Eric was out helping his sister move.

They were having TONS of fun. My mom was texting me pictures....until...Evie fell down the stairs.

Normally you'd tell the kid to brush it off. But my mom called and said "There's B-L-O-O-D and lots of it"

And I knew exactly what happened.  Evie must have broken her lip tie (she has extra tissue that connects her upper lip to her gum. It also causes her front teeth to have a bit of a gap).  I rushed to the scene.  Her lip was so swollen I couldn't bring myself to check.

We went out to lunch and I brought her home for an ice pack and to check it out.  Sure enough it was broken.

Poor thing.  I remembered back at her 18 month check up that her pediatrician said it was out of her realm of knowledge and for us to seek dental care for it going forward.  So I requested some advice from friends and found Evie a dentist. (an irrelevant long story as to why we haven't been yet, but it turned out to be a huge blessing)

They were able to get us in first thing this morning, which was great so Eric could come with us on his way to work.

The staff at this practice was beyond incredible. It was very low key, which was perfect for Evie as she gets a bit overstimulated in new situations.

The dentist did a quick exam and suggested an xray. He wanted to check her palate and just to have a baseline of her teeth placement for the future.  Evie sat on my lap and wore the lead blankets no problem.  She loved seeing her xray on the tv after.   The dentist also used this new little video/camera wand to take some pictures of the tear.

He explained to us that the old theory was to surgically remove lip ties when the kids are young, but the orthodontists were having a hard time getting braces to move teeth around the scar tissues.  The new theory is to wait and see and possibly have the rest of the tissue removed during teenage years.  So that's where we are!

I was hoping to write her big happy 3 year old post this week but with so much going on, and so many doctors/dentist visits I wanted to get this up since so many of y'all have been asking about her.

We're on the mend and she's been so brave!  She's keeping us on track for having CRAZY Thanksgivings!  haha :)

Saying a few prayers that the rest of our Thanksgiving week is incident free!!!!

2013 - Baby (Maggie's) gender reveal 
2012 - surgery, move, ER, and baby throw up
2011 - Baby Evie's First Thanksgiving
2010 - My Mom's First Thanksgiving

15 November, 2014

Play Dough - And Trying to Be a Fun Mom

After I got burned by the Cloud Sand Disaster (still kicking myself for not thinking that through), I've been a little slow to do any more crafts at home.  I just see it as one more thing to clean.

I forget the value in time spent, expanding creativity, exploring new skills and making memories.

I wish I could say I had these great intentions in mind while making playdough with Evie, but I was driven by the fact that I HATE the smell of store bought Play Doh brand dough.  I took this time to channel my inner Mama Bethany (who is always doing fun, thoughtful activities with her children).

After digging through Evie's preschool parent handbook I found the play dough recipe they recommend and we got started.  (Feel free to copy this, Google will yield you the same information)

 Looks like mashed potatoes: check!
 Time to choose the colors.  Evie decided she wanted to make purple.  I took the opportunity to teach a color lesson.  You (supposedly) learn 20% of what you hear and 30% of what you see, but 80% of what you experience.  Why not EXPERIENCE how to make purple?!?!!??!
 Evie chose to mix the blue, so I mixed the red.

 And once we had blue and red, we MIXED and MASHED to get purple!
Evie still talks about this day and any time we see something purple she yells, "Mom! Red and Blue make PUUUURPLE!"

I am so glad I talked myself into this activity.  We'll probably do this again to learn about Orange and Green.

Side bar: after doing this activity, I thought "oh man, I could totally home school" -- but I just don't think I could do it for the long haul.  I really love having Evie at school for a little while during the day.  Anyway, topic for another day, but I thought I'd mention it.

06 November, 2014

The One With All The Halloween Pictures

We have (unfortunately) reached that stage of life where Halloween is no longer just one night.  It's a full fledged week of parties and activities. Most of which include costumes and waaaaaaay too much candy/cupcakes.  I know, I know, I am a curmudgeon when it comes to this holiday.  Bah humbug.

Anyway, on to the cute pictures of my children.

Evie dressed at Izzy from Jake and the Neverland Pirates (she likes to add "Group" to the end of it).  She came up with this costume idea all on her own and stuck with the idea. I am so proud of her.  We used a pink shirt and jeggings she already had, I purchased the dual purpose (Halloween & Fall/Winter) boots at Target with a coupon, and ordered the bandana and pixie dust pouch off Etsy (I could have made it, but, let's be real, it would have been ghetto and probably cost me the same amount in supplies).  She looked adorable and LOVED to dress as Izzy!

She had a costume party at her dance class. The first of many celebrations!
Eric and I went to a Halloween party (mandatory costumes) with friends from church.  We also wanted a find-in-the-closet costume.  We tried to think of famous couples that hadn't been represented at last year's party.  I came up with Monica and Chandler (because Eric is a Transponster, too).  Eric suggested we pick a popular scene. So we went with the scene in Barbados when they're playing ping-pong.
"I came here with Monica and I'm leaving with Weird Al."

We had a really fun night.  And I drank waaaay too much for the first time in a long time.  I paid the price.  Y'all, I am never drinking again.  (haha)

Then we had Trunk or Treat at Evie's preschool.  This is something we could have skipped, but we really wanted to spend the evening with my Aunt, Uncle and Cousins.   They go to the church were Evie attends preschool.  It was a double whammy.  We also invited Eric's parents (Happy Birthday to G. Daddy!) and our friends Sean and Victoria.
I was expecting more of a casual tailgate type of night, but it we had an estimated 1300 Trunk or Treaters. OH.MY.GOSH.  What I didn't know is that this is a community outreach event for the low income families in the area. They get to dress up in costumes, trick or treat, and then are served a warm dinner.
We had a great time and will be sponsoring our own trunk next year.  Such a great night!  Maggie thought so too, she was chewing on the spider ring.
But WAIT there is more!  Evie had a Halloween party at school.  Thankfully, they do not allow costumes but the kids spend the week decorating Halloween shirts.  Then, they had a class party and made little masks and played games.  Evie had a ton of fun, but came home cranky and sugared up.
The night went down hill from there.  She was a wreck.  She was in time out at least 5 times (and this is with us being forgiving about the sugary-tired-wired circumstances) before she had a meltdown.  Eric had to put her in her room to read for a while.  Once the door bell rang and she heard the Trick or Treaters, she changed her tune, apologized and asked if she could still go out.  It was the sweetest. 
We got her dressed up as Izzy.  Eric and I took turns taking her around our neighborhood.  A cold front was blowing through and it was terribly windy and cold. Someone had to stay in with Maggie and to answer the door.
Miss Maggie dressed up as a skeleton.  She glowed in the dark!  Super cute!
At the end of it all, we had a great night.  Evie tended to pick M&Ms if given the choice...probably because it's the only candy she knows!  She (thankfully) hasn't been too interested in it.  She's loved counting and organizing it, but hasn't really consumed too much (YAY!)

 Until next year,

Happy Halloween!

05 November, 2014

Life's Little Blessings

Last week was a little crummy for us. Nothing is particular, just colds for Evie and I, whiney children, and other silly things that really shouldn't get me down.  The combination of lack of sleep, Halloween candy, and sinus pressure just put me over the edge.

Friday night I nearly lost it. I had to put myself in time out.  I hid in the closet (Eric was working from home so he had an ear out on the girls) to recollect myself.  Selfishly I prayed for just a little break.

Did I really need one?  No.   Did I deserve one?  Probably not.

But I had a series of tiny blessings over the weekend that rejuvenated me.

Saturday morning Eric's sister, Leeann, took Evie out for a special date. They went to see a kid's play downtown and then had brunch with Uncle Dan and cousin Luke.  Eric and I took the opportunity to power clean the house.  Oh my gosh, did that helped with the chaos!

Saturday afternoon I photographed the Baptism of sweet Max Boster. During this time I had the privilege of hearing the homily of a priest whom I miss dearly. From Facebook,

"I have barely finished uploading the photos but couldn't stop thinking about this one. Father gave an incredible homily on Baptism, Vocation and, of course, Theology of the Body. After the Baptism was over, the family was quickly scrambling to organize group photos. Baby Max was screaming and as I looked up there was Fr. Michael quietly rocking and whispering to Max.
To me this photo captures not only the sweetness of the moment, but also juxtaposes the fullness of our Baptism (priest, prophet and king) in the newly baptized and in one who is a shining example of his vocation."

 And then Saturday night Eric's good friend Katherine came to spend the evening/night with us.  She brought us the BEST gift:  She made dinner!  And did the dishes!  And emptied the dishwasher!  I mean seriously, it was the sweetest thing.  I was able to snuggle my babies and we still ate a delicious meal.

After the girls went to bed the three of us stayed up to watch the Notre Dame game and played a few rounds of Scatergories.  Y'all. I haven't laughed that hard in a long time.  Katherine and I basically share a brain and were laughing so hard at all the similar answers we put.  Laughter truly is the best medicine.

Sunday morning we had a big breakfast and saw Katherine off.  I snuck out to Mass....and it was so crowded...and it made me so grumpy.   I had to consciously shake it off because I didn't want to have that attitude to receive Our Lord.  The Eucharist was exactly the grace I needed.  I left Mass in a better mood.

We spent the afternoon as a family before I headed out for another photo shoot.  This time an engagement shoot for a friend's sister (who has become a friend!).  The couple is just so sweet, and so in love.  It was refreshing to see their lighthearted interactions. I just loved being able to capture this time in their life.

As I was driving home I reflected on the blessings of being a photographer; sharing the best moments of people's lives.

That night Eric had Mass and Life Teen so I took the girls to my parents' house for dinner.  Again, it was nice to have dinner prepared for us and a second (and third) set of hands to help with the girls.  My mom even gave Evie a bath!

When I went to bed Sunday night I was really awestruck by the little kind gestures all weekend. Together they made me pause and give thanks for the great people in my life.  And how God gives us exactly what we need, we just need to open our eyes to it.  Thank you to our sweet family and friends for the perfect weekend.