Thursday, November 20, 2014

Halloween 2014

I never celebrated Halloween growing up. In fact, when my husband and I got married, there were many conversations about what this holiday would look like in our house (as I am not a fan of horror or violence or ghosts or witches or any scary things). So two years ago, when my doctor told me to pick a date for my baby's birth, and we decided to stick with her due date of October 31, we knew that it would mean lots of Halloween parties over the next 20 years. What I didn't realize is how much it would give me a reason to enjoy this day.

My sister-in-law Angela's amazing pumpkin creations

Isn't it adorable?
Having the obligation of throwing a Halloween party every year seems at first like more of a burden than someone like me would normally appreciate, but it gives me the chance to set the agenda. I can make the parties silly instead of scary. I can even (try to) control the menu to offset the sugar overload of trick-or-treating. This year we made Rice Krispies treats instead of a cake. We offered nonalcoholic sangria made out of juice and platters full of fruits and vegetables. We even had toy treats to give out along side the candy. (Spoiler alert: we brought most of those home.)

Sangria is spooky, right? I mean, cause, bloooooood.

Maybe these changes are insignificant compared to the bags of candy the kids came home with, but it seemed worth a try.

The party was a ton of fun. Just the right number of families showed up. For a toddler's birthday, you want to invite all your friends, because really the kid has no idea who their friends are and usually have more affection for their blankies than the kids they've known all their lives, but at the same time, you know that their little brains can only handle so many guests before overloading.


Honestly, it was still a bit overwhelming for me. I had been suffering from severe pain for a couple weeks and my OB/Gyn had just put me on a week of rest to try to recover. But I'd been looking forward to the party for so long that I just couldn't bear to miss it so I hobbled along for about a block before coming home. (Look at those heels below. What was I thinking?) 

Lydia as Elsa

Peter as Tony Stark and Pruitt as Peppa Pig

Me as Minnie Mouse

A "Formal Apology"

Adorable Minions

The Donut Eating Contest
There were games and fun and preschoolers being totally adorable. And my favorite ever trick-or-treating story which I'll share in a follow-up post. But mostly, it was a celebration of my sweet little piggy, Pruitt, who was born two years ago and who more than makes up for all the treats I missed growing up.

Decked out in her gift from Grandmom

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Closet Purge

My favorite clothes . . none of which I could fit into if my life depended on it.
I am in the middle of one of the most wonderful, empowering, painful, and exciting projects I've ever undertaken. What? A baby. No, no, no. This is far more challenging than bringing a human life into the world…and in many ways more rewarding. I'm in the middle of a closet purge.

I recently discovered the idea of a capsule wardrobe on Pinterest. The term, I am told, refers to a collection of essential pieces of clothing and accessories that can be interchangeably combined to create a wardrobe that is more than the sum of its parts and can be stretched to create the illusion of variety even when the same clothes are being worn day after day. I'm sure all you Vogue-reading, Project Runway-watching ladies already knew of this idea but it was news to me. Good news. Welcome news. 

Ive been living with a full closet and several storage tubs of clothes and still nothing to wear. I've got the clothes I wore when I was overweight, the clothes I wore after I got down to a size six, the clothes I wore when I was pregnant, and the clothes I wore in between my pregnancies. Nothing fits quite right. Nothing works together. But building a wardrobe from scratch for my new childbearing body is a daunting and expensive task. The idea of a minimalist wardrobe allows me to use a recipe written by an expert in the field, which I am not.

The problem is…I'm a hoarder, and the first step to creating a new minimalist wardrobe is getting rid of the old junky one. 

Letting go of these clothes requires me to let go of the past. Remember that time I wore size four satin  pants? I do. It feels like it was only yesterday, but in reality, it was five years ago—the month before I got pregnant with my sweet daughter Lydia.

This is painful!

I have to admit to myself that I will never be that size again. If if I lost all the weight between sizes 12 and 4 (doubtful) my body is a different shape. My tummy is softer and my hips are wider.

Four trash bags worth of learning to let go.
And I'm also keenly frugal. I look at these bags of clothes and think of the money I spent on them. It breaks my heart to give them up. But these clothes are doing me no good taking up space in my closet, taunting me every morning when I have to sort through them to find something—anything—to cover my body for the day.

And really, that's all I've been doing for the last couple years. Really, since my first child was born, I've just been spending the bare minimum to keep myself dressed with no plan or forethought given. I've bought shirts and pants that met the essential requirement of covering my belly and my bottom. Now is my chance to start over. I don't plan on spending much, but I do plan on planning. I'll buy clothes that fit my actual, current size. I'll chose colors and designs that will work with each other. I will look for more just a clearanced price. I'll purchase and dress intentionally and (I hope) joyfully. 

Monday, April 7, 2014

Baby Fever

I've had baby fever for a while now. I don't know when I first developed it, but it was sometime after the second of my friends announced she was pregnant and before the third of my friends announced she was pregnant. 

The irony is that I'm not really even a baby person. But there's nothing like the thrill of watching someone celebrate a long-planned, life-altering addition to their family to make you want to impulsively follow their lead and say, "What the heck, let's create a new human life." Besides, even if you love your 2003 Matrix, a shiny new Sienna can still make your heart skip a beat.

I've said since Pru was born that she was my last because on paper it makes no sense to expand our family, but ever since I was single, I've always felt like there was a place in my heart for three kids and I haven't shaken the feeling that someone was missing from our house. The analytical part of me feels like the only way to work through this is to make a standard Pros and Cons list and look at the facts in black and while.

1) There are brief periods in my life when I'm not overwhelmed by my two girls and I actually, probably hubristically, feel like I've got the bandwidth for another child.

2) I'm in love with the toddler/preschooler stage and dread the day there's not a lumpy, jabbering, clown living with me.

3) Since my occupation can only be described at the moment as Stay-at-Home Mom, I feel like I need to go all in. I don't have a career to go back to after my girls go to school. I don't have any plans ahead of me. The sooner my kids move to the next stage of their lives, the sooner I'll have to as well and I'm trying to delay that transition as long as possible.

4) I could have a son! There's a 51% chance. Better odds than flipping a coin!

1) Like I said before, I'm not really a baby person. I could do without a baby waking me up every two hours and throwing up on me and having to be carried everywhere. They're so needy!

2) I am in no physical shape to get pregnant again. I gained far too much weight with my last pregnancy and, just as my doctor warned, I've kept an extra ten pounds with each baby. I've had such miserable pregnancies that I felt like with each I became a hermit for a year, stuck in a sick, fat body that I couldn't function with.

3) While I always imagined a family with three kids, probably because I came from a family with three kids, my husband has always imagined a family with two kids, probably because he came from a family with two kids.

4) Adding a third child would be a lot more expensive than adding a second was. We'd need a new car seat…oh! And a car that can fit three car seats! We'd need to decorate, furnish, and move one of the children into his or her own room. And those are just the immediate expensive. We'd also have to pay for one more kid to go to church retreats and one more kid to go to college and one more kid's wedding because…

5) We have a 49% chance of having a third girl!

Peter and I have been mulling over these lists for well over a year and peace—between our heads and our hearts or between the two of us—has yet to come. It's time for me to hand the decision over to The Lord and wait on Him to quiet a longing that isn't from Him or ease the concerns that don't concern Him. 

The good news is we've got a few years before we'd be decorating a nursery in the retirement home so for now we're going to enjoy our two littles and if we're ever joined by an even littler, we can all be surprised together.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Things I Love About My Family #1

I love that in my three-year-old's world, there is no concept of race—nor any need for one.

When she describes black friends, she refers to them as "dark-skinned." I once asked her if she noticed any difference between Princess Belle and Princess Tiana. She thought for a moment and then replied, "Tiana's dress is green and Belle's is yellow…but they both wear gloves"!

I suppose that I will at some point have to explain race to her, won't I? I mean, how can she understand Black History Month if she doesn't understand the term "black"? 

Lydia just told me that if she has another little sister, she will have dark brown skin, dark brown eyes, and pink hair. For her, the only color with any significance—socio-political or otherwise—is pink. I'm okay with that. 

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Isabelle's Bowling Birthday

Last week all four of us—Peter, Lydia, Pru, and I—headed down I-35 to San Antono for my neice's 10th birthday party at a Main Event arcade. It's a pretty straight shot for us (Hwy 45 > I-35 > Loop 1604) and an easy drive…unless you spend the whole thing arguing about the minutiae of language. Which we did.

What a waste of quality time alone with a husband.

We made up in the parking lot outside the party, but it was a painful drive and it took a little while for the hurt to fade. Luckily pizza and smiling kids helps that process along.

My niece is now a "tween"! I love how much she loves her little cousin and wanted to include her. I don't know how long that will last. 
This was Lydia's first "big kid" party to go to and it was obvious she was out of place. The other kids were doing their best impressions of teenagers and Lydia wanted to dress as a princess. We compromised and I did my best to give Lydia an "Elsa" braid.
After pizza, the big kids played laser tag and we had to distract Lydia so she wouldn't notice she was left out, but soon enough they were back and ready for bowling. 

Now, is is one of those great bowling alleys where the gutter bumpers go up and down on command. This is great for preschoolers like Lydia who don't have a hope of reaching a pin, but I was really surprised that all the girls and boys used them. I'm not sure how I feel about that. I'm firmly of the It's-Just-A-Game philosophy, but I also want my girls to feel free to take risks and fail. I know how embarrassing it is to get a gutter ball on that stage in front of all your friends, but I want to have the emotional maturity to laugh at myself and know I still have value beyond my ability to aim a ball. It was like watching a group of ten-year-olds play tee ball instead so they couldn't strike out.

Nevertheless, the gutter bumpers did allow Lydia to play along with everyone else. As did this great contraption: 
This adorable little ramp meant that Lydia didn't have to do the granny roll and her ball could actually pick up some speed down the lane. I can't tell you how many times my sister's and my balls just stopped halfway to the pins. 

I let Daddy take over the bowling while I entertained Pru. It melted my heart to watch them together. She was so serious in her efforts and Peter was trying to explain a game that we take for granted through years of muscle memory. 
With all of her assistance, it should have been no surprise that she got the highest score. But this is Lydia, so she was unimpressed with that…or rather, she was less impressed by that than she was by her snazzy new shoes and headband.
Somehow within the windowless arcade, they time flew by, marked only by diaper changes and Dr. Pepper refills and before I realized how late it was, GrandDad told us it was time for them to get back to the hotel so that GrandMom could catch the Spurs game. But I had to drag him and Peter off for one last adventure…just for us grow ups.
This Main Event has a ropes course!

We strapped ourselves into harnesses and were given about a half hour of free roaming above the arcade floor.

It was a lot of fun to watch Dad and Peter do something fun for themselves instead of just playing with the kids.

It was terrifying for someone as uncoordinated as me, who was recently in physical therapy working on balance problems. It was also the most fun I've had since Peter took me to indoor skydiving for my birthday last year.  
The day started poorly but ended well. I realized I'm not "stuck" with Peter, I'm blessed to have him. And two stories up, I remembered that I didn't "have" to drive home but was going to get to drive home for two hours with a man who, despite a hurt back, had just bowled and climbed for hours just to be with his family. 
What a lucky lady I am.


Sunday, February 9, 2014

Never Mom Alone

Photo by Mateusz Stachowski

If you're a stay-at-home mom, the best piece of advice I can give you is this: Never mom alone. Find someone—a few if you can—who's in the same boat and join together like a Voltron to become more than the sum of your parts. 

Even if all your friends are working moms (or not even moms at all), you can find some weirdo out there who's gotten themselves in the same boat you're in. Maybe she's a junior copy editor who looked at daycare prices and realized that saving the world through journalism would just have to wait a few years. Maybe she's a teen bride who started popping out babies way too early and had to put her Bible degree on hold. Maybe she's a spoiled housewife who hasn't worked a day since she met her shockingly successful husband.

It doesn't matter if you can't stand these moms. You'll love them a whole lot more when they've got poop behind their ears—which you will only get to see if you are with them when it happens!

What does it mean to mom together? Play dates are a good place to start, but they can be a source of stress if you're trying to impress other moms with your creativity or homemaking. What I'm suggesting goes beyond scheduling a day where the moms all pool their time and energy to entertain the kids. I'm suggesting joining up with other moms to actually do life together.

Ask someone over to watch her kids at your house while you wash the dishes and fold the clothes. Some of the best days I've had were when my friends and I have literally made ourselves at home in each other's houses. Messy or clean. Our power as moms is amplified when we join forces. Our failures are mitigated when we have someone there to understand us and let us vent before we blow up. Or set a time when you can both go grocery shopping together. Yes, it will take planning ahead and it will take longer than it normally would and you will want to judge the quality of food or amount your friend spends. But you'll learn from each other and learn about each other. 

Doing life together this way takes courage, vulnerability, and humility—traits I have little of. You will need to be courageous enough to risk making invitations to your friends that will eventually (and possibly often) be declined. You will need to be vulnerable enough to invite your friends over to your house when it isn't up to your usual hosting standards. You'll need to be humble enough to let another woman correct your child while you take care of another need across the room. 

Comparing yourself to other moms is a losing battle. Don't compare who you are to another woman's status updates or photo albums or blog posts—you're comparing your worst to their best (or so I've been told; I'll be honest, I don't have a great handle on this rule myself). But learning through experience as you mom alongside each other can change the way you parent, improve the way you see yourself, and deepen the friendships you have with other women. 

This month take some time and mom together…then leave a comment. Let me know if it works out for you or if your experience was different. 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Detox Follow-up

We made it through the detox. It ended rather anti-climacticaly. I don't know how, but I completely misread the rules of the experiment.

I thought that after a minimum of ten days, you reintroduced a single prohibited ingredient (sugar, dairy, gluten, caffeine) and then a week later introduced another one and so on. Similarly to the way you introduce new foods to a baby. Maybe I had babies on the brain because on day 10, while I was retreading the detox chapter of The Daniel Plan to see whether it specified the order you reintroduce foods, I realized that it said nothing of the sort!

The closest it comes is telling you that if you are feeling better after the detox, you might want to wait a couple days in between sugar, dairy, and gluten so that if your symptoms come back, you'll know which food was causing the problem. 

I admitted my mistake to Peter and we both looked at each other and sort of shrugged and said, "Huh. I guess we're done now."

So what, if anything, did I get from the detox? Well, a whole renewed appreciation for sugar. My sugar habit is unbroken, but it is more realistic. When I didn't have any sugars other than fruits, I began to realize how sweet food can taste when it's not overwhelmed by added sweeteners. I always thought that blueberries were bitter, but that's only in comparison to ice cream and soda. I'm not totally reformed, but I am changing. I still add flavored creamers to my coffee, but I don't add any extra sugar.

I'm also realizing that I use too much cheese and wheat in my cooking. There are a lot of foods that I add cheese to out of habit. Once I take the cheese out, I can't even taste the difference. Cheese is awesome but there's no reason to waste it. 

Finally, I realized that I can give these foods up. I can live without sugar, wheat, milk, or caffeine. And it's in that knowledge that I feel comfortable saying, I choose not to. This detox wasn't fun. We ate. We ate sad, boring meals that nourished our bodies but no one got especially excited about, but that's not the way I want to live. I could live that way, just like I could unplug my TV or give up high heels. I see the advantages of those lifestyles, I don't judge anyone else for adopting such restrictions, but I myself choose the freedom to wear fun clothes, watch silly programs, and eat yummy food.

This was a rewarding experiment and I am happy to say that it is done.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Sweet Dreams Are Made Of This…

Photo by J-rod J
Yesterday was the fourth day of our Daniel Plan Detox. It was also the first day I didn't have a constant headache. I didn't even nap. I think the worst of my withdrawal symptoms are over. 

In fact, I feel like I'm beginning to adjust to my new diet. Or rather, I should say, I think my body is adjusting to the new diet. After a few ounces of fruit juice (the only sugar left in my diet), I was absolutely hyper! I acted like my 3-year-old did on the few times I shared a soda with her. I caught myself literally jumping around the kitchen while doing the dishes. 

I don't want to give the impression that I have completely adapted to this diet. In fact, I'm a little frustrated because I feel like I'm really missing the spirit of the detox. I may have cut drinks with added sweetners, but I'm still drinking 100% juice at nearly every meal. It's as though I've replaced one unhealthy addiction with a slightly healthier addiction. Grape juice is the methadone to my Coke Zero heroine. 

And dairy! I miss you, dairy! Baby, please come home! Yesterday I caught myself walking past the cheese display at HEB and wondering if any studies had found a correlation between lactose-free diets and suicidal tendencies. 

I'm eating practically nonstop. Since it isn't getting what it really wants, my brain never seems to be satisfied and keeps telling me that I'm starving. But so far, I haven't gained any weight. If I ever got used to this lifestyle, I might actually lose weight. But I don't see that happening any time soon. 

With the Daniel Plan detox, you give everything up for at least 10 days (but ideally many more days) and then add prohibited ingredients back once a week after that. I'm counting down the bare minimum number of days until I get to add back my first ingredient. (Five, by the way. Five more days.) After doing this for five days so far, I realize that I could live this way if I had to, but I can't imagine ever enjoying it, so I don't believe I'll continue this diet after the detox is complete.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Cheers to the New Year!

This week Peter and I started a detox—no sugar, no caffeine, no dairy, no gluten…no reason to live. Yesterday was our second day and I genuinely felt like I've had the flu for the last 48 hours. Last night was New Year's Eve and around 9:30 I rolled my sad body into the kitchen to pour us some celebratory glasses of 100% grape juice and then impatiently waited until 10 so that we could ring in fake midnight and fall asleep. 

We're doing this because we've started reading Pastor Rick Warren's new book, "The Daniel Plan" and this detox is part of the program. I'll admit that I'm skeptical of a diet book written by a pastor, but on the other hand, I've never read anything of Pastor Warren's that I didn't like. So I'm giving it a chance.

Even before the book was released, I began to realize that I ought to do something like this. While a friend of mine was telling me of her plans to go off sugar after the holidays, I found myself thinking that her plan sounded like madness and that I couldn't imagine going even a week without sugar. A few days later (I'm really pretty slow at processing these things), it occurred to me that the very fact that I couldn't imagine giving up sugar was itself evidence that I needed to.

I don't like this detox. I miss sugar and I really miss caffeine. I napped for 90 minutes yesterday and still couldn't get of the couch after 7 pm. (I also miss dairy, but I apparently don't have a chemical dependency to it. Gluten, it seems is not that hard to give up. Sorry, gluten. Nobody cares.) I don't like this detox, but I'm going through with it anyway. And Peter's going through with it, too, so at least we'e miserable together.