Sunday, April 29, 2012

In Real Life #inRL

Several weeks ago, I signed up to attend the Nashville (in)RL—"in real life," that is—event put on by (in)courage, the women's blog community run by Dayspring. The idea is that while sites like (in)courage promote online community, and real friendships do develop online, it's great to meet face to face, "in real life," as well. "IRL" is an acronym for "in real life" used on blogs to talk about people you know offline and blog friends you get to meet offline.

Turned out, I had an even more IRL weekend than I expected! Wednesday night, I got an email from IRL friend Kristen (who I met at Matt's high school reunion, since she and her husband went to BHS with Matt) asking if we wanted to come to dinner Friday with Kim and her husband and kids. Kim also went to high school with Kristen and Matt, but since Kim was getting married on the same day as the reunion, and in another state, she wasn't there, and I somehow found her blog from Kristen's as Kristen and I got to know each other better. Kim and I became friends just by reading and commenting on each other's blogs.

So we were all so excited to get together on Friday when Kim and her husband Josh (a church planter in Kentucky, who I actually interviewed for Ministry Matters) were in town so Josh could run the Music City Marathon the next morning. It was funny to talk to Kim on the phone briefly and chat like friends but be hearing a totally unfamiliar voice! We went to the Aquarium Restaurant at the newly-reopened Opry Mills mall. With six adults and six kids under age six, we were a big noisy group, getting up and down to look at the fish, change babies in the restroom, wrangle runaway toddlers. . .

Looking at the 200,000 gallon aquarium in the middle of the restaurant.
Kristen, Kim, and baby Lilly (one month older than Claire and about eight pounds heavier!)
Landon (just a few weeks younger than Kate), Kate, and Daddy,
and Addie in the background, taking tons on pics on her mom's iPhone!
Kate, Landon, and Landon's big sister Addie (almost 6)
Claire, wishing she could get up to look at the fish, or at least eat some of my delicious stuffed shrimp. 
Kim, me, and Kristen, with most of the kiddos
(Claire was in her seat at my feet and Jake was running off somewhere!)
It was so fun to meet up with these other families. I've been so amazed the last couple years how online friends can be "real," even when you haven't met face to face. With Kim and family living in Kentucky, just an hour or so from my parents, I'm sure we'll meet up again. And I hope my Texas blog buddy, Rachel, and I can meet in person one day! Even friends who live locally, we got to know each other through blogs, and connect more often online, via blog comments or Facebook, than in person. What an amazing time we live in.

The actual (in)RL event Saturday night was fun. Great food, worship, door prizes (see below, which I got when I was the person in the room who had given birth most recently!)
Joshua 1:9 canvas from Dayspring, now hanging in my laundry room.
I had hoped the gathering would include more intentional conversations and connection-making for potential IRL friendships, but it was still fun and nice to meet some new people. I'm an introvert, so maybe I just need more help than most! I was actually channeling my inner-extrovert really well; I almost didn't recognize myself!
(Didn't take my camera; this pic is from @jessicanturner's instagram feed.)
Bottom line, this weekend really affirmed how blogs and other social media really can bring people together in real life. I've enhanced some friendships, and maybe made a couple new ones as well.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Project Life Monthly, January thru March

Are you familiar with Project Life? It's a popular method of memory-keeping among scrapbookers and bloggers, and I did it faithfully throughout 2010 in its purest form, which is a "photo a day" sort of format. I took a step back during 2011, and didn't blog much at all. Now in 2012, the trend with many Project Lifers (like The Mom Creative, who I'm linking this post up with—welcome Mom Creative readers!) seems to be to capture a "week in the life" as opposed to one photo per day. I must be way ahead of the trend, then, because my Project Life this year is more of a "month in the life" format :0)

I'm still scrapbooking big events and treasured moments on their own special pages, but as for the photo-montage style of memory-keeping, I've been painting a broader picture by using my cool Becky Higgins Project Life page protectors for monthly spreads. (If you're familiar with the yearly Project Life kits, you'll notice that my cards are still from 2010's kit, since I've just used them sporadically!)

In January, the big events were Claire's baptism and Kate's birthday, both of which got their own pages in the scrapbook. But with these monthly spreads taking a more "behind the scenes" approach, I documented the other memories of the month, including the planning of those fun parties.

I'm saving each month's Sticky Belly sticker as Claire grows, to show alongside a photo or two of her on her monthday, the first of each month.

Party-planning dork that I am, I did a 6x12 page all about how much I enjoyed planning the big parties of January, including a page ripped from the back of my planner, where I make notes about upcoming events. I had made notes about color schemes and menu ideas for weeks if not months before the baptism and birthday parties. (Seriously, I even have a note in my current planner about a gift to make for Claire and my nephew in 2014, when they turn three. And I'll copy it over from planner to planner until we get to the 2013-14 one. I'm THAT big of a planner.)

The other side of the 6x12 is all about Kate's new favorite book, Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes, which we first discovered on my mom's Nook. I sketched out an illustration from the book and mimicked the book's text in my design.

 The final page of my January spreads features a few fun pics and some fingerprint art Kate and I made.

For February, I featured the girls around Valentine's Day, and the story of my Valentine's surprise for Matt. I booked a hotel room for us across the street from where we would be having dinner, and surprised him at dessert with the room key-card in a pink envelope. (I had arranged with his parents, our babysitters, for it to be an overnight stay :0)

The opposite page showed the melted crayon hearts Kate and I made for her valentines to her classmates, as well as the heart-shaped pancakes we had for dinner, and two little pockets with the valentines Kate received from her classmates (in addition to candy and other trinkets).

The final page for February included Claire's 3-month milestones, a little pic of Kate's gymnastics (more to come—it's a full-fledged obsession now!), a treasured pic of me painting with my girls, and a "bit of life" documenting our love of Downton Abbey.

March featured more of Claire getting bigger and more active, as well as fun family times like St. Patrick's Day.

I took the girls to Louisville early in the month, so I have a whole page with pics of my parents and my childhood best friend, whom we spent time with on that brief visit.

St. Pat's got most of the next page, along with Claire's first zoo trip and a snippet of my March Madness NCAA bracket.

Kate and I had a fun Mommy-Daughter-Date on St. Pat's, so that is half the page, with the green milk, her haircut and our lunch date, plus our annual green family portrait.

 We ended March with  a fun birthday party for one of Kate's classmates and a couple sick days. I also captured a bit about Kate's current obsession with opposites. When she notices an opposite, like sitting up high with Claire down low, she shouts, "high and low! OPPOSITES!"

Kate burned her arm sliding down one of the inflatables at the party and was kind of a party pooper for 45 minutes after that, but she perked up in time for cake, and we had fun with her little school friends.

That page brought some more color to my otherwise all green March pages! I'm glad to be creating a montage of daily life at least on a monthly basis, if not weekly or daily. Life is so busy right now, we're too busy living it to document it, and that's probably the way it should be. Sometimes I'm struck with joy in a moment and my instinct is to grab the camera. There's a place for that (a place I love!) but I also need to remind myself to just enjoy the moment. Capture it in my heart, rather than in a photo.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Open Wide!

Claire has been eating solids for a few weeks now, enjoying baby oatmeal, sweet potatoes, peas, squash, and bananas. My little piggy LOVES her solids, of course. As with nursing, I think she would eat 24/7 if she could. If she gets fussy toward the end of a solid meal, she is basically saying, "I just want to nurse and fall asleep now. Thank you."

My favorite thing with these feeding sessions, though, has been the way she learned quickly how to tell me if she wants more. At first, she would sit calmly and open her mouth when the spoon hit it, but as I demonstrated an "open wide" face for her, she quickly learned that when I asked "Do you want more?" the easiest way to say "yes" was to open her mouth REALLY wide. She then happily clamps down on the spoon. It's so cute. She's also learned that a really high-pitched screech helps get my attention if I dare turn to my own meal for a minute, or if she drops a toy off the high chair, or if we're just not paying attention to her... You get the idea.

Enjoy these "messy face" pics of my little hungry hungry hippo.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Kate Cam

Kate got her very own camera for Christmas, the Vtech Kidzoom camera. It was the first thing she opened Christmas morning and it was hard to get her to open anything else, she was so obsessed with taking pictures of everything (hmm... wonder where she gets that from :0)

It holds over 300 digital photos and videos, so since it's been full for a while and I was tired of deleting some whenever she wanted to play with it, I finally got around to uploading her pics just now. Out of the 308 files, over half looked like this:

Not surprising, given the wildness of the photographer and the low shutter speed of the camera. There were also a fair number that were pitch black (from taking pictures in her room after bedtime) and that featured some of the camera's silly frames and effects:

But as I suspected, there were plenty that captured a Kate's-eye-view of things, from Christmas morning and all her loved ones, to close-ups of balls and toys, and her room. 

What a sweet perspective to see. I can't wait to show her all her pics in the morning. She'll be so excited!

Friday, April 20, 2012

My No-Brainer Wardrobe

I never blog about clothes (not my own, anyway—matching girls' clothes, sure) because, frankly, I hate them and am not a style maven in any way. Getting dressed in the morning is more or less the worst part of my day, because—despite a huge walk-in closet and dresser full of clothes—I always feel I have "nothing to wear." First world problem, I know.

Somehow I accumulate tons of clothes that don't fit well, don't look good on me, or that I'm not comfortable in.   There may be several reasons behind this:

  1. I'm frugal, and too often buy things that are cheap but not necessarily good quality in terms of fit or durability (think Old Navy and Target). Even with better-quality things (I love Ann Taylor LOFT), I have a tendency to buy because something is cute but without thinking about what I really need. (A bunch of cute tops and no decent bottoms to wear them with is pointless, for example.)
  2. My body has been shape-shifting over the past several years. Though I currently weigh less than I did when I got pregnant with Kate (and maybe even slightly less than when we got married, I can't remember exactly) my body is different, simply a result of two pregnancies. My tummy is like jello now. That and the fact that longer tops are in style now means everything looks too short. 
  3. I keep things forever and have trouble parting with things even if I haven't worn them in years. I finally got rid of my last 20th century items recently (a couple shirts I got the summer before heading to college in 1999). 

But a couple weeks ago I saw, bought, and read this ebook, The No-Brainer Wardrobe: Get Dressed with More Confidence and Less Fuss, and I'm hopefully turning over a new leaf. The author is a blogger whom I had not heard of, but am definitely checking her out now. (Click here to visit Hayley Morgan @ The Tiny Twig.) The premise of the book was exactly what I needed to learn: that you need to purge your closet and maintain a wardrobe of a limited number of pieces, things that fit, flatter, mix-and-match, and make you feel confident.

Amvets was coming last week anyway, and I already had a mostly-full box of giveaway stuff, so I tried to purge my closet further. I still have more work to do (see item 3 above—it's so hard for me to get rid of something that is in good condition, even if I don't wear it!) but I was able to start organizing the closet a little better to highlight the items I wear well and make getting dressed in the morning a little less frustrating.

Step 2, at the book's suggestion, was taking advantage of Pinterest to figure out what "my style" really is. What doesn't just look cute, but would work for my body and lifestyle?

I noticed a few trends (no pun intended) in the things I pinned. I realized I liked jackets (something I'd been realizing lately anyway, as my go-to "professional-yet-cool" outfit lately has been skinny jeans, top, and suit jacket), and it clarified basics that would be useful for lots of mixing-and-matching.

Armed with this info, I went shopping the other night (a rare luxury in itself, given my job, two kids, and busy schedule) and was a woman on a mission. I hit six stores in three hours (two of which were kid-related errands) and kept my list close at hand. I was on the lookout for:

  • black skinny jeans
  • jacket
  • longer, looser tops/blouses
  • a basic white tank and/or tee
  • black peep-toe wedges

I found all those things (plus an omega scarf on clearance and a swimsuit for our upcoming beach vacation) and have been enjoying trying them all out in various combinations the last several days.

I'm still a frugal person and not a big shopper in general, but this book has definitely helped me shop smarter and be more thoughtful and intentional about my wardrobe. I highly, highly recommend this ebook.
Click here to view more details about The No-Brainer Wardrobe.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Scarring Them for Life

It's a common half-joke with parents that anything we do wrong will "scar them for life." And as a family that recognizes the value of mental health, chances are our kids will go to counseling for something-or-other at some point. The goal is just to minimize the things they can blame on us, right?

I'm being lighthearted about this, but as Claire gets older, I make more comparisons and have noted several differences in the way I've parented my two girls so far, and really wonder how these choices affect kids down the road. (I say "I" even though Matt is a very involved dad just because I am the one that makes most decisions regarding the issues at hand—the feeding of babies.) I've gone "by the book" on some things and not on others, and the typical parental fear that the way a child "turns out" will reflect on these parenting choices is there, no matter how irrational it seems.

Cry-It-Out v. Nursing-On-Demand
I wonder if Claire and I will have a closer bond because I nursed her, and all the implications of that difference in breastfeeding that I wrote about a month or so ago. Lately, my main concern on the breastfeeding front is that I've basically fed Claire on demand, and I wonder how that will affect her long-term. She doesn't nap well, she doesn't take a pacifier; she nurses when going to bed and whenever she wakes up in the night. By contrast, Kate (who was bottle-fed pumped breastmilk at regular intervals) napped reasonably well, soothed herself easily with a paci, and went to bed in no time—we laid her down, and if she cried, we maybe replaced her paci a couple times and let her cry it out if the situation was dire. Easy peasy.

So, I worry that Claire will be a comfort eater, since nursing is pretty much the only way to soothe her. (Good thing she's tenth percentile in weight now, since she'll be hitting up Ben & Jerry's whenever she's down in future years!) I worry that I've done her a massive disservice by feeding her whenever she wakes, making it harder for her to learn self-soothing. How could I have gone against my convictions with her, after such "success" with Kate? I guess it's just so easy, since the boobs are right there and it's all up to me, as opposed to Matt doing Kate's 11 pm dream feed while I slumbered away. Still, it's frustrating, since Claire did sleep through the night by three months, as Kate did, but then relapsed, it seems, and I'm not sure how to get her on track again.

Advantage: Kate, theoretically. If you listen to folks that advocate nursing-on-demand, then Claire has the advantage, but from what I've witnessed so far, a stricter approach to feeding and sleeping seems to make for a more well-adjusted baby.

Fruit-First v. Veggie-First
This was actually the conversation that inspired this post. Claire started solids a couple weeks ago, with oatmeal first. This past week, I gave her sweet potatoes, peas, and squash as well. I hadn't gotten around to looking up (in my Birth to One Year Essential Baby Organizer) what foods beyond cereal we gave Kate first. Common parenting wisdom says to give babies veggies before fruit, so they won't grow accustomed to the sweeter flavor of fruit and resist eating veggies.

I mentioned to Matt that that was why Claire was getting veggies this week. He responded sarcastically, "yeah, and Kate eats her veggies sooo well..."

I opened my Baby Organizer then to see what we'd fed Kate first after cereal (whole wheat in her case), and turns out, it was applesauce and bananas. Ha! Point proven... perhaps.

Matt turned to Kate and said, "Have we scarred you for life, Kate?"
"Yes," she replied.
"Are you going to talk about this in counseling?" Matt asked.
"No," Kate said.

Well, that's good.

Who knows if that's the reason Kate loves fruit and her main veggie is raw carrots while she has to be coerced to eat cooked peas, green beans, or zucchini, but I'm sure it didn't help. With Claire starting on sweet potatoes and peas first, maybe she will love mushy veggies as much as I do. Advantage: Claire.

There are so many things that influence who a child will become, there's no way to know how each specific parenting decision at this young age plays into things, but nonetheless, I'll be wondering as they grow how this or that affected their personalities, aptitudes, and behaviors.

I just hope any advantages or disadvantages I've given my girls balance out in the end. We do our best in every case, and at the end of the day, that's all we can do.

Monday, April 09, 2012

Holy Week and Easter Weekend

Palm Sunday held the second of our two egg hunts after church, you'll recall, kicking off a Holy Week that is theoretically supposed to be somber, but sometimes it's hard to keep the fun away. ;0)

Monday night was the NCAA final, in which Kentucky beat Kansas for the victory! This was great a) because my family is a UK family (it's where my parents met, and they were in New Orleans for the game), and b) I had Kentucky beating Kansas in my bracket and in general chose more games right than Matt did, so I won our annual tourney bracket competition.

Tuesday, we met up with my parents as they drove back through Nashville on their way back to Louisville. Since they would be returning three days later for Easter weekend, they didn't come out to our house or anything, but it was dinnertime as they were passing through, so we met up at a Panera by the interstate.

Wednesday, our usual midweek church dinner and discussion were cancelled since there were Holy Week services Thursday and Friday, but we still had choir practice to prepare for our Easter anthem. I was bummed for about a second that I wouldn't get another night to chill at home with the fam, but then I became elated at the thought of a night out by myself! I could run some errands on my own before or after choir!!! (It's crazy what excites you when you have small kids.) I went to Bed Bath & Beyond to buy a new coffee maker, since ours broke a week or more before and that was the first chance I had to buy a new one. And I got an absorbent dish-drying pad. Try to contain the excitement. :0)

Thursday, the girls and I skipped Maundy Thursday dinner and worship because it was gymnastics night. And Friday, Nala and Popi arrived in town just in time to go to Open Gym and play around with Kate before grabbing some BBQ and going to Good Friday worship, a tenebrae ("darkness") service.

Saturday, we had some nice family time with breakfast out, a little shopping, seed-planting, and egg-dyeing. Kate received a cute apron, spade, and seeds for her birthday in January, so it was finally time to plant them, and Nala and Popi were happy to faciliate!

Since the Easter Bunny comes to PKs early, the girls got their Easter baskets Saturday afternoon too. They got some hairbows and headbands, The Lion King DVD, a new paci strap, and stickers.

Then Kate and I dyed eggs together. Kate used the white crayon to draw on the eggs, and suggested we write each grandparent's name on an egg, too.

Easter Sunday began with a waffle breakfast and "not-so-sunrise service" at church, followed by our main worship service, a great celebration of Christ's resurrection and the victory of life over death. We had the grandparents and our friends Tracy and Thomasjohn over for Easter dinner afterwards for good food and playtime. The men fell asleep watching the Masters golf tournament while the women hung in the playroom with the girls.

Granna made an adorable lamb cake...

 And naturally, I had great fun decorating my table.

I made carrot place cards/napkin holders.

As well as a shabby chic spring wreath for the front door (repurposed from a falling-apart fall wreath by whitewashing the twigs and painting the apples pink).

Kate was thrilled to learn that Mommy's friend was named Ms. Tracy because it rhymes with Ms. Stacy and Ms. Casey (her gymnastics teachers). She proceeded to make an abstract Duplo masterpiece and name it "Tracy."

We also had a nice photo shoot before church, of course, in which Nala and Popi finally got a nice pic of them with both girls.

And so did we!!

 Happy Easter to my sweet girls in their matchies, and to all of you!


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