Old Time Fredericksburg Weekend

28 August 2014

We went to Fredericksburg last weekend. Ever since we moved to Houston last summer, we've taken lots of last minute trips to the homeland. I always brace myself a little because I get heartsick for the hill country.

This weekend just happened to be the county fair and the fair parade.

The fair parade was Friday morning. I hadn't been to this parade in over a decade. It's everything you'd want a small town parade to be. Tractors and miniature cars and more tractors and people riding horses and two seater tractors and ostentatious floats and county fair queens with their affected hand waves. Jake loved it. Multiple times since that day he's made me stop everything I'm doing so I can watch him reenact the marching band. Ms. Texas rode by in an open convertible. I didn't know there was such a thing as "Ms. Texas," so I asked my dad if it meant she was married? or something? and he said: "Divorced." A fact which he knew because he - wait for it - delivered her. As in Dr. Dad caught the squirmy little baby that would grow up to be Ms. Texas.

I left the kiddos for the entire afternoon on Friday to go watch one of my oldest friends get married. She wore a flower crown and got married on the steps of the courthouse. I had my first (and last) Michelada at this affair. Color me pansy, but I'll take my beer without tabasco sauce and all my cocktails with extra simple syrup.

Saturday was a slow day at my parents' house. Jake got to ride with my dad in the tractor. I got to follow the crawling baby around while chatting with my mother and overloading on Nespresso. Jacob went to my grandmother's to change a lightbulb for her, and returned approximately three Cribbage games later.

We spent some quality time with my Dad's observation beehive. My parents' turned my brother's old room into a a little bee theater. The observation hive sits in the back corner with a pipe leading out the window that the bees use to enter and exit the hive. The hive is tall with a long glass panel, so you can see the bees at work. For the first time on Saturday, Jacob and I got to see the queen. As she moves around the hive, a little halo of bees moves with her. Carressing her. Cleaning her. Let's hope she's not an introvert.

We went to the fair and the horseraces Saturday afternoon; Nana June came with us because that woman's got some luck. Jake was just big enough to ride the purple motorcycle. We saw the prize produce and managed to avoid buying a funnel cake despite the sweet sweet smell that tempted us all afternoon.

On Sunday we went out to a friend's ranch that has some restored buildings on it, and now Jacob has decided his dream job would be restoring century-old farmhouses. So the next house we buy might be in even worse shape.

So that was our weekend. Nothing like a good weekend update I always say.

Before I Had a Seven Year Old: Christy from Fountains of Home

27 August 2014

I had one of those glorious mornings of waking up at 5:50 with the hope of getting SOMETHING done in the beauty and quiet of the morning...but as the fates would have it, no such peace was mine. So I'm having one of those WHY DO I EVEN TRY???? mornings. So it's probably a good time to introduce you to one of my blogging buddies who's been at this motherhood thing a lot longer than I. So here's a steaming cup of solidarity for me and the rest of you from Christy. Christy writes at Fountains of Home, and you should definitely pay her a visit and check out her posts on faith and family and books. (Christy and I almost always agree about books.)

How many kids do you have and how old are they?
We've got 5 kidlets ages 7, 5, 4, 2 and 17 months. Yes, that is 5 kids in less than six years - so our children are very close in age and it's been quite the steep learning curve for me as a mom. Our biggest age gap is 26 months and our closest in age are only 11 months apart so I've always had more than one baby around and almost always toddlers too!

What are the biggest differences in your home life now that you have slightly biggers running around and not just really littles?
I can't quite speak to this question to the fullest extent since Gemma, my oldest, has just turned 7. My three oldest are pouring their own water, getting dressed themselves, and are already handling small chores like sweeping, unloading the dishwasher, putting away laundry etc and I can't believe the difference it makes! Even these small things feel absolutely epic to me who once was changing the diapers of three babies under three! They also are very good at entertaining each other and Max, the 2 year old. I find their playing together to be invaluable and one of the best things about having kids close together - so glad there are upsides!

What's something you miss about that stage of only really littles?
Hahahahaha! You're probably going to have to get back to me after menopause in order for me to answer this one.

Oh wait, you said only littles. So I'd say being able to watch trashy tv or swear without them being instantly adversely affected. I know. I shouldn't miss these things, but personal growth and everything...

What are some things you did with your first baby that in hindsight seem a little ridiculous?
Probably compare their growth and progress on a monthly basis to other babies. I remember worrying over Gemma not crawling and not walking and when she should eat this or that, and I'm just so glad I'm not burning brain cells on that stuff anymore because really, babies just grow and you can just relax because infancy truly flies by and everyone really does learn to walk and talk and eat. I honestly have to stop and work out how many months Nora (my baby) is now because the monthly growth business doesn't even enter my mind anymore. I've become much better at enjoying whatever stage they're at because I have the perspective of a few children to know that even the most precious or frustrating stage is really a stage. There is light at the end of the tunnel/a sad time when they won't be a baby anymore. 

What's something you stressed about that doesn't stress you out at all anymore?
A lot about growth and development I think. I wish I took that back for my first baby. Also I just wish I didn't stress so much about changing their routines or sleeping arrangements so much. Babies adapt so much better than we think, we just have to stick to what we decide we want to do. Now when we want or need to change something we know there will be a period of adjustment that can be rough/exhausting/frustrating but that the child will eventually adapt and be fine. 

Describe a moment, if you can remember one, where you definitely did not have it together.
There's been a lot. I'm not going to lie. I think I've let naked toddlers deliberately spill boxes of cereal on the floor in order that I didn't have to get up with a sleeping baby on me. It is certainly difficult having three very small children all in diapers and being completely dependent on you for everything. I think that was the most challenging time for me, it was a very, very basic survival mode where I just had the expectation of getting through a day. And to be honest that expectation got me through. I think I've adjusted my level of what's acceptable a lot and it helps. I have an acceptable threshold of chaos. If I want to spend some time, I'm talking about 10 minutes, on the phone with a friend, writing a blog post, cooking dinner I have come to expect that a room will become a complete disaster. Sometimes that's just unavoidable. Does that mean I have it altogether? No, it means I'm mortgaging ten free minutes with a dirty basement.

I've had seven years of multiple babies/toddlers/children needing me constantly. I think if I go a day without having to lock myself in a bathroom I consider that a major win! 

What's an expectation for yourself/your kids/your husband that you have totally let go of?
I think one of the most important ones especially when all your kids are toddlers is to let go of the expectation that everyone will be happy all the time. I think this is a concept of parenting that really impedes us enjoying ourselves or being miserable all the time. It's really easy for us as moms to think we have to make our kids happy all the time, because when they're infants we have the ability to make them happy all the time, or for the most part anyway. But once you've got multiple children, especially toddlers not everyone is going to be happy all the time. There's going to be crying and whining; you're not going to make everything better for everyone in the same instant. I think once I figured this out, and I really had to once I had my third baby, I understood that I'd focus on meeting the most needy in the moment and move down the scale of neediness. The kids grew in patience and the knowledge that they're not the centre of the universe and I let go of the burden of believing that to be a good mother my children had to be happy, non-screaming, non-crying, non-whining at every waking moment. There is difference between caring for your children well and making them happy all the time. It's beyond exhausting and darn near impossible to make toddlers happy all the time. It didn't take me too long to figure this out, but once I made the realization it freed me to not feel like a failure on the days that my kids just whined and cried no matter what I did. 

Making the decision that my mood won't be dependent on their mood also helped a lot. It took my husband longer to learn that, and maybe we're both still learning that, but the babies can be crabby but that doesn't mean I have to be. I may need to remind myself of this axiom about 100 times a day, though.

How do you conquer nap strikes?
Well, I come down on them with the iron fist of motherly dictatorship. Seriously. Sleeping and napping to me are the most important thing in parenting. Which really tells you that my children are not old, and that I've dealt with a lot of toddlers at a time. But honestly, the best advice I can give any mother is to be religiously consistent with their kids and insist on naps from the start. It gives you freedom. It gives you time. It gives you that break for sanity. The best thing I've done with my babies is to sleep train them. I thought I really subscribed to attachment parenting before I had children, then once I had them I realized that my sanity could not tolerate a little time and space built into my day that I could depend on. I still believe in attachment parenting philosophically, I just don't feel the physical element is as important as the books say. So hopefully that doesn't make me heartless!
I'm so happy I taught them to fall asleep themselves when I put them down, and to expect that nap time everyday. It can be a struggle to get them to that point but it is so worth it, especially if you plan on more kids or are open to having no plan when it comes to future children because having a stable routine and babies that slept well was really a lifesaver when it came to having a bunch of kids in a short period of time. 

As a new mother, how did you find time for yourself?
My husband has always been really great in insisting I need time for myself and always being willing to take his shift of kid time. I live in a pretty isolated area and sometimes the only way I can get out and go to a Starbucks or a Costco is to leave for most of the day when he's home from work. When it's really hard for me to get out he always lets me sleep in on weekends and that has been a real sanity saver for me. To have a mini-break from getting up early and dealing with the morning chaos makes me feel refreshed and as if I actually have a weekend and I just can't recommend that small idea enough. Other things that help me when I don't have a bunch of time is even a half hour at Adoration, or maybe an hour locked in my room just reading. It feels frivolous at the time when you've got a filthy kitchen or unvacuumed mess, but doing a little of what refreshes you meaningfully makes a world a difference in the long haul of mothering babies who are up at all hours day in, day out. My family also lives close by and are always willing to take a kid or two no matter the time and I have quite pathetically called my mom at 6 am after being up all night with a baby begging for her to take my other kids and she always does!

How did you find time to encourage your marriage?
I don't know if I'm an expert in this subject because we don't get dates nights often, maybe a couple times a year - which is terrible if I think about it for more than a minute, so moving on quickly! 
Luckily we're both homebodies and we both look forward to just being home together. Because of our sleep training of the kids they've always gone to bed at a good hour and my husband and I usually spend some time doing our own thing, then do something together every night. We also always go to bed at the same time which hasn't been easy at different times of our marriage but it really lends more intimacy to our everyday that could easily not be there. It's a good habit in our marriage that we work at, even when it means my husband has learned to go to sleep with the light on as I read.

If you could go back and tell something to your newmom self, what would it be?
Probably it would be something like, you're going to get better at this. It's just so overwhelming to be a mom for the first time that everything feels so hard, and so unimaginable, and so tough. But every year you get better, which makes things easier even when you don't think it could be possible. I don't remember hearing that when I became a mom and I really wish I did. It's really nice to hear any kind of affirmation in your motherhood at any time in your motherhood career I think! 

Thanks for reading and thank you so much to Christy! And if any of you veteran moms are interested in sharing your own stories from the early years be sure to link up here.

Five Favorites: Movies

21 August 2014

Linking up with Heather to bring you some five favorites this afternoon because it looks like I've got two sleepers and my fingers are itching. Blythe has been writing up her love story over at her house and if you haven't read it you should really stop reading now and click over. Her love story has a lot of Wes Anderson in it, so it got me thinking about movies. But not just any movies. MY movies. The movies that just got me. You know. Like in high school when you just wanted to be understood. These were the movies that, if we'd met ten years ago, I would've shown you and watched every reaction you had.

You don't have to like them. You probably won't.

But if you watch them, and you do, or if you've already watched them and you do, we should have ourselves a fat chat about them down there in the combox. I don't really do "combox debates" but this post might be an exception.

This is a movie about a motley collection of British ladies who escape to Italy for a holiday. It's a bit of a "find yourself abroad" type thing - that must be a genre...right? Elizabeth Gilbert isn't that original. Anyhow. It's brilliant. The women all leave London seeking isolation but they find themselves in new and renewed relationships.

I rented this VHS randomly one Friday with a friend in high school, and we were totally weirded out by it initially because it's very weird. It's Australian. I bet it's even weird for Australia. Saturated colors. Saturated characters.

It's the classic plot line of homely girl gets makeover and hot guy falls in love with her. And there's dancing. Watch it. (Maybe with alcohol.)

I read this book ages ago when I still read classic literature, but I don't remember it. The movie however is enchanting. More enchanting than Enchanted April even. It's a "find yourself abroad" while Maggie Smith is babysitting you movie and therefore great.

But also weird. Helena Bonham Carter is in it, and she's the most normal part. Perhaps this was her gateway or something. There's also a scene of men being very innocent and very naked together. I think the Brits call it bathing. Don't say I didn't warn ya.

Zombie. Apocalypse. Simon Pegg. Nick Frost. I could just stop there.

Some of my guy friends in college subjected me to a bunch of very bad zombie apocalypse movies. They twisted my arm to watch Shaun of the Dead, insisting that I would love it because it was British and I was snobby. So I watched it with them and they were right. It was my intro into the comedic genius of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost (I see you, Jessie.) and I will defend its relative merits over Hot Fuzz all day any day.

Small town pageantry gets...lethal. It's over the top and unbelievable and sacrilegious, but I just find it...hilarious. When the trailor park cosmetologist's hand gets melted onto her can of lite beer...Do I need to say anything else?

Before I Had a Seven Year Old: Colleen Martin of Martin Family Moments

20 August 2014

A big welcome to my friend Colleen who is doing this installment of Before I Had a Seven Year Old, a series where I ask women about their early experience of motherhood. 

Colleen blogs about family life over at Martin Family Moments. I knew I would ask Colleen to contribute to this series because of this little post she wrote about Mother's Day back in May. I'm so excited to have her here today.
How many kids do you have and how old are they?
I have six kiddos, John-Paul is 11, Andrew is 9, Eamon is 7, Maggie is 6, Alexander is almost 3, and Declan is 3 months.

What are the biggest differences in your home life now that you have slightly biggers running around and not just really littles?
I just need to start out by saying that the most difficult "season" of being a mother so far was when I had all little ones.  When my fourth baby was born, my oldest was only 4 years old. They all needed so much from me! When my 6th baby was born, my oldest was 11, and actually the oldest four kids are all at very easy ages. They are independent enough that they don't rely on me for everything, but not too old that I'm worried about a whole new set of parenting issues. They are in that sweet spot, which for me is the elementary school age group. When we leave the house, everyone can get themselves dressed and shoes on, help me carry a diaper bag, or hold the toddler's hand. They can all climb in the car and buckle themselves up. My main job now is to take care of the baby and shout out orders :)

What's something you miss about that stage of only really littles?
The grocery bills!!! Haha, they eat so much now, and we're not even in the teenage years yet! I think I also miss that they were all so very excited about anything we did - be it a trip to the playground, the library, Target. Everything was new and exciting and fun. Now, when I have to go run errands, I get a few moans and groans. When they are little, they don't talk back!

What's something you stressed about that doesn't stress you out at all anymore?
Breastfeeding.  I used to worry about how much milk I was making and would feed my firstborn on a schedule instead of on demand. I would always separate myself from a group to go feed the baby, and felt like I was missing out on fun parties and meals because of it. With the first baby, we had to supplement a bottle of formula at night because he was a teeny little one, and that stressed me out because "breast is best" and all that jazz. Now I'm just like, whatever, I breastfeed as long as everyone is happy, and give formula whenever it's needed. A happy and healthy baby AND mommy AND other family members are the goal.
Have you ever (metaphorically...or literally) locked yourself in the bathroom to stay sane? I want to hear about that moment.
When things get rough, I exercise to stay sane. It's my alone time and my mental health boost. I didn't discover how much I needed it until after my 4th baby was born, and once I made it a priority, everything in life felt easier. I used to have my sneakers on and as soon as my husband would get home from work, I would hand him the baby and jet out the door for a quick run. Sometimes I give myself timeouts when I can tell I'm especially grumpy or angry and go take a shower or lay down in bed for 15 minutes, thanking God for all the blessings I have. Because a thankful heart is a happy heart, some wise VeggieTales told me.

As a new mother, how did you find time for yourself?
Yeah, I didn't do too hot on that. I think most new moms devote themselves to the kids and forget to make some time for themselves for their mental and physical health. My breaks back then were in the form of grocery shopping sans kids once my husband returned home from work. Once I realized I could join a gym that offered childcare, my breaks were working out for an hour in the morning while the kids played. I can't emphasize the importance of finding some exercise time to moms.

How did you find time to encourage your marriage?
I'll let you in on a little secret of marital success - put the kids to bed early!! Phil and I have about 2 hours every night that we are awake and by ourselves, and it's awesome. We try to get all our household chores and work done before 8 pm and can watch tv together, talk, eat something fancier than normal, whatever. Of course, all that alone time is probably why we have so many kids :)

How did you build community for yourself and for your family?
This is something that has taken us years and years to do. We are so lucky that many of our friends are people who work with us or go to our parish. We purposely chose jobs and a parish that allowed for that. Back when I started having babies and didn't know a lot of people, I joined a Moms Club and did activities with them, which really helped alleviate that lonely feeling you get being a SAHM. Then we started having Sunday night football parties during football season, which morphed into Sunday night game nights when football was over. Those times were really wonderful because most of the people who came didn't have kids, so we could just put our kids to bed and not worry about a babysitter but still have social time. Once we joined our current parish, we met some lovely families that have become friends, and anytime we've been involved in a group (like a Men's Prayer Group, or my bookclub) we have the opportunity to make new friends. You can't make friends by isolating yourself in your house all day. Even though sometimes I would like too :)

What's one specific thing you're glad that you've taught your older children?
That children are a blessing.  See their reaction when we told them we were expecting baby #6 :)
What was your hardest transition after having a newborn? 0 to 1 kid? 1 to 2? 6 to 7? Why?
The hardest was going from 2 to 3 kids for many reasons. One, your two oldest are not very old and still need a lot of help. Two, your hands are outnumbered by your kids and going anywhhere becomes a safety and logistical nightmare. And three, our third baby was colicky and definitely my most difficult baby.  

If you could go back and tell something to your newmom self, what would it be?
Everything is a passing phase. When you're going through it, it fells like forever, but it doesn't last. That goes for all the good and bad things associated with being a parent. Also, it gets easier as they get older. Pinky swear.

Thanks for reading and thank you so much to Colleen! And if you veteran moms are interested in sharing your own stories from the early years be sure to link up here.

All About the Kiddos

18 August 2014

I've decided to bang out some updates on the kiddos because I'm feeling like doing something fresh and new.

Lucy June is now crawling and pulling herself to standing and cruising.

She signs "more". . . only in regards to food. . . and she has yet to sign "all done." #porker

She is by no means "talking," but she has a word, and it's "ddjah" for...Jake. She's been making that sound for him since she was like seven months old, but I wasn't sure until recently it was legit. But it's legit. Perhaps she's linguistically advanced. Or perhaps she's just that obsessed with her brother. She has recently started saying "Mama," so I guess that makes me a...not very close second.

We've started sleep training her. We do it the wimpy way. The stay in the room and soothe and soothe and hope that baby will eventually fall asleep in her crib and isn't just developing entirely new sleep crutches. So far. . . pretty good. I'll confess that over the last ten months of her life, she has rarely slept for longer than an hour without the body of her mother next to her. This makes cosleeping not so terrible: she's a good little snuggler, but it does mean that I've been nursing her back to sleep three times in between when she goes to bed around 8 and I go to bed around 11. Which also hasn't been SO SO bad because...hello smart phone and social media addiction.

Since we started a little training she has begun sleeping through the. . . evening. Good on us. And around 1am I bring her into our bed because I have no nocturnal self-discipline. Someday someday she will sleep through the night, but until then I'm choosing to look on the bright child-spacing side.

Ok. I'll be done now with the whole baby sleep schedule part.

She has developed a persistent affection for...beer pong balls.

The story of why we have so many beer pong balls in the house is long and not very incriminating, so probably not worth sharing. But my, does Lucy June love them.

Double fisting.

And Jake.

He's three, so I guess we're in the whole "how independent are you?" phase. He wants to do everything BY! MYSELF! And parenting him is pretty much a circle of letting him try to do things himself and then dealing with the mess or not letting him do things himself and dealing with his freak outs. Jacob and I consistently differ on what we think is OK for Jake to try to do by himself. I'm cool with him trying to put jam on his own toast; Jacob is not. Jacob is cool with letting him do flips on the couch; I am. . . too, if I leave the room.

He's mostly potty trained, but has the occasional accident. He wet his pants the other day, and when I asked if he'd peed a little on his shorts, he said condescendingly, "Yeah. It's OK." I half expected him to pat my knee or something.

He loves playing with Legos, well, Mega Bloks. His favorite things to build are rockets, planes, and. . . stairs.

He spent this afternoon playing a make believe game in which he gave names to Jacob, Lucy June, and me. They were Clank, Flank, and Skank.


And he was Joe.

Remodel: The Beginnings

15 August 2014

My brain is abuzz.

I'm so full of thoughts and ideas about life and blogging and REMODELING.

You guys. We bought a house. We bought a fixer upper. You know what this means??? It means that the men in my life are actually encouraging me to fritter my life away on Pinterest.
I figure I'm going to have to start following more DIY and Design Blogs, so I can get a sense of how you're supposed to blog about remodels, but here's how the story starts.

The (Beginning of the) Story

My little brother Robert moved in with us last December. He started working the same job Jacob works, and had grand plans of buying a fixer upper with my older brother Jonathan who also lives in Houston. So the two brothers toured house after house and made offer after offer, but the Houston market was hopping, and for months and months they had no success. Instead of fixing up a house, my little brother planned a trip to South America.

Then we all head out on a big family vacay to Hawaii and come home to a message from Robert and Jonathan's realtor who has a house that's pretty much theirs for the taking. My brothers were stoked, but they couldn't quite afford it without Jacob and me. And in a 72 hour turn around, we make an offer, it's accepted, Rob hops a plane to Colombia, I go to Edel, Jonathan leaves to lead a retreat, and in a group text to end all group texts we organize inspections and negotiations and closing dates and wire transfers (which are a little tricky from Colombia, who knew?) and powers of attorney, and all of a sudden, Jacob and I are sitting in a high rise, staring down at the whirring Houston traffic below, signing document after document, and buying an ugly house. Jacob couldn't wait 24 hours to hack into some walls. Isn't it beautiful?
The house is not in huge disrepair, but it's VERY dated. Are we in over our heads? Probably. Does my heart swell with anticipation every time I tread over the yellowing linoleum? Totally. Did I spend a substantial portion of yesterday afternoon pulling out finishing nails with a baby on my hip? Yes, and as inefficient as it was, I'd do it all again.

I'm so excited to start this journey, and I'm so excited to share it with you!

Before I Had a Seven Year Old: Bonnie of A Knotted Life

13 August 2014

Thanks for joining us for the second installment of Before I Had a Seven Year Olda series where I ask moms about their experiences in early motherhood. 

Bonnie is one of the sweetest bloggers in my little corner of the internet, so I was delighted when she agreed to take part in this shindig. Now before we all start splitting hairs we'll recognize that Bonnie doesn't quite have a seven year old. So maybe we can update this in a few months and she can tell us how extreme the 6/7 divide really is. You might know her from the Sheenazing Awards that she hosts or for being the mother of this little miracle. I had the pleasure of meeting and chatting with her at Edel and can confirm that she's just as lovely in the flesh as she is at A Knotted Life.

How many kids do you have and how old are they?
I have 6 kids. One in Heaven, and then a 6, 4, 3, 2, and 1 year old.

What are the biggest differences in your home life now that you have slightly biggers running around and not just really littles?
I have more time to myself now and I have help. Because they're all close in age they can all play pretty well together which allows for some really good breaks for me. I can send all the kids, sans baby, out to the back yard to play while I meal prep or blog or clean and I know they'll be okay. Part of that is where we live but part of it is that the older two (my 4 year old is almost 5) are very capable of organizing play. Also, my 6 year old is very responsible and a really good kid and so she's also very helpful with putting shoes on the 2 year old, changing diapers, buckling kids in... All my kids help set and clear the table, water potted plants, gather garbage, put their clean clothes away, tidy the house, etc. It's wonderful!

What's something you miss about that stage of only really littles?
My house was quieter and they were all in cribs and couldn't climb into our bed at night, but that's about it. It wasn't until my 4th that I really enjoyed the baby stage and I was still pretty clueless when I had my first three so I don't miss much. 

What's something you stressed about that doesn't stress you out at all anymore?
What other people say. I don't really care what "they" say anymore. So much of my parenting the first few years was trying to follow what "they" say. Now I follow my gut, my mom's advice, and the law. 

Have you ever (metaphorically...or literally) locked yourself in the bathroom to stay sane?
If it's cold outside I step out on the porch so I can literally and figuratively cool off. If it's hot outside I lock myself in my bedroom and turn the fan on high. I have done this much more than once or twice or even ten times. Sometimes it was because of me, untreated postpartum depression led to a very short fuse, and so I had to get out of the house and away from my kids before I would rage. Sometimes it was because of the kids, meltdowns or puke everywhere or just me being overstimulated by five kids all crying for my attention, and I just had to step away for a moment and regroup. For me, locking myself away was always a good decision. If I was in a really bad place I would binge eat. If you saw me binge eating things were not okay and I was (am) grabbing for something to make it better. 

What's an expectation for yourself/your kids/your husband that you have totally let go of?
That we have to be perfect right away. The kids aren't the only ones learning and growing - my husband and I are too! We're going to make some mistakes - all of us - because so much of this is uncharted territory for us. 

How did you and your husband support one another when you were new parents?
At the end of the day we would sit on the sofa, totally pooped, and commiserate together. It was great for bonding.
How did you build community for yourself and for your family?
From the very beginning I was looking for something and tried the La Leche League in my area. It was nice but the other moms were definitely more crunchy than I was and none of them shared my religious beliefs. I didn't fit in. I was thrilled when a woman at my parish later invited me to be a founding member of a pray and play group. I also hosted a small group Bible study in my home one summer with my husband. We arranged for an older couple from our parish to be present to babysit the kids, I handed out flier-invites to the different couples (we have a small parish - it was all the young adults), and I sent text message reminders. It was great, and while I only did it that one summer it was a wonderful way to get to know those other couples.

What was your hardest transition after having a newborn? 0 to 1 kid? 1 to 2? 6 to 7? Why?
0 to 1 was by far the hardest - it was even harder than 2 to 3 and my 3rd spent 7 weeks in the NICU! I went from working and knowing what I was doing and seeing results to being a stay at home mom who was clueless and exhausted. My daughter cried all the time and it was really difficult. Incredibly difficult. I would actually say that it's gotten easier with every child we've added. 

If you could go back and tell something to your newmom self, what would it be?
Don't clean! Hold your baby and sleep. That's all that matters.

Thanks for reading and thank you so much to Bonnie! And if you veteran moms are interested in sharing your own stories from the early years be sure to link up here.

Went to The Hundred Event...You Know...Bought a House

11 August 2014

We're back from Dallas and The Hundred Event.
What an amazing amazing event - so many exquisite details, so many things to learn, and so many old and new bloggy friends to chat and laugh and chat with. Lauren, Grace, Bridget, and Megan done did this right.

I was pretty intimidated to pack myself and my dinky family blog up for a real blogging conference, but I quickly connected with Blythe, Nell, Olivia, Britt, and Katrina. We started a group text, and then we were off to the races.

I went to sessions on freelance writing and photography, I discovered lots of new brands, and I got to hear Kendi herself talk about her blogging journey. I made new friends like Katie and Joanna and Kelly and Taylor and Indiana.

And. The. Food.

I might have to become a restaurant blogger now. On Saturday we had pizza from Il Cane Rosso: some of the best pizza I've had stateside. And I used to live in Italy so that means I have a lot of autorita on this subject.

And THEN I ate one of the most delicious sandwiches of my life from Ruthie's Party Truck. If you live in Dallas, go hunt that truck down and have yourself a Summer Chick Special before the season is over and then join me in never using anything but muenster on a grilled cheese ever again.

We pulled into our driveway in the wee hours of the morning, stumbled ourselves and our littles into bed, and one short sleep past we woke and bought a house.



More details to come.

7QT Friday: The Hundred, The House, and A Failproof Exercise Routine

08 August 2014

- 1 -
In a few hours I will be headed to The Hundred where I will meet up with some of my blogging buddies and hone my craft. When I was signing up for sessions, I actually had to look up what "prop styling" was, so I'm starting at a bit of a deficit...but I'm stoked!

- 2 -
Life has been busy lately. I confess to saying things are busy when they really aren't, but this time I can say it honestly.

Life HAS been REALLY busy. We were in St. Louis then Los Angeles then Hawaii then home then Austin then Fredericksburg and tomorrow we head to Dallas. Somewhere in the middle of that, I started talking to someone about teaching again this fall and then we powowed with my two brothers here in Houston and bought a house. What?!? Yup. We bought a fixer upper with my brothers and my is she ugly. We close Monday, and I can't wait to start ripping out linoleum. Or watch as Jacob and my brothers start ripping out linoleum because I know exactly what I'll be doing during this entire remodel project and one is nine months old and the other is going through a super whiny phase and tries to explain away all his ugly behavior with "I was just pretending to be a bad guy."

And we're excited about it, and even though the house is more of an "investment," we're thinking after the remodel is done we're just going to move into it. Like all of us. Together. Like Jacob and me and our kids and my two bachelor brothers. It has four bedrooms, so it's not insane but it is kinda crazy.

And did I mention it's a very ugly house? Because it's very very ugly. It's every kind of ugly. The dingy paneling kind. The linoleum yellowing with age kind. The musty carpet bunching at the wall kind. It's a house that screams: fix me up! There's no way you'll make me worse than I am! 

Anywho. Get ready. Because this blog is going to get a little crazy with before and after pics.

- 3 -
I try to wake up early - or at least I've been trying over the last six months. Lucy June kinda sleeps in, and Jake stays in his room until his Christmas lights click on at 7am (or at least he did before I forgot how to reprogram the outlet timer and at 6:30 my "quiet time" has been peppered with "NOW is it time to get up? But the sun is SHINING.") so my alarm is set for 5:50, and sometimes it only takes a couple snoozes before I'm up and drinking coffee and typing on the blog or tooling around the internet, and it's...pure bliss. Then the kids wake up and I get them breakfast and sing my way through unloading the dishwasher. 

Or that's about 30% of the time. The other 70% of the time I snooze right on through my alarm or I wake up and so does Lucy June or Jake throws down the Ace of spades and yells out "MAMA I needa go POOPOO!!!!" And then it's 6:15 and everyone's awake and the morning just got a lot longer and my coffee goes in the microwave over and over and over again. 

- 4 -
Exercising while your coffee is brewing

So I haven't been burning through any miles recently. I don't know if you know this, but Houston is hot. And humid. In the spring the kiddos and I were pretty religious about our midmorning jogs, but now...it's just too hot. The only times cool enough to jog are, respectively, my am coffee-drinking time or my pm wine-drinking time, and I've cut into those sacred times like...twice all summer. 

Which leads me to my safehold as far as exercise is concerned: coffee brewing time.

How do you spend your coffee brewing time? 

I spend mine doing abdominal exercises. This is something my mother taught me. My over-exercised high school self was pretty unimpressed by my mother's coffee-brewing work outs, but here I am, half my life later, and I'm only just beginning to realize how brilliant she was. 

- 5 -
So I mentioned earlier that Jake is in a bit of a  - lets cross our fingers and call it a - phase right now. Pushing boundaries, those types of things. Most of this little toddler exerting his independence is pretty unfun, except this one part: he's learning to express his dislike for certain things but he doesn't have the vocabulary for it. We get a lot of "I DON'T LOVE this squash, mama." And "This pasta is NOT my favorite."

So THAT part of the phase can stay.

- 6 -
Me: Jake, what does this say?
Jake: Jake Ramsay Rhodes

- 7 -
Butter Waffle Cookies from Trader Joes

These are what happen when you send Jacob to TJs for some "sweet potatoes and sparkling water."

- 7.5 -
In an effort not to lose my baby blogger brand: kiddos. harmonizing.
Click on over to Jen's for more Quick Takes. Happy Weekend!

Before I Had a Seven Year Old: Kendra of Catholic All Year

06 August 2014

This is the first in a series where I ask moms about their experiences in early motherhood. And today we're talking with Kendra from Catholic All Year.

I first met Kendra when Blythe invited me to dinner at her house. So I went to dinner with my then-fiance, Jacob Rhodes. I remember I brought a dessert involving vanilla wafers because I wanted it to be kid-friendly...and then of course we ate it on the Tierneys' china. I've since learned how the Tierneys roll when it comes to hosting people and parties, and I'm proud to say I attended several a Hooley before our stint in So Cal was over. 

I'm so excited to have Kendra here today!

How many kids do you have and how old are they?
I have seven:
Jack 12, Betty 10, Bobby 8, Gus 6, Anita 5, Frankie 2, Lulu 7m
What are the biggest differences in your home life now that you have slightly biggers running around and not just really littles?
So much. 

Nap time: A renowned introvert and lover of accomplishing things, I have always cherished and defended nap time. When I had two and three little kids, getting them all down at the same time was a challenge. I'd start really early, reading a story to the four year old and putting him down, then songs and snuggling for the three year old, and by that time the one year old was throwing a fit because he was overtired, but he took the shortest naps, so if I put him down first, he'd wake up before I'd had a chance to do anything but put other kids down for naps. 

Now, if the baby is fussing, I take care of the baby, and my preschoolers have four big kids to choose from to get their stories and songs. And, to my knowledge, the big kids don't even skip entire pages of story books because they really wanna get out of there.
TV: We used to have the TV on every day. I'd put it on in the morning so the kids would leave me alone while I tried to get all the chores done. I'd put it on for myself during the aforementioned nap time while I'd fold laundry or work on a project. I'd put it on in the afternoon during the post-nap grumpy period and sometimes again while I made dinner. Then the husband and I would watch something together after the kids went to bed. The TV was probably on five or six hours per day.

Now, we go days and days without ever turning it on. We don't have cable any more, and don't miss it. In the morning, we do school (and I have help with the chores) so there's no TV. During nap time, my bigs aren't napping, so, for better or worse (probably better) I just can't watch all those super-edifying programs I used to indulge in all by myself. After naps, the little kids have the big kids to play with, and don't even ask about shows. Often I'll be working on something and realize that the little guys are already up and someone's gotten them a snack and I didn't even know. Same with dinner time, the little kids don't need the TV to keep them occupied. And sometimes I'm not even the one cooking dinner! All three of my oldest can prepare a meal, and do. And as the big kids go to bed later, they're around in the evenings, so, again, less grown-up TV watching. Some. But comparatively little.

Chores, laundry, bathing, all are improved by having big kids.

What's something you miss about that stage of only really littles?
I miss the freedom that we had in our days before we had school. I miss little kid outings. I miss going to the children's museum and winter beach days. We're a homeschooling family, so we do take field trips at least once a month, and we all go together. But I miss those days of chatting with a four year old over breakfast and deciding what we might do that day. There were so many possibilities.
Whether or not you homeschool, your day changes dramatically once you have school-aged kids. You've got responsibilities and things that need to be accomplished and places to be a certain times. There's MORE flexibility as a homeschooling family, but still there are things to be done and times to do them

And kids' sports really change the dynamic of your week. We used to have our afternoons free for errands and always eat dinner as a family every night. Now, our afternoons and evenings 3-4 days per week are taken up with sports. And that's having found what we think is a workable compromise and NOT pursuing the most rigorous sports opportunities for our kids.  

What are some things you did with your first baby that in hindsight seem a little ridiculous?
Ummm, ALL the things?

I recently wrote about how my introduction of solid foods has taken a decided turn for the less-structured.

I also once called my husband from a motel parking lot about halfway home from the Target that was three miles from our apartment to tell him that newborn Jack was crying in his car seat so I was just going to walk home with him and leave the car there and Jim would need to walk to the motel to pick up the car after he was done with classes for the day.

My plan was not approved. Somehow Jack did live through the car ride home.

Also, I always remembered that Jack HATED his first bath and screamed through the whole thing. It seemed odd because my babies now have all liked their first bath, and found it soothing and whatnot. Well, we were watching some old videos, and there came the video of Jack's first bath and OH MY GOODNESS of course he didn't like it. I put his bath seat in the sink, stripped him down, and just turned the faucet on him. Who does that? Poor thing. It's a wonder he bathes at all now.

These days, our new babies take a nice warm bath IN WATER with mama, and they like it just fine.

What's something you stressed about that doesn't stress you out at all anymore?
The realization that my child's being upset about something didn't have to upset ME has changed my whole life for the better.

If I've made what I think is a proper parenting decision, for instance, "we need to leave now in order to make it home for lunch at a reasonable time" or "babies should not eat earbuds," I can't let that decision (or my own peace of mind) be derailed by a kid getting upset about that decision. Now . . .  I don't take it personally, I just always mean what I say and don't let upset kids upset me. Calm but firm is my mantra.

Not allowing being upset to be an effective way of getting what you want is actually a great deterrent in itself, but even when it's not, there's always "Cryin' babies go to bed." It's very liberating.

What's an expectation for yourself/your kids/your husband that you have totally let go of?
For me, it was that I could do it all. That I could cook our meals, and raise my kids, and educate my kids, and volunteer, and get kids to activities, and run errands, and host events, and do the cleaning, and do the laundry. It's easy to say, "I should be able to do all of this. Look at all these modern conveniences. I have a dishwasher and a microwave and a washing machine. My grandmother and her grandmother didn't have those things and she got all this done." 

But that doesn't take into consideration the truth of our days. We have more modern conveniences, but we also have more expectations. We have a washing machine, but we have ten times or a hundred times more laundry. We have a car, but we travel a hundred times or a thousand times more miles in a year. We have a refrigerator and a microwave but we cook more things and more often.

The fact of the matter is that our days are full, fuller than our grandmother's grandmother, because SHE didn't have electric lights that allowed her to keep working into the night. She had servants or extended family or neighbors to help in a way that few of us have now. And it doesn't do anyone any good to not be honest about how hard this job is.

I can't do everything on that list on my own. I don't think any woman can. I had to pick some of the things to do. And some of the things to outsource. And some of the things to not do. And be okay with it. I think that's what every head of a household needs to do.
How do you conquer nap strikes?
By just really loving naps and being more stubborn than a three year old.

I wrote all about it here: Pushing Past the Nap Strike

What's one specific thing you're glad that you've taught your older children?
I'm going to cheat on this one and gift you one specific CONCEPT rather than one specific thing, but it's so, so important to me: Independence.

My kids can do things on their own. They expect to. The confident extroverted ones, and the cautious introverted ones, they all do things for themselves. It helps me run a big family household and I think it's a skill that will serve them well throughout their lives.

What was your hardest transition after having a newborn? 0 to 1 kid? 1 to 2? 6 to 7? Why?
Two to three was the hardest for me. More kids than parents. More kids than hands. Still no one old enough to help in a meaningful way. But with baby number three, I got to my 10,000 hours of baby-parenting, which made me a bonafied expert. And baby-parenting got easier after that. Then, between babies six and seven, my oldest turned ten. And EVERYTHING GOT SO MUCH EASIER!

If you could go back and tell something to your newmom self, what would it be?
That my baby wouldn't be like the ones in the parenting books I read. It was a really painful process to discover on my own. I read the books by the experts. I did what they said. It didn't work. My baby didn't sleep the way they said he would. He was actually injured by the way they told me to feed him. He had sensory and behavior issues they never mentioned. I think my process of learning to mother him was really hindered by having so many false expectations of what he would be like.

I wish I could tell myself, "Read the books if you must, but remember that your baby is a new and unique person who has never existed before in the world. A book isn't going to be able to tell you how to mother HIM. Only experience and trial and error and YOUR MAMA GUT will be able to do that."
For more of the same - or to share your stories from early motherhood - head back to the link up here. And a big thank you to Kendra for starting off this little series!!

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