Saturday, December 20, 2014

7 quick takes: tight pants, ppd, and crap-tivities!

Joining one of my all-time favorite bloggers and newest hostess with the mostest- Kelly- for the fist time for 7 quick takes this laaaaaate Friday evening, because what else does one do while listening to a sleep training baby? Nothing.

1: First off, thanks so much for all the love on the blog's facebook page this week, you are all too kind and encouraging and have inspired me to not let the blog go down without a fight. Who am I kidding, I will probably never let it go, I love it too much. There has never been another category of blog that I felt like mine fell under more than a "keeping it real" mom blog. I guess it's a category within a category because I will never claim to not be a mom-blog, the blog's title makes it impossible for me to try to make that argument. So I'm just going to take it back to the roots now and keep it real for you all.

2: : I have been walking around with my pants entirely unbuttoned and unzipped because they just do not fit. I could just find a bigger pair that do fit, but I am determined to make my pre-pregnancy jeans work whether they look painted on (they do!) or not. There are many culprits that come into play here, not just the fact that I recently bore and birthed a child, behold exhibit A:

I've iced over 140 cookies as I get ready to host my first ever cookie exchange and you better believe at least 3 cookies worth of each batch of cookie dough has been consumed by myself. Cookie dough is sort of my cryptonite. By the time I post this I will have exchanged all sorts of cookies with all sorts of great ladies and will have more cookies to consume, it will be great.

Getting a little serious now, just a warning:

3: This postpartum period has seen me dealing with my first bout of postpartum depression and anxiety (heavy on the anxiety) and it has been capital C Crazy. There were a few weeks there a while ago that I was sure the entire world was about to end and/or I was going to be hauled off to an institute somewhere but thanks be to God and meds and all sorts of support from family and friends (real life and blog alike) and I am doing much, MUCH better. But it is still a daily struggle that some days gets the better of me. God bless all you women who have dealt with it with each pregnancy and for much longer than me, I am in awe of you.

Done with being serious.

4: This weather might just kill me. The lack of sun and cold, cold, rain and more cold is really cramping my already crampy style right now, so much so that I have been indulging the girls almost daily in what I like to call Crap-tivities. That's right, my craft-hating self has been taking out the paints, scissors and glue multiple times a week and I have even taken to pre-cutting construction paper for various crafts the night before. Who am I?!? I don't even know any more, but I do know that if I am miserable with the absence of any outdoor time, they are equally so, ok probably more.

Behold the various crap-tivities:

5: Read the previous 3 again and you'll understand why I have had to force myself to get back to exercise in the form of Jillian Michaels, because I still only own 3 workout DVDs and all 3 are her, because I guess I hate myself. If you've never done a Jillian workout, doing one for the first time in well over a year is sheer torture, and the day after is even worse. I have only done it 3 times so far and the jury is still out on whether I will ever do it again.

6: Have I ever mentioned how much I love South Bend and it's fabulous community?
The aforementioned cookie party was a huge success and now I have multiple various assortments of other kinds of cookies to fill my waistband with over the next few days.

Thank you, ladies.

7: We leave for Steubenville the day after tomorrow and it will likely be a miracle of miracles if I visit ye old blog whilst supping with kin and singing all sorts of Christmas hymns round the evergreens, but maybe we'll all get lucky.

If not, Merriest of merry Christmases to you all!!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

the donkey

It's Advent and everybody's talking about Mary, so SO many great thoughts and posts about our Lady, and I love each and every one. As mothers this is such a natural time of year to think about the Blessed Virgin and even attempt to imitate her quiet, meditative spirit in order to prepare our hearts for Christ's coming, but for the most part I fail.

A few months ago Mike and I were sitting at the diner table talking about a paper he is giving at a conference on Mary as a spiritual exemplar for Christians (life as a theologian's wife? yes). The more we talked and the more I thought about it, and it dawned on me that as a mother, I feel more unlike Mary than like her. I rely heavily on her intercession (i.e. repeated Hail Marys during temper tantrums) and I pray constantly that she would help me to be a better mother, and ask her to pray for me and to watch over me, but I never feel like I can relate to Mary and her motherhood. I am going to pin it on the fact that I am positive Jesus never threw temper tantrums like my girls and the fact that Mary was sinless-- those 2 things alone make it hard to identify with her in so many of the daily struggles. I wasn't quite sure if there was something wrong with that, or if it is something I should try to work on.

After the conversation with Mike, I was struck by a carved wooden statue that we have from my in-laws. It pictures Mary riding on the donkey to Bethlehem, great with child, Joseph leading them with a somewhat fearful look on his face. Here I will just show you:

As I stared at it, it struck me how much more I identify with the donkey in the statue than Mary. I know that sounds ridiculous, but after wondering if it is a problem that I have a hard time relating to our Lady, it brought me a lot of peace and consolation. One of my very favorite saints, Saint Josemaria Escriva, used to talk about striving to be a donkey spiritually. He praised the donkey's hard working spirit and humility and he said that:

"There are hundreds of animals more beautiful, more deft and strong. But it was a donkey Christ chose when he presented himself to the people as king in response to their acclamation"

And it is the donkey who carries our Lord, still in the womb of Mary, to his birthplace. Not a bad job, if you think about it.

The donkey has no false images of himself, he is simply doing what he is being asked to do, humbly and obediently. He is probably really tired and weak, but he does what he has to do. He is serving our Lord in the most practical way, through carrying his mother in this most trying of times and I can only hope to do just that in this life. Shoot, I fail at being like the donkey! 

I think imitation of Our Lady is a beautiful, important thing to strive for in the spiritual life, and I think that God's grace can accomplish that level of holiness. But for me, most days I am all over the place and "imitator of Mary, the Mother of God" would be the last title anyone would ever come close to giving me if they could see my feeble, mucked up attempts to serve the Lord through motherhood.

BUT! "Donkey who serves Our Lord and loves and serves Mary, the Mother of God" is much closer to something I feel like I can aspire to. There is humility and obedience in the task of the hard working donkey, and while I am not even there yet, I can work towards it. I can work towards loving, serving and honoring Our Lady- exemplar of all mothers- as that donkey did who carried her to Bethlehem.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

5 Favorite Gifts for the Kiddos

We went ahead and did all our gift giving on Saint Nicholas day, and since most people do traditional Christmas gift giving on Christmas (weirdos... totally kidding) I figured some feedback could prove helpful to those still trying to think of kid-gift ideas. Or not, but either way, these are my 5 top rated gifts for the kiddos of 2014, because no one asked.

1) Songs in French for Children. This is a real gem. My girls do not, I repeat DO NOT, know any French and I am not teaching them French yet. However, Naomi went through a weird spurt a while ago where she was making up jiberish words and saying that she was speaking French and constantly asking me how to say things in French and so it happened that I sought and found this cd at the library and she fell in love with it. I am so not a fan of children's music, but the woman's voice in these songs is very pleasant and not at all annoying and the songs don't really get stuck in my head because they're in French. It's really amazing how the girls brains retain the words to the songs and even Lucy walks around singing "Alouette", which is incidentally a super disturbing song.

2) Toy Accordion. This is more accurately Mike's favorite toy, but the girls really like it too. Mike has always been a big accordion fan and when he realized we could get one for $20 rather than the going rate of $400 for a real one, he couldn't resist. He's been practicing and has "The First Noel" and "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" like a boss. It it such a sturdy toy and actually takes a lot of work for the girls to use it the right way, and I have been pretty impressed with how hard they try.

3) Handmade skirts. I had a lot of nieces to buy gifts for this Christmas, plus my own female offspring, and was stumped as to what to get for so many little women. When the idea of buying a bunch of fabric and making some skirts came to me I just ran with it. 10 little girl skirts later and I am never buying a skirt again, it is so fun and easy! I found this tutorial which helped with the general pattern, but I used a lot more fabric to make them more billowy and added some lace to the bottom for more charm and voila:

The girls love them and I love that after 2 years of having 3 girls I finally have one clothing item for all three that matches.

4) Toy Keyboard. This is not actually my favorite by any stretch, but it is definitely the favorite toy gifted for all three girls. The demo songs are not that bad and the volume can be turned down really low so as to not drive me totally insane.

5) Curious George Jack in the Box. Again, not my favorite, but for some reason the girls just love it. Oddly enough, Bernadette-- the 4-year-old-- is the one who begged and begged for it, so we went for it and got the Curious George one and it's been a hit. I really like any toy that does not require batteries and I suspect this will be a fun diversion for Joseph once he's a bit older, we shall see.

There you have it, hit up Jenna and the gang for more!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Family Photos with Cedars and Tiny Flowers

Katrina is one of my favorite people and her blog (Cedars and Tiny Flowers, hence the post title) is an absolute fav. I met her a few years back, when Ryan was just a wee babe, and since then we've become good friends- one of the many blessing of living here in South Bend. She is sweet, funny, a super talented writer and blogger, has the prettiest hair and cutest babies, and is apparently a wonderful fledgling photographer! She offered to take some family pictures after Joseph was born, and naturally I waited until he is 4 months old to do them and send out a birth announcement. Apparently it takes the making of 3 matching little girl skirts + one very crooked tie onesie (crookedness covered by baby cardigan) for me to get motivated enough to actually assemble the fam for some snapshots.

Anyways, Katrina the Sweetest come over and showcased her skills and was in and out in 30 minutes, which with kids (and during a Steelers game) was so impressive and appreciated, and she did such a bang-up job. She says she was "practicing", but I think she was just showing off (insert winking-eye emoji). And I am not even selling her as a photographer because on top of full-time momming she has at least one other part-time job and just gave her blog the cutest new look all by herself. Amazing. So don't call her for photography, just admire her work here and read her blog there.

Tis the season for entire blog posts dedicated to showcasing family pictures!
First a Christmas card teaser of the whole fam before the offspring dominate:

Now for a serious glut of festive photos, oldest to youngest, with Lucy as the star because... you'll see why. Navigate away now if you don't like pictures:

Capital "R" Ridiculous.
And of course, the boy:

There you have it, family pictures with matching homemade attire and thank the Lord for good friends with great camera skills!

Merry Christmas ya filthy animals!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Monday Mom Confessions

What better way to end a Monday than a little electronic examination of self? I say none.

1) Thanksgiving. This is the second year in a row that I have cooked next to nothing at all on Thanksgiving. Why, Ana? Were you visiting family and making merry with kin as most the rest of the nation was? Nope, I was freeloading the free Thanksgiving meal on campus with Mike and the girls, same as last year. Well, not really freeloading, but almost- grad students get a serious steal of a deal for the Thanksgiving feast and I discovered last year that it is positively amazing to come home to a clean house and clean dishes and be full and happy with nothing to do but take a nap. However, I do kind of wonder if my girls even know that mothers do actually make food for their families on the holiday.

It's sort of a confession, sort of basking. We enjoyed the meal with some good friends and then stuffed our faces with dessert later while the kids watched Frosty the Snow Man. I made a pumpkin roll, that is all.

2) Christmas decor. I am a really guilty early-decorator and feel the need to confess. Every year around this time I want to wait and only do Advent stuff, but then every year my deep love of all things festive and warm overcomes and I decide to just decorate whilst highlighting Advent also. We have a Jesse Tree and did a little Advent paper chain with special Advent-y things written on them to do each day, so we're not total heathens only partial.

3) Juice addiction. With the birth of each baby, our toddlers have all developed an insatiable juice addiction. I think it is similar to alcoholism in adults, and at least for my kids I genuinely think there should be some sort of a 12 step program for it- it is really bad. I have at least gotten Lucy off the bottle, which was only a little traumatic, but she still insists on having a cup of APPLE JUICE and ONLY apple juice, at every moment of every day. Today was day of of an attempted detox, we'll see who breaks down first. I have dealt with it before with the others and somehow we got them detoxed, but Lucy's addiction seems especially bad. Tips and tricks? I will take them.

4) Favorite. He's kind of is right now.

I love them all equally, but look at his face!

And I will leave you with that. Happy Monday, party people!

Monday, November 24, 2014

the tale of the un-fun mom

I have never been a "laid back" mom, and I really set it up that way. It's probably the fact that while I was pregnant with Naomi I devoured Baby Wise like a fiend and had a very strict and serious plan in mind to implement once she entered the world- I came into this whole mothering thing with my game face on, and it's pretty much been there ever since.  I knew how I wanted my newborn to sleep, I knew how I wanted to approach discipline and I wanted my kids to take me seriously, not walk all over me. These are not necessarily bad things in and of themselves, but I think they are backfiring a bit on me a bit now, 4 kids into the game.

I can relax and be laid back with friends and family, and I am all sorts of silly with Mike- I even make him laugh occasionally, but when it comes to me with my kids, I very much doubt that "goofy", "silly" and "funny" would be words they use to describe me. I have made it a habit to be pretty serious with them, and while they make me laugh lots of the time, I am rarely the one making them laugh. One of the girls remarked recently that "daddy was the funny one, not mommy", and they are so right when it comes to mother-Ana. So why am I bringing this up now? Isn't this how I wanted it to be? Don't I feel confident in my identity with my children? Not really, not any more. I am feeling the need for a change.

Don't get me wrong, I think I am a good mom. I work hard for my kids, I am affectionate with them and take pretty damn good care of them, I even smile sometimes! But you will never have to worry about knocking on my front door and catching me mid-tickle-tackle with the kids, because it rarely happens. I am just too tired and there are too many other things to do, right? Well, those are my typical excuses, but I am coming to realize that it takes a surprisingly small amount of effort to tickle a child, they really just want you to sit in one spot and they'll keep coming back for more- it's great! And I made a grand discovery recently that little girls love to play with hair, which is simultaneously incredibly relaxing for me and super fun for them. The results are also stunning:

It was Lucy's favorite.

Being a fun mom is not a feat I have accomplished, it is one I really want to work on and one that I have seen fruit come from when I have actually succeeded in some small way. Tackling Lucy and tickling her until she gets the hiccups has brightened both of ours days at least a few times as of late. The other night I shocked the girls with silly faces and they belly laughed even harder than they would have if Mike were doing it, because Mom is actually being funny (!!) they didn't know what to do.

Obviously there needs to be a balance, but I am not worried about not being able to be serious enough, I've really shown my strengths in that area. The fun mom department is a side of mothering I want to cultivate and work on, for the general good of all of us. When my kids are grown and remembering how I was with them when they were little, I would love it if an image of me making funny faces came to their minds, or thoughts of me tackling them and tickling them until they pee a little (gross, sorry). I'd rather them remember me with seventeen bows in my hair smiling instead of something akin to this:

Only I'm the lunch Nazi.
They deserve that, and I do too, because there is way too much to enjoy about motherhood, and I want to make sure that all of us actually do.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

in thanksgiving for their friendship

A small disclosure: I am a part of the Netflix Stream Team and have included them in this post, which I will be doing monthly as a part of the team. However, this is content I would have blogged about either way and since Netflix is already a central part of our days, it works out well.

I know we're a week out from Thanksgiving, but let me be all mushy and sentimental for a brief blog post, in the spirit of being thankful.

The last 3 months has been a wonderful whirlwind of very little sleep, lots of screaming, even more laughing, and tons of love. Joseph's birth has brought a new level of gratitude to my heart for so many things, but right at the top would be the friendship that my girls have with each other, which I pray will last for their lives.

I always knew that I wanted to have a lot of kids, just based on my great experience of siblings in my own big family. I am one of eight kids and I've made hosts of friends in my different phases of life, but the friendships I have in my siblings are the ones that have really endured. I get so excited when I see the girls having their own little inside jokes and secrets that they don't want me to know, even though I have to pretend to be sad to not be included. I love that home schooling enables them to be together throughout the day while they're still so small and forming these little relationships.

Naomi and Bernadette have the ability to pretend together for impressive periods of time and while I was worried about Lucy getting left out of the little clique that the older two have, they have effortlessly and happily ushered her right in, which warms my heart and frees my hands to nurse the baby, nurse the baby, and nurse the baby. Also worth mentioning is the fact that Naomi now gets Lucy dressed whenever Lucy will permit it, as well as getting her coat and shoes on and strapping her into her car seat. Awesome much? Yes.

We had a little art class/play date with some friend recently and when both older girls made sure to include each other on their "thankful feathers" I gave myself a little pat on the back, and maybe teared up a little, sap that I am.

In the spirit of a their friend-trio and in an effort to not just show them tons of Christmas movies before Thanksgiving even gets here, I found Mickey's 3 Musketeers on Netflix Streaming and indulged them a movie watch, because how else could hash out this little "friendsgiving" post to document their sweetness.

The fights, oh how they happen, and on some days with equal frequency as the happiness, but I know that is all a part of the sibling-friend adventure, for which I am so SO very thankful.