Sunday, October 8, 2017

Mantle Makeover

Have I mentioned on the blog how much early 90s light oak wood we have in our house? I have? Ok, good, so you know that I don't really like it and it is eeeeeeeverywhere. The floors, blend into the cabinets, blend into the vanities, blend into the fireplace... oh wait not that last one anymore!!

We do not have a home renovation budget. We bought at the HIGHEST end of our budget when we moved, and the house is fine, totally livable, and really nice. But I have this constant itch to PAINT ALL THE LIGHT OAK THINGS ALL THE TIME!!

After last year's spray painting fest + curtain and rug revamp, I took a nice long break from doing anything around the house and was just really working on being content with the way things are. But then I started perusing pinterest for fall mantle ideas and I was done. I have wanted to pant our electric fireplace since I sewed the curtains and got our main living room all set up.

It is such a focal point and I just couldn't stand how it looked like it was emerging out of the ground. I kept feeling like a fireplace should be a wall feature, not something that blends into your floor color.

So after several days of poking and prodding my dear, and extremely patient husband, he finally said he was also on board and encouraged me in my endeavors. He even taped for me!

I wanted a grey tone that would accent the curtains and rugs, but be light enough to not be too overstated. So I went to Lowes and picked a super light grey but when I got it on and it dried it was almost white with hints of light blue. Not what I wanted at all.

So back to Lowes I went with all the kids to get a darker grey, but I made the mistake of using the stupid color swatches and the second grey I got was basically a darker powder blue when it dried. These are the first "After" pictures I took, before I decided I hated it and it would not do-- they don't even do justice to just how blue it looked in person, so blue:

It was at this point that I was feeling like this was the dumbest idea I had ever had and I just wished I hadn't done anything, but there was no turning back so.... BACK to Lowes I went a third time with the kids, this time with a bit of fabric from our curtains for them to so a custom color match with and:

BOOM. Success.

I also realized through this process that our grey curtains have way more brown tones in them than I had previously noticed, which is probably why they go nicely with our brown couches and the browns in the area rug. Who knew!? Lowes is great and they have a "love your color" policy so they took back all the colors I didn't like and refunded me completely.

I think the whole shebang including my few decorative fall items from Wal-mart totally $35 altogether. Not bad at all.

Now I am dying to paint our kitchen cabinets a similar grey and think about it roughly every single day but I'm thinking that my painting ventures will need to have something like a year long break in between them for my sanity and Mike's and for general peace and harmony in the house.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

spastic seven

Linking up with Kelly early thanks to my wackadoo body clock that woke me at 4:45 today. I am on my 3rd giant cup of coffee before 7 a.m. These should be interestingly spastic.

Week 3 of school is done and that is just a tad bizarre to me because... wait for it... I DON'T FEEL LIKE I AM DYING FROM HOMESCHOOLING. This is a first. Every year I get a couple weeks in and start to seriously look at school tuition prices because "there is no way I can keep doing this", but this year I am ok. I had one moment during the second week where I was frantically IG messaging with my girl Heather about how I might die, but then I got a grip and this week things have been really good. I know I am totally jinxing myself because we aren't even one month into things and it's highly likely if you talk to me in December I will singing a much different tune, but I will take the goodness while it lasts.

I had the lovely pleasure of getting to chat with Mrs. Fulwiler on her radio show this Monday, which is at the top of the list of "Things I'm Not Qualified To Do" right up there with Motherhood and Homeschooling. I was chatting with the kids about what I should talk about with her and I went ahead and wrote down their ideas on my phone because they were so ridiculous:

I never got desperate enough to actually use them during our chat, lucky Jen. Anyways, it was so fun! She is an absolute delight and now that I know I can listen to highlights from her others shows via podcasts on her website, I have all sorts of good listening in my future.

I am so excited to get into Stories of Grace, the latest bible study devotional put out by Take Up and Read, which goes through the parables of Jesus. I am late to the game with these devotionals, but better late than never! I'm also thrilled to be an upcoming contributor to their publications in the next devotionals, which gives me another item to add to my "Things I'm Not Qualified To Do" list!

I attempted to photograph the kids to update some frames in our abode and I am dying with how different they all look in just 1 year. I know I'm a gushing mother and will likely be the only one who has fun with this (save for the few grandparents reading), but what say we play a little game of "who's changed the most?"
Ok, clearly Fred wins, but can we just give a little attention to how much Joe is NOT a baby anymore and such a little boy?!? Also the very obvious number of inches Bernadette has shot up, which is so much more noticeable because she wore the same size 6 dress this year even though she's well into size 10 in height.

Mike and I just finished The Good Place and are pretty excited to watch the season 2 premier tonight. We also enjoyed Hidden Figures last week and cracked UP at Ryan Hamilton on Netflix, plus big props for how clean he was!

I am making my way through A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and really loving it (holla for the rec, Sarah!) I also randomly grabbed The Memoirs of Mary Queen of Scots from the library because we're studying her in history right now and I thought I'd be fun except that her life is so incredibly tragic.  
The kids and I are venturing off on a trip tomorrow for the weekend and this will be my first time ever traveling alone with all 5. Wish me all the luck and wine!

Sunday, September 17, 2017

A Nail Biter of a Cautionary Tale

This is one of those posts that is embarrassing to write. It's not embarrassing in an inappropriate sort of way, because I have a few, very low standards for myself and my blog, but just in a "now people will know how weak and silly I am" sort of way. Regardless, this life occurrence must be documented because 1) it's good for me to have an extra dose of humility and 2) it is monumental.

Ok, on with it.

I am (or was?) a nail biter.

Surprise!! Not that surprising. 

I do not remember a time in my life where I didn't bite my nails. And I do not mean the occasional nibble on a nail now and again when I was feeling extra nervous or watching something especially suspenseful. No, no, no. I was a nail GNAW-er. At any given time on any given day you would find me furiously devouring both my nails and my cuticles-- though I did especially favor nail biting while driving in the car or reading-- but I was always biting. Sometimes I would even catch myself biting them while nursing in the middle of the night or pausing my workout in the afternoon to just get a little biting in.

Seriously, it was BAD.

I remember a middle school teacher in the 7th grade who would call me out in front of everybody-- almost every single day-- telling me to stop and I would flat out refuse.

That's really the story of the habit in my life. I just refused to stop.

I would get to a point where I decided it was time to stop and make a big resolution and try for 20 minutes-- or maybe even make it an hour-- and then decide it wasn't worth it. It was cathartic for me, it was a habit that wasn't hurting anyone, and it helped me deal with life's stresses in a quiet, minding  my own business, smoke free, drink free sort of way.

I had gotten to the point of really, genuinely wanting to stop this summer. I got my first gel manicure on vacation and hoped that that would encourage me to leave them alone, and when it didn't (or when I did not have the will power necessary to stop even though I was ruining my pretty, freshly manicured nails) I decided I was done trying to stop. For good. I just wasn't ever going to be able to stop, I had even started praying about it and telling God that it was just too much for me to do so I just wasn't going to try anymore.

Then about 3 weeks ago, while driving in the car biting my nails, I noticed one of my fingers was hurting (my right middle finger, coincidentally) and was hurting especially when I was biting that nail. It did nothing to deter me from continuing to mess with it, because frankly I am a total idiot.

A few more days passed and I realized it was hurting to touch things with that finger- it hurt to take Fred's tray off the high chair, it hurt to turn the steering wheel in the car, it hurt if anything at all went near that finger.

I probably still kept on biting it.
Mightily preggo with Fred, chomping away
Finally it got to the point where the entire top of the finger was visibly infected, and I was running a fever.

A FEVER, people.

After a bit of Googling the problem I concluded that I had inflicted this on myself with my nail biting (and I also came to the conclusion that my entire finger would soon fall off, thanks to Google's worst case scenarios.) Also I am never not totally irrational.

My finger did not fall off, mercifully, but my doctor did have to prescribe an antibiotic and a finger soaking regiment to clear up the infection, which worked for the most part.

But what really worked and what is a much bigger deal than the fact that I kept my beloved right middle finger is that I STOPPED BITING MY NAILS.

Ok it's only been a little less than 2 weeks, and technically it takes 21 days to break a habit, but I can assure you readers that I have never gone this long before and I think I am effectively scared straight.

The funny thing is that I really and truly believe that there is no other way that someone could've gotten through to me and convinced me to stop biting my nails other than an infection which spread to my body and made me fearful of losing my finger. That is just how completely enslaved to this terrible habit I was and how little self control I had in this area. Clearly God knew he needed to take over and answer my prayers in His own way and I am so glad He did.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Labor Day, School Day

We had been planning on starting school after Labor Day weekend all along-- well, working on Labor Day, because I'm a jerk-- but waiting until the first week of September to start. Lucy kept talking about the "blue flowers" being our school month flowers (Rose Harrington Art, our lives revolve around your calendar botanicals)

Then all of the interwebs were posting first day of school pictures 2 weeks into August and I was like "wait, do I need to start earlier?!?!" and almost did because I am a sucker but then.... the flood. And no school room (I know most people don't need a school room, but I NEED A SCHOOL ROOM). And also I needed to host that conference, so I didn't start early. I'm so thankful we didn't because I really loved having last week to just hang around a little bit more. Mike worked his behind off and got the school room all back together and I had to photograph it's pristine state because it currently looks like a tornado hit it:

I got those little vintage desks on Craigslist and I love them because my girls are like hamsters with ADD during school and if they are all at one table and one person's paper touches theirs they get into a serious tizzy. Desks are a great solution to that. And the best part of this set up??...

If you just zoom back the camera little and you get to see my giant room-length baby gate that is fastened tightly on both ends of the room so that Freddie cannot get to the side of the room where the school stuff is. It is one of those outdoor baby pens but you can stretch it out and let it save your life all day.

Enough of the room, let's get to the first day pictures:

Lucy Josephine, Kindergarten; Bernadette Martha, 2nd Grade; and Naomi Therese 3rd Grade (or if you're going by their binders the latter two are grades 22 and 33, but we won't get nit picky).

It really was a fantastic first day, which I am chalking up to the fact that any and everything would be a fantastic start to the school year compared to last year-- new house, new town, new baby, crazy hormones-- no bueno. I also loved being so prepared and I am a HUGE fan of WTM for making my life easier by combining subjects across grades.

We celebrated with a lunch out plus ice cream and the kids were utterly profuse in their praises of me for making that decision.
You're welcome, cuties.

Happy Labor Day to you and yours!

Friday, September 1, 2017

5 ways I self care {even though I don't care}

Linking with Kelly!

1) First and foremost, I read this post a few days ago by Jenny (you've probably all read it) about self care as moms and I was nodding my head in strong agreement the entire time. Absolute agreement over her principles behind self care as moms, and finding what we need for us to feel filled, happier, and more relaxed so that we can be better wives and mothers and women in general. So good, read it!!

2) I had to laugh a little though because my "things" that I need in the self care department are so radically different than hers, which is great! We are all different and in different places with different temperaments and I am pretty sure that if Jenny and I lived in the same town we would be BFFs, she would probably teach me a thing or 2 about doing self care well. The thing is that when it comes to any self care in the realm of bodily relaxation or beauty regiments, I just... don't care? Yes, that's it, I don't care. My last hair cut was almost a year ago and I have no plans to get another for probably 6 months or more. I have plucked my eyebrows in an embarrassingly long time. I don't like pedicures or manicures, and the thought of a massage actually creeps me out too much to ever actually do it. I am so flippin weird. I have had to really try hard to pin point the things that I do need daily to feel my best and then do them and without further ado, here they are!

(1): Early to bed, early to rise
This is a new one that I am currently working really hard on, it requires more self discipline than I have and I don't like doing it, but it is so good for me and everyone in the house so I am trying harder than ever. Going to bed early is a no brainer, but getting up early is rough some days, especially because Fred is still up at night (absurd, I know), so some mornings I have to let myself sleep. But if I can have 45 minutes to an hour before the kids wake up to pray, get ready for the day and maybe even write a little I am filled. Exhausted, but filled.

(2): Hair and makeup
I know I have gone on about this before, so I won't say much but if I can fix my hair and put on makeup before we get to any school work, I feel like a real live person. I am saying this on a day where my hair is still scraggly from bed and no makeup is on, but I am dressed and have earrings on so that is something. Ok by the time I posted this I had the hair and makeup done, behold my Blue Steel:
Or is Magnum?

(3): Exercise
This is another one that I don't like a lot of days, but that if I make myself get to it I am a better person. Many of my self care items are things I can do for free because we're just not in a position for me to be shelling out $$$ to a gym, so I stick with workout DVDs that I have had for years. I just discovered that I can pound out a Jillian workout in 10 minutes less time if I just pick my favorite exercises and use my phone timer instead of following her and waiting for her to finish her stupid little motivational interludes, it's really great.

(4): Daily shower
I remember being shocked years ago when I heard moms saying at a play date that they didn't shower everyday, not that this is actually a shocking thing AT ALL, it is totally fine! But I am so thoroughly obsessed with showering every day and when I don't my crankiness levels hit the roof, so I just make sure it happens. Also it's free, so win!! I typically go with an evening shower after the kids are down, but sometimes I just trap them all in the basement with the baby gate and sprint upstairs for a quick 2 minute shower, and it is always worth whatever amount of screaming is going on when I come back down. Always.

(5): Time to myself each week
This usually takes the form of running out to some thrift stores on the weekend, these days it's been a Sunday thing since that is when Mike is home and not working and Goodwill has $0.99 clothing Sundays. I used to have a sitter come once a week for 3 hours in the middle of the week so I could grocery shop and thrift shop and get coffee and read and oh how I miss those sitter days-- I am thinking it is time to resurrect them post haste. But! a must is finding a sitter to cleans up after herself and the kids by the time you get back, because I have had times where I felt more stressed than when I left because of the mess I came home to, just a note for future Ana. 

And that is that. Self care when you don't care. How do you self care? Do you care?

Also, a bonus!! My friend Cassie from college days is an Arbonne consultant and was sweet enough to send me some treats to try and tell people about and I am hosting an Instagram giveaway for $50 from her Arbonne shop! I am definitely not in the financial position to hit up Arbonne with frequency (hence my drugstore favorites) but I will say that the few things I tried from her were really wonderful (especially the fizz sticks!!)

If you are in a place to enjoy some nicer beauty items I would definitely recommend them!

Thursday, August 31, 2017

the hardest part

There are a lot of hard parts about homeschooling: the burden of everybody's education falling on you, the never ending nature of it, teaching a child to read (nails on a chalkboard, people), kids fighting you about doing their school, etc... However the hardest part in my opinion is none of those things. The hardest part doesn't include books, or teaching or anything school related. The hardest part for me is:

I have read so many great posts by great moms about how to handle the toddler/baby constituent during school time and I have come to one conclusion: there is nothing you can do to make it easier. I have gotten a lot of tips from older moms: fun activities for toddlers-- they're fun for about 5 minutes for my toddler; put them at the sink have let them play in the water-- cue a heart attack for me; tell them they just have to play by themselves-- let the shrieking begin; give them lots of attention at the outset so they're "filled" during school time-- they always want more; . They can smell when they aren't going to get all my attention during school the same way they can smell it at the witching hour when my attention is divided while I try to make a meal to feed the family and they will. Not. Have. It.

 The best tip I have gotten is having the older kids take turns playing with the youngest ones while I do school with one or 2 kids-- that has been mildly successful, but my older kids have about a 10 minute threshold for being helpful with the toddler and baby until they start yelling about how hard it is and how bored they are. Your kids are more saintly than mine, I know. I am only 3-ish years into this homeschooling gig, and maybe when the older kids get older it will get easier, but so far it's just hard.

Plus there is the fact that it is a 2 fold issue: 1) finding ways to entertain the little ones while you do school so that your home is not trashed by the end, toilet water is in the toilet and no 1-year-olds have choked on lacing beads, but the harder one is 2) the guilt and sadness I feel at the end of the day over whether I missed out on good quality time with the baby and toddler. Babies and toddlers do not keep and when the main spurts of my time spent with them have been the 5 minutes prior to tossing them into their cribs for naps, it makes me feel sad and a little worried.

But maybe that second one isn't primarily a homeschooling mom problem but a mom problem in general. I am sure that even if I sent my kids to school I would get to the end of the day and see all the things I didn't do with the small ones that I could have. I am prone to beating myself up at the end of the day and I give in easily to mom guilt and this area is fertile ground for planting seeds of mental discouragement and guilt. The fact is that at the end of the day there isn't enough of me to go around and also I am a selfish person who has things I want to do for myself and there is always someone who gets the shaft. But I need to go easier on myself, no one is being really neglected, they are all loved and cared for and fed, I am doing the best I can and they are getting a lot of time with me.

For now I am just excited that I have a few more days of summer (thank you flooded school room!) and a giant room-length baby gate to keep Fred from ripping all the papers away from the girls' and Joe from flipping their desks over for fun. And wine at the end of the day.

Monday, August 28, 2017

CWBN Mid-Atlantic 2017

There is no way I could host a blogging conference and not BLOG about it, ok I'm sure I could given my record, but if there is one major positive I took away from Saturday it was a fresh motivation to attempt some amount of consistency with the blog (thank you, Elizabeth!). So here's step one of that attempt.

I feel so silly for being such a nervous wreck leading up to this event, but after it was over Saturday I actually said the words: "I have not felt this much relief since giving birth". A wee bit dramatic? Always. But there were nuggets of truth in that statement-- nuggets.
Begging for extra grace + the only shot of the dress I found at Goodwill last week, which I love-- it is the comfiest thing ever.

I am sure it was just because 1) I've never hosted an event like this one before, you know, with speakers and a schedule and people driving in from out of town etc... And 2) I had never met the majority of the women coming. So I guess the nerves made sense, but as an intense extrovert it really threw me off that I was so anxious over it.

But it went so beautifully.

The event could not have happened without my parents, I'll just get that out there right away. They come into town and brought loads of necessary items: the giant tent that everything happened under,  the 2 small tents, the majority of the chairs and tables, a giant coffee pot, swag from vendors, and then they kept the kids out doing fun things with Mike all day, they are amazing. 

And Mike, he is the most amazing of all-- I could fill an entire post as a tribute to him and how he made this conference happen, but I will keep it focused for now, he is a stud among men.

The day before the conference I was talking to my confessor about how nervous I was and he just responded with a calm, joyful exclamation that I "should just be so excited to meet so many other daughters of God." That definitely helped to put it into perspective, the purpose of the conference - and honestly the purpose of blogging overall for me - is meeting, interacting with, and building relationships with so many other daughters of God.

Elizabeth gave the keynote talk and my favorite line from it was "a blog community is an interactive network of Mary and Elizabeth moments", alluding to the Visitation and the moment of joy and support and encouragement between Jesus' mother and her cousin, Elizabeth. Blogging has been that for me at its best moments. Obviously it has its moments where it stresses me out, or comments get me down, or I'm too concerned with numbers and comparing my blog to other blogs, but it has the potential to be an interactive network of Mary and Elizabeth moments and days like Saturday bring that into sharp focus.

Kelly gave a talk on "Blogging by Your Own Rules", which I only got to hear the beginning and end of, (thanks Fred) but I still managed to glean several pieces of wisdom from and Mary gave a talk on choosing joy which had most of the audience in tears by the end.

Plus Kelly and Mary jumped on my trampoline together which was basically a dream come true.

Due to my spastic state I think I logged approximately 3.5 hours of sleep the night before and I woke up worried that I wouldn't be able to formulate coherent sentences to other adults, let alone carry on meaningful conversations with tons of new friends, but the combo of God's grace, and the perk of being a sanguine who gets energy from interaction with people made it so that it was ok (though I am sorry if I mumbled anything incoherent to you that day, it definitely may have happened. Also I'm sorry for the spider coffee.)

The swag bags featured goodies from Brass and Mint, Call her Happy, Meyer Market Designs...

As well as Catholic to the Max and my beloved in-laws. Plus my extremely talented neighbor hand wrote everyone's name on their folder because she is a GEM. Rosie grew and arranged all the flowers for the day (amazeballs) and I said it once and I will say it again, the day would not have happened without so many collaborative efforts.

For the last few weeks it had been in the 90s here with the "real feel" into the 100s because it's August in Virginia but God worked nothing short of a miracle by giving us a beautiful, clear SEVENTY FIVE DEGREE day for the conference-- a miracle indeed.

All in all it was such a wonderful day and I am so grateful to have had so many beautiful daughters of God under my roof, and in my yard, and on my trampoline.