Thursday, February 26, 2015

{pretty, happy, funny, real} volume 3 - the completed crafts edition

On the tails of my post about not being able to get things done, it might seem a bit discontinuous to post my completed craft projects.  However, the "not getting ANYTHING done" should really be read more in the context of "not getting ALL the crazy things Emily can think up done" rather than the literal nothing.  Someday, maybe I'll learn to set reasonable expectations about what can be done in 24 hours...

But anyway, doing something permanent helps with my sanity during the wash-rinse-repeat cycle of my days, when there is more dog hair on the couch now than there was 24 hours ago...despite me having vacuumed it in between (argh!).  I've recently been inspired by some friends to do a better job documenting the projects I complete - partly so that I can contribute something better than "oh yeah, I made a, uh, thing once" when they pull out a binder of beautiful pictures of their completed projects (true story) - and partly to remind myself that, every once and a while, I do get a thing or two finished (even if it's not the 15 things I planned on!)


My mom's Valentine's Day present, made from this pattern.  Don't look too closely, or it won't deserve it's "pretty" categorization.


Anna's new winter hat.  I finished it late one night and couldn't wait to show her the next morning.  She immediately began "painting" with the tassels.


At around 11:30 the night before my Godson's Baptism, I kept saying "I really should have just bought a Bible"...but I kept on sewing and managed to not be too exhausted when we welcomed that sweet baby into the Church the next day!

I designed it with the ship motif as a nod to his namesake St. Brendan, the Navigator and incorporated the cross into the mast and the fish is a nod to the ichthus (fish) symbol of Christianity.


Photo quality is low, as I had to go on a wild goose chase to collect these pictures (one from my cell phone, one from the tablet, and some from my old camera) - at least I documented them?

I have to be realistic in recognizing that the only reason I was able to get the quilt done is thanks to Justin's mom & grandmother who were visiting and took care of the girls while I went on my sewing binge.  I moved my sewing machine down to the kitchen table, and it was fun to visit with them while I worked.  Also, I can crochet while holding a sleeping baby, so my project to-do list has been including more of that and less of the sewing machine variety (although right before Christmas, I did sew with the girls on my lap (but not both of them at the same time!))

I also have been trying to only do projects that use the materials I already own.  I read an article a few months ago that talked about how the constant desire to buy more projects can take the joy away from crafting, planting seeds of discontent because the project you already have is not as exciting as the one you might find.  Especially given my inability to set realistic expectations for what I can finish, I've realized that buying fabric is like buying stress (for me, right now!) because it just adds something else unattainable to my to-do list.  So, for this year, I've decided to only buy craft materials to finish project I'm already working on - and only when I'm actually at the point of the project that I need those things.  (I've rushed out plenty of times before for the things I "need" to work on a project that has yet to be started).  So far, it's been a great experiment and has restored some of the lost excitement, and even the creativity, to sewing and crocheting.

My year-to-date craft expenditures for 2015?  $0.00  

(Had to get this post in under the wire, as I'm going to Jo-Anns tomorrow - but I need elastic for new flannel sheets I've almost finished for the girls!)

(p.s., fun fact, I know Ana's sister from the craft nights I gushed about before!)

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The peanut butter to my jelly

Well, friends, I'm not sure if it's reassuring or disheartening to discover - after almost a week of significantly reducing my Internet usage - that the overwhelming status of our laundry/home cleanliness is probably related more to our current busy schedule and season of life than screen time.  That's not to say it hasn't helped at all, but I've noticed that a lot of the times I'd be checking in or reading blogs was when I was already sitting and nursing the baby, aka not times I'd be otherwise able to redirect my attention to washing dishes.  I have, it turns out (which should be no surprise, but still is), a significant inability to make realistic expectations about how much I can accomplish.  It was perhaps most telling when I had 3 hours of help from a University student one morning last week, and I accomplished only 1.5 of the 5 things on my list despite her entertaining the girls while I frantically worked.  (I still had to stop and nurse the baby and I helped Anna in the bathroom once...but I would not have estimated that the folding and putting away the mountain (not a particularly loose usage of the word in this context) of clean laundry would be measured in hours and not minutes).

Anyway, all of that is just to say that I've found myself increasingly interested in minimizing wasted time so that I can maximize whatever it is that I AM able to get done.

(non-existent transition here, since one didn't quickly come to mind...see efforts to not waste time)

Once, my sister and a friend were at my house for dinner when I had made macaroni and cheese.  I must have mentioned something about "needing" to make baked beans to go with the meal - my sister quickly agreed and the friend questioned the necessity.  We couldn't believe that he would eat the macaroni alone, and he was incredulous that we were so adamant about the beans.  I hadn't really thought about it before, but I remember laughing with my sister at that moment at realizing we had probably never had macaroni and cheese without baked beans.  For whatever reason (well, probably that's it's a delicious combination) my mom always made the two together.  It may not have the national notoriety of peanut butter and jelly, but in our family they were every bit the pair.

I realized tonight as Anna and I were eating that our dinner was another infamous combination - another pairing I always make together because I always ate it together.

tuna noodle casserole ~ Harvard beets

In the aforementioned interest of my time, I'm not going to fully flesh out my dinnertime musings about how little comforts of home can be grounding regardless of where you are or what plates you're eating from...or about how much of an impression even the smallest details of making a home can have on those we serve in that house...



...and I'll stick to the random/silly burning question that originally inspired me to snap pictures of my dinner:  what combinations are family favorites in your house?

Monday, February 16, 2015

Stop worshiping the god of technology: ideas for Lent

Before I dive into the post, I want to be clear that I don't think there's anything intrinsically wrong with technology.  In fact, I've counted it among some of the things for which I am most grateful.

However, our use of technology, our reactions to its addictive pulls, our time spent (or wasted) is something to be wrestled with - a delicate balance of consuming information and staying connected that, I daresay, none of us have completely mastered.  With the rapid speed of technological advancement, we all struggle to figure out what this new world looks like for our lives, for our homes, and for our children.  I realized that as I've wrestled with these questions and my own response, some component of technology has been involved in my Lenten sacrifices for at least 10 years (was I really a college sophomore that long ago?!) 

Aren't there days when we allow these technologies to surpass the true God in terms of our attention and our desires and our emotional connection (cue the rising panic when the little icon in the corner informs us that a connection can't be made).

We worship our newsfeeds, and find our comfort in the glowing screen.  We suddenly have "no time" for prayer and feel completely disconnected from the true Source of comfort and refreshment and wisdom.

Perhaps you feel surprised by your own obsession with checking your phone or the rate at which you "just need to check your email."  Perhaps you've felt like a hamster in a technological wheel that you just can't get off.  Perhaps you simply want to be sure that the one true God is the one true God of your heart.

I bring to you an (non-exhaustive) list of ideas of ways to cut back on your dependence on technology and restore a little self-control in this area.  Obviously, everyone's situations are different, and the extent to which we truly need our email or our phones varies, and our temptation are different, too.  But here are some ideas - some small and some drastic - to stop worshiping the god of technology this Lent (or anytime!)  Some are intentional changes about where and when to use technology, some are just ideas to make yourself more aware of your own screen use/dependence, and some are just common-sense ways to be more human and less robot.

(and one more time for those who were distracted by their Facebook notifications the first time I said it...this isn't a vendetta against the use of computers or phones.  I don't hate technology, I just hate the way we allow it to control us).

- Just because it's a laptop doesn't mean it needs to be on your lap - plug the computer in on a desk somewhere and stop carrying it around the house whereever you are.

- Charge your phone in the kitchen and not your nightstand.  They make stand-alone alarm clocks.  Start your day by checking in with God and not with your newsfeed.

- Carry a rosary or a prayer book in the pocket where you usually keep your phone.  

- Give up one (or more) social media accounts for Lent

- Set a timer, and log off when it dings.

- Buy a watch so that checking the time doesn't involve diving down a rabbit hole on your phone.

- Turn off notifications

- Make Sunday a "no technology" day.  The world will still be there when you come back.

- Keep a notepad on top of your (closed) laptop.  When you think of something you "need" to look up "right away," write it down and check the whole list later  

- Install an app or program to measure your time online or alert you when you've reached your limit 

- Initiate a "no screens after dark" rule in your house

- Write someone a letter instead of a text or Facebook message

- Give up a favorite show or a favorite blog for some time in prayer or Adoration

- Print out the recipes or craft instructions or whatever information you keep looking up online, if only to save yourself from the distractions each time you look for it.

- Don't turn on your phone/computer until you've said your morning prayers (or, attended daily Mass)

- Turn off "auto log-in" on social media sites - the added time of needing to type in your username and password sometimes wakes you up when you're mindlessly clicking

- Set a religious image to the background of your phone or computer.  Bonus points if it directly reminds you to disconnect and talk to God.  (Mine is this one).

- Make a list of the things you know you'd rather do than waste time online, and put it on a sticky note on your computer or phone.

- Just. log. off.

What other suggestions do you have?  Are you ready to spend a little less time with technology and a little more time with God?  I haven't decided exactly what my plans are, but I know at least a few of these will be incorporated!

After I had typed 75% of this post & list, I thought to myself, hey, I bet the marvelous Meg has something to say about this.  She does.

Monday, February 9, 2015

The Goodbye Tour: Anna's Room

I have photos from a few more rooms of the old house still sitting in my blog drafts (just for a mere 6 months since our move...) so I want to finish up the "good-bye tour" before it's ancient history!

(If you're just joining us, this blog was originally the renovation diary of our 1890s era house in Ithaca, NY that had seen some better days!  We moved this summer and are currently house-sitting for a family who is abroad and hope to buy a new house/project this spring).

Anna's room (originally the sewing/guest room) was the most significant renovation we did aside from the kitchen.  It was our first experience with taking a room down to the studs, and our first go at drywall (the final bumpy walls proved that ;) )

Here's the room when we moved in:  My sister called it the "birthplace of Abraham Lincoln" (perhaps inspired by the falling-down wood paneling?  We can't be sure.

We had some wonderful help from friends and family with demolition and insulation.

Sanding, and sanding, and sanding, and sanding.  There's a reason that no one likes to do drywall!



Decor, Round 1!


And then, we found out we were having a little girl, and it was transformed into a nursery:

 Anna still asks from time to time " 'member old house?"  It's still bittersweet for sure to see these pictures, but my trust is growing by the day that in His time God will show us our new home.  I'm just excited to find it and get started making it our own, too :)  Also, it's going to be like Christmas morning when I get to open all of our storage boxes!  I look at these pictures and keep thinking "oh yeah!  I forgot about that thing!"

 But back to the renovation.  Here's old posts chronicling this transformation:

Removed the wood paneling and old lathe, gutting the room to the studs
Added new insulation
Hung & finished drywall
Primed & painted
Had carpet installed
Furnished & decorated a guest/sewing room
Upgraded to a nursery

 And one more time:

See more "good-bye tour" posts HERE and the whole house tour HERE.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

5 Favorites: Anecdotes to SAHM burn-out

Hello and welcome to anyone joining me from Rosie's blog (and a big thanks to her for the sweet shout-out!)

I tend to reflect a lot on motherhood, homemaking, and the lessons we can learn to manage the inevitable stresses than come from a job description whose first and primary point is to selflessly love and serve tiny {irrational, exceedingly energetic, unable to control all body functions} {beautiful, wonderful, amazing} human beings (insert the appropriate adjectives depending on the day/last five minutes).

In trying to stay ahead of the frustrations and be the best mom I can be (for the new people, constant house/home/self improvement is the theme), I've been thinking about some of the anecdotes to the challenges of being  stay-at-home-mom, and trying to implement them.  Some of these are direct answers to the problems I've identified, and others just help with the overall atmosphere (I'm sure you've heard that saying "if Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy."

And so, I bring you my 5 (current) Favorite Anecdotes to SAHM burn-out, in case anyone else out there has husbands with long hours and driveways with too much ice to get the minivan out:

1) Activities (kid variety).  I tend to find it tiring to generically "play" with Anna, but I love to do projects with her.  We can both funnel our energy into something creative (play-doh, paint, miscellaneous crafts, etc), and the mess is contained (usually) to the kitchen table rather than the typical toy tornado.

Paint is messy, but not THIS messy:

And, bonus, I tend to always* get a little awesome-mom self-esteem kick when we finish up a project together.

*Note: there are still times when you pat yourself on the back for doing something fun, only to have your toddler sprawl on the ice on the back patio while the dog eats the bird-seed covered bagel from her hand that you had just made together to hang on the Christmas tree that you finally decided to take down and move outside.  Ahem.

2) Craft projects (mommy variety).  One of the recurring themes of frustration is how fleeting our tasks seem and how quickly done things are undone.  I find it immensely refreshing to work on something (anything!) more permanent in the evening, whether it be crocheting, sewing, or even blogging.  It's always tempting to just passively read blogs, but I always feel a lot more renewed if I muster the energy to work on something.

I've got several projects in the works, so look out, Ana, I'm coming for your link-up ;)

3) Sunshine in pill form (aka, Vitamin D).  I'm solar-powered, or at least my husband claims that to be true.  I do notice I'm a lot more content on sunshine-y days, and I'm thankful that our current house has lots of beautiful windows to maximize the sunshine when we're not getting outside (after all, you heard what happened when Anna and I ventured 5 feet outside the backdoor for the first time this week).  My doctor in Ithaca recommended that us northerners take a Vitamin D supplement, and it might just be a placebo, but I call it my happy pill, and I think it really makes a difference.

(Sunshine in non-pill form makes me happy, too).
4) Pretty nails.  It turns out that my disappointment at not getting to dress up everyday is assuaged fairly readily by my recent discovery of Jamberry nails - just one little step to feel pulled together.  And believe everything you've heard about how long they last.  It's seriously impressive that they can still look perfect after 2 weeks of dish-washing/post-diaper-hand-washing/cleaning/scrubbing/etc.

Low quality photo, high quality manicure!
(Cute baby photo-bomb and crafty background ;) )
5) The Rosary.  Over the last year, I've been trying to be a lot better about saying a daily rosary, and I've begun to crave those quiet minutes of reflection, rather than feeling a nagging obligation to pull out my beads again.  Focusing on each mystery provides so much strength and reassurance - the hope that God will see us through our times of waiting as we wait with Jesus in the garden, the joy that the Holy Spirit is always with us as we stand in awe at Pentecost, and the faith in this wondrous and surprising love as we run to the empty tomb after the Resurrection.  (Note, see my old post on the Joyful Mysteries, "They could have been the 'Stressful Mysteries.'")

P.S. If you're one of my (16!) pregnant friends, I try to offer my rosary prayers for your intentions and for all moms :)

So...feeling blue?  A crafty manicure and a sunny rosary ought to cheer you up ;)

Linking up late to the 5 Favorites party with Jenna.