Monday, November 25, 2013

Let's Be Thankful.

Oh, it's that time of year again--the last week of November. The season of having no idea what holiday we're celebrating.

When I was in 7th and 8th grade, my English teacher would always wonder aloud what an alien who just landed on earth would think about certain situations. She was getting us to see life from a different perspective. And, you know, I think I'd be a super-confused outer-space species if I landed in the USA during the last week of November.

Can you imagine? There are fall leaves and turkeys next to snowflakes and elves with a splash of scary ghouls hanging from trees (Yup, I have actually seen at least a dozen houses that still have Halloween decor strewn about their lawns...) It's a time spent with family, eating a whole lotta delicious food and really taking a moment to be grateful for what we have. Until we turn around and go shopping because we must buy all.the.things. And the music sings of the most wonderful time of the year which isn't actually happening right now. "Holiday" drinks are available, not the national holiday we're celebrating this month, but for the one more than 30 days away that stores and malls and banks and people-a-plenty have also already decorated for. It's not yet Thanksgiving and we're pumpkined out, already feasting our eyes on the beauty of Christmastime.

Now, don't get me wrong--I think it's great that we eventually find so much cause for the celebration of the birth of Christ, I'm just not so sure it's a great idea to celebrate this holiday before Advent is even upon us! And when I say "we" I mean we. I'm pointing fingers at this strange cultural phenomenon we find ourselves stuck in the middle of each November, but also pointing a big, fat, flashing arrow right back at myself. 

Because I luvah me some Christmastime. 

The teensiest bit of a chill in the air and my thoughts sprint right to Christmas carols and cookies and decorations. There's this fluttering of my stomach while the Nutcracker theme frolicks around my head. Oh the season of wrapping gifts and receiving Christmas cards and delicious cookies...Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la...'s...the middle of November.

When I wake up with Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree stuck in my head (like this morning), I have to remind myself that Thanksgiving marks more than just the beginning of another season. It is a holiday where we have the chance to focus on what is most important to us and verbalize our gratitude. We gather for a delicious meal with the people we love and celebrate what we have been gifted with over the last year. And did you know that scientists have proven that one of the greatest contributing factors to overall happiness is how much gratitude you show?

I must say, happiness is an understatement to what I feel about this past year. I'm thankful for the life of my son, for having the opportunity to spend so much time with him. I'm thankful for the constant support of my husband, for his patience and willingness to do whatever is necessary for the good of our family. I'm thankful for my mom and dad and sisters and grandparents and all of Brandon's as well. Thankful for friends, new and old, for the house we call home, for our parish and the thriving community we've found there. Thankful for the gifts and talents I have and for the opportunities to grow.

For just the next few days, let's abandon decking the halls and focus on the holiday-at-hand. Let's show gratitude for the gift of family and friends; for the hardships we've overcome and the ways we've grown; for the blessings of health and home; for the grace received. Let's be thankful without getting knee-deep into the next holiday's celebration. Let's be thankful.


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Five Favorites (vol. 9)

Well it's almost Wednesday which means it's time to share my five favorite things o' the moment along with sweet Hallie and the other Favoriters. The prologue portion of this post should include something about having a sweet tooth on and you'll see why!

I love ice cream. Always have, always will. And I equate frozen yogurt to ice cream because it's just as good! We don't always have it in the house...but usually we do. Meet the most delicious frozen yogurt known to man:

Blue Bunny Caramel Praline Crunch frozen yogurt. Your mouth will dance. Oh, and you're welcome.

I'm a grazer and snack much of the day. Last week I found myself standing in the trail mix aisle at Target. I must've (can you do that...should + have = should've so must + have = must've??) Anyways, I must. have. blacked out because suddenly I'm home unpacking groceries and this large tub of trail mix somehow found it's way!

A Handful of Everything from Target.

I couldn't pass up a 5% discount on Cartwheel...that 21 cents really would've broke us. Okay, let me just explain to you how good this stuff is: it's pretty much a handful of a warm, sunny, clear day with big, fluffy white clouds except you get to ingest it kind of joy. Amazing, right? The "everything" is really just dried apricot, pineapple, coconut, and banana chips, with almonds and yogurt covered peanuts and chocolate chips. Why the italics? I may or may not eat chocolate chips straight from their bag sometimes often when I don't have any other good snacks in the house. So eating them with fruit and almonds is wayyy better (or something.) Let's just say my container now contains a handful of nothing.

My other favorite middle of the day pick-me-up is wine. Kidding. I totally reserve that for after baby boy's bedtime. It's taking a nap! I take my naps very seriously and am a serious nap-taker. I have trained myself to fall asleep very quickly--enough of this sleep training for babies, you gotta know how to sleep train yourself so that you can get sleep when the baby does! Thankfully he slept for almost an hour and a half yesterday which means I got to as well=happy momma.

Quick power-napping is a skill I've been perfecting ever since college, when I would have approximately 20 minutes between a class and a meeting, 10 of which would be taken up walking to and from my reshall room. (It's a Residence Hall, peeps, not the dreaded "d" word. You can tell I work in Higher Ed.) I'd get to my room, throw down my stuff, and roll right under those covers, setting my alarm for 10 minutes later. Fairly certain I was asleep within 30 seconds. After college when I was teaching with Teach For America, sleep became somewhat of a luxury with the long hours and tons to do...the first year of teaching is really is as hard as everyone says. So I made sure that I worked right up until I had to go to sleep to get 8 hours (which I soo need unless I want to fall apart the next day) and then I would literally go. to. sleep. Maybe someday I'll post about what I do to get to sleep so fast. All of this to say, napping is my fav.

During the fall and winter months I love dark nail polish on my fingers. I put the dark stuff on my toes all year round! My favorite color since I started memorizing OPI colors is Lincoln Park After Dark:
OPI Lincoln Park After Dark
with a close second by Eiffel for this Color:

Yes, I know it's weird that I have nail polish color names memorized. But it's only like 10, I swear. And it's only because OPI is so clever. Although it seems really glamorous (or something) I promise there's a million things better for your brain to know and I kinda wish I had more room for less trivial knowledge.

So I mentioned wine earlier and now I'm coming back to it. My favorite is Cabernet, so here's a three for the price of one three current favorite cheap-o delicious cabs. (woman, that's a lot of adjectives):
Two Vines Cabernet Sauvignon--Typically $6.99 at our nearest grocery store
Cellar No. 8 Cabernet Sauvignon--Usually priced between $7-8
 Robert Mondavi Private Selection Cabernet Sauvignon--This is priced a bit higher, between $10-15 I believe. But we drank it one night on our honeymoon so we like to "indulge"--if it could even be called that--for sentimentality sake.

Hope everyone has a fabulous hump day! Thanks for such a fun link-up, Hallie!


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Snow and my "sunny" side

I am absolutely an optimist. And most of the time it's really not on purpose. Where some people's thoughts immediately jump to the negative aspect of a situation, typically mine head straight for the positive. I've come in contact with people who aren't so thrilled by this personality trait of mine: rolling of eyes or giving me a blank stare when I point out the "sunny" side of an otherwise displeasing situation.

And so I surprised myself yesterday when the first good snowfall of the season put me in a serious funk. I was not impressed, to say the least.

It started snowing shortly after I woke up. Really it was somewhere between rain and sleet at first. No big deal. Then there were flurries. Weird...I didn't know it was supposed to snow. The flurries turned into big flakes and the flakes came down, at times heavily, for the better part of two hours! There was snow covering the ground and not melting quickly. And suddenly I felt myself panic. Snow?! But it's only November.

I stood by our back door with Silas in tow and watched as the big, beautiful flakes of November snow hit our deck and stick. But I couldn't muster a single optimistic thought. It's accumulating? My freaking out increases, as does Silas' intrigue. What.the.heck? (as heard on instagram) I was not emotionally prepared for snow.

But why should I need to be? Where did my "make the best of every situation" disposition run off to when I needed it most? For the first 25 years of my life snow incited a feeling of excitement and anticipation for me. I have always loved snow, no matter how early or late or surprising it was. So what happened?

As much as I am an optimist, I am also an extrovert. Although I've known this for a long time--being dubbed "gregarious" as a child and scoring an "E" when taking the MBTI in college--I've been realizing lately just how much of my energy comes from interactions with others.

Answer: a lot.

I find that I'm so exhausted on the nights where I haven't interacted with anyone except Silas. He's really great, a fantastically happy baby, but he just can't carry on any sort of recognizable conversation. I'm pretty short with Brandon when he gets home from work if I haven't been out all day. It's like I need conversations to have conversations. And although I prefer chatting in person (over a large cup of coffee...), I feel refreshed being able to talk on the phone with a friend or even just texting or having a convo on gchat! Pretty sure I might die within just a few days if I was ever relegated to solitary confinement.

So why did I freak the heck out as the snow fell to the ground? Because this year the impending cold weather season means more than the beauty it brings. This year I'm home with my beautiful babe. It's so much harder to trek out in winter weather when you have a sidekick and I'm nervous that it will leave me feeling cooped  up in the house. I'm anxious that it will lessen my chances at consistent adult conversation and leave me feeling exhausted with a side of cabin fever. I don't like losing my optimism, but that's the side effect when the extrovert in my doesn't get what she needs--a daily dose of people.

Around noon yesterday the snow stopped, but it was still brutally cold outside (for November, anyway). Although I had a few errands to run in mind, it just seemed like a lot of work to get the baby all bundled up, to take him in and out of the car seat multiple times. "Stupid snow" and "stupid winter" were the thoughts that alerted me that something was definitely going on...

Sometime between when it started to snow and noon, I had lost my "sunny" side. I realized, though, that getting out of the house was exactly what I needed to get my optimism back. Human interaction, even if just via the cashiers I'd see, would allow me to more easily see snow as I always had in the past; not something to complain about, but as something that is beautiful and induces excitement for the season. Off we went, bundled baby and all. And I have to say, the day got sunnier indeed.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Waiting on Writing

Since a few months before Silas was born I have been following blogs. The idea of regularly reading what a complete stranger had to say was at first just that: strange. Now, though, I have around 40 blogs whose posts pop up on my feed and I really have found that they enhance my life in many ways. They're usually well-written. Many of them are quite humorous and make me laugh out loud at the screen. They inspire me to try new things, direct me to new, fun websites, lead me to research different subjects, and think about things with a new perspective. I am so grateful for happening upon the lives of these women (I'm pretty sure every blog I regularly read is written by a woman...) through the words that they choose to write and post for the world to see.

What I've found, though, is that I have become a bit more intimidated to publish blog posts myself. There have been plenty of times when I am struck by something or feel the desire to write, but find myself wondering if what I have to say is really interesting enough to put out on the internet. I've become more critical of writing, more self-aware in a not-so-positive way. In a hindering way. Because when I question if something is "enough"--interesting, reflective, deep, inspirational-- I am, in that moment, taking away my  ability to create. Through my self-doubt, I am robbing myself of the space to work out my own thoughts and document the happenings of this season of life.

And so as I was reflecting today on why I haven't actually written much of anything lately, blog post or otherwise, I decided I need to stop wondering how my writing may be perceived, waiting for the perfect topic, and comparing what I write to others. I need to get back to writing for the person that needs it most: me. I need to tell my story, jot down my thoughts, document my reflections.

I'm going to make it a goal to post at least once per week in the next month, not including any link-ups I decide to join. I know that writing helps me fight cabin fever, and I know that cabin fever sets in quickly. We got some snow today and I felt myself being thrown into a panic that this is the beginning of being stuck in my house for the season. Writing helps me sort through my thoughts. When life feels crazy or overwhelming writing puts me back in a state of peace and optimism, so that I can be a better wife and mom and friend and not be so crotchety when the daily grind throws a swift kick to my shins. It also feeds the part of me who really needs to achieve a tangible accomplishments--I am happiest when I feel useful.

No more waiting on the perfect thought or topic or revelation to write: I just need to write.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Five Favorites (vol. 8)

It's a lovely Wednesday yet again, and this time I actually have a moment to participate in five favorites! Find more over at Hallie's.

As a new momma, I have found that the teensiest bit of pampering goes a very long way. The smallest treat can really turn around my entire attitude/day. Below, find my five favorite ways to retreat from the monotony of life with a babe!

A cup of the good stuff. And by this I mean coffee in any of it's many beloved forms. Cup o' Joe, flavored latte, cappuccino, chai latte (okay, I know this isn't actually coffee, but it's close enough...or something), iced coffee... I've pretty much tried it all and love it all, especially when it contains quite a bit of sugar.
I used to drink coffee everyday but stopped when I was pregnant--not because I was "supposed to," but because for the first 18 weeks or so it was practically repulsive! Good thing that didn't last all of pregnancy and good thing pregnancy doesn't last for life.
On our honeymoon we were always on the hunt for two things: coffee and churches. Oh, and see those cannoli? We were in Sicily and I am sure I will never, ever have cannoli as good as those anywhere else.
A coffee drink of some sort always feels like a treat to me, whether it's from the Keurig in our kitchen or the coffee shop down the street. Not something I need, but something that can help to start out my morning (or, heck, afternoon!) the right way.

Pedicures. I really love the process of getting a pedicure--there are few things better than having your feet rubbed. I also really love looking down at my toes weeks months later and seeing them all cute and painted. When I was living in Kansas City, I'm pretty sure my roomies and I went once every few weeks to get a manicure and/or pedicure. You can guess that I wasn't on any sort of budget at all. Now I'm married and have a husband who's super good at keeping us on track. So good that we have a "Prettifying Danielle" budget and I get to save up our pennies until I have enough for a mani/pedi/massage/haircut. Last Saturday morning I decided it was pedicure day and got to sneak out of the house for an hour to indulge in that little treat--such a great way to start a weekend!

Adoration. Now, I'm sure this isn't on most people's top 10 list for getting "pampered." But the purpose of taking a little retreat from life is always to feel less stressed, right? For me, 30 minutes spent in prayer adoring the Blessed Sacrament is exponentially relaxing and stress-relieving and can absolutely turn my day right-side-up again. PTL (Praise the Lord) that there is a 24-hour Adoration Chapel just 3 blocks from our house! Truly, this is a treat I should indulge in far it's the only one that's free, enhances my life for the long run (although the argument could be made that coffee has this ability), and allows me to accept the grace God is always gifting us with.

Red wine. So mom of the year award goes to me because Silas has definitely visited the winery at least 4 times in his short little life. What can I say? We like wine around here. Especially the red stuff.
Silas is more into the glass itself than the delicious drink it holds.
On the weekends the hubs and I will have a glass after baby is in bed and it's always such a delicious way to end the day! It's funny how just one glass of wine also helps me remember that there's life outside of babyland. Not that I dislike being steeped in all-things-baby all day and spending lots of time with him, it's just so easy to get lost in that world! My glass of wine whispers to me, "Hey, you're an adult and you can think about adult things sometimes."

Chatting with a friend. What a God-send the telephone is! While I have a handful of fabulous friends where we live, I've only been here for a bit over 2 years and so most of the besties aren't in town! Being able to talk to my momma everyday and several of my friends regularly really is a kind of pampering for me, a break from the day. Talking to those who I don't have to explain anything to is comforting and it doesn't matter how long it's been between phone calls, we can just pick back up where we left off!

Taking a little moment to pamper yourself today--you'll be better for it! I find that I can be a better mom and wife and friend when I take care of myself.

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