31 January 2013

Sheep & Company

It finally happened, my friends. I have an Etsy shoppe. You can browse it here: http://www.etsy.com/shop/sheepandcompany

I also have a page on Facebook, if you're interested: http://www.facebook.com/SheepandCompany

It has been a good journey. One that was met with some initial resistance, self doubt, feelings of inadequacy. It took a lot of will power, strength, but mostly the feeling that I didn't want to go back when I had finally come this far. I pushed myself, and as a result, I grew. I like this adventurous new me.

I want what every Etsy shop owner wants: to make millions and be featured on The Today Show. Just kidding. I want to make back my initial investment, help pay down the law school debt, and pour every extra cent into a trust fund for Abigail. My very first sale, though, will be given to our local parish when the collection plate comes around. First fruits, you see.

I am super excited to also be able to spend my evenings crocheting without loosing any more closet space to finished products of which I already have way too many. When we moved to Florida, I gave away about a dozen hand crocheted afghans to my parents and my in-laws. Because I seriously had that many extra.

Anyway, I didn't open Sheep & Co with a pina colada, since 7:30pm on Thursday isn't a calorie cheat day, but Matt was with me and I did record the event in my planner. Maybe when I get my second sale, I'll drink. I don't know if God would appreciate a pina colada with my first fruits. He seems more the wine type.

29 January 2013

A non-Series of Humorous Events

When Abigail decides that I've had enough time on the computer, she scoots over to me, pulls up to stand against my leg, rises up on to her tippy toes, her little fists clutching handfulls of my jeans, and peers ever-so-cutely up at me. When I pick her up, she rewards me with a huge smile. But woe to those who are deceived by the cute face. As soon as she is in my lap, she turns, and lunges for the computer. If the cute face doesn't work, she'll try yelling at me. She plops down on the floor and just yells, "AHHHHHHH!" When I ignore the yelling, she'll bring me little trinkets, her toy truck, her sun glasses, her little plastic bracelets. This is the third and final straw. If I do not get off the computer, she'll proceed to bang her head against the floor.

Abigail's therapists encouraged us to get her imaginative play toys for Christmas, especially baby dolls. I was assured that children who are raised with loving, nurturing parents imitate that care with their baby dolls. Abigail received a few dolls for Christmas. Do you want to know what she does with them? She hurls them across the room. Or she holds them by their legs and bangs their heads against the ground. Partially mortified, I immediately started encouraging Abigail to hug her dolls. Which she does. Before she hurls them across the room.

It took Abigail over a year to learn to learn her first sign, "more." It took her two days to learn to sign "fish." It was totally worth all the hassle it took to fix the motor in my old fishy floor lamp.

People tell me all the time that Abigail is "getting so big!" I laugh inside at this because she has only grown 2 inches and gained 2 lbs since her 1st birthday 8 months ago. She wears 12-month size clothing. Abigail still hasn't tripled her birth weight, which typically developing kids do by age 1. My tiny, little toddler.

In other news, we have reached a new level of hair accessories. The mini-scrunchie level. Refer to the above photo of Abigail hugging her doll to see her rocking the sparkly pink and sparkly white ones. Epic levels of cuteness over here, my friends.

The Etsy shop preparations are still going magnificently. I am on target to be ready for the Grand Opening before the projected date of Monday 4 February. I am not going to hurry, but if I can get the final things in place, I'll open on Friday at 7:30pm CST. I may or may not have a pina colada in hand to toast with Matt in celebration.

I'm writing the patterns to my hats, so I created my own pattern book to keep them all together. It is really, really fulfilling to be able to hold it in my hands and know that I finally had the guts to turn my dream into reality. Even if it completely falls on its face and the only way I sell a hat is if I beg my dad to buy one, at least I finally stopped talking and started doing. Anyway, we'll see how this week goes, so this isn't an official announcement of the grand opening, just an official hope.

Lastly, I took another step in the world of frugality. I made my own non-stick cooking spray. Store-bought stuff is pretty cheap, about $2, and lasts a few months, so I wasn't sure if it would be worth it. When I hopped online, the recipe sounded simple, but lots of people were recommending putting it in a fancy gourmet sprayer called a Misto. I had my reservations, but a quick search revealed that the non-aerosol sprayer could be picked up at Bed, Bath & Beyond for a mere $10. Now, we all know that anyone who pays full price at Bed, Bath & Beyond is a sucka, and I try not to be a sucka, so I grabbed a 20% off coupon from my hoard of BB&B coupons, and scored the Misto for $8. The cost of the oil is negligible (2T per cup of water for the recipe I used), meaning that for $8, I just bought a lifetime supply of non-stick cooking spray. Sans the lecithin, dimethyl silicone, and butane, of course.

26 January 2013

To Michigan and Back

Sorry I have been so absent as of late. I spent the first half of the week in Michigan, taking Abigail to her regularly scheduled doctors' appointments. Or, at least, the doctors' appointments that couldn't wait until we get insurance in August. I find it well worth my time to drive 260 miles to the University of Michigan CS Mott Children's Hospital rather than transfer Abigail's care and get established with new Chicago doctors for just a few more months. Matt stayed in Chicago, so it was just Abigail and I. The trip should only take about 4 hours, but as soon as I saw this:

I started seeing this:

Which quickly became this:

Cue screaming baby, stop-and-go-traffic, and an extra 2 hours of travel time. The next morning, Abigail needed to fast for one of her tests, so she was in a wonderful mood. More snow, more traffic, and 6 hours at the hospital running tests and meeting with doctors. The following day contained a few more doctors and some blood work. Thankfully by the time we drove back to Chicago, Abigail was so exhausted that she slept the entire way. Everything went well, though.

The cardiologist said the heart looks good. The pulmonologist said the lungs look good and we may be we can take her off her medication this summer. The pediatrician said nothing looks bad enough that we have to do something about it. The hematologist said she doesn't have leukemia. For one more year, she has a clean bill of health.

And when we got home, Abigail was so over joyed that she played quietly with her toys by herself until Matt got home early from work. And he was so excited to see her that he fed her dinner, gave her a bath, and put her to bed without me having to lose a few rounds of rock-paper-scissors.

I've been hard at work on my Etsy shop. I'm shooting for a grand opening of February 4th. On top of the added work of the shop, Abigail is sick. But nothing important is falling behind thanks to my Mother's Rule of Life, meaning that I'm staying on top of Abigail's therapy,  giving her lots of one-on-one playtime, getting personal time, and my house is way cleaner than it's ever been before. All with lower levels of stress. Holiness for Housewives and A Mother's Rule of Life have honestly revolutionized my life. They have fundamentally and radically changed it. Even Matt has been noticing that I'm less stressed, in a good mood more often, and that the bathroom gets cleaned more often.

Anyway, I've got some product to photograph in this perfect afternoon lighting, so fare thee well, my friends!

21 January 2013

Scared of Success

I'm one of those scared-to-succeed people.

Before I was one of those people, I thought those people were idiots.

How can you be scared to succeed?! Give me success! I won't be scared of it!

But alas.

I realized it a few days ago when I noticed more definition in my arms.

Yes, the thought of having biceps scared me.

I don't know why. Maybe I think people with definable biceps have more responsibility, that more is expected of them. I guess I think I can't handle the responsibility. Of having biceps.

Yes I realize how $@#%*^ up that sounds.

I'm scared of my Etsy shop doing really well because how will I keep up with the demand?

I'm scared of my book doing well because what if my second one sucks?

I'm scared of loosing weight because what if I gain it all back again?

I'm scared of success because I'm scared of not being worthy of the success. I'm scared of success because I'm scared I won't be able to maintain it; I'll love it and loose it and it'll hurt.

It all sounds so $@#%*^ up, but I'm willing to bet everything that I'm not the only one who feels this way. That putting it all out there with the potential to either sink or swim is scary as hell. And it makes ya want to turn around and run screaming back towards what is comfortable.

But when you do taste success, even in something as minor as making big-bad-scary beans, it makes you feel like a million bucks. The highest high imaginable. It makes you want to run down the street shouting at the top of your lungs, call everyone you know, or at least update your Facebook status, and proclaim, "I TOOK A BAG OF DRIED BEANS AND I MADE A KICK-ASS SOUP. I SUCCEEDED. I'M AWESOME!!!!!" I found a dozen ways not to make beans and a million excuses to keep paying more for canned. It took me about a year, but I finally worked up the courage to kick beans where it hurts. It's minor. But it's still fear I overcame and success I earned.

So when I look in the mirror and I see a burgeoning bicep and I feel the pangs of fear, I close my eyes for one second, tune out the screaming child and the cussing neighbors and the clanging radiators, and imagine myself reveling in my success. Walking into a room of people I haven't seen in a while. Standing in front of a someone who doesn't really like me. And rocking it. Succeeding at my success. And totally rocking it.

16 January 2013

Practicing My Vocation

Sometimes my life feels so incredibly eventful that I am overwhelmed. As proof, I'd like to enter into evidence that I've lived in three different states in the last nine months and I'm moving out-of-state again in six more. Other times, my life feels so incredibly mundane that I don't know what to do with myself. As 2012 wound down, the craziness of being a law school wife ended and Matt secured a long-term job, and I found myself with time (and the money our tight-budget-but-real-income affords) on my hands to pursue hobbies. At the turn of the new year, I got serious about writing and opening an Etsy shoppe. After reading a few religious books and spending a few days with my sister-in-law, having long-lost heart-to-hearts, I started understanding the gravity of my vocation as a housewife. I often described those first few years of my marriage as the Law School Wife chapter. When Matt took the bar exam, I said that we were entering a new chapter. It is these three new aspects of my life that are the beginnings of my second chapter. I think this chapter is the Practicing My Vocation chapter.


Being a housewife is a 24/7 job, certainly, so it is a bit impossible to delve in to every aspect. I've talked many times about playing good defense with my family's finances and about the household management (ie, chores) aspect. I personally struggle with finding a good balance. I like to go all-in on a project and don't stop til I finish. It makes for some really screwed up priorities sometimes. The first few days of last week are a prime example. Some days I got so much work done around the house that I didn't make dinner or do therapy with Abigail, other days I was so lazy and slothful that I didn't get anything done around the house, make dinner, or do therapy with Abigail. Throw in a near-migrane last week and you have epic failure. The feeling that I was dropping all the balls on everything had me sure I was the world's worst housewife.

I started to get things back in order toward the end of the week and over the weekend, at which point I also started reading a new book. It came recommended to me by a very holy friend: A Mother's Rule of Life. It draws on the Rule of Life used in convents and monasteries, and adapts it to fit the life of a mother. I didn't know what it was before I started the book, so for all of you on the same page as me, it's a master schedule that everyone follows. "It deals with the essential responsibilities of your state of life, organized to ensure their fulfillment" (pg 14 in my Sophia Press copy). My mornings are naturally pretty well scheduled out, but after Abigail's nap (she now takes one two-hour-long nap in the middle of the day), things fall apart. Sometimes they'd stay so much apart that I wouldn't even get dinner made and we'd end up having pancakes or getting take-out. I also have a hard time getting back on track if I'm up all night with Abigail or I get a headache or something comes up unexpectedly. Lastly, I'd never really feel like I had time to pray, so the closest we got to praying as a family was saying grace before dinner.

It was ugly and embarrassing, my friends.

But anyway, so I'm reading the book and shocked at how much more productive I am in such a short time. The first day I started it, I found time to clean the bathroom, scrub the microwave (I think the last time I did that, I wasn't even pregnant yet), make dinner, spend time in wholesome, one-on-one play with Abigail, work on my Etsy shop, exercise, do everything I normally do, spend about 3 times longer in prayer than I normally do, AND have personal time after Abigail went to bed at 7:15pm. (Note: about half of my Etsy work happened after she went down). Having master routine makes it really easy to snap back if something throws me off and keeps me focused when it's 3:00 and I just want to veg. I'm still in the "honeymoon phase" with my new plan of attack, but I have high hopes. I particularly hope that Abigail will learn that I have dedicated play times with her and will be more inclined to let me  make bread and stuff while she is still awake.

When I was putting our schedule down in writing, it was easy to see how little time I was dedicating to God and I found plenty of places to "squeeze" in more. It is also helping me to create routines where I always pray at certain times of the day so I'm less likely to forget. As a result, I've been memorizing more scripted prayers, geting more confident praying "impromptu" in front of others, and just thinking about God more often throughout the day. My patience is much longer, I'm enjoying my free time more, and I'm wwwaaayyy nicer to Matt when he gets home after I've spent the day with a fussy baby. So far, so good.

Saying things like, "I'm called to be a writer!" in a blog is incredibly hard. Because it means being vulnerable. I'm practically begging you to judge me. To find every typo, error, ended-a-sentence-in-a-preposition in this and every post in recent memory. I'm not the type of person who takes criticism very well.

But if I'm gonna be a writer, I better get used to it.

I've been working for a few months now on my memoirs of the pregnancy and first year with Abigail. I draw from my blog and journal entries to be sure I get the facts straight and make visible the raw emotion, but I also mix in insights I have now about why I felt some of the at-the-time inexplicable emotions. Reflecting on things has helped me heal from some of the pain I still hadn't gotten over. I'm 70 double-spaced pages in and I have about 3 pages of single-spaced ideas, sentences, and paragraphs that need to be fleshed out. Ideas pop into my head all the time and I jot them down to be added later.

I still have a way to go and would be surprised if it is a completed, edited manuscript by the end of this year. My work on it goes in spurts, but now that I have my new Rule of Life, I am going to schedule in some time on a regular basis.

The Etsy Shop
I don't know if it is accurate to say "I'm called" to have an Etsy shop, but I don't think it is out of keeping with God's Will either. It is something that has been on my bucket list for a very long time now (we're talking years). I had lots of ideas and made things for family and friends that received a "you should sell this on Etsy!" compliment, but when the rubber met the road, I always backed down.

It is scary, staring your own business. Even an online business. Many, many times during these last two weeks I have stopped, sometime literally pausing with (knitting) needles in my hand and said, "Why would anyone buy my stuff? Who am I to think I can compete on Etsy?" The idea of staying just a meek, little housewife who swept floors and baked bread seemed much safer. As Doubt would rear its ugly head, I'd jump back and forth between, "I'll be a writer! I'll run an Etsy shop!" I was sure that I would succeed at whatever I wasn't doing at the time.

But I know two people who have Etsy shops. And they talk about their Etsy shops and it fans my flaming desire to have one myself. And people kept saying, "you should sell this on Etsy!" and I kept replying, "I would love to!" And each time I had to acknowledge the fact that I was too scared to put myself out there, it got harder and harder. I honestly think that the pain of feeling like a failure beat the pain of being vulnerable, so I took the plunge. Maybe I'll paint the picture prettily when I tell others about it, "Oh you know, it was just time!" But you and I will always know: I was just sick and tired of being a chicken shit.

It isn't open yet, but will be in early February. So what is my shop?

It's Sheep & Co, a company name and logo I devised years ago when I was messing around with some design software. Sometimes I play around with a fantasy where I run a sheep farm and make and dye yarn. But what will Sheep & Co sell? Well, lots of things eventually, but here is what I plan to open with:

Hats. Winter hats for babies, toddlers, kids, teens, and adults. I'm also shooting to add a spring collection in a few months. I'm a hat person and I really enjoy making them. Plus hats are something that can be handmade and still be sold for a reasonable price. The advent of kitting machines makes it significantly financially dis-advantageous to buy a lot of hand crocheted and knitted items, even some hats. But not all hats. And I'm going to be selling some kick-ass hats. Hats made to enjoy fun adventures. Adventures in Etsy shoppes, adventures in writing, adventures in housewifery. Adventures that end in places you never expected.

13 January 2013

Why Abigail's happiness isn't my goal

One thing I struggle with often is what I want for Abigail. What I dream her future will look like. How to help her achieve it.

I often hear from parents in the Ds community that they want their child to be accepted and loved for who s/he is. They want their child to be happy. I've always struggled with this answer and when I tried it on for size, it didn't feel comfortable.

I do want Abigail to be accepted and happy. But when I picture her as an adult, if all she has is happiness, that doesn't sit well with me.

I reflected on my own life: what do I want? When I think about what I want in 5, 10, 15 years, I wouldn't say happiness. I love my life, but I don't know if I'm really happy. Some days I'm happy, sure, but most days I'd say I'm stressed, worried, fulfilled, and at peace. You can't trust happy - it's such a fleeting emotion. I wouldn't call myself a happy person. I wouldn't call Abigail a happy baby. But once I subtracted happiness, I didn't know what to do with what remained. So I tried to push it out of my mind. We live in a world that strongly encourages people to find happiness. If I don't want that for my child, what kind of mother am I?

A friend posted this article online and as soon as I read it, I found that it fit exactly. Entitled, "There's More to Life Than Being Happy," the article delivers exactly what it promises. "The researchers found that a meaningful life and happy life overlap in certain ways, but are ultimately very different."

The article features a Jewish psychologist who spent several years in a concentration camp in Nazi Germany, during which he noted that, "those who found meaning even in the most horrendous circumstances were far more resilient to suffering than those who did not." He wrote in his book (which I whole-heartily plan to read) that "this uniqueness and singleness which distinguishes each individual and gives a meaning to his existence has a bearing on creative work as much as it does on human love. When the impossibility of replacing a person is realized, it allows the responsibility which a man has for his existence and its continuance to appear in all its magnitude. A man who becomes conscious of the responsibility he bears toward a human being who affectionately waits for him, or to an unfinished work, will never be able to throw away his life. He knows the 'why' for his existence, and will be able to bear almost any 'how.'"

The thought of Abigail's life having purpose is so much more than the thought of her life being accepted and happy. This logic is completely in keeping with the Bible as well, which is pretty clear that believers shouldn't focus on looking for worldly acceptance (Matthew 10:22, Mark 8:36, John 15:18, to name a few). Secondly, the Ten Commandments, the Beatitudes, and the two greatest commandments make no mention of happiness. It seems to me that happiness is not necessary to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

Now I know how to express what I want for Abigail. I want her life to have purpose. Happiness and acceptance are more like bonuses, the cherry on top, if you will. It is my job to help her discern her purpose. To teach her to be open and listen for her vocation. Maybe she'll become a nun (She could. I sincerely hope to have a son become priest or daughter become a nun. Maybe it'll be Abigail). Or maybe she'll feed kitty cats at the humane society. I don't know for what God will/has called her. But to my dying day, I will be sure that our number one goal becomes finding and fulfilling that purpose. Not looking for happiness.

The part of the article that was the most insightful for me was about suffering. "Having negative events happen to you, the study found, decreases your happiness but increases the amount of meaning you have in life. Another study from 2011 confirmed this, finding that people who have meaning in their lives, in the form of a clearly defined purpose, rate their satisfaction with life higher even when they were feeling bad than those who did not have a clearly defined purpose. 'If there is meaning in life at all,' [the Jewish psychologist] wrote, 'then there must be meaning in suffering.'"

There is no doubt that Abigail's life has been and will be full of suffering. She is certainly not in constant suffering, but the amount of suffering she's already done in terms of medical tests and heart surgery in her 1.5 short years of life already surpasses all the suffering I've done in my 26 years. And there is more to come. Statistically speaking, we can be assured of a whole host of other medical concerns through which she'll have to suffer.

But to know that the suffering won't be worthless, but will instead make her life more meaningful and fulfilling makes it significantly easier to bear. She is in company with the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the gentle, the insulted and persecuted. Her reward is not happiness. It is the Kingdom of Heaven.

11 January 2013

Discipline and pizza

As I type this, there are two guys peering in my living room window watching me blog. Perhaps they are not watching my blog so much as trying not to crash through my living room wall. They are on one of those giant mechanized lifts that one might use to trim trees. They almost ran over my car with it too. And you guys know how sensitive I am about my car. They are lugging around gutters pretending to do building maintenance, but I am pretty sure they are just trying to wake Abigail from her nap.

Today's blog post is all about discipline. Whenever I edit people's work and they say something to the effect of, "This is what I am going to talk about in my writing!" I always tell them, "Don't tell us what you will tell us, just tell us!" But I need a transition from the construction crew in their puffy vests and yellow hats staring at me, and I'm not in the mood to come up with something more creative.

I have lots of little goals in my life, but the two biggest, baddest, hardest are to loose weight and pay off the law school debt as quickly as possible. They each take a lot of discipline. The discipline to avoid buying extraneous shit and the discipline to avoid eating extraneous shit. Lately the two have converged into one strong craving: pizza and cupcakes. Since Tuesday, I have been craving pizza and cupcakes. A $5 hot-n-ready from Little Caeser's and cupcakes. It took nearly all my discipline to avoid indulging after I spent Wednesday desperately trying to avoid a migraine. As I was chatting with Abigail's developmental therapist, I realized I had some pretty significant aurora going on, so I downed a handful of Tylenol and Aspirin, closed all the blinds, put on a baseball cap, and canceled all of our appointments for the rest of the day. When Abigail took a nap, I took a nap. I got away with "just" a bad headache. But I didn't get anything else done, including grocery shopping. And for some reason, after the nap, I was dying for sugar. Pizza was a holdover from Tuesday when I spent the entire day reorganizing my apartment and didn't cook dinner. And I thought it took a lot of discipline to avoid pizza on Tuesday. It took nearly everything to stay away from pizza and cupcakes on Wednesday. My only excuse yesterday is epic laziness.

You'd think that after a week of successful discipline combined with my goals of saving money and loosing weight would give me an off-the-charts level of discipline. Two different sets of goals and motivations coming together backed by a week of successes to strengthen me for one epic temptation. But the opposite actually occurs. It's as though it takes twice as much discipline to say, "no" and my money discipline and fitness discipline are halved when they met. I feel like I'm working twice as hard to say no to pizza as I am to Matt's omnipresent bag of Oreos.

After one of the most un-frugal holiday seasons we've had in a long time, I re-read our copies of Total Money Makeover and The Millionaire Next Door to re-inspire myself. We cut the data plan from Matt's smart phone, saving us about $20/month (though we'll miss the maps app when we're lost downtown), and we scoured our apartment for things we don't really use and sold some of our books, dvds, clothes, and baby toys to resale shops and listed a few items on Craigslist. (It baffles and angers me that after so many moves we still have stuff we don't want/use. But anyway).

About a week ago I was reading the chapter in The Millionaire Next Door that discusses the benefits of a frugal wife. A majority of millionaires had stay-at-home wives, and while they were bringing home the money, the offense, their wives acted as the defense. The authors point out that hardly any of the millionaires they interviewed had spendthirft wives. The wives were the key component to being wealthy, everyone agreed. One of the millionaires they interviewed said, "I can't get my wife to spend money!" As soon as I read that, I decided that I wanted Matt to use those words to describe me. I want him to be casually sitting around with his brothers or his friends when the conversation swings to wives spending money. I imagine that everyone starts joking about all the clothes, shoes, and what-have-you that their wives like to buy, the time they spend at Target or the mall picking things up. And without any bias, I imagine that it dawns on my husband that his wife doesn't engage in those habits. That she doesn't fritter away money. And I hope he says, realizing the truth of it as the words leave his mouth, "I can't get my wife to spend money!"

I haven't lost any of the things I gained during and in the days following the 31 Days campaign. I still make my own bread, tortillas, and crackers (except Abigail's goldfish crackers, as the World's Pickiest Eater deigns to eat any other crackers), body wash, and hand soap. I did attempt to make my own dishwashing detergent, but have been trying to work out the kinks of that mess. When I first started, I had to hand wash about 1/2 of my dishes after they came out of the dishwasher. After endless tweaks, I'm down to washing about 1/4 and planning to try a new recipe this weekend. But anyway.

Some things are easy to stay in budget with, like clothes. I don't really like clothes or clothes shopping, plus as I loose weight, I continually re-discover old clothes in my closet. It doesn't take much discipline. Things I struggle with include Abigail's toy/development budget, the food budget, and the household budget (non-food items like toilet paper and an orange peeler, but also sheets, stamps, etc).

Our food budget is big enough to handle luxury items like steak, string cheese, dried fruit, and nuts, but only if I buy things like cereal and spaghetti sauce on sale and avoid pre-packaged foods like Hamburger Helper or chicken nuggets. Making my own bread, etc, lets us buy more fruit (which can be very expensive per serving), cheap meats like chicken, and stock up on items when they go on sale (assuming we have the cupboard space). Buying things like ice cream, chips, and cookies out of the food budget instead of our personal allowances means we'll likely run out of money before we run out of month. Which means we'll have to borrow money from ourselves. When we have to borrow money from ourselves, we take it out of our meager savings account. The savings account is meager because we're trying to pay off our law school debt as quickly as possible.

It isn't complicated, it just takes discipline. The same kind of discipline it takes to eat salad instead of grilled cheese or to workout when I'm sore. If I want to be the type of wife who doesn't spend money, then I need to corral up some discipline. But just when I think I have it in my grasp, just when I have a good weigh-in, I run 3 miles, I end the month with $10 remaining in the food budget, I do my Bible readings, and I finish everything on my to-do list, just when I think I am finally disciplined, cue pizza. Damnable pizza.

Discipline, like telling Abigail to stop screaming in aisle 3, is never a one-time event. You don't just work your butt off, achieve discipline, then move on to your next task. I'm the type of person who would rather get in, finish the project, and move on. I don't like to dwell or repeat myself. I don't want to tell Abigail in aisles 4, 5, and 6 to stop screaming. I don't want to have to deal with her angry yells next time we go grocery shopping. I want to say "no" to pizza once and never have to talk to pizza again.

But I haven't indulged. And I've worked out every day this week. And I stayed on top of my other resolutions (praying as a family and as a couple, cutting off electronics at 9pm and reading for an hour, and counting calories. Plus I believe that I'll be able to open my Etsy shop by Feb 1st, which isn't even a resolution). I can make it. I compromised with myself pay for pizza out of the entertainment budget and get it on Saturday (designated cheat day) and make my own cupcakes (to save money). I will halve the cupcake recipe so as not to have many leftovers and I'll keep the extraneous calories to a minimum by drinking water and going for a run in the morning. It takes discipline, but whenever I want to cave in, I'll think about how far I've made it. And then there's always the construction crew out my living room window. Heaven knows I don't need a bunch of fat, sweaty construction men knowing my dirty little pizza secret.

07 January 2013

The Good Type of Day

You know those long-awaited, few and far between days when everything goes right? Without even trying? Those days send you up on a cloud so high that even screaming, door-slamming neighbors can't  bring you back down. Today was one of those days for me.

Today started out with a good last night. The nagging cold was almost gone and I finally had a breakthrough in the patterns I've been writing, which will hopefully form the core of my Etsy shop. After several days, dogged by feelings of inadequacy and the desire to quit, I succeeded. A small success, but enough to give me momentum. A good night, a good morning. Everyone in a good mood, New Year's Resolutions officially re-begun after the sickness hiatus. Finding a lost item I'd been searching for for weeks. A good workout while Abigail quietly read books. An all-day feeling of closeness to God. Good, wholesome playtime with Abigail and cozy snuggles after her new, two-hour, once-a-day nap. And a few moments stollen away to blog while Abigail entertains herself. Dinner on the table when Matt arrives home. A validating day - I'm doing things right. I'm loved. I'm successful.

No one can tell when these days will come or how bad the preceding or following days will be. You can only suck as much marrow from them as possible in 24 hours before the doldrums of winter return with gray skies and eye-lash freezing temperatures.

Tomorrow we'll take down the Christmas decorations, but for one last night tonight, we'll turn off all the lights in the apartment and sit beneath the glow of the Christmas tree, counting our blessings and sucking marrow to reinforce us for the days in between the next everything-goes-right day.

04 January 2013

The Mundane

For ten days, I ran around like a chicken with my head cut off, and while I longed for the days of rest and relaxation following the holidays, part of me was chewing myself out, reminding myself to enjoy the time with family and friends. Now for the last three days, I have done nothing but sit around, sleeping on and off all day long, eating leftovers and doing nothing. But am I enjoying the mundane? No, instead I'm feeling restless and Matt and I are nitpicking one another about who feeds Abigail lunch the most and who gets the last few slices of leftover pie. We're not so sick anymore that we feel like death, but we're not well enough to get out of the house, take a walk around the block or something. So we've got mad cabin fever. After nearly two weeks of wishing we could just sit around all day.

Our chills, fatigue, body ache, runny noses, and sore throats have side tracked any and all New Year's Resolutions, so I haven't been doing any working out, calorie counting, praying of family Rosaries, daily Bible readings, nor novel reading. We all feel lazy and sloppy and unproductive and are starting to turn on one another. And to top things off, I finally decided to start the process of opening an Etsy shop, so I sat down today to work on some stock. I am planning to sell crocheted things (no surprises there), but I want to write my own patterns. After spending nearly the entire day on what was supposed to be one simple pattern, I have nothing to show for it. I think I may have finally figured out what the pattern will be, but I've told myself that before.

After a mid-afternoon nitpicking turned slightly mean, we re-grouped, apologized, and started to help one another out, even if in minor ways, like me putting down my maddening non-pattern to change Abigail's diaper while Matt was on "Abigail duty." It was a good reminder to stop and enjoy the little things.

For the first time, I managed to braid Abigail's hair into two little french braids! Today was the first day I've ever been successful. Abigail is pretty advanced in the hair-growing department. She was born with a full head of hair that never fell out. She was in pigtails before her typically-developing peers. Hey, there's gotta be something she's advanced in. I'll take hair.

Within a few hours, Girly had mad fly-aways and she's recently learned how to brush her own hair out of her eyes. It was pretty cute, but I think I'll be a little longer before braids can become an everyday thing.

There is something very innocent and demure about braids.

Anyway, I hope that tomorrow we'll all be back up and running enough to enjoy the weekend. Take down some Christmas decorations, count some calories, spend some time in prayer. It's never too late for a fresh start. And for that, I am thankful.

02 January 2013

Delayed gratification doubles gratification

We're all, every last one of us, sick. Abigail is on day 3 of her cold, Matt has been flirting with a stuffy nose for a few days, but early this morning, when I felt my throat on fire, I knew I was sunk. When the alarm went off at 6:30am, I croaked to Matt, "I'm sick." "Me too," he whispered back. My house is littered with tissues and Ricola wrappers, and we're desperately trying to string together what few baby signs we know to communicate without having to speak. Abigail is allowed to play with whatever her heart desires because 1. there is nothing more depressing than a sick baby crying, and 2. what little energy Matt and I have is going into grocery shopping and doing laundry, so the more she plays independently, the better. We have been running nonstop since Christmas preparations on the 22nd, celebrating here, in Michigan, and hosting friends for New Year's in Chicago. I am thankful I scrubbed a few days worth of dishes, swept and Swiffer-ed the floors, cleaned the liter pan, and took the trash out yesterday, the day before I got sick, so that we could at least wallow in cleanliness. Matt had already arranged to have today off as a rest day before rejoining the grind, so now we're all just the most pathetic bunch you've ever seen. I full plan to spend the afternoon curled up in bed watching Blues Clues and Baby Signing Time with Matt and Abigail.

I am also thankful to have pre-written a blog post to appear today, otherwise what you see above would be it.

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The best meal I've ever had in my life was a crunchwrap supreme from Taco Bell.

Yes, the very same restaurant at the butt of all the "places-you-go-when-you're-drunk" jokes. The very same restaurant that had to take out a full page WSJ ad to defend their use of governmentally acceptable meat product. That one. Matt and I love Taco Bell, so when I was in college, Taco Bell was a natural place for me to break my two day fast.

After two days of nothing but water and diet coke, a crunchwrap supreme was the greatest thing to ever touch my taste buds. I still remember the warm sour cream and the queso-sogged hard taco shell bursting in my mouth. Delicious.

But, as you've probably guessed, it wasn't the crunchwrap that was amazing, it was the act of eating after a few days of naught. Sleep is always more refreshing after a hard day, coffee after a busy day, and relaxing on the couch after the floors are scrubbed. Matt and I gave up chocolate for Advent, and when we finally had some on the evening of Christmas Eve, it was amazingly delicious. Try giving something up for Lent this year if you want to see what I mean. Life is more enjoyable when hard work precedes a reward.

This concept translates very smoothly into consumerism as well. A new pair of shoes is much more exciting when you're closet hasn't seen an expansion in a year. A new gadget is entertaining for longer when you don't already have a media center full of electronics.

It is an easy concept, and one that most people would probably accept without much prompting. But living it out is insanely more difficult.

The hardest thing for me when it comes to living frugally and simply is the (1) abundance of cheap stuff (2) around me at all times. It seems silly to make a rag rug with our old sheets instead of just buying a new one for $10 at Target. Or the grocery store is a 10 minute walk away, so why not pick up a candy bar when I swing in to get Abigail more bananas? It's everything I want: quality over quantity, simplicity, a clean house, more money in the bank, a greater pleasure in the things I already own: a family and a mother straight out of a 1950s television show. But when I pass the billboard for the damn McDonald's peppermint mocha for the 4th time that week, my resolve breaks down and the next thing I know, I bought it.

When Matt and I are good about sticking to our budget and we don't make impulse buys at Target, birthday and Christmas gifts are immeasurably more exciting, dessert tastes better, and pretty barrettes are more prized. It is also true that buying begets buying and ignorance is bliss. Having an iPod Nano makes me want an iPod Shuffle so that I don't have to "lug the big one" with me on a run. Having a camera makes me want a better camera, and having a camera makes me want a video camera. Having a smart phone makes me want to have an e-reader, and if we had an e-reader, we'd probably want a tablet. Lastly, now that I have texting on my phone, I don't think I'd be able to get rid of it, and deciding to drop the data plan from Matt's phone next summer is already looking impossible. Sometimes good things comes of these splurges, but more often than not, they just make me want more things.

My in-laws are the type of people who rarely by things. For themselves, for others; they are the ideal example of "make yourself rich by making your wants few" and "teach your kids the value of a dollar." One year, I crocheted them winter hats. They were quick little things, 4 hours tops while watching a football game with yarn leftover from a previous project. I still hear about those hats every winter. They really get use out of them. The energy and resources used in producing the yarn, the gas and money it took to ship it to the store, the time we worked to earn the money to buy the yarn, the time I put in to the making of the hats - none of it was or will be wasted. Because they do not have a basket full of random winter hats that they will one day sort through and toss out because it is overflowing and they need more space.

Even though we don't own a credit card and pay with cash, I still find myself buying too much. I tried limiting my exposure to advertising, and I tried jotting down my wants on a piece of paper - an "impulse buy list" - and making myself wait a few days to buy them. It all helps in the short term, but nothing lasts. I talked to Matt about my frustrations and came up with a resolve for the new year. I want to tie purchases to special occasions. So if Abigail falls in love with a new toy during therapy, we have enough cash in the toys and development budget for the item, it's sat around on the wish list for a sufficient amount of time, and I purchase it, she can't have it until a holiday, albeit a mini-holiday, comes to pass. A "month birthday" (the 18th day of the month since she was born on May 18th), Valentine's Day, a Feast Day, something. It isn't that I'll buy her something on every mini-holiday, but saving what I do buy for the nearest event will raise up both the event and the gift, and it will hopefully diminish the purchasing since there are a limited number of holidays in any given month.

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Abigail is currently in the process of shoving empty bags of teddy graham under furniture, so I need to wrap this up quickly. Contrary to my previous post, I did make 2 of my 3 pre-New Year's Resolutions. It wasn't easy, but I managed to crank out numbers 2 and 3 from my list. A lack of dieting and exercising put me back a few weeks on the weight loss goals. I designed a few New Year's Resolutions to catch me back up. Matt and I decided to re-evaluate our resolutions on the first of every month (which we also reserve to talk about the budget), so we can remove, add, and switch things up as they get stale. Anyway, it's now back to wiping noses, washing hands, and braving the cold to switch the laundry for me. Have a happy and safe start to 2013!