Thursday, February 28, 2013

Let's Talk Guns

On Saturday, my husband, my brother, and I took a handgun safety course.  David and I bought a gun last year for home protection and I was very excited to learn more about my gun and basic gun safety.  This class is a requirement for obtaining a concealed carry permit, but I haven't decided if I will in fact apply for one; the purpose of the class was to be a safe and informed gun owner.  

If I do decide to get a permit, it will be for future use, since I can't figure out how to safely carry a loaded gun without it being a safety hazard for a curious toddler that likes to play in mama's purse.  We have a revolver and revolvers do not have safeties.  If I leave the gun unloaded in my purse, it defeats the purpose of having it on hand for dangerous situations that may arise.  I have to balance protecting my family and keeping my baby safe.

The class was great.  The morning was the "classroom" portion, which consisted of learning about the types of handguns, safety rules, basics of shooting (i.e. stance), laws pertaining to carrying handguns, etc.  I wasn't really looking forward to spending my Saturday in the classroom, but it was fascinating.  The time went by so fast and I wasn't bored for a second.

The afternoon was on the shooting range.  The instructor took us through the basics, from shooting a gun for the first time (there were some people there that had never fired a gun before), reloading, and some basic drills that simulated some situations we may encounter (home invasion, shooting one handed if I were to be hurt or holding a child/flashlight/phone).  Of course, safety was a main focus and the instructor was very adamant about always pointing the gun downrange and keeping your finger on the frame of the gun until ready to fire.  I feel much more confident with my gun now and with my ability to use it in an emergency situation.  I will need to practice often to keep that level of confidence up and get even more familiar with our gun so I can protect my family if need be.  In the event that I ever have to use it, shooting needs to be second nature because it will be an incredibly high stress situation.

Most importantly, I had so much fun!  I grew up in a "gun family", but when I became a teenager, I was too busy to go shooting with my dad anymore.  It's been years since I've been shooting and I forgot just how fun it is.  It's so challenging to push yourself to shoot accurately and to simulate high stress situations in which your accuracy may mean the difference between life and death for yourself and your loved ones. 

My dad is an avid hunter.  He's also a huge advocate of handguns for home safety.  My brother and I grew up with guns and gun safety.  From a young age, we were taught the power of guns and knew that they were serious business.  They were never an object of curiosity or "forbidden fruit".  David and I hope to have the same approach with our children.  We will use the utmost safety measures to keep our little ones away from guns.  But when they are old enough, they will be taught how to use a gun, we will take them shooting, we will teach them gun safety and self defense.  They will learn that guns are not to be feared, but that they are tools that can be used in certain situations and with certain safety measures.

**Disclaimer: This post is not an argument for or against gun control, handguns, etc.  I'm not interested in opening that debate, so if you comment to that effect, your comment will be deleted.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Perfect Health Diet: Drastic Diet Change

David and I recently embarked on a drastic diet change.  How drastic?  I went from being a vegetarian (formerly a vegan) to eating lots of meats and eschewing some of my previous staples, grains and beans.  And this sweet tooth cut out all sugar.  The diet change has been drastic, but so have been the results:

1.  I am less hungry.  If I skip a meal, I'm not starving.  I don't need snacks between meals.

2.  I've lost several pounds.  By eating a high fat diet.  Eating fat doesn't make you fat.  (It takes a lot of retraining to eat high fat foods without feeling guilty.)

3.  My teeth feel great.  This sounds weird, but my teeth would hurt quite a bit before the diet change, not exactly a full-on toothache, but uncomfortable, you know?  That feelings is gone (and I notice it return when I do eat that are not part of the diet).  And my teeth don't feel as dirty either, if that makes sense.  The grime that seems to accumulate between brushings just isn't there anymore.

4. I don't have cravings anymore.  Seriously!  After I got past the first two-three weeks, I wasn't craving sugar or carbs like I once did.  Of course, if you put a piece of chocolate cake in front of me, I'm going to want to eat it, but I don't just crave sweets out of nowhere.

Ok, so what is this miracle diet?  

The Perfect Health Diet is a high fat, moderate protein, low carb, no sugar diet.   If you've heard of primal/paleo diets, it's quite similar with the addition of a few select carbohydrates (white rice, potatoes, sweet potatoes) and dairy (milk isn't suggested, but sour cream, cheese, etc. is).  Here's a breakdown of the PHD food groups (click to enlarge):

The idea behind the Perfect Health Diet is that early humans ate this way for much longer than humans have eaten "modern" diets which include cultivated crops, so our bodies haven't had time to adapt to these dietary newcomers.  I'm still in the midst of reading the book partly because it's very academic in nature, but I really appreciate that there is a depth of research behind this diet and that it's not claiming to be something "new" but rather a return to a very old way of eating. 

We started this new diet to correspond with the new year, so we are almost two weeks in.  It took a little bit of adjustment and a different mindset to figure out what to eat at first, but now that we are in the thick of it, we've found our new diet to be extremely satisfying and easy to follow.  I'm planning some future posts to share meal ideas, recipes, FAQs, and tricks & tips we come up with as we get even more comfortable with our new way of eating.  If you want to learn more, you can check out the Perfect Health Diet website, read the book (I love it in digital format so I can quickly search for different topics), and check out my Pinterest Perfect Health Diet board.

Monday, February 25, 2013

1 bracelet-1 child-1 week of food (& a giveaway)

Have you heard of Give Jewelry?  
The concept is simple.

Give Jewelry sells beautiful bracelets...

...handcrafted by Bali artisans...

...that feed orphans in Bali.

For every bracelet you purchase, one child is fed for an entire week.
(You can read more about the story behind Give here.)

Give Jewelry is going to be our go-to women's gift source for the future.  Not only are you giving the recipient a lovely piece of jewelry, you are also donating a week's worth of food to an orphan in their name.  In addition the pieces are affordable (starting around $10 and going up to $70+ for silver bracelets), fashionable, and unique.  The items in the online shop are constantly changing and since they are handmade, they are one of a kind and high quality.  Here's a peek at the items I chose:

(the leather bracelet is from Give)

I've been wanting a few great stackable bracelets and these perfectly fit the bill!  The quality is phenomenal, especially for the price.  Can you believe these bracelets together were under $40 including shipping?  And that money is going to feed orphans?  It's almost to good to be true.

Please visit Give Jewelry, check out the lovely bracelets, and read about the kids and the mission.  Then order some beautiful new jewelry and feed some orphans!  My favorite "product" is the bracelet of the month club

In order to spread the word about Give and their mission, they are hosting a giveaway on Messy Wife, Blessed Life.  Entered to win a $40 credit to give jewelry on the PromoSimple below.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

What I Wore Sunday: Snowstorm Attire & The Transfiguration

 skirt: MNG Jeans | sweater: Gap
leggings: unknown | boots: Big Buddha
glasses: Anna Sui | necklace: inherited

It's snowing outside.  Like, really snowing.  The first real snowstorm of the season happens to also be a huge one.  We really need the moisture here, so I'm thankful.  My dad took us all to Mass today in his big truck since the roads were pretty bad and the snow is still coming down thick.  It was nice to go all together.  My dad isn't Catholic so he doesn't go all that often and my mom often goes to a different Mass than us (often at 7am, waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay to early for me).  I'm sure it would be so much easier to take care of Lulu during Mass with more adults to keep her entertained, but we didn't get to test that out today because she slept 90% of Mass (Lulu Mass behavior: A+). 

It was hard to find something today that would be warm, breast-feeding friendly, and still dressy enough for Mass.  I usually don't worry about wearing breastfeeding-friendly clothes anymore because we rarely breastfeed out of the house (Lucia's down to nursing only 3 times a day or less), but she's gotten used to nursing during Mass (and it's an easy way to keep her quiet for a while).  So Sunday outfits still require that extra consideration.  Unfortunately, my black boots got a rip in them recently so I had to throw them out, which limited the outfits that work with the boots I have.  I was pretty happy with this outfit in the end though, other than the fact that I couldn't step in and out of my dad's big truck with this skirt.  He had to literally lift me it.

Every week during Lent, I'm going to add a spiritual reflection or prayer to WIWS.  Last week, I shared the Diving Mercy Chaplet.  Today, I'm reflecting on the Gospel reading, the Transfiguration:
Jesus took Peter, John, and James and went up the mountain to pray.While he was praying his face changed in appearance and his clothing became dazzling white. And behold, two men were conversing with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his exodus that he was going to accomplish in Jerusalem.
Peter and his companions had been overcome by sleep, but becoming fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him. As they were about to part from him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good that we are here; let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” But he did not know what he was saying.
While he was still speaking, a cloud came and cast a shadow over them, and they became frightened when they entered the cloud. Then from the cloud came a voice that said,
“This is my chosen Son; listen to him.”
After the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. They fell silent and did not at that time  tell anyone what they had seen. (Luke 9:28-36)
Today's reading really spoke to me.  The past few years, my relationship with God has been this: I talk, I expect God to listen.  This is what it should be: God talks, I listen, I obey, I give thanks.  Oops.  Oh, Lord, You spoke so clearly to me today: "Listen to Him."

My Lenten goals are evolving as Lent goes on, and I'm glad.  That means I'm growing spiritually.  Now I have something to add: silence.
"In the silence of the heart God speaks. If you face God in prayer and silence, God will speak to you. Then you will know that you are nothing.  It is only when you realize your nothingness, your emptiness, that God can fill you with Himself. Souls of prayer are souls of great silence." - Blessed Mother Teresa
How to you find inner silence in order to hear God's word?  I'd love suggestions, this is in an area that I struggle with (not only with God, I have a hard time being quiet and listening to everyone in my life).

P.S. I opened up an online accessories shop, Blessed Life Boutique, this week through Kitsy Lane and would love to have you check it out!  If you want to look around my new boutique without officially registering as a customer, I set up a GUEST EMAIL and PASSWORD so you can take a peek. (If you decide to buy something though, make sure you log out of the guest account and register before purchasing! If you want to get sales updates and coupons codes, the best way to do so is to register as a customer!) Currently, there is a 15% off coupon for all customers, if you want to find out more, register as a customer and you'll get an email with the information

Guest Email-
Guest Password- guest123

I'm linking up to Fine Linen and Purple's What I Wore Sunday linkup.  Check it out for more church attire inspiration.

Friday, February 22, 2013

7 Quick Takes Friday (80)

--- 1 ---
Bad mother, exhibit one: I locked Lucia in the car on Monday.  It was stressful.  Thank goodness it was just in front of our house, the weather was a perfect medium, and my parents were there to keep me calm and call for a locksmith.  She was in the car a total of 40 minutes, and was happy as a clam the first 35.  Needless to say, even after the car was opened and keys retrieved, we didn't leave the house that day. 

--- 2 ---

Bad mother, exhibit two: Lucia climbed out of her crib yesterday during naptime and I didn't notice for hours.   I put her in her crib for nap, she screamed, but eventually played with some toys, then quieted down and fell asleep.  She woke up and I could here her playing for a while and since she was playing so nicely, I left her to play by herself.  Finally, I went in to get her and she was on the floor!  And had been there since the beginning of nap because she I had heard her playing with a toy that wasn't in her crib (she has a similar one that I put in the crib with her so I didn't notice until I went to get her).  I can't imagine that she climbed down the outside gracefully, so that means my baby fell all that way and I didn't run in right away to comfort her.  Thank goodness her room is mostly child-proofed (although her furniture isn't anchored to the walls yet) and she didn't get into any mischief at all.  She wasn't hurt and I acted normally the rest of the afternoon, but I'm still a bit rattled.

--- 3 ---

That said, we are in desperate need of some major nap time advice.  Lucia still takes two naps a day.  Usually, we put her in her crib, she fusses for a few minutes (or not at all), then is out like a light.  She often wakes up after an hour or hour and a half, fusses/plays for a few minutes and falls back asleep.  When she wakes up for good, she'll play by herself in her crib for a while (we usually don't leave her in there for long).  It was working wonderfully for us.  

The past few days though, Lulu's been screaming when we put her in her crib.  I've tried other more gentle ways of putting her to sleep - staying with her in her room, cuddling with her in our bed, nursing her, rocking her, etc. - but none of them have worked.  If we don't just leave her in her crib crying, she won't end up sleeping at all.  I didn't like leaving her screaming, but she needs to sleep and I couldn't find any alternatives.  We lowered her crib so I doubt she'll be getting out again any time soon, but this incident made me realize that we have to find another way.  What worked for you?  I prefer to use gentler parenting methods, but I'm willing to try anything that will work.  Also, keep in mind that she goes down for naps much better for David and the babysitter than she does for me. 

--- 4 ---

Which leads me to my goals for Lent.  I really only have one: be a better mother.  I didn't give up something specific, although I have decided to limit my internet time to when Lucia is sleeping (I haven't done the best job of this so far, but I am trying).  I also want to increase my face-to-face time with her.  I spend quite a bit of time with her, and much of that time you could even say that I am playing with her, but I'm often distracted doing something else at the same time.  I need to be spending more time looking into her eyes, letting her see that mama is looking, mama is paying attention, mama cares and delights in her.

How can a mama not delight in her?

She's just so much fun.
--- 5 ---

Come visit my brand new accessory shop, Blessed Life BoutiqueI opened it just a few days ago via Kitsy Lane and I am so excited!  The jewelry and accessories are so trendy. feminine, and affordable.  The items in my shop are hand-picked by me and I can even choose specific items for my flash sale each week (this week's flash sale is feather & arrow inspired).  I'd love if you would sign up as a customer.  I have $20 off a $45 purchase coupons for the first 10 customers that sign up.  (15% off coupons are available to everyone right now!)  I'd love if you'd sign up as a customer and take a look at what I have to offer.
--- 6 ---

If you are interested in starting your own Kitsy Lane boutique, you can do so hereIt's super easy to start up (it only took me a few minutes), is absolutely free, and involves only as much time investment as you are willing to put into it.  Obviously, the more you promote and the more customers you get, the more you'll earn, but if you wanted to only put in a few hours a month, you can still earn money.  The best part, it's super fun to pick out accessories for your own shop and style outfits to show off your pieces:

arrows, hearts, arrows

--- 7 ---

If you are still looking for something for your family to do for Lent, may I suggest collecting your change for KaiaHer family needs help fundraising the cost of her adoption.  If you would like to donate to this young lady and her family, you can do so hereBetween now and February 28, all proceeds from ad space on Messy Wife, Blessed Life will go toward Kaia's adoption fund.  If you have a blog or business, this is a great way to gain exposure as well as help this sweet little girl!  It's a win-win. See ad space options here.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

How I Make Money Online

While I certainly don't make enough money online to call it a salary, I do make enough to supplement our income in a noticeable way. I've shared some of the ways I've earned money in the past, but they have evolved over time as I've learned what's worth it, what's too time consuming, and what really works.  Here are my top "money makers".

Reachli - This is fairly new (as in I started using it in mid-January) but I've already earned and cashed out over $30.  Definitely my new favorite money maker.  This is not only for bloggers but for anyone who uses social media.  Once you are approved as a publisher, you can browse the available campaigns, and tweet, post on facebook, or pin on twitter any that are interesting to you.  You get paid for every click on the link.  I love this because I don't have to "sell out" at all.  I only share items I'm truly interested in - cute clothing or jewelry, innovative products, or interesting blogs.  If I don't like it, I don't share it.  If I do like it and share it, I find that it's typically interesting to my readers as well.  Totally win-win. 

I've also signed up for a similar website, Viraliti, just a few days ago so I haven't had a chance to really try it out yet.  It's taking signups for its waiting list right now, it might be worth getting on the list.

Swagbucks - The old standby!  I don't earn as much as I used to, because I don't devote as much time to it as I once did (only five minutes or so every other day), but I still make enough for it to be worth it ($5-10 a month).  To learn more about Swagbucks, check out my more detailed post here.

GiftHulk - Similar to Swagbucks, it's the newest rewards site on the scene.  It seems to take longer to earn points than Swagbucks, but again, if I only spend 15 minutes or so on it a week in exchange for $5-10 a month, it's worth it to me.

Ebates and ShopAtHome - I guess this is technically saving money instead of earning money, but if I'm getting cash back from purchases I would make anyway, I consider it extra money!  If you shop online, even occasionally, you need to use Ebates and/or ShopAtHome.  Both have a similar premise: if you plan to buy something online, first go to the Ebates/ShopAtHome website.  Search for the online store there and enter it through the Ebates/ShopAtHome link.  Once you make your purchase, you will get a certain percentage of your purchase deposited into your Ebates/ShopAtHome account.  Once you reach a certain amount, you get a check in the mail.  Nearly every place I shop online (even many smaller specialized stores) have a cash back value on either Ebates or ShopAtHome.  

I suggest joining both since some stores are only available on one or the other.  ShopAtHome matches cash back values of 110% so if you check both sites and Ebates has a higher cash back percentage, you can buy through ShopAtHome and tell them about the better offer at Ebates and get back even more.  (I use ShopAtHome more because of this, but have found some stores that are only available at Ebates. Ebates also has a lower cash-out threshold - only $5 versus $20 at ShopAtHome.) 
Example: Ebates currently has 6% cash back at Kohl's while ShopAtHome only has 3%.  If I go ahead and order through ShopAtHome and submit information proving that Ebates had higher cash back, I will get 6.6% back from ShopAtHome.  On our recent $150 big girl car seat purchase at Kohl's, that would have meant $9 back from Ebates or $9.90 back from ShopAtHome.  Even getting $0.25 per purchase for small orders adds up over time. 
I kick myself anytime I forget to check these sites before purchasing something.  Another bonus is that these sites show coupon codes that will help you save even more on your purchase!  If I can get free shipping, usually it's cheaper for me to buy something online with coupon codes and my cash back than it is to buy it in store (and I don't have to tell you busy moms that it's WAY more convenient).

For more money making/money saving tips, click here.

If you have any money makers, I'd love to hear about them! Thanks!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Five Tips for First Year Teachers

I'm halfway through my first year of teaching, so I'm certainly not an expert.  As I delve into second semester, there are five things I'm doing differently:

1. Don't bring work home.   If I don't get work done at school, it's not getting done.  I can't count the number of times I've brought work home to be brought back to work the next day incomplete. When I get home, I have a different set of responsibilities as wife and mother and these take priorityI have a lot less stress and a lot more meaningful family time when I completely leave work at work.  Sometimes this means that I stay at work an extra hour or two do get it done before I head homeI work much more efficiently in that time than I do trying to multitask at home and when I get home, I don't have those nagging "to-dos" in the back of my mind. 

2. Grade work on the day it is turned in. It is so easy to get behind with grading.  Unless I have to leave work right away for some reason, I get all the day's grading done and in the gradebook before I leave.  Not only does this prevent me from getting backed up, but ensures that I can always talk to students and parents about achievement with the most up-to-date information.  If you wait a few days to grade something, you won't realize until it's too late that many students didn't grasp essential skillsIt's much harder to backtrack a week than it is to reinforce concepts the next day.  And remember, it's okay to have students grade their own papers in class and it's fine to spot check homework.  You're not a bad teacher if you only a give completion grades.  It's even ok to NOT GRADE small assignments at all.

3.  Ask for help.  Most of the teachers I work with have been at the school for 10+ years (some over 20).  I am by far the youngest and most inexperienced teacher on the staff.  So I came in thinking I needed to prove myself and not wanting to show weakness by admitting difficulties or asking for help.  BIG MISTAKEMy coworkers are very willing to help and I missed out on the opportunity to glean some much-needed wisdom from them.  Asking for help is not admitting weakness, it's seeking knowledge.  I've noticed that the best teachers in my school ask for advice and constantly brainstorm with others.  In fact, I'm often asked for ideas because they know I'm fresh out of college and have learned new educational theories and methods. 

4. Over-plan. Although this is time consuming (and new teachers are short on time), making a detailed plan makes a huge difference.  Having a class that flows well and moves quickly from one activity to another limits behavioral problems.  Have ideas for activities in case the lesson is shorter than you planned (I found it's difficult as a new teacher to determine just how long a lesson will take).  Script how you will explain difficult concepts.  Anticipate questions that may be asked and prepare the answers.  Think about a seating chart and desk placement.  Have partners or groups already selected.  Instead of planning to write something on the board as you go, think about having a PowerPoint ready with the information.  I promise you won't need to do this forever, but being overprepared will give you confidence and will nip minor issues at the bud.  As a new teacher, small hiccups can easily snowball. 

5. Be kind to yourself. You will have hard days.  You will plan lessons that you think are fantastic only to have them blow up on you.  That's ok.  You have an entire year with these children and I promise they will leave your class with knowledge they didn't have when they started.  No one expects a teacher to be perfect, so don't expect yourself to be.  Like anything else, becoming a master teacher takes experience.  Take time to care for yourself physically, mentally, and spiritually.  Prevent teacher burn-out by having a life outside of school (and keeping school at school).  You may have to deal with difficult parents and coworkers, but don't let those interactions define you.  Do your best, forgive yourself for the rest.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

February Sponsor Spotlight

I'd love for you to meet February's sponsors.  Because this is the month of LOVE, I've added a little note at the bottom of each spotlight (in red) saying why I love these blogs and businesses.

Meet Jessica.
Wife to Steve. Mother to Stephen & Paul.  
Devout Catholic. Former teacher. Book lover.

I am a stay-at-home mom to two boys (2 years old and 8 months old) who wanted to help provide for my family. As a former elementary teacher and lifelong book lover, Usborne Books & More is the perfect fit. Our books are high-quality, exciting, engaging, and the books kids love to read! I'd love to help you expand your child's library or join the Usborne family!

I love the quality of Usborne books!  And as a Spanish teacher, I love that they have interesting Spanish titles (not just translations of English favorites).  Definitely my new favorite go-to gift source for the kids in our life.

facebook | shop

Meet EpicLinen.
Cozy home. Invaluable linen beauty. Inspired by simple designs. Delicacy of cuisine. In love with Provence.

Online Linen Boutique provides the finest linen production manufactured in Europe. EpicLinen adores vintage, shabby chic and rustic country charm. All EpicLinen’s production is dedicated to create cozy home and wellbeing of the family!

I never realized how much I loved linen until I checked out this shop!  A few linen pieces are an essential for adding just a bit of class and luxury to any household - napkins, a tablecloth, sheets, and adorable baby booties!

Meet Liz.
Wife. Mother. Crafter. Wanna be chef. Former teacher.

I'm a cradle Catholic who enjoys blogging about my life as a wife and mother. 
When I'm not blogging, you can find me barefoot wandering around the beach.

Tales from Astoria is just so comfortable, it's like reading a note from your best friend.  A current must-read is her Lenten Meal Plan Monday linkup with ideas for those meatless Friday meals.

Meet Kinsi.
Clearly Catholic. Professional homemaker. Military spouse.
Infrequent freelance writer. Hula hoop prodigy.

Anima Kinsi is the place where we can be pals.  You'll find a weekly Marian link-up, weekly recipes, and weekly fashion posts.  I'm not trying to move any mountains; just being me.  I'm a milspouse who'd rather not talk about being a milspouse.  Four hometowns in three years of marriage: we'll leave it at that.  In the words of the Anima Christi, "Ne permittas me separari a te."

Kinsi posts three things that I love: fashion posts, recipes, and reflections on the Virgin Mary.  And she's super sweet besides.  What's not to love?

Polyvore | blog 

Meet Kelley.
Vocational wife. Professional nurse.  
Temporary student. Amateur writer/photographer/chef.

We've had an exciting marriage so far living in 4 different states and 2 countries since our wedding day.  You can read more about our adventures at home and on the road plus book and movie reviews, recipes, and a hodge-podge of other faith-based thoughts.

Kelley has so many amazing stories from living (and traveling) throughout the world.  I always feel on the edge of my seat waiting to hear about her next adventure.  And I totally trust her opinions on books. 

Meet Amanda.
 Daughter of God. Passionate Catholic. Youth Minister. 

I’m passionate about the Catholic faith, ministry to teens, young adults and women in particular, finding God everywhere, and blogging/writing.  On a day off, chances are that you can find me somewhere in the Rocky Mountains, soaking in God’s created world, or plotting my next road trip to see yet another cathedral.  My blog is about all of my passions and reminding people that we are all worthy of God’s unconditional (Agape) love!

Amanda and I share a love of the Rocky Mountains and our home state of Colorado.   Her positive attitude and love of God are infectious and every single one of her blog posts leaves me with something deeper to ponder.

Meet Lilla Rose consultant Anjanette Barr.
Beautiful, Comfortable, Unique Hair Jewelry.

Lilla Rose sells hair accessories for all types and lengths of hair. The most popular item is the patented Flexi Clip, which is made from music wire and other quality materials to comfortably hold your beautiful hair all day.

Having recently had the chance to review Flexi clips, I adore them!  I wear a Flexi clip at least three days a week and feel that my hair looks different and adorable each time.  I'm saving up for a Lilla Rose hair accessories collection!

Won't you go say hi to these lovely ladies and find your own reasons to love them?

Monday, February 18, 2013

Spacing Babies

When Becky hosted a Women Connect linkup a few months ago, I wrote the post I didn't want to write about struggling financially.  The linkup prompted me to write about something that had been on my mind for a long time, but I had been too {scared, nervous, embarrassed, depressed} to share.  It was  such a relief to let it all out.  I received support and feedback from women (and a few men) who had been there or who were currently in a similar situation, and left feeling encouraged.  Becky's hosting another link up and once again I'm writing that post, the one I've half written and erased a dozen times in the last few weeks, the elephant in the room.

For Valentine's Day, my parents bought my 14 month old, Lucia, her first baby doll.  She's a natural little mama, feeding her baby a bottle and patting her to sleep.  Watching my baby love mother her baby doll brings me to tears.  She would be an amazing big sister.

I once read that the best gifts you can give your child are siblings.  Companions.  Life long friends.  Shoulders to cry on.  Partners in crime.  Others who know where you've come from and really, truly understand because they've been there too.  I totally believe that - my little brother, my only sibling, means the world to me - and I'm so ready to give Lucia a little brother or sister.

My body has had ample time to recover from childbirth.  While there will always be new challenges, I feel like I've got this motherhood thing down and I have so much extra love to share with another little one.  I know this isn't exactly a common feeling, but I was ready to get pregnant again when Lulu was five minutes old. 

Lucia just started walking.  We're only nursing a few times a day now.  She's so independent.  Much more toddler than baby.  I love holding my little girl's hand and going for a walk with her.  I love watching her touch her toes as she listens to "Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes" for the millionth time.  I love scooping her up and hugging and kissing her when she falls.  I thought I wouldn't love any stage as much as the baby stage, but I have loved each one just as much!  I don't wish Lucia was still a baby, but I feel my heart and home is ready for a baby again.

My husband feels the same way.  We've always wanted a large family.  Since we first started dating, our "ideal" number of children has been stuck at five, but sometimes I think I want even moreWhen I became a mother, it felt like the most natural thing in the world to me.  I was finally the person God created me to be.  I've wanted to be a mother since I held my first baby doll and it has been everything I thought it would be.

Are there hard days?  Absolutely!  Are there times when I feel like the worst mother that has ever or will ever live? Yep.  But those moments are fleeting for me.  I recently read an article that said parents report happiness at lower levels than non-parents and I just did. not. get. that. at. all.  The joy I have as a mother cannot even compare to my life before baby.

So if we are going to have a large family, it makes sense that we would start trying to conceive soon.  We are mentally and physically ready to grow our family.  But financially, we just aren't there.  David is working part-time while he continues to look for a job in his field.  I work part-time as a teacher.  And we live with my parents.

I'm not one to think they you have to have an established career, a house, and a large savings account in order to have a baby.  We had Lucia when we were living on David's grad school stipend and it was the best thing we've ever done.  {Yes, she was planned.}  Money was tight, but we were super thrifty (against popular belief, babies have very little material needs, especially in those early months, and nearly everything can be found secondhand).  We made it work.  

Technically, we could make it work with another little one right now.  With Lucia's hand-me-downs, I can't think of a single thing we would need for the next baby.  While my parents think we should be more financially stable before growing our family, they would be thrilled to have another grandchild.  They abhor the thought of us moving out and not spending time with Lucia every day, so they would actually LOVE having the next grandchild in their home.  Without having to pay rent, we are able to make it financially and can even save a little.  David has great health insurance (and the price doesn't increase with additional children).

Yet despite the fact that we could get by, we know that we just aren't in the right place.  And that hurts.  Although my parents would love to have us here forever, we are ready to have a place of our own, even if it's just a small apartment.  While we are making ends meet, we are still carrying around quite a bit of financial stress, which would only be exacerbated by the responsibility of providing for another little one.  If my husband gets a job soon, that may mean yet another out of state move and I'm not sure how I would handle a baby and a toddler in a new place without a support system.

That's where we are now, anyway.  We use Natural Family Planning, so we evaluate monthly whether we have serious reasons to continue to avoid pregnancy or whether we can be less strict about abstaining on fertile days.  Maybe next month will bring a job for David or just a change of heart.

Two years apart seems like the perfect spacing for siblings, but I'm making my peace with the fact that that might not be God's plan for our first two babies.  Who can plan that perfectly anyway?  Even with charting my cycles and knowing exactly when I ovulate, it took us four months to conceive Lucia.   Making babies isn't an exact science, it's an act of faith, hope, and love. 

Sunday, February 17, 2013

What I Wore Sunday: Variation on an Old Favorite + The Divine Mercy

 skirt: Casual Corner Annex | cami: LOFT Outlet | cardigan: Sweater Project
heels: Payless | earrings & necklace: Charlotte Russe
bangles: unknown | leather bracelet: Give Jewelry

We've all been feeling icky this week, so I went for another variation on a comfortable favorite: this skirt, with a cami and short cardigan.  You can see other variations here and here.  I played it up this week with some fun jewelry that hasn't left my jewelry box since college.  Except for the leather bracelet.  That's new and part of a review/giveaway I'll have up hopefully later today (depends on how long nap time is).  Each bracelet bought from Give Jewelry feeds one orphan for one week, so it's jewelry you can feel good about wearing.

Lucia gets a C for Mass behavior today, but David thinks I'm an easy grader.  We did have to take her out several times, but it was mostly for talking, not for actual naughtiness.  And she nursed through almost the entire Eucharistic Prayer, so that's a definite plus.  

We prayed the Divine Mercy chaplet at the beginning of Mass.  I first learned about the Divine Mercy during my Confirmation class and fell in love with it.  If you aren't familiar with it, it is prayed on the Rosary beads ("But shouldn't replace the Rosary!" exclaims my husband) and promises great mercy at the hour of death.

1. Start with the Sign of the Cross, 1 Our Father, 1 Hail Mary and The Apostles Creed.
2. On the Our Father beads: Eternal Father, I offer You the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Your dearly beloved Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world.

3. On the Hail Mary beads: For the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.
(Repeat step 2 and 3 for all five decades).

4. End with: Holy God, Holy Mighty One, Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us and on the whole world. (three times)
Read more about the Divine Mercy here If you are still looking for a way to deepen your Lenten devotion, the Diving Mercy chaplet might be exactly what you need.

Coming up this week:

Monday - Women Connect: Spacing Babies
Tuesday - Sponsor Spotlight
Wednesday - Five Tips for First Year Teachers
Thursday - How I Make (& Save) Money Online
Friday - 7 Quick Takes

I'm linking up to Fine Linen and Purple's What I Wore Sunday linkup.  Check it out for more church attire inspiration.