I think this time of year can bring out the best and worst in us.
Sure, we celebrate the birth of Jesus and this holy, holy season. A time of preparation and beauty and light. We can shift the focus to Advent and try to minimize the materialism. We can scream “simpler season!” and “keep Christ in Christmas!” all the livelong day. We may embrace humble, spiritual traditions. Increase charitable giving.
We deck the halls and– let’s be honest– we don’t want it to be a hot mess.
We plan church clothes for Christmas and– face it– we all try to look a bit better than usual.
Christmas dinners are beautiful, and typically bountiful, affairs.
We take shot after shot after SHOT to get that perfect Christmas card photo.
But, in the end, this is what fills my camera…
I have to laugh. What else can you do? I don’t think there’s a single shot where someone isn’t moving and/or cracking up.
But it is perfect.
This? Is my reality.
Three children, between six and ten, who are always in motion and always cracking one another up.
For us, for 2015, this? Is picture perfect.
And I’m wishing you all a picture perfect season, too.
Can I be brutally honest?
I don’t know what to write,
I feel uninspired and unmotivated and that makes it difficult to put words to the page.
Still, I love this space and cherish your company and never want to neglect it. I worked HARD in October to nurture it more and, while I fell far short of writing every day, I did manage to write a fair bit.
That didn’t stop me from falling flat in November, however. Sigh…
Anyway, back to the topic at hand. A topic I chose completely randomly because it jumped into my mind…
In November of 2005, we got a phone call telling us that Thanksgiving would be at my sister-in-law’s. We were expected there by 1 PM and we were expected to bring a veggie platter and a cheese platter.
That’s how things happened back then. Living in a state with a mother-in-law and two sisters-in-law meant that, as the “married in woman”, I really got no say in how or where things were celebrated. This meant that, when they called and said, “You’re hosting Easter,” I just complied. It also meant that I never got a Mother’s Day at my own house. Looking back, I’m not sure if I wish I’d stood my ground more or if I’m glad I didn’t make waves over such things. Either way, this was Thanksgiving of 2005 and I was in charge of platters.
We drove to my sister-in-law’s house and spent the day there. I ate a LOT of rolls with cheese as I don’t really like traditional Thanksgiving fare, but I was in the second trimester of my second pregnancy. So I was hungry.
It was a long day. Holidays there typically were. It was well into the evening before we left on the journey home, a drive that took just under two hours.
It was bitterly cold.
I remember that more than anything. The thermometer on my Envoy read 0 degrees, exactly. Icy little snow flurries blew through the air– not enough to make the roads treacherous, but enough to obscure visibility for my husband, driving through the dark.
Twenty minutes from home, our 10-month-old stirred and fussed. He was hungry. The fussing turned to wailing. My already tense husband clenched the wheel and clenched his jaw. I craned my arm around sideways, shaking a Tic-Tac container in an attempt to distract my distraught baby boy.
I was so glad to get home.
We stepped in our cozy old farm house and I immediately realized something was wrong.
I could see my breath.
The thermostat temp said 46 degrees, though it had been set at 62.
Our furnace was broken.
There I was– pregnant, holding a baby, on the coldest Thanksgiving night I had ever experienced, out in the middle of Nowheresville, Indiana.
I changed A. and dressed him in two fleece sleepers. I prepared a bottle. I sat with him on the couch and my husband piled three blankets over both of us.
The thermostat read 42 degrees.
My husband called around to try to find someone to come out to service our furnace. (Service calls at 10 PM on Thanksgiving night are not cheap, in case you were wondering.)
But, by morning, our furnace was repaired and our home was toasty warm.
I’ve had people ask me how I felt that night– if I was scared. Overwhelmed. Nervous. If I cried. Called home. Got upset.
The truth is…
I was at peace.
I remember sitting on that couch, smiling softly up at my husband with our warm, sleepy-eyed baby on my lap, his baby sister kicking me from within.
It was cold, yes.
But I was loved.
I never doubted that.
I knew that we’d be fine and I knew that I’d married a man who would do everything in his power to ensure our safety and comfort. I knew that this was an inconvenience, but not a tragedy.
And I knew I had a whole bunch to be thankful for.
When I decided to take on this whole capsule wardrobe challenge, I knew right away that “three month” capsules wouldn’t work for my lifestyle and climate. But, as I told you all when I shared my Early Fall Capsule, that’s the beauty of this concept! You can totally tweak it and make it work for whatever your situation.
I loved my pared down wardrobe in September and October so much that I couldn’t wait to cull out a new one for November and December! Since all of November and more than half of December fall in the season of Autumn (or Fall), with just ten short days of Winter in there, I’m calling this one “Falling Into Winter.”
We’ve had some mild 60+ degree days so far this November, but we’ll undoubtedly see snow before the month is out. Again, the range can be dramatic around here, so it was important that I took that into account when choosing layering pieces. I also needed to remember that, while I keep my own house a chilly 60 degrees (or cooler) all the time, other places– like the school in which I work– are much warmer!
When all was said and done, here’s my entire Falling Into Winter Capsule:
… minus what I’m wearing today:
Interested in what’s in there?
Here we go:
- black t-shirt dress — this sucker will be in there EVERY season– it goes the distance!
- berry elbow-length sleeve ponte knit dress — this is a heavier weight knit and the color is beautiful for Autumn
- charcoal grey sequined 3/4-length sleeve knit dress — with stockings and heels, this one is perfect for fancy holiday parties, but with leggings and boots I can even wear it to teach
- dressy black blazer
- black open-front knit cardigan
- denim jacket
- red cardigan
- hunter green cardigan
- black & white polka-dotted cardigan (^^all three of these cardigans are lightweight)
- pale pink lightweight sweater with lace detail
- charcoal grey long-sleeved knit top with beaded detail
- emerald green long-sleeved knit top
- black tank
- grey tank
- black scoop-neck, 3/4 sleeve dressy knit top
- charcoal grey knit tunic top (in pic above)
- dull aqua long sleeved knit top
- drapey black knit pants (in pic above) — these are lightweight to keep me cool while teaching and look dressy with a pretty shoe, but they’re easy care
- “gold” skinny jeans– these are really more cream than gold, but have a very slight metallic sheen to them
- light-rinse, high-rise skinny jeans — LOVE them
- black — I shelled out more money for the Hue brand because these are a WORKHORSE in my wardrobe
- black & white tiger
- fall floral patterned — these and the tiger ones are Cents of Style and they are the SOFTEST leggings ever
- grey & black leopard
- grey maxi
- black “maxi” — it was called a maxi when I bought it, but it’s really not that long on me
- navy & hunter plaid knee-length skirt
For anyone counting, that’s 33 things! More than I had last time around, but I did count tanks and leggings in my total, which some people do not.
Overall, it’s a very manageable number and allows me lots of layering possibilities. There are a couple pieces– like that emerald green shirt and the red cardigan– that I fear might get the boot from my wardrobe permanently after this capsule because I’m learning that I don’t really feel comfortable in colors quite that vibrant. But I’m giving them a shot!
So there you go– the whole kit and caboodle. We’re only a couple weeks in so far, but I’m already loving it and finding innumerable possibilities for outfits. I don’t anticipate having a problem coming up with a combination for any occasion that happens to come my way.
I’m going to be putting up another capsule wardrobe post very soon, detailing the contents of my “Falling Into Winter” capsule. It’s going well, so far, and I’ve been very much enjoying transitioning into some colder weather pieces, while retaining some Early Fall faves.
In this capsule, like last, you’ll see my jeans. Technically, I have two pairs of jeans in this capsule, but only one is the more traditional “blue jean.” (The other pair is a cream-ish gold.) I really have no need for more than one pair of jeans since 1) I find leggings/skirts more comfortable and 2) I’m not allowed to wear them to teach. Sooo… one pair. Good enough for me.
What might surprise you about this one lone pair of blue jeans is how light a wash they are.
Not what you typically see these days.
Conventional wisdom says that the most universally flattering pair of jeans is mid-rise, dark rinse, and straight legged. Yet, here I am, with my high-rise, light wash, skinny legged jeans.
What the what?
Here’s the thing…
Darker washed jeans may, indeed, be more slimming and even more neutral. I won’t deny either of those things. I still think that deep indigo rinse jeans look amazing in lots of outfits.
But my jeans?
Oh, they’re just so soft…
In both color and feel, they are absolutely delightful. There’s not one iota of stiffness to this fabric and the tone is muted and subdued.
I’ve learned that these things matter to me.
The colors I feel most at home in?
Dusky teals. Muted berries. Mossy greens. Greyish violets.
Soft. Tender. Muted.
Texture? Matters a great deal to me. The first thing I do when I’m shopping in a brick and mortar store is TOUCH the garment. Rough seams, scratchy tags, or itchy fibers send me running for the hills.
Mid-rise pants might be flattering, but they’re not comfortable to me. No matter what size I try, I can’t stop feeling that waistband at an irritating level. I might be fine standing, but the moment I sit, bend, or curl up, I’m miserable. My high-rise jeans? Never bother me one bit.
So, while you’ll never, ever hear me criticize another’s choice to go with a darker wash or lower rise, my “atypical” jeans totally work for me.
And you’ll be seeing them in capsules to come.
I’ve told you all before: I’m a cradle Catholic.
That’s what they call those of us who were born, raised, and remain Catholic. Fitting, as we are also one of the Christian denominations that practices infant baptism.
Cradle Catholics grow up in the church, typically sitting there in the pew, right beside our parents. In general, Catholicism doesn’t lend itself toward “church nurseries” and the kids remain right there throughout the Mass.
We attend church school classes, which we often call CCD, and we go to Mass with varying regularity– some, like me, are raised in a family that attends every Sunday, even when away on vacation. Others might only grace the inside of a church for the major holidays. That’s just the way it goes.
But, either way, this is what I really want you to know–
The people who have arguably taught me the most about my faith? The people who have helped me resolve the tough questions? The people who’ve strengthened my convictions and helped me feel more confident in what I believe?
They’re not who you think.
They’re not the other cradle Catholics.
They’re not my former church school teachers.
They’re not even the priests.
Though all those people definitely had an important role in my faith journey, they’re not the ones I credit with helping me grow the most.
The ones who’ve helped me learn and grow and question the most?
Are the converts.
The converts– and the curious– teach us so very much.
I cannot begin to express my appreciation and gratitude to those who, as adults, begin to wonder about Catholicism and venture through that door. These are the people who allow themselves to explore and learn and decide, not as tiny children or adolescents or even teens, typically, but as grown-ups.
Their “CCD” experience is different. Their exploration is different. Their questions are different.
And they teach us so very much.
So today, as a most-definite cradle Catholic, I extend my sincerest thanks to the converts and the curious–
you make a beautiful difference in the world.
My children all attend Faith Formation (AKA CCD, AKA church school, AKA bible school) classes. We go every other Sunday at our parish center. I teach the one and only first grade class offered that day. (By contrast, there are three third grade classes– it all just depends on how many kids there are and how many kids a teacher feels qualified to handle.)
Anyway, that means I’m the one teaching my youngest child, but my older two have other teachers. They also have homework. It’s not much, mind you– just a chapter in their books to read and respond to.
I was flipping through one of those books at supper last night and came upon the following prompt:
“Imagine Jesus came to dinner to with your family. What one question would you ask him?”
Ooh, fun question, I thought!
I decided to pose it to my kids. All three of them, though it was in the fifth grader’s book. Honestly, I was looking forward to their cute questions. Things like…
- “What’s your favorite ice cream flavor?”
- “Did you always wear sandals?” or even,
- “What’s God like?”
You know– fun kid questions. I love those!
My youngest child kicked it off with, “How were you able to forgive the people who killed you?”
And I was like, “OOF.” That’s some serious stuff for a six-year-old!
And my 9-year-old pondered aloud, “Were you ever even tempted to sin?”
I ran that one over and over in my mind as my fifth grader piped up, “What trials or challenges did you face during the days you descended into hell?”
Let me just say this…
If Jesus ever shows up at my dinner table? He’s not getting away with any easy, “What’s your favorite pizza topping?”-type questions around here.
I’ve written a bit about the gifted population before. As a whole– I mean the whole “talented and gifted” category– it’s not really that small a percentage of the population. By actual definition, anywhere between six and ten percent of children should technically qualify for TAG programming. While obviously not the majority, neither is this a teeny tiny number.
This is important to note only because it doesn’t align with what some people consider “gifted.” Many people think that that label is for the truly exceptional and elite– the rare one (or) two in a million who can do amazing feats. But this isn’t really the case. Gifted and talented children, like any group of people, span a range of abilities and skill-sets.
Realizing this, it’s somewhat surprising, and maybe even alarming, how few school districts actually have gifted programming in place. Ours is actually a rarity, even here in Connecticut where schools tend to do very well in the rankings.
Still, almost every time budget talks come up, the position of gifted coordinator– held by ONE person who handles six schools!– is on the chopping block. It’s not considered a necessity and people have to fight to keep her in place.
I just learned she’ll be retiring in January.
Even though it wasn’t a tremendous shock, I felt a bit like I’d had the breath knocked out of me.
Scared that they won’t replace her. Scared that the position won’t make the budget cut. Scared that our gifted children will get tossed in the mix, assumptions made that “they’re smart– they’ll do just fine.”
It’s not fair.
I sound like a whiny little preschooler, but it’s just not.
These kids– they have the potential to do SO much. They are bright, motivated learners and explorers. They are frequently the ones who do great things that bring the positive sort of attention to the town.
Surely they are worth the salary of ONE person.
I fret about it. And I get irritated that it often seems like test scores are more important than these individual little spirits.
A’s standardized test scores came in the mail the other day. The SBAC. That stands for “smarter balanced blah blah blah.” I don’t know how much “smarter” it is, but I know that they put a whole lot of value on these scores.
I opened the envelope, vaguely curious, though unconcerned with the results.
Both language arts and math.
Honestly? I don’t really care. These numbers don’t change who my son is. Not one bit.
But in an age when so very much worth and value is placed on these SCORES that they produce and how they reflect on the town, I won’t lie to you…
A part of me really wants to just scrawl “YOU’RE WELCOME. Now don’t cut TAG funding.” across it and mail it right back to the superintendent’s office.
Maybe that’s what it’ll take to remind them why these kids are so important.
So, last Christmas, we got a kitten.
The kids named him Apollo and fell madly in love. They’re crazy about him and he rather likes them, too.
He also likes my husband just fine.
But, me? He loves me.
(The feeling is mutual, I must confess.)
But, here’s the thing…
Apollo? Is not really a “typical” cat.
“Your cat is a dog,” my husband told me dryly.
“Don’t be silly,” I replied.
“He comes when you call.”
“Well, yeah. Some cats do that.”
“He runs to the door any time you get home.”
“That’s because he’s a nice cat.”
“He ROLLS OVER ON HIS BACK FOR BELLY RUBS any time you come up the stairs.”
“Well, that is true, but he’s totally a cat! He’s fastidious about washing himself, litter-trained, self-sufficient, and doesn’t need a care-taker if we go away. We don’t have to walk him or let him out or bathe him or any of that. He doesn’t sniff bottoms or slobber on us or–”
“He licks your cheek. Right before gazing in your eyes.”
“Well, yeah. But he’s not slobbery.”
“Your cat. Is a dog.” he insisted.
I went back to folding laundry, then spotted Apollo in the other room.
“Come here boy!” I called, patting my right thigh.
He came at a run and sat at my feet.
Maybe I have a dog-cat.
Where would I be without you, oh, Greek Yogurt?
As a child, I wasn’t raised in a “yogurt loving” household. Let’s be honest, though– the 80s weren’t exactly yogurt’s hey-day. I remember ONE friend from my childhood who liked yogurt and I recall her mom saying that it was a deliberate choice she made to raise her loving yogurt because it was such a healthy source of good bacteria. Now, listen– that was some seriously woo-woo crunchy thinking for the 80s!
By the time I was in high school, I recognized yogurt as a necessary– and not altogether repulsive– compliment to antibiotics. I knew eating yogurt helped keep other bad things from happening in my body, so it was worth it. Also, by high school, TCBY had swept the nation and we had all learned the joy of frozen yogurt and, good heavens, that was probably the greatest thing that had ever happened to yogurt!
From there, I went through fits and spurts with my yogurt eating. I was a really big fan of those Yogurt “Whips”, especially the chocolate raspberry variety. I also ate my share of “light” varieties packed full of aspartame during early adulthood.
I’ve made my own yogurt before. I’ve bought big ol’ tubs of plain. Also– vanilla. And, yes, I still buy cups of flavored stuff sometimes. (I try to avoid any sort of “go-gurt” type product mainly because, having worked in an elementary school? I know what a nightmare those things are. I’m going to give it to you straight– about 12% of your little ones can open those independently. The other 88%? Need help. Every. Single. Time.)
Anyway, it wasn’t until the last couple years, when, as my kids grew, my life became increasingly more hectic, that I discovered Greek Yogurt.
Here’s why I love it:
1. Greek Yogurt is thicker. It has substance. It’s rich and feels decadent. It’s not slippery and slimy and it doesn’t glop off the spoon.
2. Greek Yogurt has more protein than its counterpart and, thus, is more filling.
3. In a pinch– and, yes, I know this isn’t ideal– Greek Yogurt can act as a quick meal. Again, I wouldn’t recommend just yogurt for breakfast or lunch on a regular basis but, every now and again? It works. And it keeps me from feeling totally hangry for a good, long time.
4. The plain stuff is an awesome sour cream substitute. Got a recipe that calls for sour cream? You can totally use Greek Yogurt. Even my grandma’s sour cream cookie recipe comes out beautifully when made with Greek Yogurt.
5. And, finally, not to be overly dramatic, but… GREEK YOGURT HAS KEPT ME ALIVE THESE PAST FEW DAYS. For the first time in my whole entire life, I was taken down by strep throat. Ouch! My glands swelled up something awful (which the nurse practitioner said meant my immune system was working properly– thanks, immune system!) and my throat was so sore and tight, I could barely swallow. The only thing I could seem to slide down? Greek Yogurt.
So, thanks, Greek Yogurt. I’ve eaten more than my fair share of you lately. You’ve kept me on my feet while causing minimal discomfort. You’re probably also helping my system along as I now take these antibiotics. How about that? Hero times two!
Three cheers for Greek Yogurt!
(How do you like your yogurt?)
So, there’s this article flying around social media these days. It has to do with a photographer who took shots of people together and then edited out the phones from their hands.
The result? Pictures of people who appear to be ignoring each other for no apparent reason.
People on social media are appalled! Dear God, friends, this is AWFUL! If this doesn’t bother you, I don’t know what will! We are a TERRIBLE society that is chained to our phones– break free! Be part of the solution!
I firmly believe we ARE all a bit too tied to technology. I believe very, very firmly that we would benefit from more time unplugged and more time out in nature. Exploring, breathing, conversing, discovering… these are beautiful pursuits that can be sought sans cell phones, thankyouverymuch.
But… this outrage? I don’t get it.
Here’s the deal:
People do other stuff, even when they’re together.
They check the weather. The go through recipes. They read letters. They read newspapers. (Or books! God forbid I read a book in my husband’s presence!) They make appointments while children are at their feet. They talk to other grown-ups while the children entertain themselves.
They do stuff. Stuff other than gazing into one another’s eyes and having deep discourse.
AND THAT IS OKAY.
Who decided that these shots depicted how these people spend 100% of their days? Why are we in a sudden panic/outrage over this?
I don’t know. I’m not.
Sure, at first blush it might look depressing to see a couple lying in bed together, backs to each other, not interacting at all. But… really? If we put books in those hands instead of phones, would we be sharing it like wildfire? Would everyone freak out about these crappy people who dared to read books in bed rather than chat or tangle or whatever the heck they’re apparently supposed to be doing?
I suspect no.
I suspect this is a visceral reaction to the fact that it’s a PHONE.
Again, I fully support spending more time unplugged. I think it’s a great goal to turn off the technology and do more out in the real world. That’s awesome.
But this series of photos?
I just can’t get all bent out of shape over it.
That’s okay. There are plenty of other things out there to get me fired up…