popping in

It's been almost a week since I've posted anything, and especially since my 31 days of gracious living, that's felt like a long time. Josh has used some vacation days, so we've been enjoying him being home all week. And Josh's sister and her husband came into town for Thanksgiving, so we've been spending lots of time over at my in-laws' lazing around, eating leftover stuffing, and playing Bang!

{Martinelli's in a mason jar--obviously. Leftover Thanksgiving is maybe even better than original Thanksgiving}

I hunkered down at home for Black Friday, and Asher rewarded me with taking a three-hour nap (cue the Hallelujah chorus). The only shopping I did was taking advantage of some great online deals with some favorite shops. I've been making Christmas lists for parents and in-laws and eating pie like it's going out of style.

Last night we hired our first-ever paid babysitter so we could go see Catching Fire with the gang, and can I say that that movie was amazing? I loved it. And I'm kind of crushing on Jennifer Lawrence. We still have a couple of days left of vacation, and I think we're going to live it up. I hope that your Thanksgiving was lovely and that you got even just a little bit of vacation.

And remember, eating pie for breakfast is not only acceptable but encouraged. Obviously.


because it's what we do

Right now, church is the hardest thing I do every week. I'm almost not kidding. We dress up and try to keep Asher occupied for three hours. Three. In our church when kids turn eighteen months old they can go to the nursery for the second two hours. But Asher? He just turned fifteen months. So, three months to go. And from what other moms tell me, I'm in the worst part of pre-nursery days. And it's hard.

Asher is curious, restless, and loud, which is no surprise--he's a toddler. And it's not like church clothes are conducive to baby-wrangling. Every Sunday there's one moment when I wonder why we do this for three hours. Whichever of us has the boy doesn't really get to enjoy lessons or anything spiritually uplifting. When I have the boy during the last hour, I pretty much run out of the building, with Josh trailing behind swinging the diaper bag. So, again I ask, Why do we do this?

And I guess the answer is simple: we endure those three hours of baby chaos because it's just what we do. We go to church because it's what our family does on Sundays. Attending church isn't even really a conscious decision every week--it's just what we do. And even though it's really hard sometimes, I'm really really glad we do it. Because if I had to consciously decide every single week whether we would go or not, I think I might choose not to go more weeks than not. And I think the consequences of phasing out church in my life would have a much more lasting and negative effect on my heart--and on the heart of my sweet boy--than the consequences of crazy baby-chasing. I believe that in our family, consistently choosing church makes small impressions on his soul every week. And maybe those impressions will mean something big for him later, even if it means I'm crazy-eyed for a bit. 

Good things are often hard things, and sometimes doing good things don't produce immediate results. So we have to remember that they're good and that we should be doing them. Going to church every week is a hard thing right now. But it's also a good thing--a really, really good thing.


this week

This week I bought silk charmuese to sew into a Christmas blouse. And I promise I'll show you the finished product this time.

Asher started taking only one nap a day. It's bittersweet, but mostly okay by me.

I've been a little lonely. Josh has been working extra long hours all week and my mom is out of town. And even though Mom lives thousands of miles away, I know when she's out of town because we don't talk on the phone. That combination is sometimes a recipe for mild melancholy.

My sewing room has exploded in Christmas projects. It's a danger zone for babes. So he never goes in. Except when I need to finish a blog post. Obviously. And then he plays in the thread bin.

I made my final trip to Joann's for the Christmas season. (Knock on wood--I do not want to go back to that holiday madhouse until January.)

I caught the first signs of a cold. And then I bought Airborne.

I've been listening to Christmas music all week. Yes, I'm one of those people. But I think we all knew that.

I have a few favorite months of Asher's life, and month 15 has been one of them. This morning I caught him dancing to the Curious George opening song, and I about died.

Chocolate sugar cookies are waiting downstairs, and I think it's about time that Asher and I have an afternoon snack.

Happy Friday.

PS Don't forget about the CampusBookRentals.com giveaway open through next Tuesday! Even if you aren't a college student yourself, I bet you know someone who is!


remember that time I was a college student?

Four years ago I was in the tail-end of my second-to-last college semester. Four years ago. Sometimes college seems a world away, and it kind of is. I mean, I hardly know anyone there anymore. And the people I do know are in the throes of graduate school. How did this happen, this out-of-college Charlotte life?

Sometimes I miss college. You know what's so great about it? It's a delightfully selfish time. And that's not selfish in a bad way, just selfish in the way that you're not responsible for anyone else. Selfish in the way that you worry about you and your education and if you don't want to make dinner you don't have to. College was such a wonderful independence for me.
I majored in English, primarily because I love to read. The theory discussions muddled my brain, but all those literature classes? Almost entirely blissful. The further along I progressed in my major, the more novels I bought, and they never threatened to break the bank. College textbooks are usually a drag, and so I was lucky that my upper-level courses didn't require much in the way of expensive tomes. 

Those generals, however? Those books were the worst. I hated buying them. And I hated selling them back, because what the bookstore gives you is never even close to what you paid in the first place. So many times I felt scammed by the system. So when CampusBookRentals.com contacted me, I wish I could have gone back in time to all of those GE courses and done my books differently.

CampusBookRentals.com is simple. And genius. You order the books you want to rent, set the dates you want to keep them, and poof! you have your semester's books. When you're finished with them, you send them back in a prepaid envelope. When you have the books, you can treat them as if they're your own--this means highlighting, people. And I was a highlighter. I can't say that I'm in a position to have tested CampusBookRentals.com firsthand, but this video explains the process well:

The cherry on top of this system is that CampusBookRentals.com donates a portion of its proceeds to Operation Smile, an international charity that enables corrective operations for children born with cleft palettes. So, not only is CampusBookRentals.com making life easier for students, it's making life possible for children. Win, win, win in my book.

CampusBookRentals.com is offering my readers a chance to win a $50 credit toward their service. All you have to do is leave a comment telling me which college class was your favorite! The giveaway will be open through Tuesday of next week. (And like I said, I really wish that this gig would have been around when I was in college four years ago.)
  a Rafflecopter giveaway

PS--If you like this whole textbook rentals thing, check out RentBack.com, where you can rent out your textbooks to other students. I can imagine that this is a far better option than sell-back.

This post is sponsored by CampusBookRentals.com, and all opinions are mine.


hello, Monday

:: Hello, Monday.
:: Hello to lists--lots and lots of lists.
:: Christmas lists, grocery lists, project lists, cleaning lists, blog lists.

:: Hello to mission emails from the brother.
:: And if we're lucky, hello to pictures from Brazil.

:: Hello to a new week of counting points.
:: And hopefully hello to more progress.

:: Hello to a bit of handmade Christmas.
:: Think some sewing for the babe and some sewing for me.
:: No sewing for Josh.
:: Because sewing for guys is hard.
:: And hello to handmade gifts that I can't tell you about.
:: Obviously.

:: Hello to being this close to finishing a new book.
:: Hello to young-adult dystopian novels.
:: You never get old.

:: Hello to my first-ever sponsored giveaway this week.
:: Tune in Wednesday.
:: Especially all you college kids.

:: Hello to a babe who walks like Frankenstein.
:: Hello to  the goose eggs and bruises and bumps and cries that inevitably accompany Frankenbaby.
:: And hello to brushing off the dirt and getting back into the action.
:: Hello to passing off some of that resilience to me, because heaven sure knows most days I need it.


Professor Lupin, Mr. Bates, and I

When I saw this infographic floating around, I knew I had to take some form of the Myers-Briggs personality profile. And then I saw this infographic on the Art of Simple, and the need to find my four-letter personality categorization became paramount. Turns out that Remus Lupin, John Bates, and I all have something in common: our Myers-Briggs classification. We're INFJs, which is apparently the rarest of all personality types. (I kind of feel like a tool even telling you this, because I don't want to be "Well, I have a very rare personality," said in a snobby, condescending way, as if it makes me cooler instead of maybe a little weird.)

{The I in INFJ is for introversion, which I already knew. N is for intuition (over S for sensing); F for feeling (over T for thinking); and J for judging (over P for perception). INFJs are deep thinkers, principled, and intuitive into and sensitive to the emotions of others.}

I share the small INFJ stage with people like Eleanor Roosevelt, Nicole Kidman, Nelson Mandela, and Luke Skywalker. Now I don't want you to think that I'm some kind of MBTI fanatic and that I think everyone can be circumscribed into boxes, but in my research last night about INFJs, I felt like I understood myself better.

Seeing these INFJ descriptions helped put into words things I already knew about myself. Like how when I think I'm right, I really believe it, and that stems from an innate set of principles and decisiveness. It's why arguments with me can be so frustrating (if Josh is reading this, he'll be nodding his head emphatically!). It explains why I'm so sensitive to others' emotions and why I have a hard time sitting still when I know someone is upset with me. It explains why I can't see issues one-sided and how I can magically reconcile that characteristic with my innate set of principles and beliefs. I feel things deeply and passionately, which sometimes is good and sometimes makes things harder for me.

It explains why I'm not super shy and can often do well at parties but still need and prefer time alone. In fact, INFJs are often perceived by others as extroverts because when they have enough energy capital, they can spend it well in big groups. But when I don't have the mental and emotional energy to handle crowds, I have a really hard time. MBTI explains why I like my research thorough and why I like to know the purpose of things and why I'll spend lots of thinking time trying to figure stuff out.

Understanding my INFJ-ness doesn't excuse any of my negative or destructive behavior, but it may explain why I respond the way I do and why I have an easy or difficult time in certain circumstances. And further research into the Myers-Briggs paradigms may just help me interact more productively with those around me. This is a great post about why it's helpful to know your personality type. I took the personality test found here.

What's your Myers-Briggs type? Do you like personality typing? Which Harry Potter character are you? What about Downton Abbey?


Ayla's Stocking: a post to warm your heart

If you're new to this space, you might not know about Ayla. I've written about her here, here, and briefly here. Ayla is my cousin Julie's daughter, who is almost exactly the same age as Asher. In January of this year, Ayla passed away from bacterial meningitis. This sorrow has affected me and our family in sacred and profound ways. (I wrote about that here.) Her mother, Julie, is a mountain of strength and faith. I can't even begin to tell you how much I admire her.

A couple of weeks ago, Julie announced a project called Ayla's Stocking. Ayla contracted the meningitis just a day or two after Christmas, and so Julie and her family spent the rest of the holidays in the hospital and in hospice. Julie's heart is especially tender for those parents and children who have to spend what should be such a wonderful time in such a not-homey place. She wants to ease the pain of those parents who might never have a normal Christmas with their babes.

{Ayla in her Christmas outfit and Julie}

Julie is collecting small gifts for children who are spending their Christmas in the hospital. Ideas include the following:

:: infant rattles, rings, teething toys
:: gift cards for families to places like Toys R Us, Wal Mart, etc.
:: pajamas of varying sizes
:: craft kits (with enclosed supplies) or small boxes of colored pencils, crayons, markers, etc.
:: musical toys (anything that plays sounds or music, push-button toys, etc.)
:: slippers for children and adults
:: one-size-fits-all stretchy gloves
:: winter hats (in Canada they're called toques!)
:: books (mostly infant and teen)

If you have other ideas, please feel free to donate those as well! I think this is such a beautiful way to remember Ayla, and if you have room to give, please send your gifts Julie's way. She will be donating all contributions to the hospital that treated Ayla.

I will be collecting items to send, and if you're in the Portland, Oregon, area, we can arrange a time for me to pick up your donations, and I will send them to Canada at the beginning of December. If you aren't around Portland and would still like to contribute to Ayla's Stocking, you can email me for Julie's address. (You can write me at charlottejane17{at}gmail{dot}com. You can find Julie's blog here.)

Ayla's life was short, but profound. I know that I will be forever influenced by her brief time here on earth. I am oh so grateful for the Plan of Happiness, which allows us to be with our families forever--Julie will be with her daughter again someday. Remembering the gift of our Savior--the gift of eternal families--is the best way to celebrate this upcoming season. Nothing is more wonderful.


the week of the worst dinners

I meal plan. It's one of those Pinterest-mom, life skill things that I'm actually really good at. Sunday nights I pull out my cookbooks, open Evernote, and plan the week's food. It's one of my favorite parts of the week, because it's full of lists and planning. Last week, however, did not go according to plan.

After Monday's and Tuesday's dinners flopped, Wednesday I decided to go with a family favorite: chicken and dumplings. It did not turn out well. Think smoke furling out of the pot, setting off the smoke alarm, and stinking up the entire house. The entire house. Think really angry, ugly crying on my part. It was a complete disaster. It took several hours of a baking-soda soak and some serious elbow grease to clean the pot. It was the kind of devastation that had me calling my mom in heaving tears and resorting to pumpkin bread for dinner. And to top it off I spent $20 at the local grocer for a stove-top potpourri concoction I found on Pinterest. Good hell doesn't even begin to cover the evening.

Thursday I made meatloaf, because if I ever mess up meatloaf then I will vow to give up dinners forever. The meatloaf turned out. Thankfully.


right now

Reading :: Quiet and The Book Thief

Watching :: Desperate Housewives on Netflix, 30 Rock with Josh, and Ender's Game last weekend

Listening to :: This American Life and Joy the Baker podcasts

Sewing :: my Christmas skirt (think princess-seamed pencil skirt out of silver houndstooth)

Loving :: this sweater weather

Waiting for :: Asher to fall asleep

Trying to :: stay under budget for groceries

Working on :: managing frustration (self-mastery is not for wimps)

Excited about :: our family photos

Using :: Evernote to plan my meals

Wearing :: Polka-dot jeans interspersed with days of stretchy pants--obviously

Singing :: Primary songs before naps

Needing :: a fountain drink

Learning :: the same lessons over and over

Wishing :: for a housemaid

Doing :: the best I can, even though it doesn't feel like much

Dreaming of :: handmade Christmas gifts, the Christmas tree, and what to gift those hard giftees


I never ever want to forget

{This was taken when Asher was only a few weeks old. My goodness.}

Yesterday I was driving home from an errand with Asher in the back. (Obviously.) He was hungry and agitated. To calm him down I reached into his car seat and he took my fingers. He quieted. We held hands that way almost until we got home. His chubby hand wrapped around my fingers, finding reassurance in the simplest of hand holds. I never ever want to forget it. I'll remember those minutes forever.


rites of passage

I've been tearing into this vomit stain all day. And all evening yesterday. This was Asher's first real, legit puke, a nasty rite of passage for that small boy. And cleaning it up was a motherhood rite of passage for me. (Did I mention that the boy threw up spaghetti? As if vomit weren't already hard enough to extract from carpet.)

Sometimes I feel like motherhood is just one rite-of-passage after another: first baby, first foods, first
steps, first words, first days of school, first kid at college, first wedding, first grandbaby. And somewhere in there is the first puke-cleanup. Thankfully this time I escaped one rite: sitting up with a flu-ridden babe all night. Asher slept straight through till morning and ate a full breakfast. So, go figure.

The stain still isn't out all the way. I've tried at least three cleaning tricks, and all of them have worked to a small degree. But those stairs are still grasping onto that creepy, faded, vomit-stained look that I'm not such a huge fan of. Tomorrow I'll tackle it again.

Rites of passage, people. Rites of passage.

(PS We completed another rite recently when we caught our first mouse. A mouse. And it was discriminatory in what it ate from the pantry. Like, it nibbled through the trail mix bag and ate everything but the raisins. In another life, I think we'd actually be friends.)


ah, a list!

:: This list will likely have no direction.
:: Perhaps I'm rebelling from the specific posting from last month.
:: It was a wonderful subject, but a heavy one.
:: And now I'm ready for aimless listing.
:: Obviously.

:: Why do we need to change the time anymore?
:: All it does is destroy babes' sleep.
:: Speaking of, mine is not sleeping.
:: Though he should be.

:: Also, TV.
:: This year I'm enjoying some new shows: Blacklist and Brooklyn 99.
:: In addition to all my regulars. Obviously.
:: (And psst! I've been watching Desperate Housewives on Netflix. So fun.)

:: As soon as Halloween packed and left, the weather here got overcast and chilly.
:: I love it.
:: Tonight I'm making soup.
:: And right now I have bread rising.
:: Again, obviously.
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