Monday, July 21, 2014

Why I Don't Hate My Body Anymore

For the first time since adolescence, I think I'm finally becoming comfortable with my body.

It happed like this.

Like so many females, I spent my pre-teen and teen years longing to be thinner.  Wanting my body to resemble the women's figures in magazines and movies, or at least to fit into a smaller pant size like the other girls.  Searching after that elusive "skinniness" every teen talks about.

I was on my high school's crew team, which is a very demanding sport.  I was fit, I was healthy, I could row like a beast (funny - that word used to be a high compliment for us back in the day, but I'm not sure that I'd like to be called a beast anymore!).  Even though my body could do so much, I cared only about the way it looked.  And it still didn't look skinny enough.

In college, I went for runs everyday: 3-6 miles long, sometimes more.  I ran two full marathons, two half marathons, and countless smaller races.  I ate more healthily than ever in my life.  Really, I was in the best shape I will probably ever be.  But even at my lowest adult weight - you know, that number that you would have to work really really hard to keep over the long term - I still didn't feel thin enough.  I just wanted to have a waist.  For my body to go in at the middle!  Maybe not the ideal hourglass proportions, but something that at least suggested that type of female figure. 

The skinniest I ever was.  And I think this photo just caught me at a good angle.
 
I've finally accepted that I never can have that.  To be specific: my frame just won't allow it.  My ribcage and my hipbones have barely an inch between them, and there's no room for me to ever have a waist, "unless", as Tom jokes "you have a couple ribs removed".  My legs, despite the fact that I barely get any exercise these days are still extremely muscular - more so than many men I know.  Some people might envy them, but they're just not very feminine.  It's how I'm made.

I debated posting a bathing suit picture for modesty reasons.  But I think it's relevant to the story I'm telling.


Marriage was the first step in helping me to accept the body I was given.  When you marry and begin to share your body and your life with another person, you come to see that the body has so much more value and meaning than just an appealing outer covering.  We have a body because we are meant to use it, to give it, to serve others with it.

Plus, my husband loved me and loved my body.  So it couldn't be completely terrible, right?

During pregnancy and childbirth, your body gets stretched to its limits (metaphorically, I mean...but actually in a literal sense as well!).  It wasn't until I had grown a tiny human inside of myself for nine months, used my body to painfully bring that human into the world, and then spent the next year further nurturing him with the milk that I was miraculously making that I really understood what I was capable of.  My body can do amazing and wonderful things!  This is what my body was made for - what everyone's body was made for: to allow them to carry out their vocation.  Whatever that may be. 

My vocation right now is to be a wife to my husband, to birth babies, and to do the work of raising them.  My vocation is not to have an hourglass figure. It's time to give myself permission to not have to be thin.  As long as I'm doing my part to keep my body reasonably healthy - i.e. able to perform my duties - I think I'm doing what I should.

I wanted a picture of me wearing a baby, but the only one I can find has me eating a cookie...right after I finished talking about being healthy!

I won't pretend to understand the deep mysteries of personhood....about the fact that we don't just have bodies, but that we are bodies.  But what I do know is that if my body is "me", it seems useless to keep going through life hating myself. 

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Best Baby Blow-outs link-up


After I wrote about Linus' recent mess at the museum, several readers started sharing their own (cringe-inducing, yet hilarious) tales about baby diaper blowouts.  I thought it would be fun to turn this into a link-up in case anyone else wants to tell their story.

To those who already shared it in the comments to the last post, consider turning it into a whole post on your blog - and if you don't have your own blog, feel free to leave your story here as a comment.  Can't wait to read them!


Big Messes at the Museum

Disclaimer: 
If you don't like hearing stories about dealing with bodily functions (i.e. being a parent), then this one isn't for you!


We have friends visiting from out-of-town, so yesterday, Tom took the day off work and we all went to the museum - five adults and seven kids under age four. 

Linus and I managed to sneak off on our own for a bit to look at a new exhibit I wanted to see in the art museum while the older two stayed with Tom and our friends in the natural history portion.  By the time I caught up with them, Stella was already done.  She was screaming her head off, and not willing to do anything.  Tom and I decided to split off from the group for a bit and take the kids to the children's area where there are fun things they're allowed to touch and hold, hoping she would calm down.

Soon after sitting down in there, Linus got to work making an enormous diaper, and soon began crying himself.  Because I hate carrying diaper bags around, I usually bring only the bare necessities: one diaper apiece and a small pack of wipes.  I could tell Linus was ready for his one allotted diaper, and maybe Stella was too, so I started looking around for a good place to change them.  Normally, I would just find a handy bench or corner and change the baby there, but the docents at the museum have eagle-eyes and do not let you pull stuff like that.  Plus, it was going to be a stinky one, and I knew I might need access to a sink.

I asked the docent in the children's room where the nearest bathroom was, and he told me to go down the hall and down the stairs....hmm, that wasn't going to work out well with the stroller.  Stella had started screaming again, and by this point, we had literally cleared out the room.  The only person left was the young male docent, awkwardly eying the family with the two screaming children, unsure what he could do to help.

I took Linus out of the Ergo carrier - which I left hanging off my waist - so I could bounce him around more effectively and try to calm him down.  Between his cries and my huge exaggerated bounces, I was attempting to explain to Tom - who couldn't understand me well because he was holding the screaming toddler - that we needed to go find a bathroom and get the kids' diapers changed.

And then: the explosion happened.  Linus finished up that diaper he'd been working on in one tremendous blowout.  Baby poop was all over the place.  It was covering my hands, my shirt, and absolutely dripping down the inside of the Ergo.  It probably got on the floor too.  I don't even know.  I just said, "We have to go NOW!" and took off, catching just a glimpse of the docent's shocked and fearful gape.

We all hurried to the elevator, but it wasn't arriving fast enough.  "I'll take the stairs with Linus!" I said.  "Meet me outside the bathroom!" I followed the signs for the bathroom as I ran down the stairs - they took me down several floors.  When I finally got inside, there wasn't even a baby-changing station.  But at least there was a little table I could work on.  Women and their daughters kept coming in and out, and it was making me more flustered.  As they squeezed around me standing there at the table, they all took a peek to see the disgusting mess I was working with.

Linus had to be totally stripped down.  His onesie and diaper went into a plastic bag I'd brought, and I cleaned him up with some the rest of the pack of wipes and put his one clean diaper on.  I didn't have a spare outfit for him.  Sorry, baby.  I was anxious to start scrubbing down my shirt and the Ergo, but I was afraid to leave Linus alone on the little table since there was nothing to strap him down with.  And now when I could have used them as baby-holders, there were no other women coming into the bathroom.  I couldn't put him on the floor since it was gross and wet and, you know, he was basically naked.

"Where the heck is Tom?" I wondered.  I was standing there covered in poo, holding Linus on the table, waiting to hear Tom's voice in the hall.  I pulled out my phone (carefully, since it was in the front pocket of the very soiled Ergo), and tried to call him.  No reception in the bathroom.  Sigh.  I unclipped the Ergo from my waist, threw it into a sink, picked up Linus, and went into the hallway, hoping no one would recognize what the yellow stuff all over my shirt was.

I tried calling Tom again.  He answered. Through the poor reception, echoing marble halls on my end, and shrieking toddler on his end, we attempted a conversation that went more or less like this, "WHERE ARE YOU?!"  "WHERE ARE YOU?!"  "I'M OUTSIDE THE BATHROOM, I'VE BEEN WAITING FOR YOU!" "I'M OUTSIDE THE BATHROOM, I'VE BEEN WAITING FOR YOU!"

Tom had found a different bathroom somewhere - a "family restroom" which I really wish I had found in the first place, since his presence would have greatly simplified cleanup - and was waiting for me outside of it.  I explained where I was so he could come help.  He showed up a few minutes later with the older kids - Stella still screaming in his arms - and took Linus in his other, so I could go back in and unsuccessfully attempt to get the yellow stains off everything.

To make the day just a little more gross, a short while later, I noticed a suspicious-looking brown stain on the shoulder of Tom's shirt where Stella had been sitting - in a dress - a little earlier.   She got her own diaper change shortly after.

Crazy people that we are, we ended up staying at the museum another couple hours.  We put some food into Stella which calmed her down considerably (Tom claims she gets her "hanger" = hungry+angry from me).  Poor Linus was put back, naked except for a diaper, into a damp but dry-paper-towel-lined Ergo to be carried around for the rest of the afternoon.

Heh, it worked out.


***

In the same vein....last night while we were praying the Rosary, Stella went over and grabbed the seat off her potty (no, she's not anywhere near being potty trained!  Mommy was overly-optimistic about being able to reduce the number of diapers she changes each day) and placed it on Tom's head like a hat.  Everyone else stayed focused and prayerful, but mature person that I am, I snickered about it for a good while.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

A Week in Feminine Dress

I participated again in A Week in Feminine Dress over at The Catholic Lady.  Stop by to see what her readers and I have been wearing.


As I was looking over my photos before sending them to her, it occurred to me that I've finally found my own personal style.  I know what sort of clothes I feel happy in now, and that's all I let myself buy and keep.  I'm attracted to bright colors and bold prints.  I like clothes that with a bit of a boho feel to them, and I accessorize with colorful jewelry.

For too long, I let myself be limited by what the latest styles were - in other words, the often disappointing selection for sale in the stores.

I was twenty years old when I decided to start increasing the number of skirts in my wardrobe, and to otherwise strive to dress more femininely (previously, I was a self-professed "jeans and a t-shirt kind of gal").  That was almost ten years ago now.  Over that time, popular styles have gone through several periods where it was almost impossible to find a skirt that wasn't a mini-skirt or a top that didn't show half my chest.  I would be out shopping, searching in vain.  And then I'd spot the one skirt in the store that was slightly on the longer side and get so excited by my victory that I'd just buy it right away without a thought to whether I really and truly liked the style and the fit.  So I amassed a closet full of clothes that may have met my impression of feminine, but just weren't fun to wear.

And when you don't feel pretty in the majority of your wardrobe, you begin to just feel frumpy.  I would find myself wearing a preppy polo shirt, or a pink lacy top, or a silky floral skirt and just feel as if I was wearing a costume.  I was dressing like someone else, instead of like me.

I suspect this might be one reason some women hesitate to start wearing more skirts, even when they're attracted to the idea.  They imagine that they must dress to fit some mold, or some very specific notion of "feminine."  They know they don't want to look like they just walked out of Little House on the Prairie, or a Jane Austen novel, or the Duggar house (God love 'em!).

But the good news is, you don't have to look like anyone else!  Think of all the ways women have found to dress over the centuries in ways which fit their unique personality, yet still respect their feminine nature.  There's a look for everyone, and I guess my advice is to just pick pieces that you love and stop following the latest trends.

I'm pretty sure the reason I finally arrived at a point where I feel that my wardrobe is all truly "me" is because I stopped shopping at the retail stores.  When Sly was born, I quit my job, and we suddenly had to survive on a teeny tiny tiny budget.  I had already been using thrift store clothes to supplement my wardrobe, but at that point I had to learn how to start shopping at them exclusively - or else get no "new" clothes ever.  At thrift stores, you're not bound by the current hot trends.  Everything in there is at least a year old (sometimes as much as thirty years old!), so you have a wide range of styles to browse and try on.  You get to know what you like, what works on your body.

It does take some time to build up your wardrobe with clothes that are "you", and weed out those that aren't.  But when you arrive there, it feels so great to be truly comfortable and satisfied with almost everything you wear!


***
Addendum:
If anyone is looking to enhance their wardrobe with some beautiful feminine styles from eShakti (see my review of one of their dresses here), you can use the code "extraordinaries" to receive 10% off your order through July 21st.

Monday, June 30, 2014

New House Tour: Boys' Room

We're been in the new place for almost three months now, so it's probably time to start giving people a look around.  I'm going to start with Sly's room, since his is the most "completed" at this point.   Most of the rest of the house still has a long way to go.  I sometimes feel like I'm stepping around piles of sandpaper, paint cans, putty knives, and screwdrivers everywhere I go....

For the sake of being "real", I didn't clean up the room before I took the pictures.  Cleaning the room is Sly's job anyways these days (yesss!), and I let him get away with things being less tidy than "perfect".  These pictures won't look magazine-worthy by any means, but that's my life!

**As I give my little tour, I'll try to point out where various items came from.  I think a theme should develop, and I hope to help convince people that you can find some really cool things when you shop secondhand! **

Linus is testing out the rug

Sly's bedroom - which will be "the boys' room" once Linus grows up a bit - is up on the third floor.  The sloped ceilings provide a lot of visual interest, but unfortunately, cut waaaaay down on the available wall space for hanging decorations.  And we'll probably never be able to put bunkbeds in here unless we decide to block the windows.  Thankfully, it's a very large room, and I'm pretty sure we can fit at least four twin-size beds along the walls, should we ever have the need.

Over the years, I've collected a number of "ship" paintings and decorations.  I'm just attracted to the romance of big sailing ships.  We decided to put them all in Sly's room, and give the room a sorta ship/map/travel/world explorer theme! 

The previous owner had painted the room a funky paint scheme of dark blue, light blue, and orange-yellow trim.  It ended up looking great with our decorations.

These prints were a Christmas gifts from Tom's sister, who had apparently grown so tired of hearing me go into raptures about how much I loved them every time we visited her house, that she just took them off the wall and wrapped them up for me!
Last week, we hung a curtain rod over the window, and I have some really cool ship-printed fabric that I'm going to make into curtains.  I'll try to post a picture once they're up.

We found a map-printed duvet cover (bought online, to cover Tom's threadbare childhood comforter) for the bed (given away by a friend).


The map in the photo below is just a one-yard cut of fabric I found in the quilting section at Joann Fabrics.  I hemmed the edges, and we just nailed it to the wall.  We found the decorative ship's wheel at Goodwill. 

The heater was left by the previous owner, and we haven't moved it yet.  I do not feel safe with it staying in a little kid's room!  

On the bookshelf (bought at garage sale) is a statue of Mary (gift from my mom) - who is also known as the "Star of the Sea", which is the Marian title our daughter Stella Maris is named after, so even she fits the theme! -, a cool ship nightlight (thrift store), and a wooden plane (from Tom's childhood).  And a huge pile of books below, because stuffing them into the shelf is how Sly cleans them up.  Better than nothing.


My aunt was giving away this child-size desk which we still need to find a chair for.  On top are two light-up globes (flea market, thrift store), a railroad tie (found near railroad tracks), and other little things Sly has been given from here and there.


Another shot with Linus still chilling on the floor.


Below we have some metal planes (also from Tom's childhood), an armchair (given away by a priest friend) perfect for reading or nursing babies - do you see the arm covers on the floor? Why do kids have a compulsion to rip them off all the time? -, and a map of Pennsylvania (bought by Tom in a shop in New Orleans during our honeymoon while I was at the hotel taking a nap) which I think is kind of ugly, so we compromised by putting it in Sly's room :-)


This photo below can't convey the massiveness of the closet.  Sly's dresser fits in there easily, with plenty of room left for storage.  It extends all the way to the slanted wall on the right. 

A word about the dresser - my dad trash-picked it for us a year ago.  We sanded off the old peeling finish, and Tom re-finished it with shellac (which is an old-fashioned finish which comes from the shells of beetles (hence the name)).  I think it looks like a million bucks now! 


Near the door is another cool ship picture (Goodwill), and a kid-size guitar (trash-picked).  Sly can't play it yet, but his dad has big dreams :-)


Oh, and there's an icon of St. George over the door.  George is Sly's middle name.  It's impossible to find anything with St. Sylvester!

Hope you enjoyed the tour, and that I have something else to show soon.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Pretty Things: Dresses and Blossoms of Orange


I've been hearing a lot of good things about eShakti around the internet recently, so I was very pleased to get a chance to try out one of their dresses.

They have a huge inventory - mostly dresses and skirts.  One of the best features is that their clothes are completely customizable, if you're looking for something a little different.  You can change the neckline, hemline, sleeve length, etc. to suit your style.  AND the dresses have pockets!

The quality is good, and the prices are reasonable, though more than what I'd usually spend for clothes.  Ok, let's be honest, pretty much the only clothes I buy these days come from thrift stores.  But if in the future I have a special event to go to or some birthday gift-money burning a hole in my pocket, I would absolutely consider another eShakti dress.

Here's the dress I picked.  It's custom-fit since I did specify all my exact measurements, but I did not choose to change the shape at all from the original style.  I love the dress, though if I did it again, I'd probably have the sleeves cut to cover the shoulders a little more.

Why no, my skin has not seen sunlight for months...why do you ask?
I picked out a lovely orange summery dress.  I knew it would be smarter to look for a style that I could actually nurse a baby in...but the few dresses that seemed conducive to nursing were just not "calling my name."  People have told me that orange is a good color on me, but it's difficult to find nice-looking orange clothing (at least in the thrift stores).  I saw this pretty orange dress, and just had to get it.

I really don't have much of a waist, but this dress makes it look like I do - ha!

pockets!
The shape is simple, but the dress is very well-made of sturdy soft cotton.  I love the big tucks along the bottom of the skirt.


I have a few weddings to attend in the late summer/early fall, and this should be perfect!


Check out eShakti on:

*****

There is an ugly bush/tree thing in our backyard that's been on my mental "hit list" for the garden since we first moved in.  We decided that this summer, we're not doing anything with the outside of the house or the yard, since we already have so many projects to deal with inside.  We're going to give everything this one summer to grow and bloom and defend its right to stay.  But this particular plant was so unattractive that I had already decided it would have to come out next spring. 

And then it bloomed.  It turns out it's a mock orange, which makes very attractive little mock orange blossoms.
But you can still see the ugly shape underneath!
Last week, I went out each morning to cut off some flowers to put in containers around the house.  I gave several bunches of the blossoms away to friends as gifts.  I love having fresh flowers around.


So now I'm torn.  Does one week of beautiful flowers make up for fifty-one weeks of having a scrubby bush-tree thing taking up space in our yard?

One more thing to consider:  Our elderly next-door neighbor has lived in their house since she was a girl.  She told us that her father had planted a whole row of mock oranges along the property line, and this one is the only one left (though it seems it was actually on our side of the line, based on where the fence got put in).  She surely has a sentimental attachment to it, which I do respect....But she's not the one who has to deal with it!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Perfect Pie Crust: Revisited



I wrote two years ago about my search for a really good pie crust recipe.  I hate to say it, but the search goes on...

About once a year, I settle on a new recipe for my pie crusts.  I've just started using yet another recipe.  But I'm still not satisfied.  I still don't feel like I've found the perfect one. 

The key factor in pie crusts seems to be what sort of fat you use: butter, shortening, or lard.  I've also heard good things about recipes that incorporate vodka (which, as it evaporates during cooking, produces a nice flaky texture). 

I've had success with shortening recipes.  They're typically easy to work with and reliable.  Most just don't seem to have a really memorable flavor. 

Some people swear by all-butter crusts.  The difficult thing with them, though, is that you have to keep the butter and all the implements you are using very very cold.  Many of the pies I bake are during the summertime (when fruits are ripe), and since we don't have air conditioning, keeping things cold is impossible.

Here's what our usually-solid coconut oil looked like today, when the temperature was in the high 80's: total liquid.


[note that it's still unopened.  I've never used actually coconut oil before, but I know a lot of people love it, and it was a great price.  So what should I do with it?]

My cousin shared her secret for great butter crusts: she keeps her butter in the freezer.  Sounds like a smart idea. If anyone has a great all-butter crust recipe, please share it!  I'll try it out when the weather cools off.


***

The last couple times I baked a pie, I tried out a new lard-based recipe (lard is totally not as gross as it sounds.  I cook with it often, and it's very versatile) from my ever-reliable 1969 Betty Crocker's Cookbook. 

8- or 9-inch Two-crust Pie
2 c. flour
1 tsp. salt
2/3 c. lard
4-5 T. cold water

Mix flour and salt in bowl.  Cut in lard.  Sprinkle in water, and mix until dough almost cleans sides of bowl.  Shape into two balls and roll out on floured surface.


Tom loves this crust, and my Dad thought highly of it as well.  I will say, the texture is pleasantly crispy and flaky.  But I still think it could be better!

***

Not matter what recipe I use, there are a few tools I've found indispensable for making a good crust: a cloth to roll the dough on, a stockinet cover for the rolling pin, and a pie crust shield for baking.

Allow me to step you through my process....

I use a clean linen dish towel as my rolling surface, floured generously.  The dough does not stick at all.  Try it sometime!  And the rolling pin covers are really cheap.  You can usually find them at gourmet-type stores (or online, of course).


Always pat the dough into a flat circle with your hands before rolling.  This gives you a much more evenly-shaped crust.


As you pick up the crust, roll it over the rolling pin to transfer it to your pie pan.


And then fill the bottom crust with whatever.  Today I made a beef stew pie with my leftovers from last week. 
 

Have you ever done this?  I purposely make a lot of beef stew so that we will have leftovers and I can make this pie.  Beef stew always tastes better a few days later, because the flavors have had time to mingle.

A rough recipe for beef stew pie:  
Scoop just the "chunks" (the beef and veggies) into the pie crust.  
Reserve the sauce to heat and pour on at the table as gravy (you may have to stir in some cold water+ flour while it heats, if it's too thin).  
Put the top crust on, and bake at 450° for 35-40 minutes (cover the crusts until the last 15 minutes).


After you roll out and crimp the top crust, use the leftover dough to create fun decorations (or allow an eager child to help).


 I just use a fork to crimp the edge, cut a few vent-holes in the top, and let Sly place the decorations.


Then comes the ever-important pie crust shield (which I remove 15 minutes before cooking time is over) to keep the edges from burning.


 And it's ready to serve!  (al fresco tonight, since having the oven at 450° really warmed up the house).


Yum!



Do you have any pie crust tips or secrets to share?