43 Shades of Grey: My Capsule Wardrobe

The 43 Piece Breakdown:

Black boots, Brown boots, Fuzzy Snow Boots, Short brown boots, Black heels, Black flats

Five dresses – two heavier weight, two light weight and one medium
One patterned skirt
One long skirt

Two drapey sweaters
Two cardigan sweaters
Four long sleeved dresses

Four sweaters
Six patterned shirts/tunics
Three T-shirts(grey one not shown)
One long sleeved blue shirt
One chambray tunic

One long grey vest
Black leggings, Grey leggings
Black pants, Grey pants
Red corduroys, Orange-red pants

Oh my goodness I’m writing about clothes… seriously who am I?  As you can tell I’m not the most fashionable person ever.  Luckily I’ve got my awesome Sister in Law to balance out my lack of fashion-ability and occasionally who I’ll try to copy (hi A!).  But I wanted to give this a shot for a number of reasons.  For awhile I’ve wanted to have a smaller, but higher quality of wardrobe and I’ve needed a cohesive way to figure out to do this and I have a bad tendency to wear things that are not in the best shape and that aren’t flattering for the sake of frugality, which leads to “frumpy mom-itis”.  I don’t know anyone who enjoys “frumpy mom-itis”.

So here you go, after a two or three run throughs of my closet and a big trip to a donation center.

Not included:  Outerwear, sleepwear, undershirts/tanks for layering, tights, grungy cleaning clothes that I don’ wear outside the house, accessories, jewelry and one black dress that I pull out for our annual Christmas concert at church.  Coats are not included because they’re not a fashion statement here – they’re a tool to survive the winter.  My coats usually err on the side of utilitarian more than fashion.

How: To start with I actually made a board on Pinterest with looks I am into.  Then I separated everything that was fall/winter and spring/summer from my closet.  The off season went into another closet from another capsule making in about six months.  Anything that had a hole where a hole was not supposed to be, to pill-y or just worn out got the immediate chuck and then things that just didn’t work with anything else.  The last step was anything that I knew I’d only wear when everything else was dirty, but wasn’t for a special occasion.  If I had to get down to no other options before I’d choose it it wasn’t worth keeping – let someone else enjoy it.  There are a few items that I like, but didn’t want to include that will be stored until next year.  If I don’t included it then it will go away.

I allowed myself a little wiggle room because of that pesky job I go to during the week.  We have a choice between “business casual” and scrubs, so I choose business casual.  I’m not sure being at home would cut down my closet too much to be honest, but a few items wouldn’t be there at least.

I’m actually surprised at how much I had in my closet.  I pride myself on having a small closet, but when I sat down to count I was shocked.

It was a great exercise.  I got rid of a big stack of things I just didn’t love, weren’t versatile or just really needing to go and I still feel like I have a big closet.  Above all it reminded me that being frugal and “minimal” was no reason to look sloppy or gross.  There was a lot that was still hanging around before the final purge in the “I like it, but I don’t wear it much” category and it was helpful to remember that there are folks out there who could use this stuff while it’s taking up space in my closet so it went in to the “donate” pile with a happy conscience.  I’m looking forward to doing it again for spring/summer next year.

Hopefully my spring/summer wardrobe consists of a little less grey.

****** EDIT********
Had a couple people ask about how things look and body shape + these styles.
Fashion blogger I am not so I shot a few pics in my bedroom at night.  To answer a question below – I’m not skinny, but I’m petite.  I don’t really have much of a waist any more and it’s kind of squishy in that area.  So I prefer looser fabrics that might make me look a little bigger, but make me feel a whole lot more comfortable.  I’ve got long legs for a 5’3″ gal, but incredibly short in the torso (bottom of my ribs to top of my hip bone is about 3 inches) and small in the bust.  The “smallest” part of my “waist” is right under my bust so if I belt things they sit high.  I like things that give the illusion of more length in that area and hide the lumpy parts and I prefer most shirts/sweaters to cover my backside.
Just a blurry picture of me in regular old grey shirt and jeans.  No waist, lumpy middle like all the rest =) And proud of that lump middle.
What I wore to work from the capsule
Classic Clothes for me – tunic type shirt and skinny pants or leggings

And now for something completely different.
If you have a moment or some spare change consider sending it the way of my dear friend Elise.  She and her husband are doing an amazing fundraiser in memory of a blessed baby they lost earlier this year towards the Gianna Center, a pro-life, NAPRO technology using women’s center.
As of last night they’re $885 away from there amazing goal.
Go here to read more about this great fundraiser.
Thank you!

Frolicking in Fall: 5 Favorite Fall Books

I’m linking up with Jenna and the 5 favorites today to share some of our favorite fall themed books:

Fletcher and the Falling Leaves – Love this whimsical book; it’s finally available in my library today!
The Pumpkin Book – I love Gail Gibbons – just enough information, but not presented in a dry way.
Pick a Circle, Gather Squares: A Fall Harvest of Shapes – A fun book, a little busy in the pictures, but good for preschoolers.
Leaf Jumpers – Another fun, but informative book about the different types of fall leaves around
Applesauce Season – Just makes me want to fill my house with the smell of cooking apples.
And for good measure, this book always makes me think of fall.
What are your favorite fall books?

(this post contain Amazon Affiliate links – I get a small percentage of every sale I direct.  Thank you for helping me fill my house with books!)

Tweedle Dee and Twaddle Dumb: Balancing Quality Children’s Lit. With All the Rest

Everything is big balancing act; from the food in our kitchens to watching television and getting sleep.  I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that choosing books is right up there.  It doesn’t seem like it should be that complicated, I mean it’s just children’s literature right?  How hard can it be it’s not like there’s a lot out there in the children’s section that is questionable.  Right?

Now, I’m not going sit here and tell you that your precious angel child should only read crumbling tomes of time-tested literature – the crumblier the better.  I’m not going to guilt anyone for having a popular book series or a collection of “Disney” stories.  Like anything it’s a balancing act – a little bit here and a little bit there to make a whole balanced picture.

The “My Book House” series was such a good investment –
classic lit that grows with the child. “Enchanted Isles” is another collection
of children’s lit from my husband’s collection.

I really appreciate the Charlotte Mason definition of “twaddle”, that is books that are silly and insignificant among other things.  It does help to have a frame work when trying to pick out books that are worth spending your hard earned money on, but I can’t say my home is 100% twaddle free.

To pick out quality children’s literature I look for a number of details.

  1. The book must have good storytelling; it must have a point.  Not just “Here’s a character being silly and achieving nothing”.  It’s not necessary that characters go through a complete change in their natures, but let’s just say I really don’t see the point of children’s books about pigeons begging to drive a bus.
  2. The characters should act in a way I would like my children to copy; this can be tricky to find perfectly, but good children’s lit. should not encourage my kids to talk back, have bad manners, or use language I don’t want to encourage.  This doesn’t mean the characters are perfect, but that bad behavior isn’t rewarded.  The more a book inspires a child to imagine worlds of their own, have adventures and, best of all, go outside the better.
  3. The book should have quality illustrations.  I’m stickler for good illustration – a child should be able to get lost in both the story and pictures of a good children’s picture book.
  4. The books should be a quality physical material.  I’m a fan of investing, when I find a worthwhile book, in a quality hardback edition.  While there maybe be some bumps in the road, and exceptions (you know your child best of course) I do believe children can learn to be respectful of books at an early age and quality reading materials do help.  I keep a running mental list of library favorites of paperback copies that have gotten the step of approval when I’m at thrift and consignment stores – quality does not have to equal lots of money if you can keep an open eye out.
  5. The language must suit the age, but not be dumbed down or over simplified.  Children expand their vocabulary by hearing a wide vocabulary.  Don’t underestimate your children.  It might be a appropriate to stick to three sentence pages for younger children, but don’t limit them to the same 100 words over and over again.
Big words for small kids.  This is “The Mice Who Loved Words” by Daniel Weiss
So what do I do when “twaddle” makes it’s way into my home?  Generally, I just say “thank you” or “okay” – usually the way this happens is from a gift or at the library.  A gift is a gift no matter what, enjoy it and be appreciative that you were given a book and not something that makes noise.  A library book can be enjoyed over a short period of time and returned.  I do believe there’s something to be said about the idea that reading is reading.  If your child is only interested in the adventures of Thomas the Train, Lightening McQueen or Elsa and will not pick up a book otherwise – than read those character books until they fall apart; something is better than nothing.

Should be titled “The basket of books mommy refuses to read at bedtime”
That brings me to the key in the balance – don’t be afraid to let the twaddle guide you.  If Johnny or Susie is only interested in the latest Disney books and stories, read those, but look deeper.
Suggestions in action – some of our collection of the original “Thomas” and
 “Winnie the Pooh” along with a few other favorites.
 I will pick up just about any “Children’s Choice Book Club” book I can find
at a thrift store(that little ghost monster waving his hat on the spine).
The animated Thomas the Train was originally a book series in the early 1900’s.  Winnie-the-Pooh, The Jungle Book and most Disney Princesses have original stories that they have grown from.  Get your Elsa fan a copy of the original Snow Queen (there are so many good versions out there), then discover “East of the Sun, West of the Moon”,”All-fur” and other classic fairy tales.  
Don’t be afraid to find a place for the twaddle without getting rid of it.  Most of ours lives in a basket in the living room and in our car – easily accessible for the littles,but not in the bookshelves we get our bedtime stories from.

That is how we do balance in our house.  How about you?

How to Be My Friend… When You’re Expecting And I’m Not.

This is one of the trickiest things I’ve had to navigate in the last year.  Other people’s fertility.  I’ve had friends get pregnant around each of my three losses and go on to have healthy, beautiful babies around my due dates.  There have been much prayed for children after years of fertility struggles and heartaches, “Hey, look at that” pregnancies that are just par for the course and “Oh no how are we going to cope” pregnancies due to a plan that is not our own.  There have been first babies, second babies, babies to families bursting with children and babies to unwed parents.  There have been healthy pregnancies and scary pregnancies.  I feel like I’ve seen it all.

I can’t say I’ve handled every pregnancy announcement with grace.  I have sworn.  I have been angry.  I have cried silently in numerous bathrooms and declined invitations and outings because I just can’t deal.

But in the end I’ve learned one thing.

The world does not revolve around me and my less than stellar genetics.  It’s not that I don’t deserve sympathy, respect and private “heads up” before a public announcement.  It’s not that I don’t have a right to be sad or angry.  It’s not that I don’t have a right to silent cry in every bathroom.  I deserve every moment of that and say that without shame.

However, it’s bigger than me

Each of those children (and their parents) deserve love and joy.  My sadness and my struggles, as justified and important and worthy as they are, cannot stand in the way of celebrating life where it is.  No matter who it comes through.  No matter when it happens.

I cannot ask the world to forever consider me and only me in my sadness – there must be life, there must be love and there must be hope.

If you are one of the lovely ones around me carrying a new little baby please do not shy from me, do not feel like you need to side step or stay silent.

There will be days when I am sad and angry.  There will be days when I fight with bitterness.  There will be days when I need to shut the computer or ignore email, blogs and social media because it’s too much.  These are a given for a grieving mother; but these are things that will happen regardless.  These are things that I can deal with and navigate.  These are not reasons, and never should be, to minimize the joy your children should bring to the world.

If you are my friend and expecting, please don’t be afraid to share with me.  Know that there will be days when I close my computer on your blog or your pictures, but that is not about you – it is me; it is me grieving and coping and healing.  For every day that I need to step away there are dozens more when those sonograms, clever announcements and mountains of baby cuteness are what keeps me going.  They remind me of life and love.  They give me hope.

Surviving the Apocalypse: How We Make It Through Saturday Evening Mass

I love reading peoples suggestions on incorporating and training children to be good and attentive at Mass.  I love the inspiration I get and the feeling that my efforts are one day going to pay off, but I have to let you in on a little secret – for a long time I was doing it wrong.  For us.

Kendra is one of my favorites for straight up, no nonsense advise about kids.  I don’t even do half the stuff she does with her kids – we have different styles, demands on our time, personalities and number of kids so naturally our homes and techniques are going to look different.  But oh have I been trying to live up to her advice when it comes to kids in church.

Some of it has been spot on.  Getting better about regular attendance, dressing nicely, sitting up front, when to take a fussy baby or toddler out and when to lay down the law and tough it out, but try as I might, not all of it has been working for us and then I realized – oh hey, wait a second…that’s not my family!  No matter what I need to be doing what works for us.

We have a unique situation that because of schedules Saturday Vigil is it if we’re all going to go as a family.  There’s one Mass at the perfect time (not too close to when I get off work or too late in the night), but it’s still not ideal.  It’s at 5:15 p.m..  For us this is usually around the time when either all he** is breaking loose or about dinner time, but it’s this or nothing.  On the occasions when we do get a chance to go to a regular Sunday morning Mass I notice that our plan of attack gets to be much different.  11 a.m. Mass and 5 p.m. Mass can be totally different experiences for us just based on things like being well rested and well fed so I’ve finally given in to the idea that I need to alter my expectations for our Vigil Mass.

This is how we survive the apocalypse that can be Saturday Vigil Mass.

1.  Energy 

What Works:  We try to get to church early enough that we have time to run around and cool down. By this point in the day we’ve been playing for hours and the sudden change from active to sitting can be rough. We have a long walk from the car to the front door and I give H. free reign to nicely run around for about five minutes, slowly working our way to the door.  Once we’re inside we ideally have enough time to wind down before things actually get started.  Running around a bit afterwards seems to help as well.

What Doesn’t Work:  Bursting into the church with only a few minutes to go before the processional.  Instant recipe for grumpiness all around.

2.  Food 
What Works:  Oh I still have a love/hate relationship with this, but at the moment since Mass falls right around dinner time we’ve eased up on our no snacks for 3+ rule.  A small – and I mean small – handful of pretzels or goldfish right at the beginning is enough to tide over bloodsugar levels until 6:30.  Note:  We bring just enough that he is usually done before the first readings and he knows that’s it.  
What Doesn’t Work:  Cranky, hungry child. This has made the biggest difference in Mass recently – I want to be a no food after two years old family, but it just doesn’t work for us particularly at night.  Bringing back that small handful of pretzels has really changed everyone’s enjoyment of Mass.  Maybe we’ll be a no snacks after four family.
3.  Stuff
What Works:  No toys.  Nothing that can make noise or leave marks (crayons, pens, etc.)  We have stack of church themed books that we can take.  Books work for us right now; he’s passed the age of “dropping everything is fun” can occupy himself looking at pictures.  Note:  I find it very, very helpful to rid my purse of anything but the bare necessities.  After the Great Toy Car Meltdown on Easter of aught-fourteen when I missed a single toy in my purse I always make sure to double check.
What Doesn’t Work: Anything noisy or not having anything.  
Our Expectations:
Henry is three and a half and while I could go off others generalized age expectations I have to understand him and where he’s at.  He doesn’t have the attention span to last the whole hour plus some so we have some give and take.  We expect him to sit, stand and participate when he can; for him this is things like the Sign of the Peace and greetings, crossing himself, but we’re not to the level of knowing responses.  Other than that he’s expected to sit facing front and be reasonably quiet.  We make sure to point out important parts of the Mass, particularly during the consecration.  Luckily by this time in the evening the snack is long gone and the small stack of books has been looked at and he’s usually pretty attentive when you direct his attention.
And that is how we survive Vigil Mass.  We still have our good days and bad days.  Last week he was content to sit on our laps and watch most of the Mass; this week he managed to ask “Is Church over yet?!” multiple times and always at the quietest times, break one of my rosaries and generally flop around like a wet monkey.

Thanks to toning it down a little on what works for others and focusing on what works for us we have started thriving in Saturday Vigil Mass.  What works for you?

7 Quick Takes : Usborne for the Lenaburgs!

Hey friends, I’m taking advantage of the 7 Quick Takes to remind you that 25% of any purchase this month through the “Love for the Lenaburgs” party on my Usborne site will be donated to help this lovely family.  It’s a great opportunity to fill your stockings and help at the same time.

So to help out I wanted to share some of my favorites with you!

1)  Favorites for the Littles

2)  Favorites for the Bigger Kids

3) Favorites for the Big Kids
4)  Favorites for the Home Library
5)  Favorites for the History Shelf
6)  Favorites for Rainy Days
7)  Favorites for Stocking Stuffers!
Don’t forget that I’m offering some incentives too

Lively Faith: Ten Virtues of Mary

Lively – 
1.  full or suggestive of life or vital energy; active, vigorous, or brisk:
2.  animated, spirited, vivacious, or sprightly:
3.  eventful, stirring, or exciting:
4.  bustling with activity; astir:
5.  strong, keen, or distinct; vivid:
1. confidence or trust in a person or thing:
2.  belief that is not based on proof:

I have to admit that one of the last words that pops into my head about the Virgin Mary is “Lively”.  Every image I’ve ever seen of her is rather subdued.  I imagine her quietly sitting of to the side or calmly and serenely going about her day to day tasks.  I don’t automatically think of her as drawing much attention, yet the first phrase we are given about her in this exercise is “Lively”.

It takes four definitions of “lively” before the dictionary gets away from a definition that has to do with action.  The fifth definition is what grabbed me.  It is not Mary’s active faith that I need to reflect on; in fact we know very little about her active role in much – other than her tendency to give advice to her son at weddings.  We don’t know how great her cooking was, or how rowdy or well decorate her holidays turned out.  We don’t know how planned her meals, crafted or even interacted with those outside her family.  But we do know, just from one simple action, how “strong, keen, distinct and vivid” was her faith.

The sum of Mary’s faith was not in her decorating, her participation in Temple activities or her perfect Passover meal.  The sum of her faith was God.

I know I don’t live up to Mary’s example even on the best days.  I worry too much about my decorations, reading the right books, the right blogs, saying all the right prayers and appearing like the good girl I want to be.  I try to make my faith look vivid and lively and enticing.  I want people to ask questions about our feast days and copy my recipes.  I want those approving looks when my pre-schooler finally behaves in Mass or that pat on the back when I defend my beliefs.

I get caught up in the action of having a lively faith even though I know those are just the trappings and not the real fruit.  I know there’s nothing wrong with having a energetic, eventful or bustling faith life; in fact, we have so many homes and parishes that need more of that energy.  However, in the end, that is not the “lively faith” we’re called to.

We’re called to have a strong faith, a vivid faith no matter what or how that faith is acted out.  We’re called to emulate Mary from her most important moment – her fiat.  Her simple act of faith, the most distinct and vivid since Adam and Eve in the Garden, changed the course of human history.

We should be encouraged to live an energetic faith – be that woman who uses her talents to make her home welcoming, her parish engaging or her holiday meal delicious.  But we should not forget that at the core we must strive to emulate the strongest aspect of Mary’s faith – her faith in God.  Not only that God exists or that his rules are true, but that he will care for us and see us through.  We should strive to energetically and actively show that strong, keen and vivid faith that rests in our heart and soul; to be filled with such Grace that it becomes an energy of its own guiding us and leading others back to God.

This post is part of a series on the Ten Virtues of Mary, hosted by To the Heights and running every Tuesday until the middle of December. So if you need some help in the virtue department, here’s a great place to start 😉
October 7 – An Introduction to the Ten Virtues of Mary – Olivia of To the Heights
October 14 – Lively FaithMolly of Molly Makes Do
October 21 – Blind ObedienceKendra of Catholic All Year
October 28 – Constant Mental PrayerJenna of Call Her Happy
November 4 – Heroic PatienceKelly of This Ain’t the Lyceum
November 11 – Profound HumilityCarolyn of Svellerella
November 18 – Angelic SweetnessRegina of Good One God
November 25 – Divine WisdomBritt of The Fisk Files
December 2 – Universal MortificationAbbey of Surviving Our Blessings
December 9 – Divine PurityGina of Someday Saints
December 16 – Ardent CharityChristy of Fountains of Home
December 17 – Massive GIVEAWAY at To the Heights – Just in time for Christmas