Monday, November 23, 2015

You don't need a lot of money and stuff to have kids.

Recently I was having a conversation with an engaged friend who feels worried and anxious about when to have kids.

She and her husband-to-be both have stable, successful careers, but the financial aspect of parenting really scares her. She had been quoted some outrageous numbers about how expensive it is to have a child, and had heard horror stories about how hard those early years with a baby can be. Some news article was claiming that the first year of a baby's life costs parents $10,000—insane and totally untrue!

All that doom and gloom was making her question whether it would be prudent to be open to having kids right off the bat.

While everyone has a different situation and there are certainly many excellent reasons to postpone a pregnancy, I hastened to reassure her that the financial aspect (for her situation!) was not one of them.

As I like to say time and time again, you don't need a lot of money and stuff to have kids.

Katrina has a post I love that is pretty much the last word on this subject. To second what she said—as long as you have a way to feed the baby, you have some baby clothing and diapers, and some sort of carrier/wrap to wear the baby, you are pretty much set. I could tell you about the baby products we have and almost never use (stroller, crib, bouncer seat, bottles, pacifiers...) but honestly, you would hear the same thing from most parents you talk to. Babies don't need much, especially if they are getting most of their nutrition from breastmilk.

My family lives in a really, really small apartment. I don't know the exact square footage (and I'm bad at visualizing these things in numbers anyway) but let's just say it's so small that everyone who visits us comments on it. And I'm more than okay with that, because my hope is that our guests think, "Wow, if they can have a baby in this space, I can definitely have a baby where I live." In fact more than one newlywed friend has said this to me, and I'm just like "YES. My work here is done." :)

I have a friend from church who is expecting her third child and lives in a studio apartment. She and her husband are both Irish, and she told me once, "My husband likes to say, 'If our ancestors could have ten children in a tenement flat, then we can definitely have three in a studio!'" So much of the "stuff" and "space" that people think they need for their babies nowadays is so unnecessary.

She also told me that occasionally they get negative comments from people who don't approve of how many kids they're having, and so quickly. She told me she likes to respond, "It's great to be young and in love." I love that response because it just sums up what really matters: having a loving, happy marriage and family.

This is the way I think about it: the secular world tells us that happiness and riches come from having things, from accumulating possessions and experiences that would look cool on Instagram. But the Bible tells us that the greatest wealth is children. And at the end of our lives, what else but our loving relationships with our families will really matter?

Friday, November 13, 2015

Apple cake October and a rather artsy November

This post is dedicated to Aunt Sharon, because she said she keeps checking my blog for an update! Also to Jenna. Love you two!

I read this great post yesterday called "I miss blogs" and it got me all nostalgic for when I used to blog more often. I was all "Grainy photos and stream of consciousness ramblings? YES. That's me. I got this!" So here we go.

We went apple picking in October. It was a gorgeous and fun day with our friends.

But then we had all these apples. So I did what no normal person would, and decided to try out every recipe for apple cake I could possibly find.

That would be FIVE apple cakes I made in the month of October, using four different recipes. I made Jewish apple cake, French apple cake, Irish apple cake, and German apple cake. Frank and I taste-tested them all to decide which recipe was best. They all had subtle differences between them, such as that the French one contained rum and that the Jewish one had a crumb topping. The clear winner was the German one, though, because it included cream cheese frosting. It was the only one I made twice. Did I take a single picture of any of them? No! That's how you know I'll never be a real blogger. ;) But don't worry, I will share the recipe for the winning German apple cake. You are welcome!

Halloween came and we went trick-or-treating in my sister's neighborhood. Oh yes! She moved back to Chicago and bought a house, and our boys are the best of friends as we hoped they would be. It's a blessing beyond description to have them back in the area.

We dressed the boys as a lion and giraffe and filled their little red wagon with stuffed animals. Our little lion got really into character and ran around the house roaring all day!

In November, I discovered that the Art Institute—where we've been members since we got married, but hadn't visited in a while since I assumed it wouldn't be baby-friendly—is actually a fantastic place to take toddlers. Thanks to this fantastic Mini Masters board book series Frank bought him for Christmas last year, our boy was fascinated with the Degas and Monet exhibits. I'm sure it helped that we read the books on the train on our way in. On top of that, the museum has a newly installed education center that is a dream come true for toddlers—art books, puzzles, blocks, animals, the works! And you can rent a complimentary stroller! We plan to visit many more times this winter.

It's just been a good fall for museums in general. We've also taken the boys to the gorgeous Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, where they got to walk through the butterfly exhibit and pet a turtle (while Lillian and I hilariously translated the museum biologist's very detailed and scientific description of turtles into toddler-speak... "Turrr-tle. Belly. GENTLE.")...

... and to the Chicago Children's Museum, where they loved roaming through a toddler-sized grocery store, log cabin, and CTA bus!

And we occasionally dressed them matching, just to confuse people as everyone asks "Are they twins?":

What can I say? Our boys love this city of ours. And we do too.

Oh! And my in-laws came to visit (woohoo!) and I turned 26, but that was all the way back in September.

We did an evening boat cruise on the Chicago river...

And Grammy gave Frankie his first haircut! He looks so much older now.

Well that's all for now. Thanks for reading!

Friday, August 14, 2015

Giveaway + podcast interview!

In my friendships with other Catholic moms, the one thing I hear everyone crying out for is community. We all want it, we all need it, and we're all trying to build it.

Ideally you can get that community from your friends in person, but that's not always possible in today's world. The next best thing is finding that community online or in books, and one place that I've found that feeling of community is in Michele's fantastic new book, Rosaries Aren't {Just} for Teething

Michele collected reflections on each mystery of the Rosary from Catholic mom bloggers (most of whose names you'll probably recognize!). These women are in the trenches of motherhood, and they get it—the difficulty but also the joy of being a mother, and the importance of having Mama Mary by your side. This is a great book to take to prayer, and read slowly so you can really savor and enjoy it!

I'm giving away one e-book copy of Rosaries Aren't {Just} for Teething. Good luck friends!! 

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Also, Amy and Michele invited me to be a guest on their "Little House Mothering" podcast—such an honor!! I had a blast chatting with them about so many fun topics! Hope you guys enjoy it!

Sunday, August 2, 2015

The baby races!

I just have a funny, silly story to share with you all today.

Last Saturday, some of our friends were moving, and through a series of events I ended up watching their 1-year-old son along with Frankie and our neighbors' 1-year-old daughter while Frank and our friends helped with the move.

I took them for a walk. The boy in the stroller, Frankie in my ring sling, and the little girl walking along "helping" me push the stroller. Very helpful.

We made it to the park and went on the swings, and I kind of felt like superwoman as I rotated babies from ground to swings (there were only 2 swings). We were there for about 15 minutes before the little boy freaked out a bit that his mom wasn't there, so I put him back in the stroller and we began our odyssey home.

The little girl got tired of walking (it was a long walk for her!) so I ended up carrying her back in my arms while still wearing Frankie and pushing the stroller. We took a lot of breaks. I'm proud to report that there was only one incident of a runaway baby knocking on a stranger's door, and only a little bit of crying, and no one ran into the street! It was a great success.

Except it was really hot out and I must have really looked like crap when I got back, because all the other adults kept bringing me glasses of water and saying, "Here, Tess, you really look like you need this." But hey, I'll take it.

Later on my friend Anita came to help with baby duty, and she brought her 1-year-old daughter too. It was just the two of us in charge of four 1-year-olds in a mostly-empty apartment.

So what did we do? We had a baby race.

Let me set the scene. Here are the contestants (from left to right: Girl 1, Girl 2, Frankie, and Boy 2):

We lined them up against the back wall, a sliding glass door that overlooked the balcony. Anita went to the other side of the room and dramatically poured out a line of Puffs—the finish line. Whichever baby got to the Puffs first would be the winner.

Boy 2 started crawling first, but he only went about a foot before he noticed his mom wasn't there and stopped crawling to scream.

Girl 2 made the next move, but instead of crawling, she turned around to look out the glass door and got completely (and adorably) distracted by the view. She never even noticed there was a race going on.

Girl 1 really got into the spirit of things. She ran excitedly toward the Puffs, but was so carried away by her enthusiasm that she ran right past them and kept going out the front door.

Frankie, meanwhile, crawled right over to the Puffs and started stuffing them in his mouth. He won by default.

And Anita and I almost fell over laughing.

Friday, July 31, 2015

What I Wish I Knew Before I Got Married

"First, I've learned that marriage holds up a mirror to your truest self—and you won't always like what you see..."

Friends, I'm over on Christina's great blog today chatting about some of the lessons I've learned in the first two years of marriage.

Head on over and say hi! :)