5/26/2017

7 tips for post-partum thrift store success


Thrift stores: they're an assault on the senses.

The racks and racks and racks of clothes. The music playing overhead on damaged speakers. The Febreeze. Oh, the febreeze is thick as fog.

And the clientelle... it's a group you wouldn't find in a Nordstrom.

But then again, you wouldn't find me in a Nordstrom, either! Ok!

So. Why do I love thrift stores?

Because I got tired of finding myself 2 months post-partum in the summertime, and having no shorts that fit. I refused, REFUSED I TELL YOU, to put my maternity shorts back on, and yet my regular shorts were still a good 2-3 sizes away from fitting.

I got tired of being six months post-partum in the spring and having zero shirts or dresses that I could wear to mass and nurse in discretely. Cue my Sunday morning meltdown.

I got tired of being four months pregnant in the winter and having to dig out the maternity clothes, only to realize that last time I was pregnant, my first trimester was in July, not December, and I had exactly zero pants that fit.

Back in January when I wrote about my losing battle with minimalism, Sean and I added up how many sets of clothes I need to outfit myself in the various combinations of pregnancy/post-partum/nursing in  summer/winter.

It's a FULL 10 SETS OF CLOTHES.


Stevie's shocked, too.

I began thrifting as a budget-friendly answer to my ever-fluctuating body size and shape. I regularly hit up my favorite local thrift store about twice a month. Here are my tips to making that one, solitary, beautiful hour on Saturdays at naptime, out shopping alone, worth it:

1. Find cotton blouses. 

My wardrobe is full of 100% cotton button-downs because they are a workhorse of a shirt. They stand up to being washed weekly. They are universally flattering. If I hang them up while slightly damp instead of drying them all the way, they don't need to be ironed. And, most importantly, I feel great in them.

Gap and Land's End made great cotton button downs. I can usually find good Old Navy ones as well.

2. Skip the knits.

When I'm thrifting, I generally skip over shirts that are knit blends of rayon or polyester. Even if they're in great shape on the rack, they're still more prone to pill, wrinkle and fade as they're washed.


3. Shop for bottoms IN ANY SIZE. 

When I need jeans, black pants or khakis for mass, or skirts for every day wear, I flip through the racks in both my normal size, then also a size down, and a size up (or 2). Obviously the items in thrift stores come from a hundred different brands and manufactures, and so sizing is all over the place.

I'm nine months post-partum and my current rotation of bottoms (all thrifted, by the way) contains items in size 6, 8, 10, and 12! I don't let a number dictate whether I'll try on something. I get a victory in walking out of a thrift store with a pair of J. Crew chinos that make me feel confident. I could care less what size they are.

4. Shop for bottoms, actually, all the time. 

Jean and pants are a terrific aisle to start in for someone who hasn't done much thrifting before. My theory is that women discard their jeans and pants way before they're either out of style or worn out, either due to their size changing (*raises hand*) or making room for other items in their closet. Either way, the thrift ladies win. Thrift stores are chock full of barely-worn ladies' jeans and pants. Carpe denim.

5. Try it on--selectively.
Thrift store dressing rooms often leave something to be desired--namely, clean walls and fresh air. I try not to spend more time than absolutely necessary in them. Pants almost always need to be tried on, unfortunately, due to tip #3. But with shirts, if I've got a good feeling about a piece, I'll often bag it without trying it on. At about $3/shirt, I'll take the risk.

6. Save more money with extra discounts. 
I never seem to remember this but on Sundays at all (I think) Goodwill locations, one color tag is discounted to either $2 or $1. On any given day at my favorite thrift stores, tags of three different colors are either 25%, 50% or 75% off. Some thrift franchises even have points/reward programs.

When items are already so discounted, these extra discounts can make things amazingly cheap. For instance, I thrifted my entire Mother's Day outfit (cute navy blue wedge shoes included) for about $10. #notbad

7. Go alone. 

Some ladies are superhuman and are able to navigate thrift stores, dressing rooms and crowded aisles of used junk, all with CHILDREN IN TOW. I am not one of those women.

And with that, my bag of tricks is empty. If you're a fellow thrifter, I'd love to hear how you score the deals.

Linking up with the Kelly for quick takes!

5/22/2017

what NFP looks like, four babies deep

It's posts like this that make Sean nervous when I announce I'm blogging more frequently. : / Ha.

So eight years and four babies ago, he and I were here:


Then here:


Awww. Positively AWASH in blind naivete.

Next here:


Love the bump-as-toddler-seat. Another one here:


and then there was another one here:


and good grief now we are here:


Spots are still available in our workshop how to look THIS GOOD in family pictures. Call today.

I wish someone would have told me (and hey, maybe they did) that the woman in each of those pictures would feel dramatically different about NFP in every snapshot.

I've felt elated by being able to use NFP correctly and space out the births of my kids.

I've felt terrified at the idea that another baby was coming, sooner than I would have planned.

I've felt like a biological bad ass, knowing my cycles and correctly identifying both the conception date and due date of a kid.

I've felt like a unschooled idiot, unable to say whether I ovulated on day 14 or day 24. (Those fluctuating hormones when you're trying to wean.. man, they're nuts.)

I've felt deeply grateful for NFP, knowing my body is free from synthetic hormones and implants (yikes).

I've felt like shaking a tired fist at NFP for not being as simple as... as synthetic hormones or implants.

Now, I've resolved to make NFP charting not an afterthought, or something I try and remember to do if I have time. Now, it needs to be the priority. Writing about NFP resolutions is always tricky, though. Nothing gets you pregnant faster than saying "we're back on the charting wagon!" But since taking my fourth trip 'round the maternity ward last summer, I have substantial motivation to keep the womb room vacant for a while.

I'm tired. Sean's not feeling great. The kids, they all seem so little sometimes. Joe and Amby learned how to pour their own milk this year, so, yeah, that helps. But still. What's it like with four kids? You know the line.

I've learned (finally! slow! learner! alert!) that NFP can't be a passive feature of my marriage, if I want to delay having another cherub. NFP isn't a cute creed that we hold in unison with all the other NFP-using families out there, making us members of the larger-than-average-families club.

It's work. It is a daily, hourly commitment to observing fertility signs--and that was a doozy during Lent when I decided I'd take up drinking a gallon of water every day. #tmi

It's a struggle. It can be embarrassing, for all parties. It's a guarantee of awkward marital conversations. It's a guarantee you'll watch a lot of Netflix.

But. To me, NFP is synonymous with bodily honesty. To me, it's the total fulfillment of "allllllll of me loves alllllll of you." I cherish the simplicity it brings to our bedroom, to our marriage. You don't need much to practice NFP. I think that's worth a lot.

Using NFP right now to delay/avoid conceiving looks so dramatically different than it did for that girl in the white dress up there, kissing her groom, beginning her marriage. She had her paper chart all ready to go, with multicolored stickers to spare and a Creighton FertilityCare handbook at the ready.

She also had a flip phone and thought Facebook was stupid. Ha.

Fast forward to today, when my iphone buzzes at 10pm each night to remind me to chart. I use this simple app (which I absolutely love). I use these ovulation test strips after I think I've charted peak as a double check (you can buy them on Amazon for about $40/ 7 tests). We talk about how the cycle is looking. And then... the baby usually cries. Heh.

Eight years in and four babies later, and NFP and I are still getting to know each other. Here's to a long and happy relationship.

5/18/2017

7qt / what I'm loving at walmart vol. 2

Let's play another round of cheap yet moderately fashionable wardrobe add-ons!

1 / high neck swing tank


Nice modal fabric, a high neckline, a long-ish length AND A RUFFLE. Never have I clicked "add to cart" so fast and paid $7 so willingly. Date night. It's out of stock in everything but white right now, but I'd bet it gets restocked soon, based on how popular it was online.

2 / toddler girls knit dress


Gus has been living (and climbing, and digging in mud, scaling the wood pile, etc.) in this $5 cutie of a cotton dress. The stripes nicely camouflage the mud (and the jelly, the cheetos, the neon popsicle drippings...)

3 / woven skort


I am now that person who wears skorts (provided they have the skirting in the front and back). Confession: I love them. Cute as a skirt, practical as shorts. YesI am an SNL skit come to life. : /  This one comes in "railroad stripe" and it costs a whole $3 and fifty cents. Come. On.

4 / inflatable pool


The beauty of a walmart: short skorts and inflatable pools all in one cart. This is an audience poll: are inflatable pools any good? I bought 3 of the plastic shallow kiddie pools last summer, all of which acquired quick holes from Amby throwing rocks in/at them. Think an inflatable might be any tougher? Or is the answer that I've got to make Amby stop throwing rocks in the pool? (Please say no.)

5 / ozark stainless steel tumbler


My beloved plastic travel coffee cup developed a big crack in the lid, so I'm considering going the stainless route. This seems like a winner, purely based on the 3,200 5-star reviews... and considering it's $7.74.

6 / swim shorts


I need to revisit and update my ode to the swim dress post from a few years back, but this is the first year in many moons that I get to wear a non-maternity (and dare I say non-nursing-friendly) swim suit. I prefer the coverage of swim shorts and skirts, regardless.

"Taking Four Kids to the Beach" should be the title of a kick-butt cardio Crossfit-style workout at every gym, because it would contain six hours' worth of:
- deep squats
- resistance running through sand
- treading water
- carrying 40-lb weights (that scream and kick) through blistering parking lots
- kettle bell swings with the toddler as she screams "AGAIN!! AGAAAAAAIN!!!"

A friend sent me this imomsohard video tonight on swim suits and it is EVERYTHING.

7 / real shorts (levi's signature high rise shortie)


I ordered these a size up so they'd sit lower on my waist and thereby not be so... short. But I have a feeling I need a bottle of spray tan and a pair of booties to pull them off. Or maybe a trip to the returns department.

Go forth and shop thriftily!

Linking up with Kelly for 7 quick takes.

5/16/2017

mid-year 2017 book reviews!


I told Sean the other night: "Having a catchy book to read is AWFUL. All I want to do is, you know, read it all the time, to the detriment of the children's upbringing."

I think I have to cut out any of the chick-lit romantic/mystery novels, because I find myself yelling "Yes, turn on another Super Why! Even a Wild Kratts, if you're feeling fancy!" to the minions in the family room as I sink into an armchair with my library tome and an iced coffee. Not good.

1. Orthodoxy - book club
G.K. Chesterton
I'm giving myself brownie points for the fact that a work by Gilbert Keith is my first completed book of the year. Absolutely loved it, proud that I finished it, moderately understood most of it, dramatically underlined lots of it. His perspective on liberalism, fairy tales, materialism and the childlike monotony of God made me think about how every age has its madmen and its lunatics--and yet every age has the hope of a renewal of faith.

2. A Hundred Summers
Beatriz Williams
Seemed to be the book everyone was reading last year. Definite beach read that I finished in a few days (cough cough BY IGNORING THE CHILDREN cough cough). I thought I saw the twist coming in the first few chapters, but no! It surprised me with 20 pages to go til the end. Not a deep twist, true, but good enough to make me gasp. A little on the raunchy side.  

3. The Well - book club
Stephanie Landsem
OH MY. I admit to being a book cover snob who cocked a skeptical eyebrow at historical fiction set in the time of Jesus. But good golly, this book swept me up in an incredible (fictional) account of the woman at the well. Not the most well-written and not the sharpest dialogue, but a fantastic imagining of the harsh realities for women, especially shamed women, in 30-something A.D. Palestine. Riveting and hopeful. Our little book club devoured it.

4. Home Cooking
Laurie Colwin
You win, Mags. :) I added this to my list as soon as my wonderful book worm friend recommended last year, and I'm so glad I did. Possibly the best line (though the competition was fierce): "I'm never on a diet that I cannot be talked out of." Amen.

5. Boys Adrift
Dr. Leonard Sax
Good golly. Should be required reading for anyone raising, teaching, coaching, or otherwise encountering BOYS. Sax begins with a root question: Why do young men today lack ambition and goals--besides those associated with video games? He drills down to five root causes that, in his opinion, have created a generation of slackers. I drove Sean nuts for days, saying "I have to read you just this paragraph" and then would go on for pages. One chapter, though, on plastics and the dangers of water contaminants made me freak out, possibly unnecessarily. But the rest was pure wisdom and great advice from a man who sure sounds like he's done his homework.

6. The Jeweler's Shop - book club
Karol Wojtyla
I am no longer the Catholic poser who everyone just assumes has read The Jeweler's Shop. Ha. Yes, enjoyable. Yes, very different to read a play in book form than to see it performed. But yes, something must be a little lost in translation, right? I don't know. The dialogue felt a bit redundant in spots. But it is uncanny how a never-married Catholic priest (or was he already a bishop when he wrote it? hm) can so insightfully write about marriage, write about women, write about the love of a man and wife and how it changes, grows, fades, and renews itself over time. It's almost as if he were a saint, or something...

7. The Secret Life of Violet Grant
Beatriz Williams
Ok, ok, I've got the Beatriz Williams bug out of my system. Pitted against A Hundred Summers, I'd say I enjoyed Summers over this one. But again, I read it in a few days and remained glued to every page. All in all, I'd call it a shade more graphic than Summers, too, and without good reason. Compellingly written and a fine beach read, for sure, but not one I'd easily recommend.

And that's the list! I need to get through The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Thursday for book club, and after that, I was thinking of Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver.

Honorable mentions go to every Zita the Spacegirl book, which I read to the boys and we both LOVED. That Ben Hatke, he warrants his own separate post, methinks.

If you've got recommendations, throw 'em my way!