Friday, August 22, 2014

Boy Bands, Little House, Social Media, and More {7 Quick Takes}

--1--

Okay, so the facebook page currently has 196 likes - so close to 200! If you can help get the "likes" up to 200 by 1 PM today, I'll join the lip synch battle party over at Kelly's (I'm thinking Backstreet Boys with costumes - totally raiding the husband's closet for this, since me + kids = correct numbers). 

Because don't you want to see me, John Paul, Cecilia, Elizabeth, and Mary Claire all dancing on camera for as long as possible? Yeah, it'd be epic.  Go click that little "like" button and validate me a little on social media, ok?

Why 1 pm? Because that gives me a chance to raid the storage room during nap time for appropriate clothing for everyone without all four kids saying things like, "WHAT IS THAT SAW???" or "IS THAT A CHRISTMAS PRESENT???"


Source

You better believe I'm already planning outfits and facial hair...
Edit: Okay, you win!  I didn't expect to reach the magic number that quickly...  So we're taking the morning to prep for a post-nap recording session!  I think we all know how to motivate the mom crowd now: Boy bands!!!

--2--

Are you on twitter? I'm just starting to embrace it a little more, what with the fast-paced yet short & sweet updates.  Who should I be following? Come say hi and keep me company every crazy day!


--3--

We're in the middle of On the Banks of Plum Creek right now and the kids are totally immersed in that world...  It's adorable!

We built a lego house, and John Paul put the roof on top and said it was their dugout house and I realized he's so right!!!  Elizabeth added the tower of flowers...


Right now the biggest fight in the house is that Mary Claire keeps saying Elizabeth is Pa and Elizabeth says she's Laura.  Cecilia is Mary because she says she has golden hair (even though her hair is darker than the twins').  And apparently nobody wants to be Baby Carrie, even though at this point in the series Carrie is like, 3 years old or something...  Baby Carrie is played by a VERY small baby doll.

I don't think you've ever heard anything as cute as Mary Claire talking about "Ma! And Pa! And Lauwa! And Mawwy! And Baby Cawwie!"

Elizabeth calls her Baby Carrot.  It's one of her favorite jokes (that and "Cupcake poop") and yeah, it's hilarious every time.


But look!  All four playing together!  Peacefully!  Cecilia's holding "Mary" and "Laura" in her hands, and "Ma" is lying down in front of the door to the house, obviously.

--4--

Cecilia keeps making their wagon and setting up a "bed" in it so that they can travel from Indian country to Minnesota.  Then she freaks out when the twins mess it up, which is about every 30 seconds...  But I finally convinced her to let them join in and she and Elizabeth lay like this for quite a while - it was adorable!


"Mom, can I keep da chairs like dis?"
"For a little while, I guess..."
"Why not for da rest of my life???"

#3yearoldproblems

--5--

Speaking of 3-year-old problems, she also tells me she wants to go to heaven NOW.  "I just love Jesus and Aslan and Prince Caspian so much dat I want to grow UP in heaven!!!"

But she tells me she doesn't want to have her ears pierced in heaven or have anyone prick her with a needle.  Think she's safe there.

--6--

We're road tripping to Michigan, Indiana, and Illinois soon - got any ideas for how to keep the twins entertained in the car sans DVD player?  John Paul and Cecilia will be awesome and I've got sticker books and activities galore for them, but the twins still can't DO sticker books really, and they eat crayons and color wonder markers, and Mary Claire is terrible in the car all the time anyway...  

I'm thinking I'll run to the dollar store and get some board books and order some dinosaur stuff off of Amazon since Mary Claire's obsessed.  And dig out some of the noisy obnoxious toys that we hid away long ago because they're the worst...

But what else? What books on CD are awesome that I should get from the library?  We've got the Chronicles of Narnia on CD so those will hopefully keep them happy but I think I need more than that...  Help!

--7--

Okay, off to spend the morning introducing the kids to the wonder that is BSB!  Go check out more takes at Conversion Diary!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Twice vs. ThredUP - Which One is for Me?

I've been meaning to write about this for a while, since I started shopping at both these online consignment stores.  People are always asking, "What's the difference? Which one should I use? I really like one, should I try the other?"  So here are my thoughts on the matter:

Shirt: ThredUP
Skirt: Twice

Long story short, they're better for different purposes.

Trying to find great dressy clothes or work duds?  Twice is perfect for you!

Looking for children's clothing or maternity clothing? ThredUP is really your only option of the two.

Dress: ThredUP

Let me give you a little rundown of the similarities and differences:

Tech:

Both have mobile apps, but ThredUP's doesn't really do it for me right now (you can't sort by maternity, and it's overly cumbersome to figure out how to filter).  Twice's actually works awesome, and you can get credit or a high-value coupon if you download their app.  One benefit of ThredUP's app is that you can do free returns (for now), and return shipping is one of my major drawbacks to shopping there.

Skirt: ThredUP

Twice's website is superior, in my opinion. Generally faster, easier to sort and search, and (most importantly) they list measurements for their clothing items.  This REALLY helps the shopping process, because not every brand is equal across the board for sizes - an Ann Taylor size 4 skirt from 2009 may have a 28-inch waist, but a 2013 might have a 30-inch waist, and it's really helpful to be able to see the size discrepancies so you know what you're getting.

Dress and cardigan: Twice

ThredUP's site would be VASTLY improved if there were any way of filtering OUT the "slightly flawed" items.  I know they're cheaper, but I just really don't want to buy them for myself, and there seem to be SO many on there lately that it's hard to wade through the extremely high amounts of damaged goods in order to find what I'm looking for.

Dress and belt: ThredUP

Buying:

Twice only sells women's clothes in standard sizing.  I heard they were working on a handbag store, but haven't seen any evidence of that yet.  No accessories, either.

Skirt and jacket: Twice

ThredUP, on the other hand, sells children's clothes, maternity clothes, plus-sized clothes, accessories, shoes, AND handbags.  I find this really useful when I'm close to the free shipping minimum, because I can add a belt or a scarf, or even something for the kids!

Dress and belt: ThredUP

Both have frequent coupons, free shipping minimums ($50 for ThredUP, $49 for Twice), and are great ways to build up your wardrobe quickly without breaking the bank!  But Twice's shipping is MUCH faster, although their average prices are higher.

Returns:

Twice wins here, hands-down.  Free returns, free return shipping, and if you don't hit the free shipping minimum and want to return an item, your shipping is refunded too.  I've heard they're considering adding a $1/item return fee so that they can lower prices on the site across the board, and I'm supportive of this idea - I think it's worth it for less expensive clothes, and I'm fine with being charged a little for the convenience of shopping without leaving the house!

ThredUP charges return shipping and the process takes a loooooong time - it's really only worth ordering items you're not sure about if you're ordering a LOT, because otherwise return shipping could basically make any refund worthless.

Shirt and belt: ThredUP

Selling:

I've sold to both sites, and Twice is the winner here too.  They processed my bags MUCH more quickly, payed a higher price for the items, and give a bonus commission if you choose to take your pay in credit rather than cashing out.

ThredUP takes FOREVER to process bags, pays very low prices for the items they do accept, and tends to accept less than many I've talked to would expect.  Considering how quickly they've sold some of the items of mine they've bought (and how much they're selling them for), I'm surprised I was compensated so little for them.  They send you an email when an item of yours sells, which is kind of fun.  I'd send things to Twice over ThredUP, or try consigning them or selling on eBay.

Customer service:

Both respond very quickly to inquiries - I had an issue with a dress I bought from ThredUP arriving with a slight discoloration.  I took a picture and emailed them, and they immediately credited me the difference in price for marking the item down to "tiny flaw."

Similarly, I had an issue with a Twice coupon and they immediately responded to my email inquiries and credit my account with the difference.

Products:

I adore ThredUP for their selection of clothes for kids.  Cecilia is VERY picky about what she wears - mostly jersey dresses and elastic-waist skirts, which are often rather expensive and hard to find in stores.  With ThredUP, I was able to build her a spring wardrobe for a VERY low price.  I prefer consignment stores and consignment sales because prices are generally lower, but it's not always possible to get out of the house for something like that.  I also really like that I can often find coordinating outfits for the twins through their website, which I don't like doing when I'm paying new prices, but for their prices, I think it's sometimes worth it for the cuteness!

And if you know exactly what you're looking for, you can get some serious gems (like my chambray shirt pictured above, and my very favorite brown belt).

On the other hand, ThredUP sells a lot of lower-quality brands and slightly damaged goods that are annoying to sift through.

Twice, on the other hand, accepts only higher-end brands, so you know you're generally getting a high-quality product.  I prefer the browsing experience because they're pickier about what they accept, so there's not as much that's out of style or poor quality.

But if you know what to look for, you can combine your best finds from BOTH sites and be an all-around winner!

Dress: Twice
Belt: ThredUP

Does that answer your questions? Do you have any other questions for me?  I'd love to help you out!

If you're interested in signing up for either of these sites, you can get $20 in ThredUP credit for signing up using my referral link (only until September 15, then it goes back down to $10 signup bonus) or $10 in Twice credit for signing up using my referral link.

Oh, and go check out Mandi's review of Twice!  Lots more details there :)

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Random Sunday Ramblings {and WIWS}


Yesterday was a full, full day - peach picking and playing at a friend's house (in their awesome creek but mostly with the baby's toys because, you know, that's what matters!), then off to a party and a long, tearful drive home...  So of course, after that active day the kids would sleep in, right?

Ha. 


We attempted a family picture (really need to get a tripod one of these days) and ended up with the majority of the pictures featuring Mary Claire with a peach crammed in her mouth and John Paul with his face in his calculator...


I love this shirt - one of my few maternity purchases, but it's gonna work great postpartum too because it's flowy and buttons - 6 different prints here!
Elizabeth finally came out of hiding (the moon was in the sky, which was VERY exciting from her) and Mary Claire took the peach out of her mouth, but John Paul was more interested in spelling words on his calculator than anything else, since he had decided he was DONE picking peaches.


Just for fun, here we are at the same orchard last year - look at those hairless babies!


That being said, the kids are actually almost getting useful at fruit picking!  The big kids each picked a few pounds in their bags before they got tired of carrying them, and the babies didn't run away and mostly just picked up peaches off the ground and took a few bites before discarding them for another more exciting peach, also from the ground...  It's a LOT easier to pick peaches when you're not wearing a baby on your back, did you know?

John Paul took naughty to a new level this morning at Mass when he decided (while reading a book about saints) to make pronouncements like, "I want to be a pagan!" and "I want to join an anti-Papal party!" and "I want to be like Alessandro!" (from Maria Goretti's story)...  I don't understand that kid at. all.  

So I'm thinking I'll be joining Mary starting Tuesday...  


Did I ever update you on the kimono?  I like it a lot - I don't think it's the most flattering article of clothing, but it's really nice for layering because it provides coverage without making me ridiculously hot, a VERY important clothing trait!  So I wore that with a new (like, actually NEW) maternity dress from thredUP and suddenly realized that I'm in the 3rd trimester (hello, 28 weeks!) and can't really expect NOT to look enormous in pictures...  Not that I feel even a little bit enormous, but there's just no flattering angle at this point!

And if we're talking pregnancy and you're wondering, I'm feeling surprisingly good!  I think that after the twin pregnancy, this one feels sooooo much easier, so the fact that I can still roll over at night, still lie on my back, still DO normal things like cooking and dishes and maybe sometimes laundry (but let's be honest, not a lot) is still rather astonishing to me!  Baby boy is still nameless, and will likely be nameless on the blog until birth because, well, if we ever decide we may very well end up changing our minds!

And I've got the lovely glucose test on Tuesday sooo...  I've been reading horrible stuff about that nasty Glucola lately, and I'm wondering if I can just bring my own alternative to the doctor's office and convince them that fresh-squeezed orange juice would be a better solution?  To be fair, I eat a fair amount of junk so I don't know that I'm that concerned about the corn syrup, but it gives me SUCH bad heartburn and I already get terrible heartburn...

Oh!  And while we're talking about nothing in particular, we finally took the twins for their 18-month checkup (when they were 21 months old...) and they're TOTALLY in the middle of the pack on the growth charts, both for height and weight!  This is really exciting, because for a looooong time Elizabeth was just barely hanging on to like, the 3rd percentile...  Mary Claire still beats her by about a pound, but they're both the exact same height.

And then I realized that they were probably putting them on the 18-month growth charts even though they're 21 months, soooo maybe I shouldn't be too proud ;)

Linking up with Fine Linen & Purple if WIWS gets posted today.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

How to Teach Your Kids to Sew {PHFR}

{pretty}

These babies are getting so BIG!  And more adorable by the day :)


They were reciting all the animals from this book (seriously, they adore all of her books!) in the car the other day and it was hilarious, because there are random animals like "Quetzal!" and "Xerus!"  And of course my favorite Elizabeth pronunciation, "Wino-OCeros!" (for rhinoceros, if you don't speak toddler)




{happy}

We've gotten into a pretty good rhythm around here, which includes snack time at 10 that allows me time to get dressed if I haven't already by that point (and let's face it, I usually haven't...).  And that makes me pretty happy!


I just can't get over how big they all look sitting at the table together!  And eating off of plates!


Of course, usually snack time ends with Elizabeth trying to steal Mary Claire's food.  Or taking her plate into the kitchen, sitting on the floor, and declaring it a picnic.  Or dumping John Paul's food onto her own plate the moment his back is turned...  But sweet Cecilia always collects the empty plates and stacks them on the counter for me :)

{funny}

I was ordering some supplies from Amazon to make our own bug spray (because at the rate we go through it, it's GOT to be cheaper than buying the natural stuff!), but I needed something else to add to the order because every single thing was an add-on item (don't you hate it when your Prime membership doesn't actually help?).  So I remembered that I keep meaning to get yarn needles so I can let John Paul and Cecilia do some "sewing."


Well, they found them in the box and could not wait for me to find the other supplies I actually needed to let them sew (I was going to punch holes in felt and let them sew some patterns), so I found some remnants from a scrap bag I bought a while ago and got them embroidery floss.


They were SO happy.  Terrible at it, but happy.  I kept having to fix Cecilia's because she kept stitching on opposite ends of the fabric tube (they decided to make dresses for their baby dolls), and it was really hard to pull the needles through the fabric because the heads were so big (which is why we weren't going to USE real fabric!  Just felt!).


They are so. proud. of the finished product.


You can't even see how truly terrible those things are - there's an arm stuck through the seam and I cut another hole in each side for another sleeve because they refused to settle for "tube dress" or "toga dress" as a solution...


Cecilia has now told me that someday she'll get a sewing machine and paint it pink and make dresses for ALL her dolls.  Little does she know it, but there are pink sewing machines out there in the world already!

{real}

So there you have it - baby dolls in their "party dresses" - what party they're going to in see-through orange mesh dresses, I'm not sure I want to know...


Are your kids into sewing?  I told them that before they sew anything else, they have to practice with their lace and trace pets so that I don't have to babysit their progress!  But I don't think Cecilia will be satisfied with anything that isn't sewing her own doll clothing...

Linking up with Like Mother, Like Daughter for pretty, happy, funny, real

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Why I Worked, Part 5: Surprise Twins & Mayhem at Home

Part 1 here, Part 2 herePart 3 here, Part 4 here

When we left off last time, I was getting ready to start teaching again after about 9 months off, one class every other day with almost 70 students...


Middle school girls.

I love them, actually.  Their drama is SO important to them, but for the most part it's not the *real* depressing drama that older high school girls have, so things stay a little more lighthearted.  And I had a really great group that first year back - talented singers, receptive to my teaching style, nobody threatened to kill my baby or anything...

The teaching part of that year was fabulous!  It was an awesome way for me to get out of the house a few times a week and it really energized me.  Finding a good babysitter was tough because the hours were so erratic, but I felt like I had the best of both worlds, for the most part.  I could still have playdates and see all my mom friends, I even kept hosting a bi-weekly storytime/playdate that worked with my schedule.  My coworkers were awesome and the little break I got from the kids was mostly during naptime, so I didn't feel like they really missed me too much.


We still had the time and freedom to GO places and DO things!
We decided to try for baby #3 once my fertility returned in the new year, and were pregnant soon afterwards.  The timing worked out nicely - I'd have a baby right after our winter concert and come back to work in time for the second semester.  It still wasn't really a choice to be working - we needed the insurance, even though most of my salary went towards childcare.  But I wanted to be working because it felt like such a good balance at that point.

Easter 2012 - right after we found out we were having another baby!
I closed out a successful school year and found myself slated to teach a more regular schedule the next year, because my enrollment was up and we were adding a piano & guitar class that I'd be teaching.  I thought it might be nice to have a set starting time every day and that teaching every day would make it easier to find a good babysitter (we had been through three the year before, which was too many...  Two of them were great, though!).

Cecilia and John Paul visiting my classroom

The theoretical plan was for me to keep working until we had 4 or 5 kids, at which point Andrew would hopefully be making enough money that we could actually afford the cost to insure all of us.  But everything kind of got thrown for a loop when we found out baby #3 was actually twins...  Now my maternity leave would certainly have to start earlier, I wouldn't be able to make it to my December due date, and going back to work was going to be a LOT more complicated.

A week or two before the twins were born

I finally managed to find a long-term substitute who could teach music, and almost made it to my self-imposed maternity leave before I went into labor - luckily my amazing colleagues covered my classes for the two days before my substitute could start.


A rare moment captured of them sleeping while NOT physically attached to me

Mostly they finished nursing and had to sleep right against my belly, usually holding hands, and they'd wake up screaming if I put them down.

Maternity leave was rough, obviously, because twins are hard.  So I was REALLY ready to go back to work and have a little break.  It was stressful being at home and I hadn't adjusted to being the only one caring for 4 kids under the age of 4.



Especially nursing the twins nonstop, I needed to be not in the house with them all day long.  Going back to work would be a welcome break!

A VERY rare moment, in which I wasn't holding any children

But of course, I got back to work and the stress was still there - my students HATED the long-term sub.  And to top it all off, I returned right when they were signing up for next year's classes, so I lost a ton of good students for the next year because they had such a bad experience with my substitute.  The new babysitter (the old one decided to go back to school) was the only one we could find, but she couldn't seem to grasp the concept of cleaning ANYTHING up, or putting away dishes, or really doing anything except keeping the kids alive.  I figured that was about all we could ask for because life was so nuts, and so almost every waking minute Andrew and I were home, we were cooking, cleaning, catching up on copious amounts of laundry...  And we decided to move to a house with more than 2 bedrooms, a wonderful thing but MORE stress.

It's amazing how much mess accumulates when nobody's dealing with it during the day...

Not to mention the fact that there was no time for any playdates anymore, since all my friends were stay-at-home moms whose kids were all napping by the time I got home every afternoon.  We couldn't leave the house to go anywhere because the twins needed to nurse ALL THE TIME still, and John Paul and Cecilia couldn't be trusted to fend for themselves outside of our bubble.  Oh, and the sleep deprivation...  There was no napping, because I was out of the house when the kids were napping and Andrew and I were up late every night trying desperately to do all the necessary chores.

So cute, and so terrifying...  As you can see, this is mid-move!

The break from the kids to go to work was great, but things were deteriorating at home.  And I was terrified that there was no way I could handle this all by myself.  I jumped at the chance to sign a contract for the next year, working my schedule so that I didn't have to be away from the kids for as long (it had been only 5 or 6 hours at a time, but it felt like too much), all the while knowing that either this year or the next year was going to be it for me - once we had baby #5 there was no way I could outsource child rearing to a babysitter...  We'd have to find a way for me to stay home, somehow!

But for now I was just worried about surviving the summer, and taking care of all 4 kids all by myself, all day long...
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