Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Monica Jane: 2 Months

Dear Monica,

You are the cutest, happiest little baby ever. It already feels like you have been with us forever, yet at the same time everything with you is so fresh and new. Two months with you has flown by!

You are growing like a weed! The 0-3 months clothes we have for you are already getting pretty snug, so I get to be more creative with getting good use out of your little outfits. You're hitting all of your marks... If we had gold stars to hand out, you'd get a billion. We're so proud of you! It helps that you're now sleeping 6+ uninterrupted hours at night (for three nights in a row! Yay!!

I love seeing your face light up when people lean in to talk to you. You smile the most for me (I selfishly hope you do forever) and you're more than eager to chat up a storm to anyone who will listen. You study your dad's face like you want to remember every detail of him until the next time you look at him. Celine provides good entertainment for you, and you do a pretty good job tolerating you as she points out the parts of your face. She's working on being gentle though... that's why she softly pets your head and tummy all of the time.

Your full head of hair is starting to thin a bit, but don't worry: if you start to look like a goon we'll trim it up nice for you so it can grow in even again. Right now you're sleeping on the floor... tummy time doesn't make you too mad, but after you hold up your head for a few seconds you're kinda over it and you just sleep. I like to lay next to you when I can so we can have a little quiet time. We'd better soak it up now... Thanksgiving is tomorrow and it might be a little overwhelming for you.

I love you so much, my Monica mouse. You're the best little mini-me I could ask for. You mean more to me than words could possibly express. Enjoy your fresh-out-of-the-bath nap... big sister will be waking up soon to play with you.


Just for fun, here's Celine at 2 months :)

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

4 Steps to a Decluttered Home

Joel and I have both moved around quite a bit. Less than a year stints in different apartments, renting with friends, and even for me a month living out of my car (long story). Over time, our keepsakes and boxes of unsorted stuff has accumulated (mostly at our parents' houses) and has finally made it back to us. Combine that with the things that we have held on to (much of it unnecessarily), and here we are with a tower in our basement of mystery boxes full of stuff we don't want or need.

Clearly the "just put it here and we'll sort it later" room
Before the move, I set out to clear the crap, sort what was left, and move into our new home with a fresh new system and neatly organized boxes, clearly labeled with their necessary contents. I started watching Hoarders to motivate myself, and then got to work. ...And then I remembered I was VERY pregnant, tired, hot, and couldn't lift anything for the life of me. As I feared, at least 75% (I did make some progress!) of what was originally there got shoveled into the new basement, as haphazard as ever.

At least we have the tubs and cupboards for future sorting.. they're mostly empty at this point.
We're getting into a little of the colder weather seasons now (Christmas in less than two months?!), the girls and I are juuuust starting to get into a little bit of a rhythm, and I have most of my energy back, so I'm getting on the horse and finishing what I started.

It's a work in progress for sure, but here's a snapshot of our system for clearing out:

1. Designate 5 workspace areas: trash/recycle, sell, give, keep, and an open area to go through one box at a time.

2. Ask yourself the following questions when going through the stuff (list I borrowed from Popsugar):

3. Sort it back. When you decide to keep something, give it a clearly designated spot. Home decor goes together by season, small craft supplies get separated by baggies, bathroom toiletries get put into a few smaller boxes rather than one huge drawer, etc. My labelmazer became my best friend, which made it so much more fun to give everything little matching name tags on where they should go. It honestly reminds me of organization in a preschool room...

I am 100% going to do this with our kids' toys... once I make it out of cleaning the basement.
Source: Small Potatoes

4. Ask for help. I found a lot of great tips from Nadine, Haley, and a myriad of other Pinterest suggestions. I also, very realistically, needed assistance from my super-strong hubby, to move heavy things for me (especially up and down the stairs) so I could stay on a roll sorting. I've heard of the Konmari method, but I'm not quite familiar yet (if it's tried and true in your home, let me know; I'm up for anything!)

"Spring cleaning" is a thing, but I'm determined to make this fall/winter cleaning (Let's be realistic, with 2 under 14 months it'll probably take me that long). Hopefully I can chip away at the mountains downstairs and eventually I'll have an amazing reveal post for you later on (dream big!). :D

How do you declutter when the time comes? Do you have any tricks of the trade to share? Feel free to message me or comment below!

Monday, November 2, 2015

How I Survived My First Two Years of Marriage

In honor of our second wedding anniversary today... 

They say the first two years of marriage are the hardest (so they say). I won't say these have been the hardest two years of my life or anything, but if they're the hardest two years of marriage, I'd say we're looking pretty good from here on out.

Joel and I joke that we have been living in fast forward. We fell in love fast... so quickly, in fact, we had not even met yet. We knew we were going to get married within the first month of dating (again, before we met in person), and even considered engagement months before we actually did (long story). We dated for 7 months, were engaged for 6, and about a month after our wedding we found out we were expecting Rauch baby #1. Then I quit my job to be a stay-at-home-mom. About 4 months after Celine was born, we found out baby #2 was coming. Sometime around here Joel switched jobs. And then we bought a house right before baby #2 got here. Phew!

Needless to say, these two years have been eventful. They've been full of sleepless nights, dirty dishes, stressful days at work, and our fair share of miscommunications. We've also taken countless road trips, had plenty of family bonding moments, and lots and lots of silliness. We love being in a home of our own and the girls fill our hearts with SO. MUCH. JOY.

Joel and I do our best, but we still have our off days (sometimes longer). It takes a lot to remember that marriage is a union of two imperfect people trying to make it work. We are constantly changing and learning more about each other, and with that comes more changes in how we interact, show love, and deal with everyday life.

I don't by any means claim to be an expert on marriage, but here's some of the ways we managed to pull it off...

1. Talk about everything. - "Communication is key." (Joel's input for this post.) We made it a point right off the bat to talk about anything and everything. We figured out fast it's better to over communicate than to guess. If we're not communicating well, everything else will be off. There's no way a 2-part unit can function properly if the two parts are not working together.

2. Fight fair. - It doesn't happen very often, but we do argue. We learned the hard way that when things get heated, it's really hard not to get caught up in the moment and say things we don't really mean, or say things just to push buttons. Once we had a chance to wind down, we made ourselves a couple of guidelines for heated battles:

  1. Abolish absolutes: No using "always," "never," "every time," etc.
  2. If you're going to assume, assume it's a misunderstanding. A lack of clarity and understanding on either side makes a world of difference. Talk it out in different words and see what happens.
  3. Listen before you speak. There are 2 sides to every story and you won't make any headway if you can only hear your own.
  4. Try and stick to the facts and "feeling" language. "When xyz happens, I feel like..." Conflict resolution 101.
  5. If things get heated, take a breather. We both tend to tidy when we get frustrated and hit a wall (figuratively), so we each passive aggressively clean until we've had a chance to calm down. We've spared a lot of hurt feeling slaying dust bunnies instead.

3. Make time to be married. - Of course we're always married, but 97% of the time we're also wearing the hats of parent, volunteer, employee, counselor, babysitter, parishioner, secretary, maid, and so on. If we didn't take time to step back from the crazy and give each other undivided attention, we'd be ships passing in the night. Let me break this down a little better:
  • Flirt! Always and often.
  • Ask get to know you questionsBecause we're constantly changing (and forgetting!), there may be some things you'd ask your boyfriend/girlfriend of a few weeks that you might have forgotten about already (Since when can my husband juggle??). 
  • Date like you're still dating. Ask yourself over that candlelit dinner: would I talk about my kid's popping habit change on a first/second/third date? Probably not. Let's save the parent talk for later. Need date ideas? Pinterest has a billion-ish. Here are some ideas of mine if you're stuck. ;)

4. It's ok to be separate. - We each have our own sets of friends, along with the ones we share. We have separate hobbies, different ways to wind down, and different things we do to work towards our respective dreams. And that's ok. If we shared every waking moment together, I'm pretty sure we'd get sick of each other--fast. We're different people, and embracing that helps keep us as individuals that compliment each other instead of some creepy dumbed down combo person... you get what I'm saying (hopefully).

5. God comes first. - Pray without ceasing. Frequent the sacraments. It's powerful stuff and without Christ at the center, relationships crumble. Don't neglect your duties to your spouse and family, but a real relationship with Christ should always be a priority.

BONUS: Our "marriage handbook" has been By Love Refined: Letters to a Young Bride by Alice von Hildebrand. It's helped in our prayer life, conflict resolution, and understanding of each other's differences as man & woman. I highly recommend everyone ever should check it out.

P.S. Joel: I love you. You are awesome. Thanks for being the best person ever. I am all yours.