Tuesday, December 31, 2013

On marriage and the holidays

(UPDATE: the morning after I shared this post we found out I was pregnant!  And the story goes on...)

Let's talk about dirty laundry.  Not the pair of underwear that Penny put on her head the other day and then threw a 35-minute tantrum when I took away and replaced with a more suitable piece of fabric for such an activity.

Marriage: "covenant by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life and which is ordered by its nature to the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring."

Dan and I fight.

According to most marriage experts I care to listen to, fair fighting is a healthy part of any intimate relationship, but it sure doesn't always feel good.  For us [especially this year] the holiday season really pushes and tests our communication skills and patience.  This December basically kicked my you-know-what and I'm going to air some of it out because I think it's gonna feel good.  If nothing else, let this post be a "me too" for the rest of you out there whose December wasn't all snowflakes and dream fairies.


Each having separate stresses and not reading each other's minds.
Me with my mental to-do list comprising of Penny care, photo deliverables, gift purchases, tax preparation, and everything else that moms do; and him with his year-end stuff for work and being the spiritual leader of a disastrous house.  We get so preoccupied and wrapped up in what's going on in our own heads that sometimes we fail to share our burdens with one another.  This makes us feel isolated and frustrated with one another for not knowing exactly what's on our minds. I'm most guilty of this in our house.

[Not] synchronizing schedule commitments.
With text messaging often used as a way of communicating with other people, it's very easy forget the "hang on, I need to check with my spouse to make sure we are free." step in the making-plans process.  I'm sure husbands and wives all over town have this problem because technology makes us feel like we can and should give people an answer right away, even if it's impulsive.  It's been kind of a perfect storm for us these last few weeks.  Lots of social gatherings happen this time of year, some planned and some impromptu.  And maybe I forgot to tell Dan a couple times that I had scheduled or moved a photo shoot.  Or Dan might have forgotten to tell me that friend(s) were coming into town and he made plans to see them, or that Penny needs a nap every afternoon before committing us to mid-day outings.

Dressing up and getting out the door on time.
The latter part of this has been a weakness of mine my entire life.  Punctuality is not my strong suit, and add an unpredictable child to the mix, it's extra difficult to leave the house at a designated time.  Make me do my hair and makeup AND get said child all dolled up in photo-worthy ensembles AND pack the car with gifts or camera equipment or diaper bag or potluck items or all of the above?  Yeah. Not a smooth experience.  No matter how much earlier I start getting ready, or how many bags I pack in advance and load into the car, there is ALWAYS something that holds us up.  Again, guilty. This drives Dan batty.

Keeping house.
Here's another natural weakness of mine, magnified and multiplied by the hectic December complete with one rainy day that caused enough mud in our backyard for the dogs to completely cover our wood floors.  This year we ended up paying to have the house cleaned before we allowed ourselves to put up our Christmas decorations.  That felt good but I also felt
like a failure.  A messy house is a big stressifier for my husband and I fail him in this area consistently, especiallys  since I spent almost every waking moment this month shooting or editing photos.

Buying (and budgeting) gifts.
Fail to plan, plan to fail.  We actually worked really well as a team in the Christmas Shopping efforts this year.  Where we failed (and where the stress stems from) is in the budgeting department.  Our last-minute, spend whatever, approach to providing this-and-that for loved ones feels great when you're watching them open it, but not-so-great when you look at the bottom line two days after Christmas.  Let me be clear, both Dan and I LOVE giving gifts, and we did not go into debt buying anyone anything this year, I just wish we had been more organized about it.  In some areas I felt like we gave too much and in some, not enough.  Better luck next time.

Night Owl vs. Early Bird
Here we differ all year long, but since I started photography on the side it has been much more significant since I am doing most of my work when it's pitch black outside.  I don't understand why Dan won't "can't" do anything productive after 10pm.  He doesn't understand how I can sleep past sunrise when there's a to-do list hovering over our bed.  And nobody wins when you go to bed and wake up at different times than your spouse.  Being out of sync is just a hard thing.


There's hope.  When we fight, we always make up. Here's what we focus on:

-Dividing and conquering. Don't step on each other trying to micromanage the other's projects. Two can do more than one, let it be so. This can take a lot of self control for strong personalities, but it's so important. 

-Coming back to the importance of being a team and giving each other the benefit of the doubt.  No grudges, no hard feelings; forgiveness and togetherness. 

-Knowing when to stop the exhaustive talking and lean in for a hug instead.  Coming back together for physical contact can sometimes remedy tension better than the best conversational skills. 

-Making decisions together about things that mix it up and feel good, like giving to charity or getting some fresh air and exercise. Remembering that it's not about us.  Stepping outside the status quo. 

In the new year Dan and I will continue to work on developing our communication styles to better suit one other.  Marriage is a journey. 

Up here in the quiet of the mountains, tonight our goal is to make it 'til midnight before falling asleep :)

Do you and your spouse have any communication goals for the new year?

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Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Winner Winner

Congratulations to Noel M. -- you are the winner of the Matilda Jane Clothing $50 giveaway!

Merry Christmas Eve to all and to all a blessed and beautiful day with your families.

Now if you don't mind, I'm going to be wrapping presents all day…

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Monday, December 23, 2013

Cheery Things

[If you are looking for the Matilda Jane giveaway post, it's still live here and you still have time to enter! but I hope you'll read this post too :) Merry Christmas!]

Recent Holiday Happenings from My Neck of the Woods

iPhone photo
-UPDATE: The Griffins are no longer the Scrooge-house on the block.  We hung our stockings and put up a Christmas tree and wrapped lights around the front porch (patting self on back as I type).  This might seem like table stakes (side note, I used to think the expression was "table steaks") but there was a little while there where I had accepted the notion that we might not decorate for Christmas at all this year.  We were too busy, I was too stressed, and it was the one thing that we could do without since we aren't hosting any gatherings this year.  But we did it, and I'm so glad.  Better late than never.   I felt so much better about the world as soon as I hung that jingle bell wreath on our front door.
   I was quite concerned about the potential adventures a toddler might attempt with access to a Christmas tree, but surprisingly Penny couldn't care less about the smorgasbord of breakable ornaments and electrical chords in the corner of our family room.  Winning.

-Daniel's brothers (twins) who live in California and Louisiana were both in town these last few days.  Dan and all of his siblings have not all been in the same place at the same time since our wedding  almost three years ago.  It was awesome to hang out with them and get to have brothers around, but my most favoritest part of having them both here was seeing how happy it made my mother-in-law to have all four of her children together for Christmastime.  (Spoiler alert, Nana) we also did some family photos which I will be pleased to share on social media after I have given a few of the printed ones out as Christmas gifts.  Jon left today (sad face, he has to work on Christmas Day) but David is here for another week (yay!).

-I've found another Christmas movie to add to the annual-watch list: 1947's The Bishop's Wife.  It took three attempts to watch it from start to finish (late nights) but it was well worth it.  It's long and a little slow moving at first, but the characters are utterly charming, the acting is classic and the story is good.  Other movies will come to mind with the same themes and similar story lines, but note that this one came before all of these.  Dare I say it's my new favorite black and white film.

-Between online shopping and calculated errands over the last week plus one trip to the mall, our Christmas shopping is almost done.  Now the fun part: wrapping.  I would love to start a gift wrapping business if I had the time.  I. Love. Wrapping. Presents.

-And then there's this Apple commercial.  In my past life working in marketing and advertising I would have loved to do a case study on this ad.  In my currently life as a wife and mommy, I just enjoy it :)

-My friend Steffi hosted a cookie decorating open house on Saturday.  Read: Penny got to have a play date with lots of other little kids, our husbands got to chat and do guy bonding, and I -- happy as a clam -- I got to decorate sugar cookies with perfectly homemade hardening frosting in all different colors and lots and lots of glitter and other embellishments.  Crafting meets dessert: yes please!  I feel like I haven't decorated cookies in years.  It made me want to start a baked goods decorating business.  Then I remembered that I just started a photography business sooooo….

photo: Jane Z
-In my first six weeks as a "professional" photographer (FB page), I have been so blessed to serve exactly thirty clients.  I am humbled and overwhelmed at the amount of interest and support I got in the immediate phase of giving this a go.  My own jaw drops when I reflect back on where I was two months ago, giving my two weeks notice and offering to take Christmas card pictures for a few family and friends with my DSLR.  Never in my dreams did I think I would be here today with a small portfolio built, shooting full frame, booking sessions through February.  Capital B--Blessed.  If you are reading this and you are one of the last three 2013 clients who haven't gotten their photos from me yet, please know that despite my own familial commitments and holiday craziness, I am working on them dutifully and with the utmost attention to get you your images in the time frame promised.

Sidenote and shameless plug: I'm also offering gift certificates! What a wonderful gift to provide someone a photo session that they can use any time next year!  Contact me very soon if you'd like to buy one as a Christmas gift!

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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Matilda Jane Love (giveaway closed)

Do yourself a favor and go grab a cup of hot chocolate and a blanket for your lap, because you're going to be sitting at your computer for a little while doing some shopping and wish-list-makin'! 

Today we're checking out Encore, the final release of the Paint By Numbers collection by Matilda Jane Clothing.  (psst… and there's a $50 giveaway at the end of this post)

Penny's Outfit
In these photos, Penelope is wearing the Turtledove Knot Top, Stippling Tee, and Gallery Leggings

What you can see: sublime little-girl whimsical style. As a budding photographer the first thing I noticed about this outfit when I took it out of the box was how well it would photograph (as all MJC outfits do) but after some wear I know it's also very practical for playtime and parties. 

What you can't see: how SOFT the fabric is in the leggings and tee.  These items are also very well made (I know this to be true of all MJC stuff  because I've got hand-me-downs from my niece that are in perfect condition even though I know she wore them a lot!).  Five stars for style and quality.

A note on sizing... Penny is sixteen-months-old, and as you can see, the size 12mo fits her perfectly.  I've noticed that MJC sizing runs a tad big for babies and toddlers, so keep this in mind as you shop for your littles.

You might remember we did another MJC giveaway in September (here), and while I'm tickled pink that we got another chance to try out another great outfit, I'm even more tickled pink that I can mix and match all these pieces together.  Thus is the Matilda Jane way… so many cute pieces and so many ways to mix and match them together!

Penny is going to show off her new MJC ensembles at two of the many Christmas events that we have on our calendar in the next two weeks. Perfect timing!

How to Shop

You've gotta find a Trunk Keeper in your area and buy the items through them.  It's kind of like an underground boutique of girly goodness.  If you live near me in the Phoenix area, I've tracked down a seller near us.  If not, you can find one through the website, easy as (storebought) pie.

What You've All Been Waiting For: Giveaway Drawing!

One lucky reader will win a $50 gift card towards their next Matilda Jane Clothing purchase!

Three steps to win:

1. [on your honor] Share a link to this post on the social media platform of your choice, so others can have a looksee at my review and enter if they'd like.

2. Browse the Matilda Jane Clothing Collections online, and in the comments below, share which item(s) you might like to purchase if you won, a sort of "wish list".   Your comment is you putting your name in the hat! (Commenting works best from a computer, some have had trouble commenting from their phones.)

3. Make sure I know how to reach you if you win!  Hi new friends, I'm Julie.  If we've never met and I don't have your contact info, you can email me at juliejanuary [at] gmail [dot] com if you'd rather not post your contact info in the comments.

I will select a winner at random at 8am (Arizona) on CHRISTMAS EVE!  Good luck!

P.S. My blogariffic sister-in-law is featuring a MJC review and a giveaway on her blog this week as well.  As far as I'm concerned, there's no shame in entering both drawings, especially since it means you get to see more of my sweet niece, Hope, sporting her MJC outfit too.   

Aren't these cousins the sweetest?

* Opinions herein are my own and I was not compensated for this review beyond items being provided to me at no cost.

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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Class of 2031

My stop-in-your-tracks moment du jour came not when I realized that Christmas is eight days away (and we are still the only house on the street that doesn't have lights up yet), but earlier in the day as I was rocking Penelope [back] to sleep after a teething-pain pre-emptive wake-up from her nap.   I was thinking about how little she is and remembering how little my sister used to be (now in college).  Then after a typical female random trail of scattered thoughts, I calculated in my head what year Penny will graduate from high school. Rocking, rocking, calculating.  I had to check my math.  I had to count on my fingers. Penelope Jane Griffin, Class of 2031.

My thoughts lately have unfortunately been wandering over to negative territory from time to time as I find myself wondering: "what if I died?"  Like seriously, what would happen if I died?  Car accident, early onset of fatal disease.  Penny wouldn't even remember me.  This concept of time and how much of it we have and how precious it all is gets me choked up around the holidays.  It's a horrible thing to think about, but I guess as my love for my family continues to grow, so does my fear of all the good things slipping away.  Hormones don't help.  Stress doesn't help.

I wish I had an advent post for you, or photographs of all the cool Christmas baking and craft projects I have been doing that I found on Pinterest (I haven't).  But truthfully, December has been a pretty regular month for us, aside from the photography business (this is like tax season for an accountant) and the full social calendar.  I'm hopeful that it will start to feel more like Christmas when I'm caught up on photo editing and when we put our tree up.  I guess it's ok not to be Pollyanna all the time, right?  Thank you, God, for my wonderful husband.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Rock Me Mama

Well, she did have her first MMR vaccine last week, and I know that one can have a whole slew of side effects.  She had the stomach flu this past weekend so maybe she's still not feeling regular.  Oh, and our neighbor kid has Hand Foot and Mouth Disease (maybe she's getting that?).  And my mom has the flu (maybe she's getting that?).  She's cutting her first molars in all four corners of her mouth which is undoubtedly bothering her a whole lot.  I have been working in the office at the computer a TON, maybe she's irritated that I'm not spending every waking moment with her?  Our house is the only house on the street that doesn't have any Christmas decorations up yet, I bet she feels inferior to the other neighbor kids, especially the ones with the three giant blow-up snowmen adorning their entire front lawn.

As parents it's so easy for us to try to find pathology to explain every little thing our kids do.

My Penny has been more-than-ornery off and on for a few days. Doesn't want to eat, everything is "hot" which means she doesn't want it. Doesn't want to be put down, doesn't want to be held.  Wants Mama, then wants Daddy, then wants Mama again.  Wants a bath, no - a shower, no - a bath.  She is even getting frustrated with Apollo, her best bud, when he comes near her looking for baby affection.  Doesn't sleep through the night, wakes up whimpering in agony, the kind where momma knows she's not faking anything.  Today when she awoke from her nap, she cried uncontrollably for a good forty-five minutes. She's never done that before.  (Of course when Dan got home she acted fine which made me look like a lunatic.)

Something is going on.

Last night, I just cuddled her to her little heart's chagrin until she fell asleep, twice; just like I did in the morning as we watched Elmo's Christmas Special on Sesame Street together on the couch; just like I did this afternoon after our shower and before her nap.  

In short seasons like this, parenthood is extra hard.  The challenges of teething or illness can sometimes outweigh the obvious joyful moments.  My head aches as I consider my to do list of a million things, and everyone who is counting in me for something. People want their photos. And their rulers. And their Christmas gifts.  

I don't have time for teething.  But taking care of my family comes first.  I will sing You Are My Sunshine and watch Curious George until I'm blue in the face, we just might not be putting up a Christmas tree (again) this year. 

(Written on my phone, on my couch, with a toddler in my lap.  And no I haven't even put on pants today.)

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Thursday, December 5, 2013

Penny Jane: Sixteen Months Old

Twenty-something pounds and almost 33 inches tall.  Wearing size 12 or 18 month clothes, and a size 5 shoe.  We've got ourselves a full-on toddler.

We are in a time of watching closely that little fingers don't slam themselves in doorways 
and little foreheads don't bump themselves on faucets 
and little hands don't pull heavy things off the counter tops onto soft little heads.

First time we saw her blood (ever) was on Thanksgiving day when she busted her frenulum (the little thing that attaches your lip to your gums) on a set of doggy-stairs leading up to a bed at my parents' house.  Yes, the kind you buy from Skymall catalogue.  I thought we were going to have to go to urgent care and get her some stitches, but my uncle (an E.R. physician) had a look at it and said it would heal itself (it has).  Also in the mouth, she has cut what I think are some upper molars in the back of her mouth, and has been sleeping horribly, some nights waking at both 11:30pm and 3 or 4am.  I'm thinking growth spurt too?  Whatever it is, mama and daddy ain't thrilled about it and are looking forward to it being over.

She gives out hugs and kisses on request and it's utterly adorable.  She tells the dogs what to do in their own little secret code, and calls them over by smacking her lips, just like mom and dad do.  Her love affair with Apollo (the golden one) grows stronger every day and I wince at the thought of how she is going to feel as an emotional pre-teen when the dogs pass away.  Why do parents think about these things?

She goes all the way up to the top of the playground, and down the big swirly slide all by herself, signing "more" with her hands when she gets to the bottom every time.

Semi-regular vocabulary (said with a special Penny accent):  Ball, Mama, Daddy, "Here You Go," "Go Go," Doggie, Up, Seat, Leslie, Wow!, Oh!, More, Socks, Papa, Nana, Hat, Hot, Happy, "Whooooaa!"

Her recent thing has been nodding her head "yes" to prety-much any question she is asked, and with the utmost enthusiasm.  We try not to manipulate it for our own amusement, but it can get pretty funny. It amazes me how well she comprehends questions and commands, despite her limited ability to speak herself.  She also shakes her head "no" on the rare occasion when she definitely do NOT want something.  I.e. "Penny, should we change your diaper?"

Daddy and I often call her "Pay-Goo" which is a phonetic shortening of "Penny Goose."  She also gets called "Boosey" a lot or "Booses." -- both short for "baby goose."   I actually sternly called her "Penelope Jane Griffin" for the first time (and surely not the last) during a discipline moment, and then I laughed at myself… as though she would understand the significance of being called her full name.

Her dance moves are my favorite. Her little mullet hairs in the back are my favorite.  She's my favorite.

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