Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Homeschooling with A Bunch of Little Kids

The new school year is upon us and there are all sorts of school posts flying around. Around here we are going into our second year of officially homeschooling, as opposed to just doing whatever the heck we all want with a stack of library books and some crayons. Last year went well on the whole, but because Nora was practically a newborn, still breastfeeding, and Max was under 2 for half the year I had a very minimal schedule, curriculum and expectations for the year. Some things went really well and other things drove me kinda crazy.

Sidebar: I'm fairly committed to homeschooling. I believe in it strongly from a educational, familial, religious, mothering, everything standpoint. You know how the catchy thing to say about homeschooling lately is "It's not the hill I'm going to die on"? Well, it's not the hill I want to die on but it's the hill I'm going to put the most work into working, especially while my kids are young. That being said, if things radically changed and a great Catholic school began to exist 5 minutes down the road I'd be seriously tempted, but as things stand now schools in my town, Alberta, Canada...not my cup of tea for small, beautiful, people. So I hope that helps in case you think I'm just a glutton for punishment homeschooling with 5 kids age 7 and under -- as some strangers have been kind enough to point out! 

But it is really difficult to homeschool with only little children. It's hard to do anything and everything with only little children, ammiright? So it can be really discouraging reading a lot of homeschooling blogs because they seem so wildly unrealistic for those of us who have a majority of under-the-age-of-reason kids.

There are no laid in stone schedules around here. There are not copious amounts of activities and curriculum that involve a lot of mom cutting, pasting, gluing, creating. There are constant needs to be attended to that get in the way of concrete schedules and lessons. There are babies crying to be fed, babies needing to be washed and changed, fights to be broken up, food to be given out, fights broken up, babies to be washed and repeat. There's also a copious amount of whining. Choruses of "Maamm, where's my blankity-blank toy??" and "Can I have more raisins/cereal/apples/food?" every 4.3 minutes. People just need, need, need around here. That is the majority of my day and time.

Add to this barrage of appeals the fact I can't guarantee a full night's sleep yet or when the babies will awake, and that my husband leaves for work before 6 am everyday, I pretty much need a break by 9 am. Just a couple minutes of no asking or whining really. Just a little recharge. Of course, this is a pretty idea, a pie-in-the-sky idea. But it's necessary in some form or else I'm on the fast train to meltdown by 10:30 am.

Basically I need a break before I even start the homeschooling.

I've kept our daily curriculum that requires my devoted attention to Gemma and Dom (who are both working together through the same reading and math) to a sacred 45 minutes in baby's nap time each morning. That leaves Luke who usually can entertain himself with Legos, stickers, books, activities very well and Max, who usually likes to scream, break things, and cause general disruption. I know, I know, Pinterest. But there are not enough "little kid play boxes for school time" to give me enough patience some days to deal with 2 year old crazy. It's a fact, Jack.

So I need breaks. I don't have the patience of Job. It is hard to deal with little kids constantly without a little phone time, reading some blogs, locking myself in the bathroom, even falling face down on my bed for several minutes every hour, or half hour some days. I'm admitting it.

Which brings me to my main difficulty that I'm trying to combat this year for a better school year: giving myself breaks to refresh my patience levels! I think I've got to be 100% more intentional about giving myself some time to get back on track before making the kids go through another lesson, read another book, get-everything-done-right now! I'm hoping it doesn't come to a Daniel Tiger every 50 minutes, but I'm going to make myself take breaks where I give myself a little time to not respond to every superfluous toddler demand, or explain another question about the atmosphere to the 5 year old. It will just look like ten minutes of me not accomplishing anything. It will look to the hard and fast homeschool scheduler like I'm going off-track, derailing the school day, allowing precious time to be further exploring the intricacies of Ancient Egypt evaporate.

This is all to support the fact I believe my kids are having a pretty great time at home. They're learning like little intelligence-sponges. They love books, asking questions, trying new things. They maintain creative and imaginative play the rest of the day outside of book learning. There is no busy-work or being forced to be around people that could be rotten influences. There is time for nap time, they don't have to awoken at a God-forsaken hour to get on the bus.

It's not perfect. But there is no perfect.

I'm going to take a lot of breaks this year if that's what it's going to take to make everything work, because I've gotta lot of little kids. Making it all for work you is what homeschooling is all about.

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Friday, August 15, 2014

Seven Quick Takes vol. 97 - Now with Lip-Syncing

Joining the great takers at Conversion Diary, be sure to visit the better contributors!


I didn't intentionally not blog for a week but with all of everything in the world and internet being so...awful...I just didn't get over here to write at all. I also have a bad case of writer's block, or summer laziness -- not going to lie. 


Although I didn't get around to blogging this week I felt, on the whole, to be organized and on top of things. Which means, first of all, two things: a) It's taken this long into summer the summer for me to have a good grip on the  summer schedule and b) I obviously need to start school soon. 

But you know that feeling of being on top of things? It doesn't mean you're cranking out the scrapbooks, or throwing parties, or whacking out freezer meals until Christmas, it just means you did the dishes today, you're on top of the laundry, each minute you're not accomplishing something you aren't dealing with the stress of 15 other things that should have already been finished. You find yourself saying aloud, "Wow, I've really got my shit together." That's how this week felt to me. For some reason my kids were sleeping in, I guess the heat and constant play outside was working. I wasn't being awoken by screaming, crying, or fighting. Nora had been sleeping through the night for almost a week straight which I don't think had ever happened before. The overall euphoria of sleep and the added mental health benefits of not being woken by many babies really improves your outlook on life! 

I was just getting to the point where I was actually believing I could get up before the kids to have alone time, maybe I could begin that hallowed road to the creative mom who scours time for herself to write. Or maybe I could actually contemplate exercising before 5 pm when utter exhaustion hits me like a semi truck. The opportunities springing up before my very eyes! Maybe everyone else isn't crazy and it is possible to accomplish things on a daily basis with children! 


That all lasted until Thursday. I can only keep up on top of things, while maintaining a patience filled attitude, and extra margin for extra non-neccisity-of-life-basis for 4 days. 

Thursday was a long day. Full of everyone fighting over everything the other touched. So many questions. So many overreactions. So much potty-training accidents. And then: a two year old who could somehow get a paint can lid off in a carpeted room.

By 5 pm I was destroyed. The waves of questions, and fighting, and outrages washed over me like I was caught in a riptide of small children. 

All this is just my 148,937th example of why a stay at home mom could use a housekeeper, chef, nanny, and bartender among her household staff.


Each year we always have hummingbirds come to our little feeder outside our living room window. They first arrive near the beginning of May and frequent the feeder before their eggs hatch, then as the dandelions bloom in June and the rest of the flowers in July we don't see them as much. But come August they love the feeder and are buzzing around constantly because they've gotta bulk up for that epic journey back to Guatemala or wherever it is they escape to for winter. 

I just love them, they seem to have such personality for birds and are always dive-bombing each other, or fighting over the feeder. Photographing them is always difficult but I got this picture on my phone the other night, it only took about 100 shots to get one with two of them. Yesterday we saw five buzzing around but I think that far exceeds my photography skills. 

They've really the cutest until the dive bomb you while you're sitting on the deck with your coffee and you jump out of your chair spilling said coffee all over yourself because the crazy birds have scared the crap out of you. Or so I've heard.


Here's a question I would like to pose to my pioneer ancestors should God in his mercy let that day come: "How on God's green earth did you keep your family alive by canning all the things that grow in summer while having children??" 

In my area pioneers settled this land just over a hundred years ago really. I used to work with seniors who were born in sod houses. They remember their mothers taking care of their 9 siblings through winters where they couldn't get two miles to the nearest town for months. 

But I walk by the canning aisle in the grocery store these days and would love to make jam, can some peaches or green beans and then I think it would also be great to be in a movie with Brad Pitt. I just think it is impossible. So how did those wonderful women pull it all off a hundred years ago when they were alone on a prairie with a sod house full of children? 

I know there are a lot of differences and things that helped and so forth, but still, all my hats are off to them and I'm sure that was their time in purgatory burnt off right there!


Shirtless, with a temporary tattoo on his chest; classy.

I've been meaning to post about this great book from Ignatius Press; Peter, Apostle of Jesus. It's a well done book full of very child friendly artwork and it covers all the events of Peter's life from the Gospel with a great explanation of how he became the first pope. My kids are just beginning to make connections from one Bible story to the next, so I appreciate as many materials that emphasize people from the Bible in connection with the Gospels themselves. Part of my general attitude towards religious education at home is to have them as well acquainted with the Bible as possible, which usually looks like retelling, rereading our children's bible and as many different Bible stories and books as we can get. 

Ignatius Press is doing a good job of bringing together books on the saints, the Church, and the Bible for all ages of children. I really appreciated that they sent me this one to review and the boys especially enjoyed the portrayal of St. Peter in the garden with his sword! I noticed that this book along with many other great children's books are on sale right now if you need another reason to buy some books! 


Kelly called me out on this one, and so here's my very silly contribution to her lip sync-athon! 

(It's only half the song because I didn't think you all wanted me to do 5 minutes of singing, and there is much more likelihood for success if I try to get my kids to be quiet for 2:30 minutes.)

Hopefully I just won't watch it and I'll be able to leave it on the internet for competition purposes. God Bless the Youtube.

Happy Weekend everybody!

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Friday, August 8, 2014

Seven Quick Takes vol. 96

Ummm...I'm linking up to Jen's 7 Quick Takes that has a picture of me with Jen in the post. It's a whole collision of all my blog dreams coming true!


I feel this has been a bad news week all around. I don't even like to say "news" anymore because what makes news in our media is so far from it for the vast majority of the time. But this week hearing such horrifying accounts of human suffering just leaves us somewhat stunned. I hate feeling half a world away and completely useless about it all. It's one of those situations where you question how much prayer can really do. But I am praying for Iraq and it's people, both Christian and Moslem and hoping there is an end to the terror.

Also; Gaza, Ebola. I grow weary thinking of it all, Have Mercy Lord on us.


These are going to have to mucho rapido today because we are all off to the city to take the kids to Fort Edmonton. Its sure to prove an exciting outing full of badly timed bathroom stops and much sheparding of slow, small people. But its no Disneyland so i think we can make it.


Ok, so it's Friday night, we're back from the day at the heritage park, we all made it home alive albeit exhausted! I took so few pictures on my phone and the camera is still in the car that has 400 new ones, so another time there will be photographic evidence. Suffice it to say though, I love that place. It makes me feel like I'm living in Avonlea and it's basically my dream come true. As Gemma would say. One day when Gemma's read Anne of Green Gables she'll know that Fort Edmonton park is really her dream come true, not princess filled Disneyland.


Potty training has been going so far so...laundry producing? It is hard to come up with a positive turn of phrase when describing potty training. I do however, prefer to look at progress not so much as always getting to the bathroom, or always telling me they need the potty, or even always telling me they've gone in their pants, but as a percentage game. He's going in the potty around 40% of the time. So thats 40% better than 3 days ago. Right? Right?? Yeah. I may be getting a bit desperate but it is all about staying stronger than the toddler who never wants to divorce the diapers.


I'm sure you have all read about the horrible tragedy of Sarah Harkins death last week. My heart breaks for her children, her husband, her family and friends. Jenny wrote so eloquently this week about it and the tragedy has been at the back of my mind too. Thoughts like: What if this was the last time I was stepping out of the house to play with my kids in the yard? How could such small babies be left motherless? How do you begin to help such small children deal with that amount of loss? And of course, there is always a questioning of God in these tragedies because it doesn't make sense and it seems so wrong.

Please God, give us the gift of faith to keep going in the midst of unknowing. I believe Sarah Harkin is praying for us all though and especially her children.


That tragedy came to mind this week when I stepped out my front door and got stung by a wasp. I didnt want to move. I wanted my husband to keep his fingers on my pulse. How does something so foreign have the ability to end life? I prayed anxious prayers that I would be alright, even though it was one tiny sting. How could I take that casual insect sting and my life so lightly now?

Then Max was stung 4 times on the leg yesterday and I not so mildly freaked out. I think he must have unknowingly barged into an area where the wasps were building a nest under a deck, and all his bare, potty-training flesh was too easy for the wasps to go after. The bites were red, ugly, and swollen and I was ready to drive him to the emergency room the second he showed any signs of worry, but he just brushed them off and didn't complain at all. He was very tough about the situation, and I felt stressed out and over-anxious. Thank God, though!


Great things in the internet this week included:

The wonderful fundraising for Kelly's son Fulton for a beach chair that gives him much easier access to enjoy the beach and ocean with his family! I'm just so happy we, the internet of friends, could all chip in a little and make life so much fuller and easier for a wonderful family! Good job Bonnie!

I'm a Father Barron nerd and an occasional Woody Allen fan so I loved Fr. Barron's article on Woody Allen.'s the Feast of St. Dominic who is the patron saint of our Dominic even though my Dom has been walking around all day saying, "Happy St. Dominic Savio Day!" Sigh.

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Wednesday, August 6, 2014

What I'm Reading Wednesday -- All the Chick Lit!

I was a poor planner this year and didn't get out a summer reading list because I had read very little chick-lit this past year and you must have chick-lit in the summer! I've been packing in the chick-lit for the past month or so because it feels so fun and summery. It almost convinces me that I can stay up late reading and sleep in the next morning -- rude awakening there my friends! And I've gotta admit that I've got to read some English Victorian novel soon...

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

I have complicated feelings about this book. It was well written for chick-lit and had such a great portrayal of people with disabilities and those who care for them which I really appreciated. In my past life I used to work for home care and people with disabilities in their homes, so the way it was written felt very true and believable. But I hadn't read much about the plot line in all the rave reviews this book received most everywhere; it's essentially about euthanasia. It may show some aspects of euthanasia's destructive nature, but it basically portrays it in an extremely sentimental light which feels disingenuous in a novel. I'm all for realism in fiction and approaching difficult subjects, but when done just for an extra tear jerk? Not so much. Have any of you read it? What did you think?

The Little Lady Agency by Hester Browne

This one was a lot of fun especially if you're an Anglophile like me. Written in pitch-perfect modern British parlance, you just enjoy hearing the conversations in your head and you really like the main character even if the hi-jinks are a little silly. A light-hearted romantic comedy perfect for summer reading!

Silver Bay by Jojo Moyes

This novel got a little too sappy and a little too formulaic for me to enjoy. For the first half of the book you are sucked into the story because you want to learn more about the characters which are fairly well written, but the second half there were whole chapters I wanted to edit out completely. So if you're in the market for a romance I'd pass on this one this summer.

Veronica Mars: The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line by Rob Thomas

I'm a complete Veronica Mars fangirl, or Marshmallow, so I had to read this book even if it is mass-produced, ghost-written, and based on a tv show. Taking place after the movie, the book brings in all our favourite characters, but could have used a little more Logan! On the whole it was really enjoyable, almost like reading an episode of Veronica Mars. Not quite as juicy as the movie, and not as entertaining as seeing the great actors spout of lines of smart sass in split seconds. It reads like a good YA book and is easily readable on a flight, say to Austin and back. Recommended to Veronica Mars fans for sure.

Mastering the Art of French Eating
by Ann Mah

I'm also a very big food memoir fan, so reading a foodie memoir feels like summertime fun reading to me. This book was very well written with just the right mix of personal story and actual food writing which I look for in food memoirs, because that's what makes it different than just an actual memoir! Sorry, but apparently this needs to be pointed out to some publishers. France has so many different and interesting regions with their own unique dishes that it was fascinating to hear of their origins. The writing was so very good that you kept page turning whether it was a more personal section of story or more centred around food, and it has recipes!

Those were quick so head to Housewifespice for more great reads this week and Heather's for Five Faves to get you to Friday!

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Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Summertime Musings

I swear I was going to bah-log last week and Bam! a week later already and no writings.

As last we left our adventures I had just gotten back from a whirlwind weekend in Texas with next to zero sleep. Once I got home I slept-walked around for a couple hours, then hit the hay about 9 pm. Only to be awoken to small people vomiting in the middle of the night.

Sidebar: Why the middle of the night? They haven't eaten in literally hours and yet - so much vomit. They're not even moving! It's just one of those mysteries of small children I will never understand.

And then there was throw up for about the next five days. Not all of it during the night thankfully, so I strung together a couple hours sleep to feel semi-normal again, but still, it was a long week of grumpy, sick children and a lot of laundry.

Have you noticed how sickness during the summer feels like a further indignity to a mom who usually feels children's illnesses as undue cruelty? It feels as if the few, short, luxurious, fantastic days of warmth are being stolen from you. Or maybe this is only a Canadian mom's problems because our warm days are so rare and dear very rare. Last week though, it was almost too hot for the kids to enjoy being out so calling it sick days with extra tv made me feel a little less guilty that I wasn't outdoors lapping up the vitamin D.

Another thing about this hot weather that's a small drag is summer cooking. I just don't like it. I prefer stewing, and braising, and soups - glorious soups! I find grilling gets so old. Our fresh, local, tasty produce is just now ripening to the point of eating which is great, but for toddlers the idea of salad for dinner just goes over like a leaden balloon. So I find every afternoon I get a little annoyed when people want more than beer, hummus, and a cucumber thrown their way for sustenance.

Onwards and upwards though this week because I'm potty training! I'm beginning to think that potty training to the mom who's done it once, twice or thrice before is akin to childbirth. You know it's going to be so bad and you honestly will pay as much as it takes to avoid it altogether. But I'm just biting the bullet since they make no epidural for potty training -  or do they? *cough* wine *cough* - and so far so much yelling at me every time the word "potty" is mentioned. Lysol wipes should sponsor me at this point.

Anyway...I just wanted to type something to avoid both the potty messes and the ordering of school books that I should be doing right now. Hopefully I'll get my act together and write some coherent and interesting things soon.

Patron Saint of Potty Training - whoever you are - pray for us!

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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Edel 14: Real Women, Real Friends

I travelled over 5000 miles this past weekend to go to Edel 14. My expectations were hard to pinpoint. Part of my expectations were dreamy and full of star-struck anticipation of simply being in the same room with women I have looked up to for years. Another part of my expectations wondered how it'd feel to meet so many people whose online personas I had become so familiar with; surely I would suss out those inauthentic people, surely there would be many who would be totally disappointed with just me. But I was surprised with how quickly we met and immediately felt comfortable with each other, how great it felt to know that these women were even more genuine, kind, and themselves in reality than they are in their writing.

Friends like Haley, Molly, Kelly, Jenny, Kate, Bonnie, and Sarah who I've followed and emailed and commented and friended for some years were real friends. Women who I've followed from afar like SarahNell, Heather, Leticia were more lovely and real in the flesh. And the women I've looked up to for years Cari, Hallie, Rebecca, and of course Jennifer; not because they portray glamorous lives on their blogs or have a perfect life I envy but because they've shared the difficulties of their lives, what it costs to follow God's will for their family, how their faith has given them more life than they dared hope, and joy in their crosses, were kind, fun, beautiful, and so wonderful to me.

In all this there was the realization that the truth in how we see each other both in real life, and even more so online, is so prone to the lies of comparison, criticism, willful misinterpretation, the unwillingness to give the benefit of the doubt, to think of ourselves as less than, alone, the only one with difficulties, struggles, burdens, fears, crosses, failures, and complications. These lies all fester in our isolation as Catholic women and mothers, living in a world so contrary to our beliefs and vocations, but also because we don't want to share our weaknesses and failings or actively choose believe false ideas of others.

But the truth is that all of us women share the same Faith. We are all sinners trying to accept the life and forgiveness Jesus wants to give us. We're all learning, striving, failing, trying. We are all imperfect, we all have trials, sufferings, and piles of crummy stuff in our lives whether we blog it for the world to see or are unable to mention it to anyone but our confessors. There will never be a point in our lives here on earth where we'll see all our difficulties and pain in the past tense and be ready to enjoy ourselves, to give ourselves a party, to feel completely confident when meeting a stranger and that is why we have to choose joy, friendship, compassion, forgiveness, and the party right now. If we don't actively make the choice to choose joy in our lives in the midst of all the awful we may just become buried in it.

And no, the joy doesn't need to come in a wonderful and extraordinary weekend thousands of miles away. Maybe it's making time to call a friend to genuinely listen and genuinely share. Maybe it's giving yourself an afternoon by yourself to refresh in silence, shopping and coffee. Or it could be trying something new, reading a new book, spending more time with your husband even if there are dishes and grime everywhere and you feel ten pounds too heavy and five hours short on sleep.

This weekend was about coming together in friendship to support each other in our lives as Catholic women that can often times feel so tough and heavy. There was so much grace found in the warm smiles and hugs, in the fun and laughter, in the sharing of food and drinks, in the knowledge that these women were real. We all came as ourselves, and were welcomed as ourselves. There was a tangible feeling of acceptance, openness, and the embrace of all aspects of our lives. An authenticity that was the best comfort to each other.

I will always remember the great fun I had, the friendships seen in actuality for the first time, the greatness of being able to get dressed up and drinking a margarita in the Texas heat. I'm so grateful for meeting so many new women who exuded love and gave me joy. And I think that I now have a renewed energy to choose the joy when I feel surrounded by the tough stuff and to help share an authentic, Catholic, life and love with the women around me and online.

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Saturday, July 19, 2014

Answer Me This: Because Kendra Told Me To

Since my friend Kendra so kindly tagged me in Answer Me This, I can hardly deny her and her blogging power. Her wish is my command, although she may regret it!

See my perplexed face?

1. What's something you won and how did you win it?

I sincerely wish I had a dramatic answer to this one. I'm drawing a giant blank though. I will say that I've won several lovely blog giveaways that always makes my day. But I enter blog giveaways by the thousands I swear so it really is no luck or talent, or even good odds. I always dream of winning a big 50/50 from a hockey game or something though, because I think that would be the best. You could spend on something you hadn't planned to, or pay things off, or give good gifts, and maybe give a lot away. Maybe one day.

2. Do you save old greeting cards and letters, or throw them all away? Why?

This answer may horrify people, but I usually toss all greeting cards even though I really appreciate them and love receiving and giving them. I just find that they're usually needless clutter you never look at again. But I do save personal cards with notes in them, and every letter I've ever received.

I loved having pen pals when I was young, and I believe I still have boxes full of letters in the basement from when I was 12. I love writing letters! My husband and I spent most of our pre-marital (boy, that makes me sound approximately 98 years old!) long distance and we wrote each other copious amounts and that's all saved of course. He also sent me cards for no reason, wrote on packages of candy he'd send me at college, and made me the most amazing personal music cds and would write on the actual disk. He was pretty romantic come to think about it.

3. When you're at home, do you wear socks, shoes, slippers, or go barefoot?

Here in Canada we never wear shoes indoors. Most likely because we're mostly wearing snow boots, but it's true. When I'm at home I wear my slippers mostly and it makes me both feel and look like a grandma. But they're sheepskin lined and I have awful circulation in my feet so they keep my feet at the perfect temperature which I kinda love. I also have noticed I spend a lot of time on my feet at home, and that it's getting harder to go barefoot. So that bodes well for my future old age...

4. Who's the most famous person I've ever met?

This is where I should have an awesome story and I really don't. For some reason Kate Middleton still hasn't met me, or Father Barron, or Jennifer Fulwiler. Or the Pope. Or Jamie Oliver. Honestly, I have no good stories, I'm not going to list all the politicians and minor Catholic speakers I've met, although shout out to Michael Coren!

5. What has been your best work of art?

I so wish I was artistic and could come up with something tangible to show. I spent most of my childhood and all the way through high school playing piano and singing, so that counts for my artistic ability but I have no great recording or even a memory of a piece I played the best. Which is alright, I never had the talent to be a professional but the beauty of the art, what it taught me in the process of coming to know it, and how fulfilling it was to play, even at a mediocre level, was/is lovely.

And to write a book as a piece of art seems completely out of my scope but I do hope that those who write books that really are art take pride in that crazy ability.

But of course I'm also going to say my children....because....

6. What's your strongest sense?

Did Kendra mean one of the 5 senses? Because I'm almost blind, not great at hearing things, my sense of smell has been pretty decimated by 5 children, my taste is decent, and my sense of touch is not at Helen Keller levels.

I will say though that my gut instincts and ability to perceive and judge a situation/people is pretty good. I occasionally have to apologize and repent of my first impressions, but on the whole my first impressions usually prove accurate or at least on base. And my gut instincts have never failed me and I can tell right away when I think something is wrong. I've also come to just accept this and see it as a strength even though it's not a cool gift.

So there you have it. Not too exciting but honest!
And for the bonus question - here's what I wore Sunday, or Saturday in my case:

Everything is from J.Crew Factory, but I didn't plan it that way honest!
Now say hi to the FLAP girls for What I Wore Sunday...

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