Nov 28, 2013

Flowers Fade {Black} Friday

I was in Walmart the other day shopping for our Thanksgiving feast when a sign caught my eye. It sat above an end cap filled with discounted groceries, and it read "More Christmas for your money!"

The sign instantly struck a chord with me, but it was a painful pluck on the strings of my heart. Because the sign had it all wrong. We have it all wrong. The Amazon-shopping, discount-hunting, gift-giving spender in me has it all wrong.

No amount of money can buy you more Christmas. No discounts or sales will make this season any more joyful. No gifts – given or received – can make this time any more sweet.

Because Christmas, ultimately, is about Him. It's only ever been about Him. And it will only ever be about Him.

And here's the real kicker. The truth that should punch you in the gut. His gift is free…

While we spend our time clipping coupons, scouring ads, making list, and fighting for spots in the mall parking lot, His hand is extended to us.

This isn't a plea to simplify this Christmas. It's a plea to believe in the One who's already given the greatest gift to us. My hope is that if you truly believe that Christ is the greatest gift, born humbly in a manger thousands of years ago, a Savior who can still change your life today, that your Christmas will look radically different. But I don't know how it will look different… It might mean buying more presents, or fewer presents, or no presents at all. It might mean giving away food or hosting a meal or inviting someone new to church. It might mean reconciling with an enemy, biting your tongue at a family gathering, or extending a warm welcome to a new friend.

No matter what it looks like on the outside, hopefully it stems from a heart that is overflowing with thanks to God for the gift of his Son. And hopefully it also means you are joyfully seeking out those who don't know... so you can tell them about the most lavish gift of the season.

Nov 25, 2013

The Things That Motherhood Taught Me

Here is the truth: nothing can adequately prepare you for motherhood. Like so many other mothers, I read everything I could get my swollen hands on while pregnant, and was a great resource. However, reading about it and living it are two completely different things.

Here are a few things that I learned during the first few months of motherhood that books definitely didn't prepare me for:

For starters, motherhood is challenging. Like, really, really challenging. Just for one moment, may I take this opportunity to scream at the top of my lungs that it is absolutely okay to admit that it's not always easy? There is no need to pretend that every day is perfect or wonderful because it isn't. Yes, I love being a mother, but that doesn't mean that I like it every day. I know that truth is carved in stone somewhere. If it isn't, it should be.

Something else that needs declaring? Becoming a mother doesn't dictate that you become a martyr. Your overall health is just as important as the health of your baby. With that said, accept help graciously when or if it's offered. Allow the in-laws to hold the baby so you can nap for thirty minutes or, better yet, shower. Let someone bring you a meal. Please know without a doubt that trying to be a super hero and being an amazing mother are not mutually inclusive.

When I gave birth to my daughter, Marlo, it's like a switch turned on. I developed an acute empathy for all other mothers, children, and families. Other mothers became my comrades and their children felt like my own. Motherhood made me feel more intensely and everything became more personal.

While we're on the topic of judgement, let me state for the record that nothing teaches you to not judge other people quite as efficiently as motherhood. So what if I breastfed Marlo for eleven months? I also understand that it doesn't always work for every mother and child. The same goes for co-sleeping versus sleep training in a crib; baby-wearing versus a stroller; the crying it out method versus rocking your kid to sleep every night. The universal rule of motherhood is that you do whatever works best for your family and allow other mothers and families to do the same. Nothing cuts deeper than trying your hardest to keep your head above water and feeling like an outcast because it isn't what every other mom in your playgroup is doing.

Lastly, I never knew how much I could love someone. Yes, I loved my husband, our families, and our friends before Marlo was born. However, the love that I have for my daughter compares to nothing I've ever felt before because it's truly unconditional. That love is the kind of love that puts life into perspective. It's the kind of love that makes the challenging, difficult, and sometimes unnerving role of a mama all worth it.

Christine is a contributing writer for and the founder and author of The C-Word, a satirical and anecdotal approach to motherhood, marriage, womanhood, and everything in between. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband, Joe, and her young daughter, Marlo.

Nov 20, 2013

Dear Zianne {two months}

Dear Zianne,

Well, sweet girl, it's been two months. And this is what I can tell you... I know you, little lady. I truly know you. I know your ins and outs. I know how to make you smile, and I can anticipate your impending fussiness minutes before it starts. I know which nights you will be so tired you will fall asleep instantly and which nights you will need to be rocked and soothed for a few extra minutes. I know how you like to be held and how you like your little bum patted if you are falling asleep in my arms. I know late morning is your favorite time of day. I know you like to hang out in the Ergo, but you are over the swing and the bouncy chair, at least when it comes to nap time. I know your restless kicks mean you are getting tired, and that you like to rest your hand on the safety strap when cruising in the stroller. I know all these little things about you, and I love learning each new quirk as your personality unfolds. I know you. And I love you.

And that makes me think, little one. How much more does God know me? He knows my weaknesses, fears, joys, and frustrations better than I know them myself. He knows the way I bite my lip when I am doing something athletic and the way I crinkle my forehead {to the dismay of my thirty-one year old skin} when I am deep in thought. He made my lips and my forehead and this whole body that was able to carry you and bring you into the world. And He knows what the day will hold before I do, and how I will respond to each challenge or joy that comes my way. He knows if it will be a day of tears as I persevere through these early, exhausting weeks of motherhood. He knows if it will be a day of happiness, where you nap well and I feel like I got a few things done around the house. He knows the grace I will need for the circumstances I can't even foresee. He knows me. And He loves me.

And He knows you, sweet child. He created you. He knit you together in my womb, and watching the intricacies of His handiwork for these past two months has been utterly miraculous. He knows your desires and hopes now, long before you will know them yourself. And He knows all the days He has set forth for you. The dreams you'll dream. The temptations you'll face. The ways you'll fall short and the ways He will graciously pick you back up. He knows how to comfort you more than my soothing sway ever could. He knows how to bring you a deeper joy than my silly faces do each morning. He knows how to protect you far better than I ever could, even if I read all the parenting guides in the world. He knows you. And He loves you.

Love always,

Nov 19, 2013

Mama Style: THAT mom

This is how Zianne and I dressed the day we went to dad's work to meet all his co-workers. A few thoughts...

1) Although winter is a mere month away, I finally feel comfortable calling it fall here. This is only because I can now sometimes wear a scarf... for one hour... in the morning... without breaking into a sweat.

2) I bought this dress while 27 weeks pregnant. I was shopping with my sister and I made her force the zipper up once I had somehow wiggled by huge self into it. Since the zipper went up that day, I figured this dress would fit me in the postpartum life no matter what.

3) Yes, Z and I are coordinating. I am that mom. I admit it.

4) And FINALLY... I am hosting a Shop My Closet sale over on my Instagram account @thecuratedcloset. It's auction style and bidding ends TONIGHT at 7pm PST. Happy shopping!

Dress, scarf and bracelet: Banana Republic Factory Store // Shoes: Bought in Australia  // Zianne's outfit: Target

|Linking up with The Pleated Poppy and Because Shanna Said So|

Nov 18, 2013

How to shop for Christmas

Christmas shopping used to be quick and simple: my mom, dad, sister, brother, a few friends and done. Since Chris and I got married a few years ago, fifteen people have been added to my family tree with eight of them being nieces and nephews ten years old and under. I've had to figure out a way for us to shop for Christmas gifts for a lot of people with a reasonable budget and little stress.

(I use this list to make our list and keep on budget. You can download it for free by clicking on that link!)

1. First, we make a list.
Which family members are we shopping for this year? Sometimes the couples on his side of the family exchange gifts and sometimes we don't. We figure this out early on to determine our budget. The kids always get small gifts from us regardless, but eight kids still adds up quick. 

2. Then, we make a budget.
We try to keep it fair and reasonable. We spend the same amount on my parents and his mom, and we spend the same on each of the nieces and nephews. We spend a bit more on my sister and brother since they're younger, single and kid-less. We add it all up and know exactly what needs to be put aside to make it happen.

3. I shop throughout the year. 
This is one of my best tricks that keeps me the most sane. I start looking for gifts for the next year immediately following Christmas. I found a great deal online this past March at one of my favorite outlet stores. I stocked up on a few gifts and was done with three people in just minutes! I stick them in my gift storage area and move on. 

*I also keep up with discount sites and deals such as GroopDealz and Pick Your Plum. There are so many cute, custom and unique gifts out there.

4. As it gets closer to the season, we spread out our shopping trips.
To make it enjoyable for the both of us (because I could get it all done in one day and be happy), we spread out the trips. Before this last Thanksgiving, we knocked out the gifts for all of our nieces and nephews with a one-hour spree to Target. We grabbed a coffee beforehand and I made sure to involve Chris in all of the decisions (even though I had gathered ideas from the moms). I shopped for a few gifts online one day and then we went and shopped for our parents together as an afternoon date. By spreading it out, he doesn't get overwhelmed (both with shopping and financially) and that means it is more enjoyable for me, too.

5. I make sure we're done with a couple of weeks to spare.
Personally, I like to be done with shopping early enough so I can enjoy the wrapped gifts under the tree, not get tangled up in the hustle and bustle of the stores, and sit back and enjoy the weeks leading up to Christmas.

What are your tricks for making holiday shopping fun and memorable?

Don't forget to download the Christmas Budget and Gift List!

(To see how I organize my gifts, visit this post. To download a year-round gift list, visit this post.)

Jordan is a born-and-raised Texan transplanted to the Arizona desert where she spends her days as a wife, mother, blogger, freelance editor and worker bee. She blogs about marriage, faith and life as a new mother at Jordy Liz Blogs.
|Connect with Jordan: Blog // Twitter // Instagram|

Shop My Closet {again!}

Surprise! I'm hosting another Shop My Closet sale over on my Instagram account @thecuratedcloset {follow along with my daily life on my @jenrussum account}. As if I don't have enough on my plate right now with school, teaching, general end-of-semester craziness, the upcoming holidays and, oh yeah, the infant that relies on me for her daily sustenance and general well-being, I've decided NOW is the perfect time to clean out my closet yet again.

But rumor has it, this is a natural postpartum activity. You have a baby, and not only does your body shift, but your daily activities change, and your whole new identity of mom changes how you think, act, and dress. The closet purge is just a part of the transition to motherhood I think.

My ultimate goal is to slim my closet down to 50-75 classic, flattering, quality items that mix and match well. What I don't love, even if it's a great piece on its own or for the former, childless me, is getting passed on to you for some killer prices.

The sale is auction style. I've listed an opening bid {which includes shipping} and you guys take over from there! The auction ends at 7pm PST this Wednesday evening. Happy shopping!

Nov 13, 2013

Mama Style: Imaginative Play

Once there was a new mom who lived in a hot land called the desert. She gave birth to a baby on the last day of summer, but as the calendar changed to fall, the weather did not change with it. So this mom and her precious baby girl stayed inside all day long as they got acquainted with each other and waited for the relentless desert sun to stop pounding so harshly on their little town.

But one day a rumor spread throughout the land. A hopeful hint of things to come. The rumor was this: cold weather was on its way. The weatherman predicted a cold front would sweep through that hot land and set its weary and sun-blistered citizens at ease. The people were overjoyed and rushed to unpack their winter garb {jeans and short sleeved tops} as they prepared for this long awaited weather. This cold front would be extreme - low 80s for a stretch of days and, if the rumors were really true, there might be one single day where the temperature remained in the 70s ALL DAY LONG.

This young mother knew her opportunity had come at last. After weeks of being cooped up with her daughter, her escape was ever so near. When the day of the rumored 79 degree high arrived, she dusted off the stroller, picked out stylish autumnal outfits for herself and the baby, and even packed the camera for fun. She donned her cardigan with pride as she rolled out to the sidewalk for her first walk around the neighborhood with the baby. "To make this even more fabulous," she thought to herself, "I will pretend I'm strolling through the streets of New York with crisp fall air blowing all around me. I will teach my daughter all about imaginative play."

She reflected on this vision of life in the Big Apple as she rounded the first corner near her house, but soon she could no longer stay focused on the taxis and fancy strollers and frosty air she was trying to imagine. Instead, she was beginning to notice the sweat dripping down her neck. After a few more steps, she begrudgingly removed her cardigan and tossed it onto the back of the stroller. By the time she made it to the lake about a half mile away, she was beginning to wonder if she should have used sunscreen. She glanced up into the sky that her weather app said was "mostly cloudy" and could see nothing but bright rays against a blue backdrop.

Although her scarf was beginning to feel quite silly at this point, she was determined to get some pictures by the lake with her firstborn on their first walk together. She picked the sleeping babe up from the stroller and ventured down to the lake's edge with her fancy camera and tripod. No one was around, so she wiped her brow and tried to capture a few shots using the camera's timer.

Just as she was snapping the last few photos, the most surprising thing happened. The mom felt a startling {though somewhat refreshing} splash of water on her face. It took her a split second to realize what was happening. The sprinklers at the park had come on, and she haphazardly tried to shield her newborn's face, grab the camera and tripod and run out of the water all at the same time. Of course, this is the moment when a couple rode by on their bikes, probably snorting at the vain {and now drenched} mom taking pictures of herself on the lawn.

Striped tee: Loft {similar} // Black skinny jeans: Wit and Wisdom {Nordstrom} // Polka dot flats: Old Navy
Scarf: Handmade in India // Cardigan: Target {on sale!}

The mom dried the baby's face, then her own, and hobbled back home, all visions of autumn and crisp air and New York City long gone from her mind.

Sometimes imaginative play is interrupted by a healthy dose of reality...

|Linking up with The Pleated Poppy and Because Shanna Said So|

Nov 5, 2013

Mama Style

There are two things you will quickly learn as a new mom. 

First, your relationship with clothes is just different. Even if you get to the point where your pre-pregnancy clothes fit, you find that your body curves in different places and old clothes don't feel the same, even if you can proudly connect every button and zip every zipper. Add that to the change in daily schedule {fewer coffee dates with friends, more nap times at home} and the general hazards of motherhood {breastfeeding, diaper changes, toddler chasing, etc.}, and you might feel that your old clothes are not really suited to your day to day reality anymore. They might feel too young, too trendy, too impractical... whatever the reason, they just don't work for the baby-toting you.

Secondly {and I've only just begun to experience this}, all your photos are of your children or your husband with your children. You get to the end of the year and realize you only made it into a handful of pictures with your kids' precious faces next to yours.

To address both these problems, I'm starting a new series around here called "Mama Style." Each week {or as often as I can, at least} I'm going to share some pictures of Zianne and me together that also feature a mom-appropriate outfit {AKA stylish but practical}. I'm hoping this little endeavor encourages me to dress up from time to time, helps me sort through my wardrobe post pregnancy, and, most importantly, reminds me to capture a few pictures with my beautiful daughter on a consistent basis.

Shirt: Marshalls
Shorts: LOFT {Similar/Similar on super sale}
Shoes: Target {Similar/Similar}
Watch: Skagen {Similar/Similar}
Gold Chevron Necklace: Ever+Mi Crush
On Zianne: Bodysuit // Jeggings // Socks // Headband {all similar}

Okay, so I know I am wearing shorts in this picture while the rest of you are wrapping your cardigans around your shoulders and sipping hot cocoa by the fire. What can I say? I live in the desert and we can still wear shorts here. It's sick and beautiful at the same time. Sometimes I see you scarf-wearing people on Instagram and get jealous of other climates, but then I see a picture of you with snow in the background, and I suddenly remember "I love the desert!" So enjoy your cardigans friends {I'm loving these ones... A // B // C // D // E}, and come back to this outfit for inspiration after you've endured your dreadful winter... ;)

Also, do you like the cool bokeh effect in these pictures? I'm so artsy... or I just haven't cleaned my camera lens in a really long time. I'll let you guess which one is true.

|Linking up with The Pleated Poppy and Because Shanna Said So|

Nov 4, 2013

One month

I've debated whether or not I want to do monthly posts on Zianne and her milestones. She is six weeks old and I still haven't really made up my mind, but for now I am going to try to write these posts, if for no other reason than to record information that I want to remember for her baby book. Here it goes...

I wasn't sure which categories I wanted to include in these posts, so I want to send a huge thank you to Jordan, whose monthly baby updates inspired most of the structure below!

Growing // At two weeks, Z weighed 10 lb. 3 oz, and by her one month check up, she weighed 11 lb. 13 oz. and was 23.5 inches long. This puts her in the 95th percentile for size.

Eating // It's basically her favorite activity. She emerged from the womb ready to eat and hasn't stopped since, as evidenced by her weight gain. Even though it is tiring, I am very, very thankful breastfeeding is going smoothly.

Wearing // Zianne never really wore newborn sizes other than in diapers. We squeezed her into a couple NB sized outfits that were bought by relatives, just so we could take photos of her in them. Thankfully, I always assumed we wouldn't have a newborn size baby, so we didn't have a lot of tiny clothing to begin with. By four weeks, her 0-3 month clothes were getting tight and I have been dabbling in 3-6 month sizes ever since. She also transitioned to size 1 diapers around two weeks.

Doing // Like most newborns, Z's life pretty much consisted of eating and sleeping for the first month. Thankfully, she fell into a regular sleep schedule right away and hardly ever cried. Once a day, usually after one of her afternoon feedings, I would read her a story and consider it a great success if she focused her eyes on the pages, even for a few moments. Also, we introduced her to both the bottle and the pacifier right at two weeks. She took the bottle right away but hardly ever takes an interest in the pacifier. If it doesn't have milk in it, she's doesn't have time for it.

Loving // Milk, her changing table, being held. The little lady prefers to take her naps on people, or at least she likes to fall asleep on someone and will then tolerate being moved gently to her bouncy chair.

Loathing // Being put down {into her chair, lying on the bed, in the Pack N Play, etc.} if she's not at least half asleep; being overstimulated by consecutive days of being out and about in loud, bright environments; being delayed when she wants to eat

Nicknames // Z, Z Baby, Z-leen, Z Feeder

Daddy's girl // Micah has been trying to get Z to crawl since birth. During tummy time, he will give her a little support against her feet and she will get mad, resist, and army crawl her chubby newborn body across her play mat. It's pretty funny to watch, and she is surprisingly strong. Also, dad loves to snuggle with Z but we had to break him of the habit of picking her up to cuddle when she is already swaddled in her Pack N Play for the night.

Mishaps and milestones: The first month went more smoothly than I ever imagined it would. The only random hiccup happened around two weeks, when Z's belly button continued to ooze green pus for days after her umbilical cord fell out. I was told by a nurse practitioner to treat it with diluted hydrogen peroxide, but when that didn't fully work, we found ourselves at the pediatricians' office unexpectedly on a Monday afternoon. Thankfully, her naval wasn't infected and after treating it with Aquaphor for a few days, it's now completely normal.

Nov 3, 2013

November Goals

Not that I want to give myself more commitments as I'm figuring out this new season of motherhood, but I am going to try to give myself a handful of reasonable, measurable goals each month and post them here for a little accountability. I am thinking five goals is a good number to start with and I'll adjust it in the future if needed. So here it is... my short list of goals for the lovely autumn month ahead.


1 // Get a new retainer 
{This deserves a long-story-short... I have been sleeping with my retainer every night since the 8th grade. A few days before Z was born, my bottom retainer broke. Last spring I met a dentist who can get me a new retainer for a reasonable price. I need to make this happen!}

2 // Go to the dentist for a cleaning
{Our insurance will pay for a cleaning before the year ends. Why would I not take them up on it?}

3// Start Zianne's baby book
{So... I am going to attempt my own version of Project Life for Z's album. We'll see how it goes.}

4 // Finish nursery
{Y'all, the nursery is a disaster. When the world found out Z was a girl, we were showered with lovely girly gifts, for which we are extremely thankful. However, due to the demands of nurturing newborn life, her nursery now looks like it threw up adorable pink clothes, because I have no time to organize anything. I have to get the place in order so she can move in once she's sleeping through the night.}

5 // Finish wall in family room
I ordered stencils for one wall of our family room way back in July. I should probably apply said stencils...

|Linking up with The Tiny Twig|
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