Oct 28, 2015

The Halfway Capsule Wardrobe

So perhaps you've heard of the "capsule wardrobe" concept. It can work various ways, but basically you create a small wardrobe {often 30-40 items} of high quality pieces that mix and match easily. You swap out your small wardrobe each season, so you might have two to four rotating collections, and you literally get rid of the rest of your clothes. Anything that doesn't fit, doesn't flatter, doesn't gel with the rest of your clothes... you just get rid of it and simplify your life. In any given season, you are wearing only the pieces that look best on you and look good together.

Maybe you're intrigued by capsule wardrobes, but you are scared to take the plunge. Maybe your closet is stuffed and you are overwhelmed by the idea of going through it all piece by piece. Maybe the concept of fewer clothes sounds attractive, but you really enjoy fashion and could never limit yourself to just 30 items. Maybe, like me, you live in a really extreme climate where there are not four clear seasons during the year, and you know your closet would need extra warm-weather or cold-weather clothes at any given time. Maybe you are in your child-bearing years and between pregnancy, breastfeeding, and postpartum weight fluctuations you can't even remember what your "style" is anymore.

I am operating off what I like to call a "halfway capsule" wardrobe right now. I have slashed my closet to about half of what it used to be, but I still have far more than 40 items in it at any given time. I am shopping less frequently and training myself to spend more on high quality, versatile items instead of surrendering to every sale. I am swapping out some items seasonally, but I haven't fully started a four-season rotation since Arizona {and Southern California} don't really have a winter.

Here are my tips for easing into the capsule wardrobe concept without getting overwhelmed. You can start with a few of these methods and move toward a more minimalist closet gradually or just give your closet a one-time cleaning and call it good enough for now...

Rotate seasonal items. Take out sandals, sundresses, and tanks in the winter. Remove heavy sweaters, jackets, and boots in the summer. Leave versatile pieces like short sleeve tees and lightweight cardigans to wear year-round. This way you will get to open up at least one box when the weather changes from cold-to-warm and vice versa, and your old clothes will feel new again because you haven't been staring at them all year.

Clean out closet seasonally. I highly recommend cleaning out your closet seasonally, at least twice a year at the (summer/fall and winter/spring transitions), but ideally four times a year. Consider which sweaters you haven't worn at all during the cold months and get rid of them. Those shorts that fit funny and sat in drawer all summer? Sell them or send them off to the thrift store.

Keep a list. Jot down a list of items you need and only allow yourself to purchase those items. As you notice gaps in your wardrobe, add them to the list and start to browse for them online and in stores when you have a chance. This way you will only buy items that serve a purpose for you and can say "no" to impulse purchases that don't mesh with the rest of your wardrobe. {For example: I currently don't have a navy cardigan and have realized I would wear one all the time. I'm on the hunt and waiting for the perfect blue sweater to present itself.}

Banish ill-fitting clothing. If you wear a piece and realize something isn't quite right about it, remove it from your wardrobe instantly. My friend once noticed I sold something in my shop she had seen me wear recently. The day she saw me wearing it was the day I realized it didn't fit me right {sometimes it takes a few hours of running around town to realize this}, so I got rid of it instead of letting it linger in my closet or forcing myself to wear it again despite it's unflattering or uncomfortable shape.

Give yourself a challenge. They say most people only wear about 10% of the clothing in their closet, so give yourself a closet challenge to help you wear more of your clothing and mix outfits together in new ways. One fun challenge is the 30 for 30 remix. Another thing I have done is turned all my hangers backward in my closet. Once I wear something, it returns to the closet with the hanger facing the right way. I try not to re-wear anything until I have worn everything on the backward hangers.

Take pictures. I think Cher had it right in Clueless when she used a software program to visualize her outfits in advance. For some reason, I often can't tell if an outfit looks good just by looking in the mirror, but when I see myself on camera I can instantly tell if my outfit is flattering or not. I haven't actually done this yet, but I've considered taking pictures of each of my "dressier" outfits, so I can reference them in the future and remember which pieces look good together.

Make fit a priority. I used to try on clothes and get sucked in by a cute pattern or a good price. Now I am a stickler about fit. A ten dollar shirt that is slightly too wide in the shoulders? No, thank you. Jeans that will look stunning when I lose the last of my baby weight? Not a chance. If you find a really amazing piece on sale that doesn't fit quite right, consider paying a little extra to have a tailor alter it to fit your body perfectly.

Experiment when pregnant or breastfeeding. If you want to test a smaller wardrobe without getting rid of all your clothes, use the season of pregnancy or breastfeeding to mix or match fewer items. Since you usually wear fewer clothes during these time periods, work on curating a small, versatile closet and style your items creatively. When you are done growing and feeding a small human, apply what you learned with your maternity clothes to your regular clothing.

Unsubscribe! Spoiler alert: J.Crew and Gap {or fill in the blank with your favorite store} offer 30 and 40% off sales practically every other day of the week. Don't get sucked in by email promotions tempting you to buy clothing you don't need. I have unsubscribed from all promotional emails, because I know I can find a sale or a promo code at any given time. If you know you need to buy an item this week, check out this list to see all current sales.

Oct 27, 2015

Wanted: New Best Friends

We have several openings for immediate placement in my Southern California office...

Position #001: A Vanessa
Minimum qualifications: A co-extrovert to talk about all the things. From spiritual gifts to hippie medications to breastfeeding rights, no topic is off limits. Eager to grow in faith and talks about the Lord often. Strategic and knowledgeable in business and parenting. Can sometimes work remotely via constant text message communication.
Preferred qualifications: Husband who bonds quickly with Micah over shared interests such as NBA basketball and water sports. Frequent invitations to family cabin in mountains are highly desirable.

Position #002: A Holly
Minimum qualifications: A spirit that leads with quiet grace and wisdom. A good listener. Marriage is a strong example of what gentleness and kindness look like. Serves willingly and opens her home to our friends frequently.
Preferred qualifications: Lives three blocks away, enabling the trading of garden tools and small kitchen appliances. Hold my {giant} children gladly and lulls them to sleep at loud social functions.

Position #003: A Jordan
Minimum qualifications: A working mom who balances a career and motherhood, while still pursing personal hobbies. Accepts unexpected life changes and hard seasons with astounding grace and patience. A talented writer.
Preferred qualifications: Shared love of blogging and social media. An appreciation for college football, Texas, and good queso.

Position #004: A Sarah and a Kerri
Minimum qualifications: Friends at work who are brilliantly smart but know academia isn't the most important thing in the world. Can balance scholarship with personal life and appreciate fashion, food, and a good laugh. Know how to provide support and encouragement when friends are facing professional challenges.
Preferred qualifications: Willing to swap clothing. Enjoy long conversations over good coffee.

Position #005: A Shalyn
Minimum qualifications: The perfect mix of gentle and strong. Confident, honest, humble. Willing to have hard conversations if needed, but words are always seasoned with grace. Meets frequently for mid-week play dates. Shared church background and similar theological beliefs. Eager to grow in godliness as a wife and mother and spurs me on to do the same.
Preferred qualifications: Husbands are best friends. Children born the same week as mine. Talented photographer able to provide family photos on a whim. Bakes often and shares treats. Willing to stay up until 1am playing poker.

Accepting applications from candidates throughout greater Orange County area. Willing to drive great distances for interviews. Please apply over email, phone, Facebook,Twitter, or Instagram or at local meet-ups such as church or the public library.

Oct 26, 2015

Talitha Joy {four months}

Growing // Talitha finally went to her well check at 4 months and 2 weeks of age. I had to push her appointment back because of our move. She is weighing in at 17 pounds, 5 ounces, and she's 26 inches long. She is getting so big that it hurts my back to carry her around. She is a bit stronger and more agile that Z was at this age, so she can hold herself up a little bit, but my body is still achin' by the end of each day.

Eating // We are in that fabulous time of life where Talitha nurses really consistently five times a day. She's not on a super strict schedule, but I would say she eats roughly at 7:30/8, 10:30/11, 1:30/2, 5:00ish, and 8/8:30. We won't start solids for a couple more months, so eating right now is easy as can be.

Wearing // Sweet T has broken into her 9 month clothes and I'm already eyeing the 12 months pajamas because she's so tall. I've been frantically trying to use up all her size 2 diapers this week. We are turning into blow-out city over here because her chubby buns and thighs don't leave room for much else in her diapers... I just ordered her first box of size 3 diapers, and I'm hoping this will solve the explosion problem.

Doing // Rolling over stomach-to-back and has gotten close to flipping back-to-stomach as well. Now sits in the Lion Heart seat and spins her toy. Gnaws on everything, especially her own clothing and dad's fingers. Has also started putting her feet in her mouth.

Loving // Baths, the stroller, having her neck cleaned {she laughs like crazy}, her pacifier, and she's actually starting to like napping in her crib

Loathing // She doesn't loathe strangers, but she is more leery of them than Z ever was. If men pick her up, she sometimes cries. She is starting to hate her nursing cover, which always makes life more interesting...

Milestones // Talitha has been a champ this month. We've taken multiple road trips to and from California, and she has nursed and napped in the car more times than I can count, but she is handling the transition really well. She officially moved from a swaddle to a sleep sack and she is doing much better taking consistent/longer naps at home. I can almost always get Z and T to nap at the same time around 2pm and that's the biggest milestone in the world if you ask me!

Oct 24, 2015

Saturday Snippets

9 practical ways to protect your child from abuse...

Do you live in Orange County? A) I want to be your friend. B) Check out this fun list.

An opposite nursing experience than mine but I agree with every single thing on this list!

You've heard the best news in the world {after Jesus} right?

And a hilarious list of potential Gilmore Girls episodes...

I almost bought an amazing military jacket a year ago, and then it sold it out and I've regretted it ever since. Eyeing these options for fall: stretch jacket // hooded field jacket // a fun plum twist

Oct 21, 2015

The One Who Calms the Storm

Our life these days is very much like a small fishing boat being tossed back and forth on the waves of the sea. We have the tiniest semblance of security (a boat made of wood and nails) in the form of two jobs and a lease on a house in a nice, safe neighborhood, but everywhere we look, waves are crashing and we have no idea where we are headed.

We have been living in our house for a week and half, and it is utterly empty. We each have a suitcase of clothes and a few toiletries. Micah and I have been sleeping on a borrowed air mattress, and the girls are in Pack 'n' Plays. We eat off of paper plates, and we have a small supply of groceries in our mini fridge. We tried to make macaroni and cheese one night at home, to avoid eating out yet again, and realized after the noodles were cooked that we had no strainer and no butter to mix with the cheese. I thought you couldn't mess up Kraft mac and cheese, but it turns out... you can.

Micah is in a new position that he's really excited about, but he is experiencing all the stress of a new job, meeting new co-workers, and building his business from the ground up. I am teaching online, finishing my dissertation, and applying to REAL professor jobs for next year {the goal I've been working toward for the past five years of my life}. I was telling Micah earlier today that I love this phase of life... I am working toward my dream career, I love our kids, I feel like have a decent amount of balance with home/family/friends/health, but I'm sure when this season is over and I'll look back on the time of life when I had two kids under two, was writing a dissertation, teaching, and moving to a new state, I will take the deepest breath and say "How did I get through that?!"

I don't know why I'm writing all this, except that I want to remember the sheer chaos that is our life right now. After a few years of relative calm, the boat is rocking and we aren't sure which shore we'll land on. We don't know if California is forever or for just a few years. I don't know where I'll end up career-wise. We don't know if we should keep renting here or buy a house soon. But I will say that God is faithful. Every time I'm tempted to be fearful, He reminds me of His goodness. He is in control. He has already given us so many opportunities here... being invited to a neighbor's house for dinner, a play date with an Instagram friend, so many church invites that it will take us until Christmas to pick a congregation. He doesn't owe us signs and confirmation that we are in His will and that everything is going to be alright, but when we look around we see His favor and His guidance everywhere we look.

So the boat is out on the sea. The waves are crashing. The wind is howling. But our God made the sea. He steers the ship. His Son is the anchor. And as sure as the sun rises in the east, I'm certain we'll make it to shore.

We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you. 
| I Chronicles 20:12 |

Oct 19, 2015

Dear Talitha {four months}

Dear Talitha,

I think we gave you the right name, because you are truly a little girl who arises with joy each day. Every morning I hear your little, sweet noises as you start to wake up. You never cry or whine, but just make little grunts that almost sound like baby giggles. When I pop my head over the side of your crib to pick you up, you smile up at me like you just can't wait to spend the day together... and I feel the same way about spending my day with you.

We didn't know we would be moving to a new state when you were just four months old. We didn't know you would live in a pack 'n' play for weeks on end, and that every morning I would dig your clothes and diapers out of a suitcase or that you would travel thousands of miles in the car in your first few months on earth. But God knew. He knew what our life would be like right now, and he blessed us with the most gentle, content baby to shower grace upon us in this transition. Your dad and I fall more in love with you every day. We would love you no matter what, of course, but your sweetness has us extra enamored. You are such a source of joy for us, and I pray you bring joy to others all of your days!


Oct 15, 2015

The truth about living with babies...

Parenting humor

I know we are supposed to "savor the little years" and "live in the present" and all that jazz... but can we talk for a minute about the worst parts of parenting babies and toddlers? Don't get me wrong. I know my children are precious and these years are fleeting and I should delight in being poured out for my kids. I believe the hard years are good years and that we should live for the legacy. But I also know that there are certain aspects of the so-called little years that are so grating and disgusting that I will look back and laugh in years to come....

But then I ask myself, why not laugh right now? Why not choose to laugh about the gross, irritating, and inconvenient parts of parenthood now instead of waiting another decade to develop a sense of humor about these issues?

1. I'll tell you what's not precious... showering with your toddler. I have honestly not done this very many times because it sucks. I'd rather go unshowered, wearing ten layers of anti-antiperspirant that will probably give me cancer someday. Having your kid in the shower with you seems convenient and darling.. but you know what's better? Taking a shower at your own pace with your preferred water temperature while not having to worry if your crazy two year old is going to slip and crack her head on the tile as you try to shampoo your hair. No one actually wants to bring their toddler into the shower. You only do it because the other options of leaving said toddler to roam the house while you lock yourself in the bathroom or, conversely, never bathing again don't seem to be viable options.

2. I spend a large portion of my day cleaning other people's poop and pee. Diapers are fine... but then you have the incidents where said poop and pee somehow evade the diaper and end up on your own body or clothing. Sometimes this happens at convenient locales such as a family reunion brunch, so you confidently spend the next four hours with all your husband's relatives with a mustard stain on your shorts since you have no other clothing options. Then there is also the issue of potty training.. where there is a sudden lack of poop and pee present. For as much as I would like my daughter to be toilet trained, I don't relish running back and forth to the pink potty seat everyday just to have her NOT go to the bathroom on the toilet. Someday I may wax poetic about how the neediness of my children reminds me constantly of my utter neediness before the Lord, but today is not that day. Today I want to say that I look forward to the time when my kids can serve their own food, blow the snot out of their noses, wipe their own butts, and get themselves dressed.

Humor on parenting

3. Getting into and out of the car alone... what a gift of the pre-motherhood life that I simply did not appreciate enough! If you don't have children yet, but would like to someday, relish every time you slip into or out of the driver's seat of your car without buckling a car seat or checking for your keys 15 times because your greatest fear is locking your kids in the car. To make matters worse, I happen to live in a climate that is always 100 bajillion degrees, so I break a sweat just getting my kids in and out of the car. They sweat while driving in their big, black, heat-attracting car seats. They cry when I put them in said blistering car seats because the buckles and fabric burn them. They cry when we drive because their car seats are crammed too close together in my car that was designed for an 18 year old boy. After I had Zianne, I thought going anywhere alone in the car was a luxury. Then I had Talitha and now I think going anywhere with just one kid is the easiest thing on earth. Before I know it I'll probably be driving all my kids around in a 16 passenger van and the days it's only halfway full will be a walk in the park.

4. Speaking of vans... I want one.... desperately... and you probably do too. Minivans are not cool. We only act like they are cool so we can forgive ourselves for wanting a car shaped like a Dust Buster.

5. Breastfeeding.. gross. Don't get me wrong... I am in the pro-breastfeeding camp. I nursed Zianne for a full year and I hope to do so with all my children, God-willing. But breastfeeding, while sweet and nurturing, is pretty much disgusting. I don't want to bring back any haunted memories from your prenatal breastfeeding class but you might recall that a nursing baby pulls the nipple (hard) to the back of its throat to drink milk. And don't get me started on the "let down" reflex and the way the nerves in your breast tingle and sting every single time you sit down to feed {every 2.5 hours and holding steady over here}. And then you have other issues, like when your baby gets a bad latch or gets too much milk and pulls off the nipple only to have milk spraying his face and all over your clothes. After a few days, you start to notice a subtle but distinct smell every time you hold your baby... the aroma of breast milk curdling in his or her neck rolls. Nothing that a quick bath won't take care of.. but you need to shower too, so you attempt it with a tiny baby sitting in a newborn tub at your feet. See #1 for more information.

So there you have it... just a few of the many reasons parenting little ones is the grossest {but best} job in the world!

Oct 13, 2015

How we came to be #thesocalrussums...

Three years ago, my life suddenly got turned upside down. We had been living in Arizona for two years, enjoying life as newlyweds, committed to a great church, and building a community of friends in our new state, when suddenly everything changed. Our pastor felt called to the military as a chaplain, our small church closed its doors suddenly, and over the course of a few months, I watched the closest friends I had made in Arizona move away one by one.

We were having a farewell party one night, and we made a toast, "Here's to us all living in California in three years!" At the time, my dear friend Anne was already headed to Southern California to attend seminary, Lisa was about to begin military life with her first stop on the east cost, and I was committed to at least another three years in Arizona to finish grad school. Moving to California seemed like a fun dream, but I never knew it would be a reality.

orange county sunset

Over the next three years, we planted roots in Arizona. God was faithful. He strengthened friendships from our first church, even though our congregation dispersed. He gave us an amazing new church and a community group of close friends and literal neighbors. We bought a house. We brought two baby girls home to that house. Life was good in the desert... so good, in fact, that we thought we'd make it permanent. Micah was ready for a different position at work, so he started pursuing some new roles in the Phoenix area. I tried to get my foot in the door at some local colleges. We were both ready for substantial career changes, but the puzzle pieces weren't fitting together for us to stay in Arizona.

After a few months of "should I apply for this job?" and "would be willing to move there?," Micah sent me a job description over email one day. It was a position in Irvine, California and I simply replied, "That could be fun." Micah ended up interviewing and really clicking with the team in Orange County. We knew moving was a strong possibility, but then everything got put on hold for the whole summer. There wasn't a lot of forward motion with the job, and it started to feel like another dead end. As August came to a close, Micah and I made a decision. He would stop looking for a new position and just wait it out at his current job. I would apply widely to academic jobs this year and then we would move {or stay} if we both found a good job in the same city. Done and done.

Exactly two days after making our "let's hunker down in Phoenix for one more year" plan, Micah got a call from the Irvine office again about a new position that had opened up... and from that phone call everything went at lightning speed. He interviewed for the job on a Friday; they offered it to him the following Monday. He would start three weeks later. And thus began the "we're moving to California!" frenzy. God seemingly opened every door to make this move possible, if not to blatantly push us westward. The details of our finances, our living situations here and there, and my job at ASU have fallen into place better than we ever could have imagined. Every time I've felt fearful or stressed in the past few weeks, I've paused and recounted all the ways God has shown us that he is in control, that he will provide, that he loves us, and that he is always working for our good.

Am I sad about moving? Yes. We had such amazing community in Arizona and I have a handful of girls that have become my best friends. Also, my parents bought a house 15 minutes down the road from us there and my mom is my favorite babysitter. For the past five years, I've been profoundly shaped as a wife and as a mother under the hot Phoenix sun. When the option of moving first presented itself in the spring, I was hugely pregnant and overwhelmed. I cried at the thought of living somewhere new. Then Talitha was born and things settled down, and when the Irvine move seemed to disappear, I suddenly felt a little sad - like maybe we were missing out on an adventure.

And now the adventure is here. I'm sitting on an air mattress in our new home in Orange County, and I'm expectant and melancholy all at the same time. I am overwhelmed by the chaos of moving with two young children while trying to balance teaching and my dissertation and my job applications. I am deeply sad to leave my Arizona friends behind. I am hopeful to make friends here soon, and to experience once again God's grace in new relationships. I am eager to find a church and discover how we can serve our neighbors in this new city.

Oh, and my friends who made the toast three years ago? We are all here now. By God's providential hand, we somehow all live in Southern California. So be warned... don't go making sappy, silly farewell toasts with sparkling apple cider unless you are really ready for God to move you to the location of your dreams.

Oct 12, 2015

Talitha Joy {3 months}

*Since Talitha is FOUR months old today, I thought I'd finally get her three month post up. Hashtags that apply: #secondchildproblems #movingproblems #missingmemorycard. I actually wrote this post and took Talitha's pictures right on schedule, but then in the midst of moving I never had time to upload her 3 month pictures to my computer. None of the facts below are relevant anymore, but I want the stats for her baby book {that I'll probably finish when she's five...}

baby turns three months old

Growing // I weighed T-Bean on our home scale a week or so ago and she came in at 15 pounds, 2 ounces. She is so tall though that she is popping out of her pajamas, so we'll have to move to 6-9 month clothing soon.

Doing // Always wanting to gnaw on her own hand or someone else's. Has now rolled over twice. Is starting to giggle, especially when I lift her up over my head and make her fly. Smiling at everyone. Trying to sit up. Breaking out of her swaddle nightly.

Loving // Being held, "chasing" sissy around the room, hanging out on the play mat.

Loathing // Going to bed after 8:30 pm.


Mishaps // So far Talitha has escaped {mostly} unscathed from Zianne's aggressive sharing {aka throwing} of toys, but we are forever reminding Z to be "gentle" with the baby, so she doesn't get any sibling-inflicted wounds.

Milestones // This was the month of achieving full nighttime sleep! Talitha is consistently sleeping from about 8/8:30pm to 7:30/8am. It's amazing how different you feel {and look... I have pictures to prove it} once your baby is sleeping through the night. To those mamas with non-sleepers, I am sincerely so sorry and pray for you often!
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