The Orange Slate

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Photography

Balloons and Pom-Poms.

April 26, 2017

If you are not the kind of person who likes cupcakes, baloons with confetti INSIDE, the happy spring colors of green and pink, adorable babies, and snap-happy mothers, skip to the next post. You’ll want to skip this one. 

In the randomest of trivia, both of my children’s birthdays fall on holidays in 2017. Violet’s first birthday fell on Easter and during a trip to Michigan so we celebrated with the sweetest family-and-friends-like-family party the day before Easter, on a day that magically turned into a freakishly sunny, warm day.  (leading to a birthday present in the form of a first sunburn, no less). 

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I love first birthdays (and baby birthdays) around here for many reaons. Probably part of this has to do with the fact that we tend to invite very few actual other children (part of this has evolved naturally from the timing of my children’s birthdays, which have historically made it hard to track down available little friends) and instead, we turn it into a fun mostly-adult party – win all around. 

Miles’ birthdays, which he shares with America, have always been so fun to plan and decorate for, but there is just something about a spring birthday for a baby girl. I may have gone a litte overboard shoppig Amazon’s party section, but the result was just as dreamy and blossom-y as I could have hoped.

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My mom had these little cup-cake topper ladies tucked away for an appropriately festive occassion and what is possibly more fairy-like than a little girl’s flower party? I tried a new cupcake recipe and my mom applied her frosting magic.

I don’t love the present-opening scene at childrens’ parties and we are attempting to only bring toys into our home very intentionally, so we requested that guests just bring their merry selves (a request with which people mostly happily complied). My parents gave her a special gift, her very first real doll; Mark’s parents sent flowers; Mark and I and a few family members had a few special little gifts for her that we gave her at different times during the week, but it was honestly so relieving to not add frantic present-shopping and wrapping to my to-do list and to be able to focus on the event and the food and the people.

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(Probably important to note that I was just snapping pictures of people mingling on the deck and Violet spontaneously began practicing her princess wave. It was equal part hilarious and concerning.)

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My poor children. We’re totally doing this for all of the rest of the birthday parties forever. 

Violet, who hates all headbands and hats, refused to cooperate and wear her pink polka-dot party hat. 

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Miles and Violet look they are plotting an escape here. “Just keep smiling, girl. We’ll sneak out the back door in about 14 second here when they blink.”

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I’ve listed most of the sources and/or similar items below in case you want some party inspiration to show up at your door. Bonus tip: if you want to keep a baby or toddler occupied for hours, just order a few of those fluffy pom poms and toss them around. Need a birthday present? Show up bearing a dozen. You’ll be the favorite parent at the party. Violet would have been perfectly content to chase them all day.

Sources:

*Pom-poms

*Balloons with confetti (similar)

*Streamers (similar)

*Party hats

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Life

Spring 2017: A 90-Second Update.

March 29, 2017

Spring update - 2017 

Backyard play

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 Oh, this old thing? Just a quick blog update because I know you’re DYING to know exactly how we spend every second of our day. All of your burning questions about our closets, our bookshelves, our pantry? Answered below. What other better way could you possibly spend the next 90 seconds?

BUT. There is actually a little coupon thingy for our loyal-est fans below, so ready-set-GO. 

Reading:

Violet and Miles: All of our DK Touch and Feel Books (Violet’s current favorites), King Jack and the Dragon (Miles’ current favorite), and I Am a Bunny (Mom’s favorite to read out loud). 

Emily: Emily Freeman’s A Million Little Ways and Shauna Neiquist’s Present Over Perfect (on my Kindle app).

Cooking: Lots of quick pasta combinations, different vegetables and hummus, and different toppngs on toasted English muffins or Naan bread as Mark is traveling every week for work and my patience for cooking elaborate meals for me and two littles is nil. I’ve been trying to put a lot of care into our weekend meals to make up for all of the lost family meal-time and I love this frittata chart for help putting together a yummy breakfast.

Enjoying:

Emily: Naptime! My coffee. Watching my little herbs and flower pots flourish. I also love watching Miles and Violet learn to communicate and play. 

Miles has discovered the magic of play-dough and will play with it alone and quietly for loooooonnnngggg periods. Violet loves to bang her toy hammer violently on the toy piano. Both are pretty fascinated by Mom’s ability to blow really  “biiiiiigggggg” bubbles (as Miles says) and our yard is currently like a bubble bottle graveyard. 

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Wearing:

Emily: AE jeans (or my favorite Calvin Klein pair, snagged from Costco! These are similar.) and a comfy tee from Target or Gap most days. I’m working on organizing a semi-capsule closet for the summer for myself and the kids.

Miles: We’ve begun the overalls rotation of 2017. Last year, we rotated two pairs basically all summer. It was the easiest system for dressing a busy toddler. This spring, I’m rotating a khaki pair, a jean pair, and a long pair sort of like these. I loved Primary’s long tees for kids this winter and just ordered short ones for the warm weather. Then it’s just mix-and-match all summer long! 

(TIP: Primary is giving a free pair of pajamas to a few of my friends whose order totals $50 or up (the free shipping limit!). I’ll pass along the gift to the first 10 people who send their email to emilymamccord at [geemail] dot com (and I’ll benefit too, so thanks in advance!). 

Violet: Dresses from Hannah Andersson, leggings from Primary, all of the cute Carter’s onesies. I realized that the unfair advantage that we give boys begins young, as I keep trying to put Violet in cute dresses that trip her up as she crawls instead of a simple leggings/onesie outfit. Fortunately, I have an opinionated 11.5 month old and she lets me know in no uncertain terms when she hates her dress/headband/stupid skirt.

Watching: 

Emily: Gilmore Girls. I’m binging every evening while I work out, work on scrapbooks, whatever. I miss sharing time and tea and our shows with Mark, but I’m making the most of my solo evenings!

Miles: Curious George, on repeat. There are two specific episodes that he prefers and we watch these over and over and over during his allotted 30 minutes of evening screen time. (Should he have any screen time? Probably not. Does this seem like a reasonable compromise? Yes.)

Violet: Mama’s karaoke skills and her brother’s tricks. (No screen time for babies around here until 2. Or 30. Or something.)

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Children playing piano.

Wishing: 

Emily: That our pool would hurry up and open!

Violet: That she could run after Miles. Soon enough, girly!

Miles: That Mom wasn’t SO BORING and would let him eat ice cream for dinner every night. Sorry, kid. 

 

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Home

A Simple Cleaning Routine for Spring (and a free guide).

March 13, 2017

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Keeping a home clean and tidy with two toddlers (or any amount of children of any age!) is not for the faint of heart. I have become frustrated on numerous occasions when I start to feel like a hamster on a wheel – moving from one room to the next cleaning just in time for new messes to spring up. I don’t think housekeeping is less challenging when one parent is home full-time, but my work-from-home schedule means that I have to be very thoughtful about what I am doing when, which has helped me to be disciplined about establishing a cleaning routine.

Our current routine seems to be working for now and has give me a lot of peace of mind. I have certain tasks defined for certain days, but a flow that makes it easy to move chores around if something unexpected arises. Also, if something falls completely through the cracks, I know it will get taken care of soon anyway. 

Spring seems like just the right time to start re-thinking through home systems that may not be working or may need a refresh, so I’ve outlined our home’s systems below to inspire you. I’ve also created a customizable guide for you to use – click here to access it (if you’re already subscribed, it will magically appear in your inbox tomorrow!).

Right now, I have a weekly schedule pinned in my kitchen that includes 3 lists:

  • Daily tasks (basic room maintenance, things like dishes and sweeping that should happen almost every day)
  • Days of the week with cleaning tasks for those days.
  • Monthly (or less frequent) tasks that need to be occasionally tackled, but don’t merit weekly attention.

Daily Tasks

Daily tasks include things like making the beds, doing a quick clean of the main sink/toilet area, cleaning the kitchen after meals, sweeping after dinner, etc. Every day I also make sure that I full wash, dry, and fold at least one load of laundry. Having a list of daily chores helps prevent total chaos from setting in and frees me from constantly wondering whether I should keep cleaningor if things can wait. If there are a couple of loads of laundry to be done, but I’ve already done one and things are busy, I can just mentally check that chore off until the next day, knowing that today and tomorrow I’ll keep working through the dirty.

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Weekly Tasks

I’ve done this system differently through the years. When we first got married, all of our cleaning would happen on one day. When we first moved into this house, I tried to “batch”, by vaccuuming one day, mopping another, tidying another – this system outlined below is the best one I’ve found for right now. I don’t feel like I’m constantly trying to keep up or catch up and if something gets missed, I just take care of it the next day and roll everything forward by one day. In general, following this little schedule has kept our house at my “happy level”* of clean without too much stress. It also takes into account our busy days, days I run certain errands, Mark’s schedule for certain days, etc. 

I separated our main, primarily used areas into Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday cleaning sessions and do all of the cleaning for each area on the designated day. On Monday for instance, I dust, vacuum, and steam** the living room. 

On Tuesdays, I meal-plan and order groceries (if I’m ordering that week) or I go to Costco with the kids in the afternoon.

I designated Wednesday as my paperwork/receipt/bills/whatever day and I pick up groceries if I’ve ordered.

Thursday is our biggest laundry day. I start early and no matter how much laundry is in there, I make sure that the room is empty by the end of the day with everything folded, dry, etc. I also take some time on Thursday to clean the washer and dryer bodies, dump out the trash can, and sweep and steam the laundry room.

On Friday, I change all of our sheets and knock out a few big occasional chores. I also take an opportunity to sweep up any rooms that may be collecting dirt or dust.

Over the weekend, I deep-clean our main bathroom and maybe do an extra sweep of major areas or an additional big monthly chore if there is time.

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Room Cleaning Routine

When I say I “clean” a room, I generally do the following:

  • Pick up and put away clutter
  • Use a cleaning cloth and damp water (or this oil soap on wood furniture) to quickly dust major open surfaces. 
  • I use this feather duster to dust shelves, nooks that have more “stuff” on them, lamps, gallery walls, etc. 
  • I use this duster to dust both sides of blinds, high corners, and floorboards as well as to quickly sweep beneath any furniture. 
  • I use my steamer to clean the floors (sweeping first if there are a lot of dust or dirt partcles).

This sounds like a lot, but all of the steps outlined above except the steaming take me no longer for any given room than 2 or 3 minutes. Steaming takes maybe 5 minutes for our largest room. 

Also, knowing exactly how I clean has allowed me to slim down the cleaning supplies I keep around to just a few basics, which the clutter-buster in me LOVES.

Ready for a guide? Here is  a free customizable planner to help you refresh your home’s cleaning routine.

So now I’d love to know – what is the most challenging part of keeping your home tidy for you? Or do you have a schedule that just magically works? Tell me below!

*This is different for every one and every stage. Some would probably be shocked at things I’ve left off or the infrequency of certain chores, others by how often I do certain things. This is just some encouragement to try systems until you find the one that works for you and your home. 

** For some, this would be mopping and not all rooms necessarily need to be mopped every week. But I absolutely swear by my Bissell Symphony steamer. The heat ensures that the floors are really deep-cleaned and it’s as quick as vacuuming. If a room is particularly dirty, I might sweep before running it. I used to get really frustrated by how long it took me to truly deep clean floors and how dirty they immediately got, but the steamer has changed this completely. It’s paid for itself so many times over – it’s honestly saved me dozens of hours by this point!

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Food

Easy Weeknight Lentil Stew.

March 4, 2017

 Easy Weeknight Lentil stew

Soup and weeknight cooking are two things that get an unfair rap. This is entirely unnecessary when something as wonderful as The Kinfolk Table’s Four Corners Lentil Stew exists. This is a recipe that boasts three particularly positive qualities:

  • 12 minutes of hands-on time.
  • 40 minutes from cupboard to dish. 
  • Scrumptious.
  • Healthy.
  • Did I mention that it takes 40 minutes?

Here’s what you need:

  • 1 cup of red lentils
  • 1 onion
  • 3 tbls. olive oil
  • 3-4 cups of water
  • A few cubes of chicken bouillion or chicken broth
  • About 1/2 a cup, or a splash, of whatever white wine is open
  • A lemon
  • 15 oz of crushed tomatoes (or, in my case this week, some whole tomatoes that need to be used up and a little bit of paste)
  • 1 tbl. cumin
  • 1 tbl. garlic
  • 1 tbl. ginger
  • Cilantro (or not, again, as in my case this week*)
  • Flatbread

Mince the onion. Toss it into a pot with the olive oil on medium heat and allow the onions to cook until transparent. Slice the lemon into medium-thin disks. At this point, if you’re using these cubes, unwrap four and heat in two cups of water (about 3 minutes in the microwave) until the cubes are mostly dissolved. If you’re using chicken broth, skip this step and drink some wine while you wait for the onions to cook.

After the onions have cooked for a few minutes and are transparent, toss in the cumin, garlic, and ginger. Wait about 3 minutes or until the spices start to become really fragrant. Then add the crushed tomatoes (or about two cups worthof whatever tomatoes you have lying around.) If you use whole tomatoes instead of canned, be sure and add a few tablespoons of tomato paste or sauce as well. Add the broth, about 1/2 cup of wine, and additional water, totaling 4 cups of liquid. The ratio of broth-wine-water does not need to be exact. Toss in about 4 of the lemon disks.

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Cover the pot. Bring to a boil and then lower the heat to a medium simmer. Chop about 1/2 cup of cilantro. After about 30 minutes, or once the liquid is mostly absorbed, turn off the heat. It can sit for about 45 minutes before being served or you can serve it immediately. Serve with a generous toppig of cilantro and some warm flatbread.

This soup freezes well, can be doubled easily, and makes a great lunch the next day. The portions above make about 3 generous meal-size servings and could probably serve 5 adults if not served as the main course.

*In these photos, there’s a dollop of pesto on the soup rather than cilantro because it was all I had on hand. It was fine, but cilantro would have been better. 

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Home

10 Suggestions for Simplifying.

February 24, 2017

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Simplifying is always on my mind – how can I make this less complicated? More streamlined? I want more time, less “to-do”, ya know? Minimalism is the hottest trend since pancakes, but I’ll never achieve true minimalism. And I don’t particularly want to. But I do want to continually ensure that our possessions are items that we actually need, use, and love, that we aren’t just storing stuff that we will never use. For me, it’s an issue of stewardship and of focus. 

If I have less, I have less to care for, organize, clean, and thus, more time to spend on the things that matter to me. I’m less distracted and I can simply enjoy our home and life more.

I’ve noticed though that sometimes I’m even over-complicating my pursuit of the simple. So I thought I would share a few practices in our home that I rely on consistently to keep things simple, keep us moving forward, keep us connected. Hope you enjoy! What are some practices you would add to this list?

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Regularly shed clutter. 

“One of the magical effects of tidying is confidence in your decision-making capacity.” – Marie Kondo

Scheduling an enormous spring-cleaning purge may be cathartic, but I’ve found that my heart and home benefit more from simple consistently shedding things. Do I keep passing up the same shirt in my closet? I toss it into the donation pile. Do my kids keep ignoring the same toy? I hide it to see if it will be missed and then donate it. The likelihood of deeply regrettingthis process is low; the reptition will improve the practice; slowly your home will become less filled with distracting piles of stuff you don’t use and never will and more filled with things that bring you joy and items you truly use.

Practice a routine. 

“We become what we think about.” – Earl Nightingale

A routine is not the same as a schedule. A routine helps eliminate the overwhelm of choice and gives your day momentum. For instance, almost every day, my morning looks like this:

Wake up. Make coffee. Drink a cup of coffee. Nurse Violet. Feed my kiddos breakfast. Get everyone (including myself) completely dressed and ready for the day. Make beds and clean up the kitchen and bathroom. Performing the same basic activities every morning helps to propel all of us into the day. Hesitation and listlessness seem to breed frustration and grumpy hearts while a sense of direction and purpose put all of us in a better mood. 

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Enjoy daily rituals. 

“What you do every day matters more than what you do once in a while.” – Gretchen Rubin

A ritual can be part of a routine, but it is not the same thing. A ritual is something done regularly that fuels your heart, body, and or mind. Some of our family’s rituals include:

  • My cup of coffee in the morning
  • Snuggle time with our babies first thing in the morning.
  • Reading a short devotional together. 
  • Reading stories to my little ones before bedtime (this is a great way to introduce kiddos to Bible stories!). 
  • Summer evening walks after dinner.
  • Enjoying cups of tea together after our babies are in bed.

Rituals provide moments throughout the day for decompression, connection, and slowing down. I can be swamped with work and our schedule can be filled to the brim, but if a few of these rituals are scatted through my day, I still feel as if I have margin. Start by writing out a few of your favorite daily moments. These are probably your rituals, or some of them. Begin to prioritize them, to build your day around them, to use them as moments to connect with your loved ones. 

(A quick note on rituals and children: Kim John Payne has some wonderful suggestions for establishing rituals with children in his book, which I HIGHLY recommend!)

Reduce choices on things that don’t matter. 

“Nothing is less productive than to make more efficient what should not be done at all.” – Peter Drucker

8 different kinds of mascara, five different brands of creamer, 5 breakfast options, 18 different pairs of pants – an abundance of choices isn’t necessarily beneficial. In fact, it can be downright frustrating. I’ve slowly begun the process of elmininating the quantity of choices I need to make every day. I have certain brands of makeup and personal care for me and my children that I know we like so I just stick to buying those when we *actually run out* rather than constantly trying out new products. For instance, we’ve begun offering limited choices for meals, especially breakfast, for both ourself and our kiddos and it has reduced the morning/meal craziness immensely. Menu-planning has helped me make grocery and meal choices once a week rather than having to make 12 different decisions afternoon at 4:00 p.m. (Do I go to the store? Do we go out? What do I cook? How long do I spend cooking? How old are those zucchini?) I’m trying to carry this ove into the wardrobe department, but we’re still working on that. 

Bottom line? If you find yourself standing in the same place every week (or day!) trying to decide between the same options, start there. Commit to one small decision and elminate the back-and-forth. Then do it again. It’s refreshing! 

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Don’t fight your nature.

 “Define yourself as one radically loved by God. This is your true self. Every other identity is an illusion.” – Brennan Manning

I will never be the world’s greatest interior designer. It’s just not in me. I’m impatient and have a pretty short attention span when it comes to perfecting a room – I also get frustrated by the (pernicious?) message of consumerism that seem to subtly hide underneath the perfect “minimalist” rooms of my dreams. Most of our furniture (all?) is used or inherited; neither one of my children had a nursery designed before they were born.

Our furniture is meant for rowdy rough-and-tumble, for messes, for littles. The pieces we’ve purchased either can endure all of the above or I plan to replace them and so am not terribly attached. These things used to stress me out (“We will never have our gallery walls designed!” “My couches look dated!”) but I’m slowly learning that quickly perfecting a house is just not something that really interests me.

I’m slowly learning that the pressure I exert on myself to make a Pinterest-perfect house just isn’t worth it because it doesn’t bring me joy and it distract me from things that do (if it brings you joy, by all means, focus there!) Slowly editing our house to fit our lifestyle and actual needs (rather than a computer image – white is in! So is Danish!) as I have time and inspiration has brought me a great deal more joy and so I try to focus there. 

This is all to say – if Instagram and Pinterest tell you that it’s important, but you don’t wake up wanting to do it, THEN DON’T. You don’t need to grow indoor plants or weave or paint all of your rooms monochrome white to succeed at the things you are meant and called to do. 

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Intentionally step away from screens.

“Silence is a source of great strength.” – Lao Tzu

I think we’ve all lectured ourselves on this a million times and anything I could say has been said better elsewhere. I’ll just leave it at this. The peace and joy in our household is almost perfectly proportionate to the discipline I have demonstrated about my devices that morning. My temperment, the behavior and focus of my little ones, my own ability to focus – it’s all related. We don’t all need to have our devices on and available every single second. Make time to just go outside without your phone. Spend time with your kids and be unavailable to the world. Do this EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. for at least a few minutes and you’ll begin to treasure time without your devices.  

Identify the things that are important to you. 

“You get more of what you notice and affirm.” – Michael Hyatt

On my list? Intentional time with kiddos. Reading. Reading aloud together. Reading by myself. Time together cooking and eating. Time remembering and recording our memories. Time writing. Getting to know my neighbors. Time with Mark. #notmoresocialmediafollowers If your “thing” is growing a virtual audience, go for it. But I recognized a while back that this was just not the area I was ever going to be particularly passionate about or good at. If I have blog readers, great. If some people like a picture I post, fun! But my livelihood and my children’s future is not tied to the time I spend on my screen. So I’ve tried to step away from Social Media more. I’m also never going to be a famous painter. 

“It” stuff – clothes, furniture (see above), shows. Being right on the edge of fill_in_the_blank trend just has never mattered a ton to me. So I don’t spend a lot of time on those things.

Also in this category? Activities with kids that *I don’t care about*. All of the moms in the world may be taking their kids to Wally-Wonder-Goo-Goo-Place on 5th street. If that is not your thing, let it go. My children have never been to the local Children’s Museum equivalent. Or the Trampoline Park. Or anything else remotely that cool. This is because I’m an unashamed germaphobe and we have ton of toys and I’m The Most Boring Mom on The Block. My children are under 3 and will never remember visiting these places. If my kids want to play with something different than our toys, we go outside. Or we go to a different park. This is just us.  Find your “you” and then shed the rest. 

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Spend time outside. “The earth has music for those who listen.” – William Shakespeare

Off you go now. 

Meet your actual neighbors. 

“It will be our love, not our opinions, which whill be our greatest contribution to this world.” – Bob Goff

Chances are, you live in a neighborhood. With actual other houses (not Pinterest ones!) with actual other people (not bloggers!). Make some bread or bake some cookies, and go ring a random doorbell. And then do it again. Amazing gifts start to come your way when you realize that friends are actually everywhere, not just on your phone or your moms’ group or church.  The world begins to seem so much more full and simple and beautiful all at the same time when we stop overcomplicating basic things like “do you have some butter I can borrow?” 

Maintain a basic neatness standard. 

“If you can’t find something, clean up.” – Gretchen Rubin

This is different for everyone. For me, this means that beds are made, bathrooms are presentable (sinks and toilets cleaned, trash removed), and the breakfast dishes cleaned. If you would be mortified if someone walked into your house, maybe it’s time to reassess. If you spend half of the day cleaning your house and can’t ever get anywhere before 11:00 a.m., maybe it’s also time to reassess (or see the first item in this list – maybe you just have too much stuff!). 

Hope these little tips help you on your journey towards simplifiying and creating a home life that you love! 

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Parenting

Ramblings about Nap Transitions and Saying “No”.

January 31, 2017

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We’re through that phase that I like to call “the fog” in Baby Time. I feel like I’m the mother to two energetic happy curious toddlers instead of a toddler + cranky picky baby. I know some people LOVE that infant stage (the “glowworm” days), but honestly? I don’t. I love having a little one who is more mobile, more energetic, more excited, less “what-is-going-on-let’s-spend-all-evening-Googling-parenting-articles”.

So January, which is normally boring and depressing and cold has been a January for the books (the unusually warm weather hasn’t hurt, either). Watching my kiddos slowly learn to interact and relate is one of the most fun aspects of parenting yet, and one I didn’t see coming.

Right now? Miles is talking a million miles a minute. I love watching his vocabulary explode. I may have a had a slight panic-episode the other evening when the mom of one of his friends started talking about preschool applications. But that’s for another post another time.

 

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Violet craws like a mini-speedster and cheerily practices standing whenever she decides she’d like some attention. I think her days on all fours are numbered. This is ironic to me, because when Miles was this age, I was not on my “let them live” band-wagon and we pushed and prodded and encouraged him all we could. And he didn’t. And he decided to crawl at about 10 months and didn’t walk until 19 months.

Violet? We’ve let her take her time. We’ve spent a lot less time time prodding and a lot more time in quiet observed independent play. I know this isn’t always the case with timelines nor do I think one should measure a child’s progressor success at this age by (fairly artficial) imposed developmental milestones, but it was a good lesson for this Mama.

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Speaking of transitions, we are DOWN TO ONE NAP a day with Violet. Only other parents who obsess over schedules and rhythms and nap timelines will care at all about this but, folks, this is like Second Christmas to me. I LOVE the one-daily-nap phase. Our daily rhythm now involves one nice transition from lunch to bed right around 12:30 and lasting until 2:30/3:30 (or whenever around this time they wake up). I can’t “make” them go to sleep. But I can enforce a family quiet time consistently. (Spoiler alert: they almost always go to sleep. Violet sometimes wakes up early as she is still transitioing a little. If she does, I give her time and space to play quietly alone in her crib instead of quickly snatching her out of bed, a practice which consistently buys me a few more minutes of precious quiet time for now.)

It was only in the midst of this nap-time transition that I realized how much saying a firm, kind “No” is a part of maintaining our family’s rhythm. It’s boring. It’s lame. But it’s important. It’s especially vital to our week because I work from home and have to protect my work windows as well as my time with my little ones. When we say “yes” to too many things or overschedule or skip or fudge naps or bedtimes, there is a prety rapid domino effect and it’s not pretty.

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Sometimes, unique events or schedules merit a missed nap or a late bedtime. But these are rare and intentional. Most of the time, my childrens’ need for a predictable, steady routine has to trump Everything Else. Playgroups, events, outings, lunch with other moms, appointments – all of it falls second to our big-picture routine.

This is coming on the end of a few weeks where I’ve found myself saying “no” more than usual. It has felt both weird and freeing. No, I can’t commit to that; it’s my time to work. No, we can’t attend; that’s our nap-time. No, we can’t plan dinner late; we need to put our kids to bed.

This may earn me the title “Neighborhood’s Most Boring Mom” and sometimes I feel like a cranky hermit, but you know what? It’s been worth it. I think sometimes moms and dads who spend most of their day at home with their littles fall into the trap of feeling like their schedules (and the schedules of their babies) don’t matter. After all, you’re home! Where do you need to be? Why does it matter if you have lunch at 10:00 or 2:00?  Who cares? Throw caution to the wind. Stay up late. You can sleep in tomorrow.

Maybe this works for some. But for our family? When I start to be careless about our time, individually and collectively, moods and behavior and emotions start to slide. I’m slowly learning how very much my kids need me to protect their days and routines, even at the expense of things that are fun.

A side benefit of this is that I have an added excuse to protect *my* day and routine. We are all more productive and rested and happy. Everyone wins, except for Exciting Mom Awards, of which none are being handed out over here.

A quick piece of unsolicited advice? I think sometimes we stay-at-home parents undermind our own work. We think “Oh, I’m just a parent. I have so much time My schedule doesn’t matter.” No, you don’t. Yes, it does. Your time is not free or value-less. Your time is dedicated to taking care of lots of little finicky humans. Respect yourself and your time and your little ones. Treat the work you do with the dignity you would treat a job. Draw boundaries; follow through; protect your tools of quiet and rest.

I am not one who enjoys saying “no”. I hate it. But I’m getting better at it, for my kids and for me. One of the greatest gifts these baby days have given me is the gift of days that are covered by a quiet peace -peace-filled days AND peace about turning down good things for better. This is hilariously ironic considering how very un-peaceful some days feel with littles, but this unexpected fruit of these efforts to build a maintain healthy home rhythms? I’ll take it.

P.S. Need some more encouragement? This book taught me so much about confident, calm parentng.

Know a friend who needs to read this? Share the image below to Pinterest!

Nap transitions. simplify schedules.

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Life

A Word for 2017.

January 6, 2017

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Happy New Year!

January is one of my favorite months of the year – the prospect of the new year holds so much promise and hope and excitement. One tradition that I’ve kept over the past several years is that of picking a word early in the year and reflecting on it as the year moves on.

In 2013, my word was SAVOR. (There are no posts to link to about this, but here’s a somewhat related post about savoring moments.)

In 2015, my word was CREATE.

In 2016, it was FLOURISH.

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It’s been so fun to set goals and a vision for a year around a chose theme and then to look back over the years through the lens of that particular word.

For 2017, my word is STORY.

Part of this is my exhaustion with our sound-bite, tweet-infested, 10-second availability-infused world. We are meant for deeper, richer, longer stories and I want my year to be about the long game, both in stories I consume and tell.

With littles (mostly, a toddler!) this becomes especially apparent. Sometimes the thing that buys me five minutes of peace or my toddler 2 minutes of attention isn’t what’s best for our hearts and homes over the long haul. As a mom, I want to focus on the big picture and do the hard work that writes a bigger story of contentment and peace and simplicity and togetherness rather than just jumping from distraction to distraction and immediate solution to immediate solution.

We’re in our home for the forseeable future, which is eternally longer than we’ve ever been in any home together. We’re generally settled, but I want to focus on truly building the story of our home and our family this year, building the traditions, the rituals, and the memories that will carry us far beyond 2017.

For as long as I can remember, my aspirations and education and career have pivoted on words. And social media, driven by words and images, has been a fun source of inspiration and creativity for me. But at some point last year, it began to feel a little endless, a little cyclical, and little hopeless. I felt, as Cal Newport puts is so succinctly, like I was trying to run “a one-person media operation”, the exact end-game of which was fuzzy at best. I need, I’ve realized, to be creating stories, not just sound-bites, to survive and thrive, and I need some time and space to create and build those stories, time and space that requires stepping away from the onslaught of every other story the internet has to tell.

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I especially want to dedicate time this year to telling our family stories through albums – my children’s baby books, our family albums, the memories Mark and I have of advenures before babies, and a few other projects that I haven’t prioritized – and more regular journaling.

Finally, the word STORY serves as a reminder for me to incoporate more stories and story-time into my children’s play (as opposed to just more books and isolated words and vocabulary). Stories are a crucial part of a young child’s development and intentionally incoporating it into our playtime and conversation is one of my goals for 2017.

Do you pick a word for your year? What is yours? I’d love to know!

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Friday Links

This and That.

December 30, 2016

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There is nothing quite like this quiet week between Christmas and the new year, is there? This year it feels particularly sheltered, falling, as it does, over exactly one real week.

This has been a December of lots of reflecting, lots of half-finished posts, lots of good intentions, not much social media, plenty of activites with my littles that fell short of my Pinterest dreams but that hopefully carved out some real impressions and memories in their little sweet hearts, and some unusally warm weather that gave us opportunities (outdoor family pictures!) often impossible this time of year.

So often we talk about how our littles won’t remember – and that’s fair and true – , but I think it’s still so important to set an example during this season. Memories fade, but family rituals have a way of burying their way deeply into a child’s being. So we selected special ornaments to cmmemorate the year (four matching gold bells to mark our first Christmas as a family of four!), we shared cookies and cinnamon rolls with our neighbors and friends, we convinced our kiddos to join us for half of our church’s candlelight service. Miles and I made it through exactly half of a very-very-abridged-for-children Christmas story before he had a complete meltdown for absolutely no reason at all.

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Now my 8-month-old has the flu virus despite our best efforts to vaccinate and wash and disinfect and we’re quarantined for a few days and I made a barley stew (a recipe modified from this cookbook) while praying that Violet’s afternoon nap was long enough to help make up for the many hours she and I lost two nights in a row and listened to this wonderful playlist on repeat.

This post is a perfect example of how I feel right now – lots of random ramblings all sort of taking off and forgetting to land. There’s a term that counselors use called “spider-webbing” and of it I am currently the queen.  But isn’t that sort of what this week is for? Spinning our quiet webs, preparing, reflecting, waiting  – Christmas doesn’t feel like Christmas without this week of patient magic (and if you are curious about some actual liturgical basis for this, this piece provides some wonderful background).

And while you’re spinning your 2017 webs, here are a few pieces to inspire your heart, encourage your intentions, and quiet your soul.

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I’ve been trying to establish a consistent cleaning routine for our home so that I’m not always tackling fires and feeling behind. The schedule I used for the fall didn’t feel quite right, so I’m changing it up for the rest of winter. Here and here are some suggestions for routines if your home feels out of control.

Here’s a cozy recipe to try during slow mornings this week.

An interesting piece on balancing home-roles and a career for both men and women.

These bookshelves will make the whole world seem right.

Fika and hygge – two words to chase away the winter blues.

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Friday Links

Weekend Reading List // 21.

October 28, 2016

pieces on coffee, wine, creative children

Happy weekend, dears!

So, this will be the *last* weekend reading list for the blog, at least for a while. I’ll still be creating it, but I’ll only be sending out to this blog’s email list beginning next Friday, so if you are subscribed to that and get my notes in your inbox, don’t change a thing.:-) If you aren’t getting occasional notes from me, provide your email here.

Love your avacados? Grab a Kleenex. (via The Atlantic)

Here’s how to best pair your wine and herbs this holiday season.

I just overhauled my spice cupboard using these jars – I love the way they look and function now!

Yet another reason to drink coffee everyday. (via WebMD)

How to cultivate creativity in your children. (via The Atlantic)

Do you work part-time? Your children might be more empathic. (via Inc.com)

From Pinterest

Writing helps you to remember and pay attention.

I’m obsessed with this two-tone dresser.

From Instagram

This entire account is break-taking.

The power of menu-planning.

From another writer

“You are not here merely to make a living. You are here in order to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world, and you impoverish yourself if you forget the errand.” 

-Woodrow Wilson

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Friday Links

Weekend Reading List // 20.

October 14, 2016

Weekend Reading List

It’s Saturday! Fall weekends are so different than summer weekends, aren’t they? The one calls for icy drinks, flip flops, and time outside – the other conjures up images of warm meals inside, heavy cloudy skies, and lots of cozy layers. Ready for the transition? I am! (Now if I can just convince the Indian summer heat to cooperate…)

We are unraveling from some time away this weekend. Here are some things that caught my eye this week . . .

Family life in a teensy apartment. (via Washington Post)

My mind is boggled by the concept of mise en place. (via NPR) Do you do this when you cook?

This piece made me cry.  (via NYT)

One method for chronicling your baby’s milestones.

From Pinterest

Fall colors.

Ice cream’s history!

From Instagram

Her food styling is out of this world.

From a Better Writer

“We’re not going to save the world one street style photo at a time now, are we!”

Jessie Bush, We The People

 

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