Weekend Links // 17.

After two glorious weeks in Michigan, we are back home and soaking up the last few weeks of these hot summer months.

We went blueberry and cherry picking while we were up North. If you’re faced with the troubling ordeal of TOO MANY BLUEBERRIES (is that possible?), this easy not-too-sweet pie recipe is for you. If you are further south and peaches are ripe, this bourbon slush provides a solution to both the excess peaches and the heat.

I love that some parents are turning dining rooms into a playrooms.

This idea for displaying special photos is great, especially since there’s no hanging required. (via Paper & Stitch)

These backyards have me swooning. I especially love the vertical planters for a small backyard space. (via Clean and Scentsible)

This piece by a mom has the grad student in me thinking about why we all feel the need to write about our kids in the first place. (via NYT)

Today, I pulled all of the shelves and drawers out of my fridge and scrubbed the entire thing. This = happiness in my world. Someday though I’d like it to look this good. (via The Intentional Minimalist)

Finally, a few Olympic events that you may not even know exist. (via LifeHacker)

Weekend Links // 16.

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Happy Sunday! Here’s hoping yours has been restful and rejuvenating. While you’re keeping cool, here are some fun pieces to browse.

For a good laugh, this list of guys. (via The New Yorker)

The perfect dinner party playlist. (via Style Me Pretty)

If you (like me) are trying to improve your photography but don’t understand aperture, here’s a guide that might help. (via Expert Photography)

My favorite part of this list for visiting a new mom is the suggestion about bringing coffee. But there are lots of other gems in there as well. (via Mom.me)

I’m exploring ideas for sprucing up our backyard and love these vertical garden boxes.

If you’re working on the inside of your house instead, here some great suggestions for small spaces. (via The Kitchn)

Working on doing this more.

Weekend Reading List // 15.

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It is Friday! Say it with me.

The dog days of summer are fully upon us. We are basically living at the pool, which is so much less glamorous than it sounds when you are nursing a three-month-old who does not like wind or sunshine, thank you very much, while wrangling a two-year-old who is (falsely) convinced that he can swim.

While you are at the pool this weekend, add these links to your reading list!

Whatever is up with this Pokemon Go craze. (via Vox)

Why you should ask for a small coffee in a medium cup and other pieces of life advice. (via Fatherly)

Why your imaginary pregnancy and your real-life pregnancy are so different. (via OKREAL)

Would you unfollow the Pope on Instagram? (via NYT)

How to decorate as a couple when your tastes are individual. (via Houzz)

Five sauces every cook must know how to make. (via Food52)

I am hoping that this summer reading makes me a calmer parent. Quickly.

I LOVE this baby “stats tracker”. (via lifelove+lucy)

This Instagram account! I can’t even.

Happy weekending!

 

Making the most of every day: 5 strategies.

I considered entitling this blog post “Why I don’t write emails and nurse my baby at the same time,” but apparently Google doesn’t like blog titles of such length and depth. I digress.

Getting anything done while living with small children – even ONE small child – is no joke. Laundry, dishes, basic cleaning, opening the mail, watching a movie – these things that used to happen with almost no thought, now require the strategy energies of a moon-launch to successfully execute, whether you are a mom or a dad of just one tiny two-week old baby or several children under 5.

When Miles was very young, we were barely moved into our apartment in College station, and Mark was in the trenches of the first (pretty terrible) semester of business school, I remember just staring at our piles of possessions completely paralyzed. How was I supposed to turn the chaos into the cozy 810-square-foot-Pinterest-modeled apartment of my dreams while continuing to work my part-time remote job with a baby that required a feeding session every two hours?

But you know what? It got better. Life has a funny way of doing that – more demands on your time come in the by the front door and you think that your sanity is leaving by the back door, but it’s not. Eventually, I figured out what was, and most importantly, was not important for that hour or that day or that week.

So here are my “get it done” hacks. They are not a road-map to 100 extra hours in a week or the answer to why you are not yet successful and happy in your dream job of Instagramming white sandy beaches. They are simply tools that I’ve found useful in stewarding my time and that work for now. I don’t rely them all of the time – but when I do, I’m more well-rested, more productive, more pleasant, and more present.

Whether you are a mom who stays with her baby all day, or a mom who works away from her kids 40 hours a week, or a mom who is at home most of the time and responsible for the laundry while maintaining a career in the cracks of time from your laptop in the dining room – I hope these help you. And give you just a few more hours in your day. Or at least a chance to finish that project and have a few minutes left for a cup of coffee.

Do not do things while your children are asleep that you can do while they are awake.

This is common wisdom passed around leisurely to young mothers at baby showers. But here’s the secret to really leveraging this rule. You can do more things while your children are awake than you think you can.

Laundry? Dishes? Making beds? Opening the mail? Avoid doing these things while your children nap. Instead, talk and sing and play with your children in the room where these things need to be done while you’re doing them.

Will the laundry take longer? Most assuredly. My 2-year-old “helped” me while I cleaned the floors the other day and it took at least twice as long. But it will still get done and then when your baby is asleep you can do something more exciting than the laundry. Like reading a magazine uninterrupted.

Added bonus: your children will not grow up thinking that magical fairies do the laundry and the dishes while they sleep. (And if you are frustrated by this idea or have no idea how to encourage your children to play alongside of you rather than depend on you for 100% of their entertainment, read this book. In fact, read it anyway.)

Have a clearly defined list of things to do while the child or children are asleep.

This way, when that squirmy four-month-old that is in the middle of dropping a nap and won’t sleep at the expected time for all of the efforts you can pour forth and you finally get her down, then you know exactly what to do next to make the 12 minutes of sleep-time productive.

Otherwise, you will spend her 12-minute nap figuring out what to do and will be frustrated because you make any progress on anything but Facebook Awareness when you hear her precious cry at Minute 13.

It doesn’t matter what this list says. If it’s yoga, then get your 12 minutes of yoga in. If it’s editing for a client, then bill 12 minutes of editing. BUT DO SOMETHING that will keep you from falling over the Cliff of Time Despair.

Know and cage black holes.

This is slightly different than the generally accepted mantra: “We are all wasting all of the time with social media” (true as that may be). I have my time black holes and you have yours. Whether the black hole consists of magazines or Instagram or Netflix or counting the clouds that sail by: we all have them. I’m sure even Sheryl Sandberg has something on which she wastes time. The way to leverage this? Know what those things are. Then limit them by determining when you will waste time.

For instance: social media, namely, Instagram, is so addicting to me. I love it. Not always necessarily a good use of time. But when I’m nursing and only have one hand free and can’t really move around very effectively and am generally being left alone by my toddler – I scroll Instagram. When I’m not nursing? I try to leave it alone. See? It’s self-limiting. Wins all around – I get my mental zone-out break, my baby is fed, and I don’t feel as if I wasted precious time by falling down the interwebs.

Have a clear sense of what can be done when.

This is related to all of the other suggestions and this looks different for everyone. Some women can type entire books while they nurse. I can do….basically nothing that requires two hands while nursing. And I’m not very good at typing anything other than a two-line email with one hand. So extensive typing or editing or really at all anything requiring two hands doesn’t happen while I nurse. But my children have both loved our Ergo. So sometimes when they are awake and just want to be close to Mama, I *can* do things like cleaning or laundry or typing while I wear them. But some children hate their Ergos but love their playpens.

If I try to type an email longer than two sentences while I’m nursing, I get frustrated and normally my baby gets frustrated and the email generally doesn’t get finished anyway. So I quit trying to write emails longer than two lines while nursing.

Just know what you need to do and then figure out the best time and situation for doing that. Then, when babies don’t nap and the weather changes and someone needs to be held during their nap instead of sleeping in their crib – you have a backup option and can still be productive at something.

Give yourself grace to be productive in different ways.

Pregnancy and caring for newborns has been a huge reality check (at least for me), in part because being productive suddenly means something very different than it used to mean. During pregnancy, you are growing a human. So even thoughI was exhausted and nauseous and flaky and couldn’t remember why I walked from one end of the house to the other, I was still being massively productive. This took me forever to really accept, but once I did, I became a much less stressed-out human being.

Nursing has been such a soul-check for me. I want to be up and moving and doing things, even if those things don’t necessarily accomplish much, because I feel better if there’s movement and energy being expended. But when I’m nursing my babies, I have to sit for hours. And do seemingly nothing. Sometimes my babies even know when I’m looking at the screen of my phone and get annoyed, so I’m really not doing anything. Except that I am keeping a human alive. So that’s pretty important.

Spending time with my baby and simply cooing back at her is, in fact, quite productive. I’m helping her to become a little human. We don’t always have to be *doing* something remarkable together – sometimes my kids need me to just be present with them. Reminding myself of this helps keep me from being frustrated at the slow moments and helps me appreciate and savor those times more.

This book was also completely life-altering for me. It gave me a new perspective on time and focus and presence with my kids and convicted me enough to really sit down and think about what kind of parent I want to be and how to make that happen.

What are your secret weapons for getting things done with little people?

Weekend Reading List // 14.

It’s the weekend! Summer is here in full force. The Fourth is one of my favorite holidays – America’s birthday AND my baby boy’s birthday. We’ll be having a big barbecue to celebrate both momentous events and I’m especially excited that Miles gets to enjoy the Fourth’s fireworks for the first time (last year he was in bed before sunset!). What are you up to this weekend?

Whatever you’re doing, these ice-cream flavors look to good to miss – find a way to incorporate homemade ice cream into your weekend!

I love this cute toy camera for a kiddo.

Speaking of toys, I’m struggling to figure out how to minimize the toys in our home in a healthy way.  This piece on minimalism helped. Tell me . . . how do you minimize useless (and seemingly inevitable!) toy clutter and focus on quality?

Why your defiant child may be your favorite (later). (via Kids Activities Blog)

This piece on Celine Dion’s concert will have you gasping for air. (via Jezebel)

Family-sleep traditions from around the world. (via Fatherly)

How do you know when you’re “done” having kids? (via Clementine Daily)

Did you see this sweet love story? (via the New York Times)

An interesting piece on unfollowing. (via NYT)

On rhythms and geraniums and parenting two.

  

Parenting Round Two has been so vastly different than Parenting Round One. Becoming a mom for the first time was amazing in so many ways. But also, during Round One, I remember a distinct feeling of panic underlying almost all of my activities. Everything seemed HARD. Nursing was hard for a long time, sleeping was non-existent (for any of us), and I’m pretty sure I didn’t cook a meal that didn’t involve a tortilla for the first four months of Miles’ life.

I looked frantically for solutions at every turn and, even amidst the vast array of crowd-sourced-Internet-and-Amazon baby wisdom, there were very rarely any solutions to my newborn who slept at least three hours less each day than every book promised me he would (try Googling THAT schedule) and who needed to eat twice as often as that elusive “average” baby.

This time around has been different and wonderful in its own way. Baby 2’s birth and the ensuing days and weeks have been covered in so much peace. This probably has something to do with the fact that I am not unpacking boxes, that I actually took maternity leave, that Mark works for an organization forward-thinking enough to offer fathers paternity leave, allowing him to be home for those first couple of new weeks as a family of four. Maybe it has to do with my baby, who just seems to have a more effectively charged internal clock, who seems more mellow, or maybe I just know a little more about what to expect – and what to not expect.

There is a lot more laundry this time around and my house may never actually be completely clean again, thanks especially to my curious and busy toddler. I wash my hair not nearly as often as I used to and dry and style it less frequently than that. But even now, after the first haze of the brand-new baby days has worn off, even on the busiest of mornings when our house contains the work-days of two adults, a babysitter, an infant, a toddler, and an oddly ballooning population of tractors and trains, our days have a steady confidence, an expectant rhythm to them.

Waldorf education philosophy, with which I am almost as mildly obsessed as I am with extra-sharp cheese, talks about how a day is built out of alternating periods of contracting and expansion, much like breathing. We come together, we pull apart. Days, especially for children, should have a pulsing steadiness. Like kneading bread.

I love this picture of pulling outward and settling in. I think it’s almost as important for adults as it is for children. Maybe our rhythms are different; but I go a little crazy when I don’t know what pieces of my day I can depend on. (This is probably THE HARDEST part of parenting young infants for me – this always-not-knowing.) And it is amazing to me how this sense of rhythm changes even the way I handle my infant’s sleep schedule. 

Schedules are hard for babies – not scheduling at all is hard for families. But rhythms? Rhythm is something I can watch for and listen for and encourage. Rhythm is something I can fall back on when our day starts to feel messy and hectic and scattered. Rhythm is something I know will return, even if an evening or a morning or a day feels unpredictable and chaotic.

I try to set landmarks in the day for myself, just as I do for my children. Mine are slightly different – my few minutes alone with the coffee carafe and my cup, a few stolen minutes with a book or a magazine (like this one or this one), a window of time during which I get to water my two pet pots of geraniums. And these landmarks – naps and meals for my children, these little moments for myself – help to guide our day, to reassure us that chaos is not in fact winning – that the days are being redeemed, slowly, steadily, one by one.

And even when the laundry piles up and the tractors and trains line the halls and the crackers need to be vacuumed from the floor for the nineteenth time, I can breathe more easily, knowing that we’re finding our rhythm. And we’ll find it again tomorrow, and the day after, and the day after that.

Weekend Reading List // 13.

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Happy Weekend! It’s unofficially the second weekend of summer (which, for me, will always begin with Memorial Day weekend!). I hope you’re enjoying barbecues, pool-time, and the sunshine. I’m excited to soak up lots of beautiful northern weather and solitude this weekend.

Here’s a handy chart that can tell you whether or not to pitch that leftover condiment. (via TheKitchn)

A helpful color chart for design projects. (via Colourlovers)

Enough quinoa salad ideas to stock your fridge for a month. (via BuzzFeed)

A beautiful printable calendar and some other free printables. (via Azzari Jarrett)

The one piece of preparation to do before a dinner party to make cleanup less stressful and nine other entertaining tips. (via Cup of Jo)

And four ways you are undermining your own happiness. (via The Reluctant Entertainer)

How do we make our digital lives more human? (via The AmericanScholar)

From the archives

Why you should take more pictures

Currently loving

My simple glass (Neoprene sleeved) water bottle (similar) that I carry everywhere.

Reflecting on

“The rituals we share are small promises made and kept, every day.”

Simplicity Parenting

Weekend Reading List // 12.

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It’s the weekend! What are your plans?

I’m excited to wrap up my Week in the Life project this weekend (check out #emweekinthelife on Instagram for some sneak peeks!). Ali Edwards hosts this fun photo memory-keeping project every year. I’ve never participated before, but I wanted to capture this unique little sliver of time before we all go back to work and routines and Violet outgrows her sweet newborn days.

I’ve been working hard to organize and archive our photos and put a consistent long-term system in place and I came across this great list of tips on scanning old photos in a usable way. (via Pictures and Stories)

Just in time for glorious summer barbecues, these tips on building a layer cake. (via Food52)

Some fun facts about breastfeeding and women’s health. (via the Susan G. Komen Foundation)

Raising a creative child. (via NYT)

Motivate your morning routine for a month with this challenge. (via The Everygirl)

Make these fabulous ice cream flavors with your Kitchen Aid (no churning required!). (via Half Baked)

In love with this balloon arch. (via Petite & Sweet)

Spring 2016 Book Stack.

Spring_2016_Book-Stack

My reading list over the past couple of years has been sloooowwww going. But recently, I signed up for my library card at the new-to-us local library and discovered that they had a huge selection of e-books. (Welcome to the 21st century, Emily, I know, I know.)

So during bed-rest and now during nighttime feedings I’m attempting to make up for some lost time. Here are the titles that have been stacking up on my table (and screen) lately.

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart. This was such a strange book. It draws you in like any ordinary cute, light summer novel does and then throws some huge curve-balls. Maybe I’m just not used to the genre, but this book definitely left me sleepless – not quite the effect I was hoping for! But I was able to finish it in just a few days, so if you want some quick, easy airplane reading, this is it. If you can’t handle mildly scary or bizarre though – pass it up.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying up by Marie Kondo. This was both more interesting and a little weirder than I expected. I appreciated her de-cluttering tips, although I think my mom and sister and I have all been secret KonMari practitioners before Kondo invented the system. Her advice definitely inspired me to go back through my closet, my most consistent source of clutter-stress. I also loved her advice regarding keeping items out of obligation or guilt.

I got the feeling that Ms. Kondo has some lingering inner-child issues – she seemed to spend a lot of time painting a picture of herself as this reclusive anomaly of a child who basically raised herself. Also, I would love to know what kind of advice she gives to parents when she consults with them. Do the piles of plastic sippy cups in my cupboard bring me joy? Not exactly. But neither does the idea of my toddler drinking out of adult glasses……

Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne. This book was life-changing for me. I’ve been a theoretical fan of Waldorf parenting and educational approaches, but this author explained why. I couldn’t stop scribbling quotes. It was both convicting and inspiring to read. It’s definitely super helpful for parents, but even someone without children trying to simply and more intentionally could glean quite a lot from the author’s words.

Yes, Please by Amy Poehler. This is mostly just hysterically funny. It makes for some great middle-of-the-night light-hearted reading, although it feels less like a real book and more like a show – or a blog – or something? This is probably partly because o Amy stand-up comedy career and partly because so much of the book is designed to look like post-it notes or letters or notes from a set. In addition to piles of hilarity, Poehler has some truly wonderful insights on parenting and life.

Every Good Endeavor by Tim Keller. Mark and I have been reading through this together. It’s quite good and includes a lot of really convicting discussion. It’s one of those books digested most easily at a slow pace which works perfectly since we only read a bit each night. I think it would be a lot to take in quickly. If you’re looking for some career direction or rationale for decisions, start here. Keller provides some wonderful starting points.

I would love some suggestions! What titles are on your summer reading list?

Weekend Reading List // 11.

weekend links 11

Happy weekend! This feels in some ways like the first weekend of summer – our pool is opening and we have been pulling out our summer clothes and sunscreen.

It’s also Mother’s Day weekend! What do you have planned? I have several dear friends that are due almost anytime, so I’m excited to see if one of them has a Mother’s Day baby!

Sometimes I think we talk a lot about how hard it is to be a mom, but not as much about how much fun it is, so one of my plans for this weekend is to remind myself what a privilege it is to be a mom to my sweet bundles. I’ll be celebrating by grilling, cuddling my baby girl, and splashing with my little guy.

Some amazing iPhone photography and a few great photography tips. (via iPhone Photography School)

The effects of wine on mood and expressions, through a camera lens. (via Mental Floss)

If the full Project Life system overwhelms you, try starting out with this simple system. (Thanks, Rachel, for leading me to this!) (via Valerie Kiensley)

The New York Times as curriculum. (via NYT)

Such a sweet photo essay. (via Twenty Two Words)

Some dining etiquette tips. (via Classy Career Girl)

Patios to get you excited about summer. (via Pottery Barn)

One of my very favorite Instagram feeds. (via Modern Farmer)