I’m on the heels of my longest stint of solo parenting—whew! While I love my children dearly, they are a lot of physical work, especially at their current ages (7 months and newly 4). It was a long weekend (no pun intended) of messes and big feelings, but also lots of outside time, quality time and fun. I will say that this time gave me more confidence as a parent, especially a newish parent of two, but I am also super grateful to have my co-parent back. (And, can we give a shout out to single parents and co-parents that are solo parenting for long stretches of time—the real unsung heroes!)
I wanted to reflect on how I came out the weekend relatively unscathed and have this as a reminder to my future self on the next solo-parenting adventure:
- Lower expectations. This goes without saying, right?! I still need the reminder. Things will take longer, go undone, and new challenges will come up, so give yourself some grace.
- Ease up on the rules a little. Sure, it wasn’t going to be animal house, but I don’t need to worry about an extra episode of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse or an afternoon ice cream.
- Eat off of paper plates. Not economical or environmentally friendly, but seriously cuts down on clean-up time. I’m kicking myself for not thinking of this until the last day.
- Put myself to bed early. At the end of the day, I just needed to lay down to decompress. That meant some of the dishes might not be done or the house not picked up, but see #1.
- Get out of the house, but no big plans. We opted to stay really local, but did get out everyday. This isn’t a time to jam pack the calendar or do something new, but hitting up some local playgrounds or going for walks is a great way to break up the days.
For all my parents out there solo-parenting full-time or part-time, we got this!
What a month it has been. As I write this, my family is riding out the remainder of our Covid quarantine. The virus that we evaded for more than two years finally hit us (the week before my daughter’s fourth birthday i.e. more canceled plans). Before my entire family went into two weeks of isolation, life was full. (To be clear, life feels full at home with two small children, no childcare, and two working parents too 😬). I solo parented two kiddos overnight for the first time. I left my previous job. Maternity leave ended and I started a new job.
At the end of the day, I didn’t have a lot of space for “creativity.” Or, so I thought? Sure, I didn’t feel like I had the time or space to pour into my blog, a new recipe, or a home organization project, but I can assure you, I’ve been creative.
Often, “creativity” is limited to artists—those writing a beautiful story, capturing a breathtaking photo, creating a stunning painting. But, why?
The reality is that creativity goes into everything we do. It’s not always a blog full of perfectly written posts. Sometimes, it’s the formation of new rhythms and routines for my family. It’s figuring out how to entertain my kids during, yet another, day at home. It’s getting dinner on the table in twenty minutes with as few dishes and ingredients as possible.
If you are in a season like me and feel like your creativity is suffering, I see you, and I invite you to rethink how you approach creativity. You’re doing more than you think.
It is hard to believe I am at the end of a six-month maternity leave. Early babyhood is full of dichotomies—it goes by fast, yet slow; the days all feel the same, yet the baby routines have changed more times than I can count; I want the time to last forever, yet I’m ready for the next phase.
When I began reflecting on this time, my first instinct was to think “what have I done with all of this time?,” as if there was something to accomplish, something to show. Thanks to my husband, I was able to turn this notion upside on its head. Maternity leave was meant to bond with my baby and nourish our relationships as a family of four. I can say, without a doubt, those “goals” were met.
The tiny ball of squish that entered our world in October is now a wide-eyed babbling baby. A sibling relationship is blossoming. I’m figuring out, through a lot of trial and error, how to be a parent to two kids. Together, we are all figuring out how to be a family of four.
There is so much I cherish about the last six months and so many things I want remember:
- The early days when I was mostly staying in bed. Our room felt like a cozy cocoon—the twinkle lights from birth still strung up. My daughter would snuggle up next to me and baby brother, excited for the endless screen time and eating meals in bed.
- Feeling like the world was so small in those early days and weeks. The last few years have been heavy, so the newborn phase provided even more of a reprieve from all of the noise in the world.
- The ease I felt as a second time mom, knowing that I didn’t need to be so worried about milestones, wake windows, or justify our family’s decisions to anyone else.
- Watching the sibling relationship blossom and change. In the early days, my daughter running in the house from school everyday, eager to hold her brother. Watching him discover his sister, eyes following her wherever she goes.
- The Great British Baking Show marathons during the early days and weeks. If you’ve ever been on maternity leave, you know there is the one show that defines that time.
- Those first couple of months with my husband on parental leave. While we were tired, it felt like we were thriving, and I know that would not have be possible without our time together.
- Our first Christmas as a family of four and the first, of many, matching sibling jammies.
- Our first big outing as a family of four—to the zoo for a holiday light show. On our way there, wondering what we were thinking taking kids out so close to bedtime. While the lights were beautiful, the real memory is the massive newborn blowout in the middle of the zoo without an extra set of clothes for the baby (#secondkidproblems).
- The many many walks I went on with a baby strapped to my chest. Getting outside during winter is not easy, but those walks were so needed and cherished.
- Surviving my first day caring for both kids; more laughs than tears.
- Learning how to do the day-to-day tasks with two kids. There was and is many a time that I’ve been cooking dinner with a baby strapped to my chest and a toddler standing next to me on her stool “helping.”
- All of the baby noises. The grunts, the sighs, the early coos.
- All of the firsts. The first roll, which I admittedly missed, but my husband gave me the play-by-play many times over, the first smile, the first bath. My favorite first by far was the first time he laughed at his sister as she jumped on the couch.
- The moments I had with just my older child—taking her to ski lessons, playground dates, a friend’s birthday party.
- The slowness of the days. I don’t do slow very well, but babies have a special way of forcing you to slow down, and for that, I am forever grateful.
This short list is just a glimpse of the many memories created during this time (many more I’m sure I’m forgetting), reminding me that this was time really well spent. And, with that, on to the next phase.
I recently got the question of how I find time to read, so I decided to turn my advice into a post! For context, I read about 25 books per year, I read only hard copy books (no audio books or kindle), and am a mom to two small kids. There are two key elements for me finding the time to read: habit creation and logistics.
In the past few years, reading has become a habit for me. I’m not some type of superhuman—this did (and does) take work to maintain. Here’s how I made reading a habit:
- Identifying why I wanted to read more. For me, it was a combination of fun, wanting to learn more, and wanted to crowd out other bad habits (i.e. scrolling). It doesn’t matter the reason, but it is really important to identify your why otherwise it will be really hard to stick with a new habit.
- Start small. When you are trying to create a habit, there is nothing worse than unrealistic expectations that leave you feeling instantly defeated. This looked like a reading goal of 12 books for the year (or a book a month) the first time I starting getting intentional about reading more. Maybe it’s a book a month, a book a quarter, or even reading for 10 minutes 3 times a week.
- I created a running list of books I wanted to read. I find it so helpful to have a number of book titles at my fingertips for when I am ready for my next book to keep the momentum going. I get ideas from bestseller lists, blogs, podcasts, or sometimes just browsing the library.
- Leaving a book when I hated it. Just don’t force yourself to finish a book you hate for the sake of finishing. Cut your loses and move on.
- Always having my next book on-deck. I mostly use the library, but also have my own stack of books at home. When I’m getting close to finishing a book, I make sure to pull a book that looks interesting from my stack, or order a book from the library (this is so easy online).
- Having the tools I needed. For me, this is mostly a book lamp and a bookmark, but for you it may include an e-reader or headphones. Whatever it is, make sure you have it.
Now to tackle the logistics of when I actually read. My number one strategy here is to always have my book close by or with me. This can be really clunky since I’m not using an e-reader or audiobooks, but it works for me. When I read definitely changes based on the season of life, but here is a list of times I am actually reading:
- Before bed. This can be tough because many times I’m falling asleep as soon as my head hits the pillow, but I always try to open my book and find that if I can put my phone down as soon as I’m in bed, I can usually squeak out at least 10 minutes.
- As soon as I wake up. This one isn’t happening right now because I’m not waking up until my kids are waking me up, but there have been times where I will wake up and grab my book for a quick 10-15 minutes.
- While my kid is bathing, playing independently, at an activity, or watching a show. Again, this won’t always work depending on how involved I need, or want, to be, but I have found these times to be some of the best for reading.
- During baby nap times. This is very specific to my current life stage, but maybe you have a a similar forced down time!
- Waiting for appointments. If you are headed to the doctor, dentist, oil change, whatever—bring your book!
- On vacation. This is probably a pretty obvious one, but I always make sure to bring a couple book choices.
- Any other time I have a few minutes. This can look really different from person to person, but if you are having a hard time figuring out when to read, try to find moments during the day where you have a few minutes of down time. Maybe at lunch time, between meetings, listening to an audiobook on your commute? There is probably some time in there you can take back for reading!
I hope this was helpful and I’d love to hear your tips! Comment below with your favorite ways to fit in reading.
Spring is here—hooray! I’ve been soaking up the nicer weather and doing a ton of Spring cleaning. Here’s what I was up to in March.
What I Read
Saving Ruby King by Catherine Adel West
This was West’s debut novel and it was an emotional and heartbreaking tale of a young woman determined to save her best friend from her violent father. The book weaves in topics of generational trauma, racial tension, friendships and faith through the stories of three generations of families in South Side Chicago. The star character for me was Calvary Hope Christian Church, the hub of the community, who takes on a persona to tell many of the most startling moments.
Free to Learn by Peter Gray
Admittedly, not my favorite book. I was interested in this book because it advocates for more free play and self-directed learning for kids. However, the author’s tone towards modern schooling was SO negative that it was hard for me to take anything useful out of this book. If you are interested in learning more about children’s need for play, unstructured time, and self-directed learning, I think there are a lot of other great reads out there that are more relatable.
What I Made
A new (to me) cookie recipe and some yummy staples in our house!
I’m always on the hunt for baked goods that are “healthier” and easy! I was able to whip these up with my 3-year-old relatively quickly and already had all the ingredients on hand. There are tons of options for swaps for the mix-ins, so you can cater it to your preferences. The recipe made a ton of cookies that lasted us for days.
While we are on the tail end of chili season, this recipe is too good not to share. This chili has been a staple in our home all winter—it’s easy, delicious (even to the toddler), and makes a ton of food. The addition of bacon gives so much yummy flavor.
I took my starter out from the depths of the fridge and brought her back to life! We enjoyed this recipe for pizza night and I hope to do more homemade pizza in the weeks to come.
What I did
I’ll be headed back to work soon and trading my leggings for business casual (whomp whomp). Between pandemic work-from-home, pregnancy and now postpartum, my work wardrobe needed some serious love. I wasn’t interested in heading out to the mall to find new clothes (who is?!), so I enlisted the help of Stitch Fix (an online stylist company). This was my first time using a company like this and I was pleasantly surprised. I was able to create a style profile, which included the price point I wanted to stay in, the service was inexpensive, and it doesn’t require a subscription. Highly recommend if you need a closet revamp and want some pieces that are curated for you.
With the (mostly) milder weather, I have been trying to get out for walks as much as I can, either solo or with the family. Walking sometimes gets a bad rap as a form of fitness, but it is really a great way to move that has the added benefit of fresh air and stress relief.
I hope you had a great March! I’d love to hear what you made, read or did!
My baby intentionally rolls over from his back to his belly with ease. He does it again the next day. Then, he doesn’t do it again for more than a week—often just kicking his legs up and down feverishly and struggling to get onto his side.
I walk to the door to find my daughter fully dressed, zipper up on her coat and her shoes on the right feet. The next day, she struggles to even start the zipper on her coat. She can’t figure out her shoes. All in all, there are still more days than not that she needs help.
In both cases, my children are completely unfazed. My baby happily kicks his legs, eventually rolling back over to his belly with even more strength. Even through some frustration, my daughter tries her zipper every morning, asking for help when she can’t get it just right. And, on those mornings she does it all herself, she beams proudly.
These are just two of an endless supply of examples. Children are constantly falling down and picking themselves up with little fanfare. Continuing to try, and try again, even when it takes a hundred times. Even when what they could do yesterday is a struggle today. Non-linear progress is just a part of their everyday life.
It had me thinking: when did I forget that growth is not linear? At what point did I start believing progress should be a straight shot upwards? I hadn’t realized how long this notion was part of my conditioning.
As usual, my children are my best teachers.
Instead, I should honor the wobbles, the times I fall down, or just can’t get something right. Because, on the other side, is where the real growth happens.
My three-year-old happily dances around the living room as we watch Encanto for the first time. I, too, am bobbing my head to the catchy songs. I’m instantly mesmerized by Luisa’s anthem—the dancing donkeys, the mix of strength and grace in Luisa’s dance moves, her story. Days later I’m still humming the beat under my breath as the words dance in my mind and I realize Surface Pressure is the theme-song for every mother during the pandemic.
In February 2020, life was finally feeling settled. My daughter was a year and a half old, and my work, social, and family obligations felt balanced after a tough transition into motherhood. Enter Covid-19.
At the end of the second week of March 2020, I went home from the office thinking we would be working from home for the next week. By Sunday, childcare centers were closed.
Pressure like a drip, drip, drip, that’ll never stop, whoa-oh
That first week was tiring, but manageable. My husband and I were both working from home and we were able to finagle our schedules to alternate parenting and meetings. Of course there were the stresses of the unknowns of the virus, but overall we were figuring it out and thought it would be a very temporary arrangement.
But then that first week turned into another, then into another, until daycares were closed until further notice.
Pressure that’ll tip, tip, tip ’til you just go pop, whoa-oh-oh-oh
The months that followed were a jigsaw puzzle of childcare so that we could work. Once daycare reopened (for mornings only), I raced out of the house to be the first in line at drop-off to cram in the maximum amount of kid-free work hours. The afternoons were spent hoping that she would go down easily for a nap (or at least sit in her room quietly) while I worked for a few more hours. I’d finish up my work day after bedtime, only to set the alarm early to start the cycle over again.
Daycare never increased to pre-pandemic hours because of staffing and protocols. Work didn’t seem to slow down for either my husband or I. In a time of unpredictable and not enough childcare, we had never been busier—projects stacking on top of projects. The early flexibility and understanding from employers dwindled because the job had to be done.
Pressure like a grip, grip, grip, and it won’t let go, whoa-oh
And, then there was the runny nose…
Something that is a staple for most small children from October to March had turned into an anxiety-producing symptom. Was it Covid? Did we need to test? She would stay home from school as we waited for the results. This was yet another never-ending cycle of nose swabs, days out of school, and worry.
Watch as she buckles and bends but never breaks…
And then there was the rest of life. Trying to hold it together as we lost a family member and had to say goodbye in full PPE. Soon after that, I endured two unexpected medical procedures in the same month— largely alone—healthcare facilities not allowing additional visitors to appointments.
Pressure like a tick, tick, tick ’til it’s ready to blow, whoa-oh-oh-oh
And all of this with little to no in-person social connection as I overanalyzed every outing and get-together to determine whether or not it was safe enough or “worth it” for the risk of exposure.
Most days I felt like I was stumbling through—like Luisa on the tight rope with more donkeys being thrown on each side of pole. I often felt guilty for how stressed I was, being pulled like a rag doll between mothering and working, never really knowing when one obligation started and another one ended.
The last two years often felt impossible. There was no way to do it all, no way to get it right. The pressures and expectations were never ending. As we round out two years of pandemic life, I’m ready to relax in a hammock with a drink.
This post is part of a blog hop with Exhale—an online community of women pursuing creativity alongside motherhood, led by the writing team behind Coffee + Crumbs. Click here to view the next post in the series “Lyrical”.
Happy March! I wanted to try something different—a recap of the last month. These monthly recaps are a work in progress, but will most likely include books that I read, any recipes that I tried, and a few other highlights of what I did during the month. With that said, enjoy the February roundup!
What I Read
Admittedly, February was a bit of a reading slump. I started a bunch of different books, but not much kept me reading. I did devour one book early in the month:
No Cure for Being Human (And Other Truths I Need to Hear) by Kate Bowler
I heard this author on a podcast and was immediately interested in reading her latest book. After a cancer diagnosis at 35 that stops her in her tracks, Bowler questions the self-help industry’s theories that you can achieve anything you want if you try hard enough and life is full of unlimited choices. This memoir was well written and relatable.
What I Made
If you’ve read my earlier posts, you know I’m over the whole dinner thing, BUT, I do love to try new baking recipes when I can fit it in.
This baked oatmeal was a fun breakfast treat. I found it on Instagram stories, so I’m not sure if there is an official recipe yet, but keep an eye out! The recipe called for a blend of the ingredients, which turned the batter into more of an oat flour than a crumbly-type oatmeal bake. Dessert for breakfast—yes please!
All I can say is WOWWWWW. These are delicious and didn’t last long in my house. Plus, they were relatively easy to make (just takes a bunch of inactive time for cooking and setting) and minimal ingredients. If you love peanut butter and chocolate, you need to try these.
What I did
Since I am still on maternity leave, I am trying to get through some house projects. My main focus in February was decluttering and organizing our house. This project is going slower than I had hoped, but I still made some progress. Since I am on the baby’s schedule, I try to break tasks down into 10-15 minute increments to keep it manageable and keep me motivated. One of the organization projects I tackled was a keepsake tote for my daughter. This tote is my plan for managing the artwork and paper keepsakes for my kids. The filing folders are broken down by year and I try to keep just what fits comfortably in the folder. My plan is to throw everything in there that I may want to keep throughout the year and then purge anything I no longer want to keep at the end of each year.
I have been loving the Athletic Mom program. The movements are foundational and the workouts are simple, yet effective. The style of workout has been perfect for me postpartum—not too intense, but keeping me moving.
Well, I’m tired. The baby just hit four months old, which brings a TON of new development. It also brings some sleep issues and clinginess with it. On top of that, the last week has been full with work and personal obligations. All good stuff, but it means most of my energy has gone to the essentials (like keeping my kids alive) and not much else. When I sat down this week to write a post, nothing was coming of it. I would start something, then delete. Stare at the same sentence for twenty minutes. I was panicked-my writing can’t already be fizzling out?! “No,” I thought, “you’re tired.” And, that’s it. That’s the punchline. There isn’t always an elaborate solution to a problem. Sometimes, you just need a nap.
Even though the official start of spring is just a few weeks away, it still feels like there is a lot of winter to get through. Plus, here in the Northeast, early spring can be met with frigid temperatures and a rouge snowstorm. While I try to embrace all seasons, I am not above being grumpy about cold weather and dreary dark days. To combat the winter blues, I was inspired by this post to roundup all the things that are saving my life right now:
- Winter days that feel like spring. The roller coaster weather lately has meant some pretty mild days and I try to take full advantage of getting outside for the sunshine and fresh air without having to bundle up as much.
- The sun setting after 5:30 p.m. We have finally turned the corner where it doesn’t feel like midnight at our 5 p.m. dinnertime. Plus, catching the sunset while we are around the dining room table is just lovely.
- Really simple meal planning. I’ve been in a dinner rut lately (probably because this meal coincides with the “witching hour”), so I’m leaning hard into simple meal plans. Anything that can be made in under 30 minutes or thrown into a slow cooker is my jam. I also try to limit measuring cups and spoons—eyeballing ingredients, especially spices, and pre-made sauces—get dinner on the table faster.
- Grocery pick up. Same theme as meal planning—I’m just not into anything that has to do with putting dinner on the table right now. Groceries delivered to my trunk? Yes, please.
- Mascara. Somewhere in the midst of pandemic life, working from home, and having a baby, the bar for my appearance has dropped very low. I needed just a tiny pick-me-up to make me feel somewhat put together. Enter mascara—simple and effective.
- Grandparents. My kids are blessed with three sets of grandparents that have helped immensely in the transition to two kids by delivering meals, providing childcare, fixing things around the house—really the list is endless.
- Baby smiles and giggles. Enough said.
- AirPods. I spend a lot of time rocking in a chair or swaying a baby in a carrier these days. Having my AirPods handy allows me to listen to all my favorite podcasts.
- Best friends text thread. With a brood of kids, work obligations and just general life stuff, it can be really hard to get together IRL with my besties. Our active group thread helps me feel connected with life updates, regular laughs and commiserations.
- This blog. While I am forever grateful to have an extended maternity leave, taking care of kids all day isn’t the most mentally stimulating activity. This blog has provided an outlet and a way to flex my brain muscle.
What’s saving your life right now? Tell me in the comments.