A Love Note to New Parents

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written by: Kate **

If you're a new parent, you may be wondering if this is it. These bleary-eyed, sleepless nights that roll into days in which you're not sure what you did, but you were BUSY. You love your little person something fierce, but how is it possible that something so TINY could need so much of you?

You may have had a fulfilling job before and a life that made sense. Or maybe you didn't have a job you cared for, but you did things that matter, spent time with other adults, and smelled better than you do now. Now your days are filled with endless rounds of feeding, burping, baby cry-managing, and what you wouldn't give for just 15 minutes to REST.

But this job that you're doing now, caring for and loving on this little human? It matters. It matters because raising another being is damn hard and infinitely important. You will screw up, you'll wonder if they'll need therapy as an adult, and you'll question yourself and how you got to this point. This is all normal. You may feel lost or sad or isolated. And while those feelings are normal, if you cannot get out of bed or feel numb, seek help. It is always better to ask for help than not because YOU matter too.

One day you'll feel like the nonstop demands of caring for a newborn will never end and the next day you'll take a shower again, meet a friend for coffee, and wear clothes without an elastic waistband (and that goes for the papas too!) You may roll your eyes when the grandmas in Target longingly pat your babe and say this, but it's true: the days fly by.

But today. Today is hard, today is REAL and you just need to get through it. And the next. So do this for me:

Go through the drive-thru and get a monster-sized coffee

Put your feet up and let the dishes gather in heaps

Order take-out for lunch and dinner

Ask for help

And give that sweet new babe a kiss and a snuggle and thank them for making you a mama or a papa. Because you just hit the job jackpot. Leave on the sweats and revel in the newness of the person you've become and who you will be. Because this new relationship? It will leave you forever changed.

Just don't forget the coffee. Always coffee.

**DISCLAIMER: This post brought to you by a fellow sleep-deprived new parent; all typos courtesy of limited time and bleary-eyes.

What advice would you add to this love note to help a fellow new parent?

 

 

May 2017 | Our Saturday in Photos

We had a very simple Saturday as a new family of 5. Today was the opening day for the farmer's market, and we walked downtown for it. We rounded out our day with homemade sodas, exploring the antique shop, playing outdoors, and mowing the overgrown yard (see first photo). Now I'm grading finals with a sleeping baby on my lap. Not too shabby for life with a 2.5 week old!

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How was your weekend? Share in the comments below!

Anticipation: Babies and Book Queries

Written by: Kate

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These last few weeks of pregnancy have been sweet with anticipation, fulfilling in preparation, and lightly touched with anxious expectations. I've filled my days with washing baby clothes and cloth diapers, feeling for baby wiggles and swishes underneath my skin, and emailing queries for my children's book.

That last one has been an unexpected surprise; I wrote my book over the past few years, worked with a literary consultant turned friend to fine-tune its content, passed it around a gaggle of beta readers, and ran it through a professional edit. A few weeks ago I realized it was actually done; well, at least as done as it can be at this stage.

And so each day I send a query and check my inbox for responses. Each day I turn mental circles analyzing each contraction, twinge of discomfort, and baby movement for impending labor. You would think with this being my third I would have a supernatural connection to the babe in my womb. But I feel just as clueless as I did as a first-time mom.

There is an odd comfort in knowing that I am in the company of strong women worldwide awaiting the arrival of their little ones. And although I acutely remember the sensations and (ahem) discomfort of birthing, I do not know how this particular labor will go. I wait for the marathon to begin, knowing I will use all of my reserves to complete the course, without knowing the exact route or finish line.

The book is no different. I've shaped and created it, sent it out into the world, and wait with expectation for a favorable connection with the right agent. But like this baby, the book's outcome is also out of my hands.

I imagined, when I became a mother for the first time, that my entrance into parenthood would be distinctly marked with a before and after. But as I enter my 7th year of walking alongside my little ones, I realize that what felt like a wild leap into motherhood has been a slow submerging. Day by day, I learn a little bit more about myself as a mother and about my children and swim deeper into this role and life.

And with all of this--the awaiting of labor and meeting my baby, hoping for a positive response to my queries, and actively creating a happy home environment for my kids--I am learning the art of letting go, of leaning into the unknown, and asking for forgiveness and grace when I inevitably make mistakes. 

So if you find yourself wading into the unknown, have courage and trust that you're not alone on your journey, whatever it may be.

 

 

The Unexpected Benefits of Creating a Toy Library

Written By: Kate

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Our two daughters have recently gotten into the habit of creating "nests." The nest building began with them dragging piles of stuff--blankets, stuffed animals, play food, and even sometimes clothes from the dirty laundry pile--into the middle of the living room. And as quick as I could turn my back to make a cup of tea, the nest would be made, and the living room rug gone under the pile of debris.

On one hand, I found this nest making fascinating, and I didn't want to discourage their creative behavior. On the other hand, it was driving the minimalist in me nuts! We tried to encourage the girls to contain their nest making to their bedroom, but to no avail.

What I found so frustrating about this daily ritual of theirs is how it would cause a domino effect with their other belongings. Without fail, the two would lose interest in the "nest" and begin dragging out every other toy they collectively owned. Once that was complete, they would begin to fight or complain about being bored.

To be honest, these are the times I secretly wished we had a playroom that I could just shut the door on and forget. Every night before bed we would try to clean-up the mess, but really this just meant that the piles ended up on their very small bedroom floor. I knew the girls were frustrated with the toy clutter and not knowing where or how to put it all away. I get it--messes are overwhelming!

Kirk and I decided to test out a toy library for our home. Are you familiar with this concept? Kim John Payne in Simplicity Parenting recommends rotating toys and keeping the majority out of sight and reach as a way to encourage creative play while developing a calmer environment for children.

What did we have to lose?

So we re-arranged their bedroom and removed ALL the toys. I bought a metal storage rack from Target that we placed in our basement to store the toy library. Then the only toys we put back in their bedroom were a few favorite stuffed animals, a dollhouse, and the girls' hobby horses. That's it.

The girls were happy to try the toy library because the concept of "one in, one out" is so ingrained from our weekly library trips. They understand that to get more library books, we must return what we have at home.  So we applied the same logic and rules to our home toy library.

What are the benefits?

Peaceful Environment | Our home is under 700 square feet; it's small for a family of (nearly) 5! The daily nest-building was frustrating for all of us because it interrupted their play flow, and it was an eye-sore for Kirk and I. When you live small, you cannot simply close doors on a mess, you must deal with it daily.

But now? Our home feels more peaceful without all of the toy clutter. Our living room is no longer the play room, but a welcoming space for all of us to enjoy. If you're living small, boundaries like this are an absolute must. But I bet the same would be true of larger homes; living rooms are for all and not just the kiddos.

Less Cleaning | With less toy clutter has come less cleaning. Instead of fighting with the kids to get them to put away ALL of the toys, they now only have a few with which to contend. Each toy has a special place to be stored, so the girls can quickly put away their toys. It's less stressful for all of us AND allows more time for play.

We've often told the girls that the reason we practice minimalism as a family is because we value experiences and time together over cleaning. Rather than spend a bulk of our days cleaning-up unnecessary messes, we're setting boundaries and putting systems in place to encourage good habits.

Engaged Play | And my favorite benefit of this all? Seeing my two girls engage in sustained play with a few favorite toys. Their "nest" making before seemed frantic; it was an effort to see something to completion, and then they didn't know what to do with it. So they would then abandon the mess. But now? I'm writing as the girls play "ballet class" on the floor with two dolls. No fighting, no piles of clutter, just two kids experiencing the joy of simple play.  

We're a few weeks now into this experiment, and I see no reason to stop now. The girls are happier with this system and with the new boundaries. And now I can make a cup of tea, without fear of finding a pile of stuff taking over my living room either!

What's your favorite way to deal with toy clutter in your home?

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Run Toward Change

Written by: Kirk

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You know what is terrifying and painful? Change. Why? It is inevitable. It is constant. Poets or great thinkers have always meditated on the subtle, never ending grind of time, that change happens to everything (beauty/appearance, love/relationship, mobility, erosion) and we are passive members of its effects. I, like many, got bogged down by these worries, but that thinking got me nowhere and left me depressed and stagnant.

I recently stepped away from a well-paying job. I used to fulfill my 8-5 requirement while finding every opportunity to distract myself from the fact that I was not happy. I am now uncertain of my long-term earnings in the part-time transition job I have taken, yet somehow my mind is clear and all I want to do is focus my energy on changing my life and my family's even further. It’s strange that I used to be terrified of losing status and the "lifestyle" we had earned (and being unable to get my daily $5 fair-trade mocha latte made by an over-educated barista.) I now find myself at peace and feel I have greater control of myself and my family's destiny more than ever before. Time may still be grinding me down, but I will stay ahead of it by being the change.


 I will not know my exact path for the next 3-10 years and beyond, but dedicating my life to my passion, while running toward fear and pain will create lasting happiness and fulfillment.

Over the last year, I started to think of change differently. Instead of being passive and allowing life/change to happen to me while dumping resources into softening the blow (self-medicating, trying to buy happiness in the things I acquire, watching endless “fails of the week” videos on Youtube), I chose to become an active member of change. Pushing each week, month, year to be different and move in a direction based on my deep longings. Embracing that I won’t be able to punch in and punch out of a job I despise for the rest of my life. Knowing that I will not know my exact path for the next 3-10 years and beyond, but dedicating my life to my passion, while running toward fear and pain will create lasting happiness and fulfillment. Change can be happening to you, or you can be changing. Run toward it. I do not know what my destination or yours will be, but following the deep longing of our individual spirits will allow us to be the change and a positive force in this world.

What big changes are you moving toward in your life? Comment below.