The Planner Round-Up

Processed with VSCO with a6 presetWith Henry, I remember the moment really well. He was about 5 months old and I was standing in the kitchen pouring a glass of water from the filter pitcher. My legs were getting wetter and wetter and it took me a solid several seconds to realize that I was holding the glass upside down and the water was just sloshing off the bottom and all over me.

With Etta the moment came earlier, the past summer when we visited my family in Kentucky. I was about to leave the pool and I looked down and couldn’t figure out how the tee shirt I had worn over my swimsuit to drive to the pool had gotten so wet. I puzzled aloud about this and my sister-in-law looked at me quizzically before saying, “Hannah- you’ve been wearing that shirt the whole time you swam,” and I realized that I had been swimming in my clothes without realizing they were still on.

It’s the moment after having children when you realize that your brain is irrevocably altered and you are never regaining that vast reserve of brainpower that you had pre-kid. You think at first it is just sleep deprivation, but now, it is the sheer brain power that it takes to keep a human being alive and thriving in the universe.

In short, you lose your mind.

I have never been a forgetful person. I get things done, make lists, and count myself among the insane type-A productive people of the world. But then I had kids, and I found myself recently staring at the coffee grinder lamenting that it was broken before realizing that I had just forgotten that you have to hit a button to turn it on. Facts come and go, dates are committed and then forgotten, and I realized that the organizational system that I have used since college– the one that got me through three degrees, two pregnancies, and all sorts of daily accomplishments- just wasn’t working. Index cards- I love you, your my first love, and I will never forget you. But I need more. I will be sitting at my desk and suddenly it HITS me: in 3 weeks I have a dentist appointment. Or I will bolt upright in my chair at work and realize that I have textbook orders for spring courses due in a couple weeks. I needed something beyond the index cards so I could note commitments to come as I remembered them, and I needed it to be tangible and at my fingertips so it wasn’t forgotten, hence my phone’s insufficiency.

In short, I needed a planner.

Processed with VSCO with a6 presetBut the list of planners is anything but short. I asked on Instagram what planners everyone used and quickly learned that my Instragram people are PLANNER ADDICTS WITH PASSIONATE VIEWS. Here are their 5 top pics:

And after researching all of those, I chose… none of them. I know, I’m the worst. First of all, I wanted to be sure I liked a traditional planner before shelling out for one (they are so pricey!), but also, I just want a planner, not in inanimate motivational coach. I don’t want to have to think out three goals every night for the next day, and I don’t want to have to journal my process of self actualization. I just want to like, remember when Etta has a doctors appointment and stay on top of grading and maybe, maybe, be reminded what I’m cooking for dinner. Plus, I worry that the industry of planners communicates a dangerous message that everyone must be extraordinary, must be striving for more. I want to do my small life really well and be organized enough to have time for the people around me and the things that are mine to do, that’s all.

With that in mind, I went simple and bought one on sale that was pretty. It had a two page weekly spread with no time slots, which works best for my weekly commitments. I put out my to-do list, and put our dinner plan in red ink on the last page. Things get crossed off, and at the end of the day, I use a highlighter to mark what didn’t get accomplished, but still needs to (versus something like “Work Out” which if it didn’t happen, just didn’t happen). On the weekend, I go back and knock out those things, or at least move them to the following week.

And it’s working. I really look forward to Sunday evenings when I sit down and plan out my week. I feel less likely to swim fully clothed (literally and figuratively) because I have a place to store the random commitments that come to mind. Processed with VSCO with a6 preset

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The wolf and the elephant.

Fall2018-103I always have grand ambitions for Halloween, thoughts of family costumes and DIY extremism, or witty costumes that make every adult that we pass chuckle. But that never ends up happening, and mid-October rolls around and I find myself scrambling for something to throw on mu kids so I can parade them round until they melt down and then come home and eat their candy. If I can’t be proud of our family coordination or creativity, I can at least be proud that this year I managed to not spend a single penny on Halloween. Etta wore Henry’s old costume (remember this tiny elephant?) and Henry borrowed a Big Bad Wolf costume from a friend. It’s probably good I didn’t shell out money, as the above blurry and unsmiling photo is about the best I could get of them both together. Fall2018-92Fall2018-94Fall2018-101We headed out to start trick or treating long before any houses were open for business. I have learned in years past that after dark, Capitol Hill turns into a congested and overwhelming mash up of scary-clad teens and toddlers melting down. Starting at 4:30 gave Henry lots of time to ride his scooter around and scope out the houses, stopping every two minutes to take stock of his tale. Fall2018-104ETTAPHANT. Fall2018-106Fall2018-107Fall2018-109Fall2018-110Capitol Hill as a whole, and East Capitol in particular, is super intense about Halloween. So much good candy! Henry brought home a full sized Snickers – FULL SIZED. One house builds an entire Wonderland universe, complete with characters walking around in costume. All the adults on the street grill out or set up finger food spreads to enjoy together as kids go around to get candy.Fall2018-111Fall2018-112Fall2018-113Fall2018-115Fall2018-116Fall2018-117It took him a house or two to figure out what he was doing and then he was ALL IN. He made us wait outside of every yard and excitedly went to yell, “TRICK OR TREAT HAPPY HALLOWEEN THANK YOU!” before bounding back to us. I love when I can give him slivers of independence to help him grow.Fall2018-118This was the first year that Henry was really aware of all the decorations and festivities, and it  had James and I talking seriously about how we present fear to him. Kids this age are so funny about what they fear. It can be the strangest irrational thing (a friend of mine told me recently that her toddler was scared of canned whipped cream!) or a dangerous thing, like tall slides or loud dogs. But Henry does not yet have any fear of dark things, of the evil that exists in this world. He will figure it out eventually, but James and I were very careful to not teach him fear as we discussed Halloween. We didn’t use the adjective “scary” to discuss web-draped houses, and we avoided houses or groups of people focused on the macabre aspects. I want him to fear some things, to develop an intuitive sense of wrong, but I do not want to burden him with unnecessary fear, nor do I want to teach him to delight in it. Both are easy traps to fall into on Halloween.

For now, I’m glad it was just a fun family evening of walking through our town with a wolf and an elephant. Fall2018-120(PS: Is it really a family outing if it doesn’t end with tears and one parent carrying everyone? Nope.)

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Apples in October.

Fall2018-54A couple weeks ago it started feeling like fall all at once. In one fell swoop of chilly breezes and gray skies, temps in the 80’s disappeared from the forecast and I realized that I should have checked on the kids’ winter wardrobes already. Instead of the gradual descent into fall, we had an abrupt plunge that left nature looking every bit like summer, and us scurrying around in caps and coats.  My students did a unit on seasons a couple weeks ago, and we joked about how much people LOVE FALL, how it is almost obligatory in our society to gush about autumn. We mocked it, laughing about the girls who roll out  scarves the size of picnic blankets and furry boots the first day it drops below 70, only to sweat into their pumpkin spice beverages. I do not like to enjoy seasons outside of themselves, do not like celebrating a change before it’s really happened.

Which is why we don’t usually go apple picking. I love the autumnal festivity of apple picking, love the cider and donuts and pumpkins piled high. I love the fields of mums and crisp air. But in this area, apple season usually ends before that cooler air shows up. I emphatically do NOT love all those things when I am sweating. Will I shove an apple cider donut in my mouth in any weather? Obviously yes, because donuts are a top priority around here. But it’s not the same if you have to do it in shorts. Flannel and boots or bust, that’s my orchard mantra.Fall2018-27Fall2018-28Fall2018-30Fall2018-31But a couple weeks ago, fall blew in so fast that the rest of nature didn’t have time to catch up and we decided to grab some friends and go apple picking before the weather could change its mind again. We headed out to Homestead Farm , the orchard where we love to pick blackberries in the summer. Many of the farms in this area where all out of apples for the season, but Homestead is less carnival-esque and thus, less frequented, and still had lots of apples. It was cold and bright and the perfect day to welcome fall. Fall2018-32Fall2018-33Fall2018-40Fall2018-42Fall2018-44Fall2018-45It was also Etta’s inaugural wearing of the bear suit! I am devoted to animal attire as outerwear, not only because it is freaking adorable, but also because it is so much easier than wrestling a coat, hat, shoes, etc. on a baby. Fall2018-48Fall2018-49Fall2018-50Fall2018-53Fall2018-60Fall2018-65Fall2018-68Fall2018-70Fall2018-71Fall2018-72These two kids consumed a whole lot of apples in those fields and loved riding in the cart. Henry can be (is) so wild and energetic, but also really good at task oriented activities outside. He was so happy to run through the fields and pick apples. Fall2018-75Fall2018-76Fall2018-77Yes, we picked way too many apples. James loves apples, so we have made a big dint in the stash just from eating them raw, but a lot of people suggested some great cooking options here.Fall2018-78Fall2018-79Fall2018-81Lately I’ve had lots of thoughts about blogging, especially posts like this, posts that just say, “WE DID A THING AND IT WAS FUN AND HERE ARE PICTURES.” I have lots of posts that are started of things I really want to say, want to talk about, or want to share. But those posts take time and focus. It feels like blogs aren’t really as much of a thing anymore, or at least, aren’t in the sense of people just cataloguing daily existence for themselves and the handful of family and real friends that still care. When I was blogging regularly, a whole lot of people read and I thought about blogging more, about trying to make money, about that whole world of commercial blogging. Yet it felt a little showy and fake, marketing family life. Plus, when life gets busy- posting here is an easy thing to toss out.

But still.

Sometimes I go back and read old posts, posts from times when James and I were just dating, or Henry was a new baby. I love reading those old posts, because they act as a sort of virtual scrapbook of life. They chart our family forming and growing and are so, so precious to me.

So here is a post about picking apples in October, and it isn’t a post about much else. It doesn’t show you any  good products or any thought provoking articles. It won’t challenge or form any opinions. It doesn’t matter. But when I look back at it, I smile over Henry carrying a massive basket of apples, or Etta grinning, or the toddlers sharing caramel apples. Posts like this matter to me because they remind me that we did things together, and it was fun, and here are some pictures.

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Newborn Essentials, take 2.

Fall2018-20

Are we out of the newborn stage yet? Maybe? I’m not sure exactly what constitutes being out, but I feel that there is a decisive shift once babies are on a schedule, napping easily in their own space, are generally more predictable, and the idea of being able to write down instructions for a babysitter doesn’t seem completely impossible.

Some things were so familiar this time around. Neither of my babies was a pro at nursing, both adored the heat and scorned air conditioning, both looked especially like Winston Churchill, and both chilled out in those super low weight percentiles until about four months when I glanced down and realized we had chunksters on our hands. But a lot was different this time around. Some things were easier. I didn’t stay up panicked while the baby slept, and I knew now that sleeping infants are NOISY and not to pick them up at every sound. I didn’t get surprised when naps got worse before they got better, and I happily started giving a bottle of formula earlier, when it became clear that Etta needed more than I could give by the end of the day. Some things were harder. Having two means it is a special sort of insanity around bedtime, and any other time that both need something at once. My own hormones and emotions were rockier this time around, even as I was aware that Etta was objectively easier than Henry was.

One thing that was nice going into baby 2 was not panicking about needing all the stuff, firstly because we have what we need from Henry, and secondly because I know that you don’t need much. Does that mean I didn’t Amazon Prime random things in the middle of the night a bunch those first couple weeks? Nope. But I did feel less panicked about finding gear to fix “problems.”

Still, there are some things that I wish I had known about or used the first time around because they have been AMAZING on round two. Of course, every baby is different, so who knows if Henry would have loved them like Etta. Here’s a round up of my must-haves for the second round of newborn insanity.

Sling. With Henry, I used all those wraps and things that take like ten minutes and a tutorial to put on. With Etta- ain’t nobody got time for that. She has lived in the sling since birth and still does usually one nap at least every other day in it. It is so fast, easy, secure, and has a pocket. It doubles as a nursing cover or blanket or burbcloth or towel as needed. We just started using a normal carrier this past week, but she still prefers the sling above all else.

Tiny sound machine. We used these sound machines for Henry but the charge code breaks so easily and we got sick of them. I snagged this tiny one for Etta and it charges with a USB cord and can be tossed in a stroller or carseat to help a baby stay on their sleep schedule on the go… which is all the time for second kids. Also, this one gets loud enough to drown out an entire high school marching band that stops to do their homecoming drill team routine in front of your house during naptime. ASK ME HOW I KNOW. Though not for Etta, we also got this wake to sleep clock/sound machine for Henry this past summer and love it, mostly because we can trigger the light remotely from our phones if we want him to sleep later or be allowed up earlier.

SwaddleUp. Henry loved normal swaddles. Etta screamed like she was being tortured for a solid hour after being put in one. My brother’s MIL suggested this one and Etta instantly loved it. Plus, it made her look like an adorable dog bone. It is also so much easier than any swaddle and you don’t have to worry about it sliding up over their face, causing you to push it down neurotically and wake them up. Again, ASK ME HOW I KNOW.

Probiotic drops. Etta had terrible reflux and weeks 2-6 were brutal for all of us until my SIL and pediatrician both recommended these drops. I am a hardcore traditional medicine fan, and we also started some reflux meds, but these probiotics go a long way to helping too.

Rocking chair.We have one in Henry’s room and though we could do without one to have for Etta’s midnight rockings early on. NOPE. His was too big for our room, but we found one to fit and it saved us. Is it ridiculous that we are rather minimalist and now have a 1-1 rocking chair to bedroom ratio? Yes. But did it save our sanity and allowed all the snuggles and soothing we needed to give? yes.

Infant Insert. We have had this stroller since Henry and added the attachments to get two kids on it and love it. I used the bassinet at first, but then a mom at the park loaned me her infant insert which allowed way better double seat configurations and kept Etta more comfortable and thus, napping better on the go. (Are you noticing a theme here? If a parent tells you something was essential, it basically means it helped people get more sleep.)

Things from Henry’s early days that still earn MVP status.

Rock n play. We used it until 4 months and then switched to a mini crib loaned to us from a friend. Hopefully by the time Etta outgrows that, we will live somewhere with space to put Henry in a twin and she will migrate into his crib. I am such a fan of the RnP and really believe it helps teach independent sleep and self soothing and once again, the transition to the crib at 4 months was totally painless.

Puj tub. So nice to not be storing a massive baby tub.

Bjorn bouncer chair. I recommend this to everyone and mine has made the rounds of our Capitol Hill friends with infants. It has kept both of my babies so happy, allows me to put them down, and folds flat and small and doesn’t look ugly while up. You might be noticing another theme which is borrow or get used everything you can for those newborn months. So many things have such a short window of use and I can guarantee someone WANTS to loan you all this stuff just to not have it take up space in their house for a few months.

For those of you with two or more, what are the newborn things you found you really used the second time around?

PS: Other “essentials” from Henry’s babyhood.

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Fall Friday things.

The first Friday that actually feels like fall! I become more a member of team “Summer Forever” every year, but when we were dripping sweat at a fall festival last week, even I started thinking I was ready for some cool breezes.Processed with VSCO with a6 preset

We are planning on some cliché fall adventures this weekend, in addition to trying to rest off some colds, because everyone in our family just can’t stop getting sick. I blame toddlers and their inability to avoid licking everything and then my inability to avoid kissing them.

Some things that have been in my mind, on my person, and on our table lately.

Wearing…

I’m always on a hunt for a good lipstick and I love this one, in Brunch. It feels like butter, which James says is how I compliment anything I really love.

Since I have a long way to go before my post-partum hips fit in the majority of my jeans, I’ve been loving these. They are sold out every five minutes, but keep restocking!

I also snagged this dress during a warehouse sale and love it. (POCKETS!)

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Eating…

Since we finished our last Whole30 in mid-September, we have continued to eat paleo on weekdays, whatever we want on weekends. It is a really nice rhythm of fasting and feasting that has us feeling great, but also able to enjoy eating out or with others much more easily. I’ve been loving some of the baked goods from this site, especially this pumpkin bread and these chocolate chip cookies. I am also late to the 2 ingredient ice cream game but I am HERE AND HAPPY.

Of course if you aren’t eating paleo, you should make these now because they ARE SO GOOD.

Processed with VSCO with hb1 presetThinking over…

Beth Moore, and the challenge of faith and politics in a two-party system.

Thoughts on effective self care.

Ways that I can orchestrate a vacation at this castle in Jamaica (I just need like 14 of you to come!) or this private island in Belize.

Happy weekend all!

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Lately we’ve…

…been riding the metro a lot, just because TRAINS ARE LIFE for a certain toddler. Plus, the metro allows us to have an outing indoors for rainy days, and my wild child is surprisingly calm and still on public transport. We are especially into riding the metro to the airport, getting coffee, and letting Henry watch the planes from the main hall (pre-security), or grabbing lunch at Chick-Fil-A. Fall2018-14Fall2018-17Fall2018-16Fall2018-21Fall2018-25Fall2018-26…been building a lot of forts. Pillow forts, blanket forts, book forts, chair forts- Henry can’t get enough. And I can’t get enough of being invited inside to snuggle. Summer2018-330Summer2018-331Summer2018-327Summer2018-329Summer2018-325… been going to the doctor way too much. The back-to-school germs have slammed Capitol Hill  hard, and an especially nasty strain of HFMhad Henry the sickest I’ve ever seen him. It went away, ultimately leaving a double ear infection with a side of pinkeye. Fall2018-3Fall2018-8Fall2018-4…been really thankful that the full time jobs I applied for this fall didn’t pan out. My part time position does not make any money after childcare, but it gives me time for the train rides and the forts and the doctor visits and the cuddles and the books and the discipline and the growing and stretching and learning that our family is doing right now.

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City kids.

SPring2018-32Back in May -which seems like an entirely different life- we spent a morning out at Frying Pan Farm with some friends. We love this (free!) farm and have met some of our VA friends out there a couple times. Animals to pet! Farm equipment to climb! Mud to stomp in! Fields to roam! A playground for picnics! I meant to share pictures… but then a certain baby girl showed up several weeks early and a whole lot of things didn’t get done. So here, better late than never, are some pictures of my city kid loving on the country.

SPring2018-33SPring2018-34SPring2018-35SPring2018-36See? Soooooo pregnant. And so happy to not be waddling around like that anymore. SPring2018-38SPring2018-39All summer I craved a yard. I love this city life we live, love the parks and museums and markets and activities. I love the community of urban motherhood that exists just by walking outside my door. But this past summer was really hard too, and so many times I thought how much easier life could be if I had a back door that opened into a yard, a yard where I could send Henry to run and play and explore when getting outside of the house with a newborn just felt like too much. I longed for space to store a stroller that wasn’t our car, and an entrance that didn’t involve flights of steps and lots of hauling. When we visited our families in Kentucky and Indiana at the end of the summer, Henry was in total bliss, his behavior and moods perfected by the endless space of country living and free play. It just compounded the conversations James and I have so frequently. Should we move out of the city? Is this life GOOD for our kids? Does it ask too much of them? Does it set them up for success, does it set us up for success as parents, or are we constantly “disciplining” things that would disappear in the face of more air and sun and space?SPring2018-40SPring2018-43I don’t have answers to those questions that scroll across our conversations on repeat. And they have woven themselves into so many blog posts and I know you are tired of hearing them. It’s because parenthood has made me acutely aware of how every decision reverberates through other human beings. But this blog post isn’t actually to wax poetic about the country and how much Henry needs freedom to run, or how the air and grass and space are what are missing from our life. It was going to be that, because those things are all true, and days like our day at the farm or our time with family remind me of that. And we do plan on someday getting that space, that grass, that life. But for now, we have city kids living a city. And lately, I have been treasuring the beauty of that. SPring2018-45SPring2018-46James often has really long days and intense weeks at work and lately there was an especially rough week where he left before the kids were up and got home long after they (and their mother) were in bed almost every day. Of course, that was the week Henry got a terrible case of HFM and Etta started childcare and my semester was gearing up and it was really, really, REALLY hard doing it on my own. Only in the city, the blessing can sometimes be that you aren’t alone, but rather stuffed in around so many people. Often, this feels like a restriction, but lately, I have been overwhelmed at the community. People like my upstairs neighbor, who will text me when she hears Henry start having a tantrum and say “I just put my cat in the stairwell for Henry to play with.” She always carries our packages up since she knows my hands are frequently full, and usually stops at 5:30 to invite Henry on a field trip to her apartment while I get to dash around and restore some pre-dinner order. People like my neighbor-turned-friend who lives in the building behind us and often shows up with paleo treats that she made extra because she knows we are lways on some sort of Whole30 kick. People like all the residents on our corner who showed up when we taped signs on the doors announcing a clean-out-your fridge potluck/block party. Henry’s godparents and so many good friends live within walking distance, but I also love how all the random members of city life that make up our community. Henry knows the dry cleaner and the baristas at coffee shops we frequent and the staff at The Pretzel Bakery and the old man who always sits on his porch in the evening and the nuns who walk by our house on their way to pray. I love that our kids are growing up shoved into a crowded and vibrant community full of so many different types of people. Obviously- that is possible anywhere. But the shear necessity of sharing space in the city brings it into sharp focus. I hope that living in this city is teaching him to love his neighbor, whoever they may be.

I also just love watching Henry navigate city life. I love that he knows how to ride the metro and LIVES to ride the bus. Sometimes I drive him to James’ office when after work just so he can ride the bus home. He is shockingly competent at directions and navigating Capitol Hill, often calling out which way we should go before I even get to an intersection. He is at home in a world so different than the one I grew up in and I am insanely proud of that.SPring2018-47SPring2018-49Because ultimately, whatever home we raise children in is the only place they know how to thrive. I’m remembering that as I long for more space and delighting in knowing my kids are learning to conquer the city.

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