May 2016 goals

2 May 2016

My goals for May are a curious mix of hard things I appear to be putting off (since they’ve lingered on my lists for the last few months…) and fun things I’m looking forward to enjoying. Maybe, though, the latter is just what I need to push through and accomplish the former! Hopefully, a little more time (which has been scarce lately – my Mom stayed with us for three weeks last month, and I happily chose to hang with her instead of being on my laptop!), is all I’ll need.

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Revisiting my goals for April:
Read “Boundaries” for the NR Book Club
Successfully take work trips to Atlanta and Hilton Head with my Mom and June in tow (Atlanta trip was successful, HH trip was postponed!)
Prep our raised bed and plant our seedlings
Assemble and hang June’s mobile (so happy I checked this off!!)
Order favorite Instagram prints from 2015
Get an estimate from one more landscaping company
Apply to our HOA to have a tree removed (eep)
Finish our will
Begin waking up at 6:30am (not so much)
Begin getting ready for bed at 10pm (see above…)

May goals:
— Get an estimate from one more landscaping company
— Apply to our HOA to have a tree removed
— Finish our will (People, this is staying on the list until it is done. And then I will write a post about it.)
— Master an updo from the Small Things archive (I’m thinking this one.)
— Paint my toenails (I’m a little embarrassed this is actually a goal.)
— Read “168 Hours” for the NR Book Club
— Read two novels
— Plan for and enjoy our weekend trip to Bald Head Island
— Have fun with our weekend visitors – John’s parents and sister + family one weekend, and his other sister + family and two aunts another! So excited for the cousins to meet!!!

As a reminder, here are my 2016 guideposts. If you’ve posted your goals somewhere, I’d love to see – or just drop them in the comments!

Our favorites from the first six weeks

20 April 2016

To me, the idea of registering for baby items was almost ludicrous. When I walked the aisles of a baby store, I had no idea what seemingly half the items were even FOR, let alone which were the best or actual necessities. So, we relied heavily on the advice of friends* as we put our registry together (and learned a lot along the way!). Since we’re also among friends here, I thought I’d share our favorites from the first six weeks – the products that got used every day, and were nearly indispensable to us. Here we go!

baby-essentials

From top to bottom and left to right:

— June wears these nightgowns under her swaddle – they’re elastic at the bottom (no snaps!), so they make nighttime changes easier.

— We don’t actually use these swaddles for swaddling, but for everything else – as a sun shade in the stroller, a light blanket in the car seat, a clean place to roll around when we’re out and about, a nursing cover, and more.

The Ergo! June rode in this almost every day on our walks for the first six weeks (make sure you get the infant insert to be able to use it right away!), and she would fall asleep immediately.

These are wayyyy better than disposable nursing pads – so soft, and you can throw them in the wash and use them over and over and over!

— After we stopped swaddling June in the hospital blankets, we moved on to the Swaddle Me. It’s easy to use and works well, though we’ve had to buy a new one each month because the velcro wears out and she’s able to bust free. Still, they’re priced reasonably enough and work well enough that we’re willing to do it.

— Kudos to my sisters-in-law for recommending Water Wipes. They are the best! They’re literally just wipes that are moistened with water and some fruit extracts, so they’re gentle and perfect for the first few weeks/months.

— We have 20 of these cloths (two packs), and use them all over the house – under June’s head when she’s eating, to wipe her face, under her front when she’s doing tummy time, etc. Super soft, easy to fold, great size! (Note: something funny seems to be going on with the pricing of these on Amazon, because I’m pretty sure they weren’t that expensive when we bought them…)

— I’m really glad we opted for the DVD over the book because we were able to watch it together, and it was helpful to see the techniques instead of just reading about them. Highly recommended for those who aren’t familiar with handling babies!

— A cozy robe for staying warm and comfy while nursing at home.

This (free!) app is perfect for white noise on the go – we use it when June’s fussy and we want her to sleep on a walk, and to help calm her down in the car.

— The Rock and Play has been called baby crack, and I don’t disagree. June slept in this for almost all naps and overnight from the start, and it’s safe to say she’s in love with it… and therefore we are, too.

— If anyone offers to set up meal delivery for you, take them up on it! I wasn’t sure we would love having people at our house every day, but meal drop off was the PERFECT amount of time to see someone, and of course the meals were so appreciated! We used and loved Meal Train.

— And as mentioned here, lipstick. Or whatever makes you feel confident and pulled together, even if you’re wearing pajamas :)

— One thing I forgot to include in the graphic above: the Puj tub! Even though it is absurdly expensive for a piece of glorified foam, it really is awesome. Try to borrow one from a friend if you can – that’s what we did.

I also wanted to mention a few other items that aren’t pictured. These are things that we have and have been happy with, but I feel as though we might have been equally happy with another option. But, if you’re looking for a tried-and-true place to start, here you go! This toiletry set, these wash cloths (they really are different than the adult version of a wash cloth – I wasn’t convinced at first!), this backseat mirror, this car seat, this changing pad, this on-the-go changing pad, and this play mat.

And finally, a few things we didn’t buy and haven’t missed: a diaper pail (we just put them in our step can in the kitchen), a wipes warmer, and a nursing pillow (I just use a regular pillow).

I LOVED reading the “essentials” lists of others while pregnant, and so would love to hear y’all’s favorite items for the first few weeks! Do we share any must-haves?

*John and I also walked the aisles of the baby section of Target for an hour with Nancy and Will, and they talked us through the pros and cons of almost everything (and in some cases, explained what things were!). This was SO helpful, and I’d highly recommend this if you can find someone to do it with you!

Affiliate links are used in this post!

Marvelous Mama MacKenzie

11 April 2016

To know the Henrys is to love them, and I am no different. MacKenzie is one of the nicest, warmest people you’ll ever meet, so it came as no surprise to me that she is an amazing mama raising two sweet, smart, adventurous, affectionate kiddos. I think the thing I admire most about MacKenzie (and her husband Philip) is their intentional devotion to creating the life they want for their family, and the bravery and dedication they’ve shown in this pursuit. From a bungalow in Durham to a lavender farm in Maine to their new home in the mountains of Brevard, this family is a huge inspiration to me, and I’m so happy to have MacKenzie here today sharing her thoughts on motherhood.

mackenzie-henry

Name: MacKenzie Henry
Occupation: Co-Owner Inkspot Crow Films
Who do you live with? Introduce us! I live with my husband of 5.5 years, Philip. We met in 2008 after both relocating to Durham for work/school. We adopted our dog Charlie just before getting engaged and in 2010 we married. In 2012 we welcomed Pax into the world. He’s a curious and enthusiastic 3.5 year old ginger. Our daughter Bea was born on Christmas Eve 2013. She just turned 2 and she’s the sweetest, most tender-hearted little one.
What does a day in the life look like for you? This fluctuates a lot based on our kids’ sleeping patterns, our work needs, and our child-care scenario. We’ll get into a good, consistent groove, and then a new phase comes and shakes us up a bit. At the moment: our day begins around 7 with breakfast together. After breakfast Philip and I take turns walking Charlie on alternate days and the other spends that hour reading to the kids/getting ready for work/packing lunches. If it’s great weather and we have time, we’ll throw the kids in the double stroller and take a family walk after breakfast. This is a luxury, because the kids usually bring books or just rest, and Philip and I get to converse without many interruptions :)

While we shower it’s not uncommon to let the kids pick a show to watch on the PBS Kids Roku Channel. It keeps them out of trouble so we can get ready.

Around 9:30 Philip heads to the studio for editing and I either drop the kids off at pre-school or get ready for whatever we’re doing together that day. If it’s a day with the kids it goes like this: I try to balance our mornings each week between school time, fun outings (like the park, museum, or library), a day of errands (grocery/bank), and home play time.

By 11:30 we’re usually home and I’m preparing lunch while the kids play together, do puzzles, look at library books, etc. I eat lunch with the kids and then get them down for naps around 1. Between 1-3 I have a fairly “consistent” chunk of time to work for our business. My work happens primarily through email: client relations, planner relations, logistics, travel planning, accounting, marketing.

blueberries

After naps we play or read together. If it’s great weather we may go on an outing or play in the yard. If I’m feeling up for it we’ll bake together or do a craft. Every day is pretty different, but by 5 I am really ready for Philip to come home! :) He comes in around 5 and we make dinner together. Or, if it’s been a particularly tiring day for me he’ll play with the kids or take them outside while I peacefully prepare dinner.

We eat around 6 and then it’s bath time, stories, brush teeth, bed by 7:30 for both kids.

Then Philip and I get time to either watch a show (most nights) or work before heading to bed around 10-11.

A few notes: Weekends: wake, eat, and sleep schedules are the same but usually there is more walking in the woods, playing, yard work, and/or travel. If it’s a day I drop the kids off at preschool I have the entire morning to work. When our editing load is less heavy, Philip keeps the kids one day each week so I can work.

marvelous-mama-mackenzie

What do you eat for lunch? Dinner? For lunch I’m a creature of habit. My “go to” lunch right now is: plain rice cake with almond butter, piece of fruit, string cheese. For dinner we have a few meals we rotate and we also like to grill fish and chicken burgers. We try to model good eating with the kids, and eat mostly whole foods and incorporate vegetables, fruits, protein, and whole grains into all of our meals. That said, we’re a family of pizza lovers! We love takeout pizza and we’ve just started making our own pizza crust and sauce and making our own pizzas. That’s fun! When we eat out it’s usually Chipotle or a local restaurant.
What do you collect and why? I don’t have any collections but I love to collect photos of our family. I’m sure this is not that uncommon. I don’t print many of them, but I do like to organize them on Picasa. We just love going back and looking at photos of different times in our lives: trips we’ve taken, homes we’ve lived in, events we’ve attended, celebrations, hikes we’ve enjoyed, everyday life.
A book you’ve read more than once: 1) The Way of the Happy Woman, by Sara Avant Stover. My friend Megan gave me this book and I think it’s a practical yet inspirational resource for connecting with yourself. In times of stress or change, I find myself picking up this book again and it helps me reconnect. Much of what it reminds me about (and as a mom I need to be reminded of this often) is self-care and respecting the natural ebbs and flows in our lives and the lives of others around us. As an extrovert, I found this book very helpful in understanding my seasonal tendencies of turning inward.
2) The Last Child in the Woods. Just an important book for every parent to read.

candlelight-service

Netflix obsession: Not sure which of these are on Netflix but I’ll let you know my show obsessions: Past: Friday Night Lights, The Wire, LOST, The Sopranos, Newsroom. Currently: Game of Thrones, Homeland, Walking Dead, Silicon Valley.
Do you listen to podcasts? If so, which ones, and when? Philip listens to podcasts and if there is a very, very good episode, I’ll listen. My faves (courtesy of my husband): 99% Invisible, Radio Lab, This American Life.
Words you live by: “I am For You” – a huge hand painted poster with this phrase hangs in Reality Ministries in downtown Durham. It’s a good reminder of God’s love and commitment to us. “Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul alike” – John Muir
Why did you decide to have children? Hmmm. Well, Philip and I knew we’d eventually want children but we were also certain we wanted to establish our new business and travel much more before jumping into parenthood. However, when you aren’t careful, surprises can happen and we were certainly surprised when I found out I was pregnant in September 2011! That said, we were overjoyed from the start and made life and business work for our growing family. We decided to have our kids close together for a few reasons. 1) I was in my mid-thirties when I had Bea. We didn’t want to wait much longer for health reasons. 2) One of my sisters is 18 months younger, and I loved our closeness (Morgan passed away in 1999). Philip also has great relationships with his sisters. When we film weddings, one of the things which “gets us” quite often is when a sibling is giving a super-authentic and loving toast at the wedding reception. We’ve said to each other on multiple trips home from shooting, “I hope our kids feel that way about each other when they grow up”.

henrys-in-maine

What was one of the best things you did to prepare for having kids? We didn’t do much to prepare. The day we left the hospital we had the nurse remind us how to change Pax’s diaper! I’d babysat on occasion, but didn’t have much exposure to babies at all. Lucky for us, our close friends have kids. One family was about six months ahead of us in bringing home their baby girl. We watched everything they did and basically copied it :) Haha. Seriously though. She was a great eater and sleeper and they were all thriving and we figured they were doing something right. I’m so glad we found another family in a similar stage of life to us. Our other dear friends have kids a bit older than Pax and Bea. Their girls are in middle school and it’s been good for me to hear the waters they are navigating and think about (though not stress about) how we’ll address issues like cell phones, peer groups, etc. That seems like a long way off right now, but it’s helpful to see others we respect navigating that. So basically, the best thing we did was observe others we think are doing a great job.
What is something related to kids you were not at all prepared for? I don’t think we were prepared for how tired we’d be in the first few weeks. Philip and I both thrive when we’re rested and things seem to fall apart when we’re not. Sleeping/feeding didn’t come naturally for Pax from the start. We spent much of the months leading up to Pax’s arrival planning for the birth. I read through books on natural childbirth and knew every detail of what was happening to me and our baby during pregnancy and labor. The first few nights were rough for us, and Pax didn’t take to nursing well at all. We remembered a cousin telling us about how valuable the book “Babywise” was to them in the first months and we checked it out at the library on the first day home and read it cover to cover. Sleeping (for newborns) can be an odd thing and we really believe we had to train our kids to sleep well and consistently. Consequently (and thankfully!), they are both great sleepers.

kids-in-the-ocean

What is your parenting philosophy? We probably fall on the side of structured parenting but with an abundance of love and joy. As adults, Philip and I thrive on structure and routine. We’ve set that tone in parenting as well. Our kids have had a sleeping/playing/eating schedule from the first weeks of their lives. There are times for deviation, certainly, but we all seem to do better when we come back to the schedule we’ve created for our family. The other piece to our parenting philosophy is just loving our kids unconditionally and celebrating their innate joy. It’s a balance which is sometimes difficult: a structured household that also loves joyfully. But that’s what we’re striving for. We are also really big advocates for giving kids time in nature. We read “Last Child in the Woods” last year and it solidified our commitment to get our kids (and their friends) outside exploring as much as possible.
Where do you go for parenting advice? This has evolved, to be sure. When we had Pax, I went online for newborn advice constantly (up in the middle of the night reading chatroom posts about breastfeeding, pumping, sleeping, eating. Everything). At that point I think I was desperate for knowledge and confirmation about my decisions. I think I evolved into a more confident parent after the first year and I rarely, if ever, seek advice online now. Also, I don’t know if this was a conscious realization, but it’s true that for every given topic, there were a million contradicting opinions or experiences. Online searches really confused me more than helped me, I think. Now I talk to my mom about discipline and education issues. I think she did a really great job raising my sisters and I and she’s a valuable asset. She loves to share her opinions, too!

We have a few books which have been very helpful and we’ve read them and re-read them many times: 1-2-3 Magic (addresses discipline), Babywise (addresses sleep/routine), Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child (this was/is my favorite go-to resource when I had questions about sleep, naps, waking, bedtime, etc).

reading-books

Best tip for a new parent: Oh gosh. The first few weeks can be really tiring as you help your baby settle into a routine of sleeping at night and also care for yourself and heal from labor. We joked that the learning curve was incredible. We looked back after one week and couldn’t BELIEVE how much more we knew than on day one. Neither of us really loved the newborn phase. We wanted to skip through it really fast because it felt tiring and sometimes uncomfortable and not very rewarding. But with two toddlers, I can honesty say my best tip is to savor it. Take the time you have set aside for maternity and paternity leave to just rest together and snuggle together whenever possible. I look back at those days and they were SO fleeting. When will you ever have time set aside to just “be” as a family and get to know each other and rest together? It’s a special time.
Tell us about a lesson you’ve learned since having kids. Everything is a phase. You could be in the middle of a night-waking streak and feel like “this is never going to end,” but it will. It will pass. Both kids have gone through mini-phases of behavior problems and they pass. When you’re in the middle it seems like it lasts a lifetime and it seems like you need to change course completely. Sometimes changes are necessary, to be sure. But often, staying the course and remembering “everything is a phase” is a good plan.
Favorite book(s) to read with or to your kids: Ooh! Fun question! I Am a Bunny; Are You My Mother?; The Jesus Storybook Bible (we have a few kids’ versions and this is our family’s fave); Blueberries for Sal (thanks, Em and John!); Going Lobstering; The Polar Express; The Christmas Tree Ride; Henri’s Walk to Paris; Press Here (Bea’s fave currently).
Tell us about a few of your favorite family traditions. Many of our best family traditions revolve around food and Christmas holidays: decorating cookies together, The Santa Train at Museum of Life & Science, Christmas caroling in our neighborhood, Thai takeout after Christmas Eve service, cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning. Movie nights. Maybe once or twice a month we’ll have a movie night where we all get in PJs and watch a movie (usually a Disney classic), stopping half-way in to make popcorn! Whenever we travel together we buy an ornament for our Christmas tree. Weekend hikes. Just being outside in the different seasons is a weekly tradition for our family. In the summer, an after-dinner walk. And from my family as I grew up: every year we fill out a form of our “favorites” and stick it in the big Christmas coffee table book. The list includes favorite movies, names, toys, places, sports teams, etc. It’s always fun to go back and see what we liked as young kiddos and I hope our kids will love doing the same as they grow.
One thing you are doing the same as your parents and one thing you are doing differently: We make our kids play outside a lot and we limit screen time. Both of our moms used to tell us to go out and play and we always found things to do. Our kids are still slightly young to just send out on their own but we try to create environments and situations for them to explore and experiment and just be in nature.

Adopting that Christmas coffee table book tradition and borrowing “Last Child in the Woods” ASAP! Any other favorites from MacKenzie’s interview? So much goodness here!

Thank you so much for sharing, friend!!

Charleston for the weekend (with a three-month-old)

8 April 2016

Charleston is always lovely, but Charleston in the spring has to be one of the loveliest places on the planet. Since the Holy City is just over a four hour’s drive from us, we try to take a weekend trip every other year. (We would love to go more often, but CHS accommodations are $$$, and there are so many places to explore!) This year, we made our trip the last hurrah of my maternity leave so that only one of us had to take a day off work. We were curious to see how a road trip with our girl would go, and I’d say she did just about as well as we expected. Here’s a little recap!

white-beach-roses

We left around 8:15 on Saturday morning, after June woke up and had breakfast. We ended up stopping twice on the drive down to feed her (in the car). The second time was just a half an hour outside of Charleston, so we probably could have pressed on, but that timing meant that she was full and happy by the time we hit the stop-and-go of downtown. We parked in the metered lot by Zero George and had a late lunch at Cru Cafe – yummy shoestring fries! It is tiny, so be prepared to wait.

After lunch we drove to our hotel (The Mills House) and checked in. We ended up making our reservation super last minute (two days before we left!) on Priceline, and got it for $175 a night, which I thought was a great deal for being right downtown. We really wanted to be within walking distance to everything so we could just take June in the stroller. Plus, The Mills House is pink! :)

charleston-houses

It’s no surprise Charleston is one of my favorite destinations, because it’s basically one big house and garden tour. After an initial trip around the historic district and the Battery (the first of many – we logged more than 12 miles every day!), we drove out to Sullivan’s Island for a late dinner at The Obstinate Daughter. This was our favorite meal of the trip – we split a farro appetizer and two pasta dishes, and practically licked each plate clean. SO delicious, great service, a beautifully designed space, and reasonable prices. Also, a convivial atmosphere that served as excellent white noise to keep June sleeping peacefully at our feet in her car seat :) We picked up dessert at Beardcat’s Sweet Shop, directly underneath OD – a gingersnap cookie and cinnamon gelato sandwich for me (yum!!), and strawberry + lemon gelato for John.

pink-house

On Sunday morning we were planning to have breakfast at Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit, but the space was tiny and the line was long, so instead we opted for a donut from Glazed, which we passed on the walk there, and goodies from our favorite standby Caviar & Bananas. (I would seriously be happy eating every meal from C&B, it’s that delicious!) Glazed was good, but they were almost out of donuts by the time we got there at 10am!

azalea-walk

After breakfast we drove out to Middleton Place and strolled the grounds. It was not SUPER stroller-friendly (lots of stairs), but with two of us to pick it up as needed, it was definitely doable. The camellias were mostly past, but the azaleas were in full bloom and glorious. June enjoyed wearing her Beaufort Bonnet gingham for the first time, and we had fun imagining taking her back for another visit when she’s older and can appreciate the animals, like the free-ranging sheep and peacocks!

middleton-azaleas

middleton-place

We stopped at The Americano in Mount Pleasant for a late lunch, and I’m sad to report were underwhelmed. It seems like a place that spends a little more time on its decor and vibe than its food, if you know what I mean, and we felt it was overpriced. The rice and beans and dip trio were misses, but our two tacos and the street corn were delicious — so not all was lost.

the-americano-charleston

Then it was back to Charleston and more strolling in the historic district, plus sunset on the Battery. The weather was truly gorgeous! We had dinner at Poogan’s Porch, which was conveniently just steps away from The Mills House. If you’re looking for classic Southern food done up a little fancy (and just right), plus the best biscuits anywhere, this is your place. We expected June to sleep through the meal, but she had other plans :) We dined a bit more on edge than usual, waiting for the next squawk or cry, but thankfully she was placated by a few trips around the dining room and bar in John’s arms.

charleston-hidden-garden

On Monday morning we picked up blueberry muffins, parfaits, and hot chocolate to go from Bakehouse and enjoyed them in Waterfront Park while watching dolphins play (!!). We had the place pretty much to ourselves.

waterfront-park

I always like being at a destination during the week, because you get to see locals heading to work, checking their mail, and doing other normal things! We looped once more through the historic district before eating lunch outside at Caviar & Bananas then hopping in the car for the drive home. June was not terribly thrilled about being in the car seat for another long drive, but she was a trooper and we are grateful!

rainbow-row-charleston

You can see a few more of my Charleston favorites from our last trip, here! Any restaurants y’all would recommend for next time? I’d love to hear!

Thanking our post-partum nurses

4 April 2016

Have I mentioned yet that we loved our time in the hospital after June was born? :) I was lucky to give birth in a beautiful, comfy, state-of-the-art facility, which played a role, but the biggest factor by far was our nurses. We didn’t spend much time on the delivery side, but everyone who took care of us on the post-partum floor was so kind, skilled, and encouraging. They made our stay a joy and our recovery swift. John and I said to each other over and over throughout our stay (and in the weeks after!), “Nurses are the best!!” Seriously, they are my new favorite people.

We wanted to do a little something to thank them, so last week June and I took a care package to the hospital. We assembled some of our favorite sweet and savory snacks from Whole Foods (including fresh berries, which I added after this photo!). I wanted some way to corral everything, but buying a basket seemed silly. Instead, I cut the top off a Whole Foods grocery bag and painted bright stripes with paint I had on hand. Happy and recyclable :)

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I wanted to bake them something, but John thought they might be weirded out by unpackaged goodies from someone they didn’t know. Hmph. I think he’s the weird one, but went with pre-packaged snacks anyway :)

The most important part, though, was the note. I hope it encouraged these wonderful ladies, as their job is not easy, but makes such a huge difference to families at a vulnerable time. One tip: if you’d like to remember the names of your nurses, make sure you write them down while at the hospital! I never would have remembered them all three months later!!

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Any other ideas for sweet thank yous for nurses? I’d love to hear!