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.
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.
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.
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.
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”.
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.
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).
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!!