Fresh and Inspired

Writing in pencil > writing in pen

Ten years worth of journals and agendas are stacked up on the table next to me. Marie Kondo recommends going through papers as the last step in Tidying Up. These notebooks sit in a cupboard tucked away most of the time, but in rare moments of deep reflection they make an appearance. For the most part they are a daily record of the mundane details that make up life — plans for dinner, meetings with people, phone calls to make, holidays.

Here’s the biggest takeaway from ten years worth of journals: pencil > pen. Up until this year, 2019, I used pen to record and plan. There were seasons of colorful pens, black ink, blue ink, red ink, green ink. Seasons of brown ink and even pink. Writing plans on paper is a spiritual practice; it is grounding and forces my brain to slow down enough to truly measure priorities, time, and energy. Sitting down once a week with a cup of coffee and writing out the next week’s plans brings focus and intention to the immediate present. And for years a little whiteout tape sat next to me to erase and rewrite the changes that inevitably pop up.

Towards the end of 2018 in a moment of frustration over having to whiteout yet another plan it dawned on me: pencil > pen. I’m a late bloomer to certain life lessons and this is one of them. No longer would I need whiteout tape. No longer would I feel annoyed with rearranging events. No longer would I feel personally injured when something was postponed or canceled.

Can we all agree pencil > pen? It’s a mindset shift. It’s a declaration that life is messy, people are fallible, and plans are flexible. Maybe that disappointment with change isn’t something you wrestle with but if it is, there’s hope. With a small change you can reframe the way you look at your days, choices, hopes, and plans.

It’s a little shift in attitude that implemented over time makes a big impact. Writing your plan for the day in pencil rather than pen cultivates a flexibility in how and when to get everything or nothing on your list done. If you struggle with regret over some of the choices you’ve made or hopes you’ve had, think about moving a big eraser over those things and then writing something new in it’s place. You can be the editor of your life. You choose what stays and goes as well as which angle and perspective to take.

Perhaps you were too ambitious with your plans and goals — an eraser mindset frees you to make those small adjustments that make them actually attainable and possible. Maybe you set a goal to exercise three times a week, but it hasn’t happened once and you’ve lost momentum. Erase it and write in a more realistic one that you can actually follow through on.

Erasing is not failure. It’s a resetting. It’s a step towards grace and mercy for ourselves and others as we place one foot in front of the other into the world and take a risk in love.

Like bamboo plants that send their roots and shoots generously in all directions then regrow after every cutting, we can freely edit, erase, and eliminate knowing it’s not a dead end but a new beginning.

May you see your next hopes and plans with fresh eyes and use a pencil rather than a pen to write them on your heart, paper, phone — holding them palms up, open-handedly, up for a tiny re-alignment if needed.

Love and blessings,

April

Wisdom is not gained by knowing what is right. Wisdom is gained by practicing what is right, and noticing what happens when that practice succeeds and when it fails.

— Barbara Brown Taylor, An Altar in the World

Thrifty and Practical

A minimalist guide to baby gear

Diving into the baby world is intimidating and overwhelming. Everyone has opinions about all the things and different experiences with their baby needs. Your values and personality will frame the way you prepare and get set up for having a baby. Simplicity, quality over quantity, and items that have longevity and multi-use are all important to preparing in a minimalist way. Here is a small breakdown of must-haves, almost essentials, and nice-to-haves.

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Must haves:

stroller: the Babyjogger frame can become a double stroller and works with a car seat 

-car seat 

-place for baby to sleep: some type of crib plus bedding as well as something more portable when they are tiny like a Moses basket or bassinet or pack n play 

-some type of carrier: Solly, Ergo, Boba, Ktan

-change pad and change pad cover

-diapers and wipes 

-something to clear out their nose like a Nose Frieda

-burp clothes

swaddle

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Almost essentials:

bottles: glass ones last longer and don’t stink like plastic ones — life factory bottles become sippy cups if you buy the sippy cup top when they’re at the age to transition from bottle to sippy

-pacifier

-blankets: lightweight muslin are the best

-plain white onsies 

-sleepers

-baby monitor

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Nicetohaves (borrow if possible):

-swing

-bumbo

-playmate with hanging toys 

-exersaucer 

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A few other thoughts:

Because I’m super basic, we never bought a diaper pail (just used a regular trash can). I don’t use a diaper bag — just a nice big purse with a diaper clutch that holds diapers and wipes. 

Having a dresser that works to put a change pad on is super wonderful because it’s longer lasting and more functional than changing tables. 

If I were registering again, I would just register on Amazon. It’s simpler and more direct than Target and Buy Buy Baby. Doing gender neutral colors for all the essentials and almost essentials helps big time if you plan on having more kids! You will get clothes and toys without asking for them so there’s no need to register for them.

If you plan on trying to breastfeed, there’s a whole other list of mama essentials but I never assume that’s the plan because it’s such a personal choice/decision. 

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Breastfeeding essentials:

-These gel pads are amazing to use the first week of breastfeeding

-Healing cream for weeks 2-4 of breastfeeding

Breast pads: I used disposable for the first month because it’s easier and you need easy for the first month

-A breast pump

-nursing tanks are super helpful

-2-3 nursing bras are a must have

Also

-A box of kleenex: because there will probably be tears of exhaustion as you get used to the rhythm

-A good friend you can call on and be totally vulnerable with during this brand new season

Fresh and Inspired

Running a marathon when you expected a mile

An open letter to moms who struggle the first year of their baby’s life:

If you adore those early days and thrive when your baby is one and under, then disregard this note. I know many women who love that early season and find more joy than struggle. That has not been my experience and I want to share my heart and lessons learned so that if you are feeling shame or guilt, you can know you are not alone.

My youngest of three kids turned one in November. I’ve been asked which transition was hardest — from zero kids to one, one to two, or two to three. Each time was difficult and beautiful for its own unique reasons. Something that has been true for me each time though is the intensity of that first year of your baby’s life.

In that first year your emotions, hormones, physical body, and thoughts are all over the place. You don’t feel entirely like “yourself” — especially when every ounce of your being is directed towards caring for this brand-new, unique, beautiful baby. In one day you can feel extreme euphoria and love for your precious gift, then guilt and shame for wanting a break knowing other women are aching for their own baby and can’t have one, then sadness and grief for wanting just a few moments of what life was like before, and then grateful and blessed for the sweetness of the moment when they fall asleep in your arms.

As each day passes and you begin to measure growth in weeks, and then months, everything slowly starts to settle and even out again. When that big milestone arrives it is an achievement to be celebrated. This first birthday marked a massive change in myself — it suddenly felt like I was “me” again. So I am writing to encourage you today. If you do struggle, it’s okay. If you don’t feel entirely like yourself, you will again.

Here are a few things that may help you during that first year with all it’s ups and downs:

Expectation — Most of us go into motherhood expecting to run a mile only to realize that first year is actually a marathon that we could never prepare for. That first year is a whirlwind of beautiful, perfect moments, the deepest, most raw love as well as intense hormones, sleep deprivation, and unchartered territory in taking care of a baby. It’s a long, tiring run to the end of that first year and you will feel like you may never feel yourself again. For the rest of your life you will be mom, but as that first year draws to a close so many of the massive ups and downs even out and that emotional and mental space will be restored for you to re-engage with those other aspects of your identity more wholly again.

Failure — There will be moments when everything seems to be falling apart and failing. Parenting is one long journey of trying things for the first time; there is risk involved in every step into new territory. We will get it right sometimes and we won’t other times. 99.9% of the time everything works out whether what we did succeeds or fails. Once one season passes and you feel like you’ve passed through successfully, there is another one just around the corner full of the unknown and surprises, good and bad, waiting for us to risk, fail, and succeed again. All shall be well. 

Self-care — During this first year it will probably feel very selfish for you to do something entirely for yourself. For your own well-being find 2 hours a week that’s an immovable, standing date with yourself. It’s always on the calendar and you can look forward to and plan for. Being a mom is all-consuming — every ounce of our being is directed towards caring for our kids whether we are focused on them in the moment or not. This time away to breathe and just be is essential to crossing the line of that first year marathon in a jog rather than crawling over it.

PrioritiesHaving a baby is like adding another full time job to your life. It forces you to re-evaluate all you have going on in your days, weeks, and months, whether that evaluation is conscious or unconscious. If you are able to step back for a moment and think about or even write down all the things you do and are committed to, it will help to focus on the order of priority those things. And you may find that you have room for priorities 1-5, but not 6-8. Take a deep breath and exhale those priorities for this next season. It doesn’t mean they’ll be gone forever. It just means during this first year, they aren’t as important and necessary. They can be added back in after you finish this marathon run.

After each of my kids turned one, everything shifted. Finishing that marathon was an accomplishment and energizing. You realize you are stronger than you ever thought you were. You are more capable than you give yourself credit for. And your capacity for love and grace and joy have grown exponentially. Here is a beautiful quote that always reminds me to fully engage with and embrace the season regardless of its joys and sorrows:

Sometimes I need

only to stand

wherever I am

to be blessed. (Mary Oliver)

Blessings dear friends as you see the place you’re standing in is awesome and holy and that you are not alone,

April

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