Stay Curious.
Dig Deeper.
Nurture What Matters.
Be BoldHeart.
Enjoy Your Life.

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The BoldHeartMama desires to enjoy living out the choices that she’s made for herself and for her family. She is a relentless learner: curious, inquisitive, and open to the possibilities of her life and of the human condition. She understands that there isn't one right way—she asks questions that dig deeper to make sense of it all and to find her own path.

She pays attention to and nurtures whatever it is she really cares about, letting go of the rest (for now) knowing she can't do and be everything all at once. She embraces her imperfections in favor of "good enough"—her imperfect self, her imperfect home, her imperfect mothering, her imperfect desires—and she never stops evolving as a woman and mother. She is a BoldHeart, authentic and true to herself.

The BoldHeartMama knows there is only this one life and she's all in. She is present and engaged and making things happen. Her intuition is her guide. She seeks to be inspired and relies on her creativity and her resourcefulness to solve the big and little challenges that she and her family face together as they navigate their relationships and their world.

The BoldHeartMama is willing to take calculated risks to make her biggest dreams come true. She is living out her BoldHeart in the moment, making small moves and taking little steps that add up, and she's cultivating a good life for herself and her family in the process. Read More!

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Small Comforts Little Luxuries: Fall 2015






Hi Friends! Tuesday is the official start of Winter so I'm sneaking in Fall's Small Comforts and Little Luxuries post just under the wire.

These posts are about the little things that don't cost a lot (though they can feel like a splurge) but add value to your days because they appeal to your senses and bring delight. As you seek out facets of life to enhance your own comfort, pleasure, and joy, you can consider purchases like these an extension of the ways in which you nurture yourself as part of your self-care routine.

Taproot Magazine



Taproot is the relevant, inspiring, and folksy companion for every season. It's ad-free, which is refreshing, full of beautiful illustrations and images, filled with words that stick with you and crafts, recipes, and ideas that will spark your imagination for intentional living.

This issue's theme is Shelter and includes articles from living tiny (houses!) and unconventional, to nature teepees, screen printing, CSAs and root cellaring, comforting casseroles, and up-cycled hats for the entire family. So many good reads to be had in here!

Taproot is also hosting a very cool pop up Holiday Shop with gift ideas for everyone on your list, maybe even a few goodies you'd like for yourself!

Price:
Individual Issue $9
Yearly Subscription $27



Glow Sugar Scrub 

The star of this sugar-based body scrub is citrus and lemongrass essential oils, which will perk up any dark morning (I promise!), while evening primrose, sweet almond, apricot kernel, and sunflower oils keep you hydrated in these moisture-zapping colder months. The kids think I smell like gummy worms after I shower, which I'll take as a compliment. Smooth, moisturized skin definitely feels like a little luxury this time of year.

Price: $38



Lustro Face Oil

As an oily/combo skin mama I wasn't so sure about the idea of applying oil directly to my face, even if they are essential oils. It just didn't sound like a good idea. Still, I needed to know so I decided to give it a try and guess what? It's kind of amazing. I can use a few drops of this instead of my usual moisturizer—though you can mix it with your moisturizer if preferred—and my skin stayed hydrated, and glow-y all day. (Pregnancy cannot have all the credit.) Even at days end my skin remained less oily than usual, and happily no breakouts. I love the morning ritual of applying this serum to my face because it smells so darn good. I've tried both the Jasmine (Face oil 2 for dry skin), and Calendula (Face oil 1 for sensitive skin) which smells like roses to me though the description states "leafy and herbal."

Price: $64

If you're curious to try out these products (or others!) stay tuned for a post-Holiday Beauty Counter Giveaway!



StephLovesBen Garlands



I really like garlands. A lot. I have many different ones I've made or purchased over the years and I rotate them seasonally. This year I added a glitzy, glam-like, festive garland of bright triangles to hang over the archway in our living room. StephLovesBen's Etsy shop is closed until the New Year but you can check out her instagram StephLovesBen to take a peak at the many pretty things she usually has for sale.

Price: 
12 foot garland $32



Belvoir Fruit Farms

Delicious, seasonally inspired non-alcoholic cordials and presses to be shared with family and friends! Originating from the UK, the Belvoir winter line is currently offered at Terrain. We enjoyed the Apple, Plum and Cinnamon Cordial (similar to a light mulled cider) as well as the Mulled Winter Punch (a warmly spiced blend of elderberry, blackcurrent, and orange juices) warmed stovetop. The kids loved both, though I think the mulled winter punch was our favorite. Cordials can be mixed with wine or booze if you're feeling particularly festive!

View the entire Belvoir Fruit Farms line here.

Price: 
$15/ bottle
Edit: It looks like Terrain is out of stock of the mulled winter punch.



Winter Sweet Gum Springs Apothecary Herbal CSA


Ever curious to learn more about plant-based medicines I eagerly emailed Lindsey, the owner of Sweet Gum Springs Apothecary, when I heard about her Mississippi-based Winter Herbal CSA. She said she had one spot left so I joined-in in the middle to catch the remaining months of December, January, February, and March.

Lindsey is a community herbalist and uses her extensive knowledge of plant-based herbal preparations to carry on the tradition of herbal medicine for health and wellbeing. The ingredients she incorporates into her products are either grown in her own garden or sourced and foraged locally.

My first box included Winter Warmth Tea Blend, Hibiscus Fire Cider, Happy Lips Lemon Balm, and The Balm: first aid salve. I also added a small bottle of the Elder-Sumac Elixir. The winter sickies have entered our house so this was timely, and I enjoyed reading the accompanying newsletter that highlights the protective purpose and healing benefits of naturally occurring plant phytochemicals and how that translates to our human systems.

Learn more about the Winter and Spring CSAs here, and check out the entire line of products, which can be purchased individually. Edit: Info is now available for joining the Spring CSA!

PS. She's currently offering a holiday free shipping special for all orders over $40.

Price: 
Full CSA plus shipping $250

Sign up for the BoldHeartMama Newsletter to get the Latest and Greatest in Intentional Living

Happy Sunday! 

The Winter edition of the BoldHeartMama newsletter will be going live soon. If you haven't already you can sign up here to receive the newsletter in your inbox. 

The current issue will include a Winter What's in Season Virginia printable, intentional living prompts for nurturing self and looking toward the New Year, a sneak peak of the next BoldHeartMama interview, and a recipe for Mulled Cranberry Punch! 

The Fall 2015 edition included posts like these:
Intentional Living Prompts to Find your Peace
and more!


Monday, December 14, 2015

Seasonal Color Analysis: I Got Draped!

Personal Color Analysis begins with the idea that by categorizing the dominant characteristics of your hair, skin, and eyes as Dark or Light, Soft or Clear, and Warm or Cool, you can identify your specific Season, and thereby your best colors. For example, someone with Dark, Soft, and Warm characteristics would be a Deep Autumn. (For your reference, in color analysis Dark is interchangeable with Deep, and Soft is interchangeable with Muted. I use both terms in this post.)


Seasonal Color Analysis Groups

Seasonal Color Analysis categorizes everyone into four distinct seasons while Tonal Color Analysis takes it one step further with the understanding that while everyone will fall into one of the main seasons, most everyone can also wear some colors outside their designated season. A tonal draping will capture a palette that is even more specific and individualized to you, with a unique color swatch booklet to take home at the end of the process. 

Inspired by last years exploration into seasonal living, I was curious to learn more about my seasonal color palette. Based on two simple online quiz tools from Into Mind and The Chic Fashionista, and a lipstick draping, I thought I might be a Deep Autumn. However, the more I learned about the nuance of color analysis the less sure I felt. When I had just about driven myself crazy with wonder, I decided to go for it and indulge myself with an official color draping.

Late last Winter I met with Joanne, an image consultant and tonal color analysis specialist from Younique Image Consulting

The Draping


I arrived without makeup and jewelry and we introduced ourselves. She sat me down in a chair in front of a big picture-window filled with indirect sunlight.

Her first impression was that I am a Deep: dark hair and dark eyes, and then she dug right into the analysis.

Joanne first assessed whether I was warm or cool, this is referred to as Hue or undertone: definitely warm…but also a little cool. My eyes are a medium color with a dark brown—almost black—ring, with a chocolate brown center and flecks of amber. My freckles are taupe, not red, which also gives my coloring a more muted look and lends me to cool. 

Then she assessed color Value, or how saturated I can wear color in general. 

Next Joanne used hand towel-sized swatches of fabric in every color to assess how each reacted with my natural coloring. She worked quickly, selecting swatches and draping each fabric across my neckline to compare how the colors interacted with my face. In groupings of a few at a time she layered the colors and then un-layered the colors. Some really stood out to her as being lovely, those she identified as my signature colors. The rest of the swatches got separated by process of elimination into Yes and No piles.

Some of the questions she asked: Does the color wash me out? Does it create shadows? Does my face take on the color—too yellow, too blue? Do the shadows around my mouth and nose fade away or appear to darken? Does my complexion even out or look gray or splotchy? With her guidance and a lot of observation throughout the process I did start to see the changes, especially in the most obviously good for me colors. 

After all the color families had been explored we moved on to neutrals. As it turns out I can wear black, brown, off-white, and even the occasional true white. 

My Season


The final verdict? I’m a Deep Autumn after all! Dark, warm, and muted—on account of my eyes and freckles. 

Joanne said I have an unusually wide selection of colors that work well for me, which was exciting. 



In these pictures I'm comparing the generic Deep Autumn swatch book that I purchased from True Color online to some of the color swatches that Joanne identified as working well for me. Joanne's analysis reflected the Deep Autumn palette really accurately, but she found that two spokes of the fan were not for me at all: some pastels and blues (bottom right). Likewise, I get to claim some of Winter's jewel tones that are otherwise not included in the Deep Autumn palette.

To the draping I also brought my makeup tote and some items of clothing from my closet that I felt worked well for me, as well as some that I was pretty sure did not. She spent a few minutes to confirm my hunches and also answer some of my questions about the makeup colors that I regularly use.

After our visit Joanne carefully assembled my personal color swatchbook, which arrived in the mail a couple weeks later. My swatchbook included additional guidance for how best to wear my colors, with designated signature and lipstick colors as well as suggestions for color coordinating.


Truth be told, Fall is my favorite season of the year, and I LOVE the spectrum of colors in the Dark Autumn palette.

So what did I do next?


I went through my entire closet and all of my cosmetics and nail polish. I tossed out the stuff that wasn't in my palette. Then I went shopping to pick out a new lunch box (top right) and a backpack in my signature colors. I also bought some new lipsticks to bring a pop of color to my everyday style.

I still take my fan with me everywhere I go (almost a year later!), and my understanding of how to apply color continues to deepen and improve.

Not in my palette: the bottom row of nail polish and the clothing items shown in bottom right. 


6 Ways Color Draping Changed My Life for the Better:

  1. I have since fallen in love with color and all the possibilities it offers. Color really brightens my day: I feel younger, fresher, more vibrant, and more creative when I'm wearing my best colors. 
  2. A new appreciation for the subtlety of color adds yet another layer of self awareness and understanding—I always categorized my hair and eyes as dark brown, but I can be more descriptive now: warm chestnut hair with highlights of gold and red; bright brown eyes with flecks of amber. I know now how to use color to best complement my features. 
  3. I have a new perspective when shopping. From season to season, you'll notice that use of color in retail fluctuates tremendously and is widespread across brands; Spring might bring bright neons and Summer might be muted earth tones. These trends are largely influenced by color forecasters who decide years in advance what will be desired by consumers. What a weird concept to just wear whatever colors are fashionable in the moment, instead of what really flatters! I've also found it's a real bummer when this seasons chosen colors aren't in my palette. 
  4. I'm not afraid of color because I know what works for me now, and I have confidence to choose and wear color with intention. 
  5. Knowing what colors work best for me simplifies my wardrobe and my life because I can shop efficiently (looking first at color, and then at cut and style) and choose outfit pairings with ease, as everything in my closet makes me feel good and all the pieces coordinate with each other. 
  6. I prefer gold jewelry now to silver, though I can wear both.


A few tips:

  • Don't wear any makeup or jewelry to your draping.
  • Late Winter/early Spring is a good time to get draped, because skin color tends to be in its most natural state after the sun-starved winter months.
  • Bring some of your clothes and makeup to your draping if you have specific questions or would like some additional guidance.
  • Know that a good summer tan or a new hair color may shift your palette into a different season.
  • A good rule of thumb is to get draped every ten years, or after menopause: aging of your skin and hair can change your season.

Would you get draped? Do you think this is fun or superfluous?

Monday, December 7, 2015

The BoldHeartMama Anchors: Nurtured, making space for self care

Every day the BoldHeart Mama has an opportunity to reconnect with her authentic and true self—in all her varied roles—through the five BoldHeartMama Anchors: Peaceful (Part 1 & Part 2), Connected, Nurtured, Purposeful, and Inspired. Nature is a core element in the BoldHeart Life.


The BoldHeartMama Anchors are a set of core desires that when met help the BoldHeartMama to feel satisfied and whole.


This is one in a series of posts expanding on the BoldHeartMama Anchors.





When Roscoe was 2 years old and Merritt was 7 months we moved from Northern Virginia to Richmond, and I quit my career to launch a birth services concept called MamaBorn. That year I also re-entered individual therapy to retrospectively dig into and unwind my story of Merritt's early birth and subsequent postpartum, and all the cumulative thoughts I was feeling at the time about my first years of mothering and the ways in which I was found and lost in my experience.

Motherhood had come on fast and furious—in less than two years I had carried and birthed two little boys. I was a new mama and had been pregnant or nursing (or both) for over three years. I was mothering night and day and with the career shift I also had a new business to get off the ground which translated to full time working hours, mostly accrued in the evenings and on the weekends: teaching birth classes, meeting with clients, networking, volunteering in my community, and being available on-call to attend client births several times a month. I felt a deep sense of purpose within my family and in my work but I was struggling to find a balancing point for myself.

That schedule I kept for several years was hard on my body and my energy—I was tired. Pushing through, making things happen, and overriding my own needs in order to meet the demands of my kids and my work had become a reflexive second nature: preparing healthful food for them, and then eating on the fly whatever was within arms reach when it was my turn; nursing day and night to my own deprivation of sleep; caring for little ones all day and then rushing out of the house at night to teach or attend an overnight birth. I still carried baby weight from my pregnancy with Merritt, and I was hard on myself. I had lost touch with what it really felt like to be hungry, to know what it felt like to be rested. I had stopped listening to my body when, ironically, my passion work in birth was grounded in that very concept. Listen to your body. Trust your body. Love your body.

With the start of therapy I commenced a Year of Self-Love in pursuit of learning to nurture and love myself with the same intention and passion that I nurtured my most important relationships.

Whenever my therapy sessions veered off into a monologue of exhaustion or frustration or anxiety my therapist would bring me back to self-care. "What are you doing now for self-care?" It took me a long time to understand what she meant by this term "self care" and how that concept translated to my every day reality.

As I wrote last year in a work/life balance interview series: "I thought for a long time that self care meant going to the dentist, getting my haircut—stuff I needed to do to take care of myself, right? I have since reframed self care as an opportunity to refuel, it's the stuff in life that brings joy and pleasure."

With time came greater understanding and I did eventually articulate a definition of what it means to feel nurtured in my life. I wrote it out in detail and posted it up in our dining room so I could reflect on it daily:

I go to bed at 10 and get eight hours of minimally interrupted sleep a night. I exercise most days. I listen to my body’s signals for hunger and fullness, and eat mindfully allowing food to serve as fuel and pleasure. I make time for monthly dates with Andy and friends. I have reliable bouts of solitude built into every week. I have time to read and write and be in nature, and pursue little projects like knitting or cooking classes and other learning opportunities. I treat myself to haircuts, pedicures, makeup and self-care products that make me feel good. I have polished, well maintained, and comfortable clothes, pajamas, and undergarments. I maintain my health with regular preventive care, therapy, medical, and dental care as needed.

Almost two years ago I transitioned again—from working mama to stay at home mama—to pursue my writing and my mentorship of Roscoe in our homeschool. Those decisions were inspired and anchored by my self care practices, which continued to develop as the boys grew older and more independent, and as I continued to cultivate them with my intentional attention. With time and practice I was able to integrate balance, a sweet spot where I could care well for myself and rightly care well for my kids and my family.

I would have loved for time to have stood still in that capsule of equilibrium but the space I had created for my whole self eventually made room for our consideration to add another little person to our family.

Now almost 14 weeks pregnant, taking care of myself over the last few months has been more an act of survival than pleasure as I've whittled down my needs to the bare minimum of sleep, healthful food at the ready, and daily exercise, while offering myself compassion to let otherwise important things fall to the wayside without guilt: two months ago I forgot an important anniversary of a friend; I haven't hit publish on this blog in weeks; I have declined making commitments because my stamina has been so low and I've prioritized the evenings for sleep and exercise. I know I can't hermit myself away forever, but this is a temporary state that demands a more acute listening to my body and heart with a responsive disposition.

I've homed in on comfort and taking it easy, which means cozy socks and pajamas, and new undies that fit right, and embracing maternity jeans at ten weeks. It's being mindful of my SPD and opting for a long walk at the river instead of grinding out another road run. But movement is also a hobby and passion of mine so taking good care of my whole self also means running when it feels good to run.

What is Self Care?


Mothering is all consuming, and it takes everything you’ve got (plus some!). Putting Self first can be a boggling concept, especially in the early years of parenting because you are needed. so. very. much. The idea of taking time out or away may feel nearly impossible. You may not even WANT to take time out or time away—I know I didn't—but there will come a time when you will be ready.

Self care begins with the attitude that nurturing your core being is not an act of selfishness, and with the belief that your attention inward will grow infinitely outward to everyone's benefit. This is a gift only we can give ourselves: to self actualize our needs and wants with the intention to fill ourselves up.  You may likely find that it also brings your best self into the light for the ones we love most. It can be as much for them as it is for us.

These practices don't need to cost a lot, or require a big time investment. While I find time alone to be one of the best forms of self care it is not a prerequisite that you separate from your children if that's an unwanted or difficult option. Greater mindfulness, rest, a break in the form of a cup of tea overlooking a serene backyard, escaping into the next chapter of a good book, cooking adventures in the kitchen, or treating yourself to little things that bring comfort and luxury to everyday can all be done with little ones underfoot or in short bursts throughout the day.

My idea of self care may not be yours. Just because your girlfriend gets a pedicure every two weeks doesn't mean that you will feel nurtured doing the same. This is about feeding the parts of yourself that call to you, whether it be for adventure, solitude, discovery, or companionship. There are many facets that make up a good life, and as many ways to nurture yourself.

Your self care practice should be about spending time engaged with your life in ways that bring pleasure and joy, peace, relaxation, connection, inspiration. Activities that refuel and energize your spirit in order to proactively tackle and navigate your responsibilities with calm and intention. Truly nurturing activities are those you choose for yourself not because you should, or because you feel guilty if you don't, but because they move you closer to knowing your whole self.

Getting Started:


Know what you want: It will be different for every mama, but you first must know what you need and want for yourself before you can begin to pursue it. Identify the activities that fuel you, make a list! Try out different things and see how they make you feel. In time you will find your sweet spot.

Not sure what kinds of activities will serve you best? Ask yourself a few questions:

  • When I think of the word nurtured, what comes to my mind? What would it mean to feel nurtured and well-cared for in my life? What would that look like? Be very specific.
  • What can I add, delete, or change about the way I do things to bring life to what I have described above?
  • I am at my best when I am...
  • Today I want to feel...
  • Right now I need/want...
  • What would make me feel good right now?
  • If I had 1 hour/6 hours/24 hours to myself how would I choose to spend that time?

Let it be known: Communicate your desires to everyone around you—your partner especially—and enlist your support system to help you make it happen. Discuss ways you might shift your routines to accommodate these new ways of thinking and being and doing, you may be surprised to find that your partner isn't getting enough self care either. Use that opportunity to negotiate new routines in both your favor. Maybe there are parts of your day, or aspects of your responsibilities, that you can outsource in order to gain more time to meet your own needs: babysitters, cleaning help, meal and grocery delivery services. Make a compelling case for how self care will benefit the family dynamic. And if you (or your partner) aren't so sure yet, just give it a try: take some time for yourself and see how you feel afterward. See what you bring back to your kids and your partner and the ways in which your investment ripples out to touch everyone. 

Schedule it: Pencil it in, protect your time. Set boundaries, and practice saying no to others so you can say yes to yourself.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Week 10: Emerging


Birthing Tub Parade

I woke up this morning at 3:45, sharing far too much blanket and body heat and awkwardly positioned between Andy and Merritt—who at some point in the night had pushed my second pillow to the floor to create a space he could sneak into.

I lay awake for a good thirty minutes before reaching for my phone and checking my email, and I was just beginning to look for news to read when the last 2% battery life was up and my screen went dark. I lay on my belly, a little bump emerging now, and tried to fall back to sleep. I gazed at Merritt for a few moments in the shadows—he's so long, so big, but he still rests his face on cupped hands when he sleeps and then he reminds me of his baby self.

Then I was suddenly ravenous and wide awake and ready to start the day, craving a spicy hummus veggie sandwich with cheddar cheese and milk, and wanting the sun to rise so I could go for a run, and mapping out the day knowing we needed to get groceries at some point because I forgot to order them online by the deadline the night before and our cupboards are always bare by Friday afternoon. (I very often have food on my mind.)

I'm beginning to emerge from my first trimester cocoon and after 4.5 weeks of solid sickness, the timing of this peace offering couldn't be better. Every new day brings a greater ratio of easier times than not, and I am so grateful to feel alive again.

***

A highlight from last week: hearing the baby's heartbeat. A few days following an episode of spotting turned bleeding and I entered my midwife's warm lair for an already scheduled first prenatal visit. She wasn't certain she'd be able to find the heartbeat on doppler at 9 weeks and so I had kind of written it off, my mind already made up and intent on getting an ultrasound to satisfy my curiosity about what in the world was going on in there. To our happy and tearful surprise, she found it quickly—strong and fast in the 160's—and that was good enough for me.

This afternoon I bought my blood moon baby a first gift: an apple park bat blankie, which Merritt has adopted in the interim.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Week 7: Regret

I'm catching up on a few posts today! 

Resting!

Oh we were so happy just seven weeks ago! Now six days into all-day-and-night morning sickness and I’m feeling worn down. Construction of the house is really (finally!) just around the corner, which requires decisions in the hundreds about interior design and materials, and Andy is beginning his predictable annual preoccupation with the business as slow-season nears. 

So many things to attend to and yet all I can do is sleep. 

You know how it is to take one step away from something and immediately wonder what the heck were we thinking? Well that was week seven for me. 

The spotting. The sheer exhaustion. The daily push and pull with nausea and food, the herculean effort felt in attempts to fulfill our normal routine. I do remember most of this pretty well, though I surely had forgotten the extent of it. Body issues flaring up and marital exchanges imploding. It’s a weird time and while I’m running on about 30%, the effect ripples out to everyone in the house forcing necessary adaptation.

I ruminated on the news of my cervix for the better part of the week, and what once felt like a relatively carefree jump into a third pregnancy doesn’t feel so anymore. Now the journey feels serious, and I’ve averted a lot of my mental energy to making sense of my last pregnancies, labors, and births: the way they played out, the conversations I had about them with my providers, the sense of my own power I felt with each one, and in parallel I’m grappling with the ways in which this new information has introduced an abrupt disconnect between my perception and reality. It’s a funny thing: here I thought I was a master birther but, in effect, my cervix just kind of opens up and drops my babies out when the pressure is too great.

I’m not trying to rewrite our history in a negative light or to rub out all that was truly wonderful from my stories of becoming a mother. I’m working through these moments of doubt, and allowing myself to be honest about the fact that maybe if I had been made aware of the likely trajectory of a third pregnancy and the interventions required to avert that path, we may not in good conscience have decided to try for a third. Or maybe we would have in spite of everything. I can only shrug my shoulders because I'll never know. 

Maybe I’ll read this back to myself when my new babe is in arms, my heart exploding with wonder and awe for how their entire existence will have been owed to these many mercurial variables of perfect or imperfect timing, and just smile to recognize in these words that my active pregnancy mind wasted no time taking hold this time around.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Week 6: The Unknown

Brothers

My first prenatal appointment was on Friday morning.

I got to see a tiny little embryo on ultrasound which made me feel an unexpected surge of joy. I always find the reality of growing a human being somewhat hard to believe, but it’s true. There’s a baby in there. 

The tech snapped a blurry picture for me to take home and later I showed it to the boys side-by-side to another image of a 6 week embryo from online, pointing out for them the yolk sac, the heart, and the arm and leg buds.

Roscoe and Merritt wrote notes to the baby and drew a picture for the baby’s book. Merritt’s four year old note went like this: 
Dear Baby: I hope that you, my little blobby baby, when you are done being in your time-out in Momma’s belly...that you are having a good little baby blob party in there. I love you dear blobby. I love you cutie cutie, blob blob. Love Merritt and Roscoe and Jacqueline and Andy. 

Yes, our little blobby baby. We love you so already.

***

With fingers crossed for a full-term pregnancy we are planning another home birth. On Friday I met my midwife’s collaborative physician who glanced at my chart, noted my 5.5 hour labor with Roscoe at 38 weeks and 2 days, and my 4.5 hour labor with Merritt at 32 weeks and 6 days and confidently diagnosed me with a weak cervix. No one has ever suggested that as a cause for Merritt’s premature birth and so I pushed back because I want our approach to be as accurate and as effective as possible. I have been fixated on preterm premature rupture of membranes (PPROM) for the last 5 years but he said he is rarely wrong. 

Over the last couple days I’ve been doing my own research and I’m inclined to agree with him. Short labors and successively shorter gestations are a hallmark of a weak cervix, which also implies that if we do nothing I could likely give birth even earlier than last time. 

I have a lot on my mind now. Progesterone. Pessary. Cerclage. Accepting a weak cervix as the cause is a game changer. It means more monitoring, more procedures. It means a bunch of things that I don’t understand just yet. This is frightening as it is encouraging because there are things we can do to prevent this from happening again. 

My midwife wants to take this pregnancy one week at a time, an approach I really need and appreciate right now. Let’s just get you through the first trimester she said. 

Yes. 

Morning sickness is in full swing, and I feel like I'm moving at a snail's pace, foggy and oh so tired. One day at a time will be the only way to walk this journey to meeting our third baby. 

Monday, October 12, 2015

What's in Season Virginia: A Free Printable

Last year I explored seasonal living through my 12 Weeks to Seasonal Living series, which was inspired by Kathie Lapcevic's Homespun Seasonal Living Workbook.

A key element of seasonal living is sourcing local foods and preparing meals to highlight seasonal availability. In my first post about setting seasonal intentions I described in more detail what seasonal living in the kitchen means for me:

We are mindful of how and where our food is grown and raised. We source as much as we can organic and local but I'll admit to buying strawberries in the dead of Winter and quitting root veggies when I get bored three weeks into Fall. Instead I would really like to limit the variety of foods that we buy to the in-season variety. I want the limitations of that intention to inspire my creativity in the kitchen and build anticipation for the nourishment that next season offers. I want to feel the seasonal fluctuations of having and not having. “Suffering” through late Winter’s turnips and carrots and potatoes while holding our breath for the bright green shoots of asparagus and the first blush of strawberries in March. The pain and pleasure of knowing both extremes and feeling okay with the coming and going.

To celebrate seasonal eating I've created a FREE printable of fruits and veggies in season to Virginia during the Fall months of September, October, November, and December.  Click on the image to download and print right from your computer.



If you like posts like this one you may also enjoy receiving the BoldHeartMama Newsletter! Click here to sign up on my homepage.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Week 5: Change

Monkeys!

Similar to my pregnancies with the boys, this one is marked by early spotting. I was hoping to be oh so very zen this third time around, but spotting makes it harder to settle in. I’ve been trying to reframe and consider that maybe this is just normal-for-me first trimester stuff. Of course I’m always curious about why things are the way they are, but sometimes there just isn’t an answer. Either way, my first prenatal appointment is in a week.

I’ve been thinking ahead to what next year will be like with both boys home for school and an infant to care for and meanwhile, the usual ups and downs in daily life feel more acute with the pressure of time pushing against me. Certain aspects of our family dynamic that I had made note to change at some point now feel more urgent: getting the boys to reliably sleep through the night, simplifying mealtimes with different expectations and less struggle, facilitating their greater independence and reducing conflict in general—there is plenty more, but that’s a first coil of thought as they begin to unwind.

More distressing than what lies far ahead: our sitters have vaporized for one thing or another leaving me without the backbone of life's balance for the foreseeable future, and just at a time when I know I will especially need it. Five hours a week isn't a lot but it makes all the difference to me and the thought of going without makes the walls feel like they are closing in for lack of option.

All of this welcome and unwelcome change reminds me that I thrive under constancy, that transitions can be hard for me, but also that I have the opportunity now to lower my expectations, get serious about slowing down and further simplifying our routine. 

Otherwise, I’m eating loads of vegetables and lots of protein, and craving green things to drink. At 3am you can find me under a nightlight with a good book as it's nearly impossible to fall back to sleep after being woken up at night. I’m feeling sleepier in general and midday naps have become an oasis. I’m more winded at my nightly workouts—working as hard but not covering as much distance—and relaxin is surely flowing because I can feel my long runs in my joints already. I am hugely more comfortable with my top button undone too, and I can't help but be amazed at how much quicker pregnancy sets in with each subsequent baby.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Creamy Cashew Milk Recipe



As I've reduced my sugar intake over the last year and a half I've enjoyed exploring alternative ways to get my "treat" fix, and cashew milk is my current favorite.

Nut milk can be enjoyed straight, used to soak oats, added to smoothies or coffee, and more. The leftover nut pulp can be made into all kinds of sweets and savories like nut cream or cheese, truffles, and icing.

Raw nut milk can be pricey store-bought but it's simple to make at home. Cashews are especially versatile with a mild flavor and creamy texture, but feel free to use almonds too.

RECIPE

1 1/2 cups raw cashews
5 cups water
2 tablespoons maple syrup, honey
1 teaspoon vanilla
Optional spices: cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, cardamom

-Cover cashews with water and soak for 12 hours or overnight
-Drain soaking water
-Combine soaked cashews with five cups water, puree in a blender until creamy and smooth
-Strain cashew milk through a sieve or cheesecloth, discard the nut pulp or save it for later*
-Add more water if you like a thinner consistency, add back some of the nut pulp if you like more texture
-Spice and sweeten cashew milk to taste
-Chill and drink up!



*Make a creamy lemon topping from the leftover nut pulp: add a few teaspoons of lemon juice, a pinch of salt, and 1/2 cup water then blend for another minute or two until super smooth. Treat your homemade nut cream like sour cream and add a dollop to potatoes, eggs, or other morning hashes.


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Saturday, October 3, 2015

Week 4: Discovery



We had planned to wait until October or later, but I was tracking and Andy had a sudden change of heart after returning from travel so we decided to give it a go in September, just for fun. The window of opportunity was so short I don’t think either of us expected anything to come of it, and so we shared a tiny spark of surprise when I discovered I was pregnant 10 days later at 9 dpo. It was the night of the super-harvest blood moon and a full lunar eclipse, and it was the faintest of faint positives.

Just the night before I was gathered with my mama friends atop a boulder-built-for-three jutting up from the riverbed. We set an altar under a fine mist of rain as the sun set behind cool grey skies growing darker. A cloud of bats swirled overhead and the river lulled us from below and all around, down and away. It was the perfect night for a birth release—a letting go of past and present, a welcoming embrace of change to come. No fear. Just hope and peace in our hearts for continuing our mothering adventures with greater friendship and heartier community. Our moods and conversation that night struck just the right balance of dark and light as we recounted painful disappointments, new confidence and optimism. Nature was on our side enchanting us with cleansing rain, pink-hued skies, and bats—a fitting symbol of rebirth.* 

The whole sequence of first spontaneity, the official start of the fall season, a transformational celebration of motherhood and friendship, followed by the eerie super harvest moon eclipse—it all has me feeling very “it’s meant to be” and I’ve been calm, content, and at ease ever since. 

It’s still early—just four weeks yesterday—but I’m too cheerful to keep it to myself. Having experienced moderate antepartum and postpartum anxiety in the past, I’m making a conscious effort not to allow worry to overtake my joy. 

As one of my friends shared on the eve of the supermoon: "A wise woman once said, 'No two children are born into the same family, just as we cannot step into the same river twice.'" I'm carrying that sentiment with me for myself as I navigate this unique pregnancy and birth, for my boys as they adapt to sharing their mama in new ways, and for this baby who will join us in June, whoever he or she will be. 

I’ve cleared our fall calendar of extraneous commitments and I’m protecting my time and my sleep to focus on taking care of myself, staying in the daily moments of now, and nurturing my relationships with the boys during this special time. I'm ready to go wherever this pregnancy takes me. 


*A Bat flying into your life signifies that transformation of the ego self is about to occur, the end of a way of life and the start of another. This transition can be very frightening for many, even just to think about. But you will not grow spiritually until you let go these old parts of you that are NOT NEEDED. Facing the darkness before you will help you find the light in rebirth. The bat gives you the wisdom required to make the appropriate changes for the birthing of your new identity.  Shamanic Journey

Friday, September 25, 2015

Fall Instagram Challenge: #BoldHeartMama



The Fall Instagram Challenge is here! Hashtag #BoldHeartMama. It lasts all season, just grab a prompt and join in whenever you feel inspired. No worries to participate every day. You can find me @boldheartmama.


If you like posts like this one you may also enjoy receiving the BoldHeartMama Newsletter! Click here to sign up on my homepage.

Friday, September 11, 2015

The BoldHeartMama Anchors: Peaceful Anchor, Part 2

The BoldHeart Mama is at her best—for herself and for her family—when her thoughts, energy, and daily rhythms are aligned, and when her basic needs are met. 


Every day the BoldHeart Mama has an opportunity to reconnect with her authentic and true self, in all her varied roles, through the five BoldHeartMama Anchors: peaceful (Part 1 & Part 2), connected, nurtured, purposeful, and inspired. Nature is a core element in the BoldHeart Life. 


The BoldHeartMama Anchors are a set of core desires that when met help the BoldHeartMama to feel satisfied and whole. 


This is one of a series of posts expanding on the BoldHeartMama Anchors.



You can find Part 1 of the Peaceful Anchor here where I talk about feeling a sense of peace in the important decisions we make for ourselves and for our families. Today I’m sharing Part 2 of the Peaceful Anchor: peace in daily home life.

As the last weeks of summer unwind and the school year ramps up for many of us, I'm surely not alone in my restlessness to find our new routine, to bring the house and all our things back into equilibrium as we clean up from summer's jubilee, and to establish general order once again after a long and lazy, freedom-filled intermission.

When I say peace in daily home life I'm referring to the sense of harmony that exists when the essentials at home—our daily and weekly routines and rhythms, our individual and collective needs and wants—are adequately met and functioning together in a way that well suits everyone. That happy good tune we hum when things are just right and we strike the best balance for all. Those moments when it feels like we've got motherhood figured out, at least for now.

Part 2 of the peaceful anchor means for me that I model healthy ways to manage emotion and resolve conflict, and I take care to nurture and facilitate my boys' sibling relationship. I offer quality time to each of my kids with focused attention and play. I invest time and care in making healthy meals and snacks to keep everyone even keeled. I structure our time and our daily routines in a way that rightly meets everyone's need for energy, nutrition, activity, and free time.   

When the boys were learning to scoot, crawl, and walk, I baby-proofed the house placing the breakables up high, putting away my favorite vase and special books that I wanted to preserve. I relocated a decorative ladder from our living room and gave it a new home in the attic. I created spaces that were safe for exploration by little hands and mouths so that the boys were free to explore, as their age and development necessitated, free from a barrage of parental noes and don'ts and reprimands. Now that they are older I create that safe space for them to thrive with a regular bedtime, timely access to healthy foods throughout the day, quality time spent together, and built in downtime when they are free to choose their own interests. I've learned to alternate big, loud, active, activities with quiet, calm, and fine motor ones to offer them balance, and also to leave plenty of space for transition between activities.

It is my responsibility to create an environment that sets my kids up for success, and there's no reason that we shouldn't also extend that notion to better serve ourselves. 

As I am aware of what I can do to facilitate for the kids, I am also aware of the conditions that set me up for successful mothering. I function better in low noise, low chaos environments. I am easily overwhelmed by a barrage of demands for my attention to help the boys' every need for a glass of water, a napkin, a butt-wipe, or to mediate their many squabbles all the livelong day. I hate feeling compelled to scream over everyone just to feel heard. I am more at ease when I focus on one thing at a time, and limit multi-tasking whenever possible. I am a better mother when we aren't rushed and I have the flexibility I want to give them the time they need to complete their tasks. I greatly appreciate a general routine to rely on—a sequential order of things undictated by time—but not so much structure that we are locked in to a full-fledged schedule for I'm a little more spontaneous than I once believed. I also need down time and solitude built into every day. Oh, and proper sleep helps tremendously—it's a cornerstone, really, and something I'm still striving for.

I'm not an especially patient person by nature, but I've practiced and learned how to be a patient mother most of the time. I've also learned how to set boundaries for myself, when to take a parent timeout, and how to reconnect when things go awry. I'm comfortable to admit when I have messed up, and also in asking for their forgiveness. I'm not perfect. I try to keep the frame of mind that we are all doing our best, and that we will make mistakes and disappoint each other every now and then. These are lifelong relationships we're building together, after all.

The fall and winter months may be filled with lethargy and morning sickness for me, if my last two pregnancies can serve as a measure. So I'd like to establish a solid and predictable routine for everyone now that slows us all down a bit, yet still offers flexibility in case an interesting opportunity presents—which I'm certain will happen because there is always something new to pique our interest.

In anticipation of hunkering down for the cooler months I am emphasizing a priority on sleep for all, which requires work on our end in the coming weeks to fully transition the kids to stay in their own beds at night, and to minimize night wakes for bedwetting and snack requests. With two early risers we're also establishing a new way of doing things in the morning that emphasizes self sufficiency. While I am responsible for establishing the family's rhythm I also have an opportunity to be mindful of the stresses I sometimes create for myself in over-scheduling my own personal time in the evenings and on the weekends.

As I continue to assemble a family routine to include our project-based homeschool, the outside activities the boys have said they wish to pursue, as well as time for myself to write, attend to chores, and enjoy face-to-face time with my husband, Time once again assumes its elusive nature and I'm left curious for how all the parts will coalesce in a way that meets each of us where we are, offers the greatest chance for us to realize our best selves, and also brings us in better tune with each other.

What does Peace mean for you and what does it look like in your home? How do you establish a rhythm or a routine that works for you and your family?


Friday, September 4, 2015

Traveling Solo

A favorite tree from our family travels earlier this Summer, South Carolina

I'm leaving tomorrow for four days in Louisiana. I've never been. A girlfriend of mine lives there with her family—we met in birthing class when pregnant with our first sons. She's since had three more babies the youngest of which I have yet to meet.

I'm looking forward to feeling the vibe of New Orleans: the jazz, the people, the architecture, the cemeteries, beignets and coffee, the French Quarter in summer, the swamps and the moss. I can't wait to be face to face with my friend whose life has both diverged from and paralleled mine over the seven years since we first met. We've stayed in touch through it all by way of shared passions for fitness, fermented foods, our careers, mothering, and most recently homeschool. Serendipitously, we managed to meet up last summer in Maine when we both just so happened to be vacationing in the Northeast.

I'm looking forward to carefully packing my bags tonight. Filling little plastic bottles with exactly 3.4 ounces in pursuit to solve the TSA's universal puzzle and make it all fit in one carry-on bag: a pair of flip flops and my running shoes; two pairs of workout pants and tops; a pair of jeans; running shorts; two shirts; my makeup organized in a tidy snapware case, and a bottle of Tocca's Cleopatra tucked in with my socks and pj's. I'll wear the only jewelry I plan to bring: gold heart studs, a bracelet I gifted myself today while out with the kids, and a thin gold band on my left ring finger. I rarely travel with my wedding set anymore for fear of taking them off and losing them forever. I have one book to pack away for the plane called the Opposite of Loneliness for which I've been sneaking "naps" each afternoon this week to lie in my bed and read under the breeze of the ceiling fan, while on the other side of the door my boys sit mesmerized by new video games. Marina's essays have piqued my emotion and curiosity for many things and I'm left even hungrier for the living and the writing of life. Here I sit yearning to stretch more, be braver, and even better with my words. I hope to finish that book on the first leg of my flight.

I'm looking forward to waking up tomorrow morning and neatly filing into the car. Sometimes, on morning's like I imagine tomorrow will bring, when everyone is high with anticipation for one kind of adventure or another, my little nuclear family of four feels so manageable. With windows rolled down, we'll stop on the way for two cortados and two vanilla steamers, then arrive at the airport with time left to spare for goodbye kisses that end with our cheeks pressed together until the very last moment. A long goodbye for my two little loves and a quick pass-off to my one and only, and they'll be on their way home for a long weekend of marshmallow cereal for breakfast, lego builds, morning passes by the river on their way to Starbucks' drive-thru for their usual, afternoons a mix of tv and video games and bike rides, and finally the uncommon dinner prepared by dad. But before we part, I'll breathe them in until next time, and turn the corner to set out on my own for a few days in a new place, with big eyes and an open heart for reconnecting with old friends and myself.

I'm looking forward to the roaring noise-canceling silence that can only exist at 36,000 feet. I'll read, jot down a few ideas in Notes on my phone. Maybe I'll close my eyes. As we near to MSY I'll look out onto the clouds and take in a slow heavy breath then let the exhale carry my hope for a safe touch down. A ding will confirm we've landed and the pilot's voice will come across in monotone through the speaker overhead to call out the time and a welcome to New Orleans.

For all that I'm looking forward to, a little tiny knot burrows into my gut for leaving the boys and flying away from them. When we are miles apart—me off on my own, with every good intention to take the time for myself and truly enjoy it—I feel even more intensely vulnerable. Unsettlingly aware of the time and space that separate us, and the tragic, however unlikely, opportunity for something to befall me and only me. The worst of my thoughts, of the boys left without a mother, I hate that part about exploring the world without them at my heels.

I'm looking forward to going, to resting some, to seeing, and doing, and living. All on my own. Just as I'm looking forward to returning home again, refueled and no doubt inspired, when the three parts to my one will be together once again, as we know and like it best.

Friday, August 28, 2015

The BoldHeartMama Anchors: Peaceful Anchor, Part I

The BoldHeart Mama is at her best—for herself and for her family—when her thoughts, energy, and daily rhythms are aligned, and when her basic needs are met. 


Every day the BoldHeart Mama has an opportunity to reconnect with her authentic and true self, in all her varied roles, through the five BoldHeartMama Anchors: peaceful (Parts 1 and 2), connected, nurtured, purposeful, and inspired. Nature is a core element in the BoldHeart Life. 


The BoldHeartMama Anchors are a set of core desires that when met help the BoldHeartMama to feel satisfied and whole.


This is one in a series of posts expanding on the BoldHeartMama Anchors.





I want to feel a sense of peace about the long and short-term decisions I make in mothering my kids, and in the ways that I invest my resources of time, energy, and money. I also want to enjoy a more literal peace and harmony in the daily home life that I create for my family.

Today I’m sharing Part I of the Peace Anchor: finding peace in the decisions I make for myself and for my family.

This approach to decision-making expands to a philosophy that calms those nagging worries and fears that change and commitment tend to bring out in me. It lessens the unnecessary stresses I create for myself in seeking out a sense of control.

Addressing Life's Big Decisions


My former approach to solving problems and making decisions was to take a look at the big picture, focus-in on a desired outcome, and then break down the steps needed to get from here to there. With a plan in hand and some wiggle room for the unforeseen, I could follow the map I'd drawn and make revisions as needed, while continuing forward progress toward my goal.

This very practical approach offered a way to feel organized and a nice sense of control as I tackled each step, yet it required me to map out a path in advance and stick to it.

Now that I'm a mother with a family to care for—and many different perspectives to consider with multiple variables and needs to address simultaneously—decision-making isn't quite so straightforward. Some decisions feel complex or with great consequence, and the added responsibility to choose the "right" answer or path can be overwhelming.

Over the years I've adopted a new approach to addressing life's big decisions that is largely about letting go, living in the moment, and taking it one step at a time.

Enjoying Life


I simply want to enjoy my experience as a mother and to make the most of this one life I have, and I want the same for my family. I don’t want to spend my time and energy ruminating and planning for every permutation of a given scenario for fear of a lost opportunity or a wrong turn—even for the decisions that feel like really big ones. It is a waste of my time to invest my energy in solving problems I don’t yet have.

I understand that family life can be demanding and that it is often necessary to look ahead in order to anticipate everyone's needs and wants and to begin to make plans for those things as we move into new seasons of the year and of our lives. Having a desired outcome can be helpful for guiding priorities and investments of time, energy, and money, and while I appreciate the usefulness of working toward something specific (a tangible feeling, accomplishment, or outcome) it’s another thing to be so focused on mapping out in advance our plans of action—or to become so rigid in carrying out our plans—that we miss out on the synchronous opportunities that often happen in the moment, and the magic happening right in front of us.

Generating Ideas


I embrace thoughtful dialogue with myself and with my husband, and others in my circle, about what is important to me. I enjoy the iterative process of checking-in in this way to assess what’s working and what’s not working, and also to invest time in considering the best ways to move forward.

I've learned to stay open to all the possibilities. And I really mean ALL of them, even the ones that don't seem all that possible or realistic. Don't let your own high standards or the expectations of others limit your imagination. Be honest. What do you really want or need right now? What does your gut say? Listen to that first. There are creative ways to make all things possible.

Taking One Step in Any Direction


One thing I’ve learned in the last few years is that sometimes (okay, a lot of the time) it’s only really necessary to take just ONE small step in a direction. ANY direction. It's true. Right now, that’s really all that’s needed. I don’t have to be certain in this moment what will come three steps ahead.

Sure, wouldn’t it be great if we could know? But, seasons change, feelings change, people change, and our lives are ever-evolving. What we thought was true or right in one moment may not be so after we dig deeper to learn more, or after we sit with our decisions for a time to see if it really is the thing we thought it could be, or to observe if we feel the way we thought we might.

If the step I take is in the right-for-me-and-my-family direction I will know it. If the step I take is in the wrong-for-me-and-my-family direction I will know it. Either way, I get the opportunity to receive some feedback—whether a gut feeling, a new idea, a shift in perspective or family dynamic—and then I can take one more step in any direction I choose.

Intentionally choosing to address only what is right in front of me allows me to stay in the moment of now, to try out new ideas, and not get weighed down with the notion that I must choose the absolute best decision right from the start. Sometimes we're not certain what is best. Choosing to address what is right in front of me relieves me of the burden and pressure and stress of figuring everything out before I even make my first move, or worse—sticking with a plan that no longer serves me.

This kind of restraint to stay in the now can be tough. When I feel doubt creeping in or anxiety ramping up I often have to remind myself that I can't really go wrong. Nope. Not really. This life is made up of the trying and failing and trying again, and all that we learn about ourselves as we do the work.

Making Plans


My plans are always as of today, because I give myself permission to change my mind if I change my mind, and to deviate from plan or adjust my goals whenever life calls for it. I continue to get better at being totally OK with that. It's truly less about giving up, and more about letting go. 

Sometimes I feel guilt and unease sitting with the not knowing, and that's when I have to take a pause and let it sink in that few choices are permanent. There is always tomorrow, or fifteen minutes from now. I can change my mind again or continue to make the smallest deviations to right our little ship and stay on course.

I find peace in this approach because I am free to follow my heart, to make mistakes, to change my mind, let go, and admit that I don't have all the answers and that I can't know for certain how it all turns out in the end.

How do you find your peace? Would this approach work for you?

Friday, August 21, 2015

BHM Storytelling Series: The Thirtysomething Blogger, Wife, and Mother-of-Three

BoldHeartMama
Laura, Minneapolis Minnesota



I’ve always been interested in the different ways that women, especially mothers, make decisions for themselves and their families about their work and home life. Equally curious is how these women live out their decisions to make their choices truly work for them because there are so many ways to do it. The BoldHeartMama Storytelling series offers a peek into the lives of mothers from all over, and highlights their unique BoldHeart stories, from struggles to triumphs in work and mothering and life.


Laura, 35, is a blogger, wife, and mother to Bella (6), Oliver (4), and Lily (1). Laura lives in a suburb of Minneapolis and is currently a stay at home parent. Today Laura shares her BoldHeart on everything from her career progression as a former dietician, to a growing self awareness to ask for what she needs, and her happy practice of spending a night alone in a hotel every once in a while to catch up on her sleep so that she can make the most of life with her three kiddos. You can read more of Laura's candid and often poignant writing at her blog Navigating the Mothership.


What factors went into your decision to pursue mothering as a primary investment of your time?
I long had an inkling that I wanted to stay at home with my kids although I can't quite pinpoint why that was my desire. It is partially personality driven: I am a homebody and I don't require a ton of social interaction in my life. I also like doing things that are naturally a part of the at-home parent role: cooking, crafting, being outside, and reading just to name a few! (Note that cleaning did not make that list—ha!)

Bella, Lily, and Oliver, photo credit JP Ramier Photography
When I was pregnant with my first in 2008, I began to half-heartedly look into daycare and was quickly overwhelmed by prices and the waiting lists and all the pieces that would need to come together to make it work. What clinched the decision to stay at home was that I was not at all happy with my current job. However, back in those days I was the higher earner for my little family (as in, just my husband and me) by quite a bit so I was still mindful not to close any doors. During my pregnancy my husband was wrapping up his MBA while working as a lab scientist, but planned to launch a new career upon completion of his MBA. Had things not panned out for him in getting a new and higher-paid position we would have entertained the idea of him being the stay-at-home parent, while I would have continued to work. I am thankful that things fell into place as they did and that I was able to make the switch to staying at home while my husband was able to make the switch to his new career in marketing.

When and how did you know it was the right decision for your family?
Well, I guess that is something we re-evaluate on a regular basis. However, the truest measure of me feeling like this is the right decision is that when I picture the reality of going back to work, whether part-time or full-time, I realize that for me the pros would not outweigh the cons. Being a stay-at-home parent can feel really challenging at times but I know myself well enough to know that I would feel even more drained and anxious trying to coordinate everything as a working mother. I have kept up my continuing education in the event that I ever want to return to work as a dietitian, but I do not foresee myself returning to the field in any traditional capacity.

Did you have to let go of anything to reach this conclusion?
Had I been enjoying my job I think I would have felt quite a loss to step away from my career. But my job was pretty awful at that time so it was lovely to switch to something new. I worked professionally for several years and held jobs as a data coordinator in a laboratory, a nutrition counselor to those with eating disorders, and also as a school food service nutritionist for a large university. If I hadn't had that time in the work force, I think I would feel a greater tug to find out what life is like outside of staying at home. I am really thankful I was able to launch my career before I embarked on the stay-at-home role because it helped me to feel even more confident about the "career change."

Photo credit JP Ramier Photography
How do you make your life work for you right now?
Here is something very key that I have learned about myself over my past six years as a stay-at-home parent: I need to be able to have at least four hours a week to make my own plans. 

My husband works long hours and his job isn't flexible in the sense that he can take off a couple hours in the morning so I can go to the dentist. Over the years it was my inability to make dentist appointments, of all things, that was the catalyst to finally secure a regular sitter. It is not that I enjoy the dentist—not at all!—but I was feeling panicky and locked in by the fact that I truly COULD NOT find a time that worked to make a dentist appointment. 

Now, to be very honest, is four hours enough? Not really. Would I like more? YES ARE YOU KIDDING GIVE ME MORE TIME. Ahem. :) What I am saying (shouting) is that after two months of summer break with my very demanding young children and a little toddler who is not sleeping and having a very rough go of it when it comes to teething, I am particularly drained right now. However, I feel like once my sleep is better and the daily life isn't quite so draining and the older kids are spending time in school each day, I will find four hours very sufficient.

Name three ways that you regularly take care of yourself:
Making time for blogging/writing; protecting my sleep as much as possible with an early bedtime for all of us (and a rest in the middle of each day); and scheduling the regular sitter time each week.

What advice can you share with other mamas about finding life balance and carving out time for themselves in the context of mothering?
I am getting better at asking for what I need in a very specific manner. Rather than expecting that my husband will see the clutter around the house and then extrapolate that I am stressed by that, and then take the next step to help me out by spending some time cleaning, I spell it all out for him: "Hey Max! I am feeling totally overwhelmed looking at all these dishes and all these toys all over the place, so can we work together to clean them up?" Okay, so maybe it doesn't always go so smoothly and sometimes it goes more like, "AAAAARGH, WHY IS THIS HOUSE SUCH A MESS!?" but overall I am more deliberate in my requests. At this point in our marriage I also recognize that Max does not see clutter and feel stress from said clutter the way I do.

I would also like to note that I am getting better about drawing the lines between my bad moods and the causes. Before, I wouldn't make the connection that bad sleep + poor nutrition choices + messy house were feeding my bad mood. Now I can acknowledge that poor sleep leaves me feeling crappy but also that I can make different choices to try to make up for it. It doesn't always work, but it does help when I'm feeling low to identify root causes and address those.

Share a snapshot of a big (or little) dream you hold:
I would love to transition into a career as a writer as the kids get older and my free time isn't so restricted. I tend to think of story ideas in down time and write snippets here and there and I even wrote up my love story in a multi-chapter format after Oliver was born, which was such a good escape during a rough time in my life.

What small steps are you taking to reach that big dream?
Keeping a blog for over ten years has allowed me to exercise my writing muscles in a small and consistent way. There is a discipline to blogging and to taking the time to translate thoughts into words. Some of my posts are total fluff or purely bullet points but others are carefully crafted and revised many times before being published. Years of blogging and interacting with readers has also bolstered my confidence in my writing and my ability to express myself.

Laura and her littles
What does the phrase intentional mothering mean to you, and share the ways that you feel you are successful in this way.
I think intentional mothering means taking parenting seriously and trying to strike the right balance of focusing time and attention on your kids but also letting them figure life out for themselves. To me that means letting them experience negative feelings and work through them. I want them to practice navigating the ups and downs of life so they will be ready to fly when they are on their own. Stepping back and letting them struggle a bit is a challenge for me (and will be a much bigger challenge as they get older) because my instinct is to rush in and fix the hurt and try to make it stop, but I know that it is an important life skill essential to building their self confidence.

From a more practical standpoint, I think I do a really good job when it comes to filling the kids' days with creative endeavors. We do a lot of cooking and crafting and creating. I do a decent job of keeping us active but this is far easier in the summer than in the winter—I live in Minnesota after all! Screen time goes up and down depending on the season (both weather and personal life) but I generally try to keep that to around an hour a day. I find the kids get super grumpy and unpleasant after too much screen time anyway so that helps me to set that limit. 

How has time changed your mothering?
I am less focused on using external sources for "how-to" and more tuned in to my gut feeling. Having more than one kid—or perhaps it is more that the first kid is five years older than the last kid—helps me to recognize that phases will end and hardships will change over time. This lets me let go of obsessing about the current challenges. The baby WILL sleep better at some point and her teeth WILL come in at some point. I know this as I have watched it happen twice before with my older two kids.

Laura and her husband Max
Do you have any tips for keeping a peace-filled home life?
My husband and I have learned to give each other more grace and we try not to needle each other about the little stuff. We are both exhausted right now during this phase of life and we both make mistakes. Life flows much better when we choose to ignore those little annoying things about the other rather than nitpick.

What is one area of your life you wish to address with more intention?
My diet and food choices. I have several frustrating food intolerances and possibly some allergies that for years I have only half-dealt with. As a dietitian and someone who enjoys cooking I have a leg up on others who struggle with similar problems, but I find it hard to buckle down and be restrictive about my diet even when I know it is for the best. I tend to dig-in my heels when I think about not getting to eat whatever I want. But I am slowly figuring out where I can be less restrictive and where I need to be more disciplined in order to feel healthy and energized and not bloated/fatigued/having GI problems. It's a process and I am accepting that it is something that will take years to get sorted rather than weeks. However, I know I could/should put more effort into it!

If you had one day alone/kid-free day how would you spend it?
YES PLEASE! So I am actually doing that right as I write this. My big present for my 35th birthday was a hotel night on my own. This is my first night away from the baby (who is actually not a baby but a 16.5 month-old toddler) and my first chance to SLEEP in awhile. I have done these hotel nights a couple times in the past and here are a couple tips that I can share with you. I used the "top secret" hotel option on Travelocity when booking which means I got a 4-star hotel room for only a little over $100. Score! Then I have also learned to build in a date night at the beginning of the hotel stay. That way I have some nice one-on-one time with my husband before sending him away to deal with our lovely kids all night while I get to sprawl in a king-sized bed all by myself. As to how I am filling in the free hours—I am mostly writing and catching up on blog reading and blog commenting. I am also eating good food and enjoying some HGTV and Food Network shows since I don't have cable at home. It has been blissful and I will hopefully be able to carry some of this energy back into my daily routine when it is time to return home in a few hours.


The BoldHeartMama Storytelling Series is based on the BoldHeartMama Manifesto. Mothering demands BoldHeartedness from all of us. I want to help YOU share your story!



If you are curious to learn more about the series and how you can participate email me at BoldHeartMama@gmail.com.

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