Thursday, December 31, 2015


Dear Olive,

I can't wait for New Year's Eve this year.  Hoping for good health so that we don't have to postpone the festivities like last year.

We plan to make New Year's hats:

Open our time capsule:

And use this clock to count down to midnight (which we will pretend)

Wishing you the happiest New Year!

Thursday, December 10, 2015


Dear Olive,

The secrets to motherhood:

1.  Make two meals for the week on Sunday night.

2.  Shop for everything you can online.  Amazon is your friend.

3.  Some grocery stores will shop for you.  You can order from your saved list on the net and then schedule a pick up.

4.  Make kid outfits when you are putting away the laundry.  Pack each outfit in a shoe rack pocket over the door.

5.  When things are about to get real, crack out the busy bags.  My kids are trained to play by themselves for 3 songs until they can interrupt an adult's work.

6.  Divide and conquer.  Whenever possible, divide the young among the adults for 1:1.  My daughter will run errands with me while my son stays to help dad with a project or vice versa.  They are so much more well behaved when they get undivided time.

7.  Clean the bathroom while the kids are in the tub.  Since there is enough splash water to flood the place, this is basically the only time that I wash the floor anymore.

8.  Start kid chores early.  Even a two year old can contribute.  This helps them feel like a part of the group and lightens the parenting load.  Of course training for chores extends them at first, but eventually the scaffolding pays out in dividends.  Our first three chores that every kids starts with are: carry your plate back from the dinner table, make your bed (basically just pulling up the sheet), and match socks out of the laundry.  Then we gravitate towards this system to earn allowance.

9.  Get a token economy going.  We started the "star system" for Gabriel when he turned two.  I was surprised that it worked for him at such a young age.

10.  Make school lunch supplies when you are putting away groceries.  I take an entire loaf of bread, make individual PB&Js, put them each in a ziplock, and then stack them in the freezer door.  Cheaper than Uncrustables, less daunting than making one each morning. I also love these salad jars for adults, made weekly.

11.  Ditch the baby book.  Use the Day One app to write a sentence or two on  your phone when you actually think about it... I even use the voice text option to write while waiting at red lights.  You can add pictures, locations, and print the whole thing out at the end of the year.

Sunday, November 29, 2015


Dear Olive,

Last week I organized a new gallery wall in our family room.  I felt a bit panicked afterwards that gallery walls may be closing in on us.  After all, how many Ikea frames can one house take?

But then I found all of my favorite design inspiration photos and realized that I must just be a maximalist and should just embrace it.

So here are some ways to organize them

And here is our wall:

Thursday, November 26, 2015


Dear Olive,

Happy Thanksgiving!  We had grand plans to reenact this tradition from last year.  But last night, Ella started a new odyssey of the stomach flu.  So, instead of family travels, I am researching the glamour of our American holiday:

Yikes, we came awfully close to squash.

I am also watching this.  Which reminds me of my glory days of binge watching PBS's Colonial House.

Could you go back and live in Colonial times?

I can barely cook in present day.

Happiest Thanksgiving, friend!

Sunday, November 22, 2015


Dear Olive, 

I wanted to share with you the single most impactful thing I have been done in the past three months:  Life Detail Boss.

 It has seriously changed my life.  Here is why:  Throughout the day, do you get the worry wince?  You know, that feeling of, "Oh, I had better do that, or I am really going to drop the ball!"  My mental "to do list" is a cognitive merry go round for me.  I remember life details, only to lose them in a distraction moments later.

So, things like: buy that school supply, schedule the oil change, or call in that prescription, are sometimes forgotten until they are due or past.  Which is fine, except that these small fires are what keep me from being present and feeling in control.

Worry impacts productivity.  I've learned this in the workplace and have good systems for being proactive with my career.  So, why haven't I applied the same intention to my personal life?  

Enter, Life Detail Boss.  I created a graphic of all of the categories of tasks that swim in my head and started tackling them in an orderly way.  So things like: cleaning, shopping, meal-planning, and appointment scheduling are all in one place.

Then, I took it a step further and tried to think of the long term things that prime me to be more responsive.  Self maintenance choices such as exercise, drinking water, intellectual stimulation, and meditation.  I know that when I am physically active and focused on nutrition I am better able to handle rigor, but I often let it slide.  Life Boss helps me to be more  self aware.

Finally, I thought about how I want to focus on my relationships with intentionality.  How even in the craziness of grad school schedules, work, and family obligations, I want to impact the quality of interactions with my husband, kids, and friends.  So I added a section about kindness and connection.

At the start of each Monday, I get to work 15 minutes early and review last week's list.  I award myself a rating for success and then set a new goal and fill out the needs of the upcoming week.

I have had many organizational forms, agendas, and calendars in my short, type-A life.  But none have gotten it done for me like Life Boss.

Gone are the days of rushing to the store at 8pm for an ingredient or supply needed the next day.  Life Boss forces me to look ahead and make it happen early.

I honestly look forward to Mondays and the satisfaction I get from filling out this little form.  I printed out a bunch, cut them down, and keep them in the front of my planner.

Just in case you'd like to ride along with me, here is the printable.  Happy planning!

Friday, October 30, 2015


Dear Olive, 

Last year while chatting with Gabriel about our past costumes, he declared to me that he wanted to be a Spiderman Jellyfish.  

But to avoid confusion, we also made a hat.  

Word has it, that you may also have a little jellyfish request this year, so here is how we did it:  


Cut two same-sized circles and various similar-hued ribbons.

Pile all of the ribbons inside the circle (shiny side in) and pin a small end of each ribbon along the circumference of the circle.

This will be the exterior of your hat.  

Sandwich the circles and sew the outer line of the circle so that you are sewing the ribbons to the circles. 

Leave a small opening and turn the circles inside out, like you would a pillow, and then stuff the hat with Polyfil. 

Add some eyes (I used half circles of ribbon) and sew the pillow to a hat.

Ella decided to be a Mermaid because of your daughter's love of them.


To make the mermaid, we cut this shape out of the left over sparkly fabric.

I folded the top and secured a ribbon inside so that we could make a drawstring waist.

Then I just sewed along the seem, leaving the ribbon freestanding inside the pocket.

I cut scale scallops from sparkly ribbon and sewed them in staggered rows to the front of the tail. 

Finally, I sewed the tail together and stuffed the fins, but left an opening at the side of the tail so that it could be worn like a skirt.  The tip of the tail was tied to the wrist.

To maintain the theme, Jason and I wore crab hats and went as two crabby parents.  Ocean fun for everyone.  Happy swimming.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015


Dear Olive,

At the end of the summer, we planned a five day trip to Ocean City Maryland.  In our own childhoods, we both frequented North Carolina, but the 15 hour trip felt too daunting for a first try with our littles.  Ocean City was our closest ocean, so we went for it.

Ella's first reaction to seeing the beach was pure rapture.

So we participated in all things Ocean:

Sand castles....



At night, after the kids went down, Jason stayed in to catch up on some sports scores and I walked the beach and meditated.  


About halfway through our trip, the kids discovered an amusement park that they became obsessed with.  So we made a trip across the way.

Sibling battles were put on pause for a roller coaster ride

And a shared lemonade.

The last day there, we hit up the boardwalk at the end of the strip.

The candy stores there made for dangerous parenting stimulus.

But the tourist art was hilarious.

We are already talking about going back.  


In case you are interested, here is where we stayed.  It was a brand new ocean-front condo with two bedrooms, two balconies, and two baths.  

At night, the restaurant next door had live music and we constructed our own cocktail hour.  

Wednesday, October 14, 2015


Dear Olive,

We've been rocking our little behavior schedule for a couple years now.  I first created it when Gabe turned two while I was on maternity leave with Ella.  I needed a way to structure our day so that, at the end, all of the details didn't fall into the black hole of kid-driven angst.

Kids respond so much better to the day if I can get my act together to promote structure.  Gabriel often asked, "who will I see tomorrow," and acted kind of overworked when the day's activities were left entirely to him.

So to make our day more visual, I just created the file in Word, laminated it, drew on icons, and added some magnetic tape to the back.  

Here is how we use it:
In the morning, at breakfast, I talk with the kids about the weather (they select the icon that represents the climate outside), what we did yesterday, and what day of the week it is.  We chat about who we will see for the day and what we want to do.  They select the appropriate icons for each. 

Now that Ella is older, she can better participate and we added some blocks for her.  Each kid is on a star system and we set goals for each.  Typically, three stars equal ice cream for the family (group contingent reinforcer), and if they want to save their stars until they get five, it is worth a small prize (individual reinforcer).  Usually, they earn stars for things like staying in their bed at night or for potty training success.

If you are interested, here are Google Doc templates that you can make your own of:

The Chart

The People Icons

The Activity Icons