Guest Post: Jen of The Haystack Needle

I’ve asked some of my favorite creative mamas to help out while I’m away with our new baby. Today, the wonderful Jen from The Haystack Needle is sharing some thoughts on motherhood – specifically some things she’s learned as a mama of two! Thanks Jen! –Nole

The Haystack Needle Balloon Festival Guest Post: Jen of The Haystack Needle

Hello! I’m Jen and feel lucky to have connected with the ever-inspiring Nole through blogging (back when I did blog.) I’m now a freelance writer/editor working from home and mostly being a mama to Juniper (3) and Leo (18 months). My kids are 20 months apart and are the sweetest spirits who keep me feeling light and searching for little moments of amazing in each day. We just moved to Portland, Maine, from Brooklyn back in January. And I have to say, Portland has stolen my heart. It was such a dream spending this summer going blueberry picking, swimming in lakes, making sand castles at the beach, flying kites, loading up on lobster rolls by a lighthouse, and feeding goats at the farm where we get our milk. I was mourning the end of summer, till I remembered we have apple cider doughnuts to look forward to. Location-wise, I will say it’s incredibly easier being a mama to two when you don’t have to get everyone up and down three flights of stairs (and deal with getting to your car that stores your stroller being two blocks away thanks to alternate side street parking) like we did back in Brooklyn. But no matter the location, two little ones can feel like triple the chaos in moments. Here’s what I’ve tried to pass onto friends moving into being a mama to two.

The Haystack Needle Blueberry Picking Guest Post: Jen of The Haystack Needle

+ Go on dates with your kid. I don’t mean this in the formal way. A date could simply be curling up on the sofa with a longish book that you wouldn’t read while your younger one’s attached to you. It’s the simplest advice and it helped us through hurdles in the beginning, when I was nursing nonstop and couldn’t actively play with her the same way, and even now when random toddler tensions build up (and then I remember, wait! When was the last time I got 20 minutes of quality alone time with her?). Kids need so little to refuel with your love. And you’ll miss your alone time with your first and need to reconnect. You’ll know you’re desperately in need of a date if you think back on what you’ve said in the last day to your oldest, and if it’s a lot of don’ts, let’s not, and let’s go. Then yes, you need a date. It could be as simple as looking through old photos together or taking a walk where she takes the lead on how fast you go. But, I found it needs to be you and her, no babywearing the younger one, or half looking at your phone. True together time. And then I found the meltdowns and odd behavior calm down for a bit.

The Haystack Needle Kids at Farm Guest Post: Jen of The Haystack Needle

+ Don’t forget the tricks that worked when she was little. I’ll never forget the day that putting Juniper in a sling saved me. And I’m not talking about when she was a newborn and I got to have my first hot meal or do some laundry. I’m talking about two-and-a-half year old Juniper who was having a tough moment out with me and Leo, and it was dissolving fast. Leo, by default as the younger one who wasn’t walking yet, always was in the carrier and Juniper would walk or ride in the stroller. And then, as you learn with kids 2+ years in age, having options always helps, and I thought to offer her the sling in the heat of the moment. And that’s when I heard it in her voice. That she’d been missing some mama love. She happily went in the sling and just wanted to be held for a short time. And then all was calm. That’s repeated itself for us, and it always works. I wore Juni in wraps, carriers, and slings from birth through most of my pregnancy with Leo (in a back carry). But as soon as Leo arrived, of course he was the one I carried. It took me a few months to figure out she missed that part of our relationship.

The Haystack Needle Kids at Camp Guest Post: Jen of The Haystack Needle

+ Be positive in how you talk about your kids, especially when they’re around. We’re all blogging and snapping beautiful Instagrams of our little loves. But I find it’s so easy, especially when you’re hanging around other mamas, to endlessly talk about how hard it is or how much your little guy sleeps or how tough it is when your two-year-old doesn’t want to get dressed in the morning. Yes, we all need to release some of the pressure and know that we’re not alone in the challenges of parenting. But I’ve tried to spend less time talking about the hard stuff, especially on playdates or on the playground. Because in a way, I think it sets up this tone of you against the kids or one kid against the other (since it’s so easy to talk about how different your kids are), rather than celebrating the moments that are pure awesome. And there are so many! I’ve read about how bad it is for a marriage to cut your partner down in conversation with someone else, and I think it applies to kids too. Sometimes just talking positive helps. I have a lot of days where I’m zapped, but those are the days I try to remember to say to my two, “hey we’re a team this morning, the three of us, let’s go have a good day.” And then there’s a high five and we’re off.

The Haystack Needle Holding Hands Guest Post: Jen of The Haystack Needle

+ Nothing is permanent. Do what works for you now. As with everyone, my kids sleep, eat, play, and have gone through their first years in totally different ways. It’s easy (especially thanks to grandparent schools of thought) to think if you do this, you’ll never be able to do that or transition them out of this or that. I disagree. Do what you need to survive right now, not what you think you have to be doing because you’re afraid of some permanent habit. Especially with regards to sleeping arrangements. Just follow what works for you, and when it doesn’t work, change it up and it will naturally move on to the next phase. You’re the best expert on your kids, anyhow.

The Haystack Needle Kids Snack at Playground Guest Post: Jen of The Haystack Needle

+ Say less. Once your littlest is moving around, the sibling relationship really starts to shine. I’ve found the easiest way to help support my kids bonding is to not play referee. Don’t intervene with little squabbles or minor sharing/pushing moments and let them work it out themselves. For the most part, they do and no one gets hurt. And that’s when you find your 15-month old running in circles on squares of felt in a fit of giggles with your 3-year-old because they just made up some new game, just them.

The Haystack Needle Kids Learning Tower Guest Post: Jen of The Haystack Needle

Oh and prepare to have your heart melt every time they hug each other, read books together, or you watch your oldest feed your little guy strawberries that she just sliced for him. And then you’ll really feel silly that you spent all that energy worrying about not being able to focus on your oldest child after your second arrives. I’m pretty sure Juniper would say I gave her the best gift ever with our little Leo. And I would agree.

Filed under: jen

Guest Post: Thoughts for Other Moms Running a Business

I’ve asked some of my favorite creative mamas to help out while I’m away with our new baby. Today, the wonderful Erin Austen Abbott of Amelia shares some thoughts on running a business as a mom! Thanks Erin! –Nole

As moms, we always have to think two steps ahead. What will my child need when we leave the house? Will they need to eat while we are out and about? Etc… You are always thinking about the next step. I apply the same thought process to running my business AND raising a small child. –Erin

Erin Austen Abbott Amelia Work Life Juggle Guest Post: Thoughts for Other Moms Running a Business

I organize my life as I would a diaper bag, as silly as that sounds. Each pocket, filled with what will be needed next. I plan my days around my son’s schedule and I got him on a schedule so that we would all know what was coming next. He knows what his day entails therefore we have less meltdowns. Being two is probably a bit scary I imagine, but he pretty much always knows what’s coming next, which means he doesn’t have to worry. This means that I can work in the most time with him and also be the most productive for my business.

I write it all down… I make to do lists daily and I also make a weekly list, so that I always know what is coming next, then I move those things to my daily list as they need to happen. I stay away from weekly calendars and only use a monthly calendar, so I can see what’s coming in two weeks, three weeks, etc… I don’t let things sneak up on me, just like my two year old always knowing his schedule…. less meltdowns to fix.

I get to school drop off and pick up a little early so that I can send emails or look over what I need to do for the next few days. If you stay ahead, then you never feel frantic and if you do get behind, you aren’t really getting behind…. just in line with where you need to be.

People ask me all the time how do you juggle so much and my answer is always the same… organization. Always thinking ahead to what you will need next and planning accordingly. In business, you know what you will need next, just plan for it. If you work with fabrics, have a spot in the roll that tells you when you need to reorder. Work with paper? Have a sheet in the stack that tells you when to reorder, rather then running out and then reordering and getting behind in your turn around to your customers. That’s why I package up online orders the day they come in and mail out them just as quickly. I don’t want to get behind.

Staying organized allows me to take off on Saturday and Sunday and just spend it with my family. If I need to do some work on those days, I save it for when my son is napping. I don’t pretend to have it all together and get it all done, all the time. Email is a black hole to me, but I’m trying to get better about answering faster. Like with a child, you pick your battles.

For those of you that work from home while juggling a child (kudos by the way), I can’t stress this enough… have your own space. Have an office space that isn’t a catch all, but an actual real space. Convert a closet if you have to, but have a place that you sit and work daily, that is all yours. I don’t think you will be as productive if you just have a little pile of work here and more stashed there.

Create office hours for yourself, even if it’s an hour here, four hours there. Do what you need to do during those office hours so that you can play with your family the rest of the time. Maybe you have a helper come watch your children two days a week and you pack it all in to those two days. It all counts, but set those hours. You and your business will be glad you did.

Guest Post: Erin Austen Abbott of Amelia + Cooking with Tom Otis

I’ve asked some of my favorite creative mamas to help out while I’m away with our new baby. Today, the wonderful Erin Austen Abbott from one of my most favorite shops – Amelia – is sharing a recipe from one of her favorite activities with her son Tom Otis: cooking! Thanks Erin! –Nole

When I was in the fourth grade, my mom had me start making my dinner for myself each night. I had cooked with her a little before that, but I was more or less thrown to the wolves to figure it out. She also dropped me off at the grocery store and I did my own shopping. While that was REALLY young, it taught me some valuable lessons. How to shop on a budget yet still get the most for your money, the beauty of fresh veggies, and it allowed me to not be scared to create my own recipes. –Erin

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I’ve grown to love cooking… I cook breakfast each weekend for my family. I make dinner six nights a week and I’ve started cooking with my two year old. He gets out his stool and climbs up to sit where he can see. I talk to him about each step that goes into the dish. If I mince the onion, we talk about it. When I select a spice, we talk about it. I tell him about flavor of the spice and how they go with the other ingredients. We might talk about the country that the dish is from. I let him stir, pour and his favorite part, taste test. I hope that he will always want to cook with me, because everything is more fun with him around to help.

Below is a recipe, that is one of his favorites, that I created for him.

Erin Austen Abbott Amelia Cooking with Tom Otis 1 Guest Post: Erin Austen Abbott of Amelia + Cooking with Tom Otis

Veggie Pizza

Prep time, 10 mins

Cook time, 12-15 mins

Total 22-25 mins

Ingredients

One flour tortilla

Olive Oil

Basil

Garlic powder

Salt

Pepper

Several Broccoli florets

One stem of Kale

Mushrooms

Onion

Green Peppers

Spinach

Spaghetti sauce

Cheese

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Lay the tortilla on a cooking sheet.

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Spread a light layer of olive oil on the tortilla.

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Sprinkle garlic powder, salt, pepper, and basil over the tortilla.

Add a spoonful of sauce onto of the spices.

In a blender or food processor, blend the raw broccoli and raw kale until finely minced.

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Add a layer of the mixture over the sauce.

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Sprinkle cheese to cover.

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Add mushrooms, onion, green onion, chopped spinach.

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Bake for 12-15 minutes or until cheese begins to brown.

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*If your child is really picky about the veggies, you can blend them with the broccoli and kale and hide them under the sauce and cheese. None the wiser.
Enjoy!

Guest Post: Eva of Sycamore Street Press

I’ve asked some of my favorite creative mamas to help out while I’m away with our new baby. Today, the talented Eva from Sycamore Street Press is sharing some thoughts on motherhood! And p.s. to any new or aspiring stationers out there: check out Eva’s new online class: Stationery Business 101! –Nole

5 Things That Surprised Me About Motherhood – Eva Jorgensen of Sycamore Street Press

Sycamore Street Press Jorgensens Guest Post: Eva of Sycamore Street Press

1) It’s not always easy to get pregnant and have a baby.

Of course, I knew that things like infertility and miscarriages existed in the world… I just never thought they would happen to me. And then they did. And then I began to see that they happen to a lot of other people, too. Now I know, of course, that they are frightfully common. Yet they are still frustrating and heartbreaking every time.

Sycamore Street Press Ingrid Lars Guest Post: Eva of Sycamore Street Press

It took me over 3 years to have Ingrid. During that time, I couldn’t talk about it. It felt too close – too personal. Once in a while, I might open up to a close friend or family member – or more likely – another woman who had struggled with something similar. I feel incredibly fortunate that I have my two children now. I think the wait made having them that much sweeter for me. But I know it could have been much worse. My heart goes out to everyone who is struggling with the desire to grow their family, but for whatever reason, is unable to.

2) Giving birth makes you a superhero.

Both times, giving birth has felt like an incredible athletic event to me – an extreme sport! (This article explains it so well.). Afterwards, I felt so proud of myself. And I felt in awe of all the millions of mothers who have gone before me and given birth to children of their own. I remember after I left the hospital with Ingrid, I looked at every mother I met with new eyes. I was in awe of them. I still am.

3) Feeding babies isn’t always as simple as it seems.

I’m the oldest of 4 children, and have worked as a nanny in the past, so I didn’t think I’d be in for much of a surprise when I took my first baby home from the hospital. And I especially didn’t think I’d have any surprises when I took my second baby home – after all, I’d gone through it before!

Sycamore Street Press Lars Guest Post: Eva of Sycamore Street Press

But you guessed it – both babies were full of surprises. Ingrid wasn’t thriving and didn’t get back to her birth weight for 6 weeks after she was born, despite all of our efforts and frequent visits to the pediatrician. It turns out she had a tongue tie – the kind that’s not easy to diagnose – and her mouth simply didn’t work the way it was supposed to. Once a lactation consultant figured it out for us, it was a simple fix. But I still feel so bad for baby Ingrid when I think back on that time.

Lars had the exact same tongue tie. We figured that out right away, of course. What we didn’t count on was that he would also be colicky, have acid reflux, and multiple food intolerances. We were grateful that he always seemed to gain weight just fine, but the poor little guy just cried and cried around the clock, no matter how hard I tried to comfort him. We eventually figured out ways to lessen his discomfort, but it was mainly a waiting game until he grew out of it. (And thankfully he did.)

4) Kids have a mind of their own (starting at a very young age).

Ingrid is 3 1/2 years old now. Since the age of 2, she’s been very opinionated about her own appearance. She insists on wearing “braided pigtails” every single day. She picks out her own outfits, shoes, and accessories every single day. She even gets upset if we can’t find the right coordinating pajama top and bottom. I get a kick out of it, but on the other hand, I’ll admit that I had visions of dressing my little girl up until junior high — ha! And Lars – at 15 months, he doesn’t talk much yet, but he is still very clear about his likes and dislikes. I know just which books, toys, and foods are his favorites.

Sycamore Street Press Ingrid Braids Guest Post: Eva of Sycamore Street Press

It’s so fun to see their little personalities emerge.

5) As much as I love my career, I would give it up if I thought that was the best thing for our family.

Having a family was always a dream of mine. And I always knew that my life would revolve around family. However, I also love Sycamore Street Press and have put my heart and soul into it for 7 years now. I never thought that I would ever be willing to give it up. But now that I have these two beautiful little miracles in my life – I would do it. I would give up my career if that was in my family’s best interest.

Sycamore Street Press Family Guest Post: Eva of Sycamore Street Press

Luckily, I don’t have to make that decision, though! Sycamore Street Press provides for our family. It allows my husband, Kirk, and I work together, from home, and on a flexible schedule. It’s a blessing in our lives. (So don’t worry about it going away anytime soon, ha ha.)

Photo Credits: Jessica Peterson

DIY with Kids: Hand Carved Stamp Wrapping Paper

I’ve asked some of my favorite creative mamas to help out while I’m away with our new baby. Today, one of my favorite stationers – and mama of two boys! – Lisa from Good on Paper is sharing a super fun and creative DIY project that can be done with children: gift wrap made with hand carved stamps! –Nole

Hi guys! For my final post while Nole is on maternity leave, I’d like to share a fun and easy DIY project I did with my 4-year old son Lucas, based on my friend Sally J. Shim’s new book, Pretty Packages: 45 Creative Gift-Wrapping Projects. I love beautiful packaging, but am not the best gift wrapper. Our family has been going to a lot of kids’ birthday parties lately, which often means quickly stuffing a gift in tissue paper and throwing it into a party bag. Pretty Packages has so many ideas, many of which are kid-friendly, but the one that really stood out to me was the Hand-Carved Stamped Wrapping Paper. I had done some hand carving before, and Lucas loves stamping (both paper and his body!). The instructions were simple and I was able to turn it into a kid-friendly project that we can do over and over. Below are the instructions and materials needed. – Lisa from Good on Paper

DIY with Kids Hand Stamped Gift Wrap Good on Paper46 DIY with Kids: Hand Carved Stamp Wrapping Paper

Materials

Scrap paper

Carving block

Archival stamp pad

Paper for wrapping your gift

Tools

No. 2 pencil

Bone folder

Speedball Linoleum Cutter Handle

Speedball Linoleum Cutters (blades Nos. 1 and 5)

X-ACTO knife

DIY with Kids Hand Stamped Gift Wrap Good on Paper2 DIY with Kids: Hand Carved Stamp Wrapping Paper

Instructions

1. Using the No. 2 pencil, draw your stamp design on the scrap paper.

2. Flip the paper right-side down onto the carving block and rub the back of the paper using the bone folder.

3. Lift off the paper and you will see the transferred design on the carving block. Using a No. 1 linoleum carving cutter, carve out the outline of the stamp design. If the design has details, carve the negative space from the design.

4. When you are finished carving the stamp design, use the No. 5 carving cutter to carve a thick outline around the design. This will help you cut the stamp from the block.

5. Hold the block with one hand and use the X-ACTO knife to carefully cut the stamp image from the block. Please cut with care, and avoid cutting your fingers.

6. Hold the stamp right-side up and press the stamp pad onto the stamp, applying an even layer of ink. Test the stamp on the scrap paper to make sure it prints evenly. If there are any areas that do not stamp clearly, go back and use the No. 1 linoleum cutter to make the stamp edges more crisp. Once you have a stamp that produces a clear image, place the wrapping paper on a flat surface, right-side up, and stamp a pattern. Make sure to apply even pressure on the stamp to ensure a clean printed image. You can stamp a random or repeated pattern.

7. Let the stamped wrapping paper dry for 1 hour before wrapping your gift.

8. Wrap up your gift!

- From Sally J. Shim, Pretty Packages: 45 Creative Gift-Wrapping Projects

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Lucas recently learned how to write his name, which is so cool! I had him write his name out on the scrap paper, then used the linoleum carving cutter to cut around the letters. Lucas chose three ink colors (white, neon pink, and neon yellow) to stamp his name onto the kraft butcher paper. He was so excited to get stamping, and so proud of himself when he saw the finished product and wrapped gifts. Of course, these gifts are covered in his name instead of the recipient’s, but at least the person will know who it’s from! It would also be cute to write out something else, like “Happy” or “Hello”.