2017 Writing Goals

Last time I updated the blog, I shared a little bit about my income and progress in my writing career. 2016 was a game-changing year for me, allowing me to leave behind any doubts about being a "wannabe" writer. I was published in Glamour and Women's Health back-to-back. I had two essays published with The Washington Post, one even went viral. An essay accepted by the now-defunct content mill known as The Mix made it on the websites of Cosmopolitan, Good Housekeeping, and Redbook Magazine. I wrote over 100 essays and articles. I exceeded my goals.

So this year, I want to push myself. I'm making big goals, and I intend to chase them relentlessly. You can feel free to hold me accountable and check in on my progress if you feel so inclined.
 

  • Earn $50,000 freelancing. This is a big jump, more than doubling my income from this last year of freelancing. I originally had planned for $40,000 but I want to dream bigger and really push myself. Even if I don't hit the big goal, striving toward it will not be something I'll regret.
     
  • Be published in a literary journal. My career this year needs to include some more aggressive goals for my fiction, so I am going to start submitting to literary journals with the same sort of focus I devoted to freelancing last year.
     
  • Finish my novel in time for #pitmad. I want 2017 to be the year I query agents for my novel, but first, I need to finish that damn novel.
     
  • Work set hours each week. Though one of the huge perks of freelancing is its flexibility, I often don't treat it with the respect it deserves as my career. So this year I am setting aside 10 hours a week that my family can respect as "closed door" working hours.
     
  • 4 print bylines. After Glamour and Women's Health last year, I'd like to double down and see my name in print four times this year. There are plenty I want to break into, but I definitely have my eye on Elle, Self, Good Housekeeping, and Cosmopolitan this year. Cross your fingers and toes for me.
     
  • 4 dream publications. Online, I'm aiming for the New York Times, The Guardian, Vox, and The Atlantic. Let's do this. 
     
  • 100 Rejections. This year I want to track my acceptances and rejections, with the specific goal of tallying up 100 rejections by the end of the year. If I get that many "no's" and still keep trucking, I'll know I'm exactly the kind of thick-skinned writer I always fancied myself to be. (And lucky me, I'm well on my way. Despite January 1st being both a weekend AND a holiday, a kindly editor decided to grace my inbox with an 8 a.m. New Year's Day rejection. I'll take that as a nice gesture from the universe helping me achieve my goals.)

    Here's to 2017. May it be filled with rejection and success.

    Do you have any 2017 goals? Share them with me. I love to feel inspired.
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The Freelance Life

I usually feel guilty about leaving the blog languishing - a half-formed creature of good intent and poor planning. But this last year has been different in so many ways. This last year has been all about writing, about finally doing the thing I set out to do when I first started this blog.

This time last year I was working behind the scenes at my very first freelance job at Romper, which launched last November. And maybe it makes me sound like a sell-out when I say that writing for money was the most exciting thing I'd ever done before, but it was. Making my own money, doing the thing I loved, it was liberating. It was fulfilling. It made me want more.

So at the end of last year, I made a goal for myself. I wanted to make $1000 a month as a freelancer. I had never come close to making that much money in one month, but I was determined.

The first month, I failed. I made $725. But I was picking up the pace and getting closer to that goal. The next month, I edged just over my $1000 goal. And every month since I have exceeded that goal. Sometimes tremendously.

And although there have been many ups and downs, jobs which have come and gone, I am in love with the freelance life. I have seen my name in the pages of Glamour. I have been published in a Sunday edition of The Washington Post. I am addicted to getting the next job, writing the next story that I want to share with the world. I am writing every damn day, and it feels like the thing I was meant to do.

This blog is unlikely to ever resurrect, and it may disappear in lieu of a portfolio. Still I am so thankful to anyone who has read it, to anyone who has encouraged me along the way. It has served as the springboard to living my dream, and I am so tremendously grateful.

xo

Gemma

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Indecision

"I think we're done," I keep saying. Sometimes I'm smiling. Sometimes I'm looking at Thomas and quietly crying. Sometimes I'm watching all three of them - playing, loving, laughing together. Then I add, "but I'm not sure." Sometimes immediately. Sometimes hours later. Sometimes days. 

I want to make a decision, but I can't. I've been giving away all the baby clothes. I think we're done. But you can buy new clothes, new toys, new cribs. I keep that in the back of my mind. 

*

"I think we're done too," he keeps saying, "but we'll wait until you're sure."

"What if I'm never sure?"

"Then we'll just always keep a loaded gun."

"We both know how that ends...with more babies."

"Then we'll have a big family. Who cares?"

I don't know. 

*

We're in this waltz, going in tight circles. I think we're done. He thinks we're done too. We move from one side to the next. He's not sure we're done. I'm not sure either. Step one two. Step one two.  We don't go far, neither of us leads. 

*

Sometimes he'll put his hand on my stomach, and I'll brush him away and get angry about it. It's not just because I don't like my pudge being touched (which I don't, mind you). It's because one of these days I will forget to be angry. I'll remember what it feels like to have a tiny life inside me who curls instinctively into the palm of his hand. And I'll want that again. Of course I will. I will never stop wanting these things. 

But does that mean I really want another baby? A whole new family member who is going to break my heart by growing up? Until we do this all over again because the ever-changing nature of motherhood is just too much loss to handle?

*

I feel ready for a new chapter of my life. I feel ready to move forward with my career. I feel ready to set my sights on my own future. 

I think we're done.

...but I'm still not sure. 

 

The New Normal

It's been a while again. That's the way it's going to be for now until we figure out this new normal. Three kids. Three! It's crazy and wonderful and tiring and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Aside from the newest little one shaking things up in the household, we're adjusting to some other big things. 

Like school. Big kid school. Which has been a scary roller-coaster of emotions, and it's only been one week. It's taking way more adjustment than we thought it would, for all parties involved.  Me especially. It's making me realize just how short this season of mothering little ones is, and it's tearing me up inside. 

I recently decided to jump back into freelancing, which has been wonderfully fulfilling while simultaneously draining. I love the practice of writing every day, though. And the money. I don't hate that either (having three kids is expensive, ya'll). I'm still baking wedding cakes too. It's all go go go, all the time. Life as a work at home mom is no joke, you guys.  

I'm still working on my novel, but then decided I didn't have enough on my plate (and wanted to procrastinate more on my novel) so I started a chapbook of poetry to my list of creative projects. It's called Young and I'm aiming to encapsulate the feelings of youth - the wildness, the uncertainty, the carelessness, the insecurity, the romance, the pain, the awkwardness - all of it. 

Perhaps most exciting is a passion project that's been brewing for a while: The Women Writers' Collective. Me and three of the most talented women I know have teamed up to launch this site, which aims to help writers learn about the industry, hone their skills and find their community of writers. We'll officially launch on September 1st, but in the meantime you can find us on Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram. Seriously, I am so excited about this venture I could burst. It's going to be amazing. I can feel it. 

Aren't you tired just from reading all this? I am. Oh lord, I am tired. But it's a good tired, you guys. The kind of tired that comes from living a good, full life. 

I wouldn't have it any other way. 

He's Here

As you've all guessed by now, baby is here. Either that or I died. Luckily, it's the former.

Thomas George was born right on his due date, June 1st 2015. He was 8lb. 8oz. of hard to get out, but oh so worth it. I'll be writing out his birth story soon. It's a good one, which starts with a plateful of jalapeno poppers and ends with a big red-headed baby boy in my arms.

As the silence on the site implies, adjusting to life as a mother of three has been crazy. The best kind of crazy (and occasionally the worst). But we're all surviving, and totally in love.

Welcome to the world, little one.

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Avery's 2nd Birthday

"Mama, I'm two. One. Two," Avery said at breakfast this morning, counting out her age on her chubby little fingers.

It's still a little unreal to me that she's not a baby anymore. When I toured labor and delivery with my midwife group a few weeks ago, and peeked into the room where she was born, it didn't feel like two years had passed since they placed her on my chest for the first time. I've already had a two-year-old for two weeks now. Where does the time go?

These days I find myself crying a bit when I rock her a few extra minutes before putting her to bed, always wondering if it will be her last night as my littlest baby. These last days before bringing home a new baby are so bittersweet.

I am thankful that baby has waited to make his or her arrival at least this long (but please, God, not much longer) so we were able to fully celebrate our sweet Avery on her special day. Her birthday was beautiful and happy and full of sunshine, just like her. We had tons of friends and family over for a tea party, and it was wonderful.

To be totally honest, I wasn't sure we were going to have much of a party for her, which broke my heart. But at 37 weeks pregnant, planning and executing the party I had imagined for her seemed daunting beyond belief. I had spent some time toying with the idea of a vintage bluebird tea party on pinterest, but the bigger I got, the more unrealistic it seemed.

I decided to go ahead and contact Grace and Madd Paperie to make some beautiful invitations for her party, so there would be at least one special element of the party I dreamed up. I had worked with Maddie to create Avery's first birthday invites last year, and was beyond thrilled with the quality and value I received with her custom designs. The hand-painted watercolor invites she made for Avery's second birthday were out of this world beautiful.

So when Maddie announced she was testing out a new product, The Fête Box, you better believe I was first in line to apply for the test group. A perfectly styled and curated party box was the answer to my pregnant pre-party prayers. I had the honor of trying out the first Fête Box for Avery's 2nd birthday party, allowing me to have the dream party I had imagined without so much as lifting a swollen pregnant finger.

I knew Maddie was going to create something amazing, but I was totally unprepared for the awesome surprise that awaited me when my Fête Box arrived in the mail. Favor bags, cutlery, napkins, plates, cups, food picks and tents, cake decorations, tiny tea bag tags, confetti, floral decor, fabric garland, a floral crown for the birthday girl(!), and even some fun little extras - it was everything I dreamed of and more! I spread it all out and tried to figure out what I was missing, and the answer was nothing! A few appetizers from Trader Joe's, some tea sandwiches and cake, and I would be set.

My favorite thing about the Fête Box was most definitely how it made party planning and set-up totally stress-free. Maddie took my Pinterest party board and turned it into a real life Pinterest-worthy party I could never dream of pulling off on my own. I have never set up for a party so quickly with so little effort. And it was by far the most stunning party I have ever thrown.

But beyond easing the stress of party throwing, I was blown away by Maddie's attention to detail. My Fête Box was full of beautiful custom paper goods with the same hand-painted pattern used on Avery's birthday invitations. It was so highly personalized, stylish and perfectly curated. Maddie has an absolute gift for transforming a vague vision into something real and breathtakingly beautiful. I feel so lucky that I got to be the first to see one of her amazing Fête Boxes come to life.

The Fête Box doesn't officially launch until July 9th, but you can contact Maddie in the meantime with any Fête Box inquiries. You can also follow Grace and Madd Paperie on Facebook and Instagram for exciting peeks at the other test group parties in the meantime. I've seen a couple photos from the other boxes, and they look absolutely amazing.

Thank you, Maddie, for making Avery's 2nd birthday such a special, beautiful day!

Baby Notes - Week 36

This week is the beginning of the will we or won't we have a baby today phase. My contractions are getting stronger, and sometimes they cluster together. I keep wondering if I'm dilating or in early labor, which I probably am, but that doesn't tell me much other than I'll be uncomfortable for the next 2-3 weeks.

Rob is traveling this week, which means dealing with a series of random, obnoxious events that only happen when he is away. It's only been two days, but the list is impressive.

1. Woke up to tulip blooms all over the hallway. Not in a romantic sort of way. The cat snuck into the bathroom (where I was hiding my flowers) and chewed each and every one of my tulips off at the stem and strew them about the house in the wee hours of the morning.

2. The dog began giving off a weird fish odor yesterday. The problem persists. 

3. The cat threw up all over the living room. You know, from eating a bunch of flowers.

4. Avery decided to lick all the glitter off of Lucas' glitter painting. A lot of it got on the floor. A lot got all over her, and subsequently the rest of the house. There's so much glitter. Everywhere.

5. 5:45am is apparently the appropriate wake-up time when dad is gone. And naps? Naps are for the weak.

6. Contractions. So many. Some painful and real, some braxton, and all unwelcome.

7. Avery tells me she has to go potty. Translation: I have gone into the bathroom and unraveled an entire roll of toilet paper into the toilet.

Then of course there's the usual sibling rivalry and general craziness hitting an all-time high. So much screaming. Such a lack in bathing (especially for me). Someone is always under the covers when I try to make the bed. Part of me wants to go into labor if only to escape the grind for a day.

But just a small part. Labor sucks.

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Making (Minimalist) Room for Baby

I've finally hit the "nesting" phase of pregnancy, which is good I suppose. I need to start realizing there is a real live baby on the way very soon.

This time, though, nesting doesn't quite look the same as it did over the course of my last two pregnancies. This time I'm prepping for baby with minimalism in mind. I know now how easy it is to become overwhelmed with baby and kid gear without ever realizing it. So instead of stocking up, we're paring down on baby items as we creep closer to my due date. There are so many things parents are told they need in order to be ready for baby, but there are truly so few necessities.

With baby #3, there is no elaborate baby shower planned (a BBQ where we'll be taking bets on the baby's gender, sure, but no traditional frills, fuss, and presents party). There isn't a registry filled with things I may or may not need, but a Target pamphlet tells me I should have. I'm not googling different types of strollers or sleep training methods (ha!) or reading What To Be Terrified Of When You're Expecting. I'm simply ready.

There's an empty corner of our room ready for a port-a-crib, a few tiny outfits folded into a drawer and this wide open space in my heart and arms waiting to be filled. I mean, what more do I really need?

While every parent will have their own idea of what is and isn't necessary, these are 8 items I've found that are worth keeping (and 8 things that aren't).

1. Crib/Port-a-Crib: For the first six months, our babies sleep in our room in a co-sleeper port-a-crib. After the six months is up we'll be deciding whether to room new baby on their own or with a big sibling, and Avery's little crib will be passed on to the baby at that time.

2. Clothes: Babies really don't need that many clothes. We've been getting rid of clothes that still have tags on them that Lucas and Avery never got the chance to wear because they had SO MUCH. In newborn clothes, we have a handful (probably 10 or so) of onesies, 3-4 pairs of pants, 4 sleepers, 4 pairs of socks (which the baby will kick off and the dog will inevitably eat) and a couple hats. And it's probably way more than we'll need.

3. Diapers, Wipes, Changing Pad: You need diapers and wipes and lots of them. We'll be storing ours under the bed along with a changing pad with a single cover. The changing pad isn't something I use when they're older, but it's good to have during the blowout months.

4. Baby Carrier: I actually have two, the Moby and the Bjorn. I love my Moby, and it's definitely my preferred way to carry baby, but the Bjorn is great for when you just need to snap on a baby and go.

5. Bottles/Breast Pump: We have 6 Avent bottles and a Medela breast pump. Totally not a necessity for everyone, but with my schedule of upcoming weddings it will be for me.

6. Swaddle Blankets: We have two swaddles which were amazing for Avery. Lucas hated swaddles. So this one's a toss up, and certainly not a necessity for every baby. We'll see how our new little one likes being a baby burrito.

7. Activity Blanket: You know those blankets that have rods with toys hanging over baby's head? We've got one that folds away and decided to keep it since both our other babes loved it so much. It's great to use when you need to put them down to tend to more pressing matters (like other needy children). We have a few rattles/soft toys here and there too, but baby toys are super overrated. They hardly play with any of it.

8. Burp Cloths: We need to pare down because we have way more than we've ever used, but having a few on hand is a necessity when you have a pukey baby and don't want to buy a whole new wardrobe.

Things we don't need (but thought we did once upon a time)...

1. Changing Table: Changing tables take up SO MUCH SPACE. I always assumed I needed one, until Avery started climbing up ours like a jungle gym. We banished it to the garage, and started changing her on the floor/bed. We just moved her diaper supplies into baskets and tucked a changing pad under our bed. Way easier and no wasted space.

2. Bottle Sterilizer: You know how to boil water in a  pot? Good. You can sterilize your bottles, pacifiers, etc.

3. Feeding Gadgets: The baby bullet is a glorified mini blender. The portioned baby food trays are glorified ice cube trays. The weird feeding gadgets your baby is supposed to gum their fruit, meat, etc. out of? I don't even know, I just know that my babies never ever used them even though we tried EVERY SINGLE ONE. Keep it simple: a couple baby spoons and sippy cups should do the trick.

4. Diaper Bag: I have a big purse in which I carry some spare diapers, wipes and I'll add a change of clothes/pacifier/ziploc freezer bag (blowouts, my friends) for new baby. You don't need to leave the house looking like a goddamn sherpa just because you have a baby.

5. A Separate Room: We made a very deliberate decision to stay in our current home, knowing that our kids would eventually room share. A room of one's own is not a necessity or a right, especially when you're not the one paying the bills.

6. Tons of Toys: Like I said before, babies don't really play with toys. And all the exersaucers and jumpers and big baby gear is just a waste of space unless you use it for hours every day. Having a single glider or activity mat is nice, but having too many big things is just going to turn your house into a daycare.

7. Decked Out Nursery: We did the whole themed Winnie-the-Pooh nursery for Lucas. Mobile, matching crib bedding, matching lamp, stylish area rug, dresser, changing table, big ol' crib...you get the idea. He didn't even use the nursery for the first six months, and after that, would rarely use it other than when it was time for bed. Even now, most of our kids' time is spent in the living room and outdoors.

8. Nursing Cover: This is one I was attached to with Lucas because I was so insecure about breastfeeding in public. Now I'll just throw on a big scarf if I want to be discreet. No more fussing around to make other people comfortable. Baby is going to eat when baby needs to eat.

 

Baby Notes - Week 33

My husband has informed me I have stretch marks. I choose not to believe him, because I can't see them. Because I can't see approximately 50% of my stomach without doing some serious acrobatics in front of the mirror, which isn't happening folks. I'm currently using a metal folding chair in the shower to shave my legs. That's enough gymnastics for me.

I've also entered a new and exciting stage of pregnancy in which I do not wear pants. Ever. To be honest, I haven't worn pants (yes, including maternity jeans) for months now. I kept saying I was going to get myself a pair and hem them, but now that we're some 5-8 weeks out, I'm going to call my own bluff. It's maternity dresses from here on out. That and letting my belly hang out while wearing Rob's sweatpants.

I'm still trying to wrap my mind around having another baby in a month or so. It seems so unreal. Maybe when we install the little carseat or finally get down the newborn clothes (i.e. things we should probably do soonish) it'll start to sink in. But right now, it still feels like a dream.

Weekly Wishes #2

I keep waiting for time to slow to a halt, because isn't that how late pregnancy always goes? You hit some 30+ week mark and time stands still? Maybe after you have two kids that's not the case anymore. I feel like I can barely keep up and oh my goodness how is it already Easter this week?

I'm away in California this week visiting my family (and any friends who would like to get in touch) so I know this week is going to fly. Even so, I wanted to make some goals to make the most of my week here. I'm linking up with The Nectar Collective again to do my second edition of weekly wishes. First here's a recap of last week:

Last Week's Wishes:

  1. Plant Something - We potted a big beautiful ranunculus plant in the empty pot on our front stoop. I love coming home to it! Flowers make everything better, I swear.
     
  2. Buy Myself Flowers - I bought myself another little bunch of mixed flowers and roses from Trader Joe's. I think I'd go for the sturdier daisy bunches again next time since they lasted so much longer, but it was still a nice purchase.
     
  3. Make A Spring Inspired Dessert - A total fail. I made molten chocolate lava cakes. It's my all-seasons, I-love-chocolate dessert, and not spring-inspired at all. What can I say? Pregnant ladies want what they want.

This Week's Wishes:

  1. Make Easter Cookies - I'm excited to make some extra special royal-icing decorated cookies for Easter. Last year poor Lucas had pneumonia on Easter (and Christmas, what the heck, Jesus holidays?) so I want to make this year super crafty and fun for him. Lucas has been looking forward to making cookies for weeks, along with the Eastery goal to...
     
  2. Dye Easter Eggs - I'm going for the Pinterest project of whipped cream tie-dye eggs. Should be messy and fun.
     
  3. Take Some Blog-Worthy Photos - My new camera equipment should be in this week and I can't wait to try it out. I'm hoping to get some great posts scheduled with equally beautiful photos.
The Nectar Collective

Tell me, what are some of your goals this week?

Recipe: Freezer Breakfast Sandwiches

I'm on a freezer meal spree right now. I've got a bounty of meatballs and enchiladas and twice-baked potatoes and gnocchi I'm trying desperately not to eat before baby comes. I don't know that I'll succeed in not eating all my freezer meals before baby, but I'm trying real hard.

I definitely need to make a quadruple batch of these freezer breakfast sandwiches you can just pop in the microwave, because, well, I ate all the ones I made last time. They're just so good and so easy, I simply couldn't help myself.

Mornings are hard. Breakfast doesn't have to be.

With an inspired tagline like that, I should be the new PR person for frozen breakfast sandwiches, right? I wonder if my school background in PR/advertising could get me an in on those Jimmy Dean commercials. A girl can dream, right?

Freezer Breakfast Sandwiches

adapted from Damn Delicious

makes 6

Ingredients:

  • 6 large eggs
  • splash of milk
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 6 English muffins, split
  • 1 lb. ground sausage (I use hot Italian)
  • 6 slices of cheddar cheese

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Grease six small ramekins or a muffin tin. Crack one egg into each with a splash of milk and whisk lightly. Add salt and pepper to taste. Bake until cooked through, about 12-14 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, form the ground sausage into 6 patties and fry over medium-high heat until cooked through, flipping to brown both sides.
  3. Place meat, egg and cheese on the bottom half of each split muffin and top with remaining halves to create sandwiches. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and store in a plastic freezer bag.
  4. To reheat, remove from plastic wrap and wrap sandwich in a slightly dampened paper towel. Heat in the microwave for 1-2 minutes, until heated through. Serve immediately.

The Simple Beauty Of Not Having It All

Lately, I've found myself at the crossroads of where I am versus where I want to be in my life. I've been rethinking the ambitions that have defined my adult life, questioning what fits and what does not. I want a life that is full but not overwhelming, and that is a surprisingly hard balance to strike.

I spent much of my early twenties consumed with this idea of "having it all." I wanted to be able to stay-at-home, fully indulging in loving motherhood, while still showing my kids that I could simultaneously be a powerful force in the career of my choosing. I saw other women doing it, and thought, why not me? I didn't know where my boundaries or priorities should be set, but surely I'd figure it out.

Then I started becoming terrified when my writing hustle was not enough to produce a paycheck. I was pitching and querying left and right and couldn't land a single job. Hell, I barely landed a single paid article. I took on a stressful workload which produced no results, and the feelings of insecurity and ineptitude that built over that time were immeasurable. I would ignore housework and meal planning and all else to write dispassionate articles for sites that weren't interested. Then the feeling of failure in both motherhood and my career left me short on patience with my family. It was a vicious cycle.

I'd like to say I came away from it on my own, but truthfully, life had to rip me away from it kicking and screaming. I was "fired" from one of my only (yet still unpaid) regular blogging gigs in the midst of my second miscarriage. I oscillated between hurt and rage over both things, because each seemed like the pinnacle of failure in the two most important aspects of my life.

It was then that I stopped writing. I stopped hustling. I just stopped. I took deep breaths and tried to force myself outside every day for fresh air. I stopped adding to the noise of the world and simply listened for a while.

Eventually, I decided to come back. But everything looked different when I returned. The things that had seemed so important before - the money, the following, the recognition, the success - didn't have such a hold on me anymore. I started writing fiction again. I worked on building a new and authentic blog that would be a source of happiness for me. And when things didn't go exactly as planned with my four day a week posting schedule, I gave myself grace and let it slide. It's not like the world is clamoring for my words, and even if it was, they're my words to dole out when I'm ready.

I don't know if it's the shift towards minimalism in my life, or the slow pace of late pregnancy, or simply a part of creeping ever closer to my 30s, but I've been reevaluating many of my life goals - putting away the dreams that do not light my fire anymore. It's not necessarily that I have lost ambition in my writing or otherwise, but rather that I've realized how silly it was to "want it all." As I focus on wanting less in my life, it is starting to take on meaning beyond the physical burden of material objects. I need the things I do to bring me joy and peace, and that doesn't necessarily translate into fame or fortune or page-views.

I want quality over quantity in all areas of my life.

My book is taking longer than I anticipated, because the words simply aren't inspired at the moment. It's all right. I will chip away at it until it is finished, and it will be something I am proud to put out in the world. I will write at the pace that produces something beautiful, because that is what is important to me.

My kids still aren't sleeping through the night, and soon I'll have another who won't sleep through the night either. They don't eat the nutritious pinterest-inspired meals I make them, and they don't eat the junk food I throw at them either. It's all right. I will put food in front of them and tuck them into bed at regular intervals and remember that someday, eventually they will eat and sleep.

Instead of focusing on the minutia of good routine, I will love them where they are. I will try my hardest to remember that this season will not last forever. That this is a precious time that will soon become memory, because that is what is important.

My life and the way I feel about these things, they will change. There will be times to follow my passions to a fruitful outcome, and there will be time when my life will be consumed by simple tasks. I think I'll forever dance between that line of too much and too little, ever shifting my priorities to fit my needs and my family's needs. Some days I'll get it right and many days I won't, and that's all right.

I'll try to find the places my dreams and goals fit along the hopefully long span of life ahead of me, keeping in mind that life is longer and shorter than it seems. There may not be a time to "have it all," but there is time enough to have many experiences and accomplishments that will add up to a beautiful life.

I don't know that I'll ever find the balance I'm looking for. But I hope I can keep enough perspective to enjoy the imperfect place I land at the end of each day. I hope that the journey, and not the destination, will be the thing that brings me joy.

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Weekly Wishes

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It's been a long few weeks of domino illness over here. Ear infections, chest colds, general pregnancy fatigue (okay, that one's just me). I feel like I've been treading water on the verge of drowning, only barely keeping everyone clothed and fed and alive.

I think springtime saved us.

Maybe it's because the start of spring came on a beautiful Friday, and we roasted marshmallows in the evening. It was the start of the weekend, the end of a very long week, and we could finally just breathe. Sometimes a change of season is just what you need to reboot. Especially when you're needing to come out of winter hibernation for some springtime productivity.

Speaking of productivity, I've decided to link-up with The Nectar Collective this week to do a small bit of weekly goal setting (you can join in on their fun link-up here). Since I'm feeling so grateful for spring, I wanted a spring inspired list of simple goals to get the ball rolling again.

  1. Plant Something - Spring has sprung and it's time to get my hands dirty. I'm not sure yet what we'll plant. Maybe I'll start some late seedlings inside. Maybe I'll sow some lettuce in the front yard garden. Maybe I'll pot some fresh herbs. We shall see.
     
  2. Buy Myself Flowers - Those lovely flowers pictured above have been making my kitchen so bright and cheery. They were one of those $3.99 bunches from Trader Joe's, and they lasted a full two weeks. Flowers make me happy every time I see them. A worthy investment if you ask me.
     
  3. Make a Spring Inspired Dessert - I'm thinking something with fresh strawberries. Or a floral crowned cake. Or maybe a fresh fruit tart. Delightful.

Do you have any goals you'd like to share for the week? Are you planning a big spring cleaning spree or some gardening?

Recipe: Lemon Yogurt Bread

Looking at this picture makes me sad that I ate this delicious lemon bread so fast. I definitely ate half a loaf in under 24 hours. Because I was practicing restraint. I could have eaten the whole thing in one sitting. If you think I'm kidding, you clearly have never seen me eat while pregnant. It's a pretty savage display.

This bread was one of those rare, serendipitous foodgawker finds which I was able to make immediately, because I had all the ingredients on hand (you probably do too!). Don't you just love it when you find a recipe and have everything you need to try it out right-this-very-second? It's one of those great little life surprises. Like putting on an old coat and finding money you left in the pocket. Awesome.

I was wary this recipe wouldn't be mind-blowing because of its simple ingredient list, but it blew all other lemon loaves I've ever made out of the water. Friends, I've made a lot of lemon loaf in my day. Trust me. This is the holy grail.

This bread makes a delicious breakfast treat, dessert, or afternoon snack. It will stay moist and wonderful for 3-4 days, but it won't, because you'll eat it all. There's no shame in that. Eat it. Love it.

Lemon Yogurt Bread

adapted from Soymilk & Honey

makes 1 loaf

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons finely grated lemon zest
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Generously butter and flour a 8.5" loaf pan, gently tapping out the excess flour.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together sugar, lemon zest and juice until the sugar is completely coated. Add yogurt, vegetable oil, eggs and vanilla to the sugar mixture and whisk until well combined. Whisk in dry ingredients until just combined. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake 50-55 minutes, until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.
  4. Allow to cool in the pan for 15 minutes before inverting onto a wire rack to cool completely. Serve at room temperature, preferably with a good cup of tea.

Baby Notes - Week 29

Third trimester has really got me dragging, you guys. I had hoped (I had been so sure, actually) that I would be keeping up with the four day a week posting schedule. I have all these things I want to share with you: recipes, ideas, glimpses of my life, progress in my minimalism.

But then there's this deep and overwhelming desire to lay on a heating pad, watch Workaholics,  and eat chocolate in a variety of glorious forms. And that desire, my friends, has been winning. Often.

We've been riding a roller-coaster of illness and busy schedules here as well. Even though I know it's time for me to wind down and start taking it easy, part of me just wants to push into overdrive before baby comes. I know how life halts in those first six months of newborn chaos. It tempts me to bite off more than I can chew and my body is fighting my mind every with every overambitious step I take.

It's the curse of the third trimester limbo. Two months is nothing, and at the same time, it's an eternity.

Recipe: S'mores Hamantaschen

Happy Purim, everyone!

Full disclosure, I'm not Jewish. Not that I know of, at least, though I could most certainly pass for Jewish - and I think many of the parents at my son's Jewish preschool assume that I am. I'll allow it.

But just because I am not Jewish, doesn't mean I don't want to eat all the delicious Jewish holiday food. Latkes, anyone? Latkes are divine, and you ought to know it.

Lucas has been learning all about Purim this week at preschool. I'm usually in the dark about Jewish holidays until I do some extensive googling, but the story of Esther (Hadassah) was my all-time favorite Bible story growing up. Female heroines were hard enough to find in the Bible, but one who saves her people by speaking out of turn to the King, knowing it could get her killed? Yeah, I was all about Esther and her bad-assery.

So I decided Purim was something we definitely needed to celebrate in our home. Then I found out about Hamantaschen, in all it's delicious variations. I settled on a s'more variety, because of course I did. It was a really fun and fast recipe to make, and Lucas was able to help out a lot (topping the cookies and helping fold the "hats" made him feel super involved).

And they were utterly delicious, as most Jewish food tends to be. Go make yourself some, and celebrate Purim with your loved ones!

S’mores Hamantaschen

adapted from Babble.com

yields about 3 dozen

Ingredients:
2 1/2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, diced
1/2 cup water
36 mini marshmallows
about 1/2 cup chocolate chips

Directions:
1. Combine the flour, baking soda, salt, and both sugars in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat until well combined. Add the butter and beat until mixture resembles coarse meal. Slowly add the water just until a soft dough forms. Refrigerate about 30 minutes


2. Pre-heat oven to 350 F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or silpats. Remove dough from fridge and on a lightly floured surface, roll to 1/4-inch thickness. Using a cookie cutter or drinking glass (I used a 2 1/2″ cookie cutter), cut out rounds and transfer to one of your prepared baking sheets. Gather scraps, roll, and cut again.


3. Brush the edges of each circle with a little water. Place 3-5 chocolate chips in the center of each cookie and top with a mini marshmallow. Bring the sides of the cookie circles inward, at diagonals, to make a triangle shape, pinching the edges to seal. Repeat with remaining circles Freeze on baking sheets for about 15 minutes prior to baking. Bake for 10 minutes, or until edges are golden brown. Remove from oven but leave cookies on the sheet.


4. Turn oven up to broil. Working with one sheet at a time, place cookies under broiler until marshmallow center is caramelized, about 1-2 minutes. Watch carefully so they don’t burn! Transfer cookies to wire racks to cool completely. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

On Abandoning Reckless Want

I actually don't want a new spatula that badly, but it would probably be a sensible purchase for me. Like I said, total cheapskate.

I actually don't want a new spatula that badly, but it would probably be a sensible purchase for me. Like I said, total cheapskate.

My conversion to minimalism wasn't a complete 180 change for me. I always liked cleaning and purging. I was never an impulsive shopper, or much of a shopper at all. In fact I have, for many years, been a total cheapskate. I'd rather save my money than spend it. A big part of that is my desire to become debt free, but it's also just the way I'm wired.

But even though I've spent most of my adult life spending responsibly, I haven't been immune to consumer culture.

I never noticed how badly I had wanted things until minimalism entered my life. It was subconscious, something that didn't even register until the day it stopped. I would walk into a store and mentally note all the things I would buy if only I could. A catalog for Sur La Tab would leave me unhinged with want. Even when the thought of purchasing an item was non-existent, I was filled with desire everywhere I went.

I didn't realize how deeply engrained consumerism had become within myself until one day it wasn't. I went into a department store and saw nothing I wanted. Nothing I lusted after. There were many lovely things, but nothing I saw would have added value to my life - not the deep sort of value I was now craving.

I left the store feeling free. In control. Happy.

I realized then how mentally exhausting it had been to spend all those years recklessly yearning for more than I had, more than I needed. Even when I outwardly expressed gratitude, just beneath the surface I held tight to the notion that there would always be things I could buy that would make me happier.

Of course there are still material items I would like (a non-warped spatula, or towels that don't have the faint smell of cat-piss for example), but I no longer have that manic desire for material goods. I feel like I have enough. I find myself constantly wanting less than what I currently have.

Having a minimalist mindset has freed me from the burden of excessive desire. That feeling of enough? It is true abundance, true freedom in a way I haven't known before. I'm finding that I was not only weighed down by the things I owned, but also by the things I didn't own that took up space in my mind. I've found that clearing that mental space is every bit as satisfying as cleaning out a closet full of clutter.

I feel confident now that I will always be a conscious consumer, aware of why I want the things I do, aware of exactly how much true value material items will add to my life. And that, my friends, is a priceless addition.

#Minsgame Challenge - Days 21-24

Well, we're in the final countdown now. This post brings us into the final week of the #minsgame challenge (though that still leaves a whole bunch of items to get rid of). Once I got past that halfway I'm-not-so-sure-I-can-do-this stage, things really started rolling. I feel like I shouldn't have taken the "cheater" month to do this challenge, because I think if it came down to it, I could get rid of another 2 days worth of items easy. And I probably will. Just because the challenge is coming to a close doesn't mean my quest for minimalism is.

This Installment: 90

Total Items: 300

Not pictured: the big wheel, broken fan, broken motorcycle toy and filthy towel from outside.

Not pictured: the big wheel, broken fan, broken motorcycle toy and filthy towel from outside.

Baby Notes - 26 Weeks

It's the final week of the second trimester, but it certainly doesn't feel that way. Lately it's felt more like the last few weeks of pregnancy, with the endless backache, the unbecoming waddle and the wide-eyed fear in people's reactions when I tell them my due date and the fact that, no, I am not having twins.

Discomfort and exhaustion aside though, I am mostly frustrated that we still have such a long stretch ahead of us before we meet this new babe. The kids seem to have baby fever almost as badly as I do - they want to read books about new babies and becoming siblings, and tell me about all the adventures they have planned for new baby. Rob and I spend our nights talking about the baby that will soon be sleeping on our chests as we watch our late night shows - reminiscing about sweet newborn noises, their stillness, their smallness. 

After knowing this love twice already, it's a cruel waiting game. But it's worth the wait. Always.

#Minsgame Challenge - Days 17-20

These few days were actually really easy. Cleaning out Avery's closet of old clothes (the ones we wouldn't want to keep for the next baby) did half the work. There were some stocking stuffers from Christmas in need of a trip back to the goodwill from whence they came and we went through the junk drawer again (curse you junk drawer!) to finish it off.

This Installment: 74

Total Items: 210

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Someone really wanted to steal all the junk.

Someone really wanted to steal all the junk.