Seasonal baskets for kids: Spring edition

I’ve been giving a lot of thought lately to the traditions that I want to instill in our family life. My goal is to be mindful about what we introduce to our children (who are still quite young, under two), adding to, and in some cases, scrapping traditions that were handed down to us by our parents altogether. I’m planning a much more extensive post on the topic soon, but for now let’s suffice to say that I’m looking for ways to add more opportunities for reflection and learning and escape from the endless purchasing cycles (Christmas! Valentine’s Day! Easter! and on and on). I’m by no means a minimalist, but even I have my limits.

One fundamental principle that’s inspiring a lot of the traditions on my mind is observing and honoring nature and the changing of the seasons. With that in mind, I plan to begin each new season with themed baskets filled with items to help us further explore and appreciate the changes happening all around us in nature.

Those items could include craft supplies, toys and tools gathered from around the house, new purchases and homemade items. I like the idea of using the baskets to facilitate activities.

Spring activities for small children

Plant something. What better way to celebrate the new life that spring brings than by watching plants grow? You could plant bulbs outside, a container garden, an herb garden, a terrarium. Gardening tools like this set on Amazon or this more complete kit on Etsy are a good start, along with seed packets, gloves, little bags of potting soil and containers.

Go on a scavenger hunt. Create a DIY scavenger hunt to look for new signs of spring life around you. Supplies include a small net, magnifying glass, a jar and a handwritten list of what to look for (this will vary depending on the climate you live in and the age of your child or children but could include flowers blooming, specific insects, moss, rocks, etc.).

Learn about bugs. These garden bug rollers facilitate fun, hands-on creative play. Kids can use them with playdough or in the dirt outside to play pretend, practice their motor skills and make art. Life cycle figurines are also a very tactile way to teach children about bugs like butterflies and ants.

Ideas for older children

A gorgeous wild hare embroidery kit

A bird-house woodworking kit

For your hot tea lover: a sampler pack of spring flavors

Baskets aren’t your thing?

Alternatively, you could fill a jar with slips of paper; on each paper, write a different activity for spring. When you have downtime throughout the season, select a piece of paper and voila! Endless opportunities for fun.

Permission to enjoy Nutella (and other indulgences)

This week, a friend and I were talking about several new activities keeping her busy this year. While all of the new developments are incredibly positive — a new kickboxing hobby, more time with friends, a meditation course she’s hosting — she’s overwhelmed with managing her time.

She started recounting her typical schedule and after a pause, said in a dark tone, “I’m addicted to TV.” I asked what she meant; I’ve known her my entire life and was surprised to hear this confession. She said that she watches one show every morning — it’s her guilty pleasure — and she can’t give it up. She said “I know tv is bad for me. I know what you’re thinking. How can I complain about being busy if I’m watching TV for 45 minutes every morning?”

I asked her how she feels after watching her show. If it’s a part of her morning routine that helps her feel relaxed, ready to take on the day and even a little indulgent, then how could it be unhealthy for her?

This thinking is such a common trap. We get so caught up in busyness, productivity and what’s “good” and “bad” for us, that we often avoid day-to-day pleasures that could make a substantial difference in our overall happiness. It’s all about the energy with which we approach these small indulgences…with appreciation, joy and mindfulness as opposed to feelings of insecurity, lack or guilt.

Admittedly, this distinction isn’t always straightforward. Almost two years ago, I had my first child. She was born in the midst of COVID, and the pandemic combined with my new stay-at-home mom status left me feeling pretty isolated. A friend of mine started a virtual moms’ group and invited me to join. The group’s charter was to have meaningful conversations about parenting mindfully. It sounded like exactly what I was looking for, so I was baffled that after only joining a couple of times, I found excuses to not attend week after week.

It took me two years to understand why. I knew at the time that I always hung up the phone feeling so much worse than before, and I assumed that was because I’m an empathetic person, and listening to a dozen women share their deepest feelings of anguish, anxiety, sadness and fear was difficult. But the calls also made me question, very fundamentally, whether I was fit to be a mother at all. On one call, I remember a very judgmental discussion about watching Netflix in the evenings and the diagnosis that if we’re watching TV, then we’re “numbing out” to escape unaddressed issues and unhappiness in our lives. At the time, I had been watching “The Crown” in the evenings with my husband, and I broke down weeping on the call and told the group, between sobs, that I didn’t want to be that kind of parent.

In hindsight I see that sweeping accusations like the Netflix finger pointing that I endured are completely ridiculous. After giving 23 hours a day to my child, I chose to watch “The Crown” because it made me happy and because my husband and I enjoyed talking about British history, historical events, set design, living in Europe, etc. together. It brought us closer together. In our reality as new parents in a pandemic — too cautious to do much outside of the house — these were our dates, and they gave us so much joy.

It saddens me that even in the more enlightened wellness/metaphysical community, we can’t help but diagnose behaviors and try to fix people. When you’re looking for a problem, you will always find one. That’s not to say that TV and other addictions aren’t real and very serious…they are. But every action should be viewed in context.

I urge you to look for ways to inject some joy into your life. Try doing something normal at an unexpected time — like watching a show in the morning. In 2018, while I was living in London for work, I found a way to incorporate Nutella into my breakfast every Friday; having it for breakfast felt absolutely decadent and so celebratory.

Eat your Nutella. Watch your show. Use your wedding China. Burn the nice candle. What better way to honor the beauty in life than to make time every day to enjoy it?

A not-so-scary approach to writing your memoir

A friend recently gifted me a copy of Laura Tremaine’s Share Your Stuff. I’ll Go First.: 10 Questions to Take Your Friendships to the Next Level. Each chapter of the book begins with an essay about Laura’s life through the lens of a particular theme: pivotal decisions, belonging, magical moments, breaking points, etc. The close of each chapter includes a writing prompt on the same topic.

The book is a quick read (or listen), and while the writing wasn’t exactly profound, I was incredibly inspired by the prompts and overall layout of the book. By covering just 10 themes, Laura manages to share the highlights of her life to date and paints a vivid, even complex, picture of herself. By the end, you truly feel like you know her.

About halfway through the book, a lightbulb went off. If I took the time to sit down and explore all of these writing prompts, I, like Laura, could have a pretty thorough personal memoir to show for it. I’ve considered writing down my story before, but I’ve been intimidated by the process. But 10 chapters? With themes that have already been decided for me? I could start now, tackle one theme a month and have a full memoir written by December. Now that feels doable.

I do have to admit that it’s not quite that simple. There’s nothing particularly dazzling about each chapter of Laura’s book, but there is something dazzling in the way they marry to tell a full story. At face value, it comes across as simple and straightforward, but I suspect that a lot of thought went into chapter order, which stories she selected and how she ensured continuity without being redundant.

One of my most treasured projects over the past year has been writing a tribute book about my grandmother who passed away in 2020. She developed dementia over the last few years of her life, and when symptoms appeared, I sat down with her for a series of interviews about her life. I asked her everything I could imagine, wrote it down and collected photos and recipes to accompany the text. I began designing the book in 2014 (!) and finally had the first draft printed last month. This book will be treasured by so many members of my family as well as future generations. I wrote it down exactly as she said it, so the stories are in her voice. As a result, I can hear her in all of the pages. It is one of my most valued possessions.

Writing down your stories is both a tribute to yourself and also a therapeutic process. I can’t wait to see what old memories surface and what I learn about myself along the way. If this resonates with you, I hope you’ll try it, too. Let’s get writing!

Practical advice for grandparents from a new mom

When I first had a baby, I asked everyone I knew for advice about navigating the relationships between me and my parents and my in-laws. I was surprised by how dramatically those relationships changed, practically overnight, after my husband and I became parents. We were no longer the children…our child was. Expectations changed too. For instance, we were now expected to host family holidays and other visits rather than traveling to our parents as we’d always done. I felt an unspoken shift in the power dynamic as well; we controlled access to the thing they cared most about: their first grandchild.

I won’t sugarcoat it: based on my experience and that of all of my close friends, this transition usually doesn’t go smoothly. Almost every mom I know admits that when grandparents come to visit, they end up bringing unwanted toys, enabling bad behavior, getting kids off schedule and spoiling them with sweets, often making the already strung-out mom’s job even harder. My midwife told me an anecdote about one of her clients whose mother-in-law came to visit after her grandchild was born. The grandmother told the new mom, days after delivery, that she would hold the baby while the healing mother cleaned the bathroom. There are at least two things wrong with this offer, but unfortunately the sentiment is fairly common. Most grandparents are so focused on and excited about their role as grandparents that their role as parents takes a back seat.

Obviously, everyone is entitled to decide where they place their priorities, but hear me out. If you, as a grandparent, decide to focus on your grown children during the first few difficult years that they’re parenting babies and toddlers, you will strengthen that relationship for a lifetime. You will avoid so much of the strain, hurt feelings and resentment that’s unfortunately so common today within families. And you’ll set the tone for a wonderfully healthy, loving relationship with your grandchildren as they get older.

I’ve given a lot of thought to this transition from my perspective as a new mom, and I’m sad to see how prevalent the rifts and resentments are that stem from them. The fact is, some of the stress is inevitable, but I’m convinced that most of the conflict is very avoidable. Below are a few practical suggestions for navigating the new relationship with your child and their partner to minimize conflict and improve communication,

1. Prioritize the support they need, not the support you want to give. It’s only natural that when grandparents come to visit, they want to spend time with their grandchildren, but it would go a long way to also consider what their parents need. Do they want a break from cooking and cleaning to spend some quality time with their children? Do they need a break from kids to run errands or have a date night? Do they need someone to take their older children to the library so they can get quality time with the baby? You could ask what they need, or better yet, make a few offers and see what they take you up on. Sometimes it’s hard to ask for help, after all.

2. Don’t create more work. The parents of children, particularly young children, are exhausted and overwhelmed. And in today’s world of social media, the pressure to make it all look easy and go above-and-beyond is enormous. In most cases, they probably feel like they’re barely getting by, much less getting everything done on their mental to-do lists. The simple act of adding guests to the mix, however helpful and low maintenance they are, automatically creates more work and planning for the parents. One of the best ways to avoid feelings of resentment is to mitigate that impact as much as possible. For instance, offer to bring food with you when you visit and/or coordinate ordering and picking up takeout meals. Help with preparing and cleaning up after meals. If you’re staying overnight, treat your “check out” like you would an Airbnb: strip the sheets off the beds, put your used towels in the washing machine and take out your trash. This might not be behavior that was modeled for you by your elders, but I urge you to try whatever version of this feels authentic and manageable for you. Even small gestures can go a long way.

3. Get informed about their parenting approach. If you plan to take an active (or more active) role in helping with your grandchildren, having a solid understanding of their daily life is critical. This doesn’t mean you need to check parenting books out of the library! But it does mean having a basic foundation for things like how your grandchildren are put to sleep, what they are/aren’t allowed to eat, their daily schedule, their nighttime routine, how much screen time they can have and whether or not they get disciplined. An easy way to begin is simply to ask their parents, without judgement or comparison to how you raised your children.

Be prepared to take notes; parents today are inundated with new and old parenting methods, expert opinions and the latest research results ranging from vaccine interactions to speech development…and that’s just on Instagram. Within two weeks of having my first baby, my husband and I saw a midwife, chiropractor, occupational therapist, lactation consultant and pediatric dentist specializing in tongue ties — all of whom shared different opinions, suggestions and resources to find out more information. And that was for a healthy baby! As a result, it’s easy to accidentally become an expert on any number of topics and trends as a new parent and to become particular about how your children are raised and what they’re exposed to.

It’s a tremendous help when grandparents can help reinforce good habits and maintain a sense of continuity and predictability that help children feel safe. For instance, my mom knows that we’re trying to encourage language development with our toddler, so when we pick her up, we say, “up, up, up!” My mom adopted that phrase and also says “down, down, down” when she’s done holding her. And that’s so important. Grandparents can create so many new traditions and habits and memories with their grandchildren without undermining the foundation set by the parents.

4. Be conscientious about gift giving. Sadly, I think one of the most common points of contention among my friends is the amount and type of gifts given by grandparents to their kids A friend of mine told me recently that her husband has been getting increasingly agitated about the gifts his mom brings to their two sons when she visits. After many warnings, she arrived at their house for a visit with tons of presents in hand. Her husband immediately stormed out of the house with the gifts, took them out to the street and left them on the curb. In this situation, everybody means well but the conflict and tension are completely avoidable.

The first step comes from tip number three: get familiar with their parenting style. Whether or not they’ve shared gift-giving “rules” or preferences with you, knowing what they value as parents will only help you buy gifts that their children will use. For instance, if the family is modeling a Montessori approach, they likely don’t want the children to be inundated with toys; instead, the children have access to a few toys that are rotated in and out of circulation regularly. These parents might prefer that you give the toys directly to them to put into circulation gradually rather than the children receiving a bundle of new toys at once; in this case, it’s less about what you’re giving the children than how you’re giving it. But the what can be important too; some children have learning and/or sensory needs to take into consideration. And there’s always the issue of duplicates; this year, my daughter received four xylophones for her birthday.

Although on the surface the act of gift giving seems straightforward, it’s actually quite complicated and should be given the consideration it deserves. I urge you to have the conversation and ask questions to understand motives. A little compromise might be necessary, but ultimately, the end result will be happy children, parents and grandparents.

5. If conflict arises, seek professional advice. The transitions of becoming parents or grandparents are challenging — life altering — although as a society we don’t always honor them the way we should. Typically, we receive a few Hallmark cards, maybe read a book as preparation and consider our work done. But these transition can be incredibly triggering for people, particularly those who haven’t adequately dealt with experiences and emotions from the past. For instance, a woman see her new role as grandmother as an opportunity to make up for how she raised her own children; she wants to undo what she perceives as her previous shortcomings and prove her worth as a mother and grandmother. Or in another situation, a young man wants his parents involved in the lives of his children, but he’s resentful and angry towards them about his own upbringing; he subconsciously uses the new power dynamic as a way to punish his parents and make them feel inadequate as grandparents. Or a mom who exerts extreme control over her children — their schedules, diets, toys and their relationship with their grandparents — because her own childhood was chaotic and unpredictable; she wants her children to feel because she never did.

Situations like these are complicated and bound to generate extreme emotional responses from everyone involved, even over seemingly trivial conflicts. Until the underlying feelings — inadequacy, guilt, anger, resentment — are resolved, each interaction will carry a painful memory and an unspoken significance as old wounds are reopened and new ones are formed. If you or other family members are struggling to resolve issues, I strongly encourage you to see a therapist. Healing and forgiveness can end cycles of family conflict and help create healthy environments for children. Do it for yourself and for the generations to come.

The early days of parenthood: All I See is You

The following poem on parenthood is one of the most beautiful, raw literary pieces I’ve come across. It’s an excerpt from the All I See is You poetry book by Jessica Urlichs. I’ve returned to it often over the past couple of years, and it makes me sob every single time. For me, nothing has felt more tender than those early days with a new baby, when you both feel so fragile and your whole heart is blown wide open. Jessica captures it so perfectly.


I can’t see past you right now, I’m so small and everything’s a little blurry.

All I see is you.

When you feel alone, like the walls are closing in, remember I’m here too. I know your world has changed and the days feel a little lonely. But they aren’t lonely for me.

You are my everything.

When you feel like you don’t know what you’re doing, you’re making it look easy to me. Even though we’re still getting to know each other, you know me better than anyone.

I trust you.

When you think some nights you’ll never get sleep again, you will. We both will. But I’m scared right now. I promise I’m not manipulating you. I just need your smell and comfort. Do you feel that tug in your heart when we’re apart? I do too.

I miss you.

When you feel as if you’ve achieved nothing, please know, my cup has never been so full. The days that get away on you will be some of my best memories of us playing together on the ground.

I love you.

When you feel like you don’t know who you are anymore, when you turn away from the mirror. That face will be the one I look to when I achieve something, the one I search for in a crowd. The reason for my first smile.

You’re perfect to me.

When you feel like the weight of it all is heavy in your heart, please know I’ve never felt lighter. Can I lay here with you a little longer? I won’t always need you like this.

But I need you right now.

When you feel as if you have nothing left to give, when I see your hands outstretched at me, pleading. When we’re both crying. I wish I could talk, but I can’t. If I could I would tell you,

There’s a reason I chose you.

I can’t see past you right now mama, because you are my world. It will get bigger, soon enough.

But for now,

All I see is you.”

We had babies 14 months apart. Here’s how I prepared.

My babies are 14 months apart. When I was pregnant with our second daughter, Camille, I struggled a lot with how such a monumental change would affect her older sister Aurelia. After all, Aurelia was herself still a baby. I had faith that my husband and I would eventually figure out how to raise two under two, but I worried that Aurelia would have a hard time adjusting.

So many well-meaning people who I shared my concerns with said, “oh it’s good that Aurelia is so young. She won’t remember life as an only child.” In theory, that sounds logical, but research actually suggests the opposite; young children who are thrust into an older sibling role have a harder time coping because they don’t yet have the skills to manage their emotions or the words to the express them. The younger they are, the less equipped they are and the harder it is for them to adjust.

On more than one occasion in the months leading up to Camille’s birth, I remember sobbing as I tried to hold Aurelia over my growing bump, absolutely heartbroken for her.

Then I read Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings by Dr. Laura Markham, and it changed my life. The book takes a hands-on, research-based approach to facilitating a loving, happy, respectful family culture. It centers on the importance of the parent-child bond and on practicing empathy to help foster a safe environment for children to manage their emotions and ultimately build life-long bonds with siblings. She doesn’t sugarcoat the issues parents and children face, and she doesn’t minimize the very real assumptions a child can make when parents bring home a new baby. (She likens it to a spouse bringing home a new partner who sleeps in their room and gets all the attention. How would you feel?) She offers dozens of real-life conflict-resolution examples (including sample scripts) to help put theories into practice. She explains how parents should evaluate tantrums and how to address them. And throughout her book, she references books by other authors that have turned out to be great resources for me as well.

After reading the book, I felt incredibly prepared and empowered. Dr. Markham spoke my language, and her approach to parenting really resonated with me. She challenged popular child-rearing methods that instinctively didn’t feel right for me and gave me other tools to try instead. She specifically covered challenges that arise when siblings are close in age. She even addressed families who were about to add a new baby and offered suggestions on how to prepare siblings, introduce them for the first time and arm visitors/friends/family with tips to avoid making siblings feel overlooked. Honestly, this book is a treasure.

Today, Camille is almost three months old, and we’re all adjusting incredibly well. That’s not to say there aren’t meltdowns or power struggles, but given the magnitude of the changes in Aurelia’s life, she’s responded beautifully. We use the principles in this book every single day. They’ve given me permission to parent the way that feels natural to me, but that I’ve never seen modeled before. And they’ve given me new ideas for bonding with my children that I can’t wait to continue to implement, adapt and build upon.

P.S. If you don’t plan on having multiple children, you might be interested in Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids, which as the title suggests, doesn’t have the same emphasis on siblings.

Holiday gifts for toddlers

My husband and I try to be mindful about the types (and amount) of toys that our daughters have access to at home. We’ve been fairly minimalistic in our approach, particularly regarding how many toys are available at any given time. (I have a toy and book rotation in place so that they only have a few things to focus on.) We’ve favored experiential toys like musical instruments and art supplies, and we make time each day to use them. Our approach might feel a little militaristic — especially to the grandparents 🙂 — but we believe in the importance of using toys to help our children learn new skills, use their imaginations and teach an appreciation for their belongings. This already feels like an uphill battle amidst the commercialism of the U.S., and our oldest is barely a toddler.

With those goals in mind, here are a few things from our 18 month old’s Christmas list that I’m really excited about:

Books about emotions. I’m a believer in the gentle parenting approach, and I’ve seen firsthand that young children have big emotions that they need help processing. The Color Monster by Anna Llenas helps kids identify and categorize their emotions (fear, sadness, joy, etc.) so that they’re better able to recognize and talk about them. Little Monkey Calms Down by Michael Dahl begins with a monkey who’s having a bad day and then offers suggestions for how he/she can calm down (breathing, singing, cuddling, etc.). Both books emphasize that emotions are normal and that it’s okay to cry. I can’t wait to introduce these to Aurelia during calming corner time.

Calming corner. In the spirit of helping children regulate and express their emotions, I’m in the process of creating a calming corner in our nursery. A major feature will be the Generation Mindful Time-In Toolkit. The toolkit includes tools that help teach children lifelong skills about emotions and how to regulate them in the safe space of a calming corner.

As the name implies, a time in is the opposite of a time out — sending a child to be alone as punishment for “bad” behavior. My parents never used time outs with me, so I honestly hadn’t given them much thought in my parenting journey. But after reading Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings by Dr. Laura Markham (CHANGED. MY. LIFE), I was sold on the concept of time ins. Dr. Markham makes an incredibly compelling argument for radical empathy and the vital importance of actively helping your child learn to embrace and regulate their emotions. She explains (and demonstrates through case studies) that children act out due to their inability to manage big emotions on their own. Casting them out away from the family during a time out only further reinforces whatever emotion(s) they’re struggling with and sends the message that emotions are bad. If you’re interested in creating your own calming corner, I highly recommend also reading the book; it will provide a really sold foundation and understanding when it comes time to put the calming corner into practice.

The Time-In Toolkit includes posters that share information about emotions and techniques to help children calm their bodies. It also includes an activity mat and a set of positive affirmation cards which Generation Mindful recommends pulling first thing in the morning . You know I love a daily ritual, and these cards totally sold me on the kit. If the toolkit is above your price point or you’d rather start smaller, this poster set is a great alternative.

Side note: I’m also planning to make a glitter jar — a concept I first heard about on Sesame Street — with Aurelia to include in the space as another calming tool to try.

Cleaning tools. A major tenement of the Montessori approach is to empower kids, respect them, build their confidence and teach life skills by allowing them to become more autonomous. This is reinforced through daily practices like allowing them to set their place at the table, feed themselves, select their outfit for the day and even help with cooking and cleaning from a very young age. At just 15 months, Aurelia started trying to use our hand-held broom and dustpan to clean up after her meals. A couple of months later, she started wiping the table down after she ate. We didn’t teach her to do this; she learned by observation and seems to enjoy being able to contribute to our household.

To help facilitate that interest, we’ve added the Teamson Kids Little Helper Cleaning Set to her wish list. Having access to tools that are her size should really help her learn new skills and curb the frustration that comes with trying to use adult-sized supplies. We’ll keep the set in our kitchen for ease of use. I love this particular product for its pastel colors and the fact that it’s made by a small business.

Cooking tools. My husband recently built a toddler tower to give Aurelia access to our kitchen sink and counters so that she can begin to help with cooking and cleaning up after meals. She’s used it help me make muffins and watch my husband cook on the stove since she’s always intrigued by our meal prep. So far, I’ve only asked her to dump ingredients from measuring cups into a bowl, but I think she’ll be ready to try other skills soon. We’ve added a toddler-sized (and safe) wooden “knife” to her wish list so that we can start to incorporate cutting soft foods into her daily list of activities. Etsy is an incredible resource for wooden cooking utensils for kids like cutting boards, more advanced knives and whisks and scoops, spoons and tongs.

A whimsical nursery edit: part 1

From the very beginning, I never put much thought into our nursery. I think for the same reason that we didn’t name our daughters until a day or more after they were born, I thought we’d always decorate their room once we got a better sense for who they are and what they like. But I realized a month or so ago that Aurelia’s almost a year and a half, and her room is about as imaginative as the inside of a closet. It was pretty basic to start with, and then several months ago we transitioned her from a crib to a floor bed, at which point we had to further childproof her room (since she could get around easily and unattended at night), and it became downright bare.

I’d also been stuck in a circular argument with myself that went something like, “why spend time and money decorating a room when we never spend much time in it?….would we spend more time in it if it was more inviting?” I’m guessing that the answer is “yes.” Either way, it’s time to test out the theory.

So now I’m in the process of making the room more cozy, more whimsical and now that Aurelia’s older, a bit more instructional as well. Here are a few things I’ve ordered so far:

New bedding. Aurelia was sleeping on set of plain white sheets with a wheat-colored comforter. My goal was to replace them with bedding that was both more colorful and imaginative. When I was a toddler, I had a Minnie Mouse sheet set that showed Minnie in different outfits and settings. I loved making up stories about the different versions of Minnie, and I wanted something similar for Aurelia. This Willa Woodland Sheet Set from West Elm is exactly what I was looking for from a design perspective, plus it’s made with organic cotton. I love that we can use it to reinforce animal names with her now and that it will (hopefully) continue to hold her interest as she gets older.

World map. I’ve been on the hunt for wall art that we could hang at Aurelia’s height so that she’s not looking at blank walls all the time. I decided on a world map for several reasons; my husband is from Iran, and I think it’s important for our children to understand their heritage, including where their ancestors lived. We also plan to travel as much as possible with our children and to teach them about other cultures. I think seeing a map of the entire world, and not just our state or country, is an important first step. Admittedly, I also could use a refresher on world geography, so this map is also for my education 🙂 This particular map from PaperMundi on Etsy has beautiful watercolor illustrations including landmarks and animals. It’s the seller’s pastel map, but they have other versions and also can customize colors and landmarks for you. The colors match the Woodland Sheet Set perfectly, so I chose not to do any customizations. Since it will be at eye level, I was nervous about putting our map in a glass frame, so we had it laminated instead and stuck it to the wall with Velcro.

“Flying” hot air balloon. To continue with the theme of maps and travel, I purchased an amazing hot air balloon from TiTics Etsy shop. The balloon I ordered is light gray with rainbow bunting (shown on the right in the photo above), but the seller offers a variety of shapes, sizes and other customizations. It’s coming all the way from Poland so it hasn’t arrived yet, but I can’t wait to finally see it in person.

Festive bunting. Aurelia’s room has dark sage blackout curtains to help block out light during naps. They definitely serve their purpose, but I wanted to brighten them up a bit. I ordered this pastel rainbow bunting from TheCottonSocks on Etsy since it’s so similar to the bunting on the hot air balloon I ordered, and I think it adds a nice air of celebration.

Gold stars. Since the walls in the nursery are dark blue, I wanted to add a few stars around Aurelia’s bed. I’d originally chosen these from Etsy because I loved the design, but opted for these from Amazon instead because they claim to be repositionable and I wasn’t sure if my daughter would stay awake all night peeling them off the wall (she hasn’t). They were super easy to apply and look amazing on her dark walls.

Discovering divine love…in the bathroom

Something profoundly changed within me last night. My husband usually gets our oldest daughter, Aurelia, bathed and to sleep while I make dinner. Last night, he was working, so I did more of the bedtime routine and shared such sweet, tender moments with both babies. One of my favorite things to do is draw one of them up very close on my chest and wrap a blanket over both of us. The feeling satisfies something very primal within me. I realized last night that it’s almost like a womb, with baby and me so close together, tucked away, warm and shielded behind an outward covering.

The more I think about it, the more the past year and the next few years to come feel like the womb, too. We spend nearly all of our time at home, nurturing our babies, protecting them, loving them and watching them grow. Two short years ago, my husband and I went into offices every day. We traveled extensively for work and for pleasure. We commuted and went to happy hours and hosted dinner parties. And now, in our little bubble with our babies, we incubate and relish the simplicity of our days. Our lifestyle was partially shaped by COVID — my husband now works from home indefinitely — and partially by babies born 14 months apart in June 2021 and August 2022. While I was pregnant, I was amazed at how much I was forced to slow down; I wasn’t able to walk very quickly, multi-task or ignore rest. I’ve managed to hold onto those lessons and truly appreciate our routine and the pace of life with two babies…leisurely strolls around the neighborhood, hour-long meals, a complete reframing of what it means to be productive.

In an instant during bedtime last night, I realized what had shifted for me. For the the first, maybe ever, I felt fully present in the moment. It didn’t happen during yoga or meditation. I was untangling and hanging twinkle lights in the bathroom and singing silly songs while Aurelia splashed around in the tub, and it struck me that THIS IS IT. I wasn’t thinking about what I needed to get done after she was asleep. I wasn’t worried about her little sister Camille waking up from her nap. I was fully immersed in the moment. In our beautiful, exhausting, monotonous, multi-sensory, technicolor life of diapers and bottles and first words and first steps and pinching ourselves every day that they’re ours. For months, my husband and I have randomly looked at each and said “We’re married?! We have two kids?!?” because it’s all felt so surreal.

But after that moment in the bathroom, I thought with so much conviction as I held Camille later in the evening, that nothing has ever felt more like real life, like my life. Years from now, I’ll lie in bed at night remembering these beautiful early days of getting to know two precious souls, and I’ll smile. I’ll imagine the cheeky, exuberant expression that crosses Aurelia’s face when she shows us for the first time that she’s learned something new. Or the way that Camille beams and wiggles in excitement every time she catches one of us gazing at her. They are the light of my life, and I’m so blessed.

Not everything is easy, of course. There are tantrums and sleepless nights and teething pains and shortened tempers. I’ve struggled with missing meaningful self care time to ground myself and recharge spiritually. As a couple, we try to remember that each challenge shows us something new about ourselves and ultimately helps us grow; sometimes it works and sometimes it’s only aspirational. But every day, we feel the love of our girls, we appreciate the abundance in our life and we’re deeply humbled that they chose us. And nothing brings me closer to spirit — to divine love — than that.

Remembering your future and other wisdom from Dr. Joe Dispenza

I’ve been in a bit of a spiritual slump lately and decided to read Becoming Supernatural by Dr. Joe Dispenza for inspiration. I first heard about the book during an interview with the author on The goop Podcast, which I’m ashamed to say was several years ago. I found an old list of books to read this week, and seeing Becoming Supernatural on the list, took it as a sign to start it.

I finished the book last night, so I’m still processing some of the nuances, but I wanted to share a summary while the content is still fresh.

A science-based approach to mystical experiences

According to the book’s description, Dr. Joe Dispenza “draws on research conducted at his advanced workshops since 2012 to explore how common people are doing the uncommon to transform themselves and their lives.” Specifically, he takes a science-based approach to studying the effects of different types of meditation on individuals and, when conducted as a group, the collective. He also includes relevant research done by other scientists on topics like the mind body connection and the impact of heart coherence on society as a whole. Their findings blew me away. Although he gets deep into the science, Dr. Dispenza uses simple explanations and helpful examples to make the content approachable.

A method for “remembering your future”

Although Dr. Dispenza doesn’t use the word “manifesting” more than a few times in the book, his entire approach is focused on getting out of the routine of our daily lives, releasing limiting beliefs holding us back from reaching our goals and using several processes he outlines in the book to imagine our future selves in such a tangible, sensory way that our bodies, minds and spirits actually believe and operate as if that future self already exists. He encourages his students to step out of each meditation as a new person. (If you’re interested in manifestation, I wrote about other approaches to manifesting here.)

One of the most profound studies he cites was done on two groups of people who were learning to play the piano: one group practiced by actually playing the instrument while the second group only visualized it. The study looked at the brains of all of the participants and found no difference. In other words, by simply focusing our attention and intentions, we can make our brains believe that a future that we only imagined is reality. In doing so, we bring about profound change and attract a life that’s energetically aligned to our new selves. He gives dozens of examples of people who have manifested better health, relationships and jobs for themselves through his approach.

However, the reverse is also true. When we are stuck in the past, reliving past traumas and feeling an emotional response to those experiences, our bodies don’t know the difference between a memory and reality, so our physical bodies respond as if the event is happening again and again, putting us in a constant state of fight or flight. We become so used to these hormones, even though they’re uncomfortable, that we continue to seek out ways to perpetuate the cycle. and stay attached to negative feelings like anger, resentment and victimization.

Dr. Dispenza uses meditation as a means to liberate the energy that is tied up with our negative emotions, invent our future selves, access information from the quantum, initiate metaphysical experiences and fill ourselves with love and light.

Easy-to-replicate meditations

Dr. Dispenza describes each of the major concepts he teaches during his workshops in this book and then follows each with a detailed meditation that readers can try at home on their own. It includes meditations that focus on the body’s energy centers, the pineal gland, trapped energy within the body and heart coherence, among others. You can access recordings of the meditations on his website. (Fair warning, they’re pricey.) If you’re like me and prefer guided meditations, you could easily write your own script based on the outlines in the book, record your own meditation and save yourself $30 🙂

Other resources:

Dr. Dispenza has written other books including You Are the Placebo and Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself.

He also has a blog, a summary of scientific research and other interesting content on his website.

If you really want to dive in, he continues to host workshops and launched a virtual course with Gaia.