What fills you up?


Last Saturday, in those long hours between nap and dinner, the boys were getting restless and so was I. Chris was happy to be at home with Cedric and so Dashiell and I made plans for an outing. First, we headed to the library where we walked hand in hand through the doors and Dashiell returned our books through the slot, one by one. We stopped by the giant doll house behind glass and searched for the hidden pumpkins, as is the theme this season, before combing the shelves in the children's section. 

After filling our canvas bag and checking out our books I told Dash I wanted to go to the plant store next. It was late afternoon at the nursery and few other people were browsing. The sun was low and the temperature perfect. Dash pointed out all the flowers to me and asked me to smell many of them. I snapped pictures of plants with my phone and Dashiell enjoyed exploring on his own and let me know proudly, "I'll just go this way and meet you over there." We met the nursery cat in the back near the trees and pet her belly when she showed it to us. I didn't buy anything but left feeling so relaxed and fulfilled. I kept thinking about the outing, the library and the nursery, for the rest of the weekend and into my full week. Just thinking of it now makes me smile.

Later that weekend Chris went out for a couple hours on his own and when we came back had a report from a local music store where he looked at banjos, pianos and acoustic guitars. He was content and energized. I laughed a bit to myself, thinking of how we'd found the same thing but at different places and how Chris's outing was so perfectly Chris and how mine was so perfectly Kelsey.

My go-to thought when I have a bit of time is to be productive - to work on my blog, or podcasts or to get a task done. And being productive and working on projects I'm passionate about is fulfilling, but it's not the same contented energy I got from my library  and nursery outing with Dashiell. And so I've been thinking about the things that fill me up, especially of the the easily accessible, free and screen-free variety. Here's what I've come up with:

+ Wandering through a plant nursery 

+ Browsing at the library

+ Drinking coffee outside, with content and independent children playing nearby :)

+ Watering plants

+ Looking through cookbooks and cooking magazines

+ Cooking from a recipe while listening to a podcast

+ Reading

+ My evening skincare routine of tonerexfoliator, and moisturizer

+ Painting my nails while listening to a podcast

+ Going on a walk, especially at the nearby Riparian Preserve

+ Outings with just one of my boys. Being out with the whole family, or both boys on my own, can be fun but it can also be a lot of management. Being out with just one feels so easy and relaxing, it feels like I'm winning at parenting.

+ Playing dice or cards during an afternoon date with Chris over beer or coffee (not free, especially if a babysitter is needed, but a favorite activity for sure)

Certainly many other things in my life are fulfilling and fun but these are the things that feel purely enjoyable and don't feel like "work" in any way. As I brainstormed what would be on a my list I found a common theme of not being rushed. I enjoy most things, even a trip to Trader Joe's, if I can go at my own pace. And this made me realize how often I need to multi-task during my days - both at home and at work - and how much I dislike multi-tasking. In some parts of my life it's a necessity but I could look for ways to cut down on the need to multi-task. For example, prepping all lunches the night before means less multi-tasking the next morning. And closing my email application at work means I don't see new email notifications pop up.

Putting together this list reminds me that there are simple things I can do to recharge, and it's so interesting to see the common theme of taking my time. I am a creature of habit, as will be a surprise to no one, and among all the other things on my to-do lists I want to remember to do the things that are purely Kelsey

I'd love to know what fills you up and make you feel like you!

Do you have a signature color?


One of my favorite podcasts lately is the Happier podcast and on a recent episode Gretchen and Elizabeth discussed the concept of a signature color. A signature color is a color that makes you happy just looking at it and that feels like "you." A signature color isn't necessarily the color you most love to wear, although it might be. It's the color that you choose when faced with two hundred different options for cell phone covers or the pop of color that shows up throughout your home. Maybe it's the color of your car or of a favorite clutch.  

I've been fascinated by the concept of a signature color ever since hearing about it and have been thinking about my signature color (Sarah and Kim are obsessed, too!).  Since I was young I have loved the color yellow - the color of sunshine and baby ducks. My beloved Kitchen Aid mixer is yellow and I still love yellow...but I don't think it's my signature color. It feels more like the signature color of my childhood and young adulthood. 

I've been trying on the idea of deep purple/plum being my signature color and it feels right. It's a color my mom once mentioned looks really good on me and I've always remembered that. I would love to see deep purple reflected more in touches around my home and in my accessories. Perhaps a plum scarf for the winter, or an art print with deep purple tones for the house. Recently I painted my nails a deep purple (I've never done dark nails before) and I looooove it. 

One thing I love about the idea of having a signature color is that it can help me make decisions. I'm terribly indecisive and having a signature color makes choosing between color options so much less overwhelming. I'm excited to see what else turns up deep purple in my life!

So what do you think? Do you have a signature color and how does it turn up in your life?

Goals - October 2016

Goals - October 2016 | RISING*SHINING

Hip, hip, hooray - OCTOBER!  Guys, the summer was not that bad, what is happening? It was definitely still crazy, crazy hot and we didn't even get the monsoon summer rains that we usually do, which breaks up the beat a bit. Yet I never felt down about the heat or had thoughts of moving to more a more temperate place. Maybe it's a little bit acclimation, since this was my eighth summer here, but I think it has a lot to do with deciding to embrace the summers and to look for the good. 

There is so much to enjoy this fall. Both of our boys can play at the playground and somewhat independently. Cedric can now climb onto playground structures, go down the slide and repeat, repeat, repeat. Parks in our neighborhood are becoming social places again and we've already met two new families with kids the same age as our boys. For the past couple of years the farmer's market - which used to be a favorite nice-weather outing - has felt like a stressful destination because at least one boy was in a "run everywhere and grab stuff" kind of a stage. A farmer's market trip still requires management - our boys are 3 and 1 1/2 after all - but I don't feel completely overwhelmed thinking of going. Last weekend we biked to the farmer's market which is my favorite thing! I'm really looking forward to getting a CSA share this fall. 

Also, later this fall we are eager for a new maker concept to open near our favorite coffee shop and for our very favorite restaurant to open as a brick and mortar eatery. And then! an Alamo Drafthouse will be opening about 20 minutes away. GUYS. My very favorite Austin thing to do opening a location nearby?! All the exclamation points. What is even happening.

And! this month Chris and I are going to the Pacific Northwest just the two of us for four nights. I sort of can't believe it. Hiking, coffee, reading, quiet, trees, cold weather, rain, ocean - I want it all. The trip will be a welcome stretch of rejuvenating amidst a busy fall. I'm planning to bring along the new book from one of my favorite authors and this collection of essays that I am slowly savoring. 

Big things happening this month:

+ Settling into a new office space at work. Today I'm working from home while my team is being moved from the third floor to a newly renovated space on the first floor of the same office building. My work environment is so important to me and I'm eager to set up my new desk space. I'm thankful I will still have a huge window. Although the view won't be quite as impressive from the first floor I'll still be able to see trees and green which is great.

+ Launch new content offering from The Girl Next Door Podcast. Erica and I have been working on this for a few months and plan to release paid GND content this month (although nothing is changing about a new and always free episode every other week!). It's requiring lots of behind-the-scenes work but we're so excited. 

+ Chris and I travel to the Pacific Northwest just the two of us!!! We'll be spending three nights near Olympic National Park in a vacation rental on a river and then one night in Seattle. It's going to be amazing.

+ Launching my latest side-project/small business. My good friend and I have been working to create a small line of t-shirts and other items celebrating our love of our town of Gilbert and living in the desert. Not that I have the time to launch a business but here I am, and I think it's going to be great.

+ Halloween! This will be the first Halloween where Dashiell really understands the holiday and we'll take the boys trick-or-treating for the first time - so fun! Also, give me all your Reese's. 

October goals:

+ Make the boys' Halloween costumes by mid month. I'm planning to make them dinosaur hoodies and tails with sewing guidance from my mother-in-law. 

+ Plan and consolidate weekday and weekend creative work. Lots happening this month with my creative endeavors. I often put off post-bedtime creative work to the next night, and then the next, because I'm tired. But this month I have a lot to do and need to motivate myself to just get stuff done. Early weekend work times seem to work well for me (and Chris). Currently finishing this up from Starbucks on Sunday morning where I rolled in at 5 am :) The finish line will be the end of October and I'm hoping November will be more relaxed.

+ Celebrate Falliday! It's my favorite fall holiday that I made up! I'm thinking we'll do something fun outside, give the boys little cozy gifts (fun socks?), and have a fall inspired meal with apple cider to drink and pumpkin pie for dessert.

Happy October! 

Our paperless kitchen: an update!

Our paperless kitchen | RISING*SHINING

One of my verrrry early blog posts (beware of terrible photos and tumbling deep into the archives!) was about going paperless in the kitchen. More than five years later and we still have a paperless kitchen - and love it! In fact I often forget that a paperless kitchen isn't the norm at everyone's house.

If you're interested in going paperless in the kitchen here's a quick start-up guide:

+ Identify the different tasks for which you use towels, rags and paper products. At our house we identified the tasks of: wiping up spills from the floor, wiping the countertops, wiping the boys' hands and faces and using a napkin at meal times.

+ Designate a specific type of towel or rag for each purpose. The same type of towel/rag could be used for multiple tasks if the tasks are compatible as long as you know what to grab when you need it. For examples, drying dishes and drying hands are compatible tasks but wiping the floor and wiping the boys' faces are not.

+ Stock up! The key to going paperless is to have plenty of towels and rags to grab as you need them.

+ Create a system of use and washing. It's important to make it easy to grab the towel/rag/napkin when and where you need it and to regularly wash and restock.

 I would recommend starting with these materials:

+ 12 kitchen rags for wiping counters // I love the Trader Joe's Super Amazing Kitchen Cloth and use a new one every 1 - 2 days and then throw dirty ones into the wash.

+ 12 flour sack towels for cleaning up spills on the floor // The key with these is to embrace the fact that they will get stained. That's OK! They're just for cleaning the floor.

+ 12 dishtowels for drying dishes and hands // I love the simple ELLY towels from Ikea and also the cotton dish towels at Trader Joe's (which I just discovered!).

+ 12 cloth napkins // World Market has lots of color and pattern options

If you have young children who need their hands and faces wiped you might consider having a separate stock of small soft wash clothes but it's not necessary. We have some although after a while they've lost their softness so I don't have a great recommendation for you. Often I'll just grab a new counter-wiping rag and to clean little hands and faces. 

We are still using the two storage baskets under the sink for clean towels and rags that I set up originally so the system has worked well. One area where we need improvement is our system for processing dirty towels and rags. Currently we put dirty ones on a side counter and within the day throw them in the washing machine. It feels a bit loosey-goosey which is not my favorite way to operate (surprise!). I'm thinking I'd like to hang a wet bag inside the under-sink counter and do a small wash of towels and rags once or twice per week.

Happy cleaning!

What we learned from our sleep coach

What we learned from our sleep coach | RISING*SHINING

In June we hired a sleep coach to help us establish better sleep for Dashiell and Cedric. It made a big difference for us and I'd love to share a bit more about the experience. 

It feels like great sleep has never come easily for us with Dashiell, as I've alluded to many times here and on my podcasts. Early this summer we were in a very frustrating - and exhausting - pattern that involved drawn out bedtimes (our 7 pm bedtime was delayed until 8 pm), multiple night wakings and very early mornings (4 am hour). At the same time, Cedric wouldn't fall asleep unless we were in the room with him and was waking during the night. We were so tired, y'all!

A friend saw Chris post something about getting very little sleep on Facebook and recommended the sleep coach that she worked with and I knew it was something my family needed. We hired our wonderful sleep coach, Jennifer, and had an initial Skype call to give details about sleep overall including details about napping, bedtime, etc. On the call we talked through some strategies and decide what fit best for us. The same day Jennifer sent us a detailed written Sleep Plan. Because of all the sleep issues we've dealt with holding a tangible, written sleep PLAN felt like a gift and such a relief - finally someone would tell us what to do!

Here's how we approached new sleep habits with Dashiell:

+ We had a family meeting and announced that we would be a family of Super Sleepers (!) and talked out what Super Sleepers do - do bedtime routine, stay in bed all night unless going to the bathroom, stay in their bedroom until their clock turns green (we use this toddler alarm clock). We were surprised at how engaged Dash was in this conversation and how enthusiastic he was about being a Super Sleeper. We also drew out our sleep plan showing the steps of bedtime routine, staying in bed all night (unless going to the bathroom) and waiting for the clock to turn green.

+ After the bedtime routine, during the night and any time before the clock turned green we used the technique of silent returns to put Dash back to bed. A silent return is giving as little attention as possible, even avoiding eye contact and touch if possible, and returning a child to bed. This is done as many times as needed.

+ To push back the time that Dash was waking in the morning we slowly moved the wake up time of his alarm clock. Once we waited in his room until the clock turned green for at least two days we would push the clock back another five minutes. Dash is clearly wired to wake up early (like Chris and I are) and so he still is waking around 5 am everyday but we have his clock set for 5:30 am.

Establishing better sleep habits with Cedric was more straightforward. At nap time and bedtime we followed our routine, put him to bed and left the room. The first few nights were tough because he cried but the wonderful thing about having a sleep coach is being able to text them during the hardest parts and get reassurance. Cedric cried, at the most, for close to 30 minutes. It was not fun or easy but Jennifer reminded us of our motto: short term pain, long term gain. Bedtime and nap time with Cedric are nearly laughably easy. Cedric reaches for his crib and if I try to hold him a minute longer to snuggle he demands, "night night!" and sometimes nearly chuckles as I lay him down. As soon as I lay him down I can leave the room and he doesn't make a peep. 

Overall, our current sleep situation is much improved from June although we've realized sleep is going to be something we continue to work on, especially with Dash. A wake up time around 5:30 is about as good as it's going to get for now (maybe this will change when Dash drops his nap??). The difference now is that we have strategies to implement and we can respond consistently and that feels much better. 

A couple of big take-aways from working with our sleep coach are:

+ Look at the big sleep picture and look for signs of being over-tired. Night time sleep is affected by nap sleep and vice versa. The state of being over-tired is confounding because it can cause a child to stay up later and wake up earlier, compounding the issue! As a result the solutions can be counter-intuitive: it might seem logical to push back the bedtime of a super early riser but in fact they may need to go to bed even earlier. Nap times might need to be adjusted to ensure the child is appropriately tired by the desired bed time.

+ Establish boundaries, communicate them and then follow through and stay consistent. This was the biggest take-away for me from our sleep coach. Before working with her Chris and I did have some routines, like a bedtime routine and consistent bedtime, but we weren't dealing with night and early wakings consistently. Therefore we didn't have boundaries, although we desperately wanted them!

If you are experiencing a really hard time with sleep with your children I have so much empathy - hang in there! I would also HIGHLY recommend considering a sleep coach (ours is awesome), it created empowerment out of what felt like a powerless situation. Recently I was on the Coffee + Crumbs podcast and during the show chatted with the Lesley Miller and she also highly recommends her sleep coach