A Room of My Own: Why Creative Space Matters

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Sometimes it feels like my kids simply cannot keep their hands to themselves. They can’t help it, I know this. Powerful curiosity paired with a lack of impulse control means small children touch EVERYTHING. They want to feel the surface of a book. Tap the hard glass on a picture frame. Stroke the glossy leaves of a houseplant. Tap tap tap on the keys of the laptop.  Sift through the detritus in my nightstand drawer. You get the picture.

Much of this exploring is delightful to watch, and mostly harmless. But some of it grates on me, makes me feel violated in a way. Like each poke of a little finger into my brand new blush compact is a poke in my eye.

As a parent I try not to take my kids’ behavior too personally. I know and respect that they are their own people trying to make sense of the world just like the rest of us. Our children are given room to roam within the boundaries of our family rules, and it mostly goes okay.

Where I’m still struggling to find flexibility and ease is in claiming some personal physical space.


When we first moved into our house, my vision of each living space was so clear. We have a two-story home, and and the first floor has our living and dining rooms, kitchen, and a half-bath.

We also have a lovely extra room at the front of the house with double doors, a transom window above, and tons of natural light thanks to a large east-facing window. My daughter was a toddler when we moved in, and making this space a playroom was ideal. She could have a space to play and create and be messy. It was close to the main living areas, and having this space meant no toys in those living areas. I took great pleasure in designing the room. We shopped at Ikea and put together a desk and cubbies and hung picture wires to display her creations. It was perfect.

We have spent countless hours together over the years in this sweet room working with play dough, painting at the easel, building train tracks, stacking blocks, reading books. It was exactly what we needed for that phase of life.

Somewhere along the way, she started spending less time in the playroom and more time in her bedroom. She was getting older and wanted her own space. Then along came baby brother, and soon this room with its paint and markers and tiny lego pieces wasn’t as appealing a place to hang out. We slowly started moving things in and out of the room to make it work.

Soon we were spending less and less time in the playroom.

Meanwhile, I had started a podcast. I had started offering coaching to other creatives and was working from home more.  Our desk was tucked into a living space, and would naturally invite lots of curious little hands to its surfaces. A computer screen was damaged. Papers were crumpled. Nerves (mine) started to get frayed.

And then one day it dawned on me: What if we turned the playroom into an office?

It felt daring and exciting; the perfect solution. It also felt SELFISH as hell.

Who was I to take this sweet kid space away from the family in order to have space for me and my brain to think and create?  

And yet I couldn’t shake the dream.

At the beginning of the year I had made a vision board. It wasn’t until the piece was complete that I noticed a pattern. Desks. Modern chairs. Lots of invitations to write. My heart knew what I desired before my mind knew.  And once I realized that, I had to get my brain – and family – on board.

It was tough. There was resistance to this new arrangement from every side. My daughter cried. My wife bemoaned the loss of the kids’ artwork display.  I still felt guilty.

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In the end we compromised, and the room is now a shared creative space.

The original creative workspace has moved to one corner and holds our household art supplies. A rotating display of original creations hangs above. The toys are (mostly) gone, replaced by an adult desk and computer. A bookshelf relocated from another area of the house holds books, family photo albums, and a shelf of puzzles and quiet work for the kids. I hung my vision board and slowly added my treasures.

Creating this space was important both for my actual creative process but also in owning the importance of my work.  Having a physical space brings my ambitions out of my head and into the real world. Ultimately, this area represents the creative potential in all of us, from little hands to big hands.

Some of my favorite moments are when the kids and I are all in here quietly working. My daughter will be drawing or writing a story at her desk. I will be editing a podcast, writing a blog post, or daydreaming. My son will most likely be driving a car back and forth on the windowsill. There’s often a cat or dog asleep somewhere.

It’s these moments that I could choose to be annoyed that they’ve invaded “my space” or I could choose to be content with the arrangement. Full disclosure: there are days where I have to kick them out and close the door!  It’s okay. 

These years are short, and soon enough I will miss these busy little hands. In the meantime, I am so glad I staked my claim in one corner of a room to help my creative spirit. And, even though I thought I needed the room all to myself, it’s been a delight to do this work alongside my kids.

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The playroom before.

Thoughts on self-care & why I eat standing up

Thoughts on self-care & why I eat standing up

Thoughts on self-care & why I eat standing up

Some days it feels like the needs of my children are incessant. From the moment my eyelids open into the 5am darkness to the moment their little bodies succumb to sleep, they NEED.

They need love, snuggles, attention, comfort, and reassurance. They also need pancakes cut up just so, a cup of juice -no, I SAID WATER!, poopy bottoms wiped and then balanced on the “big” potty. They need latex gloves put on both hands and fire truck ladders extended. They need me to listen and offer feedback. They need me to basically bear witness and be available to assist them every second we’re together.

Which, in some ways is totally fine. That’s parenting, and meeting their needs is my job.

But that doesn’t mean there aren’t times where I hide in the bathroom pretending to poop for 10 minutes so I can take an Instagram break. Or that I don’t join them at the table because the second my ass hits the chair someone needs me to get something or wants out of their chair.

Occasionally, on the really tough days, I sit them at the table facing the tv while they eat.

I eat standing up in the kitchen, in plain view but far enough away to not trigger the Need button. I hunch over the plate scooping forkfuls of leftovers into my mouth while scrolling through Facebook, eager to accept my Mother of the Year award.  But I am okay with it, because on some days, this is one of the only peaceful moments I get. Some days, this is what self-care looks like for me.

Motherhood is made up of these messy moments, times where we’re doing the best we can. And as much as my kids need of me, I need me too.

What does self-care even mean, anyway?!

To me, self-care means practicing self-love. It means connecting with my self in a space that is free of outside distractions, and treating myself super well.

When I say self-care, I’m not talking about a full on day at the spa (although that would be amazing!).  I’m talking about finding small pockets of time to be alone with yourself and your thoughts. Time to focus on the habits that bring you a feeling of calm, healthfulness, and strength.  Sometimes that looks like eating standing up while your kids watch tv so you can catch your breath.

I can hear some of you thinking:

“That’s all well and good, but isn’t that a little selfish?”

“Self-care is totally indulgent.”

“Easy for you to say!”

“I don’t deserve it.”

Whew.  I hear you. In fact, I’ve said all of those things to myself!  But I would never ever say them to a friend. So, why are we so judgmental with ourselves?  Why don’t we deserve to treat ourselves well?

Listen to me when I say this: You cannot afford not to practice self-care.

Still not sure?  What if you replaced the word “self” with “health”?

Health-care isn’t selfish or indulgent or unnecessary.

This subtle shift in perspective really opened my mind to possibilities. Because healthcare isn’t selfish, it’s necessary!  I have to take care of myself to be around for my family and my business.

If you thought of self-care as a form of health care, what would it look like for you?


Over the next few weeks I’m going to be sharing a bit of my journey back to me. I’ll be exploring heath, self-care, parenting and making changes in my business.

I hope you’ll join me and share some of your thoughts along the way. Thank you for being here.

The Bliss {and Blisters} of Nursing a Toddler

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My son and I are breaking up.

Our breastfeeding relationship of 21 months is coming to an end.  This is something that seems to have happened gradually and then all of a sudden. Which means I feel both relieved and devastated at the same time.

We’ve been winding down for a couple of months now. I decided when he was about 18 months that we’d move into the “don’t offer/don’t refuse” phase of nursing. We naturally transitioned into an easy rhythm of nursing at bedtime and in the mornings, and occasionally during the day.

We fell into this easy rhythm, and it worked for a while.

And then he stopped asking as much. Or when he did ask to nurse, it would often be fitful and distracted.

Things are getting more and more physically uncomfortable when nursing my toddler. From finding a way to fit his long, energetic body onto my lap and into my arms, to his distracted nursing style.

As difficult as nursing a toddler can sometimes be, there are moments of pure bliss.

At bedtime, I ask him if he wants “num nums”, and a quick smile breaks across his round face. “Num num nums!” he agrees, ambling over to where I sit in the glider rocker. He quickly scrambles up onto my lap along with his soft red and blue blanket and a lovey so putrid and fragrant it has secretly earned the name Stinky Tofu.  He has a specific place for each of these things in our nursing setup: Blankie goes between his knees and up onto his stomach. Stinky Tofu gets draped over his shoulder and is purposefully clutched in one hand. His right arm shoots out between us, searching for the space between the side of my body and the chair. He likes to tuck it there, and it feels like he’s giving me a sweet little side hug.

Finally, we are ready to nurse.

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In the early days, breastfeeding was difficult for us. It had been long enough since my daughter nursed that I felt uncertain about how to hold his not-so-little head and how to help him latch on. His bottom lip seemed to be permanently sucked in under his upper jaw, making a wide open latch near impossible.

We spent what felt like hours working through the learning process together. My shoulders and wrists ached from holding him close for hours on ends. My skin was hot and tight under the pressure of all the new milk. And my poor nipples felt like they were permanently chapped.

But one day, it all clicked. His squirmy little newborn body found its place in my arms, the place where everything just worked. We fit together in only the way we could, filling in each other’s gaps and squishing together in an intimate embrace. His little noises, snuffly breathing and eager, regular swallows and sighs, became the soundtrack to my evenings and nights. It became a time I longed for, even when I was staggeringly tired or hotly frustrated or completely touched out. That moment we found our two selves melding into one and sighing into a familiar rhythm.

We fit together in only the way we could, filling in each other’s gaps and squishing together in an intimate embrace.

Now, as I feel the days of our breastfeeding winding down, and the frequency of those peaceful moments is less frequent, I cherish them all the more. Daily it seems I feel the hot sting of tears coming to my eyes when I watch him nurse. If I close my eyes and let my mind go quiet, it’s almost as if he’s a tiny newborn again.

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Two is still so little – hell, he’s not even really two yet, but I’m rounding up, trying to brace myself for the emotional blow when he does turn two.  He’s still so little in this big world, and yet he’s changing so very quickly.

At 21 months he is an incredibly active, sparkly-eyed little guy. He walks, jumps, runs, and climbs on everything. He is talking up a storm, and seems to be adding new words every single day. He likes to zoom toy trucks, buses, and tractors on any stationary surface. And the boy can eat.

On Halloween he went trick or treating for the first time. He walked up to the doors behind his big sister and confidently thrust his little fist into bowl after bowl of candy, choosing his favorite thing. Even though he didn’t really know what candy is, he quickly got into the routine of walking from house to house, anticipating the swift opening of a new door and the promise of a colorful treat.

In those moments I can see both the little boy he is becoming, and the baby he once was. That night he went to sleep without nursing, the stain of chocolate around his little lips.

I know that he’s doing everything he should be doing at this age, and more! And yet.The end of our nursing relationship signifies the ending of his babyhood. The thought of him not being this small forever makes my heart ache. I know how quickly these moments will pass, and I want to hold on so tightly.

We waiting so long and went through so much to have our kids. At this point we know there will not be any more babies. This is one of the reasons I want to hold on to these last nursing moments as long as possible.

Like so many moments in motherhood, this one is filled with complex and contradictory emotions.

At the end of a busy day, the nursing ritual is a touchstone for us. It’s a moment that all is still and quiet in the world, and we connect in such an intimate way. As this part of our journey winds down, I find myself knowing that we’ll find new touchstones and moments to connect. And I’m not going to lie: I am more than a little excited to have my boobs back.  Yet the idea of being finished breastfeeding is also a difficult one to wrap my head around.

How did your breastfeeding journey wrap up?  Any suggestions for new evening routines?


 

The Geeg turns 5

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Opie & The Geeg, friends since age 0

Opie & The Geeg, friends since age 0

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This past weekend was a big one for our little family. The Geeg (formerly known as Peaceful Baby) turned 5, and we had activities large and small to commemorate this occasion.

Five felt like a significant birthday, almost as much as her first.  Leslie and I joked that it was also our 5-year parenting anniversary, which really is the truth.  This is the moment we can celebrate all the changes not only in our daughter, but in our lives and in our selves, since becoming parents.  There are many, and it’s nice to have an annual opportunity to recognize and honor them.

We held a small party at a local nature center, where a guide taught the children all about a few amphibians and reptiles.  There were frogs, newts, salamanders, two types of snakes, and a box turtle.  The children had varying levels of interest in these creatures, which was fun to watch!  G was in kid heaven, surrounded by her friends and by animals.  It was a good day.

Two birthday celebrations, two batches of mama-made chocolate cake and cupcakes, thoughtful gifts from friends and family, a few surprises from the “birthday fairies”, the new privilege of chewing gum, and many little conversations about her life at 5 versus 4.  This was our weekend.

This is going to be a big year!

The Hard Parts

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Mondays are one of the best days of the week for me. I typically have it off from work, and have the morning to myself while G is at preschool. These are a precious three hours!  Sometimes I use this time to catch up on work for the shop. Other times I go to appointments, do the grocery shopping, or tend to other regular life tasks. My favorite days are the ones where I get to hang out at home. By myself. Fellow moms, you know what a treat this is!  If I’m being completely honest with you, I’ll go even further to say that my favorite mornings are the ones where I stay in my pajamas and catch up on The Walking Dead or How to Get Away with Murder and knit until just before pickup.

Regardless of how I spend the mornings, the afternoons are reserved for mama-daughter time. As a working parent, this one-on-one time during the day is precious to us both. There’s something about our own dynamic that really comes out on these days. She just lights up when she sees me at pick-up and gets so excited to hear what we get to do for the rest of the day.

Most Mondays we like to do a little making together. This is something that really helps me feel like a Good Mom (you know, after all those other moments over the past week, ahem) and like we’re really connecting. We often spend the afternoon baking, making play-dough, sewing, or doing other crafts.  This week we started painting some wooden Christmas ornaments that I picked up at the craft store.

It was sweet. We painted together in near-silence. I told her I loved spending the afternoon with her. “Me too, Mama,” she whispered as she focused on getting the paint just where she wanted it. I was impressed with her focus and enjoyed seeing what colors she was choosing.  I was feeling pretty pleased and a bit self-satisfied with the success level of this activity when things took a turn.

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You see, we’re at that age where G is noticing what other people do and is occasionally comparing it to what she is able to do. In this case, she got very upset because she couldn’t keep the orange paint from getting on the blue paint.  I tried helping her wipe it off and reassured her that she could go back over the blue after it had dried.

‘But yours looks better than mine!” was the final cry before she devolved into tears.

It broke my heart, this look on her face. I could imagine her ten years from now, upset from something that happened at school or with a friend, a situation I wasn’t there to help her through at the time. I want her to be confident in herself, not care what other people are doing, and just enjoy what she’s doing.

That is one of the gifts of early childhood; these blissful years when anything is possible and you are so much yourself that you radiate it. It only lasts for so long before we become self-conscious and our confidence is no longer whole.  These moments when I see her self-confidence beginning to fracture are so very hard.

We made popcorn and talked about how things are challenging when you first start out. About how my work looked different from hers because I’ve had a lot more practice. I’m so old, after all (trying desperately to ease the tension with humor)! I even threw in a good ol’ “Who says you have to stay in the lines, anyway?”

I think she’ll be ready to try again another time. We’ll both keep practicing, her painting and my parenting, and hopefully someday we’ll both be accepting of where we are and how well we’re doing it.

The good news?  After a break and a good night’s sleep, she’s ready to try again.  She’s even excited to finish her work today.  Whew.  I guess the popcorn and self-deprecation worked.

Making & Mothering: My Podcast Interview + 10 Tips for Simplifying Motherhood

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I recently had the pleasure of meeting one of my favorite bloggers and internet friends in real life.  It was sort of surreal looking at one another in the flesh after years of reading her blog!  We got to spend some time fondling a gorilla, slurping lattes, and talking about our respective mama-hoods and business lives.  And amid all of that, Kathy mentioned that she had recently started a podcast and would be interested in interviewing me.

Say whaaaat?!

I love podcasts.  Knitting and parenting podcasts are my jam.  They have kept me company while cleaning, painting, nursing, cooking, driving, exercising, and knitting.  I look up to the women I listen to every week, for their bravery at pulling up the mic and sharing themselves.

When faced with the opportunity to be on a podcast myself, I was simultaneously excited and terrified.  It turns out I was in good hands.  Talking with Kathy is easy and fun, and it really felt like a phone call with a good friend.

We talked about my new passion, exploring making and mothering.  It’s a topic we’ve been exploring over on the Stash blog with interviews and guest posts with some pretty amazing women (click here to see them all in one place).  To get to speak about this subject from a personal standpoint had me feeling vulnerable and empowered at the same time.  I’m no expert on parenting, and I certainly don’t do things the way I want to 100% of the time.  But I do the best I can, and I am constantly learning and evolving.

If you’re so inclined, head on over to Kathy’s blog Bliss Beyond Naptime and listen to my interview!  The time flew by so quickly that we didn’t get a chance to delve into all the things I was ready to talk about.  Kathy asked me two big questions that we could have kept talking about for hours.  Below I’ve shared more of my answers that we didn’t necessarily get to in the interview.  I hope you enjoy!

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For me, I’m never more connected to my creative spirit than when I am creating.  Knitting is the main way I feel that connection, but there are infinite ways.  Find yours and give it everything you have.  Some other sources of bliss that rejuvenate and nourish my soul:

Baking—did you know I went to school to be a pastry chef?

Being out in nature—gardening, walking/hiking, the beach. Being near water. Love living in the PNW!

Reading–love to bliss out on an amazing story (fiction or otherwise). I make time for reading by enforcing and early bedtime for myself. 

Travel—doesn’t have to be big, but I find that about every 2 months or so I need a change of scenery and routine.  We also take a lot of daytrips as a family, and our staff at Stash try to take a field trip every couple of months.

Grooming!—long baths & self-manicure sessions help me clear my head and invite in all sorts of amazing ideas. Maybe it’s the polish fumes, but it works!

Friends—a good long talk with a girlfriend is so important.  My social life has been one of the things to take a hit since starting my business, and this makes me very sad.  Whenever possible, I try to reach out to my friends and touch base.

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How have you simplified motherhood so you can carve out the time and energy to follow your bliss?

  1. Changing expectations of self.  I don’t have to do it all, nor do I want to.  And I don’t have to do it like She does.  We’re all different and doing the best we can as women and moms. This was a hard transition to make when I became a mother, and again when I started running Stash.  I’m learning to put my energy into the activities that make me feel most myself, as well as a loving mother, creative business owner, fun and supportive spouse.  It’s like my biz mentor Marie Forleo says, “if isn’t a hell yes, it’s a hell no!”  Letting go of other people’s expectations.  This is hard—I tend to take things personally and am very sensitive.
  2. Routine: Getting rid of what doesn’t work, add in more of what does & repeat. Children love repetition and routine.  And guess what? Busy adults do, too!  We have a family rhythm that works really well for us right now.  My daughter eats the same thing (with minor variations) every day for breakfast and lunch. I used to worry about her becoming a picky eater, but I’ve let that go in favor of knowing she always has healthy choices I don’t have to think so much about.  We save new foods for our nightly family dinners and when we’re out of the house. 
  3. Present moment.  When I’m at work I’m 100% focused on Stash.  When I’m at home, I attempt to be 100% focused on my family.  I don’t work from home when my daughter is here.  This is a big challenge, but one that has enabled me to notice, appreciate, and soak up the special moments in my everyday life.  It also helps me feel a bigger sense of gratitude for the little things: friendly customers, soft yarn, belly laughs, silly faces, and a thousand other things.
  4. By encouraging solo play.  Kathy was the first person who I ever heard lay it out so clearly, bluntly, yet lovingly: I don’t play with my kids.  I felt that this was the way for me intuitively, but I felt a lot of guilt around it.  For my daughter and I, our play is reading, cooking, or creating together.  We have a craft room where we’re free to get messy and have fun, and we read together every single day. We also have a lot of family dance parties to blow off steam and reconnect at the end of a busy day!
  5. House cleaner!  I used to have a weekly cleaning schedule.  It helped me feel productive and like I was contributing to the household when I wasn’t working full time.  When my daughter was born I gave myself the gift of letting go of the deep cleanings.  Once a month someone comes in and cleans the house top to bottom.  It’s amazing what happened when I let go of worrying about scrubbing the tub or mopping the floors!  We still clean, but our standards have changed and it’s very liberating!
  6. Free days and family dinners.  No matter how busy the week is, we know that we will be having dinner together every night.  This is a huge priority for all of us, as it is often the only time we’re all sitting down in the same place at the same time.  We also do our best to not schedule more than one outside activity on the weekends so we have time together and each parent can be free to pursue passion projects. All that routine does get a little monotonous! Keeping weekends free allows for more spontaneity and fun.
  7. Bedtime and quiet time Ever since my daughter was an infant, we have held bedtime and naptimes sacred.  Not only does this mean we’re all better rested, it means we all get our own downtime, too.  When I stayed at home, I would only let myself do housework type things for a few minutes, the rest was for soul-filling activities.
  8. Less work I’ve also slowly simplified my work schedule so I have more room to dream and hunt inspiration for my life and my business.  There is this antiquated notion that entrepreneurs have to work 24/7 in order to be successful.  I regularly only work 24 hours a week  As much as possible I separate my two jobs as entrepreneur and mama so that each can have my full attention.
  9. Bonus Day My daughter goes to preschool on one of my days off! I usually do a little bit of work to keep things running smoothly, then I take care of what need to in order to fill my bliss cup back up.  It usually involves not getting dressed, writing a blog post or two, reading, knitting, and cooking up something yummy.

What are your sources of joy and rejuvenation, dear mama?  How do you take care of your creative self while also being the mama of your dreams?  Do share~I’d love to hear from you!

Playing Catch Up

It’s PB’s naptime on my day off, and I thought I would play catch up a little bit in this space…

We recently tore out our summer garden and have been enjoying investigating the remaining cold weather plants (and insects) with PB.  Pumpkins, squash, chard, and the nasturtiums are still going strong, and my daughter has a keen eye for spiders, beetles, and caterpillars.

Meanwhile, the sugar pumpkins I planted so many months ago are not turning orange.  One of them has just a tinge of orange, and the rest are still quite green. Sweetie has suggested that maybe they didn’t get enough sun in their place beneath the corn stalks.  Does anyone know if they will turn? Can I bake with a green pumpkin?


PB is growing into the most expressive, adventurous, talkative, curious, and loving little person. I look into those baby blues and my heart fills to capacity thinking of all that she is and will become. Becoming a mother has made me all the more understanding and compassionate for my mother; to think, someone loves me as much as I love PB–how magnificent!

Going to work has meant less face time with my daughter each day, and that has been a little difficult for us both. I’m trying to resist the temptation to “make up for it” by turning our together time into an over-scheduled, let’s fit in all the fun sort of experience. Instead, I am challenging myself to  just let the time pass naturally and trust that fun activities will happen organically. With a few planned activities and outings sprinkled in, of course, but only when they fit in with family time.

Yesterday after nap, PB was very quiet and wanted to stay close to mama. Gone were  my aspirations of a trip to the library and visit with friends. Yes, let’s snuggle and read books instead. These moments pass altogether too quickly, and I am doing my best to soak them in.

Being your own boss has its liberation and burdens. Something I’m trying to work toward is being focused on work at work, and on home at home, letting the worries of one place go for a little while so that I can be present and focused on the task at hand.  I want to be available, say yes, and grow a successful business, but I need to recharge and focus on our family 100% at least one whole day per week. And stay in my sweatpants while doing it. ; )