10 Things You Can For Yourself During Naptime

Some days you feel ultra productive. You work on your business during your child’s naptime. But what about those days when you’re drained? Self-care is very important especially as a freelancer. Self-care activities are positive stress relievers that relax you, inspire you, or recharge you.

Here are ten things you can do for yourself during your child’s naptime:

1) Meditate and stretch

My most important tip for naptime is to meditate and stretch. The whole routine can take less than 10 minutes, but it clears your mind and makes your body feel limber. I use the Stop, Breathe, and Think app to meditate. There are many meditations on the app that are five minutes or less. I usually do at least 10 minutes of meditation during naptime.

I do a simple stretching routine to keep my muscles from getting tight.

2) Take a nap

One of the most obvious things you can do is take a nap. A quick 20-30 minute snooze can give your brain a rest and recharge you for the rest of your day.

3) Read a book

Whenever I open a book, I take a tiny vacation. Try spending 20-30 minutes reading a book during your child’s naptime. It doesn’t matter whether the book is fiction or nonfiction, just choose something that interests you. I do almost all of my reading during naps and in the 10 minutes before I go to bed. I usually end up reading around 30 books per year. It’s possible to get a lot of reading done if you spend 20-30 minute each day doing it.

4) Take a bath or shower

As work-at-home or stay-at-home mama, we don’t get a chance to shower during the day without an audience. When your child takes a nap, you could spend some time relaxing in a hot bath or taking a shower. Having a peaceful shower that’s not rushed always makes me feel better.

5) Watch a show

Sometimes I’ll take a Netflix break during my daughter’s nap. I recently got through all seasons of Scandal. I don’t like having the TV on too much during the day and my daughter is not happy when a “Mama show” is on. I do my TV watching in the evenings or on weekends.

6) Get outside

If the weather is nice, I spend 20 minutes outside while Norah naps. I take the baby monitor outside and either read, do work, or just sit and enjoy the sunshine. Sometimes I walk laps in the yard to get a little exercise. If you have front porch or deck, try getting a little sunshine while your child is sleeping.

7) Have a snack

We all have those snacks that we don’t want to share with our kids. Get into your secret stash and have a snack during naptime. Whether your favorite treat is salty or sweet, it will be that much more delicious because you don’t have to share it.

8) Connect with a friend

Text or call someone and see how they’re doing. This is especially nice to do to other stay-at-home or work-at-home moms. The days can often be long and lonely so reaching out to each other is a good way to have a little adult interaction.

9) Work on a hobby or craft

This could be as simple as doing a little coloring in an adult coloring book or it could be as complicated as you are crafty. I enjoy knitting and I’m planning on learning how to hand-letter in the next few months. I like to have one activity I enjoy that doesn’t require screens.

10) Clean something or declutter

If my house is a disaster, I have a hard time focusing. Of course, there are toys strewn all around the living room for most of the day, but I like to take five minutes to tidy up while Norah sleeps. She destroys the living room as soon as she wakes up, but my sweeps help a bit. At the very least, they help me find the half-eaten snacks that she’s hidden in the couch.

When your child takes a nap, ask yourself whether you’d like to spend the time working or practicing self-care. Don’t feel guilty about your choice! Either way you are doing something good for yourself.

 

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What to Do When You Feel Overwhelmed by Motherhood

Being a mother is one of the most rewarding jobs in the world, but it can also be one of the most exhausting, overwhelming and tedious ones too. At one point or another, all mothers have felt like they weren’t able to keep up with the onslaught of housework, caregiving, and maintaining their sanity.

Here are some ways to cope when you feel overwhelmed by motherhood:

  • Find a support group

In-person would be best, but if all you can find or have time for is an online group, that can work too. Support groups consist of other mothers, some in the same position as you, others who are newer to the job, and some seasoned pros. They can offer support and help. A weekly or monthly meeting can be a great place to recharge, relax, laugh and commiserate. Check Meetup groups in your area or Momsclub.

  • Ask for help

If you have a relative or a friend that you can ask for help, reach out and do so. Sometimes we don’t reach out for help because we’re embarrassed and assume that everyone else has it together. Everyone could use some extra help every now and then. Ask if someone can watch your child for a while so you can run an errand solo. Ask if someone could entertain your child while you get some things done around the house. Ask if someone could help you clean while your child sleeps. Whatever you need help with, put aside your temporary embarrassment and ask for help.

  • Take a break

When your child is napping or otherwise safely contained somewhere, take a break. Take a few deep breaths, do some stretching, read a book for a few minutes, or just leave the room. Sometimes separating yourself from the situation for a bit can help especially during toddler tantrums or newborn crying jags. When you calm down, go back and comfort and redirect.

  • Hire someone

If you don’t have regular help, you may want to hire someone to give you some time out each day. Babysitters, nannies, or ‘mother’s helpers’ can be as reasonable as $7-15 per hour depending on where you live. If you are able to pay someone to come a few days a week, it may be best for your mental health. You can find local caregivers on Care.com.

  • Find daycare

If you don’t want a babysitter coming to your house or can’t find one, you could use a drop-in home daycare service. This would allow you to bring your child for around $25-45 per day. Most commercial daycares will not allow drop-ins, but do have part-time schedules that can be as flexible as two days per week or a few hours each day.

  • Go outside

If you’re stuck in the house all day, you’re bound to get aggravated. Both you and your child need a change of scenery. Go outside! Go to the playground, the library, or take a walk around the block. Even running a few errands can break up the monotony.

  • Find free activities in your town

In most cities, there’s something free happening almost every day. Most museums and zoos have donation days where you pay whatever you can. Look up activities in your city and get out of the house. It can seem overwhelming to leave the house at first, but once you get to your destination, you’ll be glad you did. Search “free activities [your city]” or “donation day [your city]” to find lists of resources.

  • Join a gym

There are many gyms with childcare included in the membership price. The YMCA is a great example. For around $40/person per month or $70/family per month you can go to the YMCA every day and use the childcare for two hours per day. This situation is a win-win. Not only will you get some exercise, but you will also get a much-needed break.

  • Get more sleep

When you’re sleep deprived, everything is harder. Try to get to bed earlier. If your child is still waking through the night, consider sleep training. I used the SleepEasy Method to sleep train my daughter. If your child naps during the day, try to take a 20-30 minute nap with them. It’s tempting to power through your day on caffeine and sugar (I know I have!), but try not to consume them after 2 pm so you can fall asleep faster.

  • Speak to a therapist

If you’re feeling overwhelmed frequently, you may want to speak with a therapist. You could be experiencing postpartum depression or anxiety. Even if you’re not, the therapist will give you tools to help you cope with your day-to-day struggles. It’s often hard to find time to go to a therapist when you have children, but this is where babysitters, family, or friends can come in handy. You must prioritize your own health because no one else can do that for you.

Feeling overwhelmed is a normal occurrence in motherhood. Children can be demanding and exhausting and it’s stressful to have the responsibility of raising them on your shoulders. Make sure to take time for self-care. You are important.

If you feel hopeless or overwhelmed the majority of the time, please contact someone about postpartum depression/anxiety. It is very real and very serious.

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Celebrating Halloween with a Toddler

Halloween can be an incredibly fun time with a toddler. They are picture-perfect in their costumes, they can say “trick or treat” and are beginning to get into the excitement of the holidays. Halloween marks the start of the holiday season.

Here are some ways you can have a great Halloween celebration with your toddler.

  • Let them pick out their own costume

This year my daughter offered up the following options for costumes – Sheldon from Big Bang Theory, Mickey Mouse, or Minnie Mouse. I try not to push my agenda, but I knew that Sheldon was not going to be a recognizable costume since he wears superhero t-shirts and khaki pants which is not too different from some of the outfits she already has.

Once we looked online for costumes, she firmly declared she would be Abby Cadabby. Last year she was Elmo and Sesame Street is still popular in our house.

We also went to Target and picked out a fluffy kangaroo costume that would be more weather appropriate for night-time trick or treating.

  • Take them Trick or Treating

One of the great things about my husband’s employer is that they are a family business. They throw several events each year where employees are encouraged to bring their families. One of those activities is trick or treating around the office. There are about 50 people that participate and hand out candy to the kids trick or treating. Norah absolutely loves going to her daddy’s work and walking around the office with him.

We also do the traditional evening trick or treating in our neighborhood. Last year, Norah went to three houses, but was too scared to do any more. We came back home and she passed out candy to the trick or treaters. She really enjoyed seeing all of the kids in their costumes. Since she’s a little older this year, I think she’ll be more willing to go to the door and say trick or treat. She’s had a taste of candy and that’s a powerful motivator.

  • Talk up the holiday

We’ve been talking about Halloween since the summer. We keep reminding her of the order of the holidays and telling how fun Halloween is going to be. We do things related to the holiday for 2-3 weekends before the event.

  • Get holiday books from the library

When any major event is coming up I go to the library and get books about it. I always talk up new things so that Norah is excited and prepared, but I find that books are easier for her to understand than me rambling about something.

We’ve also watched several movies about Halloween including It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown and Trick or Treat Mickey Mouse.

  • Carve or paint pumpkins together

Last year we didn’t get around to doing this so we made sure it was a priority this year. We bought a kit with paint and sequins so Norah can go wild on her own pumpkin while Mike and I carved pumpkins. I made a cat pumpkin for Norah, Mike carved a ghost, and I craved an emoji.

  • Decorate for the event

My toddler loves decorating. She often takes stickers and places them all over the house and says “I’m decorating.”

When we see decorations in the grocery store, we go look at them and let her pick something for the house. She’s excited about the LED light pumpkins and spooky ghosts in the front yard. We also have a scarecrow in the front yard and a few things around the house. One of Norah’s favorite decorations are the sticky window clings so we made sure to get some pumpkins for the front window.

  • Disconnect and enjoy yourself

Nowadays it can be hard to be in the moment and enjoy yourself with so many digital distractions. By all means, take a few pictures of your child in their costume, but then put away your phone and wait until you get home to post them on Facebook. I see too many people interacting with their phones instead of their children and it makes me sad.

If Halloween isn’t your thing, most of these suggestions can be switched out for other holiday events. I’ve found that having a child makes the holidays magical again. I didn’t do much celebrating prior to my daughter being born, but I want to make sure she has special memories of the holidays. She makes everything fun!

halloween

5 Easy Ways to Entertain Your Toddler at Home

I’m not only a freelancer; I’m also a stay at home mom to a two-year-old girl. I spend most of the day working, running errands and doing housework, but I also spend a few hours each day focused solely on her.

At this age, she can only concentrate on one thing for about 20 minutes so I’ve put together a bag of tricks to keep her entertained.

Here are some easy (and cheap!) ways that I entertain my toddler:

1) Creating artwork

Art projects are one of my favorite things to do with Norah. We color with crayons, markers, or colored pencils, paint with watercolors or fingerpaint, string macaroni, and glue things to paper. Pinterest is a great resource for cute art projects for toddlers. I’ve put together some of my favorites projects here.

2) Playing outside

Unless it’s the dead of winter, Norah and I go outside every day for at least 30 minutes. We walk around the yard looking for sticks and leaves. We take short walks around the neighborhood. We play with her outdoor toys (water table, sandbox, jungle gym). We are lucky to have a large yard, but even in our previous home we spent time on the stoop getting some fresh air and watching the cars go by.

3) Flashcards and letters

We spend 20-30 minutes per day doing flashcards and letter games. During the back-to-school season, I found a bunch of $1 flashcard sets at Target. I bought Cat in the Hat cards for shapes and colors and a deck of animal cards. We also have a few letter puzzles that spell out small words like cat, moon, and hat. We love this Melissa and Doug See and Spell puzzle set.

4) Reading

Since Norah was about three months old, I’ve taken her to the library every week and read to her for at least 20 minutes per day. Thanks to this, she absolutely loves books and will now spend 20-30 minutes sitting in her rocking chair “reading” her books to herself. Her most often requested items are a book and one of her stuffies to read it to. Our local library has a goal of reading 1000 books to your child before they enter kindergarten. If you read just one per night, you’ll read 365 in one year, 730 in two years and 1,095 in three years. You can find out more about this program here.

5) Games with household items

I set up inexpensive or free games for Norah to play in the house. Some examples of these include:

  • Homemade obstacle course

One of the easiest and cheapest things to do is set up an obstacle course in your home. I use couch cushions, pillows, moving boxes, and a hula hoop for obstacles and washi tape or painter’s tape to create lines and zig zags on the carpet for Norah to follow. This has been especially helpful in improving her motor skills.

  • Hide and seek

We play hide and seek by me hiding and her finding me (contained to one level of the house) or hiding her stuffed animals and telling her to find them. The stuffed animal hide and seek usually holds her attention longer because they are harder to find.

  • Scavenger hunt

This is the same concept as hide and seek, but we look for specific things. I’ll hide seashells, an apple, a few leafs, and some toys around the house and then give her a list of what she’s looking for. She can’t read yet, but she likes to cross things off the list with a crayon when she finds them.

  • Money sort

I have a giant jar of coins that she likes to transfer from one container to another. This activity requires supervision because coins are choking hazards. Norah almost never puts non-food items in her mouth, but I still watch her when she plays this game. This is a good activity for her to do in the kitchen while I’m cooking dinner. I’ve also done this with uncooked macaroni noodles.

  • Cup stack

I have 50+ plastic Solo cups in different colors from her previous birthday and holiday parties that she likes to stack. She’ll spend 20-30 minutes stacking them and knocking them over in the kitchen. She also likes doing this with plastic plates.

  • Tupperware drums

Playing drums on pots and pans is way too loud, but Tupperware drums are a great alternative. The noise isn’t deafening so your kid gets the satisfaction of hitting a spoon onto something and making noise without giving you a headache.

A game that I’m not including on the list, but Norah always wants to play is called “blankiehead.” She puts her blanket over her face and runs at full speed around the house. I do not recommend this game!

Entertaining a toddler does not have to expensive or exhausting. The most important part is being present with your child and actively engaging in whatever activity you choose to do together.

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Mama’s Favorites: This Week’s Best Content (Week of 10/17/16)

This is a weekly collection of content that I found valuable, interesting, entertaining – or all three! Topics mostly center on freelancing, marketing, and parenting with occasional wild cards thrown in. If you like what I’m sharing, follow me on Twitter for more content suggestions.

Freelancing

These illustrations of people who want you to work for free are hilarious. The quotes were taken from real people seeking free work from artists.

Alex Honeysett has some great advice on how to pitch a guest post. Researching the place you’re pitching and catering your proposal to their specifications are two of the suggestions that I fully support.

Stephane Kasriel takes the information from the recent Freelancing in America survey and proposes the three things that freelancers need from the next administration. He suggests that the government study freelancers before proposing any new legislation that affects them.

Marketing

Brittany Berger put together an awesome comprehensive guide to time management systems. If you need to get organized, check out this post!

Alex Mathers discusses how creatives are using social media to gain clients. I’ve found that Facebook groups are a great place to get leads.

Daniel Newman forecasts marketing trends for 2017. Trends include more and better quality video and personalized everything.

Parenting

If you’re looking for a gift for the one-year old in your life, check out this list. Norah got the Beatbo robot for Christmas last year and she’s still obsessed with it.

This article talks about which children are most affected by parenting style. According to Drake Baer, children who have “negative emotionality — the precursor to neuroticism” are the most susceptible to being really hurt by angry and neglectful parenting.

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Mama’s Favorites: This Week’s Best Content (Week of 10/3/16)

This is a weekly collection of content that I found valuable, interesting, entertaining – or all three! Topics mostly center on freelancing, marketing, and parenting with occasional wild cards thrown in. If you like what I’m sharing, follow me on Twitter for more content suggestions.

Freelancing

Caroline Beaton discusses her journey from full-time employee to full-time freelancer. She made a series of smart, strategic moves to ensure that she could always support herself.

Ryan Robinson shares his tips on how to write an effective pitch for a freelancing client. These suggestions secured him a $500 per post gig!

Julio Vincent Gambuto wants you to be a freelancer who actually makes money. He has some fantastic ideas for how to stay lucrative.

Marketing

Your customer has 30 different needs, does your product or service meet them? Larry Kim talks about the attributes driving customer purchases. Which ones can you tap into?

Email marketing has many benefits including boosting your website’s SEO. Jayson DeMers explains how regular email communication can improve your rankings.

Kevan Lee walks through the process of getting verified on Twitter. A verified account can boost the perception of your online presence, but you need to be a somewhat public figure to be approved.

Parenting

A round-up of 45 hilarious “parenting tips” ‘from Twitter. “Never take a toddler’s word for it” was one of my favorites.

How do Jewish mothers approach parenthood? The Chicago Tribune has four suggestions and I love the one about encouraging geekiness.

Hobbies

Cat Noone talks about how she got started hand-lettering. This is a skill I plan on learning.

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Daytime Potty Training Using the Oh Crap! Method

Because I’m an overachiever and my daughter is very verbal and showed interest, I started potty training her in April at 22 months old. It was actually common for parents of the previous generation to potty train around 18 months! For millennial moms, this may seem a bit early because the current trend is training around two years old. Each child is different and although you should wait to see signs of readiness, you should also give it a try when you are ready to put in the work.

I used the book Oh Crap! Potty Training: Everything Modern Parents Need to Know to Do It Once and Do It Right by Jamie Glowacki to daytime potty train my daughter.

The Oh Crap! method offers two options, you can tackle day and night time potty training in one swoop or you can separate the two. Since I don’t like my sleep messed with, I decided to start with daytime potty training. This decision was also influenced by my pregnancy. I thought that I would tackle nighttime training in December when I would be up with a newborn anyway. Although there won’t be a newborn in December, I will still be tackling night time training after Norah transitions to her toddler bed.

The Oh Crap! method starts with getting the child to recognize when they are going to the bathroom. There are six stages in the process:

  1. Peeing and pooping while naked, either with prompting or without
  2. Peeing and pooping with clothes on, commando, with prompting or without
  3. Peeing and pooping in different situations, with prompting or without
  4. Peeing and pooping with underpants, with prompting or without
  5. Consistent self-initiation
  6. Night and nap (unless you do it all at once)

On the first day, we kept Norah naked from the waist down (per the books recommendation). We bought three inexpensive Summer Infant potties for $9 each. We keep one in the bathroom upstairs, one downstairs, and one in the back of my car. As Norah went about her normal day, she would notice that she was peeing. The first time it happened she stopped what she was doing and stared off into the distance. We immediately grabbed her and said in an upbeat voice  “We go pee in the potty” while carrying her to the potty. By the time she reached the potty, she was done. By the second or third time that day, she was saying “Uh oh pee pee” or otherwise indicating that she knew she had started going.

The first day she also pooped on the carpet without much fanfare.

Note: I kept a Bissel spot cleaner in the living room to clean up messes as soon as they happened.

We started this process on a Saturday so we’d both be home during the first two days. Sunday proceeded much like Saturday, but Norah showed more awareness of what she was doing.

We did not go anywhere or do anything besides potty training for the entire weekend. We kept her contained to one room and one of us had our eyes on her the entire day. It was absolutely exhausting! Even though I take care of my daughter every day, I don’t have my eyes fixed on her nonstop.

After several days, she began going on the potty with more regularity. We took her to the potty as soon as she woke up in the morning and every two hours during the day. We had her sit on the potty before we got into the car and immediately when we arrived at our destination.

She was able to transition to the next stage – being fully dressed – by day five. She had many accidents during the first 5-7 days. Around the one week mark, something seemed to click and she was able to hold it while telling us she had to go. We also became aware of her “potty tells” which are stopping what she’s doing, standing completely still, and staring off into the distance. Whenever we saw those signs, we’d rush her to the potty.

We also had her go commando (no underwear) for three weeks per the book’s recommendation. Jamie’s hypothesis is that tight underwear feel too similar to diapers and the child will have more accidents if you introduce them too soon after taking away diapers. When we introduced underwear during the third week, there was an uptick in accidents for a few days.

Norah has been daytime potty trained for about six months now. She rarely has accidents, but does not like to poop in the potty. She will often hold it until her nap or bedtime. There is an entire section in the book that I need to revisit that discusses what to do in that situation. As of right now I’m not worried about it because I still need to tackle nighttime training. Most of the time when Norah has an accident, it’s our fault because we’re dragged her to several stores or went a few hours without bringing her to the potty. She is also much more likely to have an accident if she’s engrossed in something like a TV show or game.

A few tips for tackling potty training:

  1. Choose a method and be consistent

I chose the Oh Crap! method because I liked the humor of the book and that the method is a “no rewards” strategy. I did not want to use treats, toys, or stickers to motivate my child to go the bathroom for a few reasons:

  • I didn’t think I would always have those things handy
  • I didn’t want to associate food as ‘reward’
  • I didn’t want to reward biologically necessary behavior
  • I didn’t want to get into a heated negotiation about how many things she could have.

If rewards sound good to you or you think your child would do better with incentive then you should choose a method that includes them.

All in all, I doubt it matters which method you choose, but it does matter how consistent you are. Potty training will eat up an entire weekend so don’t try to do it when you have other plans, don’t feel well, or aren’t up for it. It’s an exhausting weekend and you only want to have to do it once. You don’t want to give up on day two, only to start from scratch a few months later.

2) Talk it up and make it fun

Norah loves books so we made sure to borrow as many potty books as we could in the weeks before we start training. We’d talk to her about how fun it was going to be and what a big girl she was. We let her pick out underwear and the color of her potties. We talked to her about how everyone and everything goes poop and pee. We tried to make the process as fun as possible because she initially showed some fear of the toilet.

3) Stay positive

Potty training can be very stressful and tiring. Keep in mind that it’s a slow process and there will be many accidents. Look for progress and not perfection. The first time Norah went on the floor there was no recognition that she was even going. By the second or third time, she was looking down at the mess and by later the same day she was saying “Uh oh.” No matter what timeline your child is on, it’s pretty incredible that they can grasp the concept within a few days. Stay positive and focus on the progression towards the goal instead of how much urine is soaking into your carpet.

Once the process is over, hopefully you’ll never have to do it again…until the next child.

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Mama’s Favorites: This Week’s Best Content (Week of 8/29/16)

Mama's Favorites
This is a weekly collection of content that I found valuable, interesting, entertaining – or all three! Topics mostly center on freelancing, marketing, and parenting with occasional wild cards thrown in. If you like what I’m sharing, follow me on Twitter for more content suggestions.

Freelancing

Organizing your finances is extremely important when you’re a freelancer. This detailed article by Kristin Wong gives step-by-step instructions for what you need to do to get your freelancing financial house in order.

If you’re currently a freelancer, consider signing the petition for the Freelance Isn’t Free Act like I did. This act can help freelancers get payment for services rendered. Read the article and sign if you agree.

Josh Hoffman swears that these simple habits translate to a six-figure freelance business. One of the best suggestions is spending time on your business before spending time in your business.

Marketing

Mike Sturm talks about the importance of words and how we’re devaluing our creative work by calling it ‘content’. I’d never thought about this before, but I agree with his conclusion that content is a weasel word.

Social media can be soul-draining, but it’s essential as a marketer. This article by Leila de Bruyne talks about how to stay sane on social media.

Watch these eight Ted Talks for a marketing boost. Kelly Hoey shares a list of inspirational videos that will help improve your marketing efforts. I love Seth Godin’s take on making ideas spread.

Parenting

Parenting can be tough so it’s essential to keep your sense of humor. Amy Camber creates hilarious and sweet comics about parenting her two children ages 3 and 6.

Encouraging your child to try different activities is good for their development, but so is quitting things they don’t enjoy. This New York Times article talks about the benefits of letting your children stop doing activities they aren’t interested in.

What We’re Into: Summer 2016

Summer 2016

The summer of 2016 was a mixed bag. In the spring I suffered a miscarriage and assumed I’d be pregnant again by summer’s end, but I’m not. My childhood friend, and maid of honor in my wedding, was killed in a boating accident in June. I struggled with my grief compounded by the fact that I hadn’t spoken with her in years. Her death opened my eyes to our time not being guaranteed. Since then, I’ve tried to be more present in my life, make amends with people from my past, and be more appreciative of what I have.

While there were some supremely negative events this summer, we also had a lot of joy. Norah turned two! We spent the summer taking her to swim lessons and play dates. This was our first summer in our new house and we thoroughly enjoyed our big backyard. We had lots of ice cream (Norah had her first cone!) and s’mores. We took a day trip to Madison, Wisconsin that included a visit to Henry Villas Zoo. We attended a few picnics, farmer’s markets, fairs and outdoor events in Rockford including a kid’s concert.

Family at Henry Villas Zoo
Our family at Henry Villas Zoo in Madison, WI. Taken with a selfie stick!

The summer is typically a slower time for business and I enjoy that, but I look forward to things ramping back up and working with new clients! If you know anyone who needs copywriting, content, or social media work done – let me know.

Here are some things we loved this summer:

Erin (32 years old)

Stranger Things

This show hit all the right notes for me. I love horror and coming of age stories and I have the biggest soft spot for nostalgia. Stranger Things perfectly encapsulated the 80s, had a great storyline, and was sweet and scary at the same time. I absolutely loved this series and cannot wait for season two. You can catch this series on Netflix.

The Fireman by Joe Hill

This was my favorite book of the summer. I love Joe Hill almost as much as I love his father, Stephen King. This was an epic pandemic story about a virus that causes people to burst into flames. If you want to see what else I read this summer, follow me on Goodreads.

Meditation

After all of the negative things that happened this summer, I wanted to refocus and get some inner peace. I read several self-help books including Mastering Your Mean Girl and The Charge that helped me get my head in the right place. Every self-help book I’ve ever read talks about the importance of a meditation routine. I finally started using Stop, Breathe, & Think app for near-daily meditation. I have noticed a calmer mind and less anxiety. It also helped with my grieving process.

Daily Journaling

I’ve taken to writing in a journal daily about how I’m feeling and what I’m grateful for. It’s been helping me process my feelings and start the day with a clear mind.

Norah (2 years old)

Bombpops

Easily one of Norah’s most requested items. After almost every dinner she asks for a bomb pop. The traditional red, white, and blue popsicles were a staple in my house growing up, but with four kids the box didn’t last for more than a few days. We don’t let her have one everyday, but she gets them for dessert fairly often. The struggle is convincing her to wait until after dinner instead of giving her one when she first requests it which is usually five minutes after waking up in the morning.

Playing outside

Norah loves to push her ride-on car up and down the driveway and run down the large hill we have in our backyard. She received two bikes for her birthday and has been practicing using the pedals. She doesn’t quite have it, but probably will by next year.

Gardening

This summer we did some bucket gardening and Norah loved it. Every day she helped water the plants and pick the ripe vegetables. In the process, she ate about 100 cherry tomatoes. We had good luck with romaine lettuce, green peppers, and cherry tomatoes. Our strawberries produced about 10 berries and then stopped growing and our cucumbers never became ripe and rotted on the vine. We’ll try bucket gardening again next year and think about dedicating a plot in the yard in the future.

Bucket garden
Norah in front of her bucket garden

Fall is my favorite time of year and I can’t wait for all of the good things coming our way including trips to Edward’s Apple Orchard, having our first bonfire in our firepit, and taking our daughter Trick or Treating for the second time. Until next season!

Mama’s Favorites: This Week’s Best Content (Week of 8/22/16)

Mama's Favorites Aug 26

This is a weekly collection of content that I found valuable, interesting, entertaining – or all three! Topics mostly center on freelancing, marketing, and parenting with occasional wild cards thrown in. If you like what I’m sharing, follow me on Twitter for more content suggestions.

Freelancing

CloudPeeps shares seven tips for avoiding bad freelance hires. As a freelancer, read this article with an eye towards how you can improve your chances of getting a good gig.

Need to set up your online writing portfolio? Meryl Williams at The Write Life created a simple checklist to get your site in tip-top shape.

Even if you don’t work in an office, you can use these seven creative tips to get ahead in your career. As a freelancer, it’s especially important to network in your network and express gratitude for any help that you receive.

Marketing

Before you set up a pay-per-click (PPC) advertisement, read Neil Patel’s detailed data-driven post. He’s spent big money on advertising and knows what works and what doesn’t.

If you’re ready to go from a one-person shop to an agency model, read this Hubspot post on how to make the leap. I’ll keep these tips in mind as I plan to expand and hopefully employ people in the future.

If you’re wondering why no one’s reading your blog, check out Apurva Chiranewala’s list of five reasons. Even if people are reading your blog, these tips could help improve your conversion rate.

Parenting

One second grade teacher’s decision to not assign any homework for the year is going viral. Research is showing too much homework too early can create negative attitudes about school. This teacher recommends having dinner together, playing outside and going to sleep early – all things that have proven positive effects in children’s lives. Hopefully, this no homework trend will continue.

This Science of Us article explains how people attach morality to danger when it comes to judging parenting. People don’t completely rely on facts when making judgments, they also infuse the situation with whether they think something is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ to do.

Wildcard: Lifestyle

This long read from Benjamin Hardy lists 50 ways happier, healthier, and more successful people live on their own terms. If you focus on a few of these tips, you could find yourself in a better place tomorrow than you are today. I’ve been concentrating on making meditation a regular part of my daily routine for the past week and I’m already feeling the benefits.