Spring fun list with a toddler

29 March 2018

I’ve mentioned a few times how excited I am for spring this year. Like, really excited. It’s finally spring, but now I need it to hurry up and feel like spring! We’ve got the longer days… now we just need the warmer temps.

I make seasonal fun lists often, but I haven’t posted a spring version since 2012! (!) Here’s my updated list for this year:

Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday at Duke Chapel! Very loud hosannas!

— Dig in the dirt at our church’s community garden
— Hunt for eggs with neighborhood friends
— Pick strawberries
— Pay for the person behind us in line (our Easter Saturday tradition!)
— Play at the Museum of Life & Science
— Go to a Bulls game
— Roast s’mores in our fire pit
— Cinnamon rolls on Easter Sunday
— Visit the WRAL Azalea Garden
— Pack a picnic and eat lunch outside
— Get ice cream at Maple View
— Poke around in our neighborhood creek
— Pick blueberries
— Fly a kite (I think June will think this is SO HILARIOUS.)
— Walk downtown for beignets
— Lemonade at the Honeysuckle Tea House
— Celebrate Memorial Day
— Camp with friends
— Wade at Fews Ford
— Plant our veggie garden
— Eat dinner in our backyard (as often as possible!)
— Bring a spring favorite to our block party

Whew! The trick for turning these lists into actual memorable experiences instead of things that just sound fun on a blog? I print them out and post them on our refrigerator! That way, they’re in front of me every day, and it’s easy to make time for them. I will try to post a photo of my printed-out list on Instagram Stories later today, so stay tuned! :)

I would love to hear: what’s on your spring fun list?


27 March 2018

Friends, first of all, thank you so much for your heartfelt comments on my last post. Each one meant so much to me, so thank you for sharing! I love you all! Now onto the business of today…

We talk often at my job about how our greatest frustrations can turn into our greatest passions, and sometimes (if we’re lucky), even our life’s work. I had a bit of a light bulb moment a few weeks ago, and thought I’d share it…

One of my greatest frustrations is seeing women accept conventional wisdom and societal truisms as being true for their lives, even if they are not or don’t have to be. So often, I think we just accept things because we hear other people or our parents or our friends or TV anchors or newspaper columnists say them enough times — so they must be true.

And sometimes they are. But I believe they don’t always have to be. Instead of bending this way and that with the winds of everyone else’s paths and opinions, we CAN be confident in the life we’re living and the priorities where we’re planting our flags. It takes a firm foundation and an inner surety to be able to do this in the face of an entire culture (and sometimes very real people in your life) telling you you should second guess everything and just go with the flow, but it can be done.

You all helped me see in your survey responses that confidence is what we’re doing here. Hopefully, through sharing my story, I can show you that it’s okay to live your own path kindly, purposefully, and simply, without fanfare or fluster. I am capable, and so are you. Here are some of the lies we’ve sidestepped here together:

If you’re good at something, you need to find a way to make money doing it.
I’ll never pay off my student loans.
Emotional labor is a burden and a curse.
Time flies by so quickly.
The only way you can have a job you love is to work for yourself.
Mom guilt is unavoidable.
I wish I could give my children the childhood I had, but the world is different now.

If you find Em for Marvelous to be a breath of fresh air (as many of you so kindly worded it in your responses), I hope it’s because you leave feeling built up and inspired to walk your own path, not necessarily to follow mine.

As I said at the beginning of the How We Do It series, I don’t have all the answers, but one thing I have been given is a confidence in the decisions I make for myself and my family, and a willingness to share them. Confidence can be as infectious as guilt, shame, or uncertainty, but it’s much, much better to spread. As I wrote down at the last Making Things Happen Conference, my life’s work is to equip and empower women to see that they are capable, and this blog is a large part of that. I’m so glad you’re here.

Which brings us to our survey results! As of last week, I clocked 250 survey responses, and figured that was a nice even number to cap it at for this year! Some of you asked to see the results, so here’s a bit about your fellow readers…

— A fifth of readers have only been reading for a year. BUT, more than half of you have been reading for five or more years, which is pretty incredible!!
— 70% of you found EFM through my work, for which I am so grateful!
— The majority (73%) of you are married.
— Most of you have a “traditional” job, which I love. I would consider my job to be traditional (and awesome!), as well.
— 87% of you are between the ages of 23-35. The most common age split was 27-30, just younger than me, which makes a lot of sense given a common theme in the open-ended responses: that you consider me something of a big sister, often one step ahead of you in life.
— About half of you don’t have kids! That really surprised me. But, you still like parenting posts, as you’ll see below! Also, congratulations to my 13 pregnant readers :)

One thing that came up over and over is that y’all like the variety of content I share, which is nicely demonstrated by this data. Nearly all of you chose practical tips as a favorite topic, with finance coming in a close second. (The How We Do It series and Marvelous Money posts were mentioned almost unanimously as favorites in the open-ended section.) I’d also consider goals, life updates, deep thoughts, love and marriage, and parenting and pregnancy in the top tier.

This question is one of my favorites, because though I’m never going to write about anything I’m not passionate about (this is just a hobby for me and I like to keep it fun!), I have pages and pages of potential topics. Hearing from y’all and learning more about you helps me decide which of those topics to move to the top of the list, which is great for both of us! :)

Once again, you all were uniformly kind and encouraging in the open-ended responses. Words you used to describe EFM included real, relatable, honest, intentional, simplicity, inspiring, positive, normal, practical, calm, sincere, and encouraging. My favorites were “real” and “normal” :) More:

— This comment summed up probably the strongest theme: “EFM is a breath of fresh air in a space where many blogs focus on more materialistic things to bring happiness. When reading your blog, I come away with practical and meaningful things I can do, rather than buy, to improve myself and my life.” That is the beauty of writing for love rather than money, I think – you’re just getting my real life, complete with real budget. As another one of you said: “Your blog feels like it’s about authentic living for real people: people who have jobs and families and budgets but want to slow down, find joy, and still be an adult.”
— Many of you commented that you love keeping up with my family, and also that you appreciate my boundaries (and a few asked about how I keep them strong). I think there’s a post in the future there, because unsurprisingly it’s something I’m passionate about!
— Possibly my favorite comments came from the women who shared that we are different in significant ways (maybe they don’t share my faith, don’t have kids, don’t live in the South, have a totally different job, etc.), but that they still love reading EFM. In a world where it’s so easy (and common!) to tune out anyone who’s different from you, that feels like some of the most gratifying feedback.

Anyway, I hope that peek into the survey results was interesting! And that my soap box speech wasn’t too intense, ha! Again, I’m so, so thankful for each one of you, and especially for you sharing your thoughts with me. Together, we make this a sweet spot on the internet :)

I would love to hear: do my thoughts on confidence resonate with you? What are some of your greatest frustrations?

All photos by Nancy Ray from our family session

Baby boy Thomas!

23 March 2018

Friends, we are adding a baby BOY to our family! What?!?

Yep, that’s how I felt when we opened the envelope! (Though apparently this news won’t surprise most of you – the guesses leaned heavily in the male direction on my Instagram post!)

A few things to discuss:

With June, I 100% knew we were having a girl from the start. Just knew. This time around, I did not have a strong feeling either way. I think in my heart I knew we were having a boy — I just perhaps wasn’t ready to admit it to myself, as I was fairly open about the fact that I was hoping for another girl.

Why was I hoping for another girl?

First, June is just the best, so of course we’d want a repeat!

Second, having a boy is definitely more of an unknown, considering I grew up with two sisters and mostly girl cousins and friends. I know it sounds dumb, but I’m not even sure what you do with a boy?? (Answer: pretty much the same thing you do with a girl, especially at the beginning.) We’ve already proven ourselves to be successful parents to a girl (at least thus far), and another girl just seems like the easier route.

I’m also a bit sad that I won’t be able to have back-to-back girls to recreate the sister bond I grew up with, which was very precious to me. I think I benefitted in many ways from growing up in a family with only girls, and that’s no longer a possibility for our family. (Side note: John thinks I would have greatly benefitted from growing up with a brother, so there’s that…)

Finally, as you all know, I rely heavily on my parents’ example in all things parenting, but I’m left without a road map for this particular twist. I don’t know how my Mom and Dad would have parented a boy! What would they have done differently? What would they have done the same? I don’t have a trustworthy, up-close example to follow now for our multi-gender family, and I’m a bit unsure of my abilities to pioneer this path.

We found out last week, and since then, my shock has turned to wonder, in the best way. There are at least four reasons for this.

1. I use the word “wonder” because I am truly excited to see the incredible things God works in our family and in my life through this addition of a boy. It’s already guaranteed to be good, but God is known to do amazing things that we could never predict or foresee. I am humble enough to know that my desires do not always match up with what would actually be best for me.

2. John was a ridiculously adorable child, and the thought of our boy looking or acting like him at all makes my heart swell to twice its normal size.

3. The excitement of other mamas with boys has been nothing short of delirious. One friend (ahem) literally jumped up and down and squealed when she found out, and everyone else wasn’t close behind. They all claim there is something uniquely precious and sweet about having a boy, and though I obviously adore having a little girl, I’m willing to bet there’s something to the unanimous enthusiasm.

4. As I wrote when I first shared our happy news, my biggest challenge with baby number two has been keeping my expectations in check. I think it will be SO much easier to approach the newborn days (and really all the days after them) with open hands now that I know this baby is a boy. Logically, I might know that all babies are pretty much the same, but the switch from girl to boy is enough to trick my brain into thinking “Oooh, new experience! Who knows what to expect? Not you!” :) To which I say, GREAT!

Thank you, as always, for sharing in our story, friends! Grateful for each one of you!

P.S. OBVIOUSLY I am heartbroken that all of June’s adorable clothes I’ve been saving will not get used for this sweet baby. And completely befuddled that there are not analogous boy clothing items for leggings and dresses. Dressing a baby/toddler girl seems SO MUCH EASIER – but that is a post for another day :)

P.P.S. Speaking of girl clothes… this dress is my favorite right now!! A few of you asked me about it, so here ya go!

All photos by our wonderful friend Graham Terhune of Anagram Photo!

Our favorite board games

20 March 2018

Today is the last day to take my survey! I’ve heard from more than 200 of you already (so wonderful!), but if you haven’t answered the questions and entered the giveaway yet, now is your chance!

I’d like to propose to you one of those quintessential defining divides, like morning v. evening people or pessimists v. optimists: are you a board game person?

I fall squarely into the board game camp, and it has both shaped my character and been a siren song leading me to some of my most precious friendships over the years. To me, board game people are good people: they like having fun, they’re smart, they’re patient, they’re cooperative, they know how to win and lose, and they like spending time with people. Those are totally unbiased opinions, of course :)

Unsurprisingly, I believe board games can be a great tool for building a healthy and vibrant family culture — they certainly were in both my family and John’s family! I’ve collected a long string of favorites stretching from childhood to college to parenthood, and I’d love to swap recommendations…

Note: card games are totally included under this activity umbrella!

Second note: apparently I don’t have a lot of photos involving board games to share. Not sure what I’m doing in this photo but judging by the pile of pennies in the center I believe Marget and I are ready to play 31 :)

In elementary school, my family’s favorite games included:

Boggle (I have literally never heard of anyone else playing this game but our word-loving family LOVED it, even though my Dad would crush us all, always.)
Scattergories (a perennial favorite to this day!)
Tripoley (another one I haven’t heard of many people playing, but so fun!)

We had a whole subset of games we played just at the Island, and these included Parcheesi, Oh P’Shaw, Mahjong, and Hi-Ho Cherry-O (which we liked mostly because it involved tiny cherries and buckets).

I was incredibly lucky to have friends in high school who also loved playing games (one of the first things John and I bonded over!). We almost exclusively played Cranium (as demonstrated above by John and our friend Dan!), but there were some poker nights and Taboo matches mixed in.

Games have led us to some of our best friends later in life, including Nancy and Will. Fun fact: I got the courage to email Nancy and suggest a game night after reading about her love for Settlers of Catan on her blog back in 2010!! More recently, we knew our neighborhood friends Katie and Scott were, like, the real-deal type of friends instead of just acquaintances when they introduced us to a new-to-us game that became a family hit, Codenames!

These days, some of our favorites include Celebrity (called Fish Bowl by some people), Seven Wonders, Werewords, Settlers, Scattergories, Mexican Train, 99, and Codenames. We’ll take any chance we can get to play with our favorite people, even if it means putting our kids to sleep at each other’s houses for a few uninterrupted hours! :)

Hopefully I’ll be able to write a post in a few years sharing some of the games we’ve started indoctrinating June with playing with June… in the meantime, I’d love to hear any of your favorites, if you’re a board game person, too! :)

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