It’s my birthday! And what a gift you all are to me. As an introvert who prefers a small, close-knit group of friends to a large party any day, it might seem strange that I enjoy sharing with the wide world of the internet. A small, close-knit group is exactly what Em for Marvelous feels like, though, and I’m so grateful! I sincerely treasure each one of you who stops by, reads, and joins the conversation.
I’ve been struggling lately with what, exactly, I’d like to post on my public Instagram account. I have a clear “why” for my IG consumption, but I’m a bit stuck on what value I can provide there. This is a deeper question and one I’d love to dive into more, but I think my ambivalence stems in part from the delight and satisfaction I find in posting here. This is where I feel like I can provide value. This is where I feel I can give you my best. This is where I feel I can get to know you and you, me.
Friends, I know it can be harder to go to an individual platform versus scrolling through all your favorites in one feed. I am so grateful you make the extra effort. And every time I post, I strive to make it worth your while :)
To help me do that, I love to check in with you all every few years in a more formal way. So, if you have a moment, please consider taking my short survey. I’m so curious, and would love to hear from you!
Then – and this is very exciting – leave a comment below to be entered to win a pair of Maylis shoes – either the ballet flat or mule (!!!!!!). Some of you may know that my smart, beautiful, and very dear friend Lisa is launching her shoe line this spring. It’s been an honor to be in on the dream in the role of cheerleader since very early days, and I’ll take any chance to support her. She does not know I’m doing this and I will be buying the winning shoes with my own money (ha). I’ll work with you to choose your style and color once the beauts are available later this spring! I love you, Lisa!!!
Update: Cara is our winner and has been emailed! :)
Finally, to make the commenting more interesting (and so I can get to know YOU a little better!), here are four questions I’d love for you to answer after you’ve taken the survey, if you’re so inclined:
A baby name you absolutely adore: A beautiful sight you’ve seen recently: A current favorite podcast: Preferred road trip snack:
I will answer in the comments, too. Thank you in advance, friends! xo!
I’m not telling you anything new when I say that making time for friends – let alone making new ones – takes effort as an adult. Without some of the built-in opportunities for togetherness we enjoy when we’re younger, plus all of the time-consuming responsibilities of being an adult, making and keeping plans with the people I care about can feel like a part-time job.
And that’s just the logistics! If you’re an introvert like me, there can be a whole other level of fatigue from the vulnerability of putting yourself out there over and over again. Despite this, I’m always a bit shocked when I look around and realize (with much gratitude!) that I actually do have thriving friendships in my life. And one thing has been a game changer: systematizing them. Incredibly unromantic, incredibly helpful :)
Basically, I realized that my most consistent friendships – in many cases, the ones that feel the closest – have an automatic cadence. We’ve figured out the best and easiest way to spend time together and now we replicate it over and over. Here’s what that looks like for me, and how you might try this in your life if it sounds like something you need…
1. Name the friendships that matter most in this season. Get out a piece of paper and literally write down all of the friendships in your life right now – close by and far away, old and new, couple friends and college friends and church friends and mom friends and work friends and neighborhood friends and parents-of-your-kid’s-friends friends. Mark the ones you’d most like to nurture in this season of life.
2. For each priority relationship, brainstorm the best way to enjoy each other’s company. In some cases, this might simply be naming something that’s already in place. If not, maybe you can build off a rhythm that already exists, or replicate something you’ve enjoyed in the past. (An important point: the goal is not necessarily to have more social engagements, though that may end up happening. The goal is to make it easier to see the people who matter most.)
Another small aside: do you ever struggle with feeling like you’re the one who always extends the invitation? Does that feel unfair? Even though it is factually not true in my case (and probably not in yours!), the perception can leave me feeling vulnerable and resentful.
In recent years, though, I’ve successfully turned this feeling on its head. I GET to choose the activities that sound fun to me and work with my season of life! I GET to be the one to delight my friends! Instead of waiting for other people to ask, I can extend the invite with joy in my own time.
3. Implement the routine and make it sticky. No need to call up each friend and have a formal conversation, but if you’re suggesting a new rhythm, it might be helpful to broach the subject directly (“what do you think about meeting up for a walk on Thursday mornings?”). Once you’ve agreed to a rhythm (with the understanding that you can always adjust as life requires!), find a way to automate the planning. Usually, this looks like choosing a standing date (the first Friday of the month, every Monday morning) or putting the next date on the calendar before you part ways.
Of course, it goes without saying that even if you have a way you usually spend time with someone, that doesn’t mean you can’t ever do anything different. Of course you can! This is just an easy way to remove the burden of feeling like you need to reinvent the wheel every time you want to hang with a friend.
My friendships in adulthood have evolved alongside my life stage. They looked one way when we were engaged and newly married, another when we had just one baby, and now another when we have multiple school-age kids. Here are a few of the current friendship rhythms that are giving me life:
— Articles Club, of course! We meet on a certain day each month, and our gathering for discussion and dinner is a delightful way to spend time with ten wonderful friends. Several years in, we all know to keep “our” Tuesday evening clear on the calendar.
— Many of you may remember that I worked with Kristin and Lisa for several years at Southern Weddings. Lisa and I literally sat next to each other five days a week, so we didn’t really need an excuse to spend time together outside of work. When SW retired, though, we went several years only seeing each other sporadically. Then, a few months into the pandemic, we cautiously met up on Lisa’s porch for Prosecco and snacks after kiddo bedtime one evening. We set a date to meet up the next month before we left, and I don’t think we’ve missed a month in the last year and a half.
— Our annual camping trip with the Rays is a guaranteed weekend of late-night fireside chats and kiddo bonding.
— Making Fridays even sweeter: we do preschool pick-up at the same time as two other dear families, walk to a nearby bakery together for after-dinner treats, and let the kids run around while the grown-ups swap work-week updates and weekend plans for an hour.
— New babies have us a little out of our routine, but a neighborhood friend and I were in a great rhythm of early-morning walks every other week or so.
— Pandemic notwithstanding, I stumbled into a pattern of hosting a larger party once a year for my best gals (like the garden party or book swap party). This is a great catchall opportunity to be with those friends I might not see on a regular basis and a fun chance to flex my party-planning-loving heart! Fingers crossed I can make the potluck party I’ve been dreaming up for two years happen this spring…
There are more examples I could give, and more rhythms I have ideas for but have yet to implement, but I hope this gives you something to consider as you think through your own friendships! Like many of the best ideas, this is a very simple concept – but one that has paid dividends in my life in recent years.
If you have a friendship rhythm that’s working for you, I’d love to hear about it!
Contrary to appearances, I’m not the most creative mom – rather, I’m a thorough researcher, and eager to put my own twist on what I find. And Valentine’s Day, for whatever reason, brings out my peak “borrowed creativity.” With kids, I find it to be just the sweetest holiday, and working on projects together for our people has become a beloved tradition over the last few years. I know homemade classroom valentines are not for everyone, but I thought it would be fun to round up some of the designs we’ve given over the last few years, in case you’re looking to borrow a little creativity of your own! For a future year :)
Every year, I ask the kids what they’d like the theme of their valentines to be, and then I riff on that. When June was 2, it was rainbows, so I printed these little cards and she swooshed on the lines with watercolor.
Cats at age 3! I used hot pink washi tape to attach little cat toys to cards I made, then outlined the edges in pink with Super Tips.
Dogs got their day at age 4. Honestly, these ones were a beast… way too much cutting and glueing of individual pieces, ha!
We did bunnies last year, at age 5, but for some reason I don’t have a photo of them. This year, the theme was rocks! We finally found a use for her overflowing gem collection :) She chose a combination for each member of her class and then we pressed them into salt dough hearts. I wrote on the front of the tags; she wrote the to and from on the back. We tied each bag with this gorgeous yarn.
This year, at age 3, Shep got his first custom valentines! He asked for a Thomas the Tank Engine theme, so I ordered Thomas minis and designed simple cards, which he spruced up with watercolor.
Happy Valentine’s Day, friends! I hope you have a great day celebrating with the ones you love.
2. Feed –> Wake –> Sleep. For baby novices like John and I, this advice from Babywise was a lifesaver (and three babies in, it’s still working). It goes like this: when the baby wakes up, you feed them. Then you play together. Then they go to sleep. When they wake up again, you feed them again. The length of the sleeping and playing changes as they grow, but the basic rhythm was SUCH a helpful place for us to start in learning how to care for our babies.
3. All the babies I’ve ever known are obsessed with ceiling fans (especially if the blades are high contrast with the ceiling color). If you need a few minutes to get ready in the morning, lay your baby on the bed, turn on the fan for a few seconds, then turn it off and let it spin lazily. Baby magic.
4. Take the paternity leave. In the long arc of your career, you will never look back and wish you had worked those three days or two weeks or four months instead of being with your wife and baby. If you have a paternity leave benefit and it’s not your work’s culture to take it, be the change. (This one’s from John.)
5. Fun story: a few weeks after June was born, my Dad was changing her diaper. He called John and I into the room and said (very kindly), “This is not what her bottom is supposed to look like. Do you have any diaper cream?” Apparently a baby’s bottom is NOT supposed to be bright red? Right, got it. We did have and apply diaper cream, but after that, I also gave her an extra minute or two en plein air after wiping, fanning the diaper at her bottom to help things dry out (bonus: babies think this is funny).
7. I have never scrolled anything while nursing, and this is less because I am anti-scrolling and more because I was taught a two-handed hold while at the hospital. This has turned out to be a huge blessing. While nursing over the last six years, I have been present, yes (which has been its own gift), but I have also been very tuned into what was happening with my babies because there was nothing to distract me, and I think that’s made them all efficient, successful eaters. If they need a gentle nudge to keep sucking, I notice right away. If they’re in a good rhythm, I can help them keep that rhythm with a simple thumb stroke on their head (also taught to me at the hospital). And good feeding leads to good sleeping which leads to good feeding – the most wonderful virtuous cycle, especially in the early weeks.
8. Right after your baby goes down for the first evening stretch, get ready for bed – hop in the shower, do your beauty routine, get in your jams, whatever it takes. That way, especially if the baby is sleeping in your room, you’re not sneaking around trying to be super quiet when they’re about to wake up (or worse, showering when they’re already crying to be fed). Even if you’ve previously been a morning shower-er, I’d highly recommend the evening shower in the early days – mornings are just much less predictable, and if you’re home alone on maternity leave, you have less support. And every day is better with a shower.
9. Put olive oil on your nipples. For the first two babies, I used lanolin, but the feeding consultant at the hospital with Annie said they’re no longer recommending that (apparently it’s drying, what the heck?!) and recommending olive oil instead. She handed me a little vial (of the cooking stuff) and instructed me to rub a little on after every feeding. I did, for the first three or so weeks, and had zero bleeding or cracking.
10. Unsure what to do with your baby once they actually stay awake a bit during the day? I was. Turns out there are lots of things you can do together, but here’s one of my favorites: sit on a couch or comfy chair and prop your feet up on a coffee table, making a vee with the tops of your legs and your torso. Rest the baby on your thighs. In this spot, you’re comfortable, and they’re perfectly positioned to look at your face (babies love faces!). From there, you can read books, look at toys, gently sway them back and forth, sing songs… whatever you’d like.
11. Like a secret service agent, get ready to scan every situation you find yourself in to see how you can activate white noise if it becomes necessary. I kid, but only just. Here are some of our favorites: this machine for the bedroom, this one for on the go, and this app in a pinch.
12. Watch the movie About Time, ideally within a month of your child’s birth. It will wreck you emotionally but it could also change your life. (It changed mine.)
13. Just enjoy it. It passes so quickly, and it can be hard, AND even the hard parts can be enjoyed with the right perspective. Caveat: I’m not sure if this perspective can fully be realized until you’re on your last baby. With Annie, I truly, actually enjoyed getting up in the middle of the night to feed her, because I knew it was fleeting and I just felt lucky to be there with her. The first few weeks don’t have to be the best part of your life or your favorite part of your child’s life, but they are a unique and precious time. In the words of my grandmother, just try to enjoy it.
A few months out of my last fourth trimester, I wanted a spot to capture everything I write out for friends when they ask for advice… I hope you might find a nugget here that blesses you, too. What would you add? What resonates with you most? xo