How We Spent Winter 2016

Winter is my least favorite time of year even though it includes my birthday. Cold weather and gray skies get me feeling down and I find it harder to get motivated to leave the house. I do my best to enjoy the season, but once the holidays are over, I’m simply waiting for it to warm up. I enjoy being outside, but winters in northern Illinois make it difficult to enjoy nature.

The absolute best thing about the end of this year was getting pregnant with baby #2 and finding out we are having a boy!

Erin

Mom’s Groups

I joined another mom’s group this past fall and started going to more events this winter. I already belonged to one mom’s group, but the times that they met were not always convenient with my schedule. I like to work in the morning and take Norah to playdates around 11 am or after her nap at 2 – 3 pm. The new mom’s group has more options for later morning meetups and after school playdates. I plan on continuing to take Norah to events until she starts preschool in September. At that point, I’ll be bringing my son to the baby playgroups.

Reading

Since there’s not much else to do, I love spending time reading (especially by the fireplace) in the winter. This year I set my reading challenge to 53 books. I spent this winter reading the following books:

Nonfiction

  • Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Catmull, Amy Wallace – 4 stars
  • Where am I Now? by Mara Wilson – 2 stars
  • How to Murder Your Life by Cat Marnell – 4 stars

Fiction

  • The Survivor’s Guide to Family Happiness by Maddie Dawson – 4 stars
  • The Opposite of Maybe by Maddie Dawson – 3 stars
  • The Ocean at the End of the Lane – Neil Gaiman – 4 stars
  • Because I’m Watching by Christina Dodd – 3 stars
  • The Girl Before by Rena Olsen – 4 stars
  • The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena – 3 stars

Handlettering

Mike gave me a book on handlettering, some fancy pens, and paper for Christmas. I’m working on teaching myself. It’s harder than it looks, but surprisingly relaxing. I do too many activities that involve active thinking and this is something that is more physical. I would label myself as more crafty than artistic, but I’m pretty good at eyeballing something and copying the design of it. When Mike and I were dating, I baked a cake and carved it into a Batman symbol!

I hope to create some collaborative artwork with Norah and possible Mike. He’s very talented and majored in art during his first two years of college. Unfortunately, he almost never uses his drawing skills. On the other hand, Norah loves using watercolors and I’d love to add an inspirational quote or word over her artwork and frame it! Perhaps it could be something I could sell.

Norah

Playing in the snow

Although it’s been bitter cold, we haven’t had too much snow this year. Norah was able to enjoy one day of playing outside and sledding in early December. I look forward to her getting bigger and being able to enjoy the giant sledding hill in our backyard. I have a feeling my house will be a sledding destination for her friends.

Holiday celebrations and traditions

Norah is still the only grandchild (for now!) for both sets of grandparents so she gets spoiled during the holidays.

This year she was able to understand the concept of Santa and was talking about him for weeks. She also had her first Toys R Us catalog experience. She carried that thing around for several months, pointing out toys that she wanted. Mike’s work had a breakfast with Santa where she revealed that she wanted a “Shopkins house.” We had a last minute scramble to find one. The holidays only get more enjoyable as Norah gets older. It is so wonderful to experience things through her eyes.

Mike’s been doing Elf on the Shelf since I was pregnant with Norah, mostly to amuse me. Norah loved the book, but did not care for the actual elf. If he was near any of her things, she would throw him across the room even though I kept telling her she wasn’t supposed to touch him. We ended up having him stay in neutral places like the top of the fridge or mantelpiece.

She also loved the Christmas lights and would say they are “boo-ti-ful”.

Going to the library

Norah participated in the summer and winter reading club at the library this year. They have clubs for both readers and pre-readers. The pre-readers activities involved parents reading to the kids and showing them different stations around the library.

Norah loves the library, just like her mama. I have so many wonderful memories of being in the library as a kid. We go to the library at least once a week. We also try to make it to programs every few weeks.

Norah knows several librarian’s names and has a favorite librarian that she frequently asks about. This winter, one librarian was especially kind to Norah and let her come behind the desk and check in some books and then reshelve them. I’m happy to have instilled a love of the library in my daughter.

We’re looking forward to Spring and Summer when we are able to get out of the house more often. We’ll be spending extra special time with Norah before her world is rocked by her brother arriving in July!

How we spent winter 2016

10 Things I Did Before I Was 33 (And You Should Too)

I celebrated my 33rd birthday on February 1st. I’ve always used my birthdays as a reset button for the new year. I set goals on January 1st, but usually don’t get motivated to pursue them until my birthday rolls around and it’s officially a new year for me.

In honor of my 33rd birthday, I’m sharing 10 important things I’ve done in my short time here on Earth.

1) Expanded my palette

The first twenty years of my life I subsisted on chicken strips and fries. I was scared to death of flavor, intolerant of spice, and happy to live in my mashed potato bubble. My ex-boyfriend’s father was an excellent cook and I tried many new things at his house with the sole motivation of looking good in front of his family. Even though the relationship didn’t last, I left with a love of avocados, Peking duck, and Indian food. There is so much good food out there, try it!

2) Got over my childhood (for the most part)

I quietly carried the brunt of my dysfunctional family until my mid-twenties. At that point, it came to a head, I was regularly crying and raging over what had happened during my childhood. I had flipped the switch from “everything was cool” to “everything was horrible” and I couldn’t get out of the funk. Thoughts about my past encompassed 90% of my brain space and even crowded into my current situation and made me doubt my present relationships. I came from a we-don’t-need-help family and when I was able to break that stigma and talk to a therapist, the relief was nearly immediate. After several months of therapy, I gained the tools to deal with my past and present. That doesn’t mean I don’t feel bad about things or have times when I wallow in it, but I’m a lot better off than I was before. My past doesn’t dictate my future and neither does yours. Get help if you need it.

3) Took a big risk

I wouldn’t say I’m risk-adverse. I was always the friend convincing her more cautious friends to do something daring. One boring evening, I led the charge to go get something pierced, just for fun. However, when it came to my work history, I followed the straight and narrow. I had one career after college and I intended to stay there indefinitely even though I wasn’t able to express myself creatively and it wasn’t really what I wanted to be doing for the rest of my life (though I enjoyed the work). During bed rest and maternity leave while pregnant with my daughter, I had a lot of time to think about what I wanted to do with my life. This led to me resigning from my job and beginning a work from home career. That blossomed into my own business and led me to where I am today. I was scared to take a risk, but if I hadn’t I wouldn’t have experienced the happiness, excitement and career satisfaction I feel now. Make a plan and then make the leap, it’s worth it.

4) Cut out toxic people

I’ve made the tough decision to have limited or no contact with several people in my life. I agonized over these decisions and kept expressing my hurt, waiting for the person(s) to change. Spoiler alert – they never did. Don’t give your time to people who make you feel bad about yourself. Just don’t. It’s better to have no one to talk to then have someone who makes you feel worse every time you talk to them. This advice even applies to family. Just because someone has known you for a long time or is related to you doesn’t mean they deserve a place in your life. You don’t have to know someone forever, so don’t. You can stop talking abruptly or do the slow fade, but just get the people out of your life. Your deserve to be happy.

5) Made a commitment

I said I’d never get married until I met my husband. When he proposed, it felt right and I wasn’t worried about the lifelong commitment any longer. Making a commitment is hard enough to keep without forcing yourself into it in the first place. Being committed to something has made me a better person. I was flaky and hard to reach when I was younger and being with someone for an extended length of time bored me. Obviously marriage isn’t always perfect, but I know that hanging in there through the tough times leads to some of the best times. You don’t have to get married to make a commitment, vow to do something that you want to do and see it through. It will give you the same satisfaction.

6) Saw some of the world

It took me into my 30s to realize I don’t really like traveling. So many people feel that traveling is THE thing to do. If you can see the world then you’ve made it and you’re a more fully formed human than those who stay in the same place for their entire lives. While I love the idea of traveling, I don’t enjoy the actuality of it. I’ve seen around 15 states, been on tropical beach vacation, saw some ancient churches, and flown internationally – for now, I’m good. So, maybe I’ll be a less cultured person that someone else, but as they say, is the juice worth the squeeze? And for me, it’s not. If traveling makes you happy, do it. If you prefer to stay local, there’s nothing wrong with that either.

7) Forgave

Anger is a smooth talker. It will always make you feel that you are justified in your feelings. When someone wrongs you, whether they did it on purpose or not, whether they are sorry or not, whether they will do it again or not, just forgive. Holding onto anger is toxic. Forgiveness takes nothing from you, it doesn’t prove the person was right, it just allows you to move past the event. I spent a lot of my youth raging at machines and it ultimately just wore me out. It gave me a hard shell that made me distrustful of anyone’s intentions. Once I figured out that my reaction to the situation mattered more than the actual situation, it became a lot easier to choose peace and forgive. Let go of a grievance and your soul will feel lighter.

8) Got my sleep

I’ve always loved sleep. Even as a child, I was slow to wake up and could stay in bed until the afternoon. I enjoyed my time sleeping in until I turned 30 and had my daughter. Once that happened, sleep became something that was less controlled by me and more controlled by the whims of a tiny dictator. Enjoy your sleep, revel in your sleep. Get your sleep while the sleeping’s good. I’m sure I’ll sleep soundly again…someday.

9) Experienced unconditional love

I don’t think I could have ever experienced true love had I not had my daughter. I love my husband, and I’ve loved men before him, but it’s not the same. The love I have for my daughter could move mountains. It has changed my life in the best possible way. I am kinder and braver than I was before she was born. I was petrified of having children, possibly intuiting that some core part of myself would break loose when it happened, but it was the best decision I have ever made. Having children is not for everyone, and I don’t doubt that a person can find the same type of unconditional love for an animal, significant other, or even career, but for me, it’s my daughter.

10) Shared my light

I’ve bailed two ex-boyfriends out of jail, picked people up in the middle of night when I was barely able to focus my gritty eyes on the road, taken someone to a concert at the last minute when their other friend bailed, given dozens of people money (overtly or secretly), complimented strangers, hugged people who were crying in public, left giftcards on car windshields, sent anonymous Valentine’s, donated my time and money to local charities, and sincerely told no less than 30 people that I thought they were beautiful. Kind actions are always out of my comfort zone and they always take bravery, but I know these actions make an impact. The world needs all the good we can put into it, especially now.

I’m not afraid of aging, I’ve only become more confident, less concerned about people’s opinions of me, and happier as I’ve gotten older. I wish the same for you.

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How to Get Over Self-Limiting Beliefs

Self-limiting beliefs can be one of the biggest barriers to success that a freelancer can face. These negative thoughts can be confidence killers that cause you to doubt your ability to make it on your own. Self-limiting beliefs are the negative opinions you hold about yourself and your abilities. They may manifest as a voice in the back of your mind that says things like “You can’t do it…You’re going to fail…You’re not smart enough…Don’t bother.”

Getting rid of self-limiting beliefs isn’t easy. Doing work on yourself and your mindset is the hardest work you can do. If you’re struggling with self-limiting beliefs, here are some things you do to get out of that negative headspace.

Read self-help books and articles

One of the best, and cheapest, ways to get over your self-limiting beliefs is to learn how to combat the negative voice in your mind. You can find books on the topic at your local library or on Amazon.

Here are some books that I’ve found helpful:

Mastering Your Mean Girl: The No-BS Guide to Silencing Your Inner Critic and Becoming Wildly Wealthy, Fabulously Healthy, and Bursting with Love by Melissa Ambrosini

You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life by Jen Sincero

Daring Greatly by Brene Brown

Do the (self) work

A lot of people are running around desperate to avoid silence and thinking about their lives, their actions, and their mentality. The world makes it very easy to keep yourself incredibly busy. You may never have to deal with how you feel about yourself. But if you never address your negative emotions, then you’ll eventually find yourself in a very unhappy place.

The people who become comfortable dealing with their emotions and looking at themselves with a critical eye are the ones who make the most spiritual progress in their time on Earth.

Not only is self-work spending time thinking about yourself, it’s also reading self-improvement books and trying the strategies you read about. It’s about changing your behavior as much as it as about observing it. If you are completely self-aware, but never make any changes, you won’t grow as a person.

If you’re having negative thoughts about yourself, challenge them! If you are feeling bad about yourself, ask yourself why. Have you been making poor choices that don’t reflect your desires or morals? When you act in a way that goes against your core values, you will always feel uncomfortable until you get back on the right path.

Make changes

People who say they can’t or won’t change make me very sad. In my opinion, they either think that they are perfect and could use no improvement or they think that negative traits are set in stone and it’s a waste of time to make changes.

You are on this earth for any number of years. You are not the same person in grade school that you are in college. You do not have to ‘lock in’ to any one persona or belief system, especially if it no longer works for you. If you want to change, you can. It doesn’t matter what you did or how old you are, change is possible if you want it.

Mantras and affirmations

Two more tools to fight self-limiting beliefs are mantras and affirmations. Mantras and affirmations are things that you repeat out-loud or to yourself throughout the day. These positive phrases work to “record over” the tape of negative thoughts in your mind. For example, if you’re struggling with feeling like you can’t find quality clients, you could tell yourself a few times per day, “I deserve quality clients and I will find them.”

These phrases can work for a number of self-esteem issues. Some therapists suggest looking into a mirror while you say your phrases. This may help you form a deeper connection to the message.

When I remember to, I try to recite a few mantras and affirmations throughout the day. If I’m feeling anxious about a project or meeting, I will repeat something like “I will do my best. Things will work out.”

Mantras and affirmations are easy to add to your daily routine and can make a big difference in how you feel about yourself.

Talk to a therapist

If your self-limiting beliefs are very strong and you believe they have their roots in your childhood, you may want to see a therapist. I did a very helpful stint of therapy in my mid-20s to deal with issues surrounding my dysfunctional upbringing. The therapy helped immensely. Sometimes people are able to get over things from their past on their own, but other times people need help to work through their experiences and feelings. Therapy is great if you want help sorting out your thoughts.

Everyone struggles with self-limiting beliefs and negative emotions at different times in their lives. Self-limiting beliefs can become self-fulfilling prophecies, but it’s not hopeless. At some point, a person will become so uncomfortable doing what they’ve always done, that they will crave a change. When this happens, progress can be made. Doing the hard work on yourself can make a world of difference in all areas of your life.

**This post includes affiliate links

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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.

entertain-your-toddler

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 9/26/16)

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

Ali Luke shares six ways to make time to write when you’re a parent. I love her idea about writing in blocks. I also structure my day this way.

Josh Hoffman suggests a ‘Networking of Life’ method for getting new freelancing clients. It involves interacting in the community and staying relevant in people’s minds.

Johnathan Stark doubled his income by switching from hourly billing to value-based pricing. Seasoned workers are rewarded in a value-based system while inefficient workers are rewarded with an hourly structure. I currently have a mix of hourly and value based clients.

Marketing

The value of side projects cannot be underestimated. Lauren Holliday talks about 11 ways you can generate income for your business by providing solutions for your customers.

If your content isn’t working, check out this article by Mike Templeman to find out why. You may not be saying anything new or people may not be able to find your content. If you find the source of the problem, you can fix it.

Parenting

Miriam Mason Martineau shares a heartfelt post about why you have to let go of your ego to parent. Some suggestions include focusing on presence and self-awareness and trusting yourself.

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Mama’s Favorites: This Week’s Best Content (Week of 9/5/16)

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

Before you get started freelancing, check out Kate Darby’s five things to know before you go solo. The article is geared towards designers but can apply to all freelancers.

Many freelancers are pricing their services too low. Justine Clay suggests going from an hourly rate to a project rate or retainer fee.

Contently has some mixed opinions on whether blogging is important for freelancers. We both agree that it gives you a place to express your creativity without any restraints.

Marketing

If you want to write one blog post every day, you should practice these habits from Neil Patel. One of my favorite suggestions is reading more than you write.

Never search for a free stock image again. Buffer pulled together a gigantic list of 53 resources that everyone should bookmark!

No matter the size of your business, you need a plan. Lindsey Evans will tell you why and make you laugh.

Parenting

Children are experiencing high levels of stress at a younger age than previous generations. Dr. Suzanne Farra explains why and tells parents what we can do to help.

Both working from home or going back to the office after having a baby are hard. Katy Widrick talks about her two experiences and the pros and cons of each.

 

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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.