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Solitude matters, and for some people, it’s the air they breathe. ―Susan Cain, Quiet

It feels redundant to mention the messy and loud work of motherhood, let alone with the homeschool. Whether by the practical work of our hands or the soulful work of the heart, it is simultaneously the most beautiful and depleting work, requiring  every bit of our reserves, regardless of educational choices or occupations outside of the home. Parenthood will turn our hearts inside-out in the best of ways, and while it is inherently about our children, parenthood is also a journey of self. I encourage you, dearest readers, do pay attention to this less obvious part too.

On a recent weekend, I spent the afternoon in the kitchen on my own, listening to music and working with my hands. At the end of the evening as the kids were bathing and sliding into bedtime routine, I recognized an internal energy that typically isn’t there at this point in the day. I’m more likely in these hours to fall asleep during read-a-loud or slip into my own sheets just after the kids. Our children had played or worked outside all day, taking full advantage of our unseasonable warm weather. The overflow of energy, I realized, came from quiet, from spending a few hours working with my hands, listening to music, and simply allowing my thoughts to drift without the need to talk or explain a process. I had simply worked.

Knowing how much solitude or quiet activity fuels me as an introvert, the choice to live and learn with my four children all the time may seem funny to others. For years I have wrestled with guilt about this personal need. Taking time for the self can often feel secondary and selfish in the wake of all that can be (or should be) done for our children, and we mothers can be hard on ourselves in the process. After reading Quiet several years ago, I realized this need of mine is as much a gift to my children as any other. I can only say it this way:

The point of solitude is not merely to be filled but to be filled often enough to overflow into something or someone else.

Motherhood is not a life of solitude (even though a mother with a newborn or young toddlers might feel differently). It is a conscious practice of living out-loud, of talking through actions and patterns of thought in order to teach our children. This is a tree. This is a book. This is a bed. This is food. We teach them how to handle anger and happiness, how to talk through hurt feelings and where to look up answers to practical questions. This is anger. This joy. This is laughter. This is hurt. Here is how we speak, how we use our bodies to share our emotion. Here is how we ask for help. We show them the paradoxes and contexts for living. This is a stranger. This is a new friend. Here is how and when you greet them.  We teach practical skills in self-care. Here is a toilet. Here is a bath. Here is a toothbrush. We also teach them about boundaries, about the connection between self and others. This is yours. This is mine. This is sharing. This is fun. This is tired. This is a tantrum. This is the need for rest.  Homeschooling simply adds the layer of academics. The same lessons spiral over and over in a new context. Here is frustration. Here is joy. Here is perseverance. Here is respect for others. Here is a need for rest.

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By honestly sharing my own boundaries and limitations, I am likewise teaching my children to recognize their own. I am also teaching them it is okay to say remove myself from people or activities I love in a healthy way. Here are a few ways that I’ve learned to find quiet during my homeschool days and in motherhood in general over the years:

rest time | Take an hour in the afternoon for rest time. This is a time of quiet, where littles can nap and non-napping children can listen to audiobooks or play independently. Quiet is the emphasis for our home during this hour, and the rule is you must choose an activity that won’t disrupt someone else. This last bit gets easier as they grow older, although sharply protecting this time is more difficult. During this time, I typically take care of online work. On the best days, I just grab a book and a cozy spot on my bed.

go outside | Anytime I’m feeling overwhelmed by the noise in my head or environment, I step outside. When my children were young, I would load them in a stroller or wrap them to my body somehow for a journey to the park. Now as my children are a little older, we may take our work outdoors or I may just go and sit in a sunny spot in the backyard for a few minutes. Sometimes emotion and thought need to be free of the physical home.

take a time-out for yourself | Time-out has such a negative connotation, as it feels equated with toddler tantrums or other misbehavior. I realized during those early mother years, that sometimes I was the one who needed a time-out. Some moments I felt overwhelmed, frustrated, or like I might lose patience, I learned it was better to take a ten minute break for myself before addressing them. I might put the baby in the crib or the toddler in a high-chair with a snack or on their bed with a book. I might send pre-schoolers outside for a bit to swing or play. I still do this, no longer because of tantrums, but because some days the work at hand does feel overwhelming. It’s always good for me to find a quiet spot in the home or yard, take a few slow, deep breaths. These moments feel almost trite, but they work wonders for finding perspective.

offer screen time | Let me pause here and say there’s no shame in using a screen for help. Most modern parents are aware it’s best for children to learn with our hands and by human interaction. And yes, make that type of experience the bulk of your day together, but remember to show compassion to yourself, too. Are you dressed or needing a shower? Are you feeling emotionally anxious or stressed? Have you spent more time playing the sibling referee or working through toddler tantrums than normal? Take 30 minutes. When my children were little, they had a daily 30-60 minutes of screen time. They watched (and loved ) the BBC’s Planet Earth, which we still own and watch, and several documentaries on Netflix. They also watched PBS shows or Leap Frog Letter Factory or Math to the Moon.

send the kids outside | As my children have grown older, I often send them outside. I may give them a specific task or the simple imperative to play and enjoy fresh air. As our studies grow more complex and difficult, they need the balance, too.

Also: Rest Time in Our Home

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I love date nights at home. Honestly, I’d choose a quiet night at home with Mark over going out almost anytime. We started these dates when our children were babies and went to bed early. It felt expensive and tiresome to regularly set up babysitting, never mind looking for the perfect window between feeding a baby. Home felt simpler.

Once a week, we’d tuck our children in early as usual, turn off our cell phones and computers for the night, pour a glass of wine, and unwind together. Over the years, as our family has changed, so have these dates. Our children aren’t ever asleep at 7pm, making it trickier to schedule, but I also have a bit more energy to spice these evenings up with special desserts or cocktails or snacks. I’ve also planned them for different times of day, like I previously wrote here. Of course we still go out occasionally for dinner or concerts or special events, but honestly these times at home still win in my heart.

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For Valentine’s Day this year, I’m planning a tapas style meal, full of dips and sauces, breads, roasted and raw veggies, cheeses, meats. These small plates are textural, sensorial, entirely engaging, and dare I say sexy? Paired with your favorite wine, they’re perfect for a late evening rendezvous. And the best part for busy parents everywhere? They’re relatively easy to make, since you can make much of it ahead of time and most of it can be served cold. Here’s a few ideas to get you started:

roasted asparagus + tomatoes 

kalamata olives

fresh green pesto

spiced pinot noir + goat cheese turnovers [best straight from the oven]

brie cheese

caramelized onions

sautéed mushrooms 

sliced french baguette [toast them if you prefer crunch]

Italian dry salami + prosciutto 

sweet red pepper relish

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HELPFUL NOTES

+ I made the spiced pinot + goat cheese turnovers last weekend, and they are truly swoon-worthy. I prefer them best straight from the oven when the creamy goat cheese and sauce run out from the pastry. If you’re needing a gluten-free option, consider making the choux pastry dough from this book.

+ Add cold meats and cheeses when possible to save time. For a fancier meat option, try sliced beef tenderloin. My favorite recipe is in this book, as well as tons of other inspiration for seasonal date night meals.

+ Use high-quality jarred sauces for an easy stand-in on homemade ones. I snatched this sweet red pepper relish from this month’s Hatchery box. Since it was in a sample size already, I simply popped the lid and added a spoon for serving.

+ Take a few moments beforehand to style all of the ingredients on one board, tray, or tablecloth. It will feel a little more special than the average dinner at home.

+ Eat by candlelight and turn on soft music. It feels cliche, but it can successfully drown out the distractions of an unclean kitchen or a pile of toys lingering nearby.


As a partner with Hatchery, I receive a small portion of whatever is purchased through the links. As a perk, any friends + family of Cloistered Away can get their first Hatchery box for $10, using the code CLOISTEREDAWAY. All images and thoughts are my own, as always. Thank you for supporting the businesses that help keep this space afloat. Happy Valentine’s Day. 

 

 

 

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I took these images a few weeks ago on a typical Sunday morning at home: the kids piled in my bed playing; my planner and hot coffee in hand; the smell of fresh fruit pancakes wafting through the air. Although this room belongs primarily to my husband and I, from the time our children were toddlers, they have always loved meandering into our bed for snuggles, reading, little talks, or even playtime. The busyness has changed over the years, but I know I’ll miss all of this energy one day.

When you live in a small home, every thing and space within it occupies more than one purpose. While during the late evenings and night our bed is a place for my husband and I, in the day it might morph from workspace to reading space to trampoline. I don’t mind the last part as long as their feet are clean. On the days I need a little more privacy or “alone time,” as we refer to it around here, I set boundaries that provide it (since my children are a bit older to respect them), and I often encourage my children to the same when emotions run high, wanting to model for them at young ages how to recognize and take care of themselves when they feel overwhelmed or in need of some quiet. This sort of conversation and shared language is helpful with so many shared spaces, especially as we all spend so much time together.

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I tend to linger in PJs most of the morning on these days, taking my coffee and planner back to my bed where I think about the upcoming week. Taking a rest from work on Saturday often helps me approach the new week with a fresh perspecitive. I write out a few simple goals for my personal work, our school work (projects or activities), and our home, and use these lists to help guide my time and work during the week ahead. The last few weeks I’ve lost this quiet planning time due to travel or some other circumstances, and I can tell you it deeply effects the quality of my week, especially when busy weekends happen in a row. I’m grateful to be reaching the upcoming holiday week, where I can collect my scattered thoughts and routine again.

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In many ways, the holidays have quickly crept in this year, and I’m just now beginning to think about Thanksgiving next week (insert: shock and awe) and Christmas close behind. It’s good for me to have a short list of what our family really needs or wants, and to also have an idea of how those gifts impact others. Over the next couple of weeks, I hope to feature a couple of brands and products that we love that are working to make a difference in the world in some way. I hope this inspires you, or at the very least helps you cross off some things on your list, too.

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This post is sponsored by Sudara, a small business dedicated to rescuing women from the sexual slavery in India, making clothing “with hope.” All images and thoughts are my own, and as always thank you for supporting the businesses that help keep this space going. 

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Everyone likes having a little cash in their pocket, even if it’s not much. There’s a freedom of choice attached to pocket money, a subconscious autonomy in how we spend, save, or share it. My husband and I both have an allotted bits of personal money in our monthly family budget, a small amount of cash budgeted (even in the hardest financial times) for each of us to use how we will without excuse or explanation, without the internal conflict of self versus family needs. I tend to spend my own on books, something to wear, or tasty drinks with friends, while my husband more often patiently saves. I notice the same confidence of choice in my children when they receive birthday money or their bi-weekly allowance. They have the power to choose whether to purchase something small and instant or to save for something bigger in the future.

Since my husband and I have always both agreed that every family member, even the littlest, needs to contribute to the home’s well-being, we haven’t given allowances until more recently. In my idealism, I’ve always hoped the completed work itself would be a reward. But seriously. They. Are. Children. A clean home and completed school work will never feel the same to them as purchasing something they really want when it’s not a birthday or Christmas. As they grow, their own lists of personal wants and goals seem to grow also. So we opted to give each of our children a bi-weekly allowance related to their responsibilities around the home, hoping an allowance will serve both as a small, concrete reward for their work and provide simple lessons about financial responsibility.

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The children’s allowances are allotted by the amount of their responsibility. Liam, at age twelve, naturally has more work than Olive, at age six. At this point, they each currently receive what equates to $3-4/week, and we distribute it every other week, as we take out our own cash for all of our family expenses. Since one of our goals through this is to teach our children about fiscal responsibility, they immediately divide their bi-weekly cash into three categories: GIVE, SAVE, SPEND. We use re-purposed (and clean) gelato containers for their cash. Fancy, right? ;) There is one family GIVE jar, and each child has their own SAVE and SPEND jar. Each week, they are required to put something in both the GIVE and SAVE first.

GIVE | This is our one community jar. As our family becomes aware of needs around us, one might suggest, “I think we need to take $__ out of the giving jar to give to __.” We then talk about it as a family and decide an amount together. As the holidays approach, we’re already beginning conversations about how we might use our give jar during the season. This jar helps our children recognize need and see the ways our money, even the smallest bits, can encourage, inspire, and love others.

SAVE | The save jar is treated as a long-term savings. Again, we let each child determine how much they want to add, but we do require they add something to their savings from each allowance. When they reach $100 (only one has yet), we open a savings account for them to begin storing their money at the bank. We treat the jar like a real savings account: deposits only. This is an area we use to talk about long-term goals with them: purchasing a car, saving for college, or traveling the world when they are older.

SPEND |Whatever is left over goes into their pocket or spend jar. Here they also save but for purchases in the nearer future. For instance, last year, the boys chipped in together and bought a video game console. This is where they often buy birthday or Christmas gifts for one another, or tiny treaties that I might not. Olive loves to carry her purse everywhere and will often keep a dollar or two in her wallet to buy gum! Either way, it’s theirs.

Our children earn money in other ways, too. The last two summers the boys have mowed lawns in our neighborhood and the girls have helped bag leaves. If there’s a larger home project, such as cleaning the garage or washing/vacuuming the car, they may also earn an extra bit of money, too. It’s not an exact science, but a simple way we hope to teach them about the world. On the rare occasion (as it happened last month), if their attitudes are poor or they are consistently complaining or not finishing their work, we withhold allowance. Although it pains us, we want them to remember, this way of earning money is a privilege, not an entitlement.

What about you? Do you have an allowance set up for your children or a way they can earn pocket money?

 

 

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Dearest children,

We are now several weeks into our school year and have been reading oodles of fables together lately, samples from the more familiar Aesop’s Fables to India’s Jataka Tales to West African Folklore, and while the characters and cultures these tales represent dramatically shift, the themes within them often do not. Each in its own manner offers a simple lesson on how one ought to live or possibly in some instances, such as the devious Anansi or other foolish characters, how one ought not live at all. Perhaps one day we will think on your childhood summers in a similar manner, unique versions of the same narrative, personal tales and images that become a tonic when life demands us to be more focused and diligent.

Naturally, as you each grow older, life will require more diligence of you. It is the mark of maturity, the preface to adulthood. While you are young, I hope to store enough adventure and courage in your thoughts and heart so that you learn to seek it on your own someday, a tonic for the harder parts of adult living. You are children now, and while I can’t imagine it differently, you will not always be. It is the nature of every living thing to change and grow, and so it is with you. Part of this portrait project has been a catalogue of this change, a small way to bottle your childhood for all of us to enjoy when it is gone. Maybe one day, like the simple fables, you will sift through them and discover lessons tucked beneath our play, travel, and silly stories. At the very least, I hope as adults, they will remind you to leave space for frivolity, room to cast off form and simply play or explore possibilities when necessary. Wisdom and discipline require the balance of a wild, courageous heart. These too are lessons for us in how one ought to live.

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You will soon discover that some seasons in life will force you to create or make something with very little. You may feel overwhelmed by possibility and endless choices. Perhaps then you might remember the feel of our paper roadmap in your hands, not a smooth, glass computer, but paper, bound and wrinkled with use. You might recall the way you traced your small fingers over red and blue and green lines, each one overlapping and leading some place distinct. Like that map, your life also will one day freely spread across veins of unknowns. It will require courage, as doing anything new or unknown often does. I hope then you will also remember your toes in the cold Pacific Ocean or climbing the red rocks in Southern Utah or picking fresh blueberries on the mountainside of North Carolina or even random no wheres on the road in between. All paths lead to distinct, unknown places, and you will need courage and wisdom to get there. Like our own summer travels, you’ll discover in life also, the longer, harder journeys often have the sweetest rewards.

As a mother, I am learning my own lessons of sorts, the hardest being how to slowly release you. My maternal instinct naturally cringes at watching you climb or slide down boulders, walk across waterfalls, or coast down rapids, but right now we are with you and have the privilege to participate with you. It’s exhilarating to see how you come alive with accomplishment and how you manage unknowns. These moments, too, are a gift, ones I will return to when you are older and off on your own adventure without us. I am grateful it’s not time for that quite yet. Travel has been one of my favorite experiences with you all. While I know most lessons from your childhood will come through our everyday living. I expect our summer adventures will always hold a special place in each of our hearts. I’m so proud of you.

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Although the American West has my heart, this summer we traveled East, leaving Georgia and South Carolina as the only states we haven’t visited in the Southern half of the U.S. While your father and I were in Taos, you all were at grandparent camp with Nina and Papa and your cousins. They make that time so special for you with night swims, library trips, art projects, and fun excursions. You each look forward to this week all throughout the year. And of course, I don’t have a portraits of you that week since I wasn’t there. At the back end of summer we visited PoPo and JoJo, who took you to a trampoline park and introduced you to eating crab legs. Olive, I had to sit there and crack every one for you, to which you’d turn and say, “can I have some more of that white meat?” as though it were just that easy. On the other hand, Liam and Burke, you loved having a meal that required tools in order to eat.

In July, we spent a week in Asheville with good friends in a beautiful cabin generously lent to us. There the older three white-water rafted, while Olive and I enjoyed our own time together playing with friends, reading together, and picking blueberries for dinner. Blythe, Dad says you giggled the entire time on the rapids, and I can’t wait to do it again when Olive is a bit bigger. Blueberries grew right off the back porch, and each day before meals you all would take bowls and fill them. Liam, you often led the initiative knowing it might amount to blueberry pie or pancakes, which it did.  We hiked beautiful trails, although Burke, you informed me you prefer the Rocky Mountains in the West, to the dense forests of the East. I appreciated having this little inlet into your thoughts. We only briefly strolled the downtown area, visiting the general hardware store and listening to the rotating musicians play outside its doors. We also ducked into a small art gallery before it began to rain and we headed home. We rode bikes through the incredible Biltmore Estate and walked through the warm house, if you can even call it a house. On our way home, we visited Dave and Kara in Alabama, where we again hiked gorgeous green woods, played with new friends, went to the science museum and walked around large space rockets. As they prepared for work one day, Olive asked them, “you have to work during the summer?” and I realized how special this warm season really is for us. We have chosen a smaller life in effort to have time, and I don’t regret it one bit.

We went to Houston with your father, and while he attended meetings at Rice, we cruised through both the Fine Art and Natural Science Museums and swam in the hotel pool–a rare luxury.  At one point we attempted a midday walk around Hermann Park and nearly melted, and opted to go back to the room and watch episodes of Shark Week instead. When we finally returned home, you all attended a local drama camp, where you made your own costumes and participated in a small musical. Liam you sort of despised the singing and dancing parts but loved making costumes and developing the set. Burke, you were the laugh of the show playing the giant with an over-sized head. Girls, you both adore singing and dancing and felt right in your element. What a great finale to summer’s end (and a helpful way for me to get a few projects in order before the school year began). I’m so grateful for every bit of it. And for you.

With all my heart,

Mom

wren_elizabeth-1-2There is a moment during childbirth where you no longer care what is happening in a room, who is staring or what they might think of the gaping parts of your body. Your attention is solely directed at the baby within you, and the process by which your body releases him or her into the world. Birth is miraculous, no doubt, but not because it is sprinkled with fairy dust or is easily accomplished. It is sweat and blood and pain tossed with purpose and breath and intense amounts of love. In the most vulnerable ways, childbirth appropriately initiates women into the strong, vulnerable role as mother.

Although six years removed from my own experience, I’m still learning a million lessons from those hours of childbirth, the hours of waiting, of breathing through fear and doubt and pain. Life–the real sort, the one where we are honest and cast aside pretense and edits–is a hard and beautiful mixture. It is a place in which the warmest light and softest kisses of hope touch the barest limbs, the grittiest disappointments and unknowns, if we allow it.

I don’t know most of you and don’t presume to know the context of your life struggles, the physical or abstract pain of the heart which often labor with their own sort of birth pangs. Some of you reach out with emails and vulnerably share bits of your own story, and a few of you I will graciously cross paths with in person. But for the most part, we are relative strangers sharing and reading snippets of an otherwise complex life journey. Where ever you are today, this week, in this season, I want to remind you of this: breathe, take courage, and always hope. Miracles are coming.

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This is my sweet new niece, Wren Elizabeth, born just over three weeks ago, and now napping on my bed. I have a new nephew, Brayden Michael, who I have yet to meet, and a second nephew who will be born halfway around the world so very soon. Each new life is always a reminder to me of miracle, of the patient gift of life given in such a raw and vulnerable manner. Grace to us all.

Enjoy your weekend, and remember, the ecru giveaway ends tonight at midnight! xo

olives_tea_party-14olives_tea_party01olives_tea_party-28olives_tea_party-18olives_tea_partyolives_tea_party-8olives_tea_party-12olives_tea_party02olives_tea_party-3olives_tea_party-1-2olives_tea_party-19olives_tea_party-11olives_tea_party-26olives_tea_party03olives_tea_party-25olives_tea_party-7olives_tea_party-23olives_tea_party-15Olive turned six on Wednesday, and I still can hardly believe it. To celebrate in a small and simple way, we invited a few of her friends over for a small garden party with hot tea, fresh blueberry scones (a recipe coming tomorrow), and birdhouse painting. Although I had originally imagined an outdoor table with spring flowers, we improvised when winter weather re-appeared and gathered some green life to the table instead.

The morning began with the loud clatter of pretend play together. Every once in a while, my sister and I would hear a few of them jet-setting to Asia or another discussing working at an orphanage or baking a cake for her friend–all in a dramatic plot of course–and we would laugh. Passion and imagination are such a gift in children, always reminding us anything is possible.

Later in the morning, as the girls gathered around the table, their interactions evolved into a surprisingly soft conversation and laughter over tea and eventually into the quieter focus of painting. Liam and Burke volunteered to help, originally offering to be the court jesters; instead they dressed in their bowties and Sharpie mustaches and settled to help by serving tea, food, and towels. Their generous spirit blessed me and their littlest sister alike, and by the time everyone left, our full hearts and stomachs needed naps.

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Finding friendship as a mother can be challenging.  Our time is so often filled with taking care of our homes and children and work that we can simply forget to reach out to our existing friends, let alone form new ones. Some friendships are for specific seasons, connections to help us through a specific time or transition. Others, often the most surprising ones, linger longer and move with us through all stages of life. During my decade of motherhood, I’m so grateful for all of the women who have trickled in and out of my life, knowing even the briefest connections have left lasting impressions and impact.

This weekend, I spent time with a few friends who I began homeschooling alongside so many years ago. Due to our growing families and life circumstances, our paths do not always cross in the same consistent ways they once did, but the sporadic meet-ups where we hear and share the hard and sweet spots of our journey with one another are still so sweet for my soul. As I shared an image and thought of these women through social medias last night, I realized these sentiments might be hurtful for women who aren’t experiencing connection, women who long for at least one friend with whom to share the journey.  I am a fairly introverted person who also homeschools and works mostly from home, too, so I know this season can feel isolating. It is easy to see images on the internet and hear stories from other people and feel like we’re missing out, that somehow we are the only ones who are lonely or are caught up in the rote path of motherhood or home-education. It is simply not true.

Occasionally in life, we are fortunate enough to stumble into an already existing community of friendship, and other times, we have to go out and discover it ourselves. Either way, friendship and community always require work and initiative, but as most anyone will tell you, the reward is worth the effort. For any of you feeling isolated or struggling to find relationships, here’s a few different ways I’ve made friends over the years. They are simple thoughts, but I hope at least one will resonate with you and encourage you to keep searching for community.

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take a look around, right where you are / Is there someone casually in your life who you want to spend more time with? Have you noticed a mother at your library, park, gym, or church who you naturally gravitate toward? If your children are in school or take dance, music, or art lessons, play on a sport team or participate in a nature club–look around at the other mothers. Are there any you might connect with? Who do your children naturally gravitate toward? Be bold: ask for a play date or meet-up.

initiate the invite / Don’t wait for someone else to invite you. For various reasons ranging from moving to a new town or country to the fact that we are deeply introverted, it can be difficult for anyone to work up the courage to initiate friendship. Be courageous.  If you’re wanting friendship or needing community, reach out to another mom, even if it’s just one and invite her over for coffee and/or for her kids to play. If you live in a small home or apartment, find a public place to meet: park, local children’s museum, or local eatery with a play space for kids.

search for local play groups / Sometimes larger homeschool or play groups post meeting times and places on websites and blogs. A simple online search with keywords, such as play group, homeschool group, nature club, with your city and state, can turn up several options for you to try. Like anything, if you’re wanting to connect with smaller, more specific niches, use more specific key words, such as waldorf, unschool, montessori, classical, charlotte mason, instead of simply searching homeschool group. Although these groups don’t necessarily mean you’ll find your best friend, you just might, and at the very least, you’ve begun your journey for community.

find online community / Sometimes our life circumstances or locale make it more difficult to connect with mothers in person. Everyday beautiful online communities of women are forming and growing. Instagram has been one of my favorite (and easiest) places to connect or be inspired by other mothers regularly. If you’re needing a place to start, Wild+ Free and Childhood Unplugged are my favorite collaborative accounts for encouragement, inspiration, and laughter as a mother and home-educator.  They always tag the mothers who capture the moments, so don’t be afraid to follow bunny trails or send an email or direct message to one of the mothers who resonates with you.

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I have several friends who are currently pregnant, including three new nieces/nephews coming early next year! Eep! Many times, expectant parents already have in mind a few things they might need or want for their new little’s arrival–especially if it’s their first–accoutrements such as clothing, feeding supplies, bedding, baby wraps, and car seats. While these important gifts anticipate the baby’s practical needs, during my own years of motherhood, I’ve learned sometimes parents need a little something less practical and unexpected.

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With several upcoming births and Christmas around the corner, I thought I would share a few unique gifts ideas from Uncommon Goods, a Brooklyn-based business that supports artists and designers with environmentally-conscious, mostly handmade goods. Here’s a few favorite gift ideas :

for the wall // When possible I love gifting new parents with something that will outlast the baby years, something fun for the nursery wall such as an animal head made from recycled cardboard like these here, a piece of art, or a world map. For a family who loves to travel, they might enjoy scratching off  their latest family adventures with this one here.

for beyond the baby years // Since we’ve always lived in a home with hard wood flooring, I also love a good (larger) baby blanket. With my own kids, I tried to choose blankets that would transition with them into childhood. The girls still use their crib blanket now when playing on the floor or as a throw over their bed. These oversized kantha blankets handmade in India from upcycled sari swatches are on my current wishlist and would make the perfect blanket to transition from the baby years into the adult years, really. Plus they come in a variety of unique colors and patterns.

for the older sibling // I have always appreciated when friends/family have gifted my older child(ren) after a birth. Depending on the age of your older child, it can be a difficult transition. I love the idea of a personalized book like this one or this one for an older sibling to understand their new important and exciting role in the family. For more ideas of personalized gifts, such as a hand-stitched pillow or frame, take a look here.

for mom + dad // Parenthood is difficult, and those first few sleepless months can be even more so. I love gifting new parents with a little something just for themselves in this transition, to remind them how important self-care is during the years of care-taking. I always enjoy finding something beautiful for the home that requires little maintenance like these here, a new candle that also doubles as solid perfume or body butter like this one (what?! so amazing), and of course something rad like this to aid in keeping us awake.

Obviously, Uncommon Goods has gifts for more than young parents. If you’re looking for a unique Christmas gift or stocking stuffer, take a peak at some of these ideas here or here. You might even find something to add to your own wishlist (ahem). Either way, I wish you all the best weekend and a happy Friday!

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This post is in partnership with Uncommon Goods, a Brooklyn-based business committed to supporting artists and designers by featuring mostly handmade and environmentally-conscious goods. All thoughts are my own, and thank you for supporting businesses that help keep this space afloat.