What I’m Wearing: Winter staples on repeat

This season, more than any other, I’ve really been rewearing and remixing pieces from my wardrobe. As much as “due to Covid” is a phrase that I cannot WAIT to never ever hear uttered again, the pandemic is in fact, the reason for my accidental “capsule wardrobe” – like most of us, I’ve been shopping WAY less, and just trying to make do with what I already own, plus a few key pieces that served to freshen up my closet staples. This winter, keeping to a mostly black, brown, camel, beige and denim palette – neutrals, I suppose- actually made getting dressed pretty easy and fun. While I definitely look forward to creating new and fun outfits for actual social events in the future (!), I really liked paring down to the basics this past season. Here are the “hero pieces” that got me through the past few months and that I continue to wear and remix on repeat:

Checked shacket / faux leather puffer/ camel coat / denim shacket
Cozy socks / cat eye sunnies / striped sweater / shearling boots / black slouchy sweater
Heart converse / coatigan / Chelsea boots / beanie
Lace up boots / perfect leggings / faux leather petite leggings/ classic beanie

Xo and happy shopping!

Christine

What We’re Doing: Planning for Nolan and Eamon’s Future

This post is sponsored by BabbleBoxx.com and contains information on the New York’s 529 College Savings Program Direct Plan. The content and opinions expressed in this post are my own.

I’ve never been a long term planner. As a family, we pretty much live week to week, with a few future events scheduled in here and there–but really, we enjoy being able to kind of “wing it” as much as possible. One thing though, that even we won’t take a chance on is setting up Nolan and Eamon, our two little guys–who will be big guys before we know it!–for the best possible future we can give them.

Nolan, who is now 4, recently came home from pre-k with a “project” he had made in class; he had written “engineer” in the spot where it asked what he wanted to be in the future (this part didn’t surprise us; he’s always had a laser-like focus when it comes to building things, and figuring out how to make “contraptions” work!) Well. This just smacked Tim and me right in the face because all of a sudden, it seemed like he would be graduating high school and going on to college in like 5 minutes. The number one piece of “advice” more seasoned parents give is how fast time flies and before you know it, your babies are going out into the world on their own.

In order to make sure we were doing everything we could as parents to set Nolan and Eamon up for a solid educational start, we started 529 savings accounts for each of them with NY’s 529 College Savings Program Direct Plan. The accountant who does our family’s taxes suggested it because it’s tax-advantaged, has no minimum contribution, and is super easy to start and manage online.* We make automatic contributions monthly for each of our little guys; plus, family members can even add to their accounts as milestone gifts. Instead of another annoying toy or item of clothing they’ll grow out of, loved ones can help build your kiddos a solid steppingstone to the college, trade, or vocational school of their choice in the future. Additionally, our NY 529 Direct Plan is flexible in that the boys don’t even have to use their money to go to a college in-state; it can be used at thousands of eligible colleges, universities and technical schools across the nation. Also–and this was important to us–our NY 529 Direct Plan is not “use or lose.” If for whatever reason Nolan and/or Eamon don’t end up needing it (Math prodigy? Athletic superstar? Maybe they’ll get full ride scholarships! Haha) we or they can withdraw the funds after taxes and penalties are paid.* (Talk to your tax advisor about your particular situation.) Having NY 529 Direct Plans for our boys honestly makes us feel like super responsible adults lol–the “long term planners” we never thought we’d be!

Sharing how to get your NY 529 Direct Plan started here: nysaves.org/blastoff. Hope this was helpful to you guys!

Xo,

Christine

DISCLOSURES

* Contributions of up to $10,000 are deductible annually from New York State taxable income for married couples filing jointly; single taxpayers can deduct up to $5,000 annually. New York State tax deductions may be subject to recapture in certain circumstances such as rollovers to another state’s 529 plan, federal nonqualified withdrawals, or withdrawals used to pay elementary or secondary school tuition, registered apprenticeship program expenses, or qualified education loan repayments as described in the Disclosure Booklet and Tuition Savings Agreement. State tax benefits for non-resident New York taxpayers may vary. Please consult your tax advisor about your particular situation

Earnings on federal nonqualified withdrawals may be subject to federal income tax and a 10% federal penalty tax, as well as state and local income taxes. Tax and other benefits are contingent on meeting other requirements. Please consult your tax advisor about your particular situation.

Investment returns are not guaranteed, and you could lose money by investing in the Direct Plan. 

For more information about New York’s 529 College Savings Program Direct Plan, download a Disclosure Booklet and Tuition Savings Agreement [nysaves.org] or request one by calling 877-NYSAVES (877-697-2837). This document includes investment objectives, risks, charges, expenses, and other information. You should read and consider them carefully before investing. 

Before you invest, consider whether your or the beneficiary’s home state offers any state tax or other benefits that are only available for investments in that state’s 529 plan. Other state benefits may include financial aid, scholarship funds, and protection from creditors. 

The Comptroller of the State of New York and the New York State Higher Education Services Corporation are the Program Administrators and are responsible for implementing and administering the Direct Plan. 

Ascensus Broker Dealer Services, LLC, serves as Program Manager and, in connection with its affiliates, provides recordkeeping and administrative support services and is responsible for day-to-day operations of the Direct Plan. The Vanguard Group, Inc., serves as the Investment Manager. Vanguard Marketing Corporation provides marketing and distribution services to the Direct Plan

No guarantee: None of the State of New York, its agencies, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), The Vanguard Group, Inc., Ascensus Broker Dealer Services, LLC, nor any of their applicable affiliates insures accounts or guarantees the principal deposited therein or any investment returns on any account or investment portfolio. 

New York’s 529 College Savings Program currently includes two separate 529 plans. The Direct Plan is sold directly by the Program. You may also participate in the Advisor-Guided Plan, which is sold exclusively through financial advisors and has different investment options and higher fees and expenses as well as financial advisor compensation.

© 2021 New York’s 529 College Savings Program Direct Plan

What I’m Thinking: My Two cents on Pandemic-Life

Since there’s such a lack of opinions, thoughts and general commentary on COVID-life, quarantine and the general bizarro state of the world right now, I figured I’d share my thoughts (😏 if you’re not sensing the sarcasm here, you’re clearly a better human than I am and don’t scroll through angry mom-group-debates on Facebook at midnight!).

But really though. It’s all been said and resaid and said some more. So I’m not going to address the scientific/medical/political facets of this pandemic because, hey, I’m not a doctor or scientist or (thank god) not a politician. I’m just a person who loves people, so that’s what I’m going to write about here.

I love crowds. I’m a person who hates going to an empty restaurant, even if it means we can get a table right away. I like a packed theatre; the communal experience of everyone doing the same thing at the same time gives me comfort and joy. I never minded riding crowded public transportation; smushed up against other people in a subway car; sharing elbow room on a packed flight; the hustle between classes in an overflowing hallway at school- I love and miss it all.

I worry about the carry over of pandemic life to “regular life”, once we get back there (WHICH I KNOW IN MY HEART WE WILL!). Just like depression era- grandparents or parents who immigrated to this country with little or nothing to spare tend to carry over behaviors that helped them during their struggles- like taking extra sugar packets from the deli and storing them at home “just in case”- what strange, anti-social behaviors will carry over from Covid-life? Not wanting to be with people? Constant suspicion and scrutiny of others? Distrust of a nearby sniffle, or clearing of a throat? Paranoia about touching shared objects? Will people really flee cities to live in more rural areas? More hiding behind personal, individualized screens for work, school, entertainment and “socializing”? Anxiety-inducing sanitizing sessions of every damn thing we touch?!

What kind of life is that?

Please don’t misconstrue my yearning for crowds and the communal milk station at Starbucks (remember those? How many missed opportunities for casual “meet cutes” have passed by?- if you’ve seen “The Holiday” with Kate Winslet and Cameron Diaz, you know what I mean! ) as general insensitivity or ignorance to the horrific realities of Covid- if you’ve been following me on Instagram, you may remember that the amazing human that was my father passed away from it himself. I get it. I’m not here to debate the worth of human life over social experiences or the economy or whatever. Because the truth is, one person’s reality and what they value is just that- their reality, their values. Moving on.

Ironically, during this time of “we’re all in this together” (bc every commercial from your local Toyota dealership to your cell phone provider is here to remind you of this, in case you forgot!), it feels like we’re on the brink of toxic individualism. Everyone’s been quarantined in their little bubbles, in our very own corners of the world, watching the same news channels that serve to reinforce our existing viewpoints (team CNN or team FOX NEWS?!)🙄, scrolling Instagram with an algorithm that shows is what we already know and “like”, interacting with the same few people who are, for the most part, family or friends who more than likely look, act and behave pretty similarly to ourselves. The “publicness” of life is missing; the forced beneficial interactions that make everyday life better and more interesting- just being on a crowded train, in a packed school hallway, reaching for the 2% milk pitcher at the Starbucks counter and having a stranger pass it to you without having to “sanitize”🙄 it first, navigating streets teeming with a literal cross-section of humanity- these interactions are constant reminders that i/you/we are NOT the center of the universe, others exist, their realities are valid, and that after all, we are all humans who want and do pretty much the same things. Ugh it hurts my heart so much just thinking about it. I miss it all.

I’ve always been an incurable optimist; that will never change, pandemic or no pandemic. But still, every now and then, questions creep into my mind like “what if people don’t want to go back to being with other people? What if we get too comfortable being 6 feet apart? What if human touch, laughing closely, shared items and communal experiences become taboo or even worse, a thing of the past?” Will people not hug anymore?!

So much UGH.

A thought that I’ve found comforting though is this: humans are social creatures. I believe that we’ll get back to being together eventually because that’s what we’re made to do. It’s what’s moved our society forward since the dawn of time- togetherness. More separation and isolation is the exact opposite of what the world needs right now- we need each other in so many ways. Let’s not forget that moving forward💛

Xo,

Christine

What We’re Doing: Parenting Round 2 + How we get our kiddos to sleep!

So this is the longest I’ve ever gone without writing a blog post…

We sold our first house exactly one year ago, and I just said to Tim how it feels like we still haven’t quite caught our breath yet…we found out I was pregnant with Eamon, packed up our old house, moved into Tim’s parents’ house, took on a full house renovation that lasted 5 months, moved into our new house, had Eamon… and then the pandemic happened. And maternity leave ended, and we did the work-from-home-with-kids thing. And now it’s summer, which sort of still feels like an extension of lockdown/quarantine/the past five months… it’s all kind of a blur that feels like 5 minutes and also like 5 years have gone by. Pretty sure you all feel similarly, right?

Anyway, now that we’ve adjusted to being parents of TWO (!)… I want to share some perspective on what it’s been like, answer some of your questions, and share what’s worked so far for us! Here goes…

Adjusting from ONE to TWO:

There’s that old saying that “one is like none and two is like twenty” (or something like that), that most definitely had me shaking in my boots when it came to deciding to have a second kid. Our little trio (Tim, Nolan and I), we’re literally like a modern day three musketeers- going away was easy bc all three of us fit in a King bed hotel room, one of us could entertain Nolan and the other had “free” time, having someone watch one kid is so much easier of an ask than asking them to watch two- we were hesitant to rock the boat, because, honestly, Nolan was so easy (and still is for the most part)- bringing another human into the mix seemed risky.

Nevertheless, Eamon arrived.

And he’s amazing. And easy. And yes, I feel incredibly grateful and at the same time guilty that somehow, we got another baby who eats well, sleeps well and seems as chill and easygoing as his brother.

A question I get a lot is “How has Nolan adjusted?”- the truth is, he’s been great. Sure, he needs to be reminded to be gentler every now and then; to lower his voice when screaming “EAMOOOOOO” in poor Eamon’s face (although Eamon seems to think this is hilarious). If one of us is holding Eam, Nolan will sometimes try to crawl into our lap too. But overall, he’s been an awesome big brother. I’ll trust him to “babysit” Eam for a few minutes while I dry my hair, or put dishes away, things like that. He loves the responsibility, and I love peeking in and seeing him play with him, talk to him, hug him- it’s the sweetest. One of Nolan’s favorite “jobs” is to report if Eam has fallen asleep in the backseat or if he’s still awake.

How has life changed for us? Does TWO really feel like TWENTY?

Sometimes, (ha!). But most of the time, it’s very manageable. I also know that I say this from a two parent household, during a time period when Tim and I have both been home, without having to leave for work, commute, have social engagements etc- so I guess it remains to be seen how easy or challenging it will be once “real life” kicks in again (insert praying hands emojis here!) My biggest piece of parenting advice has always been DON’T OVERTHINK THINGS! Now with two, just like when we had Nolan, we just go for it- whether it’s going away together, taking the boys out to eat, to the beach, whatever- we try not to let the “what ifs” of life paralyze us from doing things. Sure, is it easier to stay home than go away? (Kind of? Not really? After months of quarantine I’m ready to hit the road for the time being, even WITH my kids!) I’ve always found that they’re better “behaved” and we’re more engaged as a family if we’re out and about on some sort of adventure- at home sometimes, I think people kind of gravitate to their separate activities.

Ok, now onto what’s probably the most asked question I get: how do we “get” Eamon (and Nolan, when he was a baby) to sleep so well?

*Disclaimer time*

Obviously, I’m not a pediatrician, sleep specialist, baby guru etc – just sharing what worked for us w both boys!

While I do believe that nature/personality whatever you want to call it, plays a role in a person’s sleeping and eating and overall behavior, I also know, being a teacher for over a decade, that human beings’ behavior can be shaped from the outside as well. The word “trained” has a negative connotation, but the truth is, babies DO need to be trained, they need to learn, and what YOU DO TEACHES them.

That being said…

Sleep: with Nolan, we kept him in a bassinet (the old, now illegal Rock and Play!) for the first six weeks-two months before “transitioning” him to his crib. Because that’s what “people said to do”. He took right to it, and never really had trouble sleeping. He had a few rough wake ups at around the four month sleep regression (still not sure if that’s really a thing, because Eamon did not go through that), but overall, he slept through the night and had solid naps from around 6 weeks old. With Eamon, we kept him in a bassinet for three nights exactly then were like “ummmm yeah let’s just put him in his crib in his room bc I don’t think newborns even know the difference!” So we did. And he was fine. I feel like this is one of those man-made (or in this case, woman-made?) ideas that you have to follow some sort of preordained sleep progression, when really, if you think about it, cave-people’s babies just WENT TO SLEEP WHEREVER and they totally survived or we wouldn’t be here today! Stop laughing, BECAUSE YOU KNOW IT’S TRUE!!! We’ve created all of these weird “rules” for ourselves that in my humble opinion, have just created more anxiety for parents (and tons of profit for baby product companies!!!- just sayin’). A common question I get via DM from first time parents is “when did you know he was “ready” for his crib?” Answer: Right away! Because guess what? They don’t know what a bassinet or crib or cardboard box is anyway! Moral of the story: we just put Eamon straight into his crib, in his own room, and he slept. He learned early on that that room, that crib was a time and place for sleep. Why delay the inevitable?

Another guiding principle that we have as parents is to set procedures, rules and expectations early on, and stick to them until you see the baby or kid “own them”, meaning be able to run the routine or recognize or expect the routine on their own. This is pretty much how I run my classroom as a teacher- I establish set procedures and routines from day one of class, and stick to them until I can feel my students really get them, buy into them, and expect them. Once that happens, then I can pick and choose when to relax the rules and routines when needed… and it’s the same for babies and kids! Because Nolan and Eamon have strong senses of routine and procedure at home, they’re able to quickly adapt to new experiences, sleeping situations, traveling etc, where we might have later bedtimes, different sleeping accommodations- and then snap right back into the regular routine easily because it’s been practiced so much. Babies and kids love knowing what to expect; they secretly love guidelines and rules- and then deviating from them feels like a well deserved special treat, if that makes sense.

What’s our sleep routine like? For naps, Eamon takes two big naps a day, the first about two-three hours after he wakes up, for 2-2.5 hours (usually somewhere between 11am-2pm) and then again around 4pm – 5:30ish. We try and get in as much play time, stimulation, outdoor time with fresh air and sun, plus a good meal in during their waking hours (about 2-3 hours wake time at a time) so that they’re good and tired for a nap. The long length of nap, in my experience, is something babies are naturally inclined to do, but also need to be trained to do. Sure, sometimes he’ll wake up 20 minutes in, or will cry for 10 min or so until he falls asleep. The way I see it, don’t we, as adults, sometimes have trouble immediately falling asleep? Or don’t we wake up in the night sometimes? How counterproductive would it be if every time we tossed and turned or woke up in the middle of the night, some huge human reached down and picked us up out of bed, totally waking us, taking to us and maybe even turning lights on?! We just learn get ourselves to sleep or to fall back asleep ourselves- and since babies don’t have the ability to talk, reason, turn over to get comfy etc- they cry. That’s it. It doesn’t mean they don’t want to sleep, or can’t sleep. I see it as the same thing adults do when we’re trying to fall asleep, just different. If you create the habit of going in to get them and interrupting them trying to get to sleep, they “learn” to expect that behavior from you, and then crave it. And then you’re screwed (joking, kind of!). 99% of the time, both Nolan and Eamon would fall back asleep within 10 minutes- both at nap time and at night. I don’t think of this as “letting them cry it out” (such a dramatic term- why this has become such a source of controversy is beyond me)- more like “let them learn”. Plus, trust me, your mom instincts will know if the cry means something is wrong- but really, usually nothing is- they’re just working on learning to sleep.

Bedtime is 7:30; if we’re on vacation or away, maybe a little later. We don’t do a long, “fun” bath time with him, I kind of feel like any extra stimulation at bedtime defeats the point. We’ll quickly rinse him off (not even every night- maybe 3x a week), put on a fresh diaper and pjs, and zip him into a sleep sack (we didn’t swaddle with Eamon either- again I feel like the more crutches you build into their expectations, the more “habits” you have to “break” later! He just never was swaddled and then never expected to be!). We don’t read to him before bed either (why stimulate?! We read during the day, mostly at mealtimes!) or sing (no one needs to be tortured or given nightmares by my or Tim’s voices lol)- we just give him a bottle, burp quickly and lay him down to sleep. Walk out of the room. That’s it. Even during those first few weeks and months maybe when newborns still need night feedings- keep it short and sweet! We didn’t talk or turn lights on or sing or even do a diaper change- NO NEED! An overnight diaper is good for 12 hours for a reason! Imagine if someone dragged you out of bed, took off your pajamas and changed your underwear in the middle of the night and then expected you to go right back to sleep?! Sounds horrifying and annoying right?! So why do we do this to babies and expect different from them? Leave the diaper, they rarely poop overnight anyway!

Oh one more thing- the dream feed! I did this with both Nolan and Eamon and it worked great in getting them to sleep long stretches at night until they slept completely through (and I think it gets them to sleep later in the morning too!). A dream feed is basically you feeding them via bottle or breastfeeding right before YOU go to bed, mayne three or four hours after the baby’s original bedtime, that fills their tummy one last time for overnight. So Eamon goes down to bed after an almost full bottle at 7:30, goes to sleep, then before Tim and I head to bed we (usually I) give him a dream feed bottle at like, 11:30 to hold him over till morning. When you do it though, you have to pick them up quietly, the idea being to NOT WAKE THEM UP and just let them start eating while they sleep (in your arms, not while in the crib FYI), hence the term “dream feed”- consider it “sleep eating” kind of. Then when they’re done, immediately put them right back to bed and walk out. We stopped dream feeding Nolan around 6 months because he was eating so much more during the day that he didn’t need that 11:30 feed anymore. When we went away last week, I experimented not dream feeding Eamon, who is currently 5 months, and he slept though without it, just woke up a little earlier than usual (7:00 instead of around 9am, his usual).

Moral of our story- let them learn to sleep. The more you do, the more you’ll have to do, if that makes sense.

That’s kind of it though- if going to sleep independently is something you want a baby to learn to do, why give them a million crutches to lean on and then have to suffer while taking them away?! Both Nolan and Eamon get PLENTY of snuggles and love and attention during waking hours- in my experience, doing too much around bedtime makes it harder in the long run. Keeping it short and sweet has produced two great sleepers for us!

Also I owe you a drink for getting to the end of this looongggg post (haha!)- but in all seriousness, I hope this helps! Again, please don’t take any of this as hard and fast rules or facts- not a doctor or sleep therapist, just wanted to share what’s worked for us with both boys! Happy sleeping!

Xo,

Christine