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When I moved to Vermont in 2011, I was doing thirty hours of editing per week as a long-term contract employee for a communications company based near Indianapolis.


The hours were flexible, meaning that I not only worked remotely from my home, but I was also able to complete some of those hours while my then toddler sons (one and two years old) napped—never at the same time of day, of course.

It was an ideal situation for a new mother who both wanted to work and be present during her kids’ early years.

I’d considered myself a “writer” since college though I had never spent much time developing that craft. But after working as an editor for several years, developing other people’s drafts into finished works, I’d grown antsy.

I wanted to write, too.

With a full editing workload and a husband who traveled 100 percent of the time for his job as an airline pilot, generating additional time and motivation to spend more hours with words that my fingers needed to wrangle was unimaginable and logistically impossible.

I was already giving up needed sleep to earn a living, often working from eight at night until midnight after caring for my kids all day, then up again at six a.m. to do it all again.

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I approached my husband with this dilemma. I had just turned thirty, a milestone birthday that felt equally youthful and ancient. I felt I could still do anything with my life, but that time was suddenly ticking by faster. We agreed that I would scale back my editing hours by half and fill the extra time with writing. Neither of us had any idea whether I had any real talent at writing. But I needed to find out.

So I endeavored to write a book.

Over the next year, I joined a few writing groups whose members gave me feedback on my work.

I knew my writing was “voicey” and had potential, but it wasn’t good writing. At first, that didn’t much matter to me. I was happy to be writing at all, trying different styles and forms. But I learned pretty quickly that book writing was exponentially more difficult than it sounded.

A composer, after all, did not simply sit down and churn out a full symphony. She must score the percussion separately from the bass, woodwinds, and strings. Preparing for such a feat takes time and practice. In fact, it is usually one’s career. Not something done on the side, for fun.

Through the writing groups and my own study and practice, I built on my undergrad education in writing and learned to wield writing techniques first separately, then later together in concert.

I also learned about the Breadloaf Writers’ Conference in Ripton, Vermont, and applied with enough naivety about the program’s prestigious history that I believed I had a chance at acceptance. When I was waitlisted in the spring of 2013, I was satisfied with the “almost” achievement and set a personal goal for myself of being fully accepted the following year.

To my surprise, two weeks before the conference someone dropped out and I was offered a position. My husband and I scrambled to pay the conference fees and adjust our schedules so that I could attend. He called off work for part of the twelve-day trip and we flew my mother in from Indiana to cover childcare for the rest.

It was an expensive addition to my experiment.

The pressure, generated by both me (Was I good enough?) and my husband (Would I turn this interest into a career at some point?), was on.

What I believed I still lacked writing ability, I made up in socializing with conference guests. I met editors, publishers, and agents, each of whom sounded interested in the novel I’d been working on for the past year. I promised to send it to them when it was finished, unsure when that would be. Unsure, too, whether their interest was earnest or just part of their job. The conference boosted my confidence in my writing and motivated me to redouble my efforts.

Translation: I needed to spend even more time writing.

Either paid work or time with my kids would have to be sacrificed. I simply couldn’t do all three at once. In the end, I sacrificed both without being emotionally comfortable with sacrificing either. I worried that leaving the workforce for an undetermined amount of time would make it difficult to reenter it.

I worried that the time I was spending writing instead of bonding with my still young family would have consequences I couldn’t anticipate and couldn’t reverse.

I quit the now part-time editing job entirely (the company couldn’t employ me at any fewer hours than what I was already working—they wanted me to work more hours, not fewer) and spent some weekends writing at a cheap LaQuinta Inn only ten miles from home.

My husband and I relied on a tag-team approach to parenting. He would get home at midnight from a work trip, and I would leave in the morning to write for a few hours while he stayed with the kids. The loss of my modest income was felt immediately, as we stopped saving for the future altogether.

I gained weight, which I’d thought an impossible feat in beautiful, outdoorsy Vermont. I resented myself for moving to a state where I’d intended to hike, bike, and boat and instead doing nothing but sit in front of my laptop.

Simultaneously, the need for my own writing space arose. Even cheap hotels were too costly and I wasn’t in a position to attend a writing residency due to my family’s circumstances. (But, Yaddo, how I yearned for you…and still do.)

The kids were getting older, louder, bigger, and needier, and I could no longer find any peace at home among them. Neither could I bear the mommy guilt I was faced with when working from home—it was easier for me to be gone if I was truly away. If I couldn’t hear my children crying or laughing or discovering the world around them. If I didn’t know what I was missing.

I found a few other artistic parents to split the cost of a small, run-down workspace that I could easily bike to from our condo. Because my husband was already gone several days a week, I tried to only work when the kids were sleeping so they wouldn’t notice my absence as much. It hadn’t occurred to me that my marriage would also suffer, but to be sure, it did. It does.

The work and sacrifices paid off when I contacted one of the publishers I’d met at the writers’ conference.

I hadn’t yet finished the novel, but I’d compiled a collection of essays and stories that examined the place I was raised—on the banks of a river in rural Indiana. The publisher agreed to read the manuscript, so I sent it off to her. Six weeks later, we met again at the Breadloaf conference, where she informed me that she wanted to publish my manuscript.

Within a week, I had an agent and a book deal in the works.

But the book wasn’t done. Once contracts were signed, a third of the book was gutted and replaced with brand new writing. Then that draft went through a significant revision. Then that draft was revised. I spent the summer of 2015 putting endless “finishing touches” on Riverine, which had morphed into a memoir I had no idea I’d been writing all along in six months flat.

More time gone. More sacrifice. More missed days at the beach. But I had sold my first book and maybe even created a new career for myself. I had gone through a grueling editing process that was both visionary and taxing.

I had discovered what I was really capable of, what I suspected I was capable of all along.

I not only achieved what I’d set out to accomplish, but also had been awarded the Graywolf Press Nonfiction Prize, a coveted literary prize for an emerging nonfiction writer. I had reshaped my life.

I missed out on some important family time and some gorgeous Vermont weekends. I won’t get that time back. Any minute now, one of my boys will wipe my kiss from his cheek or shrug off my hug.

But I find some solace in the fact that my boys watched me work for what I wanted. I delight in hearing them tell their friends that their mom is a writer. I hope that I have shown them what is possible. I know that the next book will require the same time commitments, the same compromises. I will face the same challenges.

I know now that my family is capable of enduring this process and that I would rather my kids be comfortable in their independence from me than cling to my thighs in tears as I head out the door for my office.

I know that this time around, I need to take walks more often and check my cholesterol. I need to take a day off when the weather is warm. I need to savor the sweet mornings with my kids even when I am too tired and maybe, even, would rather be reading or writing.

But I also need to continue to claim my own time and space to create. I need to spend time with other artists and sometimes stay out too late. I need to do it all again, as soon as possible.

Who said motherhood doesn't come with a manual?

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No kid is born a picky eater, but there are plenty who will give you a run for your money come mealtime. Whether it's a selective eating phase or simply a natural resistance to trying something new, getting your little one to try just.one.bite can be easier said than done.

But sometimes your attitude about eating can make the most impact. A 2017 study found a direct correlation between "mealtime emotional climate" (AKA, how positive meals are for parents and children) and a child's consumption of healthy food―meaning the difference between your child trying their green beans or not could depend on how positive you make the experience.

Not sure where to start?

Here are 10 positive parenting techniques that can help overcome picky eating and lead to more peaceful mealtimes for all.

1. Make them feel special.

Sometimes just knowing you have a special place at the table can help kids eat better. Create a special place setting with dishes just for them.

Try this: We love OXO's Stick & Stay plates and bowls for creating less mess at mealtime. Not only will the kids love the fun colors and designs, but the plates also come with a suction cup base that prevents little hands from knocking plates to the floor (or in your lap). Trust us—we've tried it.

2. Take off the pressure.

OXO Tot's Stick & Stay Suction Plate

Think about it: If someone kept telling you to take one more bite during lunch, how likely would you be to go along without bristling?

Try this: Instead, use the Satter Division of Responsibility of feeding, which lets parents be responsible for what, when, and where feeding happens, while the child is left responsible of how much and whether. Besides promoting a more positive environment at mealtime, this method also boosts your child's confidence and helps encourage better self-regulation of food as they get older.

3. Serve a variety.

OXO Tot's Stick & Stay Suction Divided Plate

It could be that your child is bored with the usual rotation. Keep things interesting by regularly introducing new ingredients, or reworking a familiar ingredient in a new way. The familiar setting might make your child more likely to take a bite without a struggle.

Try this: Sub in spaghetti squash with their favorite pasta sauce, or add in a new veggie to a beloved stir-fry. We love OXO's Stick & Stay Divided Plate for creating a "tasting menu" of new flavors for little ones to pick and choose or using the center spot for an appetizing dip.

4. Don't bargain or negotiate.

Many kids resist trying new foods or eating at all because it gives them a sense of control over their lives. By resisting an ingredient―even one they have tried and liked in the past―they are essentially saying, "You're not the boss of me."

Try this: Instead of resorting to bargaining tactics like, "Just take one bite!" or "You can have dessert if you try it!" lower the pressure with a neutral statement like, "This is what we're having for dinner tonight." There's no argument, so you avoid tripping their "Don't tell me what to do!" sensor.

5. Serve meals in courses.

Even adults are more likely to eat something when they're really hungry. When their tummies are rumbling, kids will usually put up less of a fight even when they're uncertain about a new ingredient.

Try this: Serve up vegetables or other new foods as an "appetizer" course. That way, you won't have to stress if they don't fill up because you can follow up with food you know they'll eat.

6. Make it a game.

The fastest way to get a toddler on board with a new idea is to make it more fun. Turn your kitchen into an episode of Top Chef and let your little one play judge.

Try this: Use each compartment of the Stick & Stay Divided Plate for a new ingredient. With each item, ask your child to tell you how the food tastes, smells, and feels, ranking each bite in order of preference. Over time, you just might be surprised to see veggies climb the leaderboard!

7. Get them involved in cooking.

You've probably noticed that toddlers love anything that is theirs―having them help with preparing their own meals gives them a sense of ownership and makes them more likely to try new ingredients.

Try this: Look for ways to get those little hands involved in the kitchen, even if it means meal prep takes a bit longer or gets a bit messier. (We also love letting them help set the table―and OXO's unbreakable plates are a great place to start!) You could even let your toddler pick the veggie course for the meal. And if your child asks to taste a raw fruit or vegetable you planned to cook, go with it! Every bite counts as training that will ultimately broaden their palate.

8. Cut out unstructured snacking.

Not surprisingly, a hungry kid is more likely to try new foods. But if your toddler had a banana and a glass of milk (or a granola bar, or a handful of popcorn, or a glass of juice) an hour before dinner, odds are they aren't feeling truly hungry and will be more likely to resist what you serve at mealtime.

Try this: Stick to a consistent eating schedule. If your child leaves the table without eating as much as you think they should, remind them once that they won't be able to eat again until X time―and make good on that promise even if they start begging for a snack before the scheduled meal.

9. Model good eating habits.

Kids may not always do what you say, but they are much more likely to follow a good example. So if you want a child who eats vegetables regularly, you should do your best to fill your own plate with produce.

Try this: Pick a new food the whole family will try in multiple ways each week. For example, if you're introducing butternut squash, serve it roasted, blended in soup, cut up in pasta, as a mash, etc.―and be sure a healthy serving ends up on your plate too.

10. Don't worry about "fixing" picky eating.

OXO Tot's Stick & Stay Suction Bowl

In most cases, children go through relatively consistent eating phases. At age two (when parents tend to notice selectiveness ramping up), growth rates have slowed and most children don't need as much food as parents might think.

Try this: Focus on keeping mealtime positive by providing children with a variety of foods in a no-pressure environment. And remember: This too shall pass. The less stress you put on eating now, the more likely they are to naturally broaden their palates as they get older.


This article was sponsored by OXO Tot. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

Learn + Play

Whether it's Earth Day or just a normal day, being more conscious about reducing the number of disposable products we use in our daily lives benefits everyone—but especially parents. After all, our children will inherit this planet and we don't want them to be left with a big mess from us.

Here at Motherly, we've been thinking about how to reduce our own disposable use and testing out longer lasting products that can replace the ones we typically toss at the end of a kitchen clean-up.

Here are six products we love that you can find on Amazon:

1. Bamboo Towels, $8.99 

Paper towels are one of the most used items in our kitchen and I had hoped that by replacing standard paper towels with a roll of these that we would be able to cut down on the amount of towels going in the garbage. These bamboo towels come on a roll and are torn off like paper towels but are much stronger and can be thrown in the washing machine. (Unfortunately, my partner misunderstood and threw away a significant number of our bamboo towels.)

A word of advice: Make sure everyone in the family knows that these towels belong in the laundry hamper, not the garbage can. You can wash and reuse these multiple times, and one roll could last about six months!

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2. Klean Kanteen Steel Straws, $13.84

We're trying to reduce waste so we're no longer buying paper straws but I've just got to have a straw when I'm having a cold drink (and my preschooler is obsessed with straws) so we've been on the hunt for a dishwasher safe, reusable straws.

The first ones we tried were completely stainless steel and I nearly chipped my tooth, so I was happy to find these Klean Kanteen straws with silicon tops on Amazon. The little brush they come with is great for cleaning them, especially since we sometimes use them for smoothies.

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3. Reusable Microfiber Cleaning Cloth Set, $11.99

Purchasing these microfiber cleaning cloths was another attempt to reduce my family's consumption of paper towels, and it worked! Unlike with the bamboo towels, there was no confusion about these clothes being reusable.

We just threw them in the washing machine with towels or jeans and had a fresh stash for all the messes we are constantly making. I like having the different colors to keep kitchen cloths, floor cloths and bathroom cloths totally separate.

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4. MIRA Lunch, Food Jar | Vacuum Insulated Stainless Steel Lunch Thermo, $15.50

This 13.5 ounce vacuum insulation thermos was tested by a #TeamMotherly staff member who totally loves it. The photo above shows it holding ice cream, but this triple-walled, stainless steel container can hold healthier foods too, and keep them hot or cold. It's a step up from nearly disposable plastic food containers so many of us have rattling around in our kitchen drawers and (unlike many of those containers) is leak-proof in a backpack or diaper bag.

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5. Eco Friendly Reusable Food Wraps, $19.00

Multiple Motherly staff members have tried these wraps and as someone who did I can say they are totally worth it. If you're trying to cut down on plastic wrap in your kitchen (or have a preschooler who likes to take one bite out everything and save it for later) these beeswax wraps are an eco-friendly and reusable alternative. There are a few brands out there. We like these ones on Amazon and the LilyBee beeswax food wraps are a non-Amazon alternative.

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6. AmazonBasics Silicone Baking Mat, 2 pack, $8.38

We used to use a ton of parchment paper in our kitchen for everything from baking cookies to heating up frozen French fries, but these silicone baking mats have changed the way we bake making the process less wasteful.

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Motherly is your daily #momlife manual; we are here to help you easily find the best, most beautiful products for your life that actually work. We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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Our babies come out as beautiful, soft and natural as can be—shouldn't their clothes follow suit?

Here are eight of our favorite organic kids clothing brands that prove safe fabrics + stylish designs are a natural fit.

1. L'ovedbaby

@lovedbaby

We l'oved this collection from the moment we laid eyes on it. (See what we did there 🤣) Free of things harsh added chemicals, dangerous flame retardants, and harmful dyes, this collection is 100% organic and 100% gorgeous. We especially adore their soft, footed rompers, comfy cotton joggers, and newborn-friendly kimono bodysuits.

Looking to stock up? Don't miss Big-Find Thursday every week on their site—a 24-hour flash sale that happens Thursdays at 9 a.m. PST and features a different body style, collection, and discount every week!

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2. Hanna Andersson

@happyhannas

One of our all-time favorite brands for durability, style, + customer service, Hanna Andersson doesn't disappoint in the organic department, either. From an aww-inducing organic baby layette collection all the way to their iconic pajamas, there are so many organic styles to swoon over from this beloved brand. And we swear their pajamas are magic—they seem to grow with your little one, fitting season after season!

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3. Monica + Andy

@monicaandandy

The fabric you first snuggle your baby in matters. Monica + Andy's (gorgeous) collection is designed for moms and babies by moms with babies, and we love it all—but especially their Hospital Cuddle Boxes. Featuring a Coming Home Blanket, a Top Knot Cap, two Hello Baby Newborn Tops, and a Hello Baby Newborn Pant, they include everything you need for baby's stay. And unlike the clothes you get from the hospital, it's all made with organic cotton. Just wash at home before baby arrives and pack in your overnight bag to be prepared.

Hospital Cuddle Boxes are made with super soft GOTS certified organic cotton that's free of chemicals, lead, and phthalates. They feature thoughtful details like fold-over mittens and feet, and a touch of stretch in the blanket to help you master your baby's first swaddle.

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4. Finn + Emma

@finnandemma

"Here boring designs and toxic chemicals are a thing of the past while modern colors, fresh prints and heirloom quality construction are abundant." We couldn't agree more. Made from 100% organic cotton, eco friendly dyes, and in fair trade settings, we love this modern collection's mix of style + sustainability.

We especially love the Basics Collection, an assortment of incredibly soft, beautiful apparel + accessories including bodysuits, zip footies, pants, hats, and bibs, all available in a gender-neutral color palette that can work together to create multiple outfit combinations. The pieces are perfect for monochrome looks or for mixing with prints for a more modern style.

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5. SoftBaby

@littleaddigrey for @softbaby_clothes

You'll come for SoftBaby's organic fabrics, but you'll stay for their adorable assortment of prints. From woodland foxes to urban pugs, there's no limit to their assortment (meaning you'll even be able to find something for the new mama who's hard to shop for). Plus, the name says it all--these suckers are soft. Get ready for some serious cuddle time.

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6. Gap Baby

@gapkids

Organic may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of the Gap, but this popular brand actually carries a wide variety of organic (and adorable) baby + toddler clothes. From newborn layette basics to toddler sleepwear—and more—there's something for everyone in this collection. Everything is 100% cotton, super soft + cozy, and perfect for eco-conscious mamas.

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7. Winter Water Factory

@winterwaterfactory

Certified organic cotton with Brooklyn-based swagger? Be still our hearts. Winter Water Factory features screen-printed textiles in bold designs you'll want to show off (get ready for some major Instagram likes). And the husband-and-wife co-founders keep sustainability at the forefront of their brand, meaning you can feel good about your purchase--and what you're putting on your baby.

The company makes everything from kids' clothes to crib sheets (all made in the USA). For even more cuteness, pair their signature rompers with a hat or bonnet.

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8. Under the Nile

@underthenile

Under the Nile has been making organic baby clothes since before it was cool. Seriously--they were the first baby clothing company in the USA to be certified by The Global Organic Textile Standard. They've kept up that legacy of high standards by growing their Egyptian cotton on a biodynamic farm without the use of pesticides or insecticides, and all of their prints are made with metal-free colors and no chemical finishes.

And with sizes from age preemie to six years, there's no limit to options for your whole brood. We love their onesies and long johns for newborns, as well as their collection of blankets and soft cotton toys your child will love on for years.

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Motherly is your daily #momlife manual; we are here to help you easily find the best, most beautiful products for your life that actually work. We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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