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Singer-songwriter Shannon Hawley and “A Different Kind of Progress”

Shannon Hawley is a singer-songwriter and poet based in Shelburne, Vermont. She just released her first full-length studio album, “A Different Kind of Progress,” a five-year project she finished on the exact day her second daughter was born. Shannon is hosting an album release party on Saturday, June 20 at Study Hall in Burlington, Vermont.

I recently sat down with her (more like followed her around) at our home in the middle of the day, which is pretty much the only free time we could find. Did I mention we have a two-year-old and a newborn?

Connect with Shannon on Facebook

What are some of your earliest musical memories and creative influences?

My father had severe dyslexia, so he didn’t read bedtime stories. But he was a really charismatic storyteller so he would basically animate adventure tales for my four younger sisters and me. Some of the stories I remember were about a Pegasus taking him for rides out of his bedroom window at night, and about mermaids saving him from circling sharks in the ocean. He was a surfer, and I grew up by the ocean, so there were lots of ocean-related tales.

My Mom was and is always singing. She can make a song out of anything. It’s amazing to watch kids watch her make up songs. She also has all of these sayings and quotes on wooden signs all over her house, which always reminded me of the power of words. It still does actually. 

Do you think artists get their creative instincts from their parents, or in reaction to their parents?

I think it’s both. In social work school, a professor said something I’ve always remembered. He said that “we dance on the perimeters of our parents’ nightmares.” I like to think I am evolving what my parents started creatively, and I also think their life circumstances made me realize how important it is to use my voice.

My Dad actually lost his voice as a symptom of a malignant brain tumor, and it was heartbreaking that he couldn’t tell us his stories anymore. He died when I was 11 years old. About 8 years ago, my Mom almost lost her voice when she was diagnosed with Stage 3 throat cancer. She has been cancer-free for about five years now and still singing lots of songs to her grandchildren.

Even though I have struggled with terrible stage fright and at times am conflicted about pursuing artistic endeavors, I cannot ignore the lessons of my parents to find and use my own unique voice. In many ways, it’s an amazing gift that they’ve given me.

You finished your album the day your second child was born. First, that’s crazy.  Second, how do those two very different creative acts compare in your experience?

It is wonderful – the album and my little girl are like twins (without all the diapers for my album, of course). The gestation period of this album took a lot longer than nine months. It took almost five years, and really longer when you think about what is really in a song and how long it takes to find its shape.

For me, songs are such a mash-up of my whole childhood and my whole life. The creation of a song can come from such seemingly random moments or thoughts or ideas. Then, the editing process is sort of a distillation. You kind of chisel away at what the song is really about. For me at least, the songs take a long time to write.

How do you stay creative as a parent?

How do you not? Parents have to be creative. You are in the creative trenches as a parent every day, every hour, every moment. It’s in the everyday multitasking – how to get a toddler to eat a healthy lunch, how to leave the playground without a meltdown, how to get them to go to bed on time – those are incredibly creative moments. 

But that’s one kind of creativity. To keep that part of myself where I am able to express creativity in different ways, like through songs, can be a challenge. 

I no longer have the luxury of waiting for the perfect time or perfect amount of time to do something, because there’s never a lot of time. While I’m talking to you, I’m breastfeeding and just finished changing a diaper. I’ve booked some of my gigs with a sleeping kid on my chest.

Having so little time reminds me to be open to trying new things. I recently took a memoir class at the Writers’ Barn in Shelburne, Vermont, and I did a Touch Drawing with Jennie Kristl of JourneyWorks. All of those things are important – writing in my journal even – because they all help me keep my creative personal life alive.

Rhetorical question – why don’t you write children’s songs? I mean, why don’t you try to integrate your parenthood with your creativity more?

Well, I hope some of these songs are family friendly! I can only write and pursue the questions that are truly in my heart. I love children’s songs that have integrity and that honor how bright and beautiful children are – like Mr. Chris does – Chris Dorman.

They are not easier to write in any way, and maybe I will write songs that will resonate with children more in the future, but as for what I have already written, I was just trying to be honest. As Rilke says, I was trying to “live the questions,” and to explore what I was drawn to.

One of the questions I was thinking about was about how much you can create your own world. The title track, “a different kind of progress’ is about falling in love, how scary it is to show your true self to someone else, but also how important it is to be vulnerable and how much it can heal a person. To me, that seems like a kind of progress that doesn’t get talked about since it happens in our private lives. But in many ways, it is the most important progress or “work” a person can do. I think parenthood and raising a family is another “different kind of progress.”

How is this album different from your previous work?

I used to write more traditional folk songs – stories about peoples’ lives. But when these songs started taking shape, it was right after taking care of my Mom during her treatment for throat cancer, and I didn’t want to write about cancer. I didn’t want to write about any other complicated human problem either. That’s why I started to write about the natural world – how it’s so beautiful in its order – especially after the messiness and disorder and insecurity of cancer.

To very loosely paraphrase something Anais Nin said, I was trying “to be free by transcending reality with imagination.” Really, I was delving deep into my own hopes and fears about what it means to create, to love, to be alive in this crazy world.

In many ways, you’re just beginning your music career. Why now? What is it about being a parent that seems to have enabled you in some ways?

The best part about being a parent is that I can’t get completely caught up in my own anxiety at all. There’s no time to. My fears of failing or people not liking my music – there’s just no time for that.

I’ve found it easier to collaborate recently too, even on the album art with [Vermont artist] Hllary Ann Love Glass, and with [multi-instrumentalist] Matt LaRocca. Those kinds of collaborations haven’t always come to me very easily for some reason.

Being a mom makes me want to pursue music and creativity even more. It makes me feel good and alive. It also makes me want that for my daughters – for them to follow what they’re passionate about. Following my creative bent is even more important than ever in that way. I’m learning how important it is to practice what I preach.

Do you see your kids being creative at all yet?

I see it all the time in my two-and-a-half year old, Maya. It’s a natural thing for kids to make up songs, about what they’re learning about and what they hear. She definitely does that. But being a songwriter makes it so fun to see her singing. It’s a good reminder to play and sing with her and not take myself so seriously.

And just hearing little Rumi, my newborn, doing her cooing call and response, you just remember how much we can communicate with our voices – not even with words, but just our voices. It’s amazing.

What’s your musical mission, and who are your influences?

It’s to continue to find and use my own unique voice, and to help others do the same. It’s really to open people’s hearts and inspire them to find their own unique voice.

My biggest influences are people who have really taken the time to know and accept themselves, and to be brave by doing the thing that makes them feel alive.

In terms of musical influences, I was listening to lots of Tom Waits when writing my album. He’s such a great songwriter, but he also uses sound as a tool to convey a story or a mood. Also, Sarah Vaughn, Lena Horne, Billie Holiday – all those beautiful old jazz singers.

And the whole album is also inspired by poets – Rumi, Rilke, Tagore, Mary Oliver. They’re completely wise. They’re not saying anything flippant. They have real reverence.

It’s not just poets and songwriters – I love strong women like Cheryl Strayed and Miranda July – people who are brave and doing their own brand of creative work inspire me a lot, people who are willing to confront their fears and then be vulnerable enough to share what they’ve learned. 

I think everyone gravitates towards their hopes and their fears, but if you really try to pay attention and figure out the differences between them, something beautiful can come out of it.

Sounds a lot like parenthood. Thanks for your time! Where can people find out more about you and your music?

My pleasure. Check out www.shannonhawley.com to hear my music and to find out where and when to check out a live performance.

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We're a busy people, this family of mine. And we like it that way. But we're still always looking for simple ways to reconnect.

And most of the time, those moments happen around the dinner table.

I'm not embarrassed to admit we've become homebodies—we vastly prefer nights in watching movies and meals at home to the stress and cost of evenings out. While my husband and I still try to schedule a few legit date nights out now and then, by the end of our busy days, we like relaxing at the table as a family, then putting our daughter to bed to spend time together catching up on our shows or watching a movie. Most of our dates happen on the couch, and we're okay with that.

Dinner itself is a tradition I grew up valuing. As one of five kids, it seemed to be the only time our family was really all together, catching up on our days, making plans, or even just being physically present together. (This reminds me so much of the table we would gather around every night!)

Now that I'm my family's connector, I make sure to prioritize that time (even if most nights it's all I can do to get my wiggly toddler to sit still long enough to get a few bites of her dinner).

Whether we're relishing a home-cooked meal or simply noshing some pizza (because mama is tired, folks), nothing can replace the feeling of reconnecting—or leaving the table with satisfied bellies.

Because something strange happens when you have kids. Suddenly, time seems to enter a warp. One day (usually the days when nap time is short and the tantrums are long), time will drag on endlessly, making each minute feel like an hour until my husband gets home and can help with the kids. But most of the time, when I stop and really think about where we are in this busy season of life, I feel like time is flying by.

I look at my daughter, and I feel like someone has snuck in during the night and replaced her with this big-little girl because I swear she was just born a few months ago. I hug my son, unsure where the time has possibly gone because didn't I just take that positive pregnancy test yesterday? And I marvel at this rapidly growing family my husband and I have built because, really, wasn't he just asking me to be his girlfriend a year or two ago? (Try 10, self. That was 10 years ago.)

As fast as time races by, I don't have any answers for how to slow it down. If anything, the pendulum seems to swing quicker and quicker as our days fill with new activities. With jobs and responsibilities, with more and more activities and play dates for the kids.

But at the dinner table, I feel like time slows down enough for me to pause and look at this little family. I imagine us two, five, 10 years down the road (gathering around a table just like one of these). More little (and then not so little) faces peering at me over the table, asking for another piece of bread or more milk as my husband makes them giggle with a silly face or story.

I imagine them as teenagers, telling me about an upcoming test or asking if they can borrow the car after dinner. I even see them as adults, coming back to visit with their own kids for the occasional family dinner. (Hey, a mom can dream, right?)

No matter where life takes us—or how quickly—I'm grateful for this time and this place where we can always come back together.

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

Jessica Alba's Honest Company has joined forces with Rosie O'Neill of the candy company Sugarfina to create some adorable candy-themed limited edition diaper prints, bibs, and gift sets that include a little something special for mom. [Update: And they're now available outside of the gift sets and subscriptions!]

Seriously, Sugarfina and Honest are a match made in heaven. The Honest Company is known for its cheerful prints and Sugarfina is known for its gourmet gummies, and the combo of the two is super adorable. Alba tested the prints on her baby boy, Hayes.

"It's so cute when he just crawls around with the little gummy bear diaper and the matching bib. It's really sweet. That's what's great about our diapers—they just look so cute on your baby, even when your baby's in nothing else but just their little diaper," she tells Motherly.

There are two prints: Boo Bear (the gummy bears Hayes wears) and Sweet Thing (modeled after Sugarfina's popular baby butterfly gummies). The prints are available in diaper cakes and bibs separately on Honest.com or packaged alongside a cube of matching candy on in the gift sets available through Sugarfina.

As Motherly previously noted, Alba feels it's very important for her company to work with fellow women entrepreneurs, which is how this partnership with O'Neil and Sugarfina was born. Alba's been a fan of the candy company since it launched, and often adds a little Sugarfina to gifts she gives.

"I was just thinking that, wouldn't it be cute to do a collaboration with them and have that ultimate baby shower experience? So that you have the diaper cake, and you could even do a themed baby shower around our diaper cakes." Alba tells Motherly.

Alba and O'Neil both wanted to create some surprise and delight for mom by recognizing that when people are giving gifts to a new mom, the presents are often actually for the baby. With these gift sets, mom gets to enjoy a grown-up treat while also enjoying the incredibly cute baby gear.

"Obviously the diapers are for the babies to wear, but there's something to be said for making sure that the product that we're going to use for our babies are relevant, and enjoyable for us too, and they bring us joy," says O'Neill. "We wanted to make it so the box was really beautiful, and you felt proud to give it as a gift and also there's something for the mom."

Alba agrees, adding that pairing some Sugarfina candy for mom with the matching prints for baby also makes for a great gift not only before the baby is born, but after, when mama probably hasn't had much time to treat herself.

"I know, after having three kids, how important it is for you also to be considered and pampered a bit. So yeah, it is definitely a really sweet gifting moment when you can show up, whether you're meeting the baby for the first time, and you have the diaper cake, and you have a little sweet something for Mom. And if she has multiple kids, it's always nice to give something that another sibling can enjoy as well."

Discount code for Motherly readers 

When we first told you about this launch back on October 2 these limited edition prints were exclusive to the Honest diaper bundle subscribers and the diaper cakes (meaning you couldn't yet buy the candy print diapers outside of the the mini cake, the regular diaper cake and the gift sets available through Sugarfina).

Now though, you can get the limited edition Honest x Sugarfina diapers even if you're not a bundle subscriber (or don't need a whole diaper cake) and Honest has offered Motherly readers a 20% off discount code!

CODE: HonestXSugarfina20

TERMS AND CONDITIONS: Eligible for Honest Sugarfina diaper shop purchases only on honest.com. Eligible on order subtotals up to $500 maximum. Limit 1 promo code per person/household. Offer expires at 11:59 p.m. (PST) on 10/31/2018. Promo Code not valid on Bundles or Trials. Code must be entered into "Promo Code" section at Checkout. Discount applied before taxes, shipping or surcharges. Cannot be applied to previous purchases, Gift Card purchases, Gift Bundles or Add-On items. Cannot be combined with any other promotion or redeemed for cash, unless required by law. Certain charges for return shipping may apply. Note, Promo Code will not apply if there is a Trial in your cart. Terms subject to change at any time.

[Update, October 18, 2018: This post was originally published October 2, 2018. It has been updated to reflect the new availability of the diapers outside the bundles and gift sets, and with the discount code.]

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Hamburgers are a favorite food for kids (and mamas, too) and a bag of fast-food burgers is something many parents reach for when the days get busy and cooking dinner isn't in the cards.

But a new report by Consumer Reports suggests that while quick-service restaurants have been doing a pretty good job of getting antibiotics out of chicken dishes, antibiotics are still finding their way into most beef-based burgers kids love so much, and this could make antibiotics less effective when our kids need them.

Giving healthy cattle the same antibiotics that we need to treat illnesses in humans is "a major contributor to antibiotic resistance," Consumer Reports notes. It's totally possible for beef producers to raise beef without antibiotics, but because the antibiotics are used to combat the effects of crowded feedlots and non-grass diets that are pretty standard in the industry, it is a challenge.

Two fast-food burger chains have managed to find producers who are up for that challenge though, and are able to provide the restaurants with antibiotic-free beef.

Where to grab an antibiotic-free burger

Shake Shack and BurgerFi both got Consumer Reports' highest scorecard rating. The chains earned their A ratings because their sourcing policies mean 100% of the beef served in those restaurants is raised without antibiotics.

In a statement to Motherly, Jeffrey Amoscato, Vice President of Supply Chain and Menu Innovation, says Shake Shack has always been committed to making sure the ingredients it sources come from suppliers who don't use antibiotics.

"Our beef, chicken and pork are all 100% all-natural—no added hormones or antibiotics ever, vegetarian fed, humanely raised and source-verified. It's something that's very important to us so we're thrilled to be recognized for our efforts," Amoscato tells Motherly.

It's not easy for chains to find those kinds of suppliers though, BurgerFi CEO Corey Winograd points out in a statement to Motherly. BurgerFi only uses beef with "no steroids, antibiotics, growth hormones, chemicals or additives" and "only about 1% of the beef produced in the United States meets the strict BurgerFi standards of quality."

In terms of scale, BurgerFi is a pretty small player in the quick-service world, with over 100 locations. McDonalds has more than 10 times that many locations in the state of California alone.

The big burger chains scored poorly

With almost 14,000 restaurants sprinkled across America, a significant number of quick-service burgers consumed by American kids come from McDonald's, which received an F rating from Consumer Reports for its use of beef treated with antibiotics.

And McDonalds wasn't alone in this. Most of the big drive-through chains we pass by every day got an F rating. Wendy's stood out for its D- because it has committed to "sourcing a small percentage of beef from producers who minimize (but don't eliminate) the use of medically important antibiotics in their cattle," Consumer Reports notes.

Motherly reached out to McDonald's and Wendy's, as well as Whataburger, A&W, Carl's Jr., Burger King, Five Guys, Jack in the Box and other restaurant chains but has not heard back as of this writing (we will update this story if we do).

Change is needed

Of course, it would be hard for a chain the size of McDonald's to source antibiotic-free beef, but experts suggest that if the big chains tried, consumers would be willing to pay more for those burgers. Plus, if a major player asked suppliers to go antibiotic-free, it would change the industry. It can and should be done, Lena Brook, M.E.S., interim director for food and agriculture at the Natural Resources Defense Council told Consumer Reports.

"The fact is, Shake Shack and BurgerFi have managed to eliminate antibiotic use entirely in the beef they purchase," Brook says. "Imagine the impact if McDonald's were to do the same."

Non-burger fast food

While there was a lot of bad news in the burger category, mamas who need a quick dinner for the family (without antibiotics) don't have to avoid fast food chains altogether if that's what they want to eat.

Chick-fil-A, Chipotle, and Panera Bread all got an A from Consumer Reports. Most of the meat and poultry ingredients at Panera and Chipotle are raised without antibiotics and Chick-fil-A is taking steps to ensure its suppliers do not use antibiotics by the end of 2019.

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You don't have to tell a mama just how irresistibly cute her baby is—we get it. There is just something about that feathery hair, those teeny fingers and their precious outfits that make babies completely magnetic, even to strangers. The problem is that strangers can bring along some strange germs, which is no small concern this time of year.

Now, some parents are going on the offensive against people prone to ohh-ing and aww-ing in dangerously close proximity to babies without getting a parents' permission. With some brilliant (and creative) signs that can be affixed to strollers or car seatsand even a onesie that spells out "Please, don't touch me,"it's easier for parents to send the message that their baby should not be touched.

With yet another cold and flu season upon us, keeping babies healthy is top of mind for just about every mama—especially those of us with the tiniest babies. Last year, as we were going into one of the worst flu seasons on record, I welcomed my second child and quickly had to learn how to speak up to the people in grocery store lines who would try to shake my baby's hand or touch her cheeks.

Harsh as it may sound, if someone was offended when I (kindly) asked them not to touch my baby, that was a worthwhile tradeoff for keeping my infant healthy. I just wish I had one of these signs to do the hard work for me!

As Tracy Lapointe from the Etsy shop Little Love Canada says, her pediatrician approved and recommended these signs for use during a baby's first six months of life while their immune systems are strengthening.

"Just one well meant cheek pinch or hand rub can transmit harmful germs to an infant," Lapointe says. "This tag will politely let others know that you would rather not have germs spread to your child via physical contact."

Considering most people mean well, these cute and creative signs are an easy way to give everyone a refresher on best practices around babies.

[Update, October 18, 2018: Added onesie to slideshow.]

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You don't have to spend a lot on holiday gifts; sometimes the smallest items are the most memorable. Our 20 under $20 picks offer something for every kid on your list this year!

1. Eva & Elvin Knee Socks

Comfy, adorable, and super on trend, these critter-inspired knee socks couldn't be cuter.


2. Holztiger Little Brown Bear Toy Figure

These timeless and beautiful wood figures will capture your child's heart and imagination.


3. Meri Meri Liberty Alphabet Stickers

Spell out your message in style with these classic floral alphabet stickers.


4. Seedling Star Wand

Turn any day into a magical one! This princess wand even glows in the dark.


5. Tattly Tattoos

These skin-safe, non-toxic temporary tattoos are fun for all ages.


6. The Nutcracker: A Baby Lit Dancing Primer

You're never too young for the classics. This board book version of the classic Christmas ballet will quickly find a place in your holiday traditions.


7. Petit Collage Pop-Outs: Winter Wonderland

Let your little one create her own holiday decor with these easy to assemble, sturdy winter-themed pop-outs.


8. Mudpuppy Puzzle To Go: Animals of the World

This travel-friendly puzzle will makes its way over the river and through the woods this holiday season.


9. Uncle Goose ABC Blocks

You can never go wrong with blocks, and these handcrafted solid wood ones are some of our faves.


10. Boon Building Bath Pipes

These colorful pipes suction to the wall and can be used individually or as a set. Bath time has never been so much fun!


11. Tegu Travel Pals

A perfect non-tech toy for travel, these magnetic puzzle blocks can be arranged in lots of different ways for endless fun.


12. Marcus & Marcus Learning Chopsticks

Start honing those sushi skills early with these modern, stylish learning chopsticks.


13. HABA Shakin' Eggs

Rattle and jingle your way through the holiday season with these bright, colorful egg rattles!


14. Green Toys Submarine

Dive deep into bath time with this super fun submarine made from 100% recycled milk jugs.


15. Yellow Owl Workshop Unicorn + Rainbow Small Stamp Kit

Stamp your way to a magical day with this kit perfect for craft time, or any time!


16. Peg People Family

This Waldorf-inspired set of hand painted wooden peg dolls will spark the imagination of any pretend play-loving kiddo.


17. PlayTape

Let your little one build his own road, highway, or race track! (And yes, it's totally safe for rugs, floors, and painted surfaces. ?)


18. Manhattan Toys Skwish

Just as fun to play with as it is to say!


19. Baby Sew Lovable Soft Sensory Block

Stimulate baby's senses with this hand-sewn sensory block, packed with features like a grasping ring, crinkly sides, and high contrast black and white imagery.


20. Montessori Wooden Elephant Puzzle

Little hands will love fitting these handmade elephants together from smallest to biggest, learning size, color, and spacial skills along the way.


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