The Baby-Sitters Club

Parker and Mia

Raise your hand if you waited anxiously for the latest Baby-Sitters Club book and then read it in 3.2 seconds back in the day? I had a stash of them in my desk at all times, and got in trouble for reading during class on more than once occasion.

One of the keys to happiness as a parent, I’ve discovered, is having a handful of wonderful babysitters on call. This is not an easy task, and we are luckier than most since our own parents live in the neighborhood and babysit frequently (and for free!).

We don’t want to take advantage of our family, though, and they’re not always available since they work and have busy schedules themselves. My mom and mother-in-law have both babysat one or two afternoons a week since Parker was born, but we needed to fill in the gaps when it came time to return to work after my first maternity leave.

Since then, we’ve cultivated our own little “baby-sitters club” who are just a text away. We have a great schedule worked out for weekdays so that a sitter is here with Mia (and Parker, on the days he isn’t at school) when I go to work.

The hours I’m at work are dedicated to working with students and clients, so I don’t have much time during the week devoted to business stuff or just to do things for myself. But Fridays are my day off, and when the sitters — two girls who live a couple streets over — come over for a couple hours after school, I spend that time on my work projects, writing, running errands, or just relaxing.

I remember thinking, back in the day, how restricting it must be as a parent, needing to arrange childcare in order to do anything or go anywhere without kids. Years later, I have found that to be oh-so-true…and it is definitely frustrating sometimes.

But then I remind myself that this is a temporary season. In a few months I’ll have at least a few days a week on my own, and then I’ll probably look back and miss this time at home with tiny kids. So like everything else, I’ll continue to soak it all up and be grateful for my baby-sitters club :)

Five Swirling Snowflakes

Five Swirling Snowflakes Album Cover

My little students should be experts at counting to 5 by now, because we have included a song for that goal in every single one of our early childhood music classes since August. So far we’ve counted apples, pumpkins, and trees.

This session we’re counting snowflakes, and of course we have our visuals (laminated snowflake cutouts) to accompany the song. Our kiddos love gathering around and pointing to each snowflake as we count, and then they ALL want to help take one away at the end of each verse. It’s times like this that I’m happy to have my intern, Alisabeth, by my side managing the chaos ;)

We have another counting song in the works for our next session, which begins in mid-February. At the end of the summer, it will be so neat to have an entire collection. In the meantime, if you want a colorful and musical resource for counting to 10, check out this resource I put together a few years ago.

Members of Listen & Learn Plus! have access to all of the above in our shared Dropbox folder. Membership includes just about everything else in my resource library and collection — come over and join us!

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Six Months of Breastfeeding (2.0)

6 Months of Breastfeeding

Technically I could call this post “almost eight months of breastfeeding” because, you know, second baby…but let’s pretend I wrote this two months ago just like I did the first time around.

The thing about breastfeeding for the second time is that you actually know what you are doing from the get-go. I get that all babies are different, and Parker and Mia are no exception, but I learned from my rookie mistakes and have had a much smoother experience this time.

I thought Parker was a good nurser, but Mia has been an even better one since day 1. Her latch was perfect from the start, and she is nowhere near as distracted as he was (even at almost eight months). She took longer to get used to bottles, but now she takes them like a pro when I’m at work.

My body has also gotten much better at feeding, for which I am so grateful. I had some supply issues with Parker a few months in, and I dealt with plugged ducts on a weekly basis. This time around, I can count on one hand the number of plugged ducts I’ve had, and my supply has been great. Having both experiences has helped me to really appreciate the smooth sailing with Mia — especially since life is busier and more demanding now.

Baby's First Food

We introduced Mia to solid foods at a little over six months, and so far, she’s not a huge fan. If she’s anything like her brother, she may not come around for a while longer, which is okay. I’m not going to sweat it like I did with Parker, because now I know that eventually she’ll enjoy eating food and for now, she gets everything she needs from breastmilk.

I’m planning to continue nursing at least through Mia’s first birthday, if not longer. Parker self-weaned at 15 months, on the same day I found out I was pregnant. Since I’m pretty sure there are no more babies in my future, I won’t mind going even longer with Mia.

We don’t have much downtime other than when she’s nursing, so it’s wonderful to have quiet moments built into our day. The bittersweet thing about the second baby is that now I know how fleeting this time is, and every second I spend snuggling and rocking her is so precious.

2016 Stays for 366 Days

2016 Album Cover

It’s okay, you can admit it: you’ve been waiting with bated breath for this song, right?! :) January is more than halfway over, but better late than never. I actually had the song written two weeks ago, but my voice is just now getting back to normal after my never-ending bronchitis.

“2016” is the 9th — yes, you read that correctly! — song I’ve written to represent the current year in my calendar song collection. It’s my 3rd one to fall on a leap year, which gives me an excuse to change up the lyrics a bit.

I know I said I didn’t have any hard and fast resolutions for 2016, but I’m the kind of person who is very motivated by big goals…which is why I have my entire editorial calendar of new songs lined up through September.

I’m pretty excited to get into a regular blogging routine, though I’m giving myself permission to take a break from it when needed (see: my 2016 motto).

Members of Listen & Learn Plus! have access to all of the above in our shared Dropbox folder. Membership includes just about everything else in my resource library and collection — come over and join us!

Learn more about Listen & Learn Plus

5 Productivity Apps I Use Every Day

5 Productivity Apps I Use Every Day

I hate to admit it, but my phone is my lifeline. I rely on it for communicating with my family and colleagues throughout the day, managing my calendar, consulting my to-do list, completing business tasks, and so much more.

I know I’m not alone here, which is why I want to share 5 of the apps I use daily when it comes to work and productivity. These have been game changers for me, so hopefully you’ll find them helpful, too.

1. Slack (free)

This tool has basically become the command center of my business. Katey and I started using it when we became overwhelmed by the DOZENS of emails we were sending back and forth every day, and now our entire team uses it to communicate with each other.

We share files, use the IM feature instead of text so that we have searchable records of our conversations, and take our meeting notes there. Slack is completely free, and you can access it on the computer as well as all mobile devices.

2. Word Swag ($3.99)

I used to create all of my social media graphics and images on the computer, but now that I’m opening my laptop less and less, I have become a HUGE fan of this app. Word Swag lets you add text and graphics (such as a logo or watermark) to their collection of lovely images and backgrounds, or you can upload your own photos.

The variety of fonts and styles is truly impressive, and you can customize the colors and layout however you want. It’s really fun to use, but let me warn you that it can be addictive! Totally worth it, though, for the end result.

3. Google Drive (free)

In addition to Slack, my team also uses Google Drive to share documents back and forth and collaborate on them. I have multiple Google Drives for the different areas of my work and life, and this app lets me manage and access all of them in one place.

I can quickly pull up spreadsheets of class rosters when I’m getting ready to lead a class, look over documentation my intern has submitted, check my team’s availability when I’m scheduling a new client, and the list goes on.

4. Music Teacher’s Helper (free)

For almost 5 years, I’ve been singing the praises of this software for managing my studio and private practice when it comes to scheduling, invoicing, billing, tracking expenses, and so much more. The app is so powerful that I can do most of those things right from my phone.

When I have a few minutes of downtime, I can input payments, reconcile sessions and lessons, email invoices to clients, and check the studio calendar.

5. Wunderlist (free)

I have experimented with SO many different ways to keep track of my to-do items, including pen and paper, documents on my computer, and a few different apps. But this one is my favorite, by far.

It’s a great list-making app, especially since you can set up multiple lists (I have one for all my different work projects and one for home) and you can share lists with people and assign tasks (I share one with Katey for business-related to-dos). You can also set reminders in your calendar for specific items.

This is definitely not an exhaustive list of my favorite productivity apps, and I’m thinking there will be a Part Two to this post in the near future. Which apps are your favorite for helping streamline your life?

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