Recipes

Conference Morning Orange Rolls

I’ve shared my love of little family traditions many times, and this is one of them that has developed over the last few years: I love making orange rolls for LDS General Conference. (This is hardly unique ha, pretty much all of mormondom is making cinnamon rolls twice a year for conference!)

Speaking of which: conference was amazing this year. So much to ponder and study again. Sister Cordon, Elder Holland, Elder Rasband, Elder Sabin, Elder Choi, Pres. Jones and Elder Uchtdorf gave messages that especially stood out to me. What were your favorite talks?)

Anyway, I shared a photo of my favorite orange rolls on social media and someone asked for the recipe, so here you go! These are a little more “cakey” than airy bread because they’re quick rolls, but honestly I’m not at a point in my life where I have the patience for dough that takes more than an hour to make. And this one is quite tasty!

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I use this 30-Minute Dinner Roll recipe for the dough, then once I’ve mixed it I make up the filling and icing.

  1. Prepare dough
  2. Filling: mix about 6 Tbsp of softened butter, the finely grated orange rind from one orange (wash it well before!), about half a cup of sugar (add more if you need so it’s nice and thick and not runny. I tend to eyeball things…) and I like to add some cardamom.
  3. Icing: I use this Sour Cream Icing from Our Best Bites (those sugar cookies are SO good by the way, and this is now my favorite icing! It’s a little on the runnier side just FYI) Just whip up the following:4 tablespoons softened butter
    1/2 cup sour cream
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    2 3/4 cups sifted powdered sugar
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract

    I usually let the icing chill while I’m finishing everything else up and waiting for the rolls to cook

  4. Roll out dough into a large rectangle after you’ve let it rise (about half an inch thick, ish? it puffs back up pretty fast so don’t worry about making it too thin!) and spread filling over it. Leave a little space on one of the long sides, roll it up from the other long side and press the dough so it holds in a long roll.
  5. Use this dental floss technique to slice the roll into 12 pieces, arrange into large casserole dish. You can let it sit another 10 minutes if you want, the rolls will rise a bit more and squeeze together.
  6. Bake at 400° F for about 15-20 minutes (until barely golden on the top — make sure the center roll cooks through though!)
  7. Drizzle the icing all over, and serve fresh from the oven!

All told, it takes about an hour to an hour on a half, depending on how distracted by little people you are 😉 Hope you enjoy them, they’d be lovely for Easter breakfast too! I want to try out this Challah Bread this year, and I love this sweet Resurrection Rolls idea for kids.

Parenting

Lessons Learned After Three Weeks of Potty Training

We embarked on the potty training journey about three weeks ago now, and we’re surviving. Actually, it went rather well. I think it was time, she was ready, and the bulk of potty-training is over. But as anybody who has been there remembers, it’s never as simple as you’d think. And it’s not a three-day affair even if the main learning portion does happen then.

Here’s what we did, some advice from friends, family members, acquaintances, and some good online articles, plus a genius tip from a good friend of mine! Oh, and a little encouragement to get through the tough days.

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What we did

Day one: post nap, put her in panties, let what may come, come. We went through at least five pairs of panties the first day. More the next. (We started off just doing a few hours in the afternoon to keep ourselves from going crazy) There were a lot of puddles. I started to despair that she just wasn’t making the connection.

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Then, day three, it clicked, and there were only one or two accidents. We did two M&Ms for every pipi in the potty, and lots of reminders. She was really defensive about not wanting to get on it — still is frequently — but after those first few days with lots of accidents she started just going by herself when she was ready. We also kept her pumped full of as many juice boxes as I could give her to keep things going (I bought CapriSun juice packs and plied her with them all afternoon long. Yes it’s a lot of sugar, but this is temporary). A lot of thoughts went through my head that first week:

I am so sick of wiping urine off the floor!

The M&Ms aren’t actually for the kid — they’re to reward mothers for not cannibalizing their children.

YAAAAY! (I can’t believe I’m getting so excited about this…)

Anyway, we survived. We stuck around the house for almost a week — or close to it — so we could stick with the program. For now I still use pull-ups for leaving the house (and naps and night-time, although honestly she doesn’t really need them for naps, I have a potty in her room and she uses it just fine by herself)

We are still using Pull-ups when we leave the house, but the first few days was pretty much the nuclear option, all panties. I think it really helped to get a feel for things. Another little thing I picked up — which I think will come in especially handy once we’re only in panties — is this “piddle pad” to protect the car seat.

We have two little plastic potties (I love the IKEA one) — I’ve found she generally prefers having a seat of her own, although I hear some kids want to do it “just like a big person!” — as well as this comfy toilet-seat insert and stool for the bathroom. One potty in her bedroom, one in the living room (whatever, it’s how we live right now, ha) and then I keep the toilet seat insert on in the main bathroom.

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I also put together a little potty basket full of the necessities: Clorox wipes, regular wipes, hand sanitizer, plenty of panties, and of course TP. I’m not much for trademarked character clothing, but in this case, Frozen panties were helpful in getting her really excited about wearing them!

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Number two was a different story, by the way, but after a few weeks and some despairing conversations with friends, we’ve made some progress. Thank goodness for people who have gone before! It was also helpful when my in-laws came to visit the next week and brought some of their own special treats and lots of enthusiasm and encouragement. She was definitely surrounded by positive reinforcement!

And there’s this too: Everybody talks about how awful potty training is. We’ve been in the thick of it lately, and it certainly isn’t super duper fun time. But what you don’t often hear is how proud you’ll be when they start to figure it out — and how much pride you’ll see in their face too. The shyness or defensiveness turning to pure joy when they figure it out and see how excited you are for them. It is the sweetest!

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Here are some of the insights I’ve gleaned from other mothers:

It might take a while for the child to get used to how it feels when they need to go before they can give you advance warning. I was frustrated the first two days because she would just go and then realize immediately she was wet and wanted to be changed. I kept thinking “why isn’t she telling me, I literally asked her if she needed to go two minutes ago!” But I asked around thinking maybe it was too soon, and friends told me it takes some time for them to recognize that feeling and have the presence of mind to warn you. So in the meantime I just kept asking, a lot. And looking for warning signs (squeezing legs, dancing around… so funny). And by day three, it clicked.

There are still plenty of setbacks and accidents. Like when they are way too engrossed in an activity. I try to keep an eye out for warning signs and encourage early action, but there are still some accidents here or there.

Things that were recommended to us:

  • Do it in blocks of time so you don’t completely lose your mind. It’s a lot of work to be so hypervigilant and watching their every twinge, so it’s been nice to start by just doing those hours after naptime until bedtime. I go get her from her room, put her on the potty, and change into panties for the afternoon where I try to keep her on the hard-surface portion of the home. Or outdoors on the deck.
  • Elmo’s Potty Time. I would have her watch it while sitting on the throne and she really liked it, I think it helped her relate to the concepts a little better.
  • I liked some of the tips over here from The Pinning Mama
  • For #2, constipation and pain or discomfort might be an issue too. A few friends of mine said they used fiber gummies or even metamucil for a while to keep things nice and smooth so it’s not scary or painful. I’m definitely going to get those fiber gummies started now!
  • “One of my kids: I had to put a bucket of warm water in front of them with bath toys in it. They played in the water with their hands while they sat on the little potty seat. This helped stimulate them to pee. This child had issues connecting how to go. This really helped.”
  • “With our oldest 2 once they were in real underwear anytime they went in their pants we made them walk from every room in the house to the bathroom before changing them. We would go to each room & say, “if you’re in here & need to go potty where do you go?” Apparently it isn’t comfortable walking around that much in gross undies. Took 3 days tops for both of them.”

Another thing I’ve learned: the potty becomes a new excuse in the toddler’s arsenal of stalling techniques (for us, it’s typically bedtime)… it’s absolutely maddening. One friend has the same issue with leaving the house: “Things are going really well, but our biggest hiccup is that he’s a boy who cried pee every time we try to leave the house! Any time we go to a store he’s insisting he needs to pee every 10 mins, which is a blast when you have a cart of groceries and are 27 weeks pregnant.” Yup. Little stinkers!

Actually, for me, this is the aspect that is the most frustrating about potty training. It’s not the cleaning up of messes or excessive laundry, but the fact that it creates one more power struggle with an already-willful child. I’ve had to arm myself with a lot of patience, and I haven’t always been successful. You never know if they actually need to use the bathroom or are just using it to avoid going to sleep, and sometimes it’s just an additional opportunity for metldowns! Gah.

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A note about Amazon Prime: I had a lot of friends recommend the Subscribe and Save feature for diapers/pull-ups, but at first I was frustrated that you didn’t get Prime shipping. You have to set up shipments that can’t be any sooner than a full week out, and sometimes that wasn’t fast enough for me. But now that we live in a very rural area, it’s become a necessity and I’ve learned to just plan ahead. You definitely save quite a bit that way.

OK, here’s the last tip, and this is the one that I’m pretty sure helped us with that final breakthrough! It’s goofy, but I swear it worked.

One friend’s genius secret to making #2 happen in the potty: “I told her if she does it in her diaper/panties, it has to go in the trash, poor caca! But if she does it in the toilet, the caca gets to go on an adventure!” I thought this one was hilarious, but anyone who has been around toddlers knows it just might work. I tried it. We talked up the adventures of the caca, how it would go down the pipes — like a slide! — and into the ocean, and go swimming with Dory! (Finding Dory has been a favorite around here the last month or two) Yes, I know, this is an absurd conversation. I also talked up the lollipop she’d get for a caca in the potty… and would you know, somebody earned a lollipop that very day!

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So don’t knock it until you try it. Sometimes, it’s all about the psychological manipulation!

I kid, I kid. Anyway, there it is. These are a few things that have worked for us, and I’m sure there will be plenty more insights as more kids with different personalities come along. It’s definitely more of a long-term learning curve than I expected — the whole “potty train in three days” thing is misleading — but it is encouraging to finally be on the way. And if you’re in the thick of it: courage!

Share any and all of your tips, tricks and insights below in the comments!

Parenting

How We Got Past the No-Nap Slump

People, there is hope.

A few weeks ago I thought for sure Adelina was done with napping, because it had become a monumental fight that took half the afternoon. I know you can’t technically force anyone to sleep, but dang it I sure was trying my very best. And by the end of one particularly difficult week, she had torn the door of her bedroom off its hinge! It was an exhausting battle of wills, and I was so tired of spending at least an hour trying to get her to sleep every day. We were both at our wits’ ends.

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Then I had an accidental epiphany.

I resigned myself to the reality that it was probably time for some quiet time in her room instead of nap time, and maybe if I got lucky she’d fall asleep from time to time. So one fine Monday, I took her to her room at nap time and explained that she could play with her toys (I set up her cars to inspire her) or she could nap, or do both, but she just needed to stay in her room for some quiet time. She cheerfully agreed and sat down to play, I closed the door and left. There was some fussing once she got bored after about an hour, but I was not giving up on quiet time. I told her through the door she could play or sleep, but she needed to stay in her room until quiet time was done (we use this toddler alarm clock, it was pretty helpful in dealing with early wake-ups). She fell asleep right there on the floor, about five minutes before her toddler alarm clock went off…

(I had to have a cut-off time otherwise bedtime becomes a nightmare)

The next day, she needed a diaper change after a little while, so I went in to help and then asked her if she was ready to sleep a little bit. She just went with it! I tucked her in, walked out, and she was asleep.

What?!

I texted my husband, jubilant. The next day, we went through the same motions, with the same result. And the next day, and the next. It was working!

After debriefing a little, I realized two things: One, maybe it had been a phase. If there’s anything that’s a constant in parenting, we all know it’s change… But also and most importantly, I really think releasing the pressure I had built up around nap time allowed her to relax, have her own way for a while, and then willingly be ready to nap.

I was stressed about getting her down before a certain time so she wouldn’t nap too late, and I was NOT willing to let go of naps, so it had become such a battle with constant back-and-forth and willful defiance. Once I decided she could do whatever she wanted with that time — in her room — she suddenly decided she didn’t mind napping after all.

Who would’ve thought?!

Of course this does mean we still have some odd sleeping arrangements from time to time. Her stuffed animal basket is a favorite hidey-hole, which I think is kind of cute!

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I want to make it perfectly clear that we still have tough days. Some days she still refuses naps — especially on days I need to hurry home and get things going on a shorter timeline. But for now, at 2 1/2 years old, nap time usually happens if I give her enough time to get to it on her own. Once I gave up on forcing nap time and allowed her to make the decision, it magically came back. I’m sure there’s some greater metaphor about life and motherhood here. I’m slowly learning that with this girl at least, independence is really important. But hey, I’ll take the naps while I can still get them! And in the meantime, a lot of the tension is gone and we can both just enjoy that time.

Share your nap time tips below, I’d love to hear them!

Holidays

St Patrick’s Day Surprise

Kids make everything more magical in life.

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I’ve always been a huge Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, and Halloween fan, but other ones like St Patrick’s Day have not been my thing in the past… it’s not that I hate all things Irish — in fact I love a good rousing celtic jig, I was obsessed with riverdance as a kid, and there are all the beautiful fairy tales (or should I say faery tales!) and breathtaking landscapes… but here in the U.S. it often feels like a ridiculous caricature intended mainly for getting slopping drunk and wearing green.

This year though, I got in the spirit of it — minus the flowing ale — and it was a fun holiday to do at home. As our children get older, I look forward to reading real Irish folk tales (a compilation like this would be a great start!) and learning more about the history and culture. For example, this was an interesting article: When America Despised the Irish: The 19th Century’s Refugee Crisis. Plus my husband has relatively recent Irish ancestry so it’s a great chance to look up the family tree with our kids!

Anyway. I love having a little surprise ready for Adelina when she wakes up from her nap on holidays, it’s a fun way to make the day special (and kill some time when afternoons grow long… ha!). We went to pick up rainbow-colored balloons this morning so she had seen them, but after the nap they had disappeared! I told her a leprechaun had probably stolen them and hidden them to play a trick on us… we searched around the house a bit and found his pot o’ gold!

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And yes, that’s definitely a Halloween votive… whatever, it was the closest thing I had on hand. Necessity is the mother of invention, they say.

Also, how cute was our little Leprechaun! This boy melts me!

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We ended the day with some delicious corned beef and cabbage (apparently, not terribly authentic… still yummy though!) and it was not as tricky as I worried. Meat has always intimidated me some, but I’m starting to get the hang of it. Stores tend to carry corned beef pre-packaged with a little spice packet around St Patrick’s Day, so that made things pretty easy, and then I added red potatoes, onion, carrots and of course cabbage. Drown the whole thing in some beef broth and you have a tasty roast! (Crock pot would have been nice, but in typical fashion I didn’t get it in in time to let it cook long enough — about eight hours on high is the general consensus — so oven it was. Still took four hours, but it was worth it! Here’s an easy recipe) And the Celtic Pandora station made for perfect dinnertime ambiance 😉

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I’d love to hear how you celebrate St Patrick’s Day, tell me all about it in the comments!

Motherhood

What I Would Tell My Pre-Second-Child Self

Maybe it’s that my daughter was a more difficult baby, maybe boys really are easier (it’s crazy how many people have told me that), or maybe it’s that I sort of know what I’m doing and what to expect this time around, but I am truly enjoying motherhood right now.

I mean, this sweet face sure doesn’t hurt!

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Having my first child was a major reshaping of our world. Everything was suddenly different. I stopped getting decent sleep, for a long time. I dealt with all the hormones and ups and downs. Probably some level of undiagnosed postpartum depression. I remember dreading bedtime because I knew I’d be up all night anyway and it felt like it would never end. As happy as I was to have our sweet girl — and she was adorable and delightful in many ways — life was surprisingly difficult, and it took me a long time to adapt.

So many things were a surprise. I talk about sleep all the time because it really was a shock to the system, but there also other things, like breastfeeding for example. It went quite well for us in terms of technicalities, but what surprised me were the feelings of being trapped in a routine, trapped by nap time, trapped by this tiny human whose side I couldn’t leave for more than about two hours at a time. I had a certain acceptable radius that was inescapable, and sometimes it felt suffocating.

And there were joys, so many of them. But some of it was lost in the fog of postpartum adaptation and first-time motherhood. And so much stress. Learning the ropes is hard. I expected so much of myself — spending quality time with her, holding her or wearing her constantly (to be fair, she wasn’t exactly very tolerant of being left to her own devices, but I often wonder how much of it was of my own doing)…

Now? I do think my second child is easier — which is ironic because he was born with a congenital birth defect that required so much traveling and so much stress early on. And yet here we are, just enjoying life. He is delightful, and patient. He is happy to hang out on his play mat while my daughter and I buzz about with our activities, and he takes all the cuddles and love we’ll give him gladly.

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I remember being excited to expand our family, but also very nervous. I worried I could never handle it all, and do the whole newborn sleeplessness phase all over again. I worried I’d never leave the house again with TWO children to wrangle.

I can’t say it’s all roses and butterflies — turns out the second pregnancy was much more taxing for me, for example — but having that sweet boy in our family? It’s been amazing. There were certainly some rough nights early on, but nearly four months later, life feels like a breeze. If I could go back and talk to my pre-second-child self, this is what I’d tell her:

You’ll be fine. You are used to not getting enough sleep now, and somehow those sleepless nights will be more bearable. They’ll also go by and get easier a whole lot faster. And yes, there will be rough nights. But you won’t have time to dwell on them anyway when you’re running after a toddler!

You might even get lucky and have an easier baby! Let’s be real, that’s probably the biggest thing we have going for us right now, ha! Jonas is nowhere near sleeping through the night, but he is a better napper, consistently so. That’s a game-changer right there.

 Your whole life won’t be completely upended like it was the last time. You have routines and a certain pace that’s already in place, you’re already a master of efficiency by necessity (getting showered and ready for the day in 15 minutes!), and that second child somehow perfectly fits into it all. Aligning that middle-of-the-day nap is pretty blissful too!

There will be a whole lot less stress and pressure, mainly because you won’t be the one putting it on yourself anymore.

The days won’t stretch on as endlessly as they did at first. The rote moments are still there, but they’re interspersed with all the toddler fun (and meltdowns too, let’s be real!) and the rest of life that still goes on. Yes you’ve doubled the amount of diapers and children, and it’s much busier, but amazingly you’ve gotten much more efficient at whipping out diaper changes and soothing upset children. There will still be long days, but more and more they tend to just zoom past you. (and this might be a harder thing to accept, by the way)

You might lower your standards a little bit. And that’s totally OK. Poor Jonas doesn’t get nearly as many baths as Adelina did when she was his age. But you know what? Babies don’t care.

Learn to take time for the things that make you, you. Join a book club. Volunteer for a cause you’re passionate about. Make dates with your husband a priority. Wear lipstick even when you’re staying home all day long. Start a Power of Moms Learning Circle. Just make sure you take a few minutes to come up for air every once in a while.

You will be amazed at how much better life actually gets. Somehow, adding to your load also added much more joy: seeing that adorable sibling relationship develop, enjoying the delightful little babyhood moments you were too stressed out of your mind to enjoy the first time… and there’s also a little more of the bittersweet realization that this baby is growing, FAST.

The first time around felt like I was mostly focused on surviving, and grabbing moments when I could in between. Now, I’m finding it so much easier to just soak up both of these amazing little people, and to make the moments count.

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And I still have plenty to learn, and there’s a lot more ahead that is new and foreign, and I’m sure there will be a lot more that’s hard. But I can honestly say I feel happier, surprisingly, now that there is more of the work — and more of the love — to go around. As if, slowly but surely, I’m starting to find the sweet spot of motherhood.

Life

Currently: March

How is your month of March going? We kicked it off with a trip to a sunnier climate to visit my husband’s parents. Poor Adelina asks me to go to the park almost daily, but our town’s parks are under two+ feet of snow so it’s impossible. I was so happy to indulge her!

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And Jonas got to take naps in fresh air and even enjoy a little sun. It’s probably an odd sensation to a boy born in snow!

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Here’s what I’m up to lately.

Social Media Fast: I mentioned I’m doing a social media fast for Lent — it’s going pretty well so far! I deleted Facebook & Twitter from my phone and I log out of Instagram so it’s an extra step instead of mindlessly clicking in. I’ve ultimately decided to stick to generally checking social media when the kids are asleep or I have a little downtime otherwise, not a cold hard break. It’s been awesome reorganizing my priorities, I’ve spent very little time with it all and it feels good. I’m trying to prioritize active use (creating/writing or communication) vs passive use (mindless scrolling, checking updates just because there’s a notification). Definitely not perfect — that first day was hard — but it’s getting better.

Reading: The Triple Package: How Three Unlikely Traits Explain the Rise and Fall of Cultural Groups in America for book club. It’s interesting so far — Mormons are one of the groups Shua and Rubenfeld highlight — but feels a little bit like pop science to be honest. EDIT: I finally got past the intro chapters which seemed to be making a lot of relatively cherry-picked claims, and into the meat of the theory. It’s turned out to be quite fascinating actually. For one, I’m learning a lot about certain cultures I wasn’t terribly familiar with (Iranian-Americans, for example) and I think as it goes on the authors really build quite a case for their claim that superiority, insecurity, and impulse control contribute to the rise and success of certain cultural groups within the U.S. Really interesting book.

Watching: I finally got to see Arrival, and it did not disappoint. As soon as I saw the trailer I could tell it was my kind of science fiction: more thought experiment than space excursion, less tech more talk. I won’t give away anything quite yet (although it got me thinking so much I want to write a whole post about it… the spiritual parallels are incredible!) but it has stuck with me, in a good way. It is a beautiful film visually, and it was so life-affirming. The childhood and motherhood scenes were so achingly beautiful, they reminded of just how much good is in my own life.

Wearing: this hoodie, every day… oh boy do I love that thing! Cute enough to look put together but comfy and cozy too. And there are so many more patterns and colors, I may need a few more… ha!

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Listening: Fréro Delavega, a french duo from near my hometown. (the video I linked to was shot in Bordeaux, kind of cool) They’re pretty fun and feel like summer, which I could use right now… Also, I introduced Adelina to Elvis Presley the other day and she’s feeling the rhythm 😉

Playing: trains. Andrew’s mom sent his childhood train set home with us and Adelina is obsessed!

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Cooking: anything that goes in a skillet — I’m hooked! This Quick and Easy Skillet Tamale Pie With Brown Butter Cornbread Crust was amazing (although I didn’t find it especially quick), as well as this super-flavorful Skillet Chicken with Creamy Cilantro Lime Sauce!

Working: I recently joined the team at Their Story is Our Story – Giving Voice to Refugees to help coordinate translation, and it’s been a little crazy trying to catch up with the sheer amount of volunteers and open loops. It’s finally getting a little under control, and I’m glad to be able to lend a hand to this cause. The NPO’s goal is to “give individual refugees voice through social media, art, exhibits, and publications, thus empowering them to share their experiences, their feelings, and their hopes on a worldwide platform.” It’s so important for people to hear, see, and read real stories about how real people are affected by this humanitarian crisis.

Also, knee-deep in a pile of laundry, unpacking from our trip, and washing human waste and paint out of kids’ clothing… ha!

Holidays · Life

Why I need a Social Media Break Again

I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for a little social media break. This is a post from last year when I did a “social media fast” for Lent. It was a long 40 days, but it was really good for me, helping to refocus on the things that matter most. Even if you’re not religious, this is something we could all benefit from!
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Definitely been guilty of that lately…
One thing I noticed last year was I started getting in touch with friends personally, and it was more meaningful communication. I would think about a friend and text her or just call her up and see how she was doing. I FaceTimed my family more often.
At the time, I wrote, “It has given me back those little in-between spaces because instead of checking my phone when I have five minutes, I think ‘what have I been needing to do?’ and can write in my journal, read the Ensign, read a book, get some scripture study done or write a friend or make that shopping list or… you get the idea. More focus on the things I actually want and need out of life instead of mindlessly entertaining myself. More moments just soaking in our sweet girl. And more time to hear the quiet whispering of the Spirit that we can so easily tune out.”
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I’m not going to do a full break this year because I have several projects I’m working on that are important to me (such as my blog — I’ll still be posting — and my #cherish365 photography project), but I think I’m going to a Ramadan-style fast: only after sundown. Or perhaps only when the kids are asleep (the mom version of sundown ;). I’ve deleted the Facebook and Twitter apps on my phone and logged out of Instagram. One thing that I was discussing with my husband last night was how I wanted to spend more time creating media, not consuming it. Those are things that build me up instead of draining me: writing, photography, projects I volunteer for. That’s my goal this time around — no mindless scrolling.
And with that: I’m unplugging for a bit now. Wish me luck!
Have you ever done a Lenten fast, or a social media break? How did you do it? What did you gain from it?