Let’s talk about feelings. Really.



In this week’s What’s Working edition (for archives click here) I’m focusing on a few things I do to help foster conversations about feelings with my boys.

Talking about feelings: everybody’s favorite thing! Wait. No.

My research shows people think about them way more than we talk about them. And we also want our kids to talk about them even though, ahem, we do not.

So … be warned these activities require your participation, patience and leadership. This isn’t just for parents, either. This is for people who want to foster good conversations and trust with children to pave the way for long-term engagement.

Here are a few things that work for me:

Take a Bite:

So easy it’s shocking. It’s fun to start with something they don’t like so they KNOW they have a choice NOT to take a bite.

Kids + choices* = good thing.

*Offer only choices you can live with, i.e. do you really care if she takes a big or small bite? Do you really care if it takes twenty minutes instead of ten to eat dinner? Do you really care if he eats his peas before his potatoes?

Here’s how to play:

Look around the table and in an enthusiastic voice (kids are good lie detectors so this can’t be through gritted teeth) ask “Who wants to play ‘take a bite?’” Then as they look at you just start the game.

“It’s like this … take a bite if you like spiders.” (Make sure you play too, so if you don’t like spiders, don’t take one.)

“Okay … take a bite if you like ice cream.”

Take a bite if you like swimming.

Take a bite if you like Hello Kitty.

Take a bite if you like Minecraft.

Super easy. Watch them get through a bowl of dinner while giggling at each other.

 This works because you're spending precious time talking about little things that matter to them. You are showing them you pay attention, that you care and that you also can still be surprised by them. And they by you. 


Working from oldest to youngest, work your way around the table to share a highlight and a low point from the day. It’s important to make it just one that comes to mind or stands out at the moment because trying to think of The Best Part or The Worst Part of a day can paralyze the conversation as children (and adults!) try to come up with The Right Answer.

Really, it’s just a conversation starter but if you haven’t played this before you might be surprised at the little, interesting things that come up. To tell you the truth, I learn even more about my husband’s day-to-day life during these rounds of highlight/lowlight than I do the boys’.

The key to this game working is to be willing to be open and honest yourself. Note: this would not be a good time to mention passive aggressive digs. For example, my true lowlight was an exchange with my spouse but the point of this exercise is to build and strengthen relationships and not create awkward silence.

So if I were playing right this minute my turn would go like this:

“My highlights so far today are getting an extra morning snuggle with Jake and that Sam made his breakfast and did his dishes. My lowlight so far is feeling nervous about a doctor’s appointment.”

Sometimes there is follow up and questions but usually we just keep going around the table – kind of like if you’ve ever been to a 12-step meeting one of the coolest, weirdest parts is that there is an open sharing time with no cross-talk.  That means no one one-ups you, no one minimizes you, no one tries to talk you out of how you feel, no one advises you:  they just listen. They just hear you. It’s a beautiful gift.

 Talking Time:

This is a part of our bedtime routine. We snuggle the boys and and with the lights out we have talking time. Sometimes they pick a theme, like an upcoming trip or holiday, sometimes it’s about random parts of the day. Sometimes it’s big stuff: how old will I be when I die? (Luckily that was one time Matt was doing it and he answered perfectly: at the very end of your life.)

Something about the dark and safety of a snuggle is disarming. Something about knowing they have this time with you to count on paves the way to good conversations.

Last night was a tough one because Sam wanted to debrief on something he observed that falls into the category of “adult things.” I let him tell me what he thought, how he felt about it and validated his feelings. It is okay to love someone and be sad about something they do or say. It is okay to be mad, it is okay to be confused. And someday we will talk more about the details, I promise. Your dad and I love you and your brother more than anyone in the world, no matter what. And then I stopped talking. Super important part right there to make room for whatever they have to say. Or just to ponder in silence.

After a few minutes he said, “Mama? Promise to tell me the truth? I promise not to be hurt or mad.”

Gah! Not. Ready. Glad it’s dark. Just buy time until we figure things out…. “Yes. I promise.”

“Is Santa real?”

Oh. That was even harder than the one I was bracing for. That’ll have to be it’s own post entirely. I told him the truth. No spoilers here though just in case. And by the truth I mean I answered specific questions and concluded with “You can believe for as long as you want.”

“Okay, thank you.”

But usually things aren’t quite as deep. But the point of spending time in the shallow end is so we can handle the deep. You got this.

As far as how long to do this … it’s good to set a fairly consistent window of time so they know how much time they have. I usually start wrapping up with a back scratch or some tapping so they can relax into sleeping through the whole night. (I can dream, right?)

If you find this post helpful, I’d love for you to share it with your people. This is a topic I’m passionate about and I’d love to hear your experiences if you already do these, or after you try a few!

And … a feeling-free tip:

Summer Fun Hack:

Pour leftover juice/shakes/water with berries into these cute popsicle molds. Freeze.

Send them outside to eat them.

Everyone who brings the container back can have one tomorrow.

(I found that lids attached are clutch.) *



Nathalie Hardy recently published her first book, “Raising the Hardy Boys: They Said There Would Be Bon-Bons” available at local bookstores and online. Hardy writes in the margins of her life with two little boys and a husband who understands deadlines come before dusting. To contact her, visit www.nathaliesnotes.com. Hardy writes in the margins of her life with two little boys and a husband who understands deadlines come before dusting.

*Affiliate disclaimer: I tend to keep Nathalie’s Notes ad-free, you’re welcome! Though I sometimes promote products I whole-heartedly endorse. If I am ever paid to say so, I will disclose that. Not just ‘cause it’s the law. I get a few pennies when people shop on Amazon through my links/store. Thanks for your support!

(If you’re buying books please consider ordering through your local, independent bookstore! A few of my favorites: Chapters in Newberg, Third Street Books in McMinnville, Cloud and Leaf in Manzanita, Book & Game in Walla Walla and Powell’s in Portland.) 

The designer for the cute details in the photo above is Meghan Mullens. Check out her work here: https://www.facebook.com/meghanmullensdesigns.

{What’s Working}

So, what didn’t actually work is the template I set up in July  to make it easy to keep up on my {What’s Working} posts on Wednesdays. Sorry, I love alliterations too much to let that go by.

Back on task: here are a few things that are working for me lately. Would love to hear what’s working for you or  your questions about how other people handle daily dilemmas, if you’re too shy to ask, I’ll do it for you since asking questions is a key part of what I do for a living and all.

Click here for {What’s Working} archives.

2013-10-16 09.21.14

What: My clutter-busting DIY tickler file* system

When I got the form for picture day last week, I wrote the check so I’d be on top of things and then stuck it in the 16th’s file and this morning when we were rushing out the door, there it was. No frantic pile searching for us, finally!!! Whether it makes it out of Sam’s backpack or not is another story.

Why: If anyone is interested I can follow up with a step-by-step post but essentially the awesomeness in this system is that there is literally a place for every piece of paper I want to keep because I customized it to my real life. This one thing is a huge accomplishment on my Mission: Organize Everything project.

How it works: Condensed version – there’s a file for every day of the month, 31 files and then a file for every month plus “next year” … a bit more to it than that and happy to share if it would help.


*(Please, please help me come up with something better to call this awesomeness than “tickler file.”)


What: Kelly Lester’s Easy Lunch Boxes

So, so much more on this to come when my article publishes in the News-Register’s Green Living special section – soonish because I’ll be hosting my first ever giveaway to include some of these cool lunch boxes and cooler bag.

But for now, just wanted to say my ELB system is making packing lunches (and cleaning containers at the end of the day) much easier.

2013-10-16 09.01.522013-10-16 09.01.562013-10-16 08.52.18

{Also what’s working … holiday fun, it’s the little things, right?!}

*Lunches include from top left to bottom: “Dippy sauce” which seems to be key to getting the vegetables down their gullets, pirates booty (why? why do they love that stuff so much?!) pumpkin-shaped pb&j with the crust leftovers underneath and apple slices hidden under the top layer of “crinkle carrots.” I don’t know why I put that in quotes because I think that’s really what they’re called.

Why: It’s a formula for me – I fill the big box with the main dish, one with fruit the other with a veggie and find room for a little snack or treat. Done.

How it works: It takes the whole finding the right container and feeling guilty about all the lunch waste off the table and puts a good, easy to make, lunch on there instead.


If you want to buy some before my giveaway post runs –  you can click on my affiliate links below and hey, I’ll get a few pennies for your linking through my Amazon store – yayness.



2013-10-16 10.46.10

What: Asking other people what’s working for them.

Sarah, one of my high school BFFs, tennis partner and college roommate (who’s picture I’d love to post but forgot to ask for permission) is a person I admire for lots of reasons but lately I find myself wondering “how does she do it?”

So, this weekend she came down for a visit, I got to ask her how her life works right now – and because we’re bffs she knew I meant … exactly. 

She described her crockpot strategy in the morning and I asked for her recipe, exactly.

“No, that’s it. I just gave it to you. Frozen chicken and a bottle of teriyaki sauce, on low for eight hours, done. Add rice and edamame.”

Tried it – everyone loved it – thank you Sarah! Mostly for being you, and being real.

This morning I tried her frozen chicken breasts + jar of spaghetti sauce and set out the boxes of noodles so the first person home tonight can get right on that.

Why: Because it’s nice to point out where you think someone else is being successful and asking people who are doing what you want to be doing for tips is how you can be more successful at what matters to you. I guess that kind of went without saying, huh?


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{What’s working}

tune on tues 7-9


What: Tunes on Tuesday

Why: It’s one of those things that makes Summer feel like Summer. Plus, it’s part of my focus on being connected to our community. Oh, and it’s a good reason to dust off the picnic basket!

Where:  At the “Music Park” as the kids call it.

Note: It’s free and super fun. It’s still kind of a cluster getting us fed picnic style but I’m sure I’ll get the hang of it by the time the season ends. Also, if I hadn’t put Tunes on Tuesdays on our summer manifesto list, I don’t think I’d be trying as hard to make it happen.


Sunday Breakfast


What: Waffles

Why: Saves time in the morning

How it works: I cook a bunch of extra waffles, pancakes and/or breakfast burritos on the weekend when I like to make a bigger breakfast for the fam. I freeze the leftovers to use for breakfasts during the week.

Note: Why is it so intimidating to do this for dinners?


What: Battle picking

Why: Sanity

Where: at every opportunity

Note: A recent example is letting Jake have orange juice on his breakfast cereal instead of almond milk. He asked, I resisted but then couldn’t think of a good reason why not so now it’s his thing. Whatever.

(Yes, it’s a hit of sugar, no they don’t drink juice on most days and no Jake can’t have a cup of juice with his cereal – because he also has to learn to pick his battles. Oh, and yes I water the juice down just like my mom did for all the same reasons).

So, friends – what’s working for you lately?

{What’s working: from the archives}

Works in Progress | DIY Furniture | Project Life

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{What’s Working}

It might be a bit premature to say what’s working in regards to my Project Life. But these are the things I am doing differently in my process to help me achieve a more satisfying result than last year’s experience of loving the project but feeling constantly “behind.”

This year my goal is to embrace (My One Little Word) and enjoy the process of putting together this awesome record of our real life.

Here are the tweaks I’ve made to my process:

Handling Photos | Last year I waited until I had a big enough batch of photos to justify the shipping from Shutterfly. This created a constant catch-up cycle. Worse, for me though, is that for some reason I get overwhelmed by choosing, editing, uploading the right pictures so it was always a task I procrastinated on.

This year my friend Amy pointed out that the grocery store I shop at has a photo lab. Yes, the Fred Meyer I’ve gone to a minimum of once a week has a photo processing center. I guess I stay focused on keeping my kids safely in the cart and sticking to my list or something! Anyway I priced them at .13 cents a print which means a picture a day for a year would be $48.00. So worth it to stay on top of this project and enjoy it. This means I am uploading to the Fred Meyer photo center on line and picking up one or two pictures at a time when I run in to pick up the milk we’re always running out of! Bonus? I’m getting to know the people who work there and when my brand new camera stopped working on Tuesday, the manager was beyond awesome at helping me return and replace it!

Shifting Perspective | Project Life is like laundry, only way more fun! There is no such thing as totally caught up. There will always be something, to mend, throw in the wash, iron out wrinkles … whatever. You can lament those things or be grateful to have clothes! Project Life, like laundry, works better for me when I have a system in place and then tweak as needed. I do better keeping my family in clean socks and underwear when I do a load day – start to finish than waiting to climb Fly Lady's Mount Washmore. Same with Project Life.

Journaling |  As a long time lover of my Moleskine planners I am delighted to be using these monthly pocket planners:

Moleskine 2012 12 Month Color A Month Daily Planner: Set of 12 Monthly Planners

I just jot a few lines, an overheard conversation,   something I want to Google to go with the journaling, etc. Love it. Plus, they’ll tuck in nicely into the 4x6 pockets at the end of the year!

For a link to my past Wednesday “what’s working” posts click here.

What’s working for you guys, Project Life or  otherwise?!

p.s. Thank you again Erin Goodman for the inspiration to do What’s Working posts! To learn more about Erin click here.

{What’s working & April’s article}




This simple little phrase is working wonders at my house. I don’t know why but Sam totally gets this. His teacher says it so I started saying it and to my utter amazement it works almost all the time!

So I was stoked to see Becky Higgins created a free download on her site with this expression printed on three different colors … uploaded to Shutterfly and now it’s on my fridge. Easy.

I forgot to post the link to my April “Baby on Board” column: click here if you want to read it.

I'll let you in on a favorite parenting secret of mine. Sometimes, particularly out in public, I pretend I'm the nanny.

This comes in handy when my toddler nearly dives into the water feature at Wilco, or takes it upon himself to "deadhead" the flower display as I wrestle my 1-year-old charge into the shopping cart. When people shoot me the stink eye, I just shake my head along with them, nanny-like.

The nanny thing works at home as well.

The way I see it, nannies actually have fun with their darling charges because they aren't as emotionally attached to the outcome. They don't worry so much about messes and are far more playful.

I know, because I worked as a nanny all through school.

{Read more}

{What’s working: DIY furniture}

Of course, when I say “do it yourself” it’s more of a team effort where I’m the idea person (by which I mean rip-the-picture-out-of-magazine-person) and Matt’s the finisher. Here are two of our recycled materials projects.

A year ago exactly, I posted this picture I saw on http://www.designmom.com/.



I didn’t know where we’d be living, only that we were moving and had put in (yet another) offer on a house. This one, though, I was pretty certain was The One. While the inspection was pending, I visualized this bench in the entry way, with my kids’ boots in it.



This morning I took this picture in our entry way. Love, love, love it. Matt made this for me for Christmas. Should you fancy one for your own home … let me know.( Shoe bins are from Target.)


A couple years ago, during yet another move, a door broke off our dining room cabinet, I kept it knowing I wanted to repurpose it somehow, just not quite sure how. Until I saw this idea in Good Housekeeping last year. I tucked it in my idea binder and waited for the right time to try it.

During my recent personal crisis I decided to do some self-esteem boosting – it’s amazing what seemingly small things can do! One of which was spray-painting for the first time. (Yes, I’m 35.) So with the help of some girlfriends, I sanded and spray-painted the door.

(Side note: I left it in Matt’s shop so long, he offered to paint the other side for me and I took him up on it.) He hung it up for me last night in my new studio and it’s just how I pictured it.

The little books are from a company I like called Compendium. For doses of inspiration visit their blog.



- signature

{What’s working: Martha’s magic cleaner}



First of all, can you believe Jake is old enough to walk to school to pick up his brother?!

Secondly – where did March go? I meant to post this on Wednesday. During my forced hiatus from my Google Machine, I had to turn to other resources … I needed a homemade cleaner that I wouldn’t worry if my kids found in our cabinet childproofed with the rubber band from a bunch of asparagus. I flipped through my Martha Stewart homemaking handbook and found this:

Fill a spray bottle with:

2 cups water + 2 Tablespoons liquid dish detergent = magic

Really. Magic.

Seriously magic in the sense that it cleans everything and magic in the sense that I actually liked cleaning for awhile. It got old again, but still …

Sam colored on the carpet – sort of an accident in that he colored off the page but he shouldn’t have had the page on the carpet … where was I? Slamming a rum and Coke in the bathroom. Just kidding. I was changing Jake upstairs. So I discovered the multi-colored carpet and in my calm, Zen Mama fashion got all angry and said:

“You better pray to God this comes out of the carpet!”

Sam took me literally and got on his little knees, folded his little hands, closed his eyes and said:

“God, we have a problem. Mama is maaaaad.” I used the magic cleaner and it was coming out.

“It’s working! Keep praying.”

Sam grinned, “Thank you God.”


Project Life note … While I wish I’d thought of this sooner I’m not going to let all-or-nothing thinking get in the way … I snapped a picture of Sam’s school bucket from the top view this morning so I see his snacks and show and tell. Every month, or so, I’d like to make a free collage at Photility to include in this book – and maybe for his school album. (The theoretical one). It'd be fun to see what he picked to take each week – even if it’s the same block week after week.


{what’s working – courage}

Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, “I will try again tomorrow.”

- mary anne radmacher


A week ago today, one of my most immediate stresses was that I’d forgotten to take out the garbage and missed the garbage truck. I can’t hardly believe it’s only been a week since that morning. The events of last week, starting with the sudden death of one of our favorite people and ending with the near-implosion of all that I thought mattered most* … well, let’s just say it put the whole garbage fiasco into perspective.

Meanwhile … while so much feels like it is so not working, this awesome quote from one of my favorite artists sums up what is: trying again tomorrow.

*we are all going to be fine. Better than fine, eventually.

Also what's working is staying steady with my 300 words a day ... I'm ready to say it: I'm finishing my novel!

{What’s working: works-in-progress}



Matt: Where’s the Wayne Dyer book?

Me: In the yellow stack.

Matt: {blank face}

Me: I organized our book by color. Or, at least, I’m working on it.

Matt: Why?
Me: Because I like the way it’ll look when I’m done. Plus, ask me any book we have and I know what color the spine is, ask me where it is on our shelf, and I have no idea.

Matt: There’s something to be said for alphabetical order.

Me: Have you met your children?

Matt: I hate to break this to you, honey. I didn’t realize you’d done that and started doing them in alphabetical order but the kids …

Me:Well,then it didn’t make the impression I was going for. I’d say until they stop pulling everything off shelves, we try it my way. Sam knows his colors, not his alphabet.

Later …

books z-a

Matt: Were you being ironic?

Me: Huh?

Matt: with the backwards letters?

Me: The kids …

{What’s working: order}



Wish I’d taken a before picture so you could see what a revolutionary experience it is to have our cupboards this … serene. I {heart} Ikea.

Some friends of ours got together at a paint-your-own studio and made us a fun, mis-matched set of dishes for our engagement party. That was 10 years and two divorces ago … we enjoyed using the dishes, long after they chipped and were whittled down to a bare bones selection. It was time for new ones. I’ve wanted white dishes for a long, long time and finally found a good deal on them at IKEA. I use the clear ones on top of the little white ones for fun decorative touches like this – next time I’ll make the initials bigger. This is fun with paper napkins, Sam’s watercolor pictures, sweet quotes, and soon – Valentines.
Setting - initials