blogging · writing

Checking In

It’s been really challenging finding time to write recently, and that’s in part because my children keep waking up at five o’clock in the morning.

The funny thing is – it’s not like I’m losing sleep when they wake up at five. My alarm goes off at 4 A.M. every single weekday. But, at 5 A.M., I am usually just about to sit down to do some writing – and then, minutes later, a small child is cuddled in my lap.

On the one hand, I love this. I’m a working parent, and morning snuggles are precious. If the boys start sleeping until 6:30 or 7 A.M., then I might not even see them in the morning.

On the other hand – I wake up at 4 so that I can go for a run, get ready for work, and squeeze in an hour of writing before having coffee and breakfast with my family and leaving for work at 6:30 A.M. So, when the boys wake early, something gets abandoned and it’s pretty much always the writing due to the order of events.

It’s 5:11 A.M. as I type this, and I can hear Jonas stirring; I’ve already laid him back down to sleep twice since my alarm went off. So, I’m using this time to troubleshoot. How do I make sure I get time to write, which is important for my self-care, my mental health, and my overall state of mind?

The most obvious answer is to try to start writing at night. The boys go to bed by 7/7:30 P.M., and I usually turn off the lights at around 9. I could do that. It’s usually less interrupted time, and it would probably work.

However – I am such a morning person. My best creative energy comes early in the day. By 7:30 P.M., I am DONE. I feel productive if I’m able to use that last hour of the day to read in bed in my pajamas. To actually produce content, at the time of day? I don’t know if it would work.

I missed a post this week – there was no post on playful + peaceful yesterday. I always do a little check-in with myself when I miss a scheduled posting day. Not because I feel any obligation to a reading audience. I do feel that, a little, but it’s more about my obligation to myself and recognizing how this blog helps me to process my life and the world. If I miss a posting day, it’s usually a sign that things are feeling a little hectic and I’m not finding as much time to take care of myself.

Now, that said – I think that missing my Tuesday post is more about the holidays than anything else. I love the holiday season, and there has been a lot of shopping and wrapping and decorating going on in our home and our life. Not to mention all the unpacking, cleaning, and organizing that’s involved with settling into a new home. These are all GOOD things – good reasons to be slacking on the blog. Way better than when I miss a post because work is too crazy or I’m too tired to do anything creative.

But – is there a solution, to my lack of writing time? It’s 5:46 A.M. and Edgar just climbed into my lap, so here’s my hastily developed plan:

  1. SLEEP TRAIN THESE BOYS. Keep them in their rooms until at least 5:30, and then inch their wake-up times closer and closer to 6 A.M. (We got an OK To Wake clock for Edgar than I’m hoping will help!)
  2. Try out some evening writing. Set expectations low.
  3. Use your commute to do some brainstorming. (I obviously can’t write while I’m driving, but I’ve been using voice memo and speak to text to “jot down” some ideas, and it’s really helping me to keep my thoughts organized and ideas flowing.)
  4. DON’T WORRY ABOUT IT TOO MUCH. It’s the holidays, I have two kids under 4, we just moved, and it’s okay if my writing routine slips a little this month.
  5. BUT WORRY ABOUT IT A LITTLE. I don’t want to keep putting writing on the backburner. I haven’t done any fiction writing since August. I want to strike a balance; I want to prioritize writing while being reasonable with my expectations of myself. If anyone has advice on how to do that, please share!
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Monthly Goals (December 2019)

It’s December, and once again, I did not spend my entire year planning or purchasing gifts to give for the holidays.

And you know what? It’s okay. Maybe next time.

I think that’s a good mantra for a person like me, who is often thinking of things that would have been awesome at EXACTLY the moment when it’s too late to do the thing. I just thought of the perfect present to give my mom at EXACTLY the moment when she’s opening the present I bought her because I couldn’t think of anything good. Maybe next time. 

For now, I am so excited for the holiday season. My boys are big enough to be enchanted by a holiday train garden and a Christmas tree, and I’m so excited to celebrate all month long. This year, there’s only a short time between Thanksgiving and Christmas – just about three weeks. Let’s do this! Here are my goals:

  1. Be 100% present throughout December. Enjoy the holiday season to the max.
  2. Create your 2020 goals. It’s so much fun to think of goals for the new year, and I’ve been writing out a plan a la Gretchen Rubin’s Happiness Project to potentially follow for 2020.
  3. Help others in every way you can.
  4. Maintain your blogging routine.

Merry Whatever!

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5 Things I’m Grateful For (November 2019)

This isn’t a Thanksgiving post; just my regular monthly gratitude post. But I am especially grateful this week.

  1. Edgar’s pre-school. I just love it, and he loves it, too. Every day, they assign classroom jobs, and he gets so excited when he gets to be the Door Holder, the Spoon Helper, the Flag Holder, or – wait for it – the Weather Watcher.                                                                                                                                                                                    The best thing about the Weather Watcher job, per Edgar, is that the class sings a special song (to the tune of Frere Jacques) to the Weather Watcher.                                                                                                                                                                                        Weather Watcher, Weather Watcher,                                                                                What do you see? What do you see?                                                                                  Tell us what the weather’s like, tell us what the weather’s like,                                Won’t you please? Won’t you please?                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Sometimes Edgar says that the WW is the best job. But also, sometimes he says the best job is the Cup Helper. I can’t tell if this is based on his job that day, his mood, or some kind of pre-school political climate.
  2. Our new home. Things are slowly getting unpacked and finding a home. My mantra for the new house is Have nothing in your home that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful. Slowly trying to make that mantra our reality.
  3. The long weekend for Thanksgiving. Travelling is exhausting, but a four day reprieve from work is greatly needed!
  5. Edgar’s joy at a holiday train garden. UNPARALLELED. Cheers to many holiday festivities to come!
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adulting · cleaning for beginners · habits · Uncategorized

Cleaning For Beginners

There is one new habit that we’ve been able to form since moving to our new home, and I have been amazed at how much happiness is brought me.

Let me start by explaining – we didn’t really clean at our old house. That probably sounds ridiculous to people who keep a clean and tidy household, but we really did the bare minimum. We’d wash our dishes – by hand, no dishwasher – eventually. When the floor started to drive Tamara crazy, she’d sweep it. When we knew we were having visitors, we’d deep clean the bathroom. But there was no regular cleaning schedule.

You’d think I’d be too embarrassed to admit this publicly, but I’m not. I have never been a neat and tidy person, and I have a pretty high tolerance for dirt, mud, and general disarray. Plus, at our last house, we were living on a farm, in an extremely old farmhouse that never gleamed no matter how much you cleaned. Keeping the house clean felt impossible. There was new mud and dirt coming in every day, and we had little time to do all the things we wanted and needed to do. I often sacrificed cleaning time for writing time, and I felt good about that.

Now that we’re in a new house and changing up our lifestyle, I feel a little differently about keeping things clean. First and foremost, I want to teach my kids good cleaning habits, and the best way is to teach them is to show them the different tasks that have to be done to keep a household clean and tidy. Secondly, I think I’ve been experiencing a level of low-grade stress due to having a cluttered and disorganized house. I really want to live a Marie Kondo-esque kind of life; I want to know exactly where everything is, because everything has a specific home in the house, and I don’t want to have or store a whole bunch of crap I don’t need. And I think it’s way easier to clean when the clutter is under control.

That said – it’s been hard, and we don’t have a system for cleaning yet. We’re still pretty busy, so I’ve just been quickly spot cleaning things like the bathroom sink or the toilet when I think of it. Things will slow down next month, and we’ll be able to get into a better routine then.

But for the moment, the habit that we have been maintaining successfully is cleaning up the kitchen after dinner. And it had made me SO happy.

It’s so simple. One of us cooks dinner – usually Tamara – and the other parent plays with the boys while that’s happening. We eat together as a family. Then, after dinner, one of us plays with the boys and the other parent cleans the kitchen. Sometimes we get the boys to ‘help’; Edgar does a decent job of wiping down the table and bringing dishes to the sink. Jonas likes to pretend he’s mopping. And when we’re done, there are dishes in the dishwasher, a clean kitchen table, clean floors, and leftovers put away.

I love it. The situation never gets so overwhelming that we’re going to have to spend an hour getting things clean, and I can enjoy my evenings and my mornings without staring at things in the kitchen thinking, I should really go clean that up.

ARE ALL OF THE HOUSEHOLD CHORES GOING TO BE AS SIMPLE AS THIS? I really, really hope so. I want to continue to prioritize writing, reading, and self-care, and I know cleaning and household maintenance take time. I’m okay with that.

JUST NOT TOO MUCH TIME. I’ve got stuff to do.

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goals · mindfulness

Mindfulness + Goals

I’ve been learning about mindfulness for years, and yet I still feel like a beginner.

These past few weeks, I’ve been thinking about how little time I have when I’m just daydreaming and letting my thoughts wander. In the age of iPhones and Netflix, at any moment, I can have a TV show or a podcast playing while I do something else. And I do that a LOT. I rarely bring my full, mindful attention to the task at hand. And I am definitely less mindful when I’m feeling stressed or have a lot going on

In his work, the writer Cal Newport (author of Digital Minimalism and Deep Work) defines solitude as time when no input is being experienced – so, time when you’re not reading, listening to a podcast,  watching television, but are simply allowing your brain to either rest or to process all the other input you’ve had recently.

If that’s what solitude is, I currently have very little of it in my everyday life. I am constantly multi-tasking, and I often am listening to a podcast or a TV show while completing other tasks. There are worse habits, of course, and I don’t want to beat myself up for having a very human 21st century struggle. But also –

I don’t want to waste my time.

Since becoming a parent, I am very aware of my mortality. I’m not sure what it is exactly about having kids that causes this shift, but I know I’m not the only parent who has experienced it. The time to do everything I want to do in my life is not limitless.  And the time I spend listening to podcasts and watching TV is time I could be thinking about blogging or fiction writing. I read once that Toni Morrison used to scribble down paragraphs while she was in traffic, because she was a working mother with limited time to write. I want to be THAT kind of writer – the kind who uses every available moment.

And I know that I lose a lot of valuable time when I’m constantly playing on my phone or re-watching Jane The Virgin. 

So, mindfulness. I sometimes think it’s the secret to achieving ever single one of my dreams and goals. And while I have always struggled to form and keep this habit, I’ve been doing two things well lately:

  1. I’m using the Headspace app to refresh my mindfulness skills and meditate. I’ve completed a three minute meditation three days in a row. It’s only three days, but it’s something!
  2. I’ve been putting my phone away – usually in another room, charging – when I get home from work. It hasn’t been perfect, and sometimes I’m tempted to just go add something to my grocery list or see if I have any texts. But I’ve been doing this pretty consistently, and it’s making my time at home with my family SO much better.

There are so many goals that I have that mindfulness will help – cutting back on caffeine, writing a novel, eating healthier. I could be wrong, but I think mindfulness is the answer. And it’s a great time of year to focus on being more present – the time of year that is all about family and celebrating. Wish me luck!

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The Best Thing About My New Neighborhood

The best thing about our new neighborhood so far is this: I am now, after a decade of living in the country, only fifteen minutes away from my local Trader Joe’s grocery store.

love Trader Joe’s. I fell in love with it in college, and I remained loyal and infatuated throughout my early twenties. I love their food, I love their snacks. I love how cozy and small the store is.

And I love love love how friendly the customers and the staff are. I have a friend who worked at Trader Joe’s for a long time and loved it, so I have a theory that the employees are super happy because they are well-treated AND because, just maybe, they love Trader Joe’s as much as I do. And the customers – well, they’re happy because they’re stocking up on amazing food and snacks at a store that’s yummier, smaller, and less crowded than other grocery stores.

The first Saturday we woke up at our new house, it was raining and I was solo with the boys, and hungry. So I packed them into the car and drove – only fifteen minutes! Then I put Jonas in the Ergo, Edgar in the grocery cart, and began the process of covering Edgar with Trader Joe’s groceries. It was 8 a.m., so I thought the store might be empty, but it wasn’t. There were about a dozen customers, and every single one of them smiled and said hello to me. A few of them stopped to chat and to make funny faces at Jonas. Edgar chose raspberries for his in-store snack and every time Jonas said, “More,” Edgar would sweetly say, “Here you go, Jo Jo,” and put a raspberry in his mouth.

It was magic.

This move has been a big change. So far, I’m enjoying it, but I’ve been nervous about such a major change to our lifestyle. But that day, at our neighborhood Trader Joe’s, I felt extremely positive about our move. Because I met friendly neighbors with a common interest and also because Trader Joe’s has the BEST SNACKS IN THE WORLD. It felt like a little sign – a happy moment the will precede lots of happy moments to come.


5 Adorable Things My Kids Are Up To Lately

One of the benefits of blogging is leaving words and stories for my kids. I sincerely hope that I live to be 100 and then I tell my boys every story that I possibly can think of about my life, but I know they will always want more, because I know I always want more. My dad died when I was 21, and my heart aches sometimes when I think about all the things I wish I could ask him – all the stories he didn’t have time to tell me.

Right now is a special time, full of adorable and hilarious memories. I do write about my boys a little, but not as much as I could. And, given my lack of bandwidth for deep and meaningful blogging recently, I find myself inspired to write in listicles. Hence, my new plan – writing a list of five adorable memories from my family’s current season of life.

  1. When I’m putting Edgar to bed, we play a new game. I say, “Excuse me Edgar excuse me Edgar excuse me Edgar,” and he starts giggling and says, “What?!” Then I tell him I love him. He BEGS for this game – until he’s in ornery three-year-old mode, and then he says, “DON’T SAY EXCUSE ME MOMMY.” And then we have a talk about using nice voices.
  2. Jonas is talking! He says hi, bye, thank you, and more. AND – as we recently discovered – if we say, “Ready… Set…,” Jonas will say “GO!” with enthusiasm and a huge smile. Edgar loves being the one who says Ready Set.
  3. We started a tradition of the Night Night Fairy coming to visit Edgar before bed. This started when we were having a really hard getting him through all the tasks that need to be accomplished before bed. The Fairy leaves him a book or two, pajamas, and a stuffed animal. He loves it.
  4. Jonas makes this super-duper-scrunched-up face sometimes when he smiles. I started singing him a song to the tune of “Smelly Cat” from Friends: Scrunchy Face, Scrunchy Face, why are you so scrunched up? Scrunchy Face, Scrunchy Face, you are so scrunched! It is a silly and ridiculous family song. Edgar is obsessed with it and loves singing it to Jo Jo.
  5. Edgar is super into the Curious George books lately. I didn’t remember them well, but they are a little longer and the stories sort of meander. (“This story is called Curious George Gets A Medal – but on page 12 he’s running away with a cow from a farmer and then hiding in a night shirt and there’s no medal in sight?”) It’s fun to notice Edgar’s attention span expand and to get excited for reading longer books as he gets older. (HARRY POTTER FTW!)

I haven’t decided how often I’ll post a listicle like this, but I’m sure there will be more. Stay tuned, because these kids keep getting cuter!

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