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Resetting Our Routine

We survived September.

It was a rough transition, from summertime to fall and work and school. And one of the ways we survived was this: significantly lowered expectations.

I haven’t done breakfast invitations regularly, and I haven’t done a whole lot of pre-planned activities – things like crafts, sensory play, games. I’ve been trying my best to get into a routine with work, and to keep the boys engaged and happy with as little screen time as possible.

I am not exactly in a routine with work, but it’s getting better. And I’ve set an intention this week to return to my morning routine with the boys (including reviewing the calendar and doing a small job) and to re-commit to daily breakfast invitations. It was fine to take a break, but – I miss them! It’s fun for the boys, to do some crafting, sensory play, artwork, etc. But sometimes I think it benefits ME even more. Being at home with small kids during COVID times can be lovely; it can also be monotonous. Sometimes, I need the benefit of some kind of new and novel structured activity even more than they do!

My plan for the reset of our routine is this:

  1. Follow our regular morning routine – get dressed, brush teeth, breakfast + activity, calendar, and job.
  2. Have a breakfast activity on every week day.
  3. Try to incorporate at least one additional activity every day. NOTHING FANCY. Painting counts. Play dough counts. Oobleck counts. Basically, anything that’s not screen time or “go entertain yourself” counts. I would love to do more than one activity a day, and many days, we do! But for the days when I’m literally multi-tasking between work and home all day long, it feels good to me to know that we’re going to do something that’s focused and intentional together at some point during the day.
  4. This is Extra Credit Bonus, but sometimes I actually put out a super low prep “breakfast invitation” for post-naptime as well. That can be a rough twenty minutes, after the boys wake up from nap, so it’s nice to have a little surprise activity waiting for them so that they can ease back into life in the awake world.

Happy October, everyone! Every day is a new day to reset.

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Monthly Mantra: Enjoy It All

I’ve been thinking about a Monthly Mantra for October 2020, and what I came up with is this: Enjoy it all.

I actually thought about it when I was enjoying myself during a ridiculous moment. I was in the dentist’s chair, getting a cavity filled. I was super anxious, so I’d brought headphones and was listening to an episode of Designated Survivor while the dentist did her thing. In the midst of crazy COVID life, when I’m with my kids 24/7 and constantly multi-tasking, it was sort of enjoyable to just lay back and listen to a show. Weird, right? But it was a moment, and I enjoyed it. That’s what I want – to enjoy all the moments.

This is a crazy time. It’s challenging in a lot of different ways. I hate multi-tasking, working from home – but often, I have my boys in reach at times when I wouldn’t usually. I love that my co-workers get to play peek-a-boo with Jonas, and I love that I can take a five minute break and play Mama Whale Baby Whale.

It is what it is, right now, this life we’re living. We have to deal with what we’ve got, and what I’ve got is a lot of blessings. And I’m going to enjoy it all as best I can.

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family + parenting

Breakfast Invitations + Why I’m Here For Them

A few weeks into the COVID-19 school closure, I noticed that my sister-in-law’s Instagram feed was full of fun exploratory and educational activities for her kids. Her two boys are close in age to Edgar and Jonas, and one day I texted her to ask about the activities. Specifically, the when and how of it all.

She referred me to the Instagram feed of Days With Grey, which was FULL of fun and educational activity ideas. The site was created by Beth, a mom and education specialist, and it is creative, fun, and awesome. One of her key ideas is Breakfast Invitations – simple activities to be done at the table, during breakfast, so that kids can play and learn while parents caffeinate themselves for the day.

I love the Breakfast Invitations so much. The way it works for our family is that either Tamara or I set up an activity at the kitchen table the night before. We choose things that are low prep and try to mix it up so that we’re doing different things. Kids are learning all day long, of course, but sometimes the breakfast activity is a chance to practice letters, numbers, patterns, shapes, etc. Sometimes they do mazes or puzzles or Highlights “That’s Silly!” games. Sometimes I break out a toy they haven’t played with in a long time and incorporate it into the activity.

So the kids wake up, and we snuggle or read books and they play. Eventually, they make their way to the breakfast table, and they do their activity while they eat and I drink my coffee.

Here’s why I like this routine:

  1. It’s a little surprise for the boys every morning. I love anything that intrigues the boys and gets them engaged – especially amid the monotony that is COVID times.
  2. It’s a way to practice or teach skills – colors, cutting with scissors, whatever pops up. Edgar started getting into playing with money over the summer, so we did a few days of recognizing pennies and nickels and dimes.
  3. It’s a ritual that allows me to teach them something that I want them to learn. We’re teaching our kids all day every day. But, it’s become overwhelmingly evident during COVID times, it can be hard for parents to take on the more formal role of teacher. So I like the idea of practicing this with Edgar now, especially since (gulp) I worry about life going back to normal by the time he’s supposed to start kindergarten next year.
  4. It’s a planned activity that’s part of our routine. My kids are great at playing independently, and I’m fine just sort of playing our days at home by ear – sometimes. But sometimes, in COVID times, I find that we’re all getting a little bored, a little restless. So starting the day off with something a little structured and/or creative feels good.

Check out the website Days With Grey if you want to learn more!

close up photo of watercolor palette
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5 Things I’m Grateful For (September 2020)

This month has been bonkers. It’s been a rough transition from summertime to the school year. That, combined with the uncertainty of COVID times and the horror of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death, has made for a pretty tough month.

1. The final season of The Good Place has FINALLY come to Netflix. I’ve never been more in need of something to binge that’s hilarious but also familiar. Bonus: I’m also really eager to watch The Social Dilemma.

2. Edgar has started attending an outdoor nature preschool three days a week, and it is the best thing that’s happened to us all year. He loves it, and it’s already been helping him so much. Edgar is an introvert and a homebody, and he’s never once complained about being stuck at home with us. But I’ve noticed little things – a little boredom, a touch of restlessness, a decline in social skills, an increase in irritability – that I’ve chalked up to COVID side effects. Those things have all improved since he started school. He goes on hikes every day, he comes home with crazy collections of sticks, rocks, and bark, and he’s much less toy-obsessed than he has been in the past. Seriously – best decision we ever made.

3. New books by two of my favorite authors! All The Devils Are Here and Troubled Blood both came out this month. I actually BOUGHT them, which is something I almost never do. It’s been delightful to curl up with a novel. I’ve been reading a ton lately, but mostly nonfiction, which is great but not really the cozy vacation that I enjoy with a new novel by a favorite author.

4. Edgar is newly obsessed with sea creatures, and it’s adorable. I spend a lot of my day answering questions about whales, sharks, and jellyfish. (And a lot of my day looking up the answers to questions about whales, sharks, and jellyfish.)

3. OUR NEW KITTEN! A friend in North Carolina had a little of kittens and drove our new family member up to us last weekend. We’re still trying out names. We’re all obsessed with him, especially Jo Jo, and he’s been a sweet bit of joy in the midst of stressful times.

I was surprised at how easy it was to come up with 5 things I’m grateful for this month, because it’s been a really tough month and a challenging time. My mood has not been great. One of the amazing things about gratitude lists is that it helps us to shift our perspective to focus on the good, even during times that don’t feel great. So maybe Thing # 6 is this: I am grateful for the perspective provided by gratitude lists. Happy September, everyone!

Just a Jo Jo and his Coco! ❤
goals

New Year, New Phone, New Habits

After a cracked screen and a whole bunch of annoyingness, I ended up receiving a brand-new phone (and Otterbox case, no more cracked screens please and thank you) at the very beginning of the 2020/2021 school year.

Anytime there is a fresh start – a new move, a new school year, even a new day – I see it as an opportunity to reset and to change any habits that need changing. A new phone is no exception.

This summer, I’ve had a love/hate relationship with my phone. During the time of COVID-19, my phone has been a lifeline – a chance to connect with friends and family at a time when it’s challenging to spend any time together. My phone has been my way of connecting with community service work, via text banking, calls and e-mails to government officials, SURJ tasks, etc. I use it to educate myself through articles, podcasts, and audiobooks.

I use it for freaking everything. And it gets to be way too much. I find myself getting annoyed when I see others obsessed with and absorbed by by their devices, and I realized that it’s because I know I do the exact same thing.

These are the ways I want to change my relationship with my phone:

  1. It is a tool; it is not the boss of me and it should not dictate what I do all day long.
  2. There are other devices that can be used for certain things. I can listen to podcasts on the Alexa in my kitchen. I can check e-mail on my computer. That’s still using technology – but it breaks the pattern of using my phone for anything and everything, which contributes to my feeling that I need to have my phone within arm’s reach at every second.
  3. Which brings me to – I do not want to have my phone within reach at every second. Too often, I find myself absorbed with something on my phone when I’d rather be fully present with my boys. And it’s often accidental – I glance down at my phone to check the time, and I see a text or an e-mail, something that has to be dealt with, and then before I know it I’m taking care of something that really could be dealt with later.
  4. There are better systems that I can implement for staying organized and getting things done. I tend to fall back on systems that DO NOT WORK – like setting alarms on my phone to remind me to do something. This system has never, ever worked for me, but my phone’s always close by, so when I think of something that needs to get done, I default to old methods. If I change my relationship with my phone, I believe new and more effective methods can be implemented.

The biggest reasons I want to change things up are actually my two biggest buzz words of late: intention and mindfulness. 

If I want to listen to a podcast while I unload the dishwasher and the boys play, that sounds lovely – as long as it’s done intentionally. The thing that bothers me most about my phone is that I often end up reading an article or going down a social media rabbit hole WITHOUT EVEN REALIZING IT’S HAPPENING. I can read an article on my phone. I can read an ebook on my phone. I can Face Time, or text, or WHATEVER – but it really bothers me when this all happens in a mindless and unintentional way, as if my phone is stealing away minutes and hours of my life without my even realizing it.

Which relates directly to the mindfulness aspect of it all. For years, I’ve been working on improving my ability to be mindful and present. When I am constantly checking my phone and multi-tasking, I’m not fully present in my day-to-day life.

It’s September 2020, and I have a new phone, an awesome new Otterbox Defender case, and the following new habits:

  • My phone will be plugged in on the kitchen counter while I’m in bed sleeping. No more checking social media as I’m falling asleep at night or immediately when I wake up in the morning.
  • My phone will be plugged in on my nightstand during the day. I’ll have the ringer on in case Tamara calls, and I’ll check it periodically when I decide to check it.
  • I’m going to try my best to diversify and use other devices (Alexa, laptop, iPad) for some of my entertainment or productivity needs. (My goal here is just to shift my total reliance on the phone for everything, so that it’s easier to set it aside and know that I can still get things done that need doing.)

It is going great so far, and it feels really good to be making this change. NEW YEAR – new phone – new habits! Happy September!

white smartphone
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