balance · goals

The Best Laid Plans

This summer, I enjoyed a blissful six weeks of time away from professional work. I mommied – I wrote – I took care of my body and my mind. I started my new job on August 22nd feeling healthy and refreshed.

And then, on September 4th, we got a call from the adoption agency. Two days later, we were camped out at an Air BNB in Alexandria, Virginia, with our new baby boy.

It’s all been a whirlwind since then, and it makes me laugh to think about the plans I made over the summer. I spent a lot of time thinking about how I wanted to spend my work days and my overall weeks. I used my time off and the opportunity for a fresh start to evaluate how I spend my time and to make plans for how I could utilize my time and energy better.

And now, my life looks completely different. And those plans have to change.

However, I don’t at all regret the time I spent planning over the summer. It was valuable leg work that will help me now, as I contemplate returning to work after my adoption leave and evaluate what I want my days and my weeks to look like now that life is a little more complicated. (And a lot, lot cuter!) I didn’t get everything on my to-do list accomplished over the summer, but I did cross a lot of tasks off and I formed good habits that I’m hoping to maintain as our family adjusts to this new phase of life.

Looking ahead to my work days, I’m hoping to get up every day at (eek!) 4:30 a.m. so that I can have time to write, do yoga, and prepare for the day before the munchkins are awake. One of the small but meaningful changes I want to make in my routine is having a few moments for a daily prayer and inventory at the beginning and the end of the day. I think this is really important for my 12-step recovery, and it’s a practice that I want to prioritize.

I’ll wake Edgar at 5:55, and he’ll use the potty, get dressed, and put on his socks and shoes before coming downstairs for breakfast. My goal is that we will leave for Edgar’s school by 6:40 so that I can then arrive at work by 7:15. I don’t even know if that’s the time I need to arrive! I only worked for one school day before my adoption leave started, so this is all going to be a work in progress. If I have to be at school earlier, everything will have to shift a little earlier. TBD.

Meanwhile, J.J. is on a pretty good schedule at the moment, eating just about every three hours. I am hoping to get him on a regular schedule of starting his day with his first feeding at 7 a.m. That way, he’ll be snoozing and content while Tamara, Edgar, and I are busily preparing for the day ahead.

My work day ends at around 2:30 p.m., at which point I’ll leave, trying my best not to sprint out the door, and I’ll be able to pick Edgar up by around 3 p.m. Then we can have family play time, outdoors whenever possible, until dinner time. Jonas will eat during that time, at around 4 p.m., so I’m hoping he’ll be flexible about snuggling with me outside in an Adirondack chair so that Edgar can run and play while he eats!

Tamara and I had a mini family meeting and decided to try to eat dinner every night at around 5:30 p.m. We eat dinner all together every evening, and my hope is that eating at 5:30 will give Edgar time for a bath, the potty, brushing teeth, and maybe a few minutes of reading and free play time after dinner.

Edgar will go up for bed at around 6:30 p.m.; we’re going to be pushing his bedtime a little earlier (he usually goes down at 7 p.m.) because he’s going to need to be up and out so early, and he hasn’t been napping for as long as he used to when he was younger. That will be an adjustment for me, since I like to have lots of Edgar time after work; I’m hoping that getting out of work so early in the afternoon will offset it so I feel like Edgar and I get enough quality play time.

After Edgar goes to bed, I want to use the (very short) evening time to tidy up, read or write, do my check-in and inventory (a la recovery), and plan for the day ahead. (Outfits for me and Edgar, lunch for me, etc.)  J.J. eats at 7 p.m. – and then every three hours through the night.  Which is ROUGH! But we’re hoping he’ll drop one of those feedings sometime very soon.

There’s so much more to consider looking at the week as a whole, but this post is getting a little rambly so I’m going into list mode:

-I want to run on the weekends.

-I want to eat really healthy, especially during the week days. (I have a tendency to cram unhealthy snacks into my body during busy days at work!)

-I want to attend at LEAST two recovery meetings weekly.

-I want to use my Sunday evenings to have a weekly date with my planner.  That way, I can keep my to-do list on track, and be intentional about how I am spending my time.

-I also want to touch base with Tamara on Sunday evenings after the boys are in bed for a family meeting to talk about tasks, fun plans, all the things you need to talk about to be a smoothly-running family operation.

-I want to make sure we have quality time with friends and family regularly.

-I want to make sure we have (age-appropriate) family adventures regularly. (We won’t do family rock climbing for a while, but we can do a 30-minute hike someplace beautiful, for sure.) This is something we slack on when things get busy, so I want to make sure it’s a priority to explore our environment and our city as  family.

-I want to WRITE. My writing has taken a hard hit these past few weeks – this past Tuesday was the first time I missed a regularly-scheduled blog post since March. I know it will be okay – but I am going to be reminding myself, over and over again, that writing is a top priority.  Family, service, and writing – the big three.

Well, this blog post evolved into more of a thinking-out-loud Kerriann journal entry than a coherent message about planning and life. But it was really helpful for me. And tomorrow is my first day back at work.

Let’s do this.

family · mindfulness

Octobers

I love fall. I love sweatshirt and denim jacket weather. I love pumpkin spice lattes so much that I don’t care how cliche it is to love pumpkin spice lattes.

However, I tend to have bittersweet feelings at this time of year. I love fall, and I love the holidays. I tend the enjoy the briskness of November and the festivity of December. But I feel a wistful feeling as we approach the time of the year when the days are shorter. The biggest downer for me is the decrease in daylight hours; I dislike when the sun sets at 5 or 6 in the evening.  I also struggle with the bitterly cold times of the year, when I have to put on five layers of clothing just to walk to the mailbox.

This struggle I have with fall is indicative of one of my biggest overall struggles – keeping myself in the present moment. Enjoying October for October’s sake, without worrying about what January and February will be like.

This feeling – loving the present while dreading the future – also lines up with how I’m feeling as my waywayway too short maternity leave comes to an end. My six weeks of leave will end on October 17th. I’ve been trying not to think about it too much; I worry that if I think about it, I’ll become too overwhelmed to function and to enjoy the present. How do people do this? Just enjoy the now without anticipating the later with anxiety?

One of my wise and gentle friends often reminds me to come back to where my feet are, and that helps. Not talking about the length of my maternity leave helps, too – in a way, not talking about it is a coping skill I’m using, reminding myself to stay in the now and not to dwell on what I don’t have but to enjoy what I do have.

Today is a brisk and beautiful October day. My infant son is big enough to go in my Ergo 360 carrier and I’m celebrating that with a walk around the farm and down the trail. Life is sweet.

34593431_1932699390096290_5509234299531952128_n

parenting · writing

Seasons Of Writing

Life is seasonal, and my writing life is no different.

I’m really proud of myself because I’ve been posting on playful + peaceful consistently (twice weekly) ever since March 2018.  This is a big deal for me. I’m great at starting new projects, but it’s hard for me to do the ongoing maintenance that a side hustle requires – and I did it. I’m still doing it. That is awesome.

HOWEVER.

There are seasons of life that offer more time and space for writing, and there are seasons that offer less.  I was prepared as the fall approached that September and October would be busier – I was starting a new job, adjusting to a new schedule, and I figured that I wouldn’t have as much time to write as I had this summer.

And then, in early September – we grew from a family of three to a family of four. Our hearts exploded with joy. And my life got way busier.

This may seem backwards, but adding a child to our family doesn’t make me want to take a break from writing. It makes me want to write more. It makes me want to ensure that writing is an area that is and always will be a priority.  Having kids has inspired me to become intensely committed to my creative goals, because I want my children to look at me and see someone who went after her dreams with all her heart.

That being said, finding the time to write is challenging at the moment, for the simple reason that I am tired. So tired. Our little one is four weeks old and eats every three hours, and that means no one is getting a full night’s sleep ever.

I’ve been daydreaming about what writing project to tackle next, and I’m starting to adjust to only having five hours of sleep each night. I’ve been keeping up with blog posts, and I’m contemplating the next fiction project I want to tackle. This is all okay – this is a season of my writing life. I am enjoying this moment, when the wheels of my mind are spinning, churning. And I’m excited for the next moment, when I’ll dive into something new.

books + reading · snapshots

All The Things (September 2018)

Wow, wow, wow.

This month, the biggest THING is this: We have a new baby boy, a new adoptive child. He is sweet and wonderful and perfect and we are overjoyed.

We’ve been on the adoption wait list for a while, but we haven’t been waiting nearly as long as long as we waited for our oldest child, Edgar. So we were blown away when we got the call from the adoption agency and brought our new son home two days later.

So, there are things this month – but the biggest thing is the tiny baby boy asleep in my arms as I write this.  As for the other things –

Things I’ve Been Reading: The latest Cormoran Strike novel from Robert Galbraith, also known as the alias for J.K. Rowling. Also read this month: How To Be A Happier Parent, I’d Know You Anywhere, and Buddhism Is Not What You Think.

Things I’m Contemplating: How to read the books I want to have read. Like, I want to read books about adoption, mindfulness, and parenting – but they are often way less appealing to me than a good novel. I have no answers; it’s just something I’m thinking about.

Things I’ve Been Listening To: Lots of audiobooks! (Possible solution to the thing I’m contemplating?  We’ll see.)

Things I’m Enjoying; The sweet babyhood of our new baby boy.

Things I’m Struggling With: Making sure my two-year-old is getting all the love and attention and activity and care he needs at a chaotic and tiring family time.

Things I’m Watching: Way more TV than usual!  I started the month bingeing on reruns of The Office and Friends. Moved on to falling in love with This Is Us (always two years behind any pop culture craze) and keeping up to date on The Good Place (very much enjoyed the premiere episode of season 3).

I’m sure I’ll write more about our adoption journey at some point – but for now, these are the things.  14203324_1271024389583870_1636348107344372373_n

meditation · mindfulness

Zen Kerriann

A few days ago, I finished reading one of my Slow Jams – Buddhism Is Not What You Think, by Steve Hagen. It was great, although I preferred the first book I read by Hagen, which was called Buddhism Plain And Simple.  

Now, I only had a few takeaways from this book, and this was in part because the book emphasized several simple and key points repeatedly. My biggest takeaway was this: you can’t sit down to meditate because you’re trying to achieve something. If you’re trying to achieve something – peace, health, enlightenment – then you’re missing the point.

40449652_1867772359973780_5557409225409298432_n

Huh.

Yeah. I don’t know about that.

It certainly doesn’t resonate with my current feelings about meditation. For the past few months, I’ve continually come back to this thought: I really need to meditate. 

I have meditated, on and off, for years, but I’ve never maintained a regular meditation practice. Meditation is recommended to me often – as a source of strength and connection in my recovery, as a way to clear my monkey mind. The biggest reason I’ve been wanting to meditate recently is that I’m facing up to the fact that I am a pretty anxious person, and that my anxiety and my fears often affect my mental and physical well-being.

I listened to an audio program that outlined 12 steps toward practicing mindfulness meditation well, and I learned a lot. But putting it all into practice is a challenge, especially in the midst of caring for an infant, getting little sleep, and eating mostly candy with the occasional home-cooked organic vegetable squeezed in here and there.

The program highlighted the simple things you need to engage in mindfulness meditation and to see the benefits of this practice, such as consistency and quieting your judging mind. It also talked about doing EVERYTHING mindfully – eating, walking, breathing, etc. That seems like a lofty goal when right now I’m doing almost nothing mindfully.

Whew. Well, this has been a long few weeks, and I’m tired. I’m looking forward to taking the next few days to reset, and meditation is on the agenda. Maybe I am missing the point of meditation – but I don’t think so. I think it’s okay to seek the benefits – mentally, emotionally, physically – of meditation. Along the way, I will likely come to realize that acceptance of the present is the only real thing we can “achieve” when we meditate – and maybe I’ll have decreased my anxiety and increased my capacity for stress enough to enjoy that realization more fully when it comes.

39109127_2044178865615008_7400156946528993280_n

relationships · self-care

Shortcomings

During our adoption home study, a social worker came out to our house and interviewed Tamara and me – a standard part of the adoption process. It was a little nerve-wracking, somewhat awkward, but overall we knew what to expect and it went okay.

Except for this – this one question the social worker asked. For this question, we were sitting together on our couch.

“What do you think Tamara’s greatest weakness is?” she asked.

Now, in job interviews and in adoption home studies, there are rules for this particular question. The rule is – you don’t give a real weakness. You don’t tell a potential employer at a job interview, “I sometimes have trouble getting my paperwork in on time.” (Even if it’s true!) No, you give a weakness that is ACTUALLY A STRENGTH IN DISGUISE. You say, “Sometimes I am too much of a perfectionist.” TRANSLATION: I will do excellent work if hired.

So, when I answered, I gave an honest answer that displayed one of Tamara’s strengths. “She is one of the hardest workers I know,” I told the social worker. “Sometimes I have to remind her to take breaks and to take care of herself!”

The social worker nodded, smiled, and then asked Tamara the same question.

Tamara answered thoughtfully and honestly. “Kerriann can be defensive sometimes.”

38744650_2030226297010265_1394111552096829440_n

SCREECH. STOP. PAUSE. SOCIAL WORKER LADY, PLEASE GO HOME SO I CAN GIVE MY WIFE ALL THE DIRTY LOOKS IN THE WORLD.

Defensive?! That is not a secret strength disguised as a weakness! It is just a weakness – an absolutely 100% accurate weakness of mine. I do get defensive, which is evident every single time I tell this story. There is literally no way to tell someone who calls your defensive that you are not defensive. CANNOT BE DONE. Because if you weren’t so defensive – and believe me, I AM DEFENSIVE – then you wouldn’t feel the compulsion to, ahem, defend yourself.

As soon as the social worker left, I calmly explained to Tamara the principle of the “strength disguised as weakness” answer. (Yes, calmly. We were able to laugh about this that same day.)

Now, one of the reasons this story is on my mind today is – I’ve been thinking a lot about ‘character defects.’ This is something that’s talked about often in recovery circles. They can be called character defects, flaws, or shortcomings. They’re sometimes given other names, too, but my favorite is shortcomings. These are things we struggle with – areas where we come up short – in brief, our weaknesses. We talk about them in recovery because we want to be aware of the things that get in our way.

Needless to say, defensiveness is a big one for me, as is perfectionism, numbing, over-sensitivity, self-centeredness, and insecurity.

These shortcomings are on my mind recently because they keep popping up. My theory is this: I’ve been so stressed and overwhelmed for the past year that I’ve barely noticed any of my shortcomings. I was sort of drowning in self-pity and constantly seeking a new job, so my day-to-day inventory of who I am and how I’m leading my life was periodically lost in the shuffle.

Now that I have space and time to breathe, I am noticing times when my shortcomings rise up – times when I am faced with a situation and I fall short of the version of myself I’d like to be.

I’m not writing any of this to make myself feel bad. Sometimes, thinking about the areas where I fall short actually helps me to feel GOOD about myself. I am not a horrible mess; I’m a complex person who does awesome in some areas, average in others, and below average in some. I’m real.

I think the shortcoming that has been bothering me the most in recent history is my tendency to numb. When I get stressed, I become UNmindful. I distract myself, I drink lots of caffeine, I eat lots of candy. None of this helps me to deal with the things that are stressing me out.

I’m trying to go easy on myself this week. Yes, I’m drinking too much coffee and eating too many Cadbury Mini Eggs – but I’m also caring for an infant and have had the most emotionally up-and-down 19 days of my life.

So, instead of beating myself up further, I’m making a few mini-resolutions for myself:

1. Seek out joy and lightness every day. There is always something to laugh at and something to be thankful for.

2. Remember that you are enough. Believing that you don’t have enough of what you need does not serve you well.

3. Be gentle with and accepting of others. I sometimes want to *fix* family and friends instead of just being there for them.

4. Treat everyone like a toddler. I am way more patient with y two-year-old than I am with adults. And doesn’t everyone deserve to be treated with patience and compassion?

5. Let go and let God. Have a little faith. Not everything is on your shoulders. In fact, almost nothing is.

37030154_1990119011020994_8854072271795388416_n

 

parenting · simplifying

Infant Care 101

When we arrived at the hospital to meet our new adoptive son, the hospital staff we met would do this thing.

They would start to tell us something about infant care – diapers, circumcision care, feeding, burping – and then they’d stop themselves. “Oh, you already have a child?” they’d say, remembering that we already had a two-year-old at home. “So you know all this already.”

At which point, I would politely encourage them to continue. Because in my head I was screaming, That was two years ago! I remember nothing! Please do not send me home without some reminders if not some sort of infant care graduate level course.

It really is strange, when you think about it. I have to be recertified in CPR every two years, and I have to take 40 hours of training every two years to maintain my social work license. But to take care of an infant – which many would say is one of the most important, challenging, and serious jobs in the world – I can walk out of the hospital after a quick chat with the doctor. (Oh, and after watching about 45 minutes of infant care videos, which Tamara and I watched absent-mindedly while also excitedly texting family and friends with the good news that our family had a new adorable member.)

And now, we’re home, and we’ve been “home” with our new son for two weeks today. And you know what? It is easier this time around. We know how to do the basics – changing diapers, making formula, cleaning baby bottles. When our first son, Edgar, came home, I was terrified of making formula. It sounded complex, like it would require concentration and precision, neither of which I had much of as a brand-new mom.

This was a myth, one I created all by myself, because making formula is more like mixing some Crystal Light iced tea that anything else. And this time around, I knew that already. Though I maintain that calling it “formula” makes it sound way more complex and intimidating than it needs to be.

Rhythm-Routine-Flow-1

I’m off from work for six weeks, and we’re starting to settle into a nice routine during our days. There is something about newborn care that really helps me to be mindful and present. There is a simple rhythm to my days with J.J. – he eats, I change his diaper, he plays, he sleeps. While he sleeps, I wash bottles, make new bottles, straighten up around the house, try to tackle some simple acts of self-care. (REAL simple. Like, I might take a shower today.) When Edgar gets home from school, either Tamara or I take him outside to play. There are simple things that need to get done, and there’s not much time to do it all – so only the most basic and most important things get done.

I love this rhythm. I would love to carry it with me as J.J. grows and as our lives move back into more of a regular day-to-day routine. For now, I am thankful for the simplicity, rhythm, and joy that come with this sweet and special time of life.