5 things I’m grateful for (September 2021)

So much to be grateful for.

  1. The shift to cooler fall weather. With school starting, I am finding that we’re spending a lot of our non-school time out in the backyard – the boys play, Tamara works on projects, and I read until Jonas asks me to play Incredibles with him. I’ve been loving the afternoons of light breezes and sunny sky.
  2. Edgar has been super sweet and cuddly at bedtime lately. He wants to lay on top of me or snuggled right up next to me as he’s falling asleep. He’ll look up at me and say, “I love you more than anything in the whole world, Mommy. I just want to be where YOU are!” When I say back to him, “I love you more,” he asks, “Can I love you the most?” And I agree – and then he grins super big because he gets to win. Melts my heart.
  3. Jonas got a big boy bed for his birthday, and he loves it. It’s also really changed up the boys’ playing dynamic; since the bed is new and different, they seem drawn to playing on it. Since Jonas’s room has not typically been a room they’ve played in, this has been a big shift for the household, and I can tell it makes Jonas feel more grown-up to have a bed and a room that’s more legit; prior to now, he’s been sleeping in his crib mattress on the floor, since he was ready to be done with the crib but not quite ready for the big boy bed yet.
  4. Two really great easy reads, both by Rebecca Stead – The List Of Things That Will Not Change and When You Reach Me. These are both middle grade novels, and they are wonderful, good-for-the-soul books.
  5. Jonas starting nature pre-school! He went for orientation first, together with Tamara, and then went for his first day and came home announcing, “I went to school ALL BY MYSELF.” We teased him, asking, “Are you sure you didn’t have Edgar in your backpack? Or Sunny and Coco in your backpack?” – and he’d dissolve into giggles, insisting, “No, ALL BY MYSELF!” For a kid who has gone almost nowhere without his parents since March 2020, this was a big deal. Love seeing the boys going off on adventures and coming home to semi-coherently tell us about their days.

Happy September! Cheers to fall and to the new school year!

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family + parenting · traditions

My personal policy for family traditions

A few weeks ago, I crouched down next to the dollar bins at the front of my local Target, a chalkboard back-to-school sign in my hand.

Every year, throughout August and early September, my social media feed gets filled with first-day-of-school photos of the adorable children of my family and friends. This year, Edgar started kindergarten. So when I held that back-to-school sign in my hands, I was considering whether or not I wanted to purchase it for a first day photo for him.

I realized that this moment – choosing whether or not to buy a chalkboard sign for this occasion – demonstrated a little bit of the push/pull I feel when it comes to family traditions and rituals. Because I’m not sure if I care about taking first day of kindergarten/last day of kindergarten photos of my kids – this year or during any school year.

To be clear, I think the photos are ADORABLE. I don’t think there’s anything bad about photos like these at all. And even if I didn’t like them, I would respect and celebrate any family’s use of them as a back-to-school ritual.

But I know myself, and I don’t always have the bandwidth for even something simple like a front step photo. I have two kids; one of them likes to smile for photos and the other one doesn’t. I don’t know if I want to add the expectation of smiling (or staying still) for a photo to an emotionally-charged first day of school.

Add to that, Tamara and I strive to keep our home a minimalist household. It doesn’t always work, and we are far from where we want to be with that quest, but it’s a goal and I try to be mindful of that when making choices about purchases. Do I really need a chalkboard back-to-school sign that we only use once or twice a year?

I decided that we didn’t. (We can always make a cardboard or construction paper sign if we want to do the picture.) I left the store, still undecided about the photo, destined to overthink it a little bit more as our countdown to kindergarten continued.

I’m an overthinker in general, and if I let myself go crazy, I can really overthink things like traditions, rituals, and holidays. I’ve blogged previously about my struggle with Easter traditions and choosing how to celebrate that holiday. I truly love traditions, routines, and rituals. I love the rhythm and magic they provide to my life and my family. Yet I have so many mixed feelings about the minor and major holidays we celebrate throughout the year.

St. Patrick’s Day is a good example. When I was a kid, I wore SPD clothes and brought shamrock stickers to school and shared them with friends and wore them on my face for SPD. But that was because my family of origin is Irish, and we liked to celebrate our heritage on that day. These days, there’s allllll this stuff with leprechauns that I don’t remember ever seeing while I was growing up. It is super cute and fun! But I don’t feel obligated – nor do I think anyone else should – to turn my toilet water green or pretend a leprechaun came to visit my house. I might feel differently this year; Edgar is five, and he might have fun with a leprechaun visit, and I am all about anything that makes him smile and feel joy. I also love holidays and celebrating. But I don’t like feeling like something like this is a “have-to” – because it’s definitely not.

I decided that I needed a personal policy for family traditions to keep myself from becoming overwhelmed with all the possibilities and shoulds. My unwritten-until-now rules for family traditions are:

  • Do nothing because you’re “supposed to” do it.
  • Be creative – avoid making every celebration about gifts or desserts.
  • Align traditions with our family values.
  • Keep it simple. The tradition should either be a) really easy to implement or b) so awesome that you don’t mind the effort.

These rules speak for themselves, and I find them really comforting. I am a scatterbrained person in general; add parenting two boys to the mix and I often don’t know what month it, let alone what holiday is right around the corner. Taking time to reflect on what matters to me is invaluable.

With the beginning of the school year and the approach of the fall/winter holiday season, l am thinking a lot about traditions, routines, and rituals. More thoughts on these topics to come!

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A few thoughts on traditions, rituals, and family culture

For years, I’ve had a drafted blog post all about family traditions. The post has never been ready to share with others, and it’s still not finished. There is so much to write about when it comes to family traditions, and it’s a topic that I think about a lot.

What we do as a family to celebrate – all the little rituals and routines we practice – these are the things that create our family culture, our children’s childhood memories. There are the traditions we continue from our own families of origin, traditions we intentionally institute on our own, and then the happy accidental traditions that happen once and then we keep it going.

The blog post I’ve been writing has taken a bunch of different forms during drafting. Currently, it looks like a summary of the traditions we practice currently or aspire to institute for all of the events and holidays in a calendar year. Yet the post never feels quite ready to publish. Here’s why:

  • It’s overwhelming to write about an entire year of traditions – birthdays, milestones, adoption days – in one post.
  • We don’t know what all of our traditions are yet. Our kids are young – 5 and 3, with a little (adoptive) child on the way at some point – and when the kids are really little, you have time to experiment with different routines and rituals. While Edgar was younger, we did a lot of experimenting – trying out different traditions and seeing how they fit our family. Sometimes we’re still doing that.
  • Certain traditions don’t really get going until milestones are met – meaning, we won’t know how tooth fairy magic works in our house until Edgar loses a tooth!
  • I have a lot of mixed feelings about certain holidays and traditions that I sometimes feel pressured to celebrate.

I find family traditions fascinating and so fun. I love hearing about what other families do and either stealing the idea or just enjoying the glimpse into that family’s culture. I also love the process of cultivating family traditions – the decisions and memories and logistics and compromise that go into deciding how a family celebrates. When it comes to our own process for adopting family traditions, it usually involves a lot of (over)thinking on my end and occasionally includes happy accidents.

My hope moving forward is to break down this topic a little more and explain the little ways we celebrate each holiday and season and my thought process behind it – including some of my mixed feelings and how I handle them. Stay tuned!

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What do you need to feel like yourself in the mornings?

After finishing the Lazy Genius book, I started binging a few episodes of her podcast. Mostly, I focused on the episodes about back to school, morning or afternoon routines, and kid chores/responsibilities.

On one of the episodes about morning routines, the Lazy Genius (aka Kendra Adachi) posed a question I found interesting: What do you need to feel like yourself in the mornings?

I think about morning routine all the time, but I’d never thought about it in quite that way. That morning time – the hour or two I get to myself before the boys wake up – is such a valuable time to me. Whenever I think of something I really want or need to do, I immediately think of that early morning time as a time when I could get it done.

But – which of these activities makes me feel the most like myself? I like lifting weights and I want to prioritize strength training – but does it make me feel like me? Does it help me to enter my day in a peaceful, playful, and present manner? I don’t know if it does. Lifting weights is decidedly NOT me – I rarely remember to do it.

When I used the Lazy Genius framing – What do I need in the mornings to feel most like myself? – I took some time to reflect and I came up with a few things.

  1. I need quiet time to write in the mornings, preferably with a cup of hot coffee. I also need this quiet time to take place in a relatively tidy living/dining room space, which requires either a quick tidy when I wake up or an evening reset of the house the night before.
  2. I need to go for a run in the morning. If I engage in other exercise – yoga or strength training – that is bonus.
  3. I need to know that I am logistically ready for my day. If I can take care of this the night before so that it takes zero percent of my time in the mornings, that is ideal.

That is it; that’s what I need. I contemplated other activities, like meditation – and maybe someday, that will fit into my morning routine. But as the school year starts and I really try to essentialize what I need during the 4 am to 6 am hours each morning, it comes down to coffee, writing, running, and planning.

Such a great question for anyone to answer. What do YOU need to feel like yourself in the mornings?

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Currently: September 2021

Currently reading:

This month I finished The Lazy Genius Way by Kendra Adachi; Falling by T.J. Newman (crazy suspenseful book, could not put it down); 14 Ways To Die by Vincent Ralph; and The Madness Of Crowds by Louise Penny, among others. I also re-read a couple of books recently – No Way To Treat A First Lady and Boomsday, both by Christopher Buckley. I often want to reread my favorite books, but I don’t think to do it; it was so nice to enjoy these two! Currently I’m reading The List Of Things That Will Not Change by Rebecca Stead – so good so far.

Currently reading to my kids:

When we read to the boys at bedtime, we usually divide and conquer. They listen to one story on the couch together – usually read by me – and then Tamara takes Jo Jo to his room to read “bed books” and I do the same with Edgar.

Jonas loves reading Curious George books currently. He and Edgar also often enjoy Cars and Trucks and Things That Go. Edgar is currently in the middle of James and the Giant Peach. We also have enjoyed the Olive and Beatrix books and the Once Upon A Fairy Tale series.

Currently listening to:

I finally finished I’m Chocolate, You’re Vanilla on audiobook! I have a bunch of other audiobooks in my Audible library. I’m hoping that the return to my commute will help me with listening to more audiobooks. Currently I’m listening to How To Be Here by Rob Bell.

Currently watching:

Tamara and I started watching Schitt’s Creek some nights after the boys are in bed. We’re not very far into it, but I am finding it hilarious so far – hoping it is worthy of the nine million recommendations we’ve gotten from others insisting we watch this show!

Currently the boys are:

So excited about starting school! Edgar started kindergarten this month and Jonas started nature pre-school. More on that at some point.

Currently grateful for:

My new school! Loving getting to know new co-workers and students.

Currently looking forward to:

It has been so fun already – only a couple of days into the school year – hearing all about Edgar and Jonas’s adventures at school. Can’t wait to settle into our fall routine and hear more about the things they do each day.

Happy September!

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