5 Things I’m Grateful For (October 2020)

So much to be grateful for. This post is a little late, but it was a lovely October and my gratitude is real.

  1. Great books I’ve read this month, including Nothing Can Hurt You by Nicole Maya Goldberg and All The Devils Are Here by Louise Penny. Currently reading The Thursday Murder Club and enjoying it so far!
  2. A sweet and simple Halloween, complete with a holiday scavenger hunt (searching the neighborhood for pumpkins, witches, skeletons, etc, and every time we found something on our list, we got a candy from Mommy!), two sharks (hammerhead and great white), the Charlie Brown Halloween special, and an epic morning bike ride with my two little zoomers biking farther than we ever have before in our neighborhood.
  3. Two visits from my mom, who drove down from NY for some grandkid time.
  4. Beautiful giant piles of leaves and two boys who love to jump in them.
  5. The podcasts that have kept me sane during this election cycle – NPR Politics, Pod Save America, and Slate’s Political Gabfest.

Happy fall, everyone. Welcome to November – a great month to be grateful.

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Monthly Mantra: Choose Happy

I am a big believer in the power of attention and attitude.

There are always reasons to be sad or stressed. There are also always reasons to be happy and grateful. We feel the way we feel, often, based on what we pay attention to – where we focus our energy.

For example: when I focus on the pervasiveness of social injustice, the uncertainties associated with my job (when schools will open and how), and the monotony of being in our little home bubble with few opportunities for novelty or socializing – I get stressed and sad. It’s a real bummer. 

But when I focus on how grateful I am to have a steady job, the health and well-being of my family, and the gift of having time at home with my boys – I feel happy and appreciative. 

I had a different post scheduled today, but it’s the third day of November and it’s Election Day. I’m going to have a really difficult time if today doesn’t produce the result I am hoping for. For a few days last week, I was experiencing some anxiety just related to the actual day part of Election Day. Like, what was I going to DO for the 12 hours while other people voted and there was little to no news about results to consume? How was I going to survive that mental stress?

Here’s how:

  1. I’m text banking ALL DAY LONG. All the shifts – some double shifts. My brain will be fried tonight, but it’s worth it.
  2. I’ll have a masked and socially distant playground date for me, the boys, and my sister-in-law and nephew and nieces.
  3. I’m going to remember this: whatever the result is, the sun will rise tomorrow and we will continue to fight for what is right and just in our country.
  4. I will choose happy.

Fretting all day long will do nothing to improve my circumstances. And fretting all month long will do nothing to reduce the isolation, loneliness, and stress of the pandemic. 

There are days when Stressed and Sad will win out – that’s just life. But, whenever it’s within my grasp this month, I would like to choose happy and focus on the good rather than the overwhelming. 

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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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