balance · family · mindfulness

Messages From The Universe

Over the course of the past two weeks, our family has had two weird and costly incidents. Each incident was a silly mistake – the kind of thing an absent-minded professor might do – and they resulted in a banged-up car and a smashed cell phone. These were bummer incidents, of course, but we were able to laugh at the funny parts of the stories and not stress too much over what happened.

These two things happening in close succession did cause me to wonder about our family’s general status. Like, are we so exhausted that we’re not functioning correctly? Are we trying to do too much? Are certain kinds of activity overstimulating for all of us, to the point that we really need to focus on slowing down and being present to avoid costly damage and general life headaches?

Then today, I went to the doctor. I never, ever go to the doctor. I have sort of a phobia, but it’s not about germs or sickness. My phobia is this: I am always worried that I’ll go to the doctor and find out that there’s nothing wrong with me. Then I’ll feel foolish, like I am imagining illnesses in my head. It is DEFINITELY a souvenir of my childhood and will be dealt with in a therapy session someday, I’m sure.

But I got three bad sore throats in a row, and I haven’t had a sore throat in years. When you google “persistent sore throat,” the internet throws you a whole bunch of websites talking about throat cancer. And then two days ago, I felt a decent-sized lump in my throat. (NOT the metaphorical kind that’s related to nervousness! The internet had trouble understanding that the lump I was googling was not caused by anxiety.) The lump freaked me out, even though Tamara assured me it was probably swollen lymph nodes related to some kind of infection. So I made a doctor’s appointment, and it turns out that I actually have strep throat, and probably have had it for several weeks.

This blew my mind a little. I was relieved that I hadn’t been imagining my illness, and I was relieved that I most likely don’t have throat cancer. But I couldn’t believe that I had strep and didn’t realize it. And that thought brought me back to reflecting on our two absent-minded accidents, and to wondering: Are we doing too much right now? Are we too busy to keep ourselves healthy, or even to notice when we are not healthy?

The answer is definitely yes. The farm is getting busier, which is the main thing. And the day-to-day life tasks involved with being adults and running a family – they just seem insurmountable at times, especially with two full-time working parents.

I am constantly making resolutions about slowing down and being present. I don’t know what else I can do to actually make this life change! All I can think of are these strategies:

a) Turn it over. In recovery, we talk a lot about letting go of things that seem to be unmanageable or out of your control. I am wondering if slowing down is one of those things that I need to turn over to the magic of the universe and just stop worrying about. I mean, I resolve on at least a monthly basis (if not weekly or daily!) to slow down, and I still catch myself rushing from place to place. So I don’t think another resolution will help.

This is me, turning it over. I’d like to slow down; it seems impossible. Your move, Universe.

b) Catch up. I feel like I have some pretty good systems in place for staying organized and accomplishing tasks, but it also feels like we’re all always ten steps behind. I don’t want my whole summer to be swallowed up by adulting, but I do think summertime is a good chance for me to catch up.

If we ARE getting cosmic messages, it’s a good time for it. (For me! Tamara can’t slow down because farming is relentless.) It’s summertime baby! Slow and steady equals a relaxing and refreshing summer.

scenic view of night sky with stars
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balance · self-care · simplifying · wellness

Summertime

I have always loved the idea of summertime having a different vibe than the rest of the year. I enjoy it when my life feels seasonal – cozy and homey in the winter, active and fun in the spring, adventurous and busy in the summer, and slowing down in the fall.

A few years ago, I remember reading something Gretchen Rubin wrote, about wanting summer to have a different feel. She talked about people who actually live someplace different in the summer – they spend the summer at the beach or in the mountains or abroad. (Which I would love to do someday!) I’ve noticed that some friends achieve a different feel to their summer either by a) enjoying Summer Fridays at their jobs, when everyone is allowed to leave early on Fridays, or b) changing up how and where they spend their weekends, like retreating to a country home or the beach for Saturdays and Sundays.

This year, my summertime will DEFINITELY have a different vibe. This is my first summer off after starting a new job as a school social worker at my local middle school. And I am pumped. Psyched! And also, curious. Because what will it look like, to have the summer free to be home with my boys and to write and to have open, lazy days when we have no requirements for where we have to be and what we have to do?

I don’t know, but I am so excited to find out.

The vibe I want to cultivate for my family is all about rhythm, routine, recreation, and rest. I want to establish an enjoyable and healthy rhythm for our family; I want to create beneficial routines for all of us that we can carry into the next year; I want to have FUN and adventures!; and I want us all to have a good rest from the running around we’ve been doing all spring.

I love summer because it is a huge opportunity to press the reset button – to start new habits and to change the rhythm of everyday life. We have had a bonkers year – that post will be coming soon! – and it’s time for us to have a restful, rhythmic, fun-but-not-bonkers summer.  I can’t wait. Which is good because it starts TODAY!

green plants on ground
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balance · goals

Seasonal Bucket List (Summer)

A few months ago, I decided I wanted to start keeping a seasonal bucket list.

I am not a big planner, and I’m not great at planning ahead. That’s why I think a bucket list might be helpful to me. It will be a list of things I’d like to do each season; like picking blueberries at a local fruit farm in the summer or a camping trip in the fall. I don’t feel any obligation to the list; it’s not about checking off every single item on the list. For me, it’s about not forgetting the things I want to do. I don’t want to let the entire season go by and realize I haven’t done something I and my family would have enjoyed just because I forgot it was a thing!

I actually have been hoping to do this for the past two seasons, but this is the first time I’ve gotten it together enough to make a Seasonal Bucket List. (My aggressive summer planning helped!) The list is a mix of things that are easy and hard, close to home and a little further away.

In this post, I’m also including info about summer routines and rituals I’d like to cultivate as well as littler activities that I’d like to do many times over the summer, like sidewalk chalk and painting.

Summer Bucket List

  1. Attend a Mommy & Me yoga class with one (or both) of the boys. This has been a goal since Edgar first came home! And let me be clear: when I say “both” of the boys, I mean separately. A yoga class for me and Edgar, and then a different yoga class for me and Jonas. I am not crazy enough to think I could manage a two-year-old and a nine-month-old while in tree pose.
  2. Attend the Baltimore Book Festival in September.
  3. Visit the trains at Leakin Park.
  4. Visit Annie’s Playground. (It’s early June as I’m writing this, and I actually already accomplished this one!  Such a cute playground. And way to go me for being on top of my bucket list before summer even starts!)
  5. Go to a splash pad.
  6. Create a summer playlist. I do NOT listen to enough music! Every once in a while, I have a dance party with the boys, and they love it as much as I do.
  7. Hike at Codorus State Park.
  8. Do [something fun] in York. We live about 30 minutes south of York, PA – pretty much the same distance we are from Baltimore – and we’ve never really explored it. I’m hoping this could be a good activity for the whole family on a day Tamara is off.
  9. Attend a pre-school yoga event at the library. This would be a class just for Edgar, which is why it’s different from #1.
  10. Visit Watkins Regional Park.
  11. Take the tent outside to play in/camp out.
  12. Go to Gunpowder Beach.
  13. Go to Sandy Point State Park.
  14. Make alphabet letters with Edgar.
  15. Visit Storyville at the Woodlawn library.
  16. Visit the Pop-Up Playspace at Kenilworth.
  17. Go to Port Discovery Construction Zone.
  18. Visit the zoo in Baltimore. I can’t believe we’ve never been!
  19. Work through your 2019 Playground Bucket List! I don’t know if this will actually happen, but I had an idea for making a big list of all the cool playgrounds in the area and working through the list whenever we had a random free day. I’m keeping it here just in case!

Summer Routines & Rituals

One thing I have noticed about myself, as a person and as a mom, is that I like routines a lot. I feel really good about things that happen every week – like making pizza on Fridays and going to soccer on Saturdays. It’s predictable and already planned out; once you get the routine going, it all happens relatively automatically, and I love that.

Over the summer, I am hoping to have a good rhythm to my weeks, with certain kinds of activities happening on certain days. This will be SUPER flexible – I love routines, but I’m also all about breaking them whenever I want!

  • Writing (for me) and school (for the boys) on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
  • Shop for groceries on Wednesday or Thursday afternoons.
  • Help with harvest on Fridays.
  • The library on Friday mornings – yay story time!
  • Pizza on Friday evenings.
  • Breakfast for dinner on Sunday evenings.
  • Rainy days = bake bread and make cookies!

The other activities I’ve been thinking about engaging in regularly are: baking bread, making cookies (with cookie cutters!), visiting a coffee shop, going for a hike, or enjoying a fun surprise. But I don’t think I want the summer to be too planned out, and I want to leave lots of time for play dates with friends and just general spontaneity.  🙂

Everyday Activities (Play On Repeat)

And finally – there are the things I want to do over and over all summer long.

  • The library!
  • Hiking.
  • Walks on the NCR trail.
  • Paint.
  • Draw with sidewalk chalk.
  • Play with bubbles!
  • Biking! (With kids in the trailer or with kids on their own bikes!)
  • The creek and the rest of our property.
  • Kiddie pool, water table, and sprinkler!
  • Build forts. (Inside and outside!)
  • Lots of play dates. (Good for the boys to play with other kids and good for ME to have contact with another adult!)
  • Do floor puzzles. (We need more of these!)
  • Bake bread.
  • Make cookies with cookie cutters! (I don’t love stuck inside days, and we usually go outside for a while even if it’s raining; but I am a little excited for rainy day cookie parties!)

I fully expect to update this post periodically as I think of more things to do! There are six days of school left. Then – SUMMERTIME!

wood light vacation picnic
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balance · goals · Uncategorized

Aggressive Summer Planning

There are 11 days left in the school year. Said differently, it is two weeks until summertime!

I am so, so excited to have the summer free for writing, self-care, and spending time with my boys. It’s one of the biggest reasons I wanted to work at a public school.

I have noticed recently that one of my weaknesses as a human is my inability to plan ahead. It became clear as Mother’s Day approached. I started to daydream about creating a Shutterfly book with photos of the boys to give my mother. This daydream began on Saturday – the day before Mother’s Day. Sigh.

One of my big life goals is to get better at planning ahead. It was easier to just go with the flow when I was younger, but being an adult requires planning, whether it’s scheduling play dates or thinking through a travel itinerary.

When I started thinking about this, I realized that I want to be extremely intentional about planning out my summer. There will be vacations and play dates and beach days. There will be days when the boys go to day care and I have the day free for farming and writing, and there will be days when I am home solo with the boys all day while Tamara works.

I actually wrote a private post, just for me, that is extremely detailed with how I want to spend each type of day. But that seemed a little boring and “in the weeds” for a blog post! So instead of a play by play of how I’ll be spending every single summer day, here’s a list of some of the themes I am hoping to cultivate this summer:

  • Lots and lots of writing time! On my days with no kids, the goal is to write as much as possible. I am excited to try this out and really motivated to finish a draft of my novel this summer. (Which is an ambitious, but totally doable, goal.)
  • Adventures. I’m creating a huge summer bucket list, filled with activities to do with the boys. It includes places in and around the city to visit and things to do at home.
  • Exercise. Yoga, running, or biking. Preferably running – a long, long run every morning.
  • A slower pace. Time for the boys to gently wake up, and time for me to wake up and do some grounding exercises. Life will be less rushed in summertime. I think I need the rest, and I think the boys do, too, especially Edgar. He can get pretty wiped with four days a week of pre-school and early morning wake-ups.
  • Everyday self-care. This might be my biggest goal for the summertime. It’ll take a big change in my habits! I really want to incorporate self-care into my everyday life and routines so that I stop crashing and burning twice a month all year long. 
  • Morning and evening check-ins. This goes together with the goal of a “slower pace.” I want to cultivate a habit of checking in with myself (and my planner) every morning and every evening.

This is my first post about Aggressive Summer Planning. However – my aggressive summer planning can not possibly be contained in one post. I have at least two more drafted, with my Summer Bucket List and a proposal of weekly/daily routines that I want to establish over the summer. Stay tuned!

white flower close up shot
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balance · self-care

Staying Grounded

The list of things I need to do to feel grounded on a day-to-day basis is long.

I didn’t notice how long the list was until I became a parent with limited time available for self-care.

The things I need to do to feel grounded every day are: read, write, do yoga, go for a run, spend time outdoors, spend time with my family, meditate, and go to a recovery meeting. It was hard to get to everything on the list every day even when I was an adult without kids. Now, it sometimes feels impossible.

Last Saturday, I hit a bit of a wall. I woke up to Jonas’s crying, which is never my plan. I almost always plan to wake up before the boys so I can squeeze in one of my grounding activities before the day gets going. Lately, however, I can’t seem to get myself up and going until it’s absolutely necessary. I’ll hit snooze over and over and over – and I’ve never been a snooze button person! Throughout my life, I have bounced out of bed the first time my alarm sounds, excited to go for a run or write or just get started with my day.

Not these days. I’m exhausted. And I feel trapped, because the strategies I have previously used to unexhaust myself – a weekend away, a mental health day from work, a long run – are much harder to arrange than they used to be.

This past Sunday – the day after I hit my metaphorical wall – I forced myself to wake up at 4 a.m. ON A SUNDAY – a day when there was a chance I’d be able to sleep until the luxurious time of 6:30 a.m. I need sleep, but I decided that what I needed more was an hour to myself in the morning. I hate rolling out of bed and crashing into the day bleary-eyed and half-asleep.

I woke up a few minutes after 4. I sat on my yoga mat and did some mindful breathing and a short body scan. I did six minutes of yoga and stretching. Then I climbed back into bed with my laptop to write. I did this again on Monday and Tuesday. Then on Wednesday and Thursday I found it too exhausting to get myself up that early. On Friday I went for an early morning run, which was a great start to the day. On Saturday, I got myself up before the boys (Tamara goes to market really early on Saturdays), and I squeezed in a few minutes of grounding activities before the boys started to stir. On Sunday, I went for a run early, and then on Monday I was so exhausted from night feedings that I hit the snooze button five times before I finally put my feet on the floor.

It's called balance
tinybuddha.com

What I’m saying is – it’s hit or miss. Some days, I wake up early and use that first hour of the day to center myself. Some days, I’m wiped and I crash into the day with bleary eyes. And that’s okay. I love when I am able to start my day feeling grounded and centered. On the days when that can’t happen, I’m going to practice self-compassion and do my best to incorporate activities throughout my day that will help me to stay grounded. (More on that soon!)

Today I squeezed in a quick run, a few mindful moments, and a little writing time before the boys woke up. I also listened to my mindfulness audiobook, The Mindful Kind, on my way to work. I feel happy and calm and Kerriannish, and that’s a lovely way to start the day.

 

balance · gratitude

Daily Gratitude List

A few months ago, one of my wise and gentle friends asked me to start sending her a gratitude list every day. Every day, at some point during the day, I text her a list of three things I’m grateful for.

It wasn’t very hard to get this habit going, though it’s been a little hard to maintain it. This is pretty typical for me – awesome at getting things started, not-so-awesome at maintaining the practice. Yet, it’s been over a month, and while I miss a day now and then, I rarely go two days without getting back on track.

I’ve been shocked at how much this practice has helped me. It’s simple and it’s powerful. Sometimes, I find myself feeling negative or just generally riding the struggle bus, and just experiencing those moments of negativity reminds me that I haven’t sent my gratitude list yet. When I write it, it forces me to zoom in on the things that have been making me happy. It can be so easy to slip into focusing on the negative; this gratitude practice prompts me to pay attention to all of my blessings.

Yesterday was the first time in a while that I’ve missed my regularly scheduled blogging day. Eek!

I am chalking it up to springtime. Life has gotten a little busier, and I’ve had a fairly social April, which was really different from my cozy hygge January. There’s been lots of good quality time with friends.

This week will be busy, too – we have our adoption finalization day in court for Baby J.J. on Friday! There will be family in town and celebration and general merriment. And then on Sunday, I am hoping, there will be quiet time for our little family to relax and reboot. I am grateful.

affection appreciation decoration design
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balance

Addicted To My Phone

I’ve known for a while that I am tiny bit addicted to my phone.

I mean, aren’t we all? Or don’t we all wonder if we are? We walk around with tiny computers in our pockets that hold the answers to everything. They’re our connection to our families and friends. They’re our way of looking cool and together when we feel awkward or board. They’re our road maps, our alarm clocks, our cameras, our planners, our entertainment.

Also we can call people. (Though I try to avoid doing that AT ALL COSTS.)

This month, I’ve been trying to reduce my phone time. I’ve learned a lot about my digital life. One of the things I’ve been contemplating is the WHEN of it all – when do I reach for my phone?

This is what I came up with so far:

I reach for my phone when I am doing something unpleasant. The first time I noticed this, it was a moment when Jonas had just started crying. I remember thinking that I would need to hold him and walk around with him for a while to help him fall asleep, and I immediately reached for my phone, so that I could put on a TV show or a podcast to listen to while I walked the floor.

This isn’t exclusive to baby tasks. I do the same thing if I’m about to do any chore I          don’t like; I reach for my phone if I’m about to do the dishes, too.

I reach for my phone when I am tired. Or SICK! Ugh, anytime something physical is going on with me, I reach straight for whatever coping skill I can grasp. Sometimes it’s a diet Coke, or candy – and it is almost always my phone.

I reach for my phone when I’m bored. Yep. This one was no surprise.

I reach for my phone when I want to remember something or am afraid I’ll forget something. Sometimes, this is productive. My list of things to do is on my phone (using the Clear app), or I’ll set an alarm so I remember to do something later in the day. But I’m really trying to work on not feeling so compelled to immediately write down whatever it is I need to get done. I want to try to trust my memory more. I think I really will remember to do things, and I think feeling less compulsive about recording things on my phone will help me to feel happier and more peaceful.

I reach for my phone when I’m planning to use a specific app. Writing this list, I notice that some of these tendencies are things I want to stop (like scrolling when I’m bored) and some are more neutral. This one’s pretty neutral – I pick up my phone if there’s an app I want to use. Sometimes it’s practical (Google Maps, alarms) and sometimes it’s for entertainment or pleasure (Goodreads, Word Press, Audible, iBooks, Podcasts, texting). I do want to be mindful of which apps I want to have on my phone, but the pick-ups that occur when I’m planning to use Google Maps are not the ones I find problematic.

I reach for my phone when I’m looking for entertainment or background noise. This one is HUGE. I’m really working on using the iPad for entertainment purposes, just to decrease my overall screen time.

I reach for my phone when I’m experiencing social anxiety. This is the one I’m trying to be the most mindful of. When I’m in a group and feeling uncomfortable, I automatically find myself reaching for my phone. This past month, my consciousness of this habit grew. It’s a work in progress. Progress not perfection is my goal!

The first step in changing habits is identifying what you want to change. I can already feel a shift in my phone habits, just from understanding the reasons why I pick up my phone.

lights water blur rain
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