balance · parenting

Setting The Tone For The Work Week

Ever since I started working from home with my boys (ages 1 and 3) home with me, the first morning of the work week has been a clusterfreak. (Keepin’ it PG-13 on here!)

I think it’s a combination of factors that are causing the havoc.

  1. I don’t WANT to “go to work.” (Imagine that said in the whiniest kid voice possible!) I want to just play with my kiddos. I definitely prefer working from home to having to be away from them all day, but really, I’d love to just play and be silly with them all day long.
  2. I don’t always have a plan for the day, and I think our days go best when I have a plan. They don’t have to know what it is. The plan doesn’t even need to be executed well! It doesn’t matter if they do the awesome craft activity; it just matters that I’ve thought through our day with some intention and have a few activities or projects up my sleeve.
  3. I sometimes have a Zoom meeting first thing Monday morning (like 8 a.m.), and that seems to set us off on the wrong foot immediately. We can’t go outside or be on a hike while I have a meeting; they usually are just playing (and not understanding why I’m not paying attention to them) or watching a show (which seems to just set the wrong tone for the rest of the morning).

Pretty much every day, I try to get the boys in the car to go for a hike right after breakfast. There are days when I feel lazy about this, or when the weather’s not great,  and the hike doesn’t happen. And that’s okay!

But I am going to start putting forth a special effort to make Mondays a good and positive day for us. That means a hike as early in the day as we can, possibly followed by a treat (Dunkin’ Donuts drive thru is an option), and a few special activities planned for the day. My theory is that I need to devote a lot of energy and creativity to the FIRST day of the week. If Tuesday or Wednesday end up being a little lazier or less creative – well, at least we’ve eased into the week with a good day already. My mood, as the parent, really is a big factor in how our days go. And I am better able to have the patience and energy to get through a tough day when I have the confidence of a good day already.

I am working really hard at my job – but the most important thing to me right now is being a present, playful, and peaceful person for my kids. I am hoping that this Monday will be a day that sets a nice tone for the rest of the “work week.” But if not? Then TUESDAY will be the new Monday. And it will all be okay.

writings in a planner
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balance · self-care

April 24

The announcement was just made: April 24.

Across the state of Maryland, schools will be closed due to the coronavirus pandemic until April 24.

In some ways, it’s unsettling. There are several school districts that have closed until the end of the year, but our state is planning to re-evaluate and re-assess as the weeks progress.

I’m glad to have some information, but it does feel slightly uncertain. On April 20th, will I get another update saying we’re closed for longer?  Or will we be back to school?

No one knows. We all have to sit with that uncertainty.

That said – for now, for today – I have more info than yesterday. And that means that for today, I can set intentions for the following:

  • Every day, I will wake up at 4 a.m. to write. This will continue. I will write, write, write until my boys wake up!
  • At some point between 6 a.m. and 6:30 a.m., one of the boys will wake up. We’ll get them dressed and have breakfast and then have some free time – unstructured playing, cuddling with books, etc.
  • This would be a good time to go running! 
  • Once everyone has eaten and dressed, we’ll head outdoors – to the Gunpowder River, to Irvine Nature Center, to Oregon Ridge – for a family hike and adventure.
  • When we get home, there will be several windows of time:
    • We’ll get home from our hike at around 10 a.m., give or take some time. So there’s a window from about 10 a.m. until 1 p.m. that is open.
    • The boys’ nap time will be from 1 to 3 p.m. I think that the boys’ naptime will be the best time for me to do work; if I have more to do, I can keep working past 3 p.m. until dinnertime.
    • There’s playtime between 3 and 5:30 p.m.
  • We’ll eat dinner at around 5:30/6 p.m.
  • The boys will go to bed at 7 p.m. After they’re in bed, it’ll be a good time for an AA meeting, cleaning, and reading before bed. I can write, if I can muster the energy, or I can finish up any BCPS work I need to get done.
  • I’ll try to get to bed by 9 p.m.

That is a glorious plan. I know it will change – the world is uncertain, and it’s not all up to me – but I like this plan a lot.

If we go back to school on April 24th, that’s 29 more days at home with my boys. The world is in crisis, and things are stressful. But this time is also a tremendous gift. The gift of time with my wonderful family. It’s hard and it’s wonderful. And/Both, as Glennon Doyle would say.

29 days. It is what it is. My thoughts and my prayers continue to be with – well, with everyone. Because this is a “whole wide world” kind of thing, and we’re all in it together.

inspirational quotes on a planner
Photo by Bich Tran on Pexels.com

 

balance

Doing The Next Right Thing At This Moment (Whatever The Heck That Is)

Our little family is settling into a routine during this chaotic and stressful time.

We wake up in the sixes, get dressed, and eat breakfast. Then we go for an outdoor adventure – Irvine Nature Center, Oregon Ridge, Soldiers Delight, the Gunpowder River, etc. The boys splash through muddles or play in mud, and we get some fresh air and a change of scenery. Ever since schools closed on March 16, my social media feeds have been full of photos of families out exploring nature. It’s the thing we can do, since stores and museums and libraries and playgrounds are not options right now. Luckily, it’s also incredibly therapeutic – exercise and beauty and fresh air, all rolled into a family hike.

When our family gets home from our morning hike, we play in the backyard or the basement. At around noon, we eat lunch and start to wind down for books and nap. The boys nap (or have quiet time) until around three o’clock, and then we play until dinner time (around 5:30 p.m.). After dinner, we tidy, play, read books, and take a bath (some nights) before books and pajamas and bedtime.

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It’s been a good routine. I’m grateful that our boys are so small during this crazy time; the chaos of the world is not quite as impactful for them as it is for school-aged kids. Edgar (age 3) isn’t going to pre-school, but he usually goes only two days per week, so it’s not as much of a change as if he attended daily. He’s aware that there’s a “virus” going around and that it’s the reason why we’re not visiting playgrounds or the library. He’s a homebody and loves just being at home with us. For Edgar, this is (I hope!) an odd but not entirely unpleasant time.

And Jonas (18 months old) – that little bundle of joy is pretty oblivious, and just seems happy to have both his moms at home to play with all day.

The weight of what’s happening in the world right now is intense. For me, it’s coming in waves. And when it starts to feel overwhelming, I know I need to bring myself back to the present moment and just be with my boys. Preferably without intermittently checking CNN or listening to NPR podcasts.

I’m trying my best not to get swept up into comparison with other people and how they’re handling this time. I’ve definitely been spending more time on social media this past week or so; there are a few Facebook threads that I’ve been really enjoying (funny and timely questions from my sister and a new books-related question in my book group). And while I’ve been mostly enjoying the social media aspect, it does cause me to compare what I’m doing to what others are doing. Should I be following a schedule? Should I be having “academic time” with Edgar? Should I be doing more for my community? When you have a tendency to compare yourself with others, you have to really be intentional and conscious about your choices. Am I doing this because it’s the best choice for me and my family?  Or am I doing this because I feel like I “should”?

That said, I am contemplating trying to bring a little more routine to my days with the boys. Edgar can have a one track mind; his singular obsession of late is the Cars movie franchise, and he would happily play with cars and trucks all day long if allowed. I’m considering structuring our days a little so that there is a set (but flexible) time for various activities. An arts and crafts activity, perhaps; sensory or creative play, like play dough or rainbow rice; independent play – like, a set 15 to 30 minutes when Mommy’s going to do some tidying and listen to a podcast; puzzles or board games; listening to music; yoga; sports and games.

I like the idea of doing this. I’ve started a little already; just trying to bring a little variety to our days at home with alphabet games and bubble foam and salt dough and cardboard box coloring.

But also? I am feeling that weight – the uncertainty of what lies ahead and the anxiety about the state of the world. Concern for my family, my friends, my community.  It’s Sunday, March 22nd, as I write this – just over a week since we got the news that schools across Maryland would be closed. This week has been a roller coaster of contentment, connection, concern, contemplation – and worry. Fear.

I’m scheduled to volunteer at the food bank on Tuesday. I’ve reached out to community resources to offer support. I’m checking in on My People regularly, since this is hard on all of us.

But for today, I am trying my best to let go of the expectations I have of myself – the feelings of not doing enough, not helping enough, not taking advantage of this time away from work enough, not writing enough. Just for today, I am practicing contentment and I am letting go of all my goals and expectations. I’m going to do the next right thing, one thing at a time, and (a la Glennon Doyle) that will take me all the way home to myself.

Image result for do the next right thing one thing at a time

 

balance · parenting

Naptime Productivity

I have days when I rock ‘n’ roll during naptime.

There are two boys under three in my house. Once the second kid’s eyes are closed (or, in the case of the two-year-old, once he is safely stowed away in his room, rolling around on his bed talking to himself), I race downstairs and I immediately engage in a preplanned naptime activity. Usually, this means writing a blog post. Lately, it has meant packing for trips. Sometimes I spread out note cards on the floor and I work on my novel.

The important thing is that I immediately get going with something productive. And, to be clear, I have a pretty broad definition of what is productive. Sometimes what I want to accomplish is watching a soccer game or taking a nap. But even relaxing activities require some prep on my part – like queuing up the game so I don’t get distracted by dishes or limiting my morning caffeine intake so that I can crash while the boys sleep.

Then there are other days. Days when I’ve been so busy running around after the boys that I haven’t given any thought at all to what I’d like to accomplish during naptime. That never feels as good to me.

Those unproductive days end up being okay too. Things get done or else they don’t, and it’s always just fine. But I’m still amazed at how much planning it seems to take just to be a functional human and adult compared to my spontaneous twentysomething self. That girl liked to not plan anything, and it was delightful.

It’s the middle of the afternoon as I type this, and it’s naptime – and it’s one of those naptimes that I didn’t fully plan out ahead of time. I did make arrangements to go for a run while Tamara got Jonas down for nap, so that got done right away. Since I got back from running, I’ve kind of been puttering around – straightened up a little, wrapped a baby shower gift for a friend, read a few pages of Fleishman Is In Trouble. While I love being productive, I also enjoy puttering around. It’s relaxing, in a way, to have a piece of my day that’s a little bit aimless.

Today, I rate my naptime productivity at about a 6, because I wrote this ENTIRE blog post (woohoo!) and ran for thirty minutes. No dishes were done, but you know what? I recently retook the Enneagram test and it turns out I’m a 4, and we’re really bad at getting things done if we’re not feelin’ it. So it could not be helped, clearly.

This post makes me laugh, because it’s as aimless and meandering as a naptime full of puttering around. In Typical Kerriann style, I am going to seize control and turn it into a list of tips for Naptime Productivity right now:

Step 1: Plan ahead! Typically nap time is not long enough to allow for spontaneity.

Step 2: Keep your commitments. If you decided to spend the kids’ nap time reading, don’t let the dirty laundry boss you around.

Step 3: Be realistic. It is RARE for me to write an entire blog post during a single naptime, and my blog posts are pretty short. I feel better when I make a goal like Read a little of my book rather than Read three chapters. Because Edgar and Jonas have no idea how many chapters I’ve read when they decide to pop open their eyes and start Mommying me.

Step 4: Give yourself permission to NOT be productive. Though I haven’t done it much lately, I love napping when the boys nap.  I do feel like Step 1 is EXTREMELY important if you want to nap while your kids nap; you need to be mentally and physically prepared ahead of time so you don’t end up too wired or stressed to nap.

That’s all I’ve got, and I can hear Jonas starting to babble. Time’s up!

white and brown bear plush toy selective photo
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balance · writing

What Gets In The Way

We can’t solve the problem until we figure out what gets in the way, right?

So, the problem is: I’m not getting as much fiction writing done as I’d like to this summer.

Here’s a list of what’s getting in the way:

  1. Ugh, amazing vacations to the beach! Quality time with family and beautiful sunny days swimming and splashing. SO INCONVENIENT.
  2. The Women’s World Cup. How dare these incredible women play such a fantastic tournament when I’m trying to write? Why didn’t they just get eliminated in the Round of 16 so I wouldn’t lose valuable writing hours cheering them on? RIDICULOUS.
  3. Lots of reading about parenting. I’ve been reading Peaceful Parent Happy Kids to try to be more patient, playful, and peaceful with Edgar, and I’ve been reading The Sleep Easy Solution to try to help with Jonas’s sleep. How am I supposed to grow as a parent AND grow as a writer simultaneously? It’s clearly never been done before. IMPOSSIBLE.
  4. Adorable children with summer birthdays, requiring a moderate amount of housecleaning, party prep, balloon buying, and gift wrapping. Those three-year-olds and their SMILES and JOY.
  5. Wonderful friends who want to hang out and do fun things together. Yes, these are great times and good memories, but is there an increase in my daily word count when I hang out with friends? NO THERE IS NOT.

The bottom line is that I am having a fantastic summer with the boys, Tamara, extended family, and friends. My writing is sometimes on the shelf, but I’ll take it off as soon as I can. I’m typing this from my local Starbucks, where I’ve been for several hours already, so that the dirty dishes in my sink aren’t staring at me as I try to get some writing accomplished. In a few hours, I’ll take a break from writing to read The Sleep Easy Solution, because it’s okay for me to make space in my day for my writing, reading about parenting, and all the other things.

WE GOT THIS.

white paper with yeah signage
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