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
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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.

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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.

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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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