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.

img_4462

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
Photo by Harm Jakob Tolsma on Pexels.com
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
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com
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
Photo by James Wheeler on Pexels.com

 

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
Photo by Dominika Roseclay on Pexels.com