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

 

family · goals

When My Baby Starts Sleeping…

Slowly, surely, Jonas’s sleep is getting better. Last night, he only woke up once for a night feeding; it was wonderful.

There are many things that have been on the back burner for the last nine months. Things would come to my mind, and I’d consciously tell myself, You can’t deal with that until Jonas starts sleeping through the night. True or not, this has been my policy. And now that “sleeping through the night” seems within our reach, I want to set some intentions for what I want to focus on once we reach that milestone.

  1. A big improvement with my bedtime hygiene. Ugh. My bedtime hygiene is awful! Right now, I eat a candy bar, and then fall asleep with my clothes on and the light on while listening to a TV show on the iPad. My goal is:
    • Pajamas.
    • No bedtime candy!
    • Lights out.
    • No podcast or TV show playing.
  2. Create a regular schedule for exercise, meditation/mindfulness, and writing, including early morning time and evening time. These pockets of my day – early morning and evening – have mostly been lost to sleep, since the middle of the night has not been reliable for sleep.  🙂 And exercise and writing (as well as meditation) have taken a huge hit since my time became limited. I’ve done a good job of squeezing them in when I can (IMHO) but I’m going to amp up in all three areas once Jonas is sleeping through the night.
  3. Focus on maintaining a healthy diet. I am really trying to make this a priority NOW – cutting back on candy and caffeine and eating well. However, I make terrible choices about food and drink when I’m tired, and while I am working on this at the moment, I am also trying not to beat myself up about not maintaining a perfect diet at this incredibly hectic and sleep-deprived season of my life.
  4. Make a plan for flow/life alignment. Right now, I am too exhausted to make sure that my whole life is aligned with my values. But I want to make this a priority for once my sleep is more reliable. I am inching closer and closer to where I want to be, I think – but sometimes I don’t even know where I want to be! Do I want to buy yogurt pouches to keep as snacks, because they’re easy and encourage Edgar to be independent? Or do I want to prioritize the environment and limit waste? I really don’t know. And, importantly – I am too tired to figure it out at the moment.

This may be another post that is updated if I think of more goals.

I am also noticing that most of my recent posts have been related to goal setting. I like that a lot; it shows that, in contrast to my nature, I am learning to think ahead, at least a little.

green grass field
Photo by Aron Visuals on Pexels.com
family · parenting

Happy Birthday Dad

Today, on what would have been my dad’s 71st birthday, Edgar played ‘organized’ soccer (laughing out loud at calling any toddler activity ‘organized’) for the first time.

This was ordinary, and it was extraordinary. I got emotional last weekend when I first realized this coincidence – Edgar starting out with soccer on Dad’s birthday. I felt a little in awe of the universe at the timing of things, and a little bit like laughing hysterically. (“Seriously, Universe?  I needed a reason to get MORE EMOTIONAL on Dad’s birthday?”) I cried for a while, and then, while Edgar wandered around the farm kicking a soccer ball, I followed him and I thought about my dad.

The inscription on my dad’s grave reads: HUSBAND, DAD, & COACH. Because that is who he was. From the moment when my mom signed my dad up (without asking him) to coach at Holy Child Soccer in Staten Island, NY, he coached. He coached my sister, my brother, and me on various teams, and he coached hundreds of other kids. He ended up running Holy Child Soccer, and then serving as president of the Staten Island Soccer League. I did not ever know my dad not as a soccer coach.

Every parent involved in Staten Island soccer when I was in grade school called my house at some point. I know this because I was my dad’s unofficial secretary. His responsibilities as a leader in youth soccer in Staten Island are the reason why, to this day, I have an EXCEPTIONALLY friendly and polite phone voice.  The coaches would call about fields, referees, schedules, uniforms, and I’d take their message and promise that my dad would call them back. When my dad eventually talked with them, I’d hear him laugh and say, “yup, that was my youngest on the phone,” and I’d beam with pride. When I was a kid, I didn’t realize just how much my dad did for youth soccer in Staten Island – and he did all of it after a long day or week of full-time work. We don’t realize how much our parents are doing for us, I think, until we grow up and are exhausted adults or parents ourselves.

I have countless memories of my dad as a coach – from him leading my team at practices and games to the thousands of quiet moments he had with me and my siblings, helping us to learn life lessons on the field and off. This year, there are two stories I can’t get out of my head. They both involved my dad as coach of my grade school soccer team, the Holy Child Crosskickers.

We had a heartbreaker of a game one season, when we came in second place in the league after a 1-0 loss to the Notre Dame Academy Sweethearts. The other team’s goal was the result of a long ball that hit a weird bump and bounced awkwardly over the head of our flustered goalkeeper. A fair loss, to be sure – but a real bummer after a hard-played game and season.

A week or so after this game, my dad showed up to a team gathering with a large cardboard box. He explained that a stranger had left this box of T-shirts on our front porch; they were red and white (our team colors), and the text read: “CROSSKICKERS – SIMPLY THE BEST – ONLY ONE SWEETHEART OF A BOUNCE CAN BEAT US.” We all smiled and laughed and put on our shirts and questioned nothing.  It was YEARS later when I realized that my dad (who made T-shirts for our entire extended family every summer, so it’s not like there weren’t clues, Kerriann) had ordered the shirts himself because he knew that it’s important to acknowledge our defeats, laugh if we can, and move forward with determination and a smile.

The other story I can’t get out of my head is about my dad selecting the team all-stars from the Crosskickers for the end-of-season league all-star game. That year, we were allowed to pick two players to represent our team in the game.

There were a lot of strong athletes on our team, and I was certainly one of them; my sister, my brother, and I all played soccer well, with passion, hard work,and talent. However, it never once occurred to me that my dad would choose me as an all-star for the game; he was not the type of guy to engage in nepotism, even at the level of a youth soccer game. He was harder on me, at times, and he was diligent about coaching our team in a fair and supportive way.

I remember asking my dad about who he would pick for the all-star game, and he sat down with me and explained that he really wanted to reward the players on our team who had worked especially hard and performed exceptionally well that season. I instantly understood that he wasn’t going to pick one of the three or four other “stars” on my team; he was going to reward players who had shown exceptional spirit and effort even if they weren’t the top goal scorers. We talked together, and he asked me to guess who his picks were; I thought and I talked through our season, and I guessed two players who had improved tremendously that season, moving from being average players to essential starters as the season progressed. I remember my dad beaming at me when he told me I’d guessed correctly – maybe because he was happy I understood his logic, or because he learned that we thought in similar ways.

That was my dad – he wanted to acknowledge when he saw young athletes working hard and improving. He knew that youth sports was about cultivating talent while also teaching important lessons about effort, disappointment, teamwork, and grace.

There is no pressure on Edgar to play soccer. Yes, he owns six soccer balls and only two of any other kind of ball, and yes, I’ll be thrilled if I get to coach his teams the way my dad coached mine. But really, truly, he doesn’t need to play, and I don’t need to coach. However, watching him run and kick today – watching him listen to his oh-so-patient coach talk to him about respect and fun and how to dribble – watching him run to me with a huge smile, telling me how much fun he had at “soccer school” –

Those were pretty good gifts.

Happy birthday to my dad. Keep the lessons coming, Coach.

balance · family · writing

Thoughts On Time

Sometimes Tamara takes the boys out to the coffee shop or the library so that I’ll have time to write. When this happens, it takes time getting used to having the house to myself – for the first thirty minutes, I keep looking around, expecting to spot J.J. asleep in his bouncy seat or Edgar quietly munching on Goldfish crackers. But they’re not here – they’re out, having an adventure, and I’m at home with a crackling fire, a cup of coffee, and my computer on my lap.

It’s always a challenge, finding time to write when you’re a working parent with two kids under three. And it’s really important to me to make time for writing. I haven’t made much progress with my novel – I blame the boys’ sleep needs for this – but I have managed to post on the blog twice every week since 2019 began, and I’m determined to stick to that routine for as long as possible.

I’m delayed on my novel – my goal is to finish a draft by the end of 2019, and I’m not as far as I’d like to be. But my delay is in part because I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about the novel, and planning things out, rather than writing it. It feels a little uncomfortable, at times. I’d much rather be writing than planning. But as I page through the book Story Genius, I find myself wondering if this whole novel writing gig requires more planning than I’ve ever tried before.

There’s a debate in the writing community about plotting versus pantsing. The plotters map out the entire story of their novel before they write it, and the pantsers just start writing and see where their story goes. I have always been more of a pantser. But the book Story Genius by Lisa Cron is arguing something in between; I’m not done with the book yet, but I think she advocates that the writer should know the story of what is going to happen ahead of time, though the writer may allow themselves to be somewhat of a pantser when it comes to the hundreds of little details that make up the eventual plot. (I’ll let you know when I finish the book if this is an accurate representation of the Story Genius method.)

So, the boys are out with Tamara, and here I sit, with a rare few hours of alone time to write and think. And one of the things I’m considering is re-evaluating the way I spend my time.

I’m going to have more flexibility with my time now that Edgar is, thank goodness, going to sleep by himself in his bed after about six weeks of bedtime struggles. That means that I’ll have a little extra time in the evening after Edgar goes to bed, and a little extra time in the morning before the boys wake up. I’ve been pondering what routines I want to create.

I thought about this in terms of the WHEN – like, when are the little pockets of time that I have available for exercise, writing, reading, self-care, etc? There are the mornings – the wee bit of time I can steal if I wake up early enough. There are the evenings, after Edgar goes to bed, when I can write or read if I have the energy. There are the weekend afternoons during nap. And there are the times like today, when Tamara takes the boys out for an adventure on a weekend morning and I have a few hours to use for whatever I need.

That’s what I have right now – little pockets of time. It can feel frustrating sometimes! I really wish I could start building up my writing stamina, spending 2 or 3 hours at a time sitting down to write. But it is what it is for the moment, and I have to accept that, enjoy my baby boys, and be ready for the pockets of time when they pop up.

flat lay photography of calendar
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com
adoption · family

Happy Adoption Day

On March 3rd, we celebrated our oldest son’s Adoption Day.

For our family, Adoption Day is the anniversary of the day we went to court, met with a judge, and had Edgar’s adoption finalized. I think that for many adoptive families, this is what they mean as well when they discuss Adoption Day; of course, I’m not certain, since every family is unique and celebrates adoption in their own way. Many families celebrate Gotcha Day in addition to or in lieu of Adoption Day; Gotcha Day refers to the day the child physically comes home to their forever family.

For me, an event like Adoption Day means a complex contest: celebration and joy versus stress and pressure.

I believe that it’s important and valuable to celebrate moments and meaningful anniversaries. However, this is not something that comes naturally to me. I’m not the friend who’ll plan your baby shower, and I’m not the one who’ll handle the details of an outing, whether we’re meeting for a movie or going on vacation to a foreign country. I’m thoughtful and kind, but I’m not a Pinterest mom who excels at making the special moments beautiful. I’m the kind of mom who desperately wants for the special moments to be extra-extra-extra-special, and who often twists herself into a tizzy trying to figure out how to be my authentic self while also facilitating moments of celebration and joy. I often find myself racing around (’cause I’m not really the “plan ahead” kinda Mom either!) and spending money I don’t need to spend trying to find gifts, or balloons, or whatever sparkly thing I think will make my family smile.

WHEW. I get stressed just typing the words!

The thing is that when it comes to Edgar’s adoption day, I didn’t stress at all. On Edgar’s first Adoption Day – the day we went to court and cried for joy in the judge’s chambers – we went out to breakfast afterward at the Towson Diner with our extended family. Shortly before last year’s Adoption Day, Tamara and I decided that Edgar’s celebration each year would start with breakfast (pancakes FTW) at the diner – at least for now. (I’m sure the day’s events will evolve as Edgar grows older!) This year, we ate an early breakfast at the diner and then went to a playground, and Edgar was overjoyed.

It was sweet, and it was simple. We didn’t want Adoption Day to be about gifts or a party – just family time and an outing that aligns with something Edgar enjoys. For me, I think that the key to facilitating celebrations without stress is to keep it simple. Adoption Day is pancakes at the diner; my birthday is a coffee shop and ice skating; Valentine’s Day is decorating the house with construction paper hearts that say reasons why we love everyone in our family. SIMPLE, and sweet. The next time I am stressing over planning something, I’m going to try to find just one simple event or gesture that can be the center of that special memory.

An added bonus of our adoption pancakes tradition is this: Edgar knows that his Adoption Day is a special event that involves pancakes. That’s a simple connection that he can understand, and it’s one of the only connections related to his adoption that he can make at two years old. We talk with Edgar all the time about the story of how he came home to us, but he can’t process things like biological parents and pregnancy and all the other big kid concepts you need to understand in order to fully comprehend what it means to be adopted.

But Edgar knows this: on Adoption Day, we go out as a family and we eat PANCAKES and we smile because it is a great day.

Happy Adoption Day, Edgar!

love heart romantic romance
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family · mindfulness

Octobers

I love fall. I love sweatshirt and denim jacket weather. I love pumpkin spice lattes so much that I don’t care how cliche it is to love pumpkin spice lattes.

However, I tend to have bittersweet feelings at this time of year. I love fall, and I love the holidays. I tend the enjoy the briskness of November and the festivity of December. But I feel a wistful feeling as we approach the time of the year when the days are shorter. The biggest downer for me is the decrease in daylight hours; I dislike when the sun sets at 5 or 6 in the evening.  I also struggle with the bitterly cold times of the year, when I have to put on five layers of clothing just to walk to the mailbox.

This struggle I have with fall is indicative of one of my biggest overall struggles – keeping myself in the present moment. Enjoying October for October’s sake, without worrying about what January and February will be like.

This feeling – loving the present while dreading the future – also lines up with how I’m feeling as my waywayway too short maternity leave comes to an end. My six weeks of leave will end on October 17th. I’ve been trying not to think about it too much; I worry that if I think about it, I’ll become too overwhelmed to function and to enjoy the present. How do people do this? Just enjoy the now without anticipating the later with anxiety?

One of my wise and gentle friends often reminds me to come back to where my feet are, and that helps. Not talking about the length of my maternity leave helps, too – in a way, not talking about it is a coping skill I’m using, reminding myself to stay in the now and not to dwell on what I don’t have but to enjoy what I do have.

Today is a brisk and beautiful October day. My infant son is big enough to go in my Ergo 360 carrier and I’m celebrating that with a walk around the farm and down the trail. Life is sweet.

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community · family

Local Bucket List & Neighborhood Surprises

One day earlier this week, Edgar and I drove to Hammerman Beach, a little beach on the Gunpowder River that is located in Gunpowder Falls State Park. Tamara and I have explored a lot of Gunpowder Falls, especially the section of river that runs through our area of Maryland, but not much of the eastern side of the park.

Today’s excursion was part of a little bucket list I’ve been writing in my head – things I want to do that are in my neighborhood. I’ve been thinking and writing about wanting to live more locally. (See my post on living local here!) I have a tendency to just sort of exist wherever I am – not really absorbing the world around me as thoroughly as I could. It’s one of the reasons I am a below-average tour guide. People ask me questions about the place where I’m living, and it’s rare for me to have the answers at my fingertips the way some excellent tour guides do.

Hammerman Beach isn’t exactly in my neighborhood, but it’s in Maryland, which is the state I’ve called home for ten years. TEN YEARS! That’s longer than I’ve lived anywhere other than New York. And while I’ve never been that into crabs or the Baltimore Ravens, I do enjoy getting to know the landscape and sights that are within a day’s drive. The beach was small, sweet, and beautiful; Edgar actually said the word “beautiful” for the first time, repeating after me as we looked out at the sparkling river.still-what-i-want-in-my-life-is-to-be-willing-to-be-dazzled-to-cast-aside-the-weight-of-facts-and-quote-1

Last weekend was another good chance to explore a local event. Our farm is about five minutes away from the New Freedom Farmers Market, but I’ve never attended; we don’t sell our produce there, and I didn’t realize just how close it was. Then a friend suggested that I attend an event held at the market once a year called Yogis Take The Park and IT WAS AMAZING. The vibe was very open, loving, hippie-esque – it reminded me of a lot of places I lived and visited in my twenties. I never thought I would find that kind of vibe so close to home. We have lots of great friends and neighbors who are open and liberal-minded, but I also am keenly aware that we live in the only district in Maryland that is represented by a Republican conservative. (FOR NOW. Election Day is November 6, 2018! Vote for Jesse Colvin!)

My local bucket list adventures will continue!  I’m so grateful to live in a place that has the familiarity of home and the potential for surprises.