parenting · simplifying

Infant Care 101

When we arrived at the hospital to meet our new adoptive son, the hospital staff we met would do this thing.

They would start to tell us something about infant care – diapers, circumcision care, feeding, burping – and then they’d stop themselves. “Oh, you already have a child?” they’d say, remembering that we already had a two-year-old at home. “So you know all this already.”

At which point, I would politely encourage them to continue. Because in my head I was screaming, That was two years ago! I remember nothing! Please do not send me home without some reminders if not some sort of infant care graduate level course.

It really is strange, when you think about it. I have to be recertified in CPR every two years, and I have to take 40 hours of training every two years to maintain my social work license. But to take care of an infant – which many would say is one of the most important, challenging, and serious jobs in the world – I can walk out of the hospital after a quick chat with the doctor. (Oh, and after watching about 45 minutes of infant care videos, which Tamara and I watched absent-mindedly while also excitedly texting family and friends with the good news that our family had a new adorable member.)

And now, we’re home, and we’ve been “home” with our new son for two weeks today. And you know what? It is easier this time around. We know how to do the basics – changing diapers, making formula, cleaning baby bottles. When our first son, Edgar, came home, I was terrified of making formula. It sounded complex, like it would require concentration and precision, neither of which I had much of as a brand-new mom.

This was a myth, one I created all by myself, because making formula is more like mixing some Crystal Light iced tea that anything else. And this time around, I knew that already. Though I maintain that calling it “formula” makes it sound way more complex and intimidating than it needs to be.

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I’m off from work for six weeks, and we’re starting to settle into a nice routine during our days. There is something about newborn care that really helps me to be mindful and present. There is a simple rhythm to my days with J.J. – he eats, I change his diaper, he plays, he sleeps. While he sleeps, I wash bottles, make new bottles, straighten up around the house, try to tackle some simple acts of self-care. (REAL simple. Like, I might take a shower today.) When Edgar gets home from school, either Tamara or I take him outside to play. There are simple things that need to get done, and there’s not much time to do it all – so only the most basic and most important things get done.

I love this rhythm. I would love to carry it with me as J.J. grows and as our lives move back into more of a regular day-to-day routine. For now, I am thankful for the simplicity, rhythm, and joy that come with this sweet and special time of life.

 

self-care · simplifying

Death To My To-Do List

You know how some people are organized and efficient? They are planners. They’re the ones who check the movie times when they’re going to a movie with friends. They’re the ones that check ahead of time to make sure you don’t need a reservation at the restaurant for dinner.

Yeah – I am not one of those people. I never have been, and I doubt I ever will be.

My favorite way to go through life is as the willing, flexible, and laid-back participant in a group of people that includes a planner, such as the kind of person described above. I am a grateful and always-willing-to-help participant – but I’m not the best candidate to be in charge of the details of an event. First of all, I’m not great at managing said details, and secondly, I HATE IT SO MUCH.

Ugh. I really do!

But, as an adult, I find myself having to plan more and more. First of all, after years of living in group housing with fun friends all around me, I am now (and have been for several years) living in my own house, just me and Tamara and Edgar. In 2008, I lived in a big building in the middle of the woods with eight amazing, fun, and like-minded roommates. Every night was a party and it required no planning whatsoever, because everyone was just THERE.

Now, I have to make plans if I want to see friends. And it works…okay. I still miss the convenience of having friends right next door, where fun could be had spontaneously and with little to no planning.

In addition to the planning my social life requires, there’s just – ugh – so much adulting to be done. And that’s where my to-do list comes in.

I constantly feel overwhelmed by my to-do list. One of my Summer Sabbatical goals is to finish every single item on my list so that I can start fresh in the fall, with literally EVERYTHING in my life taken care of. I don’t know if I’ll meet this goal, and I am okay with that. I want to enjoy this time, and get writing done, and spend time with Edgar – those things are more important to me than a to-do list.

AND YET IT PLAGUES ME. I’ve been daydreaming lately about ways to kill my to-do list forever. My train of thought starts with a conversation I had with a co-worker a few years ago.

This particular co-worker always, always, always responded to every e-mail and request immediately. If I asked her to “when you have a second” check on a note for me, I’d get my answer back within twenty minutes. I always thanked her profusely, but also let her know that I usually don’t require that quick of a response time.

“Oh, it’s no problem. I just do things right away so I won’t forget to do it,” she explained.

I had probably heard people say something similar to this before. But at this moment in my life, I was brainstorming about ways to be more efficient, and this really hit home for me. I’m a great employee and I’m a reliable person, but I am constantly afraid that I am going to forget to do things. I realized that if I did what this girl did – if I did everything that was asked of me right away – then I wouldn’t have to worry at all about remembering. Everything would just be done. (Gretchen Rubin calls this the one-minute rule – if you can do it in a minute, then do it right now.)

It occurred to me that if I could do this – if I followed a policy of doing things right away – then it is possible that someday, I would never need a to-do list. Instead of writing an item on my to-do list, I would just take care of it. No list needed.

This was eye-opening for me. Was that why some people seemed less stressed than me? Were they not constantly carrying the weight of a to-do list a mile long? It also explained why some people get so aggravated when they have a task they can’t complete because they’re waiting on info from someone else. They’re not used to having uncompleted tasks – so that low buzz of anxiety my to-do list causes me starts screaming in their ears.

I’ve never been able to fully put this into practice, and I’m okay with that, especially when it comes to work. I am a therapist who works with kids; I’m never going to prioritize responding to an e-mail over a child’s need to talk about a problem. And at home, I want to prioritize writing time and family time over my to-do list. However, lately I am finding myself completing tasks quickly and immediately whenever I can, mainly because I don’t want to add another item to my to-do list. I want the list to get shorter, not longer. It feels amazing. Here’s hoping I can keep it up!

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simplifying · writing

Love Affair With Looseleaf

Today I was at the grocery store and I found myself lovingly placing a discounted pack of loose leaf paper in my shopping cart.

It was 49 cents and that’s a small price to pay for the happiness I get from a fresh new pack of loose leaf paper.

There is something about a fresh, new package of looseleaf paper that makes me SO HAPPY. The paper is clean and white. When I write on the top sheet, with a good pen – Pilot Easy Touch Fine Point, for example – it feels so good.

I have always loved the physical act of handwriting. I, somewhat vainly, have always loved my own handwriting. I started journaling in elementary school, and then leveled up in college, when I started to carry a journal with me everywhere I went in case I had a thought I needed to chronicle on the spot.

Of course, times change. I don’t need a journal to chronicle my thoughts. My phone is always close by, usually actually in my pocket, and I can (and do) write an idea for a blog post quickly and easily at any moment.

In fact, I might be even more nostalgic for looseleaf these days because I recently abandoned my paper planner in favor of using a combination of my bullet journal and the Google calendar on my phone. I’ve always loved having a planner – picking out a new planner has always been a major treat to me – but it just doesn’t feel practical anymore. The bullet journal is way more flexible for my day-to-day planning needs, and for big picture things, like weddings/play dates/writing groups, using Google calendar makes so much more sense.

But it still makes me sad.

I will soothe my soul by drafting an essay on my new looseleaf paper.

self-care · simplifying

Digital Detox (Baby Steps)

I am considering breaking up with my phone.

Every so often, I do a little inventory, considering the impact technology and social media are having on my life. I am definitely not anti-technology; I can see so many benefits that modern technology has had on my life. I can keep in touch with old friends easily; I can research issues, become informed about topics, with little effort; I can be connected with my communities, local and global.

I also see the negative impact my phone has on my life. It’s a way that I check out of my day-to-day life. It’s a way that I cope with anxiety that doesn’t actually make me any less anxious. It’s a thing that keeps me from being fully present.

I haven’t tracked this at all, but I know I look at my phone a LOT. Sometimes it’s legit, like when I’m using Google maps – but sometimes, I look at my phone simply because I haven’t looked at it in a while, and that feels kind of gross.

I definitely use my phone way more when I’m anxious. If I’m feeling uncomfortable and not up for social interaction, I like knowing that my phone is in my pocket.

This is my inventory, and it makes me think that maybe my phone and I need some time apart.

It’s so HARD, though!  There’s a lot of great stuff I get from my phone. I listen to a ton of audiobooks and podcasts, and I am newly obsessed with the Netflix show The Break with Michelle Wolf. But I don’t really think of those things as interfering with my life and my happiness.

Image result for someecards social mediaI guess the biggest trouble spots for me are:

  1. Social media – mindlessly scrolling and comparing myself to others.
  2. Zoning out – looking at WHATEVER – texts, websites, my bank account, etc – rather than being present in my actual life.

This is what I’m planning to try:

  1. SOCIAL MEDIA DAY. I’ll only check my social media one day each week – I’m thinking about Thursdays – and when I check in, I will actually engage, rather than just scrolling and skimming and clicking ‘like.’ I’ll write comments or respond to others. I’ll actually READ articles. I’ll check in on links I’ve saved. For the time being, I’m not planning to limit the amount of time I can use social media on that day – so I could wake up Thursday morning and be on Facebook ALL DAY LONG if I want. (I don’t want.)
  2. Designate official Phone Time – meaning that all other time is NO PHONE TIME. This is so much harder to tackle, since I use my phone for so many things. (Even now, I’m listening to a podcast on my phone as I type this!) There might need to be many times in a day for Phone Time – typing a note to myself, adding an event to my calendar, responding to a text – but I really want to give myself permission to actually do ONLY ONE THING AT A TIME. The pressure to multitask is so strong. I often feel like I’m actually SUPPOSED to be doing many things at once – but I’m not. I am allowed to focus on just one thing at a time, and I’m better at everything when I operate this way.

I’m going to check in with myself about these two strategies – Social Media Day and Designated Phone Time – in my June All The Things post. Until then, I’m hoping I can take baby steps toward a more peaceful phone life.

simplifying · writing

Doodling

I have a new hobby, and it all started when I checked my checking account and realized that a) somebody had CLEARLY stolen my debit card and made a thousand small purchases that they don’t need or remember, and b) that somebody must have been me.

UGH.

I did a little inventory, and I found that I’ve had a habit recently of nickel-and-diming my money away – buying sodas, snacks, tiny things, none of which cost much, but accumulate to make holes in my bank account where dollars should live. So I resolved to tighten up and to not make those kind of expendable purchases.

And then, the next day, I sat down with my new bullet journal, and I realized that I needed some more stickers.

So cute, right?! But this was a prime example of something that was not a necessary purchase.  Even though it seems necessary to me because I want my bullet journal to be adorable.

BUT THEN – this is the moment when being short on cash led me to a moment of creativity.

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The main reason I like the stickers is the adorable fancy-ish black letters. I like my handwriting, but it’s not that fancy, and stickers bring variety to my journal.

Then, I found this website, One Artsy Mama, and it was a game changer.

Literally, all you have to do to make your lettering fancy is add a few extra lines here and there, and then color them in.

I’ve been practicing like mad, and it’s so fun.

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This was one of those fun reminders not to limit myself. I have always characterized myself as “someone who is not good at fancy lettering,” and what I found was that, with a little practice, this is something I can do.  I’ve also characterized myself as “someone who’s not good at doodling,” and I’m challenging that belief, too. I checked out a bunch of instruction books on how to doodle from the library (when in doubt, go to the library!), and I’m trying out some of the easier designs in my bullet journal.

New things!  Good for me, good for my bullet journal, and good for my bank account.  WIN-WIN-WIN.

self-care · simplifying

How To Be KEM

  1. Let go and let goddess.
  2. Do the next right thing.
  3. Go with the flow.  (SYNCHRONICITY!)
  4. Live with intention.
  5. When in doubt, do nothing.
  6. Embrace rhythm and rituals.
  7. Do one thing at a time, fully.
  8. Keep it simple.
  9. Take things less seriously.
  10. Help. Care. Connect.
  11. Be(lieve in) you.
  12. Choose peace.
  13. When you’re feeling lost or restless, take a nap.

nomudnolotus1

 

family · farming · parenting · simplifying

#heart #mind #SimplicityParenting

Yesterday, after a day at Wild Peace Farm harvesting and weeding, Tee and I joined some friends for a cookout.  It was my favorite kind of weather – sunny and beautiful, with a slight breeze – and we spent time coloring, playing, eating amazing food (kimchi bacon burgers!), and talking.  Simplicity-Parenting

I got a chance to talk with one friend about a book she recommended to me – Simplicity Parenting, by Kim John Payne.  This friend is a teacher at a Waldorf school, and Payne is also associated with Waldorf, though I can’t recall in what capacity.  The principles he teaches in Simplicity Parenting are certainly aligned with many Waldorf principles and techniques, from what I have learned from my friend the Waldorf Teacher.

I am often drawn to teachings and readings focused on simplicity, and I enjoyed a lot of what Payne had to say about simplicity in parenting.  He talks a lot about keeping things simple – helping your children to not become too overwhelmed by choices or by stimuli.  And it’s been causing me to think about what we want our house and our life to be like when Our Baby comes home.  As I’ve read, I’ve been peeking into Our Baby’s room and thinking about the things that often get out of control in the houses of other family homes – toys, clothing, even books.

Sidebar: One of the weird things about being an Adoptive-Parent-In-Waiting is never knowing exactly when your baby is going to come home.  You’re never sure exactly how much time you have, and, if you’re like us, you don’t want your baby room to be completely set up and waiting during the long days, weeks, and months.  Additionally, one of the standard traditions for expectant parents – having a baby shower – doesn’t really fit in well with the adoption wait, so we (somewhat presumptuously) anticipate that we’re going to have an influx of presents and stuff that will come several months after Our Baby comes home.  So, I’m glad I’simplifym reading this book now so that we can plan ahead.

Anyway – I have a feeling that Simplicity Parenting is a text I’m going to come back to over and over again during our parenting years.  There’s a lot of information about the effects of television and screen time, new and the media, and even adult conversation and habits when it comes to kids.  What Payne had to say about schedules, environment, and rhythm was really significant to me as well – very meaningful food for thought.