I’ve been thinking about a Monthly Mantra for October 2020, and what I came up with is this: Enjoy it all.
I actually thought about it when I was enjoying myself during a ridiculous moment. I was in the dentist’s chair, getting a cavity filled. I was super anxious, so I’d brought headphones and was listening to an episode of Designated Survivor while the dentist did her thing. In the midst of crazy COVID life, when I’m with my kids 24/7 and constantly multi-tasking, it was sort of enjoyable to just lay back and listen to a show. Weird, right? But it was a moment, and I enjoyed it. That’s what I want – to enjoy all the moments.
This is a crazy time. It’s challenging in a lot of different ways. I hate multi-tasking, working from home – but often, I have my boys in reach at times when I wouldn’t usually. I love that my co-workers get to play peek-a-boo with Jonas, and I love that I can take a five minute break and play Mama Whale Baby Whale.
It is what it is, right now, this life we’re living. We have to deal with what we’ve got, and what I’ve got is a lot of blessings. And I’m going to enjoy it all as best I can.
This month has been bonkers. It’s been a rough transition from summertime to the school year. That, combined with the uncertainty of COVID times and the horror of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death, has made for a pretty tough month.
1. The final season of The Good Place has FINALLY come to Netflix. I’ve never been more in need of something to binge that’s hilarious but also familiar. Bonus: I’m also really eager to watch The Social Dilemma.
2. Edgar has started attending an outdoor nature preschool three days a week, and it is the best thing that’s happened to us all year. He loves it, and it’s already been helping him so much. Edgar is an introvert and a homebody, and he’s never once complained about being stuck at home with us. But I’ve noticed little things – a little boredom, a touch of restlessness, a decline in social skills, an increase in irritability – that I’ve chalked up to COVID side effects. Those things have all improved since he started school. He goes on hikes every day, he comes home with crazy collections of sticks, rocks, and bark, and he’s much less toy-obsessed than he has been in the past. Seriously – best decision we ever made.
3. New books by two of my favorite authors! All The Devils Are Here and Troubled Blood both came out this month. I actually BOUGHT them, which is something I almost never do. It’s been delightful to curl up with a novel. I’ve been reading a ton lately, but mostly nonfiction, which is great but not really the cozy vacation that I enjoy with a new novel by a favorite author.
4. Edgar is newly obsessed with sea creatures, and it’s adorable. I spend a lot of my day answering questions about whales, sharks, and jellyfish. (And a lot of my day looking up the answers to questions about whales, sharks, and jellyfish.)
3. OUR NEW KITTEN! A friend in North Carolina had a little of kittens and drove our new family member up to us last weekend. We’re still trying out names. We’re all obsessed with him, especially Jo Jo, and he’s been a sweet bit of joy in the midst of stressful times.
I was surprised at how easy it was to come up with 5 things I’m grateful for this month, because it’s been a really tough month and a challenging time. My mood has not been great. One of the amazing things about gratitude lists is that it helps us to shift our perspective to focus on the good, even during times that don’t feel great. So maybe Thing # 6 is this: I am grateful for the perspective provided by gratitude lists. Happy September, everyone!
So much happening. So much to process. So little writing actually getting done!
Last week, I noticed that I made a blogging error – a post was published that was still in draft form. SIGH. I wish I could say this was the first time I did that! It’s not, and it likely won’t be the last.
Then, since realizing that error, I have also missed posting days on July 10, 21, 25, and 28. YIKES.
It does make sense that the blogging and the fiction writing have both slipped. I’d like to get back on track – as I indicated in my recent post entitled Getting Back On Track, LOL – but there are a few real things in the way:
-A few big items on my to-do list that are hanging over my head. Really trying to take care of a few big things – paperwork, household things – that have been causing me low level stress for a long time.
–So much to read and learn. I’ve been reading a lot of articles and publications that I don’t usually consume. This is partly related to the antiracism resources that have been shared recently on social media, and partly related to working with my local chapter of SURJ (Standing Up for Racial Justice).
–Some part-time work. Usually my summer is work-free but I’ve taken on a bit of part-time work from home.
–SLEEP! My sleep schedule is SO off! It’s bonkers. I’m staying up late reading (or dealing with a four-year-old who has a LOT of things he needs to tell me at 10 p.m.) and then completely failing at waking up at 4 a.m. to write!
I have switched my mindset a little these past few days. Basically, if there’s something on my to-do list that is plaguing me – I’m trying to get it done, even if it means setting writing aside for the day. The work I’m doing with SURJ is important. Keeping my home tidy and sane is important – especially these days, when our home is our haven, our safe place, more than ever before. Spending an hour on Zoom with a friend is important. Contacting my councilman about the local Police Reform bill on the floor is important.
Spoiler Alert: it’s all important. And the writing is, too. I’m a little sad that my summer writing hasn’t been working out as I’d planned. But I also know the things that I’m doing day-to-day are extraordinarily valuable. AND these are – ahem, prepare for an overused word – unprecedented times!
So, oops. But as always – time to reset and move forward. Onward.
For the past few days, I’ve been having a lot of fun exploring activity ideas for my days with the boys.
Once you start looking around for ideas to teach or entertain your toddler and preschooler, it is an endless rabbit hole. There are so many amazing parent bloggers out there, with great ideas for activities. It’s incredibly helpful. I am a fun and silly parent, but ideas for crafts or sensory activities don’t come to me automatically. And I definitely benefit from the pro tips these bloggers provide. Many of them are current or former teachers, and have pro tips about how to set up these activities so that your kids are engaged and your house doesn’t get destroyed – both good things.
These are some of the activities we’ve tried out so far:
Frozen toys. (I can’t remember where I got this from, but I basically just froze some of their toys in a block of ice. They had fun trying to break them out – for a short while. I think this activity will be more fun and science-y when they’re older.)
Mixing play-dough with ANYTHING else. Play-dough and trucks. Play-dough and spaghetti. Play-dough and cups. Anything to mix it up and inspire creative play.
My favorite website so far has been Busy Toddler – such a great resource with so many fun ideas, and really easy to read and follow.
It’s been challenging, not being able to go out and about with the kids. They are pretty easy-going and have been fairly content, but I can tell there are times when they’re bored or feeling uninspired by the same old toys and activities. For them and for me, it’s been fun to break out a new and unexpected activity; they try out new things, they experiment, they figure out new and creative ways to play. It’s been really fun to find creative ideas for experiments and sensory play. Hoping to add to this list throughout the spring and summer.
There is one new habit that we’ve been able to form since moving to our new home, and I have been amazed at how much happiness is brought me.
Let me start by explaining – we didn’t really clean at our old house. That probably sounds ridiculous to people who keep a clean and tidy household, but we really did the bare minimum. We’d wash our dishes – by hand, no dishwasher – eventually. When the floor started to drive Tamara crazy, she’d sweep it. When we knew we were having visitors, we’d deep clean the bathroom. But there was no regular cleaning schedule.
You’d think I’d be too embarrassed to admit this publicly, but I’m not. I have never been a neat and tidy person, and I have a pretty high tolerance for dirt, mud, and general disarray. Plus, at our last house, we were living on a farm, in an extremely old farmhouse that never gleamed no matter how much you cleaned. Keeping the house clean felt impossible. There was new mud and dirt coming in every day, and we had little time to do all the things we wanted and needed to do. I often sacrificed cleaning time for writing time, and I felt good about that.
Now that we’re in a new house and changing up our lifestyle, I feel a little differently about keeping things clean. First and foremost, I want to teach my kids good cleaning habits, and the best way is to teach them is to show them the different tasks that have to be done to keep a household clean and tidy. Secondly, I think I’ve been experiencing a level of low-grade stress due to having a cluttered and disorganized house. I really want to live a Marie Kondo-esque kind of life; I want to know exactly where everything is, because everything has a specific home in the house, and I don’t want to have or store a whole bunch of crap I don’t need. And I think it’s way easier to clean when the clutter is under control.
That said – it’s been hard, and we don’t have a system for cleaning yet. We’re still pretty busy, so I’ve just been quickly spot cleaning things like the bathroom sink or the toilet when I think of it. Things will slow down next month, and we’ll be able to get into a better routine then.
But for the moment, the habit that we have been maintaining successfully is cleaning up the kitchen after dinner. And it had made me SO happy.
It’s so simple. One of us cooks dinner – usually Tamara – and the other parent plays with the boys while that’s happening. We eat together as a family. Then, after dinner, one of us plays with the boys and the other parent cleans the kitchen. Sometimes we get the boys to ‘help’; Edgar does a decent job of wiping down the table and bringing dishes to the sink. Jonas likes to pretend he’s mopping. And when we’re done, there are dishes in the dishwasher, a clean kitchen table, clean floors, and leftovers put away.
I love it. The situation never gets so overwhelming that we’re going to have to spend an hour getting things clean, and I can enjoy my evenings and my mornings without staring at things in the kitchen thinking, I should really go clean that up.
ARE ALL OF THE HOUSEHOLD CHORES GOING TO BE AS SIMPLE AS THIS? I really, really hope so. I want to continue to prioritize writing, reading, and self-care, and I know cleaning and household maintenance take time. I’m okay with that.