5 Things I’m Grateful For (May 2021)

So much to be grateful for.

  1. So many good books! Among my faves recently: The Four Winds, The Dutch House, The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, and The Girls Are All So Nice Here. Currently, I’m reading How Beautiful We Were by Imbolo Mbue (author of Behold The Dreamers, which was a wonderful read), and it is incredible.
  2. Early morning coffee and reading. I love waking up early, reading my book, and sipping my coffee. I love knowing that one of the boys will soon wake up, wander out of his room, and crawl up in my lap.
  3. Our Friday pizza-and-movie night! A few months ago, we decided it was time to scale back our COVID era screen time habits. While I was working from home with the boys afoot, they watched a lot of TV shows and movies while I was in meetings, and while it was necessary at the time, it was more screen time than we’d like to continue now that things are returning to semi-normal circumstances. We decided a movie after dinner would only be an option on Friday nights, and that Fridays would be pizza-and-move nights every week. I love it; at the end of a work week, it feels so nice to a) not have to decide, once again, what we’re having for dinner, and b) know that we’ll be able to either clean/tidy while the boys watch, watch the movie with them, or (my fave) sit with them but secretly read our books while they watch.
  4. The boys’ obsession with water play. Edgar started asking for our inflatable pool on the first day when it was 65 degrees. Now that it’s been in the 70s and 80s, we’ve had quite a few afternoons of splashing and playing in the backyard; they both will play happily for hours. So excited to get these boys to the pool club this summer.

Happy (almost or actual) summer, everyone!

Photo by Michelle Leman on

GTDI2021: Connection + Community

It’s been energizing to write and publish posts about my 2021 goals this spring. This will likely be the last post in my Getting Things Done In 2021 (GTDI2021) series, and it’s an important one.

When I started wrapping my brain around the different goals and intentions I wanted to set for myself, I organized them into these separate categories – and ultimately, into a separate blog post for each category.

I started with the Big Five – the five high priority goals I want to achieve this year. Then I set some goals/intentions in the areas of kid routines + rituals, unimportant #mind goals (crossword puzzles and lots o’reading!), and writing.

After these four posts, I found that there were a few things left over that were hard to categorize. There were goals I had related to educating myself, contributing to my community, connecting with family and friends, and other things. They’re not specific, or measurable. But they are important intentions, and I want to make note of them as we creep closer to a return to semi-normalcy.

  1. Be connected. Make play dates with friends and family, and get comfortable with being out and about in the community again. Make phone calls, text, send photos, send packages.
  2. Be informed. Finish reading Do Right By Me and start reading We Want To Do More Than Survive. Either listen to a news podcast (Crooked Media or NPR) every day or check the NPR app every day. I’ve been avoiding social media, which has been HEAVENLY – but I do notice that staying away from Facebook/Instagram sometimes means I’m not in the know about what’s happening in the world. Hoping that the daily podcasts help!
  3. Be of service to others. Stay connected and engaged with SURJ and accountability partners. Attend AA meetings and help others.
  4. Be intentional. Write your intentions for the week every Sunday. (Look out for a post about my new intentions routine soon!)

WHEW. That’s it. That’s all the stuff I want to get done in 2021. Stay tuned for my new monthly goals check-in, when I’ll get real about what’s getting done and (let’s be real) what’s not. Happy spring!

Photo by Linda Eller-Shein on

GTDI2021: Kid Routines + Rituals

I love routines and rituals, but I’m not the best at implementing them. While certain habits are automatic to me – like going for a run every day – many others, like washing my face, are not.

I believe routines and rituals are valuable for kids, so I have to work really hard to implement them for our family. I’ll never be as organized and routine-oriented as some moms are, but I do okay and that’s just fine.

This spring, as I contemplate all kinds of different goals, I’m re-committing to a few kid routines that are important to me and will help our family life run smoother.

-Semi-daily review of our calendars. We have several calendars around the house. The boys each have one in their room – though Jonas’s black cat calendar is hung way up high on the wall so he won’t pull it down and attempt to tear it in shreds! In the kitchen, we have a kid-friendly Melissa and Doug calendar and we have a family wall calendar that we use to keep track of commitments and events. I want to re-commit to reviewing the calendar with the boys on a semi-daily basis – even if it just means ME changing the day, date, or month and talking about it out loud as I do it.

Tidying as we go! When the house is not tidy, it’s not just my job to clean it up. We can all work together to do it. I am pretty good at doing this with the kids, but could be better; occasionally, things get kind of messy, and then it’s harder to tidy as we go, because so much of the mess has accumulated. I want to re-commit to thinking about cleaning up as a family job and as a skill that is valuable and important for the boys. I’d love to be able to truly say, “I don’t clean up after my kids.”

Scheduled time for chores and housecleaning. We are tentatively set on Friday afternoons and Sunday afternoons being times when we have a few jobs we each have to do related to housecleaning.

A more luxurious bedtime routine. Sometimes, it’s 7 p.m., and I am just DONE. I don’t want to read an extra story, and I get really impatient. I want to work on this, because I hate ending the boys’ day with my own crabbiness, right before they fall asleep. I want them to feel relaxed and loved and tucked in. That might mean starting our “couch books” a little earlier in the evening, or just prepping myself for reading a couple of extra books. Anything that helps me stay energized and calm a little later before I crash into my bed!

Encouraging independence whenever we can. Sometimes, we’re great at this, and sometimes I help Edgar get his socks on – which he’s fully capable of doing independently – because he’s cranky. Or because I’m cranky. Or because we’re in a rush, or there’s just a lot going on, and it’s just easier. Which is totally okay! But I do value independence, and so I do want to re-commit to encouraging both of our boys to build their skills.

It’s always good to reflect on things like this and set new intentions for mindful, peaceful, and playful parenting. Onward!

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on

family + parenting

Adorable Things My Kids Are Up To Lately

My sons, Edgar and Jonas, are 4 and 2 years old right now, and those are pretty great ages when it comes to doing adorable things. Here are some of my favorites lately:

  • Edgar announcing something we forgot to do. Every night at dinner, we say things we’re thankful for, write them on a post-it note, and put the post-its in a Mason jar. Edgar always remembers this ritual, which is great for me, since I love rituals but often forget to do them. He often announces, “We forgot to say what we’re thankful for!” However, often he’ll announce that immediately after our blessing – sooooo, we didn’t actually forget yet, we just haven’t started it yet. He does this with other routines, too, but this occurrence is my favorite.
  • Jonas making sure we’re okay. Every time Tamara or I stumble or bump into something (happens to me more than it should), Jonas stops whatever he’s doing and asks, “Are you okay, Mom?” in his amazing two-year-old voice. SO. FREAKING. SWEET.
  • Edgar’s letter to Santa. This is a bit of a throwback, but during Christmas 2020, Edgar “wrote” a four page scribble letter to Santa. He would not tell anyone what it said; just left it out by the milk and cookies. He also wrote two scribble letters to Santa before Christmas, and again wouldn’t share what they said. It was adorable. I was slightly worried he’d sent a secret message to Santa that would result in disappointment on Christmas, but everything on the holiday was just perfect.
  • On my birthday, the kids sang happy birthday to me at every meal we ate that day – breakfast, lunch, dinner, two snacks, and cake. Amazing.
  • Edgar has always been great at independent play. He’ll get lost in his own thoughts, playing with a small toy or two, and we’ll hear him quietly talking to himself. I love it. I can hear him telling himself stories or acting out a book we’ve read or a movie he’s watched. He likes to tell us that he’s making a show or telling a story.
  • Jonas doing EVERY SINGLE THING THAT Edgar does. EVERYTHING! If Edgar gets a tissue, Jonas gets one. If Edgar drops something, Jonas drops it. If Edgar starts whining that he’s tired, Jonas – all smiles, because he is NOT tired – will start whining as well. Love this when it works to our advantage – do NOT love it when it involves a real 4yo meltdown followed by a fake 2yo meltdown.
  • Edgar asking, “Cam I do this every day?” Edgar’s been learning to do lots of new things, big and small. Opening the latch on his blue boat toy, riding his pedal bike. Whenever he learns to do something new, he asks, “Can I do this every day?” When I tell him that yes, he can, he gets the sweetest, tiniest smile on his face.
  • Edgar’s great ideas. likes to tell us, “I have a great idea!” The other day, he was holding a small red dragon, and e, “I have a great idea! We can build a new dragon toy.” saying, I habve a great idea. said, i want to bnuiold a new dragon – so that he would not have to share the pone in his hand with his little brother.
  • Once we started having warmer days, I told the boys they could take off their shoes while we played in the backyard. Edgar’s eyes LIT UP. He kicked off his shoes. He then repeatedly told me “I love being barefoot!” the whole time we were outside playing.
  • The two of them like to make up games. One of the games, called “Pop!”, involves them running across the yard or the basement screaming “POP!!!” at the top of their lungs. “Egg!” is a variation.
  • Hide-and-seek. Playing hide-and-seek at these ages is the best. They’re not very good at it yet, but they LOVE it. Our fave way to play is me hiding in the living room, and the two of them count to ten in Edgar’s room. Then they come find me and shriek with fear and joy when they find me. Then I run into Edgar’s room and hide there. We go back and forth like that for a while. Sometimes they take a while to find me, because they’re having so much fun being silly and pretending to be scared, which means I can bring my book to my hiding place and read two or three pages without being interrupted. Amazing.
  • They are both really into writing and drawing lately. They each have a “writing book” and they like to bring them with them wherever they go. Love this SO MUCH.

I plan to do posts like this occasionally; at these ages, there are so many sweet and amazing things every day, and I want to remember as much as I can.

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GTDI2021: Unimportant #Mind Goals

This spring, as I’ve been trying to organize my goals in my head, I was reminded of the original theme for this blog.

When I started the blog, I wanted to write about balance. I referenced the children’s book The Seven Habits Of Happy Kids, specifically a story about a character who loved to read, but often neglected the other areas of her life that she needed for balance. When she read, she took care of her mind – but she needed to do things to take care of her heart, body, and soul, too.

So when my blog first started, I’d write a post about a get-together with family, and I’d label the post with a hashtag – #heart. Or, I’d write a post about a new podcast that was teaching me a lot, and I’d label it #mind – and so on.

I started thinking about the whole heart/soul/mind/body balance thing because I was contemplating a goal related to the New York Times crossword puzzle. We subscribe to the paper and the puzzle, digitally, and I love doing the puzzle – though I often forget to do it, especially if I’m in the middle of a good book. Then one day, my older sister sent me a screenshot of her NY Times puzzle app – she was on a streak of over 40 days! It got me super motivated to start doing the puzzle more regularly. I love crosswords because they’re fun, it’s great brain food, they’re educational (I often learn facts I didn’t know previously), and it’s a good stress relief.

This goal – doing the crossword puzzle more often, and attempting to achieve a substantial streak – would definitely have been fallen into the category of nourishing my #mind. And it’s a great goal. And yet – it’s not that important, and it’s not a priority. I want to challenge myself not to give up on the puzzle so easily. (Usually, if I feel stuck, I click “Reveal Word” and the app will show me the answer to a clue I don’t know.) But if I don’t get on a good streak, or maintain consistent completion of the puzzle? It’s really 100% okay.

When I thought about it more, I realized that I have another 2021 goal that falls into the category of Not That Important – my GoodReads reading challenge. At the beginning of the year, I set an ambitious goal of reading 75 books this year. (Typically, I read around 50 – so this would be a big jump!) When setting this goal, I hoped that it would help me to waste less time scrolling through unimportant things on my phone. Sometimes, I am about to check social media, and I remember that if I want to read 75 books, I need to read at every chance I get – and then I DON’T scroll social media, which is so much better for me personally. But again – does it really matter if I only read 50 books? Not even a little bit. This goal is fun, and beneficial, but unimportant in the big picture.

Here is my list of not-that-important mind goals:

  1. Do the NY Times crossword puzzle daily – aim for a streak of seven days solving the puzzle with zero hints! (Never going to happen, but cannot hurt to try. Last week, I hit 4 days in a row, and I never would have done that if I hadn’t set this goal.)
  2. Read 75 books in 2021. (Currently, I’ve read 26, so I am on track to achieve this goal!)

Cheers to getting things done – the high-priority and the unimportant!

Photo by Janko Ferlic on