Creating New Rituals

Happy New Year, readers! I hope you all had a wonderful and fulfilling holiday break. My family and I had many relaxing moments, but I am very happy to be back to the real world today. The week between Christmas and New Years was a bit of a haze for me.

Our homeschool co-op doesn’t pick back up until next week, but we started our second half of first grade today. I’m excited about all the things JC is excited for this year, and I’ll be writing a full blog on it soon.

But for today, I want to talk about creating new rituals for a fresh year. This year I’m not setting any resolutions, because I feel like making a list of things to do and ways to be better is just setting yourself up for disappointment and frustration. I know I’m not the only one who had a rough go of 2016, and this year, I really want to be good to myself. Here are some of the rituals I hope to create this year for myself and my family:

  • Ending our day with music: At the end of the day when dinner is done, parents are exhausted and the kids get that wild, pre-bedtime wind, we often turn on the TV to kill time before bed. I would like to start trading the TV for music and audiobooks. I’d love to see what playlists my family come up with.
  • The Best Year Ever jar: I’ve made room on our kitchen bookshelf for a big empty jar, and I’m encouraging my family to drop a note inside when something good happens or when they’re thankful for something. At the end of the year, we’ll have a whole jar of happy memories.
  • Using essential oils in my showers: Most days, a shower is the only time I get to myself–and some days even then I have a small visitor pushing trains around the bathroom. I would like to utilize some essential oils and scents to help set a tone for my day.
  • Starting my writing time each day with a writing prompt: I have a whole Pinterest board dedicated to writing prompts and at least 3 books full of them, all for when “I have time”–and this year, I will make the time.
  • I want to set aside a time each week to be creative outside of writing: I used to love to sew and scrapbook and do crafty things. As a homeschooling mom, it was very easy to let those side projects slide. I’d love to pick some of them back up, though. I started a Harry Potter pillow almost 3 years ago I haven’t finished. Is there really any excuse for that?
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It should not take 4 years to make a pillow.

 


I’d love to know: what rituals do you have? 

I’m Going Back to Kindergarten

I think it is time to go back to kindergarten.

No, I’m not talking about JC. I’m talking about us. People. Everywhere.

I don’t have to recap for you what has been going on in the world. I know you, like me, are probably overwhelmed by 24-hour news coverage of shootings, bombs, rape cases, racial tension and a presidential election that makes me wish I could actually vote for the Hermione Granger ticket.

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I’m not going to rehash the details, and I’m not going to give you my opinion. In fact, I thought for days about even pressing “publish” on this blog. The beauty and the nightmare of social media is that when anything happens–good, bad, controversial–people can post their opinions about it. But it seems recently that people have forgotten the most basic etiquette and manners. And so I think it is time to go back to kindergarten and remember a few things.

Like to BE NICE. When bad things happen, and when people get hurt, we want to put the blame somewhere. You know that saying, if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all? I feel like social media needs a gigantic dose of that.

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And to TAKE TURNS. Social media allows us to talk. And talk. And not pay attention to what other people might be saying.

Or to PLAY. Being connected all the time is exhausting. Go outside, read a book that is made of paper and has no buttons. Walk around a zoo and see real animals, not just videos of them acting cute on YouTube.

Make sure to have a SNACK. When you’re hungry, you’re crabby. When you’re crabby, you take it out on other people.

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Do something with FOCUS. Little kids have an amazing ability to focus intently on things–whether it be building with legos, poking things with a stick, or walking very, very, carefully on an imaginary path when you’re in a hurry. Can you remember the last time you focused on one thing because you loved it, and not because you had to?

That we need to USE OUR WORDS, NOT OUR HANDS. Is it just me, or is the violence out of control? Situations escalate far too quickly. It is so, so frightening.

Finally, DON’T LIE. Just don’t. It will eventually come back to get you–and if it doesn’t, you know what they say about karma.

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What lesson do you think the world needs to remember right now?

Reasons Being a Grown-Up is Fun

Lately, JC has been telling me how life is going to be when he is a grown-up.

“Mom, my kids are going to go to bed whenever they want. So probably 11:34 every night. And I will have much more screen time. I will have screen time whenever I want, right? Because that’s what being a grown-up is.”

I always pat his head and tell him not to worry about being a grown-up quite yet. After all, childhood is magical, right? Of course it is–when you’re an adult looking back on it. When  you’re an almost 6-year-old boy, it looks an awful lot like a bunch of adults telling you what to do. We have always tried to include JC in decisions, but there are obviously things he doesn’t get a say in. Like that 11:34 bed time.

Bedtimes are important.


I can’t explain to him why adulthood isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Money worries, laundry, jobs, colleagues, what to make for dinner–there’s a lot of tedious parts of being a  grown-up.

But then I stopped thinking about all the tiresome aspects and started looking at it from his point of view. And I have to be honest–sometimes, being a grown-up can be pretty fun.

When you’re a grown-up, you get to choose what you want to eat. Sure, we should all eat healthy but on the days when you just want a giant milkshake and a chili dog, you can have it. And you have keys to a car that allows you to procure it.

You can eat the middle out of the brownie tray if you want. Or, as I’m likely to do, the middle of the lasagna. Or all of the yummy cheesy chex out of the bag of chex mix.

You get to pick the music you listen to in the car. And you always get to sit in the front seat.

You can call in sick to work. You can’t call in sick to school unless your parents let you. I was lucky–I had cool parents who let me stay home from school on my birthday and every now and then for special occasions. Of course, this was before hardcore attendance rules.

You can wear as much make-up as you want without anyone making you wash it off before you leave the house.

You get to stay up late and watch TV. In bed. Watching TV in bed is the best. I dreamed of doing it when I was a kid–we had a staunch no-televisions-in-the-bedroom-rule at my house–and as an adult it is as cool as I thought it would be.

Of course, when you’re an adult you understand that all these choices have consequences. When you stay up late, you’re tired the next day. When you wear too much makeup, you might get some funny looks (I say ignore them and rock that sparkly blue eyeshadow). The chili dog will inevitably come back to bite you, and you can only call in sick to work so many times before you no longer have a job to call in to.
The secret to adulthood? You’re so busy being an adult that you don’t get to do all that fun stuff. But every now, the stars align. So if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go watch Dawson’s Creek in bed with a giant milkshake and the middle of a lasagna.

What’s your favorite part of being a grown up?

 

Just Yell “Plot Twist!”

Oh, 2016. You are a doozie.

2015 was a very trying year for my family. I had hoped that when we ushered 2016 in, we would be done with transition and change. I was wrong.

Two weeks ago, my husband abruptly lost his job. No warning, no signs. Any time a job is lost, it hits a family hard. But when you’re a single-income homeschooling family, it’s a Really Big Issue.

The night we found out, I sat down with my computer and applied for every job I could find. I was so lucky and so blessed to find a job in under a week as an editor for an Atlanta-area publishing company. And I’m actually getting to use my English degree, which is awesome.

But it’s a huge change.

It’s a change for me, a change for JC, and a change for my husband. It’s a change for our schedule, our co-ops, and my writing. And, to put it lightly, I am change adverse.

I wish I could say that this was going to be the last change for awhile, and that my family was going to sail along smoothly through the rest of 2016. But I don’t think it it. I think there’s a lot more transition in store for us.

There’s a funny thing about being a parent: when things happen, or the sh!t hits the fan, or something happens that you need time to process…well, tough. Sometimes you just have to put on your big girl panties and slap a big smile on your face to keep things normal for your kid. And that’s just what I’ve been doing.

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We’re having a major plot twist right now. But every good story needs a couple of plot twists, right? That’s what makes it interesting. That’s what makes it better.

There’s always a silver lining. I love editing, and I’m getting to put that fancy degree that’s hanging on my wall to use. JC is getting to experience different teaching styles and ideas while his dad pitches in with homeschooling. And I get a chance to be the parent he’s SUPER excited to see at the end of the day…which is pretty cool.

Have you had any major life changes happen recently? How do you deal with life’s plot twists?

Holiday Photos and Other Realities

My social media feeds have been filled with photos of my friend’s adorable children, dressed in their holiday finest, sitting on Santa’s knee or posed, pink-cheeked and smiley, at a Christmas tree farm. Being the modern Mommy that I am, I also take a round of holiday photos early in the season–both for practical purposes (like sending them out in Christmas cards) and for assurances (how long will that adorable white sweater with the silver reindeer on it survive while on a 5 year old boy?). And I did get my one perfect picture: JC in front of the holiday model trains at our city’s botanical gardens, smiling happily. It’s the photo that most people will see, and the one that will most likely end up in our holiday memory book.

 

the perfect photo: how sweet (and edited!) it is

 
It is one photo out of 300 that I took that morning. The other 299 are him flying around the trains, making train noises at the top of his lungs, or with his face in a weird contortion because he never stops talking.

  
 Oh, and there are about 75 of him being an At-At Walker. Because, you know, Star Wars.

 

Yoga? Nope. At-At walker.

 
I really love my one perfect picture. But you know what? I kind of love the other ones more. Because they show my son as he is all the time–full of words and thoughts and movements. Perhaps those are the ones I should be showing to the world: the true images of my boy at this stage in his life.

Because, honestly, I’d love to see the outtakes of some of these perfect holiday photos I see online. I’d love to see the hundreds of shots it took to get the sweet shot. Except for your kid terrified and screaming on Santa’s lap. I despise those pictures and kinda judge you as a parent for making your kid cry.

Looking at all my photos this morning made me think of all the other holiday realities that aren’t always as perfect as they seem: getting the lights strung on your house (and falling off the ladder and cursing the very existence of outdoor illumination); having a big holiday meal (and remembering why you don’t spend time with these people year round and feeling sick from all the decadent food); and hunting for that perfect gift at the mall (while standing in line for 45 minutes while the cashier flicks her light on and off and calls out “price check at counter 7!”). I realize that paints a pretty bleak picture of the holidays. However,  you have to look past the realities and peel back the imperfect to get to what really matters:

Like spending a whole, beautiful morning outdoors with a happy kid and my mom and being lucky enough to capture every stinking moment of it.

Like seeing your kid’s face light up when you light your outdoor lights for the first time (I guarantee they aren’t going to point out the imperfections!).

Like the joy of eating your father’s pie at Thanksgiving–after all, no one makes it like him. The pleasure of catching up with people who have known you since before you can remember, and being surrounded by your own personal brand of crazy. We all have it, you might as well embrace it.

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There’s one in every family

As for standing in line at the mall…well, there isn’t much I can help with there. I suggest internet shopping, and then using the time you’ll save to make hot chocolate, find your favorite crazy relative and make some imperfect memories.

What is your favorite not-so-perfect holiday memory?

 

 

Five.

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I remember the early days, the long hours at seemed to stretch on for eons. The way the afternoon sun would shine into the living room where we would sit, toys and books scattered around us. Those hours–lets be honest, those days–are all in my memory under a haze of new mom exhaustion. They are all in my memory as beautiful moments. Even the three AM ones, when I would groan in frustration when I heard that tiny baby cry.

There weren’t a lot of times when I left infant JC with someone else. I wanted to be there for everything and not miss a moment. Call it attachment parenting, call me overprotective and sensitive, call me just plain crazy–it worked for me. I didn’t know–still don’t know–if the universe would see fit for me to have more than one kiddo, and I wanted all the moments. Because I knew one day, that tiny baby would be blowing out five candles on his cake. I knew that he would want to play with his friends and not need–or necessarily want–my constant supervision. I knew that there would be other people he would learn to adore–and I’m lucky that there are people in his life he loves so much that when they walk into a room, it’s like I don’t exist. I knew there would be a time for baby-sitters and date nights for my husband and I and sleepovers with his grandparents, and I knew when that time came, I wanted to be able to give him his freedoms and not regret missing out on his babyhood.

I realize to some of you–nonparents and parents of older, college-aged children–I must sound dramatic. After all, he just celebrated his fifth birthday. He’s hardly calling home to tell me he’s going on a ski trip with his frat brothers instead of coming home for Thanksgiving. But he’s growing up. The days were long but the years are short. Suddenly he’s not a baby, or a toddler, or even a preschooler. He’s a legitimate big kid.

I’m thankful for his health, his sense of humor (which he only has when he’s in control of the situation), his creativity and his quirkiness. As much as I loved those baby moments, I’m ready to embrace the big boy ones, too.

It’s hard not to wax poetic on his birthday–to recall the day he was born, how I labored at home for hours after telling my husband to get some sleep, quietly spending those last few hours with my boy while I still carried him under my heart;  how the doctor laughed at me when I told him I didn’t take the birthing class and I was going to need a pretty specific overview of how things were going to play out; calling my mom at 5 AM and saying, “the nurse says he’ll be here by lunchtime, it’s for real this time!”; looking at him the first time and thinking, of course that’s him, and knowing I would have recognized him anywhere; knowing something was wrong with his breathing before the nurses did; the panic of having to leave him in the NICU and the joy of getting to bring him home a few days later.

Right now, JC loves hearing about the day he was born. He loves to pore over pictures with me, listening to the story over and over. I know one day he won’t want to hear it, he’ll groan “Mo-ooooom!” when I talk about the day he came into the world. So I’ll tell him as many times as he wants until that day.

After all, it’s one of the best stories I know.

Today I’m linking up with Mama Kat and her writing workshop and blogging about something sweet. 🙂 

On the Move

I’m back to blogging after a break in which we moved from our city apartment to a roomy house in the suburbs, and I have some things to report.

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Moving is hard. Especially for almost five-year-olds. Luckily, Grover helps.

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Hello Everybodeee!

As does shoveling packing peanuts.

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I really, really have too many books. This isn’t even half. You guys, the movers DID NOT like me.

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Moving isn’t the hardest part. Getting settled into a new house is the hard part. Yesterday JC stated, “Mom, I do not like this new house. You know why? Because your bathroom is too big.” And then he burst into tears. Luckily, playing baseball in his new yard eases the pain of his parent’s oversized bathroom.

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You find weird things when you move. While I was going through a box of my father’s old things, I came across this sugar packet from Disney World. From my parents honeymoon. in 1981.

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Not throwing it away. Nope.

Tomorrow is the start of our first full week in our new home, and I’m excited to start finding our patterns in a new space. And writing. And re-reading all the books I made the movers haul around.

How long have you been in your home? Any tips of transitioning a young child into a new space?