Monday, August 3, 2015

Prioritzing My Re-Entry

Last week, after a month of living with the pause button on, I made my re-entry to regular life. During July I didn't stress about my chore schedule, I didn't meal plan, I didn't write, I didn't develop or implement any organization systems.

Sometimes we ate at home; sometimes we got take out; sometimes we ate out. Sometimes I had a general idea in the morning of what I'd be cooking, but sometimes I was stopping by the grocery store at 4:00.

Sometimes the toys got picked up every night; sometimes we crashed and took care of it in the morning....or the next night.

Instead of doing laundry every Monday, I did laundry when either a) the baskets were full or b) someone in the family realized they had run out of dance tights or golf shorts or tennis clothes or bathing suits.

I did chores when I had time (or when the need was desperate) instead of following a daily and weekly schedule.

When I had an idea for a post, I jotted it down in my book instead of trying to carve out a few hours to write.

We've lived like this for a short while a few times over the past few years. Usually in the summer, but occasionally around the holidays, or anytime when life itself is enough for us. It doesn't come from being overwhelmed, but from a conscious decision to truly enjoy the slice of life we're living at that particular moment in time. Rather than trying to force us into a schedule, I relax, and we figure it out as we go. It's a great way to reset myself, relax for a bit, realize that I am not, in fact, the one who is truly in control of my life, and just go with the flow. And most importantly, realize that this isn't how I work best long term, and that the moment will come when it's time for re-entry.

And every time, re-entry feels tough. I get overwhelmed and decide that I like Pause Land and want to go back. Pause Land is a magical place where chores are secondary and feeding the family is open to interpretation. I want to go back to Pause Land. When I'm in Pause Land, I don't feel bad if I get behind or don't write because I'm not trying to do all the things. Pause Land is like vacation and coming home is so hard with the laundry and the routine and the bathtime and the planning dinner every night

You might be thinking that, since coming out of Pause Land is so hard, that I should carry through with regular life and routine and skip hitting that button altogether. If you never go to Pause Land, it won't hurt to come back. But, like vacation, Pause Land is necessary to me. I just need to figure out the return. Usually, I make a grand plan and try to do it all at once. Monday is ok. Tuesday is less ok. By Wednesday I'm usually both horribly behind and feeling overwhelmed with a heaping dollop of guilt.

This time, I decided to re-enter in stages.



So far, it's working for me. Right now, my only re-entry point is coming back to writing. That's my focus. I happen to have a week where, for three days, I have two child-free hours in the morning while both girls are at camp. I'm spending all six of those hours at a computer with a coffee.

This weekend my parents are taking the girls for an overnight, and I plan to take that time to do the big organizational stuff. The fall schedule of activities. Madison's allowance/chore chart. Madison's school stuff (a big undertaking this year). My weekly routine/schedule. Our meal plan format and a solid catalog of options for weeknight meals. A list of what we need for September - fall clothes, new shoes, school supplies. I'm finishing up my nook (a project that had an unfortunate six week hiatus before completion) and I can get my paperwork organized there.

After that, we'll start implementing those systems - slowly. Rather than get overwhelmed and let something slip, we'll add one system at a time. Because although being organized and structured helps the Mommy part of my life, trying to do everything at once overwhelmed the Meredith part. And taking care of ME is important.

I can do that.

Priorities.

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Friday, July 31, 2015

More Than Just a Rug

This post was sponsored by Wayfair. I received this rug for my participation. As usual, my story is mine.

I don't know about you, but one of the things that hints that I am, in fact, a middle aged surburban mom is what I tell people that I'm "dying for" or "lusting after". For example, after my last major car repair (both mufflers, thank you very much), I went out to dinner with my girlfriends and chattered away about how I hated to get this repair done because I was "lusting after" a minivan. Or a big SUV.

Lusting after a minivan. Wow.

And I will tell anyone who sets foot in my house, near my house, or just near me when I happen to be thinking about my house that I am "dying for" new flooring. I orate passionately about how much I hate our current kitchen tile and old family room carpet and how desperate I am to replace them.

Desperate for new flooring. That's right.

Adam and I have been married for eleven years today. Eleven years ago we started our married life with our vows, shiny new rings, and a lot of boxes from our wedding registry. Then a few months later, we bought this house. We unpacked all those boxes filled with pretty dishes and pots and pans and glasses and used our wedding gift cards to do some bigger furnishing.

After eleven years, I'm as happy as ever with the marriage, but the shine has definitely worn off the home goods.




Hey, I'm still happy and in love with the important thing from eleven years ago. I'm not that fickle.

I want another shower. I want another influx of gift cards for home stores. I remember looking through my registry eleven years ago with my mother and mother-in-law, and their jealousy. My mother-in-law proposed getting a new shower every ten or so years - after all, staying happily married is just as celebratory as getting married, right?

I don't see that catching on. But now, eleven years later, I definitely hear where they were coming from. I'm itchy for some redesign. I'm itchy for some freshness. I'm itchy for a transformation...without the new husband or new house.

A new rug did that.

When Adam and I bought this house, one of our first purchases was an area rug to cover the hardwood in our living room. For a few years our living room didn't even have furniture - we jokingly called it the "Christmas Tree Room" - but that rug and some drapes added the warmth, with a definite formal feel. Over the years we added some furniture and a piano, but once the girls arrived, the room slowly turned from a formal room into a room designated for playtime and toy storage. And lovely as our old rug was, it just didn't fit the new use. We had a very formal room with a floor covered in princesses. It didn't work.

The rug from Home Dynamix at Wayfair works. The coloring still coordinates with our drapes and furniture, but the style takes the room into a place that's more appropriate for play. It's incredibly soft and cozy, making it much more inviting to sit on while participating in Strawberry Shortcake role play. It gave the room a face lift, without doing a major design change.




It's more than just a rug.

Thank you Wayfair. After eleven years, this was a perfect anniversary gift.

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Thursday, July 30, 2015

Unpause

And...unpause.

I love living and knowing that I have a pause button.

There are two places that I love to reference when it comes to hitting the pause button. One, of course, is the fabulous Parenting, Illustrated with Crappy Pictures. Amber is not shy at all about hitting the pause button and living her life offline from time to time. Of course, she is a huge blogger with two published books, and thousands upon thousands of dedicated fans, and I am ME, but no matter who you are, the pause button is an effective one to have in your life.

The other is the show How I Met Your Mother. If you're not familiar, first, go directly to Netflix and start binge watching it. Second, to understand this concept, in the show two of the main characters have a system where they can pause an argument at any time, giving them a break. You can go out to dinner, you can hang out with your friends, you can have fun, and then, when you've got the time and energy to focus on whatever it is you're wrestling with, you agree to unpause.

Good system, right?

Over the past month, I've been in a state of perpetual pause with this site. Our summer life has been busy, and I really wanted to focus on living it. I wanted to hang out at the pool. I wanted to get a chance to play tennis. I wanted to let the girls do all the activities they wanted to. I wanted to use my afternoon that the sitter comes to get a pedicure, go shopping, and relax. Writing and editing this site isn't exactly an argument I'm trying to get away from, but it is something that requires my time and energy. And, while I'm writing, my full attention.

I needed to make a decision. Keep writing with a mind that wasn't entirely focused, putting out content that was of questionable quality, or hit pause.

I hit pause.

I decided not to make a big deal about it. I kept posting on Facebook and Instagram (albeit a bit more lightly). But I didn't make any sort of announcement. I stepped back, I took a breath, and I hit pause.

Was it a decision with no consequences? I'm not sure. If I'm not writing, you're not reading. And if you're not reading, no one is here. I could very well be unpausing to an empty room. Will everyone come back now that I've decided to unpause? I don't know. I hope so. I'm actually hoping that I wasn't the only one who put a pause on certain activities this summer. But I may have lost some readers, and I need to be OK with that. I think I am.

Pausing for July also meant that I didn't get to share some really great things. Madison turned five. FIVE. Remember the second post I ever wrote here? She turned two. I had a baby - two babies really - when I started writing, and now I have a kid. Not a toddler, not even a preschooler, but school aged kid. That's big.

I had my second summer trip to Blogger Bash in NYC, and the irony of talking up my blog to numerous brands while I knew I was on pause was not lost on me. Best time to be taking a break? Maybe not.

We finished our first year of competition dance, switched studios, and decided to dive more deeply in. We agreed to let Madison start private lessons, and to compete a solo this year. We decided on a preschool for Reagan, and we've started preparing for that. I'm attempting to declutter a bit. I'm working on new ways to get organized, get focused...in September.

We're busy now, but we're summer busy. Lazy busy. Busy with pool time and popsicles and tennis and dance and gymnastics and eating outside and seeing friends. Busy with two kids who are growing up and coming into their own. As July turns to August, our summer activities calm down and we can be lazy while we get ready for September. And I really hope that you'll still be here.

Unpause.

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Thursday, June 25, 2015

Summer Reading For All

We've been doing our summer schedule for almost a week now, and we're just about getting used to it. The girls aren't having a "crammed with camps" summer, but they're also not having a "do nothing" summer, and that's an adjustment for me. Madison has some sort of activity every day - a 30 minute sports clinics or a swimming lesson, and she's in an intensive dance program that mimics her school year commitment. Reagan is taking lessons for the first time, and she's keeping up with her gymnastics as well.

This is all great. Madison is thrilled to be back to dancing, and I love that they're outside daily in the pool or on the tennis court, but it is definitely busy. We're not keeping up with the school schedule we had over the year, and the girls are crashing at night, often before I even make it out of the room. When we do have down time, they're reaching for the iPads. Most of those games are educational, but they're not exactly what I'd like them to be doing with their time.

So yesterday Madison and I went through her room and made two piles of books. A pile that she can read to me, and a pile that I can read to her.

It's fascinating what she put in the pile that I read to her. About a year ago I started reading the Little House books with Madison. We started with Little House in the Big Woods, and we read right through, stopping after The Long Winter (when Laura was a bit more grown up). After we stopped a few months ago, we moved into some other novels.

So it was surprising to me that in addition to the Rainbow Fairy and Never Girls and Magic Treehouse books that we've had sitting on the shelf, Madison added Little House in the Big Woods right back to the pile. I love that she's already found the pleasure in re-reading an old friend, finding new things she missed the first time, getting excited as she anticipates her favorite parts.

Both girls are still at an age where they tear through their books at various times during the day, and we save the majority of the read aloud time for bed. But this summer, I think this might be our down time during the day - the moments when we need to sit in the shade and take a break from the running and swimming and dancing - instead of at night, when they can't keep their eyes open to listen to an entire chapter.



””

Kids definitely get their ideas about reading from their parents. I love that Madison is discovering great books she wants to read again and again, but I don't know that she ever would have grabbed any of these Little House books on her own. I'm thrilled that the National PTA is kicking off a Family Reading Challenge. During July, the National PTA will help families with tips and activities to encourage families reading together. They're challenging parents to share photos, videos and memories that demonstrate how reading is a fun and important family activity all year round - not because you have to read, but because reading is something enjoyable to do.

We're definitely in. I love taking a little relaxing time after lunch to get into some reading with both girls before we head back to the pool or the tennis court or the dance studio. Want to join us? Find out more at PTA Reading Challenge.


  • 61% of low-income families in the U.S. have no age-appropriate books in their homes for children.
  • Good reading habits have a greater impact on a child’s reading skills than household income.
  • Nearly 40% of parents say their child does not spend enough time reading for fun.
  • 73% of children get ideas from their parents for books to read for fun.
  • Where parent engagement is high, classrooms score 28 points above the national average.
  • - See more at: http://ptareadingchallenge.org/ideas/blog-party-toolkit/#sthash.WxMESwua.dpuf
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    Monday, June 22, 2015

    Be Careful What You Wish For

    A few weeks ago, the pool opened on weekends.

    I wrote about how I was concerned about Reagan and how I'd have to push her, most likely kicking and screaming, into the big pool and swim lessons. But darn it, I was taking a stand.

    The next day she went in, tentatively and clinging to me like a baby koala, wanting me to stay near the steps, just like Madison used to. No one but Mommy would do.

    Then, a lightbulb went on and she realized it was fun.

    And we haven't stopped her since.

    No, seriously, we can't get her out of the "big cool" now.

    Sidenote: speech aside, calling it the "cool", instead of the "pool" is totally adorable and I have no intention of correcting her. She can make a /p/ sound so I'm not holding her back. This is just cute. And logical when you think about it.

    She hasn't taken swimming lessons yet, and even though she is a whopping thirty-seven inches tall, that still means that if she put her feet down in three foot area the only thing poking out will be the tippity top of her head.  Which probably won't help anything.

    So until swimming lessons have started, my rule has been that you either have to

    a) wear your floaty (which she hates with a firey passion and takes off every chance she gets, probably because it's small on her)
    b) go in with a grown up (which is me about ninety percent of the time) or
    c) stay on the steps.

    Reagan strongly prefers B the majority of the time, but since one of my celebrations in graduating to the "big cool" was that I could actually sit on a lounge chair with the grown ups every once in a while. So while I will go in with her at least once or twice every time, I don't like to spend all my time being Reagan's personal "raceboat".

    So since she hates the floaty so much, if I'm taking a "cool" break, she's been content with C. She knows she can't touch the bottom and she's not really a water daredevil.

    The older one with swimming lessons, who can touch the bottom, is wearing a floaty like a security blanket. The younger one, with zero swimming instruction, is not. That makes sense.


    Well, this past weekend I realized that it's a darn good thing that lessons start this week. Because this kid's confidence is high. 

    I'd been in with her, but I'd gotten out to do something with Madison, and I was drying off on a lounge chair while she played on the steps with a few of her friends. I reminded her a few times to stay there.

    I looked up a few minutes later and she was halfway across the pool.

    OK, that sounds dramatic. She had scooted over to the wall from the steps, and, holding onto the wall, was making her way around the entire shallow end. No fear, no remorse, just pride that she was doing it! All by herself!

    Before anyone freaks out that my kid was "unattended" in a pool she can't touch in, there is a lifeguard seated in a low chair at the very edge of the shallow end, whose entire job is just to watch the kids in the three foot area
     
    I scooped her out and put her floaty on, and she went right back in and completed a full lap of the entire shallow end, hanging onto the wall, complaining the entire time about how her floaty was getting in her way.

    Long story short, be careful what you wish for. All I wanted was for two kids to be willing to take lessons. What I got was a little fish who waits until I'm not looking to scare me.

    It might be a long summer.
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    Monday, June 8, 2015

    Free To Be KIDS This Summer



    Before I had kids, I remember watching a reality show (no, I'm not admitting which one) and totally laughing at the mom and her feeling on letting her kids get dirty. This mom was worried about the kids' clothes for goodness' sake. So much so that she wouldn't let the kids do kid things. Because heaven forbid those clothes get stained. Geez. Relax lady! They are kids! Kids get dirty. Not news.

    Fast forward a few years. I have two little girls who can easily rival any little boy in clothes staining ability. Probably more so, because in addition to the food stains (my children seem to drag their clothes through their food), and the mud and grass and disgustingness that my children find fascinating (sorry boy moms, you don't have the monopoly on this one), they are also drawn to glitter paint and fancy markers and "washable" makeup.

    Now I'm not quite as paranoid about stains as this reality show mom (still not telling you which one). But there have been days when I've got the girls in brand new shirts or dresses or bathing suits, and I can see the staining happening . In slow motion, like one of those movie scenes. NOOOOOOOOO....

    The other day Madison was wearing a t-shirt for the first time. She's just starting shopping in the "big girl" section of the store, and I'm proud when I find clothes in her size that I approve of. This was a basic t-shirt with a few summer-y, Hawaiian style flowers on it. She had it paired with a new pair of modest shorts that matched the flowers perfectly. Basic, cheap, summer play clothes, but she was looking cute.

    The girls are old enough now to have free reign over the basic creative supplies - crayons, washable markers, glue sticks. The stuff I trust them with. I'm not crazy enough to leave the paint or glitter out for a free for all, but I did have a freeing feeling when they could actually draw without having to ask for permission. On this particular day, they were stamping.

    And then I saw it.

    Madison was holding the ink pad with one hand and stamping with the other. But she was pressing the ink pad up against her body. She was literally stamping her brand new shirt with a quartet of colors.

    And I lost it.

    I snatched the shirt off her and started pretreating it and moaning about how she had this brand new shirt for one hour and you need to be AWARE of treating things well and how now I had to spend all this time doing laundry and her new shirt was ruined...and I realized I had become that mom. The mom who freaks out over stain removal and forgets that four year old kids are messy sometimes. A four year old shouldn't be freaking out over the possibility of a stain where they prioritize it over play.

    Seriously, laundry isn't the chore it used to be. What's great about detergent is that you don't have to choose sensitive skin over stain removal anymore. A detergent like all free clear (and especially all free clear OXI booster) can get the stain, keep skin free from irritants, and let you relax about laundry. You can live free. And how freeing is that?



    Stomp in the mud puddles.

    Eat the melty popsicle.

    Color with sidewalk chalk.

    And stop worrying about the clothes. Let the kids be kids, let the detergent handle the mess, and know that a happy kid is worth all of it.


     
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