A Little Life Chat

The second half of June has historically been a time of reflection for me. It is the halfway point of the year and a good time to sort of do a little check in and evaluate. So that’s what we are doing today. It’s a bit early, but I felt like it was just…right. That and I don’t have my next Castle’s post fully ready to post ha-ha.

Untitled Design 53

So, 2020. What a year so far, right?! We’ve faced a global pandemic and a global uprising/protest. We’ve seen communities, families, strangers all come together to accomplish some incredible things. I’ve learned some things about myself, about those that I am close to, and how to get uncomfortable. 2020 is going to be a year for the history books and I think we are going to see some real changes moving forward in regard to both the pandemic and the uprising. We aren’t going to go back to “normal” because that wasn’t working, but I do think the changes that we are starting to see, and initiate will lead to a better world. I don’t want to call anything a “new normal” because “normal” in any sense just doesn’t work for us anymore. It makes it sound like we are just striving to the average way of life, instead of always striving to do better, be better, make better changes.

For us as a family 2020 has been full of changes so far as well. We’ve seen our oldest go into his first session of preschool, to then do virtual schooling, our youngest has grown quite the little personality, and both have narrowed down their current interests quite a bit (dinosaurs, cars, Lego’s, and trains are the top). We’ve gone through a couple of work separations, work changes, and some disappointing news that I’m not sharing just yet ( I KNOW how annoying that is, but it’ll come).

It’s also ONLY June. We still have a full half a year to go in 2020.

Something else I kind of wanted to do was do a little check in on some of my resolutions that I shared. I want to see where I stand with them, while understanding that a lot of things have drastically changed from when I wrote those in late December.

So, my New Year’s Resolutions post can be found HERE

My first goal was to spend the first half of the year focusing on my website and SEO. I’ve been doing quite a bit of learning in this area, but haven’t yet gotten on Pinterest. When quarantine hit I thought it was going to be a great chance to really focus and hone in as, well…we couldn’t do anything else. But, as I quickly learned it was the complete opposite of that and trying to make drastic changes was not in my wheelhouse. I plan to refocus this goal to the second half of the year and have a good Pinterest thing going in the next 3 months or so.

My second overarching goal applied to the second half of this year (in regards to writing and publishing), so I still have time on that one!

My next group of goals was in regards to content. I wanted to make sure that what I was posting was what I felt 100% about and not to feel pressured to constantly be posting. I think that I’ve actually been really good at this, partly because of Covid-19, but also just because I’ve tried to be very intentional about posting. I love sharing and writing, but I also want to continue to enjoy that. I took a bit of time in February off, there were a couple weeks in March (or maybe April) where I only posted once a week, and that all just felt good. It keeps me feeling fresh and allows me a breather to re invigorate myself and my content.

The next group was in regards to reading, family time with my boys, travel, and quality time. I was doing better about reading a wider variety of books, but I’ve recently (like many others) been reminded that I can continue to do better in this area. I am pledging to myself to not only read a wider variety of genre’s and stories, but read a wider variety of authors. As for the family time with the boys, well we’ve been really forced into that, haven’t we? I will say in so many ways this has been so good for our family. We’ve really just gotten a chance to be together without the whole outside world distracting us. It’s been nice for the boys to have mommy and daddy home all the time, but it’s made our recent work separation all that much harder.

We all know what is going on with travel and the lack of it due to Covid-19. However, we recently just were informed that our restriction for travel within the country of Germany has been lifted so I am eagerly looking for some getaways within the country. We are also starting to hopefully be able to plan for some Fall or Winter trips. Keeping our fingers crossed.

My final goal was to do more date nights with my husband and well…that’s gone about the same way as the travel goal ha-ha. Hopefully though, now that our restrictions are being lifted more and more we can start doing those date nights again. I know that I am ready for some kid free time with my husband.

So, that’s my check in on 2020 so far. As we go into the second half of the year, I want to continue to listen, inform, and better educate myself on our community and world at large. I want to strive to be better and do better.

How is your 2020 so far?

What I’ve Learned from Quarantine

Ah Quarantine. We’ve been under it for almost 2 months now and while most of the country is slowly starting to come back to, what I’m calling, new normal, we are still under a level of Quarantine (this is due to my husband’s work).

Here’s the thing, we have all processed this stressful time differently. I’ve had some incredibly stressful low moments during the past couple months and I’ve definitely had some really great moments too. I didn’t really learn a new hobby, pick up a craft, or do anything truly beyond my normal (except running, but I’ll get to that in a minute). I don’t think that anyone should have felt like they needed to do anything like that. In fact, honestly, I feel like if we’ve all made it through this and are starting to see our light at the end of the tunnel, then that is enough. We all process stress differently and no matter how this has affected you (and it has affected EVERYONE), however you are coping is good. If you’ve become Betty Homemaker Pinterest Goddess, good. If you’ve binge watched everything on Netflix, good. If you’ve started knitting or crocheting, good. If you managed to get out of bed every morning, good.

This post is not about judgement. It’s not about what I think we should have done. It’s not about “oh I’ve done xyz, I’m great”. This post is simply what I’ve learned. How I’ve coped. What our life has been.

Untitled Design 47

I’ve said from the get-go that in so many ways this has been so good for all of us. It’s been incredibly stressful, anxiety inducing, and full of chaos, but there has been something good about it to. We’ve been forced to stop. To stop being so busy. To stop paying attention to everything BUT what is important. We’ve been forced to slow down. In staying home we’ve had to maybe figure out what is truly important. To try something, we’ve always wanted to try. To spend more time with our family. To find out what works and doesn’t work for our mental health. To learn the good, the bad, the ugly about ourselves. To find out what we need.

That’s not to say that this Quarantine has always been some good, incredible learning experience. It’s had a fair share of low moments. I spent an entire weekend one weekend crying my eyes out from stress. I spent the better part of a weekend on my couch not doing much more than reading, scrolling social media, and binge-watching trashy television. I’ve gotten stressed and frustrated with the whole virtual schooling of a preschooler (I’ve learned that I will never be a preschool or elementary teacher- that is just not for me).

BUT, as I mention the bad, I can’t ignore the good of it too. It seems like for every negative we’ve had, there has been a positive to balance it out. For example, with school. I am not cut out for preschool/elementary school teaching. I just don’t have the patience. I’ve known this for a long time (so not a true revelation about myself) and it wasn’t something that I really was interested in doing. HOWEVER, it has been a dream at times to see Colton learn. I’ve always wanted to see how he was in class and here it is, right in front of me. I get to see his eyes light up as he connects the dots in his brain. I get to see him trying hard to please his teachers, to do every assignment, to learn something new.

For me I found out a couple things- some of which I already knew, but this whole Quarantine has proven just how necessary they are to me. I realized how important quiet time to myself is and how anxious, frazzled, and stressed I get if I don’t have even a little bit of it. I’ve found out how much I do lean on my husband and how important the relationship the two of us has is. I’ve found out that as much as I’m a homebody, I love to travel and to explore just as much. I’ve found that that I really do crave little weekly get together with my friends and that in person chat/connection you get from that. I’ve found that while watching TV isn’t my favorite  pastime, there have been some good shows out there that we’ve gotten to watch (and some not so good, but guilty pleasure shows too).

I’ve been shopping small A LOT more (almost exclusively- curious as to who I support? HERE  is a list of a couple of my favorites) and have been trying to move away from the bigger retailers when I can. I’ve really realized what I actually want to do with my time when I get it. How I want to spend my days. I’ve realized that I much rather spend my time hiking up trails, and wandering old towns than I do wandering a mall (ok, this is one of those things I’ve always known).

I’ve found that as much as I’m looking forward to what this new normal is going to be like, to being able to venture out back into the world, that my thought processes over things have changed. While I’m eager to go to this city down the road from me (a bigger one about 20-30 minutes away), it’s more so because I want to walk the streets, feel those cobblestones underneath my feet, rather than because I want to shop. I’m eager to once again hike among the castle ruins, to see history in front of my eyes, to experience life as it was. These are the things that I’ve missed. I’m eager to cherish the time I can get with my friends, the moments we have together out and about, not what we can actually do. I’ve learned that having those slow moments, those slow weekends, just having a lie in or no plans at all, can be a benefit.

Ultimately, I’ve realized that we are incredible people. We can do a lot and we have empathy. I’ve seen people come together to help out friends, families, neighbors they’ve barely known. I’ve seen an outpouring of love that we haven’t seen in a long time and while this last bit of Quarantine has undoubtedly been the hardest (it’s always the hardest when you can see the end, but aren’t getting there) the amount of care that I’ve seen has been amazing.

I hope that moving forward we hold on to that and that we become a little kinder. A little more compassionate. A little more caring to those around us.

April Showers Bring May Flowers

Untitled Design 46

Man, those April showers really hit us hard this year, didn’t they? I feel like for most of us April felt like this never-ending mammoth of a month. It was a month of anxiety with Coronavirus, Quarantine, homeschooling, job security (or lack thereof), and an overwhelming sense of nothing we could do about anything. Businesses were shuttered, our towns became seemingly ghost towns, and it seemed like we either had too much time on our hands or no time at all.

Is it any wonder that we are all looking forward to May?

The last week of April we had on and off rain showers with very little sunshine in between. The thing that has been getting us through this whole Quarantine is that it’s been sunny and 70’s for most of it. We’ve been able to play in the garden all afternoon, go for evening walks, and just feel the sunshine on our face. This last week, without that? It’s been tough (and that’s for someone who LOVES the rain). The boys have been cross, cooped up with too much energy and no good way to let it out.

In a lot of ways, it’s been a very physical manifestation of how so many of us have been feeling towards the end of April. A frustration, an anger, a desire to just get out and do something.

But then, Thursday as the sun set a rainbow came out.

Not just any rainbow, a clear both ends visible, double rainbow. This was our second rainbow of the week (we had gotten a partial one on Tuesday) and both also involved a moment where it looked like the sky was on fire. While I’m not normally the superstitious or symbolic type, it just felt like these were signs. Signs that things were going to be OK. That this rainstorm of a month was coming to an end. That there was hope for the next month or two while we transition. That there was sunshine around the corner.

Earlier in the month (maybe a couple weeks ago), I shared that I wasn’t OK. That I was struggling, and I wasn’t able to see the light, wasn’t able to see all the good around me, wasn’t able to keep my chin up. I spent that entire weekend crying off and on, and it was a really low moment in this year so far. Right now, I can say that I’m back up. I’m feeling about 75% my usual self and that feels so much better to me. I am starting to see the light, I have more good moments than bad, and I feel like I can start tackling life again.

Just like April just seemed to be a never-ending shower of everything, it seems like May is going to bring a bit of a re awakening.

IMG_8939.JPG
Feeling confident walking into May         Photo Credit: My Incredible 4 1/2 yr old, Colton.

 

A welcome reprieve as most of the world is going to start to see some level of restriction/quarantine lessening. While life may not look like it did before Coronavirus, I think we all can agree that we are happy to get back to some semblance of our new normal.

It’s funny how this year has really given us the phrase of “April showers bring May flowers” in both a literal and figurative sense. I hope that wherever you are, however, you have been affected, that you are keeping your mind and body afloat and that you too are able to see the May flowers that are coming our way.

When Being Home is…Overwhelming.

Man, it’s been a strange time hasn’t it? As the entire world seems to slow to a halt and we are all thrust into this new normal, it’s easy to get…well overwhelmed. As an introvert this is even easier. I think it’s also so easy to forget about this when you are not an introvert. But this post isn’t really about that.

Let me be clear…this post is not about the quarantine, shelter in place, isolation, lockdown, whatever you are referring to it as in your own country. I am 100% in favor of this and believe that is absolutely necessary. To me, this is not up for debate. This virus is not something to mess around about (and honestly if you just follow the mandate of staying home, it won’t be a long process to have it work its way through and out) and I am not going to debate something that, at this point, is semantics. Many countries have issued a lockdown measure of some sort, so whatever your feelings are, you are locked down.

This post is about what this actually looks like in terms of mental health. Of what we can do about that, of what we can do with our kids, what we can do for ourselves, and how we work through all of the confusion, overwhelm, and upset. No matter what end you fall on, no matter how this affects you economically, we are all dealing with a lot of feelings.

I don’t have all the answers on this. In fact, as I am writing this, I am struggling myself. I’m struggling with the amount of noise in our home, the never ending feeling of chaos, the nonexistence of a true routine, trying to do some form of “school” with a toddler who desperately just wants to go TO school, and trying to navigate having all 4 of us home ALL THE TIME. As much as I love my family and I’m grateful to have this time together, it’s TOUGH, and I think that is something we can all agree with.

For me, I am struggling with feeling overwhelmed with…well everything. We’ve finally got things up and running for Colton’s school, but that is creating it’s own problem (you can read about this below), I’ve got a million things that I want to accomplish, my husband is still working and going to school, and our house is just…much louder than normal. As an introvert who absolutely needs quiet and alone time it’s just making this a lot harder than I thought it would be. Today is the first day that I just wanted to breakdown.

So, what can we do?

Untitled Design 39
photo credit Daisy from Daisy Zimmer Photography (full photo on my SM)

I talked about how to stay positive last week (you can read that HERE), but what else can we do? I think honestly, the first place to start is to communicate and talk or write it out. Tell your partner or spouse what you NEED in a way that is constructive. For me personally, I NEED to have quiet time. I need to have 10-20 minutes at different points throughout the day of just quiet. Now, this is almost impossible with two toddler boys, but I try to find little pockets where I can take it. I also listen when he tells me he needs something. We are trying to find a good give and take with all of us being home as he is still working and doing school during this time. He has things that he needs the time to do and needs to take care of, and sometimes that means locking himself away for a couple of hours to get those things done.

So, for example, doing a little yoga first thing in the morning. My husband stays quiet during this and does his own thing (homework, check news, check emails) so I can ease into my morning before chaos ensues and the boys wake up. Once I am done with yoga, I try to take another 15 minutes to journal. I write out EVERYTHING. What I am feeling, what I am seeing, what I am hearing. I write about how the previous day went, what I want to accomplish today, and just a general “get your mind right” moment.

Another chance I get to get a little quiet (and build the endorphins) is a run (I mean it’s more of a run/walk, but you get the gist). This week I started doing the Couch to 5K program in an effort to get a little break/me time in my days. Since we are restricted to the house EXCEPT for groceries/meds and exercise outdoors, I am taking full advantage of the exercise outdoors option. This gives me a chance to just wander back into my brain, check out of real life, and run my feelings out.

Speaking of music, I find that just jamming it out to your favorite song or playlist is an excellent option. Blast the tunes, have a little breathing session or dance session and dust of the cobwebs in your mind. Music is such a big part of my attitude and I find even just two songs (right now Sunflower by Post Malone and SOS by Aviccii) is all I really need to get a mood booster. It also gives my kids a chance to wiggle about and I’m not hearing the nonstop chattering. We all seem to come together for those couple minutes, and it works.

Something else that I think is really important is to lean in toward whatever you are feeling. This is an overwhelming time and we are trying to figure out what life looks like and it’s ok to feel mad, to feel sad, to feel overwhelmed. It’s ok to take some time out to feel those feelings. THEY ARE TOTALLY VALID FEELINGS TO HAVE. No matter what your background is, no matter how this affects you, it is OK to feel this way. And right now, more than ever, I think that it is important for us to process those feelings. We will have a harder and faster burnout if we just continue to try and put a happy face on and hold it together.

This is especially true if you are a mom. Your kids are likely scared, nervous, freaking out, confused, mad, sad, everything that they can feel, they are feeling. While our first instinct is to hold it together, to be the strong one, it isn’t’ bad for them to see you struggle too. It helps them process their own emotions if we can be clear and concise about it. For me this is really key for when I am feeling frustrated or sad with not being able to do something or needing some space, my boys pick up on that and I explain to them exactly what is going on. This then stimulates a conversation (in as much a 4 and 2 yr. old can do) about how we are feeling. So, lean into those feelings, process them, and it might be easier for you to move forward and find joy in the little things again.

Going to quickly touch on school (as I don’t really know that I can truly talk about that). School is a hard one. I feel like we’ve really hit this hard as even though Colton was only in preschool for a month and a half he got really attached to it. If he could go every single day he could. It was his space to learn, to engage, to have a little “life of his own” for lack of a better phrase. He LOVED it and to have that yanked out from under him so soon has been a real struggle for him. Further, we are continuing with a digital learning plan with his school and that’s been…hard. He doesn’t have the same focus at home that he does in school and, of course, at home he also has little bro who wants to be involved. It’s been hard to try and explain to him what is going on and how we are handling everything right now, because the moment we explain it to him he just gets sad and says he wants to go to school. It breaks my heart.

I know that you moms of older kids are feeling that same pressure, but also adding in the academics to it as well. Luckily with Colton in preschool the hardest thing we are dealing with is focus issues, his academics and such are fairly straightforward for him. I’ve been reading posts from various teachers who all seem to agree- with this new normal, it means we need to adapt across the board. Forcing the kids to sit at a desk for 8 hours at home is just not feasible. So, lean into your kids. Listen to them when they say something. Interact with their needs. Some kids may work better at home when there is noise in the background, some kids may need to be at a desk every time they work, some kids may be focus on real world learning more than classroom. Each school is handling digital learning differently, but from what I’ve seen there is time that they meet with their teachers and do their work, and then there is free work time. Balance both of those with some real-world play and real-world lessons and a routine will start to emerge. This is a whole new level for all of us…give yourself and your kids grace. It’s not easy, but they will be OK.

Finally, if you are in a financial spot to do so, try and support some of your local or online businesses. I’m going to share a couple of my favorites that I have either ordered through already, or will be ordering through over the next couple months…

https://www.rachelallene.com/shop Rachel Allene is like the jolt of sunshine that we all need anyway. Her products are not only practical (hello mugs and shirts and coffee? We all need those), but they are absolutely adorable! They are the perfect amount of whimsy, beauty, and season. I highly recommend checking her shop out for your mugs and shirt needs.

https://www.bookshelfthomasville.com/ This is a small, local, independent bookstore in Georgia that carries most new releases, along with some merchandise. They are doing online orders, but also curbside pickup if you are in their area. I always love supporting independent bookstores, so this is the perfect chance for you to do so as well.

https://kelseyconversephotography.pixieset.com/guestlogin/travelprints/?return=%2Ftravelprints%2F If you are looking to spruce up your interior wall game, check out Kelsey’s travel photography. These are some incredible photos and would liven up any room that you want to. I would also just recommend following kelsconverse on Instagram because she is one of those genuine souls on the internet.

Also, as many have suggested, buy gift cards to some of your favorite spots. This is a great option if you want to support restaurants or other smaller in store places. OR if you want to support, but don’t need anything at the present moment. Buy a gift card and gift it or save it for a special occasion for yourself. This gives a small business some much needed cash flow in this trying time.

Finally, go show your blogger friends some love! Click on the links to their most recent posts, like them, leave them a comment, and spread the love around. Ultimately what this time is teaching us is to slow down, remember what community really is, and enjoy a little breather from the busy world we live in.

How We Are Staying Sane in This Time at Home…And How You Can Too

Ok, so this is now our new normal…kids at home, off school (though not entirely), working from home, husbands working from home, parks, playgrounds and other spots not accessible…it’s a lot of “at home time”. Now, I’m a homebody and introvert as it is, so this isn’t necessarily a huge deal for me, but I recognize that for some people it can be quite jarring. Throw in kids being home from school, but not able to go do anything and then have to do homeschooling, along with trying to work from home or just keep the house clean and the laundry done…it’s a lot. So, how do we stay sane?

Untitled Design 38

I’ve both worked from home and been a stay at home parent (doing both of those for about 3 years) and have come up with a couple of things that helped me. I also have found a few resources that helped out with educational purposes (for our age/grade level), boredom, and just general resources to have and today I’m going to share it all with you in the hopes that it can be helpful to someone else.

Tip #1: Get dressed. This is probably one of those things that I just preach about all the time. I’m a firm believer in how you look/carry/take care of yourself plays a direct role on your outlook and productivity. So, every morning get up and get dressed. I don’t care if that is putting on leggings and a sweater, your comfiest jeans, or dressing to the nines with heals and a smart outfit, just get dressed in something OTHER THAN your sleeping clothes. While it may seem like we don’t have a lot to do during this time, getting dressed will have a huge affect on your mood and outlook. Start doing this and you’ll feel less like just a bump on a log.

Tip #2: Get Active. We can’t do a lot right now. In our area all of the parks, hiking spots, and outdoor activities have been largely closed off as an extra precaution. That doesn’t mean that we can’t move our bodies. We are still able to go for a walk in our neighborhood (which we are doing as long as the weather holds out for us), we can do indoor at home workouts (which we do), and we can have spontaneous dance parties (which we also do…a lot). Being active, getting your body moving and your heart rate up, releases those feel good endorphins in your brain and helps you stay uplifted.

Tip #3: Eat Properly. I think this is the one that I probably struggle with the most (especially right now), but what we put in our bodies plays such a role, similar to what we wear. This is not the time to just eat junk food, pig out because we are bored, or snack all day long. It’s tough because we are at home all day and have easy access to whatever we would like in our kitchen, but avoid it. Eat as you would if you were not home and you will feel infinitely better. Personally, I find that if I am eating a lot of junk or crap food, I not only want to eat more of it (seriously who ONLY eats the recommended portion of chips?!), but I also end up feeling even more like a bump on a long afterwards. Stock your fridge and pantry with healthy options (I’m still working on this) and leave the junk food for special moments that you really need them.

Tip #4: Set a Flexible Routine. This one applies more to those of us with kids (specifically preschool/elementary school aged), but I find that a flexible routine really helps when it feels like everything has been upended. What I mean when I say flexible is that I try to be understanding when the boys have had enough of an activity. Let me give you an idea…Our days breakdown like this:

9AM : Everyone is up, dressed, fed/eating

9:30AM-12:OOAM: Indoor Playtime and School Work. The boys will play throughout the house and I will try and squeeze in worksheets, coloring, reading, etc. to continue to stimulate the brain activity and learning that Colton at least has gotten with school.

12PM: Lunch

12:30PM-2:00PM: Outdoor Play. It’s been much warmer and more spring like the past couple days to in between lunch and naptime we will run outside and play. I’ll take a book out there and read as well.

2PM-3:15/30PM: Andrew Nap Time. Colton and I will spend about 10-15 minutes reading a book and then he will get a little online educational screen time. If he has done a lot of “schooling” already then he can have some screen TV time. This is also when I get on the computer and do some writing if needed OR I’ll do a bit more reading. Overall it’s quiet time across the board in our home.

3:30PM-4:00PM: Afternoon Snack. We didn’t used to do an afternoon snack, but since school has started up it’s been instituted.

4:00PM-6:00PM: Walk/Bike Ride/ Outdoor time. Again, trying to soak up the weather when we get it, this is just another extension of playtime. If the weather is bad we will do some indoor activity or snuggle up for a movie.

6:30PM: Dinner

Post Dinner the boys have playtime in their rooms until it is time to clean up and get ready for bed. This is important as it gives my husband and I a chance to catch up and have some time together as well as a little quiet just in general.

Now, I just use blocks of time within the day. I found that I prefer planning in these types of increments (that’s a whole separate post), BUT it gives for flexibility. If Colton is really struggling to focus at times, I can let him do what he likes, and we will come back to that particular activity later. However, it’s also not just a free for all in our day. The boys know when they are going to get to do something within the day (i.e. Colton knows that we will do “school” in the morning, but he can play the computer school in the afternoon). This obviously changes based on what your school is actively doing about online learning, but for us this works. They get a chance to both learn school subjects that they need to, but they also get some real world learning too.

***For educational needs we are using a couple of different resources. First off we have a workbook that we brought with us for preschool aged children that works through prewriting skills, shapes, letters, numbers, and other necessary skills. We do a couple of work pages out of that along with the other resources listed below.

I print out math worksheets from k5learning.com. Most of these are geared towards K-5th Grade (as the web address would imply), but there are a couple that can be adjusted to the preschool age level as well. I have printed a couple of letter worksheets from this site as well.

Scholastic has a site that breaks down a daily guide HERE. They supply a book, a movie, and then some fun interactive games that include both and stimulate brains. We’ve only done one or two days through this, but Colton has really enjoyed the entire process. It brings some of the things that his teachers are working on in the classroom into our home (the little quiz about first, next, last was a big thing).

Abcmouse.com This has been a big one for us. We used this prior to the closure, and both of our kids absolutely love it. Colton has learned so much through the site and Andrew has loved watching them read the books to him. It makes me feel a little bit better for them having screen time since they are learning something (beyond just the Paw Patrol theme song and missions).

Youtube has some great educational options to choose from as well so you can turn that screen time into something too AND many zoo’s are doing Facebook Lives or Videos talking about their animals while the zoo’s are closed (Cincinnati has been a great option). I have also printed off the Discovery K12 homeschool sites preschool “syllabus” or learning guide just to make sure I touch on all the different options for what the kids need to be learning.

There are so many more out there that I haven’t even touched on. We are in a unique situation with only having one in school and it being preschool, so it’s pretty easy to work with. I know a lot of elementary schools (and upper level) are doing an online learning program and may have different requirements. My only suggestion would be that if it falls into their rules and parameters that you work with your kids. If they are really struggling to focus and they can take a little break, let them.

Tip #5: Keep in Touch. I came across this on Social Media and thought it was a great idea. If you are an extrovert, or someone that just needs adult contact beyond your significant other or roommate, or parents, then video chat with friends! Technology is a great thing and we have such an opportunity right now with the ability to very easily have face to face conversations over our phones. Set up “phone dates” with your friends and chat with them over the phone or through video. It may not be exactly what you picture, but it’s better than absolutely nothing.

Tip #6: Keep Your Brain Engaged. Another big one just in overall terms of feeling “productive”. Here’s the gist of what I am going to say…don’t spend all of your time binge watching Netflix, or scrolling Social Media, or watching YouTube. Look, I’ve got nothing against a good binge watch, wasting away a few hours watching a show that is just that addicting. I’ve done it many a time and will probably do it quite a bit over the next bit of time. BUT don’t let that be the only thing that you do. If you are spending that much time looking at a screen, letting your mind lull, it’ll start to play out in other areas of your life. Take this time to get your brain engaged in something you love or something you’ve always wanted to do. I know that I plan on catching up on a lot of reading, which serves as both a brain engaging activity AND a means of escapism. I also plan on doing a fair amount of writing (even though my posting schedule is drastically changing- more on that soon). There are so many options to keep your brain engaged, pick up a book (need ideas? HERE is a link to my goodreads where you can look at what I’ve been picking up), start a blog (this blog post by Helene In Between is a great guide if you are lost in that process, but want to do it), learn a new skill, take an online class (here’s a good option to search classes, but there are SO MANY free college courses out there and sites like SkillShare that charge a monthly subscription, but give you such a broad scope of tailored classes). All those things that you’ve been saying of I don’t have the time for this? NOW you do. So, use that time. Engaging your brain will make you feel productive, it’ll make you feel like yourself, and have you feeling positive about staying home all day.

Ultimately my tips can be summed up into ways of making this time at home, this abrupt change, into something positive. Keeping our spirits up and our outlooks positive is about the ONLY WAY we are going to get through this with our sanity. As always, caffeine is our friend (except when it disrupts our sleep), music is a great way to bring a smile all around, and checking in on friends and family is a must. Do you have any tips to add?

A Week in My Life – 2020

I did a “Week in our Life” post a little under a year ago when we were still somewhat fresh in Germany and still living in the hotel (HERE). A lot has changed since then, but some things have still stayed the same and I figured it would be fun to update on what our weeks look like. Since it’s wintertime still here, walks are pretty much nil, but if the weather is nice we will head down to our little town park or the boys will run around the back yard. Come summer I plan on taking full advantage of all the pools and parks there are here.

One of the biggest changes we have seen is our oldest, Colton, starting school. He goes to a preschool program within our Elementary school three days a week for a few hours, so that’s been a big change. We also have a house now, so I putz around the house quite a bit and we have a bit more of a social life (ha-ha) with playdates and such. Let’s just talk about what our week looks like.

Untitled Design 36
What does life look like when we aren’t castle or country hopping???

Mondays:

I kick off our week on Mondays and it is full of tidying, errands, and making sure our week gets off on the right foot. I start the morning off (after my morning routine, HERE) with a clean/fresh kitchen. Colton goes to school on Mondays in the middle of the day, so I take the time when he is gone to run to the grocery store and do any other small errands I may have. I am still trying to leave Monday’s relatively empty in terms of writing/computer work, so I’ll spend naptime either reading or doing any random chores I need to.

Tuesdays:

Tuesday is one of our busiest days of the week. It starts bright and early with playgroup for the boys (also known as Mom’s Social Hour while the kids run and play ha-ha), then Colton is off to school again for a few hours. While he is at school we will run over to the library, handle any on base errands that we may need to run. Then it’s back home for lunch, a living room and dining room tidy and an afternoon of writing.

Wednesdays:

Wednesdays are a bit slower, a kind of nice breathing point in the middle of the week. We only have playgroup in the morning, and then we spend a day at home. I start by handling a tidy of our master while the boys will play in the house or backyard. Naptime is spent writing for me and Colton does some of his learning activities (we do ABC Mouse and a couple workbooks).

Thursdays:

Thursday is spent with friends for the most part. I tidy up the boys room and organize their toys (again). We will host playdates, or I’ll have coffee with friends at the house while the boys play. Colton does go to school, so Andrew gets a little quiet time to help tidy (which he loves to do). My naptime tasks depend on the actual day. If I am having friends over for a coffee, I try to schedule that during naptime so we get some quiet time to talk without interruption, but if that is not the case, then I’ll spend my afternoon finishing up any computer tasks I haven’t completed yet as well as clearing out my inbox before the weekend.

Fridays:

Fridays are a mixed bag. Sometimes we will head to an indoor playground, have playdates for the kids, head into the city for a little walk around, it just depends on the day, how the kids are, and the weather. Often times I will do laundry on Fridays just to keep our weekends clear. Fridays may also be a travel day depending on if we have a long weekend. It may also just be a quiet day at home playing with their toys. I try to keep Friday open not only because of long weekends, but also because I think it’s essential and nice for the kids to have the downtime. Colton has especially needed it since starting school. I’ll do a quick tidy through of the office/library as well, usually first thing in the morning, and spend naptime reading.

Saturdays and Sundays:

Weekends are all about exploring and spending time together as a family.

And that’s pretty much all there is to my weeks. I know, I know, so exciting. It doesn’t seem like a lot, but each day ends up being quite full between the cleaning and the boys and then the writing/blogging keeps my brain functioning beyond the Toddler conversations. What’s your favorite part of the week?

I Didn’t Give Germany A Chance

Untitled Design 7When we first started tossing around the idea of moving to Germany it felt surreal. The concept of actually living in Europe wasn’t something I could have wrapped my head around. I had been to England and Scotland when I was a baby, but Europe was this distant dream that I dreamed for a long time, but never really thought would be able to be a reality.

When we got orders, it still felt surreal. I couldn’t believe that this dream I had would be a reality. That we would be so blessed. The concept of being able to travel Europe, to go to all these countries was just too good to be true. Incredible. I thought of all the sights we could see, all the countries we would visit.

And I’ll be honest- I treated Germany as simply a location. A central spot that we could then travel out of. Not as a place to explore beyond a few historical landmarks. I knew about Germany, knew its history, it’s big cities, some of its culture (like Oktoberfest), and that was about it. I focused solely on EVERYWHERE else we could go, all the other things that we could see, all the dreams that would no longer be just dreams.

I now realize how much of a mistake this was.

Germany is stunning. That’s not to say it doesn’t have its own spots ,it doesn’t have troubles, but I definitely should have thought more about everything that we could do within its borders, rather than just looking outside the country. There is so much to see here, so many little holes in the wall spots that no one really thinks about that are just stunning. A lot of the little towns are old world quaint and each has its own history. Take Tubingen (HERE) or even Weltenburg Abbey (HERE), we had considered these both a nice little day trip, but both are so perfectly European and German, and I loved it. This was something I hadn’t really thought about when we got orders. The history here goes back much further than I had even anticipated (yep, I’m naïve) and there is a never-ending number of things to do and places to see.

And, since we can’t ignore the elephant in the room…Germany has such a way with its own history. They have quite the history here, quite the troubled past, but they’ve managed to settle with it. One of the things that has stuck with me in our time here so far is how they handle their own history. They don’t hide behind it; they don’t bring it up time and time again. They acknowledge what happened, they acknowledge the hurt and pain that was caused, they punish those responsible. They take steps to make reparations, they don’t destroy everything relating to their own history, choosing to make the most incredible memorials that I’ve seen out of the pieces. The Berlin Wall Documentation Center, The Berlin Wall, The Eastside Gallery, Dachau Concentration Camps, Nuremberg Rally Grounds, Nuremberg Court House…the list goes on. All of these places are landmarks, marking down what happened for everyone to see. They’ve made changes, they’ve learned, anyone who visits these places learns. They move forward.

We can all take a lesson from that.

Not to mention just the sheer amount of history here. In a city right near us they are excavating bodies from Roman times and have a set of Roman archways from… It’s incredible to think that some of the places that we see have that much history.

We won’t even start to get into the culture of this country. Festival season is such a fun, warm and welcoming time, not to mention the season we are about to go into…the most wonderful time of year. The way of life, the idea of a slower pace. We live in the countryside (something we’ve been wanting for a long time) and the number of animals and crops that we see daily is something else. It’s been an incredible bit of time and one that we are looking forward to continuing for the next couple of years.

I’ve found a true home in a place that I hate to admit that I discounted. I figured it would be a home base for everywhere, but we’ve really made a home here in such a short time. I won’t discount a place again.

 

Some Thoughts on Consumerism

Untitled Design 6

You know what’s a funny thing? I heard or participated in a similar version of what I’m about to write about around 3-4 times in the past week. And to be fair- it’s kind of opened my eyes a little bit to something that I had felt, but hadn’t articulated.

Here’s how it all started…

I, and a couple of friends were having a conversation about some of the differences and struggles about living in Germany as compared to living in the United States. A question was posed: “On your weekends, what did you do?”  My friend and I sat there for a couple seconds, wondering if it was rhetorical or a trick. “Uh, watched football?” “Ran errands?”  We responded. “Exactly. We watch TV and we shop on our weekends.” We hesitantly agreed and then the magic happened…”We have to realize that there is more to the world than Walmart”.

“We have to realize there is more to the world than Walmart”.

Maybe it’s not Walmart, maybe it’s Target (be honest- it’s probably Target), maybe it’s Nordstrom, or Marshall’s/TJ Max’s, maybe it’s boutique stores. You can interchange Walmart with just about any store and come up with what fits you and a true statement. And with a lot of these stories we have the ability to do this 24/7. The internet has made the possibility of shopping literally wherever, whenever  I mean, how many times have we all just “amazoned” an item?) and often times stores then try to compete with that by staying open later on weekdays and opening up all weekend. We are also consuming high levels of media. In homes, TV’s tend to be more on than off, we are almost always on our phones in some way, not to mention computers and tablets.

This boggles my mind. How is it that we manage to spend our free time doing these things? How is it that we are so inundated with this idea that we need to buy all the things, watch all the things, be a part of this lifestyle that we forget that there is so much more to life. There is more to the world.

I’ve been 100% guilty of doing this. I was someone who spent most weekends at home, in my comfiest chair, TV on, book in hand, phone never too far away. When we would leave the house 60% of the time it would be to go to a store of some sort. Oftentimes a trip to the grocery store would also involve a trip to the Target shopping center. I bought a lot of things on Amazon (some we needed; most we didn’t “need”) for the convenience. We had the option of just clicking and buying whatever we wanted, whenever we wanted. So, why not do that?

Have you ever heard…”Go into Target for one thing, come out with a dozen other things and not the thing you needed”? THIS. This is what I’m talking about. The idea that just going to Target to do a quick shopping run and buy ALL THE THINGS and this is the cool norm now? That’s wrong. Whether you can afford it or not, there is more to life than just one big long shopping trip.

When we moved to Germany things were vastly different.

For starters, there are a lot more outdoor markets in the different regions. Fresh produce from right down the road is always available for purchase. Fresh seasonal flowers (some of which you can cut yourself) are around. In town grocery stores are smaller than they are in the States and have smaller carts/are intended for smaller trips. The festivals tend to feature more local artisans than not.

Stores close EARLY (and I mean like anywhere from 5-6PM) and are all always closed on Sundays (except for Shopping Sunday which happens every couple months). Life here is focused on the in-person connection. Meals last for hours at restaurants, allowing people the time to really forge connections and conversations. There are not a lot of people that you see on the phone while out in public. It’s a vastly slower pace of life, without that massive jump to buy. There are a lot more outdoor activities, from hikes to biking to canoeing to paddle boating.

There is also a much bigger focus on travel here. Most people spend their “free money” and savings on traveling, seeing new places and learning about new things. We’ve quickly caught that travel bug and that is where a lot of our budget goes toward. We have been finding that we did not actually take enough weekend trips previously and how easy those types of trips really are.

It’s such a different way of life and one that I’ve really found loving. I’ve quickly settled into this slower pace lifestyle. My shopping has been cut down quite a bit (due in part to convenience and in part to just general shipping times for online shopping) and I’ve really found myself evaluating a couple of lifestyle choices. I’ve been wanting a bit of a change for a while and Germany has kind of given me the push to make that change. These are changes that I want to keep whenever we do go back stateside as I find them to be such positives and something that I think more people could benefit from.

We need to make a point to spend less time shopping, less time watching TV, less time lounging in our own home, and more time getting to know our world. Putting the digital world aside on the weekend and living in the real world. I’m not saying that there is anything wrong with watching TV, or having the occasional trip to the shops (beyond grocery shopping), but the way that we have started treating our lives in the States is kind of scary to think about.

Is the 24/7 convenience of being able to shop nice? Yea, but how many times are we really needing that convenience? Is this something that can wait till the next day? Better yet, is it something that we really need or something we think we need because of the mentality?

Let me know your thoughts on consumerism as I’d love to have a discussion about it. This is something that has been itching in the back of my mind, this difference in culture and mindset, and I’d love to speak about it with others!

Round the Kettle Ep. 20: A Life that Seems Like a Vacation

I’ll be completely honest- I’m writing this on a Friday when I’d rather be reading, snacking on some super healthy snacks called tortilla chips, and hoping for the day to end soon. Ironically, today is the first day that I am feeling like a human again after a rough couple of days. I’ve been dealing with a migraine for the past few days, and while I have been able to manage most of my migraines, this particular one is not one that I can easily prevent.

Thankfully the kids have actually been relatively well behaved over the past week since I’ve been dealing with this migraine and have been going solo with Robert being away. They’ve been like charming little angels, which has been a nice reprieve. I’m hoping that maybe we’ve crossed an imaginary bridge into a different phase of their little lives. One that is calmer, maybe?

I want to talk about something today that I have been seeing and experiencing a little bit recently. I actually spoke about this with a friend earlier today during our children’s playdate and I found that we had pretty similar experiences and thoughts on the subject. I briefly spoke about this on Social Media, but am going to expand now.

We currently live in Europe and have lived here for about 9 months now. Just saying that still feels so surreal I can’t even describe that feeling. We are so blessed and are taking advantage of the time that we have here to do a fair amount of traveling and learn about the culture here.  We love it here, truly, and have made a home out of our house and neighborhood. We’ve made friends, the boys have such a great social life, and we plan on starting up with sports come Spring. We are creating a life for ourselves for the next few years, a semi-permanent existence.

We travel a fair bit over here, trying to do some sort of trip a couple times a month (no more than that though- it’s exhausting, more on that in an upcoming post). Our traveling is what works for us, we travel more than some, less than others.

Honestly, we live a life that almost seems like a vacation.

We always share the good sides, the happy moments, and all the travel that it often seems to paint a picture of pure bliss and constant travels. I have gotten swept up in sharing that as that is what so many want to see. They want to live a life through you since you’ve gotten this incredible opportunity and I won’t begrudge anyone of that.

Here’s the thing though, we are building a life here. We have a home here. My husband works here. Our life is not just one big happy vacation. Sometimes it is weeks and weeks at home, having playdates, reading books, writing posts. Sometimes it is trips to castles, to other beautiful countries, to festivals we had never even dreamed about. Our travels are a dream come true and yet a struggle with two toddlers (because even the most easy-going kids have their moments). We have bad days that aren’t just magically solved because we are in Europe, in fact some struggles are unique to actually being IN Europe. I try to show the good and the bad, what we like and don’t like, and what we’ve learned, but understand that I get swept up in showing only the good just like anyone else. It’s not just a long vacation, even though sometimes it can feel like it, this is our life here.

With that being said, the past couple weeks have been down weeks. We spent the week doing normal things, playgroup, playdates, coffees…laundry and cleaning. I dealt with a migraine. Robert was away for work. Just everyday life. Is it more exciting with a European backdrop? Yes, it certainly can be. Little things can be big adventures that you wouldn’t be able to experience in the states. But we also still have bad times and we don’t get to not feel bad about those bad days just because we are living in Europe. We aren’t able to just spend all our days here traveling and that’s not reasonable at this stage of our life. With two toddlers, traveling presents its own unique travels. And we have pretty easy-going traveling boys.

So, that’s where we are at now. Just a little side tangent. How are you doing? How is your Sunday going?

Round the Kettle Ep 19 – Turning Home

Oh boy. When I originally started this little feature, it was meant to be every other week (at least twice a month) and as I went to go check what episode number it is I realized it’s been a whole month since we have had one! To be fair- it’s been an exciting, busy, in some ways exhausting month. I’ve gone from festival to festival, trip to trip, day to day activities without stopping.

We’ve gone from adventure to adventure and are now, as the title suggests, turning home for a few weeks.

But first, how are you? Are you enjoying the Autumnal weather and colors? Has Autumn even started to creep in where you live?

I’m sat here at our Dining Room table typing away (not in my office for once) and as I look up and out the windows I can see the storm brewing for a rainy afternoon, the bright orange and yellows of the trees across the field, and leaves dancing through the air when the breeze hits just right. It’s pure bliss for me.

I’m falling even deeper in love with Autumn here. It’s like the area comes alive with festivals, colors, a lightness, and warmth (even though most days it’s a wet chilly and rainy). Our days are full of off and on rain, with little bursts of sunshine peppered throughout and the trees have put out a full show like I don’t see this early on. I’m looking forward to seeing what a quiet rest of October feels like- just soaking in the changes around us.

The past month we’ve managed to travel over to Austria for the Almabtrieb (HERE), to a spectacular light show that everyone is STILL talking about (HERE), experience what a small town festival feels like (HERE), experience Germany/German Culture at its finest with Oktoberfest (HERE), take a little river ferry to a nearby Abbey, and finally cross a few castle’s off of our list (blog posts to come).

I’ve been trying to breathe in those little pockets of time in between, but we are all eager to get a chance to just breathe at home. To be able to put our feet up for a little while.

I say all this now, but in a week or two I’ll probably catch the travel bug all over again. Living in Europe we’ve really managed to catch that travel bug, trying to turn any free moment into a chance to explore, to head out on a new adventure. Luckily we’ve managed to figure out how to make it work for us so we don’t feel this burnout all the time (we can go a few weeks of off and on before we need a little longer break), but, in the sake of honesty, that travel burnout is a THING and it is something that surprised us in a way. I’ll talk more about that soon, but wanted to mention it now.

Have you caught the Travel bug before? Done any good traveling? What was your favorite destination?

I’ve also started to look towards the end of the year. We are in the last 3 months of this year (let alone the last 3 months of this decade- way to put pressure on that) and I’ve been evaluating the year, evaluating the last couple of years, and just taking stock. So many things have changed, so many have stayed the same. I think it’s always a good idea to take a little bit of time towards the end of the year and just look back. Look at what is working, what isn’t working, what you want to change. I try to do this before the proper end of the year as the last couple weeks of December just tend to blur together anyways ha-ha.

So, that’s the basic gist of this post. We are looking forward to a little quiet time at home after the past few weeks. The boys have really hit their stride here with friends and activities and I think I have too. I feel like I’ve got a good circle around me and things are really going well. I know this post has been a bit…all over and maybe a bit different, but it’s just where my head is at on this Thursday afternoon.

How about for you?