Boundaries – A Holiday Moment

Oh, Holiday Season- the time of year has finally descended upon us, and we greet either two ways…or a mixture of both. We either have excitement for the coming holidays, the family time, the vacations we are bound to take, OR it’s a feeling of at best reluctance at worst outright dread. 

It’s the time of year a lot of posts start to circulate about “maintaining boundaries” and that whoever doesn’t respect your boundaries can get out, and empowerment, and such. 

And those are all very important. It IS important to set boundaries, not only for yourself but for others. And boundaries are for EVERYONE not only for those who may have strained or toxic relationships. And boundaries look DIFFERENT from person to person, relationship to relationship. 

And while we see posts about setting boundaries, maintaining boundaries, we don’t really see many posts about the realities of boundaries. We don’t see posts about how complicated this can become, how boundaries being disrespected isn’t always black and white (though we wish it was), and that sometimes hope for something better can change boundary limits. 

Because while we can cut someone out of our lives who disrespects a boundary, and I know plenty who do, and there is nothing wrong with that, it’s not always that simple in some instances. Sometimes it’s more being firm in your boundary, reaffirming it, and then moving forward. 

I’m speaking from a recent personal experience where I was very much reminded that I can do the work, I can set my own boundaries, verbalize them, work independently on myself to ensure that relationships with a high number of boundaries will work for me in a way that does not harm me, and have someone steamroll through that with a smile. It was a rude reminder that not everyone will respect, acknowledge, or believe in the work that you put in to make a relationship work all around.

Now you might be wondering from the above recent experience, why not just cut this individual off? And this is where I say it’s not always black and white. I have worked hard on myself and what I need my boundaries to be in this relationship to ensure that others can have a relationship, as others do. And I am OK with that. I have a hard line that, if crossed, the relationship will cease, but when working on boundaries I find that sometimes it’s better, for both parties, to reaffirm the boundary. 

This is why I feel like posts talking about boundaries tend to be lacking. It’s not black and white, it’s not across the board, it’s not the same thing for every person. Boundaries are so important, but it’s equally important to recognize where/what/how people choose to use those boundaries. Yes, crossing a boundary is disrespectful and wrong, but the decision on what you do when that happens can only come from you. 

So, while this is an excellent time of year to check in with yourself and your boundaries, and all those posts (and this one) might be a great affirming reminder for you to do that…remember that those boundaries are YOURS and you choose how implementing them works for you. 

Rosh Hashanah 5783

Shanah Tovah U’metukah! Happy Jewish New Year! As Rosh Hashanah comes to a close this evening, the Ten Days of Teschuvah begin (actually they start with Rosh Hashanah and then end at Yom Kippur). This period of time is a starting off point to reflection, growth, and returning to being the best that we can be. It’s a chance to jump start your growth and goodness for the year ahead. It’s a process that is meant to be continued year-round, but specifically these ten days are spent making right with relationships and our community. 

Last year’s post is really detailed about Rosh Hashanah and what we do, how we celebrate and what my thoughts were going into the past year- all of which you can read HERE. I’ll just add a little fun fact for this year. On Rosh Hashanah we wish each other a GOOD new year, whereas in the English New Year, you with a HAPPY New Year. This can serve as a reminder that by doing good, being “good”, happiness will follow. 

I normally post my Rosh Hashanah post prior to the holiday beginning, having spent the month of Elul (the last month on the Jewish Calendar, meant as a time of deep reflection and introspection) reflecting on the year, however this year I delayed. It’s been a bit of a weird time. Nothing truly major, nothing truly bad, just a forced time of reflection that had me…not really wanting to share things. I wanted to do some deep inner work and make things right in and with myself before I felt comfortable looking forward and turning outward. 

5782 was a year full of so many highs, a few lows, and a lot of…meh. Not meh necessarily, just a lot of stressful situations that, to be honest, I could have easily avoided or saw my way out of. And I should have. I let a lot of “out of my control” things affect my own self and that is not something that I really liked about myself. It’s not something that is directly in my nature, until I’ve been pushed to a point, and there were a couple of times that I was pushed to that point (and I shouldn’t have been). 

But I’m a deep believer in something higher than us, guiding our way, and placing things in/out of our lives to continue to guide and show us the way forward. And, while 5782 held both good and bad, I feel like I really deepened my own feelings and truths about my thoughts, beliefs, and feelings about relationships. And that is how I spent my month of Elul- deep in introspection over the prior year. I’m not going to be sharing too many of those thoughts, mostly because they are private and not something I want to put out into the world. 

All that being said, I was thinking and reflecting all the way up until Erev Rosh Hashanah. I was trying to figure out where I wanted this year to take me, it’s a year of change for us after all in so many ways, and I what I felt would be best for me, my family, and our community. And when I heard that Shofar Blast, that awakening to a new year, I felt those familiar shivers and goose bumps, and something locked into place for me. It’s a new year, a Shanah Tovah (a good year), and I’m READY. 

So, what does all this really mean???

Well, I’ve got a new…word for the year- really a new mindset. I’ve always been a “find the good” kind of person, but I found that in 5782 I struggled with it a bit more than I have in the past. That may not actually be fair to say…I’ll change that thought. I focused more of my time and intentions and energy on the negative, on the toxic, than I should have, than I normally would have. That’s more accurate. 

So, in 5783 I’m choosing הַכָּרַת הַטּוֹב (Hakarat ha’tov) or quite literally “recognize the good”. I’m also choosing שִׂמְחָה (simcha) or joy. It’s simple- there is no place in my life for the toxic, for the negative, for the bad energy. I recently read a quote that really just…resonated with me and fed into this feeling of needing this to lead my year- “At this big age, I’m only interested in progress and peace. Anything that costs either has to go”- We the Urban. If it does not serve my families progress or peace, if it does not feed our joy, our lives, then it has no place. 

Now, that does not mean that bad days do not come. It does not mean that we do not struggle. In fact, this year (5783) is going to be full of challenges for our family, but it means that either I will toss out of the negativity- treat it with a light laughter, turn it into something humorous, OR I will cling to the good moments when the bad come. 

None of this is really new to me- I’ve always been someone who tries to find the good, find the happiness, in fact this is something I touched on last year when my word was “mechaye” – something that gives great joy or life. This has always been who I am, but sometimes it can get a little lost in the everyday and this is my way of bringing it back to the forefront a little more. 

Beyond that – my goals for 5783 are in flux right now. I have things that I want to accomplish, as I do every year, and I feel like this year could really be a big year for those goals. Both boys are in school, so I have a bit more free time- though I’m rapidly filling it with commitments. However, I’m trying to keep an open mind to really welcome any new opportunities that knock on our day and find new ways that I can help those around me and in my community. 

So, with all those words said…I really just want to with everyone a Shana Tovah U’metukah- I hope 5783 is everything and more. 

As Summer Fades Into Autumn

Alternatively titled: Life Lately…

For me, Autumn starts on September 1. I’m not sure when/why I’ve picked this date, but it’s just always been there. It might have something to do with school schedules (and being on the East Coast where school does not start until after Labor Day has only solidified this) or it might be because no matter where we have lived, August has always been the worst with heat/humidity/bugs. Whatever the reason, for me “Autumn” begins tomorrow. And wow am I ready for Autumn. 

This Autumn marks a time of change, most notably that both my boys will be in school all day every day. I’ll have an empty house during the day for the first time in 6 years. It seems a bit surreal to me to be honest. Definitely a little bittersweet. As ready as we all are (and believe me, we are READY), it’s still a bit sad to think that my baby-est of boys, my little mama’s boy, is off to school. Luckily, I am volunteering within the PTO and school again so he won’t be far and the chances of me seeing him throughout the year and during the school day are high. He also attended the KinderCamp prior to school getting started and he did so well, loved every minute, and it very much added to his excitement of the start of school. 

In reality, there are a lot of other changes coming down the pipeline as Summer turns to Autumn, most of which I won’t be talking about, but it just feels like such a transition period- more so than in the past. 

I started out Summer with big plans- I wanted to journal with the kids every morning, we had an idea to our days, I had plans to only be here and there for little bits, while taking most of the time to really be present with the boys. And yet, while some of that happened, a lot of it didn’t. We went on our Summer Holiday, which was great and loved every minute, but then once we came back it was a rush to get back settled again, to get self imposed deadlines down, to re create those perfect day to days that I had dreamed, to then only throw them out the window- create playdates out of nowhere, and then strive to balance all the things I wanted to accomplish. It felt very…un summer like and definitely not like previous summers. I’m not sure what was so different, maybe it’s because this Autumn will be so different, but it just felt very short, very rushed, and very…unsatisfactory. But that’s life sometimes. 

Like Summer (you would think I would have learned, but no), I have big plans for Autumn and Winter. I’ve created a sort of overview of dates and timelines (again mostly self-imposed) that I’d like to meet and I feel like I’ll actually be able to do it. The big things are continuing regular blog posts (maybe some exciting new ones- anything you’d like to see more of?), starting up the podcast, and editing my book.

How was your Summer? What big plans do you have for the changing season?

Romanticize Your Life

Yes, yes, I’ve fully jumped on this trend- though to be fair, I’ve always been a bit like this- treating my life as if it were a movie where I was the main character, we just have now named this trend. But I’m getting a bit ahead of myself here…

***This post is full of photos of small moments, little pockets of joy reframed in my mind with a softness, a contentment. It’s these little moments, little mundane parts of our day, such as opening the blinds, a walk to the school bus, a cup of tea in the afternoon, that can be reframed in our minds. This is where romanticizing your life can begin. It’s also the bigger moments, the bigger show- at the end of the post- as well.***

Romanticize Your Life.

I think some people hear that or see a post with that caption and think…it’s out of reach or not realistic or just adding extra time and effort to tasks. And while in some cases, yes it can be a bit of an extra effort, but it’s much easier than it maybe looks. 

That’s because the whole concept of “romanticizing your life” is more so a mindset than everything else. It’s about falling in love, being so content with the life you are currently leading (and when I say content- I don’t mean in a stagnant way- we should always grow and change). Life ebbs and flows, we go through highs and lows, but romanticizing your life is about loving your life as it’s lived, good and bad. It’s trying to view the everyday mundane things through a different lense, in a different sense. It’s taking those little moments and turning them into more, whether that’s simply by putting on some music, filming them, or turning them into a grandeur production (I’ll explain that- I promise). By romanticizing our lives, we are reminding ourselves just how special some of these mundane tasks/moments, the everyday everyday can still be special.

 

I want to be clear, for me, this DOES NOT mean that everything is sunshine, roses and daisies. It DOES NOT mean that life is simple and easy. It DOES NOT mean that I don’t have off days/off moments/deal with tough moments with the kids. It DOES NOT have to happen every second of every day. What is DOES mean for me, is that the simple act of making tea, of putting together a little fruit tray, taking care of the plants (heck even doing the dishes, folding laundry, etc.), of doing the little tasks is calming, is charming, is sweet. It gives me a better outlook- the idea that instead of HAVING to do something, I CAN do it in a way that will be better/happier for all of us. 

I do this year-round, no matter the season, but there is nothing like having these moments in the Spring or Autumn. It’s no secret that I love the transitional seasons, Autumn when the leaves start to turn and fall, and the air goes crisp and cool. Everything floods with the vibrant reds/oranges/and yellows, and big scarves, sweaters and light jackets become our attire. But also, Spring, when new life emerges, when we leave that den of Winter and step back out into the sunlight. When dresses come back into play, the air still crisp, but with a lightness of life coming back. You can romanticize your life year-round (think of those moments in Winter when the first snow hits, or the snow falls just right, OR those Summer thunderstorms, lazy days on the porch), but it’s definitely easier during the transitional seasons for me.  

So, at its basic- this is about setting a mood for yourself, your space, and your family. Some of the smaller examples of how I do this just everyday- opening the blinds when I wake up, picking particular clothing out, playing my mood setting playlists (this can be anything from a “day in the cottage” style playlist with instrumental and movie soundtracks OR hits from the early 2000’s, whatever my mood calls for). I set out certain tasks to be right away as it…” sets the scene” so to speak- so I wake up and immediately open up the blinds to let the light in. Then I pick out a playlist that meets my mood- honestly most of my morning music tends to be softer instrumental or movie soundtrack style music. Somewhere along the way I’ll switch…or not, it just depends. These two little things first thing already sets my brain into a “romantic” mood and lifts my mood and spirit. Then everything else starts to fall into place after that. When I go down to make my morning tea or coffee, I make a “production” out of choosing the perfect mug for the day, preparing my tea, and pouring the water from the kettle. When you first start doing this, if you choose to, it may feel silly, BUT as time goes on you start to find joy in these little moments and then it clicks. 

You can also bring this concept into your own living space with plants or flowers, add books and little things that make you happy to the spaces of your home. In the Spring/Summer I usually like to have some fresh flowers on our counter tops, we also have plants (obviously), and then I’ll style the coffee table genre books in our home to fill some of the “first look” spaces. Light some candles throughout your space. These can be real burning candles or the electronic ones if for some reason you can’t burn candles. Not only will the scent fill you with that same joy and peace, but the candlelight will shift your mood as well. 

I’ll give an example of one of my most frequent “bigger” ways of doing this in the spring/summer…this is something super easy but makes a world of difference. Everyday my kids want a snack in the afternoon (which is totally normal) and I usually want to join them. So, we will make a full picnic out of this little snack. Yes, it takes a fraction more effort, usually in terms of cutting, BUT it’s only a fraction and the simple joy (and excited good happy behavior as a result) that comes from this is well beyond that small effort. I’ll usually cut a couple different fruit options, some cheese/cracker/meat combination, place it all on our charcuterie tray and, weather permitting, we will head outside. I would say we do this 2-3 times a week in the summer, and it’s always met with such excitement and joy (from everyone involved) that it ends up feeling like a movie. Something about creating this little picnic just completely changes our entire day. 

Ultimately, it doesn’t take a lot to “romanticize your life”. Find the ways that you feel content, peace, and joy and implement those into your everyday. Maybe that’s the simple act of opening the blinds first thing in the morning, maybe it’s morning coffee/tea on the porch, maybe it’s an afternoon spent at the park with a picnic. Maybe it’s being more intentional with your clothing or your space. Whatever it may be, I promise you there is just such a joy and peace that comes with being so content with life as it’s lived. 

To Thaw or Not To Thaw

Winter is veeerrrrrryyyyyyyy slowly coming to an end here in the Northeastern part of the country and I may finally be seeing the light at the end of this tunnel. This year we experienced our first proper winter in Upstate New York, and it changed us. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced a winter quite like this one. 

To start with- the snow. There was a lot of it. Not as much as they’ve had in the past I’m told, but it was still a lot for us. And at times it seemed never ending. The weatherman didn’t quite get it right- it would stop and start of its own accord, and of course throw in the lake effect part and we had quite the time with it. We got a lot of use out of the snowblower (which I highly recommend) and the boys got to have a lot of fun. 

The snow was one thing, something I could prepare for, but what I couldn’t really prepare for was just how COLD it got. Let me tell you, I don’t know that I’ve ever experienced below zero temperatures, but I sure did this year. I think that was one of the hardest things about winter here, most days it was either snowing OR it was sunny and below zero. In fact, at one point I used the words “warm” and “not so bad” in reference to a 20-degree sunny day. Previous Mia would never. 

I quickly learned that those cute little winter outfits we see splashed around are just not…practical in any sense. And I’m not even referring to like the little sweater dress and boots. I’m talking about the jeans with the cute sweater, oversized but thin trench, and boots. No, no, no, that would not cut it here in the heart of winter (even though I tried- I tried so hard). 

Enter…the coveralls. The things that I would previously really only wear to go play in the snow with the boys have become an everyday staple in my winter wardrobe. Seriously, every day. I have found that these coveralls, with a long-sleeved layer underneath, pants (and sometimes thermal leggings under those), with snow boots, a thick winter jacket, hat and gloves have been my saving grace. 

The epitome of fashion over here. 

Because, to be honest, at this point I’ve really come to understand the whole function over fashion. 

When it’s -20 with a real feel of -32 and they are delaying school due to temps no one (you included) is going to care about that cute little sweater you’ve got on, or the perfect calf boots you’ve found. The only thing you’re going to care about is staying warm at that comes at the expense of “looking fashionable”. Note- I said looking fashionable, you can still be cute and cuddly in these clothes…it’s just not high fashion. Maybe fashion designers should take note ha-ha. 

In fact, if I do say so myself, there is nothing quite as cute as looking like the kid from A Christmas Story and staying warm. 

Planning in 2022

Well, it’s a new year and even though I am trying not to plan too much, there is still a lot going on and I still need to have a planner of some sort. Going along with my new “be flexible” lifestyle (ha- that’s a bit of a joke) I decided to once again dip my toes in the bullet journaling world. 

Here’s the thing, my ideal planner would have a spot to sort of time block my day in a visual sense, but also a separate section for a bit of a rolling to do list. I want to have the space to write out what I actually need to accomplish, but also be able to visualize how I’m spending my day in a time sense. All of that in a weekly view spread. Every planner that I was finding then involved me needing a separate notebook for the to-do list/meeting notes, and then a separate journal space, and a separate reading space. That was just not something that I wanted. Less is best, right? So, I decided to go back into the bullet journaling world to see if I could find a way to make it work. 

The biggest change this year with the bullet journaling is twofold. The first is that I’m using stencils. The biggest turn off or reason I stopped in previous years is it IS a lot of work and most of the time, I prefer to read a book or do something other. I’m not NOT crafty, but it’s also not something that I really focus on. So, I ordered a pack of stencils to kind of cut my time spent setting up my planner in half. 

The second change I made is in how I set it up. A) all of my months are preset at the beginning of the bullet journal. I needed to be able to see all 12 months at one time, with school/appointments/breaks there is just too much going on for me not to be able to see several months pre outlined. I typically am planning and booking stuff almost a month out, so this was a necessary. I wanted to be able to see my month, but then customize my week as it happened. B) I don’t have a monthly view within each month. Since I did the full calendar year in the first 24 pages of the bullet journal (a month on two pages), I don’t feel the need to then duplicate the work each month. This actually cuts a lot of my “bullet journal work” time in half. Each month has a reading spread and a tracking spread prior to the actually weekly spreads. That’s it. One page to track my movement, mood, and journaling, and one page to track all the book things (I’m tracking both reading and purchasing this year). Then I have my weekly spread, with notes and meeting information as necessary. 

I have found that, so far, a few months in, this has really been working for me. I’ve always said that I want everything to be in one place. That’s something I’ve always liked about Bullet Journaling- it’s really one notebook that can encompass everything you need. I’m hopeful that this will actually work out for me this year and give me both the structure and flexibility I think that 2022 is going to need. 

And that’s the planner for 2022! I’ll do another check in with it about halfway through the year (this is what I tend to do when I do bullet journaling) and we’ll see where it’s at at that point. 

New Year, New Nothing – 2022

Listen, it’s 2022. I think that this year is not THE year (which is OK). But, even if it’s not THE year, that doesn’t mean that we can’t keep our heads up, our shoulders light (maybe), and carry forward doing our best (whatever that means for YOU). 

For me, what does 2022 look like? Well, I don’t really know to be honest. Right now, the world feels like it’s in a fragile place and I don’t just mean in terms of the Pandemic. There’s a lot of scary things happening from {what feels like} all around and I feel like we are going to have to weather quite a bit over this year and the next. I know what I hope for, and I know what I’m going to be doing, but beyond that is really out of my control. 

With that being said, I’m not really making any resolutions or intentions this year. This is partly because of how I want to approach the year, but also because I feel like this year is going to throw us for loop after loop after loop to be honest. And my almost type a personality needs to be able to plan to be flexible (the laughs to be had there). I have things that I would LIKE to accomplish this year- a book, growing both the blog and the podcast, a new podcast, some big traveling, seeing some family that I haven’t in far too long, volunteering more, seeing both kids starting school, etc.- but I also want to recognize that if this year goes any way like the couple past, I need to also have some grace in those goals. I will still be able to accomplish them, but maybe not in the timeline or way that I had planned. 

I do have a word of the year, and some basic changes that I’d like to initiate just for my overall mindset, but nothing super major. This is also stuff that I’ve touched on before at Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year), so you can read that post HERE to see…or just continue below haha. 

Ok, so we’ll start with the hard part, the word of the year. Back when I was working on Rosh Hashanah, I struggled to find a word that fit with what I wanted the new year to look like. The world right now is a bit of a scary place in so many ways and we’re in a dark spot, again, in so many ways. I’ve always felt like I wanted to be that light, that cheery spot in someone’s day, that person that can be the safe spot. Those are the moments/things that I cling to when I’m having an off/bad day, those are the moments/things I want to provide others with, and what I think makes all the difference. BUT I’ve never really found an English word that described that. So, I turned to Yiddish and/or Hebrew (this was in part because I couldn’t find an English word and in part because I really wanted to lean into this side of things a bit more). Enter: MECHAYEH or “that which gives life”, the idea of a thing or feeling that just makes your day (the example given was a cool glass of lemonade on a hot day).

That seems lofty, or like I’m putting myself on a pedestal, BUT I’m trying to think of it as more of an overall thought process, not like I am that exact word. 

Now, I already mentioned that I didn’t want to set full resolutions or intentions. I’ve mentioned some of the things that I would like to accomplish this year, but I’ve found that this year might be better to also focus on the little things in the day to day that can help me accomplish those bigger things. So, one of those things (something I’ve already been working on” is getting out of bed when my alarm goes off. We all do it, we all wait till the last minute, hit the snooze button as many times as we can, or just lay around on our phone until something else calls to our attention. When I don’t do this, I have a mile’s better day, feel clear headed, and don’t spend nearly as much time on my phone. So, that is my little promise to myself to do every morning. Get out of bed with my first alarm and get on with my day, instead of procrastinating until the last minute. 

And that’s really it. That’s my one full resolution for 2022. I’m hoping that doing that will help me accomplish those other bigger goals. This may seem like a “cop out” in so many ways, but if the past two years have taught me anything at all, it’s that the littlest of things make the biggest difference. 

What else do I want to note about 2022? Nothing really. I know we are all a bit wary going into this new year, and with just cause. It feels like such a dark and draining time for so many, but it’s also full of so much light and joy. We just need to find our balance between advocating change for the dark/painful parts and recognizing the joy of our life and world. 

What is Home and Other Moving Musings

What is home? Is it a place? Is it where you are physically? Is it a house? Is it a person? A community? The people whom you surround yourself with? Is it having your schedule in place? A routine that you can follow day to day? 

What is home? This is a question I’ve found myself learning and exploring the answer to over the years. I think it is a question that we all try to answer through the beginning of our adulthood. Learning what it is to each of us to feel “at home”. I’ve found that, obviously, this varies from person to person and it’s one of my favorite things to learn about people.

So, before we go much further, leave me a comment (yes, right now mid read of this post) and tell me, what is home to you?

So, home. Now, I don’t talk about my husband’s job or career for many different reasons, but if you’ve followed for any period of time, you’ve probably figured out that at this time he is in the military. This means that in the almost 10 years we’ve been together we’ve now moved 4 times. There have been several benefits for this. We get to experience different places (even just within the US there is a wide variety to the way of life) and travel different chunks of the States. We got to experience living in Europe and seeing how life operates outside of our “US Bubble”. Those are big things, but even just the simple thing of figuring out what we like/want/hate/don’t want in a home, so that when we do settle we are positive what we want. The fact that every 3 years (at most, we’ve now had two two-year stations), we are forced to declutter, to re organize, to figure out what we actually want to keep and use and what we can pass along has been great in teaching us value and quality of quantity. 

There are also negatives to moving so frequently. The fact that we are in a place just long enough to create a home, a community, friendships, and then we have to “leave” it all behind is hard. As nice as it can be to unclutter and get rid of stuff regularly, it’s also tough to constantly feel like we are packing or unpacking, never truly able to settle. 

All of this has made me realize, what home actually means to me. For me, home is a combination of things. It’s hearing the pitter patter of feet running across the floor (after they’ve been repeatedly told “No running in the house”). It’s the pacing and chatting of my husband as I am trying to do something in the kitchen. It’s the feeling of waking up in the morning, going to the kitchen to steep up a pot of tea or brew a cup of coffee and while the house is still quietly waking. It’s seeing books aimlessly stacked in various rooms, because even a home library stretches its arms to other places. It’s opening a window on a pretty spring or fall day, heading to our local park to run off some energy (because remember…”No running in the house”). It’s finding a local walking route that gives us just the right number of endorphins (and can also be used as a running route…just maybe?). It’s all of these things that make up “Home”. 

***You’ll notice I haven’t made mention of a community yet. Here’s the thing, as an introvert I don’t “thrive” on community. I like having a social aspect to our lives and you’ll find me out and about, doing all the community things quite a bit, but I find that rather than needing a whole community, I tend to find maybe one or two friends that I spend time with on a much deeper level, than having a whole community at my hands. 

This is what home is for me. 

2020 – A Year in Review

2020. What a year. Where do I even begin?

We all know the big moments of 2020. The Pandemic. The Murders, Uprise, and Unrest (I really hate calling it that though- this is simple human rights). The Election. The unprecedented highs and lows that this year has brought have been like we haven’t seen. And, I don’t know about you, but I’m kind of tired of talking about them. I feel like so much of our lives this year have been focused so heavily on these few moments, which while are drastic and life altering, are not the entire story of our year. They have shaped the year, shaped our experiences, shaped how we cope and handle things, but there are also a million other smaller moments that are overlooked as well. So, I’m going to focus on those little moments. Sure, I’ll cover the things that I have learned about myself, the things that have been shaped by those bigger things, but there not the sole focus of this post. 

Gosh, so a year in review…

Well, our year started by getting blessed by the Pope at St. Peter’s square and then visiting the Great Roman Synagogue. A good start, no? We started our year off in Rome, which was a place that I hadn’t expected to fall in love with as much as I did (you can read my blog posts HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE). If there is one place in our travels that I would say, “I thought I would love it, but I didn’t know how much I would love it”, Rome and Italy would be one of those places. The other? Switzerland. BUT, when it comes to Switzerland, I think that could be said for anyone. More on that in a minute. However, Rome wasn’t our only destination in the year 2020. We managed to squeeze in several trips this year due to a lessening of restrictions and safe traveling. We managed to hit a total of 5  additional countries, France (PARIS 1, PARIS 2, MONT SAINT MICHEL, NORMANDY), Luxembourg (HERE), Belgium (BRUSSELS), Switzerland (INTERLAKEN/LAUTERBRUNNEN), and Poland (KRAKOW, AUSCHWITZ). With Switzerland topping all of the lists. There really are no words on the beauty of that area of the world. It is beyond worth the trip and I think everyone should experience it. 

Our year abruptly changed/came to a halt when we got the surprising news that we would be moving back to the United States quite a bit sooner than expected…a whole year sooner! We initially got the news about mid-summer, then finalized the information late Autumn, and determined that our next spot would be in New York. I talked about it briefly in my announcement post (HERE) and I’m sure I will be talking about it once again here soon as our move date approaches. I’m still fairly heartbroken about moving back, but I am trying to stay positive and see the positives (because there are some positives to this).

Once again, our boys have grown…A LOT. I think this year, more than ever, I have keenly felt the passage of time and what things look like with these two proper, independent kids. Colton started preschool (and then promptly stopped…only to start up again virtually and then finally start the new school year in school…only to go back to virtual right before Christmas break hahaha). When I say he is a completely different child from last year, I mean he is a completely different child. His progress reports have shown drastic improvement as he surpasses the goals initially set out. He’s quite the little boy. Andrew has changed quite a bit too…gone is my little angelic little boy who would occasionally get a super serious contemplative expression. He’s been replaced with a temperamental 3-year-old that loves to exploit the rules and then give you a winning sly grin to get out of trouble. He keeps me on my toes between the troublemaker antics and the never-ending stomach room ha-ha. Together they either love or hate and they definitely make life interesting. 

But, watching how much they’ve changed, how much they’ve grown, has been bittersweet. As any parent will tell you, there is a certain sadness when your children start to grow. This year has definitely brought a level of independence for our boys (they can do SO MUCH MORE without us needing to help), which in so many ways has been nice, it has me savoring the moments where they want to snuggle up on the couch or need mommy to kiss something better. 

This year hasn’t been all sunshine and daisies and rainbows. There have been low points as well. We’ve faced a global pandemic that had us here in Germany stuck in our homes. At the height of Spring, we were not allowed to leave our homes save for grocery shopping (and this was JUST groceries, any stores that sold both groceries and home goods, you could only purchase groceries), doctors’ appointments, exercise (to be done by yourself), and for essential work. No seeing friends, seeing family, popping to wander through the aisles of a store, we were all stuck at home. While this had positives, there were also negatives. This was also a time when I learned a…not so pleasant tidbit about myself (which then led to one of my lows of the year).

I love my family. I’ve loved having extra time with my husband, for us all to be together and really soak up the extra minutes we get together. BUT I don’t like noise. I don’t like constant, loud, noise. I.E. The noise that comes when your entire rambunctious family is home with loads of energy and nothing really to do to kill off that energy (sometimes even our long walks did nothing to curb it). The kind of noise that you can’t really escape from, that only ends when everyone goes to bed and you are left alone, exhausted and trying to savor the quiet while also wanting to sleep. The kind of noise that just wears on you, day after day after day. The kind of noise that, as an introvert, I HAVE to break away from just to recharge. So, that was fun to learn…NOT. I spent quite a bit of quarantine trying to figure out how to adjust my own expectations and needs with what the situation presented, so that I could be the positive, more even keeled person. It was a time and while I don’t have the entire thing figured out (I’m mostly still dragging little moments out until I can get to the next one), I do feel a bit better than I did at the beginning. 

Another low point was the murder of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and so, so many others that all deserved to have their names spoken over and over and over again. Not to mention justice. This summer was eye opening in so many ways on a civil level and one that I am making sure I continue to learn and educate myself as we move away from the initial “push” of the unrest. There was also an alarming amount of anti-Semitism that popped up in 2020 as well, which is…scary. To be honest, the sheer level of hatred in our country, in our world, is scary. 

In all honesty, I am glad to wave 2020 farewell. It’s been a year of highs and lows and draining. While I don’t think we are going to wake up in 2021 and everything will magically be good, I am kind of looking forward to a new year. To another fresh start. 

Our Virtual Schooling Experience at a Preschool Level

IMG_3125At the beginning of February Colton had his first official day of preschool…6 weeks later he went for the last day of his first quarter. In those short 6 weeks Colton flourished. He grew up so much, was so excited for each school day (seriously- non-school days were a definite struggle for him), and his development really took off.

Let me start with this, we would have tried to put Colton in a preschool program regardless of any issues he may or may not have had. Colton is a very high energy kid and I wanted him to be “exposed” to a classroom setting of some sort before he was thrust into Kindergarten. Colton has had a speech delay, not in a nonverbal sense, but in an understanding words delay. So, after completing the testing, he was enrolled in our “district” preschool program.

So, Colton LOVED preschool. He would come home with the biggest smile, he was learning so much, he made quite a few friends, experienced significant changes in his speech, and, most importantly, he had something that was “just Colton”. It’s been “Colton and Andrew” was so long and as many of us know, we need things that are just for us as well. That was preschool for Colton. He thrived.

When Coronavirus really started to spike and we started to see the changes coming down for places closing, I got a little worried about school. Afterall, Colton was in preschool and, while it was through the district and for a speech delay, I didn’t know how “important” it would be considered in the grand scheme of things. There are children with much larger needs and problems, my kid just needed a little shove/help from someone who wasn’t mom/dad/understood him as he was.

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His teachers have been absolutely incredible throughout this entire process. They very quickly emailed all of us parents, letting us know that they were working the problem and trying to figure out what they were going to do to continue working. The “district” did not foresee the preschool continuing on when they made the google classroom plan, so the teachers quickly workshopped a different platform that, actually ended up being a much better option for the younger kids.

They created incredible Digital Learning Plans that made it really easy for parents to incorporate into the day to day lives of children and they were very calm and patient throughout the entirety of the 2 ½ months of this digital learning. They recognized that they only saw the students for a limited time a day, that many had older (or younger) siblings at home that needed their own care, that this is a very different time right now. They’ve been great.

And, I’ll be honest, Digital Learning hasn’t been all that bad. Sure, I’ve ranted and raved about it at times when the focus level was low, or Andrew wasn’t letting Colton get things done, or when things got frustrating with technology, BUT on the whole it hasn’t been bad. It also hasn’t been school though either.

I said it earlier and I’ll say it again, more of my concern with Colton in so far as preschool was concerned was introducing him to a classroom setting, a teacher, a different place that he had to listen, behave, and learn. I wanted to have a little “soft” introduction to the idea of school before Kindergarten hit and he was in it “for real”.

This wasn’t it. Sure, he had weekly video chats with his two teachers (one speech, one preschool), and we had countless activities that his teachers would give feedback with (mostly positive stuff that you would expect), but it wasn’t the classroom. It was mommy’s desk with little brother screaming/playing/running in the background, and daddy working at his desk on the other side of the room. It was chaotic and it became a family affair, rather than the Colton show.

Overall Colton has really excelled in this new wave of schooling. He has adjusted remarkably well and has slid back in terms of speech or education, but he knows it hasn’t been at school. He’s been bummed about not being able to ride his little school bus, see his friends, or play on the playground. Every morning he wakes up asking if today is the day he will go back to school.

And, with about two weeks left in the “school” year (I used quotes as the teaching stopped a week or so before the proper end of the school year), he checked out. He was done. No interest in any of the activities or meetings whatsoever. It became akin to pulling teeth to have him sit down and focus on the work that he needed to do for any longer than 10 minutes. I think he just had enough with the situation, with not being able to do these things in person, and having to share all of that with little brother. (And, in all honesty I was surprised it took him as long as it did to get fed up)

And for me? Well, I have an entirely newfound respect for preschool teachers.

I’ve always respected teachers (hell I want to be one), BUT you forget how much stuff you aren’t born knowing. You forget how much you had to learn and while there are some things that parents can teach (and I have been teaching those things), in Colton’s case, he needed that shove from an outside source.

Anyways, all this to say, Digital Learning has not been a breeze, but we’ve honestly had it easy. I don’t work at the moment, we have access to a computer, to the internet, to the materials that are needed to do the various activities. And we only have one child in preschool. It’s been much harder for many others that I know, talk to, and follow. Nor has it necessarily been a positive experience for our kids. Here’s to hoping we have a few workable solutions for the 2020-2021 school year.