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.

Untitled Design 52

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.

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?

A Little Judgement Chat

Here is something that has been kind of frustrating me lately. This may seem like something coming out of left field with me and maybe it is a little bit, but I’m also starting to get a little tired of holding my tongue. I’m not going to be going all gung-ho into certain topics, but I do want to share a little bit more of the things that weigh on my heart. I want to say a little bit more about things that I see. I want to try and use my voice for a little bit more if I can/when I think it is appropriate. This is one of those times as I have not only experienced this, but have seen it in action firsthand.

Here’s the deal…we all judge. Say whatever you want, we all have judged someone or something at one point in our lives. Whether we pass judgement simply in our mind or to our significant others, or actually speak your commentary out loud it really doesn’t matter. As much as I try not to, I have definitely passed judgement. Look, it’s human nature (similar to comparison, but that’s a whole other conversation).

We talk and judge about looks, actions, relationships, speech, just about anything. Whether it is perceived or real, everything we do/say or don’t is judged.

The problem that comes with passing judgement is that we don’t know what someone else is going through. Even if they give us their life story, if they are a public persona, if they are private, we quite simply don’t know the full story. We may think that someone looks unkempt and make our own remarks on that, but they could be dealing with things that we could never imagine.

Another problem with judgement: it doesn’t give either person a chance to even begin to understand. Look struggling doesn’t discriminate on any level. You could appear to live a lavish, privileged life, and be dealing with an extreme amount of depression. Yes, you are in a privileged position, but you still struggle. Someone can recognize their privilege and yet still have down days. We cannot understand someone and whatever issues they may or may not be experiencing if we judge them before they can even open their mouths.

Judgement isn’t just external either, we are prone to a lot of internal judgement which can sometimes be even more damaging. There are a lot of instances where we feel certain assumed/perceived  judgements or roles that are placed on us. We feel as if we may not be living up to a role, doing things with smiles on our faces. Some of this can come from judgements we have in the past thought or expressed, or heard someone else express.

And this judgement is what prevents a lot of people from talking about problems. It prevents a lot of people from opening up about whatever they are dealing with. And when someone feels like they can’t share what is going on it festers inside them until they can’t handle anymore, and we get an explosion of some sort. Often times we then wonder, “what happened?”. “How did this happen?”. “Why didn’t they say anything?”.

It’s a vicious circle and it’s one that only we, as individuals, can break. If each person opens with a little more kindness, a little more of an open mind, and a little less judgement or unsolicited advice (again, a whole other topic), then maybe others will feel a little bit better to share. It only takes one person to start a change in this cycle. One person. Will you be that person?