Effing February

We made it. Can you believe it? I am both shocked and pleasantly delighted because this February has been a(n): ass kicker, doozy, shit show, mess, dark time. Seriously – take your pick of any of those words and they’ll be spot on for what this insufferably long short month has felt like.

I realize we’ve faced harder times than the past four weeks in our family, but to hit this gray, super snowy, super cold month right at the end of the Pandemic Year Calendar (that’s a thing, I’m telling you) has made things feel extra challenging. The hard stuff has been just that – hard, and more days than not have felt like I’m grasping at straws a bit to hold things together. And trust me, I’ve been trying and doing all the things to make the load feel lighter.

Here are some of those things:

For one, I’ve been keeping a Gratitude Journal daily since mid-November. I’ve done this on and off through the years and my favorite method is to list three unique things per day for which I am grateful. I can’t just say a person’s name or repeat what I said the day before – it has to be specific to a person or thing that happened during my day.

I love this gratitude practice right before bed because it helps reframe my brain just before sleep and helps me parse out my day a bit while the lights are still on in hopes that my brain won’t take off running in 20 directions at once the second my head hits the pillow. I also appreciate how it helps me document the days without taking as much time or effort as it would to write a full journal entry.

Another practice I’ve adapted in February is my seasonal affective light therapy routine. I don’t normally get the SADs this bad but this year has been far from normal and those lights are pretty inexpensive, so I got one and started using it every morning as directed for 20 minutes, even on the few days I’ve been able to get outside for actual Vitamin D.

I didn’t know if the light was helping all that much until this week when it got legit nice on Tuesday and I plumb forgot my light therapy session for the day (and then the next day, too) and then holy moly cow, did my mood ever slam in to me hard by Wednesday night. So. Note to self: keep doing the daily sit in front of the uber-bright lamp, even as actual spring approaches. It IS working!

Also working for me is the fact that I broke up with coffee, perhaps for good, but certainly for the foreseeable future.

It’s been three weeks now since I quit. Throughout the insanity of the last year, I’ve tried so many things to help my sleep and my anxiety, but it seemed that no matter what I/we did (drink less, make it weaker, etc.) nothing kept me from getting the shakes and getting more spun up in my head after my daily cup(s) of bean juice. But also, this was a total conundrum because I’m a mother of five, so how to survive (pandemic) life without some (damn) caffeine?

Enter: the help of good friends and some good old Big-Brother-targeted-marketing thanks to the fact that our phones listen to everything we say (you know it’s true) and mine heard my need for not-coffee loud and clear.

In January a friend and I were texting back and forth about yoga and knowing she was a life-long tea drinker, I asked for her secret recipe of her favorite cuppa. I don’t actually know that it was so much secret but knew it would definitely be British, and I was willing to give it a try. Over the course of a month+, I started doing a combo of coffee then tea and then finally flipped the switch to just tea (Irish or English Breakfast in the morning/green tea in some form in the afternoon or, thanks to my phone, a mushroom-based cacao drink) and guess what – no shakes! Still caffeinated enough! WhooHoo!!!

The other component to working through all the mental/emotional stuff has been, of course, the physical side of things. After starting off the year with a solid YWA challenge of 30 days straight of yoga, I jacked the heck out of my back on the final practice and had to take the next two weeks getting that and my forever sore knee back to OK. Spoiler alert: when you twist your knee, ask your dang chiropractor to look at it. You already see him once a month so don’t just assume it “just needs time” – ask him to check it and adjust it already! Seriously – I went about two months too long trying to be patient when really I needed to give my body direct attention and now that I have, things are finally back in place and feeling better.

As a result, I’m back in the movement game. I’m not doing any yoga at the moment but I have started up again with our elliptical and plan to keep at it, logging 39 miles on it before my 39th birthday in March. It takes longer to do two miles on that thing than it would for me to walk/jog that distance, but I like the workout aspect of it and since we’re still going to have more cool days than nice calm ones in the next four weeks, I like my chances with the indoor route for now.

Looking back, that’s a heck of a list. I didn’t even realize I’d taken on so many survival strategies until I started writing this, and now that I see it all, I’m both glad I did each thing and still a bit flabbergasted by how hard everything has felt even with all that good stuff mixed in to my daily habits. But that’s the kicker of all this…this isn’t about the last few weeks…it’s about the fact that we’ve been at this careful, cutoff way of life for so long now, of course my system is worn out despite all the trying and doing to keep me/us afloat.

I think acknowledging that exhaustion and the grief surrounding everything that as been these last twelve months is just as important as all the other coping skills mentioned here. And, while we’re at it, we can celebrate as we flip the actual calendar (and maybe the bird, too) and kiss this F**cking February goodbye.

Did You Grow Last Night?

Since Wilson decided to potty train 10 days ago, it seems the milestones keep flinging themselves in our faces and three years and almost three months after our last baby was born, it is really hitting me how much my family is this solid unit moving forward at break-neck speeds.

Before, as we kept adding person after person (after person after person? did I do that right?), we had to revert continually and learn how to be a new family as a unit of 3, 4, 5, 6, and then 7. Each time we revisited the newborn stage and the teething stage and the crawling/walking/running stages, only to start all over again when the next little new person came along.

But for three+ years now, we’ve been working through those early stages for the last time, and even though this isn’t news to me or you, it’s hitting me in all my feels lately.

Case in point, today in the mail we received information regarding Truman’s Kindergarten registration for this fall and I about fell over when I opened the envelope because how can my littlest guy be so big? When I made that same comment to my husband he promptly reminded that my biggest little guy is about to get info on MIDDLE SCHOOL registration and then I really did feel the shock in my physical body because, what? Are you serious? Already?! Again, I’m here every day, day after day, raising them and helping them and watching them but somehow this growth still manages to sneak the heck up on me.

Ask my kids and they will tell you, one of the questions I ask most often is, “Did you grow last night?” because they honestly appear taller some mornings than the night before when I kissed them goodnight. How do they do that? I have yet to solve the mystery, but if their ever-creeping-highwater-pajama-pant-legs are any indication, I really am on to something.

In addition to nonstop growing, this moving forward as a Family of Seven means we’re actually reaching stages where we can really get rid of baby stuff. I realize I should have started that process a long time ago (I have done some) but a year+ of house reno added to almost a year of a pandemic and you know what, sorting through toys and gear just hasn’t been a priority much less a possibility amidst all the chaos and people in this house that needs such organizing. But I do want to get to that task and we made a giant leap this week by kicking our highchair to the curb.

Now, I didn’t cry but it was bittersweet to see it go. We’ve had that thing as long as we’ve lived in this house and all five kids have used it over the years. But for months now Wilson has been eating meals at the island with the rest of the Bigs and even though she’s a holy terror mess maker while doing so, it really is much easier on my back than lifting her into that seat. Normally we give away our baby gear or sometimes try to sell a bit through FB, but not this time. That thing was nasty and even if I took my dad’s power sprayer and a gallon of soap to it, it wasn’t going to be worth trying to salvage. So it went “buh-bye” and we had to have a little Marie Kondo moment of thanking it for its service through all those meals and messes along the way.

And on we continue to roll, into a year that seems poised with firsts and lasts, all of which come with some happiness and some mourning and sometimes a mix of both because that is the privilege of getting to fill the roles I do of forever getting them to the next step.

Church Away from Church

It’s been ten months since our church has gathered in person in our church building. In that time, the church leadership has been so careful, considerate, and cautious which has been greatly appreciated as we have monitored local COVID-19 numbers and trends. Thankfully the church has also been extremely creative in keeping us connected during this time which has been possible thanks to technology and those who know how to wield such tools well. There have been outdoor services (last summer and fall) in the park, drive-through-town processions while listening to Sunday service on the radio, remote Sunday School lessons recorded and shared on the church’s YouTube page, and, of course, the weekly LiveStream on Facebook.

Since this post is about church, I must be honest and admit that I also have some confessions to make. The first is, although I have listened to/watched many if not most weeks, I have not made my family do much of that. The kids have been pretty consistent with their Sunday School lessons at home, but that credit goes to their dad, not me. When we were doing eSchool to start the year and I was in charge of three kids zooming and such from home every day I absolutely could not entertain the idea of making them do videos on the weekend, too. Thankfully Ben wasn’t as daunted by that idea and he’s continued to keep them engaged with those this whole school year. It helps that he is an actual Sunday School teacher and has even recorded two of the lessons along with some of our Bigs as helpers.

But the LiveStreams? That has been a time for me while the rest of the family does their thing around the house. The one part they consistently catch is the very end when our pastors sing “We are the Church” and as a giant side note: oh my, how all of us love that song and hope very much that that little benediction stays as part of service even when we are someday back in the actual sanctuary on Sundays.

So yes, I’ve been a little selfish with my Sunday mornings because I want to actually hear the message and not be so distracted by wrestling kids at the same time like I would during actual in-person church. This leads me to my second at-home confession: I’m not very good at just sitting and watching the LiveStreams. I blame this in part on the fact that in our 5ish years of attending First Pres, we have always had a bunch of little Littles in tow so, no, church service has never been a calm or still experience for me. I’m holding, shushing, feeding, or taking someone (or multiple someones) to the bathroom all the live-long (Sun)day, so how would I know how to just sit and listen?

At home my inability to just sit has transformed into some productive sessions while I watch/listen to service. I have had my coffee, I have done dishes, I have prepped and cooked meals, I have folded a LOT of laundry, and I have started feeding the kids lunch which is why they so often catch the final prayers and song around 11:30. I even used service to wrap Christmas books in December! But even with all this activity, I am listening and probably hearing even more than I get to when we are there in person.

This morning’s sermon touched on turning away from disconnect and distraction and it struck some cords with me. While I suppose my house-holder duties done during church might look like some icky, distracted multitasking to some, I’ve been quite grateful to have these months of hymns, prayers, announcements, and sermons to keep me company while I do the necessary tasks of caring for my family (even if I don’t let them listen with me) in a prolonged time of stress and loneliness. It makes me feel more connected to my broader community to use my church time to lighten the load of a busy mother (who is, yes, often distracted); it’s like a layer of blessing is added on top of those chores that would otherwise just be, well, chores.

There was another takeaway message from today’s service that charged us with checking in with our church family and to pray for those we would normally sit by on Sundays. I mean, seriously – maybe there is a church out there that doesn’t do voluntary assigned seats, but I have yet to be part of one, and in our current life we are Balcony People all the way where there are lots of wiggly, noisy kids and their tired parents plus some very patient other adults. As chaotic and sweaty as all that is, I miss it. I miss getting time there with the friends, family, and church family who love on and help take care of my not-so-little crew as we navigate Sunday mornings together. And now, as I reflect back on my own Sunday morning routines during the pandemic, I am also curious to know what those same Balcony People (and those who sit down below) have been doing with their Sunday services at home. Perhaps I am not the only one doing two things at once?

All told, I can’t wait to be back in person, as I’m sure all of my church family agrees. Will I miss being able to fold laundry or clean the kitchen at the same time? No, not at all because those tasks are always going to be there. But if we’ve learned anything in the last year it’s that what is is not a given. When we can safely gather again in places and spaces with our people, it is going to be such a welcome gift, one I hope we carry with us in the years to come as we continue to move with love, service, justice, and humility in this world.

Here We Go Again

After months (and months) of asking Wilson if she was ready to start wearing her big girl undies and use the potty, she finally decided this week that now was the time and she was doing this.

Before I go any further, let me remind you: this is not the first time I have blogged about potty-training and also not the first time I have admitted that I know nothing about potty-training. Five kids in and I still don’t know how to do it in a sure-fire way. Perhaps that has something to do with each kid being their own person, eh?

All I know is that in the past, we always had the incentive of places to go and things to do in order to entice children to start using the bathroom at a certain age. If 2020 hadn’t happened the way it did, we would have started WA with preschool in Jan 2021 (i.e. now) and that would have been our motivator to get on and off the pot, so to speak. But 2020 did what it did and we don’t go anywhere now, so what was the point in forcing the issue besides the fact that that is one thing I do know about potty-training…until the kid is actually ready, force is not the way.

So she got undies last fall (trainer style) and then in her stocking for Christmas (regular style) and still she told me an empathic, “NO.” each time I asked if she wanted to wear them. That is, until two days ago on Wednesday, when apparently she decided that a new dawn for our country was as good a time as any to start a new chapter in her own story, too.

And honestly? She rocked it. She went the entire day in undies (minus nap) and had no issues. Same on Thursday, but even better because she shocked everyone in the house by fulfilling both *ahem* duties on the potty-seat before the day was done. I mean, I have never been more shocked/pleased to hear a kid yelling, “I pooooooooped!” from the bathroom (and yes, that is the Bat Signal in our house; classy, I know.). She totally earned that handful of M&Ms, I tell you (not a technique we’ve ever used before, but again, 5th Kid. What do you do?).

This morning? Same thing. Undies all the way. Getting herself to the bathroom time and time again (we had hot chocolate after playing out in the cold, snow-globe-falling snow), no problem. And then nap time came and all the independence came right back to bite me in the butt because Not-So-Baby Girl decided she was NOT going to wear a diaper for today’s nap because, because, well, who knows? She’s 3? She thinks she a pro already? She can actually do it?

I guess we’ll have to see if she really can/does because I wasn’t willing to have the knock down, drag out fight to get a diaper on her, so I made her use the bathroom and then we did our normal go-down-for-nap routine with her in not a diaper, so help me Sweet Baby Jesus.

Will this work? I highly doubt it. She’s still in a crib with tall sides and assuming that none of her siblings have taught her how to crawl out of it, she’s stuck there until I get her up and I am fully, fully counting on there being a mess when I do. But I’ll still have time before bed to get her sheets and whatnot washed, and no matter what happens, she will be in a “night-night diaper” because Mama and Daddy don’t play when it comes to messing with nighttime sleep. But for now? Sure. Fine. This is a gamble I’m (sort of) willing to take.

On the flip side, as terrifying as this all is, it’s also terribly exciting because if we can make this happen, we will finally (11.5 years later) be out of diapers in this house. Now that is a New Era also worthy of great celebration (and definitely more chocolate for all).

Update: she did not make it through the nap unscathed but the mess was not the mess I feared, so I will take it! She also gave me a sweet little apology and agreed that she would put a diaper on for nap the next time mama asked, so I think we came out of that little experiment just fine.

Third First Day of Third Grade

Moving and/or starting over in the midst of a school year is something our family has never experienced before, but this year, our kids have had a number of transitions surrounding First Days. For the Big 3, it was eSchool in August, followed by in-person school in October. For Truman it was a new preschool in October. And, unfortunately*, for RL, it is a new classroom for in-person school today. That means she’s started over three times in one year of school (and we’re only halfway through!); even though kids are resilient as all get-out, that’s an awful lot for a little person to process, especially for a little person who asks so little of others but always makes life easier for those around her.

*As to the use of the word “unfortunate”: this is nothing against the teacher RL is joining today. It’s actually the same teacher she had for eLearning which is why this is happening in the first place. The District isn’t offering eLearning to those without a doctor’s note to remain doing so, so her eTeacher needed to return to the in-person classroom and that just happens to be in our kids’ elementary building. So the good thing is, Raegan already knows her and how sweet she is. And of course we understand that the school had to do something in this situation, but trust me when I say, I did not expect our eSchool option to come back and bite us in the butt right before Christmas break like it did when we got this news.

The thought of making Raegan change classrooms again (for the third time in less than six months) was heartbreaking because she worked hard to establish herself and make connections in her in-person class during second quarter. And that was after staying home and quarantined far longer than most, so the social aspect of all this was very upsetting. There were a LOT of tears shed in the last two days before break as all this went down and we tried to figure out just what was happening, and I don’t just mean from her and her friends; I mean me on the phone with the school, too, because if nothing else, my job as a mom is to advocate for my kids whenever and however needed, even if I’m a sobbing mess while doing so. And even when I know it’s not going to change a darn thing.

I was worried break might be a pretty blue two weeks for RL, but she had a really nice time up until the last two days when school was looming and then the quietness/questions started coming. And then this morning, on the actual day of First Day, Take Three, her tummy and her heart hurt and we definitely had tears while trying to get kids ready and out the door.

I did everything I could think of to send her wrapped in love today, from painting her fingernails last night (rock star color for my Rock Star Raegan) to putting Sharpie hearts on her new mask so she’d know which side was face-side (and so I could give her some love each time she put her mask on today), and even some Stress Away essential oil dabbed behind her ears after she got dressed – anything I could do to help her remember that I’d be here at the end of the day to listen to and love on her because she is capable of handling this sucky situation, even if I wish she didn’t have to do so.

The good news is, the day was good (enough). She came home full of stories and (enough) smiles to put my mama heart at ease because I can see that her heart is as at ease (enough), too. (My WoTY is coming in really handy, I see, even with parenting!)

May this please, please be the last First Day she has to have this year!

ENOUGH

Perhaps it is the contrarian in me, but I do not like the idea of New Year’s resolutions. I’ve resisted them for years now and 2021 shall be no different. I’m not going to resolve to be a new me or a new anything for that matter. But what I am going to do is commit to staying active and present on this journey of life and I am doing so by picking just one word to be my guide for as many days as I need it in this new year.

If you’ve ever read anything else I’ve written or met me, I’m sure you know picking just one word doesn’t come naturally or easily to me. One of my favorite memories from college was calling my dad and freaking out over the phone about meeting the word count of an upcoming paper only to hear his loving and immediate response of, “Baby Daughter. You have never not had enough words.” and knowing he was right. I love me my words and I use them well and often, so here I shall continue, relying on my words.

This isn’t the first time I’ve done a word focused approach to start a new calendar, but it is the first time I’m forcing myself to pick just one word to guide me. Looking back at 2020, I landed a lot on resilient and I was tempted to choose its sister word of persistent for 2021, but I think what I need to remember now more than ever is that I am doing enough. I have enough. I am enough. I can also, conveniently, flip this word to a more stern tone and sharply say “enough!” when the BS gets too heavy (online or in my own mind) or when I need some time and space for my head and heart. Enough of this. Enough of that. Enough of me. Enough for me.

Enough. Enough. Enough.

This word will have its work cut out for it in the first month of this new year. I’ve made commitments to myself in terms of my physical body (consistent bed and wake up times, plus 30 days of yoga) and I also have to navigate my mental energy in my return to online teaching two terms and the subsequent essay grading overload that comes with that. Then there’s all the momming and adulting that comes with the normal day-to-day as the kids return to school but of course we’re still in a pandemic, so there are extra concerns and care that need to be addressed as we wait for a vaccine and think more about what 2021 will look like for us in terms of activities (or not). And then there’s the financial commitment that we’ve made to knock out the lingering credit card debt from house renovations and see? There is enough to attend to; now I just need to remember, every single day, that I have enough within me to do it.

Will one word be enough to do all that? I think so.

25 Things in 2020

This is a hard list to write in a normal year and I think one thing we can all agree on at the end of this insane ride of the last 123 (typo; leaving it) months is that 2020 has been anything but normal. So how is a list of 25 things, both big and small “accomplished” going to go? I have no idea but I committed years ago to doing this annual round up, so here I am to claim the tradition, even in the midst of chaos.

  1. I came through 2020 with my head and my heart both still intact. Pretty sure that should be the first thing on the list and really could be the only thing on the list because riding the waves of this COVID-year coaster has been so head spinning and heart breaking, just making it to this day is accomplishment enough, don’t you think?
  2. I became an ardent mask wearer. I’m not always an early adopter in life but I was this time because I believe in science and I believe in epidemiologist experts and we’ve been wearing masks in public since, I don’t know – April? Plus this fall I’ve witnessed with my own family how mask wearing works and has kept them safe at school. My favorites are the 5 for $25 masks from JohnnyWas that started out as buy one/give one to essential works.
  3. Started walking daily in mid-ish April. Didn’t miss a day until November when I had to take 10 days off after tweaking my knee (whilst trying to avoid, of all things, a Lego). I listened to music, I listened to books, I listened to my friends on Marco Polo, and sometimes I even just listened to my own breath and heartbeat. I needed a way to keep active and sane and thankfully I live in a place where I can get out and do that away from groups of people. Post knee injury, I’m learning to be OK with not doing this every day and still feeling OK in my body and in my brain; balance (mental and emotional, not just physical) is a forever practice.
  4. Threw in some running this year, too! Social media eventually pissed me off so much this fall that the only way I could process was to run it out. I started low distance and awfully huffy (why am I suddenly a mouth breather when I run?) and worked my way up to a nice 3 mile distance before aforementioned knee injury. I’ve only run a couple times since then but hope to keep getting back to it more and more in the coming year.
  5. Voted for the first woman (and woman of color) Vice President of the United States, Kamala Harris! What a joy it was to place my absentee ballot for her, even if there was no chance of my district falling their way. I am overjoyed at the prospect of all that the Biden/Harris administration will accomplish and am so grateful that we finally have a woman in the top leadership in this country.
  6. Said a tearful and unwilling goodbye to my hero, Ruth Bader Ginsberg in September. I sobbed for the loss of her battle with cancer and the profound example of justice, determination, and impact that was her life and life’s work. May her memory be a blessing.
  7. Rebooted my yoga business in a new way for a new year. I haven’t taught an in-person class in almost a year and a half but this fall I started recording classes that are now available for purchase and download from Grounded Sky.
  8. Taught six sections for Bellevue this year which included two at the very start of the shutdown in March, one over the summer and fall, respectively, which was a helpful, lighter load, and then back to two this winter like I had to start the year. I realize that’s confusing, but we run on 10 and 12 week terms, so it’s not the traditional semester system and you flip the calendar in the midst of Winter Term, so it’s not an easy count to make or explain.
  9. I read 80 books. I had a huge slump at the start of the pandemic, so I’m really pleased that I was able to recover that and read so much this year. Combining audiobooks and my walks helped a ton here.
  10. I wrote 46 blog posts. This definitely came in slumpy to end the year. It has felt harder to wear my heart on my written sleeve in the midst of so much division and Internet suckage this year.
  11. Introduced my Big 3 to Star Wars. That franchise has never been Ben’s cup of tea, but I grew up with a brother who loved it, so I had some background knowledge going in and we were gifted Disney+ last year for Christmas anyway (which we didn’t use nearly as much pre-pandemic as we did after sh!t started) so we went for it. Big! We made it through all nine episodes (in order by release date, thank you very much) before summer came and then shortly before Christmas break, we enjoyed both seasons of The Mandalorian. Such a delightful rabbit hole to fall into with them.
  12. Joined a new book club that met weekly online for most of the summer months and has continued to do a few monthly online gatherings since school started. I did not know everyone well (or even at all) in the group before starting, but I greatly appreciated their time and insights in our discussion and getting to know each of them better.
  13. Finally experimented with temporary hair color. I’ve been wanting to play with that for some time now and if 2020 itself wasn’t the best year ever to just say eff it and find a little joy via hair dye, when would be? I have so far used purple (loved it!) and blue (didn’t work as well and turned my dang hand blue instead when I was blow drying it after the fact), and still have a hot pink left waiting for me in the new year. Ridiculous but fun, which was very much needed this year.
  14. Saw Bonnie and Taylor Simms in concert at The Lark for Valentine’s Day and saw Waitress performed at The Lied Center the first weekend in March, and then that was it – no more live music or shows the rest of the year, obviously. But we did live stream concerts from The Talbott Brothers, Tobe Nwige, and Rising Appalachia which were all very different and sort of a band-aid to my live-music-loving-heart. Hoping our postponed Trevor Hall tickets for next spring actually get to be a thing, and I hope to see both RA and Towr’s live in 2021, too.
  15. Learned how to make killer, from-scratch broccoli cheddar soup. It’s phenomenal.
  16. Participated in a Zoom book club video/podcast/round table for our church with two former HC Lit professors along with our two pastors in a six-week read of Gilead by Marilynne Robinson. It was such a pleasure to partake in the discussions plus I loved all the effort our church exerted to keep folks connected this year in new and creative ways with this being just one example of how they did that.
  17. Went six months without wearing jeans or any real pants beyond leggings, PJs, or workout pants/shorts. I don’t actually know if that’s an accurate statement but it really was a significant part of the pandemic/year before I bothered putting those on again and I feel like six months is an honest estimate.
  18. Watched way more TV than normal, including the entire SERIES of Parks and Rec, The Watchmen, The Mandolorian (both seasons), the docuseries On Pointe and season one of Little House on the Prairie (those last three were all with the Big 3 or some combo of them). I’m saving a re-watch of Schitt’s Creek for the long cold months of Jan/Feb 2021.
  19. Painted the final walls of the reno project in the basement (remember when that started over two years ago? Pandemic life slowed us down on that front, too, but now all spaces are totally useable if not 100% done). This included two coats on two sides of five damn doors in the new hallway down there.
  20. Discovered the sheer amazingness and utter shocking WHOA of using a foam roller. A friend suggested it after I started running again and she was not wrong. I love that thing and use it all the time!
  21. Went to Harlan County Reservoir for the first time. We splurged and rented a cabin near there last minute before the 4th of July so we could escape the boom-booms in town and while there we drove over to the lake and discovered that we just love it for day trips which we continued to do throughout the rest of the summer.
  22. Used the “snooze for 30 days,” “unfollow,” and even “unfriend” buttons a fair bit on social media this year. Boundaries and mental health are important and social media is often not helpful in these realms.
  23. Still haven’t found a way to fix my sleep so I don’t wake in the mid-to-early morning hours. And trust me, I tried a LOT of things this year including staying up for an entire day/night/day to try to reset my system. Didn’t work but it was interesting to accomplish. Of course, this was before 2020 really turned into 2020, and I figure most people are struggling in some ways with sleep and anxiety this year, right? Perhaps not the best year to try to “fix” what has been a lifelong issue for me.
  24. Learned how to drink black coffee. Don’t get me wrong, I still love a fancy concoction from a coffee shop and I also still doctor up my own at home with random forms of sugar and milk (like eggnog this winter? yum!) from time to time, but for the most part, I now just drink plain coffee. I feel like such a grownup!
  25. Bought my first-ever case of wine. Not even one bit sorry about my choices. The backstory of how we found this (I may have accused my husband of not knowing who Snoop was) and how three of my friends also bought cases is just too funny not to add it as the last (and always one of the hardest items on this list) to write. (One of those pictured here belonged to a friend, I promise!)
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That’s it, folks. An odd collection of musings for an equally odd year. I know 2021 isn’t going to be an instant fix, but here’s looking forward to some good things coming as we know they must be after the muck and mire of 2020.

This Christmas

Long time no write, friends. I’d say part of that is from sheer busyness, even when we still don’t go anywhere or do anything beyond the necessary, but also, it’s just been a strange end of fall/start of winter for me with a lot of emotional ups and downs, and as much as writing still helps me with that, I haven’t known what to say about it here. I don’t know if you’ve noticed but the Internet can be a shitty place to share your heart and I’ve felt myself shying away from doing so these last couple months.

That said, we are now on Christmas Break and I’m trying to store some bits and pieces of this crazy year in recorded fashion because I know that like everything else, this too will pass and fade over time and documenting will one day help me remember just what this Christmas was like.

This is the Christmas of staying home even though (knock on wood) no one is sick. The last two Christmases have brought us botched plans thanks to germs, and I guess this one is no different except that we feel so fortunate not to have actual COVID botching them for us. Again, knock on allll the wood, please and thank you now that I’ve just written that. We will still see my parents over the holiday because they’ve been in our COVID Bubble for months now, but the rest of our holiday interactions will be via video call of one kind or another. We did three different versions of that just today, actually, with a FaceTime, a Skype, and a Family Zoom, all before noon! We did get to do an early Christmas with Ben’s folks last weekend, too; it was our first real gathering with them since July.

This is the Christmas of having five kids ranging in ages 3-11.5 which is still a pretty intense place to be in terms of navigating everyone’s big feels and needs and the fact that is is still really hard to find an activity that they can all do together without mass chaos or fighting happening. Ben and I love board games and much as we try, we keep looking forward to the day when we can actually do that as a whole family unit and have it go smoothly. We know with perseverance and practice, we’ll get there. Eventually.

This is the Christmas of still being able to convince all five kids to watch a PBS Christmas special together and oh how happy it made my heart. Harrison is a legit tween now but bless his big brotherness, he was totally on board to watch A Very Monkey Christmas, the Curious George Christmas “movie” yesterday with the rest of his sibs all piled together on the couch with popcorn and M&Ms while a not-so-little blizzard whirled around outside. Honestly, how many more years do we get of him doing that? I’ll cherish each one, however many he’s willing to give us.

This is the Christmas of cooking and baking a few things here and there but also being really grateful that my mom is here and helps as much as she does, including from her kitchen and our family’s love language of food. We’re also going to try one of Ben’s favorites of his mom’s, homemade Mounds candy, next week once we’ve worked through some of the other Christmas goodies and meals.

This is the Christmas of three nights (so far) of driving to look at Christmas lights, including the less-than-successful Christmas start night. It sounds like that was pretty cool for folks with a telescope but for us it was a bit too much wandering on dark country roads with five over-excited children in the van with us.

This is the Christmas of buying myself a present that I love because a mom’s gotta do what a mom’s gotta do, you know?

This is the Christmas of being so thankful for the technology that has seen us through this year and this holiday, that has kept family and friends close even when we couldn’t gather in person. I get so sick of the screens sometimes but also, without them? We would not be OK.

This is the Christmas of Thank Goodness This Year is Almost Over and the Christmas of May We Never Forget All We Learned This Year. It’s been an insane ride and that won’t just change when the calendar flips next week, but for now, for today, which happens to be Christmas Eve, may we all just pause for a second and see it for the gift that it is, no matter how different it looks and feels.

Benched

When I set my goal to walk/run 87 miles in the 30 days leading up to the election, I knew I was up for the task because I needed a good distraction. In fact, I’ve been distracting myself with such activity every single day since the third week in April, which is why it is terribly ironic that on Election Day itself, after I’d actually surpassed the original goal by an extra 20 miles, I injured my left knee due to the contact sport known as parenting.

Y’all, it’s a tale as old as (modern) time: I stepped funny sideways to avoid landing on a Lego (c’mon, parents, you know you know this dance) and tweaked my knee in doing so.

The kicker is, I kept on walking the rest of the week (because how else was I going to survive the chaos of waiting for election results?) before Saturday afternoon’s venture made me realize, I’m actually really hurt and need to take some time off from that kind of movement.

Again, I haven’t missed a day of that in damn near seven months (SEVEN MONTHS) and benching my body right now has not felt good. Eliminating my “burn off the crazy” options while also taking away the option even to do something more gentle like my yoga practice has left with me with meditation/breathwork only and let’s be real clear for a moment – I have been emotionally stuffing with exercise for months now and sitting still is HARD.

Also ironic this week is that after a mailing delay, my #RunforRuth RBG swag finally showed up on Monday, Day Two of my No Movement Week (really hoping it is just a week). An injury does not negate the fact that I put in 107 miles in 30 days (and the injury is not from those miles), but it is bittersweet all the same to be in a place of stuck while also trying to celebrate that accomplishment.

Obviously this isn’t my first physical injury ever and clearly I need to bring in some emotional/mental balance in other ways than just pounding the pavement, so in some ways, this is just fine. But since I can’t burn off said crazy in said ways, I’m doing some extra protecting by staying away from social media but for once-ish a day. There’s a lot of noise out there and my feelings of overwhelm plus too much while also feeling like I’m not doing enough are just a little too loud for that particular space right now.

So I’m reading and doing an ecstatic breathwork program and checking my email about 50x a day since it’s the only platform beyond Pinterest that I’ll let myself look at online these days. And I’m trying really hard to be patient while my body works through what it needs to work through to recover.

I can’t really say patience has ever been one of my strong suits, but like my hero who inspired me to move a little more this fall in the first place, I am persistent as all get out so for now, that will have to do.

Return to Decency

Last week my children, like many of yours I would assume, participated in a school-wide mock election. This of course included the vote for POTUS. While I had prepared my children that not many people around here share my politics (we live in what fivethirtyeight.com deems the reddest electoral college district in the nation), I did not prepare them adequately enough for the ugly responses they would receive for sharing who they voted for in that fake election.

One of my children was called dumb and stupid for voting for Biden. Another was called “gay” (don’t even get me started on how much I can’t stand that particular misuse of language). And the third was shamed for their vote, being told by a classmate, “You shouldn’t vote for Biden. He kills babies after they are born.”

It may come as no surprise, then, that one of the first responses I heard from one my kids yesterday, after the initial JOY, was, “I’m so glad this happened on a Saturday so the kids at school couldn’t tease other kids.”

That *that* is the particular relief my child felt makes my heart heavy. It also makes me ache for those children who have been fed such lies and hatred and who now feel compelled to take it out on others. That this behavior rings true in the same nasty ways the president has modeled for four years hardly excuses it.

Folks, we need a hard shift in our rhetoric. I don’t care about politics near as much as I care about basic human decency and we simply must realize that how we speak to our kids about this election and those who participated in it matters in regards to how we speak to and about one another. Just because my politics differ from the majority around me doesn’t mean my children should have to worry about how they will be treated by their peers at school as a result of their “vote.”

We have to move beyond this polarization and start treating others as we wish to be treated. Our children are watching and listening and parroting what they hear and see us do. For their sake, as well as our own, we have work to do.

Let us return to decency and empathy.

Let us not mock or belittle.

Let us lead with kindness and compassion always.