Let’s set the scene. It was my first holiday season as a mom. I was going to DO.IT.ALL. The advent calendars, the holiday crafts, the festivals, the parties, the themed everything. “We must start traditions, and we must start them now!” was my motto. Insert reality. My daughter was just 6 months old that first holiday season. She couldn’t participate in any crafts, all of the parties were after her bedtime (or during her naptime), and I was tired. So very tired.
If I’m being honest, I felt like the ship had sailed on creating lasting traditions. How ridiculous, right?! A few years into this motherhood thing and I’ve learned that holiday traditions can ebb and flow based on the season of life, don’t need to be the exact same every year, and don’t need to be complicated to count. Right now, I am in a season of parenting very little children with a lot of physical demands and an early bedtime. That means our holidays are really simple, but still filled with so much magic and joy.
The simple holiday traditions that work for us include:
- An advent calendar. While my kids are still too young to fully grasp the concept of the countdown to Christmas in this way, I have really fond memories from my own childhood of opening the advent calendar each day and wanted to incorporate this into our home from the beginning. I was handed down an adorable advent calendar from my childhood and we were also gifted this one that has been a hit with my daughter.
- Holiday light display at a local historic mansion. We stumbled into this tradition after going during my daughter’s first holiday season and have continued going every year since. The mansion has a wonderful display of lights and a scavenger hunt for the kids. It’s a fun, low-key local activity that gets us outside.
- Christmas Jammies. Another tradition from my own childhood (thanks Mom!). Nothing complicated here—we all wear holiday pajamas on Christmas morning. There is just something special about the whole family wearing festive pajamas while we hang out and open gifts. Bonus points if they are matching!
- Some other fun holiday activity. Super vague, I know! But, that’s the point. Last year it was Christmas lights at the zoo (which was AWESOME!), but who knows what it will be this year.
That’s pretty much it for established holiday traditions thus far. It might expand in the future, or it might not. Of course, this list isn’t entirely exhaustive of all the holiday activities we participative it, but it gives me some simple anchors to hold onto without getting caught up in the pressure to do more.
There is so much magic in the season just simply because there is. If you need permission to do less this holiday season, here it is. Find those traditions that work for you in this season and leave the rest.
- All Things Fall: Cooler weather, pumpkins, mums, apples, long sleeves, chili, warm drinks, and the list goes on. I am here for it all of it.
- T’s first steps: It’s hard to believe my baby is hitting this milestone, but it fun nonetheless.
- M’s budding independence: M (age 4) recently insisted on making herself breakfast—an english muffin—from start to finish. It’s hard to capture the milestones after the baby years, but this was a good one.
- M+T’s sibling relationship: Now that T is almost one, the sibling interactions are really a joy to watch. There are a lot of giggles and rolling around on the floor. (and in full disclosure, a lot of tears and fighting too 🙃)
- An afternoon with girlfriends. Just what I needed to fill up the proverbial cup.
- Planning tools: I’ve always been one to use a planner and generally stay pretty organized, but I have been diving into a lot of Best Laid Plans content to get some ideas on how to optimize the planner I use and bring in some other tools.
- New running shoes: It’s been too long since I got a new pair of running shoes and my feet were feeling it. I opted for a more minimalist style to see how my feet do!
- Anniversary Plans: Our 6th wedding anniversary is coming up and I’m looking forward to spending the day together doing things we love!
- Sourdough starter: I brought her out of fridge this week and she bubbled right back up. We enjoyed sourdough graham crackers-yum!
- Hand-me-downs: T’s closet is mostly full of hand-me-downs from M, his cousins, and some friends’ kids. I love that hand-me-downs are more economical and environmentally friendly, but my favorite part is the warm fuzzy feeling I get when I see T is something that his sister, cousin, or friend wore.
I was so excited. We made the plans, months in advance. We marked our calendars, coordinated childcare, and texted each other the entire week before in anticipation. The day is here and your text comes in:
I’m so sorry, but I have to cancel. Sick kid.
I respond, No worries! Next time!
What I meant to say was:
No worries! Next time! I know that you aren’t a flake. It’s okay that our friendship looks different than it did 15 years ago when we lived together, sharing each other’s clothes and eating frozen meals together. It’s okay that we don’t get to talk on the phone daily (or even weekly or monthly). It’s okay that text messages go unanswered for days because the important ones always get responded to. It’s okay that we only get to see each other a few times a year now because you are always there when I need you. Our days are long between work, the family calendar, and the colds (SO.MANY.COLDS). Life has changed, but our friendship has not. Take care of your kid. We will get together soon.
This post is part of a blog hop with Exhale—an online community of women pursuing creativity alongside motherhood, led by the writing team behind Coffee + Crumbs. Click here to view the next post in the series “With a Little Help”.
We just returned from a short trip with our kids. It’s no secret that traveling with little kids can have it’s challenges, but there are some ways that I’ve found help make it a whole lot easier:
- Pack lighter than you think. After putting the two adults, two kids in carseats and our wagon (a non-negotiable) into the SUV, there isn’t a ton of extra space for suitcases. The solution? Pack lighter. We always need less clothes, toys, and things than we think. And, if worst came to worst, we could buy whatever we needed or forgot at our destination!
- Lower expectations. My motto forever and always. I tend to be one to create the picture perfect vacation in my mind and if it doesn’t go just so, I’m disappointed. The reality is vacation will never be perfect (with or without kids), so I remind myself to give everyone some grace and lower my expectations.
- Honor rest time. This may be an unpopular opinion, but I tend to stick to our regular bedtime/naptime on vacation. I find the kids (and us) do a whole lot better with good rest and some downtime.
- One anchor activity per day. This one goes along with #2 and #3, but gone are the days of jam packed vacations. We focus on one activity a day, which gives us time to enjoy that activity, have some down time before and after, and generally allows for more ease in our days.
- Have fun! Traveling with kids can be stressful, but there is still a lot of fun to be had. I try to remind myself that each trip we take is providing core memories for us and our kids.
I was inspired by Ashlee Gadd to say goodbye to Instagram for the month of August. It was probably the longest time I have kept the app closed in the last decade (!). Overall, it was refreshing and much needed.
Why the break?
I have been feeling the itch to take a break from social media for a while. There were too many nights where I was going to bed to “read,” only to scroll for an hour until my phone fell on my face. I would find myself just checking in with a free minute here and there. And, generally, I just really don’t like that my instinctual reaction when I have even one free second is to pick up my phone. To be fair, all this time with my phone isn’t just on Instagram, but I figured I needed to start somewhere and I wanted this experiment to be achievable. If I set a goal to not touch my phone for a month other than emergency calls, I would fail immediately.
Did the break work?
I would say so. I didn’t have lofty goals other than to stay off Instagram. 🤷🏻♀️ Plus, much of my scrolling time is really when I should be sleeping. Still, I was able to:
- Read 4.5 books (when I typically average 2/month)
- Write 3 blog posts
- Spend over an hour outside everyday
- Read more blogs and essays in their entirety (anyone else find that they never even finish reading a single caption while scrolling?!)
- Accomplished more of those nagging, but quick, tasks. (The ones that would only take a few minutes, but I’d put off to check my phone first.)
Aside from the tangible things I did, I noticed overall I felt a lot lighter and my mind felt quieter. I had more space to think and be bored. After a week or two, I noticed that I was feeling more content with MY life, especially as it relates to motherhood. My feed is filled with a lot of parenting “experts” and I don’t think I realized how inadequate I felt as a mom because I don’t do everything the way the “experts” tell me too. But, there was some FOMO too. I felt like the odd one out when I didn’t know about the newest meme, video, or post on Instagram. I missed seeing what my friends and family were doing over the month. Still, the benefits far exceeded the tiny case of FOMO.
Where do I go from here?
I don’t plan to be off Instagram forever. For better or worse, it is the way I stay connected or in the know on many people that are important to me. With that said, this month has shown me how important some boundaries with Instagram (and my phone in general) are. For me, this is going to look like:
- Limiting the amount of people I follow
- Keeping the app off my home screen
- Regular Instagram breaks
- Establishing some boundaries around phone use in general. My iPhone doesn’t need to be an appendage to my body.
- Cultivate relationships with my friends and family outside of Instagram. I might just be bringing back the phone call. 😜
Tell me, have you thought about or taken a social media break? What was your experience?
There are two types of people reading this post: the ones that are super jazzed about morning routines and the ones that are not. 😜 I love a good morning routine, but I’ve found myself creating an elaborate list to check off every morning and then failing miserably to keep it up. My pendulum swung too wide. Either I was all in with a 10-step morning routine that would be completed just so, or, after missing a few days, I would burn it all to the ground.
Over the past year, my days have looked vastly different. This time last year, I had a different job. Then I had a baby and was on maternity leave. Even now, each day looks a little different depending on which kid is going where and whether I’m going to my office or not. Mornings can feel chaotic and I was itching for more predicability, but knew a rigid morning routine would not work for me, especially in this season with two small kiddos.
So, for the last couple of months, I’ve established what I like to call a morning rhythm instead. While it feels good to have some rituals in place, they need to be flexible. I have two little kids with rather varied wake-up times. I might have slept terribly. I might have to get out of the house early than usual. There are a million reasons rigidity just won’t work. Very loosely, my morning rhythm includes the following:
- Movement: even if I’m not working out, I’ll start the day with some basic stretching to wake up my body. (bonus points if I stretch and work out)
- Hydration: always a glass (or two) of water when I wake up (and definitely before coffee).
- Coffee: enough said.
- Journal/Reflection/Planning: this one ebbs and flows for sure. I like to write in my five-minute journal, check my planner and create a to-do list for the day, but at a minimum I will give my planner a quick glance and jot down any must-dos.
- Hygiene: this is an obvious one, but an easy win! Plus, there is more in this category than the bare minimum. I make it a point to wash my face with all my skincare favorites and change into some clothes that I will feel good in, even if I’ll just be spending the day at home.
- Make the bed: nothing makes me feel more like a functioning adult like a bed that’s made.
What’s great about this rhythm? It is really simple. It can be done in 10 minutes or I can extend it to over an hour. It can be done along side my kids. I can fit it in across the whole morning if need be. I find that if I have a day or two where I miss something on the list, it is very easy to pick back up. Most importantly, starting the morning generally the same way helps ground me and create some intentionality to my day.
Last week I started going to a workout class with my mom. It was the first time I stepped into a gym in a long time. My normal exercise routine consists of workouts in my basement in pajamas. I really enjoyed the class—getting out the house, moving my body, an hour that iwas my own—and plan to continue going. Still, on my drive home from that first class, I instantly thought “I definitely need new gym clothes!”….
but do i?
I basically live in athleisure wear when I’m not in the office. The fullest drawer in the dresser is the one with athletic shirts and leggings. I’ve managed to maintain an exercise routine in PAJAMAS. And, other than the one class a week at a gym, I will continue to roll out of bed and stumble to my basement to get movement in.
So, no, I do not need new gym clothes.
Where was this knee-jerk reaction to wanting, no needing, new clothes coming from? “The woes of consumerism,” I thought. That didn’t seem right, though. I have been, somewhat successfully, curbing mindless spending for a few years now. It was something deeper.
That first class had been hard. It felt harder than I thought it should. I wasn’t pleased with my reflection in the mirror. I felt like a “before” photo. I’m not as strong as I used to be and much softer around the edges. The last four years—pregnancy, postpartum, pandemic—have done a number on my body. Plus, I love working out in a group setting, but I’d have to wait another week to do it again. I was longing for the days my sweat sessions were predictably at 5:30 p.m., five nights a week, with a booming community.
As I drove home against the sunrise, I was sitting in this place of immense pride (getting to a 5:45 am class was no easy feat), while also feeling a bit disappointed. The new clothes would fill this void (or so I thought). I was looking for a way to wiggle myself out of discomfort. This place where I’m still grappling with the realities of my life as is it right now. The life that is much different than it used to be (in good ways and bad). The one where I simultaneously don’t like the way I look, but equally annoyed I even care.
The leggings would have been the quick fix. I have plenty of them—quick fixes that is. Shopping, sugar, screen time, to name a few. Many times (most times) the quick fixes win out, but not this time. My cart stayed empty. I think that’s called growth.
It was an ordinary summer Wednesday. After a day at home with the baby, I was figuring out the activity that would fill the time between school pick-up and dinner—the hardest hour of the day. The big kid would want to do to the shadeless playground and it was HOT—no thanks. The community splash pad seemed like too much work for a short amount of time. Quickly running out of ideas that would appease all of us, I remembered the lovely schoolyard market that runs on Wednesday afternoon. Shade for me, lots of things for the baby to look at, and an afternoon treat for the big kid. Win, win, win.
We bounced from table to table grabbing fresh veggies and local coffee until we landed at the table for our beloved local bakery. “I want a cookie!!!” my daughter gleefully requested as she stared at the towering plate of chocolate chip cookies directly in her line of sight. We got into line and (mostly) patiently waited for our turn. In the few minutes it took for the people in front of us to grab their goodies, we talked solely about the cookie. We would get one to share. I would eat the small piece, she would get a lot. We were so excited for a cookie on a Wednesday afternoon.
The person in front of us was finishing up her order, two cookies. I was getting ready to roll my stroller up to the table when she turned around with a smile on her face and handed my daughter one of her cookies. I thanked her profusely. With that same smile, she then looked at me and said, “this is for you, just for being a mama, for being a good mama.”
In that moment, after that thirty-second exchange, I nearly fell into a puddle on the ground (and it wasn’t from the heat). It wasn’t just a chocolate chip cookie. As dramatic as it sounds, it was a moment that restored my faith in humanity. In a world full of busyness, divisiveness, and so much general distain, you forget that a stranger would buy you a cookie. That a stranger would see you and want you to know. That a stranger would show you a simple act of kindness and generosity.
And, aren’t these some of the most impactful moments in life? These moments in the everyday ordinary that change your life. I’m not talking about the the capital L “Life changing moments,” but those moments that simply ground you and bring a sense of gentleness that carries you through the rest of your day. That remind you to be a bit more generous, a bit more compassionate, a bit more kind. More than a week later, I am still thinking about that cookie, and I hope I don’t forgot it for a long time.
This post is part of a blog hop with Exhale—an online community of women pursuing creativity alongside motherhood, led by the writing team behind Coffee + Crumbs. Click here to view the next post in the series “Ordinary Inspiration”.
I know, click bait title, but hear me out. We are freshly off our first vacation as a family of four, and let’s just say mom and dad are a little tired. While I do love to vacation and explore new (and even familiar) places, I am admittedly a terrible traveler. Add the two little kids, and it is really easy for me to make excuses as to why we should push it off. “So much prep!”…“The baby hates the car seat!”…“We will never have enough room in the car!”…“It’s such a long drive” The list could on for days. And while these things are all true, vacation is still worth it.
This trip was a good one to ease ourselves into traveling as a new family of four—a familiar place, extended family in tow (i.e. higher ratio of adults to kids), and a lot of kid-friendly activities. Day one turned out to be more eventful than planned—surely expected (does any travel go off without a hitch?!), yet still surprising. Most of the four-hour drive included big feelings for one or both children and me crammed between two carseats in the back of a small SUV pulling all the tricks out of my bag to in an attempt to keep said feelings at bay. We were relieved to finally make it to town. We grabbed a beer (because, priorities) and some groceries, and headed to our rental only to discover it had not been cleaned. I spent the next couple of hours in a tizzy trying to connect with the owner and get the issue resolved while also managing children that were rapidly falling apart. By the end of that first day, I was EXHAUSTED and wondered what we were thinking. If I am being honest, I went to bed with a sense of dread for the week ahead.
But then both kids slept relatively well (and continued to for the rest of the week) despite sharing a room for the four of us. And there were the other wins. The big kid tried out her first roller coaster and loved it. The baby happily (for the most part) toted around in our wagon or strapped to my chest. We spent oodles of time with family we don’t see enough. There was a lot of good food and coffee. Neither my husband or I thought about work. All in all, it was a good week.
Another thing happened during the week. My family and I spent a lot of time reminiscing about past vacations. We felt nostalgia for the good times and laughed at all the hiccups along the way. I realized that during those years, when I just had to show up for the vacation, I was blissfully ignorant of the work my parents and other relatives were putting into to our travels. And all these years later, there is no doubt they would do it all again, hiccups and all.
So, yes, vacation is definitely worth it.
Before having kids, I didn’t really think much about the “type” of mother that I would be. I just thought a mom was a mom was a mom. Of course, I intellectually knew that there were different types of mothers and different ways of mothering, but I sort of lumped all mothers together. Plus, my perception of motherhood was limited to my own mom and other mothers in my family and local community. I figured I was around a bunch of good moms, so I would be a good mom too.
Fast forward to pregnancy with my first. I soon learned that there were so many decisions that would define the type of mother I would be. I was bombarded by all the research backed parenting methods and, thanks to the internet, an endless supply of mothers. Being a good mom was no longer the goal; I needed to be the perfect mom.
As an information junkie, I relished in taking in all the content on how to mother. I was determined to create the perfect mother by pulling all the right ingredients together. Then, I would simply follow that recipe for success.
One of the ingredients for my version of the perfect mother was an unmedicated birth. Then I got an epidural and before I even left the hospital with my two-day old baby, I was no longer the perfect mother. I had managed to fail my first assignment. In the four years since my first “failure,” I have continued to measure myself against this amorphous perfect mother. Even though she cannot be adequately defined, I know her as the mother that is always patient and respectful to her children, prepares all her own home-grown organic food, provides her kids with the best educational opportunities, but isn’t overly structured, never let’s her kids watch tv. She’s the mother with the kids that never get sick, the spotless home, a playroom full of heirloom wooden toys. And I can’t forget about her impressive career, while still spending lots of time at home. Really, her qualities are endless. Compared to her, I’m constantly finding myself falling short.
But on the quest to be the perfect mother, I often miss out on the opportunity right in front of me. The opportunity to be the mother I am.
I want to give myself permission to find peace in this mother. The one that I already am. The one that isn’t “perfect,” but is perfect for her kids. The mother who has infinite love for her kids, but doesn’t want to be around them all of the time. The one who keeps the house just clean enough. The one who can’t keep a Montessori playroom. The one who struggles with arts and crafts, but loves to bake with her littles, even when it means a cup of flour ends up on the floor. The one who keeps journals for her kids. The one who loves being outside, but isn’t bringing her kids camping. The one who practices gentle parenting and still loses her cool. The one who can never quite find the right balance of career and mothering. The one who shows up for her kids everyday. She has a lot of great qualities too. Here’s her permission slip to just be the mother she is.
This post is part of a blog hop with Exhale—an online community of women pursuing creativity alongside motherhood, led by the writing team behind Coffee + Crumbs. Click here to view the next post in the series “Permission Slip”.