Summer Rhythms

My first summer as a new mom didn’t really feel like summer. I had been staying home nearly a year and so, as I watched moms with older kids reframe their schedules and lament the loss of alone time that school provided, our routine stayed the same. Some things did change. After attending MOPS for that entire school year, I started getting invitations for playdates. A group of moms met for weekly hikes at trails around town and I started experiencing a new world of exploration.

Now, six years later, I’m one of those moms I looked up to. The one who is restructuring schedule and figuring out how to create space for the quiet and alone time I got used to, even with just two mornings a week to myself while our youngest was at preschool.

I hesitate to give advice or share our summer routine because what works for our family could translate to the most stressful summer for yours. One thing I’ve learned over my almost-seven years of motherhood is to try to take the path that is least stressful. If I’m calm and happy, it’s likely my kids will be calm and happy.

Some of my friends make lists of things to do in the summer months so if the kids are bored, they have a preplanned set of ideas to fill the time. I recently read about a mom coordinating her days into “Movement Mondays” and “Water Wednesdays” so their weeks have a rhythm and structure. I know another mom who lets each of her four kids pick one activity they want to do during the summer. She doesn’t guarantee which day they’ll do it but she does promise to make time for those activities.

In our house, summers are for slow mornings in our pajamas, for playdates and water fun, for Costco-sized boxes of OtterPops, for riding bikes after breakfast and before dinner, for extra screen time and reading in our backyard tree castle. As my girls grow, I’m finding a natural rhythm to our days. My oldest thrives on sticker charts and created one for our fridge. I don’t know what reward she’s working toward, but she’ll tidy, sweep, and read to her sister all for the promise of an extra sticker. It works for now.

I thought I’d share a handful of rhythms we’re creating this summer. They didn’t all work last year and they most likely won’t all work next year but in this moment, they are what give me space and the structure I need in these blissfully unstructured days.

Chores Before Screen Time

Normally, I don’t link screen time to a rewards system because screen time is my time. Making my girls give it up means I’m giving up a quiet space in our day. But this year, my almost seven-year-old really wanted to start a chore chart so I did link screen time to her simple chores. Mondays she tidies the main floor, Tuesdays she sweeps, Wednesdays she cleans her bedroom. You get the idea. The baseline is minimal. If she kind of does these chores, she gets screen time. I figure anything is better than nothing and so far it’s decreased my nagging. For me, the key is trying rather than perfection. Our nearly four-year-old is off the hook for this. If she tries at all, we’re good!

Fun Meal Planning

I try to involve my kids in our weekly meal planning anyway, but summers are for saying yes to more. When my youngest asked for cake for dinner, I googled savory cakes and was amazed at the choices! This simple yes means something new in our meal rotation and it feels like a celebration. The other day we ordered pizza, spread the picnic blanket in our front yard, and had an impromptu dinner. Suddenly our normal Friday fare became an out of the norm experience. I’m trying to remember this philosophy in other areas of our days. We have to eat anyway—what’s a simple way to make a normal meal special? What are other daily tasks that can be made fun? Is there a playground next to the grocery store? Can you stop there for a few minutes before your errands? Is there an ice cream shop on the way to another place? Taking some time to mix up your routine feels incredibly special to kids of all ages.

Relaxed Rhythms

Our family works well when we’re on a rhythm rather than a strict schedule. If possible, I like to spend the first few days of summer establishing a new routine. For us, this looks like busier mornings and quieter afternoons. Even though we’re long out of the napping phase, if we’re home we practice an hour of quiet rest after lunch time. Sometimes this means going to our separate rooms with a book. The other day, my girls took their books to the backyard tree fort for the hour. Whatever we do, it has to be an activity that involves minimal interaction with me so that we can all rest.

None of these rhythms happen perfectly on any given day. But because I’m choosing to practice and model them, on those longer days it’s easier to lean into this modified schedule.

If you’re able, take five or ten minutes to think about what gives you the most energy in your mothering. If you need that hour of quiet and space every day, take the time to train your kids to give you that. It won’t be perfect but it will be better than nothing. If you thrive on activity and unique experiences, make a list with your kids and plan out some summer adventures! Just remember that whatever you choose, it has to give you joy and life.

I’m leaning into the paradox of embracing the spontaneity summer offers while creating a structure and rhythm to our days that will keep us sane and safe. It’s what works for our family in this given season and I’m remembering to listen to that more than anything.

Originally posted on The MOPS Blog: https://blog.mops.org/summer-rhythms/

Pausing to Enjoy the Summit

When I moved back to Colorado after college, my dad and I would spend summers hiking the 14,000-foot mountains around Colorado. We’d wake up before dawn so that we could be stepping foot on the trail at sunrise. We’d hike all morning, eat an early lunch at the 10418255_10152599208242938_297764949818653760_nsummit, and then hike down before the afternoon thunderstorms rolled in. I loved having lunch at the peak. It was a reward for hard work and it gave us time to pause and really enjoy the scenery. What’s the point of “bagging a peak” if you don’t stop to enjoy the view?

We were sitting in a circle at MOPS, talking about having one foot in the toddler world and another toe dipping into The Next Phase. Some of the women are firmly entrenched in the baby and toddler years but a group of us are starting to emerge. We’re not as sleep deprived; our kids are a bit more independent; school is on the horizon. What’s next?

It’s an interesting place to be – on the cusp. I don’t really know how long I’ll be at this summit, overlooking new ideas and opportunities. Part of me wants to just dive in and leave this last season behind. But reality means recognizing that being on the cusp is a slow journey.

I’m watching others take these next steps. They’re starting practices, taking classes, writing books, and pursuing dreams, all with kids the same age as ours. I compare myself and think that I should be ready for this next journey.

I’m remembering to stop at the peak, to eat my lunch, and to enjoy the scenery. I don’t know how long this will take – it could be a shorter pause than I’m anticipating. Or it could be a few more years until this next phase actually happens. I’m remembering to cheer for my friends, to work hard at my own goals, and am learning to savor this particular time in life.

How are you remembering to pause and enjoy the scenery? How do you balance living fully in the moment while pursuing dreams?

Linked with Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing. Today’s prompt is “other.”

Setting a Rhythm to My Days

Autumn is here! We went from a record-high on the last day of summer to rainy and chilly temperatures by the second official day of fall. This week has been cold and rainy, too which has me all snuggly and ready for hibernation.

IMG_6482While I may be in a cozy mood, Elle has decided to totally switch up her nap routine this week. Some days she’s woken up super early; other days I’ve had to wake her so we can pick up Bea on time. Yesterday, she decided that napping just wasn’t for her. I know this is a typical two-year-old regression, but….

I didn’t realize how much I depended on those two hours each afternoon to be a better mom. I knew they mattered and long ago, I’ve made nap time my time. Very rarely do I do household tasks during these quiet hours. This is my time to write, to read, to send emails, to knit or do nothing at all. I use these precious moments as a time to recharge for the intense after school, before dinner hours.

I know this is atypical and that (hopefully!) we’ll be back on track today or by next week. But it has me thinking about those routines I depend on. How I take for granted moments I have each day to recharge and remember to be fully me. I suppose losing things I find routine is how I best appreciate them.

This regression also has me thinking about how to intentionally use my time. How do I set a rhythm to my days that includes quiet hours but isn’t dependent on them? How do I reframe my mindset to finding rest, even in moments that aren’t peaceful? I’m not sure I’ll ever have those answers or find that magical balance but in some ways, I’m glad for the opportunity to reflect on those moments.

Of course, I’d take a solid nap time above reflective lessons any day!

How do you set a rhythm to your day? Do you need daily stretches of quiet or are you able to find energy in activity? How do you respond when life happens and things are thrown off?

Linked with Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing. Today’s prompt is “depend.”

Parenting Without Immediate Results

The other day I felt like the Best Mom. I put aside my to-do list and focused completely on Bea. During quiet rest (which is just as much for me as for her) we read books, played an imaginative game, drank hot cocoa with her tea set, and wrote a book. It was a sweet three hours, just the two of us.

IMG_1708When Elle woke up from her nap, a switch flipped. I had assumed that all this quality time would carry over to the rest of the evening but something happened and suddenly Bea became a wild thing.

My first thought was, Well that was a waste of time! I could have just worked on my to do list and gotten the same results.

Of course, parenting isn’t a results-based practice. We can do all the “right things” and still not get the immediate results we’re hoping for. Sometimes this extremely long-term vision is tiring. I want to know right now that my kids will turn out ok; that my attempts at patience and empathy will pay off.

The immediate results that I am seeing are that I always have a little bit more. Even when I think I don’t have an ounce of patience or energy left, somehow I do. No one has ever died of playing one more game of tea party or reading one more book.

I’m reading Man’s Search for Meaning by Vicktor Frankl. In it, he talks about the need to look to the future, that without a future hope our present becomes meaningless. I’m taking those words and putting them to this journey. That even on the longest days, my hope is that these endless tea parties will make way for future friendships.

What is something you’re doing now with the future in mind? How does that long-term vision impact the way you view certain tasks now?

Linked with Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing. Today’s prompt is “mom.”

You Don’t Have to Give Up Your Friends to Join a Moms’ Group

I recently read an article titled something like, Why You Shouldn’t Join a Moms’ Group. It was all about why new moms should just keep the friends they already have without making new friends. That old friends are way better and that it’s important to have friends without kids.

bag-gypsofilia-seeds-1716655_960_720On one level, I do agree with this author. When I had Bea, my friendships didn’t simply end. My friends without kids came over and showered my new baby with toys and clothes and food. They held her and cooed and reminded me that life was still normal, just a new normal. But then they went back to work and I stayed home with this new human, watching The Wonder Years on Netflix and wondering how I would fill our days.

When she was about six weeks old, I ventured to our neighborhood library for Book Babies and my life changed. I was invited to a Mothers of Preschoolers group at a nearby church and started going. Now, in addition to my pre-kid friends (who mostly have kids of their own now) I also have this group of women who have held my hands on this journey of motherhood.

My moms’ group stood by me during those fresh newborn days, though sleep training and milestones. Though toddlerhood and adding a sibling and potty training. My moms’ group talked about all those mothering things, yes. But we also talked about how we advocate as moms, how we remember social justice as we engage with our preschoolers. My new mom friends went with me to a conference on Race and Reconciliation and pushed my thinking of how to was the  engage with those radical ideas.

My moms’ group filled a void in my days that my friends without kids simply couldn’t. They held my babies and cooed and reminded me that life was still normal, just a new normal. I still get together with my friends without kids. I cannot imagine life without them. They push and shape my thinking. They love my kids with time and energy my mom friends just don’t have.

What made me sad about the article was that the author made it sound like an either/or choice. I understand that polarization sells, but you don’t have to give up your friends without kids in order to join a moms group – if that is a requirement, I’d encourage you to look into a new moms’ group. But that’s certainly not the norm.

Mother’s Day is this weekend and I know it can be a time of heartache for many women. The road to motherhood can be filled with trauma and tragedy and unmet expectations. It can be a stark reminder of a life wished for but not fulfilled. It can remind us of broken relationships with our own moms.

I still love celebrating Mother’s Day. I love remembering my own journey as a mother and I love taking time to remember those who have helped me on this journey. From my own mom and grandmothers to aunts and friends to whom was the friend-without-kids for so long. From my friends in my moms group to my friends without kids now.

I suppose what I’m trying to say is thank you. Thank you to my friends without kids who so graciously show up to my messy home and engage with my girls. Who offer perspectives and experiences that I often envy because of your freedom. Thank you to my friends who are ahead of me on this journey. Who offer hope and wisdom and a sense of humor to these little years. Thank you to my moms group friends who are right here with me in the trenches. Who commiserate and reminisce and laugh at our sweet and insane days. Thank you to my friends who started out as single girlfriends and who have grown into motherhood with me. For the patience and flexibility of the changing nature of our relationship.

Mothers Day is as complex a holiday as motherhood itself. I am thankful for the women in my life who have held me up through these first years of my own mothering journey.

How do you support the moms in your life? Did you ever join a moms group when you were a new mom?

Review: The Magic of Motherhood by Ashlee Gadd

As a new mom, my favorite books were not instruction manuals or sleep guides. Though these came in handy, the ones that I needed most and resonated with most were ones about the history of parenting (bottom line: you’re doing good) and raising kids the French way. They didn’t necessarily shape my own parenting practices but they reminded me that I was normal and tired and doing a pretty good job.

_140_245_Book.2209.coverThe Magic of Motherhood is a compilation of essays by the team at the collaborative mothering blog, Coffee + Crumbs. I’ve clicked over to this website a few times and I like the honest, chatty style. The authors do a good job of normalizing motherhood and reminding women that this is a tough road without much instruction. And that’s part of the magic.

Most of these essays focus on the little years. A few touch on the shift to mothering tweens, but most of the contributors are in the infant to early elementary school years. They are messy and emerging from sleep deprivation and close enough to the newborn years to not romanticize their sweetness.

Some essays were heartbreaking, of loss and infertility and navigating diagnoses. Others were funny and filled with wry observations of life with crazy small humans. My favorites were the ones in which I found myself nodding along. The one in which a stroller careened down a hill toward the river, babies strapped in, mom racing behind. I’ve never experienced this exact story but that feeling of, WHAT have I just done?! has definitely defined more days than I’d like to admit. Or the essay that reminded me that my husband and I really are in this together, even when we feel like ships passing in the night.

I think, as moms (both new and seasoned) we need to remember that there are more me too moments than we realize as this collection reminds me that I’m not alone and that I’m doing a pretty good job.

With Mother’s Day coming up next weekend, I’d highly recommend The Magic of Motherhood to a new mom in your life. I already know I’m gifting my copy to a friend celebrating her first mother’s day. I know she’ll laugh along and appreciate these essays as much as I did.

What is your favorite parenting book? How do you remember that you are not alone on this journey? 

I review for BookLook Bloggers
I received this book free from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion.

Doing What Only I Can Do

Even though I quit my job after Bea was born, I quickly found a new identity about a year later working at an incredible museum. Title-wise, it didn’t get much better. Mom and Museum Educator? Pretty cool.

IMG_3982A few weeks ago, I officially quit this pretty cool job. Life has gotten super busy and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down. A friend once advised, Do only what you can do. When taking inventory, only I could be wife to Frank and mom to Bea and Elle. But for as much as I loved this job, I knew someone else could do it and do it better.

I confidently made my decision, had a great conversation with my boss, and embraced really being present in this fleeting preschool season.

This past week two small things happened to shake that confidence. One was an offhand comment from a working-mom friend about how much time I have. Another was the response from a stranger who told me that it was cute that I stayed home.

In reflection, I am amazed at how quickly that confidence can be shaken. I know my identity is so much deeper than the job that I hold. I know that the decision we made was the best one for our family. I know that my days are busy and that being a full-time mom is a full-time “job.” And yet, that confidence wavered when my decision was so quickly dismissed.

I think that, no matter which path we embrace; no matter which life choices are best for our families, there will always be moments of hesitation and question. Because none of these choices are The Best. They are the best for us, in this moment.

What are some in-the-moment choices you’ve made that you see being temporary? How do you embrace the season you’re in?

Linked with Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing. Today’s prompt is “embrace.”