Sunday, October 31, 2010

Letting things go...

Today is Halloween.  Most years we would have spent the last few weeks assembling costumes, decorating the house, attending parties, making cupcakes and cookies, and all sorts of  various Halloween festivities. This year that wasn't happening.  We had a home full of guests, school work coming out my ears, and the month just slipped right by...

Yesterday I woke up in a panic - I was going to have ruined Halloween for the boys.  My lack of planning was going to leave them with lame costumes and nothing fun to do in them. Ack! So much for celebrating our time together, right? They were going to go to school Monday and hear about all the parties and scavenger hunts and corn mazes that they didn't get to do. And it was all my fault.

So, I did what any mom with a strong love of the internet would do.  I began searching for local activities we could do all weekend.  I found a million ideas - "Howloween" at the zoo, costume parades in neighborhoods across town, face painting at the library, and even cake decorating at the grocery store.  But as I read each idea, the stress began to rise.  My mind filled with visions of crowds of less-than-well behaved grownups, overtired children, confrontations with more sugar than we would allow in a year, and a mom and dad who really didn't want to do any of it.

And it hit me.  We are trying to SIMPLIFY.  I was looking for ways we could keep up with what other families were doing, but at the same time I don't want to be those families. This was the perfect year to stick to our goal and keep our lives balanced.  We were going trick-or-treating.  That was it.  That's all.

You know?  It's enough.  Instead of all the Halloween activites, we were greeted with a beautiful sunny day.  We cleaned out the garden, raked leaves, and danced to the theme from Ghostbusters too many times.  The big one and I planted tulip and narcissus bulbs - an October goal that I had almost given up on for the year. We gathered costumes from the dress up box that boys are excited to wear and cost us nothing.  After nap we will read Halloween stories, then go visit grandparents.  Mummy hot dogs followed by trick or treating in our neighborhood, and we will be home in time for bed.

When I look at it all that way, I'm thrilled with how we are celebrating this holiday.  It reflects our values - not purchasing things that we don't need (especially single use items), eating junk food in extremely limited quantities, spending as much time as possible outside, and sharing special times with people we love. We aren't stressed out fighting crowds, and our boys are able to spend the day being their better selves.

And maybe, just maybe, if I write this all down now, this holiday simplification will carry over into the next few months of Thanksgiving, a birthday, Christmas, and New Years. How can we bring balance to those times as well?  Because tomorrow I won't be thinking about all the things we "missed out on".  I'll be remembering the great time we had.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Baby steps...

My first couple of posts were all about the "why" of this blog.  My family and I are looking to find a better way to live our life "upon the tightrope".  How can we live our busy lives without falling off?  And what steps do we take along our journey to better balance?

Well, today starts a little of the "how" - how we are going about living our daily lives in a way that truly reflects our priorities. And the biggest truth for us is that it takes baby steps.

One such baby step was initiated by my boys this last Thursday.  We'd had our typical busy days at school, and it was raining outside.  What I wanted to do was curl up with my blanket and the computer and zone out for a little while.  The boys, however had other plans.

They wanted to DO ART. Yes, capital letters kind of ART DOING.  And instead of my usual, "We don't have time before dinner/it makes too much mess/I don't want to get things out or clean them up tonight," I simply said, "Yes." (And closed my eyes, hoping for avoidance of total disaster!)

They gathered supplies, filled the table, and went to town!  They new brayer was a big hit, and The little one did surprisingly well with handling the paint all on his own.  The big one painted for a while, then began trying to craft a paper hat with scotch tape and paper. For 45 minutes, they crafted happily in peace.  I got to watch them work together without having to referee,  and was able to put the work day behind me. The idea of messy art being so relaxing was such a foreign concept, but a welcome way to appreciate the moment.

And yes, there was one blue paint footprint on the cream carpet, but that was easily remedied by a five year old with a carpet cleaner. Dinner was still on time, the supplies got cleaned up, and the rest of the evening routine continued as normal.  But that short period of time was exactly what the boys and I needed to connect at the end of the day.  It brought us together, and reminded us that our life can take place within these walls.

Even during the week.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

It all started this summer.

I am a teacher. Being a teacher allows me a schedule that few other professions have. I work many hours from the end of August until the end of June, but then I am at home for what usually amounts to 10 weeks.

I would be lying if I said that the schedule of a teacher wasn't an important part of my decision to enter the field. My mom was a teacher, and I saw how it allowed her to have a profession that she cared a lot about, but still allowed us to have a mom home with us when we weren't in school. I wanted that for my children. It seemed like the perfect way to "have it all".

Up until now, it has worked out ok. Last year was my first year of full time teaching while being a mother to two. Prior to that I had been in the flux of maternity leaves and half-time teaching since the birth of my oldest. One son was in a busy but nurturing daycare center, the other in a Montessori preschool. While both boys were doing well, I was struggling. The few hours a day that I saw them were when they were at their worst - tired and spent from the day, and I was not attending to them as I wanted, busy making dinner, moving laundry, grading papers, and preparing for the next day.

We survived. It wasn't graceful, and I had to let a lot of my lofty ideals slip away. The things I held tight to became even more precious. And as we skidded into summer break, we crashed in a heap of "who are you again?" and "how do we do this family thing?" It took at least three weeks to find our way back to each other.

But we did. With summer's grace, our days filled with nature's rhythm and time to explore. Mornings stirred slowly, rather than jumping at gunshot of the alarm. Park visits and laying on the carpet daydreaming took hours and we had time to fill the counter with Legos AND actually build something. It was this luxury of time that reminded me on a daily basis of what I had been missing during the school year.

As this school year began and the days and hours filled with life away from our home, the lack of balance became painfully obvious. Stress and agitation grew in both the adults and the children. Tempers flared and everything we did felt like it had a stopwatch attached.

This is not how we want to be living. And while we are fully committed to our current work situations, the time to begin working on restoring balance is now.
The goal is that by this time next year, we will be living a daily life that is more in line with who we are and how we want to spend our time.

We will get there.