Thursday, January 31, 2019

On Helping Myself Feel Productive

It's cold here - not as cold as some places where we've got friends and family, but still cold. E has reached the stage where she can go almost anywhere by walking or on her scooter, but she's still prone to dillydallying, lollygagging, whatever antiquated word you want to throw at it. Which basically means that she will go very slowly and sometimes stop, for whatever reason makes sense to her at the moment, but which is not seen by the rest of us as a good reason to stand around in freezing temperatures. Regardless of my best efforts to make everything go smoothly when we go out, there's a 98% chance that one or more of us will be uncomfortable (and complain about it) for at least 50% of the journey. At least. So we don't go out if we don't need to, is what I'm getting at.

Normally when we have a day at home, I get through a lot of tasks. I get the kids' school readings done, grab a second cup of coffee, and go for it. At the end of those days, I feel like I have conquered the world. It feels great. I go to bed happy and at peace. But right now it is cold. We are in a winter slump. I can't seem to power through a lot of tasks in an afternoon at home. I lack the power. So instead, I am choosing to focus on a more limited number of tasks that will do two things: 1. Make things easier in the long term, and 2. Make me feel as if I have accomplished something with my time. Even when I am embracing the chance to have a bit of a rest, I want to feel productive.

Today I chose to do a task I'd been putting off for months. I knew that if I did it, I would feel like the day wasn't a total waste. I didn't want to do it, but it would fulfill the two requirements listed above. So, I organized E's shelf in our craft cupboard. It was daunting, but I did it. One garbage each of rubbish and recycling later, it was done. It didn't take long, but it made a noticeable difference. I can now go to bed in peace.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

The Luckiest Introvert Mama

Today we had our Wednesday homeschool group. I can't remember how much I've said about this group in the past, so to recap what I may or may not have said, this group is one that I plan and facilitate. We have a really amazing location with both indoor and outdoor space to use, and each week we have a theme for which the children can prepare a presentation if they like, and I come up with a craft to go along with the theme. We meet fortnightly, which works out well for me. I wouldn't say that it's loads of work, but it's enough that I wouldn't want to have to do it weekly. In addition to planning the craft and gathering all the necessary materials, I also haul everything we need in out and of the venue each time. So it requires a fair bit of exertion just on that score.

And then there's the other aspect, which is that I am an introvert, and it's become a very well attended group. This makes me happy, because I know that means that I must be doing my job as planner/facilitator reasonably well. But it also makes me exhausted. Everything that involves being with lots of people does, and when I'm in charge, it's even more intense. So after it's over, I need a little time just to myself.

I'm feeling very fortunate today that this is something my children have come to understand and accept about me, and aside from times when their own needs loom large, they give me the space I need. This wasn't always the case. But today they made a quick visit into the living room when they were discussing what they'd do for the rest of the afternoon, and then they left me alone. And then - then! - they cleaned. The only thing better than being left alone when I need space is having someone do the work that is often left to me.

There have been some aspects of parenting that have been a big challenge the last couple of weeks, and sometimes I've been left wondering if I'm doing much of anything right. So much of what I thought was going well started going wrong. It was incredibly discouraging. But today my children listened to what I needed, didn't question it or complain about it, and then did something kind for me. I won't give myself full credit for any of this, but I think that maybe, possibly, I'm not doing everything wrong after all.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

The Winter Slump

Try as we might, we can't seem to get back into our normal homeschool routine. Or maybe it's try as I might, because my young pupils aren't very keen on trying. Even the cat is disinterested. (See above.) We're not doing nothing, but some lessons have been outright refused. We have a system in which the kids can only have screen time and other special activities if they've done their school lessons, and one of my children is like, meh, not worth it. Which is her choice to make, but ugh. She sure is making it more times in a row than I am comfortable with.

This is the inconvenience of raising kids to make their own choices and learn to live with the consequences. Sometimes they choose the consequences. I think that right now, we are all tired, and we've been doing a whole lot of stuff, and it's cold, and nothing seems worth it. Who cares about screen time or a special activity if it requires effort to get it? Not my school lesson avoiding child. And the truth is that there are some fun things I'd like to do right now, but the effort it would take to do them is more than I'm willing to exert. I get it. I'm not judging my kids for doing what I myself do sometimes.

Some people would likely advise that I do something to force her to do her schoolwork. I understand the logic of this. Many people see schoolwork as a child's job. But I see it as one responsibility among many, and if she is making progress in other areas, then I can let her make this decision for herself right now. Eventually, she will decide to do her schoolwork again. I know she will. This has happened before, and I know the drill. I'm not worried. If only I could get her to sound a bit less delighted when she shouts "NOTHING!" to queries about what she learned that day, I'd be all set.

Monday, January 28, 2019

The Myth of "Just Five Minutes"

Monday continues to be a real humdinger of a day. For my health, I start my day slowly. Yes, really - for my health. I do better with a slow start. But once I've had my morning bit of quiet, all bets are off for just what I'll get done for the day. There's always so much to cram in.

As it is still January, and people are still committed to beginning the year with new habits and goals, I've been seeing/hearing/reading a whole lot about prioritizing time and giving just five or ten or twenty minutes to some worthy endeavor. This is often followed by the phrase "no excuses," as if we can all find that much time to devote to something similar.


I hate to burst the bubble of all those people who are encouraging me to  better myself, but sometimes I do not have five minutes. Or ten minutes. Or twenty minutes. Some days, like today, it's 11pm, and I have had no free time in my day since I ditched the coffee cup and started in on my list. I thought I would have time, but I didn't. My kids needed things that took time and lap space. Sometimes my whole body is involved in parenting, and there is nothing else I can do at all. Today, I got the necessary things done, but nothing extra.

So I'm not really interested in adding any other commitments to my days. It's never just five minutes, and even if it were, there are only so many five minute intervals of time within a day. It seems like there would be an endless amount, but alas, no. All those small blocks of time add up, and I don't have enough of them as it is. When I do have more time than I anticipate having, I like to be able to decide then and there how I will use it. I don't want life to be so full that every day is like today, with nothing leftover at the end of it.

Despite all the talk of self care that's floating around these days, leaving time unaccounted for in the day is still often frowned upon. I know this. It is a powerful thing to have other people displaying their very good habits and encouraging others to do the same. It can feel like I am not doing enough, not making enough effort. But feelings are not facts, and we must each determine what actually works in our own lives. For me, what works is accepting that I don't have any unused bits of time to give right now. If you have five minutes (or more - lucky you!) each day for something new, go for it! But if, like me, you have a greater need for margins on the page of your life than you do for more to write into the story, that's ok, too. 

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Catching Up

Today I organized our kitchen food cupboard so I could better see what is in it. It's not very big, and after a season of rushing around to get dinner on the table quite a lot, it was in a state of utter disarray. I kept buying tubes of tomato puree, only to unearth one when digging for pasta or rice. I bought herbs that we had multiple extra jars of. And then I couldn't fit in the things we actually needed that I bought. It was time. So I did it.

And with that, the organizing tasks I had set for myself were done. I'm not done so much as I'm at a place that it makes sense to pause. Further organizing must take place in the laundry room, where it is too cold to work comfortably right now. As those organizational tasks will take a good deal of time and effort, I'd rather wait until it is warm, when I am not holding my body curled in on itself for warmth as I try to work. It will be quicker to do it in the spring.

I don't think I've been this caught up on organizing since before I became a mother. The frenzied sorting and packing I did before we moved to London doesn't really count. I did put things away in a somewhat organized fashion once we arrived, but there were pockets of resistance from the beginning. Which isn't to say there aren't any now (there's always something), but they are either reserved for spring work or are no longer my responsibility. Amazing!

Next thing I know, I'll be able to have - dare I say it? - a hobby. I know. It's a big step, but I think I'm ready. I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

The Kinds of Things I Keep

I'm pretty sure we still have that toddler hat that E is wearing in this picture. It's not something we've kept on purpose as much as it keeps escaping my child wardrobe culling by not being where we normally keep hats. But some things escape because of the memories I associate with them. I've squirreled away more clothing items than I'd like to admit to Marie Kondo. But she's not coming to my house, and I'll admit it to you.

I keep things that mean something to me. I keep clothes that may never be worn again. I have the shirt I was wearing when I met both of my children, which is now too threadbare to wear again, as well as the one that I wore when a judge declared I was their mother, which I still put on from time to time. I have clothes that each of my children wore when they were small, and I have some things that both of them wore, which no longer will fit either one of them. These clothes jog my memory, and they bring back the feelings I felt when they were being worn. They are precious to me.

This week I have been working on sorting through the photos on my computer, getting rid of the ones we really don't need in anticipation of transferring everything to a new machine. I had to pause when I found photos of medical procedures. For example, one of my children had a medical procedure for which a nurse came and did a dressing change every few days, and I was to take a photo of the wound to send to the doctor so he could see the changes. I've got photos that show medical equipment in use. It seems in some ways unnecessary to keep these, but I found I couldn't delete them. These photos tell the story of our lives just as much as the other ones do. So I'm keeping them.

This is what it boils down to, really, that I am telling a story. I am using these things, whether they be photos or clothes or other objects, to remember all the important parts of the story. So much happened in so little time that all four of us have forgotten parts of it. I know that many people would think I am foolish for the things I keep. That's okay. Let them think I'm a fool. There's a story that needs to be told, and with these things, I can keep telling it.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Sometimes the Hard Times Are the Best Times

My kids have been driving me crazy. I'm going to go ahead and blame the super blood wolf moon (not sure I got the order of the descriptors right, but let's go with it). We didn't get up to see it, because I was not interested in getting myself and my children up in the middle of the night after one had tested the limits of some very important boundaries at dinnertime and the other had shown up after midnight to sit on me and communicate with the man inside her finger. (If you've seen Muppet Treasure Island, that might make sense to you. If not, just suffice it to say that she was being super weird.)

Parenting is a joy and it is also stupid hard sometimes. Sometimes it's stupid hard at the same time that it's a joy. I mean, having my child keep me from sleeping in order to communicate with her finger is pretty hilarious as well as annoying. But beyond that, some of the hardest times that I've worked through with my children have led to some of the sweetest revelations. I wouldn't have one without the other. The hard and the good come together.

This is what I am making note of in this season of parenting. Yes, we have some times that are only wonderful. We have some times that are only terrible. But mostly, it's a mix, and I have a choice in how I respond. I can get annoyed and stay annoyed, or I can recognize that annoyance is part of the deal and move on. I can think of all the jokes we have that came out of poor choices that each of us has made and how my kids forgive me for the annoying things that I do, too.

I am doing my best to reframe things to recognize the good in every situation. For the situations that are only terrible, those are allowed to simply be terrible. I'm not going to try to get blood from a turnip. But in most cases, I can find something good, and that's what I'm aiming for.

Friday, January 18, 2019

What Feels Like Home

Once we lived on the top floor of a house in San Francisco where I could see the ocean from my bed. With the windows open, I could hear it at night. It was deeply soothing, and it was very much what I needed at that time in my life. We had moved across the country with Z, and six months later we'd bring E home with us, to a life full of medical appointments and hospital stays, which wouldn't end until shortly before we moved away two years later.

It was the perfect place for us. It was full of light, and the floor plan allowed us to be near to one another no matter what room we were in, which helped us immensely in attending to the needs of both of our children. I knew walking in to view it the first time that I loved the light, and I loved the ocean view, and I could see our family living there. It was in my favorite neighborhood in San Francisco, which at the time was considered utterly uncool.

Mostly, though, the house just seemed like home. That's what I felt, more than anything, when I first walked up the stairs and into the sunlit rooms. Home. I am easily creeped out, and yet I never felt scared in that house; it reminded me an awful lot of the apartment I'd lived in when I was in Kansas City, which gifted me six and a half years of comfort as a single woman living alone. It was really nothing like the Kansas City place aside from that feeling. It felt right to me, like I belonged there, that was all.

Similarly, the house we find ourselves in now is nothing like my old place in Kansas City or the one in San Francisco. But it has that same feeling. It feels good to me, like home. And this makes me utterly delighted to be living here. The first house we were in here was a good house, but it didn't feel good to me the way this one does.

I am hoping that for the long term we will have a place of our own, a place that will feel like home that we won't have to leave after a few years. But for now, this place is good. I am grateful, every time I walk through our front door into the that feeling of belonging here, of home.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Focus, Please

Tonight I did something absolutely magical. It involved:

1. Eating free sandwiches and drinking free herbal tea.
2. Giving my opinions, of which I have a lot to give.
3. Being done with the whole thing in 90 minutes.
4. Receiving £40 before I walked out the door.

If you hadn't guessed by now (and I think you probably have), I participated in a focus group this evening. I've never been part of one, so I didn't know just what to expect, but this was a very good experience. I was told ahead of time that it would be regarding the local area and community, so that gave me a positive impression. (Though for the record, I would have a positive impression of giving my opinion about carpet lint if they were offering me free food and cash.)

I was in a group of nine people who are all residents of the borough we live in, and it was an excellent representation of the diversity of the population. We were asked questions about our community and how we feel about it, then about airports. The facilitator made a joke about making us work for our "pocket money," but it was honestly a very easy and gratifying experience.

I loved hearing everyone's responses and learning more about the different areas of our borough and the people who live here. I was pleased to hear that, like me, the others love living here, too. People used words like open and welcoming and kind to describe the people who live here. We all agreed that the diversity of race and culture is part of what makes us happy with where we live. I absolutely love this. I walked out of the room £40 richer, but also with a renewed sense of gratitude for my community and for the privilege of living where I do.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Solutions to My First World Problems

Some months ago, we had quite a crowd over for dinner. We couldn't all fit around our table, so a few people opted to wait and eat when everyone else was done. Meanwhile, everyone was having tea and coffee, and I ended up running out of good cups and having to serve someone coffee in a cup that was fairly badly stained. I know - the horror. I don't think the person minded, but I did, and so I started purchasing one nice mug per month, in order to have mugs suitable for guests. First world problem of potentially being embarrassed about a stained cup: SOLVED.

I do love those new mugs. They're Orla Kiely ones and very pretty. But were they actually necessary? Well, probably not. I could've picked up a few mugs at a charity shop and called it done. But I didn't. And I don't know how I feel about that, about so many things in my house which are nice to have, but which I could certainly do without. Sometimes I read the words of St Basil, and I think, oh dear. He says,
"The bread  which you hold back belongs to the hungry; the coat, which you guard in your locked storage-chests, belongs to the naked; the footwear moldering in your closet belongs to those without shoes. The silver that you keep hidden in a safe place belongs to the one in need. Thus, however many are those whom you could have provided for, so many are those whom you wrong."
And yet here I sit, still contemplating solutions to some of my very privileged problems. And I am not quite sure how to find the balance between making sure I do not hoard too much for myself and having things which are useful.

At the moment, I have it in my mind that it would be very helpful to have an upright freezer. I can cook more than I can store in my current freezer, and batch cooking is both more economical and more nourshing than what I resort to when I am too busy to make things homemade. I looked at a freezer last Saturday which I could easily fill with a few days of cooking and baking. Then, in a pinch, there would always be something for my family to eat, even if I didn't have the time to cook. But would it actually be a good idea to get a freezer? Where is the line between practicality for my own family and being able to give more? I don't know the answer to that. But I am going to keep asking this question of myself, until I do.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Hope Deferred

I've started thinking about this place again. Ethiopia. And of the city we were in when this photo was taken in particular. It's not been far from my mind since the last time we were there; I am always thinking of where my daughters come from and how and when we will manage to go back. Always. It is important; my children need to be in the place where they come from. They need to go home sometimes.

My goal has been to travel to Ethiopia every two years. This hasn't worked out, really. My goals don't always align with our financial realities, or with instances of civil unrest, or many other factors. In April, it will have been two years since we went, and we do not have another trip planned at this time. Neither of my kids had expressed a need to go, so I was relaxing a little about this reality. But that changed this week. One of my kids need to go home.

I have no idea how I will make this happen. Absolutely none. But one of my words for 2019 is optimism. So I'm going to trust that there's a way, and if there's not a way, that this hope deferred until later will not make us heartsick.

If you're the praying sort, pray for us.

(Or else tell us how to increase the odds that we'll win the lotto.)

Friday, January 11, 2019

Peace, But Later

Today was a tough one. One of my kids - I won't say which one - did her level best to check the boundaries of her life. The boundaries are still firm. The day ended with heartfelt apologies to everyone whose efforts at just living normally she'd disrupted, including one of the cats. This is how I know that the apologies are sincere; she will seek out everyone she knows she has wronged and apologize for what she did to them specifically. And she will whisper it, because apologies can feel a little embarrassing. I am doing my best to make sure she knows that we all make mistakes like this. We hurt each other sometimes. We should try not to, but when we fail, the important part is that we make it right.

I think it is pretty normal for kids to check the boundaries, but it doesn't make it pleasant for anyone when they do. Some kids just do gentle checks, and if you have one of those kids, please say a prayer of gratitude tonight for your good fortune. Other kids really want to test the outer limits of edge of reason, and possibly their parents' sanity. (Ahem.) I happen to have two children whose strength of will is unmatched by 90% of the population, and while I see this overall as a good thing, what is true of most strengths is true in this case. This strength can cause a whole lot of trouble when used unwisely.

I see it as my job as a parent to help my children harness their strengths for good. With two extra strong girls in my care, during the majority of my waking hours (thanks, homeschooling), this job can sometimes be staggeringly difficult. But I would rather they do these hard, persistent checks of boundaries with me and find those boundaries firm than to find the boundaries lacking and then be surprised at the boundaries that exist in life outside our family and home. And I would rather accept that my days will occasionally be hard than to lose the benefits of homeschooling.

So today was hard. But not every day is, and I know that. I have been doing this for long enough that I know that peaceful days will come. The issue that set everything off today had to do with a normal part of education work, and so we will have to wait and see if everything has been put right on Monday. I hope that is the case. I will be okay if it is not, and so will my children. Because we always work through these rough patches, and then? There is peace.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

To Do or Not To Do

Did you know that Swan Lake is three hours long? Probably you did, but I didn't...until today, when I saw it. I've been to the ballet before, but never to see Swan Lake, so when it came up as an option on one of the home ed groups last spring, I booked it, even though it was months away. E loves ballet, and I thought Z would like it as well. I was correct about this, and it was not a mistake to book it. But I think I must've become too influenced by modern life; three hours of dancing with no dialogue was a bit much for me.

But at least it was the only thing we had to do today. My goal has always been to only do one big thing each day, and have days off in between big things. That hasn't been happening as often lately as I would prefer, but now that it's January, I'm recommitted to this. Not because of a New Year's resolution, but because I am tired. I'd prefer to feel well rested. I also held to my commitment to forego our usual school stuff if we have a big event. Six hours total out of the house qualified this as a big event. We skipped our lessons, and I spent that time caramelizing onions instead. I have no regrets about this.

Despite my own difficulty enjoying three hours of ballet, it was an excellent production (Swan Lake, it's not you, it's me), and we didn't have to leave the house until after noon. Coming home during rush hour wasn't the most fun ever, but we made it without too much discomfort and even got seats on the Tube for part of our journey. While I can't say I'd do it again, I would say that if I had a time machine and could go back to last spring and tell myself whether or not to book these tickets, I would say yes. Swan Lake is legendary, and I had always wanted to see it and give the girls a chance to see it. They came home inspired. I'm glad I made this happen for them, and for me as well.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Everyone Organizes in January

I kicked off the organizing season by organizing these two shelves. I'm no Marie Kondo (she would've thrown out all this stuff, as none of it sparks joy), but with limited supplies, I believe I've done good work. Good enough for us, anyway. I didn't want to have to buy any new containers, and I didn't want to spend all day on it. I had other things to do. A balance must be struck. So there it is.

I think that organizing is the natural response to the excesses of Christmas, and that's why so many people do it in January. As long as I'm finding space for new things, I might as well keep going and get everything into good order. It's not like I've got a lot of other things that I want to be doing at this point in the winter, or at least not things that I can do while my kids are at home with me. I may as well do this.

I have other reasons for organizing, of course. It's not just because I want everything clean and neat after the chaos of Christmas. Sometimes I get these ideas into my head about our family life and what I want for us as the kids grow up, and these things seem impossible, but I still prepare for them as if they might happen. Later this year, we will be eligible to apply for indefinite leave to remain, and I have it in mind that at some point it would also be nice to have a bit more permanence in our housing situation. In the interest of pointing my feet in the direction I hope to travel, I am getting things organized, so that should a miracle occur and a house of our own become a real possibility, moving will not be a total pain in the posterior.

Of course, we could end up staying in this house for quite some time. Logically, this seems the most likely thing to occur. I love this house and all that it has given us. A dishwasher! A bigger fridge! A second toilet! I feel spoiled by this house. It is a gift, living here, and I will not be disappointed if we stay for many years.

I don't know what the future holds. I try to hold these things - both the gifts I'm enjoying and the things I hope for - lightly in my hands and my heart, because I know how fleeting it all can be. I know how lucky we are to have what we have. Who could want for more? We have everything we want. I just need to organize it.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

And Now, Back to Normal

Today, we put away the Christmas decorations. Everyone helped a little, which was absolutely lovely, and the storage area under the stairs is more organized than it's been since we moved in (this was a solo effort, but I'm not mad about it), so that made it doubly nice. The house feels less cluttered, and I am satisfied.

We are now trying to get back into our usual routine for schoolwork. It is strange how hard this is. We only had two weeks off, and yet it feels like a lot longer. Two weeks of plenty of things to do, and my kids have forgotten how to entertain themselves. I keep reminding them that they have new toys and books that they got for Christmas, and while I am working with someone else on schoolwork is exactly the right time to bust those things out and put them to good use. Today I had to threaten consequences if there were more interruptions. I am not a consequences kind of person - I prefer for my kids to understand why I am asking them to do something and then to agree to do it. This actually does happen sometimes, just not today. Threats were made. There may have been a little shouting. We will live.

The part about normal life that no one has trouble resuming is making little messes everywhere. Christmas messes are bigger messes, but I can write them off as temporary. These little messes that I'm talking about are part of the permanent state of affairs. I also have no trouble resuming getting behind on laundry and then rushing to get it all folded and put away because it is driving me crazy. The photo above illustrates our normal setting pretty well. You can see the clean, unfolded laundry lurking behind the door, and E has left two containers of breakfast foods lying haphazardly on my bed, along with the pajamas she was wearing. I said above that the house feels less cluttered, and it does. But "less cluttered" does not mean "not cluttered at all" and that just is what it is.

Truth be told, we make way bigger messes than what is pictured, and we do it regularly. We can't seem to help it. I have plans to get things more organized in the house over the next month or two, but I am not sure it will help that much. But at least if the shelves and cupboards are organized, when the rest of it goes to Hades in a handbasket, I can go look at my well organized spaces and know that order is possible - just not everywhere, all at once. And that's normal. Order or lack thereof, being back to normal feels good.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Genna! And the End of the Holiday Season

Our small celebration of Genna (Ethiopian Christmas) was just perfect for this year. We celebrated one day early, as it suited us better to celebrate on a weekend. I made mostly mild food instead of spicy, for the sake of E, who does not like spicy things just yet. There is so much that is not meant for her, or that she has to wait for while everyone else enjoys it, since she is the youngest. I remember this feeling, of always coming last in some way, and so I am trying to do more things that include everyone. We all like the mild wots, so I made mild wots. Doro alicha, atiklett, gomen, and shiro that was just a tiny bit spicy, in case she wanted to give it a go. (She did not.) It tasted good. Our guest hadn't had Ethiopian food before and loved it. Z put extra berbere on some things for herself and was satisfied. It was just right.

Today we got back to our normal. We did school lessons, we visited our neighbor, we took E to ballet. With two activities after lessons, there wasn't time to take down the Christmas tree or pack away the other decorations, so that will have to wait until tomorrow. But overall, we had a normal day, and that felt like a relief. While we didn't get to the point of forgetting what day of the week it was over the Christmas season, by the end everything felt a bit disjointed. Now we will settle down to the business of getting on with life and figuring out where to put all the Christmas presents. It's going to be good.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

The Last of the In Between Days

I feel like the Christmas season is lasting forever. Initially it seemed that it went by quickly, but now things are in slow motion, and we have one more holiday - Genna (Ethiopian Christmas) - before we take down the tree and get back to normal. As it usually happens, I am feeling ready to wrap things up. In the beginning of the season, I look forward to the differences in our routine, to the time we spend together as a family and the traditions that we have. But now I am tired of wrestling with the extra recycling and keeping track of where we are going and when. The Christmas decorations have stopped looking charming and started just looking like additional clutter. I have been jealous of people whose in between days were done when the new year hit. But I will have my day of packing it all away, and soon. I won't be jealous for long.

We have had a good time this season. Nothing remarkable occurred, really, but we did all right. We engaged in some of our favorite traditions and jettisoned one. We got and gave some good gifts, we saw and will see some good friends, and on Sunday we will wrap things up with our Genna meal, for which we are having just one guest this year. (I can only make it a big event every other year, and I am doing my best to embrace my limits as opposed to feeling sad that I can't manage it annually.) I am ready for this. And I am ready for our usual routine to resume as well.

Monday E will go back to ballet, and the Saturday following that both kids will be back in their Saturday theatre classes. The following week, it will be all systems go with all the activities in which we usually engage. These in between days have been good, but they also serve to remind me how nice it is to do the same thing week in and week out. Lack of routine can be nice for a short while, but we all do better when we relax into a rhythm that's familiar. We will enjoy these last few days of freedom, and then we will breathe a sigh of relief as we slip back into our normal life.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Thoughts on 2018, Words for 2019

Well, here we are. It is the first day of 2019. I meant to write two separate posts between yesterday and today, but I ended up being too busy yesterday. I got it into my head that what would feel best would be if all the mending I'd been putting off would be done before the end of the year. So I spent part of Sunday afternoon and evening and most of yesterday taking care of that. Holes were sewn up, and there was quite a lot of hemming. When you buy your clothing secondhand, sometimes the hems are wrong, or they fall out quite soon after purchase. Also, in my case at least, sometimes something that was purchased as a dress really wants to be a shirt instead. It can't be helped.

By the time I was done with all the mending, my computer had been moved into the girls' room for New Year's Eve - last year we decided it would be fun to watch movies and eat a dinner made up mostly of snack foods in their room, and it was, and so we decided to do it again this year. It's really a wonderful thing to ring in the New Year whilst wearing pajamas. I highly recommend it.

So, I did those things instead of writing a post about 2018. I am not sure there is a lot to say about 2018 that won't cross some boundaries I set for myself in my writing here, but I can say that it was both good and awful, and it was at times very, very hard. I hesitate to say this because I recognize the privilege of this life we have. It could always be worse. But I don't think it does anyone any favors to deny that things are hard sometimes. 2018 was a hard year in a lot of ways. When I set out my plan and goals around the word foundations, I had no idea how appropriate that word would be. Reading my post about it now, I realize that I had a lot of things wrong about the year. But the word was right. We have needed to build some new foundations. We have needed to tear things down to foundations that were good but had the wrong things built on top of them. And so we have done this work, and it has been hard.

Heading into 2019, the two words that resonate with me are optimism and permanence. I am not going to venture to set out certain goals related to those words here, or in general in my life. I have some guesses at some things that need to happen and may happen, and some things on my to do list which certainly will get done, but mostly I am open to how 2019 will unfold, and how we will move forward to build on the foundations that we uncovered and established in 2018.

Today what I felt would be fitting to start the year in the direction I mean to go was to attend to two tasks which I hope will give me some momentum to continue on with some other things on my list. I hemmed and repaired our living room curtains, which have been in need of this for more than a year, and I made a little curtain for our bathroom, for which I've had the fabric for at least a year. It feels good to move forward into the year with some old things repaired and a new thing complete. I hope to do more of the same, in various ways, as the year progresses.

Welcome, 2019. Please be good to us.