Summer’s Just Begun

Isn’t it funny how sometimes one aspect of your life can just seem to take over for a bit? It seems to happen to me a lot; my regular schedule goes out the window because a pressing deadline or unexpected news pops up. I do the bare minimum with other stuff and devote most of my “free” time to this new activity.

The last couple of weeks it’s been Usborne Books & More. Not really surprising, but instead of the one deadline (such as a vendor event) that has to be addressed, this time it was a few at once! There was the self-imposed action of creating an inventory sale. But then I was encouraged to be part of a booking challenge (during which we try to schedule as many parties as possible and compete against each other), home office issued a special recruiting offer, I was finishing up tasks related to my book fair, and, of course, I had to deal with the regular flurry of new ideas and tasks that come to mind.

Fortunately most of the UBAM activity should be settling down this week. Then I can get back into a regular routine (if there even is such a thing!). As of now I don’t know of any deadlines I need to worry about until the end of August. That means I have almost two months to tackle my cleaning projects and figure out a regular routine that lets me stay on top of things when school starts. Sounds like enough time, but it won’t be easy. I really only have four full days when Kevin has the kids, plus an hour here and there, to get things done. At night I rarely have the energy to tackle big cleaning projects, and in the early morning I rarely have enough time to really get started. Those are times I reserve for regular tasks and smaller items that come up.

But more important that all the cleaning and organizing tasks in the world is my kids. I feel my attention has been divided a bit, and that being present has been more of a challenge than it should be. So this summer I need to work on that, too. I need to make sure I make time to play and read and do things with them. And I need to work on less pleasant tasks: potty-training Emily and working with Avery on his attitude and behavior. Those are no less important, and it wouldn’t surprise me if the struggles we’re facing in those areas have to do with my constant busy-ness. I need to work on finding balance (surprise, surprise, right?). I know most parents struggle in that area, but I also know that I can improve. It is within my power, and my kids deserve it.

So my goals for the next two months:

  • Finish cleaning projects (living room, basement areas, playroom, and kitchen)
  • Spend time daily playing and doing things with my kids
  • Figure out how I’m paying for grad school
  • Potty train Emily
  • Have fun!
  • Find at least a little time to relax

Easy peasy, right?

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Pushing Through the Insanity

Is it just me, or has June been a completely insane month? Between last-minute events and activities for Avery’s school, a book fair I was asked to run at another school, my brother and his family coming to visit from India, making up hours at home for work missed due to all the above stuff…I’m exhausted! But of course that’s not all. There have been challenges to compete in for Usborne Books & More, and a summer sale I’m running for Usborne, as well. I have (unsuccessfully) been trying to keep up with cleaning tasks at home. I’ve had meetings and plans and goals to reach. Oh, and let’s not forget the water pipe that decided to wreak havoc in my house last night (and get water all over both my bathrooms and into the basement).

Sometimes it’s amazing I’m still standing. But I’m doing my best to take it in stride and just keep pushing forward. Needless to say I haven’t accomplished the goals I set for myself earlier this year. I hadn’t expected the end of the school year to be quite so frantic. Silly me! So I guess I’m going to have to do some adjusting.

Amidst all the craziness has been a big dose of mom guilt. I feel like I haven’t been spending much quality time with my kids. There’s been too much yelling and not enough playing. I also need to work with both of them on their attitudes and behavior. With school out for the summer, I’m planning on putting into place new routines to get us back on track. I’m building in time for a little yoga in the morning (to work on mindfulness with the kids and maybe curb some of Avery’s impulses), play time in the morning, too, maybe a walk after dinner. I also need to get them working on their self-sufficiency. Avery in particular has gotten too lazy, expecting me to do everything for him. And he should definitely be able to get his own breakfast, at least!

Of course built into this routine will be time for me to take care of my own tasks. But I need to work on my willpower. I’ve been feeling lazy in the evenings too often and not getting anything done. Instead I’ll stay up way too late, which means I’m not getting anything done in the mornings, either, because I sleep in. I need to reset my system a bit so I can go back to being productive. While a little down time here and there isn’t a bad thing, this cycle hasn’t been good for me.

OK, so new routines. Tonight I will be tweaking the schedule I’ve made. Tomorrow I hope to put it into action. It will take a while to really get into the swing of things, but hopefully by this time next week I’ll start feeling more in control. No more insanity! (At least, no more than I was already used to!) I have a lot to get done this summer before school starts, and I can’t afford to give up now!

Wanting It All

Is it possible to have it all? Well, not “all,” but everything that’s important to you?

I find myself struggling lately (well, for a while now, but more so lately) with wanting too much. And I go back and forth with being convinced I can manage it all if I schedule my time properly and being convinced that something is going to slip — and being afraid that that something will be my kids.

The problem is that everything I’m trying to fit in is important to me. My kids, of course. My future aspirations with grad school and beyond. My Usborne Books & More business and building relationships with schools and libraries. My involvement with Avery’s school and the local library. My websites. The only things that I want to cut out are the things that I can’t: working my regular job, and household chores and responsibilities.

Sometimes I wish I had only one or two things I was passionate about, that my life had had a clear path and the winding path I discussed last week was a little shorter. Then perhaps I would be established in some of these areas already and adding more wouldn’t be a problem. But everything I just mentioned, everything that I want to fit in, is coming together at the same time. And trying to fit it all in is proving to be a difficult puzzle. Are there too many pieces? Or will it just take persistence to get it all to fit?

I have a little bit of time to figure things out — mainly, this summer. Involvement with Avery’s school will mostly be put on hold during the summer. Grad school doesn’t start until the fall. That means I have just under three months to determine what has to give or discover a way to make the pieces fit.

My first step is to determine if there’s a way to build my Usborne Books & More business. If I can bring in more income with that, then perhaps I can find a way to at least cut back at my job. I also, as previously discussed, will continue to work on my big cleaning projects so my house is in better shape.

Next comes laying the groundwork for the rest – building a foundation so as much as possible runs smoothly with minimal input from me. I’m talking about getting my websites settled and establishing a regular routine that allows for brief updates. I’m also talking about establishing a routine (not just a schedule, but getting myself into a real routine) of light household maintenance so projects don’t build up. And helping create courses of action for the school PTO and Friends of the Library so I can be involved without it seeming like an urgent, huge endeavor every time.

And, most importantly, I need to get as much of this out of my head as possible, so it doesn’t invade the time I have with my kids. Too often I find myself distracted when I should be engaging my kids. I’m too preoccupied with other tasks to be fully present. I need to “set it and forget it” so I can focus on these other tasks at times when the kids are not around and really enjoy the time I have with my kids.

I have a lot on my plate. That’s nothing new! But it’s time to determine what’s getting eaten and what’s getting dumped.

 

A Winding Path

It’s no secret that I believe everything happens for a reason. I’ve said it often enough! But sometimes it’s interesting to take a moment to look back and see what brought you to where you are, especially when you’re feeling frustrated or bemoaning the fact that it’s taken so long to get there!

The other day it occurred to me that as much as I wish I had reached my current point sooner, every experience I’ve had thus far has played a role in getting me here. I’m thinking specifically of my career, as this has long been an area in which I’ve struggled. Not knowing where I would end up, what I wanted to do long-term, caused many a moment of stress. Yet, looking back, I can see how every career idea I’ve had has led me to where I’ve finally ended up.

Let’s evaluate, shall we?

My first career aspiration, back in high school, was to be a teacher. Then I changed to social work, wanting to help impoverished areas. Then it was media: journalism and television. And throughout there has been an overabundance of retail experience. Of course we cannot forget the writing: the books and the websites. Now, the ultimate goal is to become a librarian, working with children.

Can you see how it has all come together?

Working with children, wanting to inspire and motivate them to read, is the teacher in me. I hope to help lower-income children, in particular, as they often lack the exposure to reading materials — there’s the social worker. Libraries today are carriers of information, entertainment, and technology — here comes the media. And working with people — helping them, guiding them, solving problems — well, that’s the retail aspect. Writing is simply a show of my love of the written word, and what better way to express this love than in a career that leaves me surrounded by books?

While I would love to have come to this conclusion earlier, I must admit that my experiences have provided just that: experience. They have shaped and molded me into the person I am today. And when I go to find my ideal job, each one will boost my resume, pushing me toward the position I’m meant to have. Everything happened for a reason.

The same can be said about other areas of my life, as well. I wouldn’t have my beautiful children if I hadn’t gotten married. I wouldn’t live where I live, making a difference in my community — a community I feel attached and committed to, where I feel I can thrive and help others. Every person I’ve met has affected my actions, my path. Every decision I’ve made has led me to where I am. And, while it hasn’t been easy, I’m happy with where I am. And I know I’m where I’m meant to be.

I still have a long way to go, but I know now that I’m finally heading in the right direction. The pieces are starting to fit together in a way that makes me feel complete.

How are your pieces coming together?

 

A Day — and a Room — For Me

When you’re a mom, a daughter, an employee, a business owner, and an individual, it’s easy to get pulled in a million directions. And sometimes what’s a priority for one part of you conflicts with what’s a priority for another part of you. That was my life this week (and, if I’m honest, has been my life for a while now!).

This week felt like about three weeks rolled into one. And yet I still feel like I didn’t get much done. I was busy with set-up and break-down of Teacher Appreciation activities, which had me at Avery’s school a bit more than usual — and ate into some of my free time. I was trying to catch up and build a surplus of work-from-home hours for my day job. I received disappointing news and good news with my book business, which had me up and down and trying to reach out to people. I was getting the ball rolling with my grad school application. I was brainstorming and researching to figure out how to help Avery with his impulse control issues and his struggles with the divorce. And I was trying to stay on top of household tasks, while also working on cleaning up the library.

*phew*

I could really use a day off. And, with this being Mother’s Day, I would have the perfect opportunity for one. But instead, since I don’t really know how to relax, I’ve decided to use today to work on the library. Not because I want to clean and organize, but because I have wanted this room for quite some time. And while the furniture we bought for it has been set up, way too much clutter has already invaded the room, and it’s a mess. This room, in my mind, is going to be a bit of a haven. Yes, I have to share it with the kids when they’re around, but when they’re in bed, I envision myself reading and writing and working in this room. But before that can happen, it has to be neat.

This morning I plan on working to clear up the clutter. Then I’m heading down to Ikea to pick up a few more bookshelves and a few more supplies. Tonight I’ll put the bookshelves together and, time permitting, I will start filling them up and putting things where I want them. I have ideas (don’t I always?), and I’m hoping they’ll work out as I imagine. The final piece of the puzzle — moving my chaise into the room — will unfortunately have to wait. I don’t have a clear path through which to move it! I have to clear up other areas of the house before I can move that piece of furniture. But if I can get everything else set up, I’ll be happy.

Will it all happen today? Probably not. But I’m going to do my best. And, once it’s complete, I’ll be able to check off one big thing from my goals this month. But that’s not the real goal. The most important thing is having a room where I can work, be with my kids, and just be myself. Who knows what will come from a room made for dreams?

A Little Crazy

What an exhausting week! I don’t know if it was the attempt to go (mostly) screen-free, the fact that I was busy with Teacher Appreciation Week prep, the kids not behaving, or just life — but it was a crazy week! OK, let’s take this step by step…

I have definitely been busy this week, between trying to get things wrapped up for Teacher Appreciation Week (which is my fault, I know), trying to get the ball rolling for grad school, going on a field trip with Avery’s class, and attempting to stay on top of everything else. My brain is frazzled from being pulled in a million directions! Add to that the fact that I’ve had less time to take care of everything because of screen-free week, and I’m about ready to collapse! Why did screen-free week mean I had less time? Because….

Screen-free week is tough! OK, for me I had to have some screen time because I was waiting for responses and needed to communicate with people, and I had to stay on top of assorted responsibilities. But I definitely cut back considerably, and I cut out Netflix and Hulu completely. The biggest challenge, though, was with Avery. Avery loves screen time. He feels lost without it. Which means that if he didn’t have his normal screen time, I had to play with him. I didn’t really mind playing with him, but I usually take the time that he’s distracted to get other things done. So not having that time messed me up, especially during a week that I had so much going on. I really could have used that free time!

*Deep Breath*

OK, so the week is coming to a close. Screen-free week ends tonight, and I told the kids we would watch a movie tonight as a return to normalcy. But, despite the challenges, I don’t regret attempting to go screen-free. Both Avery and myself had been relying on it way too much, and we needed the break. Moving forward we both need to limit our screen interactions. That being said, I did learn some things:

  • Avery is at a loss when he can’t have a screen. I already kind of knew this, but I realized I need to help him learn how to (1) find other things to do, (2) become more self-sufficient without a screen, and (3) play. Avery’s version of playing often involves throwing, hitting, kicking. Fine when he’s outside playing soccer or baseball. Not so fine when we’re inside the house and he’s picking up random things and throwing them. His impulse control is sorely lacking, but I also think his brain is just moving too fast for his body to keep up. I need to work with him to slow him down so he can actually process what’s going on and make better choices.
  • Emily is fine either way! She doesn’t seem to care much one way or the other if she has a screen. This doesn’t surprise me, as she’s never been one to go for the electronic toys as much, and she’s usually happy either playing with her animals, making a puzzle, coloring, or some other quiet, easygoing task.
  • For me, some tasks are way too boring without a screen! I have gotten into the habit of multi-tasking with screens. I will have a TV show or movie running while I do tedious or monotonous tasks. It was hard going back to the time before I did this, when some tasks would nearly make me fall asleep!
  • I need to reset my defaults. As with Avery having screen time as his automatic entertainment default, I was using it as a diversion and time-killing default. I would have a screen while eating breakfast, a screen while getting work done, a screen while the kids were playing outside. I’ve been using screens too often to fill up those little bits of time that sneak into our days, and yet I would complain that I didn’t have time to read (I’ve checked out books from the library, renewed them, and still not gotten through more than a chapter or two). If I can keep the screen off, perhaps my mind can slow down a bit, and I can catch up on other things. It’s going to take more than a week to really get there, though.

I’ve read that some people, having experienced the screen-free week challenge, will opt to keep it going. They will, perhaps, choose to go screen-free during the school or work week, and only have screens from Friday evening through Sunday evening. While an interesting concept, I don’t know if my family could do that. Avery truly does love his screen time, and while we do need to cut back overall, that is truly what he enjoys doing. So I think at this point I just need to evaluate when and how much screen time is appropriate, and go from there.

As this crazy week comes to a close, I have a lot to figure out. I also need to catch up on rest! Unfortunately I have more ideas and research than I have time, and I have to figure that out, too! I see many more crazy weeks in my future…

It’s Gonna Be Tough

For a while now I’ve been letting my fear or lack of motivation get the best of me. My projects have suffered, my confidence has suffered, and I’ve been disappointed in myself. But now I’m determined. I’ve set deadlines for myself, and goals for myself, and I’m trying my darnedest to make it happen. And, slowly, I’m starting to feel like my old self again.

This coming week is going to be a bit of a test. And it will take a lot of willpower and determination to get me through. Why? Two reasons: deadlines and a new challenge.

The deadlines I’m referring to are the goals I set myself for May 1. I need to have my A Life You Want website up and running, and I need to have my kitchen and bathrooms cleaned. Since I’m not quite as far along as I would have liked, it will be a struggle to meet the deadline. But I’m still determined. I have made progress in all of the goals: I’ve worked on the kitchen, tackled one of the bathrooms (though not completely), and worked on the website. I was originally going to have all of today to myself (Kevin was supposed to have the kids), so I probably would have had a much easier time of things, but we switched days, and now I have plans with the kids (it was my idea — I kind of shot myself in the foot there). Now I have to scramble to get it all done in time. Can I still do it? We shall find out!

The new challenge I mentioned? Well, this week I have decided to participate in national Screen-Free Week. If you want to learn more, you can head to the website: www.screenfree.org. The basic challenge is to refrain from screen-related entertainment for a week. You’re still “allowed” to use screens for work and school, but you challenge yourself to avoid screens any other time. No games, no Netflix, no turning to the screen for mindless entertainment and passing the time. The idea is to rediscover all of the great activities you can do without screens, and pull yourself away from a screen addiction.

I decided to take on the challenge because Avery (and myself, if I’m honest) has gotten a bit too attached to screens. I mentioned the challenge and he started crying. It’s the entertainment he turns to whenever he looks for something to do. And half the time I don’t even know if he’s enjoying it — it’s just his default. He needs screens in the morning, in the car, in the evening. And there are so many other things he enjoys that he misses out on because he always reaches for a tablet or phone or TV.

For me, I’ve turned to screens too often as a distraction, as a way to keep from getting bored. But what I’ve noticed? I waste a lot of time and miss out on things, too. I say I don’t have time to read, yet I have time to check Facebook a million times a day? And when I don’t have the option to have a screen, such as when I’m driving, I am able to think so much better. I come up with new ideas, or figure things out, or solve problems. I need to back away from the phone and computer to clear my head.

Now, of course, cutting out screens completely is not an option. My job relies on a computer, for one. I also need screens to work on my businesses and websites. So what I’ve decided is that I will “allow” myself screens at work (though only work-related screens — no watching Hulu while I’m working), and I will go online for a half hour in the morning, and a half hour in the evening. This will enable me to catch up on anything business-related I may have missed, plus work a bit on my websites. I am allowing myself access to e-mail and messaging, but no Facebook in between, no games, and no videos.

There are a few benefits of this. First, it will give me time to reconnect with my kids. I don’t spend enough time playing with them. I’m expecting to have fun, whether I’m excited about the prospect or not. I suspect I will also come up with a bunch of new ideas (not that I need more, but it keeps my mind sharp!). Also, it will encourage me to focus on my cleaning and non-screen tasks – and will show how much time I really am wasting with a screen. I’m calling this a detox and reset: a way to kill any addiction and reset our defaults to a time when we weren’t so dependent on screens.

The challenge starts tomorrow (April 30) and ends Sunday (May 6). My first deadline is Tuesday (May 1). It’s going to be a crazy week! But through it all I’m pushing myself, changing my ways of thinking, and building confidence — even if I’m not completely successful. Progress is a win! And I’ve already made more progress over the last couple of weeks than I had in a while.

It won’t be easy, but I’m determined. Wish me luck!