Here’s part one of what worked for me in 2014 (Nashville, Sunday supper, barre class). My friend Anna Kate is also weighing in with what worked for her in 2014, as well as her friend Katherine from Ye Old College Try—I don’t know her personally but love reading her blog. And we’d love to hear about what worked for you!
Destin, FL in August. Picture unrelated to anything else in this post, except that I’m wearing one of my favorite tee shirts!
4. Room time.
When people ask me how I like being a stay at home mom, I usually say something like, “Weeeellll, it’s been an adjustment.” I’ve always wanted to stay home with my kids, and I really love it and am grateful that it’s an option for us. One big adjustment has been simply that for the first time I get to set my own schedule (working with my two little dictators, obviously). No school or office requirements to plan around, just the commitments I decide to make. It’s been three years, and I’m still grappling with this freedom to create an ideal routine (though until Inez was born I was still working a tiny bit for Little Lights).
I know, of course, it’s a work in progress and will change as all of us grow. I’ve become a big fan of a structured routine/schedule for the girls, with regular times for meals, naps, etc. It’s healthy, predictable, stable for them and all that, but really I think it helps me just as much. I’m firmly in the “if mama ain’t happy ain’t nobody happy” camp of parenting, and so ROOM TIME is one part of our routine that I’ve thanked high heaven for many many times in 2014 . . .
I’m sure you can google room time, crib time, independent play time, solo play time and find a boatload of step by step instructions. It’s just a set time where the kid plays by him- or herself in a safe, limited space. Here’s what it means for us.
- Mary Tobin started this quiet time as a baby in her crib (or you can use a playpen if you’ve got that kind of space) with a few books and developmentally appropriate toys . . . for child number two developmentally appropriate toys may mean plastic sorority cups (sorry Inez). As MT got older we switched to her [toddler-proofed] room.
- I’d put on music and say with a smile, “Have fun in your room time!” And leave. I think we started with 10 or 15 minutes, and lengthened a little as she got used to it and grew. It was helpful to set a timer to go off after the designated time, or ring a bell at the end, for her to learn that room time’s over when it’s over, not when she yells loud enough. When time’s up, return—still with a smile—and say “I hope you had good room time!” Then sing the clean up song while putting away toys and books.
- Try to be consistent with time of day. I though it was good to institute room time as naps were dropped, so instead of sleeping the girls still get to rest, if they so choose. These days, Mary Tobin has room time (actually in the living room) for about 45 minutes when Inez takes her morning nap, except on her two little school days. (And Mama has room time also!)
- I hadn’t started Inez doing anything until this autumn when I realized everyone was going crazy in the evenings and I wasn’t able to get dinner ready. I thought wistfully about the days when Inez took a third little catnap in the evenings, when it hit me: shoulda replaced that nap with room time! She got used to it after a couple days, and I think it’s actually kind of a relief to her now. Instead of fussing she gets to play with old sorority cups, and Mary Tobin and I have a peaceful dinner prep time. This is where the prayers of gratitude come in. I highly recommend it!
5. Reduced wardrobe.
Like Anna Kate, I’m working toward a capsule wardrobe philosophy. I became a little addicted in 2014 to the green polka dot bags from ThredUp. For no charge, they sent me a bag, I filled it with clothes, shoes, and purses and put it back in the mail. They paid me upfront for the pieces that were in good enough condition for them to re-sell. (And I repeated the process a few more times.) It kind of blew my mind.
We constantly have a give away bag or box going, but the possibility of a payout coupled with our move kicked my motivation into high gear and I got rid of a ton of clothes. From now on: only clothes I love and fit well! (Remind me I said that!) I’m still waiting for that moment when I’ll miss something that I got rid off. Hasn’t happened.
Of course I did do some shopping. My favorite sources for my reduced wardrobe staples:
- V-neck tee shirts from Everlane.
- Fun tops and sweaters from Stitch Fix. One of my favorites seen here. I wore that same aztec blanket sweater over pajama pants and Israel’s orange Netherlands soccer t-shirt when Inez was born. So it’s versatile.
- Le breton shirt and dress from PopBasic. (They release collections at different times, but if you use this link to sign up, you’ll get a $15 credit should you order something eventually). Dress seen here, a little bit, along with a Stitch Fix scarf.
Earlier this year I did an experiment in which I cleared out my email. Every evening I cleared 100 emails, by either archiving appropriately or deleting, until they were all gone. Of course, you could also just archive everything and start fresh. But more than the satisfaction of a clear inbox, I proved to myself that I could do something if I committed to it.
Often with my vague personal goals, I never get to them because I feel like other things are more pressing. But, there will always be more dishes to do, someone to call back, or other obligations like thank you notes and really good TV shows. In my email experiment, I saw that if I make something a priority, I can accomplish it—but I have to be willing to let other things go, or at least push them aside for awhile.
For the record, I currently have 23 emails in my inbox, 2 unread, and 17 starred. I want to get back to regularly dealing with my inbox this year. A helpful tip I heard was not to “check” email, but to “process” email— meaning, only read your email if you’re prepared to put it in its proper place (respond, delete, move to to-do list), rather than reading, then letting it sit there and take up your mental space. (Mama Rote! Please comment with how many emails are in your inbox right now! Some of y’all are gonna die when you hear this.)
I think perhaps sleep is one of my love languages, in addition to food obviously. When I was in New York last Thanksgiving, after walking all day 8 months pregnant, I desperately looked up these stretches before bed. I kept doing some version of them for much of 2014, and I’d like to get back in that habit. More recently, I put an alarm on my phone that reads “time to settle down!” at 10pm, reminding me to start the bedtime process, and giving me plenty of time to read before going to sleep!
What worked for Mary Tobin this year: cuddle guys (i.e. stuffed animals), pens and notebooks, hopping like a rabbit.
What worked for Inez this year: the ergo carrier, dogs and cats, dancing.
What worked for Israel this year: having a smokin’ hot wife. (JK but seriously.)
What worked for you in 2014?