Emily over at Chatting at the Sky has made it a practice to record the things she learns each month. It’s a valuable habit, this habit of reflection, and so I’ve been joining her in it for the past year (though I took a brief hiatus for the summer). If you’d like to join us as we remember, you can comment on this post with what you learned, or head over to Emily’s site and link up there.
1. I like checklists.
As you may know if you’ve read this blog for any amount of time, my major accomplishments for the summer were growing a baby and keeping a toddler alive. Those two tasks took all I had; everything else – exercise, writing, journaling, bible study, housework, you name it – went undone.
But fall is here and we’re settling into what it means to be a family with two young kiddos, and I’m needing some routine, some structure, some motivation to get things done. Partway through the month, I resurrected my defunct bullet journal and, in addition to the recommended pages, I added one for tracking habits. Just a simple grid, with desired activities down one side and dates across the top, and it’s made all the difference. Even for silly little things, like taking vitamins.
I should have realized this about myself. In college, I used to add completed items to my lists just so I could have the satisfaction of crossing them off.
(And yes, I know that shortly after Katie was born, I chose not to track anything for a time. That was a season, something I needed at the time. Perhaps I’ll return to that at some point. But for now, my lists are good for me.)
2. Caring for both a toddler and a newborn is both harder and easier than I thought it would be.
In the past seven weeks, I’ve had moments of absolute frustration, where my patience snapped and I wondered what, exactly, I was thinking in having children at all. I’ve held a squalling newborn while trying to handle a two-year-old’s tantrum. I’ve snuck showers in during Katie’s naps, praying Abby would stay asleep just long enough for me to rinse the conditioner from my hair. I’ve strapped my infant in the Ergo and my toddler in the stroller and gone for walks in the heat of the day just to get out of the house and keep myself from going insane. There have been times during the adjustment period that have been very hard.
And yet, at the same time, we’ve settled into a rhythm. Somehow, things have fallen together and my patience is renewed and there’s grace, so much grace. There have been hard times, to be sure, but there have been sweet times, too – times of snuggles and laughter and books, times when Katie climbs onto my lap as I’m holding Abby and my hands are full in the best possible way, times when it all just seemed to work. I’m not sure why this is, exactly. One of the other moms at BSF, a mom of one little girl who hasn’t been sleeping lately, looked at me recently and said she didn’t know how those of us with two kids did it. My response? “Neither do I.” But somehow, there’s enough, even when there isn’t.
3. A digital fast is good for me.
Like most of the rest of America, I have a tendency to get sucked into social media, to spend far too much time scrolling through my news feeds or reading blog posts that have little relevance to my life. I’ve wanted to break that habit for some time now, and so, on the last Sunday in September, I finally committed to stay away from all social media for the entire day.
I should have done this long ago. Not only did I not miss it, I was much better rested by the end of the day, having spent my time reading and journaling and doing other such activities. I’ll be making this a regular practice from here on out (which will require some planning – and discipline! – for the month of October, given my participation in the Write 31 Days Challenge).
4. Simple changes can make a big difference.
Speaking of social media, I made two other simple changes in relationship to it this month: I stopped looking at Facebook on my phone, and I started leaving my phone in the kitchen when I go to bed at night.
They’re simple changes, but they make a big difference in my mindset and how I spend my time. Instead of starting the day online, I start it in quiet thought (well, as much quiet thought as is possible with a baby and a toddler). I’ve used those first moments of my day (and sometimes it really is only moments before somebody needs me) for prayer or for writing in my journal or for reading, and it’s made all the difference.
5. I like Stroller Strides.
I never thought I’d be one to enjoy an organized fitness class, but I tried a session of Stroller Strides – a program that incorporates a stroller (and also lots of kids’ songs – Katie referred to it as the time when “Mama was silly with friends”) into the workout so you can do it with your little ones – and thoroughly enjoyed it. An added bonus? I won the drawing for a month of free classes, which I’ll take as a sign that this is something I’m supposed to do.
6. I don’t know whether a night of uninterrupted sleep is a curse or a blessing.
A few nights ago, Abigail slept from 10 PM until 5 AM. That’s seven hours. In a row. Which is the most uninterrupted sleep I’ve had for months. (The third trimester is not a friend of sleep.) It was amazing. The next day, I felt like an entirely different person.
And then she went right back to her typical pattern of waking several times between the hours of one and six. Somehow, the sleeplessness is that much harder after a glimpse of rest.
7. Apparently, I say “right now,” “a little bit,” and “I think” a lot.
Because Katie says them all the time. And I do mean all the time – one or the other of them shows up in most of her sentences. Her use of these phrases makes me laugh (for instance: “Abby not in Mama’s tummy anymore. Get another baby in Mama’s tummy right now!”), but it does concern me a bit; I have too many bad habits for me to be entirely comfortable with the thought of somebody watching and mimicking me that closely.
Those are my lessons for September. How about you? What did you learn?