Monday, January 30, 2017

What I Learned in Janurary


At the end of every month, I record what I've learned over that month and usually I have a few things to immediately jot down but it almost always surprises me how many things I come up with once I look over old emails or texts or FB messages, check blog posts I've bookmarked, glance at the posts I've written over the month, and browse my own Instagram to see what I shared on there. I love these posts partly because it's a fun way to compile a lot of things I didn't even realize were new things I learned.

This month my list is a good bit longer than usual. I'm not sure why. I do feel like I really pushed hard into the new year. I get a bit of a thrill from goal setting and such and I think I just felt highly motivated to get organized and set goals and prioritize my time better. And that sort of led to me focusing my energy better in engaging in good conversations, reading good books, and going on a few walks where I just had time to be alone with my thoughts. I was thinking about exactly that the other day and I realized my mind does feel more tired but not in an overwhelmed, over processing way. I think it feels tired the way my body feels tired when I exercise it and I'm thrilled about that.

I decided to try something new and I'm going to break down my monthly lists by category like I do my What I Learned post at the end of the year.'s what I learned this month:


1. Checklists for the big kids are so helpful when we actually keep up with them. I got this project done this month! 
As I said, I absolutely lovvvve January, and lists, and systems, and goaling, and the start of a new year. So new daily lists for both big kids! Surprising to exactly no one, Annie is super excited and it's gonna take some time with Gravey Train. But I do have to actually remind them about the lists for them to work. Surprise, surprise. I got to get better at keeping up with it!


2. It's fun to have friends to scheme with, as well as friends to dream with.  Carrie and I have shared a lot of dreams together over the past eight years. I'd say Francie and Sallie were two of the biggest as they were certainly the babies we waited the longest for. I can't speak for Carrie but right now I find myself in a season of scheming about things (in my mind) rather than dreaming about things (in my heart). Lately, I feel like we spend a lot of our conversation time brainstorming about fun projects or talking about different homeschooling resources or money saving strategies or just discussing what does and doesn't work for each of us.


3. I can help my children find the tension in not dismissing their own emoticons or letting others do so while still encouraging them to feel and express gratitude. I can also work with them while they are still small on the same struggles that plague my grown up life. I read this on a blog I love and it was one of the best things learned this month:
 I will do my best not to dismiss your negative thoughts and tell you to push them down and make them go away so they can fester inside. Instead, I will share my own tendencies with you. We will bear this burden together. I will encourage you to speak your thoughts into the light of day where they can be tenderly examined for accuracy. We will practice gratitude because for some of us, it’s a learned skill. We will focus on what’s true and lovely and noble and pure."

4. There's a reason one of Sallie's nicknames is Squirm Worm.

5. Annie is like me and is*still* very sensitive to violence and intense emotion. She HATES Disney villains and for a long time she didn't want to watch anything with ANY sad or scary parts (which basically limited her to animal documentaries- she didn't care when they were eating each other, ha, part of the created order, I guess). It's funny because I can't stand thriller type movies or even high intensity action ones. It's not that it literally scares or upsets me it just nerves me and makes me so anxious. I feel like I can actually feel my blood pressure rising. I think it's an HSP thing. Graves and P love that kind of stuff. 

6. Sarah Lamar's birth- so fast and overwhelming and terrifying and chaotic and raw and vulnerable like nothing else had ever felt- was very beautiful in it's on right.
It was a incredibly fiery entrance into the world for a delightful little fire cracker. It is what it is and what it is was completely fitting of her. And completely fitting of closing a chapter.

7. If it's a pretty day (or if it's a humid, dreary, stick, uncharacteristically warn January day) hanging your fussy baby half inside/half outside works like magic!

8. There is no reason why you can't eat grilled cheese sandwiches and PB and honey and apples at home and then go to CFA and take advantage of a large fry, a large peppermint milkshake, and a play place; all but the latter split three ways for right around five bucks.  
It's honestly the three best things they offer (with the Cobb salad contending) and it's not a bad price for your sanity. You won't be full but that's not really the point. Party Girl forgot her paci but she ain't even worried. Also, Annie said "Are you really going to let her wear her PAJAMAS? To a RESTURANT?" Yes, yes I am.

9. There is absolutely no shame in our second hand game. 
This is what happens when your sister and brother in law move and decide to do major purging. Remember how excited I was about Cookie's gym shorts? Well, Conrad gave Peyton some really nice dress shirts and a bathrobe from some fancy store in Oxford. He's obsessed with it. Of the three(?!?) he owns, it's the only one he'll wear to the mailbox. 

10. Our sunroom makes great sick quarters. I never thought we'd be using it for that, but Voluntary Simplicity requires creativity and when Peyton had the stomach bug for three days he pretty much lived in there. 


11. The concept of balance seems really elusive sometimes and I'm kinda over striving for it. I used to be really obsessed with finding this balance- keeping score between sharing the hard and the joyful. But it's so intertwined and I think the balance is "writing true" and it will all come out in the wash. 

12. I'm a legitimate writer. UGH. That was SO HARD to type. But a friend said to me "You're a great writer, and you're a legitimate writer because you actually write all the time. It's not like a dream to you but a reality." Whew. That gave me a happy feeling for days. But it's true. Well, I'm not sure the good part is, objectively, but I don't think it's an objective thing. But the legitimate part is true in a sense. I invest a lot of time in it. It sort of bugs me when people with tiny blogs call themselves writers and when people who jog a mile proclaim they are runners and when people who engage creatively a bit say they are artists. But why? What does it hurt? You are what you do and it doesn't hurt (and might help!) to claim it. I invest time in it and it's so stupid to act like it's not meaningful to me because I'm embarrassed. [As an aside, someone told me recently I wasn't a homeschool mom because P is home so much during the week. And it hurt my feelings. But a few weeks back we had been talking about how some people (and I've found myself in this camp before) think it's annoying for people who are homeschooling preschoolers and then sending them to traditional school to call that homeschooling. I mean a lot of that is just parenting. I guess my main point is that it's ridiculous to feel the need to draw these lines around things and not just let people have them. I want to be as inclusive as I can be.]

13. While I certainly still have my compulsions, I'm much more interested in sharing  the big picture than I once was. I want to hit the highlights here, but if I leave out a big event but do a good job using my words and pictures  to convey the overall sense of thankfulness and fear and heartache and abundant joy that we experienced this year, that is what is most important to me now. I feel like I'm finally getting my blogging mojo back and part of that is making wise decisions with my time. It's helping me to not get burnt out, and not get overwhelmed, and also to actually get more done. 

14. PhotoStage is a great, free, user friendly resource for making slideshows. Carrie's husband, David, has made a couple in the last six months or so I got her to tell me what he used and it's such an easy program! I had been meaning to make a slideshow of the pictures from Sallie's birth and first days for months and kept putting it off because the software I used to use that came with the computer got to where it wouldn't import music from iTunes for some reason. I kept trying to find an alternative- I Googled and even asked in a Facebook group I'm in- and couldn't find a good one that seemed simple and free. I really wanted to figure it out before the end of the year when I make my yearly slideshow and I was worried I was going to have to resort to using Flipagram. Ha! Anyway, this is  wonderful great tool! 


15. Having people over (even, gasp, a group of people) does not have to be complicated. 
 I hosted our bookclub this month and I had so much fun using my new napkin rings and stuff I don't usually get the chance to break out. One of my friends was like "yeah, but you hate doing this kind of thing" and I seriously used to SO much- it made me a nervous wreck. But then I realized it didn't have to be complicated. Peyton complimented me on everything and it seriously meant so much to me. Such a great night  

Mental Health  
16. The more I have on my plate, the more I need to prioritize self-care.  I know, duh, right? This month has been a great one but it's been HARD in a lot of ways. Mostly because Peyton had really started doing more with Sallie and enjoying it and then he worked a bunch extra, there was an ice storm that left me feeling frantic and isolated, and then he got sick for three days. Once this month, I put Sal in her Pnp for ten minutes so I could eat and dry my hair and I felt like a terrible mom letting her scream. She's so easy to make happy as long as she's like attached to you or doesn't need a nap. But sometimes I just need a minute to regroup before I start the hour long process of getting her to sleep (which had actually gotten better). But I was literally in tears and felt like I was failing her. I'm at a much different place in my motherhood that I was when Annie and Graves were babies, but I still doubt myself so much. I finally went in there and nursed her and it probably only took five minutes. She was so tired. But it usually takes forever and I just couldn't do it until I had eaten something. I felt like I was about to come undone. And I felt like I was doing a disservice to my big kids because after that hour I'm always so touched out and need a break, but I've already shoo-ed them away that whole time. I know I need to take better care of myself and establish boundaries so I don't get to that point.  


17. Analyzing our thoughts by the standards of truth, goodness, and beauty can be such a transformative discipline. 

I subscribe to Tsh's newsletter and recently she wrote:

• Is it true? Then I need to know it, deep in my bones.

• Is it good? Then I should do something good in response.

• Is it beautiful? Then I should stop and appreciate it.
Labeling this thought with these things this morning instantly freed me. I don’t want unkind, ugly lies rattling about in my head, and glory be, that’s what this thought is. Well, in that case—out it goes. This is the kindness of God reminding me of who I really am, according to the truest standards. It’s hitting the reset button of what I already know to be true in my bones, but my emotions and thoughts get carried away with forgetting sometimes.
18. Not only do I love double names, but one thing that draws me to certain names is double letters.
Names are such a big deal to me and I'm always thinking about what attracts me to the ones I love. I think because of doing so much phonics with Annie, I just think about words more in general and I realized that one of my favorite characteristics is a double consonant. Obviously, this is partly what I love about Annie and Sallie's names. And recently I heard "Della" and fell in LOVE. I think it's so beautiful. A friend of mine has a Nella and I also think that's beautiful. Those names have the quirky nickname vibe I love but they don't seem as cutesy and as feminine to me as my girls', which is fun and different.

 Della is from The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry, which is one of the most beautiful stories ever, in my opinion. If I had done literary names rather than family names, my top three would be Francie (A Tree Grows in Brooklyn), Finch (To Kill a Mockingbird), and now Della. Flannery and Fern were also (not very serious) contenders. With a hundred thousand babies, surely Graves's wife will let me name one of them, right? As an aside, Carrie and I will be doing this until we die. We always say we'll be discussing baby names at the retirement village.
19. Our morality is often based more on intuitions than on reasoning, and more often than not we work backwards to justify our emotional responses logically after the fact. These intuitions are based in a lot of things- how we've evolved over time and the culture we are a part of, being large ones. I've been reading The Righteous Mind and it's full of great stuff but this is the basic premise.

20. "Reasoning can take us to almost any conclusion we want to reach, because we ask 'Can I believe it?' when we want to believe something, but 'Must I believe it?' when we don't want to believe. The answer is almost always yes to the first question and no to the second." Again, wisdom c/o Haidt. I'm not sure I would have recognized this as such a powerful observation but Mallory put it on Facebook and I ended up feeling like it was one of the biggest take aways so far.

21. Getting dressed is actually worth the effort and helps me feel so much better about myself. Not even just for ovbious reasons (i.e. I don't look like a slob), or because I agree with everyone's constant admonishing that you get more done and physically feel better if you wear real clothes on the reg, but because I have tons of clothes hanging in my closet and getting dressed can be super fun and feel like a low level creative project.  
I'm excited about figuring out more about my style and even taking some risks to get there. 

Whew, lots of learning in this first month of 2017. Looking forward to seeing what I'll figure out these next eleven!  

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