Home Alone

KathyAs Mother’s Day approaches, I’m reminded that one of my favorite gifts is the gift of time. Time alone, specifically—and while any kind of alone time is welcome, being alone at home is especially delicious. The only problem is getting rid of everyone else . . . Here are some of my favorite kinds of being home alone. What are yours? Tell me in the comments so I (or iDad!) can steal your ideas.


First day of school

Unexpected playdate offer for Doodlebug while iDad is out doing errands

iDad takes Doodlebug to the Chuck E. Cheese birthday party and I don’t have to go

Everyone else is playing outside/doing yardwork, but I stay inside and bake something

Lunch Bunch day at preschool (Aww, I miss Lunch Bunch!)

iDad picks Doodlebug up from school because I’ve been running around all day and just can’t

I come home and discover that everyone else has gone out

First day of school after winter break

iDad drops Doodlebug off at a playdate and then puts gas in the car

Someone else’s turn to drive the carpool!

iDad is out of town and my parents invite Doodlebug for a sleepover

Everyone else goes camping without me (This has in fact been my Mother’s Day present at least once.)

iDad’s turn for dentist duty

First day of school after spring break

Everyone else goes to the pool but I stay home to read in air-conditioned comfort

I wake up and discover that everyone has gone out (Okay fine, this has never happened to me. But I can hope!)

— Kathy

Snowzilla? S’No Fun.

The Moms live on the Eastern Seaboard and got to experience the record-setting Snowzilla blizzard a few weeks back. Introverts love staying home, right? What could go wrong? Read on …


Snowzilla: A Multimedia Presentation

Or, How Introvert Paradise Turned Into Introvert Hell

Day 1

No school! No school! No snow on the ground? Whatever. I’ll take it.

Big storm hits tomorrow around noon. I’d better start thinking about stocking up. But the store will be crazy! I’ll go tomorrow. With the kids. Even though that’s my idea of the tenth circle of Hell.

Day 2

Wake up!  Get going! Only four hours until The Storm Hits.

This song is playing on an endless loop in my head.

Play Doh. Check. Monster High doll. Check. Milk flashlight eggs batteries blah blah blah. Check.

Korean fried chicken. Check. Booze. Checkedy check.

OMG you guys it’s snowing! Right on schedule. This is going to be SO FUN.

Hey friends! C’mon in! Let’s have some pizza and drinks. FUN.

Day 3

Look at how pretty it is! And how still everything it is outside. I am staying in my pajamas all day.

Sure, you can watch “Wreck It Ralph.” I love that Sarah Silverman.

Putter putter putter putting stuff away feels fantastic. Being shut inside is Introvert Paradise.

Who’s hungry for lunch? Grilled cheese, soup, veggies, hot cocoa!

Family time is incredible. We’re talking to each other and laughing and I love them so so so much.

Happy hour starts at 5. Oh, ok. 4:30.

Day 4

It is STILL snowing. And it’s gorgeous. White and pristine and gorgeous. Snowy snow snow.

It’s 9:30 a.m. I am going to take a bubble bath. Just because I can.

You two are watching “Wreck It Ralph” again? John C. Reilly really does a great job in this, doesn’t he?

Snacks? Sure! How about popcorn and warm apple cider? Perfect blizzard food.

I’d better do some laundry. It’s starting to pile up.

Happy hour at 4:30. Who’s in?

Day 5

Today is Cleaning Day! I’ve got bleach and a toothbrush and I am NOT afraid to use them, people.

Dust scrub vacuum mop …. where did all this … grime … come from? We are disgusting.

You’re hungry? Here is some cheese and crackers and an apple.

Where did all this laundry come from? I’ve been wearing the same clothes for three days. Stop changing clothes every twenty minutes!

Was that the plow?  Awesome! Oh, wait. Dreamy just shoveled the driveway and it is now filled up with a gazillion feet of snow again.

Anyone want to play “Uno”? “Go Fish”? No? You want to watch “Wreck It Ralph”? Fine but this is the LAST TIME.

Is it 4:30 yet? Because I’m not having much fun right now.

Day 6

No I am not making pancakes today; we had that for dinner last night. Eggs and toast for everyone!

What are we doing today? I don’t know. What day even is it?

If you guys don’t let me use the bathroom by myself someone is going to get hurt.

Why are you hungry? You JUST ATE.

See this door? I am closing it for a reason.

It’s only 2:00. Dammit. Two and a half hours to go.

Oh, Hell. Two hours.

Day 7

Wait, what? You’re going to work? You’re leaving?? Don’t go, Dreamy. PLEASE DON’T GO.

If I hear Silverman’s screechy screech nails-on-a-chalkboard squawk one more time I am going to LOSE IT.

Anyone for a play date? Anyone?

Here’s your lunch. Turkey, bread, and some chips. You don’t like it? Make it your own damn self.

What day is it?

#$(&. 11 a.m.

Day 8


Day 9

I don’t remember anything before this blizzard except that I hate snow and I never want to see any again. Ever.

How does one put on mascara? Oh, right.

A screwdriver. Is it too early for a screwdriver?

Stop talking to me. Stop. Talking. Right now.

Day 10

#($*ing snow. I hate it.

That’s it. I am done with you people. ALL OF YOU.

I need OUT. NOW. Preferably by myself. And I might not come back.

— Tiffany


KathyHere’s how snow days usually go at my house: iDad and I try to fit in a couple hours of work apiece, usually with a side of baking/sledding/movie time with Doodlebug. I know we’re lucky to work from home—no scrambling for alternative child care or commuting in bad weather. Honestly, though, it’s still complicated, especially if it’s a big storm and Doodlebug is off school for more than a couple of days. Between juggling schedules and the hit to my quiet time, I end up frustrated and cranky.

Here’s how snow days went during Snowzilla: iDad left for a conference in California before the storm hit and was stranded there until flights got back on schedule. I was on my own with Doodlebug for a week, a week which included only one day of school. I accomplished . . . nothing. Other than surviving.

And I actually did enjoy large parts of it. Doodlebug and I watched movies, listened to audiobooks, and got hooked on “Kids Baking Championship.” I started reading her The Long Winter, one of my favorite Laura Ingalls Wilder books. She scaled snow piles and had a couple playdates with Princess Slim. I only had a few episodes of sobbing alone in my room. (Seven days of solo parenting is a LONG time, you guys. My winter hat is off to single parents.)

The whole thing was a reminder that snow days are an excuse to slow down, to blow off that to-do list, to just hang out with my family. So it was a good lesson, right?

Yes and no. I wasn’t exactly in need of a vacation—the whole thing went down a mere two weeks after our winter break, so I had barely gotten back into a writing groove when the weather gods cruelly snatched it away. I knew that things would be tough enough with iDad gone, so I didn’t even try to fit in writing time. The good news is that I didn’t feel pulled toward my office like I usually do during a long stretch of snow days. But I feel like I lost more than just work time.

Writing is special kind of quiet time for me. It lets me create stories in my head, play with new ideas, make connections, and stretch my mental muscles. And I know, from many attempts to do otherwise, that I can’t knock out a chapter or a blog post in a hurry while Doodlebug is momentarily distracted. That makes me more frazzled, not less. So even though we did plenty of quiet things during those seven days, they didn’t fill me up the same way filling a page with words does.

Was ignoring my writing the right approach for this storm? Definitely. But if we have any more multi-day snow events this winter (please no), that strategy won’t fly. Here’s what I will try—treating the first snow day as pure vacation and then playing the work-life balance game for the rest of the time.

The happy ending to this story is that iDad got home safely, we dug out, and school started again eventually. My reward: a long weekend to myself while Doodlebug and iDad went skiing with his parents. Lots of writing, no sobbing, and NO SNOW!

— Kathy




Alone Together (Or Not)


Normally Kathy and I “write blind” – that is, we select a topic, write our pieces, and then compare notes. For this post, however, I read hers first. And I am so glad I did because our perspectives could not be more different.

With two small people the challenges of keeping them both happy multiply. Don’t get me wrong, there are times when I’m doing a puzzle with Lunchbox and Slim is playing in her room, or when Slim and I are working on her homework and Lunchbox is playing on his iPad or goofing off with Dreamy. These bursts of relative contentment last only as long as someone’s good mood, unfortunately, and Dreamy and I constantly drift back and forth between the two kids. Thus we don’t have the same type of togetherness as what Kathy describes; ours is more fluid and free-flowing.

Together time can be better managed by splitting up – a way for parent and child to bond without completely wiping out said parent’s energy. While not ideal, it is a good strategy for some activities and errands. Dreamy will take Slim to a Girl Scout event, for example, while Lunchbox and I go to the park or to get the groceries. They each get a parent to themselves (win!) and this sort of concentrated one-on-one time works best with my introversion (win!). Plus, sometimes I find it overwhelming doing things as a foursome given the age, gender, and temperament differences between Slim and Lunchbox (and shoot, let’s be real here, sometimes between Dreamy and me).  But that’s a subject for another post.

The idea of “alone together” time is lovely in theory but in practice it often doesn’t work at my house. Sometimes, though, particularly with Slim, we can pull this off, such as cuddling in bed at night, each engrossed in our own books. And I as I write this, Lunchbox is jamming away on the Wii. So even though the Mario Kart music is blasting in my ear, he’s happily in his own universe while I’m toodling along in mine.   

This gives me hope for the future.  As Slim careens towards the Tween Years, I want for us to do things together, to have a shared interest. We both like baking and maybe a cake decorating class is in our future. Same goes for Lunchbox – he and I can resume our mini-nature hikes in the spring if he decides to begin wearing pants on the regular.

Until then we shall muddle through. With earplugs, because I really hate Mario Kart.


Parallel Play

KathyMy favorite part of each day, hands down, is reading time. Each night before Doodlebug goes to bed the whole family sits down together—first iDad or I will read from our read-aloud book, then we’ll all read our own books silently. I don’t know how long Doodlebug will let us read to her, but we’ll try to keep it going as long as we can.

My most favorite part of reading time, though, is when we read to ourselves. There’s something especially cozy about being together but doing different things—it makes me think of toddlers absorbed in parallel play, aware of each other but immersed in their own experience. This is the good kind of being alone together, and I lately I’ve been on the lookout for other ways to capture that same feeling.

For instance:

  • Doodlebug and I took a parent-child art class together this fall, which went really well. I’ll admit that sometimes it was hard to drag myself out the door for class, but once we were there we both enjoyed the time to be creative side by side. We each worked on separate drawings but we learned the same techniques, and it was fun to show off our creations to iDad afterwards. Now that the class is over, I’d like to try and create similar arts and crafts sessions at home.
  • Walking home from school together is technically doing the same thing at the same time, I guess, although usually Doodlebug rides her scooter while I walk. So I’m counting it! It’s a good way to steal some conversation time before I lose her to Minecraft after school. If we’re in the car, I maybe get three sentences out of her before the audiobook comes on, but if we walk, I hear about what happened at recess, how the test went, what they did in music. But also sometimes we’re just quiet together, and that’s good too. Now that the weather is (finally!) cold and we drive more often, I really miss this time.
  • Maybe this last one sounds dumb, but I also kind of love homework time. (When it’s going smoothly, that is—we’ve had our share of meltdowns this school year.) But when Doodlebug is working at the kitchen table, iDad is doing the dishes, and I’m puttering around with bills or laundry, I get that same cozy feeling. It’s one of the only times I feel like maybe I could manage living in one of those tiny houses I keep seeing on HGTV. The rest of the time I feel like those would be an introvert’s worst nightmare, aaaiiieee!

What about you, fellow introverts? Does your family have activities you like to do together…ish? Please share so I can steal them!

— Kathy

Holiday Mode (and Antidotes)

KathyBefore Thanksgiving, I tried to warn myself that I wasn’t going to get much work done in December.

The bad news is, I was right.

Every year I try to convince myself that this is okay, that I have a flexible schedule and I should embrace that. I should just focus on my holiday prep and work on shorter writing projects if I have the time.

But I always get stuck in a weird tug-of-war with myself about whether it’s too soon to switch over to holiday mode, which means I end up feeling rushed when I’m finally ready. I honestly don’t know how to solve that one—I don’t want to spend all year getting ready for December, but December itself just doesn’t seem to have enough weeks.

So I end up not getting much work done AND stressing about the holidays. Not a great combo.

Here are a couple things that have worked for me this year, though. Without these strategies I would be feeling even more frazzled than I am right now!

  • Technology fasts. I’ve been reading a lot lately about how the internet is affecting our brains, and this article sums things up pretty nicely. Basically, all the back-and-forth drains our energy and gets us addicted to seeing something new all. the. time. The author’s solution: read more. Practice focusing deeply on something. So, most evenings I’ve been trying to turn off my devices early and settle down with a book instead. Between the holiday stress and all the upsetting things in the news lately, I think it’s been extra important for me to have a good long stretch of time offline.
  • Ditching the cards. I am so conflicted about this, but we are not sending Christmas cards this year. I love getting cards, and I love the tradition of sending holiday greetings, but this year the task was hanging over me and I decided to put it aside. The world hasn’t stopped turning yet, so maybe it’s okay? I also told myself it’s just for this year—next year I’ll re-evaluate and send some if I really want to.
  • Reminding myself what I’m looking forward to instead of focusing on the “have to’s”. Lately I’ve been trying to make a mental list of the good parts of each day, and this is kind of the same thing in reverse: thinking ahead to what’s fun instead of stressing about what’s not. On the list: making a gingerbread house with Doodlebug, going to see Star Wars Episode VII with my brother, and the new Sherlock that’s coming out January 1st. And (fingers crossed!) some good books for Christmas.

I hope the end of the year brings you some quiet time to reflect and to look ahead to 2016!


When Was the Last Time You Felt “Introverted Up”?

We can think of a million and one things that drain our introvert energy tanks. But what about filling them up completely? Is that even possible? We say yes — occasionally.


tiffany_head_128“The Golden Girls” is one of my most favorite television shows of all time, and Sophia Petrillo would be my most favorite Girl of them all. Girlfriend always kept it real and as soon as you heard her say “Picture it, Sicily, 1942” you knew you were in for a wacky story with (maybe) some sort of moral included.

Allow me to play Sophia for a moment: picture it, Buenos Aires, 2012. This was the last time my introvert energy tank was full.

Let me explain.

In September of 2012 I traveled to Brazil for work. Sunday through Wednesday I was in Rio de Janeiro and Wednesday through Thursday night I was in Sao Paulo. Parts of it were as glamorous as it sounds; the other, decidedly unglamorous parts were twelve hour days jammed with back-to-back meetings and public relations-type events. In short, it was Extrovert Paradise but Introvert Hell.

The final reception was Thursday evening and I had a 7 a.m. flight to Buenos Aires the next day – I had the weekend off and a few more meetings in B.A. on Monday. In spite of my exhaustion, the reception was fun and my colleagues and I had a great time. So much so that I drank way more than I should have, stayed out entirely too late, and, after two hours of sleep, woke up the next morning with a hangover the size of Brazil itself. To this day I consider it a minor miracle that I survived the cab ride, the airport, and the plane ride without barfing.

It was in this sorry state that I arrived at my Buenos Aires hotel. Schlepping my enormous suitcase up a small flight of stairs, head throbbing and stomach churning, I opened the door to my room. It was huge and sleek and modern and had a window that opened into an interior courtyard. Water gurgled quietly in a small fountain a few feet from the window. I pulled on my pajamas, popped more Advil, pounded a bottle of water, and burrowed into the bed.

This was the beginning of a weekend alone in a strange city in a strange country where I knew no one and no one knew me. I spent the next two delicious days in solitude, exploring various museums and neighborhoods and interacting with people only when I wanted. It was magical to rediscover the power of moving at my own pace and of simply being quiet — even in the midst of a bustling, cosmopolitan urban center.

My last meeting was over on Monday afternoon. During the mad dash to the airport I thought about whether or not I was ready to go home. And suddenly I was. I couldn’t wait to see Dreamy and Slim and Lunchbox and the full force of missing them washed over me like a tidal wave. I became acutely aware that I was an entire continent away from three people I love most in the entire world. Those two days in Buenos Aires were an incredible gift, but, my tank full, it was time to return to the roles that ground me and comprise so much of who I am.

It is somewhat startling to think that it’s been three years since I’ve felt completely “introverted up.” Of course there have been small pockets of time where I’ve been able to partially replenish but as we’ve seen it is difficult to find these pockets given the demands of two children, teaching, and General Life Stuff (laundry, that means you). Dreamy and I take them where we can and know that one day life won’t be as crazy.

Probably when we’re ready to check in to Shady Pines.

— Tiffany

KathyI’ve decided that Wednesday is my official Day Out.

Every fall when school starts, I resolve to get the most out of my week. This year I’d devised a new work schedule with blocks of time for writing and breaks in between, with a bigger chunk of time in the afternoon for errands or the ever-present Big House Projects. (Someday I WILL tackle the craft room!)

But I noticed something—when I’m in work mode, I don’t want to do errands. Having Monday and Tuesday to hole up in my office and write after a busy weekend is heavenly, and I like to finish the week with a good chunk of work time, too. But on Wednesday I just want to go out into the world. My mom and I usually take a long walk together in the morning, and I’ve been using the afternoon for shopping or errands.

Because here’s the thing—my introvert tank CAN get full. Sometimes too full. Working at home means that some days I only interact with Doodlebug and iDad, plus whatever time I spend on Facebook or email. And some days, that’s exactly what I want and need.

My house is quiet, and I love it. But other times I like the comfortable buzz of a bookstore or seeing a friendly face at the farmers market. Not a lot of stimulation—I certainly don’t find myself randomly taking off to a kids’ puppet show at the mall. If I can choose how to drain my tank, I’ll pick a quiet way—meeting with my writing group, seeing a movie with a friend, lunch out by myself. So far, it’s working.

— Kathy

What about you, fellow introverts? Does your tank ever get full? What are your favorite ways to empty it . . . on your terms?

Opening the Door, Closing the Door

Front Door Syndrome — do you have it? We read Emily White’s piece over at Quiet Revolution and decided we do — sort of.


KathyWhen I spotted this amazing bag in a shop window this summer, I knew I had to have it.

I proudly showed Doodlebug, expecting her to get how perfect it was for me. She frowned, though, and said, “The Stay Home Club? That should be me and Daddy!”

Stay Home ClubAnd I laughed, because there is a certain dynamic that plays out every weekend around here. Usually I am the one proposing we Go Out and Do Something, while Doodlebug and iDad are happy to chill at home.

So what’s that about? What kind of weirdo introvert am I, always trying to pull people out of their happy places?

I know part of it is that I feel good when I’m accomplishing tasks. Checking items off a To Do list is one of my favorite things (see: Notebook of Power), and sometimes that does require leaving the house. I don’t mind doing errands by myself, because that comes with its own dose of quiet time – alone in the car, listening to whatever I want? I’ll do the grocery store run!

Another part, though, is that sometimes my introvert tank actually does get full. When Doodlebug’s in school and iDad and I are working away, alone, in our separate offices, I’m in a pretty good place. My needs for solitude are being met, so I have enough energy for weekend outings or an evening meeting. Of course, I’m well aware that Doodlebug is spending that same time extroverting her little heart out, so I get that she doesn’t want to spend her whole weekend on the go.

Because I, too, hear the siren call of the sofa. I too have thought “That sounds fun, I should go to that,” and then spent hours with a book or my laptop instead. And sometimes I think that’s okay. I want to be deliberate with my time. We’ve been talking lately about the “good” exhausted – why sign up for the bad kind when I already get plenty?

But I agree with Emily White that in order to find the things that wear you out AND fill you up, you have to look, so I do have a few strategies for tricking myself into trying something for the first time.

If I can talk a friend into going along, that always helps. Or my spouse. Or my child. (Hence the repeated attempts to get them out the door, I guess!)

I don’t like to let people down, so I know that if I commit to going to an event, I won’t back out. Yeah, I might start to daydream about getting sick and having to cancel, but if I tell someone I’ll come to the meeting, I’ll be there. If I sign up for a class, I will go – this one works especially well for me because after the first class you pretty much know what to expect. Plus I’ve paid for it – another great motivator!

But I also believe in cutting myself some slack. I tried joining a choir, which was something I loved in high school, but even after going a dozen times I never got to the point where I was eager for the next rehearsal. They were far away, on a weeknight, and I didn’t get to know anyone very well. It was a drain, and I stopped going (after the concert, of course).

So that one was a flop. But this weekend I’m trying out a book club, and I’m a mix of nervous and excited. I don’t know anyone, but I’ve got to think a group of readers has at least a couple of kindred spirits. Maybe I’ll bring my new bag.

— Kathy


Emily White’s article is good and I completely identify with most of it. It’s a little off, though, because it doesn’t really capture what needs to happen after an introvert outing. But we’ll get to that.

Kathy’s piece discusses how she revs herself up to interact. I am fine opening the door — most of the time. For the times I’m not here are some of my tips:

    1. Set a time limit. Before walking out the door, I say to myself, “Give it an hour. If you’re not having fun after an hour you can leave.” This gets a little complicated if I’m with Dreamy and the kids, but usually wherever we are does indeed turn out to be fun or interesting. The one exception: Slim and Lunchbox’s Back-to-School Open house. It was so crowded and loud and overwhelming I bolted after ten minutes.
  • Pacing matters. On weekends, one social event per day is my max. I would rather have given birth without anesthesia then to do errands, the grocery shopping, a birthday party, and dinner with friends on the same day. If I get some routine tasks accomplished during the week, the weekend isn’t so jam-packed and more time opens up for fun events.
  • Be honest – with yourself and your friends.  Chances are if I turn down an invitation or bail at the last minute, it’s not because I don’t like or want to spend time with you. It is more likely that I’m fried and need the time to be alone. I’ve gotten better at being honest but it’s been a struggle in the past to let people know why I really can’t come out or do activity X.  So it’s really not you, it’s me.
  • The Irish Exit. I’d never heard of this until reading Mindy Kaling’s book “Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?” Kaling, who I suspect is an introvert, details this, her preferred method of leaving parties: telling everyone you’re going to the bathroom or to get a drink when in reality you’re actually leaving. I ask you, dear readers, is this a thing? If so, how did I not know about it? Even I though I have yet to make an official Irish Exit, the number I’ve made in my head is roughly equivalent to our national debt.

White’s article opened my eyes to my real issue: what happens when I get home. After being out, particularly if “out” involves a combination of high-interaction events, I need to recharge. Easier said than done when your kids and spouse fall more on the extrovert end of the personality spectrum. I know, without a doubt, there have been times when my parenting has been less than awesome because I didn’t have the chance to refill my tank after a busy day or a big occasion.

Fortunately my schedule now is more flexible and there are more opportunities for quiet time. I know, for example, that Friday afternoons are going to be mine — no groceries, no school work, no chores. They will probably involve the couch and Netflix, maybe some exercise. I am thankful to White’s article for helping me see the error of my ways and for underscoring the importance of not only opening the door, but closing it as well.

— Tiffany

The Paradox of Summer

August is almost over and that means the end of summer.  We’ve got some thoughts on guilt, meltdowns, and how our months off might look different next year.

KathySummer Guilt, 2015 Edition

There is no question that Doodlebug learns something important every summer at camp. I don’t mean things like facts about rocks or a new art technique. I mean something about Life. One year, it was that new things are always easier with a friend. Last year, it was that sometimes you have to try new things on your own, but that you’ll survive and maybe even have fun.

This year, she learned that things sometimes look good on paper but turn out to be boring in real life. Also that some kids are just mean.

So yeah, camp didn’t go so well this time around. It didn’t help that iDad and I knew Doodlebug would much rather be home, doing Minecraft or reading or playing with Shopkins. Or, you know, spending time with us. Nothing like a tearful conversation about why parents still have to work all summer to make you question your priorities.

And part of me says, look, we do still have to work. She’s old enough to get that. We did all kinds of things together this summer. Two weeks of half-day camps—thirty hours out of an eleven-week summer—is not cruel and unusual. Yes, she had some rocky moments, but she made it through and I’m proud of her.

Another part of me says, yeah, but it’s camp. You always hated it yourself. Remember Vacation Bible School? Remember the Girl Scout day camp? <shudder> I’m an introvert raising an introvert. I know that camp might turn out to be fun, or it might be a giant drain on your energy tank. That’s the opposite of what summer is for.

So this, I’ve concluded, is the paradox of summer: I feel like I can only gain time for myself by taking it away from Doodlebug. The two weeks of camp were great for iDad and me. We both got much more done without having to scramble around and cover each other’s work time. I felt like I could think straight again after being pulled in a million different directions for weeks. It was a good feeling. But it came at the price of an unhappy kid. Why hello, guilt. So nice of you to join us.

I never feel guilty about sending her to school, just like I never felt guilty about putting her down for a nap when she was two—those are things that have to happen. Learning and sleeping are her jobs, jobs that just happen to come with a side of alone time for me. But camp is different. Camp is optional, and so who is it for? Her, or me? And if it’s for me, is that okay? My head says yes, my heart says no.

So next year, we’ll see. Maybe we’ll try going camp-free, and maybe she can have some sort of long-term summer project to give us some structure. You know I love structure. I’m sure we’ll be able to figure this all out before she turns 18 . . . right?

— Kathy


Mega Monster Meltdown

Or, the Afternoon I Wished Parenting Weren’t One of My Core Personal Projects

“We’ve all been there,” she said, looking at me with sympathetic eyes. I muttered something like “Thanks” or “Do you want him?” as I walked by her, struggling to contain Lunchbox.

What started as a small disagreement had escalated to a meltdown; I calmly told him it was time to leave the pool. He lost it and suddenly we were at DEFCON 2 in terms of his behavior.  I slung him over my shoulder like a sack of potatoes while he kicked and screamed “Nooooooooooooo!!” at the top of his lungs. I was mortified. All eyes were on us as we trudged toward the exit.

After fighting to buckle him into his carseat, I turned on the car and took a deep breath. My hands were shaking and I felt like barfing. This was my worst fear — that my first summer with the kids would be filled with these types of episodes. Could I handle them? What would I do if I lost my temper completely and did something I’d regret? I knew the tantrum would eventually fizzle out and that a cocktail (or four) would help calm me down, but what, if anything, could or should I do to prevent this type of situation? Both Slim and Lunchbox had had their moments, but this was one, if not THE, worst one yet.

Developing a strategy for my first Teacher Mom Summer (TMS) had taken some time. Dreamy and I decided not to enroll the kids in any camps, hoping to save money, and I wanted them to sleep late, eat breakfast in their pjs, and, in general, be lazy. I asked Slim and Lunchbox about things they’d like to do and we came up with a list. We’d do one Big Thing each week (a movie, a museum trip, Lunch with Daddy) and divide up the the rest of the days with visits to the pool, the park, and play dates. Chore and Screen Time would be worked in as well.

This worked for a few weeks. The routine was nice but interrupted by some bigger projects I had hoped to accomplish during the break (such as cleaning, redecorating, and organizing Slim’s “Hoarders” episode-ready room). The kids were frustrated and acted out accordingly; I felt guilty and selfish for not making our plans a priority.

So, old conflict, new circumstances: where’s the line between your own goals and Mom responsibilities? Crossing things off my To Do list helps me feel accomplished, and usually my projects provide much-needed time to myself as well. In an effort to recalibrate I tried working on my stuff in the mornings and doing our planned activities in the afternoon. The result? Progress on Slim’s room slowed and both of them spent waaaay too much time staring at screens. I don’t have an answer but am thinking that my TMS flow will take time to evolve, much like my school-life flow (see my previous post).

As we hurtle towards a new school year, I already know next summer will look a bit different: one or two camps per kid; two or three dedicated afternoons to myself each week; and perhaps better expectations management on my part. Maybe such a plan will help us avoid mega monster meltdowns and me wishing for an extended and semi-permanent break from motherhood.

Thoughts please, fellow Introverted Moms!

— Tiffany

Change Is a Doubled-Edged Sword


Yes, it’s me. The alleged co-author of this blog. I am mindful that this will be my second “Where Have I Been” post; please note it will be my last “Where Have I Been” post and my first as a more committed writer and member of our lovely little community.

As you might remember last year was my first year as a teacher. I’d slogged through a training program, quit my horrible and much-hated job, and began a new career as middle school creative writing instructor. I discovered that while teaching feeds many parts of my soul – creatively, intellectually, and emotionally – it is also the most exhausting thing I have ever done.

Hence the title of this post: one side of this sword-of-change sliced through the scar tissue of my previous existence and liberated my true self; the other side, however, slashes an enormous hole in my energy tank, causing that precious resource to hemorrhage at a terrifying rate. Most times at the end of the day, or week, or month, I was fried and had nothing left to put out there. And when forced to choose between all the great ideas and topics in my head or myself, I chose me.

Summer has given me time to reflect on the positive aspects of this change and, to echo Kathy’s “Under the Wire”  post, there are two major successes to report. The first is simple: I finally feel like myself again after many years of … well, not. And while it may seem contradictory to think that interacting with over 100 students a day (and parents and administrators and counselors … the list goes on) makes me a better introvert, it does. All this extroverting contributes towards one of my core personal projects – teaching – and thus makes me happy.

Plus, now I can now be goofy and silly. I can wear blue nail polish and dye my hair pink if I want to and NO ONE WILL CARE. Suppressing this person for so long was bad-exhausting; letting this person out is feels-so-good exhausting. I may be tired, but it is truly wonderful to wake up and know I get to be myself and not someone defined by a job or title.

Another benefit is being a better parent. An example: this spring I actually planned weekend activities. Previously I viewed museum visits or road trips as exercises in energy depletion, and I would often stay home and recharge when Dreamy took Slim and Lunchbox out.  Now, especially that it’s summer, I enjoy cooking up adventures for us to have. So far we’ve gone to the movies, a play, museums, AND a few road trips.

Another benefit? I’ve been able to enjoy my children rather than simply managing them. We’ve played games (Lunchbox is a total cheater at “Candyland”), dress-up, and taken long walks together. We’ve cuddled in bed reading books and made up silly games.  Am I tired at the end of the day? Yes. But again, it’s a good tired. It’s an “I Did Something Fun” tired. Parenting is also (presumably) one of my core personal projects and spending more time with Slim and Lunchbox has been a huge eye-opener in the best possible way.

Side note: summer has also meant adjusting to a whole new different kind of momhood. The learning curve has been brutal at times. More in my next post.

This year has been tough, with the sword of change whipping back and forth doing its thing. Now, however, in my mind the sword is horizontal and still (kind of like this). I have developed better tools to recognize when I’m veering too close to the negative side and its detrimental effects. “Balance” is not a word I believe in using when discussing career and life management but I can say this: my career and life management “flow” (yay Susan Cain!) is in a good place. Let’s cross our fingers and hope it stays there.

— Tiffany


Summer by the Book

KathyThe story of my summer usually goes something like this: trying to balance fun, carefree family time and productive writing time. I’m planning to use some of the same strategies as last year – tag-teaming with iDad, grandparent help, a couple weeks of camp – but I also want to be sure I get to spend time with Doodlebug doing stuff we both like. Who knows how many summers we have left before she wants nothing to do with us? She’s already started reminding us that she’s practically a tween. (What? I mean, she’s right, but . . . what?!)

So, inspired by the snow day writing labs we made up this winter, I asked Doodlebug if we could do our own reading and writing week this summer. And she said YES! Of course my planning brain immediately went into overdrive, but then my introvert side kicked in and reminded me that I don’t need to schedule us to death. So maybe we will get to do all of these things, or maybe just a few. But here are my ideas so far:

  • A shopping trip for new notebooks/cool drawing supplies
  • Visiting the library to pick up a summer reading log
  • Scrabble (sneaky vocab time)
  • Writing a story together – we’ve done this before, where we trade the notebook back and forth every few sentences. It’s fun to see where we end up!
  • A trip to the used book store
  • Making food from books – I’m thinking of things like these Harry Potter-inspired pumpkin pasties or just something simple like bread and jam for a snack (like Frances!). Hmm, we’ve never made our own jam . . .
  • Reading time, of course
  • And writing lab, where Doodlebug works on a story while I work on a story of my own!

I’m sure iDad and Doodlebug will also hang out at the pool, so between that and the writing lab time I think I should be able to get some good work done AND have fun with my sweet girl. This is her last week of school and then we’re going to jump right into it, and I’m actually excited. About summer! Who’d have thunk it?

If you have any other ideas for wordy fun, please share. I’ll let you know how it goes!

— Kathy