Home Again, Home Again…

Kathy… jiggety-jog. Home again, home again with my groundhog… Despite the fact that we have zero groundhogs, Doodlebug added that line years ago and now we always say it when we get home from a trip. Our latest was to New York during spring break, preceded by four days of playdates and errands and general running around, so I’m glad to back to our regular routine. Including my internet routine — I was offline a lot more than usual, and while I wasn’t completely unplugged, I definitely didn’t have time for my normal round of blogs and those random cool things you just stumble upon. Now that I’m caught up, I thought I’d share some of the good stuff I missed. Call it the first Introverted Mom link roundup.

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  • First of all, this piece on tech timeouts from Fit Bottomed Mamas! How… timely. (Sorry.) I have a thing about posting on Facebook when it’s clear I’m away from home — I’m always paranoid that our house will get robbed. Sooo, I wasn’t posting every little thing about our trip as we went, and even that small pull-back made a difference. I checked in on my friends from time to time, but it was nice not to have that constant “Did anybody like my post?!?!” brain nudge. Something to remember.

I’m not sure I agree that most introverts are bad at interacting with people, but I definitely liked the reminder that being yourself in social situations can lead to those real, meaningful relationships introverts enjoy so much. The app that can pull all of a person’s social media posts off the web for you… uh, that’s just kinda creepy.

GIFs ahoy! (Is that a hedgehog floating in a bathtub? Cuteness overload.) A list of what introversion is not, plus some good tips, especially the part about not spending too much time on the internet. Ahem.

I almost didn’t include this one, since I didn’t think it had much to do with being an introvert. But then I decided it absolutely does. The more stuff I have, the more stuff I have to wrangle. That takes time away from things I’d rather be doing — hanging out with iDad and Doodlebug, writing, eating Nutella while watching the Daily Show…Dealing with stuff is stealing my downtime. Yard sale season is almost here, which will help with things we’ve already accumulated, but I want to be much more conscious of what we bring in to the house in the first place. I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the posts in this series.

– Kathy

Playdate-palooza

KathyDoodlebug is an only child, so playdates are a way of life for her – if she wants to see another kid outside of school, we have to find one. For me, though, they’re definitely a mixed blessing. When they go well, they can be a nice little mini-break. When they don’t, they can drain the life right out of me. Here’s a list of playdate experiences you may recognize, in order from ahhhh to aughhhh!

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The Holy Grail – you drop your kid off at the house of a friend she loves. They play for several hours while you go home and read, or nap, or do whatever you want.

The Family Affair – you are friends with the parent AND your kids like each other too! The kids play peacefully while you and your friend talk about Orphan Black. (NINE. DAYS!)

The Lunch and a Movie – you and a friend take your babies to one of those special movie showings for parents with little ones. You get to see a movie for grown-ups and maybe even have lunch, hopefully while the kiddos nap throughout. (Okay, this isn’t exactly a playdate, but those were good times.)

The Happy Surprise – a new friend comes over to play with your kid and they get along beautifully. They make crafts, share the toys, and eagerly eat whatever snack you offer. (Am I the only one who is paranoid about snack? Like the kid will starve if they don’t eat something in the two hours they’re at my house?)

The Coelacanth – your kid calls a friend herself, then they run around outside the whole time and you never even have to see them. (Fine, this has never happened at our house, but this does still exist, right?)

The Hit and Run – “Can I drop Molly off for a while kthanksbye!” (I love advance notice. I really, really love advance notice.)

The Nap Eraser – the playdate lasts longer than you thought it would and your kid conks out for ten minutes in the car on the way home. Then they’re up and cranky for the rest of the afternoon – goodbye, downtime. (Doodlebug hasn’t napped for about four years, but just typing out that scenario makes me want to cry.)

The “Preschool teachers should get paid more” – your house is full of kids fighting over the same toy. Everyone ends up in tears. Then they find the drums and maracas and decide to have a parade.

The Ninth Circle of Hell – The playdate has no pre-set end time. Your kid and her friend start fighting after five minutes and you have to wrangle them for who knows how long. Outside. In August. In 90% humidity. This one will require pizza delivery for dinner and days of recovery time.

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So which ones did I miss? Tell me about your favorite and least favorite types of playdates in the comments!

– Kathy

Leadership in Lowercase

KathyAfter the recent brouhaha over Sheryl Sandberg’s Ban Bossy campaign, I looked over the website’s materials for girls, parents, and teachers. There’s a lot of good stuff there, urging girls to speak up about what’s important to them and giving adults strategies for helping them be heard.

I wouldn’t be sorry to see the word bossy fade away. I can see that fear of being called something negative could make some girls reluctant to speak up. But my bigger issue is with a word that’s all over the materials created by Sandberg and the Girl Scouts, who are co-sponsoring the campaign: Leadership.

I haven’t read Sandberg’s book Lean In, but I know she wants more women to hold positions of power in the corporate world. In the “Leadership Tips for Girls” handout on the Ban Bossy website, these numbers are front and center: Women make up just 19% of Congress, 17% of corporate boards, and 5% of Fortune 1,000 CEO positions. I don’t like those numbers any more than she does – I’d love to see women equally represented in government and business.

However. Not everyone wants to be that kind of leader. Obviously those big-ticket positions are not her only goal – there are many possible stepping stones or stopping points, so I’ll say this, too: Not everyone wants to be the director of a library division (a possible career trajectory for me if I hadn’t changed my path). Not everyone wants to be the head room parent for her daughter’s class.

A friend sent me this article from The Atlantic in response to Ban Bossy, which points out (again) that introverts can be excellent leaders, thank you very much. “[S]ome girls prefer to plot their world domination quietly,” notes Olga Khazan.

I agree with her that some tips in the handout for girls seem anti-quiet. #1, Speak Up in Class, with the added instruction of “Avoid editing what you want to say in your head” beforehand. Wha? Thanks for invalidating my entire thinking process.

Others, though, I really like. #7, Trust Your Inner Voice, recommends keeping a journal if you don’t want to share your thoughts out loud. Or #5, Don’t Do Everyone Else’s Work, which is essential for group projects at school but also a good reminder for parents who need to resist picking up everyone else’s dirty socks.

That’s where I think the emphasis on Leadership is missing the mark: these are not leadership tips, they’re life tips. The handout is full of techniques for being true to yourself and navigating relationships. Girls and boys should know this stuff. But I disagree that the logical next step after #3, Challenge Yourself, is Run Something.

Maybe you’d rather make jewelry, or research cures for cancer, or introduce kids to J. K. Rowling, or be the next J. K. Rowling.

Maybe you’d rather blog.

The handout notes that our society hasn’t quite figured out how powerful it wants girls to be. But there’s more than one way to be powerful, and I’m afraid some girls will read these materials and hear “Your way is wrong.” That’s not a message I want to send to my daughter, or to anyone else’s.

– Kathy

When “Being the Change” Doesn’t Feel Like Enough

KathyToday is Pancake Day, AKA the only day Doodlebug buys lunch at school. I’m fine that she doesn’t buy more often, because as far as I can tell the food her cafeteria serves is not that great. I know some schools in our county are revamping their menus to include fresh, local produce and food that’s prepared on-site, but most of her options seem to be precooked, highly processed food-like-substances. Like, for instance, maple-flavored pancakes that are microwaved in a plastic pouch. Blech.

So I was really interested when I came across info about a new cookbook aimed at school cafeteria workers in this month’s issue of Eating Well magazine. A group called Vermont FEED put together healthy recipes that are popular in school cafeterias, all in big-batch portions so other school cooks can use them too.

For a minute I got all dreamy-eyed, imagining what it would be like if Doodlebug’s cafeteria served things like Mac & Trees (with broccoli – cute!) or Carrot & Quinoa Muffins. Her school is starting a garden this year, maybe some of the plants are vegetables that could be incorporated into the lunch program? I could let the staff know about the cookbook, and maybe…

No. No no no no.

Because I know what happens. The person who suggests a cool new idea also gets put in charge of implementing said idea. I hate gardening, I hate being in charge of things, and I don’t need an extra project in my life right now. I’m barely maintaining a good balance between other people’s demands on my time and my own needs as it is. Step away from the cookbook, introvert!

And I did, but it kind of breaks my heart. There are lots of things like this in my life – things I feel strongly about, things I think I should be advocating for, things I always end up leaving for someone else to take the lead on. If another parent saw this same article and started whipping our school lunches into shape, I’d help. In my small way. But spearheading the entire effort? No way, not me.

I’ve always liked the quote “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” (It’s usually attributed to Gandhi, although he may not have ever said it.) After my momentary flirtation with the cookbook idea, I had to remind myself that my smaller efforts are not worthless. Did I send organic apple slices and yogurt to Brownies last month for snack? Yes. Did I make from-scratch cupcakes with real ingredients for Doodlebug’s class on Valentine’s Day? Yes. Am I voting with my pocketbook by not having her buy lunch in the cafeteria more than once a month? Yes.

Am I worried that that last paragraph is obnoxious? Yes, and I know that’s part of my problem – sometimes I stick with being the change because I don’t want anyone else to feel bad about their choices. (And let me point out that we are definitely not perfect. There are currently five boxes of Girl Scout cookies in our pantry.) But the bigger reason is that I just don’t have the energy or personality for leading a huge project.

Maybe it’s like Susan Cain’s theory about introverts and public speaking – she argues that, once you find Your Topic, the thing you’re truly passionate about, talking about it to big groups becomes easier. Maybe I just haven’t found My Topic yet, the thing I’d be willing to upend my life to advocate for. In the meantime I’ll just be here, packing lunches, typing to other people who (hopefully) understand why I’m not doing more.

– Kathy

Gold Leader, Stay on Target

KathyFor the past few weeks I’ve been taking time off from my novel. I think/hope I’m getting close to finishing it, but I need a little distance before I can say for sure. So while the manuscript sits, untinkered with, on my computer, I’ve been catching up on the household stuff that fell by the wayside when I was in writing mode. Basically this has meant wrestling the craft room into submission and laundering All The Things, including that layer of miscellaneous stuff at the bottom of the hamper. Allllmost there…

Blocking out separate time for work and housework is a good strategy for me (and I know I’m lucky to have so much control over my schedule). I wish I could do it on a smaller scale, like maybe taking one day a week to work on house projects and spending the rest of my time on writing so I wouldn’t get so far behind. Unfortunately, my brain isn’t so good at that. When I get into a project, I like to stick with it until I’m finished, or at least until I reach a good stopping point.

Maybe it’s a writer thing – it’s important to stay immersed in your story, and I definitely lose momentum if I’m not writing regularly. It took me over five years to finish the writing project I started when I was pregnant with Doodlebug. This was partly because I’d chosen to focus on my mom role, but also because I had a hard time snapping out of it unless I got a big chunk of writing time. And I don’t mean two-hour-nap big. I mean Grandma’s-here-for-the-day big.

I’m sure it doesn’t help that introverts are at a disadvantage when it comes to switching gears. In this post, Susan Cain notes that we aren’t as good as extroverts at processing stimuli, mostly because we’re not just observing, we’re also evaluating at the same time. And – soapbox alert – multitasking isn’t really possible anyway. People’s brains can’t do more than one thing at a time, so what we’re really doing is switching back and forth over and over again.

And what is parenting except switching between a million different activities, sometimes from one minute to the next? This has been one of the hardest things for me, especially because you often can’t plan ahead. Short nap? Call from school saying your kid has a fever? You have to go into a different mode RIGHT NOW. It’s enough to make you crash your X-wing.

So I try to minimize as many distractions as I can. Putting down my phone and stepping away from social media for a few hours each evening is still key for me. Leaving enough time to get things done (like getting out the door in the morning) is important, too – worrying about being late doesn’t help anybody. And I’m thrilled that we’ve been listening to music more often, but I know that if I really need to focus on something, I still need to turn it off. If I’m not already bombarded by unnecessary attention-grabbers, it’s easier to be present when I’m in parenting mode.

Do you have trouble switching gears, too? Do you find it affects your parenting? And don’t you want this on a t-shirt now?

– Kathy

Party Girl

KathyDoodlebug’s birthday is coming up, which means I’m going into party-planning mode. This is one of my favorite parenting jobs, and it’s something she gets excited about, too. I love a good theme – none of her parties have been Pinterest-worthy extravaganzas, but we’ve had fun with a fairy party, a Star Wars party, a ballerina fairy party (which is totally different from a plain fairy party), and an art party.

These celebrations have all been at our house, which for me falls into the exhausting-but-worth-it zone on my personal introvert scale. I like coming up with activities, searching out cute, useful favors, and making silly party food. Yoda Soda, you guys. Need I say more?

We do a fair amount of non-birthday entertaining as well – a few times each winter we host Soup Night, which is basically what it sounds like, and for the past couple years we’ve been doing a summertime pizza and popsicles fest. Sometimes these end up being us and a few friends. Other times, we’ve had thirty people.

Maybe that doesn’t sound very introvert-y. I know it’s pretty close to iDad’s limit. But I love hosting parties because I know all the guests. There’s little danger of getting sucked into small talk when you’re hanging out with people you’ve known since college, people you see often, or a bunch of eight-year-olds. Things do tend to get chaotic and loud (I think we’re known to kids as “The house with all the instruments!”) but I try to keep the following day low-key so there’s plenty of recovery time.

None of this is to say I don’t like going to other people’s parties. I do, of course, especially if there are treats involved. Still, I tend to gravitate toward quieter/meaningful gatherings. Frat parties were not my thing. Neither were iDad’s office holiday parties – one of my favorite things about him working at home is that those are off my calendar! But a board game night or a book launch? I’m there.

This year for her birthday Doodlebug wants an art party again, and we’re thinking of having it at a paint-your-own pottery studio. I’m hoping I’ll be able to make and bring cupcakes, but I’m feeling slightly sad that I won’t get to do much beyond that. Still, I keep reminding myself that we won’t have to clean the house beforehand. I think I can deal with that!

– Kathy

To Co-op or Not to Co-op: That is the Question

’Tis the season… for preschool decisions!

KathyWhen Doodlebug turned two, iDad and I started looking at preschools. Since she’s an only child, we wanted her to have some time with other kids. And, okay fine, having two mornings a week to myself sounded pretty good, too. We went to several open houses, and while Doodlebug tested out playgrounds and did crafts, iDad and I chatted with teachers and listened to presentations about the schools’ philosophies and the role of the parents.

And, because were looking at cooperative preschools, the level of parental involvement was pretty high. Maybe co-ops appealed to my control freak tendencies – being involved in the classroom! Really getting to know the teachers and the other kids! And it certainly helped that the price tag was lower than traditional preschools. As a trade-off, each family at the school we ultimately chose was expected to serve on a committee (fundraising, social, library, etc.) and to spend 6 hours each year on maintenance tasks. Also, about once a month you were required to co-op, which meant joining the two teachers in your child’s classroom for the day.

It was a great school – the staff was warm and positive, the kids were encouraged to choose activities that interested them, there was a whole room devoted to pretend play. And there was a huge emphasis on being outside, even in unpleasant weather, which meant Doodlebug got plenty of mud-puddle time that I didn’t have to directly supervise. But the co-oping. Oh, the co-oping!

Spending three hours in a room with a dozen preschoolers is one of the most draining things I’ve ever done. It’s not that it wasn’t fun – I got to be there for Doodlebug’s birthday celebrations, help make cranberry relish for the Thanksgiving feast, and visit with pet rabbits. But I would come home with a pounding headache and the desire to hide in a dark room for the rest of the day. So if you are considering a co-op preschool for your child, here are some of my survival strategies.

  • If you love a certain school but co-oping sounds like a total nightmare, see if there’s a buyout option. Some schools let parents pay extra tuition in exchange for skipping the co-oping duties. Our school also offered a half buyout, which meant you helped less frequently. (Buyout families still have committee duties and maintenance hours, so it doesn’t mean you’re blowing off your commitment to the school.)
  • Split up the co-oping duties with your spouse if possible. iDad and I did this, and it was so much easier to go into my scheduled day knowing that I had eight weeks to rest up before the next one.
  • Get a good night’s sleep and make sure to hydrate. Not too much, though, because you may not get a bathroom break!
  • Choose your co-op day carefully. Doodlebug’s school offered a few afternoon activities, like lunch bunch and dance. I scheduled my days so that she would be occupied (without me!) for an hour or so afterward. This made my cleanup duties easier and gave me a tiny smidgen of downtime before I needed to pick her up.
  • Do not, I repeat, DO NOT plan anything major for the remainder of a co-op day. This is not the time to go berry-picking or to drag the whole family to the mall for haircuts. If your kid still naps, hallelujah! You have built-in recharging time once you stagger home. If not, maybe you can start a tradition of movie afternoons on co-op days. It’s also an excellent night for ordering pizza. If all else fails, three words: Nutella hot chocolate.

– Kathy

Why Introverted Moms Rock

KathyNo one would ever accuse me of being the perfect mom. Like many people, though, I think I’m my own worst critic. If you’ve been following this blog, you’ve probably noticed that I often feel guilty about how my introversion affects my parenting.

So today I present an anti-guilt post. Because, you know what? It’s actually pretty awesome to have an introverted mom. Here’s why.

Book recommendations for life. I’ve already introduced Doodlebug to Lilly and her purple plastic purse, Trixie and Knuffle Bunny, Fancy Nancy, King Arthur, Laura Ingalls, Betsy Ray, Ramona Quimby, Chet Gecko, and Calvin and Hobbes. On deck: Harry Potter, Anne Shirley, Jo March, Hercule Poirot, Thursday Next, and many (MANY!) more.

No overscheduling. Right now, Doodlebug goes to Brownies every other week. That’s it. No all-day soccer Saturdays, no squeezing in an art class on Tuesday afternoons, no Spanish class before school. If she ever indicates that she wants to do one of those things, great. But so far she hasn’t, and I completely get it. My downtime was so crucial to me as a kid that I will respect and protect hers for her.

Braaaains. If kids came with instruction manuals, Doodlebug’s would definitely include a prescription for an hour of hard outside play every day. She needs it and we try to make sure she gets it, but let’s just say that I’m more… indoorsy. The good news about that is, many of my favorite activities are brain-builders in disguise, including:

  • Jigsaw puzzles – Doodlebug is currently helping me with a bike-themed one.
  • Trivia – my plan to turn her into a fellow Jeopardy addict is coming along nicely.
  • Mad Libs – hilarious, yes, but with a painless introduction to the parts of speech.

It’s pretty awesome to have an introverted dad, too – iDad is handling the engineering, computer science, and chemistry portions of her smart-by-way-of-fun curriculum.

Baked goods. Maybe this isn’t true for all introverts, but I love to get in the kitchen with some measuring cups. I will seize upon the slightest reason to bake something yummy, which means we usually celebrate Doodlebug’s half birthday with a half chocolate/half vanilla cake, and last May the 4th (aka Star Wars Day), this happened.

vader_cookies

So the next time I find my lack of faith in myself… disturbing, I will come back and read this post. And I hope you’ll remind yourself (often!) why your kids are lucky to have you, too.

– Kathy

Let’s Not Call These “Resolutions”

We know, we know – New Year’s resolutions are so two weeks ago. So instead we’re thinking about what we’d like to focus on this year. Call them goals, or, if you want to channel your inner Frenchwoman, perhaps “Mindful Mots.” Bonne année, fellow introverts!

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KathyMy major goal for the year is this: preserve my energy for my family. I have a tendency to spend too much time on other (usually worthy) pursuits, only to find that I have nothing left over at home. That doesn’t seem fair to iDad and Doodlebug, and it’s not making me happy.

So this year, I will:

Plan more family outings. If I’m using up energy, I might as well use it with them, right? We just instituted Museum Mondays – each month we’ll pick a museum to visit on one of Doodlebug’s early dismissal days. For the first one, we picked her up from school, drove downtown, enjoyed a planetarium show and some ice cream, and scooted home in the HOV lane. It was a quick trip and the museum wasn’t crowded, so I didn’t even feel too wiped out. Success!

Figure out this whole volunteering thing. I’ve got a handle on the classroom situation this year, but now the Brownie troop requests are piling up. I have to keep reminding myself that there are ten kids in the troop, thus ten sets of parents. It’s not my job to cover everything. The plan: pitch in, but in a way that doesn’t put me in charge of a gaggle of girls any more than absolutely necessary.

Work on the “witching hours” between school pickup and bedtime. Doodlebug often needs time to unwind in the afternoon, which I completely understand. While she chills out, I always seem to find myself sucked in to Facebook and/or cramming in one more work session. Before I know it, it’s past time to start dinner and everyone’s frazzled.  I already have a self-imposed Internet blackout between 6:30 and 8:30, but I’m wondering if I should extend that. I might also try making the time a work-free zone. We used to have a good routine going with game time after dinner, and I’d like to work that back in, too.

My other goal for the year, which I hope will help everything else in my life run more smoothly, is to get more sleep. Seriously and for real. Last night I tried Tiffany’s patented method of going to bed early with a book. I was asleep earlier than usual, but I woke up at 5 AM. Progress?

– Kathy

tiffany_head_128So here they are.  Four things of which I will be mindful in 2014.

1.  Stick to the Schedule. Although part of me loathes being this Type A, maintaining a routine helps enormously. The most important part: a firm bedtime and a firm lights-out time. After a few consecutive nights I start waking up before the alarm goes off. For anyone who knows me well, this is roughly equivalent to the Jesus-turning-water-into-wine thing: a MIRACLE.

The goal here is not only to ensure adequate rest but to start getting up earlier so I can …

2.  Move My Ass. In 2009, motivated by the abject fear of wearing a bathing suit on a Hawaiian vacation, I hired a personal trainer. It was mentally and physically transformative. After the trip I got pregnant with Lunchbox and well, let’s just say three and a half years later I have some baby jiggle to jettison. And for transparency’s sake there’s cookie, pasta, and wine jiggle to firm up too.

My trainer moved to the West Coast and hiring a new one isn’t in the budget. So I’ve discovered the Cafemom channel on YouTube; FitBottomedGirls is also another helpful site. At work I’ve started printing documents to a machine three flights of stairs above my office. And, in defiance of the Desk Lunch culture in my office, I’ve begun walking for thirty minutes after eating.

My goals are small and appropriate given my life right now. This helps to …

3.  Set Up for Success. Yes, this is a phrase most likely found on one of those cheesy posters in the Dunder Mifflin office. Establishing achievable objectives, however, is key to keeping my introvert self happy.

For example I will no longer cram the weekend “To Do” lists full of tasks I know are impossible to finish. This weekend’s list includes:

Saturday:

  • Exercise 30 minutes
  • Complete grocery list
  • Do three loads of laundry
  • Write five thank you notes

Sunday:

  • Exercise 30 minutes
  • Do three loads of laundry
  • Prep and cook two meals
  • Write five thank you notes

You get the idea.  While it is challenging to let go — particularly when staring down Slim’s black hole of a closet or Lunchbox’s toy-bombed room — it helps to repeat “Martha Stewart is not coming over today.” Critical chores get priority and thus downtime becomes available. A bit of spare time allows me to …

4.  Write It Out. Remember this post? No need to repeat why writing is so important to me. I am thankful, dear reader, to have an audience and an excuse to marinate in my own thoughts once a week.

I am hopeful these four simple mots will, as Kathy writes, help to better manage my energy levels and to generate more, if possible, for my family. Because at the end of the day being a happy and sane partner to Dreamy and a good mom to Slim and Lunchbox is the whole point.

Now. Raise your hand if you want Beyoncé to make a workout video.

– Tiffany

Holiday Hot Wash

This week the Moms hot wash their holidays.  One of us got sick and started thinking.  And the other one hit the wall contemplating baked goods.  Read on for their after-action report.

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KathyLooking back at my list of strategies, I should feel pretty good about this past holiday season. I successfully avoided shopping at the mall. We had fun at the neighborhood party. I even got a reprieve on the caroling, which was cancelled, woohoo! I mean, bummer.

My overall cookie count was a little low, mostly because I came down with strep throat the weekend before Christmas. Not recommended. But I recovered in time for us to spend the holiday with my family, and the rest of our break included a visit with iDad’s parents, Legos, reading time, and our New Year’s movie night (well, afternoon). We decorated our gingerbread house on January 4, but it was still winter break so that totally counts as a holiday activity. Right?

I successfully engineered the switch to a chocolate advent calendar, but I found myself struggling with other traditions I’ve loved in the past. Our tree didn’t get decorated until the 23rd, partly because I got sick but partly because I just couldn’t motivate myself to start the process. Our cards were late, and again I can only partly blame the strep. Mostly it was because I kept putting them off.

Is that a sign that I should pull back on these traditions, too? I don’t see these things as especially draining – it’s not like we invite twenty people over for a tree-decorating party, we just turn on some holiday music and go for it. And sure, writing notes and addressing cards takes time, but I can do that by myself, with a mug of hot chocolate by my side. These things should be antidotes to the holiday madness of the outside world, but this year they felt like chores.

Still, I can’t imagine Christmas without a tree – I know Doodlebug enjoys decorating it, and that’s definitely a tradition I want her to grow up with. She couldn’t care less about whether we send cards, and truthfully iDad would be fine with dropping them too, but again, sending and receiving cards is a big part of Christmas for me.

So maybe the answer isn’t cutting back on these traditions, but being even more careful about how we spend the rest of our time during the holidays? I did notice that Doodlebug didn’t seem to care about seeing other kids as much as I thought she would – she really seemed to crave time to do her own thing. I think we struck the right balance for her. I’ll keep trying to find it for myself.

– Kathy

tiffany_head_128The holiday break started off inauspiciously:  a busy Friday at work compounded by a soul-sucking two-and-a-half hour commute home. Saturday was booked with errands and a Brownie event for Princess Slim. Sunday was a cookie exchange for which I had absolutely nothing prepared. So by early Saturday afternoon I was an exhausted and sobbing mess.  Merry Christmas, dammit.

Fortunately Dreamy stepped in and took Slim to Brownies. Lunchbox napped and I recovered enough to get a few things done around the house.

On Christmas Eve I baked and puttered and did holiday stuff. Around 3 p.m. Princess Slim went to church with Dreamy and Lunchbox went down for his nap. “Nuts,” I thought, “I need to start that cinnamon roll dough because having homemade rolls on Christmas morning will be the best thing EVER.” Mixletrisetwohoursrolloutslicerisebakefrost.

But I was tired. And sitting on the couch in a quiet house with a cup of tea felt lovely. Thus launched the following rather schizophrenic internal dialogue:

I really want to bake these rolls.

Are they mission-critical to a good Christmas?

No, they aren’t, but they are so delicious and they will be the best thing EVER.  Maybe I could make them tomorrow morning.

So you are going to voluntarily wake up at 5 a.m. to allow enough time for the double-rising and baking?  Right.  Who’s going to eat these things anyway?

Well, I would.  And Dreamy.

The kids?

Probably not.

Relax then.  And your thighs have enough rolls already, k?

But homemade cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning will be the best thing EVER.

Girl, please.

The Great Cinnamon Roll debate perfectly encapsulates what this Christmas was about for me:  listening to that internal voice that asked “Really?  Do you absolutely need to do Thing X and exhaust yourself?  Why are you doing Thing X?  For the kids?  For yourself?  To conform to someone else’s idea of a perfect holiday?”

This year I made a conscious choice to listen to that voice. There were hot baths. There were naps. There was even a little exercise, for God’s sake! Of course there was stress but the overall pace and vibe of the holidays was saner and more civilized than in years past. The kids seemed to sense this too. They played well together, for the most part, and like Doodlebug were fine doing their own things.

While I still returned to work tired and worn out the feeling this year wasn’t nearly as demoralizing and devastating as usual. When people asked how my break was, I replied “Good!” — and actually meant it.

Did I make the rolls? Nope. I snuggled with Lunchbox and slept for two hours. Merry Christmas to ME.

– Tiffany