Yoga & Solo Parenting

The theme of the weekend was twofold:  yoga & solo parenting. It was Mike's weekend to close so I maxed out on alone time at yoga before he started each shift. Good thing too, since we're facing a bit of a sleep regression with 19-month-old MK. Whereas we could once put her down awake she's now requiring us to either let her scream it out, thereby pushing back her brother's bedtime, or keep her up until she drops. We're at the 20 minute mark now of her screaming "MOMMY" at the top of her lungs, but going in there only gets her more worked up. So I'm waffling between tolerating the heart-rate quickening screaming, or accepting that MK is the queen of this castle and will go to bed whenever she pleases. (The final verdict:  I rocked her to sleep after 30 minutes of crying. This whole sleep training thing is a doozie.) 

Last night I couldn't take the crying, so opted to introduce MK to the guilty pleasure that is TLC's Say Yes to the Dress. She fell asleep in my arms shortly thereafter. 

Yoga though, was the opposite of my screaming child - brain-clearing, heat-rate slowing, muscle-stretching, and calming. I took a 60 minute half yoga / half Pilates class on Saturday and then a 75 min Vinyasa flow class today, complete with lots of sun salutations and planks. I loved every minute of it.

My post yoga glow on Saturday. This morning after yoga a woman told me I had beautiful skin. I thanked her but fear she'd been misled as I had come from church with a full face of makeup on. I skipped church in favor of "yoga church." 

I've noticed recently just how much my mood is affected by all exercise, but by yoga in particular. I leave each class feeling completely stretched out and clearheaded. I struggle with anxiety and depression on a daily basis, but work hard to do the things I need to do to feel my best. When I'm anxious, my brain is ALWAYS running. At its best, my anxiety causes me to over-analyze every situation, and at its worst it creates a deep sense of "fight or flight". Yoga quiets all of the noise in my brain (the to-do lists, the tendency to over-analyze, the second guessing and the self-condemnation). It allows me to step outside of myself and slowly pick up each worry, examining it carefully in my hands before placing it gently up on a shelf to be dealt with at a later date. That's not to say exercise brain makes all of my troubles magically disappear; rather, I feel much more equipped to handle whatever life throws my way (you know, like when G yells "Mommy, I kinda sorta peed all over the bathroom" mere minutes after I finished cleaning it. For example). 

Yoga is so mind clearing that I find myself wondering if this is how others live all the time. It's how I felt when I first got glasses, or after my nose opening sinus surgery, or when I tried Passion Fruit La Croix for the first time. So this is how others see! Or, I'm supposed to be able to breathe through my nose on a regular basis. And, why have I been wasting my precious pennies on Pamplemousse? (Though in Pamplemousse's defense, it was voted the #1 La Croix flavor by Time Out. My beloved Passion Fruit came in tenth. To each her own.)

So to yoga I will go. Because my anxiety has been at a near lifetime high and that's just no bueno, not acceptable, no thank you sir. In order to get myself to the gym, I penciled in my calendar every yoga class offered next week (including the yoga/Pilates combo and sweat inducing PIYO Live classes). When I schedule something at the beginning of the week I'm much more likely to follow through.

Beyond its physical and emotional benefits, the thing I like best about yoga in this stage of my life is that it's a unique intersection between my body being my own, and my time being my own, if only for the duration of a class. For the last four years I've been pregnant, recovering from birth, breastfeeding, pregnant again, recovering from birth again and breastfeeding again. Then finally, finally my body became my own again. The jury's still out on my time being my own, but yoga helps with the facade.

The reading right before Shavasana today included this Becca Lee quote:

It reminded me that sometimes life can be easy. Sometimes it's worth it to cut yourself some slack, throw sleep training to the wind and rock your sweet baby to sleep before it's too late. Sometimes it's okay to ask more of others than yourself (aka, you're not a bad mom if you demand that your 4 year-old wipe up his own pee on the bathroom floor). And sometimes it's okay to not have any answers for the foreseeable future, but to just keep showing up and bringing it all to the mat. 


On Quiet & Dream Lives

Life has not been quiet lately. Mike's mom passed away two weeks ago yesterday, and since then it's been a blur of activity. I had some idea of what went into planning a funeral from watching my mom plan her dad's, but I didn't know just how much it would take out of me as the main contact / funeral planner of the family. The memorial service was beautiful, though, and felt like my gift to the family. Mike's dad didn't want to have a funeral service, but I (selfishly) wanted one for myself, and thought that others might need the closure too. More than 100 people came to honor Kathy and celebrate her life.

The pastor read from Psalm 139:  "For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them." I love thinking that God has a plan for our lives and is always present, even in the dark moments.

Now that the house is quiet again, though still littered with post funeral party detritus (folding chairs, flowers, a fridge stocked with church lady food), I feel like I can exhale a bit.

Flowers from Kathy's funeral.

I went to yoga at the gym today, but when I arrived I found out that it had been canceled. I had no headphones, so walked in the gym in silence.

I so rarely allow myself moments of silence, time to reflect. I'm usually fluttering from one thing to the next. Today as I walked I thought about the last year - a changed relationship with my dad, losing my second mom, learning to carve out space for myself.

I'm so inspired by people who live authentically, who don't apologize for who they are yet in living their best life, inspire others to do the same.

I listened to a podcast the other day - the writer behind the Frugalwoods blog was on WBUR's On Point. She spoke of one day waking up and realizing that she didn't like the life she was in and that she'd been putting little band-aids on her everyday life. Band-aids like lattes and eating out and purchases that made her feel better but only for a little while. When she allowed herself to think about what she wanted, truly wanted, she realized that it was easy to take away those little splurges if it meant carving out space for her heart's true desires.

As I walked today I thought about my true desires. I thought about what life I'd like if I were to strip away the expectations for myself I've carried around too long, the shoes I've worn that don't quite fit but don't quite pinch enough to take off either.

In college I studied abroad in Quito, Ecuador. I was so homesick that I reverted to my most basic mode of survival - walking. Almost every day I hiked in Parque Metropolitano, which was just minutes from my house.

Parque Metropolitano / source

After college I moved to New Mexico and again took up my daily walks. I wasn't just walking, I was familiarizing myself with new surroundings and claiming my space within them.

Las Cruces, NM / source

My dream life, I decided, would include a lot of just that - walking, being present in nature, hiking, appreciating the change of light each season brings, familiarizing myself with streets, neighbors, the daily hum and schedule of the life happening around me.

My dream life would include painting and writing, creating and experiencing life in flow. I thought about the times that I've been truly happiest, and they have been when painting. I've always wanted to live a life where I have paint on my hands every single day.

My favorite painting job to date! I've been offered jobs since this one but haven't accepted many. I have limited time outside of my regular job / family / etc. so I look for projects that challenge and excite me. We're moving both kids into Graydon's room soon so I may rework some of his mural to better fit their new shared space.

My dream life would also include social connections, both deep friendships and casual, quick interactions at preschool pickup, or in the grocery store line. I find that I'm only open to these connections when my plate isn't as full, when I'm not rushing from activity to activity.

My dream life would include lots and lots of yoga. I joined a hot yoga studio while living in New Mexico and still remember how wonderful that felt, to be completely focused on being present in my body.

The thing about dream lives though, is that you have to have to courage to live them. No one else is going to live your life for you. I plan to use this next year to bring me closer to that dream life. xo, LJK


2018 Savings Goals

Mike and I like to look at the year ahead and analyze what we need to save up for (vacations, house projects, etc.). These savings goals are separate from our retirement savings. We're trying to max out our Roth IRA's this year, plus max out his company match, just 5%. So far we do not contribute to my 403B, but my employer does invest $2K per year, so that helps for now. A few of our other 2018 Savings Goals include:
  1. Rebuild our emergency fund (~$3K) - I go back and forth on this one -- we are at about 4 months expenses currently, plus another month to two months in our checking account. We both have stable jobs and low expenses (knock on wood), so a part of me feels comfortable leaving it where it's at. I also don't like pausing our retirement contributions to build it back up. I suppose we could do both at the same time, but it's always more satisfying to knock it out in $1000+ chunks, verses $100 at a time. We will have a tax refund to allocate;  however, we tend to err on the side of having less taken out of our paychecks and subsequently less of a refund each year, so in the past our returns have not been more than $1500 or so.
  2. A fence for the backyard ($2-4K) - This would make me feel much more comfortable working in the yard while the kids are outside. I don't entirely trust them not to wander (ahem, run) away! We've gotten two quotes that come in around $4000 (we have a large yard) so we'll probably investigate other options. One neighbor to the right has a chain-link fence, but that's the only side of our yard that is fenced, so we could either add on to their fence, or start fresh with a new material. I love the look of this black fence, and since we have a decorative white fence in one corner of our front yard, and white deck slats, the contrast would be nice. I'm a little worried though about the wood / material being hot to the touch in the summer. It also seems a little non-traditional for many of our local fencing companies to do, which makes me want to hire it out to a handy man who could customize it more than a larger company. 
  3. A new air conditioner ($4K) - I need to research this more, but apparently our air conditioner uses an old kind of coolant that is no longer being made anymore, making it super expensive. It's also just getting older and is not working as well, so we've seen our cooling costs go up over the last few years. It makes sense for us to replace the unit before it dies; however, it's not a cheap purchase and though necessary, isn't a very fun one to make. We will get it checked again this spring and go from there.  
  4. Vacations / Trips ($1500) - Mike and I prioritize weekends away at least quarterly, plus our family goes to Door County every year for Fourth of July week. Luckily we are able to stay with his family in Door County and besides a few meals out, don't have any other expenses. The past two trips we've spent around $300 for the week! This year my side of the family wants to meet up for a night at a cabin on the way home, so we may spend a little more. 
  5. Gardening / Landscaping ($1000?) - I have no idea how much all of this will cost. We need to re-line and re-brick all of the beds, front and back, but our local Habitat for Humanity Re-store sells bricks for super cheap. I'd also like to take our our two large bushes directly in front of the house, since they attract mosquitoes to the porch area and I think a mix of bushes, hostas and other plants would look much better. We'd like to build 4 raised beds in our back yard for vegetables as well. We have ZERO experience gardening, but you have to start somewhere! And YouTube and blogs make it easy to be a beginner. 
  6. Finish Mike's tattoo sleeve ($1500) - This keeps getting put off year after year and while it may seem frivolous to some, finishing his sleeve has been a goal of Mike's for a long time. Plus it's a hobby to him and his tattoo artist does amazing work. So I'm on board :)
  7. Pay for sinus surgery ($1500?) - Another fun one, just like the air conditioner! We have about $1000 in an HSA, plus the option to add more to Mike's HSA beginning next month (their benefit year is Feb-Feb I think?), so at least we can cover it with tax advantaged savings (is that how you say it?); however, it's not a fun thing to have to spend money on. Hopefully I'll have less sinus infections and be able to breathe better, which will be worth it in the end. 
It's adding up to be an expensive year! And we may not get to everything on the list. The thing that I'm realizing though, is that everyone, no matter how wealthy or not, has to make choices with their money. Those with lower incomes or higher expenses sometimes have to analyze the choices on a daily basis, or on littler items. Others have to make choices about bigger expenses. Sometimes I get tired of having to plan out expenses carefully, to make sure that we can cash-flow everything. But then I remember that we're not alone, this is just a part of life. 

Having this attitude has made it easier to maintain this debt free lifestyle year after year. Sometimes when it doesn't feel like we're making much progress, I remember how we were able to pay for our van in cash, and take yearly trips without a credit card bill chasing us home, or have lived without debt (beyond our mortgage) for nearly four years now. I also try to remember that without these strategies, we would still have the same expenses, but probably more stress from not knowing how to prioritize spending and manage our money well. 


2018 Goals

I'm late to this party, but I've been thinking a lot about goals for 2018. For as long as I can remember, I've had a running list of goals, ambitions, and dreams (saved in Google Docs, in Notes on my phone, in journal entries, etc.)...but, thanks to my overambitious and perfectionist qualities, those goals never seem to stick. So this year I'm trying to do less with more intention:

  1. Quit drinking Diet Coke. Lord help me. Oof! This one is a doozie. I'm 22 days in and while the physical cravings are long gone, as soon as the kids start singing loudly while chasing each other around the dining room table, all I want is a nice cold Diet Coke, preferably in a 32 oz. Styrofoam cup (horrible for the environment, I know!). My reasons for quitting are many:  I often caught Graydon sneaking sips, which is how I started drinking it as a very young age; I was wasting tons of money at the drive-through every day, sometimes twice a day (!); I was getting near daily stomach aches and headaches from the caffeine and acidity; and I'm trying to do everything I can to reduce my anxiety, and reducing my caffeine intake seems to have helped with that. It hasn't been easy, and I still feel triggered when I go to restaurants where I'd normally order Diet Coke, but I've replaced it with lightly sweetened or unsweetened iced tea or sparkling water when the cravings hit.
  2. Meditate daily. I purchased a subscription to Headspace and have enjoyed turning it on while I lay with Graydon as he falls asleep at night. There are both kid and adult versions, though he usually conks out after just a couple of minutes, allowing me to continue meditating after he's asleep.
  3. Exercise 3 days / week. This is a tricky one. I was doing really well when I had the kids with me on Monday, Wednesdays and Fridays (plus I'd sometimes sneak in an extra class on Saturdays). Our gym has great daycare that's included in our family pass. The littles stay in one area with lots of toys and stations, and the bigs go to the gym to run around, play basketball, etc. I really looked forward to going to a 9AM class, both for some time away from the kids, especially as they've been waking up at 5AM lately (!) and to give them the chance to play and run in the gym. Now that they are in daycare on Mondays and Wednesday mornings, I have to admit that I am less apt to go. I often drop them off and then want to come home and write or clean or just savor the quiet before going into work for the day. We're still not sure if they're going to stick with their current daycare, so I may be back to my MWF schedule sooner than later. This goal has more to do with anxiety management than weight, but I do enjoy the results I see when I'm working out consistently!
  4. Write weekly. I regularly write in my journal, but I've been longing to blog for the sense of community and self-expression it gives me. Also, I've loved looking back on early posts here from when Mike and I were just dating (babies!). Now that we're married with two kids and our life looks completely different than it did back then, I'm so happy to have a record of the little things that meant so much to me in our earlier life together. As cliche as it is, the days are long but the years are short, and I want to capture the fullness of life right now as best as I can in this space. One of the things I'm working on right now is inhabiting my life. I often look at the future or imagine myself in a different life (town, work, relationship, body, etc.). I'm focusing now on embracing the life I do have, with all of its beautiful imperfections, and writing is one way that I can see my life more clearly.
  5. Plant a garden. Mike and I have been thinking about what our kids eat, and we want them to learn where food really comes from. This year we'd like to start a small garden to give us something to do together as a family, and to help instill in our kids a strong work ethic and a connection to the earth. We're trying to curb screen time as much as we can (and have often flirted with the idea of getting rid of our TV altogether). I like that gardening would get us all outside more, plus reduce our grocery bill. 
  6. Outsource @ work. This is my only career goal for the year, and it may seem like an odd one; however, I've cut back my work hours to just 30 hours per week (due to childcare needs and wanting more margin in my life, aka less running back and forth, switching off kids, etc.). Mike was recently promoted and his work schedule is more demanding right now. I find myself taking on more responsibilities at home (though he's never asked me to) and wanting to be more available to our kids (again, by my choice, rather than his suggestion). Also, as a Director of Children's Ministry, I believe it's my goal to Engage and Equip volunteers - it allows others to use their gifts to serve, helps the ministry not "live" with just one person (me!), and engages a wider audience of people in the hopes of expanding the program and bringing more people to a deeper relationship with God. In the past I've tried to do it all, and that's not healthy for me, or the program. So this year I'm striving to bring as many volunteers on board, even when it may feel easier or faster to do something myself. I think the key will be identifying key roles, clearly communicating what needs to be done, and matching the role with the individual's natural gifts, availability and passions. So far so good! 
So those are my goals for the year - I'll be providing updates along the way :)