‘Tis the Season

What time of year is most stressful for you?

For many, the holiday season brings stress with it, but my stress starts earlier in the year and peaks around this time — like a roller coaster with the biggest hill at the end.

January usually brings changes at work which require an adjustment — it’s common for me to have to tell myself at some point during the month, “calm down, you’re going to figure this out.” And I do. Just around the time I’m acclimated to the changed there are school activities, events, volunteers needed, vacations to plan, and again it culminates to what feels like a fever pitch, and then school is out, and the stress lowers. Then vacation comes, and the break is welcomed and rest is enjoyed. Recharging is the goal. Then school starts again, there is planning, figuring out logistics, getting used to a new schedule, new teachers, new activities, new places we have to be at new times. Then we adjust, and the stress lowers. Then it picks back up with all the things that come rapid fire starting in October and goes through the end of the year — Halloween, birthday parties, family visiting, getting the photo album together, getting the holiday card written and sent, scheduling holiday parties, making plans with friends, getting the house ready for Christmas, shopping, and the list goes on and on.

I knew I was overly stressed when I received a reminder call of an upcoming appointment. I was certain the person had the wrong date. “I was just there two or three weeks ago.” I rescheduled the appointment pushing it a month out. It was only when I paused to really think about it (the next day) that i realized it had been closer to six weeks since I had gone in, and I was in fact due for an appointment. Where did the time go? I thought.

No one is making me do any of these things. This is my doing. I want my children to have certain experiences (parties, holidays, vacations, etc.). I want to capture the memories and make sure I’m not getting behind (cause that would stress me out even more). But I realize I am close to burn out and desperately need a vacation. Time off is just around the corner so I’m just trying to power through until I get there. My guess is many of us are in the same boat.

How do you handle stress as a parent throughout the year? How do you navigate stress during this time of year?

The Return of the Pause Button. Thanks Summer!

What are your best memories of the last day of school? About summer vacation?

Memories flood back for me: the excitement of the last day, field day activities, leaving school, starting swim team practice, riding bikes and hanging out with my friends. My kids are excited about school being over and things being more relaxed. There always seems to be a flurry of activity leading up to the end of school, it can be overwhelming to any parent trying to keep it all straight. I always take a deep breath and think ah, we made it when I pick up my kids on the last day of school.

We’re looking forward to warmer weather, more sunshine, and time to rest and just be. In our fast paced world, we sometimes need to hit the pause button. Summer is the pause button for our family.

How do you and your family relax during summer break?

I will be taking some time off to relax with family over the holidays and will be back in July. Happy Fourth!

The Best (real) Christmas Pageant Ever

I agreed to take the lead in putting on our church’s annual Christmas Pageant. What was I thinking?

Now, you might be wondering, why didn’t she just say, “no” to leading the production? Believe it or not, I’m actually pretty good at saying “no” — I learned to get better at it once my kids were born, but this situation was different. There have been several women who have graciously led the play year in and year out and finally one of them asked for a reprieve. She deserved a break, and at the time, I thought I can handle this, no problem.

The holidays are a busy time of year, and this year it seems to have kicked-up a notch. I thought I was doing good getting through Thanksgiving, then visit family, then back home, getting the Christmas tree, not forgetting about that play we had tickets for, traveling for work, getting back home, getting Christmas cards out, volunteering at school, hosting a holiday tea, and then it was time to direct the Christmas Pageant. Phew! Making it to Pageant seemed like a miracle. I was going to need one to pull this off.

What I thought my job as Play Director would include was some simple coordination and making sure we had enough kids to fill the various roles. What I found out was that it was much more. It started to occur to me that I may have bitten off more than I can chew, when I was asked when the script was coming. I have to come up with the script? What? Nobody told me that!  Before completely freaking out a thought occurred to me…Amazon. I figured they’d have to have books with sample scripts, and they did…hallelujah! Then came the coordination, and then came the props. When I picked the play we’d be doing, I figured the props would be easy. And they weren’t that hard, except I had to go get all the materials and make the props. Now you might be wondering why I didn’t have someone help me.  I didn’t have anyone helping me, because I hadn’t had the time to really think about what help I would need and time was running out. I powered through making the props and then I had to tackle the logistics — making sure everyone knew where they were supposed to be, transitions between scenes, who would have the microphone, etc. Needless to say, it was a swirl of activity that culminated in the play, which I have to say came off pretty well.

The pageant wasn’t the greatest one ever to the rest of the world. but it was pretty darn great for me. The kids did a great job. Many, who are known to be shy, showed great courage and were really brave and went for it in the play (I actually heard one girl speak loud and clear for the first time. She normally is very quiet and shy). I was impressed with the kids, and impressed that I was able to pull it off.

Now it’s time to relax. The flurry of holiday activities are starting to wind down, and having some downtime and quiet time is much needed. I need to be with my family, alone, unplugged without a care in the world. I look forward to these last few quieter weeks of the year. Cause I know we’ll be starting all over again come the New Year.

How are you getting through this busy time of year? How are you resting and recharging during this busy time?

 

Spring Breakin’

How are you recharging your batteries during Spring Break?

I look forward to Spring each year. Not only do we exit the cold weather months, and have all the lovely Spring colors, but it’s the entry point for many of us into vacation time. After many months of working hard, we finally start to think about taking a break; doing something out of the ordinary; maybe even going someplace different or new. There’s something about planning a vacation that’s so much fun–having something to look forward to can do wonders when you are tired or in need of a change from the daily grind.

Camping trips, visits with family, fun with the kids are all on the horizon. I anxiously await when our next trip will be: whether it’s a long weekend or more time away.

How are you and your family breaking away from the ordinary to enjoy yourself?

Relax and Rest, Repeat

How are you relaxing this summer? Have you been able to get away on vacation, or find some ways to rest at home?

The school year always feels like a busy time. There is always something to plan for, something to remember to have your child bring, or not bring. It seems like you always have to be somewhere (and you have to remember where, because it changes). And there are always lots of activities: after school activities, homework, etc. It’s enough to make anyone long for the summer break. But summers don’t seem as relaxing as I remember them.

When I was a kid, I couldn’t wait for the summer and the time off. Summer meant swim team practice, riding bikes with my friends in the neighbor and playing at each other’s house. Summer took on a different meeting when I entered the workforce. The long stretches of time off went away and were replaced with 8+ hours/day of work with an occasional vacation day sprinkled in.

As a parent, there never seems to be enough time off. There are the demands of the job, and getting your child to where they need to be (camps, friends, etc.). Taking time off to spend it together as a family is something we do each summer: taking a trip to visit family and seeing different parts of the country. There never seem to be enough vacation days or time to do all the things we’d like to do. And there never seems like there is enough time to rest.

I was reminded by the directions on a shampoo bottle, that I might need to re-tweak my formula for how to spend my time during the summer. The shampoo direction said, “Lather. Rinse. Repeat.” I thought, they are onto something here…it’s simple to follow and yields results. My new phrase for how I spend my summer time is: Rest. Relax. Repeat. It will take some effort on my part, but the summer is a great time to enjoy the good things going on in your life: the warm weather, your family’s health and all the great adventures we can have at home and wherever we spend our time off.

How will you spend your summer? How do you rest and relax during this time of the year?

Speaking of resting…I’ll be taking a break from writing for the next few weeks and will return following the Labor Day weekend. Enjoy the rest of your summer!

Time to Relax

I’ve blogged before about the need we have to recharge ourselves and give ourselves back energy. We risk burning out, may experience negative feels (anger, resentment, frustration) more easily, and make it tough to bring our full self to anyone (child, spouse, etc.) or thing (work, friendships, etc.) if we don’t do it.

I was fortunate enough to be able to give myself a big energy boost recently. I met up with some of my girlfriends and spent four fabulous days with them. During our time, we had deep connected discussions, I slept peacefully (with no interruptions or small people jumping on me unexpectedly!), I was able to relax and let all (or at least most) of my stresses go. It was only for a few days, but it felt great. I missed my children and my husband, but knew they were having fun and everyone was fine during my absence. It was hard to get away when my kids were younger, I felt tremendous guilt when I had to leave them even for a day. I felt guilty for putting all the responsibility of taking care of our boys on my husband. It was misplaced guilt. My husband enjoyed and still enjoys taking care of the boys by himself, it gives them a chance to be together and have their own special time, just like I’m having mine.

It can be difficult to find ways to give yourself that needed rest or energy boost you need, especially without feeling guilty, but it’s so needed, and can be an excellent opportunity for new connections and a recharge for all.

How do you relax? If you experienced any guilt, how did you work through it?

Fall into Comfort

Fall is one of my favorite times of year. The change in the weather. The change in the color of leafs. The familiar smells that I’ve missed since last year. There is a familiarity to it. It feels like an old friend returning. It’s a warm, comforting feeling. Almost like someone is taking care of you, and wants you to take in all the beauty of the season. It’s also a reminder that this comforting lull will eventually get replaced with the holiday madness that ensues following Halloween.

I’m reminded that I need to take a moment and allow myself the chance to soak it all in, and let the blanket of Fall wrap around me. I need to allow myself time to relax, sit back and enjoy the change that is going on. I need to be present with my children and enjoy this very special time of year. One that isn’t packed with to-dos or driven by presents and wants.

I need to rest and prepare for the busy season that is ahead.

I passed a store selling shepherd’s pie recently and the smell drew me in. It was comfort food. Just what I wanted and needed. I look forward to enjoying these coming weeks and the Fall treasures I will experience: pumpkin patches, leafs changing color, and smells of apple cider and pumpkin. It’s a comfort I only seem to notice and embrace easily during this time of year. I’m grateful for it, look forward to it and need it. I know I’ll miss it when it’s gone, but take reassurance in knowing Fall will return like the faithful friend that it is next year.

With the stress and anxiety with have in our busy lives where do you find comfort? What are your favorite things about Fall?

Hallelujah!

Are you taking time off during the holidays this year?  If so, how are you planning to relax? Really relax where you aren’t on a schedule, aren’t in charge of something or someone and are able to not have a care in the world about what happened next or when? For me, it’s been seven years since I took a vacation like this, before I had my children.

Vacation is defined as:

  1. A respite or a time of respite from something: intermission
  2. A scheduled period during which activity (as of a court or school) is suspended <a period of exemption from work granted to an employee>
  3. A period spent away from home or business in travel or recreation <had a restful vacation at the beach>
  4. An act or an instance of vacating

I grew up in a family where vacation meant taking a road trip. Our vacations were educational with a lot of adventure and exploration. We would drive from point A to point B, sometimes going eight + hours at a time, sightseeing the next day or two, then get back in the car and drive to the next endpoint and repeat. I learned a lot of these vacations about our country gaining an appreciation for its history, the geography and false advertising. My sisters and I once convinced our parents that we had to stay at a themed hotel that was advertised for hundreds of miles away only to be disappointed when the hotel didn’t quite live up to what we thought it would be – darn billboards!

What I didn’t learn on these vacations was how to relax. I cannot recall a single vacation where we were just laid by the pool or the beach. I cannot recall a single vacation that wasn’t meticulously mapped out or timed. I cannot recall ever feeling bored on vacation.  Basically I don’t have a lot of practice relaxing.

My parents were teachers taking every opportunity to teach us at home and on the road. I really appreciate what they did for my sisters and I, and want to make sure I make the most of every opportunity I have to teach my children through experience too. I also realize that I want to teach my children how to relax and re-energize. I want my boys to know the difference between going to a new place and relaxing (e.g., just because you do one, doesn’t mean you are necessarily doing the other). But first, I have to learn to really relax when I take a vacation myself.

I blogged earlier this year about “Where Did My Vacation Go?” and committed to not repeat that again this year. I’m taking time away from all work, including blogging, through the end of the year. I currently don’t have any to-do list I need to complete while I’m on break. Hallelujah! I want to see what that looks and feels like, and see if I can really relax and re-charge.  I need the experience. I owe it to myself, and more importantly to my kids if I plan to teach them how to do it.

If you have vacation coming up, how do you plan to relax and recharge?

I wish each of you the happiest of holidays and look forward to picking up our conversation in the New Year.