And just like that, we’re back to Friday.
It’s another snow day…except there is no snow on the ground. So really, it’s just another day off school for the kids (though I’m promised the snow is coming). Appropriate to today’s post, I have some work emergencies to attend to while juggling snack breaks, video consumption for the kids (my go-to for when I have video meetings – I wasn’t expecting to have the kids home today when I arranged my schedule!), and overseeing inevitable sibling fights.
But we’ve already fit in our outside walk and are tackling Wordle next, so the day won’t be all bad.
There were some tough moments this week, especially globally as headlines switch from talk of COVID numbers to missile strikes. One crisis to another; and once again the world feels like it might just buckle under the heaviness of it all. But there is still joy to be found.
This was another week where I’ve discovered that joy can present itself from the unlikeliest of places. It comes in comments about decanting. It comes from poems posted on the side of the road. It comes from the sunshine streaming through the window as I type these words. It comes from lint rescued from the recesses of our pockets. It comes from solving Wordle with the kids at 9 am on a Monday. It comes from bright pink jackets and taco soup. It comes from noticing – and naming – these (mostly) ordinary things that bring joy or delight.
EATING | Maybe if I admit this in a public space I’ll feel more (positive) pressure to act? I’m channeling my inner Gretchen Rubin and giving myself another big demerit on the eating front. I can only ride the excuse of hormones for so long. I had ice cream four times last week. FOUR TIMES! I can have ice cream occasionally without any problem, but I can’t have it four times. Sigh.
I’ve had a good reset the last few days and I’m hoping the worst is behind me?
- Chicken Taco Soup – I loosely follow the Pioneer Woman’s recipe, and enjoyed adding in fresh ginger, cilantro, and spinach to this batch. Also, instead of using canned tomatoes, I used the salsa we had leftover from the Superbowl (cuz’ you know I’m not going to be using it as a chip-dip).
- Tuna filling inside nori. Yum.
- Homemade pizzas; storebought mini Naan, simple tomato sauce, pepperoni, and cheese (pre-shredded, obviously). They are shockingly delicious and I make these several times a month. I had roasted veggies instead (how I love roasted veggies) since I knew I needed to back off the dairy/gluten for a while.
WATCHING | Two very infuriating documentaries centering around human greed.
Downfall (Netflix) about the Boeing 737 Max planes that crashed (before the entire fleet was grounded). Heartbreaking, avoidable, and left me disgusted at how quickly the almighty dollar can trump the value of human life.
The Tinder Swindler (Netflix) – It was one of those stories where truth is stranger than fiction. It was incredibly depressing to learn that the “swindler” is already a free man and history is repeating itself.
We also started watching The Beatles: Get Back (Disney+) documentary. It’s a slow-burn, but I love behind-the-scenes footage…and it’s the Beatles! After the other documentaries, this was much better for my blood pressure.
Oh, and you know what text you don’t want to receive from your husband a day after watching an entire documentary about faulty Boeing 737 Max 8 and 9 jets.
Spoiler alert: his flight went off without a hitch and he told me he used to fly on these planes all the time before they were grounded (not sure if that’s supposed to make me feel better?)!
THRIFTING | I have not been in a regular routine of thrifting lately, but had the chance to stop by my favourite store last week and scored some great finds. When I write more about my wardrobe, I’ll plan to cycle back around to the concept of thrifting because virtually all of the items in my closet are from thrift stores!
In this haul I bought:
- a robe ($2.70) + cozy leggings ($3.00) for Abby. A ski jacket ($5.25) and snowpants ($4.00) for Levi (these may not fit him for several years but both were in like-new condition and I know he’s always going to need to size-up in snow gear). A very comfy shirt ($3.55) – this is probably my favourite colour for tops and I already own two in this colour, but liked the interesting button detail on the shoulder. A pink puffer coat (the biggest splurge at $7.75).
(OLDER) FRIENDS | Last Friday I was able to visit a friend who is 76; we drained cups of tea and talked and then she made me a delicious lunch (long-time readers might recognize this as being my soup-and-sandwich-oasis; we haven’t seen each other properly since November!). Then, on Tuesday, I met up with a friend (58) for a last-minute lunch at our favourite cafe. Between the two of them, these women experienced a collective 66 years of living before I was even born. I cannot get over how much I appreciate my time with them – they have already lived so much of the life I’m now experiencing (e.g. parenting littles, trying to sort out work-life balance). In addition to being so wise, they’re also just really fun to be around!
*In case this makes it sound like all I do is “lunch” – it was November 2021 since I last had lunch with a friend, so while a very welcome change this week, it is not the norm!
READING | This was a “B” week in the book department.
The Family Firm (Emily Oster) – This was my first book by Emily Oster and I found it…a bit of a snorefest. I appreciate the underlying message but didn’t find the book overly engaging. I read the redshirting section with interest (we’ve already done this and it was absolutely the right decision for our family, but I appreciated her weighing the various pros/cons). It was well written, but it didn’t quite pull me in as I had hoped. My favourite parts were her discussions of decisions related to her own kids. 3 stars
Remodelista – I enjoyed the pictures, but it wasn’t as inspiring as I had hoped. Lots of minimal decor (which I love) but too much talk about decanting (see below) and every other page suggested installing a peg hook. 3 stars
Anne of Windy Poplars (Lucy M. Montgomery) – It pains me to say this, but I had a hard time getting through this book in the Anne series. I love Katherine Brooke, so that part of the book was A+. But, overall, the book felt too scattered and I really, really missed Marilla. 3 stars
Miracles and Other Reasonable Things (Sarah Bessey) – This was okay. I have no idea how this showed up on my holds list. Did someone recommend this to me? Did I happen upon it while browsing new releases inside the library system? 3 stars
Pippi Longstockings (Astrid Lindgren) – I read this over several weeks with the kids. It has some descriptions that show their age (e.g. conversations around maids), but the kids found the book hilarious and I edited some of the content as I read this out loud. 4 stars
As for picture books.
The Bold, Brave Bunny is a family favourite that we checked out once again. The cover gives you a sneak peek at how the illustrations do double duty.
A Gift For Mama and Everybody’s Welcome never fail to inspire us; The Snuggle is Real and T.Veg: The Story of a Carrot-Crunching Dinosaur were the two new-to-us books we enjoyed the most.
- Going on a long walk with my friend – Joy – last Saturday where we chatted about minimalism and our conversation included the following statement: “So you have to decide – how much decanting is the right amount of decanting?” The fact that our conversations can go from discussing the content of Caste to parenting conundrums to shoe repair to topics like decanting really does bring me joy. On a related note, I had no idea people decanted their DISHSOAP. I know people do this with hand soap and dry goods like pasta and rice. But DISHSOAP? Where does the decanting stop?
- At the start of the pandemic, a woman on our normal family walking route started posting original poetry on the sidewalk outside her home every week. It became a beloved tradition to stop and read the poems together. We haven’t been walking this loop lately, so what a thrill to see she is STILL updating her poetry (though it does serve to highlight just how long this pandemic has been dragging on).
- Looking down to see his legs crossed under the table one day. When he sits up with his back straight as a board with those little crossed legs…it melts my heart.
- A neighbourhood soccer game. The snow and ice are down to a level where soccer games have resumed (at least temporarily) and the kids are in their element.
- Tree climbing. There has been a lot of tree climbing in our yard lately. What a cliché childhood activity, and yet it really does transcend time. The sense of independence, of being hidden from view (kind of), and of taking some (calculated) risks. It really offers the whole package for kids.
- Freshly showered kids in pajamas all snuggly and soft and warm, piled in to bed to read a bedtime story. The days can be long, but the snuggles are the end can be worth it all.
- Receiving a video from a friend of her toddler saying the word coconut. I have to agree with her description of it being – “unbearably cute.”
- Skating. In a haze of déjà vu, I took the kids to the afterschool skating program in a neighbouring community. For over two years I did this twice a week all winter with Abby. Levi has been on skates less than a dozen times in his life, where Abby used to go that frequently in a month! It felt so, so weird to be back. The first year I took Abby to this skating program, I pushed Levi around the ice in a stroller! It’s incredible how much has changed in the last few years. Joyfinding: seeing Levi fall down and pop up SO fast with a huge smile, saying: “When you fall down, you just have to get right back up.” And then he scooted off again. Right you are, my boy. Right you are.
- Also at skating: Abby and I used to create games using the advertisements painted on the boards. She asked me if I remembered playing; I did – this is how we had spent hours of our time while skating – but had no energy to be creative and quickly deferred her veiled request. But then, I thought…if not now, when? So a few minutes later I sidled up by her and asked her to find four advertisements that would make someone think of liquid; a few minutes later the quest was to find five adverts that related, in some way, to the automobile industry; then two that contained a picture of a maple leaf. While the inertia in my brain was real, I’m so, so glad we played this game again. I suspect it won’t happen many more times as she grows up so fast…
Monday was a holiday. Since I was home solo, there were a lot of hours to fill. Part of me wanted to be spontaneous; to pack up the kids and head out on a long drive or to come up with a fun adventure.
But I didn’t have any ideas and I’m getting rather tired of being outside in winter weather. I had a babysitter scheduled, but that fell through. Despite waking up with the remnants of a headache, I was determined to just let the day flow. And it ended up being great.
Abby came to my rescue, planning a schedule for the whole day. (Though at 7:15 am she was literally throwing her plan in the garbage can because her brother was vehement that he would NOT follow her plan for the day. Sigh.) I convinced her to rescue said schedule from the trash and we ended up following it to the letter up until lunchtime, Levi included…
I’m not going to lie – when 8:00 am found me playing a new-to-me version of hide-and-seek (you write clues + leave arrows on Post-It notes leading the seeker to your location), I was not enthused. But at 8:30 am she had slotted in our daily 1 km outside and that both cleared my head and ticked off a big check beside that to-do for the day.
By 9:00 am we had completed the daily Wordle together + Abby had introduced me to Vertex (pictured below) which, I have to admit, is also addictive.
I swore to myself I would stop posting Wordle answers on the blog (#noonecares), but for the record, the kids are getting really good and we got it every day (but Thursday) in 3 tries! I can’t believe how much we’re enjoying Wordle!
They did some screentime. I made muffins.
We had lunch – grilled cheese and apples (Levi, who is quite picky about apples said: “These are really good apples, Mom.” For some reason this made me happy, as if I could take full credit for the superior quality of these Gala’s).
Levi had a neighbourhood friend come over and they did LEGO and lightsabers and Nerf guns; while they played, Abby and I worked together on her Wreck This Journal. ALERT: if you need a gift idea for a creative kid in the 8-15-year-old range, this has been SUCH a big hit in our household. Some of the prompts we used Monday included: writing something with a pen/pencil in your mouth, standing on the book in dirty shoes, and lots and lots of colouring. We also made a paper cup out of one of the pages (prompted + pattern included) and Abby drank water out of it. We collected lint and other miscellany from our pockets and taped it to a page. We stapled two pages together and covered one page in circles and dots; I gave Abby 3 more fruit stickers to add to her growing (prompted) collection. It’s a very fun, interactive activity book. Highly recommend.
I took down the faux evergreen swag. It was time. I have never, ever left up a “Christmas” decoration this long but only in the last week did I feel like I was finally ready to set it aside for the year. With the evenings getting longer, it didn’t feel right to still have something that festive up in the living room. I have no idea how to style the mantel – this doesn’t feel like the right fit, but it will do for now!
The boys switched off and went to the friend’s house and Abby went to visit someone she was last scheduled to see before Christmas…when Omicron put the kibosh on that playdate (and life in general). I enjoyed a few quiet hours at home where I did…mostly nothing. I sat on the couch in my new pink puffer jacket, worked on this post a bit, and enjoyed the peace.
I had soup prepped in the fridge ready for supper; we ate, read some books, and I think I crashed pretty early? Surviving a holiday solo (without having an adult tantrum) always feels like a major coup.
when do I work! When do I write?
How I find time to work (and write) came up in a comment section earlier this week (thanks for the prompt, Jenny) and since it seems to have been a question on other people’s minds, I thought I’d delve into the topic a bit further.
(I also partially address these subjects in: How Do I Do It All? I Don’t, and Neither Does Anyone Else + What Do You Do? A Work Q&A + A Day in the Life (Circa October 2021).
But I’ll rehash the main points below.
when do I work?
First, I DO NOT WORK FULL-TIME. I’m not going to get into all the particulars again, but I work between 10-40 hours/week. That’s a big range! I am slated for 27 hours of work/week at a local university divided between two distinct roles + the highly variable work I put in as co-founder of a small business (where my role and responsibilities vary significantly based on current projects and time of year). But I can end up working as little as 10 hours/week. And while that is not ‘nothing,’ I suspect many of my readers consistently work full-time…
So when do I work?
My working hours are flexible. While I do have set deadlines and meetings, in general, I can work at 2 am or 10 pm if I so please. I do not have to clock in or out, and this has been my working reality for over a decade now. For the most part, I have full autonomy over when I set work obligations. And, when I don’t (i.e. an external meeting), things are still remarkably flexible. For example, on Wednesday I had to be on a conference call with a major international company but the last 10 minutes of the call overlapped with me getting my kids off the bus (the same day we went skating). I had warned the chair about the timing issue ahead of time (turns out we finished the meeting 30 minutes early anyway – jazz hands – so it was moot) and simply asked for notes from anything covered without me. I suspect the flexibility I have is atypical.
I work at my own pace with deliverables, not hours, in mind. I have jobs I need to accomplish and when those are done…I’m done (I am salaried for a set number of hours/week, so I get paid the same regardless of whether I go over or under; in October, for example, I had several weeks in a row of going well over my allotted hours). When establishing contracts, my supervisors estimated what they thought it would require in terms of working hours but regularly reiterate there is zero pressure to fill all those hours if I can meet my working objectives in less time.
I work efficiently. Because I know the more productive and efficient I am at getting through work tasks, the more flex time I have, I’m motivated to stay on top of things. I sketch out work reminders in my planner weeks in advance allowing me to stay on top of deadlines and so things don’t sneak up on me. An ounce of planning saves…a lot of time. I circulate agendas before meetings so we can stay on task and to ensure 30-minute meetings don’t morph into an unproductive, scattered hour. I make note of action items while I’m in meetings and draw large highlighted boxes around them so I know exactly what I have to tackle when I get off the call. I honestly believe I could fill every single hour every single week, but I wouldn’t be getting any more done…I’d just be slashing my productivity.
I let work accumulate. Over the last few months I’ve gotten better and better at not responding to emails the instant they arrive. Typically, letting things filter in from various sources saves me a lot of time in the end (questions are often answered over the course of e-mail threads and letting that naturally work out and then reading all the back-and-forth in a single sitting can save a lot of time. I try to work in batches, triaging things as they come in; when enough work has accumulated I dive back into it.
The university where I work is currently on strike. One of my roles involves organizing academic support for students which is not relevant right now as students are not in class. My other position, within the research department, has continued on as per normal.
Another note: while I do not “work-work” full-time (as I refer to paid work), we have essentially no childcare (I just started hiring 2 hours of babysitting every two weeks). Beyond that, and because my children are currently only enrolled in 1 hour of extracurriculars a week…I am a full-time SAHM when they are home (snow days, holidays, weekends, after-school).
In summary: my work certainly doesn’t fit a conventional career mold, but it has worked for our family and has given me the flexibility to start writing over the last year…
when/how do I write?
I posted my first blog post on April 24, 2021 and have published 194 posts since that date.
Full disclosure, my biggest insecurity with writing is how much I write. I’ll start thinking to myself: “These posts are too long.” Or “I should stop posting 5 times a week – that’s too much. People will get tired of my voice.” Or “My posts explore too many existential themes. Lighten up!”
It can actually be hard to click publish on much of what I write because it feels “longer than what Laura Vanderkam would write” or “more melancholic than Gretchen Rubin” (these are self-criticisms, not something people have actually said, by the way; and I’m using these two authors as examples because they’ve really influenced my thought process).
But I’m telling myself that, ultimately, I’m writing for an audience of 1. I want to show up the way I do because that’s my style. My writing doesn’t have to strike a chord with everyone (though, if you’re reading this post, you’ve likely gotten used to the fact I write long posts, show up 5x/week, and talk about existential themes). I write for myself – to work through what’s going on in my own brain – and I write because it’s fun. It has to be a pure bonus when something I say strikes a chord with others.
I have wanted to write for so long, it feels like since giving myself permission to provide space for this creative outlet, I have a lot I want to say! This isn’t surprising to me: I have a decade of very long, detailed family updates under my belt and my favourite part of doing research was getting to write my theses and submit articles for publication. I genuinely love to write. I don’t want to knit or play piano or enter poker tournaments – I want to write!
I’m sure people wonder when I find the time or why I post so much. (That’s okay! Very legit questions! I’m not offended!)
In terms of my writing, it does take a lot of time, but maybe less than people expect? I’m a fast writer. I mentioned this in the comment section the other day, but I tend to write drafts very quickly and then let them sit for a while and come back to “polish” them off once I’ve had a chance to digest the material.
I am currently spending 5-20 hours a week on writing. That’s a lot, and another big range! I’m expecting this will slow down as the novelty wears off (maybe?).
So how do I find these 5-20 hours in a week? I covered many of these points in the How Do I Do It All? I Don’t, and Neither Does Anyone Else post but it mostly relates to what I’m not doing.
- I don’t use social media (I imagine many people could easily spend 5 hours – or more – on social media each the week; I put in precisely 0 minutes).
- I exercise about 8 hours/week, but at least 7 of those hours are spent exercising with someone. Walking the kids to school with John, going on walks with friends. I know many people that exercise for several hours a day – solo. For me, exercise is a big part of my social life.
- Our kids do not have structured schedules outside of school hours (a combination of pandemic life + our family mode of operation). This will change some over the summer, but they are currently each in just a single hour of extracurriculars each week + we attend church on Sunday morning. And both of those locations are within 5 minutes of our home. No hockey tournaments 100 miles away. No weekend swim meets. No debating or chess club. They come home from school and we do stuff (friends, adventures, screens, homework etc.). And sometimes I sit at the table and write while they climb trees or play soccer with their friends.
- Aside from date-nights, I don’t watch TV. I watched maybe 6 hours total of Olympic coverage. I don’t follow any shows other than my annual binge of the latest season of The Great British Baking Show. When my husband is away for work I watch exactly 0 minutes of shows/movies.
In terms of my writing process, I write when I can. I don’t sit down for 3 hours on a Wednesday afternoon and write. I don’t write every morning at 9 am. I might fit in 20 minutes after I wake up, and another 20 minutes before I hop into a work meeting, another 20 minutes over lunch, and then 30 minutes after the kids are in bed while I wait for John to finish his evening calls.
I try to carve out several hours (hopefully strung together) to write on Saturday and/or Sunday. The rest is all sporadic, fitting it in when I can.
And that’s the story! Hope this gives readers a better idea of how and when I write. And thanks for joining me in this space <3
Happy weekending everyone. Next week is an exciting one around these parts (stay tuned) and I’m really looking forward to next Friday. Until then, I’m sure there will be many unexpected sources of delight – whether that’s the lint in our pockets or the joyful luxury of pre-shredded cheese.