Back to School (Part 1)

Summer is drawing nigh, and the start of school is just around the corner.

I remember (you know, when I had to walk to my one-room school house…in the snow…up hill both ways) when school didn’t start until after Labor Day, but those days are long gone. As it stands, we’ll be back in the full swing of things by the middle of August. Some of you have kids that started school THIS WEEK!

Perhaps you’re one of those moms that savors summer: loves the lazy start to the days and genuinely enjoys all local splashpads. Hats off to you!

Maybe you’re a working mom who has had to manage all the weight and responsibilities of your career while also commandeering childcare and trying to make sure your kids have plenty of fun activities to keep them entertained.

Or perhaps you’re like me: a work-from-home mom that has been squeezing your to do tasks in between popsicle breaks and play dates and fighting off the mom guilt (it’s real!) of too much screen time.

Regardless your scenario, I’d imagine you’re a mixed bag of emotions right now. The end of every summer signals another year…well, if you want to be super depressing, gone. There’s a reason we often quote Gretchin Rubin’s reminder “The days are long but the years are short.” Whether you’ll be wiping tears as you drive away from the carpool line or doing cartwheels away from the bus stop, I've created this Back to School Series full of tips that will help carry you through the transition. I’m including some of my favorite practical hacks, but consistent with all things Untangled, there’s some mindwork that’s going to need to be done.

1. Start adjusting your routine now.

Summer means long days and late nights, and while the fireflies, fireworks, and smores are totally worth it, most after-dusk memories have meant sacrificing a schedule-friendly bedtime routine.

Studies show that kids between the ages of 6 and 13 typically require nine to eleven hours of uninterrupted sleep at night. So if everyone needs to be starting the morning around 6:30 AM, shoot for a bedtime of 7:30 PM. If your kids have been going to bed at 9 and they have two weeks left until school starts, begin backing down the time in 30 minute increments. This gives them plenty of time to adjust and allows you to begin approaching the adjustments you’ll need to make with grace.

Fun fact: grown ups need sleep too.

2. Recognize the power of planning.

You may have heard me say it before, but I am literally the only Type A gypsy I know. I’m motivated and ambitious, driven in so many ways . I make lists of things I’ve already done just to be able to check them off. That said, the idea of scheduling routines and structure into my life can give me heart palpitations and make my hands clammy.

If you, too, bulk at the thought of a calendar system, know that I completely understand where you’re coming from. But hear me when I say: planning provides freedom, not bondage.

Planning is the strategy behind your goals. When you’re intentional with the time that you’re spending throughout your week, you are ensuring that both you and your family are living intentionally and making value-driven decisions.

To read more about planning and why it’s important, stay tuned. The third post in this series will include my suggestions for creating your ideal life calendar. The science behind the process is fascinating.

3. Prep like a boss.

Someone has to be CEO of your family in this season, and if you're reading this post, odds are the responsibility falls on you. You get to rock this thing like a boss.

First of all, if school starts tomorrow and you are just now starting your research, do not…I repeat, DO NOT get on Pinterest. Pinterest is a procrastinator’s worst nightmare. There are mothers who have been gearing up for the start of the 2019 school year since April. You’ll see beautiful images and time-saving brilliance that could make you feel way behind if you start comparing.

You don't have to compare yourself to bloggers who have been doing this for years, and you don't have to compare yourself to the mom you see at "Meet the Teacher" who seems to have already become best friends with all the third grade teachers.

You’re not supposed to be Susan (unless of course your name is Susan). You're supposed to be YOU. Start where you are and go from there.

Preparation, by definition, is the act of getting ready for an undertaking. It gets you ready for what’s next. Your most important task right now is to figure out what you need and want most and then prep like a boss in order to make it happen.

Want easy mornings? Prep for it. Could mean: Easy breakfast options. Laying out clothes the night before. Putting a backpack and shoe station by the door.

Looking to make family dinners a part of your family culture? Prep for it. Could mean: Communicating the expectation with all family members. Creating a meal plan that’s on rotation. Setting dinner for the same time each night.

Desire to be more involved in your kid’s school? Prep for it. Could mean: Putting all the important dates in your phone as soon as the school calendar comes out. Scheduling a meeting with your child’s teacher to let him know your availability. Make friends with current members of the PTO and ask how you can be involved.

Want to be more present during the afternoon hours? Prep for it. Could mean: Putting your phone on the charger as soon as you get home Creating an availability schedule that lets your friends and family know when you’re able to take calls.

You get the idea. It’s up to you and your family to decide what’s important for you according to your values and vision.

4. School Supplies for Everyone….including YOU

I’ve always loved school supplies, so it’s no surprise that this is one my favorite parts of sending my kids to school. (Tied for first: a short break from hearing the word “mom") Now days, the lists are super specific, which is great until every store in your metroplex runs out of manila paper. It’s still fun for me to check off the list, smell the crayons, and plaster vinyl name labels on all the notebooks.

When my oldest first started full-time school, I decided to create a tradition of buying myself something new when we go back to school shopping. This doesn’t have to mean buying a Louis Vuitton backpack or a brand new pair of blinged out Dolce & Gabbana sneakers (although it can…you do you). I opt for a leather journal or a brand new box of my favorite pens. Last year I went to Target and picked out a new pair of sunglasses and a planner that fit inside my purse.

These things serve as a treat, yes, but buying yourself something at the start of a new season also sends a signal to your brain that informs it that you are ready for the transition.

5. Tackle mom guilt head on.

As if you need the reminder, mommy guilt is a thing, and when it hits, it hits hard. If you’re not aware of the triggers, your kids' new classroom will drop you right back into a junior high version of yourself: all awkward, out of place and less than.

It happens in subtle ways: you snap at your kid at Back to School night, forgot the two boxes of tissues that were at the bottom of the supply list, or notice that you’re the only one at drop off in pajamas.

But it can also be more blatant, with your inner critic scolding you loudly for being a working mom. Maybe someone mentions that they missed you at the PTO and you immediately regret not rearranging your client schedule to make it. Or you berate yourself for not having a job outside the home (as if managing a household isn’t job enough!)

Recognize these triggers for what they are. These are knee-jerk reactions in your brain: a defensiveness to an insecurity that already exists and has probably been there hiding under the surface for some time.

One of the easiest ways to tackle mom guilt is to come face to face with your worst fears about yourself and begin practicing acceptance.

Are you worried about being scatterbrained or being perceived as scatterbrained? Accept beforehand that you will likely be forget something important during the year. Afraid that you’ll be too hard on your kids when they come home tired, exhausted, and grumpy the first couple of weeks? Prepare yourself for the fact that they will and you might too. We're all just human afterall. Use the fear as a prompt for preparation. Equip yourself with a plan: not just to prevent the infraction, but to rebound from it if and when it happens.

If you feel guilty for not being as __(fill in the blank) as other moms, ask yourself what you want to do about it.

The goal is not to eradicate all guilt, but rather to learn the difference between unproductive guilt (i.e. shame) and efficient guilt: the kind that can prompt us towards intentional development.

If you find that you keep bumping into guilt about things you can control, then work to come up with practical solutions that might work in your favor. This is the time to try and test new methods.

Parenting is not a competitive sport, and you are not being graded on your performance. Parenting is a practice: skills forging in the messy middle of now and not yet. Your job is not to be perfect, but to keep showing up for rehearsal.

Stay tuned for more...

Later this week, I'll be talking about the importance of creating margin...white space around the edges...that will serve you as you adjust to your new routine.

How to Live Intentionally: Questions

Here we are in 2019, and many of you are already exhausted by your long list of resolutions and goals. What I've enjoyed so far this year are the conversations I've had with so many of you who want to shed a longer to do list in order to live this year with more intention and purpose. The question I get most often is "yes...but HOW?"

The coaching process is an interesting one becuase it involves asking so many questions. A lot of women come to me thinking I'm going to be the expert that chimes in on how they should live their lives; when in actualtiy, I consider my primary role to come alongside you as a guide in order to empower you to be the expert on your own life.

After all, who better to dictate your course, define your decisions, or come up with your action plan than you? If you just panicked a little at the responsibility, you are not alone.

We spend so much of our lives being told how we should think, what we should do, where we should go to college, whom we should marry, when we should have kids...the list goes on and on...that we've actually forgotten how to recognize and heed our own intuition.

The first step to living intentionally is to get really familiar with your own voice. I've included a PDF for you to download that will help you ask yourself some self-discovery questions in order to re-aquaint yourself with YOU. Consider intentional living a way of strengthening the relationship you have with yourself. And how do you get to know someone new or someone you haven't seen in awhile? Catch up, ask questions, have the long talks.

What if I told you you've already got everything you need inside you to craft the life you crave. The only pre-requisite is believing it.

I encourage you to grab a cup of coffee, sit down with your favorite journal, and answer some of these questions for yourself.

Cheers to 2019!

I Choose to Believe

It’s 5:30 AM on Christmas morning.

Everyone in my house is asleep after two weeks of intense Christmas shenanigans. Intermingled with all of the various family gatherings, we’ve juggled plumbing issues, side hustles, year end paperwork, and a broken refrigerator.

I wanted magic and memories, and I got it…right along side a new hole in our hallway to fix the leaking pipe and four loads of bedding cycling through the washer.

Part of me wants to put on It’s a Wonderful Life and curl up on the couch with my blanket and milk the remaining seasonal sentiment for all its worth, but the other part of me would rather get an unmedicated root canal…so I’ve opted to leave the tv off.

I have such a love/hate relationship with Christmas these days. And by love/hate I really mean that I just feel guilty for hating it all so much.

It doesn’t seem right that someone who loves Jesus can slip so easily into the pits of despair on His birthday, but if it were all about Jesus, perhaps some of the rest of it wouldn’t stress me out so much anyway.

A baby that was born in a manger did not expect us to celebrate his life through credit card debt and choreographed LED lighting on our houses.

Don’t get me wrong. I like the twinkling lights of a tree, and I get true, authentic pleasure from giving gifts that warm people’s hearts, but I feel as though I spend so much time trying to fit what is into my picture of what was that I’m always left feeling a bit empty at the end of the night.

I get to the bottom of my favorite mug poured to the brim with hot cocoa only to remember that it was just warm milk and chocolate flavored sugar.

I sit in the middle of a floor strewn with wrapping paper and sparkling new toys and look over to realize that my kids are playing in an empty box.

I’m the seven year old that has been told time and time again by her friends that Santa isn’t real, but still desperately clings to the idea that maybe, just maybe, he could be.

Speaking of, I found this little gem when I was digging through some old photos the other day.

santa.png

There are so many things about this piece that make me smile. First of all, the fact that I graded it myself, meaning I was probably playing school on Christmas break, and gave myself an A. Ever the overachiever. I’m still grading myself on a regular basis. Also, the idea that even at seven I was trying to wrap my head around the mystery of the season.

I can remember having conversations with my mom and dad about Santa Claus.They never pushed the issue on me, but they always gave me just enough reason to believe.

I grew up in Indiana, but we always…and I mean ALWAYS…went home to Missouri to spend Christmas with my extended family at the Farmhouse. So for Santa to come to our house meant that he had to come on a night other than Christmas Eve. In order for this to happen, Santa would have to take on this God-like omniscient, omni-present kind of thing if we took it too far, so my parents kind of left it up to me as to whether or not I wanted to get into the whole Santa thing.

Of course I married a man for whom Santa was the Cornerstone of his Christmas faith. Same house. Same day. Every year.

As a result, we spend our Christmases here in Texas now. One, so that our Christmas Eve baby can celebrate his birthday at home, and two, so that Caleb and I can stay up way too late putting together toys and eating a plateful of Santa’s cookies so that our kids, who still don’t know the days of the week or how to tie their shoes, can believe that a fat old man that lives in the North Pole flew his magic reindeer to our house.

I really wanted to “out” Santa this year. I have a really hard time reconciling that we are intentionally lying to our kids about this mysterious character while we’re also trying to instill important lessons about faith in a God they can’t see. Won’t they be confused when we tell them we were just kidding about one but the other is totally legit? Either way, I lost the debate this year, and my husband gets another day of giving Santa credit for all the work I did.

But let’s not give the Santa debate more credit than it’s due. This melancholy thing that sets in every holiday season encompasses way more and requires way more thought management.

The Christmas songs that blast on every PA in the country have the same general theme.

Oh the holidays are so beautiful and wonderful and not quite perfect because someone isn’t here.

Through the years we all will be together… Unless of course we’re not because the fates didn’t allow and now we’re miserable and we’ll drink too much egg nog and fall asleep in dirty socks.

Cheers!

For me, the challenge of Christmas is to take this commercialized, steroid version and strip it down to its simplest form. I’m not just talking about the churchy “Jesus is the reason for the season” cliché…true as it may be.

But I’m talking about the meaning of holiday traditions. The “us” part of things. Doing life together. Living in relationship with each other. Telling stories. Making memories. Sharing wisdom. Crying together. Laughing together. Dancing and drinking and sneaking kisses under the mistletoe when our in-laws aren’t looking.

We’re hard wired for that stuff. We want our lives to add up to something. To count. To know that we make a difference in someone’s story.

And Christmas, being that it falls right before the start of a new year seems the perfect time to gauge that. But when we get all amped up on Pinterest and start scrolling through all of our social media feeds, our measuring stick for real value gets all out of whack. The magic of Christmas can’t happen when you’re in performance mode. You can bring out the new china for family members you haven’t seen in years, and wear your brand new pashmina to the office Christmas party, but unless you’ve taken the time to hear and be heard, then the greatest story of all goes untold.

It’s like flocking the ground with fake snow and then trying to build a snowman.

God wrapped himself in flesh and bones and came to the earth as a baby, not so that He could outshine and impress us, but so that He could be with us. Immanuel.

That kind of presence—that kind of with—transcends the miles that separate our homes or the years that separate our memories.

Being with one another in that way means that regardless of who has passed away, or split up, or had babies, or changed jobs, or moved across the globe, we carry a part of them in our hearts. They’ve been a character in our story, and a part of the reason we’re where we are today.

Believing in all of that is sometimes harder than believing in Santa Claus. So I’m not mourning the fact that Santa doesn’t exist. I’m mourning the naiveté that could believe so fully.

I’d love to go back to simpler times when people made ornaments out of eggshell cartons and tied up their hair with tinsel.

Or maybe just go back to a time before I knew the gut-wrenching ache of loss.

And there’s a part of me that would love to have to cut my hair to buy my husband a watch chain only to find that he’s sold his watch to buy me a barrette.

I’m not caught up in the notion that lack is romantic, but I am beginning to wonder if excess doesn’t take a bit of the shine off of a season that would sparkle well enough on its own.

If I can’t go back to a time when things seemed easier–more basic, I at least want to know that the meaning of it all still matters. That families will stay in tact and children will grow up grateful and secure. That bellies will get full regardless of whether or not there was a perfectly filtered picture posted on Instagram before the ham was sliced.

I’m not sure how to hold tight to that ideal these days…but, hey…“weird things happen.”

I choose to believe.

………… May you continue to find magic in the tiniest meaningful moments from now until the end of the year. And may you go into 2019, dear reader, with the courage, grit, and tenacity it takes to be fully and actively a part of your own story.

From my home to yours….Merry Christmas.