My eyes flew open as my mind tried to sunder sleep from awake. It's murky, this awakening, premature, like being pulled by an invisible hand from someplace deep. What time is it? My pulse quickens as I squint at the time, then boom fully awake. Eleven-ten p.m. The sixth sense alarm is already vibrating, gaining momentum as the evening's details clink into memory. Wait. I glance at the time again. Something's off. I do a mental headcount. I'm missing a boy.
He'd said he was going to the late movie with friends, and that he'd text before he left the theater town twenty miles away. I look. No text. Shouldn't the late movie be over by now? It should. Shouldn't it? I text. No reply. I call. No answer. I'm sitting up, now, fully awake. Did he forget to let me know he'd left town and was heading home? Has he gone into a snowbank between here and there in the stretch where cell service doesn't exist? I wrestle my thoughts back from the brink of crazy, willing myself to remain calm. Maybe it was a three hour movie. Maybe I should wait. Maybe I shouldn't wait. Maybe waiting is the worst thing I could do. Time drags by, every second an expanse. My finger hovers over the button to the emergency plan. I try to breathe. Then, ding! Hey, Mom. I'm just about to leave town...
He's home. The tall shadow of him nearly fills the doorway to the bedroom when he pokes his head in to say a deep good-night. Good-night, Buddy. Love you. My eyelids close. I'm lost to sleep.
Until another boy, deeper in the night, rattle-coughs awake, breath narrow and wheezy. He tromps downstairs, climbs into my bed, fitful and wriggly. We both know this one: the croup. I'm not swaddling him in a blanket and taking him outside to clear his breathing in frosty winter air like I did when he was a baby. Now, I give him a place to climb in, be calm, and let the breath come. He finally sleeps. I half-sleep, listening, feeling in the darknees for the rise and fall of his chest.
This is why there's a framework to my days. This is why it's okay - necessary, even - to make adjustments, move things around, postpone, lighten the load. Because, sometimes, at 3:00 a.m., I just need to sleep right through. Sometimes, it's cereal for breakfast and pancakes for dinner. Sometimes, housekeeping is dragging a broom across the floor, or rinsing the bathroom sink; sometimes it's not even that. Sometimes, when a mama's nights are nearly as wakeful as her days, it's just plain survive.
When I've regained my stride, however, I look to my daily rhythm, and hop back in. I don't have to think about what I should do, when I should do it, or how much time I have for it - I've already done all that; it's all written down. And by any week's end, if I look back and find I've done even some of what I'd intended to, I chalk it up as success.
Honor where you are today is a mantra that's been especially keen for me of late.
Here, maybe helpful to you, are some details to flesh out the framework of my day.
+ Writing: I use this early morning time for editing the photos and writing the content of the upcoming blog post. Sometimes, I'm writing something else during this time, but it's usually directly related to the blog. It's common for me to have this early block on the weekends, too, though sometimes a bit later, just because I love it so much.
+ Dress & Morning Watch: I find that if I get dressed in my workout clothes and freshen up in the bathroom, I feel more ready for the day. Morning watch is a few minutes for spiritual reading, prayer, thought, or meditation. This morning, our early rising son was on the couch with me, so I read aloud.
+ Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner Prep: In this season of our lives, breakfast needs to be an easy-prepare, easy clean-up affair. For the family, I'll often have muffins or banana bread pre-made, or I'll bake scones or biscuits that morning. The rest of the menu is usually boiled eggs, yogurt, cold cereal, or bagels and cream cheese. My breakfast is often a rotation of granola, hot oatmeal, boiled eggs, plain yogurt with maple syrup and walnuts, or smoothies. The boys make their own lunches for school; I prepare lunch for myself in a quantity that will last me more than one day: soup, salad, roasted cauliflower, baked sweet potato, etc. When my husband is home, he usually eats leftovers for lunch, or he'll make himself a sandwich. Morning dinner prep has been so helpful to smooth out the sometimes crazy that can happen in late afternoon. I don't have any particular meal plan; I just see what I've got on hand, and have a loose plan for the week's meals. I've found that too tight of a meal plan is not helpful for me. The evening before, I try to remember to take any meat or veggies out of the freezer that I may need for the following day; for those days that I forget, I have aces up my sleeve (or, rather on the pantry shelf) for dinners that don't require anything to be thawed. In the morning, I'll prep cook, put the roast in the slow cooker, make the pie crust - basically do anything I can to give myself a head-start on dinner. Some mornings there is no dinner prep, because I've made enough quantity of one night's dinner to serve it twice.
+ Morning Knit/Listen: When the flurry of boys heading out the door is over, I love to take a few moments to knit and just listen. I often listen to silence. It settles me.
+ Housekeeping: I'm one who loves a clean & tidy house, but not one who loves to clean house all day, or even half of a day. So, I've divided the housekeeping into days, and spend 30-45 minutes cleaning that day's area. Every morning, the floors are (supposed to be) swept by one of the boys. Every other morning, or so, I run around the area rugs with the vacuum. Other than that, the housekeeping is divided like this:
Monday - Bathroom
Tuesday - Dust (and water plants)
Wednesday - Kitchen
Thursday - Floors & Rugs
Friday - General touch-up
+ Fitness: I fully embrace the idea that you should do what's right for you when it comes to fitness. For me, right now, that is primarily running and barre, and I can say that I'm in the happiest place I've ever been, doing these two things. Over the holidays I took some much-needed rejuvenation time and scaled way back my regular fitness activity. I've now resumed it, and it feels good to be back. My plan includes running three-four days a week for a total of anywhere from 15-25 miles, which increases if I'm training for a race. On days in between, I do barre, which is a fusion of yoga, pilates, and ballet. In winter, I love to add in cross-country skiing and hiking; in summer I love to hike and garden.
+ Shower & Dress: Here I prepare for my work day. I've got a basic wardrobe, wear few cosmetics, and let my naturally-curly hair air-dry, so this doesn't take long.
+ Work (morning): This usually has me at my desk, checking & answering email, talking with contractors and tradesmen, doing our banking, making phone calls, placing orders, etc.
+ Lunch & Rest: One of my favorite things to do is read while I dine, especially over lunch. My very early mornings, combined with the fact that I'm often a solo parent (my husband is a pilot) to our teenagers who keep me awake when I need to be sleeping (see above), I sometimes have to recoup sleep after lunch. Often 20-30 minutes is enough; sometimes I need more. Here's also when I might knit and listen to an audio book or podcast. I found that if I don't leave an intentional space for knitting, days might go by without my picking it up, even though it's one of my favorite things to do.
+ Work (afternoon): The afternoon is completely open for whatever work I need to do. It may be drawing or drafting for a current design job; it may be shooting for an upcoming blog post, it may be meeting with clients or contractors, it may be developing ideas or plans, or it may be running errands or going to a doctor, dentist, or hair appointment.
+ End Work: The end of my work day is hard for me to see sometimes, so I had to write it in. It's necessary for me to pull the plug, switch gears, take Nellie, and go outside. Some days I can't, of course, but I've found that because I was intentional enough to write the plan, I'm more intentional to do it.
+ Make Dinner: Here's when I'm so happy with my morning self who did all that prep work for me!
+ Dinner: It's important to us to eat dinner together as a family. This often means that it doesn't happen until 6:30 or later, when the last boy arrives home from sports practice. Sometimes, during sports seasons, we have to eat in turns - necessary adjustments during the busy times - but mostly, we try to stick together.
+ Evenings: Our evenings happen as they will. Sometimes, there is homework. Sometimes the boys have basketball or football games we watch. Sometimes we hang out in the living room and visit. In winter, there is one or two boys playing basketball in the house off and on from the time they get home to the time they go to bed. The boys can have their phones and screens until late evening, then they are required to bring them downstairs and plug them in for the rest of the screen-free evening (which goes for parents, too). The boys are usually lights-out by 9:00 or 9:30. I'm usually lights-out by 8:30 or 9:00, depending on if I'm solo parenting or not. If I'm solo parenting, it's sometimes later, because that's often when the best teenager conversations happen. When my husband is home, he takes the evening wheel, and I can get a luscious 8:00 bedtime.
Because you asked, a couple more notes:
+ Laundry: Because we live in a small house, with small closets, and small wardrobes, there isn't very much laundry to do! Love this. Each boy does his own laundry once a week; one load of clothes, one load of bedding. I do the rest of the laundry here and there when the hamper gets full. I'll often throw a load into the washer before bed, then toss it into the dryer when I wake up. I'll fold it and put it away during the day as I have time. I probably wash 3-4 small loads a week. On bathroom cleaning day, I wash and dry all the bath towels, then hang them back up. On dusting day, I wash our bedding, then put it back on the bed.
+ Grocery Shopping & Errands: We live twenty miles from any health food store or sizeable grocery store, and two hours from the closest Costco. We shop at Costco once a month, then fill-in weekly as needed from the grocery store and health food stores twenty miles away. I also love Amazon Prime and have used it to buy everything from tomato sauce to baking powder. Maybe one of the best small-town perks, though, is when you've run out of sugar, you can go to your neighbor's to get some. Or when your friend texts to see if you have 1/2 cup plain greek yogurt. Or when your other friend sends a group text saying she has an abundance of farm eggs. One friend needed kale last summer, so I talked to my neighbor who has the amazing garden, and within minutes, a giant bouquet of kale was clipped and shared. We watch out for each other. I usually run errands about once a week, fitting the twenty mile trip to town into that week's schedule on whatever afternoon works best.