The Common Thread Running Through My 2019 Goals

I recently shared a veritable brain dump of 2019 intentions. It was thorough. It was lengthy. It was kind of all over the place.

Or, so it seemed.

As I wrote, I started to notice a common thread weaving its way throughout each plan, aside from my overall hope to “focus” more (kind of hilarious with such a heady list of stuff to work on). It might be a very personal, invisible thread, but it helped solidify my focus for the year a bit more.

Overall, I need to be more like my grandparents were.

I’ve spoken a little bit before about my mother’s parents. While we didn’t live with them, they helped raise my 3 siblings and I and provided additional stability after our father died. When I think about childhood, many if not a majority of the memories take place at their house and in their presence. So, to say that they were an influence would be an understatement.

They also offered us a subconscious understanding about history. Whether family history or just a sense that there were people and events and “ways” before our existence, they were lessons about continuity, perspective, and our place in the world. Old movies and music, brief little anecdotes about those who came before, and even the smell of Grandma’s spice cabinet and Grandpa’s pipe tobacco taught so much. Warm and comforting, the connections we have to the past.

Needless to say, I take those two, both gone, with me everyday. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that I somehow found a way to tie them into my 2019 goals. And the fact that I’ve found a man to share life with who values many of these lessons, values, and even ways to pass the time? Well, I’m a lucky, lucky person.

In my intentions for the year, there’s an overall sense of “do what needs to be done.” While some of the concepts, like mindfulness, are new, buzzy catch phrases, the ideas behind them are actually very much rooted in history. Here’s how it breaks down.

One thing at a time. While I’m sure that both Grandma and Grandpa faced amazingly stressful times (such as the time period when Grandpa worked 4 jobs or, y’know, their involvement in the war…), I never noticed them visibly taking on more than they could handle at any given moment. If we played a card game, the TV wasn’t on. If they watched a movie or the news, they WATCHED it. Reading was a quiet, almost religious experience. Jobs throughout the day were handled and there seemed to be an unspoken schedule – that there was time for work and time for rest and there was no mixing of the two or guilt when it was time to nap or relax.

So, while my day-to-day job and the juggling of kiddos may seem to require a natural need to multitask, I’m doing my best lately to look at my to-do list and prioritize what needs to get done first. I’m also not making apologies, real or to myself, when I feel the need to recharge with a mug of something warm. Like right now. 😉

Only enough, and household chores. I’ve wondered whether the idea of “purging” is something that only those “with enough” should be concerned with. But, I do recall how much stuff had been acquired (even though I wouldn’t describe my grandparents as hoarders or even collectors) when it was time to sell their house. Knowing that they both survived the Great Depression and very deeply felt the effects of it firsthand, I look at my glut of STUFF and shake my head, and have mentioned this reality to my son anytime he shrugs off the idea of “just buying a new one” when we lose or break something. We need to enjoy and cherish what we have, and let others enjoy the things we don’t have a use for.

So, simplifying and purging is the name of the game. I’m also interested in finally figuring out my outdoor landscaping and garden situation to better utilize the space and get the kids involved in some food growing.

And chores? Like I mentioned before, there was a schedule each day, even after Grandpa retired. Get up and putter. Some days there was a plan to work on something in particular (house painting comes to mind, which seemed to be Grandpa’s summer go-to when all other chores were complete); other days, we’d do a fun project like making a bird house or trying to solve a rabbit problem in the garden. Whatever it was, the day wasn’t wasted. When I look at my list, I think of my grandfather; it’s a greater motivator than any YouTube declutter video I could possibly find (although those sometimes help, too). Get up and JUST DO SOMETHING.

Journaling. People used to write in a journal all the time. I love finding an old one in an antique shop and seeing what a person’s day looked like a hundred or more years ago. Surprisingly, most of the diaries I’ve seen have only had a few words or a couple of lines devoted to each day. I think we tend to think of journaling as a lengthy, time-consuming activity, but it doesn’t need to be. While I’ve never heard or seen any diaries that my grandparents might have written, the fact that it’s very much something their generation might have done motivates me to try it out. I haven’t made it a daily thing, but I’m jotting down some thoughts here and there.

Finding energy. Grandpa walked several miles everyday. When my grandmother was more mobile, she used to take us on walks, too, in addition to using her stationary bike. They didn’t think about what exercise class to take up. They just DID. As I mentioned earlier with the chores, we simply need to just start DOING again.   

When we have time and simply think “I should do yoga…” or “I should go for a walk”…that’s the time to put off something for half an hour to simply DO IT. Not to steal Nike’s tagline, but it’s actually a pretty good one.

Oh, and if we wait for the kids to be older to do this stuff, we’ll never have energy. So, there’s a good chance they’ll be coming along for the ride or Dave and I will be playing “your turn!” to get some sort of movement in. We’re already starting to try some at-home family yoga. Not the best of workouts, but pretty fun.

Family priorities. Putting family – and family FUN – first is huge for us this year. I look at my high school students and wonder how much time they spend willingly hanging out with their parents. I whisper to myself that I truly hope our kids will WANT to spend time with us. But, the reality is that Dave and I don’t seem to have as much time for the kids right now as we’d like. In fact, Harper’s go-to playtime song is one she made up herself called “Grown-Ups Get Busy Sometimes.” As you can imagine, that’s heartbreaking to think about.

So, just as much as we realize, one day, our kids may not want to spend as much time with us, we have to realize how it looks when we find ourselves distracted by the day’s events or dinner making or chores. We must try harder, with family nights and game nights and fun excursions. And while those things, like folding clothes and meal time prep, may be imperative, perhaps bringing the kids into the activity will have a twofold effect; 1) increased independence for the kids and 2) making family memories together.

I’m rather certain that it was a general expectation that families share the load back in the day. I know that my grandfather worked to help his family afford the necessities when he was old enough to do so, and my mother and her siblings helped out on the farm. So, it’s not too much to get these littles involved in some simple daily tasks.

Self care and daily discomforts. While, again, a catchy phrase like “self care” might not have been the thought behind it, but something as simple as ensuring you have the nicest of socks and shoes was a lesson my grandfather brought home from the Marines (and all his time spent marching the islands of the Pacific). I can’t fathom the “daily discomforts” he saw, right down to the near-fatal illness he contracted, so when I say that I’m going to try to do something outside my comfort zone everyday (generally that’s good for me – that’s where self care comes in), I should be reminded that no discomfort is really too great for me to handle.

Perspective is a wonderful thing.

I’ll stop by with some more thoughts on how to live a modern 1930s life later, but for now just thought I’d share how they seem to be a running thread through my New Year goals.

I’d love to hear if any of you have noticed a harkening to the past in your 21st century life. Let’s chat in the comments, or follow me at Instagram or Facebook @megactsout to strike up a conversation.   

2019 Focus

For last year’s resolution, I was filled with “big ideas” encompassed by TRYING. Some of them were successful; others need work and are still on my focus list for 2019. And, speaking of “focus”, that might just be my word for the new year; FOCUS. Focus, mindfulness, awareness. Whatever it’s called, it’s a positive driving force for the new year.

It’s not to say that 2018 was a complete disaster; far from it. Sitting on the edge of my son’s bed as we discussed the past year and what’s to come, he showed concern and his trademark anxiousness that “last year couldn’t have been better, how can 2019 beat it?” And I totally get that.

Like many of us who read the headlines and take an emotional beating from them everyday, it’s hard to separate the outward realities from our personal experiences. However, sometimes for the sake of self preservation, the overall struggles of being the person your children need you to be, and a pure need to “keep calm and carry on”, it’s necessary. So, when I’m able to ignore the shadow cast upon it all, our 2018 was amazing.

We had challenges that showed us how strong we are and the fact that we can show up when necessary. My husband, the baby, and I all dealt with huge dietary changes and, while it hasn’t really gotten easier, we’re still going strong. Things could have been so much worse (and, admittedly, I’m trying not to have that feeling of impending doom that the other shoe will drop).

We also had to allow ourselves some leeway in the fact that we HAVE THREE KIDS. Big house jobs fell to the wayside and some days survival was the ultimate goal. I have a slew of outdated blog posts sitting in my Google Drive that will never see the light of day. Other days, we prioritized and did “enough” to fill our buckets and give joyful memories to the whole family. It was a year that we teeter-tottered and allowed ourselves wins and grace-filled non-failures – because, as always, our objective was the kids. I’m pretty sure we were successful in that, at least.

So, what it all boils down to in 2019 is a focus on mindfulness and lessening the static through simplifying. Doing what needs to get done with a solid sense of purpose but letting the unwanted or unnecessary fall guilt-free to the wayside. Continuing on a path of self care – with a healthy dose of daily discomfort heaped in for good health (which I actually did pretty well at achieving last year). Purging, purging, purging in ways both physical and mental. We already started on our journey last year but I definitely need more FOCUS, and here are some ways I’m hoping to achieve it:

One thing at a time. Sharing…but not sharing too much. While there are times that we simply have to multitask, I have read that the human mind simply isn’t meant to work at its best capacity when stretched in several different directions. I can hardly finish a single book because I have so many started. I don’t feel like conversations are conversations, but merely punctuation marks between social media check-ins and kid interruptions (okay, so THAT won’t be changing, but the other stuff can). For example, social media is a wonderful thing, but we’ve noticed (as have countless others) that the negatives far outweigh the positives. Anxiety, time sucked away from loved ones, a poor use of time, and just all the hatred and negativity. The list goes on. If it’s not improving our lives, there’s no reason for it.

Dave and I will most likely be trying a social media blackout at some point (which is harder for him since he needs to access it for work, but as a nursing mom, social media is my much needed escape when nursing or pumping), but overall plan on just setting some guidelines about when/how much we’ll check in, and how much we’ll be exposing the kids without their say-so.

Overall, the goal is to simplify. One book at a time. One screen at a time. One conversation at a time. One task on my to-do list at a time. Bam.   

Making the house a home with a place for everything. I’m hoping to get back to a modified Konmari method of purging in order to truly touch everything in the house. That’s. A lot. Of. Crap. I’ve heard that simplifying in this way allows us more mental and physical energy to for other activities and areas of focus. The fact that we’ll have fewer things to care for (to wash, fold, and put away or to give us mental static or to subconsciously stress us out) will hopefully lighten our mental loads.

And at the same time, since I feel like some of our household duties fell to the wayside with a needy infant around in the past year, I’m kind of chomping at the bit to pay more attention to our outside space and finish up a couple of indoor spaces that are in dire need. In other words, starting to putter more and make a concerted effort to paint our room, work on the basement, focus on our gardens, and buy a shed.

Last year, I hoped to achieve one big thing a month. It clearly backfired. This year, I’m reworking the list, analyzing what we actually need/want to do and WHEN would be a good time for each job (say, inside makeovers in the winter and outside work in the summer…duh, Meg) then assigning it a time.

Journaling. I originally didn’t plan on starting this immediately since I had hoped to pick out a journal with daily focus (I’m not always great at just jotting down the goings-on each day), but because we’re starting the year off with a “No-Spend January,” I found a perfectly beautiful and totally unused notebook to start jotting down thoughts here and there. I think there’s more of a self awareness when you journal. And, of course, you (and your relatives) can look back at that specific snapshot of time in your life in a very unique way. Just love it and the intentions within it.

Seeking energy. I hate to use the word “exercise”, but I definitely know I need to get more active in order to find more energy. I’ve become motivated by an influencer I love who suggests simply finding ONE active activity to do that brings joy. If you like walking, walk. If you like running, run. If you like dancing, dance. Then do it more. Before you know it, you’re motivated enough to seek other, more structured ways to get that adrenaline high.

So, between dance nights and a goal to get outside more with the kids, I’m hoping that a general “getting active” (and the use of my new Fitbit) will help boost my energy. Oh, and speaking of those fun times with the kids, we want to start…

Making family time a priority. We already have a family movie night date each week (that floats from Friday to Saturday or even Sunday, depending on the schedule), but we’ve told the kids we hope to start a family game night. Then, what does our oldest come up with? A DAILY schedule of things to do. Batman night. Monkees night. Screen-free night. I mean, it’s incredibly well-thought out.

While I don’t know if we’ll necessarily be able to do them all every day so structured, the idea is awesome…and a little tiring. But, I think that the investment of time in family is the best investment we can make. Oh, and we have a couple of family resolutions involving swim and dance classes, so we’ll see how that all pans out.

Continue on the path to self care (and daily discomforts). As I mentioned earlier, I chose to include self care and continue on my #dailydiscomforts sharing (I didn’t share them daily, but whether big or small, they were there). Sometimes the daily discomforts find you in challenges at work or at home that pop up and need you to face head-on; other times we seek them out by doing a social activity that might be good for us (rather than hunkering down at home) or cleaning something we’d rather not be cleaning. Things like that.

I like the thought that, as a friend and I were recently discussing, life isn’t meant to be perfect harmony and happiness every second of everyday. To have a little discourse added to your day helps you to appreciate the good and become better able to deal with the not-so-good.

And just for fun, here are the kids’ intentions, either as they’ve explained to us or simply as goals that we’ve set forth for us to achieve with them:

Hadman – His resolution is threefold: to learn how to swim, make it across the monkey bars, and treat his sisters more thoughtfully. The swimming thing gives us both anxiety but I greatly admire his focus.

HQ – She says she’s “looking forward to trying new things.” I can’t wait to see what 2019 brings for our smart, forward-thinking sweetie. She’s very interested in trying ballet, and we also plan on potty training.

Squish – I assume she’ll continue on her fabulous, full-steam-ahead path in her constant quest to keep up with the big kids. She’s a fun-seeking missile. That said…girl has got to get on a better sleep schedule.

I’d love to hear what your intentions are for the year. If you don’t set resolutions or goals, how do you assess what areas you need to work on? Let’s chat in the comments!

Mindful Autumn

Not very long ago, I lamented our lackluster summer. Well, with recent trips to the zoo and our luck at attempting a beach adventure (on a day when 90 degree weather called for a summer activity rather than the previously planned harvest festival), I can officially say…Mission Summer: Complete and I’M TIRED.

I’ll translate that. Our busiest time of year, like many families, fears up during the entire month of September (or whenever your school year begins), then kind of ebbs and flows until the next high tide at the holiday season. So, when I say that I (and we) are tired? That’s fall, baby.

While the weather is only just beginning to loosen its grip on the thermometer, I am actually more than ready to pull out my leggings, puffy vest, scarf, and boots, and snuggle up with some almond milk cocoa, a roaring fire, a good book, and a cat or two. Yup, I’m a walking cliche.

To paraphrase Captain Kirk, “Hygge me up, Scotty.” It helps counterbalance those nights that are heavy on the activities.

So, just as we made the best of the summer (and didn’t stress stretching our plans a bit in one direction or another – or scrapping them altogether), we don’t have to over-plan or try very hard to make the autumn a special season.

We have things that we’d like to achieve, like our recent comic book convention and visiting with friends who came into town for it, and fall festivals and family nights sponsored at our local school and library, but it’s more about the simple experiences that we undertake during autumn that matter the most. I’m hoping that we can be present and enjoy those moments and activities in a more mindful matter.

One of the ways that we can encourage mindfulness is by using our senses more and actually thinking about how we experience the world. So, here are just some of the ways I’m looking forward to “sense” the new season with our family…

SEE

What’s your favorite sight to view when the weather turns? If you’re like me (a total walking cliche…), it’s the changing colors. Bright rusty reds, mustardy yellows, cheerful oranges…it’s our favorite season for this very reason.

Our favorite way to celebrate our locale is with a road trip to Cooperstown. The rolling hills show off like crazy and it brings me back to my childhood.

Walking our neighborhood will hopefully bring about the same effect, as well, and giving the kids a simple sensory nature walk scavenger hunt (find an orange leaf, a red cardinal, etc) will help them notice more of the world around them. And even shouting out different fall-themed things to look for – a scarecrow, corn stalks, a happy jack o’lantern, a ghost decoration, and so forth – adds to the fun.

SMELL

My absolute favorite sense is smell. I’m one of those people who gets easily transported to another place and time with the whiff of a simple scent. So, this is SUPER important to me for making memories. 

That said, lighting an apple candle, baking some pumpkin muffins, lighting one last chilly night fire in the backyard, and savoring the crisp, sweet smell of decaying leaves will hopefully achieve this goal.

Oh, and popcorn. That’s a must in every season, but only when it’s lovingly prepared by my husband.

TASTE

This is a slightly more challenging sense with the dietary restrictions in our family, but I’m more than up to the challenge.

I can’t have apples (what baby is allergic, I ask you?!), but a dairy-free pumpkin treat like muffins will work in a pinch. Non-dairy buttery popcorn, again, is a must, along with almond milk hot chocolate. Spiced teas and flavored coffees help warm us up, too.

And don’t forget the comfort meals! Chili, stews, and a good roast will fill our bellies (and help the husband feel less deprived, too).

FEEL

This may be a tough one, as well, but I’d like to pose this challenge to the kids. On cooler days, we can feel the chill on our faces and fingers. We can feel the warmth and coziness of a fluffy blanket. We can feel the cold, gooey insides of a perfectly-picked pumpkin or the crunchy leaves after a perfectly timed jump.

And, oftentimes, this word has a dual meaning (especially for kids), so asking how they feel when we’re doing different activities (like walking through a corn maze or riding on a hay wagon) will inevitably help them become more emotionally aware, and attach to the moments they appreciate.

HEAR

Ahh, sound. It’s a great way to calm and quiet your mind by closing your eyes to focus on the world around you. Whether it’s listening to the gentle tapping of a fall rain storm, a fun spooky old radio show (we go between this and old ‘40s music, which somehow seems more appropriate on those dark, dreary days), the pop-pop-pop of popcorn shooting out of the maker, or the crunching leaves as you take a walk on a cool evening, there are plenty of ways to enjoy autumn sounds.

Of course, our absolute favorite sound is the boisterous laughter of our kids enjoying the moment, no matter through what sense.

I’d love to hear what you’re looking forward to most about autumn, and which sense is your favorite for experiencing life! Drop me a line below or stop by my Instagram account (@megactsout) to join in the conversation!

Shedding That End-of-Summer Guilt

As a person who is aaaaaall about feeling life changes pretty deeply, the end of summertime is higher on my list of anxiety triggers than, say, the holidays. It’s pretty much tops. While I *generally* enjoy the change of the four actual seasons, the fact that there aren’t huge shifts in schedules, routines, moods, and overall stressors ties into those spring to summer to fall to winter changes is probably one of the biggest appeals. (That and the sensory stuff that accompany new seasons are delightful.)

The fact that I’m an educator is equal parts the joy and guilt of being able to be home with my kids during the summer, and still more joy, guilt, and, yes, anxiety about going back in the fall. Not only do we have the list of things to get in order for the start of school as far as my own work and the kids’ routines, but there’s a looming shadow that will take a mindset shift to slowly emerge from.

What is that unnecessarily stressful shadow?

That list of all the undone summer things.

Those promises that went unfulfilled (whether to oneself or a loved one). Those priorities that weren’t quite high enough on the priority list. Those projects that were unachievable. An overall admission that some (most) days, survival was simply good enough and it wasn’t a very eventful, memorable, or terribly special summer.

And it’s okay. It’s ALL okay. Every summer – and, for that matter, every holiday, birthday, special occasion, and…well, even those less-than-special occasions – doesn’t need to be tops.

I repeat: EVERY LITTLE THING DOES NOT NEED TO BE THE BEST THING EVER.

We are all held to insane standards today. In turn, this is one of the reasons, I feel, that kids’ complex problem solving skills and “think for yourselfness” have turned to mush. And, to an extent, as parents so have we. We’re all blobs walking around, not truly engaging in life, putting on airs and armors while making choices without fully knowing why or for whom we’re making them.

Sorry. I know that’s a lot to say and think about. And it TOTALLY doesn’t relate to all of us. I know we’re all trying our best in our own ways. Just observations to add.

And I’m not saying to change what you do or how you are. God, no. There still needs to be an occasional, pulled-out-of-nowhere moment of pure magic – it’s one of our rights as parents (oh, and allowing the grandparents or others who adore your kids to make their own magic ONCE IN AWHILE is a must, as well). And, honestly, it’s fun.

But perhaps we shouldn’t set the bar so high that inflated expectations are the norm. Kids get spoiled and dependent. Stacks of toys take over and become less important in their sheer mass. We adults get more and more stressed. And a vicious cycle continues.

Instead, let’s breathe and do what we can and want to do; not what we feel we should. And when it doesn’t happen, don’t stress. (I’m telling myself as much as doling out the advice, by the way!)

So, while you’re taking pictures of that amazing birthday cake for Instagram, ask yourself why you made it. Was it for the glimmer in your child’s eyes? Or was it to maintain an unrealistic standard (whether because your child has come to expect it…or you’ve come to expect it…or to impress your friends/followers)? Or, still, was it because you truly enjoyed putting the work in to help celebrate your special little person?

The same goes when you plan your next vacation. Or shop for Christmas. Or decorate a bedroom. Or take your back-to-school pictures. Or even when you make your next to-do list of projects.

My motto right now is that summer’s technically not over until September 20th, and weekends still exist, so if we can fit in a project or a quick trip to a lake to satiate that nagging “we didn’t do enough” feeling, we’ll grab the chance.

And, if not, I’m learning to be okay with the fact that every summer just won’t be a perfect one. There’s no such thing as perfection, and that’s a great thing to remember. Plus, the end of one time is the start of another.

Oh, and I’ll bet that if you ask your child what their favorite part (or parts) of the summer were, they’ll come up with something unexpected and totally sweet. Kids don’t look to criticize. And their memories are very much their own – usually seeing their parents as absolutely amazing despite our own worries that we’re not doing enough.

Do you ever suffer from the disappointment that you didn’t do enough (whether from self-criticism or feeling less than worthy by comparison)? Did you do all you had hoped to do this summer?

Daily Discomfort

Discomfort.

Not really a word that many would find pleasing, but it’s giving me all sorts of hope right now.

See, I suffer from anxiety. I honestly didn’t realize the diagnosis until about a year ago. It had remained buried under a lifetime of depression stemming from my father’s death. Since it’s less traumatic than depression (with its suicidal, overwhelming doom), it’s easy to miss.

When I was going through my usual back-to-school spiral of unknowns and changes last year, I had the epiphany. I shared my new realization with my mom and even a couple of siblings. The response was pretty similar: we thought you already knew (my siblings seem to have it, as well). And, honestly, I think that the norm these days for many people leans into the realm of anxiousness. Phones and social media and all that goes with it.

This coupled with the fact that I went to write down a list of issues I want to tackle only to lay my hand on a notebook which lists almost every single issue – untouched – from last year, brings me to my new beacon of exciting hope.

Discomfort.

I once saw a gif that essentially advised you to “do one thing everyday that makes you uncomfortable.” It was easy to ignore and even roll my eyes at. Who wants to do that?! Cheeseball.

But then I had an epiphany. Looking at my huge list of things I need to work on, the thought of each thing made me…uncomfortable. Changing habits tends to do that – put you in a place of discomfort, truly outside your comfort zone. Even the things that used to be enjoyable that have gotten challenging to do seem uncomfortable because they’re not part of my current norm and breaking the habit of NOT doing them would be tough.

Yet, the THOUGHT of getting on top of these things – of finally taking control over some things or putting myself out there more or finishing some projects or following through on some ideas – is invigorating. Initially, the list is daunting to look at and completely impossible without a direct how-to manual.

So, I’ve figured it out. As cliche as it sounds, I’m going to DO SOMETHING EVERYDAY THAT MAKES ME UNCOMFORTABLE.

Some days that already have built-in challenges (hello, first day of school) are non issues. I’m already beyond uncomfortable and padding myself with grace. Other days, it might mean perusing the list to remind myself to try something new.

Some days it may be simple – like avoiding a single use plastic item (hey, it adds up) or forcing myself to skip social media and work on laundry or do a workout. Other days, it’ll be more in-depth like getting a house project done, working on my website, or creating a new budget. Still others, it’ll fall somewhere in between, like decluttering a closet.

Whether tiny or large, it’ll chip away at not only the to-do lists but hopefully at my anxiety, as well. I realize that living in a cocoon of my own making may be comfy, but isn’t achieving a full, well-lived life. It’s also a crappy model for my kids. So, some of the activities may seem like a walk in the park to some people, but may be a huge feat for others (like me).

I hope to check in with my discomforts along the way, both to hold me even more accountable and also to grab hold of one of those discomforts – writing here more often! Ha. I also think I’ll actually USE my planner to jot down a word or two encompassing my daily discomfort for that day.

I’d LOVE to hear about things that YOU find to be filled to the brim with fear, anxiety, or discomfort? Anything in your daily life that you avoid regularly because of it? Seriously.

And if anyone wants to join, you are SO welcome! I may also hop onto Instagram (my favorite safe haven), so find me @megactsout to follow along. Share your own stories by using #dailydiscomfort.

Dairy-Free Me

About four months ago, we were struggling to figure out the cause of Hannah’s eczema flares. There were days that she almost seemed to try to tear her skin off, sometimes experiencing tummy bloat and painful grassiness (which, for a 4-month-old means fussing or downright screaming A LOT, and forget about sleep). There’s some amnesia on my part but looking back, it was miserable for the little thing and, in turn, for us and her daytime sitter, Grandma.

For awhile I just assumed it was from the winter weather or that it would just eventually get better as it seemed to for her older brother. I read that eczema is hereditary (luckily her sister doesn’t have it – or at least only a teensy amount – but her 6-year-old brother gets bad rashes now and then), and that nothing really causes it beyond that. Heredity.

However, that’s only partly true. After putting several puzzle pieces together between hints from the doctor and my own research, we have determined that while she’s inclined to have it thanks to genetics, it is made far worse by certain factors. Call them allergens, call them triggers, but whatever they are, they CAN be cut out to avoid flare-ups.

So, we did our work. We switched her soap. We switched laundry detergent. We cleaned more frequently (hello, cat dander and dust). We bathed her with super gentle soap every other day (sometimes too much bathing is a trigger, sometimes too little. This seems to be her sweet spot). We tried to keep her skin close to breathable 100% cotton as much as possible. And, finally, we started cutting out two of the most common triggers from my diet (since she is nursing): peanuts and dairy.

Sure enough, within a week, she was looking and acting better. Within a few weeks, she was almost completely clear.

Over time and as we introduced regular foods to her diet in addition to breast milk, we have determined that there are other allergens at play. So far, specifically seafood on my end and apples in her baby food (seriously…the fruit they most frequently mix with others) are also bothersome, and even carbonated beverages for Mommy get her stomach roaring. So, while we’re not out of the woods completely, I thought I’d share the experience and see if anyone out there can relate or use our experiences to help guide your own decisions.

The struggle is very real. So, for the past four (almost five) months, I have been dairy-free. This pizza-, cheese-, yogurt-loving person has gone without.

But, it’s more than just that. It’s butter. So, it’s necessary to ensure that whatever I’ve ordered isn’t cooked in butter or that the burger bun wasn’t slathered first before grilling.

It’s almond milk (which doesn’t seem to bother her) in coffee, which simply doesn’t have the same depth and creaminess. It’s a first world problem and I still do the happy dance when I find ANY dairy alternative at a store, but it’s something that makes me feel human so it’s still better than black. (I just can’t bring myself to do it.)

It’s skipping the cake and ice cream, and very often everything else at a child’s birthday party. (Legit, I just made a pasta salad cheese-free so that I could have that, plus some of the side fruits and veggies I was sure to provide. When everyone else is downing pizza and dips and cheese puffs and chocolate…it’s a different type of celebration.)

It’s no more pizza night Fridays because the factor of not having to cook isn’t in the equation. Might as well make something for everyone.

It’s having to Google before going to a restaurant (chain only; local restaurants are usually ill-equipped) to see if there’s anything I can eat there.

And then there are those “wait, really?” moments. Really, I can’t have that thing you made with cheese just this once. Really, I can’t have one piece of cake because it takes days if not weeks to repair the damage to my little girl’s system. Really, I can’t have that because the breading has dairy, or the margarine because, yup, it has dairy, or that pepperoni because it was made with a milk products, or Lactaid because IT’S STILL DAIRY, or “non-dairy creamer” because IT’S STILL DAIRY (if it says dairy-free, it’s most likely free of dairy…but non-dairy doesn’t mean what you think it does). The list goes on.

And, unfortunately, if “MILK” isn’t listed as an allergen on the package, she’s still sensitive to the stuff that touched a machine that produced a dairy ingredient elsewhere. So, there’s that.

What I Miss. I miss not having to second guess everything I eat. I miss not putting my dear family members (who try SO HARD, even buying expensive dairy-free cupcakes from the store so that I can celebrate a birthday) out every time I come over for a meal.

Normalcy, I guess. I miss that most of all.

The Million Dollar Question. So, why don’t I just quit breastfeeding? It’s as simple as asking that question, right?

Our pediatrician is amazing. He trusts our parenting instincts and allows us the leeway we need to make our own educated decisions.

That said, when I last brought one of our kids in, he asked how the no-milk thing was going…then reworded it to ask how it’s going FOR ME. I loved him for that. He then offered that, if it gets to be too much for me, he can direct me to the couple of formulas that are on the market that she COULD have (a vast majority would still affect her negatively). I said that I’d take him up on that if necessary but that I’d most likely be sticking it out. He nodded, smiled, and said, “I figured you would.” At least he knows me by now. I appreciate that.

There are two things at play here. I feel that, for my family, the benefits of nursing outweigh these dietary challenges. I’ve done it for a total of 36 months for our other two kids and it’s not like I want to handle a learning curve of formula right now. What we do is easier in many ways and, most importantly, healthiest for Hannah. While I stand up for the rights of other moms to give their babies formula, I also stand up for my own right to nurse mine.

The other factor? I’m a Taurus and stubborn as a bull. Don’t test me or tell me that I can’t do something. My brother told me that playing oboe would be too hard; it was, but I pushed through and finished my senior year still playing.

My Saviors. There was a time that all librarians hated Google. I’m here to say that the times have changed and Google is my freaking BFF. It has brought me to find resources like fckdairy.com and godairyfree.org, among the other amazing articles that have taught me about what’s going on with my little girl’s body (to say nothing of the awesome vegan blogs that share a slew of recipes).

I also have some go-to’s that help get me through when I just want something yummy. I have discovered that I’m really into mild curry simmer sauce (tossed with rotisserie chicken or sautéed tofu, some whole wheat pasta, and ALWAYS with sautéed mushrooms, which the family otherwise hates). Organic Oreos get me through those tough “can’t have birthday cake” and “the kids want ice cream” days. Organic sun butter is my go-to on toast or whole wheat English muffins (a girl’s gotta get her protein somehow). The occasional almond milk yogurt doesn’t totally suck. Vitamin D and calcium-fortified orange juice is a must.

I also can’t stand dairy-free cheese, so far. Overly salty, weird texture, and smells and tastes suspiciously like feet. Just not worth the money. I’d rather have veggie pizza with no cheese at all, thanks.

What I’ve Learned – The Good, the Bad, and the Unexpected. When you have to live slightly more hungry, it gives you a bit of perspective beyond the surface obsession over what I’m putting in my mouth (although I’ve learned a lot about, literally, what I can eat).

I ate and snacked too much before. I was mindless. I had no discipline whatsoever. The baby has given me a gift; there is no way I would have changed for anyone other than my kids. I lack the willpower otherwise; simple, sad, true.

So while I haven’t done a huge diet overhaul (well, I have, and I’ve even gotten down below my pre-baby weight, but those organic Oreos still make me feel human from time to time), I’m on my way to a bigger revolution for myself as well as my family. I don’t want to cut out a HUGE section of anyone’s diet altogether (I tend to think that’s unnecessary and doing more harm), but cutting certain things out and maybe hitting reset with a Whole30 or something is way more in my realm of possibility than ever before. It’d just be a small hop to get there rather than a giant, scary leap.

My biggest take-away is that I’ve been so damn spoiled my whole life because, for lack of better word, I’ve been NORMAL. This has taught me what it’s like not to be in the mainstream. What it’s like not to have the world at my fingertips and to have to go without. I’ve been SO lucky up until this point.

In a broader sense, it has shown me how entitled we are as people and, to an extent, as a nation. There is rarely a time that I can get, say, appetizers that don’t contain a dairy breading or cheese option, so I just go without. Yet I now see how quickly people are to tack on an appetizer without a moment’s thought. I think of those in the world who go without, whether it’s for financial, religious, or cultural reasons, and I feel for them. This has opened my eyes to a lot more than I could have expected.

An unintended effect for sure, but an overall awareness of those beyond my scope of experience is downright humbling. It ties into a greater mindfulness and is teaching me to appreciate what’s in front of me. In a strange way, it’s also forcing me to slow down and be more mindful in other areas: of what matters to me, like reducing our waste, eating generally cleaner, going outside and enjoying the sun on our faces, and more.

So, What’s Next? I have a follow-up appointment to see how she’s handling things and to discuss how to introduce certain foods to test the waters. I’m going to tell you right now that, while I’m not sure about peanuts, I’m almost positive that she’s still susceptible to dairy (an occasional rare restaurant that cross-contaminates tells me that she still gets symptoms) and her eczema is currently flaring, so I’m curious if there’s an ingredient we’re missing, like soy or wheat. So, who’s to say where we’ll be 6 months from now?

That said, if people are interested, I’d be happy to share some vegan and dairy-free recipes that work for my family (needless to say, I tend to keep it simple since I have a house with 5 very different tastes and needs). Heading into the fall and craziness of the school year, I’d like to get really intentional about make ahead meals and prepping for successful, healthy habits, as well. Oh, and finding replacements for those beloved comfort foods is a must.

So, let me know in the comments! Have you ever experienced a dietary restriction and how did you handle it (whether literally in your diet or mentally)?

Are you interested in hearing more on this topic, whether through recipes or by sharing more resources? Drop me a line here or find me on Instagram @megactsout.

Big Ideas

All I can think of is a line from some random 1930s mobster movie – “what’s the big idea??” Or the Three Stooges, I guess. Followed by a well-placed “why I oughta…”

Anyhoo, this post isn’t about that whatsoever. It’s actually about sharing some of the many, many ideas rolling around in my head for 2018.

My love/hate relationship with resolutions continues, but it doesn’t mean that I don’t take a new year as a great opportunity to look at what we’ve done and where we want to go.

So, while these aren’t resolutions, they’re, rather, ideas I’d like to try, either for myself or for the family as a whole. I thought I simply had too many to have one umbrella “word” or “concept” for the year but realized that just “try” works. A positive, forward-moving word that offers open-ended possibilities. Yes, 2018: the year of trying.

I’m doing a brain dump of the what and whys, then hoping to delve into each (and the specific who/when/where/hows) in individual posts.

HOME PROJECTS

We’ve officially been in our new house for a year now and while we see where progress has been made, there is still tons more to do.

Dave and I have actually come up with a way to get more projects actually accomplished while still making time for family fun and decompressing on weekends (yaaaayyy!!!), and I can’t WAIT to share it.

GET HEALTHY

This one’s big and broad. During this maternity leave, I’ve had a bit of a realization about myself: I suffer from lifelong anxiety.

I knew I’d struggled with some huge bouts of depression, but never picked up on this issue. I think that this is because it doesn’t show itself as severely and dramatically as depression does. But, regardless, it has made me more introverted, scared, easy to snap, and just generally less happy.

It’s not fair to my family (or myself) and I want to gain control of it. I’ll be sharing my ups and downs with it here but hope to try a method that helped me in high school. Fingers crossed (and I’ll of course share here)!

Tied into the above, I also think that I’ve become more sedentary, which doesn’t help. Once my C-section soreness is gone (I recently got sick and the all-night coughing/sneezing brought it back!), I want to try some yoga and use the stationary bike Dave got me awhile back.

It’s not about weight; it’s about energy, health, and an overall well-being.

GET OUTSIDE

I know that the kids thrive on the outdoors but don’t get nearly enough of it, and I’ve been too anxiety-ridden to do it more often. I’m hoping to create a list of places in our area to hike or simply explore, and for every road trip we take to find a stop to play or breathe in a natural spot.

CREATE MORE

I’m still writing for Thirsties, am ecstatic to be working with Green Child again, and have a ton of ideas bubbling for Meg Acts Out. I’ve also really gotten into watching inspirational YouTube channels (I’ll share my favorites soon), which makes me want to toy with the idea of diversifying with either my own videos or just sticking my toe into using InstaStories.

Either way, my goal is to keep up the writing and see where it takes me.

CONTINUE SIMPLIFYING

This involves a lot, including decluttering, trying a no-spend month (or more!), streamlining our mealtimes with a couple of meal plans, not over analyzing our parenting decisions (I’m asking myself certain questions before constantly barraging our son with “don’t do that!”), general organization, less social media (only that which I enjoy), and creating a capsule wardrobe. Whew.

SELF CARE

This concept has been super popular lately and I understand why. However, I read an article that has really stuck with me that pretty much says, sure, it’s about treating yourself once in awhile (I agree) but it’s also about doing the things that are good for you even if you’re dreading them (it took me awhile of grumbling before I was finally able to agree).

So, my self care involves finally taking care of setting up financial accounts and life insurance that I let slack, organizing and deleting my old emails, getting the blog in better working order…but also doing something for myself daily. It could be anything, like doing yoga, putting the phone down and playing with my kids, having a quiet cup of tea, listening to a podcast, reading more, actually watching a movie without checking on the rest of the world, or simply checking something off my list (ugh, like making an important phone call…I hate talking on the phone!) or making a healthy dinner we all actually enjoyed.

The list goes on. But those things should be savored and acknowledged like a happy accomplishment. Even checking social media shouldn’t be a guilt but a well-chosen perk of the day (I’m going to allow it at certain times and have already started trying to be more present the rest of the time), and only using the ones that spark joy…but more on that in a future post!

So, there we have it. All the “hope to try” big ideas for 2018 and beyond.

What are you trying in the new year? I’d love to hear in the comments!

…And Baby Makes Three


Nearly two months after we had our third bundle of joy and I’m finally getting around to posting about the whole thing. I’m nothing if not determined to let you all know how things went, who this amazing little person who’s joined our nuthouse is, and all the rest.

I’d like to introduce you to our baby girl, Hannah.

Yup, we finished strong with another “H” name. We hope that we’ve done her personality a service with a name that I see as being classic and sweet. It also seems to be the type of name that she can do whatever she pleases with, which I love.

Funny side note: there’s another similarity with her siblings’ names aside from starting with an H. Hadley, Harper, and Hannah? Six letters each. Unintentional serendipity.

So, on October 24th, we welcomed Hannah Clare into the family! She seems to be a relatively good-natured, observant (this time a “listener” whereas her sister was a “watcher”) little sweetheart who surprised us with plenty of adorable reddish-blonde hair.

She currently falls somewhere between Hadley and Harper on the “is she a good baby?” spectrum. I’d call her “normal” as far as that goes; she gets fussy and cluster feeds around dinnertime/bath time/bedtime for the big kids. She’s also a night owl who doesn’t like to go to sleep until after the 11 o’clock news (let’s just say if she went to bed at 9, I’d be right with her, ugh) but then sleeps with one feeding straight until 6, 7, or even later. This morning she slept through until 9:30 after a 5am feeding.

Along with her arrival, we also welcomed a new norm – being officially outnumbered with three kiddos. I thought I’d check in with some of the surprises (and non-surprises) now that we live in a World of Three.

SURPRISES!

It’s a Girl…Again! We didn’t find out the gender in advance for any of our children, so needless to say this is ALWAYS a big surprise. And no matter how many people may insist which gender they think you’ll have or how the needle/wedding ring tests BOTH tell you you’re having a girl, or how much you prep yourself for either result…it’s still always an exuberant shock.

My first thoughts were that Hadley was going to be SO disappointed (he was, then he gathered himself together and made a picture of his new family – sisters and all – that made my heart burst when he gave it to me in the hospital the next day) and my concern about how our daughter would react to another little girl in the house. Turns out, I had nothing to worry about. Harper’s our go-with-the-flow, resilient kiddo.

“Red Hair? Is that right??” One of the medical staff present for the C-section uttered this and I found it HILARIOUS. My husband and I both have dark brown hair and, funny enough, our 5-year-old and almost 2-year-old are both blond. “Well, I had that color hair when I was born…and I’m Irish, so…” But, needless to say, the fact that she wasn’t a cue ball like the other two AND the strawberry blondness of it make me wonder what she’ll look like in a few more months as it continues to “shed” from the top.

The Pain…Again?! Okay, I know I had lots of sharp pain (most likely from overdoing it) last time following my C-section and while I didn’t forget about it this time around (I was actually expecting a possibility of more since I also had my tubes tied), I had an additional wrench thrown into the works.

Due to an oversight by my doctor, a script for my “heavier” pain medication wasn’t left the first night, so I had to make do with regular Motrin and ice packs. I dealt okay but was in tears by the morning. I’m by nature not one to make waves or complain so when I did complain and was overlooked SEVERAL times, it threw my hormonal self into a tailspin until I had a tear-filled meltdown that put an entire shift of workers on eggshells. (Y’know those moments when a ton of people are coming on shift and coming in to get info on completely irrelevant things – like, say, baby pictures in the nursery or filling out paperwork that can totally wait – but you’re in so much pain you can’t see straight?) So, the additional fact that I was hormonal, lacking sleep (particularly from the pain), and behind on meds (I’ve since read that C-section pain management is one of those things you can’t just take one med for and expect it to fix everything; once you’re “behind” it’s hard to “catch up” and, legit, it did take several days/weeks to get on top of) made for a not fun situation all around. Harumph.

Luckily, although I’m probably overdoing it still more than I did the second time, I’m finally feeling normal and trying to get past the guilt and negativity of the not-great hospital stay. I have a high pain threshold and consider myself tough, but that sucked.

Some Easier Transitions. This could be a surprise, or not. I went into this pregnancy overall expecting tough transitions for both of our older children but *hoping* for the best. Like I mentioned, our son was disappointed by the fact that she was, well, a she, but overall he has handled this transition phenomenally well. When our second was born, he had a VERY difficult time with it, but this time around he’s matured a lot and has a daily routine of school to focus on, so he’s done great.

And, surprisingly, our daughter has handled things well, although she’s not super verbal or able to tell us that she may not be cool with it. The only noticeable issue she’s had (aside from normal “terrible twos” stuff) is that she suddenly had a difficult time going to bed, calling out and crying more than she EVER had before. Otherwise, she refers to Hannah as “mine” and will randomly interrupt her playtime to come give her a kiss or pat her hand. So stinkin’ sweet!

A Tougher Maternity/Paternity Leave. I’m at a new district and position and my husband’s job has changed dramatically over the last couple of years, so while I won’t get into this aspect of things too much, there are ways that we’ve felt less supported by our jobs this time around. We’re, of course, super lucky to have certain work friends checking in on us and sending their love, but otherwise he received emails hoping he was “well rested” (paternity leave is NOT a vacation, folks) and I’ve had a web of financial/insurance inaccuracies that I’ve been anxious about. There’s a bit of a cloud hanging, but in general I still count myself super lucky to be able to take any time at all. And, man, are we looking forward to this holiday season together as a family of five!

NON-SURPRISES

It’s Equal Parts Surreal/Like Riding a Bike. How is it that there are moments that my husband and I will say, “doesn’t it feel strange to be holding such a tiny baby again?!” or “can you BELIEVE we have another girl??” and we’re clearly living in a surreal alternate reality. Then there are times that it feels like this is the way it’s always been and things fall into place just as they did before. Sleep deprivation doesn’t really help with those surreal moments, but the repetitive routine of nursing and changing diapers helps…as does, for some reason, late-night QVC viewing. (I literally buy nothing; it just calms me. Weird, I know!)

Advice Keeps Dwindling. It’s AWESOME to be at the hospital and have people say, “Oh, this is your THIRD? This is old hat for you, then.” Pretty much, thanks. Not that every child doesn’t pose their own unique set of rewards and challenges, but we’ve at least learned that everything’s a phase and we can handle things or find a way to.

I also think our respective parents may finally understand that we parent the best that we can and they leave us the breathing room now to do just that. Plus, this is our third to be nursed and I’m the only one in my family to successfully do this with one let alone (knock on wood) three, so my mother’s to the point where she seems simply fascinated by and almost proud of it. Pretty cool.

The Love Just Grows. I knew there’d be “enough love” to pass on to all three and as hard as it may be to give out the attention they may each crave at any given moment, my husband and I juggle and try to prioritize on a minute-to-minute basis. While there’s an awful lot of juggling going on, I find myself softening in some things I used to be ridiculously (and unnecessarily) strict about, finding time to tell each child how much we love them and why,  and just generally doling out the support and care more frequently. I’m also trying to do the same for my husband since our “team” status has only strengthened now that we have three littles (and three cats, BTW…a whole other nighttime issue) and I do truly find myself appreciating him a hundred times a day.

So, that’s our family at the moment! Challenging and fun and heart-warming and busy and…wonderful.

Grateful

It was a rough night with Miss Hannah. She’d nurse and fall asleep but the second her body hit the bassinet, she was instantly awake. Lather, rinse, repeat.

That’s been par for the course lately, though. So have aspects of the Terrible Twos, fighting the uphill battle of keeping a newborn from getting sick when your eldest has spiked a scary fever, cats seeming to punch into their night shifts for mayhem the second the whole house goes quiet at bedtime, and the proven fact that things will sometimes be simply out of our control in this household for awhile.

And I’ve never been more grateful in my life.

Between an overall perspective that has ripened with parenting experiences as we’ve aged, a near-constant barrage of bad, awful, and dreadful news in the world, the fact that there’s a sense of finality with this third baby, and a healthy dose of holiday season sentimentality, we’re holding on tightly to that which we find dear.

So bear with me as I share with you a list of all I’m thankful for this year, in no particular order, and in earnest. I’d love to hear what’s topping your list in the comments.

I am grateful for…

…the antique cradle, passed down from generation to generation, that my daughter refuses to sleep in for any lengthy duration of time, for at least we have options and a healthy, snuggly child who’d rather slumber warmly in my arms. This won’t always be the case.

…the constantly-full garbages. They mean we can afford newborn diapers as we mull what choice to make regarding cloth and disposables. I’m grateful, in all honesty, for less laundry as our little “eats and immediately disposes of said meal” cherub maintains a productive output. So. Many. Damn. Diapers.

…all that baby poop. On the same note, I’m actually totally fine changing what feels like 50 diapers a day. Scout’s honor. If we didn’t have these poops and pees, we wouldn’t have a healthy baby…and we know from watching friends, family, and even strangers cope with terrible infant illnesses and child loss how precious a healthy baby really is. So, by all means, bring on the poop and pee and spit-up and just anything that goes along with parenthood…because parenthood, to us, is absolutely everything.

…the endless supply of toys (since I’ll be cursing them in another month or so). The fact that our children have so many options for free play, expression, and imaginative downtime is something to embrace, for so many families around the world can’t even come close to saying the same.

…speech impediments. Because if there’s one thing we’ve learned as parents, it’s that (almost) nothing is permanent, and once Hadley’s cute little w “r”s are worked out by the speech therapist at school, yet another trait to his “little boy” side will be gone. Some phases are good, some horrible, and some a bit of both, but either way, “this, too, shall pass.” Just hold on tightly while you can.

…strawberry blonde hair. We often compare our kids subconsciously. It’s not intentional; it’s kind of to just be aware of milestones, what they have in common, and what makes them unique. There are tons of differences (and a few similarities) between Hadley and Harper. Well, while I see much of Harper’s sweetness and some of Hadley’s facial features in Hannah, her light reddish hair upon birth (“Um, is this right?!” one nurse remarked…) has reminded us not to expect cookie-cutter kids from the get-go. This one’s got ideas of her own and I can’t wait to see them unfold.

…our three cats. As annoying as they may be (infuriating at nighttime, to be honest), life would simply be less bright and meaningful without them. They’re our first children, after all.

…just the right amount of digital entertainment. Basic cable, a slew of DVDs, the only occasional Netflix, and limited tablet time for our oldest (oh, and iPhones for Mom and Dad because #sanity + #interactionwithadults) is just enough to force us to get creative and teach our kids that limited choices can be an amazing life lesson. We’ll wait and see what they think when they’re 13. Until then, pop in another Monkees episode and crank up the Pandora Christmas channel!

…the time I have to spend tending to and managing this little zoo with only a brief occasional check of my school email to ease my mind about that zoo. I am truly lucky. Truly.

…sweatpants and maternity clothes. No explanation necessary. #doihavetogetdressedfortheholidays

…the fireplace. With the touch of a button I can overheat the whole family. It wasn’t always this easy to get a roaring fire, folks! But, really, there’s nothing like twinkling clear lights on a tree with a fire and hot cocoa.

…online shopping. Because sweatpants, a sore C-section wound, and crowds don’t mix. Merry Christmas, kids!

…the friends and family who get why I’ve dropped off the face of the planet the past month or so, and those who have offered genuine help (even if I turned it down). You guys mean the world to me. Can’t wait to hang out…in, like, 5 years.

…the unabashed joy of beloved traditions (and letting go of the guilt when we don’t uphold others). Dave and I are ecstatic about some traditions (cheery Christmas music and old Christmas movies!) and others (like getting a real tree) will just have to take a rest until things are less crazy in our lives. Not that we won’t miss them, but, again…phases.

…awareness (which brings me to tears at least twice daily) of just how lucky I am to have this life: a supportive husband-slash-teammate; three gorgeous, special, healthy little humans; three partially insane, partially overweight, but so animated felines; a house that’s juuust right for our brood; families that support and help us despite our weird, quirky standards and choices… Or maybe I should be thanking my hormones for all those grateful tears….

And, finally, I’m thankful for the pie this Thanksgiving. Because life’s not really worth living if there’s not the chance of pie.

You could also replace “pie” with “hope” if you felt so inclined.

Feel free to drop a few of your “grateful for”s down below. Let’s spread the appreciation!

An Honest Post: Return from Blog Burnout & Your Thoughts

I’m in my own existentialist, surreal mode thanks to the less-than-one-week-away arrival of our third baby. By nature, my husband and I lean analytical and a touch philosophical, so when it’s time to welcome a new human into the world, we feel about a hundred emotions at all times. Not a lot of room left for blogging.

Attempting to care for the other two kiddos, maintain a happy relationship with my husband (yay!), cook (relatively) healthy meals, and keep a (relatively) clean home? Not a lot of room for blogging.

Things are winding down, but I went through some major anxiety and depression in the past couple of months when dealing with some work transitions. Plus, prep and all the things floating in my head that I know I “should” do pre-baby. Again, not a lot of (mental) room for blogging.

Wasting my free time on social media to give myself the mental letdown I crave at the end of a tiring day. Leaves surprisingly little room, time, or inspiration for blogging.

Until…it did.

See, my guilty pleasures are Instagram and YouTube lately. They don’t drag me down like Twitter and Facebook. They let me know that there are other moms out there dealing with similar lives. They inspire me to continue dreaming and acting on certain passions. If it weren’t for the privacy thing, I’ve found myself even inspired to consider making a YouTube channel of my own.

But, what about my other creative outlets? What about the blog I’ve relied on and messed around with for 7+ years? What about the new blog I’m working on? What about my own side writing projects? What about my complete lack of talent and technological know-how?! 😉

Back to the inspiration thing. I follow a sweet, super down-to-earth go-getter of a U.K. mom who vlogs AND blogs. Her family is adorable and her accent and relatability give me all the feels.

Well, she recently poured her heart out about having a hard time figuring out what her next move would be – focus on the kids and family more, focus on her career and less on vlogging/blogging, or putting all her energy into the vlogs/blog. I totally got it.

As I pondered her issues, I strangely found inspiration (is that weird?!). I started to realize that 1) a lot of people (and, particularly, moms) who share their lives with the world don’t do so in a vacuum and 2) we don’t have to do everything 100% (just good luck retraining your brain to believe it).

Those are kind of vague. Let me explain.

See, my idea for a new website and blog involved essentially letting go everything I’ve already written here at Meg Acts Out and focusing my attention on solely one topic. I’d seen a couple of other sites/blogs do a similar thing and really appreciated what they were putting out there.

But, the more that I worked on it and brainstormed posts and tried to pull together visual inspiration for the site, the more that I felt stifled. This is the stuff I should’ve felt a spark about, but for the most part I felt like I was trying to fit a round peg into a square hole. It didn’t seem sincere or “me” and I couldn’t figure out why.

Well, that’s where the “vacuum” idea comes in. In order to find your inspiration to live a more fulfilled life, overall, we tend not to rely on only one source to supply it. So, putting my attention into only one topic without the rest of life included (or only included under the umbrella I had put up) made it feel forced.

The second realization has to do with pretty much everything we do and how much we put into it. We find ourselves prioritizing #allthethings until we realize that the juggling is extremely stressful and sometimes harmful to our health. We just can’t do it all.

So, what about making smaller goals for ourselves? What about “chunking” life (much as we “chunk” words together when trying to read) into more manageable bites? What about prioritizing more honestly and simply? What about paring back on the stuff you tell yourself needs to be done that maaaaaybe doesn’t really?

In practice, this may look like cutting yourself slack on letting your child eat in the cafeteria once or twice a week. Unless our kids are super gross and sweaty, we bathe them every other day (and I only wash my hair every other day, as well). Not every dinner has to be like “Sunday dinner.” The list goes on, but there are ways to chill down the craziness. Try making “to-do” lists at work and prioritizing them by due dates, or learning to tell people that their issue may need to wait if you have more pressing matters (that’s a tough one!).

In addition to both of those realizations, though, I’ve faced several blogging issues lately. I’ve been burnt out elsewhere and haven’t been able to find the time to blog, my voice has fallen flat so my own self-criticism of “it sounds like my heart’s not in it” creeps in (and maybe my heart HASN’T been in it enough) and I abandon the post, and I’ve had a lack of inspiration as to WHAT to write.

HERE’S HOW I’M ATTACKING THOSE ISSUES

Time & burnout. Because I still write for Thirsties weekly on the side (and generally hit my deadlines AND come up with post ideas on the regular), a lot of my thought and energy goes into that goal each week. But, what if I had TWO goals a week; one for Thirsties and one for my own blog? Or a simple editorial calendar or simple list of post ideas (I used to maintain this but have stopped and find my old topics downright suck) that I actually use to pull a weekly topic from (the way I do for Thirsties). Why can’t I do it FOR MYSELF if I’m able to do it for a paid gig?

My voice is gone. Even in my side paid writing, I find that the writing is fine…but not what I’d like to be putting out there. Of the dozens of half-written blog posts for myself, they sound more like manuals than the writer I know I am. Maybe that’s why I’m drawn more to podcasts, Insta Stories and YouTube videos; the visual and audio appeals to me more than reading lately. (Says the librarian.)

So, maybe I do need to try out a new format. Or maybe I simply need to get a schedule going in order to get my routine back. My husband and I have been chatting back and forth about the importance of consistency with writing, of carving out time to actually sit and focus on writing something. Self-imposed deadlines may help. I’m going to try ‘em.

What do I write?? And, honestly, without something I’m passionate about to write (or podcast about, or vlog, or whatever), why do it? I need to truly brainstorm some ideas that get me excited, pick just one for one single post, and go from there.

This is where I have a couple of questions for you all. It’s as simple as this:

1) Do I keep up the Meg Acts Out platform or do I go forward with my new idea for a blog – a fresh, more organized space that’s easier to navigate (possibly with some old MAO posts that continue the feel of the space, possibly not)? I’ve asked this question before during times of identity crisis and obviously I’m there again.

2) What kinds of posts are you interested in? Here’s just a slew that I’ve written about in the past and some of the topics I’m drawn to mixed in:

A. Parenting
B. Decor/Design
C. Eco-Friendly Living
D. Decluttering/Organization
E. Simplifying
F. Recipes
G. Personal Stuff
H. Other

Please feel free to leave a comment on the blog to let me know what you need more of to help you live a happier life!

(And if you made it this far, thank you so much for reading!)