I know the title is stupid, but bear with me...I've got thoughts to share. We've been on several vacations this year, and most were pleasant and relaxing (as they should be!). Our last trip wasn't quite as much fun, but it had its moments. The best part was the 4 days we had afterwards when B stayed behind with MIL and we had just L at home. It was so refreshing! We went to work but it was like a staycation in many ways. We didn't really cook, we went out the park in the evening, had ice cream, hung out with neighbors, and generally had a stress-free time. L is just a much more easy-going, up-for-anything kid than his brother who is...intense. I mean, Saturday we took L to the hardware store and he had a BLAST running up and down the aisles "what is this? Ooh, when I grow up can I use drill bits? Why do we never buy PVC piping? Can you buy me some one day? Is daddy going to use galvanized screws to build something? Will it be for ME? Can I help?". He was game for several other errands after that, too, just chatted to himself in the carseat, tried to "help" in the stores, grabbing things and running them over to the person with the cart, and then falling asleep on the way home. There was 99% less whining and 100% less sulking, "I'm bored" and general sighing and grunting going on. I'm sure part of his great behavior was getting both of our full attention, and the fact that we tried pretty hard to make it fun & special for him, since he was missing out on MAJOR spoiling by grandmother and did miss his brother (the cutest thing ever was when they "talked" to each other on the phone. omg.)
The good thing about taking a break for the everyday is the perspective it brings. When I'm in the midst of it, I just can't see it. Stepping back made me realize how exhausting and un-fun our routine can be for all of us. The activities, the to-dos, the careful counting of every penny we spend, calorie we (I) eat, etc... Its a whole lot of "shoulds" and "can't"s and it can be demoralizing after a while. I've been thinking about is how to incorporate more of the relaxed, vacation-feeling into our everyday lives. Its difficult, because the choices we made for our everyday lives were not made on a whim but firmly based on values and priorities we've thought through---changing those things would end up compromising or changing some of those priorities. But maybe we do need to shake things up.
1) Food. For the love of god, the food procuring, making, eating, cleaning up after. We know its better for our budget and our health to make food from home for most meals. We have systems down, we are efficient, but it still takes a lot of time & physical/mental energy to keep all of us fed with "growing food" for the minors and "no-growing food" for the adults in the family! Add the calorie counting and recording I was doing and food took up a large portion of my mental space. It goes directly against our financial and health goals, but eating out more often would relieve a HUGE burden. I'm not sure how to reconcile this---I know families that eat out all weekend and then do home cooked food all week, and vice versa. Maybe we can just plan to take a "food vacation" once every couple of months, get take-out and cafeteria lunches & come back refreshed? The kids OFTEN ask to go to the park or library in the evening and we can't because we have to figure out dinner & get them fed before bedtime and I HATE that. Yes, even simple meals take time to get on the table and into picky mouths. Once in a while we've gone to the park and just gotten deli sandwiches nearby and its amazing. Maybe doing that once or twice a week?
2) Activities. B is doing karate twice a week, after school and sometimes also on Saturday AM. Initially it was a GOOD thing, to get us out of our go to school/work-come home routine in the winter, but now its another tiring to-do. We're always running late and rushing and then coming home late & tired and hungry (well, I am anyways, B eats a small meal before). Also, we initially planned for B to eat dinner before but now he's eating TWO dinners, so it saves no time at all, and by the time he gets home & has dinner, its bedtime & he never fails to have a tantrum because he "didn't get time to play". We are signed up (and pre-paid) through September but aren't going to renew (it won't be convenient from his KG, anyways) and I've decided to limit activities in the warm months & ramp them up in the cold months (opposite of what I used to do, since it was so hard to get toddlers dressed to go out in the winter).
3) Weekends. We do a lot on the weekends. I'm always finding and planning activities for us to do because I go a little nuts staying at home. These things are ostensibly fun, but of course, fun with small kids is also tiring and then at the end of it all there is very little unstructured time for the boys to play together or make up games. I know unstructured play is important and good for kids (and my kids are asking for it more, by refusing to go out or, worse, refusing to go to bed!), and especially after B starts "real school" and aftercare, I want to make sure they have enough of it in their weekends. Not sure how to schedule this---one day each weekend to stay home? Half a day? One weekend a month? Or most likely just play it by ear and see what the kids (and us) seem to need.
4) The "shoulds". This is my issue. I just can't relax until everything is done, and there is always something to be done! Its hard for me to just sit and watch the kids play (or play with them) for more than a few minutes, or even just do something for myself unless I've planned it out or am too exhausted to be productive. I'm constantly working on this problem, and I've gotten WAY better, but even though I am sitting or playing with the kids in body, my mind is often elsewhere. My brain just runs through the list and calendar I keep in my head (they are copies of the actual ones I keep, I DO write things down!)---home, work, kids, dog, others---making sure I haven't forgotten to buy a wedding present or schedule a dentist appointment (two things I need to do today!) I just need some of G's attitude, where he can stop in the middle of whatever to have a beer and build a lego castle (usually while I give him the stink eye because DUDE you didn't finish the dishes!), to rub off on me.
5) Time. I am so anal about bedtime and mealtimes. I need to let it go, at least on the weekends. The boys aren't babies anymore, sometimes when they stay up late, they sleep in! Or they nap the next day or go to bed earlier. I feel like I am constantly watching the clock planning the next thing that needs to happen (this ties in a LOT to #1, 2 and 3. Oh and #4, too). Are we going to the park? When did they last eat. Must pack snacks and drinks. When did they last use the bathroom? Uh oh, L is due to "go" soon, better wait til that happens. OK its 5 pm. If I start dinner now, it'll be ready, they can eat and then play and then have time for bath and stories. Or maybe I should just give them a bath. Or wait, are we having pasta? No, they'll need to bathe after that. Whose turn for stories tonight---G? He will read the long book so we actually have to start stories earlier. So if I start dinner, G needs to do the dog walk. And go pick up xyz from the store. Commence nagging G to stop playing legos (we really likes playing legos) and take dog on walk. Etc...
6) (last one I promise) One on one time. Again, we started doing a lot of this when B first started karate. We took turns taking him on Saturday AM and then spending most of the day with him while the other one hung out with L. It was fun to do new things with the kids and also to reconnect at the end of the day. Not sure how that ended, but it did and I'd like to re-instate that. (and maybe engineer more opportunities for one or the other to stay with grandma again! it was great! but probably won't happen until next summer, since B starts KG).
I wrote this down so I won't forget, and we'll see how it goes!