Happy new year! I love reading through the “What I’m Learning” link-up on Emily Freeman’s blog, and I love even more the idea of the discipline to reflect back on what I’m learning each month. I thought I would jump on the bandwagon starting with a list from 2015. I’m not promising I keep up with it, but we’ll see. I would love to hear what you’re learning in the comments!
What I learned in 2015
- Getting up early creates space for more of the good stuff. I have known for awhile that I really need to get up earlier, but I read I Know How She Does It (I have some more thoughts on the book if I ever get around to writing them down) in October and that book clenched it for me. I asked my friend Laura to help keep me accountable and started getting up at 5:30, which isn’t too terribly early, but early for me because I get really crabby if I don’t get at least 7.5 hours of sleep, which means I need to be in bed, asleep by 10. I have cheated lots over the last few weeks because of two rounds of the stomach bug at our house, but I have noticed a huge difference in my spirit on the days when I get up early. I’ve just been doing a quick workout in the garage (20-30 minutes with kettle bells, bodyweight stuff, or the Jungle Gym), and then having about 20 minutes to read and journal before Grant gets up. The quiet alone time before the crazy of the day starts sets the tone for the whole day. There is also something mentally freeing for me about getting my workout out of the way first thing. It’s like no matter how the rest of the day goes, there’s something very satisfying about knowing I worked out and had some quiet time first thing. I’ve found myself being more likely to go play frisbee or color with the kids after work since I’m not having to squeeze in a workout or have some downtime to myself since I got those out of the way already.
- We all need to create. I’m coming out of a season of a lot of doing, details, and constant to do lists. I’m tired, and I was sick for much of the fall, which I’m convinced was my body’s way of saying, “I’m done.” I was going through the motions in the kitchen instead of enjoying the cooking and the process, which I’ve figured out is one way I create. It has also been a big season of adjustment for our kiddos: new home, new schools, crazier schedules. I’ve noticed that getting out some paper and crayons and sitting at the table together relaxes all of us and makes the day go a bit more smoothly (most of the time anyway). I’m loving my adult coloring book/drawing kit that Grant got me for my birthday, but I have my eyes on this one next to get some creating + scripture into my day. (Fun fact: a friend in college and I used to buy kids’ coloring books and have coloring dates before big exams to de-stress. I’m so happy that the adult coloring book craze caught on, so I don’t feel silly about my old habit). I loved this list of lazy ways to encourage creativity in your kids. We had already figured out that book trick, but lately we’ve been doing the scavenger hunt thing outside during that after-school witching hour.
- Music solves all sorts of problems. Grant has always known this and always has music going in the background of the house. But I’ve figured out that a little dance party can make all the difference during the after school/work, dinner prepping witching hour when we’re all about to smack each other (oh, is that just our family?). I made a fun dance party playlist on Spotify that includes a little bit for everybody in the family. Whenever things are getting a bit too tense, I turn on the play list and order everyone to start dancing. Five minutes later, we’re typically in a better mood and distracted from whatever annoyance was such an emergency a few minutes before. Make your own playlist, or steal ours (watch out – some of our songs are NSFK [Not Safe for Kids], so be prepared to skip if necessary).
- Thanksgiving might be my favorite holiday. I love cooking for others, I love eating and celebrating together, and I love a day set aside to think about what we’re grateful for. Plus, it kicks off the Christmas season, the four happiest weeks of the year for the guy I live with. I want to prioritize creating space to really enjoy the long weekend every year.
- I’m obsessed with personality tests. I’ve been on a total Myers-Briggs binge the last few months. I’ve always been into personality tests of all sorts, but lately I’ve gone on a deep dive. I’ve listened to tons of the Personality Hacker podcasts (I keep testing either ENFP or ENFJ weirdly, but I feel like I’m a bit more ENFJ). I’ve been listening to the podcasts for Grant’s type (ESTJ) too. I keep bringing all sorts of conversations around to our personality types (and driving Grant completely nuts!). But I really do think it has already helped me to identify some of my own pitfalls. What’s your MBTI?!
- My dream kitchen doesn’t have any tight corners. Our new place has a tinier kitchen than our old one, but it isn’t terribly small. Our five-year plan includes a new kitchen, so we’re taking notes on what works and what doesn’t right now. Since Grant is a bit taller than average and since we work in the kitchen so much together, we’ve quickly realized that, although our new kitchen isn’t small by any means, it has some too tight corners in high traffic areas that will definitely have to go at some point. Grant starts beeping whenever he’s putting away dishes as if he’s a gigantic truck in reverse, and I tell the kids to “get out of the kitchen” so many times during the day that I should just put it on a recording. What’s in your dream kitchen, so I can learn from you?
- Reading and getting outside are necessities for me. I’ve known this for ever, but after the craziness of 2015, I realized how important those things are for my mental health. As much as I wish it weren’t this way, the whole household’s mood tends to shift when mine does, so when I’m edgy and short-tempered, it brings everybody down. Obviously, we all have days like that, but I went a bit too long in 2015 without enough self-care and winded up bringing everybody down with me. I’ve noticed that a short walk outside every day and reading even for just 20 minutes before bed makes a huge difference for me. I’m not the only one who finds time in nature necessary, and we’ve noticed that even a short walk outside makes a huge difference for the kids too. I listened to this podcast (BTW one of my favorite recent finds in the world of pods) with Anne Bogel of Modern Mrs. Darcy a few weeks ago and both guests said they read for a minimum of 2-3 hours every day. Now, obviously Anne basically gets paid to read, so it’s a bit different for her, but it isn’t like she has always gotten paid to read. I don’t know why, but I found that so mentally freeing for me – it was like a light bulb moment that it’s okay to skip the to do list in favor of sitting on the couch with a book during the kids’ rest time because it makes everything else run more smoothly in the end. [Here’s a link to my Goodreads account if you’re looking for some new year reading inspiration]
- Parenting is a learned skill like everything else. The past few months have been rough on the parenting front. Three is just hard. At least it has been for us both times through. We were frustrated with the cycle we were stuck in and realized that something needed to change. So a few months ago, Grant and I read a few parenting books together and listened to a few parenting podcasts together. We’ve been trying to keep up with it, even if it’s re-listening to stuff several times. Parenting is natural for very few people, I think. I don’t know why I’ve been treating it otherwise. It’s hard, and it’s work. The hardest work I’ve ever tackled for sure. When I’m struggling with anything else in my life, I tend to dive into learning more about it to build up my confidence on how best to deal with it. I realized that I didn’t treat parenting the same way, maybe because I felt like it should come more naturally to me. But it doesn’t, and realizing that I could invest time in learning to be a better parent (and really, much of it comes down to doing the work of being the person you want to be, as well) was so empowering to me. I’m also reminding myself every day that, as I practice what I’m learning, even handling an encounter in a way that I can be proud of once a day is a success. It’s a practice, and it takes time.
What did YOU learn in 2015?