Cookies… a Goodwin family tradition.

Years and years ago, around the holidays, I would come home from work and bake a different batch of cookies (or my mom’s pumpkin roll) every day. I’d eat the cookies, sure, but I really liked bringing them to school and sharing or sending them home with friends.

Before we were together, and with a thousand miles between us, I guess my husband was doing the same thing. Only he went kind of crazy and would make dozens and dozens of different kinds all at once and store them in the freezer until Christmas rolled around.

As if he wasn’t already sweet enough, he mailed me a couple boxes of cookies when we first started our long-distance relationship. When we moved in together in 2012, I just kind of let him do his thing. We lived in a townhouse, the kitchen was kind of small, there was only room for one baker.

He went to town. He started baking in the fall, freezing cookies and saving them for the holidays. He sent me to my work Christmas party with a tray of cookies so big that people thought I was dating a baker. I remember someone asking me, “Is he a baker?” “No, he’s a lobbyist.” He bought little boxes and packed them up for coworkers and friends. He mailed cookies across the country and around the world to people.

When we got married in 2013, we didn’t have a wedding cake. We just had cookies! That was a nod to Tommy’s cookie habit and my growing up in Pittsburgh. At any special event in Pittsburgh, especially weddings, there’s always a cookie table!

In 2015, we had our first cookies and cocktails party. We made around 30 different kinds of cookies and invited probably 50 or 60 people and served cookies, snacks, hot chocolate, and booze. We did it again in 2016. (We took a hiatus in 2017 as we had just moved back into our home after a year of remodeling.) Each time, we sent people home with bags and boxes of cookies, determined to get rid of the cookies. We just make ’em so people can take ’em!

The cookies have usually been his thing, but I’ve helped out every now and then – making things like pizzelles or trying to make gingerbread men.

This year, I’ve tried to make up for lost time and decided to get our holiday baking started early. It’s only November but we already have 20 cookies made, with at least 6 more on deck, and plans for more after that!IMG_7590

The kid has even gotten in on the cookie baking, and helped make a couple batches. What can I say? It’s kind of a family affair.

Anyway, we have the date set for our cookie party and I’m really looking forward to it. We didn’t get to have it last year and people kept asking us about it, so… we’re back! Can’t wait to celebrate the holiday season and chow down on a ton of cookies! (And sip some festive adult cocktails, too, of course.)

I would LOVE to hear what some of your favorite family holiday traditions are. And I would REALLY LOVE it if you’d share some of your favorite cookie recipes! Please post links in the comments!

October Update

This month has been a blur and I’m already counting down the weeks to the end of this semester. I’m about halfway there. I’m loving it, but I’m stressing. There’s a lot going on! I’ve been busy, busy, busy but things have been going really well. I’ve been busy reading and writing for school, MotherHustle, and other things here and there. I just printed out book number 6 and plan on reading, revising, and editing over winter break. I also have a huge list of books to read for fun while I’m out of school… We’ll see how many I can actually get through!

We had some awesome family pictures taken recently… Look at my cute family! My husband and I just celebrated our five year anniversary. Five years married, but several years in the mak_U2A2363ing… We were high school friends and sort-of-but-not-really college sweethearts back in the late 90s. It took us awhile, but we finally wound up together! It’s been an amazing five years. It’s never been boring, that’s for sure!

For Halloween, I seriously had to put my crafting skills to the test, y’all. Could we just go to the store and buy the kid a Halloween costume? Nope. Paw Patrol? Nope. Some superhero? Nope. PJ Masks? We could each be one of the PJ Mask kids! I’d dress up as Owlette. But… Nope.

The kid insisted, back in September, that he wanted to be Geo from Team Umizoomi. Team Umizoomi is a Nick Jr. cartoon that ran from 2010-2014. Nick Jr. still shows the reruns, and the kid looooves his shapes and numbers, so it’s one of his favorite shows. But is there any Team Umizoomi merch anywhere? Nope. Halloween costumes? Heck no. (Unless you want one from Etsy that costs like $300.)

I tried to tell myself that the kid would change his mind. I even took him to Target and walked up and down the Halloween aisle several times to show him all the other (already-made, prepackaged) costumes. No interest.

He still wanted to be Geo. And he wanted me and the hubby to be his sidekicks, Milli and Bot. I am not a Pinterest mom, but I think I did a damn good job making our costumes. And I made freaking Umi car.  We wore these costumes to Boo at the Zoo, to church trunk-or-treat, to his preschool Let’s Pretend Parade, and of course out trick-or-treating. He loved it. Insisted on wearing his helmet and roller skates – which were really a pair of my socks stuck on over his shoes, with little felt circles for wheels sewed on every time. Didn’t complain or fuss about his costume once. And he REALLY got into trick or treating!

 

We’re not sure what he liked better… trick or treating or handing out candy to the kids that came to the door. Either way, he had a blast. It was so much fun hearing him say “Thank you!” “Happy Halloween!” “I love your costume!” over and over again.

And of course, after all the excitement and candy, he passed out almost immediately.

Can’t think of anything else exciting to share. I wish I had more to talk about, but I’m currently just swimming in research notes for my literature class, trying to stay afloat until the break!

Reading: The Best Of Us: A Memoir – Joyce Maynard
Listening: Matt Nathanson Sings His Sad Heart
Watching: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (and writing a paper about it for my lit class!)

 

Growing Pains

Sometime last week, I was sitting at my desk in the office, writing, and I felt a strange, sharp pain in my groin. While I was just sitting in my chair. It was a deep twinge, almost as if the bones in my right hip and thigh were grinding together, and it came out of nowhere. I tried to think of what I’d done to cause such a pain. I had gone for a walk through the neighborhood that morning, but that was it, just a walk. I hadn’t been running. I hadn’t tripped or stumbled or lost my balance or done anything to tweak a muscle or anything.

But suddenly, it hurt like hell. Was I sitting wrong? I have terrible posture, so I could understand that making my back hurt, or even my neck, but… my… hip? Thigh? Groin? Pelvis? What in the world had I done?

I chalked it up to just getting older, but man, did it suck when the kid woke up from his nap. Just getting up off the couch or the floor to fetch fruit snacks and play cars caused me to wince. I tried stretching my legs and hips, but nothing seemed like it was helping to ease any of the pain. If anything, it was getting worse – a searing pain from way up at the top of the inside of my thigh down my butt and the outside of my leg. WTF.

I tried spraying some BioFreeze on the area. It didn’t really work. Let’s just say that’s not an area that you really want to go numb. I finally downed some ibuprofen and that seemed to help.

Thankfully, the next day, it was reduced to a dull ache, and the day after that, it was gone.

So weird, right?

Fast forward to tonight… I was lying in bed, trying to get comfortable, when one of our cats came and decided that she was going to use my pelvis as a pillow. Fine. Didn’t bother me. If I rolled over, she’d go, too. But then, there was something about the way my hip/thigh had rotated open…

That caused the mysterious pain started to come back.

I laid there for awhile, trying to figure out what the hell I’d done now that would have made my leg hurt. I thought about the way my hip/thigh/leg was positioned when it started to ache, and honestly, just tried to remember another time my leg turned out that way. It’s not like that’s a normal position. I might have been lying like that (because I was flat on my back with a cat lying on top of me) but it wasn’t really a natural way to sit or stand or…

And then it dawned on me.

That is how I stand. When I pick up the kid, I always hold him on my left hip. And in doing so, I shift all my weight to the right foot, and pivot that hip.

It’s not like I hold the kid all the time. He’s not a “Carry me!!!!” kinda kid. But when I do… it’s always in the same position.

Sure enough, a quick look at the Google machine and I’m reading all about pelvic girdle pain and other mom injuries. I’m going to need to start working out. I’m going to have to start switching hips. He’s getting so big. Pretty soon, I won’t be able to hold him at all!

Not only does it hurt, it’s kind of breaking my heart.

So this is 39.

Today is my 39th birthday. It honestly doesn’t feel any different from any other day.

There are different types of birthday people. There’s the “IT’S MY BIRTHDAY AND I’M READY TO PAAAARTY!”-people. Some people celebrate their birthdays all month long. On the other end of the spectrum, there are the “Please don’t make a big deal out of my birthday!”-people.  Then there are the “Please don’t make a big deal out of my birthday!” except they actually really DO want you to make a big deal out of their birthday-people.

I am definitely in the “please don’t make a big deal out of my birthday” camp. I don’t need the fanfare. But it did kind of get me thinking…

Shouldn’t I be more excited? Next year is the big 4-0 but I don’t really care about getting older. I don’t feel like I’m getting older. I mean, I’m tired and parts of me hurt a lot, but I figure some of that can be blamed on chasing after the kid all day and then taking grad school classes at night and generally just overdoing it.

I don’t know. I guess I feel like I should have more emotion (excitement? pride? nostalgia? happiness? fear of impending old age? total devastation?) about reaching a milestone like a birthday that ends in zero. Milestone birthdays deserve big celebration and hullabaloo, right? (God, I must be getting old if I’m voluntarily using a word like hullabaloo.)

So I sat down a couple weeks ago and tried to come up with a list of 40 things that I wanted to accomplish over the next year to commemorate turning 40. I didn’t get very far. In fact, my list was so lame, that before I even got to 10, I deleted it.

I know some people do stuff like this and would write “RUN A MARATHON” or “HIKE THE PACIFIC CREST TRAIL” or whatever, but I just don’t have any of that in me.

My list: IMG_1609

  1. Publish books 5 & 6
  2. Summer residency at Harvard
  3. Start thesis
  4. Trip to Napa
  5. Summer home exchange
  6. Exercise regularly
  7. Lose 15-20 pounds

The problem with my list is that it’s mostly all stuff I’m planning on doing anyway. I mean, the exercising and weight loss, I’m working on. Books 5 and 6 are already done; I just have to figure out what to do with them. The summer residency at Harvard has to/will happen, and after that, yeah, I plan on starting my thesis.

While some stuff is kind of obvious and is already in the works, I worry that I don’t really know what I want to do after I get done with school. I worry that I’m 39 and I don’t have things figured out. And I worried for a bit that my lame-ass attempt at a list means that I’m boring, but I just couldn’t think of one damn thing to add to the list that I really, really, want to do in the next year… because right now, I’m already doing everything I want to do! I’m pretty happy with everything that I’ve got going on in my life… even if I’m not sure where I’m going or what I’m doing. It’s still a pretty bad-ass feeling.

So… happy birthday to me!

And as my gift to you… you can head on over to Amazon and download my first book, Here We Go completely free on Kindle!

 

 

 

A Mom-Writer’s Guide to NaNoWriMo

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! It’s fall! It’s time for pumpkin spice lattes salted caramel hot chocolates and hoodies and football and soon it will be time for my favorite November activity… National Novel Writing Month!

NaNoWriMo 2015 writing buddy

For those not familiar, the goal of NaNoWriMo is to spend the month of November writing a 50,000-word novel. It’s crazy, but it’s not impossible. I think I first participated in (and won!) NaNoWriMo in 2005. Or 2006? I’ve done NaNo several times over the years. Some years I’ve “won” and some years I haven’t. The thing is, even if I didn’t cross the 50K finish line, I still eventually finished the book, no matter what was going on in my life. In 2012, I wrote book number three while going through a divorce and living with my parents. In 2015, I wrote book number four with a 6-month old baby, while also doing a ton of freelance writing. In 2017, I was back at it and somehow managed to write my 50,000 words… while taking my first grad school class at Harvard EXT. With a two and a half-year old. I ended up finishing book number five (almost 94,000 words!) in January of 2018.

And then I did something really crazy. I decided to do my own personal NaNoWriMo of sorts in June/July of 2018. I had an idea for another story, but I was taking two spring classes and already had a class lined up for the summer, so I only had this teeny-tiny window of a couple weeks where I wasn’t going to have any schoolwork. I started planning the story in the spring, and then once my classes ended, I started writing! I budgeted out my time to finish my story by the end of July, giving me two months to write book number six. I hit this weird post-vacation motivation slump but still managed to finish (all 75,000 words!) the night of August 2nd… just a couple days later than I expected.

So… that means in less than a year (five months, actually) I wrote not one, but two books. 169,000 words. (Enough to “win” 3 NaNoWriMos!) Not to mention two literary analysis papers, 4 short stories, and three feature assignments for my classes. Plus all my MotherHustle posts. Plus who knows what else I wrote and sent out into the universe.

And I have a three-year-old, y’all.

So how do you do it? How do you balance work/school, a kid, your home life, and still bang out 50,000 words in 30 days? I’ll tell you what worked for me:

Plan ahead. Okay, so I know there are some “pantsers” out there who prefer to write by the seat of their pants, and if that’s you, then that’s cool. For me, I like to at least have the skeleton of my story figured out so that I know who my characters are and what my big events are. Some people use index cards and post it notes and fancy planners to do their outline or their story map or whatever you want to call it… I just prefer treating myself to a brand-new notebook or legal pad and writing out my story in scenes or blocks.

I’ll jot down a couple sentences about each scene just to kind of figure out where my story is going. I really don’t spend a whole lot of time on these; it’s literally just meant to be a quick “what happens first?” “then what happens?” “then what happens?” “then what happens?” kind of exercise. Of course I might move things around and draw arrows or add notes of things I want to be sure to include when I get to that scene.

When I start writing, I keep the notebook next to me and use it to keep track of where I am. As I’m writing, I add in all my details and dialogue. If my notebook is the skeleton and the bones, this is where I start to add the flesh and muscle of the story. Plus, I like a to-do list, so when I finish with a scene, I can cross that baby off or scribble it out.

Make time to write every day. There’s really only one way to do this, and that’s to sit down and spend the time writing. There are some people that can do these marathon writing sessions where they pound out 12,000 words in a day, but what mom has that kind of time? The thing is, you can still reach the magic number by writing a little bit at a time. It all adds up. Just find the time that works for you.

For me, I usually write around my son’s nap time. I am NOT a morning person, so I can’t set my alarm for an hour earlier and sit down at my desk and expect to churn out anything coherent. In the same token, I am also not really a night owl, either, because usually, after the kid goes to bed, I’m so depleted that I just need to veg out for a little bit and either read or watch Netflix. Hell, sometimes I just go to bed right after we put the kid down.

So nap time usually works best for me. It’s the middle of the day. I’ve gotten to the point where I need some kid-free time and he’s upstairs and out of my hair. I have two (mostly uninterrupted) hours where I can give 100% of my attention to my work. He’s also in preschool three days a week now, so that buys me 9 extra hours a week! This fall, that will probably all be spent on classwork, but see what I mean? You can find time.

And if you REALLY want to do this, but still aren’t convinced you’ll have the time… think about things that you could cut back on. Do you spend a lot of time watching TV? Do you kill a lot of time on your phone looking at social media? Could you plan your day differently so that when you do have some kid-free time, you can use it all for writing? I’m a big multi-tasker. I will empty the dishwasher and fold the laundry while dinner is cooking in the oven if it means that I can steal half an hour to write while my husband does the kid’s bath time, ya know what I mean? You do what you gotta do, mama.

It’s about numbers as much as it is about words. To write 50,000 words in 30 days, you need to write 1,667 words a day. Some days, 2,000 words would flow from my brain, through my hands, and into my document like it was nothing. Then there were days where I would sit there and stare at the same paragraph over and over again, check Twitter, go back to my paragraph, and then realize that nap time was over and I hadn’t really gotten anywhere. I forgave myself for those off days and told myself I’d have to make up the difference the next day, or spread it out over the next couple days. So, like, if I only wrote 1,000 words, I’d tell myself that to make up for the 667 I didn’t get to, I’d either have to write 2,000 words the next two days, or else just knock it all out at once and write 2,300. I hate math, but it really helped me because instead of focusing on how far behind I’d fall, I’d think of it as only adding a couple hundred words to the next day.

Just get it out. This is not the time to make your story perfect. If you spend a lot of time going back and editing as you’re writing, you’re not going to get anywhere. NaNoWriMo is just meant to be a first draft. NaNoEdMo is for editing.

Find your tribe. A support system is everything. There will be some people in your life who think you are absolutely bonkers for attempting something like this. Your toddler will not understand that you have twelve days left in the month to write 20,000 words. You may doubt your ability. You will likely question your own sanity.

But you’re not alone! If you look anywhere on social media, the #NaNoWriMo crowd is full of writers who are ready to cheer you on. In my experience, the writers I follow are already extremely helpful and supportive, but I love Twitter at NaNo time because everybody becomes so vocal in their encouragement. All of a sudden, you feel like you have a boatload of strangers rooting for you. Plus it’s kind of nice to know that there are people out there who are just as crazy as you are.

What do you do when you’re done? You celebrate like crazy, and then, if your story isn’t complete at 50,000 words… you finish it! The post-NaNo crash can be hard, because the next thing you know, the winter holidays are upon you and yunnamedou’re traveling and visiting family and decorating the house and making New Year’s Resolutions… In the middle of all that joy and merrymaking, it can be tempting to take a little break from writing. If you do, that’s fine, but don’t forget to finish what you started!

The 50K I wrote my first year of NaNo eventually became the first book I self-published, Here We Go. Here We Go (and my second book, The One Who Got Away) eventually went on to hang out on the Amazon bestseller list for a little while (even with that awful cover!) alongside authors like Debbie Macomber and Emily Giffin. To this day, I’m still baffled that something I set out to write just for fun ended up doing that.

It took me awhile to finish Here We Go because I lost the entire manuscript when my computer died. I didn’t have the story backed up anywhere. All I had was a printed-out copy. I had to write the entire thing all over again. But because I’d survived that NaNoWriMo, I was determined to finish that damn book.

LESSON LEARNED: ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS BACK UP YOUR WORK.

The One Who Got Away took less time. The third book took even less. And so on. Even though I might have gotten busier, even though I may have had other things going on. Because the more I wrote, the better I got about making and managing my time. And now that I have a kid in preschool and am taking my own classes, you better believe I am all about using every spare second I can grab.

So when NaNoWriMo ends on November 30th, whether you’re a winner, or you hit 50K but your story isn’t done yet, or you just didn’t make it across the finish line…

Keep going. Don’t give up!

Let me know if I can help! I will be cheering for you ON TWITTER!

I’m a Good Mom

The other day was our first MOPS meeting of the year. We had a fabulous brunch as always and I got to catch up with ladies I hadn’t seen in awhile. We also spent some time chatting, playing games, and doing icebreaker activities to get to know our new members.

One of our activities involved revealing two things we’re good at and/or passionate about. The question came around to me, and the easy, obvious answer was writing… I just plain love it. I think I’m good at it. I mean, I’m certainly an okay writer. I’ll admit that I’m not perfect. I get that writing is work and I’m not afraid to make my writing better. I’m ambitious about writing. I put myself out there.

Then I had to think of a second thing.

Man, it’s really hard to come up with something you think you’re good at on the spot.

Cooking? Eh, I can follow recipes. Baking? That’s my husband’s department. I’m SO not crafty. I’m not organized. I’m not a good housekeeper. I’m a horrible singer. I have no musical ability. I don’t really do anything else. What do I do?momsonharvardshirts

WHAT ELSE AM I GOOD AT?!

And then I blurted it out.

“I’m a good mom.”

The second I said it, I thought… Girl… What are you even talking about?

When I was pregnant, being pregnant didn’t bother me. I wasn’t bothered by the fact that I had gained 25 pounds and had a baby kicking me in the ribs while pinching my bladder in half. I didn’t care that he had hiccups constantly. I didn’t even mind that he was a super-active baby. I may have wondered how his elbows didn’t poke clear through my skin as he tumbled around in there, but I was just plain fascinated by the fact that that was my kid in there. Amazing!

I wasn’t even really worried about giving birth. Yeah, there were some parts of the process that made me cringe during childbirth class. Like, I told my husband whatever he did, not to Google “episiotomy.” There were some parts that I was nervous about, but being nervous wasn’t going to change the fact that the baby had to come out one way or another, so… I figured stressing about it wasn’t going to do any good and told myself that when the time came, everything would be just fine.

But there was ONE THING that scared me about becoming a mom. And no book, blog, or class was going to help me overcome that fear.

I was absolutely terrified that I was going to have this baby and not have any idea what to do with him. I was afraid I wouldn’t know how to take care of him. I was afraid that I would be absolutely clueless. I was afraid I’d do something wrong. I was afraid I’d hurt him. I was afraid I’d mess up. I was just plain afraid I wouldn’t be good at being a mom.

I think it was our first night home from the hospital, and my husband and I had been camped out in the living room together (I’d had an emergency C-section and it was just easier to sleep on the couch) with the baby in the bassinet. Around midnight, the little guy woke up crying hysterically. The first real pissed-off baby cries we’d heard him make. And I felt awful. No idea what caused him to cry, no idea what to do about it. Nursed him. Changed his diaper. We took turns holding him, rocking him, walking around the house, all that stuff. And then finally I sat with him and started to sing.

I said above, I’m an awful singer. But I sang “Hush Little Baby” because it seemed like the thing to do. The baby started to quiet down. After a couple verses, I forgot the words so I abandoned that and searched my memory for another lullaby. “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” it was. When that was over, the only other thing song I could think of to sing was the ABCs. By the time I got to “L-M-N-O-P” the baby was asleep in my arms and I thought, deliriously, “I did it! I did it! I’m his mommy and I got him to calm down!”

I was so new to the whole motherhood thing, but that night, I understood immediately that it was my job to do whatever I had to do to calm his fears, stop his tears, and make him happy.

And I think that’s what we do as moms all the time. Whatever the problem is, we try one thing and if that doesn’t work, we try the next and the next, until we find the solution. We work tirelessly to make sure our kids are taken care of.

And just when we think we have everything figured out, the kids grow a little more and all that changes. We have to figure everything out all over again. My boy is still little, but I’ve been at this long enough now to know that every new stage presents itself with unique challenges.

For me, the baby stage was full of sleepless nights… Long after the baby was sleeping through the night, I struggled to get to sleep. And stay asleep. I was exhausted. Because I was constantly worrying about him. Was he eating enough? Sleeping enough? Was he teething? Was it a growth spurt? Was it a developmental leap?

Now that he’s a toddler, I still worry about him, but I sleep like a rock. I need all the energy I can get to keep up with him. I think I might be more tired now than I was when he was a newborn. I didn’t even think that was possible.

When he started his playgroup at 16 months old, even though it was just one day a week, I had to tell myself that it was good that he was getting out of the house and playing with other kids without me around. I had to remind myself that it was good for me, too. But that first day, I had to go to the store and run errands because it was weird being in the house without him. It was too quiet.

This year, he started preschool three days a week and walked right into his classroom without so much as a backwards glance. And as much as I wanted to follow him in and give him a big hug and a kiss, he was already all the way across the room, checking stuff out on the bookshelf and peeking out the window. So I gave him a wave from the doorway and left. I had to go to the store and run errands, but this time it was because I had a ton of stuff to do and was elated to have three uninterrupted hours by myself to actually get it all done!

Being a mom is hard. Being a mom who also works, goes to school, or runs a business is even harder. It’s tough to find a balance between all of the different women you’re supposed to be – mom, wife, employee/business owner, student, daughter, sister, friend…

But I think, for me, once I became a mom, it immediately became the most important job I have. And I know, mom friends, that I’m not alone.

We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to be good moms.

Which is why it is SO easy to get down ourselves and point out our flaws and problems and what we think we’re doing wrong or what we think we need to do better.

You don’t cook healthy and organic at every meal. The kid’s not into peewee soccer or lacrosse or gymnastics. They can’t count to 20 yet. You can’t figure out how to get the kid into bed at night without the evening spiraling into epic meltdown. You wish you could just sit and relax while they entertain themselves quietly and contentedly, but you know in five minutes they’re going to need help with something and you can’t help wanting just a few minutes of peaceandquietpleaseisitnaptimeyet? They’re still not potty-trained. You worry about whether or not your kid is getting too much screen time. You struggle with how to balance being firm and having fun. You have no energy to work out, do your makeup, dress cute, or flirt with your husband. The kid down the street is reading and yours doesn’t even know all his ABCs. You can’t get your kid into the classroom without the teacher having to peel her off of you. You compare yourself to other moms and then remind yourself you shouldn’t do that. Repeatedly. You yelled at your kid. And then you probably felt bad about it.

That stuff happens. To everybody. You are so not alone.

IMG_2656In our quest to be good moms, we worry so much that we’re not doing a good enough job that it’s easy to overlook all the stuff we do right! All the stuff that DOES make us good moms.

Am I the best cook? No, but I try to make sure my kid eats reasonably healthy… and he gets dessert, too. Am I gung-ho into activities and sports and lessons? No, but if he appears interested in something, we’ll try it out. Is my kid decked out in adorable outfits every day? No, because he’s probably just gonna paint or jump in a puddle or play in the dirt, so what’s the point?

My kid wakes up and bounces out of bed in a good mood, goes to preschool, takes swimming lessons, plays outside, is into cars, has bad taste in television, loves his family, chases the cats, makes up songs and tells me silly stories, would sit in the tub for two hours if we let him, has a ridiculously long bedtime routine, and goes to bed most nights without much fuss. What’s most important is that he’s healthy and happy.

So I must be doing something right.

I’m a good mom.

And you are, too.

Disconnected

I wrote a post for MotherHustle recently where I talked about how we miss out on so much because we’re too busy looking at our smartphones, and it has really stuck with me. Whether it’s trying to take pictures of the kid or checking my email or Twitter (or Snapchat or Facebook or Instagram!) I was really starting to feel like I was spending too much time on my phone.

So I made some changes; the first being that I deleted Facebook, Snapchat, and Twitter from my phone.

Then I went a little further. I started culling through my Facebook friends list, because I realized that off my 500-something “friends” there were several (like, hundreds) of people that I haven’t talked to/interacted with/heard from in ages. So I started deleting.

It became a game. I tried to get my number under 400. Then 300. Then 200. I went through and reeeeeally tried to think about whether or not I would consider myself “friends” with each person. Was I hanging on to a connection out of some sort of obligation? Were we “friends” because we went to elementary school together? Because they’re a friend of my husband’s?

There’s been some research and debate on whether or not you can really be “friends” with everybody on your Facebook list. The way I see it, is I don’t need to “collect” friends if I’m not genuinely interested in or interacting with them. They’re all really great people and I’m willing to bet at some point, our paths will cross IRL again, but I’ve got so much other stuff going on right now that I’d much rather attempt to maintain better online relationships with a smaller group of people than have to weed through a bunch of posts from a whole bunch of people I don’t even really talk to.

And it’s not just Facebook. I’ve had my issues with Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat, too. I’ve tweaked my lists and tried to better curate them all. Twitter is mostly for interaction with other writing/reading/blogger/travel peeps. It’s also where I get any form of the news these days. Instagram is for pictures of the kid and cats and the occasional celeb-spotting. And I deleted Snapchat altogether because I was having a hard time bouncing back and forth from one platform of communication to another with the tiny group of people I connected with on there. (Sorry, guys.)

And then, after all that, I’ve still made it a point to try to use my phone less and less throughout the day. It’s a bad habit. It’s definitely an addiction. Our phones are like extra appendages at this point, and it drives me nuts.

I’m trying to limit my screen time and it makes me feel a lot better. Instead of lying in bed first thing in the morning and scrolling through all of my social feeds like I used to do, I get up and go for a walk and listen to a podcast. When my son goes down for his nap, rather than wasting time bouncing from one platform to the next, I have been ignoring my social media mentions and blogging, writing, and doing schoolwork. SHOCKER: I AM GETTING SO MUCH STUFF DONE.

We talk all the time about how busy we are and how we don’t have time to do things, but look at all the time we waste on Facebook and Twitter. Know what I mean?

Anyway… now that I’ve ranted about spending so much time online… I’m going to publish this blog, turn off the laptop, and hide my phone. The kid is going to wake up in an hour and I’ve got homework to do!

Reading: Fledgling – Octavia Butler
Listening: Dear Sugars (podcast)

 

Alone Time

I recently spent the weekend by myself for the first time in I don’t know how long. My husband had to travel for business and suggested that while he was gone, we take our son to the grandparents’ house for a few days since they’d been asking when he could come visit… and then I could get a break.

At first, I thought, no, I don’t need a break! I’m fine! I’m with him every day!

Then I thought, whew, yeah. That might actually be nice.

We drove halfway to my husband’s parents’ house to meet up for lunch and hand off the kid. They were so excited. I was fine until we drove away, and then I was a blubbering mess.

The thing is, our kid is the type of kid who is cool wherever he goes. He totally rolls with the punches. Whenever I drop him off at play school, or his church play group, or the childcare at the co-working space I use, he’s always quick to say “Bye!” and run off and find something to do. So it wasn’t him I was worried about. It was me.

Since becoming a mom, it is strange to suddenly be thrust into solitude.

It wasn’t just my kid that was going to be gone. My husband was leaving, too.

And I had just wrapped up my summer class.

And I had just finished writing book number 6.

Which meant… I really didn’t have anything on my plate.

I mean, I had a to-do list with a zillion little things on it that I’ve been meaning to get around to. Blog posts to write, closets to organize, a dentist appointment, that kind of thing.

So… I checked things off my to-do list. I  stayed up late. I actually managed to sleep in. (If you can call 7:30 sleeping in.) I watched a couple movies… Grown-up movies, not kids’ movies! No animation! No singing! No Nick Jr. this weekend! I did some reading. I wrote some blog posts. I purged old toys and clothes and cleaned and organized. I pulled weeds. I went grocery shopping and wandered around Target. I did some crafty things. I took long walks and long bubble baths and didn’t have to worry about momsonharvardshirtsbeing on anybody’s schedule but my own. Hell, I didn’t have a schedule.

It’s not like I really did anything besides hang out at my house, but I still managed to get a lot done. Even though I didn’t have any major plans, I’m grateful to my husband and in-laws for giving me a few days to myself, even if I didn’t think I needed them. Sometimes you just need to take a break.

But man, it was quiet. And lonely.

I’m glad the kid is back.

Even though I know I’ll be tired of singing the Max and Ruby theme song by the end of the day, and even though I’ll be exhausted come bedtime… It’s good to have him home.

This question’s for the moms…
How do you spend your alone time? That is, when you finally get some?

 

 

Finished!

I was making good progress on book number 6, writing about 2,000 words a day. On Thursday, August 2, after my class ended at 9:30 p.m. I decided it was time to pull an all-nighter. Well, not really an all-nighter. I stayed up til just past midnight to finish the book.

This was probably the most anti-climactic finishing of a book I’ve ever experienced. I think because I was chugging along at such a great pace and didn’t really have much more to write, maybe just a couple thousand words. There was no pot of coffee, I didn’t have to stay up and see the sun rise or anything… it just kind of happened.

That’s how I’ve felt about the last two stories I’ve written. They both came very easily. And now that they’re finished… I don’t know what to do with myself.

I don’t know about other writers, but when I go to bed at night, I’m lying in bed, and I’m picturing the scene I just wrote, or what comes next, and I’m trying to play it all out in my head like a movie… Not that I have a clear picture of who would “play” each character or anything like that. Instead, it’s more like I’m imagining the words I’m going to write.

That sounds strange, right? Instead of picturing the characters doing what I’m going to write about, I’m picturing what the words will look like on the page and how they’ll sound when they’re read.

I’m weird, right? It’s okay, you can tell me I’m weird.

Anyway, now that those books have been set aside for a little while, it’s crazy to go to bed and NOT have the mental keyboard in my head clacking away.

It’s also crazy to actually have time to do other stuff. I’ve got book number 5 to read over and edit, blogs to write, books to read for school next semester, and a zillion little around-the-house tasks on my to-do list.

But for now… I’m just going to do a little happy dance and enjoy the fact that, once again, I somehow managed to arrange 75,000 words into what I hope people with think is a great story.

And then I’m going to go do some laundry. The glamorous life of a writer.

July Update

I swear, I don’t know where the summer went. We spent the first couple weeks of July in Canada, but since we got home, it seems like the rest of the month disappeared.

Canada was great… We stayed in Ottawa and spent a weekend in Montreal. You can read about our adventures there on Go With The Goodwins!

My summer journalism class has been going really well. Only a couple more weeks and I’ll be done! Then I’ll have a month to relax before class starts in September. I’m taking a creative nonfiction writing class and a contemporary literature/music class. SO EXCITED about both. Already started some of my reading for the lit class.

One of my goals for this summer was to finish my work in progress by the end of July. I don’t know what I was thinking, trying to do that and my class. And I don’t know what my problem was, but there were just some days where I had ZERO motivation. None, whatsoever. I don’t know if it was a vacation hangover or what, but it took me awhile to get my butt back in gear. It’s not like it was writer’s block. The whole story is all mapped out… I just did not want to sit down in front of the computer.

But I finally got over it. How? I just sat down and made myself write. I did 1,300 words one day and then 1,500 the next. Then I figured out if I do 2,000 words a day, I might be able to finish by the first weekend of August and for some reason, I kind of stuck with it. I’ve been doing 2K a day ever since, with a couple more productive days thrown in here and there.

Today is July 30th… Don’t think I’ll be finishing the book by tomorrow. And that’s okay.

I thought about pulling an all-nighter this past weekend, which I think is how I finished 2/3 of my last books. I was just so excited to sit down and pound those stories out. Not that I wanted to be done with those stories, but because I was just so happy with how they were going!

If I did that, I probably could’ve finished this book, but this time, I didn’t want to rush things. I guess I am so glad that I got my groove back, I’m trying to enjoy it. After being in such a funk for a few weeks, it’s nice to be humming right along again.

So… stay tuned. I should be done in about a week!

Reading: Veronica – Mary Gaitskill