More of This

img_2537

“A man who has been in another world does not come back unchanged.”
–C.S. Lewis

Four months into a pandemic and subsequent state shutdown, I sat on the deck behind our house.

The mid afternoon sun was still high in the sky. A warm breeze rippled across the pages of the book in my lap and the sound of my children’s laughter danced across the driveway. I looked up to see all three kids gathered around a clump of dirt and grass.

“Mom! We found a toad!” My daughter Ellis’s eyes were bright as she pointed to the knobby brown creature at their feet. I smiled and watched my kids gently poke the toad with blades of grass before hopping after him—completely caught up in childlike wonder and delight. For the first time in what felt like weeks, I took a deep, grateful, breath.

“I want more of this.” The thought, unbidden and surprising, floated across my brain. Our days lately had been chaotic and stressful. The world was on fire. I was tightly wound, trying to do a full-time job remotely while juggling three kids and the busyness of farm life. Everything felt impossible. Every day felt like failure.

But as I gazed around the backyard, taking in the brilliant blue of the summer sky and the flash of small feet in the grass, I felt something new. Peace.

Our days were hard, but they were beautiful. For the first time since becoming a working mom seven years before, I had space to simply be. I wrote every morning. I read every night. We took walks to visit the cows. We picked handfuls of dandelions in the field. We ate picnics on the lawn and visited Kyle in the tractor. Everything felt smaller, slower, gentler. And I wanted more.

Looking back now, I think this was the start of the shift inside me.

I would not come back unchanged.

In his book “Life is in the Transitions,” Bruce Feiler says the average person can expect to experience three dozen “disruptors” in their adult life—about one every twelve to eighteen months. He defines a disruptor as any deviation from normal life, from the birth of a child to a devastating diagnosis to a worldwide pandemic. It doesn’t matter if the life transition is positive or negative (or a mixture of both), once we go through it, we  cannot stay the same. Change is inevitable.

It all comes down to our expectations.

If we expect life to be neat and linear (as an Enneagram One like me is prone to do), we’re in for a world of hurt. If, however, we view transitions as a fundamental part what it means to be human, we start to see possibility.

Today marks one such moment of possibility for me.

I’m taking a career pause to focus more on my family.

(Talk about burying the lede.)

Today I will say goodbye to a job I’ve held and loved for over ten years to make space for something new. I will release who I am now to find what I longed for all those months ago: more of this.

More play, less rigidity.
More calm, less frenzy.
More grace, less productivity.
More connection, less achievement.

I’ll admit that I’m afraid. I’m not sure who I am if not a director of communications. So much of my identity is tied up in my job and being a working mother.

But when I close my eyes, I see that woman on the deck clearly. Her feet are bare and freckles speckle her nose. Her shoulders are relaxed and her face is soft. The sound of her children’s gleeful laughter fills the air and, for the first time in her adult life, she considers what it would feel like to slow down.

Years later, I’m ready to find out.

Gratitude and Grief

img_6138

Gratitude is a funny thing.

I feel it in two ways. Sometimes gratitude buzzes gently in my fingertips. My body flushes with warmth. I fold into my husband’s arms. My children giggle together in the sand. What joy. What a miraculous life.

Other times, gratitude is an electric shock searing my innards. Breath leaves my lungs. Our car narrowly avoids a collision. Children are gunned down in their schools. I consider how much I have, and—just as quickly—how much I have to lose.

It’s paralyzing sometimes. All this joy and fragility.

But I hold it all. I have to.

Because gratitude and grief aren’t mutually exclusive. They flow from the same source. They feel the same in my body.

Both pump like blood in my ears.
Both make my heart ache.

Both remind me what it means to be alive in this beautiful, broken place.

You Don’t Have to be Perfect to be Good

img_8962-2

One of my children’s wails filled the air. I turned my head from the sink full of post-dinner dishes to see Anders dart into the kitchen with a guilty look on his face.

“What happened?” I asked, trying to keep my voice level and resist the urge to say what I was really thinking: What did you do this time?

“Nothing,” Anders’ face flashed an impish grin, but it faltered under my gaze. “Ellis fell.”

“No,” corrected my husband Kyle, entering the room with Anders’ sobbing sister in his arms. “He pulled the blanket out from under her and she hit her head on the floor.”

“Anders! Why did you do that?” As the words left my mouth, I knew they were pointless. My oldest—a child of rash impulses and wild energy—rarely knows why he does things. Yet sometimes I can’t stop myself from asking.

“I dunno,” he said, the return of his grin infuriating me.

I gritted my teeth and took a deep breath. Anders had been relentless in his provocations all day—pushing his younger siblings, defying my instructions, and generally wreaking havoc on our day and my sanity. I could feel 12 hours’ worth of tension pulsing through my forehead like a heartbeat, but instead of shouting “Go to the stairs!” for the 164th time since breakfast, I hissed, “Go outside. Now.”

Anders’ eyes blinked in surprise, but he didn’t stop to ask questions. “Ok!” He raced to the back door.

“Wha—?,” Kyle started. His confusion was understandable—I’m rarely a mom (or person) who deviates from the plan. Going outside after dinner was definitely not our normal routine.

“We didn’t get outside at all today,” I said, massaging my temples with my fingertips. “I had a bunch of meetings, and he has way too much pent-up energy. I’m going to run him before bed.”

Kyle slowly nodded, “Ok. Probably a good idea.”

The warm summer air ruffled my hair as Anders and I stepped onto the deck. He ventured a glance back at me, still not sure if he was in trouble. I put my hands on his narrow shoulders and bent down to meet his eyes. “Here’s what we’re going to do. You’re going to run up the hill to the calf barn and I’m going to time you.”

“Ok!” Already coiled like a spring, he leapt into action before the words left my mouth. I pulled out my phone to start the timer.

As Anders sprinted up the grassy hill, his shirt flapped up and I saw the outline of bones on his small back. A wiry six-year-old, he barely tipped the scale over 40 pounds. Yet he was strong enough to carry two gallons of milk up from the basement by himself, veins bulging in his arms and neck. Every inch of him was bone and muscle. My heart tightened as I realized—not for the first time—that my first baby was growing into a boy.

Anders slammed into my waist after another circuit from barn to back door, his skin flushed red. “Was that faster than last time?” he gasped.

I glanced at my phone. “You cut five seconds off your time,” I pushed his sweaty blonde hair off his forehead. “Good job, bud.”

He breathed heavily and I couldn’t help but notice all the malice was gone from his jawline. His face was soft and open—the same face I had adored since he was born. I squeezed his shoulder.

“Do you want to go for a walk?” I said, surprising us both for the second time that night. I gestured to the berm between two of our alfalfa fields.

“Really? At bedtime?” He looked up at me with cautious hope, arms still around my waist.

“Sure. Why not?” I said with a grin.

“Yes!” he said. We broke apart and walked side-by-side up the same hill he had been running. The sun was obscured by a bank of clouds, but it was still warm enough to be comfortable in our t-shirts. After the murky humidity of the afternoon, the breeze was cleansing.

I felt like I could breathe for the first time in days.

In the golden evening light, Anders’ steady stream of chatter was a blessing instead of a barrage. When was the last time I did something with just him? I wondered with a twinge of guilt as he dashed under the old dead tree. Before his siblings were born, we used to walk on the farm together every weekend. Now, years later, it was rare for him to have my complete attention.

“Run, Mom!” Anders’ voice startled me out of my reprieve. “You don’t want a branch to fall on you!” I laughed and obeyed. As he dashed ahead, I wondered if four months of quarantine had crushed his spirit as fully as it had my own. The walls of our house seemed to be closing in most days as I unsuccessfully juggled three kids and a full-time job that had gone fully remote.

We drew closer to the edge of the alfalfa field and Anders reached out. “Mom, I’m gonna have to hold your hand when we get to the road,” he said, twining his fingers through mine and pulling me forward. I smiled and rubbed my thumb along his hand, noting the lack of baby fat.

“Are you tired of being at home?” I asked as our feet hit the dirt road and we headed east.

“No,” he said after a pause, clicking his tongue and exhaling quickly—a habit whenever he’s thinking hard. “I like being with my family.”

I winced slightly at the sweet honesty. “I’m so glad, bud.” My fingers tightened around his as I asked the question weighing heavily on my heart.

“Is there anything I can do to make things easier? To be a better mom?”

Anders brow furrowed. “I guess you could try not to yell so much,” he said distractedly, watching a brown toad hop across the road. “Like, you could say, ‘Please don’t do that’ instead of yelling. Because sometimes your voice is kinda mean and I get a little scared.”

“That’s fair,” I murmured as my heart twisted. Clearly my stress was visible to everyone around me. I remembered a few nights before when I told Kyle I thought Anders’ bad behavior—the hitting, pushing, his short fuse—might be my fault. After months of 24/7 family togetherness without a break, I was struggling to cope too. Most days I felt like a pot on the verge of boiling over. My temper flared easily, and I lacked patience and grace. Kyle listened and empathized, but he also pointed out that I was doing a lot of good things too. “You take walks. You do crafts. You’re giving these kids a great life,” he said. “You don’t have to be perfect to be a good mom.”

Kyle’s words danced in my head as Anders and I cut through a field of tall grass on our way back to the house. Surely that’s what I wanted my impetuous, strong-willed firstborn to know too: You don’t have to be perfect to be good.

“We’ll work on it, together, ok?” I said, squeezing Anders’ hand. “I’m sorry for getting angry sometimes. Just remember I love you no matter what.”

“I love you too, Mom,” he said.

He released my hand and raced ahead, whooping and waving his arms. I couldn’t help but think that I always wanted to remember him like this: bright eyes and windswept hair, a spring in his step and a gentle face. Pure energy and joy.

When I started running after him, I felt my own face soften too.

//

Posted today in celebration of Anders’ eighth birthday.

The Folkema Family // January 2022

These are the days

The Folkema Family // January 2022

001 /
These are the days
of sweatpants and scrunchies
of diligent tracking and incessant googling
of eyes that burn with fatigue by dinnertime
of numbers on the scale that aren’t going down as quickly as I’d hoped
of spontaneous flashes of rage, despair, or crushing gratitude
of success being measured in naps, nursing sessions, and baskets of clean laundry
of feeling like I’m never doing enough
of feeling like I’m never enough

002 /
These are the days
of ships in the night
of zone coverage parenting
of marital miscommunications and bags under our eyes
of saying “I miss you” even though we live under the same roof
of his hand squeezing mine before I crawl out of bed to feed the baby
of foot rubs, conspiratorial grins, and lunch dates in the kitchen
of knowing it won’t always be this way
of a steady kind of love

003 /
These are the days
of newborn smiles and overlapping chatter
of stuffie battles and balloon scavenger hunts
of stepping on Legos and small dinosaurs on the rug
of midnight wakings for nightmares, empty water bottles, or a baby’s hungry cry
of asking “Where are your socks?”
of Saturday morning pancakes with syrup (so much syrup)
of rowdy wrestling and whispered apologies
of sticky kisses that linger on my cheek

These are our days,
long and short
heavy and light
ordinary and magic

gutting and full of grace

A day in the life

As part of the #onedayhh challenge with Laura Tremaine on November 9, 2021, I documented moments throughout my day.

Sometimes this life feels like a mix of frenetic flurry and rote sameness. I rush through on autopilot and can disregard the joy of imperfect, normal days. But on this day, I wanted to pay attention. To be awake. To fill my camera roll with proof of ordinary beauty and, hopefully, remember it all.

5:30 am // good morning
Since going back to the physical office and having to do things like 1) wear hard pants and 2) actually do my hair, I started waking up 15 minutes earlier to allow myself time to get ready for work and also time to sit in a quiet kitchen. Usually I write, sometimes I read or do a 10 minute meditation. There’s always coffee and a candle. The important thing is that I start my day alone, in stillness, before—as Anne Lamott says—the world gets its mitts on me.

6:45 am // switching gears
At 6:30, the computer snaps closed. Time for productivity. I empty the dishwasher, let out the dog, fill water bottles, put clothes in the dryer, prepare daycare snacks, and make breakfast. The Lazy Genius told me to “decide once” whenever possible, so Mon/Wed/Fri breakfast is oatmeal with raisins and Tues/Thurs is eggs, bacon, and toast. Sometimes I do all the things in continued silence and sometimes I pop in my earbuds for 15 minutes of Jim Dale and The Prisoner of Azkaban. Both are delightful.

7:00 // release the hounds
Breakfast time. During the busy seasons on the farm, Kyle often doesn’t make it in for dinner, but we can always count on him for breakfast. Our true family meal. I butter toast, fill milk cups, and pick forks up off the floor. The kids argue about who would win in a fight between a unicorn dragon and a regular dragon. Kyle fields texts from dairy employees and fights for his share of the bacon. It’s loud and chaotic and one of my favorite times of day.

8:15 am // let’s hit the road
Kyle and I currently split the morning drop-offs. Anders has to be to school 45 minutes earlier than the little kids, so Car 1 with Kyle leaves at 7:40 and Car 2 with me leaves at 8:15. There are (seemingly) millions of bags to pack, papers to find, and shouted reminders to “brush your teeth now or we’re going to be late!” This morning Ellis caught the early transport with K and A and I’m feeling the luxury of only having to load *one* squirming kid into the car. (So why do I still feel sweaty, dehydrated, and like I’m forgetting at least ten things?)

9:30 am // where I spent most of my hours
In the office. When I’m not momming or farm wifeing, you’ll find me here: shoes off, cross-legged in a desk chair, and rocking some massive blue light blockers. The life of a director of communications looks different from day to day, but this November Tuesday will involve attending meetings, editing newsletter stories, peeing constantly (because #30weekspregnant), and talking about life-altering things like kerning and serial commas.

12:00 pm // working lunch
“Ask not what you can do for your country. Ask what’s for lunch.” —Orson Welles. In this case, lunch is chicken, rice, and Parisian carrots from Freshly eaten at my desk. Don’t let the American workaholic vibes fool you—I’m a firm believer in things like boundaries, mental space, and breaks from fluorescent lighting. But on Tuesdays and Thursdays I blaze through the noontime hour with a fork in one hand and a computer mouse in the other so I can leave early to pick up Anders from school Lego League. I don’t love all the juggling that this #workingmom life requires, but I DO love blasting AC/DC in a nearly empty office building while I do it.

4:05 pm // pick up kids
“Mommy!” Two small bodies slam into my legs. “Hey guys!” I say, smoothing Ellis’s hair out of her face and picking Henning up for a hug. “How was your day?” “Great!” says Ellis as she squirms out of my grasp and runs down the stairs to look at a bug smashed in the grill of my car. Henning wraps his arms around my head and plants a slobbery kiss on my forehead. “I played choo-choo trains!” he declares. “That’s awesome!” I say, squeezing him back. I chat for a minute with the teacher at the door. Parents haven’t been allowed inside our daycare since November 2020 due to COVID precautions. Though it’s convenient to have my kids and bags handed out like a childcare curbside pickup, I miss seeing their classrooms, talking to all their teachers, and meeting their little friends. The disconnect between my day and theirs feels even bigger in a pandemic world.

We load and drive the three blocks to Anders’ school to pick him up. I can go in this building, but the ever-present hand sanitizer on the teacher’s desk and a masked parent reminds me of all we’ve lost. The drive home is bedlam—all three kids talking and singing at once. I try to ask questions, to glean nuggets about who they are and what they do when they’re away from me, but eventually give up. “Hey Mom!” Anders shouts through the noise. “Can we jump on the trampoline when we get home?” I bite my lip, thinking how much easier it would be to prep dinner if they were in the house, but smile and say, “Sure” to a chorus of “YAY!”s.

We park in the driveway and I unbuckle seat belts. “C’mon, Henning!” Ellis says, taking her younger brother’s hand and dragging him after Anders. Squeals of joy fill the air as they bounce into a pile of dry leaves on the trampoline. After a day apart, these three don’t skip a beat. I turn my face towards the waning golden sun and breathe deeply. I’m reminded—not for the first time—that it’s not really about the deficit. The time away from each other. It’s about how moments like this feel—warm and wild and together. Suddenly I’m in no rush to go inside.

5:15 pm // all the flurried things
Drop bags by the back door. Shoes off. Wash hands. Kids in front of PBS Kids. Deconstruct work wardrobe. Sweatpants. Slippers. Scrunchie. Harry Potter on my earbuds. Unload bags. Wash bentos and snack containers. Feed the dog. Swat a fly. Light a candle because the sun is gone. Text “Will you be home for dinner?” to the farmer. Heat up dinner.

6:05 pm // dinnertime
We do have a proper table, but it’s far away in the dining room and usually covered in kraft paper and markers. Thus, 99.9% of our meals happen here at the kitchen counter. Not mad about it. Tonight we dined on salmon (kids) and chicken (adults because the kids claim to be sick of chicken) and did a Thanksgiving prompt card from Little Great Design Co. No one spilled their milk and Kyle came in halfway through. Great success.
(PS: A fun fact. The twinkly lights you see have been hanging in our kitchen since Christmas 2019. We hadn’t gotten around to taking them down when the pandemic hit and then I decided they sparked joy. If anyone wants to study the lifespan of Christmas lights left on basically 24 hours a day for two years, I have the data.)

7:15 // bedtime
Books are read and teeth are brushed. 3/3 kids want to hug my belly before bed and each one giggles when they feel their baby brother’s sharp kicks. Henning and Ellis are asleep within minutes after their door is closed and Anders plays Legos in his room until it’s lights out at 8:30. As for the adults? Kyle gave me a hug and headed back outside to the fields. I’ll spend the next hour making lunches, tidying up, and folding laundry. Oh. And eating a cookie.

8:39 pm // I am who I am
Dolly Parton once said, “Find out who you are and do it on purpose.” Well. I’m old, tired, and completely ok with it. When Kyle works late, I abandon all pretense to the contrary and happily crawl into bed before 9 pm. My face is washed, the dishwasher is running, and I’ll be asleep within the hour.


The Colors of a Life

img_0801

If our family was a box of Crayola markers, we’d be neon. Possibly scented. All cherry reds and fluorescent oranges and other shades that burn your retinas.

My three kids are precocious, strong-willed, and have a standard volume that’s at least 10 decibels above an ideal “indoor voice.” I’m impatient, hard-nosed, and have a temper that can blaze as quickly as sparks on a pile of dry leaves. Kyle’s not far off that. Within our five, there isn’t a docile one in the bunch. Our home is a place of vivid colors, loud noises, and a general lack of calm. We have been affectionately described as a family that is “active,” “busy,” and “full of life.”

We are not delicate roses—painted in muted shades of dusty maroon and pink. Nay. We are fall leaves—sharp edges and vibrant hues of scarlet and yellow. A riot of colors. We flame from within.

It’s a lot sometimes. On days when I feel overwhelmed, overstimulated, and over-everythinged, I long for a life with blander hues. Pastel blue. Taupe. Maybe a nice earthy beige when I’m solo parenting again at dinnertime. I dream of days with less intensity, noise, and near-constant touching.

But that’s not what I want. Not really.

Deep down, my soul exults in all the color.

I’m stopped in my tracks by the way the warm breeze flickers through my son’s blonde curls. The sound of three kids giggling in a pile on the trampoline. The acrid smell of leaves burning down the road. The feel of small kicks from my growing belly. The flash of warmth when Kyle’s fingers brush across my neck.

Our frenetic days—a rainbow of colors and cacophony—look different in the light of gratitude.

And I want it all.

I want boisterous singing in the car and sticky kisses on my cheek. I want golden afternoons in the grass and small bodies twined around my legs. I want to embrace joy that assaults my senses and sends shivers of recognition down my spine.

Instead of a tumult, I want to see our life like a fall tree—

unapologetic and bright
steadfast through changing seasons
breathtaking in its beauty.

Things I say on a Tuesday

img_8075

Good morning. How did you sleep? What did you dream? Get dressed. Go potty. There’s nothing wrong with these pants. They are not tight. They do not itch. They are not the worst in the whole entire universe. We don’t say hate.

Here’s your milk. Here’s your oatmeal. You can’t switch to the pink bowl. Stay on your stool. Jersey doesn’t need any more treats. Here’s a paper towel. Stop kicking your brother. I don’t know if orcas eat sharks. Maybe. Who will you play with today? Who is your best friend? What do you do when you’re away from me?

You’re going to be late. Where are your socks? Where is your library bag? Did you finish your homework? Get your boots on. Can someone let the dog out? Do I smell a poopy diaper? Pick a mask. Here’s your backpack—go with Dad. I love you. The rest of you: three minutes. Finish your picture. Find your socks. Let’s change that diaper. Have fun today. I love you too.

What time is my video meeting? Where is my laptop charger? I need to change into a nice shirt. The joggers stay. Why is the internet not working? Where are my AirPods? Why am I hungry? Bob, you’re on mute. What’s the deliverable? What’s your target drop date? Who needs to be looped in? I’ll have to circle back with you on that.

Out of the car. Just one episode. Time for dinner. It’s chicken. You don’t know if you like it until you try it. Here’s your milk. Dad will be late. No, you can’t do fieldwork. Because it’s a school night. Because sleep helps you grow. Hands to yourself. Use nice words. Cake isn’t on the menu. What did you do today? What was the best part? Did you have fun?

Brush your teeth. Go potty. Where are your pajamas? Why are you naked? We have time for three books. Stay on the couch. Don’t climb on my face. Did you lick me? Thanks for the kisses. Now I lay me down to sleep. One more sip. One more hug. I remember—it was fun. We’ll do it again. Sweet dreams. I love you the most.

***
(Epilogue: You’re home early. Ted Lasso? With ice cream and a cookie? Yes. Obviously. You have the best ideas. You are my favorite.)

Socks and hidden grace

“Another one!?” I exhale through my mouth and bend to look under the couch. Among the dust bunnies and lost Legos is a small red sock.

I grab it and add it to the pile already clutched in my hand. The setting sun’s light dances across the floor as I toss the sock into a basket of others gathered from all corners of the house.

“This is an exercise in futility,” I murmur into the empty room.

My children leave socks everywhere, you see.

Maybe their feet get hot. Maybe they want to wiggle their toes. Maybe they reject restrictive foot fabric on moral, religious, or philosophical grounds. Whatever the reason, my children shed socks like molting birds shed feathers. I find them in the car, on kitchen stools, in the dog’s crate, crumpled in the corners of the living room, and even under my pillow.

llogically, the wayward socks feel like a referendum on me. I can’t keep my house clean. I can’t keep socks on small feet. I can’t control the world (or the people in it).

I’ve been in a slump lately. When I shared this with a friend, she said, “I think the secret to getting out of a funk is to practice gratitude.” A line I read by John Milton seemed to agree: “Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world.”

I started small. Every day for a week, I wrote a list of things I was thankful for in my journal. After a few days of intentional noticing, I started to feel the gentle flickers of awe within.

Simple things sparkled: warm eggs cooked with flecks of bacon, the sound of my children giggling in the dark, a boyish grin on my husband’s face when he said, “I like you in that sweater,” the very existence of breath in my lungs. Imagine my surprise when one day my hand—as if of its own accord—wrote “small socks scattered everywhere.”

Because this isn’t really a story about socks.

It’s about love for the people who wear them.

It’s about faithfulness.

It’s about seeing the world as bigger than I allow it to be.

And, above all, it’s about recognizing small flashes as what they really are: breadcrumbs leading me back to grace.

He Shows Us How to Be Brave

0be8fc98-0016-41fb-80d0-8071f1f91602

The day before his birthday, I asked Dairy Man what he wanted to do to celebrate. He thought about it for a beat and then said, “Let’s just hop in the car and drive.” My planner brain instantly had questions: “Where are we driving exactly? How long will it take? Should we pack a lunch? What about naps? Does the car have gas?” But I (mostly) quieted my thoughts and said, “Ok.”

Our kids are not going to learn spontaneity from me. How to make comprehensive packing lists? Yes. How to organize Legos by color and type? Sure. How to make a detailed itinerary to maximize every moment of their European vacation? Definitely.

But he will teach them how to be adventurers.

I tend to play it safe. Kyle tends to take (calculated) risks. His fearlessness—going all the way back to his days as a high school BMXer—has allowed him to take chances in life, trust his instincts, and adapt to changing circumstances. He welcomes failure because he knows there is no better way to learn. He doesn’t get mired in “what ifs,” but instead asks, “Why not?”

In a lot of ways, I want to be more like him.

Yesterday morning as I flew around the house gathering snacks, sunscreen, and extra underwear for the kids (because you never know) for our ambiguous adventure, my pragmatic calculations told me it wasn’t worth the stress. But as we drove away from the farm—Kyle singing along with the radio and corn fields flying past the windows—I felt my muscles loosen and my fingers unclench. As they always do.

We ended up at a small beach that Kyle remembered from his childhood. The sand was warm under our feet as we kicked off our shoes and tramped eagerly over the dunes, fingertips grazing the tall grass. Anders and Ellis squealed as they followed Kyle through small pools of water and over makeshift bridges of driftwood. Their hesitancy at the water’s edge was forgotten when he took their hands. It was clear that our meandering drive had brought us exactly where we needed to be.

Happy 35th, my love. Thank you for pushing us. Thank you for often knowing what we really need.

Thank you for showing us how to be brave.

img_0256
img_0286
img_0282

How to Work from Home with Kids During Quarantine

8e04bd6e-95ee-4224-818c-036bc93460ad

This week Wednesday marked day 100 (ONE HUNDRED, people) of my working from home with three kids underfoot. Quarantine has been a swirling whirlpool of joy, rage, anxiety, and peace–often all within the same five minutes. If you want to read more about that, check out this post on my Instagram.

I’ve learned that gratitude and sorrow live together. In that spirit, after you read my more introspective thoughts about life lately, I suggest you come back here for this highly useful and not at all hyperbolic list.

How to Work from Home with Three Kids During Quarantine

Maintain regular hours
Even though time has felt like a meaningless quagmire since March, try to keep a consistent schedule. Tell your coworkers you are most available at 5:30 a.m., from 9:15-10:23 a.m., 1:00-3:03 p.m., and after 7:30 p.m. when you have successfully cajoled, coerced, and threatened three children into their beds. Realistically, you are trying to get a week’s worth of work done in 15 minute increments between peeling stickers off the television and arguing about the fluidity of time (no, it is not snacktime again).

Keep a dedicated office space
A clean desk is a sign of a clean mind. If that’s true, try not to think about the state of your mind while working amidst mashed crayons, a child’s left shoe, three crumpled tissues, and a pile of kinetic sand. Ideally, your workspace should have good lighting, labeled file folders, and an organic soy candle that smells like seawater. If you find yourself hiding from the kids–who think your laptop is a video portal to Grandma–under the dining room table to send an email, you are doing something wrong.

Get dressed
It’s important to dress for the job you want. I know it’s been 100+ days of quarantine and you are low-level dead inside, but no one will take you seriously in your high school show choir t-shirt and faded black joggers. Wear something clean and professional for your Zoom call, for goodness sake. Your coworkers don’t want to play “guess the stain” with whatever that is on your shoulder. (Sweet Jehoshaphat, please let it be applesauce.)

Create an optimal environment for meetings
Talk to your spouse and other cohabitants about your work hours and expectations. It’s important they know when you cannot be disturbed. During video calls with work, make sure the little people are subdued with hours of Shaun the Sheep, bowls of dry cereal, and proper instructions: Do not fight, do not yell. Do not use the couch as a trampoline. Do not call for me unless someone is actively bleeding. Provide the baby with ample toys to be entertained at your feet for two hours. Do not despair if, instead, he chooses to eat dog hair or clings to your leg wailing like a deranged pterodactyl. That’s why you have a mute button.

Get enough sleep
Sleep is vital to your survival. Get at least eight hours in a dark room that smells like lavender and is kept at precisely 65 degrees. Pay no attention to the child on the baby monitor singing “I Just Can’t Wait To Be King” at dawn or your 3 a.m. insomnia spurred by rising infection rates, systemic racism, the patriarchy, or the work project you’ve been ignoring for three months. Dreams about the futility of the human condition also have no place here.

Practice self care
Working from home is stressful. Being in a worldwide pandemic is stressful. Take time to recharge your batteries and hide in the kitchen eating spoonfuls of ice cream from the freezer while the kids watch just one more episode. Sure, your childless coworker Karen is managing to log nine hours a day on Microsoft Teams while also taking up needlepoint, meditating for two hours before bed, and writing a screenplay, but on Tuesday you went to the bathroom alone without anyone barging in and that should be celebrated too.

img_8691