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Let's Talk Transitions

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  Today's post is a lengthy one, but may be helpful for anyone dealing with transitions. I’m not normally a complainer. I was raised in a very “suck it up and handle things - quietly” way. Maybe it was the Irish Catholic immigrant relatives who had to pull themselves up by their bootstraps trickling down into our generations, but here we are. Yet, when life gets tough...sometimes you just have to admit it. As mothers, in particular, we’ve also been “mom shamed” into being (or, at least, SHOWING) the epitome of the perfectly-together parent. Juggle all issues, big and small. Remember every detail. Make the perfect, nutritious meals. Save the world...while meeting our own deadlines and work responsibilities (and never, ever be seen with a pizza box in your hand). So, our family is undergoing some transitions. Admittedly, on their own I’d be fine juggling them, but as they build it’s getting tougher and tougher to keep it together. I feel awful even writing that “out loud.” People are dealing with divorces, hurricane devastation, deaths, illness...and I’m like, “yeesh, life’s kinda hard.” I officially am the worst person ever. Accept my apologies, but it’s good for us to talk about our problems (yes, sometimes even to Internet strangers) to deal with them better, right? Here’s where we are. The biggest transitions we’re coping with are: a fast-approaching new baby (we’re due with child #3 in late October), my starting a new job teaching at the high school level (I’m a K-12 librarian who hasn’t taught this age in several YEARS...and the teachers have some high expectations and have booked me solid for the next month), and our oldest son starting kindergarten, and I’m S-T-R-E-S-S-E-D. Throw in silly stuff like a new house we’re still trying to settle into with a kazillion projects to complete, my husband dealing with his own stressful work stuff, what seems like endless appointments (OB-GYN, kid appointments, vet visits, car tune-ups, Open House, faculty meetings, etc.), and general day-to-day routine juggling, it’s exhausting. Mentally. Physically. Everything. So far, our son has handled kindergarten better than he’s handled, well, any transition EVER so far. His behavior is kinda off at home now, but with the shift in his schedule (and no more naptime), we’ve expected that. But he hasn’t experienced a full 5-day week yet, so I’m still holding my breath. When this new baby comes, I’m just hoping that the fact that he has school to attend to will help him cope with his second sibling better than he did with his first. And I don’t even have the time to be as fearful about how our second-born will handle things; oh, how things change the more you have. I won’t delve too deeply into my job situation, but suffice it to say that the switch that I agreed to is turning out to be far more stressful than I was told it would be. Let’s just say that my anxiety is running pretty high right now. Which makes one of my biggest priorities (trying to ensure that I’m taking care of myself for the sake of this baby) fall to the wayside. It’s easy enough to forget that I’m even expecting while caring for two other littles, but getting into the swing of things at work, dealing with a new schedule, and all the added planning and stress...yyyyeah. I’m feeling guilt mixed with frustration wrapped up in a big ol’ blanket of stress.  

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HOW I’M DEALING - AND HOW YOU CAN, TOO   Since I truly hate to just complain, I figured I’d share some constructive ways I’m trying my best to handle things. I also posted some tips for transition a couple of years ago when we were experiencing our last huge time of change, so some of these ideas overlap (but maybe some of the old ideas will offer you some comfort and help, too). And, of course, if you’re dealing with any of those HUGE life events I mentioned earlier, you may scoff at some of these. To you, I offer a huge hug and my prayers. HOWEVER YOU HAVE TO ORGANIZE THINGS, DO IT. Some people use an app on their phones. Others need to write lists and have a paper planner (*raises hand*). Post-Its. Google Calendar. Whatever works for you, simply recording and organizing your thoughts helps. Isn’t it weird how not accomplishing a single thing can actually alleviate a little of the stress? There’s truth in it, though. Have you ever had those nights that you just can’t sleep because there are too many things swirling in your head? Simply writing down those nagging problems is enough to let your brain know that “it’s officially been recorded and we’ll handle them when we can; for now, they’re cleared out and you can rest.” You may still worry, but it’s not nearly as bad. Plus, crossing things off your to-do list - even those minor tasks - is pretty darn satisfying. CHUNK YOUR TIME INTO MANAGEABLE PIECES. When I look at our wall calendar, I can feel my chest get heavier. (When I look into next month, I get even more stressed - while I can’t wait for our super-busy-September to be over, if I wish it away I’ll also be wishing away baby prep time!) Even when I look at the week ahead, I have to shake my head and sigh. So, how do we deal? (Other than list-making, hee hee.) While I try to stay familiar with what’s to come, I try to look at the week ahead...then juuuust the next day or so. I have things written in my calendar to make sure I’ve prepped (like make babysitter arrangements or be aware that I need to pick up my son after a meeting), but looking at things a day at a time - or even, honestly, half a day at a time (“Yay, I made it halfway through the day!”) sometimes helps make it through those crazy busy periods.     FIND THE SMALL JOYS. As I type this, one of our three cats just came over to rub his head on my laptop. He - along with my kids and his two cat brothers - is a constant reminder to me to slow down. I squish my face into his tubby belly and he curls up, full-on purring, next to me. It’s like a white noise machine you can cuddle. It’s these small pieces of pure joy that make up life, as much as all those crazy life changes and stresses we’re enduring. The fact that our son handled the first two days of school with nary a meltdown or issue was a HUGE win that we celebrated with him (without bringing up meltdowns and harping on negatives). We’re all giving each other a little more grace in dealing with these transitions and truly enjoying “family moments” more. I’m making more time for the joys and my husband and I are appreciating simple things like a family meal or impromptu dance party in the living room all the more lately. COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS. Hand-in-hand with small joys and the folks dealing with hurricanes and the like, I like to sing this song to my littles at least once a week. It’s as much a reminder to myself as it is to them. Work’s stressful? It could be because you’re starting new tasks that you’re not used to; it’ll get easier. (Or, if it isn’t getting easier and you’ve tried your best to remain positive, it may be time for you to forge a new path. That’s a whole other post, though.) But what are the good parts about it? I don’t have time to appreciate this pregnancy as much as I want/should, but I’m grateful to *knock on wood* have had a relatively easy time with it (and am lucky, overall, that we’re able to get pregnant in the first place). And before I know it, whether we’re “ready or not”, I’ll have time on my hands to focus solely (okay, MOSTLY) on this little one. For that time, I’ll be VERY grateful. I try to remind myself how hard my parents had it when my father was battling (and eventually lost his battle) with cancer when we were little. Getting him to appointments. Affording, heck, ANYTHING - heating the house, his hospital bills and meds, and simply feeding and clothing four kids. Figuring out who’d watch us at any given moment. Then, after he passed, many of these concerns continued for my mom. And on top of it losing one of the pillars of support to both our mother and us kids. It still has a profound impact. So, needless to say, it makes me so, so, so grateful. We’re lucky for our health. We’re lucky for each other. We’re lucky to have a home. We’re lucky for a supportive family. So on and so forth. For all the issues thrown at us, we’re tremendously lucky people. I hope you have a multitude of blessings in your life to count through, too.   APPRECIATE THE LOW-STRESS MOMENTS. “Whew. THAT’s over.” It can be the feeling at the end of a long day after the kids are finally asleep or simply the moment after you’ve completed a big presentation or assignment. Whatever it is, ENJOY that post-stress letdown. Allow yourself to rest your mind and body and accept that you’ve achieved something, whether big or small. Going hand-in-hand with chunking your time, I try to wallow in the positivity of completion a little bit after a task is finished. Dinner’s on the table? Whew. You made it through the day without flipping out on someone? Allow yourself a little YouTube time. I finally finished that multi-part lesson plan? THANK GOODNESS. At the end of a long day, look at all you really did accomplish and be proud. BE MORE PRESENT. Being more present in each and every moment and reminding yourself that most of the things you stress about aren’t as bad as the actual worrying beforehand (like I said, MOST of the time) helps when actually dealing with situations. Nerves and anxiety can be our downfall, but taking a moment to breathe and actually be part of the moment rather than pushing it away or wishing we could run from it may help us to appreciate or even enjoy whatever we’re experiencing. One of my favorite kindergarten moments for my son that could teach us all a valuable lesson happened after my husband dropped him off on his first day. It was unclear what time drop-off occurred (after phone calls and checking the handbook, he was on time...but the other kids were already in class), so our son had to be escorted alone to his classroom by an aide he’d never met before. She later told us that when he got to the door, he politely asked if he could have a moment. He then closed his eyes, took a deep breath, and muttered something to himself (something like, “You can do this, Hadley” or “Welcome to kindergarten, Hadley”), then turned back and said he was ready. For a 5-year-old to have the (rare) presence of mind to calm and reaffirm himself before starting something new, I was amazed. I think we can all take something away from that. So, raise your hand (or comment below!) if you’re dealing with a big transition right now! Go ahead and vent, whether it’s big or small, and know that this little community here has got your back. If you’ve experienced some transitions and have a few additional words of advice to offer, we’d love to hear them in the comments, too! And for anyone dealing with the effects of Hurricane Irma or Hurricane Harvey, truly, let us know how we can help. Our hearts break for everything you’re going through. <3
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