Christmas · Holidays · Tips and Tricks

Looking Forward to 2018

Happy New Year! Hope you are feeling happy and healthy in 2018 so far.

This past weekend marked Little Christmas, or Epiphany, which we all know is the day the three wise men came to tell your spouse it’s time to put away the Christmas decorations. And while that’s sad, there’s an aspect of refreshing that goes along with it, especially if you use the occasion to tidy up the house a bit and find permanent homes for all the toys and gifts of Christmas morning. I’m excited to use my (scant) free time on these extremely hibernation-worthy days playing new games and puzzles with G, reading, or knitting, instead of shopping and wrapping Christmas gifts and doing all those other holiday-related tasks that eat into every waking moment in December.

As I was just telling a couple of friends, I’m not big on resolutions — Fall really feels like the “fresh start” time of year for me, whereas as January just feels like a slog from the holidays to our next vacation (ideally in a warm place).

Mark and I do take a quick financial assessment after Christmas and before tax season every year — like most self-employed people and artists in general, that’s when we find out what we made this year and what jobs were worthwhile — and that seems to bring about a little conversation on goals, even if, the older we get, the more boring those conversations get. (Are we saving enough for retirement? College? Can we afford to redo the kitchen this year? Well, we really shouldn’t consider that until we have an updated will … and so on).

Estate planning and other adult-ing tasks aside, I try to keep my goals for each year pretty small and specific. Over-reaching is a recipe for disaster for me. Maybe January gives some people the push they needed to lose 20 pounds, run their first marathon or eliminate sugar, but I do better in smaller increments. Such as:

Use my slow cooker more. I have a couple of really great slow cooker recipes, like this Chicken Curry and this Brown Sugar Kielbasa, which is easily the most popular recipe on my blog, year after year. But I know I could be doing so much more with it, if I only researched some additional family-friendly recipes. I’d love to come home to a nice, hot dinner instead of getting desperate and ordering subs and salad at 6:30 again. Which leads me directly to…

…Eat out less. I just lost five pounds and Mark is in the midst of bulking up for a role right as we speak, but if anything, getting in better shape has made us realize how badly we ate before. When you don’t plan ahead, we’ve learned, takeout is the result. It’s so much more fun to order pizza, sushi or Thai every once in a while as a treat than to fall back on it out of necessity. One thing we’ve discussed doing this year to facilitate better meal prep is to finally invest in a chest freezer for our basement. That way, we could take advantage of batch cooking and freezing, not to mention the good deals at Costco we currently have to pass up because of space. I may also bite the bullet and get an Instant Pot, two years late to the trend as usual. (Worth it?? Let me know!)

instant pot.jpg

Go to the library more. File under the same “money saving” tab as my first two goals, but really, I’m just embarrassed at how little we use this amazing resource. Somehow, even after starting in my first job as a library page at 14 and working as a bookseller at Barnes & Noble straight through college, I ended up barely going to the library as a 30-something with a small child, which is basically the library’s key demographic. We live in a city with a gorgeous public library and art gallery situated in a historic building right downtown, and while their kids programming isn’t convenient for working parents, they offer tons of other great resources, from audio books to wi-fi, a writer’s group, museum passes and links to the amazing Boston Public Library network. We’ve already been working the library into our weekend routine again, and we are loving it. One great tip I picked up recently: if you are frustrated at not seeing the newest kids books on display in the children’s room, it’s probably because other savvy borrowers reserved them ahead of time online. Do this, and be an insider! The best books almost never make it out on the floor.

Closely related goal: read more books. Partly this is just a logistical challenge of working full time as a parent, but if I’m being honest, a huge piece of why I don’t read more is needing to put down my dang phone before I spend the evening mindlessly scrolling. I’ve always been an avid reader, and this is one part of parenthood that I find difficult. Pre-Georgia, I averaged a book a week, AND I read the whole New Yorker! OK, fine, it was always a week behind, but these days it’s more like a month behind. We read a ton with G, and she’s so lucky to own lots of her own books. But I’d like to do more quiet reading by myself, too. I’m not holding my breath on this goal, but if it keeps me off my phone a bit more, I’ll at least try.

Be a yes mom. I don’t exactly have trouble saying “yes” to things that I also want, like ice cream or watching movies in pajamas on a snowy day. Where I struggle is with overriding my instincts to tell G I don’t need help cracking eggs for breakfast, stirring cheese sauce for baked macaroni, carrying grocery bags from the car, or even using the dustpan to clean up spilled coffee grounds. (Do those things sound realistic? They all happened during the blizzard in our house). Sure, it may be easier for me to do it myself, but a) kids are born helpers and b) how else are they going to learn these skills? It goes beyond chores, too. I don’t want to wake up one day with a kid who prefers screen time to playing outdoors after years of me telling her to watch TV so I could get one more task done around the house on the weekend instead of walking to the park. Life is for playing in the sandbox, glopping through mud, splashing in puddles, reading every sign you pass out loud and sucking up the mess that play-doh, gingerbread houses and glitter make. (Except don’t buy glitter, it’s a pox on our pipes and waterways.)

{{Severely boring alert}} Do laundry every day so it doesn’t pile up. This should be simple and I don’t know why it manages to elude us. A few ways I’m trying to tackle it: instead of waiting for a full load of workout clothes, delicates and other hang-dry items to be ready all at once — and then putting off doing it because I dread handling wet clothes in the freezing basement, and then taking forever to fold them once dry because the drying rack has become a looming monstrosity with OTHER STUFF piled on top of it — I’m tossing those into my regular laundry and hanging them one or two at a time on the extra towel rack in our bathroom, right over the radiator where they dry overnight and can be worn immediately. This is already preventing arguments over why all of my bras are clean but none of Mark’s gym gear got washed, and vice versa. Secondly, I am buying a Dryel kit for the work attire that can handle it, and sending the rest to the cleaners. Getting over the cost of dry cleaning, and admitting that maybe I do need to say ‘yes’ when they offer to pick up and drop off my clothes for a small fee, is part of being a working adult that I’m grudgingly accepting. Finally, I’m trying to do a better job of putting things away as soon as they are folded, not letting them hang on the bed or my dresser or (cringe) putting folded piles back into the bucket. Watching us all get dressed out of a laundry basket full of clothes we folded but just couldn’t quite put away is embarrassing. So far, 10 days into the new year, laundry is already running more smoothly in our house. I’ll let go of wondering why I can’t be that person who effortlessly does twelve loads of laundry in one day without it interfering with the rest of her life, and start enjoying fewer morning eye-rolls about socks and underwear. (I did warn you this topic was boring).

Under the very easy category, I have a couple things I’d like to get done around the house: replace our tired old living room area rug and flattened, frayed couch pillows; style the top of our piano so it looks more deliberate, as opposed to a dumping ground for sheet music/the last books we read/expired union membership cards/mystery charging cords; replace the junky old dresser drawers in our guest room and de-clutter the bookcase next to it; and go through the boxes of junk in our basement that we moved from the old apartment six years ago and haven’t needed ever since. Again, we’d really love to totally redo our entire kitchen, but in the meantime I’ve got my eye on some lower-hanging fruit to freshen up the place and help us relax, like storing fancy stemware elsewhere to free up more cabinet space, and shopping our pantry before buying new ingredients to see if we can make room by cooking creatively using what we already have on hand.

Georgia’s list of resolutions this year includes turning five, visiting her Nani in Florida, taking a road trip to see her cousins in Ohio again, and eating M&Ms every day (all but one of which will definitely be happening!) Stay tuned to see what else we get up to in 2018. What are YOU working on this year??

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