Mourning Mornings

One of the biggest things I'm struggling with in life is the loss of my mornings.  I've always been a morning person, waking up naturally as the sun rises and with energy and enthusiasm. As I'd lie in bed savoring drifting in and out of sleep and just staring at the ceiling thinking, I reveled in the hypnogogic day-dreaminess.  In that state, ideas free flowed into my mind. Problems I'd been wrestling with during the waking hours solved themselves.  My creativity was at its height.  I'd often allow myself to wait for all the thoughts and decisions to gel and then suddenly pop up and run for paper and pen or my laptop to get it all down before I lost it. This is where great lesson plans and life plans came from- the morning.  On a weekend or vacation, when I didn't have to then head off to teach so early in the day, my absolute favorite thing to do is to sit outside losing myself in a great book and eating breakfast under the early morning sun. Just me and the birds chirping and so much quiet.  My ideal version of solitude.  

And now?  Solitude is very hard to come by.  I'm a full time working married mom.  My proverbial pant legs are constantly tugged on by my 3 year old, my husband, my students, my colleagues.  Someone is always there needing something.  On workdays, the blaring alarm goes off too early because I stayed up too late finishing things up or trying to find a few minutes of relative quiet to wind down in before bed.  And more often than not, the toddler alarm goes off first.  I'm jolted out of a deep paralyzing sleep by cries of "mama!  mama!" from the other room.  There's a nose to wipe, a blanket to fix, and then sleep quickly evaporates and we're both up for the day, like it or not.  Or, if I'm a little luckier, it's the sound of little feet pattering along the hardwood floor and our door opening as Turtle comes to climb in bed and join us. Followed by kicking, blanket stealing, head butting pillow "sharing", chitter chatter, singing, and the hypnogogic is rapidly replaced by full wakefulness.  The opportunity to create and solve or to experience solitude is completely lost.  

Morning has always been the best time for me to comprehend and retain what I read and to productively write.  That's when I prefer to research and even to grade.  I'm a superwoman in the morning.  My efficiency is off the charts.  If left alone, I can produce a ton of work between 7 and 10 am.  And then my mind begins to wander and I need a break and I feel the urge to get up and get moving around.  Later in the day, productivity plummets.  I find it much more difficult to focus or stay motivated.  At night, you can forget it.  My husband and I have joked for years that I'm worthless past 9 pm.  We actually have a rule that he can't bring up any topic that I actually have to think about, analyze, and make a decision on past 9 pm.  I just can't do it.  

So having a kid is just killing me in this area, because he is a little early morning riser, too, but he wakes up instantly demanding my full attention and even if I'm not willing to give it to him, he manages to co-opt my whole brain by distracting me with protests.  The only alone time I can ever find is after he goes to bed, which is pretty much the beginning of my worthless time. I've tried to read at that hour, but it's in one ear and out the other, so to speak.  I've tried to grade, but it takes excruciatingly longer for me to get through the pile than it would if I could just do it at 7 am. I try to lesson plan, but it's robotic.  No great ideas come to me.  

If I haven't posted on the blog in a while, you can bet it's because I've had a long sequence of "mama! mama!" mornings.  The only reason I'm getting away with it right now is I gave in to his request to watch a video and I needed to get this off my chest and I don't have to get us up and ready to rush off to work today.  

Losing my mornings has effected the quality of the work I produce and my confidence in it.  It has made me into a scattered tired frazzled person on too many days, a shadow of who I used to be.  The loss of solitude has taken its toll on my overall happiness and sense of self.  If I don't get time with myself to reflect and dream and plan because my brain is constantly hijacked, then who am I?  What do I want out of life?  Who knows.  I don't get to have that conversation with myself enough anymore.  

And I don't think much of this will change anytime soon, but just like with any other type of mourning, I really need to hear someone say that they get it and they're sorry for my loss and that I'll get through this somehow.  Or that they'll send me to sleep in a hotel one night so I can have the morning to myself.  Or take my kid to their house for the night.  

The simpler solution would be that my husband could take his share of turns being the first responder, getting out of bed to take the kid to the living room and wipe his nose and make breakfast, or better yet, take him out of the house to a coffee shop, and leave me locked in the bedroom for a while.  But somehow I have not managed to negotiate this successfully yet. Which makes me feel like a failure on top of the rest.  I think I fell into this trap by being a morning person.  That meant I was usually up first anyway and peppier in the morning and better able to handle the demands of a young child.  So, by default the mornings became my job.  And I didn't mind at first.  But I didn't understand what the loss of my mornings was going to do to me.  So, I've got to come up with a solution.  

How are the rest of you handling these type of losses, or better, managing to save and protect the things you really need?  


Complete Kitchen Remodel - Fast! and Free!

In a fit of annoyance earlier this year, I put our microwave on the floor in order to reclaim some precious counter space in our tiny galley kitchen.  It was kind of weird, but you know how you just get used to things.  We just bent down and put stuff in the microwave.  The bonus was the Turtle could reach it himself and got to have the official job of pressing the buttons.  When other people came over, they didn't quite know what to make of it, but whatever.  

I finally purchased this kitchen island and put it in the dining area to extend our kitchen counter.   

So now the microwave has a home along with the fruit bowls and cookbooks and I've got my workspace cleared.   I was so happy about this that I never even bothered to put anything inside the island yet.  When I went to open it to decide how to finally organize it, I found that Turtle had co-opted it and had been placing various toys in it.  (Oh, so that's where THAT's been!)  I had no idea.  

But yesterday I set about claiming my island, happily filling and organizing it, and then looked over and decided that Turtle's kitchen needed upgrading, too.  

First, I fashioned some stove-side utensil holders out of toilet paper rolls.  

Next, the oven was given a red-hot burner.  

I reused a gift bag decoration to add a vase of flowers above the sink, which is a giant lettuce container set into a cardboard box.  A small plastic bin is attached on the left to hold a sponge.  I can put a little water in this sink and it holds without leaking so Turtle can actually wash dishes in it.  The salad container pulls right up and out for dumping out.   

The sink itself was given a facelift.  Previously just a cardboard front, I cut cupboards in it for increased storage and covered it in reused wrapping paper.  

This up-ended diaper box had been divided with a shelf to make a crude pantry but never decorated.  I added a door to the bottom with rope handle, made from one side of a gift bag, to make a mini fridge and covered the wrest with leftover holiday wrapping paper.  

Turtle's kitchen is adjacent to mine, so he gets to use the hooks on my island for his canvas shopping bag, apron and pot holders.  The apron set was sewn by my sister and given as a xmas gift this year- cute, huh?  

Here's the "after" picture.  Turtle's kitchen is much brighter and cheerier now with all the colored wrapping paper and the flowers than the plain cardboard look it had before.  He has more storage with the utensil holders and under the sink cupboard and he gained a new appliance with the mini fridge.  All in all, not a bad remodel for 90 minutes of my time, a bunch of reused stuff that was lying around the house, and a lot of packing tape!  

He was so inspired that he set about making us a scrumptious meal.  Each person was served a variety of whole produce, eggs, and rigatoni.  Mmmm. Mmmm.  

This morning, Turtle told me he needed a kitchen timer.  So, now we have a play doh container decorated on the sides and with a printout of a real kitchen timer taped to the lid (Thank you, Google image search) and a large jingle bell inside so that when you shake it, the timer rings. As I write this, he is making me coffee with "spices and honey and milk and eggs".  This is his specialty, served in a reused fruit cup cup with half a plastic Easter egg sitting in it.  And muffins, which are play doh blobs in each hole of a mini muffin tin.  I am told that right now they are in the oven and we are waiting for them to "poof up".  

I love that he is working in his kitchen, using his imagination and creativity to prepare meals for us.  And I love that I get to use my imagination and creativity to make and improve his kitchen so that he can engage in this kind of play.  And I really love that I didn't buy and won't be someday getting rid of a $200 plastic play kitchen.  


Put Down That Knife

No, you only have to build a complex machine to cut the tops off, house it in a climate controlled factory, filled with other machines that dice them, soak them in preservative, mix them with peeled and diced oranges, drop them into a blend of juices, fraction the mix into machine extruded plastic bottles, cap them, label them, transport them to a retail grocer, purchase a bottle of it, drive it home, and unscrew a cap to eat them.    

Way easier.  

Now that people are recognizing that whole natural produce is and always was healthier than processed produce and even less recognizable foods created by food scientists, the poor processed food companies are left to craft strange marketing campaigns such as this one and this one in order to compete against regular old food.  

It's pretty pathetic.