Showing Up on Bumpy Days

“Never goes smooth. How come it never goes smooth?”
-Captain Mal Reynolds, Firefly

That’s the line I often think to myself when something breaks, someone has a fever, something was forgotten, someone makes a huge mess, someone turns a series of should-be-fast tasks into an eternity of kiddo-dawdling when I really need to get everyone out the damn door. Arrrrgh! It’s one thing after another. Can’t I have one day– just one day!– where things go right? PLEASE?

Picture of chalkboard that says, "How come it never goes SMOOTH?"

Note: I’m not talking about the big stuff here. When the huge hard things happen, we meet that as we must. Sometimes we need to drop everything and massively shift priorities. We do what we must to get through the big challenges in life.

What I am talking about now is how I can get thrown off by the ubiquitous small-to-medium things going wrong. The flocks of tiny daily derailments, and the medium-sized jolts that still happen with depressing frequency.

These things can really get me off kilter when I seduce myself into planning with a sweet bubbly mix of optimism, expectations and lofty goals, expecting smooth sailing as the default– only to have messy real life, the actual default, show up instead. (Again. Like usual. Because, well… real life is real life.)

When bumps hit, we must absorb their impact somewhere. And real life tries day after day to bump my creative work right off my plate into a splatty mess on the floor, right next to my toddler’s breakfast food that I haven’t had time to wipe up.

Letting my writing time go to handle a minor bump or two? Or writing through it but letting my sleep and basic self-care go instead? No big deal if it happens once in a while. But doing it all the time leads to a pattern in which certain work simply does not get done. Because slightly bumpy days? Are actually most days, and if I don’t make my writing happen most days, well… I’m sure you can see where that leads. (Hint: not much of anywhere.)

My number one strategic bump absorption technique involves putting two kinds of time chunks on my calendar. The first is dedicated core time for my writing + coaching. The second, equally important chunks are open, empty space.

That overflow space can be filled up with handling minor crises if things go amiss, or it can also be filled with extra creative work or other things I’d like to get done if things go well. Having that space for potential bump management means that I can safeguard my creative work and keep showing up for that.

I can’t plan for the individual bumps, as I never know when they’ll happen or what form they’ll take. I have to plan for bumpiness in general. Holding space and building buffers is how I do it. There are surely other ways, too. What matters is noticing if the entropy of bumpiness has made a pattern of siphoning off the time + energy your creative work is calling for… and finding a way to create new patterns instead.

It doesn’t always work. Some days are easier, and some days are harder. Our ability to adroitly deal with bumpiness will, of course, be bumpy too. There are certainly days where dropping some creative work time ends up being the best choice out of an array of not-great choices. And that’s okay.

Perfection’s not the goal– the goal is overall consistency in a way that’s compatible with real life, not idealized life. Some derailment is normal, but if you create conditions that allow you to show up more than you don’t show up, you’ll make progress.

Bumps aren’t the exception– they’re the norm, as our creative work must also be our norm. Don’t wait for smoothness; you’ll have a long wait coming. To make creative work happen, we’ve got to find ways to show up on bumpy days.

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The Trickiness of Two

Ever since BabyK was born, I’ve been struggling with something I’d heard about from other parent friends and from some of my playful productivity coaching clients. The struggle is the overlay of logistics for multiple kids on top of whatever other logistics I manage already.


When I had one kid and worked from home, I had the privilege of building my schedule around his nap and childcare hours. I knew I was very lucky. It was far from easy, and it had its share of interrupts and disconnects and dilemmas. But looking back on it now, I sigh for how much easier it was. Because now I have two children, and I’ve had to level up.

My husband and I are juggling two sets of schedules + routines + needs plus our own. These routines rarely line up well organically. We line them up artificially with considerable amounts of planning, pushing and a dash of luck. By my estimates, managing two children’s schedules instead of one actually makes me about four times less efficient: an exponential rather than linear change.

Perhaps I could better optimize all this somehow if I were the one who got to make up the schedules. But while I have influence and a lot of flexibility in some areas, school start times and traffic levels and especially my childrens’ bio-rhythms are not fully under my direct control.

It’s guaranteed that assorted drop-offs and pick-ups don’t harmonize the way I wish, and that naptime conflicts with everything no matter what. I have more strange bits of time that are not optimally sized for me to work in. More times when I must hurry one child along, or wake them before they are ready, or occupy them while they wait for the other one.

Twice as many opportunities for someone to get sick when I was expecting they could go to daycare or school that day. Twice as many opportunities for someone small to have a bad day that radiates through everyone elses’ moods. Twice as many chances for someone to go through a growth spurt, cognitive leap or other challenging phase. And of course, I’m going through my second round of kiddo-induced sleep deprivation. I keep waiting for that stage to end, and it keeps on going.

Worst of all, some kind of magical alchemy makes getting into or out of the door a dreadful ordeal. Those threshold transitions sap out some ridiculous amount of my life force each day. It has something to do with how terrible it is to deal with shoes + our front steps, I know that much. Those moments are like my larger schedule challenges written in miniature: each child’s moments of struggle + tantrum + efficiency are always out of sync, each child needing my attention at just the wrong time while the other one then gets distracted + loses momentum. I switch kiddo-focus and the cycle begins anew. The minutes feel like hours. I’m rarely late as I’ve budgeted a lot of time for this, but I always worry I will be late on any given day. I hate being late.

When we finally reach the bottom of the steps, or the living room when we are coming back in, or the end of the week, or the final moments of the bedtime dance, or whatever gauntlet I feel like I’ve just run… I always hear the voice of Count Rugen from The Princess Bride in my head. “I’ve just sucked one year of your life away… How do you feel?”

It feels petty to even write about this, the trickiness of two. It is not a major problem compared to, well, major problems. And I feel like I should end this with some words of wisdom, but I don’t really have any. We organize the best we can. We walk, trudge, flail or dance through the day as best we can. We drink our coffee or tea or coconut water. We take deep breaths. We try not to sweat the small stuff.

We show up for our work + our art + our family + ourselves. We make it through. Despite my complaints, I honestly feel like I’m doing a fine job.

And it should go without saying that there are obviously amazing parts to having two children which I am not mostly writing about here. Of course there are. I do love it.

The privilege of getting to nurture + know + talk with not one but two growing human beings. Feeling like I know what I am doing once in a while. Watching the two play together or love on each other. Sharing magical moments of profound learning and laughter. A periodic upwelling of rightness and fulfillment… a clear sense that yes, this is hard. And yes, this is right where I’m supposed to be. It’s all worth it and so on.

But that doesn’t take away the hard. Some days, it is indeed very hard. Gratitude, I wrote recently online, is an “and” thing rather than a “but” thing. I am grateful, and frustrated. I cherish my kids, and caring for them is hard. I love every moment I spend with them, except for the moments in which I still love them and hate the damn moment we’re all in.

Just know that you are not alone if the minor frustrations of parenting, coming one after another in their relentless + unceasing stream, wear you out some days. I’m going to keep showing up for myself, my work, my creativity and my kiddos. And I know you will too.

And for now, this sweet zone of focused productivity– tagged as #naptimeisforwriting on my Facebook page— has come to an end. I’m going to go wake up the toddler from her nap before she’s ready and then go pick up the 1st grader from school at the inconvenient hour that has been decreed. Because some days, that’s what you gotta do.

I know that after we’re home and we make it in from the front porch, everything will get easier.

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How I Got Real and Embraced a Rough Routine

Parenting doesn’t always go the way we want, or expect. Right this very minute as I type this? I’m sitting in the front seat of the car while BabyK (age 7.5 months) dozes happily in her car seat… just like I do every morning lately.


Yup, I admit it: I have given up struggling with her on napping temporarily. Until I’m ready to try again, her morning nap consists of me (or sometimes my husband on the weekends) driving her around for 15 minutes, then sitting in a parked car for an hour plus while she sleeps. For now, that’s the best routine that meets everyone’s needs sufficiently.

It’s not my favorite, to put it mildly. I want to be writing, cleaning, or if nothing else sleeping. The car is not optimal for any of these. So mostly, I’ve been reading Facebook on my phone, glancing at the time a lot. Eventually, desperately hungry for my usual morning snack, I often eat one of the food bars I keep in the glove box. Occasionally, I jotted down blog post ideas in a notebook or worked on a parody song about car naps. I felt both resigned and resentful.

Last week I took the next step in just admitting that this morning car nap is a real routine that happens every day… and I actually asked myself how I could make it suck less.

A few days later, I made a point of making sure my phone was fully charged so that I could play the music of my choice instead of the radio. I made sure that my laptop was charged, with me, and synced properly with Google Docs so I could access my writing pieces in progress. I packed a travel mug of decaf coffee and most gloriously of all, a healthy appealing snack. And I wrote most of this blog post while listening to some of my favorite Beatles songs, sipping coffee and with a full happy belly.

Sure, I’d rather BabyK had gone sweetly to sleep in her crib without leaving me trapped in the car, but at least I was comfortable and feeling okay about how I was spending my time.

I’m asking how best I can meet my needs in the current normal… the real normal, not the one I wish was the case. Doing this sounds like a no-brainer, but it can actually be kind of hard to get here when we’ve accepted a routine we don’t love. That’s because planning for something can feel an awful lot like accepting it, admitting that we’re not only doing something we aren’t fully onboard with, we’re doing it with intention…enough to plan and anticipate.

I’m also, of course, working on a longer-term plan to shift the overall routine into one that’s not such a drag. But in the meantime? I choose to give myself as much pleasure as I can. Here’s hoping that my next attempt at convincing BabyK to nap nicely goes better. Otherwise, you might still get to hear that car nap parody song I started.

Parenting and productivity both… you have to work with what you have instead of what you wish you had. Sometimes admitting that you’ve accepted something sub-optimal for the time being is the first step in making it better. And sometimes you have to take it one day at a time.

And what about you? Are there any routines in your life that you are suffering through more than you must? What could you do to make them better for yourself for the time being?

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Celebrating Yourself as a Parent

Parenting can be a particularly thankless job sometimes. There are days when people fill your ears with unsolicited advice or judgments. There are days when your own self-criticism about your parenting choices are far harsher than a stranger would ever be. There are days when a child tells you that they hate you. There are days when the many demands of work, home, kids and life can feel absolutely overwhelming. There are days when we worry that we are bad moms or dads.


Yet there are the good days too, the beautiful fleeting moments of joy and appreciation and wonder and growth. The times when we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that we are doing things absolutely right.

Stopping in the busy whirl of life to fully notice and appreciate those good times and the good stuff we do for our children is a powerful act. We can give ourselves permission to focus not just on what we wish we were doing better, but what we are doing well. We can sink deep into those gossamer-glimmering-glowingly perfect moments we share with our families.

“It’s so easy to get caught up in feeling like we’re not doing enough… it’s easy to just skip over the acknowledgment part of the whole thing. But how will you know how far you’ve come if you’re not looking at what you’ve accomplished and saying, “Heck yeah, I did a good job!” along the way?”  – Jessica Swift + Michelle Ward, The Declaration of You

Here are some ways we can celebrate our successes as parents and remind ourselves of our awesomeness.

Make memories of your OWN milestones and finest parenting moments.

Keep a notebook or an online document in which you write down some of the nifty things you’ve done as a parent.

Focus not so much on the awesomeness of your kiddo – that’s for any memory books or baby books you might be making for them – but on your own amazing or just everyday-good parenting moments. Acknowledgments and compliments about your parenting from your child, partner or friends can go here too. Moments of sheer delight that you shared with your child are also great to include.

Moments that you are simply glad to have made it through can go here too. Sometimes just making it through the day is worth acknowledging yourself for.

Here are some things I’ve recently written down in mine:

  • Treated myself to a latte after LittleA’s first drop-off at preschool

  • Focused fully on my yoga while enjoying the sounds of Daddy and LittleA playing upstairs – yay enjoying me-time and hearing them enjoy each other!

  • Said the exact perfect thing to LittleA today to acknowledge and empathize with his anger, while still setting a firm boundary

  • Made it through an evening of tantrums including kicking and biting… everyone survived! (whew)

  • LittleA said, “Mama, you made all the foods I like the most. That was so nice of you. Thank you!”

Of course, not all of your parenting moments are going to be stellar or easy. But dwelling too much on the hard stuff will sap your morale. Just as you try to praise your child for doing things right, praise yourself for the things you do right too. Verbalize that positivity, save those words and use them to lift your spirits on the days when things don’t go so well.

Seek out parent friends who enjoy hearing about parenting successes.

It can be satisfying to vent, complain and commiserate with other parents, the folks who really understand how hard it can sometimes be just to get through the day. But the friends I rely on the most like to hear not only about my challenges on the tough days, but also about my delight when good things happen.

If your parent friends tend to react with competition or insecurity when you talk about your child’s accomplishments or your own proud parenting moments, consider whether that’s a dynamic that works for you. Maybe you can change the tone of that friendship or focus some energy on relationships with people who can help you celebrate the positive as well as share the occasional satisfying whine.

Nurture your relationship with yourself.

It’s hard to truly celebrate yourself as a parent if you don’t also have a sense of the person you are outside of that role. Cultivate your relationship with yourself with at least as much love and care as you give to the other important people in your life.

That means taking care of yourself in ways both basic and pleasurable, dedicating (at least a little) time for your passions and hobbies, and simply committing to spend time with yourself in whatever ways you enjoy.

Toast yourself.

Every so often, at the end of a day, raise a glass of something yummy into the air and say out loud or in your mind, “To me!” And enumerate a specific reason or two that you are fantastic, either as a parent or a person.

Do you celebrate your awesomeness as a parent? If so – how do you like to celebrate?  If not – are you willing to focus on celebrating yourself more? Please share your thoughts in the comments. 


As part of The Declaration of You’s BlogLovin’ Tour,  I’m thrilled to write a blog post about celebration, alongside over 200 other creative bloggers who are writing about topics included in the Declaration of You book. Newly published by  North Light Craft Books, The Declaration of You gives readers all the permission they’ve craved to step passionately into their lives, discover their uniquity, and uncover what they are truly meant to do. 

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True for Me Now

My spirit, my body, my marriage, my child and my business are not in competition for my resources. Even though it can be hard to see the big picture in the moment, each sphere and role can feed and support all the others.

Modified from an original image by Anders Sandberg, Creative Commons License.

Image by Anders Sandberg, Creative Commons License.

When I am in this dynamic dancing balance, I know. When I’ve lost my footing, I also know. Both states are inevitable. Both states are okay.

I strive to be a better mama all the time. I believe that I am enough, just as I am, showing up for my child.

Structure supports spontaneity. Spontaneity shapes structure. Usually I lean into structure gratefully and warmly. Often I gently nudge structures to keep them attuned to our organic growth. Sometimes I merrily tell structure to go take the day off. And very very occasionally I tell it to go fuck itself. But it’s always there for me to return to, as a way to create more day-to-day ease by increasing flow and rightening rhythms.

It’s okay that things from the past still hurt sometimes.

Inertia lies not only in stillness but in movement. Cycles of nourishment reinforce themselves– and need support. Cycles of sabotage reinforce themselves as well– and need redirection.

From picnics to potty-training, everything is more fun if we say it’s an adventure. I see LittleA’s face light up when I ask him if he wants to adventure with me. Play is serious business. For both of us.

What’s true for you right now? Share below, or write on your own blog and post the link.

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A Busy Mama’s Life Balance Manifesto

A balanced life is a life lived by your own values and priorities… not someone else’s.

A balanced life is a life in which you take time to deeply nurture yourself… so that you have that much more abundance to share out to the world.

A balanced life is full of love, given and received without keeping score.

A balanced life is a life in which most of the gifts you give to others on a day-to-day basis come easily, without resentment or a sense of pressure.

A balanced life is a life in which you love yourself too and act on that love… without guilt.


Photo by Benson Kua, Creative Commons License.

A balanced life is supported by taking good care of yourself… but that doesn’t mean you won’t challenge or push yourself to the edges of your endurance at times.

A balanced life is a life of fully conscious choices… some of which are neither safe nor easy, some of which are less exciting than they might be.

A balanced life is a life where you are aware of how you use your time and energy and how you want to be using them… so that you work and play and rest with intention.

A balanced life gives time and energy to the full wild diversity of what matters to you… but doesn’t necessarily allow you to give equal attention to every thing each day, week or month.

A balanced life is full of many emotional states… it’s not always peaceful and serene, nor always free of stress, struggle or overwhelm.

A balanced life is full of passionate excitement and also the most mundane of daily tasks… sometimes separately, sometimes at the same time.

A balanced life is imperfect at times… just like everything else in this world. Life is organic, after all, and this remains a messy world.

A balanced life looks different for everyone because we all have such different needs and desires… there’s no simple one-size-fits-all solution.

A balanced life is dynamic and ever-evolving, growing and changing as you grow and change, constantly being re-created… not a static thing that you achieve just once and then have only to maintain.

It’s not the balance of two objects of equal weight sitting on a scale. It’s the balance in movement that a trapeze artist or a tightrope walker finds, a balance of sweeping motion and constant shifting adjustments and adventure.

It’s not about never falling down or being pulled too far in one direction for a while. It’s about having the roots and foundation laid down so firmly that you can confidently trust in your ability to heal and regain your footing no matter what.

What does, or might someday, your balanced life look like? How do you model life balance to your children?

Love the manifesto? Download your free copy of my Exuberant Life Balance Workbook and step into your own unique, flowing, ever-changing balance.

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