7 things keeping me sane this season (aka fall favorites).

my favorite tree

Last winter, when it was freezing and dim and the sun set at an altogether unacceptable hour, I started keeping a mental list of a few favorite things that were getting me through that difficult season.

It was a good practice: when I started keeping an actual, physical list of the things that were saving my life in that season, I found myself constantly scanning my environment for the life-giving stuff, whether it was serious (a soul-gutting spiritual memoir) or silly (gellyroll pens).

When winter ended, my brain didn’t give up the habit. (A good thing, I think.)

Just for fun, a few things that are keeping me sane in this (beautiful, glorious, and very full) season:

1. Paper plates. We’re in the middle of a kitchen remodel. Paper goods have been a lifesaver.

2. Twinkle lights and candles. Again, kitchen remodel. The old lights are gone but the new ones haven’t been ordered yet. Twinkle lights and candlelight provide just enough light to make the room feel atmospheric, and not gloomy.

3. Trader Joe’s frozen meat lasagna. I have four kids playing ball this season, which makes for a lot of rushed weeknights when we’re not home during the dinner hour—to prep it or to eat it. When the kids say they can’t take one more turkey plate or rotisserie chicken dinner, I pull out this $6 lasagna and slice up some raw veggies. (Half a piece at 4:00 p.m., half a piece at 8:00 p.m.) It feels like we’re enjoying a real family dinner instead of a survival mode snack, even though it practically makes itself.

4. The carpool line, part 1. I used to spend a lot of time in the carpool line for the kids’ preschool, and I thought it was a drag. Not this year. Silas and I both love our morning routine to get him to kindergarten. We try to get in line early: for one, he likes to be among the first to arrive. (The fewer the kids, the less crazy the classroom.) But mostly, we read Harry Potter aloud in line every morning. I never dreamed carpool line would be a highlight of my day, but it’s been such a special time for both of us.

5. The carpool line, part 2. For the afternoon pickup I’m usually sitting in the car by myself—and electronics of any kind aren’t allowed in carpool line. I get there early and read, sketch out blog posts, or just stare out the window. It’s glorious.

6. Jennifer Smith novels. I can’t explain why I’m binging on these right now; I suspect some part of my brain is trying to balance out the Serious Fiction I’ve been reading. Her YA novels are sweet, fun, and immensely satisfying to finish in one afternoon, in blessed contrast to The Big Rock Candy Mountain (which I’ve been slogging through for weeks) and H is for Hawk (which I’ve been working on for months).

7. Mary Karr. I’ve been wrestling through some writerly questions, and this interview found me at exactly the right time. (Heads up: f-bombs galore, and plenty of boob jokes to make you laugh/cringe.) I’m also reading her brand new release The Art of Memoir, and it is lovely.

8. The forecast. Could every day have a high of 74 and a low of 53? I don’t care if I never swim or see snow again.

9. Autumn leaves. Finally.

What’s keeping YOU sane this season? I’d love to hear all about it in comments. 


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  1. Susan says:

    I’m enjoying the carpool line in the morning as well. My boys and I started listening to books on CD. I love getting to school a few minutes early to listen just a little longer. I need to be more aware of what is keeping me sane, especially in these weeks of so many meetings and so many essays to grade.

  2. Kiana says:

    Amen to the weather wish! I could live my whole life at 74 and lows at night right under 60 and be happy! I hear San Diego is about as close as you can get!

  3. Maryalene says:

    I’m intrigued by your carpool line. Is the no electronics your rule or a school rule?

    As much as driving kids to and from school can be a drag, I’ve learned to love it. I hate to say it but no where else are my kids guaranteed my undivided attention than in the car. They get to talk about what’s important to them, and I get to feel like a winning mom.

    • Anne says:

      The school rule is no electronics when your engine is on in line (even if you’re lined up well into the adjoining neighborhood) or anytime you are in the school parking lot.

      • Karlyne says:

        I think it’s probably a very good rule. Cars and kids are not a good combination, anyway, let alone when there are distractions!

        • Anne says:

          Every driver has a display card that ties you to your child, and the other parents will totally tell on you. 🙂 Too many violations and you aren’t allowed to use the carpool line.

          • Angela says:

            Wow, I can’t even imagine something like that going down where I live. But I am one of those people who doesn’t do well with rules that I feel are intrusive like that. Guess that I best keep homeschooling 🙂

            However, I would knit in the carpool line anyway and I would probably still get in trouble for wanting to finish one more row.

          • Maryalene says:

            Well, I can see where it would be in everyone’s best interest to tattle — get enough people kicked out and you’ll be through the pick-up line in no time! 😉

            Coincidentally, I’ve been working my way through the How They Blog podcast and came to the episode featuring you yesterday. Loved hearing about how you structure your day, and I’m feeling slightly better about the fact that I too need to leave the house if I want to really buckle down to write. I’ve always felt guilty about that because it seems to defeat the purpose of being a WAHM if you can’t, in fact, work at home.

  4. aimee says:

    I sloughed through The Big Rock Candy Mountain a while back and I’m in total agreement that a “brainless” fiction book lineup was greatly needed afterwards (and probably would have helped during!) It’s crazy though, because I really did like the book – it was just so hard to plow through!

      • Stephanie says:

        I can relate, I have been reading ‘A Little Life” for the past few weeks, it is really good, and really heart wrenching. I find I’m totally engrossed when I sit down and read it (the other day I sat down at 2:30 and the next time I looked up it was quarter after 4), but sometimes I have a hard time sitting down to pick it up as I do want to know more, but know that what is coming is going to be so hard to read. I’ve been reading through the Lunar Chronicles on the side to lighten things up 🙂

  5. I loved how you turned the carpool time into a highlight. I used to hate going to the doctor’s office because I didn’t like to wait. Now I bring a book and am always a bit sad when they call me back! I am also loving the weather. I’m a teacher, and I run after school each day. Running in 70 degree weather is so much nicer than 80-90 degrees!

  6. Ruth-Anne says:

    My kids and I loved reading together in carpool line. If I’m alone I usually have a book or logic puzzles. I just love those things. My brain game.

  7. Jess Townes says:

    Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic podcast, I’m consuming faster than Halloween candy. Apple scented candles. Open windows (yes to the forecast, who needs swimming? It just gets your hair all wet and you have to shave your legs). Not shaving my legs every day. Hot Cinnamon Sunset tea.

  8. Jaime says:

    My son and I have been working through the Hardy Boys series while we wait in the carpool lane. During afternoon pickup, my youngest naps in the back of the car and I get some guilt-free time to read. I’m also loving open windows and soup. (Probably jumped ahead of the temperature with the soup, but we were so ready for fall food!)

  9. I love autumn! Here are a few things keeping my sane:
    1. My hubs who is doing the majority of the cooking while I balance school/work/play rehearsals.
    2. Practicing photography every day.
    3. Deep cups of coffee.
    4. The anticipation of receiving my wedding pics this week!

  10. Karen says:

    Oh carpool line, how I love thee. I would never get any reading done if it weren’t for this 30 minute period of time every afternoon. I haven’t tried Trader Joe’s lasagna – definitely going to put that in the dinner rotation – thanks for the heads up!

  11. 1) After years of unschooling and no schedule or set curriculum, this year we have schedules and curriculum. It’s working out great. My kids are happy, thriving and I am calm. 🙂
    2) My 95% vegan diet is keeping me healthy. We have been vegan now for 7 months: no colds, no flus, no sickness of any kind. I got energy and I am still losing weight. I got so much energy I ran 2 miles yesterday nonstop for the first time ever!!!
    3) Prayer and strategies are helping me work out some kinks in my kids’ and I relationships. 🙂 God is good!

  12. Alyssa says:

    Evening wine with my husband a few times a week while we sit and talk. The beautiful fall weather. Swapping babysitting. Walks with my sisters. Home school routine. Taking a real lunch break. A short Bible reading that I have emailed to me daily. Just getting into podcasts and adult coloring books. Also loving my cooler weather “capsule” wardrobe.

  13. Boxed is keeping me sane this season (and every season). I’m so busy, even stopping at the store is hard for more than a quick grab some milk kind of shop. So I’ve started ordering snacks and dry goods from Boxed. I think the deals are pretty good, but even if they weren’t I think I’d be doing it. Lots of organic/healthy stuff too.
    Unashamedly, here is my invite code if anyone wants to try it: UVQGA. You get a discount and so do I. I’m not just saying this, it really is fantastic.

    • liz n. says:

      Isn’t Boxed the best!? We order for the whole family (that’s six households). It’s definitely a time-saving (and money-saving) service.

  14. Tina says:

    I know H is For Hawk has received a lot of attention, but I finally just came to the realization that I have too many books on my stack right now to suffer through it. I didn’t get into it very far, so maybe I didn’t give it a fair shot, but for right now, I’ve moved on to other books.

  15. Dana says:

    1. The fall temperatures and sleeping with the windows open so we can hear the crickets ( thank goodness the noisy cicadas are gone!) and the far-off train whistles. I love falling asleep to that.
    2. Getting back in the hot tub in the evening. Finally cool enough again. My hubby and I enjoy that half hour to look at the stars and talk and wave to the airplanes overhead ; ) After hot tub, a shower and then reading in bed for about 30 minutes before lights out.
    Between #s 1 and 2 I am sleeping really well.
    3. Breakfast on the sunporch.
    4. Having some time to read and write every day. That is my recharge time.
    5. Driving my vintage VW bug with the top down and the radio playing classical music.( kinda loud!)
    6. Using my crockpot again to make soup, chili and for tonight a pot roast.

  16. Sarah says:

    The biggest thing that’s keeping me sane may also be my biggest source of crazy: our out-of-state move in T-Minus Four Weeks. I am so excited to be moving into a house full of things I used to take for granted, like carpeting, not having an open floor plan, and a door for the baby’s room! O sweet mercy, a DOOR!!! 🙂

  17. Peggy kelly says:

    Learning to enjoy a different season in life, that of the empty nester. Looking forward to fall walks, under the covers with the bedroom window open, cups of hot tea and a piece of good chocolate, and snuggly pjs.

  18. tdgl says:

    Because I love summer and hate winter in equal measure, I have a bad habit of getting grumpy as soon as the weather starts to get a little cool. I need to step back and enjoy the mild weather and the beautiful colors and that nostalgic smell of fall.

  19. Anne, I love this. 🙂 What a good practice, to look for those things that bless you, and to look for ways to turn annoying things (like carpool lines!) into good ones. There is so much joy in intentionally looking for the ways God is so good to us!

    Things that are keeping me sane right now…
    -Freezer meals. I made a bunch a couple weeks ago and there are just a few left, but I will be making more in the future.
    -Hot tea. With breakfast, in the afternoon, at bedtime… so soothing.
    -Downtime to read. I did not know how much I missed reading for fun until I started it up again recently. What balm to my mind and soul!
    -Walmart’s knit maxi skirts. Soft, stretchy, and about the only thing that fits me from the waist down right now. I only wish I had more! 🙂
    -The weather. It’s been rainy here the last couple days but I am so, so grateful for cooler temperatures and the ability to have windows open!!

  20. Kirstin says:

    Amen to paper plates! My husband and I are going through a season that involves living in a hotel for 6 months while our new house is being built. We had a drawer full of paper plates, cups, and plastic utensils that we’ve been eating on since we have a limited kitchen with no dishwasher.

  21. Jamie says:

    Even though I’m just now commenting, I read this yesterday and you inspired me to redeem carpool time. Thank you. My friend even walked by my rolled-down window and goes, “You look happy.”

    Right now for me:
    1.Flowers. We have several varieties still in our yard and I’ve snagged some deals lately on small bouquets
    2. Solitary walks
    3. Caramel Ribbon Crunch Decaf to wean myself off afternoon caffeine.
    4. Open windows and breezes
    5. Teaching my son to cook dinner
    6. Bike rides. We actually ride more when the mornings are crisp and the evenings aren’t scorching.

    I, too, have kept up this practice since winter. That alone helps keep sanity. Thanks for the inspiration!

  22. Marie says:

    I have lots of battery-operated pillar candles that I put out in the family and living rooms. They turn on at dusk and turn off about 8 hours later. I bring them out only as we move into fall/winter because I really, really need something to look forward to during the colder months.

    What a great idea to split up dinner! With three in sports and activities, we’re just not home between 4:30 and 7:30 most nights (which bums me out). I’ll try this next week.

  23. Molly says:

    Right now the things helping me survive include breakfast time (the only time I have to read), and Crockpot dinners. Between cross country practice, after school meetings, and religious ed. nights we generally don’t get to sit down to dinner until after 7PM. The Crockpot makes life a bit easier.

  24. I am so glad Fall is here! My new laundry routine and kitchen maintenance are adding a lot of peace to my days. Plus, this is my favorite season for enjoying our yard– that is, when I remember to kick us all out of the house and actually enjoy it. Why is that so hard when I know it’s so good? 😉

  25. Amy says:

    I’d love to hear more about your kitchen remodel. We are doing one, too, and (to speak truth) I’m not staying sane at all. The only thing that keeps me marginally close to sanity: leaving! I’ve been taking walks and foraging the wild plums in our area like never before, and I think it’s all because I am RUNNING AWAY! There’s gotta be a better way to cope with this!

    • Anne says:

      I’m cracking up at your “leaving” survival strategy (but not because it’s not brilliant 🙂 ).

      I’m not sure what else to say (although I’m posting a pic on the blog later this week). Our kitchen is small, but we did gut it, and we took down a wall to the dining room. The overall effect is pretty amazing but that does mean the chaos spills into multiple rooms. We also timed the worst part of it to coincide with a week-long vacation.

  26. Knowing that spring will come again! Although I love the crisp beauty of autumn, I invariably begin to dread winter and that ruins the season for me. I’ve been practicing living in the moment as much as possible in order to enjoy this year’s nature extravaganza. I love this idea of consciously noting the things that keep me sane … which for me will mean ‘in the moment’ and enjoying the season.

  27. Kam says:

    – Wearing a scarf draped around my neck (even in the house sometimes).
    – Seeing pumpkin this and pumpkin that everywhere I look.
    – Watching and hearing the Canada geese land on the pond behind my house at sunset as they stopover for the night on their way south.
    – Not having to think about whether or not I should slather my body with sunscreen in the morning because I’m not sure if I’m going to end up outside that day.

  28. Pingback: Fall Favorites
  29. kayla says:

    our first baby is about to turn 6 weeks old, so…. saving my life right now is: sweet people from church bringing us food, morning naps, the kindle app on my phone so I can read one-handed, bingeing the goldbergs on Hulu aaaaand eating all the apple things (apple butter, apple crisp, etc) while soaking up fall in MN!

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