Posted in about me, motivation, parenting

We accidentally hit the jackpot: badges

A week or so ago, a few small factors combined into something amazing.

The whole is definitely greater than the sum of its parts.

It’s been like discovering the combination of chocolate and peanut butter.

Unless you’re allergic.

Anyway.

Off and on for years, I have been doing puzzles at sporcle.com. (I like the logic puzzles the best!) The Climbing Daddy has started puzzling there in recent weeks and has become invested in the badges he can earn.

The Kid has been doing puzzles with him and became equally invested in the badges.

At the same time, we were training for a virtual 5k. The Kid is not a huge fan of running but wanted to get the medal—do you see a pattern?—and was quite whiny when running.

While we were out running one evening, I told him that if he kept running, he would earn a badge. He didn’t believe the badges would be real; I told him I’d make them.

Now. I’m not super-artistic. I enjoy making and drawing and creating, and I do a solidly OK job. (And I’m good with that, as I don’t want to put in the time and work to be better … and because I’ve gotten a lot better at embracing “good enough”—but that’s all for another time.)

But I also knew I didn’t want to be making and cutting out and keeping track of a bunch of little badges. Or worse, big badges. (Have I mentioned that this child keeps everything? What’s that? Yours does, too?)

So I decided just to draw them all on a piece of card stock (paper would have sufficed). He chose the shape. I guided that decision, because there are not many shapes that I can somewhat consistently draw. Or that I was willing to draw repetitively.

He asked: could there be a picture in each? Sure.

You can see my high-quality drawings. But you know what? He loves them. And “I refuse to do it because I feel like I suck at it” is not something I want from him, so I’m not going to model it.

I covered the page mainly because I didn’t want to have to draw more later. That turned out to be great, because now he’s excited to fill them.

I had planned on just doing exercise badges, but The Climbing Daddy had an idea for a not-exercise badge (the one for sanding*—he did good work learning to use the sander when they made a table a few weeks ago), so two sections: one “exercise” and one “other.”

*The two-sided tape is beyond my level of “good enough.” The Climbing Daddy had cut it out and not glued it down yet, and The Kid was thrilled to have the great idea to use a piece of double-sided tape. Deep breath. Not my badges.

In addition to the badges we started with (and the couple that we figured at that point would get added soon) we keep adding more.

He loves them.

And it turns out, I can throw out nearly anything “for a badge” and it’s worked so far.

The other day, for example, he chopped up chard for dinner as his “kitchen skills” activity for the day. The meal that was going into—chard with chickpeas over rice—is one that we’ve eaten often. He’s helped prep and cook it many times. Everything else was already prepped (rice and chickpeas made, red onion diced). I was reasonably sure that with minimal help, he would be able to make it.

So I told him it was his job to make dinner, we would help a little if he needed, and he would get a badge for it.

And he did. He was nervous—what if it’s not good?—but he didn’t fight it.

He loved getting another badge. Maybe not as much as he was proud of preparing a meal.

7-mile bike ride? Check. Running in the morning? Check.

I’m sure there’s a limit somewhere, but we haven’t found it yet.

Also, I’m not offering badges for normal day-to-day things, which probably helps them to maintain their awesomeness and makes them different than your typical sticker chart.

“Mom? What happens when I fill all my badges?”

I’ll get another piece of paper and make more? It’ll be the expansion pack.

He’s so tickled now at the idea of an expansion pack.

I have no idea how long this will last (or for how long I will be able to think of new but still attainable feats), but for now, it’s been fantastic!

Posted in about me, exercise, mental health, motivation, physical health

Another morning habit I won’t keep

I finally hit the wall. Which is funny, because I’ve mostly been sitting.

For the past six weeks, I’ve been going for a walk almost every afternoon, to get some sun and fresh air and get out of the house. Until recently, it’s been nice out. Now that it’s officially “hot” (100+ degrees), I’ve started using a sun umbrella and taking a water bottle.

We’ve been biking three to five evenings each week with The Kid.

We’ve been lifting out in the garage usually twice a week.

We’ve been running sporadically.

But I still don’t feel … active enough? I think there’s just not enough days with heart rate up. The bike rides tend to be slow, walking in hot weather with an umbrella is average pace. Neither of those raise heart rate.

Also, I’ve been waking up around 6 most mornings, usually just before or with The Climbing Daddy’s alarm. The Kid wakes up between 7 and 7:30. So I have an hour or more most days between when I get up and when the chaos begins.

Twenty of those minutes go to journaling; that still leaves time.

So I decided to go out and run. Not far—1.5 to 2 miles. If some day I’m inspired to run more, I will.

Today was the first morning to run. Today, of course, I woke up close to 7. Tired.

Laying in a puddle of sleepy shame, I decided to start tomorrow.

I got out of bed to go to the bathroom. The act of getting out of bed and starting to move was all it took. I decided that I could run today and that I would feel better if I ran today and didn’t postpone it for another day.

So I went. It was cool (relatively) and sunny and lovely outside. I did a slow-even-for-me mile and a half.

The run itself was fine—not amazing, not terrible—and the feeling of getting it done is excellent. The mood-boosting benefits of the run are always welcome.

As an added bonus, when I got home, I texted a screenshot from the tracking app to a friend. (We often text about exercise things and will congratulate or encourage each other. Kind of long-distance exercise buddies.) I included the text: “Almost didn’t do it. Feels good to get it done.”

She replied, “You inspired me. I was literally putting on my shoes to walk the dog, but I think we’ll run a bit now.” And they did.

Gotta start somewhere. I started today.

Posted in about me, mental health, motivation

Journaling

I have a thing about writing.

I enjoy it quite a bit. Also, it’s often therapeutic.

And I have a hard time making time for it regularly. I haven’t dissected the why of that yet.

Years ago, I read a piece about the benefits of journaling first thing in the morning. Whoever the piece was about had a habit of writing for 20 minutes (or maybe half an hour?) every morning to start their day. An opportunity to brain dump and start the day clear-headed.

It sounded great. Except that I’m already a night person waking up for a morning person’s schedule. (And, added on perhaps since I read that, I additionally have a kid who is not self-sufficient who is also a night person on a morning person’s schedule.)

So I didn’t do it.

Recently, I remembered this suggestion. I don’t know what triggered the memory.

I pulled out a notebook and have started writing it in every morning. I have at least three months before I go back to working at work (the 20-21 school year starts in mid-July in my district, assuming schools reopen) and can do it at least until then.

And I don’t need to worry right now about whether or not I’ll maintain the habit. Because right now, it doesn’t matter.

I was taken back to a creative writing class that I took the summer between 8th and 9th grades. We had timed journaling to do, and the only rule that I recall was to keep writing. If we had nothing to write, write “I don’t know what to write” until we had something else to write.

Did I need to write that very often? I don’t know. (I need to dig out that notebook. I’m sure I still have it.) But I do know that if there’s nothing to write about now, it’s just because there’s too much trying to come through the funnel and I’m stuck in that way.

Looking forward to this bit of the journey.

Posted in about me, ebb & flow, education, parenting, tips

Things that are working for quarantine schooling and living

I’ve seen three people just today ask “What are you doing that’s working?” with regards to the kids being home. Here’s what’s more or less working here.

Disclaimer: This is not meant to tell you what to do. Our situations might be entirely different. This is just what we’re doing that’s working (or that we tried that didn’t work). Take what resonates. Modify what almost resonates. Leave the rest.

Also, it’s not homeschooling. It’s not entirely online distance learning. It’s a weird emergency unplanned hybrid of a lot of things.

So. What’s working?

Well … I have the advantage that my working from home is very flexible. This gives me the space to help The Kid with his life in a fairly hands-on way.

We’ve known for a long time that he doesn’t do well unscheduled. So we made a schedule immediately, even though there was no school stuff yet. It wasn’t rigid, and it included lots of things: meals, snacks, exercise, play, math/ELA/science, Spanish, music, creative, mindfulness, chores, kitchen skills. Within those categories, he had a lot of flexibility.

Bedtime got wonky which made wake up time wonky, and the schedule fell apart. So this is what we’re doing now (the last two weeks) and it’s been working well. (If it stops working well, we’ll go back to a more structured schedule.)

We made a list of All The Things. It currently includes: math, reading, writing, science, creative, Spanish, music, exercise, chores, kitchen skills, typing, mindfulness. I need to add playdate.

It’s in a picture frame; you can use dry erase markers on glass the same as you can on a white board. Because he has school work now, and because that list is pretty extensive, we agreed that over the course of two days, we’d hit on all the things. He uses a dry erase marker to mark the ones he’s done, and we reset it every other day.

It’s not a perfect system, and it’s working. Some things he does more than every other day (he reads nearly daily, for example), and that works. It allows us to make sure things aren’t falling through the cracks.

I have a little white board that I brought home from work. (If I didn’t have this, I would use another picture frame with blank paper inside for a clean background.) Each day, I put the full date on it and make a list of things to do that day.

For example, today, he has a live lesson, so I wrote the subject and the time. Otherwise, today is Day 1 of the two days on his list, so he can do pretty much whatever. He has school work to work on, so I just put “school work.”

He is stressed about his school work. (Because he has at least a couple of days to complete each, his list of assignments feels long.) We printed an April calendar, and as he receives assignments, I write them on the due date. (His writing is not small enough to do this task.) He’s able to look at it when he’s going to work on the more generic “school work,” see what needs to be done, and work on it. I am helping him with this.

(He’s still a little freaked out by assignments on the calendar, but we’re talking about spreading out work on a project so it’s not overwhelming. Life skills right here. Hopefully also helping me hone this skill for myself…)

We have been getting school work all done in the mornings, so afternoons and evenings, we can do fun stuff. Or chores. But either way, not school.

What else is helping?

Breaks

He had a half hour live lesson yesterday morning. During it, they had a few minutes to go collect some materials that he already had with him. He took those few minutes to jump on his trampoline, and he was in much better shape for learning when he returned to the computer.

When he started to frustrate with his writing assignment, I suggested he leave it for tomorrow (it’s due the end of next week) and go play outside for a few minutes.

That’s another help.

Sun

Getting out of the house is so important (for all of us—not just the kids!). We’re fortunate for now to live in a location where the weather is nice almost all the time. (Talk to me again in two months…) We’re also fortunately to be in a house with a yard. He can go out back and play. And run around. Which brings us to…

Exercise

Normally, he would have recess at school to run around and play. He would have time after school. He would, on some days, have taekwondo.

And while he does go outside and play, it’s not the same without other kids to run with.

We’ve done a few things to help him to move more.

One: he either takes a walk or a bike ride every afternoon with The Tall Daddy.

Two: While I’m not usually a fan of virtual races, we registered for a virtual 5K. This one has a medal that I thought was excellent, and it supports the National Parks. He could only register (and get a medal) also if he agreed to train. So on several of my solo afternoon walks around the neighborhood, I’ve mapped out routes that are at or a little over 5K. I showed him the maps, he chose one, and we’ve been running parts of it. Will piece it together in the couple of weeks we have left. (You can join here, if you care to. I don’t get any kickbacks, I just like the organization…and the medal.)

Three: on nights we don’t run, the three of us lift weights, go for a walk, or take a bike ride. His longest ride so far was six miles.

So he’s getting out to play in the morning, out with The Tall Daddy in the afternoon, out with us in the evening. And, as always, there is the trampoline in the living room. And I often agree to requests to wrestle. It’s not as good as playing with friends, but it’ll do.

Playdates

He has been using the Marco Polo app to keep in touch with a few friends. We have had virtual playdates with friends via FaceTime. He’s played Battleship and Guess Who and has just talked and fooled around and been silly.

Novelty

He’s learning how to play trumpet, because I am able to teach him and have an instrument available. I don’t know or care if he’ll still want to play when life returns to normal.

We have some toys and things in the closet, picked up on impulse and saved for a proverbial rainy day. It’s proverbially raining.

We’re baking things that we never bake. Bread. Cookies. Pretzels. He was astounded that I bought sugar.

There’s an overwhelming number of resources of things to do available online. We’ve chosen a few.

He and The Climbing Daddy built a table.

We have books and toys and activity things that he’s had and not looked at in a long time. Those things are coming into the rotation. (And the ones that still aren’t interesting are going into the donation box.)

Tidiness

With The Climbing Daddy working from home, he’s taken over the office. My computer is now in the living room. The house is out of whack. In order to have my work and his school all in the living room, we need to be organized and tidy. If it was a mess, it would be stressful. So his school things have a place. My school things have a place. Things get put away right after we use them so we aren’t moving around in clutter. While that is always what we do in theory, in practice, it’s more hard core right now. The living room must.stay.neat.

That said, he built a fort out of a sheet and the couch. It has stayed up for a week or more now, and it’s OK. We have other places to sit, and he likes to go in there and do his work or play or send Polos. He’s been sleeping in there most nights. It’s working.

What’s working for you?

Posted in about me, storytelling

Anecdotal silliness (and stupidity)

We didn’t have a printer.

We ordered a printer.

The description said it came without toner.

(That did not make me happy.)

We ordered toner.

We ordered paper.

The toner shipped.

The paper shipped.

Separately.

The printer was out of stock and was cancelled.

The paper arrived.

The toner arrived.

An email arrived, asking me how my experience was…

We ordered the printer from somewhere else.

The printer arrived.

I set the printer up.

The printer came with toner.

Also, just to make working at home more like working at work, I set up the printer in a room where there are no computers.