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.

Posted in about me, ebb & flow, mindset

Camping and quitting

Half a year ago, we made plans to go camping in Joshua Tree National Park over spring break. Plans rounded out with two other families in three sites side-by-side.

The Climbing Daddy, The Kid, and I have camped at Jumbo Rocks campground before, and the site we happened to be in had some great scrambling immediately behind us. So we reserved that one and one to either side (56, 57, 58, if you’re wanting to check it out).

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We learned last week that rain was in the forecast, but we had the sites already reserved and figured if rain actually happened—we are desert-dwellers—we’d make the best of it.

We set up shop on Sunday, explored a little, ate dinner, enjoyed being with fun people in a beautiful place.

Monday morning we had a slow breakfast and clouds slowly rolled in. Not ominous, but not inspiring hope.

We took a hike, climbed on some rocks, found a nice spot to site and have lunch, explored some more. Kids had a great time.

Back at camp, the rangers came by and let us know it was expected to start raining around 11 that night.

A couple of the guys went into town for forgotten items and said that in their travels, they felt the air change, saw the clouds become ominous, agreed that we weren’t getting out of this dry.

We had dinner and decided we were going to pack into the cars everything that we didn’t specifically need to sleep.

On a short tangent, meals with three families, when we didn’t coordinate ahead of time, were so much fun. We all shared everything and ended up with a hodgepodge of tastiness that we wouldn’t have had on our own. Yum!

Back to the story.

We also realized that at least two of us had never had our tents in the rain and didn’t know if our rain flies were useful.

Finally, I thought … this is dumb. Why are we packing up everything except tents and sleeping bags in hopes that we’re not up at 2 a.m. wet from the rain? And without anywhere to cook (if it were still to be raining the next day)? Let’s just go into town and stay at a hotel.

Part of me felt stupid for suggesting this plan. Was I just being “soft” because I’m not a die-hard camper? Or because the first night had been unexpectedly cold?

The other part of me knew that my plan was grounded in reasonable real-life. We weren’t trapped in the wilderness—we were on a spring break trip to a national park with three kids under 10 and one barely older.

After many small conversations, adults in attendance agreed this was a good plan. We left the tents (to see if they could take the rain) and went into town.

One of the littles fell asleep on the way. Two others played chess until they fell asleep. The older played on his iPad for a while.

Adults drank beer and played Cards Against Humanity.

We were all warm and dry.

And it rained. Not at 11, but the next morning, the ground was soaked and puddles were abundant. In our tent? Puddles.

Whether the decision was solid going into it, it was retroactively justified.

I was reminded of something I’ve known for a long time and still forget from time to time — it’s not always bad to quit.

Posted in about me, ebb & flow, meandering, mindset

Do it again, a little bit better … ad infinitum

My brain likes to edit.

I’m not one to jump in to lead a project without knowing a lot about it. I like to get the lay of the land, see what I can see, try to understand how it works and how the people within it work.

Once I know stuff and have asked some questions and am comfortable, look out.

I don’t teach things the same way twice. Always minor editing. Sometimes complete overhaul. “How can I do this better?” “These two kids still don’t get it—where is their ah-ha moment hiding?”

Of course, that also means that I’m also always seeing ways that the house could be better. Or the yard. Or a blog post. Or this system. Or that procedure. And on and on.

Efficiency!

I want procedures to be efficient. I want to maximize space (not jamming as much as possible into a space—just using it well). I want to maximize time. I want to get the most bang for the buck, which often doesn’t mean the cheapest answer short-term.

This also gets me stuck sometimes, overthinking options.

Sometimes it leads to discontent. Sometimes that discontent leads to growth.

Talking through ideas, though, it always sounds like discontent, when really, it’s just how my brain works.

“Y’know, if this wall was two feet that way…”

I don’t really want to move the wall two feet that way. It’s completely impractical. Gut the whole interior and start over? Hmmmm…

(Fortunately, I am also lazy in some ways, so if I see a re-do but it’s going to be a lot of work, I’m not always inclined to jump up and get it done.)

I do wonder occasionally … if I were to design a house from the bottom up and could do it any way I wanted—no restrictions—how long would it take before I wanted to edit it? Probably at a shift in life circumstances, when the space would obviously be used differently. But before that?

Anyway. I tried some new activities this week with my kids at school. Trying to get them to learn some things that they haven’t been clicking with. Some of it worked, some of it we’re not done yet—to early to call it.

To that end, my editing brain is all good.

I know there are households that fight this fight with regards to how the dishwasher is loaded. Or maybe how the laundry is folded. Are those arguments “correct versus incorrect” or “more versus less efficient”? (I have some opinions about how dishes get loaded in the dishwasher, but it’s because they’re easiest to get in and out that way. And I rarely mention these opinions, but I do sometimes move dishes around after they were otherwise loaded…)

P.S. I need to add here, before The Climbing Daddy chimes in, that I’m not 100% practical 100% of the time. There are certainly pockets of life where “bang for the buck” is not my highest priority. And some areas where the most efficient isn’t the least taxing, and I go with the latter. However, all of the above is true more often than it’s not.

P.P.S. On a tangent from the dishwashers … I saw one the other day that has an extra little tray at the top for serving utensils. It blew my mind and created discontent with my current dishwasher. Not that I’m going to go replace it, but when the time comes…

Are you a reviser? Or do you find “good enough” and stick with it? Or something else? I’m always curious how other people’s brains work…