Posted in about me, ebb & flow, mindset, motivation, parenting

Keeping The Kid engaged

I have a trait. (Whether it’s a blessing or a curse is up for grabs.) I’m interested in a lot of things. There are many skills I would like to attempt to acquire.

As a result, there is way more to do than time (or sometimes energy) to do it.

The down side? I often feel time-deprived. And I sometimes (not always) have trouble sticking with a task when it’s at a hard part (learning new skills always has hard parts) because there’s something else I could work on instead.

The up side? I’m never bored.

The Kid has some of this same quality about him. There are things he can talk about longer than you can listen (space and space travel, Minecraft, LEGO) and many many other things that he shows passing interest in.

Because we didn’t go to camps this summer, I decided to try to give him some “slow and steady” perseverance in skill acquisition. The badge system worked well for certain things for a while, but it wasn’t going to work for this.

So I made a chart. We all participated.

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It’s in a frame so we can use dry erase on it. Each day as we do one of the things, we cross it off. Doesn’t have to be a ton of time. A little bit of attention each day.

Each day that the entire list gets marked off, one of the pictures at the bottom gets crossed off. (I had just discovered those pictures when I was making the chart, and that system was born entirely inadvertently as I picked out ones I thought The Kid would love and/or laugh at.)

We did seven days on then a day off (so these were weeks but not Sunday-to-Saturday weeks), and while he needed to be reminded sometimes (often), he did it.

So did I. It was great for giving me a kick in the butt on days when I didn’t feel like doing stuff.

(The Climbing Daddy did it the week he took off and many weekend days, but not on work days, which is to be expected.)

Yesterday was Trophy Day. The Kid was so excited coming up on Trophy Day. (He’s the one who made it more like a holiday and less like that’s just the picture you cross off that day.)

I didn’t know what I was going to do when the board was complete, if anything, so I just took all the symbols and made a certificate. He was thrilled!

In making the certificate, I named the “event” the New Skills Challenge. It hadn’t had a name before. He was extra-excited to complete a “challenge.”

Results?

He did the typing test in his typing “game;” improved accuracy 7% and WPM by 1 since taking the same test near the end of the school year.

He can play a little bit more on his trumpet; mostly, he sounds better on the same songs. (The Climbing Daddy had to start over on a new instrument, as we no longer had a sax to use, so The Kid started over with him.)

He crochets single stitches quickly and feels ready to try a granny square. (He is learning this from a friend and from YouTube—I don’t know how to crochet.) He is excited to have a jellyfish kit waiting for him when he has a bit more skill.

He is learning to write in cursive. Needs to trace words still and is doing much better with forming the letters than when he started. (Kids should learn cursive for a bunch of reasons that I’m not going to tangent into right now. It’s not a useless skill.)

Between typing and cursive, his spacing issues in printing have decreased. (The typing error he made most often was not using the space bar. When I told him that it’s the SPACE bar and it should be his favorite, he rolled his eyes.)

We’re working on Spanish together and he’s picked up a few words, but he’s pretty resistant to it.

He reads often anyway, so that was on the list as an easy win every day.

After receiving his trophy certificate, I told him we have two more weeks until school starts—do you want to do two more weeks?

Yes!

I think we’re going to set some small goals and see if he can work towards them, instead of practicing aimlessly. I don’t know if that will be helpful or initiate a bunch of negative emotions (anxiety, frustration, pressure). We’ll talk about it and see where it goes.

In the mean time, he’s proud of himself for the work he’s put in and the skills he’s started to hone.

And I haven’t heard “I’m bored” yet.

(Me? I’ve been playing piano, trombone, ukulele. You see a bit of my writing. Also writing the book and in a journal. Definitely not all three any day. Spanish through a website and books and talking to The Climbing Daddy. Photography you see the results of here—some days it’s taking pictures and some days it’s just working through my online course. Soon to add editing. Exercise has been running, strength training, sometimes pool-related. This list will be pared down next week when work starts again. How am I going to pare it down? I still want to do it all…)

Posted in ebb & flow, meandering

I did myself in with background noise

A funny thing happened.

Weird funny, not you’re-going-to-be-laughing funny.

I went in to school to do some end-of-the-year stuff. Mostly light manual labor.

A limited number of people can be on campus at once and we’re all in our own rooms most of the time, so except for a few minutes on one of my campuses, I didn’t see or interact with anyone.

Headphones in, I listened to podcasts. When I got into a task that required just enough brain focus that I couldn’t listen and do the task at the same time, I switched over to music. Listened to music for the rest of the day.

Seven hours later, I was done my tasks for the day and ready to head home.

In normal times, driving is the primary time I listen to podcasts. That day, though? I just wanted quiet.

No music. No podcasts. Nice weather meant windows down which means noisy. And the freeway is in the midst of being redone. The asphalt is stripped. Ambient noise was even louder.

When I got home, I needed quiet, I got some, and it was fine.

It got me to thinking: do the people who leave TVs on all the time in the background get overstimulated by sound all the time?

It’s really rare for me to get overstimulated when I’m by myself for a long time. And I hadn’t considered that I might like just to work in quiet for some of the time.

If you are a background noise kind of person, do you get to a point where you need to turn it off? Inquiry minds want to know…

Posted in about me, cancer, ebb & flow, gratitude, physical health

The cancer bus ride started 13 years ago

Lucky number 13!

Thirteen years ago, I started my cancer journey (though the diagnosis didn’t come for another week or so).

It changed everything and it changed nothing.

It was not a blessing in disguise. It didn’t “happen for a reason” (except for whatever the biological root causes were … for which science has guesses but not answers).

It did have a lot of silver linings.

I was lucky—as lucky as one can be going through half a year of chemo, a month of radiation, and continuing on afterwards—in that my long-term side effects have been minimal. (Long-term side effects of the radiation, if I have them, aren’t expected to kick in for another few years. And they are terrifying, so here’s to hope that they pass me by.)

“Still alive” is a good baseline, but quality of life matters.

That’s true whether you’ve had cancer or not.

New Year and birthdays are often calendar points where we might be reflective and introspective.

This date and my cancer-free date (one week before Thanksgiving) give me two additional calendar points to pause and reflect for a minute.

Privileged to be able to forget most of the time that I ever went through it all in the first place. To be able to plug along.

Grateful to be here, to be healthy, to be writing, to be photographing, to have a son (infertility is a common side effect).

My wish for you is to assess or reassess without death threatening you. Or, if you currently feel threatened by death, use it as motivation to introspect. Use it as an excuse to be vulnerable with your people. (And make that a habit.)

Here’s to the next 13 and more! Cheers!

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 connections, ebb & flow, mental health, mindset, parenting

The kid way to process life

Kids work through stress and unfamiliar situations through play. (This is why play therapy is very effective with littles.)

The last play date we had (two weeks ago?), the kids were playing “corona zombies.”

Since play dates have ended, The Kid was playing a robber/spy game by himself where he had to steal and avoid a virus. (I don’t know how to do both simultaneously, but it’s his game. Not my place to “fix” it.)

He jumps on the trampoline A LOT (thank goodness that became part of the family before all this started!). The Climbing Daddy has a spiky ball for rolling underfoot. (Intentionally. Ideally while seated.) The Kid puts it on the trampoline and tries to bounce it off. It’s the virus (because they look similar) and he’s trying to get rid of it.

This is normal. This is healthy. This is how kids process stuff.

This is also informative.

If you’re seeing and hearing stuff like this come up in play, let them play it out. Of course you can have a conversation about it, but please don’t stifle the play.

(Likewise, if you hear them playing out other real-life-ish scenarios that raise red flags, be gentle, but have a conversation.)

As far as life without playdates?

He’s been using Marco Polo* to talk to friends and has had a few virtual playdates via FaceTime. I got tipped off that Battleship and Guess Who can both be played via video chat without adaptation, and they’ve enjoyed playing.

*I didn’t know much about this app until a week or two ago, but it’s been a lot of fun, for me and the kids.

We’ve made drawing and typing and foreign language learning part of our daily routine. He needs some structure and routine, and I don’t want all schoolwork. These are things he’s enjoying (so far) and are good for him and he doesn’t do in school.

Finally, one of my principals shared this with us.

choose connection

 

Deep breath. You can do this.