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Life and Health

How to Fail At Using Parenting Expert Advice

As parents, we want our children to behave appropriately and make good decisions. However, there are times when children act out, break rules, or make poor choices. In these instances, it’s important to give consequences that will help them learn from their mistakes and make better decisions in the future.We had a giant meltdown and temper tantrum over the fact that she couldn’t watch TV before dance class. I had warned her yesterday that this might happen and yesterday she (very maturely) said “ok, I won’t even ask for TV tomorrow before dance class.” Ha! I should have known that was luring me into a false sense of security.

Photo by Mick Haupt on Unsplash

Today, you would have thought I had ripped her right arm off by not allowing her to watch 5 minutes of TV before leaving for dance class. It wasn’t my finest parenting moment so I just said “that’s it, I’m tired of these meltdowns over TV, no more TV this week.”And here is how I didn’t follow the “expert” advice when holding her accountable for her behavior:

  1. Be clear and consistent. I did not give her any warnings — she has been told about this behavior in the past and I understand she’s disappointed and frustrated but so was I so instead of warning her this was coming I just said it….of course now I have to stick to it because if I cave on this I’m going to create a whole new set of problems for myself.Focus on the behavior. I did not call her a terrible and ungrateful child. I did express my frustrations at her behavior because she was “acting a fool” but it probably came out a little harsher than I had intended.Use natural consequences. Not sure what natural consequences would have been for flailing around on the floor kicking and screaming like she was spurting arterial blood because I had simply said “no.” I’m hoping the loss of TV due to her profound, deep feelings for an electronic box will be natural enough to break her habit. Sometimes life is disappointing kiddo, but we need to figure out ways to deal with it.Make consequences proportional. I’m not sure if the rest of the week is proportional for one 10 minute meltdown but maybe it’s proportional enough to make an impact. She and I routinely get into arguments about the TV and her addiction to it. Sometimes it’s because her father and I have different opinions and she unfortunately gets stuck in the middle between us. This time I made sure to call her father and tell him that she gets no TV for the rest of the week.

Before I was a parent, I thought I wasn’t going to negotiate with her, bribe her, or yell at her because I am better than that and then I became a parent in the messy real world and realized that all of these techniques have their place and that’s why parents have been relying on them to varying levels for decades. I may not have been the paragon of parenting wisdom and patience today while fighting with my almost seven year old but we’ve somehow made it through. We’ve, so far, successfully navigated all the potholes and speed bumps.All the “expert” advice is useful but sometimes, as we’ve all experienced, expert advice and real world living aren’t always in tune with each other. On occasion when we’re both having a bad day at the same time we have to wing it and hope for the best. I don’t know what’s going to be the fallout from this particular event but so far things seem to be ok.

Life and Health

Five Tips to Help Build Productivity

Whether you’re trying to accomplish personal or professional goals, many of us struggle to meet those goals. Since we’ve attempted to move on since the pandemic, I’ve noticed that many of us seem to be struggling with getting our lives “back” in order. It seems that our attention is divided and our focus is constantly being pulled in different directions so we’re never quite able to sit and get the things done that we need to get done.

Photo by Surface on Unsplash

Even as I try to write this post I am bouncing between the writing of it and weekly planner sheets I designed to try and share it with you but as I bounce between these two activities they both suffer. Neither one is getting my full attention so it’s actually taking me longer and I’m doing a poor job with both of them instead of telling myself to focus on one task, finish it, and then I can focus on the other. So here I am trying to focus on the top five tips I’ve found helpful to make the most out of the time I have to get $hit done.

  1. Prioritize tasks — one of the things I’ve realized that keeps me from maximizing my productivity is that I think all tasks are equally important and deserve to be treated as if they are the most important thing to do. This is a fallacy that keeps me from getting things done in the best way possible. All tasks are not created equal — some are big and time consuming, some are small and time consuming, some are big and don’t really take a lot of time, and so on. By treating all of the tasks on your to-do list with the same weight it feels like there is a lot more on your plate than what’s really true. By prioritizing or categorizing tasks based on their importance and their time commitment you can get things done in a way that matches your energy availability and time to spend to get the most bang for your productivity buck.
  2. Use time-blocking — Time-blocking is a method where you block out your calendar in such a way to maximize your time. Once you’ve prioritized your tasks based on how important they are and how much time they’d take up you can put them into your time-block and work on them. I explore that more in this post where I talk about how I’ve divided my preps up into creating new content and grading (the two most important and time consuming tasks for any teacher). By using my prep to focus on just one of those things at a time I get more done because I’m not switching gears and my brain isn’t getting lost in the process. (Just like telling myself to stop trying to share the weekly planner designs so I can actually WRITE the post).
  3. Take breaks — We have been conditioned to just WORK, work through the block, work through the need to pee, just keep going but the research shows that breaks can be just as important for creative and critical thinking as well as overcoming roadblocks. I personally really love the Pomodoro Technique where you work for a set period of time (I generally use twenty minutes in class) and then take a five minute break. I discuss this technique more in this post. Some of the students don’t take the break but you can see the ones who’s focus is about to crash at the end of the twenty minutes and the relief when they get their breaks. It also generally keeps them off their cell phones because they know the opportunity is coming which leads me to number 4….
  4. Eliminate distractions — We like to believe that we can multitask but the reality is every time your attention switches from one activity to the next you have to mentally reorient yourself. This doesn’t necessarily mean listening to music or other background noise (although when I write I prefer lo fi beats on Spotify so the lyrics of the music aren’t competing with the words I want on the page) but don’t try to do too much at once. As you switch from task to task without ever finishing one, it gets harder and harder to keep each one straight; focus on what you’re trying to do until you’re done.
  5. Learn to say no — One of the problems I see with a lot of people is that they try to do too much or agree to too many things (or their kids). There was a period of time when all humans did was facilitate survival (hunt, gather, farm) and rest. Meals could be slow social affairs, we sat around fires telling stories, and just generally being with each other. In today’s modern world of go-go-go we’ve lost these moments and by saying no you might be able to bring some more of those moments back which help us recharge and be ready to tackle another problem on another day.

Being productive doesn’t mean having to work all the time, and I’d argue that we shouldn’t work all the time. I know I’ve felt like a confused, distracted mess who can’t get anything done because I’m often trying to do too many things at once. By prioritizing tasks, using time-blocking, taking breaks, eliminating distractions, and saying no when I had to I’ve become more efficient with my time which allows me to work smarter, not harder. These tools allow me to get more done when I need to so I can have more time for the fun things I want to do.

Life and Health

5 Tips When You Feel Uninspired

As humans, we all experience periods of time when we feel uninspired. It can be a frustrating and disheartening experience, especially when we are trying to be creative or productive. Whether you are an artist, writer, student, or working professional, feeling uninspired can affect your ability to come up with new ideas, find motivation, and complete tasks.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

As I stare at the blank screen looking back at me before I started typing, I am currently feeling this way with all the ways that life is being really life-y at the moment. It’s both things big like the existential dread about the world collapsing when I have an almost 7 year old who will have to live in whatever mess is left and small around things that are specifically affecting me through work and other things.

Here are a few tips to that helped me overcome feeling uninspired and finally putting some words down on a page:

  1. Take a break — Sometimes when I feel like I’m beating my head against a wall trying to solve a problem or move past something I need to step away from it for a few minutes or days while I get my head back in the game. Unfortunately I am not programmed to step away from problems (or fights) and it takes a lot for me to stop for 24 hours (or whatever) before I continue. My intellectual, rational self knows I need to take a break but my stubbornness wants me to finish it. I have found that taking a break and a breather really helps me come back to the problem with fresh eyes and fresh energy.
  2. Change your routine — Executive functioning craves routine but routine starts to feel like monotony and habits start to feel like rules. Being able to create “spontaneous routine” has been a process as I try to keep the habits that support a healthy and happy life but can sometimes feel like chains. I have started booking “movement time” in my calendar instead of a specific workout. This way I have the habit of movement but I’m not chained to one particular thing.
  3. Get out of your comfort zone — Sometimes, we can feel uninspired because we are too comfortable with what we are doing. Push yourself to try something new, take a risk, or challenge yourself. This can help you break out of your comfort zone and find inspiration in new experiences. I started using a journal with prompts in it that I found in the “book cellar” or whatever Barnes and Noble call their cheap books now. I haven’t used a journal with prompts before so by focusing on specific sentence prompts or questions I have to think and write about what the journal wants me to, which can sometimes feel uncomfortable.
  4. Seek inspiration from others — I often fall into the egotistical trap of “it’s just me” or “I’m the only one”. As human beings (or maybe just the US) moved away from community centered care and thought we get trapped in our individualism. Except the problem with individualism is you’re just like everyone else. Hot Topic had (has?) a shirt that says “You’re unique, just like everyone else.” And right now that hits home as the US grapples with the struggle of rugged individualism or pull yourself up by your bootstraps with the desire to become more community centered and focused (just look at the fight we had over the pandemic). When feeling uninspired, going out there and reading content from others (or…gasp…books!) sometimes you get ideas from the most random places.
  5. Set achievable goals — Setting achievable goals can help you stay motivated and inspired. Start with small goals and work your way up to bigger ones. Celebrate your achievements along the way, and don’t be too hard on yourself if you don’t achieve everything you set out to do. Celebrate and give yourself the gold star for the goals you set and achieve. We all need a carrot on a stick once and a while to keep going but sometimes we have to make our own carrot.

Feeling uninspired is a natural part of the creative process. However, with a little effort and the right mindset, you can overcome it and find inspiration again. Remember to take breaks, change up your routine, get out of your comfort zone, seek inspiration from others, and set achievable goals. With these tips in mind, you can break through your uninspired feelings and get back to creating your best work.

Photo by Stainless Images on Unsplash

Don’t be afraid to get back out there in life; inspiration and motivation can come from the darnedest places but you have to keep your eyes, heart, and brain open to finding it.

Life and Health

Homework, Wal-Mart and Consequences

A couple nights ago, we had a big blowout meltdown here over consequences. I asked my child if she had homework — she knows she’s supposed to finish her homework before she watches TV. She told me no, did all the other things she had to do (get ready for dance, hang her bag and coat up…normal stuff for a 6 year old) and then asked if she could watch TV. I said sure because we had about 30 minutes until we had to leave for dance. About 5 minutes before getting ready to leave, I look in her bookbag and stumble across the ignored homework. I tell her to turn the TV off and she loses her mind. “I forgot!!” She keeps telling me and whether it’s good or bad, at this point I dug in. Nope, no TV until you do the homework.

Photo by Kenny Eliason on Unsplash

On our way to dance she’s still having an epic meltdown and I explain to her that there are consequences for when we forget things. I, for example, had forgotten to order paper straws for a lab I was doing with Marine Biology students and instead of sitting in a coffee shop writing my post while I usually do when she’s at dance, I now had to brave the wilds of Wal-Mart to find some paper straws. I tried to explain to her that I too now had to do something I didn’t particularly care for — shopping in person AND shopping in Wal-Mart — instead of doing what I wanted to because I forgot something.I sent her to dance with a twinge of parental guilt…. So many questions:1. Was she just really tired and that’s why she had such an blockbuster meltdown?2. Should I have been the sweet, comforting, everything’s alright mom instead of the tough love mom tonight?3. Is she going to bear resentment to me all night long?4. What is she going to say about me in therapy years from now?The list went on and on…. 

We spin ourselves up in guilt or shame because we somehow think we’re doing it wrong if our child has big feelings instead of realizing that big feelings, mistakes, consequences and dealing with it all is a part of life and children need to learn how to do it for themselves. 

Often when children are young, the mistakes they make are cute or not a big deal so it seems that people choose not to correct them; I could have easily told her “well next time….” In hopes that she would somehow magically learn her lesson without me having to do anything about it.I have a distinct memory of watching Maury Povich one day when I was home sick from school (like you did in the 90s) and it was one of the episodes where parents were begging for Maury to send their child(ren) to boot camp to straighten them out because at 12, 13, 14, etc… their behavior had gotten so bad the parents felt at a loss. But there seemed to be a common thread amongst the parents that when the child did something wrong when they were 2, 3, 4, 5 years old, they were never corrected or felt any consequences from their actions and children do what they know. If you haven’t taught them x, y, or z is wrong and they haven’t experienced consequences teaching them those actions were wrong they will continue doing those same behaviors as if nothing is wrong. And as children get bigger, behaviors get bigger, problems get bigger, consequences get bigger and sometimes out of our control.

Photo by Bradyn Trollip on Unsplash

We’ve also come into a time where, for whatever reason, parents feel judged if their child makes a mistake and someone (a teacher or coach for example) attempts to call their kid on the mistake. “Oh not my child,” or “well, because they were dealing with x, y, or z so expect them to misbehave or make mistakes.” There is a litany of excuses parents (or other adults) give to excuse a child’s behavior instead of working to correct them. We are the adults, we build the fences and create the boundaries that the children are supposed to try to cross and then we teach them why they shouldn’t cross those lines.They are supposed to test us, we are the adults and thus supposed to help them learn the lessons of why those boundaries are in place. “No honey, you should not touch the hot stove because it will burn you.”That’s not to say we can’t have compassion and grace for children when they make said mistakes (because they will) but we can be strong and compassionate at the same time. Remember that discipline has it’s roots in learning, not punishment. Dealing with consequences are part of the learning process and we need to help children learn to deal with consequences for their actions because if we don’t in a loving and compassionate way (most of the time, not saying I don’t lose my cool….she is a feisty one) someone else out there (i.e. police, mortgage company, etc….) will do it in a very heartless way. If they don’t experience consequences early and learn to understand them, they will learn later in ways that might be more harmful to them.I suffered through my consequence of having to shop in person and picked her up from dance. She got in the car, “I’m sorry mommy.”“I’m sorry too honey,” because I had done my own fair share of poor communication. “What are we going to do differently if you don’t know whether you have homework or not?”“Check my folder.”Stay tuned for whether she remembers or not.

DIY and Organization, Life and Health

Being More Productive By Doing Less At Once

Depending on what job you have, the idea of only having 45 minutes (on average) during the course of your day to prepare everything you need to do for the other 6 may sound outlandish.

However, for those of you who aren’t aware, the teacher workday is broken up into a variety of tasks:

  1. Teaching and working with the students
  2. Prepping the work and materials that you’re going to be doing with the children
  3. Duties (hall, study hall, office, etc..)
  4. Fighting with printers/copiers/technology to make #1 and #2 happen
  5. Grading work that has been turned in
  6. Meetings (post-observation, 504/IEP, professional development….)
  7. Emails/communication with other teachers, counselors, parents, etc…
  8. Writing reports and/or lesson plans (which is a separate task from #2 because often the lesson plans for administrators look wildly different than what you’re giving the students)
  9. Bring pertinent information to administrators, counselors, etc…
  10. Other duties as determined by administrators (really this list could keep going but I’m going to cut it off)
Photo by Sonja Langford on Unsplash

For those of you who don’t realize, number 1 takes up 5+ hours of our day and we have to handle the other 9 during the rest of the day. Sometimes they can overlap with number 1 but more often than not we have to squeeze the rest into the other 2 hours of our work day along with lunch, going to the bathroom and sometimes just taking a breath so you don’t lose your mind.

There was a time when I tried to squeeze as many of the other tasks into a single day’s planning period. Most of the time it was because I thought I had to have it all done immediately. What happens when everything is important? Then nothing really is.

Over the course of the pandemic I’ve learned the way I need to balance my prep time is not by trying to do it all at the same time but by dedicating my prep time to very specific tasks.

I realized that there are three main things I usually do during my prep periods over and over again: developing/preparing new material for future lessons, grading, and communicating with others.

When I realized that these are the same tasks I have to focus on repetitively I realized that if I committed my prep periods to the single task then I could stay on top of the workload easier and was more productive because I wasn’t constantly jumping from one task to the next without finishing the first.

Photo by Estée Janssens on Unsplash

I actually started writing on my schedule for the year “planning new stuff” or “grading” and now, because I know that prep for the week is dedicated to that task instead of trying to do everything all the time I get more done in a single period than I did before.

I generally alternate the days so if today was a planning new stuff day, tomorrow will be grading and email (I can usually get them both done unless it’s a particularly heavy grading day) and I’ll go back and forth through the week.

Chunking out my time this way has helped me stay on track (mostly) teaching three different classes, one of which is brand new to me this year, without feeling like I’m overwhelmed and underwater with everything. It’s even given me the opportunity to take my lunch and read for fun while I’m eating instead of working through lunch.

By setting guidelines and structure to my work week I’ve been able to get back to a place of normal with my job and not constantly feel like I’m in fight or flight mode while also still handling my responsibilities and carving out some time to breathe.

Life and Health

The First Step to Helping is Listening

“The first step to helping is listening.”

Photo by saeed karimi on Unsplash

In a rare moment of parenting wisdom, I said this to my daughter on our way to participate in a local Martin Luther King, Jr Day of Service and I realized that this was as profound for me as it was for her.

I am routinely one that jumps into action, many times before I know the whole story or all the details. I am a swift “fixer.” I leap whether you’ve asked for my help and advice or not. I tend to start brainstorming answers and then attempt to implement them when they’re usually half-baked and not ready for consumption yet.

I fear stewing in a problem. I want to tackle it and deal with it ASAP. I know my energy is sometimes unappreciated because I just want to DO SOMETHING.

If I’m taking steps, we will at least make progress, if I’m stewing the problem will just grow in my mind.

I am often someone who would rather throw solutions at the wall and see what sticks instead of sitting around and thinking about a problem; I have very rarely in my life suffered from what I call “analysis paralysis”. I have never sat and thought about something for very long so when this statement came out I almost had to shut my mouth because I don’t model this very well.

It almost sounded like I was reading a fortune cookie of parenting but I realized that I need to practice what I preach. I am working more on being an ally (as a verb) this year and one of the things I need to work on during this journey the most is shutting up and not taking up space.

I like to take up ALLLLLLLL the space, I like to do all the talking, and I am recognizing that this might not always be the most helpful especially because I tend to jump on the “let’s get this done!” bandwagon too fast. I like to start trying anything as opposed to waiting to take the perfect step or make the perfect decision. Some of you may envy my inability to stop and think because maybe you wish you were more reckless or you took more actions, or opened your mouth right then and there instead of having the perfect come back at two am but let me tell you, sometimes it definitely bites me in the ass.

While I generally appreciate my “go get it” attitude there are definitely times when I need to shut up and listen. Not only as a cis, hetero, white woman (and a Karen at that) trying to be an ally but also as someone who has interpersonal relationships that often go awry because I open mouth-insert foot more often than I care to admit.

I tend to believe I have all the answers even if they are undeveloped or harebrained schemes; I dig into my own “rightness” so hard that I will follow one of these underdeveloped plans off a cliff because I just have to keep going with it despite all the signs that tell me to stop and turn back (see all the arguments with my partner when I refuse to give up or back down).

But this statement to my daughter, just randomly as we were driving, made me pause and realize that part of my work this year is definitely going to be practicing active listening in all spaces and areas of my life. I also need to not retreat from those areas or spaces because I’m afraid I’ll overstep my bounds; it is not better that I don’t show up, I need to learn to show up but then sit on my hands and potentially cover my mouth, either figuratively or literally, so I can be an active listener and hear what people need from me not just what I want to give them.

Photo by Hannah Busing on Unsplash

The survival of humanity on many levels, from the interpersonal to the global, rely on us being willing to stop and listen to each other. 

As Margaret Wheatly says in the poem, “Turning to One Another”:

Know that creative solutions come from new connections.

Remember, you don’t fear people whose story you know.

Real listening always brings people closer together.

Trust that meaningful conversations can change your world.

Rely on human goodness. Stay together

Life and Health

5 Lessons From Life…So Far

I will be turning 42 this year and while I might be the answer to “life, the universe, and everything” this year, I definitely don’t have all the answers but I might have some.

Photo by Angèle Kamp on Unsplash

I honestly don’t know what the definition is of “mid-life” anymore since our life spans have steadily charted in the upwards trajectory for the past few centuries but i have come to a place in my life where I have enough time to look back at the past with some fond reminiscing about “in my day” but still enough to look forward to see the future with wonder and possibility (I hope…it’s getting a little dicey out there).

Photo by Fabio Comparelli on Unsplash

In my almost 42 trips around the sun at this point I have come to a few understandings:

  1. “Be yourself, everyone is already taken” but don’t forget about everyone else. Who knows where this quote actually originated from and I think there is some truth to being yourself. We have to be ourselves — so dance to the music in the grocery store or wear the clothes that you were “TOO” whatever to wear when you were younger but in the journey to become the women who wear red hats with purple dresses (or whatever old ladies that have stopped giving a f*** about other people’s opinions do) don’t forget that other people exist and our survival depends on what we can accomplish as a community. No one exists in a vacuum or on an island. I tried to act as if I did for a great many years and sometimes I still fall into those patterns but as my hair has started to change from brown to gray I’ve realized that I need help from other people and they need help from me. We are, after all, in this together.Spend time wisely but waste time just as wisely. Our society generally does not encourage rest. It’s getting better because we’re at least talking about it but the conversations around rest seem highly performative and privileged. We need to talk about what rest really looks like and FEELS like. For me, sitting and binge watching an entire season of something in a night or two may look like rest but at the end of the day it doesn’t actually feel restful. Rest is not just supposed to be escapism or numbing; it is supposed to be an activity that feels good. After two episodes in a row or mindless doom scrolling I can start to feel the difference in my body and mind when I tip the scales from rest to numbing. Find what that feels like in your body and notice what rest feels fulfilling and rejuvenating and what just feels like wasting time. For me, nourishing rest looks like writing, reading, and walking in nature — after those activities I feel refreshed and ready to go back to the “real world”.Move — your body will thank you for it. Start somewhere no matter how small. Our bodies were designed to move. We survived because we could hunt and run during the heat of the day when other animals were resting. Doesn’t matter if you can only do 5 minutes — start somewhere and keep it up. I am starting to feel my warranty running out and I am cursing my younger self who didn’t find a way to stick with any of my activities. I am starting to feel the aches and pains in some joints from a body that has carried too much weight and not been utilized properly. I’m trying to roll that clock back a little bit and I’m making progress but if I had just developed habits and routines instead of berating myself I would be in a much better place now.Keep exploring and gaining knowledge. In this day and age we have information at our fingertips through the internet, podcasts, books/audiobooks, magazines, apps, etc…. Take some time every day/week/month to step outside your comfort zone and learn something. In this global world our focus can be so small (see number one). By taking some time to read news from another country (I like BBC or Al Jezeera) or listening to podcasts about all the things you didn’t pay attention to in high school (don’t worry, I didn’t either!) this wide, beautiful, wonderful, and oftentimes difficult world is open to us. And we should experience it.And don’t worry about the mess — you’ll always make another one.

As I round out this trip around the sun I still have time to “live deliberately” because I know that, for better or for worse, I am on the other side of the hill at this point. 

I am starting to see the end of this tunnel called life and when I’m done I want to live a life that makes my daughter proud.

Here’s to the next leg of this journey!

DIY and Organization, Tips and Tricks

Six Steps to Better Time Management in 2023

Here we are again in that mythical time of new years resolutions, one word promises, and other ways that we plan to do and be better in the new year. New year’s resolutions are promises we make to ourselves when we can see our potential and we’re hoping to live up to it. The problem with resolutions is we always have the best intentions but the follow through is difficult for most of us.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

I recently discovered an easy way to track your resolutions or goals which can be easily adapted to your professional or personal life. 

I stumbled across a video by creator Matt Ragland about his “ten block” method but realized that I don’t really need to organize or worry about my work life so much. My work life as a teacher is pretty structured already and I’m good about using my time wisely because there’s only so much of it to go around but I have found this method to be incredibly useful in tracking the things I want to do in my personal life instead of the usual habit trackers.

Step 1: I figured out roughly how much available time I have in a week:

Total hours in a week: 168

Total hours spent commuting at at work: 45

Total hours doing errands, meals, kids activities, meetings (high average): 15

Total hours sleeping (I’m a sleep zealot and work really hard on getting my sleep): 63

Hours left over: 168 — (45+15+63) = 45 hours

When I did this calculation, I was shocked to find out that I had 45 hours a week to do what I wanted to do, not just what I needed to do. That was an eye opener to me because, like most people, I’m usually complaining about the fact that there isn’t enough time. 

However, seeing it in black and white, there really IS enough time, I am just squandering it with doom scrolling and TV watching. 

After I processed my feelings of “wasted” time, I decided to get to work on making it not wasted. 

I’ve been on the bullet journal train consistently now for about a year and it’s the only planner style I haven’t given up on yet because it morphs into whatever you need when you need it which I have found incredibly helpful. I will say, I generally stay away from social media or videos about bullet journals unless I use the word “minimalist” because the bujo world is CRAZY and some people get really artistic with them but that is not me — I am a minimalist — give me the basics and the simpler the better.

This is what hit me about Matt’s ten block method — it was a super simple time tracker that let you see how much time you were spending on different activities and if you were using too much time in the wrong areas. You can use this simple method as a way to track how much time you spend doing things you don’t want to (i.e. doom scrolling) or things you do want to be doing (i.e exercise). 

As we enter into 2023 — I wanted to share this with anyone who might find it helpful:

Step 2: Set up a four hour strip — for me in my bullet journal it works out to sixteen dots on the dot grid paper and four for each hour.

Step 3: Draw this four hour strip as many times as you want or need to. Matt originally suggests ten times for a total of forty hours but I generally use six to eight strips (twenty-four to thirty-two hours) depending on what my focus is during that week. And since I’m using this in my personal life I figured I don’t need to be productive for the full 45 hours I have available, because sometimes we need to “waste” time and be restful.

Step 4: Separate the strips into one hour increments. I do this by using four dots for each hour.

Step 5: Then label each strip with what you’re tracking (i.e. meetings, exercise, reading, etc…)

Step 6: Shade time in the strip every time you spend time on that activity:

photo by author

I have found this really helpful in keeping me on track and focusing on my priorities in a gentle and open way as opposed to being so rigid I end up giving up. I have found that I need a nice balance of routine and flexibility and this ten block method helps me with that. As you can see in the picture, I don’t always (very rarely) meet my goals or get even close to them but it at least is a way for me to see how I’m spending my time and where I can improve.

I hope you take whatever you need into 2023 and work towards the life you want to have — no matter what that looks like to anyone else!

Life and Health

Not Everyone Is An Expert…And That’s Ok

There has been a lot of discussion about the educational space about what materials are being taught, presented, or available to students at different levels and I have made some observations about these discussions.

First, I’d like to preface this by saying that I am a parent to a first grader, a biology master’s degree holder, and a public high school teacher for 15 years. I have been at this a long time and I can see some generalities and relationships but I would by no means call myself an educational expert and I am not passing myself off as such but it seems that people who are parents and/or have attended school at some time in their lives are becoming experts on what kids are supposed to learn and how they are supposed to learn.

Let’s just reminder ourselves what an expert is:

“having, involving, or displaying special skill or knowledge derived from training or experience” from The Merriam Webster Dictionary

None of those things I listed make me an expert, the masters degree and 15 years of experience definitely give me a leg up but I am not an expert about ALL children. My experience in the classroom gives me insights into what works and what doesn’t work but my experience is still fairly limited to my school (a high school), in my district (large suburban district), in my state (NJ). I do not have experience with students living in different areas of the country or students in different educational levels other than my students or the experience I have limited to my own elementary age child.

The information I have is what we call anecdotal despite the fact that over the course of my career I have probably taught close to 1500 students (creating research studies for human participants is incredibly difficult). However, because of those 1500 students I have gained some wisdom and insight but even if I can talk louder than the person next to me that doesn’t mean I am an expert. Being a parent definitely doesn’t come with any special training and attending a school does not give you experience for all students in all different types of schools.

Photo by Piron Guillaume on Unsplash

As a parent, you have the right to control your child but children shouldn’t exist in a vacuum. If you have a problem with your child being exposed to other ideas or a variety of people then you should probably opt to homeschool them. Teachers are there to teach all children the information they need to be a member of society — unless you plan to live in a commune or completely separate from society your child will face people who think, act, and ARE different. If you want your child to be constantly disappointed that life doesn’t measure up to their vision of it; if you are afraid that what you are teaching at home will crumble the minute your child is exposed to a new idea or a new way of thinking it might be a time to step back and re-evaluate.

Ideas get stronger as they are discussed, contested, and refined. Multiple viewpoints (theoretically, congress notwithstanding) make better ideas. I am a firm believer that “expertise” often comes from collaborative efforts because when we discuss the human condition there are so many variables that no one person or entity could possibly have all the answers.

I am a cis-gendered, straight teacher but I have had LGBTQIA students. I am a white teacher but I have had students with a variety of racial backgrounds. This means not every lesson is going to land the same with every student. There are days where I see certain students light up and “get it”; these connections happen because I create lessons that are accessible to the kids who have a dual-parent household and the kids who might be struggling because mom or dad is absent (or many other difficult stories, you would be surprised what goes on in kids’ lives even in “nice” suburban schools).

It is not my job to teach only to my cis, straight, white students. My job as an educator is to care for all the students in my classroom and to teach them ALL to the best of my ability.

But for me, as a parent, to fight against “And Tango Makes Three” because it depicts two male penguins adopting a baby chick and making a family is ludicrous because that is the reality for some of my students and some of my daughter’s classmates. My daughter (at least at this point) is also cis, white, and straight but her classmates are not and they deserve to see representations of themselves as much as my daughter deserves to see herself in the stories told at school.

You want a teacher who teaches your child different lessons in different ways; that will ensure your child understands it better. You want a teacher who is able to push back against your child’s ideas and misconceptions — this is how we learn after all. You want teachers who help build your child’s critical thinking skills. 

Being a critical thinker doesn’t mean that your ideas are always accepted or never challenged; being a critical thinker means that your child will question and evaluate the information and then grow from it.

Children need teachers who are supportive but also willing to be devil’s advocate; children need teachers that are going to open their eyes, their minds, and their hearts to all the beautiful aspects of this human life.

Equip your child with the skills and the values that they need to live; in a perfect society that happens as a partnership between what you value in your home and what is taught in the school. Let your children see their role in the beautiful tapestry because that will help them be successful as they grow up.

Life and Health

Can We Improve the World for Our Children?

White women, we must wake up. Hear me out, read to the end, and if you now hate me or think I’m wrong that’s fine but please don’t check out just because I am telling you to wake up.

I am one of you — a suburban, college educated, home-owning, karate parent (ok, not a “soccer mom” but that’s the closest I can get). I know the number of pressures we are feeling — obligations to our families, both immediate and extended, the stress of the economy, the fear of the world our children are growing up in and don’t forget the constant barrage of people telling us to take care of ourselves.

There doesn’t often seem like enough money in the bank account, time in the day, or energy in our bodies to handle it all. However, these crises have been going on for decades and they are coming to a head because corporate greed has consistently been placed before you and your families. Bottom lines have been growing to epic proportions that have continued to edge out our solidly middle class living — it has not been anyone other than corporate profits and making money for boards and shareholders that have created the world we are struggling so hard to live in.

Remember when living on one income didn’t seem like a crazy idea? Not that I personally would make a great stay at home mom, and I don’t want to be one, but if you do that life can feel so out of reach. Look at what’s been happening to local stores — small businesses that spend MOST of their money back in the community they live in have been edged out by corporate retailers and franchises because the local guy can’t keep up. But this isn’t about the economy — or I should say this isn’t JUST about the economy.

The world is hurting, the world is on fire, and we generally keep voting for people who want to pour gasoline on the fire.

We have been on this precipice before as a culture, we used to be ok with children dying or being badly injured in factory accidents. We used to be ok with bosses making it impossible for employees to escape a fire (yes, that really happened, look up the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire).

We have been the pawns in other people’s games unless we the people, all the people, stood up against it. Children don’t die working (as often) and employees have basic rights because we stood up and fought the powers that be for those rights.

We can do it again; we can change the world if we stop being pawns in the game played by those who just want to tap us on the shoulder and run away.

The real “they” we should be fighting are the ones who don’t have ALL children’s best interests at heart. The ones who want children born but don’t want them fed, clothed, educated, or loved by the society they live in.

We should not be arguing with people, some of them have a smaller slice of the pie than we do, over who’s got more pie when corporations are bringing in record profits for their shareholders.

from “Corporate profits have contributed disproportionately to inflation. How should policymakers respond?” by Josh Bivens linked above

This isn’t new information and it’s very easy to search for who’s really winning the race right now and for the most part it isn’t any of us, but “they” want us to believe we’d win the race if the other guy wasn’t there.

This isn’t a zombie movie; you do not need to be the fastest to make it out alive (in the name of transparency if this WAS a zombie movie I’d kick someone in the knees to ensure I get away to fight another day).

Follow the money.

Who benefits from us fighting each other? Who benefits by keeping everyone else scrambling over the left overs?

Don’t play into the fears. We have been through this all before but the “mine” mentality has never been the savior when we’ve been in this position. During World War II, when the government needed more resources to fight the fascists, what did we do as a society?

We gave up our nylons, we tended victory gardens, we rationed milk, eggs, and butter. Do you think the allies won WWII without our support and banding together? Did the “mine” mentality beat the Nazis?

Do you think it’s going to beat the Nazis now? There are Nazis and a million other groups who are so afraid of losing the power that they tenuously hold now that they are willing to attempt to overthrow the government to keep it instead of being able to see that we can all be part of the brilliant future, a future made of a million different threads.

“A rising tide raises all boats,” I’ve heard from people still thinking trickle down economics works (newsflash, it doesn’t and hasn’t ever worked) but if that’s the case then let’s work to raise the boats for as many people as possible because it will then raise the boats for everyone.

We have the power to protect our children and to make workplaces and communities safe; we’ve done it before. We have the power, as white women, to help make decisions that protect all children and show all children that they are loved and cared for regardless of their circumstances. If the other 6-year-old children in my daughter’s first grade class feel as safe, stable, and loved as she does, imagine the world she would live in as an adult?

As I tell my daughter often, a lot of times hurt people then hurt people. We can’t make hurt people feel better by hurting them back, hurting others, or ourselves. It takes a lot to step back and act from a place of love and empathy. People are telling us they are hurting; people are telling us that we are doing the hurting (or maybe in some cases just not helping); step back and examine yourself to see where that could be the case. I am not perfect, and I don’t believe anyone is asking for perfection, but if we can all do a little something better it will push the needle in the right direction.

Photo by Liane Metzler on Unsplash

Don’t just fight for your kid to be on the soccer team or for your kid to see themselves in books read at school — fight for all kids to be able to join the team or see themselves in media. Fight for all kids because those are the kids that your child is going to one day interact with as an adult.

In the immortal words of Whitney Houston:

“I believe the children are our future
 Teach them well and let them lead the way
 Show them all the beauty they possess inside
 Give them a sense of pride to make it easier
 Let the children’s laughter remind us how we used to be”

~Greatest Love of All

If you want to create a future for your kid, there must be a future for all the children on this planet and as white, suburban mothers we have the power to do that.