Sunday, August 30, 2015

Please Have Mercy on the Chronically Late

Dear All Chronically Punctual People,

Please have mercy on us chronically late.  Please.  Please. Please.

I've read a few posts and articles lately that seem to be unjustly harsh on those of us are late. 

I'm definitely one of those chronically late people,  I typically run between 5-30 minutes behind.

Yes....I SHOULD be on time.

Yes...I COULD make more of an effort.

Should, could, should, could, should could, should, could. 

People who aren't chronically late tend to think poorly of people that are.  We've been called, selfish, inconsiderate, irresponsible or all sorts of other horrible things.

None, of which are true.  Most of the people I know who are chronically late are very nice, unselfish, caring people. 

We just tend to have a few characteristics.

We are overly optimistic about time and try to fit too many tasks into too short a time. I definitely fall into this category.  So do my parents. I have very distinct memories of a kid as going someplace and waiting for my mom to be ready, and she would be doing something and be all "I'm just using my marginal minutes."  The problem is that then everyone is just using their marginal minutes and then the whole family is late. 

This is the number one reason I am always late.  I'm always trying to finish just one more thing, cram one more task in, do one more thing before I go.  Just finish this one post, or email or washing the dishes or sweeping the floor or correcting a school subject or work-out..  

We live one block away from our parish, and so try to attend daily Mass a few times a week. I'm usually late.  Why?  Because I think that I can somehow wake up at 7:00 and fit in nursing the toddler, working out,checking email, changing clothes, throwing in a load of laundry, starting the dishwasher, drinking water and sometimes a quick shower..all before 8:10 AM.  Wow...that seems like a lot.  But, I really feel very strongly about getting all that done....and....I figure better late than never. I can just quietly slip in the back...right?  I know, I know..I need to work on it.  

I know, I know...I could just get up earlier.  It doesn't work that way if I get up earlier, I just try to fit more things in. 

We are easily distractible.  It's easy to lose track of time.  We're on our way out the door when we notice the dirty towel on the we walk the tower to the hamper,...then we notice the toilet is starting to look yellow so we give it a quick scrub.  On our way back to the door, we pick up 3 pencils, check the mail, notice dirty counters, give them a quick wipe, grab a drink of water and visit the bathroom.  And now, we're late. 

We are poor judges of time. If I think that it takes 20 minutes to get someplace, I will leave 20 minutes before we have to get there.  Unfortunately, this doesn't take into account loading time and unloading time and walking into the building time.  I just can't get it through my head that I need to account for that time.   I forget to account for things like putting on my shoes, locking the door, fumbling through my bag for my keys.  And never mind kids...someone can't find their shoes or has to go potty. 

We hate idle-time.  If I look at the clock and think I have 10 minutes left before we have to go...then I start to do something.  Except that something takes 12 minutes and, I forgot to account for loading time and we're late. 

I know that intellectually I need to leave more time for leaving, but it's hard to remember that in the moment when I just want to do one more thing. 

We forget to account for the unknown.  Getting lost, finding a parking space, traffic tie-ups. We honestly forget that those things take time, so we don't account for them. 

We have a fear of being early or being the first one there.  Maybe this isn't a factor with other people, but it is with me.  I don't mind being late, but I have a fear of being early. I tend to find being the first one there to feel a bit socially awkward and weird.  So, I tend to err on the side of being late.  I know that seems crazy...but that is how I think. 

I've also had some bad experiences with being early.  For example, this summer we were early to swimming lessons one day.  I know that doesn't seem like a big deal, but the lessons started at 10:00 AM, and the only way to get to the pool was to walk through the locker rooms.   Unfortunately, the pool kept the doors between the pool and changing room locked until precisely at 10:00 AM when they were opened.  This would have been fine if I just had girls with me.  But, I had my 7-year old son.  A boy who does NOT want to walk through the women's locker room to get to the pool.  Normally, it's not a problem if we get there after the doors are opened.  He just walks through (already changed).  However, that one time we got there and the doors were locked, he had to wait in the changing rooms.  Except he didn't wait...he walked back out and was a bit confused and starting wandering around the park lost, until I found him.  That was a bit scary. Of course, once I knew about  the locked doors, I could explain to him that he just had to wait.  But, I'm also less comfortable with a 7-year old boy waiting by himself in a locker room, then him just walking through quickly on the way to the pool. 

We honestly don't think anyone is bothered by us being late.  I still believe that most of the time.  All these harsh articles claim that late people are SO disruptive and EVERYONE has to wait for them. Well in my defense, I am (usually) only late to places where I don't feel I am putting anyone out.  I honestly don't think it should bother anyone if we sneak into the back of Mass 5 minutes late, or my child joins swimming lessons 8 minutes after it started, or I walk 10 minutes late to a meeting that has already started or my child is 10 minutes late to an activity or we arrive at the park 30 minutes after we had planned.  I don't expect anyone to wait for me/us.  I fully realize and take responsibility for the fact that we might miss something.  We just quietly slip in/ join in.  No big deal

I'm not bothered when people arrive late, so I don't really understand that other people are bothered by it. 

However, I DO make more of an effort in situations where I DO think I would be inconveniencing someone.....where someone would be waiting specifically for me.  Say if I was meeting someone at a restaurant or for a car pool or if I was picking my child up from an activity.  If someone would have to wait for me or with my child, I make a point of being there on time.

However, I think that MOST places we go, people do not wait for me. The start of an activity does not depend on my arrival.  I'm not that important, so I try not to stress about it.

While we are bothered by being late, we are also bothered by other things.  Like leaving our house when it's a mess, not finishing what we started or leaving with children that have messy hair or dirty clothes or forgetting something important.  Those things are bothersome too.  Sometimes it's a matter of being on time, or leaving the house tidy and with clean children or forgetting my phone. The tidy house and clean children and retrieved phone usually win out. 

We ARE trying to change.  Overcoming the habit of being chronically late is often a matter of two steps forward, one step back.   Late people don't really want to be late.  We honestly feel bad about it.  However, we tend to perceive time differently, be a bit distractible and be overly concerned with productivity. 

What about you?  I know I'm not the only one who struggles with lateness.  Any tips for overcoming it?
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Friday, August 21, 2015

My Best Homeschooling Tips

And so it begins....our 9th year of homeschooling. 

I have kids in 8th, 5th and 2nd. And one in weaning-school and stop sleeping in mommy's bed school (she's failing both classes.  She did pass potty-training school with flying colors last year, however!)

Ever year things go a little bit differently but after years, we've sorta settled into a routine and I've found things that work and things that don't. 

1.  What Works. 
 -For us...using a set curriculum works.   I spent years piecing things together and we ended up sorta crazy with way too many subjects and not enough time.   I do switch out subjects as needed and to go along with co-ops but I really do much better if everything is laid out. Otherwise, on my own, I have every kid do 1 million subjects a day and we all hate each other. Shockingly, the set curriculum gives way less work than I give on my own.   So, we follow those....with some adjustments.  

2. What Works. 
-Pushing/Encouraging Independent work at soon as possible. I've had people ask me before what subjects I am teaching this year.  I find it to be a confusing question.  I don't teach anything.  Really, I just assign work and then correct it and give help as needed.   Or, if I do teach, it's a pretty quick 5 minutes explanation.  Of course, it helps that my kids are probably all fairly book-smart and academically-minded, so they tend to pick things up fairly quickly.   As soon as my kids can read well (usually at the start of 2nd grade) they do as much work independently as they can

3. What Works.
-Working through lunch.  I know that sounds mean, but we personally need the momentum of just plowing through...rather than taking breaks.  When we used to take lunch breaks...they tended to stretch out REALLY LONG and we didn't finish school until late in the day.  However, when I make a point of not stopping until we're done things go much smoother and we finish much earlier.

4. What Doesn't Work. 
-Sitting at a table.   We do a lot of couch schooling. It's a lot more comfortable that way. 
As you can see, we are definitely NOT uniform-using homeschoolers.
5. What Works.

Always time for field trips!
-Limiting morning commitments and sticking to afternoon ones. Except for that one day a week that we don't do school of course.  I'm not strict about this however.  If we do have something going on in the morning....we just consider it a special field-trip day.  Mostly year-round schooling helps a lot in this regard.  I don't feel guilty about off-days, because we have the ENTIRE YEAR!!  We did take some time off this summer, but I didn't plan for that, and I don't feel like we NEED it.   I'd rather just take days off here and there as we need them. 

6. What Doesn't Work. 
-Ignoring problems.  If there is a specific issue or problem that annoys you, deal with it.  Otherwise, it just gets worse and you end up blowing up about it and no one is happy.  Not that I know this from personal experience or anything.   Although, we may or may not have had a problem with kids skipping problems because they didn't see them.  This drives me crazy! So, finally, I addressed the problem and so far, so good. 

7. What Does Work

Sibings are good friends, but we need outside friends too!
-Giving some thought to friendship and socialization.  Kids need friends.  Adults needs friends.  Everyone needs friends.   And yes, making friends as a homeschooler DOES require a bit more work on the parent's part. But, it's worth it.  It's worth it to go to park day or plan play dates or join activities and groups.  And, it's worth it to find friends yourself.   Everyone is much happier if we get out and see other people.  It can be hard to balance that with school-work, but I have found that getting involved in activities and co-ops and youth groups or whatever your kids are interested in (sports, chess, etc. ) really does help.   Afternoon, weekend and evening activities seem to work well for us.  They don't really have afternoons, evenings and weekends are good times for activities, gatherings, etc.  We also really like joining co-ops.  I know that not everyone does, but we tend to get a lot out of them. 

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Friday, August 14, 2015

How we do screen-time

Screen-time is a big issue with a lot of parents.  How much to allow?  How much is too much?   What to allow?  How do we protect our kids online? 

I think there are good reasons to be concerned. 

Screens are addicting. 

Video games are especially addicting.  People try to justify video game use, and while they do have their plus side, they also ARE addicting.  

They were addicting back when I was kid and Nintendo and Super Mario brothers was all the rage. 

It doesn't take research or scientific studies to know that screens are addicting.  Observation of the human race is all you need. Just look at all the people out everywhere on their phones all the time.   I know from my observing my own self and family members, that they are addicting.  I can remember feeling addicted to Commander Keene, as a kid (anyone else play that game?). I've gone through periods of my time, where I spent more of the day on the computer, rather than off.  It's easy to get lost in a screen.

It's not that computer or screen time is bad.  It's that it can become addicting and turns into the default activity.  It takes the place of other activities....reading books, playing outside, creative pursuits, imaginary play.  If a child (or adult) is bored, or unsure what to do, they default to sitting down in front of a screen for entertainment.
I don't want that for my kids.  

So, this is how we handle it. 

1. Limited time:

Generally our children are limited to 2 hours of screen time a day.  That does not include any time they spend doing schoolwork on the computer. 

2.  Different Time Limits for Different Activities

The time is broken down into two different activities.   Watching a show/movie and general free time.  They are ONLY allowed watch in the evening, after chores are done, from 8:00 PM-9:00 PM.   If they aren't home or aren't done with chores they  miss out on some or all watching time. Small exception for the teenager...she is allowed to stay up later, so she is allowed to start watching later. 

3. Broken up time.

My kids get 1 hour of free time on the computer a day.  This time is broken up into two 30 minutes increments and they have to set the timer for each 30 minute set.   If they want to do two 30 minute sets in a row, they can, as long as a sibling isn't waiting to use the computer. 

4. Different limits for weekdays versus weekends. 

During the week, my kids only have a few activities they are allowed to do during their free time.  Email. chess, writing stories, a math game, and creative stuff (like playing around in paint).  These are (in my opinion) the least addictive computer activities.  Weekends, they are allowed to spend their time on more junky/video game type stuff.  Still limited to just 1 hour a day, and we don't own a video game consoles. However, on weekends, they may play games on say or angry birds. Things like that. They aren't allowed to do that during the week. 

5. Protection.

Honestly, we don't have any great protective mechanisms on our computer.  We do keep the computer in a public area, but don't have any web protective things (like K-9) installed. For one thing, I think google search algorithms have improved quite a bit over the last several years.   It is a lot harder to "stumble" on something bad, then it used to be.  Being the paranoid, hypochondriac that I am, I have hours and hours and hours of google search experience, and I have almost never stumbled upon anything bad or problematic.  Things have improved to the point (in my experience at least) that one has to be LOOKING for something bad, it's much harder to just stumble upon it.  

6. Google Safe Search

We do have Safe Search installed.  It's not perfect, but it's good enough to keep kids from stumbling across anything they shouldn't.  The thing I like about Google Safe Search, is that it works silently.  The person doesn't really "know" it's on.  It doesn't create this idea of forbidden fruit.   I really don't want the only reason my kids don't look at porn to be because it's blocked.   I want them to not look at it, because they don't want to and they know it's wrong.  Because some day those are kids are going to be adults and move out, and then no one will be putting blocks on their computers.  I  believe very strong that it's important to do the right thing because it's the right thing, not because you are somehow physically prevented from doing something wrong. 

7.No hand-held screens/ no video games

We just don't have any..  Well, we do have one, very old, broken Ipod that they use to listen to music, but music is about all it's good for.  The screen is cracked and has some sort of other big blotch on it, so playing games or surfing it really out of the question.   Oh...and I guess they do use my cell phone as a camera a lot.  But, that is generally it.  They don't play games on the cell phone.  The only screen they generally use is the chromebook. 

We don't own any video game consoles or things like no wii, or x-box or PlayStation of whatever they have now.   The only games they can play are things on the computer.

How it's working.  For the most part, these limits work very well. My kids no longer fight over whose turn it is to get on the computer. They know they have a limited time, and that is it.  They have become much better at finding other things to do.   They don't race into the house to see who can get onto the computer first.   They spend more time playing other games and less time worrying about the computer. 

What about you?  How do you handle screen time with your kids?

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Sunday, August 9, 2015

House of Mirrors, Body Image and Weight Loss (and WIWS).

We moved into our home just under two months ago.

When we first moved, I was a bit shocked at how many mirrors are in this house.  You see....prior to this, we didn't own any full-length mirrors.  We just had over the sink bathroom mirrors and one dresser mirror, that was at most a half-length mirror. 

Nothing full-length at all. 

Then we moved here, and the prior owners must have really liked mirrors, because there are a ton.

Which was a bit of a shock.  There is nothing like being forced to stare at yourself constantly throughout the day, to make you really think about your body. 

There is the really large mirror in the living room. 

You know how some mirrors make you look bigger and some are more slenderizing.  This one is definitely a fat mirror (and a dirty, smudged mirror....oops).

Then there is the mirror you see when you come downstairs.

Nothing like a full-length view of yourself, when you walk downstairs in the morning.

There is the mirror on the vanity in the master bedroom.  

This one I like...because it is attached to the vanity and since is not at a perfect 90 degree angle, it is a skinny mirror.

And, we can't forget the mirrors behind the closets in the 2 bedrooms.  Those are what I use to get dressed in the morning.   They are also "fat mirrors".  I think all the mirrors in the house are fairly old, and as mirrors get old, they sag ever so slightly, which makes the person look just a bit shorter and wider.  Not flattering. 

Being faced with all these mirrors day in and day out has really made me think about my body.   It's the first time in my life that I've really lived like this.

I kinda like it.  You see before, I never had any full-length mirrors ,so I when I would see myself fin a dressing room or bathroom, it was a bit of shock.   And depressing. I didn't really know what I looked like.

It was the main reason I did what I wore Sunday photos  for so was the easiest way for me to actually see what I looked like.  I haven't been posting what I wore Sunday recently, because I haven't had to.  I don't need to take pictures of myself to force me to look at my own body and face myself.  I do it everyday now.   Except I am linking up today....because I took all those pictures today...and I'm wearing what I wore today..Sunday. 

It's actually been a good thing.  It's helped me pick out clothes that are more flattering.  It's helped me accept my body more.  And, it's helped me on my (very slow) weight loss goals.   And, I do mean, very slow.   I don't believe in drastic weight loss changes.  I don't believe in 21-day fixes or temporary low-carb diets.  Those things don't work for me.  What I've been focusing on is slowly changing my habits.  Eating more slowly and mindfully (putting my fork down between every bite is huge). It's amazing how much more satisfied I feel with less food, when I eat slowly.  AMAZING.  Eating more vegetables and being aware of caloric density.  Mixing more caloric-ly dense foods with foods which are very caloric-ly lean (like mixing pasta with shredded zucchini and topping the whole thing with tomato sauce and cheese).  That is my new favorite way to eat pasta (one of this Italian girl's favorite foods).  The zucchini tastes better and the pasta is a lot more satisfying.  

Living in a house of mirrors has improved my body image.  I'm forced to face myself...imperfections and all...every day.   That is a good thing.  I can't hide from reality, which is good.  It makes it so much easier to say no to chocolate or that second helping. 

What about you?  Do you have any full-length mirrors?  How have they affected your body image?  What about weight loss?

And..this is the LAST of my promised posts.   Don't worry...I'll still keep blogging. You can't get rid of me that easily. 
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Friday, August 7, 2015

Breastfeeding.Babies, Toddlers...........Preschoolers???!!!

I've breastfed babies.  I've breastfed toddlers.  

I've even breastfed....gasp.....preschoolers.  


Sorta like this.  Except not naked in the forest....usually.  And I'm not a satyr. 

It looks more like this.

Except not naked.  However, toddlers do sport angel wings like that when nursing. 


I draw the line at school-aged children.  I've never breastfed a school-aged child. 

Actually I've never even breastfed a 4-year old (see....I'm not THAT weird)  Not to say anything against people who breastfeed their 4-year olds, I just stop before then****. 

I have breastfed 3-year olds.  In fact, all my children have weaned sometime after their 3rd birthday, but before their 4th. 

Okay, okay, Elsa won't be 3 for another month.  However, barring anything very unusual happening, I'm sure she'll still be nursing on her 3rd birthday.  She is not going to give it up easily, that one....not at all.

Since it's World Breastfeeding Week and all...I figured I would share why I breastfeed past the age of one or two or three.

1. I'm lazy and it's easier to just keep going. 

My breastfeeding motto has always been to just nurse the baby.   If they are sick or tired or hungry or scared or hurt....just nurse them.  And it still works on toddlers. does.  Nothing stops a tantrum or crying like nursing.   And, it's honestly easier for me to keep nursing, then to say "no" and try to come up with alternatives and ways to distract a toddler and all that.  

In fact, right now, Elsa has a habit of wanting to nurse whenever I sit down.  It was suggested to me that I should just not sit down.  Mama needs her computer time.   So, we'll just keep nursing. 

2.  It's an excuse to sit down.

As I was saying.  Nursing gives me a change to read blogs or Facebook or a good book or watch something.  It's a nice little excuse to relax for just a bit. 

3.  It puts them to sleep.

Yep....part of the reason my kids nurse so long is that nursing is the #1 way they fall asleep as babies and toddlers. It's not the ONLY way...if I'm not around, it's not like they will never sleep. I go places without my kids....I go lots of places....even at night...even at bedtime. They just fall asleep next to daddy...or a sibling.  Any warm body really.   Maybe we should train the cat to do it.  

Don't worry...sometime between age 3-4 they outgrow that and learn to fall asleep on their own.  Really..they do.  Promise. 

4. It comforts them. 

Nothing stops a tantrum or grumpy toddler like nursing.  It's almost magical.   It comforts them when they are hurt or lonely or sick or tired. 

5.  It keeps them healthier.  Especially during stomach flu/bug season.

I don't know about you, but when my kids are sick, they generally don't want to eat or drink anything.  My older kids can be persuaded to sip water or juice to stay hydrated, but there is just no persuading toddlers.  But, even when sick, they still want to nurse.   Even during the worst bouts of rotovirus or the stomach bug, I've never worried about dehydration because they continued to nurse away. Sure, I'm not making much milk, when my kids are 2 or 3, but it's enough to help keep them hydrated.  And breastmilk is usually well tolerated and not as likely to come out again.....if you know what I mean. 

6. Toddlerhood is when it REALLY gets easy.  

When a lot of people think of nursing toddlers or preschoolers, they imagine that it's the same as nursing a baby.  It's not.  It's completely different. Nursing toddlers is great, because I don't have to nurse them on any schedule or any specific time.  Sometimes Elsa asks to nurse every hour or so (when we are home and she is bored) and sometimes she goes hours and hours or even an entire day without nursing. I don't worry about it either way  Sometimes I even tell her "no" if I don't want to nurse right then.  Sometime she even accepts that without whining or crying.  Sometimes.  Even if she goes an entire day without nursing, I don't pump or anything,  Mastitis and clogged ducts and milk supply issues are no longer a concern.  I'm not tied down in any way, shape or form.  If she's with me, she might want to nurse.  If she's not...she's just fine.  I'm not making a ton of milk...just a little bit.  I don't worry about my milk supply, because again...she doesn't NEED to nurse (for nutrition). 

A few weeks ago, I was separated from my toddler for 24 hours.  I didn't pump.  I didn't worry about getting engorged.  I didn't worry about clogged ducts.  I didn't worry about my milk supply. I did sorta hope she would forget about nursing and wean. HA!  That did not happen. 

Breastfeeding is a bit more relaxing and a lot easier when you don't have the pressure of being a significant nutritional source.  Whatever milk she gets is really just a bonus. I don't have to worry about how much there is, it's mostly for comfort.

Bonus:  I've never known a toddler to bite while breastfeeding.  Biting is usually a short-lived problem in babies that can occur right around the time they start to get teeth. 

7.  It keeps them quiet during Mass. 

Yes...I still breastfeed my toddler in Mass.  It's usually good for at least 20 minutes of quiet and calm.  That's 20 minutes I don't have to worry about her behavior or making noise or walking around.  It's one of the easiest ways to keep a toddler quiet in church. is. And no one cares.  Or if they do, they shouldn't.  They should just be happy that she is quiet

*****I feel like I should haven't to say this, but I will anyway.  This post is not meant to make anyone feel bad about how long they did or did not breastfeed for.  Whether you didn't breastfeed at all, or breastfeed for 5 days, 5 months or 5's all cool.  Really.  This is just sharing MY experiences...which are mine and mine alone.  It's not meant to be condemning of anyone else's experiences or choices. 

It's quick takes time!!

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