Monthly Archives: August 2016

How to Find Stuff

The other night some of my friends and I were talking about how amazing, awesome, and handsome our husbands are.

Somehow we fell onto the topic of how one person’s family seemed unable to find anything in the refrigerator. We were each shocked to learn that ALL of our people shared the same affliction. It’s called  FRIDGE BLINDNESS.

It’s real, and our families have it.

It goes like this: the person looking for the food item stands in front of the fridge looking for said thing and they just can’t see it. It’s scary and they don’t know what to do so they call for the wife or mom.

“I can’t find the ketchup!” they shout, panicked at the prospect of a meal without the goopy red stuff.

You try to direct them, encourage them by telling them exactly what shelf it is on, behind the milk and under the relish.

It doesn’t help.

Finally, frustrated, you go over and try to see what’s so scary. You realize the prospect of actually moving other things around is just too much. You are needed to move the milk and relish so that the ketchup is actually visible.

One of our friends, Linda,  has a genius plan. She tells the person looking for the thing in the fridge, “Close your eyes. Imagine the thing that you want out of the refrigerator. See the color in your head, the words printed on the package, imagine holding it in your own hand.” The person will look at her expectantly, excited about the picture in their head. Then she tells them, “Now  move things until you have the thing that matches the picture in your head.”

For reference, she says this in a kind, soothing voice NOT a yelling, irritated voice.

Just in case you were wondering.

 

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This is not the printable. This is a friend’s refrigerator. A friend who wondered why I was taking a picture of her fridge. Now she knows.

 

We all thought this was genius, so I’ve made a printable for our refrigerator.

Just click here to print your own:  #1Printable of The How to Find Things in the Magic Box that Keeps Everything Cold.

I’ve known for a while now that a major role of mine in the family is the FINDER OF ALL THINGS, I just don’t know how it happened.

It’s ironic because I am always losing my things. Mainly my phone. I am constantly losing my phone. I probably lose my things because I spend so much time looking for other people’s things.

It could be all their fault now that I really think about it.

Back to the fridge, though. It is completely baffling to me that my people will stand there, with a given task of retrieving something like salad dressing, and behave as though they’re at an art museum. They gaze as though the refrigerator is one dimensional, a painting to be observed, not a 3-D thing to be reached into, whose items can be shifted in order to find the thing being looked for.

The worst is when they open the fridge doors  just to figure out what to feed themselves. There is an inevitable shout, “Ugh! There’s nothing to eat here!”

I used to feel obligated to point out the cheese, meat, fresh veggies, olives, pickles, or leftover whatever. It took me too long to realize that this was a rhetorical question meant only to bait me into a rabbit hole of a conversation that inevitably ended with me fixing that person some kind of food. Usually a peanut butter jelly.

I do make a super awesome peanut butter and jelly.

Fridge Blindness carries over, in case you didn’t know. Remote controls are invisible, shoes hide in plain sight, and no one ever, ever knows where the dish detergent is. Ever.

If I complain about the fact that I have to know where everything is, I get a sweet hug and “At least you know you’re needed.”

Which, on one hand is true, but on another hand, I feel like a robot could replace me pretty easily.

Except for the peanut butter and jelly making.

That’s all me.

What Works for Me

I’ve always been like this, as long as I can remember.

I am a flibbertigibbet. A dillydallier. A loafer.

If I have something to do, something I really need to do, I put it off.

Pathological procrastination.

I had it beat a few years ago but it’s definitely a rut I can fall into if I’m not careful.

This August I find myself doing it again. I think it’s because I graduated my first homeschooled kid and my load feels lighter. It could be that we  took the whole summer off enjoying days of empty schedules.  Maybe it’s because I’ve been watching the Great British Bake Off and Marcella on Netflix. Perhaps it’s because I have been spending so much time planning a family trip to Ireland. I’m determined to stay in a cottage in Dingle. It may take us three years, but we’ll get there.

I feel so much better when I do what needs to be done in my life, but it’s so haaaaaaard to do it. I don’t know if it’s because I’m an ENFP or because I have ADD or what, but getting stuff done can be difficult for me. 

Whenever I finally give in and start rolling with it, though, all is good. It’s all about taking that first step without focusing on perfection.

There are a couple of go-to’s for me when my brain is having a hard time helping me get done what I need to get done.

I love, love  FlyLady.  I borrowed her book, Sink Reflections,  from Mom a number of years ago and felt like her no-nonsense approach to house cleaning was awesome. One of the phrases she often repeats is “Start where you’re at.”  As the mom of young kids I needed to remember  that. As a chronic procrastinator that was the most freeing thing I’d ever heard.

Now, I’m going to tell you it can be overwhelming. I can’t handle her e-mails, they just make me feel like a failure, and I already have 1,000+ in my inbox.  FlyLady suggests you start here, and I do too. Just remember to do what works for you. For me, the Baby Steps and Control Journal were a game changer. I have a plan, and when I work the plan we stay on track with house cleaning. If we aren’t able to work the plan because of schedules or sickness I don’t freak out because the plan is there and I can get back to it. 

Ours looks like this:

Mondays: bedroom day; Tuesdays: bathroom, hallway, stairs; Wednesdays: living room, dining room, back porch; Thursdays: kitchen and grocery shopping; Friday: basement, laundry room, car; Saturday: yard work; Sunday: house blessing.

This doesn’t mean that our house is perfectly clean;  that’s not the goal. It just means I don’t freak out when people stop by unexpectedly or we have people over. 

Photo by Kiley Shepherd.
Photo by Kiley Shepherd.

One of FlyLady’s principles is that you can do anything for 15 minutes which is nothing but the truth.  This little revelation led to my next game changing discovery: The Pomodoro Technique.

 

Photo by Kiley Shepherd
Photo by Kiley Shepherd

This technique suggests setting a timer for 25 minutes and working really hard until it goes off. Then you get a 5 minutes break – better set that timer to 5.  🙂  For your break you can step outside for fresh air, do some quick exercises to get your blood pumping, organize a drawer, whatever floats your boat.  Basically anything that puts your mind somewhere besides the task at hand. After 5 minutes you go back to your task for another 25. I never work on a task for more than three 25 minute segments.

This has revolutionized our homeschool life, especially for the subjects that my kids hate. Especially for the subjects that I hate. When you know that there is an end in sight, that you won’t be doing algebra for eternity, you can work harder knowing you’ll get a break. I never have the kids work for more than two 25 minute segments at a time. After their two 25 minute sessions they get a 25 minute break to do whatever they would like. They know that even if a task isn’t finished we will come back to it the next day.

My goal in homeschooling is not to finish a book but to teach a love of learning.

Again, this method isn’t perfect and doesn’t make everything in our homeschool go smooth as a Little House on the Prairie episode but it sure helps. As with anything new there is a learning curve to using this method. For Spencer I had to set the timer for 15 minutes at a time when he was younger, and that’s like what I’ll do for Liam ( who is 6) when he starts doing tasks on his own. We’ve worked up to 25 minutes now that Spencer is 12. I probably need to revisit this method with Laurel, who is 16, and pushes herself a little too hard for my taste. Those 5 minute breaks are important, but so are the 25 minute ones.

I tell my kids this all the time because it’s true:  our brains need time to process information that we’re taking in. We need to be able to gaze at the sky and consider what we’ve read or watched on a video. I love Charlotte Mason and her theories on why small batches of really great information is much more effective than long (boring) periods of mediocre information.

My next step is to get a website blocker so that I cannot visit Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram until certain times of day. I’m looking at this one, called SelfControl. We shall see. In the hour I’ve been editing this post I’ve checked Twitter 42 times and opened up 5 other tabs. HELP!

Just writing this post has motivated to me to start where we are! I’m actually feeling excited about our day.  I can do budgeting, meal planning, house cleaning, homeschooling, web surfing, etc., for 25 minutes at a time and get everything on my list, and then some, done.

Also, here are three blogs that I love for helping motivate me,  great self care tips, and just general awesome information:

  • The Art of Simple – Tsh Oxednrider and her writer friends are awesome.
  • Goins, Writer – Jeff is super motivational for anyone pursuing a dream.
  • The ADHD Nerd – Ryan has become is a new favorite. He’s real and helpful.

 

Do you have any pro-tips useful to combat procrastination? I’d love to hear!

What if We’re All Special?

We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.  2 Corinthians: 4:7

 

 


I love that this guy doesn’t care if people stare.

Well, he does care, but not when he’s doing something like sitting in a giant chair in the middle of a home and gardens expo, because then it’s fun to have people stare. He loves to be told he’s cute, or sweet, or awesome, or whatever. Who doesn’t like to be told those things, right?

 

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My brother, Erik.

 

Sometimes his total lack of humility gets on my nerves.

Just being honest.

As his older sister I feel that’s something I’m entitled to.

Most of the time, though, I admire his audacity.

Erik is rarely afraid to ask for what he wants.

The crazy thing is people often let him do whatever thing he wants to do. Oh, you want to play guitar with the live band downtown? Sure, come on up, buddy! Oh, you want a free t-shirt from this or that restaurant? No problem! Take two.

That stuff happens all. the. time.

It’s fun, don’t get me wrong, and it’s sweet. I love it. I love it because it shows me, and him, and whoever is with Erik, that people are made of mostly really good stuff. People have been kind to my brother in the most unexpected, genuine ways. Gruff men, cranky women, people who normally would just bustle on by will stop what they’re doing and go out of their way to extend grace to Erik because he is developmentally disabled. He’s different and it shows.

Erik is special.

But…

What if we’re all special?

What if we each have things that we deal with on a daily basis that make functioning in life difficult?

Maybe it’s not everyday, the way it is for my brother, but I’m guessing that you’re like me and sometimes life feels like more than you can handle.

What if we were each willing to extend grace to one another based on the knowledge that we are all delayed in some way?

Working a puzzle at Christmas.
Working a puzzle at Christmas. p.s. I tried to crop it. Sorry.

There is something not quite right with each of us. We are each broken in some way that impedes our functioning. Some of us have to pretend that they are not damaged in order to move through the world, but that doesn’t change the reality. Some of us are too hurt to pretend but we think no one cares so we don’t say anything, we just keep on going.

I think my biggest takeaway from having Erik in my life is that because of knowing him, knowing his specialness, I am able to recognize the specialness in other people. Am I always gracious? No, I am not, not even with Erik. Especially not with Erik.

It’s a goal.

As a Chrsitian I believe that we each have unique, divine purpose. I wonder if Erik, and all the amazing special people like him, have the same purpose: to force us ‘average’ folk to recognize specialness, because once you learn to appreciate it it one person you start to see it everywhere. There’s no going back, no undoing it, once you  let go of the notion that some of us humans are whole.

Please don’t misunderstand me here. I want people like Erik to continue to have loads of grace and attention and gifts heaped on them. There is much life that they will miss out on. Their lives will never be truly free because they will always be dependent on someone else in one way or another. I think people like Erik should win the Brave Misfit award because they had no say in living life differently. It just happened to them.

I don’t want to minimize the significance of a life lived with a severe developmental disability, either. There are days that I cry while dreaming of Erik without injury, or what it would be like to grab a beer with my brother or for my kids to have an uncle who could take them to Kings Island just because he wanted to.

What I’m saying is that I think we’re all way more alike than we are different. That while the people labeled special have more apparent hindrances we are each hindered by something.

What I want, what I think would be a game-changer, is if we each woke up to the special brokenness in one another.

What would that look like? Would we be kinder, more generous?

I think so.

After I spend time with Erik and his exceptional friends I am filled with a lightness I cannot describe, a joy that I think comes from being seen in a special way. Erik’s friends are kind, and they make me feel exceptional when I’m with them. 

My favorite recent encounter was a few weeks ago when I stopped at Erik’s work, Full Circle Supports (if you need trophies, engraving, or screen printing in the Lexington, KY area look them up!).  One of the ladies working there came out as he was showing me around (again) and got really close to me.  She stopped herself at the last second from actually touching me.

“I’m sorry,” she said, “I thought you were someone I knew.”

“Oh, that’s okay,” I told her, because it really didn’t bother me.

“You look like a lady from my church. A lady who gives me hugs every time she sees me,” the woman told me. Her glasses made her eyes look really big and  her grin was infectious.

“Well,” I said, “I like to give people hugs. Would you like me to hug you?”

“Yes!” she exclaimed, and then we hugged. It was simple.

That’s something I love about Erik’s people. They can ask for what they need if we’ll just listen. More importantly, Erik and people like him, make me feel special because they see me and my brokenness and they meet me halfway with their brokenness and they ask for hugs or high fives or gift me with shy smiles. There’s no pomp and circumstance involved. None. It’s beautiful and easy.

Being special is the best.

 

I think we’re all special.

 

I think you’re special.

So let’s go out into the world as our limited, broken selves and extend grace to our fellow limited, broken humans.

 

Be brave, misfits, and be special.

Advice to New Homeschoolers…and Old

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So, you’ve made the decision to homeschool this year.

Maybe you’ve only got a kindergartner, maybe you’ve decided to pull out your middle-school kid, maybe you decided at the end of the school year last year that you wanted to homeschool and now that THE TIME HAS COME you’re wondering if you lost your mind.

Take a deep breath, everything is going to be fine.

When I first started homeschooling 14 years ago (WHAT?!)  I was like a deer in headlights. I so badly didn’t want to mess things up, and I only knew one other person who was homeschooling. Here’s a few things I wish someone had told me.

1. Advice is just opinion…

There is so much out there on the internet, in the library, and among friends on the subject of homeschooling.  Don’t even get me started on what family can have to say on the subject. 😀

Really, though, it’s important to remember that no matter where you’re getting advice, from the beautifully bound book that cost a lot of money to the woman you run into at the library, it is simply someone else’s opinion on the matter of homeschooling. You’ve already got your own opinion on the issue or you wouldn’t be homeschooling.

Advice is not the gospel – you can take or leave it, and if you leave it you can always come back to it.

I’ve said it before and I’m certain to say it again: every homeschool is unique. What works for one may not work for another and that’s okay.

2. Your homeschool won’t look like the picture in your head..

I had Little House on the Prairie as the picture in my head, the t.v. series not the books. I imagined my students (a.k.a. my children) sitting at their individual desks just learning their little hearts out.

It didn’t look like that. I think they only kept snacks and toys in the desks that I scoured the city for.

Turns out, my kids liked to sit with me on the couch while I read aloud. They liked working puzzles and playing games at the kitchen table. They loved being able to explore in the back yard, going to the library, and visiting with friends at the playground.

Staying home, sitting at a desk, and being quiet; turns out those are NOT ways my kids (or any kid) learns.

So, take that picture in your head and tear it up. Have a white canvas,  or better yet a dry erase board,  in your imagination because there will be a lot of changes made in the course of your homeschool year. Or in the course of your homeschool day.

It’s just not going to look the way you thought it would. Also, this might be a good time to memorize Proverbs 16:9 if this is making you breathe funny.

3. Focus on what you get done in a day, not what you don’t…

Confession: I think I may have been more excited about getting a teacher’s planner than I was about starting to homeschool. I filled that sucker up, man! I spent a lot of time planning out kindergarten and preschool with colors for each child. I would admire all the stuff that we were going to get done in a week and then be utterly defeated when only half the list was accomplished. Suddenly my planner didn’t look like awesomeness but more like a mean lady wagging her finger at me saying, “You’ll miss recess for this!” in a mean lady voice.

Ugh.

A number of years ago my friend, Karen, shared with me her secret. She had a notebook for each of her children where she wrote their weekly assignments down. The kids chose when to get their work done, it just had to be done by Monday of the following week. Simple. So I said goodbye to expensive planners and hello to $1 notebooks.

Sometimes, though, even that is too hard for me. During moving transitions or times of sickness, or just utter overwhelmingness, sometimes things slip. It happens. Homeschoolers don’t have substitute teachers. Life continues on.

Recently,  I read somewhere on the great Interwebs that you could just write down what you get done in day, that way you can feel good about what you’ve accomplished. I use a hodgepodge of curriculum, including  Tapestry of Grace, and all of it has it planned out, so I just log our work, or the kids log their work, and it’s no big deal. I find that writing down what we’ve gotten done helps me see that we’re not ‘behind’.

In homeschool, there’s no such thing as behind.

Write that down on 15 sticky notes and put them all over the house. Write it on your hand, or your forehead. Write it on the kids bathroom mirror. I’m serious. It’s that important. 

4. Plan on learning more than ever…

No one ever need worry that they aren’t capable of teaching their own child. No matter what your education level, income, or residence everyone is suited to educate their offspring. Thanks to the public library, internet, and homeschooling communities no subject is off limits to the homeschooler.

By far, my favorite aspect of home education is the joy of learning right alongside my kids.

We *typically have history/literature discussions every week, and there have been times that I realized my kids were staring at me as though I were a hydra because I was having an  ‘Aha!’ moment out loud. It is so stinking exciting to share a light bulb moment with your kids. I think it’s also important for them to see that you don’t have to learn EVERYTHING before you graduate high school. So have those aha moments in big and bad ways!

 


There’s a ton more I could add to my list but I think these four are the essentials.

Homeschooling is an awesome opportunity to develop a unique family culture. Have fun and don’t take it too seriously.

It’s only school.

Hehe.

 

Be brave, misfits! Go learn some stuff!

 

 

P.S.

I am passionate about education, especially home education. If you’re just starting out and you have questions, please feel free to ask me.  Or if you’ve been at it for a while and need refreshing reach out here…people will pitch in.

 

Skipping a Year

I hate to whine, but I had the worst birthday ever last year. I’m not even kidding. It was the worst.

Photo Credit: sameold2010 via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: sameold2010 via Compfight cc

My birthday was on a Friday in October. I still get excited about birthdays that fall on a Friday. On Wednesday I wasn’t feeling well and by Thursday I had a pretty good fever. Friday morning I woke up knowing that I had the flu thanks to full on body aches, chills, cough, and intestinal issues. I took it like a champ, though.

Well, not really. Lee came in to wish me well and I just croaked, “Save yourself. Get out of here.” and he scampered away to work. When the kids came in I told them, “It’s not my birthday. I will not accept it. I get a do over next week when I’m better.”

There was much weeping and gnashing of the teeth and watching back to back episodes of 30 Rock while I tried not to pee my pants when I coughed (unsuccessful). I never got my do over because my flu friend stuck around for 2 weeks then invited his friend bronchitis over. Bronchitis was boring so I got a UTI just for fun. The doctor I went to for the UTI said he’d never heard someone describe the pain similar to  ‘peeing out a razor blade’. I told him he’d obviously never had a patient with a UTI.

Anyway, all this to say my birthday came and went, we got through winter and our immune systems recovered. Around six weeks ago I realized something, something huge! I’d been telling everyone I was 43 but I’m actually only 42!!!

I guess my time in my sick bed made me feel like Wesley, from The Princess Bride, when he had years sucked away from his life. Except I felt like I had a year added to it.

Seriously, though, can you believe I’m only 42????

I feel like I’ve gained a year. I feel so young and energetic.

Unfortunately at this age you don’t get a lot of opportunities to tell people how old you are. If I’m hanging out with Liam and his friends and they’re exchanging ages I like to throw in a, “Well, I’m 42.”  The kids look me over in a disapproving way and move on with their  command-establishing-by-age. Most of them can’t even remember what month they’re born in , and if they do happen to know that they don’t really know the order of the months, so then the hierarchy of power becomes based on height.

At my age no one wants to be in charge at the playground. No one. 

I cannot believe that I thought I was 43 for so long this year. My kids don’t care, my husband is just irritated that he’s still four years old than me, and my parents don’t keep track of my age much these days.  Now that my birthday is just three months away I’m thinking maybe I’ll be 43 for two years in a row. Except, I do like how 44 sounds with its nice alliteration and all.

Oh, gosh. It’s a dilemma. I think it’ll be a game time decision.

In the end, I’m still 40-something and I still need bifocals and my kids still think I’m really old.

But today I’m only 42, and I feel really young.