Dalyn’s Week 8: E + D Toy Room Challenge

Yesterday we had a parent-teacher conference with our kindergartener’s teacher and speech therapist. Our son has been thriving in kindergarten, so I was pretty sure that it would be a great meeting and it was. He’s still struggling with certain sounds (he tends to turn ‘y’ into ‘yl’ for instance), but he’s made a lot of progress using subject pronouns instead of object pronouns, which was a major concern last time around. And he’s excelling in all the typical kindergarten stuff like writing, recognizing sight words, and, especially, math, which just seems to make sense to him.

This is both good and bad news. He still has a number of things he needs to work on for speech, but his IEP runs out in September. Because he’ll be six-years-old, we need to show that his speech is interfering with his academic progress. As his teacher said, “That just won’t be possible. His academics are outstanding.” So, we’ll take advantage of summer support and do what we can in the remaining months. But, in the meantime, we had some serious celebrating to do for a job well done.


1/3 of the toy room, 2/3 of the children

Our local store, Belmains, which reminds me a lot of an old Woolworth, has an ice cream counter that they moved inside for the winter. So, we took the kids to get ice cream. It was lovely family time that we so rarely get to have in the middle of the week in the middle of the school year. At least it was lovely until the boys ran off to peruse the lego aisle. The kids are obsessed with legos, particularly Eames, and they’ve come to associate this particular store with treats–usually legos rather than ice cream. So, even though we were very clear that no legos would be making their way home with us, Eames has a complete and total melt down in the store. The kind you’d give me dirty looks for if you were in the store with us.

The good news is that I didn’t yell at him. I explained that we’re working on saving money (makes no sense to him), that we just moved (has no relevance to him), and that the toy room I so carefully cleaned last week was already a complete and total disaster because he doesn’t clean up after himself and that I’m not buying him more sets until he learns to take care of the ones he has (I don’t think he realized I was channeling my mother). This, of course, prompted him to make promises that he would. There was more screaming and crying and the throwing on one’s self on the ground until Josh carried him out slung over one shoulder. Good times.


Kids forget things easily, so Eames was over the whole thing before we got home. But, I realized that I had solved one problem (needlessly spending $10) but not the bigger problem of the toy room, which they have destroyed to such an extent that they don’t like to play in there until I clean it up. So, Eames and I planned an “E+D Toy Room Challenge.” For two weeks, they will pick up the toys they played with for the day and complete another task on the grid–tasks I came up with. When they cross out each of the squares, we can go back to Belmains to buy a small lego set. I’ve learned through other chore systems that they start to lose focus if the goal is too far out. Two weeks seem doable. And small lego sets won’t break the bank. I’m hoping that what we can do here is set up some habits, since that’s the purpose of this blog and I’ve just made them contributors, then start making the challenge more difficult with each iteration (making the timeline longer and adding different tasks, etc). These really are the best laid plans…


Dalyn’s Week 7: Catching Up and Taking Stock

As it so often goes, I find myself getting further and further behind. But, now that we’re 90% moved in AND I have a week off for spring break, I think I just *might* be able to catch up.

There’s nothing quite like moving to show you how much crap you have. And boy do we have crap. This week I’m going to attempt to tackle some of that crap as I simultaneously unpack and organize what’s no longer in boxes. The most obvious place to begin is the kitchen. We’ve moved into a much smaller kitchen than we previously had, and we’re bursting at the seams. We have kitchen gadgets. Lots of them. We have bulk food. Lots of it. We  have frozen tomatoes and sprouting potatoes. Pounds and pounds of them.

On top of all that, we spent every last dime getting into this place and now we are in the process of incurring all the expenses related to moving. There are all the little hooks and hangers and bolts and wires that connect your old house to your new one. There are the not so little things like paying two electricity and oil bills until your old lease runs out. There is the plowing that you never had to worry about. There is the long, slow, and untimely death of your television (which has to be replaced immediately when you actually study TV). Basically, shit’s expensive.


veggie stock in the making

So, it’s time for a good old-fashioned pantry challenge. Because I leave for a conference next
week, I’m keeping it simple with a 9-day pantry challenge, then Josh can do whatever he wants when takes the helm next week. If you’ve never done a pantry challenge, well, I’m guessing you also don’t spend much time on Facebook or Pinterest. Good for you. If you have heard of it, then you know it means we’ll be eating and cooking exclusively out of the pantry/freezer/fridge with zero trips to the grocery store. Zero money spent on food. More room in the cupboard. And more attention to cooking.

The biggest challenge will be the kids who expect to have copies amounts of fresh food daily, so I’ll have to get creative with snack food to keep them from rioting. In the meantime, however, I’ll be spending my week making sauce, turning frozen veggie scraps into stock, and baking pies.

Dalyn’s Week 6: Unplugged and Unproductive

My mom tells magical stories about her childhood. In those stories, children have freedom and adventures, families across America watch the same TV shows together at the same designated time, and unpacking from a move happens in one orderly day—with even the pictures getting hung on the walls. I’m fully aware that my grandfather, a Marine, ran a tighter ship than I do, and that my grandmother has more patience and fortitude. However, I also suspect that having the military pack, ship, and organize your move probably played a big role in this seemingly impossible feat. Either that or moving elves.

The reality is my life is more disorganized at this particular point than it was when we started this blog. This disorganization has nothing to do the blog or my attempt to be more organized, but it’s taken over my life with an overwhelm that I find dizzying. We have 70% of our life in boxes in the new house, stuff scattered in previously unknown recesses in the old house, and no internet or cable at either. None. Zip. Zero. Nada.

Many, many phone calls to our provider (ahem, #fairpoint) have gone so far beyond unsuccessful that I’m pretty sure we make less progress with each phone call. They let me disconnect the service and verify what should have been the transfer before they decided they couldn’t talk to me because my name’s not on the account. Then they couldn’t secure the account with the actual holder, so he couldn’t even pay our last month from the old house. Then they had to make sure our new address exists, which isn’t as straightforward as it sounds in small rural towns. Combine that with them insisting on getting a phone number to call us back the next day (uh….you never set up our service #fairpoint, which is why we’re calling you…) then leaving messages without a phone number to call back or a person to talk to so we don’t have to go through the process again with someone new and well.

The point is that instead of simplifying my life, not having internet has made it difficult for me to figure out what I’m supposed to be doing and when. Grading as a first task is an awesome idea. If you didn’t give up teaching with paper years ago. Finishing that conference proposal? Great. If you could google that citation you needed.

So, at this point, I’m not even sure what hack to propose. I need something low-tech and doable under circumstances that include not knowing which box has your most recent bills and your underwear.

Suggestions welcome.

Dalyn’s Week 5: Inspired to Try Frog

I just read Julie’s latest blog post and I have to admit that I’m totally inspired. I, too, hate grading for many of the same reasons that Julie outlines–not to mention that I find they actually often get in the way of learning.  But, now it’s that time of the semester. Conference season has begun at the same time that all five of my classes have handed in their first big projects. I haven’t even finished grading the homework that led up to this project, so I am just a wee bit behind.

Like Julie, my procrastination when it comes to grading has affected my evaluations, my teaching, and my overall productiveness. I have a statement on my syllabus that says the grading process may take as long as two weeks. If I was honest with them, it would say four. Or five. In fact, I usually BEGIN grading out of guilt when it hits the two week mark. With five classes, that seems like a recipe for disaster as a teacher and partner/mother. Instead of making some progress each day, I put it off as long as possible then spend a whole weekend catching up rather than hanging out with my lovely family. How can I honestly bemoan the lack of time I get with them when I create the conditions that take away that time?

I have to admit, though, that I hate the idea of eating the frog–and not just because I’m vegetarian. While I’ve failed terribly at getting up at 5:00, I’ve continued to do well at not opening my computer in the morning. My days, as a result, have started out much more pleasantly and I feel good as I head into the teaching, managing, parenting, moving, and committeeing of my days. The idea of diving into grading after such a nice start to the day sounds awful even if I know I’ll feel better, and more productive, when it’s over. Sigh.

So, this week I, too, am going frog hunting. When I eventually run out of grading (maybe? hopefully? please?), I’ll likely make establishing the frog for the day part of my morning routine. In the meantime, a digital stack of resumes, cover letters, and food memoirs awaits.


Dalyn’s 52 Habits Update

Week 4: While I did kind of forget that I was trying to complete an actual challenge, I did manage to go most of the week without yelling. Then we moved and chaos ensued. I didn’t really use any of the techniques of the Orange Rhino Challenge, mostly because I never found the time to read about them to know what they are. Deep breaths and walking away and reminding myself not to yell seemed to do the trick. I didn’t notice much of a difference other than that I was no longer adding to the noise level in our house, but I feel better about myself and I’ll be paying close attention to my tone as soon as I’m back in town.

Week 3: The Morning Person course lady keeps sending me emails that keep going to my promotions folder and they’ve basically stayed unopened until I delete them. The truth is that the emails delved into feel good, new agey rhetoric and activities pretty quickly and I just don’t roll like that.

Week 2: Still getting to bed by 10:00 most of the time. Still not getting up at 5:00 all of the time. Still staying off the computer for an hour each morning 95% of the time.

Week 1: Easy peasy. This one doesn’t even feel like a challenge, which I guess is good? It’s all I can o not to tinker with it, because it just feels too easy.


Dalyn’s Week 4: My Name is Dalyn and I’m a Yeller

I have about a million excuses I could use for not having met any of my goals–especially my goal to blog here once a week–for the past two weeks. And frankly, the excuses are pretty good: kids didn’t let me sleep for over a week, semester kicked into high gear, we bought a house, etc. But that’s life right?


What kind of asshole could possibly yell at these adorable children?

While I haven’t exactly been productive in ways that I’d like to report on, I have been doing some reading and thinking about what I would like to work on beyond becoming a morning person (that’s clearly going to be a long labor of love). With the stress of moving and school for many of us, the thing that keeps coming to mind, over and over and over again, is that I need to figure out new ways to communicate with my kids. Basically, I need to stop yelling at them.

I yell at them to get their coats on. I yell at them to get in bed. I yell at them to be careful around Moxie. I yell at them to stop fighting. I yell at them be quiet. The irony is just too much.

I’m a rhetorician. I should have about a million tools at my disposal to work on this issue. I shouldn’t need a challenge or an app, but I’m beginning to suspect that the 5-year-old and under mind is just not responsive to well-crafted rhetoric.

For example, I attempt to use some carefully crafted logos. “Dashiell, I know you’re upset that Eames took your toy. But actually, Eames picked up that toy first, then you walked over and took it from him, which he then took back. Therefore, he is the original owner and you actually took it from him. But, there’s the exact same toy over there that you can play with. Here.” Dashiell’s response? “This toy not the same. Eames no touch it. Stop busting me out.”

Fine. 3- and 5- year old brains are not wired for logic. But pathos should work, right? “Eames, when you do that it really hurts your brother’s feelings. He thinks you don’t like him and that makes him sad.” Eames’s response? “I just never ever. You jealous! He always gets to go first! I never ever want to play again. I just won’t play until ever!” This is followed by him complete surrender to gravity. Basically, he out-pathos’s me every time.

Ethos. Well, I think my yelling has effectively undermined my ethos, hasn’t it?

So, I’ve turned to the kind of parenting advice that has always made me shudder. I’m not ashamed to say I need a drink many days after the kids have been particularly trying, but I am a little ashamed to say that I watched a “positive parenting” webinar the other night too.

So, I’m taking the Orange Rhino Challenge. While that blogger decided to go 365 days without yelling, I’m aiming at a more modest 7 days. The reality is that I’ll stop feeling the motivation shortly (after about 3 weeks if this blog is any indication), so I need short frequent goals rather than a big.

The Orange Rhino chick suggests tracking your yelling for a few days to get a better sense of your triggers. I’m not sure I can handle that level of truth. I do know, however, that the yelling tends to happen during transitions–particularly, getting out the door for school and bedtime. Getting up early greatly reduced the stress of getting out the door, so that’s another reason to jump back on that train. Count downs and warnings about how much time is left also helps. But reality is that the kids are tired. An I’m tired. They can’t really control their emotions (and sometimes actions) yet, but I can even if I can’t always control theirs. So this week I will control mine by not yelling at them. And I’ll keep track of the times I do, if I do, and report them back here so I’m accountable. Sigh.

Dalyn’s Week 3: Morning Hack-A-Thon (Part 2)

I’m realizing that “Morning Hack-A-Thon” might have many, many parts. Becoming a morning person is not easy. This week started out well. I woke up at 5:00 two mornings in a row, and it was great. I had some time to myself. I had the opportunity to spend a little time before the madness of the day with each of the kids to cuddle and talk about what they were going to do that day. There was no yelling. No stress. All love.

But then I had a night where I got maybe 3 hours of sleep. Multiple kids waking up for multiple reasons. A certain five-year-old who slips into my bed almost every night. And grinds his teeth, And kicks the covers off of me. And wedges himself against me. And tosses. Turns. Talks. Sighs.

Two nights in a row now, I’ve gotten about two hours of sleep for the same reason–plus the addition of a feverish 3-year-old. I don’t know how I can become a morning person when my children won’t let me sleep. It seems impossible, frankly.

The straightforward approach clearly didn’t work, so, like Julie, I too signed up for Little Green Dot’s 28 Day Course on “How to Become a Morning Person” and I joined the Facebook Group for participants. I figure if one hack doesn’t work, it’s time to try another approach. And the first email, which I received last night, asked me to visualize my perfect morning. So, welcome to my perfect morning:

1. Wake at 5:00. 2. Brush my teeth. 3. Shower. 4. Get dressed. 5. Drink a glass of water with lemon. 5. Gather my planner, a pad of paper, and a pen. 6. Sit in the picture window. 7. Think about the day to come, focusing on what needs to be done and what I’d like to do. 8. Draft a to-do list that includes at least one thing I’d like to do in addition to the necessities. 9. Go over day in planner to see what is possible to fit in. 10. Add to-do list items to my planner, so there is space carved out to accomplish them. 11. Enjoy the silence. 12. Start water boiling for coffee. 13. Make breakfast. 14. Write until a child wakes up or 6:30. 15. Spend a little time sitting with the kids talking about what they want to do that day. 16. Get on with the day…

Next, I’m supposed to choose one small action I can complete each morning. Something attainable, so I’m going to NOT choose wake up at 5:00 for now. The action I’m going to focus on completing each morning for the next four weeks is drafting my to-do list, so here’s my action statement:

I am becoming a Morning Person so I can draft my to-do list before the madness of our lives takes over for the day.

On Tuesday and Thursday mornings, I carpool into work at 5:30, so on those days I’ll push the planning and coffee end everything else back so it happens at work. Since I don’t teach until 8:00, it’s doable without having to get up at 4:30, which just sounds unnatural.
01.25.15 Update: As this post has been sitting in “Draft” purgatory while I try to find a photo to glam it up a bit, I’ve had some time to reflect on what has been working and what hasn’t. It’s true that I only got up at 5:00 a few times, and this week, with sick kids who are clearly not sleep trained in any way, I got up at 5:00 exactly ZERO times. But, by focusing on my failures, I completely forgot that I did have some successes. After all, my goal was threefold: (1) Wake at 5:00; (2) Be in bed by 10:00; and, (3) Not open buy computer for at least an hour.

Well, I was in bed by 10:00 about 80% of the time.

But even better: I haven’t opened my computer during the first hour of the day once in the past two weeks. And it has been glorious. Yay me!
Dalyn’s 52 Habits Update:

The Money Challenge is still going. I now have $26 in the jar and I’ve officially embraced the random approach to saving.

The Morning Hack-A-Thon, as noted above, was successful for about 1/3 of the week. Regrouping and trying something new.



Dalyn’s Week 2: Morning Hack-A-Thon (Part 1)

I’m back to school tomorrow and I’m suddenly overwhelmed by that reality. Going back in January is, I think, always hard, but I don’t even have to look at my calendar to know there simply isn’t enough time to do what I need to do.

Screen Shot 2015-01-12 at 12.04.47 PM

              This Week=The Easiest Week

In a nutshell, here’s what I need to do: (1) Be a kickass teacher for all FIVE classes I’m teaching (yes, that’s an overload and, yes, I’m a dummy.); (2) Be a responsible committee member for all SEVEN committees I’m on (though I chair only a couple!); (3) Write a book review that’s now a little bit overdue (how did January 1st come and go so quickly?); (4) Attend and present and three conferences and a summer institute between now and July; (5) Submit two articles by mid-summer; and (6) Do all of this with three kids and a husband who works nights (which means I can’t go into campus until 12:30 on MWF, because I have the kids those mornings and he needs to, you know, sleep.)

This is why I say there’s simply not enough time.

But. There are a couple of hours that I’m not utilizing as well I could. Hours I’d typically rather not think about. Hours that are kind of obscene (unless you’re my mother). In other words, my second goal is to become a morning person.

The reality is that I’m not NOT a morning person. The kids are typically out of bed by 6:30, but I will often doze on the couch while they play on the weekends or let Josh start getting them ready when he gets home on school days so I can sleep until the last minute then bolt out the door. My morning routine has basically always consisted of sleeping as late as possible then getting up an out the door in 20 minutes or less. And that routine has served me well. When it was just me.

So, I’ve been doing some reading about improving my morning routine. There are lots of lists with basically the same advice (not using snooze, getting 8 hours of sleep, not drinking, etc.). All things I’ve heard before. What cemented my desire to become a morning person, however, was spending an obscene number of hours reading LifeHacker’s “How I Work” series. All of the people featured in the series are successful, creative, and generally awesome. Exactly how I want to be. You know what else many of them had in common? They wake up at 5:00am.

I know, I know. The early bird gets the worm and all that. Not exactly new and enlightening advice either. But, actually, for me, right now, it kind of is.

So, here are my initial strategies for becoming the morning person I never really wanted to be:

1. Get up at 5:00am. Every. Single. Morning. I know without a doubt that I will fail at this. Weekends will seduce me with their lack of immediate demands. But, I also know that I’ve done this before (when I was a telemarketer and I had to be at work at 6:30am and I rode my bike 15 miles to get there) and I can do it again. More importantly, I can start the day without being in denial and I can get it together before the kids are awake so that all our mornings run a wee bit smoother (i.e. with less yelling and fewer tears).

2. Be in bed by 10:00pm. I’m going to be realistic here. There’s no way I’ll be asleep by 10:00. I’m already good about keeping my bedroom a work-free zone. So, if I’m in bed by 10, I’ll do a little reading, maybe watch an episode of something, but I’ll be asleep within the hour. And that will have to do for now.

3. Do not open my computer for the first hour I’m awake. I’m sure we’ve all heard that we shouldn’t answer email when we first wake up. And I don’t. But I often open my computer and check Facebook and read the news and whatnot. And just like that: I’ve lost at least an hour, if not more. So, I’ll get up and read one of the magazines I love or listen to a podcast I that I can never find the quiet time for or work on my to-do list for the day or something. Since the kids are up just past 6:00, I likely won’t open my computer for far longer most days and I think that suits me just fine.

There are a lot of other strategies such as not having coffee until 9:30, meditating, exercising, prepping the night before, drink water with lemon, etc. And I’m sure they’re helpful. I’m equally sure that I’m not sure whether I can effectively apply these strategies during the craziness of the first week back, so I’m going to stick with these and see how it goes. I can refine and improve as I get used to being awake and hopefully productive during these unholy hours.

What I am sure of, however, is that the 52 Week Money Challenge is about as easy as it gets. My indecision over how to approach it (traditional, backward, randomly) solved itself. The hardest part about the challenge is having the exact right amount of cash on the deposit day. I did not have $2 (must have finally given it to the paperboy), but Josh did have a $20. So, random it is!