What Worked for Me in 2018

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not relevant to this post.  just a picture.

Ah yes.  It is that time again.  We have done this before.  A chance to reflect on what worked for me in 2018.  Here are a few things, in no particular order.

Screen free weekdays for the kids.  We have a movie night on Friday night, maybe some shows or screen time on Saturday, then watch something as a family on Sunday (lately we like Planet Earth and Brain Child on Netflix).  Monday through Friday afternoons are screen-free.

Like all good ideas, this one originated with someone else.  In September I was with some college friends and we were talking about all of our kids heading back to school and the adjustments that follow.  Suddenly we need to be planning school lunches, upping our laundry game, whatever.  I mentioned how I struggle with screen time for my kids; some of them get so unbearably whiny when I turn it off, etc etc.  My friend Anna offhandedly remarked how they don’t allow screen time for their kids during the school week.  We started implementing that in September.

This has been so helpful for us.  Instead of negotiating the kids’ requests for screen time on a daily basis, it’s just off the table until the weekend.

Our old routine was to turn on a show after they had done x, y, and z chore.  We used it as an incentive.  But with four kids inevitably one person would get their chores done quickly and two people had not even started yet and it was a hot mess to manage.  Also four kids spanning 6 years makes it hard to decide on a show.  I’d need to manage that.  Then, by the time they were all quietly staring at a screen, I had no motivation to start the work involved in getting them to turn off the screen when their show was over.  Or deal if one or two of them complained or whined about not getting enough time.

Screens were not helping me, they were making my life harder.  So we eliminated them during the weekdays and life is much simpler.

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can’t watch a show…might as well sit here and think.

Nights off.  (Another one that was totally not my idea.  A friend told me about how helpful it was for her, so we’ve been implementing this one for a few years now.)

It’s simple.  Russ and I both have one night off a week.  It’s the same night every week, and we are free to do whatever we want.  Mine is Tuesday.  So after I finish work on Tuesday afternoon or evening, I am free for the rest of the night.  Sometimes I go get myself dinner and wander around Barnes and Noble, sometimes I invite myself over to a friends’ house, sometimes I gather a group of people to get together.  Russ has the kids that night and does dinner and bedtime solo.  He has a different night of the week to do the same thing and I cover home base.

It’s nice to have that white space on the calendar every week.  Logistically, it makes getting together with friends so much easier.  I don’t need to check in with Russ about which night works best for me to meet up with so-and-so.  I just see if Tuesday works for my friend and that’s that.

Also, as an introvert and someone who has been home with kiddos for a decade- I can’t really communicate how lovely it is to be responsibility-free for one evening a week.

We have built expectations over time.  Whoever is home owns cleaning up the meal and all of that end of the day pickup stuff.  A night off is a night off, and does not mean you come home and clean up the kitchen.  Nope.  Night off.

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2nd annual Anderson St talent show brought in some amazing talent

Marco Polo.  This is an app that I mentioned last year, but it makes it into bold letters this year, because I have appreciated it so much.  It’s a video app that lets you record a message to a friend or group of friends, for them to watch and respond to at their leisure.    I’ve had a group chat with college friends since we got together last year and I am so thankful for it.

It was awkward to begin with.  You’re just holding your phone and talking into it.  Where do I look?  Am I rambling?  I feel stupid making a video of myself…  (If the video thing is too much to handle, try voxer.  Same idea, just with voice instead of video.)

The point is that I have this medium that lets me keep up with my college friends on a regular basis.  We can’t get together as much as we’d all like to, but Marco Polo has been a great substitute.

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things my kids collect in tupperware.

As I am writing this I am also thinking of what didn’t work in 2018… Namely: phone use (it was out of control!!!  I was on my phone way too much!!!!  I am a hypocrite about screens!!!).  Related: social media (I read 85 books this year and totes could have read 100+ if not for the black hole that is Facebook and/or instagram).

What worked (or didn’t) for you in 2018?

 

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Here’s How We Christmas

Hellooooo friends.

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this was last night!  yay snow!

It’s been a while.  Thought I’d jump back on here and boss some people around some more.

For the past few years we’ve been doing a particular Christmas/Advent practice, and it works well for our family.  It might work for yours too.  Have I written about this before?  I can’t remember.

Anyway.

I really like getting gifts for people.  Sometimes I get “filler” gifts- like little things without much significance- but mostly I try to hold out for that feeling of “yes!  this is a good one!” and go with that.

A few years ago, on Christmas morning, we watched our kids tear through a small mountain of gifts.  You know the routine.  Wide-eyed kids see the pile of presents, we open them, and by present number six or seven, presents one and two are already forgotten.  I saw my kids get excited about the book I had thoughtfully picked out, but then move on and forget about it when the bigger box came out from under the tree.

I don’t blame my kids, and I don’t think we were necessarily spoiling them, but it kind of made me a little ill.  They just couldn’t sustain excitement for so much.  And as the primary gift-finder in the house, I was bummed to see so many special and thoughtful things sort of get passed by in the flurry.

So- our recent practice.  We now spread out our Christmas gifts (both material and time/activity) over the season of Advent.  Starting the fourth Sunday before Christmas, we give out gifts here and there and do special activities, finishing on Christmas.

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making our way to the car after the UVA bball win over VCU.  ADVENTure.

 

My kids have already opened up some books that I picked out for each of them, some clothing, and new shoes.  (Or new to them/purchased secondhand because I am my mother’s daughter).  I don’t wrap each gift.  A few days ago each child had to answer a riddle before I gave them their gift.  We played “hot/cold” the time before that, and they found their new books hidden all over the living room.  Keep it simple.

Sometimes we do an Advent Adventure (get it?)- like getting our Christmas tree, or getting ice cream at McDonalds.  At my kids’ ages, that’s pretty darn special.  We walked downtown and watched the Santa Fun Run last weekend.  That was how we celebrated Advent that day.  Other things we do:  movie night, get Frosties and drive around to see Christmas lights, make banana bread for our neighbors, practice random acts of kindness, shop for each others’ presents.  Etc etc.

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weirdos

We don’t do something every day.  Starting in the fall, I write down little ideas (in here, naturally) as they come to me.  Then I pull from those ideas throughout the month of December.

Speaking of the Santa Fun Run, we also took stock last year of what worked and what didn’t, and some things didn’t make the cut this year.  We’ve participated in the Santa Fun Run (a one mile run around the downtown Mall with hundreds of other people dressed as Santa), and- frankly- my kids don’t love it.  (From the five year old last year: “Why is it called the Fun Run?  It’s not fun to run.”)  So this year we got bagels and watched instead.  The Santa Train, which we rode on last year, also got the axe.  It was sort of fun…but just because we did it once doesn’t mean we have to keep doing it.  (A helpful reminder after Christmas, as well.)

We will celebrate Christmas with extended family, and there will be more presents to open on Christmas day.  I will probably bring one last gift for each child for Christmas morning.  But this system works for us because there’s less to open all at once, and more space to enjoy things as they come.  I’m a fan.

If opening the mountain of presents on December 25 floats your boat, you should definitely stick with it.  I’m not the boss of you.  But.  But!  If it makes you a little bit ill, tradition is not the boss of you either- you can change things up.

I’m curious what Christmas traditions your family sticks to, and what might not make the cut anymore?  Feel free to tell me allllllll about it in the comments, if you’d like.

 

Schoooool

It’s a new school year and- glory- for the first time in 10 years I will have all four kiddos in school for at least a portion of the week.  Numero cuatro will start preschool next week, three mornings a week.

Friends, it is time.

Picture me as Princess Jasmine, marveling over a Whole New World as it unfolds before me.

With the new school year comes new systems!  New organization ideas!  Ways to streamline school lunches!  Less screen time!  Things are going to be different this time!

I give it until maybe October, when the wheels fall off.  But it will be a well-oiled machine until then.

I am trying this meal system for a month to see how it goes.  I hit a wall this summer…or maybe as far back as this spring…where I officially hate to plan, shop, and make meals. I’m over it.  (This system petered out once these particular meals stopped being appetizing…).  And yet people still need to be fed around here.  (Sigh.)  Trying this system reduces decision fatigue, which I appreciate.  Our grocery spending has also exploded so I am curious if this will help cut costs.

(As a blogger I read once stated, you can’t ruin something you hate.  She meant it in home decor, but I let that apply to all things food.  I hate the whole thing of it, so changing it up (to try something new) is a low-risk endeavor.)

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*Siblings holding hands.  Heart eyes.*

That’s what’s happening here.  All sorts of wild and crazy.