Tag Archives: experiments

Do you have to be special to start?

I often wonder if people who write books about getting their life in order are special people to begin with. Some of them are, no doubt, special. But what I want to know is did they start out like me? A nobody. A scatterbrained overachieving mom, a wife, a mother, an employee. Or were they already reaching for the starts as a kid?

Reading the bio blurbs of authors on Goodreads or author websites, they all seem to start with the same, “So and so has been writing and reading since she was young enough to recognize letters…blah blah blah.” That’s me. I’ve been writing stories in my head and on paper forever. The biggest complaint my teachers had was that I was always reading and they could never get me to pay attention to anything outside the book in front of my nose. (Not a bad complaint about your kid if you ask me, but my parents hated that I read all the time.)

But if most writers start out the same, why do some go all the way and some (like me) never move past their daily journal or pages upon pages of story ideas?

Sure, there’s plenty of research and theories out there about goal setting and what to do to get your book written or project accomplished or whatever your thing is. It feels like I’ve read all of them. Putting them into action…well, that’s another thing.

So my burning questions is: Do people who put the theories into practice start from a different place? Are they wired differently? Are they “better” people? Or are there slobs out there; lazy, procrastinating slobs, who hate themselves for not reaching their goals sooner, or for not setting goals and plans in the first place who actually get off their behinds and accomplish said goals? Is there a turning point for those people? A rock bottom from which they bounce? (I can’t imagine a bounce off a rock bottom is too pleasant. Sounds more like something that would make me curl up into a ball and categorize as a nice new low in which to get comfortable.) A major turning point that doesn’t let them turn back like a fork in a mountain road right when the road behind them collapses in a rock slide?

Maybe a little experiment is in order.

Experiment updates

This was the rough plan for Experiment #1:

Sometime early morning: get up, make bed, make breakfast and eat together, then clean up breakfast dishes and bake something to have later

Mid-morning: clean up baking and pull out some math problems or games

Lunch time: make lunch and eat together, then clean up

Mid-afternoon: go for a walk by the river, discover what nature has to reveal

Late afternoon: write about the river walk, read a book, play a game

After a few weeks home together and one official week of school guided by the kids’ teachers, we’ve kind of made this our routine. I’m proud of us.

There have been some adjustments, as I’d expected, but mostly, this week has been pretty good.

We don’t all eat breakfast together. (And sometimes I don’t eat at all because my son likes to do his own cooking and I take that time to get in some extra editing.)

The cleaning up is mostly left to me to do later in the day (which I often end up leaving for my husband when he gets home from work at the end of the day).

The plan for mid-morning school work has settled into a slightly different plan with my son (who is up early) logging into his Google Classroom and getting his work mostly done before his sister wakes up. She then logs in and gets her work done. School work is usually wrapped up by 11:30 am.

After that, there are a few chores to be done, some outside time and quiet time for the kids, playing, reading or drawing. Then it’s lunch and free WiFi time in the afternoon while I work. Three days a week there is online soccer training for my son.

Experiment #2 of me going outside every day hasn’t always panned out. I do think about it, but sometimes the hours just slip away and the next thing I know it’s evening and I don’t want to go out because everyone is home. I have to get better at that.

But basically, that’s where we’re at. It’s lonely being away from friends physically, but we all have tech ways to connect and we’re doing our best to stay in touch with friends and family.

I hope your physical distancing time is going well and that you’re staying safe and sane. On to the next week!

Subtract – add – adjust

Didn’t make it farther than the backyard yesterday. But the sun was shining and it was good to be outside.

Quick recap of yesterday: I baked blueberry muffins. Kids did some art. I interacted with my daughter’s school’s reading group a bit on Google Classroom. I did a ton of editing. I worked late. I had a short, at-a-distance visit with my parents in my yard and watched city workers tape off the playground next to our house. The kids resisted me on any work besides drawing and they were unwilling to help when asked, choosing instead to spend most of their time talking to friends on video chat or text.

How I felt by the end of the day: hopeless, worried, exhausted, like a failure.

What I’m doing today to combat those feelings: drinking lots of water (I think dehydration is having an effect on my brain), focusing on the now (go for a walk, listen to the birds, meditate for 15 minutes), play with my kids (board games, cards).

In being overly concerned about the effect this social isolating is having on my kids and the loss of regular school in their lives, I’ve forgotten that they still have their regular fears and worries (that are of course compounded by this distance from the worlds they would otherwise inhabit).

In a chat with my daughter last night, I realized that what we’re all suffering from without really realizing it is the loss of our own worlds and how our worlds have come crashing together.

I’ve always thought of the four of us as close. We have dinner together every night; we often cook and clean up as a family (assuming we’re all home; sometimes activities take some of us out of the house right after dinner). We have movie nights and game nights. We talk a lot and about everything together. Of course, we each have little things we keep to ourselves, but we’re mostly a very open family.

But in this new reality: all of us in the house all of the time (except my husband who is still working out in the world), it has hit me that we each had our own lives, our own worlds, entirely separate from each other. Yes we started each day together and came back together at the end of each day, but my daughter had her social circle and her routine and her teachers and schedules, and my son had his friends and his teachers and his neighbourhood hangout spots and his soccer team, and I had my friends and coworkers and my office and my work-from-home space (for the odd work-from-home day pre-COVID-19) and my errands and my routine, and my husband had his work and social circle. Now all of that is gone and our worlds have come crashing together. It’s not a bad thing, but it’s a new thing to get used to.

When a tween needed her friends in the pre-COVID-19 world, she had access to them IRL. Now, she only texts and talks on the phone with them. And she is having to adjust to what that communication looks like for her group, how they will manage disagreements, hurt feelings, misinterpretations (because I imagine there’s a lot of that when communicating without the benefit of body language and tone of voice). It’s hard to navigate that as an adult with years of experience. Imagine facing that challenge just as you reach the stage in your life where communication and group dynamics carry so much weight?

And for an athletic boy now cooped up in the house or confined to a backyard with no buddies to play with? These are trying times.

And so today is Friday, the last day of the first week of learn at home/social isolation. I went to sleep last night with yet another adjustment to our schedule/routine in my head. And I woke up this morning nervous and worried about how today will play out. But writing this has been therapeutic and, as I often tell myself, take it day by day, make adjustments for what doesn’t work, add in new possibilities, subtract/add, adjust, be kind to yourself and to others, find balance and don’t think that because things went sideways yesterday that they will always be like that. Today is a new day. And it’s Friday, so relax and have a little fun.

The experiment begins

Today is Day 1 of what the Ontario government is calling Learn at home.

I spent a good chunk of yesterday prepping for how we’ll move forward over the coming weeks with this new reality.

I started by jotting down my expectations. I want my kids to learn, to be engaged and to feel good about themselves.

The way they won’t accomplish these things is clear: lots of screen time.

The ways they will accomplish these things is more work on everyone’s part, but more rewarding overall: being creative, learning something new (anything, I’m not just talking academics here), practicing being a better human (kindness, helpfulness, creating beauty [or just creating for the sake of it]).

At dinner, we all talked about what the coming weeks might look like. I explained to my kids that things are in flux and we’re going to take it day by day. There are no hard rules on how we have to do things every day. Some days, I’ll be really busy with work and I won’t have as much time for them. Other days, I’ll be able to take some time off and do things with them rather than just guiding them to do it on their own. The point is, we have to work together.

Because my kids are used to the school schedule, they both immediately jumped to the question of when is recess. This highlighted to me that what I’m working with is programmed kids. And I would love to get them away from that kind of thinking and toward more holistic thinking. I think for me that’s it. It’s not about a schedule:

8:00 am: get up, make bed, have breakfast

9:00 am: do math worksheets

10:00 am: write in journal

10:30 am: snack break and play in the backyard

11:00 am: read

12:00 pm: lunch


I don’t want our days to look like that. There’s no opportunity for deep learning or engagement there.

This is my idea for our days:

Sometime early morning: get up, make bed, make breakfast and eat together, then clean up breakfast dishes and bake something to have later

Mid-morning: clean up baking and pull out some math problems or games

Lunch time: make lunch and eat together, then clean up

Mid-afternoon: go for a walk by the river, discover what nature has to reveal

Late afternoon: write about the river walk, read a book, play a game

And this would be in flux. The next day, there might be a craft or art or engineering project that captures the attention and takes hours to work through. The point is deep engagement, being in the zone, finding flow.

When asked for their input on screen time, my daughter thought that one hour at lunch with her phone would be good to keep in touch with her friends. (Personally, I thought it was a little restrictive to just have one hour a day to talk to friends that she would normally see all day. I worry about how this online-only communication is going to change how we all interact. But I’m going to try not to worry, because the results may surprise me.)

And that’s where I’m at as I sit on the cusp of Day 1. To help my kids get used to this new routine, I’m going to stick closer to the school routine, and they’ll start Day 1 with breakfast and then worksheets that they received from their teachers on their last day in class. I have other resources and things for them that I curated yesterday during my prep time (and alone time in the house, which rarely happens anymore since I’m working from home and my kids are off school). I’ll pull those out as needed, but right now, it’s day by day, one day at a time, and all other related idioms.

How are you faring? What are your plans for the coming weeks?

Trust and guidance

So, day 5, and I’m officially questioning my ability to parent.

This is not new. I’ve often questioned my ability to parent small humans. But never in this context; never in the context of survival, of coping, of making it through whatever the universe throws at us and working hard to keep it together.

Clearly, I’m not keeping it together very effectively. Day 5, people, and I already wish that I could go back to the office and send my kids to school.

And I’ve got great kids. They are actually not arguing with each other (very much) and they have spent a ton of time outside together without me, so they are proving self-sufficient.

But, in facing the days and weeks ahead, I’m questioning my ability to get them to focus on things like learning, school work, chores, music and soccer practice.

I know what drives this questioning voice in my head. I know what little Miss Judgmental is getting at every time she speaks up. I’m not good at putting aside gratification. I’m not good at making myself do hard things. I’m not good at staying focused.

And because I’m not good at all those things, all those skills that are required to teach and guide and encourage young minds, I’m going to fail at keeping my kids engaged during this time away from school. And my kids are going to languish. They are going to do only what they find (instantly) gratifying. They are not going to focus and use this time productively.

But what if I flip the switch? What if I trust my kids to use this time they have been given? What if we start from a place of understanding on both sides: what I want and what they want? What if, after coming to an understanding of expectations, I just lay out the day’s tasks and options each day and see what they do with that guidance?

Shall we experiment? No judgment. No nagging. No whining. Just trust and guidance.

Let’s call it experiment #1 and see where it takes us. The first day is Monday.