Montreal Road Trip

View of the city of Montreal from the top of Mont Royal. On a clear day, you can see all the way to New York!

Bonjour mes amis! Comment ça va?  We have returned from our trip to Montreal where we have a wonderful time, met wonderful people everywhere we went, and had terrific food. And I have to say, that for our first big road trip with the kids, things went fairly smoothly and no one got car sick, thanks to our Sea Band bracelets.

I thought I was being pretty clever when I decided to forego packing our stuff in luggage and instead used a clear Sterilite container with lid.  Omg! So easy.  I was able to pack the kids clothes, shoes, and raingear and still have room for my clothes.  We packed my husband’s clothes and gear in a smaller Sterilite container and, Voila!, we were good to go! The only other things we packed were the umbrella strollers, a cooler bag with water and snacks, and a storage cube that fit perfectly between the kids’ car seats in the back.

In the cube I packed some essentials and some things to help keep them entertained, like books, dvds (my kids love Home), first aid kit, water bottles, travel pillows, light blankets for each, old-school disposable cameras, coloring books with the markers that only work on those books, tissues, wipes, and fruit n’ yogurt snacks.  I had saved two cereal boxes and cut off the tops.  In one box, I put the books, in the other I put the tissues, wipes, and snacks.  This worked out great!  The kids could grab what they needed or wanted without yelling for my husband or me every five minutes.  Our trip went fairly smoothly, although I had to laugh when, after crossing the Tappan Zee bridge, my son asked “Are we in Canada yet?  Do you want to go to China tomorrow?”

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Spilled Milk

Last week I made coffee without putting the pod in the coffee machine.  I mean, really (!), the absolute simplest way to make coffee – put the pod in and press a button – and I messed it up.  Why?

I was multitasking, that’s why.  I was trying to make breakfast for the kids, plan out my week, check the weather (big snowstorm on the way) and get myself to the dentist on time.  It’s only 7:45 on a Saturday morning and I was already exhausted from trying to do so many things at the same time.  I wanted to crawl back into bed and hibernate.  Unfortunately, if you read my last post, you’ll know that is impossible with my 2 kids who have an inner clock set to 5:30 am.

While I was trying comprehend why my coffee looked like water, I heard my five-year old say “uh oh!”  I looked and discovered he had dripped milk on the floor.  Being the good kid that he is, he got a towel and tried to wipe it up.  But the more he wiped it up, the more he spilled.  Sadly, I realized that he was multitasking too.  He was still trying to drink his milk with one hand and clean up the mess with the other.  And he learned it from me!

There is not a lot of research that shows that multitasking is beneficial.  Most of what you find will say that, for short-term, it’s fine.  But in the long run, it’s more harmful to your health and to your memory than most of us realize.  In fact, multitasking can actually cause more stress, make it harder to focus, make you unhappy and less productive.

When I think about it, life has changed drastically in the last 15 – 20 years with cellphones and personal computers.  Especially with smartphones that allow us to be in constant contact with the rest of the world.  It has become increasingly harder and harder to pull ourselves away from text messages, emails, and social media.  Look away from your phone or computer now and look at the people around you (unless you’re sitting in a room all by yourself, that is).  How many people have a cell phone in their hand?  How many of them are looking at their phone and walking, or eating, or talking to someone standing next to them, or ordering a cup of coffee?  That is multitasking!  What about when you are watching tv?  Are you checking your emails on your phone or computer?  texting someone?  scoping out Facebook? Do you even remember when people only had a landline in their house and that was it?

I’m guilty too, it’s a big part of why I’m frazzled all the time.  After thinking about this during the week, I realized that often I am trying to do two or more things at the same time.  I make breakfast, pack lunches and try to get the kids up and dressed all at the same time.  During my lunch hour at work I am eating, making copies, setting up for the afternoon classes, etc. I cook dinner, check the kids’ backpacks and email at the same time.  Starting the Chore Chart has definitely helped with the getting things done in the morning (check out my last post about the Chore Chart below).  Think about it though.  How is this affecting our children?  What are we teaching them?  That you can drink your milk the same time you are trying to clean up what you spilled?  You’re just going to spill more.

Now Google “A day without cellphones” and you’ll see dozens of articles and stories about people who have given up their phone for a day.  The results range from a couple of people barely surviving 24 hours to quite a few rediscovering the world around them.  In my search, I discovered that there is actually a National Day of Unplugging, started by Reboot, a non-profit affirming the value of Jewish traditions and creating new ways for people to make them their own.  We missed the National Day of Unplugging (it was on March 3-4, 2017) but that doesn’t mean that we can’t give it a go on our own, right?

So now, I ask you… can you do it?  Can you go a whole day without your phone and computer?  Pick a day that you will not need either for work.  Make this a day to focus on one task at a time.  Start with that cup of coffee in the morning.  Sit down at the table and enjoy that cup of coffee, down to the last drop.  Just let your mind wander as you do so.  Were you able to do it?  Great!!! Now, on to the next task, one item at a time….

Chore Charts

Trying to establish morning routines without aggravation…

 

Getting the kids up in the morning has never been a problem.  They are up by 5:30 am every day.  This is great for weekdays, not so great for weekends when you hope to sleep in a bit.  We don’t even set our alarm clocks any more, they are that attuned.

Getting the kids ready for school and ourselves ready for work and out the door on time is not so easy.  Everything has been a real struggle, from getting them dressed to convincing them to eat breakfast.  At 3 and 4 years old, they only want to play, which is understandable.

So, with their birthdays looming upon us, I decided we needed to change tactics and turned to one of my favorite online obsessions – Pinterest.  What responsibilities can and should we expect of each of our children?  Is it too early to start a list of chores?  an allowance?  The plethora of information found is both inspiring and overwhelming.  I finally came across a pin from the blog My Name is Snickerdoodle that seemed perfect.  It was easy to make and easy to use.  As the kids finish each morning routine, they simply flip up each tab to read “Done”.  I made one for each child, sat them down and together we talked about what routines we have to do each morning in order to make it to work and school each morning.  As an incentive, I decided to add that they could earn 25 cents a week if they did their without complaining.  They liked the idea of getting money each week for their piggy banks and agreed easily.

Establishing morning routines without tears.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These are the five morning routines I expect them to do everyday, without complaint:

  1. Get dressed.
  2. Make bed.
  3. Eat breakfast.
  4. Brush teeth.
  5. Put on shoes

Day One – The kids eagerly started their routines and flipped up each one to read “Done” as soon as they finished.  It soon became very competitive.  Who could flip up all five responsibilities first?   I had to leave for work as they were eating breakfast, but their Lola (Filipino for grandmother) reported that they finished breakfast without argument and brushed their teeth and put on shoes in record time.  When I returned from work that afternoon, they were so excited to show me that they had flipped up everything.

Day Two – The kids were not quite as enthusiastic as the first day and I almost despaired that the novelty had already worn off.  My older child needed a couple of reminders that the jobs needed to be done without argument in order to earn 25 cents at the end of the week.  However, once he flipped up the first responsibility, he got more excited about doing the rest.

Of course, the younger child was not about to be outdone.  As soon as the older one announced that he had flipped up the second one, she switched into high gear.  She got dressed and made her bed in record time.  For her, everything she does involves a song and dance, and I mean literally she has to sing and dance about while you wait with increasing impatience and try to keep her moving along.  This time, she showed some will power and withheld on the improv performance about her life.  After two bites of her cereal, though, she declared herself full and was off to flip up the third before her brother.  Luckily, I intercepted her and sent her back to the table to finish.

Day Three – So, today was a little trickier because the kids had pajama day at school.  Try convincing your kids to put on fresh pajamas to go to school… not so easy.  Once we flipped up the first job, they set about making their beds and I left to pack the lunches and make breakfast.  A few minutes later, my younger one came in and announced that she was done making her bed.  But I discovered when I was preparing to leave for work that she did not even touch her bed.  Soooo… we had to have a talk about not telling the truth… which made me a little late for work.  It’s ok, some things are more important, right?

Days Four, Five, and Six – The rest of the week went pretty smoothly.  I had a few complaints, but generally, they were more willing to get the routines done than ever before.  And I purposely did not remind them about the 25 cents at the end of the week.  I didn’t want the money to be the only reason they did their chores,  Flipping up the chart seemed to be satisfactory enough for them and I want to try and keep it that way.  It’s like crossing off your to-do list.  It’s giving them a sense of accomplishment.  So on Day 7 when I presented them with 25 cents, they were ecstatic.

Two weeks in and I think we forgot to do the chore chart one day (it was a weekend day, we were taking it a little easy).  Otherwise, it is still working pretty well.  Next up, I ‘m going to come up with the afternoon/evening routines and .  I don’t want to overwhelm them with too many, so I need to think about this a bit.  I’ll keep you updated on how this goes.

 

Happy Thanksgiving!

I want to wish everyone a very happy Thanksgiving holiday!  While traditionally we have the family over at mom and dad’s house where everyone eats too much, watches the parade, the dog show, and the football game on tv, and we get in at least one good family argument, this year is much quieter.  My youngest has a stomach bug and my husband has to work.  On top of that, my mother-in-law is here and very jet-lagged, so she is sleeping right now (it’s nighttime in her country, so it is understandable).  I am waiting for my husband to come home early and then will take my older child and mother-in-law over to meet the rest of the family.  Hopefully, no family arguments or oven fires will happen.  And yes, they do happen.  My husband and I were dating when I invited him for Thanksgiving at my sister’s house.  As we were walking in, there was a family argument and then, a little while later, the oven caught on fire.  The pan that the turkey was in had a pinhole leak in it and was dripping onto the bottom of the oven.  As we watched my boyfriend help my sister clean the oven, my mother leaned over and said,”If you don’t marry him, I will!”  Four months later, we were married.

So as I reflect on Thanksgiving today, I would like to say that I am grateful for my family and friends and their infinite patience and love.  I am grateful for my children.  My son and I have a running joke, “You’re driving me crazy!  But I still love you!”  I am grateful that I am able to get up every morning and hit the ground running, sometimes slipping and sliding all over the place, but hey! I am moving and that’s what counts!  I am grateful for all of the people who remind us that though we may not agree politically on who should be president, it is the people of this country that make it great and wonderful.  For we still have the right to speak our mind and fight for what is right and fair and just for all people.  And as A.J. Jacobs reminded us when he held his Global Family Reunion in 2015, WE ARE ALL ONE BIG FAMILY.  So stop fighting about every little thing and instead do something to help someone else.  Even if it is as small as paying the coffee for the person standing on line behind you, show someone that you care.  I challenge you to do one act of kindness a week between now and New Year’s Eve.  Can you do it?  I bet you can!