choose 3 things to get done

When hitting a stretch of being overwhelmed by too much to do, I turn to the idea of “Choosing 3 Things” to get done in a day to help get me through the chaos and find some footing. Identifying 3 things to accomplish in a day serves several purposes:

1) It forces prioritizing. The act of choosing requires me to evaluate and think about what’s important given the restrictions of time and resources. On any day it could mean making a family dinner happen, attending one of my kids’ sports game, exercising, powering through something at work, helping a friend, or making time to spend alone. Also, what should I make happen today that won’t be a possibility tomorrow?

2) It helps focus energy. The number of things that any of us could possibly do in a day is infinite, often overwhelming, and can distract from the focus necessary to see any one task to completion. There are details and times to remember at home and at work, countless articles and news stories to suggest what each of us could be doing for better health or the greater good. Not all of it’s important–to say nothing of “doable”–and calling up 3 manageable tasks or reachable goals can help focus the energy that will be spent.

3) It allows for a greater sense of accomplishment. The background hum of endless possibility often prevents me from appreciating progress or things that I actually do manage to accomplish, especially since I have a tendency to see the shortfall instead of the distance I’ve come. Choosing 3 can help create a sense of accomplishment and grounding.

Some days just feel like I’m on the other side of the net from one of those tennis ball machines, and all I can do is bat away those fluorescent blurs that keep coming at me, with no time or perspective to place any single shot in a thoughtful or strategic place. Purposefully identifying anchors can help me let some of those balls just fly by, gives me time to get my form and balance right, approach a ball with focus and intention, and take my best swing. –t

2014 holiday give & get, list & links

unnamedToday we share gift ideas at many different price points in three categories: toys, books and whole family gifts. Thanks to those who responded to the survey with their kids’ faves.  We hope you find some inspiration below!

*indicates multiple votes / perennial favorites

 

 

 

TOYS

For 3-5 year olds
Marble Run*
Magnatiles*
Legos*
Water Wizard
Art Supplies*
Beyblades*
Inflatable guitars
EZ steppers
How to Train your Dragon DVD and related costumes and sticker book

For 6-8 year olds
Minecraft (& Minecraft games, toys and books)
Lego sets*
Magic set
Science kit
Scrabble
Snap circuits*
Weaving loom
Razor scooter
Sockem Boppers
Sockem Bopper Power Bag
Nerf all conditions football
Simon
Frozen DVD

For 9-12 year olds
JD Bug Scooter
Perplexus Epic Maze
Chess
Bounce Back Net (for sports)
Taylor Swift concert tickets
Magazine Subscriptions (Muse, Ask, Cobblestone, Sports Illustrated Kids)
Razor ripstik
xBox 360

For 13+
Gift Cards (Starbucks, iTunes, GameStop, Target)
Make up / Sephora Gift Card
Frisbee (Ultimate regulation weight)
Handmade marbles
Magazine subscription (eg People StyleWatch)
Locket necklace
Concert tickets

BOOKS

For 6-8 year olds
Gooseberry Park
Ivy and Bean
Ramona series
Clementine
Diary of A Wimpy Kid -The Long Haul
American Girl Smart Girls Guides
Scat by Carl Hiassen
Guys Read Other Worlds by Jon Scieszka
Skink: No Surrender by Carl Hiaasen

For 9-12 year olds
The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex
City of Ember Series by Jeanne DuPrau
The Greenglass House by Kate Milford
The Mysterious Benedict Society Series by Trenton Lee Stewart
Ghost Hawk by Susan Cooper
Wonder by R.J. Palacio
Divergent series
Alex Rider series
Minecraft, The Complete Handbook Collection, by Stephanie Milton
The Giver, by Lois Lowry
The Invention of Hugo Cabret, by Brian Selznick
Holes, by Louis Sachar

WHOLE FAMILY GIFTS
“Movie Night” (share a favorite DVD, movie sized candy selections, microwave popcorn)
World Atlas
Holiday Concert tickets
Telestrations
YMCA / gym membership
Ice cream maker
Popcorn popper
Doodle dice
Badminton set
Puzzles
Bird bingo
Blokus

hand blender

Hand BlenderOK, look out: here comes a post about housewares. With the autumn chill in the air, we’ve recently revisited our love for our hand blenders and decided to mention in case there was anyone out there who still doesn’t yet own one of these fabulous little gadgets. I once blew the top off of my blender and sprayed hot kelly green all over a depressingly large portion of my kitchen during the “blend” step of making spinach soup. My mother-in-law was the one who saved me soon afterward with the gift of the hand blender. For the many years since, I’ve plunged that thing into pots of soup and sauce, and let it whirr with gratitude, to say nothing of relative safety. Even for someone (like me) who likes to keep the kitchen relatively simple and old-school, this plug in is a favorite.–t

For anyone still with great gift ideas to share, click here for the annual give-and-get survey. Results to posted in this blog soon!

lists of gifts

Great gift ideasWhile we’re waiting for the 2014 Holiday Gift Survey data to come in, here are a bunch of gift ideas from past posts to get your juices flowing:

1. Personalized gifts

2. MIY gifts (a rice pillow, a jar full of memories, jedi robe)

3. Games

4. Experiences

5. Books (for kids)

For those that have not yet filled out the holiday gift survey, you can do that here. Results will be posted on www.ideasforthoughtfulparents.com, so check back.

make it doable

make exercise doableOften the biggest challenge to committing to something over time is the size and scope of our expectation. For me, regular exercise has always posed such a challenge. If I felt that I didn’t have enough time for a yoga class or run followed by a shower, I’d bail. But it was assuming that I needed a big chunk of time to make it worthwhile that kept me from exercising on a regular basis.

The shift that has worked for me is to shoot for a shorter amount of time, i.e. to make exercise “doable,” such that consistency and commitment is manageable. Most days I can find 30 minutes. With that time frame in mind, I’ve discovered a few ideas that have created a more reliable (read: more likely to happen) workout. They include:

  1. Mapping out running/walking/biking routes that are 30 minutes out and back from my door
  2. Getting timed workout apps, such as the 7 minute workout app. (Click here for a list of others.)
  3. Using yoga or pilates videos with 20-30 minute sessions, such as Rodney Yee AM/PM Yoga for Beginners

Hooray for “doable!” -n

 

what we’re sending (to welcome a new baby)

Screen Shot 2014-10-21 at 12.06.28 PMMy cousin and his wife just had a baby!  In deciding what to send to welcome her, I thought back to the gifts that brought our family the most lasting enjoyment: music and books. When my first child was born, a friend whose kids were a few years older sent us a CD of their family’s favorites songs. At first it seemed like a long time before this gift would be relevant, but soon we came to love the songs their family introduced us to. It’s an idea I have borrowed many times since. Similarly, when I was fighting to keep my head above water in the early days of new motherhood, enjoying books together seemed a long way off. Yet in the following months, each time we read a book we received as a gift, I thought about the sender and was grateful.

So today I’ll share the 5 books I’ve sent to welcome the new baby (spoiler alert to my cousin who occasionally reads this blog)–some of my family’s favorites:

  1. I Know a Rhino
  2. Is Your Mama a Llama
  3. Farfallina and Marcel
  4. Tumble Bumble
  5. Sometimes I Like to Curl Up in a Ball

Wishing you many hours of snuggly reading together, -n

white board

I love my whiteboard. It’s hangs on the refrigerator in the kitchen, and is our family’s place for the running grocery list, the most critical to-dos, the place to find the daily schedule when things need to get done with a high degree of coordination. It’s where we can all Get On The Same Page.

I’ve recently added an additional smaller whiteboard that holds new lists: things for each of the kids to get done or remember. Of course I could have added these lists to the main whiteboard, but, well, there isn’t really room.

I am now loving this other whiteboard for different reasons. (Why did it take me so long to figure this out?) If there is a job in the house–or other things–for each kid to be responsible for (e.g. empty the dishwasher, return a permission slip, practice violin), there it is on their list! Every time they go to the fridge for a snack or a drink, there it is. A reminder! I feel disproportionately unburdened by this small white rectangle that allows me to not have to be the one who has to remember, remind, and yes, occasionally nag to get things done. –t

let them see you cry

Screen Shot 2014-06-03 at 12.41.51 PMI am a sentimental crier. I was crying off and on while watching A Dolphin Tale with my kids. And, um, also during We Bought A Zoo. I well up almost every time I see a parent struggling to do their best by their kids, when I bear witness to someone going through a tough time with grace, or at pretty much any moment that highlights acts of true humanity. There are a couple of children’s books that, no matter how many times I read them, I hear my voice choked with emotion at certain points as I struggle to get to the bottom of the page. (For me these stories include The Summer My Father Was Ten by Pat Brisson, Lobstering with My Papa, by Billie Hancock and Joan Walsh, and Miss Rumphius, by Barbara Cooney.) These are all stories of aging, kids growing up, the passage of time–themes that resonate deeply with me as a parent. My kids’ reactions have been varied, sometimes they’ve just looked over and said nothing, other times they asked, “Mom, why are you crying?”  This has given me a chance to share what I find moving. I am glad for these opportunities with them. They get to see me cry not because I’m hurt or experiencing loss: just because I’m moved. It gives us all a chance to think about the emotions and how we experience and express feelings…good for everyone. –n

themed playlist – car ride fun

For anyone with an upcoming road trip, here is a fun idea that may even keep your children off of screens for a short while (no promises).  Create playlists for your car ride with a theme in mind.  Themes like weather (songs that mention rain, sun, cloudy, etc..) or Colors, People’s names or States.  Don’t tell them what the theme is, but let them listen to a few songs and guess.  Once someone figures it out, listening to the rest of the songs can be about trying to find the “theme” word. -n

teaching with context

Screen Shot 2014-06-03 at 11.31.15 AMI remember the first time my daughter saw a ripe strawberry on a small plant we had in a garden box on the roof of our apartment building. She was so excited as she slowly and tentatively picked it and ate it.  And then, I kid you not, she thanked the plant. While I wasn’t–and still am not–a knowledgeable gardener, I want my kids to know a little bit about where food comes from. I think it’s generally good to know and care about these things, and so each year we’ve planted a little garden.

Of course teaching kids about how things work is one of the jobs of being a parent–we are constantly helping children to make sense of their world and the things in it. Sometimes it’s with a short explanation, sometimes with an interpretation of a comment or joke, sometimes with a commitment to a garden for a few months, sometimes with a fun “lesson” on a theme.

One summer day, in need of a project and a goal, proved a perfect time to do such a “lesson.” This time our theme was ice cream. We made a day of it by going to the library and finding a couple of books on how ice cream is made (among them, Ice Cream: The Full Scoop by Gail Gibbons).  We read the books together, then, woo-hoo! went out for ice cream. Simple. Educational. Extremely satisfying and fun, and a terrific way to spend the afternoon. A winning combination.

Does your child love buses? Make it a day with a trip to the library then a bus ride. Or maybe it’s trains. Or a bakery, a farm, even the airport to watch planes take off. Slower days of summer for parents can allow time for creating these kinds of experiences, where kids have the opportunity to learn and preview something in a book at a slow pace, then connect the information to something real in their world. –t

 

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