Down time

rain down on window

rain down on window (Photo credit: pennacook)


Everyone is busy these days, even kids sometimes. We all have a thousand responsibilities and to-dos on top of the thousand things we personally hope for. We have jobs and chores, but we also have hobbies and interests that we want to work into the schedule. It’s easy to feel as if every minute has fifteen minutes worth of activity we should pack into it. We can forget the need to stop and do nothing occasionally. That down time is valuable too, just not in a way that we can measure by items checked off a to-do list.


I have so much I need to do. I have so much more I should do. I’m not doing any of it. I’m sitting in a room with a lot of windows watching the rain and listening to it pounding on the roof. My children are either napping or watching a movie, which they’re only permitted once a month, so I think I should take advantage of the electronic babysitting while I can. Later, I’ll probably wish I had spent this time getting work done, but maybe not. I might just appreciate the better mood and calmer attitude that can come from sitting for an hour listening to the rain.


How to waste a week of your life

I think I just wasted a week of my life. The frustrating thing is that there was no point during that week that I either thought it would all add up to a week or doubted that what I was doing was worthwhile. So how do I not waste more?

Our laptop has been suffering the indignities of old age for the past few months. In the case of a computer, these indignities are overheating, constant fan running, a hard-drive replacement, RAM upgrade, inability to play any videos without crashing inexplicably, and then recently inability to do much of anything without crashing inexplicably. As it has aged with such grace, we have been using our new young thing–meaning the new laptop–for more of our needs, but we hadn’t actually switched everything over to the new computer until this past week. Finally, we decided the poor, suffering, elderly laptop deserved to retire to a life of only leisurely computing–meaning, it gets used by whoever wants to do something that we can’t do on an ipad when the other laptop is already being used. Of course, nothing is as easy as it sounds, so moving our files and a few applications we had bought recently enough to want to keep as is rather than upgrade became a week-long ordeal. But it was necessary. The old computer was not stable enough to be our primary machine. It can handle whatever we need it to handle, so long as it isn’t crucial and we don’t mind risking the loss of its data.

So, I spent a few days on the oh-so-fun task of switching files and applications, rebooting during various crashes, and a whole bunch of troubleshooting for just about everything since nothing switched over completely seamlessly. It didn’t help that the new laptop was only new to us, having been my mother’s laptop for about two months before she decided to get a new one for unique reasons pertaining to hard-to-use software compatibility issues that have no bearing on the total awesomeness of our new laptop. Those two months left their mark on our laptop, which though it was still hers and didn’t realize we were its new parents. It wanted her password for a bunch of stuff, as if we weren’t good enough.

Then, once I had spent so much time on switching computers, I was on a roll. I might as well neaten up while I’m at it. We had old, old files from the computer before the computer before the old laptop, some of which were worth keeping and some–like emailed grocery lists and movie discussions that somehow got archived–not. So, since I was there anyway, and since we have this nifty new laptop that’s all clean and untainted by the accumulation of years of electronic soot, I went file by file in documents and on the desktop and deleted what wasn’t worth keeping and organized what was, since there’s no point keeping it if you can’t find it. The problem with this logic is that the files were small, and even as numerous as they were, they didn’t make a dent in the memory of the computer, so storing a 15 year old email as a text file was doing no harm. And with spotlight, we can find anything, whether it’s in a logical place or not. So really, I just wanted to feel like it was neat and clean because it was new, and I spent days of my life making it so.

Then, because I was being so organized, I decided I needed a better way of keeping up with all my various notes and memos-to-self, all my lists of things to do, books to read, foods to cook, and places to go. I needed to streamline the running of the house and family so I’d be more on top of things. So I spent way too long looking for just the right app, and I carefully pondered the important questions of which features this app must have. I tried every free app I could find with the features I was looking for before determining that none of them was good enough, and then I bought an inexpensive but excellent app to organize my life’s notes and lists. And it really is an excellent app. It was well worth the $2 it cost. But once I had the app, I needed to get all the scraps of paper and notes into it. So I transcribed lists that were perfectly neat and organized in a binder (which has the disadvantage relative to the app of always being farther from me than my ipad, which is the reason I needed the app). And now I have them all in the app. Along with a bunch of other notes I made along the way. It took another day or two, but I’m organized!

But, since I was organizing and consolidating everything into one hold-all app, I might as well get around to sorting the 50-ish magazines I have lying around waiting for me to cut out the recipes and articles I want to keep before I recycle the magazine. They’ve been accumulating because my method of storing recipes and articles after clipping them didn’t work well, because I couldn’t search for anything and find it except by flipping page-by-page through yet another binder, which is no less trouble than flipping through the magazine. They didn’t lend themselves to being put into my app. It can manage web clippings, so if I found the articles or recipes on the magazine’s websites, I could theoretically clip them into the app, but it was cumbersome and memory heavy to do so. Then it struck me–Pinterest! The answer to my magazine problem. So I spend another day and a half going through all these magazines and finding every recipe or article I had marked as a keeper online and then pinning it. Now I have sorted all the magazines and don’t have two large stacks of them in two different magazine racks, and they’re all neatly organized and findable in their proper boards on Pinterest. Woo-hoo.

Except…I’ve spent a week moving files and troubleshooting (which, as I said, was necessary), neatening various electronic devices, testing and researching apps, entering lists, sorting magazines, organizing recipes. I haven’t spent the week playing with my kids nearly as much as I want. I haven’t been reading my current nightstand novel nearly as much. I hope everything will be smoother for all this organizing I’ve done. It definitely COULD be, if I can only keep up with it. But if I’m honest, the real limiting factor that kept me from making all these foods and doing all these activities was never that I couldn’t find the recipe or the instructions. It was always that I didn’t have time or energy or motivation to do it, and once I did have time, energy, and motivation, I did it. So I may have just spent a week on nothing but neatening–electronic, physical, and mental–with no other discernible benefit.

There really is organized enough and too organized. There’s being productive and wasting time. Sometimes it’s easy to see the difference–of course making dinner is productive and watching cat videos on youtube is wasting time!–but sometimes not so much. I’m not at all sure all these electronic devices that can streamline our lives don’t waste as much of our time as they save, even when it’s “getting organized” and troubleshooting on necessary tasks, and especially when you consider all the cat videos on youtube. Or maybe I just have a talent for wasting time. Do you?


Living to work

English: An artist's depiction of the rat race...

English: An artist’s depiction of the rat race in reference to the work and life balance. See Made with following images: (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


I think it’s sad that we Americans accept it as a part of life that vacation is basically optional. Many of us who do have vacation don’t use it, either because we get so far behind on work that it’s not worth taking a vacation or because we aren’t secure enough in our jobs to feel like we can or because our employers, while technically offering vacation, make it so hard to use and are so disapproving of us when we do that we don’t. That’s what happened to me when I was in medicine. I was technically allowed vacation, but it was clearly discouraged and then held against us. We have communally given up on work-life balance, even if it is a catch phrase. The less lucky among us don’t even have the option of paid vacation, and we aren’t bothered by that, and sadly enough, those people are largely the same ones that certain better off Americans accuse of freeloading because they need food stamps or medicaid. Despite all our protestations and our stated desire to the contrary, we live to work. Or so it seems to me.


No paid vacation? You must be an American – Life Inc..


Quote of the week

Pico Mosagre walk (Parque Natural de Ponga)

Pico Mosagre walk (Parque Natural de Ponga) (Photo credit: Larra Jungle Princess)

What is this life if, full of care,

we have no time to stand and stare?

-W.H.Davies, Leisure

An Accomplished Woman

My kids are better than I am. I don’t mean they’re better looking, cuter, smarter, more fun, funnier, nicer, or just generally better, though they are all those things. They’re more efficient. Here’s my proof.

What I’ve accomplished in the past few days- aside from the essentials like grocery shopping, meal prep, cleanup, and driving to and from school.

  1. Place scholastic book club order
  2. Write this post (though, I should note, I don’t have time to finish it today, so it won’t be published until days after I’m writing it- does it still count as an accomplishment?)
  3. Waste obscenely large amounts of time trying to do worthwhile things and failing

I would list taking my kids to the park as a success except

  1. it’s really one of the essentials I’ve excluded from the list. Taking them outside to play on a playground should be a given, not an accomplishment.
  2. it ended with a broken arm.

What I have NOT accomplished

  1. Two failed attempts to place said scholastic book club order online before calling customer service for help. Silly me, I was using the wrong browser.
  2. One read-aloud e-book purchase for my six-year-old, only to discover that this e-book doesn’t have the read-aloud feature, which was the ONLY reason I was buying it instead of borrowing the book from the library
  3. Failed search for a deleted e-mail from my oldest son’s teacher. My e-mail program is set on an overly enthusiastic empty-trash schedule, so all the previous deleted messages, including the one I needed, are gone. This wouldn’t be a problem if the school sent their messages to the e-mail address I TOLD them to use–once on paper and twice by phone–instead of the one I have told them not to use, but I’m afraid to correct them again, lest I have to add that attempt to my list of failures.
  4. Fail to download songs for my toddler to a toy that’s supposed to support these downloads but doesn’t
  5. Failed search all over the house for the toy money that goes with the toy cash register
  6. Failed search for one kindle
  7. Make a lot of ready-to-do activities and projects for my two youngest children. Okay, I did accomplish that–I actually made the games and activities–but they don’t want to do them, so it counts as a fail.

By contrast, here’s what my kids have accomplished

  1. Break two bones
  2. Erase my dry-erase calendar for this month
  3. Make several picture books which they sold to my husband (pushover) for $1 each
  4. Glue advertisements for their books and their bookstore to my kitchen cabinets. Glue, not tape. They used tape to make the books and glue to hang the posters. Why?
  5. Spoil one batch of rice by opening the rice cooker before it was done
  6. Tear twenty pages out of one book
  7. Distribute one rock collection throughout one room
  8. Lose one kindle
  9. Extract one box from the garbage three times, each time scolding me not to throw it away
  10.  Empty all the clothes out of one closet and two dressers three times
  11. Steal an iPad and watch cartoons on Netflix behind my back three time for a total of two hours

See how much more effective my children are than I am? Where was I while they were doing all this stuff? I’m not sure. I was probably putting clothes back in the closet, or trying to salvage dinner, or on the phone with customer support.

I think I should start counting those bare essentials–feeding everyone, keeping them all reasonably safe (broken bones aside), taking them to the park, driving to and from school, reading to them, playing with them, cleaning up after them, arguing with them to get them to clean up after themselves, intervening in fights, watching tricks, listening to stories, answering questions, hugging and kissing and cuddling and bathing and dressing and generally adoring them. When I think of it that way, I don’t feel like such a failure. Maybe that’s a lesson we parents must learn.

In the wild

You can’t see the flock of white pelicans and black swans in the water.

Yesterday, I took my two youngest boys to the zoo, and it was great. It was one of the beautiful days that make me especially glad that I stay home with my kids, because who would want to spend such a day in an office and their kids to waste it in a daycare building? Or, horrors, their kids go to the zoo and enjoy the day but with someone else! So the zoo trip was a piece of cake, except for the hour-long struggle with a toddler who didn’t want to walk but refused to let me carry him. He wanted his stroller, which was conveniently in our garage, and which he has never wanted before yesterday.

As we were walking up a hill towards the big cats, there were four waves of zookeepers, some in groups of three or four, some alone, who came running down the hill, carrying large nets. One of them, as she ran past me, said into her radio, “We’re on our way.” Then a golf cart zoomed up to her, waited for her to jump in, and then whipped a U-turn and took off the other way. I really REALLY want to know what was going on. The curiosity is killing me. I wonder, When does curiosity cross into nosiness?

Maybe ten minutes later, we saw most of the zookeepers, but not all, walk back up the hill, carrying their nets (which were still dry- is that a clue?), looking perfectly calm. I assume that means no one died, animals included. I also make that assumption based on the lack of mention of a zoo accident in the news. I thought about asking what happened, but I would have had to run to catch up with them before they walked into an employees-only area. And while I am DYING of curiosity, I wasn’t willing to make a spectacle of myself. There you see my priorities dignity/not-being-a-spectacle trumps curiosity/voyeurism/nosiness.

I console myself that what I imagine might have happened is almost certainly more interesting than what actually did. Anyone want to guess what was going on? Tell me a story!

Life is a circus

I feel like I’ve been run over by a truck. Or one cast at least a glancing blow. Why, you ask (or maybe you don’t).

Circus: vuurspuger (1)

Circus: vuurspuger (1) (Photo credit: doenietzomoeilijk)

Yesterday, I made dinner! Most of the family even ate it, except my six-year-old, who never eats anyway. I watched my children do their new tricks! Look, they can jump off the top of the slide! Look, they can jump off the top of the fence! I kept my four-year-old from falling off a teetering three-legged patio table he was using as a stepping stool to climb over the fence into the neighbor’s yard! (FYI, tables really need four legs.) I explained meanings of words I wrote to my hovering nine-year-old while trying to convince him to stop standing over my shoulder. I woke up in the night to find my husband replaced by that same six-year-old, whom I like to call “the kicker.” Want to guess why?

I forced myself to run this morning, and when I returned, the children swarmed me, needing tape, needing someone to sign their homework, needing chocolate milk, needing a diaper change, needing a sketch book for school by tomorrow. You would think their father was invisible, given how many needs they stored up for me. My four-year-old has already has his first crying jag of the day, because I wouldn’t buy him a new toy car at CVS, where I had stopped to buy the urgently-needed sketch pad because I was too lazy to drive all the way to Target. He insisted that he doesn’t like “anything in the universe,” because I wouldn’t buy a $6 toy police car. Now, I plan to spend a luxurious few minutes letting the two children who are still at home now wreak havoc while I have some more coffee. Maybe I’ll even try to write a little. I can barely think in complete sentences. It’s lucky for me that complete sentences are optional.

Quote of the Week

English: Anthony Trollope c1870s

English: Anthony Trollope c1870s (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Three hours a day will produce as much as a man ought to write.”

Anthony Trollope

I have to like this quote, because three hours a day is really all I can hope to find. It’s actually more than I can hope to find on most days, to be honest, but I can manage that much on good days. It’s especially encouraging to me, since he was so prolific. Balancing work and family is challenging, especially when the work doesn’t pay!



Woohoo! I’m pathetic!

English: This image depicts the English - Unit...

English: This image depicts the English – United States version of the 2010 Apple Wireless Keyboard rearranged in the simplified Dvorak layout. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Want to know how pathetic I am? I finally got my new bluetooth keyboard, and I’m ridiculously excited about it. I spent days waiting, checking my order status every day until it shipped, then tracking it every day until it came, and checking the doorstep every hour until it finally arrived. Over a keyboard. Some people take trips to Tahiti. I get a new keyboard. Isn’t it beautiful?

It’s hard for me to find time to write, for many reasons mostly pertaining to the continued existence of real-life responsibilities, but also because of mobility issues. Ever since my oldest son’s best friend, at the age of two, grabbed the screen on my laptop, as it innocently sat in my lap, to break a fall and instead broke it, I have been leery of using the laptop with kids playing too close. Now I can type on my iPad in the room where they are, instead of hiding in some distant room and hoping no one wreaks too much havoc behind my back or, more likely, not writing at all because they’re all awake and at home and will cause who-knows-how-much damage if I’m not there to stop them. So, like I said, woohoo!

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