Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Help Wanted: List-maker seeks schedule

I have a lot of notebooks, and I go back and forth between feeling strengthened by their piles of lists and notes and feeling completely helpless against their enormity, a mountain of expectations. Sometimes when I steal away from home and sit before one or two notebooks or random pieces of paper filled to the margins with ideas, or rough drafts, I feel free, ready to jump right into a task. Like yesterday when I was reviewing some brainstorming notes I made with Alex about some exciting new business plans, my lists lifted me up and got me to work. (I'm so excited to share these with you, but not quite yet. I have to organize the parade first.) And then there's today, where the many, many lists and notes and drafts are staring me down, taunting me, teasing me, and nudging me to get going already.

All things considered, I think this is my brewing time. I've had this process for a long time, where I sit with a project, worry about it for a long while, panic that it isn't done yet, before I realize that I was making progress all along. Working can't always be about action, but requires reflection, a moment to untangle all the moving pieces. Of course a person such as myself sometimes rests too long in this place of reflection and then moves into a place of oh-crap-this-needs-to-get-done-yesterday. (As a lifelong procrastinator, this article was a breath of fresh air, a reminder that my putting things off comes from a place of deep fear about not being perfect. Fuck perfect. And thanks, Kaylie, for passing this along.) This is where my lists and notes come in, reminding me that work does still require action after all. This is also why one of my 100 resolutions includes finding a new way to organize my time (this isn't the first time I've cried out to the internet about how to make the most out of my lists). Reflection isn't effective if all those good ideas are lost before they can be put to good use.

Lest you think I'm beating myself up over not doing enough work, I'm not. As much as I struggle with being perfect and doing perfectly, I know I'm human. I'm just strategizing out loud on blog, working through my ideas in front of your very eyes. You know how the internet is always telling us to stop multitasking and be calm and quiet about everything? How can I not multitask when I'm a working adult with two children, a home, pets, friends, loved ones, a city to explore, and futures to imagine? No, it can't be done. While I'll throw myself into finding a way to structure my days and work time in such a way that will minimize unnecessary stress (and anxiety, since I'm wired that way), I can't ignore the variety of responsibilities I have. I just can't.

But I will try to remember to breathe.

Back to my lists, which really means, back to finding a strategy to get everything done. The best strategy I find is just sitting down to work, but sometimes that's harder than it sounds, because sometimes sitting down to work really means: how do I make sense of all of this? How do I teach and grade and create and support and feed and sweep (mostly I don't sweep) and hopefully get some rest all in this short, short, day? I have lists for my teaching, lists for my doula work, lists for how to fill my kitchen (with really good food, please) and for who needs all new t-shirts (Alyce, because she won't stop growing). Which list to turn to first? How do I combine lists? All of a sudden those notebooks are staring at me again.


So I'm getting to work on one of my resolutions this week: Try out some new time management tips and see what works best (#74). And here is where you come in: can you give a girl a hand and send me your best ideas? Do you have something that works for you? Do you have a favourite blog on the topic? Any words of advice (only friendly ones, please and thank you)? I'm asking for help because it's something I'm getting better at doing, almost at least once a week now. I ask Matt for help on this topic All The Time, but because he's my husband I sometimes only half listen to him (sorry, my darling). Because he's so handsome I can't concentrate! (There you go.)

Here is what I am looking for:

:: A plan that uses lists because I love lists. They help the visual part of my brain do its magic.
:: I'm not looking for an online app or list tool because they don't seem to work for me, even though I spend a lot of time in front of my computer or phone. I need the doodling, random scribbling of an old-fashioned notebook.
:: Something that incorporates big and small deadlines, that might help me learn to calculate how best to break down a task and estimate the time it will take to accomplish it.
:: To schedule or not to schedule: how do we figure out which one works?
:: Encouragement.

I'll be back in the next few days (for real this time) to outline some of my jobs/projects/goals as well as my general responsibilities as I see them. Just in case you thought I lounged at home wondering how to begin my napping business.

Will you help? In return I offer you my mum's Mexican Tortilla Soup recipe, stolen from one of my many notebooks (there's more than just lists in these books). When I visit my mum I ask her to make this for me every time because it feeds my soul, and love of salt and lime.

P.S. Alyce did it again. This time it was a button.
P.P.S. Sorry for swearing, mum.

Be well!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

How to visit the ROM with young children

Behind the Scenes

I should tell you it took two hours to get us there. Yes, we live in the middle of Toronto, but don't let that deceive you. Going anywhere with children adds years to most outings. First it took me a full hour to Prepare All The Things. What does a family of four need for a trip the Royal Ontario Museum? I'd be happy to tell you: diapers, wipes, a full change of clothes for two children, three, filled water bottles, tea, snacks, dinner, more snacks, two umbrellas, a stroller, an extra stroller seat in case I get Alyce gets tired on the way home, change for the subway, an extra sweater, and mittens and hats in case the weather changes later that night. Once that was done I just had to get two young children ready to get out of the house. Easy! (Matt was meeting us there from work, lucky duck.)

That took one hour. Next up was a 40 minute walk to the subway that takes me 15 when I walk by myself. Shira was bundled in the stroller, but then we have to account for Alyce's dawdling, because there are puddles! And things that look like worms! And a pile of melting snow! And an airplane! We finally arrived, wet from the rain, but motivated by our collective excitement to see dinosaur bones.

10 minutes later we found ourselves still excited about bones, but less excited by the fact that we were on a subway platform, a mere block away from the museum, but in front of a sign alerting us that the elevators at St. George station were down for maintenance. Awesome. Fortunately I only had one level to ascend and found an escalator on which to awkwardly balance the front wheel of my enormous stroller. (I was traveling on the north-south line; had I been coming from the dreaded east or west I would have had to unpack Shira from the stroller, help her up the stairs, and then carry the double stroller by myself, reassembling the entire package at the top.)

We made, two hours later but relatively unharmed. It's March Break in Ontario, so Alyce is off school all week. Matt and I are dividing up the week in terms of work and being home with the girls, but we wanted to do something special as a family. We have a membership at the Ontario Science Centre, but we visit the ROM much less frequently. (Note to self: living in Toronto is a good, good thing.) There has been a special dinosaur exhibit on for months with some new-to-North American-museums dinosaur bones from South America, Africa, and Asia. I've been meaning to take Alyce for some time, but like most things I waited until its last week in Toronto. However, the plus side to my procrastination this time around is that admission to the Ultimate Dinosaurs exhibit during March Break, after 4:30 pm, is 35% off. Finally, waiting until the last minute pays off.

What to expect while visiting the Royal Ontario Museum with young children

Fear of bats (re: bat cave)
A meltdown or two, especially if you're there in late afternoon or evening.

All of the above, plus:

You'll learn things: If you have a child in kindergarten who just finished a unit on dinosaurs, she will probably tell you things like, That dinosaur must have been a herbivore because its teeth are flat, or, That's a fossilized skull. I do, and mine did. Next she'll tell me that when I travel in space I'll need to wear an oxygen tank because there isn't any oxygen in space, which we need to breathe. No wait, she already told me that last week.

They'll dress up like a dinosaur: The dress-up clothes in the kids section will probably be their favourite part and you'll remember that you've been meaning to find some non-princess, non-fairy, non-ballerina clothes for their dress-up bins at home. I can't really roll my eyes over their daily need to dress up like princesses when all of their dress-up clothes are, wait for it, princess dresses. I'm not always the smartest parent.

The bees are always winners: At the ROM you'll find bees--real live, buzzing, honey-making bees. They can buzz back and forth between their hive and the outside world through a plastic pipe running through a nearby window (to taunt the nearby university students, Matt declared). The best part is that the bee keeper kindly painted a white dot on the Queen Bee so that she's easy to find amidst all the other manic honey bees. Once your child spots the Queen he'll receive a sticker that declares his Queen Bee finding mission a success. Success!

If you're looking for something to do this week, the Ultimate Dinosaurs are only there until March 17th. If you want to avoid large crowds of people, you might want to skip the fancy dinosaurs and just go next week. Not that they're not awesome, but there is an entire museum to see, and your kids will probably just want to play dress-up anyway.

How is your March Break going?

Be well.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

We took the city by storm

Poor sad blog. Completely ignored in the rush of some of the busiest months I've had in ages. Emotionally busy, physically busy, and the babies. So many babies! They have kept me busy in the best possible way. And then there's these two. But I have little time for catching up today. Instead I'll tell you about yesterday, when I took Shira on eleven different buses, streetcars, and subways.

This is my friend, Alex, in the beautiful red. She's also the one carrying my almost-three year old around Toronto. She's a fellow birth and postpartum doula, a knitter, and a lover of good coffee, so it's pretty obvious that we became friends. We have been brainstorming some exciting doula-related projects lately, which is why we found ourselves traipsing around Toronto on one of the coldest days of winter, with a baby on our backs. Alex is part of the community I was so looking forward to when we moved back to the city. I'm a lucky doula.

I'll share some of our projects as they continue to develop, but for now we are busying ourselves with preparations. Shira, too, is eager to throw herself snowpants-deep into the groundwork of building a new business. She was happy to be carried on and off buses and streetcars, to nap between appointments on Alex's back, and to enjoy a snack or three when we warmed ourselves up in different coffee shops across Toronto. If this isn't a commercial for wearing your baby, I don't know what is. We didn't have to schlep a single stroller on and off a streetcar. She snacked, napped, and bossed us around all from the comfort of our backs. (And no, it didn't hurt to carry her. She's only 26ish pounds and the Ergo carrier distributesher weight well.)

We have so much to catch up on and I'll do my best to return all week. For now I'll leave you with two fast friends. Shira is still mooning over Alex a day later, she had so much fun.

And how are you? I've missed so much.