Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Great TV Purge Check In

Today marks day 28 of the Great TV Purge.  I thought it would be harder.  I've considered getting rid of the TV for years and always changed my mind because it seemed too difficult.  I figured I would miss my favorite shows.  While I've never been a big TV watcher, I did have a few shows that I really enjoyed and faithfully followed.  I haven't even really missed them.  My kids haven't asked me to watch TV in weeks.  They do ask to watch Netflix which is approved in small doses.  I've also checked out two educational DVDs from the library which they have also watched (one on butterflies to wrap up learning about a butterfly's life cycle and one on the first settlers in America to go along with learning about Thanksgiving).

What have I learned over the past month through this experiment?  First, we can live without a TV.  Second, there is a lot less begging, whining, fighting, crying, and complaining when the TV is off.  Begging for stuff they've seen advertised, begging to watch TV, fighting over what they watch, fighting in general, crying because they want to watch something else, crying because I say they can't watch TV, complaining that their sibling is sitting in their favorite spot on the couch, and complaining that they are bored because they can't watch TV and thus don't know what to do with themselves.

Now they play with blocks.  They play with legos.  My girls played with those tiny little legos for the first time last week and then asked if they could get some of their own since they are Dave's.  They read.  Every time I turn around I see a child on the couch with a book in their hands.  I check out oodles of books for them every week.  When I go to read a book out loud to my kids, they all say, "We've already read that book."  They invent games.  They draw and write stories.  My house is overrun with art projects.  They dance around.  They play outside.  They don't complain about being bored anymore.  I may just make the Great TV Purge permanent even after all the Christmas commercials are over.

But for sure, the greatest and best change that going TV free has done is bring us closer as a family.  We just hang out more together than before.  At the end of the day when I pick my kids up from school, they tell me that they missed me, that they missed Joy.  Joy tells big brother and sister that she missed them.  They are becoming better friends because they've been left with the choice of either being bored or finding something to do together.  I have always thought we were already a close family until this past month when we've become even closer.  Sometimes maybe a little too close:)

Sunday, November 20, 2011

To Be An Expert, It Takes 10,000 of Practice

I read the book, The Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell a while ago.  Among the many things I took away from this book, the one thing that has stuck in my head since reading the book is the concept that it takes ten thousand hours of practice to become great at anything.  I'm not sure if sleeping counts, but I have definitely logged ten thousand hours doing that in my life time and I'm really good at it.  I've also read more than ten thousand hours.  I grew up across the street from a library and it was my second home.  Rain or shine, winter clothing or dripping wet bathing suits, I was at the library every single day it was open.  I still go weekly and check out a large stack of books for myself as well as read alouds for the kids.

So what does this have to do with anything?  I am raising a child who believes that he should be able to be great at anything he picks up.  He is naturally gifted and finds many things to be very easy for him.  So when he encounters things that are challenging, he thinks he isn't good at them.  That he will never be good at them.  He is just starting to make the connection between hard work and success after many heart-to-heart conversations about this topic.

Today Dave was in the driveway practicing dribbling a basketball.  I decided to take him down to my inlaws' house to use their basketball court so he could practice shooting.  After missing the basket a handful of times, Dave started to say that he was bad at basketball.  A few more missed shots and he started thinking that he would never be good at basketball.  I asked him, "How many hours of practice does it take to be really good at something?"  He replied, "Ten thousand hours. "  (He's heard this lecture before, so he knew the answer.)  To which I asked him, "How many hours have you practiced basketball?"  "About 3 hours."  "So that leaves you with how many more hours of practice before you can truly say that you are never going to be good at basketball if you still can't make a basket?"  "9,997 hours."  "Right, so get practicing."

Which brings me to my point.  A lot of times when I have these heart-to-hearts with my kids, it turns a mirror on my own life.  There are a lot of things that I would love to be good at but I have always been too busy, lazy, whatever, to put the time into really becoming good at it.  I put on the radio while doing the dishes tonight and there was a song that came on with some very good guitar playing.  The girls were dancing around the kitchen and I off-handedly commented that I wished I could play the guitar like that.  Of course Lizzy picked up on that and asked me why I couldn't play like that.  "Because I haven't practiced enough.  I haven't even picked up my guitar in over a year.  If I want to play like that, I need to put in my ten thousand hours."  In her sweet little voice she replied, "Well, why don't you practice then?"

Tonight I picked up my guitar.  I had to print off a chord chart because I couldn't even remember more than the basic chords.  I've never been very faithful to practicing anything.  As a child I took piano, flute, and oboe lessons.  As an adult I taught myself to play guitar and took fiddle lessons.  I never became very good at any of them because I was not willing to put in my hours to become great.

I have decided that if I ever want to teach my own kids the importance of perseverance and not giving up when it's hard, that I need to pick an instrument and start practicing until I'm good at it.  I need to put in my ten thousand hours even when I don't want to.  Because teaching my kids that they can become great at something if they work hard is important, even if the "thing" doesn't come naturally to them.  I don't know what they will choose as their own "ten thousand thing," but I do know that by the time they find it, I will be able to hold my own example over their heads to encourage them to persevere.  I put in about 200 hours playing my guitar back in my college days, so I figure after practicing tonight I only have 9,799 more hours to go until I'm going to be one mean guitar player.

Friday, November 18, 2011

A Museum + Salt Ornaments + Star Gazing = A Busy Day

I did something a little different today.  I pulled Dave and Lizzy out of school two hours early so we could join two other families for a home school field trip.  When we were homeschooling last year, a few families started a home school field trip group so our kids would have a chance to do fun things with friends.  While we aren't homeschooling at this point this year, I still think field trips are fun and educationally important so we go along when we can.

Today's adventure was to a museum that my kids have wanted to visit for a long time because they have replicas of dinosaurs--an Allosaurus and a Stegosaurus.  They thought the dinosaurs were pretty cool, but the skeleton of the Bull African Elephant won for coolest skeleton towering in at 11 feet with the bones alone weighing over 1,000 lbs--a full grown Elephant would weigh around 13,000 lbs!  We played the game Would You Rather... at dinner last night and Daddy asked the question: Would you rather run under the legs of an angry elephant or run across the backs of 3 hungry alligators.  At the time we all agreed we'd rather run under the elephant.  After seeing the size of that African Elephant, we were seriously reconsidering our decision.

This afternoon my mom brought over a smaller Christmas tree for our bay window.  This prompted the kidlets to sit down and make ornaments out of paper.  Lizzy's were very creative.

Dave's...well, Dave's is SUPPOSED to be a bagel, but Daddy thought it was something else.  I admit Daddy was spot on with his assumption, but we'll stick with Dave's original idea:)

Joy didn't quite grasp the assignment and decided to make an Easter Bunny ornament.  Hey, I'm just glad she's finally learned how to draw and it's not one big scribble.

At dinner Lizzy asked if we could all make ornaments tomorrow, but Daddy had a better idea.  He pulled out a salt dough recipe and got to baking.  Tomorrow we will paint them and put some shellac on them to make them shiny.  We've all agreed our new tree will be reserved for homemade ornaments only.  Judging by our first attempts at ornament making, it should be a very interesting tree.  Do you notice the elephant ornament on that cookie tray?  I think the kids were inspired by the African Elephant.

After ornament making Daddy and Dave decided to take a walk.  Of course the girls wanted to go along, too, but I said no because Joy is on the tail end of a coughing illness that gets much worse in the cold.  To appease my sad girls, I decided to try out binocular stargazing to see if it works.  Daddy decided to pull out our telescope and focus it on Jupiter for us before leaving on the walk.  We got to see Jupiter and 2 of its moons which was very exciting.  All in all it was a very good, busy day.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Initiative Jar

Something amazing is going on in my house.  It all started on Friday when someone set the table without my asking or knowing.  I turned around after cooking dinner to see the table all set with plates, napkins and silverware.  How this escaped my attention I can only account to the fact that I am a very focused cook.  If I don't focus, dinner may not be very edible.

I asked who set the table and Dave fessed up.  I thanked him and complimented him on his taking initiative by seeing something that needed to be done and doing it without being asked.  I gave him a big hug and kiss.  Ten minutes later it was dinner time and Lizzy comes to the table to inform me that she had cleaned her room without being asked.  I complimented her, gave her a big hug and kiss and thought that was the end of it.  After dinner Joy went and got into her pajamas all on her own.  Lizzy got ambitious and helped clear the table, picked up the dining room, and lined up the shoes in the mud room.  Saturday morning when I woke up, Lizzy handed me a note she had written that said there wasn't even one thing on the floor in the basement play room.  She had woken up early and cleaned the entire very messy room.

This all gave me an idea--I should start an Initiative Jar where the kids can put a marble into a jar every time they take the initiative on something.  When the jar is full, I'll reward them with something fun.  I didn't get to the store until yesterday to buy the marbles, but when I got them home and told the kids about them, this is what happened.  Dave picked up the dining room and set the table.  Lizzy came and asked me if the laundry hampers in the living room were ready to be folded and then all three kids proceeded to fold both hampers of clothes AND PUT THE LAUNDRY AWAY!!!  Gasp!!!  Lizzy made my bed and asked to clean the family bathroom.  Joy asked to clean the master bathroom.  All three kids helped clear the table and do dishes.  In one evening the Initiative Jar earned a lot of marbles.

This morning while I was busy making bread, I noticed that my house was rather quiet for having a 4 year old in it.  I went investigating and this is what I found.  Joy was cleaning the bathroom again to earn a marble.

My plan is to let them fill this jar up and then change the goal to keep them excited.  The next jar is going to be the Kind Speech jar where they get to add a marble every time they say something kind to someone (as opposed to not kind).

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Week 2 of the Great TV Purge and the Results Are Telling

We have entered week 2 of the Great TV Purge and the results are definitely favorable.  I no longer have to listen to whining about wanting to watch TV.  All I have to say is, "We don't watch TV" and the asker is satisfied with my answer.  The gazillion requests for additions to the Christmas lists have tapered off--with the exception of Sunday when the Big Toy Book from Toys R Us arrived with the newspaper.  I wasn't thinking clearly or I would have thrown it in the recycle bin before little eyes found it.

The children no longer complain about doing their extra homework.  This is work I give them on top of what their school has them do.  In my circles, this is referred to as "afterschooling."  When I tell the kids to go do their reading, they go and read.  When I tell Dave to go do his math lesson, he goes and does his math lesson.  No complaints.  A big change from before the TV Purge.  Yesterday Lizzy spent almost an hour after school practicing for her supposed math test today (I'm still not clear if she actually had a test in math--she's only in first grade.  Do they have actual math tests?).  She drew shapes, she wrote out the names of colors, she drew intricate patterns (face, flower, butterfly, sun, repeat), she wrote number lines and other things.  Four double-sided notebook pages worth of math test practice which she put in her homework folder to take to school today to show her teacher.

Last night at dinner, Dad started talking geography.  It started with talking about tornadoes and hurricanes and ended up with Dad pulling out the globe, explaining jet streams and weather patterns, and ended with an hour of Dad sitting on the couch discussing geography, tectonic plates, fault lines, volcanoes, and who knows what else.  I was on bath duty for the girls and missed most of the discussion.

There have been other changes which I will share at another time, but I will leave you with this one.  We had a bit of an Indian Summer day today.  After school I took the kids on a walk.  Lizzy asked if we could make it a leaf walk where they collect leaves.  I said sure.  She must have collected 100 leaves in her bag.  On the way home the idea came to me to also collect some sticks and make a fall wreath.  The kids gathered up their sticks, I grabbed the glue gun, and we created a very nice wreath.

After dinner Lizzy asked if I would teach her how to sew.  Her friend sewed her a little doll pillow this summer and Lizzy wanted to learn how to make her own.  I had her select some material, taught her how to thread a needle, got her started and she sat and sewed up two sides of the pillow before it was time for bed.  She was incredibly proud of her accomplishment and can't wait until tomorrow when she can finish it up and have a new pillow for her princess dolls.

And just a note to the curious-I did go to Goodwill this week, except Gary wasn't collecting the drop-offs.  Yesterday it was Teri, who I also see on a regular basis.

Friday, October 28, 2011

On a First Name Basis With the Goodwill Drop-off Man

A side effect of my quest in simplifying my house and my life is a non-stop generation of things to get rid of.  Every day I clean a little more and end up with another bag of things to donate.  I made two trips to Goodwill this week and Gary gave me a funny look on trip two.  Maybe his look was due to the fact that I stop off with a bag or two of things almost every week since the store is conveniently located right next door to my grocery store.  Maybe I just looked funny and he couldn't help himself.  Maybe he was just having a funny-look sort of day.  Whatever the reason, I didn't have the guts to make a third trip this week despite having a trunk full of things after doing a major purge of my bookshelf and office.

Yesterday was my first morning I spent at home this week.  I woke up feeling very unmotivated, even posted about it in my facebook status update.  But, like most times, once I force myself to get going I get a lot done.  I cleaned the kitchen, did laundry, vacuumed the whole house, and then went into the office to reward my efforts with some computer time.  As I walked through the door, this thing met my eyes.

It has been in the office for a while now.  It wasn't supposed to be in the office.  It was in my bedroom until I got rid of it and put it in the office as a stopping over place before going to Goodwill (just can't get enough of that place!).  Instead, it has been sitting in my office for months bugging me every time I go into the office.  I picked it up to put in the van to take to Goodwill when I got to thinking.  I wonder if the bookshelf in my room, which I HATE having in my room because it makes me feel claustrophobic sitting next to my bed, would fit in this little nook?  I got out the tape measure and sure enough, it was a perfect fit.  Motivation overtook me and I emptied the bookshelf (hence the great book purge), moved it to the office, dusted and vacuumed everything, and now have a much happier office and a much happier bedroom.  Plus, before bringing the night stand to Goodwill I sent out an email asking my family if anyone needed it.  My SIL responded that they did, so I get to bless someone else with it!  Mission accomplished.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Great TV Purge

I have kicked around the idea of giving up the TV for a while now, but my reliance on the TV as a babysitter has always made me give up on that idea very quickly.  But a few things have changed in my house that have made this prospect more likely to succeed.

1. I did homeschool my children up until this year, but they are now in school.
2. Joy was doing preschool at home, but started a K4 program at a church school this week after spending 2 months wandering through the house aimlessly missing her brother and sister, asking to watch TV, or dogging my every step.
3. The hubs signed us up for Netflix streaming so we can now watch uncommercialized shows.

A fourth thing has happened that sped up the decision.  In the last few weeks I have noticed an unappreciated trend where after watching TV, my children suddenly have things to add to their Christmas lists.  Toys they'd never heard of before but that are suddenly absolutely vital to their existence.  This was particularly noted in Joy.  She would sit and watch a show on the TV in the office (right by my computer).  Every commercial break she would say, "Mommy, I want that for Christmas."  To which I would ask, "What is it?"  And the answer would almost always be, "I don't know, but I want it for Christmas."  Right.

Today was Day 1 of the Great TV purge.  The rules are no TV, but they can watch a half hour of Netflix after dinner.  (No commercials) I thought the kids would fight me on this decision.  At the very least beg to watch TV.  Instead, this is what happened today after school.

I went to the library for my regularly planned weekly visit.  Instead of selecting an assortment of DVDs for the children to watch, I chose 10 books.  After school and homework, I sat down and read the children 2 books.  When I was done I told them there were lots more books in the bag and to help themselves.  Dave picked out a book and started reading.  Lizzy pulled out every book and carried her pile to the table, laid them all out, picked the one with the pink cover and read it to Joy.

After dinner, this is the scene that I found when I was done doing the dishes.

Lizzy is helping Joy read her own book

While my entire family has always been a reading family anyway, today was a bit more so than normal.  I would say that Day 1 of the Great TV purge has been successful.