by Liz | Chaos Hacks, Life Snapshot
Parenting frustration is real and it’s here to stay. We can only work on how we cope with it. How many times have you gotten crazy frustrated with your kids lately? Have they asked the same question incessantly? Have they pushed your buttons one too many times? Are they poking and prodding endlessly about the same topic? Do you wonder how they forgot your instructions from 30 seconds before?
It’s a common story and a huge point of frustration in parenting, especially of small children. You are not alone! We love our kids, even at their most annoying. We are incredibly busy with work and home lives and just trying to get through the day unscathed can seem like a monumental task.
Putting all that aside for a moment, take a little journey with me. I’d say “close your eyes” but that would be problematic. Imagine for a few minutes, that you’re on vacation in a totally unfamiliar country where you don’t speak the language. You somehow got separated from the people you’re traveling with and find yourself in a part of the city you’ve never been before. It is amazing and beautiful and you are completely enamored. Walking onward, you try to keep your eyes open for something familiar as you explore, hoping to spot a restaurant or store where you could ask for a phone. Everything from the customs, the food, the clothing, the buildings are completely unfamiliar and you don’t even know where to begin. Hunger begins to make itself known as you walk onward, night is falling. Do you have that anxious feeling creeping into your belly? A stranger approaches and starts speaking rapidly to you, seemingly alarmed and anxious, gesticulating in an incomprehensible fashion. Looking around for assistance, you see only disapproving and unfriendly stares. You attempt to speak calmly and mime that you are lost and need help. But your every effort is met with more disapproval and confusion. You attempt all familiar ways to communicate but are rebuffed at every turn. Clearly, your efforts to be appeasing are only adding to the stranger’s negative view of you. That anxious feeling is quickly mounting into panic as the stranger begins to get angry and moves toward you. How do you feel now? Are you thinking clearly?
“If I could wish for one thing for my children, it’s patience.” – Tweet This!
Ok, I get that this is an extreme example but is it so different from how young children see the world? They are bombarded from all sides with new information, rules, experiences, and sensations that they are attempting to process. Even when they begin to find understanding, inevitably, the circumstances change or a new element forces them back to the beginning. As they grow and learn, we are imposing new layers of rules and expectations upon them. We are by nature, contrary and inconsistent. It stands to reason that we don’t always correct, encourage or guide our children in the exact same way every time. There are also hugely varied circumstances that can affect our interactions with our children, yet we often expect them to read between the lines or understand us to an exacting degree. The cues and expressions we rely upon as adults to assess a situation are completely foreign to our children. They haven’t yet built up their knowledge bank of clues that they can draw upon.
Can you think of a time when you were in unfamiliar territory and suddenly grasped something that made sense? What was your first instinct? Most likely, it was to repeat that action over and over and over again until something new clicked. Then we repeat the next action ad nauseum until we find something else that works. This should some incredibly familiar if you think about it in relation to your children’s actions.
There is no miracle method or proven strategy for moving this process along and creating better listeners who don’t annoy us so often. What we are witnessing is a miracle of self discovery and self worth. We are instrumental in shaping their view of this world and while completely overwhelming, that’s an awesome responsibility. I mean awesome in its true sense, not the overused off-hand way we usually apply it. These kids are getting up every day with a huge sense of optimism, hope, love and energy that they are just aching to send into the world. They fail thousands of times, every day. With barely a blink, they get back up ready to try another thousand times. Their capacity for learning is incredible and they are using every second of their existence to make an impression on their surrounding and the people around them.
“Children fail thousands of times, every day. With barely a blink, they get back up ready to try another thousand times.” Tweet This!
So while parents are frustrated and exhausted by the world in all its mundanity, I challenge you to try to walk a minute in your child’s shoes. Take even a few seconds to look at the world in wonder and awe. Remember that they’re still developing their bearings on EVERYTHING and while they are certainly learning to manipulate us, it doesn’t often come from a place of deliberate disobedience. More often than not, they’re simply looking for love, reassurance and structure. They want to know the rules to this game we’re all playing and they want to excel at it! I realize this is an idealistic expectation, but even if we can put this in action once in a day that’s a huge accomplishment! More often than not, we’ll still find ourselves in that place of frustration but it is worth the effort to invest in ourselves and in our children.
If I could wish for one thing for my children, it’s patience. Modern life has this way of pushing us along at a furious pace and our gut reaction is to race along without question. But what are we rushing toward? I see people all around me from various walks of life, varying ages and backgrounds. Is any one group happier than the next? Does any one person have all the answers? The more I learn and understand, the more I am certain that what matters most is today. THIS moment in time. THIS experience. I have friends of all income brackets with the exact same insecurities everyone else has. I see baby boomers FINALLY getting to retire and then wondering, what now? Their health isn’t the best or they’re so stuck in “work” mode that they can’t or won’t relearn how to just live and enjoy being present.
This is nothing new or revolutionary. Many others have explained this more eloquently and more powerfully than I can. Yet, I think it too important to not repeat from my own perspective in hopes that it might strike a chord with someone. Even one person. Our children are embracing this very concept even as they race ahead into the school years, the teen years and soon adulthood. If we can’t enjoy life as much as possible in the now, then what’s the point?
“Find joy in the details.” – Tweet This!
Life is made to be lived, in all its mundane and boring detail. Find joy in the details.
by Liz | Chaos Hacks, Life Snapshot
Not going to lie, we have a LOT on our plates these days and I have a feeling we have less going on than most. Between work, daycare, family and friends, school events, extracurricular activities (we currently only have one!), house projects and day-to-day life, we always seem to have an overflowing todo list. Keeping a family organized, especially when three of them can’t take much responsibility, is a daunting task.
I have gone through SO MANY different methods trying to come up with one that works for all of us. There are tons of great task management apps (some even designed for family organization), calendars, websites, you name it. What I’ve finally settled on, at least for the moment, is a mashup of some of my favorites. I’ve learned through much trial and error, anything I hope to use MUST live on my phone. If it’s paper, it will be lost or destroyed. Probably at the bottom of the diaper bag and trust me, no one wants to find that mess. It must play nice with Siri. I’m almost always driving, juggling kids or hauling too many bags at the exact moment when I need to remember something. If I don’t make the note right then and there, it’s out of my brain in .2 seconds never to be heard from again. Lastly, it must be SIMPLE! There are many, many gorgeous and complicated apps out there that will try to redesign your entire life for you. They’re amazing, but they are not for me. I need simplicity. Multiple steps just won’t get completed, I don’t have the time or the energy. Not gonna lie. I am on a quest for simplification.
Must Haves for family organization:
1. task lists must live on my phone
2. accessible via Siri for jotting down tasks/thoughts
3. simple, simple, simple
Currently, my system consists of three components: iPhone reminders/calendar, Trello and IFTTT (If This Then That That). If you haven’t heard of or used the 2nd two, fear not. I was mostly using just the first one until recently.
You can do SO much with just your native iOS reminders and calendar. Seriously. I’m pretty sure my kids know how to do it at this point because they’ve listened to me talk at my phone so often.
– Add oatmeal to my groceries list
– Remind me to pay summer camp tuition next Tuesday
– What’s the weather tomorrow?
– Remind me to turn on the oven when I get home
The calendar is self explanatory and I always add any pertinent date specific items in there that are necessary to keep our family organized. Create a separate calendar for each family member, work, etc. and then share them with the appropriate people. You may also want to harass them endlessly until they are also in the habit of adding every event too. No pressure or anything.
In Reminders, I simply create a list for any group of tasks we typically have. I have a grocery list, a house list, a work list, etc. Anything and everything that pops into my head and needs to be accomplished, it goes on a list. I cannot be trusted to “remember” unless I get it out of my brain. I have plenty of things I do accomplish without needing to jot it down, but this system helps me keep on top of the big stuff.
The one main thing I felt was lacking with this system was prioritization. I also wanted a way to help organize larger, long-term projects so I set out to find a better way.
A few weeks ago I finally took a leap and explored Trello in depth. My world has shifted. I was looking for a way to organize certain projects for work and stumbled across a few templates and my brain exploded. In approximately 30 seconds (okay, maybe over the course of a few days), I downloaded my brain (and my previous to-do lists) into Trello and I haven’t looked back since. I’ll explore more in depth soon, but a few things I fell in love with are:
– drap and drop cards (just move them wherever you need them to be, no need to re-write.)
– checklists (the items don’t disappear so you can uncheck when they’re needed again, think grocery lists!)
– Linking cards between boards (you might have a home improvement board and want to assign a few tasks to your current week tasks, easy!)
– Pretty backgrounds (you can “steal” these even if you don’t have a paid account, more on that another day.)
To really throw you for a loop, you can then sync this all together using IFTTT (If This Then That) which is such a cool site/app. Essentially, you can make Trello (and many, many other apps/sites) sync information to your phone and vice versa.
Ok, so family organization in a nutshell? Find a simple system that you can do easily and stick with it! Try not to get distracted by all the pretty apps and sites that promise to make it easy. If you can find something that works in a similar way to your natural inclinations, that’s the way to go.
More to come on Trello and IFTTT.
What are your biggest todo list challenges? Do you have an effective strategy for your family organization?
by Liz | Chaos Hacks
Is anyone else completely bogged down by email overload? Is your inbox thousands of emails deep and you find the you’re missing important emails or neglecting to reply? Do you crave the days of a zero inbox? That was SO ME!
Well, I’m here to tell you there is a BETTER way! You won’t believe how simple it is.
At the top of your Gmail account, when you’re selecting an email (via check box or clicking on it), there’s an ARCHIVE button. Unlike Outlook and email programs of old…archiving does not take your email and hide it in some remote location that is impossible to find later. The emails are still just a quick search away, they just don’t appear in your inbox. Amazing! Seriously. This was life changing for me.
Before you start thinking about the thousands of old emails you’ll have to sort through…first do an inbox cleanup. Pick a date in the past (30 days might be a good starting point) and run this search.
That will pull up all emails older than 30 days (or the number of days you choose). Click the down arrow next to the check box above the list to “select all”, then click the link at the top of your list to “Select all #### conversations” and then click the Archive button. That will leave you with a much more approachable list to sift through. If you’re still seeing a ton of unnecessary emails, run a new search for 15 days or whatever you think best.
While you’re cleaning things up, you may also want to take a good look at some of the recurring emails you get. Do you really need to have your bank emailing you every alert or would a text be more effective? Are there any ad emails you can unsubscribe to? If it all seems a little overwhelming, there’s a great app out there called Unroll.Me which also has an option for a nice summary email.
Once you’re down to just a few emails, give a little thought to how you’ll manage any new emails in future.
Here are my current rules:
1. DELETE anything that you read don’t need (ads, one-off information, junk mail etc.).
2. REPLY and ARCHIVE anything that you can easily reply to, do it! Then archive so it’s out of sight, out of mind. If the person replies, it’ll reappear back in your inbox.
3. ARCHIVE anything that you read and might want to save in case it’s needed in the future (statements, newsletters, pictures or emails from friends). Create some filters and labels that can help with this process too, automate it and make it easy on yourself!
I only leave things in my inbox if I have to reply to it or am waiting for a reply. If it sits for more than a day or two, I go back to my rules and manage it or deal with it outside of email. More often than not, I’ll set a reminder for myself, snap a picture or add it to my to-do list outside of email.
Having a clean inbox has done wonders for my productivity. Rather than getting bogged down in my email, I can handle it in a few minutes and move on to more important things.
What are your biggest email frustrations? Email me and let’s see how I can help!
PS: I have a few different email addresses I use so I make sure to organize them all in one place. Gmail works for this, but so does the native Mail app from iOS or OS X. and likely other applications too. Just make sure you’re checking your email in one place for your phone and one place for your desktop. As long as that app has the functionality to archive, you’re good to go.
by Liz | Chaos Hacks, Health & Home
Morning, noon and night, I think about food. Preparing food, buying food, packing food for lunches, toting food along for errands or road trips in case someone gets hungry, choosing healthy food, wondering whether or not to buy organic (at twice the price) food…it never ends.
I think of myself as a decent enough cook and my family doesn’t seem to disagree. We strive to eat healthy and keep a decent mix of fruit and vegetables in our diet. Sugar is under constant surveillance to keep it at a minimum or at the very least, opt for natural rather than processed sugars. No one in our household is on any sort of diet, we strive for healthy every day and keep a decent amount of exercise in our daily lives. Yet, all I think about is food. It’s exhausting!
So we’re embarking on a new strategy. I feel that we’ve learned a lot in the past year or so about portions, balancing our nutrition and cooking in general. I’ve enjoyed cooking so much more, especially when I have a plan of attack when it comes to meal-planning. One of the things we loved about Blue Apron was the convenience of having some order within our chaotic schedules. Not to mention recipes we’d never have tried on our own. My one main challenge is the planning, left to my own devices I end up rotating the same meals over and over. That’s no fun for anyone.
In an effort to cut back on spending (especially with the Holidays coming up, eek!) we’re trying something new. Essentially, it’s simply a meal-planning service that gives you recipes for every meal (breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks) and a shopping list for each. You can choose to follow it or not, whatever your preference but it at least gives you a framework to work within. My one main gripe is that the shopping lists are not consolidated. If I want to shop for the week, I have to combine quantities on my own. This is no big deal for pantry staples, but for fresh ingredients it’s a bit of pain. One main plus, is if you aren’t particularly thrilled about a menu choice you can swap it for 3-4 alternatives or just choose to eat leftovers. I typically pack my own lunch for work so that’s a big bonus for me. Leftovers are also a huge bonus over Blue Apron, hopefully they will help reduce the morning chaos that usually ensues as I try to get everyone out the door.
This is week one, so I’ll be sure to report back!
by Liz | Chaos Hacks, Health & Home
With the announcement and release of Apple’s new Health app, a slew of new apps have been appearing that take advantage of its functionality. Everything from recipe planning to fitness tracking is covered. Whether you want to simply live a healthy lifestyle or lose weight, there seems to be something for everyone.
Here are a few that I’ve discovered so far:
Human: a fairly simple app that tracks your movement and encourages you to move for at least 30 minutes a day. It’s pretty great looking and for someone who wants something simple to keep them motivated every day, this might be a good fit.
Yummly: a super clean and beautiful way to access tons of recipes and build a shopping list with just a few clicks. There are tons of filters and ways to sort the recipes so you can target exactly what you want. Pretty snazzy if you want to get inspired or keep organized for the week.
Noom Coach: an app that tracks activity and food to help you lose weight. It’s by far the simplest interface I’ve seen for adding food and has lots of suggestions and coaching tips to keep you focused. One great feature is a color coding system to help you get a more balanced diet and focus on the right types of food in the optimal quantities.
There are lots more out there and more to come soon, I’m sure! I’m holding out for a FitBit update so my flex will sync with Health. It’s pretty neat how information from many sources can be brought together in one place. It will be interesting to see what other creative ideas come of it!
by Liz | Chaos Hacks
I’ve been focused a lot lately on finding some ways better organize my life. Two kids, work, pets, feeding all those things, house, cleaning, projects, activities, and so on! I’m usually a fairly organized person but I kept feeling like certain things were slipping through the cracks. We’d let things slide for a week or so and suddenly find us scrambling with huge projects trying to get back on track.
I’m calling a halt to that slipshod behavior (as far as I am able)! Room by room I’m putting everything to rights and creating a system of organization that requires a minimal effort. That’s the key here, very little effort. We lead busy lives and I don’t want to detract from our free time when I don’t have to.
So here are some apps for organization that have become an integral part of my process:
Peapod – we get most of our groceries at Stop & Shop, this is their app. Whenever I (or my hubbie) think of something we need, we add it to our grocery list. Then, whoever stops at the store has a fairly up to date list of the essentials. So simple. (This could also be done with a shared grocery list app like AnyList.)
AwesomeNote – I went through a LOT of todo list apps. I wanted one that was super fast and easy to use but organized! This app allows for recurring tasks so I can set up chores or repeated household things ahead of time and trust in my Todo list! There’s nothing more satisfying than ticking off the last item for the day and just focusing on family or me time.
FitBit – I got one a few months ago and love how it helps push me to be more active on my sedentary work days. Also, it tracks my sleep so if I had a rough night, I know to push for an earlier bedtime so I can recharge.
GrooveBook – I snap TONS of pictures all day but I can’t remember the last time I printed any! A friend turned me on to this app which prints 100 pictures of your choosing for a minimal monthly fee! How great is that??