Jun 192015
Our multitasking swim bag. Ready to homeschool while we are waiting for each child's lessons to finish.

Our multitasking swim bag. Ready to homeschool while we are waiting for each child’s lessons to finish.

Most of us find that summer goes by far too quickly. We get to the end of summer and wonder where our “break” went. We slide into fall grumbling about how we don’t get enough time off or we didn’t do what we wanted to.

This summer I wanted to try being a bit more deliberate with my summer planning. I wanted to keep the children motivated and learning and work on some of the skills that we don’t always have time to work on during the school year. Summer gets quite busy, however, so I began writing out a formal list of routine tasks I wanted to try to get done each day. This actually took quite a bit of time.

Recently, my children also started asking for an allowance. While there are a million allowance strategies, my husband and I felt most comfortable setting the expectation that allowance is earned. Our children earn the paltry wage of $1 a week (50 cents for the youngest) but that small amount is motivating to them and the Dollar Store offers many goodies of interest.

So, we married the two ideas: To Do lists and allowance. Each child has a list of tasks to do each day including simple things like “get dressed” and “brush teeth” as well as homeschool and chores.

We began this experiment June 1 with our three eldest children as the participants.

One child thought this was a dreadful idea and wanted to make sure there would be plenty of downtime to pursue individual projects. She wants to get through the checklist of tasks each day as quickly as possible.

Another child has eyes full of dollar signs and eagerly looks at the checklist trying to figure out how to earn the most money.

The youngest child does not understand the concept of the checklist nor of money and therefore does not worry about it.

How are things going so far?

We have a few successes. We are managing to get some school in every weekday, which is great because standardized testing is coming soon for us. We are also coping well with the change to our routine for weekday swimming lessons.

But there is still a lot of room for improvement.

We have yet to have a single day where any of us have checked off all of the To Do list items.

We are behind on paying allowance.

We are still struggling with the To Do list recordkeeping.

The first lesson the children seem to have learned about To Do lists is that it is OK to let tasks drop off the list each day. While this is true for the real world, and a good lesson, it is a problem for us because many of our tasks are “every single day” activities like brushing teeth that shouldn’t be postponed.

So far, my biggest problem is getting the children to use their time effectively. When they dawdle on their tasks (most of which I have to supervise or assist with), it means I am losing time that I could use on my tasks. However, we don’t want to be too strict about the To Do lists either and make this a miserable experience for all involved. It has become a To Do list bootcamp of sorts for all of us.

If this sounds like a whole lot of stress during a time that should be stress-free, it kind of is, but it is also giving a framework for our summer. If we can set ourselves up with a productive routine, we are going to have a head start taking on fall homeschooling and other activities.

So, our children’s organization experiments continue. For the moment, we are mostly focused on trying anew each day to see what we can get accomplished. This restart mentality is one of the most helpful in any organizing situation.

Do you hold your children to a daily list of chores or other “To Do” tasks? Do you have any lessons to share? Please comment below.

 Posted by on June 19, 2015 General Tagged with: , ,
Sep 212014
One of our many challenges upon arriving home: tackling the mountain of laundry!

One of our many challenges upon arriving home: tackling the mountain of laundry!

Hi Anne: We’ve missed your updates now for a couple of months…. “Sup?

I was actually thrilled to receive several recent inquiries about what is going on with my blog. It is nice to know that people miss you when you don’t post!

Fortunately, there is nothing catastrophic behind my lack of posts. It was a full summer with entertaining and cross-country travel. By the time we returned to Virginia, we were all a little wiped out but had to dive right in to the new homeschool year. Blogging was unfortunately moved to the bottom of the priority list.

I have felt completely behind this entire September. All of the activities that most families accomplish before the school year, like shopping for fall clothes and school supplies, visiting doctors for school physicals and eye exams, we had to push to September. In addition, we had a backlog of things to reset to normal from our trip, like doing laundry, writing a pile of thank you notes and washing and repairing the car. We are also in the middle of planning a large home improvement project and researching investments for our personal finances. So, gradually, we are catching up but it is taking us some time. We are going through the motions of our new homeschool and extracurricular routines but it all still feels a bit foreign and unnatural.

While I hope that all of you are having an awesome September and that your school or work routines are running just like clockwork, I am finding numerous examples of people who are closer to my experience where September is kind of a whirlwind of change and we are just trying to survive the storm. A few people in my life experienced major medical concerns during September and there is nothing that throws your life off balance like a medical crisis. Another friend wrote recently that she just feels a bit overwhelmed by her new fall scheduling and is waiting for things to settle into a routine.

In the blogging world, I was shocked to discover that very successful bloggers John and Sheri Petersik are taking a break from posting to reassess their life priorities in light of the birth of their second child this year. (Good for them! A second child is a huge adjustment for most people.)

Also in the blogging world, the local Fredericksburg couple who cashed out their 401k, sold their home and traveled the world for over 2 years, wrote a fascinating post about their struggle to transition back to regular life in the United States.

If you are in the whirlwind with me, I found it helpful to take some advice from Bob Harper, the famous fitness trainer from The Biggest Loser. This season’s show is all about former athletes. The stories are so human and humbling. These are people who have demonstrated great dedication and commitment and hard work during their careers yet still have fallen victim to their own personal demons. It takes a brave person to admit that on national television and it is inspiring to see these contestants have that courage and have the audacity to make a very difficult change.

On the first episode of the show, Bob is counseling a woman who is suffering from injuries. He tells her:

2014-09-17-harper-mindquote-white*I have no affiliation with The Biggest Loser or any other company mentioned in this post.

 Posted by on September 21, 2014 General Tagged with: , , ,
Jan 032014
Something that is not routine in Virginia . . . snow!  A scene from last night's storm.

Something that is not routine in Virginia . . . snow! A scene from last night’s storm.

Another blog housekeeping item on my list is to look back on my theme word for 2013: routine. I noted at the time that this word is not very exciting. When I first thought of the word routine, I generally thought about staying in place or even stagnating. I came to learn that there is far more to routine than that.

I really tried to keep the idea “routine” top of mind and gained some incredible insights over the course of a year. In one area, diet and exercise, I excelled at implementing new routines and made a huge positive difference in my life. In other areas, I could have done better.

Even if I didn’t always succeed in implementing an actual routine in a particular area, by focusing in on what routine meant to me, I gained philosophical insights that helped me. The inspiration came from a variety of places: from my initial reflections, from my diet and exercise regimen, from travel and from reading good books.

Below are the 6 biggest insights I had about routine.







Did you choose a theme word for 2013? If yes, what were your biggest insights? Please share in the comments.

 Posted by on January 3, 2014 General Tagged with: , , , , ,
Sep 062013
The book I hauled with me around Richmond this summer.  Here resting on a bench while my children play in the pop jet fountains.

The book I hauled with me around Richmond this summer. Here resting on a bench while my children play in the pop jet fountains.

Are you creative? Most people can answer this question quickly with a “yes” or “no.” Are there really two distinct groups of “creative” people and “non-creative” people? Are some people better at coming up with new ideas and some people better at executing those ideas? Perhaps. But you don’t have to stay stuck in one of those two categories. Author and artist Erik Wahl in his new book Unthink: Rediscover Your Creative Genius argues that “breakthrough creativity is in all of us.”

Who is Erik Wahl? Erik Wahl’s economic story is a bit of a roller coaster. He graduated college into the exciting economy of the dot com boom. He joined a start-up and had a well-paid corporate job. He married and started a family. He felt secure and important and began leveraging his wealth into other investments. But then the dot com bubble burst and he found himself losing everything he had worked for and starting over at age 30 with a wife and 3 children under 5 to support.

After being stung by the corporate world, Erik Wahl rediscovered himself in the artistic community and found a new passion for painting. He came up with an idea to create presentations for corporations on creativity, blending his corporate experience with his newfound love of painting. His wife supported the idea and began helping him make the calls to market his skills. Erik Wahl now is a successful corporate speaker. His trademark is the type of “surprise” paintings where you aren’t sure what the artist is creating until the last strokes are made at the very end.

Unthink outlines 7 key elements of the creative environment. If you don’t think of yourself as a creative type, you might find the ideas radical. Since I would put myself in the “creative” person category, I can’t say that many of these elements were new to me and I mostly found myself simply nodding in agreement. However, I don’t know if I have ever seen these elements expressed in this way before and it is nice to have a concrete list of reminders.

Erik Wahl is a wonderful writer and the book is full of great quotes. Here are a few of my favorites, many of which have applications to organizational strategy as well.






One very creative aspect of Unthink is how Erik Wahl makes his book read just like one of his surprise painting demonstrations. At the very end, he ties his elements together in a surprising way that makes the reader say, “Of course! Why didn’t I see that before?”

While this book is generally applicable to anyone, I felt it would be especially relevant to a couple of audiences.

Since I was mostly carrying this book around with me during my adventures in Richmond, I thought it would be wonderful if city and county governments were reading this book. We hear so much in the news lately about how cities that have been decimated in recent years by economic collapse are revitalizing via investing in the arts, such as Hannibal, Missouri and Detroit, Michigan. You can certainly see evidence in Richmond’s transformation of its investments in art, history, and open spaces. As Richmond begins expanding its economic base now into things like sports and businesses, it will be interesting to see whether continuing to nurture and invest in its arts and historical resources will be essential to continue its economic growth.

Teachers and schools are another core audience for this book. Learning the mindset of creativity and teaching children how to nurture this mindset within themselves would be a tremendous gift to the future.

Finally, “older” workers may find this book an excellent reminder about what it takes to stay fresh and relevant in today’s workplace. We all know that we may need to work perhaps into our 70’s and 80’s and that age discrimination typically begins around age 40. How do you avoid the age discrimination trap? You will need to constantly prove that you are “young in mind.” Discrimination is not just about gray hair but a perception of inflexibility and an unwillingness to risk or to try things differently. The principles in this book will help keep you young in spirit.

I confess, however, that I had a few disappointments with Unthink. I wish it had more concrete examples of how to apply these principles to a typical corporate job. Perhaps a follow-up book could be made where Erik Wahl the artist speaks to Erik Wahl the former corporate employee and shows how he specifically would use these principles in his former corporate life. I can also think of several concrete steps that improve creative opportunities in one’s life that have nothing to do with being creative and I wish the book had some practical steps like these. Finally, I wish there was a little more biography about Erik and his family, showing how his transformation into artist/entrepreneur came about, both the challenges and the successes and how their family worked through them. However, if this book is to be the first in a series, I am hooked!

I have to credit this book though for helping me make a breakthrough in my own thinking. As you know, my theme word for this year is routine. After reading this book, I made a realization about routine:


As you can see, Unthink has much to inspire you and give your thinking a kick-start. It’s a great addition to your fall or back-to-school reading list!

*Disclosure: I received a free review copy of Unthink.

 Posted by on September 6, 2013 Ruly Bookshelf Tagged with: , , ,