Monday, October 20, 2014

Age of Opportunity: Lessons from the New Science of Adolescence

I am now the mother of a bona fide teenager. Fourteen years old, wonderful as can be, but still a teenager who struggles with all of the typical teenagery things. I am also the mother of a tween. She's almost twelve years old now, but she has already entered adolescence.

Because adolescence starts earlier than it ever did before, and it also ends later. Since I teach on the college level, I have the opportunity to work with late adolescents, and I believe that assessment to be true.

So does Laurence Steinberg, author of a new book titled Age of Opportunity: Lessons from the New Science of Adolescence. I wasn't sure quite what to expect from this book when I began reading it, but I was hooked from the start. Steinburg's writing is easy to understand and is captivating, even though he is writing much about scientific studies and findings.

I found the entire thing to be absolutely fascinating, and I learned so much about my children and what they are experiencing right now as they navigate their adolescence. I learned that their brains have a high level of plasticity during this time--that adolescent years are just as crucial in molding the brain's development as the ages of 1-3.

As a parent, that is both scary and comforting. Comforting because teenagers really are incredibly teachable during these years (despite the way they may act), and scary because it is all up to me to teach them.

According to Steinburg, one of the most important things to teach your adolescent is the ability to self-regulate. Many of us have heard of the marshmallow test and its ability to predict the future success of those children in later life. Because of those findings, we have been led to believe that self-control is something you either have or you don't--you get it via genetics and not by learning.

This is not true.

Here is an excerpt from the book regarding self-regulation:

31 Days to Less Clutter and More Peace: Junk Drawers

Junk drawers.

Probably one of the worst clutter nightmares on the face of the earth. I have found that if a drawer is not given a specific duty, it automatically grows up to be full of junk. Useful junk, maybe. But junk nonetheless.

I don't have very many drawers in my kitchen. Only six small ones and one larger one (maybe that is more than I think, I just know it doesn't feel like enough). The big one is for silverware, measuring cups, and measuring spoons. Two of the small ones are for all those kitcheny gadgets we all have. One is for aluminum foil, cling wrap, plastic baggies, toothpicks, et al. One is for towels, and one is for hot pads.

That leaves only one. And of course it is full of junk!

Let's get a closer look at all that junk, shall we?

Sunday, October 19, 2014

How I Got a SnapChat and Other Sunday Adventures

Sunday Photo 10_19_14 web

Another Sunday, here and gone.

I'm so glad I started doing these Sunday photos, even though Sundays are often just as crazy as any other day of the week.

Which is why I didn't manage to get today's photo until bedtime.

Sup #swag is courtesy Chloe, I think. All I know is that I didn't type it.

Bria made me sign up for SnapChat tonight.

Actually, she didn't even make me. She just took my phone and did it for me.

And then she sent some out in my name and opened any that came back in. I think she just wants another SnapChat to play with!

I'm guessing that Bria is pretty much the only person that I will SnapChat.

She's eternally photogenic, though. Even in a grainy SnapChat that we took in the not-very-well-lit living room.

I'm eternally sick.

31 Days to Less Clutter and More Peace: Everything in its Place

I've been focusing a lot on making sure there is a place for everything in my home right now. I still have a long way to go, but I am enjoying the progress I have made thus far!

I can already see that the biggest battle for keeping clutter from taking over is not just having a place for everything, but actually putting everything in its place.

I know this is obvious. But it's also the hardest part.

When I walk in the door to my house, I have a terrible habit of setting my keys down on the first flat surface I stop at. Sometimes this is the bookshelf, sometimes it's the radiator, sometimes the dining table, other times the kitchen counter. Still other times I throw them in my purse instead of setting them down. The Maestro has the same habit of setting them down in a random place instead of putting them back where they belong.

Consequently, we can never find the keys.

My children get a huge kick out of watching us frantically look for the car keys, only to find them hanging on their designated hook in the kitchen. They think it is hilarious that we never look there first. I don't think it's funny at all. It's downright sad! Here I have a spot for the keys. It's in a practical place. The kitchen is, after all, the hub of the household. We usually do walk into the kitchen first after arriving home.

So why do I only put my keys on the hook 1 out of 10 times?

Saturday, October 18, 2014

31 Days to Less Clutter and More Peace: Practical Organization

I'm starting to feel a little (okay, maybe a lot) vulnerable about this series. I'm showing you guys all of my craziest messes, and I'm starting to realize just how many there are! Yikes! That said, I'm thrilled that doing this little series is making me accountable and that I'm finally dealing with all of it, even though that means blogging at midnight nearly every single night.

Today's mess features my kitchen "closet." It isn't really a closet, though, it's some shelves along the stairwell to the basement. Since we have a fairly small kitchen with limited storage and a tiny pantry, I am thankful for the extra storage those shelves offer.

But it's a clutter catcher, that's for sure! There is lots of stuff there that isn't supposed to live there, and everything has become a jumbled mess in the last few months.

Do I dare show you what it looked like before I tackled it yesterday?


Friday, October 17, 2014

31 Days to Less Clutter and More Peace: A Clutter-free Entryway

In my home, the entryway is one of the WORST clutter catchers in the entire house. The kids walk in the front door and fling bags and shoes and jackets and lunchboxes and who knows what else all over the place. While I usually try to get it all cleaned and straightened before we go to bed, I am often embarrassed when someone comes to the door because it is just such a crazy mess and it's the first thing people see!

I'm guessing many entryways have this problem, am I right?

My entryway is a covered front porch/sunroom type of deal. The front door opens into it, but then there is another "front door" to the actual house. It's nice to hang out in during the summer, but since it is not heated, we don't spend any time there in the winter--not hanging out in there actually contributes to the mess because the kids want to spend as little time as possible hanging up their winter gear (and in our winters, it's a lot of gear!) so they throw it in a pile and get into the much warmer house quickly. I don't blame them.

But I do hate the after-school explosions.

Here is a picture of Bria on the first day of school, eating her tuna-carrot bites in the front porch after arriving home from cross country practice. The worst part of this picture is that dang mess in the background! I hate it. And it's not even that bad as entryway explosions go at my house.

And here's a photo of what the after-school explosion was like yesterday:

Thursday, October 16, 2014

31 Days to Less Clutter and More Peace: Declutter Your Mind

One of the biggest sources of clutter and disorganization in my life is my own brain. It might be just me, but if I don't write down the things I need to do, they simply won't get done. I have learned that if something pops into my mind that I should do, that I should immediately write it down or it will be lost within a few seconds.

Because of this little quirk of mine, I have forgotten so many things in my life. From things like forgetting to write thank you notes, to forgetting to pay a bill, to forgetting to go to my daughter's school play. Some things are not terribly important, but would be nice to remember to do (thank you notes). Other things are pretty important, though the world doesn't end if you forget. You'll just have to pay a late fee and try better next month (forgotten bills). Other things are the most important ever, and if you don't do them, you may not ever get another chance. And even 5 years later, your daughter still writes about the time you forgot to come to her first grade play whenever she has a writing prompt that reminds her of it.

But forgetting anything--big or small--makes me feel pretty terrible.

My old system was to use my planner for scheduling and random slips of paper all over my desk, my purse, my planner, and my fridge for all of the other to-do items. An important part of my old system was never actually looking at any of it.

The act of writing things down helped some, but most of it remained forgotten.