Category: family

Staycation Report: A Resounding Success (with one foreseeable drawback)

The staycation I wrote about Friday ended yesterday evening at 6pm. As I said then, the main goal of the weekend was to make it feel different than just a normal weekend at home. We weren’t going anywhere, and we didn’t really have anything spectacular planned. How could we make a break feel like a real break? I’ve been through enough three day weekends to know how much they often start off with promise, only to end up as just another weekend, that maybe was slightly longer, but didn’t feel that much different.

Overall, it was mission successful. What did we get done over the weekend? Well, not really anything, from a “things we needed to do” perspective, but from a fun perspective?

  • We got food from three different restaurants (Orange Cat Cafe, Basil’s, and House of Pizza)
  • We played four board games as a family (Kingdomino, Ticket to Ride, Dixit, and Carcassone)
  • We watched four movies (My Octopus Teacher, Knight’s Tale, O Brother Where Art Thou, and That Darn Cat)
  • We played a variety of video games together (Super Smash Bros, Mario Kart, Final Fantasy VI)
  • I finished 1.5 books (Wintersteel and half of The Testaments)
  • We went on two “shopping sprees,” that ended up being . . . mixed. The grocery store spree was much more popular. Kids loved being able to get anything they wanted to eat. The Walmart run? Much less successful, though I found that really encouraging, actually. No one really wanted to get things just to “get things.” So yay for that.
  • We hiked the local ski mountain (Titcomb), with Ferris in tow.
  • We had a BYU football party. (Thank goodness we won!)

Maybe all of that doesn’t sound like too much when I rattle it off like that. I mean, we had three days to do it, but really, I was impressed by the different the lack of devices made for the weekend. We spent a whole lot more time together as a family, with everyone there fully present and involved. And I felt like I had a ton of time as well.

I definitely felt the absence of my phone, as I expected I would. There were many many times that I found myself just sitting there instead of checking the news or Reddit or my email. But instead of those times feeling like empty downtimes, I was spending the time doing other things: talking to my kids, for one thing. Go figure.

Now, there was one bad side effect of all of this. When I plugged back in yesterday evening, I had around 100 emails waiting for me, and that was after I’d already been going through checking emails once at night and in the morning, deleting any fluff, just to make sure no emergencies came up. Yet another reminder that yes, I get a lot of emails. So I went from feeling super relaxed and content with my weekend to feeling fairly stressed by everything I had to do to catch up.

Ideally there’d be some way to reach a middle ground in all of that. Maybe what I need to do is get up in the morning each day and not just check emails and delete the fluff, but answer the ones that need immediate attention. I don’t know. I do know I want to avoid that avalanche feeling I got when I checked back in . . .

But overall, the weekend was a success, and I want to see what I can about replicating it more in my everyday life. Maybe I’ll put my phone away when I get home, or after a certain time. Maybe we’ll talk about it as a family and see what approach would work best for us. In the end, it was just three days, but because of those simple base rules, it felt much, much longer than that.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

The Great Staycation

It’s a mini fall break this weekend for Indigenous Peoples Day here in Maine, meaning the kids have today off, and all of us have Monday off. We’ve often gone away this weekend, checking out other parts of the state and staying at a VRBO or something. We’d hoped to do the same thing this year, but several things came up to make that more difficult. Obviously there’s the pandemic still, which meant that wherever we ended up, we’d have to tweak what we were doing. There’s also Ferris, who is fairly housebroken by now, but we realize there’s a big gap between “fairly housebroken” and “housebroken.” He also sometimes doesn’t sleep through the night, and the thought of sharing a room with him left me . . . reluctant to pay for the experience.

So I proposed that we just stay home and treat it like a staycation instead. Denisa was less than enthused, pointing out that every time we’ve done that, it turns into just another weekend, instead of feeling like an actual vacation. So I put on my thinking cap and tried to come up with a way to make the weekend feel different. Special. Cool.

My answer? A set of basic rules we’d follow to make the weekend feel different.

  1. No individual electronic devices. Shared movies would be okay, and even video game systems, but iPads, phones, laptops, and the like? Nope nope nope.
  2. No work or homework.
  3. No chores

What would we do to replace all those things? We’d have a pretty much unlimited budget, for one thing. After all, we’d be saving hundreds of dollars at least by not renting a house for the weekend. Probably more like $800 once all was said and done. That’s a lot of dollars. So we could eat out wherever we wanted. Buy whatever treats at the grocery store we felt like getting. Go on a shopping spree. Whatever. We would also treat the time at home like a vacation. Go on some outings. Explore. Spend time together.

I presented this to the family, and there were generally positive responses. There were some hangups around that “no personal electronics” area, and Denisa was also worried about the “no work” rule, since she didn’t want to fall behind. I was pretty adamant about the electronics, but I did say to Denisa that of course if she had to do something, she had to do it, but that I thought the weekend would feel more relaxing if we really stuck to those rules as much as possible.

In the end, it was agreed.

Honestly, as I’m facing going home and giving up my phone and laptop, I’m feeling . . . anxious. Like I’m going to miss out on important things that are happening. Which is ridiculous, and makes the stubborn part of me that much more set on following through with this. I don’t like being dependent on things, and the fact that I’m this attached to electronics says to me that I need to do more of this in the future, so that I can kick that habit. Right now, I feel like I’m checking the news constantly, always wondering what other horrid thing is going to happen, as if knowing about it will somehow make me better equipped to deal with it.

I can go for three days without knowing.

In any case, if you’re trying to get hold of us for the next bit, you’re going to have a tough time. I might check my email and phone messages in the morning or evening, just in case there are any true emergencies, but that’s just because I’m a library director, and I don’t want anything to happen to the building and me not be able to help out. When I do use my phone for that, there will be a no social media, no news, no anything else rule. Email and phone messages, and just to scan if there are things that can’t wait until Monday.

Catch you all on Tuesday. Wish us luck.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

First Day of School, COVID Style

It’s a week later than we would have been having the kids go back to school, but they’re officially started now. It’s crazy to think about everything that’s happened since their school went on a planned two week “pause” back in March. That two weeks turned into the rest of the year, and the summer is gone by now as well. I’m grateful to be living in a part of the country where there are still low numbers. (6 active cases in my county at the moment. 53 total since this started, with 1 death. Our population in 2010 was just over 30,000. On the New York Times tracker, that puts us at .6 cases per 100,000.)

Tomas (11th grade) will be going to school in person every Monday and Tuesday. The other three days of the week, he’ll be attending all his classes synchronously (Wednesday and Thursday are for the second half of the alphabet to go in person, and Friday everyone is virtual). MC (2nd grade) and Daniela (7th grade) will be going in person every other day. The days they’re not there in person, they’ll be working on their studies asynchronously. For now, there are no after school activities, although sports is still up in the air. (For the record, I will be disappointed if football is allowed to proceed but things like music and drama are not. If they can make sports work, they can make other activities work. I believe solutions could be found.)

I have no idea how this will all work in practice. I believe our school district has gotten grant money that should pay for laptops for all kids from 7th grade up. It should be . . . interesting to see how each class handles the different constraints. I try to be as good of a support structure for my kids as I can, but we’re heading into uncharted waters now. Who knows how it will all shake out.

But really, I’m happy to have some semblance of normalcy returning to our lives, even if it’s also in many ways unsettling. We’ve all been home together for so long that it felt very strange to think we’d all be heading different ways today. (Ferris, our puppy extraordinaire, is not happy with the change. I’m working at home today, and I finally had to put him in his crate. There’s only so much attention I can give a puppy and still get work done. We’ll have to see how that goes too . . .)

Anyway. That’s all I have time for today, but here’s hoping this is the start of a successful school year, even if it will be very different.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

The Fast Food Family Tradition Continues

I blogged a few months ago about how Tomas was on the job hunt, but keen-eyed readers will have noted I never actually had a “he found a job!” post. We didn’t really anticipate the fallout of a whole ton of jobs drying out all at the same time. After all, Tomas started looking for a job at the same time millions of jobs went away across the country. It shouldn’t come as a huge surprise that actually finding a job turned out to be more difficult than it was when I was looking for a job in the early 90s.

That isn’t to say he was unemployed. He did pick up work picking strawberries when they were in season, and that kept him hopping for a while, but other than that, it’s been slow going. And when June switched into July, and July got pretty long in the tooth as well, we figured the days of getting another job were past us.

Then, out of the blue, the Dutch Treat called him up and asked him for an interview. With college ramping back up, they were losing some workers for the summer, and they wanted to know if he was up for filling in. One royal blue t-shirt later, and he officially joined the ranks of the employed.

Minimum wage in Maine is $12/hr, so he’s making more than workers start off in around 45 of the other states. (Looking over the minimum wages in each state is pretty depressing. $7.25/hour for Utah? Can that be right? Real estate prices have gone bonkers in that state. You’d have thought they’d be trying to keep the wages at least somewhat in line with cost of living. Hopefully most jobs are more than minimum wage there?)

In any case, if you’d like some soft serve creamy-licious treats or some fried food in the next couple of months, you can head on over to the building that looks like a windmill. Yesterday was his first day. 14 hours this week, and we’ll see how many in the future. He got practice on the register, taking order, making burgers, and (the hardest thing I ever had to do in McDonald’s) working the soft serve ice cream dispenser. (Seriously. You try getting a perfect swirl on one of those things. Mine always fell over, and the customers were definitely not happy . . .)

We may not eat fast food very often, but apparently we like to work in the industry when we’re teens. (Okay, so two out of five family members worked there. Not quite a tradition, but you have to start somewhere.)

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

And So It Begins: Ceding the Tech Support Crown to the Next Generation

For as long as I can remember, whenever there was a tech problem in a household I was a part of, I was the go to person to solve it. I’ve always enjoyed rooting around in the innards of wires, and I’ve taught myself all sorts of things, from how to build my own computer (I’ve built two now) to how to design web pages to how to set up a home theater system. It just went without saying that when the time came that something electric broke down, it would be up to me to get it back working again.

I’m still able to do that, but the last bit, I’ve found myself taking a back seat more and more to Tomas. Why? A few reasons.

First, troubleshooting electronics can be a really long, arduous process. You know what you want the things to do, but you can’t for the life of you figure out why they aren’t doing that thing. To tinkerers like myself, that means you end up delving into online forums and guides to try and make yourself as expert in the area as you can, hoping in the process that you’ll come across the appropriate solution. That takes a lot of time and patience, and I don’t often have time (or patience) for some of these issues. If there weren’t another person in the house who enjoyed this sort of thing, that would be one thing, but . . .

The second reason is Tomas really excels at the same sort of process it takes to troubleshoot. He’s good at searching online for answers and putting the results of those searches into practice. Better yet, it’s something he enjoys doing. All those years of tinkering around with technology ended up indirectly getting me the job I have today. Why? Because in addition to having a library science degree, I had tech experience, and the first job I took at UMF was for the position of IT Librarian. Having a tech support background (and being able to prove it during the interview process) gave me a real leg up. So I think it’s definitely worth it to help foster the same attitude in my kids if possible.

Of course, this isn’t without concerns. I do wonder if I won’t find myself technologically frustrated in a few years when Tomas is no longer in the house and I’m back to doing these things on my lonesome. Is this how it begins? Ten years from now, am I going to be staring at my computer in horror when it starts displaying everything in Swahili, not knowing what keystroke I made to turn it to Swahili mode, let alone how to turn it off?

Probably not. Because if there’s one thing I’ll remain good at, it’s the ability to find information online. That’s comfortably in the “Librarian” wheelhouse, and so that’s an area I’ll still be working on keeping up to strength. The biggest part of successfully handing technology issues (I’ve found) is a willingness to troubleshoot, and the ability to get over the fear that you might break something. I remember the first time I installed RAM in a computer. I was convinced I was going to crush the motherboard, and I was really surprised just how hard I had to end up pushing to get it to seat finally. (Of course, the other trick is knowing when to wave the flag and take it to an expert. Because I definitely have broken things over the years . . .)

But for now, I’m enjoying being able to outsource tech problems as they arise, shifting into a consulting role instead. Suggesting ways to fix something, or providing insight into new approaches.

After all, who else is going to tell me how to use my super-duper genius phone when I’m eighty?

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

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