Monday, June 5, 2017

They do get big

JD is 10. His clothes are getting big. He's close to passing short adults in height.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Doorway Amnesia

Today, I went to the bathroom to put in my contact lenses. Turn on the lights and it's a little darker than usual - the bulb over the sink is burned out. That reminds me that it's been burned out for a couple of days now and I keep saying, "I'll do it later," then later not remembering to do it. Okay, I'm going to do it right now! I tell myself. Then I put in my contact lenses and go to the basement to get a new bulb.

I head down the stairs, turn left to go down the hallway past the guest bedroom, office, and bathroom. Hanging on the molding of the doorways are clothes on hangers that were hung to dry and are now dry. In the laundry room, which is an amazing mess mostly because of two hockey players airing out equipment, in front of the washing machine is JD's laundry hamper.

I was so proud of him! He recognized that his hamper was full and brought it down to the laundry room. Part of my diabolical scheme to get the kids to eventually do their own laundry is to take it in steps. First was to make them put their dirty clothes into their hampers in their rooms. Next, I stopped putting their clothes away and would put folded clothes on the floor in their rooms. Now, they have to bring their hamper to the laundry room if they want clean clothes. Then I fold their laundry and leave it in the living room on the main floor where they have to bring it up to their room to put away. Soon, they'll learn how to put it in the washing machine and get that running, then how to change it to the dryer, separating things that should be hung to dry, then finally getting it out of the dryer and completing the process. I figure, if they can do their own laundry by the time they're 11 or 12, I've won.

Back to the story...

I empty JD's laundry into the washing machine, all the while considering a few items that I could or should maybe separate out, then decide, fuck it, and just throw everything in, add detergent, turn a dial, press some buttons and start the magic. Then, I start walking out of the laundry room, grab all of the clothes on hangers and bring them upstairs to my bedroom and put them away.

Then I noticed the dry cleaning bag on the floor and realize that, even though it's not full, it's been a while so I should just take it in, regardless of how many items are inside. But, wait! There are all of these plastic tag holder things that I've been meaning to remove and this is the time, so I sit down, grab scissors and the garbage can, and get to that. Then, because I'm sitting on the floor of my room, I see papers that I normally wouldn't have seen because from 6'5", things at floor level are pretty far away. So I put recyclables into the basket alongside the dry cleaning bag.

In going through these papers, I came across some old practice plans, reminding me that we have soccer practice tonight and I haven't put together a plan. Great! Here's an old plan that was comprehensive. Ooo, but then I've thought up a new drill that combines passing, shooting, goalkeeping, and distributing, so I had to write that down.

Finally, I finish all of that, bring the basket down, find a box by the back door that has been neglected but has a bunch of other papers to be recycled in it, so I added these to the pile and set the basket by the basement stairs. Then, I had to pee.

So I go to the bathroom, turn the lights on, and it's surprisingly dark. The bulb over the sink is out. I have to change it! But first I have to pee and then write down this episode...

If you want to understand the phenomenon of forgetting things when we move from one room to another, here are a could of articles about "The Doorway Effect":
https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/why-walking-through-doorway-makes-you-forget/
http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20160307-why-does-walking-through-doorways-make-us-forget

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Folding laundry

Continuing my discussion about time management, I just kept track of the time it takes to deal with laundry.

I just folded a basket of laundry. 20 minutes. I've never timed that before, and if someone had asked how long that would take, I probably would have said five to ten minutes.

Those are the types of things that throw off my schedule - underestimating hours long tasks take.

Other tasks that take longer that one may think:
Writing email
Texting
Checking social media
Getting ready to leave the house
Unpacking groceries
Loading the washing machine
Changing loads of laundry
Post shower routine
Morning bathroom regiment
Boiling water
Heating up the grill

Do you have anything to add to the list?

Friday, May 19, 2017

Reducing the Piles

Today's "Master of the Obvious" moment:

While cleaning up, I realized why it's important to put things away as I come to them instead of making piles of things that go to the same place, then putting them away together, which feels more efficient.

It turns out that I often bite off more than I can chew. Which is another way of saying that I sometimes have poor time management. Perhaps it's less time management, and more like, having an unrealistic expectation for how long tasks take.

For example, when cleaning up my kitchen / dining / shoe storage room today, I took one or two pairs of boots to the basement for storage until next year, or until it snows next week. (Welcome to Chicago.) Then I took a couple more. Then a couple more. I took some papers and, instead of making piles of "to recycle" and "to file," I recycled and filed on the fly.

While blocking off time for tasks, I often find myself requiring more time than I thought I would need. If I did not need to block off time for tasks - they could end whenever I finished, rather than when I needed to move on to another task - then making piles is much more efficient.

By completing small items right away, no piles get left over. Those piles had no future time on the docket. That means that those piles (and there are still plenty) do not come to completion.

Now, I have boots in the closet, not in a pile waiting to go the the basement because I lost track of time and have to go get the kids, take them to activities, start dinner, get to practice, spend time with Wife, and go to my own hockey game. Are there still things to do? Plenty! The number has been reduced, rather than repositioned. Just like cleaning-as-you-go in the kitchen; perhaps you'll have time after dinner to clean up the whirlwind, but if honey gives you the wink and nudge, or the Blackhawks are on, or the energy goes away, that pile stays there until the next day.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

What I Learned this Basketball Season

From December until last weekend, I coached JD's 4th grade basketball team. As a team, we had a good season, finishing with a record above .500 and reaching the semi-finals of the playoffs.

Our real success was seeing players improve over the course of the season, getting more confident handling the ball, learning to create space on the offensive end, and learning how to play defense by identifying and staying with the player they were guarding.

I began the season with two goals - to play every player at every position equally and to help them improve their skills. While I believe I followed through with those two goals, I also failed at them.

First, by playing the players at every position, it reduced the incentive for players to feel the need to come to every practice and to be dedicated while at practice. Over the course of the season, their discipline declined. My response to that, starting with the last two games of the regular season, was to instill a policy where the kids who showed up to practice and worked hard would play in the game, regardless of their ability to execute.

I had every intention of following through with that. However, our semi-final game was against the best regular-season team who had not lost a game. I was determined to get our team to the final. Sure, every player would get in the game, but some would get very little playing time while a few others would get a lot. The idea was to get the opportunity to get another game and to give the players the experience of getting to a championship.

We ended up losing and, I lost some of my values in the process. A couple of very hard working players who were not the most developed sat on the bench for almost all of the game because of my goal to win. That's one of the things that I'll carry forward.

The second thing I learned was how to structure practices. One thing I've learned about child development in athletics is that 9-12 years old is the "golden age of skill development." It's the best time for kids to learn skills, but just before they become good at learning strategy. So, I focused on dribbling, shooting, and passing. While those are all very important, I did not also teach them basic basketball plays. 

As it turns out, being able to run a play is a skill. Before this season, I thought that teaching plays was the same thing as teaching strategy, but it is not. Teaching a play is showing players where to go when the ball is in play. Teaching strategy is telling them why. Not the same.

So, going forward, here are a few changes that I'm going to make:
  • Time during practice to learn a basic play. An inbound play in basketball, a throw-in in soccer, a zone entry in hockey, and so on and so forth. 
  • As part of my practice plan, I'll predetermine who will play various positions so the players gain experience doing so at practice, then rotate from week-to-week. 
  • In my game plan, I'll write down who the hardest workers were in practice so that I remember to get them good playing time if playing time isn't going to be equal for all players.
While I wish I had thought of some of these things during this basketball season, it's not something that I regret. By learning from each season, something about my style evolves. This basketball season was definitely the most challenging season of my coaching "career." It also taught me the most. Just like the players, I learned lessons over the course of the season that I'll carry forward to seasons ahead in every sport.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Reward the Parent

While having a discussion with Bunny, I realized that something I said was actually good advice. 

After school, I want the kids to clean out their backpacks and do their homework right away. They do not and want to play. Of course, there never comes a time when they look forward to doing their homework and it often slips away if I'm not all over them. (Of course, that is part of my job.)

Today, I found Bunny painting. Of course, that's fine, but I would have wanted her to do her homework before starting a project like that. However, I'm trying to be all zen today, so I said, "Just make sure that you leave time to do your homework before we have to go to swimming." That gave her about 45 minutes to paint and do a routine assignment. It also prompted push back.

"Can't I do it after swimming?"
"It'll be late after we get home."
"But maybe I'll want to do it then."
"Do you really think that there will come a time when you actually want to do your homework?"
Pause.
"Maybe."
"Bunny, you know that I wanted you to do it after school, and now you're painting. I'm trying to be flexible, but don't push it too far. Just like you like to be rewarded when you do something good, you should reward me when I'm fair and flexible with you by doing what you're told."

That actually struck me. I think kids should be told that, just like they like a treat when they go out shopping with us and behave decently or get extra screen time, we like to be rewarded for giving extra privileges with good behavior.

Not that it's going to change anything, but perhaps it puts something into their heads. Give it a try and let me know if you get any results.