Spring Break experiment & results

by Ginger on April 4, 2016

in Random

Last week was the kid’s Spring Break, which I approached with a little excitement, a little “eh, whatever”, and, I’ll be honest, a little apprehension. A week with no school, no structure, and my fear was that it would turn into a battle about video game and tv time, non-stop.

Now, we’re pretty liberal in our approach to tv & video game time. The general way we handle it is: homework before video games, when we say it’s time to stop it’s time to stop, but mostly–when he starts being a butt about tv & video games, it’s time to limit them. Sometimes the limiting comes from time limits, sometimes it comes from limits on specific shows/games, it really just depends on WHAT he’s reacting to.

BUT, I did NOT want to deal with a full week of begging for video games and tv all the time. It’s a school break, he can totally play, but I figured we needed SOME kind of structure for the day that would also help limit the “Mommy can I play video games yet?” question.

So I came up with a little experiment.

I’ve seen a lot of the Summer Screen Time Rules type blog posts over the years, and I’ll be honest, they’re usually way more complicated than we’ll keep up with. I *know* this about us–even with the best intentions, if something is too complicated, we’ll keep it up for a few days, maybe, before it falls by the wayside. So I wanted something simple, and easy for all of us to follow.

This is what I came up with.



Every day, J got a card that said:

  • Read
  • Learn
  • Make
  • Play
  • Read
  • Nice Behavior

There were boxes to put a little sticker for each item (boy loves checking off checklists, stickers, completing things, so I totally played that up). Before he could even ask about playing video games or watching tv, he had to have a sticker for each box.

The colored sheets gave options for each item.

For Read, he could read 15 minutes of chapter books or 30 minutes of non-chapter books/magazines/comics. He had to do 2 reading sessions per day.

For Learn, he could do 15 minutes of math worksheets (we have some he likes doing), or he could do 30 minutes of any of his homework/math website games (Lexia, Dreambox, Prodigy). (Now, this is totally a bit of a work around in his mind to the video game problem, because the computer games are GAMES to him. But I don’t particularly care, because they’re also math and reading. Yes it’s a bit of a cheat, but whatever, I’ll take it).

For Make, he could build something (legos, blocks, forts, etc.), color or draw, make Qixels, etc.

For Play, he could do any number of things, but it had to be at least an hour: play with friends, ride his bike or scooter, play pretend, do sports, etc.

And Nice Behavior had to be the last sticker, given my Mommy or Daddy, and only if (duh) he’d had Nice Behavior all day long.

Once he had ALL his stickers, he could play video games or watch tv *almost* as much as he wanted.

The only other rule was that every day was a new day–so no carrying over from the day before. Meaning, if he read chapter books for an hour the day before, it didn’t count as 30 min for day 1 and 3o min for day 2. It was just extra reading.

Overall, it was a fairly resounding success. Every single day, he did all those things. I believe only 1 day did he ask if he could play video games before he completed all the tasks. No days did he come into our bedroom at 7 am and whisper yell “MOMMY CAN I PLAY VIDEO GAMES?” which he usually does on weekends prior to this. Every day, I came upstairs and he had already started and/or completed some of the tasks, without being asked. AND, over the weekend (which I had not originally intended to be part of the experiment), he not only asked where his lists were, he was overheard telling a friend, “Oh, I can’t do that yet, I still have to make and learn today.”

Now, there are some things that didn’t work as well that I’ll change going forward (oh, yeah, we’re planning on trying to keep this up for weekends some, and will definitely bust it out over summer break). The first and main one is that I should have put more guidelines on the Make stuff–in particular, it needs more time. One day he wrote a poem and drew a picture…in about 5 minutes. Buuuuut, I didn’t specify, and he DID make something, so everyone agreed it counted. Another day, he built a lego “ship” but again, it took about 5 minutes and then he was done. So. I need to come up with some guidelines on time and/or complexity level.

Another thing I will do going forward is put more ideas for play and make. I forgot that my kid tends to think that a list is the be-all-end-all, while I meant for those two to be more…examples. So, ok, accounting for my kid’s personality, I need to put some more options for those. I’m also considering whether to split play into inside/outside lists, so have one list that’s play pretend, play board games, play cards, etc. and one list that’s play sports, go swimming, ride bikes, etc.

The last thing I’ll do is have clearer instructions for what happens with friends. A few days Jackson had play dates, and he was very worried about “what if they want to watch tv, but I haven’t done all my checks?” And honestly, I don’t want to dictate at THAT level, particularly not at someone else’s house. So I want to come up with guidelines for those instances.

But overall, the whole experiment was a success: he got some structure, was incentivized to do a bunch of non-screen stuff (homework computer games notwithstanding), took ownership of it all, AND, best of all, we had NONE fights about CAN I PLAY VIDEO GAMES?




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Friday Snippets

by Ginger on April 1, 2016

in Random

Ok, look, I want to start this whole blogging again thing right, buuuuuut, it’s Friday night and it’s the end of spring break week and basically I just want a beer and to not have anyone say MOMMYYYYYY for a few minutes, so we’re going to do some quick take snippets and call it a day.


I’m still on this crazy TV binge (sorry books, it’s not your turn right now). I’ve recently finished Happy Endings, Jessica Jones, and S1 of Daredevil. I’m caught up on Arrow, The Flash, and Scandal, and I watched the pilot of The Catch (so far, it’s like a Shonda version of Thomas Crown Affair, which I can dig). I started The Americans last weekend, and have mainlined all of s1 & half of s2–I had tried it when it first came out & couldn’t make it past ep 2, but I’m totally addicted now. We’re also watching s2 of Daredevil and (heaven help my delicate constitution) have started Hannibal. Clearly I need some 30 minute comedies to balance out alllllll that drama.


Job hunting continues to suck. That is all.


One of the things I seem to be doing during my unemployment is cooking and baking things I probably never would have before (or only rarely). I think it has to do with the fact that it provides me with both a feeling of accomplishment/completion, no matter how simple the food, AND gives me comfort food. While it’s not great for my waistline, it’s been nice. This week’s standouts were mashed potatoes (I always forget how easy they actually are. I think they get caught up in my mind with HOLIDAYS = HARD/EXHAUSTING, but really…they’re super simple. And delicious), strawberry shortcake (like from the Bisquick box), and pudding pie (crust made of ground up Annie’s bunnie crackers, vanilla pudding filling). None of these are revelations, or earth shattering, but it feels nice to start a project and finish it shortly thereafter.


Can you tell I need a job?


I am actually doing some consulting work–not this week, because see above re: Spring Break, and nothing gets done with the kid home all day–which is good, both financially and mentally. Plus, it helps keep me from getting toooooo rusty. I’m hoping to pick up a little bit more after I finish up this one project I’m working on (hopefully over the weekend), but if nothing else, this one project is doing me some good.


New favorite:


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I need a non-finding-a-job project (I mean, I *could* try to burn all my old cds to iTunes, or cleaning out my closets, buuuuut, nah), and I’d like to get back in the swing of personal writing, AND I actually have some things to blog about, so I had the crazy idea to do a blogging challenge for the month of April. Join me?

My plan is to shoot for 4-5x a week for the month, and actual word-making type writing, so we’ll see how that goes. If you want to join me, or do your own kind of challenge, let me know and we’ll see if we can support each other through it (although my comments section seems borked–I’ll see your comments on the backend, and they show on mobile, but they don’t seem to show up on the site otherwise. I’m trying to figure out what’s going on there, but feel free to ping me on Twitter or FB instead of my busted comments if you’d prefer!).

So. Let’s do some writing this April, yeah?

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Some musings on musing

by Ginger on March 6, 2016

in Random

I miss blogging. I mean, I don’t know that I have much to say these days (life is fairly repetitive here: apply to jobs, do consulting work,  cook dinner, learn SQL, maybe bake, do dishes {my god, the dishes, they never end}, watch tv/read/text with friends, listen to Hamilton, repeat.), but I still miss coming here and mulling over whatever it is that’s on my mind. I miss talking about big things rattling around along with little things. I miss the way personal blogging used to feel more personal, but it feels hard to replicate that any more. Even if we could, see above on the applying to jobs thing, and all the googling that comes with that.


I have a lot of time to think these days, which is sometimes good and sometimes bad. I spend time thinking about my career, what I want out of work and home and the intersection of them both, and the like. I also spend time thinking about the news and moods of the day: politics, race, feminism, class issues, etc. I’ve had some real good thinking time lately, and that means I’ve had a lot of opportunity to hone my thoughts (while also creating more questions at times, lets be honest) on issues of personal and worldly purview.

I think, perhaps, one of the issues with our busy lives is that we don’t often have enough time to process and think and learn.


The flip side of that, of course, is that too much time spent thinking about certain things can create a spiral of doom, given the right circumstances. I have to be careful not to go from thinking to overthinking, from pondering to questioning. There’s a fine line but one side is helpful, and the other side is brutal.

It’s a balancing act, and one I’m not always good at right now.


Sometimes, the best thing in the world when you can’t stop thinking, is friends and family who either a) distract you enough that you stop or b) help hone your thinking away from the overthinking and back onto the path of usefulness. I’ve been lucky to have people on my side these past few months who have stepped up to do both. Sometimes the best way to get out of your own head is to let people see a little glimpse inside it.

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Some things I’ve made recently

by Ginger on January 27, 2016

in Random

One of the things that’s been a bit of a bonus of being unemployed* is that I’ve been doing a lot of cooking and baking the past few months. There have been the old standbys (green chile stew, some version of my easy tortilla soup, enchiladas (which I need to put a recipe up somewhere), spaghetti, etc.), but I’ve also been trying some new things.  I thought I’d share some of what I’ve made recently that I’ve loved, just for fun. (Also, since some of these were holiday baking projects, to have them in one place for next year!)

Anyway, on to the food! (Be prepared, there’s a lot of butter below.)

These green beans with lemon vinaigrette are a lovely, light, bright side dish for just about anything.

I made a white chili really similar to this one, except instead of the salsa verde, I used fresh green chili & 1/2 a can of green enchilada sauce. Super easy, super delicious.

I think someone on Twitter linked to these garlic butter roasted mushrooms from Smitten Kitchen one day, and I want to kiss that person on the mouth because these were lick the bowl clean good. Not to mention super duper simple. Serve with some toasted baguette, and it’s simply amazingly delicious.

Speaking of Smitten Kitchen, I ate a ridiculous number of these cranberry orange rolls, but I swapped out the icing she made to this Cinnabon icing dupe (both are easy, the icing is…not remotely low calorie/healthy. It was delicious). I also froze the leftovers of that icing and put it on graham crackers later. Oh, who am I kidding, I mostly ate the leftovers with a spoon.

N.C. & I were both SUPER skeptical about these “funeral sandwiches” because they involve marinating bread and look, I know some people like it, but soggy bread (a la open face sandwiches) is just not my jam (there are two exceptions to this so far: biscuits and gravy, and a really good beef sandwich w/au jus. But that’s it). But, we gave it a shot…and then promptly made them again a few days later because they were just SO DAMN GOOD. The bread somehow gets marinated, but not soggy if you cook them long enough, and I don’t understand how, but they’re delicious ok?

These whipped orange shortbread cookies that Hillary posted were one of my very favorite things I made at Christmas. I had a hard time sending them to the teacher cookie exchange, that’s for sure. One thing about them–they’re easy prep (if you’ve got a stand mixer), but they are a little fragile if you’re not paying attention. I messed up a couple of things with the first batch, that I fixed with subsequent batches: 1) I made the first ones too big and 2) I checked them a few times in the oven. They were SO fragile and soft when they came out of the oven, I couldn’t even get them off the cookie sheet. I salvaged those by putting the whole cookie sheet in the fridge & then removing them once they were completely cooled, but just to be on the safe side, they stayed in the fridge (beautifully I might add). In the subsequent batches, I made smaller cookies (mine spread, though not a lot), and I LEFT THEM ALONE the full 20 minutes. They were still soft, but not the way the first batch had been. (Next time I make them, and I WILL make them again I probably will also try not to soften the butter quite as much as I did, and I’ll follow all the time directions exactly. I think I ended up beating the batter for more than 10 minutes, and I think it was maybe too much). But even with those foibles on my part, they were decadent, melt in your mouth delicious and I LOVED them.

Lastly, this isn’t so much a recipe as a “hack” (I’m starting to really dislike that phrase for everyday use, yet here I am using it): use a muffin tin to make brownies, and then you can add different mix-ins & toppings! I put toffee in some, nuts in some, and kept some plain. It was glorious. I should note, I tried this method because of Alton Brown, who said this could give you an entire pan full of edge piece brownies, but you should know, mine didn’t come out with crispy edges because I slightly undercooked them. They were lovely, but next time I will overcook a bit to get those crispy edges, but just a note for those of you who are on the other side of the brownie edges debate.

*Look, I’m working on being more positive, ok?

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