On Over-Planning and Igloo-Building

by Abby on March 23, 2015

I am a sucker for an online quiz. You know those ones that tell you what country best fits your personality or what your spirit animal is? Well, a while back I took one on happiness. To my surprise, the results indicated that I highly value spontaneity, and that some of my happiest moments were unplanned. This was shocking to me.

See, I am a planner. Of course, most women — especially moms — I know are. You have to be, or you’ll get steamrolled by soccer practice, baseball tryouts, birthday party invitations, parent-teacher meetings, science projects, Grandparents’ Day, work deadlines, and doctors’ appointments before you can blink an eye. How many of you already have your summers planned out? Camps, vacations, etc.? See what I mean?

In one sense, planning in advance can give a person a feeling of control and order. If we know what we’re doing and when, every day is not a chaotic exercise in finding lost permission slips and last-minute lunch-packing. (Although believe me, that still happens more often than not.)

But there’s a downside to being overly scheduled. A few, in fact. For one thing, it can make you feel like you have zero free time. Secondly, if one thing on your jam-packed calendar changes, it can make the whole day or week collapse like a row of dominoes. See: every snow day and school delay we’ve had this winter. And lastly, over-planning can mean that if you DO find yourself with a rare afternoon off, you have no idea what to do with yourself. Boredom, frustration, and excessive screen-time ensue.

What’s a spontaneity-craving planner to do? First, recognize the problem. If someone invites you out for coffee and your first opening is in 3 mos., you’re too tightly scheduled. If you’re changing checkout lines in the grocery store like a NASCAR driver switching lanes, only to have your whole day thrown off when you get stuck behind a senior citizen clutching a fistful of coupons and paying by personal check (doh!!), you’re too tightly scheduled.

Second, make room for spontaneity. By leaving a weekend afternoon open, yes, you risk having nothing to do and being assaulted by bored, whiny kids who resort to tackling each other for entertainment. But you might also find yourself enjoying a beautiful day building an igloo with your neighbors. Huh?

That’s what happened on our street the first day of Daylight Savings. The late-day sun and warmish weather lured everyone outside. Some of the neighbors we hadn’t seen all winter. A couple even had new babies! The kids were playing, the grownups were chatting, and it appeared that maybe, just maybe, spring was finally on its way. Of course, there were still piles of snow everywhere.

Then someone suggested we build an igloo. An igloo? Why not? Our intrepid team leader and the kids got to work – scooping, shoveling, packing the snow. Cardboard boxes were pulled out of the recycling bins to use as brick forms. Soon, the other adults joined in. The igloo began to take shape. Even the littlest kids helped out. A pegboard roof was procured, and an old blanket for the floor. Someone found battery-powered Christmas lights, and my younger son made a flag to stick on top.

Our all-ages igloo-building crew

The kids were thrilled. They piled in several at a time while the parents took pictures. It’s not every day you find yourself part of an all-ages igloo-building crew. Then one by one, each family made their way home for dinner, everyone tired and wet and happy. And still the late-winter sun shone on, signaling the hope of spring and more spontaneous Sunday afternoon adventures, if only we leave space for them.

our neighborhood igloo


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Make Your Own Luck

by Abby on March 16, 2015

Normally, I’m not so big on the random little holidays. Valentine’s Day? Earth Day? Meh. They usually involve school parties and extra work for me. (Oh, you can call me a killjoy until you pull an all-nighter sweating over several dozen Valentines or cupcakes for your kid’s class. Then we’ll talk. P.S. Why is Minecraft always involved?!)

If it weren’t for the fact that my husband’s family is Irish, St. Patrick’s Day might fall by the wayside, too. But today I saw this, which must have put me in a good mood:

A sign of spring at last - crocuses in my backyard

And Riley came home with this drawing of a leprechaun, and stories about rainbows and pots of gold.

drawing of a leprechaun, by Riley, age 6

And then I saw this on Instagram (courtesy of @deliciouslyella) and I thought, yeah, this is a holiday I can get behind. I do believe we make our own luck.

Make Your Own Luck

Apparently I also believe in making your own salty and sweet festive treats because then I saw these on Pinterest and decided to make them for my son’s class. (They took all of 10 min. per batch to assemble. The most time-consuming part was separating out the green M&M’s.)

Pretzel and Rolo shamrocks

Here’s to signs of spring, mischievous leprechauns, midweek treats, and making your own luck. Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

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It’s Come to This

March 5, 2015

Monday: school closed due to icy conditions. Tuesday: school closed 2 hours early due to weather. Wednesday: rain all day, turns to snow overnight. Thursday: This. Friday: Will our children ever attend a full day of school again? Ever?? And so it’s come to this: I make them run like hamsters on a wheel to […]

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Dear Customer Service Person

March 3, 2015

Dear Customer Service Person: First off, I recognize that you have a difficult job. Customer service people and moms have a lot in common, actually: people don’t call us up to be like, “Hey, just wanted to tell you that you’re doing a great job! Kudos! Keep it up!” No, we only hear from them […]

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Happy Birthday to My Boy!

February 27, 2015

Dear Riley, Happy Birthday! Today you are 6. You are many things to many people. You are brave: Smart: Loyal: And loving: You are a master of disguise: And you have never met anything you couldn’t climb: I mean, not ANYTHING: Thank you for teaching me that life is better when you love fiercely, dress […]

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On Daily Joy and Fresh Perspectives

February 23, 2015

Last week I read a blog post that really spoke to me. It was about feeling stuck, in writing and in life. It’s about broken washing machines and insomnia and other everyday inconveniences and frustrations that the author called “puzzles we have to figure out in order to get to and maintain our Daily Joy.” […]

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Rileyisms: Mid-Winter Edition

February 9, 2015

Winter is tough on my mental health. The cold, the gray, the snow delays, the illnesses. Also taxing on my psyche? Being stuck at home with sick kids. Blessedly, we have not been hit with the 5 feet (!) of snow that is currently overwhelming my in-laws in Massachusetts. And the illnesses are just severe […]

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The Purpose of Life from a Kid’s P.O.V.

January 30, 2015

7:15 a.m., Thursday morning: “Mom, you know what the purpose of life is?” This is the question my 8yo poses to me as I stumble into the kitchen in search of coffee. On the one hand, how could I possibly pass up the answer to this burning existential question? And from the mouth of my […]

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3 Fun Indoor Winter Activities (for a Real-Life Family)

January 22, 2015

By day, I often write and edit blog posts for clients that have to do with health, wellness, family fitness, that sort of thing. Everybody loves the “Secrets to Eating More Veggies” and “10 Tips for Raising Active Kids” type of posts. Even *I* click on them, even though (I hate to admit) I usually […]

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3 Ineffective Strategies for Dealing with a Tantrum

January 16, 2015

My kindergartener is either the snuggliest love bug or as mean as an angry drunk. Nothing in between and no warning when the switch flips. Take swimming lessons, for instance. He loves them. Cannonballs into the pool, splashing, kicking, grinning. Doesn’t even mind the showering and toweling off after, fond as he is of any […]

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