Tracking

A big component of my plan to start a planner of sorts for The Boy is tracking. I would like to track several things like his diet, his moods, and the-results-of-his-digestive-system-if-you-know-what-I-mean.

In fact, I’ve already begun tracking something that has given me insights. If you’ve spent any time on this blog in the last couple of years, you know that emailing me has become a calming strategy when his anxiety gets the best of him at school. It came from a bit of self-advocacy, and it has worked well. The number of emails I get in a day also correlates to the “quality” of the day: more emails means more anxiety and less learning, fewer emails means less anxiety and more learning. It’s a loose correlation, but it’s there.

In prep for our meeting with a new therapist tomorrow, I went back through my emails since the beginning of the school year and did a simple tally, putting it in calendar form. Just that simple act allowed me to see…

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Whoa. Mondays have been a bit of a problem! I would do well to work more at home on Sundays, preparing him for the transition back to school, it seems. Wednesdays seem pretty chill, and then the anxiety comes back on Fridays, I’m guessing when parents pull his friends out of school for the weekend… Wish I had done this sooner, but at least there is benefit in the tracking, and I have high hopes for my planner.

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Planning for Parents

I know I’ve talked a bit here about planning. It’s become a bit trendy nowadays, but I have needed and used a planner since my undergrad days, with rehearsals scheduled thither and yon, and assignments due; as my husband says, “people to see, things to do, and dogs to scratch!”

That said, figuring out how to organize all the parts of my life – it’s still a challenge. I’ve been bullet journalling since November of 2015, and found that it really works for me. I’m much more able to keep track of when things are due, upcoming events, and even tracking how often I do x, y, or z, which can come in very handy when I’m, say, working on a goal to read more, or exercise more, or be a better human being.

Recently, I’ve decided to track my moods, as well as the moods of those in my household, as their moods have an effect on my mood (as I’m sure you’ve experienced), and also because I’m getting to that age where moodiness is part and parcel of being a woman and all of the lovely things we go through that bewilder the men in our lives. I realized tracking “moods” would be an excellent thing to do for The Boy, and would help us spot some triggers. The more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea of setting up a “home base” journal for The Boy: notes from meetings, school schedules, records of emails from him (a strategy he uses to regulate when he is upset at school), “hang-out” dates, progress on our Independence Challenge, and plans for the future. Now that we are tracking work and volunteer hours for his high school program, this journal will be perfect for that, too.

Some planning friends suggested that, ideally, The Boy would do this for himself, to which I replied that just getting him to do homework was like pulling teeth, but I think I can find some common ground by letting him know I’m doing it, and allowing him to see, add or change things as he feels the need.

I found this excellent resource for autism parents of any age that would like to do something similar over at andnextcomesl.com – a site that’s new to me, but looks like a bevy of great resources.

When I get it set up and operational, I’ll make sure to come back and share what’s working, what’s not, and how it’s helping me be a better parent (I hope!) 🙂

 

The Trip Recap

The Boy and I just spent a long weekend visiting old friends and relatives up north. I had promised him three years ago when we moved away that we would visit. This year, I made it a goal to make good on my promise. When an airline opened up a new, cheap, nonstop flight, I jumped at the opportunity.

I encouraged The Boy to make a list of places he’d like to go and people he’d like to see. I coordinated with people on Facebook who wanted to see us, and planned our trip in morning-afternoon-evening chunks, allowing for travel time via rental car. Fantastic Babysitter put us up, even though she was out of town for a couple days. It worked out beautifully as The Boy was comfortable in her house, a place he had been many times, and we saved money on a hotel. The bonus was that the weather was gorgeous, and she lives in a quiet neighborhood, allowing us wonderful downtime at the end of each jam-packed day.

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❤ She hadn’t seen him since she was 3, but asked to hold his hand in the parking lot 

Most of our “places” to visit were really restaurants (um, yeah… we like food. A lot.), and we made a point to eat at places we just don’t have back home. Even better was the company. Every single visit with friends was a joyous, picked-up-right-where-we-left-off extravaganza. The Boy had even prepared three PowerPoints (unbeknownst to me) to share with his former ASD teacher at lunch on Saturday.

The Boy was simply amazing. At our favorite eclectic arcade on Friday, one of his favorite games had been removed, and I didn’t even realize until after the fact, when he explained to me a few times that it had been moved (I put two and two together because of the perseverating on the same point). But he didn’t get upset about it. The only thing that really did upset him was that he was reminded about the glory of the ice cream truck, something we just don’t have where we live, but a treasured memory from living up north. We glimpsed one a few times during the weekend, but didn’t end up realizing his wish to purchase ice cream from one, and that was a tragedy by Sunday.

I could see fault lines forming by the time we got to the gate on Monday to get back on the plane to go home. His laptop was not charged and would not charge. It got a little hairy until I enlisted the help of the gate agent, who allowed us to use her outlet behind the desk. The rest of the day, The Boy was a bit “tetchy” about everything. He didn’t want to come home, but was mollified by a stop at his favorite arcade in Myrtle Beach before heading back home.

It was a huge success, a wonderful time, and I was incredibly proud of The Boy. The people we visited were not the only ones impressed by how much he has grown in three years.

The Two Hour Delay

You might be an autism parent if...The effects of a two hour delay last all day longOur school year has been riddled with two hour delays. And although my recent posts have been fairly centered on my (adverse) reaction to these, they do negatively affect The Boy, as well. As always, if he can expect it, and be prepped for it, the result is mitigated. But if it comes as a surprise, and is combined with other students being absent, teachers being late… It’s not very pretty, and this was the case this past Monday.

I understand why the district does it. They try very hard to avoid cancelling school because there is no such thing as a make up day in the South. They could very easily build in some days, as this is the second year in a row that we have had a dearth of these routine-upsetters, but that would take forethought and planning… and I digress. The problem is that our district encompasses many long miles of coastline, the east end of which is very susceptible to flooding during heavy rains. There is basically one road going in and out of town, and there is one very small school there. But if those sixteen kids can’t go to school, then the rest of the district has to close too. Even if there’s a chance they may not be able to make it, or the wind will be too strong, or there just may be water over the road… I am exaggerating, but only slightly.

The district needs to take a hard look at their policies. Two hour delays may not seem like much, but it only takes three to add up to a full day of instruction lost. Couple that with the detrimental effect on kids like The Boy (and neurotypical parents like me), and we are starting to have a serious problem.

Monday evening, The Boy asked when the next two hour delay would be. That’s not something I can predict, considering the last two were for no apparent reason. At that time, I pulled up my Weather Channel app, which said no chance of rain until next Tuesday. Now, as weather forecasts are wont to do, this Friday looks like rain and a chance of snow in the AM. If that forecast remains, you can bet there will be a delay. And now our job is to prep for that possibility…

Feeling in Control

One of the bits of advice that hangs on is “Fake it ’til you make it.” This bit has rung true for me. I have been able to pretend long enough to get the hang of something more times than I can count. Part of getting out of this low, scary place I’ve been has been “faking” that I am in control. In other words, planning.

I’ve done several posts on planning, and how it’s just part of my DNA. And even though I don’t have much to plan at work (besides how I’m going to spend six hours a day with no customers, which is actually enjoyable), I have found some peace.

You may remember that that I was trying to determine if I was going to order a Plum Paper Planner or another Erin Condren earlier this fall. I ended up ordering the Plum Paper Planner, and it is very stylish, and lovely, and just what I wanted at the time.

MTNAbout two weeks later, I found Midori Travelers Notebooks on Pinterest and fell in love. Had to have it, ordered one as an incentive for NaNoWriMo. It was so lovely to hold, and such a neat little niche of paper geeks that came along with it (I think I joined three different facebook groups). It was a fantastic motivator for NaNo (I won by the way!). I used it everyday, and loved how grown up and worldly it looked, as opposed to the sorority girlishness of the Erin Condren world, and I started to feel guilty toward my Plum Paper Planner.

Shortly after that, I came across the Bullet Journal again. I had dismissed it earlier because it sounded complicated. But the more I looked into it, the more creative I found it, and ironically, the more personalized. Way more personalized than Erin Condren or Plum Paper Planner could ever hope to be. Of course it was more work, but if the act of doing more work helps one find focus, remember more, and get more done, isn’t that a nifty trick?

habittrackerOn the last day of November, I started my BuJo (short for Bullet Journal), and have used it daily ever since. I was even able to take it to the meeting with the school administrators, with a page dedicated to the topics I’d like to discuss, and space on the facing page to take notes during the meeting. It is much more than a planner, containing “collections”, quotes, and goals. The community I have found (again on facebook and even instagram) has helped me plan, design my own setup, track habits I’d like to form, and figure out 100 life goals I’d like to achieve in the next ten years.

If it sounds hippy dippy, it’s really not. You can put into what you want, and take from it what you want. Goal setting was not something I had done in a long time, and what is better to do at your lowest point than set some goals and plan some ways to climb out of it?

If you are at all interested, you should check out this from the guy who came up with the system – Ryder, and this from one of the ladies who has made it fun – Kara Benz at BohoBerry (it’s actually the second in her series, but I find it more informative than the first). If not, that’s ok too. I just wanted to share what has helped me turn a corner.

And if you’re wondering about my Plum Paper Planner, I’m going to use it for blog planning and bill paying. That’s the plan, anyway 😉

Stickers with a Story

This is a planner post, but it’s a little more than that.

Those of us that are into planners and planning know that people make money off of us.  Big money. The planners themselves aren’t cheap (I’m looking at you, Erin Condren), and then the accessories… Holy Cow. Search Pinterest for Planner accessories and you’ll see what I mean.  There are hundreds of people on eBay who just sell planner stickers. Planner Stickers! And when you add in shipping… well, let’s just say I’ve never felt comfortable spending that much on a consumable, and especially now that it would cost me the better part of a day’s pay for a couple of sheets of stickers…

So what’s a girl to do? All I wanted was a set of stickers to put on days when bills are due.

I started looking at some neato stamps by l2e, but the neato stamps were at least $14 a set. Add in the shipping, the ink…  Not consumable, but still pricy.

Then I went to iconic fonts – the sometimes-free fonts you can download from enterprising young graphic designers that are like tiny little pictures.  I thought if I could find a set that had the icons I wanted, I could put them into a word document, or even a label template and print them out. But it was difficult to find the icons I wanted, especially for free.  Those pesky young graphic designers want to be paid, too.

And then I found this, by Mike Rohde, which are actually some hand drawn bullet journal icons.  At first I thought, “Those are really cool, and kind of what I want, but I can’t draw!”13792208535_267770f11a_m

No, seriously.  I can’t draw.  I used to prepare my students for this fact the few times I had to draw things on the board, and they still laughed.  I explained that this is why I was a music teacher… Can’t draw to save my life.

But.

I came across another pin, recommending Sara Zorel on YouTube.  One of her videos was called “Doodle With Me: Planner Icons”.  Now, doodle I can do.  So when you say “Doodle,” I think I can like that tiny blue engine that could…

And with some practice in my moleskine, I did.

doodle planner icons

I bought a flag shaped punch on clearance at Walmart for $3, and I already had sticker paper (In fact, had scraps of it from my NaNoWriMo prep – more on that later), and so I colored the scraps with markers, punched out some flags, and started doodling.

It may seem small, but I am totally geeked that I can make for myself and not spend money unnecessarily. And that I can kinda sorta draw. Not people, though. That’s just scary.

more doodle planner icons

Shift your paradigm, and when you say to yourself, “I can’t,” question it. Sometimes you can amaze yourself.

Treading Water

Hey, friends. I’m having a hard time keeping my head above water lately. There’s a lot going on.  Our busy season at work is here, and the crap is hitting the fan.  Where I work, that means the blame is flying, and my job satisfaction plummets.  The Boy is just about done with school, which means I need to be gearing up to support him with activities and enrichment for the next five to six weeks until his camp starts.  We listed our house for sale today, which meant a weekend of staining the deck and the porch, and painting window trim (and getting a really stellar sunburn while doing it), and now means keeping the house tidy for showings…

When I get overwhelmed, I start to feel like someone or something is sitting on my chest.  I have to remind myself to breathe. I have to engage in a little self talk, and I have to, HAVE TO carve some time out to plan.  Planning helps me to see the possibilities, see the light at the end of the tunnel, and keep things in perspective.

In the meantime, I wanted to say thanks for reading, thanks for sticking around after a week with no posts, and if you get a chance, please send positive vibes my way.  Congrats to the teachers for making it through another year, and remember to be nice to people in the service sector.  We’re not all idiots.  Now, I’m going to carve out some planning time so I can send some really good posts your way this month – I can’t believe it’s June already!

DIY Erin Condren Stickers using Picmonkey and Pinterest

If you have an Erin Condren planner and are on Pinterest, you’ll find lots of stickers to purchase out there, but they can get expensive, and they may not say just what you want them to.  A pack of stickers from a craft store that are not even sized to fit the squares in the Erin Condren planner can run you five or six bucks, and to me that’s a lot to spend on something that’s not quite right.

While on Pinterest, I found this handy post on how to use Picmonkey, a free online photo editing tool, to create your own stickers.  Ms. Marcia Beckett does an excellent job explaining how to re-purpose Picmonkey to make a sheet of cut-yourself stickers.  And luckily, I had purchased some full-sheet sticker paper from Staples last fall.  A package of that can get expensive, too.  But with coupons and watching for sales, I think I got mine for about $12, and it has lasted me quite awhile.

But I didn’t want any old random stickers.

Like many people, I have a board on Pinterest with Quotes that resonate with me, some funny, some inspiring, and these are what I wanted sprinkled through the pages of my planner.  I googled to see if anyone else had done this before, and couldn’t find exactly what I was looking for.  I decided to play around with it myself. Here are the steps I followed:

1.  Open Pinterest, and find the pins you want to make into stickers. I recommend pins that have a lot of space on each side, and are more vertical than horizontal, but you can play with it yourself to get the look you want. Once you click on your pin, right click on it to save it as an image.

pins into stickers

2.  Open picmonkey, and follow the instructions in Marcia’s post above.  You can add more pictures by dragging them onto your layout, and waiting until a grey area appears.  Then simply drop your picture.  You can also resize them by dragging the sides of each picture you have placed.

3.  I would recommend putting 16 pictures on an 8.5 x 11 page to get close to the size of the boxes in the Erin Condren planner.  You can eyeball the sizing to get it fairly close to the right proportions.

Pinned Quotes into EC stickers

4.  Adjust your spacing to around 127 to get the pictures to the right size on the background page (the icon looks like an art palette on the left of the Picmonkey page).

5. Print and cut out!

pins into EC stickers

A couple of notes:

  • Don’t try to make a buck off of other people’s designs. That’s stealing.  Using these for personal use is one thing, but using someone else’s work to create stickers to sell would not be the right thing to do.
  • I wouldn’t recommend using people’s designs from Etsy or other sites where people are trying to make a living from their work.
  • If you have some pins/quotes that won’t work due to the layout, you can always create a new one using Picmonkey, as well! It really is a lot of fun!

EC Planner: editorial calendar

Recently I sat down to figure out how I could back in the swing of things here at Simple. I Just Do.  I re-read some resources I had, and began planning (my favorite thing!), and realized I needed a space for an editorial calendar.  Then I realized I already had the perfect space, and it was under-utilized – the month-at-a-glance portion of my EC planner!

I had seen posts of others using the daily portion, but it didn’t really work for me.  So I sat down, did some brainstorming, analyzed some analytics, and came up with a whole slew of post topics, and even made up a little code for types of post.  I broke out the post-it notes (my second favorite thing!) and began “scheduling” these posts, making sure to plan a variety of types of posts, as well as topics.  Whatever posts that were not scheduled were put off to the side for revision and use in the future.  And if I get an idea for a post, now I just jot it on one of these small post-its, stick it in there, and it’ll be ready for next month’s planning session.  They are also really easy to move around – I had a different post planned for today, but it wasn’t ready, so I moved this one up a few weeks.  Easy peasy.

I’m also able to schedule my social media posts and interaction, linky parties, etc.

It may not be the most beautiful or elegant thing ever, but for me, the most important thing is it WORKS!  And I can make it beautiful later, when I get some time (yeah, right).  This is not an earth-shattering idea, but it’s always good to take a moment to reflect on what has worked in the past, think about what resources you have, and try to marry the two.  No sense in re-creating the wheel when you don’t have to. In fact that’s something good to do in just about every area of your life.  Sounds like a topic for another blog post… now where are my post-its?

Managing My Own Anger

Yesterday was a doozy of a Monday.  I felt like Alexander in the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (a favorite when I was growing up).  There was an ant in The Boy’s juice, the cable box went wonky again, a co-worker lied to our boss and threw me under the bus for a mistake that was very clearly hers and hers alone.

And mid-afternoon I get an email from The Boy’s principal saying perhaps he could start on trumpet this week because he doesn’t meet the “criteria” to play the tuba.  Yeah, that just happened.

There were no “criteria” to play the tuba even mentioned at our last meeting.  That band director is discriminating against my child.

boy with tubaLuckily, I didn’t get the email until about 3 or so, because truthfully, I couldn’t concentrate on work after that.  I was extremely preoccupied, and downright pissed off.  Heart beating rapidly, I left work right at 5, and drove to pick up The Boy, planning my evening around the big, long response I was going to write.

The Boy was in a great mood, and I faked a good mood for him, as well.  I shared the happenings with my parents and strategized about next steps with them.

When we got home, I began to type all of the phrases that had been rolling around in my head for three hours, constructing my three-page response.  And I began to shake uncontrollably.  Not with rage, but with anxiety.  I also made several trips to the bathroom, which I have had to do when stressed since my mid-thirties.  When The Man came home an hour later, we talked, and strategized some more, and I continued to write.  I spoke with The Boy’s autism teacher on the phone to gain some insight, and then I continued to write.  The Man knows that getting all of my thoughts down just right in my response was the key to my calm.  Until it was a finished draft ready to send, it would be on my mind.

And of course, I couldn’t sleep last night.  I knew it would happen, but there’s nothing I can do about it, so I just roll with it, going over things yet again in my head for several hours.

My draft is now complete, and it is a killer letter.  I have a plan in place, no matter the response.  He will play the tuba, and will not be switching to anything else.  I’m still angry and anxious, but I’m managing it, thanks to my outlets: writing and planning.  The key is knowing yourself enough to know how you are going to respond to anger, both physically and mentally, and to have something accessible which calms you… A bit like our kiddos, huh?