Monthly Archives: April 2014

procrastinate

Procrastination 101

“Procrastination is the practice of carrying out less urgent tasks in preference to more urgent ones, or doing more pleasurable things in place of less pleasurable ones, and thus putting off impending tasks to a later time, sometimes to the "last minute" before the deadline.” Wikipedia
 “Suggest children tackle distasteful tasks first so they feel a sense of relief. Starting is the biggest hurdle; help children take small steps to get the ball rolling”- Tip#5 out of 15 provided by Karen Stephens – the author of early care and education books and  a frequent contributor to Parenting Exchange
“Set the right atmosphere. When physical labor is needed, lively music can rev up everyone’s tempo. However, music or television during homework is a distraction to be avoided” – Tip#13

I am sure Karen’s children are very hard-working; they do all their chores, immediately after creating a “to do list” and breaking the task into “manageable parts”, but before jumping on the couch with the remote in their hands.  Unfortunately, I cannot say the same about mine.  My reward system failed miserably, because unless I offer something within a six figures range, the reward is not worth the effort.  “To do” lists or any instructions I am offering only take up the time that could be used for relaxation.  The sense of relief from doing a chore is insignificant in comparison to playing Minecraft with a bunch of friends on an X Box.

I call my older son a master procrastinator.  My younger one is not far behind. Once, I pointed out that if procrastination were an Olympic sport, my children would compete for Gold and Silver.  They said that it would not work, because then the Olympics would never end.

They have a right (even though it is not covered by a Constitutional Amendment) to relax before starting their homework.  The amount of relaxation needed depends on when I come home and make them do “work”.  I am using the term “work” loosely here, because things like cleaning out the plate, putting the dirty T-shirt in the laundry, practicing an instrument, taking the dog out, doing math, or anything other than using electronics fall under the definition.  Every “work” comes with a strict timeframe: practicing guitar – 15 minutes, violin – 6 minutes, reading for homework-30 minutes, putting the clothes in the laundry or cleaning the room– the speed of light.  When I ask: “Why 6 minutes?” My son responds: “This is what the teacher said.  You are not the teacher.”  I can’t argue with that.  The clock is being watched closely; because this is the time they would never get back. “Work” should be avoided; if impossible – done as fast as possible.  “Work” should only be performed if the procrastinator is well rested and has exhausted all efforts to continue the relaxation.  As Ronald Reagan once said: “I’ve heard that hard work never killed anyone, but I say why take the chance?”

After coming home from school, the calculation is made as to how much time is needed to complete the homework for each subject.   Then the times are added and subtracted from the bed time, taking into consideration the meals and other activities.  The result is the homework starting point.  If at any point, the procrastinator decides that he has overestimated the time needed, the appropriate adjustments must be made.  The research paper should be split into the last few days before deadline evenly depending on the number of pages. This does not include bibliography, which should be done on the last day.

Studying for the test is always a huge variable.  But not for people who know everything.  My kids, surprise, fall into this category; at least, until I start checking.  Halfway through his freshman year in High School my older son said: “I never studied for more than 15 minutes for the test.  Now, I’ve just studied for 30.  Wow, I did not expect that level of commitment from myself!” His voice did not project much happiness.

When the procrastinator wants to keep up good grades, while doing sports and other extracurricular activities, it becomes a source of an inner conflict.  On one side, the procrastinator wants to do interesting projects, take on challenges, prove to himself that he is smart and capable, that he can pick the college (not the other way around) and be nicely compensated for the job he likes.  On the other side, he does not want to study for the tests, write pointless essays, read the books he would not otherwise pick, and, oh horror, learn the Italian vocabulary.  He wants to drive a nice car and travel around the world, but he can’t earn money for that without removing himself from the computer.  How to reconcile the burning desire to procrastinate with the daily requirements of various types of “work”?

The practice widely used in my house is to go to bed later.  For example, procrastinate until dinner time, eat, do homework, continue to procrastinate, then around 12am print out the homework.   If there are any after school activities or a sport- eat dinner, procrastinate, do homework.  If you are pressed on time- finish the homework on the bus or during lunch; but make sure the time allocated for relaxation is used for its original purpose.  Remember what your priorities are.  Even if 2 minutes of homework is left and the estimated time has expired -stop, procrastinate, than finish up.

Procrastination is an addiction.  The good part is that it is free, and does not have negative health effects, which also makes it a bad part, because it is very hard to fight.

There could be no rehabs or procrastinator’s anonymous meetings.  Since these methods can easily turn into another form of procrastination, it defeats the purpose.  One of the possible solutions my son met on the Health Fair in his school.   The name of it was a Life Coach.  My son asked the person: “What are you for?”  The Life Coach responded:”To help people achieve their goals.” “Why do people need YOU for that? Can’t they do it themselves?” asked my curious 9th grader.  “They can, but sometimes they need help,” responded the fairy godfather charging $200 per hour.

Since my kids can’t afford the life coach, I volunteer to do it for free.  My approach is not that scientific; I did not go to the Life Coach School, but it is based on an extensive experience.  I prefer a diplomatic solution (since all others are against the law).

Step #1:  Discuss the advantages of doing chores right NOW in a nice, calm voice – in particular: the sooner they do it, the sooner they can go on electronics

Step#2:  Repeat

Step#3:  Repeat

Step#4:  Discuss the advantages of doing chores right NOW in a very loud, angry voice – in particular: they are not getting their electronics until they do everything

Step#5:  Repeat

Step#6: Take away electronics

Step#7:  Check if all the chores are done.  Give back electronics.  Tell the kids how proud of them you are.

There has been some positive dynamic in this area.  My older son complains that he feels bad when he leaves stuff to the last minute.  Not enough yet, to do it earlier.  Well, baby steps…..  I know it’s not easy.

Montreal

One of the signs that the Spring Break trip is coming is my annual car washing.  My car is getting professionally cleaned once a year, despite my husband’s pleas and demonstrating the dust accumulation with his index finger every time he drives it, which is not often.  I am not proud of it, but not ready to put it on my priority list either.   The car cleaner performed some old Dutch folk song along the antique vinyl record player displayed outside next to the conveyor.   The amateur singer had a great voice, taking all the high and low notes equally well.  Different singers, 10 yellow and green canaries, entertained the customers at the cash register. $13.95 and my car looked brand new.  May be I should start washing my car after all?

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We chose Montreal for this year’s Spring Break.  I did not do any research; only took the Fodor’s Guide from the library the night before the trip.  I expected the city to look French, have great food and lots of museums-everything I needed to be happy.

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Montreal is the city of contrasts: modern skyscrapers and asphalt roads on one street turn into the paved streets and the stone building facades on the next.  The street signs change the color from white to red indicating the entrance to the Old City. _DSF2676

Narrow alleys lead to the huge square with the monument in front of Notre Dame Basilica.   The church, originated in 1600’s and finally finished in 1829, is absolutely magnificent.  The craftsmanship is impeccable. “Not made in China” as my son noticed with admiration. 

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The gothic architecture is how majority of city’s churches are built.  My biggest disappointment was that all of them were closed.   They only open for public in some unknown visitor hours or never.   One of the churches was even converted to a residential building. It contradicts my understanding of how religious institutions should operate or how they do in other countries, but that’s what it is here.

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The biking tour took us across the canal, passing Old Port into the market.  If you truly want to experience the French gastronomy, this is the place to go.  Fruits, vegetables, flowers, chocolates, pastries and cheeses look very welcoming and ready to melt in your mouth.  We bought a bucket of fresh strawberries, and ate it right there, dirty, on the bench next to the market.  Montreal is the best place for biking with kilometers of pathways and bike stands available in every part of the city.

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The downtown is yet another shade of Montreal with the “5th Avenue” look, Tiffany, upscale boutiques, art galleries, _DSF2640and Musee des Beaux-Arts de Montreal located on the both sides of the street.  You go from one part to another underground.

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Looking for parking made us feel at home.   After circling Rue Sherbrook and all nearby streets for a while, we found a space on a meter parking.   Tightly fitting into the spot, we celebrated our virtuoso “New York” parking skills; only to find out later that we were the second car parked in the space intended for one.  At least, that explained why the meter would not take the money.

Montreal offers a unique combination of a big city with a large industrial and business areas and a modern infrastructure with the slower pace of living and the comfort and intimacy of the smaller town.  It offers the blend of North American and French cultures with everybody speaking both languages and respecting each other’s traditions.

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The food is always freshly cooked and delicious, whether it is an elaborate meal, or a quick soup and sandwich in the café.  We did not miss fast food.  We saw only one McDonald and one Subway in the heavy tourist area; maybe that was why there were no obese people anywhere to be seen.  Mineral water with a slice of lemon was our preferred beverage. _DSF2596

During our last dinner in the Brassiere in the Old City I got seduced by the huge colorful menu of the self-brewed beers, and ordered a huge, 0.5 liter cup.  Not a beer drinker, under the strict watchful eyes of my kids (they felt responsible for my sobriety, and were ready to stop me at the first signs of being drunk), I sipped the bubbly amber liquid while watching the Montreal Canadians Hokey game on a big screen TV.  It was a new experience for me, but I liked it.

The weather did not cooperate, dumping snow and rain on us, trying to freeze us with sub-zero temperatures, while blowing us away with the gusty winds. _DSF2844 But we were on a Break, so who cared about the weather?  We explored the city, the museums, learned a little French, and, most importantly, joked and laughed.  We shared food, and argued who was sleeping with whom in what bed.  We debated history and took turns screaming at GPS for giving us the wrong directions.  We had fun and made memories.  Isn’t it what family trips are all about?

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Trenches of Canada

The shopping mall in Canada, at least the one I visited, was full of vibrant colors, delicious smells and trendy shoppers.   The new inventory screamed warmth, sun, cloudless sky, outdoors, blooming flowers, and turning-green trees. 

The coming of spring was eminent, even though people were still wrapped in scarves.   The weather was very generous yesterday, spoiling us with the hot, pleasant day; even the ice in the canal seemed to start moving, but today it decided to test our endurance once again.   The temperature dropped below zero, proving that winter was not ready to give up just yet.  The cold, nasty rain made pedestrians run for the shelter; the brutal wind swept right through the bones.    _DSF2903

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Shopping was the way to escape the bad weather and the melancholy that came with it.   The stores in Canada are much quieter than in New York; I kept wondering how could they stay in business?  There are more sales people than there are customers.   It does not look like enough business even to cover the basic expenses.

Everything is clean and organized.   Majority of shoppers, regardless of their age or social status have a very good taste and a sense of style.  Even a homeless men hanging out in the food court was wearing a wool coat – old, but nicely tailored, with matching dark sneakers.  He looked like a character from some fairy tale with his thick. gray, unruly hair and beard.  Or may be like Albert Einstein on the picture with his tongue stuck out, but with the beard? Instead of traditional begging for food, he killed the time by reading a book.  

Women are not afraid of wearing short skirts, funky slim pants, large jewelry, and bright accessories.   Clothing for them is the reflection of their personality.  They are making bold, unconventional choices, combining pieces that may not look like a good match at first.   Their  outfits are more about having fun and reflecting on their current mood, than following the current fashion trend.

I enjoyed strolling through the aisles, observing the shoppers  and simply being greeted with“Bon jour Madam”.

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