I’m writing this post in the middle of Screen Free Week, an event sponsored by Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood that we’ve participated in for many years now. In fact, we’ve been at this so long I remember when the week was called TV Turn Off Week, back when television was the most prominent screen vying for our attention and the iPhone was still a figment of science fiction imagination. I like to think of the week as an opportunity to press the reset button on our family’s electronic use. Even though we already place limits on screen time, this week allows us to take a more dramatic step back and assess how we use that time and what type of screen interactions we actually miss and which we could maybe do without. Every year, we end up making some adjustments as a result of particpating. It’s only Wednesday and I’m already processing some lessons learned (like the surprising discovery that I miss Facebook this time around).
The reset button is such a useful little thing, but it’s not always the first tool I reach for when I find that the things I value are getting away from me in one or more areas of my life. Sometimes I just want to call tech support and let someone else magically fix it, but then I remember the first thing that tech support always asks is, “Did you restart your device?” Um, yes. Sure, yeah, I already did that. Of course I didn’t call for help without rebooting the system on my own.
Oh, wait. Yes. Yes, I did.
I have learned to love the reset button and I find that there are three times of the year that always seem to prompt more resetting than usual: the start of a new school year, New Year’s and when the weather finally turns warm enough to believe that summer is on the way. I’m in the middle of that late spring reset right now, which generally starts with throwing open the windows and washing the glass panes and then winds its way into various forgotten corners of life. Here’s a handful of reset buttons I’m pressing right now:
My Bike – You know the old refrain, “It’s just like riding a bike?” Well, it turns out that riding a bike is in fact just like riding a bike. A few weeks ago, some friends invited me to go riding and geo-caching on the Katy Trail with them. I was so excited to spend a few kid-free hours in the company of these ladies, but I’m not going to lie. I was also a little scared. These women all seem to actively engage in this thing called moving your body on a regular basis, and I tend to hibernate in the winter. I was sure I would slow them way down on the trail. A few days before our ride, I pulled my dusty bike off the garage wall where it has been hanging since we moved here nine years ago and took it for a short ride on our neighborhood nature trail. Five minutes in and the tears were streaming down my face. How had I forgotten to ride my bike for nearly a decade? In the midst of teaching two kids to ride their bikes, how had it not occurred to me to pull mine off the wall and use it too? I used to love riding my bike. I rode it all through college, often escaping the city on game days to take to a local trail for hours of solitude. I rode it when we moved to Austin, Texas as if it were my car. I took it grocery shopping, to work, I even rode it to get a CT-scan once (not my wisest move). I rode it recreationally in Madison, Wisconsin on the beautiful city trails. Then after my last move, I just forgot to ride it. I am so grateful for the invitation from my friends to ride that day (which was a blast, incidentally, and I did not get left behind) and I’ve been riding it every week since. For a girl who doesn’t so much love exercise, this has been such a great rediscovery. Fitness, reset.
Gardening – While that bike was collecting a decade’s worth of dust in my garage, I did pick up a new outdoor hobby – gardening. We planted our first garden bed when we moved to Missouri nine years ago and quickly added two more beds the following year. We battled rabbits the first few years and finally put in a fence. We faced down squash bugs and finally quit growing squash. We’ve composted in the open, in a homemade compost bin, and currently in one of those rotating composters. We’ve had gardens completely overtaken by seeds from our compost bins, years that the drought won and we’ve had years that brought so much produce we got to share with friends and neighbors. We’ve had a summer that we didn’t garden at all, and a summer or two that we only gardened in containers. I’ve got big garden dreams, small gardening abilities and an even smaller budget, but I’m not giving up. This year, I’m trying something new after a couple of container-only summers and using a tiered raised bed. I’m hoping that raising the bed to a signficant height will help with some of our pest issues, and maybe eliminate the need for such extensive rabbit fencing. As much as I want to jump right in and plant three more of these beds, I’m resisting the temptation and just waiting to see how this first one goes. Green thumb, reset.
Chores – I’ve written about how often we change up our chore system in this house (as often as we need to) and it’s time for another change. It feels like we’ve done every idea on Pinterest on rotation over the years. This time around, I’m printing up a weekly chore chart with all of the things that need to get done on any given day and passing it around the table during our family meeting so everyone can take turns filling it out. I’m not expecting this plan to last more than a month, but it was pretty funny to see what everyone chose that first week. One of the boys chose the same chores every day, while another chose the majority of his chores on one single day. We’ll see how this goes. Clean house, reset.
Cooking – We’re attempting to prepare all of our meals at home this month (with just a few exceptions). This means no eating out, no take out, no pizza delivery. We do this one or two months a year, and the purpose is really two-fold. One, we tend to take this step when we’ve been falling outside our food budget. Guilty as charged here. This one month pledge usually saves quite a bit of money and heading into summer, it’s easy to stay motivated when we’ve got a vacation around the corner. Two, much like Screen Free Week, we need the dramatic change in routine to get us back in the habit of cooking all of our meals at home. Often, we end up grabbing food on the run not because we want to eat out, but because we didn’t take the time to plan and prepare in advance. It’s a habit, like anything else, and so this month we are planning ahead, packing lunches when we go on field trips, using the crockpot on busy days, and meal planning. One of my favorite go-to’s for freeze ahead meals is Five Dollar Dinners. I’ve used a couple of the Costco plans with some modifications and a lot of success. I’m also looking forward to the start of our CSA tomorrow, which always inspires fun, new home-cooked meals (I’m already dreaming of garlic scape pesto). Good eats, reset.
My Dog – My dog Hobbes is the best dog in the entire world, save one major flaw – he requires an excessive amount of grooming. He’s this big, sweet, cuddly ball of fur and this winter, we let things get a little out of hand. Okay, a lot out of hand. By the time we brought him to the groomer for professional help, he looked like a muppet. Rowlf, to be specific.
He’s all shaved and trimmed and filed and clean again. Not nearly as muppet-like, but a much better fit for his lake-swimming, trail-hiking summer lifestyle. Shaggy dog, reset.
There are a few other things that need to be reset (like my morning routine) but I think that’s enough changes for one month. Am I the only one who does this? Or do any of you also go through cycles of needing to press the reset button? If so, what are you pressing reset on in your life? Tell me all about it, because if my pattern holds, I’ll need inspiration for when I’m back at this again in September. Right after I call tech support, of course.