A Parent's Guide to Volume

A Parent's Guide to Volume

  1. Creepy silence
  2. Peaceful silence, like a cotton ball landing on felt 
  3. Light background chatter 
  4. Normal conversation 
  5. Normal conversation with pleasant ambient background noise
  6. Attempted conversation with semi-distracting background noise 
  7. Attempted conversation with raucous background noise 
  8. Two simultaneous attempted, yet unsuccessful, conversations, plus raucous background noise 
  9. Multiple unsuccessful and fragmented conversations, plus familiar background noise, plus disconcerting unknown thudding or screeching 
  10. Keep all components of #9, but add an air horn, a Kidz Bop concert, an intermittent fire alarm, continual whining, and a child who cannot spell anything requesting you to "help" as she painstakingly writes a lengthy story while sitting in an adjacent room.  Bonus points if you're taking a work phone call.

Disclaimer:  Items 2, 3, 4, and 5 are purely fictional categories for parents.

Photo by Jason Rosewell on Unsplash


Its Own Kind of Beauty

The older I get, I'm increasingly convinced that I find what I'm looking for in life.  If I focus on the negatives, I find them.  I notice the traffic, the gray skies, the ripped seam in my kitchen linoleum that's growing larger, or the irritating customer service exchange.  Life's full of inconveniences and imperfections, after all.

But if I focus on the good, I find that, too.  Sometimes I just need to look for it -- really look for it.  What about this day, this moment, is good?  What mental snapshot can I take of something beautiful or interesting, right here and now, even in the midst of chaos, mess, or monotony?

I've been exercising this muscle -- cultivating the habit of looking for good -- because it doesn't always come naturally.  Naturally, it's easy to gravitate toward the doldrums where one day rolls into another, then another, and we don't remember living them.  But when I search for good moments, they're there, waiting to be noticed.

I may not be a fan of winter weather, for example, but there's nothing frigid or stark about the sun setting through the trees as my daughters and their friends carve sledding tracks into the snow.

And I certainly appreciate the streamlined aesthetics of snow-dusted stacked wood.

And what's not to love about kids on fence?  I mean, it's kids!  On a fence!  They climbed up on its rails and stood silently from their perches to watch the cows from our neighbor's farm lumber across the field adjacent to our backyard.  I stood in the background, wondering what thoughts the kids were thinking, wondering if these types of everyday moments -- watching the cows from our backyard fence -- will be remembered when they eventually reminisce on their childhoods.

Winter has its own kind of beauty, after all.  I don't automatically see it when I'm zipping cumbersome jackets, mopping puddles left behind from boots, or brushing against the gritty, salt-and-dirt covered side of my car.  But the beauty is there.  The good is there.

It's just waiting for me to notice it.


A Small Victory: On Ordering Contacts

I'm not sure what this will reveal about me, but the most impressive thing I accomplished last week was ordering new contact lenses.  I had avoided the task for months, watching my contact supply dwindle to critically low levels.  Finally, there was one lonely pair at the bottom of the box, and even though I had seen plenty of those "Never Run Out of Contacts" commercials, like the astronaut getting sucked into space, I simply couldn't get my act together.

I wore that final pair of contacts for six weeks.  Maybe seven.  By the end, it felt like I was blinking over sandpaper.

Now, the funny thing is that ordering contacts isn't hard.  It's just one of those adult responsibilities that ate up all my bandwith.

But I did it!  The box arrived in the mail yesterday.  I was so proud that I nearly glued the wrapper to a cord and wore it around my neck like a gold medal, reminiscent of Pam's yogurt lids in The Office Olympics episode.  I was a winner.  I had ordered contacts!  I can blink painlessly again!

Small victories, people.  It never hurts to celebrate the small victories.


One Inch at a Time

This week marks the start of the spring semester, which means that I've been finalizing syllabi for my four classes, learning rosters, and handling other back-to-campus odds and ends.  Of course, because I'm exceptionally well balanced, this week I also decided that I should start meal planning better, clean the basement storage closet, finish two books that I started reading over break, take down the Christmas decorations that I didn't remove earlier because we were traveling, sort through my children's wardrobes to see if they've outgrown anything, find a better way to arrange my socks, and perhaps, if I'm really good, edit and print some pictures that have been languishing on my phone since the last time I printed pictures, which, for the record, was two years ago.

Then I hyperventilate just a bit.  And after that, I take a step back and remind myself, "Self, not all of those things need to happen at once.  Just do the one thing that needs to be done first.  That is enough."

It reminds me of an excerpt of Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird that I read to my students each year about writing small assignments.  She tells us the power of using a one-inch picture frame to envision a singular moment or concept: "Figure out a one-inch piece of my story to tell, one small scene, one memory, one exchange."  Then, write that.  Just that.

This works.  Whether in writing or in life, one inch at a time works.  Sometimes, it's all you can muster.  And sometimes, that first inch gives you the push to travel feet, and then yards, and then miles.  For me, this blog post is "one inch."  Taking down my Christmas tree might be the next inch.  (In my history of adulthood, I've never kept a tree up beyond January 1.  The ceremonial removal of the Christmas decor -- which looks so charming in December, but then morphs into unnecessary clutter in January -- makes me feel like my house instantly lost 10 pounds.)  And I'll tackle the photo printing eventually.

One inch at a time.  It gets you where you need to be.


Why, Hello 2018. You're Looking Good.

Happy New Year, friends!  Considering that I always enjoy turning over a new page on the calendar (so much fresh space! no days scratched out with diagonal hashes yet!), I really love starting an entirely new calendar once we reach the new year.

All of the gluttony from December will be rectified in January, at least theoretically, but if we're being real, I did notice that the drive-thru lane at McDonald's was packed the morning of January 1.  Oddly enough, I admired these people's honesty.  "Resolutions?  Nah.  I'm not even pretending to try."

As for me, I haven't made any resolutions yet.  I haven't picked a "word" to focus on in 2018, either.  Instead, to celebrate an extended winter break, I took my daughters on a 1,300-mile road trip to visit my parents in Florida right after Christmas.  If you think you'd have time for serious reflection about the new year while driving for 23 hours, you obviously haven't traveled with children.  But we arrived safely, even if a bit weary, and my husband flew in a few days later to join us.

On our first day reunited as a family, we hit the beach.  The towel wrapped around my shoulders billowed the exact moment this photo was taken, which obviously solidifies my superhero status.

Since then, the sunny 70-degree Florida temperature has dropped, which means that we wear sweatshirts outside, and the actual Florida residents wonder if the apocalypse is near.  Regardless, the time with my parents and the change of scenery is welcome, and soon enough, we'll make the northern trek back home in time for the school year to resume for the girls and the spring semester to start for us.

Perhaps I'll use some of those 23 hours in the van for reflection and goal setting for 2018.  Or not.  I might just be that arm reaching backwards the entire time to plug in devices and dole out snacks and drinks.  Either will be fine.

In the spirit of the contemplation, though, I'd be remiss if I didn't wrap up 2017 at Robin Kramer Writes in the same fashion that I have each year since I started blogging in 2010: the annual dusting off of favorite posts -- ones that were extra funny, honest, encouraging, or fun to write.

So, without further ado, here are seven really good ones.  Go on, click on them all and enjoy.  Happy New Year!

An Unfortunate Story About a Substitute Teacher, a Third Grade Classroom, and a Hamster

Question? How Do You It All Well?  Answer: I Don't.

Convinced that You're Only Succeeding at Failing? Here's How to Break Free

The Five Stages of Essay-Grading Grief

Making a Mess of This Parenting Thing

A Story of True Love, in 100 or Fewer Words

To the Next Crop of Young Mothers

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