Category Archives: Stress

Lazy or Efficient?

I hate shopping. I’ve said it before and anyone who’s gone shopping with me knows it all too well.

So now that Em is changing schools and moving up to the upper-grader world, I had a TON of shopping to do to prepare her for G.A.T.E. in the 4th grade: school uniforms and classroom/school supplies. As soon as I knew Em was accepted into G.A.T.E., I did some research and found that Walmart has a section on their website that will tell you what colors your school has deemed appropriate to wear. So with the exception of a couple items (which I found at Target’s website), I had all of Em’s school uniforms for the next year ordered; they’ve been in her room for weeks, waiting for Em to return from her dad’s house.

Earlier this week I got a call from her new school asking me to come by and pick up her registration paperwork. Included in the packet was a list of things she needs on the first day of school and things the teacher needs for the classroom. Knowing that Em returns today and school starts this coming Wednesday, and knowing our combined schedules, shopping for – and FINDING – everything we needed was going to be a challenge if not a stressful experience for me. Remember, I hate shopping.

So, I went to my beloved Amazon. I don’t know why I delayed for so long enrolling in Amazon Prime, but it was one of the best decisions I made this year. Because when you get a school supply list one week before school starts and you HATE shopping like I do, Amazon Prime quickly becomes your best friend.

  • Small Post-it Notes
  • Red pens
  • 2″ binder
  • Highlighters
  • Stapler
  • Blue Pens
  • Pencil sharpener with lid
  • Binder dividers
  • Colored Pencils
  • Scientific calculator
  • Two-pocket hole-punched folders
  • Scissors
  • 1″ binder
  • Pencils
  • Markers
  • Lined paper
  • Black pens
  • Disinfecting wipes
  • Kleenex
  • Erasers
  • Spiral-bound notebooks
  • Printer paper
  • Pencil pouch (no boxes allowed – huh??)

Most of these items were eligible for Amazon Prime. I ordered all of them on Wednesday, it took me all of 15 minutes while I watched a Doctor Who episode. And all but 2 items will be on my doorstep before school starts Wednesday morning.

Call me lazy, but I like to think of myself as efficient. I know what stresses me out and I know how unhealthy that is for Em and me.

Simple Math

Word problems in math can be a bit confusing. A popular e-card that floats around from time to time explains the trouble we can have with word problems.


It seems that word problems aren’t only for the classroom.

Three things in your life are causing you stress. One of them is far away and cannot be removed by anything but time. The second is close – in your face daily – and will soon remove itself. The third is also close but randomly changes from stress to satisfaction and back again. You need to remove a stressor but can only remove one. Do you wait for the first and second to go away on their own? Or do you remove the third because it’s the only thing you have control over.


What if the obvious answer isn’t the one you want? What if you’re afraid removing the wrong one will cause you more stress? Sometimes the solution to a math problem isn’t a positive answer. Some tests will let you skip a problem and return to it later. But often in the exam called life, you cannot solve the next problem until you have answered the one before it.

So, what will it be? Stressor #1? Stressor #2? Or Stressor #3? Will you choose the one you have control over? Or will you wait until the other two resolve themselves? Can you wait that long?

Or is the answer something similar to what intelligence assessors look for: creativity and out-of-the-box thinking to come to an answer no one had proposed before?

Behavior Chart

Pennies and Problems


It’s been a long time since we’ve had to use a reward chart for “Em;” I think the last one was while she was potty training. When we did the rewards back then, she received a sticker on her chart for each successful trip to the bathroom, and when she had that mastered, she earned a sticker for each day that was accident-free. I don’t remember what the reward was for filling a chart with stickers, but it was probably something like “pick any toy from the $1 section at Target” or something like that. There was no consequence for not using the toilet, other than not receiving a sticker for that attempt/day.

However, Em is much older and consequences are now appropriate. We’ve struggled with a few behavior quirks in the past, usually related to Em’s return from her dad’s house in the summer which resolved themselves within a couple of weeks. This year these quirks have quickly evolved into full-blown behavior problems. It seemed the traditional removal of a prized possession or privilege wasn’t cutting it. I was venting my frustrations with a friend of mine and she told me about a system she’s currently using with her son who is a couple of years older than Em. I modified it a bit and this is what I ended up with:

In order to teach Em that every poor choice has a negative consequence, she loses more points than she would have gained if she’d done the right thing. Em and I each have a jar with pennies inside, every point being worth one penny. We mark off points as they happen so there is an immediate consequence, though it seems small at that exact moment. At the end of the day we total everything up; if her grand total is in the positive, we transfer the earned amount of pennies from my jar to hers. If she’s in the negative, she must give back that many pennies.

One of the major problem we were having was lying. No matter how many times I encouraged her to tell the truth to lessen the amount of consequence, the lies would just be piled one on top of another. She’s quickly learning the value of telling the truth. If, for example, she does not complete a task I asked her to do and she lies about it, she’ll end up losing 4 points, 2 for not completing the task and 2 for the lie. If she continues to lie about the task she didn’t complete, she loses another 2 points for each lie. We ran into this scenario last week and I reminded her that she’d lose fewer points if she just told the truth right away: rather than lose 4 or 6 points, she’d only lose 2 and potentially be in the positive by the end of the day if she did everything else correctly. Once Em saw the math, she understood that even if she does something wrong, telling the truth can help keep her final total in the positive.

Last week was our first week with the chart and while I wish she’d earned more pennies, at least she ended the week with some pennies in her jar. One bad day led to a serious deficit and a potential for around 30 points per week ended up with a final grand total of 9.

After I created the chart, Em and I worked together on the rewards she could earn with her pennies and came up with some ways for us to spend extra special time together with various values. The reward redemption amount starts at 50 pennies and increases in value depending on how “big” something is to Em. 50 seemed like a steep amount to start with for a “smaller” prize and I almost wavered a bit last week when I realized that it will take her at least a week and a half of “perfect” behavior to earn something, but considering the struggle we went through week 1 of this new system, I think 50 is a good number for her; it’ll help her to set a goal and see that her hard work is paying off.

Here’s hoping to a better week than last and a heavier penny jar in Em’s hands.