Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness

Rethinking D.E.A.R. Time

My son’s first summer baseball game was last week. In a big boisterous voice edged with kindness, the umpire yelled at the start of the game “Good Afternoon boys. Enjoy your summer on the baseball field!” Perfect message. It was a warm, windy, beautiful day. In fact, I may or may not have dozed off for a minute as I pictured the lazy days of summer approaching. But just how lazy should summer be?

This brings me to my campaign to bring back D.E.A.R (Drop Everything And Read) time —- with a twist!


In the 70’s I loved SSR Sustained Silent Reading time when I was in grade school. It was a chance for me to take a break from classwork, and escape into the world where young Encyclopedia Brown unraveled complex mysteries in his garage… you know one of those stories where kids are more observant and adept at problem-solving than the adults surrounding them? 

But honestly, in today’s world, it’s hard to picture any of us doing anything sustained or silent without a device in our hands. Maybe you can relate.

On sustained…Currently, classrooms use the term “D.E.A.R Time”. A specific portion of time during the school day when kids sit quietly and read. Most programs include the teacher also participating in the scenario…a nod to modeling good behavior.

On silence…I remember when the kids were younger, if I heard absolute silence, I knew something was awry. Walls were covered in Sharpie; young, wispy hair was being cut; or sugar was discovered. Now the silence in our home means a screen is being coddled and cared for as much as dolls used to be nurtured and matchbox cars coveted and lined up for races. Yes, devices are the new play dough, so colorful and interactive needing only simple swipes and pokes.

Summer Time Device Diversion…

Years ago I would have had lists of chores posted on the fridge by the last day of school. I would then deliver my annual speech to a very inattentive audience expressing how important it was to contribute to the upkeep of our home during the summer months, to read, read, read, and play, play, play. Outside! Mind you, none of the chores were earth-shattering. No chickens to feed or gardens to tend. The jobs were entry-level: clean bathrooms, change sheets, walk dogs, and make dinner once a week. I wanted them to be busy, to appreciate the work that goes into making a house a home, to learn to prepare a meal, and maybe do a load of laundry. I even designed reward coupons for completing their jobs, and created “Chore Bingo” with prizes, and advertised screen time incentives like “5 minutes of extra IPad time”. One year I even purchased the “Summer Workbooks” sold at Barnes and Noble only to sell them the next year at a yard sale with a sign shamelessly reading “Never Used!”

We decided 8th grade was the time for phone disbursement in our home — I know very Ma and Pa Ingalls – trust me the kids appealed our decision and it was overruled. Before single-ownership phones existed in our home, our kids were somewhat driven to finish their chores. Yet as their ages waxed, their motivation waned. It was time for them to work.

This summer I am grateful our kids have jobs, however, I am constantly worried about the social media intake they will turn to during their downtime. And they are not alone. As soon as there is a lull — a moment to sit on a comfy chair or lean on a fence while watching a ball game or even stand in line at Kroger, we pull out our phones and begin the scroll. I’m guilty.

Even as passengers in cars. Personally, I was raised to be an annoying yet helpful backseat driver and foolishly, I thought I raised a few myself- but when I drive, I’m on my own, with no extra people to yell “It’s clear to the left, Look at those cows! Police car ahead!”

That brings me back to the new and improved D.E.A.R time:

In an effort to curtail the use of devices in our home, we (when I say we, it means anyone who brought our kids into the world) decided to have a new DEAR time. As you’ll notice, we have cleverly replaced the E for “everything” with “electronics”. Here are some of our new ideas for DROP ELECTRONICS AND…

  1. Drop Electronics and Read: go old school sit and read – sustained and silent.
  2. Drop Electronics and Reboot: find an exercise for the family you can all do together. Make it under 5-10 minutes to keep everyone interested.
  3. Drop Electronics and Run: whether it’s 10 minutes or more, just run. Exercise will make your day happier and if you pass something on your run you may have a good story to share.
  4. Drop Electronics and Rest: take a power nap-ample sleep is as crucial to good health as exercise and good nutrition.
  5. Drop Electronics and Recycle: clear out your closet and other extra “stuff” you have that can be donated to those in need – it’s cathartic.
  6. Drop Electronics and Reorganize: “For every minute spent in organizing, an hour is earned.”― Benjamin Franklin
  7. Drop Electronics and Reacquaint: Get together with friends – go out for coffee or a walk. We all need connections – take the time to call someone and make plans.
  8. Drop Electronics and Resist the temptation to turn to your device for constant output.

What I learned:

I can preach about screen time all I want to my kids, but they are older – adults really. Heck, they didn’t watch TV until they were nine – I remember Cora coming home from kindergarten one day talking about a “Little Mermaid” they saw in a movie on the TV hanging from the ceiling in their classroom. Another time she came home crying about a pig commercial shown during the Superbowl. “Everyone was talking about it at school! Everyone knew about the pig but me!” Holy therapy! Sign us up. I tell these stories to the students I teach today and they are amazed and utterly appalled.

But as parents, we make decisions and regret about 75% of them but forge ahead weather be damned. I continue to preach to my children, a lot. The majority of what I impart soars off into the atmosphere much like a balloon that a child has let slip out of his hand floating off into the great beyond. Nonetheless, I proclaim my word, not Thy word, but whatever the topic of the day is, from kindness to nutrition to using devices. Mostly, I pray they are happy whether they are scrolling, socializing, or just surviving in this world of ours.

Thanks for joining me,

Lucretia Cahill

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness

May – emotional and extraordinary

The process of accepting and acknowledging the end of a chapter, life, or even a moment helps build the resilience necessary to navigate our lives and all those entangled feelings. But man, it’s hard.

I had big plans for this post back on April 28th when I began writing…it was going to be all about the month of May — and how every year it bulldozes in, knocking April flat on its face, seemingly declaring itself the boss of all the other months.

And then I blinked. May began. Playoff games, PTSA meetings, traveling to colleges to help pack up our kids for the summer — all good things (thank God), but nonstop. So I wrote a bit here and there yet to click “Publish”. Nevertheless, I am going to press on and let all of you know —you are not alone. Once May hits, things become real. Only twelve days in and I’m emotionally exhausted, and as I glance around the room – faces are tired, bodies a bit slumped, thoughts and feelings swarming like mosquitos in the summer. Stupid May.

The days…

The days of this extraordinary fifth month are packed — mind you, not the regular busy— groceries to buy, laundry to fold, and lawns to mow—but milestone moments —graduations, last days of school, finals, new jobs —greetings and goodbyes —multiple transitions steeped with growth and oozing with emotions – all of them. Some days it feels like all of it is just too much, and guess what? It is. It’s a lot. But that’s life’s prescription – a nasty rainstorm then a double rainbow, rush hour then empty roads, yin and yang…we can only control so much. Or rather so little. But all moments, even the hardest ones that make you want to scream —matter in a true and remarkable way.

Here’s one of my May moments…

The other day I cleaned the kid’s bathroom – the room I purposely avoid. A better mom would say “Yup, my son scours the bathroom from top to bottom!” But I’m not, and he doesn’t. Once, after asking about 34 times he made an effort, but somehow, forgot to look in the mirror (shocking at 17)! So, he did not see that Clorox wipes smudge the mirror making the reflection appear like a fuzzy photo. Anyway, I cleaned it, grumbling along the way about two – two! toothpaste tubes being open, both squeezed from the middle, tips crusty with what looked like spackling for drywall, and lids nowhere to be seen. The towels and washcloths were bleached with the acne soap no one tells you has peroxide in it, and seven bottles of various body and hair products lined the tub, each nearly empty, toppling over. I’ll spare you the toilet trauma. 

As I cleaned and complained my mind wandered in a “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” kind of way from: What’s for dinner -to what time is the game to- uh oh I have a PTSA meeting. It settled there. PTA. My mom calvary — a group of moms who lean on each other and are crazy enough to volunteer for the PTA. I immediately thought about one amazing friend – I’ll call her Mary here. Mary was one of those business-minded, tenacious moms who not only toted around important law documents for work in her bag, but everything any kid needed from Band-aids to Benadryl as well. The kind of mom who could manage an office, PTSA, home, and bustling kids with grace. She once told me she and her husband stayed up and stitched (needle and thread stitched) memory books together for their daughter’s first-grade class, 25 of them. She was that mom. 

So one morning back in 2017 after a PTSA meeting – we all sat, chatted, and compared notes on our latest parental screwups, worries, and wonders. Mary jumped right in, “Yup, only 104 Fridays left with my daughter before she graduates.” Whoa! Back then I was daunted by the thought, 104 didn’t seem like much…eight dozen eggs, or the number of pages in the thin spiral notebook I used for taking notes and doodling. But it was just like her, carefully quantifying this thing called parenting, ensuring each day was special, and calculating the remainder. She went on to tell us she counted them because the days slip by so quickly, she had the oldest child in our group. Her kids are what she valued the most. Not work. Not volunteering. Not managing. Parenting. I remember going home and flipping through our family calendar. I jotted on a pink post it:156 more pizza nights with Cora. 

As my dear friend said time does fly. Then it did.

One blustery Tuesday in January, a friend called to tell me Mary had died. Just like that. Entirely too soon and way too young. Not only were the Friday nights but every night she had with all of her kids was gone. Just gone.

As I finished scrubbing the floors, I thought about what Mary would give to be here, to pick up her son’s socks, to see her reflection in a fuzzy Clorox-wiped mirror, help with homework, or witness her daughter graduate. I placed the Windex under the sink, turned off the bathroom light, counted my blessings and thanked God for letting me see another day and another month of May.

What I’ve learned:

Next year Justin and I will plan our last high school graduation party for our brood. We’ll watch each of them drive off the driveway in the used cars we pray are safe. God willing, all three of our kids will be headed down the road they chose, not afraid to take some detours along the way. Now we give them space, let them find their groove. The access to their lives will be limited to a phone call on Friday afternoon or a text from wherever they are at that moment they think of us. 

The logistics can dominate our emotions and time if we let them. I think John Lennon said life happens when you’re busy making plans. So stop for a minute and look around, plant a reliable perennial like a hydrangea, or sit down and chat with your kids. I’ll leave May alone for now and be grateful I’m here.

Thanks for joining me.

Happy Mother’s Day to all!