Recent Demerits and Gold Stars

I feel like October has been my favourite month in 2022. At first, this realization surprised me – I mean, October involved testing positive for COVID and the cancellation of my much-anticipated surgery! But it also included completing my first timed race, an end to renovations, and successfully navigating several stints of solo-parenting. Also, it’s fall in Canada, and this was a particularly glorious October. Warm temperatures. Gorgeous foliage. Cozy evenings.

October contained plenty of “demerits,” nicely counterbalanced with a generous sprinkling of “gold stars”.


  • Not using my treadmill desk. This one is especially frustrating because I do spend a lot of time each day at my computer and there is no reason why at least a portion of those hours aren’t spent walking. I bought the necessary equipment. It works well. But I default to setting up my laptop at the dining room table (or I hole up in the office on my desktop with its very convenient multi-monitor setup). In my defence, it’s a lovely view through the sliding door and the sun filtering into the dining room is cheerful and warm. But I really do want to make better use of the treadmill desk.
  • Not brushing Levi’s teeth. When Levi had a dentist appointment back in September, they gave a generally positive review of his oral health but mentioned that some extra input from an adult would be good. We settled on having me brush his teeth twice a week. Even as I was agreeing to this arrangement with the dentist, a part of me knew this was never going to happen. Hi. My name is Elisabeth, and I hate brushing anyone else’s teeth. I will cut tiny fingernails all day long, but please don’t ask me to brush or floss my offspring’s teeth. It shouldn’t be a big deal (though it is, apparently), but I dislike it so deeply and have built it up to be a big thing in my mind. I will give myself a partial gold star for reminding him to floss more regularly (truthfully – once every few weeks) and getting him to use his electric toothbrush more regularly (also once every few weeks). What will I tell the dentist when I see him next? Sigh. I won’t lie, but I’m not above carefully skirting a direct answer. To give you an idea of my failure in this department, I have brushed his teeth exactly once since his dentist appointment on September 27th.
  • Not staying on top of pictures. I’m slowly digging myself out of a giant hole of picture organization. This will get done and, in the grand scheme of things, I’m not that far behind (only a few months), but it hangs over me like a shadow. It’s so much more manageable if I spend 10-15 minutes each week tackling photos, but I haven’t done that and now the catchup is decidedly less pleasant.
  • Littering. There has been some major road construction in our town, and a local trailhead has suddenly become a sanctioned parking lot (predominately for university students). And this trailhead/parking lot is now full of litter. One day I took the kids through the forest loop and when we came to the trailhead it was an absolute mess. There were some bags on the ground so we gathered all the trash we could fit into those bags and brought it home. The very next day we walked the same route and the parking lot was, again, full of trash. The kids were shocked. I don’t think they’ve ever noticed such blatant littering and, of course, since THEY had helped clean it up just the day before it was all the more obvious. Why would anyone do this? Why are they so lazy, the kids asked? Good question…I will say the fact there is no public trash can at this lot makes it very hard to dispose of garbage. I’ve made a mental note to reach out to the town/university to see about getting a garbage can installed at this location. But not cool, litterbugs, not cool.
  • Not stretching. I walk daily and run intermittently, but that’s the extent of my exercise routine. I know that strength training is one of the best forms of exercise for overall health – especially for women – but what I really want to work on is flexibility and core stability. I bought a new yoga mat and block a few months ago and have only used them a handful of times. I don’t know how to motivate myself on this one. I feel great after I do stretching/yoga, but there is a real barrier to getting started. I know I’d do it if I paid for an in-person class, but that also doesn’t feel like something I want to do right now.

Gold stars

  • Sticking to my bedtime. This has been so, so much better. I’m really proud of myself for getting into bed – lights out! – almost every night before 10:30 pm.
  • Keeping a list random to-dos. One of Laura Vanderkam’s rules in Tranquility by Tuesday is to Batch the little things. I’m not always great at adhering to this rule and sometimes it doesn’t make sense for me – I actually find puttering away at relatively mindless tasks can be very therapeutic and a nice mental reset in the middle of a busy day. I’ve set up a place on my planner spread where I can list small tasks that can be done at just about any time (last week: switch out toothbrush, buy a new stopper for the bathtub, send friend Eufy link, mail baby gift, send a colleague login information, text landscaper). This means I can pick away at them slowly or tackle them in a batch effort when space opens up in my schedule/I need a mental break from a more demanding focused task.
  • Following up on my hearing loss. Gold stars to everyone who commented on my hearing issues and encouraged me to seek medical attention. I’ll also give myself a gold star for trekking to the various appointments and sticking with it to the point of resolution.
  • My hairdresser, for taking the time to say something. I adore my hairdresser. I only see her a handful of times a year, but she’s a lovely introvert who doesn’t insist on small talk. We have nice conversations but are also comfortable with silent stretches. She has watched both kids grow over the years and when I got my hair cut last week, she spoke at length about how much she enjoys engaging with our kids when they’re at her salon. She made a series of positive comments about our parenting approach and while she doesn’t know us outside of the confines of quasi-regular haircuts – and isn’t privy to the many, many ways I screw up as a parent – it really boosted my spirits. She didn’t have to say anything, but it really touched me that she did…
  • Seniors who continue to reach out. Two different seniors from our previous church asked to deliver Halloween parcels to the kids. I so appreciate them taking the time to maintain these relationships as the years pass. And gold stars to Abby and Levi for being so adept at speaking with adults! I take them having this skill for granted, but they do it effortlessly and I admire that quality.
  • Eufy/maintenance cleaning. Instead of letting things get out of hand, I’ve focussed on running Eufy in at least two spaces every single day. This means that nothing ever gets overly dirty and by doing a few minutes of basic maintenance cleaning each day, everything looks better and it’s so much easier to clean!
  • Running the dishwasher more regularly + sorting cutlery. On a related note, I’ve read a few times now that using a dishwasher is more environmentally friendly than handwashing dishes. While there are still certain things I always wash by hand, I’ve gotten into a routine of running the dishwasher more frequently – typically every evening before bed. I used to cram every inch full, but it’s so much easier to empty when there is some flexible space. I have also started pre-sorting cutlery into the dishwasher tray which makes Abby’s job more streamlined. (Full disclosure: I’m really disappointed she hasn’t noticed and given me a gold star for this, so I’ll have to settle for awarding it to myself).

Your turn. Any demerits or gold stars that stand out from October?

Header photo by Crystal de Passillé-Chabot on Unsplash

37 thoughts on “Recent Demerits and Gold Stars”

  1. I would give myself a demerit for sleep. I average 6 to 6 and a half hours during the week and then this past weekend did around 9 hours each night. It doesn’t work to catch up and throws off my weekend. The first gold star that came to mind is taking my daughter and three of her friends to boo at the zoo. I also met two other moms with their daughters. I find that exhausting. It was outdoors (chilly and a bit of rain). They all had a good time and I felt I did a parenting win. Introvert here, who would much rather stay in and read.
    I would also like to gently point out that we all. screw. up. Your gold star from your hairdresser has a demerit in it when you talk about screwing up. Yep we do AND you can also celebrate a nice compliment!

    1. Oh, Shelly! I sure hope you get caught up on sleep soon.
      Every time I hear about Boo at the Zoo events I wish we had something similar in our area as they always look like a lot of fun (and also don’t require much inspiration from my end). Gold star to you indeed for going out in not-so-great weather, putting in the energy to engage with other parents etc. It sounds like it was worth the extra effort!! And hopefully you get a little extra time to read inside in a cozy chair this weekend…

      1. Thank you I appreciate you always commenting and being so supportive!
        And I’m with Kae on personality playing into kids talking to adults. My extrovert kid talks easily with adults and my introverted kid sounds exactly like Kae’s. He just isn’t interested in engaging with adults is part of it. He does ok with a couple of adults that he is more comfortable around.

  2. I would love to get your tips for raising kids comfortable speaking to adults they don’t know. My kids are 7 and 4.5, so younger than yours I know, but they struggle to even look adults in the eye when they say “thank you”. Do I just need to be more patient? Is there something we can/should start now to get them on the right path?

    1. What a great question. I’m definitely no expert in this and think (as Kae mentions above) a lot of this has to do with personality. Both of my kids are relatively extroverted and I think this plays a major role in how confident they are in speaking with adults (even strangers). I might do a post on this at some point, but here are a few of my first thoughts – in no particular order:
      – I grew up spending a lot of time with seniors/adults and actually tend to feel more relaxed around people that are significantly older vs. my own peer group. I think this natural tendency on my end has influenced the opportunities our kids have to engage with older demographics.
      – Our kids have been exposed to adults from a very young age. We used to attend a small church with mostly seniors and they thought it quite normal to be around people that were significantly older.
      – We aim to include our kids in conversations with adults regularly! If we have company over for supper, we all eat together and the kids are part of the conversations. This isn’t always easy and there was a lot of trial-and-error in making sure the kids felt confident in speaking up but didn’t dominate every conversation. I think this has gotten significantly easier in the last few years as they’ve gotten older and can participate in conversations at a higher level.
      – We’re so, so fortunate that we’ve had a lot of adults who take a special interest in our kids…it really takes engagement both ways to form relationships!
      – The two winters prior to COVID, we would go to a local nursing home each week to sing/talk with residents. The kids were exposed to people with dementia, various physical challenges etc when they were quite little and I think, again, that normalized speaking with adults/seniors. They LOVED the residents and of course the residents adored them. If I had to list a single thing we did that has helped them become good at engaging with adults, it would be the habit of volunteering at a nursing home. I was amazed how nonchalent the kids could be about speaking with someone with, say Parkinson’s or dementia. They honestly didn’t bat an eye and would just sit and babble on about school or Christmas gifts. And the seniors didn’t find the kids intimidating which made them so happy to talk with them.
      – We encourage and talk through how to engage with adults (eye contact, please/thank you). Even this Halloween we discussed how they would speak to the people at the door when they were handing out candy. The kids know it all, of course, but regular reminders are helpful for making it feel like second-nature. When we go to a doctor’s office, we will talk in the car before we go in about what they want to discuss (e.g. if they had an ear ache, I’d try to have THEM be the one to explain it first to the doctor).
      – I think we live in a location that encourages intergenerational relationships. The East Coast of Canada has a bit of a “old-school” vibe and people tend to be more laidback and unassuming; everyone knows everyone sort of thing. I also think people here are just naturally VERY friendly. I find my kids friends to be very, very good at engaging with adults as well and think a lot of this ties in to the cultural nuances of where we live in Canada.

      I’m not sure any of these points are overly helpful but:
      – Don’t put undue pressure on yourself. Much of my kids comfort level with adults comes from personality nuances that can’t be reproduced.
      – Regular time with adults is the best form of practice. Having people over for dinner, getting the kids engage with a cashier at the store…little, regular interactions really help build confidence.
      – They’ll likely feel more comfortable as they get older! Your kids are still very young.
      – It’s okay to be introverted. Again, back to the personality point – it is so, so normal for kids to find it hard/awkward to interact with adults. While I think it’s a very valuable skill, they have lots of time to slowly work up to it!!

  3. I’m glad that despite some challenges this month, you’re still finding that it was a really good month!! This is a great list of stars and demerits. Love it!

    I have one kid that is not so good at talking to adults, and one that is generally much better. I do not know what the difference is- same household, same parents, same gene pool. It drives me rather insane, tbh, when he acts all shy, looks down, mumbles, etc. It happens like, at the doctor’s office and places like that, too. The same kid who is SO bright and can speak perfectly well, with a great vocabulary, etc. can come across as a total dud with an adult stranger. Drives me crazy!!! I don’t really know what to do about it, either. I feel like it’s a work in progress, I guess- I kind of keep waiting for him to outgrow it.

    1. Such an interesting point about two kids and very different responses with adults. I think a lot of this has to do with personality!!! And it’s also very much life stage, too. I’m an introvert, but many people who meet me think I’m extroverted because I am relatively adept at engaging people in conversation which leads me to think kids are more honest than adults – I am polite and say the right things but would rather mumble and look away – haha!

  4. Those are some really great gold stars!!! For sure lots to celebrate (EUFYYYYYYYYY!!!!) Gosh, my floors are in need of much more maintenance since Rex’s arrival. Not only am I Roomba-ing every other day, but I have to sweep and mop a lot more because his fuzzy giantness is constantly full of leaves which he shakes all over the house. Also, it’s snowy, so hello paw prints. WORTH IT, 100% but it is definitely more work!

    I feel like you recently mentioned organizing photos and when you did, I got on top of mine! I’m really trying to do it more frequently rather than waiting six months and having it be a gigantic job. Time will tell if I keep up with it!

    1. The leaves are just a constant presence on my floors at the moment. I refuse to complain because I LOVE FALL SO MUCH, but I need Eufy to run all day lately to keep up with all the little leaves, leaf fragments, twigs and other fall detritus that comes in on shoes/jackets/bookbags/soccer balls.

      I think you’re right. I’m pretty sure this is a repeat demerit (maybe from September). Sigh. It’s still an issue. Oh well. Onward and upward. I’ll get on top of the pictures…eventually.

  5. Our local healthcare group does a virtual stretching class for free around lunchtime three times a week and it has really changed some of my habits. It’s fun because we generally talk (in the chat) about food and weekend plans and things while we’re stretching and it makes me think of that time as fun instead of just another thing I have to do to keep my body healthy. I even did 15 minutes of stretching without the class the other day! (It was kind of boring on my own, but I did it.) It IS hard to do it, isn’t it?

    Gold stars to my husband for keeping the house together for me when I was gone for a long weekend. Demerits to whoever tried to use my credit card number because it’s been one giant knotty bureaucratic nightmare for me.

    1. Why is stretching so hard?! I honestly don’t know why I feel such a barrier. I barely sweat and don’t need to leave my house. The available excuses are slim, but yet I still find them. Sigh.

      Yikes – the credit card issue sounds like a nightmare. We went through that a few years ago and the layers to work through were painful. I didn’t pay attention to all the different things associated with a card until we had to cancel it suddenly and make all sorts of last-minute adjustments (to prevent cascading effects). It was a very intense month sorting things out, but it did get sorted! As will yours…but until then. A nightmare indeed. Ugh. So sorry, NGS.

  6. There are some people who would say that sleep is the most important thing of all, so sticking to your bedtime overrides any demerits you could give yourself, health-wise. I’ve been working on my sleep- it was getting better but recently I’ve backslid a bit. Must get back on that!
    Just wait till your kids get braces (if they need them of course, but nowadays it seems like everyone has braces,) Then dental hygiene really goes out the window! And yet- my son has perfectly white, healthy teeth now- so it all works out in the end.
    I used to wait until my dishwasher was stuffed full, but I’ve also heard that it’s better overall to run it, so I’ve been running it more often. It definitely makes life easier!

    1. Awww. Thanks for slapping a gold star over the demerits for me, Jenny! I do feel like the earlier bedtime does make up for lots of other deficiencies later (maybe that’s why I’m so far behind on photo organization)…
      I’m nervous about the time change this weekend; last November the time change threw me off with sleep for MONTHS. I’m trying to be very proactive this year and I’ve got melatonin all ready!

  7. Ugh, littering is a HUGE source of frustration and, honestly, anger for me. I see it at the park we go to on Sundays when we go to the Farmer’s Market. The frustrating thing is that there are garbage and recycling bins RIGHT THERE. And Will loooooves to pick up garbage so I have to be on the look out for it. So I am always picking up trash at the park to help w/ the environment and to prevent Will from putting this dirty crap in his mouth, as he is wont to do!

    October was a good month, but it was a hard month. I had a business trip, was very busy at work, and Will and I were sick. I give myself a gold star for planning the pumpkin event at the zoo. I want to give myself a demerit for how little I worked out, but it was a tough month and I fit workouts in when I could. So instead I will give myself a demerit for being on my phone more than I should. I get bored watching the kids play in the basement so will do duo lingo lessons but I should put my phone down and engage more with the kids.

    1. Litter + little kids is SO hard. I remember running around like a madwoman to collect half-eaten suckers off slides at the playground when the kids were little. My kids love to collect garbage and I’ve thought of getting them proper “grabbers” for garbage before. It could be a weekly tradition to go for a family walk with a trash bag and pick up litter? We’ll see if I put this idea into action or not…

      The phone use is such a tough one; I’ve gone back to monitoring total screen time + pickups each day and it has really helped me feel more in control. I’m no actively changing anything, but simply monitoring it each day DOES make me more conscious of how I’m using my phone. That said, mean – the fact you’re doing Duo Lingo on your phone has to be a partial gold star at least?! If I’m on my phone I’m not doing anything nearly so intellectually stimulating!

        1. It requires sticking with it, though, to get anywhere! I did it for 30 days (French) and loved it…but didn’t stick with it. Ugh.
          So I’m very proud of you for continuing to make time for it. Gold star to the app, and triple gold stars to you 🙂

  8. I’ll take it as a very positive sign that you think so fondly of October, even though you had Covid and your surgery got postponed, because that means that there were so many good things that overshadowed the not-so-pleasant ones.

    Littering truly makes me mad. Have you ever watched someone (in the parking lot or in a car line) open their door and dispose of whatever they were eating/drinking? It makes me so mad every single time! I think it’s fantastic that you’ll try to contact the town to see if they can install a garbage can. (Still, how hard is it to take your trash home and dispose of it there?)

    Gold stars for your bedtime routine (so important, IMHO) and I love that your hair dresser spoke up (with a compliment)… it’s so easy to make someone’s day! 🙂

    My own demerit for October: scrolling too much social media (sigh – I know I have to do better, but sometimes that’s all I do when I collapse on the couch in the evening). My gold star: making Jon’s birthday somewhat memorable despite giving him Covid – haha (he repeated to me that he had a really good birthday, so I guess I should believe him).

    1. Yes, I am a bit shocked how much I enjoyed October!

      Yup; I see people litter regularly. I cannot imagine throwing a pop can out of my window while driving down the highway. Literally can’t imagine doing that…but, it happens all the time. But extra garbage cans might help a bit?!

      And I’m so glad Jon’s birthday was still a success despite things being overshadowed a bit by COVID!!!

  9. I love this list! I have to admit I’m terrible at brushing my kids teeth. They’re 2 and 4 and I let them chew on tooth brushes or do marginal brushing. I know I shouldn’t… but I just don’t have the energy to brush so many teeth. I barely have the energy to brush my own teeth. Especially after fighting about nail clipping…

    Also definitely relate about stretching. it would be so so good for me and yet… I don’t. I’m wondering if I should set a goal like “10 minutes a day” because when I start to think about stretching I think instead I should do an exercise video, and instead of that I should do a run, and instead of that I don’t do anything at all.

    I hope November treats you well with lots of gold stars 🙂

    1. I know – sometimes at bedtime I find it hard to muster the energy to brush my own teeth. I could aim to do this in the morning, maybe, when the resistance is a bit less for me?
      I think it was the Lazy Genius who made a goal to do downward dog once each day. And that was it. She did it for something like 18 months and then slowly worked up to a more regular stretching/yoga routine. I’m not even doing a single stretch – but I think I’ll make that a goal starting tomorrow. But I might aim for child’s pose instead of downward dog – haha!

  10. Elisabeth, I have to give myself the same demerit about the treadmill desk. I haven’t used mine in MONTHS. I know it’s because of my plantar fasciitis; I have been a huge baby about the foot pain so I have all but stopped exercising. Not good!!!

    My other demerit is that I have yet to order my holiday cards!!!! This is awful — we have had the photos since JULY, and I just have dragged my feet about it. I know November is going to speed by, and then it will feel too late, so I really need to make it happen.

    1. I haven’t ordered my holiday cards yet, either. I need to do other things as well – like make/order custom calendars and I do it at the same time…so that’s my excuse but the clock is ticking! Gah. I love having photocards, but I really do dislike the process of selecting the design, sorting through pictures etc. But it’s always worth it so I WILL do it. Next week?

  11. Oh that littering must have been frustrating. I can only image.
    I love that idea with the random list. I attempted this too see time back but for whatever reason I rather do those little tasks then instead of the important ones. I guess its the instant success feeling that keeps me going to the easy and mindless tasks.

    1. The random list has been so helpful. I appreciate having a go-to spot to put down whatever little tasks come into my mind. That way I don’t have to tackle them right away, but I can put them out of my mind knowing that I’ve recorded them.

  12. I hope you don’t mind a lurker chipping in with a suggestion re the tooth brushing. Maybe instead of you doing the brushing twice a week, he brushes, then under your supervision he uses disclosing tablets and rebrushes to remove the plaque? This is what our dentist recommended for my kids to help them learn how to brush teeth properly and at least you will know that a couple of times a week all the plaque is removed. The disclosing tablets show them where they’re missing plaque with their usual brushing technique. Once they have got the hang of brushing properly you can move to spot checks.

    1. Chip in! I remember using disclosing liquid when I was a kid, but hadn’t thought about it in years. This is a great idea.

  13. I definitely don’t usually brush my kid’s teeth, except right now with all the Hallowe’en candy floating around I do make an effort to do one pass after the two little kids brush their teeth.
    I wonder if doing it on a smaller scale but every night might be easier? Like after Levi brushes his teeth every night, you do one scrub on each back side?
    Inspired by Tiny Habits, I’ve been thinking a lot about the most minimal thing I can do on the path to bigger things…. So I can’t fit in a half hour yoga routine, but I try to do *one* downward dog every morning while I’m getting dressed.
    Good for you on the bedtime gold star, though. That is one thing I’m still working on! I feel like I’m either crashing at 9:00pm, or awake until 2:00am. And of course, it’s the 2:00am scrolling that leads to the 9pm crashing….

  14. Gosh, when I first saw that littering was one of your demerits, I was worried! Haha. I think that should actually be a gold star for your kids helping to clean up the litter from the day before!

    I’m still struggling with my bedtime, but I have pushed my wake-up time a bit further into the morning, which I think has helped a lot! I just struggle getting into bed at a decent hour, ugh. A forever demerit for me!

    I love that your hairdresser complimented you on your kids! What a special compliment. <3

    1. Ha. Sorry for giving you a scare. It wasn’t us littering – promise!!! And you’re right – gold star to the kids for picking up the trash AND gold star for being horrified, too. It provided some great fodder for conversations about taking care of the earth. But it was shocking to them that people would just…throw garbage on the ground. Levi has started a clean-up crew at school, too, to collect litter at recesses (though, for some reason, he decided to bring the garbage home instead of throwing it out at the school. Sigh).

      A forever demerit; sometimes I think I will just have to throw up my hands and certain things and say this isn’t actually a demerit. THIS IS WHO I AM. And that’s an important distinction. There is nothing wrong with going to bed late if we can make the necessary adjustments so it works out overall for our health (so if you stay up late…you could be a night owl and things will be alright if you’re able to compensate by sleeping in a bit later the next day?).

  15. People that litter drives me crazy!! I seriously do not understand why they do that. There may not be a trash can around but that doesn’t mean they just throw the garbage on the ground.

    1. I completely agree but it is staggering how many people litter! I will say that, generally, our town is very clean, so it makes the recent littering in this one spot really stand out (in a bad way!)…

  16. Good grief. The litter. I’m astonished. The worst for me is when I am driving, and the person in front of me puts down their window and throws something out. I can’t DO anything about it, which drives me bonkers. My typical response is saying, out loud, “Are you KIDDING ME?” I mean, really, who litters in 2022??? Gah. I’m impressed with your kids’ response, though. And impressed with their ability to talk to adults. Go, Abby and Levi!

    I’m impressed with you – despite major challenges in October, you made so many positive changes!

    Finally, 100% agree, be easier on yourself with the toothbrushing. I’d advocate for stronger supervision because honestly brushing other peoples’ teeth is gross (had to do it as a nurse, hated doing it as a nurse…). Bleargh.

    Keep it up, gold star queen. 🙂

    1. Ha. “Gold star queen” has lots of demerit badges.

      Yes – the rage when someone throws something out of the window on the highway – and then it bounces all around – is real.

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