When Your Brain is Going A Million Miles an Hour

When I was growing up, my dad had a funny phrase he used to say when he forgot something.

He’d say “Too many penguins on the cliff!”

Which basically meant he had so many things on his mind that there wasn’t space for all of them and some of there were getting crowded out.

As a kid, of course, this seemed like the strangest thing in the world. How could you forget how old you were or not remember every darn detail of a book you finished last week or the word-for-word transcript of a conversation?

Now I know EXACTLY what he’s talking about (am I 32 now or almost 32?).

I frequently tell Bart, “Our children probably think I’m really dumb. But it’s just that I have so much on my mind!”

As I’ve gotten busier with more children and more responsibilities, I’m trying really hard to reduce how much load my brain has to carry.

The more things that I rely on my brain to keep track of, the more anxious and overwhelmed I feel.

So I’m constantly looking out for ways to reduce the things I need to keep track of.

Two dumb little examples:

  1. I set my alarm clocks on my phone so that it goes off at the same time every weekday morning. This way, I never have to think before I go to bed, “Did I turn my alarm on? Do I need to set it for tomorrow morning?” And same for Sunday morning – it’s set to go off at the time I need to get up to get everyone to church on time. No Saturday night fussing over whether or not I set the alarm and what time I need to get up. It’s one small thing, but I don’t have to think about it every night.
  2. I have a calendar alert set to remind me every week to renew my library books. Nothing at my library has a lending period less than 7 days, so nothing will go overdue between those weeks and then when that alert pops up every week, I go renew everything that’s due in the next seven days and I don’t have to feel a little sense of dread when I look at my library basket. It also means I can just trash the emails from my library that come in telling me my books are almost due.

And of course I live by my planner and to-do list because I just need a place to keep track of everything I have going on.

With school started now, there’s even more to keep track of – papers coming home every day, homework, school events and fundraising, and fitting family time around the school day.

And one place I don’t want to have to spend a lot of brain power monitoring is the girls’ screen time.

Like most children, my girls would play on the tablet endlessly, but when they’re watching something or playing a game, I usually am getting something else done, like making dinner or cleaning up or doing some work, and it’s easy to let the time just slip away, since I don’t want to watch the clock religiously the whole time.

And I really don’t enjoy being the enforcer when it’s time to turn off the tablet.

So I LOVE parental controls on tablets which lets me set screen time limits and then not worry about them again.

My girls think anything is more fun on a screen (and I can’t blame them – tracking my running manually? Awful. Tracking it via an app? Pretty fun!) and it’s a nice wind-down after school to read a few books on the tablet or do some math games during snack or watch a short episode of a favorite show.

I’ve struggled a lot with screen time for the girls over the years because I didn’t know how to balance the educational and fun features of digital media with my desire to not having them spend all their time glued to a screen.

For me, parental controls has helped me find a balance I feel really good about.

And it’s not putting more penguins on my already-crowded cliff.

Photos by Brandi Hansen

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  1. Ha! We always say “too many penguins on the iceberg.” Or, if we can’t remember something (like an old phone number), we say, “that penguin fell off a long time ago.”

    Glad I’m not the only one that has trouble remembering things. I’d be lost without my lists! 🙂

  2. New favorite saying! Sometimes I feel like my cliff/iceberg has sunk into the ground thanks to all those darn penguins!

    I would be lost without all of my phone alarms. They are set for everything from wake up/go to bed to take a medication. I even use them to remind me to take breaks when I teach seminar classes because otherwise I just keep talking.

  3. I remember saying to you once, “I wish that you had known me ten years ago…I was so much sharper back then!” Haha. It’s only gotten worse in the ten years since…but luckily wisdom and experience compensate.

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