Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Lottery day

I just won the lottery! Unless you're a parent from Boston, it's not what you think. It's the school lottery.

Whenever I explain the Boston Public School lottery system, I introduce it as the hunger games for kindergarten. This is only a slight exaggeration, as it does not involve death. However, it's one of the most stressful processes I've ever been through, including applying for and being accepted into college and grad school. The lottery is based on an MIT-developed algorithm and while parents can select their desired schools, chance decides who gets accepted. Boston offers several kindergarten options: K2 is what other areas would call kindergarten, a class of 5 year olds. Boston also offers K1 for 4 year olds and K0 for 3 year olds, which is also on a lottery basis. Since demand far exceeds supply, many people like us end up with the K0 and K1 equivalent, preschool. This was a blessing for my family, because we got to stay at our favorite preschool Smart Start. 

We had been planning to stage our condo and move out of the city to a suburb with highly ranked schools. But this changes everything. Now we actually can consider staying in our beloved city. I've lived in Jamaica Plain for 10 years, and it's always felt like home to me.

I am really excited about the school Lucinda was placed into, as well as a school that we got sixth on the waitlist for.

However, it's a bittersweet day. This day could have turned out so differently for my family. And while I'm hearing several other happy stories like ours, I'm also hearing from parents who did not get assigned a spot at all, let alone one of their favorites. My heart goes out to the people who did not fare so well today. I can very easily imagine the difficult choices they are about to face. Worse still are the families lacking choice, who may not be able to move easily and who have to send their kids to an underperforming school. I am definitely feeling some survivor's guilt, as another mom aptly put it.

I am breathing a huge sign of relief, and walking around as if on a cloud. I'm finally coming out of the uncertainty that early 2014 brought, and now I have options. I feel empowered.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

How to make technology a little less intrusive

In my quest to be more mindful, I try to limit the amount of time I spend on my devices. If you're not quite ready to give up social media for Lent, here is an idea that helps me to minimize my time spent on devices.

I hate all the alerting, dinging, ringing, and beeping of notifications from Gmail, Outlook, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. It's push marketing, and I'm a much bigger fan of pull marketing. I prefer to check in with my various networks on my own terms, not theirs. On my iPhone, I found the constant noises and numbers so intrusive that, with the help of my brother the Mac expert, I turned off the sounds and the Badge App Icon. That's the little number in the corner of your app, and it ticks upward incessantly, quickly inducing panic (at least to me). I'll provide detailed instructions here in case you want to turn yours off, too. It works similarly on an iPad.

First, go to the Settings app. Click on Notification Center.

Go to mail (or gmail, or whatever app for which you do not want to see the Badge App Icon. Turn off whatever problematic alerts you want to stop seeing, including Badge App Icon, Sounds, and Show in Notifications Center. I've included a screenshot of turning these off of my LinkedIn app.

I hope this tip helps you dictate your usage of social media on your own terms and reduces your in-person interruptions.

Edited to add: here's a great incentive to put down your phone! The UNICEF clean water project will donate clean water to people in need for every 10 minutes you go without touching your phone.