Time Management

Recently a friend of mine that currently doesn't have children asked how i manage to accomplish what i do with kids, when she feels super busy without them. I've been mulling this over some and thinking about how to respond and then decided that this would actually make a great blog post if i could just find time to write :) So excuse me Renee if you read this before i write back to you, but i think others might be interested as well.

Life is organized around four general areas: work, chores, extracurricular fun, and family. Each pushes and pulls on each other, but i've found some things that work for us in each category.

With work, something has to give. If both of you are corporate attorneys you're going to be outsourcing a lot of all the other areas. That might not be a big deal when it comes to chores, but you might start to really miss giving your child a bath or watching as she learns to say please and thank you. If you don't have a safety net in place, setting emotional concerns aside, you can also wind up stuck when your child gets sick and you both have important client meetings. So, generally one of you needs some flexibility in your schedule. This allows for someone to take off when little one needs to get to the Doctor, when your daycare provider is closed for the Federal holidays that you don't get, and to accompany said child on their first field trip.

We're blessed by the fact that i work remotely for a very family-friendly non-profit. My hours are pretty strictly 9-5, unless i'm travelling, and i work from home so there is no commute to factor into my day. Daycare is 15 minutes away. Even if you work longer hours and/or commute, working a few days from home can really make a difference. Obviously you don't have the commute to eat into your day and you can use the 4 minutes while you're waiting for your lunch to heat up to pick up the Lego's in the living room, throw last night's pajamas in the hamper, and take out the trash.

Which brings me to chores. I think the most important thing is to figure out what you can afford to outsource, and then looking at what's left, decide which items are crucial, and who can best tolerate/keep up with those key items. Much to the rest of my family's chagrin-- ironing has just never made it on to that list. We pay someone to clean our house every other week and divide the laundry/cooking/finances along our interest level and availability.

Assuming you have a spouse or partner, you need to figure out how to find a balance which leaves both of you feeling like you're invested in and responsible for the life you're living. In our house JT's the homebody. This means that he stays home on weekends while i toodle around Target and pick up cat litter. I actually kinda enjoy running errands, especially when i'm not toting two wee ones around.

One small thing which i wouldn't think would be much of a revelation is that i'm purposeful about my movements through the house. If i'm on my way downstairs i look at my desk and see what needs to be relocated-- a coffee mug, a water cup, the rechargeable batteries. After putting the dishes in the dishwasher and the batteries by the basement stairs i see the mail has arrived. I put 90% directly in the recycle bin and put the things that i need to do something about by the stairs to go into my financial folder-- you get the idea.

Then there's extracurricular fun. I think first and foremost, *what* and *how often* you do extracurricular activities changes once kids are on the scene. The trite "children change your life" is true but not like the soundbite makes it seem. It's not like you go from being an avid outdoorsman to a homebody Betty Crocker-type just because you have children-- at least not if you're going about things in a healthy way. But, your monthly overnight backcountry camping trips will most likely turn into long walks with your little one bundled into a back-pack carrier and a handful of camping trips to a site easily accessible by car. If your pre-baby days were spent logging late nights at local music clubs, you'll be scouring the area for music festivals that are child-friendly and happen during daytime hours. It's not that you're giving up your interests or hobbies, but they do tend to compete with the other responsibilities and priorities that children bring.

I used to workout five days a week, and attend ballet class and quilting group one night a week. I still try to fit in at least 3 workouts a week but i dropped ballet and attend quilting group once a month. Children are really great for helping you clarify your priorities and this level of activity helps me feel like i still have a life outside of being a Mom, but isn't so onerous that it's burdening JT or the kids.

One upside to kids is that they thrive on predictable schedules filled with sleep (or at least as they get older and stop waking up 6 times a night, ahem Silas!). So when you do activities changes, but can actually leave you with plenty of downtime if you're willing to take advantage of it. Our kids go to sleep by 7:30 (8 at the latest for Henry). Assuming a 10:30/11:00 bedtime, that leaves a decent chunk of time to eat a grown-up dinner if we haven't already eaten with the kids, spend a little time bonding as a couple, doing some chores and clean-up and maybe even working on a special project (a blog, a basement revamp, a baby quilt, etc.)

During the day (weekends for working parents) we have a solid 2-hour nap in the afternoon to work undisturbed on these types of projects as well. In a nutshell it's pretty simple, you have to pare down, be willing to adjust your expectations, and be flexible about when you get everything scheduled. In general we've found that these arrangements give us enough routine family time to feel like every one's needs are met.

All this said i'm adding a disclaimer that it took me about 6 weeks to do an imprint of Silas' hand for his memory book so clearly i'm not just crossing everything off my list as soon as i put it on there. In fact, i've moved to keeping my list in journals rather than on scraps of paper to emphasize that they are often long-term lists rather than immediate to-dos.


7 Months, 4 Weeks/ 2 Years, 7 Months

I know it's been very, very slow around these parts lately and i hope to remedy that in the next couple of weeks. As of last night, or early this morning, we returned from our thanksgiving jaunt to congregate with my entire extended family in Houston. We had a great time catching up with family we don't see enough, and watching our younguns entertain the group. Silas and Henry travelled there very well-- especially considering we flew for two hours and then drove an additional four. It was awesome to watch Henry interact and build on the bond he has with my Mother, Father, Aunt and Grandmother (that's Nonna, Gran, Tammie and GG for those in the know). And, it was amazing to see my 17 and 23 year-old cousins engage both boys. I don't think i would have known what to do with a 2 year old and 7 month old at their age-- especially at 17. High points of the trip included making turkey cookies; Henry's cool "monkey bed" and new monkey friend, Sid; driving the remote control digger all over the house; and riding a people-powered bike that will soon be gracing our Christmas tree as a gift-- although Henry doesn't know that yet!

Here was a beautiful shot from one of our photoshoots. This one is of my cousin Caroline and the boys. Next up-- the photo corps which did a stand-up job.

We wound up cutting our trip a few days short because of a case JT is working on. The last minute change left us with the choice of an Saturday early-morning flight or the 8 pm flight we took last night. Silas slept off and on during the flight, but Henry didn't fall asleep until the wheels were coming down to land. Both boys were wide-eyed the whole baggage-train-bus-car circuit but seemed genuinely welcoming of their own beds. Silas' sleep was impacted a bit on the trip and i think we're in the process of wading through some bad nights, but it was nothing like the Thanksgiving trip to Houston that Henry took 2 years ago. Those 30 minute naps and waking 4-6 times a night scared me off travel for quite awhile with him.

Since we didn't all get to bed until after midnight, having the boys miraculously sleep until 9 am was a true gift. Now that we're back, i'm working on Christmas shopping in earnest, and i've started to get our decorations up. Henry is excited to help me tomorrow night with the tree. JT never has been much for Christmas prep, so i'm excited to have a little helper that isn't wearing a grinch hat.


Baby Things

I took the gift ideas litany down. It started out as a simple list and before long i feel like it was taking up the entire right side of the page. I'm pretty sure that if Emily Post had a blog guide a gift list would not be acceptable practice.

I did want to let people know that if you are trying to buy gifts for a baby in your life and you're worried about all the recent recalls, i found a wonderful online store that carries wooden and organic baby toys. The store is called Montana's Diaper Store and they were highly recommended as a source of cloth diapers. I was pleasently amazed when i visited that in addition to cloth diapers and a lovely site layout, they also have beautiful baby toys.

So clearly i should get a commission, but i just thought i'd share because i know that finding cute and fun baby toys that you feel secure about is more and more challenging.



Anyone that has tried a blog or some kind of similar journaling experiment will tell you that the key to regularity is to integrate your writing into your normal routine. If posting is to happen often, it has to be a normal event. When i travel i don't post as often. It makes sense, since i'm off my normal routine and i don't have direct access to my inspiration subjects. But, i find that once i'm out of the habit, even when i return home, it takes a little while to get back in the posting groove. I feel like i'm hitting my stride again, but we leave this week for Thanksgiving so i'm going to ask people to bear with me a little bit longer.

Although we spent a good deal of the weekend trying to get the house and our belongings in shape for the upcoming trip, we managed to squeeze in an awesome Saturday at Tiffany and Mike's house. We dubbed the gathering "chili fest" and all three families came with different types of chili. Tiffany made various corn bread and JT made an apple cranberry pie. It was good and very abundant eating.

It's always fun to get together with the Pendletons because Henry, Helen and Carys have grown up together thier entire (short) lives. Now that they're 2.5 up to 4, they are forging more relationships with one another. Their direct interactions are fleeting, but it's a hoot to watch. Carys led Henry and Helen in circles around the house making up a nonsensical call and return.

Later in the evening we retired to the basement where Henry was absolutely obsessed with the fish tank that Tiff and Mike have. Not even the born leader Carys could get Henry to come and play. Instead Henry just stood transfixed at the fish tank talking about all the different fish and deciding the yellow goldfish was his favorite.

I was only gone 4 days, but i swear i got back and Henry is now speaking in complete sentences. They're not always grammatically correct, but his language skills just seem to have exploded. Not to be outdone, i think Silas might have secretly sent away for Rogaine because his hair is suddenly thicker and laying down flat. The thicker part is great but i'm a little sad all of his hair isn't standing on end anymore.



I haven't posted lately as i've been in Boston for the past several days for a work meeting. It's been a good opportunity, but i'm tired and missing my family, and now i have another case of mastitis to boot. My Dr. called in a prescription for me tonight so hopefully i'll get that started tomorrow morning and start to get better. I head home tomorrow afternoon and will promise to recover some lost ground with posts before thanksgiving travels.

For now, here's a few pictures to enjoy.


Ears Clear, I ♥ Dr. Papacek

I'm happy to report that Silas does not have another ear infection, which i was concerned about because he has been showing some of the same symptoms that made me suspect an ear infection a few weeks ago. Fortunately no infection, unfortunately we're dealing with sleep disturbance issues for somewhat unknown reasons. He and Henry both are quite congested, which is probably a big part of it, but our Pediatrician verified he doesn't show any signs of actual teeth and otherwise we're stumped as to why he's waking up so frequently and not able to get himself back to sleep.

That said, our visit yesterday reminded me what a difference having an amazing Pediatrician makes. Long-time readers will remember that we started out with a Pediatrician so far to the right of the scale that i would almost call him a quack, or at least negligent in his standard of care. When we moved to our new Pediatric group practice, the Dr. we saw was and is a stellar Doctor, but her bedside manner isn't great. She tends to be extremely hyperactive on various issues which is what we needed with Henry, but as the major issues have been worked out, she can come off as a little "doomsdayish."

We ultimately found Dr. Papacek, and it's just a perfect fit. She's warm and efficient and a good listener and a great Doctor and she remembers us and understands why we/me have certain concerns after going through all of Henry's medical events. She helps figure out the medical issues as well as the behavioral/developmental issues and makes you feel like that's exactly what a Pediatrician is there to do. She reiterated that Silas' growth looks like it's doing well, no need for any more weigh-ins until his regularly scheduled 9 month appointment. We talked about how he's scooting backwards and pivoting on his stomach (both of which he's been doing for awhile) but not pushing to all fours yet or even army-crawling. She said that if he wasn't dragging himself around somehow by 9 months she might want to take a closer look but that based on his sitting, extreme reaching ability, tolerance (actually love) of tummy time, and bearing weight on his legs, there didn't seem to be any concern.

I wanted to re-iterate that i had NOTHING to do with both the pig head cooking project nor the picture taking. Imagine the good times when that picture popped up among my downloaded Halloween pictures! If either Henry or Silas develop JT's prankster sense of humor, i'm going to have to take more frequent momcations.


7 Months, 2 Years, 6 Months

A day late, but here's the promised update.

Henry is going through quite the little testing phase. I'm reminded of a mime doing their "trapped in a box" routine. You can almost see him searching for the borders and testing to see how far away those corners of expected behavior are. Henry winds up having about 1 time-out a day but generally he will do something he knows is wrong until you tell him that it's his second and last warning and that next he'll get a time-out. Then he'll tell you that he doesn't want a time-out and will give you a big hug and either say sorry or correct what he was saying or doing, i.e. "No, i LIKE mommy" or "that not right" (referring to hitting, kicking or other disallowed actions.) He's big right now on figuring out what you can and can't say to people. I can see why it can be confusing that we talk a lot about discussing your feelings and emotions, especially when you're upset, but that saying you don't like someone or that they aren't your friend is NOT okay and hurts the other persons feeling. Empathy is an evolving concept for Henry so this is tricky stuff. Still, it never hurts to set the bar high and even at his most trying the kid is just sweet at heart.

Silas is sitting and scooting backwards but not much more at this point. We're doing our best to keep him on his stomach to encourage crawling attempts but so far he's pretty happy getting what he can and pivoting around to expand his reach. He's generally happier on his stomach than any other position, so i think he'll move when he's ready-- he certainly seems strong enough for it.

Halloween was a blast. Henry was a monkey and Silas was a banana. I decided after Henry's ill-fated first Halloween that i was going to go with a simple (homemade) costume for Silas and channel more of my energies into Henry who had a blast with Halloween in general and trick-or-treating specifically. Silas was quite the trooper though. Tabitha pushed him around in his stroller and he was wide-eyed but quiet the whole time. I admit that sometimes i can forget he's there he's so quiet. Henry on the other hand was having a blast, running to keep up with Carys and Helen and get "MORE CANDY." He maneuvered his costume pretty well and loved being around all the other kidlets at Tiff and Mike's house. What a difference a year makes though, last Halloween Henry was completely fearful and almost in tears every time the doorbell rang and the dogs barked. This time he said hello to the dogs at the beginning and then didn't give them a second thought.

Oh, by the way. Although things chug along without me just fine while i'm away-- JT saves the crazier projects for my absences: