Have you ever been with the family Christmas morning, gathered around the tree with coffee in hand and kids, shreds of wrapping paper, and toys underfoot when someone says something like, “I can’t get this box open!” or “It didn’t come with batteries.”
Yup, I’ve been there too.
Now, ahead of time, I gather of a basket of supplies that we’ll likely need and leave it by the Christmas tree. I even took it a step further and have the list of supplies auto-emailed to me every Dec 23rd so I don’t have to remember each year what to grab.
In case it’s helpful to others, here is that list:
Scissors to open boxes and to cut ribbon
Garbage bags to discard wrapping paper
Paper and pen to take notes for thank you cards
Black and silver Sharpies to label items (If the boys get the same item, they want them labeled immediately to avoid mix ups.)
Batteries of common sizes (e.g., AA, AAA, and C)
Screwdriver to open battery compartments
A camera with its battery charged
A quick grab set of food, like a mini box of cereal, for the kids
I know to many this is an insane amount of organization, and that’s fine. I like feeling prepared. If my planning can help someone else, all the better.
Now more than ever I’m clinging to the family traditions we can maintain to find comfort in the familiar and to remember fond family memories from years passed. I think this is in part due to the crazy 2020 year and just a natural feeling as you get older.
I remember the feelings of magic and warmth that can only come from family during the Christmas season. I recall visits with grandparents, trips to the Opryland Hotel to view their magnificent Christmas displays, road trips to visit extended family that made Christmas feel like it lasted a week, giving gifts to family, receiving that one gift you really wanted, good food, the works.
I want my kids to feel the same way about family and the holidays when they are my age, and I think that comes – in part – from traditions. And, since I’m a list maker, I have a printable to help me!
I like making lists of activities for us to do as a family each season, like I showed here with our Fall Bucket List Printable. I print them out to display on our family command center. I just add the printable to an 8.5×11″ frame with command strips on the back and stick it to the wall, easy peasy. Mr. 7 year old loves reading the list and adding checkmarks next to the activities we’ve completed already.
This weekend I printed off our list of Christmas season traditions, tweaked a bit to be COVID friendly. So although we won’t be seeing Santa in person this year, we can still write him a letter.
It’s officially Fall! That means it’s time to pull out my Fall bucket list and add it to our family command center.
I had to make a few tweaks to it this year, with COVID limiting some of our activities. I don’t see us going to any of the local Fall festivals this year (if they’re even open). But even without some of our Fall traditions, there’s still plenty to do. We did sneak in apple picking last weekend, so we’ve already started “falling into fun.”
If you’d like to make your own Fall bucket list, feel free to download and use my fill-in-the-blank template below.
Why do I bother making these lists? It’s simple really.
We typically only get 52 weekends a year. Divide that by four, and that means about 13 weekends of each season per year. Our boys are still young, 5 and 7 years old, but they are growing up quickly. I want to take advantage of our time together and fill our weekends with as much fun as possible. Having a list means that when I’m looking for something for us to do as a family, I have a pre-planned idea of the things we enjoy doing annually. They become our family traditions and the memories the kids will take with them after they leave home. It’s the type of intentional planning that fully embodies my reflect, plan, live attitude.
As a planner, I like to be prepared for possible emergencies. I’m that person who packs medicines for kids when we take trips and has an emergency kit stashed in the house in case we need it.
One of the ways I prepare is by having a one-page print out of my medical information in my wallet in case I need it. I can’t tell you how handy it’s been to have at doctor visits to either help fill out paperwork or to give to the doctor for reference. My husband knows it is there as well, so he has all of my information available if I’m incapacitated.
I made some updates to the file this weekend. Now I’m inspired to make one up for both of the kids too!
In an effort to help others avoid reinventing the wheel, feel free to download an editable Word template of the medical information printable below.
Personal Information: List what you want medical professionals to see right away and they most frequently ask for: blood type, allergies, contact information, etc.
Medication and Purpose: List the medication taken regularly, what it’s used for, and how often/what dosage you take.
Personal Medical History: Here I include dates and my age when I had various medical procedures, but I could see others listing different relevant information here about illnesses or diseases.
Vaccinations and Tests: Here are the dates and results of various tests run and vaccinations received. In the printable template provided, I left in the vaccinations and tests in my file, but there is space to add others.
Of course, the glory of having a Word document printable is that you can edit the form as you see fit. This is a starting point to think about what information you think is important to caption for you, your loved ones, and your doctors. If you adopt this tool, I encourage you to customize it to fit your needs.
I’ve been thinking a lot recently about this blog and the impression it gives others. I don’t want this to be a Pollyanna view of life as a working mom. Life is messy. I’m not a “perfect” mom, and we certainly have bad days in this house. Our home is often loud with people shouting and running around. I put my foot in my mouth often. And if you could see how many books and toys are just haphazardly stacked all over our family room….Woah.
Regardless of these so-called “fails,” I am very happy with my professional career and my family life. In many ways, we are lucky to have the life we do. Much of it is also engineered by thought, listening to others, experimentation, learning from mistakes, and letting things go.
This blog is my outlet for sharing what works well for us, not to convince you to adopt my strategies or feel bad for doing it differently. I’m just another perspective. I’ve always enjoyed hearing from others so I can satisfy my curiosity and so I can consider new ideas to implement myself. This blog is my contribution to that space.
So, all of that has been swirling around my head, and then today I saw an article posted by Working Mother about all the things working moms are not doing. It was my eureka moment of how to structure this post to share my “I Don’ts.”
Regularly meal plan – I hate the whole process of planning meals, grocery shopping, making food, insisting to kids that this is the only food they are getting, and then cleaning it up. I typically skip meal planning and pull something random together with what’s in the house. It then becomes increasingly stressful and annoying.
Clean – We have largely outsourced this with a cleaning service and the robot vacuum. I just worry about daily maintenance, mainly in the kitchen. Deep cleaning rarely happens. There’s no annual “Spring Cleaning” in this house.
Play make believe – You won’t find me on the floor playing with superhero toys or race cars. I pawn this task off on the brothers. They play these games very well with each other.
Stick to an exercise schedule – I’ve never made this much of a priority, even when I say it is something I want. I think it is related to being an Obliger.
Fix things – If a toy breaks, my immediate response is “talk to Dad.” I can repair many things, but it’s not my jam. My husband is quite the handyman anyway.
Always keep my cool – I’m patient until I’m not, and then everyone knows Momma ain’t happy.
I’m at peace with this list. I’m never going to be able to “do it all” 100% of the time. What I can do is make sure I spend my time and energy on what is important to me. I’m okay with that plan.
So, this COVID-19 business is taking over all conversation, social media, and the news. It has certainly been the focus of my attention recently because on Friday both of our sons’ schools closed until at least April 10th. Four weeks. That’s four weeks that the kids are home unexpectedly when my husband and I are still slated to be at work.
I know that we’re not unique in this situation and that schools globally are making similar decisions. Really, in many ways, we’re lucky. My husband and I are capable of working from home, and with my part-time schedule, it’s easier to fit in the work hours I need each day while simultaneously keeping the kids alive and educated. I’m fully anticipating it taking 10 hours or more to get 6 hours of actual work done though. Blargh.
This weekend, I took some time to plan out how we’re going to make this work. Mr. 7-year-old and I created a checklist of things to do each day, with a focus on reading and writing and time to fit in whatever academics the teachers eventually email us. Until we hear from the teachers, the boys made lists of topics they want to learn about, like how to stop babies from crying (???) and how marshmallows are made.
With this move to online learning for K-12 kids, a variety of companies are offering discounts and free deals to use their products. Scholastic’s Learn from Home website is one resource we plan on using, and I also downloaded the free 30-day trial of ABC Mouse. The kids tried out ABC Mouse today and loved it! When I asked them why, they mentioned the “fun activities” and “learning path” where you can track your progress and earn digital prizes.
As long as the weather cooperates, I’d like to also get the kids outside every day. I’m keeping a list of what the boys have learned during this “break.” So far, Mr. 7-year-old has learned how to catch a baseball, and Mr. 4-year-old learned how to throw a mean heater!
We’ll see how this whole working and learning from home business goes. I’m sure there will be bumps along the way, but we’ll handle it. I’m such an introvert that it’s going to be strange having people in my space all of the time. Even bathroom breaks don’t see to go uninterrupted. I thought we’d grown out of that phase…..
I was out of town on business last week. I’m still amazed by how much less work it is to pack for myself and not the whole family. I still find packing to be a pain though….a delay in getting me to my destination. As I was preparing to leave, I was reminded of my favorite packing hacks. What am I missing though? What are your hacks? I share mine below for your consideration.
#1. Make a Reusable List
Now that our family uses Cozi, I can put my reusable lists there. For now, everything is still in Excel. I have lists for all kinds of trips: camping, family vacation, business travel, etc. These lists note all the items I have to pack. There’s a spot to check off each item as it’s packed, both when packing to leave and return home.
I also include sections on to-dos, both tasks I can do well beforehand and those that I need to do last minute. Because I’m always interested in others’ details (to get ideas of items I may be missing), below are some of our to-do items before a road trip.
Charge all electronics
Notify neighbors/request they hold packages
Procure roadtrip snacks
Fill water bottles
Wash final dishes
Turn off electronics (e.g., computers)
Ensure doors and windows are locked
Take trash out
Set house alarm
#2. Minimize Your Luggage
To help reduce the amount of stuff I need to pack, I create outfits all using the same shade. For my last business trip, I mostly wore black. I took a couple of pairs of black pants, multi-colored blazes, a few sweaters/jackets, and then one pair of dress shoes in black. I pair up my clothes and roll up outfits to reduce wrinkles and minimize storage space in my luggage. Works like a charm!
#3. Pack Toiletries the Night Before
By packing my toiletries a day early, I can use them the night and day before I leave. I do this as a way to double check that I’ve packed everything I need. If I go to put on mascara and I don’t have any in my toiletry bag, then I know I forgot it and need it packed. There’s always at least one item that I find I need to add using this system.
Now that I have these packing hacks, I need to think of some ways to make unpacking more enjoyable. Ugh. I’ll pack (which requires fun planning) all day long, but the seemingly pointless task of unpacking always feels like such a burden. I’ll take it though, because unpacking means I’m home!
There are tons of articles and books out there talking about managing your time, setting priorities, and delegating your work. I often finish reading and think that it’s great to hear in theory, but how does the author actually stay organized. What apps, tools, and tricks are they using that I could leverage? This post is a bit of a reaction to that. Here’s my down-in-the-weeds look at what I’m doing on a weekly and daily basis to stay organized at work.
My job can be hectic. I have multiple projects with various clients and project teams that all have different requirements, standards, and deadlines. My day can range from facilitating working group meetings and pitching work to clients to writing storyboards for an online instruction and editing a curriculum plan. There is always a lot to do. I’m never bored at work.
I’ve tackled my work to do-list a variety of ways over the years. I’ve used my email inbox as a list of tasks, emailing myself things to do. I’ve used apps like Todoist, which I liked, to track every task I need to do. I have teams that use Trello, a good project management tool. But, for my individual to dos, I’ve found nothing more satisfying than paper and pen.
Currently, every Friday afternoon, I make a list of every project I’m on and note the tasks for each project that need to be on my radar. I list key deadlines and, if I think the list is too overwhelming, I estimate how much time each task will take to complete. If my estimate of hours is greater than my available working hours, then I know I have a problem. Then, I either need to delegate or shift priorities.
It’s at this time that I calendar block too. For example, if I know I’m going to need to write or edit, I dedicate a chuck of time on my calendar to this focused work. With this strategy, my project teams will see my calendar is full and not schedule a meeting then.
Simultaneously, while I’m looking at my calendar, I check for conflicts or meetings coming up that I need to prep for. Here I may find that I need to add some tasks to my to-do list or block prep time on my calendar.
Once I have my master to-do list Friday afternoon, I set my goals for Monday. This way, I can start immediately Monday morning with a plan.
The key here is to keep the list of goals short. I definitely don’t allow more than 3 items. I’ll likely get more than my goals done in a day, but my I feel accomplished if my goals are met. I’ll probably have a future post just on setting daily goals.
I also realize, especially now as a senior manager, that a big part of my job is supporting my teams. This role often means I’m responding to “fires” as they occur, which can’t be planned. The only element of fires I can plan for is the fact that I know they will happen….regularly. So, I try to leave room in my calendar for them to work themselves in. As my week progresses, new to dos are added to the master list and accomplished ones are crossed off. I always have a current running list of project tasks.
Every day ends with a review of what I accomplished and how much time each task took me and then the creation of a plan for the next day.
I recognize that my system isn’t the only system out there, but it works well for me in my current position. What apps, tools, or tricks do you use to stay focused and organized at work?
This momma loves a good list. To help our mornings run a bit more smoothly and reduce the number of times I have to tell the kids to brush their teeth or put on their shoes, we created a morning checklist that I added to our family command center.
After a few weeks into the school year, the kids pick up the routine and know to look at it for reminders on what to do.
Our deal is that if the kids can get through their list before we have to leave, they can have some time to play or watch TV. That’s a big motivator to get them moving! Many days they have no time left or just a few minutes. It’s a rare occasion to have enough time to get through a whole cartoon.
What I love about the list is that the kids helped create it, so they had to think about what all needs to happen to get ready for school. I used Microsoft Word to create the list within a table. I added clipart to help Mr. 4-year-old “read” the list and color matched the art and text.
Now that we have the list, the kids have a bit more freedom to manage their time. Certainly, with the kids only being 4 and 6 years old, my husband and I are not hands off. But, we’re are not reminding them WHAT they need to do. Instead we’re asking them what is next on the list or reminding them that they only have 20 minutes left. We’re trying to teach them to be aware of their own time and responsibilities and build some independence. We try to say things like, “You’re normally done brushing your teeth by now, but today you haven’t even started.” And then avoid things like, “Hurry up! We’re late!” (Though I do say that too when I get exasperated!)
Overall, the morning checklist has worked out really well for us. We haven’t missed the bus or been late to school yet, so I’ll take that as a win!