Tuesday, December 31, 2013

My Wish For 2014 - Focus

2013 was an amazing year for me. I can't think of a lot that I might want to change in the new year. I worked hard to maintain balance between my family and my personal commitments. I began actively working on reaching my dreams, instead of just dreaming. I would like to write more, but that is something that suffers only for the benefit of my schooling and my family. I would love to write everyday, but I'd also love to play or read with my kids when I'm not doing my homework.

I worked on improving communication, not just in my marriage but everywhere. I worked on letting go of things that don't matter. I worked on putting more quality into my family time instead of just time.

Most days, I feel like I am living a dream.

Instead of trying to make up some specific resolution, I just need to continue with the big changes I'm already making. I suppose I could resolve to maintain my focus. To pay attention and be proud when I'm getting things right. To pay attention and learn when I'm getting things wrong. I have been on a positive path, and I need to make sure I stay on it.

I've never really been a resolution person anyway. I am definitely the kind of person who will maybe say I want to do something, but it's never really something I want that bad.

Focus is attainable. It is flexible. Just pay attention. Watch the kids play. Play with them. Listen to the little stories. Know what they like and offer options when I need time to work on something else.

Focus on my marriage. I know that I need to pay attention to it. The kids are getting older and I am reminded often that they won't be with me forever. I need the Trucker to know that I want to be with him when they are gone too.

Focus wide, not narrowly.

Focus on what makes my heart feel full. What makes me smile.

Focus on giggles.

Focus on the big picture. Meeting my goals.

I know it won't be hard. Well, no harder than everything else I'm doing. It won't be hard because I already do this every single day. I wake up and want to be MORE. I want to feel MORE. I am not sitting here beating myself up over yesterday if I didn't get it just right. I am reminding myself that everyday is new. I have another chance to try again, try a different angle. Just keep trying.

University is really helping me live one day at a time. While I am working several years on a long project for the benefit of my whole family, I can not look too far beyond today. I can't say how many times I told someone "That's okay, it's only one day." Tomorrow offers a new chance again.

It is far better to make steady, continuous changes to improve my life than it is to make a short lived resolution at new years. Our problems or worries don't magically change on one day, so why try to force a solution on one specific day?

I want to thank those of you who follow my little corner of the world on this blog. I am still simply amazed that anyone read my words in the first place! And that so many actually come back and read again makes my heart happy. I'm glad to share, I have to get things out of my head or I go crazy. I hope that you have found something useful and relevant to your life somewhere along the way.

I thank all of you who have shared my words. Those who join me on my facebook page and those who visit me on Twitter.  Please feel free to share your thoughts anytime with me. That is what the comments area and social media accounts are for! I would love to know more about you. I appreciate that I am not forgotten, even when there might be months between blog posts!

I wish you all the very best in the new year, keep chasing those dreams!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Calendar System For My Family

I am a bit of an agenda nerd. Ok, a lot of nerd. I'm kind of obsessed with my calendar and I never find anything that works well for us.
We used to use Cozi, and I loved it when I had an android phone with a widget that kept it in front of my face. When I switched to the iPhone, it became a pain. I never opened the app and sometimes the notifications didn't work the way I wanted. And looking at the calendar wasn't as easy, even with color coding the family members.
I like my iPhone calendar, and I sync it with my google account usually, but putting things there doesn't share it with the rest of the family. I have a lot of notifications and I customized it well. Some things have alerts, some don't really need alerts and I have it set just the way I need it.
But then the kids have plans of their own, or the Trucker makes plans and doesn't know what I have already. Or, of course, there are those days where the Trucker says something like "What the F### did you do all day?" I could pass him my phone but then he'd use up all my lives in whatever game I'm addicted to at the moment. Haha. No thank you!
I needed everything in one place.
A big wall calendar is helpful, but I need a lot of space to keep everything there. I searched and searched but there was just nothing that had enough space so I started this.
At first it was just a one week thing, one page that I kept in a page protector and wrote on with a dry erase marker. That was okay, but I have a lot of things to add to weeks ahead at times. So I just made a stack of these pages and kept them together on the fridge. No more dry erase. I have space for each of us and, though the picture above is not an accurate week here, the page gets pretty full. I don't keep these after the week is done, I just toss it in the recycle bag and move along.
In the beginning I had only Monday to Friday on the page. Those are my busy days, but within a few short weeks the Trucker and I were running into weekend conflicts. I always have one cleaning and laundry day on the weekend, and one day for plans that take us out of the house. So I didn't really need space for two days. Just one place to put the major weekend events and I write what day the plans are for. My week always starts with Monday and the weekend is just that, the end of the week. We've had a few hiccups, but nothing major with this set up.
Angel loves this set up too. She likes to see her name on the calendar and often adds her own appointments. The main reason I couldn't post an actual calendar week from our house is because by the end of the week, my whole page looks something like this:

She's a very busy girl!!
I write down everything. I write my class schedules and assignments on here. I have specific times for everything so that if I got hung up somewhere and I needed Grandma to pick up a child for me from school, she can look and see who gets out at what time. If we need a sitter, it is written down. If there is a hot lunch event at school, I write down the due date for the form, then the day of the lunch, what it is (eg. Subway) and that it was paid for. If we don't order, I write down "Hot Lunch - Not Ordered" and I know that Art needs to come home that day.
I copy my syllabus here, so I have an idea of what needs to be read for which class by what day. I write down appointments or play dates. I write down EVERYTHING. If I have to arrange a babysitter, I write down who is coming as soon as it is confirmed.
This planner has saved me so much stress. I still add most of this to my phone calendar because I want to have it with me, but this takes a load off my shoulders when it comes to sharing with everyone else. The Trucker and my mom can see when I have midterms coming or finals, and they know that I'm less likely to get the dishes done or I might need extra help with the kids. No one has to guess what is coming any more.  I don't forget library days.
I did forget Early Dismissal one day in December, but I had the alarm in my phone to remind me. I was only a few minutes late getting to the school. I'd been running from 8 in the morning and hadn't seen the house calendar! The alarm rang and totally shocked me! Having so much on a smart phone is a blessing some days, I was able to text a mom that I know well and she hung out with Art until I got there. Well, actually, I got there in time to pick up a back pack because Art headed to their house to play for a couple hours. To be fair, that was also the week of studying for finals and my van started having bigger issues. I had a lot in my head!
Having this organized was a life saver. Realizing what I can actually do with a week was so helpful, enough that I was able to start switching the books for home reading in the kindergarten classroom too. Now, when my classes finish, I head straight to the Angel's classroom and flip the readers for the class. The mom who had been doing it started a new job and had to stop, so when I offered time to the teacher she was ecstatic. Everything fell into place at just the right time.
Next term starts soon. I sat down and made up pages for now until March 30. I feel good. I feel in control and organized and I am looking forward to ironing out other problems as school resumes, since I no longer have to fight with scheduling errors.
It takes time to make this, photocopying doesn't quite do it. I want edge to edge print for everything and something with clear lines. Really, it's just tracing a bunch of straight lines. There is no perfect measurement involved, just the edge of a ruler. It takes time to re-write the repetitive items, but really, it doesn't take much. I spent half an hour tonight and made up three months. Most of the routines are copied, I had to stop for my little girl. So, maybe I'll spend an hour at most on preparing this for three months. Can't complain about that. I've spent years trying to buy an agenda that works right for me and never found one I really liked anywhere.
Sometimes it really is just better to make things yourself. Everyone is different.

Monday, December 23, 2013

All I Want For Christmas Is A Nap

What a crazy year I've had! School has been difficult and stressful and wonderful and amazing. I had a lot more to learn this year than just what my professors taught. The one thing that kept me going through my final exams was the idea that for one whole week I could drop kids off at school and spend a couple of hours all by myself. I had great intentions with this time too, like sleep. I could get a two hour nap with no interruptions.

Sadly, it didn't work that way. But it's okay. I've been having vehicle troubles and had to sort that out. Crazy Dodge Caravan that is like playing driving roulette. Will I have heat? Is it going to hesitate when I push the gas or am I gonna get slammed into my seat because it decides not to hesitate instead? Fun times. On the last day I had a chance to crawl in bed, only to have the phone ring and find out that the Trucker was on his way home at 9:30 in the morning. Nap time over. Haha.

I know I'm behind in posting, I simply don't have any time to write when school is in. I feel like I run non-stop. But I did find a few things that were helpful, and might help other moms who are in school also. The web is full of very generic "tips" for school when you have children, but honestly, they are crap.

Find quiet things for your kids to do while you do homework. Yeah, I figured that. The trouble is that decorating the walls with a Sharpie is actually pretty darn quiet. What is a mom to do? Yay, I got my essay done but now I have a couple hours of scrubbing the walls with SOS and hairspray. It's not really worth it. Sometimes, you just have to pay attention to the kids instead.

Get out of the house to do homework. Again, this is not as easy as it sounds. I had grand ideas, oh yes, I thought this would work. I gathered my books and papers and headed down to a quiet little coffee shop. Bought myself a nice treat. Cracked the lid of the coffee open and the textbook. There was only one other table in use. I thought this was perfect! Until those three people starting talking. They were so loud and animated, I couldn't focus on my reading at all.

The library is questionable. It depends on the time you go. There are noisy kids during some hours. Full seats during others. It just didn't work out. My only options would be going to a friends house (or family) and hiding there, but it has side effects too. For one, I lose some time driving there, and then there would definitely be at least a little visiting too. If I'm going to do all that, I might as well hide in my bedroom (the one with no locking door, of course).

Enlist friends or family to help with the kids. Again, a lot of good and bad here. My sister helped me out and took the kids off my hands at times. That was nice. But sometimes, you don't know how long you have. Sometimes, the kids come back so excited to share what they did, even though you are right in the depths of Dr. Faustus and somehow are magically pouring the greatest essay idea you have ever had out. Then you stop, listen to them, maybe even say "just let me finish this paragraph," and you turn back to the keyboard and poof, the magic is gone. Idea lost.

The trucker slowly came around and helped in a different way. He cooked a little more. He coordinated bathing and shower times more often. He started pitching in with laundry more. He found new ways to connect with the kids and this didn't just benefit me, it was good for him too. His whole outlook on family has changed in the last few months. But again, this is not a great dependable fix. He is a trucker after all. Some days he was home before the kids got out of school and he could pick them up. But more often than not, if I had a big project coming due, he had a long day and I'd be lucky if he was home before the kids bedtimes.

Keep an agenda, keep assignments organized and written down. An agenda is a wonderful thing, but I realized fast that having it written down for me was not going to give anyone else a clue about how much I had to get done. And I'm juggling three kids school calendars and events too. Plus the occasional thing that comes up for the Trucker. I've synced every device I have and even tried using a shared calendar option. But that only helps when others actually look at it. So I changed it. I made a week per page calendar for all of us and kept it on the fridge for everyone to see. And I wrote every thing down. Hot lunch orders, due dates for forms, assignments, everything went on there. It actually worked quite well and I will share more about that in a separate post, including pictures.

What I learned through all of this is that there is no real tip sheet for any mom on how to handle school. Each of us has a different family. I don't have kids that nap anymore, for example. I still have to help my 8th grader with homework and my 4th grader too. I have to read with Angel everyday, and not just bedtime stories.

I really took life one day at a time. It was liberating! A few things got missed, but nothing major. It is always surprising how you can adapt to things. No matter what has to get done, you find a way to get most of it done and the things that get missed are never the end of the world.

Now that I have time to write, I will share several things that came up and were very helpful. All of the above sounds negative to some degree, but it really wasn't. It was hard, but it was so very worthwhile. There has been so much positivity in my life since school started that it is amazing. My whole world has changed and I love every second of it. Even if I can't have a nap.