Planning is the Word

It’s getting to be that time of year when all good adjunctmoms start thinking about heading back to school. Homeschool has started. All of my teacher friends are either currently teaching or about to be, but because I take the second summer term off, I don’t have to be back until September 22nd. This is a good thing because it gives me time to decompress from a year of work and then start thinking about how to make the next year go more smoothly. This is where I am now: the planning stage.

Planning has gotten a lot trickier now that Katie is starting to do activities of her own and some of those activities compete with Ben’s. Add in the dogs, the parents, the family, the church, the students, and things that I might like to do myself. Every year, I set off with a super-ambitious schedule and every year I end up floundering by week 2 and finding myself wondering why I spent all that time setting up something that was doomed to failure. Why do plans fail?

  1. I am terrible at estimating how long it takes to do something. For example, we started a science activity for Ben’s bible study about a half hour before creative time starts. According to the parameters I read, that should have worked out just fine. Unfortunately, those parameters didn’t include the set up time of about 20 minutes. So, the science activity is in his room where he can watch it during creative time (and where, undoubtedly, I will be cleaning yeast and water off the walls in about an hour).
  2. I allow myself to believe that I can work faster than I really can. This is not the same thing as the first one, even though it sounds like it. I know that it takes me between 20 and 30 minutes to do a close read on a student paper. I’ve been doing this for 20 years, so at this point, I know. I have to allow roughly 30 minutes a paper in order to do a thorough job. Every year, though, I convince myself that I can shave that down to fifteen minutes. And every year, I prove that I can’t do that.
  3. I rarely factor in the planning/prep/routine things when I’m considering what needs to be done. For example, I’m making dinner tonight because P isn’t feeling well. The recipe plainly lists a  prep and cook time of 20 minutes for the main dish and 30 minutes for the side dish. So, theoretically, I start at 5:30p, I should have dinner on the table at 6p, right? Well, maybe. They also note that the potatoes for the side dish are peeled and cut into chunks, prior to starting the dish. So that adds time.
  4. I rarely remember to gather all of the required elements for a project before I start it or even the night before. So, back to the science activity. We had to find a water bottle for it, find a balloon and a rubber band for it, and so on and so forth.

And for the record, this goes just as badly with academic things. I have lists of topics that I want to introduce in a specific sequence in each course that I teach. Half the time I can’t remember where those items are or how to find them or, sometimes, why I wanted to use them in the first place.

So, I’m trying something new and actually old. I have printed out Tell Your Time and am planning to spend this week working through the exercises in it. Because really that’s not enough for me, I’ve added Mission Statements for Moms, Maximize Your Mornings, Create Your Perfect Cleaning Schedule, AND One Bite at a Time. I’m hoping that the combination of inspiration from these sources will help me figure out how to plan a life that is more balanced and more conducive to maintaining my health.

Next week I’ll talk about how the planning thing is going and my search for the “one true planner” which I think has turned into three planners, sort of. Monday posts are going to tend to cluster around the academic/personal spheres of my life with only tangential discussion of homeschool as it relates to the other parts of my life.

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Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Best Things I Did For Myself in 2010

Top Ten {Tuesday}

1. I read the Bible in 90 days. Amy at Mom’s Toolbox ran this last January and I learned a lot about myself, my relationship to Christ, and my beliefs by doing this. It’s a worthwhile experience and if you’re interested in it another round starts on January 3rd.

2. Related to the first, I agreed to teach Sunday School at my church. While a lot of people would see this as something for someone else, I see it as for myself because it helps me to explain things better to my children and helps me see through the eyes of children. I think it also improves my patience with my son and with my students because it helps me see what other children/people are like and allows me to adjust my expectations a bit.

3. Discovered Big Picture Classes with much thanks to Christina @ thefairlyoddmother.com for raving about a photography class she was taking. I signed on late and didn’t quite get into it, but took another one and am taking another one now and taking three more classes through them in 2011. I think I’m getting to be a better photographer because of what I’m learning and I”m learning a bit about scrapbooking, too. Who would have thought that I would ever consider scrapbooking?

4. Discovered a planner that actually works for me without me having to bend it too far. They interviewed me about how I use the planner here if you’d like to see more of my thoughts on it. No, it isn’t cheap and yes, there are alternatives, but it makes sense for me at this time and I love using it.

5. Related to #4; discovered a homeschool planner that works for us. The Well-Planned Day is very Christian-oriented, so if you’re aggressively secular, you may not like it, but if you can either ignore the Christian elements or appreciate them in small doses, then it’s a great planner. I can see where, when Ben and/or Katie are ready for Confirmation that it will be helpful for them (assuming we’re still using it). I find it helpful to lay out where we’re going and Ben likes being able to see the check marks and know that we’re accomplishing stuff.

6. Related to #4 and $5, discovered Cozi. The wall calendar we use for family events is great, but it is really useless when P is out and about and needs to know what’s going on. If I’m not in front of it, I can’t tell him either. Cozi is my step toward solving that problem. Put the events in Cozi and then we’ll sort it out from there.

7. Related to #6, bought a smartphone. I finally bit the bullet and bought one. I have the Cozi app on it, so my calendar, to do lists, and shopping lists are right there. It’s really helpful. Now, to get P in on the revolution and maybe we can let the wall calendar go. We’ll see.

8. Begged for and received a Kindle and an iPad. You’d think I’d only need one. You haven’t met my family. The iPad gets near constant use for all family members. The Kindle is pretty much mine alone. So, I can read in peace while they play games on the iPad. Works out for everybody.

9. Bough two of Your Birthday Book: A Keepsake Journal one for each of my kids. I am never going to be a high-quality scrapbooker, and though I love the photo books I put together, I really want to record some of the things that they say and give them more memories of being kids. This book is about perfect in it’s design, execution, and layout. Ben’s starts late, so I’m having to fill things in for the first four years and there aren’t interviews during those years, but I have one from this year and it is hilarious. I love looking at my baby book and stuff, even though they’re not very complete, so I’m trying really, really hard to make sure my kids have complete things so that they have lots of mom’s thoughts about them as little kids.

10. Bought a membership to the Y. I haven’t used it as much as I thought I would. But I’ve been reasonably consistent over the last year, so we’re going to re-up for six more months and see how that goes. I like taking it six months at a time. I like being able to stop and reevaluate, and I love the kids’ programs. They’re good for my kids.

Now that you’ve read my Top Ten list; head over to Amanda’s and check out all of the other cool top ten lists for the last Tuesday of 2010.

Welcome Back, Me!

It’s been a busy vacation, but ultimately a good one. We got some stuff done around the house that we’ve been meaning to do. We took our very first family vacation with the kids (and learned that a family vacation with the kids means the only ones having a vacation are the kids). I managed to narrowly miss doing serious damage to my left hand (yeah, for the record, NEVER try a new skill with a new-to-you sewing machine if that new skill involves elastic — the results were not pretty and are still putting a crimp in my style).

I finished a lot of projects that have been hanging over my head, well, until the “incident” as we’re calling it. After that I spent a lot of time reading. I’ve now read most of the Kleypas connected books and am diligently working on finishing the Bridgerton series by Julia Quinn. So, yeah, I might have a little thing for historical romances.

We started our homeschooling year in earnest while I was on vacation. We’re still in search of a math curriculum that doesn’t make one or both of us cry at the drop of a hat. We’re now eying RightStart Math — if you have opinions, pros, cons, or other suggestions that don’t involve a metric ton of worksheets, I’m all ears. The worksheets seem to be the problem. But for our first serious year of it to have only two curriculum mis-steps seems like something of a miracle. It really does. Everything is proceeding well and I’m overall pleased with how he’s doing. His handwriting is his biggest issue. Everything else is going swimmingly (well, except math, but we’re heading toward getting that fixed).

School restarts today. I’m good with it. I’ve somewhat missed teaching over the last six weeks. Not as much as I have during some other breaks, but not so little that I don’t want to go back, if that makes sense. The difference seems to be that I have more to fill my days and I don’t “have” to have that school schedule to keep me going. Now, I have to wonder if I can take more time off than I used to and still be an effective teacher. Guess we’ll see about that.

Other random things that have happened. Katie spontaneously tried to potty train herself. It didn’t take, but we encouraged her with every step and she still poos or pees in the potty at least once or twice a week. Pretty good for a just turned 22 month old. We finally admitted that Katie has my hair and I purchased appropriate products to make her hair life better than mine was (until the last couple of years). So, yes, Katie now spends as much on hair care as her momma. Fortunately, her products don’t cause any rashes or other sensitivity issues and she doesn’t mind them horribly. (Those wondering probably shouldn’t — I’m a Ouidad girl and I likely always will be, so she is, too. Their kids line is FABULOUS [and no, they’re not paying me to say that.])

I’ve agreed to teach Sunday school at my church this year. We’re trying a workshop approach and my first time teaching is a week from Sunday. It’s going to be interesting, I’m sure. We’re going three weeks on and three weeks off.

I’m taking a couple of classes at Big Picture Classes this fall. One that is scrapbooking (totally a new thing for me) and one on photography. They overlap a little, but it should be fine. We’ll see.

I’m also following along on the 100 Days Til Christmas thingfound here. I’ve always done better if I have a holiday planner and this is truly helping me think things through as we start planning for the holidays this year.

I’ve missed blogging and I’m back to this too, though I’m not sure what I want to talk about and how much I want to focus on what. I guess we’ll all find out together. If you have requests, now is a good time to make them.

Realizations

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking, and not nearly so much writing, lately. Ben started his first ever week of camp this past Monday and holy moly was I productive that day. A lot of work accomplished. I worked out for the first time in a while, and I sat down and made this hugely ambitious list of things I wanted to do by the end of the week. Here we are on Wednesday, and I’m not nearly through the list. I went on a small Amazon buying spree. I slugged out yesterday and didn’t try the class I wanted to try at the gym. And actually, yesterday, if there were bad parenting awards, I would have definitely been up for the grand prize. I completely sucked as a parent.

I’m better today and I was better Monday. The common theme. Got up. Got breakfast for all human types. Went to the gym. And I think that’s the key . . . the going to the gym part. I think I’m a better parent if I work out. If I take a little time and work through things and listen to my music and make heavy things move or swim or whatever floats my boat that day.

But hot on the heels of that revelation was my sincere panic. How am I supposed to do the million other things I want to do or need to do if I’m taking about two hours to go work out from the morning. Even if I get up with the birds, I still have to drive to the gym, get the kids settled, work out, and then do the reverse of all of that. And that’s when it hit me. I can do this.

I can make the gym my priority for a while and that’s what it is. My priority, but, and this is the big part, if the gym is my priority, then that means that other things aren’t my priority and they, very likely, aren’t going to get done. I think part of this came as I was considering the Blogging the Bible in 90 days challenge that’s coming up (it starts July 5th; if you haven’t signed up go to: Mom’s Toolbox and follow the relevant links. It’s a rewarding thing to do. And that’s it. I got a lot out of it the last time. I’m mentoring this time. I really felt that I should be reading along, too. And then I realized that, right now, I can’t do that. I want to do that the same way I want to be able to make quilts and cross-stitch and knit and take pictures and and and . . . but I can’t do it all.

I’m not one of those people who is now going to say that the feminists sold us a bill of goods and that no one can have it all or that no one can have it all at one time or some other nonsense like that. If you really believe that, then you don’t understand the feminist movement AT ALL. And that’s an argument that I’d love to have with you . . . on another day.

Today, I’m trying to make sure I remember this feeling. I have this moment of perfect clarity right now. I understand. I can be a good parent if I do the things that support ME in being a good parent. That doesn’t mean read every relevant (or irrelevant) book on parenting out there. That doesn’t mean try on different parenting philosophies like I’m in the dressing room at Nordstrom’s. It means playing to my specific strengths and doing what I know works for me and for my kids. For me, that means getting some exercise on a regular basis AWAY from my kids, trying to eat just a little better, and taking a little time to do things that I enjoy. It means letting go of caring about what other people think about how I do things, how I care for my kids, how I relate to our extended families or other people. It means accepting that not everyone is going to like me. Hell, most people are probably not going to like me.

It also means, since I’m homeschooling, working on expanding my comfort zones a bit. It means letting the kids paint and use play dough of varying kinds and scraping the stuff off my floors, walls, and dogs without fighting it. It means sometimes abandoning school in the morning and doing it in the afternoon. And sometimes it means doing school in ways that I almost don’t recognize as school, and you know what? That’s okay, too.

I wrote a post a while ago about my priorities for this year, and I realized recently that I’ve lost sight of them. I need to find a better balance where work isn’t absorbing every free minute I have. I cannot honestly say that at end of my life I want to look back and realize that I spent time that should have been with my kids, my dogs, my spouse, with students and with my computer.

So, there may be some scaling back. There may be some talk about changes in my work/life/home balance. It doesn’t mean I’m going away or that I won’t be back, but I have to decide what matters most and I have to start living like what I say is most important truly is. Otherwise, I’ll have a lifetime of regrets and no one wants that. Especially not me.

Top Ten Priorities for 2010

It’s interesting how life syncs up sometimes. I’ve been reading, and using, Organize Now!: A Week By Week Guide To Simplify Your Space And Your Life. Some of the first weeks have been fairly no brainer for me. I have a planner that works for me (finally). I have a system that helps me to organize my household cleaning, but this week was different. This week she wants us to really think about and look at our top ten priorities. Convenient that I read this last night and low and behold, it’s time for Top Ten Tuesday Blog Carnival. Well, there’s a fortuitous coincidence if I ever saw one. So, I roughed out a list of my top ten priorities and that’s what I want to talk about today. Understand, though, that after the first one the numbers are just to delineate them, not to indicate which has priority over which.

1. Family. I think it’s safe to say that my family is my top priority. I try to think about how the things I choose to do will impact each of them. I try to plan, intentionally, so that there is time for each of the kids, for my husband, and for me each day. This doesn’t go as well as I’d like and tends to set me in conflict with my other priorities, but it’s a work in progress for me.

2. Faith. I’m fairly loose in some aspects of this. I don’t attend church regularly. This is actually a health issue not a church issue. It’s difficult for me to sit in church with people because I tend to start having multiple asthma attacks and it’s very stressful. However, I work on increasing my understanding of the Bible, my role as a faithful person, spouse, and mother. This is part of what my Bible in 90 days stuff is all about.

3. Exercise. I am committed to getting healthier and to opening more opportunities to myself. I have committed to the March for Babies in April. I’m certain that my injured knees will have recovered by then, so this will be a good target for me once I can start working out again. I’m trying to set a good example for my kids, but mostly I’m doing this for me. I want to get back in touch with what my body can do instead of focusing on what it can’t do.

4. Time for crafts. I love to do creative things with my hands. Cross-stitch, knit, quilt, photography? These are all things that I love and I want to start making time for them in my every day life. They relax me and make me a better person to be around, and I love the sense of accomplishment when I’m done.

5. Homeschooling. This is an ongoing learning process for me. I’m glad that I decided before it “counts,” so Ben and I can try on different things and find the things that work for us and the things that don’t. I want my kids to love learning and to be both curious and excited by the world around them. It’s a goal worth shooting for.

6. Work. I do value what I do and I love seeing/feeling the lightbulbs come on for my students. I think, though, that I have to learn how to balance the efforts of my work with the rest of my life. I want to have time to do all the things that matter not just some of the things that matter.

7. Dogs. I have them. They have me. I want them both to be happy and to feel safe. I want Peyton to have more fun and be able to do the things that she can do so that she has a full and interesting life. To that end, I am researching a basic obedience class she can take so we can work on her leash manners, specifically :).

8. Extended family. I’m working hard to keep and maintain the friendships that I have with my cousins. I have a bunch of them, and I want to be closer to them and more involved in their lives and have them more involved in mine. Facebook has been a tremendous support for that. More than I would have dreamed possible when a certain person (initials LRR) convinced me to give a try a little over a year ago. It’s paid huge dividends to me and I am forever indebted for getting involved there in the first place.

9. Friends. By this I mean the people who live in my area who I know and adore. I’m trying to arrange to see more of my friends. Even if it’s only once or twice a month that I get out for half a day to spend time. Sometimes I try to arrange for the ones with kids to do playdates with my kids and then we can hang out and referee if needed.

10. Blogging. I’m finding that this is turning into a serious outlet for me. I am building relationships and finding like minded people who are interesting and supportive. I’ve learned a lot about myself writing a public blog (like the things I just won’t talk about, for example), but I’ve also learned just how valuable these online connections truly are. I want to work on growing my voice and developing a better posting pattern than the one I currently have. I want my blog to be the best reflection of my priorities and a place where experiences are shared and friendships can be built. It’s also reinforced for me that as aggravating as my son can be, he’s perfectly normal and there’s nothing wrong with my parenting either.

“One Year,” Priorities, and Introduction

I confess that I’ve lost some momentum this week with my One Year to an Organized Life plan. It was finals time at one of the schools I teach for and that makes for some crazy long days, very little sleep and some truly dreadful eating habits.

The good news is that grades were turned in yesterday but weren’t due until 11:59p CT tonight, so I’m early. Or, put differently, I didn’t procrastinate, which was one of the things I was supposed to be working on in the one year plan. The other good news is that the bathrooms were the target area for this month. P and I had already done a major bathroom clear out a few months ago — before Katie was born. We chose to do this because we wanted to make room for newborn diapers and all that fun stuff for the time period where she would be sleeping in our room. She didn’t sleep in there with us for too long. Maybe six weeks, and then she moved to her crib and has been happy sleeping there ever since.

I guess I’m fortunate that the procrastination thing and the bathrooms fell where they did so that I could finish strong with the course I was teaching and really work on not procrastinating my way through my work. Normally, at this time, I would be grading like a crazed woman fueled on terrible food and enough caffeine to light up a small country. I did do the bad food and caffeine but I managed to finish faster, so it all worked out well for me and I’m pleased with that.

I’ve decided to take a break from the school that just finished for a bit. I’m not as strong as I would like to be and I feel like I can’t give the students everything that they deserve right now, so I’m just not going to teach there until I feel like I can do that. It’s what’s best for me and best for the students even if it’s not necessarily best for my bank account.

I’m thinking again about doing more writing, so we may see an upsurge in talk about fiction and such things. Then again, we may not. I’m more than willing to admit that I haven’t been feeling like writing and that I need to get myself back together on that.

Having said that, I’m going to go back to staring at my beautiful daughter as she works on forward motion and getting tired enough to go to sleep.

Oh, I’ve added a couple of blogs to my blog roll, most notably, Momsomniac. She dropped by here about a week ago, we got to talking, I read her blog; she read mine, and I think she’s good people and worth the read. If you’re stopping by here to read me, you should definitely wander on over and take a look at her, too.