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Category Archives: Tips for the Seriously Scattered

It Adds Up

Friends! It’s been such a crazy month! Anyone who knows me well knows that I like a lot of empty space on my calendar, but that seems to be a thing of the past. It feels like we’ve never been busier, and yet…it’s not all that busy. You know? It just feels like there are a lot of hours each week where I do nothing but spin my wheels. Which is strange, considering that so many more of my hours are spent without my small people around. The thing is — and I think any parent learns this pretty quickly — the kids are so much more independent in some ways, which is terrific, but require a whole different kind of attention and energy as they get older. By the way, that’s just an observation, not a complaint. I actually dig this stage much more than the toddler one (as much as I miss my little babies *sniff*), but it’s not without its challenges. Anyway, my point in all this is that some days, I don’t even know what I accomplished.

I know that I was busy, but with what?

Also, I have found that whole hours and then days get sucked away, and I feel no further ahead. Away with that! I’ve put some new goals in place for myself, and am already excited by the results. (We’re on Day 3.) In addition, I’ve decided to dedicate this month to tackling the Little Things.

You know — Little Things. The stuff that sits on the edges of the to-do list week after week and doesn’t ever seem to make it to “to-done”. And then, when you finally get after it, it takes mere minutes. I am DROWNING in Little Things!

Today, for example, I had some copies that needed to be made, and a package that has been sitting on the table in the front hall waiting to be returned. A box filled with a product that made me so mad when it broke, I came the closest in my life of actually being rude to a help desk rep (because years of being on the other end of that line makes you exceedingly forgiving…to a point) and argued to no avail that they should replace my busted item immediately rather than wait for the standard return/replace process. I need it now! But no. So I begrudgingly took my RMA number and left it to sit, gathering dust, for at least two weeks. Probably more; I don’t want to know. Anyway, today that stuff got done. Now, that’s saying something, considering the first time I went to the UPS Store, they were not open on time, so I had to make a second trip. Yes, that’s right — I didn’t make that second trip two more weeks from now. I did it today!

I also threw together a delicious salad for lunch in less than ten minutes, rather than go the gnaw-on-a-hunk-of-bread route, which counts as its own little victory. Little Things!



Nice and Easy

A couple of posts back, I made mention of my recent adventures cooking with the kids. Now, if you’re someone who naturally digs cooking with your little ones, you are not going to be impressed; trust me on this one.

However, if you — like me — tend to get a little frazzled, and were not born with that super useful ability to unclench a little because they’re just kids and this is supposed to be fun for all, well, this post is for you.

Also: if you like delicious chocolate, this post is for you. We’ll be covering both.

So, my kids love to go through this book and make their requests. I like that, since I’m all too happy for new lunch ammo, and the recipes we’ve sampled have been hits. This time around, my son lit on the oatmeal bars. I told him that we’d give them a shot one day. Ah, that mythical day, when we have some free time, and I’m in the mood to get everyone into the kitchen with me and the table is clear….

It just doesn’t happen that often. And why? Because I totally overthink it! This time, after he went to school, I looked at the recipe again, and realized that we had everything in the cupboards. And the table was 80% cleared off. And we had free time in the afternoon. Oh, and it is a super easy recipe. Why not just make the darn cookies? No reason not to. I did, however, try to think of a way to make it less stress-inducing for me, because it just makes sense.

Brace yourself — here it is:

  1. Prep all the ingredients and have them all set up before calling the kids into the kitchen. Yes, this takes some of the fun learning out of it, but it’s a process. We’ll get to more fun hands-on stuff down the road. Probably way down the road.
  2. Pick something easy!

I can’t stress that second one enough. The oatmeal bars were as easy as they read, not to mention delicious, and took about ten minutes to put together. I thought it might have been too easy, and they’d be kind of let down by the experience, but no! They were happy to have cooked, happy to be done, and didn’t fight for the rest of the afternoon.

Oh yes. Best ten minutes ever! I could not believe the difference.

Fast forward to yesterday. I love a couple bites of tasty chocolate at the end of the day, but always feel a little guilty when I throw the “good” bars into the cart (especially since I don’t like to share. Shhhh.) Also, we have been eating A LOT of dessert lately, so I thought that having a nice nibble of something sweet at the end of the meal might wean us off somewhat without all the ruckus. What about chocolate bark? I found this recipe on Pinterest and figured that it would be a good one to try sometime. Doh! Here we go again! See how ingrained this tendency has become? So my little buddy and I stopped at the store for a bag of Ghirardelli chips, rummaged through the pantry for fancy add-ons, and made us some bark.


(I meant to take fancier step-by-step pics, but then I forgot, what with all of the excitement over actually doing something.)

We added chopped salted almonds and flaked coconut to our chocolate. I spread out the chocolate puddle, and Bridget rained down the toppings. And then I rained down some more, because she totally refused to get out to the corners. Teamwork!


Here it is after it’s chill time, all nice and shard-y. It’s quite delish, and it sure has done the trick as far as making everyone forget their nightly cries for ice cream cones (mine included), but next time I think I’ll stir some of the toppings into the chocolate to add more flavor. We’ll see.

I’m going to need a lot more of these quick little projects before the summer is upon us.


Old School

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I can’t be blamed for losing track of the day. Instead of simply celebrating Teacher Appreciation Day at its appointed time, my son’s school instead opts for Teacher Appreciation Week, complete with suggested assignments for exactly who to honor each day. It’s a touch overwhelming for the overthinkers among us. Anyway, the “specials” teachers are — aw gee, was that today? No, wait — that’s tomorrow; today was for the nurse. So art/music/P.E. are tomorrow, but the main teachers are to be honored on Friday, which to my mind meant that I didn’t even need to have my act together til mid-week.

Imagine my surprise when I woke up Tuesday morning and was informed my the morning news that it was the real Teacher Appreciation Day. And I didn’t have anything prepared for my daughter’s teachers. And we really do appreciate them, and I have to admit that it does stress me out a little bit to show up empty-handed after having been treated to years and years of complaints about parents who can’t be bothered to show their appreciation. (Yeah, y’all  — yes, all of you –know who you are. Save the commiserating for your colleagues! I’m one of “them”!)

Nobody panic, though. There’s still time to offer a token of thanks without breaking the bank or having a nervous breakdown:


You mean you don’t hoard glass jars? Well, then you may be out of luck. I, however, had two beautiful olive jars and some tulle. The youngest artist-in-residence decorated the cards with her trademark rainbow, and we were off to the store for the prettiest daisies you ever did see. And we were so pleased with our offering, and so were they. Happiness for all!

Teachers really are a deserving group, and my kids teachers — all ten of them — are terrific. Hopefully, Joey’s won’t hold it against me if they don’t all get something wonderful…or anything at all. [“Specials”, I’m sorry! My act is not yet together as of this printing….]




31 Days: Trickery

It’s sad that, at my age, I still need to trick myself into doing chores. See, I really really hate doing the dishes. I try very hard to clean as I go and all that, but —

Okay, actually, I guess I don’t try all that hard, or I’d be cleaning as I go all the time. That’s pretty much one of those Yoda “there is no try” kind of situations. So, in theory, I believe in cleaning as I go, but it rarely works out that way. Hence, dishes begin to pile up super quickly. You miss one meal’s worth of dishes, and the counter’s covered.

In order to compel myself to get in there and get the job done, I’ve found two excellent tools:

  1. Keep some music in the kitchen, and turn it UP.
  2. Put on an apron.

Easy. Clearly, neither one of these tips is rocket science, but they have made a big difference in my routine. The minute I slip the apron over my head, I know it’s time to Work. Also, I know I can work without soaking myself at the sink ten minutes before I’m due to pick up the kids; one more excuse gone. Then, if I can just make myself walk to the back and turn on the iPod, I’m more than happy to stay put for at least a few tunes. The little things really do add up!

Right now, the dishwasher is waiting to be emptied and I have two loaves of bread rising on the table. (The dough has been in the fridge for over a week, so time was getting to be of the essence, there.) Seeing as how I have no desire to have anything at all to do with the kitchen today, an apron will definitely be in order.

31 Days: And Then It Goes Too Far

When my brother came out for a visit last summer (July, to be precise), I promised to make him a picnic quilt. Not that he asked for one — I was in the mood to make one, and he was just the lucky winner. Besides, Central Park in the Fall? Surely he’d be picnicking!

Right after he left, I got to work. The top was done in a matter of days, and I decided to make it envelope-style to cut out the added step of binding. Time was of the essence, don’t ya know. From that point on, the details get a little fuzzy. Did I start (hand)quilting it right then? Or did it get relegated to a bag immediately?


…well, I do know that I brought it to Craft Day early in the Spring, and managed to bang out quite a bit of the quilting. And then returned it to the bag.

Fast forward to September 2012: The brother is coming home again! And the quilt is not done. But! If I can finish it now, he can take it back with him! I’ll have fulfilled my promise and cheaped out on shipping all in one fell swoop. Score!

So, the day before he arrived (of course), I realized that I was doing it again and was going to miss my big opportunity if I didn’t get down to business pronto. Ooh, but I only had a couple of hours before it was time to pick up the boy from school…and then I would have to fix dinner…so maybe it would be better to just start on it after the kids went to bed…

…or maybe I could take it out of the bag already and make a stitch or two? Would that be so hard? Right. Took it out of the bag, and found out that there were only two blocks left to quilt. Oh, they were large blocks, to be sure, but still. Two.

An hour later, it was done. Unbelievable! I’d let it sit — completely untouched — for six months, and it would’ve been off and on its way in a matter of hours.

Are there any languishing projects sitting around your house today? Why not pick one up and give it a once over? It might be closer to done than you think!

31 Days: Easily Beset

One of my main problems is that I’m very easily taken off course. For instance, if a normal person has a sick kid, they rearrange their lives accordingly and just move along.

At least that’s what I assume. I figure that most women don’t just wander around the house while the voice in their head screams “SICK KID! SICK KID! WHAT DOES THIS MEAN? HOW LONG WILL IT LAST? WHAT DO I DO?” You know, there’s a certain amount of that that’s to be expected, but I can do that for days on end. We’ve been stuck in this house for the past five days, thanks to a lovely stomach bug, and you wouldn’t believe what I didn’t manage to accomplish during that time. And I’m not talking about the actively-taking-care-of-the-infirm time.

Did I complete my bible study homework? No.

Plan meals for this week? Come on.

Wander around aimlessly? For hours on end.

It’s way too common of a theme. The real problem I have is that I don’t particularly think well on my feet; I’m a slow processor. When my routine is upset, it’s hard to regroup. So how to combat this tendency?

Think ahead!

One of the first things I’m going to tackle is making a list — always start with a list! — of tasks that take 15 minutes or less. That way, when I go into zombie mode, I can refer to the list of all the possible things I could be accomplishing. Then, maybe even tackle one or two. The thing is, once it’s on the list, I’ll know that there’s no way to fall back on the classic “I didn’t have the time!” excuse, because odds are that I totally did have 15 minutes.

Part two is the actual completing of the task at hand, which is a topic for another day.

OK — I’m off to make my list. My original goal was to make said list last week, but I couldn’t find my notebook, and didn’t have a specific time set aside for list-making, and — you’re beginning to see the problem, right?

31 Days of Refusing Idleness

A year or two ago, I read a book called Practicing Hospitality. Although I enjoyed it at the time, nothing in it particularly spoke to me. Knowing that I still need work in the hospitality area, I picked it up again earlier this year, and this sentence practically leapt off the page:

Refusing idleness is essential to a well-managed and orderly home.” [emphasis mine]

Well! Is that it? Actually…it just may be. During the month of October — along with a bunch of other 31 Dayers* — my aim is to find out. Exactly how much could I accomplish in some of the odd pockets of time that are wasted each day? I’m pretty excited to find out. Most of all, I’m hoping to finish each day with a sense of accomplishment instead of feeling like the world’s most underperforming mom/wife/friend/etc.

Of course, trying to not spend hours on end checking out the rest of the 31 Day projects is going to be a true test of will. Cranking out 31 days of somewhat brief posts will be another. See? All sorts of growth opportunities are already cropping up! Good times!



*Yeah, I was too lame to figure out how to create a button, so I’m sort of participating from the sidelines. Maybe in year seven I’ll get more into the cool tech side of this whole blogging thing. Or maybe Joey can teach me. (It wouldn’t surprise me.)

And That’s Why Warming Up is Important

A couple of months ago, when I first set out to Craft up some Hope by making an apron or two, warming up my apron-making chops seemed like a good idea. As it turns out, it was: Those Christmas aprons? You know, the ones that I’ve made before? Well, I didn’t mark my pieces and of course it’s a poorly guarded secret that I sometimes speed-read right past the most key points of the directions, and — yadda yadda yadda — I mixed up the two straps. Of course, it wasn’t until I made this one that I realized the mistake. Whoopsie daisy! At least now I know why the elastic didn’t seemed kind of stretched out and the waist strap looked awfully big.

You’ll note that I didn’t put it all together as I noticed the funky elastic and extra-large belt. No, siree.

Luckily, those were going to family — family who will be getting new ones before it’s time to bake Christmas cookies, anyway. (Oh, come on — like I’m not going to make special Christmas cookie-baking aprons!) This batch of aprons, however, needed to be right the first time around.

And, of course, by the first time around, I mean after I re-did the straps. The first set was the wrong width. It’s a slippery slope when I make changes to a pattern, especially if there’s any sort of math involved. Note to self: When you make changes, make notes. Aside from that little hiccup, it was smooth sailing. The pattern came from Lotta Jansdotter’s first book, and it’s still my favorite work apron. See how flattering it is to the banister post? Gorgeous! Hopefully, they’ll be useful to the ladies who receive them in Haiti.

Time to Change

So, Spring Break was kind of a bust for us. It was just one of those things, where a week seems like a veritable eternity stretched out before you…until you realize that it’s Day 4 and you haven’t really done anything. Part of the problem lay in my complete inability to make changes on the fly. For example, I’d planned to take the kids to the mall one day  — yeah, pretty exciting stuff — but decided to slate that for the last part of the week. Then, come the end of the week, we ended up not going and I could not figure out why. Oh, wait! I know why: because I’d decided to wait until my sister came into town, since that’s something she likes to do, but then she ended up not coming. Not that big of a deal, except the whole week was like that. Luckily, though, my kids aren’t all that hard to please, so it was still a pretty good week, especially if you like just hanging around. We did *tons* of that. And library storytime — we did go to library storytime!

Another plus was that I finally got around to addressing The Girl’s closet, which was kind of a disaster.

Not horrible [unlike the photos, but it’s really hard to take a picture of a closet on a cloudy day!], but pretty junky. I tossed out all of the old baby stuff, random cables, etc. Would you believe that I found yet another box of boys infant clothes? Yes, almost seven years later, I’m still finding the odd parcel of clothes in the “baby’s” room. Good grief! Pretty sure I’ve congratulated myself several times for finally getting rid of everything…but no. There was more.

Now that the closet was pretty much a clean slate, I was able to sit and think about a possible solution to our current problem. It seems that this child is a bit of a fashion maven, and would happily change her outfit three times a day. It doesn’t sound like that big of a deal on paper, but the daily ransacking of her dresser was getting on my last nerve. So was the battle of wills we’d entered into every morning for the all-important first outfit selection. But! I had a plan:

At the beginning of the week, I create eight or nine outfits and hang them up where she can reach them. Every morning, she’s allowed to go into the closet and choose whichever one she wants. Then we shut the closet (which has one of those child-proof covers on the knob, so she can’t just help herself to its contents all the live-long day), and we’re pretty much done for the day.

Guess what? So far, it’s working!!

I moved on to the dresser after finishing the closet, and bagged up all of the winter wear. The shirts and pants that were leftover after filling the closet were pretty slim pickings, so she’s pretty much forgotten that they’re in there. At least I assume that she’s forgotten; she hasn’t tossed the drawers in two weeks! Plus, it was finally organized well enough that I could clearly see what she does and does not need. Turns out she needs a little of this and that, but that’s a story for another day. Every completed task seems to create another, but for now I’m happy to savor the victory of conquering one small corner of our cluttery little kingdom.

The Dreaded Non-Starter

Every year, there’s one project that causes me to freeze up, unable to get it off the ground. Worse yet, until I get that one underway, I can’t seem to get moving on anything else.

Sadly, 2010’s official non-starter was actually a carry-over from ’09. I’d cut it (and a second one) loose last year when it became obvious that finishing was not an option. This year, though, I refused to let it meet the same fate, and buckled down nice and early. As a result, I just put the final stitches into the binding. Huzzah!

The second one, however, never made it off the shelf. 2011 will be its year! That one was this year’s sacrifice, because crossing it off the list early on gave me the extra steam to finish this one. You gotta know when to say when.