How do you do it? A question I hear a lot!

a schedule to keepI often get asked, “How do you do everything you do?”

Truthfully there are times that I don’t even know how I do it.

I try as hard as I can to get everything done for everyone, and often I fall a little short. For the most part, things go smoothly, but then a business trip for my husband, or a track meet for the boys throws a monkey wrench into the mix.
Here is how I (mostly) keep it all together:

  1. a morning coffeeCoffee – I suffer from migraines. I have tried many different remedies over the years, and the easiest and most tried and true for me is two cups of caffeine in the morning. This plus a protein filled breakfast like eggs with veggies and cheese or (on a day where we are running out the door) a protein shake made with almond milk and  peanut butter. A good start to my day is imperative to everything working together.
  2. a calendar lookCalendars – Steve and I have calendars that connect to each other. My school schedule, the boys piano lessons, track practices and meets doctors appointments, even what day our dog gets her heart worm medication is all on the calendar. Without the calendar, we  would be lost. I used to use a paper calendar, but sharing that was next to impossible, and we were missing appointments. Once we shared a Google calendar it helped us to be on the same page with our commitments. Steve is the king of inserting into a calendar, and I let him because, well, I loathe it!
  3. Communication – Plain and simple. We do not schedule ANYTHING without checking with each other. we schedule our nights with friends and dates in advance. We have to because our commitments are many right now.
  4. Ignoring spam emails – I have over 2000 unread emails, 99% of them are from a store/stores I have shopped in at some point in time. I just do not take the time to delete them. so they go unread. It kills my organized everything has to be done side, but it has taught me to be okay with not getting everything done.
  5. Choosing to help the boys with their work before mine – My children need their mother. When I am home, their homework comes before mine. Even if I have a final exam to finish, they come first. I have spent hours working on a writing project with one boy and then stayed up way late writing my own paper. I have to put them first because they need me.
  6. Staying up late/waking up early – I stay up some nights until 1 or 2 in the morning to write a paper, read a text book, or plan a lesson. I also have woken up with my husband at 4 AM and while he heads to the Gym (crazy, right?) I will write a blog post or a paper, or plan a lesson for the next week. Sleep is something that alludes me, however, I get plenty of it during vacations, summer, and Saturdays (sometimes).
  7. a school scheduleChoosing a school schedule that does not interfere with the boys schedule– This is super hard. I try to pick a schedule that has me away from home for just one whole night, or online classes where I can work from home, or before I was teaching during the day. As I near the end of this degree, I am having to take classes three days a week away from home, and one of those days is Saturday from 9AM-2PM and it is a biology lab. I wish I hadn’t saved that till the end! My second degree will take place online 100% and will be one class at a time for 5 weeks at a time. so much more manageable. I start that in August.
  8. Spending one afternoon a week at school to write lesson plans (so I don’t bring them home) – This is huge. I spend usually Thursday afternoon at school cleaning up my classroom materials, planning stories and crafts, and organizing my collected work from my students. This has been instrumental in my teaching being a non-stress in my life. I enjoy teaching, and this method of planning has been key to a successful year so far! I often am willing to pay for resources from Teachers Pay Teachers to reduce my stress in planning. very helpful to not reinvent the wheel.
  9. Spending as much available time with my boys – When I do have time at home with them, I enjoy playing a video game, a board game, building Lego sets with them, and even a game of Minecraft on our tablets together. I try to meet them where they are, and spend as much time as possible building positive memories. we even enjoy 30 minute reading breaks together when things are getting crazy!
  10. Planning ahead – but not over-committing – We plan our family and friend events in advance, so they are set in the calendar, but we do not over-commit. we try to be fair and have time with everyone, however lately, we have focused on our nuclear family more. The boys were needing some family of 5 time, and that was important to recognize. We also keep family events low key by making them: potluck, board games, casual, and come and go as you can. With so many family members in our extended family, it can be hard to fit everyone’s schedule.  The boys commitments are minimal as well. They all take piano lessons, and run on the race team for our local youth sports league. These are manageable, and Steve is a runner (more than me) and I can read music and play piano, so I can help with those practice sessions. Simple is the key to not over-committing.
  11. a me time collageMaking time for me – This is crucial. With teaching, and being a mom, a wife, a daughter, a sister, a friend, a student, and a coach, I need to be sure I do things for me. It is always hard to take the time as I feel selfish saying, “I need some time for me.” It is necessary however to do so. How do I enjoy spending my “Me” time? I love to read and even enjoy an audiobook when my time to hold a book is limited, I used to run more but now I have a trainer so I go for a workout and sometimes a run, I love to play board/card games and these things are brain breaks for me but involve family, I like to color in my amazing coloring books I got from my best friend, I like to get a Starbucks and walk around Target looking for nothing,  I love to bake for others as we do not eat a lot of sweets here, and I love to watch a movie. I also spend time with my friends. I truthfully have one amazing friend who has been key to me staying on course. I go to her house and stay until midnight, she comes to mine and stays until late. she is the inspiration and support for me growing my blog, and really finding myself in it. Time for me often includes time with her as she is my best friend, and I need her around to keep me sane, knock me off of my pedestal, and to need me in return. being needed is a wonderful feeling, and I am glad that I have a friend who I can lean on.
  12. a moment aloneMy husbandSteve is a rock. He manages the calendar, takes the boys to the doctors, the dentist, pays the bills, grocery shops, does laundry, and cleans the house. He has picked up all of the things that I dropped. He also works full time. All the time. He is always answering an email, preparing a quote for a customer, or handling a situation with a tech or engineer. He has so much knowledge, and is so much more organized than I am, and I am fairly organized. He knows where I put my keys, where the boys need to be, and what I wore yesterday (when I can’t remember). He holds me when I cry over nothing in my closet looking right. He puts up with my clothes all over the bedroom because putting away my laundry is something I haven’t had time for. he laughs with me, makes my coffee, kisses my forehead while I am writing, and brings me snacks. He also entertains the boys, and for Christmas purchased every workout item I asked for without a blink, even though he had already purchased me the iPad I had been begging for (mine was obsolete and dying, and I was being a brat, I know this). He has been the stand holding me up while I have been barely standing up. The stress of my studies this semester was the worst, and he guided me through it with patience, understanding, and love. I am not worthy, but I openly accept it!
  13. a boy thingMy boys – My children are old enough to do a lot of things for themselves. They do laundry, load and unload the dishwasher, feed and walk the dog, sweep floors, clean mirrors and windows, make breakfast for themselves/each other, prep most of their lunches, and read, do homework and practice piano without question. They realize that mom is in school and busy, but that I love them more than anything. They know I love early morning snuggles, tickle fights, a good session of Minecraft and talking about Star Wars or Legos or both! I pray they understand that me completing my degree is as much for them as it is for me, and I hope they see my studying as a model for the hard work it takes to get good grades and work for what you want out of your education.
  14. My family – My mother and father have been supportive of me going back to school as a mom. They have helped with the boys when Steve has a business trip, read papers for errors, and been council on what my next step should be. my brother and sister have hardly seen me as I have not been around a lot with school and the boys, and they are able to communicate with me and let me know that they get it. my nieces and nephew I don’t get to spend as much time with as I like, but when I do, they are my priority, having fun, making memories. My mother and father in law have helped as well, taking turns with my parents in helping with the boys when school has kept me from being mom. It is actually amazing how a family can lean on each other and  support each other through something that should be simple. College as a mom in your 30’s is not easy, and you need a village. I have given up being the mom that can volunteer for  school events, or field trips. I have given up weeknight bible studies so I can be home or at class. I have stopped some of the things I love, but my family has supported me through it, and I love that!
  15. a end of day momentWine -I enjoy a glass (or 2) of red wine. It helps me unwind at the end of the day, reflect on all I have accomplished, and realize that I am an adult, “adulting” really hard, and I deserve a small break at the end of a long day.  I sometimes replace wine with tea, but I get the same effect.




The reality of it all is that I do not get everything done in a day. A lot of things fall between the cracks. A lot of things never happen. I forget birthdays are coming up, or a special show I was supposed to record, or a promise of a book read at night that I don’t make it home in time for. I cry a lot about that, but I cannot let it hold me back. No one can do it all. and if they tell you they can they are lying to your face. It is not easy, It sucks most days, but at the end of the day, you do the best you can, ask for forgiveness/acceptance/love, and you move forward, it is all you can do!

How do you make your busy schedule work? Do you have any tips for others about how to make a busy schedule less busy? do you need support through something? leave a comment let me know, and maybe someone else can offer support!

Blessings for a happy 2016!



Back to Life

a part of my classroom
a part of my classroom
the essential teacher bag
the essential teacher bag

I am definitely still feeling the relaxation coming off of our vacation.  Today we were back to the real world. As a teacher my job doesn’t end when school ends, and it certainly does not begin when school begins. This summer, I have been working since May to prepare for this school year. I have been doing paperwork, cleaning toys, and many other tasks to be certain the school I work at has a smooth start to the year.  I also have been writing lesson plans, and preparing my classroom. I work with children ages 4 and 5. My classroom has to be fun and interesting. This is quite a challenge but I enjoy it!

i love my new school bag
i love my new school bag

I  am a full time student. I am preparing my text books, my notebooks, and my laptop to be ready for being a student again. I am almost finished with one degree, and then onto another. As A teacher, I know that my education is important. If I want to be an effective teacher, I need to be on top of the latest research. I also know the example I am setting for my own children.They see me reading my text books, writing papers, and finishing projects for my honors program.

just a small sample of the boys school supplies
just a small sample of the boys school supplies

I also am a mom to 3 wonderful boys. All three will be at the same school this year for the last time.  My oldest in 6th grade, my middle in 4th, and my youngest in 1st. Getting them ready for school was my first priority. I purchased school supplies and lunch boxes. We prepared them for the bus ride and our new routine. I also have prepared them for how busy mama will be. I think it is important for them to know that when they have my attention they have my attention.

seriously love this bag
seriously love this bag

In order for mama to stay organized in our busy schedule I need several bags. Sounds crazy, but I find having a bag for each event works best. I have a bag for teaching that holds markers, stickers, lesson plans, curriculum, and anything else I may need (water and lunch). I have a laptop bag for school for mama. This has my notebooks, a folder, my laptop, and a section for pencils, pens, highlighters, and my flash drive.  I also have a wonderfully large purse that goes with me to church or out with my husband. How do I keep it all together?  I have a few small zippered bags that hold all of the essentials. This way I can  just grab the small bags, change them to the other bag, and go!

the moving pieces
the moving pieces

I love that I can organize myself in a way that I always have what I need. Sometimes I have more than I need, and that works for me in situations like teaching or learning because I would never want to be unprepared for the opportunity to learn.  I am currently enjoying the last bits of summer I have with the boys before we all begin school again next week. I hope that I have prepared them for school in a way that will leave them having everything they need, and knowing that the woman that prepared it for them loves them more than they will ever know.

I find this to be very inspiring...
I find this to be very inspiring…

Being a mom

a wife

a student

and a teacher

means my heart and mind are always full

and I am pointed in a direction that means so much!

Every Family Needs a Get Away

those would be turtle tracks in the sand...just amazing to see.
those would be turtle tracks in the sand…just amazing to see.

As a family, one thing we believe very strongly is that we need to take breaks. Forced stops in our lives. We spend days at home doing 1000 piece puzzles. We go to the zoo, or the park. We take bike rides, go to the movies or just for a drive on the coast. sometimes a few hours is not enough.

We try to go on a vacation at least once a year, sometimes twice. Our favorite destination is Disney World, and I know what you are about to say, “did you win the lottery? Disney twice in a year? WHAT?!”  We certainly have not won the lottery, but in a way we have. Seven years ago we decided to become members of Disney’s Vacation Club. It is a time share program that is supper flexible for users. We can travel any time of year, and stay at any resort on or off Disney property. Our new favorite location is Disney’s Vero Beach. We will be staying there this summer. The nice thing is we pay a “mortgage” every month for our vacation time share, so we do not have a huge out of pocket expense for our hotel when we travel. And it is a ten year loan for 50 years of vacations, so the investment now will last a lifetime!

seriously amazing. she rescued these guys from a nest and we watched her set them free.
seriously amazing. she rescued these guys from a nest and we watched her set them free.

The nice thing about Vero Beach is that it is a beach resort. Truthfully the most relaxing vacation you will go on. Your options are swim in the ocean, or swim in the pool. There are many other activities, but no parks, no lines (except for the awesome water slide!), and no rush.

They also have a Sea Turtle Conservation team on site, so it is an educational trip as well (sorry kids!). We are so excited to stop.

For Mama, the most stressful part of these vacations is packing. With my husband and three boys in tow, it is super important to be organized. I always have a mini panic attack, and packing usually starts a month out. This time, it didn’t, and I was cool as a cucumber. I made sure to have a plan a few months ago so that I would not be stressed. I truthfully start with a basket in my room, and as I go through the day to day, if I think we need it for vacation, it goes in the basket. This way, a month later I am not saying “Where did I see that?” It is my quirky way of doing things.

this is before we started packing
this is before we started packing

I always make a list. I probably have several packing lists on my computer. This time, I wanted to pack lighter. I do not think that happened, but what did happen was a chance for me to share my organization with my boys.  The list started like this:

I always just brainstorm a list, thinking of things we may need. Essentials, things for the pool and the beach, then what do my boys need to have (don’t worry we have a washer in unit). And then the things I know my husband will need. (he always decides for sure, I just suggest.) and then finally things for me, and then things for everyone. It makes it easier to sort if I start with topics, then add to them.  I asked the boys to look at the list and tell me if I missed anything they would want. I told them the things they needed, and one by one they collected the items, and we packed their bags. The other thing we do is the boys bags are BIG, so we utilize their bags to pack board games and puzzles and things we can do on rainy days, or in the evening. I love that we do this as a team and everyone knows what they are bringing. There was a time I would have packed for them. I realize now, I need to enable them to be able to do it on their own.

wow, we edit a lot!
wow, we edit a lot!

After packing (as if I am finished!) the list looks like this:

We pack, scratch off, change, add, we forget things and then we remember. We highlight things we still need to pack, and cross off what is packed. We take things out of the bags because it is still summer, and we have de-cluttered our wardrobes, so we need clothes! Right now, the bottom of my stairs is filled with bags. I so hate the feeling of un-organization packing can bring, but I love the excitement that we are going somewhere!

Don't worry, daddy's bag is in our bedroom.
Don’t worry, daddy’s bag is in our bedroom.

We don’t enjoy flying.The stress of what you can and cannot pack, the kids, the air pressure in the ears, the motion sickness for some, it just is way stressful.  Once we went through security and one of the boys did not follow through. that was a stressful time. I just do not like the uncertainty of flying. If we can, we drive. Usually we drive straight through and arrive at our destination in less than 24hours. We stop for the bathroom or a snack, or a meal. We stop to stretch.This time we have decided to stop along the way, breaking up our 24 hour trip into 3 days. It is going to be exciting and maybe stressful. We have planned stops, and made sure they had pools and ocean views!

it is clear so they can see what they are looking for!
it is clear so they can see what they are looking for!
The box open like on their lap in the car
The box open like on their lap in the car

To keep the kids occupied for the trip we have a DVD player, headphones, I-pods with their favorite songs, books, paper, colored pencils,  kindles, snacks, and Lego boxes that I made.They are craft boxes that I glued a green Lego board to the cover of, and made a pocket for the Legos so they can play them on their lap! These come in handy in the car, and in the resort when each child needs their own space to play or stash a favorite toy or treasure!

sitting by the pool felt like being in the tropics or on an island somewhere!
sitting by the pool felt like being in the tropics or on an island somewhere!

We also know that we are not millionaires and we have not won the lottery. We are very careful about planning activities that work for our budget. We will do Walt Disney World with all of the bells and whistles. We buy tickets way far ahead, plan reservations, utilize the dining plan, and ask for gift cards for birthdays/holidays to help defray the cost. We also have been enough that we do not need to do everything every time. That is why a pool/ocean vacation is so great for this trip. We know we can have a lot of fun, for very little money, and make amazing memories! That makes the trip less stressful for Steve who works so hard to earn for our family. I appreciate that our cell phone service is weak there so we are limited to wi-fi in the room, and family outside.  I think every family can find a way to either have a getaway vacation, or even a “stay-cation” to have some time to breathe and just be.