All posts by Mama Thyme

I am a wife, a mom, I work part time, have an additional part time job, and am striving to (try) to have it all. Things don't always go as planned but that's okay. This is my journey to try to make all of my roles and ambitions balance.

Tis the Season

Scene setter: senior management teleconference with 15 people discussing my project.

Meeting preparation:  After three other calls that morning, the kids were getting angst-y, angry and feeling generally cooped up.  We went outside and rode bikes for 20 minutes; I set them up with breakfast and the “Just Dance” video game.  Should buy me 20 (?) minutes?

Maggie_Playing_COVID
Happiness and joy do happen

How the Call went: Otherwise on mute, I made small interjections and made one comment about communication.

What really happened in that hour:

  1. Just Dance: 5 minutes into said call, Gretchen LOST her mind because she wanted the blue controller and Sweetpea needed it as it was the controlling—controller.  At this point locked doors are pointless.  Everyone knows to get a butter knife and unlock the door (even the toddler safety door handle thing fails me…everyone can take them off).  So I ran out of my “office” with laptop in hand in hopes of hearing something that was said…Informed Sweetpea to give Gretchen the blue controller.
  2. Competing Zoom Session: At this point, Sweetpea can log into her own Zoom sessions.  However, today her session immediately went  south as she couldn’t find her black marker.  And by south — I mean she was in tears and distraught.  With tears welling in her eyes, I asked her teacher if Sweetpea could use a dark blue marker instead…yes this was fine.  Crisis averted.
  3. People Deprived Kids: Both Elle and Gretchen are dying for people.  Sweetpea seems genuinely okay 90% of the time.  After resolving the marker, I returned to being able to listen.  Maybe 5 more minutes and I could hear Sweetpea losing her mind and Gretchen yelling about how she couldn’t see.  G had positioned herself in front of Sweetpea so she could see all the people on Zoom.  Ellie was happily coloring like the kids on the Zoom session and feeling included from what I could see.  I grabbed Gretchen and brought her to my “office” (which in this case was Gretchen’s room to be farthest from noise).
  4. Marco Polo:  With Gretchen in my “office” I could hear nothing of what a senior manager was saying.  I guessed the general question based off of what my boss said.  I so should have been the one to talk but literally would have come from left field.  I was sad.  I’m new to this work group and speaking up is important.  But nope.  Not going to happen as G was still screaming angrily.  I asked G…Would you like to call Aunt M? Instant yes.  I opened the Marco Polo app and G listened to pre-recorded videos from Aunt M and 2 yr old cousin K.  G ran off.
  5. Moment of Quiet: Grateful that Sweetpea’s zoom session was going well, Ellie happily coloring, and Gretchen was  “talking” to Aunt M…I was able to make one statement during the entirety of the pivotal meeting.  Sadness.

So yes at the end of my call I put on a bright and happy pink-red lipstick.  I will pretend to be put together.

Our COVID trip to Home Depot
Our Exciting Trip to Home Depot

There are so many articles about parents not being okay or how-to guides on working from home with kids.  Though not all the components of these articles are entirely true for me — the point is right now is just beyond rough and I am usually melting.  (George is physically going into work and working longer hours than usual).

I’m trying all the tricks.  We’re getting tired said tricks.  I should take the second linked article to heart.  Elle really needs a schedule as much as I do.  Someone reminded me recently that this is the season for tablets and TV.  I really needed to hear that.  We’re just trying to survive over here.  Maybe one day I will get to thriving but for now it’s definitely not that.

Coconut Branch Broke
Coconuts are HEAVY! So glad no one got hurt.  It’s hard to complain when this is our new norm.

My Corona Reflections

Safe at home they say.  Yes.  We are safe at home.  There is so much to be just thankful.  I am able to work.  We are healthy…There is also a lot to laugh at right now.  So let’s just recall some of my favorite memories so far…

Video Conference with my Boss and her Team Lead

There I was during my early morning video conference with my boss  and her team lead.  “Work, work, work, work” # Productive # HappinessAndJoy.  20-ish minutes in…all three kids tumbled sleepily into my office in some semblance of clothing (thank goodness).  Our people-deprived children were SO excited.  Simultaneously all three people started crawling over me and gawked at my boss while I was trying my best to maintain some semblance of conversation.  At some point, Ellie climbed behind my laptop onto my desk and put her hair was in front of the camera.  In a move of desperation, I sent them to the other room to watch a SHOW.  A weekend only activity.  My boss continued as if nothing happened.  My brain was m.e.l.t.i.n.g.  I am so thankful to have a boss who has had children.  

Working/Experiments During Nap

Ellie has dutifully given up nap time — as one does during quarantine-times.  While G naps, I feverishly knock out as much work as possible.  This work period often becomes a work versus risk evaluation.  For instance, who would be overly worried about a four yr old washing the dishes.  Sure I’ll need to re-wash the kitchen, the floor, the dishes, the walls…but that’s on the menu anyway.   I’ll buy 20 minutes of un-interrupted work…

Experiments
Fair point daughter, I failed to ask HOW or with WHAT you were washing the dishes (also WHERE on EARTH did the dirt come from???)

Fast forward to today…I was prepping dinner.  Peels of laughter tipped me off that something might be awry.   Dear Gretchen, I always wanted pink sprinkles glued to the floor.  All of which thankfully cleaned up fairly easily.  # ItHappenedSoFast # WhoLeftSprinklesOut

Note to the Not So Fun-ness

I am hoping the difficulty is in my head.  That it’s me who is silently melting on a daily basis as I feel so far less productive.  Work is usually my re-charge time.  My time for me, for adult thought, for creative space.  Sharing this space has truly been a challenge.  I get many spouses stay home.  That is an incredibly hard job.  For me, work provides a welcomed balance.  Right now, there is no balance.  The end of my work day is a battle between InstaAnger and Patience.  How did every. single. toy. get thrown on the floor.

Major credit is due to George for not questioning the daily house explosions.  He comes home and silently picks up while turning on the “robot clean up song” to inspire assistance from the crew.  SO MUCH THANK YOU.

Happiness and Joy

I could couch this time as rainbows and butterflies but the truth is it’s been hard.  How do I balance my work expectations with three little people who need…need…need.  I’m incredibly grateful for this time for relationship building, for quiet moments but it’s been a struggle.  I’m so appreciative that Sweetpea can do her own school work and needs limited assistance — as I was so sweetly reminded today.

Homework
Ok…I will not make suggestions on math homework unless explicitly asked.  Your work is yours, not mine.  Got it.  # LoudAndClear

It hasn’t been all doom and gloom.  It’s been REALLY hard but we’ve tried to add in special moments.  We celebrated Aunt S, Grandma, and Grandad’s birthdays by singing Happy Birthday heartily while eating pie or pop tarts.

Tea Party
We put on fancy dresses, did our hair, and sang Happy Birthday

Sweetpea is learning to roller skate, Ellie is trying to ride a two wheel bike and Gretchen…potty train (sometimes).

Bikes
G is getting SO big!

I was told in no too uncertain words that Easter was the best day EVER.  “I eat bunny hop” – Gretchen referring to her chocolate bunny.

Egg Hunt
This might be my last year for matching opportunities (?)

 

 

 

 

 

New Town

Apparently it’s been a solid minute…We’ve moved twice, I changed jobs within my company (I’m LOVING the new job!!!!), given up/put on pause the part time job, and through it all been a family — party of five!  I’ve been reflecting on the usual: organization, mental load reduction, peace of mind/wholeness.

Backyard
Our backyard!

Organization

I still remain (at home) disorganized however with George’s help, we’re making solid progress in this arena.  The girls thankfully take after him and ultimately like things to be tidy.  (THANK GOODNESS).   Somehow my job takes my organization and then I ‘come home’ and it all goes out the window.   I’m still struggling really to find a solid task manager that I use consistently.  Of late, it’s been the Things 3 app for IOS (LOVE IT).  I just have to use it.  I’m starting to use my phone/Siri a bit for reminders (which I then yell fifteen times to my watch and hope one of them go through), shortcuts and general living. I struggle with actually maintaining/consistency but it really does help when I use it!

Photo Credit: www.lynnmichelle.com
Where we moved from! (Photo Credit: http://www.lynnmichelle.com)

Mental Load

Somewhere between working, three kids, a holiday birthday, “volunteer” duty,  Valentine’s Day preps…George called me recently to ask if we were ready for Elle’s family birthday party.  I panicked.  I had prepped all 57 (21+24+12…wow that was 57!) Valentines for all three lady’s classes, purchased gifts for the Elle’s birthday, remembered to get food for dinner (always a good thing),sent out invitations for Elle’s friend birthday…but somewhere in there forgotten wrapping paper, tape, candles, and cards.  My immediate instinct was to tell George everything was fine and that I would take care of it.  I stepped back and thought wait, we are a team.  So yes.  I need these things.  I thanked him for sharing the tasks.  We started using to-doist to coordinate tasks, purchases, continue to use a shared calendar which I forget to update half the time.  So again working on consistency.

Hiking with Three
I cannot process how big everyone is getting.  I love the people they are and am trying to treasure these minutes as much as I can.  (Not shown…my sister and her family)

Wholeness

I realized about a year ago that I was not whole.  So I spoke with a counselor/life couch? and she prescribed me “MEDS”.  I thought oh my okay.  Apparently MEDS isn’t medication but all things adulting you’re supposed to do: Move, Eat, Drink (water), and Sleep.  I’ve been using my watch to gage my move/exercise numbers, water intake, and diet.  I’ve used my apple watch “rings” for steps/exercise/standing, IOS shortcuts for water intake, and Yazio for diet.  I will say since this last move four(?) months ago, I’ve done all these things … once?  I’m trying to use the app “Fabulous” to motivate me to have better habits.  All these things make me pretty happy.  I just need to actually … do them.  I’m realizing that drinking water makes me a better person as does eating, sleeping and these boring things I don’t WANT to do.  At present, I feel almost balanced but not yet.  I’ll get there one day!

Front Yard

What It’s Really Like

It’s 10am. I’m supposed to be working.

Earlier today, Sweetpea was so distraught that she could not walk. Elle — screaming for her purple baby and Gretchen — losing her mind because she’s in the car seat? I shut the door to the car, looked at George and took a mental break.  It’s quiet, the train whooshes, I can feel gentle rain on my face, a slight breeze.

But wait let’s start in the beginning.

Bike Full O Dogs_Ginza_Mar 2018
Because dogs and things

That’s right, Gretchen is older now so she’s hungry and snacks/eats every 1-2 hours through the night. So at 3:45am I am simply exhausted. I do not get up. I sleep til 5:45am. I order baby food. I see an email from my boss asking if we’re having our “3pm” call….or 4am here (which means a 3:30am wake up). I write and say I slept right through it and that we’d cancelled (we had but it was still on the calendar). That starts my day off wrong. Then I read my boss’ second email and associated question…the distance means no face to face.  I will inevitably spend the entire day reeling with concern. Am I doing a poor job? Did I make a really dumb mistake. Should I write him and apologize? Should I laugh and say how on earth did I miss that (turns out it was a system malfunction!)? I log back into my computer and decide apologizing sounds whiny and annoying so after spending 30 minutes to log in and load email…I opt to close my laptop. Usually children are sleeping when I work so of course Gretchen is trying to stand up on me and Elle…who knows. We have 20 minutes to be out the door. I throw on clothes, evaluate whether to make our daily smoothies and/or coffee. I opt not to and grab a yogurt.

Sisters_Ginza_2018
Ginza: Who doesn’t want to go “Running Running” when the street is shutdown!

Fast forward to the rain, the quiet, the train and I start doing the mental checklist…we have three showered children, everyone has shoes, jackets, waters, snacks and activities for the 30 minute drive. George grabs the pump and requisite bottles. Food was just reordered this morning before I got out of bed (thank you www.iherb.com for delivering organic/non-gmo infant food). I have the wipes that were requested. I have forgotten the diaper rash cream again and Sweetpea’s boots are simply worn out and I am embarrassed by them.

We get in the car, I debate stopping at the vending machine down the street for warm, canned coffee…opt not to. Validate we have taken out the trash for today, fed and walked the dogs, and that we have money for the tolls on the highway. Not related to each other just part of the morning routine. We start our trek to drop off George and kids for preschool/daycare. I thank George for dressing Elle and taking care of the dogs, the trash and loading the car.

Running Running_Z_Ginza_March 2018
Strollers are for pushing…who sits anymore?!?!?!

Then starts the 30 minute – one hour childcare drop off. Elle is apparently needing an extra long hug before settling in for her second breakfast. I give said hug and savor the moment to remember one day I will be the ugh mom with an eye roll. She settles in with a smile and waves me off.

Sweetpea has a hobble that has continued since Sunday…growing pains? Sprain/break from her fall from her ice skating field trip? I make a mental note to call the doctor after I drop off Gretchen. Sweetpea hobbles off and I’m convinced her injury is somewhere between nothing, growing pains or something. I give her three kisses (cheek, forehead, cheek), tell her I’m proud of her and smile back at her.

Gretchen chooses this morning to be the morning Mom CANNOT leave her. So I go pump, get about half of what I need, frown at the formula and complete the check in process. G has decided she needs to follow me around and crawls a solid 25 ft to be nearby. I bring her over, she watches me finish labeling bottles, sign her fully in, fill out her daily sheet and try to leave. She loses her mind. I sit down with her and try to give her a bottle. Nope. Not today. So I bring her over to her teachers, help her settle in with a toy and then sadly leave. #MomGuilt

I rush out, call the doctor. He’s available in an hour. Darn. I need to start working. I am able to do some admin work for 30 minutes. I go grab Sweetpea. Doc says yes it’s probably growing pains. Ok. Let’s go. I decide we should run by the children’s store to see if they have boots on sale…they do. Fine, throw out those old ones. I drop Sweetpea back at preschool.

About 40 minutes later I’m settling in for work. Please don’t fire me boss man. I’m trying so hard.

 

Go To Seoul

My notes said. So after realizing that no we don’t want to fly to Pusan I changed our flights to Seoul approximately 5 different phone calls later and with a slight penalty ($) later we flew to Seoul (with 3 kids, 4 backpacks, 2 luggage bags, a stroller and the two of us). The “short flight” went relatively well. Note to self…when traveling one should ALWAYS request the bassinet it seems (too bad I’m just learning that now).
Change of the Guard_1
Anyhow…I’m writing this to remember the chaos, the fun, the intensity we’re ignoring and to generally laugh at my mistakes.
Success 1: the invention of the travel day.
We landed an hour later than anticipated and got into the hotel around 7pm…again later than anticipated. Our free shuttle bus came with the perks of being free ie waiting game. But hey with littles, the time to run was perfect. I sat, wondered at how many people were shaming us for our kids antics but frankly…an hour bus ride with calmish kids…worth it.
Happy Lunar Celebration_Seoul_Feb 2018
Success 2: Adjusting Day
Considering no one really slept that first night (or any of the following nights)…scheduling a visit to a local palace in Seoul was a blast! It was so neat to compare architecture to our current host country called home. We spent a bunch of time on this day realizing that the KTX train (I’d followed directions but on location they couldn’t find my tickets…lesson learned…don’t rely on the internets) was largely sold out and to get to the Olympics we had to take said train. Somehow we scored THREE tickets to our location and grabbed the train. In that heightened state of concern somehow “PyeongChang 2018” meant PyeongChang train station in my mind. So we got off at PyeongChang and wondered why more people weren’t getting off. Fun fact…our events were in Gangneung and the station was called Gangneung. So luck, grace of God, amazingness, we got THREE more tickets at PyeongChang to Gangneung 40 minutes away.
Happy Lunar Celebration_Seoul_Feb 2018_2
Surprise 2: Wait What
Upon arrival at Gangneung station…1 hr later…Why we were being individually photographed by very aggressive photographers put us on extreme edge. George soon thereafter got an EMERGENCY ALERT in Korean on his phone….Close by there were about 100 uniformed police protecting people marching with American and Korean flags. A car drove by saying something in Korean with a sign about the political Olympics. A man was walking by with a mega phone saying something about Kim Jun-Un. Needless to say we were uneasy. Google translate on George’s phone wouldn’t work. Hastily we moved away from where we were standing and determined the emergency alert to be about fire safety (it was super dry). All was fine.
Olympics 2018_1
Travel a:
Again with the details…the distance from the train to our shared airBnB was …well it took us about an hour to go 20 minutes. When we got off at our stop, the bus announced we were at a prison. Oh ok fun. Check your location route too. A quick $2 taxi later, we piled out and arrived at our destination 2 minutes ahead of our friends.
IceDancing
Good, Fearless Friends:
Traveling and touring with good friends with kids was just incredibly awesome. The oh we are going to leave early so we get there with ten minutes to spare or late was just awesome. Good times, good friends. Fantastic. We enjoyed hockey, ice dance practice, Korean food (we swear we’re out of all food but somehow weren’t haha). Somehow Dabu was able to get day of tickets to see curling. That was a miracle feat in itself. Then to get six tickets together by the US curling team!!! So crazy! Our combined tribe of 4 kids did AWESOME! No real breakdowns. Ok Sweetpea decided she couldn’t walk. Elle wanted to EEEEEEE (eat) and Gretchen had a massive blowout requiring a full outfit change (sorry for that detail). The curling arena ran out of food so we eeked by on popcorn and prayed for peace. We bused home, ran to the convenience store raided their kimchi, rice and noodles and were thankful to BB for a delicious dinner….at 1am.
 Hockey_1
Other Moments of Awesome:
  • You never really realize how important little details like the lack of curtains can directly impact your life. I’m pretty sure no one loved the 7am alarm clock. Thanks Elle.
  • Walking back from dinner watching Elle yell “we go” every five seconds as she toddle-ran chasing after George/Sweetpea’s race…cutest minutes everCurling

10 Things My Civilian Boss Taught Me

I wrote this a while ago.  It’s an overly honest note to myself.  I learned a lot from one of my first civilian bosses.  He’s since moved to another job so I can post it now.
+++
When I got off of active service I thought I had seen it all and more or less reached the pinnacle of leadership. I understood to be a Ship’s Captain that there would be things I needed to know but generally as a leader I felt competent, confident and ready.  I mean at that point I had managed underway refueling, managed a plant during a Reactor Complex Overhaul, received reports of equipment damage, made multiple strategic suggestions, helped light the spark in people….what more could I learn? Wow, don’t I sound arrogant. Yikes.
DSC_1009
Right before I left Active Service
Then I grew up.
I think realizing that there is so much for me to learn — was eye opening.  Almost like getting my BS…I know a rain drop of information compared to the sea of knowledge.  So to remember some recent leadership lessons my boss thought me…
  1. A Leader Doesn’t Have to Be an Extrovert
  2. Schedule time to Organize your calendar (don’t let it rule you) or as I like to say these days: Plan, Predict, Prioritize, Communicate (why can’t I think of a word for communicate that starts with a P!)
  3. Read all email every day…and respond in a timely manner
  4. Process training and pay requests in near immediate time
  5. Clear off your desk (keep it organized)
  6. Schedule time to talk with employees about performance or to just talk
  7. Truly operate under an open door policy (despite other deadline pressures)
  8. Be Transparent
  9. Take time off for you
  10. Leave work on time
Nov 2017
Believe it or not…I sleep more these days than I did before.
Then a note to myself as a mom of three girls: remember what your priority is —
a. Consistently pick up children from school/childcare on time;
b. Be present when you are home with them (put the phone/tablet/electronics down)

The Art of Saying Ye—Nope

I have a problem.  I like to do too much.  For some reason I have the hardest time saying no to all the awesome things life has to offer.  In 2013, I started prioritizing what I would commit to as noted in this post (Drowning is Not an Option).   Essentially I decided I would mature the wife, mother, employee, Reservist and self part of my life.  Then I tried to add a “slicer“…that failed.

Zoey Shimoda_Sept 2017_5
I want to be fully present: These are the minutes

So let’s fast forward to today…it’s amazing how you can only “plan, predict and prioritize” so much.  Over the last wow 5ish years…I’ve been perfecting my ability to do things.

Hi Daddy_Shimoda_Sept 2017
Hi Daddy — We were missing George on his business trip

So when my boss asked me if I wanted to increase my work hours from 32 per week to 40…I excitedly said YES!  But then I thought about it and he called me out for my inability to stick to the yes.  So this year’s focus is saying no.  I want to focus on work/life balance (you know things like eating, sleeping…drinking water).  I’m not going to answer all the questions I can answer on Facebook.  I’m not going to provide unsolicited advice.  I’ll write about it and just try to focus on the me part a little more this year.

Zoey_Snapshot in time_Nov 2017
I’m going to own this decision.  Focus on work/life balance.

So 2018…this year is for me.  I’m going to work out, drink water every day, eat, try to sleep, and say no to over committing myself.