Sang Gretchen. I smiled. My heart smiled. My soul smiled. I sat in our car as we drove adventuring on our rock, shut out my eyes, hoped I’d remember this moment of joy and — goodness loved this minute. Big girl your words are my now. Sweet awesomeness of four girls, adventuring, happiness and then … yes weeks that last a month.
“Weeks of the Month” had me thinking that task management is the same dang topic I’ve been blogging about for well EIGHT years. I can look at Sweetpea and realize that I STILL do not have a solid task management process…or I am inconsistent in my application. I drown. I plan. I stop drowning. I drown again. Repeat. According to all my things, I do change in April.
So let’s do change April. On a Sunday. On the 18th of said April. Because who doesn’t start mid-month.
A life coach reached out to me and said that yes her process was very simple. So that summarizes again to me to ACCOUNTABILITY. So. I’m going to just start with one thing at a time. This month, or what remains, I am going to practice putting my phone down. If I put my phone down, I will gain an average of 5 hours and 19 minutes back to my day (thank you Apple).
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?
How the Call went: Otherwise on mute, I made small interjections and made one comment about communication.
What really happened in that hour:
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.
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.
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).
MarcoPolo: 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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
Sweetpea is learning to roller skate, Ellie is trying to ride a two wheel bike and Gretchen…potty train (sometimes).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
A Leader Doesn’t Have to Be an Extrovert
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!)
Read all email every day…and respond in a timely manner
Process training and pay requests in near immediate time
Clear off your desk (keep it organized)
Schedule time to talk with employees about performance or to just talk
Truly operate under an open door policy (despite other deadline pressures)
Take time off for you
Leave work on time
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)
“George must be so disappointed”…Ok let’s start with how on earth am I supposed to respond to that? I have a wonderful growing girl who is trying to kick her way into this world. How am I supposed to say to my baby that she is somehow less because she is a girl…?!!!?! I mean she’s a person (moral debate aside)…am I supposed to apologize for her existence? Ok that got serious fast. But seriously people! We are so excited to have #3.
I have read articles on how hard it is going from one to two and so on and so forth. Ask me again in 3 months but for now the thought of three does not daunt me. Sure there will be growing pains but all in all, I’ll babywear #3 (if she’s into that), hold Elle’s hand and monitor Sweetpea’s big girl-ness. We’ll be a little bit later, a little bit slower, have lots of spilled milk, tons of amazing kid and/or adult temper tantrums, lack of sleep and general learning curve fun. But in there we will be a family. Sweetpea will try to parent, Elle will try to take baby 3’s attention and baby 3…well I’m thinking I’ve got another spunky kid…so maybe she’ll be difficult or not. Sweetpea has already been telling me how if Elle tries to hit/bite/scratch baby 3 she will just pick up baby 3….um no. Please not….yet atleast. Sometimes I think having kids is about accepting the mess, the chaos, seeing the end goal and just realizing my “me” time has compressed to 5 minutes in the morning while trying to apply eye liner with a 1 year old trying to climb my leg. (I WILL PUT ON MAKE UP….so if you see me with bright red lipstick and uneven eye liner just know that was my me minute).
As I reflect on having three, I am so glad to have children a smidge later in life. I am so enjoying the small moments. In college and in my career circa my 20s having children and pregnancy were so negative, that pregnancy with Sweetpea though exciting (she was/is so wanted) was extremely hard to accept (I hate to admit that now). At the time, I feel I had been trained that to be pregnant…you might as well just count yourself out…just horrible. My job has since changed, my bosses fully accept (and wholeheartedly support) the fact that we’re expecting Baby 3, that I will require time to pump, that there will be baby sick days, that I will take 6 weeks off. I feel that with this pregnancy, despite the fact that it has been significantly more difficult than the last ones, has truly been a blessing. With each little kick I just feel so happy to have Baby 3. It’s truly been a journey.
When on earth are two little people in bed at the same time — an hour early. Let’s start with never. Wow. So I’ve been thinking about this post for a while. First, that work at home myth where you know you have your kid quietly playing in the other room or the sweet pictures saying how wonderful it is to work at home with your baby. I don’t know what those people are smoking but below is how it works for me.
A year or so ago, I found out we were moving out of our Country to a far away land. I did the unthinkable — I told my boss as he offered me a promotion. For me, being upfront and honest is very important. It’s just me. Most people advised against telling him. I just couldn’t look at myself in the mirror if I didn’t. This is the second time I’ve had to tell my future employer that I will need to work from home in the near future. Anyhow, a very difficult move later and I’ve been working at home now for a little over six months. I thought I would share some thoughts. After having Sweetpea I realized that a daily routine is apparently imperative for me. So this is mine these days:
Since we’re anywhere from 13-15 hours ahead of “home”, calls at midnight should mean that kids are asleep. I would be willing to bet that if I have an important call, someone will have a nightmare, fell out of bed, be hungry, have an accident or need a hug. (Seriously when do you wake up at midnight kid!!!)
The computer will stop working when you need it to work — write down the conference call phone number (obviously read the material before the call).
Oh don’t forget to charge your phone/laptop prior to meetings 🙂
Keep a local day planner (to where you live) and reference your meetings with your coworkers in their time zone (this is confusing)
Map out your meetings at the beginning of the week in your local time zone
Plan, predict, prioritize…everything (that’s not just true of working at home)
Communicate! Communicate! Communicate! (But don’t be a pain in the a$$)
Learn to eat and drink water while working. I struggling with taking any type of break when I’m working at home. I’ve actually lost something like 10 pounds because I just don’t eat.
Anticipate problems…that computer upgrade that was announced a week ahead of time…contact your help desk to get it done early.
Actively participate in conference calls…but don’t talk just to hear yourself talk.
Continue to look out for peers and friends as if you were in the office…hey did you see this training that’s coming up? I thought of you.
Find a peer to peer sharing service such as Business Skype/Microsoft Lync to screen share or “talk” with your co-workers (but don’t be a pain!).
Volunteer for things! You can do things even when you’re not physically present in the office.
At some point you will need to print/scan when you’re at home…have that option available.
If you have kids, anticipate problems: START ALL CALLS ON MUTE — For that midnight call you never have — that your kids never wake up for — but do for some reason….it’s fun I promise.
Have a backup plan when they do wake up. I often have “Daniel Tiger” on pause during my nighttime calls in the off chance Sweetpea wakes up and wants to chat.
Coffee, coffee, coffee. In all seriousness if you have to wake up at night…avoid the temptation to drink a cup. Drink water!
If you encounter a problem with your hours during the day (when your boss is sleeping), tell him/her just as if you were in the office. It’s about building trust.
Avoid the temptation to schedule things during the week that make your work at home schedule impossible. You’re not a Stay At Home parent so you really can’t meet at 10am on Tuesday unless you re-prioritize your hours (and let your boss know).
Make your work fun! Get out your white board and think through your thoughts as you would in the office.
Keep a running log of what you do every day! That way if someone wants to know…you can tell them!
Try to sent grammatically correct emails to co-workers, friends and your boss etc. Your emails represent you now.
Realize that what you thought was obvious via email might be lost in translation. So if it’s a sensitive topic try to have it via the phone, video conference or some real type method…as if you were walking to someone’s office.
If you/your kids are sick…take a sick day. No kid wants to remember mom/dad ignoring them when they’re sick. So if you can…take the sick day.
So to say life has been smidgen intense is an understatement.
Moved to another country
Had a second child
Learned how to use the pressure cooker
Found some awesome crock pot and pressure cooker recipes
(I really like the “Death by a Thousand Paper Cuts” concept. Each paper cut/fun moment isn’t in itself difficult…but a thousand of them…sometimes it can be a bit much. George mentioned this concept when talking about parenting…I think it fits well)
So until my camera is fixed, I will just write about my fun morning today.
We woke up at 5:45- 6am (or was it really 3am when Sweetpea joined the three of us in our queen sized bed?…I was almost kicked off the bed how many times?). I know for certain that at around 6am, we all saw George off to work. George thankfully had taken out today’s trash and walked the dogs.
Any rational person would think getting to preschool by 9 should (SHOULD) be a breeze.
…I really want to encourage curiosity in Sweetpea. So while we are eating breakfast, she starts to teach me how food is processed in our body. A very important part of the morning. So we watched a 3 minute video on the digestive system. We’ll see what I get taught later today on said video. Our little sponge likes to teach me. (Her latest interest is the Solar System and planets — Thank you Magic School Bus!).
You’d think 3 minutes wouldn’t impact the morning but somehow it was 7 and then 7:30 (wait yes I do…I talked to my sister amid seventeen thousand interruptions :)). Shower later, I insist on putting on my makeup (which might only be moisturizer and some eye make up with a side of … one-day-I’ll-look-polished *sigh*) while Sweetpea finishes showering in our non slip shower by herself.
Standing in my robe, I realize that a) Sweetpea is ready to leave, b) <<what is the blog name for baby #2?>> is ready and c) I haven’t made Sweetpea’s lunch for preschool. I hate feeling disheveled. I mean being a mom is the most rewarding and amazing thing I have ever done, but for goodness sakes I’m still a person here. So fine. It’s 8:45am. We should be in the car now. I take a minute to pretend to be put together. Sweetpea picks out my earrings, bracelet and watch and we go to the kitchen to make lunch. I REFUSE to spend hours making a cute lunch. I just don’t have hours to make that perfect bento box (and I get shamed for it by Sweetpea’s teacher…).
We get outside, it’s raining (thankfully I checked the weather so we’re good). We get to the car…yup. I forgot Sweetpea’s lunch. Back to the house.
Then preschool. One of the mom’s offers to watch baby 2 while I drop off Sweetpea. Can you ask any other day???!!! Here I am scrambling to repack Sweetpea’s backpack, it’s raining, Sweetpea just kissed baby 2 who is now screaming bloody murder, and we are staying calm. It’s really not that big of a deal. No one has died, nothing major got ruined. It’s actually quite comical. So yes baby 2 will be carried and not in the car seat. So wrapped in her amazing blanket, we walk down the hill (after my friend realizes it’s a lost cause :)). Oh you know my umbrella topples over, I tell Sweetpea to put her umbrella up…so she lifts her arm with her closed umbrella (touche child I didn’t say open it…the rain coat will do).
The clock at preschool says 9:23am.
I call my Mom to thank her for years of fun mornings.
We recently moved from our fun city-town to new country-town. This new, wondrous, scary, different, amazing, curious place has had me spinning since the move process started. But we’re settled now!
I plan on learning how to cook with a pressure cooker soon (sale notice compliments of http://www.mamainsticts.com). Sweetpea started Montessori preschool, I now work part time, and baby-to-be is doing great! I’ve started freezing new slow cooker recipes so I’m hoping to post a bunch of winners soon! We recently tried a slow cooker Strogonoff…it was good but just not Strogonoff. So back to the drawing board on that one. More to come!