Mommy Review Monday: Full Focus Planner

I have mentioned in a few of my previous posts that I use the Full Focus Planner.  I happened upon this wonderful thing on one of the many podcasts that I listen to.  It’s been wonderful for me.

Here’s what I like about it:

  • It’s black and non-discrete.  There’s a lot of flashy journals out there and, for some folks that’s awesome, but I prefer something low-key.  It’s not too big, allowing me to fit into most of my medium size and larger purses.
  • It’s got two built-in ribbons that help in keeping your place like a bookmark.  I typically keep one on my current day and one by my quarterly goals list.
  • It has an elastic band to keep it shut, which is nice.  I sometimes will also use this as a third bookmark.
  • It’s got enough for 90 days to complete a whole quarter.
  • It has daily quotes that are inspirational, etc.  I have shared quite a few of these because they’re usually pretty wonderful.
  • It has your daily “Big 3”:  The 3 biggest things that are most important for your day’s to-do list.  There’s also a weekly “Big 3.”  Example:  My “Big 3” this week are- Stay on Noom, Work-out 3 times this week, and Stay Focused at Work and Don’t delay (yes, I know that last one sounds funny but sometimes I lose focus).  So far, I’m doing well on #1 and #2….it’s only Monday though, so I’ve got time to get back on track for #3.
  • There’s a checklist and system for deferring, delegating, checking off, or cancelling.  For a check-list lover like me, this is perfect.
  • Everyday is two pages- 1) The date, your “Big 3,” your checklist and 2) Notes- where you can either put more to-do items, as I usually end up doing, and/or write notes.
  • There’s an index and all of the pages are numbered to make it easy to find things.  I honestly would not have ever considered this but if you’ve got something really important that you know you want to know what page you can find things in that topic about.  For example:  I’ve got a project called “Grapevine Stadium” and I had a few meetings about it with notes on pages 4,6,20, and phone calls on 8, 10, and 24.  I can quickly go to these without flipping through every page.  You have full control over how you structure your index.  I only index things that I feel are really important.
  • There’s a goal setting portion in the front where you list your SMARTER goals.  Then you break your goals down by finding out why and what you need to do to make it happen, along with setting frequency and due date, etc.  It breaks it down into achievement goals and habit goals.  These are all important for making sure that you achieve the goals you have.
  • Each week you look over your goals, your “Big 3”, etc. and it asks you how you did and what you could do better.  It’s a really good reflection.  It also asks you to set your “Big 3” for the following week.  I take this time to look at what I have on my calendar for the week to help me with them.  Then I try to pencil in my “Big 3” for each day of the week, knowing that these will likely change throughout the week but at least I have a general idea of the most important things I need to get done.
  • There’s a full year calendar in there, which is nice to put the most important things you have on your calendar in one place.
  • There’s the option to buy a “subscription” and they will automatically send you a new journal every quarter.

What I would change (there’s not much):

  • I’d add a pen holder, although I’m sure I could buy one for it.
  • I’d change the layout of the calendar.  It doesn’t give enough space to write hardly anything in there.  There are often times more than one thing I need to add in a day.  Now that I think about it, I might start noting the page number that items are on to make that easier.  But I still wish it was more in traditional calendar form so I could see what day of the week it was.  I’m sure it was done this way to save space and have fewer pages.  After all, you don’t want a planner that is too large.
  • I would’ve bought 4 journals at once rather than doing the subscription so that as I get closer to that next quarter I can start putting my to-do lists into their assigned days.

Overall, this is the best planner I’ve ever had and it really has helped me.  I’m slightly ADHD, so I need all of the (Full) focus I can get.  Pun intended.  I’ll continue to use this and I’m hopeful that I’ll see the change in the calendar maybe someday but, even without that change, it’s awesome.  I definitely recommend it if you’ve got a lot going on in your life and you’re into setting and achieving goals, whether personal or professional.

Happy Mommy Review Monday!

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Wellness Wednesday: Eating Healthy on the Road

I’m on the road a lot for work. Eating healthy on the road is hard. Extra hard when you love food and you use food as a way to keep you entertained and/or you have a 3-4 hour drive.

Here’s what I’ve been doing lately to make it work:

  • Pack my lunch and snacks when I can. Keeping easy-to-grab stuff is good. Examples are:
  • Yogurt
  • Fruits such as apples, bananas, and clementines that are prepackaged and easy to take with you
  • Light popcorn
  • Bags or containers of easy to munch on veggies.  My favorites are carrots and sweet snap peas.
  • Boiled eggs.  See my post on cooking these in an instant pot.
  • Healthy muffins
  • Nuts.  I actually don’t do this because I don’t feel like the “juice is worth the squeeze” calories-wise but these are super healthy for you in moderation.
  • Pre-made salads or bistro boxes.  I’ve not done this yet but I know a lot of people that do.
  • I’m still scoping out the best places to eat out but my favorite go-to is Panera Bread.  There are so many healthy options there and I always get a fruit cup as my side.
  • When I eat at a place with customers, there are typically not all that many great options- even the salads are horrendously high in calories and fat.  I stick mostly to the vegetables- as long as they aren’t a casserole or in a sauce.  If I can’t find anything, I’ll go with a baked potato (sweet potato if they have it) with sour cream on the side and a side salad with extra tomatoes, no cheese, and dressing on the side.  It’s hard.  I’m not going to lie.
  • When they sit those chips and salsa down in front of me or that delicious smelling loaf of bread, its soooo tempting.  I try to think about my end goal and resist.  I drink a sip of water every time I want a bite of it.
  • If I have a customer that says they don’t want to choose or I know they like sushi or seafood, I’ll often times suggest this because it’s an easy one for me.
  • If I’m spending the night out of town, I try to stay in a place that has a mini fridge and microwave.  I can either pack something in my cooler to bring along or I’ll sometimes make a run to the grocery store for a frozen dinner and some fruit or yogurt for a sweet ending.
  • I pack a couple of drink mixes (either Crystal Light or Kroger’s brand) with me to satisfy my sweet cravings and help my water intake.  Win-win.
  • Sometimes when I’m in a hurry and don’t have time for getting a healthy meal but know I need to have something decent, I’ll run into a convenience store and grab a banana and a Muscle Milk protein shake.  Most stores now have bananas (and if I’m lucky a few other options too).

What are you’re beat healthy eating tips for the road? I could use the recommendations!!!

Happy Wellness Wednesday!

Adventures with Four: Top Tips for Mananging a Busy Work and Home Schedule

Almost once a week Garen or I have to work out of town or have a work dinner at night.  With four kids, people always say “I don’t know how you do it.” Honestly, what choice do you have but to figure it out?!? With that in mind, I thought I’d share a few tips on how we survive with our busy work and family schedules.


Top Tips for Mananging a Busy Work and Home Schedule:

  1. Find One or Two Trusted Regular Babysitters– We love our babysitters. Not everyone can afford to do this but we pay someone to come in for a few hours to help out whichever parent is at home with all four kids at night. This allows us to get everyone’s homework, reading, and bath fit in before bedtime (without losing our minds). We typically plan our overnight trips after we’ve checked her availability. We have two babysitters that are best friends and together they can handle all four kids, which is great for nights when we both have something. 
  2. Keep a Shared Calendar– We use a iCloud calendar that we share between the two of us on our phones. We also have one that we share with our babysitter. I know a few people that also use a google calendar which works the same way. 
  3. Plan Ahead– A shared calendar is great but failing to plan ahead can leave you without someone to help with the kids. Garen and I both plan our work schedule a minimum of two weeks out. When we have an out of town obligation, we plan that with our babysitters or family members as soon as we know about it, usually at least a month or more out. 
  4. Just Say No– If I know that Garen is already going to be out of town or there is a school or extracurricular event for the kids, I may have to say no. And that’s ok. You can’t be everywhere all the time. This is harder said than done sometimes for a workaholic like me but I’m fortunate to be working with people that understand that family comes first. 
  5. Divide and Conquer– When both Garen and I are going to be out of town we sometimes send the kids different places. For example: On a weekend trip we will try to plan a night out when the big kids are at their Joe Daddy’s and find someone to keep the twins. One person keeping all four by themself can be done but it’s tough and we never expect that of a family member or one babysitter. 
  6. Packing List– We use an app for packing the kids bags for when they are going to stay out of town while we are gone. It helps us to make sure we don’t forget anything and we can use the same list over and over again quickly. 
  7. Keep Convenience Foods at the House– I’m all about saving money and eating healthy homemade meals but there are times when we need something fast. We buy a few frozen dinners such as chicken strips and steamer packs of vegetables so that they can be quickly made. We also always have frozen pizzas in the freezer for babysitter nights. This will ensure there’s always dinner at the house and it’s easy for whoever is staying with the kiddos. 

It’s not always perfect but at least these things help us to make things as smooth as possible. I hope these tips can help you if you’ve got a busy schedule like ours. 

Resolution Reflection: Stop Planning and Start Doing

I’ll start by saying that I have a lot of good qualities. However, starting and finishing goals and projects is not always one of my strong suits. 

With that said, as I started thinking about all of the many things I wanted to do and accomplish in 2017, I reflected on all of the unfinished projects and goals I didn’t achieve last year. As I considered this, I realized that many times I try to plan things so everything goes perfectly. In doing this, I plan myself out of time to actually do whatever project or event I’m planning for. Essentially, I over-think things (or, as Garen likes to say, “make a mountain out of a molehill.”)

After taking this in consideration, my main goal for this year is to stop planning and start doing.  So, how do I get there? 

In true  millennial fashion, my first thought was “there’s got to be an app for that.” And there is. I googled “best goal apps” and the one I settled on was Balanced

It’s got suggestions on how to keep a balanced life. It allows you to set how many times per time period you want to do something. For example, one of my goals this year is to write 3 blogs a week. (I can try right?!?) I easily track each blog post in the app and it keeps up with my progress towards my goal. 

Although it has suggestions, you can also add your own. For example, I added “tidy up the house” 2 times a day and “family camp out” 2 times a year. It also shows you how you are doing overall through the “Life pulse” page. 


You can see, so far, it’s been pretty good. Of course, I’m only 1 day in. I’ll post another blog in a month or so to let you know if I like it and maybe even how I’m progressing. 

Best wishes on a happy and resolution-filled 2017!

 

Adventures with Four: Enjoying a Blended Family Christmas

Will and Anna are fortunate enough to have two immediate families and four sets of extended families to celebrate with each holiday season. That’s a lot of Christmas fun for kids…and for us parents to orchestrate. 

Part of the coordination is out of our hands. Joe Daddy and I share the holiday break. One parent gets the kids from the last day of school until the 26th and then the other has them from the 26th until the end of the break per our agreement. It works fairly well but it also means that every other year, we don’t have Will and Anna with us for actual Christmas Eve and Day. 

We make the most of it and it’s a very merry holiday for everyone. 

Here’s how it works for us:

  • Plan in advance what dates the kids are going to be where. This allows us to plan our extended family gatherings as soon as we can. We did Christmas for the kids with Grandad and the Odoms and then with Garen’s family the second week of December. And we are at Garen’s mom’s with the little girls for Christmas. We will be going to my parents’ on the night of the 28th and celebrate New Years Eve there. That’s a lot to plan for and takes multiples rounds of packing and travel for a family of six!
  • Do as many family traditions as you can before the school holiday starts. We’ve started a family tradition of going to Holiday in the Park and to Santa’s Adventure. We also make a “thing” out of decorating the tree, complete with homemade chicken and dumplings. There are other traditions but that’s not the point of this post. The point here is to make sure you do them.  And to do them, they have to be planned if you share weekends with the kids’ other families. The few weekends between Thanksgiving and Christmas fly by before you know it!
  • It’s important to be encouraging and inclusive of the kids’ other family traditions. When you have multiple families celebrating, there are always going to be different ways of doing things and that’s a good thing. Your kids will be well-rounded and open to new ideas as they grow. 
  • Use technology to your advantage. Skype and FaceTime allow you to still see the kids when they are with their other families. It is also special to do this with grandparents to keep them involved. 
  • We coordinate what is being given to the kids with various family members in an attempt to not get multiples of the same thing. Sometimes this works better than others. In the case that the kids get multiples, they can leave one at the other family’s house or maybe a grandparent’s house. It’s really not a big deal. 
  • Santa comes on Christmas morning, no matter where the kids are or who they’re with. This is less confusing for everyone. Again, coordinating this with the other parent is important for a good co-parenting relationship. 
  • We open the kids’ other presents on a day that we can be at home the majority of the day. This gives us plenty of time to play with any new toys and have a big, special Christmas breakfast, which was a big deal in my family growing up. 
  • Help the kids to pick out or make Christmas presents for their other family, especially their siblings. This year the kids picked out a fun toy purse with keys and phone for Madalyn and made yarn ornaments for the rest of the family. 
  • If your kids are away at their other family’s house for the holiday and you’re sad, remember that they are very fortunate to have more than one set of people to love them. More love. What’s better than that? With that said, it’s ok to miss them and be bummed a bit…especially if this is your first round. Stay busy with other family and/or friends or volunteer somewhere to keep yourself occupied. It doesn’t necessarily get easier but you do learn to adjust over the years. 
  • Remember that Christmas is really  a season and not just one day. And it’s not just about the gifts. It’s about celebrating your beliefs, spending time with family and friends, and enjoying traditions- old or new. It should be celebrated whenever you and your family can be together. This could be before or after Christmas and still be just as special if you let it be. 

I hope these tips from our experiences can be helpful. It can be hard to share, even as adults who know it’s best for the kids but this is how we make our holidays special for everyone in our family. It takes planning and coordination but it is well worth it! 

Adventures with Four: How we survived an 8-Hour Roadtrip

We just survived an 8-Hour round-trip road trip with twin 9 month old babies, plus a 5 and almost 8 year old. 

Here’s my travel tips for a successful trip with that many kids in one vehicle:

  • Consider leaving at night or early in the morning so you can get as much of the drive done while all of the kids sleep. We left the house at 4 AM and that bought us a few hours of peaceful drive time. 
  • Dress everyone comfortably. The big kids slept in their athletic shorts and shirts so we didn’t have to worry in the morning. The babies were in their footie pjs for the first leg of the trip. 
  • Bring a blanket for each kid. Someone is bound to get cold. 
  • Be sure everyone has pottied before you leave anywhere. 
  • Try to arrange seating so that someone can sit between the babies so you can feed or play with them, as necessary. 
  • Bring a bag of toys that you can rotate out. 
  • Bring extra pacifiers and keep them handy. We tend to always be missing one. 
  • Have wipes within reach. You never know when you’re going to need to clean something up- whether big or small. 
  • We knew the girls were going to go through 3 bottles each on the trip, so we packed a bottle bag with that many bottles and three shakers, a gallon of water, plus the formula. Some people suggested packing the pre-measured formula but it seemed just as easy to pack the big tub of it when you’re making this many bottles at a time. Oh, and we don’t warm the bottles- they just drank them room temperature, which made it way easier. 
  • Build in plenty of time for stops. 
  • We changed diapers in the vehicle because it was easier and cleaner than many of the restrooms. 
  • Have a general idea of where you can stop and eat that is kid friendly. Our favorite road trip stop is Cracker Barrell. 
  • Pack plenty of things for the big kids to do. We let Will take his DS and Anna got to watch a movie in my iPad. I also stocked a bag of goodies from the Target dollar section including sticker books, coloring books, card games, etc.  
  • Bring some healthy snack choices. We brought grapes, crackers, squeezy fruit. It kept them from wanting the junk from the convenience stores. 
  • Have a change of clothes handy for the kids- big and little. You never know when you might need it and you don’t want to have to pull out suitcases to find something. 
  • Bring help, if possible. We were fortunate to have Garen’s mom and his 17-year-old cousin along. It made it much easier and more fun for everyone. 
  • Use a van, if possible. We are fortunate enough to have been loaned a 12-passenger Ford Transit to take. We would’ve had to take two cars otherwise. This gave us plenty of room for everyone AND our stuff. 

We not only survived, we had a great time. It was a fast and furious trip but we all had a blast in Branson with the family!

What road trip tips do you have for traveling with kids? I’d love to hear them!

When $hit hits the….

Warning: This post is dedicated to preparing for poop. After all, double the babies, double the dirty diapers. This may be TMI (Mom, if you’re reading this it stands for too much information) so, if it is, please stop now. 

Today Clara had a blowout. Lucky for me, she was with Daddy this morning since I had to teach a class today. 

I got this text message and I couldn’t help but chuckle:

  
In the words of Forrest Gump, “It happens.” $hit, that is. And a blowout is bound to happen when you’re out and about or in a hurry, so it’s important to be prepared. 

Here’s how to prepare for a blowout disaster:

  • Get a piddle pad (or similar item) for your car seat. This saved the car seat itself from being yucky many times. All you have to do is pull them out and you’re good to go. Just throw the pad in the wash. But don’t forget to put it back in. 
  • This is elementary parenting 101 stuff but ALWAYS have a change of clothes. Don’t forget socks if the weather is cool.   And shoes if you’re a real overachiever. Consider an extra outfit for you too if you’ve got an explosive pooper that makes a habit of this. 
  • Have a trash bag or wet bag for clothes to be laundered, plenty of extra wipes, a towel, and some Clorox wipes in your car. Should a massive blowout occur and obliterate the car seat, you’ll be glad you had this stuff. 
  • Bring a sense of humor. It may be disgusting but it’ll make for a good story….someday!