Posts Tagged ‘Mommy Time Management’

Me Time: Making Your Reading Time a Priority

Tuesday, October 6th, 2009


I have been really trying to devote more time to reading in the evening instead of watching television. I have the tendency to become a television junkie when the new fall season starts, but this year, I seem more interested in reading. We have a fantastic library system and I am definitely cashing in and spending some time under my favorite cozy quilt to get some reading done.

Setting up a book basket in our front room just for me has been a great way to incorporate reading back into my life. I visit the library for a little me time every other week and stock up on great reads. With borrowing from the library, there is no guilt if I decide that I don’t like a book… I just return it for the next unfortunate soul.

Many times I hear from people that they don’t have time to read. I have found that I can usually carve a little time out for just about anything in my life, but I have to make it a priority in order to make the time for it.

Take advantage of reading windows- Reading for me is carved into that tiny window of time between getting one child off to school and then the other. I find a window when we have time with the television off and the kids are spending their quiet time reading or drawing. Another window is generously given to me by my husband when he completes the kid’s evening routine and I disappear on the couch. These tiny pockets of time are how it works for me now. I look forward to having bigger windows of opportunity in the future, but I crave these little pockets of time for me!

Join or start a book club- My book club has been the biggest motivator to read at least one book each month. Being in a group can challenge you to read books that you would have never read before. I look forward to my book club each month and I love the books that I have totally loved that would have never made my reading list.

Turn the television and computer off- I know it is hard, but if I keep the television and computer off in the evening, I know that I can spend that time reading instead. Find a quiet space in your home that is television and computer free and designate that as your reading spot. Encourage your other family members to do the same!

My scaled down social networking probably has not boosted traffic to the site or made me the social media maven I sometimes wish I could be, but boy, do I feel a sense of satisfaction when I read a book!

Create your own book basket- Who says book baskets are just for kids? Fill a basket up for yourself and make a regularly scheduled date with yourself to visit the library. Put it on the calendar and savor those moments of peace choosing great books to read.

Do it for your kids- When my kids see me digging into my book basket, they want to dig into theirs too. Think of what an incredible example you are when you are showing them how much fun it is to read. It is through your example that they will learn a love of reading!

Read what you want- We have enough pressures on us as mothers, but to be pressured to always be reading award-winning books doesn’t have to be one of them. If your life is full of stress and chaos, a good chick lit book might be just what the doctor ordered. I like to read one heavy book and one light book and alternate them. When my children were smaller all I wanted to read was something that would make me laugh. No matter what you read… just keep reading!

What if you don’t have a great library system? Well, there are some great reading alternatives out there! Here are a few book resources that I have gathered for the book lovers of the world:

GoodReads or Shelfari- I use GoodReads to keep track of all of the things that I am reading or plan to read. I am not good about remembering the books I have read or that I would like to read in the future. This site helps me keep track of my impressions of books and keep my bookshelves fully stocked with the books I am really interested in reading. I love to keep a pad of paper with me in my purse or make notes into my cell phone when I am at the bookstore so if I happen upon a book I am interested in, I can jot down a note so I can pick it up at my local library.

BookCrossing- This site offers a fun way for you to clear out your bookshelves. The idea is simple, but so fun. Just put a tag within your book to track it and release your book into the wild, which just means leave it somewhere where someone else can find it (coffee shops, doctor’s offices, schools, etc.). When someone finds a book with a BookCrossing ID number in it, they can enter that code into the site and report where the book has moved to. It is a fun way to track where your books have traveled and see how far they can go.

Library Elf- This program helps you keep track of your library materials so you won’t get socked with late fees. Elf is an Internet-based tool for keeping track of what’s due, overdue and ready for pickup. Reminders are sent when the user wants it — before items are due (up to seven days advance notice, weekly notice or everyday reminders). For my local friends, South Bend is not currently participating, but the Elkhart Library is. The basic membership to Library Elf is free.

Frugal Reader, Paperback Swap, & Bookmooch- Just three of many sites where you can exchange books for free. You simply sign up for a membership and list the books on your bookshelf. You can then browse the books from other members and make a request to receive a book. When you are done with the book, you can list it back on the site or keep the book. New members start out usually with credits to get started on exchanging books. The more you ship and share, the more credits you recive to get more books.

Bookins- This is another great site where you can not only swap books, but also movies. Their system will automatically arrange for shipments from you to one member and from a third member back to you, and so on. You never have to contact anyone, there is no bidding, and there are no hassles of dealing with different traders and personalities for each exchange. The shipping charges are always a flat $4.49 for the service. You can keep what you get or exchange it again when you are done.

SwapSimple- This is a site where you can list textbooks, books, games or DVDs. Begin by listing what you have to be available to others. Right when you list an item, they will figure out what it’s current market value is, and award you 20% of it’s value up front for your use. You g
et the remaining 80% when you send your item to another swapper. This means you can list items, and get items immediately!

Amazon’s Free Kindle Downloads- For those that have moved towards the electronic books, Amazon has books available to download for free through February 28th. Be sure to snag these books and save!

I challenge you to bring reading back into your life- even if it is the teeniest pane of a window and even if the literature is lighthearted and non-award-worthy!

These are a few of the books that I have been working on these last two months…

The Penny Pinchers Club by Sarah Strohmeyer

I absolutely adored this book. If you are a Sophie Kinsella fan, you will really love this book and the hilarity that ensues.

Kat is an assistant to an interior designer barely making any money at all. She doesn’t seem to notice that she is spending more money than she has until she is faced with the stunned resolution that her marriage is falling apart.

On the advice of her lawyer, Kat is advised to begin saving a minimum of $500 a week to build a nest egg for herself so that she can handle the financial blow of the divorce and beginning to live on her own.

She joins the local Penny Pinchers Club and vows to stop shopping and start saving to reach her financial goals. She learns important lessons in bulk shopping, saving on her electric bill, and how much sweet rewards are savored when only enjoyed occasionally.

The life lessons build up to a great finish where Kat makes a discovery about herself and who she can be through her penny pinching efforts.
The Pretend Wife by Bridget Asher

This was a really great chick lit book about a woman who offers to be a pretend wife to her old college flame. Elliott’s mother is passing away and she is worried that her son will not be taken care of when she dies.

In a drunken pact, Gwen and her husband Peter, decide she can be his pretend wife for one weekend for his mother.

Of course, the old feelings resurface and Gwen has to choose between her predictably normal marriage and falling in love with her whole heart.

There is a great little twist at the end and it is a fast read that I devoured in two days!
The Last Bridge by Teri Coyne

It has been a long time since a book kept me up all night, but I could not put this book down. Just as a warning, the book does have rough language and abuse in it. If you can’t handle that sort of thing, just skip over this one!

“The Last Bridge,” jumps back and forth from the past and the present, sharing the difficult life of the main character Cat. Cat suffers through terrible emotional, physical, and sexual abuse at the hands of her father and escapes by sketching a comic book version of herself escaping “The Hand” of abuse.

She begins a relationship with a boy named Addison who loves her unconditionally. Although Addison cannot protect her from the abuse of her father, he makes her feel beautiful and loved. There love is a secret one as her father’s abusive reign will not allow anyone else to love his daughter.

She escapes town, leaving with a huge secret, and returns as a grown women after learning of her mother’s suicide. She is faced with all of the people from her past and her life is falling apart from alcoholism and the year’s of brutal abuse she has endured. She is now faced with discovering a cryptic goodbye note from her mother, the demons of her childhood, and all of the people who could not help her out of that abuse.

I don’t want to give away any of the plot because what makes this book so great is the many twists and turns that I did not expect. If you are a Jodi Picoult fan, I think you will appreciate the unexpected twists and the descriptive use of language that Coyne uses. Her knack for storytelling will immediately suck you in.

I felt like I was on a roller coaster ride, but I had to know how it would all turn out. An excellent read and I can’t wait to read more from this author!

The Secret Life of CeeCee Wilkes by Diane Chamberlain

I have never read a book by Diane Chamberlain, but if this is any indication of her writing style, I am permanently hooked on this author.

This book focuses on a sixteen year old girl who has lost her mother and seems to be very alone in the world. She works as a waitress and waits on the table of a handsome young man who sweeps her off of her feet. Despite their age difference, he seems to be very taken with her and she is head over heels in love with him.

He makes a confession that he is on a mission to release his sister from jail for a wrongfully accused crime. He asks her to partner with him and his brother to free their sister from jail. All she will have to do is to sit with the senator’s wife, whom they plan to kidnap, as bait to get the local senator to agree to release their sister.

The crime goes completely wrong and forever alters the path of CeeCee Wilkes. She is forced to change her identity and lives with a horrible secret of what has happened during that fateful night that she assisted with the kidnapping.

This one had me on the edge of my seat and I could not put it down until I knew what had happened. It is one of the best books that I have read in a long time and I would highly recommend it!

The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf

Two families awaken to find their daughters missing in a small Iowa town. The girls are inseparable best friends, both vanishing into the early morning light without a trace.

The two girls become fast friends as Calli suffers from mutism that is brought on by a traumatic event from her childhood. While Calli is unable to talk she finds her voice at school through her best friend Petra.

When the girls go missing, both family’s lives are intertwined as they search for their daughters and a case of the whodunit leaves you guessing throughout the book.

Do you make time to read? What are some books you have read lately that you could recommend?

30 Day Challenges to Improve Your Life

Tuesday, September 1st, 2009
Photo Credit: e.t

I don’t even know how it came up in conversation. I probably said something about wanting to exercise more and my husband probably echoed the sentiments. I may have said something about making a game out of it and then he may have taken me up on the challenge. That conversation 30 days ago is how I began to incorporate a regular exercise schedule back into my life.

When I read, “The Power of Less” by Leo Babauta, he shared how he was able to accomplish many great things in his life. I remember that his list of accomplishments seemed lofty and unachievable to me. Things like running marathons and writing books. He then shared that while the things he had accomplished were amazing, that it all began with smaller goals that allowed him to then build on and up to bigger goals.

Have you ever thought about what you could achieve with a 30 day challenge? I remember how much we achieved with a 30 day no spend challenge, but what if you applied that same principle to other aspects of your life?

I wanted to share with you the steps I took towards choosing my challenges:

Focusing my goals: The first step for me was making a focused and small goal that could be built upon. I think the challenge for me was making a small goal instead of a big one. I am what is commonly referred to as an “overachiever.” I think that is why I fail so miserably at New Year’s resolutions and the previous goals for myself. I also wanted this very focused and small goal to add an element of enrichment that would be beneficial in certain aspects of my life.

For me, the enrichment needs to happen in three sections of my life.

Enriching myself.

Examples- Exercise challenges, challenging myself to one hour of quiet time to myself, reading the Bible, writing in a journal, reading literary classics, drinking more water, eating more fruits and vegetables, watching classic movies, learning/mastering a new craft, cooking challenges, giving up television, taking courses that enrich myself/my business, traveling, photography challenges.

Enriching my family.

Examples- Dating my spouse again, taking steps to improve our family finances, making alone time for each child, sitting on the floor and playing with my children each day, volunteering with my family, teaching my children a new craft/hobby, finding free things to do each day together, cooking with my children, making outdoor living a priority, limiting computer/television time, no spend challenges, trying to bless someone else each day, starting a gratitude journal together.

Enriching my home life.

Examples- Getting rid of clutter each day, organizing the paper flow in the house, organizing problem areas in our home, cleaning out a junk drawer each day, cooking every night, starting a garden, getting my children more involved with chores, taking inventory of pantry and closet clutter, green living challenges/making the home more energy efficient.

Balancing My Goals- I then decided that to make these challenges work for me, I would add something to my life one month and take something away the next month. For example, I add 20 minutes of exercise to each day of my life this month, but the next month I reduce clutter so I have less cleaning to do for the following month. That natural give and take is what will help me fit these challenges into my day and make them work with my busy schedule.

Reward Myself- At the end, I wanted to give myself a reward for completing the challenge. Maybe it could be a night out on the town after taking a no spend challenge or maybe it is catching on a television series after giving up television for a month.


This month was definitely an exercise in enriching myself, but I did discover how much it has enriched others by making this a part of my regular routine. I wanted to share with you what I have been up to and to include you in my 30 day process of challenging myself each month.

August ’09 Challenge

Challenge: Exercise every single day for 30 days doing the 30 Day Shred Workout DVD. My husband committed to 100 sit-ups each day for the challenge.

I had heard great things about the 30 Day Shred bought the DVD a few months ago. I tried it a few times, but would have to give up because I said it was “too hard” or I was “too sore.” The DVD sat collecting dust for a couple of months before I picked it up again for this challenge.

If you are not familiar with this workout routine, it had 3 workout levels that increased in intensity. The workouts were a total of 20 minutes (including the warm-up and cool down) so this made it seem more manageable than attempting a longer workout tape.

I had a lot of fears to overcome to complete the challenge. The workout is extremely hard and I was extremely out of shape. I had to figure out when I would even make time to do it and if I could stick with it for thirty days straight.

Did I meet the challenge?: Yes, I did! It hurt and I was sore for that first week. I never believed that I could do the first level, let alone work my way up to level three. I started with 3 pounds weights and moved to five pound weights as I built up my strength and I can say that I did all of the levels of the challenges.

How did it enrich myself/others?: I have been off of the exercise bandwagon for awhile now and I was starting to feel it. My normally high metabolism began to slow once I hit 30 and I had noticed a definite c
hange in my shape and energy.

To say that I have felt transformed by this experience would be true. I hate to say it, but I actually look forward to doing the workout each day. I do the workout after I get my son on the bus and I have made it a part of my regular routine.

Once I made the commitment to exercise, I started making different commitments throughout the rest of my day. I started having a protein-packed smoothie after my workouts instead of skipping breakfast, I created a salad bar of ingredients so I could eat better at lunch, and I drank more water because I was thirsty for it.

It began to enrich other parts of my life too and benefit my family. I had more energy to play with my children, my kids looked forward to my workout and did it with me (or sometimes just cheered me on), and my husband says he feels like he is dating a new girl all over again.

The added side benefit was that my clothes now fit better and my body feels more toned. I didn’t lose a drastic amount of weight, but I also made few diet modifications and am at a normal BMI. I did lose six pounds though which still kept me within normal levels, but in better shape than I was.

How I Plan to Continue the Challenge: I would like to continue doing this DVD, but work in other routines to add some variation. I plan to continue trying to exercise five days a week now that it has become an important part of my day. My ultimate goal would be to run a 5K with my husband so I will need to add more elements in my routine to help with that.

Overall, this 30 Day Challenge was a complete success and has had some really great benefits to my life.

Reward- I have tucked away a coupon from The Gap that was handed out at BlogHer for a free pair of jeans. I decided I would not cash in on the reward until I completed my exercise challenge. I am excited to be cashing in on a new pair of jeans with my new and improved body!

Next Month’s Challenge- Reduce the clutter in our home. I plan to make a commitment to take one car full (minimum) to the donation box each week until we have our clutter problems under control. I am excited to see how we do with this challenge and what we will discover through the thirty day process.

What are some goals you have created for yourself that you have reached? What is something you would like to achieve?

2009 Family Organizing Tools Round-Up

Tuesday, August 4th, 2009

Photo Credit: Kamila Panasiuk

Calendars, planners, and online software change each year so for the back-to-school season, I would like to share with you some of the family planning options available to you for the new 2009 school year.

Let’s start with online planners since these are typically a free option for families. Online tools are ideal for clearing the paper clutter from your life and can be easily shared among family members. When using paper calendars, it can be difficult to get your family all on the same page (so to speak) so online tools can be a great option for making sure everyone is aware of those meetings and appointments.



Here is a quick round-up of our favorite online calendar tools:

Qlubb-This is a fantastic tool for getting people and events organized in your mommy life. Qlubb is a web-based group utility that enables real-world groups to easily connect, share and get stuff done. Qlubb brings all aspects of group interaction to one simple and intuitive place. With event calendaring, sign-up sheets, photo sharing, member rosters, file sharing, task reminder service, and bulletin boards, Qlubb provides all the functions needed to easily and actively participate within a group. This online tool is idea for room parents, club organizers, scout troop leaders, PTO, and playgroup activities.

Google Calendar- This seems to be a favorite among families because it syncs so well with everything in a busy mom’s life. Busy families can easily link to one another’s calendars to avoid scheduling conflicts which makes it a very appealing option. You can import events from other calendar programs like Yahoo! Calendar and Microsoft Outlook. You also can set up multiple calendars for different areas of your life, like one for your daughter’s ballet schedule or one for your weekly night’s out with your girlfriends. Party planning and invitations can be done through the calendar as well as setting up reminders for important events in your life. I love that you can share your calendar with your family (or the world, if you so choose) which should help trigger your spouse’s memory for that dinner with your family that he was so not looking forward to.

Cozi- In my opinion, this is one of the best free online tools that there is. I really just love the look and the feel of this calendar. I loved this calendar when it first came out, but they have made a new recent addition and you can now sync to Outlook, which makes adding events a whole lot easier. This software is made with a mom in mind. It is easy to use, color-coded (for each family member), includes pictures of your sweet little ones, helps you with your grocery list, has calendars with alerts letting you know when your appointments are and you can send love notes to your hubby…all from one central location. Left your grocery list at home? Just call Cozi’s toll-free number from any mobile phone and have your list read to you or sent as a text message.

remember the milk- This site is great for our list-writing mommas. You can make as many lists as you like and no one will tell you to put your notepads away. Into tagging items on your blog? Use the task cloud to easily see what you have to do. Want to store notes along with your tasks? You can do that too. Saving gas is always a priority too and you can use the map feature to see where your tasks are located in the real world. See what’s nearby or on your way, and plan the best way to get things done.



Ta-da Lists- Another great site for the list-writing mommas because that is virtually all this program is. It is simple, it takes about ten seconds to sign up for an account and you can make as many lists as you like. You could also be like, “Ta-da!” and have this open on your computer with a giant list of things you need your spouse to do… you know, if you were that kind of spouse!


Online planning has come a long way, but many families still rely on the good old-fashioned paper calendars to get their days organized. Despite using a computer to manage my business, I am still guilty of indulging in paper organizers to manage our hectic lives.

There are many budget-friendly organizers on the market and I wanted to highlight for you a few of my favorites for managing our schedules:

Family Facts On the Go Organizer & Planner- For the past three years, this has been my calendar of choice for my family. This calendar has everything that I need and is the perfect size to still tuck into my purse. My favorite things about this organizer is that it has tear off corners to mark what week you are on, it has a very durable waterproof cover that can withstand the elements, and it has organizing pockets where I can tuck in business cards or bills that need to be taken care of. The calendar starts in September, getting moms kicked off right to school with a brand new organizer. I have converted many friends over to this organizer because it has all of the tools you need right at your fingertips. (Price- $14.95)

BusyBodyBooks Academic Organizer- If you are attracted to a calendar with simplicity and lots of room to write down schedules, then this is the calendar for you. I would compare this organizer to a paper-format of the Cozi online calendar.

These organizers are roomy and have a weekly grid format with a spacious side by side view of your schedule. Each family member can get their own column of activities, making it easy to see who needs to be where. These columns can accommodate up to five family members on each page.

In addition to your standard calendar, the organizer offers extras like a planning calendar for birthdays and anniversaries, another calendar for the next year’s appointments, shopping lists, pockets to store items, a bookmark to mark what week you are on, and plenty of places to leave extra notes. (Price- $17.59)

BusyBodyBooks Wall Calendar- This calendar offers seven columns to arrange multiple and hectic schedules side by side. If you have less than seven family members, like our family, the other columns are helpful for organizing a chore/work schedule and your family’s menu plans for the week.

Other fun elements that make this calendar a winner is the pocket for storage, a place to start tracking appointments for the next year (no more do you have to write in the margins until you buy your calendar) and a place to keep track of birthdays and important emergency information. I also love that this calendar is spiral-bound so that it can lay completely flat when I am filling it out or when being hung on the wall.

Each week is an an entire page in the wall calendar, offering a generous amount of room for recording all of life’s little details. At the bottom of each page is a section for checklists and note taking. (Price- $14.65)

momAgenda- I keep two separate organizers to manage my business and my home life. For the last year, I have been using my momAgenda to organize everything for my website and I absolutely love it.

This calendar is clean and simple, but very elegantly bound. The calendar pages are set up in such a way that they provide ample room to get all of your scheduling needs in it. Each month has two pages devoted towards the month-at-a-glance and then it is divided by week (two pages per week). The weekly pages offer room to categorize which is very useful for a mom who needs to divide her work and home life or just wants to divide schedules. The book has two ribbon bookmarks to bookmark what week you are on and any area other area in your calendar you would like to keep bookmarked. Each page provides a great motivational quote and there are many other sections within the MomAgenda that make it a great tool for moms. For example, a party-planning section, a place to jot down favorite wines, and even a list of favorite websites.

This is higher priced than the other organizers that are highlighted, but I know many moms would get their money’s worth out of this one. The momAgenda website does, however, offer oodles of free printables that can help you get organized this year including a great back-to-school checklist that I plan to use this year. (Price- $45)

Jumbo Dry Erase Wall Calendar- I love dry erase calendars and go to town color coding everyone and making notes on these. I requested this wall calendar as a gift this past year for Christmas, never glancing at the dimensions when ordering it. When I received this calendar, I was shocked to find that it is about the size of an actual wall. After getting over my initial shock, it has been a great addition to our office to organize everyone’s schedules in one spot. If you have the wall space and a big family, I would recommend this calendar for your busy family. (Price- $14.99)



MomAdvice Weekly Planner- What list would be complete without our free printable weekly planner that we offer? I have heard from many families that this is a tool that they use when managing their busy lives. Unlike most planners, our design leaves just as much room for your weekend as the rest of the week. See all of your appointments, reminders and entire To Do list, all on one page. Fits any standard 8½ x 11″ binder. (Price- FREE)



Family Facts School Years Memento Keeper- While this is not a calendar tool, I absolutely have to highlight this as a way to jot down all of those memories and as a way to keep track of all of those endless papers that are coming home from school.

This memento keeper is thoughtfully put together and is built to last with durable pages and a strong hardback cover to keep all of those precious glitter projects safe.

The book starts with pre-kindergarten and ends with your child’s senior year in high school. For each section, there is a section for information about themselves, a spot for their photo, a place for their school information, summer vacation memories, and special memories from the holidays. There are also clever sections that your child can write their signature, draw a picture of themselves, and memories that their siblings and parents can share about them each year. Thoughtfully placed is a pocket in each section for your child’s favorite mementos, report card, photos, or report card. (Price- $22.95)

Do you use any calendar tools for managing your day? What has been the most successful in your family?

Simplify: The To-Do List

Tuesday, January 6th, 2009

Have you ever looked at your to-do list and just felt completely and utterly overwhelmed before you even start? My day was often looking like that and rarely did I actually ever complete all of the things off of the list. I would end my day defeated before the next day had ever begun. While the high of checking things off the list was there, the items left unchecked left me feeling less euphoric about what was actually accomplished.

For the past couple of months, I have had the great opportunity to work with a business coach to help make my business better. Charrise McCorey, from Emergence Business Coaching, has been working with me to help me reach my business goals. It has been such a unique experience for me because I am able to actually discover how valuable my time is, increase my productivity, and discover what can emerge from finding balance in my life.

The first thing on our project list was tackling my to-do list and my feelings of constantly being overwhelmed. I felt like I was juggling way too many balls in the air so I wasn’t sleeping well, eating well, or feeling like a very good parent. I would start a project, abandon it or do a bad job on it, and then move on to the next thing.

The first thing we did was revamp what my to-do list looked like. Here is an example of what my to-do list looked like for my Monday routine- perhaps it looks like yours?

Amy’s Monday To-Do List

Sweep Kitchen Floors
Unload dishwasher
Load dishwasher
Swipe both bathrooms
Make beds
One load of laundry
Clean bathtub
Empty upper level trash
Make grocery list and menu plan
Change sheets on all beds
Clean windows and mirrors on upper level
Dust upper level
Steam floors on upper level
Sweep upper level
Organize the bedrooms

Now those were just my home management goals, we aren’t even tackling the business goals for the day. What ended up happening was that I would get a portion of the list done and then have to carry it over for Tuesday. Let’s say I got three of those things done. Now we will move on to Tuesday’s schedule and it will look like this:

Amy’s Tuesday To-Do List

Swipe both bathrooms
Make beds
One load of laundry
Clean bathtub
Empty upper level trash
Make grocery list and menu plan
Change sheets on all beds
Clean windows and mirrors on upper level
Dust upper level
Steam floors on upper level
Sweep upper level
Organize the bedrooms
Dust main level
Sweep main level
Steam kitchen floors
Clean windows and mirrors
Run errands

And then, let’s say I got five things done, then Wednesday would carry over to this:

Amy’s Wednesday To-Do List

Make grocery list and menu plan
Change sheets on all beds
Clean windows and mirrors on upper level
Dust upper level
Steam floors on upper level
Sweep upper level
Organize the bedrooms
Dust main level
Sweep main level
Steam kitchen floors
Clean windows and mirrors
Run errands
Do one thing I hate
Catch Up on Everything

Usually by Friday, my list looked something like this:

Amy’s Friday To-Do List

Clean windows and mirrors on upper level
Dust upper level
Steam floors on upper level
Sweep upper level
Organize the bedrooms
Dust main level
Sweep main level
Steam kitchen floors
Clean windows and mirrors
Run errands
Do one thing I hate
Catch Up on Everything
Empty lower level trash
Dust lower level
Sweep lower level
Clean windows and mirrors on lower level
Clean and organize the home office
Visit the library
Clean out car
Update our Quicken software
Mow lawn
Baking day
Hate myself for accomplishing absolutely nothing
Defeat
Defeat
Defeat

Oh, and did I mention I haven’t tackled anything in my business? Obviously, this to-do list was just a running list of things I would never get to and I would hate myself for accomplishing nothing. In tears, I explained to Charrise that I often feel like a bad mom because I had to keep up with my business AND my house and neither was looking good at all. As Charrise says over and over again to me when I say negative things, “That is a story you like to tell yourself. You can change your story.”


We decided to change my story. She advised completely revamping the to-do list. Instead of keeping a running list of things I would never do, why not make a shorter list that I could actually accomplish with great success? How would it feel if I could go to bed each night knowing that I had accomplished what was on my list? How would I sleep? Her advice was simple a list of only six things.

Make 3 Business Goals
Make 3 Personal Goals

Now my list looks something like this:

Amy’s Revamped Monday To-Do List

1. Set up contests for Tuesday on the blog
2. Complete my to-do list entry
3. Conference Call with Kenmore
4. Play on the floor with the kids for one hour
5. One load of laundry- whites
6. Pay Bills

At night before I go to bed, I make my list of six and go to sleep. At the end of the day, I usually can check most of the things off of the list and if something doesn’t get done, it just gets carried over to the next day. I have to say, it is a lot easier to carry over two things rather than twenty each day.

But, what about the bigger goals? I had so many things I needed to do on my list for the website and in my home, but I knew they would never fit on such a limited list.

This is where this comes into play:

Giant Wish List

Instead of adding these to my to-do list each day, take a piece of poster board and begin writing what your bigger goals are. She suggested writing down things you might be afraid to say out loud so that you can see your dreams come into fruition.

Amy’s Giant Wish List

Podcast Radio Show With Huge Corporate Sponsorship
Food Network Television Show
Get Featured in Real Simple Magazine
Regular Column in Good Housekeeping
Book Deal
Meet Brad Pitt
Possibly Marry Him

When I think of things that I want to do in the future, I just jot it down on my giant wish list. It is there, I won’t lose the idea or goal, but it isn’t on
my running list of six…yet.

Yes, one day I will have an opening on the list of six and when that happens maybe I might say, “Today is the day to meet Brad Pitt and possibly marry him.” I will add it to the list of six and just maybe, I might accomplish it.

You might ask what happened to all the cleaning on the list? Well, instead of writing it down, I just try and do it when I get my goals accomplished for the day. I either make it my goal to clean one day of the week or I just clean when I need to clean. I don’t hold myself to commitments about it. I know what needs to get done and when I need to do it, and I do the best I can.

It might not be perfect, but it doesn’t keep me up at night anymore.

Simplify.

(photo credits: image 1- one pretty thing image 2-gamookie)

What does your to-do list look like? Could you simplify it? What would you put on a giant wish list?

Snacks For Mom: Do You Have Them?

Wednesday, September 24th, 2008

I shared with you that I am trying to manage my time better, but one thing that often gets pushed to to the side are my own eating habits.

I can guide my children to make good food choices, but I can go for hours on end without eating well myself. Normally, I end up snacking towards the end of the day and it all balances out, but lately this plan hasn’t been working so well.

I am hypoglycemic, which is just a fancy way of saying that I have low blood sugar. I have always had problems, but after I had Emily, it has seemed to have gotten worse.

These past couple of weeks have been really horrible and I have felt really rundown. I break out in a sweat, I have the shakes, my vision gets blurry, I feel faint, and I get extremely irritable. It seems like something like low blood sugar should be such a minor thing, but it can suck up hours of my day where I feel sluggish and generally out of it. I am sure my exercise routine is contributing towards the need for more eating, but I have been letting it go.

I decided to make it a priority this week and stocked our pantry with some mommy snacks. I got myself some cheese sticks, yogurts, fiber bars, and some canned & fresh fruit. I also bought black beans and whole grain rice to make tortillas for my lunches and to replace any late night cravings for junk food. I don’t know why, but I find it difficult to “blow” grocery money on myself for these quick snacks. I feel like I should be making all of these things, but sometimes time is more limited and then I find myself in these slumps with nothing stocked to eat. The planner in me knows that I could do a better job of this, but sometimes it is nice to have a couple store-bought goodies packed in your purse for when you feel a slump coming on.

As I sat munching on my fiber bar this afternoon, I suddenly felt two eyes watching me. Emily came around the corner and pointed to my bar. She threw down her apple and started kicking and screaming for me to give it to her, as only a two year-old can do. As I shook my head no, my mouth full of food, she began escalating and I felt my stomach rumbling in protest from the interrupted and stressful snack. Can’t a girl eat a fiber bar without having to share it?

I will admit that I now find myself sneaking into the bathroom or an unlit corner of the house to sneak in a little nutrition for myself, lest I have to share with everyone else in the house. Images of my own poor mother hovering over the sink to shove a little treat in her mouth and all us kids circling her like a pack of wolves comes rushing back to me. We could sniff those Girl Scout Cookies out like nobody’s business and I doubt my mother had many meals where she didn’t have to sacrifice a few bites between the three of us.

Do you have a favorite healthy mommy snack that you could recommend? What keeps you going during the day? Secret mommy confession… do you hide your snacks or keep them separate from the rest of the family’s food? Fess up! Where do you put your stash?

Mommy Time Management: Making My Plans Work

Tuesday, September 16th, 2008

We did a really great series on self-care awhile back (you can scroll through my Mommy Time Management category for all of the discussions and related talks on implementing self-care in your life) and I just wanted to check in with each of you and see how your self-care is going. I know that I have found it is easy to care myself during the summer, but when our new school year starts, I suddenly seem to lose myself again. I am wondering if you are feeling the same way?

My self-care has really come from trial and error and discovering what type of person I am. Here is what I am discovering.

1. I am not a morning person. I have tried being a morning person and I just can’t do it. My workout attempts to wake up early left me feeling horrible the rest of the day and getting a jump on the day usually means I am tapping into the time when I feel less creative. Therefore, I am not pushing being a morning person and am instead concentrating on utilizing the times when I feel best…which is the evening. I will no longer apologize for not being a morning person and will understand that maybe I will come to a stage in my life where mornings work better for me, but for now I am content on being groggy in the morning and enjoying the first bit of laziness while I can.

2. I am not a gym person. I tried the gym with my kids and it did not work. My daughter is at a stage in her life where she is shy and scared when I am away from her. I don’t know how long this stage will last, but dragging one whining kid and one crying kid to the gym so I could work out left me feeling stressed and guilty. We decided to, instead, put our tax refund check towards a good treadmill that we could use while caring for our children at home. My husband is now able to run and train for his races in the winter seasons and I am able to squeeze in a workout when it is convenient for me. I am working out more often and I feel better than I did before.

3. My self-care needs to be convenient for it to work. A treadmill in the basement…not convenient. A treadmill that is near my workspace so it is ready and waiting for me. Yup, that works. Call me lazy, but self-care will only work for me if it is convenient. This means that I have to make those things available to me and group items in such a way that I will actually use them. My foot soak goodies are all together waiting for the night when I can soak my feet. My library books sit in a basket in my living room where I can grab one and read them. My craft supplies are ready for me to spend an evening working on what makes me most happy. Keeping stocked on my self-care items helps me to actually care for myself when I need it most.

4. I need to put myself on a self-care schedule. I have made a commitment to myself to do one nice thing for myself for one hour a day. It is not an hour where I am watching my favorite show while I fold the laundry, pick up the kid’s toys, and sign papers. No, the only multitasking that will be occurring is if I am watching my television show while soaking my feet. As a mom, I get in the habit of making it about everyone else, even during the time that I should be caring for myself. One hour of total and carefree time devoted to myself is just what I need. The world will still spin, our house will still function, and I will be feeling better about myself in the process.

How do you care for yourself? Do you find it more difficult as the school year and activities begin? How do you make this a priority… or do you?

(Photo Source: David Joyce)

2008 Online Family Planner Round-Up

Monday, August 4th, 2008

Calendars, planners, and online software change each year so for the back-to-school season, I would like to share with you some of the family planning options available to you for the new school year. Many thanks to my Twitter friends for offering their own suggestions for what they use as it helped to get my list rolling!

For the first portion of our discussion, I wanted to discuss online calendars. Online calendars are great for families who spend a lot of time on the web and they can be easy to access when you are out and about from mobile phones and other computers.

Online tools are ideal for clearing the paper clutter from your life and can be easily shared among family members. When using paper calendars, it can be difficult to get your family all on the same page (so to speak) so online tools can be a great option for making sure everyone is aware of those meetings and appointments.
Google Calendar- This seems to be a favorite among families because it syncs so well with everything in a busy mom’s life. Busy families can easily link to one another’s calendars to avoid scheduling conflicts which makes it a very appealing option. You can import events from other calendar programs like Yahoo! Calendar and Microsoft Outlook. You also can set up multiple calendars for different areas of your life, like one for your daughter’s ballet schedule or one for your weekly night’s out with your girlfriends. Party planning and invitations can be done through the calendar as well as setting up reminders for important events in your life. I love that you can share your calendar with your family (or the world, if you so choose) which should help trigger your spouse’s memory for that dinner with your family that he was so not looking forward to.

Cozi- In my opinion, this is one of the best free online tools that there is. I really just love the look and the feel of this calendar. I loved this calendar when it first came out, but they have made a new recent addition and you can now sync to Outlook, which makes adding events a whole lot easier. This software is made with a mom in mind. It is easy to use, color-coded (for each family member), includes pictures of your sweet little ones, helps you with your grocery list, has calendars with alerts letting you know when your appointments are and you can send love notes to your hubby…all from one central location. Left your grocery list at home? Just call Cozi’s toll-free number from any mobile phone and have your list read to you or sent as a text message.

remember the milk- This site is great for our list-writing mommas. You can make as many lists as you like and no one will tell you to put your notepads away. Into tagging items on your blog? Use the task cloud to easily see what you have to do. Want to store notes along with your tasks? You can do that too. Saving gas is always a priority too and you can use the map feature to see where your tasks are located in the real world. See what’s nearby or on your way, and plan the best way to get things done.


Ta-da Lists- Another great site for the list-writing mommas because that is virtually all this program is. It is simple, it takes about ten seconds to sign up for an account and you can make as many lists as you like. You could also be like, “Ta-da!” and have this open on your computer with a giant list of things you need your spouse to do… you know, if you were that kind of spouse!

Do you use any online tools for managing your day? Do you utilize things like text messaging or a PDA to manage your day more effectively? What high-tech programs or tools have helped your day run more smoothly?

WSBT-TV: Getting Fit on a Budget

Tuesday, July 8th, 2008

Today on WSBT, I discuss some ways to get fit without losing your gym shorts… so to speak! I am trying to get myself back in shape and here are a few links to help with motivation and savings:

Exercise & You

Working Out on a Budget

Creative Gym Membership Alternatives

Kathy Kaehler Interview

Frugal Exercise Solutions

Going Without Prescription Coverage: A Self Discovery

XFLOWSION Workout DVD

I hit the gym this morning and the owner stopped me to tell me he had seen me on the news. He suggested I do a segment on exercising and I told him that I had just taped one. “Did you mention our gym?” I smiled and said, “No, but I did tell them to call around to gyms and see if you can get a free membership for babysitting.”

I am thinking that wasn’t the answer he was looking for, but I made a beeline to the gym equipment and had to smile a little bit! Just trying to do my part for the moms of the world who can’t afford those expensive gym memberships!

Do you have a new workout DVD recommendation or a new workout that you are really loving? Please leave a comment here and let me know!!

Follow-Up on Self-Care Discussion

Tuesday, July 1st, 2008

Our discussion on self-care was prompted by a lack of care for myself that I needed to admit to and work on. We had such a great discussion and I heard from a lot of you (through email and through your comments) that you were making it a priority to care for yourselves. For those of you that missed our discussion, I encourage you to read our entire discussion and to start taking some steps towards caring for yourself.

I wanted to share with you the improvements that I have made towards these goals:

1. I am managing my time much better. Now that Blogger has finally added the feature where you can publish into the future (doesn’t that sound cool the way I worded that?), I am actually able to do the majority of my work on the weekend and I just schedule my entries to publish during the week. I have started devoting my time on Sunday afternoon towards getting my posts ready to go from Monday through Thursday so I can concentrate on family time throughout my week. The computer is ruling my life a lot less and I have less on my shoulders in the mornings to worry about.

2. I am working out regularly. I almost hate to admit it, for fear that I will get off track, but my working out is going really well. I am still going to the gym and am indulging in that in the evenings on occasion, instead of my trips to Goodwill. I am also running in my neighborhood (to help save on gas) and we are planning to invest in a treadmill so that my husband, who is a runner, can also enjoy working out in the winter and training for his runs in the spring & summer. Whether I will continue at the gym, I am unsure, especially if we invest in a treadmill for our home.

I never thought I would be the type of person that would work out regularly, but I really am proud that I am. Some of the positive side effects that happened because I am exercising regularly are that I have more energy during the day, my mood is much better after I have had those nice endorphins releasing into my system, and my troubles with insomnia are almost gone. I am sleeping so hard that we now have a new problem on occasion…snoring! In all seriousness though, I am feeling so much better about myself for adding this to my life.

3. I am making time for hobbies now. My new knitting hobby has been the best form of self-care yet because it has calmed me down a lot in the evening hours. I have found that I am more creative than I give myself credit for and I am trying to focus this creativity into benefiting my children too. We are spending more time crafting and enjoying time together now that I don’t feel so busy all of the time. Our evenings are spent in our backyard indulging in conversation and fun summertime activities.

4. I am also continuing to reduce the clutter in our house and am trying to be more purposeful about the things we bring into our lives. One commitment that I made to myself (which has been extremely hard) is to not go to garage sales this summer. I know, HARD! I haven’t brought as much in and I am finding that I can be more inventive with what we already own. Best of all, I have a little less to clean and a little more room to entertain in. When things come in, things go out- sounds simple enough, but I am still learning.

5. I am trying to do more for others by donating my time and talents to some great causes. The more that I am doing for others, the more I feel better about myself. It isn’t anything extravagant that I am doing, but they are little things that have made me feel better about how I can help other people. I am still working on this so I am looking for opportunities to give back to others in our community.

Basically, I am feeling a lot more balanced than I was before. I am trying to talk less about how busy I am and more about how fulfilled I feel from the great things I have added to my life. I am saying no to more and missing out on some things, but I am concentrating on building our family unit up and strengthening the important ties that need strengthening.

How is your self-care going? What are you doing lately that you feel really proud of?

Creating Morning Rituals

Wednesday, May 14th, 2008

Today is going to be our last day in the book, “How Did I Get So Busy.” We have had such a great discussion from this book and I feel like I have made a lot of positive changes by sharing through this format and from encouragement from you. It has definitely been a positive transformation for me and I hope that you have gotten as much from it as I have.

For those of you who are just joining in on the series, we began with a busy bee quiz, questioned our reasons for being busy, had a discussion about technology and how it can intrude into our life, talked about self-care (or lack thereof), discussed our exercise routines (or lack thereof), taming our tech habits, and breaking the procrastination habits. There are many more chapters in the book so I hope that you can check this out from your library or can purchase a copy. I have heard from many of you who have gotten the book so I hope it will continue to benefit you.

Today we are going to discuss our morning routines and rituals. I have read other bloggers who have some really great morning routines, but I will admit that I am not a morning person and carving time for rituals has been something I think about, but don’t do. I will say that I have added some workout time to my mornings, after I drop my son off at preschool, and I have also been doing a morning walk with Emily on warmer days.

These are the suggestions from the author on ways that you can incorporate some rituals into your day:

1. Write a vision of your ideal morning. The author actually says she has a list of seven things that she wants to do every morning. She suggests writing a list down of the things you would like out of your own morning and putting this in a place where you will see it each day- on the fridge door, inside a medicine cabinet, next to your alarm clock. This list will help remind you of what your ideal morning would look like. I have seen moms take this a step further and have an ideal day written up for themselves and their children too.

2. Estimate how much time each morning ritual will take you. With all of our goals, we are encouraged to start small and work our way up. Begin with small things that won’t take a lot of time and build your routine up from there.

3. Identify a simple way to connect with loved ones in the morning. It can be a hug and a kiss for your kids, joining your child for breakfast each day so that you have special time together, or exercising with your spouse. Use this time to connect with the people you love most and see if it starts your days out a little better.

4. Choose things you truly want to do, not what you “should” do. Don’t do things you think you have to do, you need to do things, “that will truly nourish you and help you create the kind of life you believe is possible.”

5. Test your habits- and adjust them. If your routine isn’t working for you, don’t be afraid to switch it around. Continually tweak the routine until you have something you are really happy with.

In this chapter, the author focuses on ways to end your day as well. I have found that I am better about how I end my day then how I begin it though so this section really stuck with me.

Sound Off: I am interested to hear if you have a morning ritual that works for you? What are your mornings like? Do you struggle with a morning routine too?

MomAdvice Sound Off: Did you enjoy this book series? Would you like to work through another book together? What topics/books are of interest to you right now?