Making Life (Slightly) Easier

My mission in life is to be as productive as possible. I mean sure, more than anything I want to raise a good kid, stay married, keep my job, and be relatively healthy, but aside from that I have to be honest. I want to do all the stuff in an efficient manner so that I can have time to do things I really love. So, over the past few months I've been really trying to assess how I can be... better. September-December of last year had some really stressful moments, many of which were brought about by that "having too much to do" feeling. So, here are some things, some little and some big, that have helped me at work and at home (caution: this is a little bit... Good Housekeeping-ish at points... sorry if you'e twenty and not into laundry):

Grading Calendar- I have talked about this before, but it has been the biggest lifesaver of them all. Every 4-6 weeks I print out a blank grid with boxes Monday-Friday and one for the weekend. As I collect assignments I realistically assign myself slots to grade everything, being mindful of busy weekends, time I can work in class (like if my students are writing), etc... I am incredibly list-oriented, so I love being able to mark off finished assignments and the competitive part of me (which is a really, really big part...) gets excited to *gasp* cross things off for the next day. This has also made me more mindful of my assigning, too.  

White Socks and Two Loads/Day- I do a shit-ton of laundry, which is probably surprising considering there are only three of us. I am part of the problem- every single day I have my work clothes and either lounge/work out clothes when I get home. Plus all the other house-related stuff. One thing I did to make things easy was get Sawyer all white socks when he was ready to move up a size. I'm not kidding when I say this makes things so much easier. I also make myself do two loads a day- gone are my laundry marathons on weekend (who wants to spend hours doing laundry on a Sunday? Not I). 

Two-a-Days: There is a lot of mixed feelings about doubling up on workouts and I sort of hesitated before sharing. I just started this last week and I only plan on doing it maybe twice a week, running a few miles after work when Sawyer is up and a few after he goes to bed, that way I can get in some more mileage. It's not like I plan on running ten and then ten more... more like 2.5 and 2.5. It's just so hard on weekdays to get in substantial runs, so I'm going to try this until my 10k a least.

Disposable Table Cloths: I love that Sawyer loves paint, markers, and Playdoh, but I hate the mess. I've been buying super cheap plastic table cloths and cutting them in fourths and taping them down to the table when he gets crafts. Clean up is a total breeze and the $2 a mont is worth it.

Throwing Out Leftovers: While I am admitting to wasteful (but so helpful) habits, here's another: if I know that I'm not taking it for lunch or it's something my husband doesn't love I throw out leftovers. I try not to cook in excess to begin with, but sometimes we have extra. And let's be honest- some things are gross second (or third) day. And cleaning up said things after a week of inevitably sitting in the fridge is even worse.  

No More AM Multi-Tasking: There is a twenty-five minute period of time in the morning where I am usually alone (from 5:55-6:20,before I wake up Sawyer and after hair/makeup). During this time I have to get my coffee ready, eat breakfast, assemble my lunch (my little bag and ice packs don't go in the fridge the night before), and get Sawyer's breakfast set. I used to try to do everything at once and was left rushed. Now I do one thing at a time, get it all done, and am much happier.

Productivity App- I love this app I shared a month or so ago. I have several habits I need to improve on (vacuuming every-other-day, yoga more often, etc...) set in the app with a schedule in terms of how often I want to do them, and I click when things are complete. I can see how I am doing collectively or by habit. You can also set your phone to send you reminders, but my battery hates things like that. 

The Furminator- If you have a hairy dog that sheds a lot you have to pony up the $40 and get this brush. It's awesome.

The Pomodoro Technique- I love this idea and have used it for years but have really been putting it into use when it comes to working and cleaning. Basically, you set a timer and work for however long and when the times goes off you can take a break for however long you decide (I use a loose variation of it). If you get distracted during the work portion you have to set your timer over and try again. The structure works well because you know that you are going to get a break soon. If I find myself getting too distracted by my phone or whatever else I will even use this idea when reading or running. 

It's the little things... 

Some Books for the Kiddos

A few months ago I did a lengthy post on some books I bought Sawyer related to diversity, acceptance, and general social awareness. Since then he's gotten some other books that I thought I'd pass along, some with a message, and some just plain fun. 

Rosie Revere, Engineer
Ada Twist, Scientist
Iggy Peck, Architect
The only new one from this bunch, actually, is the top title, but these three by Andrea Beaty are absolutely wonderful. These three little kids, all from the same class but with different backgrounds, each follow their STEM-centric dreams, persevere, and work to combine creativity and intellect. They come up with many obstacles and often think about quitting, but instead problem solve and in turn experience at least a little success. The illustrations are fantastically quirky, the writing witty, and the stories endearing.

XO, OX: A Love Story 
This was one of the books we got Sawyer for Valentine's Day and by far the best of the three. Adam Rex writes the story of an ox who is is love with a gazelle, and Scott Campbell illustrates it. Gazelle is obviously a super-busy famous star and doesn't have time for lowly ox- the two go back in forth in a series of letters that had me cracking up. At the heart of the book is a great lesson on appearance vs heart.

I Don't Like Koala 
Sean Ferrell's adorable little story about a boy who changes his mind about a stuff koala is sweet, funny, and fairly short (if you have a squirmy listener that may be important). The story can illicit good conversations about giving people and situations a chance before passing judgement.

Little Penguin Gets the Hiccups 
This book by Tadgh Bentley is just plain fun- it's about a little penguin who needs the reader to help scare him to get rid of his hiccups. There's counting, yelling, and a surprise visit by a whale- would could be better for a toddler?

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

[my drugged-out pup]
Link up, link back, say hey!

1. I am obsessed with Ritz crackers and putting whatever I can on them. Today for lunch I had a few with vegetable cream cheese, peanut butter, cheese, and tabouleh (not all at the same time). I have been running quite a bit, so I think my body wants salt. 

2. Over the weekend I took Sawyer to a model train show at the local fairgrounds and he LOVED it. He was content doing laps and laps around the place, following trains around the tables. Hobby trains aren't quite my thing, but I do enjoy seeing people who are so incredibly passionate about their interests. 

3. Milk Bar Birthday Cake update: I am waiting for a larger quarter sheet pan, which should arrive tomorrow. This is my last missing item and if everything goes as planned, I will make it TOMORROW NIGHT. Unfortunately, it has to freeze for twelve hours and then thaw about for three more, so I won't be able to eat it until Friday. But still. We're getting there and I am clearly all kinds of excited.

4. Something else I am probably too excited about? Going to see LEGO Batman on Friday. We're taking Sawyer, which I know some might say he's too young for, but whatever.

5. I found Sawyer a daycare that has a kindergarten too, and I could not be more relieved. There are a surprisingly small number of satisfactory secular preschools in our area (no offense to those who do the God thing, but we have concerns), so the whole thing has caused me a great deal of anxiety. We visited the other day and Sawyer loved it, as did I. I am going to put down our deposit and application fee tomorrow so that we are guaranteed a spot for next school year. 

6. Cordie went in for yet another gum growth removal yesterday and per the usual it cost a lot and was really stressful on her. It's a necessary evil, but man I hope she doesn't get anymore. 

A Valentine's Morning at the Beach

Valentine's Day has always been sort of a non-event in our house, but with Sawyer the past few years I am trying to bring it back. I've been wanting to take him to have lunch on the Huntington Beach Pier, at the endearing tourist trap Ruby's, for awhile, so we went today. I am off this week and the weather was perfect, so we lucked out. The lighting was fantastic, between the clouds and winter sun, so I got a few great pictures that I thought I'd share.

Eight Glasses of Lemonade

[... unless the lemon rhymes with Schmonald; source]
If you are tired of hearing about politics or you don't care to be interested, I congratulate you on your privilege (and would like to remind you that shit does roll down hill). If you don't agree with my viewpoints, I shrug my shoulders. If you are from abroad and are having a good laugh over America, I apologize. 

How's that for a preface?

But really, this is a more positive post, I promise. I have lamented on the state of our country on a weekly basis here, but what I have failed to discuss is the good that has come out of the bad. The lemonade people are desperately trying to make out of these horribly sour lemons. So here are some things I am earnestly trying to keep in mind:

1. The judicial system is working hard (well, at least some courts are) to maintain checks and balances.

2. More money than ever is being poured into groups like the ACLU and Planned Parenthood. In fact, during the last weekend in January, the ACLU reported $24 million in online donations, which is more than six time their normal annual support levels. People are putting their money where their mouths are and it's incredible.

3. Two Republicans turned their back on their party to vote against Betsy DeVos- they listened to their constituents. Maybe it will be contagious. 

4. The marches! The protests! All peaceful, public signs of protest that show the administration that things are not okay are positive.

5. People who were uninterested and uniformed prior to the election are now making an effort to better understand and are even become involved. 

6. While there is so much hate and negativity, there's also this background echo of kindness being heard. People are pledging to help those who are underrepresented or without a voice, on small levels and big. 

7. The system is being questioned on many levels- our archaic electoral college, the way the cabinet is chosen, etc...

8. While I knew where most people in my life stand on the Big Issues there were a few that surprised me... for worse. That knowledge is important and I am glad to now have it. 

As always, just a friendly reminder to ACT not just post. I know it's cathartic, venting online or to friends, lord knows I do it, but at the end of the day, it's useless. Even a $5 donation or a letter to a senator can help.