Sunday, February 21, 2010

Cheapest, Simplest, Best Organizing and Time Management Thing I Ever Did

Well, besides a calendar/planner. Everyone, even a SAHM, needs a good portable calendar and to do list. But, besides having a planner (in my case, right now, my blackberry, though I am torn about whether it's the best planner for me right now), the best organizing thing I ever did was to invest in reusable shopping bags.

Invest is perhaps an inaccurate word. I gathered together all of the cheap totes that I had gotten over the years - the bag that I good at the baby expo I went to when I was pregnant, the computer logo bag my dad brought back from some conference, and a cheapo tote I bought when I used to go to Jazzercise. (Oh, how I miss Jazzercise, but I simply have no babysitter or time.) I supplemented with 100% recyclable bags from Old Navy for $0.99 each, but Wal-mart sells the same thing for $0.50 each nowadays. (Nowadays is such an old lady from South Louisiana thing to say. :))

I've explained this process before, but it's such a time saver that it is worth explaining again. Humor me...I'm a personal organization nerd.

The bags go in the trunk of my car. Actually, they hang on a special hook so they don't actually take up valuable stroller storage space. When I shop, I bring the bags and load them up as I walk through the store. One carries items that go to parts of my house other than the frig, freezer, and pantry (like toiletries, coffee supplies since coffee is keep under the kitchen window and not in the pantry, and baby wipes). Another carries pantry items. Sometimes, that takes two bags, but when it does, it's a good reminder that, perhaps, I am purchasing too much processed crap and not enough good for me stuff, like fruits and veggies. One bag is for our weekly two gallons of milk for the boys. Another carries frig/freezer stuff. Sometimes, I need two bags for that, too. I do get plastic bags on occassion, for lining small trash cans and getting rid of extra stinky diapers, by using plastic bags for the bread and the eggs, so they are obvious when unloading and don't get squished, and sometimes when I forget to bring my recycle bags into the store. {blushes} Honestly, I almost always remember the bags now, though.

When I check out, I unload one bag, then put the bag itself right in front of the stuff that I want loaded in it. Next bag, followed by the stuff I want in that bag. Then I put the next bag down, followed by the stuff, and so on. It sort of forces the cashier to load the bags just like I like them.

The bags are so much easier to carry, load into the car, and unload, so hubby doesn't need to help like he used to. 10 bags of groceries suddenly becomes 4 or 5! And, because they are sorted already, when I get home, I can ask hubby to put the milk and frig stuff away, while I unload the other two bags. It is quick and efficient. The empty bags go on my launchpad (with my purse and other essentials), to go back into my truck the next time I leave the house. A chip clip, binder clip, or other magnetic clip given out for free at some lawyer conference stays attached to the outside bag (as I store them inside of themselves) holds a grocery/shopping list to the bag.

I would say these bags easily save me a good 15 - 20 minutes per shopping trip. Also, because they make it really easy to designate what gets unloaded where, it makes it much easier to share the unloading chore, or, if I am doing it myself, unload only the important stuff (frig/freezer stuff), get the boys involved in something (a snack and a cartoon, maybe?), and then unload everything else.

These really cheap bags also come in handy for tons of other stuff. For example, on Mondays, I bring the boys each a clean blanket to preschool and I bring Loki more diapers and wipes. Cheapo bag to the rescue. I don't bring lunch daily (since I have lunch meetings or am out of the office about 3 days a week), but when I do - cheapo bag. Boys going spend the night with grandma? Cheapo bag for clothes and sippy cups. Going to a friend's potluck? Cheapo bag holds a soft drink and appetizer. If I lose one, so what? They were free or $0.50! I even use them around the house. I'll sort Ander's toys/clothes/crap into one, Loki's stuff into another, stuff that goes to the closet into another, and stuff that goes into my car into another. Then I deliver the stuff (having Ander unpack and put away his own, of course). Library books go into one bag for returns. Workout clothes go into a bag for a quick afterwork run. (Okay, that one is TOTALLY theory. Hush.)

Seriously, if you do one thing to organizing, gather up some totes and start using them for shopping and any other purpose you can think of. Then share your ideas with me. 'Cause I'm that kind of nerdy bag lady.


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

I Cook!

Truly, I'm a pretty decent cook. I only say that because a) my husband is constantly on a diet and some sort of weirdo fool who feels "guilty" if I cook dinner so will not eat with the family and b) my friends ALWAYS seem surprised when they taste my cook, presumably at the fact that said food is edible. I would like to cook, if someone else always cleaned up and watched the kids while I cooked and if I didn't have to eat leftovers for four days (see above, hubby who won't eat with us). I like leftovers, but four days is too much. But I actually am a decent cook.

So, tonight, I made roast and plan mashed potatoes and corn to go with it. Last night, I made teriyaki stir-fry. I make chili about once a month (served in several ways - super nachos, chili cheese toast, or tator tots with chili). If it's cold, I make chicken or beef stew. I make a mean Thanksgiving dinner (turkey, ham, roast, snap beans, sweet potato casserole, and lemon meringue pie).

But I cannot manage a good grilled chicken. It's ALWAYS too dry. And I cannot make a balsamic vinegrette achieve the creamy goodness that is restaurant dressing. If I could do that, I'd have salads everyday.

However, I can cook. You just wouldn't know it, based on my restaurant addiction (because I eat even better than I cook).


Lenten Sacrifices

So, I've been thinking and thinking about what to give up for Lent. Yes, I'm a *bad* Catholic. But I'm only *bad* in that I think the Church is wrong about birth control (particularly forms of birth control that block as prevention, as opposed to permanent and hormonal forms of birth control), gay marriage, and male-only priests. I think other ideas, like making a small Lenten sacrifice, are really good. (Aside - except for those of you ***cough***EBeth***cough*** who are giving up Facebook for Lent. You suck. :))

But what to do? I'm considering bringing lunch everyday. Eating out is expensive. Plus, I eat breakfast out, and given my medical situation (I'm on a med that requires breakfast, but I am so nauseous at breakfast time (always have been, even as a little girl) that I get sick if I eat too early or if I eat something that isn't hot. Weird, I know. So I eat breakfast out and that's not going to change. But lunch - I could pack lunch. The problem, of course, is not the temptation at lunch time, but the night before. Will I get around to cooking and packing lunch? Will it take too much time from my family? I'll still have times when I am on the road or have lunch meetings, but otherwise, I could bring lunch. Couldn't I?

Screw it. I'll just exercise four times a week. That's killer, too.


Friday, February 12, 2010

An Extra Day

Having an extra day, especially with my teenage godchild around to help with the kids, is letting me catch up on so much undone stuff. I put away remaining Christmas stuff (except a small string of outside lights that we've repurposed as Mardi Gras lights ;)). I've done the filing and throw out old boxes from my law office and done laundry and entertained children and cleaned up little piles of messes all over the house. I've worked on walking with Loki (who is ALMOST walking). I wish hubby was home, but I can't have everything that I want. :(

I wish every week was a four day week. It seems about right for humans to work 4 8-hour days, spend one day doing home-based work, one day off, and one day at church. Instead, something always get chopped. For us, it tends to be church. I struggle with faith anyway, and when Sunday rolls around, with two little kids and sleepiness and laundry to be done - we are more likely to skip that than anything. When we do go to church, we spend the whole week playing catch-up. And, really, are you more efficient on Friday? I'm not. So i propose Fridays off. It's not a lazy issue. It's a realistic, humans need more rest, exercise, and prayer/meditation issue.


Saturday, February 6, 2010

Diary of Tubes (aka...Hey Stephanie, Good Luck on Wednesday)

My friend Stephanie's twins are getting tubes on Wednesday, so I promised her a play-by-play of the surgery, since Loki is now recovering. Everyone told me the surgery was a breeze, and compared to other medical procedures, I guess it was, but Loki still seems to be suffering after effects.

On Wednesday, we got the call about the timing of the surgery. We fully expected to arrive at 5:30 a.m. Really, we were relieved about the expected early hour, as it's pretty hard to imagine a 16 month old not getting milk first thing in the morning, so the earlier the better. No one said anything about Ander not coming, but we wisely left him to spend the night with Maw Maw. (Good thing - he would not have been allowed back. And we needed two parents in back.) We were ready for 5:30 a.m. Then we got the call. "His surgery is schedueld for 8:30 a.m." Great. Whiney kid in the morning without his milk and breakfast and no chance of returning to work that day.

Thursday was not so bad with skipping breakfast though. We fed him a large supper (including cookies for dessert) the night before and told him, everytime he asks to eat, "soon, baby, soon."

They took him back and I thought it took forever. All the other parents seemed to only wait a couple of minutes. But to me, it felt like I waited and waited.

In recovery, he needed more pain medicine. His iv bled out all over Alan after they removed it. It took a while, I thought, compared to everyone else. He cried a bit, but mostly just looked miserable and coughed. They considered a breathing treatment there...and I ended up giving him one at home later.

For the past couple of days, he sleeps, wakes every four hours and cries in pain until he gets his tylenol, and smiles if he happens to wake up mid-medicine cycle. He seems, I would say, pretty darn miserable. He keeps coughing, so I'll probably have to hold him down for a couple of breathing treatments again today.

It wasn't bad, but I wish I had taken two days off of work, because it definitely wasn't the easy surgery everyone described. Apparently, the adenoid removal makes it worse. But still, he just seems so grumpy and uncomfortable.


Friday, February 5, 2010

My Black Binder

My work desk is pretty organized. It has an In box, purely for others to put unprocessed items in for me to process. I process them by dealing with the item (if it is urgent or takes less than five minutes to take care of); filing it (or at least noting the file name and date in the upper right hand corner and putting it in my File box for weekly filing)\; marking my Task list with the need to do the item and, if I have to keep the associated paper, putting it in my Task box; or putting the note on my calendar (if needed) and putting the item in my Out box. Easy peazy.

The real issure arises when I leave the office - for meetings, site visits, personal stuff I need to take care of (like depositing a travel reimbursement check) and for things that need to be done routinely for work, whether I am at the office or not. For that, I have my trusty Black Binder. (Sure, I've tried other colors. They suck, I tell...S-U-C-K, SUCK. My theory? If the binder is too exciting, I don't take it seriously.)

My black binder travels with my laptop in my laptop case. My purse carries all the little pieces of paper that actually have to end up somewhere. For example, my grocery list goes in a special pocket in my purse. A coupon or driving directions to a play might go in a special pocket in my purse. But if it is work-related or if it is personal and needs to be done sitting down at a computer, it goes in my black binder. (Everything used to go in my binder, but it's a pain to carry a binder in the grocery store.) With the advent of mobile devices for keeping track of schedules, a mobile binder for carrying papers seems important, especially if your job takes you away from the office on any sort of regular basis (as mine does about once a week) or if you have lots of personal papers to deal with (like doctor's notes and school stuff for your kids). If you stay-at-home, your binder can sit right next to your computer or, like mine, in your laptop bag.

My particular binder is a one-inch leather binder. The inside front cover has one of those pockets that people can use for business cards. Mine contains my gas card for travel in the state vehicle, a taped-on copy of the chart for figuring out comp time (because timekeeping is one of those things that has to happen for my office, whether I am in the building or not), and some business cards. Also, tucked into the front cover, is a top-spiral bound notebook, for jotting everything. I put dates and tasks in my calendar, and pull pages from the notebook and file them (say, after meetings), but mostly, I just use them as scratch/thinking pads and file them according to date once they are full. Anything that I write in them that needs follow-up is starred and check off when it is transferred to my electronic files.

The next two pages are hole-punched printouts of my weekly outlook for the pay period. I have to keep track of comp time, leave, in/out time, and what projects I work on for a weekly report, so I print these and then jots notes on them throughout the week. I don't use these pages as calendar pages, but as a journal of what I actually work on and when.

Next, I have two clear, double-sided sheets. One contains this month and next month's Outlook monthly calendar printouts (back to back). I don't rely on these for schedule, as they quickly become out-of-date, but they do give me a glance at the dates when I am doing long-range planning and my tiny blackberry screen is insufficient. The other clear sheet contains my office phone list and a map of the districts that we assist. Basically, this is the "reference" portion of my black binder. A mom of a baseball kid might have the team roster there.

I then have NOW and a LATER drop-in, plastic pockets. The NOW one holds information for whatever meetings are coming up, with the most current meeting on top. The LATER holds things I might work on outside of the office (routine reports to be done whenever I get a second, for example) but that I am taking from my Task box at work because I need to have things to do in my down time on the road.

Finally, where most people would put a legal pad (remember, I took care of that at the beginning of the binder, probably because I am left-handed), I put a printout of my weekly tasks. Again, it's a reference only, as I really rely on my Blackberry. But it helps to glance at a paper when I am deciding what to do.

I certainly don't think your binder should look like mine. It should be customized to you. But everyone should have something that works at a bit of a mobile office, even if it's just for trips to the bank.


Tuesday, February 2, 2010

I Am So Easily Annoyed

I'm actually in a relatively good mood today. I slept. I went to bed by 10:30 p.m., Loki woke for milk and cuddles at 5 a.m. but went right back to sleep, and I didn't have to get up until 6:15 a.m. That's like, well, a helluva lot of sleep! It was exciting.

Still, I find myself annoyed by all sorts of little things.

I turned in the wrong driveway when dropping Loki off at the babysitter. (Have I said THANK YOU a thousand times, Sandi? A THOUSAND.)

Loki still has spots, so even though he seems fairly healthy, he can't go to the expensive preschool that I am paying for.

I can breath better today, but still need my inhaler. I tried to stretch last night. Note: I did not walk, run, lift a weight...nada. Just stretched. It wore me out and left me breathless. So much for running a 5K in a month.

I get confused between the words breath and breathe.

The man who sat next to me at the school sign-up was a Toyota dealer. He tried to talk up his vehicles and talk down my Honda. He claims the Honda has the same pedal problem (which would suck). Then he tried to convince me that a recall is NOT an inconvenience. Just 20 minutes, he says. (Right.) (Plus, schedule the repair, getting two kids dressed and snacks and diapers loaded, stepping at the McDonald's for an emergency potty, entertaining the kids during the repair, driving home in Baton Rouge traffic...) Don't worry, he says, we have a family area for the kids to play. (Me: with M&Ms?) Him, with a perfectly serious tone: no, we're not so silly as to feed those kids candy! (Nice. So I can drag them along so you can fix your screwup but you can't handle a kid with candy. Annoying.)

The dads at the school sign-up (which my husband was supposed to take care of, but an emergency came up at work) all had the same line. "We'd rather do this, just turning in paperwork, than chaperone a field trip, so we volunteered." Lucky wives. :(

Despite doing the paperwork during all my free time last night, the school "accidentally deleted mine." They know I did it, because I have a confirmation number and printout, and they are so sorry. They redid it right there and swear I get to keep my place on the list. I'm certain I am off the list now, seeing as everyone else has a printed application in the stack.

On WJBO, Clarence Buggs was spouting crap about how gays shouldn't say they are gay. His argument? He has a RIGHT not to know, just as "they" (his word, not mine) have a right to free speech. Um, First Amendment versus your *make believe* right? Right. I've heard lots of arguments against gays in the military, and while I tend to disagree with all of them, I do not believe for one second that everyone making them is stupid. I just think people who care if someone is gay or not have a different opinion than I do. But saying you have a RIGHT to not have to know. A right to stop others from exercising free speech and their inherent Constitutional right to privacy? That is stupid. I will no longer ever listen to Clarence Buggs. I already found him annoying, but this was too much.

Also, I am annoyed at reports that a judge is racist. Not shocked, of course, but goodness...if I start to get phone calls about a racist judge, then he is pretty blatant.

Finally, I am annoyed that the barista at the coffeeshop put my granita in a paper cup, then poured it into a plastic cup. He was trying to prevent condensation near my computer (so he meant well), but wasted two cups when the drink didn't fit in the paper cup. Go green, huh?

Yep, I am annoyed. Maybe you want to stay away today? :)


Monday, February 1, 2010

In A Twisted, Nonamusing Way

The breathing treatments I am taking keep me up. Way up! I maybe slept three hours last night. I am so wired that I can't imagine sleeping anytime soon. I don't want to eat, which really sucks when I have to eat to take my meds. And, while I feel much better after taking them (translation: I can breath), I'm sure this is going to hit me like a ton of bricks sometime soon. Sigh.

In the meantime (translation: while high as a kite on these damn breathing treatments and in manic mode), I am applying (fruitlessly, I'm sure) to private schools for Ander. The thing is, I like his daycare. It has a decent pre-K program (which our local public schools don't offer) and offers extended day childcare, including all days but the state holidays that Alan and I get off anyway. Loki goes there - and I a REALLY pleased with Loki's teacher. Ander has friends there. And, for kindergarten, our public school is a) pretty good and b) FREE! Plus, it's fairly integrated (as is Ander's daycare) - something that might be hard to achieve in a private school. (Aside - Ander only seems to play with very pale white people at school and took home only two lessons from MLK Day: he was shot dead and has a big head. But I can expose him to people who aren't of the same pasty Russian ancestry as his father and keep hoping, yes?)

I'm not sure why I am applying. I think it's because I want options. But, really, can I even handle two schools at this point? What if we ever move to Baton Rouge? (None of my friends in Baton Rouge with kids in the public schools are impressed.) Then again, I don't really want to move. I'm scared of a bigger mortgage. Sure, a slightly bigger house would be nice, but seems a waste for people who don't even buy decorations for the walls. I have the same bedspread I got at my wedding, in 1996. And my walls are painted silvery gray, but we got lazy, so the ceiling is still peach. Nice, huh?

Hey, you people said you wanted me to blog more. You didn't say it had to be quality.