Getting ready for a 12 day trip out of the country, while the kids are still home and in school is nothing short of a monumental feat.
Ben and I have been planning this trip to Israel for several months to attend my cousin's wedding and tour the country, but the two weeks leading up to it were consumed with getting all *we* needed ready to leave the country and spend a week traveling AND preparing the kids, the house, and my mom for a week at our house without us.
I spent every waking moment trying to think of everything my mom would need to know (that Ayla couldn't answer for her) in order to allow her to take over both mine and Ben's role in the house for over a week. In retrospect, it would have been so much easier to send the kids to Las Vegas! Instead, I made Mom a manual for how to be "ME" and wrote down specific day-by-day schedules, routines, contact numbers, and instructions for her to reference while we were gone. Thanks to that, and some helpful friends who contributed to carting Ayla to and from school, I think we did the best we could to make it easy for her!
But not without some forthought -- Just the instructions for how to work the television required a full page of step-by-steps!
But, if anyone can handle it, Mom can. By the time her plane arrived, I tried to have the house cleaned up, the manual ready, and everything prepared for her to take over.
Several people asked me if I thought she would actually *follow* my instructions. Um, yes...as you can see in the photo below (taken as we got ready to go out to do some carpool duty with our cross-body purses & drinks-on-the-go) we tend to think alike. I think she was very glad to have my manual - tucked under her arm!
Unfortunately, even with all that prep, we had a few inevitable hiccups before we could head out of town.
First -- Ayla came home from school on Wednesday complaining about an itchy head. Fabulous. We got to do a full-on lice treatment -- the works: special shampoo, comb through each strand, wash all the sheets, quarantine stuffed animals, etc. And we hadn't packed yet. So that made for a late night on Wednesday for everyone - and resulted in complete chaos in what *would* have been a calm and clean house.
Then -- We spent a long time Wednesday night packing and repacking our luggage, since we found out that our carry-ons could only be 17.5lbs on Alitalia's flight. Since I had planned to fly with ONLY a carry-on suitcase (that by itself weighed 8lbs), that made my packing plans impossible. I ended up using a smaller carry-on suitcase that is actually Ayla's (complete with colorful hearts all over it, and a kid-sized extended handle) so that it would meet the size requirements and I would have several days worth of clothes with me--just in case. I've had luggage not show up before. Not fun. We did decide to check a large suitcase between the two of us, which made bringing a few luxury toiletries possible. That was nice. :)
Thursday, I spent the morning walking my mom through the morning routine, the carpool routine, and updating her on all the codes, passwords, and *stuff* she needed to know about the house, the car, etc. Our flight to Chicago didn't leave until about 6:00, so we had most of the day to do last minute prep, which was nice.
Until, when Ben and Mom went to pick Ayla up from school, our car died and wouldn't start. They had to have a friend jump the car to get it going, and we spent a frantic hour trying to charge the battery so that it could get us to the airport in time.
That's when I started getting one of those "everything is going to go wrong on this trip, and I'm about to leave the kids with my mom for a week, and we'll be essentially un-reachable, in a foreign country that is known for bombings and catastrophes" kind of feelings.
Thankfully, the car started on-command (and didn't have any trouble the rest of the week either), and we managed to make it to the airport in plenty of time.
Still...the ride there and watching the kids ride off with Mom to Paxton's swimming lesson left me with an uneasy feeling...out of my hands now!
I knew they'd be fine, but I also knew that a week in charge would be hard on Mom (since it's hard on Ben and me, and there are two of us!).
We went through our first round of security (which we got good at by the end of the week), and found some dinner at an airport restaurant. While we were in the security line, we both got several phone messages from my grandparents. When I finally checked them as we sat down to eat...I heard a frantic message from my grandmother that went something like this:
"Andrea, call me back right away. Our flights are all screwed up."
Here's a tip: Don't fly with Alitalia. Don't buy thier "cheap" tickets. Don't even read the flight schedules. If you do, you WILL regret it. Don't say I didn't warn you. It's not just our experience...others will agree.
When I did get a hold of Grandma, we found out that Alitalia had rescheduled our next day's flight from 3:30 in the afternoon to 10:00 pm at night, which would make us miss our connecting flight in Rome to Tel Aviv. So, that would mean we'd have to spend the night in Rome and hopefully get on the next day's flight to Tel Aviv. But...since this was a problem for LOTS of people on these flights (the same rescheduling affected Thursday, Friday & Saturday afternoon flights), it meant there wasn't going to be much space on those next day connecting flights.
Poor Grandma (and Uncle Chuck, who had the same trouble with his Thursday flight schedule) had to call -- and call and call and call -- and deal with Alitalia and waiting for them to sort out our flight schedule.
There wasn't much we could do, sitting in the Birmingham Airport, except hope that they'd get it all figured out. Grandma didn't sound hopeful. We just tried to be flexible and available to leave Chicago whenever necessary -- but first we had to get there.
Once we arrived in Chicago (thanks to Daddy for picking us up!), Grandma still didn't have any more information, other than we *for sure* weren't going to leave before 10:00 pm on Friday. So, we went to bed, and figured we'd just make the most of our Chicago morning, and see how it all played out.
Friday morning, my phone woke me up with a message from Grandma--
"We're totally screwed. Call me back."
Grandma has a way with words. :)
Alitalia hadn't responded with any solutions to getting us to Tel Aviv in a timely fashion. They offered to refund our tickets, which appeared to be the best they could do. Grandma had looked at other airline options, but the price was significantly more than we had already paid for our tickets, she was exhausted, frustrated, and angry -- and *STILL* waiting for Alitalia to offer a better solution. Grandma seemed to think the trip was about to be cancelled altogether. Of course we wouldn't let THEM miss the trip, but it seemed doubtful that we could spend the extra money to buy more expensive tickets.
After a quick pow-wow, Ben and I decided that it was foolish to keep waiting on Alitalia, so we wanted to cancel that flight and get a refund. But...it also seemed like a MAJOR waste and disappointment to cancel our trip altogether. I mean, we had already gotten Mom to Birmingham, packed, traveled to Chicago, and done all the research for the Israel trip. We decided - it's only money - and called Grandma and told her we wanted to book some new tickets - regardless of the price.
She seemed relieved. :)
We found a flight schedule through El Al Airlines that worked with our plans (though it put us in Israel a day later than our original plan), and allowed us to fly from Chicago to Newark to Tel Aviv, which meant that if there was trouble with connecting flights, we wouldn't be stranded in another country. The bad news...the tickets were double the price we originally paid. Oh well...we were gonna get to go to Israel! Guess I may just have to run my Buy One, Get One Free Sign Sale this Christmas after all!
So that's what we did. Canceled Alitalia. Booked El Al. And spent a bonus day in Chicago...
As you can see from the little hiccups in our prepping, it became the theme for this trip: Things would NOT go as planned...but it would turn out just fine.
Israel Trip Wrap-Up:
- Israel Trip: Getting Ready to Go
- Israel Trip: Layover in Chicago
- Israel Trip: Traveling Across the World
- Israel Trip: Jerusalem - The Old City
- Israel Trip: Bethlehem & West Bank
- Israel Trip: Yad Vashem & Ben Yehuda Street
- Israel Trip: An Israeli Wedding
- Israel Trip: Mount of Olives
- Israel Trip: City of David
- Israel Trip: Sea of Galillee
- Israel Trip: Kibbutz, Gaza & Shabbat
- Israel Trip: Dead Sea & Ein Gedi
- Israel Trip: The Food
The older our kids get, the more crowded our calendar seems to be. No longer is the day simply determined by naptime and bedtime (don't worry...when it did, I didn't think that was simple either).
Now, it's more of a week-by-week barrage of activities, carpools, appointments, responsibilities, and weekend trips. We've been trying to figure out how to make our week flow smoothly, stay on top of chores and housework, and still manage to pick everyone up on time at all 13 carpool appointments each week.
So, I thought I'd share some things that help our family stay on top of our schedule each week and see what others do as well.
The Sunday Sweep
Starting at about 4:00 every Sunday afternoon, we start the Sunday Sweep to get ourselves--and the house--ready for the week ahead. Here are some of the to-dos on that list:
- What's on the Schedule? I check our calendars for the next week and transfer each days' activities to our dry erase board calendar on the refrigerator for quick reference throughout the week. Ben and I have both migrated to using Google's calendars, and have access to each other's calendars, which makes it helpful for us to both be aware of what's going on for the entire family -- even from our phones.
- Weekly Meal Plan & Shopping List. Once I know what kind of activites we have going on for the week, we search through the kitchen and our deep freezer and come up with 4-5 dinners for the week and add them to our dry erase board calendar. When we have evening or late-afternoon activites, we plan for leftovers or crock-pot dinners. I also put together a shopping list for any random things we might need that I can pick up early in the week.
Put everything in it's place. This is usually something the kids do--putting away toys, clean laundry, shoes, books and anything else that has managed to get thrown all over the house while we were "relaxing" over the weekend.
Vaccum. I've found that vacuuming the carpets on Sunday night, right after everything has been put away is great motivation to get the kids to *actually* put stuff away -- especially picking up Legos off the floor! Plus, a freshly vaccuumed floor makes the house feel "ready" to tackle the week. If I was really ambitious, I'd clean the bathrooms on Sunday night too, but I don't. Instead, I try to clean them on Friday mornings AFTER all the damage of the week has been done. :)
- Lay out clothes. I've started laying out 5 outfits for both kids on Sunday nights, and then letting them pick a pile each day so they can get dressed on their own in the mornings. Paxton doesn't usually care what he wears, but for Ayla, this has been KEY to eliminating morning tantrums about not liking her outfit options. She and I come up with the outfits together, so they're approved by us both ahead of time.
- Pack Lunches. I like to pack lunches the night before, usually while we are making dinner. I've found that I simply can't do it as quickly in the mornings, and I can usually find 5 minutes while dinner is cooking to knock it out and have them ready for the morning.
The Morning Routine
Beat the beasts. I get up at 6 am. That gives me just enough time to get dressed, check my email, and wake myself up a little bit before the kids get up. I'm not "chipper" in the mornings. I need some time to myself before I can be civil. Most days Ben is up early too, and getting his run in before Ayla leaves for school.
Set an alarm. This year, Ayla (2nd grade) gets up on her own with an alarm at 6:25. She turns it off, gets dressed and puts her shoes on before coming downstairs. It often takes her until about 6:45 -- especially when she has to tie her tennis shoes -- but she does it all on her own and it is WONDERFUL. I think she's like me. She needs some time to herself when she first wakes up, so this way, we don't have to interact until both of us have had a chance to de-grumpify ourselves.
Paxton (4) doesn't wake up with an alarm, but he usually gets up shortly after Ayla does on his own. He comes downstairs in his underwear, with his puppy (and his eyes barely open). I usually say good morning, and then turn him around and send him back upstairs to get dressed and make his bed so that then he can have breakfast. Which he does...on his own. :)
- Breakfast. While the kids are getting dressed, I put their breakfast (usually cereal) on the table. While they are eating their 4 bowls of cereal each, I use that time to empty the dishwasher, put their lunches into their backpacks, make coffee and make my own breakfast.
Out the Door. Ayla leaves for school just after 7 and then Paxton plays with toys while I finish my coffee and catch up on blogs, facebook, emails, etc. Usually by 7:45 we're out the door too and getting started on our activities for the day (rec, school drop off, playdate, etc.)
- Check-In & Adjust. Since Ben and I both work from home, we're able to check-in with each other often throughout the day. Sometimes our plans change, or one of us gets busier than the other, and we can make adjustments on the fly to better fit each of our days. That also means we're able to share carpool duties, household stuff like laundry, dishes and cooking, and running errands, which is a VERY nice convenience of working from home.
The After School Shuffle
- Unload Backpacks. The VERY first thing the kids do when they get home is unpack their backpacks, hand over any important papers, put their lunch boxes away and hang their backpacks up on their hooks so they are ready for the next day (and out of the way!) Ayla's homework goes on the desk in our entryway - she usually works on it a little later in the evening-- papers are sorted and either immediately tossed, saved in a folder, or dealt with as needed. Getting all that stuff taken care of immediately helps move quickly on to whatever else is planned for the afternoon and evening and keeps the mess of their school papers under control. Plus, then nothing has gotten lost by the morning, when it's time to leave the house!
The Evening Routine
- Kitchen clean-up. After dinner every night, we make sure that the kitchen is completely cleaned up -- all the dishes washed, counters and table wiped, floor swept, and counters cleared of papers and miscellaneous objects. This makes waking up in the morning SOOO much more peaceful!!
- Empty buckets. On our way upstairs to take baths and get ready for bed, the kids carry their buckets upstairs and put those miscellaneous things away that had accumulated downstairs throughout the day (or past few days if it hasn't been much). They are usually full of shoes, socks and books!
Bedroom cleanup. If I have the time and energy to enforce it (most nights...but not all), the kids have to clean up their bedrooms each night before bed. Ben is better at ignoring it, but I can't concentrate to read them stories or put them to bed when their floor is an obstacle course of trucks, blocks, action figures, stuffed animals, dolls and blankets all of over the floor. It *actually* raises my blood pressure. Thankfully, during the school year, their rooms don't get trashed EVERY single day. And over the weekends, we let the mess slide till Sunday night.
- Enforce an early bedtime. Our kids are in bed by 7:30 with the lights out at 8pm as many nights of the week as our schedule allows us to enforce it. When we get them in bed late, it often comes back to bite us in the morning with crabby kids.
And then...we start all over again!
What works for your family?
Do you have any tips to share for keeping things on-schedule at your house?
This year, it seems like our schedule has gotten much crazier with after school activities, church events, and family activities.
To try and keep track of it all -- and make the rest of the family aware of what's going on (instead of the calendar just being in MY head) -- I've been printing a weekly calendar on computer paper and writing in our activities for the week and pre-planning our dinner menus. Then I post it on the refrigerator, which is DEFINITELY the hub of our house. :)
Well, as I'm sure you know, plans and schedules change! So, I did a lot of scratching out, erasing, and rewriting the same things for the next week. But, aside from the scratch outs, the weekly calendar posted on the refrigerator was definitely working for us. Not only did I know exactly what needed to be done to prepare for dinner every day, but I could plan out meals based on the carpool and activity schedule, to make everything a little easier on us all. The system worked....I just needed a more permanent solution that looked nicer and was easier to adjust as our schedule and plans changed.
I designed a basic weekly calendar onto two different sizes of dry erase boards (medium & large). I wasn't sure if the medium version (8" x 12") would be big enough to write all our activities on it, so I ordered both sizes to try them out. The large version is 16" x 22" and would be great for large families with lots going on every week!
I ordered the medium sized version with the basic khaki background, but I got creative with the large one to try out some color matching with our new Sherwin William's paint swatch. I used the hexidecimal value number for our paint color (Worldly Gray #CEC8BB) and just pasted that into the background color. Viola - a perfectly matched piece of decor!
Here's how you do that...
How to Change the Background Color:
Click on the "customize it" button for the product.
Click on "edit" and then "background color" from the drop-down menu.
Next, choose a color from the color pallette or click on Advanced to enter your own hexidecimal number.
Enter the six digit hexidecimal number for your color of choice (which I found for my paint color at the Sherwin Williams web site).
As you can see, it's not exactly the same color as our walls, but it's pretty darn close! This would be such a cool way to perfectly integrate this dry erase board into your own decor.
As far as the quality of Zazzle's dry erase boards, I was overall very pleased. The design printed all the way to the corners, and there is no border or frame added to the board. It comes with a black fine tip dry erase marker that clips right to the front of the board.
The slick finish on the top of the board makes it easy to write on (and easy to wipe off with a paper towel), which is exactly what I was looking for.
It's a pretty low-profile board, only about 3/16" thick.
My only disappointment was that the included "mounting equipment" was just double-stick foam tape in three strips on the back of the board.
I'm sure they stick very well, but I'm *not* confident that they remove easily without ruining whatever it was stuck to, and wasn't about to stick it to my newly painted walls or refrigerator.
Instead, I glued four magnets to the back of the board so it would not-as-permanently stick to my refrigerator. :)
The 16" x 22" version would be pretty easy to put into an open-back frame (which you can have made at any framing shop). Or, you could use something like these if you wanted to mount it to a wall:
After trying out the different sizes for a few weeks, I decided that the medium version was a good size for our family's activities, and it fits nicely on our refrigerator without being too overwhelming.
At regular price, the large version of this (de)Sign is about $40 plus shipping and the medium version is only about $20 plus shipping. Plus, Zazzle offers coupons regularly, so this could really be an inexpensive family organization tool.
I love it! I'm so happy with how my dry erase board has worked out. And now I can stop wasting printer paper on my weekly calendar scribbles. :)
- Would this calendar and dinner menu dry erase board be helpful in your house?
- What size would you get?
- Would you change the colors?
If you like this, you can buy it and customize your own here:
Or check out all of Zazzle's dry erase boards from tons of artists!
My new retail job requires rather excessive accessorizing (for me anyway), so it was a good excuse for me to organize the jumbled mess that my jewelry box had become.
I took everything out, got rid of a couple of things, and put the smaller pieces (rings, small earrings & bracelets) back into the jewelry box on my dresser.
Then...I needed a visually accessible (and jumble-free) solution for my larger earrings & necklaces. And of course I wanted it NOW, so I looked for stuff I had on hand. After a trip to the garage and digging through my craft stash of stuff, here's what I ended up with:
My solution: an old frame, some scrap fabric, black wire, duct tape and a few nails! It was about a 15 minute project.
- Find a wooden frame with a mat-board backing.
- Remove the glass and set it aside (surely there will be a need for it some day!)
- Wrap the mat-board backing with fabric, attaching with duct tape to the back of the mat-board.
- Spiral wrap the fabric-covered mat-board with wire (I used heavier wire to be sure that it would hold up well).
- Twist the wire to itself on the backside to secure it and put a strip of duct tape over it to keep it in place.
- Insert the mat-board back into the frame.
- Add nails to the wooden frame at the top & middle of the sides (for neclaces).
- Find a convenient place to hang it up & add your jewelry!
I put mine in my closet, next to the full length mirror.
I've been reorganizing some things in my office the last few days, bought some fabric drawers to hide some clutter, finished some decorating stuff, and it finally looks more like what I had in mind when I first got my Expedit shelves from IKEA. It had been getting more and more cluttered with junk over the past few months and needed some rearranging!
Now that's it's cleaned up and looks a little nicer, I thought it would be a good time to do a video tour and show what my office looks like, where I store things, and give you a look around:
Or...you can click here for a labeled image telling where I store different things.
And, if you're REALLY interested in taking a look around, here's the link to an 11 minute video tour of all the goods:
Enjoy! I definitely do. It's been a great place to work and create, right in the middle of our house, where I can still be involved with everything else that's going on....