Monday, November 30, 2015

Basketball and Christmas Decorating

It's basketball season in our house (as I've written before). Now, wait. It's basketball season for my husband the coach. It is not basketball season for the rest of the people who live in this house. Not even basketball season for my son who played basketball the last nine or 10 years. Adjustment, much?

The calendar entries on the family calendar have slimmed up for December, January and February. I recently added in G's freshman basketball schedule, but I'll tell ya, it is weird having those blanks on Chris' line and mine. No games to attend, no lockers to decorate, no one to cheer on. Weird. Odd. Strange.

With all that avaialability time -- high school basketball games are Tuesday's and Fridays every week -- I should be getting loads done around the house when it comes to decorating for Christmas. Yeah, not really happening.

I've got the front door wreath hung. That took real effort. I have the Christmas card wreath thing up. Again, major effort because I had to (wait for it) take down a picture to use the hook for the wire wreath. Relax already, I can hear you saying! Oh, and I assembled the main, big tree. And, that is tough. I mean, inserting the top section into the middle section into the bottom section into the tree stand is an all-30 second event. Maybe a single minute because I had to plug the tree into the wall and push the lights button.

Tonight, while eating dinner -- which was pork chops and fresh green beans that I whipped up after Camille's tumbling class because it was on the menu schedule and I remember to thaw out the meat in the refrigerator (no health inspection rules broken here!) -- the girls asked if we could just put up some of the ornaments and the stockings. I took a deep breath and said 'maybe tomorrow.'

Tomorrow is Tuesday. No basketball games to go to so we have free time on the schedule. The only big event tomorrow is free Bahama Buck snow cones!

So, we will put up the other trees, hang the ornaments and stockings, plus, maybe even decorate the mantle. Maybe Tuesdays in Decembers from now on will have something on the calendar -- Christmas decorating!

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Shopping and Sleep

How do you fit in holiday shopping in an already packed holiday schedule? That requires some detailed fourth part planning.

First, pull together your gift list. Even if you only list out the gift recipient names, that's a start. Then, scribble in some gift ideas. Black Friday circulars and online ads help narrow down the options. Ask your sweet daughters to start their lists -- Caroline now has 26 items with a theme of art supplies. Camille has around nine with four of those being Shopkin-related gifts. Send out emails to family asking for gift ideas. The adults draw names in my family, but we buy for the kids.

Second, start shopping on Amazon and sing the praises of Prime membership with free shipping. I mean, as most of America knows by now, Amazon has just about everything. Dream maker, it is.

Yes, I enjoy wandering the stores looking at the finery, but the driving, the parking, the carrying of gifts, I'm just too tired. I like sleeping in during the holidays and on the weekends.

So, I can add in about 30-minutes to my schedule for shopping and still have plenty of time for fourth part sleep-ins.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thanksgiving Fourth Part

This recipe is easy.

Let your sister who lives down the street host the lunch/dinner.

Offer to make roasted vegetables with pre-sliced brussel sprouts, cleaned and trimmed asparagus, and colorful carrots from Trader Joe's.

Willingly agree to take desserts which will be served around 6 p.m. Make one dessert -- brownies, easy. Assign others pies, etc.

Break down and buy Thanksgiving-themed paper plates and napkins ... No china.

Pick up Jack and Chila 'Orchata at the liquor store.

Fourth part occurs all day with football, food, family and friends.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Happy Hours and Holidays

A long, long list of babysitters is critical to Foruth Part success. Well, critical if you have the need for babysitters. Not so important if you don't need sitters. So, I need sitters. Leaving six-year-old twin girls at home by themselves is not a good idea even if they can brush their own teeth and put on their PJs.

We do have a long list, but it gets short when you try to find one for, let's say, something in the next few hours. When I plan ahead and pay attention to the calendar, I have the sitters lined up and only need send out a reminder text. I mean, thank heavens for texting. When, I forget an event, let's say basketball season!!, scrambling for a babysitter has to happen.

Yeah, since Chris isn't playing basketball anymore, I've kind of forgotten that the high school season has started and my husband coaches basketball -- details!

Next week, the holiday season officially kicks off. Yes, there is great debate that Christmas has appeared too soon -- I have friends who have trees up already. Decorated trees up already! But, first we have Thanksgiving. That means a week off school and a few days of vacation for me. Oh, and remember, it's basketball season. Sprinkle in a few practices next week and games two times a week over the next month and a half. Those games happen at night. Practices during the day -- morning when it is a school holiday.

I have twin six-year-old girls and my husband coaches high school basketball. I must plan ahead. Not only to earn a fourth part, but to also have coverage at home.

So when the opportunity for a Friday evening happy hour presents with people I like to be around, I commit. And, then, when the day before the happy hour comes, I see my husband readying for the annual basketball tournament this time of year. Yikes! It's basketball season. I forgot. 'Scramble for a sitter' time. That might be a good name for a last-minute, sitter-finding business. 

Thankfully, I only had to go three deep into the sitter list and the one I found is a fav of the girls. Really, my girls adore and love all their sitters. We are blessed!

I got a happy hour (two hours), caught up and laughed with some work friends and only had to lay out $20 to the sitter. She bought pizza for dinner on her own. That was a detail I forgot during my scramble -- dinner for my children. Grief.

An aside, she also saw our list of house projects and she volunteered to paint our laundry room, dining room and office -- for free. As a Christmas gift.

Bring on the holidays! I see another happy hour (or two) in my future while the sitter paints. 

That's happy. That's holidays. That's a lotta fourth parts!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Shopping and Styrofoam Cups

Fourth part planning includes more than the home calendar. The work schedule also plays an important role in fourth part achievement.

I've written before that a fourth part does not have to come at the end of the day (more often than not, it does because that's when everything is finished). A great fourth part can be had anytime of day ... Or even take up most of a day.

Soaking up sun at the beach, taking a mid-day nap when the sun is peaking through the window and the temp is that nice warmness or getting a spa day ( OK, I would not know what that is from experience but I will count a manicure and a pedicure at the same time during the middle of the day as a spa day for me) all are fourth parts done during the day. Not in the evening. Not late at night.

A favorite of mine is shopping with friends, having brunch and well, just laughing. Today, because I planned my work schedule to not have any in-person meetings and brought work home to knock out some reading and getting caught up, I got to shop, brunch and laugh with friends who also happen to be prospects .... so it counts as work.

That's a sweet fourth part. We talked benefits of being with my company while we looked at the most darling vests ( I am crazy for all the vests -- puffy ones, patched ones, plaid ones, tweed ones, long ones, fitted ones, loose ones, furry ones, suede ones, all kinds of colors ones. Obsessed much?). While we discussed how we treat every customer with significance, we found must-have leggings (Three for $30! Lined with fleece! Lined with fur! Prints! Solids!). And, when the conversation turned to services we offer, we made our way to the tunic shirts we needed for our leggings (Plaid, yes. Hoodies, yes. T-shirts, yes. Elbow patches, yes.).

Four hours of shopping for gifts for others (and for ourselves, mostly for ourselves) made for a lovely fourth part. Along with leggings, tunics and vests, we bought jewelry, soaps, lotions, soup mixes, ornaments, picture frames, kids' gifts and ... Styrofoam cups.

Not just ordinary, plain ol' white styrofoam cups. We found my favorite booth that I make a purchase from each year.. It's row after row, stack after stack of pre-printed, funny saying, holiday necessity styrofoam cups. and, I had none at home. None. I had nary a Baylor cup this football season. I didn't even have cups for our summer beach trip or Halloween. Woe.

I bought four sleeves ... Fiesta Roadie, Keep Calm and Gobble On, Top this Off (it's a Christmas tree on the cup. clever, right?) and Baylor. Aaahhhh, I can sleep ... no, I can drink a lovely cocktail, even coffee with a cup expressing a thought, a feeling or an allegiance.

It's a holiday miracle.

G thinks these are ridiculous. He tells me he can buy 100 cups for $2. I tell him $10 (or $12) for a sleeve of like 20 is a bargain. He says ... Get a Sharpie. As he drinks from his Yeti. don't even get me started!

With my sleeves of styrofoam joy, bags of purchases and my three friends (two,prospects and a banker) and their bags loaded up after our fourth part adventure, we drove home telling stories and just enjoying the afterglow of our time spent shopping.

We could have drank it all in from a styrofoam cup that read 'Fourth part and friends. No Sharpie needed.'

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Travel and Twins

Even the best planning cargo south when an early morning flight for a work trip appears on the schedule. Wait, five of those in an eight-day span. (I'm not counting a driving work trip, but if I did, that would be six trips in nine days.)

Now, it's not like these trips magically appear on the calendar. They are planned at least a week or two out and I try to control the timing based on our overall calendar. This is where the family calendar is critical. During football season, Thursday and Friday traveling is rare. Pep rallies and games take priority. During basketball season, Tuesdays and Fridays are out. Games, again. Husband's job, detail. Evening activities also come into part of the planning. Because I've got twins to get from school to home to activity to home again -- homework, dinner and baths get squeezed in there, too.

Yes, I have a great after school sitter and a neighbor who jumps in and helps more than I deserve -- thanks, McCall and Anna. My parents, sister and bro-in-law also pitch in as they can.

But they help with the afternoons and evenings. Those early morning flights mean, well, I wrote the word but I'll type it again, mornings.

Mornings are well planned in our house. The evening-before packed lunches and setting out of outfits is a given. My work stuff, chosen work outfit and meal plan is also taken care of prior to the morn. The unpredictable factor is the ease in which the girls jump out of bed, cooperate gracefully and eat their breakfast in a timely, un-whiny manner. Not to digress from the topic of this post, but there are mornings when the girls are knocked out asleep while I dress them. I can get it done with Camille,in the top bunk ... even putting on leggings can be done while they sleep.

So what about the mornings when I am up in the 4s to catch a 5 a.m.-ish flight. I don't tlike when I hear the alarm scream at me those mornings, but I know I have to not only get myself done,,but also take care of everything else to make the controllable morning events controllable.

I make the sandwiches, pop the lunch boxes in the backpacks, fill up the water bottles and put those in the side pocket of the lunch boxes. I put out shoes and socks, along with a jacket if the weather calls for that need. I put out hair-doing stuff. That doesn't always get taken care of .... but I put it out. I ready and set out breakfast, too.

Then, I get to leave. I'm tired and dreading finding parking in long-term parking because the short-term parking has been torn up at our airport, but I get to leave.

G gets to get the girls up, dressed and out the door. Notice, I didn't write he does their hair. Maybe a brush gets run through Camille's tangled locks and Caroline might get a hair milk spray on the curls.


Yet, they do get out the door, to school and on time.

And, I'm on a plane. Sometimes, I have wi-fi so I can watch a show or pin new hair-dos after searching for 'hairdos for little girls by dads in the mornings when their wives are on a work trip.' Sometimes, I have to read or catch up on lists. Sometimes, I quietly drink my free coffee. Everytime, I think of how G gets out the door in the morning with two girls and all that means and requires.

And, everytime, I think about the flight points I'm earning so that one day, all of us, can wake up in the 4s to go on a fun trip somewhere. With hair done and breakfast at the airport.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Holidays and Family Fun Night

If you decide to go back to bed until, let's say 11 a.m. or so, after you work up at 6:30 a.m. to get everyone out the door because you had a holiday and there was school today, you lose out on a fourth part. You kinda took it when you sleep until 11 a.m.!

It was pure pleasure and sweet joy to sleep in that late. I mean, I had my morning coffee at noon.

Once I rolled out of bed, took my shower and then ran the two lame errands I had (returns to a couple of stores with no purchases made), I got home and discovered I had a few minutes until I had to go pick the girls up from school. Yes, I gave the sitter the day off. So benevolent am I on this federal,holiday honoring veterans -- thanks Granddad!

Then, I remembered, there was one more square in the homework tic tac toe (which naming homework after a game does. It make it fun) and we had tap and we had Family Fun Night at school.

Fourth part was really not happening at this point.

Scooped the girls up from school, knocked out the 15 minutes of reading for each and then pushed through the four-sentence essays the girls had to write for the third and final square to make three in a row. Some down time before we wrestled into tights and tap gear to head across town for class. Oh, my downtime was going through backpacks and packing lunch boxes. Yeah, real down time. And, I did get two quick workouts in .... such fun.

But the night wasn't over when we all skipped out of tap class. We had Family Fun Night. On a school night. And it lasted until 8 p.m.

Thankfully, there were food trucks so dinner was served for about $20. A cheeseburger and chicken tenders ... going to a good cause, right?

I started thinking through the activities we needed to get through before bedtime, which didn't include a bath, when the girls spotted the face painting and hair painting booths. Those were free. Yeah, no reason to say no.

Now, we need to add in baths plus washing hair. Fourth part is really gone.

Lesson learned. Sleep until maybe 10 a.m. Figure out how to have dinner before tap. Maneuver through the Family Fun Night halls and avoid hair painting, did I mention that included glitter, booths.

Oh well. The bathtub has glitter and my girls ate cupcakes at 8:30 p.m. G went with us to the school event which made us all very happy. I'm figuring out how to watch Nashville while finishing some chores. Kind of a fourth part on a family fun night that took place on a day I wore shorts and very little make up.

Maybe I had a fourth part all day today.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Crockpots and Jeans

Duh, a crockpot is a magical vessel for fourth part planning success. Yes, meat has to be thawed and ready for set up in the morning of the day you want to eat the crockpot meal. And, yes, you have to allocate a few more than the usual rush around to get ready minutes to throw the ingredients together in the crockpot. Oh, and, yes, you have to remember to turn on the crockpot before you leave for the day -- or you can be really lucky and have a family member or neighbor who also has a key run over and turn it on for you.

Tonight, we enjoyed pulled pork that required throwing in a pork roast, seasoning it with Uncle Chris' seasoning and then pouring a Dr. Pepper over the pork. Turn it on low for like ever, then shred it when you get home, drain mist of,the juices from the crockpot and add in BBQ sauce of choice  to the pot. Put that shredded pork back in and keep on low until you are ready to eat. In my house, that seems to be immediately when I walk in the door or until my husband comes in from whatever sport is currently in season practice.

Now, if I could only figure out how to get the crockpot cleaned out and ready for use tomorrow. Maybe crockpot everyday is too much, but boy it is easy! And, warm. And, the house smells good when you walk in  rather than smelling like, crud I've got to start chopping and putting together the night's dinner.

The quick dinner gave me time before fourth part to plan my work outfit for tomorrow. You may be thinking, how hard is it to put together another cardigan and skirt outfit, but tomorrow is a special day. Not only do I get to travel (not so unusual) and hop on an early morn flight (again, not unusual), I get to wear jeans. Should be simple. I love jeans. I rock the tunic t-shirt and  long necklace with boots look.

But I'm perplexed. I'm to end up in a referee shirt tomorrow for this work event so I need the shoes to go with that, unless I pack an extra pair (not fun and a weightier bag). I also am to be representing my university -- sic 'em -- but do I wear green or a Baylor shirt? Why is this difficult? Why have I carved out time bumping into fourth part to figure out what should be a task I could do blind folded?

It's about comfort -- long travel day that starts early and ends late (definition of long travel day, right?). It's about looking cute and darling and representative of all that is Baylor.

I have now thought about this way too much because remember I'm supposed to slip on an acetate
-luxurious fabric ref shirt.

Jeans, check. All the rest, uncheck.

The crockpot will contain leftover pulled pork rather than get scrubbed clean for another meal this week. And, I will spend precious minutes struggling with a jeans outfit for work.

I'm giving myself 20 minutes max. I need a fourth part!

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Fall and Football

When you are married to a high school football coach, you have football season tickets to your college and your son plays college football, you have a life that revolves around planning around ... guess, yea, football.

Right off, there is the schedule. The actual schedule. In the summer, we write out the games, times, places. I also make notes of when we need sitters for the girls. And, I look at work schedules to find out what travel works and what doesn't.

Once the schedule is scheduled, seasons begin. The season doesn't start with the first game. Oh no, there are summer practices, game day attire shopping, pre-season pep rallies and back to season parties. All fun, all something that happens every year. But this year is different. My son didn't play high school ball so I didn't have the required commitments ... Pep rallies, locker decorating, send offs, spirit lines, spirit bags and on and on. And, since he is in college, we have hotel reserving and travel planning to work through.

Then, the first game and all the other games. Hot weather, rainy weather, cold weather, windy weather. Day games, night games. Away games, home games. Loads of variables to take I to consideration as we plan. Do we eat before the high school game at home or meet friends at a restaurant? Do we get cash to buy food at the concession stand? Do I sneak in waters, juices and snacks? Food planning alone for a game takes some, yep, planning. If we are going to Waco, we have to put together tailgating goodies. That requires some serious planning because I usually have to cook the day before -- Friday night games make that super simple -- and get up early -- win or lose -- to pack up the ice chest for the trip out of town.

Then, clothes. Some games, we pack extra layers or umbrellas and rain gear. Blankets make it into the bag, too, for some games. Oh, and we toss PJs in the car for a quick change after games. For the girls, not me. All a part of th planning.

Activities are a part of the games. The girls need Barbies, coloring books, markers and books to read. I carry a big bag.

Did I write planning already?

Traveling to Chris' games are almost the easiest. Never mind, what was I thinking as I wrote those words. His games were at 6 p.m. Mondays this year. Mondays not Saturdays. I work so I have to plan my schedule and make sure I have gas and am sure we have a sitter for the girls (unless of course, if it works out to take them) and have my clothes for the game in my car and have something to eat and have anything Chris needs. Yes, again, with the planning.

Then, after all the planning, arranging and organizing, the season ends. The high school games stop first. Then, Chris' games. Then, Baylor. Blink. Done.

In the midst of a season, it's busy. We are on the go, moving, running around. Then, it's over. We take a day or twos on one down from the high school season. Baylor is easier to finish. Not sure how we'll handle the end of Chris' season.

People ask how I do it. I respond with my tips on scheduling. I'm always thinking ahead to the next day, the next game.

So when a fourth part comes together on a Friday or Saturday, I take it in. I take a big breath, turn on the TV and end up watching football. It's the fall, it's what we do.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Conferences, Book Fairs and Voting

No matter the planning and your thinking you are on every detail of the day's and week's goings ons, something comes up that fell off the radar. It's one of those blinking lights the flight control guys see or submarine watches keep their eyes on that suddenly disappears or worse is cloaked under darkness and can avoid all detection ....

Yeah, I had three of those items pop up today that have really kind of blown a fourth part. Or the fourth part will happen around midnight. I keep,watching the DVR box to see if a red light goes on because that means something is recording that I will feel compelled to watch before night's end. Which means, a late fourth part.

Back to the three missing dots on the radar screen. 

Our elementary school has two early dismissal days this week for parent-teacher conferences. OK, first you have to organize the picking up and watching of your elementary-aged children until the babysitter or you get home. Second, you have to attend the conference because, well, you are the parent. And, it's football season, so you really are the parent responsible for the conferences. The teachers are so sweet and so patient and so loving. And, so desperately want you to understand the details of the testing and the charts indicating progress. I nod and say thank you and bless you and think I'm glad I only have two this age. I ask about number grades and joke about how hard that must be to average those out. (I mean, really, where are the check marks and check pluses? GPAs in elementary school!?!?)

Second dot that I tried to erase, color in and darken stared us in the face while walking to the conferences.  Book Fair. Bonus, book fair family night extended hours. Off we go to look at each and every book and add-on item (diaries, stickers, posters and all sorts of plastic doo dads to aid in reading). I lay down the rules -- one silly themed book and one real book. It makes sense in our family. The real book is a classic chapter book and yeah, we count Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Junie B. Jones as classics. Oh how I long for the days of Judy Blume Frecklejuice and Encyclopedia Brown. Or Charlotte's Web. Nah, classics have progressed into cartoons and poor grammar. We purchased five books because I want to try Magic Treehouse -- a soon to be classic series read in our home.

It's now 6 p.m. and we've not started dinner, bath or cocktail hour (for me, for me). 

Third dot -- voting. A few constitutional amendments and a bond issue for our district were on the ballot. Showed my voter registration card which doesn't stand on its own anymore (don't get me started on needing my driver license) and I voted. Quick. As we drove home, I let the girls know the lengths women went to so we could vote. I threw in the going to jail and suffering for the right. The girls were already deep into their new books. 

Home. Base. 

Thankfully, dinner was easy to prepare and everyone liked it! Loving Blue Apron. Bath was easy. Settling in for the evening was easy. New books! Glass of wine (or two ... for me, for me). Melatonin gummies all around and we have a fourth part miracle. Dishes are even in the dishwasher. Kitchen is cleaned. House is picked up.

8 p.m. Fourth part. Miracle. That blinking dot didn't fall off the radar. I would not lose that precious dot.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

The Dishwasher and Workouts

As you may have figured out by now, planning is a major, if not the only, component of acquiring a fourth part. I use calendars and to-do lists to assist in the planning of my days, weeks, months and years. A side note, when I was a reporter, I operated off four calendars --  a daily with appointments and deadlines, a weekly with meetings and story plans, a monthly with regularly scheduled appointments and yearly with big dates. It was heavenly pleasure. I still have some of those calendars -- and if I knew how to post pictures, we would all have a journalist's jaunt down memory lane!

Now, I have a family calendar that hangs in the pantry, my iPhone with both work and personal calendars and a number of scraps of paper with lists. It's my odd way of keeping up with this household.

Sundays, I plan meals because we have to go the grocery story (ugh). I also plan my workouts.

As I place the meal plan on the refrigerator (magnet-held list) and pop the workout plan into my carry-around file folder with all kinds of personal dealings (oh, I forgot, there's a today, this week, this weekend to-do list in there), everything is so doable.

Then comes life. 

When do you fit in runs to Target or Walgreens for some random school required project supply? Or, when do you slot in going through the pile of mail that has accumulated over a few days -- is this election cycle over already? I mean, how many prop this or that mailers does one need to receive? 

There's filling up the truck with gas, picking up clothes from the cleaners, doing laundry, and on and on.

A glance to the meal plan and workout schedules restores hope. I can focus on those plans and know, yes, I will get them done. But there is something blocking my view. A stack of dirty dishes in the sink that can't go in the dishwasher because it has clean dishes in it that need to be put away.

Least favorite chore. And yet it has to be done. Everyday? Each and everyday. How many dishes do the planned meals take? The knives, the spoons, the plastic cups, the small plates ... so many, so often.

Now, should I create meal plans that don't require dishes? Those kind of meals require a different kind of workout -- a lot of cardio that I didn't put on the calendar. Truly, the workouts have to be done in the mornings because that's when I have the 30 minutes Karena and Katrina require of me. 

Plus, the evenings are for unloading and then loading the dishwasher. I do that so I can get a fourth part. Calendar or no calendar, adhered to or not, I'm finding a fourth part.