Category Archives: time management

Life After GBS


We arrived home from the hospital with Avery on April 5 (his situation is the former three posts on this blog) and I do believe I rode my bike everyday for nearly two weeks straight. There was so much to be done. Some days I put in 20miles of back and forth errands and school drop offs. Then once that was caught up, we had to focus on sports practices for the children and out patient therapies for Avery. The therapies and the location of practice, combined with the disorganization that has ensued with getting out of the house in the morning has us averaging 350miles on our van. We are a slave to the schedule of the children. We have even taken to driving a child to practice, dropping them there, going home to get dinner and take other children to practice and then driving back after tucking in a few children at bedtime to pick up the first child. It’s not transportation savvy, but it is temporary.

We signed the children up for sports this season because we felt they needed a little extra something to keep their minds and bodies occupied while a third to half of us were in Columbus. I won’t do it again. It has proven exceptionally difficult to juggle two kids in sports, one in therapy (who is now in a sport…as a part of therapy), three in school, and six who need to eat. You wouldn’t think that would be a challenge, but coming from a really light schedule of activities, it has been a shock to the structured system. Or maybe it is not that at all. Maybe we are all still healing.

Several people have commented that it seems things are going well since our return based on what they have seen on social media, and according to the information I have provided here/there, it is going well, but the truth is I can’t bare to repeat the chaos and frustrations after I experience them. I want to focus on the fun, the happy, the reasons to get out of bed, after having two months that have aged us all. Two months that added grey hair and wrinkles and extra weight. It’s been a stress filled year. It’s going to be a while before we find our balance again.

In the mean time, we get up and have breakfast. We ride our bikes if we can and we drive if the effort to leave 20minutes earlier isn’t working out. Brent just finished two academic years of only cycling to work, rain, snow or shine. I still bike my errands around town with Oliver and drive when we have to go to areas that are not “bike able” or are out of town (Avery’s therapy is a 45min drive one way, twice a week). The children do their thing all day, and I do mine. My volunteer efforts are not up to par, but everyone is understanding. My garden however, is getting greener ever so humbly.

{How is Avery? He’s doing well. Getting stronger ever so slowly. We had a day recently full of falls, feet numbness, and dizziness when he lays down. We don’t know what this means but we are staying the course. We are back in Columbus Tuesday for another EMG, where we hope to have more “answers” to his situation.}


It’s Complicated

When we were spending three weeks in Elkins, WV this summer, living out of a single hotel room, Brent worked 12-14hour days. I was responsible for entertainment, education, recreation, and meals. Brent was pulling in extra income while we were there so I used that to supplement our time with activities and start filling in some material gaps.

It was so easy to say, “sure, I will sign you up for an origami class, and your two brothers.” It meant an hour of fun and what’s turned out to be months of inspiration. Then there was Girl Scout camp for one, plus transportation, tennis camp for three, sewing camp, a movie date, a few lunch dates with the husband, a stop for rainy day art supplies, the Saturday morning Farmer’s Market, where we tried to support every vendor at least once and threw cash into the guitar case of a very talent group of child musicians. We were bleeding cash, and to be honest, it felt wonderful. Without a care for what the balance was in our bank account we did what we needed to do and what we wanted to do. We certainly didn’t go all out, but we were doing more investing of our money into materials and activities in those three weeks then we had done in a couple of years back home. Besides two trips to Girl Scout camp, 10 miles away, we used our bicycles the whole time (in case you were wondering).

We went from mountain town to ocean side the following week, where we culled the spending in favor of meals with friends in the kitchen and digging in the sand on the beach. Then we came home.

We came home a week before school started and had eight days of not knowing what to do with ourselves. The short period of loading our schedules in Elkins and running an eat, beach, repeat routine in South Carolina left me feeling very lonely, very bored, and craving the external stimulus of a constantly changing scene.

Being on the road for two months wasn’t enough for me. My life was more simple while we were away. It was also more rich with friends and family. Being home in Huntington meant I had to do dishes multiple times a day and laundry all of the time. It meant, it means, the children do not need as much of me because they have their things and their friends.

We came home and I signed the children up for activities. Avery and Elliot joined the fall soccer rosters. London began violin lessons. Brent started back to the university and Oliver enrolled in a dance class. I wrote checks and swiped my card. Then I came home and filled in my calendar with where I needed to be and when. We were able to ride our bikes to everything except soccer. I knew games would be out on Route 2, some 9-13 mile away, depending on if you chose the interstate or the state route. I hoped we would get a team that practiced at Ritter park, 1 mile from home, which happened for one child, but not both.

Game day is madness. The YMCA Kennedy center is the town square on a soccer Saturday. Everyone is there. Someone should put in a farmers market and artisan center, as it would reap its weight in wealth. It is also a thirty minute drive and ten minute parking fiasco. Then you wait, because all the games are delayed. Then you have to wait more because your second (and for some, third and fourth) child is also playing at some point that morning. Then you have to file back to your car and inch your way out onto Route 2 and work your way back to Huntington. It makes my head spin.

It is not just the car thing. I am not opposed to driving, but I am opposed to chaos, and in this case, I signed us up for a whole season of it. Avery’s team practices at the Kennedy center one night a week. On those nights it means a rushed after school routine, half a dinner before and half a dinner after and a later bedtime. This week, it also meant we didn’t get homework done, because I also decided that because we were driving out that way, we might as well make a few other stops.

Do you do this? When you know you are going somewhere ‘far,’ you think, might as well drop this off and pick that up while I am at it? With gas at $4/gallon, it just makes economic sense. For things that are close, I usually just think, we can run out and get that anytime.

So some of us were dropped at the grocery while the others went to practice. After practice we were reunited and made stops at the big shopping plaza for a couple Target items and some supplies at Home Depot.

We are over-scheduled for activities that are too far from home during a time that we shouldn’t be activity hopping. We should be home. The children have plenty of chores and homework to balance between four o’clock and bedtime. Oliver and I have plenty of time to get groceries during the day and pick up socks and soccer balls downtown. Why didn’t we?

We spent the week doing other things instead. We made central downtown stops and never went east or west toward the grocers. We made a choice and in the back of my mind I knew we could lump some errands together on soccer night, when we would take the van. It turns out to have made everything more complicated. It took up too much time. It made me miserable.

It wasn’t just me. Everyone was dragging the next morning too. There was still homework to be completed and lunches to be pack (which usually get assembled the night before).

Where’s the simple? It might be suffocating in a cabinet somewhere around here. I am looking for the habits I had developed and let get away from. It was a really good pace for us in Elkins, WV. Bringing the pace into the school year, into a town where things are twice as far away from our doorstep, is not working.

What shall I do about it? The first thing I am doing, is not doing more. I am not adding anything else to our calendar. I said no to basketball. Not now to archery. Sorry Charlie to scouts.

Second, I am monitoring the daily schedule. We have a posted routine for school mornings, after school and evenings. I have used this modified schedule for nearly five years. In a fit of rage last year, one of the children tore it off the wall and I let go of it. The children certainly had more free range, but I was more miserable. I was more disorganized, more taxed on chores, meals, and daily prep. I had lost control of time and my family. This doesn’t work for everyone, but that schedule kept me balanced. The effort I have to put into enforcing it is time well spent.

It was difficult for me to pin point where and how I lost interest in parenting and homemaking, but it happened. I just didn’t care to cook for a group of people who didn’t want to eat any of it. I wasn’t going to pick up a room full of toys, books and knocked over laundry for it to sit on dresser tops, pushed under beds and stuffed into crannies moments after they all walked in and spread out a new buffet of stuff. Keeping a clean table seemed futile when no one would come to join me for projects or homework time or dinner. They just went their own ways and did their own things. Any attempt to ask for help was met with anger and rudeness and then I retorted with defeat, that it just wasn’t worth the misery we were all displaying. I let all those Ds and Fs add up and I didn’t do a whole lot to bring out the best manners in any of them.

This was wrong. Very very wrong. My turn the cheek, look the other way, model what I wanted to see, redirect their language approach wasn’t working for anyone. I wasn’t invested in their homework, their friends, their daily lives. I had checked out. I knew it then too. In an email reply with a friend I wrote:

I don’t keep [the children] happy. Nor is everything, including them, clean, rested and fed. I have been better in the past but I lost sight of my parenting focus this school year and I think I have found a few of the culprits.

One culprit was the routine.

The other was a detachment to myself. I stopped cultivating me. I stopped investing in my own growth and enrichment. So much of my time was spent caring for the needs of others and I was harboring some resentment. I felt like I was sacrificing my desires for some elusive idea of putting service first. The service suffered too. My desire for my community out weighed my abilities and pulled me thin. In reviewing these statements it sounds like I volunteer a lot or care for the homeless, sick and elderly. I don’t. I was just volunteering a full time equivalent and thinking about volunteering the rest of the time. I was working on this blog, a lot, which is voluntary. It was certainly a personal reflection, but it was, in my mind, a way to show the rest of the world and the good people of Huntington, that this town is not all the media has made it to be, nor is it all they may think.

Five years of living here had me convinced that I needed to leave. There was figuratively nothing here I wanted for myself or my family, so I set out to be the change I wanted to see. I organized social events I wanted to participate in and started a local Kidical Mass ride for the children. I plunged myself into Create Huntington. I visited the local shops and met my neighbors. It was all a veiled effort to make things better for the gander, and this goose. I wasn’t growing my mind and spirit.

This is complicated to explain, even to myself.

My spirit wanted to be somewhere else. It wanted to meet all those great people I was interacting with online (local and worldwide) and have at its fingertips all those resources it appeared others were enjoying. My mind wanted to learn something new. It wanted to be challenged to grow. It wanted to be back in school (did you know I have attended seven colleges and universities in four states?). My spirit wanted to soar with people who were interested in going the same types of places and getting there on a bicycle, with their children in tow, while offering me new perspectives. As much as I tried to find these families here in Huntington, their schedules didn’t align with ours (or align as often as I’d have liked), as they all had full time jobs, and I had a full time empty space (and a full time babysitting gig in the spring).

With the money we saved by not driving, we took a long trip. We set out to find these families and meet these people and reconnect with our family (the six of us, and our other relatives). It was glorious. My soul was being nurtured. My mind was being opened to new concepts and resources. We reconnected as a family, and I was able to see where I had checked out of caring for my brood.

We came home and I printed up a new daily routine. I cooked. I cleaned and I sorted out some material needs. The children had what they needed and in some cases a little of what they wanted.  I enrolled in a class. I started attending events where I might meet new people. I finally planned that blockparty I had thought about for the six years since buying this house. I emailed my children’s teachers before classes began and I check in with them often about our academic, behavioral and social struggles. We do homework around the table.

While I certainly went overboard with our extra curricular schedule, I think I found a healthy groove for nurturing my family and my needs side by side. I found some things to look forward to and found the inspiration to chase after a few ambitions. My volunteer work is more diversified, which has helped me to stay focused and excited, instead of burned out and feeling under appreciated (perceived, not actual).

While the laundry still gets knocked over, and the children remain on a plain pasta and apple slice diet, I have the clarity to see their growth and encourage them. I am putting in the time and effort to lead them and help them through their day. I am reinvested because I can see there is something ahead of me and a very bright future for us all.

In a summary that makes sense to me… a transition to bicycling, meant more savings, to spend traveling, exploring and investing, which nurtured the soul, that was then able to see, that keeping things simple at home, is the very thing we need.


3K Miles & 2 Months in More Detail

How does someone end up planning a lengthy trip like ours? It wasn’t what we set out to do.

View Summer 2012 Mid Atlantic in a larger map

Brent accepted a position at Davis & Elkins college with the Governor’s School for the Arts (Brent designed their website). He was an instructor in their program last year, and the children and I stayed home.  It was pretty wonderful that he was able to get a ride to and from the school and rode his bicycle in Elkins, WV.  He rode the tourist buses with the students to Charleston and Washington DC.

This year, we were determined to go with him. Three weeks without his company was a bit dull and lonely. He is required to work 12-14 hour days, including weekends, so we know we won’t see him often, but to see him some, is far better to us, than none at all. Getting to play in Elkins would be a welcome treat, as we used to live near this wonderfully art-centric community, and I miss teaching and visiting at the Randolph County Community Arts Center.

We started our housing search in January, and we still haven’t found a place to stay. Yet, I won’t let this stop us. Even if it means crashing Brent’s hotel room (there’s one bed). So if anyone knows of a place we can rent in downtown Elkins in July, we would be very grateful. We would settle for a backyard to pitch our tents, but downtown is important, since we only have the one vehicle, Brent’s hours are long and we are bringing our bikes to do all our local excursions.

As you can see, 3 weeks will be spent in one location. Then we received and an offer of meeting friends from Florida at the beach in South Carolina, reducing our travel in half, making our accommodations free, and the wonderful benefit of time with friends with children!

These were going to be our only two trips, separated by one week at home. The idea of returning to Huntington before going to the beach seems a bit silly, and a waste of driving in the opposite direction, so we are going to take the time to bike the Greenbriar Trial for a few days, visit Charlottesville, VA to hopefully catch up with Jon Schoeder, and spend time with our friends in Charlotte, NC (who visited with us in December).

Now we are up to 5 weeks of away time. Then I realized we haven’t visited with my family since last summer. I haven’t seen my dad in a year, or my grandma B in about 18months. Other relatives were given hugs at my cousin’s funeral this winter and I had 24 hours with my mom this spring. Therefore we planned to spend a week in Ohio, with great spoils, to be divulged soon.

The Ohio portion started out with driving up and hanging out, then we got our hands on a Miami Valley Bicycle Trail map, and now we plan to drive to Cincinnati to meet up with other cargo cyclists, leave the van with my sister and bike up north to see the rest of our family and friends (and hopefully Matthew and his wife with Bike4Heck), 70 miles away.

There goes another week, possibly more. Of course, since we were planning to be in the valley, we might as well see other family close to Columbus…and meet up with some more cyclists, and while we were going east, I went into “why not?” territory.

My aunt, whom I haven’t seen since our last extended (six weeks, 7000 miles) summer trip in 2008, when she lived in Denver, now lives in Connecticut. We had about two and a half weeks before needing to get to Elkins, so I plan to fill it with a trip to see her. We hope to stay about a week, head into NYC for a couple of days (more family there), then cruise into NJ to pal around with Megan at Soul Learning, and stop in DC, because we can (more friends here too).

While this seems ambitious, and according to some, crazy, I am incredibly happy. The planning has given me more to look forward to. The opportunities to stroll through the states, ride our bicycles in all sorts of towns, camp in mysterious places, change our destinations according to meet ups, whims, weather, interests, and moods, are all exciting. We are very sensitive to the challenges, and very thankful for an attitude that we are not in a hurry to go anywhere.

In a nutshell:

  • Depart June 3 for Cincinnati, OH
  • Ride north on the Miami Valley trail
  • June 12th-ish, head east toward Columbus OH, PA, CT
  • Find our way to Elkins, WV by July 1
  • Greenbriar Trial, WV July 22 for a few days
  • Work our way to the beach via VA and NC
  • Early August, work our way home

We hope to see you along the way.

Trip Meter: May 12

Miles Walked: .5 Biked: 54.5 Bused: 0 Drove: 0 Carpool: 0 This week
134.6 2123.2 1176.6 3691.8 287.2 Since August 14, 2011

I was on track to reaching nealy 75 family bike miles this week, but after Wednesday’s fall, things slowed down. Brent did pick up, which only adds a couple extra miles to his commute. I did drop off, so a few miles there, but didn’t go out much afterward, preferring to garden and bake in the kitchen.

Not much gets done around the house when you spend so much time around town during the day. Having a busy first half of the week left me hungry for some home time and wary of how other families can be “on the go” all of the time. Our children are not involved in any extracurriculars right now. They are members of scout troops but London has elected not to participate. Elliot’s meetings have been held at the camp location, too far away to consider for a school night, even if we drove. Running around after school doesn’t give us time for a family meal, free play or preparing for the next day, things we need to do in order to have balance. We may do it occasionally, but to do it night after night, is exhausting. We simply choose not to participate in many community activities.

If we have had an especially busy week, we find we don’t do anything on Saturday either, and sometimes Sunday. Yesterday Brent took the four children and the neighbor’s son downtown for a cash mobbing of our new fro-yo establishment. They were gone 55 minutes. I know b/c I thought I was going to have a few hours to myself. Nope.

Today we have a Cyclo Femme ride scheduled for 4:30. We won’t go anywhere or do much else. We often have the neighbor children over, putter about the house, dig in the dirt out back or dream big. The children spend a lot of time in imaginative play or reading, and we do have considerable electronic media time. I took a few hours yesterday and called my aunt and dad. Neither of whom I had spoken to in many months (dad) or years (aunt).

How do you spent your unstructured time?

Miles Walked: 0 Biked: 48.5 Bused: 0 Drove: 0 Carpool: 17 This week
134.1 2073.7 1176.6 3691.8 287.2 Since August 14, 2011

Toddler Oliver’s Day

Yesterday began earlier than usual. We set out to meet up with Mike and Alex, on their new Yuba, to ride a small leg of both our journeys to school together. It was the first National Bike to School Day, and riding with friends seemed like the best way to celebrate. It wasn’t necessary to bring the whole crew, but it sure was more fun.

I intended to ride half way to work with Brent and Mike, but after climbing back up Norway I was done. This made three days of high miles and many climbs for me and I really was trying hard this morning to not slow down the other two adults. I split off and went home to get ready for the rest of our day and they carried on.

We had about two hours to dink about, gather our things, pack our lunches, then roll out. I knew this was going to be a tricky day, with multiple stops and smack in the middle of nap time.

I made a list of all the things I needed to do and organized them by location. We dropped off our CSA check, picked up Avery’s coat (forgotten at the Earth Day fair), deposited checks at the bank, checked for Skylanders at Game Stop, enjoyed lunch at Pullman Square plaza, walked the bike over to Third & Ninth Deli for a Create Huntington lunch meet-up, rewarded patience with a Tropical Moon, returned to Game Stop for the toddler to check out Skylanders (he was asleep the first time), then went home to unload, reload and ride up to the school for pick up.

Busy train tracks don’t stop traffic, thanks to early considerations. Cars, pedestrians and bikes just go under them. This train was moving and loud. Just what our little boys love. Only Oliver slept through it.

Still sleeping at the bank.

The white stripe on the right is the left line for the incomplete bike lanes. I know every city has this problem (delivery trucks or taxis in bike lanes). I look forward to seeing what enforcement and education will be instituted locally. Since we bike in the car lane, I just went around and made my right hand turn at the light.

Just after this Game Stop stop we had a pee-mergency. Avery really had to go. The nearest restroom I could find on the ground level, was the bookstore who had a sign on the door saying the restroom was for customers only. I also had the issue of the sleeping toddler. I walked over and parked the bike at the door, walked Avery in, asked (yelled over to) the check out lady if he could use the toilet and a stranger who was standing next to me made sure he made it to the back of the store (he had already ran off). I stood between the doors, watching Oliver on the bike (two steps away) and waiting on Avery. It was one of the “testing your parent strategy” moments.

Bladder relieved, lunch eaten, toddler wakes up.

Plopped the little guy on the deck and walked the bike across the street to meet up with a few Create Huntington members. This was my first lunch meet up. It’s an open invitation to everyone to gather on Wednesday at noon to talk about the direction of the city casually. Since we packed and ate our lunch before arriving (to save money and to please the children with things they like), I spent the entire hour hearing “we don’t need to be here, we could just walk out!” from Avery, who was “bored.” Hence the next stop, a shameful bribe, that didn’t keep him quiet, but made him happier.

The above photo was taken while I was arriving at Third & Ninth. The man on the right bike was smoking, and hauling a trailer with cargo in it. I had seen this bike the day before at a house on Norway sans-trailer, then spotted during yesterday’s pick up with trailer. I am very curious about what his is doing. The lady on the left is typical of downtown riders, who feel safer on the sidewalks and crossing at pedestrian lights, the one place in the county it’s not legal (downtown streets only). Ironically, to get to any bike rack that you find downtown (there are few), you have to go on the sidewalks, else lock up to street lights, also on sidewalks.

Tropical Moon for fro-yo, then Game Stop again, then onward toward home. We encountered the access to the park (where we cut through) blocked by tree cutters and the road around it closed, so we cut through a brick paved alley and discovered this backyard garden.

After slipping up onto the sidewalk we were able to get on the street next to the park and in between the barricades to mosey toward home. It wasn’t necessary, but this route was a bit more level and the roads smoother. I was growing increasingly tired at this point and couldn’t fathom another four miles I would need to go to pick up the other two children.

The End of the Toddler Mama’s Day

Yet, I did it. There were a lot more stops along the way just to rest. I made it up, gathered my things to set up an after school Scrip, SnackTaxi and reusable bag sales table (my new volunteer position, since I don’t have baby L.). We stayed for the end of year Chess Club party. Brent rode up to the school to ride the Yuba home and I took his mtb. I called him and let him know how worn out I was before leaving home and that I would appreciate an extra set of legs. He’s so wonderful.

Most of our ride home is downhill, but we have three decent size assents and one shallow one. I was taking the ups and downs very slow. I didn’t have my camera around my neck, I didn’t take on any cargo. I knew my limits had passed during the previous 11miles. We made it all the way home and I had this moment in my mind’s eye where I could see myself wrecking, and then I did.

At the bottom of our drive way, making that final turn to pull in, the bike slipped from under me and I lunged forward to catch myself. Everyone else was behind me. Brent likes me to set the pace, since I am the slowest. The bike flipped over, with my legs still entangled, and I just laid there. Bike complete upended. The children stunned into a semi-silent awe (you flipped the bike! so cool! are you ok mom? do you have a boo boo?).

It had started raining about a mile from home. As I said, I was going very slow. Brent had put road tires on his bike Sunday, and the roads around our house are broken, gravely and undulating. All of this, combined with my fatigue, resulted in this.

The bruising and swelling doesn’t show up well. My left hand was in so much pain I felt nauseous. I took a nap immediately, with ice under my hand as I slept. I woke up feeling better, but sore. I took inventory of the bruises on my knees and legs and cleaned my wounds. I haven’t stopped dreaming about biking (during my nap and last night), but I haven’t tried holding the handle bars yet. Today my left hand is weeping and I am sad. Sad because I saw it coming. I feel like I let the thought of it happening bring about the actual event. Knowing that it was just an accident.

Miles Walked: .5 Biked: 55.5 Bused: 0 Drove: 0 Carpool: 0 This week
134.6 2124.2 1176.6 3691.8 287.2 Since August 14, 2011
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