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It’s been 11 days since I last posted. I only made it 1/3 of the way through the 31 Day Challenge. Busyness won. But I am succeeding in finding our new “normal”. I’m getting my ducks in a row.

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Evenings have been the best indicator. Jacob was finished with his homework before 8:30 three nights this week, including Wednesday night. I was tired of coming home after youth activities and having to urge him through more homework when he should have been in bed. This time I told him if it wasn’t finished before youth group started, he and I would just be late – if we went at all. That worked! He got right to it and finished with enough time to go out and play basketball for half an hour before things got started.

Next week, we start basketball games. The first two or three weeks, we just have one a week, but we’ll go to two a week after that. Until early February. With a 3-day double elimination tournament our school is hosting at the end of December. Basketball season also means those insanely early morning practices will be reduced to one or two days a week. Hallelujah! Driving Caleb to 7-Eleven at 5:30 a.m. to meet his ride is excruciating. I’ve learned to not hit the snooze button…

At least I remembered to check my calendar and plan our menu accordingly before I went grocery shopping today. (And speaking of that, I drove by ALDI yesterday morning. From the looks of things, they should be opening any day now!) We’ll only be eating at home two nights next week, three if you count Saturday night. That’ll be one big pot of chicken & dumplings and two nights of leftovers. Yes, a big pot. Really big. And if no one wants the third night of chicken & dumplings, there are frozen corn dogs, waffles, or sandwiches. And that will leave more chicken & dumplings for another night… It’s a good thing I like them so well!

In spite of all the busyness, I have managed to carve out a little time for myself. I walked around the pond three days this week. 2 1/2 miles over the course of the week. I know that doesn’t sound like much, but it’s a start and I feel good about it. Even though I didn’t have to take Jacob in at all this week, I chose to go in to work early and get some walking in. Once were no longer in the upper 80’s and 90’s, I’m considering walking during my lunch break. I take my lunch three days a week. It would be so easy to eat in the park, then walk a mile or so before going back to the office. I finally remembered to put a spare pair of earbuds in my car so I don’t have to share my Pandora “Journey” station with everyone. Now I need to remember to take my tennis shoes. The flip flops are okay, but not my best choice.

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Grocery Shopping Blues

Grocery shopping on my short day is good only because it’s a shorter day and I can make it home at my usual time.

It’s not good for several reasons:

1. It’s Friday afternoon.

2. I have to spend my “free” time at the grocery store.

3. We’ve (hopefully) got a good part of the weekend at home, so that means everyone (me, too) gets snacky and goes through the groceries like they’re starving – which means there’s not a whole lot left by Monday.

4. Menu planning, which used to happen over the weekend, now gets forgotten completely. As I’m shopping, I’m thinking What’s going on next week, and what on earth will I cook? I end up grabbing flour tortillas, black beans, corn, and cheese so we can have Black Bean Quesadillas, which everyone likes (for now…) and doesn’t require a lot of prep or cooking time.

5. I completely forget about veggie side dishes, even if they’re salads. I didn’t have that problem when I was in my produce co-op. Things were chosen for me, and I planned around what I received. Since I’m sitting out for this rotation, I’m realizing how much I depended on it and how much I miss it. I’ve got to figure a way to make it work next time around!

There is hope. Our local ALDI should be opening soon. I could go to that location on Friday afternoons, or I could choose to go on Saturday mornings early. That wouldn’t solve all my problems, but it would be helpful. Now if they’d just open already. I first heard about it more than a year ago. Since then the Kroger “mall” was built and opened and is thriving.

I had heard ALDI would be open in September; it’s now almost halfway through October… For a few weeks, I’d drive by every week to check on its progress, but that became a disappointing ritual because it’s hard to tell anything when all the work is going on inside. With every pass by, I’d tell the boys, “Well, it doesn’t look like anything has happened yet.” I didn’t drive by this week. I think I’ll just wait until I see it on Facebook.

Finally Friday

I’m a homebody. I used to not mind getting out on Friday evenings after being home most of the week. Now that I’m working, I’m exhausted on Friday evenings, and I like nothing better than coming home (after the grocery store, of course) and relaxing. Last night, I did just that. Well, after I put on a load of laundry and fixed a quick supper. I got so relaxed I fell asleep in my recliner – and forgot to post to my blog.

Basketball season will soon be bringing these wonderful Friday evenings to a close, so for now I’ll enjoy every one I get.

A Walk in the Park

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Since I’ve been taking Jacob to school while Caleb has his 6:00 a.m. basketball practices, I end up being 45-50 minutes early for work. I’ve just been going on in – until today.

The thought has crossed my mind before. Just go to the park and walk a lap or two around the pond. Today I did it. I didn’t overthink it. I didn’t come up with reasons why I shouldn’t. (There are no good ones, really.) I need the exercise. I enjoyed it. I felt great when I was finished. And I’m going to do it again – most likely tomorrow, weather permitting. (And that’s not an excuse. There’s actually rain in the forecast.)

The Longest Days

Wednesdays are our longest days. Not only do we have school and work, but we also have church in the evening. There’s no time to go all the way home between work and church, so we stick around. It’s a pretty set routine. It’s not ideal, but it works. Sort of.

After work, Billy brings the boys to the church, then makes a quick stop somewhere to pick us up some supper. We eat at church, then the boys work on the (hopefully) last bits of homework, while I scramble to get ready to teach the junior high girls. I feel bad that I’m not better prepared, but there’s just not enough time right now. Thankfully Lauren and I switch out teaching responsibilities every other week, but I need to have a clue of what’s going on.

At 6:30, the boys go out to play basketball with some of the other guys, and I talk with Lauren, going over what were teaching that night. Then we go out and visit with the other leaders and the youth while we wait for things to get started.

When our groups end, we talk a little more about the next week, then I get the boys rounded up to leave. They need to get home as quickly as possible so they can get their showers and get to bed – especially now that Caleb is having to get up at 5:00. (This is usually the time Jacob remembers some homework he forgot about earlier…) Billy sometimes stays later until all the kids have left. He’ll usually get home about 15 minutes or so after us.

All this makes for a really long day, and unfortunately, I don’t see any way to make things easier.

Early to Rise

Today was day one of Caleb’s team’s early morning basketball practices. He and Billy were up at 5:00 and out the door at 5:20. The team practiced from 6:00-7:15, then they all headed to the YMCA down the street to shower before school. Meanwhile I took Jacob to school at the regular time so he wouldn’t have to hang out for two additional hours in the morning. I got to work 45 minutes early

Billy and Caleb both said it worked out great. Things ran smoothly this morning, and Caleb was glad to have practice out of the way for the rest of the day. The only thing no one likes much is the early hour. I imagine it’s going to be really difficult to get up on time by the end of the week… Fridays are already hard; coming on top of early practices and long, tiring days, it’s going to be even more difficult.

So this is what our Tuesdays through Fridays will look like until the games start. Then they’ll just have afternoon practices on Mondays and two early morning practices during the week.

My next step is to get some carpool schedule worked out with another nearby parent so we can swap out with the early days and not both have to do them all.

I had Mondays all figured out. The boys would be home, and they’d have plenty of time for doing their choices and finishing up their homework. We were working on the kinks in Jacob’s routine and were on our way to finding “normal”.

Then basketball season started. I’m not sure when the games will start, but practices started today. We don’t live close enough to drive home, pick up Caleb, and take him to practice. And Jacob isn’t old enough to stay home by himself just yet. Our solution: they go to work with me on Mondays and do homework or read or play on their iPods until lunch. After lunch, they meet their respective rides. Here’s where it gets confusing. Lori brings Jackson to the church, then takes Jacob home with her to hang out with Aidan. Stephanie takes Caleb and Jackson with her, stops by her house to pick up Andy, then takes the three boys to practice. After practice, Billy picks up Caleb and Jackson, takes Jackson home and picks up Jacob, then goes home. On days he needs to pick up Andy, he’ll bring him by the church after swapping Jackson for Jacob. Whew! I may need to draw myself a diagram!

We may have to make bedtime a little earlier, too. Beginning tomorrow, Caleb’s Tuesday through Friday practices will be at 6:00 a.m. Yes, I did say 6:00. In the morning. So Caleb will be getting up at 5:00 so he can leave at 5:20 (at least until they figure out how traffic will be that early in the morning, which can be surprisingly busy in Dallas). We’re trying to work something out with some another school/basketball family who lives fairly close. We’re in basically the same small town, but they’re 15 minutes away. (In these rural areas, roads aren’t straight. They curve around every imaginable piece of farmland between two points.) Once the twice weekly games start, practices will only be on non-game days, so while we may have some late nights, mornings won’t be so menacing.

I think we’ll have four months to get used to this before changing back to what was beginning to work.