Friday miscellany: Staying put

I am not naturally a morning person. But this baby (the still-gestating one) likes to move a lot in the 4:00/5:00 a.m. window. I am doing my best to get in bed around 10:00 p.m., and then every few days grabbing an afternoon nap. He calms down at some point, and I could theoretically go back to sleep for an hour, but I’ve gotten frustrated with lying in bed not sleeping and not doing anything else for any amount of time beyond 30 minutes. So I get up, make my coffee, and enjoy some quiet morning reading time. I’ve been working through George Will’s baseball books. And today I am posting this!

I enjoyed a week of not flying anywhere. I got caught up on a lot of writing tasks, and other things I needed to take care of, such as getting my hair cut, and getting my almost 9-year-old car fixed so I dare to drive it more than 3 miles from home. The repair costs, alas, are creeping higher as a percentage of the car’s actual value. We have a mini-van that is a family car, so theoretically I could buy something small for my use when I replace the car, but I will probably aim for an SUV with at least a small back row so I could transport everyone. I welcome suggestions of bigger family vehicles that aren’t too big. (I find the Chevy Suburban kind of terrifying.)

My husband was not so lucky on the plane travel front. He planned to take the red-eye back from Seattle on Wednesday night to Thursday morning. Around 4:30 a.m. I woke up and saw a text from him that he was in … Boise. The plane had landed with mechanical problems. While landing is most definitely better than the alternative, there the passengers sat in Boise all night. They were told they couldn’t leave the airport, as no TSA security lines were open, but by the time the plane arrived to get them, other planes were taking off too. So they could have gone to a hotel. Very frustrating (my husband was really feeling for the family with a baby!) Fortunately, my 7th grader’s early choir practice was canceled on Thursday, so my husband’s delay didn’t mean I had to wake all the kids for an early morning middle school run.

In our district, middle school starts at 8:15 a.m., high school at 7:30, and elementary school at 9:00. The early morning choir rehearsals are at 7:20. The district just held a meeting about moving around the school schedule to have elementary school start at 7:45, high school at 8:25, and middle school at 9:05. This could start as soon as next fall. I know this is more in keeping with pediatric sleep guidelines, though it raises issues too. One problem the district identified is that a recent survey found that 20% of teen children care for a younger sibling after school. These families are up a creek if the middle school and high school days end 50-90 minutes after the elementary school days. I’m curious if anyone else’s districts have moved start times around.

Wherever the start times land, we’ll have someone in all three levels of school for a while. I’m working on an article for a major publication on larger families, and why people are so fascinated by them and their logistics. I know I am. Whenever I talk with someone who has more children than me, I figure they must have something magical figured out! I can find plenty of “real people” to chat with for this story, though I’d love to figure out who a “large family expert” might be.

I’m also now writing a weekly advice column for Medium. You can check out this week’s post on that perceived dilemma — “I only see my baby for 30 minutes after work!” — here.

In the Before Breakfast podcast this week, I tackled the topic of how to “Look great fast.” I love when listeners send in questions (before breakfast podcast at i heart media dot com is the email address for that one). This particular one got to me — a young lawyer who also had a family told me that she felt like she spent all her time getting ready, but that she had to because she needed to look professional. I really hate the thought of people spending big chunks of their already full lives trying to meet exacting beauty standards. I have tips for streamlining, but also for trying to switch our mindsets. The week before, I tackled a question from a woman with a chronic health condition who worried about seeming unreliable. (Short answer: if she cares about being reliable, she is probably way more reliable than many folks who have far worse excuses.) This topic also got me going on the phenomenon of productivity literature written by and for people who have nothing in their lives that might complicate a schedule.

I’ve been writing up several “Tranquility by Tuesday” make-overs, and look forward to sharing those over the next few weeks!

I’m singing in a concert this weekend. We may go look at houses. We’re having a tough time making up our minds on the renovation question….

Photo: We finally have fall color! 

25 thoughts on “Friday miscellany: Staying put

  1. We love our Toyota Sequoia! It’s big but handles SO much better than the suburban. We also drove and loved the new Ford Explorers (this was a few years ago) and several of our friends have those. We wanted an optional 3rd seat and this also has bucket seats for the second row (with space in the middle) which means the kids can get themselves in and out of the car so much easier and faster. In the end, I do a lot of back road driving (FM road mostly) so just feel safer in a bigger “truck.” I identify with the comments about the time spent getting dressed. It takes longer the older I get! I don’t have a job where I have to go to an office so it’s not a huge issue although there are days I have meetings or just don’t want to look like an extra from the Walking Dead!

  2. Our district did change start times this year – high school now starts at 8:50 and gets out at 4:10. In previous years, my kids had to be on the bus before 7 am. From my perspective, it’s been fantastic (one of my kids – a senior – said, “this is the first time that I’ve ever actually learned anything in my first and second period classes!) Our mornings feel much better now than they did before the switch, and our evening are more pleasant, too, because I’m no longer hassling kids who aren’t tired about going to bed. Even if they stay up super late, they are getting more sleep than they did before the change. It is true, however, that friends with high schoolers who also have younger children have complained about logistics, especially when older siblings had been driving younger ones to and from activities while the parents work.

    1. @September – definitely trade-offs. I’ve seen the literature about how graduation rates and test scores go up when high schools start later. It makes total sense. I imagine first period is a total loss for a lot of sleep deprived kids. But elementary school kids are the ones who need supervision and an earlier schedule means they need care for many more workday hours in the afternoon. (Even if this will pretty much solve people’s before-school care problems…)
      I’d love if they’d do everyone from 8:30-4. But sadly, they’re not about to double the number of buses and drivers!

  3. We had a suburban when I was a teenager, and it was AMAZING. I learned how to drive with that thing, apparently terrorizing everyone at my high school when I started driving it to school. Haha. It’s not that bad. I say go for it!

    My morning routine is only slightly longer when I have to look “professional” (unless I have to wash and dry my hair, in which case it takes 30 minutes longer). I do minimal makeup, (CC cream, blush, eyeliner, mascara), nice earrings, and put my hair into a low ponytail or bun if it’s looking not-good-enough while down. I realize that helmet hair, or perfect hair at any rate, has been an expectation of professional women in the past, but my hair won’t do that, and I’ve given up trying to make it. More women my age seem to be styling themselves in a less-done-up way these days anyway. Perhaps there are regional and industry differences in this standard. I’m lucky that in my field the expectation is for less, not more.

    1. @omdg – this particular listener had naturally curly hair, which I think was a big source of the time suck. Attempts to make it look like a female television anchor were, of necessity, going to be elaborate. But I think here’s a time when the internet can be helpful, because there are certainly plenty of photos out there of sophisticated, polished looking women with curly hair.

      I already find parking garages and street parking difficult and I doubt a bigger car would make them easier!!

      1. I have naturally curly/wavy hair that is HELL to style. I finally cut it shorter in an effort to make it manageable, but shorter hair is almost worse! The thing that ended up working was a Bumble and Bumble mousse (really, because now I’m in the 1990s), that makes the unruliness look a little more thought out and not sloppy, I’m at a crossroads now, because I am in need of a cut, but my wonderful stylist only works when I’m mandated to be at the hospital, so it’s only going to get worse in the next 8 weeks.

        Otherwise, I depend on pins. So many bobby pins. Which has the unintended effect of making me look like a 16 year old prep schooler…not the look I’d like to go for when I’m meeting collaborators or seeing patients…especially at age 30.

        Wow, I really think about this too much. The most maddening part is that my little sister has hair that makes her look like she should be in one of those Pantene ads, with minimal effort.

  4. We have 5 kids, soon to be 6, I adore large-family logistics, and am awaiting your article!
    We both drive Teslas that seat 7, although the 3rd row in each (the SUV style Model X and the sedan Model S with a rear-facing row) are fast becoming too cramped for our 2 middle schoolers. We test drove a TON of cars, and decided on a gently-used Nissan Armada. Almost 2 feet shorter than a Suburban, still with enough space behind the third row for a stroller, drives more like a car than a truck, and seats 8, with the third row not sloping in and compromising head room. The other options we tried: Toyota Highlander, Honda Pilot, Chevy Suburban, Mercedes GL and BMW X7 were all too cramped in the third row for our older kids. We didn’t try, but I’ve heard great things about he new Kia SUV for 2020.

    1. @Jessica – this is very helpful, as all of those cars were on my potential list and my appetite for extensive test driving is minimal 🙂

      1. I would not recommend a Kia–both myself and people I know have had extensive and strange issues with them. Mine (which was admittedly ten years old) had an odd problem where it wouldn’t start after a rainstorm. It took many months and my dedicated mechanic to figure it out, but it was a major hassle. My aunt had a brand new one a couple of years ago and the music system (both radio and CD) would turn on at random times, even if she had turned it off, and the volume would fluctuate wildly, including very loudly. She fought with the dealership many times and ended up trading it in less than a year after buying it because of this and other issues. I do not think they are very well made or very reliable. Every car/company has potential issues but I think Kia is especially bad. There is a reason they are so cheap!

  5. Our high school moved the start time later and also implemented block scheduling, and weekly late start days. One perceived issue with the later start times was after-school activities, and especially sports competitions after school. But, most of the schools in our conference also moved their start and end times, so we are more on a par with them. My younger was in the school only one year with the new times, so I don’t know how it has all played out.

    Another issue they have is that the dismissal time is closer to the middle school dismissal. A popular traffic route goes right past the middle school, on two-lane streets, so that road is now even more of a nightmare after 3:30.

  6. We are on our second Toyota Highlander and have loved both. The back seat holds 3 and they offer a version with a third row that is suitable for kids but would be tight for adults (not enough leg room). We still have the first one as our 2nd car; it’s a 2004 model and still reliable.

    1. I echo the Highlander- I have a highlander hybrid and can fit in the 3rd row….but I’m about 5’3”. I rally look forward to your larger family article- especially if there are any details about large families where both spouses work outside the home!

  7. I grew up in a large family (oldest of 6 kids, 15 year gap) and my mother is from a huge family (17 total, 22 year gap) and then the majority of my aunts and uncles on her side have large families (4 to 10 kids). I have never heard of a “large family expert” – and my guess is none exist. The phenomenon now is seen as pretty fringe – and when it wasn’t fringe (50s/60s), it was at a time when no one was studying that kind of thing. In my family’s case, the large families are driven by a very conservative religious view that prohibits birth control and has decidedly misogynistic overtones. All of my uncles on my mom’s side are doctors, lawyers and engineers, while only one of my mom’s sisters has a undergrad degree (out of 9). The clear expectation was that women would stay home and raise kids, which the majority did. I can assure you that large families driven by prohibitions against birth control do not have parenting magically figured out – my parents offloaded huge (unacceptable) amounts of parenting onto me for my youngest brother and sister and failed each of us in ways that I am only starting to understand as I raise my own kids. I have seen large families work well but they require huge amounts of intentionally and constant iteration.

    1. @Dominique – thanks for sharing this. The families I’m talking to generally are in the big, but not the “no birth control” big, range. In our case, we got married when I was 25, and I’ll have baby #5 at age 41, so there’s some deliberate spacing going on there 🙂 The moms are mostly working (for pay) in some capacity — that tends to be the people I’m more drawn to as subjects. For them, it is counter-cultural, whereas in a very traditionalist religious community it might not be.

  8. Why not just have a second minivan? Plenty of space for the whole family + the option to lay the third row flat for bikes, sporting gear, suitcases, etc. my fave is a Honda Odyssey.

  9. Another vote for a Honda Odyssey. We actually have two (almost indentical) because it has been hands-down the best fit for our six kids. And while I doubt that there is an official expert on large family logistics, I found the book “A Sane Woman’s Guide To Raising A Family” by Mary Ostyn helpful and encouraging.

  10. We love our Mazda CX9. It seats 7, and the 3rd row is spacious enough that I can sit in it as an adult without feeling cramped. As a side point, I would only consider cars that have the new advanced safety features, such as lane departure correction / lane keep assist, radar-assisted automatic braking (eg in cases of sudden front objects/cars or side objects/cars coming at you), adaptive high beams, radar cruise control, etc. We know a family in which the mom and 3 children tragically perished when the mom dozed off and veered into oncoming traffic — and features like these would have saved all of their lives …

  11. I love my Chevy Traverse. It’s big, but not huge. There’s enough leg room for growing kids, and enough cargo space for shopping trips.

    And our school system changed start times last year, pretty much in line with what your system is contemplating. I can see both sides, but I don’t see a problem with high school kids going to school earlier as they used to do. Parents must to retake control and make them go to bed when they need to in order to get enough sleep. Yes, high school kids need more sleep than people used to believe, but that just means they need to go to bed earlier. When I was in high school I had to go to bed at 9:00 during the week so I could get up at 6:00, take a shower, walk a mile to the bus stop, and get to school before 8:00. Elementary school (K-8) started at 8:30.

    1. Teenagers have later circadian rhythm so forcing them to go to bed early does not mean they get enough sleep. There is a lot of research confirming the serious mental and physical health implications of forcing people to work against their natural circadian rhythm. The school districts are finally starting to change start time because they are faced with overwhelming evidence, not because they really want to make a change. Most parents would do well to educate themselves on this topic. I highly recommend “Internal Time” by TIll Roenneberg for research based and at the same time humorous look at the topic.

  12. I love my Honda Pilot with a third row. It’s an SUV, but not too big, and very pleasant to drive. A family of 7 could all fit, and there’s good leg room and foot room.

  13. We have a Mazda CX-5 as the small car and a Mazda CX-9 as the big car. You could get 5 littles into the CX-9 but you wouldn’t want to for a long trip because the 3rd row is tight. I do love these cars and the AWD is great. The safety features, cameras, etc. are great. However, I picked them because the dealer is really close to my home and office and it is the most convenient place to go for servicing. I used to have a Toyota (20-25 min from home) and a Honda (25 minutes from home) and I dreaded the routine service. This may sound like an odd way to pick a car but I notice that the CX-5 is the most popular car among my coworkers too.

  14. I love my Honda Pilot! I was a little skeptical of driving an SUV, but the Pilot doesn’t feel too big too me! And it has the 3rd row.

    Our school district is also evaluating changing school start times!

  15. Our district (Chapel Hill) has elementary start at 7:50, middle at 8:25, and high at 8:55. I like it – it keeps the teen drivers off the roads during main rush hour time and allows for families with younger children to start their days earlier. I can see how it would be difficult for families who already depend on having an older sibling at home to watch the younger ones. I did that when I was a kid. But in all, I think it is advantageous.

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