July recap, August goals, and the TBT scorecard

July was quite the month. As I look back, a lot got done, particularly on the home renovation front, even though much of the month felt like a scramble. Most of the furniture is now here. I cleaned out the guest room (there were probably 20 boxes in there a month ago), and bought a new mattress and bedding for the bed. We had a landscaping company chip up many of the fallen trees on the property to make a wood chip trail through the wooded part of the yard.

And the pool! Longtime readers know that we bought and renovated a historic property. This historic house came with a historic pool, and while a historic house might conjure up character, a historic pool generally just means it is.…broken. At the beginning of July it was a pond. It has now been scrubbed down and power-washed, plus a new drain and pumps put in. It is not fully done yet but it is usable and we have now been in it a few times. This is exciting because I really thought we would not be able to go in this summer at all.

August is still summer here, as the kids don’t start school until after Labor Day. I have a few plans for the month. I will record the audiobook of Tranquility by Tuesday. We will spend some time at the beach, reliving the usual family traditions or modifications thereof (if I can’t eat the chocolate peanut butter ice cream at Days, at least I can try their dairy-free options!). I will see Mary Chapin Carpenter in concert toward the end of the month.

I have half a plan for the Mommy Days. In past summers I have spent one-on-one time with each older kid doing something the kid wants. But four kids is four days and we are running out of available time. I am going to do a Mommy Few Hours with one kid during an afternoon/evening this week. My daughter requested a spa day so I am looking for spa experiences that can involve a child. And I owe the 15-year-old a trip to NYC, which he had requested for his birthday.

Now on to the TBT Scorecard for this past week…it was a doozy on the adventure front! And sure enough, lots of memorable things make time slow down. Last Monday feels like a really long time ago. Here’s how the week went…

Rule #1: Give yourself a bedtime. I was in bed around 11 p.m. most nights. On Wednesday I didn’t fall asleep until 11:30 or so because I had just gotten home from a full day of traveling and filming at 10:00 p.m., and I was trying to make our house presentable for the film crew the next morning. The upside of getting to bed on time is that this allowed me to get up on time and run several mornings (though Sunday I slept in until 8:15!). I have been waking up at 4:30 a.m. a few mornings and then not being able to fall asleep again until 5:30 and having really vivid dreams so I am not sure what is going on there.

Rule #2: Plan on Friday. During busy weeks I am reminded of how important this rule really is. Because I had planned the previous Friday, I knew everything had a reasonable shot of fitting into the week. I also knew we had some weekend sitter time (2 p.m. on both days) and could try to make the most of it (one long date night, one afternoon devoted to home projects + taking the older kids out to dinner). I planned the upcoming week this Friday and made notes of things (e.g. make a decision on the Mommy Day schedule) that are allowing me to stop stewing about it.

Rule #3: Move by 3 p.m. I wound up getting some physical activity in the first half of every day though it didn’t always look like official exercise. On three mornings I ran. On Monday I took a walk. On Wednesday and Thursday, which were the travel/filming days, I did do a fair amount of running around — on Wednesday, walking from the 146th street garage to the restaurant where we were filming and back, and walking to the Bronxville library from our second filming location, and on Thursday, walking around downtown Philly to and from our cars to the coffee shop and park where we were filming. On Sunday, peach picking and thrift store shopping also introduced some walking time.

Some bonus exercise: This didn’t happen by 3 p.m., but my husband and I went biking together as part of our long date night on Saturday – we biked from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m., roughly, along the Schuylkill River Trail, going from Conshohocken down to Manayunk and back. I’d never run all the way to Manayunk so it was fun to see that part of the trail. Saturday was actually a “tri” day — running, swimming (well, going in the pool at least), and biking!

Rule #4: Three times a week is a habit. I have been focusing on running (particularly in the AM), playing the piano, and family meals. I ran two weekday mornings (Tuesday and Friday), once at 7 and once at 6:30. On Saturday I ran with Jane — we did a little under 6 miles since I had to drive kids but then I ran another 2 miles later with my 15-year-old. I played the piano on Monday night while everyone was occupied, Thursday night while my husband played with the toddler, and then Friday night while he had taken the toddler grocery shopping. We had family dinners Monday, Tuesday, and Friday. The Friday pizza night actually went quite well — everyone liked what they were eating so we were all sitting in chairs for at least 5 minutes (that is victory around here). The Sunday dinner at a Mexican place with the three older children was quite nice — we sat outside on a lush patio under an umbrella — though it was nice partly because it wasn’t the whole family!

I’m thinking of trying to add in “mini-dates” as a three-times-a-week goal. On Tuesday I went to the dog park with my husband (and the dog) at lunch and we walked there. On Friday we sat on the porch and chatted for about 20 minutes at night. And Saturday we had a sitter for our couple bike ride and so we could go out to dinner at Blue Bell Inn. And go shopping for plants at Lowes… (that is suburban couple time right there).

Rule #5: Create a back-up slot. I think the real win from building in extra space this week came in my filming schedule. I had to figure out everyone’s availability, where we planned to film, and how far apart each spot was. I told each subject that I wouldn’t take more than 2 hours, and that turned out to be enough to get our interviews plus b-roll. I also made sure to build in more than enough travel time. So, for instance, I planned to film in Harlem from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Wednesday, and then to start in Bronxville at 2 p.m. The GPS said Bronxville was only about 30 minutes away at that time of day but I built in an hour. And thus we were on time! Same with getting from downtown Philly to York, PA. It was about 2 hours but we left by 11:45 a.m. for a 2:30 p.m. start time, which meant there was time to stop if anyone needed to fuel themselves or a vehicle.

Rule #6: One big adventure, one little adventure. Where to start?? Filming in six locations over two days, and getting close ups on four readers’ lives was a big adventure for sure.

But I had a number of smaller adventures as well. I took three of the kids to the local farmers market on Saturday where we watched one vendor try to drum up business with a stunt where he ate several cobs of (raw) corn in 3 minutes. We went in the pool! I biked with my husband to Manayunk. I took three kids peach picking on Sunday morning (see the photo accompanying this post), and then took the 15-year-old shopping at a local thrift store. I’d never been there despite living here for 11 years. He found a textured suit jacket that can work for an upcoming murder mystery party (his friends are very sophisticated) and I bought a Lily Pulitzer cardigan. I will probably go back!

Rule #7: Take one night for you. On the drive home from York, I elected to stop and buy a sandwich and just sit in the restaurant and decompress for about 20 minutes. It was good I did, because upon coming home, I immediately found myself dealing with a potty training mishap…

Rule #8: Batch the little things. I did a lot of batching. Since I couldn’t really be on email Wednesday or Thursday, I wound up processing two days worth of messages in about 30 minutes on Thursday night. Highly recommended! While this is not a “little thing,” I decided to do all my Before Breakfast podcast writing, rehearsing, and recording in one fell swoop on Friday. I managed to go from just having ideas for 5 episodes to having them sent in to the editor in 2.5 hours. I feel like I should get some sort of efficiency award for this.

Rule #9: Effortful before effortless. This is always the one that doesn’t quite happen. I did sit in the hammock for a while on Tuesday and have “read Economist” as a whole 30 minute block that evening. I am most of the way through As You Like It in my Shakespeare project. I also seem to have spent four hours a day on my phone (though some of that is podcast listening and Google map time!) So, there is room for improvement there…

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