TBT Scorecard: Tween birthday parties make me more nervous than book launches

My next book, Tranquility by Tuesday, is officially on sale tomorrow. This is not my first rodeo — it’s my 8th conventionally published print book — but it is always a rodeo nonetheless.

That said, it was not the rodeo I was most nervous about this past week. My lovely 11-year-old daughter wanted to have a Halloween-themed birthday party, and she wanted to have it with a small group of girls at our house. She started a new school this fall and there has been some turnover of the friend group so there was a bit of stress associated with this. Would people come? What should we plan so they’d have fun? I actually woke up at 5 a.m. a week or so ago with an idea for a party activity that I must have been dreaming about. That is how much this has seeped into my subconscious.

Anyway, we had a good time! The girls came in costume. While people arrived, we started with taking Polaroid pictures in front of a Halloween back drop (with Halloween-themed props). Then we ate pizza, then decorated little pumpkins with stickers and paint. Then it was cake time. Then we “walked the runway” in costumes and handed out skeleton trophies (to everyone) for various categories. I hauled out several rolls of toilet paper so the girls could wrap my daughter up like a mummy. This produced a lot of giggling. Then it was time to go outside to our fire pit to tell scary stories and go creep up to the edge of the woods (but not go in — no nightmare memories from this party please!).

My daughter was happy with how the party went. Now I feel like I can focus on the book launch. Phew.

Tranquility by Tuesday is about nine of my favorite time management rules, and what happened when 150 people tried them out for nine weeks. Here’s how I did on the rules since last Monday!

Rule #1: Give yourself a bedtime. OK. I was in my bedroom at 11 p.m. and generally getting close to bed most nights. But with the mid-week holiday and fewer early things this weekend I didn’t have to be in bed quite so early a few days this week. I think I still hit about 7.5 hours/day on average.

Rule #2: Plan on Friday. As always, though I’m realizing more and more of my personal life planning is creeping to Sunday. I’d like to back some of this up to Friday, as it’s getting unwieldy. The kids are starting three new activities this week…

Rule #3: Move by 3 p.m. Pretty good! I walked or ran by mid-day every day this week. To be sure, three days this week I took short walks right around 3 p.m. as I realized that I needed to get up from my desk to follow this rule. But in all three cases I felt much better and more energetic after doing so. That is the reason this rule exists. So I’d say it worked as intended, even if that did involve a very rainy walk on Tuesday!

Rule #4: Three times a week is a habit. This rule is about making sure to do certain chosen activities three times in the course of the week. I’ve been focusing on running, eating family meals, and playing the piano.

I ran three times this week, including a nice 5-miler on Saturday afternoon through a local college’s nature preserve, during which I stopped frequently to look at the fall wildflowers. On Thursday I drove to a less-busy road to go run, though I then wound up spending much of the time talking on the phone with a school administrator…I’m just hoping I didn’t sound too out of breath. Then after I started running again I wound up taking another call from my husband about getting the fridge repaired and our issues of trying to buy a new van. (A year-long wait???) Oh well. It was still a run/walk!

We had family dinner on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday (my daughter’s birthday dinner) and Sunday. As for the piano, after talking about this on the Happier podcast this past week I wanted to really stick with it and I wound up playing on six of the seven days. Not for long each time, but it didn’t need to be. I’m really enjoying feeling like this is part of my life.

Rule #5: Create a back-up slot. I guess this isn’t so much a back-up slot per se, but I was very conscious this past week of trying to leave myself some more space to work. I elected not to do driving duties for a few activities that I often cover, and I blocked off Sunday afternoon as an official work day. It did make the week feel less frantic, and is a reminder that I don’t have to do everything every time.

Rule #6: One big adventure, one little adventure. The Halloween/11th birthday party was probably my big adventure for the week in the sense of being memorable (or pushing me outside my comfort zone into party planning…). My husband and I also went out to eat at Andiario in West Chester on Saturday night. I had gotten a reservation for this restaurant (which made a recent NY Times “best of” list) back when the reservations opened for October. It was good — and I decided to throw caution to the wind and eat the chanterelle ice cream that was part of the tasting menu (yes, mushroom-flavored ice cream…) I was up coughing in the middle of the night from the dairy but nothing worse so I’m feeling happy about that.

Rule #7: Take one night for you. My choir rehearses every Thursday night. I wish this was truly a night “off” in the sense of getting one night off from putting the 2-year-old to bed, but he had napped late during the day so he wasn’t asleep at 9 p.m. (He tends to want Mommy to put him to bed if he has this option.) Oh well. I won’t be doing this forever.

Rule #8: Batch the little things. I worked through my Friday punch list on Friday morning. One thing I wish I could figure out a better batching process for: The kids’ passports. We took two of the kids (whose passports expire in early 2023) to get their new ones at the post office on Wednesday. I came very organized with a folder full of all the supporting documents plus copies of everything. And my check book (they don’t take cash or credit cards). But since the five kids are on different renewal cycles, we will have to do this again in 2025 and 2026… Though I did note that when my 15-year-old gets his next passport it will be his problem, not mine. I plan to batch getting my Real ID with getting my car serviced next week (the dealer is right next to a PennDOT office).

Rule #9: Effortful before effortless. Some wins, some not. I did play the piano a lot. And I finished This is Not a Book About Benedict Cumberbatch. I finished Henry IV part 1 and started the Merry Wives of Windsor (for anyone new who’s reading this, I’m reading through all the works of Shakespeare this year). I also scrolled way more than I wished to.

This is the last call for pre-orders for Tranquility by Tuesday! I’ll be hosting an online gathering on October 18th for people who pre-ordered, so if you want the link to that, please order today (by tonight) and fill out your information on the form on this page (you just have to scroll down to the form where you put your name/email/retailer).

I was a guest on Laura Cox Caplan’s DOUBLE episode of She Said/She Said this weekend — here is part one — and here is part two — please check that out!

And, just a wistful note about time…I’ve been thinking about this week for over a year now, since I got a publication date. However, in a week I will be posting another scorecard, and this upcoming 168 hours will be in the past. Time keeps marching on. It always does. All we can do is try to savor the journey along the way. I have done what I can and now I am trying to remind myself of that.

6 thoughts on “TBT Scorecard: Tween birthday parties make me more nervous than book launches

  1. A random question for you– what is involved with putting Henry to bed that is both hands-on and also allows you to be able to read? I’ve always been curious about that when you mention getting reading done during that time.

    1. @Heather – after a story, I turn out the light, he has a bottle, and then finishes up with nursing – so I am sitting in the dark nursing him, which means I can read on my phone. Then once he’s really sleepy I put him in the crib, but if I leave the room he gets back up and screams…so I tend to wait for him to fall asleep and then make my exit. So, again, that involves some amount of time waiting in the dark. Hence the phone scrolling. It’s the same when anyone else puts him to bed, just minus the nursing part…

  2. Happy publication week! I’m excited for my copy to arrive tomorrow!

    Your daughter’s birthday party sounded really fun! Friendship dynamics are so tough at that age. :/ Sounds like it went amazingly well and they all had a good time!

    1. @Lisa – thanks! Yes, it did go well – the dynamics are challenging, but at least this party was in the positive category. I’m feeling really good about that.

  3. Birthday parties always stress me out – I make them relatively simple and straightforward, but I just feel so much pressure to have everyone enjoy their time.
    I will say, I think it gets easier as the kids get older and they tend to make a lot of their own entertainment with friends.

    I got my TBT shipping notification e-mail yesterday; can’t wait for the launch + arrival of a physical book in the mail!

    1. @Elisabeth – yes, they can be stressful, and this one was moreso than my son because he had just asked for a video game truck. That was straightforward. Get the truck to come, get kids to come. No entertainment ideas necessary…

      Hope the book shows up on time!

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