Archive for the ‘Planning’ Category

Missed posting last week — so have a bit to update here:

During Week 6 I tackled #39 from One Bite at a Time:  Creating a Daily To-Do List.  I have to say this has probably been the most transformative Bite thus far.  I’ve been doing it for two weeks now and I feel so efficient.  I have to say that simultaneously I am also exhausted at the end of each day.  But I’m exhausted AND accomplished — which makes it ok.

The most interesting part of this exercise has been that it has taken me back to my pre-electronics days.  I started using DayPlanners in high school and continued those into college.  At one point  in college, I developed a system based on my own “week at a glance” charts that I would custom make in Paint on the earliest Macs housed at my Communications Department job.  These were color coded and “textured” to indicate work hours, study hours, classes, exercise time, etc, and were kept in my three-ring binder.  I kept to those schedules religiously.  In fact, I’ve still got boxes of the old ones in the garage!  Later I fell in love with the Lonely Planet yearly calendars that gave me just enough space to jot down any details I needed too while entertaining me with travelogue shots…

Yet, since the first Palm Pilots and other gadgets, I’ve tried to be hip and cool and keep my schedules “paperless.”  I’ve had an iPhone for a couple years now and have purchased app after app to try and organize everything from appointments to chores to housecleaning to worm medication for the dog.  I’ve used a lot of them.  And many of them are very, very nice, but in the end, there is something that my brain really likes about a physical list that can be scribbled on and altered and touched.  I think part of it is that I’m very visual (taking tests I could always picture where the answer was on the page in the book — not photographic memory at all, but just very much on the visual end of the spectrum).  And I think inputing a meeting into an app that organizes it so beautifully into the whole loses some of that visual “pop.”  For instance, I write things bigger when tasks are a bigger deal or underline or CAPITALIZE or write a note sideways that is just a secondary thought.  That kind of thing is hard to translate into a computer program.

So when I started with Tsh’s Daily Docket, I decided to do it sort of in a weekly fashion.  I printed five of the single sheet Daily Dockets and one of the two-to-a-page Dockets.  I stapled them together and labelled them Monday-Friday (single) and Sat-Sun (double).  I then added in all the appointments for the week (from my iPhone & iCal — which means these are still very necessary to keep the “whole”).  From our calendar (Brent’s Duty days, my Weight Watcher hours).  And from my brain that had not yet been dumped into iCal (Jake’s costume prep, Valentine’s cookies, etc.).  Next I added in the meal plan and made any notes necessary (crock pots that needed to be started in the morning).

At that point I just waited.  I did my Brain Dump (#19) at night before bed, and then the next morning I used it to fill in that day’s Daily Docket after my devotional time.  The most empowering part was picking the three MITs (Most Important Things).  Because I knew if the long list of 10 didn’t get done, I’d still feel good accomplishing the MITs.  I also love that she’s got a specific spot for “blog and/or work” because then I can remember that blogging is a priority for me and can keep my Okinawa Hai to-do’s separate from the “life” list.

And it has been VERY successful.  I even bought a new clipboard/notebook thingy at Target that allows me to clip the Daily Dockets on the front, and use the notepad inside for my nightly Brain Dump.  I’m also storing old “weeks” behind the notepad so that I can refer back if necessary.  It’s really going great!

For Week 7, I chose #47:  Wake Up Earlier (and use Kaizen).  This has been only mildly successful.  I am not a morning person, never have been — so this is very difficult for me.  But I’m finally willing to admit how much smoother the universe runs when I am ready for the day.  When I’m not late before I even get started.  Being up BEFORE the kids is like my worst nightmare, but I’m truly able to say that it’s a good thing.  And I’m striving towards that.

I started the week just trying to get up on “time” — which is 6-6:15am.  That gives me nearly a half hour before the kids get up and allows me to have devotional time and get my daily docket ready.  BUT, I’m realizing that another half hour to do somethings around the house — start laundry, get Jake’s lunch ready, straighten things a bit, do an Oki Hai post — would really lighten the load of my day.  And it would also mean I’d get to actually see Brent for a few minutes each day before he leaves for work.  However, after consulting my handy sunrise/sunset app, I found that 5:30am will be dark about 80% of the year.  That is rough for me.

So, I managed to make it between 6-6:15am this week, but I’m going to back it up a bit more for this coming week and see how things go.

And for that reason, I chose an “easy” Bite for this coming week:  #16 — Schedule Regular Date Nights.  Thought it was a great thing to start right after Valentine’s Day and our lovely Valentine’s massage date.  I’m always reminded how important date nights are when we have them.  And now that we have a great babysitter on the hook, I told Brent that we need to make Date Nights a bigger priority in our budget when we are finally out of debt next month.  BUT, then I realized we shouldn’t put it off til then.  So I called a friend of mine, who very unfairly has only ONE child, and said, “Hey, wanna trade kids for date night?”  She had been trying to prioritize the same thing and oddly thinks it’s fun to have ALL of my children to play with her daughter.  So she said she is IN.

We had her daughter over on Saturday afternoon/evening and they were able to have a lovely date enjoying yummy Italian food at a local restaurant.  The kids totally entertained themselves and I fed them orange dye #14 with cheap Mac N Cheese (and oranges and edamame – I’m not a total loser!).  It’ll be Brent’s and my turn to go out this weekend.  I’m thrilled to have a regular plan for spending time together without the kids.  Because as Tsh said,

We like movies that aren’t always animated. We like to play cards, drink wine and beer, and not cut up each other’s food. We also like to stay up later than 8 p.m.

Here’s to time with the most important person in my life.

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I started couponing in the fall.  It’s been a very interesting journey and I thought I’d share a few things I’ve learned:

1.  It’s not how much you spend, it’s how much you save.  Wrong.  The temptation was strong to buy ANYTHING just because it was on super sale.  This meant that one week I ended up with three packages of Klondike bars.  Not a problem for everyone, but I ended up eating them all myself.  And that is a problem.  Solution:  I don’t clip ALL coupons anymore.  I only cut ones that are things I normally buy and will use.

2.  I’ll just get one for now.  Wrong.  If it’s really that great of a deal, buy ’em up.  (Unless it’s a perishable item, of course!)  Solution: The way to do this is by ordering multiple newspapers to be delivered.  At this moment I’m getting six (that cost me $1.15 per week total).  To be honest, it’s probably too many simply because so many coupons are for buying two (meaning I’d get 12 of the items).  But I’ll plan to keep getting at least four each Sunday.  And for me in SD, the LA Times is totally the way to go since it gets all the inserts (Smart Source, Red Plum & PG&E periodicals).

3.  It’s easy.  Wrong.  It might be simple, but it’s not easy.  Not only does it take forever to cut the coupons and put them in my binder, but the process of making my list from the blog I use (Southern Calif Saver), pulling the coupons back up and transferring them to my mini-file, and then shopping (usually 1.5-2 hrs) is very VERY time consuming.  I have a big binder filled with plastic baseball card pages and the coupons go in there.  I have them loosely organized as dry/bottled/canned foods, dairy/refrig/freezer items, paper/household goods.  I also have a section for the organic or “Sprouts-like” items because many of those items I can’t find at my local Albertson’s.  A big problem is when you’ve missed the expiration date.  This happens to me a lot closer to payday if I’ve run out of grocery money.  Solution needed:  I need to figure out a better way to know what is almost out of date instead of having to look at each coupon individually.

4.  It can all fit in your kitchen.  Wrong.  Solution:  I’m very lucky to have a pantry in the garage.  I’ve taken it over with my couponing treasures.  The funny thing is that it’s very organized.  Kind of hysterically so given the way the rest of my house usually looks.  But after my last big grocery trip where I spent $287 and saved $293 (which, btw, means they have to call a manager to override the sale — I know I’ve done GOOD if that happens!) I realized that we are SO ready for some crazy disaster.  We could live out of our house for easily a month. And much longer if all we needed to do was shower.  Granted, it would be a lot of pasta and soup, but hey — I’ve never complained about those foods!

5.  You can shop with your kids.  Wrong.  I have had people recommend that I send the kids off to find the different coupon items, but they just aren’t old enough yet.  I have taken them with me to Target a few times to coupon and we’ve been lucky to all escape alive, I tell ya.  Solution:  I’ve actually started going to the grocery store late at night (10pm last weekend) because I have the whole place to myself and I don’t feel guilty about Brent stuck home with the kids, etc.

6.  Buy if it’s on sale.  Wrong.  For me, I am not interested in “Extreme Couponing” where you have 100 tubes of toothpaste and you give them away to homeless people or whatever.  That’s nice for people who are into that, but it’s not my goal.  I have had a couple of situations (shampoo) where I just kept buying and buying and realized, heck, it’ll take us more than a year to use all this shampoo.  Solution:  That, to me, is a point where I need to stop.  The up side is that now I can just ignore all the shampoo coupons and shorten my clipping time.

7.  Organic couponing.  Rough.  There are definitely a lot of organic/natural companies who offer coupons for their items, but it’s very time-consuming to track them down.  You’ve got to go to each website individually and print their coupons each month.  There are a few places who specialize in organic couponing (Mambo Sprouts), but it’s not like there is an “organic foods insert” in your weekly newspaper.  So, it can definitely be done, but it’s harder work.  Solution:  Around here, Sprouts offers both sets of their weekly specials each Wednesday (the overlap day).  So that’s a great day to shop at Sprouts and take the few coupons you’ve been able to collect for those kinds of foods.

8.  Smaller food budget.  Wrong.  Or at least, so far.  There is no question I’m saving a TON, but it seems each time I go I find more great sales and so end up spending about the same amount of money.  What I am finding though is that with the full pantry, I’m able to start taking a week off of shopping entirely.  And if I go to the farmer’s market for all my fresh produce, I don’t need any staples — because they are already in the pantry!  Also, I know I’ve been spending a lot less on toiletry items because I now have enough of them to last us well into the summer.

Will add to this list as I think of more things, but that’s it for now.

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Head is still above water.  I wouldn’t say I’ve ARRIVED yet, but I’m managing to keep moving forward.  Laundry went a little better this week than last.  Slacked a bit on the water drinking, but not horribly.  Spent lots of time working out details with Brent last week.  Withdrew all our cash for envelopes on payday this week.

And the Brain Dump (#19) from One Bite at a Time was this week’s new task.  It was an interesting exercise.  Lately, I feel like so many of my thoughts end up flying out of my brain and into the stratosphere never to be heard of again.  The brain dump idea gives me a time/place (bedtime/in bed) to just sit and mull and write down everything that is on my mind that needs to be done.  I’ve never really been one to struggle falling asleep, but I feel an even greater peace laying my head down when I’ve sort of flopped everything out on the paper.

However, what I found was some frustration at what happened with the Brain Dump.  Which was…  nothing.  Because I don’t have a method for organizing that stuff, it just sat there in my notebook.  I did refer to it a couple times to see what I’d hoped to do, but that was about it.  SO, have decided to tackle #39 for this coming week:

Create a Daily To-Do List!!!

I absolutely love what she says about this:

“But I’d say the number one enemy of productivity in a mom’s life, especially when she has very small children at home, is trying to do too much.

Don’t get me wrong—we have more than tons to do, and I for one have never accomplished everything I’d ever needed to do in one day. But that’s the very reason why trying to do too much will set us up for failure. To put it bluntly, if we think we’ll successfully check off a 20-item to-do list within 24 hours, we’re kidding ourselves.”

SO true.  And as a Planner at heart, I love making lists but they invariably lead me to my number one nemesis:  FAILURE.  When I have a list of 903 things to do, I obviously will fail and that’s never good.

Tsh also mentions that she has tried every organizational system under the sun but that they are always too rigid.  I have found the same problem with all my lovely iPhone apps.  My most recent failures have related to setting LITERALLY about 23 alarm/reminders per day on my iPhone.  Instead of them helping to structure my day, they just become another thing that I basically hit “snooze” on.  Rather than being helped to keep a schedule, I find myself going to the app just to clear my overdue reminders.  FAILURE again.

The main suggestions that Tsh makes is to take your Brain Dump and pick 10 things to do.  And then choose three of those to make your MITS (most important tasks).  Then if all you get done is the three, you’ll still feel you accomplished the biggies.  And if you get to more or all of the 10, you’ll just feel like a genius!  And THAT’S what I like.

I’m going to dry her downloadable form this week and see how it works for me.  You can find it HERE if you wanna join me (there is the full Daily Docket and the Pocket Docket).

And so here we go.

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This last week went better but it’s getting tough keeping all the balls in the air.  In general, the 52 Bites aren’t things you do once.  They are tasks that you are attempting to incorporate into your everyday life.  So now, having completed week four, I should have four new weekly tasks that I’m maintaining.  At this point, since I doubled up one week, I should have:

1.  Envelope system – check

2.  Drink more water – check (and truly making a difference in my life, I think)

3.  Weekly meetings with your husband – check-ish (was done over dinner last night – I think better as a sit down just the two of us)

4.  Earlier bedtime – check-ish (somewhat successfully this week – probably 11pm, not quite back to 10:30pm as hoped)

5.  Eating my frog – check-ish (did better this week, but still can’t figure out when “first thing in the morning” is… is that really before my devotional time, before waking up the kids, before getting ready for the day?  Or is it the first thing I do once I’m home from taking Jake to school, which is often not til 11am after going to the gym…  I think it should probably be first thing after my devotional time — before waking the kids, but then that plays into #47: Wake up earlier, which I have NOT started yet.  So.  Like I said, check-ish.  Better than last week.)

So, will continue to work on these and add…. drumroll please…

#19:  Dump Your Brain

I think this is a perfect one for me to try this week because lately I just feel like I’m soooo full of info.  So full of things to do.  And I keep forgetting things too.  I’ve tried to use my iPhone app called Awesome Note, which I really like, but if I don’t take the time to set a “due date” and just throw the item in there, it tends to get buried and I forget about it.

The idea with dump your brain is to just get it all down on paper and then allow that paper to dictate your daily to-do list (#39).  I know we all try so hard to be paperless and to just use our gadgets, but maybe sometimes, the ole paper and pen is the best.  I think I must have already been feeling this way because I purchased this cool notebook at the end of December.

I decided to use it for everything — my morning devotionals, all the “getting kicked out of the Navy ERB” note taking, my notes for my Weight Watchers training, meal planning…  Everything.  I like it because it has a date you can circle at the top which allows me to feel a bit of organization.

She mentions that some people could do this in the morning, but that she’s too sleepy then.  I think I agree that doing it just before bed is best for me.  Dump all the info and then maybe organize it a bit in the morning to get an idea of things to do that day.  SO.  Will give that a shot this week.

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I wrote about the book, One Bite at a Time HERE and I wanted to update my progress:

Week 1: #48 – Using an Envelope system.

This was an easy one for me (and it was the last day of the week when I started) because we already do this (thanks, Dave Ramsey!).  I don’t do traditional envelopes, I actually have this fancy app for my iPhone called, amazingly, Envelopes. I withdraw all our cash on payday and subtract on my phone as I go.  Highly, HIGHLY recommend.

Week 2: #34 – Drink more water.  

I did some reading and it seems that 2 liters is the rule of thumb for women (not counting water you need if you exercise).  So I figured out that our Juicy Juice bottles are 64 oz (nearly 2 liters) and so I’m filling one of those each morning and trying to finish it by around lunchtime.  That way, anything beyond that just puts me over the 2 liter mark.

It’s gone really well this week and I think some of the brain-fog I’ve been experiencing was reduced this week.  Last night is the first time I finished the bottle right before bed.  So, on the whole a successful week.

This next week I’m going to go ahead and attempt… wait for it…  TWO new ideas.  I know, pick yourself off the floor.  I figure that eventually there will be a week I’ll flake on, so if I can get a bit ahead, that will be ok. And I’m really needing these next two so…

Week 3: #1 – Eating your Frog & #40  Plan Weekly Meetings with your Spouse.

Eating your frog relates to doing the thing you most dread first each day so that it’s a cake walk from there on out.  I have been thinking for the last three weeks — wondering what my frog is…  And I couldn’t figure out.  I mean, there are MANY MANY things I hate to do — how do I pick just one?  But then it hit me.  What is the thing that just never GETS done.  That would clearly win the prize as the thing I hated the most, right?

So I looked around the house and it was crystal clear from the piles of CLEAN clothes on every possible surface — on my bed (placed there in the morning with the HOPES they will magically fold themselves, but by 11pm must be moved into some sort of other container so I can sleep), in every possible basket shaped vessel available in the house, in a pile on the couch, in overflowing baskets in front of the dryer…  I don’t mind DOING the laundry.  I don’t mind starting the washer and moving things to the dryer.  What I hate is FOLDING AND PUTTING AWAY clothes.  SO.  That’s my frog.

Before I came in to do breakfast this morning, I folded 3 big baskets of clothes.  Last month, I had put little signs in the boys rooms on their shelves (to indicate short/long pants, short/long-sleeved shirts, underwear, pjs, socks) and had taught them how to put their own clothes away, so once I folded this morning, they came and put things away.  Granted, I didn’t put my OWN clothes away, but that is because of THIS project I started yesterday (refinishing my grandparent’s dresser).

And as for #40, Brent and I had a very busy week last week and this week isn’t looking much better.  We “missed” each other quite a bit — forgetting to fill the other in on appointments/meetings and just didn’t get to touch base much.  So, I think a weekly meeting is a great idea and I hope we can work it into being a habit quickly.  We will start tonight after my Weight Watchers training.

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Trying Again

It’s the end of the first week of the new year.  I don’t like New Year’s resolutions because it seems to me, that they are all about failure.

But last year about this time I decided to lose weight.  And I actually did.  So I figure I’ll give it another shot this year.

Two resolutions:

1.  ORGANIZATION by way of my friend, Karen, who is a GENIUS at organizing her home and making cute stuff HERE.  And by using a book recommended by my friend, Heather, who blogs over HERE.  The book is called A Bite At A Time: 52 Projects for Making Life Simpler.  It’s available HERE ($4 if you use the HAPPYNEWYEAR code) for download.

2.  BLOG again.  When I look back on the two years I blogged in Okinawa, describing our daily life and milestones for the kids, I’m so proud of that record.  And simultaneously, sad/depressed/guilt-ridden that I haven’t kept that up here.  It’s such a fabulous documentation of our life.  I’m not a big scrapbooker (though I tried once, and even sold Creative Memories for a short unsuccessful bit of time), so this is my scrapbook.  I’m not going to expect a full turn around, but will try to get back to at least one post a week.


Random thing from this week.

I’m in love with the back of my daughter’s neck.  So when we went for another haircut this week I made sure they cut up the back a bit higher so we could all enjoy it more.  Is that weird?  And what is that area called?  I know you’ve got the “waddle” in front of the neck, but what is it called in the back?  Where the tendons run around the midline?  Anyone??

Am I right?  Is it fabulous?

On other fronts, the tree is still up.  Good thing I buy real ones.  That way they eventually HAVE to come down or surely the house will burn down.  Right?  Please tell me I’m right!

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Dress Up Princess Party

Jake is at a birthday party without me for the first time right now.  One of his friends from preschool is having a princess party, but Jake was invited along with the other girls.  Her mom told me all the girls were dressing up and that Jake could too if he wanted.  This is the outfit he came up with this morning:

He was so proud of himself.  And so was I.

But after I dropped him off I got to thinking that his outfit is exactly how I feel these days.  A bit “fish out of water.”  Like maybe I showed up for the wrong party or I am not quite at the right address or I didn’t read the invitation well.

Last night my mom mentioned that she hasn’t seen me on FB in awhile and that I need to post new pix of Kira.  She’s right and I think something is happening to my brain.  The only way I can describe it is as a tunnel.  Like my normally broad multi-tasking mind has narrowed to go through the PCS tunnel.  And anything extraneous to said move is being filtered out to the side.

So my focus of late is all about organization.  (Not that you could tell if you could see my living room at the moment.) Tuesday night was our last house buying class and a short date night (curry at Coco’s — crossing that off the list of last places to eat on island) and a lot of discussion about money and moving and budgeting.  I spent Wednesday afternoon spraying and wiping and scrubbing out the containers I had out back for planting — no sense in leaving those behind cuz they are relatively expensive to replace.  I spent Wednesday night organizing my Creative Memories products because I have a few people interested in buying my old stuff (at 50% off if you wanna give me a holler!).  Course now the boxes of CM stuff are filling the corner of our living room.  Thursday night was all about getting ready for our final photo shoot on Okinawa — with the sakura (cherry blossoms).  And yesterday I sold some of the scrapbooking stuff and then headed off to smile, smile, smile for the camera.

I feel like I need special equipment to gaze into this tunnel of PCSing.  Maybe I need to borrow Jake’s outfit to survive it all.

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On the first of January I was shocked out of my laissez-faire attitude towards moving with the arrival of an email from NAS Whidbey Island which began:

“It’s approximately 90 days until your PCS date and you are probably starting to plan your move.”


I’ve been saying all along that we’d be moving in April or May.  But since orders hadn’t (and haven’t) come through yet, I just kept sort of bee-bopping along.  Happy with our life as it is and assuming the future would unfold in a timely manner.

I don’t know about you, but NINETY DAYS is no kind of “timely” as far as I’m concerned.

It was about 9pm when I received the email and I’d been getting ready to go to bed (having stayed up until the ungodly hour of 1am the night before to watch the bell get donged again and again and again (and 105 more agains) in Japan).  BUT, when the email came in, my heart started racing and my mind began to whirl around like a dervish (btw, did you ever see the Amazing Race where we got to actually find out what the heck a whirling dervish is???).  I spent the next 3 hours making lists that go something like:

January Week 1:  Loose my mind.

January Week 2:  Find mind and make it write lists.



All of this brought to mind the fun of sitting down with Brent, having just gotten engaged, and typing our wedding date into TheKnot.com.  In the upper left hand corner of the screen, a cute little boxed popped up that said, “88 days til the big day!”  And then when I clicked on the “Calendar of Things to Do” I was like six months behind on things I was supposed to have done in order to be allowed to get married.  Sigh.

But, the big day DID come 88 days later, and all was perfect.  So.  BIG BREATH.

I haven’t actually done any of the January Week One things yet, but I did get a bee in my bonnet about the boxes and boxes and boxes (and add 105 more here) of kid’s clothes we seem to have upstairs.  Rumor has it that there are a couple shops around that buy good kid’s clothes.  And being the Dave Ramsey devotee that I am, I intend to “sell so much, the kids think they’re next…”  So I now have 2 boxes to try to sell, and 3 boxes that I will attempt to take to the flea market.

Unfortunately, I hate flea markets.  I hate that I’ve already discounted these things down WAY past what they are worth but you STILL try to offer me half the price.  So I’ve been thinking that I’m going to decide EVERYTHING is 100 yen ($1) but say it’s 200 yen.  That way, I can come down a ton and still get more than I wanted.  I’m hoping to visit Camp Courtney’s flea market this weekend and then take stuff to sell in two weeks.  Will keep you posted.

But the count is on.

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