Addendum to The Far Side of Crazy

January 14th, 2018

Did anyone notice that one of the most indispensable parts of my job was left out of THIS POST?  Anyone who was looking for it wouldn’t have found time for planning logistics in the schedule I described.  When does it happen if I have easily two days’ worth of desk work (planning, organizing, researching, answering emails, phone calls, paperwork, other writing, etc.) each week but only about three free hours on a Thursday evening that is not during business hours and was really intended to be…well…a night off?  You know, time for emailing a friend back or having a friend for tea, time for reading, time for personal writing projects?

How do I as mom manage to stay on top of the complexity that is our family’s normal life?   Or what happens when I don’t?  Notice I didn’t say, “If I don’t.”  Let’s just say we hear the sound of more and more balls chaotically dropping around us!  During those increasingly stressful time periods, I’m happy if I remember a detail at least thirty seconds before it’s too late, I have shown up for appointments that have been canceled, forgotten people’s Christmas gifts, scrambled at the last minute due to forgetting I wouldn’t have a vehicle, taken months longer than necessary to fill out paperwork, and am chronically late.  Oh, how this list could go on.  Not a good way to live.  I’m a naturally organized person who needs a stable foundation under my life to help balance out my equally strong propensity to being a rather impulsive “I have an idea!” person who doesn’t like any two days to have to be the same.  I like to be organized enough to buy us the freedom to be spontaneous and creative.

Regardless, a family like ours has to have a decent grip on life in order to simply accomplish the basics.  However, the challenge for me and many other moms of super-sized homeschooling families that include multiple children with high needs is the extremely limited time we have for organizing the logistics that enable it all to work.

We plan one day a month for Joe to take the children on a field trip, so once a month I have the five hours between 9 am (Verity on the bus) and 2:15 pm (Katie off the bus) for all necessary catch-up work, including physical organizational tasks such as messy storage areas.  When I’m so far behind that the situation is growing dire, I tend to fall back on either taking half days of homeschooling as “teacher in-service” or doing what I did this weekend.  Since our time for homeschooling is already severely restricted and constantly jeopardized by interruptions, I hate to take more time away from it.  If a friend comes to help with the homeschooling for a few hours, I disappear with the phone and to-do list faster than you can blink!  But outside help is a luxury here, and not to be depended on, as a rule.

What did I do this weekend?  Yesterday, I jumped at the chance for a desk work marathon, the benefits of which will ameliorate the relatively minor collateral damage caused by losing sleep and essentially disappearing from the family life for a day!  Mindy calls this “being “hermit-y,” and it only works because Joe and I are a team and he can see the gravity of the situation as well as I can.

I got fourteen hours of desk work done between 4 o’clock yesterday (Saturday) evening and 12 noon today, Sunday.  The other six hours out of the twenty were comprised of one hour of caring for Katie, one hour of reading to the middle kids, and four hours of sleep.  Now I’m stopping to tell you about it, which is a sure sign that I’m feeling relatively caught up.  Ha!  Tomorrow morning, I hope to knock a bunch of phone calls off my list, since we’re taking a break from homeschooling while the three girls are off school.

And…!  Because it’s a holiday weekend, I can go to bed after publishing this, and sleep until 7 rather than the usual 5 am!

In the longer term, Joe and I have agreed that the final two weeks before Christmas need to be proactively blocked off with no appointments as much as possible.  This was our first Christmas without Laura’s help; I was going on four to five hours of sleep per night those last two weeks, and it still wasn’t enough to keep us from falling far behind.  Very stressful.  Not good.  Also preventable.

In short, if we want a healthy family, I have to run our logistics like a competent professional.  It’s just part of my job.

 

My planning place hasn’t looked this tidy for a looooong time.  It wasn’t what you’d call fun getting there, but it was worthwhile.

 

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Our 2018 calendar is now filled in with great detail into June.  I highlighted all the dates that are no longer open.  We have a few open days remaining each month, always nice to see.  I counted them.  Five in January, six in February, seven in March, eight in April, four in May, and seven in June.  However, I still have to set up all the annual medical appointments, so…less impressive.

Under the calendar lie all pages that are related, such as schedules from the girls’ schools, the church calendar, et cetera, even though I’ve transferred the info to our calendar.

 

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My weekly planner sheet for the upcoming week.  After last night’s work, the planner sheets for the following five weeks are also filled out in great detail, stacked underneath this one.  I only planned the menu for the next two weeks, though.  My weekly planner carries all the reminders I must heed in order to reduce errors and stressors that have been commonplace here–prompts to write checks, thaw meat, or have specific children lay out their clothes, shoes, and coats the evening before they have an appointment.  My oldest son Joseph made these sheets for me many years ago according to my description; we just print a six month supply at a time.  We save our family calendars each year, but I toss these planner sheets in the trash at the end of the week.

 

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A less detailed run-down of the week’s planned activities is transferred to the giant glass whiteboard at the end of our living room.  We are all dependent on this whiteboard!  Sorry so grainy; I didn’t take the photo until dusk was touching the eastern sky.

 

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You may have seen the stack of folders to the right of my desk in the top photo.  There are eight folders for organizing papers I currently need.  When I don’t need them anymore, they are either filed away or tossed out.

The top three hold homeschooling records.

 

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These hold papers related to the diagnoses of each child that I might need to have handy over the next six months or so.  The folder on the bottom holds information about the child we sponsor.

 

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I want to fill out that pocket calendar after making the rest of the annual medical appointments.  I’ve never used a pocket calendar; I’ve always told them I’ll make the appointment after returning home.  But with my trouble getting to phone calls, this might be a smarter method.

The index cards sit there to remind me to fill out Thankful Cards when God shows us that He’s taking care of us.  The purple sticky note lists the annual specialist and other medical appointments I must make, hopefully tomorrow.

To avoid losing the books I’m currently reading to the children, they stay on my desk in between times.  I’m also reading two books to Josie, but they don’t disappear from her desk, so they wait down there.

 

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I had the grocery list up here while working on the menu planning for the next two weeks.  Under that is a large stack of paperwork that must be filled out for Josie to attend Aaron’s Acres this summer!

Last but not least, the current To-Do list on the left.  The first ten items are phone calls.  You know what I think when I look at that list?

“Hmmmm.  I wonder what I forgot to write down?”

As long as I remember it at least thirty seconds before it’s too late.  <grin>

 

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9 Responses to “Addendum to The Far Side of Crazy”

  1. Suvilla says:

    Wow Susanna, I thought my life was very full and busy……..I enjoyed catching up on your blog.
    You have been an inspiration to me many times already.
    Many blessingsto you💗 Suvilla

  2. Julie R. says:

    Suzanna, I so admire your dedication to keeping your home running smoothly. I know you run a tight budget as well, but one thought regarding filling out your pocket calendar … if you have a phone / device / iPad that takes photos, take a picture of your calendar before those major appointments. Then when it’s time to make the appointment you can consult the picture you took. I’ve been slow to learn that this takes much less time than copying redundant information. Hope this helps! God bless your bundle! Julie in central Illinois

  3. Marcia Hendrix says:

    Hi Susanna – I have been reading your blog for quite some time now and enjoy your updates! You certainly “run” a smooth home and your children always look so happy and loved! I have a quick question – I am no longer able to see Patti Rice’s blog – (I think I found your blog through hers!) Do you know how I can ask if I may view her blog? I appreciate your help! Marcia from Minnesota

  4. Susanna says:

    Oh!! Julie!! This is a WONDERFUL idea!! Thank you so much!! (By the way, Joe was elected to the SMI board for another 3 year term again, so he and the twins plan to head out your way soon! :) )

  5. Susanna says:

    Marcia, I’ll text Patti and ask her, and will email you with her response. I removed your email address from your comment for your privacy’s sake. But I’ve got it now. :)

  6. Marcia Hendrix says:

    Thank you so much – Susanna!

  7. Katie says:

    Thank you so much for taking the time to share your life with us! I relate soooo much to the balls falling all around. I don’t have as many in the air with seven children and only one with special medical needs (born at 26 weeks and now is 1 year old). I am horrible at making phone calls (who has a quiet moment in a homeschooling household?)! With our youngest having a lot of medical appointments I have started always making the appointment before we leave. I use the calendar in my iPhone for all our family calendar stuff so I can enter the doctor appointment in right then and can see what openings we have. The nice thing is that my husband gets a notification whenever a change has been made to the calendar so he can see what we have coming up also. It does take a bit of time to enter schedules, but I can do it one handed while holding a baby :). I am still trying to carve out a regular planning time each week 😬…lots of just scraping by lately!

  8. Marcia Hendrix says:

    Sorry to bother you again, Susanna…any word from Patti Rice on allowing me to see her blog again?

    Thank you in advance!

    Marcia Hendrix

  9. Susanna says:

    I’m so sorry for forgetting to get back to you, Marcia! So glad you bugged me about it–I definitely need that! She said that she hasn’t blogged since last May and plans to re-open the blog when she begins blogging again. She also said you are welcome to follow her on Instagram if you want to. I’ll email you her IG name right now while it’s still on my mind. :)

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