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Mom Midterms

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The school year is bit more than half over so it’s time for midterms. If you recall, back in August I spent some time plotting out my back-to-school plans for staying sane. It occurred to me the other night as I was [spoiler alert!] packing school lunches, that I may actually be sticking to my resolutions. Go to the head of the class, Marlow! It got me thinking about my overall performance so today I made myself a report card.

Midterm report card

Use forgotten routine chart – Incomplete. In a recent kitchen cleanup inspired by Apartment Therapy’s January Cure I took down my old routine chart altogether. I had high hopes for that thing but in practice it was never terribly helpful – the kids didn’t consider Mommy-freaks-out-because-we’re-late-again as an occurrence that is of any consequence to them, evidently. I’ve moved on.

Enforce weekday policies – Meets expectations. After a few months of enforcing homework time at 4:30pm it has become status quo – almost no grumbling!  And as for electronics limits, iPods are taken on Monday morning and returned to the eager little tech addicts on Friday afternoon.  As expected, lots of grumbling over this one but it’s the right thing to do.  I still allow Wii during the week but typically only after homework is complete, the dinner table is cleared, and kids are ready for the next day. (Leverage.)

Stocking the freezer – Needs improvement. I started off strong. I had multiple slow-cooker meals pre-assembled in gallon-sized ziplocs for goodness sake. But now I have a patchy supply of muffins, and actual meals…not so much. It’s not as if I can’t see the upside – after all, scrambling to make dinner at 5:45 after work each night is not so fun. Maybe I just need a study guide: I plan to check out the Cook’s Illustrated Make Ahead cookbook from the library and see if new recipes will motivate me.

Night-before tasks – Exceeds Expectations. I was failing at this one until I started attending to my night-before tasks (lunches, coffee maker setup) while preparing or cleaning up from dinner. (For you lunch-packing pros this probably seems obvious, but I used to return to the kitchen to make lunches at 10pm, like a dummy.) It also helps that we’ve gotten into a groove with lunch selections (see below). I now dream of creating some kind of lunch-packing station like I Heart Organizing did here. For extra credit, perhaps.

Meal planning – Meets expectations. I’ve been dinner planning as usual but I’m pleased to report that lunch planning has been going fairly well too.  8yo N completes his personalized lunch menu over the weekend (I’ll have to show it to you sometime..) so it hasn’t been such a struggle at packing time. 6yo A couldn’t get into selecting from a menu and she prefers surprises anyway, so now we have a list of her preferred foods and I just throw an assortment into her bento-style lunchbox.

So that was my parent-parent conference. Did you have school year resolutions?  Do a self-check – there’s still plenty of time to bring up your grades. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have lunches to pack.

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I’ve been going on and on about meal planning lately (see here and here and here), so today, a departure to explore another favorite topic of mine: my to-do list. More specifically, my to-do list app.

I’m a bit of a list-making app slut, a regular in the Productivity section of the App Store. I install a different one every week, give it a spin, think to myself, “this is the one!”… but invariably I start to feel disillusioned, uninspired, and disappointed, and it’s on to the next. There’s nothing wrong with these discarded apps – they all deliver their features as advertised, but somehow they were not helping me become the ultimate effectiveness champion of my dreams. (I’m such a nerd.)

Because, here’s the thing: it’s not all about the app. Fancy bells and whistles and a sleek interface can’t make up for complacency, forgetfulness or laziness. Furthermore, you need a good system for staying on top of your to-do list – a routine for adding tasks to it, a consistent method for checking it, and a commitment to actually getting the stuff done. And the features and the logic of the app have to click with your personal organizational style, or it’s useless. And so I’ve been really pleased the past few weeks to have found a new app that works for me.

I think it’s the one. It gets me, you know?

I’d like to introduce you to the object of my app affections. for iPhone for iPhone


Cost: Free! (How are all of these things free?! I don’t get it.)

Favorite features:

1. This is a nice looking app. It’s sleek and designy and I love the whole aesthetic of it. It shouldn’t really matter, but it does. I’m more motivated to use something that adds beauty to my day.

2. Like most to-do apps, adding a task is intuitive and quick. Auto-fill options show up for you to speed up your entries but they don’t automatically populate, which would be annoying. It links to your Contacts so if “Call Lauren” is the to-do, you can click right there to call. The voice entry feature is great too – I’ve used it several times. One of the best effectiveness tips is to get in the habit of writing something on your to-do list the moment it comes into your mind. A speedy and streamlined interface is key for this.

3. I like that it guides me to think in terms of “Today”, “Tomorrow”, “Upcoming” or “Someday”. You can also enter a task onto a specific date, of course, but for many of my tasks (e.g., make hair appointment, buy anniversary gift, pay credit card bill) I think more in terms of “am I going to get this done today or tomorrow?” Today tasks that aren’t completed will show up again tomorrow. Upcoming tasks are set automatically for a week from now. You can also organize by folders instead of by timing, for instance one folder for house renovation tasks, one for birthday party plans, etc., but I prefer to organize my thoughts around when I’ll get something done.

4. For any task you can set a pop-up reminder for a particular time. This sounds like a feature that any self-respecting to-do app would have, but alas, the last one I used had no notifications! It was madness, I tell you.

5. The absolute best feature of this app – the feature that, I think, makes it the perfect app for me personally – is its “ Moment”. Once a day, will prompt you to “take a moment to plan your day.” I have this set for 7am. Anyway, you click on it, and it brings up, one at a time, each task that is in the “Today” category and you are prompted to decide if it stays on today’s list, at which point you can choose to set a reminder pop-up if desired. Or, you can decide, based on a realistic assessment of your day ahead, that you can or should move it to “later”, at which point you’re prompted to decide if it’s something for tomorrow, or in 2 days, or next week. When you’ve gone through all of the items that had been scheduled for “today”, it sounds a congratulatory tone and you see a motivational phrase on the screen, for example, “Like a Boss!” and “Today is the day!” It may sound hokey but I love it!

This feature solves the problem that has always plagued me, ever since I gave up paper lists in favor of the touchscreen variety: I forget to look at my lists! I’m soooo organized right up until when I have to actually do something, and then, oops. That was today? The Moment has helped me close the loop.

Anyone have an amazing productivity app they want to share with me? I mean, is perfect for me… right now… but let’s face it, at the end of the day I’m probably not a one to-do list app type of gal. 😉

The Meals – Week 2

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Last week, I described the method behind my meal planning madness. And, here is this week’s menu along with some notes. I could not get links to work in this chart image, so if you want the steak fajita marinade recipe, click here. For the bean and rice cakes, here you go. Enjoy the final days of August, my friends!

menu image

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