Miscellaneous budget and spending deep dive
Hello, September!

August coffee date

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I'm sipping iced coffee from a small mason jar and thinking about how tired I am of being hot. Earlier this week, as I wrote in my line-a-day journal, I looked ahead to what was happening this time last year and the year before that, and then looked ahead a few weeks, as I always do. By the end of September I start to remark on the cool-ish mornings so that gives me hope. One more month of terrible heat, plus humidity this time of year, and then we should be past the worst of it.

But in better news, lately we've had some really sweet family afternoons. A few days in particular stand out. During one, Chris and I took all three kids to the trampoline park and it was much less crowded than usual. We had so much fun watching the kids and then playing a family game of dodge ball. The next day we took everyone to the library (even though initially there were many grumbles from the tween) and then out for ice cream. Earlier this month our school hosted a family bingo night and we all had fun (and everyone won at least one game except Chris, poor guy!). On these days I felt the tide of parenting work recede and I found myself thinking, "Hey, look at all these awesome people we made and that we love to hang out with!" What a delight.


Also a delight in August were the two trips I took: to Portland and then to Sedona with my book club. Both trips were fun and restorative on a deep level. A few gifts of these trips were being with a dear friend during new motherhood; paddling a kayak with seven other members of my book club while we talked and laughed; tapping on a typewriter; having deep conversations with book club friends, some of which brought tears, and then having a dance party together; sleeping past 6 a.m. (!!) and starting my day in a quiet house with hot coffee, a book or my computer, and a baked good.

A recent fall Girl Next Door Podcast planning session with Erica is tugging my thoughts towards fall. September through the new year is always our favorite season of the podcast with episodes on back to school, routines, Fall Extravaganza (of course), holiday content, and then reflections on the past year and looking ahead to the next. Just talking through it all felt familiar and cozy.

In my Hello, August! post I posed some questions to myself that I hoped would help me find routine and rhythms. I thought I would revisit those and share my reflections so far:

+ How can I lean into the work I'm already doing well?

Two things that help me: blocking my days to focus on one main task (like writing, podcasting, or home admin tasks); and starting the week with a thoughtful to-do list, which I make in my Intentions for the Week notebook. For a while I've made Monday a writing day for blog writing and related tasks. Tuesday is a podcast day, when Erica and I record but also when I edit episodes, prep outlines, and tend to podcast admin work. Now that I have more work time I could set additional writing or podcast time on other days.

+ Where do I want to explore different or more work?

Something I'm exploring is teaching online university classes part time. I've found some positions that could be a good fit. Although they won't be hiring until the spring I put in the work to update my resume, write cover letters, and apply. We'll see...

I'm also percolating how to expand my writing work, such as developing an online workshop that I would write and offer. Erica and I talk about ways we could expand our podcast work and earnings as we have time.

+ What rhythm do I want for my week days, when I want to accomplish podcast and writing work but also tend to housework?

At the end of each week I want to feel that I put in enough time that I made progress in my writing and podcasting. I'd like for this to look like publishing at least one blog post each week and to be completely caught up on podcast work like editing episodes and prepping ahead for  the next one. From there I can set new benchmarks for how much content I can produce weekly.

As for housework, this is something I think about a lot. A tidy house is very important to me and it's the environment I work best in. There is always housework and related tasks to be done. Which makes it easy to spend time on housework which feels productive (and is!) but then ultimately I feel bummed that I didn't make progress on the work that matters the most to me. Plus, we're not sending Maeve to preschool so that I can clean the house all day. So how to balance having a clean house that I enjoy working in while not spending too much time cleaning. The best balance I've found is trying to do some tidying tasks every day, usually right after the kids get off to school, but keeping housework on the bookends of my work day. This can look like putting dishes in the dishwasher and setting it to run, folding a load of laundry, or setting our robot vacuum to run.

On a somewhat daily basis I try to: run our robot vacuum (his name is Butler, by the way) in at least one room, do a load of laundry from start to finish, and sometimes tackle one bigger task like changing the sheets on a bed or power cleaning a bathroom. We do have the house professionally cleaned once a month and I should also say that Chris does a ton of housework too. So between the two of us we're generally able to stay on top of things. Although Thursday house still gets us many weeks.

+ How can I best transition from my work day into after-school-mom mode?

I've found that I really need to wind down my work day around 2 p.m., or about an hour before school is out. In that last hour I might do some tidying tasks, start to prep dinner things, or prep an after-school snack. Anything to transition our of work mode into home/mom mode. If I try to work until the boys burst through the door, all sweaty and hungry, then the transition feels very jarring. Around 2 p.m. I often wish I had just a couple more hours to work, but know that I'll get more time the next day.

+ What after-school snacks are the kids into that we should keep on hand? (Preferences seem to change often...)

Currently in successful rotation is microwave popcorn (I like this simply salted kind), chips and salsa (have you discovered Mateo's yet? It's the best I've had and as a native Texan I speak from experience), and apples or a banana with peanut butter.

+ What easy, healthy lunches would I enjoy making for myself?

Honestly I really don't enjoy making myself lunch – I don't like taking the time out of my day – so I should revise the question to "what easy, healthy lunches are least annoying to make for myself?" (Haha.)  A few things I like, and I should make them more routine, are a baked sweet potato with butter and salt (baked ahead of time and waiting in the fridge), half of a bag salad kit, or a snacky lunch like cheese, crackers, maybe a crunchy veggie, and a pecan pie energy bite.

230904_Augcoffeedate_dinnerprepI can put all of this out in the morning and it gives me a head start on dinner.

+ What enables dinner prep to be done before the kids get home from school?

Knowing what's for dinner always helps. And usually we do because I meal plan every week. Anything I can do ahead of time helps overcome inertia and make dinner, from gathering ingredients to chopping veggies, and even filling a pot with water and setting it on the stove if we're having pasta. If I can do those things while I'm tidying in the morning that is great, or I can use my transition hour for dinner prep.

In the last photo you're seeing the toddler snack of cereal with cheese Maeve insisted she must have. You can guess how much she ate of it.

+ What after-school activities will engage Maeve during the heat? In about a month we can play at the park after school which will be great. But until then the afternoons can drag on!

Having a membership for all three kids to a nearby trampoline park has been the best investment for this time of year. Maeve has become much more confident and now bounces as we watch (at first we had to hold her nearly the whole time). The library is usually a hit. Other than that we're playing at home and honestly Chris is her favorite afternoon playmate lately so he's done a lot of the toddler entertaining.

+ When can Chris and I reliably find weekday coffee dates and day dates now that all the kids are at school full time (!)?

A huge perk of my new schedule is spending more time with Chris, who works from home 98% of the time and has a very flexible schedule. Sometimes we'll go work at a coffee shop together, or just run an errand together, and recently even fit in a work out together. For Chris's upcoming birthday we have a Friday day-date planned.


If you're settling into a new school or work routine I'd love to hear what's working well and what's challenging.