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MidAge Mom is for women who are parenting in midlife rather than celebrating the empty nest on a beach in Bali . . .

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Archive for the ‘Organizing Tips’ Category

Mommy Marathon: 7 Tips to Survive the Big School Field Trip

Midlife is a time when some people start settling into their easy chairs.

But not you, Mama.

Oh, the places you’ll go! Marathon field trips, distant tournaments – raising children doesn’t leave much down time.

No Room for Slackers

Take my recent trip to Washington, D.C. with my daughter’s fifth grade class for five days.

Just looking at the first day of the itinerary made me cringe: meet at the airport at 6:15 a.m., fly to Washington, tour the National Archives and Arlington National Cemetery, travel by bus to Williamsburg, Virginia, check in to hotel at 9 p.m.

Did I mention that I’m not a morning person? That fluctuating hormones sometimes make me unsteady? That I love people but need time alone?

I’m also the oldest mom in the class. Some parents 15 years younger than me gasped when they saw the schedule.

Strategies for the Road

But this was my fourth overnight school field trip. Last year we toured St. Augustine, Florida in a heat wave. So by now I’ve learned a few things. May these tips benefit you:

Wear Good Shoes: Comfort, not fashion is the name of the game. Prepare to walk miles. My men’s black, construction-worker Eccos are so ugly. But they saved me. Wear the wrong shoes and you will die. I have leg issues so my knee-high compression stockings were also a lifesaver.

Travel Light: Some of us are a bit attached to our purses. But you will carry that handbag for miles. So lighten it up. I also brought two nylon cloth bags to tote rain gear, use instead of my big purse, and distribute weight.

Carry Food: All that walking can make you ravenous and your child may need a boost too. Almonds, an energy bar and muffins stashed from breakfast got us through.

Expect Miracles: Commit and the universe really will support you. How else to explain Starbucks appearing in Williamsburg as my energy waned? That iced coffee was a gift from the Gods.

Connect: The school trip is a great opportunity to get to know other parents. Take advantage. Ask more experienced moms how they survived their teens’ high school years. Learn how the single mom manages. Talk up that dad you don’t know. The laughs and conversations will carry you.

• Take Time-Outs: Free time is as rare as gold on these trips and just as precious. Spend it with care. I took a hot bath one night instead of dining with other parents. The pack keeps moving but you can unplug.

• Let Go: Guess what? A forced march is more relaxing than arguing about homework and rushing to orthodontist appointments. We mommy managers loved following the tour guide around. No decisions to make! No cooking! No carpool! Sit back and enjoy the ride!

Silver Linings

So I really enjoyed the trip. Touring Washington and Williamsburg with my daughter was unforgettable. We even got to see President Obama board his helicopter at close range. And our picture appeared in The New York Times! Check out my Facebook Page to see it.

And who knew? Migraines, bad backs, shaky knees – younger parents have issues too. I ended up giving ibuprofen to an adult seven years my junior. These field trips aren’t that easy for anybody. As a result, completing one as an older mom provides a special sense of accomplishment.

So if you have such a trip scheduled, take heart. You can do more than you think you can, dear midlife mom.

And you will.

***

How about you? Been on any marathon trips lately? Did you have fun or are you still recovering? Please comment below!

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Photo Credit © Latsun/Dreamstime.com


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Hey Smart Mom, What’s On Your Smartphone? 4 Apps You’ll Love

A good smartphone application can make a midlife mom’s life easier, more productive and even more fun.

So, what’s on your smartphone? Which applications, or apps, help you as a busy mother?

Below are a few favorites on my iPhone. All have free versions and are easy to use:

Evernote

Use Evernote to save and organize notes from text, web pages, photos and screenshots. The app lets you access them from your phone.

The notes are stored in the cloud on Evernote’s servers. They’re indexed and searchable.

Snap a picture of a business card with your phone. Then find it by searching the contact’s information. You can also email the notes. Can your tween do this?

Gone are the days of scrounging in my purse for a tattered shopping list that includes last month’s class cupcakes. My shopping lists are now on Evernote. I update them easily from my phone or computer.

Instapaper

So much information. Never enough computer time. What’s a mom to do?

Save articles on the web for later reading with Instapaper.

This application installs a “read later” button on your computer’s browser. Click the button when you find something interesting on the web and Instapaper stores a copy of the article in your account.

The app lets you access the articles later on your phone in a clean, easy-to-read format. You can also forward links or long emails to your Instapaper account.

With Instapaper, you can set up a library of material to read on the go. It’s especially useful for long articles. Some of us still read long articles, right?

Never be bored waiting at the orthodontist’s office again!

Dictionary.com

Yikes – some 5th grade vocabulary words leave me stumped! Do you know the meaning of “emend?”

Download Dictionary.com, hand your child the phone and make dinner in peace rather then be drilled on vocabulary you don’t know or have forgotten.

Or access it on the sly and preserve your status as an intelligent mom.

Alas, It is too late for me.

Lose It!

Studies show that people who write down what they eat lose weight.

But who can carry a notebook and calorie counter around – especially when you’re toting small fry’s stuff?

With Lose It you can set weight-loss goals and a calorie budget and meet them by tracking food and exercise on your phone.

Lose It’s database is comprehensive and includes meals from popular restaurants. You can also create foods and exercises and add recipes. Entering info is easy and fast.

If you set up a LoseIt.com account on the web, you can view reports on your progress and have them regularly emailed to you.

The only problem: you have to use it to lose it.

It’s best to log food right after eating. By the time you’re preparing the next meal the last one is ancient history. Did you eat it? Did they eat it? Did you give it to the dog? Who knows?

***

So that’s my list. Please share what’s on yours!

Any cooking apps you love? Any phone camera apps you’d recommend? Any you use to track your children or amuse them?

Any that do dishes or laundry?

Midlife moms need to stay tech savvy, if for no other reason than to keep up with the kids. So I’ll be sharing more technology tips here.

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This post has been brought to you by a woman who learned to type on a manual typewriter. . .

Photo Credit © Anna Khomulo/Dreamstime.com

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Purge that Pile: 10 Steps to a Clean Desk

Time for a fresh start?

Happy New Year, Midlife Moms!

Did you make resolutions? I skipped them. This year they felt like they would only lengthen an already long to-do list.

I wanted to feel lighter, not heavier. So instead I cleaned out the big pile on my desk.

You know the pile. It’s brimming with work ideas, recipes, doctors’ appointment notes, letters, files, investment reports, articles, business cards and . . . who knows what?

That later question was bothering me. With relatives visiting and the kids out of school, I wasn’t going to write. It was the perfect time to tackle the pile.

My first realization: it wasn’t a pile of papers. It was a pile of decisions.

Should I read the mutual fund notice or pitch it – how actively did I want to manage my investments anyway? Was the article worth saving for a blog post – if so, how better to organize those ideas? Should I call the number on the business card for lunch or cut back on my social life to write more? Was I going to make stir-fry seven ways?

Yikes! Who wants to make all those decisions or say no to all those possibilities? But keeping a paper meant filing it, adding information to the computer or doing tasks it raised. No wonder we never get through our piles.

I picked up the first paper from the stack, put it down, picked it up again and stuck it in the bottom of the pile.

Paralysis.

*********

A day later, I realized there was only one way to a clean desk: most of the pile would have to go.

I trashed any information that could be found on the Internet. In rare cases, I saved the web version of clipped articles as PDFs on my computer. (See the tips below for how to do this.)

I turned notes into to-do items in my computer organizer program, setting them to appear under project lists but not on my daily list. (More on the wonders of Omnifocus in another post.)

With momentum, clarity emerged. That $20 Gameworks gift card? Forget it! You can’t get in and out of Gameworks for $20. I mailed it to GiftCardGiver.com, which donates cards to nonprofits.

But of course that was the easy part.

Ninety percent of the papers in the pile are neither urgent nor important. (See Stephen Covey’s Quadrant IV in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People .) That’s why dealing with the pile elicits such ambivalence; this stuff isn’t worth much time. Luckily though, once you get a little ruthless, you can dispense of most items quickly.

Another ten percent, however, aren’t urgent but are important and deserve attention. Take the speech therapist’s letter from September advising that my younger daughter start sessions again.

Ugh – four emails to fit it into the school day. A new expense. But are clear S’s important? I think so.

And then there is that one item that justifies the whole project.

And here I must ask: dear midlife mom, do you even know what is in your pile?

Some backstory. Last fall, after someone stole medical records, our health insurance company signed us up with Debix, an identity protection service. My husband had given me a stack of papers from Debix after he’d completed our registration.

Seeing nothing urgent, I put them in the pile. Reviewing them now led me to an old email from Debix flagging misuse of my daughter’s social security number. (The email inbox is overflowing too.) Debix advised that we contact them to initiate an investigation.

No wonder that pile always gave me a vague sense of foreboding.

Hello Debix! Happy New Year! This is Jennifer responding to your urgent alert from October! Better late than never?

A Virgo without resolutions is a woman in search of a mission. By New Year’s Eve, I’d become obsessed. The pile had to go. I skipped the party and plowed through papers. (Nursing a cold, I wasn’t feeling social anyway.)

Finally, on the first day of 2011 the pile was no more. Every last paper had been pitched, filed, turned into a to-do or completed.

It’s one thing to purge the playroom. But when you clean your desk, you give a gift to yourself. Since eliminating the pile, I feel squeaky clean, like I’d taken a ritual bath. I still have a lot to do. But now I know what it is.

My whole home office feels different. Indeed, in some strange way, my whole life feels different.

For under that pile of small possibilities lay a greater one: a promising expanse of clear, open space.

Results from Cleaning the Pile

I’m going to the BlogHer conference. (Funny how we forget interesting prospects we clip.)

I made a stir-fry the girls loved.

Both Grandmas got school pictures.

My computer files are better organized. My bookshelf has more space. (The pile’s tentacles lead you to purge other places.)

I tossed several business cards but emailed an old friend for dinner.

My daughter starts speech therapy next week.

Debix is investigating our case.

Tips to Eliminate the Pile

Find the right moment. Take on the pile when you have a virus, houseguests or kids home from school. It’s mostly brain-dead work. But on those days, tackling it can feel like a real accomplishment.

Make a conscious decision to pitch most of the pile. Toss the easy stuff first.

Do it bit by bit. I busted my pile over several days in between other activities. That kept the project from feeling overwhelming.

Give away anything that will cost you money to use. Toss coupons for stores you don’t normally patronize.

Throw out most articles you can find on the Internet.

Turn important articles into PDFs. On a Mac, call up the article on the Web. (If it runs more than one page, call up the printer-friendly version.) Then hit print, choose PDF in the print dialog box and select “Save as PDF” under it. Or, on any computer, try pdfmyurl.com.

Create a “Waiting For” hanging file. Stash invitations, kids sports schedules and other small stuff there.

Create a “Waiting to Throw Out” hanging file for papers you’re not quite ready to toss. (Thanks to Getting Things Done by David Allen for these two file ideas.)

Move kids’ artwork to standing accordion files. These My Timeless Treasures files fit into nooks and crannies beside furniture and hold a lot.

Move most pictures to a box. The scrapbook can wait!

How about you? Did you make resolutions or do something different this year?

How do you tackle your pile? Do you use a scanner? Is it helpful? Please share your comments here. I’d love to hear from you.


Photo Credit © Erol Berberovic/Dreamstime.com

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