Jenyfer Matthews
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October 19th, 2014
Prioritizing and Time Management

I used to keep a to-do list in my head which ranged from “needs to be done” to “want to do this”. The items on the list would sometimes move up or down the list as other things came up but generally speaking it was a pretty tame list and if I didn’t get something done I knew there were would likely be more time to do that thing later.

These days time is definitely not on my side. And I’m sure those of you who visit often can tell where blogging has fallen on my to-do list lately.

I’ve been needing to mow the lawn for a couple of weeks now, but I’ve been able to put it off because the season is changing and the grass isn’t growing that fast. However, with the changing season, the leaves on the enormous tree in our front yard have fallen, covering our yard. With as busy as I’ve been at work, the sun setting earlier, weekend travel, and rainy weather this item continued to slip down my list. Until Friday.

Friday I threw a reg flag on getting the yard work done for a couple of reasons: the tree is now bare; though it was windy out, it wasn’t raining or too cold; and I needed to get outside for a while. I haven’t really been outside in a few weeks except to get to and from my car.

I went outside after I cooked dinner so didn’t have a lot of time before the sun went down, and that is when I hit a catch-22 situation. The grass was a bit too long to rake it first, but the lawn mower wasn’t so happy about cutting a lawn buried in leaves. I adjusted the wheel height and went for it. The grass bag wasn’t all the effective in picking up *all* of the cuttings and leaves but it got a lot. I still ended up raking and finished just before it got too dark to see. Though my back and shoulders were a bit sore afterwards, it felt good to exercise something other than my fingers (typing). And it rained that evening so I was extra glad to get that chore out of the way.

Now for the backyard…

We’ve had a bit of frost here too so I pulled up my half-dead tomato plants and cleaned up my garden bed so I could do a bit of kitchen composting in it before the ground freezes. I’m going to have to decrease the number of tomato plants I plant next year yet again since I couldn’t keep up with them this year. I may even have some volunteer plants based on the ones that fell off and split before I got to them.

If only I could make the time to finish up the stairs once and for all. The treads and landing are stained and sealed but I still need to paint the risers and trim. I may have to give up sleep all together if I want to even attempt to keep up with all the items on my to do list.

October 11th, 2014
Beyond Busy – or How to Release Your Inner Bitch

Last week I logged nearly 70 hours for my paid employment and it will be close to 50 hours by the time this week ends (does the week have an end??) All of that is in addition to the stuff that I do as a mother and a “learning coach” to my homeschooling daughter.

People keep telling me to delegate duties and I’ve tried with mixed results. The children are old enough to do their own laundry and pick up after themselves – which they do, sometimes. However, they don’t yet grocery shop or cook or do yard work (neither have I recently) School has to be done and I seem to be the only one who has retained any knowledge from my middle school / high school years. The only area that has any give in it at all is the hours that I would normally be asleep so now I’m sleep deprived and have a messy house.

But sleep deprivation and my tight schedule has had another unintended effect. I’d like to think that I’m just a woman on a mission but it might not be untrue to say I’m a touch on edge. Perhaps a titch crabby. Things that I might have let slide at other times set me off now. Like idiots in traffic. Or the following scenario:

I left work an hour early so that I could go get an oil change and get some groceries. Oil changed accomplished, I marched around the grocery store getting all the things on my list. It was late afternoon and getting crowded but I found a no-limit, self-checkout lane right away. As I was preparing to start scanning my items, I see that there are two children standing in the next aisle over with their mother (who is at an express checkout). The children are about 5 and 7 and they are running their hands over the rollers at the end of the collection area on my lane.

I didn’t say anything because I assumed they would stop once I started to send my items down the lane – and because their mother was watching them. Nope – instead, the children start to push my items down to the end of the collection area. Hmmm… it was only cereal boxes, but still. I really don’t want them touching everything anyway, but particularly not my produce which I try to not to let go over the rollers at all. The mother is still watching them at this point, with a smile of pride on her face, but she is also looking at me to see how I’m reacting to this. I let it go for about a dozen things, and then I walked down to the end of my lane to organize my things and make some space and said to the children, “Can you please stop doing that? Thanks.”

The mother says, “They were just helping,” to which I didn’t reply. (though I did notice they weren’t helping her) Then she says to the children, “Don’t worry about it – she’s just in a bad mood.”

At this point I had the option to let it go, but that option only flitted briefly across my mind before I dismissed it and said, “Why are you telling them I am in a bad mood just because I don’t want them touching my things?”

The mother looks at me and says, “Aren’t you in a bad mood?”

I am standing back at the scanner at this point, about 12 feet from her, so I raise my voice and reply, “I AM NOW!”

Conversation over.

I still don’t think I was wrong in that situation, but I admit that I might not have been so touchy if I’d been better rested and feeling less pressured.

This weekend I am in Maryland for a tennis tournament for my daughter and I may or may not have pounded on my steering wheel and threatened bodily harm to a driver in front of me for driving so cluelessly…

Win or lose this evening her match this evening, I get to sleep in for a change tomorrow morning…

October 8th, 2014
Drive By

I worked nearly 70 hours last week. I spent the weekend mostly at soccer games and helping my daughter catch up on her (home)school assignments. Then I went back to work on Monday.

I pretty much hit a wall on Monday night – was so tired I started making some stupid errors while working on stuff from home. I took Tuesday night off and went to see a movie (“This Is Where I Leave You – very good) and went to bed fairly early. I was back at it full speed today and don’t see much of a break in sight in the near future since I’m working tomorrow then driving to Maryland on Friday for a weekend tennis tournament. The nicest part about going to Maryland is staying with my sister.

It’s not easy being a working mom with outside interests but it certainly isn’t dull!

October 2nd, 2014
Drowning

Sorry to have been missing all week but it’s been crazy busy and not necessarily in a good way.

I did a bunch of batch cooking last weekend when I had the time and it is a good thing I did. All hell broke loose at work this week and I work 17 hours on Monday, and roughly 10 hours every day since. Maybe that doesn’t sound like a lot to some people but it’s way more than I’m used to and it is taking a toll on my house.

I’m pretty much keeping up with work – barely – but I’m behind on just about everything else: laundry, my stairs-refinishing project, the leaves covering my yard. There may be a slight lull over the weekend and I am hoping to get some painting done on the stairs and maybe some leaf raking. We’ll see.

(Not to mention homeschooling)

In other news, I’m pretty much ready for my tomatoes to be done. Last year I planted 6 plants and it was too many so this year I think I planted 4. Still too many – at least for my schedule. Also – I am going to have to stick with regular varieties. The fancy heirlooms or “black” tomatoes are too complicated for me. I need the good old it’s red so it’s ready kind – when they are yellow or “black” I forget what kind they are or am not sure so I leave them then they fall off and rot. {sigh}

Happy October. On a happier note, here is a picture of my neighborhood:

Oct 2024

September 24th, 2014
Bzzzzz

I noticed a bees nest in the bottom part of a rotted piece of trim on my outer garage door back in the early part of August when my hose was leaking onto it and it made the bees mad. I went out a couple of times early in the morning when it was cool out to spray them but the directions for the spray I bought suggested sticking the nozzle wand into the crevice to spray (an expanding foam) and I have to say the aggressive guard bee that was on duty was enough to put me off getting too close to the opening. I decided that they could just be there until it got colder and maybe I got braver.

Just a couple of weeks ago I was pulling dead raspberry canes out of my beds and looked down to notice my legs were being swarmed by at least 30 bees. None stung me so I just backed away slowly and left them to their business.

We’ve found a few bees in the house, mostly the basement, which made me wonder if somehow they had made their way into the crawl space under our laundry area – and not so far from the garage door. When I saw some bees coming out from under a light fixture near our back door I decided to call an exterminator.

I was lucky to be working from home yesterday and that the exterminator was able to come the same day. I told him of the two nests I had noticed and didn’t mention the one in the ground, figuring that at least it wasn’t on the house. He came to look and immediately noticed that there were bees also coming in and out of an place near our crawl space where the air conditioner goes into the house. He then saw the nest in the ground. Apparently we had a thriving community of yellow jackets – and the second most bees he’s seen in a house this season. Not a competition I want to be tops in! He put on his bee suit and got to work.

He dug up the nest in the raspberry patch and he crawled into the crawl space – where he found a nest the size of a soccer ball. It is a miracle that none of us was stung. He sprayed the other two nests as well. He said all my over the counter spray was doing was making them angry. It was much more expensive and much less entertaining than having my neighbor shoot the nest out of the tree, but I can’t complain about the money it cost to have him deal with them. Better him than me!

September 22nd, 2014
The Never-ending Project

Everytime I think I might be making progress, I have to stop and go back and do something over again on the stairs.

First the water-based stain didn’t work well on the risers because it wasn’t being absorbed evenly. The gel stain fixed that issue, however it took way longer to dry than I anticipated in my planning.

I finally got all the treads stained and sealed and moved on to the landing, which is parquet flooring. The gel stain did not work very well on the parquet flooring – not only did it go on too dark but it was impossible to get it to look good because of the alternating pattern of the grain of the parquet. I ended up wiping up as much as I could and then re-sanding the landing so I could start over with the water-based stain.

The water-stain started out promising on the landing but ended up not quite right. The color seemed darker in one area than the rest and the tone of the brown was slightly off from the rest – it needed a touch more red in the color. So I was mulling it over and trying to decide if I could live with it when I decided that maybe what I needed to do was go over the color of the water-based stain with a very light coat of the gel stain. Success! Or, at least good enough.

I’ve been working overtime lately and still (mostly) managing to keep up with my children’s sports schedules and homeschool curriculum for my daughter but I still managed to get three coats of sealant on the landing before I went out of town for an away soccer tournament this weekend. It looks good enough if you don’t look to close. A little grit is okay on the finish on stairs right? You don’t want them to be too slick and smoothe. If there are a few hairs sealed into the finish as well that’s what you get with free labor.

I was pretty pleased with that progress, thinking that I’d be able to move on to painting the risers and trim – which ought to be a piece of cake by comparison to the rest – when I saw that I needed to touch-up a spot (pretty sure my husband stepped on it when it was still damp). I seriously thought about just letting it go, but it’s really not in my nature. I’m already delayed this much, what’s another week?

And that “week” doesn’t include however long it is going to take me to paint the risers. I’m a realist after all…

September 12th, 2014
Shiver!

I’m pretty sure it was summer on Monday of this week, but it is definitely fall-going-on-winter today. Overnight lows were in the 40s and it was only 65F in the house this morning! Brrr!

I was doing a decent job of ignoring the maple leaves changing until the temperature dropped so much.

I have also been pretending that I don’t need to can tomatoes this year. I didn’t plant as many plants this year as last year so there haven’t been as many tomatoes but we still aren’t keeping up with eating them fresh. I have made a couple of large pots of tomato sauce for the freezer however there is only so much space in my freezer and I don’t want the tomatoes to go bad so I guess I have no other choice but to break out the canning equipment and get it done.

The apparent change of seasons will probably mean that the tomatoes will stop growing shortly anyway.

I also noticed that my raspberry bushes looked like as if they were planning on producing a second crop. Since there were also many dead canes in the beds I decided that I ought to clear those out while it was obvious which were ones were dead, and also to make it easier for me to get at the berries should they develop. In the process of pulling all the tangled dead canes free from the live ones I apparently disturbed a bees’ nest because I looked down and saw my legs were surrounded by bees/wasps – which miraculously did not sting me once. I retreated a short distance, cleaned up the dead canes I’d tossed in the grass, and left the bees to figure out what had happened to their home on their own.

Another benefit of colder weather – bees get slower and easier to eradicate. (Note: the honey bees and I get along fine)

So all in all I guess I can see some benefit to the cooler temperatures, even if I’m not really ready for them just yet.

September 8th, 2014
Driving My Life Away

People always make it sound like life gets so much easier when your children get older. Get a job when they go back to school, no problem.

Yeah, right.

Life is easier in a way – I don’t have to cut up their food and feed them, I don’t have to bathe them (though I do have to harass my son to bathe!), they can take themselves to the bathroom. However, both are very active and neither of them drive so here is where I am still very involved with them.

My car is in the body shop today to have some rust repaired and though I don’t have my own car, ironically I will be driving more today than probably any other day this week. My schedule today:

7:10am – drop husband at carpool meeting point so I can take his car
7:30am – drop daughter at the tennis center
7:45am – drive myself to work
4:00pm – pick daughter up at tennis center
5:50pm – drop son at soccer practice
6:00pm – pick husband up from carpool meeting point
7:00pm – drop daughter at soccer practice
7:50pm – drop husband at tennis center
8:00pm – pick son up from soccer practice
8:30pm – pick daughter up from soccer practice
9:00pm – pick husband up from tennis center

As much as I like to drive, I’m tired just looking at that schedule. Good thing we live in a relatively small town – I’m working from home tomorrow!

September 5th, 2014
I Give Up

Much like summer, this week has disappeared on me.

It’s been an odd week overall, for me anyway. It was a short week yet it felt incredibly long. There were long periods of waiting (and boredom) punctuated with intense moments of hurry-up-and-get-it-done.

For a while I tried to keep on top of everything but it quickly became clear that it wasn’t going to work so I just let go. My capitulation hasn’t changed anything much that I can tell.

It was the children’s first week of school. I can’t say I am particularly looking forward to the school year – yes, they will be occupied in the daytime but they will also demand more of my attention in the evening with their school work. As will all the on-going housework chores. I only managed to cook twice this week. I’m researching crock-pot recipes now.

Not only are the wooden deck chairs I started to strip a couple of months back still sitting in the garage only half way through the process, my stairs aren’t yet finished either. Actually – to be specific, the treads are more or less done but the landing is giving me problems now. The landing is parquet and the gel stain did not look good on the landing the way I applied it to the treads so I wiped it off – however, the stain left splotches on the parquet. Now I need to remove as much stain as I can and figure out how to go foward. I have the feeling that I’ll be using my sander and going back to using the original liquid stain I got. The landing doesn’t have to be exactly the same as the stairs but I certainly want it to look nice.

As tired as I am after I work all day, run the kids around to their activities, and do a few things around the house (laundry, cooking) I am motivated to get the stairs finished. That project has dragged on long enough.

Work is going to get super busy shortly as well. Though I am a planner by nature, I think I’m going to have to take things one-day-at-a-time in order to survive.

August 29th, 2014
Time Flies

Here we are at the end of August, Labor Day weekend and the end of summer for all practical purposes upon us. Where on earth did the summer go?

I don’t know about you, but it doesn’t really even feel like I had an actual summer. Part of it was the weather – summer starting a bit late and being cooler than normal – and part of it was my schedule. Seven nearly back-to-back tennis tournaments through June and July will do that to you. I enjoyed myself as much as you can while driving to and fro across states, getting up earlier than I’d like for early morning match times, and making new friends with other tennis parents, but there are times when I can’t quite recall where I was when a particular event happened. It was all a bit of a whirlwind.

August hasn’t been much better with soccer getting started now. My daughter had her first game the week before the club’s annual end-of-summer tournament which normally kicks off the season. That tournament was this past weekend and the children played 8 games between them. Both their teams did very well (my son’s team won and my daughter’s team lost in the final) but it is surprising how exhausting it can be just to stand on the sidelines and watch. Maybe it isn’t so surprising when you have to be at the fields from 7am to 4pm each day.

Is it any wonder I’ve been a bit remiss in my blogging schedule lately?

Add into the mix my new job. Overall things have been going very well considering I haven’t worked regularly since 1997! Working has impacted my ability to work on projects at home – which I expected – but not necessarily as much as I expected. Just goes to show how much time I wasted when I had the full day at my disposal! I’m making progress on refinishing my stairs – which is taking longer than I expected though the drying time would have been a factor whether I was home or not. I’m also making progress on the quilt I started this summer, quilting one or two blocks an evening. Steady as she goes. Fancy cooking has gone out the window but I never much loved cooking anyway!

School starts next week which many parents look forward to, but I’m slightly ambivalent. Having the children back in some sort of daily routine is a good thing – adding in yet another layer of stuff that I need to stay on top of with regard to keeping them on track with their school work and activities, not so much. Have I ever mentioned that my daughter did a home-schooling tennis academy last year? She’s doing it again this year too…

This post is beginning to sound like a bit whiney, and it wasn’t meant to. I’m busy – everyone is busy. Life goes on. I’m trying to enjoy the journey each and every day because (other than death!) the destination point keeps changing.

Keep on keeping on… Maybe I’ll even get back to writing sometime too…