Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Organized Chaos

"Life moves pretty fast.  If you don't stop to look around once in a while, you could miss it."
- Ferris Bueller

Years ago in my other life, I was a busy sales girl at MTV Networks.  Running in heels through O'Hare to catch a flight or shuffling between meetings at conferences with clients, life often felt like a whirlwind.  Looking back, I had no idea what the true meaning of multitasking was.  I had only one person that I was in charge of - me.  And let's be honest, I even had an assistant to help with, well, me.  Nonetheless, I always kept a written planner, even when Palm Pilots and then Blackberrys were all the rage.  I never really liked clicking my computer mouse to add an appointment or scrolling around a computer screen to view my schedule.

In those days, I never got what being a mom meant.  I certainly never thought it would be busy or (eek!) completely insane.  I thought it would be a cupcake life.  Where days would be idyllic...  "What would you like for dinner?" and "Kids, why don't you go outside to play?"  Instead, I scramble to find one son's practice jersey for soccer...  is it even clean?  what pile of laundry could it be in???  Hmm, glancing around the mounds of laundry...

Further back in my college days, I was the student who was inevitably parked in the second row of the lecture hall because taking down the notes was how I learned, how I processed the material.  I am a visual person.  I have to write things down and organize them in my brain.  When I would take exams, I would also visualize the margins or notes that I had written for my answers.  I live by the things I write.  I have to write it down.  Then and now, I live by an old school planner.

Worse yet, as a kid, I would rip out a sheet of paper out of a notebook and start entirely over if my handwriting was not perfect.  The ugly truth of the matter is that I just have to make things pretty.  It's just in my nature.  What's the point if it's not pretty?  And of course, organized.  And in my pre-kids days, I had the time to do just that.  Now I struggle to do both - pretty and neat.  If anything, I typically must sacrifice one for the other to be a sane human being.  When I am planning a special party with pretty, crafty touches, my house looks like a bomb hit.  If everything is orderly and tidy, well there's no time for cuteness.  One or the other.

So here we are every day, pressed for time and strategy on how to juggle life.  We are now those people.  I have only a few minutes every day to think through everything and troubleshoot.  Usually in the car of the school pick-up line or in the lobby watching gymnastics.  American families are busy -- birthday parties, PTA meetings, vacation days, school deadlines, sports, extracirricular activities, play dates, errands, meal time, and more.  Yes, we are now those people.  Soccer mom extraorinaire right here.

Throw in a serious chronic illness for not one, but TWO kids, well it can be totally overwhelming and unmanageable.  In our house, in any given week, I hand out nearly 300 pills, arguably in varying combinations at any given time.  We handle it well enough, but honestly, plainly, it's just not easy.  There's so much juggling -- medication changes, respiratory equipment, insurance hiccups, food allergies, antibiotic allergies, symptoms, hospital stays...  I could go on.

And unlike my days at MTV, this time around I don't have an assistant.  I take that back...  I don't have a person to assist me.  But I do have something arguably far more powerful...  a different type of assistant.

That's where the Erin Condren Life Planner has been my life saver the last three years.  It is a super functional and extra-cute planner that I can't live without.  I have the say the BEST part is that every year she and her team continue to IMPROVE it, making slight tweaks, to make it even better (which I didn't know was even possible).

I use this multi-tasking weapon to tackle all things "life".  From planning parties like Thanksgiving Dinner to a family Halloween Party all the way to gift-giving lists, meal planning and keeping track of my own fitness schedule at the gym...  the uses are endless.

Knowing our family juggles so much more, I also use the EC Life Planner in innumerable ways to help manage the boys' Cystic Fibrosis.  Some ways I use it are...
  • Tracking the boys' weight/BMI at every CF clinic.  Weight with CF is a big deal.  Every CF Mama knows that.  I can tell you all their last stats, but even better to have their history at my fingertips!

  • Tracking the boys' medications and antibiotics.  CF Patients use antibiotics regularly and it was my mission long ago to start to log what they were using and why.

  • Notes about illness and reactions to medications to help track trends and understand factors in their health.  I make notations through the days to help identify trends for illness and unusual occurences.

  • Nutritional notes about high calorie ideas, meals, and supplements

  • Clinic visit notes and questions for the CF Care Team 
  • Phonebook for important contact information including doctors, specialists, pharmacies, medical equipment companies

I can only imagine how helpful an EC Life Planner would have been when my boys where babies with a crazy feed/sleep schedule laced with medicines all throughout the day.  Those early newborn days are tough for all moms, let alone for moms that must dispense pills every time they give a bottle or breastfeed.  Did I give him the pills at 3am when I fed him?

I know the EC Life Planner can help all moms (new mamas, soccer mamas, mamas managing chronic illness, even empty-nester babysitting grandmamas) to keep life straight.

Aaaaaaand it just keeps getting better!!  Now for the amazing additions to this year's Life Planner launching in TOMORROW June 12th...

  • Coil Clips - I would always stick an event invitation or my gym's yoga schedule in the weekly view but they always fell out.  I hated to stick items like this in the back pocket or somewhere around the house for fear I'd forget.  Also, I didn't want to copy all the event information down, too timely!  DRUMROLL... Coil clips!!!!!!  They now allow you to place important things directly into the planner's binding securely.  I love this!!! Gym schedules, invitation, notecards, save-the-dates, 'we've moved' notices, etc. can just be clipped directly into the Life Planner.  Another example for our family, I often have notes for the boys' CF clinic that I hate to put on a post-it over my weekly view now I can just clip them into coil for that week we have the appointment.  Brilliant.  Finally, coil clips are great because where I track the boys' specific growth and antibiotic information across the years (see above).  Each year, however, I have had to rewrite my list into a new Life Planner.  This year, I can simply, neatly cut out the lists from my current Life Planner and clip it into my next one.  Done and done.  Love!
  • See-through ruler/page marker - I could never put my finger on why I would get annoyed looking at my Thursdays, but EC knew...  I couldn't see my Thursdays because the ruler blocked my view.  This year's Life Planner solves that problem.
  • Interchangeable Covers - So I mentioned that I like making things beautiful.  And now that my husband and I have made it our life mission to help cure Cystic Fibrosis, our boys are at the center of so much that we do.  I sort of love that when I am at a CFF meeting or conference, folks point to my EC Life Planner and say "What beautiful boys" or "What is that cool notebook?"  It's so much better than a black ugly portfolio, because I can see what is meaningful to me.  This year, EC's team has developed a way to switch covers out on the Life Planner allowing you to change it based on your mood, your meeting or your mission.  Love.

  • Repositionable Stickers - In the previous EC Life Planners, the stickers that came with it would "stay put" and couldn't adjust as busy schedules changed or meals got rearranged for the week.  Once you placed one of those suckers in, it was staying.  So, I came up with my own solution.  I used to use mini Post-It's for appointments, dinner, or notes because I could easily remove them or move them to another day/time.  It wasn't ideal, because the post-its would get bent or wrinkled, but it was a solution that could work.  But, Erin Condren has you covered this time around.  Her 2014 Life Planner now has (say it with me) REPOSITIONABLE STICKERS!!!!  Beyond Amazing.  Problem solved.

  • Perpetual Calendar - So, those who live by a written planner know the love/hate that comes with getting your new planner.  The upside, of course, you can make it neater, prettier than you did last year.  And (sigh) the idea of a new year, a clean slate.  However, (wait for it...!) you have to rewrite all the important dates and contacts.  GROAN.  DOUBLE GROAN.  Solution?  The 2014 Life Planner now comes with a Perpetual Calendar that is a one-stop shop for your important recurring life events and contacts.  BOOM!  No rewriting here.  Saves you time and is easy reference because you can keep it handy in the pocket or with the new coil clips.

Finally, I am so excited to use my planner this year to "fill in the blanks".  Where I have used it as a typical planner/organizer the last 3 years, this coming year, I plan to add my own fitness goals and personal thoughts like a diary each day.  Not just a "to do" list with check marks, but also "got it done". This way I can look back with satisfaction.  I am hoping to fill each day with "life" not just appointments and notes.

Check out the new planner at Erin Condren's Website HERE:  erincondren.com  (having trouble with my link so type this into your browser or Google Erin Condren Life Planner).  This planner is worth every penny given all it does for me/us every day of the year!

The time is TOMORROW, folks.  Mark your calendars or if you're already a fan, mark your Life Planner for the 2014 version out tomorrow!!

Life moves pretty fast - yep.  The Erin Condren Life Planner helps us to look around, so we don't miss it.  I can only imagine what the notorious Ferris Bueller might have done with a Life Planner!