Let's play house

When It’s Difficult to Build Rhythm & Routine in Your Day

With an on-call, traveling spouse, our schedule is often up in the air, just like his. We don’t usually know his schedule from one moment to the next, and so our days are different: Daddy’s here, Daddy’s gone. (Where is Daddy, anyway? And when is he coming home?)

rhonda franz, rhythm and routine, let's play house

I certainly live best when I follow along a general routine or rhythm from the morning on, but it doesn’t always work out that way. The lifestyle we live brings its own brand of insanity to home and family management, but there are a few things I’ve learned along the way.

Use interim, or unexpected time. Maybe you have a list of phone calls to make, emails to send, or other quick jobs you can accomplish in 10-15 minutes here and there.

After coming home with kids from a recent gymnastics lesson, I found my husband making lunch for us. He was preparing to head out for a multi-day trip, but didn’t leave until mid-day. You bet I used my normal lunch-making time to get some quick jobs done, something I’ve been bad about in the past (you know, the old if-I-don’t-have-lots-of-time-I-won’t-even-get-started trap).

I’ve learned to use that time. Sometimes I make a phone call, other times I sneak in a quick clean-up in the home office or fold a load of laundry. It’s unexpected extra time (in other words, a gift!) and I try and take advantage of it.

Use a flexible meal plan. I admit that I sometimes cook a little differently when I know my husband will be home for supper. He’s low-maintenance with meals, but I like something that will help keep us at the dining room table for a bit longer than normal. Also, I tend to fix things I know he especially likes when he’s going to be home.

But there are times I’ve made a plan on Sunday, and changed Monday’s plan three times due to his changing schedule. This may be why I’ve never kept a consistent habit of meal-planning. (If I’m going to fancy up a meal, I kinda like it to be appreciated, and I just don’t get that from the kids. You know what I mean, right? It’s not them, or him. It’s me).

rhonda franz rhythm and routine in your day

Decide what needs to stay the same, and what you might want to change up. Whether my husband is home or not, the boys have quiet time (and you better believe so do I). We keep the same general meal time, chore responsibilities, and bedtime. And it isn’t like we sit around and wait for him to come home. We go to ball practice, and church, and birthday parties.

(I don’t get out much, but that is a different blog post entirely).

If Daddy’s been gone several days, and tensions are high, and I’m worn out, we might stray from the schedule a bit: go out for a treat after school, watch a movie with some popcorn in our laps – anything to take the edge of off all of us. Which apparently involves feeding our bellies.

If you live with this kind of uncertainty in your family routine I want to hear from you. It’s a hard home management problem to understand unless you’re living it. Are you?


Flickr photo, “Doug’s Daily Planner” courtesy of Doug Belshaw. I’m impressed with everything he has crossed off his very cool-looking list at the end of the day. And all those Paris clocks? Flickr photo #2, folks, courtesy of  Nick.

Friday Favorites: New Stuff I’ve Loved (and maybe you will, too)

Post-it-notice: I have neither been paid by, nor approached by any of the following companies, publishers, or people, about the services, reading material, resources, or products listed here. I’m sharing things that I have recently discovered and found helpful and cool for me and mine. That’s all. No sponsorship, no free stuff, no pats on the back. Though I sure wouldn’t mind if someone wanted to provide me a cup of coffee and a jacuzzi tub.


Call it link love, or go all a-la Julie Andrews and belt out a resounding chorus of “My Favorite Things.” Here are my Friday Favorites: things that have been helpful to my life and work and family.

1. This book: 18 Minutes: Find Your Focus, Master Distraction, and Get the Right Things Done by Peter Bregman.

I am a sucker for organization and productivity advice, but I’m picky on what I read because all that reading time just sucks from my um, productivity. This book, available at our fabulous local library, is a quick and easy read. I’ve never been much of a goal-setter, but this might turn me around. Just maybe.

rhonda franz, friday favorites, productivity

Also, the things Bregman says about how we manage ourselves during our day just make some good sense. He uses some GTD principles, which work for me, and other tips, like taking breaks, and setting a timer to go off once an hour during the day – to check ourselves on how well we’re staying focused.

Of course there are lots of little distractions kids around here, so around-the-house productivity has to be managed in the context of parenthood. It’s not like the kids are on board with this. Whenever you’re feeling like you haven’t accomplished much, try this.

2. Poem-mobiles by J. Patrick Lewis, Douglas Florian, and Jeremy Holmes

It’s an especially brilliant creation when a children’s book is as fun for parents to read as it is for children to hear. This picture book, also found at the library, has the kind of illustrations you can look at again and again to find new details, and from back to bumper it’s a real treat to read aloud.

rhonda franz, friday favorites, parenting

Go Jurassic Park(ing) with a car that runs on fossil fuel.

Read all about the fierce, fiery Dragonwagon. Over and over and over again.

I mean, it’s like the authors and illustrator knew precisely how to sell a book to a book-loving mom in a house full of book-loving, car-crashing boys: fun poems, fabulous artwork, and all about vehicles. Really, we could ask for nothing more.

3. My Simpler Life site

This blog by Beth Dargis is all about creating a saner, simpler life. Sometimes, advice to make things simpler ends up being quite complicated. Not so with advice and resources from Ms. Dargis. I most appreciate:

* Her weekly newsletter that contains short, sweet, and helpful ideas to make home (and life in general) a bit easier.

* Her Declutter Calendar, available for downloading. It is the perfect tool to view on a computer desktop, or print out each month for a place on the fridge. Each day contains one task to work through that help me clean out stray bits from all the parts of my home. There are days when I don’t get to it, but I just jump right back in when I do. Simple, just as it should be.

Do you have some Friday Favorites? What things have you found recently, that you just love? 


Two-Story Tips: Managing a Household on Two Levels

rhonda franz two-story tipsA two-story house sometimes means double the duty, unless you’re managing the up and down of space effectively. I can’t say I manage everything well, but here are a few things I’ve learned when it comes to our family’s constant use of a staircase.

1. Simplify socks by keeping them on the lower level. This might sound like an odd tip, but if your family is like ours, we don’t always wear socks (or shoes) around the house. Since socks don’t need to be put on until you’re headed out the door, on the way to that door is the best place to keep them. Packaged socks come in a size range, and you might be able to get away with a kid or two wearing socks from one package (or maybe this is just easier because I have all boys).

We’ve got a handful of white socks and a handful of black socks, and we keep all the socks downstairs with the shoes. When it’s time to load up the car, there is no running upstairs to the bedroom, so we’ve cut out one transition in the Time to Load Up the Car fiasco.

2. Go with a wireless printer. Print much? Yeah, you need one. This advice may soon be out of date, as I suspect all printers will be wireless in a few years. You do still have to go and actually retrieve the documents yourself. Better yet, train  your kids to do that. Works well in our home.

3. Buy two of some things. Staplers, rulers, packages of Band-Aids, mailing envelopes, stamp packages: you’re going to need these upstairs and down. Also, two laundry baskets, unless you’re particularly adept at getting laundry put away, right away. I’m so not.

4. Make spaces on each level for home management. Have a place to tuck dirty laundry downstairs, in addition to hampers in rooms. We use a pull-out container (designed to be a wastebasket) inside of our kitchen island as a hamper. So, if kids come in with muddy clothes, those go in that hamper, which, conveniently, sits right next to the washing machine.

5. What goes up, must come down (and vice versa). Two home offices is a bit much to ask for, and I can’t use a separate daily planner/To Do list, so I’m constantly carrying my planner, plus a couple of notebooks, and whatever book I have a bookmark in up and down stairs. I find it works best if I keep a small bag that hangs on the banister, and I can carry everything from one level to another.

6. Keep a few cleaning supplies on both floors. It’s the same thing you would do with a stash of diapers and wipes when your children are babies. Simple counter sprays, toilet cleaner, cleaning rags, rubber gloves. You’ll be much more motivated to keep things spiffied up if supplies are within reach. (No, not really, it will just save you some steps and frustration). Don’t forget two containers of laundry spray for pre-treating spots.

7. Keep a couple of decorative, functional baskets on the steps as your catch-all. Use these containers for things that need to go up or down, and then make it a habit to clean out items and take them up or down as you go. Each family member should collect their own things to put back in the proper place.

That cool stairway photo, courtesy of 4seasons and sxc.hu, because the stairs in my house aren’t at all this clutter-free.

Suburban Haiku (There Goes the Neighborhood)

rhonda franz

Shakespeare, Frost, Wordsworth, Price: all the great literature.

Let’s call it as we see it, shall we?

Shakespeare’s work is timeless, and a simple stroll through the outdoors is never as beautiful and meaningful in any pen, than that of Robert Frost.

And no one makes keen, hilarious observations of the neighborhood, the school, and the hectic drive to work in the trendy 21st centurey quite like Peyton Price in her book, Suburban Haiku. And no one does it in fine 5-7-5 form.


There’s a bit of poking fun….rhonda franz suburban haiku review


The toddler who will take an iPhone over goldfish crackers, thank you very much.

The parents who spell their child’s common name, oh so uncommonly.

The mom who read all the PTA bylaws (oh wait, that’s me).


There are also timely, relevant topics to families everywhere…

Conservation/Green Living:

New water bottles:

Steel, filtered, BPA-free

They’ll all be lost soon.

Bad parking people:

Hey, nice parking job

Did you pay for both spaces?

It looks like you did.


Worn-out parents:

It’s perfect weather

for sending the kids outside

and watching TV.

That’s enough of a tease.

rhonda franz suburban haiku review

For more hilarity, truth, and scenes from the suburbs, get your copy of Suburban Haikuand catch up on your fine literature.