Carpool Lane

Carpool Lane - Meet Joline for a "CuppaJo" as she juggles two kids in school, homework, extracurricular activities and trying to find some "me" time.

 

 

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Please Sir, I Want Some More

Written by Joline Atkins. Posted in Carpool Lane

User Rating:  / 2

"More?"

Really? I'm flattered.

Translation? My family is pretty happy with the consistency of our new and improved household hot-meal program.

aka: dinner.

Confession: I have never been the best meal planner for the entire family.

Sure, over the last 5 years, I've overhauled my personal nutrition, and helped my husband drop 40 lbs, but at times, the focus on our health has affected the creativity of family meals. Not that family dinner needs to be a Pinterest-frenzy of perfection, but I was definitely pulling a "D", or with luck, maybe a "C+" when it came to meals last year. While there were meals, they were hit or miss in terms of balance. Yes, my family was fed. However, the variety was pretty lean.


I gave myself a bit of leniency. I was a new home-schooling Mom to a 3rd grader, and was also running a full-time business, while adjusting to life with a middle-schooler. 5:00 would come around and I'd be scrambling.

Tread water much?

This year, the 3rd grader and the 7th grader are in a small private school, I am still running a business (#payforprivateschool), and there have been hot meals almost every night since school started. With leftovers for lunch.

My family is . . . surprised.

The meals have gotten a bit more creative. Ingredients don't consist merely of a protein, veggie, and blah side. There are amazing smells wafting through the house. Whereas last year, I was able to make this happen 1-2 times a week, my batting average has greatly improved this fall. I'm on a roll. 

What changed?

  • I started meal-planning. Not rocket-science. Or an amazing discovery. But while I've dabbled in meal-planning in the past, I did so with wavering commitment. I would lose momentum and run out of ideas. So, to help me . . .
  • I opened a Making Friends with Your Slow Cooker group on Facebook, and along with the help of a colleague, gathered healthy slow-cooker recipes from all over the internet and provided weekly meal plans and tips to the 200 women who joined us. The key to this group: HEALTHY. You can take the girl out of the gym, but you can't take the gym out of the girl. No creamed soups and large amounts of cheese here. We're trying to stick to nutritiously balanced meals. With new recipes in hand . . .
  • I took an hour and a half on Sunday to prepare 5 freezer meals for the week. Now, they are ready to be thawed and cooked when needed. The kids have been reminded that . . .
  • In our home, one eats what they are served, and shows respect for the chef. I went soft on this last year. Due to sheer exhaustion. This year, I taught them how to cook. Don't like dinner? You are more than welcome to make your own dinner after the table is cleared. (Ask me how many times that actually happens. Who wants to clean up after dinner, make a second meal, and clean up again?)

I often tell my children, "Proper planning prevents poor performance."

And they tell me, "Awesome. You're doing much better at that."

That makes me feel good.

Evening schedules, as crazy as they can be, mean that unless meals are planned, fast-food can be the default. 

No so here. Tomorrow is Mexican Pork and Sweet Potato stew.

Are you a consistent meal planner? Any tips or tools that you use to organize meals for the family?

 


 


Joline Pinto Atkins, an actress who also uses the web as her world-wide stage, can also be found writing at The Cuppa Jo, and Beaver County Times online as the Health and Wellness blogger. She is wife to one (phew - that's good to know) and mother of two amazing children, aged 13 and 9, who are both named after authors. Passionate about fitness, she is an Independent Team Beachbody Coach and sweats out any daily angst by exercising at home, longs for good books, is a redeemed coffee addict, and won't share popcorn with anyone. Even her own family. Follow Joline on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest!

 

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The Morning Routine

Written by Joline Atkins. Posted in Carpool Lane

User Rating:  / 1

School is back in session!

(And so are the early mornings.)

My children started a new school this year, and with it, we added an entirely new evening/morning routine.

For all of us. Including Mom.

No, we didn't ease into it. We just went cold turkey on Day 1.

We also set up some specifics that have to happen the night before, and in the morning before we walk to the bus stop.

The kids are responsible for packing their lunches before bed. Not packing a lunch means . . . well, no lunch.
Clothes are laid out. Mom does no quick washing in the morning.
Bags are packed. In the event that a book or assignment gets left at home, home is where it will stay that day.
In the morning, the floors of their rooms need to be picked up.
Dirty clothes go to the hamper.

And, one lucky winner gets to unload the dishwasher!

(Oh, and yes, I do feed them.)

Believe it our not, our mornings have been pretty darn calm. But not due to the children's routine.

See,  I too, have taken on a new routine.

It's called, "The Early To Rise Experience ". I did Early to Rise over a year ago and found it incredibly helpful. This time however, I'm going through its "sister" book, "The Early To Rise Experience for Moms".

Knowing that I'd slipped into some bad morning habits, I started a group for mothers who would have interest in rising earlier. We are all reading this book together.

The result?

Up at 5:30 AM to read, pray, answer a few email messages, and just be with ME. With that, a happier me is available to welcome my kids to the new day. My goal is 5:00 AM, and is attainable. Our group is really helping each other to ease that alarm back a bit more every week.

So yes, while routine and order are making our mornings a less crabby experience, I truly believe that I am helping set the tone by rising earlier and taking some personal breathing space before my day runs until, well . . . it's 11:00 PM.

Do you have a specific routine in the morning?

Are you an early riser?

 



Joline Pinto Atkins, an actress who also uses the web as her world-wide stage, can also be found writing at The Cuppa Jo, and Beaver County Times online as the Health and Wellness blogger. She is wife to one (phew - that's good to know) and mother of two amazing children, aged 13 and 9, who are both named after authors. Passionate about fitness, she is an Independent Team Beachbody Coach and sweats out any daily angst by exercising at home, longs for good books, is a redeemed coffee addict, and won't share popcorn with anyone. Even her own family. Follow Joline on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest!

 

Join the conversation:

To report inappropriate comments, abuse and/or repeat offenders, please send an email to socialmedia@post-gazette.com and include a link to the article and a copy of the comment. Your report will be reviewed in a timely manner. Thank you.

My Children and the Ice Bucket Challenge

Written by Joline Atkins. Posted in Carpool Lane

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As I wrote on Facebook earlier this week,

"CONFESSION!
I wasn't going to do the ALS ice water challenge because, "everyone is doing it", "it's a fad", "people just want attention", blah, blah, blah.

And then I realized that my holier than thou attitude - MY cynicism, was NOT what I wanted to sit in this week with all the other happenings in our world. The news has SUCKED, people. Overseas. Here in the U.S.

So, you know what? A little ice water over the head to wake me OUT of negativity, and a contribution to help find a cure for an illness for which I'd never really taken notice, was awesome. And so was watching a community do it together. #facebookforthewin"

And then, I watched this video explaining why/how the Ice Bucket Challenge originated. I immediately showed it to my children. They asked me questions I couldn't answer.

"What is ALS? Why does it do that to a person?"

While I couldn't answer the specific medical questions, I could explain how debilitating and fatal this disease can be. I could explain how it takes a lot of money to research cures for something like ALS.

"Well then, I hope someone nominates me," my son shared.

Facebook can be a real downer. A den of negativity. A drama-filled, narcissistic environment.

IF you allow it to wield THAT power.

It can also be a place where an online community comes together to put smiles on the faces of those suffering from ALS, or those who have lost someone to ALS. 

Social media has the power to raise awareness - even during a time when much of our country is rightfully focused on what could be considered more pressing news.

So, I dumped that water on my head. My son dumped that water on his. My husband will do so tonight, and my daughter was just nominated.

And we will give towards the initiative for more research. Others, may just dump the water. WHO CARES? 

Raising awareness has merit.

My children are being raised in a world where social media can either sting or serve as a source of fuel to encourage them to think outside their little world. Through just this Facebook challenge alone, they caught a glimpse into the hardships of others, and assisted by adding to the spark that created a communal explosion of support on behalf of those who need it.

Did you take the Ice Bucket Challenge?

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Amtrak Adventure

Written by Joline Atkins. Posted in Carpool Lane

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I am completely face-palming myself.


We moved to Pittsburgh 5 years ago. My sister and her four kids live in the Philly area.

I only just discovered Amtrak. 

To think, over these last 5 years, my kids and I could have been visiting the cousins way more often via a super relaxing train trek that only took over 6 hours, and costing us about the same amount we would pay in gas.

6 hours spent reading. 
Listening to music.
Drinking coffee.
Writing.
Enjoying my son's enthusiasm for the scenery:

"Look! It's beautiful!"

"Mom, wetlands!" (For the record, I don't know if we actually passed wetlands.)

And, "Well this is a nice stop for the people who need to get off for a smoking break."

The seats were spacious and comfortable - such leg-room!
There were outlets.
The aisles were wide.
The dining car had a great choices. (We packed food, but the kids were excited to visit the dining car - and I wanted to give them the full experience.)
The bathrooms were roomier than an airplane. (Albeit, not necessarily as clean. Then gain, who really knows how clean an airplane bathroom actually is.)

We will definitely be traveling by train in the future. For while it does take a bit longer to reach one's destination, it was a much nicer experience than driving. We arrived at my sister's well rested. Heck, I finished an entire book! And for one lucky traveler they will now have a a complimentary yoga mat/bag which I absentmindedly left behind. My response to forgetting this item is a true testament to how relaxed the trip was for me . . . I could care less.


Namaste, travelers.

My children agree, that the train is a GREAT alternative to driving. And with gas prices as they are, the train is cost effective. Where to next? Any suggestions?

And to put the perfect button on the experience, we even met a young gal from Indiana who was traveling to New York, following her dream to become an actress. Sounds cliche, but it happened. I mean, how perfect is that?

Have you ever taken Amtrak? Where did you go, and how was the experience?


 

Joline Pinto Atkins, an actress who also uses the web as her world-wide stage, can also be found writing at The Cuppa Jo, Beaver County Times online as the Health and Wellness blogger, and is the founder of Daily Fast Fuel. She is wife to one (phew - that's good to know) and mother of two amazing children, aged 13 and 9, who are both named after authors. Passionate about fitness, she is an Independent Team Beachbody Coach and sweats out any daily angst by exercising at home, longs for good books, is a redeemed coffee addict, and won't share popcorn with anyone. Even her own family. Follow Joline on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest!

Join the conversation:

To report inappropriate comments, abuse and/or repeat offenders, please send an email to socialmedia@post-gazette.com and include a link to the article and a copy of the comment. Your report will be reviewed in a timely manner. Thank you.

My Children Don't Need Me! (as much)

Written by Joline Atkins. Posted in Carpool Lane

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They are 13 and 9. 
GREAT ages.
Turning point ages.
Turning point for ME, that is.

And yes, for them, of course. But, I am having to adapt as well.

They won't kill each other when I leave them home alone.
They can fry an egg for breakfast.
They make their own lunch - if they choose to eat.
They will complete the list of chores hanging in the kitchen without *much* push back. 
They run errands for me at the post office.
They can bike to the library.
They can make a deposit at the bank, or waste their money at the candy store.
They actually help out with the younger kids at social gatherings.
They appreciate "Pysch".

They spend hours playing at friend's houses.

Hours.

Ok. As someone who works from home, I'm torn.
I really like my kids. Of course I love them, but I also really like them. I enjoy them.
And while being handed uninterrupted time to work is awesome, I also miss them.
They are at that age where they would rather play at a friend's house rather than ours. And, thankfully, they have some really great friends.
One with an entire wooded nature-fest to explore.
One with a pool.

And so, off they go. 
While I stay home and write, connect with customers, and straighten up. 

They are 13 and 9.
GREAT ages.
And truly, I am proud of who they are growing up to be.

I am grateful.

And, just a little lonely without them.

True story.

Do you understand my plight? Wanting them to stay young, but relishing that they are growing up?


 

Joline Pinto Atkins, an actress who also uses the web as her world-wide stage, can also be found writing at The Cuppa Jo, Beaver County Times online as the Health and Wellness blogger, and is the founder of Daily Fast Fuel. She is wife to one (phew - that's good to know) and mother of two amazing children, aged 13 and 9, who are both named after authors. Passionate about fitness, she is an Independent Team Beachbody Coach and sweats out any daily angst by exercising at home, longs for good books, is a redeemed coffee addict, and won't share popcorn with anyone. Even her own family. Follow Joline on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest!

Join the conversation:

To report inappropriate comments, abuse and/or repeat offenders, please send an email to socialmedia@post-gazette.com and include a link to the article and a copy of the comment. Your report will be reviewed in a timely manner. Thank you.