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Making 30 minutes last forever


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This post is part of Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 series on doing more with less.

When I think of what I don’t have in life, sure, there are some wish-list items that stand out. Say, a second bathroom. A washer-dryer that I don’t share with 35 neighbors. A parking garage that is actually in our own neighborhood, let alone our own block.

(Oh the joys of city living!)

Mostly I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about what I have less of and I feel, especially this time of year, grateful for what I do have. 

But the one thing I really truly find I scrape by on, is time.

Working parents simply don’t have the luxury (or challenge?) of countless free hours with the family. We skip pediatrician appointments in favor of parent-teacher conferences instead. We give up school pick-ups. If we make it home in time to catch the kids slurping down the last of the mac n cheese, it’s a win of epic proportions.

So the one thing I value–really value–is my time with them. Especially those dark, sweet nighttime moments during which I crouch down next to the girls’ beds, stroke their hair, pull the quilts up to their chins, and together we catch up on the day.

Generally we read. Sometimes I make up stories. But always, we talk.

About their days. About my day. About who was nice in school and which friend they played with and what they learned and how many goals they scored. “Mommy, can we do questions?” they ask.  And so I begin.

What was one thing that made you smile today? What was one thing that made you laugh today? What one person did something nice for you today? What is one thing you learned today that you didn’t know yesterday?

And then, as the tradition goes, I always end with, What do you want to dream about tonight?

Without fail, Thalia requests something with princesses and purple unicorns named Kelsey and magic butterflies and rainbows. Sage is more interested in princes with swords and friendly monsters named Pukebok who play tricks on people.

And then I kiss their foreheads, tell them I love them so so much (two so’s are so so important), and send them to sleep.

Once in a while, if the stars align, they do actually sleep at that point.

The thing is, when you have less time, you have no choice but to do the most with it that you can. My hope is not that my kids will remember how many after-school hours I missed, but how many butterfly kisses I gave. How many princess rescues I described. How many questions I let them answer. How many rainbow dreams I helped bring to life. How many chapters I read doing the silly voices.

How many times I said I love you, so so much.

THE CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED. Congrats to Fer of My Whole Life… who’s the winner! I’m so glad it’s someone who really really wanted it. Thanks so much for sharing your stories with me. I learned lots of great ideas myself for dong more when you have less time.

The giveaway was brought to you by th enew Windows Phone 7. Less MIA, More PTA. (Which I think means that moms all are in the PTA? Or something? No idea.) Learn about Windows Phone online and see it in person at a local T-Mobile store.

131 shards of brilliance… read them below or add one

Georgette November 15, 2010 at 11:16 am

We sit and have dinner together every night and we play the “Conversation Game.” Everyone takes a turn to ask a question and we all answer it. It's a great way to connect and I learn so much about them.


delilah, the unruly helpmeet November 15, 2010 at 12:47 pm

We have our best conversations in the car, where there are fewer distractions. I ask silly questions and answer anything my daughter can dream up.


Joanna November 15, 2010 at 12:53 pm

I love the Tango app to call my nephews, who I don't get to see! I can catch up and see their precious faces.


Heather Lopez November 15, 2010 at 12:54 pm

Since I manage several sites and events, my time is very limited and making time for my toddlers is a daily event. Since they aren't exactly the best conversationalists, I opt to spend time with them singing and clapping while they bathe in the tub. They get clean, while we still have a little fun and they thoroughly enjoy it. It helps that their swim classes involve singing altered songs to coincide with what they are learning. (i.e. row, row, row your arms, kicking with your feet….)


Just Margaret November 15, 2010 at 1:21 pm

One thing we do to make the most of our time is that we have a family sit-around-the-dinner-table meal at least five nights a week. It gives us a chance to catch up on our days and check in with one another about some of the great and not-so-great parts of our day. And like you, I treasure the nighttime tuck-in when we whisper quietly, sharing dreams and hopes…


Jen November 15, 2010 at 1:22 pm

It's such a huge balancing act. Sometimes it's better to eat dinner at Chik Fil A and thus get to spend some good time with my kids than it is to be in the kitchen cooking dinner for an hour. Sometimes we just need to put off projects around the house that need doing, because time with the kids is needed more.


Wombat Central November 15, 2010 at 1:23 pm

I love that before bed quiet time when they are eager to reflect on their days. I'm going to have to “borrow” some of your questions! We always try to read a chapter book together before bed, but if it's getting too late we chat for a few minutes. It's the best!


Dawn November 15, 2010 at 1:41 pm

Since I have teenagers I have learned to talk when they want to talk. And how they want to talk. Even if it's a quick picture message to say “I love you more than peanut better”. (Of course the proper response is ” I love you more than jelly”.)


Tonya November 15, 2010 at 1:59 pm

Our family of six has dinner together each night and we go around the table and tell one thing about our day. Sometimes it's a rather rowdy affair; other days are insightful and answers lend themselves to further conversation.


MAP November 15, 2010 at 2:22 pm

It sounds silly but my hubby and I text cute notes and pictures to each other during the day. It is a way to say “I love you” since our our time alone is limited.


Miriam yost November 15, 2010 at 2:28 pm

In the hustle and the bustle of life I try to spend as much time with my autistic son as I can. After I get home I will help him with homework, then I know how Nevis really doing in school, I find out how his day was and he asks aboutmine as well, and we have dinner together either at the table or in the car on our way somewhere. We also make it a point to pray and I tuck him into bed and talk to him to get his mind in a positive gear to go to sleep. We make the most of the time we have, being in a small house w are always multitasking but talking and getting things done. I wouldn't have it any other way!!

Miriam Yost


dawn November 15, 2010 at 2:29 pm

I drag my butt out of bed at the ungodly hour of 5 so that I can get lunch made for my son and myself. I then wake my kids and husband up so that we can have breakfast together (at least at the same time) before I go to work–while it is still dark. I do this so that I can pick the kids up from school 3 days a week at the end of school 3:15. This gives me a few couple hours a week with the kids. This is hugely important because I miss so much being in school a couple nights a week. I also do bath and bed time on the nights I am not in school. I hope that is what they remember–not that I was in school.


coffeewithjulie November 15, 2010 at 2:50 pm

I really like your questions game! I'm going to put that in my ideas bag now. As for me, a fellow working mom, family dinners are really important at our place. We all sit around a circle table that is far too small for us (even though there is a perfectly good size table in the next room) and get squished into our spots. Then if conversation doesn't just “happen” we'll do the “roses & thorns” — this is when one person tells their top “rose” (good thing that happened) of the day and one “thorn” (not so good thing). It helps keep everything in perspective. Especially if an adult had a bad day at work … it is super helpful to dig through the day and pull out some good points! Not only do we catch up with each others' days, but I think it models a bit of real life to the children.


Cindy November 15, 2010 at 2:57 pm

How do I do more when I have less time? I don't. I think I just try to keep in perspective what is most important. Sometimes that means reading Dora and the Rainbow of Colors for the 13,002 time. Sometimes that means playing catch. Sometimes I have to say, “No. Mama can't hold you right now. I'm cooking.” I think we all just do the best we can with what we have.


New York Chica November 15, 2010 at 3:01 pm

Since I have an eat-in kitchen, I like when the kids are doing their homework on the table because I can help them and cook dinner at the same time. It saves me alot of time because if they have a question, I can just walk a few steps to help them out. I also love the fact that dinner is ready when they are done (most of the time).


Marinka November 15, 2010 at 3:01 pm

One of my favorite times to talk to the boys in the family (my son and stepson) is when I'm cooking dinner. I like it because it makes cooking a little less lonely and they like it because they can tell me about their day, the injustices, the craziness and the funny stuff and know that I am not looking directly at them.

We're all so busy and I love that they recognize this time as “just us” time.


Kate November 15, 2010 at 3:29 pm

To do more, I actually try to do less. I find that when I actually spend time focusing on whatever I'm trying to do–getting my work done so I can spend more time with the kids, or when I'm with the kids, just focusing on them–then everything works out better. For some reason, I have a really hard time remembering this, though, and constantly find myself in a tizzy trying to do forty things at once.


JustMom420zaks November 15, 2010 at 3:55 pm

Most every night we have “Crazy run around time.” With two toddlers, the conversation isn't always that good. But tickles and wild leaps into mommy and daddy's laps speaks volumes!


Jessica November 15, 2010 at 4:27 pm

We have 'talk time' at night, too, and it's alrady a fixture in my 3-year old's bedtime routine. I love how connected that makes us feel. We also have 'dance parties' when we have too much energy, and let loose to wiggle crazily to any songs we choose!


Erin Walsh November 15, 2010 at 4:40 pm

sometimes i'm so tired at night that i don't want to read stories or sing songs before bed time. sometimes i try to get away with just one story and one song, but my son calls me on it every time. and you know, by skipping one story and one song, i only add about 5 minutes to my couch lounging time. its worth those five minutes to enjoy a book and a song with my boy.


Megan November 15, 2010 at 4:49 pm

Instead of “sweating it” when our 20 month old doesn't go to bed well, we call it bonus time. Makes us all relax more and our little guy fall asleep.


Laura November 15, 2010 at 4:49 pm

As a SAHM, I think I take for granted all these things you talk about missing. Our bedtime routine seems more like a chore than an opportunity to talk one on one with my children about the events of our day.

So for me, it's not that I need more time, but that I need to be wiser with all the time I am fortunate enough to have.


Domestic Goddess November 15, 2010 at 5:20 pm

How do we do more? Multitasking. I'm the master at it. And also? Procrastinating. Again, a master.


Bryony Boxer November 15, 2010 at 5:22 pm

We have a similar nighttime ritual, and it's the only thing that saves me from massive guilt (well, there's guilt anyway buy a little less).


beyond November 15, 2010 at 5:28 pm

i don't have kids and feel like i have no time for my husband or my friends! conversations with my husband take place right before we sleep, or on the subway…


Lauren November 15, 2010 at 6:02 pm

As a full-time working mom with a husband who is working on his PhD, time is in short supply at our house! We make every minute count in the evenings by making it all about food and family. We all sit in the kitchen and help with dinner while we talk about our days. It's a great way to reconnect as a family, and we can make healthy, inexpensive meals in the process.


Billie November 15, 2010 at 6:05 pm

The hardest thing for me is making sure I get some quality time with my 10 yo son. We have 2 girls under 2 in the house so they demand a lot of our time. I will usually try to get both girls in bed by 9pm so I can spend 30 minutes with my son before he has to go to bed.


Petit Elefant November 15, 2010 at 6:15 pm

Liz, this post made me cry.

Touches a little close to home I suppose.


Anna November 15, 2010 at 6:39 pm

I think that sentimental gifts are the most memorable way to do more with less. My favorite gifts are photo calendars, filled with memories. These are easy and affordable, and can be tailored for families and friends.
Lastly, don't forget to spend a little something for those who can't spend – whether it is adopting a family for a holiday or buying something small for a toy drive. When I was little, I was the recipient of a secret toys-for-tots gift (I had no idea where it came from, it was left at my doorstep), and it helped me continue believing in Santa although my family was not able to afford gifts that year!


Karen November 15, 2010 at 7:17 pm

Before I had children I remember talking with a colleague with two little ones at home. Trying to imagine how I could possibly balance things as well as she seemed to, I asked her for her secret. She told me the key was that while she was at work, she was at work 100%; while she was with the kids, she was with them 100%. I took a different path and work at home, but her advice stays with me. My iPhone stays in the car when I go to the children's museum. I don't surf the web when I'm supposed to be doing my freelance work. (Well, that one's true… mostly.) You get the idea. So, as much as I love to multitask, I force myself not to, and miraculously, I get more done.


Jenny November 15, 2010 at 7:19 pm

I am also a working mom, and what you described is exactly what I work for. My husband who always gets off work at 4:30, does a great job of having dinner ready and bath and jammies done, teeth brushed on nights I will be late, so I'm only left with the good stuff. He's a good man.

I always take one child with me on a weekend errand, even when it would be faster to do alone. That leaves some one on one with me and my hubby (and hopefully the baby is napping). We talk in the car, talk during the errand. And I just try hard for the daughter I have at the moment to feel like what we are doing is super important for her and I and not just a trip to Best Buy to grab some batteries for the smoke detector.

We always ask at dinner: What was your favorite part of today.

I also pay someone to clean my bathrooms/hard floors/and vacuum the stairs. I can't afford a full on cleaning lady, but those things would NEVER get done if I didn't pay to have it done, or they would wait until they were too disgusting, and they would take me an entire weekend to make right.

Thank you for your post! :) Always good to encourage others as you remind yourself.


jsetrum November 15, 2010 at 7:25 pm

We've found it's a lot cheaper to bake our own bread and it's not that that time consuming when we consider all of the time we spent going to the bakery. As an added bonus we have the best conversations while busy in the kitchen.


Jack November 15, 2010 at 7:36 pm

I sleep less than most people do so that usually makes it possible to get more done. It is not the greatest way of doing things, but it seems to be effective.

One of my favorite times of day has become bedtime because there is this magic that comes when the children are just unwinding. For a few moments we sit in the dark and talk about life and I answer any and all questions they throw at me.

And sometimes I'll stand there and watch them sleep and marvel at the potential that I see in them.


Shay-Zee November 15, 2010 at 8:29 pm

I just have to leave work when you decide I need to leave work, unless there is a true emergency. There is always something else to do, but the dirty secret is you'll never catch up. There will just be more to do. Get home and properly bathe those kids rather than give them a military bath.


My Kids' Mom November 15, 2010 at 8:30 pm

When there is less time, either the time gets blown away and is wasted… or we focus. I'm sometimes amazed at how much I get done in the short bits of time I scrap together and how little gets done when I have a huge open day.


Gencie November 15, 2010 at 8:39 pm

For some people, multi-tasking is the best way to get things done. Not for me. If I focus on one thing at a time, I tend to get things done much more quickly!


November Grey November 15, 2010 at 8:41 pm

Your posts always make me cry! Either I'm A) PMS'ing B) Hormonal and pregnant again (God help me) or C) just really love your blog

I think C. So so much!


November Grey

Pop over for an awesome Art Giveaway


KateB November 15, 2010 at 8:56 pm

When I have less time, I have to be more organized. It's on the crazy days that I actually cook dinner. On our lazy days, I'll look at the clock at realize, “Yikes! It's dinnertime. Can I do pasta again tonight?” So, less sometimes yields more and better at our house. Thanks for hosting!


Holly November 15, 2010 at 9:14 pm

This will sound over-simplified, I'm sure, but I find that if I just do not stop moving/working, I inevitably get more done. Nothing slows me down more than stopping to think about how much I have to do!!


Chara November 15, 2010 at 9:44 pm

There is something so nice about being with them as they fall asleep. Even if I can't be there other times, I try to lay down with my son and let him tell me about his shop and his flying semi-truck while he touches the moles on the back of my neck. It's really weird, but it's also nice to know that something so specific to me is so comforting to him.


Rachel November 15, 2010 at 10:20 pm

Both of my parents worked when I was little and I definitely remember the moments they were there more than the moments they weren't. I don't have kids yet, but I'm sure yours will remember you the same way.


marriedsinglemom November 15, 2010 at 10:44 pm

I find that I do more when I have less time because when I am not in a rush (which is super rare) I can put things off til later. When I have only a little bit of time, I tend to rush around trying to get it all done. And, I am a SAHM.. but I have 3 children and spend my days toting them to and fro, and doing things with and for them… my favorite of which is volunteering in their classrooms.



fer November 15, 2010 at 11:35 pm

Despite my frequent evening events as a high school vice principal and my husband's frequent weekend events as a sailing coach, we pride ourselves on having family dinner almost every weeknight. And even if it's only thirty minutes, we cover “the best part” of our days, listening to and honoring one another's stories.


julianne November 15, 2010 at 11:54 pm

Silly snuggle time. Just randomly pounce on the wee ones and get them all riled up and snuggle them lots. That physical connection helps keep us emotionally connected.


Kelley November 16, 2010 at 12:15 am

Right before bedtime I sit in a comfy black chair and my son picks 3 books to read and crawls up in my lap. That time is so so precious.


Liza November 16, 2010 at 12:37 am

Right now I gaze at my two-year-old while we do puzzles. He doesn't really get how they work yet – but his brain is working hard.


Kami November 16, 2010 at 1:51 am

They looked bigger today. Their new haircuts, the big words coming out of their little mouths, the way they sat on the floor in the library pouring over new and exciting books. Their big-ness makes me proud. And sad. And so I hold them close until they say, “Mommy, stop!” Then, I sigh. And stare some more. At those little people I made.


Samantha November 16, 2010 at 7:53 am

I have the best conversations while I am cleaning. I will look over the sink and just talk :)


Georgette November 16, 2010 at 11:42 am

No matter how busy my day is, I spend 15 minutes with each of my daughters reading, singing, and cuddling. Bedtime is a chance to slow down and connect.


Katie B. November 16, 2010 at 3:37 pm

I forget about the little things like picking up the matchbox cars or loading the dishwasher. Instead, I just spend time with my kid!


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