Thursday, June 30, 2016

"So, what do you do with your time?"

It's one of the most common questions I'm asked when catching up with friends that are aware of my new situation.  You know, working fewer than 50 days per year and taking 300+ days off, just the opposite of what life used to be.  Instead of drumming up a typical long-winded explanation, a series of photos will probably do a better job.  

I intended a 30 minute interval, but missed a few photos along the way.  I apologize for my low-end poor quality camera phone.

8:15 am - I haven't even rolled out of bed yet, and with a face like this in bed with me, I have little reason to.

8:47 am - Preparing an easy breakfast for the boys.

9:16 am - And something a little extra special for Brynn.

9:46 am - Getting ready for church.

10:01 am - Driving to 10 o'clock church service.

11:34 am - Wrapping up some post church visits with old friends.

11:34 am - Bonus picture too cute to pass up.

12:04 pm - Heading to Royal Palm with the whole gang for some classic diner deliciousness.

1:06 pm - We've surpassed LJ's naptime.

1:48 pm - I cave to childhood pressure, and take the kids to join Mama and Greegraw on a short shopping outing.  We hang out in the truck while LJ and Baby "A" nap it out for a bit.

2:18 pm - A quick meet up with Brynn's aunt and uncle, just passing through.

2:49 pm - We're getting restless at "It's Fashion Metro."

2:49 pm - I'm with you Baby "A".  This shopping thing is boring.

3:19 pm - Load 'em up, let's head home!

3:56 pm - Diaper change!

4:27 pm - My version of the same.  Hey, I was at my photo interval, so I snapped the shot in the moment.

5:05 pm - Organizing the trailer's outside storage compartment to fit in my old fishing tackle

5:35 pm - Still at it, now with help from my LJ.

6:19 pm - Driving with my in-laws to check out a possible RV parking spot on a coworker's property since our stay in their driveway was only a temporary solution.  

6:32 pm - The driveway in question.  The fence across the street ended up making parking here an impossibility.

7:33 pm - Cleaning up the kiddos with the luxury of a full-size tub at the grandparents' house.

8:04 pm - Some winding down time for Baby A.

10:37 pm - Some winding down time for me after getting the kids to sleep.

11:07 pm - Bed!  Whew, what a day!

Just to be clear, this was actually a rather busy, atypical day considering how much time we spent on the road.  We drove to church, then directly out to eat, followed immediately by shopping on the other side of town, and didn't make it home until nearly 4 pm!  A day like this, particularly with the clothing shopping, may come up only once or twice a year.  

What I realized in photo-journaling my day is that the vast majority of my time is spent with my wife and kids, just as I intend it!  In 18 of the 24 pictures I am actively spending time with my family, whether it be in the car driving somewhere, changing a diaper, taking care of some household chores, or enjoying a meal together.  Most days I expect more than 90% of my time is spent within 5 feet of any one of my family members, often all of them. 

The overarching goal in this new lifestyle is to spend as much time as possible with my family.  Particularly with the kids while they are young, and with my wife so she isn't left with nearly all of the responsibilities of parenthood in what to me can be an overwhelming experience when doing it alone.  Despite my previous post on sometimes feeling inefficient in how I spend my time, I need to be reminded that time with family is among the most important goals I have, and I achieve it on a daily basis.   And in this particular photo shoot, staying in the driveway of Greegraw and Pop's provided the extra bonus of the kids spending tons of time with the grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins.  

Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Diminishing Value of Time

I wasn't sure how to title this post, since a general trend of my life now is to have a bountiful supply of time to enjoy with my wife and kids.  Odd then, that I would suggest time is worth less when you have more of it.  This isn't always the case, as it is more dependent on whom the extra time is given.  But I have discovered in my four months of (mostly) employment free living that having more available time hasn't equated to a more productive me.  Goals are slow to be accomplished, or even started.  Somehow I thought more time would mean more productivity, and increased goal accomplishment.  

That isn't to say that I, nor my wife, don't keep busy.  It seems there is an endless number of diapers to change, toys to re-clean, or mouths to feed.  But even faced with the onslaught of tasks known as parenting, the goals of personal fitness, as well as spiritual and educational growth should not be ignored.  Perhaps three children, even with two stay-at-home parents, takes up more time than I can even understand.  Whatever the reason, these intended life changes haven't happened yet.  

Remember long ago when you had a term paper due at the end of the semester, which of course you had known about for months.  It was in the last week, day, or even hours that the bulk of the work was accomplished.  At least that is how it worked out for us procrastinators.  And that's the trouble with a great deal of time with no deadlines.  Any task, chore, or life goal can simply be put off until tomorrow, with no immediate consequences.  After all, with no deadline it will get done "on time"... eventually.

It's possible many people don't perceive this as a problem.  

"Hey! No job, no deadlines?  Do what you want, when you want?  Sounds like sweet retirement living to me!"

Considering I've chosen to forgo likely millions of dollars of a traditional 65+ retirement for an abundance of time with my family now, wasting that time is akin to lighting that presumptive millions on fire, one dollar at a time.  I shouldn't be foolish enough to do such I thing, but it happens gradually.  Without even realizing, weeks can turn to months or even years while the aspirations of life remain neglected.  

There was a time in my life, not long ago, that I was able (with the help of my wife) to juggle 70+ hour work weeks, 10-20 hours of weekly homework for my Masters, and raising a baby while remaining active in the church.  How was I able to get all this done in a given week, when the 20 minute chore of rinsing out the 6-gallon RV water heater took me six weeks?  The answer of course was the increased value of my time based on its limited availability.  With less time available, we were focused and reasonably efficient.  We managed our busy schedule out of necessity (which most of us needlessly force upon ourselves unknowingly).  My job, my school work, and even the church all had their own schedules, each of which unconcerned with any plans I might make for myself.  I was left no choice but to work around the clock at times, my wife doing the same, to stay afloat in life.  This necessity developed discipline, allowing us to buckle down and get things done when needed.  Would I trade my current "free-time rich" life for that high stress life which developing such discipline?  Not a chance.  But I recognize the structure and deadlines I once had created a disciplined life of focused task accomplishment.  And that was a good thing.

And the structure I now have to keep me straight?  The sun rises and falls, and the kids (usually) nap each afternoon, but beyond that life is a loose gathering of rough housing with the children with spatterings of outdoor activities throughout.  Toss in a Chuggington episode and we've accomplished a full day.  Outside of the occasional part-time work in the Reserves, that's just about all the structure I have, and keeping me on task it does not.  In order to live this life as fully as I once imagined, and actually take some steps toward positive life-changing habits, I need to establish structure.  Having the discipline to force this upon myself is the challenge.  

I think this is what most retirees refer to as "keeping themselves busy."  They find activities they enjoy, and schedule them on a weekly basis.  Tuesday: tennis, Wednesday: bridge, Thursday: volunteer at such and such.  In essence what they are doing is removing the excess time and replacing it with joyful activities.  But since the activities I seek (personal fitness, daily bible study, educational/recreational reading) can each be home-bound single person tasks, the only one to hold me accountable is, well, me.  This makes it far too easy to let these goals slip by as quickly as time itself.  To make the most of each day God lays before me, not just in spending time with my family but in maximizing my personal life, I must be more disciplined than ever.  

It's was about two months between when I first wrote the above and then actually typed it up, proving all I've written, I suppose.  In that time I've been introduced to a couple of ideas.  First is Parkinson's law: "Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion."  I'm haven't read up on it anymore than that single quote, but it seems to fit here very well.  Additionally, I have discovered that though I am often not efficient with my time, I still occasionally become overtaken by this sense to accomplish something!  It may be straightening up around the house, some minor bike or vehicle maintenance, or any other small task.  I think I like to see measurable and tangible results from my work, and such tasks fill that need.  I get that inner urge from time to time that I need to be more productive.  These "Nagging Voices of Success", as described by blogger Mr. Money Mustache, pop up from my subconscious frequently enough to keep me from destroying myself through laziness, but not often enough to make me a workaholic.   I'm somewhat like Mrs. Money Mustache, requiring intentional routine placed in each day to make the most out of life.  "Routine Will Oil the Machine", as she says. Routine certainly seems to be the trick, since I have biked more in my last five day string of work than I did in the previous five months.  That's saying something.  

With the goal now simply to create routine and deadlines within my own life, we'll see if I can achieve the productive yet low stress balance I'm looking for.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Disney on a Dollar

Seriously... $1 and some gas on our day at Disney.  Mind you we have a 4yr old, 2 yr old, and 6 month old.  All of whom are very easy to please.  My husband and I decided we wanted to do Disney, but not go into the parks...say WHAT?!?!?!  With our kids so young, even with a military discount we couldn't justify dropping over $500 on tickets for something none of them will remember.  Not to mention it's insanely hot, they still take naps midday and two of the three kids are too short to ride a LOT of rides.  Don't get me wrong, the parks offer plenty for my 3 little monkeys, but we decided to hold off for a few years.  So I started doing some research on how to make the best of our FREE day at Disney.

We attempted this 3 years ago when we only had one munchkin and it was way easier to just wing it, but this time I wanted a plan.  Plans are essential for me to avoid tantrums, mine...not the kids...OK maybe the kids too.  So this is what we did.  I've added some links to great resources at the bottom of this blog for reference.

We started out at Disney Springs (AKA Downtown Disney, they seem to change the name every few years).  FREE parking at Disney springs...even parking for our beast of a vehicle with a kayak strapped to the top.  (**For you RV folks, if you need to bring the house with, they do have over-sized parking on the west side.)  Disney Springs has some great activities, street performers, the Lego store (with interactive Lego building), T-Rex restaurant, and my personal favorite, Ghirardelli!!  We attempted T-Rex on a previous evening, waited the 20 minutes for a table, were seated and then ended up leaving a tip for our water and high-tailing it out of there when we had a terrified 2 yr old and a 4 yr old who wouln't remove his hands from his ears, claiming it was too loud.

Anyhow, back to our day.  We left our vehicle at Disney Springs for the day and hopped on a bus to the Polynesian.  It's been years since I've been there but it's GREAT!!  In the lobby they were giving out free pineapple ice cream samples and had a coloring table for the kids.  We knocked out a couple coloring sheets before heading to the pool to see the awesome "volcano" and waterfall.  While Dad changed Baby A's diaper the boys and I spent our first 51 cents.  I like to call it the Cheapest Disney Souvenir.  In the lobby they have one of those penny press machines. So for 51 cents the boys got a Buzz Lightyear Penny.  (You can collect these all over Disney.  Do it as a fun scavenger hunt, who can collect the most pennies??)

We left the Polynesian via the monorail, or train as my boys called it, to the Grand Floridian.  I had read on a different blog about the flooring at the Grand Floridian, but had never noticed it.  As we approached I told the boys to watch the floors for anything they recognized.  They immediately found Mickey and Dog (Pluto) meticulously crafted into the marble flooring at the entrance.  You can also find Tinker Bell, Cinderella and Mrs. Potts in different areas.  Not to mention the "hidden mickeys" everywhere.  (Check out the manhole covers, electrical poles and above the children's TV in the Grand Floridian lobby, just to get you started)  The boys got to watch a few minutes of a classic Mickey cartoon and we headed off to our next adventure.

By monorail we hit the Contemporary Resort.  After collecting our Finding Nemo penny (the other 51 cents)  we admired the artwork and walked out to the pool area.  They have a neat set of Mickey ears the kids immediately climbed on.  They also have covered tables by the splash pad that made a great spot for a stop.  I had packed a pasta salad in a cooler bag with a gallon of cold water and pretzels to keep us going.  We enjoyed our meal and headed to the dock.

From the dock we caught the boat over to Fort Wilderness.  It's a really neat spot with a beach, nature trails and a couple of horse ranches.  The pony rides were $8, which seemed to be a great deal looking at how long the ride actually was, but if you are like us we just walked through the horse ranch and admired the ponies while LJ cried, "The horses are going to get me!".  We aren't sure when this fear of horses started, or why, but the poor guy was without a nap and just about distraught over being forced to be around such terrifying creatures.  So we left.  The plan was to walk the mile trail to Wilderness Lodge and catch a bus back to Disney Springs, but the 90 degree heat, 200% humidity and lack of naps pushed us in the direction of an air conditioned bus from Fort Wilderness to our car back at Disney Springs.

*The last time we attempted this we hit up Animal Kingdom Lodge.  It was a great spot, especially since my kids LOVE animals.  The lobby is fun, the playground is awesome and the animal sightings are great!!

**I've read that you can actually park at a Disney resort for free for 3 hours, but we didn't think we would be done in that time limit.

We had a great time and the kids seemed to enjoy themselves.  We think AJ is catching on to us though.  On our way home he informed us that, "We went to Disney, but we didn't really go to Disney World."   Sorry kid, it's not worth liquidating your college savings right now.  Maybe in a few years when Baby A will be old enough to ride a few rides and we can talk a Grandparent into babysitting at night so Dad and I can hit up the fireworks and roller-coasters.  We'll see.

What amazed me the most about our day, while we didn't have to stand in any long lines for hours in the blazing June heat we returned home exhausted and overdue for bed.  But hey! We got to see and do some fun stuff and only spent $1.02 at Disney World. That has got to be some sort of record.