How To Maximize Your Efficiency as a Working Mom (Or, Why My Children Really Need to Floss. Really.)

As I mentioned in my earlier posts, I have a job. This primarily gets me out of doing unpleasant chores at home, such as cleaning the toilet, rearranging the kitchen silverware drawer, and taking care of the children. I’ve discovered it provides a convenient excuse for not doing other things as well- returning phone calls from the dentist’s office, going to the dentist, exercising, grocery shopping, paying fees for forgotten dentist appointments, etc… The problem is that all of the things I don’t have time to do anymore still need to eventually get done. You can only dodge the dentist for so long, especially if your kids think candy is an important part of the food pyramid.  And so, inexorably, I am now cramming all of my to-do list into my three free precious hours each afternoon. 


My last class is dismissed at 12:20, and the bus drops the little angels off on my street at 3:53. Plenty of time, as my husband points out, to exercise, do the grocery shopping, run an errand or two, clean up the kitchen, start dinner, and then meet the bus with a big smile on my face. 


This sounds reasonable. In fact, he is helpful enough to suggest that I bring my lunch and gym clothes with me when I leave for work in the morning, so I can eat and work out without coming home first. He is full of good ideas, my husband. 


So, on Monday morning, I lock the door behind me, burdened like a sherpa with the following items.  

 1. My daughter’s zebra striped backpack: Yes, I know she should carry her own backpack. Don’t judge me. You have no idea the raving lunatic my daughter can morph into before leaving the house in the morning. It is a Herculean victory simply to get her to wear pants each day.

 2. My school bag:  weighing approximately 50 pounds, this contains 7-8 textbooks, various dry erase markers I have pilfered from my daughter’s collection, 4 granola bars, and 1-2 pieces of (slowly rotting) fruit 

 3. My gym bag: which is very light, because as I will discover later, I have forgotten my sports bra.  And my hair clip. And my sneakers.

 4. My lunch: a yogurt. Healthy, and easy to eat on the go! If you have a spoon. 

 5. My purse: the contents of which are a continual mystery to me. For example, on an average day it might contain an Altoids tin full of pennies, an open pack of fruit snacks melded to the lining and encrusted with goldfish crumbs, a punch card for a dry cleaning establishment in North Carolina, a mostly empty stainless steel coffee mug, and a sock. 

 6. A Target bag: Perhaps I neglected to mention that there is a Super-Target across the street from my new workplace. The giant red bulls-eye is a homing beacon that draws me in almost every day on my way home. All under one wonderful roof, I can get groceries, socks, school supplies, shampoo, novelty toothbrushes, new ear buds, a big screen TV, a Frappucino, and a sense of purpose.  Most days, whatever I get is, according to my children/husband/dog, the wrong size/kind/color/flavor/brand and must be exchanged, thus necessitating another trip to Target. And so the vicious (and expensive) cycle continues. 


And so at 8:25 AM the car is loaded for the day’s activities. At 8:35, I drop my children and the zebra backpack off at school (five minutes before the school is technically open, but who’s counting?) At 8:42 I arrive at school and begin my morning of conjugating verbs, sharing cultural tidbits, and helping my Saudi Arabian students learn to navigate our inexplicable society (that’s a whole other blog entry!)


12:25: I am out the door before the bell stops ringing. On my way to the car, I stop to ask the academic director a quick question. 


12:52: I am out the door for real this time. I don’t even stop to punch out. Let them think I worked for 28 hours straight. What a dedicated employee. 


12:58: I ride the gleaming elevator to the 3rd floor of Target.The glass doors glide open with a faint, familiar snick as I grab a cherry red cart, and get shopping. List? Who needs a list? 


2:05: The cold air of the parking garage snaps me right out of my shopping trance. I feel slightly disoriented as I unload the sea of plastic bags into my half full trunk. Why did I get eight packages of turkey bacon? Perhaps the 6 new throw pillows were an extravagance. But the dog keeps eating them. And everything is 5% off with my Red Card! Like I always tell my husband, you have to spend money to save money. 


2:10: Regrets quashed, I peel out of the parking garage determined to make the most of the next hour and 40 minutes. My stomach grumbles, so I decide to eat and drive. Unfortunately, I have forgotten a spoon. God I’m hungry. 


2:13: Stopped at a red light, a woman in the car next to me is staring at me with a look of- disgust? Or is it admiration? I slurp a big glob of raspberry Chobani off my finger.   I want to roll the window down and tell her I used hand sanitizer first. And that it was either my finger or a pencil from the glove compartment. I think I made the right decision. 


2:20: Changing in the locker room of 24 hour fitness, I decide I will improvise. No hair band, no problem! I can tie my hair back with this handy trouser sock! And, I can totally ride the stationary bike in clogs. If I arrange the deep V neck of my t-shirt just right, you can only see the edges of my (non-sports) bra. I realize I will have to be careful not to lean over, or bounce up and down, or basically move.


2:25: I decide to go home and run on the basement treadmill instead. 


2:26: I make a U-turn and head to the library to pick up Jake, because “it’s COLD and he has a TON of homework.” This provides a perfect opportunity for me to return the overdue books that I hope are still in the car somewhere, pay my fine, and get the children some new library books. 


2:58: I stagger into the house with 7 Target bags of groceries on each arm, as Jake disappears into the basement to play the X-box.  I should yell at him and make him start his homework, but I just don’t have time right now. In a flurry of plastic bags, packages of turkey bacon and toiletries, I put away the refrigerated items and rush to get my work out clothes on. 


3:08:  On my way down to the basement, I realize I should really start the dishwasher, since it takes 195 minutes to run. Plus, I need to defrost the chicken for dinner. 


3:32: I get on the treadmill. 


3:49: I get off the treadmill. I have run for 17 minutes, and gone 1.5 miles. 


3:52: As I close the front door behind me, I can see the flashing yellow lights of the school bus at the end of the street. Great. I add another 1/4 mile to my total distance as I sprint to the bus stop. 


3:54: My daughter tearfully reprimands me as we walk home from the bus stop (you were LATE! He wouldn’t let me get OFF THE BUS! etc.) I think about how I need to  pick Danny up at 4:45 from chess club, get him ready for basketball, finish dinner and help everyone with their homework. 


After I get home and fix everyone a nice turkey bacon snack, I realize that making the most of my afternoons is going to take some practice. The dentist may have to wait a few months before I get the hang of it all. 



The Glass (or Mini-Van) is Half-Full (of Trash)

The exciting conclusion to the Saga of The Missing Minivan!!

On a cold, overcast sunday in early January, I get home from work and am looking forward to an afternoon of pricing new minivans (Salsa Red Pearl, Rear Seat Entertainment Center, 38,400 MSRP!)  when the phone rings.

Danny: Hello?

Phone guy: -unintelligible-

Danny: Okay. Just so you know, she doesn’t want to change the phone service. Somebody called about that yesterday and she got really mad.

Phone guy: -unintelligible, yet indignant-

Danny: Well…okay. Here she is.

Me: Hello?

Officer Smith: Hello ma’am. I’m calling from the Arlington County police department to tell you we recovered your car.


Officer Smith: Hello?

Me: Uhh…that’s….great. What condition is it in?

Officer Smith: I have no idea. It’s at an impound lot in PG County. It was found abandoned in an industrial park in District Heights, Maryland.

Me: Do I have to pick it up?

Officer Smith: Excuse me?

Me: Uh….I mean, do I have to pick it up now? I just put my slippers on.

Officer Smith: No ma’am…you have to bring proof of ownership to the PG county police station and get a release form. Then, you bring that to the impound lot and get your car.

Me: That sounds like a fun way to spend the afternoon.

Officer Smith: Ma’am, you want your car back, don’t you?

At this point, there is a long pause. I think about the gleaming, pearly salsa-red lines of a new minivan as I float down I-495, listening to my favorite Pandora station as the children quietly bask in their own individual rear-seat entertainment cocoons. The bisque leather interior and floor mats are spotless, the windows are clean and free of impound lot stickers and the sun is shining.

Me: (Heavy sigh). I guess so.

And that is how I end up spending my 40th birthday- not throwing back margaritas with girlfriends and dancing to Pink (OK, that wasn’t going to happen anyway, but a girl can dream) -but on a 7-hour-long Minivan Recovery Quest that takes me across state lines into the heart of PG county and back again,

I begin my JRR Tolkien-style journey at home, where I leave my house in Arlington provisioned with a bottle of water, a credit card, and my heavy traveling gloves. I walk to the Falls Church metro station, where I wait for 20 freezing minutes in the Great Wind Tunnel to be whisked away into the subterranean heart of Washington DC. After navigating the labyrinthine bowels of Metro Center, I disembark at majestic Union Station and again brave the frigid temperatures in a brutal 4 minute walk to the Dirksen Building where I meet my traveling companion, Eric “Aragorn” Bader. We complete the next leg of the journey by Jeep, crossing into Mary-land and arriving at JD Towing in the waning hours of the afternoon.  As we approach our van, we are filled with trepidation: The remnants of a smoke-filled, fast-food fueled night of crime, violence and mayhem surely await us. We shudder to think of the congealed cheese, mummified french fries, drug paraphernalia, and bloodstains that surely mar the formerly pristine interior.  What unspeakable horrors (or acts of passion?) have been committed in our fold-down third row seat?

As we approach the van, we cheer to find it unscathed-from the outside. Then we open the door.

Trash litters the car from one end to the other. Random objects, such as articles of clothing (is that underwear?!!!) are scattered over the upholstery and the floor mats. The smell, a combination of feet, dog sweat, and decomposing food, is overpowering.

My partner and I high-five each other in the time-honored gesture of victory.

“Just the way we left it!” We crow to each other. Right down to the rotting banana in the backseat cupholder.  I am giddy with relief and a smug sense of satisfaction. I KNEW It. I knew  that fundamentally, people don’t suck. I KNEW that Arlington car thieves would be polite and respectful of the property they stole. I am almost surprised not to find a thank you note on the dashboard:

Dear Car Owner, 

Thank you for the use of your van. It is a sweet ride. We figured since you left the keys in the glove box that you wouldn’t mind if we took it for a spin. Sorry for the inconvenience.” 


Car Thieves

The gas tank may be empty, but my heart is full. Who knows why the car thieves were so polite? Maybe they had an attack of conscience. Maybe they figured the van had seen enough abuse. But for whatever reason, they left the registration in the glove box, a $200 pair of sunglasses on the seat, and the car keys on the console.

The sun grows low on the horizon over gutted car skeletons and barbed wire, as we race to the county police station to get the form to release our van. One hour and twenty minutes later, we arrive back at the impound lot with just 15 minutes to spare before the office and gates are locked for the night. At 4:27 PM on January 8th, a mere six hours before the anniversary of the hour of my birth, we make our triumphant departure from JR Towing.

As I crawl through rush hour traffic back through DC and into VA, I reacquaint myself with my second home. The coffee stain on the floor mat. The gum wrappers forever trapped between the drivers seat and the console. Maybe it’s just the seat warmer, but I feel a toasty sense of well being come over me as I relax into the familiar surroundings.  On the minus side, there are the hundreds of dollars of recovery fees,  the inconvenience of not having a second car for 8 days, and the possibility that our van was used to transport a dead body. But, on the plus side, we got the van back with all of our belongings intact. They also left the bass turned all the way up and the radio tuned to 93.9, a radio station which plays DC’s Best Mix of sR&B and Hip-Hop. Thanks for broadening our musical horizon, courteous urban felons! And so, as the quote goes,

Alls well that ends well: still the fine’s the crown;Whate’er the course, the end is the renown.” –

While it’s possible that William Shakespeare never owned a minivan, he certainly understood this basic truth: “If your minivan gets jacked, and you get it back unharmed, you should crank that shit up and dance in the drivers’ seat all the way home.”  

And, much to my children’s chagrin, I do.

Bader Family Christmas Letter

It is a sad fact that a small percentage of the Christmas cards we send out do not reach their destinations. Some languish in postal purgatory. Some come back marked “Return to Sender,” because you crazy kids keep moving. Some fall behind the china hutch and are discovered months later and furtively buried in the recycling pile (WHAAAT? You didn’t get our letter? Damn the Postal Service!)  If you were one of those unfortunate souls who did not receive our letter this year, this is for you.

January 3, 2014

Dear Family, Friends, and Car Thieves,

Let us be the first to wish you a very happy MLK Day. Most bible scholars agree that the actual Nativity happened in June. Did you send your holiday cards too early? Our cards finally arrived here yesterday after an Incredible Journey through the postal system, which included a detour at our previous Cape Cod address. Our Sandwich friends will surely see this as a sign that we are destined to return!

In perhaps another sign that the Baders are not meant for the big city, our new Toyota Sienna inexplicably disappeared from the driveway recently. Although a minivan would not seem a typical target for hardened criminals, it boasts a killer moonroof and can comfortably seat up to 8 crackheads. The stellar Arlington, VA police force assure us that “It may turn up eventually….or not.” Thank you for all your kind Facebook inquiries – the Jeep is safe and sound with nary a scratch.

Otherwise, we’ve made a fairly smooth transition from the Cape to DC. Last summer, after the movers unloaded the shattered remnants of our dining room set from their truck (“who do I tip?”), we paused to reflect on another fantastic year on the Cape: volleyball, movie nights, back yard ice rinks and the best U10 baseball team to ever complete a winless all star season. Great memories, but we’re slowly acclimating to the hustle, bustle, and oppressive traffic of America’s 4th least desirable large city (look out Detroit, Baltimore and Memphis… we’re coming for you!) While we enjoy the restaurants, cultural opportunities and friendly neighbors, we are not fans of the area’s high housing prices, crowded schools and car thieves.

As a Fellow on the Senate Appropriations Committee, Eric is enjoying the rare opportunity to see the American legislative process in all its dysfunctional glory. When things are not going well on the hill, he critiques Senatorial wardrobe on C-Span (“Cowboy boots and a smoking jacket!? No wonder we have a 5 percent approval rating”), fills the copier with paper (Senatorial paper), and makes coffee.  When Congress is actually working, he helps write speeches, manages accounts, crunches numbers, AND makes the coffee. When he’s not working or mired in Beltway road rage, Eric cheers for Danny at the hockey rink, picks out delicious calorie bombs at the Heidleberg bakery with Anna, or shoots up town with Jake on the X-box.

Kristi made her much anticipated return to the workforce this Fall, teaching English as a second language to fully veiled Saudi Arabian women at the Language Company here in Virginia. She must be doing an exceptional job, as her students continue to bring in Middle Eastern delicacies to show their appreciation, such as a fistful of small dehydrated objects, which were either dried limes or shrunken heads. Either way, they were delicious. Although the job is part-time, (“party-time” as her students call it), Kristi is finding it challenging to balance home and work. She occasionally makes mistakes such as accidentally sending holiday cards to the wrong state or perhaps leaving the car keys in the car.  Oh, and she also started a blog: If you post a nice comment she may put some more stuff on there for your reading pleasure. Or maybe she’ll just read another vampire romance novel. Time will tell.

Jake is already tired of fast-paced city life, as he tells us loudly and often.  He walks 1.2 miles to school, sits in class alongside his 975 classmates, and toils for hours on homework at night. But, we are very proud to report he made the 7th grade honor roll!  He also started tennis lessons this Fall and took up the drums. What an inspired musical choice for the whole family, here in our poorly-insulated house with 1600 square feet of living space!

Danny has become quite the Renaissance man this year. He made the honor roll and was chosen to babysit the class hamster, Hampton, over winter break. He is taking guitar lessons (you should hear his soulful rendition of the “Mission Impossible” theme) and has become an enthusiastic member of the Tuckahoe Elementary Chess Club. He is the starting center for the NOVA Icedogs, and can usually be found at the ice rink, the basketball court, the lacrosse, or the baseball diamond on any given weekend. Before leaving the Cape, Dan had a great a great spring playing for Coach Ned’s Sandwich lacrosse team and Coach Ken’s U9 All-Star baseball team.

Anna has adjusted well to the big city too. Which is to say, there have only been a few dozen temper tantrums, less than ten outright refusals to wear clothes, and only one morning spent hiding under the bedspread from the stresses of first grade. But, it turns out you can buy wine in Virginia supermarkets! We have discovered that easy access to alcohol is the key to getting through soccer practice if your crying daughter won’t turn loose of your pant leg to kick the ball. In a fit of optimism, we also signed Anna up for her cousin John’s softball team. Thank goodness her assistant coach, Danny, was able to coax her out of the dugout, and she ended up having a great time as Coach John’s “designated fielder.” Anna has become a great reader, enjoying the antics of Junie B., Frog and Toad, and those crazy Jewel fairies.

Lastly, we’re happy to report that Bingo has adjusted well to Northern Virginia. He enjoys barking loudly and frequently at any dogs or people that stray within a 30 foot radius of our house, except apparently car thieves. He is currently obsessed with eating the hamster before we send him back to school after the break. God speed, Hampton.

The best part of living in Arlington is our proximity to loved ones – Kristi’s parents, many beloved cousins and our Coast Guard friends. However, it is bittersweet as we reflect on the good friends left behind on Cape Cod as well as those in far flung places like Hawaii, Colorado, and Alaska. We hope that 2014 finds many of those friends visiting us  at our new home, where we boast a lovely and cozy guest room/basement/rec room/drum studio! We promise you will have a great time visiting the amazing sights of the nation’s capital! As long as you remember to lock your car.


Kristi, Eric, Jake, Danny and Anna