Budget COVID19 life Planners

5 on a Friday: Bedtime, Financial Podcast, Planners, Etc

July 9, 2021

1- Bedtime follow up. I feel I must include this! G has transitioned reasonably well to the bunk bed (bottom bunk, obviously!) from her toddler bed. A is now in her own room! Our bedtime process still S U C K S.

I think I may have to completely eliminate screen time or dangle some sort of huge carrot to get the kids to just . . . be nicer at the end fo the day. I know it’s on me as well — by 8:00 I’m just OVER parenting and am probably not doing it that effectively.

Currently I let them watch something for 60-90 minutes after dinner (and after they read or play quietly for 30 min). But even as I write this, I can see it’s probably part of what is not working. There is also a highly annoying period where they all ask for snacks and complain and compare about what each are getting. I TRY SO HARD to manage this and prevent it and I just keep failing.

(In case someone is considering suggesting taking a walk or going outside with the kids at 7pm, I just will preemptively state that it is basically the last thing I want to do at the end of the day and the mosquitos are out in DROVES at that point and it’s still hot and/or there’s lighting.)

2- Podcast rec, along the lines of Wednesday’s post: Financial Residency. I listen every single Friday (where a physician calls in and they basically review and discuss the person’s entire financial plan and portfolio) — this week’s ep especially struck a chord as the couple had some parallels with us (but in full disclosure if you listen, they are definitely on more of an early retirement path than we are – which is okay!).

3- BLP is on hiatus this month, but I’m already starting to think about fall episodes. I’d like to do a few planner reviews of less known planner brands leading up to 2022! Some I am considering:

Saint Belford (Australian)

Make Life Easy (UK)

Ink & Volt (US)

Ink & Volt

Is there a brand you are hoping for a review of? Let me know!

4- The kids’ school announced that sports will be back in the fall (though FL is back on Orange and rising, $(*%#(*&$) and there is definitely more COVID around). BUT assuming this spike is short lived and things stay at the status quo (maybe not a good assumption but we will go with it for now), I am very happy. C is unfortunately one year too young, but the idea that A could join a team for cross country or soccer or basketball AT THE SCHOOL seems so nice and honestly, we haven’t had options like that since Miami Beach. We are trying to plan fall activities (yes already, the signup emails have showed up already, many with threats off “spots running out”) but honestly I’m having trouble getting in the headspace yet. DIDN’T SUMMER JUST START?

(The answer is ‘no’ and the kids are halfway done with camp already. 6 weeks from now kids will be done with first week of school. I do feel like there is some kind of time warp happening. Never in my life has it taken me so long to remember what month it is.)
((Maybe I am just getting very old.))

5- Currently reading: My summer reading plan may end up just going out the window – that’s fine with me as long as I’m reading good things! Josh had gifted me (for my bday!) a 6 month membership to Parnassus Books First Edition Club and I can’t just let these volume go unread, can I?! This was June’s selection:

So far, so good. Honestly, I can’t imagine Ann Patchett ever picking a bad book.


  • Reply Amy July 9, 2021 at 12:07 pm

    I would not suggest going outside at 7 pm unless you’re at the pool 😉

    I know it is harder and more work for you but yes I would eliminate the screen time since you’re concerned about it being a part of the problem. Or at least cut back to no more than 30 minutes of something. Also, what time are your kids going to bed? Could you be keeping them up too late? What are they having for a snack in the evening (i.e. something sugary or processed could be a contributor too).

    But really as hard as it is and as over it as you might be by 8 pm I think you just can’t expect to be able to check out by then and maybe your expectations need to change a little too. I wonder if part of your frustration is just that you’re tired and you want to be done (or not in charge on your own), but you can’t be, and that frustration shows up in difficult and tense evenings and interactions between you and your kids. But I think being aware of the frustration and difficulty is half the battle! Hang in there.

  • Reply Irene July 9, 2021 at 12:32 pm

    Oh I will have to check back for people’s suggestions. I am really lucky we usually have 2 adults for bedtime which helps A LOT.

    I try to structure stuff as much as possible: task, then fun. Are your kids completely ready for bed before screen time? We actually do showers and stuff before dinner because it goes better then but maybe you could use that as a carrot? My kids magically don’t need reminders if they know x needs to be done before tv. Even 30 minutes would be a big incentive 😀

    There are also plenty of times my kids just need to be separated because they wind each other up. Again way easier to do with two adults but maybe institute 30 minutes for the kids in their room before bed? My daughter who is C’s age likes to read in bed but sometimes also draws or write. I think I’ve mentioned this before but for her the biggest simmer down cue is to dim the lights. I try to have her in her room with just a lamp at least 30 minutes before sleep. She tends to get keyed up by music and want to dance but if your kids respond to calm music that could work too.

    Oh and sometimes when we go up the stairs we have a “calm contest”. Who can be the calmest/quietest going up. Hint – not the 3 year old!

    • Reply Irene July 9, 2021 at 12:36 pm

      Oh and also we have a rule that if you want a snack outside a designated eating time it has to be a fruit or vegetable. we eat plenty of junk other times but this tends to reduce requests to when kids are actually hungry. I really should enforce this better for myself!

    • Reply Amy July 9, 2021 at 1:54 pm

      YES to dimming the lights. A thousand times yes.

  • Reply Elisabeth July 9, 2021 at 1:05 pm

    Oh man, I am just so tired of my kids by bedtime. I want to check out completely! I don’t get up nearly as early as you, Sarah, but really feel like I’m ready to wind down before the kids.

    You talk about “failing” – honestly, bedtimes are just hard. They can be less hard, but I think you’d be hard pressed to find someone who isn’t regularly tweaking their routine. Also, just when you get into one good routine, something will come along to shake things up. I’m not trying to be negative, but think realistically speaking it’s likely going to be tough…and that you’re being too hard on yourself! You definitely are NOT failing. You’re a Mom doing her best (which is a great job, at that).

    I agree with doing the bed prep ahead of time; PJs on, teeth brushed, bathed if that’s on tap for the day. I find it best if we’re doing evening screen time to have that be the last thing before we do bedtime prayers/read a book.

    We don’t do any snacking in the evenings – if my kids knew this was a “thing” in many households they would be up in arms. Shhh. Don’t tell them! Maybe having them brush their teeth early would help curb this?

    No real advice – just commiserating. Bedtimes, parenting – worth it, but very hard!

  • Reply Amanda July 9, 2021 at 1:09 pm

    Thanks for the podcast Rec I will definitely check out! And can’t wait for BLP to come back! I’m a newbie mom but my thoughts on bedtime include first and foremost I can’t imagine how hard it is to do on your own with three kids. So, give yourself grace. Also wondering if you employ some Love and Logic tactics. So rather than just losing screen time once and then they get it again the next day or over The Weeknd they have to actually EARN it back with good behavior, helping with the dishes, whatever. This does put more on you unfortunately in the short term but I wonder if you could really stick to it for a few weeks if it could be more effective long term. Last thought is I wonder if things are actually going better than you think. Seems like you have very high standards and maybe these could be lowered.

  • Reply Lisa of Lisa's Yarns July 9, 2021 at 1:30 pm

    I feel like bedtime is a challenge for most if not ALL of us parents! So give yourself some grace and don’t be too hard on yourself. But hopefully others have really good recommendations. I do the baby’s bedtime since I’m BF’ing but he’s really easy since he falls asleep while eating (which I know many think is a no no but he can fall back asleep on his own and he’s just so tired after a day of daycare so I let him fall asleep while eating). The 3yo ebbs from being really hard to put down to not so bad. Right now it’s not so bad and he goes to bed around 7:15 which is really nice – even on the weekends when he naps up to 2 hours, he goes down around 7:30. I guess he just needs alot of sleep! Like another commenter, he does not realize snacks are an option after bedtime. Ha! But he begs for snacks every other time of day. We are only wrangling one kid and there are usually 2 of us, so it’s not too bad but we try to do puzzles or puzzle books with him before bedtime since it’s a calming/soothing activity. But managing 1 3yo is so different from managing 3 kids so I am no help!

  • Reply Jenny July 9, 2021 at 1:30 pm

    Bedtime is super difficult and exhausting no matter what age or phase or lifestage my kids are in. I am quite sure you are not failing!

    You didn’t ask for suggestions 🙂 but one thing that has helped a TON (and I see others have suggested this as well) is moving the getting ready for bed tasks (PJs, teeth, etc.) to immediately after dinner. I have more energy to help oversee at that point in the evening, and they are motivated to move faster because the sooner they get ready, the more time they have to play/read/relax. All screens shut down automatically at 7:30, the lights get turned down, and they have to do something super quiet whether it’s reading or playing. If they are fighting or bickering a lot, I wonder if one option would be to separate them out to designated spaces in the house or shared living room and the expectation becomes individual downtown? But probably harder to enforce with G and even more challenging when energy is low, I’m sure.

    Snacks are always such a massive pain in my ass that I’d probably cut them out entirely if they are not actually needed for caloric reasons and more of a habit at this point. Or do a small dessert or treat right after dinner and then move right into the getting-ready-for-bed routine.

    Also agree with someone who said it’s sadly not possible to check out and stay sane at the same time. I’ve had to move bedtimes forward at times not because they needed more rest but because I knew I simply wasn’t going to make it to 9 pm without some kind of major mommie dearest moment occurring. 🙂

    • Reply Amy July 9, 2021 at 1:59 pm

      👆🏻👆🏻 I will just say that if I were on my own for bedtime with my 3 kids they would go to bed significantly earlier! I am done with parenting by 8 pm too, lol.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger July 9, 2021 at 2:56 pm

      haha, I appreciate any and all suggestions (except to go outside 🙂 🙂 🙂 )

  • Reply KGC July 9, 2021 at 1:52 pm

    Bedtime is just hard, period. So solidarity there! Here are thoughts (though bedtime is far from perfect in our house so who knows if these work):
    1) Every night at 7:40pm, our Alexa announces ‘it’s time for M to have a snack’ as a reminder that it’s his last chance for food. I offer something filling but boring: yogurt + fruit or banana + peanut butter. If he doesn’t want either of those things, he can wait for breakfast in the morning. Being consistent with this gives little pushback, since he (now) knows that I won’t budge (and he’ll eat if he really is hungry!). I think you previously said that your kids eat earlier than you, so they legit might need a snack before bed if bedtime is more than 1.5 hours after dinner. But you can decide what the snack is, and then they can take it or leave it.
    2) I agree with whomever else said jammies + brushing teeth before dinner/screens/whatever. I often say that we can’t read until after teeth + potty with no stalling (if stalling, then no time for books before bed).
    3) What if you limited screens to something specific? We use the Together app, which has games and books that can be played with others via video chat. There are days where I tell him his ONLY screen option is to play Together with a grandparent. At least this way, it’s a different kind of screen time than TV or other iPad games, if you think screen content is riling them up? Together has games, books, coloring, etc. – so sometimes the grandparents will do the bedtime reading.
    4) Is bedtime happening at the right time? (meaning, are your kids getting enough sleep? if not, bedtime might be a nightmare because they are just overtired by the time it rolls around). It’s tough because G probably needs more sleep than A, but do they go to bed at the same time? Maybe something to look at there to preemptively avoid bedtime meltdown.

    Also: A and C might be old enough to help you figure this out. What if you all sat down together and you said, “You guys know that I often get cranky around bedtime. Sometimes you’re cranky, too, and it’s no fun when we are cranky. How do you think we could make bedtime easier for all of us?” and then write it down somewhere they can see? I wonder if they will be more likely to go along with something if they felt like they were involved in the decision-making? I did this with my oldest when the “I’m hungry” would happen RIGHT before bed and I regularly lost my mind – together, we came up with the idea of setting Alexa to remind him about a snack every night and it has worked well for us.

    But also. It’s hard to do this with three kids by yourself. It feels hard because it is hard!

    • Reply Irene July 9, 2021 at 2:01 pm

      Yes! Great idea to involve the older kids! We do this occasionally for frequently occurring issues. Definitely agree they 1) have good ideas! And 2) are more likely to follow through if they were involved in choosing the solution.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger July 9, 2021 at 2:55 pm

      love these!

    • Reply kamalakarthikeyan July 10, 2021 at 12:02 am

      Great tips 👌

  • Reply nicoleandmaggie July 9, 2021 at 5:39 pm

    Our routine has evolved so that DC2 (age almost 9) has screens off at 7, then showers, brushes teeth (no snacks after 7 is a new rule), and has to be in hir room by 8. We try to do lights off by 8:30. Sometimes she stays up really late reading with her nightlight and is grumpy the next day, so not perfect.

    DC1 is a teenager and self-regulates his sleep but often is in bed and asleep before DC2.

    Not looking forward to school next semester and going back to 6am bus rides. Virtual school starting at 8 was good for everyone.

  • Reply gwinne July 9, 2021 at 5:44 pm

    I have the Ink Volt planner and like it pretty well. It’s not perfect for my needs but close.

    Re: nighttime. In lieu of screentime, could you transition to books on youtube/audio/etc? My kid gets a TON of screentime (often two hours in the evenings) but is cut off well before bedtime, except in the rare instance of a whole family movie.

    Do all three of them have bedtime problems or is it really one or two? Or expecting that all three have similar bedtime routines? Just asking because of the vast age difference. But yeah….bedtime is hard. Finding the right bedtime for the kid helps enormously.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger July 9, 2021 at 5:51 pm

      Annabel is basically fine. She likes to read which helps and I do think putting her in her own room was a good move.

      The other two are … just omg. (G is the hardest though so perhaps this will improve with time and I’m just impatient!)

      • Reply gwinne July 10, 2021 at 10:50 am

        Yeah. Hard to problem solve without knowing the specific issue 🙂 Bedtime is a challenge, and having kids with different bedtime needs makes it more challenging, I think.

        For a long time, Tiny Boy’s “bedtime” took the bulk of my evening….like 7:15 to 8:45-9:15 because it took him a long time to wind down and he required me sitting in his room. It’s still fairly protracted, even at age 9; what’s changed for us recently is that he wanted a later lights out time (like 9:30) and I said that’s fine but I’m done with all bedtime by 9, other than a quick kiss goodnight when he’s done reading 9:20-9:30. Cutting out the sitting in his room has been amazing. Right now his routine is usually upstairs by 8:30 (earlier if he needs a shower), get ready, read together for a few minutes, brush teeth, read to self.

        On nights I have a headache or am just DONE we often just read together/separately in my bed.

  • Reply Elizabeth July 9, 2021 at 9:11 pm

    I will agree with the above posters who recommend 1) doing all the necessary pre-bed stuff right after dinner and before anything else; 2) cutting out the post-dinner snack, or else limiting it to something healthy and boring and then brushing teeth right after that; and 3) reconsidering screens in the evening. I so empathize with the desire for evening screen time, because especially when you feel DONE with parenting, the siren call of screen time is SO alluring. The problem, at least in our house, is that for as quiet and peaceful as DURING screen time is, the behavioral fallout afterward is almost never worth it. Plus just from all we know about screens before bed not being great for the brain…to me, at least, it feels like screen time is great for the pre-dinner timeframe when then they can hold off a little longer before eating AND (hopefully) because of being hungry the transition back to life isn’t as terrible. Whereas when it’s turned off to do something they don’t want to do anyhow (bedtime)…disaster.

    I’m with another poster who wonders if you could bump bedtime up some? Even half an hour could do wonders for you. Then you can clean up after dinner while the kids get on their PJs/brush teeth, let them do one game or play or craft or read, and start the bedtime routine.

    Last thought—in our house, bedtime actually happens immediately after dinner. I do a late afternoon snack (3:30/4) and then we eat around 6:30 and so when that’s done it’s just time to start getting ready for bed. The incentive for them to get ready quickly is more reading time. It works because it’s consistent and they love being read to/reading. Maybe pushing back their dinner time and eliminating the between dinner & bedtime time frame altogether would do the trick!! (It has for us.)

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger July 9, 2021 at 9:48 pm

      I love that idea. Gets rid of many issues. Going to try it.

      • Reply Elizabeth July 9, 2021 at 11:28 pm

        I hope it helps!! Fingers crossed!

        • Reply Cara July 10, 2021 at 1:57 am

          We do the same and it works really well. Eat 6/6.30 and then straight to teeth/pajamas etc, then read (or play quietly in their rooms) then we read to them, lights out by 8. I have two kids a year either side of A. In my opinion screens after dinner and later bedtimes are very likely causes. When we do those things it becomes a total shitshow, and reminds my why I like the routine nature of eat, get ready and go to bed.

    • Reply Amy July 10, 2021 at 8:22 am

      We often eat dinner late too which helps a lot with eliminating the after dinner crazy mode. Good luck!

      • Reply Irene July 10, 2021 at 10:05 pm

        This is fascinating- we also do an afternoon snack and later dinner so we can eat with my husband and we are the ONLY ones I know in real life! Even my 3 year old will eat with us at 7 or even later, occasionally with an “appetizer” of a fruit or vegetable before main dinner. It has always worked for us but so many people seem shocked I barely confess it anymore. Anyway fun to hear others do the same.

        • Reply Elizabeth July 11, 2021 at 1:31 am

          So interesting that no one else you know does this!! For me, it’s equal parts that I find it hard to get dinner on the table earlier AND that I really hate having down time between dinner and kid bedtime. We always ate later pre-COVID so that we could eat as a family after my husband got home from work (I make one dinner and you eat it or you don’t but there isn’t another option so you should probably choose to eat at least something that I’ve made). Anyhow—I just always felt like I could continue the momentum to get through bedtime, which I largely do solo for our two children, but to have downtime and THEN have to rally to do bedtime? I just don’t have it in me!

          Anyhow, different approaches work for different families—different circumstances, ages of kids, timing obstacles, etc—but I do love the dinner, get ready, go to bed flow. Glad it works for you, too!

  • Reply Dana July 9, 2021 at 10:52 pm

    We do bedtime snack as part of the bedtime routine. It’s consistent so there’s no battle and I think it helps him sleep through the night when he’s not hungry. We started it because he needed the calories and I really don’t see a downside. He has key lime yogurt every night so there’s no need to discuss or debate. I also agree I am tired at bedtime and it’s very useful that we have a set routine so he knows what he needs to do.

  • Reply K July 9, 2021 at 11:48 pm

    What about modifying screen time to something that winds them down? My kids are a little younger (7yo, slightly delayed, and 5yo). We read books to them during their dinner, then they get screens as soon after that as they have their jammies on, while the adults eat. Then at 7:30pm, a timer goes off and their screens have to shut off and the whole family sits and watches Mister Rogers. Its slow, soothing, and about half the time my 5 year old falls asleep before it is over. Then right to bed after that. Maybe Mister Rogers (or something equally boring) would settle G down as well?
    Also, TBH, I’m not above giving my kids 1mg of melatonin on the nights I can tell they are SUPER wired, it just seems to help them settle down faster and make bedtime more tolerable for everyone. Our 7yo’s neurologist actually recommended it. (You might have opinions about that too? I’m curious! I treat adults, so it seemed reasonable enough to me. And they share a room so both of them suffer if either one is bonkers.)

  • Reply Vanessa July 10, 2021 at 12:17 am

    We get so desperate with my 5 year old (a lot of times he doesn’t go to sleep until close to 9) so we’ve given him melatonin a few times. It feels like a miracle when he falls asleep quickly, but our pediatrician didn’t recommend it for regular use, unfortunately! There are many nights that I wish we could give it to him!

  • Reply Ash July 10, 2021 at 12:45 am

    Hi Sara – so this is a couple days late to the (fascinating) conversation about perspective, gratitude, and perils of comparison a couple days ago. But one thing I keep thinking is – have you ever read the book “the richest man in Babylon”? It’s popular in the personal finance space and I really love it. One thing it talks about is that life has constraints no matter what. For example, if you truly were the richest person in the world could you actually do everything worth doing or have everything you could possibly want? No, because at that point, time would be the constraint, as opposed to money. You would still have to be intentional about what you do, what you have, what you pay attention to. I have found this thought comforting in the past and I wish you (and all of us) that perfect blend of ambition and contentment!

  • Reply Maria July 10, 2021 at 8:51 am

    Love the ideas above. For us, I keep bedtime screen time as a treat, or really as a tool that I deploy when really needed (I’m incredibly tired, don’t feel good, etc). For me just a huge trigger of evening crankiness is my 3yo taking forever to get ready for bed… so it so helps if we can get that done as early as possible. After that I can actually enjoy them and relax. And then one screen time rec for you if you haven’t seen – Izzy’s Koala World on Netflix. It is so cute and I think all your ages would enjoy, I do too. We all huddle in bed around an iPad for it on our screen nights and it’s so cozy and cute, and one episode is 10 mins, so we can do that then a book or two.

  • Reply Jamie July 10, 2021 at 1:13 pm

    You’re not alone in the time warp- I feel like between BTS paperwork and fall activity registration I am in some sort of surreal prep and landing zone for fall instead of actual summer.

  • Reply Erika July 12, 2021 at 10:12 am

    I’m a little late getting to this but had the thought immediately after reading your post and wanted to at least raise one suggestion that has helped me at bedtime. I have extra childcare for 15-30min every night after I get home from work (usually home by 5:30/45 and nanny leaves at 6 or 6:15). Sometimes I sneak in through our back door and don’t even face the kids, but even if that’s not an option, I say hello quickly and then disappear upstairs to change, unpack my bag, maybe organize myself a little bit, and sometimes will even read a chapter of my book or just unwind. I don’t have a long commute, so I’m essentially going from one hectic environment to another and I NEED that time to chill. If I have it, then I commit myself to playing with the kids and trying to be really “on” with them at bedtime. My nanny knows this is my routine and often has them eating dinner or watching a post-dinner TV show when I get home, so everyone is otherwise occupied. I know no one wants to have or pay for more childcare, but this little bit makes both my work and home life successful and when it works, my kids and I get better quality time together.

  • Reply Perfectly Cromulent Name July 12, 2021 at 12:06 pm

    No suggestions, but your bedtime woes just made me think of that old Glennon Doyle essay on how bedtime ws a game of Wack-a-Mole. Hang in there, mama! https://www.huffpost.com/entry/putting-kids-to-bed_b_1536221

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger July 12, 2021 at 1:11 pm

      Hahahahha that was perfect.

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