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A Day in the Life of Kristine Allstrom

Kristine Allstrom lives in the Metroplex with her three daughters and husband. She teaches ESL at Collin College.

7am “Rest and be thankful,” said William Wordsworth, which describes the scene just before I wake up Alexandra (8) and Kaitlyn (6). I’m struck by how sweet and relaxed they look resting, and I’m thankful for them and for this moment of peace.

7:10am Since they slept well, they wake-up happy, even skipping across their rooms to find clothes.

7:15am My husband Anthony is already at work, so after hugging the two girls I head downstairs to rescue my 22-month-old daughter Sienna from her crib. An adorable, but impatient sergeant, she’s already giving orders: “Need Out! Get milk! Elmo!”

7:30am Pack lunches, make breakfast, supervise dressing and backpack loading, and fill the stroller with snacks and toys. Off we go to school with stroller, scooter and bike.

8am After our walk and a quick goodbye at the school door, Alexandra heads confidently for her second grade class in her pink heels and hair messily pulled up with a black diamond clip – quite a combination of maturity and childhood. I’m not keen on the heels, but I am committed to keeping clothes out of our relationship (minus anything revealing).

8:05am I enjoy brushing Kaitlyn’s hair, knowing it’s a fleeting pleasure, as well as taking her to her classroom door. I sometimes feel sad, waving goodbye to them at school, knowing they have seven hours of being “on,” of fitting in and following a schedule. I know they need it, but sometimes they seem so small to be this serious.

8:10am I hand Sienna some new toys, struggle through the door, and go out into the blazing Texas sunshine. We take an extended walk home, which requires a constant stream of snacks, toys, songs and stories; but is refreshing and calming.

9am After putting away breakfast, throwing in a load of laundry, and making two phone calls, we are in the car getting a few groceries. We also need pants for Sienna, which work better on the slide, and find some at a consignment store.

10am We visit our adopted grandmother Lily. A bright, well-educated woman who immigrated from Paris, she lost both legs to a circulation problem. When I began volunteering to help her she lived in a nursing home, but only until she learned to live independently and mastered walking on prosthesis. She no longer uses the artificial legs, but continues to keep an immaculate apartment, cook healthy meals and charm me once a week. She loves Sienna, but panics when she leaves my lap.

11am Lily and I manage a brief conversation, while I pack and unpack books, puzzles, bubbles, licorice, playdough and a calculator. After Sienna makes her traditional dash up the stairs and around the second floor apartments, I scoop her up and drop her with relief into the car seat. Now we need loud songs to get us home before she falls asleep.

12pm After lunch, a few more household chores, songs and a bottle, Sienna is asleep and I have some treasured alone time. Now the choices: family business, writing, grading papers, reading, sewing or working on a photo album. I opt to handle the family business (soccer, basketball, school volunteering, medical bills, e-mail), and then relish my time preparing to teach my ESL class (I teach two nights a week). I especially love grading papers, during which I get a glimpse of how a nonnative American views our culture.

2pm Each day I plan to accomplish more than I possibly can, so when Sienna wakes up, I’m lost in fragments and run-ons. It’s no subtle transition: After rubbing her sleep-warmed check against mine, she finds her voice: “Snack! Blanket! Books!” and I’m back to Mom-hood.

3pm We’ve loaded up the stroller again to go pick up the big girls. I marvel at how hundreds of parents can manage to find six hundred children, albeit in massive chaos, and be gone in fifteen minutes. We, too, weave in and out of kids, backpacks, dogs and strollers while the girls fill me in on their days.

3:30pm Once home, we sit down for cocoa and snacks before jumping into the next activity: play dates, homework, ballet, soccer or Brownies. Balancing the needs of three increasingly tired girls can be tricky some days.

4pm Alexandra needs homework help, Kaitlyn gets “hurt” so she gets her time with me and Sienna insists on being on my lap or hip.

5pm We sit down early for a lame, but home-cooked, meal with everyone but my husband. My great efforts at teaching prayer, good manners and healthful eating sometimes yield wonderful results – and sometimes utterly fail. I fantasize about when we will invent a pill that provides a dinner, as Willy Wonka did for a girl in the movie (she turned purple after eating blueberry pie, but I’d be willing to live with that!).

6pm Cleanup, homework and baths. I work hard to have everything done before my husband comes home; it makes bedtime go more smoothly and eases any guilt I have about going out.

7pm My husband arrives home just as my class begins. I always forget to calculate transportation time. I fill him in on any essentials, give hugs all around and head out.

7:15pm Take a seat at my “Love and Logic” class. The teacher reminds us how most of parenting is taking care of yourself, so you can choose wise reactions to your children. Controlling them or life around them is nearly impossible, she stresses, so try to focus on keeping yourself happy, calm, loving and logical. This sounds great, but it’s not so easy. However, I feel liberated and inspired by what can evolve from these ideas: an even stronger relationship with your children.

10:30pm Another highlight of my day: time with my husband. We discuss family “business,” which we have learned avoids a lot of mishaps for both of us. Then we try to understand a little about each other’s day. It always surprises me how different our goals, stresses and perspectives are, especially when we have so much in common.

11pm I try to end the day as I begin it – with gratitude and perspective.