Toni Randle-Cook thrives on creativity. The Arlington resident is a freelance writer and a photographer, and she has proven pretty skilled at keeping her three kids—Cody, 10, Ansley, 7, and Teagan, 5—busy and happy despite months of social distancing. Randle-Cook and husband Mike moved here 12 years ago for his job with NBCUniversal.
These days, Randle-Cook is balancing work with overseeing virtual lessons for her older children—while trying to keep the little one out of (minor) trouble.
7AM We haven’t used an alarm clock since becoming parents. Our children do a fine job of waking us up every day (even weekends and holidays). Our youngest, Teagan, is the first to greet us in the morning, and of course, she promptly wants “Milk, cereal and a movie!”
Our oldest, Cody, is already awake and retreated to the media room for some tablet time; our middle child, Ansley, joins the rest of us after hearing the commotion. I feed and let our dog “Natty Boh” out. Now it’s time to make sure the kids are dressed, fed and ready for (virtual) school.
8:10AM Our first Zoom meeting of the day. I make sure Ansley (first grade) is logged on, and with video and audio. Check. Cody (fourth grade) and I start with his school assignments. Teagan (our preschooler) is being entertained—at least for the next 10 minutes—by Peppa the Pig.
9AM Zoom meeting No. 2 for Ansley. Cody and I are making progress on his work. While most fourth graders can work independently, Cody has dyslexia and ADD, and is need of constant supervision throughout the school day—or else he’ll find more interesting things to do. Teagan is now “cooking” us a meal in her play kitchen.
10AM Zoom meetings No. 3 (Ansley) and No. 4 (Cody). I set up Teagan at our kitchen table with some paint and a blank canvas. Whew! All three of them are occupied. I take this opportunity to pick up the mess we’ve made so far in the kitchen and throw in a load of laundry (or let’s be honest, rewash the load that I forgot I had started!).
10:30AM Zoom meeting #5 (Cody). I ask Ansley to start on her assignments or help Mommy by playing with her little sister. I check some work e-mails and respond to client texts.
While freelancing is flexible, I put in more than 40 hours many weeks. But my hours are not consistent. I work at night, on the weekend and during small windows of quiet time I can get out of the kids!
11:30AM Brain break! This is usually the point of our day when we all could use a break. We incorporate some physical activity like jumping on the trampoline, biking or taking Boh for a walk.
NOON Lunch! I try to include a protein, starch, fruit and vegetable at every meal. I also try to be creative in my food choices and in the presentation. My kids may not like everything I put in front of them, but if it’s in the shape of a flower or a silly face, they will eat it!
12:30PM TV time! I’m not going to win any Mother of the Year awards for this, but while we let our food settle, I usually let the kids watch television—even though it’s the middle of our school day. I’ve found that if I give them (some) small allowances during this unprecedented time, we are more productive and get along much better!
During this half hour, I’m back to the grind, typing up my latest magazine story or editing a recent photography session.
1pm Zoom #6 (Ansley). I work with Cody on his assignments. Teagan is…
WAIT! Let me go check!
1:30PM Zoom #7 (Cody). Teagan is safe. I sit with her and play a peg board game, to help her learn numbers and counting.
2PM Zoom #8 (Teagan’s speech therapy). I sit with her during this session, because 30 minutes is a long time for a 4-year-old to pay attention to and interact with a computer screen.
2:30PM Finish any remaining schoolwork. I swear, between bouncing back and forth between the two older kids and their school needs, I’ve already gotten in my 10,000 steps for the day!
4PM School is out! Kids are allowed to use electronics. The older two usually chill out. I clean up (more) mess we’ve made from being in the house all day. Then I throw that load of clothes in the dryer and figure out what I’m going to pull together for dinner.
4:45PM I log onto our office computer and send e-mails to check in with all of my kids’ teachers. Cody is having trouble with fractions. Help! When is Ansley’s small group meeting this week? I write up our schedule for the next day. If it’s not written in front of me—I’m old school—it will not happen!
5:50PM Hubby walks in the door from work. We exchange quick rundowns of our day.
6PM I go into the office (close the door) and log into work. One of my freelance gigs is with KXAS-TV. I am a writer for the 10pm and morning newscasts.
6:15PM One of the kids comes into the office. (They want a drink. Or “need” my help to go to the bathroom. Or they ask where is that particular toy?)
6:45 PM Same as above. Why is it children will literally walk right by their father to come to Mommy for a want or need?
7:30PM Hubby begins bedtime routine, so the kids run in the office for hugs and kisses.
12AM I log off of my work account.
12:15AM I go into the living room and fall onto the couch. I open Netflix and allow myself 30 minutes of mindless television.
12:45AM Wash face, brush teeth, walk in each of the kids’ rooms to check on them. As I walk back to my bedroom, I thank God for choosing me to be their mom. I climb into bed and hope that none of them wakes up in the middle of the night. But who needs sleep?
What she’s reading Aside from children’s books? Umm.
Favorite cheap meal with the family Pizza
Yearly destination The beach
Her celebrity doppelganger Bridget Fonda. I’ve also heard Jennifer Grey, pre-nose job.
Most used emoji Grimacing face
Dream job I’ve had it! Television reporter.
Looking forward to Being able to travel home to Maryland and hugging my loved ones again.
If she could write a book, the genre would be A children’s book! My hubby and I have several ideas; we just need to get them on paper.
Beverage of choice I am really trying to drink more water this year!
Favorite adult drink Rum and Coke
Hobbies Writing, photography, brush lettering, biking and theater arts
She wishes she had more time to Clean and organize my house
She’s really good at Party planning. I love themes and decorations!
She’s really bad at Asking for help
Favorite thing about living in Arlington It’s centrally located. Both Dallas and Fort Worth are short drives!
Photo courtesy of Destiny Malone Photography.