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The family that plays together ...

Parents find ways to keep kids, themselves on track amid busy schedules

Parents find ways to keep kids, themselves on track amid busy schedules

March 19, 2004|by ANDREA ROWLAND

andrear@herald-mail.com

When the spring sports season kicks off, the Taylor family of Williamsport switches into overdrive. Adam and Cindy Taylor and their six children - Amber, 19, Andy, 17, Aerik, 16, Adam, 13, Austin, 11, and Aaron, 9 - spend most weekday evenings and weekends shuttling between ball fields from Baltimore to Hagerstown.

"It gets real crazy," Cindy Taylor said. "I put everything on the calendar. If I've got something wrong with the calendar, we could end up at the wrong place or the wrong time or miss a practice. We've done that."

The Taylors are among many local families who must flex their organizational muscles to meet myriad obligations - including work, school, church, civic groups, sports and family.

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"This is a hugely busy season with everybody getting ready for spring sports and other activities," said organizing guru Kathy Peel, founder and president of Family Manager Inc. in Dallas. "You've got to manage your family. You've got to look at your home as the most important organization in your life."

Peel calls the calendar "control central." She keeps her most important family management tool posted in the kitchen, next to a dry-erase board on which family members can write messages that might affect the calendar, she said.

The calendar is key to keeping the Yetter family of Clear Spring on schedule. Bonnie Yetter synchronizes her work calendar with the thick day planner she always keeps on hand to keep track of her family's busy schedule, she said.

"I'm a mover. I don't mind being busy," Yetter said. "I never sit around and watch TV."

There's no time for that. Ed and Bonnie Yetter's twin 7-year-old sons, Eric and Ryan, recently wrapped up their wrestling season - which included matches and practices about three times per week - and are now gearing up for soccer and baseball. The boys will practice about twice weekly for each sport and play games during the weekend.

"We'll come to all the games," Bonnie Yetter said. "We don't just drop and run."

Her sons also attend weekly Cub Scouts meetings during the school year and are active in their church.

"We're always busy," Ed Yetter said. "They both do everything."

That means the Yetters have to work together to keep their family machine running smoothly. A retired correctional officer who now owns a bass fishing guide service, Ed Yetter supervises separate homework sessions for the twins and prepares dinner for the kids before his wife - who also serves as a player-agent for Clear Spring Little League - gets home from work in the late afternoon, he said.

The Taylors also will work as a team to meet all their obligations during ball season. In addition to going to school during the day, all five Taylor boys play baseball starting in the early spring. Amber also played softball before graduating from high school; now she helps shuttle her siblings to practices and works the concession stand, her mother said. Both Austin and Aaron play for Conococheague Little League; Adam plays for Hagerstown PONY League; Andy and Aerik play for Williamsport High School and the Baltimore-based Maryland Orioles.

Whew.

There's not a day during the week that some member of the family isn't batting, throwing or catching a ball. And Cindy and Andy Taylor strive to attend all of their kids' games, or send another relative to the stands as a pinch-watcher. Sometimes, Cindy Taylor trades concession stand duties with other baseball parents in order to attend games in different parks. Her husband often remains with Adam at late PONY League games so Cindy can take the younger kids home to get ready for school the next day. The younger Taylors have about one hour to finish their homework before gearing up for ball practice; the older kids usually prepare for the next day's classes after they get home at night.

It's rare for the entire family to be home together before 9 p.m. during baseball season, Cindy Taylor said. She always prepares a big meal for everyone to enjoy together on Sunday, but it's grab-and-go the rest of the week, she said.

"We eat a lot of baseball (park) food," Taylor laughed.

To help busy families such as the Taylors and Yetters stay organized, Peel offers a "daily hit list" on her Web site at

www.familymanager.com. The downloadable document is divided into hourly times from 5 a.m. to midnight and six sections - from "Home & Property" to "Food" and "Self" - in which users can write tasks they hope to accomplish. The idea is to fill out the list, check it in the morning, and decide whether you will do, delete or delegate each task, Peel said.

She also advocates planning family meals on Sunday for the week ahead, inviting all family members to suggest a few of their favorite dishes that can be prepared in 30 minutes or less. Ready-made salad and stir-fry mixes are but a few of the quick options available today. Be sure to keep the needed supplies on hand to eliminate extra trips to the supermarket, Peel said.

"Remember that it's more important to eat dinner together than to eat a gourmet meal," she said. "Do whatever you can to make it happen."

Despite their hectic schedules, the Taylors and Yetters wouldn't pull their kids from their sporting activities, they said. In addition to teaching his boys valuable skills and giving them exercise, organized sports ensure that the kids are in safe company, Ed Yetter said.

"When I was a kid, I just played around outside the house," he said. "These days, you're afraid to let your kids run around in the neighborhood. I think you feel safer knowing that they're with an organized sport, where adults are watching out for them."

Cindy Taylor views sports as a way for her family to spend quality time together outside the home.

"I wouldn't trade it for the world," she said. "I love spending time with these kids. They grow up so fast."

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