Everyday Life

Twenty-Minute Morning Update

A few weeks ago, I wrote about my frenzied frame of mind and my plan to calm the crazed brain: get up earlier than my kids. It’s been almost a month, so I think it’s time to let you know if my plan worked.

I can honestly say, yes, it worked! Even though I only partially achieved my goals, the difference from getting up when my kids wake up and getting up and getting even one thing done before they get up has been tremendous.

Please note: There have been some mornings when I let myself sleep because the nights with an infant can still be pretty tiring. I don’t beat myself up about those mornings as long as it’s not what I slip back into into doing every day. If you’re in a tiring season of life, give yourself some flexibility when you need more sleep!

My goals were to do just three things each morning before the children were asking for breakfast and book reading and all other manner of demands:

1. Shower/dress

2. Read and pray

3. Make a short to-do list

The truth is I have only gotten all three of those goals accomplished once or twice in the last month. We live in a pretty small house and all the bedrooms are clustered together, so in the early mornings I creep around trying to be as quiet as possible. I know where every squeak in the floor is and I tiptoe around them all. The problem with the goal  of getting dressed is I can’t quietly open my antique dresser to get clothes out in the morning; if I don’t lay them out the night before, goal #1 doesn’t happen. What does happen almost every morning is reading and praying. What a huge difference this time to focus on one thing at the beginning of my day has made in my mindset for the whole day! I’m not saying all my troubles are gone and I never lose it or react badly throughout the day. But I do have an underlying strength to draw from when the pressure cooker turns on.

I get around to writing the short to-do list almost never. I am thankful that I’ve gotten into a better chore routine thanks to this Cleaning Chart from A Well Feathered Nest. I’ve tried a few different cleaning schedules, but this one fits the natural flow of tasks in our house best. There are still some specific tasks for each day that aren’t on this chart which I need to get better at writing down, but even if I don’t, I have some direction for the day thanks to this chart on my fridge.  I’m hoping to get into a better habit of writing my to-do list the night before. Maybe this will calm my brain before bed instead of gearing it up for the next day? We will see.

It seems like every time I talk to a fellow mom these days, whether a stay-at-home-mom, working mom, or a combination of the two, the conversation always turns to how to balance everything we need to accomplish to keep our home and family well cared for. The Twenty-Minute Morning experiment is working great for me right now, but I am far, FAR from being on top of everything in my household. It would be great if any of you readers could share any tips you’ve picked up along the way on what works best for your lives. Dads, too! We all have all kinds of hats we wear and try to balance.

Everyday Life, Parenting

Seize the Nanosecond!

It’s 3:45 p.m. I’ve needed a shower for approximately 1.5 days. Finally, Baby and Big Boy (3) are asleep and Little Miss (5) is happily coloring. For a blessed slice of this day, there are no urgent needs or tasks — no mess to wipe up, no crying baby, no squabbles to settle, no tummies to fill, just a tiny piece of silence.

“Seize the day!” I think. Except for it’s more like “Seize the nanosecond!”

Jump in the shower, jump out of the shower while nap time lasts! Grab the chicken to defrost before it’s too late in the day! It’s 6:30 a.m. and the baby is crying, hop out of bed and throw some clothes on before she wakes the big kids! Quick!

It’s craziness all the time, but when a minute of downtime comes my way, this fast and furious mindset doesn’t go away. I don’t breathe a sigh of relief and sit down. Instead, I think “seize the nanosecond!” Figure out what’s for dinner. Put the clothes in the dryer. Answer an email. Get something, anything done.

Why do I run around my house at a frantic and frenzied pace on most days of the week? How are there are one thousand items on my mental to-do list and all of them seem like they need to be done right now? I really don’t know how this happens, because I’m here at home more often than I’m not, and still feeling like it’s a gargantuan effort to get the breakfast dishes washed before dinner time.

It baffles me that Hectic lives right here at home with us. 

It baffles my husband, too. Sometimes when he’s home, he watches me and asks, “Why the big rush?” I don’t know how to explain that I’m running behind on laundry and dishes and dinners and it’s all a great big boa constrictor that’s got me up to my knees and is still swallowing. (Thank Shel Silverstein for that one).

It’s like what we tell that kicker on Saturdays: “You have one job! Make field goals!” Except it’s more like, “You have one job! Take care of everything!”

(Fact: I do not take care of everything around here, because I have the best husband in the universe. We both “take care of everything,” just not often at the same time).

I know where the problem lies. I start the day responding to needs and they keep coming all day long. That’s the nature of life with Littles. So when an opportunity to actually get something tangible accomplished presents itself, I’m all over it like ants on a melted popsicle. I’m grabbing that vacuum cleaner faster than you can say “dirt,” and no crying baby or coloring book is going to stop me, because the rugs are overdue for a cleaning by about three weeks.

“Seize the nanosecond!” is the mantra in my head on any given day.  I think I’m through with it, though. This frenetic way I go about the day is (a) exhausting and (b) basically ineffective. I get to the end of the day and ask myself if I actually got one thing done. If the answer is a surprising “yes,” that “something done” usually doesn’t involve the things I think are most important, like playing with my children or calling a friend. I don’t need a mantra, I need a method. And, much to my chagrin, I know what the method should be. It’s called Get-Up-Before-The-Kids.

Sigh.

When your nights are full of lots of things besides sleep — put the covers back on this kid, take this one to the bathroom, give this one some water so she can stop coughing, feed this one, soothe this one after a nightmare, give this one some Tylenol for ::fill in the blank:: — getting up before you absolutely have to is rough, right?

But spending all day getting swallowed by a boa constrictor is rough, too.

So I’m laying down my “seize the nanosecond!” mantra and setting my alarm instead. The experiment for this week is to get up just a bit earlier than my kids and get just three things done:

1. Shower/dress

2. Read and pray

3. Make a short to-do list

I know I should add a few other things, like exercise or prepare all our  meals for the day or lay out the kids’ clothes, and all that good stuff. But I need this to actually work, so I’m starting off with what I can fit in just twenty minutes. I know from experience that it’s a long road from having a baby to getting back into a morning routine. I’m just setting my feet on the path and hoping for the best.

If the Seize the Nanosecond mindset sounds familiar to you, maybe you would like to join me on my Twenty Minute Morning experiment? Or maybe you’d like to see if it actually works first? Check back next week and I’ll let you know. I doubt I’ll have defeated the boa constrictor for good, but maybe he’ll be only up to my ankles instead of my knees.

One can only hope.

Everyday Life, Parenting

Put Down The Scissors

It’s inevitable. About the time when a child learns to use scissors, age three around here, something disastrous happens. I know, I know, why am I surprised? You’re right, I was kind of prepared for this, the dread fascination with cutting things just by moving your fingers.

What I wasn’t prepared for is what would get cut. A shirt they don’t really like maybe. An important document, sure. A doll’s hair, or even their own hair. Everyone does the hair thing, right?

But I am baffled by my children. At age three, they inevitably take scissors to the thing they love most in the world.

When Ella was three, we got a tip that a local thrift store had some great deals on really nice shirts. I marvel at how easy it was to just get in the car and go, because that’s what we did. Sadly, we didn’t find any shirts. The trip was worth it, though, because Ella spotted an adorable dress. If you have little girls, you know princess dresses are everywhere and that most are poorly made. This one was not by Disney, though. It was cotton on top, with a full length tulle skirt, and laced up in the back. We were both  smitten by it, and it was only five dollars. Sold.

2013iPhonephotos 017On the way home, Ella said, “Why don’t we go somewhere fancy tonight?” So we did. Dinner at a pizza place is fancy if you have the right dress. This dress made every day fancy, and Ella loved it.

Then one morning I was getting ready to do some errands and walked in Ella’s bedroom to hear “snip, snip, snip.”  I was aghast. “Ella, why are you cutting your dress?!?”

“I don’t know.” She looked at me, her face red, scared of the trouble she was in.

“You love that dress!”

No answer.

The two top layers of the tulle were in tatters, but Aunt Destiny came to the rescue and made it look decent again, thought it will never be the same. And Ella never showed the least bit of remorse for the (bad) alterations she made to her favorite possession. “It looks like a fairy!” She was optimistic, and I was way more upset than she was.

And she never cut anything she wasn’t supposed to cut again.

But then it was Isaac’s turn. All week, Isaac brought his helicopter with him everywhere. It is a rescue helicopter with a line and a hook that can actually pull things up into the cockpit. My husband saw it one night in a bookstore and it was so clearly perfect for Isaac, he bought it right there and then. Isaac has loved this toy for months and his attachment to it was at an all time high this week. So I was a little surprised to hear Ella ask him on Saturday morning, “Isaac! did you cut the hook off your helicopter?”

Isaac denied it.

80367C0B-F663-4032-BA32-70613E48EE21“Mommy, did you cut the hook off of Isaac’s helicopter?”

“What? I would never cut the hook of his helicopter!” I was horrified.

Isaac quickly picked up on that line. “No, I would never cut the hook of my helicopter.”

Then we found the scissor and the hook in his room.

Stunned again. A favorite toy, destroyed at the hands of its owner for no apparent reason other than the desire to cut something. But why the favorite thing? And once again, no remorse! Boy, I was mad.

I wasn’t upset about the money these items cost. I wasn’t even mad that the scissors were used inappropriately. I was sad and mad for my children’s sake. Their beloved objects were ruined by their own hands. Surely they would feel the effects. They must be just hiding the guilt and heartbroken pangs.

But then. Then it was my turn.

I didn’t have any scissors. I’m not three years old. But I did the exact same thing. In fact, I do it all the time.

I tell my exuberant, cheery, affectionate boy, “Would you please calm down and stop jumping on me!” when really he just wants to lavish hugs on his mother and be hugged in return.

I tell my precise, careful, beauty-loving daughter, “It’s okay if the butterfly’s wings are not the same size on your drawing. It’s pretty and we don’t have time to fix it right now,” when all she really wants is to do her very best and create a beautiful card for her great, great aunt.

I whisper to my three-month-old baby girl, “Please, would you just fall asleep without me holding you for half an hour tonight?” when she just needs the comfort of her mama because her dadgum first tooth will just not come through and be done with it, and anyway, who does not want a snugly baby?

I take my scissors and I try to change my favorite, favorite, favoritest things in the world: my children.

There are plenty of areas I need to train my children in, plenty of ways I need to mold and shape and sand down some rough edges. We are all flawed and need saving from ourselves. But the beautiful things in their nature that God wants me to foster and cherish should not be the things I try to squelch or cut out willy nilly when some part of these characteristics is inconvenient for me. I need to put down my scissors.

Maybe I wouldn’t have ever even noticed my tendency to do this if I hadn’t agonized over why my children cut their favorite things. I should probably thank them for being small packages of pure human nature that I get to learn from every day. I am thankful for what they unknowingly teach me.

But my goodness, I’m still going to hide their scissors! And it’s time to hide my own scissors, too.

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Everyday Life, Parenting

Saturday Mornings With Kids

Saturday Morning With A Baby

You wake up to feed Baby at 5:30. It’s too early, but your baby is so sweet. You feed the baby, then spend an hour patiently rocking and pacing with the baby, enjoying the warmth of her tiny little body and the knowledge that once she goes back to sleep, you will, too. Yes, you must will yourself to ignore that basket of unfolded laundry as you get back in bed. But you’ll fold it later, maybe as you watch some football while the baby takes another nap. You might even have time for a nap later, too. Saturdays are the best.

Saturday Morning With A Baby, A Three-year-old, and A Five-year-old

You wake up to feed Baby at 5:30. It’s too early, but that hardly registers because you’ve already been up five times in the last three hours with another kid who can’t breathe through his nose. You stumble into the baby’s room, feed the baby, and sink into a pit of agony when you realize she’s not going straight back to sleep. You rock for five minutes, pace for five minutes, all the while watching the clock tick closer and closer to the time when your other children will get up (6:30), whether they’re still tired or not.

Finally, you put the baby into her crib still awake, hoping she can squirm it out instead of cry it out so the kids won’t get woken up a nanosecond too soon. Your hope in the squirm-it-out-method is pretty weak, though, so you lay down on the floor next to the crib. The baby keeps squirming, getting more agitated. But this carpet is surprisingly soft. Oh, maybe she’s actually falling asleep. She is! It’s a miracle! You could get back in bed, but then you’d have to navigate around the five baskets of unfolded laundry that you have successfully ignored for three days. You’re so good at ignoring laundry, you only think about it when (a) it’s in the way or (b) someone runs out of underwear. And anyway, this carpet is really not so bad. You feel yourself drifting into sweet, sweet sleep, which is a darn good thing because there’s no hope of a nap for the rest of this busy day.

Then you hear the pitter-patter/running of the bulls coming down the hall.

“Can we have ORANGE juice????”

It’s morning.

And Saturday is just another normal, crazy, beautiful, wonderful day of the week.

As long as there’s caffeine.

Everyday Life

The Season of The King

Confession: my husband and I are recovering sports addicts. Or maybe I should say reformed sports junkies. Actually, I should probably say reforming sports junkies, because we haven’t been to church on Wimbledon Championship Sunday in, like, a decade, and tennis isn’t even our favorite sport. Anyway, we used to watch and follow many sports very closely in our dating and early married years. It was one of our common interests. It was probably one of the reasons I fell for my husband in the first place — he didn’t freak out when I made harmless but seemingly alarming to most guys comments like, “Wow, that’s a good ERA.” This is a rarity. To this day, guys cast wary glances at me when I make comments about flagrant fouls or false starts (maybe because all the comments I make are actually really boneheaded…but I try not to over analyze this). The point is my husband appreciated the sports enthusiast in me. We watched sports, we played sports, we talked sports. To be fair to us, we had a lot of other common interests, too, but sports were pretty major until about five or six years ago, when we realized we had a problem and we needed to do something about it.

Disclaimer: this is not my parents’ fault. It’s kind of amazing that I turned out to be a multi-sport fan, because I did not come from that kind of background. Picture a family who watches their favorite Southeastern Conference football team every Fall weekend, decked out in the school colors and occasionally some face paint, and then picture the opposite of that. You know what we watched on Sunday afternoons in winter? Figure skating. That is, my sister and I watched it while my parents took their Sunday afternoon siesta or read books. The only sport we ever watched as a family, besides the Olympics, was baseball. I have known what stuff like IP (innings pitched) stood for since I was eight, and this is kind of weird for a Southern girl. Boston girls are allowed to know this, but Southern girls are supposed to know (a) how to apply enough hairspray to withstand insane humidity, (b) how to make a mean breakfast casserole for tailgating at 12:00 football games, and (c) how to avoid talking politics. The ability to grow hydrangeas or bake real buttermilk biscuits is a nice bonus, but not required. (Before you start writing me a nasty letter, please pick your sense of humor back up—I’m [mostly] kidding).

So I’ve always liked baseball. My true love of sports goes kind of like how some people talk about religion. “I always grew up in church, but when I went to camp at age 14, I really made it my own.” I always liked baseball, but it was when I discovered college basketball that I truly fell in love with sports. It was all downhill from there. I even began to enjoy watching golf, a sport I had been known to ridicule. (Don’t knock it til you try it!). In fact, I considered it a huge plus that my third child was born last month on opening day of the British Open. I watched pretty much the full day of coverage while laboring with her. No one should watch a full opening day of a golf tournament except golf analysts. Nobody. I also draw the line at overly violent sports such as MMA, or overly un-sportish sports such as bowling or fly fishing. Oh, and sports in which new tricks are invented every two minutes (I’m looking at you, snowboarding).

So, there we were five years ago, getting sucked into every sport that came on TV, spending money on tickets to local events, going to brothers’ little league games, reading articles, playing Fantasy Football…it was all getting to be too much. That’s when we drew some lines. It started with the realization that our finances were hurting because of our sports addiction. We got rid of cable (Goodbye, Atlanta Braves…), we stopped spending outrageous amounts of money on tickets to basketball and football games, and we stuck to sports that were cheap or free, like tennis and frisbee. Then we began to draw lines when it came to time. We began the slow progress we have finally made to only picking one or two events to watch a weekend. And voila! We’re recovered sports addicts. That is, except from late August through December. Because, for better or worse, football is King in the South. Fall is basically like the holidays for a recovering alcoholic. How do we just pick one game to watch on a Saturday and Sunday? How? We’re still figuring this out, but here are our basic steps:

1. Make it a point to watch our favorite college team with friends or family. Then it doesn’t actually count, somehow, because it’s more like a party and less like watching a game. It’s all about quality time…

photo (21)2. Buy a membership to our local awesome park and make it a standing tradition to take a picnic dinner there every Sunday. Too bad if the best NFL game on is at 4:00 p.m. It turns out, we actually don’t care.

3. Focus on books! (you saw that one coming, didn’t you…). Fall is a great time to find some page turners to distract from Football and mold your brain back into a shape.

4. Ask the kids what they want to do.

5. Read an article about a third world country. Only do this if you really want to be challenged and disgusted by the excess that football both creates and embraces. You paid how much for that licensed Peyton Manning jersey? That could feed a family in Africa for a year.

6. Think ahead, and save up your TV time for March Madness.

In all seriousness, we still enjoy sports, and we’re okay with that. What we’re not okay with is looking back on our lives and realizing that our passions and resources were poured into something that is, ultimately, meaningless. We’re excited that college football starts today, and that’s fine! But if you’re the type like us who can reach Christmas before you realize your weekends were a blur of first downs and touchdowns you don’t even remember or care about,  maybe you can gain some perspective from our experience with toning down our fanaticism. I’m pretty sure our eighty-year-old selves will thank us.

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