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.


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.

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