Remember back in January? Back when I thought everyday life was a bit overwhelming? Back when I was the mother of only one small child and one substantial bump? Back when I wrote these goals for 2010? Well I remember. And those goals have been on my mind a lot lately, espeically since I realized that we are now halfway through September. My second-favorite month. And well on our way through the final quarter of the year! Just when did this happen?
2010 has been the year of Great Thirds. The first third was pre-#2. Jack and I had a good groove going, I had high hopes of maintaining our quality of life, I spent my days playing with my zesty kiddo and my nights dreaming of life with a new baby. The second third started April 20, Jude's arrival. I think every mom should give herselft some time to relax and re-group after delivering a child. Of course, I'm sure there are those who can finish vacuuming and write out a grocery list while laboring, give birth the following morning, take a nap, and then cart their new brood to the store the next day to get supplies needed to finish off the menu planning they did the week before. I am not one of those .... yet! So I was more than willing to lay low for a good 6-8 weeks until we got our life in order. Of course, that was the same time we moved. And then WHAM! it was summer and we had vacations and trips and visitors. And then Jude turned 4 months and you all know how that went. So somehow the survival mode mentality that we brought home from the hospital with our new baby has taken up residence in the guest room and I've had a very hard time giving her the boot!
And now it's September, and I just looked at my calendar and realized we've spent a record-breaking 2 weekends in a row at home, all by ourselves, with no guests. We're getting better at this whole living-in-our-house thing (shhh, don't tell October!). And it was just a few weeks ago that Jon and I looked at each other and both said something along the lines of, "Wow, for the first time I feel like we've gotten our lives back in order!" And there's not a doubt in my mind that this has something to do with a good routine. Jon's back to work/school, he leaves the same time every morning, goes to class, studies, comes home almost the same time every day, goes to the gym, comes home for dinner and time with his boys, and then starts homework again. It's predictable, it's proven and it's good. Thus I have been inspired to do the same at home.
Enter: The Daily Schedule.
Now before you go and think I'm some crazy drill sergeant running around with a whistle in my mouth and a stop watch in my hand, hear me out! We don't follow this to a "T", any times listed are general. I don't think we've ever gotten it exact yet, and it seems like most days we don't follow it at all. Instead it serves as a great guide, proven suggestions... and we don't have to worry about the dreaded "Now what?" creeping into our days. When we stick to "the schedule" my kids are almost-kinda-nearly-perfect-angels. If nothing else, they're not cranky because they don't get hungry, bored or tired. All those needs are pre-empted. ...when we stick to the schedule. And since we don't always do that, well we get more than our share of hungry, bored, and tired.
And so I thought I'd share for anyone else who feels like me or for those of you who are highly amused by people like me. This is what works for us:
Above my calendar I have the text-only version for myself (and for Jon if he's ever interested). I actually starting creating this before Jude was born. We pushed it hard during those early weeks when Jack would attack me every time I sat down to nurse the baby, it forced us to provide ways to keep Jack occupied every time Jude would eat. Then we lost it in the Great Computer Crash and chaos that is summer. I just finished re-tweaking it for fall (and an older Jude) a few weeks ago. Basically, it shows our day divided into half-hour (and occasionally 15-minute) increments. There are three-colored-coded columns for Jack, Jude and myself that list what each of us can be expected to do at that time. For instance, at 10:30am we (most days) are going for a walk to the park. That's an easy one. A trickier one is 4:30pm (which used to be the wrost hour of the day!), when Jack is supposed to be doing "structured play" (at this age we do some coloring, play-doh and puzzles, etc.) at the table, Jude is playing with a toy in his chair and I'm working on dinner. Or there is the 9:15am hour, when Jack is having "independent play" in his toy room, Jude is in the middle of a nap, and I'm doing work. It's one thing to keep the boys on a routine but it has been so helpful to me to have certain times during the day where I can plan on doing something. I don't stress about dishes piling in the sink, a project that needs done for work, or falling behind on laundry (more on that later) because I know that there are times throughout my day where both boys are occupied that I can get it done. Amazing, no?.
So that's the Master Schedule, for me, The Captain, because during the day I run this ship. But I wanted to keep Jack included too. So on the front of the fridge is the picture-version of just Jack's schedule. Each activity is accompanied by an image. For instance, at 8am Jack is allowed to watch "TV" (usually he picks a Baby Einstein movie). So there's a picture of a television in the 8:00 block. When it's time for breakfast, lunch and dinner we use a picture of table setting. Naptime and bedtime show a crib. "Daddy time" is a picture of Jon. :) And we also have a FREE! icon for when I couldn't think of anything else. It also helps us catch-up if we get off schedule.
In an ideal world we'd move the magentic-picture-frame thinger over the square that we're currently on. Usually I forget most of the time. It's not entirely necessary anyway. But it is helpful when Jack is wandering around the house, carrying his shoes, saying "walk, walk" when I'm still in my pajamas. For a little person with no concept of time, it's much easier to say "See. We'll go for a walk after playroom time. First we'll read books, then you'll play, and then we'll go for a walk." I'm not sure if he gets it yet, but someday he will.
Now, raising kids is only part of my job. How much fun would it be if the only things moms had to do was take care of kids? No more cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, running errands and all those other million little things that I always forget I have to do! Now that I've got my kids' life somewhat organized, it's time to start working on my own. I've been hearing a lot about this planner created and offered by Motivated Moms. It is something that was showing up on a lot of my favorite blogs during the new year. It looked interesting, but I never followed-through with it. Well last week I found out the planners were on sale ($4 instead of a whopping $8) since there are only 4 months left in the year. So I "splurged" and downloaded a copy. And I'm in love. Just in case you aren't aware, I'm kinda a detailed, write-it-out, make-a-list and check-it-off kinda gal. I mean, I really get a kick out of crossing things off lists. And there's just something about creating tables and spreadsheets that makes my heart do flip-flops... just in case you couldn't tell. So I pretty much think my new Motivated Moms Planner is the most prettiest piece of ink-on-paper my eyes have ever beheld. Except for the "Comic Sans" font. Can we please outlaw Comic Sans?? (My mom, the Kindergarten teacher, says "no" because it's one of the few fonts that uses a correct "a".)
In short, it's a planner that outlines daily and weekly "chores" (my version also includes daily Bible readings if you want to read the Bible through in a year.) Except these aren't your average chores. Well they are, but there's more. I gotta admit I was sold when I saw she included "clip children's fingernails" on one week's list. I'm the horrible mom that always waits until her kids are drawing blood before thinking to clip their nails, and then it takes me another week or so to find the clippers before I actually get it done. Well, not anymore. It would bug me even more than long nails to leave that block uncrossed on my planner, so I'm sure I'll be taking such hyegenic measures in a more timely manner now. She also has you changing out your dish towels and washcloths three times a week. Ugh, I've always been so afraid of going down in history as "the lady with the sour dishcloths", hopefully this will keep me on my game. Now I am being a tad sarcastic, and I have to admit, I didn't really "change the dish towel" yesterday like I was supposed to. And I haven't completed Sunday's task of "making a shopping and errand list" yet. This is only my first week folks. But I've got high hopes. Especially since today was the first time I have ever vacuumed our upstairs since we moved. (Usually Jon's the vacuum wielder, nice huh?). But I did it today, and just about scared the living daylights out of my littlest guy, because Motivated Mom said so. And because I wanted to check something off the list (and maybe leave it out on the counter so my husband could see that I'm really trying to do this thing right!).
And that is where I'm at. It's only taken me 9 months to get this far, maybe I'll have it all right by next New Year. But not likely. Halfway there is still better than never starting. Now if you'll excuse me, Jude has woken up from his nap 30 minutes early. And even though he's not slated to eat for another 10 minutes, I'm thinkin' he may be hungry since he's fussing and lunging at my chest with an open mouth. And there goes the schedule...