Getting It All Done

clean

Last week I got to spend some time with a friend who doesn’t have any kids yet. As I was packing up the boys to head back home she asked me (a bit bewildered, a bit frightened, a bit curious), “How do you get it all done?”. It’s a valid question.

I didn’t know quite how to answer her. The short answer is: what needs to get done, gets done…and everything else can just wait. The long answer is that I have several systems and routines in place that get me through each day and each week (some weeks better than others). Here’s a little glimpse into how I get it all done–or, I should say, how I attempt to get it all done!

Cooking
I usually prep dinner while the boys are napping (most days I can get both boys to nap for at least an hour at the same time in the afternoon. If not, I just prep when one of them is napping so there’s minimal chaos). If there are veggies that need to be chopped, meat that needs to marinate, spices that need to be measured out, whatever–I set it all up while the house is quiet. Kind of like how those cooking shows on TV have everything sitting out in bowls and all they have to do when it’s show time is throw everything in a pan, cook it, and–voila!–dinner! I usually only cook “hands-on” a few nights a week. The other nights I  just reheat frozen meals or leftovers (and pizza is never a bad option for a Friday night, either).

Laundry
I literally do laundry every day except Sunday (Mama’s gotta have a day of REST!). It’s easier for me to do one normal-sized load of laundry to completion (washed, dried, folded, put away) every day than to do a marathon session attacking the dirty-laundry mountain when it gets too monstrous for me to handle. Between Jon and I having our everyday clothes and work-out clothes, the boys needing “costume changes” multiple times a day for multiple reasons, and needing to wash linens on a somewhat regular basis, I am always able to fill a whole load of laundry. Jon likes to look nice for work (*grin*) so I actually iron his shirts once a week. It’s one of my least favorite chores, but I do it out of love (and it helps that I can watch Hulu while I’m tediously ironing away).

Cleaning
I am not a particularly clean person. I like having things tidy and organized and not disgusting, but I’m not the lady who scrubs her toilets every day (yes, I know someone who scrubs her toilets every. single. day.). I have a loose schedule of when I will do the required cleaning each week: Mondays I clean the kitchen and pay bills, Tuesdays I vacuum,  Wednesdays I clean the bathrooms, Thursdays I mop the wood floors, Fridays I pick up the yard. I just do the basics, and it only takes me 10-20 minutes per day to do my “chore-o-the-day”.

Activities
I love being busy–probably to a fault. I’m a stay-at-home-mom who can’t stand staying at home all day. So, we have little outings most days. In a typical week we’ll go to Stroller Strides (my exercise class) or a run on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings; either park play time or library story time on Tuesdays; and BSF (Bible study) on Thursday mornings. Our little outings last for about 1-2 hours. The boys (usually) have a lot of fun on our adventures– and I need the breaks in our day for my sanity. It’s really a win-win. On the weekends we do our bigger adventures that require more time or more adults: hikes, swimming, shopping, day trips.

NOT Getting It All Done
There are some days where I’ll just decide a nap is more important than whatever chores were on my to-do list. Or the boys will actually sleep past 6:30 AM and I decide that we’re going to stay in our jammies all morning instead of working out. Or I’ll be cleaning up what seems to be the hundredth mess of the day, and I’ll call Jon and tell him to pick up dinner on the way home so I don’t have to cook. Or I will be in the middle of packing up my life to move half-way across the globe (NEXT WEEK!!!). Every now and then, I don’t get it all done. And that’s okay. In the end, what needs to be done will be done–and sometimes a break is what really needs to be done!

Why Having 2 Kids Isn't As Hard As Everyone Says

When I was pregnant with Jacob I had a lot of people tell me: “Watch out! Having two kids isn’t just twice as much work…it’s more like ten times as much work!”. Now, granted, I’ve only had two kids for 5 months now, but it’s really not as hard as everyone said it would be. In fact, I’d say that having 2 kids is not even twice as much work as having 1.

When I was teaching, I had up to 22 kids under my care for 6+ hours a day.  So, having only 2 kids that I love unconditionally feels like a pretty sweet deal (plus, they both still take naps. That helps). In both the school and the home scenario, though, the only way I’m able to manage kids is through a simple formula of routine, organization, and discipline.

On Routines
We have routines for everything in our day: wake up time, meal time, getting dressed, getting shoes and coats on when we have to leave the house, nap time, clean up, bath time, bed time.  We have David so well trained now that all I have to say is “it’s time for snack and story” and he cleans up all of his toys and goes to sit on the couch to wait for his snack. This allows me to get his snack ready while he’s cleaning up, and it means we have no battles over how this part of our day should go. We’ve practiced it a gazillion times and he just knows what to do and what to expect. The funny thing is, if we ever stray from our routine David gets really upset and tells us the “correct” way to do it!

On Organization
Organization is a huge help when you have kids. Having children is like living in the middle of a tornado–everything and everyone seem to be in a constant state of upheaval.

One of the most important parts of my personal organization is our schedule. I keep a fairly strict yet flexible schedule. What I mean by that is that we have a set plan for how each day in the week goes, but we adjust what that looks like as needed. For instance, Jacob can still nap in his carseat if we’re out and about during the day. I know, however, that when he’s older and won’t sleep in his carseat any more, I’ll have to be home for his naps and we’ll have to adjust our schedule to accommodate his new needs.

I also sit down every Sunday and fill out a weekly calendar that includes our activities, chores I need to do, errands that need to be run, our dinner menu, and even when I’ll exercise.

My weekly schedule

My weekly schedule

I write my schedule out on a magnetic whiteboard and I stick it on the front of my fridge. I like this method because it doesn’t require me pulling up an app on my phone and Jon can see it just as easily as I can. Plus, the teacher in me still likes writing on white boards. Having and keeping to a schedule allows your routines to be more effective because everyone knows what to expect each day.

Built into my schedule are things like dinner prep. I always prep dinner during the boys’ nap so that when it’s actually time to make dinner everything’s ready and I can just throw it in the pan (or, even better, it’s already in the crock pot or roasting in the oven and all I have to do is take it out to eat it). Really, if there’s anything I can do ahead of time to make my time with the boys go easier, I do it.

On Discipline
I’m not going to get too into this subject right now, because that could really be a whole series of posts on its own. And, admittedly, discipline is one of my weakest areas as a mother. But, I do know how important it is and I work at it every day. Here’s how discipline relates to my theme of managing the kids, though. Kids NEED boundaries. When the kids know what is expected of them, they tend to live up to those expectations.  When kids know there are consistent consequences to their actions, they learn how better to control their behavior. By me not spending 4 hours a day chasing wild banshees through my house (OK, that actually IS how most days are…) I can focus on more important tasks. We can move through our day more quickly, with more sanity, and have more time for the fun stuff when behavior is (mostly) in check.

So, that’s it. Having kids IS tough. I’ll never deny that. But with a little preparation and consistency, your job can be a whole lot easier!