I thought it might be fun to write about a typical day in my life right now – as if there is such a thing with three young children in the house!
On school mornings my alarm goes off at 5:45, and I usually drag myself out of bed by 6:05. I am really not good at getting right up, but I excuse myself because I’m praying as I lie there, even if I’m half asleep instead of on my knees. I shower and dress and try to get a household task or two completed before the kids are up, usually emptying the dishwasher or sorting a load of laundry.
Seven am is wake up time for the kids, and you just never know who is going to wake up early and who is going to need 20 minutes to ease out of a deep slumber before sitting up (like me). Our mornings are crazy because my kids are daydreamy and struggle to focus on the task at hand, say, putting on their left sock. I love that my kids have vivid imaginations, but the downside is that they need 15-20 minutes to get dressed. I’ve tried making up rhymes about “get done what needs to be done, and then there’s time for fun,” but it’s just really hard to keep them focused. Also, both of my “big kids” want me to be with them as they wake up and get dressed. They are deeply hurt if I suggest I ought to go start breakfast or change Rose’s diaper while they put on that right sock.
This year I’ve tried to improve our breakfast routine by limiting their choices and instead making something different for each day of the week. Mondays we have scrambled eggs and toast; Tuesdays we have oatmeal, etc. Their favorite day is “Smoothie Wednesday.” I like not having to decide what’s for breakfast each day, and it is so much better than the old days when I used to let them each choose what they wanted so that I might be making a yogurt parfait for one, toast and a clementine for another, and a bowl of Cheerios with banana slices for the third.
Once the big kids are on the school bus, “Rose and Mama Day” begins. We might have errands to run, or we might begin a morning of trying to balance entertaining a toddler and actually accomplishing something concrete. Last year Rose would help me start the laundry and then want to dust every day. This year she’s more likely to ask to watch Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood or whine. She also really, really likes to play with Kathleen’s princess dolls.
After lunch Rose takes her nap, and now I have to balance between getting all the items on my to do list taken care of and having a little time to myself. I’m an introvert, and it has surprised me how draining it is to have little ones at my hip all the time. Introverts need alone time to re-energize. When I was teaching, I used to take a couple of minutes during the day to hide in the bathroom and know that nobody could reach me for that brief respite. I can’t hide in the bathroom from my toddler; she comes right in with me! And there’s no more going home at the end of the day to get away from my job and the people there. I’m so drained by mid-afternoon that I just don’t have the energy for all the projects I was hoping to complete. I might fold and put away the clean laundry and wash the breakfast and lunch dishes, but then too often I zone out with Facebook or some other mindless activity instead of using my time for something that actually makes me feel good, like working on my blog.
Rose usually wakes up between 3:30 and 4:00, and pretty soon it’s time to head outside to get Kathleen and Daniel off the school bus. They come in, dropping backpacks and coats and shoes everywhere, full of stories and hungry for a snack. It feels like chaos as I try to empty their lunchboxes and look at their school papers and listen to their stories and start dinner and wonder when Dan will get home.
By the time dinner is ready, they’ve usually settled into something fun with Legos or markers or Barbies, and they don’t want to come and eat. Getting everyone to the dinner table might just be the hardest task of the day. Nobody wants to wash hands, or suddenly both potty-trained children desperately need to go at the exact same moment (we have one bathroom), or Daniel remembers a cut on his finger that requires a Band-Aid before we can say grace, and then, of course, Rose also has an invisible boo-boo in the exact same spot that also requires a Band-Aid immediately. Once we are all seated at the table, Rose will take a bite of her food and then throw a fit because she’s chewing and not ready to say grace. After a few deep breaths, we manage to pray, and then the complaining and bargaining begin as Dan and I try to eat our cold food.
“I don’t like broccoli.”
“I don’t like rice.”
“This macaroni and cheese is too cheesy.”
“How many bites do I have to eat to have some of my Halloween candy?”
“I can’t eat all that. How about 5 bites because I’m 5?”
After dinner comes bath time. Dan and I have established a routine in which we takes turns with baths every other night. Whoever doesn’t do baths puts Rose to bed and washes the dishes. Once Rose is asleep and Kathleen and Daniel are in their jammies, we pack their lunches for the next day and do a final sweep of the house to clean up stray toys. A few weeks ago we established a new system for packing lunches that is working out well. We have separate bins for proteins, grains, fruits and veggies, and snacks or sweets. The kids fill their lunch boxes by picking one item from each bin (two from fruits and veggies) and then one bonus item from any of the healthy categories. Sometimes they ask for a sandwich, and Dan will make those in the morning. They are eating much better lunches and saving Dan a lot of time before work.
When these tasks are done, Dan and I divide and conquer by taking turns reading, praying, and snuggling with either Kathleen or Daniel. Once all the kids are asleep, I either crash into bed myself or stay up later than I should for some me time. I’m making an effort to spend my me time praying and reading the Bible instead of scrolling through Facebook. It’s a much more relaxing way to spend my evening, and I go to bed with a sense of peace.
At 5:45 the next morning it starts all over again!