This week was a whirlwind, as I already mentioned several times.  I had events planned every day – car appointment, doctor, field trip, babysitting and anything else you could think of.  So all of my other important duties were either pushed to the side, or scheduled in whenever possible.  Not easy.  However, last week was also special for me for another reason.  I decided that I needed to manage my life a little better.  All too often lately, I feel a bit overwhelmed.  I seem to master one area of my life really well, but everything else falls apart.  I feel like I am constantly running to catch up to my life, and never reaching a point where I can take a breather.  For instance, if I am able to maintain the house all week – tidying up, laundry, making beds, etc. – then I have no time for me or the children.  Or if I spend a lot of time with the children, then my house falls apart.  So this week, as hectic as it was, I decided to take the first step towards doing things right, and to manage everything a little better.  The house stayed clean, the kids were entertained, I had a little bit of me time, and the wash got finished.  

First of all, I scheduled in some me time.  One morning – 5 hours – in which I could do anything I wanted.  I could watch tv, read a book, sew or whatever else my heart desired.  It relaxes me.  Makes it easier to breathe, and deal with my grumpiness.  I usually take a day in the middle of the week, to help me relax, and to better cope with the stress at the end of the week.  The one thing I have to learn to do  is turn off my phone.  This will help me to get more accomplished, really take the time for me, and not get bogged down with anything worrisome.  I admire people who can do that so easily, without worrying about hurting people’s feelings.

Second of all, I scheduled a cleaning day.  Mondays work the best.  You usually have a lot of energy on Monday, and get more done then on Fridays, and it is easier to maintain over the entire week.  Whenever I clean on Fridays, the house stays clean 24 hours, and then when the kids are home over the weekend, I find myself going at it again.  This burns me out.  Since I usually schedule kiddie events in the afternoons during the week,  the house is easier to maintain.  We go grocery shopping together, playdates, ice cream parlor,  bike riding or play in the backyard.  Whatever we do, the kids are tired during the week from school, and homework and playing, so the house usually does not get so messy.  A quick declutter and clean up and everything has been put away.  

I noticed that it was important to rest up a bit during the day.  I have long days, since I am both mommy and daddy at the moment.  My day usually starts at 6am and goes until 11pm.   I get tired usually between 4-6pm.  So I try to relax when Nicolas gets home from school.   

I also always keep the kitchen clean, and make my beds.  It is amazing how good it makes you feel when your kitchen is clean.  While I cook, I clean up the kitchen.  I put the dishwasher on every night.  I load it with pots and pans, and everything I can.  Each morning I empty it while the kids are eating breakfast.    

I also vacuum every other day.  It really does not take that long, and even if I do half the house in the morning and half at night, there is nothing worse then gritty floors.

I make the beds every morning before taking the kids to school.  It just makes me feel better to know that the beds are made and I am ready to go.  I wish I could say I have a perfect record, but believe me there are days when not even I can get out of bed in the morning.  That is ok.  I try to stick to my rules as often as I can.

The kids are pretty self-sufficient in the morning.  Nicolas gets dressed, brushes his teeth, and makes his bed.  Olivia sits and watches Barney.  I am usually making lunch and breakfast.  I don’t call the kids to the table until everything is ready, and I can walk away to tend to my own morning ritual.   The kids know that I decide what is for breakfast, and that they eat what they get, or they will go hungry until lunch.   I do know what they like, so I always try to make them something that they both enjoy.  I won’t make them each a separate meal because that is teaching them that they always get what they want.  If they choose to be a picky eater……..well that is another topic completely.  I used to have one, and I quickly dealt with it, and since then he is more willing to try everything.

I also found a way to solicit the help of the kids to clean up.  On Saturday, we planned a beach day, a trip to the bookstore and the grocery store.   However, the house was a mess, and I was not willing to come home to that mess.  I mean seriously, when it is finally time for me to relax, I don’t want to be surrounded by clothing, shoes, toys and whatever else the kids have decided to dump.  So instead of leaving early in the morning, I told them that the house had to be cleaned first.  Nicolas is not a problem anymore, but it took two time-outs for me to get Olivia to see the light.  I just put her in her room, and told her that she could not come out until her things were picked up.  I got them both to clean up the playroom, and their own rooms.  Once they were finished I gave them each individual little jobs to do around the house.  Nicolas took out the garbage.  Olivia cleaned the back glass door.  Little things, that I would have done, but could easily be done by both of them.    We did not leave until after lunch, but the house was perfectly clean, and two loads of laundry were done, and I knew that I would be able to come home in the evening and relax in a nice and clean environment.  As it should be.

Third, I took care of business.  All too often, we would prefer to be writing someone in Facebook or texting a friend before we clean.  Seriously, I would much rather hide out in my sewing room.  However, the important stuff does not go away.  As a matter of fact, as time goes by, the anxiety rises, and the important stuff is still sitting there waiting to be accomplished.  If you choose not to clean your house, give it a week, and you have twice the mess to clean up.  A lot of times, I would prefer to do the entire 10 loads of laundry instead of battling one a night.  That is me.  However, it is not the smart way to do business, it is just my way.  The change has to happen in us first.  Yes, we all know the sayings “No work, no play!” “No pain, no gain”.  If I am stressed out on Monday, because my car light is bright red and long overdue for an inspection, how do you think I feel three weeks later.  And wouldn’t you know it, when I have no choice but to the get car fixed, I also have 20 other things that I have to attend to?  Of course.  Get the important things done.  First things first.  Forget the shopping, forget the kids field trip, the bills have to be paid, otherwise you may be looking at a bigger mess.  

Fourth, keep a list.  A grocery list, a to-do list, and a wish list.  I keep everything in my iphone which syncs with my computer, so when I am on the phone I can just look at my week and know what I need to do, and whether or not I can find time for anything else.  A list just helps make things easier.  I usually update my lists at night before I go to bed.  My iphone has an APP for my grocery lists, which is great, because I always have it with me, and can remember things I would usually forget.

Fifth, learn to say no.  I love going on playmates with the kids.  This usually means I get to talk to an adult for a little while, and the kids get to enjoy themselves with other kids.  A perfect solution.  However, too much of a good thing isn’t always what is best for you.  Last week I had to turn several things down in order to get done what really needed to get done.  In the end it was worth it.  I can’t have my cake and eat it too.

Lastly, I had to learn to go to bed early.  That is not an easy thing for me.  Remember, I am both mom and dad.  So I my evenings are pretty stressful, and when I finally get to say Aaaaaah, the kids are asleep, I also have to put away the dinner dishes, close up the house, clean up the bathtub, and so on.  I usually don’t get to relax until about 8:30pm.  However, I made it a point to get at least 7 hours of sleep a night, and that makes my life so much easier.   The one night I did not do it last week, was the one day when I needed to feel my best, and I was at my worst.  So, lesson learned.  Going to bed earlier just means that I had to rethink my evening workflow.  I was feeding the kids dinner at 6, which meant that bathtime was at 6:30 and bedtime reading was at 7.  If things did not go according to plan, the kids were late in getting to bed, and I was getting grumpier by the minute.  Now I cook an hour earlier, and that gives me some time to clean up the kitchen with the kids before we get into the bath.  The kids are still in bed at 7, but my kitchen is clean, and I don’t have so much to do at night, which means I have more time to relax.  Yes, the kids go to bed at the same time every night.  No matter what.  We always read for about 1/2 hour, and sometimes sing some songs, but lights are always out at 7:30.   That does not always mean that they are sleeping at 8, but they have a routine and structure, so I never have problems there.  The problem is me.

I love the fact that last week was such a breeze.  It really shows me that not the kids, or the house, or the responsibility was the problem, but that I was the problem.  I am the one who decides on  my fate, and the end result.  I make our life easier and maintainable.  All I needed to do was view the whole thing differently, and by golly it got a lot easier.  That made me feel really good.  No, it made me very happy.  Everyone needs structure, not just our kids.  Sticking to a schedule during certain days and times of the week was really not that hard.  You just have to want it.

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