Why I Love Labor Day

Many people think of Labor Day as the end of summer, but for those of us who thrive on schedules and routine it marks the end of a time when routine and schedules are not as easy to follow. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy summer vacation. But I can handle only so much of it, before I am begging for school to start again. Even as a teacher I feel this way. I can’t wait for school to start. It brings back the routine I need to find some sanity in my life. With the start of school comes Labor Day weekend, which has it’s own benefits for helping ease the transition of back to school.

The Long Weekend

This year my daughter and I had school for three days before we hit the three day weekend. It got my family back into the routine and my students at school through those first few days of organization and procedure teaching. We were rewarded with a long weekend. Although my family is usually quite busy over the weekends, we had one extra day during which we were able to do a family activity together.

Chaos of Summer Ends

No longer am I running around trying to fit in visiting with family, doing fun things with my kids, and still trying to find time to work, but I can know have a schedule that simplifies my life. Yeah, my kids go to bed ridiculously early, but they have activities planned each day whether that be school or daycare. I know what needs to happen when in order for my day and theirs to be successful.

A Break from the Schedule

Getting back into the school routine is hard, even for people who thrive off of living on a schedule. For my family and I getting those few days to make the schedule work and then having days where we don’t need to live on such tight schedule really helps everyone reset and be ready to go back to the schedule on Tuesday. It gives us a chance to reevaluate and make changes to our schedule so hopefully everything can run more efficiently.

Relaxing, Family Time

My family doesn’t always get to relax around the holidays. Our holidays are rather busy with my husband working most of them. This is one holiday where he doesn’t work and we are able to enjoy time as a family. This year is was as simple as being able to go on a picnic. Yes, it was slightly chilly, but it was something that got us away from our house and let us focus on ourselves and our kids.

Do you enjoy the Labor Day weekend? Do you have any traditions that you do on Labor Day weekend? Is the end of summer awaited eagerly at your house? Let us know in the comments below.

Getting ready for the school year: Having a schedule

If you have school age children and you haven’t already gone back to school you soon will be. How do you make the transition? Do you go crazy the first day trying to get there on time? Do you live all summer on your school schedule? Here’s how my family does back to school.

AUGUST: Week 1

The first full week in August is routine time. We start by going to bed at school time. (My kids are still pretty young they went to bed pretty early all summer. You may want to take a few days to do this, slowly moving bedtime earlier.) This doesn’t mean they are getting up at school time yet but their bodies are adjusting to going to bed earlier and it may make it easier for them to get up earlier. Here are the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations for amount of sleep children should be getting.

AUGUST: Week 2

We start getting up at school time and following a loose morning routine. We start to enforce school wake up times. There are no time constraints yet so we iron out the wrinkles as we go and make adjustments. This isn’t so much about the time things get done by but the order in which things happen in the morning. The hope is my kids will go through the routine like it’s second nature by the time the school year actually starts.

AUGUST: Week 3

Now its crunch time. We get up at a consistent time. The kids follow the schedule. We try to be ready by the set leave time for school. This week is about making the final small changes so our mornings flow as smoothly as possible.

My daughter’s school starts at 8AM. We have about a fifteen to twenty minute drive to get there. I don’t work in the mornings so me getting to work isn’t part of this schedule equation. She also has two younger siblings that I need to load into the car before we can leave. I get up well before my kids so I can shower, read a devotion, and get some writing or work done before managed chaos descends on my house.

Sample Schedule

6:30 This is my kids wake up time. They are usually up before this.

Once my kids are up, my oldest knows to get dressed. We try to aid this process by laying her clothes out the night before. Her next step is to brush her hair so all I need to do is put it up in some way.

6:45 Breakfast

Starting about age two, we require our kids to be dressed before breakfast on school days. Her little brother is still working on this rule which makes for some interesting mornings.  Breakfast is an easy affair most days being cereal or oatmeal and some fruit.

7:00 Finishing touches

My daughter brushes her teeth. I make sure her hair is done. I make sure the younger two children are some semblance of dressed.

7:15 Load up

Getting three kids in the car in any sort of timely fashion, especially when they are all still in car seats takes some time. This can take my kids anywhere from 5-10 minutes depending on how cooperative they want to be that day, so I give myself some wiggle room here so my patience isn’t flying out the window as we get in the car.

As my kids get older and more of them are going to school this schedule will change and most likely become earlier. Getting my kids back into the routine before school actually starts makes that first week of school a little less stressful because they know what is happening in the morning and that it happens the same way every morning.

How do you and your family prepare for the school year? Have you found strategies that work for getting your kids to bed easily? How do your kids get up in the morning? Leave a comment below.

Daily Routines

Let’s be honest – “morning routines” were one of those things I thought were total hogwash.
A mystical creation of work-at-home moms who wanted to seem awesome on social media.
A farse.
Nobody really does this. Nobody actually does the exact same things every morning that include cleaning.  Nobody schedules their day like this.

I was wrong.

I don’t think you must have a morning routine in order to be a professional mother. (And I do believe that being a stay-at-home mom is, in fact, a profession and should be treated as such.)  But I do think they can form naturally and be super helpful.

Before moving to our new home, I had neither a night nor morning routine.  I was basically flying by the seat of my mom pants, and I didn’t know I had a problem.  Our new house is larger and requires more “housekeeping” to stay up to my standards, and my current baby is getting big and needing more specific schedules and attention, and my husband has gone back to full-time teaching at a permanent position, so my day has gotten fuller.  In a wonderful way, but fuller.
In order to fit everything in and still sleep a relatively healthy amount (I am not about motherhood masochism) I decided to do a few tasks before bed and in the morning before the kids get up, largely tasks I never did daily before.  And thus, a routine was born!

Some nights/mornings they don’t get done.  I’m trying not to beat myself up about it when that happens, when sometimes I choose extra sleep or hanging out with my hubby or helping do some school work instead of tidying up my house.  It depends on the day’s demands.  But it’s nice to have slots to fit these activities into instead of constantly regretting that they’re falling through the cracks.  It’s good to know that these cleaning activities will get done almost daily, that my house most mornings will be clean and quiet, that if people drop by my home will be clean and inviting.   That I will be able to find everything I need if I need to rush out the door in the morning.

Stay tuned for full posts about my morning routine and night time routine!

How To: develop a daily schedule

I’ve known that I need a daily schedule since long before I became a stay-at-home mom. When I was teaching full time, I would create a daily schedule during summer break (including silly things like when we would walk the dog and when we would eat lunch.) I don’t function well without some kind of schedule. I don’t think that’s born from teaching, even though that is a very scheduled day.I think its from my need to see things written down and my attention/focus problems.  I need to know where I’m headed in the day to avoid falling into distraction/laziness. 
So I knew I needed a schedule, but I didn’t know how to go about creating one. I watched some of my favorite YouTubers and read some of my favorite blogs – they all had a schedule, and I could see their schedule, and it was kind of helpful to see an example, but nobody really talked about how they came to that schedule.  They would say things like, “This is what works for my family,” but where sis “this” come from?
(For a video about the actual schedule itself, visit my YouTube channel – click here!)

Let me save you the confusion.
First, start with your personal rhythms.   Observe yourself and/or your children for a week or so and see what your natural timetable seems to be.  When does everybody seem to wake up?  Get hungry?  Need a nap? That’s what you’re going to build your schedule around – the most predictable things in your day. (Meaning they need to be.  Children and adults benefit from routine sleep and food!)
Write these down.  Then notice the spaces in between.  Fill those with housework or “me time” or play time or work-from-home time.  Consider how you function best – do you need to power through work in the morning?  Need some alone time in the evening?  Often need to make phone calls during business hours?  Piece things in as works best for you.  If you have small kids, remember to put in some one-on-one time whenever possible.

Consider getting up earlier.  I feel there are two kinds of morning moms – those who are woken up by their children, and those who intentionally wake up beforehand.  Waking up before your kids enables you to get ready for the day (read: actually shower) without having to set your kids in front of the TV.
Consider eating as a family.  I see lots of schedules out here in the blogosphere that have two dinnertimes – an earlier one for kids and then an after-bedtime dinner for the parents.  That takes up twice as much time in your evening, and you don’t get the benefits of bonding over dinner and modeling good eating habits for your kids.
Consider getting each child up separately and putting them to nap/bed separately.  The last five minutes before a child sleeps and the first five when they awake set the tone for their sleep and their day.  Trying to go down for a nap or bedtime amidst chaos, with mom juggling other kids, is not very restful and possible feelings of jealousy or perceived lack of attention could lead to interrupted sleep, refusal to sleep,  etc.  Same goes for waking – who wants to wake up in the middle of a mess?  Help children wake up calm and ready to face the day with an organized mind by taking a few peaceful moments with each one.
(How on earth do you do that?  Well, younger children sleep more, for starters.  Older children can be gotten up, put to nap, or put to bed while younger ones are still/already sleeping.  Stagger bedtime a bit. I advocate whole-family reading time, but toothbrushing can be staggered to allow a few minutes with the finished-brushing child alone, or put on pajamas last and stagger that.)
It is certainly easiest to accomplish these things if both parents can be home in the evenings.  In the case of shift work, or single parents, choose which items are possibke for you in this stage of life.  The absolute key is a predictable structure, whatever that has to look like for you right now.