I feel like we are embarking on a new chapter in our family. We not trying to have a baby, we are not waiting for the next baby to arrive and we are not in that first year feeding around clock & trying to fit everything else in routine either. As has been our usual MO for about the last 7 years.
Buddy, now 2, is exiting babyhood and becoming a little boy, with all his own learning to do, exploring the world, learning to play, navigating house rules, starting to give up daytime naps. More often than not, its on the couch in the lounge. Otherwise its arms folded, a perfected downwards scowl & furrowed brow & a 'not fair' declaration. I have to fit many things into my day so I don't fight it anymore, its easier for me anyway.
I seem to take a picture everytime he has a little nap these days.
So we are a family now of adults & small children. No more babies. Its kinda sad, I think anyone that reads my blog knows that unless someone stopped me, I could have kept going back & back again for more of those fresh new tiny babies. Ohhhhhh!! LOVE. Well Jeff put a stop to that. So thats that. Chapter closed. And really its not all bad as I said to a school mum the other day, I am excited to be growing up the family now. It brings something fresh to the mix. Now that the 'baby years' are behind us, we can be a bit more relaxed in some areas, more flexible & spontaneous. Of course every new stage brings new challenges, but at least all our offspring are now in the little children category, and that has some advantages for us, rather than dealing with a teenager, a child, a baby.... all really having very very different needs & challenges. Does that make sense?
Anyway, Last term Jeff changed his work hours around which really flipped our family upside down for a bit. I didn't like it & took most of the term to get myself in a comfortable routine. Now however, a few weeks into term 3 at school and I'm starting to find my groove. I am putting some gentle responsibilities back on to the children which gives them a sense of feeling important & gives them a chance to help the flow of the morning which sets the tone of the day ahead.
Our basic day to day schedule these days is that the 5 children & myself all shower, get dressed & do hair between 6.30-7.30. And its not really a struggle to fit that all in. We then do breakfast from 7.30-8am. We've pre-mixed the kids cereals into containers so they all have the combination of cereal they like without me having to stand in the kitchen for 20minutes saying, 'Charlotte do you have All Bran with your Weetbix? What about Rice Bubbles?' They get their own bowls & pour out their mix. Actually whoever is first down, usually always Georgia, gets the bowls & pours out the cereal. They don't have milk in cereal. Weird kids.
That leaves me when I have finished the last one on the hair production line, to start on toast & pour glasses of milk. I then get started on brain food, recess & lunches. The twins are at kindy 2.5 days per week & I am saving myself time most days by just making all 5 kids lunches in the morning before school/kindy so that my time in the kitchen at lunchtime with whichever combination of small people I have that day, is minimised. Its all done so we can be out running errands & they can eat in the car or at home I can get on with other things for a bit. I don't really want to be in the kitchen 3 or 4 times a day. Eats into everything else.
So anyway, following breakfast, we then have 30mins until we leave for school & kindy and the kids follow a chart I have put together by the front door. The older girls love reading out an item & the other will say 'check' and then they race off to the next thing. At the end, when everyone is lined up at the door, they all say, 'lets roll!' They think that it is still cool. I imagine when they get a little older, they will be rolling their eyes at just how corny it all is. But we are not there yet, so we roll!
We've had the chart for a few of weeks now & we are getting better & better each day so much so that I don't feel the adrenaline of mornings pumping through my veins anymore. There is definitely less sargeant major yelling instructions at the troops to put on shoes or brush teeth. They need reminders sure, but its minimal and touch wood, we are actually cruising along nicely. Except of course for the days there is a lost shoe. But we have a lovely organised system for that too so those are becoming less.
See? Nice and tidy shoes.
Abandoning systems & having that awful feeling of waking up late & completely unorganised makes me feel sick. So we just keep swimming.... or marching on..... with just one shoe...... whatever the day brings we can usually cope with a few smallish disasters.
On the kindy days, even Buddy takes his bag & puts it on the kindy shelf like his big sisters. He even sits down on the mat, ready to greet the teachers. Hmmmm, think he wants to go to kindy. Luckily for me, we don't have tantrums at kindy, just big tears when we leave. 'Want go to kindy.' But he quickly recovers when I tell him the things we have planned for the day. He especially loves it the days we pick up my brother for work. 'Unky Michael.'
Since the charts are working nicely, I'm making more. Can you tell my old business life involved systems organisation & administrative streamlining? Ahem. So the next chart I'll be making is a bedtime one upstairs and another one downstairs for after school routine. Put away hats, bags on the bench, shoes in shoe boxes [yes! This is where the system is breaking down hehehe], lunch packs on kitchen bench, out of uniforms THEN after school snack!!
My daytime routine post-school/kindy drop and pre-pickup has many variations these days & at the moment, particularly busy. I'm working on a new schedule for my working week that has a mix of priorities each day so that over the week, hopefully I've paid attention to most things. Or maybe just a few things. Anyway, I'll save how I am juggling my days as a work at home mum for another post.
We've recently started Charlotte at Gymnastics. Georgie now wants to join too. So on that day, we do things a little differently, definitely making sure there is an easy dinner once we get home. I'm starting back at the gym this week too so I will have to make sure I am double prepared so I just have my pre-gym anxiety to deal with not combined with I-can't-find-decent-gym-pants-or-matching-socks-so-I'm-not-going anxiety.
Other than gymnastics & gym, our evenings run pretty much the same. Relax with kids, a few jobs for Jeff while I get dinner cooked, dinner, homework, bedtime routine. Then before long, Jeff goes to bed & I get on with my to do list again. But if I am too cold or tired, I am loving have some nights off to do some crochet in bed.
Weekends, as much as possible, we are trying to stick to our 'Saturday Chores' and "Sunday Family Fun'.
I like to keep the kitchen, lounge & general house tidy throughout the working week but on Saturdays we have a lazy start & then get cracking with projects/cleaning/tidying we just don't have or make time for during the week. This weekend, we worked on floors downstairs, rearranged the kitchen furniture, the girls did windows [which they love! weird kids] and did a big tidy in the lounge.
Our 'Family Fun Day' doesn't always have to be ultra cool or expensive. Yesterday we headed down to our park, just metres from our home, and we had a picnic lunch. Jeff cooked a BBQ right there on the park BBQ [cleaned it first of course] and the kids played. It was very cold but we all had a great time.
Fingers crossed we continue in our little groove as it really does create less idle time & leave more time to be together & chat & do fun stuff. Far from perfect, but we are doing ok. There's still plenty of feeling quite inadequate, happy dysfunction, grumpy dysfunction, lots of motherhood guilt, feeling like every day is a marathon & feeling like nothing I spend time on is good enough. You hear voices in your head, you imagine people making judgements. Motherhood can really send you into loonyville some days but I am talking myself around to my not quite good enoughs are actually ok. I am fairly grounded but it does take lots of mental strength to feel that way. At the end of the day this is my life & I have to be happy & I have to remain productive. So I do my best to juggle the lot & tomorrow I get a fresh start. Gee its kinda exhausting though.
So now that my head has stopped spinning since the birth of baby number one, and starting spinning in the opposite direction..... my next little project that has been playing on my mind lately [can't stop my head from thinking thinking....] is creating a seasonal rythym for our family. Rather than micromanagement of the mornings, the days, the weeks, looking a bit more broadly into the seasons.
I've started a little notebook of seasons and things to try and do in each one. Things to prepare for, whether its buying/making Christmas presents, stocking up on school uniforms, winter studio making ideas, cleaning out gutters, enrolling in swimming lessons, planting in the garden with the children, taking photos with Autumn leaves...... things that are nice or necessary to do that don't necessary need to be done frequently but can be attached to a season.
Its an idea I had to fully appreciate & soak ourselves in each season, things to not forget about planning for & to spread out some of the 'have to's' each year. So I am busily making notes & plans.
I've also had a book on my wishlist for a while that I am interesting in reading. Its this one here.
I have Amanda Blake Soule's two others which I've flipped thorugh & enjoyed visually, not yet read entirely. I suspect without doing too much research that it will enrich what I'm now thinking about our family rythyms etc and give us some great ideas about how to find harmony in each season. I hope so. So I'll be ordering that soon. I'll work out the best price on the day my pocket money comes in but for now you can find it here at Amazon & here at Book Depository.
Here's a recent pic I took of the kids after taking them to the movies. A smile & actual look at the camera from normally 'Miss camera grumpy' and various moods from the others. Happy dysfunction. I like it.
Happy dysfunction to you all,