Managing your home and using a schedule.

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Miss Savannah

I was first introduced to the concept of scheduling my family a few years back when my first three were all little from reading Erika Shupe’s blog  Large Families On Purpose. Over the past few years I have tried a few different schedules but if they are run by the clock, it hasn’t gone well for me. I have a very loose schedule written up now. Well, it’s more or less a routine than a schedule because it doesn’t have any times on it – except for meals and bedtime. It works somewhat but it’s perhaps a bit too loose. There are moments in my day that aren’t working.  And some things that I consider important are getting missed. I’ve been scratching my head for a while wondering and praying about how to order my home life so every thing works. I love the idea of the home running like a well oiled machine. Everyone knows what they are supposed to be doing and when and everyone working to help each other reach a common goal. My home doesn’t look like a well oiled machine…it looks more like 2 parts of the machine (me and Luke) trying our hardest to keep order in the home while the other parts of the machine cause chaos. It’s time to get every thing and everyone running smoothly.

Will you join me on my journey into scheduling? I have almost completed my first day of following my new schedule from start to finish. In fact; the only reason I am even writing this right now is because my schedule said

  • 7:30pm – Blog.

I am amazed at how much I have accomplished today! The best thing about a schedule for me is that it ‘thinks’ for me. My mind is often a jumbled mess as I go about my day – especially in the mornings. This is because I have so much I need to do and all of it is reasonably urgent (change the toddlers nappy before it explodes, feed the baby, shower etc) and I often go running from one thing to the next trying to decide on the fly which thing is more urgent and needs to be done first. My schedule eliminates the stress of making 100 decisions because the decisions I need to make – such as feeding my baby her breakfast and when to put on the first load of laundry – have been made for me ahead of time. It makes me more efficient at getting these things done because I can work on the task at hand more wholeheartedly knowing that all the other things on my mind will get done when my schedule says so.

*Edit – I wrote the above in the last week of term 4 2016 – so around 4 weeks ago. I decided to make a schedule for myself for the summer school holidays too. The schedule has really taken the lethargy out of the holidays that I often feel after Christmas. Often I will sleep in (as long as I can) in the holidays and sluggishly go about my day. My mind would be a jumbled mess, full of things that I knew I needed to get done but I struggled to decide which task was most urgent. My school holiday days are going better and I feel like I’m living with much more intention. I also am making sure that I don’t get so busy with the urgent tasks and I allow time for things I feel are important. Like reading a story to one of my children. And exercising. I haven’t followed my schedule 100% of the time but overall I feel I am achieving more in my days then I was before.

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Making a ginger bread house with all the cousins

We have begun a 10 minute ‘power clean.’ Just before the children’s bed time too. I set the timer on my phone and we all rush around and see how much stuff we can put away before the timer goes. After wards I am amazed at how much tidier the house can look in such a short amount of time!

My eldest two children have been busy this week with swimming lessons, so I tweak the schedule to work around us going out too. A home schedule doesn’t mean I am always home, I work it around our outings. But also I find a happy balance so I am not going out so much that my home responsibilities are not getting done.

Do you run your days with a schedule or do you use a looser routine? Let me know in the comments. Do you follow a schedule during the school holidays?

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Holiday fun – we spent a week on my parents farm before Christmas.

Blessings, Peta

 

 

 

A Reality check on my to do list.

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My Life has gotten pretty busy since baby number five was born six months ago. Actually things have been super busy since baby three was born, really. Every morning I get up and write a to do list like I usually do. But ‘extra’ things just aren’t getting done. (By extra I mean cleaning something or baking a cake or …having a shower.) I realised that I needed to get real about how long it takes me to do the important and urgent things in my job as home schooling mum of five. It is time-consuming caring for a baby, even a super placid and happy baby like Willow.

Learning to work out how long it takes me to get things done and accepting how long it must take has been a saver to my sanity. I have had to say no to many other activities I could be involved with inside and outside the home so I can completely focus my time and energy on these five. And still have energy left for my best friend and hubby Luke. This is a full on time in my life and I take my job seriously. I’m raising future leaders for Christ and it’s taking a lot of sacrifice and prayer and choosing to have a good attitude.  There are lovely happy moments in each day that I treasure and there are other moments where I feel like running away or hiding: or both. God gives me grace as I continue to learn how to do this parenting-thing. And he gives me the strength to begin each morning and get through the day again and again.

This is everything I must do on my home school days and how long I have worked out it takes; give or take a few minutes.

  • Feed Willow – 30 mins
  • Serve and eat breakfast – 30 mins
  • Change and dress Holly and Willow and help the children with their morning routines – 30 mins
  • My own personal grooming (shower, dressed, moisturiser etc) – 30 mins
  • Clean up from breakfast – 30 mins
  • Sort and put on a load of laundry – 30 mins
  • Hang out laundry – 20 mins

This brings me to 10:30am and we sit around the table and do school work. – 1 hour to 90 mins.

  • I often feed Willow again while we’re doing school and change a stinky nappy or two, fix 100 snacks for starving children and deal with a meltdown or two.

The afternoon goes much like this:

  • prepare lunch including baby food – 45 mins
  • Eat lunch – 20 mins
  • Quiet time and devotions – 45 mins
  • Home school session 2 – 45 minutes
  • Clean up from lunch – 30 mins
  • Feed Willow – 30 mins
  • Give Willow solids – 20 mins
  • Hang out laundry/fold and sort – 45 mins
  • Cook/prepare tea/ set table etc – 1.5 hours
  • (Bath/shower children – Luke usually does this when he gets home while I’m cooking)- 1 hour (3x a week, more if someone is extra dirty or stinky)

We eat tea around 5:30 – 6pm

  • After tea I feed Willow again – 30 mins
  • Tea clean up (Luke usually does this) – 30 mins
  • Bedtime routine including listening to my two sons reading and family worship – 45 mins to 1 hour

We put the children to bed around 7:30pm, lights out for my 7-year-old at 8pm. Our 5-year-old goes to bed at the moment at 8:30pm because he doesn’t get to sleep very well and is noisy and disturbs his older brother that he shares a room with. He is asked to sit quietly on the couch with books or a quiet toy.

There you have it – my day is full! I’m accepting it and acceptance gives me peace and contentedness. I am no longer trying to fit too much in anymore after having an honest look at how long everything takes in my day.

If I need to do something extra I need to pray about it and get wisdom about how to go about it. For example I really want to get in a little exercise so I often pop tea in the oven, put my shoes on and leave the children with Luke and dash out for a 20 minute power walk or bike ride around 3 times a week. We do our cleaning, too, in small bursts here and there.

I’m learning to not get upset anymore if certain things aren’t getting done. I choose to ignore mess on the floor as I feed my bub her life-giving milk.

Don’t be shy to have a chat in the comments. Do you have a new baby? How are you going with getting stuff done around the house while caring for little ones?

Blessings, Peta

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The ‘fourth trimester’

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My Ergo Baby carrier often gets me through the evening.

So there are three trimesters in pregnancy. Or is there? I believe there is actually 4!

The first three months after having a baby are a big adjustment for me and my whole family. And a big adjustment for my baby too. They are used to being in their secure womb world and I need to give my precious bundle plenty of grace and affection as they get used to life on the outside. Right now I am 7  weeks postpartum and I’ve been feeling it. I’m definitely in the ‘fourth trimester.’ It’s amazing how quickly I forget what it feels like after I have a baby. Time goes all too quickly and it’s amazing how us mummy’s can forget the details of what it was like for us exactly. My mum says she forgets what the pain of labour feels like too a few years after having a baby. She remembered that is was painful, but the memories of the intensity and what everything felt like exactly  became foggy. Maybe this is God’s way of preparing a mothers heart to receive another baby.

In the first week after giving birth I am on a massive high.

I am in awe of the faithfulness of my creator and the miracle of the life He has so graciously entrusted me with. I feel relieved that I am done with labour and I tuck myself and my babe in bed together and rest and feed and feed and feed. It’s so exciting introducing our new baby to their big brothers and sisters, it really melts my heart!

Though my heart still melts every time I cuddle and smell my sweet baby, the initial excitement wears off a little when I miss hours of sleep and can’t seem to catch it back up.

I often get emotional too in the first few weeks. I find myself crying over strange things like not being able to find an item of clothing I’m looking for. I anxiously watch over my baby making sure they are okay constantly and I also feel a bit strange and worry that something bad is going to happen to one of my children. Sometimes I have frightening or upsetting dreams as I struggle to fall into a deep sleep. The details of my baby’s birth run over and over in my mind. Those crazy postpartum hormones can make me feel a little loopy for a few weeks. I make sure I spend a lot of time laying down and getting as much rest as I can. I drink lots of chamomile tea and nourish my body with lots of warm, hearty meals.

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My precious Willow, not long after delivery.

 I manage my household by asking my dear husband to take a few weeks off of work and he completely takes over the care of our older children and household tasks.

This time he was able to take 3 weeks off from the time I was 40 weeks. I went one week and a day overdue so it was nice having him at home helping me with the household needs when I was overdue as well. He will completely take over the children’s baths and bedtime routine, he cleans and hangs up laundry. What a guy! Luke is my main help – we work together as a team. We eat the stash of meals that I put away before our baby is born. I feel so much better knowing my family and I are eating nourishing home cooked meals while  I’m unable to cook instead of take-away. During the last 3 months of pregnancy I plan double or triple batches of meals that I am planing on cooking that week and freeze the extra food. It was so soothing having Luke heat up and bring me hot chicken soup for my lunches after I came home from hospital. I was so thankful that I had taken the time to make the soup from scratch and get it put away as it was the perfect recovery food to eat after birth. The mothers from our church also brought us meals almost every night for a week and it was such a massive blessing to us. We felt very well looked after and it was beautiful.

Home schooling in the ‘fourth trimester’ is kept to a bare minimum.

This is the first time I’ve been ‘officially’ home schooling after having a baby. Though it’s still not completely ‘official’ because you don’t have to register your child as a home schooler until they are six years old and my son whom I’m home schooling only just turned five in March. But we decided that we would start him this year with some school work at his level. (Our oldest son is attending school this year but we hope to bring him home again in the future).

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Arrow ‘mowing’ after some heavy rainfall.

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Savannah and Willow

After the birth we took ‘school holidays’ for a few weeks and let him have a lot of unstructured play time. Which is what I believe a child his age should be doing mostly anyway. We borrowed heaps of books from the library and he flicks through them quite often. Between 2-6 weeks after our baby’s birth we began home schooling him again though we started slowly. I began by just doing a discipleship lesson with him and the little ones in the late morning while baby was having a sleep. They do a themed colouring in and I read the Bible lesson from the ‘Gospel Light, Big Book Of Bible Stories’. Learning about Jesus I believe is his most important lesson – so it made sense for us to begin here. And in the afternoon  he does a ‘Reading Eggs’ lesson on the computer. Gradually we have added in a few pages from his workbook too. School work takes place in small bursts around the baby’s and toddlers needs. Home schooling is beautiful as our children are learning about real life and are living life and learning as we go about our daily life with them right by our sides.

One of the hardest things to deal with in the first few weeks after my baby is born is my husband going back to work.

I often feel anxious being left alone with the children when Luke does late shifts at work in those early months. I get overwhelmed easily but I’ve done this enough times now to know that it does get better. As the weeks going by I slowly get a bit more sleep and my baby seems happier in the evening. And before I know it my baby is joining us around the meal table!

Something that helped me while home alone with the children was to figure out what was stressing me the most and causing the overwhelmed feelings. When I really thought about it the main thing that stressed me was trying to cook or prepare the evening meal while trying to juggle a house full of littles. The other main stress was trying to bath everyone.

I prayed to God for wisdom in these areas so we could have a calmer evening while daddy was away and the answer was to make the most of the mornings before Luke went to work. I started cooking the evening meal (something simple and healthy) in the morning when Luke was around to hold the baby if needed. And we bath or shower everyone in the morning or after lunch if it is a ‘bath day.’ (Three days a week) So I won’t have to try and get this done on my own in the evening.

Every so often I have ‘one of those days’ where everything seems to be going wrong and it’s just one thing after another. The baby is crying and something is burning, the toddler found a permanent texta, the preschooler is stuck in the toilet and the boys have been playing too rough and someone is hurt and crying. All while I’m attempting to tidy the house for an inspection the next morning.(Why do real estate agents to this to us??)  On those days I cry out to Jesus to get me through – and he gives me comfort and wisdom on how to handle the situation. Sometimes I need to get away for a minute and shut the door of my bedroom and catch my breath. Even cry for a minute. But mostly I find, it’s not always like this and we have a happy evening together. I read them lots of books while breastfeeding my bub on the couch and sometimes I sit outside and rock on the swinging chair while watching my precious children discover things in the backyard and they bring them over to show me.

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Just perfect, my baby girl!

Something I couldn’t end this post without mentioning is…my postpartum body!

Trying to make peace with my body after having a baby has been difficult for me. I always gain around 25kg with each pregnancy and this 5th time around was no exception. Despite my attempts to eat well and not gain too much weight while pregnant this time, no matter how hard I tried, I really stacked on a lot of weight in the third trimester. I go from a size 8-10 to a size 14-16 every pregnancy! I have managed to lose the weight between my pregnancies but it does take time and sometimes it’s way too slow for my liking. Sometimes I even gain a bit of weight while still breastfeeding. I think this is all normal for me. What I try and do to make me feel better about my postpartum body is:

  1. Tell myself constantly that this body just carried a baby for 9 months and it is very normal for it to look this jiggly.
  2. Eat healthy meals as much as I can and focus on nourishing my body and building up my milk supply. Comfort eating because ‘I’m fat anyway’ will most definitely make matters worse.
  3. Go for walks a few times a week; the fresh air and sunshine completely changes my mood
  4. Buy some clothes in my new current size that fit now. Not ‘goal weight’ sized clothing but clothes that fit my postpartum body the way it looks right now to help me feel pretty and comfortable.
  5. Removing clothing from my wardrobe and drawers that don’t fit me and packing them away. Only have clothes in my current size out and available for me to wear.
  6. Shape wear can be your best friend. I’ve bought a pair to make my tummy look a little flatter.
  7. Expect to still look a little pregnant for many months after giving birth. And a word of warning; never ask a woman if she is pregnant again if she has given birth within the past year…this has happened to me. A lady asked me if I was pregnant, 5 months after having my fourth baby because my postpartum belly was sticking out a little (or a lot)! Talk about embarrassing and discouraging! Seriously people, leave the postpartum lady alone.

Babies are very time consuming and I need to give myself grace.

Babies in their gorgeous cuteness take up a lot of time day and night to look after. In the early months I spend hours upon hours each day just sitting in a chair breastfeeding. Not to mention changing, and burping and settling them to sleep. We must remember when we have little babies to give ourselves grace. You may not get much at all done except caring for the immediate needs of your baby and your older children. This is okay and it is normal. The weeds can wait, the floors can wait, the shelves might get dusty and any other project we have in mind may have to be put on hold. But we are nurturing a little person and this is far more important than any of these things. Don’t push yourself during the ‘fourth trimester.’ Don’t set up random expectations on yourself. Just relax, stop and smell that sweet smell of your newborn’s head. There will be time for all that other stuff later.

When Luke got home from work one night I said, “oh I’m so sorry I didn’t do the dishes!” He just told me that he had no expectations of me doing the dishes and I shouldn’t either and that all he really cared about is that I made it through and that me and the children are doing okay. Did I mention that he is a great guy?!

Also; when it comes to resting, my life got so much easier and I became less tired when I learned to breastfeed while laying down! It has been a real lifesaver. Especially in the first 6 weeks.

I have found that I am so much happier and am less likely to feel overwhelmed or depressed if I rest more and enjoy my baby and write things like ‘go for a walk’ on my to do list.

I have worked out that it takes me between 9-12 months before I am fully feeling back to myself and have adjusted to the new ‘normal’ of life with our baby.

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Out for our 9th wedding anniversary date with Willow, 4 weeks old.

Whatever is working for you just go with it. Enjoy that precious baby while you go through the ups and downs of the ‘fourth trimester.’

Blessings,

Peta

 

 

 

 

 

I have a house full of little people! – How I’ve learned to manage

IMG_0253What is my everyday life like with 6 and 5 year old boys and 3 and 19 month old girls? Oh, and I’m 2 weeks away from adding a newborn to the mix too! Well…messy, of course, but organised. It’s organised mess. Messy because small children get about the house like sticky tornadoes and organised because, I have a plan. I love our household. I adore every one of my children and feel so incredibly blessed to have them in my life. Having this many children in such a small space of time has forced me to learn about organisation (I’m naturally a relaxed – go-with-the-flow messy person) It has forced me to learn about homemaking and how to master skills like doing laundry and cooking (when I left home I didn’t even know how to use a washing machine.) It has forced me to learn how to ignore what I know I can’t get done. And has taught me to surrender my to do list to the Lord then just breathe and rely on him for wisdom in many situations I thought I couldn’t possibly handle.

Ultimately because of these four (soon to be five) precious little people the Lord has given me to care for – I am becoming a better person. The Lord is using many small children to help shape me more into the likeness of Christ. I am truly humbled.

A few years ago when I was pregnant with my first baby I read an article about keeping house when you have small children. I soaked up all the wisdom and experience from this mum of 6 and her words have helped me greatly in the last few years. The mess in the house can get overwhelming if you let it get to you. Only people who have lived with a curious toddler can understand just how quickly a house can go from spotless clean to a chaotic disaster just in one morning alone. The more children you have – the more the mess also multiplies. And I don’t just mean toys…there are all kinds off mess. Just tonight I walked into the bathroom after my 3 year old had used it. There was a trail of toilet paper across the floor, soap covering the entire sink and dripping onto the floor and some suspicious brown stuff all over the sink.

“Is that poo all over the sink” I called out…

“Yep.”  a little voice called back, obviously feeling quite proud of themselves for how thoroughly they washed their hands.

Young children don’t mean to be so messy – they just are, they can’t help it. Our job is to love them anyway, don’t get upset, just get in there and clean it up. They will learn, they will grow.

Back to the article I was saying about – the advice this lady gave me was that while you have small children and no older children the best way to keep up with the housework is to focus on three main areas that are necessities to keeping a household functioning.

  1. Meals

  2. Dishes

  3. Laundry.

If you can learn to keep up with these three household tasks and learn to do them well then your busy house full of little people will survive and thrive through this time. If we can do these three things then we’re laughing. All the other things will get done at some point or another. Just let go and try to stop fretting.

  1. Meals are important and top of my list because we all need to eat. I like to prioritise meals and everything to do with making them. Like meal planning, shopping, writing lists and I have a set time everyday – 4pm- where I stop whatever I’m doing and I devote that time to cooking a healthy meal for my family.
  2. Dishes are important because we need clean plates, bowls and utensils to eat with and clean pots and pans to cook with. So I try to do the dishes after every meal before I move on to the next activity we have planned for our day. My husband is the BEST dish washer in the world. When I’ve been having one of those days where it feels like I’ve been running around the house putting out fires, he will come home and wash ‘Mount Dishmore’ until every last one is clean. I love that guy.
  3. Laundry is up there in the important list because we all wear clothes. Like everyday. Six people wearing clothes everyday, plus toilet trainers who go through multiple sets of clothes a day, not to mention wet beds = washing piling up quickly! The best thing I have learned; is to do 2 (often more) loads of washing everyday – except Sunday. That is my rest day. I fold a basket of laundry and put it away every afternoon that I’m home when my toddler is napping and my other children are doing their maths or reading lesson on the computers. That way the laundry monster never gets too huge and scary. It’s rarely completely finished. But seriously, it’s not even possible to have the laundry completely caught up unless we all walked around naked for a day. So I just work on it a bit each day and this seems to work best for me at the moment. IMG_0394

If you are a mum to one small child or have a three story shoe rack at the back door like I do – be encouraged. Your house doesn’t have to look like an article from ‘House Beautiful.’ That is a set up photo shoot. And this is real life. Real life with small children is messy. Lets embrace the mess, love our children and try our best to enjoy this stage of our lives because little kids are so cute and so much fun!

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Blessings, Peta