Juggling School with Babies

I’m still on a blogging break, but just wanted to share my latest post on the MOPS blog.

It took me by surprise how fast my daughter’s first year of school went by.  Weren’t we just here, settling her in for her first day, a month ago?

I currently have a primary-schooler, a pre-schooler and a toddler. They are quite close in age, and yet their needs are still so different! While much of our time with kids in the early years seems to pass by quickly, there’s something about the school years that makes time go even faster.

I was thinking about this the other day – what made the year go so fast – and I realised that it’s because all my time is now divided into “blocks”.
The day is divided up into the morning routine, school drop off, morning tasks, toddler’s nap time, school pick up, after school routine, dinner, kids bedtime routine and then (finally) adult alone time and sleep.

The week is divided into school/work days and the weekend. And the year is divided up into school terms and holidays. When time is broken into these clearly defined blocks, it’s easy to go on ‘auto-pilot’, moving through the blocks of our day and week and year without really thinking about how much time is passing.

So how do we make the best use of our time? How do we make sure we are using these “blocks” of time effectively and intentionally? Here are some principles of time management for when you have a school kid as well as little ones at home:

Continue reading here: http://mops.org.au/archives/9074

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A Year to be Thankful For

Another year draws to a close. Another set of milestones passed… 8 years married, our daughter has finished her first year of school.

This year was also really hard for us, in some very strange and unexpected ways.

I always think it’s interesting to compare my vision for the year as I look ahead (when I set goals and make plans) with the reality of the year that was. As much as I love to plan and dream and imagine what the year might look like, there are always things that catch me by surprise. There are always things that can’t be anticipated or planned for.

It really drives home the message of Proverbs 16:9:

In their hearts humans plan their course,
    but the Lord establishes their steps.

And even through all the difficult things that have happened this year, there is so much to be thankful for. So I decided to close out 2017 by making a list of all the things I am thankful to God for:

  • Another year of getting to stay home and look after these precious kids.
  • That my husband has a job which provides for us and means I can stay home with the kids.
  • My wonderful husband – all the ways he loves me, leads me and nurtures me in the Lord (could write a whole post about him, TBH 🙂 ).
  • The way God has grown my love for learning about Him and following Him more deeply this year.
  • Surviving my daughter’s first year of school (and my first year as a school mum!!).
  • My amazing friends who came through in such supportive and encouraging ways this year, through some really hard times.
  • My wonderful church and Bible study family who also supported our family through prayer, encouragement and practical support.
  • God’s mercy and grace to me – there are so many times this year when I have been aware of His mercy, of how he has actively held back worse things that could have happened!
  • God’s patience with me, even as I stumble and fall.
  • God’s provision and help in my first year as a MOPS coordinator, working through me despite all my self-doubt and lack of organisational ability.
  • For all the beauty surrounding me inside and outside of my house, for small pleasures like nice sunny days, rain when it’s needed, a quiet cup of tea before anyone else wakes up and falling into a soft, warm bed tangled up with someone I love each night.

It’s been a strange, beautiful, hard year. Here’s to the next one!

 

Planning for a Great School Holiday

Yesterday I wrote about all the things that I love about summer holidays – both the busy, joyful moments and the quiet ones.

But as much as I love school holidays in general, and the (longer) summer holidays especially, I do get a bit nervous about having so much unstructured time with all the kids at home.

Isn’t that weird? I love the unstructured time with my kids, but it’s also what stresses me out.

I guess I worry that the kids will get bored, then I’ll get stressed, then the house will get trashed and by the end of holidays, we’ll all just end up in a big ball of chaos and angst.

So. I did what I always do when I start to worry about things…

I prayed about it, and then I took out pen and paper and made a plan.

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I haven’t included my full mind map in this picture to protect the privacy of my kids, but my plan for the summer holidays has three basic categories:

  • Ideas and Activities
  • Home management
  • Personal focus areas

Ideas and Activities

This is where I write out all the things the kids and I might like to do for fun in the holidays. For some of you, this might include special events or displays aimed at kids. For us, we prefer more low-key activities that are based in our home or where there are not likely to be large crowds.

I’ve also listed ideas for crafts to make or things to cook with the kids.

Some of these things will be for when my husband has time off work, but most of it will be done with just the kids and I.

Here’s some of the things on our list:

  • baking muffins
  • making paper chains
  • wrapping presents for each other
  • making an obstacle course outside
  • water play in the back yard
  • climbing a local mountain

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Home Management

I like to use the extra time each school holidays to tackle those jobs that fall to the side in the busyness of normal life. Those areas that have accumulated clutter or that one corner that is too difficult to reach with the vacuum cleaner normally.

The “too hard basket”, if you like.

When I mentioned this to my husband the other day, he said, “How does that work – that you have all the kids with you, but you have extra time?”

I explained to him that there’s more time in some ways – we don’t have the school drop off, pick up and associated “leaving the house” preparation to do each day. But in other ways it’s harder – sometimes the kids get a bit irritable around each other, especially if we stay in the house too much. So there is a balance to be found. But yes, there can be extra time for house work in the holidays!

Here’s some things on my list for home management:

  • tidy my desk
  • check the kids have the correct uniforms for next year
  • do our annual toy cull
  • declutter and cull my craft drawers

 

Personal Focus Areas

This is the space where I wrote out, for my self and each child, areas for personal development I would like us to work on during the holidays. It includes things like an attitude problem that needs to be worked out with one child. Or a practical skill that another child might be behind on.

Sometimes I think these things get left behind in the normal routine of the school term (even though they shouldn’t!), so it’s good to be intentional about addressing these things with our kids. Everyone has areas they struggle, but the key is to struggle and work through it. We don’t need to just accept that a bad attitude is just part of one kid’s personality, and some practical skills really need direct instruction.

This is kind of like a smaller, more short-term version of the yearly personal goals I set.

Here’s some of the things I’ve included for myself:

  • exercise regularly
  • read 2 books
  • patience with the kids

As I mentioned above, I’m not going to mention specifically what my kids are working on for the sake of their privacy. These are not things I have told them they should work on, rather they are things that I try to work into the natural flow of our days.

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How do you manage school holidays? Do you make a plan, or do you go with the flow?

 

 

 

What I Love about Summer Holidays

Easy mornings with Christmas music playing.

One on one time with my big girl when the boys are napping.

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The smell of sunscreen mixed with sweat on our skin.

The kids shrieking and chasing each other around the back yard while I hang the washing on the line.

An almost-cool breeze as we sit in the shade of the olive tree.

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Warm sunrises and glorious sunsets.

Impromptu craft sessions with the kids.

Hot naps on the couch in the afternoon.

Backyard water-play with the hose and allllll the bath toys.

Catch ups with friends at the park.

Listening to the thunderstorms roll in after a scorching hot day.

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To Love and Be Loved.

“Mummy just needs to lie down for a bit,” I said, and like seagulls to an airborne chip, they were there with me on the lounge in an instant.

My toddler climbed up and flopped his body down across my chest. It’s his version of a hug. He lay his head down on my arm and turned his face towards me.

My “big boy” (the middle child) leant across the end of the lounge, driving his duplo tractor up and down my legs.

My daughter stood to the side, stroking my head softly.

She stepped back and surveyed the scene.

With a sigh, she said, “Aw, everybody loves you, Mummy. We all want to be with you.”

It’s a phrase she’s heard my husband say many times, often in moments like this, when the love can feel a little overwhelming.

Sometimes I think I need some space, but I find what I really needed was time.

Time to slow down. To enjoy the cuddles and the attention of these little, going-on-big bodies. To love and be loved.

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Afternoon bubble fun!

P.S. And sometimes I really do need some space.