Thursday, May 22, 2014

24 Hours

How do you be a successful parent, spend time with your children, keep your house clean, have a social life, develop personal talents, support your family monetarily, make food, fulfill church callings, develop spiritual virtues, while also keeping up with doctor's appointments, dental check ups, car maintenance, and be a sex goddess to your husband?

I'm really not sure.

There is a lot of pressure in our American society to do and have it all. I'll be honest, it's not something that I buy into. However there are still SOME parts of the American ideal that I find important and want to excel in.

Take clothes for example. I LOVE THEM. But I'm not a shopper or a spender. Most of my wardrobe consists of thrift store and re-purposed finds from friends along with a couple ModCloth birthday treats and a smattering of Target goodness. To me it's more about what I feel good in than the price on the tag or the designer name on the label.

When it comes to family, I like to say that they're my number 1 priority. But while playing all day with my children sounds AWESOME, there are (unfortunately) other things that need to get done. At some point I do need to scrub the ring out of the tub and fold that dang laundry so that we can actually find a matching pair of socks instead of digging through the pile all week.

When a friend asked me the other day how I even have time to sew, I decided to chronicle a few snapshots of our typical day and share what we have found works for us!

Like most new moms - I have to be flexible. And this is a very hard concept for me. Most of my days at some point or another end up looking like this:

My day is not a consistent roll of free time or a big chunk of "do-whatever-you-want". I never have an afternoon where I find myself with a few spare hours and think, "hmmm.... maybe I should sew something!" No. I only sew so much because I schedule time for myself to do it.

For many, the idea of a schedule sounds intimidating.
How do I start one?
I would never look at it.
Schedules sound intense and boring!

I've always been a list person. Just call me Rory with my Pros and Cons. I mostly appreciate lists because I am one of the most forgetful people on the planet. Just ask Jon. If I don't write it down it flies right out of my mind. And I have found that if I make a list of things that I WANT to do, it might not all get done, but at least when I cross things off I can feel accomplished :)

Since being on maternity leave it has been a whole new world for me of "unstructured time". Instead of going to work each day and having a predictable afternoon or morning to squeeze in some fun things, I now have the WHOLE day to do what I want. Which also means that I will stay in my pjs all day and watch movies or take naps. I absolutely let myself do this the first few weeks after having Edwin. But then I started itching to be productive, and the recent sales on our ETSY store have been a huge motivation.

Honestly, stay-at-home-moms are my heroes.

So it just started happening that each day over breakfast Jon and I would talk about "what we wanted to do today", and I would jot it down. Some days I found needed a more structured "hour-by-hour" game plan to make sure nothing was forgotten. Take this list for example, which was the morning of Edwin's blessing day:

The kids needed baths, and naps, and we all needed food, make sure the diaper bag was packed, make sure the phones were charged. I wanted Edwin to have a specific blanket for church, and I wanted ABOVE ALL to be on time. As anyone with kids can tell you, being on time for church is HARD on a normal Sunday. But when you're kind of responsible for an event at the beginning of the meeting, being on time is pretty crucial.

The key to making this list work was that I taped it up on the bathroom mirror where everyone could see it. The day went GREAT and I chalk it up to a successful attempt at being "the most awesome communicator of all time".

Not ALL days are like this though. There are failures. Many days (even the successful ones) we end up leaving the bathroom like this:

Aftermath of baby cleanliness.

And it's something I've learned to be ok with :) I really truly do have a hard time with clutter. But I also have to prioritize, and sometimes I have to deal with the clutter for the better payout of having a happy and on-time family!

Usually our weekdays look like this:

Edwin hangs out with us in the living room where we spent 99% of our day. There is good natural light in here and it's the biggest space in the house for us to all work on our various projects near each other. Kate will scatter toys and books all around (as well as kitchen towels, baby blankets, and whatever else she can get her hands on) while I almost always have my ironing board and iron set up with various fabric prints draped about.

Usually there's a baby and a shoe or a book (or 3) by the front door:

There is almost always laundry in one state of waiting or another going on. Overflowing in the laundry basket, sitting in the washer ready to move to the dryer, or piled clean in the kid's room waiting to be folded.

I do get to it eventually, but I don't let it stress me out :)

The other day, a good friend asked about seeing our room since we recently re-organized it. I told her she was welcome to, even though it was a disaster!

This is our room on a good day:

Yes, things are better, but it's ALWAYS a work in progress.

I have learned that with MOST things in life, it is about the priorities. The "deal breakers" vs the "compromise". What am I willing to let go and what am I adamant about having done? One of the things I have learned about myself is that I need the bed made every day. Even if we end up piling things on top of it, there is something about the bed being made that sets my mind at ease. Like at least I did SOMETHING to make it not look like a stye in here :) I have also learned over 9 years of marriage that this is something Jon totally doesn't care about at all. If I want the bed made, I have to do it. YES, he would do it if I asked him to. But I don't mind it, and I'm happy to just throw the sheets straight and fluff up the pillows as I get dressed each day. No biggie and it's a little thing that helps me feel happy.

After Edwin was 4 weeks old and we were getting into the daily "to-do list" habit, I started to feel like the paper wasting was nonsense. There was also the problem of never remembering where I put the "to-do list" and then it would get lost, and so I would start another "to-do list" only to later find the first one and realize that most of the items were duplicated...

Waste of energy.

Some of you may remember THIS handy-dandy whiteboard which I've shown you before that holds our weekly schedule:

 Every Sunday (or close thereabouts) I fill it in with appointments from my monthly pocket calendar that I keep always in my purse. It holds daily work schedules, Dr. appts, hang out times with friends, etc. And at the bottom is our ongoing projects list so that I make sure I'm staying on top of all the ideas we have, things that we want to do, projects for friends, etc.

Well, one day a couple weeks ago over breakfast, I drew out my "dream" of having a 3 whiteboard system.
ONE would hold our weekly schedule like normal
THE SECOND would be our daily to-do list which is reusable instead of on paper
THE THIRD would be our never-changing weekly chores (like going grocery shopping, cleaning the bathroom, or doing the laundry). This is because I was getting tired of normal household maintenance things getting left behind for weeks on end. Yes, I am mainly the one guilty of going 2-3 weeks without scrubbing the toilet. Believe me, it's not pretty.

So, on a routine trip to Target for diapers, and with gift card in hand, I splurged and made my organization dream come true! *uber nerd alert*

Our "THIS WEEK" board turned into THIS:
(thanks to some solid black washi tape and some new whiteboard markers)

We introduced a new little guy which we fill in each morning for our day-to-day needs:

We structure our days around kid feeding and nap schedules, and try to coordinate our projects based on what we can reasonably do with the kids awake. Kate plays outside with Jon in the yard while he waters, which is when I do my fabric cutting out work on the floor. Computer work is more easily done when the kids nap or at night after they are asleep (like this blog).

Not every day is broken down by hour. Most days are more general, like this:

And I don't stress if not everything gets done. It's just to help us stay on track so that I don't get stuck on Pinterest for 3 hours . . . I mean, who does that, right?? o_o Not me, that's for sure . . .

Sometimes I don't even get the days right, like in this picture that I took when Jon reminded me it was actually Saturday:

What I'm saying is that I'm just human! And I have to be able to laugh at myself. The biggest thing I'm gaining from all of this is that I'm having fun with it. And I feel like I'm finally getting the hang of my days at home :)

The newest addition was the weekly chore chart. It is not quite done:

This guy was partially Pinterest inspired and I still need to make magnets for it. I am excited about the system though.

Here's how they all look in our room hanging up. They are right by our door so I see them often.

Ideally when we have our own place again I'd rather have these in the pantry/laundry room area. Out and accessible, but still not staring me in the face the moment I wake up.

You may also notice that the "This Week" board is smeared and partially erased in the picture above. It's because it fell behind the cubbies as I was hanging it up . . .

The "Weekly Chores" board was also lovingly colored on with a rogue whiteboard marker by Kate just minutes after I finished making it:

I thought about fixing it before I took pictures, but I decided that's not real life :) Kate is part of our family too, and she added her artistic touch. It is still hanging up this way.

Yes, having goals for life along with a toddler and newborn is hard.

Most activities are shared, and "working lunches" are common.

Photos for the ETSY store are taken as Kate plays along just out of frame:

Sometimes she photo bombs :)

We just work with it :)

I try to maximize time and spend nursing sessions with Edwin going over my calendar and confirming special orders for the store or catching up on text messages or Instagram:

My work days are no longer "10am-6pm" out of the house, but a constant flow of all day projects, intermixed with playing fetch with Margo, snuggling with Katherine, or taking a few minutes to rock Wynn to sleep:

I do love being able to incorporate tummy-time nearby my sewing so that he can keep me company and I can talk to him and not miss any of those smiles!

There are the days though when this and this happened at the same time:

Sometimes you just have to clean up the crackers while the baby cries.

We still keep it together though and even did a family home evening the other night! (the first one in MONTHS)

There was no great planning involved. No cute activity and no dessert. We just talked about thoughts on gratitude and reviewed a conference talk I've always loved by President Monson.

Kate listened to the first 30 seconds and then just wanted to look at her puppy book. But at least she sat on the couch while Jon and I talked and the point was that she heard our testimonies, even if she doesn't understand them yet.

Then we listed out together the 6 things President Monson asked us to be more grateful for and talked about making this our focus for the week. Kate really enjoyed the coloring "luh-low" part...

Our family isn't perfect (without flaw), but it is getting closer to that perfect which is "complete".

I love our togetherness. I feel like anything we're able to make work while we're working on togetherness is great.

In the end, I hope that our kids grow up remembering us being around. I hope that they know what we believed in and that they remember childhood being fun.

Our hope is that between all the crazy lists and schedules and everything, we can find a way to be at home more, and provide for our family while being gone a little less. When I get to be here everyday to sing to my babies at bedtime and help them eat lunch during the day, and my "work breaks" are to read books and turn around to see them rolling in blankets on the floor and giggling, that is what makes life worth it. I never want to miss it.

Routine is what works for us. I think the best thing I've learned while being on maternity leave is to not get discouraged when things don't work out "just right". Coming close is good enough as long as you keep on going. At the end of the day I'm usually smiling, and that feels good :)


Meg said...

I love this oh so much. You and I most definitely come from the same genetic pool. Crazy level of organization? We're just getting started!

Kelly and Tadd said...

This post is just perfect. I feel like I agree on every level and I love your outlook. Glad ur my friend! Can't wait to sew on Saturday with you!

The BaKeRs said...

Steph you are truly amazing! I love how "organized" you are! You may feel like you are not... but you totally have it together, especially with the attitude you have! I am learning a lot before baby arrives with time management and being sick and realizing if I dont get everything done on my list that I am not a failure... heck I am lucky to get 3 things done :)
Thanks for being an awesome example of what it takes to be awesome :)