August 11, 2012

Desperate Part 2 ~ You Need a Schedule!

Today I am continuing with the post for Desperate.  If you want to come up to speed you can do that here.

Part 1

I am including new correspondence here so we can all have the big picture.

Hi, oh, thank you! the first link is already helping me. I think I have some of that down, but the no electronics thing will be big. I have a schedule but there are so many loose ends like lots of clutter that gets strewn around I really need about 2 hours on the weekends or something to put it all away. putting it in a box is HUGE. thanks for the reminder. I will read this more & respond better tonight. thank you! :)

And another email of info.  

 Hi! I will try to answer all your Q's as best I can. 

Yes I am a Christian. Was not raised that way but found it after my first child was born. My quiet time with God and the Word is almost non-existent. With my 6yo waking at 6am or earlier this becomes tough. Occasionally if the baby gets up early and wil not go back down I will get up with him at 5am and this will be my quiet time once he falls back to sleep. 

My dad and step mom are snowbirds and just moved to this area for the summer and they are not Christians. My step-mom will babysit though and they have us over for lunch every Sunday. They do not attend our church often though. My DH gets up at 4:45, has his prayer time and leaves @ 5am to work out at his workplace (they have a gym there). He works 30 mins. away in IT but if he does not leave the house at 5 traffic is much worse for him so he leaves around 7. Then he is home by 4:30 or 5 usually. He packs his gym bag for the next day right away. We have not tried the 15 min. rule [couple time] consistently yet. He likes to fish and has just started either taking the boys or going himself sometimes early on Sat. mornings. 

We have 3 bedrooms and live on a 1/2 acre plot with a fenced yard and also a mowed field behind our house. Not a lot of neighborhood kids though. Most families around us are living the suburban lifestyle here, both parents work, kids go to school or daycare full time 

We are hoping to move to acreage in the next year or more… we would lose too much money selling right now, but we are outgrowing storage and bedrooms here. We want to have a mini-farm - land and a garden, fruit trees, possibly animals. 

Some things that are more maintenance for me: I am hypoglycemic, this means I need to eat about every 2-3 hours and it has to have high levels of protein. So we cook very balanced meals with meat or eggs usually. Finances are good - God has provided so much for us now. 
I also cloth-diaper 2 kids. I have done CD with all my kids except the first, so lots of experience and ritual in it and now I know what works, etc. so I have it very streamlined. It does take more time, but I also enjoy it and it saves us money in the long run. I do use disposables for trips where we are out all day, like the State fair, etc. :) 

DH and I have a very good relationship. DH and I rarely fight - if we do it is about how to do something or how to deal with the kids. However he is very devoted to God, our marriage and me!  He is open to a large family now. By God's will only and prayer this has happened! We can meet on common grounds or agree on most issues. He is in IT but going to school to be a minister, almost has his PhD here - getting it thru an online Christian U. Can't remember which one. He is amazing with God's word and insight and has studied and memorized so much. He is a great preacher. He plans to be a full time minister after retirement. We are members of a restoration church family locally. It has kids classes even high school church although I can see my DH is starting to disagree with the worship separation - we watched the movie "Divided" and thought it was good. He is starting to come around! 

Right now, I do not have obedience with my children and this is an issue. 
- 8yo has many anxiety issues throughout the day. he can be obsessive at times with certain toys or any issues he chooses like I mentioned.
- 6yo has anger issues. We are working on them using the corner method. He stays there until his attitude changes. 
- DD, my 4yo  has also the same temperament as my oldest - emotional, and she has a blanket that she just wants to lay around and hold all day. We don't let that happen except for rest time.

I just read the part about removing the Avenger toys. For a while I had removed all character toys (sold and donated even) but then this proved to be futile because my father is very generous at Christmas and will make sure that he gets what the boys are asking for… Plus there is a neighbor boy across the street who is very into characters, etc. so they would have access to it and then the whining and complaining would start that we took their toys away. This would be my last resort, really. Taking TV away is easier to justify for now and less extreme to DH also. 

ALL of this has gotten worse when my children have gluten. We have trailed it again and again but it is the same thing every time, but just slightly worse. However I hate the idea of food controlling my children's attitudes and them not being able to control themselves if they get the "wrong" food  so we have gone back to a regular diet. Although it has made a lot of behavior issues arise lately. 

My schedule is pretty much like you have lined out in your post but we are sometimes in survivor mode I guess. I have a lot of loose ends - clutter builds, etc. I don't have the kids doing a LOT of chores and there is so much resistance when I say, OK we are going to clean this, or whatever. Even if I try to make it fun, it is not for them. I will try to think of fun things to do afterwards maybe that will help. 

Lately, we flip flop from me trying to have fun with kids that don't want to do anything, to me just being "mom" and letting them play or whatever in their free time because that seems to be what they want to do. But then they seem like they are not getting any attention from me. 

You see today, after church and visiting grandparents and getting frozen yogurt, we were all home - the kids and Dad in the backyard. I was prepping dinner. I had the toddler help because he woke from a nap at this time. Baby was napping! DH was mowing and then started sawing some boards that have been in the yard. Kids can't use the chain saw :)
The boys asked if they could watch a movie. It was really nice out so I said no. That is the first thing they want to do when bored. DH figured they were happy playing so he kept going about their business. Both DH and I do not understand how to involve the kids as much as possible. I think this is the missing link right now. We need to do this but I'm not sure where to start. I know it is about tying heartstrings but DH and I were not raised this way at all. I cop me from a divorced household where my mom worked and did not know how to have fun at all. Still doesn't. DH's home was intact but he was raised with an iron fist basically. You will do it or else. Now DH and his brothers are all taller than Dad. LOL

This [family time] is from one of your posts. It struck me that we do not know what this [spending time together] is. I think DH tried to make playing the Wii family time, but I don't enjoy video games that much. I can try… 

What about you?  What is it that your family enjoys doing together?  What hobbies or activities interest your family members that can become family bonding moments?

Today I told DH that we have to start involving them one on one with what we are doing. We both struggle with this in our daily lives. They are all young. How do we get things done with them? Having them help is great, but leaves lots to clean up. Even having them help spray windows with water and [playing] Wii requires LOTS of supervision. I don't understand how getting my things done with them works. And mainly this is hard because we are just trying to get through the day with general stuff. Like changing diapers and making meals, etc. 

We have started the family story time (consistently now) and are also involving everyone in meal clean up. They are starting to understand. I am praying that DH and I both have patience to not lose our cool or get frustrated. it is working… 

I will check to see if you have blog posts on these. It helps greatly to have specific examples, then it clicks for me!

Thanks so much!!!

My brief reply:

Hi, dear.

For all it is worth it is my very strong opinion that any thought of school and meds and counseling should be the absolute last resort. We have had experience with all those and they will make your situation much worse and open you up to things I am not sure you want to part of your life. Furthermore, I believe very strongly that your issues are more related to discipline and training and with some simple steps you can really bring things around. I would urge you to give yourself some time to implement some changes and see if I am correct. If I am wrong you can always go to plan B and C down the road. Hugs, Kat

And another reply...

My kiddos are 8.5,6,4,2 and 3 months. Thank you so much for thinking bout us. I realized today that I need to be the one to implement a big change and get us up early to get going. It's the only way I can fit everything in with allowing lots of gaps. I will let u know how it goes! :) 

Dear Desperate,

Okay.  Wow!  That sounds like a lot, doesn't it?  But all this gives me so much insight and clues as to what is going on.  It also gives me so much hope!  I know it may not seem that way to you in the midst of the fight but when you see so many red flags that means there is a lot you can do to get things on track.

So I'd like to recap a few points to make sure I understand everything correctly.

~ You have five children 8, 6, 4, 2 and 3 months

~ You are a Christian family with strong church roots

~ You have a strong marriage

~ Your family and personal devotion time is lacking

~ While you seem like a loving family you aren't quite sure how to spend time together

~ You feel like there is a lot of chaos in your home and not much time to bring it under control

~ Daddy seems like a very busy man who is very committed to the Lord

~ Children are very bright but training and obedience seem to be issues

~ I also see a lot of clues into rebellion from your children

~ There may be issues with ADD or OCD

~ There are definitely anger issues

~ You would like better quality school time

Now, I know this is going to seem cockeyed to you considering your problems are with the older children.  But bear with me a few minutes.  You need to start with the baby.

When a new baby enters a home, it is not uncommon for the baby's needs to set the pace for the whole family.  A family can go like that for some time and do seemingly okay.  I've seen families with only one child who do it for years.  But that is not the way God intended for it to be.  The new baby should be integrated into the family not upset the running of the household.  As I said, you can do it for a time, but if you have other children and a busy schedule (and let's face it, who doesn't?) eventually, you will break and reach a desperate situation.  You might be surprised to realize how very often I receive these sorts of letters from exhausted mamas of three month old babies.  The first thing that jumped out to me in your original email was this similarity to my reader Jenny Z.  So it seems to me as if that might be the breaking point.

Regardless, the contrast with a baby on a good schedule is phenomenal.  A book I like to recommend to new parents or to struggling Mamas is BabyWise by Gary Ezzo.  I can not tell you enough how good this book is.  I would go straight to Amazon or to eBay and get a copy today.  It is a very quick read and will take you step by step through getting your baby on a good schedule.  The Ezzos have books dealing with all ages and you will find them beneficial to your family.

At this point your baby should be on a four hour sleep/eat/wake-time schedule.  By getting baby on a schedule it will bring much order to your day and help get everyone else into a routine that will go a long way in bringing calm to your home and joy to your family.

I know you have much to do and I know it can seem overwhelming.  And I know it is hard to overlook it.  And the truth is once you get a good routine you will find you have plenty of time to do what you need to do.  But for now just look the other way.

You need to have just three main goals right now.

1.  Get the Lord into your every day life.  Mom needs to get time alone with the Lord every single day.  Even if it is just to read one Psalm each morning.  Keep that Bible right next to your bed so that when your alarm goes off the first thing you do is meet with HIM!  It will go a long way.  I promise.

2.  Get the family into a schedule/routine, starting with baby.

3.  Learn to delight in each other.

When you get onto the road to meeting each of these goals the rest will start to fall into place.  As we go along you will see how the chores and work become part of the solution, too!

You need to find times that work for you and your family but here is an idea of what I would do.

6 am- 8 am Mama rise and have quiet time.  Exercise, dress, start a load of laundry, wipe the bathroom down etc... Whatever you feel is most important to get done around the house.

7 am - Wake 6 and 8 year old and have them start their chores and personal care and quiet time (I know you are laughing and saying no way... but we are making goals to work toward.  We will examine these things in more depth later.)

7:30- wake up the 4 year old and get him dressed and help him go through his chores etc... after which time you will together get the 2 year old up and ready for the day.

8:00 Take all the children with you to the baby's room and they can do little helps there while you diaper/dress/feed baby.

For example, while you are sitting in the rocking chair make a game out of having them put up toys,  change the trash bag, fill the diaper stacker, take dirty clothes to the laundry hamper, make up the bed or whatever.  My 4 year old loves to fold clothes and tidy drawers.  She will often sit in front of Winnie's bureau and fold and stack all the clothes while I am nursing.  They could also grab a dust rag and wipe the baseboards, window ledges, shelves, and furniture.  (You might consider keeping trash bags, rags and glass cleaner in the closet of that room for the time being.  Once the children are better trained you can send them to fetch what they need but I am guessing if you send them at this time they may get distracted and never come back.)  Look around and see what you can come up with.  The eight year old will feel very important if you allow him to wipe the windows and mirror with glass cleaner.  You could even bring the first load of laundry for the day in and let them fold it while you are feeding baby.  Putting on some fun sing-a-long songs will make this even more fun for everyone.

This is not about perfection.  This is not about getting something done.  You might even end up with more mess than you started with.  This is about a whole lot more.

* You are starting the day together
* The kids are occupied and within your sight while you tend to baby's needs instead of being off fighting with each other or getting into mischief or making a mess you have to deal with later.
* The kids are learning to work and to be helpers and that doing both is fun!
* You might even find something gets done.
* Over time the kids will start learning skills and before you know it they will be truly helping you with what seems an insurmountable mound of work and chaos.  They will become part of the cure instead of the cause.
*And that will give them worth and value.  Eventually, the boredom cry will disappear.

Now, here is a big thing to remember. Before you leave this room, let the kids bring you a book and read aloud for a few minutes. Say, "Wow!  Look at how much work you got done. You are such good helpers to Mama." (Okay, as you are starting out you may have to stretch it. Look for something specific to praise them for.  It might only be, "Thanks for staying here and keeping me company while I was feeding baby. You are my best friends and being with you makes me happy.") Wrap it up by saying, "Now, I want to give something to you. Let's read a book before breakfast." Or you could put on a fun song to dance to or teach them a finger play or little poem.  My kids used to love if I would turn on the Hokey-Pokey really loud after Samuel nursed and we would all jump around and spin and clap and whatever for a few minutes. They really came to look forward to this time. The Chicken Dance was another favorite.

Don't let them leave that room without a big smile and a hug from Mama. It will make a huge difference in the way you all feel.

Next up, breakfast. Have the kids get their bowls and spoons and cups and set their own place at the table. The eight year old should be more than capable of pouring everyone's drink and the six year old can get the granola and the four year old could put a banana at everyone's spot while you put the two year old in her high chair and get her bib on and settle the baby in her car seat with a dangling toy.

After you have said the blessing (it would be good to get in the habit of asking the children to take turns leading the pray when Papa is away) you read the Proverb of the day aloud to the children while they eat. Then you can all discuss what they learned. Don't expect anything to come of this just yet.  But it will happen over time.  After meal time you can all load your dishes, wipe the table, run the dishwasher and sweep the kitchen together. Again, be sure to praise their hard work. Let them know how much you appreciate their work. You will have to walk them step by step through it for a while but they will get it. Make sure the two year old is carrying her dishes over and wiping things with a towel, too. The goal is not to have her accomplish something but to learn that it is her job and PRIVILEGE to be part of the work.

An important thing to mention here. So many mommys think they are doing a good thing by waiting on their children hand and foot and doing all the work for them. It is a grave error that is crippling our world. Don't fall into that trap. If they can walk, they should at least have the illusion that they are working. The topic of work and children is an entire post in itself so I will save that for another time. Let it suffice to say... do it, you will be glad you did.

If it is before 10 am put the little ones in the buggy and take the kids for a walk. Explore you neighborhood. Go down a street you've never been down. Stop and check out some new plants.  Since you mentioned your kids are very interested in Science, you could take a jar and let them catch a bug or two. Take a camera and let them photograph some things of interest. Collect leaves or wild flowers.

If your breakfast routine takes too long and you run into baby's nap time, save this for later in the day.

If the weather is bad you should follow plan B

Find a comfy place where you can all settle down with baby and play together. Build with blocks, read books, do some puzzles, color. Sing a song together. Try to include baby. She can't do anything but the other kids can do a lot. They can play pat-a-cake and little piggies with her. They can "read" her books and sing her songs. They can demonstrate that finger play you taught them earlier or recite their poem to her. Really, get everyone doing something in the same space together.  This is going to start getting them to think of being a unit, which eventually will help with the arguments and it will teach them that it is not about them which will help you to get started to rid you of the self-centered attitude of your 8 year old.

You may get a lot of fussing and resistance on this at first. But hold you guns and make the gang stay together as you go through your day.

Eventually, this time will include training time for all the children. But first let's tie those heartstrings.

10 am~ baby should be put down for a two hour nap.

If you were indoors today, after you put her down, make a game of cleaning up the toys you brought out earlier. Assign one area to each kid and have a race. Or have one clean up books and another clean up the puzzles and see who can finish first. My kids always liked the game where I would set a timer for five minutes and they would run around putting away as much as they could and whoever put the most items away was declared the winner. You get the idea, they will love it.  In the beginning, if they are resistant to this idea, you could offer a prize... say, a piece of chewing gum to the one who finishes first or Mama will read a book at nap time to the one who does the best job.

After clean up, everyone can proceed to the laundry room and switch over the laundry. Kids are awesome at sorting dirty laundry, folding wash cloths and napkins, rolling socks, moving wet stuff to the dryer, putting in a new load, adding detergent and even setting and turning the machines on if they are supervised and given a little instruction. There is always a job for everyone. If you think you've run out of work for the little ones while you finish up your task there, hand out dust rags, have someone clean the outside of the washer and dryer or sweep the floor.  In my house, doors and light switches always seems to need wiping. There is so much for little ones to do if you will keep your eyes peeled.

If you need to remain longer and can't find any other jobs the little ones can do, then make one up. Have them sort clothes pins. You could sneak a little learning in by counting them aloud.  Have someone sort hangers by color. The older two should be able to take the full baskets of laundry to the bedrooms. Make them think they are working.

The other day we were canning relish in the kitchen. I don't like the little kids to be part of the hot parts of canning. It is just too dangerous. I myself have been burned repeatedly. But that doesn't mean there wasn't dishes to wash and dry. The little ones love to sort the caps and rings by size.  Washing the jars before we sterilize them is helpful. Making labels for the finished jars is an excellent job for 9 year old Aedan. Running up and down the stairs for supplies is a good job for 7 year old Samuel. I couldn't find anything for Ellie to do so I handed her all purpose cleaner and a rag and she washed the fronts of all the cabinets. Samuel(7) loves to polish wood so a rag and some almond cleaner and my table was shining.

When I am working in the kitchen younger kids will wash fruits and veggies, use a squirt bottle and rag to clean the floor, cabinets, counter tops, organize cupboards and drawers, set the table, empty the dish washer, wash/dry and put away hand wash dishes, open cans, use a safety knife to chop veggies, peel veggies, tear lettuce, the possibilities are really endless.  There is no shortage of work for little ones... if you don't insist on perfection.  They may not get the floor as clean as if you did it, but you are busy and it will be cleaner than if no one does it.  Just something to think about.

Your 8 year old should be capable of doing lots of work in the kitchen if you take the time to let him work beside you.  By 8 my kids can make the granola, bake bread, make muffins, bake lots of goodies, cook scrambled eggs, and follow instructions for chopping onions, celery and garlic to start a dish.  They can stir together simple casseroles and of course fix grilled cheese, pancakes, peanut butter and jelly, toast and all those sorts of basics.  They love to do it and feel they are a valuable part of the family.  They delight in showing off their abilities.

It will take you way longer to have their help and it may be way messier, at first.  But in the end they will be a valuable asset to you.  Last year the kids, all the way down to Sam who was 6 at the time, took turns making breakfast.  Of course, Samuel would put out home made granola, fruit and yogurt while Brianna would make Belgian waffles, but the idea is that because they were taught how to do it and I put up with the mess while they were learning, when I was incredibly incapacitated with months of morning sickness, I got to reap the benefits by knowing my family was well cared for.  And they cleaned up after themselves.

So there, I went way off on a tangent I didn't intend to at this time.  However, this is the sort of thing you and your dear husband need to work into your life.

You mentioned about your husband cutting wood.  No, most certainly, the children could not handle the saw.  We don't even allow our 10 year old to do that.  But we heat with wood and if you've read enough of my posts you know we are always working on remodeling our home.  We always find something for everyone to do.  Take wood splitting for instance.  Only Allen uses the chain saw.  And mostly only he uses the mall.  (Sometimes the big girls try to show off by splitting a few logs. ☺) But the little kids have a wagon and they load the wood in it and pull it to the wood pile.  The bigger boys can load the wheel barrow and push it to where we stack.  The biggest girls stack and drive the tractor wagon back and forth.  Little kids also pick up the twigs and stack them for kindling and rake up debris.  Plus, they help by making sure everyone has lots of drinks.

Our current projects include remodeling the big girls' bedroom and redoing the basement floor after a flood this summer.  The kids really look forward to being Pa's helpers.  When working on the wood floor the big kids can handle the nailer.  The middle kids lay out the planks.  The little kids clean up scraps and run errands for Pa.  This leaves Allen to stand at the saw and do the cutting.  It didn't start out this way, of course.  It has been many years of teaching them how to do the various work as they stand beside us.  Now my boys, 9 and 10, can do lots of minor household repairs on their own.  There are many others they can do with direction from Pa.  They love when Allen comes home from travel and they can say, "I fixed the drawer for Mom today!"  The sense of accomplishment is a blessing to them, having the job done is a blessing to me, and not having something else to do is a blessing to Pa.  That didn't happen by accident.  It all started back with them sorting clothes pins and matching socks in the laundry room.

I hope you get my drift!

Okay... so let's get back on track.  Eventually, this 10-12 time slot is going to become your circle time for all, school time for 4, 6 and 8 year old and "room" time for the 2 and 4 year old.  But that's down the road. Right now we are going to work on developing your kids' interests and remembering what it is you all love about being together and we will sneak some learning in there, too.

After you get a little work done together, you need to have some fun.  And that should be outside fun.  Boys need to move.  Boys need to burn lots of energy.  Boys who have to sit for long periods go crazy.  My boys are incredibly obedient but when they have to sit all day Sunday, I see the tension building up in them.  (I think the lack of physical activity on Sunday is one of the reasons Monday morning is historically the most challenging part of the week.)  This is how God made them.  It is what will make them good husbands and fathers one day.  As mamas, it is our job to teach them how to use it.  Now that it is summer there should be several hours of outside time every single day.  Even in the dead of our very coldest winters, my boys still want to be outside every afternoon.  That's how boys are.

You mentioned your children have an interest in Science.  Go with that.  Take them out in the yard and together choose a plot to start a fall garden.  Mark off your plot and help them to dig up the sod and turn over the soil.  Get out a seed catalog or take a trip to Lowes and choose some plants to put in.  This may take days or weeks to finish.  You might not even get any plants growing this year.  But it will be fun to do.  It will burn energy.  It will get everyone fresh air and exercise.  It will tie heartstrings.  Our family has been using Mel Bartholomew's Square Foot Gardening method for many years and it is an excellent way for kids to get into gardening.  It makes gardening something manageable for kids.  This method is so easy my friend who works with special needs folks helped them set up a square foot garden several years ago and they are happily reaping the benefits not.  My kids like to each have their own place to plant and choose what they will put in.  They can handle all the weeding and watering and harvesting without me now.  (Again, because they have been in the garden with me since they were born.)  Good crops for this time of year are spinach, cabbage, green beans, beets, onions, radishes, carrots, broccoli and lettuce.  Even if you don't get anything, I bet you won't hear, "I'm bored," nearly as much as you are used to.

When the garden is done there are lots of fun things to do outside together.  Move the cars out of the driveway and ride bikes.  Get some side walk chalk and draw a town on the driveway.   Blow bubbles.  Splash in a wading pool.  Climb trees.  Turn over rocks and look for bugs.  Tag.  Hide and Seek.  Ship is wrecked.  Red Rover.  Red light, green light.  Take a snack outside and have a picnic while you read a favorite book.  Pick some flowers, make a bouquet and take it to a neighbor.  Pick up sticks and stash them in a pile for a bonfire when daddy gets home.  Rake leaves and jump in the pile.  Swinging.  Sliding.  Lay in the grass and find pictures in the clouds.  The possibilities are endless.

If the weather is bad, there are lots of fun things to do inside together.  Think puzzles, Legos, play dough, baking, dancing, singing, stories, coloring, cars, make cards for friends or relatives or make some to take to a nursing home... it is best to choose one activity for everyone to work on in one space.  With your little ones you may need to rotate activities every 30 minutes or so in order to keep their interest.  Just be together and have fun!!!!

12 PM... You should wake baby, diaper and feed her.  You might try out these three options and see which works best for you.

1-  Feed baby in the kitchen so you can instruct the other children in setting the table and fixing lunch.  They can set the table, empty the dishwasher from breakfast, pour the drinks, put baby carrots and grapes on the plates and make peanut butter and jelly.  Voila!  By the time you are finished nursing, lunch is ready.  Baby can go in her bouncer or on a blanket while you eat together.  Again, I would read the proverb of the day aloud (or maybe a portion at breakfast and a portion at lunch and the last at dinner) and have one of the children ask the blessing.  This is just a good habit to get into.  It also teaches our children that the word of God needs to be constant in our day as is food.

2- Have the children all gather around you in the nursery and read a book aloud.  We are going to talk a lot more about books as we go.  Books are one of the best ways to home school our kids without them knowing they are learning at all.

3- Move to another room and have the children do a pick up/dust/tidy as they did in the nursery in the am.  No, you won't get a spotless house this way but it will get better and they will learn to be responsible for their own home.  A quick word on this.  Keep a laundry basket, or several handy.  Put it in the doorway of the room.  This will serve two purposes.  It will be a visual reminder that they are to stay in the room together.  It will also give you a place to put the things that do not belong in that room.  You can sort them later or move them out of sight until a time comes when you can deal with it.

I would suggest number 3 at this point with the goal of eventually moving to number 1 when the children have gained more skills at being helpers.  If you move around to different rooms like this during feeding times, you have tidied three rooms in one day while you were sitting in the rocking chair!

Once you get into the routine you will find you have extra time after tending baby, making and eating lunch and cleaning up from the meal.  Use this time for your walk, if you couldn't take it in the morning, or gather together in the two year old's room and have some stories before nap time.  Or alternately, I like to have everyone get ready and go to their rooms and then I curl up with Ellie first and read to hear a chapter of whatever book we are on and then I hop over to the boys' room and cuddle and read a chapter.  The children love, love, love this time.  They are very sad when we can not have it.  So much so, I keep nap time as sacred.  I try never to schedule anything that will take us away from home during these hours.  Likewise, I tell people this is nap time and we can not accept visitors at that time.  People know that at any other time they are welcome to drop by our home and they will likely be offered a meal and lots of warm hugs for doing so, but at nap time we are otherwise occupied.  My children also know that if they want this time together, they must move quickly and cheerfully to their rooms, have things tidied and be settled in their beds when I get there to read.  Otherwise, I will not be able to read to them that day.

2-4 is quiet time.  Baby should be napping.  2 and 4 year old should be napping.  6 and 8 year old should nap at your discretion or lie down and read or listen to some CD's.
Favorites in our house are 
The Jesus Story Book Bible audio CD's
Uncle Rick Reads Proverbs by the Boyers
Jonathan Park by Vision Forum
Winnie the Pooh
Any Focus on the Family Radio Theater or Lamplighter Audio Books
The hard and stead fast rule needs to be that this is quiet time.  If Mama hears a child, that child is in trouble.  (Except, obviously, if there is a real need.)  My little ones are given cuddle time and a covered cup of water.  Don't forget their big hug and kiss and tell them how very much you enjoyed spending the morning working on the garden together.  Then have them use the bathroom and settle them down with their lovies and/or CDs and that is that until 4 pm.

This is a very important part of the day because

1- you get a break to clear you head, have a rest, touch base with other adults or get some work done
2- they get a rest which will prevent crankiness later
3- with everyone quiet the little ones will not be disturbed so as to allow them to have the rest they need to start the evening with a cheerful disposition.

I find that even my Samuel at 7 years old will often fall asleep during rest time.  He runs hard all day and once he is still he is out.  Actually, most of my kids will drift off for a few minutes during rest time.  The big kids use this as study time or computer time or time to read or do a special project or, with my permission, to spend one on one with the younger kids.

You will use this time very wisely.  You will use at least the first 30-60 minutes doing something you enjoy.  Take a bath, take a nap, read a book, call a girl friend... but make it something that recharges your batteries.  Make sure you take this time FIRST.  Otherwise it might get away and it is a key to you having a good evening and a good attitude.

The rest of the time can be used to empty those baskets the kids filled earlier in the day.  Read one of the books I suggested.  Work on your game plan for the next day.  Throw a casserole together for dinner.  Pay bills.  Iron.   Vacuum... whatever you really would like to get done.

I was thinking about this the other day and never had time to email you.  One of the things that I think would be very helpful to you and I is if you make a list of all the things you feel you have to get done in a day.  And then list your top five priorities.  What is it that you would feel most relieved to have accomplished each day or week.  We will figure out how to work them into your schedule.

Back to nap time... I really suggest getting something started toward dinner in order to keep it from being too chaotic later.  Even if it is to put a jar of pasta sauce and a box of noodles on the counter and fill the pasta pot with water.  (You can even put the sauce in a microwave safe dish and set it aside for your 8 year old to heat up while you feed baby later in the day.  Pasta can be precooked and reheated in a microwave safe casserole dish, too.  Then your 8 year old can essentially make dinner while you feed baby at four o'clock or have your one on one with father when he gets home from work.)  The best laid days have a way of falling apart at dinner time so taking all the steps you can to prevent it will make life better for everyone.  While you are at it, make two of the same casserole and put one in the freezer for next week.  It really takes  no more time and you will come upon a day when you will be so happy to have it there.

4 pm tell the children they can get up and get the baby up.  Look at the options I laid out at 12 and choose one for baby's feeding time.  Pick a different room yet and let the kids go to town.

After feeding baby you can all return to the laundry room again and do one last load of laundry for the day.  With little to no effort you got three loads done in one day and with five children that in itself is an accomplishment!

I love that your hubby gets home so early.  I know it is hard with his having to leave so early but him being home early is a huge coup for your family.

And by the way, I totally understand.  Just about everyone in our town works in DC or Baltimore and commutes very long distances in very bad traffic.  Most people leave before the crack of dawn to avoid the rush hour traffic.  We are surrounded by seriously sleep deprived fathers who run up and down the road at all hours of the day.  End of side note.  ☺

So this is a wonderful thing.  After feeding baby you and the kids can run around and get things tidy for when Daddy gets home.  Put on some perfume or lipstick or whatever makes you feel beautiful.  My kids love to watch for Pa and run to the car when they see him pull in.  This is a great way to greet father and get the evening together off to a good start.  If the weather is nice why not drop a blanket in the yard and sit down then and there for fifteen minutes of couple time while the kids run and play around you.

Before you start your time be sure to instruct the kids that this is Pa and Mama's time and that they are not to interrupt you. I know this may be very challenging in the beginning.  If the children become too unruly then they should be put in their rooms until your time is up.  The two year old can go in the crib or play pen.  Be assured everyone will be fine, even if they are screaming, for fifteen minutes.  This is going to pay off in huge dividends and will be an important part to your day.  It will give you a break and some much needed adult time.  It will give you and your hubby a chance to reconnect after a day apart.  It will show your kids that your relationship with Father is the very important (which gives them a sense of security and comfort, by the way.) It shows hubby that despite all that is going on in your world, he is still the most important part of your life.  It really is a win-win situation and should be an essential part of your day.

If the weather is not good and you are inside, the children could play quietly at your feet (have a game or puzzle or coloring books ready) or set the table and empty the dishwasher in preparation for dinner.  They could also empty and repack Pa's gym bag and take it to the car for the next day if you will fold them and leave his things set out in the laundry room when you do the laundry earlier in the day.  Same rules apply.  If they can't mind and be peaceful during this time, off to their rooms. No exceptions.

Now, there are lots of ways you could run the evening.  Everyone, could work together to fix dinner.  Or Father could spend some time with the kids while you work on dinner.  Perhaps working on a project or seeing what they did today.  You need to decide what works best for your situation.  It might even vary day by day.  We've done lots of different things over the years and even from season to season.  During the summer our family observes Happy Hour together when Pa gets off work and then we all hang out at the pool together.  I usually have dinner prepped ahead of time and we do most of the cooking at the grill.  In the summer, we prefer to play and spend family time together and then eat dinner quite late, when it is cooler.  In the winter we usually have dinner at 6 and then spend our family time together.  Our kids, typically the four youngers, do the dinner clean up.  You will have to work on the training before yours are ready to do this without supervision.  Perhaps you and father could do something with the two year old for some one on one time while the older three handle clean up?

Regardless, at 6 PM baby should go down for her evening nap.  And this will give you 2 hours of undivided time with Pa and the kiddos.  This is prime heart string tying time.  Make it count!  A lot of what you do will depend on Hubby at this point.  But it would be very beneficial if he really invested the next few hours before bed time with the kids.  We like to work on the garden together in the evenings.  We also have a lot of  running games we like to play outdoors.  Biking is a favorite past time.  And we love building bon fires or swimming past dark in the summer months.  Our family has devotions and Bible reading at 8 am but since your Daddy leaves so early this would be a good time for your family devotions.  During the winter we play board games, work on art projects, sing, read aloud and work on school lessons following dinner.  The kids take turns rotating through the showers on bath nights.

8 PM After family time, if father is agreeable, he could handle baths, teeth, pjs and story time while you feed baby and get her bath and settle her in for bed.  At three months babies should get up eat and go right back to sleep until morning.  I like to slip into the bath and relax for a few minutes during the bedtime ritual.  After the kids are settled I sweep in and kiss them good night.

This is the time we spend with our older girls.  Since all your children should be heading to bed by this time, you just freed up your evening to spend with hubby.  Perhaps you both have things to get done... what about an hour of tackling one of those projects (such as cleaning out one closet or scrubbing the bathroom... or whatever) and then you still have an hour with father and you can can still be in bed early enough so Papa is not too tired to get up at 4:45.

I know there are lots of issues I have not even begun to address in this post.  But stay with me.  I will get there.  I just feel like you need a place to start.  I think this is a good beginning.  Please do email me if there is something specific that you have questions about or a specific thing that you don't think will work or a specific area you need clarification on.  I feel like this is an incredible amount of information and a very long post and could be awfully overwhelming.  I debated giving it in bits and pieces but my family felt, and I quite agree, you might just feel as if you were left hanging if I say wrote up to 10 am and just let you go.  Ha!  I hope that made sense.  I don't know about you, but my brain feels like it is exploded.  ☺

Okay, my friend.  There you have it.  Praying for you, Kat
*Please note... when I reference resources I am not giving my blanket endorsement for all that is contained within or for everything by the author nor their personal lifestyles.  

1 comment :

  1. The Babywise books are great, very helpful. And the family time us such a great piece if advice. I thought we did that, but now we do it right, no electronics. And we get resistance from our oldest, but eventually even she has fun.

    Your friend from Ohio!