Back-to-School Series: Hectic Schedules and Time-Crunches
Okay, so I never intended to neglect the blog for so long! And I really had planned to start this series BEFORE school started, sort of a pre-emptive strike. But, like I always say, life got in the way!
Summer was particularyly short for me. I work part-time as a preschool teacher's aide, so my school year ends a week after the kids are finished, and my new school year starts about ten days before it starts for the kids. Throw in a severely sprained ankle (with a questionable fracture?) three weeks into summer break and a faulty central air conditioning unit that conked out during THE HOTTEST week of the whole summer, and, well, you probably see where I'm going with this.
I had plans, PLANS, I tell you! But, before I knew what was happening, I was sitting in the first meeting of my contracted school year. The deep cleaning and organizing of the house had not gotten accomplished. Those hour-long daily killer workouts? Nope, not with a sprained (broken? It still hurts...) ankle. All the baking and cooking to get the freezer stocked with delicious, healthy snacks and meals? Queue the condescending laughter here.
Oh, and I almost forgot, I switched campuses this year, so I had to learn a whole new routine and figure out the logistics of my younger daughter attending one campus, my older daughter attending another, and my working at yet a third. School officially started on August 16th and by my 6th day of work (I work Monday/Wednesday/Friday), I was exhausted, irritable and beside myself trying to figure out how to balance it all. Did I mention I also manage and work in our church Nursery on Sundays as well as schedule childcare for various small group meetings and events?
And by now, most of you reading know that I cook, from scratch almost every dinner we eat and pack by hand school and work lunches for all of us. It was so tempting to not use our grocery money for food to stock our fridge, freezer and pantry but for quick take-out at least a few nights a week. But I knew if I did that, those dollars would be gone lightning fast. So it was time to get a grip.
I really believe that God does not give any of us more than we can handle, and when we, ourselves, over-book our time, he has a way of giving us the break we need. Unfortunately, that usually means, knocking us over the head with a horrilbe cold, bout of the flu, or an injured back. Oh, yeah, you better believe I pulled something in my back on like the third day of work!! But what really gave me a chance to regain some control was, sadly, my older daughter feeling ill. I was off on Tuesday of the second full week of school ( I got a ton done on this day), and as I was getting ready for work on Wednesday, my girl woke with symptoms that the school sick policy states must remain home. So I got a sub for my shift and stayed home with her. I did take my younger child to school, and as it turned out, my sick kid ended up not being so sick that she needed my constant care. So, I was able to have a second productive day. I was already off on Thursday, so productive day number three, yay! Worked on Friday, then praise God, the long Labor Day weekend.
Let me tell, you I rocked it out! And now I feel like I've got things figured out. There is once again a flow to my days. I feel confident and capable and not like the good Lord is laughing hysterically while watching me run around like the proverbial chicken with it's head cut off. Which is good, since I don't eat dead, decaying animal flesh...
So how did I get here and how can I maintain this? Hah! I swear I can hear God chuckling at that idea! I harbor no illusions that I'm not gonna be tossed a lot of curve balls or that I'll even get a bat on most of them, but there are things I can do to help keep the craziness that is life from getting to that scary, overwhelming place where you just want to throw in the towel and just say "I give up!"
Here's how I got my groove back:
1. I let everyone in my church Nursery volunteer group know that I was no longer going to cover every empty service slot. I'll do my time, but they have to step up, too. I also let them know I would be taking one entire Sunday every 6-8 weeks off. If there's no Nursery attendants that day, so be it. Maybe some of the parents of the frequent-fliers can take a shift...but that's another post altogether...
2. I created a Division of Duties chart outlining things each family member needs to do on a regular basis. Most duties are still mine, but shaving a few things off my own list will free up time and lower my own stress.
3. I created a month's worth of dinner ideas that are nutritious yet relatively simple. Almost all of them can be made ahead, at least in part, and all can be frozen. After that, I spent some time prepping food for the week over the long weekend, so that my time in the kitchen each weeknight is minimal.
4. I have started bagging up snacks for lunch boxes on Sunday evening, so all I have to do is toss them in through the week. Snack-sized zip bags filled with things like raw almonds, roasted pumpkin seeds, grapes, cherry tomatoes, etc. are real time savers. I don't like using so many disposable plastic bags, but sometimes that's just what real life looks like!
5. I made a few baked good that are great for breakfast and snacks and are lunchbox-friendly and kid-approved. Those will be outlined and recipes and links will be included in future posts in this series.
6. I made it clear to my family that I will no longer be rushing home from church on Sundays to prepare lunch. As I am often in the Nursery throughout the late morning service, my husband and girls are home before me, and both my husband and older daughter are perfectly capable of making a PB&J sandwich. They don't have to like it, but that's how it's going to be.
7. I have started block-scheduling my day. This is helping me see clearly what's realistic and what's not in a 24-hour period.
8. I think this one is the most important and multi-faceted. I am taking time to do things I love, like working on this blog, creating recipes, working on my third (yep, that's right) novel--still working on the publishing thing, Physique 57 (love/hate these workouts), and indulging in the guilty pleasure of binge-watching things like Jane the Virgin and Dance Moms. I am giving myself permission to not be perfect and to embrace things that give me joy instead of feeling guilty for it.
Do I have all the answers? Does my household run like a well-oiled machine? Am I, truly, finally, Super Mom?
HaHa, yeah, right! Am I more relaxed, calm? Am I enjoying life a little more? Am I healthy? Can I laugh at myself? Damn straight!
Watch for my future posts in this series, including how to manage the kids' extracurriculars and my week-at-a-glance menu with recipes like vegan-ized pumkin coffee cake and Jerk Black Bean and Pineapple Soup.
How do you manage being busy or over-scheduled? What are your go-to time-savers? Please leave a comment below and share!