I was just thinking the other day about how much “easier” life is now that our kids are older. Two or three years ago there’s no way I would consider taking three kids to the beach for an overnighter without Jim. Two or three years ago, garage sale-ing was a hassle: do we leave the kids in the car? Who is staying with them? Or do we take the time to unbuckle them all and get them out and carry them around the sale and make sure they keep their hands to themselves? Our evenings were busy with bathing and showering the kids, cleaning up after them, etc.

But looking back, we had TIME.  There were many evenings or weekends open and free, where we could ask ourselves, “what do you want to do?”

Today, we’re finding out that TIME is what we are currently short on. Sure, we’ve gained bits and pieces of time along the way…The kids can all bathe and shower themselves. They can buckle themselves in their booster seats. They can open and close car doors (without hitting the car next to them even!). They can read directions on things. They can relatively entertain themselves. I actually WANT to take them on an overnight trip to the beach. And they help with household chores: sorting laundry and putting it away, folding towels, unloading the dishwasher, vacuuming, dumping garbage, etc. Our son has actually cooked us dinner or breakfast on several occasions!

Those little steps have made life so much easier….but it’s not enough to make up for our hectic lifestyle.   

Every night this week has been double-booked:
Monday it was soccer followed by a couple errands and then a party at someone’s house.
Tuesday it was soccer followed by a childcare training class for myself.
Wednesday it was soccer followed by dance.
Tonight is the first night that we’ll be home before 7pm. Next week looks much the same!

I’ve found that having an after-school routine is KEY to making this all work.  By communicating our expectations, letting everyone know ahead of time what our plans are for the evening, they come home mentally prepared and ready. 

I’ve found that having a dinner plan is also key.  (Oh how easy it would be to swing by McDonalds every night….but we don’t eat fast food….one: because it’s a very expensive way to eat….and two: it’s not a healthy way to eat).  So yes, that means a little more planning and a little extra work.  We’ve managed to live this week on leftovers so far…but that’s not the case for tonight!  (And I have no plan.  Yet I sit here and type this!)

THIS IS MY TIP OF THE DAY:  I’ve found that keeping one calendar is key.  I use Microsoft Outlook on our main computer- E V E R Y appointment is entered on that computer.  I don’t keep separate calendars or schedules.  And because losing this lifeline would be the end of me, I also have an online calendar through Google- which links to my Outlook calendar (so it’s backed up) and I can access my life from anywhere!   Every Sunday I print out a weekly calendar for the coming week….so I know exactly what is going on each day and where I need to be and when.  (I feel overwhelmed looking at a monthly calendar! )

Some people might say that our kids are overbooked and overwhelmed. I don’t see it that way and I don’t think the kids feel that way either.  Do they enjoy going to their siblings’ practice? Yes, and sometimes no. Would any of them want to give up their sport? No. Are there times when they feel rushed to get their stuff together and get out the door and on to the next thing? Of course.  Would we prevent our kids from doing sports just so we can have a more relaxing lifestyle?  No way!  Are Jim and I overbooked?  YOU BETCHA!

But it’s for the short term.  And there is an end, although temporary, because winter sports are just around the corner and dance is a year ’round activity!   But this makes our “days off” all the more special!