Saturday, September 5, 2015

my 7 secrets to doing it all

There are two things I am told by at least one person every week. The first is "It takes a special kind of person to do foster care." I'll be writing my thoughts on that here soon, but today, I'm going to share about #2:

"I don't know how you do it." 

This could be in relation to foster care, surviving multiple pregnancy losses, writing a blog, working on a book, joining a play, or running a business. Or doing all of it. Plus a house to keep up.

So today, I want to share with you how I do it.

Here are my 7 secrets to doing it all.


With a lot of prayer and leaning on God.

Today, my schedule is so packed, I had to increment my time in 15-minute blocks to ensure I get it all of one and stay on track. My day started at 6:30, and will probably not "end" till 10 or 10:30. On days that are super busy, I have to break it down.

As we got home from school drop off for Maddy, Leyla, and a trip to the grocery store, I paused in the car and prayed out loud.

"Thanks God for our home, our food, our health, our opportunities. Help me to keep it together today. Help me to move forward in business, in my family, and take care of everyone's needs with love and patience."

I also start every most mornings with a short prayer, (let's be real here),  asking for God's help to accomplish what I need, with the right attitude. I find myself praying often on short bursts throughout the day, realizing I depend on God for everything. And as long as my babies will let me, I read for a few minutes from the Bible in the morning to start my day off right.

With lots of grace.

This morning, I needed to fix breakfast for 3 kids, eat, take a shower, get 2 kids ready for school, pack a lunch, and be out of the house by 8 am.

We got out at 8:10.

And Leyla threw a fit about getting shoes on, so I walked the rest of the kids to the car, and told her to join us when she was done.

Should have been a good idea, except that now that we were late, I was in a rush. 

At Leyla's school, I realized my mistake. First, I didn't grab her book bag which was right by the door. Second, I didn't lock the door, or for that matter, close it at all. (Gasp!)

And so after drop-off, I rushed home to close and lock the door that was clearly wide-open for all the world to see (and break in and enter.)

And that's where grace enters. See, I make lots of mistakes. A lot. I forget to close doors, lose keys, forget lunches and coats and backpacks, keep my kids up too late, and don't always get them home for nap time.

Just recently, I took Maddy to school, one minute late. (Literally. One minute). My hair was dripping because I tried to sneak a shower in the few free minutes I had. (That was not-so-awesome time management.) My mascara from yesterday was still pooled under my lids. I carried both Z and Leyla (shoeless, of course) as I tried to rush Maddy to out of the car.

All while the principal was watching, and hollering at me to "try my best to get my kids to school on time." Granted, it WAS the third day of school and a little early in the year to already be late. But still. After encouraging me to be on time, he acquiesced: "Well, I'm sure it's hard to get three out of the house. I never had to raise three. Actually, I probably couldn't do it. But still, try to be on time."

And I've learned to be Ok with that. Sure, I won't win any parent-of-the-year award, especially not from any teachers (and certainly not from the principal) ... And there is almost nothing in my home Pinterest-worthy .... But doing OK has become good enough for me. At least for most things.

Sometimes, I let things go.

Before Ryan became an avid helper in the home, I had to learn that some things had to be let go. In order to write, I'd ignore the laundry. In order to get dinner on, sometimes it would be the exact same easy meal as last week: baked chicken, peas and a side-salad. Easy-peasy, lemon-squeezy.

I find that the days I'm most productive, it's because I have a priority list of up to 6 items that need to be done each day. Bonus points if I make it the night before. If I can't get to all 6, the items get bumped to the top of the next day's list.

I don't always do my list, but I'm trying to make it a new habit. And the things that don't make it to the list -- well, I just serenade those with the Frozen theme song.

My perfectionist self is coming to terms with the idea of "good enough."

With lots of support.

My husband is pretty amazing. He has begun helping with laundry, does dishes every night, puts all the kids to bed at least twice a week, and does chores on the weekend.  

My parents and in-laws are close by. And while we don't use their support every week, it's nice to know we have it when we need some last-minute babysitting, or a night 1-, 2-, or 3- kids free.

In the past, I have hired a mommy-helper, giving me 3 full hours each week of focused time.

In short -- I don't do it alone. I'm not parenting alone, I'm not cleaning alone (although I have in the past), and my kids have adjusted to doing things without me.

Downtime is double time.

And by downtime, I don't mean that hour I get to myself everyday. (Ha.) I mean, the time I use the bathroom. (Sorry, it's true. I'm human). I mean the time waiting in line. I mean the time I'm supervising Z's playgroup. It means the time I'm relaxing from my day, in bed, and I'm on my phone. The time when I'm snuggling Z and feeding him a bottle before nap time. (In fact, that's when I wrote the bulk of this post.)

I mean, those times.

Instead of just scrolling through Facebook (a habit I'm working very hard to break), I'm reading a book. In fact, many of my books are read by utilizing the few minutes I'm in the bathroom to myself, as well as when I sit down to eat lunch. I read. I carry a book with me when I can.

Also, another habit I'm working on is writing at night before I go to bed. I'm working on my first chapter of my book, so instead of reading about other people's lives at night, I'm writing down my own.

When I have downtime, I try to double it up as productive time. Yet still make it relaxing.

I'm intentional.

For so long, I waited. I waited to start something until it was perfect timing. I waited for Ryan to initiate a family day. I waited for my to-do list to whither away before spending quality time with my kids.

And in the end -- I just felt like life, and what I really wanted, was always on snooze.

It's taken me a while, but I've (finally) realized that life with a plan far outweighs life without one.

And so on the two weekends a month I set aside for family time -- we DO something together. We usually go on a hike. Or for a drive. Or a bike ride. Instead of wasting our day puttering around the house, we make it count. And some of our best memories come from those family days.

Getting connected in my church has become a priority for me. So instead of waiting for connection to just fall in my lap, I'm plugging in. I'm singing once a month at church, and helping in the Kindergarten room once a month. Maddy and I also just started the play together. (Which sounds overwhelming, but it's 6 hours a week, which can double as Maddy/Mommy time. If Maddy were in a sport, I'd probably be spending that time rushing her to games, etc. So this way, we're together AND it's an extracurricular activity. And I can read or write or work on the days Maddy doesn't need to be there, and I'm not on stage.)

I use nap time for work time. And if I don't get it done during naptime, then I'll let my kids watch a show while I finish up.

We have dinner together most every night, and that's our time to connect. Breakfast, however, is served alongside cartoons while I do yoga in the office and take a quick shower. If I don't get it done in the morning, chances are it will never happen!

While I drive for errands, or to pick up kids, I listen to trainings for personal development, leadership and business education. It has the added benefit of my kids hearing these trainings. Recently, Maddy told me, "I felt the fear mom. And I did it anyway." Since I've never said that to her, I know where she got that from. My university on wheels.

I don't do it for me.

Well, at least, not ALL for me.

The other day, Leyla was having a very rough day. This happens a lot. I think God must have given me this idea, because honestly, I was ready to just grit down and win the control war. Except I think He showed me that right then, she needed love and attention, not further discipline. So I stopped what I was doing, and just played. Like roll all over the floor, play and tickle, and throw her in the air, and try not to get smothered by a toddler and preschooler relishing in their mom on the floor with them.

We have dance parties in the kitchen, and sing-alongs in the car, and rummy matches late at night. I know I focus on getting things done, but at the same time, my kids and my hubby are my top priority. At times that means putting the phone or book down, and just snuggling. Or playing that extra game of cards. Or missing the conference call I know will be recorded because my kids are having a meltdown.

I mean, really, my family is so important to me. I might have to schedule it in . . . but I take time to NOT be busy in order to make them know I love them and get to know them.

I run my business because I want to give my family choices. I stay at home because I want to be present in their lives. I fix (mostly) homemade meals because I want them to know that healthy food matters. I foster Z because that's what a person does when someone else needs them. And Z needed us. (And now, of course, I love him. That took all of like, what? One day?)

I am so far from perfect, so please, no pedestals here. I'm messy at times, today I'm still in my pajamas from this morning, and there are days where I feel like the worst parent ever.

But I do all these things in hopes of being a good steward of what I have been given, and in hopes of making a difference in other people's lives. Starting with my own family's.

How do you do what you do? I'm not the only busy mama here -- so please share your tips and tricks for getting it done!


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