- Routines. We have a few routines. The "getting out the door" routine: brush teeth, potty (for Natalie), shoes, and coats. The "coming home routine" is pretty much the reverse: shoes and coats away, potty (for Natalie), sit at table for lunch. We have an evening routine as well: dinner, play, bath. Natalie watches TV and plays while William gets his pjs on, has stories, and nurses. Then, Natalie brushes teeth, goes potty, and gets stories. These routines add just enough predictability to our day to help it run smoothly.
- Set out breakfast dishes and foods. I started this when my husband started doing breakfast with the children on Saturday mornings. He didn't always know what the kids wanted to eat, so I would set things out to make it easier for him. Then I realized, Why just make it easier for him? I should do it for me, too! So, when I take the dishes out at dinner, I take out the breakfast dishes, too. I'll also take out my daughter's vitamins and move bagels or toast from the freezer to the counter.
- Set out clothes for the kids. Again, I started this for my husband because sometimes had trouble picking out outfits for the kids. Each night, usually while dinner is cooking, I put out their clothes. Even though Natalie is opinionated about her clothes, she still will wear what I put out for her. Sometimes, I ask her to help me pick; most days, she tells me what she would like ("A pretty, pretty dress").
- Pack lunches. I've been doing lunch boxes for about six months now. Lunch time was a huge scramble and I really struggled offering a variety of foods for each child in all the chaos. Lunches are the part of my nightly routine that is most often neglected. I started doing them after the kids' went to bed, but I've now started to squeeze them in during dinner prep or clean up. Sometimes I have Natalie help get me items out of the pantry. Having the lunchboxes has helped make lunch time run more smoothly, as we eat lunch as soon as we get in from out morning outing. I also can offer a better selection of foods if I am not washing, peeling, and cutting up fruits and veggies as the kids wait.
- Pack backpack for the next morning. This is particularly important when we are going somewhere out of the ordinary that requires extra packing, but that doesn't happen often. Usually, I am packing up the library books to return to the library. Or restocking diapers, wipes, or potty accident spare undies.
- Pick up toys. Having all the toys picked up and back in their organized locations makes the next day run more smoothly. First of all, you aren't starting your day already tripping over blocks and crayons. Also, when the kids want something, you are more likely to know where it is. Lastly, I find that after cleaning up, the kids are more interested in taking the same toy out again to play with it. I think that having too much stuff out becomes overwhelming and they enjoy starting each day a fresh.
- Move dinner from freezer to fridge. I need to work on this one more, but now that I write a weekly menu, I can start to prep dinner the night before. We almost always freeze our meat and we often eat meals or sides where the left overs were frozen. Having dinner defrosting in the fridge over night makes the crunch time around 4pm easier.
Once a week:
- Weekly routines. We have routines for where we will go each day of the week. This helps make the week pass. I can also plan other meetings more easily when I know where we will be each day.
- Master shopping list. We really do this all week, but it helps for the Saturday morning shopping once a week. I created a shopping list that includes the items we buy most frequently, and goes in the order we go through our usual store. We post it on the fridge and my husband and I write what we need as soon as we notice. This makes the actual shopping trip faster as well as preparing to get out the door that morning.
- Weekly meal plan. I'll admit that I usually do the weekly menu on the morning of the shopping, but when I do make it the night before, it is great. But, having a weekly menu makes prepping dinner much more easy. I've surrendered to being in charge of planning what is for dinner, whereas I used to wait until my husband was home or at least on the way home before we decided. Now, I know days in advance and budget time accordingly. That's not to say our weekly menu is rigid. One of the great things about having it is the ability to switch the days around as things come up.
- Crock pot meals. I took a course this fall and struggled the first few weeks getting out the door as early as I wanted. No matter what I did, I just couldn't get dinner ready fast enough. So, I started to use the crock pot the night of my class. It worked great. As soon as my husband walked in the door, we plated the food. I also love that the crock pot makes large portions we can freeze. Most of our recipes for the crock pot involve little prep work. And even when I need to prep, I get to do it in the morning when the kids aren't bored and whining for me to entertain them. When I do use the crock pot, I set out as much as I can the night before.
- Natalie's notebook printables and library book list. For the last 21 weeks, Natalie has been studying a letter every week. One night a week, I take the time to print out new materials and put them in her notebook for the week. I also take time one night (or nap time) to write out a list of library books associated with the letter. When her notebooks is ready, I can just hand it to her quickly and nudge her to do a little academic work for a few minutes. This would never happen if I had to stop, locate an item, and print it. Similarly, I can barely collect books at the library as it is, so having a pre-made list prepped allows frees up a lot of my brain power at the library.
What I would like to work on:
- I really would love to take an afternoon without children and create a big cashe of ready-to-go craft projects, coloring sheets, and other activities. I love doing these things with my children, but have a hard time finding time to do the prep work.
- Planning meals and thus purchases around available coupons.
- Planning lunches and breakfasts to offer healthier options and coordinate better with the shopping.
- More cleaning / housework routines.