Wednesday Wisdom: Tips to Adjusting Your Schedule When the Kids Go Back to School

Happy Wednesday, loves!

It’s the first full week of school for all four of our littles, which means it’s the first full week of back-to-normal for my husband and me. Our situation is a little different than most considering our normal everyday commute to work is a staggering 12 feet into our office out of our master bedroom. I’ve been working for myself, from home, for 11 years now. My sweet husband has been working solely from home for just over three years.

It’s a lot more common these days for people to work from home than it was in the past. When I was growing up, there was no ‘work from home’ job available unless you chose network marketing (which is a total dream for some people, but it’s not for me). Instead, I chose the route of starting my own business writing. I started small, built an impressive client list, and I’ve grown tremendously over the years. I’m proud of my company and the work I put into it, but let’s face it; building and running a business from the ground up means you don’t get a day off. You don’t have sick time, and you don’t get vacation time.

It also means it’s struggle bus time when the kids are home for summer vacation. The constant interruptions, the noise, the change of pace; it’s a lot. Especially for my sweet husband. He’s just not accustomed to it, even after three years. He didn’t start working from home with little kids around to need his time and attention first and foremost, like I did. He began working from home long after we had four kids, and he went from the office setting where he wasn’t interrupted all day to a home office setting where I struggle to keep the kids from interrupting him all day.

If I may say so myself, I do a damn good job. But, it does require a lot more flexibility for me during the summer. Whereas before my husband and I shared a home office, I didn’t mind the noise or the interruptions so much. I’m not often on the phone, so I’m not bothered. However, my husband is on the phone a lot and that means I find myself jumping up from my desk mid-sentence to hush kids having a fight upstairs, across the house, down the hall, outside, on Mars…(they’re very noisy sometimes).

Back to school means back to a normal routine for us, though this year is a lot different for us. We now have three elementary school kids and one middle school child, and that means two different start times and end times. He’s now leaving early to take our middle schooler to school to drop her off, coming home and going to work. I’m trying to work while he’s gone and the little kids are eating, and then it’s time to get them ready and take them to school.

But, I’m having to leave our house an hour and a half earlier than usual to get our 6th grader from school, run home, drop her off, figure out what to do with a grand total of 20 minutes, and then go get our little ones from school. Add to that the fact that I volunteered to coach our youngest and oldest daughter’s cheer squads this year means two times a week we literally fly to cheer practice right after school where I spend 3 hours coaching, and we are hectic.

Any moment of free time I ever had before is now a thing of the past, and that means we are adjusting. Fortunately, we are good at that. I know so many people have a difficult time adapting to change – I’m one of them – so I’m going to share the key points I use in my life to stay on track, on my A-game, and focused when I’m anything but ready to make a change.

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Create A Power List

I read this term somewhere a long time ago, and it stuck. It’s better than a to-do list. It’s like a list of things you need to get done to actually accomplish your day, and everything else on your list is less important, but still doable. My power list always includes three items I must do before I take the kids to school in the morning or else my day will not flow.

  • Write 6,000 words
  • Edit one major article
  • Update to-do list

Each of these things, when done prior to leaving for school drop off in the mornings, sets the tone for the rest of my day. They are a big chunk of what I need to get done, and they are what need attention first. Anything after that is slightly less important, but still important.

Workout

If there is one thing I cannot give up, even when I’m struggling to find time, it’s my workout. I might modify it to fit the day, but I will not give it up. First of all, I’m not one for shortcuts to good health. I’m not taking diet pills or making myself crazy on some sort of fad diet we all know won’t be effective if you ever stop doing it, and I’m not going to put my body or my health in danger. And, well, I like to look good. I don’t give up a workout. It helps give me energy, it puts me in a good mood, it centers me.

Change it Up

Adapting to a change in your routine or schedule is not always easy or welcome, but it’s necessary for personal growth. I like to change it up a bit at first. What works best? Does this work best? Am I more productive this way or that way? If something isn’t working seamlessly, I’ll change it up.

Reward Yourself

Making it through a season of change is never a simple task, so you deserve a reward. My reward is lazy Fridays. I work hard all way to ensure I don’t *have* to work on Fridays, so I always get a three-day weekend. Of course, I almost always work on Fridays (and off and on throughout the weekend because #proudworkaholic) but I still like that luxury in my life. Sometimes, I still work, but I work on my book. I might bang out 15,000 words on a Friday to get some headway. I might do things around the house I’ve been thinking about (throwing old toys away? Sign me UP!). I might schedule coffee or lunch with one of my friends, or I might workout even longer than usual just for fun. Who knows?

Bid Adieu to What No Longer Serves You

We glorify busy, do we not? But busy sucks. I get that we are all busy because it’s impossible not to be with careers and kids and marriage and a house and travel and a social life, etc. I get it. I truly do, but being so busy you don’t have time to breathe or enjoy your life is not an ideal way to live. And, yes, I understand the irony of this from a woman who has no free weekends on her calendar until next summer. I get it; I do.

But, sometimes we get so busy doing things we don’t love. I love the things I’m doing, and that’s why my version of busy is okay with me. But, there are things in my life I’ve had to eliminate because they no longer serve me. The moment I no longer find joy or pleasure in anything I’m doing, I’m done. I have very little time, and I like to reserve my time for the things that mean the most to me, that involve spending time with amazing people I adore, and that bring me happiness and fulfillment. So, here’s what you do when you find you have something going on that no longer serves you – get rid of it. Say goodbye. Take it off the calendar, and enjoy that newfound free time or replace it with something that brings a smile to your face.

Shut Off Distractions

Distractions are the number one killer of all things productive. Get rid of them. I set my email to update only once per hour so I’m not inundated with alerts all day. I put my social media icons on the second page of my phone so I don’t see notifications throughout the day unless I have time to purposefully look. I turn my do not disturb on my phone, so I only get messages when I want to get them. We make sure we go to bed with a spotless house so that we get up to one. No laundry or dishes or mess to distract us during the day. When nothing distracts you, it’s easier to make sure you’re more productive.

Do you have to re-adjust your schedule when the kids go back to school? How do you find time to do all the things you need to get done in a day?

Transitioning Back to A School Routine and Schedule for the Whole Family

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Happy Monday, loves!

It’s the first day of school, and we have the most excited kids you’ve ever met! Addison begins her first day of 5th grade, Ava begins her first year as a 2nd grader, and the twins begin VPK. We are all so excited about today, and we can’t hide it! Addy can’t wait to get her Safety Patrol Belt and find out where she’s positioned – and it’s been really hard keeping that a secret from her the past few days!

Ava can’t wait to see if her teacher is wearing the special necklace she made her, which is another secret I’ve been keeping for a few days! The twins are so excited to be ‘big kids’ and carry their new lunch boxes (by the way, if I haven’t raved about Pottery Barn Kids products before, can I take a moment to do so right now? We’ve been ordering the kids their lunch boxes and backpacks from PBK since they began school, and every year their items last all year, they stay clean, and they don’t break. They look as good at the end of the year they do at the beginning. The only reason we buy new ones is because it’s so ‘boring’ to carry the same back pack and lunch box for more than a year).

Unfortunately, I’ve been battling what I think is a severe sinus infection since Wednesday. It’s either that or a cold, but I can’t catch a break. I have intense pressure in my sinuses, and that results in a terrible headache. My throat hurt for the first three days – just a little, though – and didn’t really hurt over the weekend, so I’m not sure where I stand. Addison began to feel poorly on Friday, and she was ready to go home from the school and rest. Carter has been pretty lethargic, and Ava’s had some sore throat issues off and on since Thursday.

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Our weekend was spent in bed. Literally, we were all asleep before 7 Friday night. We all slept late (well, late for us) Saturday, and we spent the day on the couch relaxing. Sunday was a repeat of Saturday, and we are all feeling much better this morning.  Except for this awful sinus pressure (recommendations? I can’t take allergy meds. I feel so loopy, sick, and terrible when I take them, so if anyone has any suggestions, that would be amazing!). I slept for 15 hours Saturday night and into Sunday, we skipped church, and we spent two solid days in our pajamas reading, watching movies, napping, and just being the laziest and germiest family you’ve ever met.

I knew this would happen, though. We had the roughest (it was so much fun, but it was tiring) weekend last weekend. Two midnight or later nights in a row, no time at home at all during the days, two parties, a date night, and a family gathering. We slept and showered at home, and definitely not enough of the sleep part. This week meant I needed to be up earlier to get more work done since I was gone from the house almost every day and evening for PTA duties, school functions, cheer practices, and appointments in between meeting deadlines. I overdid it, the kids overdid it, and we needed a weekend off.

Now it’s Monday, it’s back to school day, and the excitement is palpable!

With that, I wanted to share a few quick ways to make the start of the school year a little more manageable and easier. The transition is always a little difficult. No schedule all summer to a normal schedule takes a little time to grow accustomed to.

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It’s All Right to Struggle

You are not alone. If the first week or two with the new schedules and routines kind of throws you off after a summer of sleeping in, lounging around, doing what you want to do, and not being accountable for anything or anyone, it’s all right. Don’t add to the stress by being hard on yourself. Give yourself grace, and understand you will get through this. And, know you are not alone. We all feel the struggle. It’s real.

Prep Ahead of Time

I always make my kids pick out their outfit the night before school. This week, I’ve made them choose their outfits, accessories, and shoes for the entire week, and line them up in their closets so each morning is easier than the one before. We like to get as much done the night before as possible, and that includes packing all the non-perishable lunch items, organizing back packs, and loading what we can load ahead of time into the car.

Organize Lunches

Our kids won’t eat school lunch. I’m okay with that because I never ate it, either. But we have four of them, and that means packing lunches is a thing. The twins are in VPK, and that means they have to have a morning snack, an afternoon snack, and lunch. And everything must be labeled with their first and last names, and it must be separated into the correct area every morning before school begins.

And all four kids like different things. What we did is buy several bins, and we designated the fourth shelf in the pantry as the school lunches shelf. Their water bottles and Gatorades for the week are lined up. Their snacks are in one bin. Their chips in another bin. Their non-cold fruit in another bin. Their main food is in another (i.e. Addison likes a deli sandwich every day, so the bread we like from the deli is in this bin, and so are the English Muffins that Charlotte likes for lunch, and so are the miniature club crackers Carter likes as the “main” dish to his fruit).

The rest of the fruit is in the fridge, but we cut it up and put it in the correct containers the evening before to keep it as fresh as possible. Everything is clearly labeled in the bins and on the containers, and Craig just has to throw it in their lunch boxes along with their ice packs every morning.

This also helps us realize when we are running low on one thing or another so we can put it on the grocery list and make sure we don’t have any early morning panic attacks if so and so is out of their favorite whatever.

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Create A Morning Schedule

Our kids know they get out of bed, sit down at the bar while Craig makes their breakfast, and then they get dressed once they put their plates in the sink and clean up after themselves. They brush their teeth, put their shoes on, and they wait for me to call them for hair time when I’m doing working for the morning. Once hair is done, they give Craig hugs and kisses and head straight for the car. They load themselves into the car, and we go. They know the routine.

Consider A Reward

We also make sure each morning runs smoothly by bribing them with a Friday morning donut date. The stipulation is that all four of them must follow every morning instruction in a timely manner without being asked repeatedly, and they must do it with a positive attitude. If just one of them falls apart and can’t handle it, none of them get to go on a pre-school donut date on Fridays. Trust me when I say this encourages teamwork and a lot fewer hectic, crazy, upsetting situations in the mornings for all six of us.

Have Fun

Our kids love to pick their favorite songs or their favorite movie to watch in the car. We let everyone have a turn, and it keeps them excited to get into the car. We might choose a new movie they’ve never seen to put in the DVD player for the first week or so of school, and then they go back to wanting to listen to their favorite music. We all sing, dance, and make the ride to school fun. It really does help.

Take A Deep Breath

New schedules and routines are a little difficult, so give yourself some time to grow accustomed to it. Our schedule is all off this year, and we won’t even really start our new one until next week, and I know I’m a little stressed about it.

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But we will get through it. Our nephew’s mother is building her new house by the girls’ school – which is an amazing school – and he’ll be zoned to go there once it’s done in a few months. However, she is the guidance counselor at another school, which starts two hours earlier than the kids’ school. Her son is going into kindergarten this year. She will be dropping him off at our house every morning to have breakfast and get ready for school. I’ll now take him, too.

But the good news is that she will pick up the twins from school every afternoon so I don’t have to go to two schools in two different towns every afternoon. She’ll come to our house and drop them off, pick up our nephew, and it will all be fine. Addy does have to be at school early and stay late for her Safety duties, but we will definitely manage. We can do this.

See, I’m already stressed! But in a few weeks, I’ll be fine. Now, say a prayer for me as I’m headed to school to drop my babies off on their first day of VPK and then handle all the parents as they want to walk their kids to class for the first day at the girl’s school. I don’t know exactly what I’ll be doing yet, but I know that it’s going to involve something like 850 kids and their parents – and it’ll be stressful, but it’s what I love. Being present in the kids’ lives and in their schools makes me happy because it makes them happy. I wouldn’t trade it.

Self-Care Tips to Get You Through the Last Few Days of Summer Vacation

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Happy Monday, loves!

Or, as I like to call it, Happy Last Week of Summer Vacation!

There aren’t any back to school blues around here, if it’s not already evident. I know so many families struggle with that feeling, and I do empathize. It’s hard to send the kids back to school in this day and age. You worry about their safety. You worry about their well-being. You worry. That’s all that matters. I get it. I worry. I do. We both worry, but we also both work from home, and having the kids back in school is such a stress-reliever in our household.

But I digress. We’re excited about school starting next week. Addy is so excited to start the fifth grade. She’s a Safety Patrol, and she cannot wait to start her new duties. She’s also a competitive cheerleader, which means her season officially begins (this week, actually). Ava is excited about going into the second grade and finally feeling like one of the bigger kids at school.

The twins go into VPK. They’ll have the same teacher Ava had, who is the MOST amazing VPK teacher you can imagine. We love her, and they are beyond excited to be in her class this year. So, in our house, it’s exciting to go back to school. Combine that with the fact that September 1 is the first official day of the best part of the year – the “ber” months. I turn 35 in September, and all things pumpkin happen in Casa Raiford on September 1. It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

Now…back to the back to school blues, or the lack thereof in our case. Our kids love school, so they aren’t sad to go back. I love school, too, because no one is asking me for a snack every 7 seconds (at best). My husband and I both work from home, and while we do love the time we get with the kids during summer, there comes a point around mid-July when we (to borrow a famous, pointless, meaningless line from every teenager) literally cannot even.

That eight-week summer vacation mark is like the turning point. I find my patience is worn thinner than Nicole Richie after her sudden weight loss. The sound of quiet is not something I’ve heard in months, and I miss it desperately. The kids are no longer interested in doing anything fun during the day because they’re just tired of me (and vice versa). It’s hot, and it’s humid, or it’s always raining. They’re tired of going to the movies. They’re tired of swimming. They’re tired of movie nights, and card games, and trips, and being on the go.

They are tired of us. We are tired of them. We all want school to start.

Now, don’t get me wrong. The first two months of summer are magical. We have fun. And we’re still having more fun than we should probably be allowed to have, but we’re all tired. We are all ready for routine and normalcy. Those first few months are filled with vacations and travel and fun and the sun and friends.

To put that into perspective, out of the last 9 weeks, we’ve had only 1 weekend where we were home. And that probably doesn’t count because we had 7 extra kids for a sleepover. Every other weekend has been spent traveling or we’ve been home long enough to sleep and shower before the next activity. And it’s been amazing.

Which leads me to what I’m thinking could be my point (it could change…I don’t know where I’m going with this). My point is that the last two or three weeks of summer take a toll on me, and I don’t really like who I am and the control of my emotions and mood I lose. I wouldn’t trade this life we live, but I won’t pretend the last few weeks of summer vacation don’t make me cranky. In fact, I put that in my gratitude journal this morning. I’m grateful that’s my life problem.

I found myself in a situation recently where I felt very ugly. I found myself reacting to something out loud that is none of my business – at all – but it bothered me. Rather than doing what I normally do, which is talk to my husband about it and remind myself that the way other people behave is none of my business, I let it fester. I reacted to it, spoke of it, and instantly regretted it. It’s not who I am. I’m a live and let live kind of gal, but it upset me. I can’t control other people – nor do I want to – but I certainly didn’t intend to stoop to a level beneath me. I did. I’m disappointed in myself, but I’m reminding myself to have grace, forget it, and move on. It’s not who I am, and I know one moment of anger doesn’t define me.

My point is that I don’t love my mood all the time this time of year, and it takes a lot of effort to be my normally sarcastic, happy self. And that’s why I’m sharing a few of my tried and true patience-finders, mood-boosters, and self-care tips.

Or, as I like to call it, “do this before no one ever speaks to you again,” advice.

(Only 7 more days)

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Give Myself Grace

I’m imperfect, but I own it. I am nothing if not unapologetically myself. I prefer to give myself grace and allow myself to be okay with mistakes, with a bad attitude, and with my imperfections. I try to give grace to others by reminding myself that their behavior, words, and actions are a reflection of where they are in their lives, how they feel in their hearts, and their own unhappiness. And I try to do the same to myself when I’m less than graceful. I have all the respect for people who don’t make excuses or place blame when they make mistakes. I have all the respect for people who simply say, “That’s my bad, and I apologize,” and own it. I live by that rule.

Take All the Deep Breaths

It’s cliché, I know, but taking all the deep breaths is the most helpful thing imaginable. I’ve learned equal five-count breathing works best. Inhale deeply for a count of five. Hold your breath for a count of five. Exhale with an audible sigh for a count of five. While doing this, imagine all the happy thoughts you’re inhaling in the form of the color white. When you exhale, change that imagery to a red or black color to represent all the negativity. It’s silly, I know, but oh my goodness does it work. I find myself frustrated with so many things these last

Check On Myself

One thing I like to do is check in with myself. What’s bothering me? Is someone in my life bringing too much negativity to the table, and am I responding poorly to it? Have I taken on too much? Am I taking care of myself? Finding the answers to these questions often leads me to where I’m failing by either reminding me my monthly visitor is on her way and I’m a raging bitch because I’m hormonal or because I haven’t been eating well thanks to a busy schedule and not being home or because I haven’t been to the gym yet, or whatever. Checking in on myself allows me to see where I’m in need of some self-care, and it helps.

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Take A Time Out

I’m a firm believer in time-outs for myself. When I start to feel myself become snippy or short with my kids or my husband, I know it’s time for me to walk away and take a time out. I find it happens more this time of year than any other, but it’s easily cured with a run, a trip to Starbucks, sitting on the front porch to work, or sitting on the back deck with a book and strict instructions not to talk to me for a half hour. I’m better for it.

A time out can come in many forms. It can be a total social media blackout. Not answering your phone or texts for a few days. Removing toxic people from your life to the best of your ability. Removing yourself from situations that make you feel uncomfortable. It’s whatever you need it to be.

Recognize Stress and Tackle It

I think if I delved deeper into it, I’d notice that it’s the added stress of back to school stuff that makes me crazier than ever this time of year. My work schedule is interrupted 2-3 days a week with additional school-related activities for all four kids, their needs take over, we lose our easy nights and our flexibility in the evenings, and it takes a toll.

I’ve worked hard over the past 10 years cultivating my client relationships and creating a work schedule that allows me to be productive enough to run a successful business while still being a mom and wife, and this time of year it’s like taking a perfect schedule and piling 100 things for other people on top of it. It gets overwhelming, and it requires me to stop back and recognize where the stress is coming from so I can tackle it before it gets to me.

Delegate

I’m extra fortunate to be married to a man who doesn’t believe it’s the job of the wife and mom to take care of the kids. He’s hands-on all the time. He packs lunches, makes a homemade breakfast every morning, and gets the kids dressed and ready for school so I can have a few uninterrupted hours of work every morning to get my day off on a good note. He gives baths, helps with homework, cleans up after himself, and he’s a master laundry-doer.

He’s the best life partner, parent, and husband. I couldn’t do half of it without him. Even then, however, sometimes I just have to delegate. He’s just as busy as I am with his career, but we both know we just have to say, “Babe, I’m drowning, and I feel like I’m everyone’s bitch, and I’m a little crazy right now,” and the other steps up to do what needs doing to make life easier on the other. Delegating tasks is a life saver at home, at work, and anywhere else. Do it. It helps. What also helps is delegating other tasks – hire someone to clean your house, mow your lawn, detail your car, shop for you, and take back control of your life. Trust me when I say it changes your life.

Make No Excuses

If there is one thing in life that drives me nuts, it’s when people talk and talk and talk and never do. They are going to, they will, they should, they want to, they whatever. I’m a fan of conversations that sound more like I did, I accomplished, I managed, I handled, I mastered. I find it’s easy to feel overwhelmed when I make myself a lot of promises and need to back them up, and that’s my no excuses platform. I feel it’s easier to feel less stressed and better when I just do it and say, “I did it,” to myself. It’s really simple. Don’t talk about it, just do it. Like, tell me your story, not your plan. Use that motto on yourself.

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Just Choose to Be Happy

I promise it’s not nearly as hard as it sounds, but you must make the effort. I find that waking up in prayer and listening to my favorite Christian music when I work in the morning helps me set the tone for a happy day. If I find myself thinking about a problem or a situation, I give it to God and move on. I replace negative thoughts (I have so much to do today, but I have to do this and that and be there and here and I won’t get anything done) with positive thoughts (You are a badass mother and you’ve got this) and move forward.

I say it all the time – happiness is homemade, and I’m so abundantly grateful for all the blessings we have in our lives. I always feel guilty when I’m in a bad mood because I don’t feel I have a reason for it – but, I’m imperfect, and that’s okay.