Making Time for Yourself and Your Home

relaxing Photo by the bpp

This week, I am taking a different approach to our weekly Showcase.

Simple Kids reader Christy emailed a question in response to How to Create Flexible Family Routines:

I am new at this whole stay at home mom thing and love your posted routine, but can you shed some light on as to when you have “you” time and “housework” time?

Very good question, Christy!  It’s true that the example of the family routine I shared focuses solely on what the children could be doing throughout the day.  Practically speaking, many of us do need to make a place for the care and upkeep of our homes, and we also need to be proactive in creating a space for attending to our own needs as well.

I’ll begin by sharing how I incorporate time for myself into our daily schedules:

1) Start the day with quiet.

Ideally, I begin each day before my children wake up with time for personal reflection.  This usually means working on a Bible study and praying.  Last December, I ran my first 5K race, and so for several months preceding that, early mornings also included some time to go for a jog.  (Unfortunately, once winter really settled in, I began to neglect this new habit.)

Now that my children sleep until at least 7 AM each morning, getting up before them isn’t quite the sacrifice it once was.  And, of course, things don’t always happen ideally.  Someone gets sick, or I stay up too late the night before, or the alarm doesn’t go off . . . I just try to get back on track as quickly as I can.

2) Incorporate “off-duty” hours.

Whether you are a parent who works in the home or outside of the home during the day, you need downtime.  I find that I need it so much that it is a priority for me to have off-duty hours during which I am not attending to child care, house work, or any aspect of home management.

I personally practice the art of early bedtimes for my children.  Elizabeth Pantley, my favorite author on children and sleep, suggests

Aim for an early bedtime. Young children respond best with a bedtime between 6:30 and 7:30 P.M. Most children will sleep better and longer when they go to bed early.

When my children were babies, they were generally in bed for the night by 6:30.  Now that they are older (five and two-and-a-half), we aim for an 8:00 bedtime.  Once the girls are in bed (not asleep necessarily, just tucked into their beds), I go off-duty.  I have one or two favorite television shows I keep up with, or I might read a book, or catch up on blog reading.  On weekend nights, my husband and I generally watch a movie together.

Early bedtimes might not work for every family, and so I encourage you to examine your family’s schedule and needs and look for small pockets of time when you can find some time for yourself.

3. Retreat weekly.

Sundays are my day off – for the most part.  We attend church services both Sunday morning and evening, but Sunday afternoons are a time of rest for our whole family.  We eat a light lunch after Sunday morning service, and then the four of us settle in for an afternoon of quiet rest, reading, and relaxing.

I have found that giving myself permission to have a day off during the week helps to restore and re-energize me before the new week begins.

I will be the first to admit, however, that I am certainly not the person to turn to for advice on housekeeping. My approach to caring for my home mirrors what Rachel of Small Notebook wrote in My Real-Life, Practical Daily Routine. I stay on top of small chores daily (such as bed making and dishes), and then tackle whatever needs the most attention as I get to it.

Those who like and need more structure may find these resources to be helpful:

Home Sanctuary: A “Real World” Housekeeping Schedule (includes handouts to assess and customize your needs as well as printouts for both at-home and work outside the home parents).

Steady Mom: organization: intentional cleaning (More to come on Jamie’s approach to balancing home and children in my upcoming review of Steady Days!)

The Helpful Housewife: Requested Routines (three downloads with the breakdown of what gets done on what day)

One last link: I was so encouraged by Elizabeth Ester’s thoughts on Do small things right.  It was the dose of perspective I desperately needed this week!

For Christy and others who are wondering how to find the balance in daily routines, I hope these ideas will be a helpful start!

Have you found a good solution for incorporating home care and personal time into your schedule! Please share your wisdom with us today!

What We’re Reading Wednesday: Spotlight on Sandra Boynton

Happy What We’re Reading Wednesday!

I wanted to take a moment this week to spotlight one of our family’s favorite authors.  Our oldest daughter’s fifth birthday is in a few weeks, and I am feeling particularly nostalgic this month.  I’ve been going through old pictures and videos and thinking back on all of the things that have made her earliest years so much fun.  At the top of this list is our collection of books by Sandra Boynton.

Each page of Boyton’s books are filled with animals and incredibly fun and silly stories.  Once you’ve read a Boyton book, there is no mistaking her unique illustrations and engaging way with words.  She is gifted with the ability to turn the most normal and routine aspects of life into absolute celebration!  One of my own personal favorites is Pajama Time, a book which invites us all to “Get yourself set to pajama-dee-bop!”

Our oldest daughter’s first ever favorite book is Boyton’s Moo, Baa, La La La.  The public library we frequented regularly when she was a toddler had an oversized version of Moo, Baa, La La La and Dacey chose it nearly ever week to take home with us.  I even found a picture of her reading it at twelve months:

2-21-06 003a

Another book from Boyton’s collection that is particularly meaningful to me is Blue Hat, Green Hat. Dacey had a severe speech delay in the first three years of her life, and she was extremely non-verbal.  She smiled and giggled a lot when she was happy, but the first time we ever got to experience a full-on belly laugh was when her daddy read Blue Hat, Green Hat to her.  For some reason, this story of the little turkey who just couldn’t quite dress himself the right way amused her so much.  The “Oops!” that punctuates every other page of this book caused her to explode into unstoppable belly laughing every time she heard it.

Other favorites for our family are Doggies, Barnyard Dance, and The Going to Bed Book.

Boyton’s sense of rhythm and rhyme pervades every book, and so it is no surprise that she some of her books come with accompanying CDs.  In 2009, Boynton released One Shoe Blues – a storybook, song, and musical short film featuring legend B.B. King (and lots of sock puppets).  You can read more (and watch videos!) about One Shoe Blues at Boynton’s website.

There is little doubt why six of Boyton’s books appear on the Publisher’s Weekly All-Time Bestselling Children’s Books list!

In our part of the world, winter lacks color.  Bring some much-needed color and fun and silliness into your home with a selection from the Boyton collection.  I promise you there will be smiles all around!

Does your family have a favorite Sandra Boynton book or story you would like to share?

January 9th: Weekend Links

snowman Photo by woodleywonderworks

Winter has fully descended where we live!  Is it cold where you are?

If you have a little free time in the coming week, would you take a moment to read through the Simple Kids Showcase FAQ page?  You may just be inspired to share something from your family with the Simple Kids community in the weekly Showcase!

Grab your mug of hot tea (or cocoa!) and settle in from some weekend reading:

Simply Practical

Throughout January 2010, Mandy of Organizing Your Way is running an amazing series called 31 Days of Organizing for a Better 2010!  Click on the link to see topics she has already spoken to as well as what is coming up.  She has invited some of your favorite bloggers to join her in sharing wisdom on each topic.  This may be all the practical inspiration you need for the entire month!

Simply Delicious

angry chicken: bread of the monkey
itty bitty fish: a meal for the new year
The Picky Apple: Homemade Tortillas

Inspired Projects

red bird crafts: art boards
Playful Learning: Bird Watching Station
Family Fun: Fan-Tastic Snowflakes

Inspired Images

davejenbarnes: Project 365 (2)

Inspired Words

Handbook of Nature Study: Fresh Thoughts on Nature Study
A Holy Experience: When Your New Years Resolutions Feel Like Trying To Walk on Water
Steady Days: Start the New Year with a Child’s Heart (column from Angie of The Creative Mama)

Happy January! Stay warm!

How to Create Flexible Family Routines

coloring Photo by Vince Alongi

Our family has enjoyed over two weeks of living life out of our normal routines.  We have spent entire days in our pajamas, we’ve stayed up late many nights and slept in quite a few mornings.  The housework has been neglected while games have been played.  It has been a delightful break from the ordinary.

As this first week of the new year begins, however, I am quite ready to get back into our normal rhythms and routines of life!

Some families find that lots of structure and a consistent schedule works wonderfully while other families like to keep things spontaneous.  As babies grow into toddlerhood and as toddlers become preschoolers, a sense of routine allows them to have a confidence that comes from knowing what comes next.  I will never be a person who can run my home by the clock, but I do know that we have very predictable routines that provide for stability and order while making way for lots of flexibility.

This topic came up recently in a parenting discussion forum, and one mother from Texas shared her ideas on some routines she wrote up for her family.  She wrote, “We do not follow this religiously, but it’s something I have on hand if I am noticing too much chaos/disorder, out of whack kiddos, shrieking/whining/boredom – then I tighten things up again. We also have “off” days where I pretty much do nothing but let them run around like wild creatures.”

With her permission, I am sharing her ideas on flexible routines:

Each morning, allow some time for waking up, a little snack or drink, perhaps a morning TV program – whatever works best for your family.

8:00 AM
Mommy Officially Awake
Breakfast
Get Dressed
Brush Teeth
Brush Hair

9:00
Kitchen/Dining clean up
Small Motor Activity at table (see ideas below)

10:00
Snack
Outside – Nature/Large Motor Activity OR Foray (see ideas below)

12:00 PM
Lunch
Clean Up Lunch

12:30
Toddler Nap
Reading/Workbook
Computer game

1:30
Free Play – Indoor Small/Large Motor/Sensory (see ideas below)

3:00
Snack
Art/ Music OR Foray

4:00
Outside – Nature/Large Motor/Sensory (see ideas below)

5:00
Bath

5:30
Dinner Prep & TV Show

6:00
Dinner
Free Play

7:00
Clean Living Area
Clean Bedrooms
Bedtime Routine

7:30
Bedtime

Forays
Library
Playgroup
Church
Groceries
Park
Daddy Outing
Splash Pad
Children’s Museum

The Arts
Puppets
Arts/Crafts
Musical Instruments
Classical Music
Folk Songs
Hymns

Reading
Poetry
Books
Foreign Language
Bible
Nursery Rhymes

Indoor -Small Motor
Color
Paint
Paste
Cut/tear paper
Clay
Building blocks
Puzzles
Stringing beads
Lacing Cards
Pouring
Bubbles

Indoor – Large Motor
Dance
Chase
Hide and seek
Tag

Indoor – Sensory
Playdough
Shaving cream

Outdoor – Nature
Woods adventure
I Spy
Collection for nature box
Journal
Scavenger Hunt

Outdoor – Large Motor
Run
Walk dog
Games
Sports
Trampoline

Outdoor – Sensory
Sand
Water

Of course, the general structure of the daily routine and the activities are just suggestions. Each family will know what works best for them.  As this very wise mama shared, some days we may just need some ideas on how to answer the question, “Now what?”  (I want to say thank you again to this generous mama for sharing her ideas with us!)

For more suggestions on sensory activities, check out the article 99 Sensory Activities For Any Child from Mommy Poppins.

What do routines look like for your family? Do you tend to be more structured or less structured? How do you get your family back on track after many days of being out of routine?

Simple Kids Reader Favorites 2009

candlereflection Photo by Serge Melki

Tonight, the sun will set on 2009, and we’ll welcome 2010 with enthusiasm.

I wanted to take a moment to tell you all thank you so much for making this year such an incredible one for Simple Kids.  It’s hard to believe it has been nearly a year since Simple Kids launched in January 2009!  This community has been such a powerful encouragement to me.  Thank you.

Here are some of the most popular discussions from the past year:

The Need for Nature

Let Go and Go with It

Separating Yourself from Your Children’s Stuff

The List: Children’s Literature We Love!

Come On: Get a Little Muddy!

6 Peaceful Solutions for Hitting and Anger

Finger Food: 11 Ideas for Breakfast and Snacks and Finger Foods: More Ideas for Toddler Meals

Celebrating Our Unique Families

Again, thank you so much for reading and participating and building such an amazing community of like-minded parents and care-givers.

Happy New Year and best wishes for you and your family in 2010!