How do you do it?

Here we are, at the end of our first full week of double drop offs and double pick ups.  We all survived, we were on time almost every day, and no one got dropped off at the wrong school.  I count this week as a major success.

It’s a lot of work, though.  Dropping the boys off in the morning is a nearly 2 hour procedure, picking Liam up takes about an hour and a half, and picking up B takes about an hour (and that’s only because he takes the expensive school bus almost all the way home).  If you do the math, you’ll find that it takes about 4 1/2 hours every day just to get the kids to and from school every day — and we’re talking actual travel time, not including getting dressed, last minute potty breaks, trains breaking down, etc.

(Now, because tone is hard to read on a computer screen, and because, whether online or in person, my tone is constantly misunderstood, I will point out that I’m not complaining.  Not one little bit.  We’ve got things really, really good, and I am fully aware of that.  The kids are going to great schools, Dan has a great job, we live in a fantastic city.  And I love it.  I would say that all of my problems are First World problems, but none of this is actually a “problem”, so I can’t even say that.  But that doesn’t mean it isn’t a lot of work.  It’s just that WORK doesn’t equal BAD, though I often find that anytime I write about anything being “work”, many people automatically assume that I’m saying it’s a “problem”.  It’s not a problem.  It is a lot of work.  It’s my job, and JOB usually does equal WORK.  But, I digress . . . )

We’re still sorting out how best to manage this and still ensure everyone gets to eat and bathe at regular intervals.  It’s a bit of a challenge, and we’ve tried out a few different options this week (and will experiment with more next week, for sure).

So far, our favorite option looks like this:
5:30 Dan up, goes for a run, walks Bailey
6:15 Em & boys up, breakfast, Dan showers
7:00 teeth brushed, dressed for the day
7:15 Dan & boys out the door
7:50 Liam dropped off
8:20 B dropped off
8:50 Dan gets to work
During this time, I run errands, shower, go for a run, go to the grocery store, prep stuff for lunch and dinner, and attempt to clean the house a bit.
11:15 I leave to get Liam
12:00 Liam picked up
12:50 Liam & I arrive home, have lunch, walk Bailey
2:00 Nap for Liam, more cleaning/to-dos/laundry for me (at this point, we are behind schedule most days)
3:25 Leave to meet B
3:55 Meet B (at this point, we have to be back on schedule)
4:30 Get home, have a snack, Skype (some days)
5:30 Start making dinner
6:15 Dan comes home, we all eat dinner (we’re usually behind schedule by this point, too)
7:00 Clean up time
7:15 Baths, teeth brushed, stories
8:30 Bed (kids)
10:30 Bed (grown ups)

So, it’s a busy day.  Not a bad day, and we even manage a few quiet moments each day.  Most days so far, we’ve been ending our day about an hour later than this (both kids and both parents) because we just can’t quite keep our evening on track, but I think we’ll gradually be able to adjust to the new schedule, and get closer to getting everyone a good amount of sleep.

I know we’re very lucky.  I’m not working and Dan has a (fairly) flexible work schedule.  Even so, there are days when even this schedule seems daunting.  So, here’s my sincere question — what do other people’s days look like?  (Not just those of you with kids — anyone!)  What kinds of hoops are other families jumping through to make things work?  For us, right now, the kids’ commutes are a big factor in our family schedule — what are yours?  What kinds of things have you done to/cut out of/added to your daily schedule to make things work?  I’d love to hear ideas, inspiration, thoughts from other families.  We’re all doing some version of this kind of craziness, but I feel like, so often, we really have no idea what anyone else’s day really looks like, except where it intersects our own.

This is how we’re making it work.  Our assets are a flexible schedule, good schools, great public transport, and enough affluence for me to be able to stay home.  Our challenges are long-ish commutes and being fully self-reliant (no ability to call on friends or family for a hand, no carpools).  How do YOU make it work?  I really am curious.

Week one down, week one still to go

Week one of B’s new school — completed.  As I type this, he’s 10 minutes away from the end of the last day of the first week at his new school.  So far, things have gone great.  He’s enjoying his classes, he loves his new teacher, he’s been enthusiastic about eating in the cafeteria and riding the bus home (both new experiences), and he’s had positive interactions with the kids in his class.  He may be in the process of coming down with a cold (or something) but that’s pretty much to be expected the first week at a new school.  Things are going great for him.

And I’m thrilled, too.  I’m also loving his experience at the school so far.  His teacher seems very positive and supportive; he’s already taking gym, art, music and German; he comes home every day excited to tell me about what he’s done; he gets up in the morning enthusiastic to go back (not that I expect that to be true EVERY day, but it seems to be a very positive sign that it’s true already this first week); and he’s impatient to get his library card next week so he can start bringing books home.

Plus, the whole family has done an excellent job this week of adapting to this major change to our schedule — the boys are getting up happily in the morning, early but not TOO early; Liam has adjusted relatively well to having only a brief nap each afternoon; and the boys are going to bed relatively quickly and easily at a slightly earlier hour in the evening.  Dan and I even managed to get everyone fed at a reasonable hour AND do baths every night but one this week.  That’s pretty awesome.

But, of course, next week, everything is going to change again.  Next Monday, Liam goes back to school, and we get to start over again with a whole new “first week”.  That means twice as many drop offs and pick ups, twice as many schedules to manage, and it will mean getting up another half an hour earlier every day (for all of us) which will hopefully mean getting to bed another half an hour earlier every day.  I’m a little intimidated by the change in the schedule (I’ve already gotten used to this one!) and by just how much there will be to manage starting on Monday.  But that pretty much just seems to be life with kids!

That’s ok, though — we’ll get it done.  This time last week, I was dreading the thought of B starting school, and it’s been even better than I’d hoped.  Next week will mean a lot of new stuff around here again, but I’m hopeful that it’ll be another week of positive changes.


Other than the few weeks that we spent taking turns being sick around here, I’ve really loved the way we’ve spent our summer.  (And, even though I didn’t love being sick, I suppose the summer isn’t a particularly unpleasant time to be sick.)  Lately, I wake up in the mornings, at a leisurely hour of about 7:00, and I’m full of enthusiasm to start our day.

018Mostly, our days start with a relatively slow morning of breakfast and playing.  I might build some paper airplanes, wash a little laundry, or help to track down a missing toy.  Then, we go out for a walk, and usually end up at the playground for an hour or so.  As the weeks have gone on, the playground has become more and more shaded.  We’ve had more frequent rainy days, and the temperature has started to drop.  The ground has become gradually covered with a layer of leaves.  Yesterday, we spotted a mouse running across the playground, and we discovered him primarily because we heard him scurry across the fallen leaves.

034Most days, we don’t worry too much if the laundry all gets folded, if baths get done each day, or if we manage to get to bed at a “normal” hour every night.  We’ve let go of a lot of our schedule, relaxed a lot, and enjoyed the summer.  I’ve been having a great time.

Our summer started at the beginning of July with 2 weeks of vacation, and we followed that with about 2 weeks of being sick.  Then, it took me a few weeks to settle into this routine, so I feel like I’m just now getting the hang of this summer.  And it’s about to be over — school starts for Liam in 10 days, and for B in 11.  I can’t believe it went so fast.

Sick days

The first two weeks of this school year were spent mostly acclimating Liam to school.  The week after that, I spent the first few days adjusting to the new schedule and sorting out exactly what I was going to do with my time.  And then, the Thursday of that third week, just as I was starting to enthusiastically embrace my “free” time, we started with the inevitable sick days that come along with a child starting school for the first time.

It’s just not possible for a child to start school without coming into contact with all manner of unfamiliar germs and illnesses that they have missed up until that point.  And what they get, they bring home to share with the family.  So we all get sick.  I’d been hoping we might miss out on a illness-filled September with Liam starting school — since B brought home so much sickness when he first started, I was hoping that maybe we’d already be immune to everything this time around.  (It doesn’t look like it works that way, though.)

It started with me.  That Thursday evening, I was miserable, and I went to bed at 9:15.  I was asleep before the kids were.  (I have no idea when, if ever, that has happened before.)  My plan was to sleep as long as I could, get up in the morning, take the kids to school, and then come home and go back to bed.  I was just sick with a bad cold, so I figured a massive dose of sleep would help.

It didn’t work out that way, though.  Instead of a long night’s rest, I was up with B at midnight.  He was crying from pain in his ear.  Liam was coughing.  We were sick, and no one was getting much rest.

The next morning, Dan (the only one who was still well) stayed home to take care of all of us.  He took the boys to the doctor while I went back to bed.  The kids were (surprisingly) given the all-clear.  Dan brought the boys home from the doctor and I was all set to take over for the afternoon . . . but I just couldn’t.  I was sick and exhausted — so it was back to bed for me and an afternoon off of work for Dan.

This began a week-long adventure of sick days — miserable days and sleepless nights, 104.8 degree fevers and trips to the pediatrician, days missed from school and a birthday for Liam with as much illness as merriment.  We’re just now starting to get back to our new “normal”.  It feels like we nearly have to start over in terms of sorting out our routine.  But, now that the boys are improving, I’m actually able to rest and recuperate a bit in the mornings, so hopefully we’ll all be on the mend, and we’ll be able to continue adjusting to our new schedule.

Back to life as usual

After almost 6 months of having Jo here as our chef/au pair, she went back to the US over the weekend and we’re back to life as usual around here. And although we know that we used to make that work, we’re currently having trouble figuring out exactly how.

20130402-152529.jpgWe’ve basically forgotten how the juggling act goes. We can’t remember what worked best for us “before” — way back in October, before we had an extra set of hands. Does it make more sense to shower in the morning or the evening? What time do we have to get up such that we all get showered, fed, get Bailey walked, get Dan to work on time and B to school? Which days should I do dinner, and which days should Dan? What can we make in less than an hour? What’s the most efficient, nutritious and enticing thing I can make for lunch, given that I have to make it entirely with help and supervision from Liam? Should I stop to get groceries while I’m out already from taking B to school or will Liam do better if we come home and take a break first? How do I manage to get a cup of coffee in me before 11:45 in the morning (which is what happened today and will not happen again)?

And, of course, the situation is complicated by the fact that the kids have changed since the fall. Liam used to ride happily in the stroller, but now he wants to be done with it, even though I need him not to be. So now, does the stroller help or hinder? Liam used to fall asleep in the stroller when I went to pick up B, where now he tends to sleep late in the mornings. Should I take B to school and have Dan pick him up, or does it work better the other way around?

20130402-152541.jpgWe’ve thought about it. We’ve talked and strategized. But there’s no way to figure it out, really, except to try something and see if it works. This morning, Liam and I took B to school. We skipped the stroller because the kids requested to go without. I started getting us ready about 20 minutes later than I should have, but all in all, things went remarkably well. The boys were excellently behaved and we got B to school almost on time. In fact, things went perfectly fine until I stopped at the ATM on the way home and realized, a moment too late, that I didn’t have enough hands to manage it. (Luckily, when I had to lurch away from the ATM to keep from strangling Liam by the hood on his jacket when he leapt/flopped onto the ground, no passersby took either my card or my cash.)

We’ll get there. We’ll sort it out. We’ve done it before. But change is always hard, and there’s always an adjustment period. So far, so good. We got B to school, we got him home, and everyone had lunch. We have a plan for dinner (we’ll see how that goes). And tomorrow, we’ll get up, make some adjustments, and try again. One day at a time, we’ll get it figured out. We’ve done it before, so I know that we can.

New schedule

With Benjamin starting preschool next week, we need to reorganize our morning schedule.  In order to get him there on time, we will have to leave the house half an hour before Dan’s supposed to be leaving now (and more often than not, we don’t make our current schedule, either).  So, we need to start getting up at 5:30 in the morning.  Ouch.

010 (1)We decided to “practice” our morning schedule this week so that if we are totally off on how long everything will take, it won’t result in us being an hour late to school on Monday morning.  Yesterday was our first practice day.  It was a complete failure.  We tried agian today.  Fail again.  For our practice days, we had decided that Dan & I would go through the motions of our usual routine, but that we wouldn’t actually get the kids up early if they weren’t up anyway (because there’s no reason to torture them, which would in turn torture us).

The result is, of course, that the kids didn’t get the memo about getting up early, and since we’ve decided not to wake them, it’s just about impossible to “practice” our morning routine with just Dan & I.  Actually, just me:  both yesterday and today, Dan has ended up dozing off while holding a sleeping Liam who doesn’t want to go back to bed, but isn’t really ready to get up, either.  The whole “practicing” thing was a nice idea, but it isn’t working.  We still have the weekend.  I don’t know what’s the best course of action:  to force the entire family to get up earlier than necessary in order to prove a concept, or let it go and risk being profoundly late to Benjamin’s first day of school on Monday.

I think we’re going to skip the practice and keep our fingers crossed for Monday.