This week, thankfully, has started much better than the previous few. The kids are (mostly) getting along, Matthew has finally (after two stormy weeks) transitioned to being back in school after our week off a few weeks ago, and the kids and I are adapting to a few new routines in our lives.
In the process of adding more structure to our days this fall, I decided a couple of months ago that the kids and I both needed to be in somewhat different routines. For the past two months or so, one such altered routine has been that the kids (ie. Seth and Lizzie) are required to stay in their beds until 7:00am. They are allowed to look at books when they wake up, or to listen (with headphones) to music or books on CD, but they must stay in bed. That took a little getting used to, because S&L tend to wake up between 6 and 6:30am (or earlier), but it was just too early for me. With Matthew taking a long time to fall asleep at night and the little kids getting up so early, I was burning the candle at both ends a little too often. This is now working quite well.
We have been changing a couple of of things for Matthew, too. First, we have been getting him to bed a little earlier (8-8:30pm instead of 9:00pm). The idea is that he can still listen to his audio books until 9:00 or shortly after, but then the CDs/ipod get turned off, a bit earlier than in the 'good old days.' He doesn't like this change, as his tendency is still to stay awake (bored) for quite a while, but I am happy to give him an occasional (3x/week) low dose of melatonin if it appears that he will have a hard time falling asleep. He is such a night owl. I am also happy to lie down with him for a while if it means that he can relax his body a little more easily.
Second, because Matthew is getting to sleep a little bit earlier, he is ok with Seth waking him up soon after 7:00am. Then they both like lying in their beds listening to their audio books for a bit.
These combinations of changes have allowed me to make a couple of changes in my own routine. First, I am getting to bed a little earlier myself, because Matthew is falling asleep a little sooner; I don't always sleep right away (though sometimes I do) but it's been a great opportunity to relax a little - I either write something for my blog, or read a book, or watch a netflix movie/series. Second, I am getting up between 6:15 and 6:30 every morning so that I can enjoy 30-45 minutes to myself before the kids are out of their rooms. During that time, I read for a few minutes, then shower, get dressed, make my bed, and spend 5-10 minutes tidying a corner of the house that needs it. I have really come to value this little bit of time. (My hope is that I can back my wake-up time a little more in the future so that I can get onto the treadmill for a half hour or so.) Also, it's been rather amazing how much tidying I can get done in a mere 5-10 minutes. I reserve these short windows of time for the piles that have accumulated over time rather than for the regular tidying/cleaning that needs doing. In the past several weeks, I have cleaned through several piles of paper/crap in Geoff's/my bedroom, cleaned out three give-away garbage bags of old clothing from my closet, gone through an embarrassing number of paperwork piles from my dining room, and integrated two large boxes of books into our small library while cleaning out more than that number of books from those same shelves. I have made two trips to Goodwill and have a trunk full of more bags and boxes that will be delivered there tomorrow. I also have several bags of kids' clothing sorted and ready to give away to friends or friends of friends who could use them. It feels quite good to be just a little more organized/less chaotic. I have a long ways to go, but already the difference is visible to me and demonstrates just how much can be done in small amounts of time...those small amounts of time add up quite a lot when I'm focused on the task at hand and have no little bodies around me trying to 'help.'
The other thing that has changed in the past six weeks is the kids' post breakfast routines. They now have a list of things to do. Nothing major, but it's the same every day: make beds; tidy rooms; get dressed; hang up any clothes on the hook and throw any dirty clothes into the laundry; hang up PJs; brush teeth; wash face; tidy the bathroom counter and sink; use the toilet. The same thing every day. Today, for the very first time in six weeks, Matthew didn't do battle about having to complete this list. Until today, every.single. day has been a fight: An on-the-floor, wailing-about-the-injustices-of-life, fight. It has been brutal and I have frankly dreaded mornings for the past number of weeks. Matthew's typically great at helping out with various tasks during the day, but there's something about being required to do routine tasks that is very very hard for him. I don't know what changed today, or if he's finally used to the routine, or if it was just an anomaly, but this morning was peaceful and very welcome!
During the fifteen or so minutes that the kids take to complete their lists upstairs (after Matthew has resisted for an hour+), I complete any h/school prep for the day. I have our broader agenda already planned (as I posted a few weeks ago), and I have materials prepared for all three kids to do. But still, it seems like every morning I need a few minutes: to remind myself about the Bible study I've prepared for the kids; to make a few photocopies for the younger kids' ABC work; to take a last minute look at the curriculum work I want to do with Matthew that day; to set out the book I'm going to read to the kids later. Whatever it is, those fifteen minutes are great.
And so it seems that we are moving (slowly, painfully, not without some regret) into a new season of life - one marked by more structure, a little less spontaneity (though, knowing me, I won't - thankfully - be able to squelch this altogether!) and hopefully a little more smooth sailing. We're finding a groove, people. We're finding our groove.