Winning the race, getting a better system in place

If you've ever watched the TV show, Survivor, then you've seen the immunity challenges every week. Well, an immunity challenge is the best way to describe what it's like for us to get out the door to daycare and work on time every day!

If you don't know what I'm talking about, the contestants run an obstacle course and race to stay in the game. They do things like climb walls, run through mud, claw their way through a mob of people and have to break clay targets with bean bags. Needless to say it's a crazy run through chaos to "live" another day on the island.

In the last 15 minutes of our time before departure for work, this is what it feels like at our house!

I'm sure all of you parents know exactly what I'm talking about. Whether you're racing to get out the door before school and work in the morning, or if you're a second shift crew like us, leaving on time with two little kids is an exhausting adventure in multi-tasking and mini-crisis management!

We are always one emergency bath, one meltdown, one spit up or one lost mitten away from being late!

I've tried getting out of the house earlier. It takes weeks of progress on the Kanyon lunch front to even shave a couple of minutes off the meal. You see, he naps until 1:05 p.m. and then the race is on. Those naps are set in his biological make up at this point so we're locked into that schedule. He's had the same nap schedule his whole life!

When Kanyon was first going to daycare we had the same panicky rush out the door for about 9 months, until we found our groove. Then we added Miss Kaydence to the mix this fall and here we are again, times two! I do all I can to be organized, but I found myself scrambling every day to make sure we all got in the van at 1:45. Needless to say, it's often 1:47. Who knew 2 minutes could really maket that big of a difference? They do. Our day starts promptly at 2 in the newsroom.

I started to notice it was really taking a toll on our attitudes as parents, Kanyon could pick up on it and we barely had time to say goodbye at daycare. It just wasn't working! We'd get in the car annoyed and flustered every day and that's just not good for anyone.

I realize there's a learning curve with each new child and now it's double the effort to get everyone into the van with a smile on their face, food in their belly and clean clothes on. That includes mom and dad! We found ourselves having only 15 minutes to shower and be ready for a job that requires us to look professional and for me to have presentable hair and makeup. 15 minutes was not cuttin' it! So, it was time for a change.

Last month, I was interviewed for the magazine "5ive for Women" on being organized as a working mom. I had to laugh. I feel so unorganized! My mom just looked at me when I said that and told me to give myself some credit. She said you manage so much every day and you ARE organized. I guess I'm confusing clutter and controlled chaos as being unorganized. When you boil it down, I am organized, but overwhelmed. We have the basic systems in place, but needed more help.

Cue the "couples summit".

What?

I call any "family meeting" a summit. It just sounds cooler. We needed to get on the same page and fast so we could improve our daily "immunity challenges" on the island known as the Herzog household.

It's just us (kids at grandmas so we could talk and focus), some paper and our grievances.

Chris and I sat down and talked out what wasn't working and what we each need in order to stay sane. We have the same goal: get through the day as happy, patient parents who are kind to each other and who can take time to really enjoy our kids instead of scramble around stressed out.

We made a list of what each of us needs/wants as an individual, what we want as parents and what we want as a couple.

It was totally theraputic and we both felt lighter and more optimistic afterwards. We decided we needed a checklist on the fridge of all the little things that need to be done to get out the door. Now we can clearly see if the cats have been taken care of, the kids read to, Kaydie's bottles assembled, Kanyon's jammies in his bag and so on...

These were the little things that would stress us out and make us late. One of us would constantly be shouting "did you get his mittens?" "Does she have her bottles packed?" Now we can clearly see if we've gotten all of that done when the white board list is checked off. It may sound small and obvious, but it has really worked wonders.

We also came up with a better lunch plan. If you're the cook in your household you know it's a big chore to keep the menu interesting and to get that food on the table every day. Add in a nursing baby and busy toddler and subtract sleep, and you've got a cook who's just happy if a ham sandwich gets made.

The lunch situation has also improved greatly after some reflection. Now Chris cooks on Wednesdays and I write out the menu a week in advance. A novel idea, right? Well, before kids we could casually come up with meal ideas at any time during the morning. Now it's a big part of the mad dash. I never planned a menu like that before. I'm happy to report our grocery shopping is less stressful now that we know what's being cooked a week in advance and there's no 10 minute debate on what sounds good for lunch! We agreed to just make the decision ahead of time and go with it. WHEW! I have been so much more motivated to cook! P.S. Thank you Pinterest. I could have never done it without you!

And then there was the issue of sleep. Did you and your spouse/co-parent ever argue about who woke up earlier, who stayed up with the sick baby, etc. It was becoming a daily source of bickering. Chris and I don't fight generally, so bickering and being bitter about sleep really started to erode our happiness.

Yay couple's summit! Another victory!
We decided to alternate days when it comes to who wakes up early.

Granted, I'm nursing Kaydence at 6:30 and sometimes 4:30 a.m. so I'm up, but if it's Chris' day, I get to go back to bed for a little bit when Kanyon wakes up at 6:30 a.m. You see, our children sleep through the night, it's just not "our night". As people who work until 11 p.m., we don't get to sleep before 1:30 a.m. a lot of nights, so that rooster crowing for our 2-year-old at 6:30 a.m. is not ideal. Momma was getting less sleep and that equalled more crabby.

I have been so much happier since we just made the alternating wake ups plan and we go as far as to write it down on the calendar. Even if I can get 5 hours total, I'm better off. Our job requires us to be on our game at 10 p.m., so I'm happy to say that while it's not fool proof, it has helped us both.

I think those are the biggest headlines from the couple's summit in terms of organization. We also made some 5 year plans, a plan for a 10th anniversary trip and for our financial future. We also put down some of our wishes for hobbies and free time needs. All of this helped us better understand what we need to be happier and more understanding spouses and parents.

I hope if you're in search of something to make your day less stressful, you consider some sort of "summit" for your life. Maybe you already do it. Call it whatever you want, it's so refreshing to get those stressers off your chest and to work together to figure out a solution. We consider ourselves to be great communicators as a married couple, but life gets so busy with the babies, you can sometimes even forget to stop and say good morning to your husband/wife.

I think we'll have a couple's summit a couple of times a year. I feel more equipped to get through the hectic morning. We are so in love with our kids and we are immensely blessed, but the daily stresses were making us complainers and that was so ridiculous. I feel like it was dishonoring our wonderful family to be crabby about the hustle and bustle. We had to stop and press the reset button.

Now we don't bicker and we are happier as we go about the daily routines. I think we both are able to stop and smell the roses more with the kids as well. They are amazing and I don't want to waste any time on being stressed when we could be cuddling and playing.

Are we always out the door on time? Nope. Does our kitchen counter look like a tornado came through most days? Yep. Is Kanyon's lunch plate/crumb mess still on the table? You betcha. Is the cat laying on the basket of wrinkled, yet freshly washed sheets? Oh yeah.

Chris calls our house a "working farm" and that's a good way to think about it. I don't want to leave the impression we've got it all figured out. In fact, my mother-in-law suggested a cleaning lady. Ha! She means well. She must have forgotten that I'm the type of person who would probably have to clean before the cleaning lady got there so they wouldn't judge me! That sounds even more stressful. I'm at peace with the dust and clutter as much as I can be right now. If you read this blog regularly, you know I struggle with letting go of having a neat and tidy house.

Anyhoo...

Back to my point. It's still a mad dash to get out the door, but we're learning as we go. It will take us a few months to get our workflow down but with the help of an awesome and supportive husband, several white boards and dry erase markers, we're here and we're happier!

Have you experienced something similar? How do you manage all the stuff that comes along with having a busy household? Advice is always appreciated!

Kiddo/baby update:
Kaydence is our sweet, shining star. She always gives the biggest grins and loves to bounce around to music and jump in her bouncy chair. She cut two bottom teeth and is just starting solids. How is she 6 months old already? I'm completely in love with her and ask her quietly when we have moments alone if we can always be close... even when she's a teenager.

Kanyon is rocking the learning curve. Our little dude is counting to 15 with the help of Miss Carole at daycare and is on the way out of diaper land hopefully soon. He can carry on full conversations all day and that is so fun. My favorite thing to see is how nurturing he is with his Mickey Mouse stuffed animal. He mimicks how Chris and I take care of Kaydie and it's adorable to watch. He isn't as nurturing with Kaydie, rather takes on the bossy big brother role instead. He will hand her a kleenex or pacifier now and again, but he'd rather tell her to be quiet or stop coughing. She, however, thinks he's the cat's meow.

2013 has been full of wonder... I can't wait to see what the rest of the year holds! I'll try and update this blog more... but you'll understand if it takes me a while, right?

Sending smiles and gratitude to you for keeping up with us and our crazy life!



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