How I Get It All Done (or Don't)

Today a friend texted me asking for advice.  Her text is as follows:

"I was wondering if you would share your schedule with me how you juggle kids' schedules, house stuff, work, piano lessons, etc... trying to get ideas of how to do this and you seem to have it altogether."

Wow.  I definitely love to think I have it altogether and I definitely don't.  I always like to present myself as being 'with it.' I like my house clean, my students well-behaved, my children well-behaved, my body in shape, my mind keen and sharp from learning and knowledge and so on.  But I know that I am far from perfect.

I don't have a particular schedule or a routine of when I do certain tasks for most items.  As I've written more down below, I've realized that we are incredibly scheduled and routine based. I do have things that I do that help us stay organized and help me juggle my roles of:
- teaching elementary music full-time
- piano studio of 19 students
- studying for a music history/theory exam for SMU Graduate school and soon to be attending there in the fall
- Riley's gymnastics competition schedule and Level Two schedule at gymnastics
- Julia's daycare drop-off, pick-up, events, and everyday things needed while she's there
- housework: laundry, dusting, cleaning, vacuuming, cooking, laundry, laundry, laundry
- mom
- wife

I asked Jeremy for help in exactly what it is that I do to juggle life.  His response:  "You work all the time.  You never stop.  You naturally break down big things into bite-size chunks.  You have a gift of being able to say what is the smallest part of a big task and then being able to put it into a series of tasks that allows you to get it done."

So dear friend, here are some things I do (WE do - Jeremy and I) that help us juggle life:

1.  One load of laundry every day.
I have tried to save all the laundry for weekends, but then found myself doing 8-10 loads all day on Saturday.  Then putting them all away on Sunday.  Or it would stay in laundry bins for another week while we fished out items that we needed throughout the week.  Didn't work well.

So now I do a load of laundry every night and put it in the dryer.  (Except on Fridays and Saturdays when I do two loads)When morning comes, I fold the laundry and place it in the laundry basket at the base of the stairs.  After we get home, I take it upstairs and put it away at some point that night.

To make it easy to put away, I place items for each person in their own pile.  This way I can pick up Julia's pile and put all of her items away in her room.  Towels always go on the bottom as they are the easiest to put away.

Another thing that makes it easy to put away is that every drawer is designated to certain clothes in each person's room.  For example, Riley has a drawer specific for leotards; one drawer for pjs; one for leggings. And other drawers for shirts, panties, socks and sweaters. Clothes are hung in the closet by color for shirts; there is also a section for dresses, skirts and pants.  They are all organized by color as well.

2.  Prep for tomorrow today.
All school clothes, breakfast food and school materials are set out the night before.  We go through school bags, sign papers, put together lunches (even for Jeremy and myself), fill water bottles, set out daycare bedding/pillows/blankets, and any projects that are going to be taken to school.  We set them all by the back door next to the garage.

All clothes are picked out the night before.  Julia wears a uniform every day, but we still set out her outfit the night before.  I even set out my clothes as well.  Jeremy doesn't usually but he wears a standard outfit and the most variation is what striped button-down shirt he'll be wearing.

In the morning, we bring the girls' clothes downstairs and warm them in the dryer for a few minutes as they like them warm in the winter.  For spring and fall, we don't warm them up.  The girls have a routine every morning:
- Potty
- Dress
- Shoes
- Grab their breakfast bowl
- Get in car

Breakfast is usually set out immediately after dinner while the girls go upstairs to put on their clothes.  I then go upstairs to help them plan what to wear (do you have gym tomorrow? Then tennis shoes.  Is it hot? Then no long sleeves.  That kind of thing.)

I play worship music in the morning (and afternoon too) as we drive to school.  Lately it's been Kari Jobe's new album "Majestic."  The girls and I sing on the way to Julia's school and look for certain landmarks to talk about while we go - are there fire trucks?  have they added new walls to the new school?  how many birds do you see?

3.  Little to No TV
We have Netflix and have used it the last 2-3 years.  Love it.  We don't have cable and the girls don't spend hours on their iPads except on Saturdays when we are more lax with it.  They get one show every night.  Usually they choose "Olivia."  But we've watched Babar, Barney (kill me now - sorry if you enjoy it, but we don't), Dora, Caillou (he's banned from our house for how sassy he gets with his parents) and so on.

Jeremy and I rarely watch tv.  We used to watch a few shows, but that's dwindled to none.  Haven't watched a tv show in months - probably back in August of last year was the last time we saw one of our shows.  Though we did start watching the movie "Gravity" and have seen an hour or so in two sessions (or whatever you'd call it... screenings?).  Has been a week now and we still haven't finished it.

4.  Maximizing my time while the girls watch TV
When the girls watch their show at night, there are no commercials and the episodes are generally about 22 minutes long.  Lately I use that time to sit next to them and read a chapter of my Music Textbook for my big test in August.  There are 36 large chapters, tons of information and I know I need to start early on it so I'm reading 2-4 chapters a week.  I started about three weeks ago and I'm on chapter 9.

I still get to sit next to them and will watch occasional parts, but mainly focus on the reading.  Once I'm done reading, I go to the laptop and take a chapter quiz over what I read to make sure I understood the main facts and information.  At this point, their show is usually done.

5.  Spending time with the girls
Each night Jeremy takes a girl and I take a girl.  We switch every night so that the girls get one of us each night.  When it is time to be with them, I'm completely with them.  We read books, do a devotional and talk about Jesus and what we believe.  We pray together every night and lay down with them until they are asleep.  I find that this time is valuable in building our relationship.

6.  Piano students
I have piano students on Tuesdays from 4:00 - 7:30pm, Thursdays from 4:00 - 6:30pm and Saturdays from 8:30am - 11:30am.  Total of 19 students.

To juggle it, I make sure that everything is set out in the morning before I leave - my chair, sharpened pencils, crayons, flashcards.  Riley has gymnastics from 3:30 - 6:30 on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  Julia can stay at daycare until 6:30pm.  Jeremy picks her up around 6pm, gets Sonic for the girls and then picks up Riley at gymnastics.  They get home and eat dinner while I teach my last lesson on Tuesdays.  I grab dinner after the last lesson and then do showers for the girls after I eat.  Tuesdays and Thursdays are late nights.

On Saturdays, Jeremy hangs out with the girls upstairs in our room or the playroom.  Once piano students are done, I take the girls for the afternoon so he can go to work.  He has a big project so every Saturday he's been needing to go into work.

We work the times for piano students around the gymnastics schedule so that the girls are not home when I'm teaching.  Better for everyone involved!

7.  Use my planning time wisely
I realize that not every teacher can get work done on their planning time.  I'm fortunate that I can.  My planning time is actually for planning 95% of the time.  And it matters.  I focus on a month at a time to get together project ideas for grade levels, performance preparations about 6 weeks ahead of the actual performance date and breaking down Orff lessons into several class periods so I know when to start/how to start/where I am wanting to take them (or where they will take me!).

Before I leave for the day, everything is where it needs to be in my room.  I don't set up in the mornings before school as I have morning duty.  My planning is first thing in the morning, but I don't want to be setting up during planning time; I want to be planning.  And planning for the next few days or next week, but not today if I can help it.

If I'm using instruments first thing in the morning, I move the instruments where I want them so that when I walk in the room, they are all ready to be played.

All of my Smartboard lessons are in specific files such as "April 2014 Lessons."  This way I don't have to fish around for the files.  Everything I need is right there.  As we add new songs or materials that I need, I put them in there so I can open that file every morning and it's all there.

Another thing I do is email myself. A lot.  I email website links for lesson plans and ideas or pinterest ideas to watch and do.  I link them at home as I'm seeing them and then reread them in the morning.

I set aside Friday afternoons to work late.  I usually stay at school until 5:30 - 6:00pm.  Again, lots of teachers stay this late many nights.  With my Orff group or Choir every Monday after school, piano lessons on Tues/Thurs and teacher meetings on Wed., it only leaves Friday for me to work.  The best part is that the week is complete, I know what we've accomplished that week and I can wrap my brain around everything I need to do the following week to see it all get prepared and done.

Riley has told me a few times that it's such special time together because she takes paper, scissors, and anything else we have on hand to make creations while I get work done.  We'll turn on music and she'll dance or we'll sing.  I try to keep it positive and to get as much ready for the following week as I can.

I also make copies one day a week of everything I need for the following week.  I don't make tons of copies, but when I need them, I need an entire grade level worth.  I will spend a good 30-40 minutes just prepping for that.

8.  Sub Plans
I have a huge sub tub ready in case I'm out.  Has alleviated tons of pressure and worry about not having it ready when my kids get sick.  It's highly organized with a binder, tabs, sub plans and details.  Will show you sometime!  It has been a life-saver since making it this year.  Anytime I've had a sub (like I did this past week when Riley was sick), the first thing I do when I return back to work is to check over what was used and replace it with new items (worksheet copies of things we are now doing/song pages/etc.).  That way it's always ready and I don't have to think about it when I am not able to come in.

9.  Vacuuming and Dusting
I hate dusting.  It honestly doesn't get done as much as it should.  I try to work it in when I have just a few minutes left before something else.  Quite random about that one.  I vacuum once a week because Saturday morning at 7:30am is the best time to wake everyone else up (except Julia who wakes up at 6am every day!).  So I vacuum every Saturday as it gets us all going and cleans the floors.

10.  Pray
I spend time with God and ask Him for wisdom and peace.  I know I can't do anything without Him and that I need Him more than anything.

11. Rely on Jeremy and work as a team
We do a lot of passing the baton here.  I'll take Julia to school; He'll pick her up; I'll do the shower; He'll dry her hair with a towel; I'll get her dressed; He'll make the eggos; He'll brush her teeth; I'll read her the books and put her down.

I rely on Jeremy and he relies on me.  We don't often spend much time talking to each other unless we plan date nights (which we do).  Otherwise we just do the best we can on weeknights to find time together.  For example, tonight Riley is at my parents house and Julia didn't take a nap so it's 9:06 and I'm finally downstairs after putting her to bed.  He's reading a book and I'm typing, but we're hanging out together and just laughing and talking while we do it.

12.  Gymnastics and Dance
Julia takes dance and a gym class during the day at her daycare.  She brings her dance things to school and has class every Tuesday.  We're fortunate that we don't have to take her anywhere after school, but she still gets to do an extra activity.  The gym class is for fun on Fridays called Stretch-n-Grow.  She loves it.

Riley's gymnastics is on Tues/Thurs/Sat so I just schedule piano students during those days as she is gone and Julia is at daycare.  Jeremy picks them both us.

I don't drive Riley to gymnastics on Tues/Thurs because the gymnastics facility sends a van around to the schools to pick up the team kids.  We pay for her to be picked up and it gives me some time after school to get prepped and ready for the next day.

13.  Working Out
On Monday, Wednesday and Friday, I workout as soon as I pick up the girls from school.  They have their afternoon snack and wind-down play time for 30 minutes while I workout.  I take a shower every night after I workout; then head downstairs to start dinner, laundry and start Riley on her homework while Julia colors or plays with playdoh or does her own version of homework.  On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I either workout late at night after lessons or don't workout.  This past month had some cancellations so I was able to workout before Jeremy and the girls got home.  On weekends, I workout in the mornings after piano lessons or church and before lunch.  It seems that this helps everyone else out as they are usually on iPads or playing in the mornings.  Gives us the afternoons for family time.

14.  Shower at Night
I take showers at night.  My hair is then dry and I can simply style and flat-iron it in the morning with my Chi.  Sometimes I wake up hot in the morning and will step in the shower but not wash my hair.  But it's so nice to have my hair dry in the morning so I can just style and not have to wash and dry and style it.  Saves time!

15.  Ask for Help
I often ask my really amazing friend for help and advice.  She is the counselor at our school and has a wealth of knowledge.  She's out of my situation and can see it from a different viewpoint.  There are so many times that she has impacted our lives positively and helped our family to work through hard situations.   Everything from how to figure out why Julia is screaming about socks every morning to helping Riley to be kind but not be a rescuer and how to make time for each other.

I also have the blessing of having my parents close by and they are a total God-send that live 10 minutes away.  That's not to be discounted either.


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