Plate Spinning 101
Ever feel like you’ve got a thousand plates spinning all at once and can’t seem to keep up? I think its a daily feeling for me, with the big question being “How do I keep all my plates in the air and in what order do I spin them?” In other words, how do we keep our heads above water in a world that seems to be crashing in around us? (Mind you this isn’t some fool-proof master plan, its just how keep those little men in little white coats from coming to take me away.)
First job, list your plates: Here are mine, in order…God, husband, Strawberry Shortcake, Turbo, Tinker Bell, the Teeny Tot, homeschool, school planning, family time, 2 dogs, 1 cat, cooking, cleaning, laundry, kids activities, me time (yeah right…)
Second job, Prioritize! So, here goes…
1. God: “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matthew 6:33
At times like this its important to keep things in perspective. If everything else gets pushed aside today, will it really matter? So what if the laundry sits for the day? So what if I order in Pizza instead of making dinner? So what if we take a day off school? Really, in order to keep all the plates of life spinning, we have to make priorities. The first one must be time with God, and the priority of God will naturally pass down to your children as they see you spending regular time with God. In regards to homeschool, if we don’t get anything else done, I at least try to make it a priority that we do our Bible time. Now, I’m preaching to myself here, because for me this is the easiest to let slide, and I can easily for get about it until I go to bed, then instantly I realize that I forgot to do my devotion. I’ve made a deal with myself that if this happens, I will get up, turn on the light and do it, right then and there. Better late then never I say. I also use this motto to justify starting school late ;o). A great resource for being in the word daily is the Daily Audio Bible, and they have a Kids Daily Audio Bible too!
2. Husband: This is important parents, husbands/wives must come before kids. And I think its important for kids to see that your husband/wife has priority. Your spouse will be there long after the kids are gone, and while there is a definite season when kids seem to prevail in order due to sheer necessity, its still important to recognize that your spouse should be your priority. Marriage was the first institution created by God “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” Genesis 2:24 Therefore, if God placed that importance on marriage, than so shall we! When my husband comes home, he tries to greet me first, then the kids. After that the kids are sent to the other room to play for a few minutes so we can have some time to discuss whatever is needed without yelling over all the loudness that comes with having 4. (Well, except for the Teeny Tiny Tot, nothing can keep her from her daddy when he first walks in. Did I mention my motto: blessed are the flexible?)
3. Children: These little guys are nothing more than treasures in heaven! It is our job to “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” Prov 22:6 God has given us the greatest gift ever, and it blows my mind that He’s entrusted us to raise one of his precious children, not to mention 4 of them! Sometimes I just scratch my head and wonder what God was doing when He made this choice, but then I’m reminded that He knows what He’s doing regardless of whether or not I do! And Praise God for that! I try to make an effort to spend a little bit of time each day 1-on-1 with each child. It can be as simple as sticking my 3yr old on the counter to keep me company while I make dinner, to reading with my 6yr old at night. Whatever it is, take a couple minutes each day to personally tell your children that you love spending time with them!
4. Homeschool: We truly believe we are called to homeschool our children, and you can read more about it here. But I will say this, giving priority to homeschool has GREATLY impacted the quality and flow of our days this year. Previously, I was in denial, telling myself if it didn’t go well, we’d just put our daughter in public school. Finally I came to accept our choice and really made getting school done a priority. We do it first in our day, we are flexible, but mostly we do school before anything else. That includes phone calls, emails, blogging, errand running, etc. We made a Daily Schedule and try to stick to it. I don’t want to be so rigid as to quench the Holy Spirit moving in our day, so that said, I try to be flexible, praying for the Lord to order our steps for the day before I get out of bed. Getting school done early, also provides for fun free time in the afternoons, and also relieves the sense of unfinished school work “looming” over us all day long.
5. Homeschool Planning: As stated in #4, I made homeschool a priority this year. Along with that came some planning. I’d previously put this off just out of the sheer overwhelming feeling from organizing it all. But I set aside some time each week for planning time. This has proved to be invaluable in making our days run smoother as well as feeling like we are actually accomplishing something. I think having a plan and not sticking to it, is far superior to having no plan to start with! But that’s just me and how I roll.
So that’s 5 plates to be running back and forth between so far…(Really 8 if you divide up the kids, which sometimes happens) Now, I frankly feel this is enough to keep one busy enough, but I’ll still address the others I listed, just because they’re a part of our lives, and because, sadly, I can’t really stop doing cooking, cleaning or laundry!
6. 2 Dogs and a Cat: This one was easy…delegate! I have 4 kids, surely they can manage to feed the animals! Presto, one less plate for mom! Go Me! It also provided a stepping block to our new chore chart. We reward the kids with a quarter for each chore they choose to complete. No one is required to work here since they’re still young, but they can earn money for things if they so choose. Here’s a copy of our chore chart. They learn to earn, save, and work as a team to help out mom and dad. And the less chores mom has to do alone, the more time she has to play with the kiddos, this is a good motivator, because after all, most kids just want your time.
7. Cooking: This may not be an option for you, but my mom helps me out quite a bit here. She’s always looking for fun recipes that are easy to make, and she even comes up once a week to help me and cooks freezer meals. I have a friend who spends one day a month cooking freezer meals, and then doesn’t cook the rest of the month! I haven’t been able to accomplish this just yet, but if you have a friend it’d be a fun Mom’s Day! I also have some great websites to help you out:
- My Monthly Meal Planning
- Weekly Menu and grocery list!
- The weekly menu (cook once eat all week!)
- Menus 4 Moms
- Once A Month Cooking
- Mom’s Budget Freezer Meals
- Crockpot Recipes
- Crockpot Recipes
8. Family Time: In today’s society, this has to be a priority! Since my husband is away from home working all day, we do our best to make sure we eat dinner each night as a family. We also have a bedtime routine which we try to follow. I stress “try” because it doesn’t always go down like this, but like I say “Better to have a plan and not follow it, than to not have a plan at all!” Our goal is for both my husband and I to do bedtime together. We give baths, brush teeth, cuddle with the kids, etc. Then we all gather as a family on our bed and read a family devotion, pray, then off to bed for the munchkins. I think its all too easy to forgo family time and let everyone do their own activities without realizing the long term effects this can have on your relationships. Dinner time is also a great way to gather the whole family!
9. Cleaning: I happen to be a neat freak, and I can’t handle clutter. This proves to be a challenge with the whole homeschooling thing, however, it also makes to keep our house somewhat orderly. We do a fun thing called “Ten Minute Tidy”, this is where we run around like mad putting away anything found on the floor before Daddy gets home. We set a timer and its like a race! Now before you start thinking I’m a supermom, let me assure you, at the end of the day I’d bet my bottom dollar that there’s at least 1 toy on the floor in each room, even it its hidden under a couch! For the rest of cleaning, I delegate some of these tasks. The older kids help with vacuuming, dusting, general house pick up, cleaning their rooms, dishes, etc. Please, don’t think I’m a child laborer here Mom, I just ask them to help out as I’m cleaning, so we do it as a team. I also find I’m less cranky about it if I know other people are doing it too! I do major things like, ugh, toilets, mopping, vacuuming the rest of the house etc. A great resource for organizing this is The Fly Lady, if you have issues in this area, she’s great! Tip: Put on some music while you’re cleaning, and make it fun!
10. Laundry…oh the dreaded laundry! Even after explaining to my kids that they don’t need to change 5 times a day, they still seem to rack up the piles! Now that they’re a little older, the 5 and 6 yr old have to help out putting their own clothes away. I did teach my 6 yr old how to run the washer and dryer, but I usually supervise this as pouring liquid soap into the washing machine cup seems to be so much fun that one doesn’t want to stop pouring even though the line has been reached. I’m sure people handle this differently, however I chose to do 1 load a day. Its not as overwhelming as doing 20 loads on Sat. and its less scary for the kids (and me) to put away a couple outfits as opposed to a whole weeks worth!
11. Kid’s Activities: We decided to allow our children to do one activity at a time each. Since we homeschool, the girls can do Worship Dance, which meets during the day on Wednesdays. My son prefers sports, so that tends to be evenings, and so far its only once a week practice, and once a week games. Any more than this and I think I would start to freak out, plus we want to make sure we have family time together with Daddy, and so we don’t want to be rushing from one thing to the next, thereby causing “stress” for our children and mommy. And by the way, its called “Homeschooling”, not “Mini-van schooling.”
12. Ahh, finally….me time! Sorry ladies, but I’ve searched diligently, and unfortunately “me time” is nowhere to be found in the Bible! Well, technically it is there, its just listed as “selfishness”. The good news here is that if you start off with plate 1, time with God, He will give you the rest you need, and He even throws in some “me time” when He knows I need it most! Sadly, I tend to spend it blogging instead of soaking in a warm tub, but I’m working on learning how to relax And here’s the proof if you need it: “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28
Third job, simplify! Take a look at all of your plates, pray for wisdom to know what God has for you right now, and what He doesn’t. Don’t waste your time on things that God isn’t in, you’ll just be spinning your plates in vain! Psalm 127:1 “Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain.”
Now, looking back I see that I have 12 plates spinning all at once usually, well 11 at best, and frankly, that’s a tad overwhelming. And this is AFTER I made my list, changed things up and minimized where I could. This is where being flexible is key. The point here is that you set God’s priorities in place for your life, so that when a plate falls, and they will, it’s not one of the big ones, get it?