Let The Juggling Season Begin!

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Let the Juggling Season Begin!

 

This might as well be a self-portrait. These past few years, as my kids have gotten older, I find myself precariously towing the line between sanity and insanity, organization and utter chaos, having things under control and completely losing my mind…you get the picture.

I know it’s extremely unfair to say to those of you in the sleep-deprived constantly on-demand infant and toddler stages, but I think this chauffeuring stage may just be the most exhausting one yet! (And that’s coming from someone who had four under six, including twins.) However, I will say, it’s also my favorite so far despite the insanity it brings and the juggling it entails.

To give you a little frame of reference, we are a homeschooling family with each child participating in multiple co-ops. That means on any given day we are driving children to opposite sides of town, managing several different syllabi and curricula both at home and their other schools. In addition to teaching my own children, I also teach at a co-op twice per week. If juggling school work for three different schools per child doesn’t sound crazy enough, add in the fact that they each also participate in multiple athletic activities. Last spring we were on ten, yes TEN, different sports’ teams, including some travel teams. Oh, and that’s not counting their other extracurricular clubs. You can see how quickly it all adds up. My friends tell me I wear my “chaos coordinator” shirt well.

Is much of this self-inflicted? Absolutely. I could limit my kids’ activities to one each, however that would still likely put us out of the house every evening, running in different directions regardless. If they each do two, we are at eight. With four kids, “crazy busy” is already part of the job title. It’s a title I wear proudly, and a commitment I have looked forward to my entire life. I want them to have these opportunities to learn, grow, and explore their interests. I could go on and on about our rationale for doing this, and also about not over-booking and overextending ourselves, but I will save those for future posts.

This stage of life is legitimately just plain busy.

I know you’re busy too. We’re all busy in our own ways and we all have different thresholds for what becomes “too busy” or overwhelming. My hope here is that you fill in the blank with whatever it is you’re juggling and then find some helpful tips or tricks to make that juggling a bit less harrowing. I can’t say I have it all mastered, but I have definitely become a master of over-thinking, mental gymnastics, and juggling a million things.

Here are some tips and tricks from the Chaos Coordinator herself so that you may feel a bit less precarious balancing on the tightrope of this juggling season:

1. Utilize Car Time Wisely

During these chauffeuring years, you guessed it, you’re in your car A LOT. For perspective, between sports and school alone, we are driving an average of 12 hours per week. That doesn’t include tournaments or time spent at the games/practices/carlines/activities. Imagine all that can be accomplished in 12 hours! Some things we do to maximize valuable car time are:

2. Plan, Prepare, and Freeze Meals

Unless you want to live in the drive-thru line, which isn’t ideal from a health or budget standpoint, the key is to prepare. Trust me, this is NOT my strength, but eating is kind of important, so I make it a priority. Here are some strategies that work for us:

  • Freeze meals whenever possible. Once every few months, I will take half a day to make 10-15 meals at once to put in the freezer. If I make a casserole, I always double it so that I can freeze one for later. You could even throw a freezer meal party! It’s so nice to be able to pop a meal into the crockpot or oven on the busiest days of the week.
  • Stock your fridge, freezer and pantry with easy grab and go options. There are a lot of healthy choices out there — just be sure to read the labels!
  • Batch cook. To simplify school lunches and busy mornings while ensuring we are getting the nutrients we need, we make and freeze 20 pb&js at a time, make three dozen muffins with sneaky veggies in them, mass assemble breakfast burritos, egg cups, and smoothie packs. Here are a few good ideas for breakfast, lunch, dinner, kid friendly meals and snacks.

3. Give the Kids Responsibility

Here’s an entire post on this. If your kids are old enough to participate in all of these activities, they are old enough to get themselves ready too. Teach them to make their own breakfast, get themselves ready in the morning, ensure they have everything they need for school, and prepare the sports bags they need for that day. Remind them that these activities are a privilege and that if their schoolwork or effort slides, there are consequences.

4. Keep the Chaos Organized

  • Keep separate bags for school and each sport/activity. Keep the necessary equipment in the bags and get them in the routine of filling water bottles, cooling towels, etc., the night before or morning of.
  • Have a general routine. Despite the fact that every single day looks different in our house depending on which co-ops and sports we have, we still wake up, eat breakfast, do morning work, get dressed and then begin whatever the day entails. Post the general schedule so they get used to knowing what is happening each day of the week. Ours is all on one page, color coded so they can easily see who is going where. There can be routine in the chaos.

5. Help One Another Out

Unfortunately, we don’t have family in the area, so all of this chauffeuring is on us. We also like to be as involved as possible. This past season, we got really lucky and were able to make practically everything. Yes, it entailed flying across town from one practice to the next from 5-9pm, but we somehow made it work! Occasionally, we have to prioritize or choose when things overlap. There were a handful of times when we had to ask a trusted team friend to watch our kid while we got another one to their activity, but for the most part we were able to be present at our children’s activities, supporting them in their endeavors. We are also always willing to help a teammate in need as well.

6. Accept the Stage You’re In

Staying positive and laughing at the craziness are keys to enjoying this stage of life! There are going to be seasons where you just aren’t able to be the soccer mom you always dreamed of being. My kids will always have sliding stains on their baseball pants. They will be clean, but I won’t be scrubbing stains each night. Sometimes you will stay glued to your chair with a fake smile plastered on your face and other times you might be the volunteer coach. You just do you and figure out what’s best for your family through the various ages and stages.

This stage won’t last forever. As our kids get older, they will start narrowing down which activities they do/don’t want to continue. Then, one day, they will drive themselves to practices. I like to think that will be a load off, but I know myself. I’ll be a neurotic mess.

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Family is everything, and I can think of no better town to live in with my high school sweetheart and our four young children. Although we've been here for a few years now, we often find that it still feels like vacation. Embracing the natural beauty and slower pace were easy. Learning to love Orange wasn't too hard. However, my mid-western roots shine through in my inability to accessorize my daughters with giant hair bows and my preference for unsweetened tea. Being a mother is more incredible than I ever dreamed, and even though our days are utter chaos riddled with exhaustion, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I blog about anything and everything related to motherhood at Stroller Savvy..

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