Let’s organize our day: the evening routine

January 19, 2011

After replying to Lana’s comment in my last blog post asking how I manage my time, I started thinking about some of the little things that I routinely do to make my day run more smoothly and organized.

It has never occurred to me to write about them because they have become natural to me and I often assume they are in turn natural to others as well.  However, this routine has developed over time and as such perhaps some of you might enjoy a peek into what I do and in turn, have parts of your routine that you would be willing to share with me! Together we can become more organized and productive with our day.  Sound good?  (Envision us in a small football huddle with our arms out stretched toward the middle ready to cheer)  ”Goooooo Team Mom!”

Rather than starting with what I do in the morning, I will begin with the evening routine.  Why?  So that you have a chance to try it out tonight while it is still fresh in your mind.  In a few days I will post about another part of my routine which will give you some time to practice the evening part in your home and tweak it to fit your family’s needs.  For purpose of comparative info, Hunter is seven and Ashlyn just turned five.  Hopefully this will help you gauge your own kids and how you might be able to adapt this to your own family.  Ready?

Evening Routine:
I will start of by saying that putting the kids to bed is potentially the most stressful part of my day.  I am not sure why.  No one is standing over my shoulder asking if my kids will be in bed by ______?  And I don’t have an appointment I need to get to once they are asleep.   Perhaps it is the knowledge that once they are in bed “my time” begins and I feel selfish with this part of my day since it is so fleeting.  On many nights I am blessed that my husband is an active part of putting the kids to bed which really helps to make it less stressful.  I blogged about our typical bedtime about a year ago.  A few things that I have found to help us with putting the kids to bed:

-I have recently moved up dinner time from 6:00 to between 5:00 and 5:30.  We aim for a 7:00 bedtime with the kids and I found that in starting dinner at six, I was simply asking to feel “behind” before we even got started.  The earlier dinnertime has really helped me feel more relaxed and less rushed in moving toward bedtime.

-After dinner I start the dishwasher (if needed) and unload (later, before I go to bed) so that in the morning it is “open for business” which prevents the sink from filling up with dirty dishes.

-When it is time to get ready for bed, I set a timer for Hunter as I found that he responds well to the forced focus of being held accountable to the clock.  I give him 3-4 minutes to put on his PJ’s and 2 minutes to brush his teeth.

-Ashlyn does not do well with a timer, in fact it produces the opposite effect for her and she freezes up and can’t seem to do anything as she gets so upset and stressed out by it.  For her, I find that giving her one task at a time and having her verbally repeat back to me what she is going to do works well.
Ashlyn, go put your PJ’s on.  Now say, ‘Mommy I am going to put my PJ’s on now.’”
Asking her to repeat back to me what she is going to do seems to help cement in her mind her next action which is helpful as she tends to be a bit “flighty” in her thinking otherwise and is easily distracted. Therefore I think it is best to feel out what works well for your child’s personality here.

-We take a few minutes each night for the kids to go check their room and make sure it is cleaned up.  Making a point to straighten their rooms each evening for a few minutes helps prevent disasters from occurring (like the photo from Ashlyn’s room shown in my last post–not sure how that happened).

-Hunter’s uniform (including socks and underwear) are set out at night so that in the morning he can quickly and easily get dressed without hunting for a missing shirt or sock or. . .

After the kids are in bed (yeah!):

Our bedtime goal for the kids is 7:00PM and I shoot for a personal bedtime of 10:00PM.  So on an ideal night I would have three hours after the kids go to bed to accomplish the following and still have some remaining “down time.”

-I pack Hunter’s lunch and put it in the fridge.  I include a short handwritten note.  He seems to like these :) .  From time to time I will also include a picture that Ashlyn has drawn for him.  When he brings his lunch bag home after school and I unpack it, I store the notes in a little box in the cabinet.  I think he might enjoy browsing through them some day in the future.

-I clean the kitchen and wipe down the counters and sink.  After I clean the sink, I use the same wash rag to quickly wipe down the sink and counter top in the kid’s bathroom before putting it in the laundry.  Then I do a general straightening of the house.  If I wake up to a clean house, it sets the mood in a much more positive, productive tone and I don’t feel that I am already starting the day “behind”.

-I decide what I will do for breakfast in the morning.  Some popular choices include:
cereal–when I don’t feel like doing anything “fancy” or time consuming.
crepes–these take some time to prepare but are great for making ahead at night and are super yummy!
pancakes or waffles–they can be made ahead and frozen and then simply put in the toaster in the morning. I like to mix up a large batch of my own pancake “bisquick” mix (see recipe at the bottom of this post) in order to use whole wheat.  Although I like my current recipe, I am going to try this soaked version next time and compare.
oatmeal–I chose to soak the oatmeal overnight.  Not only is it better for you (read the link) but it makes it QUICK and easy in the morning.  Below is my oatmeal soaking for tomorrow’s breakfast (I cover it overnight and then simply warm it up in the morning).

-I get the kitchen ready for morning by setting out their dishes, vitamins and a list of tasks that they need to complete before we leave the house for school.

-Ashlyn cannot read much yet but she still gets a list.  It is sort and mostly the same each morning (get dressed, make bed, eat breakfast and put away dishes and brush teeth).  I feel that the repetition of seeing this list helps her learn the words and feel “old enough” to be responsible for her one routine like her older brother.  Hunter’s list is set up to require him to be fully ready for school by the time he is finished and includes things like putting his lunch (from the fridge) into his backpack.

-As a side note: The “do homework” part of Hunters list that he does in the morning includes a daily timed reading list of words (it takes him 1-2 minutes) and writing out his spelling words once (this takes about 2-3 minutes).  Although he could do these things after school, I find that doing them before makes the after school time easier.

-If I have any clean laundry in the dryer (I try to start a load to wash in the morning giving me all day to get it finished and put away) I will fold it and put the piles of clean clothes in the kid’s rooms to be put away the next day (I have them put away their own laundry).

-I set out what I am going to wear in the morning and take a shower if needed.

-RELAX knowing my morning is ready :) !

“Pancake (or waffle) Master Mix”
8 cups whole wheat pastry flour (this is soft white wheat for any of you who might grind your wheat)
2 cups unbleached white flour
1/2 cup wheat germ
1/3 cup baking powder (try to find a kind that doesn’t have aluminum in it)
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 Tablespoon salt
2 cups shortening that does not require refrigeration (you can use Crisco, but I have switched to using coconut oil because I believe it is much healthier. In the summer months however, I may have to keep my mix in the fridge or freezer though or else my oil will be liquid as coconut oil is a solid for me this time of year but melts at 76 degrees).

In a large bowl, combine flours, wheat germ, baking powder, brown sugar and salt.  Cut in shorting (or coconut oil) until the mixture resembles course crumbs (when using solid coconut oil I mix this all in my food processor and it does a great job).  Store in a large container for up to 6 weeks.  Makes 12 to 14 cups.

To use for pancakes or waffles:
-2 cups “master mix”
-2 eggs
-1 cup milk (or buttermilk)

Beat the eggs, add milk to desired consistency with this master mix, stirring until blended but still slightly lumpy.  Pour about 1/4 cup batter onto hot griddle or pan. Cook till golden, turning to cook other side.  Makes 8 pancakes.

I love using my coconut oil for frying too by the way.  Here is where I buy my coconut oil and so far this is the best price I have found for the quality (including the shipping cost which is fairly reasonable). I get the 7 pound bottle of extra virgin coconut oil which is $3.90 per pound).  7 pounds may seem like a lot, but because it is so versatile (you can use it in place of any kind of fat in recipes and it is even great as a skin moisturizer or make up remover) that after only 6 weeks I am ready to order another bottle!  In fact, I just realized that my good friend Selina just put up a new post about coconut oil so I will simply encourage you go click on over to her blog and read more if you are not yet using this stuff but are intrigued about why I think you should consider it!

Ideally, something about my routine sparked something in you that will help your evenings (and therefore your mornings) go more smoothly.  If you have any tips of your own, please share!  I will continue on with more tips on this topic soon.  In the meantime, if you have any questions, feel free to ask away!

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