Lately I've discovered certain things that make my days more likely to be smooth and easy. One is meal planning. Four years ago, a friend told me she saved money doing it, and that it made her evenings easier. Skepticism clouded my view for at least a year. I saw her gliding through it, but doubted that I'd like it. What if the plan called for something that took lots of energy to make, and I felt too tired that day? What if a kid got sick and I didn't have time to make the meal?
Finally, I gave it a whirl. It revolutionized my life! Every day, I knew what I'd make for dinner. I even knew what I'd make in three weeks and two days! (Baked potato night.) I always had the ingredients I needed. The kids' bewitching hour was less formidable because I wasn't stressed or preoccupied. When the day called fore something more labor-intensive like chicken cacciatore, I saved my energy for it and got the kids busy with a good craft or game as I started. Yes, sometimes a cranky kid fell on my feet as I stirred and chopped, wailing about her tribulations. On rare occasions, the day threw me into a huge pothole and by the time I got out I had to rush to make the dinner I'd planned. But 99.5% of the time, meal planning made my life simpler. I even started planning our breakfasts in February!
Next came a cleaning schedule. A few months ago, I came across the idea in an article. Then a few friends mentioned trying them. Someone at church said she's used one for years, and loves it. The same skepticism made me hesitant, but I decided to try it. If meal planning made life simpler, maybe this would too. I could always stop if it was too hard. I worried that I'd be burdened by the weight of mandatory chores, when little kids make life unpredictable. What if we go out for the day and I can't do those chores? What if they're too much, and I don't get other things done?
Again, life was greatly improved by this schedule! By the end of the first week, I was already singing its praises. I felt immense satisfaction as I completed the day's chores. A benefit I never anticipated was that those chores are my only cleaning tasks for the day -- if the sink looks gritty or the floors are dusty, I can leave them for their scheduled day without any guilt! Why didn't I try this years ago?! I don't carry and endless list in my mind of things I should be cleaning now, because I have a list on the wall and I can see the few, manageable things I need to do. The rest doesn't matter at all!
Now that I see how powerful motivation is in making my life simpler and easier, I want to figure out how to find the right motivation "keys" for my kids. They probably have different ones than I do, and I never gave it any conscious thought until now. I can see the potential here for a winning answer to Anna's nail biting and Asher's self-control. I've been motivating them in different ways their entire lives, but now I'm starting to really focus on their styles.