15 minutes better

I have been slogging through mud to get our homeschooling done lately. School this semester is HARD. Right now I have 4 kids who are all working in the 3rd/4th grade range, plus a kindergartener. The teens are pretty independent thankfully, but these younger kids need tons of attention. Between 9:30 when we start our school day, and 1:30 or so when we get (mostly) done, I literally never go 5 minutes without someone needing help–and most commonly 2 or 3 kids need me at the same time. This week I was on my last nerve by lunch time three days in a row. When I finally relaxed enough to smile, the stiffness of my face made me realize I hadn’t smiled for hours.

I am working hard to help the 9-12 year olds with their reading, since that is so crucial to … well … everything school-related. Once they all read well, they’ll be able to do a lot more independent work. Also on my mind is the standardized testing scheduled for my two 9 yr old sons in March. First time for both of them, so we are cramming in reviews of capitalization and punctuation and map skills and reading comprehension. I always worry the first time my kids test. It feels almost as much a test of me as it does my kids. What if I have slacked off too much? What if they read too fast and skip words, or get test anxiety and bomb it….? What if they can’t spell worth a hoot and it’s because I let them play Gameboy when they should have been reading?

I’ve been feeling frazzled, and when I am frazzled, I get too hard on everyone, including myself. I get frustrated with myself for not being everything I want to be: patient, creative, fun-loving. I truly want to major in the people and make our home a place where joyful things happen. But the to-do list keeps getting in the way. In the last few weeks I’ve been struggling to get my balance right, but I can’t seem to make a day look how I want it to look. The DOING sucks up all the time and leaves me at the end of the day wondering when exactly I really focused on the people that day.

I had an idea the other day. If mostly I just hum along in the ordinary way, doing the best I can– but IN ADDITION also consciously snatch a few quality ‘people’ moments 2 or 3 times during the day, that will be improving, right? It sounds way more attainable to change 15 minutes of each day than to aim for utter utopia all day long.

I decided that for the next month I’ll try to make every day 15 minutes better and then write about those little moments. My goal is not to present my life as utter perfection– it’s not!!!! I just want to encourage myself (and maybe you?) to be more mindful of the small opportunities during an ordinary day.

So here’s today. Not earthshattering stuff, but when I look back, these were some of the very best moments all day.

1. Before school started, I pulled my 3 and 5 year olds onto my lap and read them two stories. Five minutes at the start of the day. It was sweet time, and I think it made for a happier morning.

2. This afternoon I fit in a game of Go Fish with my 3 year old… I almost said no, since we were getting ready to go to swim lessons, but she was so eager to play that I changed my mind. It took 3 minutes and was just what she needed to feel cheerful after her nap.

3. This evening as my husband gave me a kiss before heading off to bed, instead absent-mindedly giving him a peck and going back to my writing, I really kissed him. And we curled up together on the couch for a minute and kissed a little more and discussed how mortified the teenagers would be if they walked into the living room just then. And then we laughed. And kissed a little more. When he finally headed off to bed, the grin on his face made him look 5 years younger than he had 5 short minutes earlier.

What about you? Want to make your today 15 minutes better? I’d love to hear how you did it.

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  1. I love that idea, it’s exactly what I need to implement.

    Tonight I stopped trying to watch a rerun of house with my hubby in order to tickle my one year old. She laughed and laughed and laughed and then kept running up to me and standing still while laughing in anticipation of further tickling. That was the most well spent 15 minutes of my day. Normally I’d be wishing she’d get tired and go to bed. Second was laying next to my hubby and holding his hand while he fell asleep, even though I had to get up and tidy the kitchen and brush my teeth still. (And pop in for a quick internet visit.)

  2. I dragged myself into clothes and went into town with John to register the car at the (for me) ungodly hour of 9am. This is when I’m normally just getting up and having my “quiet hour alone” – he’s normally off to work already and the kids aren’t up yet. (Yes, we run on night-owl time right now).

    It’s 25 minutes each way into town, and normally we only go in one time for everything. Instead of waiting til our doctor appt’s at 1pm and combining, he wanted to just spend some time, with me.

    The DMV can be utterly romantic, you know!

  3. My husband dragged out the tent and set it up outside for the kids. THey played in it for hours and hours and had so much fun!

  4. I can relate to this one.
    I am very conscientiously checking my tone of voice. Getting a 6 year to focus long enough to complete a lesson can be frustrating. Let to my own demise I get snippy. Keeping my voice firm but pleasant is working quite well. Remembering that they are God’s, loved by Him, helps me to keep that focus.

    As for the 15 minutes. Great idea. Our moods all improve when we read a book (unassigned) or play a game.

    Thanks for the reminder that one small thing CAN improve our day.

  5. I love this idea. Sounds like you and I were on the same thought track yesterday.

  6. Mary,

    This is a wonderful idea. I plan to implement it today. I know a couple of ways already that will make my day 15 minutes better. What a great prompting! I’ll come back and let you know how it goes . . .

  7. Since kid number six came home I have been trying something similar, although broken up into 1-2 minute bites. When one of the kids is telling me something, instead of multi-tasking, I am really trying to stop what I am doing, make eye contact and really listen. The dishes, laundry and email seem no worse for the wear and I can tell the kids really appreciate it. After all, I ask them to look at me when I am talking, so now I am practicing what I preach.

  8. Having just received our referral on Monday, I’m still in that honeymoon phase where all I have to do is think about her or look at her sweet picture to make me all happy inside – and the same works for her sisters and my husband, so we’re going to bask in that as long as we can!

  9. OK, I am motivated! I can do 15 minutes too!

    I am feeling a bit flustered, not knowing how I should go about teaching school to the boys we have just brought home from Ukraine, and in the end, I am ending up not getting the girls taken care of either! Today, I will just make sure that I get everyone going on something (we are still freshly home enough to still be on a quasi-vacation). Even if it’s not extremely instructional, at least we won’t be falling backward! And I suppose what is most important is to just find a bit of a school routine again.

    BTW, do you know of any websites that are helpful or do you have any advise yourself in teaching newly adopted children who don’t speak English? What first after ABCs and 123s? Methods? Etc…

  10. Bringing more joy is my resolution this year. It is harder than it sounds, like you said, when the to-do list gets in the way. I have noticed that it has gotten better around here-more laughter (I’m lightening up), more 1 on 1 kid time (stories from the day, reading), less tv (you’d be amazed at the changes in my household with this one!), and lots of those husband kisses and snuggles. It is nice to know that others struggle with joy, but that we are all making progress. Keeping this in my prayers helps a lot.

    ps-I purchased a bible study on this by Women of Faith, entitled ‘Finding Joy’ and so far it is awesome!!

  11. Thank you, Mary. I really needed to hear this. We had an awful day yesterday, and I was despairing when I woke up this morning.

    I can do 15 minutes.

    🙂

  12. Wow. I am also really struggling to teach my nine year old daughter (grade 4) this week, and we have the standardized tests THIS Friday and Monday. I’m trying so hard to give it to God and let go.

    I’m gonna run with the 15 minute plan. Thanks for sharing your day honestly. It’s discouraging to read about all the “perfect” families out there.

    🙂

  13. I am so greatful that I live in a state with no standardized testing for homeschoolers! But on to your question…I’ve been trying to read picture books when asked and not put the littles off…I’ve also sat through several “shows” (very theater of the absurd…very little plot) put on by the 4, 5, and 7 year olds.

  14. We have been having some hectic days as well, so I decided to “mix it up” a bit today. I have 2 preschoolers, 3 kids who are at a 1st grade level, one 4th grader, one 6th grader, and one 7th grader. I started one of the 1st graders on the computer, another on an art lesson, while I worked with the other 1st grader. My 7th grader read to the pre-schoolers and my 4th and 6th grader made a “Welcome to America” poster to greet our friends who are returning home with their 3 new children on Saturday. It was a nice break from me doing it all and we will probably have to incorporate a 15 minute thing on a reguar basis!!

    Thanks, Mary! It is encouraging to know we are not alone out here! 🙂

  15. I’ve been lurking on your blog for a long time, Mary, and lately your posts seem like they’re practically written for me! We had a huge snowstorm yesterday and my 19-month old and I got stranded at my in-laws’ house and had to spend the night. I was annoyed; I missed my husband across town and of COURSE the baby wouldn’t go to sleep. I thought of your post about putting your youngest down to bed and decided to just enjoy cuddling with my little guy. It was more like 2 hours than 15 minutes, but it turned out to be so sweet and precious that it totally changed my day.

    Thanks for these posts!

  16. I’ll have to think about that one. I’m just so glad to hear I’m not the only one who feels this way sometimes. Frazzled…

  17. Elizabeth,

    Our state actually does not REQUIRE standardized testing. I just do it every year or two because I find it a good way of assessing how things our going with our schooling. Usually I am very pleased with the results….but that doesn’t keep me from having anxiety attacks each time a new child is old enough to test for the first time.

    Mary

  18. My husband has been out of town for two weeks and is returning home tomorrow. A lot has happened while he was gone including two trips to the hospital, one with my dad and one with our baby.
    Our communication has been quick 5 minutes calls here and there with quick updates about temperatures, medicine, sleeping schedules and whether the dog got walked or not.
    I just took an extra few minutes and emailed him about all the fun things we have done the past few days, some cute/funny/sweet things that have happened and about how much we can’t wait for him to get home. I know it made me feel better to focus on the good. I hope it did the same for him.

  19. This is a great idea. I’m going to try to do this. Life has been stressful lately, and this may be a great little way to add in a little sanity. Thanks for the idea.

  20. This is such a good idea. Thank you for sharing, as I’m sure all moms can gain from this post.

  21. Its so nice to know I am not the only one.:) I homeschool only three children, my 4th is 2. We are almost done with our homestudy to adopt siblings from Ethiopia ages 3-7. I could have wrote your post thats how close it is to how I have been feeling.:) Its a great idea to point out the special times of our day. Thanks!

  22. Mary, thank you so much for your words today. I am in exactly the same place. Your thoughts have inspired me so much over the last two months since I found your blog. You have even inspired me to start writing my own blog if you’d ever like to visit!
    Thanks for sharing your life and thoughts and heart with strangers who feel like friends!! –Carrie in Washington

  23. Thanks for the encouragement.

  24. multi-taskingmom says:

    15 mins – a very good idea and so doable. Mary you are inspiring. Your statement “I get frustrated with myself for not being everything I want to be: patient, creative, fun-loving.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had that very thought.

    Here are a few things that we do ….

    A couple of months ago our 6 (almost 7) year old son asked me “who is your favorite kid”, I looked at him and said whichever kid I’m with at the time is my favorite. He said “so right now I’m your favorite kid”? I said yes and he beamed! Then ran off to tell the rest of the kids “hey guess what….?” He also gives me a good morning hug so that I’ll have a good day – he thought this up all on his own. Sometimes he forgets, and more than once when I must look as frazzled as I feel, he’ll come up and say – here mom I forgot your hug and give me one. Then he’ll say now you’ll have a better day – and I do.

    A few weeks ago while trying to “do away” with our 2 year old son’s nap time bottle (yes he still has one at night), I decided to start reading a “big kids book” aloud. So now right after lunch, everyone finds a quiet spot – the 2 year olds is on my lap. And I read a chapter or two out of a book. He falls asleep and the other kids get a chance to rest for a while before getting back to our school work.

    Our youngest daughter is have a bit of a time lately. Seems like every time she turns around one of us is “speaking” to her about something. Last night DH and I discussed this and decided that what she really needs are more “atta boys” and less discipline. So we are looking for even the smallest reason to praise her – you should have seen the smiles on her face today.

    15 mins – yes a very good idea.

  25. Today I spent 15 minutes slowly rubbing lotion onto the hands, arms, legs, and feet of a dying patient. I washed her face, and put chapstick on her. Then I stroked the hair out of her face, just the way my mom always did when I was sick as a child.

    And Mary, don’t worry. I think poor spelling is genetic. I can’t spell worth a hoot, never had a Gameboy, and still managed to score execptionally well on standardized tests:)

  26. What a wonderful idea, Mary. I’m going to do this too

  27. That is such an encouraging idea! I think I’m going to try the 15 minute plan with my little ones today. Thank you for sharing!

  28. What a wonderful idea! I love that you are sharing your special times with us as it gives me lots of ideas for little “moments”. 🙂

  29. Mary, you’re brilliant! I really needed to read this post right now. That encouragement thing must be needed around the blogosphere from what I’m reading above…

  30. What a great idea! I only have one, but he’s 2 months old, and I’m still feeling overwhelmed trying to do everything & take care of him, too! 🙂 This is a neat concept and I’ll try to do it too! 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

  31. I’m just catching up after vacation but I had to say I really LOVE this idea. I only have the one child right now (and one very very wonderful husband) but it seems like there is always some task or chore or priority pulling my attention away from them and each day I look back and feel my focus was scattered and rarely got to fall on the PEOPLE God’s given me to love and care for. I love your “small bites” approach to getting the right balance back and I know it will benefit all three of us in my family now AND after baby #2 arrives. Thanks for writing about this – it is really smart and extremely helpful and encouraging.

  32. Thank you for the great ideas and encouragement. I so often find myself feeling as you described. With four kids all needing mom’s help, often times simultaneously, there are days I want to run screaming into the street. OK, maybe not quite that bad, but at least hide in the bathroom! Taking just a few minutes here and there would do wonders for my own disposition, as well as the hearts of my kiddos.

    15 minutes? I can do that!

    Angela

  33. Great idea.

    I have just had a picnic lunch in my garden with my 3 year old. Sunny but cold, but he had a wonderful time, and it only took a few minutes more than sitting at the table. I also took time to sit down and eat with him too, I am usually to “busy” and eat while on the go.

    Thanks for the lovely post.

  34. Gosh, that is just the medicine this mom needed this morning. I too, homeschool and I am struggling this year – it’s my first year to teach two. One in Kindergarten (who is learning to read) and my eldest is in her 4th year of homeschool – 5th grade. I feel constantly frazzled, but I know it’s all worth it and by the grace of God somehow each day I manage to pull it together enough to do it all over again. 🙂 I can do 15 minutes…thanks for an encouraging post!

  35. I haven’t been by in a long time… I love this- so attainable. Thanks.