Ages ago I posted that our errand days was hellish and needed a makeover. I watched errands for a couple of weeks and contemplated how they happened and what restrictions already existed that I would have to work with.
Okay, that part was easy. Harder was identifying where the specific issues were around the morass of errand day. It took a while to break it down, but I finally got it.
The first place of difficulty was trying to run errands over lunch time. Duh, right? But I always glibly thought I would pack a lunch, but even if I did (not often) there really wasn't a good place to eat and enjoy.
The other time issue is Sister-Bug's nap, which happens right after...lunch time of course! When I initially started errands with her on Friday morning, it got us home in time for Brother-Bug's resting time and she just slept in the car wherever whenever. But lately she has refused most car naps, and always woke up when I tried to snug her into the Ergo or sling for gocery shopping. So she would get home hungry and exhausted. Not pleasant.
On either side of errands I discovered more issues. Getting the books together, the menu prepared, the containers and bags ready for the co-op, and other extraneous details together (like a diaper bag maybe) actually takes almost as much time as running the actual errands. By trying to leave in the morning I wasn't leaving myself enough time to do the preparation necessary to make the errands work. By the time I got home from errands, I was too tired to think of cooking whatever I had put on the menu. Even if I left at 9 AM, the day was already shot when I got home with hungry, exhausted kids at 1 or 2. So I spent the rest of the day caring for them when I was just tired...and then having to cook dinner as well.
And my long day conicided with Papa-Bug getting home from his long week of work, both of us staring at each other across the table too blitzed to even converse coherently.
So, having put all of those pieces on the table in front of my face... Well, first I was baffled at how far out-of-what errands had actually gotten! The adjustments away from balanced had happened slowly, over a year, and I just hadn't quite caught up.
But I figured it out.
First I changed the time. Now we leave after Sister-Bug wakes up from her nap. We have all had lunch and I just keep some crackers or fruit in the car for a late afternoon pick me up. We are all fed and rested when we hit the road. I use the morning time to do some school work with Borther-Bug, pack for the errands, make the menu, and prep dinner. I get everything in the car while Sister-Bug is napping, so when she has woken and nursed we can hit the road. The un-sought benefit of this is that it restricts my time a little bit, so I try to do less. I assess my errand list and figure out what I can do another time, when I am out without the kids, or after Papa-Bug gets home from work, or if I even need to run that errand.
Next I realized that trying to cook something unique on errand day was just asking for headaches. So I planned out six menus and put them on a master list next to the menu plan. Now for errand day I just look ahead and see what's coming up. To make it onto the list it had to be something we liked enough to eat a lot, no matter what, and it had to take less than a half hour of active kitchen time to prepare. There are 6 weeks planned out and then I go back to the beginning of the list and run through it again.
I also changed the day. Now we go on Thursday instead of Friday, so I am not (as) blitzed when Papa-Bug gets home after the week's work, nor am I too blitzed if we have the opportunity to go out for dinner with friends or do something else fun. The un-sought benefit here is that I am not as close with the people who shop on Thursday at our co-op, so I spend less time socializing and shop a lot faster.
I called in my mom for support. She is out of town every other Thursday, but when she is in town I leave the kids with her after we go to the library. They all love the special play time together. I love grocery shopping by myself, and having them elsewhere gives me a little extra time to do some of those extraneous errands that take so much longer with two kids to load and un-load and cajole through the event.
Frequently Papa-Bug can meet us near the end of errands and get a ride home with us, maybe stopping at the last grocery store and shopping together.
And when we get home, dinner is already to go. Papa-Bug and I can connect and put the groceries away while the kids put away their new library books. The stress dissipates.
It took me a while to find all the puzzle pieces, let alone get them into place. But now that I have made such sweeping change, I'm surprised it took me so long. It's my reminder to closely examine my days now and then, to see how we can make them flow with better rhythm.
What can you fix in your schedule that feels out of whack?