A Day in the Life (or, the power of lists)

Over the course of our marriage, we’ve passed through several seasons of calm and chaos. The last six months of 2016 were insane, between moving twice, having a baby, and husband preparing for his qualifying exams, gallivanting off to physics conferences as part of his program, and breaking both his arms. Yes, his arms. BOTH of them.

Since the new year, however, things have settled down and we’ve been able to resume some old routines that make life so, so much smoother. You’d think that running your life on a list (and lists of lists) on your phone would be constraining, but the structure (particularly following a season of chaos) is actually enormously freeing. Things get done. Checking off checkboxes fires endorphins. Books and blogs get written. And adventures continue apace with less running late and fewer crises of household.

This is approximately how our little family of seven has been puttering through 2017:


6:45: Wake up to hungry baby. Nurse baby. Read scriptures (or, if not on a social media fast, check Facebook and feel vaguely guilty about it.)

7:05: Put sleeping baby back down and go downstairs to start list. I have this magical list of 15 things I need to do each morning before breakfast and school. It appears on my phone at 6 am, and when those are done, my house is mysteriously cleaner, and my brain is ready for children’s school and life in general. There are a lot of enormously basic things on the list like “brush teeth” and “say prayers” and “read scriptures.” You’d think after a decade or two of doing those things, they’d happen without thought. Not so. Doubly not so when a child wakes up vomiting, a basement is flooded, or, you know, I get horribly distracted by an internet thread that I should not have been reading prior to scriptures. Ergo, I have a list to remind me what I still need to do after managing some unexpected crisis (or non-crisis).

8:00-Finish list. The kids are waking up, and need kisses and good mornings and reminders about room tidying, clothes wearing, prayer saying. Kitchen duty child is reminded to put away last night’s dishes. Jane the Austen does Katherine the Great’s hair. Because she’s awesome like that.

8:10-Breakfast. Oatmeal and grapefruit, the standard fare.

8:30-School Starts. Kitchen duty child spends first twenty minutes or so of school doing dishes. Some children are much faster dish doers than others. I have a list of 21 things that need to happen during school. If I don’t have and use it, I will wake up at 11:30 pm thinking, “Jane the Austen did not diagram a single sentence today. Clive the staples did no spelling exercises. I am neglecting their education.” I don’t know about you, but diagramming sentences is not what I want to be thinking about at 11:30 pm.

Noon-ish-School finishes. Here’s when I start my (shorter) list of 8 things I need to do in the afternoon. We’re so very lucky at this point in life that husband can come home for lunch nearly every day. This is when lots of the “what did you learn at school today?” conversation happens. It’s very gratifying to hear what they have remembered, internalized, or found notable about what we covered in the last few hours.

The most treasured and precious item on the noon list, besides our family lunch, is WRITE. The children have 1-2 glorious hours in the afternoon wherein they play, have friends over, run around like insane little heathens, nap, etc. I write amidst the chaos. And we’re all the happier for it.

Late Afternoon-pretty much every weekday afternoon is taken up with afterschool extracurriculars, running errands, helping out immigrant and refugee friends, or all of the above, in the case of Jane the Austen, who helps out in an afterschool program for her refugee and immigrant peers.

Evening-We come stumbling home from our adventures, exhausted, with me reminding the kids a million times to help bring in library books and groceries, because I am carrying in the smallest child or two, who almost always fall asleep on the way home. Generally speaking, they also need reminding to go close the door of the van. Otherwise, our wonderfully conscientious neighbor will come remind us. Enthusiastically.

6 pm-Husband comes home again, and we have dinner. I set about my short (6-item) evening list, which I rarely complete. Post dinner, kitchen duty child and husband or I do the dishes, we read scriptures and pray as a family, husband takes the kids upstairs for bedtime stories, and I do yoga. And write. And prepare to do it again the next day.

It’s a good life.



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