Sunday, November 15, 2009

Seasons and Systems

I got some great epiphanies while listening to a fascinating mp3 file a while ago while I exercised. Aneladee Milne and Tiffany Earl are two of my homeschooling friends who have formed a company called LEMI which stands for Leadership Mentoring Institute. They train mentors for scholar phase in Leadership Education.

(If you don't know what I'm talking about and want to know more, go to and order the book and read it. Don't worry, it won't make you feel bad for not homeschooling! It will inspire you to get a better education for yourself and your children, which is not so much dependent on geography of the classroom as it is on relationships, passion, and inspiration.)

Anyway, Aneladee and Tiffany do conference calls with the mentors. They have placed this particular call, called "Seasons" on the website . They talk about the frustration they have felt with typical time management seminars. These seminars assume that life is always the same, on a linear path, with the same "get it done" excitement burning in all of us. But that's not how life is, especially if you are a woman. Life is cyclical, with seasons. We have times to be productive in the outer world, and times to be productive in an invisible way by resting.

I've given a LOT of thought to this topic. The topic of seasons involves several chapters in my Tree of Life Mothering book, volume 1Y. I hope to publish it sometime in the next decade, but first I have to get Volume I out. (I am in mommy mode with seven kids including a new baby so hobbies like writing and publishing have to be done in seasons--I am practicing what I preach.)

So Aneladee tells the story of being in a season of "winter." She had some physical and mental issues to deal with, basically what she calls a nervous breakdown. It reminded me of a similar thing I went through last summer but that topic is for another post. The typical time management seminar tells you to set your goals of getting up before the crack of dawn, go jogging, come home and shower and dress, and be out the door and at work by 7:30 to be productive.

Aneladee mentions that that doesn't take into account the winter seasons of your life. During winter, it's best to focus on getting lots of sleep and rest. So she would wake up in the morning, and then many times go back to bed and sleep until she was done sleeping. That is what exactly what I have done in the past three months with my new baby if I had a rough night and I had to sleep with him in my big overstuffed rocker. This is not the best thing to sleep in, but works if you have a fussy baby who won't sleep lying down, not being held, despite all of your Attachment Parenting, co-sleeping, breastfeeding in bed efforts. I have other children and I homeschool so I would assign an older sibling to watch the younger ones and relied on the electronic babysitter as well. It is amazing how life looks so much better when you get more than enough sleep.

I have a planner but it has been somewhat blank in this postpartum time, compared to my previous life. I wonder if Franklin-Covey will ever realize that not everyone who uses their planners are CEOs or even office workers. (When is Stephen Covey's wife going to start doing those seminars? She has a large family. We need to hear from the feminine/real life mothering in the trenches side of time management! I guess she is off being a grandma, enjoying this season of her life.) Sometimes it is SOOOOOO wonderful to have nothing planned but meals and sleep and play and the bare minimum of chores, bothersome things like shopping and cooking and washing dishes, to facilitate the meals.

Tiffany mentions in this talk how important systems are for time management. I totally agree. The problem is, when you are a mom, just when you get your systems down, the seasons change. Now that I am emerging from the unpredictable postpartum time, a winter, to a postpartum time with some semblance of a schedule (the baby has somewhat of a rhythm to his life) I am figuring out some systems for my new life as a mother of seven.

It's only taken me three months to figure this out in a new school year of driving my older kids to different classes, but hey, that's OK. That's what living by the seasons is all about. You go with the flow, observe, and adjust. i would love to be here writing more blogs but I have come to realize I need to spend a lot more time homemaking and mothering in the afternoons, less time on the computer. When you are a stay-at-home homeschooling mom it is so easy to get seduced by the accessibility of the computer to read too many emails. (Oh- you want to know the definition of "grapeshot"? Well, let me just check wikipedia, and then I check my email too of course, and then I get more distracted and start reading someone's blog linked to their signature line..and my time disappears)

OK, I want to write these down so I don't forget:

-mornings are for exercise, scripture reading, chores, and school. No email!

-Spend Monday afternoons thinking about, planning, and getting food for my family for the week and also long-term storage.

-Tuesday afternoons are for clothes. We have clothes coming out of our ears! I could clothe the whole ward's Primary and Mutual combined, what with my storage of boy and girl clothes from 0-16. We don't need all of them, we don't have the space, so it's time to do some serious organizing, paring down, and mending. My little boy just learned how to sew by hand in Knights of Freedom (a boys' club). Imagine that! He is excited to practice so I might be able to milk this by having him do some mending for a few times.

-Wednesday afternoons are for other stuff, like organizing toys, and hall closets and the family room, and all those pesky projects I keep putting off.

-Thursday afternoons I can play and do whatever I want, which for me means computer time (working on my book and this blog) and going to the library. When I pick up my two oldest from their commonwealth classes I drive right past a library in another town. I have always gone to the library two blocks from our home, but since I drive right past this one every Thursday twice, I should start putting the books on hold that I want for developing our family culture on Sunday (thanks to the miracle of digital library catalogs and the Internet. Then I can pick them up Thursday afternoon at this other library branch in a different town after I pick up my two scholars. That way I have two teenage babysitters captive in the car who can watch my baby (after years of taking the baby in with me either in the baby bucket or sling with toddlers following me I just want to zip in and get the books and get out.)

-Fridays are for driving and eating. My kids are so busy on Fridays there is no time for anything else.

-Saurdays are for chores. Sundays are to rest and do planning, with mentor meetings and FEC, putting books on hold, doing family history research, and attending church.

-have book to read on my end table by my nursing chair, a book that stays in my diaper bag, and a book upstairs in my bedroom. So whenever I stop to nurse I have a book handy. I get a TON of reading done when I am a nursing mom.

-have my iPod and my cell phone on my person throughout the day. While I do the kitchen cleanup with my eight-year-old after breakfast and lunch I can listen to Democracy in America on my iPod. As I get epiphanies I record them using the voice recorder on my cell phone. Then when I have a chance to sit down and write, during our school time, I will transcribe these thoughts to my notebook.

With the above systems we can have a somewhat smoothly running household and I can get an education at the same time. My children can have fun, learn how to work, and get an education too.

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