I’m doing my little Friday Q & A a little late because weird stuff is happening with Blogger. I’m sitting at a hotel in Oklahoma City getting ready to head over to Time Out for Women in a minute (my Mom and I are speaking this weekend).

This is the land I crossed over today:
FLAT stretching out as far as you can see.

I’ve never been to Oklahoma before and man oh man it is pretty! (At least the part I saw from out my airplane window and on the way to the hotel.) (Note to self: Google what’s up with the round fields.)
Anyway, here’s one in-depth question for today:

Can you share a post on “how you manage the house”? I really think I need some tips…and my girls are only 6 and 3! 🙂 Between activities, school, meals and cleaning the house I feel out of my mind some days.

and from another reader on the same topic:
How on earth do you manage all of your childrens’ schedules? Like how do you manage to fit everything in? Just from what you shared about Max, Elle, and Grace’s piano times looks complicated enough…Thanks! (hmmmm…that would be a good podcast discussion question…I’m sure there are so many people with great ideas on this out there.)

A little disclaimer here before I start with my answer: If you have been reading this blog long, you may realize that I am actually the one who needs the tips on managing a household. I’m the one who forgets dentist appointments on a regular basis and is late to performances. There is SO much to manage in a house full of kids… but I really try. And I have to say that I thank my lucky stars every day that I am married to the best household manager on the planet. He evens me out a little bit. He’s the one behind the schedules and routines in our family and I’m so thankful for that.

Here are some of the things that help us in our family:

1) I think the first thing to come to grips with when you are a mother of small children is that you need to prioritize planning time. During our family home evening we always have a minute for “Family Business” where we all talk about what is coming up the next week. Ideally it would be great to have a humongous calendar for everyone to write stuff on, or a way at least for my husband and I to sync up our electronic calendars (anyone know how to do that?) but conducting “Family Business” together sure helps. That way we get to hear what’s important coming up for everyone in the family, whether it’s a test at school someone is worried about or “Jury Duty” for dad. Whatever it is, it feels good to all be on the same page and know what’s coming up.

It also helps so much to steal some time away on Sundays to do your own planning as a mother. I am not so good at this (I always feel like I have children suction-cupped to my legs and can’t seem to pry myself away to lock myself in my bedroom), but I am making an effort to try a little harder. Even if it’s just a half hour of time alone on Sunday to go over the schedule would help so much so I’m not feeling frantic and frazzled all the time 🙂 My Mom is a wonderful example of this and I attribute much of how amazing she is to this little time she reserves to plan on Sundays to plan and prioritize.

2) Set high (and CLEAR) expectations and train well. Our kids know that they have to have their rooms clean and beds made before they go to school. The natural consequence when they don’t is that they don’t get to hang out with their friends next time they ask (the thought of not being with friends happens to terrify our kids). This has been a rule since they were little so it’s become a habit. They know what’s expected and generally they do it. They are also expected to practice and do their after dinner jobs which are clearly outlined for them. They have their lists of Saturday Jobs every Saturday which Dave never tires of making a priority (and so I do to…I love it). Dave and I work alongside them so in general they have been trained well in each thing they’re supposed to do. They know that we all do our part to help out in our family.

I’m making it sound like we’ve got this down-pat and we definitely do not. We mess up all the time. But I love having guidelines and structure to work with.

My Dad has written a book on Lifebalance (and is one of the most balanced people I know), and April, my sister’s business partner at Power of Moms has an amazing “Mind Organization for Moms” program. I’m so thankful for the influence of both in my life.

But the bottom line that I’m trying to tell myself daily is this, “DON’T COMMIT TO SO MUCH STUFF!” I just tend to say yes to too many things. We all do, don’t you think? We have to draw boundaries around our little families and put the most important things first: It helps so much when Dave and I prioritize family dinner time. We prioritize Family Home Evening. We often re-evaluate what we consent to sign our kids up for. And we remember that our schedule has to be re-made often. That just happens in a big family. We are not perfect by any means, but when we continually emphasize keeping the first things first, things work out.

I could go on and on…there are so many different facets to household management, but I’ll end there for now since I’ve got to run. I’d love to hear input on what others do to run a household.


  1. I can help you out with your research on round fields! They're round because farmers use pivot irrigation systems—which go around in circles, creating round fields!

  2. Re: synchronizing calendars. We use Google Calendar. You can have your own calendar and see others' calendars. It is super helpful in coordinating things between my husband and me.

  3. If you and Dave have iphones, you can use the MobileMe service to sync your calendars. It has been a lifechanger for us. You can view Dave's calendar + yours together or just view your own. Each member of your family can have their own color/calendar so you can view all together or separately. I think it is $99/year. It also syncs your phone with your contacts, calendar and email on your Mac so you never have to manually sync. It is amazing.

    I LOVE your tip about taking time on Sundays to organize.

    Also, thanks for sharing your camera lens info a couple of weeks ago (I had asked the question)- I rented the one you suggested today to try it out and I love it.

  4. Ditto to using google calendar. My husband and I also use it. It's nice to see his schedule written down because he doesn't always remember to tell me things until last minute. But using the calendar gives me a heads up on what he has going on.

  5. Great advice!!

    We have a GIANT bulletin board in our dining room (eat in kitchen really). I have used a ribbon to divide it into sections – one section for each child and a section for the family. In each child's section, we put birthday party invitations, school lunch calendars, doctor's appointment reminders, flyers for school programs, etc. for that child. In the family section we have things like a calendar of events for our city, etc. but we also have a wall calendar on there and we write everything on there (doctor's appointments, parties, birthdays, etc.) The good thing about where it is, is that we are always in the kitchen or at the table, so we are constantly walking by it being reminded!

    Monday night is Family Night (like my non-Mormon FHE 🙂 and before we start, at dinner every Monday, we get down the calendar and go over everything for that's going on that week.

    I'm an attorney and work outside the home, so I keep my work calendar on my work Outlook. But anything that affects my husband (who is home with the kids) or our family I put on our family calendar – like if I have to go into work early or work late one day because of a meeting.

    I think a big thing (which I'm sure you've done too – your kids are amazing!) is teaching kids to keep track of their own schedules. My oldest in only finishing Kindergarten, but she already knows Tuesday is library day, and I make it her responsibly to ensure that her library book is in her backpack Tuesday morning.

  6. Google Calendar also has an app for the iphone. It's fantastic! (I also like having multiple calendars for just me – yellow = personal, blue = dinner menus, etc.)

  7. Ditto on Google calendar and you can have it automatically sync to Outlook, if you use Outlook. If I need my husband's help with something, I use Outlook to invite him, and when he responds, it updates his Outlook calendar (that's what they use where he works). Then everything syncs to Google calendar.

  8. I had never been to Oklahoma until I moved here, and I love it! It really is beautiful.
    Looking forward to hearing from you and your mom tomorrow. 🙂

  9. My husband and I both use iCal for our calendars. We add each other as "invitees" for events that we want the other person to attend. It works really well for us- I've even convinced some of my extended family members to start using it too.

  10. We use Google Calendar, we have accounts for each one of us. (including the 5 children) you can have all of their schedules show up together in one calendar and they will be different colors. Or you can show/print them individually. It is awesome. You can have it send you a reminder 10 min. (or whatever timing you choose) before the appointment. This has saved me from forgetting. Also I have loved seeing a visual of how our schedules interact and my husband and I have to divide to conquer sometimes, him taking kids places and me taking different kids different places. My husband and I have been keeping the calendar, but I think by the fall I will have the teenagers input their activities!

    And since I am from Idaho where there are a lot of circle farms I just have to give my 2 cents. In those circular irrigation systems the pipe moves in a circle by the motor. This saves the farmers a lot of money in labor costs, because you don't need as many people to move and manage the pipe. There is always and a disadvantage and that is you don't grow crops in the corner of your field any more!

  11. Hmmm…is it possible to be addicted to approval and acceptance by others? So very easy to get into worry thoughts that we are disappointing others by declining their requests…and we get addicted to the "rush" of saying "YES"! If we keep hitting that over-extended breaking point…then the circle of boundaries needs to grow wider…around ourselves…and our families.

  12. Thank you for being so inspiring. A lot of stay at home moms these days don't seem to do what they should, as far as keeping the family, the house, and their lives organized. Thank you for showing me that there are still plenty of moms who are doing it the way it should be done, the way my mom taught me to do it. Keep doing it what you do because you help inspire me to do the same.

  13. I was hoping to meet you and your Mom today at Time Out for Women. The presentation was spirit filled with wisdom from on High. As a fellow blogger, I understand how it helps you to step back and see things in a different light. I love how my blog helps keep me accountable to the values I hold dear as well. Thank you so much for coming to Oklahoma. I would love to be able to meet you or any member of your family in the future. 😀

  14. I see Nikkala answered the circle question! My dad is a soil scientist in Eastern Washington and we grew up with all these circles–in our conversations and part of the scenery. They look awesome from the air, huh? He had a small side business where he took pictures from a small plane of the crops and I went up with him and was amazed at how beautiful it was!

  15. I just saw you at TOFW today! You did a great job! 🙂 I'm bummed though because while I tried to get a picture of all the presenters, I forgot to pull my camera out while you and your mom were on stage… oh well… 🙂

    We use the google calender too, and I've started using CalenGoo on my iphone so I can sync my google tasks to my phone too! I always make a calender apt for anything and send an invite to my hubby so it automatically get's added to his calender too.

  16. It was so exciting to see you and your mom speak at TOFW. I was looking for you two after the Saturday program, hoping to get a picture with my two favorite role models, but I didn't see ya. So bummed, but I'll get over it. Did you guys leave right after? I did get to shake the hands of a few of the other speakers though. Such amazing people and such an uplifting weekend.

  17. I was able to attend TOFW this weekend here in OKC and really enjoyed listening to you and your mom! After this weekend my buckets have been filled and really do look at motherhood a little differently 🙂 Thank you!

  18. Shawni, thanks so much for this thoughtful post. I needed a laugh, just had the missionaries over for dinner and my kids (7) were typical crazy kids- that suction cup description couldn't be more true for so many of us! Thanks for the tips!

  19. Hi Shawni,
    I know it is completly short notice but could you put the recipe of your children's birthday cake please because they look extremely amazing. It is my mother birthday on Thursday and I plan to do a similar one as birthday cake.
    Thank you,
    Ségolène from France.

  20. Saw you in OKC this past weekend! You and your mom were great! Thanks for coming to Oklahoma and enjoying some time with us. Stop by anytime, there is always a door opened somewhere!

  21. Wow! I have followed you online for a while and love your blog, I live in OKC, I wish I knew you were here! (maybe you mentioned it and I wasn't paying attention)

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