I scan my hastily scrawled schedule as I wait at a red light. 1:50--drop Emily at Madeline's house to give a piano lesson. Get stamps at Post Office. Stop by Brown's Shoe Store. 2:20 pick up Emily; drop her and Joe at Central Band for lessons. Take back (overdue) library books. Go to Aldi. Go to Wal-mart? 3:30--Pick up Em and Joe, Drop Emily at her piano lesson, drop Allison at violin lesson, wait in car (feed the little ones chips to keep them quiet). 4:30--Allison comes out, go pick up Emily. Do any left over errands (like Wal-mart), which realistically can't be squeezed into a 20-minute time slot. Head home with a load of cranky kids. Gulp dinner. Dress everyone. Head out the door for a church meeting, where we will see Dad for the first time since 6:30 this morning.

Tomorrow I've just got to tackle the boys' closet before the repair man comes to fix the furnace in there and faints when he sees what lurks beside the furnace. Plus there's home schooling to do, soccer practice for two or three of the kids, and somewhere in there naps, dinner, and maybe nursing the baby have to happen. Help!

I realize this may not sound familiar to some, but others might relate. I hate to admit how many of my days are consumed by such tyranny. I call it tyranny, because somewhere along the way it ceased to be fun and became something to be endured, something that takes a tremendous amount of energy just to keep the merry-go-round going. I don't know about anyone else, but I want to get off.

Like those guys who spin plates on long poles, my husband and I have found ourselves juggling more and more factors. Since we are currently groping through these issues ourselves, I'll throw out some thoughts we're exploring.

Communication. We know it is essential. Every book on husband and wife relations extols it. But sometimes we just don't do it at a meaningful level. With the whirlwind pace of life, we can become like the proverbial ships passing in the night--taking care of the basics but not really communicating about what is going on inside. We can lose touch with each other while still living in the same house. It's easy to forget that we're a team. But two really are better than one when it comes to getting a bigger perspective on our lifestyle and the changes we may need to make. Besides, it works much better if we both decide and agree on issues, rather than one of us trying to single-handedly slow this merry-go-round to a halt.

Because my husband, Dave, is usually working away from the family home, I hold down the fort, run the errands, do the bulk of home schooling, chauffeur the kids, etc. Thus I can be more in touch with the state of affairs at home--but often too close to the problem. I tend to get high-centered on immediate details, whereas Dave often sees the long-term and can come up with creative suggestions like… "We need to simplify. "

When he said that to me, I felt like saying, "I know, I know--just tell me how! " So far we haven't found any pat answers, but this much we know--we want some more room to breathe--to smell the roses, to enjoy the journey, and be able to gaze into each other's eyes like we used to when life was slower. Dr. Richard A. Swenson calls this breathing room "margin ".

It's weird. We value having good, uplifting relationships, but here we are feeling driven by things and activities that crowd out that very thing. I have to admit there is a certain exhilaration to a busy life. When I only had three kids and energy, I could still pretty much handle "warp " speed and keep all the pieces together. But as year has followed year, I now have less conquer-the-world energy and more kids. So I find that with all the busyness, the things we consider most important can be neglected.

How did we get so much going on? Well, as I mentioned before, we had kids. Then they grew. Then we did the all-American thing--got them involved in music lessons, Spanish lessons, home school field trips, sports, you name it. If every kid has one, two or three extracurricular activities per week--I-yi-yi! Suddenly I'm running a chauffeuring business and a fast food kitchen. Things have gotten crammed, and I'm no longer exhilarated with the busyness.