Step 1 – Start Saturday night. Give the kids a bath, a haircut, pick out their outfits, and get as much ready as you can. That way when they pee the bed in the middle of night and it sprays off their plastic mattress protector and manages to completely saturate their best clothes, you can start all over in the morning. Ya know, except for the haircut.
Step 2 – Set at least three different alarm clocks. If you set three alarm clocks, you will not need them. One of your children will wake up every hour to pee, get a drink, or tell you a story about something that happened 6 months ago. Another child will wake up at 4am starving and wanting breakfast. Conversely, if you set no alarm clocks, everyone will oversleep until 5 minutes before you need to walk out the door.
Step 3 – Make a plan. Allow one hour for each person in your home to get ready. Also allow your driving time to church to be doubled. For example, if you have a family of 5, give yourself five hours to get ready for church. And double the fifteen minute drive time, and you need to get up 3:30 am to make it to your 9 am service.
Step 4 – Make a big pot of coffee. Drink a cup.
Step 5 – Get everyone dressed and ready when they first get up and save breakfast for last, that way there’s no clamoring for snacks in the car or during the service.
Step 6 – Make a hearty but not a sleepy breakfast. So pancakes are great, but people tend to feel tired afterwards. Cereal isn’t going to make it for the long haul. I recommend smoothies, eggs, bacon, toast, and jam.
Step 7 – Drink another cup of coffee.
Step 8 – Change clothes. Someone spilled at breakfast. There was no way to know who it would be in advance hence Step 5. Change their clothes.
Step 9 – Now that one kid is naked, all the kids want to be naked. Turn “Find the Entire Church Outfit” into a game. 1 point for the shirt. 5 points for the original, matching pair of socks. First person to 10 points gets a prize. Oh look, it’s mom and dad! The prize? A cup of coffee.
Step 10 – Do a last minute check to make sure you have everything. Jell-o salad in the correct liturgical color? Check. The baby blanket that the old lady who sits three rows behind you made? Check. The baby blanket that the old lady who sits three rows in front of you made? Check.
Step 11 – Have every one go potty. This may restart Step 8.
Step 12 – Drink another cup of coffee.
Step 13 – Get in the car. Buckle everyone around the twirly-dress tulle and the stiff dress pants.
Step 14 – The kids will start whining. It’s inevitable. The buckle will be too tight. The trip will be too long. The snacks will not be enough.
Step 15 – Drink a cup of coffee.
Step 16 – Hand out snacks. Now you and I both know that the breakfast that you made was enormous and no one should be hungry. But no one told that to the kids.
Step 17 – Arrive at church.
Step 18 – Herd the now completely disheveled children out of the car. They look like they took part in a match-to-the-death in the back seat. You count them to make sure they’re all there. You send them in in their wrinkly and blood-stained clothes.
Step 19 – Navigate the parking lot as if it’s a mine field. Grab a hand before a car hits them. Stop to tie a shoelace. Run after a blankie which has weirdly blown away.
Step 20 – Finally step through the door.
Step 21 – Immediately locate fellowship coffee pot and grab a cup.
Step 22 – Divide boys and girls and head to the bathroom. If your kids don’t look like they just got out of the bottom of a laundry basket before, they will after this trip. They will step into the bathroom stall looking as well-put-together as a 4 year old can and step out looking like they wrestled a bear in there.
Step 23 – Get your morning workout by helping the kids wash their hands in a public restroom. Pick up child. Turn on water with elbow. Use hip to get soap out of the dispenser. Get a motion-detector paper towel with your foot. Rinse. And repeat.
Step 24 – Finally arrive at the doors that go into the sanctuary. Church started 12 minutes ago. Usher everyone off to church.
Step 25 – Internally high five yourself for making it. Give your spouse a sly fist-bump behind the kids.