Iwould not consider myself a “little kids person.”  I have a one-year-old and a six-year-old at home, but I confess that I can’t wait to fast-forward a few years when we can have substantial conversations and spend less time on those necessary but mind-numbing skills like table manners and personal hygiene.

I’m not the kind of mom who relishes playing Legos on the floor with her kids. (I’m the kind of mom who snaps two blocks together while watching the clock and then invents an excuse to do something else.)

I have, however, discovered a few survival tactics that help preserve my sanity and remind me that this little kid phase is short-lived. Here’s what’s saving my life right now:

1. The 4 p.m. walk

This strategy is gold.

My least favorite time of day is the post-nap, pre-dinner stretch. Boredom and crankiness most often appear during these hours.

So around 4 p.m. every day, I load up the kids and the dog and set out for a walk. Usually we circle the block, but sometimes we hit up the farmers market.

The fresh air does wonders for everyone’s mood, and the exercise is an added bonus.

2. A Clean Kitchen

I’m one of those people who cannot relax if my surroundings are messy. I need order and—as I discovered once I had little children—a (mostly) clean house to feel like myself.

My husband and I have developed the habit of taking 20 minutes after dinner to thoroughly clean the kitchen: we do all of the dishes, wipe the countertops, sweep, and mop. Our six-year-old even helps!

I may have sticky floors and crumbs on the counters for much of the day, but I know that come 7 p.m., I will enjoy a few hours with a clean kitchen.

We hit the reset button on the kitchen, and no matter what happened earlier in the day, we prepare for a fresh start the next morning. Waking up to an already tidy space allows me to greet the day in proactive mode than reactive mode.

3. Professional Photos

I’m terrible at taking photographs. I’m not only a lackluster photographer, but I forget to take pictures at all.

I have released myself from the obligation to take photos at every birthday or recital or Saturday afternoon at the park and simply accepted that our family will not have thousands of pictures to document the years. Yet I do not want to miss how our children change from year to year.

A couple of years ago, my husband and I made the decision to spring for annual professional photos of our family. It isn’t cheap, but for us, it’s worth it.

The photos are beautiful, and we are all more relaxed not only during the photo session, but also throughout the rest of the year because I’m not chasing everyone down on those rare occasions I remember to snap a photo.

And whatever pictures we take in addition to those taken by the photographer? Icing on the cake.

These small practices enable me not to wish away these little kid years. They will pass by soon enough. Yes, I will enjoy not having sticky fingerprints all over the refrigerator and my jeans, and I won’t miss the dinnertime temper tantrums.

But as those yearly photos capture so well, nothing is forever.