Friday’s Favorite Finds

First up, a straight-to-the-point, awesome Daily Habits for Mom chart from Hey Things Change.  I love this so much I want to print it, frame it, and hang it somewhere I can see all the time.

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Secondly, I know it’s November and everyone’s thinking of last minute family photos.  Whether you’re wanting something special for Christmas cards or just to hang above your couch, you will want to visit this article from The Dating Divas.  Seriously, it has EVERYTHING from picking a photographer, choosing the location, coordinating outfits, posing tips, and even ideas on how to display your pictures afterward!  We took family photos earlier last week and I’m excited to share them with you once I get them back from the photographer.

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Lastly, there’s no picture for this one (because he’s a guy and likes things straight-forward, I guess), but if you haven’t visited Matt Walsh’s blog yet, you’re missing out.  He’s a witty, fearless Christian blogger who writes with fiery gusto.  Again, no pictures, but some of my favorites of his have been…

I don’t agree with your parenting choices, now let me explain how you should raise your children…   An encouraging post for any Mom out there.  Seriously, you’re going to want to read this one.

and Why do you Christians always throw the Bible in my face? – A well-done and inspiring satire.  The best of the best.

Do you have any favorite finds this week?  Tell me below!

We’re Talking Wake-Times!

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Many mothers have different ideas about wake times.  I’m going to share here what works for me, but feel free to take my advice with a grain of salt if it’s ‘not your style’.  Some parents welcome their children hopping into bed with them in the morning and enjoy waking up alongside them.  Personally, that sounds like a fun thing for holidays, but wouldn’t work for my daily life at all.

It’s really important to me that I wake up early (before my kids do) and tackle a few things before they join me.  I’ll read my Bible over coffee, unload the dishwasher, start the laundry, exercise, answer some business-related emails, and sometimes write a blog post all before breakfast.  Despite how much I love my family and social life, there’s a part of me that needs a bit of quiet and alone-time each day.  Often times, the morning hours are the only time that happens.  (Read more about my morning routine here)

Of course, to be able to accomplish all that, I need to have a predictable wake time for my children.  It gives me peace of mind knowing what to expect and it’s healthy for all of us to get enough sleep.  I know a lot of Moms complain about their children waking up at ungodly hours (5am anyone?).  Personally, that would never last long for me.  I would fall to emotional pieces very quickly and the rest of my day would be spent in survival mode instead of relaxed productivity.  Peaceful-Joyful Mom would have to fight tooth-and-nail to overcome Grumpy-Worn-Out Mom.  Haha.  Just admitting my weaknesses, here.

There’s no doubt about it.  The way my day starts sets the stage for the rest of the day.  And so for me, my kids wake-up time needs to be predictable and at a time I’m comfortable with.  If you start training them from their earlier months, it’s not a very hard thing to maintain.  If you start late, you may have a bit of a battle on your hands, but to me the reward has been worth it.

Here are some tips for teaching your children to sleep longer in the morning.

1)    Establish the ideal wake time.

For my boys, after they’re about 6 months of age, I know they are capable of sleeping 11-12 hours per night.  This means if you put them down at 8pm, they are fully capable of sleeping in until 7 or 8am.  Since Dad often works evenings around here, their bedtime schedule is often 9pm to 9am so they get to see him at night and I can stay up later with him (and sleep in later) myself.  I know some families who do 6pm to 6am.  Whatever works for you!  The important thing is that everyone (your kids and you) gets enough sleep.

NOTE: If this wake time thing is entirely new, try extending their wake time incrementally toward your new goal.  If they’ve habitually been waking up at 5am, aim for 5:30 for a few days.  Then go for 6am, etc.  Be firm and hang in there.  Usually it only takes 2-4 days for a new habit to develop.

2)    Keep the room dark.

Seriously, get some thick curtains.  If they wake up early, you don’t want them knowing the difference from 2am and 6am.  Which brings me to my next tip…

3)    Treat early waking like middle-of-the-night wakings.

If you want them to sleep until 8am, but they wake up at 6am, don’t just let them hop out of bed and start roaming the house.  Go in, nurse them if they’re a baby, fix up their blankets, or do whatever you would normally do in the middle of the night.  Keep your voice down and try not to stimulate them too much.  Once you’ve tucked them back to bed, just leave.

4)    The toddler bed is a privilege

Teaching your child to stay in his or her bed until you give them permission to get up is a trained, but valuable skill.  It will give you peace of mind while you shower in the morning and make training them to sleep later much easier.  If my child is too young to understand that, I’d keep them in the crib.

NOTE: If you have a second child needing that crib, use a pack n play.  Buy a second one if you need to.  It’s well worth the investment.

5)    What happens when they wake up just 30 minutes early?  So… they’re *almost* there, just not quite.

Waking up a bit early is treated differently than when they wake up a lot early.  If I just want a few minutes to finish up my exercise video, I’ll go in and slip a few picture books in with the toddler or some toys in with the baby.  I still keep the lights down and the environment calm, but I have the peace of mind knowing that they’re not entirely bored.  The ability to stay in bed, even while looking at books, still develops self-control skills.

6)    Don’t feel guilty.

This tip shows up a lot, doesn’t it?  If there’s anything to remember, it’s this:  You’re not establishing a wake-time just for you.  THIS IS NOT SELFISH ME-TIME.  This is so you can start your day off with the right priorities (reading your Bible and prayer), be a healthy (by exercising), well-rested mother (by getting enough sleep), and prepared (by setting up your home for the day) so that you have every reason (and no excuses) to embrace a joy-filled and low-stress day FOR YOUR CHILDREN.

Bedtime Routines

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While the kids are awake, I invest everything I have into them.  But when bedtime rolls around, it’s time for the kids to go down.  No excuses.

After all, kids need their sleep and I need one-on-one time with my husband.  Regular bedtimes make for healthy kids and a healthy marriage…  It’s a win/win.

Now if you haven’t noticed, kids are smart (and manipulative) when they want something (or don’t want something), and bedtime is usually not high on their list of wants.  Gabriel, at age 3, has exhausted just about every excuse in the book for either staying up later or getting up after he’s been officially put down.

  •  I’m hungry.
  • I’m thirsty.
  • I have to go to the bathroom.
  • I’m scared (even when he’s not).
  • I’m sick (even when he’s not).
  • I’m not tired (even when he is).
  • I want more kisses and hugs and hold-yous.
  • Just one more song?  One more book?  Can we pray just one more time?

Any of those sound familiar?  Running back and forth to the kids bedroom or tucking and retucking your little one in bed fifty times can cause stress, frustration, and irritability, all unwelcome guests to Husband/Wife time.

It’s our responsibility to protect our marriage, even if that’s from the adorable little ones in the upstairs bedroom.  And so… we bring in the boundaries.  Here are some tips for enforcing a low-stress bedtime you can all be happy with.

1)     Plan ahead.

If you want naptime to happen at 8 o’clock, don’t wait until 7:55 to think about it.  Ask if they are hungry or thirsty or have to go to the bathroom at 7pm.  Any physical ‘needs’ that show up between then and 8pm probably aren’t legitimate.  If they’re cheerfully playing with their toys or running around at 7:30, you can rule out their being sick at 8pm, and be sure to smother them with kisses and hugs and ‘hold-yous’ beforehand so you can close the bedroom door at 8pm guilt-free.

2)     Have a routine and stick to it.

Create a routine (as lengthy or short as you like) that you always do beforehand.  Reading, rocking, singing…  We don’t typically read bedtime stories, although I know many families do.  We tend to pray and sing a few songs together.  But whatever it is, do it every night and have a predictable stopping point.  If you’re reading, don’t get talked into reading ten books one night unless you’re always willing to read that many.  Otherwise they’ll feel cheated later that week when you only have time to read one.

3)     Be firm.

After bedtime is HUSBAND/WIFE time.  Your kids should not be coming down the stairs to get water that they turned down earlier.  They should not be calling to you repeatedly from their beds.  If they’re not tired (although they usually are), they can still lay quietly in their beds and wait for sleep.  Self-control is a valuable skill that must be taught.  They don’t need to be getting toys or books or watching TV to entertain themselves.

NOTE:  If your child is habitually not falling asleep until hours after you put him down, perhaps he needs more activity beforehand?  Intentionally wear those kids out!  Run around together, throw pillows at them, give bouncy piggy-back-rides, dance to music, encourage energy to be spent.  

4)     Don’t feel guilty.

Unless your child is sick or wakes up legitimately scared, you don’t need to be in there to comfort them throughout the evening.  They’ve had your attention all day.  They may not know it yet, but having parents who know and love each other well is one of the best gifts you can give your child.

My next post will be on developing good Wake Time routines!  So until next time!

Motherhood is Hard, But it Doesn’t Have to Be THAT Hard

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I ran across an article online yesterday that struck a chord in me.  It was from the Huffington Post, titled “24 Clear Signs You’re A Mom”.  Basically, it’s a running list of 24 ‘You know you’re a Mom if…” statements.  Some of them I found humorous.  Others really hurt to read.

I think it’s because motherhood is portrayed (as it often is in our culture) as a totally out-of-control time of life.  Becoming a mother basically means you lose all rights to privacy, boundaries, and sanity.  Your kids are going to rule the house and run the show and, let’s face it… sometimes those little people are plain maniacs.

Reading through the list made me realize.  No wonder people are scared of having kids nowadays.  No wonder choosing not to have children is so in vogue.  I mean, can you really blame them?  When it’s presented to them like this…?

Once the kids arrive, you won’t sleep, rest, feel ‘caught-up’, get to go out anymore, shower alone, eat on time, have a clean house, have any sort of love life, or decide what to watch ever again…’  Oh, but it’s so worth it.

Oh, really?  Why?  And how?  Especially when it’s advertised so… convincingly?

The good news is, though it often is that way…  It doesn’t have to be.  I’m a firm believer that you can teach your children to be considerate, pleasurable company.  It just takes enforced boundaries, patience in training them, and a whole lot of love and joy.  This rubs off marvelously.

Life with littles also doesn’t have to be a life of chaos.  Learn to organize yourself and teach your little ones to help you.  Make them pick up those toys.  Teach them to complete their own mini to-do-lists.  It teaches diligence, enforces a good work ethic, and is a life skill that will serve them well no matter where they end up in life.

So below, I’ve included my response to all 24 ‘Signs’.  I call it the Organized (Christian) Mom’s Response.

1. Instead of running from projectile vomit, you run towards it.

This is totally true and made me smile.  I remember admiring my Mom’s super-human powers of not puking herself as she cleaned our childhood messes.  I remember doubting that I’d ever be able to do that for my children.  But you know what?  When the time comes and it’s your children, you step up to the plate and… it’s not that bad.  Thankfully, flu season is not the norm for motherhood, so it’s hardly representative.

2. You do more in seven minutes than most people do all day.

Isn’t that thinking a bit too highly of yourself?  Taking care of my kids is my job.  There’s a lot to be juggled, undeniably.  However, I know my husband also juggles a lot.  He works very hard to provide for us every day, so it’s not like either of us is vacationing.

3. Happy hour has become the 60 minutes between your kids going to bed and you going to bed.

I won’t deny that the time between my kids going to bed and when I do is a special time usually spent with my husband.  If you’re good with enforcing bedtimes, it’s a great, low-stress time to catch up with each other, enjoy some popcorn and a Netflix, or just drink some hot chocolate together while you read separately on the couch.  Of course, if I didn’t have children, it’s not like I’d be doing that all day anyway.  Our evenings would probably still look pretty similar after a long day’s work, whatever that work might be.

4. A night of drinking requires more recovery time than minor surgery.

Okay… easy fix.  Don’t get drunk.  There are plenty of healthier and more rejuvenating recreational activities you can enjoy without turning into the proverbial (as in Proverbs’) fool.

5. A glass of wine counts as a serving of fruit.

Um… why?  I mean, I like a glass of wine with dinner on occasion, but wine is for making the heart glad (Psalm 104:15) after a good day’s work.  My life is not so desperate that I need it to survive.  If so, something needs to change.  And why not just eat fruit for your serving of fruit?  It’s not that hard.  Put it in the menu plan, buy healthy snacks, have them available, and then eat those.

6. You have mini-therapy sessions all day long with anyone who will listen.

Okay, something’s wrong here.  Just what is so hard about your life that you need all-day-long therapy (complaining) sessions?  C’mon, girls.  Let’s change our attitudes about our responsibilities and start rejoicing in the many, many blessings we have been given.  These years with littles in our home won’t last forever.  Treasure them.  Rejoice in them.  Take nothing for granted.

7. Going to the grocery store by yourself is a vacation.

Granted, it is much easier to focus on shopping without the littles along, so the occasional shopping trip alone may seem like quite the treat.  Of course, bringing them along can also be a fun experience (if they are fed, well-rested, and well-trained).  You can teach them about the world as you go and you get to show off what adorable children you have to the rest of society.  😉

8. You can experience heaven and hell at the same time.

One word: Childbirth.  Been there, done that… twice.

9. You think of physical pain on three levels: pain, excruciating pain and stepping on a Lego.

Okay, I know that lego thing is popular now, but you don’t have to live in a home overrun by a thousand lego pieces just because you have children.  Here’s a thought…  Have them pick them all up!  If they’re too young to pick up their legos after them, they’re probably too young to be playing with them.  (Read more about how I keep toy chaos under control)

10. You have the ability to hear a sneeze through closed doors in the middle of the night, two bedrooms away, while your SO snores next to you.

(SO means Significant Other, for those who didn’t get that).  This is true.  I wake up when my children cough and my husband never does.  On the flip side, if something suspicious goes ‘bump’ in the night, it’s my husband who will jump up to defend us all, whereas I’m much more likely to continue sleeping.

 11. You’d rather have a 103 degree fever than watch one of your kids suffer with it.

Probably true.  Movie and couch day for us all!

12. You’d rather go to sleep than have sex.

Although I must confess to this being true on occasion (life is exhausting sometimes!), I also feel that it’s a responsibility of ours to see to our marriage as well as our children.  My friend Valerie has a great series on this topic (Becoming the Sexy Wife)

13. A 15-minute shower with the door locked feels like a day at the spa.

Personally, I have always taken my showers alone just by waking up before my kids do.  Teaching your kids to wait to get out of bed until you come and get them (post on that topic yet to come) is hugely helpful in establishing a predictable wake time in the morning (and not worrying whether they’re up and roaming the house while you shower).

14. Peeing with an audience is part of the daily routine.

If your kid is young enough to need to be under your supervision while you use the bathroom, what’s the big deal?  Your baby’s not going to care.  On the other hand, teaching your older ones to wait patiently outside until you’re done is a great step toward teaching them some common courtesy.  Unless you have three kids under three (and I suppose that’s not impossible), there’s no need to have a complete audience.  The kids can wait outside until you’re done.

15. You use baby wipes to clean up random spills and the dash of your car.

Yes!  Motherhood definitely keeps us prepared for anything.

16. You lock yourself in the bathroom and pretend to have diarrhea just to get a break.

Or…  you could say to your children (who are old enough to be locked out of the bathroom) “Leave me alone for a few moments because Mommy need a break.  If you cannot obey, then you will need to play alone in your room for a while.”  Put a movie on if you’re desperate enough.

17. You love Moms’ Night Out and Date Night with the Hubs.

I love Date Night.  Of course, I loved Date Night even before we had kids.  Why is this a Mom thing?

18. You have a secret chocolate stash because frankly, you’re sick of sharing.

Guilty.

19. You’ve been washing the same load of laundry for three days because you forgot to dry it.

This is a side effect of disorganization (or a unique life crisis) not of motherhood.  After all, I’m more caught up with laundry with two kids than I ever was before I had children.  Read my Conquering the Laundry post.

20. You realize you’ve been watching Nick Jr. alone, even though your kids have been in bed for over 30 minutes.

This has never been my problem.  After the kids go down, it’s Husband/Wifey time!  Those minutes must not be wasted.

21. You can cook dinner, breastfeed, talk on the phone and yell at the kids, all without breaking stride or missing any of the TV show you are watching.

Or… you could turn off the TV and focus on baby while you breastfeed.  Then set him down in the kitchen with some toys and make dinner while not yelling at your children.  If the phone rings, answer it and get back to what you were doing.  Is that TV show so important that it’s worth sacrificing the peace of your home?

22. You get more excited about the Mini Boden Catalogue than J Crew’s.

Being the frugalista that I am, I don’t look at either.  If Goodwill had a catalogue, I’d look at that.

23. You decide to stick with your car for the next decade because a) you can’t afford to switch and b) you haven’t found a car wash that knows how to get all the milk stains and glitter removed.

Or you could enforce a Water-Only rule in the car and not allow hazardous things (like glitter) to be carried by unreliable caretakers.  And not being able to afford another car is a Budgeting problem, not a Motherhood one.

24. By the end of the day, brushing your teeth feels like a huge accomplishment.

This is often true, but is just a sign of a productive and hard-working day.  Motherhood is hard work, and you should be proud of all you’ve accomplished today… teeth brushing included.

And that, my friends, is how a girl can have two kids, not be overwhelmed, and still desire more.  Let’s overcome chaos one bit at a time and learn to rejoice in our children while we have them.  Motherhood is a gift, not a curse.  Let’s think of it as such.

Recipe Organization

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Today I’m going to share my system for organizing recipes.  If I could choose a few adjectives to describe my recipe binder I would choose:

  • Extremely Functional
  • Basic and
  • Low-Maintenance

Words I would NOT choose to describe my system.

  • Visual perfection
  • Great hand-writing 😛 or
  • Type-A perfect

If you’ve learned anything from my past organization posts, it’s that I like things orderly, but have given up striving for perfection.  Perfection is overrated, in my opinion, and too hard to keep up with anyway!  I use my recipe book to stay in budget and have all my tried-and-true recipes at my fingertips when I want them, but I haven’t used fancy printables or identical recipe cards to do it.

Let’s jump right in…

First off, in the front of my binder, I have mini plastic page protector I’ve used to corral my to-try recipes.  I try to keep these minimal by only keeping what I really, really want to try. Everything else in my binder has been tried before.  That’s right.  NOTHING gets taped inside unless I’ve tried it and liked it.  I don’t want my experimental recipes cluttering up my beloved ones.

Note: I also have a Pinterest board where I keep my online to-try recipes, but otherwise that’s it.  I actually got up the nerve to GIVE AWAY *gasp* all of my dusty recipe books a few years ago and haven’t missed them.  I’m just a child of the modern age, I suppose.  I like being able to read the online reviews before I try something and I’ve put our recipe book shelf space to more efficient use housing toddler school supplies.

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I only sort my recipes into four categories.

  • Breakfast
  • Main Courses
  • Sides  and
  • Desserts.

I know it’s in vogue now to get super-specific with recipe categorization (Pastas, Breads, Chicken, Beef, Salads, Vegetables…), but when I’m about to make dinner, there are usually only two categories in my head I’m concerned about. (What’s my main  dish and what am I going to serve with it?)

Prepare yourself for some construction paper and crayon dividers…

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Inside, I literally just TAPE whatever it is I’d like to keep.  Some of my recipes have been taken out of magazines, printed offline, hand-written on recipe cards, or just penned in directly onto the page.

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If it’s an easy, memorized recipe I still write the name of it in my binder so I’ll remember it as an option when I menu plan.

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One of the perks of not having a ‘perfect’ set-up, is that I don’t feel badly at all writing notes to myself on top or along the side of the recipe.

ImageIf you’ve read my Keeping Our Household Budget under $300 a Month series, you know that serving budget recipes are a huge part of our secret.  Do you see those tiny numbers along the side of my recipe cards?  Those are price estimates.  I won’t claim that they’re 100% accurate (ingredient prices vary all the time anyway), but it’s helpful in knowing the price range of the dish.

ImageSome of my recipes produce very large servings.  This one is estimated at $5 for a half recipe which would better-suit my family size anyway.

ImageI’ve also transferred my deep freezer inventory page from my Home Management Binder, where I received a marvelous tip from one of my readers.  (See, I learn things from you girls too!)  Thanks to her, I’m planning on converting this page to dry-erase, which should make for much less scribbling and become a bit easier on the eyes.

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This is also a great place to include any dietary notes or reference information, as well as a reminder list of healthy snacks.  That way it’s right there when you menu plan or just when you’re starving and exploring the dessert section.  🙂

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I know this isn’t my recipe binder, but I thought I’d include a mini-tour of the front of my fridge… Think of it as a bonus.

Aside from family photos, shopping list, and week-at-a-glance preview, my menu plan for the next two weeks is in the lower left.  Basically, it’s just a dry erase board where I include two-weeks worth of dinners at a time (I only shop every two weeks).  I don’t necessarily cook them all in top-to-bottom order.  Instead, I just choose from the pool of available dinners and rejoice in the confidence of knowing I have all the ingredients in the fridge.  Also, in that third column on the board, I include snacking options or ‘Fellowship Lunch’ reminders (for church or baby showers, etc).  For those curious, I don’t ‘plan-out’ lunches or breakfasts.  I just cook extra for dinners and we eat the leftovers for lunch.  Breakfasts are pretty standardized around here and I just make sure we don’t run out of cereal, biscuits and gravy, or toast essentials.

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So there you have it.  No fancy bells or whistles, but hopefully a realistic dose of recipe organization.  I’d love to hear what you think!

The Once-A-Month Question (1)

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It’s a weird thing, blogging.

 Throughout the past few months, I’ve gotten to know so many mothers like myself who have followed along and helped me learn tricks to overcome the everyday challenges we call life.  We may live thousands and thousands of miles apart, but we all have to serve dinner to our families, struggle to find order in the beautiful chaos of living with littles, and learn creative ways of keeping in budget.  It brings us together in a wonderfully unique way. 

 Some of you are regular commenters (and I LOVE hearing from you!).  Others, I know, have been eavesdropping on the sidelines (which was totally me, I should add, before I started blogging myself). 

 I’ve decided to try a once-a-month question to encourage more interaction.  Don’t worry, I’ll keep it simple.  After all, you get to glimpse into MY life on a regular basis.  I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a teensy bit curious about yours. 

 So the question of the month…  *drumroll please*

 How old are your children? 

I’ll go first… 

  • Gabriel, 3 years old
  • Matthias, 1 year this month

 Now it’s YOUR TURN!  Go! 

My Favorite Finds

I wanted to share with you a few of my favorite finds this week.  First off, this amazing Holiday Mini Binder from Thirty Handmade Days which I’ve already started using and LOVE it.  I already feel more prepared for buying Christmas gifts, sending out cards, and staying in budget while I’m at it.  What’s even better?  It’s all free!

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Next up, a great article from Growing Slower.com  I think what she says is right on.  Often when people say they could never make it on a single income, they’re not aware of how much you can really SAVE by not working.  But Shannon says it better than I do, so I’ll let her do the talking.

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Also, I loved this 11 Things to Do Printable over at Money Saving Mom.  It’s amazing how much prepared you can feel for your day, just by doing a few things the night before!

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Lastly, we’re entering birthday season over here.  We have one October birthday, three November birthdays, and then it’s Christmas, so I need all the inspiration I can get for making each day special.  Some of these suggestions from House of Hendrix could also be done for your husband.  

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So those have been my exciting finds!  I hope they prove as helpful to you as they have to me.  Now’s your chance to share your favorites!  This can be something you’ve stumbled upon Pinterest or a new project or helpful musings from your own blog!  Looking forward to seeing what you come up with.  The only rule is that it’s somewhat related to Mothering, Wifing, or Homekeeping.  🙂  Until next time!