And On Sunday We Prepare — Getting Stuff Done & Staying Organized With Baby

Well, its almost been a year. One whole magical year staying home with my beautiful baby girl. While the amount you learn about your child, yourself, your marriage, and the ways your life is forever changed seems never ending, another thing I’ve learned a lot about is how to make the most of my day. Mostly through trial and error. By nature I am a hard-working, need-to-be-productive, can’t-sit-down kind of person, so moving from the fast-paced job of elementary education to staying home was a big adjustment. I remember feeling incredibly overwhelmed and frustrated during those first few months as the housework piled up and I often felt like I went to bed with nothing to show for my day (which is insane because my growing, happy, and thriving daughter was all I needed “to show”). Over the months, however, things started to get a little easier. She wasn’t attached to my boob for the better portion of the day. She started napping in her crib better as opposed to only on me. As she slept through the night longer I was better rested to face the day. Her bedtime got pushed back from 10 p.m. to 7 p.m. which gave me roughly 3 glorious hours before bedtime. She started sitting and playing independently which allowed me a little more freedom.

If you’re still in those first few months and feel like some days you’re drowning – it will get better. Embrace the chaos for the time being. Nap when she naps. Let some dishes pile up. Take some guilt-free “you time” when you can. Ask for help when you need it. And remember that for the this moment, that beautiful being you created IS your job – you were not hired to be a housekeeper.

As we start to come out of that initial stage of daily survival, however, getting a few things done becomes a little more feasible. I am by no means an expert or pro at time management or organization, trust me. But I have learned a thing or two about what works for us, and if it helps you in any small way – then I am one happy momma!

For me, the biggest way I am able to maximize time is through planning and preparation. Taking random stabs at tasks that need to be done is counterproductive – I’d start 5 tasks at once and never complete a single thing! So, I plan. Everything. On Sundays.

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This picture above is my “command center”. My entire week is wrapped up in this nook. And here’s what I do. On Sunday.

  1. The Calendar. I actually lay out the whole month at the beginning of each month, but on Sundays I make sure everything is up to date and on the calendar. Every visitor, appointment, and activity. This comes first, and will dictate the rest of my planning.
  2. The Meal Plan. (Bottom Middle) Have your calendar up to date so you know how many nights you need to cook, and then plan your meals accordingly. I usually try and do some sort of mix between crockpot meals and those that are a little more labor intensive. Not only is a meal plan nice so you avoid the 5:00 panic of what to make, but it also helps tremendously with grocery budget as you are only getting what you absolutely need for the week. And if you have a man that’s handy in the kitchen, he can jump in and help without even having to ask!
  3. The Grocery List. (Bottom Left) You’ve got your meal plan, so now go through and decide what you already have and what you’ll need. Once dinners are covered, consider snacks, lunches, drinks, etc. (If you make your baby food, remember to plan for those extra fruits or veggies you’ll be pureeing!).
  4. The To-Do Lists. I am 110% a list person. I need them to function as an adult. Seriously. So I have two. My “General” (next to grocery list) is a list of things to do within the following month or so, so I can keep things near and far on my radar. My “Daily” list (bottom right) incorporates workouts, cleaning, laundry, and various household maintenance items from my General list (like paying bills, making appointments, DIY projects, etc for the week). Every day will have a few to-do’s under it. I also make sure to take a peek back at my meal plan so I know which nights I’ll have more time to tackle more time consuming tasks (crockpot nights give me more time!). How many times am I going to work out this week? When will laundry need to be done? Is there a certain day bills need to be paid? Make your to-do’s small, and specific. For example, “vacuum master & kids’ bedrooms” and “pay mortgage and auto” are much more doable and specific than “vacuum” and “pay bills”. Be specific!

By the end of planning this quick little map of our week, I’m able to see what the week ahead should (roughly) look like. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten through a week where a change of plans didn’t put a wrench in things, but at least I’m prepared and can roll with the punches, right?

*On a side note, there’s this sweet little free app called Cozi – its a grocery list, To-Do List, Calendar, and more all in one. Plus, it syncs all phones that are on it so your family stays on the same page! I blogged about it before here: https://estoebick.wordpress.com/2013/10/15/family-life-simplified-get-cozi-with-it-2/

(and for the love of god someone tell me what I’m doing wrong when trying to embed a link?!)

After the planning comes grocery shopping and food preparation. Once back from the grocery store, work as a team to try and prep as much food for the week as you can within reason. Grill up a few pounds of chicken to pull out for salads during the week. Clean, cut, and portion some of your favorite go-to fruits and veggies for snacking. If you can prepare any items for the upcoming week’s dinners, do it now and tuck it back in the fridge for later. All of this food prep will come in handy when you have 45 seconds to grab a healthy snack or 10 minutes to try and throw together a dinner. (Do I need to even mention prepping food can help immensely when trying to lose the baby weight? You’ll eat what’s available – so make those good foods ready to grab!). Depending on your baby’s age, this might also be a good time to prep baby’s snacks or whip up some baby food for the week! You will free up so much time during the week if your meals are able to be put together quickly – you’ve already laid all the ground work!

Whew! Kinda seems like your Sunday is over before it even began, huh? I promise it doesn’t take long, especially once you get a routine down. It just makes sense to do all the planning and preparation before the hustle and bustle of a week begins and your help is home with you!

Aside from Sunday planning and prep, there are a few other tips and tricks I’ve picked up that, again, work for us:

  1. If your baby enjoys it, wear your baby to get stuff done! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had her wrapped up on my chest in her K’Tan so I could unload the dishwasher, fold a load of laundry, or vacuum.
  2. Don’t feel guilty for taking advantage of a little independent play time. I used to feel like I needed to be playing with or engaging Tayler all day, when the truth is independent play is necessary and needed for social and cognitive development. While she is mumbling and putting blocks in and out of a bag on repeat, I don’t feel guilty doing a quick task or two!
  3. Be prepared in different areas of the house. If your baby isn’t big on being worn at the moment, have things ready to pull out in different areas of the house where you might need to quickly get something done. I used to have at least one bouncer/mat/toy/swing/etc ready to pull out all over the house. (Check out the “Go Pod!” for this!). If I needed to be in our bedroom putting away clothes, in the basement switching a load of laundry, or in the bathroom getting ready, I had something ready to help entertain and/or contain her for a second.
  4. Take advantage of the times of day baby is happiest!
  5. Take advantage of daddy and baby time. When my husband gets home from work and settled in, I usually have some time to get a few things done. While playing all together is important, they also need some alone time to bond. Go shower, read, blog, peruse Pinterest, or whatever it is you need to relax a little!
  6. Shower at night if its reasonable for you. I have very thick hair that takes forever to blow dry. Instead of using time during the day to shower and attempt to blow dry and style my hair, I shower once she goes to bed and all I have to do the following day is style, which is much quicker!
  7. Get into a routine with their naps. My daughter is currently napping twice a day. During those naps I know exactly what I’m going to do and waste zero time getting to it! Morning nap time is reserved for getting ready for the day (clothes/hair/makeup), and lunch. If I have time past those things, its a blessing! Afternoon nap is reserved for workouts and to-do list tackling. If I have time leftover, I love jumping ahead to to-do’s for later in the week!
  8. As they get older, involve them! Two of Tayler’s favorite things right now are helping me unload the dishwasher and handing me every piece of clean clothes from the basket for me to fold. Make some chores a game and make it fun!
  9. Full hands up/full hands down. Years of serving and bartending has ingrained this little multi-tasking motto into my brain’s functioning. Almost every time I go upstairs or downstairs, I’m taking something with me. I’m always scanning what needs to be moved to where to keep my trips efficient. Sounds a little crazy, but I promise it helps!

The final, and most important tip I have is this:

10. Realize and embrace the fact that you will never again be quite as productive as you once were. Don’t try to be Supermom and do it all. I’ve learned trying to be Supermom can lead to Supermom not ever taking care of herself, which, is never good for anyone. Just be a really great mom, and enjoy your insanely lovable little ones. In 20 years when your kids are off to college or starting families of their own – that’s when you can keep a perfectly clean house, and even then I’m sure you’ll just wish it was back to being messy with all the beautiful chaos that once filled your home.

*To moms with more than one child: I don’t know how you do it. Once I’m there, I’m sure I’ll look back at this post and laugh, but for now, this will have to do ūüôā

11 Reasons Why You Should Rotate Those Toys and How To Do It!

Lets just jump straight to the goods. Rotating your children’s toys will not only benefit the play and growth of your children, but it will benefit you and your home as well! Here are some reasons why:

  1. It helps de-clutter your home.  The sheer volume of toys that are out will decrease, which will help keep your home looking somewhat like adults live there too.  Everything will have a home (which does not include your kitchen counter, under the couch, in your closet, in your dog toy basket, and in the hallway).
  2. Too often a child has too many options of toys to play with.  Too many options can lead to anxiety, frustration, over-stimulation, and feeling overwhelmed.  Adults feel this too when faced with too many options, and our kids are the same.  Simplify.
  3. Toys that have several pieces or moving parts will be used again.  Have you noticed that a shape sorter is rendered useless because the shapes are always nowhere to be found in the mass of chaos? A puzzle is pointless when half the pieces are missing.
  4. Fewer toys encourages focused play, not scattered play. ¬†Does this image seem familiar: your child picks up a toy, looks at it for 20 seconds, drops it, moves to the next toy, looks at it for 20 seconds, drop its, and within 10 minutes they’ve gone through the entire playroom and they are bored. ¬†Which usually causes them to go find things they shouldn’t necessarily be playing with or demand that you entertain them. ¬†Fewer toys lets our children fully engage with a toy, learning its inner workings. ¬†Skills and concepts can now be mastered instead of quickly being passed over.¬†
  5. Rotating toys allows your child to use the same toys in new ways. ¬†Its exciting when a toy they haven’t seen in a month appears again. ¬†Its almost like new! As they develop and grow, they can start using the same toys in different ways which encourages creativity and inventiveness. ¬†
  6. Clean up just got a lot easier.  Instead of picking up an entire room of toys, you and your child have significantly less to pick up Рwhich makes cleaning up a lot less overwhelming!
  7. You can more easily pick-up on what toys are ready to be donated or sold. ¬†When there are less toys to monitor it’ll be easier to see which ones your child has outgrown. Condense, clean out, and stay organized.
  8. They will be engaged longer as their time is used more productively.
  9. Toys that were once overlooked and lost in the chaos will now be played with.  All toys are now more visible and available!
  10. It encourages independent play. ¬†While playing with your children and engaging them is incredibly important, it is equally important for them to be able to play independently. ¬†They’ll be better able to master this skill when they aren’t feeling overstimulated and overwhelmed.
  11. It provides a healthy attitude towards their toys. ¬†When rotated, their toys are tools to play with that come and go – not their possessions that can’t be taken or shared.

If I’ve convinced you at this point, the next step is how to do it. ¬†There are several ways, and you’ll really need to do it in a way that fits the needs of your home, children, toys, and family. ¬†I’ll give some general suggestions and guidelines, and then you can make them your own!¬†

  1. Start by sorting your toys into categories.  Put those category piles spread out in a room. Categories to consider are things like: Stuffed animals, books, puzzles, games, costumes and make believe, stacking and building, sorting, music/sound, etc.
  2. Once you’ve got your toys into categories, bring in several clear, stackable bins. ¬†(However many you think your toy supply will need). ¬†Take the first category of toys, and put one in each bin until they are all gone. ¬†Move onto category two and do the same. ¬†The point here is that your children have different types of toys and skills to master in each bin.
  3. Take into consideration seasonal toys, toys that foster their current developmental skills, and their absolute must-haves.  When spring rolls around, bring out the bugs, balls, nets, etc.  When its summer, bring out shovels and pails, water toys, etc.  There are also some toys that should stay out all the time.  If your child is starting to sit, leave a few toys that encourage that skill.  If they are starting to pull up, leave out the toys to pull up on, etc.  And if your child has a toy or two that they love and have all the time, leave it.  No need to cause stress or anxiety.
  4. Decide how often you want to rotate.  Every week? Every day? Once a month? Once every few months? Depending on how much are in your bins and knowing your child, use your best judgment.  Do what works for you!
  5. Big toys will stay.  If you have a kitchen set or a tool bench, leave it.  Moving the giant things would get you frustrated with rotating real quick!
  6. Consider typing or writing up an inventory of each bin and taping it on the inside of the lid.  Helps keep track of toys and where they go.  Not necessary, but an option.
  7. Number your bins so you remember which ones need to be brought out next and rotated through.
  8. Make your children a part of the process if they are able. ¬†It’ll be fun and give them ownership over the process!
  9. Tweak the rotation and organization as needed… your toys, uses, and circumstances may change – be flexible!
  10. Enjoy!

Check Out That Cupboard

We all have somewhere in the kitchen where we corral all the baby stuff. Bottles, food, formula, baby cook books, etc. Maybe its in a cupboard, maybe its in a cute basket on the counter, or maybe they are put wherever you find a patch of clear space at the time. For us, we have a cupboard that’s all hers. (So this is the trend when you have kids, huh? They kind of just take over the house?). The reason I’m writing about a measly ole cupboard is because I’ve found it to be baby command central – valuable not only to me, but to my husband and babysitters as well. When everything has a designated home and vital information is all in one place, things just seem to run smoother. Husband has no excuse for putting things in the wrong place when unloading the dishwasher (the point is he unloaded the dishwasher, right?). Everyone helping with Tayler knows what her general schedule looks like. And god forbid there is ever an emergency, anyone can easily find every phone number they may need and visual reminders for infant CPR and choking. Let’s take a little peek.

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The upper left is Tayler’s schedule. Everything on it is subject to an “-ish” after it, but as Tayler’s schedule changes, its nice for my husband to be able to keep up with our day-to-day if I’m not around to ask. It makes fussy problem-solving a lot easier if he can keep tabs on where she is during her day.

Bottom left is her Emergency Contact List. Beneficial for anyone in our home if there is ever an emergency. Things to consider putting on yours are:

  • Your Address
  • Poison Control
  • Your Urgent Care
  • Mom & Dad’s phone numbers (personal, home, & work)
  • Your Hospital’s ER
  • Fire Dept
  • Police Dept
  • Your Pediatrician’s Office
  • All Neighbors that could help and where they live
  • Your Pharmacy
  • Your Insurance Info
  • Any allergies and/or medications taken in the family

**Something else helpful you might want to put on your Emergency Contact List is this little bit of info: If you’re ever in an emergency, and cant connect to a 911 dispatcher immediately, for whatever reason – go to your car and press your red Onstar button (IF you have Onstar of course). It is set up to connect IMMEDIATELY – you jump ahead of any other calls. My dad works for Onstar, and always tells me about how many children’s lives are saved from this bit of information. **

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The right side is filled with step-by-step and visual directions for Conscious/Unconscious Choking, Infant CPR & Infant Rescue Breathing. I’ve taken the classes, babysitters have taken the classes, but the truth is, it is so easily forgotten because (hopefully) that information is used next to never. In an emergency, I want to make sure the person handling the situation has a guide if needed. Our babies are too precious to leave it to chance.

The link below is the information I printed off and that you see above.

http://www.beprepared.net/infantcpr.pdf

All of the red bins you see are Dollar Store finds. Organization doesn’t have to cost much money!

I know as Tayler ages our cupboard will change, and I will need to move it down to her level so she can help herself, but for now – this will do.

Are there any ways you organize your kitchen or information you’ve found useful to have up? I’d love to hear!

Family Life Simplified. Get Cozi With It.

I have it. ¬†The answer to a busy family’s prayers.

I bet you can relate to at least one of the following situations:

  • Your husband repeatedly, (bless his heart), but repeatedly asks when certain appointments are
  • You just pull out of the grocery store parking lot to find a text that says “Get milk, granola bars, and paper towel!”
  • Better yet, you pull into the grocery store parking lot, and realize you forgot your list on the counter
  • You politely text your husband with things to add to his “honey-do” list, but those texts are forgotten and lost just as quickly as they were read
  • A doctor’s appointment changed, and you put it on the refrigerator calendar but no one saw it – and therefore, was missed
  • Your husband repeatedly, (seriously, bless his heart), but repeatedly asks when certain appointments are

Problem solved. ¬†A free little app called¬†Cozi. ¬†It’s easy. ¬†It’s quick. ¬†It’s amazing.

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Every family member you add to the account can add appointments, things to the grocery list, things to the to-do lists, birthdays, etc Рand it automatically syncs to all phones on the account.  The calendar looks like this, and can be seen as a monthly view if upgraded.

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When you add an appointment, you can alert certain family members of it.  When you know your husband will most likely forget to take the dogs to the vet, you can set up multiple reminders at times of your choosing.

And the teacher in me absolutely adores the fact that every family member can be color coded!

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At the start of every week Cozi sends all members an email showing a run-down of what the week looks like.  Talk about starting off on the right foot!

Enjoy!

What Do I Do With All These Clothes?!

It’s no secret that one of the fun parts of being a mom is getting to dress up an adorable little butterball every single day. ¬†After the baby showers and family and friends’ first times meeting your little one, I’m sure you noticed that his or her closet began to grow exponentially (if only my closet grew that quickly!). ¬†Different sizes, styles, and brands filled drawer after drawer, and if you’re like me – finding a way to organize all these beautiful gifts seemed a little overwhelming.

The first mistake I made was taking sizes for their face value. ¬†I kept all the newborn clothes with newborn clothes and all the 3 month clothes with all the 3 month clothes. Then one day I did the first cleaning/shuffling of her clothes, and realized baby sizes vary brand to brand just like women’s pants do. ¬†It can be a nightmare. Before I was even aware, several of Tayler’s outfits were already too small and she never even got to wear them. ¬†What a waste! Lesson was learned. ¬†From then on, my organizing went by sight, not size. ¬†Trust your eyes – you get very good very quick!

As she grew out of clothes, I realized I didn’t have a system for storing them. ¬†They began to pile up on a shelf in her closet, and while I knew what those clothes were doing there, my husband did not. ¬†Clothes I had already “discarded” were being recycled back in on accident. ¬†Lesson was learned. ¬†So, below is how I keep her clothes cycling through smoothly as she continues to grow at what can only be described as warp speed. I call it moving up and moving out. ¬†We’ll start with the dresser.

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Top Left: Current Onesies sorted by short/long sleeve and solid or patterned

Top Right: Diapers, Wipes, Burp Cloths

Middle Left: Current Bottoms (Shorts/Pants/Bloomers/Leggings)

Middle Right: Accessories (shoes/socks/hair/swim)

Bottom Left: Current Pajamas & Sleep Sacks

Bottom Right: All next size up clothes

At least every two weeks I quickly browse through her “next size up clothes” drawer and make sure there’s nothing that can be “moved up” into a current drawer. ¬†And any time there’s a onesie or piece of clothing that makes me think it might be too small next time she wears it, I automatically put it in a storage bin in her closet. ¬†If you thought it might be too small, it will be, and will just continue to take up space. ¬†I’ve been keeping the storage bins in her closet, and always have one that is “open” to keep filling as she grows. ¬†They look like this:

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My thought is that when the time comes around that we either need them again for another little girl, to give away, or to sell at a sale, they will already be washed and sorted by size. ¬†No future work needed! Once one is filled, I get another one to have open and ready. (And I’m clearly breaking my own rule, as I filled the 6 month one a few days ago and don’t have a new one yet!). ¬†I chose these plastic bins as opposed to cute baskets because I imagine them finding a home in the basement storage room at some point, and are stack-able/durable enough to keep the clothes clean. ¬†Everything has a clear defined home now, and it’s easy enough for my darling husband to keep track of! ūüôā

Do any of you moms have ways of organizing clothes that works for you? I’d love to hear other suggestions!