Update

JoniUncategorizedLeave a Comment

Hello friends!

It’s been a while, no? I had to put this little blog on hold for a while as we had some pretty big things going on in our lives and I couldn’t handle the stress of starting a blog and dealing with LIFE.

First and foremost, we renovated our house! And by renovated, I mean completely gutted.

Rip out the drywall, tear up the floors, throw the plumbing out the second floor window into a dumpster kind of gutted. All the way down to the studs.

We got new plumbing, new electrical, new siding, new stucco, new windows, a new roof and an entirely new interior. It’s a brand new, 40 year old house. The only things that are still original are the foundation, the studs, the fireplace and the brick on the outside. That’s it.

We got rid of a wall and instead had a 38′ long laminated beam manufactured and installed to support the weight of the second story. We moved the half bathroom from in the kitchen area to across the house by the stairwell, we got rid of our dedicated laundry space (yes, I did just say that) and completely changed the layout of the master bathroom.

The project took a year from planning to completion. And no lie, it was stressful.

We started working with architects in September of 2015, right about the time I started playing with this blog. In January 2016 we completely moved out of the house and into a rental home a few miles away. Demo started two weeks later.

Construction was finally complete in August 2016 and we moved back in at the end of that month.

It took about a year for me to finally feel like we’re settled back in. Am I pleased with the final result? Yes. Was it worth it? YES. At the time, I was convinced it was never going to end. It went two months past our original deadline and waaaaay over our intial budget but it worked out for the best. The quality of construction is excellent, the finishes are awesome, and it will be a place I can live for the rest of my life.

It’s my dream home.

In other news, about the time we moved back into our house, I started homeschooling my daughter. Even though it was only kindergarten, adjusting to the homeschooling lifestyle added it’s own element of stress. All of a sudden I wasn’t teaching her the ABCs, I was teaching her to read. Yikes. I didn’t realize how heavy that responsibility is.

At the same time, I qualified for (January 2016) and ran the Boston Marathon (April 2017). It was a great experience and every runner’s dream come true.

Though this blog has always been sitting in the back of my mind, I didn’t feel like I was in a good enough place mentally to get back into it. I had too much going on. I needed to tackle the other stuff first.

The stress isn’t completely gone. Is it ever? I’m currently training for Ironman Texas, which is a huge undertaking and soon I’ll be homeschooling my son, who turns five in May.

BUT, I feel like I’m in a much better place emotionally to tackle this blog as a long term project and give you some great, easy ideas for streamlining and organizing you own life, both mentally and physically.

Look for posts to come. Maybe not immediately but soon!

 

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Bread Box Charging Station [updated]

JoniAround the HouseLeave a Comment

[Disclaimer: this post contains affiliate links.]

UPDATE: We’ve been using our bread box charging station for four years. When I originally published this post in August 2015 it was in it’s first version, since then the charging station has been moved and morphed multiple times so I updated the post to reflect its current status.

We all have them. Phone chargers, tablet chargers, laptop chargers. Every outlet with a nearby flat surface is spoken for. What an eyesore they are! Sadly, we can’t live our modern lives without them.

Like most people our kitchen is the hub of our lives and it’s the logical place for us to charge our electronics. When we renovated our home we made the living and kitchen area open concept, which means you can see everything, from pretty much everywhere. This makes wrangling the cables a priority.

I hate looking at all those cables. They stress me out. But you can’t actually get rid of them so what do you do?

You hide them in a bread box, turned charging station.

I got this idea from The Kim Six Fix though I’m decidedly more lazy so instead of finding an awesome vintage bread box at a yard sale or flea market and refinishing it, I just bought one that would fit the largest of our electronics.


I got my husband to drill a hole in the back (I could have done this myself, but again…lazy) then I used a little wood stain to clean up the hole.

I found this awesome 5 Port USB Charger on Amazon. It’s super thin, and has a low profile plug the width of a pencil. It is perfect for my charging station. All it needed were a few Command Picture Hanging Strips to secure it to the back of the bread box.

To keep the electronics from being stacked on top of each other, I dug out an old letter sorter that we had in a closet, I turned on it’s side and screwed it into the back of the breadbox.

I also added a cable organizer so we could store the cables out of the way when they’re not in use.

Not only does this give our electronics a nice, tidy place to rest while they’re charging it also gives us a place to store them when they’re not in use…not that they ever get put away.

If you’re interested in constructing your own bread box charging station there’s a few things to consider.

Measure your electronics to ensure they will fix in the box. We have two 7″ Kindle Fire tablets, a LeapPad 3, and a 10″ Samsung Tablet, and an old cell phone we let the kids play with. Our cell phones usually get charged on our night stands but occasionally make an appearance in the charging station if things get desperate.

Be sure to choose a bread box you can drill a hole through and be sure to make your hole is large enough to accommodate all your cables and the larger USB ends.

Know how many outlets you need and plan your power needs accordingly. Thankfully, now most devices using some form of universal charging cable, we no longer need to have a specialty adapter for every device.

Once I found my breadbox I was able to fully complete this project in only 20 minutes. It was quick, easy, relatively inexpensive and has greatly reduced the visual clutter on our counter.

If you try this project let me know how it turns out! I’d love to see the results!

 

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Motivation Monday: Creating A Monthly Routine

JoniProductivityLeave a Comment

Happy November everyone! I thought I’d get this month started off right by continuing our discussion on routine. We’ve talked about daily routines and weekly routines so it’s only logical to start this new month discussing monthly routines.

Where daily routines are vital to avoiding decision fatigue and weekly routines keep your weekly productivity maximized, monthly routines hold all the loose ends together.

You know all that other stuff? The stuff that needs to be done every now and then but you can never remember the last time you did it? The things that aren’t not too important but your world would slowly fall apart if you ignored them altogether?

When did you last change the blade in your razor? Wash the car? Give the dog a bath?

If you had a monthly routine you’d know the answer to all those questions.

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I complete my daily and weekly routines enough to have them memorized but my monthly routine, not so much. I rely on a list which I have taped in the front of my planner where I check off each monthly task. If I’d like to note the date an item was completed I write the date down instead of a check mark.

My goal is to have each of these tasks completed during the first week of each month. Sometimes I’m successful at hitting that window, sometimes I’m not. It doesn’t matter when each task gets done as long as it gets completed once during the month and I make a note that it was finished.

Items on my monthly routine:

  • back up my computer
  • scan and file mail
  • clean Alvy’s hearing aids
  • give pets flea/heart worm medicine
  • replace contact lenses
  • replace razor cartridges
  • wash my car
  • file MOMS club membership forms
  • clean out email inbox
  • check/note blog stats

The tasks on my monthly routine aren’t vital to the operation of our household but their monthly maintenance is key to keeping things under control.

Organization is all about control.

Creating a monthly routine is a great way to keep infrequent tasks from falling through the cracks. Items which only need to be done monthly are easy to procrastinate and even easier to forget but a monthly routine will help you stay on track.

What items are in your monthly routine? How consistent are you about completing monthly tasks?

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Toy Organization Tips

JoniAround the HouseLeave a Comment

We have two play areas in our home. A large gameroom upstairs that’s a free-for-all toy wise and a smaller play area in the corner of our living room downstairs. I generally try to keep toys assigned to a specific floor but it’s inevitable that over time the upstairs toys wander downstairs and vice versa.

I quickly learned that toy organization is a linchpin in our household, it holds several other things together. The state of the toys is very reflective of the state of our house.

When the toys are are a mess, our household is a mess. The kids get overwhelmed when there’s too many toys to choose from and frustrated when they can’t find something they’re looking for. The kid’s emotions are contagious so if they’re in a bad mood – I’m in a bad mood.

Picking up and putting away the toys is part of our evening routine. When the toy corner is disorganized this part of our routine is nasty. My brain is already quite tired from the day and the last thing I need to be doing is trying to find a place to stash a toy snake and a princess crown. Decision fatigue nightmare.

When our toys are organized our household is running smoothly. Both the kids and I are less stressed. It’s easy for them to see what they have to play with which means they’re happier. It’s easier and less overwhelming to pick up the toys at the end of the day when everything has a home.  There’s control and order. Everything is A-Okay.

To keep the toys under control, every few months I go through a massive toy purge and re-org because no matter how diligent I am about keeping the toys organized (and I am diligent) there’s no way to keep it perfect all the time.

I recently went through one of these purges and I took some pictures while I was doing it so I could help navigate you through your own toy organization project.

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Our downstairs toy area is actually an old bar that was put in when our house was built. I think at one point there was a cabinet here but one of the previous owners ripped the cabinet out and put in a small bench.

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I wasn’t disappointed that the bar functionality was removed because this little corner makes a great home for all our downstairs toys. It actually works out quite well because the pony wall that separates the former bar from the rest of the room does a great job at hiding any toy mess that’s in the corner.

I added a small, cheap shelf from an office supply store for vertical storage but other than that the corner remains much as it came.

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First I clear everything out of the corner. As I’m emptying the space out I sort toys into piles by category. My categories are: trash, donate, stuff to take upstairs, stuff with batteries, anything with four wheels, sports stuff, educational stuff and everything else.

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As I take out each toy I give it a once over. Does it still work or is it broken? Do the batteries need replacing? Do the kids still play with it? Can I donate it?

When the toy corner is empty I clean the floor, wipe down the walls (bye bye nasty hand prints!) and wipe down the shelf. Then I start tackling the piles.

First, I throw away the trash. Then, I put the stuff to be donated in a box and put the box in my car. Next, the upstairs toys go back upstairs. After all that, the only toys left are the ones that will remain in the corner.

I then put each category of toys into a larger container and each of those containers go on the shelf. As far as the type of container you can use, it really doesn’t matter. You can go all Pinterest on your own project if you want but I’m somewhat more minimalist (read: lazy & cheap) so I just grabbed whatever boxes and baskets I had lying around when I initially organized the corner.

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I have two old diaper boxes, a file box and two random baskets that have been assigned toy corner duty. Maybe one day I’ll label them but they’ve been like this a year and they’re still unlabeled so it’s obviously not high on my list.

Once the toys are in their containers I then add any larger stuff that doesn’t fit in a bin. We have several larger toys that just hang out in the corner on the floor and on the seat.

Regardless of what your own toy storage solution looks like keep a few things in mind:

Purge first. You can’t organize clutter. This is true for every aspect of organizing but is especially true for toys. Toys are like rabbits, they multiply quickly. If you don’t purge, they will take over.

You don’t have to spend a lot of money. Though we’re all drawn to Pinterest like a bug to a zapper, don’t feel like you have to go spend hundreds of dollars on shelves and bins to make your toy storage functional. Even if you’d like to make it look nicer down the road start with the organizational tools you already have available so you can figure out what works for you before you make an investment in a storage solution.

Don’t have high expectations. The second you finish putting the last label on your perfectly color coordinated bins you kid will show up and use his chocolate covered hand to dump the whole thing on the floor anyway. If you go through the trouble to make it pretty understand it won’t always be that way.

Maintain the space. You can’t spend two hours cleaning out the toys then forget about it for a month fully expecting it to stay organized. Organizing the space means maintaining the space. Prepare to spend just a little time every day putting everything back in its place.

A little toy organization can go a long way to keeping your entire household running smoothly; organized toys are more fun for kids to play with and easier for parents to put away. Fortunately, it doesn’t take long and doesn’t cost a lot of money to efficiently organize your toy storage space. All you need a little inspiration and a little motivation!

What tools do you use to organize toys? Favorite bins? Shelves?

 

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Motivation Monday: Keeping A Weekly Routine

JoniAround the House, Productivity1 Comment

A couple of weeks ago when we discussed decision fatigue I talked about how decision making abilities wane as your brain becomes fatigued. Personal experience says that it’s true for our motivation levels throughout the week as well, at least for me.

On Monday morning I wake up refreshed from the weekend and ready to tackle the week. I spend most of Monday getting my things in order to ensure the week is successful. Something about Monday brings to mind the iconic training scenes from Rocky. I can just hear the soundtrack in my head now. I am motivated to get things done and have no problem tackling the hard stuff; hard work now brings rewards later on!

Tuesday is when things get tough. I put my head down, determined to survive the week. Wednesday isn’t any better.

On Thursday I’m just barely holding things together and by the time Friday rolls around I really don’t care about much of anything. At all.

Somebody pour me a beer.

I suspect this is true for everyone else too, based on a totally non-scientific observation I’ve made at the gym over the past several months. I work out Monday through Thursday at our local YMCA, at the same time each day. On Monday, the gym is packed full of people. On Tuesday there are fewer, Wednesday even fewer still. By Thursday it’s practically a waste land and everyone who is there looks like they’ve been attacked by a pack of angry dogs.

I have no idea what it’s like on Friday because even I don’t go to the gym on Friday.

What can we learn from this? Everyone starts the week with good intentions but as stress and exhaustion from the week build, our desire to do any nonessential tasks disappears (as my husband so eloquently puts it “our give-a-shitter is broken”). Can we do anything about this? Not really but we can use this knowledge to our advantage and schedule our recurring weekly tasks to maximize productivity.

When we discussed creating a daily routine last month we talked about building habits and creating a schedule to keep those small household tasks from taking over your day. This easily translates to routine weekly tasks as well.

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We all have recurring weekly tasks that need to be completed. Laundry, grocery shopping and cleaning the house are all things that, around here anyway, need to be done every week. Those tasks can easily be broken up and assigned to specific days of the week and specific people if you so desire.

There’s several advantages to creating a weekly routine.

First and foremost, when you have tasks assigned to a particular day you know exactly what you need to do that day immediately upon waking up. Chores, especially ones that are easy to put off are less likely to fall through the cracks and by completing chores on the same day each week you always know the last time something was done. Lastly, you can schedule your tasks to take advantage of higher motivation levels earlier in the week making them less likely to get procrastinated.

My weekly routine looks like this:

Monday: laundry, change the pet water
Tuesday: laundry, take out trash
Wednesday: change sheets, pick up house
Thursday: laundry, sort & file mail
Friday: take out trash
Saturday: NOTHING
Sunday: clean out fridge, grocery shopping, laundry prep

I keep a copy of my weekly tasks taped to the inside of my calendar just in case I need a gentle reminder of what needs to be done.

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Creating a weekly routine is easy. Write down a list of everything you’d like to get done on a weekly basis. Consider your schedule, the amount of time you have available and start filling in tasks to get done each day. Pick the stuff you hate the most and get it done early in the week. The week should get easier the further into it you get. Try to evenly spread out your chores so that no one day is overloaded with things to do.

Make sure to give yourself a couple of days off. You need a break from housework to keep yourself from getting burned out. On Friday I only have one simple chore and Saturday I do nothing outside my daily routine.

If you feel overwhelmed at the thought of creating an entire weekly routine at once or you just don’t have the time, try picking one task you’re likely to put off and doing it on the same day each week, as you conquer one you can add another.

Does each task on my weekly routine get completed every week? No. Most of the time the mail only gets sorted every two weeks and occasionally I get busy on Wednesday and I forget to change the sheets. Sometimes we’re busy on Sunday and I don’t make it to the grocery store and will do it Monday instead. Much like the monthly meal rotation I use this as a guideline to keep things on track and I rearrange tasks as needed.

Your schedule will look different from mine. We all have unique needs so no one routine will be like another but by sharing what works for me I’m hoping to give you ideas and motivate you to organize your mundane chores so you’ve got less to think about. That’s right, we’re talking about decision fatigue prevention – again.

By creating a weekly routine you can free up your brain to think about other things – like running your business, managing your job or educating your children – and you’re less likely to feel fried at the end of the day. It’s a win for everyone!

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Organized Grocery Shopping

JoniIn the KitchenLeave a Comment

I love grocery shopping. I love heading into the store with an empty basket and walking through the produce section to see all the delicious fruits and vegetables. I love wandering the aisles and imagining all the things I could make with the ingredients there. I fill my reusable bags full of healthy food and vibrant colors with my head held high.

Unless of course my kids are with me – in which case I’m buying everything on my list and getting the hell out of there as quickly as possible.

Since I only get to go grocery shopping alone about once every three months, you can bet I’m getting in, getting the things on my list and getting out as quickly as I can. Blissful browsing and hunting for that package of tamarind paste is just gonna have to wait.

Thankfully, there are ways organize your trip to save time and reduce stress – because organized grocery shopping is efficient grocery shopping. I feel like I’ve developed a pretty solid strategy and since it works so well for me I figured I’d share it with you.

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So here, without further ado, are my organized grocery shopping tips:

Know your store. I always shop at the same store and I know it well. I know the fastest and most efficient way to make my way through the store so that I can get the things I need quickly. Produce first, then the bakery, meats & cheese, dry goods, dairy, frozen foods and cleaning supplies.

Here’s a little drawing of how my favorite grocery store is laid out.

Grocery Store Layout

Have an organized list. I use two separate lists for keeping track of what I need. I have a list on a chalkboard in my kitchen (it’s not a real chalkboard – it’s a frame from Target with black paper inside that I write on with chalkboard markers) that I use on a daily basis.

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As I notice something that I need to purchase I write it on the chalkboard.

When I’m planning our meals for the week I use a list I created in Remember the Milk. First I sit down and add everything I need for our meals for that week, then I add anything I wrote on the chalkboard. At that point I erase chalkboard and have it ready for the next week.

Remember the Milk is my FAVORITE list making service. It’s cloud based and multi-platform so I can add stuff to my grocery list no matter where I am.

In Remember the Milk each item has four different priority options and I use those to keep my grocery list organized. I divided my grocery store into four sections and assigned each section a priority level. Every time I enter an item on my grocery list I assign it a priority setting depending on where it’s located in the store.

Priority 1 = Produce
Priority 2 = Seafood, Bakery, Deli, Meat & Cheese
Priority 3 = Dry Goods
No Priority = Dairy, Frozen Food, Cleaning Supplies & Pharmacy

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My grocery list is set to sort items based on priority so all the items in my list are grouped by where they are located in the store.

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As I walk through the store I make sure every item in that location is checked off before I move onto the next section. This eliminates a lot of walking back and forth which saves time. My goal is to hit each section once and not go back.

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Keep your basket organized. I use a smaller hand held basket inside the larger shopping cart to neatly stack produce. The smaller basket keeps the easily bruised produce from getting squished in the cart and it leaves the real estate in the buggy open for larger, heavier items like flour or laundry detergent so I’m not constantly rearranging stuff.

The carts at my grocery store have a smaller space in the top of the front and I use that for cold items.

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By organizing your cart by food type you can unload it by type at checkout. When you unload by type you make it easier for the person bagging the groceries to keep like items together making the checkout process faster. That’s a win for you and the grocery store!

Though grocery shopping is still a chore at least by being organized I’ve made it as painless as it can be. Yes, most of the time the kids fight and scream and sometimes cry but at least I have a plan and that’s a good place to start!

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Dining Out with Kids

JoniFamily & HomeschoolLeave a Comment

Over the summer I got invited out to lunch with our playgroup for hard of hearing children. We were a large group – 20 of us. The service at the restaurant is notoriously slow and with such a large group it was slower that usual. It took a full 20 minutes for our orders to be taken and another hour before our food hit the table. That’s right, almost an hour and a half of sitting still before any food was delivered. It was a nightmare for a parent of small children –  and we were a table full of parents and small children.

By the time lunch finally arrived me and my kids were the only ones still sitting at the table. All the other moms and children were pacing the restaurant floor or had gone outside because they just couldn’t sit still.

Several of the moms asked how I got my kids to behave so well and my answer was very simple, I was prepared and we dine out often (and there was some luck involved because they aren’t always that well behaved).

I know dining out is stressful and it’s tempting to avoid dining out as a family altogether but sometimes, like I found out this summer, it’s unavoidable – for example, when you’re traveling or when another family invites you out. When those situations arise you want to make sure you child has had plenty of experience, lest you suffer epic public humiliation.

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Dining out with kids will always be hard but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible and it may even be enjoyable if you’re organized and well prepared. Here’s a few tips:

Establish ground rules. It’s important to establish that dining out is a privilege. It’s something special that you do together as a family and it is to be respected. Before you go discuss behavior expectations with your spouse/partner/co-parent and use those expectations to establish some ground rules.

Our rules are as follows:

  1. Once we’re seated our kids aren’t allowed out of their chairs unless they’re moving to a lap. No running around the table, playing on the floor, etc. The only exception to this rule is if we’re dining at a restaurant with a sand box, play area, etc.
  2. No raising your voice at the table – this includes loud talking, screaming, crying or anything else that may disturb other diners.
  3. Toys that we bring can be played with before our dinner arrives but as soon as the food hits the table the toys are put away. If the kids finish eating before the adults the toys can make a re-appearance.

Be prepared to enforce the rules in a restaurant environment, just as you would at home. Time outs are an important piece of my dining out arsenal – I will take my child outside and sit them down on the sidewalk for a time out if they’re not behaving. If they continue to misbehave once they return to the table then they go back outside. Yes, I’ve spent entire meals sitting outside on the sidewalk but it always pays off the next time we go out.

Time outs are especially effective in a restaurant environment because they serve multiple purposes:

  1. They remove the child from the situation giving them a break from whatever was causing the misbehavior.
  2. They give them a chance to calm down.
  3. They keep the other diners from experiencing your child’s misbehavior.
  4. They reinforce the concept of sitting at the table together in a restaurant as being special, if the child don’t behave they don’t get to participate.

Practice restaurant manners at home. Sit down at the table to eat as a family and enforce your restaurant rules at home. That means sitting at the table until everyone is finished eating and asking to be excused before getting up.

Practice! Dine out often, once a week if you can. By dining out in restaurants they’re familiar with, it gives the kids a chance to practice their eating out skills and table manners in an environment they’re comfortable with but still outside the home.

Have good timing. If your child missed their nap or is overly tired from a long day at school, you can’t expect them to sit still and quiet for an hour at dinner. When you go out, make sure your child is well rested and if they’re overly hungry feed them a small snack before you go. Tired and hungry kids are cranky kids!

Use tools to help make the experience easier. Minimizing the number of things that can go wrong is always a good thing. I always take a spare strap for the high chair (because they always seem to be broken) and some bendy straws, which I keep in a travel toothbrush holder. If you child can’t handle a cup with a straw take a sippy cup. Climbing out of the highchair and drink spills are now two things you no longer have to worry about!

Reserve some toys only for trips to restaurants. I have a bag of toys that are reserved especially for going out to eat. I keep them by the back door in my diaper bag bin for quick and easy access. The novelty of having these special toys also reinforces the “special” aspect of going out to eat.

When choosing special restaurant toys look for things that are small, flat and easy to shove in a diaper bag or purse. Yes, a tablet or phone falls into this category and I often rely on a tablet for pre-food entertainment with a few rules – tablets and phones are to be used for games only, no streaming videos and they follow the same rules as other toys. When dinner is served they are put away.

Get food FAST. If you’re at a restaurant that serves bread or chips when you’re seated then you’re in luck. If not, then consider ordering an appetizer to get something on the table. If you’re familiar with the menu, plan on making your ordering decision soon after sitting down – if you place your food order at the same time as your drink order you get double parenting bonus points.

Order easy food. Though I am a stickler for trying everything on your plate at home, a restaurant isn’t the place I want to have a battle over eating green beans. To reinforce the concept of dining out being a special event, I let them eat things they wouldn’t normally be offered at home. Corn dog? YES. French Fries? YES! Chocolate milk? YES PLEASE!

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Manage your expectations. You can’t expect your two year old to sit and play quietly with their special toys for an hour while you enjoy your meal in relative peace and quiet. Plan on interacting with your kids to keep them distracted. One of my favorite things to do is to practice origami with with the paper kid’s menus. There’s a ton of online tutorials on how to make paper flowers, cranes, etc. It’s a fun, quiet activity, kills a lot of time and they can play with the end result.

No matter how well behaved your child is you will have meals that are failures and unfortunately they are impossible to predict but that doesn’t mean you can’t go out and enjoy some good food with some good company! It just takes a little organization and practice to get there.

 

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Displaying Kid’s Art

JoniAround the House, Family & HomeschoolLeave a Comment

My little girl loves to draw and paint. When she draws and paints her little soul becomes very transparent – I get a little glimpse of how she views her world in each piece of artwork she produces…

…and she produces a lot of artwork, several pieces a day. Not all of it is worthy of home display but every now and then she shows me something that makes my mommy heart swell with pride.

I had been putting it all on the refrigerator but I don’t really like putting a bunch of stuff on the fridge – it looks cluttered and since our fridge hides in a corner I don’t get to see it much anyway.

Displaying kid’s art is quite the dilemma. How do you showcase their hard work without it adding clutter to the house?

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Solution: I created an art gallery in our breakfast room just for the kids. I went shopping for some large, simple black frames with backs that are easy to remove. I finally found what I was looking for at Target (big surprise).

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Their art gallery is in our breakfast room and I mixed in some art done by a professional artist in with the kids art.

When the kids produce a particularly good piece of art, I date it and put it in the frame for us to admire as long as we want. When it’s time in the frame is over, it goes into a pocket folder labeled by month (all of Evie’s preschool work is also going into the pocket folder).

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Sometime in the future I’ll go through it all and decide which pieces I should keep forever and which ones I can toss – not now though. For now, they’re all keepers.

 

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Decision Fatigue

JoniProductivity3 Comments

Last Tuesday was a tough day. Nothing bad happened but nothing came easy either.

For the first time in over a month Alvy slept until almost 7 AM, I slept through my alarm and didn’t wake up until Alvy woke up – at 7 AM.

Instead of having my usual morning full of habit and routine, I found myself running around the house like a crazed lunatic trying to get the kids dressed and fed before I had to take Evelyn to school.

Nothing went well after that. I ran late to Alvy’s hearing test (I’m never late), I did three loads of laundry that never made it out of the laundry room (totally uncharacteristic). By the time dinner rolled around, I realized I had never made the bed or unloaded the dishwasher (the cornerstones of my morning routine).

Coincidentally, around that same time, Jason called me to tell me he was on his way home from work and asked what was for dinner. I was honest and told him that everything I needed to make dinner was in the fridge but I was emotionally drained. The thought of spending another hour and a half cooking and cleaning was the absolute last thing I wanted to do.

What’d we end up eating for dinner? Chinese take out.

It wasn’t until about 8 PM that I realized I’d never fed the the dog – something I normally do immediately after breakfast – sorry Baxter.

So what happened? What led to such a spectacular derailment?

Decision fatigue.

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What is decision fatigue? I read a great analogy written by James Clear that describes decision fatigue to the T.

“…your willpower is like a muscle. And similar to the muscles in your body, willpower can get fatigued when you use it over and over again. Every time you make a decision, it’s like doing another rep in the gym. And similar to how your muscles get tired at the end of a workout, the strength of your willpower fades as you make more decisions.”

It all makes sense.

By sleeping in, I threw off an entire day full of habits, routines and schedules I worked for months to build. All of a sudden I found myself having to make decisions that I don’t normally have to make, starting with deciding how to get the kids fed and dressed without Evie being late to school.

It all went downhill from there. Instead of writing in the 5-6 AM hours I had to decide another time to get that done and without a schedule I found myself constantly distracted and having to use my willpower to keep myself on task.

To add fuel to the fire, on Monday Evelyn and I made Halloween themed sugar cookies which were sitting on the island, in a glass cake platter. Every time I walked though the kitchen I looked at them and had to make the conscious decision to use my willpower to deny myself.

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By the time dinner rolled around I wasn’t physically tired but my brain was exhausted. All I wanted to do was stare blankly at the wall in silence.

As it turns out, dinner was doomed at 5 AM when I slept through my alarm.

 

 

So what can we do to combat decision fatigue?

  1. Make big decisions first thing in the morning when your brain is fresh.
  2. Create routines and schedules that minimize minor daily decisions.
  3. Build habits around your most important daily tasks.
  4. Complete the most important tasks of the day first thing in the morning.

What was the first thing I did after doing all this research on decision fatigue? I covered up the sugar cookies with a dishtowel.

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At least one decision fatigue problem solved!

For more information about decision fatigue read this awesome article in the New York Times.

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Traveling with Kids

JoniFamily & HomeschoolLeave a Comment

We’ve been traveling a lot lately – four of the last five weekends we’ve been out of town. We didn’t do this intentionally – it just happened.

The truth is we’ve never been ones to let our kids keep us from doing something. Though traveling with kids can be hard, a well organized parent will go a long way to keeping it enjoyable.

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Here’s a few tips for your adventure:

Make lists! Lists help my frazzled travel brain keep up with all the little loose ends that I might forget. Last year when Evie was 3.5 and Alvy was 18 months old we all went to Puerto Rico for a week. I made this worksheet to help me plan our packing.

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In the two weeks leading up to the trip, before I could actually start packing, I started brainstorming things we might need to take with us. It helped me plan how we were going to manage the kids and the things I would need to take to make sure the trip was successful. It was much easier to do this in the morning over a cup of coffee while my brain was fresh instead of while I was rushing around the house in a panic looking for Alvy’s other shoe.

Know your destination. Get on the internet, call the hotel, ask friends. Find out as much as you can about your destination. Does your hotel room have a pullout? Rollaway? Crib? Refrigerator? Continental breakfast? Coffee in the room? Restaurant in the lobby? Find out as much as you can so you can prepare for your stay. An informed parent is a prepared parent!

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Choose fewer bags! It’s much easier to juggle one larger bag than three smaller bags. Even for easy weekend road trips I take my rolling suitcase and pack the kids stuff in with mine. To keep everything separated I use packing cubes. The ones I got are from REI but you can find similar ones at Target.

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If you don’t want to buy packing cubes go get some mesh bags used for washing sweaters. I got some for $2 each at the grocery store. They’re also great for putting dirty laundry in your luggage.

Keep necessities close at hand. When we fly, I use my backpack as our diaper bag and put the Sugar Snap Files in to keep everything organized. They keep stuff from falling to the bottom of the backpack and getting lost, which happened a lot prior to using them. When I need to change Alvy’s diaper, all I have to do is grab the “Dipes + Wipes” file and I don’t have to lug my whole big backpack to the bathroom. The more I use them, the more I love these silly files.

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To keep messes at bay, I take a few baby wipes out of the package prior to leaving the house and put it in a zip top bag so I can put them in an outside pocket of my bag or in the seat back pocket on the plane. They’ve come in very handy when I’ve had to break out the emergency bag of mini Oreos to make it through the last 15 minutes of a flight – Momma needs supplies ready to clean up the aftermath, lest the plane window get smeared with Oreo hands!

For road trips I always keep napkins in a zip top baggie in the glove box, along with bendy straws stored in a toothbrush holder.

Pack food! Hungry kids are cranky kids! Snacks, stuff for sandwiches, cereal, etc. anything you can eat in a hotel room will save you money. Though eating out with kids is possible and sometimes enjoyable – no one wants to go through that kind of stress three times a day.

If you are flying and can’t take food with you try to visit a grocery store when you reach your destination so you can stock up.

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Utilize the car seat! If your kid is over two and has their own seat take your car seat on the plane. Not only is it safer but they’re used to sitting in it for long periods of time and it’ll keep your two year old from wanting to climb on you for four hours. If you’re flying with a lap child, before you board the plane ask the airline staff if the flight is full. If it’s not, they’re likely to let you take your car seat on board with you and relocate the passenger beside you so you can strap your child in an empty seat.

Take toys! Bigger toys are better for car travel and are easier to find in a messy hotel room. Small toys are better for plane travel.

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If you’re traveling by plane with more than one child remember that you may be split up. Each child needs their own bag of entertainment. When we fly each of our kids take their own backpacks which which are full of age appropriate toys for the flight.

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Protect their sleep! Take books they are familiar to them, any loveys they’re used to sleeping with and stick as closely to their sleep routine and schedule as you can manage. A well rested kid is a happy kid! Does your kid take afternoon naps? Plan your day around the nap – have fun in the morning and retreat to the hotel room for an family siesta then head back out in the evening.

A word on hotel cribs…they can be questionable or they can be awesome. There’s really no way to know until you get there. If your child is particular about their sleeping environment and you’re not flying I’d advise you to take your own crib if you can.

Manage your expectations! As with anything related to children they are unpredictable. Realize that you can’t take them to a nice dinner or on roller coasters. Don’t plan on doing something that you can’t do as a family. Know that maybe you won’t be able to go on that 10 mile hike through the rainforest and opt for the 45 minute tour instead.

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With a little careful planning and organization, traveling with kids isn’t just possible it’s enjoyable! There will be rough patches and it won’t be easy but it will be worth it in the memories you make! Go pack your bags and get ready for an adventure!

What are your favorite tips for traveling with kids? Do you have any favorite travel hacks?

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