Motivation Monday: Creating A Monthly Routine

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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.


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

JoniHome, KidsLeave 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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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

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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.


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.


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

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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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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

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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.


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!


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

JoniHome, KidsLeave 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?


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).



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).


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

JoniProductivity2 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.


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.”

The second you admit that willpower is nothing more than a decision to resist temptation, 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 the middle of the kitchen, 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.



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 happens in our brain that causes decision fatigue? Why does our brain get so tired when forced to make multiple decisions and use our willpower to avoid temptation?

Nutrition. Our brains run primarily on glucose and unlike other parts of our body they lack the ability to store their fuel. Each decision you make requires your brain to do just a little work, slowly consuming the fuel your body has available. As you eat throughout the day, it gets a boost of energy, allowing it to continue to run. So after a day of powering through hundreds of minor decisions it’s pretty shot – especially if you’ve been feeding it crap.

I know what you’re thinking. Isn’t sugar bad?

Stand by for some biochemistry.

Not all sugars are created equal – of all the different types of sugar (sucrose, glucose, lactose, everything ending in -ose) the only one you need is glucose.

The sugar we all know is table sugar (sucrose), which is broken down by your body into equal parts glucose and fructose. So of all the sugar in something like a cookie, only half will be used to power your brain (and the rest of your body) the other half gets processed by your liver and then put into storage as fat.

Therefore, eating a cookie or drinking a Coke isn’t going to help restore your alertness and ability to handle tough decisions. Instead you need glucose which is found in naturally occurring sugars, like fruit and whole grains.

No wonder I feel foggy headed when I eat poorly.

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.
  5. Eat a healthy snack in the middle of the day when you’re starting to feel run down

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


At least one decision fatigue problem solved!

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

For a great biochemistry lesson about why sugar, specifically fructose, is so epicly bad for you watch this great lecture by Dr. Robert Lustig from the University of California – it’s long (1:31) but he does a great job dumbing down some very technical information and it will forever change how you think about sugar!

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Traveling with Kids

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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.

carrying toddler in puerto rico

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.



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!

Room Features

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.



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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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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Creating a Daily Schedule

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We’ve been doing a lot of adjusting around here lately. Evelyn started pre-school earlier this month and though I’ve really enjoyed the little bit of break that only having to care for one child has brought it has really thrown a wrench into my daily schedule. Surprise! I keep a schedule! Okay, not a surprise.


Being a stay-at-home-mom and a hater of waste, a daily schedule is very natural for me. The kids are already on a schedule – they wake up at the same time, eat at the same time, nap at the same time and go to bed at the same time – everyday. It only makes sense that I integrate my own schedule into theirs.

Even if you’re not doing it intentionally you’re running on a schedule too. You wake up, go to work, eat meals and go to bed at the same time – everyday. All you have to do is expand on it a little. Is there a goal you’re working toward? A project you’d like to complete? A closet you’d like to clean out? Can’t seem to find them time? Schedule it into your day.

For me, I know that if I don’t do something to structure my day by the time I go to bed I’ll have nothing to show for an entire day of life. That’s not cool.

I’ve been keeping the same general schedule for the past year. It worked well for me. Unfortunately, taking Evie to school, having her gone most of the day and picking her up has upended my routine and now I’m not exactly sure how to most efficiently use the time she’s gone. I’m ashamed to say that instead of spending it productively, I’ve spent it at Target. Bad for productivity – worse for my wallet.

Since I found myself thinking a lot about my use of time, I thought it’d take this opportunity to walk you through the process of creating a daily schedule.

The easiest way to plan is to see everything laid out on paper. I always block my hours off using a worksheet that looks like this (for a printable PDF version click here).
Joni's Planner-long day.xlsx

Step 1: Non-Negotiables – Start filling in the things that must get done at very specific times. For example, Alvy’s nap is a non-negotiable so it’s the first thing that gets put on the schedule. Evelyn’s pre-school drop off and pick up are next to go on the schedule. Alvy’s weekly visit with his teacher of the deaf goes on there. Meals are next, then my workouts. These things are priorities. Yes, my workouts are non-negotiable (yours should be too).

Step 2: Flexible Deliverables – Figure out the things that must get done but aren’t on a strict timetable. Chores, for example must be completed but can be done at any time. Blogging, MOMS Club and work for the cemetery all fall in this category for me.  Decide how much time you need to dedicate to these activities during any given week and start blocking them off on your schedule.

Step 3: Flexible Time – See what time is left. Having every minute planned isn’t going to set you up for success. If you have a non-structured day, like me, try to schedule 30 minute breaks if possible to give yourself some time to relax, read a book, etc. These little breaks will help renew your energy for the assigned block of time.

When I’m done laying everything out, it ends up looking like this.


{Please note: This isn’t my actual schedule. It’s an illustration of how I prioritize my time and lay out my day. However, this is a very good representation of what my real schedule looks like. In the interest of privacy I’m going to keep my real schedule to myself.}

I color coded it because my calendar is color coded and it only makes sense to make the daily schedule match up with my calendar.

Pink – Personal/House Stuff
Red – School Stuff (either child)
Dark Blue – Blog Stuff
Light Blue – Alvy’s Nap
Yellow – Workouts
Purple – MOMS Club Stuff
Green – Cemetery Stuff

If I need to schedule something like doctor’s appointment, play date, etc I will schedule it in the time when allotted for laundry or chores.

The most important take away here is not to stick to your schedule religiously. Much like the meal rotation, use it as a guideline. For example in the few months leading up to the cemetery annual meeting and fundraiser I will do almost nothing but work for the cemetery and only the most important things for my other responsibilities will get done but as soon as that is over I will revert back to my normal routine.

If you find yourself with a lot of unstructured time and your to do list never seems to get any shorter try creating a daily schedule. It can help structure your day and make it more productive. It’s something easy you can do in just a few minutes to start adding some organization to your life – all you have to do is stick to it.

What does your day look like? How do you structure your day?

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A Day in the Life {September 23, 2015}

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I’ve always loved reading other people’s day in the life posts and I thought it would be a great way to share with you what my typical day looks like.

I have two kids. My daughter, Evelyn is 4 years, 4 months old and my son Alvy is 2 years 3 months old. Though Evie goes to preschool two days a week, this is not one of those days so I have both kids home with me today. I wrote this post on Wednesday, September 23, 2015.  Here’s a day in the life of me.


5:00 AM – The alarm on my watch goes off. It’s my goal in the mornings to wake up before my kids do and lately Alvy has been waking around 5:30, so I roll out of bed and make some coffee. The second my legs hit the floor I can feel them screaming at me.

I started training for the Houston Marathon this week. On Monday I lifted weights for the first time in a month (ouch) and yesterday I did speed work so this morning my legs are mad. Very, very, very mad.

5:11 AM – As the coffee is brewing I hear, “MOMMMMMMMY,” yelled from upstairs so I walk upstairs to Alvy’s room fully expecting him to be awake and ready to get up. When I get up there I find him still laying down with his back to me. He hasn’t seen me so I walk back out and stand at the top of the stairs just out of sight.

{For the record Alvy has a 35 db hearing loss, which means his entire world is much quieter than yours. Anything quieter than 35 db – like birds chirping, a clock ticking, and his mommy walking around in his room – he can’t hear at all. Occasionally, I discover an advantage to his hearing loss – this is one of them…I don’t have to tip toe.}

After 5 minutes of standing by his door and listening to him roll around in his crib he finally gets still and I walk back downstairs to pour my coffee. I dig out my planner and start thinking about my day. Luckily, there only one thing that has to get done which means I’ve got the rest of the day to catch up on little stuff I’ve been putting off. I dig out my bullet journal and start looking at the list of stuff I’ve been working on that needs completing.

5:39 – I hear Alvy again. This time he’s singing, “Mommy, oh Mommy, yere yar yooooou?” I go back upstairs to find him jumping up and down in his crib. I pick him, get him a little snack and spend 15 minutes sitting on the couch cuddling him and watching Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. Once I can tell he’s fully awake and satisfied with the state of his morning I go back to planning my day.

I spend 30 glorious uninterrupted minutes writing.

6:30 – I hear Jason get out of bed and Evelyn follows. She has been sick the last several days and has been sleeping with us. When we went grocery shopping yesterday she saw all the Halloween stuff out and is now excited about trick-or-treating. She immediately asks if she can put her princess dress on so we can pretend to trick-or-treat outside (it’s still dark out). After five minutes, I’m finally able to convince her that now isn’t the best time and maybe we should wait to do that tonight.

Instead we update her calendar and fight with Alvy who keeps stealing her magnets.


6:45 – Jason leaves for work. I continue to work while the kids play.

7:05 – I start breakfast. As breakfast is cooking I unload the dishwasher and move my laptop into the kitchen so I can continue writing. I cook an entire package of bacon, some of which we will eat this morning and the rest will go in a jar for later.

7:45 – We sit down to breakfast. Neither of the kids eat. Both their plates of food go completely untouched. Despite asking for a banana just two minutes earlier Alvy declares, “No. No eat. No. Nooooo!”




8:00 – I clean up the kitchen, make the bed, get myself dressed and get the kids dressed. I feed the cat and the dog. I also put in a load of laundry. Morning routine complete.


8:25 – The kids finally ate some of their breakfast and Evie signs, “May I be excused?” from across the room. I sign, “Yes,” back to her and both kids begin to run crazy around the house.

9:12 – I herd the kids into the car and we drive to the BMW dealership. On Sunday night the car told us it needed more oil and this is the first chance I’ve had to get it refilled. It’s an easy service offered by the dealership. I pull up, tell them I need oil, turn off the engine, pop the hood and they pour in a quart of oil. The service guy gives me a big thumbs up and we’re on our way. I didn’t even have to get out of the car. In total it took 2 minutes. Unfortunately, it’s a 30 minute drive each way so this whole trip took an hour.



Mission accomplished.

10:15 – We get back home. Alvy plays outside (I can see him through the kitchen window), Evie plays upstairs and I do a little housework. I put the laundry in the dryer, fold some clothes that never got folded yesterday (shame on me!), put another load of laundry in and reassemble my charging station which I had to take apart over the weekend while we were out of town.



For the record, my legs are still excruciatingly sore.

11:25 – I start making lunch. I make myself a BLT salad (mayo thinned with water for the dressing, lettuce, cherry tomatoes and some of that bacon left over from breakfast). I decide it needs a little extra protein so I boil some eggs (one for today’s salad, one for tomorrow) and I make the kids grilled cheese.


11:50 – Lunch time. I let the kids eat lunch in the den in front of the TV so they can watch Signing Time. I eat my salad standing up in the kitchen while I make homemade jello. I also work on this post a little.


12:15 PM – My lunch is gone so I work a little more on folding clothes while the kids finish up lunch.

12:40 – The kids are done with lunch, I carry Alvy upstairs and we read two books – both different versions of Goldilocks (homework from Alvy’s teacher of the deaf) and put him in his crib for a nap.

1:05 – Alvy is down, not asleep but at least in his crib. I had promised Evelyn earlier in the day that’d we play while Alvy was sleeping so I set the timer on my watch for a half hour and she and I go upstairs to play in her room. She dresses up as a princess. We dance, play with her stuffed animals and play hide-n-go-seek.




1:40 – Playtime is over. We both go downstairs and I finally finish up the last of the laundry, clean up the kitchen from lunch and change into my running clothes.

2:30 – We get the jello out of the fridge and cut it into squares for a snack. Evie paints with watercolors and I work on the blog a little bit.




My legs still hurt.

3:00 – I prep dinner. We’re having Pork Fried Cauliflower, a paleo take on Chicken Fried Rice but instead of chicken I use ground pork and instead of rice I use chopped cauliflower. I dice onions, garlic, carrots and pulse the cauliflower in the food processor and put it on a sheet tray for roasting when we get home. I also marinate the pork in a combination of soy sauce, mirin and sambal chili paste and put it in the fridge.


I also clean up the mess I just made prepping dinner.

3:25 – I get Evelyn in her leotard, put my running shoes on and pack my gym bag.

3:35 – Alvy wakes up and we all sit down on the couch for a few minutes. For the first time all day I actually sit down. I’m already tired (and I haven’t even been to the gym yet) and my brain needs the downtime. I browse Facebook and read mindless articles on the internet, like this one. I also give the kids a snack.

4:10 – Jason gets home. We chat for a few minutes while he changes clothes and eats a little snack.

4:25 – We part ways. He takes Evelyn to gymnastics and I take Alvy to the YMCA so I can workout. Even though my legs are still super sore I know I need to spend that time moving my body. Marathon training is as much about training your mind as it is your body. If I can’t exercise through pain now there’s no way I can do it on race day. I spend 35 minutes spinning and then get on the treadmill and run three miles (8:34 pace).


The workout was hard but it did a good job of flushing some of that lactic acid out of my muscles. When I get home my legs are feeling a little less stiff.

5:45 – Alvy and I get home. I take a quick shower then cook dinner.

6:45. Evie is exhausted from the day and as she’s sitting at the table declares that she’s too tired to eat. She asks if she can go to lay down and we let her. This is the first full days she’s felt well enough to do anything and I can only assume her little body is still a bit under the weather. She goes upstairs and lays down in bed and falls asleep – still wearing her gymnastics leotard.

7:15 – Dinner is over. Jason and I both clean the kitchen together while Alvy plays with some shapes in the floor. We make the coffee, turn on the dishwasher and I make Evie’s lunch for tomorrow.

After the kitchen is clean we both sit down in the den and do our own things. I work on this post, Jason plays video games and Alvy continues to play with his shapes. I check on Evelyn…she is snoring. Poor thing.

Alvy starts climbing all over Jason who is still attempting to pay video games.

8:15 – I try to pick Alvy up to take him upstairs for bed but I’m informed by my little two year old that “Daddy playing race cars. Go away. Turn around. Go away.”





I guess they were having fun bonding. Instead I pick up the toys in the, den, brush my teeth and get myself ready for bed. Evening routine complete.

8:45 – I take Alvy upstairs to bed. Jason and I alternate putting the kids to bed every night and tonight is my night with Alvy – he got lucky that Evie fell asleep on her own. It’s not a bath night so I’m off easy. I change him into pajamas, read him two books, cuddle him for five minutes then lay him down. I sit down in the glider in his room for a few minutes while I wait for him to settle down.

9:30 – I come back downstairs to find Jason still playing video games, which is okay with me. I get a little hunger pang so eat a very small bowl of cereal.

9:45 – We both head to bed. I consider reading for a bit but I fall asleep before I can grab my tablet off the nightstand.


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