parenting

Toy Organization Tips

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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Decision Fatigue

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.”

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.

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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 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.

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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.

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

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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Creating a Daily Schedule

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.

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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).
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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.

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{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}

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.

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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.

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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!”

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Awesome.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.”

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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.

THE END.

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How to Attach Car Seats to Rolling Luggage

We’ve been traveling a lot lately. I’ve got a whole post coming on traveling with small kids but for now I want to talk about something very specific and important to anyone who has ever tried to fly with kids. Car seats, planes and how to get car seats through airports and onto planes.

This isn’t a post about organizing so much as it is a post about relieving stress and being prepared. Nothing is more stressful than trying to lug kids and your crap through an airport.

Unless you’re traveling to a destination that has a mass transit system you will need a car seat when you get there. This leaves you with one of two options:

  1. Rent a car seat (most rental car companies will rent car seats, though I’m not sure I trust my kid’s life to a car seat I know nothing about)
  2. Bring your own car seat

If you choose to bring your own car seat then you have even more options:

  1. Check it and risk it getting damaged or lost and not having it when you get to your destination
  2. Haul it around the airport and gate check it/take it on the plane

{The good news is that almost every airline will check your car seat and stroller for you for free regardless if it’s checked at the check-in or at the gate. Win for parents everywhere!}

In our case, we were visiting with family who was picking us up from the airport so renting car seats wasn’t an option.

I didn’t feel comfortable checking the seats when we checked in and I wanted to take Alvy’s car seat on the plane anyway so hauling the car seats through the airport became a very hot topic around our house. How do you haul the silly things around? If you’re pulling a carry on how do you carry your car seat?

You could buy one of these but at $50 a piece I just couldn’t justify spending $100 (we would need two) on something we would probably only use once. Then you’re having to pull your carry on luggage AND a car seat. That just doesn’t sound fun.

Then there’s this which appears to be totally genius. I was prepared to shell out $25 for two of these little gizmos until I read a review where someone mentioned you could do this yourself with some stuff from the hardware store.

YES! YES YOU CAN!

Here you go friends, a little tutorial on how to attach car seats to rolling luggage.

PinterestWe have two car seats (which are identical) and two different rolling carry on suitcases. For the record the car seats we use are the Britax Boulevard 70 and the luggage is an Eagle Creek 22 inch carry on (which is brand new) and a 22 inch Samsonite (it is probably 10 years old, I don’t know the model). The Eagle Creek is mine and is kind of a hybrid of hard and soft sided and Jason’s (the Samsonite) is hard sided all the way around with a flexible top. This little tricks works equally as well on both suitcases.

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Both of our suitcases are the two wheeled kind. I don’t know if this would work with the four-wheeled luggage. You need to be able to tip it back and either pull it behind you or push it like a stroller. The added weight of the car seat and the kid might tip a four wheeled suitcase over.

Now go shopping. For the record, I bought all my supplies at Lowes.

For each suitcase/car seat combination you will need two 2-inch diameter o-rings and one 3/16 inch quick link. The o-rings I bought have a 200 pound working load and the quick link has an 800 pound working load…I think that’ll do just fine.

I spent a grand total of $9 on all the hardware I needed to attach two car seats to two carry on suitcases.

Now time to assemble.

Go ahead and attach the two rings together with the quick link.

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Lay the car seat face down and completely loosen the LATCH straps and lay them off to the sides. Lay your tether over the top of the seat to get it out of the way.

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Clip one of your latch buckles to one of the rings.

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Lay the suitcase on top of the car seat with back facing out (the front where the pockets are go up against the car seat. Make sure the bottom of the car seat is flush with the bottom of the luggage.

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Bring the two latch buckles around the back of the suitcase (remember one of them already has the hardware attached) and clip the other latch buckle to the other ring. Pull the belts as tightly as you can.

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Stand the car seat/luggage up and then thread the tether through the luggage handle and clip the tether to the quick link. Pull the tether tight, then roll up the rest of the tether strap.

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Ta Da! You’re done!

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Insert the kid and you’ve got a great way to carry the car seat and your kid through the airport.

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Both the kids loved riding in our car seat rig. It was about 1000 times cooler than a stroller and easier on mom and dad too.

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All that being said, you can learn from a few of our mistakes. Here’s a few helpful tips.

  1. The car seat straps need to be tight. I mean TIGHT. As tight as you can possibly make them. When you put your kid in the car seat and then start going over bumps in the airport flooring (i.e. transition from carpet to tile, grout lines, over lips in elevators, etc) the car seat will settle if it’s not tightened enough. You will end up having to pull the suitcase almost horizontally to keep it from drooping to far. Trust me on this. I’m pretty sure Alvy spent the entire time we were at the Newark airport staring at the ceiling.
  2. I would highly encourage you to try this out at home in the street/driveway before you take it to the airport. The airport is not the place you want experiment. Roll the kid around, turn in circles, push it, pull it, tip it forward and then backward. Practice!
  3. You will have to take your rig apart at security and again at the gate. The stress of the security line isn’t the place you want to be learning how to disassemble and reassemble your rig. PRACTICE IT AT HOME FIRST. More than once if possible.
  4. This works best if your suitcases are very full. I would assume since you’re traveling with kids you’ve packed everything you own – so this shouldn’t be a problem.

That being said, once we got it figured out, this worked extremely well for us. We got a ton of comments as we were walking through the airport asking if we had special suitcases or special car seats. As we walked I heard more than one person say, “Oh that’s a good idea.” We didn’t need to take a stroller and we got to use our own car seats at our destination. If only they were this easy to get on the plane…

Happy travels!

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Why You Should Wear a Watch

I’ve always been a time person and I’ve worn a watch for as long as I can remember. When I got my first smart phone though I ditched my watch. Actually, I think a lot of us did. What was the point? Why bother wearing a watch when you’ve got a clock on your cell phone?

Sometime after Evelyn was born I realized that my attitude toward watches was entirely flawed. One morning after a trip to the mall with my bouncing baby girl she became fussy. Entirely normal, I wasn’t worried. After almost an hour of crying and general angst I FINALLY pulled my cell phone out of my pocket to check the time. Hello! It had been four hours since I’d fed her! I was so distracted by my outing I completely forgot about needing to feed her. I immediately was bombarded by extreme mommy guilt for overlooking  something so glaringly obvious and decided I needed a better way to keep track of the time.

I went home and dug out an old digital watch I had back in college and started using the timer to track the time between feedings.

Though I had chosen to dig out my watch for that one specific reason I found I was looking at it all the time. That was four years ago. I still wear a watch, everyday.

A watch is good for so much more than just checking the time. I use the timer to administer time outs and make sure I don’t burn dinner. I use the chronograph/lap timer to keep track of laps in the pool and on the treadmill. I use it to check the date when I’m labeling stuff to go in the refrigerator. Yes, I use it to check the time and keep the kids on schedule.

In researching this post I read a nice quote, “It’s not about checking the time, it’s about your relationship with time.” Unfortunately, I’ve tried to find the source but it got lost in internet-land. (If it’s you, tell me!)

Even though I can’t find the source I had to use the quote because it is spot on. Wearing a watch makes you more time conscious. All of a sudden you’re more aware of the passing seconds and the fleeting nature of time. Something about appreciating a limited resource makes you less likely to waste it.

Like it or not, time management is a key tenant of productivity.  It’s hard to know what you can get done in an hour if you have no idea of how long an hour actually is. By wearing a watch you will become much more aware of the concept of time and how long it will take for you to get tasks completed.

Because I wear a watch I know that it takes me 15 minutes to complete my morning routine, 15 minutes to fold a load of laundry, 10 minutes to get to my daughter’s school and an hour and a half to complete my daily workout. By knowing this I can better plan these activities into my larger blocks of time throughout the day, allowing me to get more done.

If you’re still not convinced here’s five reasons you should wear a watch.

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It’s subtle. Checking the time in the presence of others isn’t always appreciated. It’s a lot more subtle (and polite) to glance at your wrist than it is to dig your cell phone out of your pocket. We are all guilty of being on cell phones too much anyway, one less excuse to stare at your screen isn’t a bad thing.

It’s convenient. When you’ve got your hands full it’s much easier to turn your wrist to glance at the time than it is to dig your phone out of your pocket.

It’s less distracting. Pulling your phone out of your pocket often leads to distraction. How many times have you pulled out your phone to check the time only to find yourself responding to a text message instead? You then put it back in your pocket and still have no idea what time it is.

It’s a fashion accessory. They’re some mighty fine watches out there if you’re willing to dish out the dough but there’s also some really good looking ones that won’t cost you the arm you’d need to wear it on. Find something versatile that you can wear often. If you’re an athlete like me, make sure you get one you can use when you work out!

It makes a good impression. When people see you wearing a watch they know you are respectful of your own time and therefore respectful of theirs. You also appear more responsible and more put together. A person who wears a watch is a productive person.

I have two watches that I use on a regular basis. I have a beautiful stainless steel and gold Seiko which I wear when I want to be dressy but most of the time I wear a Timex Ironman. I like it so much I’m on my fourth one. They’re sturdy, they’re resilient, they’re practical and they’re almost entirely indestructible – note I said almost, since I’m on my 4th one they’re obviously not completely indestructible. My current one has a white silicone band (which surprisingly doesn’t stain) and a pretty chrome bevel.

This watch is water resistant so I wear it all. the. time. In the shower. In the pool. At the beach. When I run (if I’m not wearing my Garmin). I even sleep in it. I literally never take it off.

It has the time, the day and the date right there on the face. It also has a timer, a chronograph, three alarms and a 50 lap counter (which I’ve actually used). Everything I need to effectively manage my day.

Aside from my cell phone, I use it more than anything else I own.

So, if you’d like to be more productive, be more organized, be more time aware, be a better parent and not burn your french fries then wear a watch! It’s the secret to life! Okay, not really but it will help you get more done!

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