An Honest List of My Kids Favorite Toys 

As we inch closer to the holiday season, let’s take a moment from checking the lists of “Best Sensory Integrating Unplugged Eco Friendly STEM Toy” to give ourselves a reality check.  I give you:  The Honest List of My Kids Favorite Toys.

Mardi Gras Beads

Solar Powered Calculators

25 cent Beanie Babies from the Thrift Store

5 Very Particular Lego Minifigures

Dishtowels

Shampoo Bottles

The neighbor kids’ toys

My cellphone

Scraps of yarn

A kiddie pool with no water in it

A colander

Other people’s shoes

Cheap plastic things they got in their bucket from two Halloweens ago

Rocks

Broken computer keyboards

Paper Airplanes we made three years ago

Furniture they’re not supposed to climb on

How about you?
Photo via Unsplash

Just be next to me….

He isn’t requesting read aloud as much anymore, but he does ask me just to sit with him as he pours over whatever book he’s devouring today.  I never thought I’d have an independent reader at just over six years old.  It means the end of one stage of our time together and I’m trying to relax into what’s next.  I see many years to come of reading next to each other in our future. 

Working Mom Hacks

Okay, so to start I feel a major case of imposter syndrome even writing that title.  Let’s just be clear up front.  I, like most everyone, have no idea what I’m doing and at best have just gotten really good at making it up as I go along.  That being said, let’s also be clear that everything I share here might not work for your situation because your situation might be completely different than mine.

A few details that might be helpful in discerning whether or not these things will work for you:

  • Neither my husband or I have jobs that require crazy overtime or need us to bring work home with us.
  • We have a short commute – on a good day it takes us 15 minutes to get home (30 mins for me if you factor in a short bus ride).
  • We live close by lots of things: 10-15 mins away from medical care, our jobs, shopping, etc.
  • Our childcare situation is unique as we don’t currently need to use full-time care.
  • Though we are busier than we used to be we don’t schedule things every night of the week, as the kids get older this won’t be as much of an option so I’ll be back in 5 years to talk about life in that stage.  😉

So with all that on the table these are my hints on how to be a working mom without losing your mind.  I came up with this list not solely from my measly six years of experience, but also drawing on my experience growing up in a house with a working mother – there’s a lot I do and don’t do because I’ve reflected and learned from my childhood experience.

  1. First and Foremost the Ever Elusive Work/Life Balance – you have to be constantly looking at your work/life balance.  You can’t give 100% to EVERYTHING ALL THE TIME.  There are seasons in life and sometimes it’s our responsibility to say no to things in the best interest of our family life.  If you work in fields that have options for different schedules, part-time work, etc. always keep them as options.  If you’re not 100% dedicated to your field of work, consider other lines within or outside of that field that might help the work/life balance.  It’s hard to look at something you’ve worked hard for years at and realize you need to bow out for the sake of your family, but that’s being an adult.  You are not your job and you are not your achievements on paper.  That being said you are also not 100% your family, though they are critically important, you might have talents that are needed right now and small sacrifices might be worth the longterm goals.  I can’t ever say what decision is right or wrong, just that looking for balance is so helpful and sometimes that balance comes with sacrifice.
  2. Your Family is Your Team – Your family is not your waitstaff or your hobby.  Your family is your team – as parents, you are the head of the team, but your children are part of that team too.  A team works together.  Do not focus on making things equal (i.e. counting number of diapers changed or dishes washed to make sure you’re equal), focus on individual strengths and weakness.  Is someone good at deep cleaning and someone else could at clearing the clutter?  Excellent!  We don’t need to be doing the exact same things to be contributing.  Kids need to contribute too according to their ages and ability.  Parents, you are NOT their servants and every hand counts even if you’ll live for the next 5 years without the towels folded *exactly* the way you like.
  3. Clean Up and Clutter Out – If I’m going to be a hypocrite about anything here it’ll be this one, just because this is a huge stumbling block for me.  I’m bad at cleaning up and getting the clutter out.  But my team is constantly working at it and we have learned over the last few years how much happier the family is when things are clean and clear of visual clutter.  I put this here not because I’ve achieved perfection here, but because I realize that it’s important.  I know you want to optimize your time together, but an extra 10 mins tonight is NOT worth the meltdown that a sink full of two days of dirty dishes will cause tomorrow.  Once again, this is something I’m still working on and it’s hard to do!
  4. Simplify – Your house doesn’t need to look like a magazine, you don’t need thousands of options of clothes or each night with fancy, complicated dinners.  Simplify your life for the sake of sanity.
  5. Stay Organized – Yep, this is important – really important.  You need to find a way to stay organized and communicate.  Remember Step 2?  Remember you have a team, it doesn’t have to be mom doing all of this.  One person can handle school communication, one person can make sure bills are paid, but it needs to be organized and communicated well to the other team members.
  6. Self-Care for Everyone – Not just for moms, consider what your kids need to center themselves, what your husband needs to feel calm or balanced.  This does not need to be complicated and we need to remember that it’s different for everyone.  Some need to socialize, some need to isolate, some need to veg in front of the TV and some need time away from screens.  Don’t force your type of self-care on others, but also remember you’re not the only one who needs it.  But also, self-care is not a reason to let the things above be shoved off on others or totally ignored – do not let self-care mask laziness (and I say this from experience, trust me – big ol’ lazy person here).
  7. The BIG ONE – The best bit of advice is simply this.  I don’t care if you’re a SAHM, a FT Working Mom, a PT Working Mom, a Work From Home Mom or whichever combination you might be.  You don’t have to do it all.  Delegate work to other parts of the team when you can.  Turn down committees, teams, and extra projects.  Say no to extra things and do be afraid to hire out work if and when you can.  You’ll kill yourself trying to do everything – we’re not made to do that and the fact that society has decided one person in each family can be a caregiver, educator, nurse, chef, chauffeur, and maid is a tragedy.  The “Stand Alone Mom Mentality” is impossible to live up to and can be downright dangerous to our mental health and well-being.  It’s okay to turn down an extra project at work, at school or at church, especially if you really don’t have the ability to commit to it.  Let someone else take up the slack, the world will keep turning.

 

So that seems like a lot doesn’t it?

I know it does – if you’re drowning in your life right now don’t look at that list and think you have to have it all in place by Tuesday.  However, if you’re drowning at home, always too tired, too crabby and no one’s happy read through the list until you hit on one that’s not being done well at home and work on that one first.  The others will wait.

In my experience #4 is our downfall – when we start getting crabby and yelling 9 times out of 10 we’ve let the house become a disaster and getting things cleaned up and visually in order helps our mental faculties and patience.  When we’re all just so tired and “hangry” and crying or yelling all the time it’s usually a sign we’ve committed to too much and need to let go of an activity or a side project.  Work on things bit by bit.

 

Things That Help Me Right Now:

  • Laundry Schedule:  Monday, Wednesday, and Friday are laundry days.  Friday is usually for washing sheets and larger items.  I start a load either first thing in the morning if it’s my day off or immediately on getting home and try to get it all done by the end of the day.  I try to get it all put away by the end of the following day.  Laundry pretty much never ends but after years of waiting until it was a stack so large and old that it was developing speech and rudimentary weapons a schedule was for the best.
  • Meal Planning:  I’m officially an old, fuddy-duddy woman now, but meal planning has saved my sanity as we’ve gotten busier.  Sidenote: Meal Planning has also meant that even though we’ve added two little humans to the mix our food budget has not drastically increased so far because I’m spend close to the same amount, but spending smarter.  We have a rough schedule that we follow and…. dun, dun, dun…. I don’t cook every day.  All cooking and no play was making me a very dull girl and honestly resulting in a lot of food waste since we don’t have ravenous teenagers yet.  It looks something like this:
    • Monday – Home-cooked meal, not fancy.
    • Tuesday – Anything Goes Night
    • Wednesday – Quick and easy usually home-cooked sometimes premade meal
    • Thursday – Home cooked meal, more time intensive (this is the night my husband is home so I have the backup to focus on things that require a little more effort and concentration – I enjoy cooking so I like having one day a week to take my time and explore something new).
    • Friday – Husband Day or Pizza Night.  Ben will cook something, usually in a big batch that can be reheated easily on Saturday or used for a few days of lunch options.  I get the night off.  It’s glorious.
    • Saturday – Anything Goes Night/Leftovers/Date Night.  Leftovers from the week or the previous batch cooking, breakfast dinner or a meal out.
    • Sunday – Home-cooked meal, not fancy
  • Help with Meal Planning – I’ve recently started using Emeals and have found it worth the investment, the range of meal plans and the ability to switch between is very helpful.  Their sheet-pan meals are perfect for my “not fancy” nights.  I’m not an affiliate currently, so if you’d like to try the program you can click thru here, but I wouldn’t have shared this it wasn’t something I used and standby.
  • Target Subscriptions – Another recent game changer for me as I was searching for ways to stay out of the store to save money.  I’m signed up for regular delivery of household staples (Diapers, Wipes, Toilet Paper, Kleenex, Laundry Soap, Cat Litter and Cat Food, etc.) and it’s so nice just having it show up.  We also have an Order Online Option in our area where I can place my order from my home, say during nap time or my lunch break at work, and in two hours it’s ready to just run in and pick up.
  • Flylady – If I need to say it again I will:  I am not a naturally tidy person.  I’m constantly trying to improve on this area in my life particularly after discovering with the birth of my second how much a clean house helps me relax and be a calmer parent.  I’ve been utilizing the weekly Zones and what FL calls the “Home Blessing Hour” to try to help get control of the clutter and keep things in a more manageable state.  I would definitely recommend it, though the website is a bit hard to navigate and I can’t apply all of her suggestions to my life.  The app is handy as well, but I just take a little bit of time once a week to map out my plan in my planner.  One thing to note: this is a system that is meant to be implemented overtime, you won’t have a 100% clean house by the end of the week, but I see improvement after tackling 3 zones in general.
  • Family Night and Free Weekends – One thing we’ve developed since our oldest started school is Family Night, every Friday we watch a movie, play a game and sometimes break out the video games (Classic Nintendo or Rock Band most often) and just have dedicated time together.  All of the above suggestions are put into place with the idea that we have to spend the most minimal amount of time on the weekends cleaning, organizing or just resetting things.
  • Handy Apps – Chatbooks and Shutterfly Apps are also big time savers for me right now, both upload right from Instagram or my phone respectively and help me actually keep track of photos and even have physical copies which the kids love.

This is what I’ve got in my life so far, it helps, but please remember I’m not perfect – my house gets messy, my laundry gets behind, we eat fast food on nights I just can’t even and it’s all a learning process for me too.

 

Image Credit:  Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

Pray, Hope, Donut Worry – A Post-Mass Donut Guide

Did you know a very important feast day is coming up?  No, not Leggings for Michaelmas!  September 23rd : The day we remember St. Padre Pio by eating copious amounts of donuts.  Officially known henceforth as the Feast of Pray, Hope, Donut Worry.  Never heard of this particular tradition?  That’s okay…. I made it up a few weeks ago and it needs to be a thing.

Did you know that your post-Mass donut selections have a lot to do with your personal spiritual journey?  It does!  It’s as important as picking a religious order or being sorted into your Hogswart House.

Franciscan, Dominican, Carmelite, Jesuit? The sorting hat knows!

So what does your donut choice say about you?  Read on to find out!

Rainbow Sprinkle – You are a Post-Vatican II Poster Child.  You love your Novus Ordo, holding hands during the Our Father and the drum kit accompaniment really stirs something in your soul.  You keep tagging Pope Francis on Twitter when you share your most recent Liturgical dance number, but he hasn’t responded…. yet.

Cake Donut – You are a solid Traditional Catholic.  You probably went to Catholic school and remember to give up something on Fridays and eat a lot of fish during Lent.  Your car has a St. Christopher Medal attached to it somewhere and you have at least one Marian statue in your yard.  You have, at least, one child named John Paul, Gianna or Francis/Frances.

Glazed Cake Donut – See above, but it’s a Feast Day or you remembered to go to Confession.

Maple Bacon Donut – You are a Catholic Hipster.  You’re probably a convert, have read the entire Summa and celebrate obscure Feast Days.  In fact, the reason you’ve selected this particular donut is in celebration of St. Anthony the Abbot, the Patron Saint of Bacon… didn’t everyone know that?

Paczki – You are an Eastern Rite Enthusiast.  You enjoy standing and have an affinity for beards.  Your home has at least one  wall full of Icons and prefer your saints to be of “hermit in the woods” variety. 

Cream Filled Donut – You are a Rad Trad.  You prefer your Masses daily, your Missal in Latin, your incense thick and musky and consider any Church hymns produced after 1837 as too modern for your taste.  You blame Vatican II for the decrease in cream filled donut selection and the paltry substitute of jelly filled in their place.

This is why we can’t have nice things, Vatican II.

Donut Holes – You are a Protestant, it’s not so much partaking in the donut, but having something to remind you of what the donut stands for.

 What donut are you?

What Else. 

It’s been unseasonably cool this year and I’m eating it up.  I love the season that encourages you to sit in your favorite spot, surrounded by your massive to do list literally piled next to you…. and do some knitting instead.  And that’s is totally fine, because what else would you do on a cool fall night when the sun is already down.

Merry Manifest – September 2017

This post contains Amazon Affiliate Links.

Hello there!  How’s the first few weeks of school treating everyone?  It’s strange to feel busy again – the first five years with only one kid who wasn’t school aged left us with a lot of freetime on our hands.  We just didn’t do a lot or commit to a lot.  We did things here or there, but these days feel different.  I’m trying to remember not to get so busy that our daughter grows up in the van; I want her to have the experiences of lazy days in our backyard too, so I’m trying to remember moderation in this season.

I’ve been trying to be intentional with my time over the last few months – intentional about things like chores and personal hobbies to spending time with my family.  I’m notoriously bad at balancing this all out, but when I do manage a bit of balance it feels great and I feel like myself.

I’m hoping in a few months to do another update of “how we do it” it around her as a working mom, now with a school aged kid and a school aged kids activities, but I don’t want to jump that gun too early and declare all the things are working and then back track later.  We’re in a season of trying things out right now and that’s okay.

In the mean time, I thought a good round up of current favorites was in store.  I miss sharing things like this on a regular basis, but I think once a month is the right goal for now.

So this is September’s Merry Manifest, a list of things that are currently bringing out the good in my world.

Music:

Amelie and Waitress Soundtracks – I know the world is all about Hamilton right now, but I was tickled to discover (and yes, I’m probably far behind) that these two movies were made into stage shows.  Neither is perfectly family friendly, but I’ve been enjoying them immensely (and you can listen to the whole albums on the Spotify Web Player for free).

Marian Call – One of our family favorites who recently came out with a new album and is on tour.  She came through town on her tour last weekend and we got to attend one of her house concerts – note: next house needs to have a basement suited for house concerts.  She’s just wonderful and brilliant and with an amazing voice to boot – if you’re in the area on her tour stops I highly recommend giving a show a chance.  Her shows are incredibly family friendly, though if you sign up for a house concert you’ll want to check with your host before bring kids just in case.

Crafts:

I’m currently working on a Hitchhiker shawl to give for our churches annual fundraiser.  I’m about 75% done and hope to do at least one more before the end of September when the items are due.

After that, I really need to get cracking on handmades for the winter.  My husband has blown through his third set of fingerless gloves, I want to make a bonnet or two for Helena and I’m thinking about doing socks for Henry this year.  I’m hosting a little craft along in Kaitlyn’s Tea with Tolkien group so I think one of these items needs to be Tolkien inspired.

Books:

I finally gave into the call of technology and got the family a Kindle Paperwhite during Prime Day and… I love the thing.  Don’t get me wrong I love my physical books, but oh this thing is great – especially synced up to my libraries Overdrive.  Borrowing libraries books at 11:38 p.m. because you just finished the last one?  Sign.me.up.

Rilla of Ingleside – I recently finished the last of the Anne series and it was a nice little book.  I don’t think I’ll ever love it as much as “The Blue Castle” or the earlier Anne books, but it was a good read.  I would have preferred more emphasis on Rilla and less on Susan’s war prophecies.

Uprooted – A fun fantasy read, a little predictable, but worth a read.  I’m enjoying the fantasy trend of looking toward Eastern Europe for inspiration and the writers pulled a lot from this book from Russia and Poland.  It’s a nice change from the copycat Tolkien inspired landscapes and mythologies one often comes across in fantasy.  The author says this is currently stand alone, but I’d love to see more about this world in the future.

The Bear and Nightingale – I’m still unsure about this one.  It’s rather obvious the writer is not the biggest fan of Christian religions or so I think, I’m still not sure if the point was to tear at Christianity or just hypocrisy in religion in general.  That being said I enjoyed the world she created (another Eastern European inspired culture) and I do know a sequel is on its way that I’ll give a shot.

Uninvited – This one I’m reading for bookclub at church and …. ehh?  This isn’t a book I would have chosen for myself, mainly because I don’t have the trust issues that the author focuses on with other people.  So to me it’s reading less as a guidance or self help book and more as an expose on the authors personal neuroses.  It’s fine, I guess, I’m just struggling to relate because these aren’t my struggles.  There are more than a few sections I’ve come across in the first six chapters that we haven’t even been able to decipher – random affirmation that don’t quite make sense, but would probably sound good printed on a inspirational poster.  A fine book I guess, but I’m looking forward to moving on to our next study.

Homegoing – I’m trying to stretch my recreational reading a bit, I’m just in a phase in life where my reading time is more for relaxation and less for study or as a challenge, but I’m trying to pick something to challenge myself every few picks or so.  I’m only a few chapters in on this, but it is definitely a good book with a lot to make you think about.

Around the net:

Do people call it the net anymore?  I’m getting old.

I might have ordered no less than five of Alice Thomas Ellis’s books after reading this article.

One of my new favorite bloggers. I want her hair, and her super amazing wall calendar and all her blogging ideas.

When tragedy hits I think we all need a little advice on how to best help those in need.

On the Spiritual Side:

I’ve been trying to use our parishes Formed.org subscription more intentionally.  We recently did a study of Edward Siri’s “Who Am I to Judge?” which was excellent and right now I’m working my way through The Wild Goose.  I highly recommend both if you have a subscription or other ways of watching them.

What’s on your manifest this month?