(Pictured above in L'eggs Brand Silken Sheers - for when you do go the extra mile, these are such a fabulous product with new run-resistant technology and control top ;))
2. Cook, clean, fix things up or put things away around the house or outside the house, with the kids involved. It may take you twice as long, but I've found sometimes these things literally just won't get done, (or otherwise they'll get done with a screaming toddler, or your toddler somehow getting hurt). & it's fun for them to feel 'needed' in your world and praised for their efforts. And it's a great hands-on real-life learning experience for them. I think just as important as sitting down (or running around) and playing with them - kids are curious about the real world and are more intrigued with what captures our attention and time, and this teaches your toddler about caring for a home or yard and sets the tone for them to help and understand household responsibilities and chores as they grow. For example, my kids like to help me cook - Blair doesn't really care what she's doing as long as she's involved, and Landon will actually help me read recipes, find ingredients, mix things together and watch them cook like a science experiment. Laundry is another one, I'll have them help sort the dirty clothes into dark and light piles, help transfer wet clothes into the dryer, press the buttons, and sort the clean clothes into each person's pile.
3. Clean up as soon as a mess is made, rather than letting it accumulate. Sometimes in the middle of the day we think it'd just be easier to just deal with it after the kids get to sleep, but that mindset can cause so much more mess and ultimately, overwhelming feelings of chaos and anxiety. This means: pick up and put away toys when you are done playing, put away bath toys as soon as bath is over, clean the dinner table and dishes as soon as dinner is over. Clean that poopy cloth diaper as soon as you take it off. This way, nothing can accumulate and get out of control.
4. Have a daily to-do list and prioritize tasks. Tackle the biggest / hardest task first thing and then the smaller ones after that. You will be amazed at how much better and more motivated you feel when that huge annoying thing you keep thinking about is DONE! Keep your daily list to about 5 items, otherwise you will get bogged down. Also keep a separate, long-term to-do list, of things that you want to eventually tackle, but that there is no 'deadline' for and that can wait for when you have a low-key weekend or unexpected chunk of time, or your husband's help to deal with.
5. Have a shared family calendar. My husband and I sync our hotmail calendars, where we each add events into it so we can see what's going on on both ends since we have too much going on to call each other about it. I also keep a large calendar up in print in our kitchen because I'm a visual person, which helps me constantly see the picture of how many days I have to do things before a specified day or event. This is such a small thing to do but can instantly help you visualize your month better and be more effective on a weekly and monthly basis.
6. Pick one day during the week to take a few hours (sans kids) to go grocery shopping and food prep for the week. For me, it's Monday. (This is also something we just started doing a few weeks ago and I can't tell you how much easier it's made my life). I go food shopping and get everything I need for the week's breakfasts, lunches, and dinners. Then I rinse and cut up all the veggies, bake the chicken or turkey meat so all I have to do is simply re-heat. I can't over-emphasize the importance of this one! Food prep is so important and can ease a lot of stress and hanger when you've had a busy day, and also helps everyone eat healthier. For example, we always have hard boiled eggs, bananas, apples, and cut up veggies and hummus & dressing in the fridge, which makes it easy to grab a quick, healthy snack when hunger strikes. On Mondays I will also mbake chicken tenders and ground turkey meat to keep in the fridge, for easy sandwiches, wraps, and to throw in dinners.
7. Wake up before the kids. I know this one might be hard too but I promise it will set the tone for a better day. All you need is 30 minutes before them. I have my first cup of coffee in peace and quiet and read a chapter of the bible. I'll also set up their bowls of cereal and pack sandwiches and bags for the day before they wake up, which makes the struggle of getting out the door so much much less hectic.
8. Stay on a schedule. Studies have shown across the board that children thrive when they follow structure and routine. Of course as parents of young children, things come up and unexpected doozies are thrown our way more than we'd like and adjusting and rolling with the punches is definitely a learned skill....but on the whole, if you keep a routine to your days and nights, everyone will function better.
Since today is Friday, I'll give you an example of how a typical Friday looks like for us:
5:30am: Wake up. I take 30 minutes before the kids wake up to make my coffee, read my bible and say a quick prayer for the day.
6:00am: Kids wake up. Diaper change, eat breakfasts, clothes change. Clean up right after they are done eating. Pack lunches, bags, car for the day.
8:000am: Out the door. Usually to our gym, where the kids play and I get a workout in and shower, or like today, I am in the cafe working on my blog or working on Extract.
12:00: Landon gets on the bus and Blair takes a nap.
1:00-4:00: 'Free time' with Blair. Usually we run errands, clean up around the house and prep for dinner.
4:00: Landon comes home from school. We play outside, go for a walk or bike ride for about an hour before dinner.
5:30: Dinner. Clean up afterwards.
7:00: Bath time, massages, pajamas & brush teeth. We all read books together before bed in Landon's room.
8:00: Bed. After I get the kids to bed I throw in a load of laundry and run the dishwasher so clean for the next day.
9. Keep extra mom & kid necessities in your purse and in the car, so that you are never caught already running late to a birthday party, running into Target for a new outfit and sippy cup. This way, no matter if you are running late, or just forgetful, or the kids are just extra needy, you are equipped to handle any forseeable blow out or snack attack. Our car stash contains diapers, wipes, a sippy cup, change of clothes, snacks, and bandaids.
10. Schedule Date Nights. This was also hard for me to do, but it is so important. I recently heard a pastor at a baby dedication tell the parents that the most important gift you can give your kids is a good marriage. Isn't it true? They are going to look at our marriage as the picture in their mind for when they ultimately chose a life partner of their own. I think that especially in the early years of parenting we feel like it's too hard to invest time in your spouse as we are already stretched so thin and feeling like we barely have time for ourselves or our kids. But you need to make the time - Our spouses need our time and our love and our support. And when the kids are all grown up and living lives on their own maybe on other parts of the country, it is your spouse you will be still be growing old with. & life is just better, in the good days and in the bad days, sharing it with a person you are still in love with.
I hope this helps some of you guys! Got another life tip of your own?? Would love to hear it!