Making life easier as a working mom

10 Mar

So I know I’m a new working mom having only been working 70% days now for a few months, but I have some tips which I have found make my life easier.

Meal planning – I was meal planning before I started working and I love it.  When I meal plan, I don’t need to worry about what’s for dinner when we get home at 5:45pm.  I also tend to waste less food, particularly in the fresh produce department, since I consider what’s in the fridge when planning for a new week.

I meal plan once a week and typically ask the husband and kids if there’s anything specific they’d like to eat, and also consider any plans that might affect our meals.  And then I also have a list of meals that I made a few year’s ago when we lived in Germany, so if I’m stumped for inspiration I can use that.

I also allow some flexibility.  Like today for example – we were supposed to have BBQ chicken with rice and veggies, but I forgot to take the chicken out of the freezer last night, and it takes an hour to cook so I would have had to make it this morning.  Not to worry – I have leftover spaghetti Bolognese in the freezer.  Lots of mental space freed up by having a meal plan every week, and saving leftovers.

Groceries – I grew up in  household where groceries was a once per week activity.  If we ran out of something during the week, we just made do and wrote it on the list for the next trip to the grocery store.  And I have continued this method, although I do find myself making ad hoc trips to the store for things I forgot, or things that come from different stores.

We’ve started buying groceries on a Sunday after church, since Monday morning isn’t really possible anymore.  I make my list on Saturday evening when I make my meal plan, and then follow it pretty religiously. The girls are being mostly quite cooperative, and even my husband now knows what we typically buy and how much it costs.  And our local Publix will give the girls a cookie to keep them happy, while Aldi will give them a sticker – there’s no way they’ll complain about that.

Evening prep – I know that the last thing I feel like is any sort of organizing once the girls are in bed, but if I have the breakfast dishes out, school bags packed and in the car, my lunch for work packed in the fridge, and the girls’ clothes out for the morning, then I can go to bed with the mental load of what the morning will look like a lot reduced.  The 10 minutes of organization every evening sets me up for a much calmer and enjoyable morning.

Morning reading – Mornings in our house are pretty busy – I’m sure everyone experiences this.  I’m finding lately that if I read to my girls at some point before we head out the door, for even just 5 minutes, then everyone is in a better mood to start our day.

I typically will read to my 4 year old when I wake her up, since this helps her wake up and be less grouchy.  My 1 year old might get a wake up story, or I will read them both a picture book over breakfast – this seems to be a new favorite.  And if all else fails, we can read a quick book while we’re trying to get into our shoes and jackets.

Planner – I need to have somewhere to keep track of all the things.  I used to be pretty bad at keeping a planner going for more than a couple of weeks, but in this season of life with young kids, I’m finding that a planner is key.  I’ve just used a cute planner from Michaels or Target, but I might splurge next year, especially since I now know I will definitely use it every day for a whole year. 

So, as you can see I try to have a plan, but I’m definitely allowing myself some grace and flexibility if we can’t quite do what the plan says.  This is helping me cope a lot better than I thought I would with this transition into working part time.  Although I must admit, I am pretty exhausted most evenings…

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Books my kids are loving right now

25 Feb

I have finally jumped in the band wagon of placing books on hold at our local library.  If you can do this, please do, since it means getting to take properly chosen books home and not the ones you manage to grab while the kids are screaming that they want to play on the computers.  The other benefit is that when I come across a book I would like to read to the kids, I can immediately request it through our library’s online site.

Ok, so what have we been reading…

Pignic, by Matt Phelan – Even my 1 year old absolutely loved this cute story about a family of pigs who go out for a picnic.  It portrays three problems and after the solution is found, declares “Hooray”.  So so cute.

I am a Cat by Galia Bernstein – I think we might need to reread this book when my girls are older, not because they didn’t like it now, but because I think we could get a better lesson from it with older kids.  It’s a great story about the things that make cats different and also the same.  And it’s tongue in cheek funny too.

Harold loves his wooly hat by Vern Kousky – Another do gooder book about a little bear who looses his beloved wooly hat, which he thinks is what makes him special.  He tries to get it back, and you’ll love what happens when he does.

A big mooncake for Little Star by Grace Lin – Such a cute story about how the moon goes from full to new.  My kids love the cute illustrations and I can really recommend this one as a beginner picture book even.

Mae’s first day of school by Kate Berube – My kids are probably a little young to be considered the ideal target audience for this book about a little girl who is scared to go to school for the first time.  However, it wasn’t above them and was a really sweet story that has an applicable lesson even for non-school goers.

Good Rosie by Kate DiCamilla – This one has a fun format – it’s set up a little like a comic book.  A darling story about how to make friends.  Rosie the dog starts out pretty lonely and it’s an adventure to see how she makes friends.

Blue by Laura Vaccaro Seeger – This is a beautifully illustrated book about a little boy and his dog.  I think I especially enjoyed this since my favorite color is blue.  It also has the cleverest little cut outs on alternate pages.  There is a lot of interesting things t o discover in this book.

Kitten’s first full moon by Kevin Henkes – This one is in black and white which I initially thought wouldn’t grab my one year old’s attention but the cute story and relatable objects like the cat, her milk and her little mishaps caught all of our attention.  Such a sweet story.

Hello Lighthouse by Sophie Blackall – This one was a little long for my younger daughter, but my older daughter who is 4 loved this story about a lighthouse at the end of the world and its diligent lighthouse keeper.  I think the fact that we’d visited Byron Bay Lighthouse in December may have also helped, but either way this book is beautifully illustrated and is a true gem.

I must admit, even I was sad to see these books returned to the library.  Now to find the next stash of memorable reads for the kids.

Sensory Fun

13 Feb

I’m not normally the  mom who suggests sensory fun.  I used to be all about the educational puzzles and shape sorters.  But now I have 2 little girls and with the younger one getting better at puzzles even though I don’t get to spend that much time teaching her, I’ve realized that we also just need to let the girls have fun.

I’m seeing my older daughter who is 4 loving the fun play – she has a great imagination and makes up stories while she’s playing.  I have 2 ideas for this to share with you – not my ideas, but I can vouch for them. 

The first is “Free the toys”, which a friend used to placate her daughter on a snow day with no snow.  I know, I know – that doesn’t really make sense – but we live in Alabama where the fear of snow runs deep.  Back to “Free the toys”…

This one is super easy – I scoured the house for little toys that fit in a muffin pan.  We’ve all got things that fit this bill, and I even discovered that some of the smaller Lego Duplo blocks like flowers and people fitted too.  Then you fill the muffin tin with water and freeze.  I know – that’s really not complicated.  When it’s time to play, you remove the ice blocks from the muffin pan, set them in a large tub, and let your little at them.  I equipped Sophie with another tub containing a jug of hot water and a few scoops.  She melted her toys out and then proceeded to play with them and the water.  She had a blast for 2,5 hours.  Yip, you read that right.  I couldn’t believe it.  And cleanup consisted of drying the towels that I’d set under her play station and her soaking clothes – not too bad for such a long time of fun.

The second uses water beads.  We first encountered these fun pearls at a friend’s wedding in South Africa.  The power was out and it was super hot, and particularly the guys enjoyed playing with these water beads.  Fast forward a few years and I went in search of them for my kids.  Go figure.  I found this set on Amazon, and so far I am impressed.  They arrived with over 200,000 beads and some fun gadgets to play with too, and 2 of each gadget so I wouldn’t expect fights to erupt. 

I set 2 teaspoons of these little beads in 6 cups of water ant waited 5 hours.  I gave each girl a bowl of pearls once they’d grown and the gadgets that came with them.  I let little sister just enjoy the feel of them and scoop them, and I asked big sister to separate the pearls by color in an egg carton.  Both girls had a great time for 30 minutes.  Big sister came back to play with them again and again over the next few days.  I didn’t wait to see if they would shrink back to beads – with so many in the pack, I just tossed them and will make new ones next time.

So if you’re a parent who likes the idea of sensory playtime without the mess, you now have 2 ideas to tackle.  Both super easy and affordable.  Enjoy, and let me know what your kids think?

Children’s theatre

3 Feb

So we did a fun thing yesterday. Here in Birmingham, AL there is a Children’s theatre downtown and I noticed they had a play called The 3 little kittens. After a really yucky week of everyone in the house being sick and having to stay home and try to work with sick kiddos, we needed a proper outing.

So we went to The 3 little kittens. It was so cute! The theatre had the show in the Wee folks theatre which is super friendly for little people, even my 1 year old. This is because the bench style seating allows kiddos to wiggle and climb. The show was about 45 minutes, with a meet and greet with the actors afterwards.

If you know the 3 little kittens nursery rhyme, which is sweet as it is, you will enjoy the twists that this play has in its storyline. So much fun for the kids. And the music was also really enjoyable. I can highly recommend it.

And I think I’m going to keep my eyes open for future fun looking plays that I think my kids would enjoy. Check out Birmingham Children’s Theatre for more information.

And just for fun, here are some pictures of my kids at the theatre (notice how Audrey was kind of nervous to say hi to the kitties).

Enjoying some of the first sun of the season!

Friday Afternoons

23 Jan

I know it’s only Wednesday, but if you’d like to institute this tradition in your family, you’ll have time to plan for it.  Although if I’m honest about it – this tradition required almost no effort or planning, and my girls absolutely love it.

A couple of years ago, when Sophie was little and Mommy was tired, I decided that we could go to our local ice cream shop – which we passed everyday going to and coming home from preschool – on a Friday to mark the end of a successful week.

It worked quickly as an incentive to my toddler to behave well at preschool and it felt like a reward for mommy after making it through another long week.

It’s become a tradition and now I take my new toddler and her big sister and I think they look forward to it all week.  Sophie now also pretends to send a ‘slice’ of her chocolate ice cream to Granny in South Africa, which we all laugh about every week.

I can highly recommend finding your local ice cream shop.  If you’re in Hoover, AL then I highly recommend Bluff Park Ice Cream Shoppe.  I have loved every flavor I’ve tried as have my kids.  The staff there are so friendly and seem to remember us when we come in there every Friday.

So I challenge you to find your local ice cream shop and treat yourself after your next tough week.