Friday, September 27, 2013

Top 10 Working Mom Short Cuts

Every mom has their own playbook. Depending on how many kids, how much the hubby does or work and/or juggling schedules, a mom has to know which play to call at every turn. After all, every good coach knows what play to call next. (I'll stop with the football analogies now. Tis the season!)

I've had a few girlfriends starting new chapters in their lives as mommies. They've had many questions about how to "do" everything. The first thing I say is that I, by no means, "do" everything. I can't. Look at my kitchen floor the next time you are over. But I do prioritize and get all the necessary things done! My necessary things- organic, healthy food/recipes; eating dinner together as a family and quality time with my children!

I've decided to try to collect all my mommy shortcuts in one place for my new mommy friends (or my old!).

1. Always have a plan. Doesn't matter for where or for what. Fly by the seat of your pants and you get screwed!! Know times. Know layout. Know realistic expectations for the kids. Know the escape/abort plan!

2. The husband HAS to help. If you are trying to do it all... stop. With baby number 1, Jason took on the responsibility of all baths for the kids. I've probably given about 15 baths in almost 5 years. With baby(pregnancy) number 2, Jason also took on laundry (not the good stuff!) and vacuuming. The lucky guy has kept his jurisdictions ever since!!

3. Schedule and plan everything. Events, meals, chores, reminders...See previous Google Calendar and Meal Planner posts!

4. Get the kids involved. Cecelia thinks it's the coolest to sweep and wash the kitchen floor (I'm going to use that as long as I can!).

5. Kitchen/cooking tips and tricks to SAVE time:

  • Always have a kitchen garbage bowl when you are cooking. Save those trips to the trash can and just go once at the end. This has been so helpful with all the veggies that have been coming and going through here lately!!
  • Always have a towel over your shoulder or an apron. If it's with you, you can wipe your hands where ever you are instead of always walking back to a towel or sink.
  • If it can be prepped ahead of time, do it. Brown the meat for tomorrow's dinner tonight while cleaning the kitchen. Put the chicken in the crock pot during the day so it's already cooked for the recipe that calls for "pre-cooked" chicken! Some Sundays I will prep all the veggies for the meals for the week so they are all ready to just be cooked when they are needed. (I hate peeling veggies...) Can the casserole be assembled the night before so you can just throw in oven when you get home?
  • No, you don't need a different meal every night.
  • 2 for 1...if you can do it once and it counts for two, do it. I will commonly have two meals a week that call for cubed chicken or instead of just browning one pound of ground beef for a meal, I'll do three pounds and freeze a portion of the cooked for a different week. Need a side veggie for each meal? Prep and cook a bunch on one night and just reheat for other nights of the week.
  •  Embrace and get creative with leftovers. Pair it with a different veggie side = feels like a new dish. Instead of having it on a starch again, can you throw it on top of lettuce? Only one chicken breast left from the grill... stretch it by throwing it into a salad!
  • Know which meals are week night meals and which are weekend meals. Longer preps or cook times can be saved and enjoyed on a weekend. Unless you can use a crock-pot!
  • Always have a few meals on hand if you open the fridge one night to see someone took that night's dinner leftovers to work... grilled cheese/tomato soup, breakfast for dinner, eggs...!
  • What's up crock-pot?!! I would potentially give up my left arm for this Cuisinart Crockpok!
  • One thing I hate the most about cooking dinner is shortening my only time with the kids. Those nights after school/work and dinner are VERY short. This means sometimes the kids are in the kitchen with me. Does this take longer to cook. Of course, but they can learn things and pitch in while I get to spend time with them. Cole is a master at putting trash in the trashcan and closing the pantry door!
  • Go to bed with a clean kitchen and running dishwasher even if it isn't full. You know two days of dishes will never fit and then you have a dish backlog... urgh!
6. Save time where you can. I've started saving a ton of time by only grocery shopping once every two to three weeks. Now this is a lot easier from June until November when I am getting my CSA every Saturday but very doable year round! But it has really saved time on the weekends. But Natalie, how do you cook without any preservatives or prepackaged food when you don't go shopping every week? I'm so glad you asked!!
  • Know which produce will keep longer and purposely eat according to your plan.. there's always a plan! A bag of hard kiwis, mangos, or melon will last more than a week and a half before ripe if you buy when really hard. Eat the berries, grapes, etc on the first week. The others on the second week. Apples in the fridge last more than 4 weeks.
  • Produce saver bags.. yes, those stupid green or yellow bags. They WORK! When berries are really looking good in the late spring months, I can buy a ton, soak in a cold water/vinegar mixture (thank you Pinterest!), let dry a bit and then place in a paper towel lined container. After putting a paper towel over the top to catch the extra moisture, into the green bag the whole container will go. Bam, berries for two to three whole weeks. I have learned that those bags will expire as they no longer soak up the gasses that makes produce rot. You can get a ton for $1.99. Don't skimp. Toss it out when you think it's not working!
  •, not extreme couponer's style! We have a mini stockpile in the basement. I have a pantry backup (or 6) for everything that we use on a weekly basis- rice, flour, sugar, cereal, granola bars, condiments, prune juice, kid's snacks, etc. So, if daddy gets into the cereal bars that Coletyn has been eating lately, no, I don't have to run to the store. There are more in the basement!
  • Fully stocked pantry. This is different from the stock pile. My pantry has all the necessary stuff for many basic recipes. Since it is so well stocked, I usually only need to buy the fresh items in a recipe and the rest is in the pantry or stockpile! Hmmm, I'm feeling a post about necessary pantry stock. Stay tuned!
  • Meat... easy. Freeze the meat for the second week. Don't forget to set that beautiful Google Calendar reminder for the day before on your meal plan event to remind you to take it out of freezer!
  • Milk and other dairy with later expiration dates will either be on the way bottom or way back! The stuff in the front is the stock the store is trying to get rid of because they will have to toss if not sold by exp. date.
  • Use different stores for different purposes. Some go based on the deals. Not me. I decide what my purpose is. For example, I love Trader Joe's for stocking my pantry. They have the cheapest organic around. So, I go once every few months and stock the stockpile!! Woodman's is for the weekly fresh foods shop.. but not the pantry stuff. For that I just have to go down stairs. That means when I shop at Woodman's every other week, I am really only getting the fresh food for the fridge food or that odd ingredient for a certain recipe we are jonesing for!
7. Jason and I make the week's lunches on Sunday. Just as easy to  make 5 than 1. Might as well cross that off the list before the week gets rolling!

8. Share your plan... this may feel redundant, but it isn't. Just because you know what the plan is, doesn't mean everyone does. I still can't figure out why Jason can't read my mind?

9. Routines.. this is been such a time saver. Getting the kids and myself ready every morning is no small feat. Routine saves us! Cecelia knows what to do, how to do it and what order to complete. Does she still need prompts on what to do next, of course, she is 4 but just like Jason, she can complete one step at a time! (Also makes bedtime a breeze. So mommy can blog!)

10. Lastly (for now).. embrace what you do well (or psychotically---I know I am a bit intense sometimes) but also embrace and accept what you can't do.. because in the end, it's not important. My dust is piling up, my kitchen floor is still sticky, you will always have to walk over toys when you come over, there may be a few piles of folded clothes on my dresser....and that's how it is going to be! Tonight after baths and dinner, I got to cuddle and play with the two who are most important.

Older Working Mom posts below!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Big Boy- Coletyn 20 months

I swear, he was just an infant, with horrible reflux, who never slept... I blinked and now he is a toddler. 20 months old. Talking, running, getting into trouble. Cole wants to do everything on his own, including brushing his teeth. I took the opportunity to try to get him talking. I missed a few in his repertoire, but it is cute nonetheless!

Coletyn- 9/21/13- 20 months!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Meal planner... Working Mom Shortcuts!

If you didn't know, I am a working mom (9 1/2 months out of the year). As any working mom knows, you need to have your tricks to get everything done. Here is the first post in a "Working Mom Shortcuts" series!!

I love Google. Did you know? If not, I'll scream it from the roof tops! I LOVE GOOGLE! We use shared calendars for everything! They have helped drastically coordinate events.

The purple events are the meal planner. As you see, I don't cook something new every night. We used to do that but I am not capable of cooking in small quantities so we wasted a lot of food. Now, I cook three meals a week. We eat 90% organic and don't eat anything processed.. so I cook! We do left overs and must-go nights (everything must go) and I have quick meals like salads or a breakfast for dinner that I can always throw in in a pinch. But actually, three meals usually makes it all week! Since the meal planner is right in the family calendar I strategically place meals depending on what I have after school. I also plan two weeks at a time. One time saver I have found (among many more- a different blog post some day!) is to strategically plan meals. For instance, this week I picked two meals that needed chicken cut into 1-2inch pieces. So, tonight, I cut up chicken for both meals. So, that meal in the middle of the week is already started for when I get home from work.

I also may brown ground beef the night before when making or cleaning up a night's dinner. This saves time for the next night. Notifications from the calendar to defrost meat or brown meat are wonderful!

After the meal planning comes the shopping lists then coupons. I have pre-created lists for three stores- Woodman's, Target, and Trader Joe's. They are all on one sheet and live on the fridge. They have all the items I may need to get when at the store or that we get on a regular basis. I either do a circle or a cross off technique. I try to only shop at Woodman's every other week and get enough for all 14 days. On the off week, I will hit one of the other stores. (Cecelia has dance on Saturdays right down the road from a Trader Joe's and Target!). Target, because there is always something to get at Target and they have grocery so if for some reason we fell short on milk or Woodman's fruit didn't look like it would make it two weeks, I can quick pick something up there. Trader Joe's is my pantry stock up store. Their organic is the cheapest around. Maybe after my freezer/canning stockpile grows, I will only have to hit Woody's every three weeks!

Here was today's Woody's list with enough for two weeks of breakfasts, dinners, my lunches, jason's lunches and Cecelia's lunches. Curious minds want to know... we buy all (90%) organic and nothing processed (my allergies don't like processed food).. I spent $240 for two weeks. I'm impressed! I used to spend that much for just one week and I'd be back there 7 days later!

Here is a link to my copy if you want to steal!

After everything is home and in the fridge, Jason and I make our lunches for the week. This week I am having green pepper frittatas and tomatoes and Jason is having blackened chicken wheat tortilla wraps!

Below is the reason why I love Google. Here is my calendar appointment for tomorrow. When I get home from work (I hate Mondays!!) I'll quick click my calendar. I purposely put the link for the recipe in the description when I create the event when I meal plan so now all I have to do is click on it and my recipe opens. I already have the chicken cut up so I'm ready to rock! I have such limited time with the kids from pickup time to bed time that I hate to kill a whole hour cooking dinner... operation, 'Get it Done' will commence!

Working mom trick #1. Not too shabby!!
 If you are curious what meals we are making around these parts, my Dinner's Done Pinterest board has been my inspiration lately! Pin away!

Older Working Mom posts below!

Shared Family Calendar... I love Google!

You really don't know me if you don't know how I freak for organization!! Granted, my house, upon first impressions, doesn't quite hold true, but you can find pockets here and there that make me giddy! This obsession, combined with my new love, Google, has changed how we do calendars in this house,  BIG time. 

This was the old system. Month by month, whiteboard calendar. Magnets with the things that happened every week. Different colored markers depending on who's activity it was. This was also where I meal planned. It was great, for a while but still led to Jason and I double booking or forgetting something that we didn't put on and we could only see our joined calendar if we were standing in the kitchen, looking at the fridge!

In walked Google shared calendars!

If you can put in on a calendar, we have it on a calendar. Shared calendars for everything. Reminders to empty dishwasher (Jason's job!), pay credit card bills, open the mail (yes, I need a reminder), my after school obligations, Jason's weddings/electrical side jobs, and our meal planner!. Yep, my meal planner is on our google. Why you ask? Because I can!! That's a whole different post! But reminders to brown ground beef the night before or defrost meat for the next night's dinner are pretty spectacular! Do you Google? Don't worry, this will be the first post in a Google series!

Older Working Mom posts below!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Snapshot- September 2013

Well, it happened. School started. I'm back to work. Things are busy. Time is going to start to fly. I decided to spend more time on this blog to help me track time as I seem to not be able to get it to slow down. I've been a bit stressed (shocker, I know) with the back-to-school transition, so I am coming here. Taking a pause. Taking a breath. Taking a snapshot in time....

20 months old now. He is a riot.
He wants whatever Cecelia has.
He does whatever we do.
His animal noise repertoire is expanding. He just added rooster today!
He aces his body parts.
He hums the ABCs with me and his toys.
"Yellow" means cereal bar.
He currently has NO fear.
He still wants to nurse and I can't bear to give it up.
Still a crummy napper but sleeps through the night!
He loves exploring things that are new.
Just like Daddy.

4 3/4 years old. Started K4.
Independent (when she wants to be).
Patient, although, ask her her definition of the word. There is a fish, tv and doctor's office involved!

First pony ride.

Growing, too fast.

But, they'll always be my babies!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Homemade Moby Wraps

As I am sure most moms figure out, you do things much differently with the second baby than the first. One of those things I did differently was baby-wearing. Mostly because I had to have my hands free to help the toddler and when the second one comes around, you can't hold the baby for 23 hours a day (daddy usually wants a little time) and just nap and nurse on the couch. Between Coletyn's size (hurt to hold) and reflux, baby-wearing helped greatly. One thing I do regret however was buying a wrap at full price. I purchased a SleepyWrap (now called Boba). Some may have heard of the Moby wrap. These are all the same wrap with the same concept. One really long piece of fabric that you wrap in a specific pattern around your body and then plunk the baby in.

I miss those baby days. I wish I remembered more!

At the zoo, again. Cole, 3 months old.

I wish I would have had this for Cecelia. I bet I would have saved my back a bit. I still feel lopsided from only being able to hold her in my left arm!! So, this is one of those things that I think my new mommy friends need- even if they don't know they need it. But they are outrageously expensive. In walks Pinterest. Via Pinterest, I found this DIY Moby Wrap pattern. My fabric choices were not plentiful but I found some appropriate fabric with the 5% spandex recommended. This is important to give a bit of stretch but not too much! The great part of the pattern is it makes two wraps automatically. Thankfully, I have two friends expecting. I sewed a little ribbon to the centers (you need a center mark to know how to wrap it!). Side note, the ribbon is from my ribbon box which I used to make all of the garters for our high school dances and my wedding garter. I hoard all art supplies. You never know!

I skipped the hem the sides part because I didn't have the time and the fabric won't fray. I didn't have perfect cutting lines but it will be fine. I then had to figure out what to put them in since my wrap had a nice little bag I could keep it stowed in. Then it dawned on me.. those little sheet bags that Cecelia's sheet sets came in that just take up room in the linen closet, bam!!

In the end, I like this one better than mine. I think the fabric is cooler and won't be so bulky. We will have to wait for winter for those babies to come and test them out. So, are you baby-wearing? 

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

First, First Day of School!!

We all survived! Barely. Jason had to take Cecelia to her first day of school today. It was hard (for him) but he did a great job. Cecelia on the other hand only had about two tears and was fine! (I'll never get to be at a first day of school.. boo, hoo, hoo!!)

The report from the front says that they read a book "Llama, Llama, I Miss Momma," very fitting! She played, went to the gym, ate her snack and then went to the wrap around care for lunch. After, Jason picked her up. We decided she should consider parts of wrap around school because it is all one place to her and just because we think of them as two separate "places" doesn't mean she has to... so, she stayed today to eat with her friends! We think she loved it. She was playing school already while I was making dinner. She was the teacher, of course. The mini lesson topic was being quiet. Coletyn wasn't cooperating!

Momma hugs as I left for work.

So, "real shopping payer girl"... is she asking for the credit card already?

Her official hook!

Cecelia putting her snack in her cubby!

Lastly, Cecelia has been collecting art work hanging on her clothespin wall since she started zoo school when she turned two. I've also saved a few things along the way. What to do with it all??? We took pictures and I put into a book to keep. I'll probably save a piece or two but then pitch the rest (I have to, there is so much!). I wanted a fresh, empty wall to start school. I am guessing it is something I'll do every year now during the summer to get ready for the next school year. Take a peek by clicking on this link!

I didn't have any tears today, but I didn't drop her off. My turn tomorrow. Wish me luck!! Oy!

Monday, September 2, 2013

School starts soon!

Starting in August, I thought it was time to start talking about going to school with Cecelia. She is the type of kid who you can't just spring stuff on as she freaks out and shuts down. So we spend a lot of time talking about new things so she is ready to rock them! Well, beginning of August was probably a bit too soon in her little world (seemed like tomorrow for me!). So after we started talking about it she started asking everyday when school starts. This began to get a bit exhausting so we made a paper chain. Every morning when she wakes up, she takes off a chain. When the chain is gone, school starts.

The video is from before a zoo school this summer. Her first solo carousel ride. Big girl!

Yes, for fun my child writes her letters!

School starts tomorrow. Feels like yesterday I was holding my little 7lb baby girl in my arms. Watch out 4 year old kindergarten. She's ready and excited! Mommy is a nervous reck!