I saw a post on Facebook the other day and had a vivid memory of our time in seminary. We were in Dr. Wellum’s Sunday school class and someone’s baby started to fuss. Before I had kids I was never around them and had NO experience. Not a clue. So this baby started to fuss (in her car seat and the parents weren’t right there) and I froze, totally inadequate to the task. Emily crouched down and soothed the baby like it was nothing, because to her, it was: she already had a baby.
I remember talking with Dan afterwards about how I just didn’t know what to do, and was kind of freaked out about my future parenting endeavors. Remembering this has been really encouraging to me this week. As now a mother of five, soothing a baby is no longer a daunting task. I’m no baby whisperer, but parenting little people IS my skill set now and though it was a process when we had our first baby, we figured it out.
Are you getting ready to have your first baby? Start a new job? Go back to school? Do a new thing? Or just parent an older kid through a new struggle?
So grow. Don’t fight it–rise to it.
Every single phase and season of life has new challenges and we have to be flexible, adapt, and grow.
It’s not about American ingenuity, it’s about God-given human creativity. There are things I do now that I would never have thought of then and aspects of life then that were critical that have no value to my life now. Kids need routine, it’s really important for them and good for their development; but they also desperately need to learn to be flexible and solve problems. And they should first and foremost see their parents doing the same!
Here are some questions that are helpful to me:
- What is going to be most helpful?
- What is the goal?
- What is going to accomplish this task?
- What do I need to learn about? Who do I need to talk to?
- What will set them up for success/help them navigate this issue in a life-giving way? (Parenting older kids)
Here I am at 38 weeks pregnant HACing my face!
I realized a week or so ago that I desperately needed to make a list of things to do before baby comes. Here it is. Share it with anyone getting ready to have a baby!
My husband is smart and savvy and entirely capable of handling the home and the kids, but we have a LOT of kids and being REALLY ready will make life a little more doable.
- Empty the vacuum(s)
Why? Because vacuuming is chore enough, let alone if it’s super full and the trash is too full to dump it. So having this done avoids all that.
- Top off all the soap dispensers
I make my own foaming handsoap (1 oz Castille soap + water=Done!), which my husband has never done. Let’s just not have to deal with that for a few weeks (we have 2-3 spares).
- Make sure you’re stocked on toilet paper, napkins, paper towels, tissues, shampoo and soap, etc.
Because the things you buy less often are easier to forget about and no one enjoys running out of TP.
- Make disposable cleaning wipes
Having a lot of kids means you’re cleaning up stuff CONSTANTLY. And having cheap disposable cleaning wipes means that it’s easier. Period. The link in my Pinterest doesn’t work anymore, but basically, you use a serrated knife to cut a roll of high quality paper towels (like Brawny) to fit in your container. Then mix 1/4 cup of all-purpose cleaner like Lysol with 2 1/4 cups of water and pour it over (remove the cardboard tube after 10 minutes or so). I had my husband drill a hole in the lid of my container, but most of the time, I just remove the lid to get wipes out easier since they tend to shred when pulled through the hole. The wipes are great, but you have to get used to them (they’re certainly not as strong as commercial wipes).
- Transition clothes for other kids (or get them ready in a trashbag or box)
Are seasons changing? Has someone just had a crazy growth spurt? This will be a major headache if the main person who does this can’t and it needs to be done desperately.
- Start making a list of freezer meals to make/freeze beforehand
This time, hubby said he wants about 8 casseroles frozen to use about once or twice a week and he’ll cook the other couple times a week (he’s really quite something). I definitely COULD search my Freezer Food board on Pinterest, but I think I’ll stick to old favorites that I have saved in Disheroo (cue shameless plug, HERE!) to make the planning and shopping list ZERO EFFORT.
A friend recently posted on Facebook her trials with seasonal clothing transition for her four children. I was a little surprised at how similar I and the other commenters view this task: We all seem to LOATHE it.
This has been an area of major growth for me. One thing I’ve done has made a HUGE difference and I thought I’d share it. Several days ago, I had to paw through my 2T tub and it was an ordeal–because I hadn’t worked the magic on it.
Here’s the MAGIC:
I divide every size tub of clothes into seasons in trashbags that I can tie and untie. So then I can open the tub, and open the trashbag I need (which I’ve labeled with a Sharpie) and find what I need or put stuff back.
OK, that doesn’t sound spectacular, does it? We have winter (turtlenecks, longjohns, blanket-weight/fleece pjs, etc), summer (shorts, tank tops, etc), and spring/fall (a good mix of short-sleeved and long-sleeved shirts, capris, and long pants).
This cuts my “shopping” down to about a third of the work and frustration.
View yourself as “shopping” in your available clothes. NOT EVERYTHING has to go into the dresser.
It’s really helpful to accurately assess what the child will really wear and let that and your laundry schedule drive your “shopping” decisions. I do kid laundry on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, so I don’t need more than 3 pairs of jeans or jammies per kid.
I don’t bring the tubs upstairs. I take a laundry basket down for my “shopping trip” for the child. This prevents having massive tubs overtake our home, having to lift and maneuver them up and down the stairs, and introducing wrong-season or otherwise unhelpful clothes into that child’s dresser.
I want my kids to look cute, but clothes don’t really matter to me. Mostly, I want them to be situationally- and weather-appropriate, comfortable, and economically attired. We buy infrequently–and when we want to for a specific reason, or have gaps to fill–that’s it.
Wardrobe capsules: if you’re not familiar, this is essentially a pared-down collection of pieces you love that work well together. This is always my aim.
I keep a Goodwill box ready downstairs to easily toss items I’ve always hated or which are heavily stained.
When we’re done with certain pieces, putting away by season is a LOT easier. Stuff little shorts in the summer bag and be done!
We’re down to 3 dresser drawers per kid. When they’re crowded, it means some items need to find their way back to tubs. But I keep a small space for off-season just-in-case items. In summer: a pair of jeans and a cardigan; in winter: 1-2 t-shirts and a pair of good general-use shorts.
Keep what you NEED and WANT and leave the rest in the tub.
We DO buy shoes. Once our kids start kindergarten, shoes seem to self-destruct on their little feet.
You’ll have to make adjustments depending on your climate. (Texans don’t generally need a lot of winter wear, but we need months worth of clothes to handle snow on the ground.)
We’ve gotten a number of beautiful and precious dresses from people, but our girls only wear them to weddings or other special occasions. So they stay in the tubs in the basement and I get them out when necessary.
Those t-shirts kids get from sports and activities that don’t really fit? Unless school or the activity tell them to wear them, my kids won’t, so they’re one of the first things to go. Surely, you have some category like this that is plaguing your dressers. Toss ’em as soon as you can!
These are some of my all-time favorite products. You may not need them, but they might just be a game-changer for you, too! (And c’mon, Christmas is right around the corner!)
I cannot adequately explain to you my undying love for this vacuum. At $100, it’s certainly more than an entry-level stick vac, but I guarantee that if you have a lot of hard floors, it will become entirely worth it! I can vacuum my entire downstairs on one charge. It handles hard floors like a dream. The brush head is controlled with the power button and is super-convenient; it’s a snap to use it in both modes (with brush head or without). It also vacuums carpet, but not quite as well. Because it’s cordless, vacuuming is infinitely easier (no running around plugging in and unplugging). It’s much more convenient to tidy up occasional spills and those spots where dirt, hair, and grass accumulate. It’s lightweight and good opportunity to get kids involved in daily chores. No bags to keep up with, just dump the canister when full. And it only takes 3 hours to fully charge, so you can easily vacuum before and after guests.
The initial system is $35, and that includes 1 bottle and 1 pad. You can grab another bottle and pad for $4.70 and $5.99 respectively. The pads are machine washable, which means that for just pennies and 45 minutes in the washing machine, your mop is ready to go again. Rubbermaid says each pad can last for about 200 mopping sessions before needing to be replaced. I have 2 bottles, which lets me pre-mix my cleaning solution whenever I have 3 minutes. Here’s the best part: there’s NO CHANCE that my husband would mop up messes with a traditional mop and bucket and measuring a cleaning solution–it’s just too much of an ordeal. He WILL grab this sucker and give the floor a few quick swipes! Which means that we’re keeping things cleaner for less money. No wipes or expensive solutions to buy (I use Murphy’s Oil Soap, but you can literally use whatever your little heart desires). It DOES have a teeny-tiny learning curve (you have to get used to the trigger and how to handle the suction on the bottle since it’s a spray mop), but it’s not significant.
Whoa. Consider yourself free to have shaved legs with total convenience. I am no longer shackled to the shower for this task. I had an electric shaver when I was a teenager. It sucked. This one is AWESOME. Especially with small kids, hectic life, and showering becoming a much less reliable institution for me, this product has become crucial. It’s $20 and allows me to have sleek legs in 5 minutes. It’s wet/dry so you CAN still use it in the shower, but I haven’t. EVER. It charges in 24 hours, but you can shave your legs like 10 times between charges (and now that I think about it, it’s never even died on me–I just charge it to avoid that).
Ok, it seems ludicrous to pay $40 for something like this, right? But it took the quadmire of stacked devices and tangled cords and transformed them into a tidy corner of accessible tech heaven. I have it tucked in a bookshelf, so it holds 2 laptops as well as other devices like a champ.
Jen, why don’t you just use a normal broom and dustpan? Because whereever my children eat, there is a HUGE MESS on the floor. So since I LOATHE crumbs and dirty floors, that means I’m sweeping a lot. And 1 thing I’ve learned is that if you have tiny people running around, they are oblivious to piles of dirt on the floor and they will run right THROUGH it and track it all through the house. So I don’t make a dirt pile–sweeping it into the dustpan immediately is way more efficient. And I’m not bending over constantly because I’m too old for that nonsense. Know why businesses and airports have people walking around sweeping with these things? Because it makes more sense. And even though it’s gross, this one allows me NOT to dump it if I’m in a jam.
Have your own list of products that you ADORE? Share them with me!!!
This isn’t really for traveling. This is for any car trip ever. Once this saves your bacon (like it has mine and I’ve only used it for one trip), you will never be the same. Are you ready to be amazed?
For each kid in your vehicle who is old enough and capable, give them a gallon storage bag. They can tuck it into their carseat or the pocket in front of them–anywhere within reach. Now the next time they say, “Oh, I don’t feel good…,” instead of panicking or pulling over (or not and reaping the consequences), you just say, “Get your bag ready, but try NOT to throw up!”
At the most, it will cost you $0.10 for the bag. The last time a kid threw up in the car, we were out of town and ended up stopping at a store and buying trash bags and cleaner, costing around $15, so this is DEFINITELY worth it!
We’re having another baby. And we’re out of room. Like lots of families, the first several weeks of newborn-ness are spent with baby in our room. So while thinking about how to facilitate this a few weeks ago, I was pinning away and came across all these pins about using shoe organizers for snacks and other stuff and I thought, “maybe that would work for baby clothes!” So $10 later, I’m optimistic!
- It really limits you and encourages minimalism
- I got an entire laundry basket of clothes in here and had 3-4 pockets empty still (I need to add hats, socks, and burp cloths)
- It doesn’t require any different kind of folding
- There will be zero barriers to customization–anything will be able to go anywhere and we can move item to different pockets in a snap
- When we’re done with this stage, it’ll be really easy to repurpose the organizer
What do I have in here?
- 3-4 “outfit” onesies
- 6 pairs of pants (all 6 in one pocket was no problem)
- 2 jackets
- 15 sleepers (2 fit in each pocket nicely)
- 4 longsleeved onesie/matching pants combos
- ~8 short-sleeved onesies
- a swaddler (I have 3 more to add since these are CRUCIAL!)
- a couple newborn diapers that I found hiding on my changing table from last baby
- a new pack of wipes (it didn’t really fit, it was CRAMMED in there, but maybe a partial or a travel pack?)
I’m entirely certain that I can add 8 pairs of socks and 2-3 hats in one pocket, neither of those particular baby item do we use very much. We really just stick to sleepers. And I will probably get rid of 4 more sleepers to free up 2 more pockets for burp clothes or more swaddlers since with doing 3 loads of kid laundry each week, we should be fine with 10 sleepers. And realistically, with her being a November baby, I won’t need the warm-weather “outfit” onesies (maybe I’ll just take a picture of her in them and then put them away!)
We all want to be ninjas at packing. Especially if we’re packing for our kids, too. Here are some really common mistakes of mine that make the entire process stressful.
1. Forget to check the weather situation
For our first anniversary, my husband and I went on a vacation to Washington, DC. It was fun, but would have been a lot more fun if we had checked the weather and not frozen our butts off.
2. Have no idea of what you will do day-to-day
The prospect of needing something and not having it will cause #3 and possibly #8. And you won’t look your best or will have to go shopping unexpectedly. Bad.
3. Pack too much of the wrong things and not enough of the right things
Yes I do need 4 pairs of virtually identical flip flops, but I forgot underwear. Again.
4. Run out of your tools (suit cases, Ziploc bags, etc)
Oh, remember? That suitcase’s zipper ripped right off the last time we used it. Did we replace it? No. Whoops. FAIL.
5. Pack stuff you don’t love
There is something wrong with me. When I pack for Christmas, I inevitably believe that I will love to wear sweaters and pack them for daily wear. I don’t wear them at home because between all the dishes and kids, they just don’t mesh well for me. But when I pack for travelling, I become very stupid about what’s real in terms of my fashion preferences.
6. Start way too late
For me, gone are the days when 15 minutes and an empty bag complete the packing process. I now pack for myself and several children, so I require approximately 37 years to pack for an overnight. That’s an exaggeration. However, 4 hours is the fastest I’ve ever realistically packed JUST FOR MY KIDS for an overnight, and that was when they were older and easy (no spit-up, predictable diaper patterns, no baby food). Recently, when we had a TRIP with a variety of weather needs and fanciness needs and other people taking care of kids and a lot of HOOPLA– I started TWO WEEKS ahead of time planning and figuring everything out (including hiding the clothes I wanted to pack). I am well aware of the seemingly RIDICULOUS nature of that statement, but we had everything we needed and it was one of the least stressful experiences to date.
7. Use a “system” that’s incompatible with your personality (notes, lists, winging it, etc)
It’s pretty clear that if I ever winged anything, our house would burn down. So that doesn’t work for me. But I have very sweet, competent friends who would lose their VERY MINDS if I came at them with the packing list I have saved on my laptop. Use what actually works for you. If what you use doesn’t work, make a change.
8. Pack for EVERY. SINGLE. CONTINGENCY.
The first time we traveled with our first child, I pretty well cleaned out all of her dresser drawers. I was convinced that she would NEED every single onesie we owned. Unsurprisingly, my husband did NOT enjoy packing the car and it was really hard to find everything we actually needed during the trip. When we go fishing out in the middle of nowhere, I pack pretty heavily. Otherwise, I know that we can probably make do or, as a last resort, make a trip to a nearby store.
9. If it’s a long trip, still try to pack enough clothes for the whole time, even though there’s convenient laundry services available
Not only will you have trouble getting it all in your suitcase and car, but you can look forward to wading through a sea of laundry when you get home!
10. Go shopping at the last minute
Does anyone ever have time for this? This is 100% guaranteed to make my stress shoot through the roof.
My oldest daughter was in kindergarten and I took her to a classmate’s birthday party. The house was big and beautiful and I still remember the thought that entered my mind as we traversed on our way through the house to get to the backyard:
There isn’t a bunch of CRAP in here. There’s so much clean, open SPACE.
There was furniture for sure, and the rooms were decorated, but there were loads of completely empty flat surfaces.
It is way easier to prevent ALL clutter from collecting on a surface when emptiness is expected on that surface.
Does this always work? No. It works for my kitchen island and is DELIGHTFUL. But even with lots of decluttering (I don’t live alone), we need counter space for things. I found a home in a cabinet for our toaster, but we use it EVERY DAY and it’s a pain to get it out and put it away without getting breadcrumbs everywhere (yes, I dump them somewhat regularly).
So it’s not always possible or practical, but when and where you can do it, you’ll LOVE it.
I pinky swear.
You’ll see your happy, usually clear space being overrun by junk and clear it off much more readily than a space that always has a few items there.
Here’s my rant about floors:
Floors should have furniture on them or nothing at all. (Unless it’s your friend’s purse, during her visit. That’s OK.)
I think in a lot of ways, we’ve all been over-complicating things a little bit.
We look at the mess with despair. We break up another fight and we wonder why they’re not GETTING IT. We infrequently get to have a real conversation with our spouse and we feel that distance. We want to spend more time with all the people we like, but logistically, it’s just problematic with schedules, naps, tantrums, and dinner to make. Are your kids happy? Are they going to get into a good college? How in the world will you pay for that? How in the world will you pay for it if your van breaks down or your water heater craps out? How could you possibly cram another kid into the mix and potty train the one who is so obviously ready?
Can I encourage you for one wee little minute?
Everything is going to be OK.
You’re nailing it. You’re crushing it. Don’t worry about the pile of laundry. Start a load when you finish reading this. Your kids are happy. They’re fed. They’re learning social skills because you’re teaching them. Text your friend that you’ve been thinking about her, that you miss her. Unload the dishwasher. Realize that things ARE NOT going to be perfect and that’s OK. You’re not perfect. Anyone who expects that is ridiculous. God made you and sustains your literal breath all day long and he knows you’re not perfect and that you’re struggling. That’s why he sent Jesus. So look at your kid. Smile at her. Tell her you love her. Figure out what you’re going to have for lunch. Do your day the best you can. Pray for help in the midst of hard moments. (A simple “Help!” under your breath is more than sufficient. Then thank God for his grace in that moment that you recognize you need help and go from there. What does a grace-filled response look like in that moment? Clean up the urine or the milk. Hug the crying kid. Respond sweetly like you’d need if you forgot to do that thing that someone really needed.)
We all need perspective.
It feels hard. That’s OK. Just because we don’t have to walk 3 miles every day to get water for our family doesn’t mean it’s not hard when someone cries through every single meal for a week straight. Yes, it’s a first-world problem, but it’s still a problem. Work to fix it. Train through it. Take a breath. Most of us don’t worry about being sex-trafficked or watching our child perish from a curable disease or being under constant threat of war. We don’t worry about IF we’ll have food, but what combo will cause the fewest fits. And then we worry that our kids are growing up too entitled and we lob a comment at them about other kids not having enough food EVER. This world is wrecked. But Jesus is also making it new, so all is not lost. Be the change in your day. If you’ve been in a funk today, in your brain list 5 things you’re grateful for. Then hug your kids until they wriggle away. Cover their faces in kisses until you’re both giggling.
We don’t get to decide all the things that happen, but we do get to decide how we respond to them. Make sure you’re not making it worse for yourself and the people you love.
Keep your priorities straight. Put away your phone. Read a stack of books to your kid. Do you know why old people keep telling you it’s going to go by fast? Because it is. And they wish they got to be around little kids more. So we need the constant reminder to savor our littles. But sometimes we need breaks from them. Because little kids get clingy and needy and annoying. Usually at the worst times. I make dinner multiple nights each week while someone cries.
Keep doing the things that are working for you. Think about the things that are a hot mess and see if you can come up with a better way. I’m awesome at practical solutions. Comment about what’s not working and we’ll work on it together. Use the internet to make your life better. I wasn’t planning on doing this, but I want to help you because there are some ways I can and I often need help, too, so here are some free tools:
- Disheroo.com is a free meal planning site that I built and run. It has a standard plan, but you can customize it however you want. Adding your own meals is a snap.
- OneLineWord.com is a free Bible reading tool that I also built and run. I built it to make reading your Bible convenient while working out, but it works just as well while eating a bagel and drinking coffee.