You know those 'after the disaster' photos we see on the internet after some catastrophic event? They hit you a little harder when they're photos of your hometown. Streets you take to church. Houses you pass every day. Stores you shop at.
Saturday, December 11th, a tornado hit my hometown in the middle of the night. The latest numbers of our city include 16 dead, over 500 homes destroyed, and close to 100 businesses lost.
Last week, we were warned for days that severe weather was coming Friday night. When the temperature is 30 one day and 60 the next, it's par for the course in Kentucky.
By bedtime Friday night the wind had picked up. I scrolled Facebook, hungry for information about where the storms were. I got Addy from her bed and brought her in with me so I could easily protect her just in case. I thought about the 'Hattie Loves to Be Held' post I've read, written by a dad whose daughter died in the Tennessee tornadoes last spring, and held Addy just a little bit tighter.
By 11:30, I felt assured that any danger was north of us and continuing to move north. Exhausted by worry, I went to sleep.
An hour and a half later, at exactly 1:00 am, the sirens started.
My phone started screaming that there was a tornado warning in Warren county. The COWS siren outside began shrieking. My phone rang, with my mom calling to make sure we were moving to safety.
I grabbed Addy, but Austen wasn't in bed with us. Already shaking with fear, I woke up Jersey. I dragged the three of us into our laundry room. Austen soon joined, woken from where he'd fallen asleep on the couch upstairs. At first, Addy slept on me, where we curled up against the dryer. Austen went to grab her crib mattress, and we laid on that, but so many changes woke her up, and she spent the next hour running around the laundry room.
The siren went off again. Austen discussed where we should position if the tornado hit our house. I anxiously scrolled my Facebook feed for updates about the tornado. Texted friends to make sure they hadn't been hit. Turned on the flashlight when the power cut off. Watched the live news stream until it dropped when our local news station lost power.
We waited. Waited some more. The tornado warning was until 2:15, so I was keeping us sheltered until 2:15.
And when the warning had ended, we went back to bed. Sleep didn't come, of course. I kept looking for updates on any more tornadoes. More friends checked in to make sure no one had been hurt. Addy, wired from the fun on the mattress, was ready to play. For hours, she and I rolled around in bed and waited for sleep to come while Austen snored beside us. Finally, around 4 am, we both fell asleep.
When we woke up, there was still no electricity. There was, however, one very tired and cranky toddler who didn't understand why the house was dark and we couldn't open the fridge.
The next few hours are a weary blur, trying to entertain Addy, watching social media for updates. Then, shock, as pictures of the damage started rolling in. Eventually, I buckled Addy in her carseat and started driving, desperate for her to sleep and my phone to charge.
Eventually, she slept. The power came back on. Our home was spared from tornado damage.
Many, many others were not so lucky.
That Saturday, people started showing up for our community. It hasn't stopped since. For four days, people in our city have organized cleanup campaigns and donation drives and GoFundMes and t-shirt fundraisers. Restaurants have donated tens of thousands of dollars in gift cards, high school sports teams banded together to clean up homes and roads. Search and rescue has had to turn people away because they have more volunteers than they can use. Two donation sites were completely filled with items.
That's not to mention the tireless work from first responders who have searched for the missing and helped direct work in damaged areas. And there's the brave linemen, who have restored power to over 20,000 people so far.
In a time of need, our community has shown up in unbelievable, unforgettable ways.
The support also include dozens of churches offering support. Relief aid coming from states away. Three blood drives because they had to turn people away at the first one. Almost $140,00 donated in two days to provide direct relief to families within our county school.
We can't forget the teachers and FAMILY RESOURCE COORDINATORS. I don't know when they sleep. Everyone in our school systems is incredible, and we already knew that. In these last few days, they have been THE advocates for families and students.
You could literally fill a book with stories of how people have shown up in the aftermath of the tornadoes. They've shared time, money, belongings, home, words of encouragement. It doesn't erase the pain that families are facing. It doesn't replace the family photos or Christmas gifts or feelings of safety.
BUT. It does offer hope. These stories are a beacon of light in a dark moment of our town's history. All because people have decided to show up for one another.
The same day the tornado hit, I got sick. Sore throat, headache, crying because my body ached. Addy had passed a bug to me and it hit hard. It was awful, but it could have been so much worse. In my own time of need, people SHOWED UP.
My parents took Addy so I could sleep without her crawling all over me.
My friends offered to bring food and medicine.
My husband made me dinner and brought me every single request.
I made it through a long night, grateful for my people. They were willing to show up in my time of need.
It doesn't need to take a natural disaster to show up for one another. It just takes the recognition of a need. Do the thing. Send the card. Say the prayer. Be the light of Jesus day in and day out. I promise you, just by showing up, you can change the world.
How can you show up for someone today?
A few weeks ago we had a neighborhood yard sale. As my husband helped carry out boxes, he peeked in one and exclaimed, "Hey, those are the shoes you got married in! You're selling them?!"
Yes, dear reader, I sold my wedding shoes in a yard sale.
I had held onto the shoes for five years. I moved them from our apartment to our house. I kept them in case I wore them in a wedding (never). I kept them because they were the shoes I got married in. I packed them up each fall with my summer clothes and pulled them back out in the spring. But you know what? I didn't care about them a whole lot. I felt a sense of duty and obligation to keep them.
Why? Who did I owe that to? I love my husband whether or not I keep the shoes I married him in. I don't think my daughter will want to wear dirty 25+ year old shoes when she gets married someday. Those shoes are now one less thing unnecessarily accumulating in our house.
If you've been in the situation where you had to be in charge of going through your parents' estate after they've passed, you know how physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausting it is. I'm choosing to be mindful early on about the amount of items that I let accumulate, because I don't want to someday put my children in the position of sorting through boxes and boxes of items trying to decide what to keep, donate, and throw away.
Whether your kids are little or teenagers or grown and gone from the house, your clutter is going to have an impact on them. When we consider how the things we accumulate effect our children, we're inspired to make wise choices about what stays in our homes.
1. Clutter impacts your children at home
Clutter is stressful. Even if you think clutter doesn't bother you, there's a good chance it disrupts your brain. Our bodies are all wired to run on very organized systems. Consider your nervous system or circadian rhythm. Your body was created to follow a rhythm, and that includes your mind. Clutter releases the stress hormone cortisol, and that stress can have a negative impact on your health.
Now, think about your little people at home who don't have much control over the items in their home. Sure, they can destroy a room in seconds, but it's a lot easier to clean that room up when there is a limited number of items in the room and a certain spot for each item to go. If they're constantly looking at piles of clutter, their stress levels are going to rise just like an adult's would. They're going to be put into situations where they just can't find something, because it's become lost in the mess. If you create an organized home where belongings have a purpose and a place, you set your children up for success now and in the future when they create their own organizational systems.
Studies have shown that efficiency rises when people work in a tidy area. If your kids are expending mental energy thinking about all the clutter around them, they're going to be less focused on the craft they're making or homework they're trying to complete. You're going to have more time to spend with your kids when you spend less on trying to organize a chaotic home.
This isn't a call to create a sterile, museum-like home, but a gentle reminder that a reasonably tidy home will have a positive impact on the mental health of your children.
2. Clutter impacts your grown children
Unless you're pulling a Tuck Everlasting stunt, there will come a day when your kids have to decide what to do with all of your belongings. A few years ago I attended a two-week summer workshop with a room full of teachers. During lunch one day, one of the women and I started chatting, and it came up that her entire basement was full of furniture that she and her husband had inherited from his parents. There wasn't room for anything else in the basement, and they weren't using any of the furniture that had been passed down.
Your children should choose to keep items from your estate because they want to, not because it feels like they're expected to. Keeping a table because it's been in the family for 4 generations and you want to display it in your living room is one thing. Keeping the same table because you can't break the family chain and it's going to forever live in your attic is an entirely different story.
It's our human nature to hold onto things. We equate memories with specific items, and it can feel like letting an item go is a betrayal of that memory, whether it's a loved one or special event. If we break the stigma that you don't care about someone if you don't keep their belongings, we allow ourselves to live freely in our homes, without collecting items because we feel like we have to.
I love this entire article, especially the thought that comes at the end:
While I once thought of passing down things to my daughter, I realized that all I would be doing at this point is burdening her with a collection of things she will either need to find a home for or bequeath to a thrift store. And I feel no resentment about it whatsoever, because what she values is not the physical things that I possess. She values who I am. And, someday — who I was. So I regularly contribute chapters to my own life memoir (as much of it as I can recall) so that she and any future generations might know something about me they never have been otherwise privy to. It is my gift to her. Somehow, I know that is more valuable than a crystal goblet.
When it comes to generational clutter, you can be the cycle breaker. Let me know what experiences you've had in dealing with family clutter in the comments!
Let me tell you all a funny story.
My sweet momma was at our house a few weeks ago babysitting Addy. They were outside when the Amazon delivery guy came by. She started chatting to him about the road construction and traffic and his delivery area. He shared that he didn't have a huge area to cover, and then added, "But I'm at this house almost every day!" to which my mom replied, "Well, this isn't my house, it's my daughter's house." Whooooops. Thanks for selling me out, man.
Thanks to Amazon and Target and Ikea, I've found some of the best gems for keeping our house organized. I want to share some of my tried-and-true favorites with you today.
These little boxes from IKEA are king of the dressers. They're short enough to fit any drawer we've put them in but tall enough they hold items in well. They're crazy easy to store if we're not using one, AND they're for the best price!! I also really appreciate the assortment of sizes that comes in each package.
My entire pantry is just one big party of these baskets. The medium ones fit perfectly four across my shelves. I put some of Addy's individually packaged snacks in the small. Half-medium is helpful for canned goods or macaroni boxes! And up top we hide away big things with these tall suckers! It's really easy to grab a few every time you're at Target. They hold up much longer than dollar store baskets but they're not so pricey than you can only afford a few. I love a good middle ground price point!
OXO pop containers give me life. First off, always search at TJ Maxx and Homegoods to find them just a little bit cheaper. Second, they are perfect for kids snacks and dry goods in the pantry.
I will point out that the TJ Maxx containers and Target containers have a different "pop" shape, so if that sort of thing matters to you (like it does to me), beware!
This handheld vacuum recently joined our family and its welcome has rivaled the joy of a new baby. He doesn't have a name yet, but he's been put to work and making life easier every day.
Last month we (finally!!) replaced our TWENTY-FOUR year old carpet!! Angels were singing. I am excited to have hardwood floors that are much easier to clean, but MAN does that dog fur accumulate. I hate stepping on little crumbs when I walk around barefoot. I've started dust mopping once or twice a day to get crud off the floor and every time I'm amazed (and grossed out) at how much I pick up. While our's is a Norwex mop, this one has incredible reviews on Amazon!
Once our floors have cured, our Roomba (named Roy) will be rejoining the family. You can never go wrong with a little robot vacuum to make keeping the floors clean that much easier!
Any carpet in your house will need a good cleaning every now and then. We have this large carpet cleaner and smaller upholstery cleaner to tackle any spots on fabrics. They are well-loved in our home and passed around quite often, so you know they've gotta be great!
A fabric shaver sounds silly until you get one and then WOW it makes everything in your home look new again. A couple of chairs I bought from from Wayfair tend to pill but this sucker brings them back to looking brand new.
These drawer organizers are a beautiful upgrade from their plastic counterparts. Bamboo > almost anything. We have several throughout the kitchen!
Here is my PSA to shout from the rooftops: you don't have to organize your home to make it look pretty! Dumping hundreds of dollars you don't have into beautiful baskets is not your best choice. I keep my hair ties in a cut off plastic cup and my bobby pins in the bottom of a velveeta cheese lid I cut off. These organization tools have accumulated over years, from wedding gifts and Christmases and birthdays and credit card points. Add some of your favorites from this post to your Amazon wishlist, grab an OXO container on your next TJ Maxx run, and slowly turn your home into your favorite functional space.
Everyone, I would like to introduce you to 20 year old Katie, in her junior year of college. Katie lived in an apartment complex with a gym. While she often carried pepper spray on her walk to the gym at night to avoid being mugged, Katie committed to going at least three times a week. Katie also went to college on a giant HILL so helloooo excellent calf muscles. With all the free time she had, Katie made pretty healthy meals and drank copious amounts of water.
I peaked at age 20. And while I'm pretty ok with that, I still want to be conscious of the choices I make for my health and make sure I do all I can to live a long time with the one body that God has given me!
We've always tried to make decently healthy choices in my family. While I don't go to the gym anymore, I walk almost everyday. My husband has a home gym in the garage where he works out several times a week. We eat a variety of food, use green cleaning products, and drink our water.
But recently I've started to feel more convicted about putting in the work for my health. A couple months ago I was out to dinner with my sister, who is a workout fiend. She's at the gym almost every day and walks her dog most evenings. She warned me that while my weight is fine, I need to find time to build more muscle, because we reach our peak bone density at 30. While I've enjoyed joking that my bones are going to peak by the time I'm 30, it's also reminded me that I really do need to reintroduce more strength training, which I used to do in college.
I've also started to put more thought into the products in our household. Many years ago we switched to Norwex for almost all of our cleaning. I've added in Thieves cleaning oil because maaaan I love that clean smell! We're working hard to use products that are less scented, less dyed, and better for us.
Here are some of the changes I am making to be mindful of my health.
Taking a multivitamin.
I have found amazing reviews about this one in every corner of the internet. I'm taking the morning and night versions. Amazon, blogs, different product review websites all sing their praises so it's definitely worth investing in!
Morning vitamin (doesn't taste the best, so I gulp it)
Nighttime vitamin (yummy coconut)
Switching to greener beauty products.
I am using the Norwex Lysere hair care line. I am also trying out a few beauty products that I found on Credo Beauty. My makeup sits on my face all day. If I want to avoid cleaning products with harmful chemicals, it makes the same that I would do the same with my beauty products. For my makeup I'm starting with foundation and concealer, since those are the products that cover the largest area of my face. We've also started using the Norwex toothpaste.
Having a better breakfast.
Breakfast for me is basically nonexistent, or something along the lines of an apple or poptart. To combat an empty stomach and slow start to my day, I've started drinking a smoothie every morning. I include 2-3 fruits, usually some spinach, coconut milk, unsweetened yogurt, and a scoop of collagen powder and hemp hearts. Ya'll, if you want your smoothing nice and thick, use alllll the frozen fruit. It makes my smoothies thicker and colder and so much more delicious.
PS: Check out these links for benefits of including hemp seeds in your diet:
6 Health Benefits
Are Hemp Seeds Good For You?
9 Benefits of Hemp Seeds
Completing more weight and resistance training.
My husband is always asking for me to workout with him, but his decor tastes in the garage have left me resistant to go in there. (We're talking velvet paintings of tigers and a giant poster of him from his high school track days). We agreed to some redecorations along with workouts together. Win-win!
Switching to other reusable products
I gave up makeup wipes a while ago. I used them out of convenience but man, they were overly fragrant and SO wasteful! Fragrance is one of the biggest issues in products being full of unhealthy chemicals. However, I was still using cotton pads to take off my eye makeup. I've finally switched to cotton pads made out of cotton fabric. As I use them, I store them in a little laundry bag, and wash them when it's close to full.
I won't lie, I put this off for a loooong time because I LOVE my Dove! However, I've switched to Native and it smells good and has done the job so far! The biggest difference has been that my armpits actually sweat now. After using an antiperspirant for so long it's a strange feeling, but also a sign that my body is doing what it should.
Making healthy changes isn't easy. The ones listed above have been over a period of months, and been an investment of time and money. I've read reviews and tested items out. I've asked for some items as gifts and slowly replaced beauty care items as I run out of what I was using. Each small change is another step toward a healthier future, and for that I am thankful.
I love to read. I love the feeling of staying up ridiculously late to finish your book. I love getting the email that a book I had on hold is ready. I love providing our daughter with books about almost everything.
When I got pregnant, I thought I'd read. I bought What to Expect When You're Expecting and Ina May's Guide to Childbirth and Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way and How to Talk So Your Kids Will Listen & Listen So Your Kids Will Talk. I'd get through a few pages of each and lose interest (no surprise, nonfiction isn't really my thing). I learned best through short articles and Google searches and doctor visits and the very best due date group on Facebook. I gave up on reading any sort of book for parents.
Then I somehow came across this gem. The Montessori Toddler: A Parent's Guide to Raising a Curious and Responsible Human Being by Simone Davies.
I couldn't stop. I devoured the ideas Simone presented. I made notes and read sections to Austen. I loaned it to my sweet friend who watches Addy 3 days a week. I read it again. I started listening to Simone's podcast.
When I was a child I attended a local Montessori preschool and although I have no memories of it, my mother always had rave reviews about the curriculum. The more I learned about Montessori, the more I wanted to implement practices in our home. We are by no means a fully Montessori household, and I absolutely loved the phrase a mom friend in my bomb.com due date group shared, when she said they were 'Montesorta.' Perfectly fitting!
Join any Montessori group, and you'll see the phrase over and over: 'follow the child.' Ultimately, it comes down to observing your child and seeing how you can help them extend their learning where they are, where their curiosity and development is striking. Knowing this, we have some key principles and practices in place at our home as we support Addy's development.
1. A prepared environment
Our home is for our entire family. I continue to make changes to make the house accessible for Addy. I provide items for her on her own level and kid-sized tools whenever possible. Here are some of her favorites- her own kitchen in our kitchen, her learning tower that flips to be a little table, and her work table in the living room.
2. Thoughtful materials
Please don't think a toy has to be expensive, all wood, color neutral to help shape a child's learning in Montessori fashion. The playrooms you'll see featured on Pinterest are beautiful, but definitely staged and representative of only a tiny percent of actual playrooms. I can't afford the $60 Grim's stacking cup set, but the $4 plastic stacking cup set has been a hit since Addy was just months old. Not many toys can say that! I am picky about books and choose literature that represents the diversity of the world, introduces Addy to new concepts, and provides affirming messages. We decide what items are worth spending more on and invent wisely. Addy loves animal figures and we practice matching them to 2-D representation on flash cards. Austen prefers the Schleich animals because they are a much nicer quality, full of little details for each animal.
3. Outdoor time
I don't like getting dirty. I don't like bugs. I don't like being rained on or sledding in the snow.
For the joy of my child, I'll do it all. I'll smile and take pictures and find the fun in it, daggone it!
We get outside everyday unless there's just absolutely no way. We employ rain gear and snow boots and sun hats. Addy takes walks, works in the tiny garden, scribbles with chalk, helps with chores, and just explores.
I have truly been in awe at the things Addy can do, when she's given the chance to learn. When we involve her in work and really let her do it *herself* she absorbs it and carries that knowledge into the future. Read this article from NPR- it's great information!! Here are the two main takeaways:
-To raise helpful children, they need to be involved in the work of the family
-Asking children to complete 3 subtasks an hour (small steps of the bigger job) involves them and helps them learn without overwhelming
Best of all? Younger kids needed more requests while older children needed fewer, because "they learned how to be helpful and cooperate."
Addy is her own person and deserves to be respected as such. This is not just a Montessori principle but a good parenting principle. We try to respect her choices as much as we can, such as providing bodily autonomy (don't want a hug? no hugs!) and providing opportunities to make her own choices (such as choosing which shoes to wear). We show respect by gently setting boundaries and enforcing them, with words and without physical punishment. We also teach respect for the environment around us, our belongings, and other people.
There will never be one perfect way to parent your child. Montessori isn't the be all end all, and it isn't perfect either. However, implementing some of these principles can have amazing effects on your child's independence, confidence, and relationships with others!
Traditions are the BEST. You've figured out by now how much I love routines. I love knowing when things are going to happen or when I should do them. And traditions are routines, they're just happy little routines all dressed up!
Traditions have a way of brightening up your day/week/month.
For our family, traditions typically fall under two umbrellas: casual traditions and holiday traditions.
These are those traditions that happen separately from a major holiday. Some things may fall more under routine in this category, but since it's something that usually brings joy, I think of them as traditions.
Choosing traditions doesn't have to be a big elaborate thing. Two traditions stand out in my childhood, right off the bat. One is pizza and movie night on Friday nights. I promise you, it's exactly as it sounds. We'd order pizza, eat in the living room, and alway watch a movie. It was something special because every other night, dinner was eaten in the kitchen or dining room. We had a special treat to look forward to after a long week.
The other childhood tradition is something so small, I don't know if it was done intentionally or if it's remembered by anyone other than me. Every Sunday morning, right before we pulled out of the garage to leave for church, my sister and I would each get a wintergreen Tic Tac. Every. Single. Sunday. Just one. I would take my itty bitty Tic Tac, hold it in my mouth, and savor it as long as I could, competing with my previous records to see how long I could make it last before it dissolved completely on my tongue. Usually by the time we passed the cemetery, it was gone. It was such a tiny thing, but every time I see wintergreen Tic Tacs in the store, I think about those Sunday mornings of my childhood.
As our daughter grows older and more aware, there are traditions that we are beginning to implement for our family, both big and small. Some of these include:
I place a high value on literacy in our home. We have themed books for all holidays/seasons that I rotate through Addy's bookshelves. To me, this is much more important than holiday decor or seasonal food, because it is a contribution to her love of reading.
You might notice not all of the holidays are represented. We've never tried to force a tradition just for the sake of having a tradition. Austen and I have celebrate the 4th of July differently for the past 7 years. We've gone kayaking, watched Star Wars, spent the day in Bardstown with friends.. We've yet to hold onto a specific tradition, and that's okay with us!
You read the title and laughed, right?
Tidy travel with a toddler sound ridiculous, I agree. Toddlers are little tornadoes that destroy everything in their pathway. So I'm not here to tell you how to neatly travel with a toddler, or baby, or preschooler, or big kid. I want to share what I've learned about traveling with our daughter in keeping a tidy mindset. With that mindset we anticipate problems ahead of time and prepare for them, big and small.
Last week, my little family just took a very short vacation to Nashville with some close friends. We left Wednesday morning and came back Friday night. Nashville is just an hour away from us, so it was also a pretty easy drive, minus the awful traffic on the way home. We haven't traveled further than 4 hours or over 4 days yet, but everytime we take Addy on a trip, I realize something else we can do to make life easier.
There are plenty of resources out there about traveling for a month with your carry on. I fear those people. I am not one of those people. Especially with a one year old. If you're driving, it's much easier to pack more than you'll probably need, and avoid trips to the store or borrowing from someone else on the trip. We ended up borrowing a silicone bib from our friends we traveled with since they brought 2 and we brought 0. It definitely came in handy when we were out to eat and couldn't strip Addy to feed her! Next time I'll remember to pack one, but this trip I was trying to avoid overpacking. Never. Again.
I am also team overpack your clothes. Pack for all sorts of weather and any chance of rain. The day we went to the zoo, the weather swung from chilly and overcast to warm and sunny. We could at least wrap Addy up in the stroller but I froze in my shorts. Unfortunately, Addy also had a blowout which she was kind enough to share with me. Of course I had extra clothes in the diaper bag for her, but none for me. At least now I understand why people wear zoo shirts at the zoo. Thank you, gift shop, for coming to the rescue! Of course you pack extra clothes for your kiddo(s), but don't forget to pack extra clothes for yourself and keep them accessible wherever you go! If not in the diaper bag, then at least in the car.
It's annoying, and it's time consuming, but remember to pack any necessary medicine. Toddlers aren't the best at waiting for a pharmacy run or working through any sort of pain. You can even keep a small bag of often used medications in the diaper bag for both short and long trips.
While you're in the overpacking mode, overpack your car and leave it overpacked. Leave extra diaper items in there (diapers, wipes, and changing pads). Keep an extra set of clothes for everyone. Pack snacks, toys, and a blanket. Follow the boy scout motto!
2. Use Packing Cubes
Packing cubes are the bomb.com. I have a set for Addy and a set for myself. None for Austen, since his packing style is to throw whatever he can find into his bag 10 minutes before we leave (help!!). Packing cubes do tend to take up more space. However, they make it MUCH easier to keep your bag organized during the entire trip. Far too often I'll sort my clothes out when I pack, then by day 2 they're a jumbled mess because I have to look through my bag to find certain things. Packing cubes help keep items separated so you're not searching through your entire bag to find a pair of socks. Plus they come in all sorts of fun colors and patterns!
3. Underplan Activities, Plan Downtime
We had a whole shared note going about all the possible things to do in Nashville. Cool restaurants and shops and bakeries. Places to take your kids. Fun outings we wanted to do. We barely touched that sucker. Don't get me wrong. It's important to have an idea of what you want to do while you're traveling. But always anticipate a lot of time getting started in the morning and wrapped up at dinner and bedtime. Just like at home, everything takes so much longer with a little one in tow. We didn't eat at a single restaurant on our trip. We ate lunch at the day's attraction and then picked up dinner to eat at our hotel each night.
Toddlers need time in a familiar environment. While the hotel isn't home, it's a place your kid can dump out toys, walk around barefoot, and avoid constant mental stimulation. That gives you some downtime to rest as well.
General Toddler Travel Tips
-Pack puppy training pads for diaper changes in public spaces. I also keep a roll of dog poo bags to store dirty clothes and diapers if we're without a place to throw them away.
-Keep a change of clothes for everyone in the car (at all times!)
-Pack a basket of toys to enjoy at the hotel/condo/house
-Bring a big cooler for the car and small travel cooler for daily outings
-Plan drives around naps. We usually try to leave right before naps. This gives us time in the morning to get packed up and helps the drive go by faster for Addy. I don't recommend driving through the night. It's statistically unsafe to do so, unless you're used to being awake all night. Plus, everyone needs to get out of the car and stretch every few hours, especially your toddlers strapped into those carseats. If it's a long drive, try to budget stopping for the night halfway through. We are already planning halfway stops for our beach trip this fall!
When it comes to toddler travel, anticipate and prepare for the worst, then enjoy the best! What a joy it is to watch our children explore the world around us.
If you're longing for a truly tidy home, one fell swoop of decluttering isn't going to make that happen. Neither is a marathon of cleaning. Both of those feel feel either thrilling or horrifying, depending on who you ask. (I am obviously deeply in the thrilling club). I love the joy of loading my car with donations, knowing that's less stuff in my home. I relish in a clean home after hours of scrubbing and polishing and dusting.
But without commitment, none of that is sustainable. The clutter will return and the dishes will pile and the dust will gather. Let me preface this by saying that for some people, that's okay. Maybe more than okay, but the desired normal. They may want to focus their time on their family or be exhausted after working 80 hours a week or battling depression or just not care so much about a squeaky clean home. If that's where you are, then I'm probably not your kinda person, at least not in this season of life.
I belong to the critically clean club. The club where I try not to go to sleep with dirty dishes in the sink and don't let the laundry piles explode. I like my home clean, and I like my home in order. It's easier to think and live and breathe and just enjoy life in a home that's tidy. Unfortunately for my husband, I become a monster of a person when the house is a mess. The time we spent two weeks living out of half our house because we were replacing the kitchen floor? A nightmare. To spend less time on the house and more time on things that matter, and to automate things that need to get done, we have certain routines that are followed in our home.
Routines are at the heart of my sanity. A routine saves my mental energy because I don't have to remember the last time I did something, or when I need to do it again. I have a designated day or month to complete tasks. Boom. The end. No stress.
Your routines might not focus on tidiness or cleanliness. My sister prioritizes her health and fitness, so she has specific routines about exercise and healthy eating. While I consider those things important, I don't give them as much mental energy or time as she does. My routines before becoming a mother looked different than they do now. We are all constantly adapting to the season of life we are in, just as we should.
Our habits have been greatly shaped by our daughter, and making sure her needs are met. I've learned to not worry so much about a schedule and instead focus on a routine. Things may not get done at the same time every day, but they will get done and in the same general order.
No matter how early I get up, there is never enough time before I need to leave for work during the week. My morning must-do list is short, because I never want to overwhelm myself.
"[Making your bed] will give you a small sense of pride. And it will encourage you to do another task, and another, and another. By the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed." -Admiral William McRaven
My family tends to accomplish much more when there's not a time crunch of needing to get out of the house.
All these routines, big and small, help our home run more smoothly and give us time to focus our energy elsewhere. Keeping track of all of the routines, however, requires some extra tech help.
Daily and weekly tasks can be stored mentally. For things that get done less often, I use Google Keep to track when to do things. I have monthly and annual lists that I just make copies of everytime I need a fresh template.
I've learned to embrace the digital calendar. For a long time I resisted the calendar app on my phone. I wanted to just remember things, or use a paper calendar. Then I got pregnant. I never realized until then that pregnancy brain is real. And for someone like me, who strives to be on-time and dependable, pregnancy brain was a killer. Raising a child makes it even worse. Pretty sure my brain peaked at age 25, you all.
I was late for two different children's ministry meetings when I realized my system no longer worked, and I needed help. Enter phone calendar. All my events go in my calendar, with a reminder days or hours before. My phone is always nearby, so it's easy to check and see when that meeting or doctor's appointment is. My hairdresser has even started using the calendar to schedule appointments and invite clients, so it comes up on both our calendars. Love!
I also use my calendar to set reminders for things that need to get done but I typically don't remember. For a while, Addy's morning nap fell in the hour before church, and since Austen's clothes are stored in a closet in her room, he sometimes had to go in to get church clothes. Cue crying baby and frustrated momma. So, I set a reminder on Saturday nights so I would remind him to get his church clothes out. Austen is always happy to take Jersey to the vet for her nail trim, but doesn't always remember when it's time. Now he has a reminder in his phone every two months. And when Austen was working in Indiana for three months, I got a reminder to take the trash on Wednesday afternoons so I'd do it soon as I got home from work, since he wasn't there to do it. Making your calendar work for your needs removes the stress of feeling like you *should* remember XYZ, because you have the routine of being reminded when it's time.
I'll preach the greatness of routines until the day I die. Find your routine, write it down, and change it when you need to. We shape our routines to fit our day and rest easy at night knowing we accomplished what needed to get done.
The air in my house is dirty.
The air in your house is dirty.
The air in the White House is dirty.
The air in the Big Blue House is dirty.
Are you seeing a pattern yet?
The EPA says that the air in our homes can be 2 to 5 times more polluted than the air outside.
Most of us worry about the air circulation on a plane. The air is being sucked up and pushed right back out, spreading through all the passengers. The same concept applies in your home, just on a slightly larger scale. Most HVAC systems aren't pulling in outdoor air, they're recycling the air already in your home. We can unknowingly pollute our home's air with cleaning chemicals, personal care products, and synthetic materials. Our pets produce dander which clings to items in our homes. First, this is a vital reminder to be mindful of what products we choose to bring into our homes. Second, open allllll the windows!!
My little family consistently follows a few guidelines in keeping pollutants out of our home. There is always more we can do, but these are easy steps we hold ourselves accountable to in our home.
1. Shoes OFF at the door
I won't lie, I never thought about this a ton until we had a baby.
And then our days were spent lying on the floor a LOT.
I started thinking about the things we could step in and carry into our home and on our floors, where our daughter was playing, and crawling, and rubbing her face. On top of that, our home came with carpet that is currently 23 years old and hopefully soon to be replaced. No need for any extra crud in that carpet!
The University of Arizona completed a study looking at bacteria on shoes and found that, there was an average of "421,000 units of bacteria on the outside of the shoe and 2,887 on the inside. Some of the bacteria found on the shoes included: Escherichia coli, known to cause intestinal and urinary tract infections, meningitis and diarrheal disease; Klebsiella pneumonia, a common source for wound and bloodstream infections as well as pneumonia; and Serratia ficaria, a rare cause of infections in the respiratory tract and wounds." (PS, washing the shoes got rid of all fecal bacteria & 90% of other bacteria, so wash your shoes!!) (PPS, don't put your purse or backpack on the public restroom floor.)
Our guests are always considerate and understanding when asked to take their shoes off, and at this point it's second nature to us. I feel better knowing whatever we stepped on outside is not being tracked through our home.
2. Natural cleaning products
First off, we are being kind to the environment outside our home by using products that last longer and use less packaging as a result, and that don't pollute waterways with chemicals. This page from the EPA discusses environmental and health concerns. They are transparent in saying that "the actual risks from these chemicals at typical exposure levels are often uncertain, and in many cases are probably low. Regardless of the expected risk levels, however, reducing the intrinsic hazard of a product is a desirable pollution prevention objective as part of decisions that also take into account other important product attributes."
Some concerns the EPA lists include:
In addition, I feel safer using natural products around my daughter. I have fewer cleaning products cluttering up my home. We use vinegar, Thieves cleaner, and Norwex products to handle almost all of the cleaning in our home.
3. Essential oils, no candles
Meik Wiking shares in the Little Book of Hygge that "studies have shown that lighting just one candle fills the air with more microparticles than traffic in a busy street. A study undertaken by the Danish Building Research Institute showed that candles shed more particles indoors than either cigarettes or cooking."
This study in Florida found that, "Scented candle usage indoors may cause high levels of respirable soot, with risks to occupants for both acute and chronic health effects, including an increased risk of cancer."
Even if you don't use essential oils to combat health problems such as trouble sleeping, stress, or an upset stomach, you can probably agree that they smell good. Even great. You've got options for however you're feeling. I diffuse a relax blend before bed, an orange oil in the mornings, and a sugar cookie scent when I'm cozying up during winter. I'm not worried about any sort of open flame, and I know I'm keeping the air in our home just a little bit cleaner. I am very wary in choosing oils that are pregnancy safe, nursing safe, and kid safe. We use Plant Therapy, and their company is very transparent and very adamant about using oils wisely.
4. Replacing air filters often
Air filters are vital in keeping higher air quality in your home. Consider who is in your home. Pets? Children? People with allergies? Any of these factors- or any sort of combination- increases how often you should change your filters. Pets come with dander and fur, and more pets produce more allergens, so replace more often. Children have respiratory systems that are still developing, so replace more often. People with allergies need allergens and pollutants removed from the air, so replace more often. We get new filters in our Amazon subscribe and save order, so I'm never concerned about not having enough when it's time to change them. I also make sure keep 'replacing air filters' on my Google Keep to do list, and every two months I'm reminder to take care of it. I know some people write the date when a new filter is put in, but be honest, how often are you opening up the vent cover to see if it's time to replace your filter? Just these two quick steps make it much simpler in keeping the air in our home cleaner.
5. Opening windows
By now I bet you're getting the feeling of just how dirty the air in your house is. Even with all our good efforts, contaminants are still coming into our homes. I'll be honest, only that giant bottle of Treseme hairspray can tame these post-baby flyaways. We shed skin, our pets shed dander, our products release gases. The Consumer Product Safety Commission says that "In the last several years, a growing body of scientific evidence has indicated that the air within homes and other buildings can be more seriously polluted than the outdoor air in even the largest and most industrialized cities."
Opening your home's windows allows outdoor air to circulate and move some of those pollutants outside, so they're not at such high levels in your home. 5 minutes a day is a good minimum, but if the weather allows, shoot for 15-20 minutes. On those gorgeous spring and fall days, our windows stay open during most daylight hours!
There is always more work to be done in reducing the pollutants & toxins in our home. However, starting here gives me peace of mind and a stepping stone for the next choices we can make in simplifying the chemicals and pollutants that are in our house.
In households all over the world, there's a question that strikes fear into the heart.
What's for dinner?
Thinking about dinner means deciding how much time and energy you have. Time to look at what you actually have in the house to cook. You need to take into account what everyone will actually eat and what sounds good to you.
I'm all about what makes life easier, so we have a few meal prep principles we follow each week that I highly recommend.
1. Order groceries online- deliver or pick up
2. Plan all meals for the week
3. Prep as much food as you can over the weekend
Dinner time is hard. Everyone is burnt out by 5:00, but there's still a whole meal to fix and eat and clean up. It becomes even harder when you start adding kids in the mix.
We used to live in a little townhouse in the middle of town, on the same road as a Kroger. It was glorious. We could run down the road for anything we ran out of or forgot to buy, and we did quite often. Once we moved, Kroger was no longer so readily available. IGA is within a short distance, but still not so close or convenient, especially now that we've got Addy. It's even more imperative that we've got a plan in place.
In our house, dinner usually goes one of two ways. If both parents are home, one will usually play with Addy while the other makes dinner. My favorite days are the ones I get to play with Addy all day, and then spend time making dinner while she plays with her dad. On days I work, Austen usually makes dinner so I can soak up allllll the time with my girl. There's also the nights that one parent is home for dinner and toddler duty. We've had a lot of nights recently where Austen is still working at dinner time, so it's a one woman show to get things done. To make my life easier, I do two things. I plan quick meals, and I prep as much as I can over the weekend.
Late in the week, Thursday or Friday night, I meal plan. I consider what is going on during the week and who will be home at dinner time. On those nights that Austen won't be home, I plan a meal that I can prep in 20 minutes or less. I also cut meals almost in half. Is anyone else's husband like a human pit?!
After planning meals for the week, I order groceries. I am 110% team online grocery ordering.
We have groceries delivered Friday night or Saturday. This gives us time to prep food for the week when we've got a little free time here and there throughout the weekend. Weekly grocery orders are really the only way to make sure you've always got fresh food, especially fruits and vegetables. And you need the fresh food in your diet! Dinner is an easy time to make sure you're getting some daily servings of vegetables.
I'm here to share this most important PSA: roast your dinner veggies and you'll devour them. We eat up some roasted broccoli, bell peppers, onion, and asparagus, covered with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper.
This weekend as I prep, here's my to-do list and my meal list. I am working on adding some extra food to the freezer, so recipes that freeze well are being doubled. Might as well make an extra and save some time for a later meal!
Weekend Food Prep
Saturday: Mexican street corn pasta salad (SO good and yummy leftovers)
Sunday: grilled steaks with corn + asparagus
Monday: bacon chicken ranch penne + broccoli
Tuesday: quesadillas with peppers + onion
Wednesday: BBQ from freezer on Hawaiian rolls with green beans
Thursday: broccoli cheddar soup + sandwiches
Friday: order out
I also take time to prep Addy's food. I have 5 divided containers and in each I put a fruit, veggie, protein, carb, and maybe some cheese. I also prepare a fruit and veggie snack to send with her each day. It's literally just diced and put in a small container. I found these containers that come with two green lids, two purple lids, etc, so it's super easy to make sure I pack a fruit AND veggie each day. Baby food prep has gone through several stages as Addy's need changes, and the time and energy is takes is definitely worthy of it's own post.
Meal prep is magic. While I don't know many people these days who don't do at least some form of prep, I encourage you to comb through different ideas and decide what works for you!