How to Live Each Day Like It’s Your Last

I am finally writing this post (which has been on my agenda for some time) having just had a day that would not qualify as a good “last day” full of happiness. Life is like that though. Despite your best intentions, sometimes days are just tough.

However, I  am not losing heart. I am owning this day and chalking it up as a retry. Tomorrow will be better. I will be more pleasant, I will have a better attitude, and I will exercise more patience. Each of us only has the one life (you know the one) and for the most part, what we do and how we act is up to us. Happiness is a choice.

I feel like it is easy to put your life on hold. To always be waiting for something that will make you happy. I will be happy when I get married…I will be happy when I get pregnant…I will be happy when I land my dream job…etc. Why is it so hard for each of us to just be happy now?

I want you to take a second and imagine what you would do if you knew it was your last day to live (pause for think time.) Would you choose happiness on your last day? (If you are the type of person who would choose panic over happiness this is not the post for you.)

If you are anything like me, your day would be full of happiness. It would include things like time with family, good food, some bucket list items, and reflection.

With those things in mind, here are my six ways to live each day like it is your last, be a happier parent/person, and not go broke.

Spend Your Time and Attention Wisely

This first one is all about priorities. Unless Facebook is your one true love, it probably wouldn’t be high on the list of things to do on your last day on earth. Each day should be at least roughly prioritized in order of importance. Is it more important to visit a friend or do the laundry (the answer to this question may not be the same each day). Just make sure that you focus on the things that are the most important first.

Plan Something Into Your Day That Will Make You Happy

There are a lot of things that make me happy. I love to leave the house. Exercising makes me feel good. I love to create things, watch movies, read books, learn new things, spend time with people I love. . . There are a lot of options. If you make time for at least one thing that makes you happy each day then you will inevitably be happier and more pleasant to be around. Your children will thank you.

As a side note: plan for the big stuff (bucket list items) so that you can make those happen too. Save money for your trip to Italy. Pick a day to go skydiving. Etc.

Spend Time With Someone You Love

I would bet that earlier, (when I asked you to think about how you would spend your time if you knew you were living your last day) someone specific came to mind. Someone you love, someone you need to reconcile with, someone you have not seen for a long time…In order to live each day like it is our last, we need to include the people who matter on a day-to-day basis. You never know when someone will be gone (in one way or another) so it is important to take advantage of whatever time you do have.

Eat Something Delicious

I freakin love food. My waistline can testify to the fact. I think that there is a fine line between eating healthy and going crazy. Life is too short to not eat the food you love,  try new things, and eat decadent desserts. However, you don’t have to overeat. One or two bites of a really good dessert. A bacon cheeseburger once a month. A fruit you love. Just make sure that you include something delicious in your meal plan each day.

Do Something For Someone Else

Service is kind of magical. When you take a minute to help someone else you take a step outside of yourself and your own immediate needs. This grants you gratitude, clarity, understanding, and love for your fellow men. We truly end up loving those we serve. So, doing something for someone else each day not only makes us happier, it also brings more people into our lives to love.

Enjoy The Small Things

Take time each day to just enjoy the mundane. Look at the blessings you are surrounded by and be grateful for them. Enjoy the running water, playing with your baby, a machine that literally washes your clothes, the opportunity to read, multiple grocery stores to buy food from, a brain that works, a job, free time… Whatever your daily life brings you, take a minute to find the positive and enjoy it. Be happy for the now.

Make Peace With God

If I could pick my time of death, it would be during church. I am usually at my best when I am at church (not that I am not good the rest of the time, but when I am at church I am on my absolute best behavior). That is crazy. The odds that I will die at church are like one to 61. That being the case, it only makes sense for me to be on my best behavior all of the time. Pray regularly, study my scriptures, repent, be kind to others, etc.

I know I would prepare to meet God if I knew it was happening on a certain day but it should be enough to just know that it will happen eventually. Like I said last week. Preparation is our best protection.

Anyway, these are my six ways to live each day like it is your last. Most of them don’t cost a dime (unless you have super expensive hobbies and tastes) so completing them won’t mess with your budget. They will also make you a happier person and a better parent. Who doesn’t want that?

What would you add to this list? How do you live each day like it is your last?

You may enjoy:

 

10 Things I Wish I Had Known Before Becoming a Mom

I have been a stay-at-home mom for about a year and a half now and I think I have learned more in the last 17 months than I did during four years of college. The trouble is, my new set of skills is a less appreciated, taken for granted, not noticed, and often mind numbing.

I know that sounds kind of harsh but I truly feel like mom skills are often disregarded completely. They are glue, they are necessary, they help everything function, but they are kind of invisible (unless they are not done).

I am the magic laundry washer, dish washer, dinner cooker, grocery buyer, and high-chair clean up patrol. These things get done every day, the house stays clean, my family stays happy and taken care of. It never ends. (Read 7 Tips Guaranteed to Make Your Home Feel Cleaner)

Before I became a mom, specifically a stay-at-home mom, I just had no idea what it entailed. My rosy vision of life after my baby came was far from reality. So, with that in mind, here are ten things that I wish I had known before becoming a mom.

It Is Hard

I gained a whole new level of appreciation for my mother after I became one myself. It really is a tireless job. I don’t think there is any other job that requires you to be on call every hour of every day. There is this tiny person who depends on you for everything. Then, if you breastfeed, that dependency seems even greater because that tiny person literally needs you near all of the time (Read 9 Reasons I Hated Breastfeeding and the Five Things that Helped Me Keep At It). Then there is a home to look after, and meals to cook, and a million things to do and remember each and every day. Motherhood is no walk in the park and is not for the faint of heart. This is hands down the hardest job I have ever had.

There Is Not More Time

I specifically remember a day when I was sitting at work rubbing my pregnant belly and thinking how nice it would be to not have to get up early and to sleep in and play with my baby. . .I know pretty bad. I was very naive. As a new mom, I did not have time for exercise, or leisure activities, or showering, or sleep.

There were many things that I thought I would suddenly have time for once I quit my nine-to-five and stayed home all day but I just didn’t. I was busy every minute of every day and I could never quite pinpoint what I had to show for it. Rather than having more time, I found I had less and that it was very precious. (Read Me-Time Hobbies for Brand New Moms)

You Will Miss Going to Work

In the beginning, I was so jealous that my husband got to go to work each day. He got to go and use his brain, speak with other adults, contribute to society, get paid, and most importantly, leave the house.

Now, I am not saying that stay-at-home moms don’t use their brains or contribute to society (I think they probably contribute to society more than any other profession) but in the first few months it was hard to realize that. I had to tell myself each day that my baby was alive and well and that I had done a good job. I also had to reconcile myself to a new working standard and come up with ways to make motherhood a job that I wanted and could handle (Read 5 Secrets That Can Make You A Successful Stay At Home Mom).

You Will Feel Lonely

Going from a job where I was engaged with people all day long to hardly seeing anyone was tough. I had days and weeks where I just felt lonely and trapped. Don’t get me wrong, I loved my baby more than I thought possible but mentally and emotionally it was a huge adjustment.

You Will Feel Stagnant

Like I said earlier, I have learned tons of new skills as a mom. I can change a diaper anywhere, I can clean my house, I garden, I understand kids clothing, I can get stains out, I cook much better than I used to, and the list could keep on going.

Despite these new skills, I often used to feel stagnant. I wasn’t going to school, I wasn’t creating (much), I just didn’t feel like I was moving forward and learning (even though I was). Mom learning was just different than the academic learning that I craved. (Read Me-Time Hobbies for Brand New Moms)

You Will Get Better at It

Time, practice, and necessity make motherhood easier. Eventually, you will be able to go to the grocery store without fear and sleep again and have a hobby. As hard as it is at first, it gets better and more enjoyable as time marches on. (Read 5 Secrets That Can Make You A Successful Stay At Home Mom or Easy 2-Step Time Management)

You Will Give Unconditional Love

I try to give and get unconditional love to and from my husband and I think we do a fairly good job. However, the love I give and get from my baby is a little bit different. Mostly, I think because it was so automatic. I knew as soon as he was in my arms that I would do whatever I could to keep him safe and make him happy and help him to be good. Before having my son, I had heard plenty of stories about instant unconditional love and for me, they were right. (Which surprised me since I am not really a baby person.)

You Will Get Unconditional Love

This is the one that surprised me. I knew (or at least really hoped) that I would love my baby but I didn’t expect or think about, the fact that he would love me too.

When he was little he was always happiest in my arms. Now that he is bigger, he gives me his biggest happiest smiles. He runs to my open arms, he hugs my legs, he calls my name when he is sick and sad and tired, he climbs into my lap, and he looks at me like I am the most important person in the world.

My husband is top notch and loves me with all his heart but there is something to be said for all of the love and trust that you get from a child who is completely dependent on you. It is humbling and makes me a better person daily.

 

You Will Have Magical Moments and Days

For ever monotonous, unappreciated moment there is one full of magic. Being home all of the time is often very dull but it is often wonderful. The law of opposition is definitely in full force for stay-at-home moms.

Keeping a home and raising a child requires that many of the exact same tasks be done over and over again. Laundry. Dishes. Cleaning the bathroom. Wiping down the dang highchair. However, being at home all of the time also allows you the opportunity to see many firsts and to know that you were a huge part of them.

I got to see my little boy roll over for the first time, take his first steps, say his first word, paint his first picture, smile for the first time. I get to see the look of pride and accomplishment on his face when he learns new things, I get to be here as his sense of humor develop, I’m the one who secretly watches him from the doorway when he pretends to read to his toys. So, as hard and sometimes slow-moving as motherhood is. I wouldn’t trade it for something else.

 

It is Worth It

Motherhood is hard, tiring, lonely, and busy. It requires more love, patience, and faith than anything else I have ever done. It takes all of your time and so much practice. But it is worth it. There is not a more fulfilling, life changing job out there and don’t let the world convince you that your time could be better spent. This is where it is at.

My question for you. If you could give your pre-mom self one piece of advice, what would it be?

 

10 Super Simple Ways to Improve Your Marriage

Giving marriage advice has been part of almost every wedding shower I have ever attended. Before I was married, I didn’t have a clue what to write on that cute wedding themed index card. After I was married, I had a lot of ideas but didn’t think that they were super valid because marriage was so new to me.

I have now been married for about six years and have successfully navigated school, student teaching, job changes, caring for a relative, moving, remodeling, and having a kid. And guess what, a lot of the stuff that I thought wasn’t valid in the beginning is exactly what has helped us through the more stressful parts of our marriage.

Marriage is tough but doing some very basic things can easily make it the most rewarding and cherished relationship in your life (as it should be).

 

 

Say “I Love You” Daily

I know that there are five love languages and that affirmation isn’t everyone’s thing. Despite that, saying “I love you” to each other on a regular basis is a good reminder to both you and your spouse. It also makes it harder to stay upset or frustrated. Take a look at the person you married remind yourself of the reasons you love them and tell them so.

Make Your Spouse a Priority

No one likes to feel like the last checkmark on a list. Least of all the person you promised to love and cherish forever. Let them know that they are important to you. Put your phone down when you are talking to them, plan a date, surprise them for lunch, actively listen to what they are saying, be interested in their interests. Just put them first. If both people do this, then both peoples needs are met.

Spend Time Together Each Day

I would recommend more than ten minutes, but even ten minutes can go a long way. Talk, cuddle, go on a date, go buy groceries…. Whatever you do though, be with them, put your phone down. There is nothing more annoying in these situations than playing second fiddle to a phone. Don’t be that spouse. There is no substitute for good, solid, uninterrupted time together.

Go on Weekly Dates

That sounds like a lot, especially with kids, but they can be easy. My husband and I generally plan two legitimate out of the house babysitter dates a month and two easy after the baby goes to bed date nights. Netflix and cuddling can be a great date as can cooking together, making something new, playing games, reading, or learning from each other.

Have Regular Open Conversations

Stop playing games. Don’t assume the other person knows what you are thinking or can read your mind. Skirting around a subject, holding grudges, having off-limits topics, the silent treatment, and contrived drama are useless and stupid. In my experience, marriage is better when both parties are open, honest, understanding, and kind and all kinds of conversations happen regularly.

Talk Kindly About Each Other

Be your spouse’s biggest cheerleader. Don’t get caught up in other people’s conversations and start bad-mouthing them. Be the person that they can always count on to have their back. Praise them in public and in private and you will be quicker to remember their good qualities than their bad ones.

Trust and Be Trustworthy

This is clearly a two-way street. I was lucky and married someone I trust completely in every regard. In turn, he knows that he doesn’t need to worry about me because I have never given him a reason to mistrust either. If you are not at this point figure out what steps you need to take to get there.

Read Scriptures Together

I am LDS and this is something that we have made a habit of doing since our marriage started. Reading scriptures daily and inviting the Spirit into a home is a great way to lessen contention and fill it with peace. It is also a good way to reconnect with your spouse each day.

Pray Together

There isn’t anything quite like kneeling together and asking God to help you with and bless your marriage. Praying together gives us the opportunity to thank our Heavenly Father for each other and the many blessings we have been given. It brings us together, helps us to be grateful, and keeps us on track.

Be Intimate

Hug, kiss, whatever. Being physically close to your spouse does a lot for a marriage emotionally. When done kindly and sincerely physical touch and intimacy, in general, affirm love, bring couples closer, and heal.

My question for you is, what is the best marriage advice you have ever heard, gotten, or given? Respond in the comments!

More Like This

Dating Green Lights for Marriage Success

 

Seven Tips Guaranteed to Make Your House Clean

If you are anything like me, then you find it hard to function when your home feels dirty. I have a hard time doing anything fun or even sleeping when there is clutter. This unfortunate quirk has forced me into several habits that help me keep my house clean all of the time (or at least the majority of the time) so that I can focus on something less boring.

Decide Which Areas in Your House Bother You the Most

The number one area in my house that bugs me, is the kitchen. If my table is covered in stuff (which happens incredibly quickly) or my floor has gone a day too long without sweeping, I have a hard time thinking. The kitchen is followed closely by my bedroom, the front room, and the family room. I have found that when these areas are clean, my whole house feels clean.  So, I pick a handful of rooms that I can control and put my primary focus and effort there.

On the flip side, I have given up trying to bring order to my husbands work areas and surfaces. I shut the door to the office, laundry room, and garage and pretend they aren’t there. He has a different way of working/organizing. To me, it looks like a mess, but it works for him. So yeah, I trick myself into believing I have a clean house.

This tip is hard because it asks you to accept the fact that you don’t have control over the whole house. The more people you live with, the less clean your house is going to be (simply because everyone’s definition of clean is different).  Accept that, and you are halfway to a clean house, more freedom, and less restricted happiness.

Don’t Collect Junk

This tip seems easy but it definitely takes conscious effort. When L was little, I found myself at the store a lot just to be somewhere that wasn’t home. While I was at the store, I would buy stuff. Stuff I did not need and sometimes even want.

It is one hundred percent easier to keep a  clean house when you are not filling it with purposeless stuff. So, buy deliberately, with a clear purpose in mind. Ask yourself why you are buying something, what and how often you are going to use it, and where that thing is going to live when it is not in use. If you can’t come up with convincing answers to these questions, don’t buy it.

On the same note, getting rid of the junk you already have makes your house cleaner and less cluttered.

Have A Place for Everything

If your item passes the, “is it junk?” test, from above, then make sure it has a home or definitive place within your house where it belongs. We live in a small house and I organize a lot. So, the “homes” of my objects change from time to time but everything always has a place where it goes. The idea that everything has its own spot, should make it easy to put away.

Put Things Away Instead of Just Down

Like I said earlier, my kitchen table collects everyone’s stuff like that’s its job. By the end of a busy day, it can have everything from half eaten food to shoes on it. Yeah … shoes. Unfortunately, the table is the junk drawer of the house. This, to me, is unacceptable because you know we eat there and… I need the kitchen clean to think properly.

This tip, when implemented by everyone in the house literally keeps the house clean. Put dishes in the dishwasher when you are done, put clothing in the laundry basket after you take it off, put the toys away when you move onto a new activity. . . If everyone puts their stuff away in its predesignated place when they finish using it or enter the house, then the table or floor or counter does not become a dumping spot and clutter disappears.

Admittedly, there are only three people in my house right now and of the two of us who understand this concept, only one of us implements it. However, I still think it is a habit to strive for. Even though I am the only one who does it, it still keeps my house drastically cleaner than it would be if I didn’t do it.

Have a Quick Morning Task List

Each morning, I spend 10-15 minutes on my quick cleans. These are things that keep my house tidy and running with minimal effort (because mornings are hard).  I should also note that if I manage to do these items before my baby wakes up they take hardly any time. If I wait until he is awake to “help me” they take a good hour.

The first thing I do is make my bed (2 minutes). This makes it far less likely that I will have a nap during the day and it immediately makes my bedroom feel clean. The second thing I do is collect the laundry from the day before and sort it in my laundry room. If I have a full load ready, I start it and set my phone timer to remind me it is going (2-5 minutes). The third thing I do is make sure the dishwasher is empty and the dishes from the night before are put away so that my counters are clear (2-5 minutes).

Doing those three tasks each morning makes it so that my house feels clean, I have a place to put dishes other than the counter for the rest of the day, and guarantees we will have clean clothes.

Do a Nightly Walk Through/Task List

On the flip side of the day, I spend another 15-30 minutes making sure my house is ready for the morning (nights are not as hard as mornings). After I put my baby to bed, I fold and put away any laundry I did during the day (5-10 minutes). Then I check the dishes situation: load or unload the dishwasher, wash big pans and bottles, and clean off kitchen surfaces (5-10 minutes). Finally, I walk through my key rooms and pick loose items up. We don’t have a whole lot of extra stuff so this is pretty easy and usually consists of putting away things my one-year-old moved or played with throughout the day.

Set Aside a Specific Time or Day Each Week to do General Cleaning

This is the only task on the list that takes a large chunk of time. All of the other tasks make my house feel clean throughout the week with minimal time and effort. This task helps me to keep a legitimately clean house.

I set aside each Monday (because weekends are messy) to put my house back together and do a slightly deeper cleaning. Monday is the day for bathroom cleaning, dusting, vacuuming, and mopping. It is also the day I encourage my baby to help and show him how to clean. I know he is little but I want him to grow up knowing how to clean, that a clean house is attainable, and that it’s normal for boys to clean.

I have a cleaning rotation for Mondays that works well for us. If you would like more details, subscribe to my newsletter below.

Subscribe To Mommy Practice And Get Access To My Happy Homes Checklist And Sample Schedules

I want to know what suggestions you have for making your home feel clean. Please share your comments below.

If you enjoyed this post, read Two Step Time Managment for Getting Stuff Done.

Me-Time Hobbies for Brand New Moms: The First 4 Months

As a brand new mom, I didn’t have time for any of my former hobbies. I was too busy trying to decide whether I should sleep, eat, or shower because only one, or if I was lucky, one and a half of those things was going to get accomplished.

Going from a full-time job and enough free time to pursue the things that I enjoyed, to being barely able to shower was a something like a slap in the face. My hobby list pre-kid included things like painting and hiking and traveling. My hobby list with a newborn was sleeping, eating, and getting clothes on. Seriously, I didn’t even wear a shirt some days what with the never ending breastfeeding (see my post on that here).

The loss of freedom, me-time, and hobbies made the first three months of my son’s life some of the hardest of my life. Now, looking back, and reflecting on what I have learned about being a successful stay-at-home-parent, I know that it is important to take care of yourself.

That being said, my hobbies probably won’t be what they once were for many years. I can no longer leave my paint out for weeks at a time or hike whenever I feel like it or drive down south out of the blue. However, just because they won’t be the same as they were, that doesn’t mean they aren’t still important.

The list below comprises five hobbies that even brand new, sleep deprived, overloaded, parents can do to get some “me-time”.

Easy Brand New Parent Hobby Ideas

Read

I hadn’t ever used my tablet like a book until I was nursing. It was far easier to prop it up and turn the light down while I tried to learn how to breastfeed than an actual book would have been. I got reading material by installing the Kindle app on my device and signing up for Book Bub to get free and discounted books. The quality of what I read went down a bit because I wasn’t able to read anything very deep in my slightly comatose state. But, I was still able to live someone else’s life for small snippets of each day giving me some “me-time” even whilst a small human was attached to me.

Another way to get e-books is to look into what your library system offers. The Salt Lake County Library System uses an app called Overdrive that can be used in conjunction with your library card number to check out e-books. (Many libraries use this app.)

Walk

The first few months after baby are tough on your body. There is a lot of recovery happening as well as a lot of being a milk factory (if you choose to breastfeed) or turning off the milk factory (if you don’t choose to breastfeed). Walking, for, me, was an easy way to ease back into some kind of workout and routine. I use the word routine loosely because for us it just meant we walked in the morning after one of L’s feedings (roughly between 9 and 12).

I walked with him in the sling and in the car seat/stroller combo business. I started out going around the block, then two blocks, and so on until I could walk without hurting. I  stayed very close to my house at first in case we needed to head home for either of us.

I just walked by myself for the most part and sometimes that was great. Fresh air and peace are very rejuvenating. But, in retrospect, I wish I would have occasionally used the time to listen to talks or books or to call a friend. Walking with another actual person is great too, if that is an option for you, I highly recommend it.

Learn

If you are like me and always like to be learning something new, use the time you have nursing or pumping to learn an entirely new skill. I have found Lynda.com to be a great place to study new material. The site has courses available on many subjects and can help you continue to develop new skills in your sleep deprived state. The site does cost money but if you live in Salt Lake County, you can sign up for a library card through the Salt Lake City Library and get free access to the site. I suggest looking into the photography courses because you now have an excellent subject to work with.

Other learning options I have enjoyed are:

  • Free College Courses are offered at various places on the internet. They don’t give you college credit but they do give you college knowledge. Edex.org is a good place to start.
  • E-Courses. Pick a subject, google “subject” e-course and you will have plenty to choose from. Some are free some are not.
  • Informative Blogs (there is a blog for everything). If you like knitting find a knitting blog, if you want to be more fiscally responsible there is a blog for that. Find a good one and start learning.

Cook

When I got married I couldn’t cook a thing. Learning to make food was just not a high priority for me ever. I don’t know why . . . I love to eat. After I got married I mastered casseroles (which I later found out my husband just barely tolerated). I slowly got better over the next five years but have improved drastically since I had my baby. I figured I was home and making food anyway so I might as well make it good. I started using Pinterest like a recipe book and learned how to make a ton of new meals.

Experimenting and cooking more regularly has also come with the added benefit of making me more comfortable overall in the kitchen. I’m not scared of raw meat anymore and I can look at the food in the fridge and figure something out every time.

Watch TV

If your brain is too tired to learn something new, which makes a lot of sense, picking a tv show to help you through the hard months might be a viable option. I am not generally a big tv person. We have cable and it isn’t even hooked up. When I was nursing though, I watched a couple of different shows that helped me survive the transition to mommyhood. TV was another one of those things I could do that didn’t require much brain power or effort but still helped me get a little bit outside of myself. My personal favorites are Psych, White Collar, and Boy Meets World . . . for reals.

Please comment below about hobbies that you would recommend for brand new parents.

The links in this post are not affiliate links as of June 2017. They are links to products and services I used and enjoyed.

 

 

Outdoor Activities for Indoor People

I love the outdoors but I know, hard as it may be to believe, that there are people out there who don’t. A few years ago I was teaching a youth group and we were setting goals. I remember being slightly shocked that one of the summer goals I saw was “go outside sometimes”.

Sometimes? I am outside as often as I can be. This business of having it be a goal sometimes was new territory. So, I started thinking, what are some of the things that keep people inside versus outside? Regulated air temperature? Entertainment? No decent ideas for outdoor activities? The fridge? General convenience?

Subscribe To My Newsletter And Get Access To My Happy Homes Checklist And Sample Schedules

Okay, there is a lot to be said for just staying inside. But there are benefits of being outside as well. Exposure to sunlight. Fresh air. Time to think and disengage from all of the inside obligations. Enjoyable exercise (for those of us who struggle with the gym). Beauty . . .Well, hopefully. I admit I am spoiled when it comes to natural grandeur or even just grace. Utah is gorgeous.

Anyway, I have put together a list of activities that provide outdoor people and indoor people a chance to meet one another. (Since it is possible that they have only met in places like the grocery store where everyone must go to buy chocolate.)

Outdoor Movies

The Salt Lake area is especially good at outdoor movies. Individual cities and resorts show them throughout the Summer. Indoor people get their entertainment and their food and outdoor people get their fresh air and sunlight (if they go early enough for the sun to be out). See the list for Salt Lake area movies for 2017

See a list of outdoor movies for the Salt Lake area (2017) here.

Reading

Admittedly this isn’t a great way to meet people, but it is still a good indoor activity that can be done outside. It can be simple. Take your lemonade and book out on your deck or porch or into your backyard. It can be a little bit adventurous. Try a park bench or take a blanket with you and find a nice spot. It can be rejuvenating. Take your book and hammock and head for the mountains.

Games

If you are an indoor person, there is a good chance that the type of game you enjoy has something to do with an electronic device, so bear with me. Yard games can be just as fun and they allow you the opportunity to engage with other people (most of them are not as fun when played alone). Heck, they don’t even have to be yard games. You could take a deck of cards outside and call it a yard game. Either way, games outside equal entertainment, socializing, fresh air, and sunshine.

Barbeques

One of the first things we did when we got our house was put a fire pit in our backyard. It is one of my favorite parts of Summer. We love to invite old friends and potential new friends over to roast hot dogs, eat Dutch oven food, enjoy smores, and talk. Often, we do the same things up the canyon . And on those days when we don’t want to start a fire, we just use the regular old BBQ. Regardless of the food eaten or the method it is made, there is still food and fresh air and fun.

Swimming/Sunbathing

I am not really into tanning, I want my super paleness to stay cancer free. However, I still enjoy being in the sun in my SPF 50+. An outdoor pool or lake is a great place to get those rays. It also provides the opportunity for exercise, socializing, play, and fresh. . .ish air.

So this summer, make sure you get some green time into each day if you can. I firmly believe that being outside is good for the soul.

What are your favorite low-key outdoor activities during the hot summer months?

Subscribe To My Newsletter And Get Access To My Happy Homes Checklist And Sample Schedules

A Beginners Guide to Sleep Training

Sleep training was and is one of the hardest things we have faced as parents. I often feel like being a parent comes with a lot of guilt. Guilt about stuff I never even thought about before I had a baby. There is just so much new territory to cover and it’s hard to know where to get directions from. Books? Websites? Friends? Family? I have spent a lot of time wondering whether I am doing what is best for L and whether or not I am messing him up. Sleep training was and still is one of those times.

Subscribe To My Newsletter And Get Access To My Happy Homes Checklist And Sample Schedules

 

At about five months, our pediatrician told us that the cry it out method was what would be best in the long run. He assured us that L would suffer no psychological repercussions from being left in his crib alone sobbing. He also told us not to feed him every time he woke up at night because he should be able to make it 6-8 hours. According to him, feeding the baby teaches the baby to fall asleep to the bottle and makes it difficult for him or her to self-soothe. We were given a handout that explained that we should let him cry for 5 minutes, check on him, let him cry for seven minutes, check on him, etc.

A friend described her cry it out method which was basically put the child in his/her bed and don’t go in for any reason. She has extremely well-behaved, obedient children that don’t seem psychologically scarred.

My own mother and many other women I know told me that they just couldn’t or chose not to do the cry it out method. They favored cuddling, nursing, sleeping with the baby, or watching movies as an alternative. I turned out fine, I think, so that must work too.

The internet was full of variations of cry it out methods, no tears methods, shuffle methods, and just let your kid sleep in your bed until they are 10 methods.

It is hard to know what to do.

So, after much anguish and advice and study, we decided to try the doctor’s handout first. The first time we left L in his room sobbing I sat on my bed sobbing. Nick told me that he really couldn’t handle both of us crying at the same time. So, I went and got him and we both cried and I  thought about what I should do for a few more days. We decided to try it again but I had to leave.

For several days I hung out in the one room in the basement that is quiet regardless of what is going on the rest of the house. And guess what? L started going to sleep on his own. There was crying for a few days but then he started just going to sleep. And we had it made. . . .

Nope, then he learned to crawl and sleeping was no longer on his agenda. So, we did it again. For a while when he was learning to crawl I had to put pillows next to the bars in his crib so that he wouldn’t repeatedly ram his skull into the wood. Then I would watch him on the monitor until he stopped ramming and sneak in and move the pillows. (I am not advocating that, it is just what we did at the time.)

Eventually, he was retrained using a combination of cry it out and Shawn the Sheep (that is the highly sophisticated method of Daddy watching Shawn the Sheep on mute with him in his dark bedroom).

Then he got teeth, or learned to walk, or got sick . . . and everything fell apart again. But, we were able to fix it each time after a few days.

Solutions. . .

Now, I am not about to suggest that there is a right way or wrong way to sleep train. I know people in many camps who feel very strongly about their own methods. I think that the cry it out method can work. I don’t think it is inherently evil (I have heard that). I also don’t think that there is anything wrong with having a safe family bed. I have come across research backing up both methods (not to mention the five billion variations of each).

What I do want to say is that there are two questions you should ask yourself before you decide how you want to go about sleep training (or not training) your child. The first question is: What can I live with? The second is: What does my own child need?

 

What can I live with?

When I was studying methods and alternatives for the “cry it out” method. I came to the conclusion that I could not live with a perpetually screaming child. So we decided that ten minutes was our max time. If he made it crying for a whole ten minutes we would go in and check on him. We also decided that if he was sick or having a particularly tough time, that there was nothing wrong with extra loves and cuddles.

On the other hand, we decided that we could not handle being up with him late every night like we had been. We both needed some time at night to do our own things and regroup. I am also the type of person who needs a good chunk of sleep to function and be civil. I never got used to that newborn stage of no sleep and it was hands down the most difficult part of L’s life (for me). So, we needed our own time at night and more uninterrupted sleep.

 

What does my child need?

After some sleep training experimentation, we figured out that there were a few things L needed to have a successful nights sleep. Food was the first. So, having a bottle became part of his night time routine when we put him down at 8:00 pm. We didn’t put it in his bed or let him fall asleep with it. We just fed it to him while we read scriptures. Then, we figured out that if we woke him and fed him another bottle around 11:30, more often than not he could sleep until 8:00 am.

We also realized he slept better with the sound machine on. Then later he needed a nightlight and eventually a stuffed animal. As he has gotten bigger and we have gotten better at listening, we have also learned that he has different cries and can recognize them. He has tired cry and we are comfortable letting him cry longer than 10 minutes if it the tired cry. He also has a panicked cry and a sick cry and a pain cry. Those cries merit more immediate attention depending on the circumstances.

Our Solution

After a lot of trial and error and guilt, we finally have a system that works for us and L (it also changes slowly as he gets older). Figuring it took some time but it was worth it because it is a large part of what keeps us sane.  I need that three hours at night to have something akin to an adult life. I love playing with L all day, and keeping up with the house and yard aren’t bad, but it is so nice to have a few hours of time each night to spend with my husband or develop my own skills or work on projects. To me, those three hours were definitely worth training L to sleep at a specific time in his own bed. The sleep training also helps us get large chunks of undisturbed sleep. That is what we can live with.

That being said we are not super strict. We listen carefully. Sometimes he cries, sometimes he doesn’t. Sometimes we get him sometimes we don’t. Occasionally we watch Moana until ten or go on a walk if the night is really hard (see post here). We can all live with those choices and L goes to sleep without issues 6 out of 7 nights. Those odds work for me and my family.

Subscribe To My Newsletter And Get Access To My Happy Homes Checklist And Sample Schedules

The Point

Do your research but don’t expect to find a magical correct way to sleep train. There isn’t a right way for everyone. Do what works for your family. Be prepared to be flexible if the need arises. Stop feeling so guilty, you are doing your best.

I am not a medical professional and don’t submit this post as medical advice. This is just what I have learned after 15 months with kid one.

Comment below with sleep training tips and methods that have worked for you.

Subscribe To My Newsletter And Get Access To My Happy Homes Checklist And Sample Schedules

Five Ways to Get Exercise With a Toddler (Who Loves the Outdoors)

The other night, my son woke up screaming at about 10:30 pm. Now, sleep training and crying it out are a whole other matter that I will get into later. Suffice it to say we fall into an in-between camp and pay close attention to what his crying sounds like. We always go comfort him when it is his panic or pain cry. This was his panic cry, which we have come to guess coincides with nightmares (it is very distinct), so I went. He put his arms around my neck and sighed and started speaking rapid baby to me.

 

I wasn’t smart enough to teach him sign language early on, so our communication consists mostly of the word da (with various emphasis and intonations) and lots of pointing and hand gestures. This usually works well enough but exhausted charades in the dark was a bit too much for both of us. He was sobbing again before I realized that what he wanted was not his stuffed animal, or a story, or a bottle . . . he just wanted to go outside.

I tried to explain to him that it was dark and that it was night time but he just pointed at the window and cried. It was at that moment that his Daddy came in and realized what it was he wanted. Before I knew it, he was being wrapped in a big blanket and Nick was taking him out the door. The three of us ended up on a short walk around the block in our pajamas.

Being outdoors has long been a source of comfort for him and he calmed down significantly on our short nighttime adventure. When we got home, he gave us each a hug and went right back to sleep.

My point is, my toddler loves being outdoors. I am incredibly grateful that the thought of going outside brings him comfort and happiness because I am the same way. This being said, we have been experimenting with safe activities that allow us both to be outside to get exercise and fresh air.

Subscribe to my newsletter and get access to my Happy Homes Checklist and sample schedules

 

Hiking

I am blessed to live in the shadow of the Wasatch Mountains and we take advantage of that gift at every opportunity. I wrote a post about what I learned hiking with my baby and most of it still applies to a toddler. But let me tell you, hiking with a toddler is so much more fun. I love watching his eyes light up when he sees new places and things. He loves to throw rocks in the water, watch animals, collect sticks, and touch trees.

In order to help us both get our exercise and outside time, I hike for a mile or two then let him out of the carrier to explore.  The key to a successful toddler hike (in my mind) is three-fold. I get exercise, he gets exercise, we both have fun.

Notice, I didn’t say we make it a specific destination. Pinning your hopes of waterfall grandeur on a toddler is not wise. Hike for the journey, not the destination.

Biking

Before I got pregnant, I used to ride my bike all over. However, after months of puking and no exercise, I had to give it up for a bit. Then I had the baby and surprise . . . babies can’t ride bikes or even sit in bike trailers right away. Then it was winter. So, now that he is 14 months old we are starting our rides.

He loves feeling the breeze and watching the nature right outside of the trailer and he keeps himself busy eating snacks and reading books while I ride. Each time we go, I try to make the halfway point a park. That way he can get out and run around and play before heading back. Once again, we both get exercise and enjoy the outing.

Walking

I know, pretty basic, but sometimes it is all we have time for. Hiking and biking both require a certain amount of preparation and a larger time commitment. Walking just requires some tennis shoes and the stroller. We like to go early (by early I mean before noon) when it isn’t too hot. I try to walk all of the blocks near my house so that we are never too far from home should an emergency arise.

I let him get his exercise either at the park as our halfway point while I stretch. Or in our backyard when we get home.

 

Gardening

My son loves our yard and will run through our juniper trees with his rake for hours while I get everything weeded and cut. If you are thinking to yourself that gardening does not count as a workout, then you are not doing nearly as many squats as you could be while weeding. I just figure since I am already bending over to pull weeds, I might as well do squats and stretches. Gardening often leaves me more sore than any of the other activities.

Playing

Okay, here me out. This, like gardening, is not a workout in the traditional sense of the word. But it can definitely provide some exercise. When I stop worrying about being an adult and play with my son (be it at a park, in our yard, on the hike, in the garden, in the basement, whatever,) I find I am exhausted.

Playing with a one-year-old requires lots of running and crawling and lifting and stretching. A good half hour session of free play burns calories and builds relationships.

Subscribe to my newsletter and get access to my Happy Homes Checklist and sample schedules

 

How do you exercise with your toddler?

 

Easy Two-Step Time Management: Get Stuff Done!

Time management is tricky. As a new parent or just an average busy person, do you ever find that you get to the end the day and don’t know what you have accomplished? I have had many days like that, especially since my son was born. Life with a kid is exhausting and crazy and busy. I used to go to bed at night drained but not sure what I had to show for it. It’s an interesting sensation to be busy all day but not feel like you get anything done.

Subscribe To My Newsletter And Get Access To My Happy Homes Checklist And Sample Schedules

 

After a few months of running myself ragged and still feeling like a failure when I reflected on my day, I decided I needed to change the ways I defined success and planned my time.

So, success. . .

This was so hard. For over half of my marriage, I had been the primary breadwinner. I had been working full-time as a teacher to put my husband through school. I didn’t realize until forced to think about it, that success in my mind was tied to making money and checking things off lists.

 

Step 1: Redefine Success

Now,  being a stay-at-home mom is no get rich quick scheme. In our case, it was a financial sacrifice. Confronting that was my first step. My deep conversation with myself went something like this.

“Okay self, you chose to do this. You agreed that this would be the best thing for your family. You want to be home for your son. Success does not equal money. Don’t fall for that lie.”

After having that chat every day for months, I started to believe it. My “success” no longer equaled money but I still wasn’t sure what it did equal.  As I started to try to define my “new success” and came up with this list.

  • Is my son alive?
  • Does he feel loved?
  • Is he happy?
  • Is he safe?
  • Has he eaten?
  • Has he been hugged?
  • Have I told him I love him?
  • Has he been read to?
  • Is the house still standing?
  • Is everyone dressed?
  • Is there food in the fridge?
  • Have I eaten?
  • Have we been outside?
  • Have we seen people?

 

These were things that were happening every day (except maybe getting dressed) but that I hadn’t been counting towards my personal success because they were obvious. Obvious does not mean irrelevant.

So, the first step, if you feel like you can’t get anything done, is to identify your priorities and define what success is for you.

Step 2: Have A Plan

After my “new success” was defined and I got over the useless feeling that not making any money left me with, I was able to focus on the second part of my feeling accomplished gap. Lists.

I don’t know what it is about crossing something off of a to-do list that is so satisfying but I missed it. Unfortunately, I could no longer keep track of things as well as I used to be able to. At the end of a teaching day, I could sit down and conquer that list. As a mom, I couldn’t even find it.

So, I came up with a simple system that I can keep track of and that helps me get stuff done.

Subscribe To My Newsletter And Get Access To My Happy Homes Checklist And Sample Schedules

 

Part 1: Establish Big Goals

Big Goals are all about scheduling. In my last post, I talked about how when I first had my baby I wrote out hour-by-hour plans in great detail (like I did when I was a teacher). Those kinds of plans often don’t work for a teacher. For a new Mom, they were absolutely crazy.

So, I traded in my detailed, insane plan for one Big Goal a day (if you are better at life than I am, go for two or three Big Goals a day). Most of my own Big Goals each week revolve around leaving the house or seeing other people (my priorities) but they could be focused on whatever is most important to you.

Example Big Goals:
  • Monday: clean house
  • Tuesday: go to play group
  • Wednesday: visit library
  • Thursday: hike
  • Friday: buy groceries
  • Saturday: do something fun with Daddy
  • Sunday: make it to church

Repeat

Picking Big Goals based on my priorities gives each day a focus and makes my weeks a little bit more predictable.

Part 2: Create a Daily To-Do List

This first to do list is the one that helps me realize that I am getting stuff done even if it doesn’t feel like it. I have a checklist in google keep (on my phone, tablet, and computer) that I reset each day. It is very basic but I often spend the majority of my day working on it. Some of the things don’t need to be done every single day and I can check them off first thing in the morning. Bam. Stuff is done.

I reset the list each night and add specific things for the next day if I need to. Getting all of the to-dos out of my brain before bed really helps me sleep.

Example Daily To-Do List:

  • exercise
  • read scriptures
  • get ready for the day (shower and get dressed)
  • empty dishwasher/wash dishes
  • load of laundry
  • make bed
  • breakfast for everyone
  • baby hygiene (bath, nails, teeth)
  • read stories
  • lunch for everyone
  • make dinner
  • run errands

(Yeah I know a lot of my day revolves around food. . .)

Part 3: Create an “It Would be Great. . .” To-Do List

This is just what it sounds like. If I happen to have some down time between my Big Goals and daily tasks I look at my second list, which is organized based on importance. This is the list where I write down the things that I would like to do but that are not urgent. Weird errands, hobbies, my own projects. . . .heaven forbid. If they become pressing I move items from this list to my daily list. (Sometimes even hobbies are pressing.)

Example “It Would Be Great” List
  • complete a blog post
  • look up Canada vacation questions
  • return shirt to the store
  • buy present for birthday on Friday
  • finish art for the bathroom
  • research graphic design

This list takes a long time to accomplish but it gives me something to do besides twiddle my thumbs when everything necessary is completed.

I’m not joking about thumb twiddling. Every once in a while I still find myself watching my husband take care of our son because what am I supposed to do? He is doing what I do with my whole life. . . That is craziness. I deserve to have my own time and interests. At these moments I pull out my lists and use my time to get stuff done.

So, if you feel like you never get anything done . . . Redefine your own success, create a plan (schedule and lists), and remember to give yourself credit for all the stuff you do accomplish!

Subscribe To My Newsletter And Get Access To My Happy Homes Checklist And Sample Schedules

 

How do you stay on top of your crazy busy life?

 

5 Secrets That Can Make You A Successful Stay-at-Home Mom

My stay-at-home mom journey started about a year ago. It feels like yesterday that I left my empty end of year classroom for the last time. I had already packed everything up and hauled it out. My baby was 3 months old and I was just there to finish up the year and say my goodbyes. The summer loomed ahead of me and I was both dreading and excited for it.


 

The Transition

After having been a parent for three months I knew that parenting was harder than I had anticipated. I distinctly recall thinking that it would be so nice when I didn’t have to wake up at 7:00 and go to work. For some reason, I had it in my head that I would be able to sleep in and play with my cute baby at my leisure. . . I was clueless.

Subscribe To My Newsletter And Get Access To My Happy Homes Checklist And Sample Schedules

After three months of maternity leave, I knew that being a parent was harder than being a teacher (and teaching is mentally and emotionally exhausting). In fact, being a full-time, stay-at-home mom was hands down the most difficult job that I had ever had. Breastfeeding was awful (see my story here), I was never off the clock, I hadn’t slept for more than four consecutive hours in months, I felt like nothing ever got accomplished anymore, my cute little baby wouldn’t play at all (let alone at my leisure), and I felt like I was disappearing.

Teaching included a lot of 10 hour days, extra meetings, planning, preparation, and pressure from everyone (students, parents, administration, legislature, etc.) . . . but it gave me sense of purpose. It was also easy to look at a day of teaching and see what had been accomplished. Furthermore, I got to sleep at night. For me, sleep seemed to be key to my well-being.

As I closed the door to my classroom that last time, I wondered if my new job was going to kill me. Going from full-time teacher to full-time mom permanently had suddenly become a very daunting task.

The Secrets to Success

Success is defined by many people in many ways. My definition of success coincides closely with my family’s health and happiness. That includes me. I have been home for over a year now and through a lot of trial and error (and exhaustion, and tears, and loneliness) I have figured out five things that keep me sane, make me happy, and leave me feeling successful.

1. Take Care of Yourself

This is a difficult task physically, mentally, and emotionally. It is often physically difficult to leave your baby if you are breastfeeding and most of your free-time tends to go towards things like sleeping, eating and showering. Mentally the days and nights blur together and it’s hard to think outside of the necessities. Emotionally, it’s easy to feel guilty for even thinking about putting something you want or need to do above something your baby or family needs.

It wasn’t until about four months in that I realized I needed to do something that was genuinely for me. Hiking was what I missed the most, so asked my mother-in-law to babysit so I could go to my mountains. IT WAS REJUVENATING. When I got back after the two or three hours, I was ready to be the mom again. I missed my baby, I suddenly had some energy to spare, and I was happy.

The saying, “you can’t pour from an empty cup”, is so very true. It’s okay to leave your baby somewhere safe and take care of yourself sometimes. My mother-in-law graciously offered to watch my son at the same time every week. My husband agreed to go to work early every Thursday. Both, so that I could do what I needed to do for me (hike). I look forward to those four hours all week and boy can I tell if I don’t get them. I know that I am a better mom and wife when I take some time to do the things I love.

2. Create a Schedule (But be Ready to be Flexible)

The combination of not having to get up and be somewhere at a specific time every day and a tiny human who does whatever he wants whenever he wants can really throw a person off. A few weeks into Mommyhood, I sat down and wrote out a very ambitious weekly schedule for myself. It was a very teacher-y thing to do. I had my days planned down to the hour and more goals than I probably could have accomplished in a month at that stage. I realized fairly quickly that that wouldn’t work and came up with a simpler system. I have one BIG goal each day and two to-do lists.

My big goals repeat weekly so that we both have consistency. My first to-do list is full of things that I need to do each day.  The second to-do list is full of things I would like to do if I manage to find some time. I keep all three lists in the same app on my phone and check them off as I go.

I love a good checklist. Something about watching an item disappear when I check the box gives me a sense of accomplishment.  Some of the things I check off each day are fairly basic. BUT I STILL DID THEM.

Subscribe To My Newsletter And Get Access To My Happy Homes Checklist And Sample Schedules

Some days are super successful and I make it several items into my second to-do list. Some days I throw everything to the wind and do something spontaneous (there are some perks to being a stay-at-home parent). Other days I can’t even accomplish my one big goal. Regardless of the daily success or lack thereof, the lists and basic schedule help me use the time I do have to do the things I want to do.

3. See Other People

After my husband went back to work, the loneliness set in quickly. It was just me and this tiny guy who didn’t do much of anything for hours and hours and hours. Most of my friends were at work and I felt really alone. I spent a lot of time waiting for five to roll around and my husband to be home.

Eventually, I decided that I needed to find ways to get out and find people to talk to. (so what if the people I was most comfortable with were still working a nine to five?) I started by visiting my parents and in-laws. Next, I planned play dates with my friends who did have kids. Then, I started going to library storytimes and group activities. Later, I started my own play group and found some community service to participate in. It has taken time and effort, but I have found that finding ways to be around people is super important for my mental health. 

4. Listen Politely to the (crazy) Advice that You Get . . . Then Decide What Works for Your Family

I have heard a lot of different advice. Some of it has kept me up nights because it made me feel like I was parenting wrong. Some of it was exactly what I needed to hear. People tend to mean well and assume that what worked for them will work for you. That may or may not be true. Only you can figure that out.

Remember that regardless of what your best friend’s sister or second cousin insists upon, you have to do what works for your family. That will probably take some guessing, research, and more than one attempt but you will figure it out. There is no perfect way to be a stay-at-home mom.

5. Don’t Ever Forget the Reason that You Decided to Stay Home in the First Place

It is terribly easy to get caught up in the day-to-day craziness that is the life of a stay-at-home parent. It is also easy to become disenchanted with the monotony of the everyday routine. Do yourself a favor and take time each day to remember why you are home.

For me, that reason was that I wanted the opportunity to be the one who raised my son. I wanted to be his teacher and his exploring partner and his soft place to land. When I take the time to think about my original goals, the hard parts of staying home suddenly seem worth it.

 

Subscribe To My Newsletter And Get Access To My Happy Homes Checklist And Sample Schedules

What are your reasons for becoming a stay-at-home parent? Or, what is your best advice for a new stay-at-home mom?