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Babywearing – how to make it part of your lifestyle

by Lisa on 

Babywearing refers to carrying your child in a sling, pouch or other type of carrier as you go about your day. The benefits are significant enough that lots of moms give it a try.

But it seems like plenty of moms give it up rather quickly.

I was one of those moms. I had a fancy sling, in leopard print, no less. I tucked my wee baby into it to go for a walk. But it made him bend around awkwardly to fit my body. Then it seemed to close over him, and I didn’t like that I couldn’t see his face and that it might be cutting off airflow. I also had a Baby Bjorn type of front carrier that I used maybe once or twice.

I had a hard time fitting babywearing into my lifestyle.

I found that the times when I really would have liked to carry my baby in a sling, it just wasn’t suitable. For example, I would be bending over too much when doing household chores like laundry, and cleaning with a baby in a sling just didn’t seem like a good idea, either. Cooking is another big time that would have been convenient, but of course that’s out for safety reasons. I can’t begin to fathom how I might have breastfed my baby hands-free in a sling, but some people manage it.

With my second baby, I am making it a point to follow some of the tips below to work babywearing into our daily routine better this time around.

Consider these tips to fit babywearing into your lifestyle

If you want to carry your baby more but find it hard to fit in good opportunities, consider these times and slip on your carrier before you jump into your activity:

  • When you’ve got to be on your feet a lot during a part of the day.
  • If you’re on an outing, such as at the park, with your baby.
  • If you will be spending a lot of time walking, whether outside or at the mall.
  • When your baby is fussy and needs to be held all evening, but you can’t just sit in the rocking chair the whole time.
  • When typing at the computer.
  • Find the type of carrier that fits your needs and your baby’s size. The sling I had might have been good for carrying an older child on my hip, but I just didn’t know how to use it with my newborn. A wrap style of carrier might have been better.
  • Practice! Make a plan to wear your baby every day even if for only 15 minutes.

Learn more about babywearing at the Babywearing School or a forum like TheBabyWearer.com. Here’s a great overview of the types of carriers, too.

Hiring help – don’t we deserve it?

by Lisa on 

Growing up, I always felt that maids and hired help were for the rich. Why spend money on something you could do yourself? I’d much rather have that money for travel. Or clothes. Or anything but having someone clean our toilets and vacuum for us.

Fast forward to the present day. My husband and I have a three-year-old son and a two-month-old baby. Dinner is takeout or something frozen nearly every day. We’ve got someone who mows our lawn and a maid service that comes every two weeks.

Up until I was 7 months pregnant with our second child, I really thought I could do it all, even with a newborn and a toddler. The key, I thought, would be good planning and having a routine that let me do a bit at a time.

What was I ever thinking?!

To begin with, I can’t imagine how I would have survived the first 6 weeks without my in-laws’ help with cooking and the older son. The onslaught of doctor’s visits even before the baby was born nearly did me in. (I guess we weren’t counting on having a high-risk pregnancy, either.)

This belief, the ideal that women should be able to do it all (on three hours’ sleep most days!) has made a lot of women simply miserable. Imagine, we’re expected to contribute to the family’s income, raise the kids, cook a meal every night and keep the house neat and clean – all without anyone’s help.

Especially in this economy, I know most women find a way to just do it all. Or don’t do it. But regardless, they don’t hire someone to help them.

In the end, I caved and hired a maid. I tried out several services thanks to promotions on Groupon, until I found one I liked and we could afford. The house feels great. And it’s a big weight off my shoulders. Lucky for me, my husband is completely on board.

If you’re a mom, working or not, and you’re finding yourself stretched too thin, why not give some consideration to hiring some help? The ding to the pocketbook may be worth it in the end to save your sanity.

 What’s the perfect day for your family? And why don’t you have more of them?

by Lisa on 

For my family, the perfect day might start with brunch at a favorite restaurant and then play at a nearby park. A perfect day would of course include a two or three-hour nap (for all of us), then tea and a bit of indoor play.

The evening would bring a nice stroll around the neighborhood, followed by books and bedtime. Then mommy and daddy might watch a movie and enjoy a glass of wine after the kiddies are tucked in.

We usually have a day like this once a month, a bit less frequently now that we’ve got a two-month-old baby who is becoming fussy in the evenings.

For some of my friends, the perfect day might be at Disney or another theme park, running from ride to ride, on the go all day.

Still others call a full day at home the perfect day, snuggling in bed or lounging on the couch with some good videos.

And a handful of families consider a day spent with other family members or friends the perfect day.

Whatever you consider the perfect day (and do tell us about it below!), I know it can be hard to have all the circumstances come together to make it possible.

For some, a busy work schedule interrupts the proceedings of a perfect day. Or maybe company staying with you means you won’t be spending the day as lazily as you might like. In our case, it’s the temporary period when our baby is not yet settled into a comfortable routine, making it harder to do the things we used to do as a family (and hopefully will again!)

Tell us what your idea of a perfect day is for your family – and why you don’t have more of them!

Choosing your battles

by Lisa on 

Okay, time to come clean here. I’m going to admit something out loud that those close to me have probably been frustrated with for a long time.

I’m stubborn. I like to have my way. And I want everyone else to see my way, too.

But how many times do things really work out exactly how I want them to? Especially when dealing with people, I’ve learned if I want to be happy, I’ve got to know when to give up.

I’m learning to choose my battles. Working on knowing when to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em. When to stay at the table and when to walk away.

I really don’t know how anyone could survive as a parent without learning some give and take. There’s no kid on this planet who will do everything you want them to do, when you want them to, exactly the way you want them to. (Much less a husband. Hardy har har.)

I figure as long as my son gets a reasonably good intake of nutrients through the day, enough sleep at night, and is safe and comfortable, I can give a bit on how we get there.  For instance, he is rejecting vegetables left and right these days. Instead of freaking out and trying to force him to eat them how I want him to, I’ll try a new way. (Dipped in hummus seems to be working right now.)

When daddy puts our son to bed, I am sure there are times he forgets to brush his teeth. While I wouldn’t want this to be every night, I have 3 choices when I realize it’s happening: take over and do it myself, call out a reminder, or say nothing at that moment and just be happy to have 30 minutes to myself while my husband does the task.

I’m opting for number 3 these days, but with a gentle reminder at another point. Maybe the next night I will say, “Honey, don’t forget to get his teeth good tonight, he had some sticky jellybeans earlier.” When I try to correct my husband mid-task, he gets a bit frustrated with me.( And I’m sure if it were me being corrected, I’d be defensive, too.)

My husband has a way of doing things that isn’t exactly what I would do.

And I’m thinking more and more that’s okay.

What battles are you letting slide and which ones are you holding fast to?

How to organize your children’s books

by Lisa on 

Organizing your children’s books can help kids find the books they want when they’re in the mood to read. It can also help teach them about caring for their books and even make it easier for them to put them away when they’re done.

Of course when your children are really small, the book organization is going to be mainly for you. If you’re anything like us, you end up grabbing the same books again and again, even though there are dozens worth reading on the shelves. The problem is, you just can’t see them all. The skinny paperback books have to be pulled out to see the title, and the tiny board books can get lost behind some of the bigger ones.

So here are some ideas to help you organize all your kids’ books:

By color

If you put all your kids’ books on the shelves according to color, it will be easier for older children to put books back in the proper places. This can also help them learn the different colors and their shades.

The trouble with this method, though, is that the books can be all different sizes, from large picture books down to the tiniest board books. Not a recipe for a neat shelf.

By size

Take a look at the types of books you’ve got and see if it makes sense to organize by size. We have one shelf on our bookcase that is quite short, so we’ve got all the little board books there. These might be also suited for a more shallow shelf, though—perhaps mounted on the wall. The great thing about these books is they are cute to look at, too, so they can actually be part of your child’s room decor.

Thin paperback books are the ones that often get the least exposure. Rather than putting these on the bookcase, how about placing them upright in a basket for easy flipping through? They are also good choices for display in a sling bookcase.

By topic

Perhaps too advanced for younger children to keep up on their own, organizing kids’ books by topic could be useful, however, if you have both boys and girls. (Your boys probably aren’t going to pull out a book about fairies and princesses, right?) If this is the case, you could even think of having a separate bookcase for boys and girls.

By age appropriateness

We’re soon going to have a newborn and a three-year-old in the house. Many of the books that are now too simple for our older boy are going to be back in circulation. Perhaps we will keep these up higher, so mom and dad can see them easily. We will keep the ones our first son needs on lower shelves, so they are easily accessible on his own.

Keep all books on a big bookshelf and then bring out a bunch each week so different ones get rotation.

This takes a little effort on the part of the parent, but it will be worth it to make sure your children are exposed to a variety of books. If you’ve got a sling bookshelf, rotate the ones you’ve got displayed there each week.

If your children are older, ask them what sort of organization system they might prefer.

You can even put up labels to make it easier for kids to put books away. Just prepare the label according to how you’ve chosen to organize your books.

How do you organize your children’s books?

reading

The ultimate mom phone – part III – do I really need a smartphone?

by Lisa on 

My cell phone broke last month. It was a basic cell phone with texting and a decent camera. Now I’m thinking of getting the Ultimate Mom Phone, which would be the opposite end of the spectrum in terms of things I could do on my phone.

As I do my research, I’m using a simple pay-as-you-go cell phone I keep on hand for relatives to use when they’re in town. It doesn’t have a camera and even texting is a royal pain in the rear end.

I’ve gone backwards to find out if I really do need to go forwards. Do I really need all the jazz that comes with the Ultimate Mom Phone? Would I really do more beyond what I’m already doing with my regular cell phone? Turns out it’s not just me questioning this.

Just because you can do everything on your phone doesn’t mean you will

I bought an iPod Touch over a year ago. I snapped up every app I could find that would make me more efficient, organized, and a better mom. I set up access to my email accounts and started tracking our budget, grocery lists, menu planning, as well as to-do lists.

But the apps I set up just seemed to add an extra step beyond keeping lists on the fridge, where I could see and add to them through the day. Plus, the battery started conking out every day when I used it a lot, and occasionally the touchscreen’s functionality went wonky. I’ve gone back to using a whiteboard and paper calendar, though I use a few basic things on the iPod here and there.

I want to be in tune with my kids, not email, when we’re out playing

You’ve probably seen moms out at the park glued to their smartphones. My son is not one to play independently when we’re out, so I’m not sure I could even do more than necessary calls or texts. And I’ve made at least one new mom friend as a result of NOT being plugged in when I’m out.

A recent study reported that moms spend on average over 6 hours a day engaged with their smartphones. While that replaces the time you might have to spend answering emails at the end of the day otherwise, the study found that moms actually spend more time online than when they had to turn on a laptop.

The latest gadgets are not a necessary part of our family’s budget

Smartphones don’t have a very long useful life. Plus, once you start getting into the latest and greatest, you find yourself replacing it every year or two (or sooner if it breaks). And as a stay-at-home-mom, I’m making lots of compromises in the budget department already. Do I really want to impose on my family the cost of upgrading to a new smartphone every year and then paying the higher monthly bill that goes with it, too? We haven’t even started saving for our son’s education properly yet!

If your life is on your smartphone, what happens when you lose it?

I’m sure there are ways to back up nearly everything. But how often will I really plug it in and sync all the apps, etc., to my computer? Wouldn’t I just be adding one more thing I had to do? (Let’s just say I rarely do this with my iPod already.) Isn’t having a smartphone supposed to mean I don’t have to open my laptop at night?

It’s just a little frightening, giving yourself over to one device so completely.

Maybe I’ll stay with one foot in the door, going with my old iPod Touch and a regular cell phone. What say you?

The ultimate mom phone – part II – top contenders

by Lisa on 

Last Friday we listed the must-have features of a good mom phone. Today, let’s look at the top 3 platform contenders for the title of Ultimate Mom Phone: iPhone, Blackberry, and Android.

All 3 smartphone platforms let you use apps (even Skype), access the Internet and email, send texts, take and upload pictures, and offer easy typing. Choosing the ultimate mom phone may come down to your personal preference for things such as keyboard, camera quality, and mobile phone carrier. Either way, here are some things you should know about each before you select your ultimate mom phone.

iPhone

Most moms seem to recommend the iPhone. The iPhone touchscreen format is super easy to use, which gains top marks with moms. And the multitude of apps plus integrated Apple platform (with iTunes) makes it a familiar part of your entire media package if you use an Apple computer and iPod for your tunes already. Even the camera turns out more beautiful photos than I’ve seen on any other phone.

But buying the latest model can be expensive and monthly service is available only through AT&T subscription plans. The next iPhone model (iPhone5) is due out sometime this year, so maybe wait a bit and get that one? Or look for a deal on the current model? I’ve heard the next one will have better battery life, which may help do away with the irritatingly short battery life that frustrates some current iPhone mom users.

Blackberry

Most carriers seem to have Blackberry models available, so if switching to AT&T is not an option, consider one of 2011’s top-rated Blackberry models that may be available with your carrier of choice.

My husband has a Blackberry for work, and I like the smooth operation. It has apps, Skype, and his battery is still going for 2 days at a time, even after using the phone nonstop for months. Working moms may find the Blackberry to be the ultimate mom phone, especially if they’re using Outlook to sync emails from work.

If Gmail or another personal email account is your primary active email account, you might not experience the ease of use you hoped for, though. And although apps are available, many Blackberry users have complained of a cumbersome download process and lack of family-related apps.

Android

Droids come in many shapes and are offered by many different carriers, giving a bit more flexibility than the iPhone. You can find models with touchscreens and/or full QWERTY keyboards.

But the problem then becomes Which Droid? You also need to have a Google (Gmail) account, considering that this platform comes to us via Google. If you’re already an avid Google fan, you may find this actually simplifies your life in the same way an iPhone works so well for Apple fans. Note that many moms who have used iPhone and then switched to Android did not feel the same affinity for their new cell phones.

Choosing between Android and Blackberry

If your heart is not set on the iPhone, it may be well worth checking out Droid and Blackberry options with your carrier of choice. If you are not under an obligation to a particular carrier, MetroPCS offers contract-free Droids and Blackberries from $40 – $60/month, with texting, web access, email and voice included. The only thing is, they don’t seem to have all the kinks ironed out just yet (see CNET user reviews).

You will still have to decide which platform works for you. See here the details Jared DiPane calls out when he switches from Blackberry to Android, providing eye-opening clues into what you can expect from using either of these platforms.

Not sold on using a smartphone? Try calculating the cost

If you’re not sure you need all the latest gadgets in your mom phone, try seeing how much it will cost you over the typical 2-year contract period. If the number just doesn’t sound worth it, maybe a smart phone isn’t for you.

Wilson Rothman offers a handy comparison of the true cost of a smartphone over a two-year period at MSNBC.com. While the prices compared are from last summer, you can see exactly how you have to break it down to see the real cost of the phone you choose. Hint: don’t get sucked in by a cheaper upfront cost of a handset, because the real clincher is the monthly fees you’ll pay over the two-year contract.

Not sure you even need the Ultimate Mom Phone? See our next post on why some moms go the old-fashioned route of voice only (well, maybe some texting, too).

The ultimate mom phone – part I

by Lisa on 

What makes a good mom phone? Given today’s mom’s busy schedule of activities, I’d say the ultimate mom phone must rival the fanciest of business cell phones in terms of functionality. And that’s whether you’re a working mom or a stay-at-home-mom!

Here’s my list of things the ultimate mom phone should do. What do you think? Let me know your must-haves in the comments section below! (Not sure you even need the Ultimate Mom Phone?)

Apps – Whether you need to track your baby’s feeding or sleeping schedule, or you just want games to amuse your toddler in a pinch, useful apps can make a mom’s life much easier.

Good call quality – Talk time is hard to come by, so you don’t want it muddled with static and lots of “can you hear me now?”

Internet access – Now with so many playgroups operating through websites or Facebook pages, you’ll want your mom phone to keep you in the know. It’s also nice to be able to check email, manage calendars, search the Internet and browse Facebook without booting up the computer. Hey, every free second is precious!

Text messaging – When you need to get a message out fast to a mom you’re meeting, there’s no better way than texting. You also don’t interrupt anyone with a text the way you do with a call.

Easy typing – After getting used to the Qwerty keyboard on my T-Mobile Dash, it was hard to go back to the regular phone keypad. (The constantly dying battery on my Dash prompted me to give it up, and I opted for a regular phone with a better camera –which has also since died. Hence the search for the ultimate mom phone!)

Skype – We Skype regularly with our relatives, since they are in far flung places all over Canada and India. It would be nice to do it on the go, since we’re usually stuck in front of the computer when we might otherwise be out to brunch or at a park.

Good camera – It’s often easier to snap a quick pic of your kid with your phone than to haul out a camera. By the time you turn it on, the moment has usually passed. I especially love to take pictures and videos and send them to my husband’s cell phone throughout the day. If you’ve got Internet capability, you can also upload your pictures to Facebook directly. The better the camera, the better the results when you view the pictures on your computer. It’s also nice to have the resolution to print the pictures later, too.

A decent battery life – It’ll be hard to find a phone with all of the above, plus a good battery life. Smartphones are notorious for quickly dying batteries. One mom told me she could rarely make it to 5 o’clock each day without plugging in her iPhone again. If you’re a stay-at-home-mom, maybe it’s not so bad, as you can leave it plugged it. Still, you don’t want to be caught with a dead battery when you do go out, right?

Cost-effective monthly bill – Yes, I want it all, and cheap. Hopefully under $80, ideally closer to $50/month.

Moms, let me know what phone you recommend. And look for our review of contenders for the title of the Ultimate Mom Phone next week!

3 meal planning templates – find the one that fits your meal planning style

by Lisa on 

Meal planning. We all know it can help you save money and time, not to mention eat healthier. But somehow our best intentions seem to fall by the wayside when the fridge is empty and it’s time for another grocery run.

If you’re like me, you get your groceries, figure out a few good things you can make for the next few days, and then fall back into the trap of “oops, what’s for dinner tonight??”

Not very organized, I’m the first to admit. The answer seems to be in finding a good system for meal planning. I’ve been looking for a system or meal planning template that will fit with my style, personality, and eating habits.

Here are some resources that will help you, too, without requiring you to sign up or log into anything. Explore our roundup of free menu planning templates. Pick the one that says you!

1. Meal planning templates – when beautiful matters

The thing with using a template someone else created is that it may not fit the format you need. Maybe you like to list 3 meals every day, plus ingredients for a shopping list. Or maybe you just want one open space for dinner each day. And honestly, most scribbly menu plans are not a beautiful sight to behold. Rather, they add one more piece of paper to clutter your fridge, right?

If this is you, here’s your answer: The Project Girl makes menu planning beautiful with 2 pretty menu plans in 2 different formats. Available in PDF only, so print it out and mark it up to your heart’s content. Use a pretty pen, too, to make it more fun and pleasing to look at every day!

2. Manage meals in an Excel spreadsheet – list all your recipes, too!

I also like the idea of listing out recipes somewhere for easy access. Going through cookbooks every week is so tedious. So the idea of keeping your menu plans in a digital file, say a spreadsheet or other app you’re familiar with, will let you call them up whenever you do your planning and then easily find things you like to make.

Jon and Maria Wittwer of Vertex42 offer several advanced meal plan layouts, both in PDFs and Excel. If you’re comfortable with Excel, you can even list your main and side dishes, etc., on the other sheets (see tabs across the bottom) for easy insertion into the main menu via drop downs!

While this may take time to set up, and you’ll need to do your planning on your computer, eventually it’s going to save you a lot of time and headaches if you have all your meals and menus saved in a file like this.

3. Super simple meal planning template

If just making a meal plan sounds like an enormous effort, you may want to stick with a simple print-and-fill-in template.

Grab Erin Rooney Dolan’s (a.k.a. the Unclutterer) simple meal planning template as a spreadsheet or printable PDF! Super simple for those who just want a designated spot to jot it all down (and you can go digital later with the spreadsheet option if you wish!)

Tip: Even if you print a PDF and write it in by hand, why not keep each week’s menu in a binder when you’re done with it, for easy inspiration and repeatability?

Tip #2: PDF stands for Portable Document Format. You can open, save and print PDFs using free Adobe Reader software. The page will function more like a graphic, rather than an editable document, so it preserves the format, fonts, layout, etc., regardless of how you access the file.

It was a bad day…

by Lisa on 

Did you ever have one of those days? The kind where everything seems to go wrong?

Here’s what that day looked like for me. Share YOUR story below in the comments.

First, our son was up at the break of dawn. He was cranky, because we’d been putting him to bed too late that week. Somehow, our timing was just off, and he was making us pay.

My sister had broken her foot two days previous, and she lives an hour from us. She had just started a new job as a horse trainer, so naturally I was worried. I was waiting to hear from her about how I could help.

It was Friday. I don’t like to leave laundry and cleaning til the weekend. We try to save weekends for family time. So I was scrambling to get in 3 loads of laundry.

That’s when it all started…

I knocked over the liquid laundry soap container as I was loading the machine. It fell between the wall and the washing machine, and the cap came off. Sticky goo, all over the things I had stored there. (In a tiny, dark spot that’s really hard to reach and clean—especially when you’re really pregnant.)

My sister called, saying she’d be leaving the next day to recover with some friends and family. I wanted to see her before she left. Which meant we’d be trucking up to her farm after my son’s nap that afternoon.

Quick, set in motion a plan of action!

Get the toddler in bed, start dinner, text the husband to ask him to finish it while we’re gone so we can eat when we get back and get our son to bed on time (finally). Wipe up the goo.

Ooops, the toddler is playing with all the things I pulled out covered in laundry soap. Impromptu washing session.

Floor is clean. Kid is clean. Things seemingly under control.

Now dinner is burning. Take care of that.

Visit the bathroom for a much needed break. Great, the toilet’s plugged. Now it’s flowing over! (Usually I’m good with a plunger, but this was like a very polluted Niagara Falls. At least I stopped the water from reaching the wood floors outside the bathroom with a dyke of towels.)

You can imagine the cleanup THAT mess involved.

And to think I had been hoping to get some work done during a peaceful naptime.

At least it was Friday!

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