Because Everyone Loves Surveys…

Hello moms and soon-to-be moms! I have an idea that I believe will help moms collect and share information but before I take the time to build it, I need to know that moms will come. This would be a huge undertaking and labor of love so before I can commit my blood, sweat, tears, time, money, resources and everything else, I need to know that it’ll actually be useful for moms. Please take 5 minutes to take this survey. Your opinion is very important to me so provide as much information as possible. Thanks so much!  

http://www.surveygizmo.com/s3/2767013/Hello-Mum-Survey

Pivot

It’s a term companies use right when they’re about to go under and are grasping for a chance to stay alive. They hope that by changing their process, market or focus they’ll find that missing link that was keeping them from success. Well, my friends, I’m at that crossroad. After clocking in at my day job, I come home to start my second shift – feeding the kids and getting them to bed. Usually, the kids are down by 9 at which point round three starts – trying to get MomCom going. With only 24 hours in the day, I don’t have as much time as I’d like to spend on MomCom. And those few precious hours are cut even shorter to maintain this blog. Thus, the impasse. As much as I’ve enjoyed writing these blog posts, I have to remember the bigger picture and that is MomCom. So I’m putting a hold on the blog indefinitely. I’ll write from time to time and will keep you in the loop on MomCom’s progress but it’ll be periodic, not consistent. Hopefully something awesome will happen soon so I’ll have some news to report back. So don’t forget about me completely and check back once in a while. And thanks so much for sticking with me this far – I promise I’ll be back.

 

The Amazing Strength of Every Woman

Often when we hear about the hardships of our friends or strangers, the common response is “I don’t think I could survive that”. When in fact, we have all overcome adversity that we had initially thought were impossible –  failing a class, heartbreak over a first love, never ending job search, long nights with a crying baby. And as we get more invested in life, the bigger our adversities become and the more we have to lose. But for whatever reasons, we still feel unprepared for the struggles that await us and panic at its arrival. However I have found that women, all women, possess amazing strength that we are unaware of. When disaster occurs, that strength finds us and carries us through. Because we, as women, are more resilient than we know and stronger than we give ourselves credit for.

When we think of war, we think of the big bombs and courageous soldiers. But what we forget is that life goes on. That on the same fields where bombs are destroying, there are people marrying, dying, divorcing, growing, laughing, crying and loving. And while we’re familiar with the heroic tales of the soldiers and commanders, what we do not hear are the stories of the women who keep life going. Zainab Salibi tells in her Ted Talk of the mother who puts on puppet shows for her children so that they would not be afraid of the fighting taking place outside their doorstep. The music teacher who kept her school open during the war and had children playing wearing coats, mittens and hats so that they  could still have music in their lives. The woman who ran around her village and collected all the flour the moment cease fire was declared so that if there was no cease fire tomorrow, there would be bread for everyone to eat. These women went above and beyond just the call to survive but rose up beyond the tragedy and made something good. Their strength aided not to the end of war but the continuing of life. Because when war ends, and it eventually does, there will be something to come back to, children to carry out the generation and life still flourishing all thanks to these women.

When my dad passed away suddenly, my mom found herself alone for the first time in her life. She had gone from living in her parents’s home to living with my dad. They lived together, they worked together, they did everything together. My dad took care of everything – from home life to the store and driving in between. If my mom had a doctor’s appointment, my dad would drive her the day before so she would know where to go. But in a matter of mere moments, my mom found herself alone. Alone at home, alone at work and alone to take care of all things that my dad had done. My sister and I helped where we could, stayed with her as long as we could and even invited her to stay with us but she refused. This was her way of life now.

Since then my mom has adjusted. She’s been running the store by herself, finding her way to the doctor’s by herself and living in a new place by herself. She comes over and plays with the kids, she volunteers at church and even cooks me food. Where she finds the energy, I do not know. I used to hold my breath, waiting for the other shoe to drop. Its been two years and it never has. I know when her world turned upside down, she didn’t think she could go on but she did and did so with more grace and strength than I thought was humanly possible.

There are moments in my own life when I’m not sure how things will turn out and if I have much more to give. But I remember that deep inside myself, I have a reservoir of strength to draw upon. Strength that have been deposited by my mother and her mother, my sister, my daughter, my friends, the women before me and the women after me. No one wakes up with the thought that today, they will do something life altering. We all wake up and we do what the day asks of us. But its in answering those calls that we find ourselves doing the extraordinary – giving more than what we thought we had in us to give and doing better than we had anticipated. It is only when we look back that we see how hard it was, how much we’ve grown and how much stronger we are now. So, my dear friends, the next time you’re up in the middle of the night worried about how you’ll make ends meet, how you’ll face the day or how you’ll ever go on, take a deep breath and know that you have the strength to face whatever challenge that stands before you. Because you, a women, are amazing and have more strength, more courage, more love than you think you do – I am sure of it!

 

 

Journaling with Chatbooks

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One of the problems with digital photos is that we usually forget to print them. All of our photos are archived on our phones and computers forever and ever – who has the time to comb through the hundreds of photos, pick out favorites and put it into an album? Thats where Chatbooks comes in. Chatbooks links directly to your Instagram or Facebook so every time you post a picture, that pictures is automatically added to your book. And since each page only holds one picture, no time is wasted trying to figure out the best layout. In addition to the picture, it also captures the description, date and even location. There are many options such as multiple contributors, books for a specified hashtag and uploading directly from your phone (no social media necessary). 

I use Chatbooks not as just an album but to journal milestones, funny things the kids do or say and moments I want to remember. It’s a good way to document the milestones without having to create a separate book. If you don’t want to share every moment of your life on social media, you can upload directly to Chatbooks. However, the one downside of Chatbooks is that it doesn’t have the capability to edit photos. You have to use a separate photo editing app then import it to Chatbooks. To get around this, you can create a separate account on Instagram and add that account to your book so that posts from both accounts will be part of your book (you can also add your spouse or other family members). And since Instagram recently updated their app to support multiple accounts, it’s easy to switch between accounts. In addition to the using Chatbooks as a journal, I also have a separate books for all of Lincoln’s artwork. I take a picture, upload it to Instagram on my secret account and hashtag it with #lincolnproject. All pictures with that hashtag are automatically compiled into a separate book and shipped once I fill 60 pages. This makes saving Lincoln’s artwork easy and I don’t have look for new wall space every week. 

Another great feature of Chatbooks is the multiple contributors to one book. So if you go on a group trip, you can create one book with everyone on the trip by using the same hashtag. Then all pictures from your group with the hashtag #beachtrip2016 will be automatically added to the book. No more emailing pictures back and forth or trying to decide on a layout! Best of all, you can subscribe a book series so that once you have 60 pages, it will automatically print and ship – all for $8! You can even ship it to multiple recipients (i.e. grandma and grandpa). Chatbooks is a great way to get your pictures out of your phone and into a hard copy with minimal extra effort. As much as I love scrolling through old photos on my phone, there’s something satisfying about looking at them in print. Try it and let me know what you think! And as always, if you have questions or have tips, let me know about that too!

The Forgotten Art of Apologizing

My three year old loves Daniel Tiger and frankly, so do I. There’s no violence, sexual innuendoes and each episode includes a life lesson  wrapped in a catchy tune. The other day, we were watching Daniel Tiger and the lesson of day was saying sorry. According to Daniel Tiger’s mom, saying sorry is only the first step. To fully rectify the situation, we have to ask, how can we help? I think this is a lesson many of us have forgotten, myself very much included. We do malicious things or say hurtful words to our friends and loved ones and when confronted, say sorry and expect to be immediately forgiven. Its a familiar scene: you muster up the courage to tell your friend how their comment hurt you, they say sorry, then five seconds later, asks if you’re still mad. Of course I’m still mad! Saying sorry does not relieve the anguish – it’s just the beginning! To complete the apology, we have to ask how can we help make it better? This may include confronting a third party, paying for a damaged object, adjusting our attitude, having some quality time, or picking up the tab after a round (or two) or drinks. In most cases, the perpetuator knows what needs to be done (if you don’t, ask); the hard part is following thru. But an apology is nothing without the after action. So the next time you slip up and find yourself apologizing, remember the words from a very wise tiger and ask how can I help?

“What’s for dinner?” (Meal Planning 101)

If you are like me, I absolutely hate the question, “What’s for dinner?” and I usually try to ask it to my husband before he can ask me.  As a mommy of 3 littles, I have tried so many different ways to deal with this question. Here are a few recommendations for services and apps to help with your dreaded meal planning for the week:

Meal Subscription Services: Recipes and Ingredients will be sent to you on a weekly basis

  • PLATED: A bit more pricey than some of the other options but they also provide more options.  For example, if you pick the 3 meal per week version, you will be able to pick the three recipes /  meals from 9 options.  For 2 people 3x per week you will pay $74.  If you prefer 4 meals per week it is $96. Many subscribers noted that this is a good choice for a couple, not a family.
  • BLUE APRON: Seems to be the winner among these types of subscription services because the price is a bit more palatable and the recipes are yummy and interesting but not super difficult.  For 2 people, BLUE APRON will run you $59.94 per week for 3 meals.  For a family option, you will pay $69.92 for 2 meals a week and $139.84 for 4 meals per week.
  • HELLO FRESH: The comments in regards to this subscription is that the recipes and ingredients are very basic but still very fresh. This may be a better option for people or families who want very healthy meals.  For 2 person meals 3 times per week, it will cost $69.  For 3 meals a week for a family of 4, it is $129.
As you can see, these are not cheap / inexpensive services and will cost more than if you were to do your own meal planning and shopping list and shopping but let’s be honest, you are paying for convenience and the comfort of not having to think about what is for dinner a few nights a week.
Another option that I have tried is Fresh 20 which sends the customer a list of 5 recipes per week and the shopping list.  The idea is that you only have to purchase 20 fresh food items from the grocery store in order to make all of the recipes.  Initially, I liked this concept because it helped me not waste food and I felt like the recipes were pretty healthy.  I have friends that really love this option but I haven’t been able to keep up with it.  I live overseas though and some of the items just aren’t available to me. This is an inexpensive choice with an annual price of $65, 3 months for $24, and 1 month for $10.
If meal subscription services aren’t your thing and you are a meal planning pro, you may still find these well loved apps helpful:
  • Cook Smarts:  This is similar to Fresh 20 where they will send you recipes and shopping lists for the week. Their aim is to help people improve their cooking skills while making meal planning easier. This will cost you $6 per month
  • Pepperplate:  This is a free app where you are able to import recipes and the app will help you organize them.
  • Ziplist: This is a free app with a shopping tool and organizer
  • Plan To Eat: Helps to organize recipes by incorporating your calendar and a shopping list generator.
  • Paprika:  Another recipe manager with list generator.
As you can see, there are various tools available to help you with your meal planning… now it is a matter of what suits you and your family.  We would love if you comment with your thoughts / ideas on meal planning and what works well for you!

Confessions of a Temper Tantrum Survivor

Hello Readers! Our good friend, Pamela, is sharing her experiences dealing with the terrible twos as a stay-at-home mom of two kids – Aubrey, 2 1/2, and Evan, 9 months. The terrible twos – that dreaded stage where tantrums can hit without any warnings, test your every nerve, patience and sanity and leave behind a trail of destruction. No shelter can shield it, no parent is immune to it, no discipline/punishment/method/medicine/bribe can prevent it. You just have to buckle down and weather the storm as best as you can. To Pamela and all the parents of toddlers – godspeed.

I think it is safe to say we are in full fledge tantrum hell.  Our little soon to be threeanger is a completely different creature than the sweet baby girl who graced our lives these past 2 ½ years.  Don’t get me wrong – she is still my best friend and the sweetest girl that I have ever met (of course I say that because she’s deliciously mine). However, this sweet baby girl has an attitude of a teenager girl and no fear of public shame.

I think my all-time low came in the parking lot of Home Depot.  It was a beautiful day, one of the first warm days of 2016, Aubrey (my soon threeanger) and I were out pretty much all day.  It was as perfect as it can be.  With a 9 month old baby boy, it’s rare to get any alone time so I really relished this girls day for us.  We picked out some flowers then walked a few doors down to get some pizza together.  On the way back to the car, I needed to change her soiled pull-up.  As I removed her pants and diapers, she decided she didn’t want to be clothed from the waist down.  She threw a tantrum in the middle of the parking lot.  With safety and sanitary means in mind I couldn’t just leave her to throw her tantrum.  It was nearly impossible to physically hold her up so I gave her a warning then a spanking.  At this point, she really didn’t care about being spanked or the punishment.  She was going to have her tantrum.

Strangers stared as I struggled to physically hold this demon possessed child in my arms, trying not to restrain her too hard so she doesn’t get hurt.  Finally I managed to get her pull-up on and into her carseat.  A mere seconds later she was cheerful, happy and snacking on her gold fish crackers.  I looked back while driving home and gave her a smile all the while thinking in my head, my child is certifiable.

Sounds familiar?  Well, it’s our life right now.  A tantrum of some sort or intensity occurs at least once a day.  I used to be confused and try to reason or discipline her during these outbursts…bribery, coercion, yelling, threats, etc.  What I realized is that my emotions only added to the steam and made me regret my own behavior later on.  I’ve learned what works for us for now, is for me to pray in silence for patience and God’s grace.  Then I wait for the tantrum to run its course.

I often feel defeated and a failure as a parent.  However, Aubrey and I are starting to discuss her misbehavior after a fit.  She and I agree that she was not listening and obeying.  Sometimes she will even imitate her own hysterical behavior. We’ll laugh and then I set forth the privileges she’s lost due to the tantrum.  At best, we have found a way to cope with these dismays.  At worst, I dread the imminent coming of the next tantrum.  I try to stay positive and think about the countless parents who have endured and survived.  My husband and I encourage each other to look forward to the end of this phase.  After all, God’s promise is that “this too shall pass”, right?  In the meantime, I find myself anywhere between laughing or crying at the thought of my daughter’s terrible tantrums.

3 Things You Can Do Now to Improve Your Child’s Sleep

Many of you know that I have worked as a baby and toddler sleep consultant for over 2 years and I have interacted with hundreds of families in regards to their children’s sleep.  In considering this blog post, I wanted to think of some of the commonalities among many of these families and what I “usually” recommend to them. The problem with that is that it is always different.  Every family and every child has their own unique situation so sleep is something that is difficult to generalize.  With that said, there are definitely a few things that you could start doing right away to help your little one sleep – regardless of their age and their current sleep environment:

  1. Put your child down in the bed awake.  I’m sure you have all heard this a million times but it is certainly difficult to do.  When your little one falls asleep while nursing or rocking and you have the option of gently waking her or putting her into the crib asleep, it seems absolutely ludicrous to wake her!  Do it.  I know it seems crazy but even if you wake her and then gently pat or rub her tummy to help her stay calm, you want her to know she is in her bed it is time to go to sleep.  It is very important that a child learns to fall asleep without help or you will end up with  a baby that wakes constantly (after just about every sleep cycle) and needs help to go back to sleep.  If you want to give this a try, start with bedtime first.  Once bedtime is going well, then move on to night wakings.
  2. Schedule can make or break you. I have so many families that write in with questions about why their little one was doing well but now is waking for long periods in the night or just a mess all around.  Schedules are key for little ones and toddlers.  Now, don’t get me wrong… I usually do not use a by the clock (BTC) schedule for most babies (with twins being an exception) but rather, look at the wake times or nap gaps. Depending on your child’s age, you don’t want them to be awake longer than a few hours before sleeping again.  For example, a six month old baby shouldn’t be awake for more than 2.5-3 hours before sleeping again. Constant night wakings, long night wakings and early morning waking are all usually attributed to schedule issues.  Never underestimate trying an earlier bedtime.  Many issues will arise from bedtimes that are too late.  Sometimes just a 15 or 30 minute shift forward can do wonders.
  3. Create the Best Sleep Environment.  Speaking of underestimating, so many people do not consider the importance of the child’s sleep environment and their bedtime routine. These things will add considerably to the consistency in your child’s sleep and are worth some thought. In regards to your child’s sleep environment, it should be dark, safe (nothing loose or too fluffy in the bed) and white noise can be an excellent tool to help a child who wakes from noise.  We also recommend blackout blinds (these really help with early morning wakers and naps!). Establish a very consistent bedtime routine and it usually helps to end it with the same song or phrase every night. Recreating this environment and bedtime routine will also really help if you travel a lot with your little ones. Regardless of where you are, they will expect sleep if things are consistent.

Let us know your thoughts on sleep!  Speaking of… I’m off to catch some zzzzzz.

Is 3 The New 2?

So, let’s jump right in…. I get asked this question A LOT.  “How is it REALLY to have three kids?” “Is it really that much harder than having two kids?”  I find these questions interesting and funny at this point in life (even though I’m sure I have asked these same questions before having my third baby).  But, since you asked, here are my answers (broken into parts because it’s never just that simple):

It’s hard (but everything in life worth doing is hard):

  • You will have to buy a bigger car
  • You will never be bored and you will always be laughing (or crying)
  • You will have to wait 30 minutes longer than 4 person families at any given restaurant on a Friday / Saturday night
  • You will always have someone to hug, squeeze, kiss or cuddle-one of them always needs you at any given time.
  •  It will be nearly impossible to find a hotel room that will accommodate your 5 person family (no, they don’t care that the youngest is a baby – don’t even bother asking) and truly impossible to find an affordable hotel room
  • Don’t even worry about the aforementioned hotel room because you won’t be able to fly your family of 5 anywhere – too expensive!
  • Don’t plan on going to sleep for at least two hours after putting three kids to bed because they will somehow take turns waking every 10 minutes and needing something different.
  • Say goodbye to kid free vacations because three young kids is a bit much for anyone to take on for the long weekend so you are bringing them with you.
  • All your friends will think you are a “super mom” even though you are just barely hanging on but, hey, take the compliment and be happy that you kept them all three alive all day!
  • Your wardrobe might as well consist of black and white stripes because  you will referee ALL day long. Surprisingly, it is hardly ever 2 on 1 but rather they are all for themselves and will fight over anything.
  • You will end up buying diapers for 8 years straight, seriously…

In all seriousness, three, four, five… whatever makes you happy is what works for your family.  There is nothing that I or anyone else will tell you that will make it the right or wrong decision. To grow your family or not is obviously a family decision and I would say that three is the new two if you don’t require a lot of sleep.  I joke a lot about the craziness that is my life but having three kids is amazing. Many moms wonder if it “really is much harder than having 2 kids” and I will  wholeheartedly answer a resounding YES to that.  The jump from one to two kids was really difficult for me but going from two to three was much harder than I would have expected.  People joke about going from a man to man defense to a zone defense and it is a perfect analogy. Going anywhere with all three of them alone is exhausting and usually involves some tears and lots of sweat. When you are that outnumbered, everything is difficult.  The other side of this coin is that even though it is difficult, it is fun.  Having kids in general invites a lot of chaos into your life but having more than one or two kids just makes it a lot more insane. If you thrive in that chaos, as I do, then yes, 3 is the new 2.

P.S.  If you decide to go from 2 to 3 kids… become really good at asking for help :).

Organizing Life

I used to have really great memory. I could remember my grocery lists, to-do’s and people’s birthdays without writing any of it down. Of course occasionally I’d come home and realize I forgot the vanilla extract but for the most part, I had a lot of confidence in my old noggin. But as life got busier and more chaotic, my trusty brain became less trustworthy. I ignore it at first, calling it a brain fart or a slip but soon there were too many brain farts to ignore the smell (ba dum chi!). It wasn’t that my brain wasn’t working the way it used to but I just didn’t have as much time to think and process. After years of trying to make the old way work, I finally gave up and found new ways to adapt. After all, I had things to do, little humans to take care – it was time to maximize efficiency.

Declutter email. Without realizing it, I had developed a routine. Every morning, I would open up my inbox and delete the same emails. Most were marketing emails from sites I had subscribed to but 9 times out of 10, I was deleting them without even opening them. It didn’t take a lot of time to delete these emails but they cluttered up my inbox and cluttered my brain.

The emails were also great distractions. Whenever an email claimed sale, I had to check it out. I would spend precious time checking out the site, putting things into my cart, comparing it against others sites only to leave without buying a thing. It was a huge time waster and draining on the wallet because I would buy things I didn’t need. So I singled out the emails that I read consistently (such as news sites, blog feeds) and edited my shopping sites to the stores I wear now (if its a store that you only buy from 1-2 times a year – ditch it) and unsubscribed from the rest. Its amazing how this little change can boost your productivity.

Maximize your calendar. With four people in the house, its hard to manage everyone’s schedules and make plans without a barrage of back and forth texts. To keep track, we put everything into the calendar on our phones. We have three calendars that we share:  a family calendar for family events such as birthday parties or the kids’ activities and personal calendars for Mike and me for our individuals events such as  work events or a girls night out. So if I’m trying to schedule a dinner with a friend, I can check my calendar to see if Mike has a work event instead of sending Mike a text for available dates, waiting for his reply, then making an angry call asking why he’s not answering my very important text. Additionally, it helps us keep track of our events and a make sure we don’t forget when a class time has changed or the dinner we schedule a few weeks prior.

Write out your grocery list and share it. Mike and I have different lists for different stores (Costco, Wegmans, Home Depot, etc) that we share on our phone. As soon as something runs out, we add it to the list. Not only can I can run in and out of the store without forgetting anything but if Mike makes an impromptu Wegmans run, he can get everything we need without texting me, waiting for my reply then inevitably calling me because I never hear my phone. We do the same with to-do’s around the house or things to pack when we’re going on a trip. It helps to share the daily load and creates a back up system. We use Wunderlist but there are tons of great list-making apps.

Just write everything down. Questions for the doctor, recipes, REI member ID – I put it all in my Notes app that I sync with my gmail which makes it searchable in my inbox. So when I’m buying something from REI online, I can do a quick search in my gmail for REI and there it is. There is an exception to this rule: I do not use it to store my username/password – there are better ways for managing this. But any information that I will need at some future point, I put it in my Notes app.

Slice. Since becoming a parent, I order everything online. No time to go to the mall – no problem. To help track all my packages, I use Slice. Slice will automatically track your packages and notify you when its shipped, out for delivery and when its delivered. It will also notify you if there’s a price drop or a product recall (though I haven’t tested this part yet). Its easy to forget about a delivery (especially with Amazon Prime) but Slice makes sure you get what you paid for.

Are there any apps/tips that you swear by?