5 Benefits of Involving Kids in the Kitchen One-on-One

As a mother of seven kids, I am always looking for ways that I can spend meaningful quality time with each of my children individually. One-on-one time allows me to focus on each child’s unique interests, and creates opportunities for us to connect through uninterrupted conversation—a rare commodity in a bustling household of nine. We try to schedule regular one-on-one outings with each of the kids for this very reason. But one of my favorite ways that I have found to connect with my kids individually can happen every day, right in my own kitchen!

3 Steps to Simplify Your Morning Routine

This post contains affiliate links, which means any purchases you make through our link will help us keep Bedtimescoops.com running (and possibly keep our freezer full of ice cream).

These days the alarm clock has been going off all-too early in our house. By 6:00 AM, my two middle schoolers need to be up and at ’em in order to catch their bus by 6:35. The thing is, I don’t want all my kids to be up that early, because right now the only quiet time I have built in to my day is the short time between when my oldest two leave for school and the rest of my gang wakes up. (There was a time when I could get up at oh-dark-thirty in order to study, exercise and be ready for the day before my kids ever emerged from their room, but that time has disappeared along with my once-flat belly.) In my quest to protect those few precious minutes of quiet time–and to make our mornings go smoother all around–I’ve implemented a few strategies that have helped to simplify our morning routine.

 

What a Birth Mother Taught Me about Unconditional Love

My heart is hurting.

Sometimes there are just no words.

And sometimes, there is so much inside me that I just need to let it out. It’s a long story. Are you ready?

We adopted our oldest daughter, a baby girl, almost 13 years ago. She was beautiful and healthy. But. We had one piece of paper with two tiny little boxes checked indicating that her birth mother had used alcohol both before and during her pregnancy. We had no idea how much alcohol we were talking about. We knew only that, in a formality required by our adoption agency, her birth mother had disclosed that she had continued to drink throughout her pregnancy.

We weren’t completely naive about what that could mean for this baby. Before we agreed to the placement, my husband and I discussed the possibility that there might be some issues that arose because of it. We prayerfully considered whether this placement was right for us, and we received a strong confirmation that we were meant to be this sweet little girl’s parents.

Book Review: The Two-Minute Marriage Project

I will admit that I am not what you would call the romantic type. I can count on one hand the number of times my husband has brought me flowers in our 17 years of marriage, and it’s not because he is not thoughtful, but because I am far too practical for something so “frivolous.” I can always think of at least a dozen things that I would rather spend our money on than something that I know will be withered and wilted within a week. But last week, my husband arrived home with a beautiful bouquet of vibrant yellow flowers that he had picked up for me just because, and I’ll be honest–I totally swooned! He knew I had been feeling down, and he wanted to let me know how much he cared. I was incredibly touched. For one thing, I knew that he had done more than just pick up a bouquet of flowers from the supermarket. He had actually gone shopping and found the perfect “vase”–a vintage farmhouse-style pitcher that he just knew I would love, both for its beauty and for the fact that I could use it long after the flowers were gone. Every time I see those flowers sitting on my table, I am reminded of how he went out of his way to brighten my day and show his love for me. This simple act has reminded me that sometimes in life (and in marriage) the little things–even the so-called “frivolous” things–can make a huge impact.

Reverence Training: 5 Surprising Solutions for Quieter Kids

If you attend church and have kids, you know that teaching kids to sit reverently through church services can be quite a challenge. As exhausting as it can be to wrestle with fussy babies, restless toddlers, and fidgety preschoolers, however, consistent attendance at church service can be a fantastic teaching opportunity, and doesn’t have to leave you feeling totally depleted and discouraged.

At our church, the whole family attends the main service (or Sacrament meeting) together. The meeting lasts about 75 minutes, and once it’s done the congregation splits up to various classes (by age group, in the case of children). There is no nursery during this first meeting, which means that even babies and toddlers attend with their families. (Once they reach 18 months of age, babies can attend a nursery that takes place during the class time following Sacrament meeting.) While this meeting is intended for the whole family, let’s face it–it’s geared primarily toward adults. Getting the kids to sit reverently for an hour and 15 minutes is not easy. But it can be done! We have made one surprising discovery over the years that has made all the difference.

Finding Inspiration through the Stories of Others

Have you ever been inspired by someone else’s story?

I’ve learned that although not everyone chooses to tell their story, everyone has a unique account of the way they have been shaped by life’s unfolding events. More often than not, if you are blessed to get a glimpse of the details of that story you are left with a greater appreciation of what makes that person who they are.

I’ve been inspired by the stories of so many women during my journey through life.

Bonding Your Family Together through Traditions

This post may contain affiliate links, which means any purchases you make through our link will help us keep Bedtimescoops.com running (and possibly keep our freezer full of ice cream).

One of my favorite things about entering the holiday season is all of the traditions that we look forward to in our family. In reality, though, traditions are an important part of the identity of our family all year long, not just during the holidays. Some of our traditions are elaborate, but most are simple; some are unique to our immediate family, while many are practiced by loads of people, from extended family members to complete strangers (Christmas jammies, anyone?); some traditions were started intentionally at the beginning of our marriage, while others have evolved over time almost by accident. The common factor in all of our traditions is that they all help form a lasting bond between the members of our family.

Family Closet Makeover On a Budget!

This post contains affiliate links, which means any purchases you make through our link will help us keep Bedtimescoops.com running (and possibly keep our freezer full of ice cream).

I wrote at length in this post about all the reasons why I LOVE having a family closet. Since moving all my kids’ clothing out of their bedrooms several years ago, I simply cannot imagine ever wanting to put the clothes back in their rooms. Sure, sometimes my kids get lazy and drop their clothes on the ground when they are changing; but at least when they do, the mess is limited to one area of the house rather than scattered through virtually every room! We recently overhauled our family closet setup and now I am loving our arrangement more than ever! The best part–the makeover was incredibly inexpensive, and uses our tight space even more efficiently. If you have always loved the idea of a family closet, but thought you didn’t have enough space or money to set one up in your home, this post just might convince you otherwise!

After using these Ikea storage towers for several years, I began to get pretty frustrated with how my kids–especially my youngest ones–seemed to have to empty out the entire contents of one bin just to find what they were looking for. After packing for a recent vacation, I discovered how fabulous it was to have the kids’ clothing grouped into easy-to-grab outfits. (I’ll post more soon on how I pulled off packing for a two week vacation for 9 people–in just 8 carry-on bags!) This got me thinking that there had to be a better way. Once I spotted these narrow hanging organizers at Ikea, I realized that not only could I organize the kids’ clothes into outfits, I would save so much space that I could actually move all their hanging Sunday clothes into the same closet rather than having them stored in a different room. The best part? Each organizer cost only $5, so I could make the switch for only $35! (If you aren’t lucky enough to have an Ikea near you, this 8-Shelf Hanging Organizer on Amazon is quite similar.)

Family Closet in a Tight Space

Each organizer contains eight compartments. I simply place a complete outfit–top and bottoms–in each of the top eight compartments. That’s right, my kids only have eight outfits each. Call me crazy, but scaling back on the amount of clothing that each child owns has been the best part of this whole makeover. That shirt that I absolutely couldn’t stand that my 3 year old insisted on wearing every other day? It’s gone! The outfit I thought was adorable but my 12 year old daughter wouldn’t wear because it was scratchy? It’s gone, too. My 10 year old son’s favorite threadbare jeans? Gone. In fact, I got rid of any clothing that just seemed worn or dingy (which, let’s face it, does happen when you use hand-me-downs). I saved only the eight nicest outfits that I knew my kids would actually wear. And trust me, eight outfits is plenty. Remember, as I described in this post, we wash a load of laundry every day, so we never have the problem of running out of clothes.

Clothing Organization for Kids

The bottom compartment, which is slightly larger and has a bit of a lip (see the photo above) stores socks and undies. See how easy it is for even my three year old to dress herself? She no longer has the frustration of searching through a whole bin just to find what she wants, and I no longer cringe when I see the–well, let’s say “creative” combinations she used to put together when dressing herself. She still feels independent, and I am not ashamed to leave the house with her. I’d say that’s a win-win!

Hanging Kids' Clothes

These hanging organizers are so much narrower than the storage towers we used previously that I was able to bring all the Sunday clothes in from another closet. Again, I’m all about containing the mess to as a few places as possible. And let’s face it, kids can be awfully messy with their clothing!

Shoe Storage for Kids

You may remember that I mentioned before that I had not yet figured out a good solution for shoe storage. By getting rid of the storage towers and switching to hanging organizers, I freed up enough space on the floor to give each child a storage bin just for shoes. They are perfect for corralling the shoes in a convenient place, and at the same time don’t require much effort from the kids when putting them away. It’s okay if the shoes not lined up neatly–tossing them in these baskets works just fine! And at less than ten dollars a piece, they were a very budget-friendly solution. I got mine at Big Lots, but Amazon carries this Set of Three Medium Stack and Storage Bins which is very similar.

Closet Organization for Kids' Rooms

To give you an idea of what a compact, space-saving solution this set up is, I measured our closet space. We were able to fit all of the clothing and shoes for our seven children in a closet that measures 5.5 feet by 6 feet. My four girls’ organizers and dresses hang from a rod on one side of the closet, and the other side holds my three boys’ clothes, plus this wider 6-Shelf Hanging Closet Organizer for everyone’s pajamas. There is plenty of room in the middle for the kids to comfortably dress. (In fact, there is enough room in the center of the closet that my 5 year old loves to go in with his toys and shut the door whenever he wants to play alone.)

I discovered one last added bonus of this new configuration recently when I changed out my kids’ clothing for the colder season: I can tell at a glance if any of my kids could use more clothes. That might sound strange, but in my experience ten year old boys are not exactly forthcoming about what they need. Mine tends to wear the same outfit over and over until I force him to put it in the wash–and that is when he has drawers full of clothes! He just sticks to the ones he likes best, I guess. With this new system, I have a handle on how many outfits he actually owns, and can encourage him to rotate a bit more (please tell me I’m not the only mom who has to do this!) or see easily when he actually does need additions to his wardrobe. At the same time, it is easy to limit my clothes-loving girls on shopping trips when I can tell them they only need enough outfits to fill up their eight compartments. Genius.

If you’ve been leaning towards converting to a family closet, hopefully now you can see that you don’t need an entire room–or even a very large closet space–to create a system that works for you. Of all the closet configurations we have tried over the years, this is by far the easiest to organize and maintain. And, ironically, it was the least expensive solution we’ve tried! See, you can have a great family closet in a small space and with a small budget!

Hugs and scoops,

C.C.

Finding Balance Part 2–Putting Mom’s Needs First

Last week my bloggy friend Katelyn from whatsupfagans.com stopped by to share her tips on finding a work-life balance. But what about those times when you feel buried under the weight of all your responsibilities? It’s easy to get so wrapped up in caring for the needs of others that you completely neglect to give time and energy to caring for your own needs. Doing so for any length of time can leave you feeling depleted and depressed–as I know from firsthand experience. But there is hope! Today, the lovely Elayna of ThePositiveMom.com is here to encourage moms to be sure and nurture themselves, too.

Elayna Fernandez the Positive Mom
Elayna Fernandez of ThePositiveMom.com

Is it Selfish to Take Care of Your Needs First?

I entered the unexpected journey of single motherhood when my daughters had barely turned 1 and 2 years old. With my family and friends living overseas, and having to enter the workplace to support my family, this meant I had to juggle and struggle in ways I never imagined.

I was committed to being a good mom, and for me, that meant “putting my children first.” This philosophy, while based on great intentions, took a toll on me physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I was last on my list and it showed.

I was too busy to eat. I was too busy to sleep. I was too busy to read. I was too busy to go to church. I was too busy to read my scriptures. I was too busy to socialize… I was too busy to live. I wasn’t happy, I weighed 67 lbs., and I was exhausted!

It wasn’t until I heard the most feared 6-letter-word on the planet that I got sick and tired of being sick and tired. I had cancerous cysts on my ovary!

Because I went through this and many other life-threatening experiences, I am committed to teaching moms like you to start making your well-being a priority.

“Nurture Yourself F.I.R.S.T.” is the 5th step of my BALANCE formula to “having it all without losing your head.”

I love acronyms, so using the word F.I.R.S.T., I will share what I believe you deliberately must work on in order to be your best self and, in turn, contribute a greater impact to your family:

Feelings Honor your emotions. Let those around you know when you need more compassion, more support, or even a hug. “Conceal, don’t feel” didn’t work for Queen Elsa, and it won’t for you. I speak honestly to my husband and my children about my emotional state so they know what to expect from me. This is a huge source of peace and relief for me, which suppresses any guilt and accelerates my healing process.

Interaction Arrange, schedule, and honor time to interact with other adults, especially other women. There was a time in my life when “if Bob didn’t build it, Dora didn’t sing it, and Doctor Seuss didn’t write it, it didn’t exist for me!” I have learned that having a network of like-minded, like-hearted, supportive, women is an essential need, not a luxury.

Rest Rest is a core component of a balanced lifestyle. Seeking help, saying no, and scheduling priorities are three ways you can make sure you sleep, rest, and relax. People frequently ask me how I manage to do it all: I don’t… my family works as a team, and it actually brings us closer! I observe Sundays as a day of rest and worship, and that helps me avoid feeling irritable, grumpy, and snappy the rest of the week.

Self-Care Self-care is the balance between selfishness and self-sacrifice.Because everything you do impacts your self-image and in turn, your behavior, lack of self-care of will cause you to be cranky, short-tempered, unhealthy, and unable to serve anyone! When you do the things that make you feel like a million dollars, you have the energy, clarity, and focus to be the mom you desire to be.

Time Alone Even as an extrovert by common terms, time alone gives me the opportunity to connect with myself and with my Heavenly Father, which sets the tone for my day, my productivity, and the quality of my interaction with others each day.

As you can see, my mindset has shifted since my early days of motherhood, and I now recognize that instead of “putting my kids first,” I now put “my family first.” and that not only includes the additions to my new family: it also includes me!

Self-sacrifice sure sounds noble, but if you are honest, wouldn’t you say that putting everyone else’ needs before yours has not worked for you, that in fact, it has wounded you?  It probably has become a burden, turning what you once loved to give and share into what makes you frustrated, bitter, and resentful.

In the journey of motherhood, as you travel with little children, the flight analogy rings true: put your mask on first, and then assist others.

Partner with your family so they can support you in making time for you and nurturing yourself FIRST. I guarantee you they truly love you and crave to see you happy, excited, and anxiously engaged in positive causes. They can’t stand to see you drained, defeated, and depressed… especially if it’s “for them.”

Make your family your reason, not your excuse. The best kind of mom you can be is a happy mom!

Elayna Fernandez ~ The Positive MOM, is a vegan Latina homeschooling mom of all girls, living in Texas. As an author, speaker, and mompreneur, Elayna teaches moms how to turn their pain into their purpose and their passion into their paycheck so they can create JOY, BALANCE, and SUCCESS on their own terms without the guilt, struggles, and overwhelm. Elayna blogs at ThePositiveMom.com, where she pours her heart out about the topics of motherhood, mompreneurship, and motivation. Elayna considers herself a geekess and word-nerd and her philosophy is, “BE Positive and You’ll BE Powerful!”

 

Finding Balance Part 1–Overcoming your Inner Work-a-holic

 

Being a mom is hard work! Whether you have seven kids or one, motherhood requires that you constantly give of your time, energy and emotional reserves. While the joys of motherhood are many, all too often the demands of motherhood can leave you feeling depleted. I’ll never forget the day my then three year old son accidentally crashed into me as he was zooming through the house and I said to him, “Be careful! That hurts when you bang into me like that. Mom’s a person, too.”  He looked at me in all seriousness and said, “You’re not a person, you’re a mom!” I laughed about it at the time, but since then that phrase has come back to haunt me at times. I have been through some dark periods in my life, some of which I feel are the direct result of forgetting that I am a person, too, not just a mom. It is so easy to get wrapped up with taking care of the needs of others so much that you neglect to take care of your own needs.

Remembering to focus on my own needs as a person is a bit of a struggle for me. But I know that it is so important! So I reached out to some of my blogger friends asking for their best tips on finding balance and nurturing yourself on your journey through motherhood. I am delighted to share their wisdom and encouragement with you. First up is my bloggy friend Katelyn of What’s Up Fagans? with a terrific guest post on finding balance in all areas of your life.

Motherhood Life Balance
Katelyn from whatsupfagans.com

Work, work, work all the time! When your “work” is your passion, your hobby, and something you want to do all the time, something you think about constantly, it is really hard to step back and make sure things really are balanced correctly in your life. This is especially true for work at home moms, like me.

I am a blogger over at What’s up Fagans?. A little over a year ago, I decided to officially make the leap of turning my blog into a business. I’m happy to say it has worked and I’m making a good part-time income now from my blog. However, to get to that point I spent more and more time each month on blogging-related things. I am often found at my desktop computer 40+ hours a week (full-time work and part-time income). I have been completely sucked into this digital world of communication, social media, and making money.

The problem with being a blogger is that I don’t often view my computer time truly as work very often (and it isn’t all, much is just social). This is because it’s fun! I am connecting with people from around the world. I am growing a business. I am connecting with some of my favorite bloggers each day. I love checking my email. I love checking my ad and affiliate accounts to see how much money I’ve made this month. And, oh, those stats! I love checking them to see how hot or not my blog is that day! It’s all fun! Number, letters, business, purpose! Blogging gives me a great sense of purpose, direction, and passion in my life.

Whenever I start something, I really like to go from start to finish. I don’t like stopping in the middle. So, when I start something like “turning my blog into a business,” where the work never really ends, I can easily spend more and more time working at it, learning something new about blogging, websites, photography, SEO, and social networks. There is always some way to improve, learn, and ultimately, grow. The internet is alive and well at all hours of the day. And I hate to miss responding to emails and comments right away.

So, being a work-at-home-mom is rough, especially when you have these work-a-holic tendencies. You can always edit another picture, write another post, and tweet another update.

But, we all need balance, right?

Sometimes my daughter tells me she doesn’t want me to blog anymore. Sometimes my husband is frustrated the house is a mess and that I’d rather spend my evenings with a glowing computer screen than with him. Ouch on all accounts. And then there’s the eye-strain and mental fatigue that hits me from working too hard.  All work and no play burns me out before too long too.

While I’ll probably always been driven to work, and to work hard, giving things my all, I am grateful that I am also driven to be a fantastic mom, who plays hard, laughs hard, and never gives up on my kids, or my husband. And that is why I know there’s gotta be some changes. But, boy are changes hard. However, I have found the following things to help me better balance and prioritize time for blogging, my family, myself, and my home.

8 Tips to Overcoming Your Work-a-holic Tendencies

1. Put the cellphone down while out with the family

Leave the thing zipped in your purse, or squarely in your car (and please don’t check it while driving), and enjoy the time out with your kids and spouse.  What I really like about getting out with my kids, is getting out with my kids. I like leaving the screens behind me as much as possible when I’m out. It helps me really focus on the people I’m with, the activity we are doing, and the fun we can have.

2. Playdates and Playgroups

While these are quoted as being “for the kids” come on – they are really for the parents! Being a stay at home mom is hard if you really do just stay at home all the time. Getting out for a playgroup or a playdate (even if hosting at your own home), is such a lift to your happiness meters, especially for an extrovert like me. Check out my tips for running a successful weekly playgroup in case you need them!

3. Limits!

I am lousy at these, but ideally, you have limits to when you will or will not work. Generally, I try to do as little work as possible on the weekends, or focus more on just social things then. I also try to not get online much at all between nap time and bedtime, leaving the evening hours to my family.

4. Exercise!

I need this a lot. I think by nature of sitting here, I have gained 5-10 lbs (well, that  and the junk food I’ve been eating lately). Getting my butt up and running, literally in this case, is great for my body, fighting mental and physical fatigue, and for my sanity. Exercise gives you some good endorphins and whatnot. Having a gym membership (that you are paying for) can be a great incentive to get out of the house and actually workout, especially if they offer childcare. Otherwise, early mornings and evenings are good times to at least go for a run (and see my tips if you hate running but still want to do it anyway, like me). Or sign up for an exercise class at a local fitness center or recreation center. Heck, hire a babysitter if you really need to in order to get your sweat on, but make taking care of your body important. Extra benefit is that I am setting a pretty great example to my kids of a healthier lifestyle and they look forward to working out and running themselves.

5. Exercise your mind!

Learn something new. I find that even reading a good book is vitally important to my identity. But, if you hate reading, do something to exercise your mental prowess in some other capacity. Getting involved in something creative, or scientific, or whatever it is that fascinates you, via college course, local establishment, community theater, or discussion group, is an awesome way to take time for yourself, to develop yourself! I put together a monthly book club so that I would always have a book to read and a chance to get out once a month, without kids, and enjoy some time with friends too, discussing a great book.

6. Personal Devotion Time

This one should really be number one on the list. All the time away in the world, developing you, and focusing on friendships and health, is not going to make you a better, more balanced person if you aren’t spending times on your knees and in the Scriptures.  Because God gives us everything we have and everything we are. I know it is extremely important in my life to actively and readily acknowledge the hand of God in my blogging successes, in blogging questions and in goals. It’s also important for me to humbly ask for forgiveness for my shortcomings as a parent, as a wife, and as a friend. And I also pray for help with reaching my health goals, for finding great books to read to expand my mind, and so much more. God should be the core foundation of your life. I know that prioritizing time with God will help you prioritize everything else in your life and help you better face the challenges that come your way.

7. Sleep

Get sleep. Go to bed well before midnight if you are smart (I must not be since I don’t too often), and take naps during the day when your kids do… oh, wait, except that is your time to blog. Darn. Okay, so just sleep when you are “spending time with them” as you all watch a movie together, but really you are just watching the back of your eyelids. However you get it or sneak it in, sleep is important to your well being, and nothing gives you more “me-time” than some good, quality shut-eye.

8. Plan

Keeping to-do lists and a calendar of events is so very helpful for better time management and balance. I have a regular household cleaning schedule that I strive diligently to abide by. It helps me manage the household messes in a very doable fashion so I don’t get overwhelmed and I know what I need to do each day.  I also (ideally) write out blog to-do’s, errands I need to run, days/times I go to the gym, activities and events going on, and so on. I use a blog planner and keep a fairly detailed editorial calendar and an on-going list of blog post ideas. Knowing what’s coming up in blogland helps me focus more when it is time to work, and helps me know when I can relax a bit and play instead.

Carving time for yourself doesn’t have to be complicated. Just be sure you know yourself and what is good for you, and then make it happen. It’s okay for things to be out of balanced for a while, or that your balanced life may look different than somebody else’s. We are all different. Not everyone is a work-a-holic blogger like me who’s also trying to homeschool twin preschoolers, and still be a supportive doctoral student wife, and keep a clean home. Your life is probably different than mine, and that’s great. I just hope that you’ll keep in mind some of these basic things so that you are enjoying all parts of your life as fully as possible and not neglecting your health and sanity at the expense of the ever powerful dollar or the happiness of your children. May God bless you and guide you on your journey to a more fulfilled, balanced, and manageable life as you work toward becoming extraordinary.

Katelyn Fagan is a young mom of three young kids, including twin preschoolers. She is painfully aware of her own flaws, and writes to help herself, and others going through similar shortcomings, to become better and more balanced. On her blog, What’s up Fagans?, you will find parenting advice, penny-pinching tips, cleaning hacks, and general help managing marriage, life and faith.

Cover image courtesy of samuiblue at FreeDigitalPhotos.net