life hacks and how to have a more peaceful day

Thursday, February 27, 2014

photo by Jesse
This is not my typical post, but in honor of 7x7 I thought I would offer some of my life hacks today.  I don't usually blog about organization, housekeeping, or the how-tos of parenting because, well, I'm no expert.  (If you are looking for consistent practical tips on daily life, check out Leila, my favorite how-to guru.)  When I do discover something that works, I am extraordinarily proud of myself.  I want to share it with everyone I know, because the rest of the time, I'm making it up as I go.     

1.  Getting toddlers to sleep
Sometimes, toddlers wake up in the middle of the night, then stay up for the next two hours.  It is maddening.  My first toddler once stayed awake for 23 hours straight, so pitiful was I at handling the sleep antics of little ones.  Then I learned the secret to toddlers and sleep is routine.  Say you have a toddler who randomly wakes up at 1 a.m.  You try to quickly soothe him before he wakes up fully, but it doesn't work.  He's whacking you in the face, scrambling to get out of your lap, and asking for snacks.  It is clear he is up for the long haul.  

Here is what you do:  though it feels counterintuitive, turn on the lamp and put him on the floor.  Let him play for about 10 minutes, then start his bedtime routine over.  Drink a glass of milk, read stories, brush teeth ... whatever you typically do in the last few minutes before bed, do it all again.  Then calmly tuck him in awake and walk away.

He will go back to sleep, I promise.  This is my most reliable parenting secret.  I am genuinely terrible at infants and sleep, but I can always get a toddler back to bed in the middle of the night as long as I go back to their routine.

2.  Groceries:  conquering both the bill, and the continual lack of

If you are responsible for nourishing the people in your house, cooking from scratch is my secret to avoiding going to the grocery store every three days.  

I started when my oldest two were babies.  Rather than buying a brownie mix, I experimented until I found a brownie recipe I liked, then stocked cocoa in the pantry.  Instead of buying biscuit mix, I learned to bake biscuits.  The results were nothing but positive:  we ate better food, we spent less money at the store, and, most importantly, I could make do with what was in my pantry.  My groceries stretched further when I could buy staples in bulk, then turn them into whatever I needed that day.

But listen, don't get crazy.  Some people grind their own flour and refuse to buy sliced bread.  If that is you, peace friend.  I respect your dedication.  But please  honor the season your family is in, and do what makes the most sense.  For a time I made my own bread every week, until I had more kids and needed to adjust my work load.  I still keep fish sticks  in the freezer for the days when time or fatigue overtakes my afternoon.  There is no condemnation for the mother in her last trimester, trying to get through the day.  My only point is that you don't have to take kids to the store as often if you learn to do more with basics.  And ANYTHING that keeps me out of the store with small children is worth learning to do.

3.  Snow days.  Or, if you're in the South, August.

I am rounding out my first winter in Colorado.  People in the south warned about the dreadful snow, and how we would be housebound for months.  What I've learned is January in Colorado is comparable to August in Alabama.  By August, it is too hot to do anything.  You've done every indoor activity with your children twice.  Even swimming pools are too warm to be enjoyable.  It's as miserable as -10* and eight snow days in a row.  Here are a few things that get us through our housebound days, first in the South, now in the West.

A.  They are just going to be longer.  Accept it.  Do your best to make it pleasant, but brace yourself for a more tiring day.

B.  If you can stomach the mess, bathtubs are as interesting to your children as a swimming pool.  Your children can be entertained for an hour, easily, with a tablespoon of bubble bath and a fresh tub of water.  They can also skip baths that night if they spent half the day playing in one, which makes your evening workload a little lighter too.

C.  Obstacle courses and dance parties.  We watch the chicken dance and tooty-ta and dance along.  I also give them an obstacle course ("jump three times on the bed, run to the living room, do four push-ups, then run up and down the basement stairs twice.  Ready? GO!") as a much-needed calorie burn  (they race against their own best time, not one another.  I have a few who hate to lose so much, it wouldn't be worth it otherwise).

D.  But, you're not the cruise director.  It's not our job to constantly entertain our kids.  Really.  If mine complain of being bored, I offer them a chore to do.  They usually find something better to do instead.  Boredom spurs imagination, and time alone encourages teamwork among sibling.  There is so much emphasis on parents playing with children these days.  There is a time for that, to be sure.  There's also a time for the timeless words, "Go play." 

4.  The right to-do list will bring peace to your day.

My first years of motherhood were miserable because I brought a work mentality into parenting and home life.  Achieve!  Finish one task, then move on to the next!  Work until a job is done, cut yourself no slack!  It was terrible

Then Jamie at Steady Mom encouraged me, through one of her posts, to set new goals for my day.  She said to focus on 2-3 things each day (outside of keeping children alive, which requires most of my time), and nothing more.  Don't make a to-do list with 15 items; you can never live up to that goal, and you'll feel overwhelmed and defeated before you ever start.  She also said to include priorities in your relationships on your to-do list, such as reading to your kids or calling a friend.  

 a more peaceful home can look like this
I was a happier and more peaceful mother when I took her advice.  I stopped measuring success by laundry and crumbs on the floor, and began focusing my energy on what mattered most to me each day.  My house is messier, but I no longer feel as though I'm constantly failing at life.

In a similar vein, Jen at Conversion Diary articulated my philosophy on managing the day so well in her post The Courage to Rest.  Look at what brings the most peace to your family, she says.  Set hard stops around those things, then fill in your to-do list in the gaps.  Don't let the have-to's dictate your day.  Instead, let peace determine your daily rhythms.

Those are my best life hacks.  Now I would love to hear yours.  Because I need help with a few things.  Like clothes:  is there a secret to getting little boys' clothing to last longer?  Does every single boy on the planet have holes in all but one pair of blue jeans?  And how do you manage the transition from nap time to rest time in your house?  Do you have a trick for keeping a tidier home that does not involve cleaning at midnight or during nap time?  I could really use that one.  How about
conflicting needs among your children?  Any suggestions?  

What are your best life hacks?

1 comment:

  1. I feel like it's been so long, I have no ideas left. So being a grandma soon, I'll need to come back to this!



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