Currently…

Currently :: maximizingdaysblog.com

Wearing

This dress.  I borrowed it from my sister-in-law for our godson’s baptism because I had no dress clothes that fit.  This dress is the definition of versatile.  I had no intentions of including a dress in my winter capsule wardrobe, but after wearing it once, I bought it.

Reading

What Did You Expect? by Paul David Tripp.  My husband and I watched one of his marriage seminars last year, and enjoyed it so much that I bought the book.  And I’m just now getting around to reading it.  A year later.  It’s safe to say that this will be my answer to this question for months to come.

Eating

Crock Pot Teriyaki Chicken Bowls from Six Sisters Stuff.  I was in need of a new crock pot recipe, and this one is excellent.  Simple and delicious.

Watching

If you follow me on Instagram, I’ve been talking a lot lately about my love for The Crown.  I’m obsessed.  And nearing the end of Season 2, which means I am going to have wait a looooong time to have my Crown fix satiated whenever Season 3 finally comes out.

Loving

Body Pump.  I started almost two months ago, not knowing anything about it except that people who had done it loved it, and I’ve joined that party.  If you’re looking for a group workout that is challenging, but not impossible, give Body Pump a shot.  And use less weights than you think you can handle.  Trust me on this.

Thinking

That we are 2/3 of the way through January.

Thankfully.

For me, January is a month to be endured and we are nearing it’s end.  Here’s hoping that we are also nearing the end of too many degrees below zero and too many consecutive days spent indoors for fear of our faces falling off from the cold.

TGIF.

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Screen-Free Way to Entertain Kids While You Cook

Screen-Free Way to Entertain Kids While You Cook :: maximizingdaysblog.com

Getting supper on the table is no easy task.  Add toddlers into the mix, and it can easily become one of the most frustrating parts of your day.  It was for me.  I reached my breaking point last year and decided that I had to find a (screen-free) way to entertain my kids while I cooked supper.  *We are not opposed to screens, but try to minimize their use*

As I tried to come up with a solution, one of things that I kept thinking was “they have so many toys that never get played with” and decided to solve two problems at once.

The goal was to find a constructive way to keep them entertained while I got supper ready utilizing what we already had.  In trying to figure out what that would look like, I decided on these criteria:

  • Kids needed to be in or near the kitchen so that I could quickly help (translation: referee) them
  • Activity would keep kids stationary so that they would stay in or near where I was
  • Needed something that cleaned up quickly to smooth the transition from play to eating
  • Something that they could do (mostly) unassisted so that I could actually cook the food

We have a large island in our kitchen where I do all of the food prep and it also doubles as our kitchen table.  Having the kids do some sort of activity at the island while I made supper seemed to be the solution for what I was trying to accomplish.

Screen-Free Way to Entertain Kids While You Cook :: maximizingdaysblog.com

And with that, armed with a note pad and pen, I went to the kids’ toy room and made a list of anything they had that could be done, completed or played at the kitchen counter.  The list was a lot longer than I thought it was going to be and a good chunk of it was the stuff that didn’t get used often.

Two Birds Down.

I collected the items from the list and brought them upstairs to our office closet.  Separating the toys would help the kids distinguish between “regular” toys and “Counter Activities” (as they are referred to in our house).  That, and their toy room is downstairs and our kitchen is upstairs, so I wanted the counter activities close to where they would be used.

Counter Play: Collect activities that can be done at the table while you cook and put them in a separate location from other toys :: maximizingdaysblog.com

Counter Play: Collect activities that can be done at the table while you cook and put them in a separate location from other toys :: maximizingdaysblog.com

The toys are stored on the bottom of the closet so that the kids can easily take out what they want without (much) assistance.  These closet organizers were here when we moved in and they’re fixed in position, so we just try to work around them as much as we can.

Originally, the rule for Counter Activities was that the only time they were to be used was when I was making supper.  The thought process being that I wanted the counter activities to be something special and something that they’d always be excited to take out.  I’ve loosened up on that rule a little bit because they are always excited about doing them.  If we reach a point where they’re bored with them, I may go back to the original rule.

How Does It Work?

  1. Pick up all of the other toys.  Before I start making supper, the kids clean up any toys that they had been playing with previously.  This way, all of their toys are put away before eating supper, and I’m not fighting with them to put stuff away as I’m also wrapping up the last parts of getting supper ready.
  2. Choose an activity.  Each kid goes to the closet and chooses one counter activity.  They are allowed to change them at any time, but may only have one at a time and they are responsible for cleaning up the activity and putting it away before getting out a new one.
  3. Put away Counter Activity.  5 minutes before supper is ready, the kids put away their activity and then help with their pre-supper jobs (setting the table).  This is why choosing activities that clean up quickly and easily is key – it minimizes the transition time from play to eating.

Screen-Free Way to Entertain Kids While You Cook :: maximizingdaysblog.com

Screen-Free Way to Entertain Kids While You Cook :: maximizingdaysblog.com

There is no exhaustive list of what could be included for these activities.  Unless you have almost no toys for your kids, you shouldn’t need to buy anything new.  For reference, here’s what’s included in our Counter Play closet:

Counter Play: Collect activities that can be done at the table while you cook and put them in a separate location from other toys :: maximizingdaysblog.com

Counter Play: Collect activities that can be done at the table while you cook and put them in a separate location from other toys :: maximizingdaysblog.com

There have been times when the kids have been playing so well when it’s time for me to start supper and I think, “Oh, they’re having so much fun.  I don’t want to interrupt it.  I’ll just let them keep playing.”  And I regret it every time.

Screen-Free Way to Entertain Kids While You Cook :: maximizingdaysblog.com

Screen-Free Way to Entertain Kids While You Cook :: maximizingdaysblog.com

Screen-Free Way to Entertain Kids While You Cook :: maximizingdaysblog.com

We’ve reached a point where if I start pulling pots and pans out and haven’t told them to start cleaning up, they ask for Counter Activities.  It’s a really proud parenting moment for me.

Screen-Free Way to Entertain Kids While You Cook :: maximizingdaysblog.com

What ways have you found to keep your kids entertained while you cook?

P.S. Read more about toy organization here and how menu planning has also helped reduced the supper stress here

 

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Winter Capsule Wardrobe

Winter Capsule Wardrobe for a Stay at Home Mom :: maximizingdaysblog.com

My Winter Capsule Wardrobe has arrived.  Well, kinda.  One piece is yet to be purchased (C’mon, Nordstrom! Give me a sale!) and the other is in transit.

But the decisions have been made and a collection of 47 bottoms, shoes, tops and even a dress will make up my wardrobe for the months of January, February and December.  I did things a little differently than I did when choosing my summer or fall capsule wardrobes because I’ve learned a few things since then.  But, it turns out that there was still more to learn this time around…..

Lessons Learned in Creating my Winter Capsule Wardrobe:

1 – Take the time to decide what you will love wearing

I spent the month of December wearing my cold-weather clothes to see what I didn’t want to take off at the end of the day and what was bothering me before noon.  After Thanksgiving, I dug out my winter clothes that weren’t included in my Fall Capsule, with the goal of wearing each piece for an entire day (to find out more about this, check out my Instastories highlight on Instagram).  This is the only way to know if you want to keep wearing it.  Something might be cute and comfortable when you try it on, but after tugging on it all day, you know that you won’t choose to wear it again, no matter how many times you see it in your closet.

If you are in a time crunch, or feel like giving yourself a month to make the decision of what goes in your capsule means you won’t make the decision, then skip this step. At the very least, make sure that you try on EVERY SINGLE PIECE before making a decision.

Confession: I consciously decided not to start my winter capsule wardrobe until January so that I could include Christmas presents because I was so hopeful that I would get two new pair of leggings.  And I did.

2 – Be realistic about seasonal requirements

I started my winter capsule wardrobe by taking out short-sleeve t’s, 3/4 length sleeves and lightweight cardigans.  It is just too cold in Minnesota in January through March to even consider wearing any of those items.  It’s possible that they could work with layering pieces, but the idea of a capsule wardrobe isn’t trying to make things work, but rather, finding the pieces that do what you need them to on their own.

When choosing my shoes, my requirement was that it had to cover my ankles.  There’s too much other stuff in my life to deal with that I don’t need to add ‘dry and warm my ankles’ to that list.  So, no tennis shoes, Toms, Tieks or heels in the winter capsule wardrobe.  But my toes are toasty.

3 – Be realistic about your lifestyle

The clothes required for your lifestyle should make up the preponderance of your capsule wardrobe.  I love business clothes – dress pants and blouses and heels – but I don’t wear them.  My life as a stay-at-home mom and part-time employee at a church don’t require such attire.  And, no matter how much I love them, if I’m never going to wear them (because there isn’t a day where I would look in my closet and think ‘this is appropriate for what I’m doing today’), then they shouldn’t be included in my capsule wardrobe.

I want to wear leggings every.single.day.  I love my jeans and I found a style last summer that fit like a glove.  But even with that awesome fit, they’re not as comfortable as leggings.  So, of my 10 pair of pants in my winter capsule wardrobe, 6 of them are leggings.  Because that’s what works well for my lifestyle and it’s what I defer to when choosing my outfits.

4 – Build your capsule choices around one another

Like I said earlier, I started my winter capsule wardrobe by choosing shoes.  After that, I moved on to choosing bottoms and started with only choosing pants that would go with the shoes I had just picked.  There’s a pair of trouser jeans that I love, but none of my winter capsule wardrobe shoes would go with the jeans, so they didn’t make the cut.

Because the majority of my bottoms were leggings, I intentionally chose numerous tops that could be worn with those leggings.  Even if 9 out of my 10 bottoms were leggings, it wouldn’t do me much good if I only had 5 shirts that could go with them.


My winter capsule wardrobe contains 10 bottoms (6 leggings, 4 jeans), 5 pair of shoes, 7 layering pieces, 1 dress and 24 tops – for a total of 47 pieces.  This does not include accessories, which, for me, is mostly scarves.  I, occasionally, throw on a necklace, but it is rare.

Use this template to get you started for basic winter capsule wardrobe pieces.

Here is my final product – what I will be wearing for the next three months.

Winter Capsule Wardrobe for a Stay at Home Mom :: maximizingdaysblog.com

P.S. Read what a capsule wardrobe is and why it’s appealing and what I learned from my first few months of my summer capsule wardrobe.

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How I Became a Morning Person

How I Learned to Become a Morning Person :: maximizingdaysblog.com

I am not a morning person.  I am a world-champion sleeper.

I’ve always wanted to be one of those people who got up early and exercised and read the paper and got ready for the day and cooked breakfast before anyone else was up.  That sounded so amazing.  But not amazing enough to get my butt out of bed.

As I’ve gotten older, and especially since having kids, my wake up time has gotten progressively earlier.  Over the past five years, I’ve had a collective two years of waking up early and working out, but could never sustain that habit for more than 3 or 4 months because, well, I love my bed.  I’d just resigned to the fact that I will always be that person who wakes up about 10 minutes after she needs to – and that it will not be before 6AM.

Late this fall, I decided that I needed to work out more often and that the best way to do that was to try Body Pump at our local YMCA.  The class was offered three times a day, but the only time that worked in our family’s schedule was 5:30 AM.  I use the word “worked” very loosely here.

I came home and mentioned it to my husband, who was, predictably, very encouraging and told me to do it.  It’s easy to tell someone else that they should get out of bed at 5 AM.  He said “Try it for one week.  What do you have to lose?”.  (Sleep is the answer to that question, but I didn’t say it.  Out loud.)

So I tried it.  I got up at 5AM on Monday morning and went to Body Pump.  I yawned through the whole thing, but I was there, so I called it a win. And I got up at 5AM the next day.  And the day after that.  And the day after that.

By Thursday morning, it felt different.  It felt better. I was as shocked as anyone.

I’ve been a morning person for a little over a month, and I don’t know if there’s any going back.

How I Talked Myself Into Being a Morning Person

1 – Recognize that I hate getting out of bed, no matter what time it is, so I might as well do it at 5AM.

It’s not any easier at 10AM than it is at 5AM.  And the action is an unavoidable piece to the day, so do it at 5AM and get it over with.

2 – Get Up Early Everyday – Not Just the Days that I Had To

This was my husband’s idea.  I’ve tried waking up early before – and by early I mean 6AM, none of this lunacy 5AM business – but only on the days that I was going to work out early.  I haven’t been able to sustain that schedule for more than a few months.  Josh suggested that it might be easier to get up at 5AM if I got my body into some kind of cycle by doing it every day.

It sounded a little crazy to me, but the reverse hasn’t worked so it was worth trying his crazy plan.

3 – Gave Myself An Incentive for that Early Morning Time

Body Pump is only on Monday, Wednesdays & Fridays.  Being done with my workout by 6:15AM is incentive enough for me to get out of bed on those days.

On Tuesdays and Thursdays, when I have nowhere to be at 5:30AM, my incentive to get out of bed is time alone to read my devotional and study the Bible.  I get up, brush my teeth, make my coffee and grab my books.  I sit in our cozy recliner and have uninterrupted time to set my heart and my mind on what I need for the day.  I’m a better mom, wife, friend and person because of this time.  

I also check off a few of the day’s To-Do list items that can be done quickly when I’m not interrupted.

4 – Adjust My Schedule To Get Enough Sleep

Unequivocally, the hardest part of this new lifestyle is the early bedtime.  I need 8 hours of sleep.  This is non-negotiable.  Do the math.  A 5AM wake up time requires being asleep by 9PM.  That’s early.  There’s no getting around that.

When I first considered this, my two hesitations were: 1) I don’t want to get up that early, and 2) Going to bed that early means giving up the little bit of time I have with my husband.  I felt like we barely had any time, just the two of us, when I went to bed at 10:30, because of everything that needed to get done after putting the kids to bed.

What I’ve discovered is that the ‘getting stuff done’ time that used to follow putting the kids to bed has now shifted to before they wake up in the morning and after they finish breakfast.  Those blocks of time used to be filled with my sleeping or trying to get ready for the day, but since that’s all complete well before the children wake up, I now have everything done before the kids go to bed.

We are fortunate in that our children are in bed by 7PM, so even with getting ready for bed at 8:30, I still have a good amount of time sandwiched between their bedtime and mine. And that time now belongs to Josh and me.  Not my To-Do list.

Our time together has grown in quality and quantity since I became a morning person.  This has absolutely been an unintended consequence, but one for which makes getting out of bed at 5AM worth it if it were the only consequence.

5 – Just Tried It

Again, the credit for this goes to my husband.  His suggestion to try it for a week gave me the freedom to not feel committed to something (because, by feeling committed, I would feel like I failed if I didn’t follow through with it) and just see how it worked.  It’s easier than I thought it would be.  And I could have NEVER guessed that that would be true.  The only way to learn it was to try it.

All but one of the benefits of being a morning person that I mentioned earlier were not things I ever considered.  I only learned them by doing it.

There’s a domino effect that occurs in our family when I get up early.  My morning task list includes:

  1. Workout/Computer work (depending on the day of the week)
  2. Make my bed
  3. Make Coffee
  4. Set our vitamins
  5. Do my devotions
  6. Start breakfast

When breakfast is ready for the kids when they get up, they finish eating their breakfast earlier.  When they finish eating their breakfast earlier, they are finished getting dressed earlier.  When they are finished getting dressed earlier, they have more time to play with Dad before he leaves for work (and I can start my daily cleaning task, which is what I do while the kids play with their Dad).

The success of our day is directly correlated to how much quality time the kids have with their Dad in the morning.  I can’t explain it, but I have scientific data to prove it.  (That data, in case you’re curious, is the number of plea for help texts I send Josh through the day).

When I start my cleaning task earlier, I’m finished with it by the time Josh leaves for work, which means when Dad leaves, I get to jump in and play with the kids right away.

My kids’ day started with a family meal together and quality time with both of their parents.  This was possible because I got out of bed early.  If that doesn’t make a 5AM wake up call worth it, I don’t know what does.

 

Try it.  For one week.  What do you have to lose? (Don’t say sleep.)

How This Self-Proclaimed Late Sleeper Learned to be a Morning Person :: maximizingdaysblog.com

P.S. Read about more time management tricks here

 

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4 Tricks to Toy Organization

I haven’t met a single parents who has said “My kids just don’t have enough toys.”  Have you?  And yet, we keep accumulating more and more.  Never is this more evident than after Christmas when there’s a barrage of new toys that now need to find a home in your already cramped-for-space house.  Is toy organization an oxymoron?  Where do you even start?

You start where every organizing project does – Purge & Sort.

PURGE – Start by going through ALL of the toys that you have.  Yes, ALL of them.  Throw away anything that’s broken or missing pieces that are integral to it’s operation.  Make a pile of toys that your kids have outgrown and donate those (or, if you’re not done having children, pack the grown-out toys away for when you return to that phase).

After Christmas is a great time to do this.  Make room for all of the new loot by getting rid of the stuff you don’t need.  Bonus: Include your kids in this step.  It’s good for them to be a part of the process and then they’re not looking for that thing you secretly threw away because they were part of the decision to get rid of it.  (This works, maybe, half of the time.)

SORT – Categorize toys by grouping like items together in piles.  Start with broad categories (ex. Art, Building, Pretend, Active, etc.) and once you’ve gone through everything, go through the large piles and break them up into more specific categories.  Your goal is to have each pile match the size of the containment that you have.  Remember, that is your goal, but it will not happen with every pile.  Just work toward that and we’ll deal with the surplus later.

4 Tricks to Toy Organization - Sort toys into categories :: maximizingdaysblog.com

“How do I choose containment?”  Great question.  Start with the available space with which you have to work.  If you are in a position to purchase storage, start with a piece of storage furniture that maximizes available space (i.e. uses as much of the space as possible), remembering to utilize vertical space.

We have an entire wall in a room, so I chose the Ikea Kallax shelves.  They have multiple sizes and with the drawer, door and bin options, it’s almost as good as customized built-ins.  But they’re not fixed.  The shelves can be moved at any time and serve many purposes as our needs evolve.  The cubbies are significantly larger – higher and deeper than most comparable models, which meant getting more bulky kid stuff in each container.  Win!

4 Tricks to Toy Organization - Ikea Kallax shelves provide flexibility :: maximizingdaysblog.com

 

Now that you’ve done the leg work, here are a few tricks of the trade for transforming those purged piles into an organized toy space.

Toy Organization Tricks

1 – Use Large Toys as Storage Units

When we were looking to buy a toy kitchen for our daughter, one criteria was that it have the space in it to store the kitchen-related toys.  We found this one and use every inch of the refrigerator, oven & dishwasher space to store play food and dishes.

4 Tricks to Toy Organization - Use Large Toys as Storage :: maximizingdaysblog.com

The space underneath play tables is also an ideal place to store large or bulky items.  We have large puzzles, and big trucks that fit neatly under our train table.

4 Tricks to Toy Organization - Use Large Toys as Storage :: maximizingdaysblog.com

4 Tricks to Toy Organization - Use Large Toys as Storage :: maximizingdaysblog.com

2 – Corral Smaller Items

These Ikea magazine file boxes are perfect for coloring books.

4 Tricks to Toy Organization - Corral Small Items :: maximizingdaysblog.com

When searching for containment to corral, remember that you want to make sure that what you’re storing is still easily (key word!) accessible.  If it’s not easy to get out, it will not get put back in it’s spot.  Kids are lazy.  They get it from us.

Toy organization is hard enough for adults to maintain.  Make it as easy as possible for kids to maintain it.  Or they won’t.

3 – Repurpose Unused Containment

You don’t always need to go and buy new storage containers.  Start with what you have, but no longer use.

4 Tricks to Toy Organization - Repurpose Unused Containment :: maximizingdaysblog.com

These jars used to hold my baking supplies, but I have since jumped on the oxo bandwagon.  I kept these beauties because they were too perfect not to use for something else.  In this case, it’s all of our coloring paraphernalia.

The clear glass is ideal because the kids can easily see what’s in each jar.  (It is not ideal in that it provides a dangerous weapon for a 2 year-old to hit his sister in the head with when she uses the crayon he wanted.  True Story.)  Our play area is carpeted, so other than weapon use, the glass nature of the containment isn’t an issue.

4 – Give Kids a “FREE” Space

Create a finite space of your choosing in which the kids get to put whatever they want.  This is their “Monica closet” (forgive me, non-Friends fans, but I know no better way to describe this space).  This is the stuff that has no other space, but with which, your children cannot bear to part.  Whatever can fit in that space is allowed to stay.

For us this is Home Depot projects.  On the first Saturday of every month, my husband takes our children to the Home Depot Kids’ Workshop and they build something.  It’s the cutest thing ever and they LOVE it.  They hammer and glue and paint and make memories that will last a lifetime.  And I’m stuck with the projects.  My children, the sentimental beings that they are, cannot fathom getting rid of the trucks, toolboxes, bird houses and planes that they’ve built with their Dad, so that’s what they decide to put in their Free Space.

4 Tricks to Toy Organization - Give Kids Free Space :: maximizingdaysblog.com

Now comes the fun part.  If there is one.  Each pile goes into your chosen containment.  Decorate and label as you choose.  As you can see, neither of those are high priorities in this house.

I had grand plans of labeling bins, but neither of my kids can read, so I was going to do pictures.  But, it turns out, that kids don’t need pictures to remember where stuff is.  I, on the other hand…

Some day, we will repaint the walls and put a chalkboard on the wall with cute art or something.  Some day…

4 Tricks to Toy Organization - Find toy storage that maximizes available space :: maximizingdaysblog.com

Here’s how our organization ended up:

4 Tricks to Toy Organization - Kallax Organization :: maximizingdaysblog.com

4 Tricks to Toy Organization :: maximizingdaysblog.com

Overwhelmed by all the stuff that comes along with kids?  Read about how we’ve started giving experiences as gifts and how I organize their dresser.

4 Tricks to Toy Organization :: maximizingdaysblog.com

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