Family To-Do Lists

Living in Minnesota means that I spend about 8 1/2 months a year looking forward to summer and all the spoils that come along with it.  The only thing that makes enduring Minnesota winters worth it and soaking up all that Minnesota summers have to offer.  The problem is that they offer so much and there is such a limited window of time in which to take advantage of those offers.

Going into my first summer as a stay-at-home mom, I knew that I wanted to be intentional about doing as many of those things as I could.  I’d seen ‘Summer Bucket Lists’ that my friends did with their kids and I loved the idea.  I also knew that I had so many ideas of summer activities that floated through my head through the non-summer months, that if I didn’t write them down, I’d forget them and get to September and realize that I never did fill-in-the-blank.  And I hate living with regrets, so I made a list.

Upon completing the list, my OCD kicked in.  I decided that an arbitrary list of activities wouldn’t be helpful to me without some sort of timetable.  I found three pieces of tag board and made calendars on each of them.  Using my cricut, I cut out the letters for ‘June’, ‘July’ and ‘August’.  That’s about as artsy as I get.  I wrote each of the bucket list items on a small post-it.  I wanted to be able to map out the calendar of activities, but I also knew that there was no way that I could know in June what day in August would be best to make a Cheerio necklace.  I also made a ‘To Do’ board for the activities that weren’t yet scheduled.

I hung the calendars and to-do list on the wall by our basement steps.  It was a high-traffic area where I was reminded each day of the things I wanted to do.

Family Calendar 1

Family Calendar 2

Here’s the thing.  It became more of a task to get post-its off the ‘To Do’ list and on to a calendar.  I wouldn’t say that it went so far as to take the fun out of summer, but what was intended to maximize our summer days became a little bit of a chore.  In hindsight, I made what I assume is the typical rookie mistake: I had WAY too many activities on our ‘To Do’ List.  By the middle of August, I made peace with the fact that not every post-it would leave the ‘To Do’ list.  I decided that the goal of the ‘To Do’ list was to give me ideas of fun things to do with my family and make the most of these wonderfully warm Minnesota days; not to be one more thing that just had to get done before September came.

That was a game changer.

Family Calendar 3

Family Calendar 4

Family Calendar 5

Family Calendar 6


After summer, I decided to make family to-do calendars for the fall as well.  I had learned my lesson (or so I thought), and I was due with Baby #2 in October, so I wanted to make sure to enjoy the last few days with just one child and make sure that I didn’t use pregnancy/newborn as an excuse not to enjoy all the things I love about my favorite season of the year.  I was very conservative in our activities for the Fall.

Not conservative enough.  It turns out that taking care of a newborn AND a toddler is a perfectly good excuse to let fall fly by.  I should have made post-its that said ‘Keep 2 children alive’, ‘Change 10-12 diapers a day’,  or ‘Shower once a week’.  (Now that I think of it, only two of the three of those would have made it from the ‘To Do’ board to the calendar.  I’ll let you guess which ones….)  By the end of November, more post-its were on the ‘To Do’ board than on the calendars, but I’m okay with it.  We had a great fall.  And we did a lot of fun things.  And we became a family of four.  AND I kept 2 children alive.  Success.

It took me two seasons to learn a few important lessons, but now that I have, the Family To Do calendars are here to stay.  It’s a great way to be intentional about getting the most out of these days with young kids and create memories with my family.  I look forward to when the kids are big enough to help me make the lists.

Friday Faves

I thought I’d share a few of my recent faves……

I’ve written of my love for all things Skip Hop in the past, and I’m pumped because I finally bought this back pack.  I’ve always thought it was the cutest thing, but I didn’t really have purpose for it.  Well, E has reached the age where I sometimes need to bring a few things to entertain her when we go places, and this back pack is the perfect size.  Plus, she LOVES wearing it.  I thought it was cute on it’s own.  On her back, it’s a million times cuter.  And it holds a TON of stuff.

This instagram feed is fantastic.  Every day, I find encouragement in it.

I haven’t purchased this (yet), but I’m thinking that this tool would be a perfect addition to my kitchen tools drawer.  I wonder if it works as well as they say it does….

I got this FitBit bracelet for Mother’s Day and I love it.  Now my FitBit feels and looks like an accessory and not just a black, plastic band on my arm.

My hair is getting a little thicker and it has more texture lately.  I love the good parts of pregnancy – here’s hoping that it doesn’t all fall out and give me bald spots again.  I’m finally able to not have to wash my hair every day, which I am loving.  However, I don’t really know how to style day-old hair.  I’m not a big you tube-er, but I’ve been watching quite a few of her hair tutorials lately.  My hair doesn’t look nearly as good as hers, but I’m making progress.

Speaking of hair tricks, I just discovered texturizing spray.

My daughter is about the easiest kid in the world, and I am ridiculously lucky.  I know this.  That being said, she has just entered the stage where when I ask her to do something, she shouts “No!” and runs away.  I’m not normally one for things with sayings, but this mug came across my instagram feed this week, and I totally wanted to get it.  I don’t have room in my mugs cupboard, so I didn’t, but I considered taking a screen shot and making it the lock screen on my phone.

Reclaiming Sunday Nights

Reclaiming Sunday Nights :: maximizingdaysblog.comUgh.  Sunday night.  It’s not my favorite.

I was one of those strange kids that liked school and even more fortunate adults who liked her job, and now enjoys staying home with my kids – and I still dread Sunday nights.

The finality of the weekend is such a bummer.  It seems counterintuitive, but it’s even harder now that I am a stay-at-home mom.  I work hard to get all the stuff that is necessary for life done during the week so that when the weekend comes, we can focus on enjoying it.  And enjoy it, we do.  And then Sunday night comes and all I can think is “it’s five long days until we’re back here again.”  It’s a terrible attitude.

Reclaiming Sunday Nights ::

A couple months ago, I read an article in Real Simple where people shared meal highlights and ideas.  One lady wrote about how she grew up with Sunday nights being the one night a week that her mother didn’t make a complete meal or they didn’t sit at the dining room table to eat it.  I can’t remember the exact menu, except that it included a baguette and popcorn and they ate it at the coffee table while watching TV.

I was immediately drawn to the idea of doing something “special” – but simple – on Sunday nights as a family.

So I instituted Sunday Night Snacky Supper.  We have Bible Study every other Sunday night, but on the Sundays when we’re home, it’s Snacky Supper.  The menu varies slightly, but usually includes a meat and cheese tray, crackers, veggies & dip, and fruit.  I joke that it’s snacks disguised as a meal.  (My husband says that I don’t disguise it enough.)  If I’m feeling really ambitious, I’ll add a hot appetizer or store-bought sushi.

We’re not big TV watchers.  We do, however, love sports, so if we’re watching TV, there’s a 90% chance that a sporting event is on our TV. Most Sundays, I bring Snacky Supper to our family room and we eat supper while watching a game.

Reclaiming Sunday Nights ::

Last Sunday, there was no sporting event on, so I suggested that we have a family Wii tournament.  I honestly don’t know where the idea came from.  I’ve played Wii ten times in my life, maybe.  But I thought it would be a fun change of pace.  We invited family to join us, but they had other plans, so it was just my husband, me and our 21 month old.

My husband and I played tennis, bowled, hit home runs (or, in my case, didn’t hit home runs) and golfed.  In between turns, we ventured over to the supper trays and grazed.  We let our daughter do the same thing.  She’s never had a meal that didn’t involve sitting in her chair with her food on her plate, so we weren’t sure how it would go, but she did great.  We started out with a plate on her lap, but once she finished that, then she did what Mom and Dad did.  This was in between her laughing at the funny dances I did when I had a great shot and cheering for whoever was up at the moment she decided to cheer.

It was one of the most fun nights we’ve had a in a long time.  And it happened on a Sunday!  It wasn’t until I laid down that night that I realized that it was Sunday night and I was in a good mood.  It had been too long since that had been the case.

Snacky Supper had been a tradition for a while now, but this new game component of it was here to stay.

It won’t always be Wii Tournaments, if, for no other reason than I’m not sure which emotion would hit first for me, boredom or frustration with constantly losing.  This summer, it will probably be an assortment of lawn games.  During the long Minnesota winters, I’d imagine it will be back to Wii and good old-fashioned board games.  The common denominator being that there will be some sort of fun activity for our family to do together.

The reason that I was always so grumpy on Sunday nights is that our family time had come to a close.  What Snacky Supper made me realize is that instead of wasting the little bit of remaining time left mourning that, I should take advantage of it with the very people that make the weekends so great.

Reclaiming Sunday Nights ::

Reclaiming Sunday nights (or whatever time where you need what my Grandpa used to call an “attitude adjustment”) was all about figuring out what brought me the most joy.  For some people it may be that they need to be alone.  For others, they may want to enjoy a really nice dinner on their fancy china in their formal dining room.  For me, it was being intentional about spending time with my family and doing something fun.  As far as the meal, the key has been that I don’t have to decide what to make each week and I don’t have to spend a lot of time with prep, cooking or clean-up.

Now the problem is looking forward to Sunday nights so much that I have to be careful not to wish the weekend away.  Not a bad problem to have.

Reclaiming Sunday Nights ::

Bonus: Snacky Supper is a great excuse to get all the fruits and veggies washed and cut up before the week.  Both my husband and I are great about snacking on fruits and veggies if they’re in a container in the fridge.  If they’re “whole” and in the crisper drawer, we don’t touch them.  I don’t know why, it’s just the way we both are.  So prepping supper on Sunday nights does double-duty for getting easily accessible healthy snacks.  See more about fridge organization here.

How to Organize your fridge -






When life gets real

The idea for this blog started almost two years ago.  Work began about a year and a half ago, with the idea that we would launch when everything was ready.  So it sat for months and we would work on it in spurts.  Finally, in January, my husband and I buckled down and decided to pick a launch date and work to have anything ready that we needed by then.  For no real reason, other than it was the perfect blend of attainable and it lit a fire under us to finish, we picked March 1st.  And everything was done by then.

One factor that did not get considered in picking a launch date was my pregnancy.  We found out that I was pregnant at the beginning of February and it never occurred to me that the pregnancy would affect any goals we had for the blog.  I was wrong.  This is my second pregnancy, and I have suffered the typical exhaustion and nausea that comes with the first trimester during both of them.  This time, it really knocked me on my butt.

There was no maximization to my days whatsoever.  If a day ended with my daughter still alive and well and our house was standing, it was a success.  I slept every possible minute and laid down whenever my daughter let me.  My husband took care of grocery shopping and I’m fairly certain that we will be responsible for a spike in profits for the Stouffer’s company.  All the while, this little blog went live and my ideas and insights for squeezing the most out of life were available for anyone to read.

I felt like such a hypocrite.

My day to day life looked nothing like the habits I was promoting.  Family and close friends kept reminding me that this was just a phase.  It won’t be like this forever.  And while I knew that this was true, it didn’t make me feel any better.

I finally started to turn a corner at the beginning of April and had grand plans for a month of posts about the benefits of and tricks for menu planning.  Obviously, that never happened.  Even though I was starting to feel better, it took me a lot longer than I would have liked to get back in the swing of things.  And the longer I didn’t do anything with the blog, the more the hypocrisy lingered over me.  Who am I to make suggestions to people when I don’t do them myself?  Even when I’m not nauseous every waking minute of the day.

Then I remembered why I started this little endeavor to begin with.  It’s so easy to look around and be overwhelmed by what we think we should be doing or look like or have and settle for the lie that it’s not possible.  There are limitations, obviously.  I’m never going to be the mom that runs marathons, looks like Kate Middleton or has the shoe collection I covet. But parts of what I desire for my days to look like are attainable with some self-discipline and help from others.  And I firmly believe that this is true for everyone.  Our surrounding circumstances do not dictate what our life has to look like.

When I started reading blogs a few years ago, I found a few that I really enjoyed and read faithfully.  But most of what I found on the blogosphere made me feel inferior (through no fault of those bloggers – it’s just my own insecurities).  When I first thought about ‘Maximizing Days’, my hope and goal for it was that it would be a place where people would be encouraged and feel equipped – and that it would show real life.

Pregnancy sickness and exhaustion lead to two months of inactivity, missed opportunities, messes, and a lot of tears.  But, by God’s grace, in four short months, the end result of that will be a beautiful bundle of joy that I can hold in my arms (along with more inactivity, missed opportunities, LOTS of messes and a lot of tears).  Those days are over now.  New days are here.  And with each of those days, I can choose to make the little decisions that make life better in the big picture.

And you can too.

Those grand plans that I had for meal planning tips are now in the works for the month of June.  Stay tuned.

Coordinating Gift Meals

One of the greatest gifts we got when Elida was born wasn’t anything (directly) for her. My friend, Brooke, visited us in the hospital the day that she was born and said “I will take care of coordinating meals for you, so if anyone asks you about bringing you food, have them talk to me.” I was in the post-partum exhaustion/elation haze and just said “Okayyyyyy”, not really knowing what that means.

Brooke has had four babies. She totally gets this bringing-home-baby craziness that I was experiencing for the first time. She knew what a blessing this would be. When someone offered to bring us a meal and asked what we’d like, I just said, “Brooke is taking care of coordinating that. You can call her.”, and didn’t think anything else about it.

The day after we got home from the hospital, Brooke called me and asked how often we wanted meals (every day for the next week, every other day for the next couple weeks, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, etc.), what kinds of foods we didn’t like and what time we’d like them to bring the food. Then she said that she’d coordinate the meals and let me know who was bringing what when. And that’s just what she did.

As it turns out, there were a number of generous people who wanted to bring us food after we brought E home so that I wouldn’t have to worry about cooking. I was amazed. What I would have never known, but that Brooke had learned in her birthing of four children was that sometimes that generosity can actually make things harder. Well-intentioned as people may be, if left to their own to bring meals may mean having 3 meals show up in one day, another one the next evening as you’re finishing making something (awkward!) and another one that your family simply will not eat.

After being on the receiving end of this, I decided that this is a great gift and this kind of gift is totally up my alley. (I get to make a spreadsheet!) When one of my friends have a baby, I let them know that I will take care of coordinating this for them. I ask them the following questions: (which I learned from Brooke)

  1. How often would you like a gifted meal (daily, a certain number of times per week, one day a week, etc.)?
  2. What kinds of food do your family particularly like?
  3. What kinds of foods would not be enjoyed by your family?
  4. What is the best time for food to be delivered?

I also give them a few cards with my contact information. That way, if a person says something to my friend about bringing a meal, they have a very easy way to say “My friend is taking care of this so that I don’t have to think about it.” Use this printable and fill in your contact information and then give them to the new mom (ideally, before the baby is even born).

I use this chart to track who is bringing what meal when. After I’ve got it all scheduled, then I simply let my friend know who will be coming on which days with what delicious meals.  The newborn stage has it’s challenges, but it also is filled with so much joy, and if there’s something I can do to diminish challenges and allow friends to enjoy more of the good stuff, then that is a gift I can’t wait to give!