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!

Diaper Bag Essentials

Diaper Bag Essentials ::
I live in an ongoing tension between my desire to be prepared for anything that may arise and my aversion to excess.  This was played out in deciding not only what type (and size) of diaper bag to purchase, but also with which  items should go in the diaper bag.  

Diaper Bag Requirements

  1. Plenty of room for the obvious, but also little extras
  2. A compartment for my stuff.  I didn’t want to carry this bag AND a purse, so I needed this diaper bag to do double duty
  3. Not look too diaper bag-y.  In appearance, I wanted it to be father on the purse end of the scale rather than on the typical diaper bag end.
  4. (Seemingly contradictory) Not look too feminine.  My husband needed to be able to carry this around and not feel like he was carrying a woman’s purse.

Thanks goodness for Amazon.  It took a long time to find one that fit all of the criteria.  We decided on the Skip Hop Grand Central bag.  It was a lot more than I wanted to spend on a diaper bag, but more than one person warned me that the cheap bags were not worth it because they fell apart so quickly.  I quieted that cheapskate voice in my head and purchased this bag.  

I have not regretted it once.  

It does exactly what I wanted it to do.  The middle compartment is sizable and fit all of her diaper stuff, a set of extra clothes, ointments, and a pouch with medicine and other toiletries.  One of the outside pockets has a designated spot for my phone and worked perfectly to hold my stuff.  We use the other outside pocket for toys or stuff for feeding.  

One of the reviews I read said that they didn’t like it because it got bulky.  It can get bulky, but that’s usually because we’re stuffing it full.  

One feature that I didn’t think would be a big deal, but that I have come to LOVE are the straps that allow it to easily hang on the handle bar of the stroller.  They are sturdy and easily hold a very full bag, which allows us to use the entire under compartment of the stroller for other stuff without having to carry the bag on our shoulder.  

Diaper Bag Essentials ::

My one complaint is that I wish that it had a crossbody strap so that I could carry it across my body.  That being said, I’m not sure that a bag this size would be able to be comfortably worn on my hip.  

Once we had the bag, we had to decide what to put in it.  I handled this much the same way I handled all of these issues that came up with a firstborn – I went to Pinterst.  I found a number of lists that were helpful, but almost all of them had a bunch of things on them that I didn’t intend on even using, let alone carry around in our diaper bag.  

Truth be told, in my tension between wanting to be prepared and my desire to not have a lot of stuff, more often than not, the minimalist tendencies win out.  And if something happens, I make due with what I have.  It is almost always sufficient.

Diaper Bag necessities -

Diaper Bag Essentials

  1. Diapers (obvi…)
  2. WipesHint: When our packages of wipes would get low, I would make them the diaper bag wipes so that I didn’t have to lug around 100 wipes.  It was way cheaper than buying the small package
  3. Diaper disposal bags
  4. Travel size diaper ointment
  5. Sunscreen
  6. Travel size bath wash & baby lotion
  7. Medicines: Tylenol, ibuprofen, gas drops & corresponding droppers
  8. Lightweight toys (Sophie the giraffe, fabric books, etc.)
  9. Nursing cover
  10. Single-serve formula packet – We received these as free samples.  I breastfed exclusively, but decided to keep them in her bag in case we were ever in a pinch and didn’t have a way to get her breast milk
  11. Nipple Shield – This was an unfortunate reality for me, but using this was the only way I could nurse.  I heard horror stories of how annoying it was, but I didn’t think it was that bad.  I had two and kept one in the diaper bag, so wherever we went, I had what I needed to nurse her.
  12. Swaddling blanket
  13. PajamasHint: Instead of carrying an entire extra outfit, I always had a one-piece pajama. It accomplished the same purpose as an outfit, but was less to carry.  That, and I didn’t want one of her outfits to not get used because it just sat in her diaper bag
  14. Onesie 
  15. Hat
  16. Clutch purse – I downsized my purse to a clutch so that I had everything I needed in one spot.  The clutch fit nicely in the diaper bag, but when I didn’t have the diaper bag with me, I could grab the clutch and go.

As she got a little older, the only two changes were that I didn’t keep a change of clothes in there for her because she didn’t have blowouts anymore and there wasn’t the need for the swaddling blanket anymore either.  The only addition I made once she started eating solid food was a container of cheerios.  If we were going to need to feed her, I packed the diaper bag for that with food, a spoon and bib.

For the most part, I feel like I found the balance I was looking for.  

We always had what we needed, but haven’t had to lug around a bag that weighs as much as she does in order to be prepared for whatever her little life brings.  

What essentials do you put in your diaper bag?  What am I missing?

Card Sending

Card Sending 2I grew up in a card-giving family. For birthdays, you always gave and received two cards; a humorous one and a sentimental one. And we were those people who sent “just because” cards on a frequent basis. Most college students spent more money than they should have at bars and at the mall. I did so at Hallmark. (Okay, I spent more than I should at the mall too).
After I graduated from college, I moved to Washington, DC and I still sent birthday and anniversary cards, but I wasn’t as on top of it as I used to be. By the time I moved to Minnesota a few years later, I was doing well if my grandma got her birthday card a week after her birthday. And the ‘Thinking of You’ cards? Forget about it.

Now, I know many people will say that sending cards is outdated, and they may be right. But I’m old school – at least when it comes to this. Even in our instant gratification culture, I still get excited when I receive (real) mail. I like getting texts; my phone dings with a message, I read it, and it ends there. But when I open my mailbox and there’s a pretty envelope with my name and address hand-written on there, it means a little more. See, old school.

I decided that I needed to make this a priority. I needed to find a way to make sure that the people I cared about knew that I cared about them. An action plan was put in place and it looks like this:

  1. I did what I always do when I need to come up with a system for something: I created a spreadsheet. Use this one page printable  or this three page printable and put it in your card-sending station. Use old calendars, your memory and whatever else you used to use to keep track of these things to find all of the “card-sending” events for your loved ones. It’s a quick, at-a-glance way to see how many cards need to be sent in a month and to whom.
  2. Get the cards.  You can buy them individually, in box sets or make them.  I’ve done all three at different times.  Don’t get hung up on this.  Whatever works best for you.Card Sending 1
  3. Create a card-sending station. Having everything you need for a task all in one place is the difference maker when it comes to these kinds of tasks. Have your cards, envelopes, pens, return address labels, address book and stamps all in the same location so that you have everything and you don’t constantly get interrupted to go get something to finish the task.
    Card Sending 2
  4. Write the cards. Once a month find a time to sit down and write all of your cards for the next month. Pull out your list, choose a card for each occasion and write all of the cards for the next month. I have found that the middle of the month is the best time to do this because then I don’t miss those beginning of the month events. In addition to the event cards, I also pick two people each month and send them a ‘Thinking of You’ card. I wish I could do this more, but I have learned that if I don’t do it during this time, it doesn’t get done. Writing the messages in the cards is the most time-taking part of the process. But it is also the best part. When I make myself sit down and put in writing how much I love and appreciate people, it makes me love and appreciate them even more. And it reminds me how fortunate I am to have such wonderful people in my life.
  5. Address and stamp the envelopes. I have a spreadsheet that is saved on Dropbox, so I can look up everyone’s address on my phone. If you’re more old-fashioned and prefer an address book, use that and keep it in your card-sending station.
  6. Put a post-it on the envelope with the date it needs to be mailed. To be on the safe side, I pick a date that is six days before the event. Card Sending 3
  7. Put them in a high-traffic area where you will see them and be reminded to stick them in the mail. I put mine in our outgoing mail holder in our ‘Command Center’ which we walk by each day.

Card Sending 4

Card Sending 5

That’s it. You will be amazed at how little time this actually takes. I love the feeling I get when I grab an addressed envelope and drop it in the mailbox; knowing that in a few days one of my favorite people will know how much they mean to me. The only downside is that they may call you to tell you how much they appreciated what you wrote, but because you wrote it over a month ago, you can’t remember. Not that that has ever happened……


Breast Milk Storage

Breast Milk Storage & Freezing ::

If you are nursing and are able, building up a reserve supply of breast milk is a great idea.  When my daughter was born, I was working full-time, so breast milk storage was a necessity for me.

Building up a breast milk supply will necessitate a freezing and storage system.  Because of the nature of breast milk, it’s ideal to have a system where you can easily access the oldest milk.  And efficiently use the freezer space.

I did all of those things wrongs in my first go-round.  But I eventually figured it out.

Breast Milk Storage & Freezing Steps

1 – Decide on a “freezable quantity”.  What I mean by that is decide how many ounces you want in each frozen bag.

When I went back to work, I was pumping more than I was nursing.  Each day, when I came home from work, I combined the milk that was pumped into bigger bottles to take to day care the next day. Whatever surplus there was went in a separate (usually smaller) bottle and was stored in the fridge.  Once that surplus reached 5 oz. – my pre-determined “freezable quantity” – I would pour it in a storage bag.

If you’re pumping solely for the purpose of building up reserves, then you can skip the combining into bottles step.  Just pour the milk in the bag(s) and go to step 2.

*Tip: Even though the bags have ounce markings on them, don’t try to use the bag to measure.  Use the bottles to measure and then pour.

2 – Label the Bag

All breastmilk storage bags have a spot designated to label the important details.  For me, the two that mattered were the date it was pumped and the ounces.  Feel free to include any other information that you find necessary.

I found that the Sharpie Ultra Fine Tip pens worked best on the bag labels, so I kept one in the storage bag box.

3 – Lay Bags Flat in Freezer

This is a game-changer.

Laying the bags down to freeze (ideally, on a flat surface – my favorite was a frozen pizza or the top of an ice cream container) makes it so that the milk freezes flat which is so much easier to store.  If you set them upright in the freezer, then they become blobs with flags and there’s no good way to organize blobs.

4 – Store Flat Bags Upright in Deep Freezer Door

Obviously, this only works for people who have an upright deep freezer.

Originally, I bought this container to store the milk, only to find that it held a measly ten bags.

Breast Milk Storage & Freezing ::

A deep freezer door is ideal because it’s the same width as the bags and it made grabbing the oldest milk from the front easy.

When I was adding to the supply, I put the newest milk at the back and it was a good cycle.

Breast Milk Storage & Freezing ::

If you don’t have an upright deep freezer, another good option is pop can cases or my favorite bins.

My favorite thing about this process was that it didn’t take any more time to do it this way than it would if I wouldn’t have been so intentional and organized with it.  I only gained time and space.  That’s my ideal situation!


*I’ve reached the point where I’m now using the reserves that I had stored in the deep freezer.  At it’s highest point, three shelves were filled with milk, which was a lot, but didn’t seem like it because it all fit so nicely in the freezer door.

*The storage container didn’t go completely to waste.  It ended up being the perfect container to take a week’s worth of breast milk to and from our day care provider (when I was giving her frozen bags instead of thawed milk in bottles).  Once we got to solid food, it was ideal for storing pureed food pouches.

Breast Milk Storage & Freezing ::