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!

‘Wish for It’ Pinterest Board

I am that person that always has a list of things that I would like.  I grew up in a family where you wrote wish lists for Christmas and your birthday, and I’ve carried on that tradition.  The other reason that I still make wish lists is because I am a terrible gift giver, and whenever it comes time to get someone something, I always wish that they had a list.  Some people say that it’s lazy, and maybe that’s a small part of it, but a bigger (in my opinion, the more selfless) part of it is that I want to make sure that I get the person something that they really want.  Add to this equation my inability to do subtlety, so unless someone explicitly says to me “This is what I want”, I won’t pick upon it.  Thus, I love when people have wish lists and I always have one to help out those who are generous enough to give me gifts.

With the advent of technology, I no longer write my lists and mail them – like I used to do when I was a kid.  I have created a board on Pinterest called “Wish For It”, which is my digital wish list.  Almost all of the people who give me gifts follow me on Pinterest, so they can look at it anytime.  I can also add things to it at anytime.  My favorite feature, however, is that by putting the items on my Pinterest board, a person can click on the pin, and get directed to the link where they can order the item.  I like to think that I’m helping them save time and maximizing their days too!

I still get all kinds of gifts that aren’t on my “Wish For It” board, which is awesome.  But I have also had a number of times that people have said “I found this on your Pinterest board”.  Mission Accomplished.

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?

Tracking Gas Mileage

I can’t take credit for this one.  This is 100% my Grandpa.  When I got my very first car (my mom’s 1986 Toyota Camry), my Grandpa equipped it with a number of “necessary” driving tools, including, (but not limited to):
  • De-icer for the door locks
  • Maps (the paper kind – Remember those?….)
  • An emergency roadside kit, including flares
  • Tire gauge
  • Flashlight that doubled as a tool box (tools were included)
  • Visor organizer
  • Gas Mileage tracker
It’s the last item that is the focus of this week’s Tuesday Tip.  The Gas Mileage tracker wasn’t something that Grandpa found and thought ‘Oh, Kristin will need this.’.  Nope.  He made it.  My Grandpa firmly believed that you should ALWAYS track your gas mileage on your car, so he created a system to make it as easy as possible.  (Can you tell that my tendencies are genetic?)  He bought a mini-notepad that had the little elastic loop connected to it to hold a pen.  He then glued a calculator on the front flap of the notepad.  Each time you filled up with gas, you wrote the following information on a line:
  • Date
  • Number of miles on that tank of gas
  • Total number of miles on the car
  • Number of gallons purchased
  • Gas mileage for that tank (which was figured – using the very handy, attached calculator – by dividing the number of miles driven on the previous tank of gas by the number of gallons purchased)
My grandfather passed away almost seven years ago now, but I still faithfully track the gas mileage for each tank of gas.  When my husband and I were first dating, I pulled the notepad (I’ve had to buy/make a couple since the original he gave me) out of the glove compartment to figure my mileage.  Josh looked at me with an expression that clearly said ‘What on earth are you doing?’.  I explained that tracking your gas mileage is one of the best ways to keep tabs on the general well-being of your car.  If something starts to go wrong on your car, more often than not, your gas mileage is one of the first things to be affected.  I didn’t actually know if this was true, but Grandpa gave me the same reason fifteen years before when I had given him the same expression that I just received, so I made the same case.  Honestly, Josh wasn’t as easy to convince as I was.  But he knew that it was important to me, and so we track the gas mileage on both of our cars each time we get gas.  
If nothing else, I feel good when I drive away from the gas station knowing that my car got good gas mileage this week.  And don’t we all need another reason to find some joy in our day?
If you don’t want to create your own gas mileage tracking notepad, use this printable and stick it in your glove compartment.

Creating a Cleaning Routine

How to Create a Customized Cleaning Routine that Works for You ::

I didn’t used to need a cleaning routine.  When something looked dirty, I cleaned it – and by look dirty, I mean a visible pink ring in the toilet bowl or the ability to write a note in the dust on the shelf.  Not ideal.

After my daughter was born the time gap between seeing the pink ring in the toilet and cleaning it grew dramatically longer than it had been before she was born.  I found myself becoming increasingly frustrated at my inability to keep up with housework.  I’m sure you’ve never been there.  (sarcasm…)

Once I quit my job to stay home with my daughter, I decided that this was something that I needed to do better.  I looked at all kinds of cleaning schedules on Pinterest, but it was hard because no one person’s cleaning tasks are the same as another’s.  The more I looked at other people’s routines, the more I became convinced that the best cleaning plan is the individualized one.  We all have different homes, schedules, number of people in our homes and hobbies, so it’s very unlikely that one person’s schedule would work for the next.

Other people’s lists are a great resource, however.  Instead of using them as my list, I used them as the inspiration to create my own.

How to Create a Customized Cleaning Routine that Works for You ::

How To Create A Customized Cleaning Routine

1 – Identify all of the tasks by writing them down

Start at one end of your house and think through everything that needs to be done in that room/area to make it spotless.  Do this for each room/area.

Do not get overwhelmed.  Writing them on the list does NOT mean that you have to go do all of them right now – or even anytime soon.  It simply acknowledges the task.

I was pleasantly surprised by how short (translation: manageable) my list was.

2 – Assign the frequency for each task (Daily, Bi-Weekly, Weekly, Bi-Monthly, Monthly, Seasonally, Annually).

There are two ways to look at this.  If you’re the type of person that likes to stay on top of things and doesn’t easily get overwhelmed, schedule them more than they actually need to get done (for example, I have vacuum floors as a daily task, when in reality, it should be done 4-5 times a week) and just skip it when it’s not absolutely necessary.

If you’re the type of person who gets overwhelmed by long lists of to-do’s, schedule your tasks less than they need to get done and you’re more likely to do the things on your list.

3 – Identify the blocks of time you have (or need to make) for cleaning

Make this work for you.  If you’re the type of person who likes to do a little bit at a time, then think through your day and set aside one block of time each day for cleaning.  If you would rather get it all done in one fell swoop, then figure out when that time is.

When I was working full time, I had my lunch hour, a half hour in the evening (while my husband did the bedtime routine with our daughter) and Saturday mornings.  Now that I’m home most days, I break it up between Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.  As our family schedule changes, so will my cleaning routine.

4 –  Match up the chores with your cleaning times

I mentioned earlier that I was pleasantly surprised by how short and manageable my cleaning list was.  I was even more pleasantly surprised after I assigned the tasks to days.  When I realized that in order to have my house clean all the time (which it never is, but, if I stuck to this routine, realistically it could be), I had to spend an average of a 1/2 hour a day cleaning, I couldn’t believe it.  I thought, for sure, that it would take a LOT longer than that.  And I certainly didn’t think that I’d be able to stay on top of things by having days when I didn’t do anything but my daily chores.

How to Create a Customized Cleaning Routine that Works for You ::

The best part of this cleaning routine, for me, has been the freedom from feeling bad about not doing things.

Because my old “system” – or lack thereof – was reactionary, if I saw something that needed to be done and procrastinated it, I just saw it get worse and felt bad.  Now, if it’s mopping day and it doesn’t get done, I don’t feel bad because I know that I just did it last week and I will do it next week.

How to Create a Customized Cleaning Routine that Works for You ::

Try this out and let me know what works well for you.  Do you have other hurdles when trying to stay on top of this?

And, because I said that other people’s routines can be a good resource, here is my list:

How to Create a Customized Cleaning Routine that Works for You ::

p.s. Read more about my morning cleaning routine and evening cleaning routine.