Questions to ask a Group Child Care Center

So, you’re pregnant. After you’re done accepting all the unsolicited advice (just kidding, it never ends), you start to think about who will watch baby when you go back to work, if you need to/want to go back.

By the way, wanting to go back to work is a thing, and that’s okay.

You have a few options. If you’re lucky enough to have family around and willing to help, you probably won’t end up with child care bills the size of your mortgage. You can also hire a nanny, or if you’re looking for child care, you can choose home child care or group child care.

This post will walk you through the process of finding a group child care center that works for you.

Time out for a sec – why should you listen to me? I was an assistant principal for a preschool/child care center for almost 5 years. I did tours of our school daily and was asked ALL THE QUESTIONS. Some people say “there is no such thing as a ridiculous question,” and trust me, sometimes there is. But I’m going to tell you what you should be asking! Also, at the end of this post, I have created a printable for you to take with you if need be. You can print it off and there’s a spot to write down the answers you receive.

  • Do you currently have space or do you have a waiting list? How do I get on that list? Personally, I think this is the most important question to ask! Don’t let the answer scare you away, either. If their answer is yes, time to find out how long. And just because they tell you their next spot isn’t available until 3 weeks after you need to start doesn’t mean it’s not right for you. Someone ahead of you may decide between now and then that they don’t want to go back to work, or they got a new job and the location doesn’t work anymore, or grandma decided she wanted to watch the baby. There are so many things that can change. We have also had people go with another school because they weren’t full, so they thought their baby would get more attention there. Not always the case. Sometimes there is a reason why they aren’t full. Don’t pick a school just because the timing is right.
  • What is your sick policy? This question is important for a few reasons – you want to know what precautions they take to avoid everyone else getting sick. When do they allow the child back in? What do they do if a child shows up sick? Do they wait to see if they get better before calling? Do they not let the parent leave the building without the child? Do they call parents if the child just “seems” sick or if there is an actual fever? If you have a demanding job, it might be difficult for you to leave work so you don’t necessarily want to be called for everything. Or, you have a super flexible job and you do want to be called. Most child care centers require a doctor’s note to return and the child needs to be fever free (anything above 100F is considered a fever in most places) for 24 hours without meds to return.
  • What is your policy on payment if the child is sick for an extended period of time? A lot of schools don’t have this in writing but can be flexible if your child misses 5 or more days consecutively, but this is entirely up to the school, especially if it’s not specified in the contract.
  • How do you handle discipline? You don’t want a school that will disenroll your child for biting as a toddler because this behavior is age appropriate. It’s unpleasant for sure, but it is completely age appropriate. Will they work with you to try to rid your child of inappropriate behaviors? (IE, biting at 3 years and up, hitting, etc.)
  • What is your vacation policy? I worked at one school where you had to pay half of your tuition when you were on vacation, and another where each year you get a free week if you’re gone from Monday – Friday and your weeks did not roll over to the next year. So if you don’t use it, you lose out on it.
  • Do you have yearly price increases? What percentage, typically? Most schools do, and we would have a lot of parents who said they had no idea!
  • Do you provide diapers, wipes, formula? You may also ask if they will do cloth diapers for you and how they handle sending home the dirty ones.
  • As an infant, do you follow the parents’ schedule or your own? Some child care centers will adjust baby’s schedule to accommodate the hustle and bustle of the school and some will follow yours.
  • Do infants get outside time? Some group cares will take the infants out for a stroller ride, allow them to sit and get some fresh air, maybe read a book outside. Outside time is important for babies.
  • When you move children up to the next class, do they all move together or with their birthdays? This is important because if they move children based on their birthdays, then how do they adjust to the current curriculum that is happening in the new room? Children should be moved together to cater to their curriculum and current abilities.
  • How do you handle late pick ups? Most schools have a certain amount they charge, per minute usually, for late pick ups.
  • How do you track infants’ milestones? Infant rooms should have a curriculum they follow. To some, this may sound silly. But trust me, in between all that crying, napping and bottle feeding, learning is so important!
  • When children are older, how do your teachers handle rough drop offs? Starting your child as an infant is a great start to avoid rough drop offs. They’re more common with kids that start after 18 months. However, they can still come when kids are old enough to test their boundaries. Find out how they would handle a kiddo who is having a rough drop off and ask why they do those things to help you understand.
  • Can I call to check in on my baby? When are the best and worst times to call? Running an infant room is tough work. You want to make sure they are okay with you calling, or if it easier for the teacher to call  you when they have a few minutes of downtime. You don’t want to call in the middle of 5 babies all needing a bottle at once!
  • What days are you closed? Child care centers are generally closed for major holidays, but some random ones can sneak in there for teacher improvement days so you’ll want to know if you need to make special arrangements for those days. Don’t let them sneak up on you!

Some tips for you when visiting schools….

  • Ask to see more classrooms, not just the infant room. You want a school where you feel comfortable until Kindergarten. Don’t be afraid to take a peek at what older children are doing!
  • Read the contract. Don’t just sign it and hand it over when filling out your paperwork. It’s a lot of reading, but make sure you are reading it right! Every school has different rules and you want to make sure you understand them.
  • Ask for a daily sheet (if they have them) or an example of how you will know how your child’s day went. A lot of schools now have apps where you can read about their day on your phone. Ask to see an example of that so you know how you will be filled in about their day.
  • Ask for references, specifically people who have been there a long time. They have been through lots of rooms, teachers, and kids.
  • Decide if you want a center near your house or near your work. If it’s near your work, it’s easier to get to if something should happen or your child is sick. If it’s near your house, your child will have less time in the car.

I hope this is helpful, and if you have anything to add, please leave it in the comments section below! Here is your printable I promised 😉

2017 Gift Guide

(This post contains affiliate links – meaning, if you purchase from any of these links, I will get a small kick back at no cost to you.)

Choosing gifts for your kiddos can be stressful. But it doesn’t have to be!

I’ve asked some moms of kids ages 0-5 what their children’s favorite toys/activities are and have compiled an Amazon list for you. Please feel free to add toys to the comments and I will periodically update the list!

Don’t get hung up on the age titles. A lot of these gifts can be useful for most of the ages – I just broke it up based on the ages that all the moms gave me. You may also see some repeats!

Under 1 year

1 year

  • Roller Coaster – My daughter has this at speech and she absolutely loves it. I can’t get her to leave!
  • Water Wow – These are so clean – and my 2 year old and 5 year old love them. Just fill the pen up with water and draw away. They’re made by Melissa and Doug so you know they stand up to a lot.
  • Weebles – I had no idea these were still a thing until someone mentioned them. Definitely picking some up for my little one.
  • Touch and Feel Books – These never get old in our house and Amazon is full of all different kind.
  • Lift the Flap Books – Also a huge hit in our house! They are great for working on fine motor skills.
  • Baby Stella & Friends & Accessories – Another favorite in our house. About 18 months was when my daughter really started being interested in baby dolls. These are soft and can be thrown in the wash when they decide their baby Stella needs a drink of water. Not that I’m speaking from experience or anything…..
  • Mega Blocks – Ages 1-2 are a great time to introduce Mega Blocks. Their big size are perfect for toddlers’ little hands.
  • Drum Kit – Toddlers like noise. Need I say more?

2 years

  • Matchbox cars – These were huge when my kids turned 2. Amazon has a ton of them and lots of accessories.
  • Roller Coaster – This is one of those toys that is found in a few age groups.
  • Dress Up Clothes – for boys and girls. Kids love to pretend play. Don’t forget superhero capes, too!
  • Water Wow – Found in a few of our age groups! 😉
  • Weebles – Yes, they’re still a thing!
  • Floor Puzzles – Keep it simple with these large floor puzzles.
  • Train Table – 2 years old is about when kiddos start to have favorite things – superheros, trains, cars, babies, etc. Train tables are huge at this age, too!
  • Elefun – This fun game uses an elephant’s trunk to shoot out little butterflies and you have to catch them! A great game to start teaching taking turns.
  • Career Figures – These little wooden guys are so cute – and start teaching kiddos about different career people!
  • Mega Blocks – Great for this age and so close to Duplos!
  • Luvabella Responsive Baby Dolls – I had no idea what these were until I looked them up. They are exactly as they sound. Responsive baby dolls! They look so fun.
  • Look and Find Books – These are great for the car, doctor’s office, basically anywhere kids have to wait.
  • Magic Track Sets – These are so cool. They are tracks kids can set up by themselves (or with help) and they glow in the dark.

3 years

  • Felt Story Boards – and all their accessories. It’s like reading a book, only you don’t have to read it to them and they can choose the outcome! 😉
  • Matchbox cars – don’t forget all the accessories, too!
  • Cabbage Patch Little Sprouts – Think “little people,” but they look just like Cabbage Patch Dolls.
  • Dress Up Clothes – for boys and girls. Kids love to pretend play. Don’t forget superhero capes, too!
  • Magnatiles and Magformers – Just like Legos or building blocks, but they don’t click together. They stick together! Always a hot item.
  • Leap Frog DVD’s – I am convinced this is where my kid learned his alphabet. You can browse all of them here.
  • Grossery Gang – These will be a hot item this year too, I think. They are little figurines (which seem to be all the rage right now) and you can even grab some cases to carry them.
  • Play-doh – If you’re like me, you hide the play-doh and really only let them play with it when you’re in serious need of quiet time 😉
  • Plus Plus Blocks – A new fun and interesting building block for the kids who can build for hours.
  • Squigz – Another fun building toy! These would be great for sensory seeking kids who need the push and pull effect.
  • Zoob – More building stuff!

4 years

  • Shopkins – I am not sure these need an explanation. These have been pretty popular toys for a while. You’ll find carrying cases on Amazon, too.
  • Dress Up Clothes – for boys and girls. Kids love to pretend play. Don’t forget superhero capes, too!
  • Fingerlings – Apparently these are the hot toy this year. Personally, I don’t get it but I’m not a kid! They sell out pretty quickly.
  • Magnatiles and Magformers – Just like Legos or building blocks, but they don’t click together. They stick together! Always a hot item.
  • Microscope – My oldest has a microscope and will grab anything to put it in there and look at it.
  • Baby Alive – Another cute baby doll is the Baby Alive. You can feed her and her poop comes right out! Haha. Sorry, apparently I’m 4.
  • Twozies – These are sort of like the Shopkins, Grossery gangs, etc. They’re little figurines and you absolutely have to collect them all, duh!
  • Blind Bags – So there is this new phenomenon where people sell bags with figurines that you obviously have to collect all of them. But you don’t know what you’re getting until after you buy it. Whoever created this phenomenon is a genius. Because we’re suckers for it in our house, too. We do a lot of the superhero ones here.
  • Play-doh – If you’re like me, you hide the play-doh and really only let them play with it when you’re in serious need of quiet time 😉
  • Plus Plus Blocks – A new fun and interesting building block for the kids who can build for hours.
  • Squigz – Another fun building toy! These would be great for sensory seeking kids who need the push and pull effect.
  • Zoob – More building stuff!

5 years

  • Nerf guns – And don’t forget the darts!
  • Legos – My 5 year old wants ALL THE LEGOS for Christmas. It is the only toy he is allowed to keep in his room, mostly because I don’t want to be tripping all over them in the playroom.
  • Magnatiles and Magformers – Just like Legos or building blocks, but they don’t click together. They stick together! Always a hot item.
  • Imaginext sets – Fisher Price makes these super fun figurines and accessories. We have a Batman one and it gets played with every single day.
  • Osmo – So I had never heard of this but it goes along with an app for your iPad. You can get all these accessories and is a huge hit for kids who love science and math. You watch on the screen and do the work on the table. Osmo just knows what you’re laying out. So cool!
  • Plus Plus Blocks – A new fun and interesting building block for the kids who can build for hours.
  • Squigz – Another fun building toy! These would be great for sensory seeking kids who need the push and pull effect.
  • Zoob – More building stuff!
  • Mario Monopoly – Um, I want this.
  • Board Games – I think I could play board games all day. Just sayin…
  • My Little Pony – Another classic toy that is still around.
  • Science Kits – My oldest turns everything into a science experiment so we are big on these in our house.
  • Art Supplies – Everyone is an artist, right?

All ages

  • Kindle Fire – great for road trips, waiting rooms, heck, even just quiet time. I don’t judge screen time! Keep an eye out for these on Black Friday!
  • Nest Swing – my daughter has one of these at speech therapy, and like the roller coaster, I can hardly get her to get down from it.

Have an idea that I’m missing? Let me know in the comments! Happy Shopping!

The Best Unsolicited Baby Advice

So, you’re pregnant with your first baby. Yay babies!

I am sure by now, you have discovered that as soon as you make that fun, super cute Facebook announcement, EVERYONE is a baby expert and EVERYONE has the best advice out there.

“Cherish this time!”

“Breast is best!”

“You can’t hold a baby too much!”

“Don’t eat hot dogs!”

“Sleep when baby sleeps!”

“Do you have heartburn? That means baby will have hair. Buy some bows!”

“You are carrying low. You’re having a boy. I just know it.”

“Are you going to find out the gender? You totally shouldn’t!”

The list goes on. and on. and on. and on. so. much.

Now, I am no expert, but I went against a lot of this advice. I ate hot dogs, I had heartburn like a champ and both my babies had no hair, I had no idea what “carrying low” meant. But what I did learn in my 2 pregnancies is you have to take any and all advice with a grain of salt. The bottom line here is it is YOUR baby and if you make any mention at all about said baby, you’re going to get advice or suggestions.

In my moms group, I asked what everyone thought about this advice. I approached them with this question:

“Imagine you have a friend who knows NOTHING about being pregnant, having a baby, labor – nothing. What is one piece of actually helpful advice you would give them?”

The helpful advice started pouring in, and I’m here to compile it for you.

First and foremost – take any and all advice with a big old grain of salt. Like I said earlier, this is your baby. Whatever you (and your partner) decide will (probably) be the best decision. Don’t want to buy that fancy rock n play? Don’t. When I was pregnant with my second, it was all the rage. Everyone told me to buy it. I didn’t – because it was expensive and our house was tiny. Also, I had no intention of my kid rooming with us. And you know what? My kid is a great sleeper.

Accept all help offered. I wish I had followed this one more. If a friend of yours calls you up and asks “what do you need,” don’t be afraid to tell her “I need my dishes done.” But also don’t feel guilty if you want to be the one to do those dishes. Which brings me to my next point….

Ask for help. Don’t feel guilty if you’d rather do the dishes than sit with your newborn. Caring for a newborn can be incredibly overwhelming and exhausting. My oldest was an awful napper, so once I got him to sleep, I never wanted to start anything because chances are he was going to wake up in 45 minutes anyway.

Don’t be afraid to tell someone “no.” If someone wants to come over and you want alone time, do not be scared to tell them to buzz off. Maybe not in those words, but you know what I mean. 😉

Hormones are real and they suck. You will hate and love your partner 15 times in one day and that is normal. You will laugh and cry at the same commercial. If you thought hormones were crazy when you were pregnant, just wait until your body is trying to level out after having the baby. This too, shall pass.

Don’t put your babe on a schedule just yet. You are 2 strangers getting to know each other. It’s going to take time to figure each other out, and that’s okay. Keep an open mind and expect the unexpected.

You are not a failure. I know you’re going to go through days where you think you are. If you and your baby survived the day, you did not fail.

What I feel to be most important – it’s okay if you don’t feel an instant connection with your baby. It really is. You are both strangers to each other and you’re supposed to just click. Sometimes you don’t. Sometimes it takes a few weeks, months, whatever. I wish someone had told me that it was okay to not feel that instant connection. I felt like a horrible mother. But trust me when I tell you, it will come.

And last, but certainly not least. If you have a boy, point that penis down when you change his diaper 😉

I hope this helps. Is there something you would suggest to a newly pregnant friend that we didn’t list here? Tell us in the comments!

NEW Subscription Box COMING SOON

Hey there moms!

Does Pinterest totally overwhelm you?

Do you see an awesome at home activity for your little one but then cringe at the idea of having to go to a separate store to buy all the supplies?

And what are you going to do with all that extra baby oil? You have zero use for baby oil.

I am here to save you.

I am launching a subscription box this winter. you choose the age of your child (birth – kindergarten) and I send you a box each month with 2-3 activities that you can do together at home. You will also get access to an exclusive group where parents and caregivers chat about activities that they’re doing at home, tips and tricks about keeping your kiddos engaged and suggestions for games/activities.

I also will include an activity guide with your box. It will explain in depth HOW to do the activity and WHY you are doing the activity. It will also give you suggestions on how to differentiate it if your child isn’t feeling the intended purpose. Abandoning is not always necessary!

To keep up with my progress (including information on a local to Naperville, Illinois focus group), please enter your email here. Keep a look out for your confirmation email in your junk or promotions tab!

I couldn’t be more excited about this launch!

An Open Letter Of Apology To All The Moms I Used To Judge

To the mom who just hardly made it to the grocery store looking halfway presentable herself, with her toddler’s hair out of whack, no shoes and socks on (because she took them off in the car and you didn’t feel like fishing around for them) and dirt on her sweet little pink pants. I apologize for thinking you didn’t care enough to get you and your kid dressed and ready for the grocery store.

To the mom trying to leisurely stroll through the aisles of a clothing store while her toddler handles her cell phone like it’s an indestructible dog toy, just so she can get some peace while shopping, I apologize for thinking you are careless and spoil your kid because you are allowing her to play with your cellphone – your lifeline.

To the mom who hands her preschooler an iPad during dinner at a restaurant because it’s the only way you and your husband can enjoy some peace and quiet because you can’t afford a babysitter or have no family to help you. I apologize for thinking “why don’t you just have a conversation with him?”

To the mom who turns on the TV for her kids from 7am – 5pm just so she can have some time alone or because she doesn’t feel like “momming” that day. I apologize for thinking you should really just spend time with your kids.

To the mom who dropped her kid off at daycare when she very clearly had the day off, I apologize for thinking you should be keeping him at home and spending time with him.

To the mom who “allows” her kid to climb into bed with her in the middle of the night or who climbs into his bed when he needs her because of a bad dream or just to fall asleep, I apologize for thinking you were just spoiling him – when in reality, that was the only way to get him to go back to sleep and at 3am, you do what you have to do.

To the mom at church on Christmas or Easter with her son in dress pants and a dress shirt but ratty old gym shoes because he refused to put on the nice ones you bought because they were “too tight,” and that’s just not a battle you chose to fight that morning. I apologize for thinking you should be coming to church every Sunday and your son should have something much nicer on his feet than ratty old gym shoes.

To the mom running errands with her toddler (who can clearly walk) strapped to her back in a carrier because if you allowed her to walk, she would tear through the store like a tiny tornado. I apologize for thinking you should let her explore and learn how to walk properly through a store.

I apologize to all of these moms because I am that mom now.

My toddler’s favorite activity is tossing her shoes, socks and hair tie around the car on any trip longer than 30 seconds.

My preschooler spends more time in front of the TV than I’d like to admit so I can get stuff done and he won’t bother me.

I have handed my toddler my cellphone while it plays music so she’ll sit still in the cart at the store.

I have a carrier in my car at all times for quick errands when I don’t feel like allowing her to run around like a crazy person.

I don’t wear jeans simply because “baby weight” is now my normal, even though my kids are almost 5 and 2, and none of my jeans fit anymore. I don’t want to spend the money on new ones and can’t bear to go shopping, finding out what my true size might be.

I have “allowed” my oldest to climb into bed with us in the middle of the night because he “needed to.” I lay with my son every other night until he falls asleep because he “needs it.”

My kid will spend hours in front of the iPad watching ridiculous YouTube videos so I can get stuff done or just not have to answer one of his 4000 questions of the day.

Now that I am a mom, we are all on the same team. So I don’t judge you anymore – I salute you. I am happy that you found a way to get through your days with still keeping your sanity. Let’s keep supporting each other because you don’t know what happened in that mom’s house 15 minutes prior to the activity that you’re judging. And she knows nothing about yours.

Taking Time For Yourself – Yes, It’s Necessary!

Yes, taking time for yourself is necessary. No, it’s not always possible. But I’m here to help you figure out how.

Last year I wrote a post about how to beat the Stay at Home Mom Blues. I laid out some of my favorite things to do to stay on top of it.

When I was working full time, it actually was a lot easier to take time for myself then now that I’m not working. I would run to get my nails done while Dylan was still in daycare when I got off early. I would drop him off early at school and go to the gym before work. I feel like you hear more often than not that it’s more difficult for stay at home moms to get that alone time.

But it’s just as necessary as working moms. Now, when I say taking time for yourself, I do NOT mean working that full time job. I mean doing something solely for yourself. While grocery shopping for the family alone or sitting at the pool reading a book while your kid has swim lessons is a nice break, it’s not for YOU.

It may seem like this is impossible. But to make sure it is possible, the first thing you need is support. You need your spouse to be on board with alone time. People aren’t mind readers. So you have to tell them you need alone time. Make your plans and let them know you are peacing out for a few hours. If not (or if you are a single parent) you need support elsewhere. A family member, babysitter, neighbor, daycare, nap time, whatever. You have to free yourself of the responsibility of being a parent to get something done for yourself.

Once you’ve figured that out, find what makes you happy. Reading, shopping, creating, crafting, sewing…the list goes on. I reached out to my lovely mom group and asked them to hit me with their most favorite alone time activity or selfish habit. Everyone deserves one!

It is also so, so important that you SCHEDULE this alone time. I have found that if I don’t write it down or schedule it, it isn’t less likely to happen – it just flat out doesn’t happen. And that sucks.

  1. Direct Sales – It’s something for YOURSELF. Yes, you are helping other people by giving them products in which you believe but some people truly enjoy it. They are sharing things that you love. (Side note, think about that next time you roll your eyes at someone’s direct sales post on Facebook 😉 )
  2. Gym – This is a pretty popular one. When I go to the gym, I drop off the kids and lose all sense of adultness. I turn my music up as loud as it goes (Samsung, stop telling me it’s bad for my ears. I don’t cuuurrr) and I just move. Run, steps, bike…just go. To be totally honest, I’m not there 100% for the work out. I’m there for the private shower. I’d say it’s about 50/50 for me. I also enjoy going to a class or 2 during the week.
  3. Massages – OH MY. If you don’t do this AT LEAST once a year for your birthday, you are missing out! I think the best part about my massages is I have to disconnect from the outside world. Phone stays off and in the purse for a whole hour. That’s huge for me. But I’m okay with it! It feels nice to just turn off.
  4. Take a bath – This was also a pretty popular one. I know some moms who do this at least 2 times a week. Put some baking soda and/or bath bombs in there too! Just make sure to lock the bathroom door if the kids are awake 😉
  5. Girls’ Night – Yes, this is a must as well! I have 2 friends that I see probably once a month. We get together for dinner. We plan it for later (like 6:30ish) because I have to wait for my babysitter (read: hubby) to get home from work. Plan something monthly for dinner with friend(s) – maybe the first Tuesday of every month or something. It’s nice to just chat with an adult not about kids and not about work.
  6. Pampering – Mani/Pedi is a popular one, too! Again, another time to just sit down and unwind. Let someone else do all the work! And you get pretty nails at the end.
  7. Write – Part of the reason I started blogging was to do something for myself. I always used to journal growing up and I missed it so much. So I started writing and you know what? It feels so good to just sit at my computer and type, type, type.
  8. Sleep – Also possible. Go to bed right after you put the kids down. Toys don’t need to be picked up right now. Laundry doesn’t need to be folded right now. Just go to bed at 8:15. Try it.
  9. Skin Care Routine – No, this is not a sales pitch 😉 I have a friend who has a 10 step skin care routine each night. 10 steps. I am way too lazy for 10 steps, but she loves it. She literally told me “it’s my me-time.” Get you some, girl.
  10. Take a day off work – if you are a working mom, take a day off. You have personal days for a reason. Take a day off to sit at home in your jammies. Send the kids to daycare/school and do not feel guilty about it. You even can spend the day cleaning. If that’s what relaxes you. I don’t judge. If you’re a stay at home mom, your spouse gets personal days too. He/she can use them on you. Take a day off and handle the kids while you do your thang.

Lazy Mom Cleaning Hacks

(This post contains one or more affiliate links)

I am lazy. AF. During the day, the last thing on my list is cleaning. I’d like to say it’s because I spend so much time with my children that I just can’t bother with it. Truth is, I just hate it. I do the necessary things – sweep the floor when things are getting stuck to my feet, vacuum under the kitchen table when Reagan can muster an entire meal from the “crumbs” (I miss my dog), laundry when Dylan has to break into his whitey tighties, clean the toilet when….I’ll spare you the rest of that one.

I do have a few cleaning hacks that I use so I reached out to my Facebook group of moms and asked what their hacks are. Because let’s be honest – we all have at least one. AT LEAST!

I compiled them for you in a nice little list (you can print it out at the end, too.)

Cleaning Hacks to Keep Life Mostly Under Control
(You see what I did there?)

  1. Sprinkle baking soda in the garbage can (and diaper pail) before putting in the new garbage bag, but after you take the full one out.
  2. Essential oils in the air filter for your house to drown out the smell of stinky kiddos/animals.
  3. Put the toilet bowl cleaner in the toilet bowl before cleaning anything. Do your other cleaning, them come back and do the toilet. It has sat there for so long that it has already done most of the cleaning for you. So much less scrubbing.
  4. Baby wipes. You’d be amazed at how well they clean.
  5. Take a bath with baking soda – good for you, good for the bathtub.
  6. Fill one of these bad boys with 1/2 vinegar and 1/2 dish soap. Keep it in the shower and clean the shower while you’re showering. Mind. Blown.
  7. Clean your bathroom mirror and/or counter while you’re brushing your teeth or swishing with mouthwash.
  8. Dryer sheets on the back of a fan to bring a fresh scent into the room.
  9. After cooking something in the microwave with water, wipe away the grime and caked on food with a cloth right after you take out the food. The steam from cooking the food helps loosen up the yuck.
  10. And the obvious – cleaning lady! Treat yourself!

Download and print the list here.

Happy “cleaning!” 😉

My new Favorite Planner

I am an unorganized mess. Part of it stems from the fact that my brain runs 100 miles a minute. I will have an idea and then run off to Hobby Lobby for all the supplies, only to get home to realize I had 3 other things I needed to get done.

Story of my life.

I wanted to start blogging again and I knew with blogging and mine and Gina’s other website (noshamemommies.com – shameless plug. Completely shameless), I was going to need a planner and it was going to need to be good.

For my 32nd birthday (ha!), I was determined to find the perfect planner. I needed something with the following:

-Week at a glance
-Month at a glance
-Monthly goals
-Weekly goals
-Yearly goals
-Monthly tabs
-Monthly notes section (on the month at a glance AND at the end/start of the month)
-Perpetual calendar

That is a needy list. So I set off to Etsy, because planners that were already made were just not working out for me.

I had no idea what to search for so I just started searching and sending messages asking if they had a planner with the aforementioned sections.

Finally, like a light at the end of a dark, 5 year, random post-it note filled long tunnel, I got a response from Erika with Write it Down Books. She was so patient with me and answered all of my ridiculous questions before I placed my order.

I am only a few weeks in, but I am obsessed with this planner. It has everything I needed and more. Each month there are places you can write things you need to do, things you’d like to do (because we all know those are 2 totally different things), a place to doodle, and some writing prompts (which is great for bloggers). You can also have her start in any month you want.

It fits perfectly in my every day purse and matches great with my notebook I snagged up at Wal-Mart before I bought the planner.

Doesn’t this picture make you want to just plan everything?! AHHHH!

I don’t think I could have created a better planner. Honestly. I have tried 😉

This planner is the horizontal planner – so the week is laid out horizontally in the book instead of vertically. Here is the week at a glance list….

While browsing her shop, I went ahead and added a password/address book and a bookmark for my planner. You can customize pretty much anything – and for planners that can be customized, her prices are on point – trust me, I’ve done research for years.

I love that she puts your name on the front too!

She also has an option of printing your own planner. Oh, and you can print out a few of her styles and try them out for a week or so before you order. FOR FREE.

Here is my little trio that follows me around the house – besides the kids obviously – my planner, my notebook and my Kindle.

Erika was kind enough to give us a coupon code for the next week. 10% off of your order in her shop and it expires on 4/20/17. The code is MOSTLYUNDERCONTROL10. I encourage you to use it! Seriously, I cannot tell you how much I am in love with this thing.

So take advantage of this code, people. You will NOT regret it.

The Second Child Guilt

A friend of mine came to me with the need to vent. She loves her 2 children absolutely dearly and there is no denying that. But sometimes she is brought back to when life was much easier…with just one child.
Moms who have more than one kid – do you ever think how much easier life was before you added kid 2, 3, 4, etc? 
Oh, no? 
Yea, no me either…
Okay, all bullshit aside, here is some real talk.
 
I do. 
I honest to Pete (whoever Pete may be) think about how easy life was before kid 2, but then I instantly feel a pang of mom guilt. Why, you ask? Well, for starters, I am the QUEEN of mom guilt. And because I seriously am in love with both my kids. I love my first with the fire of 1000 suns, she is smart, kind and hilarious. My second is my last, and I have never felt such contentedness, he completes me and our family and I never knew I had enough love for two kids. So now that I’ve convinced you I truly love my kids, and equally at that, I will be honest and give you the promised real talk.
I waited a long time between my kids. My first was 3 and a half when her brother arrived, she was potty trained, she slept through the night, she was in preschool and semi-self sufficient. I selfishly waited because I couldn’t fathom 2 in diapers or 2 not sleeping through the night, but I also had no interest in changing the amazing groove she and I had. Our little family of 3 had it all, we had fun, we enjoyed each other, we did so much together! But, alas, baby fever reared its ugly head and even though I thought I was content with my perfect daughter, I needed another. I didn’t care if number 2 were a boy or girl. I just couldn’t wait to smell, touch and hear a newborn.
We got pregnant quickly, and my whole second pregnancy was a whirlwind. Suddenly, my due date came and so did our son. Our son, all 7 pounds 6 ounces of him, was perfect and I swelled with love just like I did when we met our daughter. The first 2 months were long and filled with lots of tears and a lot of spit up, medicine, doctors, tests and hospital visits. It was hard on all of us, and I was exhausted, emotionally and physically. I thought in my head “things have to get easier” and they did. Or at least I thought they did.
A week or so ago my husband and I had just my oldest in tow while we ran errands (our son was napping at grandma’s) and it was so easy. I had no diaper bag, no diapers, wipes, extra clothes, or any other kid paraphernalia that takes up a giant bag. There was no fussing because I was containing a child in a God forsaken cart. It was a pleasant afternoon out.
Then, a few days later, my parents took my oldest over night just because. Bedtime was a breeze with just my son. No whining about only having to choose between the 2 pink nightgowns because the purple one is getting washed. No trips up and down the stairs a million times because she “wasn’t having a good night.” No complaints of dyer thirst as if she’d run a marathon in a desert. With only my son it was some milk, a knocked out kid and that was that.
Each time I only had one, I thought “Holy shit! What the hell, why is this so easy!?” then very quickly I regretted that thought. Then my brain went to “I miss my baby” and had a good ole dose of mom guilt. Life was easier with one, life is easier if I get a break from one, and things are most definitely less overwhelming. But, life is amazing with 2. My kids love having each other, and I most definitely love having them. My brain may not fire correctly, I may not remember when my last shower was, and I honestly don’t know how I get through a bad day sometimes, but it is amazing. Things have changed, life has changed but all for the better. I could never imagine my life with only one. My sassy but sweet, quick witted daughter and my destructive, lovable son have made me realize that being a parent was the one thing in life I never knew I wanted and that feeling only came after my son. It is hard, amazing, fulfilling, exhausting and my biggest accomplishment yet and life with 2 is definitely better than 1. 

Beating the Stay At Home Mom Blues

I became a stay at home mom on accident. I instantly rushed and tried to find a job when I lost my job. I thought there was NO WAY I could be a stay at home mom. I knew I wanted to, but way down the road. This one kind of came out of nowhere.
However, I was pregnant. Visibly pregnant. So finding a job was difficult. After I had my daughter, I sort of grew to enjoy staying home and had just started this blog. So I just went with it.
But, as they say, the grass is always greener on the other side. Working mom seem to want to stay home and stay at home moms seem to want to have jobs (not all the time though). I get it. I’ve been on both sides. With staying home often times comes what I call the Stay At Home Mom Blues. I have compiled a list of things to do to beat the Stay At Home Mom Blues.
Wake up before your kids.
This one may sound ridiculous but trust me, it’s worth it. I have shows that I like to watch that have been DVR’d and I used to watch them on my lunch break. Well now that I stay home, lunch breaks do not exist because my oldest gave up napping 1.5 years ago.  So I wake up when my husband leaves for work (around 6am) and knock out my shows then. My true happy place is on the couch, watching my shows, with my hot cup of coffee before the kids wake up. It truly makes me feel great about my day starting because I’ve already accomplished something before the kids are up and I’ve gotten in my trashy TV.
Do something for YOURSELF that brings in money.
Yes, this includes direct sales. You may seem them as annoying, obnoxious posts, but think about what they mean to the seller. They mean swim lessons, basketball practice, zoo trips, lunches together. And they are people that believe in the products. No, this is not a pitch for your to join my Rodan + Fields or 31 team – go join someone else’s if you want. I don’t care. I just know that I love having something for myself that brings money in. It makes me feel a lot less guilty about taking the kids to the train restaurant for lunch every now and then. You could also sign up at rover.com to walk dogs, post on garage sale pages to get out and do odd jobs around people’s houses, grocery shop for seniors, etc.

Join mom groups.

I used to think I had no need for mom groups. “I have my own friends. I don’t need more.” Well, I was wrong. Some of my friends were in different places in life. So someone added me to a mom group after Dylan was born. At first, it was just a place where I would ask a question, then I planned on leaving. 3 years later, these girls are my saviors (along with my “real life” friends..haha). It is a nice place to go at the end of the day and unwind. Answer questions, give advice, get advice, laugh. It really is such a great resource.
Read a book.
Ha, if you’re like me, your first thought was “when?!” We went on vacation and it required a 12 hour road trip. I grabbed some books off our shelves that I had received for Christmas a few years ago and never got around to reading. I am so glad I brought them. I didn’t get through them, but I started one and now it’s making me WANT to finish it! You can get a few pages in in the pick up line when you pick up your kids from school, take a bath after bedtime…make time for it. Think about how often you sit around and scroll Facebook. Replace a few of those sessions with reading a good book.  Bump it up a notch and join a book club on Facebook!
Get dressed, make your bed.
I know, crazy, right? But I truly feel like I get more done even if I don’t leave the house, on the days that I get dressed and make my bed. I feel more motivated! Even getting the kids dressed. When I first became a SAHM, Dylan and I had PJ days pretty much any day unless we were leaving the house. But lately, I have been trying to get dressed in the morning even if I don’t have plans to go anywhere. I feel more ready for the day.
Plan monthly girls’ nights.
My friend Melissa and I started monthly girls nights (it lasted maybe 3 months and then she went and got a job…dumb 😉 ) and it was one of the best decisions. I get to get out once a month and not feel guilty. The kids are at home, sleeping and Dan gets a night to himself as well. He works hard during the day and plays super heroes like the best of them at night. He enjoys a night by himself from time to time, too. You get out and have adult conversation, face to face, with someone other than your husband.
What do you like to do to beat the Stay At Home Mom Blues?
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