Category Archives: Mama Life Hacks

Mama Life Hacks {#22}: A Breast-feeding Tip to Prevent Soreness

I almost feel embarrassed to admit that I’ve gotten horribly sore (we’re talking cracking, bleeding, blistering…the works) with every single baby except Honor. After all, that must mean that–six babies in–I still couldn’t figure out how to get a good latch.

Thing was, I’d had several people–long-time midwives and lactation experts among them–confirm that there was nothing wrong with my latch. Everything was where it should be. Baby’s lips were flanged. We were good. I’ve been able to successfully feed all of my babies for a year or more (well, Ezra actually only made it to 9 months, but that child ate so. much. food that my body literally could not keep up enough supply, at which point I got pregnant, and my milk supply completely tanked), so clearly, I’m doing something right. But for the first two weeks, I’ve been in so much pain that I dreaded every single feeding.

I have several mama friends who have confirmed the same–their latches were good, and nursing was going smoothly. Except for the fact that, until calluses formed, the entire process was excruciating, every single time. Of course, I’ve also known a few friends who have never dealt with nursing soreness, regardless of how practiced or not they were, so I just figured I was among the “lucky ones.”

You know who you are: the ones who take deep breaths and hold them to stifle the screams as your baby latches (or maybe you just muffle them into a pillow…not that I would know anything about that). You stomp your feet and hunch your shoulders up to your ears until, finally, the sucking numbs the pain, and you can relax a little. At least until next time.

If this sounds familiar, then this post is for you.

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Because, for the first time in my considerable nursing career, I did NOT get sore while feeding my newborn, and it made a worldof difference in my recovery and mindset about feeding my baby in those first few weeks. 

And I have my rock star midwife, Melena, to thank for it.

Honestly, I don’t know that she would have even presumed to tell me anything if I hadn’t mentioned that fact that I dread nursing for the first bit after I have a baby (because who wants to tell a mama of so many something that she surely already knows?). But, since I did bring it up, she asked if she could show me something that had been helping her clients. And I said, OF COURSE! Honestly, I was a bit skeptical that anything would work for me and my (apparently) sensitive skin. But I was willing to give it a shot.

Thankfully, she sent me videos to show you (the first is real people, and the second is done with sock puppets, so pretty inoffensive to even the most modest) because I’ve thought about how to describe the latching process several times, and I just don’t think I can do it justice, especially for those of you who (like me) need visual aids for this sort of thing.

Here’s Video 1.

And Video 2.

The first part of the process is a different kind of position/latching method than I’ve ever used (seen in Video 2), and I honestly found it awkward and strange (I think almost anyone would). But I still did it for the first several days because I was determined to do everything I could to avoid the pain. And I believe it helped Honor to get an especially deep latch from the beginning. (I have since reverted to my usual latching method, and it works great now that I’ve got the second part of the process down).

But the second part, which isn’t featured in the videos, was the the most life-changing for me.

Once Honor had a good, deep latch, Melena had me basically slide him horizontally away from the breast on which he is latched toward the opposite breast. Not a lot. Just enough so that, instead of being directly on the nipple, the baby is, instead, slid away (as in toward the opposite arm, not down toward your navel), which redirects the nipple toward the roof of his mouth and takes all of the sucking force of off the ridge.

Oh my goodness, y’all. It’s so simple–literally a 1″ shift at most–but so effective.

As in practically no soreness (there’s a bit of a learning curve, and all it takes is a couple of minutes of sucking in a bad position to get a little bit sore, so I can’t say zero pain).

I spent the first 3 days thinking it was too good to be true. That surely the chafing and cracking were still coming. Something this easy couldn’t possibly have been the solution all along.

Or could it?

I am now convinced that it could and is the solution to my nursing angst.

I had considered sharing but wasn’t sure how many might need the info. But when I referenced this tip in passing in one of my posts and got a barrage of comments begging me to elaborate, I knew it was something that needed a blog of its own.

When I asked Melena why more people weren’t sharing this trick, she said that she was never taught this either and can’t even remember how she happened upon the videos (that I shared above) but that they just made sense to her. So, she started sharing with her clients, and they started seeing results. She also said that she knows many lactation specialists who teach that a good, deep latch–with the baby’s lips flanged–is the only factor for success, when, in fact, the positioning of the nipple in the baby’s mouth is equally (or, as I discovered for myself, MORE) important.

I so hope this helps you guys as much as it helped me. As I mentioned earlier, it completely transformed my view of nursing in the early days. I love nursing my babies once the soreness goes away. And I am determined to fight through it at the beginning to give them mama milk. But to not have to deal with it at all? It almost feels to good to be true!

Praise God for wise midwives who risk the wrath of potentially know-it-all mamas to share their wealth of knowledge!

P.S. Feel free to pass this along to any mama friends who might need to see it. I guarantee they will thank you for it.

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Mama Life Hacks{#21}: The Penny System

So sorry for the radio silence, y’all. I have been fighting The Cold of Death since Saturday, and I feel like I’m just now emerging from the fog of hacking coughs and congestion into something resembling normalcy. Yip-to-the-ee.

So!

One of the questions that I have been asked fairly often over the past year or so is:

Do you still have outside help (aka: housecleaning help) in your home?

I have answered it here on the blog, but I know some of you are new, and (OF COURSE) not everyone reads every post, so I thought I’d answer it again:

No, we no longer have any cleaning help at our house. Nothing happened. Except that my kids got older and more capable of pitching in. I really feel like teaching them to be responsible for the home they live in is one of the best ways of instilling Biblical stewardship that I can convey to them, so when it became obvious that, between all of us, we were perfectly capable of handling the jobs that Teresa kept up with, we made the necessary adjustments (just FYI: by this point, Teresa had another job and had only been coming sporadically anyway, so it wasn’t a drastic change).

Teresa is our neighbor–a lady who had never been an “official cleaning lady” before but who needed a job when I needed some help. Shaun found her, actually, after I had a hormonal exhaustion fueled breakdown on the phone while he was gone on one of his (then) frequent work trips, and she was an absolute Godsend. She started working for us when I was about 5 months pregnant with the twins and continued until they were two…give or take. (I can’t remember exactly when she stopped coming). And she was wonderful because she did everything from helping me hang wallpaper to cleaning the refrigerator to the aforementioned laundry. She was a true renaissance woman, and I am so grateful for the blessing she was to us in a time when I had 5 kids, 6 and under, including twins. If I could, I would give the gift of House Help to every mama with little kids.

I answer the housekeeping question today because, as we clean, sometimes we need a little extra motivation to be excellent, and recently we have stumbled upon something that’s really motivating us to work hard.

For lack of a better term, I’m calling it The Penny System.

penny

{See those labeled jars? Yup, they’re a big part of the system. Also, see that pencil? It’s actually a “piggy bank” that holds all of the pennies…except the ones we keep out for rewards}

And it’s ridiculously simple…because any time I try to put a complicated system into effect in my house, it fails. Every. single. time.

So, what is it?

Well, Shaun had a big stash of pennies saved up. We had some cute jars with labels in the cabinets. Et voila!

A simple, effective system of reward (and sometimes punishment) was born.

Basically, we wrote (um, Shaun wrote…not my handwriting…although, I don’t know why I’m pointing that out because my handwriting’s not very good) all of the kids’ names (minus, Theo’s) on glass jars, and then we told them that, every time they did something that fell into a certain category of behavior, they’d get a penny.

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Of course, the little girls were all, “WHOOO! I get a money in my jar!!” Because they have no clue how inconsequential a penny is. But the older kids, while excited, were a little daunted by how many “good deeds” it would take to save up for anything worthwhile.

Until we told them that the pennies themselves are not spendable. Instead, they are to be used as tokens, which can buy privileges. For example, the other night, both Ezra and Simon paid 2 pennies apiece to stay up 10 minutes past bedtime to play Rat a Tat Cat (totally fun card game…highly recommend) with me and Shaun.

penny4

(I doubt you can read this, and it’s hardly an exhaustive list, but that white paper has the gist of our Penny System tasks and rewards on it).

To earn those two pennies, they did something out of the ordinary from their usual list of chores (for which they are compensated in actual money).

Shaun made a quick list of categories and possible actions that could earn pennies (usually just one, but sometimes several).

Some are attitude related (helping without being asked with a cheerful spirit) and are somewhat arbitrary as to whether they are rewarded or not. Simon changed Theo’s diaper the other day without being asked (not something I have him do normally anyway), and you’d better believe he got a penny for it. But then, he wiped up a spill in the middle of dinner without being asked and did not. Both were thoughtful gestures, but as much as we want them to feel motivated to go above and beyond, we also don’t want their desire to help to be fueled solely by an expectation of reward. More often than not, when they do something unusually helpful or kind, they do get rewarded, but they know not to complain (and don’t, actually) about the times when they are not. (Because the fastest way to lose your penny is to complain).

Other categories are more straightforward. For example, Ezra, Simon, and Della have all received 10 pennies for memorizing all 66 books of the Bible. It was on the list. They did it. They got their prize.

The twins are only 3 (almost 4, though!), so their pennies usually come from attitude-related tasks. I mentioned that we work hard to encourage respectful speech. But the twins just weren’t doing a good job of asking without pretty much demanding whatever it is they wanted.

So, we explained that they would get a penny every time they said, “May I please,” instead of “I want.” We’ve been at this for about a month now, and although they’re not perfect yet, they’re better. And if they don’t ask correctly the first time, they almost always correct themselves without being prompted.

Not only that, but as we repeat the same positive actions over and over, everyone is getting a little better about looking for ways to be extra-helpful with a good attitude.

The thing I love the most about it? (Other than the results). I don’t have to hunt for a marker or order a chart. I don’t have to buy stickers or keep up with rows. It either happens or it doesn’t. And, as they “pay” us for their privileges, we are even recycling our “tokens,” which means that the system has a lot of long term potential.

I realize that, if you don’t have a lot of pennies lying around, this isn’t ideal for you, but you could use anything from paper clips to buttons instead.

I do think the penny idea is kind of genius (especially for little kids) just because we’re dealing in actual money, but I’m sure the system could work for a variety of circumstances with a little bit of tweaking.

penny3

{I really love my Paint and Prose “Just Roll With It” print}

Anyhoo, I just thought I’d share something that’s actually working for our family to make us extra-mindful of caring for our house and each other.

And I’m also thinking I’d be a whole lot more motivated to go sort the laundry if someone were going to put some pennies in a jar for me.

Anybody? Any…okay fine. I’ll just go do it. (Apparently, I need to work on the attitude aspect of this whole business).

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Mama life Hacks {#20}-The List That Changed My Life

Okay, so admittedly that title is a wee bit on the dramatic side.

But not untrue.

So, here’s the thing. I like to make lists. There’s nothing quite like the thrill of marking a line through a goal. Boom. Done. Cue: We Are the Champions (and Mighty Ducks flashbacks).

Planners are good too, since they force you to focus your list-making by day and time period. I’m a fan of both and have used both effectively. (Albeit inconsistently).

But here’s the thing: I have a tendency to overload my list.

I know this.

I know that when I write down: clean out girls’ closet, organize pantry, clean fridge, and plant front flowerbeds that I will, realistically, only get ONE of those things done (hopefully) in addition to the everyday stuff that I don’t bother to write down on the list.

I also know that I should probably write down that everyday stuff so I can check it off and feel better about myself when I get to end of the day and maybe don’t have ANY of the “extra” stuff done due to: unforeseen diaper blowouts on the sheets–necessitating a full nursery airing out and 87 foreseen but underestimated 3-year-old tantrums–necessitating accumulated hours of talking-to’s, praying, timeouts, and other various methods of discipline, etc. etc., etc.

Because I can’t tell you how many times I’ve told my husband that I feel like I haven’t sat down or stopped “doing” all. day. long, and I’ve still “accomplished nothing.”

Honestly, if I were to hear another homeschooling mama of 6 say this, I’d be like: “Duh. You’re busy keeping half a dozen humans alive/fed/educated/reasonably happy.” But when it’s me, all I can see are the projects I never even started.

So, one day, this idea popped into my head: what if I wrote down EVERYTHING I do in a day–including time frames–so that I could be more realistic about my goals and also so that, by day’s end, I could look back and see exactly where my time was spent. No more of that: “I have no idea what I did today” business.

My hand got tired just thinking about such a list, so I decided to type it instead.

And you know what?

IT WORKED!

Totally.

Each day that I took the time to start out by typing my list, I ended feeling accomplished and satisfied with my work. Even if I hadn’t done anything “more” than what I consider a normal day.

The key was to include even the most mundane of tasks. Flipping a load of laundry? Yup. Getting the kids ready for the gym? Uh huh. Reading a story to the twins? Absolutely.

After all, they all take time, don’t they?

But if I don’t write them down, then I tend to discount those chunks of 20 minutes here, 15 minutes there, until I’m left with that frustratingly vague feeling of aimlessness when my day has been anything but.

In case you’re wondering what this list looks like exactly, here you go: list1list

This list is from several months ago on a random Tuesday (I don’t save most of my lists), and it’s fairly representative of a typical Tuesday during the school year (notice homeschooling was not on the list because Tuesdays were one of the days that my mom came to teach the kids).

Obviously, I didn’t get every last little thing checked off. Even when I try to be realistic by breaking things down sometimes by 5-15 minutes increments, I can still get too ambitious.

BUT! I can look at that day and see that my time was not spent idly and that I did accomplish a fair bit.

Some days, there’s quite a bit less red, due to my own hubris or unexpected distractions. Maaaaaaybe one day, I’ve checked every last thing off (I doubt it, though).

But the peace that this list gives me at the end of each day? That’s consistent.

Full disclosure: so far this summer has felt about as organized as a toddler-planned birthday party.

Trips!

Sickness.

Birthdays!

Shaun’s traveling.

Swimming with friends!

Seriously. It’s all over the place. That’s summer, right?

But I’m definitely starting to crave more order, so today, I made my first list in a month, and it went a little something like this:

MONDAY:

6:30 – Feed twins + Theo

7:00 – Make/eat breakfast

7:30 – Hang out with Alby (he just got back from a trip, and I’ve barely seen him)

8:30 – Bible reading with kids (totally haven’t done this yet because they weren’t all awake)

8:45 – Write blog

9:15 – Research/load new Audible book

9:30 – Get kids ready for gym

9:45 – Leave for gym

10:15 – Do Combat + 1/2 hour of weights

11:45 – Grocery shopping with kids

1:00 – Lunch

1:30 – Little kids down for naps

1:45 – Rest time

2:15 – Practice reading with Della

2:45 – Sort/start load of laundry

3:00 – Start dinner prep

3:45 – Put away laundry  in bedroom

4:00 – Wipe down kitchen cabinets

4:20 – Play outside with kids

5:00 – Finish dinner for kids

5:30 – Kids eat

6:15 – Read Bible reading (since we didn’t do it earlier)

6:45 – Play time

7:15 – Get kids ready for bed

7:30 – Kids in bed

7:30 – Finish dinner for Alby (I didn’t get to make his Father’s Day dinner last night, so we’re going to attempt a “date night at home” tonight; I certainly don’t usually cook two dinners or get my kids down by 7:30…wish us luck!)

8:00 – Eat dinner + hang out with Alby

Clearly, since it’s summer, there’s a lot more free time and margin for rest, but I think I’ll still enjoy highlighting (most of) these things in red tonight.

So…what do you think of my epiphany? Maybe not feeling accomplished at the end of the day is something you never struggle with, but if it is, and you often feel like you’re not sure where the time went, I HIGHLY recommend at least trying this method.

It’s done wonders for my sanity.

 

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Mama Life Hacks {#18}–$1 Pregnancy Tests

Okay, I know that every single one of your eyes brightened a bit when the word, “pregnancy,” popped up in the title of today’s post, so let’s get it out of the way in the first sentence that this is NOT a pregnancy announcement. Although…it would have been a cute one.

Nope. This is just a PSA for all of you who have ever paid $10 (or more for the fancy ones) for a 3-pack of pregnancy tests from the drugstore that you could be paying a fraction of that…for a product that works just as well.

My friend, Kelli, from Eat Pray Read Love first clued me in to this bit of money-saving magic, and I have since accurately ID’d two pregnancies (and–let’s be honest–ruled out several more false alarms) over the last 4 years.

pregnancytest

If that’s not one for #mamalifehacks, I don’t know what is.

So, where do you find these bad boys? Any “dollar store” where everything really is just $1. The Dollar Tree, and Everything’s a Dollar are two that pop to mind immediately, but there may be others that I’ve missed. (Dollar General, for example, does not qualify).

ANYhoo, other than how much they cost and the fact that they work, I’m honestly not sure what else to say (and it’s rare to find me at a loss for words).

I just don’t feel like an in-depth discussion of the ins and outs of a pregnancy test is anything a) I want to write about or b) you want to read.

pregnancytest1

BUT!

We could talk about that, “Yes, they’re all mine,” tote, yes? I’ve posted about it several times on social media, and I had multiple questions about where to purchase it.

Here you go.

In fact, if you’re a mama of many, you might even say that this post is a #mamalifehacks two-fer since–if you’re anything like me–”Are they all yours” is pretty much a 4X per Target trip question, and having it answered for you just might save you some serious time!

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Did you know you could buy pregnancy tests at the Dollar Store? I can’t believe I overpaid for those little suckers for so long!

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Mama Life Hacks {#16}: Using Bananas to Ripen Avocados Quickly

So, somehow, I got snookered into doing a Whole 30. If you’re not familiar with what that is, it’s a 30 day clean-eating program during which you cannot have any: processed foods, dairy, sugar (including any of its natural derivatives like honey and agave), grains, legumes, or corn.

Which pretty much leaves eggs, meat, fruit, salad, avocados, and sweet potatoes. For life. Or 30 days. So, basically the same thing.

Ha!

No, but really, the way it went down was that I saw my friend, Hannah, post about starting a Whole 30 at about 10 PM the night before it started, and I was like, “So, you’re doing this, huh?” And she was all: “Yup. You in?” I was like: “Um. Well, I’m totally unprepared.” And she said: “Us too.” And so I said, “Okay, sure. Why not?”

So, basically, you shouldn’t ask me to jump off a cliff. Because apparently, I’d do it. Especially, if you tell me you’re doing it too and totally unprepared for any extenuating circumstances.

Solidarity.

ANYhoo…the point of all that is that I’ve been eating a lot of avocados. (Never let it be said that there is not a thin–and I do mean thiiiiin–thread between my vague, random ramblings).

So, Monday, when I started the aforementioned Whole 30, I found myself in the Walmart produce section, coincidentally bumping into my friend, Liz, who is doing it too and was also there stocking up on green stuff. And as we stood there staring at the heaps of bright green, rock hard avocados, I had a flash of brilliance!

Okay, fine. I remembered someone else’s flash of brilliance.

Because, you see, just a few weeks before, Shaun’s Great-Aunt Tonya (who is, like, the coolest aunt ever) had heard me complaining about how my avocados hadn’t ripened up in time for the twins’ birthday party, and she said, “If you’ve got 24 hours, you can have ripe avocados.”

bananaswatermark

Do what?? I think my jaw literally dropped open when she imparted the epic wisdom that, if you put an unripe avocado in a bag with a ripe banana, it will ripen within 24 hours.

Of course, I had to put this fascinating little tidbit to the test.

And, OF COURSE, I shared my tip with Liz. So, we both scooped up big bags of avocados and went on our merry ways. (Mine was less merry when a certain toddler decided to melt down over not being allowed to buy drinking yogurt, but let’s not talk about that).

When I got home, I hunted around for a paper bag, but we’re environmental heathens, and all I could find were plastic ones. banana 3 I figured they would do in a pinch.

Turns out, I was right.

I popped 3 unripe avocados in a plastic Walmart bag with one banana, then that inside another bag, just for good measure.

That was Monday afternoon.

When I took them out Tuesday evening, this is what I had.

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I’m guessing you can tell which avocado sat in the sunlight by the window for 24 hours and which one was imprisoned with a banana for the same amount of time?

Pretty cool, huh?

P.S. I bought unripe avocados today, even though they had ripe ones, just so I could do this little magic trick again. Because I’m a nerd like that.

Did you already know about this? Does it work for anything else? I tried to find out from my good friend, Google, but the results were inconclusive.

 

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Mama Life Hacks {#15}: Reusing Baby Food Jars

Okay, I feel a little sheepish about this post because I feel like, after reading the title of it, you’re probably expecting a litany of clever ways to repurpose glass baby food jars.

Like for craft supplies or planters or organizational doo-dads.

And yes, all of those would be fabulous ways to stretch your baby jar use from one to many.

But the #mamalifehacks tip that I have for you is soooooooo much simpler–so much more DUH!–than that.

Here’s the thing: I like to make my own baby food as much as possible. It’s healthier. It’s cheaper. It’s convenient, since if I run out, I don’t have to hightail it to the store for more (assuming that I have the makings of baby food on hand).

It’s just so stinking easy to throw some sweet potatoes in the oven, then whip them with a bit of water in my Ninja into yumminess for Theo.

Still, I keep a small supply of store-bought baby food in the pantry for when we’re out and about or when I’m making dinner and need the boys to feed him without the hassle of retrieving, portioning out, and heating up homemade food from the fridge.

Because the only thing I don’t love about the homemade baby food is the mess and then the storage. When I make it in my Ninja, I typically either a) pull out the blades and then shove the whole container in the fridge, pulling it out and glopping some in a bowl as needed or b) scrape it out of the Ninja into a Tupperware container and then store that in the fridge.

Either works, but it’s not my favorite thing to locate a bowl and then fill it with food. Not saying it’s a big deal. Because it’s not. In fact, on the hardship scale–with 1 being: I stubbed my toe and 10 being: I live in a 3rd World country and don’t know where my next meal is coming from–it doesn’t even register.

And yet.

If I can find a way around it, I will.

Now, I know there are fancy blender attachments and Baby Bullets and whatnot, which allow you to store the food in small quantities, individually, but I don’t have any of those. And neither do I have any desire to buy one.

So, the other day, when the boys (aka: little hoarders) asked me if they could spirit two used baby food jars away for “projects” (I think we all know this is code for: something else to grow mold on), I happened to be standing in front of a freshly mixed batch of homemade baby food.

And as I held up the used (but washed) baby food jar, trying to think of an excuse for why Simon couldn’t take it to his room and then lose it under his bed for all eternity, it’s like Theo’s sweet potatoes spoke to me, and said: “NO! Take me instead!” #namethatmovie (this one’s harder than the Princess Bride reference from last week).

baby food jars2

And so, the idea of reusing baby food bottles for the purpose of–hold on tight now–storing baby food was born.

I know, right? So brilliantly simple and obvious that I’m sure EVERYONE in the entire world has thought of this besides me.

baby food jars watermark

Which means that I’m typing to myself.

Which is kind of a waste of time, since I was there when I had the original (tiny) epiphany and all.

But still.

As DUH (see? I told you) as it may seem, I am loving having tidy little bottles of pre-portioned homemade baby food in my fridge. No more Tupperware. No more big Ninja karafes taking up space. And NO MORE fishing food out of one container to transfer it to another container every time I need to feed Theo.

Oh! And I can now easily take homemade food with me (as long as it’s not going to sit in my bag for any significant period of time, of course). And then? I can toss the container! (Because who wants to accidentally forget about a baby food Tupperware container in your purse only to find a lovely fuzz colony in there a week later?)

I won’t blame you if you think I’m slow for only now figuring this out.

But I also won’t mock you if the light of revelation is just now dawning in your eyes as well.

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Theo’s clearly a fan of my newest duh moment. Now, if only somebody would invent something to put around his neck to keep food from getting all over his clothes.

Joke, people! I know napkins already exist. ;)

Are you guys homemade baby food makers too? What do you store yours in? Maybe I’ve been missing out on something (else) obvious and simple all these years?

Don’t forget to share your #mamalifehacks so I can feature you!

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Mama Life Hacks {#14}: Batch Cooking Chicken Breast

So, there are times that I hesitate to post something because all I can think is: EVERYBODY already knows this, Abbie. It’s just too, too obvious.

And for many of you, today’s #mamalifehacks tip will be. My apologies ahead of time. Feel free to click away to the weather or something equally scintillating.

But I’ve had enough of a, “Why didn’t I think of that!?” reaction in both real life and blog life to this idea any time it comes up that I figured it was worth posting at least once, especially considering the fact that there are a good number of you participating in our healthy eating/drinking challenge.

So, WHAT IS IT, Abbie? Enough blathering, for the love!

My big fat (skinny?) tip for today is to cook chicken breast in big batches at the beginning of the week so that, on those days when you’re stumped/too tired to think about dinner, you don’t really have to.

Because SURELY there’s something you can make with pre-seasoned, pre-cooked chicken breasts!

Off the top of my head, I can name: chicken + veggie stir fry, Chipotle-style chicken + rice bowls, chicken pot pie, ANY kind of chicken + pasta, chicken fajitas, chicken lettuce wraps, King Ranch chicken, chicken salad…

Get the idea? If it has the word “chicken” in it, then you can probably use chicken breast from your pre-cooked batch to make it.

Of course, this hack isn’t just for those weeks when you haven’t planned ahead. There have been puh-lenty of times that I have planned 3-4 of our family dinners around the fact that I am cooking a huge batch of chicken at the beginning of the week.

As we’re doing our 14 day cleanse,  (Y’ALL! I’m so proud of all of you for jumping in like you did! This is so fun! The Facebook Page is hoppin’! If you’re still interested, don’t hesitate to join in!) it’s really important that I have healthy options on hand so that I don’t get discouraged or distracted or just plain devour-some (sorry, not a word; I didn’t want to ruin the alliteration).

But, whether you’re adhering to a special diet or not, I think all of us busy women could use a little help in the meal-planning department.

And I’m here to tell you that, if you’ve got 30 minutes on your Monday (only 5-10 of those have anything to do with prep; the rest is oven time), then you can get yourself set for the week with delicious, pre-cooked chicken that is SO much cheaper and better than that grisly, rubbery stuff they sell in bags in the freezer section.

So, what do you do?

Hope you have  a pen and notepad ready because it’s super complicated.

No, it’s not. And that’s the beauty!

::STEP 1::

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit

::STEP 2::

Butterfly your chicken breasts. Note: this step is totally optional, but I always do it because it means that my meat cooks more quickly and that there’s more seasoning on each piece.

::STEP 3::

Arrange butterflied chicken breasts on a jelly roll pan (cookie sheet with a lip) and sprinkle generously with Lawry’s Perfect Blend Chicken Rub (I buy mine in the huge containers from Sam’s, but that link is for Amazon).

batch chicken1

::STEP 4::

Cook for approximately 23-26 minutes or until juices run clear and no pink remains in the meat. This is the part where I’m supposed to tell you to use a meat thermometer, and YES! You totally should. TOTALLY. But…I don’t. So, there’s that.

batch chicken2

::STEP 5::

Allow chicken to cool on pans, then place in gallon plastic bags and store in the fridge. Mandy did a really similar post to this one ages ago, and she freezes hers and says it still turns out great when thawed.

::STEP 6::

Pull out of fridge and dance with it around the kitchen when you realize that you forgot to plan dinner but you have cheese in the fridge and tortillas in the pantry, so…QUESADILLAS FOR EVERYONE!

Shoo husband away when he sticks head quizzically in the door to ask why you’re so excited about quesadillas.

High-five yourself on your super-mom levels of preparedness.

batch chicken

Ahem.

Just me?

Okay. I’m good with that.

And for all my clean-eating homeys…don’t get any ideas about cheese and tortillas. BUT! This hack will still serve you well on your clean-eating quest.

No go eat some lettuce!

Got any #mamalifehacks to share with me? I’m listening!

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Mama Life Hacks {#13}: Boiling Water to Remove Stains

Last week, when I posted about my little laundry epiphany (color-coded baskets…duh), a reader (hi, Kristin!) unleashed this bomb of a #mamalifehacks tip on me, and I don’t think my life will ever be the same.

But my couches will!

Huh?

Lemme ‘splain.

Or at least sum up. #namethatmovie

A couple of mornings ago, Simon sauntered into the kitchen from the living room with a handful of blueberries. At first, it didn’t quite register, but then I was all: “BLUEBERRIES? HOW did you get blueberries in the living room?”

And he was all: “Oh, Nola has them.”

Just like that. Super casual-like.

And *I* was all calm and collected and reasonable.

Wait, no I wasn’t.

What I really said sounded something like SIMON!!! AREYOUTRYINGTOTELLMETHATYOUSAWYOURTWOYEAROLDSISTERWITHBLUEBUERRIESINTHELIVINGROOMANDYOUDIDN’TTELLME????!!!!!

And then, I raced around the couch to discover that, sure enough, Nola had an entire leaking carton of blueberries on my couch. The couch in the main thoroughfare of our house  that I’ve been keeping covered at all times for just such a catastrophic event but which my 9-year-old had, only moments before the blueberrypocalypse of 2015, denuded of its constant cover when he dragged it onto the ground and cocooned himself in it because, “I’m cold.” (Side note: it’s a good thing we don’t live in Michigan or Canada or, I don’t know, Kansas. The child clearly wouldn’t survive the winter).

ANYhoo, as I surveyed the damage (which, admittedly, wasn’t nearly as bad as it could have been but still warranted a fair bit of panic because blueberries), I mentally berated myself: “See? You knew this would happen. This is why you don’t buy light-colored linen couches, no matter how good of a deal they are.”

But then.

THEN…

I remembered Kristin’s #mamalifehacks bomb.

Are you ready? (No, Abbie, I’m not. Please drift off into yet another random tangent, why don’t you?)

AHEM.

Kristin imparted the wisdom of all wisdom that…

Boiling water will take any fruit stain (yes, even blueberries) out of anything.

And I thought, Oh Yeah? We’ll see.

I don’t have a tea kettle, so I grabbed a glass bowl, sloshed a little water inside, and then microwaved that sucker for 1 whole minute.

I could barely hold the bowl without burning my fingers when I pulled it out, so I figured it could definitely pass for boiling.

And then do you know what I did? I poured the scalding water directly onto my blueberry besmirched couch. (Side note: besmirched is a fun word)

I would show you a before and after, but I didn’t have the forethought for any such thing. I was too busy trying to perform my cleaning CPR.

But you know what?

It TOTALLY, COMPLETELY and UTTERLY…worked.

I dumped another bowl onto the (pretty much invisible) stain, just to be sure, then sopped up the water with a towel and let it air-dry. I came back an hour later when it was completely dry, just to make sure, and couldn’t find even a trace of blueberries.

SCORE!

Speaking of scores, I found this adorable romper for Della at Children’s Place for $3.

boiling water 4

But, of course, the first time she wore it, she wanted to eat strawberries (because the things that stain the most must always be eaten when the clothing is the newest, apparently), and it was time to  leave for the gym, which meant no time to offer her a non-staining snack like…sorry…my brain apparently lacks the ability to conjure even the concept of a non-staining snack for a 4-year-old who still rubs her hands aaaaallll the way down her front after every third bite of anything she eats. (Who needs napkins when clothes have already been invented? Save the planet, y’all. Wear a shirt).

So, OF COURSE, as we were getting out of the car to go in the gym, I noticed that she had a strawberry stain on her front. I was honestly impressed that there was only one, and it was relatively small, but still. It was a strawberry stain. And I didn’t have any boiling water handy. AND I think the 4-year-old encased in the stained garment might have objected just a little had I dumped said boiling water down her front.

Which meant that that stain was going to be left to dry and burrow its way deeeep into the fibers of her brand new romper.

I was kind of excited about this, honestly, because I wanted to test out Kristin’s trick on a rubbed in stain, and I was all prepared to take before pictures this time.

Here we have the romper besmirched (see? fun!) with hours old strawberry stains.

boiling water 1

And here we have it, three small bowls of boiling (microwaved) water later.

boiling water

I didn’t scrub. I didn’t use soap. I didn’t do anything but douse it in really hot water and try not to burn myself.

And it’s perfect!

boiling water 3

And we’re just a little excited about it.

boiling water 5

Okay, maybe more than a little.

I’m so jazzed about this development that I’m kind of looking forward to the next time one of the twins drops an orange slice on her shirt, catches it halfway down, and proceeds to draaaaaag it the length of her torso all the way back to her lips (an occurrence that usually makes me want to put my head through the wall).

So, did you already know about this magic? If so, whyyyy didn’t you tell me? I’m so glad Kristin had my back.

Any other #mamalifehacks to share? I’m all ears (and a few slightly burned fingers).

P.S. Have you entered our oily giveaway yet? You’ve got til midnight!

P.P.S. Have you entered our pouch giveaway yet? You’ve got–you guessed it–until midnight for that one too!

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Mama Life Hacks {#12}: Color-Coded Laundry Baskets

I’ve admitted here several times before that I’m not a naturally organized person. That is not to say that I am not organized. I have places for things in my house. And each year, I get a little better about figuring out what makes sense for the way my brain organizes. But it doesn’t come easily for me.

So, when I implement something super-simple and super-effective, I just have to share…even if only for those who are similarly organizationally challenged.

So, here’s the deal: our laundry situation really isn’t that bad, considering how many of us there are. I probably shouldn’t even admit this, but…I don’t feel like I do laundry all. the. time.

Yes, I do a lot (DUH…there are 8 humans in this here house, including at least 3 who have a tendency to soil their clothes on a thrice-daily basis with an abundance of various bodily fluids), but I (usually) do a couple of loads every other day or so, and the kids have gotten really rather good at knocking out the folding/putting away in 1/2 an hour of so.

BUT.

As much as I’m happy to report that we’ve found a system that works for us, I will say that our stacking/putting away process has left a bit to be desired.

Why? Because I only have 2 laundry baskets, and both of them are always tied up holding the dirty clothes in the laundry room.

After watching my kids make 14 trips up and down the stairs for the 136th time and dealing with the leaning towers of laundry piled on beds and chairs until they got put away (assuming that they didn’t get knocked over and completely muddled in some sort of spontaneous dance party, which is just as likely as not), I fiiiiiinally put “laundry baskets” on my shopping list.

laundry

It only took me 3 or so trips to various places that carry laundry baskets to actually remember to buy them, but it did finally happen on one trip to Target when my memory was jogged by the sight of a bright coral basket.

I honestly hadn’t thought through color options, but the second I spotted the coral one, something clicked in my brain, and I thought, “I should get a different color for each group of laundry.”

I’m almost sure I would have gotten all white if I hadn’t thought it through, but, instead, I grabbed one coral, one white, and one turquoise.

Not too surprisingly, the coral holds the girls’ clothes, the turquoise holds the boys’, and the white one goes to our room.

Obviously, there are towels and various other things that don’t go to just one location, but the color-coding + corralling of all of the clothes, at least, has made SUCH a difference in our laundry efficiency.

laundry1

We make fewer trips up and down the stairs, drop fewer clothes, mess up fewer piles, end up with fewer wrong clothes in wrong rooms, and have MUCH less confusion about which pile goes where (little boys/girls are not naturally organized either).

The results are really nothing short of magical for a single trip to the grocery store + $12 worth of supplies.

Again, I’m sure this is child’s play to most of you. But it’s been a game-changer for us.

And game-changers are always worth sharing, in my opinion.

What about you guys? Any laundry (or other) Mama life hacks to share? Don’t forget to hashtag any shares on social media with #mamalifehacks so I can feature them! :)

 

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Mama Life Hacks {#11}: Grape Juice + Activated Charcoal to Combat Stomach Bugs

First up, let me say a big ol’ THANK YOU for your kind words on Monday’s post. Vulnerability is hard. You never know how people will respond, exactly, but I’ve seen your kindness many times before, and I felt pretty confident that I would see it again. Thanks for proving me right! :) ANYhoo, if the title of this post doesn’t just steal every little bit of thunder I might have been able to conjure up for it, I don’t know what does. grape juice Still, I feel like a little more explanation is needed, so here goes:

About a year and 1/2 ago, Shaun was doing one of his marathon rounds of work trips that seem to come in waves during the spring and then again right around Christmas (when, unfortunately, everyone suddenly gets frantic to spend the rest of their budgets by the year’s end).

I had 5 kids, including 20-month-old twins, and I was pregnant with Theo. First trimester pregnant to be exact, so I was feeling suuuuuuper peppy and swell, as you can imagine.As you can also imagine, I was suuuuuuper thrilled when, pretty much the second that Shaun left for his first work trip, we came down with a stomach bug. Yup. Angels were singing and everything.

Before 24 hours had passed, every single one of my children was lying on the floor with a bowl by their sides. We couldn’t leave the house due to unpredictable puking patterns (is there any other kind?), and my feelings of thrilled-ness were just increasing by the moment. (Although, I was oh-so-grateful not to be sick myself). grape juice1 Which is when my kind, wonderful, awesome readers came to my rescue. I posted some sort of pitiful picture of us all, and several fellow mamas told me to get my hot *germ-covered) little hands on some 100% grape juice and a bottle of activated charcoal capsules ASAP.

I did a bunch of internet research and discovered that grape juice is, indeed, widely lauded as a preventative for stomach bugs. Something about the particular acid it carries is effective in combating stomach bug bacteria. (AKA the stuff that must, assuredly, coat every surface of the 7th level of Hades).

The most important thing to remember, though, is that it’s a preventative measure, not a cure. In other words, once you’re already puking, the only thing grape juice will produce is purple puke. And who needs that?

So! The next time the first victim succumbs to the stomach flu in your house, buy 100% (important not to get the “cocktail” or the “lite” or the “combined with other juices” version…you want the straight stuff) grape juice and get your kids to guzzling. If they’re anything like mine, they’ll be so excited to be given pure, undiluted juice on demand that they won’t ask why you’re suddenly so keen on their gulping it by the glassful. grape juice2 (Of course, the second Nola saw Evy being my model, she insisted: “Mama, I want my picker too!” And of COURSE, she was wearing nothing but undies, so I told her to go put something decent on if she wanted her moment in the spotlight…and this is what she came downstairs wearing. Eh. Could be worse)

The other little miracle that I mentioned is a bit of a harder sell for kids. Activated charcoal comes in little capsules that can be found at most drugstores (I found mine at Drug Emporium…is that a chain? I don’t know, but it sounds kind of shady, now that I think about it), and it basically works as an absorbent agent to soak up the bad bacteria in your gut.

I know that’s a super untechnical description of its properties, but even though I did my due diligence, it’s been a year and 1/2, and I don’t remember all the particulars. I do know that it’s safe, even for small kids, if administered correctly (be sure to do your research on amounts for small children and how often you should take it). And IT WORKS. And! It works once you’re already upchucking too. It helps to lessen the symptoms and shorten the sickness time.

Disclaimer: I think it goes without saying that I am NOT a doctor, nor do I claim to be. Before you ingest anything to help with sickness, you should make sure that you’ve done your own research and consulted your own doctor if you have any questions or are unsure about dosages/usages. grape juice4 Okay, so going back to that time I mentioned when we got sick. Well, Shaun had to travel again a couple of weeks later, and you know what? We got sick AGAIN. What?? So wrong. But this time, I was stocked up on grape juice and activated charcoal capsules, and I got everybody drinking their anti-voms cocktails as fast as you could yell, “BOWL!”

And you know what? That time, only Della (our first to fall) got sick. GLORY! To mix up this lovely, magical concoction, you simply twist the capsules of activated charcoal open, and stir in one full capsule (for older children and adults; I use fractions of capsules for younger). You can do this multiple times a day (up to a point…again…RESEARCH!).

It doesn’t have a taste, and the grape juice completely masks the inky black color, but it does have a bit of a gritty texture that you’ll feel on your teeth afterwards, so I suggest downing it as fast as you can go. You can even make it a game with your kids to see who can finish first! And then everybody can snicker at each other’s black mustaches.

I’ve used this trick every time we’ve had even a whiff of the stomach crud for the past 18 months (my kids don’t get sick often, but considering our frequent trips to the gym daycare, the sickness does tend to rear its ugly head 2-3 times a year), including this past weekend (you might recall that I mentioned that we stayed home from church due to sickness), and it has made such a difference–so much so that rarely do more than one or two of us get the nastiness and then only for 12 hours or less.

So, there you go! One of my BEST Mama Life Hacks for you. I’d happily give credit where it’s due, but honestly, it was multiple mamas who shared this little nugget o’ pure gold, so my heartfelt thanks goes out to all of you.

Tell me: did you already know about the grape juice trick? What about activated charcoal? Any “fun” vom stories to tell? We had a nice little incident in Subway when Della hadn’t puked for 48 hours, and I thought we were in the clear that involved an unfortunate amount of puke on the floor right near the drink dispenser + a total lack of readily available wipes on my part (#momfail), and the stingiest stack of napkins ever from the young male Subway employee who had clearly never cleaned up toddler vomit . (Oddly enough, we no longer frequent this Subway).

Any great #mamalifehacks to share? Leave them in the comments, or hashtag them on social media, and who knows? I might just feature YOU! (And then, your life would be made. I just know it).

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