5 Tips for Finding Routine as a Stay-at-Home Mom

I love structure, routines, and schedules. I love doing the same type of thing every week.  For some this might seem super boring, but for me, it is absolutely necessary.  I struggle with decisions. I am incredibly indecisive, so the fewer decisions I need to make within the week, the better.  There is something incredibly refreshing about establishing weekly rhythms in your life.  I believe these small patterns in our lives have the power to impact so much more than just how we choose to spend our days.  It impacts our attitudes, our characters, and ultimately our entire lives. So, if you ask me, this routine stuff is essential!

You might be reading this and thinking yes, I am all about schedules and routines too, but right now the season of life I am in makes consistent routines super difficult.  I get it! This is one of the many reasons I struggled so much early on when Hudson was born. I lost all sense of routine and control and if I am honest, it really had an affect on me in an emotional, spiritual, and physical way. I believe that even in a season with a bunch of little ones running about, you can develop a sense of routine.  And you should! Because it will not only help keep you more sane, it will allow for you to ultimately be more productive.  

daily routine for stay at home moms that will actually allow for rest, productivity, and quality family time.

So mama, if you are in a place where you want more steadiness in your life, but you don’t even know where to start, here are 5 simple things you can start doing today to get routines into your days. Just because you are a stay-at-home mom, that does not mean you cannot build in some of the structure and schedules you used to have in the pre-kids life.

green coffee mug for mom starting her morning routine

1. Wake Up Before the Kids

I have written a lot about my morning routine. You can read more about it, here. There are a few things I try to do every morning. The reality is that it is really hard to get the time to read my Bible, journal, and pray if I don’t get up at least 30 minutes before Hudson rises. I know this can be a real challenge, especially if you have really little ones that are not sleeping throughout the night. It can also be tough if your little ones are not consistently waking up at the same time. In particular seasons like that, allow for grace.

I would recommend setting a timer for you to get up at the same time every morning. Maybe for you right now, it is not realistic to wake up at 5 am. Try 6 am or 6:30 am. The reality is that you cannot control when the rest of the house is going to get up, but you can control when you get up. Consistently, waking up at the same time every morning is such an important rhythm that really sets the tone for the rest of the day. 

mom weekly cleaning routine

2. Set a Cleaning Task for Each Day of Week

As a stay-at-home mom, I put an excessive amount of pressure on myself to have the house in order. I know I am not alone in this. But here is the thing, solely taking care of a baby/multiple children is a full-time job in itself. There is not always time to have the baseboards shiny and the linen closet organized. Time and energy is limited. How can we have a relatively tidy house without feeling completely overwhelmed and burnt out?  Set small tasks for specific rooms of the house every week. Create a cleaning schedule that works best for you and stick to it.

Before you know it, you will be changing the bed sheets every Wednesday without even thinking about it. This is not a revolutionary concept, but having small cleaning tasks that are assigned for specific days of the week really helps me to not feel as overwhelmed. There are certain tasks like making the bed, emptying the dishwasher, sweeping and wiping down counters that happen on a daily basis, but here are the specific tasks I do for every day of the week, minus Sundays because those are for resting:

  • Monday: Frontload laundry (try to do as many loads as I can) + focused floor clean (baseboards on a bi-monthly basis)
  • Tuesday: Focused kitchen clean  
  • Wednesday: Change bed sheets + vacuum bedroom
  • Thursday: Change Hudson’s crib sheets + vacuum nursery
  • Friday: Focused bathroom clean 
  • Saturday: Mop floors, so floors feel nice and fresh going into our Sabbath (day of rest). Saturdays are often nice days for us as a couple to tackle any bigger projects, like a garage tidy or refrigerator clean. 
things to do with young children

3. Set an Activity with your Kids for Each Day of Week

Similarly, to the way I clean, I like to do similar types of activities for each day of the week. For this fall season, we are taking a couple mommy and me classes, so this built-in structure makes Monday and Tuesday activities already planned. Below is an example of a typical week activitiy schedule for us:

  • Monday: Mommy & Me hour length class + Trader Joe’s run post-nap 
  • Tuesday: Mommy & Me 2.5 hour length class + play in backyard post-nap
  • Wednesday: Trip to library + park before or after if time permits 
  • Thursday: Free Day! It really depends on the week, but I try to do something out of the normal routine with him on Thursdays.  This might mean hosting a fun playdate at our house, having lunch with a grandparent or attending a local kid’s event.  
  • Friday: Park, beach, or errands/appointments with mommy.  Our weekends are typically pretty full, so I try to keep Fridays more mellow.  

I have found that this rhythm of having an outing at the same time every day during the week is essential.  This time of the outing is going to likely change a lot as the nap schedule changes, but now that he is 16-months old, he has only one long afternoon nap.  This allows for a longer chunk of morning time to have an outing.  

One of the beautiful things that happen when we establish these park and library routines is that we are indirectly developing community.  You will find that other moms, nannies, and children also love routines. As a new mom where every day seems to be different, I have found a tremendous amount of comfort in seeing the same familiar faces every Wednesday at the library or every Thursday morning at the park. It reminds me I am not alone. It gives me a sense of connection that my days otherwise lack when I stay at home.

If you are feeling stuck with not knowing the best activities to do with your little ones that are home, here are a few suggestions that have helped me get out of the house:

Ways to Get Out the Door with Little Ones

  • Sign-up for classes! There are so many amazing baby and toddler classes offered by the city.  Signing up for classes is not only a great way to help with the development of your little one, but also a great way to build structure and routine into your unpredictable days of motherhood. 
  • Find your favorite local parks.  Not all parks are equal! Do some research (this might mean actually going to a handful of parks) and find the ones that you and your kids like the most.  And go out to them on a consistent basis.
  • Utilize your library! I cannot emphasize this one enough.  The library is one of the most untapped resources our cities offer.  Get to know the library staff. Grab their calendar of events and actually go to them.  The library we attend has great resources for both babies and parents.  
  • Make mom friends.  I am a part of a local MOMS Club and I am a big fan.  Joining this club over a year ago was one of the best decisions I made in those early months as a mom.  It has given me friends and has helped get me out of the door. Whether it is MOMS Club, MOPS, or any other local mom’s group, join something! Not only will this get fun events on your calendar, it will allow you to find community with other moms.
woman exercising in the early morning by herself as part of her routine

4. Exercise Consistently at Same Time 

I think people assume that for people that “love” running, it comes naturally for them to go out for a run.  Not true! At least not for me. Getting out the door, especially recently, has been such an internal battle. My whole mind and body often fights against it.  I know I am not alone in this.  

This is only further evidence of the importance of establishing exercise routines.  Without a consistent routine, it will simply not happen. You need to treat your times of exercise like important work meetings, even if it just a you.  Schedule the times you will run or go out to exercise and actually follow through.  You won’t always feel like it, but you will eventually hit your stride.

As I wrote about a few weeks ago, I am on a bit of an off-season for running, but I am trying to still exercise 6 days a week.  These days it is much less mileage and more group workout classes. This is what a typical week looks like for me currently: 

  • Monday: 6 mile run.  This is a really important run!  I am a huge believer of front-loading and starting your week with hard things.  This sets the precedence for the rest of the week. Last Monday, going out for a run was literally the last thing I wanted to do.  I felt pretty terrible and tired, but since this is part of my established routine, I did it. Even in those moments of not wanting to do something, I can think back to the past of how running on a Monday makes me feel, and from this, I am motivated to stick with it.  
  • Tuesday: 6:15 pm Yogaworks class.  For over the past month, I have been going to the same yoga class with the same teacher, Petra.  I used to pop from different classes with different teachers throughout the week, but for me personally, it is so important to go to the same classes every week.  This routine allows for me to start building a relationship with the teacher and build community with the other ladies that I see every Tuesday and Thursday.  I love how Petra knows me by name, chats with me, and compliments my yoga pants. This sense of belonging and community does not happen if you never consistently go to the same class or instructor.
  • Wednesday: 6 mile run
  • Thursday: 4 mile run + 6:15 pm Yogaworks class
  • Friday: 4-6 mile run (usually with Lance)  This is the end of the week run where I really listen to my body.  Last Friday, I felt terrible so it was just 4 miles. Two Fridays ago, I felt awesome so it was closer to 6.  It really depends. I am not super concerned about this particular run. I usually run this with Lance, so it is a nice run to connect with him and not need to push the jogger!
  • Saturday: Long run in Palos Verdes (right now this is usually around 10 miles) OR 7 am Yogaworks class with Petra
  • Sunday: OFF
woman preparing meal for dinner for her family

5. Start Dinner at the Same Time 

Set a time to start dinner and stick with this as much as you can.  For me, it is 4 pm. I know this is early, but we are early dinner people.  This rhythm of starting dinner at the same time is essential for us in our evening routine.  This allows us to eat at about the same time every night. This rhythm allows for a chunk of evening time that is not spent worrying about dinner prep and dirty dishes.

Like most of what I have written here, it is such a small choice, but this daily pattern of 4 pm dinner making allows things to get started when I often don’t feel like it.  This is usually the time where I am more tired from the day; however, this pattern I have set in our lives, allows me to grab the ingredients and turn on the oven at 4 pm without even really thinking about my feelings. Just another example of the importance of routine! 

9-12 Month Baby Routines

As promised, this is the last part of the baby-related series of March.  I have written a lot about the importance of routines and patterns in my life.  I have found that routines have become an even more important aspect of my days since Hudson’s arrival.  The tough part with baby routines is that babies are changing SO much from a month-to-month basis that I have found our routines need to be adjusted relatively frequently.  Nap times and nap frequency changes a lot and this has a big impact on the whole day’s routine.  Since Hudson is already almost 10-months old, I am going to focus on his current routine, which I imagine will stay relatively similar for the next couple months.  Every day is different, but I have found that ever since he has turned 9-months, his naps have become extremely predictable.  He is now down to just two naps a day.  He usually has his morning nap at 9 am and his afternoon nap at 2 pm.  There could be a slight variance if his morning nap was shorter, but for the most part, these are the two times he naps.  I have loved having these very predictable times because it allows me to fill in the spaces between naps more easily.  I would probably bore you if I went hour by hour and explained Hudson’s typical routine, so instead I am going to break it down into the three parts of the day and give general ideas and inspiration for 9-12 month old baby routines based on what we have found successful.

Morning Time: 7:00-11:00 am 

  • Wake baby up at a consistent time.

 I used to not do this.  If he slept past 7 am, I would let him.  It is so hard to wake up your baby especially when they are finally, actually asleep.  However, I have found, especially at his age now, that it is much better to get him up around 7 am.  As tempting as it is to allow him to continue to sleep, so I can continue to enjoy my morning quiet time, I am learning that sticking to a wake up time is better for the both of us.

  • Start day slowly.  

The day always seems to be better when I allow those first couple hours of the morning to be a slow start.  I typically never plan anything before his first nap.  This allows for a solid two hours in the morning with the ability to slowly wake up to the day.  We usually read a book or two.  We say good morning to the tree and wall and neighbor’s house outside the window.  We pet Nala and tell her good morning.  I re-heat and sip my coffee.  Now that Hudson is a full-on crawler, I usually let him explore and crawl around in the living room a bit before breakfast.  Of course not all days allow for slower starts, but especially during the week, I really try to move things slowly before 9 am.

  • Get all ready for the day BEFORE nap time

I used to leave Hudson in his pajamas for his first nap, but recently learned it makes much more sense to get him all cleaned up and dressed before I put him down for his nap.  Part of the reason I do this is out of necessity.  He usually is a complete mess after his breakfast.  Quinoa cereal is usually smeared all over his little body.  Bananas are stuck in his hair.  Prunes cover his face.  The other reason I get him all clothed and ready is that I don’t want to waste the time once he wakes up from his nap.  When he wakes up, all I have to do is quickly nurse him, grab the diaper bag, and we are out the door!

Afternoon Time: 11:00 am-2:00 pm

  • Schedule an outing.

Typically, right when Hudson wakes up, we leave the house.  This outing will vary based on the day.  As of recently, it usually is a trip to the park to play with friends in our MOMS Club or a grocery store run at Trader Joe’s or a run in the jogger on the strand.  Sometimes the outing is fun, like baby yoga; and sometimes it is more practical, like running errands.  Especially at this age, what seems to really matter is that we are getting out of the house and he gets the chance to interact with other people and babies.  Anytime I have to go to the grocery store or go to an appointment, I know to schedule it during this time slot.  I also try to have specific outings for certain days of the week.  For example, Wednesdays are usually story time or yoga, Thursdays we always go to Trader Joe’s, and Fridays we usually go to the park or beach.  I find it really helpful to have these weekly patterns.

 

  • Be home for nap time.  

Just as important as the outing is the nap time.  I used to be out during nap time and Hudson would often take his second nap in the carseat.  There are definitely certain days where there is no getting around that, but as much as I can control it, I plan to be home for that 2 pm nap time.  The afternoon nap is a really important time for me to get some rest and get a few things done around the house before Lance gets home.  Also, I find that Hudson gets an overall better rest when he naps in his crib.  I always try to cap our outing to around 12:30-1:00, so we can get back home, feed Hudson lunch, and allow him some freedom to play before he has his last nap of the day.

Evening Time: 4:00-7:00 pm 

  •  Allow for independent play time. 

Hudson typically wakes up around 3:30.  By the time I’ve nursed him and changed his diaper and read a book with him, it is time for me to start dinner.  I use this time to give him some alone time to play on his own.  Hudson is around people a lot of the time, so I really want him to learn how to also be adaptable and learn how to entertain and play on his own.  Usually, I will put some toys in the pack ‘n play for him to play with as I begin to make dinner.

  • Eat dinner together.

We are early dinner eaters.  We usually eat around 5 pm or sometimes even earlier.  Since Hudson has been in a high chair, eating together at the dinner table with all three of us is very important.  It can be hard especially when it takes a lot of energy to get Hudson to eat anything at all, but I think this routine is an essential one for our family. No matter what happened in that day, we will find ourselves together again around the table.  We pray. We eat. We slow down.

  • Create a bedtime routine.

After the dishes are cleared, Lance usually takes Hudson and Nala for a walk around the block.  This is another important part of our routine because it gives Lance some alone time with Hudson, which they both enjoy.  It also gives me time to clean up or take a shower.  Once they return, the bedtime routine officially begins.  This is going to vary from family to family.  Create a routine that works the best for your baby and family.  For us, we give him his bath early.  We used to bathe him right before bed, but found that he needed to play between bath and bed to get fully tired.  Lance is in charge of everything bath-related.  He is the master bath giver.  Again, this time allows for me to just watch Lance be an amazing dad or get a load of laundry folded.  Did I mention that Lance is the best? He really is.  This is a slight side note, but it is so helpful to find routines and parts of the day that your spouse can be in charge of.  Lance and I function as a team.  For the days and weeks to work, we both need to hold our weight.  After bath time, the rest of the evening unfolds with pajamas, a little more play time, a story read, prayers, and milky.  Sound machine is on.  Night time teddy bear is playing music.  Hudson is snuggled up in his sleep sack. And I tip toe out of the room.  Unfortunately, even at 9-months the day does not end here and he typically gets up 3-5 more times until the next morning.  But we’re working on that, aka praying he sleeps through night soon!

Obviously, no day is exactly the same.  Some days we hit this routine spot on.  He naps perfectly.  He plays perfectly.  He sleeps soundly.  But, there are days, many days, that just don’t look like that.  This is our routine for the most part, but the fact is, when you have a baby, sometimes you need to let go of routines on those days that are just a struggle.  You have to be okay with that short nap.  You have to be okay when you cancel the outing.  Routines are good.  Actually, they are great and incredibly helpful, but at the end of the day, they are just a guide.  They need to be adjusted, changed, and added to.

5 Choices to Help Get Out of that Slump

At the start of the New Year I felt a sense of motivation and determination that I have not felt in a while.  I was getting up early every morning.  I was writing every day.  I was having consistent, quiet prayer time before Hudson woke up.  I was not touching social media and was reading voraciously.  I was scrapbooking a ton.  I was running with joy.  I was going to baby story time, baby yoga, baby play dates.  I am not exactly sure what happened but somewhere in the course of the past couple weeks I have fallen into a major slump.  I have turned off my weekly alarm clock that was set to 6 am.  I have chosen to scroll through Facebook, instead of read and have been on the same chapter of Searching For Sunday for weeks now.  I am dreading my runs and workouts.  I am doing them, but that sense of performance and pressure and pain from college running is slowly beginning to seep back into my running soles.  I have writer’s block and I seem to constantly be hitting the delete tab.  The words are just not coming out the way I intend for them to.  I have not been to baby story time in weeks.  I keep finding really good excuses as to why we can’t go out.  I have not touched my scrapbooking table.  Pictures have been messily scattered all over the coffee table untouched for many days.  I just can’t seem to muster up the creative energy to continue it.

I am so tired.  My once abundant milk supply has also hit a major slump and I literally feel like I am running dry.  I keep training like I am in college, but the reality is I am not.  I go to the track and run basically the same workouts I used to but instead of going to the training room to have an ice bath and go home to just relax and revel in the fact that I have no responsibilities, I go home to immediately needing to nurse Hudson.  My body is rebelling.  I can’t do it all.  I am running myself to the ground and I am just now feeling it.

All of this to say, I am in a slump.  I know I will get out soon, but like Dr. Seuss said, “Un-slumping yourself is not easily done.”  It is true.  It is easy to sit and wallow in the slump. It is easy to read the post on how to un-slump, but a different story to actually get out of it.  And the thing is, I think a lot of us know what we should do, but it sure can be hard to push yourself to do what you know long-term will be good for you.  There are a few things that usually help ease me out of a slump.  The key word is ease.  It does not happen all at once, but typically if I can consistently make a few small, but important choices throughout my day, I will slowly and surely find myself on the other side.  When it comes to the difficult task of un-slumping yourself, here are 5 small choices to help in the process:

  1. Wake Up Early

This one is tough because when I am in this low place, I really have a hard time getting out of bed period, but especially getting out of bed before 7 am.  The problem here is by hitting snooze and choosing to sleep longer, I am actually making my day start off on a bad note and this just further perpetuates the slump.  So, as much as I really, really want to ignore the alarm and snooze, it is so important that I make that first choice of stepping out of my bed.  It is hard.  But it matters.  Last night, I intentionally chose to set my alarm for 5:10 am and get up when Lance does.  This small choice is already making a big difference in my day.

2. Listen to Life-Giving Words

For me, that is a sermon or a podcast.  Yesterday, I listened to a sermon by Tim Chaddick and it changed my outlook, my day, and my heart.  Never underestimate the power of the Holy Spirit to give you exactly what you need to hear.  The sermon was on ambition and work that is pleasing to God.  It was so powerful.  I am linking to it here. Part of the reason I have been in this particular place is because I feel like I am lacking purpose.  I feel like I try so hard, but then it does not matter.  I try so hard to make organic, homemade food for Hudson, and then he hates it and tosses it to Nala.  I try so hard to keep the house in order, but then the next hour, I see dirt and Nala’s hair all over the floors again.  I try so hard to be a good runner again, but my body is just not the same as college.  I try so hard to be a good writer, but no one reads this except my husband and mom (or so it feels). These are all the emotions running through my heart and mind and then I choose to play this sermon as I am doing dishes.  And I hear the words of Paul:

“Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody”  1 Thessalonians 4:11-12

And my whole body sighed relief.  This is enough.  What I am doing is enough.  I might not be in a fancy office or have the influence I used to when I was in the classroom, but I am doing important work and God delights in this.  This is all to explain the power and importance in allowing others to speak into your days to help point you back to the cross and to the love of God.  It is so easy to forget.  If I could I would listen to sermons on repeat in my head because that is how much I need daily and momentary reminders.  So, listen and consume content that is life-giving.  Allow the Holy Spirit to run through you and change your heart.  It will happen if you let it.

3. Exercise 

This one is kind of like getting up early.  I am the least motivated to workout when I am in this rut, but usually the best fix is to get out and run or make it into a yoga class.  Yesterday I literally went from bawling on the couch to running a 4-mile tempo on the strand.  And let me tell you, every fiber of my body wanted to just stay put on the couch, but I went and I am glad I did.  It allowed me to breathe and focus on something other than how I was feeling.  It gave me space to have rhythm.  It gave me the time to pray.  This might not be the thing for everyone, but getting outside and breathing air can be so helpful.

4. Connect with People

We are built for connection.  In my slumps, it is really easy to cancel plans and stay home.  And sometimes I do this.  But, as much as I can, I need to keep plans and connect with friends and family.  I need this.  Hudson needs this.  And maybe it is not going out, but it is having people come to you.  Invite people over.  Make play dates.  Put events on the calendar and commit to them.  Trust me, this can be the hardest one for me, but this connection is so important.  I almost always walk away from time with others feeling happier and rejuvenated.  Also, it is so important to have a few people in your life that you can talk about being not okay.  Just yesterday, both my husband and my mom prayed over me as I bursted into tears to both of them explaining how I felt.  What a blessing to have people in my life that will not only listen and love me, but will bring my pain to the Lord.  How thankful I am for that!

5. Pray!

This leads me to the fifth and most important choice.  Choose to pray.  When I am on fire in my faith, I tend to pray aloud in the mornings.  The words flow easily and I have a great enthusiasm to speak out my prayers.  When I hit these types of slumps in both my life and my faith, I tend to not even be motivated to voice out my prayers.  Some mornings I feel so tired and unmotivated, it feels hard to even voice prayers.  Thankfully God even hears my sad little whimpers that are left unspoken.  Earlier this week, my heart was given so much relief when I read the words in Matthew 6:

“When you pray, don’t babble like the Gentiles, since they imagine they’ll be heard for their many words.  Don’t be like them, because your Father knows the things you need before you ask him”  Matthew 6:7-8

Even on those mornings where it is hard to muster out the words, the Lord knows what I need.  He knows my heart.  When I pray I am not going to some distant god, I am speaking to my Father who deeply loves and cares for my well-being.  Therefore, I don’t need to worry about phrasing things in the most eloquent way or even saying them aloud.  He knows what I need.  He knows how I am feeling.  There is just so much relief in this. So when I pray in these slumps, even if my prayers are fragmented or if it is difficult for me to find the right words, I can know that the Lord will meet me where I am and offer me an abundance of peace and grace.

Un-slumping yourself is not easily done.  And it is not as simple as checking off a few things on a list.  However, I am learning that by focusing less on the slump and more on daily and intentionally choosing these five things: wake up early, listen to life-giving words, exercise, connect with people, and pray; I am able to more easily transition out of the slump and onto flat ground where I can go back to running with joy.

 

Routines Pt. 4

The Weekend Routine

To finish up this series on routines, we are ending with my very favorite part of the whole week: the weekend.  We have had some really amazing weekends, but we also have had some really terrible ones. I think the terrible ones are a result of two things. 1. Planning too much into a single weekend. 2. Not being intentional with this allotted time.  The weeks can feel crazy full and busy. It is easy to save tasks and things to do for the weekend. However, when this happens, I almost always end our weekend feeling just as tired as when I began it. This is not a weekend well lived. We should be ending Sunday evenings feeling rested, restored, and ready for the week ahead.  Some of my very favorite weekends are the ones that were empty, white boxes on the calendar. However, I have found the opposite can also result in an unfulfilled weekend. When we are not intentional with our time and do not have any sort of plan with how to use the time, we end of having weekends wasted on shows and laziness. So like everything, it is about finding that balance between the planned and unplanned, the lazy naps and hikes outdoors, the going out and the staying in.  We are still in the process of crafting the perfect weekend, but here are a few of our favorite weekend things. I know this whole month I have been doing lists of 5 things, but weekends are just so good, I made this one a list of 7!

  1. Sleep In

By sleep in, I am referring to 7:00 or 7:30 am.  This is going to vary on preference and lifestyle, but we are not out late on a Friday night, so waking up at 7am feels incredibly restful, especially when your weekday alarm is 5:00 or 6:00 am.  Both Lance and I can’t really sleep in much later than this, but getting out of bed at 7:30 am really does feel special. There is nothing wrong with sleeping in later, but we love Saturday mornings and if you sleep in too late, it can feel like you just lost one of the most precious times of the week.  

  1. Make a Good Breakfast, Not Oatmeal and Toast!

Saturday mornings for us are blueberry pancakes and peppery turkey bacon.  This has become such a routine for us that both Lance and I just seem to know that when Saturday hits we will be eating hot blueberries and crispy bacon.  After a week full of quick sips of coffee and toast thrown into the toaster, there is something so nice about slowing down and really taking the time to put together a good breakfast.  There is also something about the ritual of our Saturday morning breakfast. These motions are becoming second nature. I have always been a recipe type of girl. I think it is just my personality.  Give me the steps and I will follow them to a tee. This blueberry pancake recipe, which I am linking here, is the first recipe that I am beginning to be able to do without even looking at the steps.  I have it basically memorized by heart. 3/4 milk with two tablespoons vinegar. These pancakes are what Saturday mornings are all about.  I think it must have something to do with the vinegar because they are just the perfect amount of fluffiness. Basically every week when I am doing our weekly grocery run, I always pick up the peppered turkey bacon from Trader Joe’s.  This is hands down the best turkey bacon we have ever eaten. It is peppery and crispy. It is the perfect friend of these fluffy blueberry pancakes. Some Saturdays are more hectic than others and we cannot always have this as our breakfast, but we really try to carve out space on Saturday mornings that leaves room for pancakes, peppered bacon, and slow sips of coffee.

  1. Exercise + Take Time Off

Saturdays are long runs by the beach or in the hills of Palos Verdes, and Sundays are days off.  We go long and fast on Saturday, and take it slow and restful on Sunday. For us, this is the perfect weekend balance.  In high school and college running, long runs were always either on a Saturday or Sunday. It took me two years after graduating LMU to realize how reliant I was on these weekend long runs.  Saturday long runs are my favorite run of the week. I think the main reason I love it so much is because even if nothing gets accomplished the rest of the weekend, I know I ran 10 miles. This plus the fact that it starts the weekend off in a place of wellness.  It gives me the chance to breathe, reflect and pray before the day really starts off.

  1. Coffee Out

We have not been to the movies in years.  We don’t go bowling. We don’t go to miniature golf.  We don’t even go out to restaurants much anymore. But, we go out to coffee.  This is our activity of choice. And I am not talking Starbucks. There is nothing wrong with Starbucks and we will definitely end up here on weekends as well, but our favorite thing to do on either a Saturday or Sunday is take a drive and go to either Blue Bottle or Alfred’s.  We will grab our expensive yet delicious coffee and either hike on the bluff trail (right underneath LMU) or go to our favorite spot, Will Roger’s State Park. Sometimes, we will just drive around with our coffee and pretend we live on one of those fancy streets. We drink our coffee, we talk, we listen to a podcast we both agree on (which is a great struggle, but we usually go with Skimm’d on the Couch), we listen to worship music, and sometimes I even read parenting books aloud to Lance.  The point here is you don’t need to spend a ton of money to make a great outing. It is all about the people and the coffee.

  1. Keep Fridge Stocked

This is sort of a random, small detail, but I love making sure the fridge and pantry is all stocked by Friday, so I don’t have to spend that precious weekend time at the store.  I tend to go to the store on Thursdays, either during the day with Hudson or in the evening after dinner. This allows us to have fresh and yummy things to munch on all weekend without needing to face the weekend crowds.  I also plan our meals for Friday and the rest of weekend intentionally. Fridays are typically really easy and basic dinners. Our go-to is pizza using the Trader Joe’s whole wheat pizza dough. Saturdays tend to be a little more special, like rosemary steak and roasted potatoes.  Sundays usually are crockpot soups or stews. By having everything in terms of our food planned, it allows for more space and time to enjoy the weekend together.

  1. Get Together with Good Friends

There is nothing better than getting time with some of our favorite people.  This does not happen every weekend, but we intentionally schedule time with friends at least once a month.  This definitely has become more tricky now that we have baby H, but it still is a priority of ours. It just looks different than before.  It usually means early dinner with friends or hanging out with them in the afternoon in-between naps. Weekends always seem to be extra fun when it involves our people.  While we used to be able to have more spontaneous plans with friends, now things need to be a little more planned. But, that is okay! It makes it even more special when that date we have put on the calendar finally comes.  

  1. Get Out with the Whole Fam (Dogs Included!)

Nala’s life has become pretty boring since the arrival of Hudson.  She has definitely gained some weight as her activity levels have greatly dropped.  She used to spend her weeks at doggy day care or at her grandparents’ house where she would fetch the ball for hours, but now she is stuck with just me.  This entails a lot more naps and watching me focus on Hudson. Because her weeks are less eventful, we do really try to do something she can join in on. This usually means a hike or a walk on the strand or if she is really lucky, a trip to the dog beach.  Sometimes it is even simpler and we will just walk to the park near our house, and Lance will throw her tennis balls and Hudson and I will watch. Whether it simple like this, or a more elaborate day trip, there is nothing better than getting out of the house with all four of us.  It is especially great because when we get home Nala and baby our both exhausted and happy.

This is just a small glimpse at what a typical weekend looks like for us.  Yours will obviously be different, but however you spend it, I hope you can spend it with the people you adore and even if it just for a bit, I hope you can breathe in some fresh air.  

 

Routines Pt. 3

The Evening Routine

Just like all the other parts of the day, I think it is so important to be incredibly intentional with the ends of our days because at least for me, there is a greater temptation to use my evenings just to veg.  This almost always leaves me falling asleep wishing I used time wiser.  After a long, full day it is easy to say I deserve to just lie here and watch Hulu and stuff my face with cookies.  While this is the more tempting and easier choice especially when you are exhausted, I do believe that our evenings have the potential to hold so much more for us.  I think there is a way that evenings can be both restful and fulfilling.  For me, as much as I choose it, watching shows on Hulu does not feed my soul in the same way that scrapbooking or spending quality time with husband does.  Some nights, I fail at having a good evening routine.  Actually a lot of evenings I do, but I am learning that if I try to incorporate these 5 things, I end the day right.

1. Leave the Dishes

The last thing I want to do after we eat dinner, is spend more time in the kitchen.  So I don’t!  Lance is always really great about clearing the dishes, so after Hudson and the high chair are cleaned up, I leave the kitchen.  There are always pots in the sink and counters that could use a wipe down, but I intentionally choose to not touch it.  I am sure some of you are thinking how you would never do that.  How you have to have your kitchen spotless before you go to sleep at night.  To each their own, but for me personally, it steals joy when I end my night in the kitchen.  Especially staying at home, I feel like I am constantly in the kitchen.  As much as I can control it, I choose to leave it as soon as dinner is done. I only return to it to find something sweet for dessert! The amazing thing with this is that the world keeps spinning and no one seems to care that the pans do not get cleaned until the morning.  Lance loves me just the same.  Hudson loves me just the same.  It really is crazy how we put these unneeded expectations on ourselves.  Who says the kitchen must be spotless before you sleep?  Why is that a rule?  It shouldn’t be and if it is, I break it.  Will Hudson remember that we had pans in the sink or will he remember the walks we took together as a family after dinner?  Will he remember the crumbs on the countertop or will he remember the laughter and the play that happened after dinner? I think it is all the latter.  Like I always say, the dishes can wait.

2. Wear Real Pajamas 

By 8pm I am in my pjs.  This is one of those very small details but I think putting on a pair of comfy pjs help switch my mindset into resting mode.  With the colder weather, I have been wearing a pair of flannel pjs every night.  These flannel pajamas are like my nighttime uniform.  It is my signal to stop, to rest, and to be satisfied with the work I have accomplished.  So after we do Hudson’s evening routine (I’ll write more on this in future posts), I tiptoe out of the room, put on my flannel pajamas, and get right into evening mode.  I know some moms might use this time right after the little ones go to sleep to do some cleaning up around the house, but I really try to do all this tidying up before Hudson is asleep.  Similarly to my kitchen philosophy, if there are a couple pillows not fully fluffed or a few random toys out, I don’t fret about it.  I know those things will get done the next day during my cleaning cycle.  Similarly to the idea of sabbath, I think it is essential to really carve these evening hours out as sacred time for rest and rejuvenation.  For me, this time of rest starts with the comfort and warmth of flannel and finally getting out of those yoga pants I have been wearing all day.

3. Invest in Yourself

This is going to look different based on your own interests, but for me this typically looks like having a small activity to myself that I enjoy.  This is usually something I do right after Hudson has fallen asleep.  Sometimes I will go in the playroom and continue to work on Hudson’s first year scrapbook.  I typically do not spend a ton of time on this, I might do this for 30 minutes, maybe an hour, but I usually do not produce more than a page of work, but this set apart time of sorting through photos, cutting out shapes, and designing layouts gives me joy.  It makes me feel calm and at peace.  And the thing is, I am not even very good at scrapbooking.  The shapes I cut out are not always the most even, even though I use a stencil.  I have not invested in a lot of extra, fun scrapbooking things, so the pages really just have the images and my own handwriting.  The point here is not perfection.  It is the act of cutting, pasting, creating that brings the joy.  To me, I love the pages I create, not because they are perfect, but because of all the smiles I see of our family on those pages.  Scrapbooking allows me to take a step back and be reflective of all the amazing memories we are already making.  It is proof that while we definitely do not have it all together, we are making memories that will forever be captured in the pages of my less than perfect scrapbook.  This is just one option.  And the reality is that a lot of nights, I don’t always feel like doing this.  It sometimes feels like too much on especially exhausting days.  So, I choose something else.  My other go-to, typically has been picking up a book.  Alongside activities, it is also important to practice self-care during this evening time.  I don’t even know what to write here because honestly I don’t do a good job in this area, but I really want to.  For the past few months, I keep thinking how I should really have an evening skin care routine.  It just seems like one of those things you do when you’re really grown-up.  I still do not have one, but I am determined to develop one soon! Even if it something as simple as putting night cream on every evening, I think this small act of caring for your skin is the perfect way to invest in yourself.  Note to self: buy night cream.  Right after writing this I went down a rabbit hole of watching nighttime skin care routines on Youtube.  And let me tell you, I had no idea you could use that many products just to get “unready.”  I use maybe one or two products just to get ready, or let’s be real, sometimes zero.  Maybe one day, I will have a routine like this, but if you are with me and get overwhelmed in this area, start small, purchase one thing of night cream.  Then, maybe one day I’ll be cool enough to have a whole routine where I roll my face with that roller thing and put on 8 different products.

4. Spend Quality Time With… 

Again this will vary, but for me it is with my husband.  If you’re single, maybe this will look like calling your best friend you haven’t talked to in a while or video chatting with your mom.  However it looks, I think it is important to end the day with connection with someone.  Lance and I like watching shows together in the evening.  This is our thing, but I typically fall asleep, so we are currently in the stages of figuring out better ways to spend quality time together, without me falling asleep.  We both are training for races so we are hoping to better use the time right before bed to stretch, roll out, and talk together.  We also almost always brush our teeth and get ready for bed together.  As much as we can, we try to not be on screens during this time.  I used to be terrible at this, but I have noticed I am so much more present with Lance when I plug my phone in to its charger early and don’t touch it.  Sometimes I need to just leave it in the other room so I do not even have the temptation to touch it.  After Hudson falls asleep and we both have finished up whatever personal activity we were pursuing for that evening, we really do try to spend good time together.  In all honesty, we sometimes really fail in this area because we are so exhausted, but I think we are both learning that this hour to hour and a half we have together is so precious.  We really need to use that time together well.

5. Drink Water, Floss & Pray 

I am a terrible water drinker! I need to get better in this area, but right before bed I always make sure I have at least a few big gulps of water.  I also keep a cup of water in our room so when I get up at night to nurse Hudson, I always make sure I sip water before heading back into bed.  Along with water consumption, I am a terrible flosser.  Every time I go to the dentist, my gums bleed.  I have heard, “You need to floss more,” a countless number of times.  I go through phases.  Sometimes I am all about the flossing and I am super consistent with it.  Others times, I skip it all together.  It is kind of like bed making, which I talked about here.  It feels small, but it is a consistent healthy habit.  Even if you had an evening of tv and cookies, at least you are doing one thing productive and healthy! Plus, your gums will thank you.  Once the water drinking and flossing have ended, Lance and I together always end our days with prayer aloud.  As I wrote in the morning routine post, prayer is an important part of the way I begin my day.  For us, it is also an important way we end it.  I am thankful for this time to hear the prayers and heart of my husband.  Maybe you aren’t the praying type.  I still think having some type of quiet, intentional time before sleeping is a great way to end the day.  Maybe it is a meditation.  Maybe it a moment of gratitude.  Maybe it is a conscious breath in and out.  However you end your day, I hope you can feel like it is enough.  This is a struggle for me.  So much so that I am currently reading A Life of Being, Having, and Doing Enough by Wayne Muller.  I have just begun so we will see if it helps me with this battle I daily fight of wondering if everything I do is ever enough.  I do not always end my days feeling like it was enough.  I sometimes end with a sad heart.  A tired heart.  A defeated heart.  This is the reality, this is real life.  But, this sad, tired, defeated heart can turn to the Lord and lay down the struggles and triumphs of the day and also the hopes for a better tomorrow.  I am so thankful for this hope!

 

 

Routines Pt. 2

The Afternoon Routine 

I don’t know about you, but I definitely hit a slump in the afternoon.  It usually hits around 1pm.  The morning energy (aka coffee) has worn off, the realities of the day have begun to set in, and my motivation to get things done is on the decline.  I know in the previous post, I joked about being an afternoon person, but the reality is that I struggle with afternoons as well.  I think it is easier to establish morning and evening routines because often times those hours are more predictable.  Afternoons can be filled with a number of things, so at least for me it has been difficult to establish a good rhythm.  I think this will become easier when I have kids in school, but for now afternoons are a bit tricky for me to figure out.  They are so open that it can be hard to know the right things I should be filling them up with.  I am still working on establishing good afternoon rhythms, but here are 5 tips that help shape my midday and get me out of that dreaded 1pm slump.

1. Get Outside

For me, this is one of the most important aspects of my afternoons.  I need to have at least one outing to get us out of the house.  Some days this will be an actual outing with a plan and time to meet someone and do something.  Other days, the outing will literally be just to walk Nala around the block.  The point here is that there does not need to be pressure to have a big outing every day.  At least in my book, an outing is anything that is getting us out those two front doors.  Sometimes the outing is going to be something really fun, like baby yoga, and it will take a 3-hour time slot.  Other times, it will look more practical, like going to the grocery store.  But Trader Joe’s can even be fun, especially when you get samples and stickers.  With most things, it is all about mindset.  I think it is especially important when Hudson starts to get older that I can model to him that it is a fun and exciting adventure to get out of the house, regardless of what we are doing.  As much as I can, I try to make our afternoon outing include time with people, whether that be our new friends in MOMS Club, old friends I have not seen in a while, or family.  I always leave the outing the most refreshed when I am able to also connect with people.  It is amazing how one trip out of the house can really change your whole day.  It helps me gain perspective when I allow myself to leave the house.  It reminds me that there is more to life than loads of laundry and dirty dishes.  It reminds me that there is in fact life beyond the walls of our home and that it is important to participate in it.  Trust me, getting out is not always easy for me.  I am a homebody through and through, but when I push myself to get out, both Hudson and I are happier.  I also find that my days are overall more productive when we do get out of the house.  I gain energy and motivation to get done the other things on my list.

2. Move

Movement is something I took for granted in high school and college because it was something I had to do.  Once I graduated from college and no longer needed to run, I stopped almost all movement.  It was not until movement in my life ceased that I realized how dependent my body, mind, and soul were on it.  I am finally understanding that when my days lack movement, I fall into a major slump.  I am on edge.  I am grumpy.  I am sad.  I am unmotivated.  I am tired.  It does not always make sense, but going out for a 9-mile run brings me so much energy and joy.  I always battle with the logical side of my brain that tells me: “You are tired; therefore, you should do nothing.” This is such a lie! Even when I physically feel exhausted, pushing myself to move almost always has benefits.  There are very few times I regret running.  I think the only times I have truly regretted it were times I was physically ill and it did not make sense to run.  The fact of the matter is that making time for movement in your day, whether that be a workout in the park or a stroller walk, is not always going to be easy.  Trust me, when it is pouring down rain on a Saturday morning, I don’t actually feel like going out for a long run.  But last Saturday, I did it.  And again did the same thing this morning in the pouring rain. And let me tell you, I was so happy I did.  It was hard and windy and long, but it gave me life.  I came home inspired and motivated and ready to tackle the challenges of the day.  Things feel more possible after you run 9 miles in the pouring rain.  I am learning the importance of movement in my life.  It is a super important part of my days.  But, it does not come naturally to me.  It is something that I definitely need to schedule and prioritize.  A few months back I overheard something at a yoga class that really spoke to me.  A woman told her friend that she treats going to yoga class as a scheduled meeting with a client.  She puts it in her calendar and makes sure she is there.  Just like we would never just skip a meeting because we did not feel like, we should not do the same when it comes to movement and our health.  Ever since I heard this, it has completely changed the way I think about working out.  My runs and yoga classes are now things that I schedule into my calendar.  I don’t cancel them.  I show up.  Movement in your life should not be a thing that only happens if there is time.  Or if the conditions are perfect.  Or if you have the energy to do it.  You have to make time and you have to show up to it like it is a very important meeting with a very important person…you!

3. Clean with Timers 

The fact is I could spend my whole afternoons just cleaning our house.  With a golden retriever that sheds like it is her full-time job and a baby that has toys and activity centers and mats all over the house, cleaning could be happening all. the. time.  I don’t want to be that mom that is so obsessed with keeping the perfect and clean home that she misses out of the joy found in the mess.  I don’t want Hudson to associate me with always being stressed out and cleaning.  I want him to see his mom as someone who is okay stepping aside from the dishes to play with him.  I want him to see someone who does not freak out when another spill happens or things get out of order.  In order to help set boundaries when it comes to cleaning, I have been setting timers.  This has helped me so much!  I do not always get to finish the amount of cleaning I wanted to do in that time, but that is okay.  I can walk away knowing I got a good 15 minutes of cleaning in.  Sometimes, I realize I just need more time so I do sometimes extend it, but try not to extend it by more than 10 minutes.  Cleaning with timers really helps me focus in on what needs to be done.  It also allows me to make cleaning like a game.  I am a very competitive person, so this works well with my personality.  Can I clean the whole kitchen in 15 minutes? Yes I can!

4. Don’t Waste Nap Times 

This is speaking mostly to the moms/dads that have littles at home that are nap takers.  Nap time is sacred time in the Capel home.  For the most part, I try really hard to ensure that we are home for nap time and that it will not be interrupted.  I know this is going to become even more of a challenge when we have kids in school, but for now it works out pretty well.  In the first couple months of Hudson, his naps were also my naps.  I am terrible with actually resting, as I have already alluded to in previous posts, but those first couple months I actually needed those naps to function.  Now I don’t really ever take naps, but I use Hudson’s nap time as a time for me to do work that fills me up.  For a while I was using nap time to get more cleaning and practical things done around the house.  I soon realized that this was causing me to feel even more burnt out by the time Hudson woke up.  Now I rarely clean during Hudson’s naps.  I usually use that time to write, read, or scrapbook.  I am still doing something, but I am intentionally choosing to do things that I am passionate about.  I call this time “active rest.”  These activities truly do fill me up and give me rest, while still allowing me to do something.  I know the nap has a time limit so by being more aware of my time constraints, I am able to get right to the work that fills me up as soon as I walk out of nursery.  It is so important that I don’t waste this time.  There are days where I definitely have wasted precious nap time and I always regret it.  Just like babies need their naps, mamas need their time to do the things they love and were created to do.

5. Eat a Cookie 

So isn’t there a rule that you’re not supposed to eat a lot of sugar before 2pm?  Maybe I am making that up, but I think that is a bad rule.  I am all about having a sweet treat to help with that afternoon slump.  As mentioned earlier on, afternoons can be hard.  It can really help me when I pause in my afternoon schedule and allow for something sweet.  I am not saying go crazy and eat that whole box of cookies (even though sometimes it happens), but have that piece of chocolate at 1pm.  Or that slice of cake.  Or that candy you have stashed in your drawer.  I really look forward to a small treat in the afternoon.  Usually this “treat” is in the form of espresso, but I do occasionally have a leftover cookie from the night before.  I am someone who definitely is extrinsically motivated.  Last week when Lance requested I do the taxes, I asked him if I finished them by that day if I could have In-N-Out for dinner.  It does not take much to motivate me! A hamburger and fries is all it takes to get me to crank out taxes in a few hours.  I do the same thing with sweets in the afternoon.  When you finish folding these loads of laundry, you can have those vegan cookies.  These are the conversations I have with myself throughout the day.  And you know what?  I finished folding the loads of laundry!

Afternoons can be hard.  But I think it can be a real game changer when you view the afternoons as a big 6-hour time window (for me, that is 10-4) that has infinite possibilities.  Afternoons have the potential to be filled with fun and people and new experiences that my morning and evening routines typically do not have.  Thinking of afternoons as these windows of opportunities, alongside giving it guidance by incorporating the 5 elements discussed above, can really give a lot of life to your midday.