5 Things to Keep Doing During Coronavirus Pandemic

Now more than ever, the routines we have in place are essential for getting through this time of pandemic. Our calendars have emptied and we are uncertain what the next few weeks will truly look like.  We each are affected by the outbreak of COVID-19 in different ways. I can only speak from my own experience. Since we do not yet have school-aged kids and I stay-at-home with our toddler, our routine does not feel drastically different. 

With that said, last week I internally struggled not having our usual routine filled with toddler class, park playdates, and library outings. I was left wondering: how should I spend this extra time?  Should I just sleep in? Should I just watch all the movies during H’s nap time?  Should I just stop training since the marathon is postponed?  Should I just mindlessly consume social media and let everyone’s thoughts and opinions and anxiety seep into my own heart? These personal questions plus more have been bouncing in my head the past two weeks.

And the answer? Keep on keeping on.  Keep doing the same rhythms I do on a daily basis, minus of course the things I can’t do.  If you are feeling stuck, in a rut, and confused about how your days should look in this new normal, here are a few things I am continuing to do during the coronavirus pandemic, we are currently living through.

1. Keep Waking Up At the Same Time 

After everything was postponed and cancelled, my first thought when my 5:30 alarm went off was sleep in.  I have a feeling that more people probably are sleeping in.  It makes sense. There is less of a need to urgently get out of the door.  I get the temptation and the reality of sleeping later, but for me personally, that small choice can really mess up the rest of the day and my own attitude.  Keeping up with this rhythm of still rising early has been an important piece of keeping me grounded. Now more than ever, I need this quiet time to process with God, to read His Word, and journal out what is in my heart.  

2. Keep Moving (Running is always a good option).

In the midst of all the hard news and fear surrounding us, I have been deeply encouraged to see SO many people using this time to get moving outdoors.  The New York Times in an article last week, even called it “a back-to-basics exercise boom.”  As I am typing this, running, walking, and biking outdoors is still within CDC guidelines. And for that, I am really thankful. 

If it comes to the point, that we can’t run outdoors, I am not exactly sure what I will do, but for now, I am deeply appreciative of my hour runs outside. It feels like freedom, it feels accessible, and it feels essential.  We need movement. Whether that is doing those push-up challenges cropping up all over social media or walking the dog around the block or lacing up those running shoes that have been gathering dust. This is the time to make movement a daily rhythm of yours.  It is essential.  

3. Keep Setting Goals 

With the cancellation or postponement of so many events, races, conferences, and gatherings, it is easy to just scratch all the goals you made at the beginning of 2020.  Along with being routine-oriented, I am very much goal-oriented. I need a clear goal to keep me focused and working hard. With the Boston Marathon’s postponement, I decided I desperately still needed a goal to look forward to and motivate me to continue to get out the door. 

As I wrote about last week, my new goal is to run a sub-1:20 half-marathon in a virtual race.  Obviously, not quite as thrilling as hitting the streets of Boston, but this goal is still keeping me engaged and excited to get the miles in.  This is what it looks like personally for me, but I think it is possible for us all to re-write and adapt our original goals.  This is no time to throw out goals altogether, instead, let’s pivot and adjust. 

4. Keep Connecting 

God made humans to be in community.  We are literally wired for connection and community.  This is one of the MANY reasons, this new time is so challenging.  As much as my own introverted self is perfectly okay spending most of my time with family, this time has reminded me the great value and importance in connecting with others.  It has been encouraging to see so many having virtual meet-ups with friends and Face Times that go beyond the casual “hi” and extend to really hanging out and enjoying time together.  Keep doing this. Keep scheduling time to see your people virtually! Hudson is not quite at the age where I think a virtual playdate would work, but if you have older kids, I found this creative list of virtual playdate ideas.  

5. Keep Praying

Well, of course.  But in full transparency, I know when I begin to get fearful, anxious, and out of my normal routine, sometimes the first thing to go is my daily conversations with the Lord.  Please don’t let this one go. God is listening. He is not surprised with any of this, and I truly believe he desires to teach each one of us something essential during this time of staying at home. 

Are you listening? Are you willing to hear what he has to say? Are you telling him your own concerns, worries, and fears? Please keep praying. Pray for all the medical professionals working tirelessly.  Pray for the elderly that may be especially fearful right now. Pray for those with compromised immune systems. Pray for those personally affected by COVID-19. Pray for those losing jobs. Pray for our grocery stores and the lovely people working in them.  Pray for the students that deeply depend on the structure that school life brings to their days. Pray for the teachers. Pray for the parents. Pray for those that live alone and depend on social gatherings. Pray for our world and for deep healing on a physical and spiritual sense. Christianity Today, put together 20 prayers that can help lead you to pray during this time.

In all the uncertainty and change, let’s work together to keep some things the same. Keep rising, keep moving, keep looking forward, keep connecting, and most importantly, keep praying. 

Also, keep attending church (virtually).

Keep reading books.

Keep having family movie nights.

Keep chasing trash trucks on Mondays.

Keep fort-building.

Keep washing your hands.

Keep taking your vitamins.

Keep sending birthday cards.

Keep the sabbath.

Keep creating.

Keep drinking coffee.

Keep walking the dog.

Keep grocery shopping.

Keep cooking and baking and ordering take-out.

Keep online shopping.

Keep reaching out to your mama.

Keep taking baths.

Keep watering the plants.

These little, unchanging things are becoming more beautiful to me with each passing day.

What are the things you are keeping in your life right now in the midst of pandemic?

Routines to Keep You Centered This December

It has been a busy past few days.  From our trip to Yosemite to Thanksgiving to getting the house all ready for Christmas; my soul feels a bit tired and worn out.  The past week, I have definitely been out of my normal routine. I have been waking up later, working out less, and not sticking to my normal cleaning routine. Things feel a bit out of order. Our house is still scattered with Christmas things that are not fully in place. My mind has lots of words in it, but this typing thing already feels a bit foreign.  My legs are ready to increase mileage for marathon training, but I am not sure my head is there.

The thing with routines is that it is so easy to slip away.  My body fought me hard as I pulled myself out of bed at 5:30 am this week. My mind also fought me as I more easily convinced myself to skip on my typical disciplines. To me, this is just further evidence as to why keeping routines, even in busy holiday seasons is SO important.  If you have yet to read my past post on all of this, you can read it here.

3 Things to Keep Routines Around this December

On a different note, I want to write about some of the routines and rhythms you can keep this December. These three simple concepts are designed to help keep you centered on Christ this Christmas season. You are likely being pulled in a million directions this month. It is so easy to lose focus if you don’t have specific routines in place to keep you centered and grounded.

toddler boy playing in Christmas tree lot

1. Keep a Routine Around the Tree

On our first Christmas together, we started the tradition of getting our Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving.  This was our fifth year of getting our tree the Friday after Thanksgiving. I know a lot of you will get your tree whenever and that often depends on each year, but we have found to really love this tradition/routine of getting our tree at the same time every year. It takes away the guessing and we expect and look forward to it every year.  It is also nice to get it in on the earlier side, so it can be enjoyed all Christmas season. This year, we chose to decorate it the same evening. We listened to Christmas music, put up ornaments, and drank sipping chocolate from Trader Joe’s, which I highly recommend.  It is way better than regular hot cocoa.  

I can so clearly remember our first Christmas as a married couple.  I have a specific memory walking down the aisles at Target and feeling mad at Lance.  We didn’t have much for our Christmas tree. And I wanted to buy all the things for it: a fancy tree topper, a pretty tree skirt, festive ornaments.  But my logical and conservative husband, did not want to spend the extra money. We already spent over $60 on a tree, more money on things like that felt over the top to him.  I was so upset about this. It seems super silly now, but at the time it was a whole lot of Christmas drama!  

family Christmas tree traditions

Anyways, we didn’t buy a fancy tree topper. Instead, I used leftover ribbon we had from our wedding and tied a bow on the top of our tree.  Five years later and that is our same tree topper. At this point, we could buy one of those fancy toppers, but there is something about that bow that I love.  It feels right. It feels like tradition.

Christmas ornaments that hold important milestones for a family

All these little traditions and routines around our Christmas tree are fun and special and even important; however, the tree to me is actually more of a metaphor. It is this very physical thing that sits in your living room for nearly a month of your year. The tree is pretty and shiny, but even more importantly it tells a story. It holds important milestones and moments. And not only does it tell a story of your family; it ultimately tells a story of God’s faithfulness, even in the years that might not have any shiny or memorable ornaments attached to it. So, create routines and traditions around the tree. However, don’t be distracted by the small details, like the tree topper or the fact that your tree is always a tad crooked. Remember, the tree is just a metaphor of something much, much more important.

2. Keep a Routine Around Advent 

Last Christmas, Hudson was just 6-months old, so we did not keep up with an Advent calendar for him.  This year we are! There are so many Advent calendar options that you can buy at the store. Those are good, but I am currently really into the Advent calendars that you fill on your own and use every single year.  My mother-in-law got us this beautiful Advent calendar from Pottery Barn.  It has great big pockets to fill with whatever you choose.  It is nice that Hudson is still at an age where he doesn’t really care what he is getting and the smallest things are still super exciting to him.  For this reason, I filled up his calendar this year with things like stickers, plastic dinosaurs, and protein bars. I know- not as exciting as chocolate, but I think he will still enjoy it.  

scripture and stickers inside an advent calendar for a toddler

The day before Advent, I focused more on finding little things in the dollar section of Target to put into his calendar that I missed the point a bit.  I forgot that the whole point of this Advent season is to reflect on the coming of Christ. So, I kept the random dinosaurs and snowman stickers stuffed in the pockets, but I also added something.  I found an amazing blog that had this adorable handwritten scripture geared towards little ones for each day. She specifically had the two-year olds in mind! I printed it out, cut out the squares and put one in each pocket.  I taped construction paper on the wall next to our advent calendar to stick the scripture on. This way we can visibly remember the greatest gift this season: Jesus.  

scripture from Luke for a toddler's advent calendar

Again, this is nothing revolutionary.  A small adjustment to a typical calendar filled with chocolate or even alcohol (have you seen the beer advent calendar from Costco?).  While there is nothing inherently wrong with calendars like this, I do believe it quickly turns our eyes away from the point of Advent.  It is to remember and await in eager anticipation for what is coming. The purpose of Advent is not in the chocolate or craft beer cans. The purpose is in Jesus.

  If you have little ones and wish to incorporate simple scripture into your Advent tradition, you can get that free printable on the Happy Home Fairy blog right here.  Just because we are already a few days into advent, it is never too late to start implementing more of Jesus into your Christmas traditions.

3. Keep a Routine Around Family Time

After dinner time, we are trying to do one thing as a family that feels Christmas-y.  On the first of December, we started by watching Lance’s all-time favorite Christmas movie, Home Alone.  We just watched about 20-minutes, but it was a fun way to start off the month of December.  A few other ideas we plan on doing as a family include: walking around to see Christmas lights in Sleepy Hollow (we do this every year with our good friends Hannah and Kyle), baking cookies together, reading Christmas-themed books (more on this in next week’s blog post), dancing to Christmas music, drinking that sipping chocolate I mentioned above, attending local Christmas events (especially ones surrounded around celebrating what this time of year is truly about). 

If you live in the South Bay area, our church is putting on a special event called “Campfire Christmas.”  It is the perfect evening activity with your family to spend some time celebrating and singing and preparing your hearts for the coming of Christ.  Do a little research and see some of the Christmas events local churches around you are putting on. These are often free and the perfect Christmas family outing centered around Christ.  

Side note: the truth of the matter is that we are not all curled up together doing some cute, Christmas-themed activity every single night of December. Applause to those families, but that is just not us. In fact, just tonight we had a nice dinner together, Hudson took a bath, and I flew out the door to yoga. The point of routines is intention. We could have gone out to a local holiday event being held in the community this evening, but Lance and I both sensed it was not right for us tonight. I am telling you this story because I want to be clear: we are definitely not perfect and life is busy, but on the nights that make sense, we really are intentionally trying to spend them together doing something centered around this season.

Give Something Up + Commit to Something

I recently listened to a new podcast episode on The Next Right Thing.  I have mentioned Emily’s podcast before on here and it is because she always drops such good wisdom in her short 15-20-minute episodes.  You really should take a listen if you haven’t. Her latest episode is all about how to avoid decision fatigue during the holidays. She suggests deciding ahead of time one thing to say no or remove from your schedule during the month of December.  For her, it was work-related travel. She also recommended planning ahead and saying yes to two things that will keep you centered on Christ during the holidays. It could be a devotional, a playlist, a book.

All this very much resonated with me as I wrote up this particular blog.  For me, I am saying no to late nights and consuming myself with tasks that simply are not that important. When it comes to the evenings, I want to be home with my family, I don’t want to busy myself with shopping and planning and doing. By setting this boundary, I am hoping to end this Christmas season in a place where I am more present and joyful. 

What Are You Prioritizing this December?

Okay, so I know this was a bit all over the place, but the heart of what I am trying to convey is that the things and routines we choose to do during December really, really matter.  Even if we don’t realize it, what we choose to say no and yes to are ultimately revealing what matters to us. When I choose to consume myself with shopping, I quickly lose sight of what this time of celebration is all about.  However, when I choose to put scripture in each pocket of Hudson’s Advent calendar and we stick it up on the wall together, I ground myself and the Word of God pulls me into the true joy of the season.  

I hope this makes you think about exactly how you are spending your time in the days and weeks to come.  What is your focus? What is spinning on in your head? Is it your shopping list and the parties you are attending?  Or is it your family? The candlelight Christmas-Eve service? That verse from Luke you just can’t shake from your mind?  

It sure is easy to be pulled away from the important things this time of year. My prayer is that this December can be different for you. You will likely still make some mistakes and fill your schedule a bit too full, but I hope that you can end the month with just a bit more peace, joy, and gentleness than last year!

Share a comment if you have a particular routine during December that keeps you focused and joyful this time of year! I would love to hear from you.

Keeping Routines During Holiday Busyness

Just last Sunday we went to the Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony at The Grove in Los Angeles.  This was the perfect reminder about what can easily happen during this time of year.  I witnessed people pushing and shoving each other through crowds. There were people yelling at waitresses for not keeping their reservation.  There were unkind words thrown at people that were standing and covering the screen that was projecting the show. To be honest, there was not a ton of holiday cheer.  There were a lot of security guards and chaos and crowds of unhappy people. Sure, there was a beautiful, big Christmas tree, which costs more than what many people make in a year (trust me, we looked up all the stats as we waited on the crowded lawn).  There were beautiful lights everywhere and the store windows glimmered with shiny things. But like I said, there seemed to be something missing.  

Stay Focused on What Matters

Don’t get me wrong.  I LOVE this time of year.  But, I also am quite aware that I have a tendency to not show up as my best self around this time.  I too can be like the crowds of angry people that push and shove their way to the front. I tend to be on edge, cranky, and stressed.  The truth is, I can easily let the distractions of gift giving, holiday parties, and all the decorations get in the way of staying focused and present on what this time of celebration is all about: the birth of Jesus!  

This year, I am committed to staying focused on what actually matters and not letting the holiday chaos get the best of me.  Are you with me? Let’s enjoy this time of year, but let’s also keep systems in place to stay centered and focused on what the celebration is truly all about.  It is likely that you are going to be a bit outside of your normal routine during this season and that is totally okay. You might be traveling. You might stay up later, sleep in longer, eat more cookies.  And to all of that, I say go for it. As much as I love routines and systems, I think it is also essential to let go of some of the structure during seasons like this; however, there are a few things that I believe are essential for you to keep up even during the holidays.  

5 Things To Keep Doing During Holiday Busyness

So, while you might be stuffing your face with gingerbread men and staying up past your bedtime, here are a few things you should keep up with to help avoid being a grinch this Christmas and to really be joyful and present and thankful.  

1. Wake Up Before the Kiddos 

I get it.  With less work + no school, you might easily be tempted to sleep in and wake up when the whole house wakes up.  This is easy to do when you might be staying up later than normal shopping or partying. However, if you are anything like me, even just 10-minutes of quiet time before the chaos of the day, is essential for me to be the best mama and wife I can be.  Normally, I wake up at 5:15 am to have at least an hour of time to journal, pray, work on blog. I will definitely have some days of waking up later, but I still plan on setting an alarm to ensure I have at least 10-minutes before Hudson wakes up. So, sleep in, but still allow for some early morning quiet time. This can really help set the tone for the rest of the day.

2. Take Your Vitamins

Even if you don’t take supplements as a daily routine, the idea behind this point, is keep up with one simple habit that is good for your health.  The reality is that I am going to be eating A LOT this holiday season and I will be eating a ton of things that might not be the healthiest options. That is part of this time of year!  However, my body and emotional state really gets affected if I am just consuming wine, sugar, and salt. And let’s be honest, that is a lot of what is going into my body around this time.  There must be balance. So, even if it is just keeping up with your vitamin routine or your protein shake every morning. Keep doing one healthy food habit that will help counter all that wine, sugar, and salt.  

3. Keep Moving 

Amidst all the busyness, it is easy to skip out on your typical workout routine.  I don’t think you need to keep up as intense of an exercise routine as you might normally, but continuing to have some type of movement in your days is still vital.  If you are traveling, it can be a real challenge to stay as active. As I wrote about in last week’s post on finding exercise routines, 10-minutes is always better than zero.  Use your small windows of time! Another option, is to try to incorporate movement or getting outdoors when you are visiting with friends or family.  Take a family walk Christmas Eve. Bring a friend that is home for the holidays to a yoga class. This is a fun way to visit, while still keeping active! 

4. Create Space for Evening Routine 

It is likely you are going to be out later on certain evenings than you typically would.  Our family is an early to bed type of family, so it can really affect us staying out past our bedtimes night after night during this time of year.  For that reason, I think it is important to talk within your family and set the maximum time you will be out. Aim to really get home by this time, so you can keep up with the elements of your evening routine.  Story time, cuddles, night cream. These are the things that might be easy to toss out the window when you are coming home past midnight and are exhausted. I really believe it is important to preserve your evening routine as much as possible by giving yourselves and your family some time before just falling asleep.  This might entail leaving the party slightly early or saying no to certain things, but trust me, you and your family will be much happier if you create these types of boundaries.

5. Plan Ahead

The week of Christmas, I always feel especially on edge because I am still trying to do all things on my holiday to-do list that I have not gotten to!  This Christmas season, I am really committing to getting all the shopping and holiday prep done by the first week of December. This is my goal. To make this happen, I am planning ahead.  I am scheduling all my shopping early. I am clearly marking our calendars with the different events we are going to, so it is very clear to the whole family what we have going on. Planning ahead really can save you from a lot of Christmas drama!  

In the spirit of Christmas, I wanted to give you a little gift.  I created a pretty little “Christmas To-Do List” to help you organize everything you have to do this season! I put some scripture and reminders to help you stay rooted in what this time of year is all about.  Not the presents or Santa or the Christmas Tree Lighting or cookie exchanges. Jesus. It is about Him! I really believe working on incorporating these 5 things into this busy time of year will ultimately help keep you focused on what actually matters! 

All you need to do to be sent this special list is to enter your email below. If you are already subscribed, I’ll be sending you this PDF in next week’s newsletter.

Send Me My Gift! 

What are some things you do during this time of year to help keep you grounded?  I would love to hear from you! Leave a comment below.  

6 Steps to Make Exercise a Routine for the Busy Mom

Routines make the things happen that you don’t always feel like doing.  For me, a huge one is exercise. Running comes pretty naturally to me and something I have been doing for over ten years; however, the reality of being a busy mom, often is still a huge barrier for me.  While I definitely do not always feel like it, I still manage to exercise 6 days a week. This simply would not happen if I did not have a consistent routine. The miles and burpees are literally scheduled into my week. That might sound excessive, but here’s the truth: if I don’t pencil in my workouts like they are important work meetings, they simply WILL NOT HAPPEN!  Same with you?

I am coming from the perspective of someone who loves to run and loves staying active and healthy, so I can only imagine the real obstacle to actually get out there and workout when it might not come as naturally to you. This is just more of a reason that you need to make exercise into a weekly routine! 

Routines Make It Happen!

 As I have said a ton on here before, routines help us actually do the things that are good for us even when we do not FEEL LIKE IT. If I am being honest, there are very few days where I truly feel like pushing myself and running a hard workout. Even when the feeling or desire is not there, I still get it done because I know that I run hard every Wednesday morning. It is just what I do.

I have a LOT of thoughts when it comes to exercise routines for the busy mom.  Before I even really get started, I want to clearly acknowledge that I absolutely understand that some mamas have greater barriers to fitting in workouts based on either being a single mama, having no family nearby, dealing with a tight budget, and/or having multiple little ones still at home to care for.  With that said, I still firmly believe that 6 days of movement, even for the busy mom with limited help and resources, is not only possible, but absolutely necessary.  

Before you start listing out the excuses about why there is no possible way you can exercise 6 days a week.  I want you to stop. The excuses are likely valid, but if you truly are priortizing your health, you can and will make time for scheduling working out as a daily routine.  

6 Steps to Creating Your Own Exercise Routine

Below are some step-by-step suggestions to help you get on the track of incorporating movement into your daily routine.  Notice how I am saying MOVEMENT. We tend to put a lot of pressure on ourselves with that word “exercise” or “workout.” There is this underlying pressure that if we do not have a solid hour to workout, then forget it.  This way of thinking needs to stop. You have 10 minutes in your day. I don’t care how busy your days are. There are 10 minutes you can spare for intentional movement.  

I will send you this 4-paged printable that I created that will help you target the times in your schedule that are open + guide you as you set goals and actually schedule the exercise into your week. I have made this PDF editable so if you choose to keep it on your computer, you can easily edit the boxes! To get this sent straight to your inbox, just enter you email below. If you are already a subscriber, you will getting this lovely PDF in my Tuesday newsletter.

 



 

 

1. Examine Your Weeks + Identify Open Windows

Take the time to list out all your time obligations and responsibilities during the week.  Write it out as a schedule with time blocks. Once you have everything written out, identify the windows that are open.  It might be very small windows, but even if it is 10-minute windows, highlight these.

2. Set Clear Weekly Goals 

Be VERY specific.  Set the number of times you plan to do cardio (run, spin class, bike ride, swim, treadmill, HIIT training).  Set the number of times you plan to do strength training (core, weights, yoga, barre). For example, my typical weekly goals when I am not in full-on training mode is 4 runs per week + 2 classes (focused on legs, arms, and core).  

3. Schedule It

Now that you have your goals, schedule the exact time + type of movement you will be doing on each day.  Similar to my meal planning tips, I suggest that you do similar types of movement on each day of the week.  For example, Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays could be days you run. Tuesdays and Thursdays could be days focused on core strength. Saturdays could be either long run days (if you’re into that type of thing) or a morning class you attend to kick off the weekend on the right note.  When scheduling, try to frontload your week. Schedule the hard things early on in the week when you are more motivated. For example, Monday-Wedneday I have most of my mileage scheduled in + a run workout. Put the hard things first! 

4. Plan Ahead 

Once your weekly schedule is set, next you need to plan out the logistics.  As a busy mama, it is no longer as simple as just leaving the house for a run or the gym.  You need to figure out who is watching your kiddos. Plan ahead and ask if you can have help in the hour you plan on getting out to exercise.  If you don’t have help available to you, try to plan out with your spouse a time when they will be home. For us, this usually means waking up very early or using the evening time. 

If limited help is a major barrier, try to plan most of your daily movement time when the kids are either in school, still asleep, napping, or my personal fav (can join you).  The baby jogger is a great way to incorporate your little ones, while you get out the door and prioritize your own health. I wrote a whole post dedicated to tips on running with the jogger, which you can read here.  There are also gyms that offer childcare, so this is another great option if you can swing a gym membership!

5. Actually Do It 

This can sometimes be the hardest step.  Once you have done the extra work of planning ahead and creating plans, you must actually commit to it.  At first it might feel hard, especially if your only window of free time is in the evening, but once you make it a consistent routine, it will become easier and easier.  Tuesday and Thursday evenings are the nights I go to a core class at my local Yogaworks. It used to be hard to find motivation to drive to these classes at 6 pm after a long day chasing Hudson, but now that it is a routine, it is something I look forward to and expect.  

6. Be Flexible

Even with the routine set and things planned out, the reality is that certain days will simply not allow for your typical exercise routine to happen.  There will be days where finding an hour window will feel nearly impossible and that is okay. I am learning that on these types of days, I can still incorporate 10-minutes of intentional movement into my day and this will help me to not feel guilty for skipping out and will also boost mood and productivity. 

We often operate in this all or nothing mindset. We think if we don’t have a solid hour of time available, then we should just skip it. Not true! 10-minutes will always be better than none. Be willing to adjust and stay committed to the movement even if it will look slightly different than planned. Just getting out the door to run a couple miles and play at the park with your little one will always be a win over just choosing to skip it. 

The tabata method is another great way to get in a solid workout in a short amount of time. It is similar to HIIT training in the sense that it focuses on doing certain exercises at a high-intensity level for 20 seconds and then resting for 10 seconds. I really believe we can all do something really hard for 20 seconds. You repeat this cycle 8 times. This is just 4 minutes of work, but it will push you in ways that going out for a casual 2 mile jog will not. I really believe this type of training is key for us busy mamas. It gives a high-quality workout in a short amount of time, and if done consistently can have huge aerobic and anaerobic results!

You’ve Got This

Wherever you are, whether that be training for a marathon or just trying to walk around the block daily, remember that you’ve got this and that prioritizing intentional movement daily is an essential part of your routine.  If you do not have a consistent movement routine, I really hope this encourages you to do so.

Remember, it will likely not happen if you do not have a routine dedicated to staying active! You can always give up 10-minutes to move! Those intentional minutes put towards your health will ultimately make you a better human, mama, wife, and friend.  I know that I am a wayyy nicer human, a more loving wife, and a much more patient mother when I get out there and make my running and fitness routine a priority.

Let me know how you squeeze in working out! I would love to hear from you. Leave a comment below!

Simple, Weekly Meal Planning for Busy Moms

It is appropriate that I am typing this up on a Monday because Mondays are my meal planning and grocery shopping days.  Before you stop reading and tell yourself, “I don’t have time to plan out meals for an entire week. Heck, most days I don’t even know what I will eat for lunch.”  Think again! Meal planning is one of the things I do at the start of the week that allows for the next 6 days to be WAY less stressful.

I will admit, meal planning used to take me close to an hour every week in the beginning of our marriage.  However, like with most things, the more you do it, the quicker and more efficient you become. I am at the point where I can plan out all the meals for the week and produce the grocery list in under 15 minutes!  And here’s a little secret, you can too! It really is not as hard as you might be thinking and it will save you SO much stress and time throughout the week.  

Quick side note: if you have babies in your family and would like tips on preparing meals for the littlest mouths in your family, check out these 5 tips for making meals for babies. Using some of these tips have actually helped me not drastically increase our grocery bills because Hudson eats a lot of similar foods to us.

5 Reasons You Should Be Meal Planning

If you still are not convinced, below are some very clear reasons and benefits on why you should start planning out your family’s meals for the week.

1. Saves Time

People often think they need to be super organized and have a lot of initial time available to properly plan meals.  I am here to tell you that is simply not true! As you get used to the weekly discipline of planning meals out every week, you will become more efficient. Even if it takes you a bit more time at the beginning, it is is worth it because it will save you so much time later in the week. dft67t6tcv yjbv

2. Saves Money

I literally used to spend MORE money on food  when I was in college just feeding myself then what I currently spend to feed a family of three (and not just any family of three, a family that eats A LOT).  When it was just me in college, I never planned out my meals. I would go to Trader Joe’s and literally just let my stomach guide my purchases. This is no way to grocery shop!  I would buy lots of the frozen pre-planned meals because I thought it would save me time and money. NOT true! Plus, a lot of the frozen meals are pretty high in sodium. 

I would buy really just whatever looked and sounded good and figured I would make things work for meals. This method resulted in HIGH grocery bills that I could barely afford. By planning out your meals, you are creating a grocery list only with the items that you actually need. 

3. Wastes Less Food

Since you only are getting produce and proteins that you will actually use for meals throughout the week, you will notice that you end up throwing away much less food.  I rarely need to throw away produce because it is all used by the end of the week. Really one of the only times I need to throw things away is on weeks that plans change and we don’t end up using all the meals I had planned out.  In terms of proteins, I NEVER throw these away because I put all meats in the freezer, except what I am using that night and the next night. 

4. Removes Stress 

Our weeks are busy and after full days of work and chasing after littles, we should not be stressing about what our family will eat.  Taking the time to plan ahead, will allow your weeks to run so much more smoothly around dinner time. It is now something I don’t even think about.  I just know what we are eating and I start making it. There are enough stressors in our lives, don’t let dinner time be another one of those.

5. Allows for Healthier Choices

If meals are not planned, it is more likely that you will resort to going out or picking up something quick.  While of course you can find healthy options out, it is more likely that you will consistently be eating healthier meals the more you plan things out.  When you plan out your meals, you have the control to make sure you are getting lean proteins, greens, and healthy carbs.   

So now you might be thinking, “Okay I get it, meal planning has some clear benefits, but planning ahead is just not my personality.  I don’t even know where to start!”  

That is where I want to help you out. 

Remember how I mentioned it used to take me an hour to plan our meals for the week?  Part of the reason it took me so long was because I didn’t have any plan to help guide me.  I was doing all the hard front work myself. Now that I have been planning out meals for the past 4 years of our marriage, I have developed a weekly system that allows me to write out 7 meals + a grocery list in under 15-minutes.  I actually timed myself and I planned out the meals in 12-minutes yesterday, while throwing tennis balls to our dog Nala and chasing around a toddler. This is something you can even do quickly in the middle of your chaotic days! 

4 Simple Steps to Start Meal Planning TODAY

Below are four tangible steps you can start taking today to help with meal planning and make your life so much simpler.

1. Choose a Day to Plan and Shop (stay consistent!)

Pick the day that is open enough for you to plan out your meals and shop in the same day.  If you are working, a weekend will probably work best. For me personally, I do it all on Mondays.  Start by thinking about your week as a whole and intentionally choosing a day that you can do all the planning and shopping.  Try not to split it up over 2 days. I used to do this and it made the process feel longer. Get it all done in ONE day, so the rest of the 6 you don’t even need to think about meals or the grocery store. 

Grocery shopping on the same day every week is one of my favorite weekly rhythms. It saves a ton of time because you are just making one big grocery trip for the whole week. It is something that you expect to happen on that particular day so it does not hold as much dread. And it actually helps build a sense of community. I love the fact that I have come to know a lot of the people that work at our local Trader Joe’s. This type of community would likely not be as felt if we went grocery shopping at random days, times, and tons of different stores.

2. Write Down Ingredients Currently in Refrigerator + Pantry 

To be honest, I don’t do this every week because by the end of the week, we are basically empty!  However, at the beginning of your meal planning journey, you probably have a lot of food sitting in the fridge and pantry that are left unused.  I got this idea from Jordan Page, a blogger and You-tuber on how to be frugal as a family.   She suggests writing out a list of everything you have and then use this list to generate meal ideas.  This will ensure that you are using ingredients you already have.  

This is a much better strategy than first looking up recipes. I used to look up a recipe for nearly every day of the week, and I spent way more money on groceries because I was buying ingredients that I do not typically cook with. Don’t do this! Start with the ingredients you already have and generate meal ideas from there.

3. Create Meal Types for Each Day of the Week

Part of the reason I can so quickly plan out 7 meals in under 15-minutes is because I have created a system in which we have similar types of meals for each specific day of the week.  This is REALLY helpful. It takes out a lot of the decisions when it comes to meal planning and it can actually be a really fun thing for your family to look forward to and expect. This is something you can get the entire family on-board with.  To clarify, this does not mean we are eating the same meal every Monday or every Thursday, but we are eating the same “type” of meal.

For example our weekly menu includes “Meatless Mondays” and “Taco Tuesdays.” So on Mondays, I will either plan a veggie stir-fry, or veggie quinoa bowls, or a veggie pasta, or maybe even veggie burgers + sweet potato cubes.  On Tuesdays, we might have turkey tacos, or shrimp taco salad, or even beef taco soup. See? There can be variety even though each day of the week is assigned a specific type. I put together a sample week in the graphic above. As you can see, I keep it REAL simple!

Isn’t this menu pretty? I made it just for you! Well, and for myself too, but mostly you. I’ll send it to you for FREE! Just enter your email right below here. Along with the menu, I will also send you the organized grocery shopping list. Say goodbye to your frantic and wandering days of grocery shopping. This list will get you in and out of the store with CONFIDENCE.

Yes! Send me the Menu!

4. Use My Weekly Menu Chart + Grocery List 

There are tons of Meal Planning templates that you can purchase, but why spend the money?  I typically just grab printer paper and quickly write everything out, but I wanted something that looked a bit nicer, so I created this really simple menu chart + grocery list.  They are on two separate documents so you don’t need to cut the list off from the menu! I would highly recommend putting the menu up on your fridge or somewhere super visible in the kitchen so the whole family can see it.  Make sure you enter your email above, so I can send you this FREE gift.

For the grocery list, I have created it with three columns: Produce, Proteins, and Pantry. I used to just list everything out, but this method made grocery shopping more difficult. Now, as I make a list I organize it into these three categories and it makes the actual shopping experience a lot simpler.  So when creating your list, just think of the 3 P’s. Also, I started adding a fourth category: Freezer. I tend to not really get anything from the frozen section, except frozen berries and a couple dessert options. However, I included it on the list, just in case you tend to stock up on more frozen items.

I really hope this is helpful for you.  If you are already a meal planning type of gal, I would LOVE to hear some of your tips.  Leave a comment below! If you are still very new to meal planning, and have any specific questions, please leave them below as well.

See you next Thursday! Happy Meal Planning!

Happy Birthday to Us & Hello Routines!

this mama needs grace blog is one

 Happy Birthday to us!  It has officially been one year since our very first post on This Mama Needs Grace.  On October 19th, 2018, I wrote our very first blog post: “This Mama Needs…”.  Go back and check it out.  Or not, because let’s be honest, it is not the best, but the messaging is solid.  And it still is very much the driving force behind this blog: 

“My prayer is through this blog of grappling through my own ever-present need for Jesus’ abundant grace, that you too can remember that even when it feels like you have nothing together, that God loves you with a crazy love and He showers you with grace in all of your imperfections.”

A year later, and this is still my prayer.  

blogger with toddler son celebrating first year of her mom blog
I came up with a cute idea to get a cupcake at my fav spot, Susie Cakes in celebration of year 1 of tmng! But then life happens & it got smeared in the car, but hey, I tried!

The Beginning

TMNG (this mama needs grace) initially was born because I was drowning.  I was drowning in my tears, drowning in unreasonable pressures I had set around motherhood, drowning in feeling like I was simply not enough.  The transition from working to fully staying at home was a much more difficult than I would have imagined. Since I can remember, I have always wanted to be a mom.  I have dreamed about snack making, playdates, arts and crafts. But then reality hit, and the vision I had of being a stay at home mom was not quite as peachy.  

I quickly realized I needed an outlet.  I needed a place to spill my guts. A place to be fully honest about some of my raw and difficult days as a new mama.  I needed a place to write and remember who I am. I am not just a mom, a wife, a runner. No, I am much more than that…I am His beloved daughter.  I needed to remember this.  

Year 1 Reflection

To be honest, I did not have a ton of goals when TMNG began.  I really just needed a creative project that was for myself. A year ago, I was not in the healthiest place because I was fully consumed in being a “perfect” mom. I barely took time to go on a run or to yoga and I had nothing that made me want to get up early in the morning. My days were consumed with nursing, cleaning, and making dinner. Those things just were not filling me up. I desperately needed a reason to get out of the house to pursue something I was passionate about.  I needed a fill-up and in many ways TMNG was that place for me.

So while this began as very much a personal thing, below is a quick look at what has happened in a year.

Year 1 Stats

  • 70 posts published
  • 98,621 words written
  • 264 post likes
  • 22 comments
  • 124 subscribers

I am not a numbers girl.  I am all about the words, but I also think it is important to occasionally check in with the number side of things.  Those stats in some ways impress me. I am shocked I have written those many words in a year of very much working on this thing part-time.  I am also shocked I have actually stayed with it and have been for the most part pretty consistent. This I am proud of!

In terms of comments and followers, well, we are small, but after a year of writing, creating, posting, and dreaming; I firmly believe this is just the beginning.  TMNG might be small right now, but I have this beautiful vision of what it can become so I will not stop. I feel God in this, so I will keep writing. When He tells me to stop, I will, but now is not the time.  

5 lessons learned from first year blogging

A Year of Growth

Within this year, I have written on all types of things.  From losing my grandmother to returning to running to mom routines to traveling to lessons in motherhood.  TMNG has been a place for me to ramble about the current state of my heart. It really has come to hold a lot of the hard things that have happened this year (saying good-bye to my grandma and dealing with anxiety as a new mother) to a lot of the really exciting moments (running a sub-3 marathon, celebrating 4 years of marriage, celebrating Hudson’s first birthday).  TMNG is more than just another mom blog.  It is the home place of all my crazy ideas and emotions wandering in my head and heart.  It is my open-diary for myself; my open-letter to you.  

This past year, TMNG has been a bit all over the place, trying to really figure out who we are.  We took on different subjects, styles, and formats. From super short posts to extremely long 2,500 word posts; from no pictures to pictures embedded everywhere. We have had a lot of different looks and held all types of content: lists, tips, reflections, letters. Through this year, we have grown a lot and it feels like we are finally beginning to understand our voice and purpose.

Looking Ahead

After a year of figuring out exactly who we are, we think we know.  Kind of. TMNG is changing and evolving. TMNG is still going to be the home base for my emotions and ideas to wander freely, we are just taming it up a bit. 

For year 2, TMNG will become your destination spot for all things…ROUTINES. Yes. Routines, schedules, healthy habits. And not just any routines. Simple ones.  Not overwhelming or more complicated than your life before routines. Simple and accessible ones you can start adding to your life TODAY.  The focus will be on routines revolved around the morning, quick cleaning, fitness, devotional time, meal prep, and toddlers (because that is currently where we are at over here at the Capel home).

These routines are specifically curated for not just anyone, but for the busy mama on-the-go. 

this mama needs grace blog is for the busy mom on the go

Busy mama, we see you, and this one’s for you.  

Starting next week, join us every Thursday for new content that will be geared towards providing you with specific ideas and tips on how to make different aspects of your life into a routine.  We will be talking about ALL sorts of things (working out, marriage, cleaning, dinner time), but it will all be through the lens of how to make that thing into a routine. A pattern. A thing you don’t even think about, you just do it.  

We Love Routines, You Too?

If you can’t tell, we are big fans of routines, and believe routines are the key to happier, healthier, and more productive mamas.  Mom life, especially new mom life is EXHAUSTING.  Without systems in place, it is easy to feel like you are drowning in all the responsibilities on your plate.  The thing we love about routines is that it not only is something that allows for you to be more productive, it ultimately frees up chunks of time for you to do the things that fill you up.  It allows for you to start taking the time to go to that Tuesday workout class every week, or consistently work on that side hustle you have been dreaming up for years.  It allows you to finally step into your calling and ultimately, to find CONFIDENCE in your new life as a mama. 

Not to mention, routines benefit not just us as mamas, it benefits the entire family, specifically the little humans we are raising. Check out this really interesting article that presents research that draws a link between family routines with children that are more socially and emotionally healthy. Once you start diving into the research and numbers, routines become more than a nice option for those people that are well-organized and enjoy planning. No, routines, are necessary for all of us! And as the article points out so well, routines do not mean your days are always super strict and rigid. There is flexibility, which we talk about in future posts.

So are you in, mama?  Click the button below to instantly join our community, get email reminders when a new post drops, and as a special gift to say thanks, we will send you one of our fav weekly checklists to make sure you are getting all the important things DONE! See you next week! 



 

 

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.