3 ways I look at my phone less (and my kids more)

The sweetest friend emailed me and asked how to be more present to her two little kids during the day. She feels terrible seeking the social media distractions that plague us all and wanted some practical tips for severing the iphone-in-hand addiction.

For me, the unholy trinity of facebook, instagram and bloglovin frequently distract me from my kids, sucking me down the online hole. And climbing out of that hole isn't as simple as just putting down my phone. I have to pick something up. 

Depending on the time of day, I try and do one of these alternatives:

1. With the baby

I pick him up, put him in a sling and start two-hands-required household work. It's hard to read blog posts while folding laundry. Or doing dishes. Or drying tangled hair.

Saving my household work for when the baby is up means that I can zone out, guilt-free, during naptime or before everyone's up in the morning. Once the boots are on the ground, though, it's all hands on deck, quite literally.

2. With the toddler

I turn on music on my phone--and set it down.

Amazon Prime has a bunch of Sesame Street albums and playlists that we listen to all through the day. Or I'll turn on a YouTube playlist of Raffi songs. Preferably the Bananaphone playlist. Because it's a phone with a-peel. AHAHAHAHHHAHHHAA.

Every time I get the impulse to pick up my phone, the music reminds me that it's off limits.

3. With the preschoolers

Once the babies are down for naps and I have one-on-one time with my 4-year-old boy, I pick up a deck of cards. Seriously, one deck of Star Wars playing cards that I found for .69 cents at at Goodwill has revolutionized our afternoons here. I taught both boys to play 7-Up. Sean wants to teach them poker next. Pretty soon they'll be running the baccarat table on the school black top at recess. Guard your lunch money, kids.

Amby's also great at playing Memory with me. He tries to help me win. Even so, he usually beats me. :)

Do you have other strategies for engaging with your kids instead of mindlessly staring at your phone? Love to hear 'em.


my #1 tip for surviving solo parenting when my husband travels

Is it just the plight of the modern mom that she often finds herself alone at home with the kids as her husband travels for work? I feel like more and more of my friends and friends online say that they're in the survival mode that comes with no one walking in the door at 5pm, ready with a full tank of Parenting Fuel to get everyone through til bedtime.

I've survived some pretty long stints of solo parenting (longest was 3 months with 3 kids) and lots and lots of business-week-length trips. I've done it well sometimes, and I've done it poorly lots of times. None of it's easy, though it's better when I have the right attitude.

But though the right attitude counts for a lot, it's not everything.

My top tip for surviving solo parenting is this: KEEP MOVING.

Keep cleaning.

Keep washing the dishes in the sink.

Keep doing a few push-ups each day.

Keep doing the laundry--but do it during the day light, for Pete's sake! Don't do it at night when there are at least 12 axe murderers hiding in your garage.

Keep the playroom tidy. Don't let the kids go to bed until they've picked up.

My mood and my mind feel INFINITELY better when I'm not staring at a mess in every room.

So many times I've cried to Sean on the phone while he's away, sobbing that "it's a mess! Everything is a damn mess! and I can't clean it all up!" I hate that feeling of losing control of my house.

Even if it means letting the baby fuss for 10 minutes while I wash the sippy cups and throw everything else in the dishwasher... even if it means the kids watch an extra Rescue Bots while I bring in the clothes from the dryer and put them away... I do it. Because I've learned that I need it.

Now, all of that is null and void should someone get sick. Last year we weathered two bouts of stomach flu in 30 days--and BOTH happened while Sean was away. And BOTH times, I caught it. And both times, I did zero cleaning for five days, save for the obvious cleaning up of that involves Lysol wipes, paper towels and carpet cleaner. #gross #neveragain #saveyourpeopleohLord

But if I'm not in the midst of sickness, then I make myself move.

Secondary tip for surviving? A bag of Mini Reese's cups in the freezer. Mama needs a reward for all that scrubbin'.

If you've got a way to survive when your dude's away, I'd love to hear it!


7qt / what I'm loving right now from walmart

I know. Everyone's so glad I began blogging again so I could write these kinds of inspiring posts. : /

I took a leap in December and rounded up every fashion blog to which I was subscribed--all of which engaged in significant wailing and written tantruming after the presidential election--and clicked "unfollow." Quite liberating.

In the wake of that decision, I no longer read about ladies who spend $180 on jeans, $200 on purses and $300 on shoes without batting a mascara-ed eye. Bully for them, but that kind of spending isn't me now, nor do I think it ever will be. It's not a judgement on their spending. It's a reflection of the reality of mine.

What is my reality? Walmart. I love the Savings Catcher feature on their app and have gotten $20-something back to date. I shop there for groceries, household goods and occasionally... clothes. Gasp. Here's what I'm loving right now from the big blue box store:

1 / french terry dress

I bought this one (for $14.88) and have worn it a million times already. Love the length and neckline. Thinking about getting the blue.

2 / colored chambray popover shirt

Current momiform: button down shirt, sweater, jeans. Daily. I want this one in peach stripe.

3 / woven cami

Love this $5 cami. The cut is, shall we say, forgiving, especially for when I was 8 weeks post-partum. This black cami + lightweight cardigan + long necklace was my casual rehearsal dinner outfit for a wedding last October.

4 / pioneer woman vintage bloom kitchen towels 2-pack

Drool. I'll take one of everything she made for this line. All so cute.

5 / pioneer woman country garden rug

As I was saying. One of everything.

6 / Novogratz vintage tufted sofa sleeper

We're in the market for a loveseat. We're also in the market for a new roof, hence the idea of saving our $$$ and buying an inexpensive sleeper sofa sight unseen (say THAT five times fast). But the reviews are great, and that blue color is wooing me! Abbie at M is for Mama is eyeing the pink one.

7 / boys color block rainboot

Amby is my boot lover and woe to the mommy who fails to have his boots ready on a rainy day. I bought him these for $12 but now I see they're down to $9.98!

Happy shopping!

Linking up with Miss Kelly, the hostess.


what my fourth positive pregnancy test taught me (+ a giveaway)

It was the day after Thanksgiving, a year ago. I remember making an extra stop at the closest dollar store that day to pick up a pregnancy test, thinking "it's got to be negative, no way it's positive, but just to be sure..."

Ha! One thing to be sure about in life: When you're definitely sure the pregnancy test is going to be negative, but you're taking it just-in-case--that's a pretty good sign to go ahead and order the newborn diapers and wipes.

Photo: the day before the big news hit.
Sean came home and I immediately departed to pick up the best home pregnancy test I could find (which is definitely not found at a dollar store). Back at home, this one came out positive, too. Surprise, surprise.

My mind immediately began spinning with questions that had no good answers: Where would we put this new baby? Do we find out the gender this time? What makes me think I'm ready for another baby? If it's a boy, do I giveaway all the girl baby clothes? How will I handle four little kids? How will we pay for college four times over? College? Heck, how about parochial grade school tuition? AND HOW DID THIS HAPPEN??!!!? (well, that question did have an obvious answer.) : /

In all this pending uncertainty, I wondered how different life would look after this fourth baby's arrival.

My third baby taught me definitively that I'm the mom--I'm the authority on my kids. And now, this fourth baby has taught me a most important lesson: I can choose my attitude. And the attitude I should always chose, no matter the circumstance, is gratitude.

I saw this Ann Voskamp quote forever ago, but it has stuck with me:


"Everyone gets to decide how happy they want to be. Because everyone gets to decide how grateful they are willing to be."

I can choose to be an irritated mess each morning because I've been up all night with the baby. Or I can slurp some coffee and chose to be grateful that my baby is home with me and not in the hospital.

I can choose to be depressed that labor + delivery ate a good-sized chunk out of our savings and delayed our house projects. Or I can snuggle my kids on the sofa we bought years ago as newlyweds and chose to be grateful we have a perfectly wonderful home, dated kitchen cupboards and all.

I can choose to envy the families that are out of babyhood and survival mode. Or I can stop and smell the top of my baby's head.

Get used to church bathroom selfies with your mom, kiddo.

I can choose to be frustrated that going to the grocery store takes a double stroller, 6 reusable bags, a baby sling AND a bribery stop at the bakery counter--and that's all before I go grab one gallon of milk. Or, I can choose to be grateful for never having to wonder if there's enough money in the account to cover milk, eggs and diapers.

I'm much more aware now, too, that at a minimum, I have two bigger sets of eyes observing me--and my boys' observations are likely to stick with them. Children watch. And they learn. Modeling gratitude for them now is essential.

So. Thank you for making it through this little post :) Now on to the fun part!

1. Comment below and tell me one thing you are grateful for today, and you'll be entered to win a $50 gift certificate to Diapers.com!

2. Sharing the Facebook post for this contest will earn you 1 extra entry.

3. Winner to be picked in one week

 This giveaway is a partnership with Nakturnal, with a prize of a gift certificate.

Update! This giveaway is closed. The winner was Mami2jcn! Thank you to all who commented and shared on facebook.