Seven Hacks to Make Life Easier
What Al Trautwig and Simone Biles’ Adoption Taught Us
How to have hope in the midst of bad news
10 ways to help a mom going through miscarriage or loss

Hacks To Make Life Easier

 

Hacks

Recently I overheard someone talking about hacks to make life easier. I have learned a number of “mom hacks” over the years that help me to accomplish everyday tasks more effectively, which is exactly what a hack is: the ability “to manage successfully.” So when we learn a new way that saves time, energy and manages our lives better, we’re “hacking” away at life’s little to-do list, one step at a time.

Hacks to make life easier

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1. Wunderlist: The Best List Making App

I used to be a post-it note freak, sticking post-it notes wherever I would see them. Now my sticky notes sit sadly underused since I downloaded Wunderlist. Wunderlist allows me  to make lists for groceries, big box stores, clothing, meal plans, Christmas gifts, cleaning, packing and more. Best of all, I can share my lists with other users. My husband gets the grocery list so he can pick up a few items from the grocery store. My daughter likes checking off her chore list on our family device. Best of all, I don’t have to worry about losing my list, since it’s available on every device I own.

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2. Use Curbside Pickup for Groceries

Years ago, I told Sam that someone needed invent online grocery shopping because going to the grocery store is surely one of Dante’s levels of hell. Apparently wishes do come true—even 10 years late. This year, Meijer introduced a grocery curbside pickup for $7.95. Order online, schedule your pickup, and get other things done while someone else does your shopping. Several other large chains are following Meijer’s lead and will offer this service soon. As someone who loathes grocery stores, this is a huge win for all the grocery shopping haters out there.

3. Nix the Errands

I don’t have to run to the store to pick up toothpaste anymore. My postman brings it to me. Because I have a Target RedCard, I save 5% on everything and get free shipping, no matter the size of my order. Boxed and Amazon offer similar programs.

Bonus: You can also subscribe to items, so you don’t have to remember them. When I get an item, I label it with the date to see how long it takes to use it up. When the product is almost empty, I subscribe to the item based on the date I wrote on the package. I use this for everything: dishwasher detergent, toilet paper, pet supplies, ziplocks. Buying online also helps me resist the temptation to buy what we don’t need (i.e. “Look at that cute purse!” “Those pillows are so cheap!”) saving our family money.

4. Organize Your Recipes Using Pinterest
For my recipe organization I link to all my favorite recipes on Delicious. Because this website was created before Pinterest was invented, I am now in the process of moving 268 recipes over to Pinterest because Pinterest is frankly way more fun.

5. Theme your Meals

I organize my meals according to the “theme” of each evening meal:

Monday: Pasta night

Tuesday: tacos or tex-mex

Wednesday: easy prep meal

Thursday: rice bowl

Friday: pizza

When I plan my grocery list, I pull up my online recipes and use them to make my meal plan for the next two weeks. This gives me both the ideas and the ingredients right at my fingertips. I add both the meal plan and the groceries items to two Wunderlists–one called “groceries” and one called “meal plan.” (I’m so original.) Then I use the grocery list to order from Meijer. See how all these hacks work together?

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6. Use a Recipe App

My favorite recipe app is the Everyday Food app. I can search for nearly any recipe that was published in Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food magazine, saving me time looking through cookbooks. Most of these recipes are duplicated online, but the app allows me to search various ways, making recipes easier to find: by meat, vegetable, side, or favorites.

7. Prepare Crockpot and Freezer Meals

I also discovered a free crockpot and freezer meal cookbook online. You can create easy meals in minutes by throwing all your ingrediants in a ziplock and tossing it in the freezer. When I double the recipe, I make one meal in the crockpot and assemble the other meal to freeze. Most of the meals need a little more flavor for my taste, (I like things hot 🔥) so I tweak the recipes adding in more spice as needed.

What hacks do you use to save time? I would love to hear more ideas so I can try them out. Most of these hacks came from other people who are far more organized than I am. 😉

 

(P.S. I have more hacks to save time that I’ll share with my email subscribers, including technology hacks that have made my social media and email management so much easier. Subscribe to get access to other resources here.)

Happy “hacking!”

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What Al Trautwig and Simone Biles’ Adoption Taught Us

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What Al Trautwig Teaches Us About Simone Biles’ Adoption

When Al Trautwig tweeted his comment regarding Simone Biles’ parents saying, “They may be mom and dad but they are NOT her parents,” the adoptive community went nuts. We hear these kinds of comments all the time. For Simone Biles, this probably isn’t a first.

A few years ago, I wrote this post about a man at Wal-Mart who remarked to me, “That ain’t yo’ kid.”

The other week, a boy at the pool asked my husband, “What’s your relationship with that girl?” referring to our daughter. He was trying to figure out if Sam was her dad.

But the comment my daughter has heard the most, even just this last Tuesday at a sports banquet, often comes from the lips of children:

“Is that your real mom?”

Yes. I’m her real mom.

And if this boy’s mom had been there, I might have been tempted to say, “Hey kid, is that your real mom?”

It’s frustrating to explain over and over again that we are indeed real families. We don’t see ourselves differently just because our children came to us another way.

I am the real mom. My husband is the real dad. A judge declared us a real family. We diapered our child and dealt with her tantrums and bandaged her cuts and helped her up when she fell and soothed her to sleep.

Like all real parents, we have cleaned up vomit, snot, pee, poop and blood. We have cooked countless meals, read Dr. Seuss over and over again, and took her to the doctor. But the most vital thing we do is love.

We are the real parents because we loved this child through every moment of everyday.

So when Al Trautwig said “they’re not her real parents” he mistakenly rubbed salt in our wounds.

These are exactly the kinds of comments we have to fight back against to prove that we are normal families loving each other through the hard days. After a while, we’d like to think people in the public eye would get it.  Simone Biles’ adoption made her mom and dad her real parents. Why is that so hard to understand?

Parents are the people who care for you and love you. They are not always defined by biology.

The people who don’t understand this aren’t defined by one gender, age or ethnicity. They’re young and old. They’re suburban white person and inner city brown skinned person. Their ignorance has less to do with ethnicity or age and more to do with a lack of exposure to adoptive families.

Because once you hang out with a family who came together through adoption, you see there are no differences.

People who don’t have a personal connection to adoptive families fail to understand that biology is not the glue that holds the family together.

The thing that holds all families together is love.

An acquaintance once admitted to us, “I’m not sure I could love someone who wasn’t related to me.”

I bit my tongue, but wanted to ask him, “Do you love your wife?”

It’s hard not to prove a point when people say things like this. Love goes beyond biology.

Ask any parent with children through adoption and they’ll tell you the same. Their children’s birth stories might be different than your child’s, but there is one thing that’s always the same.

Their love.

We’re real families. And it’s time for people to stop seeing us differently.

Thanks, Al Trautwig, for letting us speak up about the definition of a real parent.

When I watch Simone Biles at the Olympics, I think of how proud her parents must be.

And by parents, I mean the people she calls mom and dad. Because they are her mom and dad.

There shouldn’t be any confusion about that.

How to Have Hope in the Midst of Bad News

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How to Have Hope in the Midst of Difficulties

Bad news doesn’t wait for a rainy day.

It comes when the sun beats down hard and the day is so hot even the dog refuses to go outside.

The story stops me in my tracks in the middle of Sunday lunch.

“Their family lost a baby last week.”

He tells me it slow, as he eats his salad.  He knows this pain.  An old wound slashed wide open again.

Once you lose a baby, you always feel the sting.

I nod my head. He tells me the mother’s age. Much too young to deal with the heaviness of this grief, but old enough to feel it smother the life out of you.

At her age, it’s enough to wreck your life.

A baby’s death can derail everything you believed unless you hang on to truth. 

I don’t say anything. I just wish it away.  Wish all the pain would go away.

How much longer, O Lord?  

I don’t know this girl–a young mother who carried life in her, pushed that baby out in agony, and cradled a wailing, wrinkled newborn in her arms.

Somewhere a baby took it’s last breath and it might as well have been the mother’s last one too. Because when your baby dies, you want to die too. That’s the ugly truth when you lose a child.

And if that girl asked me how to get through it, I’d just shake my head and say what my great-grandmother did after burying two children:

“You just do the best you can.”

Don’t let my great grandmother’s line fool you–the best we can do might be downright ugly for awhile.

It might be screaming at the top of your lungs and wailing in agony and dragging yourself out of bed even though you’d rather just lay down and die. Grief is an ugly, demanding houseguest and all you can do is get up each day and put one foot in front of the other.

Those of us trying to comfort the grieving are left slack-jawed trying to understand.

All our good intentions can’t mend a broken world, ripped wide open by sin and death. I need more than self-help manifestos and Googled answers to help the woman who’s just suffered three miscarriages. I’m left speechless at the news of a senseless accident that killed a child or a mother who died of cancer, leaving four children behind.

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Only later, in an unfamiliar church as a bride and groom recite their vows, do I see it:

A stained glass image of Jesus towering over our city’s skyscrapers.  He’s larger than life, an artist’s rendition of a super-sized savior who rules the earth.

But something more emerges. As Christ towers over the world, I see the image turn to metaphor:

Christ is bigger than all our problems.  All our grief. All our sin and death. He is our hope.

He takes the worst situations, the most difficult circumstances and the hardest tragedies and shows His power over them.

This sea of faith we live in feels like it will topple our soul.

But when we grasp His hope, He holds us up as the waves of grief sweep over us. The storm will not consume us when we hang on to the One who promises never to leave us alone in our pain.

For days, the news of grief rolls in like pounding waves and I’m drowning in unanswered questions.

Hold tight, O my soul, to the one who calms the water.

Hold tight, O my soul, to the One who made oceans, and spins planets and crushes death under his heel.

Hold tight to the Jesus who is bigger than the crashing waves. The One who asks, “Why are you so afraid?”

Because even the wind and the waves obey Him.

If we hang on, we will see the dawn break and the rough waters turn smooth as glass.

O my sister, Joy will come in morning.

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10 Ways to Help a Mom Going through Miscarriage or Loss

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10 Ways to help a hurting mom

Afraid of saying or doing the wrong thing after a friend loses a child?  You’re not alone.  I hear women often say, “I want to help, but I don’t know how.”  

Here are ten ways you can support a friend going through a loss or miscarriage:

1. Pray for her.

Do it daily. Put it on your calendar. Set your alarm. Add it to your daily list. Then let her know you’re praying.  It might not feel like those minutes will matter to her, but they do.

2. Follow her lead in the grieving process.

Don’t attempt to fix it, force it, or hurry her along. Grieving is a process that takes a lifetime.  There’s no fixing a giant tear in your heart.  When you call her, repeat these words to yourself: Listen. Don’t fix. Listen. Don’t fix.

3. Touch base regularly.

Call, text, email, stop by her house,  Don’t avoid her. Avoidance is what we do when we’re not sure what to do. Even worse, she will notice that you stopped contacting her and will wonder why.

4. Stand by her through horrible pain. 

Do # 3 and then keep doing it. Don’t abandon her for friends whose lives are easier or simpler. Listen to her questions.  Let her ask, Why me?  Don’t offer advice, platitudes, or stories of others who’ve gotten pregnant after going through loss.

5. Offer something you know you can give.

A cup of coffee, a meal, a walk, a babysitter. Then follow through with it.

6. Anticipate her needs.

Avoid the phrase: “Call me if you need something.” There are days so bad, she won’t have the energy to understand what she needs or who to call.  Have an idea of how you can help and then take the initiative.

7. Lessen the daily grind.

If there are recurring tasks you can take over, offer to do them. Walk the dog, pick up her kids from school, or take out her trash. Some tasks, like laundry and house cleaning, do require her permission (but are extremely valuable). She may be embarrassed for someone to deal with her dirty laundry or she may be holding on to certain memories related to the last shirt she wore while pregnant.

8. Save the date.

Set calendar events for anniversaries, birthdays, and holidays. Then send a note saying, Thinking of you and your sweet baby today.

9. Consider a memory gift.

Plant a tree or flowers that bloom every year. Buy a special item (jewelry, a Christmas ornament or candle) to remember her child.  Make a gift that is unique to her.  All these things go a long way in helping her remember she is loved.

10 Say I love you and I’m sorry and I know I cannot make things better, but will be here no matter what.

To all the hurting mamas, out there: We’re in this together.  You’re not alone.  Let’s wrap arms of love around each other.

xoxo

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We only have now: How a terminally ill child changes your perspective

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When my son was in the hospital,  I would wake up in the middle of the night and have no idea what time it was. Was it morning? 3 AM?  Midnight? It all seemed the same in the hospital.

Sometimes I roamed the halls when my son was sleeping so I could reorient my internal clock. But time seemed elusive in the hospital—the place was the same at 2 AM as it was at 2 PM—bright lights reflecting against white floors, nurses clutching charts and medicine. The only way I could track time was the appearance of a new nurse in my son’s room, nearly 12 hours after the first nurse had started her shift.

It was a place where the minutes dragged on endlessly, but the time with my son was slowly slipping through my fingers.  

We only have now, I realized as my son lay dying.

That’s the real truth of what hospitals teach us.

We try to pretend like we have all the time in the world for the people we love. But ask anyone who sits at the bedside of a terminally ill patient and they’ll tell you the truth.

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“Too short, too short,” exclaimed the woman as she watched her husband of over seventy years pass away.

Her time with him had not been long enough.

Even though she had gotten more time with her husband than most of us will ever get with our loved ones, she could not understand where all the years had gone.

We only have now.

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But normal life lulls us into complacency, blind to the brevity of life. We work harder to get ahead, to make more, to do more, to get more, to prove ourselves.

We run this rat race of always putting off what’s most important.

We say,

When I retire…

When I have enough money…

When my kids are grown…

When I accomplish this goal…

But don’t ask the young woman with breast cancer or the couple with the dying child if they put off the important for later.

They know the secret to really living: We only have now.

When we’re faced with the tragedies of life, we realize something has to change, that we can’t go on living like we have all the time in the world.

We live differently when we have a sense of how brief our lives are.

When someone you love is terminally ill, the answer to how to our spend our time becomes  clear.

Invest in the people you love.

Say yes more often. Yes to interruptions.  Yes to messes.  Yes to something crazy.

The time for radical living isn’t for when you’ll have more time. It’s recognizing that you’ll never have enough time–and then doing something now.

It’s learning to prioritize your life in a way that values not what you accomplish, but how well you loved.

The parents sitting with their children in hospitals and kissing their foreheads know this too well.

They reach across the hospital bedsheets, touching their child’s hand, while there’s still time.

While they have now.

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