Pregnancy & First Years Books

What to Expect When You’re Expecting by Heidi Murkoff


This is one of those staple books for pregnant women, especially for first time mothers. Pregnancy is complicated, and sometimes scary, especially the first time around. This book explains in plain terms what’s expected at every moment during pregnancy.

The Belly Book: A Nine-Month Journal for You and Your Growing Belly by Amy Krouse Rosenthal


This is a wonderful keepsake of your pregnancy. Although the name of the book is not my cup of tea, and the aesthetics are not very appealing to me, the interior design overcompensates these two flaws.

This book has room to store all your ultrasound pictures and belly bump pictures. I has great prompts for the expecting mothers to write down their feelings, their worries, their funny pregnancy experiences and much more. This is a great keepsake for you or to pass on to your child once he’s grown.

My Baby Book: A Keepsake Journal for Baby’s First Year by Amy Krouse Rosenthal


Just like her Belly Book, this book is a great keepsake. Although the name of the book is not my cup of tea, and the aesthetics are not very appealing to me, the interior design overcompensates these two flaws. It is an easy to fill out book to capture all the milestones of the first year of your baby.

Parenting Books

Audible

Audible has been the biggest discovery for me last year. I used to have a huge pile of books to read that I wasn’t able to get to before a new one added the pile. I love reading, especially parenting books, and I was getting frustrated because I couldn’t find time to read. Enter… Audible!

With Audible I can listen to my books wherever I am with their free app— in the car while I wait the pick up line, on my treadmill while I exercise, in my town while I walk my dog, in bed before I go to sleep, in the bathroom while I take a relaxing bath… just about anywhere! I love Audible and I recommend it every chance again, because it’s been life changing for me. If you love reading and don’t have time to sit with a book, you should definitely check it out.

The Conscious Parent: Transforming Ourselves, Empowering Our Children by Dr. Shefali Tsabary

My friend, Dr. Shefali Tsabary, who became Oprah’s favorite parenting expert, has written the most enlightening and revolutionary parenting book. This book completely resonates my idea that ‘parenting starts with us.

This book uncovers the many ways in which we unconsciously react to our children, and how we can stop our daily struggles as we uncover better ways to let our children thrive in their own way. In my opinion, this book should be in every parent, grandparent, educator and teacher’s library.

The Awakened Family: A Revolution in Parenting by Dr. Shefali Tsabary

Another wonderful book by Dr. Tsabary. This book sits on the premise that in order to be the best parents for our children, we need to first parent ourselves. We need to address and deal with our own issues, struggles, and automatic reactions as the key to coping with the challenges that come with raising little souls.

The Five Love Languages of Children by Gary Chapman, D. Ross Campbell

This book is about how to love your children. It sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? Well, as it turns out, it is not as straight forward as we may think. How many adults are still dealing with feeling unloved as children? In most cases, their parents did love them. However, those parents didn’t know how to SHOW each child that they love them in a way the children understood.

Some of us feel loved by getting individual attention, others by words of affirmation… Everyone of us speak our particular love language. In order to make sure our children feel our unconditional love, we need to figure out their love languages. In this book, Dr. Chapman clearly explains the 5 different love languages children have.

Positive Discipline by Jane Nelsen


This is a very practical book that teaches parents how to discipline their children without the use of time outs, punishment, shame or guilt trips. As I mentioned before positive parenting is not permissive parenting.

This book gives parents the tools to raise their children without any punitive measurements, as they help build their decision-making abilities, their communication skills, their respect, their awareness, their confidence, their self-esteem, and their maturity.

Stress Free Bedtime Routines Hack #8: Fill Up Their Love Tanks

Connection & Communication

“Bedtime is often experienced by children as a form of separation, so children need the reassurance of connection to help them let go and sleep well. It’s also a time of day when feelings tend to bubble up that haven’t been processed in the day, so for positive parents, it’s actually one of the most important times of day.”

Kate Orson

Bedtime is the best time to connect with your children. I know it’s probably one of the most difficult ones, because by the time bedtime comes around, your energy levels are extremely low and all you want to do is get it over with, sit back and relax.

However, positive parenting at bedtime is an investment on your relationship with your child and on his emotional wellbeing. Every night, when you tuck your child into bed and wish them a good night, you have a unique opportunity to connect with her and make her feel your love. This connection will also help erase any uncomfortable parenting moments from the day, any conflicts with your child, or any tension.

I must confess that since my third daughter was born, my bedtime routines haven’t been as good as they were when I only had the twins. They are more rushed than I’d like to, and some days I don’t have the time or energy to do everything I love to do with them at bedtime. But, this month, I am focusing my energy on getting back on track on connected and soothing bedtimes, because I know the tremendous impact it has on my children’s mood and desire of cooperation.

 

Hispanic father reading book to daughter
Hispanic father reading book to daughter

 

My recommendation is to communicate with your child at bedtime. With babies, it will be a unidirectional communication, you will talk to them about your day, about what they did, about what’s coming the next day… With older kids who can actually maintain a conversation, it will be a bidirectional exchange. You can tell them about your day, ask them about their day, check how they’re feeling… You share and they share.

Bedtime is  a time to listen to our children’s feelings, deepest fears and worries, whether directly in conversation, or indirectly, through our child’s behavior. So, don’t miss this opportunity!

 

One very special thing that I do every night with my daughters, is to sing them the same song since they were little, as I cuddle with them. For one of them is ‘Twinkle, twinkle”, for other is “You are my sunshine”, and for the other one, surprisingly is the “ABC song” in English and Spanish.

How do you connect with your children at bedtime?

Much love, Diana-

My Favorite Things

Following Oprah’s steps, I have decided to create a list of my favorite things. These are things that I have personally used or have direct experience with. These are the main categories I will be covering in the near future:

Stay tuned for the reviews as they come up. If there’s any book, product or service you’d like me to review, let me know and I’ll do my best to get to it!

Much love, Diana-

Stress Free Bedtime Routines Hack #7: Remain Calm

This is one of the most difficult things to do as parents. We all have triggers that make us react in ways that we later regret. One of the keys to have a smooth morning routine is to remain calm in the face of mishaps, mistakes or delays. If we have implemented the first 6 hacks we’ve covered until now, remaining calm will be much easier. Here are some tips to accomplish it:

1. Breathe Intentionally

When things start to unravel and your plans of a smooth morning start going out the window, take a breath, so you don’t make an already chaotic situation much worse. The best way to find your calm is through intentionally controlling your breath.

Start by observing your breath just as it is. Notice where the air flows through your body– upper chest, lower belly, front, back, sides. After you do that, start intentionally taking several deep breaths into your belly. You can put your hand on your tummy to feel how it fills up with air. After that, take several breaths into your upper chest and lungs. Let the air flow slowly out of your body. You can close your eyes as you do this intentional breathing.

This exercise doesn’t take a long time, just a few seconds. The goal of intentional deep breathing is to activate your parasympathetic nervous system which initiates the relaxation response, lowers heart rate, decreases blood pressure and slows down your respiration. Most people experience a sense of calm after doing this exercise, and feel more in control of their emotions.

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2. Take a Break

If breathing alone doesn’t work when things start to get crazy in the morning, take a step back. Don’t add into the problem the problem by escalating the level of chaos and stress. Often chaos escalates unnecessarily and builds momentum because we leap into irrational action without logical considerations.

The best thing to do at this time is to excuse yourself for a bit, and regain your objectivity. Make sure you leave your baby in a safe place, like an empty crib or a baby swing; leave your toddler in safe area such as their bedroom or a baby proof living room; leave your older kids in a place where they can’t hurt themselves.

This will let you think through the situation and come up with constructive solutions to get things back on track. You want to rejoin your kids when you can be the voice of reason, and continue leading them into a peaceful morning.

3. Identify and Manage Your Triggers

Triggers are things our child does, says or feels that lead us an involuntary negative response, such as yelling, getting angry, shut down, spanking out of anger and even out of control sometimes. Your response to your triggers can feel automatic and completely out of proportion.

Our parenting triggers are often associated with things from our own upbringing, and from our past experiences. The most important part of addressing your parenting triggers is to realize that you’re not really reacting to your child’s behavior. You are having a strong emotional reaction because of the meaning that behavior has to you and based on your own past experiences. Instead of focusing on your child’s behavior, you should focus on what is happening within you.

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I will cover this at a later time, so we can dive into the power of triggers and how we can overcome them. For the moment, focus on identifying your triggers and write them down. Then stop yourself in your tracks we you are faced with a situation that triggers you.

You may not know yet why you are being triggered, you may not know how to avoid them, you may not know how to re-parent yourself or re-wire your brain to get them under control, but you certainly can spot them and you can stop yourself before acting out on them.

4.  Keep Things In Perspective

Some situations spiral out of control because we only focus on negative side of what’s happening. For example, our child may have taken a shower, put on her pajamas, and maybe forgot to brush her teeth. We then overlook all the positive things she’s done and we hone in on the one thing she hasn’t done. This makes our child feel confused, angry and without any desire to cooperate the following morning. Focus on the positive, on what was accomplished, and celebrate your child for that.

Don’t sweat the small stuff. You know that not all the tasks on your child’s morning routine are equally important. Some of them can remain undone for later with no major consequences. Don’t make a rule out of this, but cut them some slack when appropriate.

5. Control What You Can Control and Let Go of What You Can’t Control

There’s no need to waste your energy trying to solve problems that are completely out of your control. Identify and resolve the issues you can solve and let go of those you can’t. The best course of action is to brainstorm possible ways to go around the problem, and think of ways to avoid falling into the same mistake in the future.

Accept that things might not be smooth every day

This is a hard one for most of us, but sometimes you will have to accept that there’s nothing you can do to avoid some nights taking the wrong turn, bedtime being delayed, showered not happening, nighttime reading being cut short… It will happen sometimes!

For example, your already bathed child pours milk on himself, your baby has a poppy explosion as soon as you put him in his crib, your blow dryer stops working as you’re blow drying your daughter’s hair… Things happen, and it’s not the end of the world. Acknowledge the situation and accept if for what it is, and move on.

7. Smile and Break The Tension

“Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.” —Thich Nhat Hanh

Having a positive attitude is half the battle in any chaotic, out of control and stressful situation. Putting a smile on your face might sound like an idiotic or pointless solution to a moment of morning craziness, but it is not. By smiling, we are not dismissing the seriousness of the situation, we are simply breaking the tension to make things more manageable.

Smiling alone helps release all those wonderful feel-good neurotransmitters, such as dopamine, serotonin and endorphins. This release relaxes your body and  lowers your heart rate and blood pressure. Thus, the simple act of putting a smile on your face can have a tremendous impact on your physical and mental state.

Furthermore, according to many scientific studies, the neurons in our brains have a synchronizing feature that keeps you in sync with who are you interacting with. Therefore, if our children see us smile, they will smile as well, improving the atmosphere in our home.

When smiling is not enough, we break the tension caused by a morning mishap, by adding fun. Yes, I am not crazy! I know it may sound counter productive to introduce a fun activity in the mist of your morning chaos. But believe me the stress released during the activity will make you and your children drain the stress and be more focused to accomplish the remained of tasks on your morning charts.

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Therefore, when smiling doesn’t work, break up the tension with fun – start a pillow fight, engage in a tickle fight, put on music and dance like crazy people, play tag around the house, tell a joke… This doesn’t have to last more than a few minutes to completely transform the atmosphere in your home.

I hope these tips will help you remain more calm in the mornings. What other things do you do to avoid or dissipate stress?

Much love, Diana-

Moms of 3 Are the Most Stressed Out

I thought I was the only one who thought the level of stress with 3 children was way higher than with 2. I had twins the first time around, and I dealt with it pretty well. I had my routines and structure in place. I had regular one on one and special times with each of my daughters. I was calm and collected… Then, after a long wait, our precious third daughter arrived.

Oh, My! I was in for a tough ride. She was way more determined and strong-willed than the other two from day one. But I knew that alone couldn’t be the only contributing factor to the increased stress I was experiencing, and to the whirlwind our lives got into. Everything was turned upside down, and I felt (still do a lot!) that I I have it all together, and that I was far from the mom I used to be to my twins, and that I wanted to be for the three of them. Cue… guilt trip!

Then, I read a TODAYMoms.com survey, and it all made sense. Apparently, when it comes to parenting, three is the magic number… for disaster and stress! Mothers of three children stress more than moms of one or two, while mothers of four or more children actually report lower stress levels. Surprisingly, four kids seems to be the magic number when stress lowers for mothers. Who would’ve thought?

I believe this is in part because with four kids, you definitely has to let some things go, and assume you just can’t do it all. On the other hand, I think with four or more kids, you have to be organized and disciplined, there’s no choice. Being organized, helps reduce the stress and last minute fights and rumbles.

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This week, I have two of my friends’ children living with us due to a family emergency, and I’ve been more relaxed than ever before. Even though I’m now in charge of 5 kids instead of 3. I am more organized and things get done in time because I plan ahead, which is giving me time to have smoother mornings, bedtimes, and plenty of time to connect with the kids.

I’ve always wanted a big family, but I don’t think I could get my husband on board to have my children, despite the clear benefits 🙂

What are your thoughts? Did your third one threw you for a loop? What do you think is the perfect number of kids?

Much love, Diana-

Stress Free Bedtime Routines Hack #6: Bedtime Routines and Kid’s Charts

 

“Sleep patterns and sleep routines matter because they have both long-term and short-term implications for health and cognitive development. […] If it sets a pattern in the way you treat sleep or bedtime, these patterns may last your whole life unknowingly.”

– Lauren Hale. MD, Preventive Medicine

Calming, Bonding and Safe Sleep Rituals

Sometimes, it is easy to forget your little people are actually a little person with thoughts, feelings, and expectations of their own.  If you are consistent in your parenting, children very quickly begin to anticipate the natural flow of the day based on what you have done in the past.

Our children should not associate sleep with feelings of abandonment, fear, desperation, anxiety, punishment, excitement, or stimulation.  Instead, sleep should be associated with feelings of tranquility, relaxation, love, trust, restfulness, empowerment, and peace.

Developing a soothing and calming routines that helps your child transition from awake to sleep is an essential part of your sleep training process. Setting sleep routines can improve sleep quality and quantity for infants, toddlers and older kids; and it’s a fantastic way to bond and cuddle with your child. A child’s sleep routines could affect her sleep pattern throughout a lifetime. Your goal is to teach your child the process to fall asleep and to help her feel safe, secure, and comforted.  If the feeling around bedtime is a good feeling, your child will fall asleep easier.

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Consistency

Don’t change your child’s routine every day, but let it evolve as your baby grows. For example, your bedtime routine with your newborn might involve giving him a bath, massaging him, putting him in his pajamas, giving him a bottle (or nursing him), rocking him a little, and putting him in the crib. By the time your child is 9 months, it might evolve to giving him a bath, massaging him, putting him in his pajamas, giving him a bottle (or nursing him) while you sing to him, giving him his lovey and putting him in the crib. By the time your child is 2 years old, it might evolve to giving him a bath, putting him in his pajamas, brushing his teeth, reading him a book, giving him his lovey, and putting him in the crib.

Don’t start anything that you are not willing to continue down the road. If you know you don’t want to co-sleep, don’t bring your baby to your bed. If you won’t want to have to rock your baby to sleep when she is two years old, don’t do it when she is 2 months old. If you don’t want to have to nurse your baby to sleep in the middle of the night, do not nurse him to sleep at bedtime. Be aware of the associations that you create with sleep from day one, and make sure you only establish healthy and sustainable ones.

Keep Electronics Away

As I mentioned in my previous post, there is a major connection between time in front of the screen and sleep disorders. Avoid television watching, video game playing, and other exciting activities the hour before bedtime. Do not allow children to have a TV in their bedroom, and do not allow them to watch TV prior to bedtime.

Children who watch a lot of television, especially at bedtime, and those with a television in their bedroom are more likely to resist going to bed, have trouble sleeping, wake up more often, and have a poor quality sleep overall. Watching television tends to stimulate children, whereas for adults it can be relaxing.

Do not allow children to watch violent television programs. They can contribute to restless sleep and nightmares (among other things). Similarly, video games can impact a child’s quality and amount of sleep. Do not allow children to play video games anywhere near bedtime and always check the appropriateness of the rating.

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Bedtime Routine Charts for Toddlers and Older Kids

Once you’ve decided on the best schedule for your child, get him involved in choosing the steps she wants to add to the bedtime routine. Do not offer her options you are not comfortable with; for example, watching TV before bedtime or mom lying on the bed with her shouldn’t be an option.

Once you both have come up with a routine, create a mural with pictures of the different steps of her bedtime routine and go with her over it, every day. Before you start implementing the new routine, practice every step and take a picture. Once you have all the pictures, stick them in order on a large piece of paper, with the help of your child. You can also add numbers to each part of the routine.

Get your child as involved as possible in the process of making the picture routine mural. For example, your child can help you stick the pictures on the paper. Make sure you put a time for each of the steps in the bedtime routine, and create a beginning and end time for the whole routine.

BEDTIME ROUTINE CHART

When the mural is done, hang it close to the bathroom or bedroom so that she can see it when she starts the bedtime routine. During the first days, walk her through the pictures during the day, and tell her what the steps are going to be at night. At night, let her lead the process of getting to bed. Ask her, “What do we have to do next?” She can then go to the mural and tell you what comes next. Every morning, praise her for following the routine the night before.

I hope this was helpful!

Much love, Diana-

Stress Free Bedtime Routines Hack #5: Safe and Soothing Sleep Haven

Soothing & Safe Bedroom

This might seem an obvious thing to say, but sometimes our kids’ bedrooms are not exactly a calm and soothing place. Try to keep it organized and minimized the amount of toys and stimulating games to a minimum.

You want your child’s room to be dark. On a scale from one to ten, ten being pitch black, you want your child’s bedroom to be around a seven or eight on a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being pitch black. If you decide to leave on a night-light, make sure it’s not too bright, but gives enough light for your child to see his surroundings.

Your child’s bedroom should be quiet and away from the main activity area of your home. You don’t need to be whispering while your child naps or sleeps, but she shouldn’t be exposed to loud noises while sleeping.

 

 

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Keep your child’s bedroom between 68 to 72 degrees F, since he will have a more restful sleep. Higher temperatures have been proven to increase the risk of SIDS in infants and babies, so make sure your baby is properly dressed and keep that temperature. The best way to see if your baby’s temperature is adequate, touch his chest, underneath his clothes. If his chest is warm and fine, that means he is fine, even if his hands or nose might be cold.

If your child is still a baby, dress him in flame-resistant and snug-fitting sleep clothes. You can cover your baby with a sleep sack if the pajamas are not enough to keep him warm. When choosing a sleep bag, make sure the width of the neck isn’t wide enough for your child to slip himself completely inside of the sack.

Keep the bedroom aired. Avoid exposing your baby to tobacco smoke, and do not smoke or let anyone smoke around your baby.

The Bed (or Crib) Is For Sleeping

World renowned sleep hygiene experts recommend that your child uses the bed for rest. It is best if your child doesn’t use it for doing her homework, for watching TV, for playing with her iPad… Doing non-sleep activities in bed can be bad for your child’s sleep.

The more things her brain associates her bed with, the less it will think of sleep when she is there. Our goal is to help our child’s brain to develop a strong association between bed (or crib) and sleep, so as soon as her head hits the pillow, sleep is the first thing in their mind

Don’t use bedroom as punishment. Sleeping area should be for sleeping, not for time outs. Their bedroom needs to be a secure, loving time, not a place associated with punishment and withdrawal from the family.

The crib is the only place where you leave your baby on his own, therefore you should make sure it’s 100% safe and soothing. Do not use your child’s crib for time-outs, to control tantrums, or for disciplining.

Additionally, do not use sleep itself as a punishment (i.e. if you don’t eat your dinner, I’ll send you to sleep earlier). Never use sending your child to sleep as a threat. You want your child to have a positive association with sleep.

Electronics – Free Bedtime and Bedroom

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The use of electronics use should stop at least an hour before bedtime. The use of devices such as smartphones, computers, iPads and TV before bedtime will alter your child’s sleep negatively in the following ways:

  • These electronics emit blue light, which is believed to be particularly important when it comes to establish your child’s internal circadian rhythms and their internal sleep clocks. The blue light suppresses the production of melatonin, which is necessary for your child to have a restful sleep.
  • These devices engage and stimulate your child’s mind and keep him awake.
  • When your child wakes up in the middle of the night, and goes to check her phone, iPad… her brain will be stimulated again, making it harder for her to go back to sleep.
  • The use of electronics causes children to sleep less and be excessively tired the next day, which could have serious repercussions to their health, mood, weight, productivity, learning and development.

In our home, we do not allow any electronics in the bedroom. We have a common charging station in the study room where all the electronics are connected at night.

A note on safety

Additionally, there’s another good reason not to allow electronics in your child’s bedroom that has nothing to do with sleep. With the increasing risks of online predators, it is safer if your child doesn’t have the chance to do online activities at home without your supervision. We restrict my daughters’ computer use to their homework room (which is right by the kitchen), kitchen and living room. That’s it!

In addition to restricting the place in the house where they can use their computers and electronics, we have also installed parental control software that prevents them from accessing websites, chat rooms or youtube videos with adult content. We have created the same restrictions on all of their devices and Netflix accounts.

 

I hope this was useful and will help you provide your child with a soothing sleeping area.

Much love, Diana-

 

 

Stress Free Bedtime Routines Hack #4: Drain Energy and Get Ready For Bed

Sometimes we forget that our children spend most of their day sitting on a chair in school. Recess time is usually very short, and it’s difficult to burn a lot of energy at that time. When we pick up our kids from school, they are usually full of energy, a little agitated, some may have meltdowns… that is totally normal!

They may be mentally tired, but they have a lot of built up energy from having limited movement and from having to be paying attention for a long time. They need an outlet for all that energy once they’re out of school. We need to make sure our children have interesting, stimulating, age-appropriate, and varied activities during the afternoon, including physical activity and fresh air, so that they can burn up energy, exercise their bodies and mind, and be looking forward the wind down time at night time.

My daughters practice a few physically draining activities during the school year, such as archery, running, swimming, dance and American Ninja Warrior. They also practice a few mentally draining activities, such as viola and robotics. These activities are great to help them burn up their energy and free their minds from their school work.

We need to be careful though, not to make these after school activities another source of stress for our kids. We want our children to feel more relaxed after engaging in an after school activity. They should get a chance to play, make new friends, socialize with new people, have well-rounded experiences outside of academics, and learn something new.

We don’t want these activities to be another point of contention, or something that, instead of helping our kids be happy and disconnect from school, will cause them frustration or stress. Make sure your child loves the activity they are participating in, and be aware of over scheduling them. Over-scheduling may lead to unnecessary pressure on kids. Over-scheduling is really about having our children’s schedules so packed, that they don’t have time to be children and have free play.

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When they are not busy with after school activities, my daughters get together with friends and play outside. There is no need for structured activities, children can enjoy their time and drain their energy by running around the neighborhood with friends, going with their parents to walk the dog, going for a family bike ride, playing tag in their backyard, or simply jumping on their trampoline.

With our busy schedules and homework load, sometimes it is difficult to plan unstructured physical play. However, we should make a conscious effort to do a physical activity with our children, at least once or twice a week. It can be a great bonding experience!

If we help our children release all the pent up energy they have from their busy days in school, they will be more likely to want to relax at bedtime. Recent studies have shown the importance of roughhousing with your kids. A few minutes of roughhousing after dinner can have a tremendous positive impact.

What activities do your kids do? What do you to physically engage with them? How do they drain their energy during the afternoon so they are ready for bed?

Much love, Diana-

Stress Free Bedtime Routines Hack #3: Set Up Before Kids Get Home

I don’t know about you, but since the moment I pick up my daughters from school, I want to be able to be as present as possible. Therefore, I try to make as many things ahead as possible, so I can focus on them. These are some things I do as the day goes on:

  • Before picking up my daughters from school, I go to their bathroom to verify they have everything they need for their bath/ shower. They have body soap, shampoo, conditioner, hair brush, towels or bathrobes, moisturizing cream, deodorant… in its place and easily accessible in the bathroom. That way, I don’t have to try to find this stuff while we are dealing with baths at night.
  • Prepare afternoon snacks, so they waiting for the kids as soon as they get home. If they have an after school activity we need to get to right after school, I pack their snack bags, so they’re ready when I need to head out the door.
  • Prepare dinner as far in advance as I can. If I can’t fully cook dinner or leave it in the crock pot, I do as many things in advance as I can (i.e. chop veggies).

What things can you do ahead of time, so you can be more present with your kids? What things can you do ahead of time, so you don’t have to spend time on them later in the evening as bedtime approaches?

Much love, Diana-