I’ve been meaning to put together a list of parenting hacks, tips, and tools for a long time. People are always asking me—how do you do it all? What are your secrets? Well, here’s the secret: Not only do I not do it all, I don’t know how I’ve managed to do much of anything the last three years in particular. Yes, it’s true, I am below average at maintaining a sub-par existence in mediocrity.
However, even I have blindly stumbled upon a few gems along the way, which I gladly share to you now.
Make a treat stash. Since the day I found out I was pregnant with my first, I’ve been stockpiling small trinkets (think McDonald’s Happy Meal toys). The collection has grown into an entire cabinet full of restaurant crayons, stickers, bubbles, and every fast food toy you could ever ask for. I now have what very well might be a lifetime supply of crap that has a stunning variety of usage. I have given them as treats for potty-training, good behavior, tooth fairy gifts—basically all sorts of bribery. I send bags of them to school every few weeks to restock their “weekly treasure chest.” I give them out as grab bag gifts at birthday parties. Just think of it as living with the $1 aisle from Target in your house. You’re welcome.
Ditch the Happy Meal. Speaking of fast food, don’t ever buy the kid’s meal. I know this flies in the face of my first hack, but you would be surprised at how many opportunities you have to build this collection that don’t include the $5 meal at your local drive-thru. My kids rip through that happy box, dump the food on the floor and play with the toy for about two seconds. Over $20 down the drain. Instead, when my kids are “sooooooo hungry” while out on a day of errands, I drive through and get the huge box of nuggets and one order of fries. Then I tear a cardboard drink carrier into four compartments and sort the food between them. If your kids insist on the toy, just keep some of your special treat stash from #1 in your glove compartment. Just call it the Sad Meal.
Three words: Freezer Prepared Meals. I know, I used to roll my eyes at this, too. But when used correctly, this can be the Busy Momma’s best friend. It all depends on how you use it. It only takes a few minutes to make an entire loaf of PB&J sandwiches, de-crust, bag, and toss in the freezer for school lunches. And I’m always on the lookout for a shortcut by over-preparing certain meals when I make them for my family. Any soups or spaghetti sauces are made in a huge vat on the stove, and half is immediately tucked away into the freezer. I always make pancake batter with over 5 cups of mix. While the boys are eating their first serving, I count out enough for them to each have one more, and then wrap and freeze the rest. It keeps the boys from gorging themselves on pancakes that morning and ensures we have a quick breakfast on those days we are running late for school. Which is seriously, like, every day
Buy a Yeti. No, not one of those big, abominable snowmen (why would you want one of those?)—one of those miraculous silver tumblers that keeps drinks at temperature for hours. When you see it for the first time, you might balk at the price, but I’m telling you, it’s worth every dollar. If you are a mom, there are a few (almost) universal truths. 1. You love coffee. 2. You cannot drink the coffee you love because the children will take it and either a) burn themselves, b) drink it, c) dump it all over the floor, d) all of the above. By the time you get a chance to take your mug from off of the top of whatever tall furniture you hid it on, it is cold. (Sad trombone sound here) If your coffee is in a Yeti—it will still be scalding hot, even hours later. Imagine later in that same day—it’s almost 5 and you want to make yourself a more spirited beverage. Rinse that Yeti and get to work! No matter how many hours have passed since you make your drink, set it somewhere up high and forgot about it, your drink will still have ice and not be watered down. And you’ll need that kick when you rediscover your drink on top of the refrigerator after a hard-won bathtub battle. Bottoms up!