Stay-at-Home Mom: A How-To Guide

I am so very blessed to be able to stay at home with my three kiddos.  And although I loved my job before having kiddos, and completely respect those hard working moms who work outside of the home….I wouldn’t trade my life now for anything.  I have a couple of friends who are, for the first time, now able to stay at home with their kids too, and so I thought I’d give a few tips on how to gracefully make the transition.

Be A Stay-at-Home Mom: A How-To Guide {Tips and Tricks for transitioning from the workplace to staying at home with your kids} - Palmettos and Pigtails

My husband’s advice: stock up on BonBons and Soap Operas.  He jokes around about me sitting on my butt all day, but he knows perfectly well how hard of a job it is to be a stay-at home mom.  And I love to remind him of it on the weekends, by leaving him with all three kids for a couple of hours!

I recently ran across this article on Babble about how being a stay-at-home mom is actually a luxury for your spouse.  I saved it because I find that it’s easy to fall into the trap of feeling like you aren’t doing enough.  As a working mom, you stayed busy with non-household related tasks for 8-10 hours a day before coming home to your family…and now, your primary job is family and household.  And now, in the days of Facebook, Pinterest, oversharing and helicopter parenting…it’s easy to feel guilty about not having a pristine house, themed lunches, and crafty playdates.  Not to mention, a healthy homemade dinner on the table every night.  Sorry, but that’s just not realistic!

Be A Stay-at-Home Mom: A How-To Guide

You may be a Super Mom, but you are still human, and dealing with some very unstable little people who will throw a kink in any plans you make.  So underestimate the amount of “stuff” you’ll get done in a day, and you won’t disappoint yourself.

Be A Stay-at-Home Mom: A How-To Guide

Talk to your spouse about your changing roles in the household.  Establish what “jobs” you will take over, and what he’ll be in charge of.  Dave and I have kind of figured it out by trial and error, but I really wish we had done this.  A specific sit-down chat to determine each other’s expectations of the other will put everything on the table, and hopefully prevent misunderstandings and resentment in the future.

Next, establish a daily/weekly routine.  If you don’t create some sort of organization to your time, you’ll go crazy.  Start simple, day by day.  Personally, I do one major chore a day.  Monday is laundry day, Tuesday is vacuuming, Wednesday is grocery shopping, Thursday is decluttering, and Friday is bathrooms.  So, if I am able to get everybody up, dressed and fed, and do that one chore….I feel like my day has been a success!  I also try to do as many of the Cleaning Calendar chores that I can…not always in order, and some days I am able to do more than one, other days I can’t do any.  My schedule often loosely looks something like this:

5:00 – change and feed the baby
5:30 – shower and get dressed {even if it is just yoga pants!}
6:00 – get Jayna ready for school and Millie ready for the day
6:30 – put Jayna on the bus and eat breakfast with Millie
7:00 – while Millie plays, change and feed the baby, put him back down for morning nap
7:30 – check email and clean up kitchen
8:00 – do daily chore somewhere in here, while Millie is playing and baby is sleeping
8:30 – play or do some sort of project/cooking with Millie
9:30 – change baby, play on the floor with him
10:00 feed Millie a snack
10:30 take the kids out for a bike ride/walk
11:00 while Millie plays, change and feed baby, put him down for lunch nap
12:00 feed Millie lunch
12:30 put Millie down for a nap, change the baby, grab a bite to eat, clean up the kitchen
1:00 blog or sew while baby plays in exersaucer
2:00 finish daily chore if needed and do a cleaning calendar chore
2:45 get Jayna off the bus and get her unpacked and settled in for quiet reading
3:00 change and feed the baby, put him down for afternoon nap, Millie wakes…play with girls
4:00 while girls play together, start prepping dinner, check email
5:30 dinner on the table

It’s funny, as I write this, it seems like there is so much time in the day.  Up until now, I’ve never written down my “schedule.”  In fact, it took me quite a while to think about what I actually do on a daily basis.  So when I wrote down the minimum things in my day, there seems like so many gaps.  But then fill those gaps with potty breaks, tantrums, tying shoes, tears, hugs, time-outs, fussiness, tea parties, lap sitting, boo boos, reading books, etc.  No wonder I don’t get more done!

Be A Stay-at-Home Mom: A How-To Guide

Some of the ways I keep organized, are by planning out my meals.  I do this in a variety of ways, from preparing freezer meals ahead of time, to participating in the eMeals program {and letting them do all the meal planning for me!}.  Either way, I use a Weekly Meal Planner worksheet to get a visual of what I’ve planned for the week, which also helps Dave on the nights that I need him to start dinner for me.

Another important thing to remember is that although it’s important {and your job now!} to spend more time with your kids, don’t feel like it all has to be structured.  As a former teacher and a mommy-blogger, it’s second nature to me to want to have a project, craft or game ready for the kids at all times.  But you have to remember that by having structured activities or even excursions {think zoo, children’s museum, etc.} all the time will create expectations and dependency from your kids.  It’s good for them to play alone or with each other.  It’s beneficial for them to learn to leave you alone sometimes.  And it’s a valuable skill that you may need to teach them, since they will be SO EXCITED to have you at home with them.  All. of. the. time.  I try to balance structured activities {from simple painting to complex slime recipes and scavenger hunts} with free play, and adding the occasional “field trip” excursion about twice a month.  {And the grocery store counts as an excursion, right?!?!}

Be A Stay-at-Home Mom: A How-To Guide

And my final thought is, don’t feel guilty about taking some “me” time.  Whether it’s in the evenings or weekends, when your spouse can take over for a bit, or during nap time, make sure it happens.  It’s easy to get so wrapped up in daily duties and childcare that you forget to take care of yourself.  And if you are stressed out, tired or burned out, you can’t be a good mom or wife.  So don’t feel guilty about that hour on Facebook or Pinterest…I guarantee your working friends and spouses spend at least an hour during the day surfing the internet!

Be A Stay-at-Home Mom: A How-To Guide

And last but not least, enjoy!  Your kids will grow up.  That temper tantrum will only last about three minutes.  That snuggle on the couch will be fleeting.  Soak these kiddie moments up, because there will always be dishes!

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Summer Recap 2014

It’s official….the summer has yet again, flown by!  So today I thought I’d give you a quick recap of our summer in pictures!

Summer 2014 Recap from Palmettos and Pigtails

Millie graduated with honors from the 2 year old class at her pre-school…mastering the potty, recognizing the letters in her name, and making silly faces instead of smiling.  Jayna aced the 4 year old class and bittersweetly moved on to kindergarten.  She is reading chapter books, writing letters and riding her bike!

Summer 2014 Recap from Palmettos and Pigtails

Did I mention that we had a baby?  Lincoln Christopher joined us in mid-May and is rounding into his fourth month already!

Summer 2014 Recap from Palmettos and Pigtails

He is a completely chill baby who will smile at just about anyone!

Summer 2014 Recap from Palmettos and Pigtails

The girls had a whole lot of Loo Loo time while I bonded with Lincoln.

Caution Tape Construction Wreath for Vacation Bible School Decor from Palmettos and Pigtails

Both girls got to experience a couple of Vacation Bible School sessions over the summer.  Although I couldn’t volunteer during the sessions this year, I was able to help out with decorating for the “Workshop of Wonders” construction theme.

Summer 2014 Recap from Palmettos and Pigtails

Summer 2014 Recap from Palmettos and Pigtails

Our summer was filled with neighborhood gatherings, from a festive 4th of July parade and fireworks show, to a laid back Bluegrass and BBQ festival.  There were also less formal occasions, as our closest neighbors shared meals, childcare and old-fashioned fun!

Summer 2014 Recap from Palmettos and Pigtails

We were able to get up to Montreat again this year, to catch up with our best friends and reminisce a little about my summers there.  And last weekend, we were SO excited to welcome our newest God-daughter, Penny!  Lulabelle and Ro will be such great big sisters!

Summer 2014 Recap from Palmettos and Pigtails

Summer 2014 Recap from Palmettos and Pigtails

We had lots of visitors…including Great-Grandparents on both sides of the family!  I’m so proud and thankful that my kids know their Greats so well!

Summer 2014 Recap from Palmettos and Pigtails

We also traveled around the state of Florida to visit the grandparents in St. Augustine and St. George Island.  The girls had lots of beach days and lots of day trips!

Summer 2014 Recap from Palmettos and Pigtails

I was hoping that we’d have a nice relaxing summer…you’d think that would be easy with a newborn, right?  Not for this busy family!  We were just as active as ever, but had a wonderful summer!

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From Florida with Love: Saint Augustine

Our last stop in our roundabout tour of Florida {to visit the grandparents}, was to the quaint old town of Saint Augustine, just south of Jacksonville.

Recap of our Florida Vacation from Palmettos and  Pigtails

We obviously needed a break from all of that relaxing in Saint George Island….so we packed as much as we could into this trip!  Every day was a new adventure.

First up was a quick {and hot!} tour of the Castillo de San Marcos.  Otherwise known by my girls as “The Fort.”  MomMom and GP took the girls here when they visited in the spring….and the firing of the cannons was all they talked about for days after their little vacation!  Millie loves shouting, “Cover your ears!”  We also ran into a few pirates who wander the town on a daily basis.  This guy happened to be a “good guy,” offering to pose for a picture and giving the girls Gold Doubloons {aka pirate booty}.

One evening, we headed into town to find out that the evening concert that we’d been headed to, had been canceled.  But the night was saved when we ran into this pack of princesses, who were participating in a photo shoot.  We did nothing less than stalk them for an hour, posing for pictures and borrowing their props {Ariel even had a Dinglehopper!}.

Right up the road from MomMom and GP’s house is the Saint Augustine Alligator Farm.  It’s a zoo that has at least one of every type of alligator and crocodile in the world.  Not to mention the hundreds of alligators that we were able to help feed in the massive pond there.  As we walked across the boardwalk that spanned the pond, the alligators were literally climbing all over each other to get to the “Gator Nuggets” we were throwing to them.  But the highlight of the girls’ day was the unexpectedly social Komodo Dragons!

On the hottest day of the week, we took advantage of the half price offerings of the Jacksonville Zoo due to the high temperatures.  We actually lucked out, because thanks to a few rainstorms, in never got too hot…but there were no crowds either!  Jayna and Millie  got to actually touch the sting rays {which was exciting because they had seen a few in the water in SGI}, and they had an amazing tiger habitat that let the animals travel through multiple exhibits.

But my favorite part, was seeing family! My grandparents and my aunt came to visit from Ft. Myers and Atlanta to meet Lincoln and spend some time with the girls.  The girls are so blessed to have such wonderful relationships with all five of their great grandparents!  And Lincoln turned out to be a complete Great-Grandma’s boy!

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Family of Five

People keep asking me, “so how is it having three kids now?”

Newborn Shoot by Rachel Weber Photography - Palmettos and Pigtails

I bought the kids’ coordinating outfits from Red Pajamas on Etsy….aren’t they adorable?

And my answer is always, “Great!”  Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t trade it for the world {well…most days!}.  But we are still struggling to find our groove as a family of five.  All in all, juggling three kids is not much different than juggling two.  The biggest challenges are coordinating “get-out-the-door” time with “feeding-spitup-blowout-time” and teaching the girls to have patience while I deal with baby stuff.  We do a couple more loads of laundry each week now {thanks to Lincoln’s excessive spitting up}, and it’s admittedly a little harder to navigate grocery stores and crowded VBS hallways while lugging a heavy infant carrier too.  Thank goodness for my carrier tent and carrier cushion, which keep germ hands away from Lincoln, and saves my arm!

Newborn Shoot by Rachel Weber Photography - Palmettos and Pigtails

Overall, we are slowly starting to adjust.  Jayna is super helpful with holding, feeding, burping and diapering.  Millie is a little less enthusiastic about her brother, but still loves to kiss him and bring him pacifiers.  Maggie ignores him.  Dave has stepped up and is wonderful about nighttime feedings and dealing with the “girl drama” so I can get a break here and there.  Lincoln is a content baby, and really only cries when he needs something.  He eats every 2-3 hours, but after feeding and burping, I only have about an hour free in between.

Newborn Shoot by Rachel Weber Photography - Palmettos and PigtailsNewborn Shoot by Rachel Weber Photography - Palmettos and Pigtails

So admittedly, my house is a wreck.  I haven’t vacuumed in days.  I haven’t cooked in weeks {stay tuned for how I’m able to pull that off!}.  I have three goals per day.  Goal #1: Keep everyone alive.  Goal #2:  Attempt to keep my sanity.  Goal #3: Accomplish something. Anything.

I keep my expectations low each day, and so far, I haven’t really been disappointed!  Even if that means that some days my goal is to just empty the dishwasher.  Other days, my goal is to get a 20 minute nap.  Either way, as long as I accomplish it, I’m happy!

Newborn Shoot by Rachel Weber Photography - Palmettos and Pigtails

Meet my new family of five!

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All photos on this post were taken by our favorite family photographer, Rachel Weber Photography.  To see more of her work with my family, check out our pregnancy announcement photos, our fall family pics, and Millie’s newborn photo shoot.

Bonus points for you if you can find which of my kids is a model on Rachel’s Portfolio Page…

Four Generations

Y’all.  I can’t even tell you how busy we  have been around here lately.  It’s been C.R.A.Z.Y.  I feel like I haven’t slept in weeks!!  And you’ll have to bear with me in the next few weeks too, because there won’t be any slowing down for us anytime soon!

It all really started last weekend.  It’s kind of become a tradition that my parents come the first weekend of October.  And although it’s a week early, we celebrate my birthday {and sometimes even Loo’s November birthday too!}, and my mom, sister and I work the annual Kitchen Tour in town.  It’s terrible that we can’t take pictures of the homes because they are gorgeous!  We walk through about 10 historic homes in our towns, touring their living areas and kitchens and sampling foods, wines and desserts from local restaurants.  Then, the second half of the day, we volunteer as hostesses in the homes.  The houses are beautiful, and there is always some neat history to learn at each house too.  For example, this year the block of homes on the tour used to be where an old resort was back in the 1940’s…the house that we were stationed to work in was located where the resort swimming pool was.

And the best part about the weekend was that my grandparents were able to come up from Florida with my parents!  We hadn’t seen them in a while, and it’s always really neat to get all FOUR generations together!  Too bad we forgot to get an updated picture of all of us….the last one we did was back on one of our Maryland visits for Mother’s Day of 2012!

The closest we got this year was a giant family photo on the last night that Mom Mom, GP, Nana and PopPop were here:

I just love how close our family is {both emotionally and physically!}….its’ wonderful to see the girls growing up knowing so much of their family!  And the relationships that are growing between the girls and their GREAT grandparents are incredible.  We are so, so blessed.

The rest of my week was filled with preparations for friends visiting this past weekend, a baby shower, and taking care of Jayna and Dave {Jayna had the flu this week, and Dave burnt his arm on our smoker}.  But no one wants to see pictures of that, so enjoy these instead!

Stay tuned in the coming days for a sneak peek at the baby shower I threw, a tutorial on how to make some spooky Halloween barrettes, and a new wreath!

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Potty Training Around the Campfire {From the Archives}

In honor of our beginning attempts at potty-training Millie this week, and of camping-worthy weather, here’s a peek back into the archives on how we did potty training while camping!Potty Training While Camping from PalmettosandPigtails.com

So in September, we started thinking about potty-training.  We hadn’t previously thought about it, but then all of the sudden Jayna took an interest in accompanying us for every one of our restroom needs.  She was very interested.  So, we started the process….buying the miniature potty, stickers, books, yada yada.  We haven’t really pushed the issue, especially since I wasn’t sure how to potty train Jayna while still keeping my eyes on the ever-busy little boy I watch everyday.  So we stalled.  Until last week.  Because of Thanksgiving, I was relieved of my babysitting duties from Wednesday through Sunday, so I thought, “This, is the perfect time!.”  So from then on, every 30 minutes we potty-trained.  It was going very well, until Dave and I decided to go camping.

Yes, camping.  Yes, potty training while camping.  And no, contrary to (Dave’s) opinion, I am not crazy.  We packed up the car and drove to Santee State Park where we pitched our tent, lit a campfire, fished, and pottied in the back of the truck every 30 minutes!!!  It actually was great, other than being a tad cold (30 degrees that night!!).  It was the perfect setting to do all things potty….there were no distractions and any activities we wanted to do (i.e. fishing, playgrounding, campfiring, stick-finding), could be accomplished within that 30 minute time frame before the timer went off.  So, all in all, I would highly recommend the Potty Training While Camping Method!Potty Training While Camping from PalmettosandPigtails.comPotty Training While Camping from PalmettosandPigtails.comPotty Training While Camping from PalmettosandPigtails.comPotty Training While Camping from PalmettosandPigtails.comYes, here she is on the potty in the back of the truck!  You just need a timer, a potty, some blankets {for privacy!}, a few books and snacks, and LOTS of spare clothes!!Potty Training While Camping from PalmettosandPigtails.comProud Girl!!Potty Training While Camping from PalmettosandPigtails.comHave you potty trained in a creative way?  I need more ideas now that Millie is ready!  Leave me a comment!

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Happy Mother’s Day

Happy Mother’s Day!  Hopefully reading this post is just a quick break from your day of surprises and appreciation from your hubby and kids!  Or maybe you are celebrating your own mom today.  Either way, enjoy your day!DSC_1129Palmettos and Pigtails

Let’s Go Fly a Kite!

Today we are headed back to the Lowcountry from a wonderful week up in Maryland.  Not only did we get to see lots of family (think aunts from Maine and cousins from China!) and celebrate Easter in my home church, we also got to fly kites!Sorry for the blurry pictures!  1 camera phone + 3 sqirmy girls = terrible quality photosThe Cherry Blossom Festival is in full swing in Washington, D.C. and this weekend’s celebration was the Kite Festival by the National Monument.  Thousands of people gathered to picnic, fly kites, and compete in various kite contests.Kites in D.C. We mostly just enjoyed the mild weather and being together…..and attempting to just get our kites up off the ground!!Millie pretty much spent the entire day cozying up to whoever had the best snacks….GP and Dave seemed to spend the entire time untangling string…..And Cousin Wouter was the resident expert, teaching Jayna (and some strangers around us!) how it’s done in China!Finally, the girls figured out that it was just as much fun to physically run the kites around as it was to get them up in the air!!Who needs string, anyway?!?!

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Gator Huntin’ at Cypress Gardens

We were lucky enough to have Mom Mom come visit us for a long weekend.  Now, there isn’t much around here she hasn’t done with us.  That’s one of the things I love about the Lowcountry is there is a TON of things to do!  So, even though we have taken her out before, we decided to head out to Cypress Gardens for the day on Saturday.  Even though the temperature had dropped back down to the 50’s (last week they were in the 80’s!), we bundled up and packed a picnic lunch.We love Cypress Gardens.  And I’m not even getting paid to say that!  Although its a bit of a drive out there, they have a ton to do for the whole family.  They have an aquarium with fish, crocodiles, turtles and snakes, and an outdoor pen with some VERY large alligators.  Jayna’s favorite part of Cypress Gardens is the butterfly garden.  And on Saturday, they had cute little birds (full sized, supposedly) wandering around too!We had a picnic lunch and listened to the bluegrass music.  Jayna was fascinated by the lady playing the “bass” bucket!Obviously Cypress Gardens is named for all of the Cypress trees there.  They grow in the swamp, and their roots and “knees” stick out of the water and the soft land.  It’s just beautiful.  Jayna says that the Cypress “knees” remind her of the stalagmites that we saw in Luray Caverns.But my favorite part of Cypress Gardens is the swamp boat tours.  You can pay to get a guided one, but we prefer to paddle ourselves for free!  (Mommy disclaimer: Yes, I know I have Amelia in the carrier backwards….but I figured she would be happier and less squirmy in the carrier facing out, so she could see.  I was wrong though….she wanted out altogether, and screamed for the entire boat ride!)Every time we’ve been there we’ve managed to see at least a couple of gators in the swamp.  We’ve gotten really good at spotting them amongst the logs, lily pads and Cypress Knees.But, thanks to Amelia’s wailing, this was the only gator we saw this time!signature

{Walt Disney World} A Mom with A Plan.

Did I tell you our exciting news?  We are going to Disney World!  Along with everyone else we know.  Not really {just Bets and Jay}, but seriously all of our friends are also going at some point this year.  Now that our kids are 4 and old enough to get excited, it’s about that time!

So when we first decided to do a Disney Vacation with Bets and Jay, I bombarded my Pinterest Boards with any Disney-related posts I could find.  And there are. a. lot.

This mom shares her plan for her family's budget-friendly trip to Disney, complete with hotel, eating and entertainment. Palmettos and Pigtails {Walt Disney World} A Mom with A Plan. #disneyworldWhere to Stay:

I went back and forth about whether to stay on-sight, rent a house, or try to do a time-share.  The pros and cons for each were overwhelming.  You can only do the Disney Meal Plan if you stay onsight.  You can catch a shuttle to the parks for free if you stay on site.  But, it’s waaaaaaay cheaper to rent a house (and you’ll get your own pool that way!).  Time shares seemed the obvious happy medium, with their multiple theme pools, transportation to parks, and eat-in kitchens.  But they were still pretty expensive.  And then my friend Joanna filled me in on Farrell’s Vacation Rentals.  Farrell is just a guy who personally owns a bunch of timeshares, and he’ll rent them to you for much less than the actual resorts. So, we ended up booking a two bedroom condo at the Wyndham Bonnet Creek Resort {complete with Disney shuttle and lazy river!!} for $109 a night.  Not bad!Next order of business: Food.

Top of the List? Disney Princess Character Breakfast!  We’d heard from multiple friends to skip the Cinderella Castle meals and head to Epcot’s Akershus Royal Banquet Hall, where Belle, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Jasmine and Mary Poppins dine.  I found all of the menu items, pricing and other options here.  Considering Dave and I will be continuing our Biggest Loser Lifestyle, we figure that we will try to eat in our hotel as much as possible, and pack healthy snacks and lunches for the parks {since I found out you can bring food and drinks into the park!}.Final step: Entertainment

We will be in Orlando for 7 days, so we are still debating whether to get a 3 or 4 day park-hopper pass….hoping to go to a park every other day.  Our resort has plenty for us to do on the off days, plus Betsy and Jay will be staying over at the campground, which will have lots of entertainment there too.  We budgeted for full price tickets, but I’ve found a couple of sites with discount tickets {I’d share them with you, but I’m not sure if they are legit yet…I’ll keep you posted}.  Our plan is to get to each park before it opens at 9 {a little birdie told me that sometimes the characters come out to hang while you are waiting for the park to open!}, eat a packed lunch there and just go for as long as the kids can hang.  Then we’ll head back to the hotel in the late afternoon for naps and dinner.  I’m hoping I can convince Bets to swap off kids for a couple of the nights so we each can grab a date night with our hubby in Downtown Disney!

I’ve got lots more Disney coming at you in the near future, including packing lists, our activities around the house to get excited, and some secret tips I found!  In the meantime, PLEASE feel free to leave any tips or advice in the comments!

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Check out my other Disney-related posts! Click Below:

Secrets of the Kingdom: A Collection of Walt Disney World Tips

Secrets of the Kingdom: A Collection of Walt Disney World Tips