how to handle your mother-in-law

She arrives and greets the kids with open arms and loads of kisses. She sets her things down and after visiting with the family for a bit, she begins to unpack. I tuck the kids in for the night and make my rounds checking the house and tidying as I go. To my horror (cue the horror music), my once empty counters are filled with her things, my bathroom chocked full of her beauty supplies and my closet strewn with more of her belongings, my refrigerator and pantry overflowing with the food she brought along for herself. My breath thick and choppy, nerves fired up, I pad my way back to my bedroom and sit.

The next few weeks are going to be hard.

Household items begin to relocate, processes are questioned and adjusted as she tries to control our household. I find respite in driving slowly to the grocery store or sitting at the library with the kids a lot longer than usual. Oops! I forget something at the store, I'll be back! Oh darn, I forgot to pick that up, I'll just run out and get it! Anything to get away. I might even sit in the car for a half hour before going in, so I can steal my nerves against the impending storm of corrections of shoulds and shouldn'ts.

The comments and opinions so easily tossed out about how things should be and the utterly constant state of correction is overwhelming, I would prefer to walk on glass. I walk around with a dark and gloomy cloud over my head but you wouldn't know it, what with my smile and head nodding and thank you's and all.

Mother-in-laws are hard.

Here are few ideas for how to handle/survive your mother-in-law:

  1. Smile. A lot.
  2. Act/be interested in her stories and knowledge.
  3. Ask questions. She would love to talk about memories and the family history.
  4. Ask for her help. It will make her feel needed (don't all mom's want that?) and useful.
  5. Ask if she needs anything from the store.
  6. Remind her that she does not need to do the laundry, then express appreciation for her help.
  7. Do not discuss/defend/explain/justify/ your family's parenting/lifestyle choices
  8. Keep up your normal routines, let her join in so she can enjoy the kids
  9. Never discuss money or financial issues. Never.
  10. Express light concern for her incessant complaints about life. Throw in an ear-to-shoulder, furrowed brow look. Lean towards positive reactions and ideas with a hopeful expression.
  11. Let her treat the kids. Let her spoil them a bit, then reel it back in with a firm statement of your request. And a smile.
  12. Most importantly, remember that for all her comments, judgments, corrections and opinions, once she goes home you and your family will live how you please, thank you very much!
Good luck, you can do this.
Share this with a friend who has a mother-in-law coming to visit!
Help me out, what survival tactics can you add to the list?

on defending your parenting choices

You don't have to. I just learned that lesson. You don't have to defend your parenting choices. You don't even need to explain yourself. You don't need to convince anyone to agree with you.

We were visiting some family over the weekend and the topic of my 3 year old and preschool came up. I was sharing my excitement about Evan learning to write his name. This particular family member did not know that I had removed Evan from preschool earlier this year. She made a comment that it's good that Evan is learning in school. I informed her that he was not in school and I told her the whole back story, my change of heart and mind, citing examples and research and finally, my reasoning for removing him. She spoke over me, laughed at my reasons and made comments that cut me down and pushed me into defensive mode.

I continued to cite examples and the behavioral changes as well as my understanding that I cannot protect him forever. I felt the fire burning hard in my chest. I quieted down, stepped back and realized that I was trying to convince her, to change her beliefs, to get her to agree with me.


She doesn't live my life. She doesn't see the consequences and changes and up and downs. I do. My husband does. We make the choices. We live with the outcomes. We travel the path we make for ourselves.

As the clouds in my mind parted, I took a breath and smiled. I don't need anyone's approval. I don't need to explain or defend my parenting choices.

This realization is monumental. We all do what we feel is best for our family. We make choices based off of the things we hold to be important. Everyone's list of things that are important is different. And the same goes for the path we choose to get there.

Minimalist Baby

How do you feel when you walk down the baby aisle at Target? There's sooo much stuff and everything is sooo cute! The baby department makes me feel overwhelmed, tight in the chest and my logic goes out the window. It makes me forget my budget and the available space in my home. It makes me forget the consequences.

Today I'm talking about baby gear and what you need to enjoy/survive the first year. I've used these items and genuinely love them, these are my opinions. (Note: affiliate links below. If you purchase anything after clicking on my links, you help my family, thank you friends!)
  1. Car seat: safe, easy to use.
  2. Moby: my favorite way to carry a baby. 
  3. Bouncy chair: the only way I was able to take a shower or make dinner.
  4. Spit up cloths: we had 6 on hand and washed them each night.
  5. Onesies and socks: they live in these.
  6. Super soft blankie: my little one has had his special soft blanket since birth, it's his favorite.
  7. Cloth diapers and diaper soap: no rushing to the store because you ran out of diapers.
  8. Baby bath tub: we used this until baby could sit up on his own.
  9. Some toys (we love these blocks, this chewy giraffe, this crunchy book and this book)
I found that the Moby worked better than a stroller, pillows worked better than a Boppy and I never used the swaddling blankets. High chair? Phooey, when baby is ready to explore food, hold him on your lap so he can explore your plate (baby-led weaning style). Diaper bag? Try a back pack or a large purse/tote that you already own. Swing? Try walking around with her in the Moby or go for a car ride. Changing table? Lay down a towel on a bed, couch or floor and change her there. Crib? You might enjoy co-sleeping. It will let you nurse with ease in the middle of the night (equals more sleep for you!). It was a wonderful set-up for our family.

Minimalism is all about focusing on what's important and cutting out the things that distract you. Minimalism looks different for everyone. It's about being intentional with your choices and shopping for baby is no different. Having a plan and a budget before you head into the store can help. Consider function, space and necessity.

The first year is so much fun, they grow so fast. Keep it simple and soak up those snuggles.

What was/is your favorite baby item? 

What did you buy that you soon realized you didn't need?

minimalism: a surprising solution to parenting woes

Sometimes I yell at my kids. 

I hate that I yell at my kids. Why do I do it? Why can't I stop?

Let me think about this. I yell when I'm stressed, overwhelmed, rushed, hungry and tired. What is the underlying common thread running through my list of triggers? Excess. Too much crap. Stressed and overwhelmed: too much to do, too much to think about, too much to worry about. Rushed, tired and hungry: too much to do, too many distractions (so many that I don't have time to take proper care of myself).

So, my kids are not the problem. They're kids, learning to live in this world, looking for independence and expressing their feelings. All normal, healthy things. What's not healthy? Me yelling at them. I am the problem. The way I live is the problem. Living with too much crap is the problem.

Let me dig a little deeper.

Finances, a to do list that can never and will never be completed and work deadlines. Not enough time in the day to get work done, chores done, errands done, spend time with the family, get enough sleep, eat right,  exercise, clip coupons, feed the dogs....

It's all too much. 

So, if I cut out the crap, reduce the excess, trim schedules and throw the to-do list in the garbage, what would happen? I'll tell you what happens. Stress is reduced, time and money is freed up,  weight is lifted off your chest and suddenly.....suddenly you don't feel like yelling. Suddenly the anger, frustration and discontent evaporates. 

When you cut out the crap, when you minimize the distractions you have time to listen to their stories, mosey to the car, be present and make meaningful memories. You have time to play so they don't feel like they have to act out for attention. You have time to cuddle them when they scrape their knees or when someone has hurt their feelings.

I'm the mom of 2 little ones. My family is the single most important thing to me. Their safety, health and happiness is my priority. So why am I spending most of my time on other stuff? I let the other stuff distract me. I let it rule my days, my words and energy. 

Minimalism is a solution, a way to live so that I can honor the things most important to me. It's the choice to take back the control of my life, time and money. It's not just about decluttering and taking the physical excess out of my house. It's about reducing our obligations, to-do lists, distractions and stress. Minimalism brings relationships, experiences and memories back to the focal point in life. 

It's been 2 months since I made the commitment to live this lifestyle. It's freeing. Somehow it's given me patience. It's given me time to play, listen and bond. No more do we spend weekends cleaning and organizing (and complaining). Sure there's the upfront work of clearing out the physical crap but once it's done, it's done. Suddenly there's time. Time to sit, create, listen, watch and teach.

It's just the perspective adjustment I needed. It's the answer to my constant feelings of discontent and frustration. It's the lifestyle I need so that I can soak up every sweet minute with my kids.

It's the solution to my parenting woes.

Are you embarking on the minimalist path? What are you handling first?

Here's how I started: 11 ways to start you life as a minimalist
Here's what motivated me: Clutterfree with Kids, Minimalism: Live a Meaningful Life and Notes from a Blue Bike: The Art of Living Intentionally in a Chaotic World
Here's a little help for the tough days: The Inspiration Now app

11 easy ways to start your life as a minimalist

I've always loved the idea of living simply. I got hooked when I first began reading The Simple Mom (now known as The Art of Simple) and The Small Notebook (she doesn't update it anymore but it is still a goldmine of awesome ideas) many years ago. I was introduced to living simply through posts about putting people and experiences first, financial and home management, living below your means and decluttering. Inspiring and freeing.

Then I heard Joshua Becker from Becoming Minimalist on Tsh's podcast a few months ago. Whoa. I came to a screeching halt when I realized I needed to stop thinking about living simply and actually do it. And not just some of it. All of it. I ordered his book "Clutter Free With Kids", scoured his blog and immersed myself in the world of minimalism. 

I thought I was doing good. I naturally ask myself the right questions before purchasing something and I am always on the lookout for things that can be removed from our home. There is so much more to it than that. It isn't just about decluttering the physical items in your home. It's about decluttering your life, money, schedules, food, thoughts,'s about freeing yourself from the garbage that keeps you from focusing on the stuff that is most important to you.

This is living right. I don't want to spend my time cleaning, organizing, decluttering, cleaning, organizing and complaining. This journey is so good for the soul, too. If your dipping your toe into the pool of minimalist living, then you're in good company.

I'll be sharing more about our journey as we go, but for now I want to share with you 11 easy ways to start your life as a minimalist:
  1. Unsubscribe from email/mail that you no longer read or advertises things to buy. This will reduce inbox clutter and increase efficiency. It prevents paper clutter from entering your home. Most importantly, it removes the chance of needless spending.
  2. Streamline your social media. Go through each social media platform and unfollow those that no longer interest you or that promote spending and accumulating. Make up some limits for each platform. For example, I follow 10 blogs. I use to follow 70. You could go a bit further, stop using 1 or 2 platforms. (Gasp!)
  3. Go through your closet. Get rid of anything you don't fit into, haven't worn in the last months or is worn out. Get rid of anything you don't love. If you kinda like it, toss it. Clothes, shoes, undergarments and accessories. Don't hold onto things for sentimental value or for someday.
  4. Sign up for and link up all of your accounts. This allows you to see the balances of bank accounts and debt accounts all at once. No more hunting down statements or logging into 10 different accounts.
  5. Clean up your phone. Get rid of the apps you don't use and organize the ones you do.
  6. Do a 10 minute toy sweep. Grab a box and just start tossing in things they no longer play with.
  7. Start a dinner list. Aim for a list of 10 favorite easy dinners along with their ingredients. This makes meal planning a cinch.
  8. Get rid of at least 1 thing each day for the next 30 days.
  9. Do a time inventory. Sit down and map out what your typical day looks like. This allows you to see the things you do and how long they take you. If your schedule is jam packed, see where you can cut back or delegate.
  10.  Get rid of cable/satellite. Free up some major time for more important things and save some cash.
  11. Commit to staying away from Target for 30 days. Do I need to explain?
These are meant to build confidence in reducing distractions and free up time and money. They provide immediate results. You can feel stress evaporate. Give it a try.

What are you minimizing today?

introducing: the inspiration now app

We made something for you. We hope you love it.

I teamed up with John, from (who also happens to be my husband!), and we created  an iPhone app called Inspiration Now. This app is designed to help you handle those rough moments and days that all parents experience.

Are you having a bad day, feeling down, feeling like a bad mom? Are you feeling guilty? Are the kids driving you crazy? Do you feel like yelling?

Open the app and choose your situation. A piece of inspiration and encouragement will appear. The app is designed to change your focus, shift your perspective and to help you take a step back and reflect in order to handle the frustrations of the moment. It's a soother for hot nerves and beaten down spirits.

I began using the app during the testing phase of our app building process and I'm surprised at just how powerful it is. During a moment of high stress, frayed nerves and loud kids, I opened the app. The piece of advice that appeared was, "Choose sleep tonight." So, I did. I woke up the next morning feeling rested and ready for the day and the loud kids.

It was just the little nudge and reminder that I needed to change my focus, to understand some of the things contributing to my stress level and lack of patience. It gently urged me to take care of me. I took it seriously and committed.

It was worth it.

We all need a rope we can hang on to, to get us out of the moment and provide some clarity. Deep down we all know what we should do but in those emotionally charged moments of clenched fists and anger or defeat, it can be hard to remember what we should do.

It would mean so much to me if you left a rating if you like our app. Positive ratings help the app be seen by other parents who might find it useful.

Thank you, friends!

Weekend Links

May you have an unfussy, easy going weekend. May you connect with people you love and make simple memories filled with ice cream and giggles.

  1. Have a listen to the Lively Show hosted by Jess Lively. I binged listened to the podcast and can't wait for more. So much goodness, inspiration and real talk. This show pumps me up to do things I am often too afraid to do. 
  2. Can't wait to make Shutterbean's raspberry lemon yogurt popsicles. I may not tell anyone I made them so I can have them all to myself.
  3. Read The Abundant Mama's: 20 Bad Habits That Contribute to Mom Burnout. Oh my goodness, I do so many of these things and then complain about my exhaustion or wither in my guilt for not being a more present mama. 
Happy Weekend!