Hey Moms, It’s Time to Lose the Cape

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When I started Mommy Sanest, I did so with the premise that I was searching for sanity in this (sometimes?) crazy world of parenting. What does sanity mean to me? It means dropping the perfectionism, the extreme styles of parentings (too many rules, man), and embracing an attitude of “good enough.”

So when the opportunity to read and review a new book called “Lose the Cape: Realities from Busy Modern Moms and Strategies to Survive,” I, of course, said yes. “Lose the Cape” is written by bloggers Alexa Bigwarfe and Kerry River, two moms who realize that being “supermom” isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. I love hearing how other mothers manage home and work particularly when they’ve decided that perfection can’t be the goal.

While I received the e-book for free, all of my opinions are my own.

“Lose the Cape” was a super easy, quick, entertaining, and worthwhile read with lots of great tips for moms with kids at every age and stage. There’s so much pressure — mostly from the Internet — to be a perfect mom and many of us get caught up in this ideal. Often, we feel like we’re not measuring up.

Lose the Cape

Granted, I’m kind of automatically on board with anything that combats the idea of “supermom” or “perfect parenting,” but I loved the practical aspects of “Lose the Cape.” Every chapter featured specific scenarios that we all deal with: Being a new mom, the dreaded and never-ending pile of laundry, meal planning, maintaining a strong relationship with a partner, routines, being over-scheduled, not being able to unplug from social media, and more. The strategies and advice, coupled with the examples from real moms, are very helpful. Not all of the advice was brand new, but it’s stuff that bears repeating, and there were definitely a lot of ideas I hadn’t heard before.

But moreover, I loved the attitude of the writers. I had a real sense of, “We’ve got your back,” throughout the book. Clearly they aren’t about the mommy wars, and they believe we’re all in this together. The chapter about “forming your mom squad” really drove this home. None of us can do this without support from other moms — even if that support is just listening to each other air our grievances and strategizing together.

Overall, it’s definitely worth a read for any mom who is feeling overwhelmed or is sick of living up to ridiculous standards and expectations (regardless of whether they are real or imagined). Actually, I’d recommend moms-to-be pick up “Lose the Cape” — this would be a great gift for an expectant mother as this book gives you a clear idea about the reality of early motherhood. Moreover, the book’s solid advice on different stages and situation really makes it worth while to keep on hand throughout the years.

Organizing Your Freezer Meals for Easy Summer Cooking

by Gena Kittner

I love the term “nesting.” It brings to mind a plump little momma bird busily feathering her home. Lately, I can relate, at least regarding the plump part, and with this pregnancy, my nesting tendencies have taken a decidedly food-related turn.

Let me explain.

“New Baby” will be born in July, one of the two hottest months in Tucson, with an average high temperature of 99 degrees.

There are many adjustments I’ve learned to make here during the summer. For example, I now place a frozen water bottle in Ellie’s car seat while running errands to make it bearable for her to climb in after a grocery run.

Crayons and granola bars are diaper bag no nos as both will melt into gooey messes.

But the trickiest part, for me, is figuring out what the he** to cook for dinner. I’ll admit, this question stumps me even when it’s not 100 degrees, but I find it especially challenging when the last thing I want to do it turn on the oven or stove.

So I’ve turned to the freezer.

Don't turn on the oven or stove this summer to cook! Instead spend some time organizing your freezer meals and have easy meals all summer long using these tips.

I’m a big fan of freezing food. Soups, steaks, fruit, quiches, pies, hummus — all find homes in my freezer. The problem, though, is finding and remembering what you have, otherwise you’re stuck with a quart bag of what you think is spaghetti sauce that turns out to be beef stew (true story). My goal is that leading up to, during and after New Baby’s arrival, I can take the stress out of making dinner by easily pulling something out of the freezer.

So I recently decided to spend half an hour and overhaul my freezer. Here’s what I did:

  • To avoid future spaghetti sauce/beef stew mishaps, virtually everything in the freezer is stored in a quart or gallon freezer bag that’s labeled and dated.
  • I have a side-by-side freezer with several shelves and a drawer at the bottom, so I organized all food into separately themed shelves. For example, the bottom two shelves are MREs — Meals Ready to Eat. Leftovers like chili, soup, or already cooked meat that can be defrosted and heated in the microwave. NO STOVE REQUIRED.
  • Another shelf I dedicated to raw meats for the grill. Steaks, pork chops, scallops, etc. On the door I have smaller shelves dedicated to frozen veggies, cheeses and lunch items (Morning Star burgers, etc.).
  • The biggest shelf is for over-sized items. The huge bag of chicken breasts from Costo, a gallon of ice cream, a pork butt, etc. Finally, the top shelf is for dessert and breakfast items such as frozen loaves of bread, cookie dough and popsicles.
  • In addition to labeling the bags of food themselves, I put actual stickies in the freezer indicating which shelves have which foods. My thought is when my butt’s glued to the couch nursing new baby, daddy, grandma etc. can easily located some dinner options.
  • If you have the type of freezer that sits on top or underneath the fridge, I suggest organizing the freezer bags of food into small plastic bins that you can easily pull out and look through. I did this in my house in Wisconsin with good success.

This is just what applies best for my family — your freezer organization might take on different themes. For example, my husband grills most every weekend, so having a shelf dedicated to just raw meat makes sense. Maybe you’ve done a make-ahead crockpot workshop and want to dedicate a shelf just for that. Or you often take frozen dinners to work for lunch — dedicating a freezer shelf would maximize your staking space and minimize the chances of those boxes sliding out every time you open the door (yes, I know from experience).

The key, I believe, is knowing what you have and where it is. So here’s to a coming summer of keeping cool and low-stress dinners (I hope!).


Gena is a Midwest transplant living in TucsoGena Kittnern, Arizona with her husband and 3-year-old daughter, Ellie. When not killing scorpions, Gena writes about food and family. Follow her on Twitter @genakittner, and check out her previous posts on Mommy Sanest.

How to Simplify Your Toddler Birthday Gift Giving

I remember the first 1-year-old and 2-year-old birthday parties I attended — they were B.E. (Before Emme), and I had no clue what kind of gift I should bring for a baby-child. For one of the parties, I  ‘phoned a friend,’ aka I called a friend of mine who was already a mom — one of the few ‘mom friends’ I had at the time — and said, ‘What kind of gift should I get for a 1-year-old?” She recommended this toy, which did not cost upwards of $150.00 at the time (seriously, WTF is up with that?). But for other toddler birthday gifts, I wandered aimlessly around Toys “R” Us, lost and confused in a sea of Bratz dolls, Lego sets, and age requirements that somehow always seemed too old or too young.

Emme's First Birthday - Toddler Birthday Gifts - Ideas and Tips

I wanted a Pinterest-y first birthday photo of Emme. She would have none of it.

These days, the process of toddler birthday gift buying must be simplified for the sake of saving things… things like time and sanity. And, as the mom of a young child who has thrown a birthday or two for her kid (two, to be exact), I have some additional insight into the toddler birthday gift giving dilemma.

So if you’re stuck, start here.

5 Tips that will simplify shopping for toddler birthday gifts. Toddler birthday gift ideas and tips to make your shopping trip easier.

Set a budget.

For young kids, I do my best to stay under $25. There are more than enough gift options for toddlers in this price range — from clothing to toys to books to art supplies. Set a budget and stick to it.

Have a ‘signature’ gift.

Just like the signature cocktail you had at your wedding — only legal to give to a child. A signature gift basically solves every problem ever when it comes to giving toddler birthday gifts. You choose a gift and that’s what you give at every birthday party you attend. My sister does this, and to make it personal, she gives a name train, which is completely adorable and universally loved because every child is obsessed with trains at some point.

Ask the parents what they would like the child to have.

This is my m.o. Why? Because most young kids do not actually need anything, and, especially if they are among the only grandchildren in the family, they probably have plenty of toys. Trust me on this one (I know). If you ask the parents, they can tell you exactly what the child can use or what they would like the child to have. Problem solved.

Shop boutique or local toy stores.

Toys “R” Us is overwhelming. There are too many options, especially for the novice toddler gift-giver. Find a local or boutique toy store, and breath a sigh of relief. There will be less options, the toys will typically be higher quality, and the clerks will be able to help you because they will actually have knowledge of the products they sell.

When in doubt: Pajamas. Seriously.

Most party guests will likely gift a toy, so stand out from the crowd a bit with pajamas. Cute pajamas for kiddos are available at every price point. And at this age, sizing shouldn’t be too difficult since sizes correspond to age. To be safe, size up — buy 18-month pajamas for a 1-year-old; buy 2Ts for a 2-year-old. If they can’t wear them to bed immediately post-party, that’s OK. They’ll grow into them, but include the gift receipt just in case.

How do you handle birthday gifts for young children? Do you have signature gift? Are you good about sticking within a certain budget?

For my daughter's second birthday, we threw a party at Peekaboo Playroom in Oak Park. Peekaboo Playroom is one of my favorite indoor toddler play spaces. Gift Ideas to Celebrate Baby No. 2 How to Throw a Baby Sprinkle

Worth Reading: November 2014

We’ve reached the end of the road with National Blog Posting Month. Honest to God, I nearly quit on Friday with three days to go. This was a bit much for me to take on this month: I had several freelance projects as well as guest posts, and my “real job” became (somewhat unexpectedly) very busy. I feel like I’ve been hunched over a computer for 30 days straight. While I think NaBloPoMo was worth it (and maybe I’ll write a post as to why), I am excited to go back to a more realistic editorial schedule. Anyway, between typing, I did read a few things around the Internet this month. Here are a few posts you might want to check out from around the Internet that made me laugh, cry, vigorously nod my head in agreement, or want to virtual-fist bump the author.

I agree that motherhood doesn’t change who you are.

This is one of those kitchen items I will probably never use, but I’m considering adding it to my Christmas wishlist.

Once upon a time, I did a triathlon and loved it. Have you ever thought about training for one?

We need to try harder to get our daughter to eat her vegetables. Maybe some of these tips will help.

I’ve already linked to this once, but it’s the definitive guide to oil cleansing. Bookmark.

My good friend/long-time running buddy/blog friend, Lindy, finished the New York Marathon, and I’m so proud of her.

I am enjoying reading this series of interviews on parenting (a NaBloPoMo find).

Practical advice for business owners planning to go maternity leave.

After a month hunkered down in front of my computer, I need to start doing these stretches.

Another great alternative book club idea.

A beautiful post on adoption.

What I Learned by Hosting a “Baby Sprinkle” (Or, What the Heck is a Baby Sprinkle?)

By Deborah Ziff

I recently co-hosted a “baby sprinkle.” In the interest of full disclosure, I’m going to admit upfront that I’d never heard of a baby sprinkle until a few weeks ago (this despite the fact that the New York Times was on top of it two years ago). So if you’re like me, and you’ve fallen shamefully behind on your baby shower trends — the sprinkle is a smaller, less elaborate version of the baby shower for second, third or fourth (or more) pregnancies.

I wanted to do something to celebrate my friend Katy’s second pregnancy. Katy has 2-year-old twins, Emma and Daniel. Emma was diagnosed a year ago with a chromosomal disorder, autism, brain damage from birth and resulting cerebral palsy. Katy has been very open about Emma’s struggles on her blog and she was featured in a newspaper story. Given the day-to-day stress of raising 2-year-old twins — let alone 2-year-old twins with special needs — I figured Katy hadn’t had much time to celebrate herself or the new baby.

Learn how to host a baby sprinkle. A baby sprinkle is a small baby shower for a second (or subsequent) baby. It's a great way to celebrate mom and baby.

Katy is a boisterous, funny, extroverted British woman who is usually the one planning parties. She threw an elaborate 30th birthday party (it involved a citywide scavenger hunt) for me and another friend and was known to rent bouncy houses for her backyard even before she had children. But hosting a party for “the planner” can sometimes be tricky.

Now for a word about me: I’m not fancy. I held my wedding reception in a lodge in the North Woods of Wisconsin where guests amused themselves during dinner by taking photos with the animal heads mounted to the walls. My husband and I—ages 36 and 33, respectively—were very pleased with ourselves when we recently bought an ACTUAL COUCH after sitting on a futon since college. So the idea of a no-frills baby shower is right up my alley.

Deb (left) with Katy, the mommy-to-be-again.

As I planned the party, I realized that the expectations of a sprinkle are not as well-defined as that of a shower. Or, as the Times put it, “sprinkles are not without controversy.” (Move over Benghazi!) The Times goes on: “Guests directed to spend money on gifts yet again might feel resentful, and, on the other side, moms-to-be can feel uncomfortable with the expectation that they do so.”

Yikes! Luckily, I had two good friends/co-hosts who helped me navigate my way through the (apparently) pitfall-filled world of baby sprinkles.

So here’s what I learned about how to host a baby sprinkle:

Make it about mama: Since second-time moms already have the basics, make mama be the focus of gifts, instead of baby. In Katy’s case, she had not one, but two, of everything in the whole wide babyverse. Mommy Sanest has already run a thoughtful list of gift ideas for second pregnancies. I got Katy some fragrant, locally-made soaps and perfume, and threw in an eco-friendly wooden rattle for the baby (all from a cool store in Forest Park called Refind Home).

Set the tone early: We chose to do an Evite, rather than a snail mail invite, to keep the expense down and to keep it casual. The invitation asked guests to “join us to celebrate Katy,” rather than welcoming baby. Katy already had a registry with items for the new nursery and practical items like diapers and wipes, so we included that in the invitation.

Keep it casual: Katy’s baby shower for her first pregnancy included lunch at a private club in Madison. We held this party at a friend’s house. One of my co-hosts, Debbie, got a little happy with the Cricut craft cutting machine (I also had never heard of this until the party – remember, I’m not fancy!) so the decorations wound up being really beautiful, but also all homemade.

Keep it small: We ended up having a small intimate gathering of about seven people. It was perfect. We felt totally comfortable talking about the less glamorous side of having a baby. At one point, in the midst of talking about the possibility of, erm, going No. 2 during delivery, someone astutely noted, “So this is the difference between a sprinkle and a shower.”

Skip the games: I’m actually a fan of this rule for regular baby showers, too. (Seriously. No one wants to eat chocolate from a diaper!) For an activity, we bought some wooden blocks for guests to decorate with stickers, paint and paper. The idea is that the new baby will be able to play with them after she’s born.

Stop worrying and have fun: If some of the invited guests decided not to come because they just_couldn’t_take_one_more_shower, so be it. That’s their choice. More cupcakes for the rest of us.


Deborah Ziff is a freelance writer, ex-trombone player, and hedgehog enthusiast in the Chicago area. She’s also mom to a 19-month-old daughter and a labradoodle named Franklin.


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