I could never be one of those people who writes parenting advice books full of handy tips and stern recommendations. For one thing, I don't really believe in the idea of one-size-fits-all parenting advice, aside from "children should be fed, watered, and occasionally released from their confining plastic kennels" -- and let's face it, if you need a book to tell you that, you're probably in trouble -- but also because I'm spectacularly unqualified to hand out ANY parental wisdom whatsoever, despite the fact that I have two children of my own that I have, so far, managed to raise from infanthood without too much permanent damage.

I'm not exactly a font of motherly knowledge. If anything, I'm more of a burbling brook of nervous second-guessing. I like to think I'm doing my best, but my best basically boils down to this: I'm winging it, big-time.

Which is all to say, I'm thrilled to have discovered three -- THREE! -- handy tricks lately for making motherhood a little more awesome.

"Tricks" may not be quite the right word. Habits, maybe. Routines. Hacks. "Thingies we do." (See? My parenting book would SUCK SO MUCH ASS.) Anyway, here's what these tricks/hacks/habits/routines/thingies help with:

• The fact that I'd like to keep a record of our family life
• The disaster zones that are my children's bedrooms
• The shiteous daily routine of figuring out what to make for dinner

Okay, thing the first -- keeping a record of our family life. I used to write about the day to day stuff in my blog, but between feeling more crunched for time lately and a waning desire to document the minutiae of my children's existences on the Internet, I've been doing so less and less. Enter the -- drumroll -- paper journal. I know, right? WHAT A UNIQUE AND TOTALLY UNEXPECTED CONCEPT TO WRITE IN A PRIVATE JOURNAL HOLY CRAP NOTIFY GUINNESS. Shut up.

Here's what I do: every night during the shitshow that is the children's ritual of getting ready for bed (you know, fighting over who gets to squeeze toothpaste all over the counter first, absentmindedly putting their pajamas on backwards, peeing all over the back of the toilet seat because they're busy shouting back and forth about what books they want to read, somehow unrolling half the toilet paper all over the floor, splashing water around until the entire bathroom looks like it's been through a minty, saliva-laden carwash) , I sit on the couch in the living room and write in our journal. Sometimes it's just a few sentences, sometimes I fill the page. I try and remember anything that happened that day that I think would be fun to revisit in the future, from the activities we did to the goofy things the boys said.

It's easy, it's fast, and it's something I can keep forever and give to the boys when they're older. On the downside, it also means a nightly hand cramp (longhand is HARD, you guys!).


On to the children's bedrooms! I got so sick of putting away toys and making beds every day, it finally occurred to me that the kids were old enough for me to outsource this task. Every morning, after breakfast but before we leave for the school bus, both boys are expected to make their beds and pick up any junk that's scattered on the floor. It took some power-nagging to start with, but now they run and do it without even thinking. It's been the BEST THING EVER, no kidding. It keeps them busy in the morning while I'm getting a jump on my work day, and it's one less annoying chore for me to have to do.

Plus, sometimes their weird little bed arrangements are downright hilarious.


Finally, the dinners. Since I'm at home during the day, it falls on me to be in charge of dinnertime, and I have been SO SICK OF IT. Particularly the daily ass-pain of trying to figure out what I'm going to make. So here's something that's been helping a lot lately: I signed up for a meal planning website, and it's made a huge difference. The one I use is The Fresh 20, and each week I can download recipes for five healthy meals that play off each other by using 20 ingredients (you get a shopping list too). For uncreative, uninspired, reluctant chefs like myself, it's absolutely brilliant. Now, to be clear, the kids don't always eat the same stuff my husband and I do, but it really has made dinnertime a lot more fun because I'm not constantly feeling burdened with the question of What the HELL Is Everyone Going to Eat Tonight Oh Forget It Let's Get Pizza Again.

(Unsurprising bonus: I've lost some weight since starting this plan. Turns out halibut and roasted carrots is a tad more healthy than pepperoni and cheese, who knew?)


Okay, your turn -- what are some 'life hacks' that have made motherhood more easier/more enjoyable for you?

Images via Linda Sharps