Travel tip: Check out a few books online from your library before your trip

Travel tip: borrow books online (for free) from your local library

Many of you who enjoy reading may already know this, but I figured it was worth writing about because I love this trick so much:

You can check out e-books online from your local library.

Free.

From your home (or anywhere). 

Okay, I can’t vouch for every library in the country but it seems to be a trend to offer e-books for library card holders that you can download to your e-reader.

I recently went to Seattle for a girls weekend, and it was going to be a long flight. ZJ wasn’t with me so I knew I’d have time to read. Before I left, I went through dozens of books on my library’s website that I could easily borrow and read if they struck my fancy.

I checked out books on history, home organization and other topics, just in case. I like to have reading options while traveling. I love to skim non-fiction books, many of which I don’t want to own.

If the book is popular at your library, it could take a while to get access to it. The library has the same system with e-books as it does with real books — they only have a limited number they can loan out a time. Sometimes I on a waiting list for a month or two before I can check out a book. I can never tell when these books will be available either. That’s the downside.

To ensure I got the fiction book I wanted for the plane, I bought an e-book from Amazon:  Voyager (the third Outlander book).

I have also checked out audio books online.

This electronic option is fantastic for when we’re traveling. Of course, I still believe nothing takes the place of a physical library or a paper book. However, this is the next best thing.

 

What’s for breakfast? Power pancakes!

Healthy and easy power pancakes! The Shortcut MomThis year I decided to put my sports bra back on and start exercising again, post baby. Serious exercise. I love it — a hard workout always invigorates me.

It also increases my appetite.

The next morning (post workout), I am ravenous, so I started to eat more protein for breakfast. And yes, I quickly grew tired of scrambled eggs.

When I read about protein-packed pancakes, I was all in.

I love, love, love pancakes. However, when protein is the main ingredient instead of flour, it is more challenging to make these pancakes as tasty.

On top of that, any recipe I use should also be simple and quick. I need to be able to make it in the morning before work with a toddler in tow.

I experimented with several types of protein pancakes and found one that really tastes like a pancake.

Healthy and easy power pancakes! The Shortcut Mom

There are three key ingredients in these power pancakes: oatmeal, cottage cheese and egg whites. You can add other flavors to your liking but the basic components are healthy and easy.

1/4 cup oatmeal
1/4 cup cottage cheese
1/4 cup egg whites (or less. Too many eggs ruins the pancakes. Trust me)

It’s 1:1:1

Optional: vanilla extract, stevia (or other sweetener), chocolate chips, fruit (bananas, yummy!)

Take one-part oatmeal, one-part cottage cheese and one-part egg whites and mix it up in the blender. It only takes a few seconds. (Then try this blender cleaning hack afterwards.)

Add your optional ingredients, then cook up your pancakes. I eat them with almond butter. I can still taste this morning’s batch!

After eating these power pancakes, I feel filled-up full and ready for the day, without that “oh-my-goodness-what-did-I-eat” feeling.

As a shortcut, I often make the batter at night, add a little water or milk in the morning and whip them up before I go to work.

Here are two of my favorite pancake shortcuts:

A better way to powder your pancakes: Easy DIY sugar dispenser

DIY powdered sugar dispenser: Use an old spice jar!

Kitchen hack: Clean your blender faster

Clean your blender faster! #momhack

 

Reading this week: Using up veggies, table salt hacks and taking your toddler to the store

Happy Friday! Here are some of my favorites during the week ending April 10, 2015:

3 Simple Strategies for Using Up Veggies Before They Go Bad

From Raising Healthy Eaters: Here are some simple strategies to make sure your veggies don’t go bad. Yes, I am a regular offender in this area. Right now I have a bag of broccoli sitting in the crisper that I suspect is too old. I will start making a veggie use-by list and see how that goes!

 

7 Salt Life Hacks You Should Know

This video contains some good hacks using simple table salt. Some are more useful than others but many of these tricks are worth considering. My favorite hack from the video is using salt to eliminate the black stuff you get on your sponge after cleaning a particularly gnarly pan. I am looking forward to trying that!


How to run errands with a toddler and stay sane

The article can be boiled down to this point: Know your limits, and know your child’s limits. Taking your child with you to run errands doesn’t have to be a horrible experience. Just make sure he or she is well-fed and ready for the experience. Make sure you are well-fed and ready for the experience too.  Also, get your toddler involved in the process, or promise them a trip to the park afterwards. Thanks to The Jenny Evolution for such practical advice!

The One Tip Every New Parent Needs to Hear But Nobody Will Tell You

The one shortcut they won't tell you!

Guest post by The Shortcut Dad

Greetings Shortcut Mom readers! As you’ve probably guessed I am the husband to The Shortcut Mom, and I’ll be appearing with an occasional guest post. My first one is on a topic that is pretty simple, but one that every parent will look back on and nod their heads in agreement.

Nobody approaches parenthood expecting their life to continue as it did before their first child is born. Expecting late nights, early mornings, messes, even signs as basic as getting rid of old furniture that once occupied what has become the newest family member’s nursery warn that big changes are about to happen.

When were expecting ZJ we went to a birthing class and breastfeeding class at the local hospital, and I did some reading on the basics – I found the Baby 411 book that a neighbor gifted to us to be very informative (I was quite proud of my ability to identify meconium at our first encounter with it).

However, there was one piece of information that I did not hear from other parents, books, online articles, or anywhere else that could have warned me about the most surprising change that was coming:

When you have a baby the biggest change that catches you off guard is losing the ability to procrastinate.

When it’s just the two of you, things like buying groceries, getting the laundry done or even cleaning up dishes after dinner can be put off for a bit. That ends as soon as Little One arrives home. First, you are assuming that you will be able to physically do whatever chore or errand you had in mind. The first time some strange ailment or accident befalls your baby, you suddenly find yourself in the Emergency Room for several hours that you were counting on to take care of business.

Or maybe you don’t get hit directly – you put something off until tomorrow but don’t factor in being up three hours in the middle of the night dealing with a fussy infant. Baby might be fine the next day, but after a long day at work you might not have enough energy to move from the couch after dinner, feeding, bathing, and putting the wee one to bed.

And if you don’t get those chores done? Not going to the grocery store might lead to a late night emergency run to the nearest convenience store for diapers or milk. Putting off the laundry might mean no clean spare sheet to put in the crib after the one being used is suddenly puked on in the middle of the night. Even something as simple as not gassing up your car could leave you having to make an out of your way trip during rush hour just to get you to work the next morning.

So trust me new parents, don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today. The first time an emergency hits you’ll be glad that you did!

My favorite reads this week

I thought it would be fun to share some of my favorite articles I’ve read over this past week (ending April 3, 2015).

Feeding Our Kids: Why We Don’t Force Veggies and Allow Snacks

I love blogger Andrea Dekker’s common-sense views on parenting.  Forcing your kids to do anything usually ends up in failure. This is especially true during mealtimes. My takeaway is to gently teach your kids how to eat. Don’t force anything. Be careful not to send negative messages out about food: “Instead, I try to send the message that ALL food is good, but that some choices are simply healthier, more filling, and more appropriate at different times of the day than others,” she writes.

Making time for kids? Study says quality trumps quantity 

The Washington Post reports that it’s not the amount of time that you spend with your children, but the quality of time that helps determine their success in life. “Though American parents are with their children more than any parents in the world, many feel guilty because they don’t believe it’s enough,” it reports.

This article helped me let go of some of the guilt I feel every day when I drop my son off at daycare. Time to focus on the quality moments, even if the quantity isn’t what I think it should be!

Alpha Mom’s Baby Registry Checklist

No, I am not pregnant again, but a friend is and I was reminded of this wonderful registry checklist. Brands and products change, but this is a great start. What to buy now and what to buy later. It helped me prioritize when I was pregnant.

 

 

 

Mom hack: Buy a shoe sizer to save time, money and your sanity!

Mom hack: Buy a shoe sizer to save time, money and your sanity!

 

Along with cutting toddler fingernails, shoe shopping is high on our list of things we don’t enjoy doing.

We did what many parents do: we braved the crowded mall on a Saturday and had our son’s feet measured at Stride Rite.

It was a zoo, but I felt confident we left the store with the correct sized shoes. What kills me is that we could have bought a similar shoe for less online, even with the sale at the store.

My husband and I had been talking for a while about buying a shoe sizer. Wouldn’t it be great to measure your kids’ feet at home?

Last week I read about the Squatchi Kids Shoe Sizer, and  I immediately ordered it from Amazon. It is a nice blue, sturdy sizer.

After using it, I realized that ZJ’s shoes should probably be retired. Not only that, but we needed to go up an entire size. We bought him shoes this weekend. Easy. His new size 7.5 shoes fit him perfectly.

From now on, it will be easier to buy shoes online for our son.  Or, I can buy him shoes in the store WITHOUT him being with me.

A note: the shoe sizer is not perfect. You need to account for size variations among shoe brands. Also, my son wears a wide width and the Squatchi doesn’t measure width.

However, it’s already been worth the money I paid for it. If only, to keep me out of the mall on a Saturday!

Mom hack: Buy a shoe sizer to save time, money and your sanity!

 

For better or worse, our toddler attends his first wedding

Last weekend, our family took a road trip to New Jersey to attend a wedding for an old friend of my husband’s. We knew it would be a gamble to bring our newly minted two-year old but we wanted to give it a run before we head to Seattle this summer for another wedding.

In a nutshell, here’s what happened:

Friday at 9:45 p.m.: After a long and snowy drive up the Jersey Turnpike, we arrive at the hotel. Of course, ZJ gets his second wind, and explores every nook and cranny. He tries to get in the refrigerator. We hide the hotel phones.

Being awake at 9:45 p.m. is bad.

Taking a toddler to a wedding is not for the faint of heart!

Saturday Morning, 6 a.m.:  Sleeping in is for sissies. It doesn’t matter that ZJ went to bed three hours later than normal. There are things to do, places to explore. The hotel room is his oyster.

9 a.m.: Surprise morning nap. Whew!

10:15 a.m.: Getting close to departure time. ZJ refuses to wear any type of pants that aren’t sweat pants. I even bought special pants that feel like sweats on the inside and look nice on the outside. No dice. Must. Wear. Sweat Pants. We put on his nicest sweats, and pair it with a blue and red long-sleeved polo-type shirt. Hopefully no one will notice.

10:50 a.m.: We arrive at the hall where the wedding will take place. Quick debate: do we let him bring his favorite stuffed Doggie into the wedding? Yes. It’s the lesser of the evils. We hope that Doggie will keep him calm.

10:55 a.m.: We walk inside. Lots of people and hallways to explore. It’s a toddler’s paradise.

11:10 a.m.: We take our seats strategically at the back of the room. But why sit when you can run?  He runs to the alter (Doggie in hand) to make sure it’s suitable for the bride and groom. We gather him up and bring him back to our seats. He runs back down the aisle. Repeat. Again. Repeat. None of the other kids are doing this.

11:30 a.m.: The wedding ceremony starts, and thank goodness ZJ ran out most of his energy out and is sitting happily on Daddy’s lap. The groomsmen come in. The bride walks down the aisle. Beautiful. Then ZJ decides he wants to talk. And walk. So I take him outside the room so my husband can enjoy the ceremony. That was the plan.

11:31 a.m.: As we walk outside the room, he announces: “I tooted.”

11:44 a.m.: We have fun exploring the venue as the wedding ceremony continues. My guard is down. He looks at me, grins mischievously and runs. Fast.

11:45 a.m.: The 28-pound bundle of squirm barrels into the ceremony room, screaming in a language that only another toddler can understand. The bride is starting her vows,and luckily my husband has kept an ear out for his son. The doppler effect of a laughing/screeching toddler warns Jeff of approaching trouble, and he is already moving to intercept the boy.  ZJ is two steps into the room before my husband catches him and whisks him out. Jeff and I were relieved when later in the reception he was able to confirm that nobody at the alter heard the boy. Whew!

12:10 p.m.: Wedding is over (sigh of relief), and the reception is underway. ZJ is happily munching on cheese and fruit oer d’oeuvres in the reception room. He makes sure Doggie gets his lunch too, feeding him leftover fruit he doesn’t want. As usual, Doggie is unresponsive.

Toddlers at weddings! Help!

12:30 p.m.: It’s still cocktail time but it’s dancetime for ZJ as he heads to the empty dancefloor. Dance. Dance. Dance. To the Beatles. To Frank Sinatra. Then it’s time to throw his stuffed Doggie into the air. It’s so crazy — Doggie can dance too. He’s pretty good.

12:35 p.m.: ZJ starts to flirt with the woman working coat check. They become fast friends and he introduces her to Doggie. The woman must have been pretty special to meet Doggie.

12:45 p.m.: All of sudden, ZJ starts to slow down. Is it a change in music? He asks for “Huggies,” a word he picked up from me that sadly makes it very difficult to resist his pleas to be picked up. This is not a normal request because there are worlds to be explored. This kid has been known to go non-stop for six hours at events.

His forehead is a bit warm. As he sticks his entire hand into his mouth, it appears he may be teething. Oh no!

12:55 p.m.: Still warm. Still glued to us. It’s clear the wedding is over for ZJ. Time for me to say goodbye. If he was older, I would have him sing the “Good-bye, Farewell” song from The Sounds of Music. Or maybe not.

1 p.m.: I leave my husband at the wedding. ZJ and I head to the hotel for some cuddles, Lightening McQueen and naps for all.

ZJ survived his first wedding — sort of. We can now revise our playbook and get ready for the next big wedding in July. He will be older: in toddler years a few months are huge in terms of development. His dancing skills will likely improve. Doggie will be going too.

We will also make sure to bring his best pair of sweatpants!

Freeze your own rice: simplify dinnertime and save money too!

Freeze your own rice: save time and money!Frozen rice is a gift from God. It can save 20-30 minutes on busy nights. Just pop it in the microwave (or heat on the stove) with a little butter and spices.

I used to buy frozen rice at the grocery store until I realized I could cook and freeze my own rice at a fraction of the cost. Frankly, I think it tastes better, too.

Step 1: Make a big batch of rice.

Freeze your own rice: save time and money!

Step 2: Let it cool some and put 1-2 cups of rice per freezer bag, depending on your usage.

Step 3: Refridgerate the rice bags, and when cool, transfer to the freezer. Make sure the bags lie flat so that it doesn’t take up too much space when frozen.

So easy. And so much cheaper than buying pre-packaged frozen rice!

 

 

How to drink more water

Do you need to drink more water? Buy a bigger glass.Do you need to drink more water? Buy a bigger glass.

Studies have shown that the bigger the plate, the more you eat. (That’s why you use a smaller plate to eat less.)

Same holds true that the bigger the glass, the more you’ll drink.

This year, it became clear that I was not drinking enough water. It was difficult for me to drink water during pregnancy and I never really get back up to the level where I should be.

I upgraded my 20 oz cup to a Bubba 32 oz tumbler with a gigantic straw. Immediately I saw an increase in the number of ounces I drank each day when I was at work.

I went back to Target and got a second cup for home.

My son started preschool and I am being forced to learn a few new lessons

I didn’t expect the transition to preschool to be easy, but I had no idea that it would be hard for me too!

A month ago, our in-home daycare provider told us that she was closing shop. ZJ had been apart of this family for almost two years. I would drop him off every morning before my morning commute to work and he would stay with them all day. It broke all of our hearts to hear the news but it was the right thing for that family.

Luckily, the preschool we had lined up for him would accept him early. But we weren’t ready to move on. Well, I definitely wasn’t ready.

So last week ZJ started preschool. It’s more of a daycare at this point with a learning component, but it’s still a change from the family home he went to for two years.

As a first-time parent, I didn’t understand how this would go. Yes, ZJ cried when we dropped him off. In fact, he cried the morning that I am writing this, which is day 7.  However, everyone at the daycare assured me he quickly gets over it quickly and plays hard. He comes home every afternoon happy.

I know it’s the right move.

What I didn’t count on is that this change would affect me so much. It breaks my heart that we had to leave his second family who watched him for so long. It breaks my heart to hear him cry as I walk away from the classroom in the new school. It breaks my heart that I can’t protect him from the unknown. I think I’ve taken this transition harder than he has!

Yes, you can chalk it up to being a first-time parent. If we have number two, I am sure it will be easier or at least more tolerable. But it’s these types of changes really hit home that I can’t protect my child from everything.

This is my child’s journey. 

A friend of mine who works with teenagers every day reminded me that kids are extremely adaptable and resilient. They are built that way. After a certain number of years as an adult, I forgot that point. I have my favorite coffee drink and my favorite routines. I probably don’t deal with change as well as I used to.

Our kids are equipped for change. Every day of my two-year-old’s life has an element of surprise, as he explores this new world.

It’s been hitting me that my son and I are in two very different places. This is my son’s journey. He is adaptable and he is more than ready for this new experience.

He gets to play with new toys, interact with kids, learn new words and figure out what it means to function in a school. He is so excited and happy when I pick him up at night.

Through my son, I am forced to re-learn the joys of being adaptable. He has already taught me a lesson or two in change when he was born. Holy cow, that was a shock to my life! I had him later in life and it seemed even more difficult for me to adjust. But I did, and it’s been worth it.

Now it’s time to change directions again.