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8 back to school hacks that'll save you time, mama

The busy season is about to begin.

8 back to school hacks that'll save you time, mama

Starting (or heading back) to school means a busy season is about to begin. During the summer, the family has a bit more freedom, but the fall months bring more structure and routine to everyone's life. While you can't change the amount of tasks on your to-do list, you can incorporate some hacks into your day to lessen the overwhelm and make processes smoother.

From outsourcing some must-dos (looking at you groceries) to keeping your car prepared for those days you simply forget the kids had after-school activities, here are some of our mama-approved back to school hacks that'll save you time—and a whole lot of stress.

1. Outsource groceries + snacks

Everyone is running around from place to place during the school season and sometimes you just don't have time to make it to the store. We love outsourcing groceries and snacks for those busy weeks as it ensures the pantry and fridge is stocked without having to spend an hour or more at the store.

Boxed is amazing for non-perishable goods, household supplies and snack staples your kids love. Instacart and Fresh Direct can fill in for fresh produce, milk and meats directly from your local grocery store. And, when in doubt, Amazon Prime it.

2. Pre-organize your purse

Work, girls night out, date night, school drop-off—the list goes on and on. You probably spend way too much time switching out bags and the items you need for each event. While there's no one bag that does the job for everything (if you find one, let us know!) there is a nifty solution.

ToteSavvy was created to transform any bag into a diaper bag, but you can use another one to keep all of mama's top pieces in one place—makeup, wallet, keys, band-aids, etc. We love this one from a collaboration with Fawn Design because it's compact enough to fit in almost every bag we have. Simply load it up then pop it into whatever bag you need.

3. Let technology take some of the mental load

You can automate just about anything with smart devices, and the tech is only getting better. A few of our favorites? Assignable reminders of the Google Assistant—you can create reminders for everyone in your family so you don't have to. Try asking your Assistant, "Hey Google, remind Sophie that she's going to do great on tomorrow's test" or "Hey Google, remind Ben that he needs to complete his chores tonight." And, if you can't seem to make time for those activities you want to do (think: family time or date night) your Google Calendar can schedule goals for you, blocking out time on your calendar to do what matters most to you.

If you have an Amazon device instead, you can create morning routines for both you and the kids. With an Echo Dot Kids Edition, you can tell them breakfast is ready or customize alarms or checklists to guide them. Even better, add their favorite character to help them wake up in the morning (Disney's Moana, for example!). We love digging into new features, like the Chompers skill that provides brushing tips, reminders and jokes for the full two minutes they should be brushing.

4. Have a ready-to-go bag in the car

If you're going to be running around, you might as well use your car's space to your advantage. Grab a large bag and fill it with items that your family always seems to need.

Some items to get started:

  • Extra set of clothes for the kids
  • A pair of flats,
  • Flashlight
  • Wet wipes
  • Plastic baggie
  • Baby's favorite pacifier or toy
  • A $20 bill

Keep it in the trunk of your car and refill it as you use things from the bag. This will save you a trip back home or an adventure to the store.

Pro tip: A canvas bag is perfect to have on hand for a quick trip to the grocery store, too. This tote from The Little Market is large, sturdy and customizable. Plus, it's eco-friendly and handmade by women in Bangladesh so your purchase gives back to other women.

5. Sync calendars with your partner

Sometimes life can get *so* busy and the best of people can forget important tasks, or you have to switch up schedules last minute so your partner needs to pick up the kids from daycare when you usually do.

Find a way to manage a calendar that works for you both and sync it up every Sunday so everyone knows who is doing what and going where. Paper planners or whiteboards in the kitchen are great, but we like doubling up with digital calendars because it'll send an alert or reminder.

6. Create snack bins

Get a bin or a box that fits in your cabinet or pantry that's only for school snacks. Make sure it's ready to go at the beginning of each week and encourage your kids to pick out two items to go in their lunchbox. This will not only save you time, but will get your littles involved in helping out with packing lunches.

Even better? Create a sandwich section in the fridge where you pre-make sandwiches a few days in advance. Children can grab a bag, two snacks, and be ready to head out the door.

7. Establish a command center

If you've ever spent an extra 20 minutes searching for your kid's homework folder at 7 am or looking for your keys, you're not alone, mama. Mornings are often the craziest time of day for any family.

Set aside an area in a common space that serves as a command station. Maybe it's a mud room, or you have a designated spot in the kitchen. This is where keys, phones, chargers, homework, notes that need signed, and anything else important needs to go.

Get the family in the routine of putting everything there when they get home so you never waste time looking for things. If you're limited on space, an on-the-wall organizer like this is a great solution.

8. Prep meals in batches

While most parents would love to take the time to make a fresh meal every night, it's just not realistic in a busy season. First, give yourself grace to order pizza or pick up to-go food. Then, plan ahead and prep batched meals.

Put chicken and veggies in one freezer bag for a sheet pan dinner, toss sauce and pasta in another for Italian night, or have potatoes, beef tips and carrots ready to throw in the crock pot. You'll save tons of time of prep work and only need to thaw it out in the morning, then cook it all together in the evening.

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My village lives far away—but my Target baby registry helped them support me from afar

Virtual support was the next best thing to in-person hugs

They say you shouldn't make too many major life transitions at once. But when I was becoming a mama for the first time nearly five years ago, my husband and I also moved to a new town where we didn't know a soul, bought our first house and changed jobs.

To put it mildly, we didn't heed that advice. Luckily, our family and friends still made it feel like such a magical time for us by supporting our every move (literal and otherwise) from afar. They showered us with love through a virtual baby shower (expectant parents nowadays can relate!) featuring the unwrapping of gifts they were able to ship straight to me from my Target registry.

Here's one piece of advice I did take: I registered at Target so I could take advantage of the retailer's benefits for registrants, which include a welcome kit valued over $100, a universal registry function and more. Fast-forward a few years and Target has made the registration perks even better for expectant parents: As of August 2020, they've added a Year of Exclusive Deals, which gives users who also sign up for Target Circle a full year of savings after baby is born on all those new mama essentials, from formula to diapers and beyond.

Honestly, even without the significant perks of a free welcome kit with more than $100 in coupons, additional 15% off coupons to complete the registry and a full year of free returns, registering at Target wasn't a hard sell for me: Even though the experience of shopping for baby items was new, shopping with Target felt like returning home to me… and the comfort of that was such a gift.

And of course, Target's registry plays a vital role right now, as expectant parents everywhere are being forced to cancel in-person baby showers and navigate early parenthood without the help of a hands-on village. A registry like this represents a safe way for communities to come through for new parents. If you're anything like me (or any of the other mamas here at Motherly), you certainly have emotional ties and fond memories associated with Target.

What to register for at Target was also an easy talking point as I began to connect with moms in my new community. I will always remember going on a registry-building spree with my next door neighbor, who had young children of her own. As we walked the aisles of Target back in 2015, she suggested items to add… and we laid the foundation for what has since become one of my most cherished friendships.

Even as I made connections in my new hometown, I was nervous that expecting my first baby wouldn't feel as special as if I were near family and friends. But my loved ones exceeded all expectations by adding the most thoughtful notes to gifts. They hosted a beautiful virtual baby shower and even encouraged me to keep the registry going after my baby made his debut and new needs arose.

In the years since, "community" has taken on a wonderfully complex new meaning for me… and, in these times of social distancing, for the rest of the world. I've come to cherish my newfound friends in our local community alongside those long-time friends who are scattered around the county and my virtual mama friends.

Now, as my friends' families grow, I'm so grateful that I can show them the same love and support I felt during my first pregnancy. I sing the praises of Target's baby registry—especially in light of the pandemic, since I know mamas can do everything from a distance thanks to Target's website and the added benefit of getting trusted reviews and helpful registry checklists.

And now that I'm on the gift-buying side of the equation, I've found new joy in picking thoughtful gifts for my friends. (Because goodness knows Target has something for everyone!)

For my friend who is a fellow runner, I teamed up with a few others to give the jogging stroller she had on her registry.

For my friend who is a bookworm, I helped her start her baby's library with a few books that are also well-loved in our home.

For other friends, I've bundled together complete "sets" with everything they need for bathing or feeding their children.

I know from my own experience that, yes, the registry purchases are so appreciated, but the thoughtfulness and the support they represent means even more. Because although my village may have been distant, the support they showed me was the next best thing to in-person hugs.

Start your own Target Baby Registry here to experience a Year of Benefits including a Year of Exclusive Deals through Target Circle to enjoy for a full year following your baby's arrival, a year of free returns, two 15% off completion coupons and a free welcome kit ($100 value).

This article was sponsored by Target. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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I never wanted to be a mom. It wasn't something I ever thought would happen until I fell madly in love with my husband—who knew very well he wanted children. While he was a natural at entertaining our nephews or our friends' kids, I would awkwardly try to interact with them, not really knowing what to say or do.

Our first pregnancy was a surprise, a much-wanted one but also a unicorn, "first try" kind of pregnancy. As my belly grew bigger, so did my insecurities. How do you even mom when you never saw motherhood in your future? I focused all my uncertainties on coming up with a plan for the delivery of my baby—which proved to be a terrible idea when my dreamed-of unmedicated vaginal birth turned into an emergency C-section. I couldn't even start motherhood the way I wanted, I thought. And that feeling happened again when I couldn't breastfeed and instead had to pump and bottle-feed. And once more, when all the stress from things not going my way turned into debilitating postpartum anxiety that left me not really enjoying my brand new baby.

As my baby grew, slowly so did my confidence that I could do this. When he would tumble to the ground while learning how to walk and only my hugs could calm him, I felt invincible. But on the nights he wouldn't sleep—whether because he was going through a regression, a leap, a teeth eruption or just a full moon—I would break down in tears to my husband telling him that he was a better parent than me.

Then I found out I was pregnant again, and that this time it was twins. I panicked. I really cannot do two babies at the same time. I kept repeating that to myself (and to my poor husband) at every single appointment we had because I was just terrified. He, of course, thought I could absolutely do it, and he got me through a very hard pregnancy.

When the twins were born at full term and just as big as singleton babies, I still felt inadequate, despite the monumental effort I had made to grow these healthy babies and go through a repeat C-section to make sure they were both okay. I still felt my skin crawl when they cried and thought, What if I can't calm them down? I still turned to my husband for diaper changes because I wasn't a good enough mom for twins.

My husband reminded me (and still does) that I am exactly what my babies need. That I am enough. A phrase that has now become my mantra, both in motherhood and beyond, because as my husband likes to say, I'm the queen of selling myself short on everything.

So when my babies start crying, I tell myself that I am enough to calm them down.

When my toddler has a tantrum, I remind myself that I am enough to get through to him.

When I go out with the three kids by myself and start sweating about everything that could go wrong (poop explosions times three), I remind myself that I am enough to handle it all, even with a little humor.


And then one day I found this bracelet. Initially, I thought how cheesy it'd be to wear a reminder like this on my wrist, but I bought it anyway because something about it was calling my name. I'm so glad I did because since day one I haven't stopped wearing it.

Every time I look down, there it is, shining back at me. I am enough.

I Am Enough bracelet 

SONTAKEY  I Am Enough Bracelet

May this Oath Bracelet be your reminder that you are perfect just the way you are. That you are enough for your children, you are enough for your friends & family, you are enough for everything that you do. You are enough, mama <3

$35

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10 photos to take on baby’s first day that you'll cherish forever

You'll obsess over these newborn baby pictures.

Bethany Menzel: Instagram + Blog

As you're preparing for baby's birth, we bet you're dreaming of all of the amazing photos you'll take of your precious new babe. As a professional photographer and mama, I have some tips for newborn photos you'll want to capture.

Here are the 10 photos you will want to take on baby's first day.

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