Viewing category ‘Life balance’

Milk and Cookies

with Kristen

I'm a mother of five, a bargain hunter, a recreational comparison shopper, and always trying to make more time - for me and for you, too. On this blog I'm sharing my favorite tools and finds to help make your work-life juggle a bit easier.

You can find my personal blog at

Life-improving products, part 3

Categories: Crafts and activities, Electronics, Fashion, Good causes, House & Home, Kitchen, Life balance, Office, Time savers

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(Continued from part 1 and part 2.)

CMS NeoPin Magents (photo from These are not going to be everyone’s cup of tea: some people hate stuff on the fridge, and some people have non-magnetic fridges, and some people have kids little enough to eat magnets. But if you DO like having stuff on your fridge, AND your fridge cooperates with that, AND your kids are old enough to eat things from the inside of the fridge and not the outside, then these are GREAT: really strong, and also pretty. They claim to be able to hold 16 pages, and I wouldn’t be surprised: Paul recently used one to pin the remains of a pad of paper to the fridge. Because they’re kind of expensive for fridge magnets, they’d make a good gift for someone hard to buy for.

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Life-improving products, part 2

Categories: Electronics, Elementary school kids, House & Home, Kitchen, Life balance, Managing stress, School, School gear, back to school, organization

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Continuing with last week’s theme of life-improving products:

Wahl Haircut Kit (photo from This was especially life-changing when the boys were younger: I could line up the four of them and save $60 in well under an hour. The first time I cut Toddler Rob’s hair was VERY SCARY, but I thought to myself, “If I make a mess of this, I can take him to the barber and have them fix it—or I can just shave it off and start over.”

Goody Small Claw Clips (photo from I buy these from Target in a pack that has 5 of each color. I use them for buns or for other twisty styles, and they have revolutionized how I do my hair. My only complaint is that they come in mixed-color packs, when I only like the tortoiseshell ones. I’ve been thinking I should set up a local swap club, because surely there are other women who like the black ones or clear ones best.
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Tips for Surviving the Work/Summer Combination

Categories: Life balance, Managing stress, organization

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It’s too soon to call it, but I think summer is going to finish me off. Every day I think, “Here are the projects that need to be worked on today.” Every day, I fail: either I put in an insufficient amount of time, or I don’t get to any of them at all. I’m getting that “the water is rising” feeling.

This is WITH my usual techniques: signing up the most difficult child for day-camp; buying a few fun new things; breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth.

(Bananagrams ((photo from is the biggest hit so far. )

I think there’s a feeling that everyone (especially kids) DESERVES to have a 3-month vacation with tons of fun things every day: beaches! amusement parks! camping! And so it’s easy for parents to feel really bad that they’re not delivering on that—and maybe resentful, too, since they’re not getting it for themselves, either. But sometimes it doesn’t work out to spend a quarter of the year that way, and that’s okay too. School is out for the summer; work is still in session. And “Sleeping in, then playing outside as long as you want, then coming in and having lemonade, then reading comic books and playing video games all afternoon” IS a wonderful fun-fun-fun kind of summer, as is “Going to day-camp.”

Still, so far my work is not getting done, even after dropping the feeling that every day should be packed with summer fun. One trick I’ve had success with lately is imagining if someone else came to me with the same problem I’m having—what would I suggest they try?
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Small treats

Categories: Life balance, Managing stress


January is one of the more dismal months. No more decorations. Back to the regular routine. Diets and exercise. Bills. There’s MLK Jr.’s birthday to look forward to, of course, but other than that it’s just one long stretch of deprivation and paying the piper.

This is why I recommend that January be a month of small treats. “Small” because it’s a month of many kinds of restrictions, and we are not going to get anywhere by thwarting all of them. “Treats” because if we don’t find ANY small way around those restrictions we’re going to lose our will to live.

(And make sure you price it right: if it’s something you’d need buy anyway, the treat is only the amount EXTRA it costs. That is, if your regular fabric softener is $6, but the scent you really love is $8, buying it is only a $2 treat, not an $8 treat. If packing a lunch would cost you $2, but buying a lunch is $6, buying it is only a $4 treat, not a $6 treat.)

(photo from

Treat Idea #1: A nice smell. If you have perfume you don’t usually wear, wear it sometimes. Or buy a new candle, or get some perfume samples to try, or choose a new hand soap, or a new air freshener, or a new fabric softener. We are not thinking BIG here: even very small and ordinary things can be cheering.
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Supplies for a sick day

Categories: Books, Crafts and activities, Gifts, Health and Safety, Life balance, Managing stress, Toys


This week a little virus sped through our household: sore throats and 103-degree fevers for everyone except me. If I ever wondered if I might have been a good and kind and angelic nurse in, say, an army tent with rows of patients, the answer is “Probably not.” Six people asking for more juice, more water, a blanket, the remote, maybe another piece of toast, was pretty much all I could handle pleasantly, and probably the adverb “pleasantly” is pushing it a bit, even in much nicer conditions and with much less upsetting illness/injuries than would be in an army tent.

There are certain things I keep in the house always, so I have them on hand when illness visits us and don’t have to add “running to the store” to my toast-fetching list:
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Back-to-school conservation tips

Categories: Life balance, School gear, back to school


Two goals for back-to-school shopping:

1. Saving money.
2. Bein’ all green ‘n’ stuff.

Sometimes these two goals are in conflict, as when the Super-Speshull Recycled Lunch System of Environmental Awesomeness is $kerjillion and the plain no-environmental-awesomeness one is $5. But other times these two goals work together like pencils and paper.

Tip the first: Reuse instead of purchase. If school shopping is fun for you like it’s fun for me, or if you have kids who want the fun of something new, this will be a challenge. But the best way to be all kissy-kissy to the environment is to use things until they are USED UP, and this saves money too. Sometimes stuff is so beat up by the end of a school year it has to be replaced, but sometimes it can go another year, or two, or three, which brings me to tip the second.
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Working at home

Categories: Life balance


I’m getting so frustrated. I have work to do, and I’m trying to do it in an office packed with three people who WON’T SHUT UP and who keep interrupting me to ask for help with THEIR work. And since part of my job is to oversee and assist their work, I HAVE to do it, I HAVE to stop my work to help with theirs. Sometimes I can say, “I think you can do that yourself, remember how I showed you before?,” but that’s an interruption too: stopping my work to hear the request, analyzing the request, answering the request. And then having to go deal with the results of them handling it themselves. They are only four years old, only two years old—they still need a hands-on management type.

I count the interruptions: how many times will I have to get up and go take care of something, or answer a question, or moderate an argument? I will keep track: one, two, three…. twelve times in fifteen minutes. These are not good working conditions. My brain feels jittery, scattered, splintered; I’m trying to hold on to so many thoughts at the same time and they’re getting lost.

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