How We Do It: Organizing Our Kiddos

6 March 2018

Welcome back, friends! This is the final post in an eight-part series by Nancy Ray and I covering “how we do it” in different areas: the rhythms, habits, and routines that help us get things done and make the space and time for what matters most. If you’re just joining us, you can read more of the backstory here and catch links to all of the posts at the bottom of this one!


This final post is all about ways we organize life with kiddos — currently, an almost three-year-old and a six-month-old for Nancy, and a two-year-old and one on the way for me. As I was typing in our heart for this series (above), I realized it’s nowhere more important than for this final post. Every effort John and I take to simplify things – really in any area of our life, but especially areas having to do with kids – is to make time for what matters most.

For us, what matters most is helping our kids grow into kind, capable, well-adjusted people who love God and love people. We have our own theories about the best ways to accomplish that, and at this age and for our purposes today, they boil down to lots of unstructured time with mom and dad for love and learning on the fly. As I wrote last year, “we are just together.”

My personal mantra in this arena is, “If I’m too busy to go at June’s pace, I’m too busy.”

(To be sure, there are times when I just need her to get in her car seat already – but even those I try to keep to a minimum. Do we really need to leave the Target parking lot right this instant?)

To be able to live like this, we’ve had to make clear choices about how we spend our own time (for example, I currently have very few commitments outside the home), how we spend June’s time (she has no extracurricular activities besides preschool), and how we do things in our home (no elaborate systems that require a lot of upkeep). That last part is where this post comes in! Here are a few ways we stay organized — simply.

A reminder: everything in this post is what has worked for our family in the past or is working for our family now. It doesn’t mean it’s a one-size-fits-all solution, the best solution for anyone else, or that it’s the system that will work best for our family in the future. If I describe something that would never work for you, doesn’t fit with the way you’re raising your own kids, or that you don’t think will work once we have more than one child, no worries! As Amy Poehler says, “good for her, not for me” :)

1. We keep meals simple. June eats the same thing for breakfast and lunch pretty much every day (with variations on the same elements, like fruits and veggies). We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel at every meal. This makes shopping and preparing easier. She also eats the same food for dinner as we do – we’ve just never offered her an alternative.

2. We chose a simple option for childcare. Many readers have asked why we chose daycare/preschool over a nanny for June’s care. There are several reasons for this, but one is that we wanted a simplified system. I didn’t want to be searching for a new nanny every few months or every year, and I didn’t want to be responsible for managing another relationship, negotiating pay, or covering for our one caretaker’s sickness or vacations, especially since we don’t have family locally who can fill in.

3. We keep screens simple. I am not interested in power struggles over screens. June does not have a tablet and we have no plans to get her one in the future. (I know I am in the minority, here – Baby Center says half of kids get their own by age 5.) If it’s not in our house, it’s not something we have to enforce rules about. I am pretty militant about not using my phone in front of her, so that’s not something she asks for, either. One area where I consider myself more lax? Watching the actual TV in our house. If I’m cooking dinner or otherwise occupied, I have little problem with her watching a show. Negotiating with her siblings over which show to watch will be a good learning opportunity in the future, too :)

4. We keep gifts simple. I update an Amazon wish list (you can add items from anywhere!) with June’s current wishes. If there’s a toy or piece of clothing I’m considering buying, I’ll add it there so I don’t forget about it. It’s also, of course, great for sending to family members around holidays or her birthday!

5. We keep our organization systems simple. And they’re not always (or even usually) pretty. Of course, as we refine our systems and open up room in the budget, we do aim for solutions that bend toward both the beautiful and the functional – but that’s not our highest priority. For example, since she came home from the hospital, June’s clothing has been stored in (neat!) stacks in the corner of our room. With the way our morning and evening routines flow, it doesn’t make sense to store them in her upstairs bedroom. With a little extra room in the budget this year, we are searching for a pair of small dressers to replace our current bedside tables – we think they’ll be the perfect solution for our current needs! But again, the need and the function came first, and the aesthetics come when they can.

Finally, the easiest way to keep things simple is to do what works for you. I don’t have to explain or justify my choices to anyone, however unconventional they might be, and neither do you! For example, June eats breakfast every weekday morning in her high chair in the bedroom/bath while John and I get ready for work. (See our last June in June video for proof!) Some people might find this bizarre – I call it family fun and togetherness :) As long as it’s safe and loving, you do you, friend!

Just one more note on why I keep things simple. I keep as many things as I can as simple as possible so that I can face the innate complexity of living with a two-year-old with calm and joy — because kids are at root messy and complex. (Lovable and wonderful, but also messy and complex.)

June helping me make dinner?
More complex than me doing it myself.

June wanting to put her own socks on in the morning?
More complex than me doing it myself.

June wanting to touch all the buttons in the checkout line?
Helping her press the one she CAN touch is more complex than doing it myself.

But that’s complexity that helps her learn, teaches her social skills, builds her vocabulary, improves her motor skills, and increases her patience. It’s complexity that tells her she’s valued, she’s capable, and that I love her more than anything… and THAT is the kind of complexity I want to invite into my life.

Friends, I hope you’ve loved this series! Whether you’ve taken away a practical idea or just liked hearing more about the minute details of someone else’s life (hand raised!), it’s been a joy to write and a joy to hear from so many of you in the comments section. Thank you for being wonderful, as always! More good stuff to come :)

P.S. Don’t forget to read Nancy’s post! Can’t wait to see what she has to say on this topic!

The whole series:
Time: Em’s post and Nancy’s post
Finances: Em’s post and Nancy’s post
Home: Em’s post and Nancy’s post
Personal Lives: Em’s post and Nancy’s post
Work: Em’s post and Nancy’s post
Relationships: Em’s post and Nancy’s post
Kids: Nancy’s post

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March 6, 2018 10:25 am

I love that you feed June the same thing every day for breakfast and lunch. Lucy is weaning off the bottle, so that means I’ve been stressing out about what to feed her every day. I’ve been giving her the same thing for breakfast and lunch and have been feeling like I need to introduce her to more foods or something, but then I realized – I eat the same thing for breakfast and lunch every day too, so certainly Lucy can as well! And she eats the same thing we eat for dinner, too (unless it’s too spicy or hard for a baby/toddler to eat). It really clears up some mental space in my head!

Also, I am with you on the TV thing! Nothing wrong with a little bit of Daniel Tiger. :)

March 6, 2018 11:04 am

I have loved this series so much. Thank you for sharing about your life and offering so much inspiration to others!

March 6, 2018 12:11 pm

I’ve learned SO much from you and Nancy these last few weeks. Thanks so much for sharing! And I have to say it’s so refreshing to read about your technology with June. Even with an almost 1-year-old, I feel like I’m going against the grain when I say he doesn’t look at my phone or won’t have a tablet for the foreseeable future. While I try not to compare, it’s always nice to know you’re not alone. :)

Kelly Strawberry
March 6, 2018 12:38 pm

I really enjoyed the last post of the series! I love your parenting mantra of going at June’s pace. My mantra ever since becoming a parent is “more is caught than taught.” :)

March 6, 2018 2:31 pm

I have loved this series so much — thank you for sharing your life with us! I especially love the idea of kids eating whatever you eat for dinner! I’ve been a nanny for three different families in my adult life, and my experiences have made me feel like raising children is rocket science. Super complicated routines, lots of activities, different (innovative, new!) meals constantly. Now that I am having my first baby next month, I have been thinking a lot about how to raise children simply, without a ton of expectation that every moment be perfectly planned and executed. Thank you thank you thank you for being a role model in this!

March 6, 2018 4:37 pm

I loved this series so very much! Obviously, some topics were more relevant to me in my current season than others but overall it was a joy to get a glimps in how you do life. Thank you so much for sharing!

March 6, 2018 9:10 pm

Thank you (and Nancy) for being so transparent about your personal lives! I have really enjoyed this series. It has actually encouraged me to write my own response to these topics – even if it’s just in my journal – to make sure I’m living my most simplified and intentional life!

PS. I love the last little paragraph you wrote about welcoming complexity into your life when it’s important. Amem! It’s also a great contrast to the whole series. :) Again, thank you so much!

March 6, 2018 9:11 pm
Reply to  Allison

*Amen. Oops!

March 7, 2018 10:54 am

I absolutely loved and looked forward to this series every week! Thank you so much for sharing :)

Victoria B
March 8, 2018 3:43 pm

I have loved this series! Thank you! The comments are so good too so I will need to go back and reread! Maybe you could do a post on what June eats? I would love to know what you feed her for breakfast and lunch and snacks. And I am all for everyone eating the same dinner! I really love the complexity part of this essay. So great!

March 9, 2018 8:30 pm

Loved thus series and love your honesty. You’re such an inspiration! Thank you!,

March 12, 2018 6:35 pm

I came back to this post a few days later specifically to request a follow up with some info about your favorite family dinners – we have gotten into the bad habit of feeding our two-year-old mostly noodles and macaroni, while cooking a separate meal for ourselves – and it’s so frustrating! The only thing that he will eat along with us is chicken chili – go figure. Would love some more ideas for meals that a toddler won’t automatically reject… Thank you! Loved this series!

March 20, 2018 7:40 pm

Hi! I’m a first time mom myself and would love to hear what you give June for breakfast and lunch everyday? Thanks!