20 tips from an organised person with two kids and a small biz

Some days you just have to 'ride the beast' that is a day with two small children...

Some days you just have to ‘ride the beast’ that is a day with two small children…

I often get asked, ‘How do you find the time?’

Honestly? I don’t know. But here are some tips I have used recently to get some things done.
I have two babies and a small business called Outie making knocker frocks, illustrations and more.  My children are small – one is nearly three and the other is one (and they are both still in nappies… )
1) Make more coffee than you need in the morning and keep it in a thermos for later in the day.
2) Use a reusable travel mug in case your kids dictate that you won’t get time to sit down at home. Coffee in the car can actually be more relaxing.
3) Keep a similar routine so that your kids know what to expect each day and you can ‘hopefully’ avoid tantrums by surprising them with an errand and having to force them into the car.
4) Do house chores while they are awake so that nap times can be all business.
5) Always take a picnic lunch/snack pack out with you (we just went to the beach this morning and I took a lunch box of goodies. We had some in the car, I used some as bribery to put seat belts on and then food was all ready to munch when we got home!)
6) Set up safe multitasking zones. 
Right now my daughter is in her high chair on my left (strapped in) and my son is in a small tub inside the bath with his whales on my right and I am sitting between them in the doorway of the bathroom with my pre-prepared coffee writing this. Winning! (Nb I wrote notes at bath time and filled it out later once they were both in bed). Using a decent phone also means that you are not tied to needing a computer to achieve things too…
7) Use help when you can and ask for it. I struggle to be adventurous safely with two babies so small on my own.  So a childless friend met us at the beach so that my toddler could run off safely and she could chase him. (Ever tried wearing a one year old in soft sand and chasing a toddler…?!) I put my hand up and said I wasn’t coping on my own but I love going to the beach – so now we have a help system and everyone wins.
8) Wear them while you can. Sometimes my day naps don’t go according to plan so I wear my baby to still tick off a few small jobs. I have a home made neon woven wrap that is my new best friend.
9) Run them like dogs/tucker them out to make them sleep. Most days we go bush walking and I do brain training with my toddler making him learn new words, play number games or remember picture books by heart. His brain gets tired and he sleeps better later. Today we watched the surfing Nationals at the beach and he sprinted around and climbed rocks and splashed in the stream. I don’t foresee a nap issue today…
10) Organise quiet play opportunities. Sometimes I just have a couple more things that need to be finished and if I can bust out a bag of blocks at my feet, some fabric scraps in a tissue box, some special word cards, or a bin of rice… I might just be winning. I also make my two year old play quietly in his room after lunch even if he doesn’t want to sleep because I need some quiet time too!
11) Write lists. It’s hard to keep everything in your head. Just write it down so you can leave your head clear for fun hunting with your kids and you know where to start on biz related stuff when you do get some time.
12) Read your babies. It’s ok to abandon ship some days if the little people just need a rest day. C’est la vie.
13) Don’t pretend you don’t have kids. I’m a work at home mum. I tell everyone that my business stuff happens in nap times. Most people are understanding if there is a delay and I give myself realistic lead times so that no one has to have a stressed out grumpy mummy or a longer than expected wait time for something I am making for them.
14) Plan errands in a circuit. This is a bit of an economy thing as well as a green thing that I like to do. Later on today I have to pick up fabric, drop off splat mats and go to the post office. I have it planned out to be a neat circle for less time in the car and less environmental impact of silly back and forth errands AND less stress on my kids being in and out of the car.
15) Get a car phone. One of the hardest things I find is trying to find time to call people when my kids are quiet. Strangely they are happy and often quiet in the car. My man bought me a Bluetooth stereo phone thing for Christmas. It’s been amazing and is a real time saver and is actually the best thing ever.
16) Let it go. Last night I found myself stressing because I hadn’t managed to sew four dresses and today I have to sew four more dresses and… Gah. It’s better for everyone if I take my time and do things nicely and prevent myself from rushing. Rushing makes mistakes. One more day won’t hurt but stressing about it will.
17) Make hay while the sun shines. My man is a fire fighter and he is often on long (seemingly endless) shifts. This means I also have long stints of solo parenting. When he is home, I can grab some more time to catch up on things and I have to remind myself that it will even out in the end. I am a mum first and a business owner second after all. I plan my weeks around his work to make things work for me too (and sometimes I take over the whole house when he is gone for a while and I spread out in ways he would hate provided the kids have gone to bed nicely).
18) Get a snow plough. Sometimes I can’t start work because my house is a tip and it stresses me out. So I use a shovel like a snow plough and do a mega scoop up of everything and dump toys back in the crates.  Two seconds down and time to get stuck into the studio.
19) Process your work in batches if possible. I find that I am much more efficient if I do all my cutting one day, all my overlocking and construction together, all my finishing together and then sit down to wrap a batch of parcels. It also saves time because I can do colours together rather than changing threads for each job etc.
20) Keep your work space inspiring. When I get a second during the day I like to nip into my studio to put things away so that it’s a nice space to start work in. I also get creative about where I do things to work in with my kids if I can’t get into my special room. I find a cutting board on our double bed is a great place to cut out a few dresses if I need to and I am still within sight of my one year old. I can sing her to sleep while I work. So do whatever works.
There you go! And this is live so that means the kids are napping and THAT means all my planning for the day has worked!
Maybe there’s something there that is helpful for you?
Leave a comment and let me know and don’t forget to click ‘follow’ before you go. X

How to get your toddler into the bath (when mummy wins)

Toddlers at arms length

Toddlers are so much fun but also so much hard work sometimes…

Me: Do you want to have a bath now?

Him: No

Me: How about a shower?

Him: No

Me: What about a bubble whisk?

Him: No

Me: A wishing well?

Him: No

Me: How about a soak?

Him: No

Me: A wash?

Him: No

Me: A water box?

Him: No

Me: A Rinse?

Him: No

Me: Quality time with bubbles?

Him: No

Me: A foam painting expedition?

Him: No

Me: A wallow?

Him: No

Me: An indoor waterfall?

Him: No

Me: A water play date?

Him: No

Me: Nudie time in the bath?

Him: No

Me: A whale show?

Him: No

Me: A car wash?

Him: No

Me: A Suds-up?

Him: No

Me: A miniature deep sea dive?

Him: No

Me: Well I think your whale is very dirty so I am going to go and wash him in the bath.

Him: NOOOOO!

(So he takes his whale to the bath).

Lesson: Words win.

It might be the English teacher in me, but I kind of enjoyed coming up with more ways to say ‘bathe’ and I am sure this is by no means a finite list… Mummy wins! And I do love words and I hope I am also teaching him to love them too.

button cartoon about life

Children keep us on our toes but we just have to keep rolling with the punches. Like a good little button…

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2014 in review – Blog stats to celebrate

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 21,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 8 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Dad like a Champ with this ‘secret’ formula. (You. Man. Do This).

This is it guys. This is the secret list you have been waiting for that will make you the ultimate husband, partner, significant other (and dad). It’s a list compiled from the secret and hallowed rants and vents that mothers share when you do not do these few simple things.

This list will make things at home better.

At the very least you will have a reference point when you are wondering why your lovely wife/partner/mother of your children is frustrated and sad (Have you not been doing number one? Shame on you!)

I’ve numbered them to make it easy.

You can cross them off each number at a time. Whatever works.

But this list will work.

Do them like a boss.

THE FIRST FIFTEEN SECRETS TO BEING AN AWESOME DAD

  1. Tell her she is doing a good job
  2. Help her to make time for herself
  3. Never watch her doing chores
  4. Give her a hug without her asking for it
  5. Recognise that raising children is a job too
  6. Realise that she loves the baby/ies, but sometimes she needs time to just be by herself.
  7. Make time to spend with her each week – even if it’s just an hour and a half to watch a DVD together
  8. Ask her what you can do to help.
  9. Organise date night
  10. Prioritise family time in the weekends.
  11. Surprise her sometimes with a sleep in. Coffee in bed for bonus points.
  12. If you see something she hasn’t gotten around to and you have a spare minute – just do it. (It means she won’t have to do it late at night and she might get to bed earlier (Win-Win! Wink-wink).
  13. Plan the occasional outing with the kids (preferably while the house is tidy) so she can have a precious hour to herself
  14. Tell her she is beautiful even when she has puke stains and fat pants on
  15. Make time to talk to her at night – some days it may be the only face-to-face adult conversation she has

NB: Note that none of this has very much to do with parenting of the actual baby/kids. Let’s just start here. It’s easy isn’t it?

Where did this post come from? Well, recently I read some ugly statistics about marriage and life after babies and how there is a general sense of decline in daily happiness and I thought, bugger that. There is an easy fix – and the main thing is starting with how everyone feels on a daily basis…. and this list will help.

What do you think? Have I left anything out? Mums? Dads? Your comments count.

Thanks for reading. If you liked this post, please click follow before you go.

You know what I mean

OMG! The Best Organic Cotton Baby Blankets Ever!

The title for this post comes from a customer’s review. It’s pretty nice of her. Thanks Katy.x

So what is it about Outie’s organic cotton baby blankets that makes them the best?

1) Designed in New Zealand

I studied Fine Arts at Elam School of Fine Arts at the University of Auckland, New Zealand and I have always loved drawing. Prior to opening Outie, I taught English, Art History and Art (painting) in secondary schools so it makes me happy to still be drawing every day. My inspiration is often locally sourced (Kowhai hearts, NZ native flora) because a good day for me starts with a bush walk and I use my walking time as thinking time of ‘what could be cool’ for someone’s baby.

Kowhai Native NZ designer organic cotton blanket

Native New Zealand Kowhai heart patterned organic cotton baby blanket by Outie

2) Original Illustrations

I am also an illustrator (have you seen my first published book? Squee! It’s a fun practise run for my button baby coming soon.) and I like to keep a hand-drawn vibrant feel to all of my designs. Some imperfections in my drawings are left in as part of the process (sometimes I have a toddler on my knee or I am feeding my baby late at night (we do not talk about sleep club) – and, for instance, now I am writing one-handed with my 11 month old wriggling on my knee). Some drawings start out as scribbles on the back of bills and then I digitise them whenever I can find the time. I love how each drawing has a story that is so much a part of my life at home with my kids. The popular Saurus. Raurus. print, for example, happened because of the way my son learned to say ‘dinosaur’ as ‘saurus ‘ and then called ‘lion’ a ‘roarus’.

aleep aid mini organic cotton baby blanket comforter

Dinosaurs and lions are called ‘saurus’ or ‘roarus’ by our two year old and so this fun little design happened for this organic cotton baby blanket comforter or sleep aid.

saurus mini blanket

3) Made to order

There is a three week wait time for most orders because I don’t like to keep stock stored for a long period of time. I also find it hard to predict what will be popular because I have my own quirky sense of style that might not be to everyone’s taste. Philosophically I also love how each blanket is actually printed with purpose so it is made for the right reasons from the get go. I am also aware of babies and dust allergies so keeping storage time down at every part of the process is important to me.

organic cotton custom baby blanket hippos

A custom organic cotton blanket design featuring hippos for a nz customer . “Hippo Dreams” for Kristin.

4) Certified organic cotton

Fabric is sourced from the United States and it is a natural white organic cotton interlock knit. I love how it is not pristine ‘Persil white’ and that is has more of an unbleached colour to it. They are certified organic cotton baby blankets as the fabric is certified in the USA by Global Organic Textile Standards.

5) Water based inks

Outie organic cotton baby blankets are printed using eco-friendly water based inks. No additional chemicals are used in the printing process so they are a safe solution to swaddling your baby traditionally.

organic cotton kids bedding cot sheets

Custom cot sheet sets and single bed sets available by request.

6) Sewn in my home studio

Outie is currently just me. That means you can imagine your blanket being cut by me and sewn by me and it won’t just happen in your imagination. This is a weird additional detail, but I also never sew when I am in a bad mood because I believe that projects can absorb the energy that was around when they were born. That might be a bit hippy dippy but I can happily say that every single Outie thing is made with love and happiness.

7) Little blankets too

We use all of our fabric and this means that we also offer soother blankets, cuddlies, snugglies or mini comforter blankets to help older children sleep. My organic cotton baby blanket mini blankets can be a great comfort for babies with separation anxiety or to help them to feel secure in general. Mum or Dad can tuck the smaller blanket inside their shirt so that the blankies absorb their smell and this makes the comforter blanket more comforting because it smells like a parent. Some people like their teddies or dolls to have matching blankets rather than using them as a comforter blanket. They are 45cm square.

organic cotton comforter soother woogie cuddly sleep aid

Mini organic cotton comforter blanket or teddy/doll blanket featuring my ‘Little Hunter’ print.

8) Inspired by my children

I never planned to open a ‘baby’ business… but it is all falling into place because my two children are my constant inspiration and I love being at home with them. Everything I make/have made for Outie is because I wanted to make it for them (or me as their mum) first.

comfort blanket sleep aid attachment prop

We call our daughter’s dinosaur organic cotton comfort blanket her ‘woogie’ but they are called all kinds of other things traditionally.

 

9) Custom designs

I can match nursery colours, add names, use symbols or family motifs that are important to you to make your blanket extra special. I love coming up with designs that are special for my customers.

10) Thick cotton

The thickness of our organic cotton baby blankets is like a ‘thick T-shirt cotton’. The organic cotton we use for our baby blankets is soft and foldy and delicious. “I can vouch for how soft this fabric is. It is amazing.” – Melanie

11) Breathable/absorbs smell

As a natural fiber, cotton absorbs smell which is why cotton (and merino) are such staples for babies. Our blankets are also breathable so that babies who like to put their comforter over their face (why do they do that?!) can still breathe. It is best to remove it all the same…

13) Generously sized and suitable for swaddling

The organic cotton fabric we use has a crosswise stretch of about 25% making it a nice soft stretch for swaddling purposes. The size of the big blankets (90cm square) is also a nice swaddling size to give a nice sense of security right from the newborn stage.

14) Matching reusable wipes

I make sets of 6 reusable wipes up out of smaller off cuts of our organic cotton and these make an amazing money saving extra. You can just wet them with water and use them for all things baby. Because they are thick, you will find that you will use one wipe (maybe two) per change. They can be rinsed and washed just like cloth nappies and are a real money saver long term. We have only ever bought TWO packs of wet wipes in nearly three years…

organic cotton reusable wipes by Outie

Organic cotton designer print reusable wipes come in a set of 6.

15) NZ Made and Local

Although we get our organic cotton fabric from the United States (no cotton fields in NZ!), everything else is done right here in our home studio in the Waitakere Ranges in West Auckland, New Zealand. It’s all done by me (Katrina) from design through to packaging… so you can feel good about supporting a local business and a stay at home mummy (me) doing her thing too.

 Get your designer organic cotton blanket here.

Breastfeeding Dresses for Special Occasions (How to avoid a wedding nightmare)

First the breastfeeding at special occasions nightmares you can happily avoid (from my experience):

Once I had a dress fitting for a wedding and forgot that, because I was leaving my baby at home, my boobs would be two sizes bigger due to my milk coming in. I was all boobs and practically falling out of my dress. Whilst my man didn’t seem to mind, other men had trouble looking at my face and I felt like a lopsided Pamela Anderson.

Once I went to a wedding and took my baby. They provided me with a discrete area in the back to feed him but I hadn’t checked how my dress might look if it got wet. He fussed due to being somewhere unfamiliar and my milk leaked on my dress. The fabric of my dress turned a very dark colour where it had spilled and I spent the rest of the wedding trying to cover my stained top with a wrap. (Embarrassing!)

Once I went to a wedding and wore a low cut V-neck dress which I thought would allow for easy access. Sadly access was too easy and I fought with my baby trying to pull my dress to the side to play with my nipple.

Once I went to a wedding and wore a strapless breastfeeding dress (it was really lovely with tiny zebras all over it) but I had trouble keeping it in place because my baby created tension on my hip with my wrap and it caused the fabric to bunch and the top of the dress to keep slipping.

Once I went to a formal occasion and had trialled my top before the event. Unfortunately you could see the line of my breastpads through the fitted fabric and it looked like I had ridiculously large nipples which proved to be a distraction for some and an embarrassment for me…

Once I went to a friend’s wedding and chose what I thought would be the perfect breastfeeding dress only to find that, while it was great for breastfeeding, it was a light colour and the inevitable poo explosion that had to happen on me was difficult to clean up.

Sigh.

So I have come up with the perfect solution and I have called it ‘The Everything Batwing’ because it is the ‘everything and everywhere’ dress that solves the problems I have faced when trying to nurse my babies in public.

I make Outie breastfeeding dresses so that breastfeeding is easy. All you need to do is pull the sleeve slightly to the side to nurse your baby easily. You can breastfeed in public easily and you don’t need a wrap for discretion. I use performance pique fabric (other fabric options are available too) so that it is quick drying, drapes nicely, is breathable and has a soil release finish for easy laundering.

I design my own fabrics so that you can have a one of a kind designer dress made in NZ that is perfect for breastfeeding or maternity for special occasions. You can choose a top, a dress, a panel contrast option, a lace overlay, a wide waist band (great for post-pregnancy tummies), a mullet hem/drop hem or a standard Batwing dress shape.

We ship globally too.

I live in them. I stand by them. I love them. That’s why I make them.

You will love them too. Promise.

Shop now.

Breastfeeding top batwing

Batwing top for easy breastfeeding.

special occasion breastfeeding dress

NZ designer breastfeeding dresses are designed by a mum for other mums who need an easy breastfeeding dress to wear for special occasions

one of a kind designer breastfeeding clothing nz

Design your own special occasion breastfeeding dress that is one of a kind

maternity and breastfeeding dress nz

Stylish dresses by Outie can be worn for both maternity and breastfeeding

designer nz maternity and breastfeeding clothing

Special occasion dresses for maternity and breastfeeding can be designed to match existing accessories

discrete bursing or breastfeeding in public

Discrete feeding in public has never been easier with our designer breastfeeding Batwing dresses.

stylish breastfeeding dress nz

Customised breastfeeding dresses can have contrast panels and can be worn even when not breastfeeding.

Large bust top for breastfeeding special occasions

Batwing shape suits large busts too and can be made as a top in our signature fabrics.

nz designer fashion for breastfeeding

Special occasion dresses in signature nz designer fabrics.

textile design nz designer nz fashion

Our fabric is designed in nz by Outie director and textile designer Katrina Ward

NZ designer breastfeeding fashion

NZ designer breastfeeding fashion made in Auckland, NZ

10 Facts Everyone Should Know About Building A House With Kids

Are you building a house? Renovating a current one or mentally designing a future move? Yes? Then read on.

We designed and built our house before we had children and we did a few things wrong.

Here are ten facts everyone should know about designing and building a house that will (eventually) have young children living in it.

Some of these things we planned for but others have really surprised us and resulted in some maddening moments.

Hopefully you can learn from our experience.

The dreaded textured carpet.

Avoid at all costs: the dreaded textured carpet.

1. Include a bath

This is something we got right. We added an ensuite and planned for the main bathroom to eventually be a ‘family bathroom’. Our first plans didn’t include a bath but I was certain that a bath was an essential part of childhood. One of the three bedrooms has been made slightly smaller to accommodate the inclusion of the bath but it has been well worth it.

The bathroom has become the hub of activity in the evenings and its placement near the kitchen has been excellent in case I have to feed one child in a high chair while the older one bathes under my supervision.

If I could do it over I would include a much larger bath for two adults to fit once the kids are in bed… but for now we are glad we included one.

The bath is essential for life with kids. It can be used as an activity centre for messy play and immersing a child into a warm bath is an excellent calming technique for an overtired or stroppy infant.

2. Choose carpet that is durable and not too textured.

We didn’t scrimp on carpet and bought a thick wool sisal carpet. The wool aspect has been great for our babies being able to go barefoot most of the year. We chose a dark tone knowing that I love my red wine and coffee but the spills that come with children could not have been foreseen.

We have been happy with the warmth and durability of the carpet but the sisal texture of it drives me mad. Between the lovely raised designs are little grooves that are annoying dust magnets. With our (pretty powerful) vacuum cleaner, you still have to vacuum in several directions over a single area before an area is really clean and even then I am dubious.

It is really frustrating especially for things like cracker crumbs and sand and glitter… In fact it was the frustration I felt while vacuuming just now that inspired this post.

3. Consider placement of rooms carefully

We didn’t plan for this but our current house plan means that my studio doorway is opposite my son’s room. This is PERFECT for allowing me to get some work done while still making sure that he is happy and safe playing. It also means I am not far away from him at bedtime and I can leave his door open for him to sleepily watch me sew/draw.

On the other hand, our bedroom is on the opposite end of the house from the other rooms. This seemed like a good idea but I don’t like having my children far away from me at night. Similarly this made our first transition of moving our son from our room to his room more difficult in hindsight. It also meant that he stayed in our room longer than we had originally planned because neither of us wanted to venture that far to keep checking on him… (it feels like a really long way in the middle of the night).

4. Use double gib for internal walls

We added sound insulation to internal walls between the lounge and the master bedroom with late night movie watching in mind but in hindsight, we should have used it for all internal walls.

Kids are noisy.

When you have two under two it would be nice if one child’s crying didn’t disturb the other one…

The main bathroom shares a wall with our son’s room and it is a real pain trying to bathe a second baby/clean up the toys/flush the toilet quietly while mister two is trying to sleep in the next room.

Also, when it used to be the guest room – it would be nice to be able to use the toilet without the guests hearing everything. Ahem.

WARNING: Be careful with sound deadening devices though – in early weeks with my son I happily cut vinyl to make Splat Mats right outside his room thinking I would definitely hear him if he cried. Stupid double glazing meant that when I checked on him he was really upset and I still don’t know how long he had been crying… 😦

5. Add more storage

Our house plans included the usual linen cupboard, built in wardrobes in the bedrooms and a walk in wardrobe in the master bedroom. It seemed like a lot.

It isn’t.

Add more. Then more still. You will need more storage than you can ever imagine…

Consider a ‘giant chuck cupboard’ that could be used to sweep all kid stuff out of the way before guest arrive. I would love one of those (some days I feel like I am WADING in kid stuff. WADING! Gah.)

6. Add more power points than you think you will need

When designing a house on paper and adding little symbols for power points, it is easy to feel like you have enough. Two in each bedroom, for example, is standard practice for either side of a double bed BUT when you have children’s furniture in a room that was designed for a double bed, chances are that you have just covered the power outlets.

Our kitchen also seemed like it had enough (6) – but once phones are charging and a mixer is plugged in and you also have a kettle and a toaster… well just add more.

7. Use utility flooring

Our house was initially carpeted with just the utility areas set up as wet areas.

Since having children, we have lifted the carpet and made half of our open plan house wipeable/wet mess capable.

I got SO sick of vacuuming wood chips (from our wood fireplace), sand, fur and food from the carpet that lifting it was the right thing to do.

As a great side effect it has made our open plan house feel bigger with a lighter colour on the floor as well as delineate living spaces nicely. The kids can also ride trikes/crash trucks inside without us being too precious about the carpet.

Choose a hard-wearing surface option for action areas.

NB: We originally wanted bamboo laminate flooring but this is not designed for wet areas at all! The amount of spills etc that we have experienced make me very glad we didn’t go for bamboo laminate.

8. Buy extra wallpaper or extra paint

I fell in love with a textured hessian-look wallpaper that looks like fine sacking dipped in soft green paper pulp. I still love it, but after a bike was dropped against it, a truck was thrown at it, banana was spat at it and a chair was scraped on it… I wish I had a few more spare rolls handy.

Consider headboards that go along the side of a child’s bed to protect your wall covering too.

9. Consider placement of furniture

It’s a lovely idea to have ranch sliders everywhere to take in the view of the bush valley we look over but with an open plan house it means we actually have very few walls to put furniture against.

10. Use vertical railing on gates

We thought we were being so clever adding swing gates to sections of our wrap-around deck so that we could have safe areas for children and dogs to play. Something we never considered was that little feet can fit through the railings and climb the diagonal bracing on the back of the gates. I don’t normally mind my son climbing, but I really do when it is a 4m drop on the other side of the railing…

How is your house set up to cope with children? What advice would you give for someone designing their own home?

Thanks for reading. Like this post? Click ‘follow’ before you go (on the right) and take a moment to check out the cool things I make here.