Planning with kids – Interview with Nicole Avery & book giveaway

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by Debra Dane on November 9, 2011

in Parenting and family life

The winner of the PWK book is Rhianon! Enjoy your book!



My blog has been live for 3 months now – still really new. I have been reading blogs for many years though. One of the few Australian blogs that I subscribed to when I was a newer parent was Planning With Kids which is written by Nicole Avery. One of the best tips I picked up from her (since she has older kids and was always one step ahead of me) was to create a lunch box planner when the girls started preschool. I created a chart with categories like carbs and proteins and filled it with all the things they ate. When I went to fill lunch boxes I looked at it like a menu from a Chinese restaurant and picked one from column A, one from column B and 2 from column C and so on. What a lifesaver over the years!

Nicole’s blog and book are filled with an enormous amount of information to help you with routines, meal ideas, organisation etc and I wanted to ask her a few questions to dig a little deeper. I hope you enjoy getting to know this blogger and author (and mother) a little better – stick around to the end for a giveaway of her book.

Planning with kids by Nicole Avery


1. Many people feel they are so busy and don’t have the time for the things that they truly want in life. In what ways have you prioritised your life to “cut the fat” and get to the heart of what matters to you? Do you manage to fit in all you want or have you had to let go of anything to make it work?

I don’t fit everything in.  There are lots of things that I wish I could be doing like more volunteer work, more time in the kids’ classrooms, but it just isn’t possible at the moment.  I am a firm believer that we have seasons in our life and as they change so do the activities and priorities we have in our lives.

I know once my youngest is off at school, it will be much easier to do those aforementioned activities and I try not to beat myself up on the things that I am not doing, but acknowledge the things I am managing to do.

I do fit a lot into my day and the main reason is because I plan and/or schedule it.  For example I get to the gym every morning between 6 – 7am before my husband goes to work.  I sacrifice sleep to get there, but it is important to me and I always feel so much better after I go.

I watch virtually no television as I choose to blog.  As my workload has increased I have become smarter about how I choose to spend my time.  I remind myself of this quote a reader from the blog pointed out to me from Zen Habits, The Tragedy of Missing Out. The whole article is definitely worth reading, but this point really resonated with me:


But here’s the bare truth: we will miss out, no matter what. It’s inevitable. We cannot do or try everything in the world, even with lives twice as long. We cannot see every town and city, read every interesting book, watch every important film. We will always, always miss out.

Here’s the second, more important truth: if you always worry about what you’re missing out on, you will miss out on what you already have.


2. Different personalities can lead to different ways of managing your home life.  Is there something you started off thinking you would definitely do for your home and family that you learned just does not work for you? Did you find an alternative that did work or did you just drop this completely?

I honestly thought I would work outside of the home at least part time when I had children.  I didn’t envisage myself giving up work completely.  Before I had my first baby I planned only to have three months off and then go back to work 3 – 4 days a week.  From the minute my son was born, I knew I had this completely wrong!  I extended my leave out to nine months and went back to work four days a week.

I made this work for us as we were yet to buy our home, but in my heart I wanted to be at home with my child.  I knew that next time I could stay home full time, so worked towards that goal, knowing that I was contributing to the family.  I found having a firm goal to work to made it easier to do.

I was then out of the paid work force for eight years before I started the blog and now I am ecstatic to have a part time job, which I don’t have to leave the house for and I can work around the kids.  This suits our family and me much better.


3. I have written a lot about self care as I find it to be critical that parents make themselves a priority rather than giving everything they have to their children (and others). I know you talk about this in your book and refer to “investing time in yourself”.  What do you do regularly that nurtures you – mind, body or soul? Do you have any tips or advice in this area?

As a mum I think you need to realise that you have to make sure this happens.  My husband is great and if I ask for time to myself he will do everything possible to facilitate it, but he very rarely initiates it.

So my advice is be proactive about it.  Schedule days in your partner’s diary where he will be the primary carer for the kids and you get to do something for yourself.  I highly recommend as well as ad hoc times, to have regular times through out the week where each partner has time for their own activities.  I go to the gym week day mornings, Sunday mornings my husband goes for a 4 – 5 hour bike ride.  Making sure both parents have time to recharge is important so neither feels resentful.

4. What do you enjoy most about being a parent and why?

The love and happiness they bring to me.  There are moments when I watch our five kids playing and my heart literally feels so full it could burst.

I also adore watching our kids’ nurture each other and those around them.  Kids absorb social etiquette and how to behave from the example set for them in the home.  I am enjoying watching my kids grow up to be considerate and caring members of society.  They are far from perfect, but there are moments of such beauty in the way they behave and act, it makes all the effort worth it.


5. What is something your readers have yet to learn about you?

I wasn’t always organised.  I talk about this in the introduction to the book.  It was something I have grown into and I am still developing.  I like people to know this, so if they are thinking “I am not the organised type”, know it is possible to change.

As karma would have it, my gorgeous and smart oldest son is just like I was as a child – leaves everything to the last minute, completely messy, never in a hurry, but has a good heart!


Thank you so much Nicole for sharing here today!


Giveaway of 1 copy of PWK

If you want to win a copy of Nicole’s book “Planning with Kids” please leave a comment sharing your best tip or trick for managing a simplified home life – what works for you just might work for another parent! (note that I may share this in the future here or on the HLS facebook page)


For a bonus entry – like home life simplified on facebook (using your personal page) and leave a second comment here telling me you have done so or are already a FB fan. The link will open in a new window to Facebook. This competition is not affiliated with Facebook in any way.


Terms and conditions:

  • Giveaway will be open for 2 weeks November 9 – 23, 2011 (closing at 6pm Brisbane time).
  • Unfortunately only open to Australian residents as the book will be shipped from the Australian publisher.
  • I will contact the winner via email (and announce on the blog) and if I do not receive a reply within 48 hours I will draw a new winner so keep an eye open on November 23/24th. (If you will be away let me know in your comment and I will hold it for you)
If you are overseas and would like to purchase Nicole Avery’s  book I had a look around and the best deal is with Book depository in the States who ship for free to anywhere. If you want an ebook version there is a good price with for all devices. (all non affiliate links).


Find your simple,



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Alanna November 9, 2011 at 7:38 pm

The “launch pad” near the front door – a set of pigeon hole shelves where all our nappy/childcare/school/swimming/work bags live. Each bag has a different hole, and is packed and ready to go for each of our activities – meaning less rounding up everything at the last minute and nothing piled on the floor :)

Emma November 9, 2011 at 7:56 pm

I try to practice a little bit of “mindfulness” every now and then. While most meals are gulped down while doing ten other things, every now and then I try to take a moment to really appreciate my food, to chew thoroughly and really taste it. It brings me a little moment of peace in the chaos of the day.

Leah November 9, 2011 at 7:59 pm

My favourite organization tip is to share responsibility. I’m not in charge of packing my kids school bags, they are. But I’ve made lists for them, so they know exactly what they need. Of course we still forget things, but it’s a shared responsibility – so much less chance of forgetting again!
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Debra Dane November 9, 2011 at 8:15 pm

Great tips ! I wish we had space for a proper launch pad.

Don’t forget to leave a second comment if you have liked my FB page so you get a bonus entry in the giveaway!
Debra Dane recently posted..Household management: Cleaning – SimplifiedMy Profile

cathy November 9, 2011 at 8:57 pm

lists, lists, and more lists!
Each night i make a list of things i need to do in the morning before the school run, and i make separate lists for each of my kids (miss 4 still needs help to read hers, but already understands why we have them.). then i also have my daily list (things to do during the day before 3pm), my afternoon list (the kids each have one as well), and my before bed list. i do also have lists for what i need to do each week for each subject for uni.
i am a uni student as well as a single mum so having things written down helps clear the clutter from my brain, and allows me to focus on each task. i even have a light at the end of the tunnel AKA the end of each list!

cathy November 9, 2011 at 8:58 pm

i have liked your facebook page as well.

kirri November 9, 2011 at 9:09 pm

What a great interview – the questions as well as the answers!

My tip is actually something that my husband has taught me in recent years and that is to always have a place for things. The keys always sit in the same bowl, the girls have individual toy boxes and mail and incoming paperwork sits in the same tray etc. Works for us!
kirri recently posted..Just leave me alone.My Profile

Laney @ Crash Test Mummy November 10, 2011 at 8:23 am

Like Kirri I’m a firm believer in a place for everything and putting everything in its place. Our house has terrible storage and is very small and old, so I’m still working on finding a place for everything.
Great interview!
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Hannah Nix November 10, 2011 at 6:57 pm

The thing that i have found the most helpful is something I just picked up from over at Aspiring Mum’s 30 Days to Calm.

I am getting into the habit of tidying up the kitchen including loading AND unloading the dishwasher in the evening, so first thing in the morning, the kitchen is clear for breakfast, and we can put the dishes straight into the dishwasher, leaving the kitchen tidy.

I think the clear workspace first thing in the morning helps set a calm tone for the day!

Sarah November 10, 2011 at 8:38 pm

I’m with you on this Hannah.
I make sure the kitchen is organised before bed, dishwasher unloaded, lunch-packs ready, kettle filled for life-giving mug of hot tea etc

I am also a bit fanatical about cushion plumping and curtain re-adjusting before bed (I blame my Mother for this one). Squashed cushions on the sofa and closed curtains before bed make me antsy, so however tired, I trudge around puffing and fiddling. Even though I feel like a retro housewife in her curlers and housecoat doing it, I just cannot help myself! Oh the shame, lol!

Fab interview Deb – was good to hear an un-naturally organised person can form habits that turn them into an organizing guru – there is hope for me then.

Plus hearing more and more about not feeling guilty and finding Mummy-time, both from you and your links/guest posts is really helping me to deal with my Mummy-guilt. Thank you x

Hannah Nix November 10, 2011 at 6:57 pm

I also already like the FB page!

Cate November 10, 2011 at 8:18 pm

I “like” you on FB

Cate November 10, 2011 at 8:21 pm

My tip is a set of 8 pictograms that describe what I need my daughter to do in order to get ready for school (eat breakfast; brush teeth; wash face; made bed; etc.) that are hung on hooks inside a small frame. Once each task is completed, she flips it over and moves on to the next. Reduces yelling and saying the same thing over and over and over… and increases sense of accomplishment. I used simple drawings from the web and photoshop to create the pics.

Jennifer November 11, 2011 at 9:47 am

I have 3 kids under school age, including a 2 month old, so much as I like a clean house, it’s a rarity. After meals, we have the predictable amount of mess under the table which I like to have swept up, though somehow, this always seems to be about the time the 2 month old needs to feed. I’ve identified a corner of the dining room that’s relatively discrete and keep a broom there during the day, quickly sweeping all the mess into that corner after each meal. At the end of the day I get the dust pan and broom, and put the accumulated mess into the bin. I’m not sure if this even counts as a efficiency tip, but it saves me one of those little fractions of time that quickly add up, while keeping the mess from being tracked around the house.

Ros. November 11, 2011 at 11:49 am

Ditto with liking facebook page.

Ros. November 11, 2011 at 11:54 am

This tip is actually something I’ve dreamed about putting into practice for some time (years)…………I’d love to have all the family meals planned out for the week & have the list in my hand to do the shopping…………I’d even be happy just to cook a few meals & freeze them in advance. I think people that do this are fantastic & it must help so much!!!!!!!!!!!

Debra Dane November 12, 2011 at 8:26 pm

Ros – menu planning is one of the things that keep me sane – i always cook extra to freeze a meal so we dip into the freezer stash 1-2 times a week and have no need to cook then. definitely recommended (have you looked at my original meal planning post talking about the different ways you can tackle this?0
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Amy November 11, 2011 at 1:30 pm

I AM SO FREAKEN EXCITED, I love PWK & Nicole Avery. I bought her (amazing) book earlier this year and it’s changed our lives. For the last week I’ve cooked one of her recipes every night and it’s always worked out perfectly- except I forget she’s cooking for 7 so keep making massive quantities (and my tiny bowl for my single uni days doesn’t hold it all!). Great for leftovers.

If I won I’d gift the book away for Christmas, because my own copy is already marked and flagged all over the shop.

And whoops, I’m meant to leave an organisational tip: I have rubbish bins everywhere in my house. I hate rubbish clutter sitting around, I’d rather have a full bin. You don’t have to walk far to find a bin, things stay clean (ish) and then it’s my husbands job to empty them all at the end of the week!

Amy November 11, 2011 at 1:31 pm

Oh, and I’m already a follower on facebook :)
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Jodi Gibson @ The Scribble Den November 11, 2011 at 8:01 pm

What a great interview.
I can relate very much to the Zen Habits post.
My tip is one I have just mastered. Get into the habit of folding and putting away the washing one load at a time (and ironing if you must, I rarely iron – another great tip). I used to wash 3-4 loads at a time and then sort, fold and put away. I was such a mammoth task (we have 4 girls!) but then I started doing a load a day and as soon as it was try tending to it. We actually have cupboards with clothes in them now, and it saves me so much time and I don’t have that overwhelming feel.
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Jodi Gibson @ The Scribble Den November 11, 2011 at 8:02 pm

And BTW I already love HLS on FB :)
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Leah November 12, 2011 at 8:24 pm

Liked you on Facebook too
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Debra Dane November 12, 2011 at 8:27 pm

You guys have great tips – i love reading them all!!
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Skyelee November 13, 2011 at 9:48 am

I need this boko desperately, I am SO disorganised it is not funny. Miss 5 goes to school next year and I am already nervous at the prospect of having to have everything ready in the mornings. My one area where I am organised is money management. I always pay bills through BPay and add them as soon as they arrive, all our income goes into our mortgagae so we know we are paying as much as possible off, and we budget for Xmas by putting money into the Xmas club fund at work.
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Skyelee November 13, 2011 at 9:49 am

Have ‘liked’ you on Facebook – and apologise for horrendous spelling mistakes in previous entry!!
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Natalie B November 13, 2011 at 3:27 pm

I am a disorganised person who is gradually making changes to their life and having a degree of success :)

I always used to run late for everything when growing up. When I got a car, for the first time I was responsible for getting me places.. and I began leaving plenty of time so I wouldn’t be late. Now I’m almost always early! I now have a nearly 1yo daughter, and wooah, didn’t that change things.. If I need to go out, I try to pack our bags either the night before or first thing in the morning to avoid the last minute rush that results in us being late :)

Natalie B November 13, 2011 at 3:28 pm

And I’m now a new liker on facebook!

Veronica @ Mixed Gems November 14, 2011 at 9:03 pm

One key way I simplified my life was to stop ironing. It started when I became a mum and was on parental leave. There was no pressure to dress up so I made sure clothes were hung carefully so hey seldom needed ironing (except on the odd occasion). The kids clothes don’t need ironing either and hubby is, thankfully, in a job that doesn’t require shirts so almost no ironing required there either. Other than that, I am dreaming of living the simple, organised, uncluttered life but falling far short despite my nature to be ordered and tidy (which I recently realised was not the same as being organised). Maybe the PWK book might help!
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Veronica @ Mixed Gems November 14, 2011 at 9:05 pm

Oh, and I’ve already liked you in Facebook.
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Lifeasmummymax November 15, 2011 at 8:18 pm

Great interview :) I make sure the house is tidy before we go to bed. The kitchen is clean the dishwasher is packed. The toys are all in their place. I used to be alot more organised than i am now. 3 kids under 5 has really test me. Im getting there though. Slowly lol
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Joyce @ TOT: HOT OR NOT November 16, 2011 at 3:15 pm

My best tip was to invest in an Roomba iRobot. Having the machine do the vacuuming every couple of days while I’m doing other things means that (a) the vacuuming actually gets done (b) the house is never so messy that you have to allocate half a day to cleaning.
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gemmie alliston November 18, 2011 at 9:08 am

Definitely keeping a huge family calendar on the fridge helps me!!

gemmie alliston November 18, 2011 at 9:08 am

PS: already ‘like’ you on FB :)

Rhianon November 20, 2011 at 10:02 pm

I love to have my house tidy after the kids go to bed. That way, when I wake up at whatever ungodly hour the baby wakes, the house is not offensive to look at! :)
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Kylie Simpson November 23, 2011 at 7:36 am

I’m a real lover of routines. I have a routine for just about everything. Though i do make sure that there is enough flexability that if things arent going well i dont have a melt down lol…… Also last thing at night before i go to bed i check over my to do list and diary and get everything out that i need for the next day. If its bill paying day i make sure my keys, wallet, phone, and bills are all on the bakers stand we have in the hallway, so all i need to do is grab and go.

Kylie Simpson November 23, 2011 at 7:36 am

i also liked your facebook page

Wendy November 23, 2011 at 9:02 am

We’ve painted a wall near the kitchen with blackboard paint. I use it to list the things that I have to do that day or need to remind another family member about. Because it’s fairly central in the house it’s not easy to miss! (and unlike a written note, I can’t lose it) It’s been used for spelling words, birthday countdowns and greetings. The bottom half is quite often covered in my 4yo’s “artistic expressions”.

Alice November 23, 2011 at 9:21 am

What a great interview! Something that has helped us get ready for school is freezing sandwiches on Sunday, so that we don’t have to worry about making them in the morning rush. Of course, not all ingredients will freeze well, so we also include fresh fruit, veges, crackers and home-bake goods, also baked in a batch on the weekend.
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Alice November 23, 2011 at 9:22 am

BTW I already follow you on facebook :)
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Emily November 23, 2011 at 10:35 am

I have a cleaning roster for myself. When I was feeling like life was getting a little out of control, a few hours of procrastination produced a lovely table with all my tasks divided up every week. So when my house is a dump and I don’t know how to start, instead of sitting on the couch getting upset about it and unable to find the motivation, my roster tells me what to start with that day. The rest will get done another day. And I like ticking off the completed tasks :) I also meal plan and write lists. I hope this helps someone :)

Emily November 23, 2011 at 10:35 am

I facebook like you too :)

Mary Preston November 24, 2011 at 7:00 pm

I prioritize. I work out what is most important & work from there.

This is where my list making habit comes in handy.

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