Friday, May 27, 2016

Feed Me Friday: Overnight Waffles


 Brayden recently competed in a mile race run with 9 other elementary schools in our valley. The night before the big race, I wondered what would be best to feed him for breakfast the next morning. Brayden is a swimmer, and I know all about what to feed him for swim racing, but I wasn't sure how that would compare to land racing. So I asked one of my closest friends whose husband also happens to be a major marathon runner. Her suggestion was waffles.
Waffles? Ugh. Waffles are delicious and all. But waffles take time to make (unless you have an industrial waffle maker that makes a lot at once, which is nothing to snuff your nose at!). Not only would I need to make the batter, I would need to stand at the waffle iron for approximately a million hours cooking waffles. 

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But I turned to my trusty Better Homes Cookbook and found an Overnight Waffles recipe. Hooray! I had never tried the recipe because typically when I am making waffles, I want them now, not tomorrow. On this day, however, I was thinking about the next day. This would cut down on the batter-making time the next morning.

"What about the million hours at the waffle iron?" I know! It didn't solve everything. Until it did! When I made the waffles the next morning, the recipe made 7-8 Belgian style waffles. The good news is that the waffles were so filling that just one per person was more than enough for most of us. So this recipe can be done the night before and isn't so big that you will spend all morning cooking the waffles. I have since doubled this recipe and it doubled well, so if you need more than 7ish waffles, you can double it. 


With a Belgian waffle, you can cater to your indecisive side. 
Ingredients:
  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1 package active dry yeast (I use this kind, which isn't in packages. One package is 2.5 teaspoons)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 3/4 cups milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1-3 cup melted butter or cooking oil
Method:
  1. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, yeast, and salt. 
  2. Add vanilla, milk, eggs, and butter/oil.
  3. Beat with an electric mixer until thoroughly combined.
  4. Cover bowl loosely and chill overnight or up to 24 hours (this batter will rise some overnight, so that is why you need a bigger bowl).
  5. Stir the batter.
  6. Pour about 3/4 cup batter onto a preheated, lightly greased waffle iron.
  7. Close lid quickly. Do not open lid until waffle is done. Cook according to manufacturer's instructions. 
  8. When done, lift out using a fork.
  9. Repeat until done.
  10. Serve warm.
 

 

Thursday, May 26, 2016

How To Help Your Spouse Succeed as a Father (in a non-nagging way)


For years, the stereotype of the father who is essentially just another child in the home has been a favorite on television shows and in movies. This really hasn't been of service to fathers nor to families. Fathers are more than clumsy, dopey, large, children. The truth is, fatherhood is a sacred role. It is an important role. We all need to treat it as such, for the sake of our children, our families, and our fathers.



Here is the surprising truth: most dads feel inadequate. I asked my husband for feedback in creating this post, and as we talked, he told me that he has noticed that whenever the subject of fatherhood comes up, in church or among friends, most men comment on their feelings of inadequacy. We all acknowledge women's insecurities as mothers, but we don't acknowledge the same for men. Men feel like they mess up a lot. They also feel apprehensive and/or lack confidence in the role of father.

We as mothers can completely relate to that, right? Who felt fully prepared to be a mom? I know I didn't! Something we women have as an advantage in the parent department is that even working moms get a period of time to just practice. When we have a baby, we dive in the deep end head first, whether or not we have even had swimming lessons. We somehow learn how to stay afloat--even if we often feel water-logged. We get LOTS of time for figuring things out. We pretty much have a 24 hour a day, 7 day a week on-the-job training. 

Dads, on the other hand, typically are back to work soon after the baby is born. When they do get time to be "Dad," they usually have Mom right there. They have very little time to be alone with baby and get some trial and error time in to figure out the dad thing. 

When my husband said men felt inadequate as dads, I pressed for more details, because I don't see that in men. I clearly see women feeling a lack of confidence and questioning themselves, but I don't see that from men. 

"When a man feels inadequate as a father, he doesn't get emotional and beat himself up," my husband explained,"He withdraws. He finds something else to work on and avoids interacting with the child as much so he doesn't make more mistakes."

This I have seen! I recently saw a list of things men should do with paternity leave (since that is happily becoming more of a thing these days). I can't remember where the list was or what was on it other than one thing. It was that dads, paternity leave is not designed for you to build a chicken coop. The point was, don't go work on a project, help around the house and help with the baby. 

I think we look at paternity leave as for the mom's benefit. That absolutely has value. But I think we can and should also look at it as a benefit to the father/child relationship. This is a time a father should be able to spend some time figuring out being a father. 

But what do dads often do after a baby is born? I know I have commented before, and clearly from this list I read it is a common trend, but they take on a project! Dad wants to help the family in some way, but he feels like he can't contribute in a correct way to the baby, so he starts a project. 

Men don't withdraw as fathers because they don't like the child or because they don't want to be helpful. They do it because they feel inadequate and don't know how to fix that. It must be said, obviously not all men feel inadequate. Some jump right in with confidence! But many just aren't sure what they should be doing. 



With that all said, here are some ways you can help your husband to be a the best father he can be without being a nag. No one likes a nag.

Encourage
My husband said the number one way to help your husband be a better father is to encourage him in that role. My husband is a huge proponent of positive reinforcement. Encourage the positive and your husband will rise to that and then some. 

Arrange Special Time with Dad/Child
No matter the age of your child(ren), you can help facilitate special time with the father/child. In most cases, mom tracks and keeps the schedule (I know this isn't true in all relationships, but it is true in most). 

For the babies, brainstorm for a way your husband can be involved in the baby's life and care on a regular basis. Talk to your husband and see how he would like to be more involved. Give him ideas for what he can do (this is especially helpful if you are breastfeeding). You can have a time of day set aside for your husband to read a story to the baby (babies can be read to from birth). Your husband could do bedtime. Your husband could change all diapers when he is home. He could be in charge of bathtime. If you have a bottle feeding, dad can do a feeding. Many couples have dad be in charge of the dreamfeed and have that be a bottle feeding even if breastfeeding (you can use expressed milk). 

It gets easier with toddlers. For us, as soon as our babies turned one and stopped breastfeeding, my husband became 100% in charge of that little one for bedtime. He got the toddler ready for bed, read stories, said prayers, tucked in, etc. This turning point has always been a big change in helping the children develop a close bond with dad. Once a new baby turned one, then my husband took bedtime for that one and then bedtime for the older ones was more of a "we" thing for the older kids. By then, a strong bond had been established. 

With children two and up, you can have weekly or monthly dates that are one on one. You two can choose a day that will work and your husband can plan something to do. It can be simple. For Brinley and Nate last year, all but one of their dates the entire year was going to the duck pond down the road and feeding ducks. Brinley loved it (and still does). 

Here is my tip. Ask your husband what kind of "interference" he wants from you. Do not hover unless your husband has asked you to hover. Hovering easily communicates that you don't trust your husband to do a good job. You might just enjoy watching your spouse with the baby, but if he doesn't know that, he might interpret the action differently. Be open in communication. "I am going to leave the room. If you have a question, I am happy to answer it. I don't want you feel like I don't trust you so I am going to leave so you can have this time together."

Set Expectations and Hopes in Advance
When Brayden was born and my husband retreated, I thought he regretted the decision to have a baby. I literally could count on one hand the number of diapers he changed in the first 6 months of Brayden's life. He became more involved as Brayden got older, and by the time Brayden was a pretoddler, they were little buddies. When Brayden was just over a year, every day as soon as Nate got home, he took Nate's "hand" (but all he could grasp was a finger) and led him to the sandbox. I remember little 18 month old Brayden helping Nate remodel our master bedroom. He was always right behind him with his own little lawn mower on lawn-mowing day. They were pals. 

Then Kaitlyn was born and he was still involved with Brayden (probably even more so than before Kaitlyn was born), but not involved with the baby again. I then decided he must not like babies (and truth be told, he isn't a huge baby person. Men have stage preferences just like women do).

Before McKenna was born, we talked things out. I was about to have three children 3 and younger and I knew I needed a bit more help this time around. I outlined what I hoped to get from him. He explained why he hadn't been more involved in the past. Having an open conversation of what we would each like to see happen was so very helpful. Communicate openly, not just in your head. You can both explain why you do what you do and what you hope to have happen.

When Brinley came, he got some form paternity leave (not true paternity leave, but some time) and he didn't use it to create a big project! He used it to help at home and to spend time with our new little addition. 

Arrange the Schedule/Routine to Benefit Father/Child Relationship
When Brayden was a baby, my husband was in school full time and working full time. He was gone before we woke up and he didn't return until after 8-9 pm most days. Because of that, I made Brayden's bedtime after 9 pm. GASP! Me. I know. 

Because of this late bedtime, Brayden had a third nap until he was 10-11 months old. A way to get him to a later bedtime was to continue to have a third nap for a long time. 

Right around Brayden's first birthday, my husband graduated and got a job with normal predictable hours. When that happened, we moved bedtime to the ideal 7 PM hour. He moved just fine without issues. 

You can arrange your schedule so that there can be a father/child relationship that is nurtured. Figure out what is best for your family. If your baby just can't handle a situation like that, then try to think of different ways to make sure that relationship is nurtured. Maybe weekends will be your time. 

Allow the Unique Role of Fathers
Dads can do some things that seem weird and/or crazy to moms. Dads throw babies high in the air. Dads wrestle (and usually they do this right at bedtime). Dads are often "fun" and let the routine go out the window when in charge. 

We can get jealous of that at times. We want to be fun, too. We can work in some fun on our own without taking away the fun from dads. Allow that seemingly quirky role fathers play to happen. 

With that said, that doesn't mean you don't need to shoot the "okay this thirty minute pillow fight at bedtime has gone on long enough and now it is time for bed" look his way from time to time :). 

Children need dads to be natural dads. They don't need your husband to be a second you. They need you two to be unique and yet united. 

Keep Communication Open
Always keep the communication open. At times, we moms get to a breaking point where we feel like we can't take any more. We usually push past that point in an effort to be tough or to not complain. Then we do break down and things aren't pretty. 

It is much more effective to be humble and realize, I am about to break down. Let your husband know at that point and tell him what he can do to help you avoid the breakdown. I did this just a week ago! We are doing an addition on our home, and for several weeks, I was parenting pretty solo. Bedtime was alone each night. All children and house duties were up to me. The kids were missing their dad. Then last week I had a super busy week (the end of the school year is totally crazy). I was gone from the house almost all day each day of the week. Needless to say, the house went downhill. 

The straw was that the exterminator was coming Thursday. I like to have things cleaned up and moved away from the walls when the exterminator comes. I was in very deep water and didn't think I would have time to get things cleaned up, much less moved out. I called my husband as he left work and told him I was at my breaking point and that I needed help. He came home, spent only 30 minutes with me helping me get things ready, and completely helped lift that stress off of me. Things weren't perfect like I like for the exterminator, but they were good enough and I felt much better. 

So be open. Let your husband jump in and help before you break apart. Men like to solve the problem, so let them know before it is too late. 

Be sure to fill your husband in on the children, also. Let him know what is going on in their lives, from baby on through all ages. Moms often get more time to communicate and spend with the kids, so you filling him in is very helpful in him knowing what he can do as a father to help the kids out. 

Another great idea Nate and I want to implement is a weekly progress report. A companionship council. Take an inventory. We plan to do this each Sunday night. The idea is to discuss molehills before they become mountains. It is to tell each other what is going well. Share what could be improved (without getting defensive!). Talk about your relationship. Talk about the children's emotional, physical, and spiritual needs. 

Conclusion
These are six actionable ways to help your husband be the best father he can be. Be encouraging. Treat him how you want to be treated--with respect and love. Recognize the importance of his role as a father. 

See also these posts:

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Poll Results: Age Gap Between Children


I frequently see questions about ideal age gaps between children. People want insight before making that decision on their own. Obviously few people can get the exact gap they choose, but you can control when you start trying. And people want an idea of what they are getting into before they start the trying.

Our latest poll was on this topic. You will notice that through various gaps, people find good things and bad things in the gap. There are many considerations in age gaps. There is no one right age gap. I love that people, no matter the age gap, find things they love about it. 

1. What is the age spacing between your children? (if you have more than two children, you can list the various age gaps).

I have answered here, but for more of my thoughts, see:

6 Months: (one was adopted)
Pros:
  • Shannon said: same schedule, same interests, great playmates
Cons:
  • Shannon said: first year was really hard, emotionally it's hard to have two babies crying and needing you and not being able to give them both your all. Going out in public with 2 the same age is hard sometimes: 2 tantrums, 2 whiney, 2 not listening etc 
12 Months
Pros: 
  • Joy said: Perks: they play with the same toys now (almost 3 years old and almost 2 years old), they take an afternoon nap at the same time, and they will never remember a time without each other :)
Cons:
  • Joy said: Cons: nursing and taking care of a newborn was a little tricky with a one year old. I really cracked down on our routine so that there were very few times my one year old was free to roam around (room time, blanket time, naps all helped keep him occupied). I've also found myself giving my littlest one more freedoms than I should be, and I have to remind myself that a year difference is still a difference. I need to remember that she is not where my oldest is developmentally and should not be allowed to do some of the same things. 
15 Months
Pros:
  • Jerusha said:  they have the same interests, enjoy the same outside activities and places to go, and can do most things together at home. Also naps and bedtimes, mealtimes are the same, and their daily routine is similar. No dropping off older brothers or sisters or disruptions. Teaching morals and right behaviour is similar and consequences are similar too.
Cons:
  • Jerusha said: I have a hard time when pregnant and becoming pregnant so soon after giving birth was tough. My oldest was 7 months when I was pregnant with my second. (However in hindsight I am glad I became pregnant when I did because running after a two year old and pregnant I think would be much worse.
20 Months
Pros: 
  • Emily said: Similar interests because they are not too far apart; they often play with the same toys; interested in the same events (ie zoo, childrens museum, etc); similar schedules (both still have naps); older one doesn't remember (or miss) a time without his brother; good for them both to have to share mommy & daddy and learn to play with someone their age
Cons:
  • Emily said:  two in diapers for a while (unless you train early); two toddlers at the same time which can be tiring!; lots of conflict cause they want the same things and neither has the maturity to walk away from it
22 Months 
Pros:
  • Valerie (that's me) said: I felt like this was a big enough gap for my oldest to have some independence but close enough they were still able to be in similar phases of life growing up. I also liked that we just continued on with baby life--we didn't leave it and then have to jump back into it when the next baby came. I also liked having two napping still. 
Cons:
  • Valerie said: Pregnancy is hard on a body, and having two close together is even harder. I also had a pregnancy in between these two. So I was pregnant forever. I was young enough that it wasn't a huge toll, but if I had been older, it would have been pretty rough. There are times that your toddler needs you and your baby needs you, but  you can only help one of them. This gap also forces the older sibling to grow up faster than would with a larger gap. The two napping was great, but at times it was hard. When you need to time two naps within a few minutes so they will sleep best, it can be stressful. 
23 Months
Pros:
  • Valerie (that's me) said: This is all similar to the 22 month gap. There wasn't a big enough change to make a difference in the pros and cons. 
Cons:
  • See list above
24 Months
Pros:
  • Naomi said: 1) close enough to play together
    2) close enough that 1st was still taking great naps when 2nd came along and both were on the same 1 nap schedule at the same time for close
     to a year 
    3) oldest was still in crib (we had a spare)
    4) far apart enough that I was able to nurse 1st until 22 months (7 months pregnant)
    5) far apart enough that first was gaining some independence and could communicate fairly well
    6) sufficient time to get back in shape between babies
Cons: 
  • Naomi said: 1) 2 yr old remembered nursing and was jealous
    2) barely 2 yo still need a lot of work on obedience- felt like I was yelling at her all day long, while I was nursing was the worst! I feel like I didn't really get to enjoy the joys of a 2 year old
    3) potty training was delayed to age 2.5 because I couldn't handle doing it with a newborn
26 Months
Pros:
  • Shannon said: fun to see the older two care for baby brother, don't feel like all I do is feed babies, not quite as crazy as having them so close together, older two entertain younger two.
  • said:
Cons:
  • Shannon said: The baby thinks he should be able to do all his siblings do, having less freedom now with his morning nap, sleep training with an older (loud) sibling.
  • said:
27 Months
Pros:
  • Naomi said: 1) close enough to play together
    2) close enough that 1st was still taking great naps when 2nd came along and both were on the same 1 nap schedule at the same time for close
     to a year
    3) oldest was still in crib (we had a spare)
    4) far apart enough that I was able to nurse 1st until 22 months (7 months pregnant)
    5) far apart enough that first was gaining some independance and could communicate fairly well
    6) sufficient time to get back in shape between babies
    7) able to nurse even longer
    8) potty trained before baby comes
Cons:

3 Years
Pros:
  • Ashley said: Some things I'm grateful for in this age gap are my oldest can talk pretty clearly, is potty trained, is able to clean up after himself/pick up toys, follows instructions well (most of the time), and is a solidly good sleeper. Bringing a new baby home will shake up some of his consistency for a while, but he has a very strong routine to fall back on. I hope this gives me opportunity to give both of my boys the time they need from me.
    said:
Cons: 
  • Ashley said: Being 3 years apart, there will most likely be an interest rift at moments. At the same point, both being boys, I don't think this will be a huge deal. I grew up with two cousins, who were brothers to each other, with an almost exact three year age gap. They always got along well. The older was a bit of a role model/trailblazer for the younger. They had similar interests, and they have grown to have a great relationship as young adults. I think their parents worked hard to foster family, and they spent a lot of time together or with their other cousins. 
  • said:
3 Years, 2 Months
Pros: 
  • Kristy said: My oldest was potty trained before my youngest was born; sometimes the age difference is a conflict in terms of playing together, but they play with each other A LOT and I think they will be close as they grow into adults. If they had been four years apart, I think they would not have played together as much.
Cons:
  • Kristy said: If they were two years apart instead of three, I think they would have been able to attend more events, camps, etc. together rather than being split into different age groups. They won't share a middle school experience at the same time and they will only share one year in high school together. However, being three years apart works fine now that they are over 6. Most age groupings for activities and events include both of them at this time. We are probably heading for another split when my oldest goes into the tween or teen groups. He is 10 years old now. He just started going to a Tween Book Club at the library, for example, and of course his brother can't attend that.
3 Years, 4 Months
Pros: 
  • Valerie said (that's me): The three year old is so independent at this point. I was able to focus on the baby in a way I never could when the next oldest was not quite two years old. This led to me just enjoying the baby more. I was also able to recover from the last pregnancy before doing it again. Brinley, being the baby, loves being the princess of the family and everyone dotes on her.
Cons:
  • Valerie said: Three years doesn't seem that long, but it is long enough that you are out of diapers and see the light at the end of the nap tunnel, then you are sucked back in. It can be hard to go back there. That could be a pro, though, if you need a break from baby life before jumping back in. Three years thus far has put a different spin on the relationship. McKenna treats Brinley more like a little sister than as a friend. By that I mean, she treats her as little and someone she has to take care of (she absolutely adores Brinley, so I don't mean she is annoyed with her or anything, just that she is more of a "caretaker" toward Brinley than a friend). My other kids are at 2 year gaps and they have always played as friends, not as caretaker types. There will also be some big gaps in school, which I don't love. 
2. What are the perks, or pros,  of each age gap? (if you listed more than one, please list the perks with the age gap listed. For example, "18 month gap: Perks are...")
  • Answers are listed with each age gap under question 1. See above. 

3. What are the drawbacks, or cons, of each age gap? (if you listed more than one, please list the perks with the age gap listed. For example, "24 month gap: Cons are...")
  • Answers are listed with each age gap under question 1. See above. 

4. Knowing what you know now, what do you imagine the perfect age gap might be (if you were able to have it just how you wanted)?
  • Ashley said: I was hoping for a 2.5 year age gap between my kids for no real reason. After getting over the potty training, crib-to-bed transition, figuring out words sessions, and determining acceptable behavior struggles, I am thinking that the three year gap will be exactly what I need. I'm not an infant/baby master. I love toddlers with a little independence. For me, the three year gap is shaping up to be my best scenario smile emoticon
  • Shannon said: hmmmm- I really like the 6 month gap but I actually think twins would have been even better as far as age gap. Having two kids on the same schedule helps so much!!
  • Naomi said: I think right around 2 years is great. Further means you can nurse longer. Closer means they will start playing together sooner. Having the older child still taking good naps is wonderful when you have a newborn so I wouldn't wait longer than 3 years. If they are less than 2 years apart, you should get close to a year or more of both kids taking 1 long nap at the same time, yay!! 
  • Kristy said: I like our spacing (3 years, 2 months). I wouldn't extend it. I might shorten it by 3-6 months.
  • Joy said: I love this age gap (12 months). The first year was difficult. The second year has been easier. I wasn't planning to have near-Irish twins, but I wouldn't change it. My oldest has learned about sharing and loving someone other than his mommy and daddy at a very young age, and he's very sweet with her. 
  • Emily said: This is how I wanted it. :) 20 Months
  • Jerusha said: I did not plan for this age gap but looking back it has been a real blesssing for our family having them close together. I would do the same again. (15 Months)
  • Valerie said: I image a perfect gap to be about 2.5 years. That doesn't mean I would do things differently, I LOVE my two year gaps. I think that gives mom more time to recover between pregnancies and allows for the older child to be a bit more independent and less needy and sensitive to nap timings while still being close enough to be in similar phases of life together. I do think ideal spacing can be impacted by number of children, also. I love the two year gap, and if we had 3, I would have done it the exact same way. With four, I think a more ideal set up would have been 2 years between the first two and then a 2.5-3 year gap, and the next two at a two year gap between them.

    I agree with the comment above that close in age children are harder when younger, but a lot of fun as they get older. 

5. Any comments you want to share?
  • Ashley said: I wouldn't want to go any more than a three year gap. My husband and sister are four years apart (with her being older), and they don't have a close relationship now. It doesn't sound like they had a lot in common, and their parents never "forced" family time. Then again, I really think you can conquer age gap differences if you are intentional about making family identity important. Teach respect, expect respect toward all members. So what if your kids aren't both into Thomas the Train at the same time? It's more important that the kids recognize their own importance and each other's importance to the family.
  • Shannon said: I love how God built my family- just have to convince my husband that our 10 month old needs a buddy and quick!!
  • Kristy said: More than spacing, I think the number of children we decided to have affects me. Two is a blessing. It's nice in a lot of ways and I never have felt completely overwhelmed in terms of raising the children. I always wanted to have more, so I think I'll always be curious what it would be like.
  • Emily said: I've heard this from other moms with kids "close" together also - it's tiring now, but I enjoy having them in the same stages together; and also I didn't want to spread out the baby years so long that we never get out of them. I look forward to someday having more freedoms with all of us together, and not being stuck in the nap/diaper phase for too long.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Connecting Through Facebook Live



Facebook recently released a feature where you can go live and record yourself and people can interact with you while you are recording. There are no edits or retakes. It is live. This is a feature Facebook wants to push, so it is a feature Facebook will highlight.

You may or may not realize, but just because you have "liked" something on Facebook does not mean that you will see everything that page ever posts. You see stuff based on secret algorithms that only Facebook knows. Obviously the more you engage with a certain page, the more Facebook will show you things from that page. So when you like and comment on posts, Facebook is more likely to showadjust your Newsfeed preferences (see info here). Katrina at Mama's Organized Chaos went into this in more depth last week.
you content from that page in the future. You can also

Back to Facebook showing you things. While there are currently close to 11,000 people who like my page on Facebook, in recent months the Hash It Out Monday posts were being seen by fewer than 1,000 people each week. These posts have always been very popular. I know parenting isn't getting that much easier! So I decided to go along with Facebook and try the idea of Facebook Live for Hash It Out Monday. We tried it on a random day last week (last Thursday) and went with it again this Monday. A whole lot more people are seeing these posts than were seeing the regular Hash it Out Monday Posts.

Hash it Out Monday is a day I post a thread on Facebook for people to just ask questions. You ask, other readers answer and I also answer. It is super valuable!

If you want to participate in this, check Facebook Monday mornings to see about when I plan to go live. Then check in that time frame to catch me live. The great thing is if you miss the live broadcast, you can watch it later! You can watch and read the questions at a later time. You can add your own questions at a later time or offer more insights to people at a later time.

The way this works (so far as I can tell at this point) is I go live and you literally watch me as I am live. You can type in comments as I go and interact with me in real time. That means you can ask a question and I can answer it immediately.

After the live session is over, the video is saved to the Chronicles of a Babywise Mom Facebook page and you can watch it later. You can also see all of the comments that were made during the video. You also can comment on the video at the later time--so comments remain on even once the video is no longer live.

I am really enjoying the live feature! I am brainstorming other helpful ways to "go live" and would love feedback from you. Anyone have ideas you would like to see in a live function? I am excited to see where this takes us!

The video above is me live just yesterday. 

Monday, May 23, 2016

Optimal Waketime Lengths for Toddlers (12-24 Months Old)


Caring about naps and night sleep doesn't go away when your baby leaves "baby" and moves to "toddler" (and won't go away after that, either!). When I recently posted a helpful graphic on Optimal Waketimes for 0-12 Months, many of you asked for one for the toddlers, too. So here you go! I love to know what you want and need, so please always give that feedback. 

You can view this graphic on this blog--you can bookmark the page or Pin the image. You can also view it on my Drive. I have added it to my Chronicles Book of Logs. When you purchase that ebook, you will have it included. 


Friday, May 20, 2016

Summer Prep Checklist



You want to avoid that panic moment. You know, that time when summer is over and you realize it didn't go as you pictured it. You feel that pang of regret. You procrastinated implementing goals and now you feel the need to cram it all into a two week period. All of it. It doesn't take much to prepare for the summer you want have:

1-Know how you want to spend summer
What activities do you want to do this summer? Make a list of the things you want to get done. Do you want to hit the zoo? The water park? Go camping? You don't want to reach the end of the summer and realize you didn't do anything you wanted to get done. Just write down your goals and see how you can fit it in. Also, if you want to go on a vacation, you might need to plan things with a fair amount of advance; summer travel is expected to be up quite a bit from last year and you might have a hard time finding lodging or booking flights. See also: 

2-Know your goals
Know what you want to accomplish during the summer. Do you want it to be a lazy summer? Do you want teach new skills during summer? Do you want to keep up on reading skills during the summer? Summer is sneaky. You will find yourself panicking two weeks before school starts as you realize you didn't have your child read one book all summer. Before you know it summer is gone, so if you have goals you want accomplished, you need to recognize them and plan for them. See also:

3-Have a plan for adding kids back to your day
If you have children in school, you want to have an idea of how to incorporate them back into being home all day. We spend a lot of time thinking about how to add a newborn to the family, but often don't plan out how to add our kids into being home all day every day again. See also: 
4-Buy the things you need
It is great to have the thing you need on hand when summer starts. You don't want day one of summer to realize, "Oops! We don't have any food for lunch!" or "We don't have sunscreen and you want to play outside all day long!" You can definitely set your first day of summer as shopping day where you all go out together to get what you need, so it doesn't have to be ahead of time before kids are out, but have it on your radar and ready to do.  See also:


Thursday, May 19, 2016

Great Picture Books for Boys


If you try to look up a list of ideas of picture books for boys, you will probably have a hard time finding success. We are kind of a little afraid to label things these days as for "boys," which is interesting because if you try to look up a list of ideas of picture books for girls, you will have great success in finding ideas. And so we have my list of great picture books that will likely appeal to boys.

This isn't to say that girls won't enjoy some or all of these books, also. It also doesn't mean all boys will love all of these books. I will say this, however. I bought these books when Brayden was young because he loved them. We have owned them through three daughters. I easily read all of these books with Brayden more times in one month than I have in the 9 total years that I have had daughters (and one of my girls is not into "girly" books). They just don't choose them as often as other books. So I will say they tend to be more appealing to boys than girls. And these aren't all of the books he loved as a young child; just the ones he totally loved that didn't appeal to any of my girls.

Noticeably missing from this list are books that center around sports. Brayden was so into trucks, cars, and trains when he is little that we primarily read books in those themes. I don't want to recommend a book I didn't have a child love, so I don't have any listed, but if you have a child who loves sports, be sure to look up books on that topic.

My Truck is Stuck by Daniel Kirk and Kevin Lewis
This was Brayden's all around favorite book when he was a young boy. It rhymes and it is about trucks. This author has a lot of other books, so be sure to check those out, also. 

Sheep in a Jeep by Nancy E. Shaw
This is a funny book about a group of sheep who don't always make the wisest decisions on their road trip. This is a book that will appeal to girls as much as boys. And if your child loves the Sheep in a Jeep, there are a lot more "sheep" books from this author.

Big Frank's Fire Truck by Leslie McGuire
This book takes you through the different aspects of a fireman's day. This was such a favorite for Brayden.

If I Built a Car by Chris Van Dusen
This is a fun book about a boy who describes his ultimate car. The car is completely unrealistic, but it is the kind of things kids like to do--dream big.

Thomas & Friends by Rev. W. Awdry
Brayden loved to read Thomas and Friends books for many years. This is a great series for the train-obsessed children.

Katy and the Big Snow by Virginia Lee Burton
This is about a snowplow after a big storm. Katy saves the day!

Here Comes Darrell by Leda Schubert
This book follows Darrell around the seasons as he uses his vehicles to help people out around town. It is a great book that focuses on serving your neighbors and on trucks.

Little Blue Truck by Alice Schertle
This is a great book about helping others (even when they aren't kind to you first). It also has farm animals, so it is appealing to the animal lovers as well as the truck lovers.

How Do Dinosaurs... by Jane Yolen
There are a lot of books in the "How Do Dinosaurs" series. They clean their room, say goodnight, go to sleep...there are a lot of options. If you have a dinosuar lover, this is a fun series that also helps teach the correct way to react to situations in life.

Red is Best by Kathy Stinson
This is not so much a boy book as just a great book. This book was a favorite of Brayden's and inspired him to have red as his favorite color for many years.

I Stink by Kate McMullan
This book is about a garbage truck. These authors have more similar type of books (about fire trucks, bulldozers...), so you can find one that is appealing to your child. 

Richard Scarry books by Richard Scarry
I have to start with an apology--Richard Scarry books can be hard to read to children! There is so much going on each page and sometimes the books are pretty long. But they have lots of information and children love to find out how different things work.

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Wednesday, May 18, 2016

5 Ways to Stay Motivated as a Mother


I have a couple of promises for you, and they are seemingly contradictory. Promise number one, those young years with children are hard. I haven't yet entered into the teenage years of raising children, but in the 11 years I have spent raising children, I have found the first few years are by far the most exhausting. They require a whole lot of sacrifice from you. They are emotionally exhausting. It seems like you rarely get a moment to just be. Add several children in a row living those first few years of life over and you have one frazzled and tired mom.

Here is my contradictory promise. Life only gets busier. Your kids get older and you really have less time on your hands. I think a key difference is you are doing a variety of things from day to day. You have a variety of conversations with your different children of different ages. The days are not so mundane. They are different enough that it somehow seems less exhausting even though you have less time to relax.

We can conclude, from these two promises, that life as a mom is always busy. We can't wait for the magical day when we have more time while being a mom. That is a a fond memory. Time to embrace the reality. But reality doesn't have to be a bad thing! It isn't always easy to be "on" as a mom. We have a lot of tasks and goals we want to meet for our children daily as well as in the "big picture," and sometimes it gets exhausting! Sometimes we wonder if it is worth it to worry about independent play, first time obedience, learning time, and all of the other items on our list. But hard doesn't mean bad. So how do we keep up the motivation to go on and stick with our goals in the face of the craziness life throws at us? Here are five ideas to keep us going.

1-Look to Examples
Look to the examples of other moms around you. I always like to observe people with children older than my own to see what they do and what I like and what I don't. I don't mean this in a judging way--I don't like the "mommy wars" of whose way is better than whose way. We all have our own priorities and goals. We also all have our own personalities. What works for one mom won't work for another. I like to observe what efforts produce the results I am looking for, and what efforts do not. I am looking for what I want for my family and trying to emulate those actions. I tweak them for our family and make them work for us. I talk more about this idea here: Instilling Qualities: Observation.

2-Believe That You Will Miss It Some Day and Live in the Moment
Sometimes when the older women approach you in the store or at church and tell you how much you will miss these years so you better enjoy it, you really just want to hand off your kids and walk away and see how much they really do miss it by the time bedtime rolls around. However, this is the comment I get most often from older women, so I really try to heed that advice to enjoy moments. Not every moment. I don't think we have to enjoy everything every day. But we also don't have to hate it all. When something gets ruined, I try to think about how that mark on that book will always remind me of when so-and-so was young. When my freshly washed window has fingerprints and has been licked (WHY?!?!?), I try to remind myself that I will miss those prints and licks (so they say! Still not sure I buy them missing fingerprints. What the fingerprints represent, sure. The actual fingerprints, I don't think so). I try to enjoy it for what it is because apparently, someday I will miss it. See also Enjoy the Moment.

Along those same lines, I try to live in the moment. I don't like to think, "I can't wait until...[so-and-so is older, so-and-so masters this skill, etc.]. I just try to enjoy where everyone is for what they are at that moment. Think about the things you love about the stage each child is in. Cherish those moments. Try to remind yourself of and focus on those. There will always been things you love and things you don't love about each stage, so you have to just focus on what you enjoy rather than pinning away for what you believe will surely be better in the future. See also It's A Journey, Not A Destination

3-Simplify Where Possible
Simplify your life so you have the time and energy needed to do what is necessary. We can't do it all, and when we try to do more than we can handle, we start to let important things slide. When we are too busy, we get tired, and when we get tired, we find it easier to let the child get her way than to correct her and require obedience. For more on this, see Days of Motherhood See also Good Sacrifice vs. Foolish SacrificeSee also  Slow the Pace

4-Have Faith the Hard Work Will Pay Off
Day in and day out, you are taking small steps and working hard to make sure your child is being raised in the best way for your child. You remind your child over and over again to do a certain thing (say yes mommy, put shoes away, clean up after self...) and sometimes you wonder why you even bother? And is this much attention to the schedule that important? And why bother with bedtime and naps because life could be a bit less complicated if you weren't worried about those things...

Have faith that your hard work will pay off. It really does! This brings us back to number one. Who are your positive examples? Their hard work paid off! This is something that gets easier with perspective. This is why having a fourth baby is less stressful than the first; you know the hard work pays off at some point. When you need a pep talk, look through my pep talks: Word to the Weary/Pep Talks Index

5-Take Breaks At Times
Sometimes, you need a change in the schedule. Sometimes, you as a mom need a girls night out. You need to take a break from the sharp focus of being a mom so you can see the big wide world, gain some perspective, and realize that everything will be okay. The world keeps spinning and your child refusing to sign at the end of the meal is not the end of the world. 

Have time for yourself to develop your talents and to be you as an individual. See Developing Talents.

Sometimes you also need a break from the routine. Take a pajama day. Take a day to watch a movie as a family. Take the day off from your regular routine every once in a while. It will be a fun break, and when you return, everyone will be glad for it. 

For more ideas in this area, see 10 Ways to Save Your Sanity

Conclusion
Remember as you go along and things are hard, these hard times are what make us grow. Just like when you exercise, your muscles strengthen, when you practice managing time and efforts, you get better at it. See Increasing Our Capacity for more on that.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Teaching New Skills During Summer


Once you have a child who goes to school, it can get difficult to find a good time to teach that child new life-skills. Certainly a first grader has not learned nor mastered all of the life-skills you hope to bestow upon the child, so the finding the time to teach is necessary. 

Summer break is a great time to do this! You can also do other longer-breaks throughout the year. Some of the easier skills can also be taught on a Saturday. 

Each summer, I evaluate what chores my children are able to do and decide which chores each child needs to add to his/her repertoire. For example, my children do not start out cleaning the entire bathroom. I teach one part of a bathroom at a time. I leave toilets for an age when they are a bit older and able to clean it well and also wash their hands well following the job. I leave mirrors for when the child is older so the child can reach the full mirror safely. 

It is also a good time to work on teaching how to cook new foods. The kitchen is another area where my children learn "line upon line." 
I saw this great idea for a sewing school on How Does She. She did a five week course to teach her daughter basic sewing. This is brilliant.

So if your child has a new skill or ability you want to teach, think it through and come up with a plan for teaching your child. You might even be able to find outlines like I found for sewing online.  

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Monday, May 16, 2016

5 Reasons To Do Summer Camps (and 3 Reasons Not To)


Do you ever wonder if summer camps are worth the time and money it takes? Here are some reasons to a summer camp:

1-It is a great way to try something new
I like that a summer camp can be used to try a class or sport to see if it is something your child would like to do on a more long-term basis. One summer, McKenna tried a classical ballet class. She is tall and strong. She has also been able to go on point barefoot since she was three years old, so I thought we should see if this would be a potential interest of hers. While she loves ballet, she didn't want to pursue that type of class after the summer because she liked having other types of dance as well as ballet. So we stuck to a regular rec dance class that had ballet, tap, and jazz for the school year.

Another summer, McKenna tried a cheer class. She loved that and chose to do that instead of dance for the following school year.

You can't do everything, but a camp can be a way to try something for a bit to see if the thing is something your child would like on a more long-term basis. 

2-It is a great way to have fun with a hobby
Kaitlyn loves art. Super loves it. She loves all forms of art. Each summer, she chooses some sort of art camp to do. She has done a camp that explored several mediums of art (ceramics, drawing, theatre...). The next summer she did a camp that was just ceramics. This summer, she will be doing one that is just theatre. It has been a fun way for her to spend some time with a hobby. 

3-It is an inexpensive way to get some instruction or teaching
One of Brayden's favorites is golf. We live in a climate where golf is limited for the year.  He loves to do golf camp to get some instruction and playing time in.

4-It gives your child something to do and some structure
We love having more free time in the summer, but too much free time easily leads to boredom. A camp is definitely not the only way to get structure and to give your child things to do, but it is one way to accomplish that goal.

5-It can be something that NEEDS to be done anyway
Perhaps you do swimming lessons only during the summer. Maybe there is some other activity you want to do during the year and can pursue during summer. You can have those things be a "camp" for the summer. You get the benefit of the structured activity and learning a new skill/pursuing a new hobby. You have the bonus of focusing on it only during the summer when you generally have more free time overall since there is no school during the day hours.

With all of these reasons, it might seem like a no-brainer, right? Why wouldn't you do a summer camp?

1-Your child might enjoy some time to just do nothing
We live in a busy world. Your child (and you) might enjoy time to do nothing at all--to have no commitments.

2-You might want to be free to be more spontaneous
You might not want firm commitments during the summer. You might want to be able to pick up and go somewhere on any given day without worrying about being back for a camp.

3-You can save money
Summer camps take money, and maybe you want to save some.

Tips
If you do decide to do a summer camp, I would suggest the following:

  1. Try to schedule camps/commitments all on one day--and avoid Fridays. I like our activities all on one day as much as possible. This allows us to have more free days so we can be spontaneous and go do other fun things--or absolutely nothing at all! You might decide you would rather spread activities out among days. This might make good sense for you if you have a young baby who naps multiple times a day. That way you can still get naps in.
  2. Sign up with a friend. If your child signs up with a friend, you can arrange for some carpooling. 
  3. Make sure you leave some free time during the summer. I try to chunk camps at certain points in the summer--not throughout the whole summer. We like some free time each summer, though we are a family that starts to get bored with too much free time. So we have times of the summer I make sure there are no commitments and try to get all kid doing their camps around the same time period. You might like to do your camps right away when summer hits. You might prefer the middle of the summer. You might like the end. There isn't a best way for all--just a preferable way for your family. 

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