Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Brinley Preschooler Summary: 4 Years Old {48 Months}!

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This is Brinley camping. Nice.
This is a summary for Brinley in her last month as a 3 year old.

Sleeping. Oh Sleeping. Brinley has always been one to try to negotiate and find ways to delay sleep time. She wants one more kiss. One more hug. Socks on. Blankets arranged just so. Wait! She can't find her blanket. When you get to the door, she has 10 questions and 30 bits of information to share. 

This gets exhausting time after time. And she gets grumpy if you do anything out of order or out of her expected desire. You pretty much can't get it right because her only goal is to delay nap. So the moment you cut off the delay nap show, she gets upset. So you spent all of that time and effort trying to get her to just happily go to nap, but in the end you failed anyway because there is no winner in the game. 

So I had a "lay down the law" day this month. I told her I would be doing XYZ before her nap. Once that was done, she was not allowed to get upset about nap time. If she did, I would not read her stories before nap the next day. 

She loves her stories. 

So she was an angel.

Now, if this was her only time of day she got stories, I woldn't be willing to remove them as a consequence. But she gets stories at least 1-2 other times a day. It is a huge currency for her, and it worked.

I am not dellusional enough to think this was my last time ever needing to lay this law down. I am sure I will do it many more times throughout her youth.

Eating is great.

I decided to lay the law down on swimming lessons. As I have shared, Brinley had a tradition of crying through lessons. She would do what she was told, but she would cry through it, and obviously she was not making very significant progress as she cried through every skill. 

Brinley is very obedient by nature. So I told her she was not allowed to cry during lessons anymore. I told her if she cried, I would walk out of the room during her lessons, but if she didn't cry, I would stay. So she didn't cry. And guess what? She passed off two skills that first week and got close on two others the next. She has made so much more progress since then. She is loving lessons. Instead of getting worried and upset on lesson day, she is super excited.

Brinley never stops talking. Ever. She loves to talk and she prefers to have no competition while she is talking. Never ending stories.

These young ones can make even the extrovert moms crave a quiet, solitary room. 

Oh boy. This month we did something interesting. We traveled almost the entire month. We literally rolled in from one state one night and flew out to another the next. It was busy with a lot going on. It is fun, but Brinley definitely likes her structure so I think having school start will be good for her in many ways.

One of our trips was a long road trip. It was about 10 hours in the car each way. The great thing is that Brinley is old enough that neither my husband nor I worried about what to bring for her to do on the drive. The bad thing is that even though she is almost four, she is not old enough to be in a car with nothing to do. She did great even with just her few toys. Hurray! 

We had a dentist visit this month. Things went well and Brinley's teeth look good. As usual, we did the practice the night before where I had her lay on the floor and open her mouth while I brushed her teeth. It just helps her mentally prepare for doing that with the hygienist and dentist. It can be unnerving and leave you feeling vulnerable, so I like to do a practice with the little ones. 

Brinley loves her Legos and ponies. She also super loves to look at books. 

The life of a fourth child is so interesting. She gets spoiled in many ways. Her older siblings are all very sweet people who love to dote on her. They don't find her annoying or pesty (most of the time :) ). They will sacrifice a lot to keep her happy. So in many ways, her life is charmed. Here she is getting carried around the amusement park because she was tired.

In other ways, there are things I don't think about because I have come to realize young children don't care too much. But sometimes I forget just because there is so much other stuff to think about. 

Her birthday this year is a good example. 

We were camping for the weekend prior to her birthday. We drove home from the trip on her actual birthday. On the drive, I realized that she would need a cake. I typically spend some time in the weeks before a birthday thinking about the cake and pinning ideas. I am not a fancy cake maker, but I can make stuff cute enough that my kids are happy (and kids are easy to please). Nope. Not this time. I had no thoughts. Maybe it was the many days of travel preceding her birthday, maybe it was the poor "youngest" child issue. Maybe both.

She cared more than I realized. She started talking about the cake I made last year and how much she liked it. So I asked what she wanted this year and she said a Paw Patrol cake. She had just gotten some Paw Patrol toys that day from my parents. So I baked a cake, put some colored frosting, and added a couple of Paw Patrol toys. She was pleased as could be. Whew!

Here is what was pretty consistent for summer:

8:30 or 9:00--wake up/get ready/eat breakfast
9:30--play with siblings
usually independent play for an hour in between now and lunch
12:00 --lunch. Then play.
4:30 or 5:00--Wake up. Eat dinner. Then family time.
8:00--Get ready for bedtime
8:30 or 9:00--Bedtime

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Monday, August 22, 2016

What To Do When Your Child Doesn't Like A Certain Food

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When Brayden was just over two years old, we had fresh corn from our garden. It was absolutely delicious. Amazing. Melt in your mouth, the most delicious corn I had ever had. Right around this time, Brayden decided he didn't like corn. I was in utter shock. How could he possibly not like this corn? BEST EVER! Didn't he know?!?

Then I wondered, what should I do about it? 

Did I need to force him to eat the corn even though he hated it? Should I say okay and never put corn before him again? I definitely did not want to raise a picky eater, so I didn't want to make the wrong call here. 

One thing I always do is think of my child's behavior and compare it to myself.

Do I have foods I don't like? Yes, absolutely. Sometimes I choke down foods that aren't my favorite just because I know they are good for me (hello kidney beans). There are other foods, however, that I just don't eat. 

If I, as an adult, am allowed to have foods I don't like and wont eat, shouldn't a child be allowed to have foods he doesn't like and won't eat?

My feeling is yes. Children should be allowed to have foods they do not like. 

This situation is a slippery slope, however. There may be many things your child doesn't prefer to eat and if you never require your child to eat foods, your child all set up to head down picky eater lane. 

So how do we balance respect for our child as a person while still teaching our children to be overall healthy eaters? Here are some tips.

1-Require the Disliked Food to be Tasted Every So Often
Brayden is now 11 years old, and he still does not like corn. I am sure we have all heard tale of taste buds changing every so often (the popular tale is 5-7 years). I don't know if that is true, but I DO know that there were things that I hated as a child that I now love as an adult. 

I require my children try a food they historically haven't liked every so often. Just a bite. You never know if you have changed and now like the food. 

2-Watch For Patterns
Brayden has very, very few things on his list of foods he does not like. He is not overall picky, and corn is the only vegetable that he really just does not want to eat. He has others he doesn't prefer, but  he will choke those down. Because of that, I am fine with letting him have his corn that he just dislikes strongly.

Kaitlyn, on the other hand, can be quite picky. She has many foods she claims to not like, so she has many foods she doesn't like that she is required to eat anyway. She doesn't get to banish every food she claims to not like. 

3-Require a Replacement
When we have corn with dinner, Brayden still eats a vegetable with dinner. He doesn't just say "no" to corn and get to skip the veggie food group that meal. I think that is a key. If you let the vegetable be skipped because a child doesn't like what you are having, you are likely to have a child who "doesn't like' a lot of things. 

4-Talk About How Much You Love the Food
When Brayden was born, I still harbored a total loathing for peas. Major. Peas turned out to be one of Brayden's very favorites, and I could just feel his joy when he got to eat peas. One day, right around the time he turned one, I scooped up a bite of peas without thinking and talked about how delicious they were. And I did love them! From that day on, peas have been one of my favorite vegetables! Watching Brayden gobble them up with delight for many months just convinced my mind that I loved peas, too. 

5-In the End, Let Your Child Dislike the Food
Do the first four listed, but as long as your child isn't liking a food, go ahead and not stress about that. Your child can  have foods he doesn't love to eat. He doesn't have to like everything on earth. 

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Friday, August 19, 2016

The Ultimate School Supply List {Friday Finds}

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School supply shopping time! This year, I did most of my school supply shopping on Amazon. When I just about clicked to finalize my order, my husband wondered if I might find things cheaper at Walmart. Maybe. Probably on some things, probably not on others. For the most part I went Amazon.

And I am glad I did. 


Because when I made my special trip to town to round off the school shopping Walmart was closed. Closed! Not their fault--power surge. But still closed. In the meantime, my Amazon products arrived on my front porch. 

See, I live far enough outside of "town" that I have to drive to town. Stores aren't a block away. They are 10 miles away. I know--people live further. Guys, I have relatives who until recently had the nearest store 120 miles away. 

But my trip was made special for Walmart, and they were closed, so I am glad I went with Amazon for the bulk of it. So here is what was on our school supply lists from the teachers and what we got. This post contains affiliate links. 

I went with Crayola Crayons because I think they are the best. Now, THIS is something I should have bought at our grocery store because they have these boxes on sale right now for .50 cents. 

Again, Crayola. I went with the super tips so they are easier to use for coloring school projects. 

Colored Pencils
I went Crayola and went for the Crayola Twistables. These are very nice--they are like a cross between a crayon and a pencil. They don't have to be sharpened, which is handy in a classroom for teacher sanity. Kaitlyn absolutely loves working with Twistables. They are one of her favorite mediums, and she is far more artistic than I, so I trust her judgement here.

Glue Sticks
I went with this big pack of Elmer's glue sticks. On Amazon, you can often get a big package for the same price or cheaper than a much smaller package. This pack has 30 sticks, which is enough for each child to take some to school and for us to keep a few at home AND for me to give some to the teachers to have as extras. I like to donate things as much as possible. 

My kids' favorite pencil is the Dixon Ticonderoga pencil. It is also the favorite of McKenna's teacher this year. They sharpen nicely, hold up well, and the erasers actually work. I bought this case of them, which is a really good deal. Usually one box will cost $3-$4, and this gets you eight boxes for less than $14. Again, enough for each child, one for home for homework pencils, and to give teachers. 

Pencil Top Erasers
You can get a a pack of 144 pencil top erasers for very cheap off of Amazon. Again, enough for everyone!

Disinfectant Wipes
I like to give one of these disinfectant wipes  to each teacher each year. I am not particular on Clorox versus Lysol. I go with whichever I can get for less, and this year it was Clorox.

Hand Sanitizer
And we have the hand sanitizer. Again, I get enough to share with all of my children's teachers. I want to make sure this is available in each of my children's classrooms all year long. 

I like to give each teacher a box of tissues. I just figure if every parent could give one box of tissues, it would go a long way and save the teacher a lot of money. 

Toys for Recess
You might not think of toys when you are thinking about school supplies. Teachers love getting toys for children to play with at recess. Our school is moving to a retrofitted middle school this year, and the playground isn't quite done. So I wanted to be sure to have items to donate for recess since the playground won't be an option for a while. 

McKenna loves these skippers, so we got a pack of 6 swing balls for her class to have. Other fun ideas are dodge balls, soccer balls, hula hoops, jump ropes, basketballs, footballs, etc. Some schools might even allow sidewalk chalk. 

Water Bottles
I love for my kids to have water bottles in class if their teachers allow it because then they have a better chance of staying hydrated at school. This year, we are trying the Contigo Water Bottle. It rates very well, so we are giving it a try. I purchased this three pack so each child can have one (each child in school). I will report on them after we have used them long enough to know how well they work for holding up, washing, etc. 

This is an item I intend to purchase at a store in person. I want to get scissors larger than the little kid size (which is 5 inch). The size I like for McKenna, a second grader, is 7 inch from Friskars. This is a great size for second grade through sixth grade. I can get that on Amazon, but the colors vary, and she would rather choose her color. Second grade is the first year we purchase a pair of scissors for the kids to take to school. 

Pencil Box
A pencil box is another item I like to get in person. That way, I can touch it and be sure the quality is good enough for the price. 

We just get a lunch box in person, too. There are a lot on Amazon. Actually, so many that it is
overwhelming for me to scroll through. Sometimes there are just too many options. I have shared in the past that we typically buy a new lunch box every year. They just tend to get a little gross after a year of constant use. This past year, Brayden's stayed in great shape since he is older AND since he often eats school lunch now. So he will re-use his old lunch box.

A folder is a very common need in school. We just bought one at the grocery store (since Walmart was closed! And guys, there is no Target in my area. I know, feel sad for me. Silver lining is, imagine the money saved). Folders are always so cheap at back to school time that I would go for the store rather than Amazon.

Notebooks are another very cheap item at stores at this time of year. We again bought our notebooks at the grocery store, which I usually do because our grocery store is cheaper than Walmart. I can get them for 5 for $1 at the grocery store. On Amazon, they are over a dollar each.

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Thursday, August 18, 2016

Best Things About Three Year Olds

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Two and three year olds are my favorites. Sure, you get a lot of tantrums with these years, but there is so much fun, also. I have already talked about my favorite things about two year olds, and today it is the three year olds turn. Here are my ten favorite things about three year olds.

1-They Can Dress Themselves
I talked about how two year olds can undress themselves...three year olds take it up a notch by dressing themselves. This is super awesome, especially if you are pregnant or if you have other children. You can give your three year old some clothes, attend to another child, and viola! Your three year old is dressed! Things might end up backward and shoes might be on the wrong feet, but the independence is coming. You can breath a tiny bit more. 

2-They Say Things Incorrectly
Kaitlyn called Parmesan cheese "farmer on the cheese." Brayden called one piece of cheese "chee". The "Th" sound often comes out "f" instead. These are cute things that you will indeed miss when your child gets older and starts saying things correctly. 

3-They Can Be Helpful With Chores
As a three year old, Brayden could vacuum a room and I didn't have to re-do it. Three year olds can actually start to contribute to chores. Three year olds can clear the table and can pick up after themselves. They can be depended on to put their shoes away every time they come home (so long as you teach that and require it!). This is just another small thing that is happening with three year olds that start to lift some of the dependence off of you and allows some growth in the child. 

4-They Laugh So Easily
These three year olds start to find things amusing, and they easily laugh at things. Their giggles are squeals of delight and the let those giggles loose freely.

5-They Forgive Readily
Even though we are parents, we make mistakes. These little ones forgive our mistakes readily. And they forgive fully. They don't say they forgive but hold that secret grudge. They forgive, move on, and trust you fully. Their forgiving hearts are truly a lesson to us all.

6-They Have Cute Little Hands
This is something you probably appreciate more about the three year old when you have older children as well, but these little three year olds still have the tiny hands that fit fully inside yours. Those hand-holds are precious and will be something you miss in years to come. 

7-They Start to Have Sympathy...Maybe Even Empathy
It used to be that when you were sick, it was kind of a miracle if your child even noticed, much less showed concern. The three year old will start to care about others and have some concern for the feelings and state of other people Don't get me wrong, they still live in a very self-centered sort of state, but you start to see them come out of it during this year. Those are tender moments when you see your three year old gently patting another person who is upset. 

8-They Copy People
Your three year old will strongly copy the people he/she looks up to. You will noticed little ticks and nuances of your spouse, your older child, your mom, and yourself! You will see your three year old doing something over and over, in a very exaggerated way, and try to figure out where on earth she got it from. Imitation is the highest form of flattery! 

9-They Can Start to Do Activities
Three is a common age when children start activities like a dance class without mom or dad there the whole time. Most three year olds are typically okay with Mom leaving them some place for a short time, and they enjoy having a fun activity to do. Now, if you have a three year old, it doesn't mean you NEED to do an activity outside of the home. But it is an age where if you feel like your child would like it, it is pretty easy to do.

10-They Have a Zest For Life
Three year olds just enjoy life. They are happy and optimistic. They have amazing imaginations that can help them to be content anywhere they are. They love life. They are still absorbing so much of the world around them and they find things so very interesting. They aren't moody. They love simple things in life. Playing with toys is one of life's most cherished adventures. They are easy to please and usually pleased. 

What are your favorite things about three year olds?

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

How Babywise Prepared our Twins for Preschool {Guest Post}

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By Emily T. Miller
My twins are now 4 years old. Today was their first day of preschool. As I waved goodbye and blew
them a kiss, I knew they were prepared to take on the classroom. I have Babywise to thank for so many reasons! “Train up a child in the way he should go” Proverbs 22:6

  1. Schedule – Thanks to Babywise, our twins have been on a schedule since day one! Even now, at age four, they love operating off a routine. They can predict what their day will look like, and as a result be confident and secure. They know when we expect them to get up, eat breakfast, have free time, clean up, rest time, etc. To this day, both of them take a two hour long afternoon nap. I believe they thrive in knowing what to expect from their day and can operate independently knowing what their schedule is! They can anticipate what comes next, and mentally prepare for it without our prompting. I believe this will serve them well in preschool as they adapt to a new routine.
  2. 2. Obedience – Thank you Babywise for helping us instill obedience in our twins. Babywise reinforces the principle “Train up a child in the way he should go.” Babywise reminds parents to be clear, concise, and consistent. Just like having a predictable schedule, our twins learned what was acceptable and unacceptable behavior. Yes, they tested us, and yes we had to do a lot of reinforcing, but if you remain consistent in what obedience looks like they will catch on. They learned and are still learning that decisions have consequences. At school, I believe they will operate off a similar system (a set of classroom rules) and that similar behavior will be expected: kindness, respect, sharing, etc. I’m confident they will respect their teacher, just as we expect that of them at home.
  3. Independence – Thank you Babywise for helping us value the gift of independence! I’ve seen many parents fall into the trap of needing to be the center of their child’s world. It’s easy to fall into, a sweet snuggly baby comes to your home, and suddenly they become the center of your world. It could have so easily happened with bringing two babies home. We could have let them set the schedule. Thanks to Babywise my husband and I didn’t lose each other when the twins entered our world. We didn’t let them sleep with us or even in our room. I valued sleep too much to give that up. Once our schedule was established, we knew each night when they would go to bed and we would have time for us as a couple. We knew when we could have uninterrupted conversation, and we knew we could entrust them with a sitter because their behavior and schedule was predictable. It has allowed us great freedom. I believe Babywise was a constant reminder for us that our end goal is to prepare our children to be independent, that was the mindset we have tried to parent with since day one. We are building for the future. With our end blueprint in mind, we want our twins to be independent, productive, Christ-centered individuals. I was ready to let them fly this year, because I knew they were ready!
Thank you Babywise for teaching not just our twins, but us as parents! As they start preschool today I
know they are well prepared for what the future holds! Emily blogs at

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Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Kailtyn Preteen Summary: 9.25 Years Old

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This is a summary for Kaitlyn from 9-9.25 years old. 

Eating is good! 

Sleeping is very good. Kaitlyn is just a great sleeper. An interesting thing to note is that Kaitlyn had reflux as a baby and still likes to sleep propped up. The positions she likes to sleep in do not look comfortable to me at all, but it is how she likes to sleep. 

During this period, the big event was soccer. Kaitlyn plays on a competetive team. Her team was moved up an age bracket, which took them from beating every team but one to only beating one team. They were playing girls older than them and much bigger than them. It was a challenge for them. Some parents were very frustrated over the situation and some thought it was good for the girls.

I think these things are always easier to really analyze in hindsight, but as of right now, I think it was good for the girls. They were easily beating every team but one before the switch. Because of that, they weren't having to push themselves at all. Everyone was very comfortable. They responded well to the challenge of playing older teams and played harder. They tried harder. That trying was met with loss after loss, but they worked harder than ever. When they finally got that win at the end of the season, they were more excited for it than all of the wins combined the season before. 

Kaitlyn also did dance class during this time. She enjoyed dance class a lot, but at the end of it, she asked if she could stop dance. I figure she is old enough to know if she wants to do it long-term or not. The only hang-up is she loves theater, and if she wants to pursue that, then she will want to stay up on her dancing skills. We found a solution, though. There is a local theater company that offers theater dance classes by semester, so she could take one each fall when her time is less stretched and then take the late winter/early spring off. 

Kaitlyn also continued with piano and swimming. We keep her taking lessons when we are doing them since we have a private teacher. She continues to sharpen her swim skills. I am not convinced she will never want to pursue swimming, and even if not, it helps her be a stronger and better swimmer. It doesn't cost us any more money and she would be there anyway since we are all there together. I can't swim, and doing a lot of water things just makes me nervous, so it is important to me that my children are all comfortable in the water. 

Kaitlyn did a golf camp this summer for her first time. 

School ended really well. Kaitlyn's teacher does prizes at the end of the year for who has the top grade in each subject. Kaitlyn was awarded every prize except one. That was spelling. That surprised me because she missed only one spelling word all year. The girl who won didn't miss any words. 

Kaitlyn is a big animal lover. She went shopping with my mom one day and called me from the pet store asking if she could get a guinea pig. I figured she was old enough this was inevitable, and my mom offered to buy everything (in an effort to convince me to say yes), so it seemed like as a good of a time as any. I actually think it is great for children to care for animals and I loved having pets as a child. I just want my kids to be old enough to take care of the pet independently, because I don't need another thing to worry about right now!

She has done very well in caring for them. Not perfect. I do have to remind her at times. But overall, I have been impressed with her. 

Kaitlyn has been deep into Babysitter's Club books this summer. She has also enjoyed Animal Ark books. We have been reading Tom Sawyer together, and she really enjoys that. She really has eclectic tastes in books. Kaitlyn really loves to read. One of the first days of summer, I took the kids to the library. As I tucked her into bed that night, Kaitlyn sighed contentedly and said, "Mama, thank you for taking us to the library!"

Summer schedule. This has been our most relaxed summer ever:

8:30 AM--Wake up. Eat breakfast and get ready. Practice piano. Do morning chores. Read scriptures. 
12 Noon--Lunch
SSR and Free play
5:30 PM--Dinner. Then family time.
7:30 PM--Start getting ready for bed.
9:00 PM--Bedtime.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Things To Do in Denver as a Family

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We love to travel. Some of our favorite memories were made while on trips. This summer, we took a road trip to Denver, Colorado. Here are the things we did (and a couple of things we would have liked to have done).

Little Man Ice Cream
Little Man Ice Cream is quite famous. This ice cream shop has unique flavors and delicious ice cream. It is a popular place, so be prepared for a long line. There are times that it is more crowded than others. There is a park right across the street, so if there is a line, one parent can take the kids to the park while the other orders. Once you have your ice cream, you can go eat it at the park since there isn't much seating at Little Man.

When we got there, the line wasn't HUGE, but it wasn't short, either. We were far enough back that we couldn't see the list of ice cream options at all. So I walked up to the menu and took a picture with my phone so we could look over the options while we waited in line. that way when we got up front, we were ready to order. 

Red Rock Amphitheater
image source
This is another very famous Denver spot. It is a natural amphitheater that is breathtaking.

Or so I hear. When we got there, they were prepping for a concert so the theater was closed. We were able to walk to the entrance and we saw some of the natural beauty, but we missed the actual amphitheater.

So when you go, I highly recommend you find out the concert schedule and visit your trip when you will be able to go in.

Another big reason for avoiding the concert crowd is you will be able to avoid the overwhelming marijuana smell. Ugh.

Downtown Denver
One of our favorite things to do in a place we visit is always to walk around the area. We like to get a feel for what life is like in the area and walking around it helps give a vibe. If you decide to walk around, just be sure you are doing so in safe areas. Not every place in the city is recommended for walking. We went to the State Capitol building where you can stand on the step that is exactly one mile above sea level (mile high city, right?). You can also get tours of the building. A short walk from there is the Denver Art Museum. We also walked to the convention center and saw the big blue bear and walked over to Union Station.

Dinosaur Ridge
Plan your Dinosaur Ridge trip for the same day as the Amphitheater. They are right by each other. Dinosaur Ridge has a free trail you can walk that is full of fossilized dinosaur tracks. It is really neat to see. Normal tennis shoes will suffice. Sunscreen is a good idea with the high altitude. Bring water for everyone.

Denver Art Museum
The first Saturday of every month everyone gets in free to the Denver Art Museum. Kids are always free. This is a fun stop for a couple of hours and makes it a fun thing to do in Denver with your children. They have kids sections of the museum and you can show your children some of the other art. If your children are like mine, they won't last through the entire museum, but they will appreciate it for a short period.

Denver Mint Museum
The Denver Mint is a stop we planned on, but we did not realize that we needed to make reservations ahead of time early enough. We were disappointed to miss it. If you want to take the free tour, be sure to set up a reservation ahead of time. We called about a week before we wanted to go and they were filled up. 

Maria Empenada
My husband served a mission in Argentina, as did my brother-in-law, who lives in Denver. He introduced us to Maria Empenada. When my husband took his first bite, he was in heaven. He said it was very authentic. We loved the food! This restaurant was featured on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, also. This is a great place for some authentic food.

Aurora Reservoir
A reservoir is not terribly unique in the west. We live in Utah and they are everywhere. But, wow. This reservoir in Aurora is unlike any I have ever been to. It was well-developed and is well-maintained. The beach is nice with a lot of covered picnic tables. Our kids love spending time at the beach and playing in the water. It was a nice relaxing way to spend a day on our vacation.

Colorado Railroad Museum
The Colorado Railroad Museum is a place we would have gone if we had one more day in Denver. It is in Golden, which is about 25 minutes west of Denver.

For more fun travel ideas, see my Pinterest boards. 

If you don't already, be sure to follow me on Facebook. I share what is posted here each day along with other articles I find helpful and interesting. I also answer questions and do live Q&As each week. It is a great way to connect!

You can also find me on Instagram, posting pictures from our days.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Gymnastics Home Equipment {Friday Finds}

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"I don't need anything Mommy. I have everything I need." That is what my six year old was telling me as I was trying to get ideas for a present for her. What's that?!? You don't need anything? This just goes along with McKenna's personality of being content in life.

Despite her insistence that she needed nothing, I wanted to give her a present, of course! So I thought more about the things she really loves to do in life. One thing that came to mind was gymnastics. So I just searched "gymnastics" on Amazon. I got some great ideas! 

We got her this floor mat. It folds up so it can be stored more easily (though it isn't small, so be sure you have the space for it before diving in). My parents got her this balance beam.

She has loved them. She loves practicing on these at home. And you better believe that right now during the Olympics, when the gymnasts are on TV, she is watching while doing her own things on her mat and beam. 

They aren't cheap, but this is what you would pay for a few months of going to the gym once a week and playing on similar equipment for the little ones. I remember my friend's little girl being in a beginning gymnastics class where they used this type of equipment and my friend's husband grumbling every week about how he could make the same stuff at home and she could do it there for a lot less. Haha! Obviously for better skills, your child would at some point need a teacher and bigger equipment, but these are super fun for home use. Oh, and there are tons of mat color options out there.

I thought you all might like to have those on your radar. I am sure there are thousands of wanna-be gymnasts out there with the Olympics going on. These are fun ideas for upcoming birthdays or Christmas.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

4 Ways To Build Excitement About Going Back To School

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I have always been the kind of person who loved school. Going back to school was always exciting to me as a student. But I know that not everyone loves school and I know that not all of my own kids love school. Regardless, I think it’s important to celebrate the coming season instead of mourning the one that’s leaving. Here are 5 ideas to help build excitement about going back to school:

1.     Throw A Back To School Party
This is something that can be as big of a deal as you want to make of it. It be a full-on blow out with all your friends or just a family dinner dedicated to back to school. For us we invite a few friends and grill out. We let each child say one thing they are excited about and one thing they want us to pray for them about for the year. Then we have the oldest child in each family pray for the coming year. It is a really sweet time and something my kids really look forward to.

You can see some pictures from our family party last year here: Back To School 2015.

2.     Give School Supplies As A Gift
This is a new idea and something I just started this year. I went and shopped for school supplies without my kids with me and then I gave them their supplies as a gift right before our Meet The Teacher Day. I had labeled all of their supplies for them and I think it is something that worked out really well!

In the past, I have taken them with me and that can be exciting too. My daughter and I have often shopped and then went to lunch together as a special time together.

3.     Read Books About School
In our family, we like to read books about everything! My favorite back to school books are for the younger grades: The Night Before PreschoolThe Night Before Kindergarten, and The Night Before 1st Grade.

You can get some ideas on How To Cultivate a Book-Loving Home here.

4.     Talk Positively About It
As cheesy as this is or as much as this may seem like a given, I think it’s important to remember the power of our words. Talking about the positive things about school can really help build up and encourage your kids about starting school. Even if the only things they like are lunch or the playground, it’s a place to start! We like to talk about things we hope to see in our new classrooms, seeing friends from last year, making new friends, and thing they hope to learn.

Hopefully these ideas will help you as you build excitement with your kids for the coming school year and for a new season!

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Carrie is married to Kyle and has four kids (Laura Kate 8, Shepherd 5, Fischer 4, Archer 19 months) and blogs regularly at

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Why Bother to Forgive Others?

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Forgiving others is not easy. Sometimes we just like to nurture that anger. It is a precious thing in our lives and we don't want to give it up. Other times, we are afraid to forgive. We worry forgiving is condoning and we don't want to give the impression that the offending behavior was okay. Sometimes we just can't seem to forgive even if we want to; we just can't muster up that forgiveness.

Learning to forgive is such a valuable skill for our children to develop. And by nature, children are very, very forgiving. Think of the many times you have messed up as a parent. How many of those times has your child held a grudge over that? I certainly can't think of any. My experience has been that children readily forgive, usually without you even asking them to. So perhaps rather than focusing on how to teach our children to forgive, we need to focus on nurturing that forgiving spirit our children have within them.

We need to take care that we do not inadvertently teach our children that rather than forgiveness, they should hold grudges. We all know that children learn a whole lot by example, so if we want our children to hold on to that forgiving spirit, we need to be examples of forgiveness ourselves. 

The reality is that we will need forgiveness in our lives. We will all mess up at times. And when that need for forgiveness arises, we want to attain forgiveness, correct? And if we want it available to ourselves for our own mistakes, we should make it available to others for their mistakes. 

Conversely, we will all be in a position where we are faced with the decision of whether or not to forgive someone. Someone will do or say something hurtful. Someone might be negligent. Someone might just be careless. Someone might even intentionally hurt us.

I recently read this quote that gave me pause to ponder: 

"Even though we may be a victim once, we need not be a victim twice by carrying the burden of hate, bitterness, pain, resentment, or even revenge. We can forgive, and we can be free!"

I really thought about that. I have always known we should forgive others. When I read this quote, however, it really struck me how forgiving others is such a gift to us as the offended person. When we forgive, we are free of that burden. Forgiveness is a blessing to the offended. In that same talk, Duncan said, " unforgiving heart harbors so much needless pain." 

So why bother to forgive? The answer we often probably think is "Because we should." "Should" to you might vary based on your belief system. You might think you should because you believe in the Bible and the Bible clearly states we are to forgive others. Should might be true to you just because it seems like the right thing to do. 

And both of those things are true. 

But why are they true? 

Because it helps us to have healed hearts. It helps us to not be carrying grudges. It helps us to be
whole. Forgiving another does as much good for your soul as it does for the person who has offended. 

Be a victim only once. Forgive and be free.

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Tuesday, August 9, 2016

McKenna Child Summary: 7 Years and 3 Months Old

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This is a summary for McKenna from 7 years to 7.25 years old.

Eating is great. She eats well. She likes healthy foods. This is an area of her life we just don't ever have to think twice about.

She continued to get not the ideal amount of sleep for most of this time. A couple of months in this period was during school. Once summer hit, I let her sleep in and didn't need to get her up each day for school. As that went on, she started to naturally sleep in to 8-9 AM rather than waking by 7 AM. McKenna has always liked waking in the 8-9 AM hour. Once that happened, her contradicting instincts calmed down and she didn't argue everything anymore. 

Playing is good. She plays well with others. 

Shortly after this time period started, McKenna began to say she was sick almost every day. This was very odd behavior. She was trying to be able to stay home from school. Pretending to be sick constantly is a big red flag for a child being bullied at school. I highly doubted she was being bullied because A) she is only in first grade, and while that can happen, it is rare and B) she just isn't the personality type to get bullied. Never-the-less, I obviously knew there was something driving her to pretend to be sick, and I set to work to figure out what it was.

In the end, I figured out that she had two students in her class who got into trouble daily. This stressed her out in a major way. I found this interesting. Brayden is a type who is more, "Well, you broke the rules so you deserved to get in trouble." Kaitlyn feels sad for people and that is apparent in her personality. I never expected it of McKenna. But she internalizes any time someone gets into trouble. As I came to this realization, I noticed she does it at home, too. If a sibling gets in trouble, she gets upset.

So it was stressing her out to be at school each day with these children getting into trouble. We talked it out, and talking about it helped. It obviously didn't change if the students got into trouble, but her being able to talk about it helped a lot. I don't think she really understood what was bothering her until we talked about it, which is very normal for children.

School ended well. She did well in school and enjoyed it. She was very excited for a break, however, and to not go to school all day every day. It was definitely tiring for her to be in school full day. I am hoping she will be more used to it as a second grader. 

McKenna played soccer during that time. That is a sport she really enjoys. She also did piano and swimming lessons during the school year. She had her piano recital and did very well with her songs. She had gymnastics for the school year and did cheer for one month of this period. 

Once summer came, she did not want to do anything extra other than swimming lessons. At the end of this period, she passed off her last thing for swimming lessons--dives. She was excited to finish it all off! She will still be coached, but just to improve her skills. She did also practice with Kaitlyn's competitive soccer team and practiced with some of her friends, also. But she stopped all other activities. She was ready for a break! 

She did take a summer dance camp of musical theatre dance. She loved it so much she will be stopping cheer this next year and doing a musical theatre dance class all school year. 

McKenna's summer book fetish has been Junie B. Jones. 

School Schedule:
7:00 AM--wake up. Eat breakfast. Get ready. Do morning chores. Read scriptures. Practice piano.
9:00 AM--school starts
4:00 PM--home from school. Homework. Then free play.
5:30 PM--Dinner. Then time with family.
7:00 PM Start getting ready for bed.
8:00 PM--in bed 

Summer Schedule:
During the days, we did chores (I increase the number of chores done during summer months since they are home more), get ready for the day, practice piano, practice reading, independent play, SSR, free play, and family time each day. 


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