Tuesday, April 15, 2014

McKenna Child Summary: 5 Years Old

McKenna has been teaching herself
to play the piano
This is a summary for McKenna at 5 years old. McKenna is a very fun person. She is one of those children that everyone always stops to tell me how much they enjoy her. She is the life of whatever party is going on. Even people who only see her because they have a child who is friends with one of my older children stop me to comment on how much they enjoy McKenna.

McKenna eats a lot and eats a very healthy diet. Her favorite foods to eat are fruits and vegetables. Her weird quirk with food is whenever Kaitlyn is around, she wants to eat things exactly how Kaitlyn likes them. For example, if we have spaghetti, Kaitlyn likes hers with just butter and Parmesan cheese. So McKenna has hers that way. If we eat spaghetti for lunch (when Kaitlyn is at school), however, McKenna wants it with spaghetti sauce. 

McKenna still needs a lot of sleep. If she doesn't get at least 12 hours of sleep at night, she needs a nap the next day--not just rest time, but a nap.

Rest time is 30 minutes typically.

You might remember that shortly before Brinley was born, we had McKenna and Kaitlyn share a room (see Room Sharing Log). It didn't go to well--McKenna could not leave Kaitlyn alone. She was also at the time the type to need to sing at the top of her lungs to fall asleep.

Well, she was 3 then. She is 5 now. We decided to give it another try. McKenna still rememebred the last time we tried and what happened when she didn't listen. She has been wanting Kaitlyn to share with her this whole time, so she was very willing to be good.

She has been great! She stays in her bed until it is time to get out, even if Kaitlyn leaves the room. She is quiet. She doesn't try to steal Kaitlyn's blankets. She is the model room sharer. It is SO NICE to have all of the girl toys in one room instead of spread between the two. Brayden is loving having his own room again (he was starting to feel modest). All around, it has been a great change. 

To catch you up, she was a great swimmer (still is--her teacher says she is very much a natural). She decided she was terrified of having lessons. She isn't terrified to swim, just to have a swimming lesson. Pure terror here. At this point, she is even tall enough to touch the ground and bob up easily for air. Even so, swimming lessons are terrifying for her. 

Our plan was to do group lessons, but the lessons didn't work with our schedule. So her teacher asked her if she would swim with her just for play. McKenna is all about play so she agreed. Her teacher gets her to do things just in a play way. It isn't as beneficial as actual lessons, but it is a step in the right direction. 

McKenna still has ear tubes and she says it hurts her ears for them to go under water. She will get her tubes out in late May, so I am interested to see if that changes her feelings toward lessons at all.

McKenna has gotten much, much better about how well she listens to me. She still has a tenancy to argue despite her never receiving any benefit from doing so. She is strong-willed and apparently likes to debate. This is definitely something I would like her to learn to control. I like her willingness to confront things when she feels the need, but she needs to be more respectful toward authority figures. She often now says to me, "Can I please tell you something?" when she has a debate in her. I like that much better than the flat out debater. 

McKenna loves her siblings. She wants to be just like Kaitlyn. Her favorite color is whatever Kaitlyn's favorite color is. She wants to eat whatever Kaitlyn is eating. 

McKenna has a special love for Brinley and is still obsessed with her. 

McKenna and Brayden have the least in common of all of my children. They get along fine, but McKenna prefers to do girly things and Brayden isn't into that. When they play, they find something to do that has mutual interest, like Legos or a board game. 

McKenna has always been very independent and still is. She has a lot of initiative in life and that spills over into her independence. Add in two older siblings she wants to emulate and it can create problems when she wants to be independent outside of her funnel. 

McKenna is obsessed with playing board games. Every day after Brinley goes down for a nap, we sit and play a game together. It is fun to play with her and teach her strategy. 

It is so interesting to see how your different children are. McKenna doesn't sit still much, but she loves the ballet. Loves. Kaitlyn gets bored with no talking or singing, but McKenna loves it. She comments on how impressed she is with how well they do different things. 

Here is our typical schedule:

7:00 AM Wake up, get dressed, eat breakfast. Daily chore.
9 AM Go to school.
12 Noon Get home and eat lunch. Free play with Brinley.
1 PM Game time with me. 
2 PM Rest time.
2:30 PM Indpendent playtime
4 PM Play with Brayden and Kaitlyn
5-5:30 PM Dinner then time with family
7 PM Start getting ready for bed
8 PM in bed

Monday, April 14, 2014

Growing Onions {Watch My Garden Grow Series}

So far, I have talked about growing peas, lettuce, and spinach. Onions are next on my list. If you think onions are good, just wait until you try one from your garden. There is no comparison to one bought at the store. Onions are something I feel like I have a lot to learn about. Every crop I have had has been just fine and great, but I still feel like I have room for growth here. This is a crop I would have assumed was an easy one to grow, and not everything about an onion is intuitive (at least to me). I guess they are complicated, with all of their layers and all...

There are many varieties of onions. I like to plant a yellow onion, a red onion, and a sweet onion. I don't always plant sweet onions because they are hard to find in sets, and I hate to spend more money on the plants. 

Once again, if you are new to gardening, don't miss my Gardening: Getting Started Tips.

What you need:
  • Dirt
  • Seeds, Sets, or started plants: I like "sets." These are what look like flower bulbs. In my area, I haven't had luck with seeds (though I know people who do). I also don't like the ones you buy with greenery. Onions are supposed to be hearty, but I have lost plants to late spring frosts (and have had friends lose them, too). So I prefer the set because the greenery doesn't come out right away and gives the plant a couple of weeks to get past the frosts. Sets are also significantly cheaper than the plant starts. 
  • Water
onion sets

Also handy: 
  • Hand shovel
When to plant:
I plant this the same time as I plant my peas, lettuce, and spinach. The rule here is you plant in the spring as soon as the soil is dry enough to work. Onions grow the most when the days are longest with the sun, so if you live somewhere where the days get longer and shorter, you want them in the garden early enough to benefit from these long growing days.

Where to plant:
Plant them in full sun. Last year, mine were in part shade. They still grew fine, but they were smaller. One one hand, the size they were was actually perfect for my use--I usually get gigantic onions. They do grow best in full sun.

How to plant:
roots down
  1. Prep your soil. You want it loose. Again, we till in the spring (do not add compost in the spring--you want that in the fall). 
  2. Mark your rows where you want your onions. We do about 30 feet of onions. I divide them up how I want them. I find yellow onions store the best over winter, so I prefer to have more of those than other onions.
  3. My husband like to flatten the row with a landscaping rake (he does this for anything we plant. If he isn't around, I am lazy and don't do it. His way is nicer, my ways is faster). 
  4. Plant according to directions based on what you plant. If you plant a set, I plant so the roots are down and just a little bit of the top of the set is sticking up. 
  5. NOTE: My cats love onions. They go out and roll around with the onions. They often dig up the bulbs. I just replant them. 
  6. Water well after planting. 
prepping with the landscape rake

How to care for onions:
  1. The growing process is simple. If you planted them close together, thin them out once the greenery is up and you can tell which ones are going to make it and which didn't/won't.
  2. Onions like a lot of water.
How to harvest:
onions blossoming
the row on the right is smashed
  • The onion greenery will blossom. At this point, I take note of the date and mark two weeks ahead on my calendar.
  • Two weeks after they blossomed, smash the greenery to the ground, but leave the greenery on the onion. Leave the onions in the ground. 
  • Two weeks after you smashed the greenery, pull up the onions. Cut off the greenery. Set them somewhere in the sun to dry out for a couple of days. I usually put mine on our patio table.
    *CAVEAT: My neighbor goes out and just picks an onion when she wants it, no matter the size or status of the greenery. She doesn't mind it at all. So you can always try other things and see how you like it. If you want to store your onions for as long as they will keep, follow this process.

How to store:
I like to store my onions in nylons. After they have dried out, I put them in a knee high stocking with a knot between each onion. I then put them in my cool, dark, dry storage room. When I need an onion, I cut off the knot. 

Do you have tips for growing onions?

Also in this series:

Friday, April 11, 2014

MOZO shoes {Giveaway!}

Today's giveaway is for a pair of MOZO shoes! You can enter to win either the Fab Flat (pictured above) or the Sport (pictured below) in your color and size choice. 

I chose to try out the Sport. I really like the look of the Fab Flat, but my feet have such high arches that sometimes that style of shoe looks really bad on my foot, so I didn't want to try it without trying it on first. I like the sport! It is definitely not made with the high-arched person in mind, but it did stretch rather quickly. Kaitlyn asked me where I got such cute shoes.

The shoes have waxed canvas so they are water resistant. They are breathable. They have slip-resistant soles, which is nice for me right now since I am walking with an ankle I am always afraid of re-injuring.

Enter below for your own pair to try out! You will win the style, size, and color of your choice.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

  • You must enter the giveaway to have an entry.
  • You must fulfill the rules of each entry for each entry to count. If I see the entry is not valid (did not meet entry requirements), I will disqualify your entry. Trust me, I check.
  • Entries will be accepted until 12:00 midnight April 18, 2014 (so that means you will not be able to enter on the 4 at all).
  • The winner will be randomly selected through Rafflecopter.
  • The winner will be announced sometime after the winner is chosen. I will email the winner.
  • Once the winner is announced, you will have one week to contact me or another winner will be chosen. Be sure to check back and/or check your email. The only thing worse than not winning is to win but not realize it in time.
  • I will not use your email address for any purpose other than contacting you if you are the winner (and FYI, I don't have access to the email addresses except for the winner).
  • US Shipping addresses only.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Communicating Acceptance not Rejection {Guest Post}

by Rachel Norman

Most mothers do not purposefully reject their children. In fact, if you are reading this blog, you are probably a proactive parent who looks to find ways to nurture and love your child above and beyond simply meeting their needs. Because this is a community of purposeful mothers, and because I know you want to raise independent, thoughtful and caring children, let's talk about how we can avoid giving our children the perception they are being rejected, even when we know they are not.

If children perceive something as real, it will be real in its consequences. Simply put, if your children feel you are rejecting them (even when you are not) they will suffer its effects. Now, I don't say this so that we become paranoid and give in to our children's every whim - goodness no - but so we can be aware of various things that are important to the heart of a child, and be sure to respond appropriately.

Here are some thoughts on how we can help our children to feel as accepted, nurtured and part of our family as we know they are.

 1. Listen no matter what they're saying. 
Children will go through phases where they say everything on their minds and seem to narrate each situation to phases where they don't want to talk to you. The key to making your children feel accepted is to listen to them when they speak. I have a hard time with this if I perceive my preschooler is making no sense. However, I've learned that she knows exactly what she's saying, and that sometimes I just need to listen harder.

If they are emotional and seeking to communicate something to you then you flat sure need to listen. I've written on why it's important that we let children tell us how they really feel, and believe every word. If they are always tattling about one sibling, watch closer. Is there some perceived unfairness? Does one child seem to dominate? Are privileges distributed unevenly?

 If a child is talking 'nonsense' about animals or monsters in the night, don't say "honey, you know there aren't monsters" and move on. My daughter will often ask me the same question repeatedly over the course of a few days, and I know this is her way of being reassured of the truth. The truth is (for the 1,356th time) there are no monsters, but the truth is also that she becomes scared in the night on occasion. We've taught her how to pray to Jesus, call for us, and tell the monster to go away. She doesn't often need to call for us, but she does need our reassurance that she isn't irrational, crazy or stupid for feeling how she feels.

 2. Draw a line between moral and non-moral decisions. 
Babywise speaks of being spoilt for choice, or making sure our children don't get too wise in their own eyes. I think this is very important, but think we must balance this with giving our children appropriate freedoms that are specific to their own personalities. If children are consistently told "no" to something they are genuinely interested in they will begin to feel rejected. Or in layman's terms, they'll feel as though their preferences and desires aren't important to you.

If they like to wear clothes that don't match, then let them. To church or school? Maybe not. At home and knocking around town, why not? They don't understand polka dots and plaid in pastels and solids don't look great together, but they'll eventually get it. Show you value how God made them by allowing them to do various things they want as long as they are morally sound. In fact, create opportunity where they'll be allowed to do whatever they want. Not all day every day, obviously, but make it a point to give them free rein and show them you value their opinion.

If they want to decorate their room in Spongebob Squarepants and you hate yellow then just remember, it isn't your room. This won't prevent them from getting into college, finding a godly spouse, or having children. It's their room decorations. Sometimes we have to sacrifice our own preferences to make room for their opinions to shine.

 3. Spend individual time with each child. 
The more children you have the harder this is to put into practice. Believe me, I know. While I only have 3 children, they are close together in age which prevents me from having too much time to spend on each individual child since they are all so young. I'll try to fit in time by taking one on an errand at a time when I can. Then I'll shower special attention on that child and try to make even a mundane trip to the grocery store feel fun. Sometimes it's just about your child not having to fight though the family crowd to have your undivided attention that makes all the difference.

Whether you take your children on dates with respective parents, rotate independent playtimes so you are alone with ones at different times, or pick child specific activities, spending individual time with your children communicates that you love the for them. Not just because they are part of the family (which they are). Not just because you birthed them or adopted them (which you did). But because you like them. You like who they are. You like who God made them. Parts of them completely outside of your control need to be accepted and praised. That's how children feel accepted.

4. Mind you don't have a favorite. 
I've written a whole post asking the question Do You Have a Favorite Child, but I'll start here by saying that there is a difference in having a child that you get along with easily, and having a favorite child. I was in a room with 50 adults when we were asked to raise our hands if we grew up knowing we were not the favorite and over half the class raised their hands. Over half! This is not a laughing matter.

One particular season happened a while ago and my daughter was in a difficult phase and my son was in an adorable phase. Without knowing it (and without having a favorite in my heart) I started to spend more positive time with him. After all, he was smiling. She was not. Then she started saying she was a boy. Being the genius I am I figured out what happened, started putting specific positive time in with her and it sorted itself out. Though she was too young to articulate what she was feeling, she had begun to feel that her brother was the favorite and insecurities came out as a result.

5. Guard against being present but absent. 
One of the most interesting and unexpected ways our children can feel rejected by us is when we are present and yet absent. I've written on being present but absent extensively here, but let's get into it briefly. Being present but absent means that you are physically present yet emotionally, mentally or relationally absent. This is being in the same room as your children but ignoring them while playing on your cell phone. This is being emotionally unavailable and unable to have a real or deep conversation with our children outside the superficial. This is being too stressed or caught up in other matters to pay attention to them.

Being present but absent causes a child to feel they aren't worth your time and attention. Of course there are things in life that must get done and I'm not suggesting we focus 100% on our children to the detriment of other things. However, there needs to be time of emotional connection between our children and us. I've spoken with many women who grew up with both a mother and father in the home and yet suffer from "daddy issues" just as much as those who grew up without a father. Why? Because though they were physically present, emotionally they were not.

Being a regular at Babywise mom, I'm sure you are already well on your way to creating a nurturing, safe, and orderly household. If you take one thing away from this post (and please don't take away stress or fear you are secretly rejecting them even though you don't mean to) take away this: be sure to value the God-given attributes your child possesses. When your kids know you value the parts of them that are specific to them, they will loved and accepted even though their parents aren't perfect.

Rachel blogs at A Mother Far From Home

Related Posts of Mine:

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Balancing Household Responsibilities with Family Time

For me, one of the hardest things to figure out as a parent is the balance of taking care of my house and taking care of my family. I have these physical responsibilities--I need to cook and clean. Making meals, doing laundry, and keeping the house clean and organize really are enough to keep you busy. Then you add a husband and children to the mix. I need to teach my children. I need to read to my children. I need to play with my children. I need to spend time with my husband. I am also supposed to be "me" and have "me" time doing what I enjoy doing so that I can be a balanced person. I should also serve others and help in my church and in my town. I need to attend to the emotional and spiritual training of my children. I could do things like garden and sew clothes to help save our family money.

When you think about it, it gets a tad overwhelming.

And the question always arises--how much time should I spend cleaning and doing the myriad of other chores versus how much time should I be spending with my children. 

Oh how I wish I had the answer. I don't. I do have some ideas to give you to help you determine this for yourself. I also have some tips to help you with implementation.

How Children Spell Love...

Dr. Anthony P. Witham said, "Children spell love...T-I-M-E." Giving our time to our children is giving our love. I can't tell you how often I am told by the older generation about how quickly the time goes and how much I will miss these days. I recently grilled a friend of mine who is a great-grandmother. "Okay, but do you really, really miss having things perpetually dirty. Things like windows?" I know this woman takes great pride in her windows and she washes them more times in a year than I have washed mine in my lifetime. She sincerely replied, "Yes, I do." I pressed her further, "So after your grand children and great grandchildren leave, do you leave the finger prints up for a while or do you clean them?" "Oh, I leave them!" was her reply. 

I love these thoughts from Thomas S. Monson:

“Near the end of his life, one father looked back on how he had spent his time on earth. An acclaimed, respected author of numerous scholarly works, he said, ‘I wish I had written one less book and taken my children fishing more often.’
“Time passes quickly. Many parents say that it seems like yesterday that their children were born. Now those children are grown, perhaps with children of their own. ‘Where did the years go?’ they ask. We cannot call back time that is past, we cannot stop time that now is, and we cannot experience the future in our present state. Time is a gift, a treasure not to be put aside for the future but to be used wisely in the present.”

For more on time, see:
Make a List of Priorities
With these time thoughts in mind, I think it is helpful to actually sit down and write out your responsibilities. Write down the tasks you need to accomplish. Write down the tasks you would like to accomplish. 

Next, prioritize these items. Think, "In ten years, what will I regret having neglected?" 

While in the moment, I think cleaning is a big priority for me in life. I think I want my house very clean. But when I look at these things written down, I realize there are other things I hold in much higher priority level that for some reason often get pushed to the side in favor of other things. Perhaps it is because it is easy to see the fruits of your efforts while cleaning, but it is not so immediately easy to see the fruits of effort put in on something like praying daily with your child. 

This past weekend, we had our bi-annual General Conference for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. This idea of balancing my household responsibilities with my family time has been on my mind as I have felt I needed to revamp how I am allocating my time. This quote came up during the conference:

It really couldn't be put more simply than that. The only things that need to be accomplished are prayer, scripture study, and having Family Home Evening each week (read more about 

Family Home Evening here.) 

That's it.

Sure people need to eat and all of that kind of stuff, but I know I for one often make that more complicated than it has to be. In our modern world, eating can be done easily and simply (and the kids never mind those meals). 

This quote reminds me of a couple of others I have seen on Pinterest in the past and have written about:

Make it Part of Your Routine--Have it On Your List
Once you realize what your priorities are in the grand scheme of things, a trick I find works for me is to put it on my list. One thing I wanted to do daily with McKenna was to practice reading with her each day. This has been very easy for me to push aside and let other things take its place. Several months ago, I added it to my list of things to do each day. Now it doesn't get pushed aside! 

Do this for anything you find you push aside. Do you want to have one-on-one time with your child each day? Put it on the list! Whatever you want to do, add it to your "to do" list. That way you won't forget about it.

Also, choose a point in the day when you want it to happen and make that part of the routine. Make it part of daily life. Children have less to think about and rarely let parents forget about things. Your child will remind you when it is time to read scriptures together if you make it part of every day. 

Establish Traditions
Along the same lines, make certain things that are important to you a tradition. It is important to me that our family spend time together. We all enjoy playing games, so each Sunday afternoon, we have a tradition to play a game together. We rotate who gets to choose the game and we all play it. The kids never let us forget that Sunday is time for a family game.  

Involve Children in Chores
Now, as nice as spending all of this time is together, the reality is that certain things must be done. Laundry must be faced at some point. No matter how simple the meal, it must be made. Have your children join you in these tasks. Not only will you be able to teach your child how to do these things, you will be spending time with each other.

Don't think that the time you spend with your child must be done so in "fun and games." Those things are nice, but that isn't all there is to life. Work is valuable and teaching our children to work is valuable. You can still have fun while you work, but there is nothing wrong with spending time with your child planting a garden, making dinner, folding laundry, sweeping, etc. 

Many hands make light work, and if your children contribute to making the work around the home "light," then the parents will be more readily available to happily have those fun times.

For more on chores, see:
Let Things Slide
This one is so hard for me! But this was a valuable lesson I learned while my foot was severely hurt this past Winter. It is okay if things get messy sometimes. It is okay if you don't get everything to the state of perfection each day. The world keeps spinning. 

Whatever you do, don't drive yourself crazy by trying to keep things clean all of the time. Most of us start out with kids and try to keep things up all of the time. Once I had three kids, I realized it was absolutely ludicrous to try to follow my kids around all day cleaning up after them. We all have our morning chore we do each day. We all help clean up after meals. And then we all clean up before bed. I no longer try to keep things in a constant state of clean.

Let them be kids while still teaching them to be responsible. Again, this is another one of those balancing acts. 

Simplify Where You Can
It is easy to over complicate life. It is easy to try to do things just because we can. For example, I could spend a lot of time decorating things up all cute for my kids birthdays. I love to do crafts. I would enjoy it. My kids would enjoy the result. But ultimately, it is pretty low on my list of priorities and so I just don't. I love this quote:

Life is complex. Very complex. Our opportunities are endless. Because of how complex life is today, we really need to put effort into bringing simplicity to our lives. Figure out what this means for you. 

What You Don't Need To Do
Here is what you don't need to do. You don't need to take spending time with your children to the extreme. You don't need to spend every available minute with your child. You don't need to let your house get all messy in order to spend time with your children. Children can play alone at times. Children can play with each other. Children can spend time entertaining themselves. So don't read this and think you need to be giving every available moment of the day to time with your child. We really do all need time apart to do our own thing. Remember, the title keyword here is "Balancing." We do have real-world responsibilities. We do need to have time to ourselves sometimes. 

You also don't need to be perfect. Try something out for a while and then analyze it. How are you feeling about the balance? Do you need to let up on the "chores"? Do you need to give more attention to the chores? It is okay to tweak things as you go. 

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Brinley Toddler Summary {20 Months Old}

This is a summary for Brinley from 19.5-20 Months Old.

Sleep got back to normal during this time. That time change--it is hard for me! I swear it takes me a month to get back into my normal morning routine. It was definitely harder on her being this age and not having some time to adjust slowly over time. Moving cold turkey had an impact in a negative way. If I didn't have school schedules to deal with, I definitely would have done a slow change over for a child this age. But we survived it and we are back to sleeping as usual.

Eating is the same. She continues to surprise me with her food tastes. We give her spicy foods and she just loves them!

I have realized that while Brinley doesn't mind doing Independent Playtime alone, and she in fact asks for it every morning, she does not like to free play alone. If she isn't in Independent Play, she wants to be with someone. Since it is often just she and I, I am that someone. She doesn't mind following me around as I do things, but she feels compelled to go through the cupboards and drawers in order to entertain herself. 

One day, she brought along some princess toys. I primarily spend my time on the main floor of our house and I don't usually allow toys there--I keep them all on one floor so the mess is contained. This isn't to say we never have toys enter the main floor, but I try to keep them away so we don't have toy mess on top of everything else. Anyway, she carried the princesses along with her and didn't get into all of my cupboards, so that was great! I think if I am doing things, I will have her carry some toys along to entertain herself with.

It is interesting how fast things can leave. The high-pitched screaming I talked about last time is no more. She doesn't do it to me at least. 

She was very grumpy during this time, though. She was into some tantrums. It is quite the amusing sequence because she carefully places herself on the floor when she is really mad. Some kids will throw themselves down and hurt themselves, but she is careful to keep herself safe. It makes the tantrum far less believable ;). 

We had pretty much the worst cold ever come through our house. I got it too. Seriously awful. 

8:15--wake up. Eat breakfast (fruit, cereal, and milk)
Get ready. Clean with mom.
10:00 Independent Playtime.
11:30 Play
12:00 Lunch.
Play with McKenna.
1:00--Nap starts
4:00-4:30--wake up. Snack. Play.
7:30--Sippy of milk, then bedtime. In bed by 8:00.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Growing Spinach and Lettuce {Watch My Garden Grow Series}

When I first started a garden about 7 years ago, I was probably the most scared to grow spinach and lettuce. They seem so dainty and tender. I was sure I would mess this up. My husband's grandmother and grandfather are master gardeners, and they assured me that the lettuce and spinach would be easy. His grandmother even went so far as to tell me that I couldn't kill those things if I tried.

They were right! Lettuce and spinach are very easy. They are hearty and can survive the cold snaps very well. If you missed it, you might want to read about my Gardening: Getting Started Tips.

What you need:
  • Dirt
  • Seeds for what you want to grow. We grow spinach and then we buy a variety of lettuce seeds that grow red leaf, green leaf, romain, black...This is the lettuce blend I am currently using from Gurney's. I have also bought a blend from my local nursery and liked that, also. I don't have a favorite spinach right now. I like the kind I have used fine (it is from my local nursery), but I want to switch to a baby spinach variety next year.
  • Water
Also handy:
  • Hand shovel. This is not necessary.
When to plant:
I plant this the same time as I plant my peas. The rule here is you plant in the spring as soon as the soil is dry enough to work. Lettuce gets bitter-tasting in the heat, so you want it planted early enough that you beat the heat. We plant late March into mid-April. Remember to check to find out when you should plant in your particular climate. 

Where to plant:
I usually plant mine in full sun and that has worked well. Last year we were in partial shade and it was still fine, but the spinach didn't grow as much. I am not sure if it was the partial shade or not. This year, I am back to planting in full sun.

You can see the back half of this row is spinach and the front half is lettuce.
There isn't a lot here! It is more than enough for our family.
How to plant:
  1. Prep your soil. You want it loose. Again, we till in the spring (do not add compost in the spring--you want that in the fall).
  2. Mark your rows where you want your spinach and lettuce. We do a half row of spinach and  a half row of lettuce and it is more than enough for us.
  3. You want to plant the seeds about 1/4 inch deep. This isn't very deep. What we do is use a finger or the end of a shovel and create a trench where we want to plant. Then we sprinkle the seeds in the trench. The seeds are super small, so we just sprinkle away. 
  4. Water after planting and water well after planting. Germination is in about 4-10 days, but can be longer if it is cold. 
How to care for spinach and lettuce:
  1. Once the plants are big enough that they touch, you can thin so they are 4-8 inches apart. You can use what you pull out in a salad!
  2. Keep plants well-watered. This will keep them alive but will also keep leaves tender. 
  3. Even though I live in a dry climate, I find my lettuce can get slugs. Ew. I treat around my lettuce and spinach with Escar-Go! from Gurney's. I do this once a month. Last year, I didn't put grass clippings around my lettuce and spinach. This made it so the slugs were not a problem. I didn't have to do Escar-Go! monthly. Another benefit I found for this was that I didn't have grass clippings in my lettuce when I picked it.
How to harvest:
  • You can pick spinach and lettuce leaves as soon as you want to. The amazing thing about these plants is that you don't have to harvest the entire thing at once. I just go to each plant and pick out the largest leaves from each (these are typically on the outside initially, then you work your way in). I keep going until I have as much as I want. 
  • A trick with lettuce is if you pick it, wash it, then put it in a plastic bag in your fridge, it will crisp up. We usually use ours freshly picked, and it is wilty then. If you want it crisp, pick some early and keep it in your fridge. 
  • Don't let your spinach leaves get too big. They get thicker as time goes. They definitely taste better when they are young and tender. 
  • By early to mid July, we typically pick all of our lettuce and spinach, wash it, and store it in the fridge. If we have more than we can eat, we give it away. It we leave it longer, it gets bitter tasting. 
Do you have any tips you have found for lettuce and spinach? Does it grow well in your area?

Growing Peas

Monday, March 31, 2014

Spring Break 2014

You know the saying "If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it is a duck?" Well, that saying doesn't always apply to every situation. The weather may not be looking like and sounding like spring, but never-the-less, it is Spring Break! 

And so I will be taking a break this week from blogging to spend time with my family. Have a great week! 

For some reading this week, I thought I would direct your attention to some of my most popular posts from 2007. There aren't a lot of posts from that year since I started in November, but many of these are still my most popular posts on this blog. These are in no particular order.

When to Move to a 4 Hour Schedule
Growth Spurts
Sleepy Newborns


Consistent Schedule Start Your Day Right

Should You Do CIO?

Friday, March 28, 2014

StaySharp Commuter Cuff {Giveaway}

Today's giveaway is a very nifty invention. It is called a StaySharp Commuter CuffCombining a love for accessories with a passion for products that solve problems, Boston based company Exposed Seam offers a StaySharp Commuter Cuff for those who commute on bicycles. No longer necessary are rubber bands, rolled up pants, grease on clothing, or shoe laces caught in chains. StaySharp's unique shape keeps pants clean and helps keep laces away from your gears and chain – plus riders won’t look like they are digging for clams.

These are made in the USA. They help keep your pants clean and laces out of the gears and chain. It has a reflective strip on the back. Here is some info on how it got started (I love to hear how things were invented):
The Creators:
Jonathan and Jenifer Stark began Exposed Seam out of a mutual love of cycling and style.  Jonathan, who has commuted all over Boston by bike for many years engaged Jenifer's MassArt fashion design skills to solve his constant problem of ruined shoelaces and pants.  Sympathetic to her husband's plight, the StaySharp Communter Cuff was born.

The first production run was made right in the couple's live/work studio at the 300 Summer St. Artist's Building, and they have since grown their business to enlist the help of a local manufacturing facility in Fall River, MA.  Jonathan and Jen are committed to keeping their cuffs made in the USA.

Jonathan's background in video development and marketing coupled with Jenifer's web design and e-commerce skills have also helped make Exposed Seam a home grown venture.  They hope to continue to reach new cyclists each year and spread the word that doing what's good for your body and the planet never means having to sacrifice your style.

Today you can enter to win one of your own!

  • You must enter the giveaway to have an entry.
  • You must fulfill the rules of each entry for each entry to count. If I see the entry is not valid (did not meet entry requirements), I will disqualify your entry. Trust me, I check.
  • Entries will be accepted until 12:00 midnight April 4, 2014 (so that means you will not be able to enter on the 4 at all).
  • The winner will be randomly selected through Rafflecopter.
  • The winner will be announced sometime after the winner is chosen. I will email the winner.
  • Once the winner is announced, you will have one week to contact me or another winner will be chosen. Be sure to check back and/or check your email. The only thing worse than not winning is to win but not realize it in time.
  • I will not use your email address for any purpose other than contacting you if you are the winner (and FYI, I don't have access to the email addresses except for the winner).
  • US Shipping addresses only.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Birthday Friend Party Tips

Birthday parties with friends is basically every child's dream and frankly a nightmare for many parents. I have good friends who never do a friend party all the way to friends who do friend parties every year. There is no one right or wrong way to do parties--just what is right or wrong for your family. Here are some tips to get you thinking about what you want to do.

Choose a Frequency Policy
As I said, I have friends who do parties every year and I have friends who never do parties. I also have friends who land everywhere in between. I find this subject so fascinating that I pretty much ask everyone I know what their policies are. Here are some sample policies:
  • Never
  • Every year
  • Every year. The child can choose either a party at home with friends or to invite one friend to go out and do something "bigger"--like going to a movie or something.
  • Every other year--the family chooses either to have birthdays on odd years or even birthdays
  • Totally random. Whatever suits their lives at the time
  • Have parties at milestone birthdays. "Milestone" is whatever you make of it. Some do 1 and 5. Some do 8 and 16. Some do 5, 8, and 12. Some do 6, 8, 12, and 16. Those are just some examples--a milestone year is whatever you think it is. 
Are you wondering what my policy is? So am I! Seriously--my husband and I have never settled on an exact plan. I see merit to all plans and like almost all of them. My husband's opinions change. A year ago, he thought we should do it every year and didn't think it was a big deal (but I pointed out he wasn't the one planning the parties). This year, he thinks it shouldn't be every year.

I love the every other year thing, but my three older kids are pretty on top of each other so far as when they fall in the year, and they are also all two years apart, so if we did "even" years, then I would still be having three birthdays right in a row to plan. I worry about forgetting who is up if we did it off-set. 

I like the milestone idea fine, but I think we are more of the type to do parties more frequently than many people do in the milestone plan.

I don't even mind the random thing--it makes sense to base it on what is going on at the time and if it makes sense that year for you, but I worry about "squeaky wheel" thing happening--I have some children who would push for a party and some who would politely wait for their turn and get looked over.

I really like the idea of offering a friend party or a fun activity. I think that allows children who aren't party people the chance to celebrate in a fun way without being uncomfortable in a party setting (all of my children so far love parties, but I know some children are shy). The trouble I see with this is how do you choose just one friend? 

So far, one policy we have set firmly is that friend parties do not start until age 5. I find that age to be the age the children are able to participate in games and listen well enough that it isn't usually super stressful. 

We do not do a party at age 6. We just never have. 

Brayden had a party at 7 and we are planning on doing the same for Kaitlyn.

Now, age 8 is a big birthday for us being Mormon. That is the age the child is baptized if they choose to be. Because of that, we decided to do a friend party at 8 also. But then we realized, that doesn't make a lot of sense. Then we are planning a party with friends as well as planning a baptism and hosting the family that comes to that. So it is a lot going on all at once. 

Brayden is one of my "squeaky" children who loves to have parties and he wants one as a 9 year old, also. We haven't decided if he will or not.

Choose a Party Length
The length of your party will depend on what activities you plan to include. As I have asked around, most people have it be 1.5-2 hours long. Some go longer.

For age 5, I like 1.5. When Kaitlyn turned 5, we did 2 hours and at the 1.5 hour point a little girl said, "This is a really long party." My husband and I felt that too! For McKenna's birthday turning 5, we did 1.5 hours and that was perfect. 

For age 8, we did 2 hours and that worked out well.

Choose a Theme
You don't have to have a theme, but I find it makes the party planning much easier. With Pinterest around, this is so much easier than it has ever been. I always go with whatever my child is the most interested in at the time. Brayden has done Indiana Jones, Star Wars, and Nerf. Kaitlyn did Cowgirl and will do Animal Safari. McKenna did Princesses. See my Birthday Parties board here.

Make a Guest List
Talk to your child about who he wants to invite. Brayden often wants to keep his parties smaller. McKenna and Kaitlyn have to be kept in some parameters. With them I have them choose if they will be going with friends from church or friends from school (and some overlap). We usually keep it to 12 or fewer.

Choose Activities
Once you have your theme and have an idea for how many children you want to invite, you can choose your activities. We have found that some sort of scavenger hunt keeps the children focused an interested in the activities. We do a clue that leads to an activity, and then once the activity is over, they get the next clue. They have some overall problem they are trying to solve (searching for treasure or a lost slipper). For Kaitlyn's 5th, we just had different cowgirl-related activities and that didn't keep the children as engaged as the scavenger hunts have been.

For Brayden's Star Wars party, my husband set up an obstacle course in the backyard and did "Jedi Training." So each activity helped them learn to be a Jedi. For his Nerf party, they did shooting training and then split into teams and had a Nerf war.

Be sure whatever you plan, you have an ability to do it inside or outside. For almost every party we have had, it has rained. 

Oh, and of course, Pinterest is a great resource for this, also.
digging for treasure at the Indiana Jones party

Decide on Cake and Decorations
Choose a cake to make and the decorations you want. Just a little tip--young children don't pay much attention to the details adults put into decorations for parties. I do not put much time, effort, or money into decorations. The kids just don't appreciate and it creates busy work for you. If you enjoy such things and it brings you joy, go for it! But please don't feel like you have to go to great lengths just because Pinterst parties are full of those efforts. 

For cake, I like cupcakes for friend parties. They are easy to distribute and eat.

Make Invitations
You can buy invitations at the store or from Oriental Trading (or places like Etsy or Shutterfly). You can also print something up on your computer or make them by hand. 

Deliver Invitations
I like to deliver invitations just over one week early. Two weeks can be good. You don't want it so early that people forget. You also don't want it so close that people have other plans. I like just over one week because I am the type who does errands on a certain day every week. It is challenging to me to get an invitation a few days before a party and have to make a special trip to buy a present. So I do it just over a week to give people time to go shopping. Side note: I have friends who stock up on gifts so they don't have to go shopping. I think this is a great idea. For some reason, I can't bring myself to do it. I think it is because I get satisfaction out of choosing gifts specific to people. 

Choose Party Favors
Not all regions have party favors, but where I live, people do party favors to send home with the guests. I always choose something that is in the theme of the party. I also never do a bag full of dollar store toys. For Indiana Jones, we were able to find some Safari Hats from Oriental Trading. For Cowgirls, we got cowboy hats and bandanas from Oriental Trading. For Star Wars, it was a light saber. For the princess party, we did a wand and bubbles. For the Nerf party, we did Nerf guns. This was an expensive one, but we needed kids to have Nerf guns for the party to work and it was a special birthday. 

Target training at the Nerf party
Go Somewhere
An alternative is to go somewhere! Many places have birthday packages. Bowling, laser tag, trampoline houses, gymnastics gyms, swimming pools, ice skating arenas...by the time you buy cups, plates, napkins, decorations, invitations, party favors, cake, etc. it is can often be about the same price to go somewhere as it is to have it at home. You pay a little more, but you don't have to prepare your house or clean up after it. 

Take Photos
My good friend Serra offered to take pictures at McKenna's birthday party. It was so great! I hadn't ever thought to have someone be dedicated to it, but it is brilliant. There are so many things I have missed at other parties because I have been managing the party. But having someone whose sole focus in to take photos is a great way to capture many special moments. You can ask a friend, neighbor, aunt, grandma...etc. 

So there are my tips so far! Do you have any tips? What is your friend party policy?

You can follow the ladies in the Babywise Friendly Networked Blogs on Pinterest. See our favorite party ideas here: http://www.pinterest.com/bfbnnetwork/birthdays-and-parties/ We are all blogging on birthdays today!


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