Thursday, August 29, 2013

McKenna Preschooler Summary: 4 Years 3, 4, and 5 months

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So....I was just planning out my posts for next month and realized I needed a McKenna summary in there...and realized I haven't done one for three months! Crazy! This a summary for McKenna age four and months 3-5.

EATING
Eating is normal. 

SLEEPING
Sleeping is good. Night is great. I think she needs some naps some days, though. The older kids were out of school during this period because of summer, and I just didn't do rest time with her consistently. Now that school is back in session, we are doing rest time each day and that is a huge help--she sleeps if she needs it and just rests if she doesn't. 

I have also noticed if she is in bed by 8:15 PM, she is very nice and very well behaved. If she is up past 8:15 PM--she gets very disobedient. We have huge motivation to get her in bed on time!

SWIMMING
Oh swimming! She was doing well, then totally freaked out again. She was convinced her teacher would let her sink, which made no logical sense. Her teacher had never let her sink at all and had never threatened to let her sink...McKenna is usually logical, but when she decides to be illogical, her emotional side takes over and she can't be talked out of it. She had gone months without progressing at all. On one hand, it isn't a worry because we are paying the same amount either way and she is the age Brayden was when he had his first lesson ever, so I am not worried about how fast she is progressing on skills. But I don't want her refusing to do things for her teacher and I of course would prefer some progress during lessons.

Her teacher said it was hard because McKenna is a good swimmer--very natural at it. So from the teacher's end, she is obviously feeling frustrated because she has this student to work with with great potential but she won't cooperate. McKenna's ability to swim also made it challenging because with children who are stubborn in the water, you can do certain things and they will stay put because they don't have a choice. McKenna is good enough that she could move herself into a swimming position she preferred and even swim away. 

She was genuinely scared and I couldn't talk her out of it.

So I did some praying. 

We had given it time and it was time for some action because time was not fixing things. We had even given her a month off with no progress.

I realized I needed something to appeal to her that would be stronger than her fear. I thought about what makes McKenna tick. McKenna is very, very competitive. We are constantly telling her "It's not a competition." She wants to be the tallest, fastest, smartest...whatever. She has a lot of drive and whatever it is, she wants to be the best. Like most characteristics, this can have its virtue and its vice so we work to highlight the virtue side and tame the vice side.

I needed to appeal to McKenna's sense of competition. 

So I found a sticker chart. I was going to make one, but I decided this was a time to realize when to "downsize" and I just found a cute blank sticker chart online. I found one that is a ladybug. I printed one out for each child. Then I wrote down the different swim skills to pass off in the circles. Then we put stickers on the chart for the ones we have passed off. McKenna then started asking questions, "Why does Kaitlyn have more stickers than I do.?" "Well, because Kaitlyn listens to teacher and does what teacher asks her to so she passes off these swim skills." That got her thinking

Ever since we have started this, McKenna has faced her fear and has even passed something off for the first time in months! She feels a great sense of accomplishment. I hope to be able to focus on her competing with herself through the charts--seeing herself do better than she has in the past. 

OUR SCHEDULE
This is what our schedule was like in the summer..and it was a lazy one!

9:00--Wake up and eat breakfast. Get ready. Do chores
10:00-- Playtime with siblings. Learning activity.
12:00--Lunch. Then more playing
3:00--Independent Play
4:00--Play with siblings. Sometimes TV time in here at some point.
5:30--Dinner
6:00--Family Activities
7:30--Get ready for bed
8:30--Bedtime 

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Family Home Evening

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source
I often reference our Family Home Evening, but I haven't ever dedicated a post entirely to it. I thought it was high time!

FAMILY HOME EVENING DEFINED
Simply put, Family Home Evening (FHE) is one evening a week when your family gets together to have a gospel-based lesson and spend time together. We also sing a song, pray, have family business, do an activity, and have a treat.

As you probably know, I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. FHE is actually something that is asked of us to do by our Prophet. We are asked to do this on Monday nights if at all possible (having everyone do it the same night means we can have no other activities happening in the church on Monday night--Monday night is family night). This is a "why" vs. "how" thing though--the exact night is not of great importance--the importance is that it happens.

REASONS FOR FAMILY HOME EVENING (THE WHY)
Again, to start simply, it is to protect and strengthen the family. Here is a quote:

"...our dedication to this program will help protect our families against the evils of our time and will bring us abundant joy now and throughout the eternities." (True to the Faith, Family Home Evening).

We are also told:

"It can bring spiritual growth to each member of the family, helping him or her to withstand the temptations which are everywhere. The lessons learned in the home are those that last the longest." Thomas S. Monson

Our church membership was first instructed to hold Family Home Evening in 1915. They were told these blessings would come from FHE:
  • Love at home will increase
  • Obedience to parents will increase
  • Faith will be developed in the youth
  • Youth will gain power to combat evil influences and temptations
OBEDIENCE
These are all great reasons to do FHE. One that can be immediately measured is the obedience to parents. We really noticed this with Brayden when he was young. When he was a baby, we weren't great at having it. It wasn't until Kaitlyn was a baby and he was two that we really started doing this consistently. We saw a marked difference in Brayden's obedience.

Because of that experience, whenever I hear parents concerned about obedience with their children, I tell them to do FHE. So here I am telling you! And the other promises are just as great as the obedience. 

NOT EASY
So the idea is picturesque and all, but let me just warn you, this isn't easy. It isn't like your children happily trot over to the couch each Monday night with excitement in their eyes and then sit still and listen eagerly to what is taught. 

My husband and I often look at each other after we are done and just wonder what is the point? Did anyone get anything out of that lesson? A few years ago, David A. Bednar shared this at our church's General Conference:

"Sometimes Sister Bednar and I wondered if our efforts to do these spiritually essential things were worthwhile. Now and then the verses of scripture were read amid outbursts such as 'He's touching me!' 'Make him stop looking at me!' 'Mom, he's breathing my air!' Sincere prayers occasionally were interrupted with giggling and poking. And with active, rambunctious boys, family home evening lessons did not always produce high levels of edification. At times Sister Bednar and I were exasperated because the righteous habits we worked so hard to foster did not seem to yield immediately the spiritual results we wanted and expected."

That is so true!

He goes on to point out that his sons (now grown) don't remember specific lessons--the lessons were not life changing, defining moments. What the remember is the consistency. He then compares these things we do as parents to creating a beautiful painting. Each prayer, scripture study, and family home evening is one brush stroke and "...our consistency in doing seemingly small things can lead to significant spiritual results."

Another recent quote I love is from Jeffrey R. Holland. He said,

"So if you are trying to do the best you can--if, for example, you keep trying to hold family home evening in spite of the bedlam that sometimes reigns in a household of little bedlamites--then give yourself high marks..."

HA!

So no, it isn't a walk in the park. Know that now. But it is worth it.

And there have been times I have KNOWN my child was not listening during a lesson, but later talks about that lesson and knows what was shared. So even though they seem like they aren't internalizing, they might be.

THE HOW
It is quite simple.
  1. Choose one night of the week. Have it this night every week.
  2. Be consistent. This is like working out--consistency is what brings results. But if you miss a week, don't through it all out the window and assume there will be no benefit.
  3. Our night looks like this: Song, prayer, family business, lesson, activity, treat, closing prayer. Not every night is the exact same--some nights we don't have an activity. Some nights it is all activity.
    1. Note on family business--we each take a turn and share what we have going on for the week. I love this! I love having everyone know what the plans are for the week.
    2. Note on taking turns--we each take a turn doing each thing. So one week, Brayden is on prayer, the next he leads the song, the next he gives the lesson, the next he chooses the activity, etc. We each have a turn for each thing and all rotate.
    3. When it is 
    4. Activities can be a variety of things. You can go for a walk, play a game, do service, go through emergency preparedness things, watch a movie, etc. The idea is to have fun as a family.

CONCLUSION
There you have it! You should give it a try! It is a great way to have scheduled time as a family where you talk about moral standards and get some good quality family time in. You also have the bonus of organizing your week. And of course, being able to refer to your children as bedlamites every so often. It is all a win-win ;)

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Brinley Pre-Toddler Summary: 12 Months Old {One Year!}

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Here it is folks. One year old. This is a summary for Brinley's 53rd week. She was 52 weeks old. I noticed that for McKenna's summaries, I moved to every two weeks at this age. I think I will do that, also. They seem to not have as many dramatic changes week to week as they get older.

NURSING
Done! Done! Done! I don't really know how to describe how I feel about nursing. I obviously find it important and value it. I have nursed all of my babies for one year. I find it nice and easy--it is always ready.

I also find it slightly confining. I have to be there every time baby wants to eat. And I honestly get a little weirded out when the baby gets old enough to start playing with my nipples. Just not my idea of a good time. So by the time the baby is one, I am very ready to be done.

EATING
Her appetite was still lower this week from her sickness. It was slowing increasing, but not up to normal. She pretty much didn't want any purees except for her morning oatmeal and prunes. I started giving her more of what we were eating at meals.

SLEEPING
Sleep was normal--perhaps even a bit sleepier as she wanted some more sleep as she was recovering from being sick.

BIRTHDAY!
Brinley had her birthday this week! Here is what she got for her birthday from us and grandparents:
  • Step2 Big Splash Waterpark (Love it)
  • Sandra Boynton books (we did Happy Hippo/Angry Duck and The Going to Bed Book)
  • BABYBJORN Soft Bib (I like that the pocket stays out to catch food, but the converse side to this is that the bib is more stiff and harder for her to get her arm across her body. Not a huge deal at this age, but a baby a few months younger could possibly not reach the mouth because of it)
  • Baby Doll
  • Fisher-Price Go Baby Go! Poppity Pop Muscial Dino (She LOVES this. It is very similar to the Playskool Busy Ball Popper, but the dino is easier for a 12 month old to use. Brinley loves the busy ball popper, but she can't play with it independently. She can the dino).
  • Britax Boulevard--I threw that in there since I couldn't think of things she needed! "Needed" I guess this is a real need, but she was getting it anyway :)
I don't do big birthdays at all. I make a cake, we have family over for dinner, presents, and cake. 

PRAYING
She started putting her hands together for prayer this week. It is so cute. She also loves family prayer. We kneel down in a circle each night and pray as a a family. When we say "Family prayer!" she zips on over to the spot, gets on her tummy, and puts her hands together for the prayer. 

CAMPING
We went camping during this week. The first night was the roughest night we have ever had with a baby camping. I had to go in and hold her/rock her several times until about 10 PM before she finally went to sleep (not in my arms, but after I rocked her). She had fallen asleep initially, then we put McKenna to bed and it woke her up when we did. Brinley is a SUPER light sleeper. McKenna is a SUPER deep sleeper, so we have never had a problem with her waking up when we put another child to bed when she is already asleep. 

Brinley did sleep fine after that and slept until 7:30 the next morning. This is earlier than her usual wake up time, but much later than I am used to kids getting up when camping.

The second night, we put McKenna to bed before Brinley since McKenna is the deep sleeper. That worked perfectly. 

DOCTOR & VACCINATIONS
Brinley had her well-check visit this week. Everything looked great. She also got her one-year vaccinations. She was not happy with them, but calmed right down with a sucker. Ha! Sticky mess. She didn't have any sort of reaction to the vaccinations at all.

SCHEDULE
8:45--nurse with solids (fruit, cereal, yogurt, finger foods). Independent Playtime happens in this block.
10:30-11:00--nap starts
12:45-1:00--wake up, bottle with solids (veggie, fruit, other foods we are eating)
2:30-3:00--nap starts
5:00--wake up, bottle with solids (veggie, fruit, dinner) 
7:30--bottle, then bedtime. In bed by 8:00-8:30.


RELATED POSTS/BLOG LABELS:

Monday, August 26, 2013

New Skills and Sleep Disruptions {Rolling, Crawling, Standing, etc.}

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When your baby learns a new skill, it is initially very exciting! Your baby rolled over! Your baby is surely a genius and no baby has possibly rolled over as well as your baby just did (nor been half as cute). Am I right?

Then reality hits. New skill is cool, yes, and baby thinks so, too. So baby, who has probably previously been quite the good sleeper, starts wanting to do this new skill in bed instead of sleep. The problem comes when baby has the ability to get into the new skill, but not out of the new skill. For example, baby can roll from back to tummy but not from tummy to back. So baby rolls and then starts crying because he is frustrated that he is stuck on his tummy and he is used to sleeping on his back. Or maybe baby learns to stand up, but doesn't know how to sit back down. He gets a thrill out of standing, but then grasps to the side of the crib in fear because he can't get back down.

Sometimes these disruptions can come not because a new skill is a challenge in some way. Sometimes your baby is just so excited about it that he wants to keep practicing during naps. This can be something as simple as babbling. Then baby practices his new skill long enough that he becomes overly tired and has a hard time falling asleep. 

This is normal!

I have four children and have experienced a sleep disruption brought on by new skills with each one of them--though different children have had disruptions with different skills (not all of them were disrupted by rolling, not all were disrupted by standing, etc.). Rest assured your baby is normal and will get past this hurdle. Your baby will go back to sleeping as usual--you just have to be sure you don't reinforce any new habits you don't want to continue!

HOW LONG WILL IT LAST?
Impossible to give an exact time line .I will say that it has never been an extended length of time for any of my children with any one skill. Follow the suggestions below and my guess would be it will be less than a week. If you reinforce behavior that you don't want to happen, it will last longer than that. 

DO THESE THINGS
While it is normal and even inevitable, there are things you can do to help speed up your baby getting past this disruption.

1-Wear Out the Novelty
Allow your baby plenty of opportunity to practice this skill in the day. If your baby is obsessed with rolling, make sure he gets plenty of time to roll during playtime during the day. Make it your first priority. Once your baby is accustomed to this new skill, he won't feel such a driving need to continue this practice during nap time. You might need to move some practice time into the crib, especially for those who have sleep disruptions associated with standing in the crib.

2-Practice Makes Perfect
Address the issue of baby being able to get out of the situations he is getting into. When Brayden first started standing in the crib, he had a hard time getting back down. He was 7-8 months old when he started standing. Brinley, conversely, was about 10 months old. A ten month old is better at problem solving than a seven month old. Brayden's disruption lasted longer than Brinley's simply because he needed more guidance and help in figuring out how to get back down. Brinley was old enough to figure it out herself while Brayden needed to practice in his crib during playtime.

There actually are things you can do to help encourage baby to figure out how to do certain skills. To get baby to roll over, put a toy just out of reach. Do get baby to roll from tummy to back, arc a toy from the ground over baby's head slowly so baby will follow it--his head is heavy and will help propel him over (just do it on soft ground). 

3-Give it Time
In this practice, you are also helping baby to build the muscle needed to do the skill. Relate it to yourself. Go ahead and do as many push-ups as you can. Ready---go.

Now, say I told you in order to get into a comfortable position for sleep, you needed to double that number. You would need some time to work on this skill to build your muscle to be able to do twice as many push-ups. Your baby needs to build muscles just like we do in order to do physical things. Babies seem to do so much faster than we do, so don't be discouraged by that.  :)

And keep in mind, the length of time will vary a lot. I think age is a huge contributor. As I said, Brayden was about 7-8 months when he started standing in the crib. We  had two days of big disruptions. Kaitlyn was 12 months when she started and we had only one nap of disruptions.

4-Watch Sleep Cues
Because your baby is taking longer to fall asleep, he might wake up early from the nap (though some babies naturally adjust and sleep later--go ahead and let baby get an extra thirty minutes in if you are fortunate enough to have such a baby). Since baby is not napping as well, he might need to go down for the next nap or bedtime a bit earlier than usual. 

5-Help If Needed
Sometimes babies will get themselves into a position they need help out of. That is okay! With all four of my children, I have had to go in at some point to help someone roll back over, lay back down from sitting, or get back down from standing...you can help your baby. 

But I always give baby about five minutes to work it out on his own before I jump in there. It is at the least working the muscles as baby tries to do it. So give baby a chance to do it alone, and if he can't, go ahead and  help. Just be sure you don't fall into the traps listed below...

DO NOT DO THESE THINGS
There are some things to avoid so you don't fall into a trap of "accidental parenting" (starting habits you didn't intend to start). For whatever solution you are thinking of doing to help this disruption, think it through several months and see if it would create more problems in the future. Some people start nursing to sleep and then a month later realize baby won't go to sleep unless he is being nursed. 

1-Don't Stress
Remember, this is normal. I know it can be stressful when your baby isn't sleeping. Do the first four steps I have listed, and then try not to stress about how your baby is taking a long time to fall asleep.

2-Don't Turn This Into a Social Hour
When you do need to go in to help out, don't turn it into a social call. I seriously make myself like another object in the room. I am not happy, mad, amused, or annoyed. I do not make eye contact. I don't talk. I just gently help baby and then leave the room again. Sometimes the baby will cry when you walk out. No surprise! You have just walked in and left again without taking him with you. But he needs to sleep. None of my babies have cried for an extended period of time after I left. Let baby be and within five minutes, he will likely be quiet. 

3-Don't Intervene More Than Needed
Yes, you can help as needed, but don't jump in there more often than needed or sooner than needed. Give baby some time to figure it out on his own before you "rescue." The day will come when baby can do it alone--you want to give baby that chance. 

During practice time, follow the same rule. Don't move baby from his tummy to his back at the first whimper. Let him try to figure it out! Some babies do need some cry it out (CIO) to be able to learn to do it alone. Use your best judgement here--I wouldn't do CIO with a child standing in a crib (though I would be fine waiting a few minutes to see if the baby could get back down on his own before going in). For a baby on his tummy and upset, I feel fine with some CIO. If a baby is persistent about being on the tummy, I figure he is then going to have to learn to either flip back over or to sleep on his tummy.

4-Don't Be Afraid of It
Don't be afraid of the new skill. I actually took the initiative and taught Brinley to stand up in her crib and how to sit down. Instead of waiting for her to figure out how to stand up and then teaching her how to sit, I just taught her how all at once. Standing was never a big disruption for her. Yes, once she learned how, she had a few naps where standing was a pre-sleep party, but it was never a huge disruption to her overall sleep. 

5-Don't Ignore Other Possible Culprits
Most of the time, these disruptions are happening simply because of a new skill. Sometimes, however, you have something else contributing to the sleep disruption. Sometimes your baby will be old enough and ready to stay awake longer, but you have the same old waketime length. Then he gets in bed, isn't tired, and starts practicing his skills instead of sleeping. So sometimes adjusting the waketime length will help baby just go right to sleep. 

Please feel free to share your own experiences and advice on the topic of sleep disruptions!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Feed Me Friday: Chocolate Zucchini Bread {And more zucchini recipes!}

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Last week, I posted a recipe for an amazing chocolate zucchini cake. I thought I would hit you this week with a chocolate zucchini cake as well as all of the recipes I like for using up zucchini--well, except my soup one. I will wait for cooler weather for that one. 

Ingredients:
  • 2 c grated zucchini (note that you do not peel zucchini for these recipes)
  • 1 1/2 c sugar
  • 1 T vanilla
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 2 T cocoa
  • 2-2 1/2 cups flour
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1 C oil
  • 1 package chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cups nuts if desired
Preparation:
  1. Mix all ingredients together. This is one of those old recipes that just lists the ingredients and baking time and leaves you to your devices. I have just mixed in the order given and it has turned out fine. If I am feeling more "rule-follower" that day, I mix dry ingredients in one bowl and wet in another (but do sugar with the wet). Then I pour the wet into the dry and mix it up. Then add chocolate chips at the end. 
Bake:
  1. Grease pans. You can use 4 small loaf pans (Mini Loaf Pan) or 2 large (regular sized) bread pans. I have only ever used the bread pans.
  2. Bake at 350 for 50 minutes or until done. Again, I haven't done this with the small loaf pans so I am not sure how that would change things.
ZUCCHINI BREAD
Here is a regular old zucchini bread recipe. Still good even without the chocolate.

Ingredients:
  • 2 cups shredded zucchini
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup oil
  • 3 T vanilla
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup nuts if desired
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
Preparation:
  1. Mix all ingredients together.
Bake:
  1. Grease and flour loaf pans. Makes two loaves.
  2. Bake at 350 for 45-60 minutes.
NOTE: You can also make these in muffins. I have a friend who makes mini loaves and freezes them. She allows it to cool, wraps in Saran Wrap, and then puts them in freezer bags. She says they freeze well! I am trying it this year.

DICED ZUCCHINI 
This is my favorite way to eat zucchini. This is just the way I intuitively eat it--no fancy recipe--just from my head.

Ingredients:
  • Zucchini, peeled and diced
  • Butter
  • Parmesan cheese
Preparation:
  1. Peel and dice zucchini.
  2. Warm some butter in a skillet (however much you want. I usually do about 1-2 T). I cook this over medium heat.
  3. Toss zucchini into the pan. Cook it, stirring occasionally. The amount of time it will take until it is done will vary on the amount of zucchini you are cooking. It is usually 20-40 minutes. 
  4. Cook it until it is to the point of tender you like. I like it to be golden brown on the edges.
  5. Add in some Parmesan cheese and turn off the heat. The cheese will melt. It is delicious.
GRILLED ZUCCHINI
Even easier than the previous recipe is grilled zucchini. Zucchini can pretty much go with anything. Whenever we grill, I like to wash a zucchini, dice it (no peeling), toss it in my grill basket (this is the one I have: Grill basket), and season with some salt and pepper. Sometimes we do it just zucchini, but another really good way to do it is to toss in some bell peppers. I have done just green and I have done colored peppers. It is all good. Just put it on your grill and cook it while you cook your meat. 




FROM OUR BEST BITES
We have found some great recipes from Our Best Bites cookbook (see it here: Our Best Bites). They have them on their blog, too:
FROM PINTEREST
There are lots of ideas on pinterest, too! I have quite a few on my food board: http://pinterest.com/valplowman/food-to-try/

You can also run a search. Just try the real way to spell it (Zucchini) and the wrong way (Zuchinni) so you can get all of the recipes :)

Do you have a favorite recipe for zucchini? I love to find ideas!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Reader Schedule Questions

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Returning to Schedule After Disruptions:


  • Laura said...
    Hi! I really need some advice. I'm having a lot of trouble getting my 8 week old baby back into a routine. He was consistently eating/wake/sleep every 3 hours and would nap for 2 hours each cycle. Then he had his 6 week growth spurt which lasted a week - he was eating every 2 hours and his naps were unpredictable. Then the next week (last week) we went away for a week and he didn't have much routine (other than eating every 3 hours) then either. Now we're home again and he's eating every 3 hours but I can't figure out when he needs to nap. Sometimes i"ll put him down at 45 minutes and he'll sleep till the next feeding, but usually he'll wake up after an hour, which means there's still another hour before his next feeding. His naptimes are so messed up right now and I really don't know what to do. From what I've read in BW and Baby whisperer, it shouldn't be this difficult, should it? Have you written a post on getting back into a rountine? I couldn't find one. Do you have any advice? Thank you!
    October 18, 2008 3:34 PM
    Plowmanators said...
    Laura, usually when they wake early it means they had too long of a waketime, but you would think 45 minutes would be short enough for an 8 week old. See these two posts for help:
    Establishing Consistency--Make Sacrifices: http://babywisemom.blogspot.com/2008/02/establish-consistencymake-sacrifices.html
    Getting a Consistent Schedule: http://babywisemom.blogspot.com/2008/01/getting-consistent-schedule.html
    October 22, 2008 12:10 PM
Sample Schedules:

Organizing School Lunches

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Today as the Babywise Friendly Blog Network ladies all talk about something around the them "lunches," I thought I would talk about organizing school lunches. I have talked to other moms and I know I am not alone in feeling stress over making lunches to send with my children to school. One of the most liberating things about summer is not having to make a lunch each morning!

But school starts again all too soon, and with it will come the need for lunch. I don't love the way schools are forced to make lunch these days (whole other topic), so I don't mind that my children don't like much of what is served at school. But I am not going to lie; I rejoice on those 4 days of the month Brayden will eat what the school is serving! 

Any time something causes me stress, I try to make it less stressful in life. I am not the stressing type. I am the organizing type. So I have been thinking about how to make this easier, especially because up to this point, it has been stressful with just one child. Kaitlyn will be at school full-day this year and thus having lunch at school, too. I have very much learned if it was hard with one, it is harder with two (and so forth). 

PLAN IT OUT
Go into the week knowing which days your child will eat a home lunch and which days your child will eat a school lunch. If you want some variety, writing down ideas ahead of time can help you make sure you have supplies on hand and help you that day to think less and act more. And in true "me" fashion, I made a printable! (I told my husband I had been thinking about organizing school lunches and he said, "let me guess; you made a printable so we can write down school lunches?' to which I essentially replied, "yes I did. Aren't I awesome."). 

And I am the sharing type, so I made two versions for you. One has the title "School Lunch Planner" and one "Lunch Planner." You can print it, laminate it (use a page protector instead if you don't have a laminator), and write on it with dry erase, wet erase, or even permanent marker (use finger nail polish to remove it). 

FIND INSPIRATION
Sometimes we get tired of the "same old same old." If you need help with ideas, see my post with lots of ideas on what to pack in a lunch: "Sack" Lunch Ideas.

Also, check out Pinterest (of course). You can see ideas on my "School Time" board.

HAVE CHILD MAKE IT
So obvious right? Have your child make what he can. I really vacillate on this. One one hand, I am a huge proponent of children being responsible for themselves and learning life skills. Being able to pack a lunch is pretty basic. On the other hand, eating lunch made by mom or dad when you are at school is like getting a little bit of love from home in the middle of the day, so I don't really mind it making it when I think of it that way.

For help making it, I made this sheet to the right. I have printed it, laminated it, and hung it inside the cupboard door where most of our school lunch supplies are kept. I am writing on it the things we currently have as options to get each food group. I want to make sure the kids pack a balanced meal, and I want them to know all of the options that we currently have. Here is a link to get your own: Lunch Packing Guide.

And then I thought, this is great, but I can totally see them packing up the food and forgetting a fork or something. So I created a Lunch Packing Steps guide I can hang right above this. They won't need it forever, but for as long as they need a reference, it will be there. I also made one that is blank in case you have different steps than I do.

PACK AHEAD OF TIME
Pack what you can the night before. This can help reduce the stress as you are trying to get people out of the house on time in the morning. You can cut up cheese slices or group servings into reusable containers or baggies and put them in the fridge for you or your child to grab in the morning.

SEND SOME LOVE
Words of affirmation is one of the five love languages. Every so often, slip a note in your chld's lunchbox telling him you love him, things you like about him, "hi," and even jokes. A little bit of home. 

A FINAL NOTE...
Today is our first day of our Babywise Friendly Blog Network Thursday Tried & True Tips & Tricks. Check out the other blogs in the BFBN for great lunch ideas today, visit our joint Pinterest board for more lunch ideas (check out especially Back to School board, Feeding Children board, and Feeding Babies board). 

AND 

Remember to enter the giveaway we have going to celebrate this new adventure. You can enter for a couple more days.
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Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Parental Influence Stands Supreme {Bloom Where You are Planted}

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I think we have all heard the phrase "Bloom Where You are Planted." We tell ourselves and our friends that when we/they are living in difficult circumstances. But despite the phrase being repeated over and over again, how many of us actually believe what the phrase is teaching us?

Many of us parents today are micromanagers. We want to control every aspect of our children's lives, including what influences reach our children no matter where they are. Rather than encouraging our children to bloom where they are planted, we transplant them into nice greenhouses with perfectly engineered soils where nary a weed could even think of rearing itself.

Last week, I talked about how our efforts to help our children might actually be hurting them. I would like to expand on that idea more today in talking about influences on our children. 

Stanley G. Ellis said, "...do we really think the critical factor in the salvation of our children is the neighborhood where we live?...what happens inside the home is far more important than what our children encounter outside. How we raise our children is more important than where we raise them."

There is such a fine line to consider here. When we were young, we had to go looking for trouble. In our current day, trouble seems to be looking for our children. And unfortunately that is not just outside the home, but inside the home as well. So we are faced with a unique parenting conundrum. Do we all move to the best neighborhood we can afford, banish technology from our homes, carefully screen friends, and never let our children leave our sight? Or do we bloom where we are planted?

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I can't tell you where you should live, how you should school, how many minutes of technology you allow (if any), how often to have friends over, etc. I just can't give an answer that would cover every situation out there. What I can tell you is to bloom where you are planted. Focus on your teachings inside the home. Focus on raising strong children rather than sheltering them. I talk about it a lot, but there is a Fine Balance of Protecting Children. You can take it so far that you prevent the child from meeting his potential.

The young years in a child's life are often referred to as the "formative years." A couple of days ago, I drove to the valley where I grew up. It is very different from where I live now. The town I live in now has as many people living in it as I had students in my high school. It is a very different world even though the distance is not great. In the valley where I live, we have only four lane high-ways. The valley where I grew up has up to 10 lane freeways going on. So it is a different driving experience. 

I was reflecting on the fact that I feel very comfortable driving among the obviously more chaotic experience where I grew up even though it has been 13 years since I lived there. I also marveled that I had actually only been of driving age for about 3 years before I moved away. I really tied it into this post (because I think about these things for days before I write them). It struck me how even a short time spent as a child, compared to your lifespan, really has a huge impact on who we are as adults. Those really are the formative years.

Okay, so I can't give you hard and fast rules on what your zip code should be and all of those details that would be handy to have in life (though I of course encourage you to pray about those things! And trust the answer even if it seems like it isn't the safest "greenhouse" around, so to speak--I really love garden analogies don't I?). I can, however, give you some good basic "rules" to follow that will help you have that great home influence that strengthens your child to be able to bloom where he is planted. Your parental influence stands supreme. It stands above all other influence. "What happens inside the home is  far more important than what our children encounter outside. How we raise our children is more important than where we raise them." Keep that in mind.

Here are five ideas to be the best parents you can be and keep your influence above the rest. These ideas come from Elder L. Tom Perry in the talk "Becoming Goodly Parents". He states, "Parents must resolve that teaching in the home is a most sacred and important responsibility. While other institutions such as church and school can assist parents to "train up a child in the way he [or she] should go," this responsibility ultimately rests on the parents."
  1. Pray in Earnest. Prayer is such a powerful tool as a parent. Pray for your children. Pray to get to know your children and understand them. Pray for help in raising your children. Pray to know if you should homeschool, public school, or something else. Pray to know if you should allow your child to ride his bike to his friend's house. 
  2. Spend Valuable Time Together. Have prayer as a family each day. Study the scriptures together as a family each day. Spend time in the evenings together. Have meals together at night as a family as often as possible. Plan your schedules so that you can eat together. Visit with each other as you eat dinner (in other words, don't watch the television, play on phones, or even read books--have conversations).
  3. Communicate with Teachers. L. Tom Perry talks about keeping communication open with your child's teachers at church (by the way, know who your child's teachers are. I teach Sunday School to teenagers who are 15 going on 16 and it shocks me that after teaching a child for 8 months, the parent finds out from me that I am the child's teacher--find out week one who the teacher is). I also find it valuable to communicate with school teachers, piano teachers, dance teachers, etc. These are people you are trusting to have a huge impact on the life of your child. Work together with this person to make sure you both understand the needs of your child.
  4. Share What You Know. Tell your child of experiences you have had in choosing to do the right thing and the benefits and blessings you have experienced from that. Share the blessings of the Lord when we follow His commandments. Teach your children what you know of the gospel. Have it be part of every day life and conversation.
  5. Organize Your Family. Have clear, basic, and simple family rules and expectations. Have family traditions. Have your child work in the home and have responsibilities. Give an allowance so your child can learn to budget, save, and tithe money.
How earth-shattering are these five suggestions? Not very, right? No "secret to life" revealed in this list. These things are "back to basics." This talk by L. Tom Perry is not the only thing revealing these basics as the way to strengthen and protect our children and create a strong family culture--one that  "...will help our children live in the world and not become "of the world" (John 15:19)." Even studies are finding the benefits of a strong family culture. I recently enjoyed this post titled, "Have We Forgotten How to Be a Mommy?" It is a very good read on bringing ourselves back to basics. 

Our parental influence can stand supreme. Have confidence in that. You and your children can bloom where you are planted! We are not victims of our circumstance. We can do things to help our children grow strong and bloom where they are planted. 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Brinley Baby Summary: 52 Weeks Old

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Not too difficult of a sickie :) But look--she has rock candy. How can you be upset with rock candy? (she actually didn't like it)
This is a summary for Brinley's 52 week; she was 51 weeks old.

NURSING
This week, we were just nursing in the morning, but she wasn't happy laying down. 

EATING
She wasn't eating very well for meals this week, either.

SLEEPING
Sleeping was normal for the first part, then halfway through the week, she woke in the night. We went to her and rocked her for a while before putting her back in bed where she finished the night out. 

SICKNESS
The next morning, I called to get a doctor appointment for her. 

She had started out the week with a low fever (as I mentioned in last week's post). It is past time for her top teeth to break through, so I figured she had a low fever to go along with it. As the few days passed, however, her fever was climbing, her eating was decreasing, she didn't want to lay to nurse, and the waking in the night was the final thing that told me something is wrong.

Turns out she had a double ear infection :(. Poor girl. 

FAMILY WEEK
This was a week of family reunion activities with my husband's family. She was in the peak of her sickness through it all and was such a trooper. She was mellow, but pleasant. 

ROOM TIME
Independent playtime has been going well. This week, it felt like the right time to move her to "room time" instead of "playpen time." I am able to watch her on the video monitor and she has enjoyed it. This is on the young side for moving to room time, but Kaitlyn was just about the same age. I just move when it seems right. McKenna was quite a bit older--closer to 2. 

SCHEDULE
8:45--nurse with solids (fruit, cereal, yogurt, finger foods). Independent Playtime happens in this block.
10:30-11:00--nap starts
12:45-1:00--wake up, bottle with solids (veggie, fruit, finger foods)
2:30-3:00--nap starts
5:00--wake up, bottle with solids (veggie, fruit, finger foods) 
7:30--bottle, then bedtime. In bed by 8:00-8:30.


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Monday, August 19, 2013

Managing the Entire Family's Schedules

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One of the bigger challenges in having multiple children is keeping everyone's schedules straight. Even just having two children involved in one activity each creates a situation that requires some organization.

There are a lot of ways to go about organizing everyone's schedules. Here are some ideas for you.

Get to Know Yourself
The first thing to do is to get to know yourself and your organization style. You might think, "I am a 30 year old woman! Of course I know myself!" and that might be true. But I know my personal self is ever changing. My self five years ago never would have forgotten about piano lessons, but myself a year ago totally missed a lesson and from that day forward has had an alarm in her phone weekly to remind herself piano lessons were coming up in 15 minutes. As you add children to your family, you will likely need to tweak your methods.

So what do you need to stay organized? How do you function best? Do you like things in your phone? Online calendar? Dayplanner type? Wall calendar? 

Do you not know what works best for you? Or you have a method but it isn't working so hot for you? Let's talk ideas. 

SmartPhone Help
The smart phone really, really helps maintain some organization in the management of the family. You can set reminders in your phone so an alarm goes off when you have something coming up. 

You can also use apps to stay organized. I recently wrote on my favorite apps, including the ones I use to organize us. See that post for full details.

Day Planner
I don't limit myself to the smart phone. As much as I enjoy it, I still have that "old-fashioned" gal in me who likes to have things written down in front of me. Each year, I get a simple one-year calendar from the Dollar Tree. It has each month of the year in a book about the size of a notebook (they also sell some smaller and some larger). I can write everything down in that book and look at the month all at once. There is something about writing things down that helps my brain remember things. This goes back to knowing yourself. My brain remembers better when I physically write things down.

Wall Calendar
This is similar to the day planner idea. I have also used a large desk calendar, which I initially liked, but then it just felt like clutter on my desk so I don't do that anymore.

Something Cutesy
There is no end to the cute ideas on Pinterest. If you search "Family Command Center" you will find hundreds of ideas already pinned. You can check my "organizing" board for ideas: http://pinterest.com/valplowman/organizing/ Here are some of my favorites:

I actually have made one of these--I happened to have this exact frame that I have been hanging on to but not using. It pays to save! lol Here is a link to instructions: http://craftingandquilting.blogspot.com/2012/01/dry-erase-weekly-calendar.html

Pretty self-explanatory. You put scrapbook paper in each frame. You use a dry erase or wet erase to write things on there.

I used a wet erase to write out the day of the week and things that happen every day. I am using a dry erase to add things that are unique to that week. Dry erase erases more easily so I can easily change those out. 

Instead of a "to-do"  rectangle, I have a date rectangle. We track which parent is with which child for our monthly date

Now, don't get stuck on this exact frame if you like this concept. Any collage picture frame would work great. You could also get a bunch of cheap ones at the dollar store and arrange them on the wall (though I bet the money would be close if you bought a collage--even Hobby Lobby seems to have the frames on sale most of the time). You could have one with more picture holders and do days of the week plus one for each member of the family. I really like being able to just look up and see at once what the week holds. 

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Just a few ideas. I have a lot on my organizing board. I have also used the item pictured at the top of this post--it is just a frame with fabric in it instead of a picture.

Plan Ahead
As you are signing up for sports, lessons, and activities, really think through how these things will look in practice. You don't want to need to have one child in one town at 4:00 and another 20 minutes away at 4:10--major conflict! Be sure as you are signing up that you don't double book yourself. 

Team up with other moms with kids the ages of yours and work together. This coming year, I have McKenna signed up to be in a dance class with two of her friends. The other two moms and I are carpooling, so for the entire dance year, I drive only once a month most months, sometimes twice. That significantly cuts down on my time spent and she is still able to go have her fun thing.

Another thing to consider is location of activities. We chose a gymnastics place that is literally right next door to my husband's work. We can sign up for classes at times so he can pick them up on his way home from work. 

Another idea is to double up where you can. Any time your children can be in the same class, on the same sports team, or take lessons together will make your juggling act easier because it turns two balls into one. Brayden and Kaitlyn take piano lessons back to back on the same day. While one has a lesson, the other reads or draws quietly. This means I drive once and pick up once for two lessons.  (and this is a major plug for having children who can sit quietly and entertain themselves).

Any time you can allow yourself to be more flexible with everyone's schedules, you will make the act of managing all of them easier. So carpool, double up, and choose locations wisely so you can make coordinating everyone's schedule as easy as possible.

For more ideas in this frame of mind, see: Managing Baby Plus Older Kids' Activities

Have a Weekly Family Meeting
Each Monday, we do Family Home Evening. During this time, we sing a church song and learn a gospel lesson. We also have our family meeting. During this time, we talk about anything the family needs to discuss, including what is on the schedule for the week. It really helps to verbalize what is going on. It also lets the kids know what is coming up. Kids remember everything (everything convenient). If you say on Monday night that piano lessons are on Wednesday, that is one more person whose brain is on the job of remembering to get to piano lessons on Wednesday.

Conclusion
These are all of the tactics I use to manage all of our schedules. I treat myself like an important computer server--I have back-ups, redundancy, and repeaters. I don't rely on one method to keep information safe. 

What do you do to keep things straight?

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