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Feed Me Friday: Black Bean Salsa Chicken Tacos

This is another slowcooker one. I find slowcooker meals to be the easiest for me to do. This recipe is adapted from 101 More Things To Do With a Slowcooker.



BLACK BEAN SALSA CHICKEN TACOS
  • 2-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 cup salsa
  • 1 can corn, drained (I actually use freezer corn)
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 pkg taco seasoning
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup grated cheese
Grease your slowcooker. Add chicken. Pour in broth, salsa, corn, beans, and taco seasoning. Stir a bit as you can. Cover. Cook on low heat 6-8 hours or high heat 3-4 hours. When done, remove chicken with a slotted spoon. Stir in sour cream and cheese. Replace chicken. Shred chicken and stir.

Serve on warmed tortillas. I like to add in some fresh cilantro and lime juice (did you know they sell dried cilantro? Great to have on hand in the winter when you want some cilantro flavor. Look for it in your spices section). You can also add some diced tomatoes and some lettuce.

*The original recipe is not a taco recipe. It is just the chicken served whole. You can do that and shred leftovers for Tacos. 

SERVE WITH
You don't really need anything on the side of this if you don't want to. You have a full meal in the taco itself. However, rice can be a good way to serve more people with one meal. 

Rice
You can do Spanish Rice (see a recipe from Our Best Bites here or another kind here). 

My favorite rice to have with meals like this is Lime-Cilantro Rice from Our Best Bites. Super simple to make!

Chips and Salsa
You will have leftover salsa from cooking this. You can use that to have some chips and salsa with the meal.

Everyone Cleans


At our house, we have a cleaning policy for cleaning up a mess--"Everyone Cleans." This isn't something we thought through and planned on doing, but now that it is part of our family policy, I am so glad it is where we landed!

When it is time to clean up a room, everyone helps clean everything. We don't worry about which person played with what or who got what out. We just all help clean up. 

I think if you have it set up so people only clean up what they played with, you will have issues with "she played with it longer" or "she played with it last" or "she got it out." We just all clean because we all live here and we all contribute to the home. We all work as a team and the job gets done quickly. Is it perfectly just? No. Definitely not. Older kids end up cleaning way more and the younger kids likely made it the messiest. I am not really into "just" anyway. Just has its place in the world, but I think in a family dynamic, mercy is a concept I want to highlight (you can get more of a taste for my thoughts on the idea in my post "Fair vs. Equal.").

If you adopt this policy of "Everyone Cleans," you have to be careful that you don't break it yourself. A common theme parents like to use when a child complains when told to clean up is, "I didn't make the mess!" or "They aren't my toys!" Instead of saying something along those lines, if you ask a child to clean up something and she complains about it, explain that everyone in the family helps clean and right now you are asking your child to clean up that mess and other people in the family are working on different chores. 

Another note I want to make is that sometimes people in our house do just clean up the exact mess that person made. So if Kaitlyn just spent an hour doing art at the counter and Brayden spent the hour building Legos in his room, Kaitlyn will be cleaning the counter and Brayden will be cleaning his room. So yes, people do clean their own mess at times. But if it is time to clean a room, there is no "find the items you touched today and clean those up." It is just, "Help clean the family room."

I won't promise you will never hear "But I didn't play with it!" when you implement this policy. Brayden hasn't ever complained, but both of my girls have tried that line (and the girls are the ones who make the biggest messes). But a policy is a policy, and they know it. 

I think as parents we all know how frustrating it can be to clean a mess you took no part in making. Something you can focus on is that it is service when they didn't make the mess, "What great service you are doing! Thank you for doing that!" I have found children love to be helpful. 

Kids also love to be thanked and praised for their efforts. Even if it is a mess they made, give some encouragement as they go. Even though it is my job to do the laundry every week, I sure appreciate when someone in my family thanks me for doing it. I have noticed my children love to be thanked for their efforts and have them be noticed.

When having young children help clean, remember to give them a specific task at a time. If you tell a young child to clean a room, even a small room, she will most likely clean basically nothing and find something else to do. You will find success if you say, "Okay, I need you to clean up all of the books. Find all of the books and put them away where they go." Once the books are clean, give another item to clean. Your child should be able to do this at around 3 years old. If you find that is too overwhelming for the child, then do each task with the child--one item at a time. You will likely need to clean with children ages 0-2.  My children have been able to handle being told to clean a room around 6 years old. 

Give it a try! I promise you will love having this policy once it is part of your family culture. 

Swimways Pool Toys Review

Swimways recently sent me a couple of free pool toys to review. They arrived on the perfect day--swimming lessons day. You might remember that McKenna suddenly decided she was terrified of the water. We spent a couple of months of her not having lessons at all and about a month ago she started back up. She will go to her teacher, but she is not doing the things for her she was four months ago.

On the day these toys arrived, McKenna decided she didn't want to swim with her teacher. We told her she could only play with the new toys if she swam for her teacher (bribery, yes, but we were okay with it). Well, she didn't swim with her teacher. She refused. So no pool toys. My husband spent some time with her getting her vamped up for it, and she went to her teacher, and she then enjoyed playing with the toys. I was so glad we had these toys as motivation for her to face her fear and swim with her teacher!

All three kids had a lot of fun with these toys. It has me looking over their other toys to see what else would be fun for us (I am sure Brayden would love an item that shoots water...). 

The toys we tried were:

Pooligans

and
Flip Boat

Both great fun! Of the two, I would say the Pooligans is the bigger hit. I might even get another one of those (in a different character).

Pool toys are a great thing for your kids to have while they play around in the water. It helps them relax and just have fun instead of focusing on being scared.

Brinley Baby Summary: 45 Weeks Old

This is a summary for Brinleys 45th. She was 44 weeks old.


enjoying Kaitlyn's tee-ball game with her Papa
NURSING
We continued on. 

SOLIDS
I didn't write down any food I introduced this week...not sure if I just didn't write it or if I didn't do anything new. 

SLEEPING
All was well here.

SIGNING
She is getting better at signing! I still haven't started a new sign. I guess I am being so lazy about it! I need to get moving on that. She does know how to give high-fives now, though...

FLEXIBLE
I was thinking about something ironic. Brinley has been my baby who has stayed home the most of any of my babies--she has missed far fewer naps and has rarely napped anywhere but her bed. Being she is my fourth, that in and of itself is actually ironic. I have just worked hard to keep it that way (see my ideas for meeting this goal in this post: Managing Baby Plus Older Kids' Activities. But that isn't what I find ironic.

What I find ironic is that she is so flexible. I never would have thought a baby who was so used to a set schedule and sleeping routine would be so flexible about being late for naps or napping in different places and circumstances. We had a baby blessing to attend and we just put her in some strange (to her) house she hadn't been in and she slept great! Brayden was my child who was toted around the country and put in different beds constantly, and he was my most inflexible sleeper! He was great about different beds, but he couldn't be ten minutes late for bed or his nap would be way thrown off. If Brinley is 30 minutes late, she just sleeps 30 minutes later than usual.

SUMMER CAMP
Braydne and Kaitlyn are doing a summer camp. It starts at 9:00 AM--which makes it tricky since she gets up between 8:45-9:00 AM and this camp is a 15 minute drive. Rather than get her up early, I just get her up, change her diaper, put her in her carseat, and go drop them off. I take a biter biscuit or something for her to eat along the way. Then we get home and I nurse her and feed her breakfast. I am shocked she will spend 30 minutes in the car in the morning without breakfast and wait for her food so patiently. Again, she is flexible.

This leads me to believe a lot of what makes a baby flexible is personality. But it also leads me to believe that a huge component of flexibility is having that stable foundation from the start. I have often mentioned that, and Babywise talks about it. To be flexible means you leave "normal," go out of normal, and return to normal. So perhaps having such a solid normal makes her more able to go with the flow and take the disruptions in stride. 

INDEPENDENT PLAYTIME
My big goal right now is getting independent playtime longer. It has been only about ten minutes--it is pretty much all I can squeeze in there. But I am moving it up on the list and this week have worked her up to 15-20 minutes. I don't have a time slot with all we have going on to really go much longer than that. I just want her to be in position to move that up once she goes to one nap (which I am guessing will be 14-18 month with her--big range but that is my guess).

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


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Age Spacing of Children (part II)

Once you have your first child here, your next big decision is when to attempt to have the next one. Some couples are able to space their babies rather intentionally while others learn to accept what comes their way (whether that means closer or further than planned).

I have written on child spacing before in this post: Child Spacing. Even so, I have had many people asking about my thoughts on what is the best spacing of children, so we obviously have room for some more input here. If you want my thorough run down on the two year spacing of my first three as well as some thoughts on four year spacing, see my Child Spacing post. 

With the addition of Brinley, we have some new spacing going on. 

Brinley to Brayden is 7 years. 
Brinley to Kaitlyn is 5 years.
Brinley to McKenna is 3 years.

THREE YEAR SPACING
Okay, let me just tell you, I have found three year spacing to be so very easy! McKenna was old enough that she could be quite independent. A two year old is still quite dependent for many things, but a three year old can dress herself, go potty independently, get her own shoes on, get herself a drink, and wait for pretty much anything she needs that she can't get herself. A three year old also isn't so sensitive for naps, so it wasn't so worrisome come afternoon nap time if Brinley was off schedule and McKenna was going to get down for her nap late. The three year old doesn't nap for much longer after baby is born, which means less time juggling multiple nap schedules.

There are some down sides. With a three year old, you start to get a taste of freedom and then it is all taken back to square one. Also, while you aren't juggling two napping kids, you have a napping child longer than if you had them closer together.

Despite the drawbacks, I have found the three year spacing to be quite stress-free and enjoyable. 

FIVE AND SEVEN YEAR SPACING
A five and seven year old are very helpful with a baby. They can be trusted in a lot of situations and love to help mom. I am guessing there might be unique issues that come up with this spacing as Brinley gets older (I forsee a couple of people who will think of themselves as Brinley's second set of parents...), but we haven't had problems as of yet. I also wonder about how things will be for Brinley when she is still waiting to start school and her siblings are all gone all day, and how she will feel when her siblings have all moved out and she is just starting high school.

A unique benefit with this spacing I never thought of ahead of time is the chance to teach them about babies. They have been learning about napping, changing diapers, feeding babies (they both about DIED when I told them about the new guidelines on introducing allergens to infants), dressing babies, baby safety, etc. They love having their baby sister and she just adores them.

WHAT IS BEST?
Like I said in my previous post, thee is no "best." There are drawbacks and benefits to each spacing dynamic. There are also different preferences and personalities of the parents having the babies. There is also number of children you plan on having to consider. I imagine age of parents would be a consideration, also. 

I often sit and wonder if I were to choose now, do I like two or three year spacing best? I can't say. Knowing what I know now, I still would definitely have my first two in the two year gap. I also wouldn't change Brinley's gap. I think an ideal situation might be have two close together, then a three year break and two close together. If I had stopped at three, then I think all three close together was ideal. 

There is no one best spacing out there. As you are deciding for your family, keep in mind that closer in age will be more stressful for the parents, but the upside is you stay in your baby groove and your children are very close in age and therefore have similar interests and maturity levels. Further in age can really be a much easier thing to do because your focus is on one baby instead of basically two, but you spend more years total in being tied down to the house (and I actually appreciated that with Brinley--after running around with my older kids for a couple of years I really welcomed the break and the need to stay home more). 

As you are thinking about your spacing, think it through, come to a decision, pray about it, and then get ready to either wait on the Lord's timing or catch up to it :). You might also find you are on the same time schedule and need to get ready to enjoy the ride. 

Each spacing has drawbacks and benefits, so whatever your spacing ends up being, enjoy it for what it is.

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Feed Me Friday: BBQ Chicken Sandwiches

After my post on Managing Dinner Prep Time earlier this week, a reader requested that I share quick and easy recipes I use. So this is the beginning of a new series--Feed Me Friday!


This is a recipe we have used for as long as we have been married. Every one of our kids loves this meal. It is a meal I often take to people when I am taking them dinner. Just this week, I took this meal to a family who just had a new baby (number 8!). It is easy enough to make for two families! 

SLOWCOOKER BBQ CHICKEN
  • 4-6 Boneless Chicken Breasts
  • 1 bottle (about 16 ounces) of your favorite BBQ sauce. Our go-to is KC Masterpiece brand, but last time we used Famous Daves and liked that too
Grease your slowcooker. Put your chicken in there. Pour the BBQ sauce over the top. Cover. Cook on low heat for 8-10 hours (I have always found it to be closer to 8) or high heat for 4-6 hours (I have always found it to be closer to 4). If you put more chicken in your slowcooker than this calls for, you will need to increase your cooking time. When it is done, shred the chicken. Serve on hamburger buns for a delicious BBQ Chicken Sandwich. NOTE--if you don't want to turn it into sandwhiches, you could just do whatever chicken you want and slowcook it and and eat it!

Camping Note: We have used this recipe camping in our dutch oven.


SERVE WITH
I love to get side dish ideas with recipes, so here are mine for this one.

Cornbread
I always serve this with cornbread whether summer, spring, fall, or winter because we really like cornbread. Cornbread is super easy to make from scratch. I usually us my recipe in my Better Homes and Gardens Cook Book

Fruit
I also add a fruit. I just do what is seasonal. Something fast and simple is a watermelon. In fall or winter, some cooked cinnamon apples are good with BBQ.

Vegetable
I typically serve corn with this meal. If corn on the cob is in season, I do that. If not, I use freezer corn we freeze from our garden. Green beans also go well. You can also just do some carrots with ranch dip.


Making Baby Food

Making baby food is really quite easy to do! There are entire blogs and large books published on the topic, so this will not be an inclusive post on how to make all baby foods, but rather a post that breaks it down into the basic steps so you can see how easy it is and consider venturing into the world of making baby food. You can see my post "In Action: Making Babyfood" for more information and for reasons why I think you might like to do so.




Here are the basic steps in making any food.

STEP ONE: COOK THE FOOD IF NEEDED
For any vegetable, you will need to cook it. For younger babies, fruits will need to be cooked until six months old. After that age, you don't necessarily need to cook a fruit. 

You can cook the food any way you like the food cooked. My opinion is that veggies taste better baked than boiled or microwaved, so I bake my food for my babies. For carrots, I cook them in the slowcooker. Whatever method you choose, you want the food to be very soft when done, so steaming might not be the best method for baby food for certain foods--I guess unless you steam it longer than I would steam for myself. I like my steamed veggies crisp. You can easily search recipes on the nice worldwide web for how to bake, microwave, boil, or slow cook vegetables.

Cooking Tip: For cooking sweet potatoes, put a drip pan or a cookie sheet on the rack under the sweet potatoes. You cook them on the rack, but the juices will start to drip out at the end. With a drip pan or cookie sheet, you can just clean that up instead of having to clean your whole oven.

STEP TWO: REMOVE SKINS
If you microwave or boil your vegetables, you will remove skins before you cook them.

Sweet potatoes will literally just drop out of the skins when they are baked. I just take them out of the oven and let them cool enough that I can work with them without burning my fingers. I then cut them in half and let them cool more if I need to. I then hold it over my Cuisinart and just let the flesh drop out. 


For squash, I use a cookie scooper as pictured above. I scoop the squash out and drop it into my Cuisinart.

cooked squash

 If you are not cooking your fruits, you might want to blanch the fruit to aid in skin removal. Blanching sounds ominous before you try it. Google ways to blanch for videos or tutorials. Basically, you have a pot of boiling water on the stove and a sink full of ice cold water. You put your food in the boiling water for usually 1-2 minutes, then remove and put it in the ice cold water. The skin will then easily slip off (if the fruit was ripe--under ripe fruit doesn't blanch so well). 

STEP THREE: PUREE FOOD
One way I puree the food is in my Cuisinart Food Processor. I put any food I have in large quantities in this. For example, I do squash, sweet potatoes, carrots, peas, prunes, and green beans in this.

Another way to puree the food is with a Baby Food Mill. I use this for my bananas and avocados. You could use it for strawberries if you wanted to puree them. I will also use it to quickly puree some pears or peaches that I have preserved in mason jars. You could do smaller portions of the other foods in this, too. So if you made squash for the whole family, but wanted to puree some for baby, you could do just one portion in this.

I also use this for squishing up my bananas for banana bread. It is an inexpensive baby tool and I find it useful beyond baby food.

You can also use the old fashioned method of a fork to smash things up. A blender works great as does a potato smasher.
Food Mill













STEP FOUR: FREEZE THE FOOD
The food will last for a couple of days in the refrigerator, so I save a couple of portions for baby in the fridge. The rest goes into ice cube trays. I scoop it using a spoon or my cookie scooper. I use traditional trays and the trays from Fresh Baby. I like the Fresh Baby ones best. The lids help keep the food fresh and you can stack the trays easily.

Once it has frozen (usually about 12 hours) you can move it into freezer bags. I write on the bag with a permanent marker with what it is and the month and year I made it. Then each morning, I get out any cubes I need for the day and put them into baby bowls with lids.

CONCLUSION
See! Four basic steps to making your own pureed foods. I make enough at once that I only have to do it every few months. For keeping track of what you have introduced and what you plan to introduce, check out my free printable Baby Meal Planner.

RESOURCES
There are two resources I like best. 
  • Wholesome Babyfood.com: This is a great site, and is really the only resource you would need. Something nice about a website is that it is dynamic and they keep current recipes on the homepage. It offers lots of different recipes for each food. If you check out the avocado section, you will see several different ways to prepare avocado for your baby. This isn't really necessary; baby is fine with the same old thing over and over, but you might find it fun.
  • Super Baby Food : This is my favorite resource. I am more of a book person than a website person. I like to have books to look through. I keep this book in my kitchen with my recipe books. This book is worth it even just for the section on how to choose, store, prep, make, and keep all fruits and veggies. I use it for the whole family! If you prefer books, I would get this.
  • Fresh Baby So Easy Baby Food Kit: I use this book for quick reference in finding what ages foods are recommended for. This book has fast microwaving tips. It also has great ideas for spices and herbs that go well with different foods. 

A Place of Refuge

People are stressed. They are stressed for time because they have a lot of things they want to do. They have a lot of commitments they have made, little time to accomplish it all, and it brings on stress. There are more good things a person could do each day than could possibly be done, and that can really bring on the stress.

I recently read this quote:
Many voices from the world in which we live tell us we should live at a frantic pace. There is always more to do and more to accomplish. Yet deep inside each of us is a need to have a place of refuge where peace and serenity prevail, a place we we can reset, regroup, and reenergize to prepare for future pressures.
- Richard G. Scott

This leads my thinking in two directions.

The first is our home. What is our home like for our family? Is it a place of refuge? Is it a place our family members can go to where they can feel peace and serenity? Can they regroup in our home? And if not, how can we create that environment for them? We can accomplish this by leading our families in love and peace. We can focus on the Lord and make Him the center of our home. We can be prayerful and thoughtful in our decision making. We can teach our children to think of others and contribute to peace in the home. We can pray as a family and learn together as a family. We can use our time wisely and not waste it. We can turn to scripture first instead of the Internet. We can serve our family and others. We can recognize the good in others and not focus on their imperfections. We can focus on virtues. We can make our home a place people are drawn to because of the good feeling they get there.

And that all sounds nice, but also overwhelming right! We aren't expected to be perfect. We are only expected to do what we can and do the best we can. We CAN"T do it all. We just can't. There are many good things we just won't have time for, and that is okay. We can focus on what is of greatest worth and put our efforts there, and change those efforts as it seems appropriate. 

The second train of thought I take is where can I go for peace for a place to regroup? Hopefully my home can be a place where I can feel peace and serenity, but for me, my home is also my workplace. It is the source of stress for me. It is the place I look around and see the "more to do and more to accomplish." So the house as a whole is in all honesty probably not going to be a place I walk into and leave my cares behind me--it is more like I walk out of it and leave my cares behind me :). But I want to be able to find a place of refuge in my home.

In the How I Do It series, I did a post on How I Do It: RelaxIt was not my forte. Okay, okay, it still isn't my forte. But I think I have improved some.

First and foremost, the place to turn for peace is to the Lord, but even that is easier said than done in your home with several children needing you. So I always stick to my "read scriptures in the morning" policy to help me there.

I have really found two things I can do to be my place of refuge. One is singing. I can turn on music while I am making dinner or sewing or driving and just sing along and let the "to-dos" leave my mind. 

Second, I have found reading really is a great way for me to regroup and take a break from the "to-dos" of life. Not reading a non-fiction, informational book. I need to read a book that is just for fun. I find a place to get comfortable and read. When I do this, I can get lost in my book and come out of it realizing all of those things I thought I needed to do weren't so frantic after all. So reading for me is a great place of refuge. You can find your source of refuge in your home--your thing that lowers your stress level and helps you face another day.

What are your places of refuge?

Brinley Baby Summary: 44 Weeks Old {10 Months Old}

There it is! The double digits. This is a summary for Brinley's 44th week. She was 43 weeks old and turned 10 months old this week.


NURSING
We continued on the same here.

SOLIDS
This week, I gave Brinley some chicken that had been cooked in the slowcooker. She loved it! My husband shredded it and I tore it into bite sized lengths.

SLEEPING
All was well and normal here.

SIGNING
I sign "all done" with Brinley. She has gotten quite good at it. For a while, it seemed she was stubborn about not wanting to have to sign it, but she will do it now. I need to decide on what her next sign will be. I usually do "more" next. "Please" is another good one.

BASEBALL
Brayden has started baseball and Kaitlyn has started Tee Ball. We have a baseball game almost every week day. Brinley enjoys these. At Brayden's games, there is a girl who is almost ten who just loves to hold her and play with her. At Kaitlyn's games, she is able to crawl around on the grass (pictured above). She loves to explore.

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


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Managing Dinner Prep Time

Ha! Which is true in your house?
Once you have children, prepping dinner has to be one of the most stressful times of day. It is toward the end of the day so people are getting cranky (all people--adults and children), dinner is approaching, which means hungry people, which also means potential grumpy people, patience may be wearing thin...and this is all made harder when you have a baby to work around. Babies can't be made to wait like older children can, and even babies who are on predictable routines can get off routine at times. Dinner prep might also be the start of witching hour for some babies.


When we had just one child, it wasn't a big deal. I don't really think dinner was at a terribly consistent time of day--Brayden had his dinner on time and we just ate when the time seemed convenient. Plus my husband was working full time and going to school full time, so his schedule wasn't exactly what you would call consistent.

When Kaitlyn and McKenna were babies, my husband worked at a job where he got home at 4:20. He would get home, I would start dinner, and he could act as back up if the kids seriously needed something. 

He now works a job where he gets home later, and I like to have dinner ready or close to being ready when he gets home. We also have the excitement thrown in there of sporting games that sometimes start about five minutes after he gets home from work, so I have to be able to manage getting dinner ready on time.

Here are some ways I manage dinner prep time at my house. 

START WITH A PLAN
I do a meal plan. I don't assign a meal to each day because I find that too confining for some reason, but before I go grocery shopping, I make a list of 7 meals I want to make for the next week and make sure I have all of those ingredients. If I don't, I buy them. I made a printable I use for it--you can get it for free at this post "Weekly Meal Planner."

So in the morning, I consult my list and decide what I feel like making that day. I then can defrost any meat I might need to or do any early prep that needs to be done. I also like slowcooker meals, so this allows me to start it on time. I look at my recipe and make a mental note of what time I need to start making dinner based on the meal I am making that day. For more on this, see "How I Do It: Meals"

CUT STUFF AHEAD OF TIME
When I have a baby who is unpredictable, I will often do any chopping and other food prep I can do earlier in the day. I find the time of day I am making dinner is usually the most likely to have disruptions for the baby or a time for older kids to suddenly need me, so I find it easier to have things prepped ahead of time. Brinley is currently ten months old and I don't have a need for this tip anymore--she is extremely predictable and past the age of disruptions--but I used it often during the first six months of her life.

OCCUPY CHILDREN
Find ways to keep your children occupied. There are a lot of options here. 
  1. You can do independent playtime during the time you are prepping dinner. See Index: Independent Play for more on what that is.
  2. You can have table time activities during the time you are prepping dinner. Table time activities are activities your child can do at the table. This is a structured playtime activity. One note, if you choose to do this, it will be most helpful to you if you do activities that your child can do independently. Play doh can be a good one, too, if your Play Doh toys are age appropriate. You don't want activities that your child will be asking for lots of help with (trust me, I have made this mistake. It makes dinner prep that much more stressful). Coloring is a great activity that most children can do unsupervised. You can also have several "busy bag" activities for your child to do. For fun ideas, look through the blog I contribute to, Children's Learning Activities.
  3. You can also have your child help make dinner. I like to have one child on help make dinner with our chore wheel (see Chore Wheel). I like having just one child help because I can focus on teaching age-appropriate cooking skills to that one child. 
  4. I often plan television time for during dinner prep. 
  5. Prep during nap time. Have a child sleeping or doing rest time while you make dinner.
  6. You can also have children do homework, practice piano, or do chores while you make dinner.
So right now, most days I have one child helping me, two children watching television, and one child sleeping during dinner prep time. Some times I have the children all play together. Sometimes I have kids doing crafts at the counter while I cook. 

HAVE DINNER EARLY ENOUGH
Kids get hungry pretty early in the evening. We eat dinner right around 5:30 each day. If you have a later dinner and your child is having a hard time waiting for dinner, have a snack in the late afternoon to hold the child over. A difficult thing I have found with snacks and children as they get older is that they think they need to be full--so a light snack is not satisfying for the child. I just explain to my children that they don't need to be full and dinner will be ready at 5:30 and they can eat then. 

If you do a snack, just keep it healthy so if it makes it so they don't want to eat as much dinner, you won't worry. I allow any fruit or veggie or cheese for an afternoon snack.

BAN WHINING
I don't allow whining about being hungry for dinner (not that the ban is always observed...). When they do whine, I remind them that if they want dinner to be done sooner, they need to ask me how they can help rather than whining at me about it. Helping helps them see progress is being made and it helps them appreciate that snapping fingers doesn't produce food. I hope this will also teach them to have consideration for others so when they want things in the future, rather than standing around and whining about it, they realize they need to step up and take some action to make it happen.

FUSSY BABY?
So what about when your best plans and intentions still couldn't remove the suddenly fussy baby from happening? Some people will put their baby in the front carrier, bouncer, or swing and let baby nap there or wait there if content. You can also stop the cooking process if possible and have dinner be later that day. It isn't always ideal when that happens, but remember it really is a short season. The minutes creep but the weeks fly by. 

If you have older children, you can also have one of them hold the baby or play with the baby. I think it is a great thing to allow them to help when they can!

FREEZER MEALS and TAKE OUT
When you run into that growth spurt week or a hard fussy day after vaccinations, it can be nice to have freezer meals on hand you can use for dinner. You can also have some pre-frozen food you buy at the grocery store; it isn't my favorite thing to feed my family, but sometimes you have to cut yourself some slack. Again, it isn't forever and it isn't every day. You can also get some take out. My kids love nothing more than a pizza night :). Give yourself some grace and remember the point in the post "Slow the Pace." You don't have to be superwoman every minute of every day. It is okay if you need to lighten your load some days--that is the wise thing to do. 

What about you? What have you found to be helpful while you are getting dinner ready?

In Action: Planning the Summer Schedule

I thought I would show you how I planned out my summer schedule.

I followed my own advice I gave in this post: "Planning Your Schedule for Multiple Children"

I started with this list:


You can see I thought through the goals I wanted to work on with each child. I also listed things that needed to happen daily, as well as other activities we could do throughout the summer.

Then I took that information and put it into a document in Excel (I took out the details--and I just noticed I left Brinley's evening blank...oops. Already laminated. I will have to change that next year :) So the gray chunk on her evening isn't supposed to be there.)


I printed it.

Then on the back side, I printed a chore schedule for each day:

Then I laminated it. You could also put it in a page protector. The kids love to consult it to see what they should be doing or what is coming up that day.

And there you have my process. For more details on how I go through this process, be sure to see the post  Planning Your Schedule for Multiple Children.


Reader Nap Questions

Falling Asleep Problems







Hamilton's Blog said...







Valarie,
I just have to say a big Thank you to your blog. It has really helped me try and get this program implemented with our 10 week son Benton.
The problem that I am having this week (2nd week of doing this program) is that he DOES NOT "go down" for naps. Meaning that he will scream for over 45 minutes for at least 4 of his naps a day. I go in and try to put my hands on his belly and tell him it is ok, sometimes i even pick him up, but it seems to only make it worse. How long is too long for him to scream and when do i give up and just get him up for the next 3 hour schedule? He just seems SO upset with all of this.
This morning, i had company over so, i put him in his swing to say my goodbye's and he was OUT when i came back to get him out to put him in his crib. Should I have left him there to sleep for his nap? Because now he is just yelling from his crib from the moment I put him in it. We have not used the swing because of trying to get him to self-soothe for the past two weeks either.
I am at a loss. Will you please offer some advice to this weary mom of trying to become "babywise" because I am really frustrated.
Good new is that he does sleep about 7 hours now at night, but that means I am up rocking him around 4:30 to get him to sleep a little longer...at least until 6:00. He was only sleeping around 4 hours or so.
HELP...ok....i will stop. PLease if you have any time, i would greatly appricate your expertise in this training.
Thanks so much!
Jennie in Indiana
p.s. I don't know much about blogs and trying to find myself aroudn them...so if you need to e-mail me directly...my home e-mail is hamiltonfamily@insightbb.com Thanks again for any advice and time you give to this! :)





Plowmanators said...







Jennie,

Part of it is going to be you figuring him out. See these posts for help:

Nap Cues : http://babywisemom.blogspot.com/2008/03/nap-cues.html

CIO Bootcamp: http://babywisemom.blogspot.com/2007/11/cio-bootcamp.html

Waking Early From Naps/Won't Fall Asleep For Naps: http://babywisemom.blogspot.com/2008/01/waking-early-from-napswont-fall-asleep.html

I would have left him in his swing once he fell asleep in it. Keep working at it! You will get it.

The Danger of Over-Correcting {Guest Post}



I first heard the term “over-correcting” in reference to driving. Imagine driving down the road when you’re suddenly distracted by your toddler attempting an escape from the car seat. You gradually veer to the left as you attempt to keep the fugitive strapped in. When you realize you are heading towards oncoming traffic you quickly jerk the wheel to the right and, instead of the straight direction you were on previously, you’re now headed right fast and in danger of running off the road, into a ditch, or into the pole holding up the McDonald’s sign. Hey-ho, that’s where you were headed anyway, right?

 In parenting, over-correcting is when we change our current course drastically in the process of troubleshooting. It often makes it difficult for us to determine the cause of the current issue and is rarely effective.

A prime example of this happened a few months ago when my oldest daughter was 24 months. “All of a sudden” she started taking an hour or two to get to sleep for her afternoon nap. That is, if she took one at all. That time is when I normally work from home so after a few days I was fit to be tied and popping blood vessels all over the place. She stayed in her crib the whole time, but I knew she needed to sleep.

So, I started to put her to bed at 6:30 or 6:45, about 45 minutes earlier than her normal bedtime. I was fearful she would get used to the lack of sleep and like it so I wanted to keep her well-rested. This went on for a few days and then something wonderful started happening. My 24-month old and my 13-month old started to sleep until 8 or 8:15am. I knew it wasn’t the best habit, but did I care? No. Why? I was pregnant and exhausted. I started thinking Babywise was indeed a sleep method from heaven and counted my lucky stars. Unfortunately, it was short-lived.

Naps continued in a bad fashion until the time change came around, about a month into this bad napping phase. Then, finally, a light bulb went off. She was taking an hour or two to get to sleep therefore having a shorter nap. But, I was putting her down almost an hour early for bed and letting her sleep almost an hour later in the morning. In short, I had increased her nighttime sleep and weaned her of her nap. Accidentally. For shame! I stopped putting her to bed early, started getting her up at 7:30am as per the previous norm, and voila, naps came back to normal. I felt stupid for my mistake, but I was too busy celebrating to care. 

Thoughts on over-correction.

  (1) In the food department. Another area we’re in danger of over-correcting is with our babies and toddlers diet. We can give enough food at snack time that they won’t eat at mealtime. Then, because we want them to sleep well, we give them a big bedtime snack. The baby may fight the breast during the day (as mine did when I became pregnant and he didn’t like it) so I tried to keep my milk supply up by feeding him at night long after he was sleeping through. Not wise. They may fight the veggies at dinner so you compensate by piling high the yogurt. Does that help teach them to eat what you serve them? No, it teaches them that when dinner isn’t good they’ll hit the jackpot with dessert. If they refuse something at the table (and I mean as a matter of habit, a mom knows the difference between a preference and a picky eater) then don’t over-corrrect by stuffing them full of what you know they’ll eat. It’ll only prolong the agony.

  (2) Matters of stimulation. I often think that our house is boring. I’m not a noise, a TV or a radio person. We wake up, play, go outside and do an activity or two and then have independent playtime. When my oldest got old enough that she actually needed some good physical exercise and a change of scenery, I started to up the ante. However, because I’m Type A and can’t stand to wait (raise your hand if you’re with me) I just started her doing all kinds of things. Result, too big an adjustment for her and inability for her to calm down and actually rest at naptime. I didn’t “wear her out” so she slept well, I overstimulated her brain so she didn’t.

  (3) Being harsh with discipline. I’m a firm believer in first-time obedience and I always mean what I say. No matter who I’m saying it to. With my first I thought – for some odd reason – that I needed to sound firm and slightly angry when instructing or correcting so my daughter would know I meant business. Later I realized she responded even better and quicker if I spoke firmly but kind with a sparkle of love in my eye (yes, I am a sappy mother). Enter the behaviour phases. You know what I’m talking about. All of a sudden they act like they don’t hear you. They look you dead in the eye and turn over their plate of spaghetti on the floor and say “uh oh.” Then I started reverting to being harsh or angry. I’d demand this or that and give a look that would kill the neighbor’s gerbil. Again, instead of simply being consistent and kind and carrying on per normal realizing she would align back to proper behaviour, I over-correcting by becoming Mean Monster Mommy thinking that was what she needed. This quickly turned into a “what not to do based on my bad experiences” post, but that’s okay. I’m not proud. I think that if you’re a Babywise mom, and if you’re concerned enough to regularly read parenting advice and tips then you’re enough like me that you can probably relate. We don’t like to troubleshoot one thing at a time because that could take days…weeks… We want to know the issue and we want to deal with it quickly and efficiently. “Wait and see” or “give it time” are phrases reserved for – dare I type it – attachment parents. However, as is the case with life, sometimes we just have to calm down and keep trotting along steadily. Tweak a little here and a little there and maybe even one thing at a time. It could take a while to figure it out and they could be out of that phase by the time we do, but over-correcting pretty much never gives us the results we want. We want instant success, not instant confusion.

 Keep truckin’, mamas, and when you think you just can’t take it anymore… well, keep taking it. It will pass and we’ll remember these days fondly.

Rachel blogs at A Mother Far from Home on parenting, discipline, routine, the spiritual life with children, travel, household management and more. on Facebook page and her RSS Feed for all insights and mishaps.

Call For Articles: BW Success Stories Week 2013


We are coming up on one of my favorite weeks. This is Babywise Success Stories Week! All week long, I feature posts written by you, the readers. These are posts you have written that share your success you have had with Babywise. With all of the people out there on the Internet who insist Babywise is awful and no good can come of it, I love to have this week where we hear from real people who have really read the book and have really implemented it and really love it.

Here is where you come in.

I would love to hear from you, even if you have submitted an article in the past. You can write anything from a short paragraph to a long post. It can be on one aspect of Babywise (like, independent playtime) or the system as a whole. It can be about any age child you have--or all of your children. You can have been doing this for ten years or ten days. Share your success!

To share your story, please email it to me at valplowman@gmail.com. Follow these steps:
  1. Put "Babywise Success Story" in the subject of your email. This helps make sure it doesn't get sent to my spam folder.
  2. Tell me the title of your article. If you do not include a title, I will title it for you.
  3. Tell me how you want to be identified (for example, I could be identified as "Valerie," "Valerie Plowman," "Val," "V. Plowman"--whatever you want).
  4. It would be fun to know the number of children you have and ages.
  5. Type or paste your article into the email. Please no attachments.
  6. You may also include a link to your website if desired, but any questionable website links will not be posted (just had to include that).
You can start sending your article any time starting now! I will post  when I am coming up on a deadline, but you have at least a few weeks. I will respond to you once I have it scheduled and let you know what day and time you can expect to see it up. 

Brinley Baby Summary {43 Weeks Old}

This is a summary for Brinley's 43rd week; she was 42 weeks old.

NURSING
No changes.

BOTTLE
Also no changes. That isn't really a good thing since last week she showed she refuses to take a bottle from someone other than 

SOLIDS
This week, Brinley tried bread. And she LOVES it. Mmmm...bread.

SLEEPING
You know how she does the peek through the crib slats and wave bye to me thing? Well, one day I was putting her down about 5 minutes before Brayden's friends were supposed to start arriving for his birthday party and I totally forgot to wave bye. I got a few steps from the door when she started crying in that offended way. I thought for a second and realized what I had done! So I went back to the door and did the wave thing. Then she was fine. Don't break the routine! Ha.

OBEDIENCE
Brinley is turning out to be quite obedient naturally. She listens well and does what I tell her to. When she has something in her mouth (which happens way more often than I think all of my other kids combined ever had happen--the challenge of a fourth child!), I tell her to spit it out and she does immediately.

The hard, hard thing for me with babies these days is not thinking they are hilarious when they sweetly disobey. Like, one day Brinley started to go down the hall. She isn't allowed down the hall because down the hall leads to the stairs. I looked at her and called her name and she stopped and turned around to look at me. I used my finger to motion for her to come back like we do in the USA and she smiled, waved at me, and then turned and kept heading down the hall. I thought it was so cute and funny! But I went and got her and brought her back where she was supposed to be. I just have to try to hide my amusement when she does these things. This is why you youngest children are all spoiled ;) 

THRILL SEEKER
Brinley seems to love adventure--like in the swing outside, she wants to be pushed high. My other babies I just lightly swung, but Brinley wants to be pushed as high as I might do a toddler. She squeals and giggles and laughs with joy.

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