Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Traveling Sleep Hierarchy for Babies

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Traveling to see family or to go on vacations is (usually) a whole lot of fun! Great memories are made and bonds are strengthened. There is always concern, however, of how it will impact your life and your baby's life both during the vacation and after the vacation. Chances are you have made a lot of sacrifices to have your baby sleeping how she is, and the idea of negating that effort is scary.

There is also a very real, and justified, concern over how the baby will be while on vacation. Will baby sleep, or will baby be up all night crying? How will that impact the other people in the house? You don't want to keep everyone up. Will you even have fun if you are up all night with the baby (I have been on those trips that are not so fun for me because of things not going well with baby!)? Is it worth it?!? I mean, the packing list alone is enough to keep people home.

Despite those fears, concerns, and work, you have decided to go on a trip. I think that is a wise choice. At least give it a try and see how it works out. Now you are left wondering what you should do about sleep while traveling. What do you do if baby wakes early from a nap? What if baby won't even fall asleep for a nap? What about night sleep? Will all of baby's progress be totally ruined?!? Aaahhh! 

Take a deep breath. Go in with a game plan. It will work out. This post contains affiliate links.

GOAL #1: Baby Sleeps When She Should
This is the same as my first goal in the Newborn Sleep Hierarchy. Your first goal when traveling is just to get baby to take a nap at nap time and go to bed at bed time. You don't want an overly tired baby. Overly tired babies have a hard time sleeping and also aren't fun. They cry a lot, which means people can't enjoy baby and you can't enjoy yourself, not to mention your poor baby who can't stop crying. 

If baby will go to sleep as he usually does at home, fantastic! That is ideal, of course. 

Not all babies will do that, however. The house might be super noisy and make it hard for your baby to sleep. Your baby might not be as flexible of a personality type and might find it hard to sleep in a new environment. You might be out and about and not have a bed available for your baby to sleep in. 

So you might find baby sleeping in a car seat, in the arms of someone, or even in a swing. When Kaitlyn was a baby, we literally brought her big old swing with us to Nate's family's house when we went. It was super noisy and she wasn't used to sleeping with noise. A swing was a way for us to make sure she could fall asleep when needed. Side note, I had dreams of a travel swing after Kaitlyn, but it turned out my next two babies both hated the swing, so we never traveled with a swing again.

We have been known to bring a pack and play, bassinet, or pea pod with us so our baby can sleep. Once I discovered white noise, I also brought that along with me to help block out noise. I have often nursed a baby back to sleep in the night who has previously been sleeping through the night with no feedings for months. 

If you are out and about, see if you can get baby to fall asleep at nap time in the carseat, in your arms, or in your baby carrier. 

Even if your baby only takes a 45 minute nap, it is better than zero nap. 

The point is, you often have to do what it takes to get your baby to sleep while on vacation. Doing those things is better than your baby not getting sleep. That doesn't mean you will face zero consequences when you get home. Just because you had to doesn't mean it won't take some retraining once you get home. Just do not be afraid to do what your baby needs to get the sleep she needs. Sleep is most important here. 

GOAL #2: Baby Sleeps in a Bed When She Should
If you are able, a nap in a bed is always preferable to a nap on the move. It is more restorative. It will help keep your baby on track so that when you go home, you don't spend 1-3 weeks trying to get back to where things were before you left.

Goal #1 is the most important for traveling and sleep. You might not even broach goal #2 at all, and that is okay. This is your call and you will make it based on a whole myriad of factors. Some trips are short and you might choose to not worry so much about sleep while on that trip. Some might be weeks and you want to keep things as normal as possible so life isn't so disrupted when you get home. Some babies are flexible and adaptable while others just aren't. Some can be tired and still content while others will scream. Sometimes you are visiting family that you might only visit once in a very great while. Decide what is best overall based on your unique travel situation.

Know your child and be an advocate for your child. If you baby is more flexible, you might allow her sleep to be disrupted to give family more time with her. If your child is not flexible, however, make sure you do what she needs you to do as her parent. I always say, baby's needs come before adult's wants. 

What To Bring
Over-packing with a baby is a very easy thing to do. The struggle is real! You don't want to take more than you need, but you also don't want to be left without something you really need! So far as sleep goes, keep these things in mind:
  • Place to sleep (pack and play, bassinet, pea pod, moses basket...a place your baby would ideally sleep on her own while you are traveling).
  • Back-up sleep location (sling, carrier, swing...what are your back-ups at home? You might like something on the road).
  • Normal sleep attire. Swaddle blanket, lovie, types of pajamas, socks, pacifier...whatever your baby normally sleeps in and with, have it with you. 
  • Alternative sleep attire. Also, have an alternative to what your baby is sleeping in at the moment. When Kaitlyn was a baby, we traveled to my grandmother's funeral. At the time, it was July and Kaitlyn's room at home was very hot. We traveled to a state where the nights even in July are often in the 30s. We ended up sleeping in my aunt's basement. Kaitlyn woke up a couple of times that night because she was cold. We should have brought warm pajamas, not just the light pajamas she was sleeping with at home. 
  • Stimulation blockers (sound machine, something to cover a window, something to block you at night from eyesight...). 
What to Expect When You Get Home
People often worry that they will negate all forward progress by going on vacation or having some disruption of some sort. That is not the case. Like I said, different babies respond differently. Some get home and slip right back into the normal routine. Some take a day or two of fussiness to get back to normal. Some might take a couple of weeks. No matter how long it takes, it won't negate everything you had previously achieved. Plan on taking a few days to be super consistent when you get home so your baby has the best chance at bouncing back quickly. 

Helpful Reading Material:

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Brayden Preteen Summary {11.5 Years Old}

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This is a summary for Brayden from 11.25 years old to 11.5 years old. 

Guys. 12 years old is a huge milestone for us in our church culture. I can NOT believe my child is almost 12. Can't. 

EATING
Eating is great. It seems to me that his taste buds are maturing. He hasn't ever been a picky eater at all, but he has still been a child. He just seems to be liking flavors more that are traditionally like more by adults than children. 

SLEEPING
We had NO stress issues about falling asleep during his period. I think he has really been figuring himself out and learning to quiet his brain when he starts to worry he won't fall asleep quickly. I totally understand that panicky feeling; I got it every time I had a nursing baby. I could not fall back asleep after nursing a baby because I would be so worried about getting enough sleep. I am glad he has been figuring it out.

BIG BROTHER
Brayden is still a sweet and kind big brother. His sisters all love him. Brinley currently has plans to marry him because she, "loves him so much and he is so cool." I think that just shows what a great brother he is. 

EXTRA CURRICULAR
Piano is back up and in full swing. Brayden loves playing instruments and especially loves the piano. He played basketball during this time. He had a great team and they had a lot of fun. It was a short, four week season with double headers every week. I actually appreciated that because games are now done! They have always gone into December in years past, and that is just hard. 



He also has swim team going on. He is really loving swim team. At his last meet, for his first race, he got basically the exact same time. He was frustrated by that because he is used to dropping time consistently right now. In an effort to provide some motivation, my mom offered to pay him if he dropped time on his next race. 

She started with, "If you drop 10 second in your next race..." This is where I interrupted her. "Ten seconds is a ton of time. That is unheard of." She then asked what would be a big goal but attainable. I suggested she just do one dollar per second. He typically drops 1-3 seconds per race per meet. 

So he went out for his next race and dropped 12 seconds. Yes, 12. We found that hilarious and assured my mom there was no way he would drop 12 again. So for his next race he dropped 20 seconds. Yep! 20!!! Haha! Unheard of. His next race was the butterfly and also his fifth race so far that day (including a relay he swam in), so he didn't drop time then. He was beat. But he had a pretty awesome day. 

SCHOOL
School is going well. It is an interesting year for Brayden and his fellow sixth graders. Sixth grade has always been in the middle school. This year, it moved into the elementary school. It has kind of been a learning year for everyone with that dynamic. 

Brayden is still in the gifted and talented program. He really enjoys that time to push himself and to interact with the other kids in the program. Above you can see him giving a presentation created in that class. 

There are fun things I hear from people about him. One day, our school did a "Walk to School" day where we helped educate on safe routes for getting to school. I was a ways away from the school at a corner helping kids navigate that spot. Once all of the kids were past, I walked to the school to check and see how things went there (I am the PTO president). The ladies over the event told me that when Brayden got there, he immediately jumped in and helped them carry stuff and set things up (they had offered a light breakfast as kids got to school). They commented on how impressed they were with him and what a great help he was. 

MILE RUN
Our school did a mile run for our fundraiser this year. Brayden killed it with a time of 6:47. He went much faster than I anticipated, so I didn't count where he was in his grade, but he was way up there. He trained on his own and really pushed himself to improve. 



SCHEDULE

7 AM--Get up, get ready. Practice piano. Free time until school
9 AM--School
4:00 PM--Home. Homework if there is any. Freetime.
5:00 PM--Dinner
6:00 PM--Swim Team
8:00/8:30 PM--Bed

Monday, November 28, 2016

Relating to Moms Who Parent Differently Than You

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You know those awkward moments. Those times when another mom is trying to find common ground with you by bringing up a common frustration among mothers, but the ground is actually uncharted territory for you?

"My two year old still gets up all night every night!"

"I can't get my four year old out of my bed."

"Whenever I lose my voice, I quickly realize how much I yell at my kids!"

"I can't ever leave my baby because she still nurses to sleep."

Or similarly, those moments when you are around a mom and her kids and it becomes clear you  have very different behavior expectations. One is left feeling judged for being to lax while the other one is feeling judged for being too strict. 

While we can find groups of parents online who share our same parenting philosophies, it can be very difficult to find one or two, much less a group, of moms who parent similarly to you within your neighborhood. That leaves us with trying to figure out how to relate with other moms when we really don't have a whole lot in common at our base occupation in life at the moment: motherhood. We all need that like-minded mom friend to bounce ideas off of and commiserate with, but there is so much value in friends who think differently than you do! Here are some ideas for how to relate to moms even when you are vastly different.

Realize They Might Parent That Way Intentionally
We often assume other moms parent differently than we do because they just haven't been enlightened to our ways yet. This is often not correct. Stephanie shared:

"I had a candid convo with a friend about this once. Her family is very AP-friendly. It came down to what they believe and value: they believe their kids will sleep on their own when they are ready (meaning independent sleep is not something you teach but something you do when you're ready), and they valued time together as a family, which for them expressed itself as co-sleeping, nip-and-nap nursing, etc. Before that convo I had always arrogantly assumed that attachment parenting was clearly a second choice and a result of failed sleep training, fear of starting sleep training, or lack of knowledge about sleep training; it didn't occur to me that families would actively choose that way of life right out the gate. Consider me schooled! After talking with her I have much more respect for families choosing different methods for sleep and eating, etc. I just do my thing with my kids and if they have questions they know they can ask; I don't offer up advice anymore. If something is going poorly for them I just say "ohh bummer that's so hard, what are you going to do about it?" and let them do the talking. I've also found it helpful to ask questions of those that do it differently so that I can give all the options to my new mom friends. I can say "oh we don't co-sleep but I have a friend that does and here are the pros and cons as I understand them, etc". The more I know, the better resource I can be to others!"

I love how Stephanie talked openly with her friend. Communication can go a long way toward understanding and connecting! 

Find Common Ground
Even if many of your practices are difference, chances are high there is something you have in common. Try to find that. Ashley said:

"I try my hardest to be understanding of how they parent. As long as their children are healthy and behaving within the lines, I really don't care. If their kids are out of control, I sympathize but silently say prayers of thanksgiving that they aren't my kids 😉  Most moms are trying their best and are following what they believe. Some think I'm crazy for working so hard on a schedule. I think some are crazy for not!
When we disagree face to face, I try my hardest to find common ground. From there I give my respect to the mom and bluntly say we will have to agree to disagree. With my first son, I got really rattled when my parenting was questioned. I now have confidence that I can successfully keep a child alive for three years! 

I am part of my church's MOPS group and am the only Babywise mom. I try to represent! Seriously, we moms need to stick together. We're raising kids in a tumultuous time, and we need support. Arguing over AP or BW or free range or lots of TV parenting styles, what are we accomplishing? Last I checked, people aren't won over to new lifestyle choices by argument. Lead by example, allow yourself to be smug in your alone time/time with spouse, and be confident that if your child(ren) haven't burned your house down, you're a rockstar parent. Be the example you want you kids to follow."

I love her point to lead by example. If people want what you have, they will ask. If they don't, they won't. 

Be Confident In Your Parenting
Often times when we struggle connecting with others, it is because we feel defensive of how we are parenting. Obviously it is hard to not be defensive if someone is being aggressive and telling you that you are wrong. Most of the time, however, we are not literally being told we are wrong. I think we often put that judgement on ourselves without other people overtly saying judgmental remarks. Katie said:

"Ohhh this is so much easier now that my kids are older! I'd say now I'm just confident in what I do. And I also know more that sometimes you're handed a doozy of a kiddo and might have to parent in ways you never thought you would. And honestly in the end, if there's any potential conflict or tension brewing, we just steer away from those topics."

I like how she pointed out to simply avoid topics that will be a source of contention. 

On a similar line of thinking, Janalin shared,

" I'm not defined by the method I use to parent my child, and I try not to define other parents by their parenting. If they are purests about their method and it is different than mine, they might criticize me. That is their problem but mine."


Stand Up For Your Kids
It is one thing to say, "Not my circus, not my monkeys," and move on with your day, but quite another to have people imposing their different views onto your family. Alyssa shared,

"When I see something done differently than how I choose to parent, instead of criticizing internally, I choose to focus on seeing why that style fits that parent and child/family etc. People usually have good reasons for doing things the way they do. Especially when it's a friend, I remember that I respect them and that their family's needs are different and that's okay. It turns my analytical thoughts into a positive direction by using my experiences to see and know my friends better. The book the Child Whisperer has been extremely helpful in doing this. 

Where I find the challenge is when other parenting styles are directed at my kid and I have to step in and readjust the expectation. Even harder with family in my opinion. I usually pause as much as I can before responding or overriding the direction that loved one have my kid, for sure putting my child first, but responding firmly as needed and with as much respect as I can. It also helps to explain our family rules before an event occurs: example, my dad volunteered to take my kids swimming while I stayed home and the baby napped. He immediately launched into the toy the kids could earn if they were "brave." I said that all sounded great, and then proceeded to inform him of what bravery looks like for my kids and how far they could be pushed before it was too much (childhood scars here 😂) it ended up being a great experience and my dad was able to teach my kids some new things with out anyone reliving my childhood trauma lol."


Keep Advice To Yourself
In general, people do not like advice they didn't ask for. Even in my position as a this blog author, my friends know that I will absolutely not offer them advice unless they blatantly ask for it. If they are complaining to me about how exhausted they are from waking up every hour all night, I just commiserate with them. That must be exhausting! They know I will not try to solve their problem
unless they ask me to. 

This was something I had to actually share with them. Most thought I would jump in with advice because that is what people do! They now know, though. Cole at Twinning Babywise shared:

"I think in general (not even specifically in motherhood) judgement comes from a place of insecurity. If we are confident in our decisions, there really isn't any reason to hyperanalyze how someone else does it. You don't have to relate - you just observe and move on. 

On a practical level, I have learned that there is almost never a situation where it is advantageous to offer up unsolicited advice. If someone else is doing things differently - EVEN IF SHE IS TOTALLY FAILING - I generally try to hold my tongue. If she wants advice, she'll come asking for it. Exceptions to this of course would be if a friend was doing something overtly harmful to them or their child - obviously I'd speak up at that point. So how do I respond when it's clear our parenting philosophies are different? I DON'T.

Because I seek out advice from friends I see parenting how I want to parent (or with results I want to achieve) over time I've grown closer to women that parent similarly whereas I haven't established those same deep friendships with the women who do things totally differently. It hasn't been a purposeful paring down of friendships - it just occurs naturally. There are some exceptions - a friend or two and some family members - but for the most part my closest friends at least have the same parenting goals in mind."


Realize Differences Don't Matter
Many of the things we get huffy about just don't matter. Alice shared:

"Before becoming a mother, I worked in the foster care system and saw the effects of childhood abuse and neglect and lack of attachment between parent and child. I think that because I've seen abuse and neglect first hand, disagreeing about how to put your baby to bed, how to start solids, and what kind of diapers to use seems so minuscule. With that said, I've settled on believing these things. 1) My friends' way of parenting may be different but every "way" has pros and cons and is not perfect, including babywise. 2) I remind myself that everyone is doing their best. 3) I also remind myself that they are probably doing what they think works best for their family unit, just like I am. 4) I don't give unsolicited advice. ever. That makes things much more peaceful." 

So much of what we worry about as mothers just doesn't matter in the grand scheme of life. Yes, we have to make those decisions as parents, but the ramifications of either option often just don't matter.

Connect In Other Ways
Like I said earlier, you will likely not find many moms who parent exactly like you in your every day life. Sometimes those differences can cause some contention. When your child is hit by another child and the mom does nothing about it, it is hard to say, "Eh, differences don't matter" or find common ground there. Some parenting decisions only impact that family, but others will impact your children. For the most part, however, different parenting styles aren't going to impact you or your children.

I once shared with you many of my friends. I shared how we are different and how are the same. I have some mom friends who are basically the same as I am as a parent. These are definitely special friendships and we get along so well with each others kids and our kids get along well with each other. 

But that doesn't mean I don't value my friendships with my mom friends who parent differently. One of my very favorite friends lets her kids sleep in bed with her and sugar runs freely at her house. Those are just a couple of differences. I could let those things divide us and stay away, but then I would be missing out on a great friend. I have found things in common with her. She demands her kids be respectful of people and she is pretty crazy on car seat standards just like I am. We both have our four year olds in five-point harnesses while most people around here have four year olds bouncing around in the car...We have differences as moms, but that doesn't threaten either of us. 

We are more than "just" moms. Yes, motherhood is a huge part of our lives and a huge part of what defines us, but it isn't the only thing. My friend I was just talking about has more in common with me than our mom connections. We are both organized and OCD in many ways. We both have PCOS and connect over that struggle. We have a lot of similarities in life, but just as many differences. I have learned so much from her about enjoying life and living in the moment. You can connect over differences just as much as you can similarities. 

Even when you find that mom who is your clone, you will have differences. They might be silly differences. My clone loves sushi and I want to gag just thinking about it. She hates verbal confrontation and it doesn't make me bat an eye. The point is, even someone who has similar life experiences and parenting styles as you will be different from you in ways. If you look for people just like yourself, you will be left with only yourself as a friend. You have to accept the differences.

I think a great secret among my friends is that our differences are not an elephant in the room. We openly discuss how we are different and no one worries about it. We usually laugh our heads off about the differences. Pretending the differences aren't there gets awkward over time. There is no authenticity. You have to be accepting of differences.

When my husband and I had been married for a year and a half, we moved into a new town. The wife next door visited with me. She had 8 kids and I had 1, so obviously we had some blatant differences before us. She asked me what I liked to do. I told her my short list, and she responded, "Oh, all of the things I hate." And that was that. She decided then and there that we were too different to be friends. 

The trick to discussing differences is to remove judgement from the conversation. Find what is the same, find what is different, and love your friends through it all. Look at differences as a way to learn new things and see the world from a different view. 

You need friends in your life. Open yourself up to them. Do not let the differences stifle your relationships. Sure, you won't be best friends with everyone you meet. You don't have to be. But you can grow great friendships even with people vastly different from yourself. 

Practical Ideas
If you want to get to know other people better and grow closer to them, you need to spend time with them. You can do this by meeting at the park to visit while your kids play. You can have moms over to your house with their kiddos to visit while kids play. You can meet up at a local jump park, splash pad, or even McDonald's. 

Meeting with kids is fun, but the best is getting together without kids. Organize Girl's Night Out  each month. My friends and I do this. We take turns hosting and we do it after kids are in bed. We have so much fun. Sometimes we just talk (and eat treats). Sometimes we go out for dinner or dessert. Sometimes we sit around the camp fire. Sometimes we go to an amusement park. It gives much needed girl talk and we get to know each other without being interrupted every five minutes (at best). You can also go out on date nights with your spouses. 

Conclusion
We are living in a climate where too many people are willing to throw away even old friendships over differences of opinion. Those differences enrich our lives and help us see the world in a more-rounded way. It is okay to be different from other friends, and definitely okay to make friends who are different. Find common ground where you can, agree to disagree where you need to, and have fun together!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Give Thanks! Some Greatest Hits

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We will be having a nice break this week as we celebrate Thanksgiving with family. Here are some great hits from 2011 for you to enjoy as you go into a turkey-coma. Click on the photo to be taken to the post. Many of these had images placed with them before I did text on images here, so if you hover over the image, text will pop up telling you what it is all about. 

 How Flexible Can I Be?


 Feeding Times for Solids for Babies


 Timeless Toys for Children



 Boy Will Be Boys

 Weaning From Finger/Thumb Sucking



 Cluster Feeding

 Nighttime Sleep: 9-15 Weeks Old


 Activity Overload


 Working Outside the Home
 Altitude Sickness


 Dressing Problem Solving


 "I Do It Myself!"

 Hair and Scalp Concerns

 Snack Time

 Planning Your Schedule For Multiple Children





Tuesday, November 22, 2016

5 Things To Do Before You Start Potty Training

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One of the first thoughts I had when I found out I was pregnant with Brinley was, "Oh great, now I have to potty train another child." I had just finished potty training McKenna and felt this sense of freedom! Potty training is one of my absolute most dreaded tasks as a parent. This isn't because I have had some tramatic experience. No, we have actually always had things go quite smoothly overall. For some reason, though, it is a daunting task for me, and I know I am not alone. Here are five things for you to do before you start potty training that should help your process go smoothly.

1-Give Fair Warning 
It is quite helpful to give fair warning to your child that his/her world is about to change. "On your birthday, you are going to start wearing underwear and pee in the potty!" Use a timeline the child can measure somewhat. A birthday or holiday are good, measurable moments. So are vacations. Think of something coming up in the future that your child will be able to measure time by.

Giving a warning, or heads up, that life is about to change in a major way gives your child time to think, ponder, and digest what is coming up. Talk about it, read books about it, watch shows about it...Daniel Tiger has a great episode on potty training. As you talk about it, be excited! "Right after Christmas, you get to start wearing underwear like a big boy! Isn't that exciting!" 

2-Make a Game Plan
You need to have a plan for how you are going to go about this potty training business. Do not go into it with your plan being "Take away diapers." Despite the fact that peeing and pooping are normal human functions, your child doesn't know how to do so on a toilet yet. Your child has always been wearing a diaper, which means peeing and pooping anytime, anyplace has so far been okay. Your child hasn't had to learn things like taking into account time to get to the toilet before the pee and poop comes out. It is all new.

So you will have to teach. And teaching this isn't easy. It is about as easy as it would be to teach someone how to swallow. Most children being potty trained aren't full conversationalists. Most still only follow 1-2 step commands. There are a lot of facets to potty training, so it will take some practice to get there.

Decide if you will do rewards or not, and if so, for what? Will you make going potty part of the routine or will you wait for your child to declare she needs to go?  Potty training is an amoral activity, which means there is no one right way to go about it. That means you get to decide what would work best for you and your child. Just have a plan before you get started. This is how I do potty training

3-Clear Your Calendar
You don't want to be in the middle of potty training when it is time to head out for a vacation. You don't want to start on a day when you have a huge meeting you have to get ready for. Ideally you will have at least 2-3 days at home where your main focus is on your child. Remember, you are teaching your child how to do a normal thing in a whole new way. Your child needs your focus and attention. Your child also needs some consistency to get it down.

4-Buy All of Your Supplies and Treats
Before you start, you want to be prepared. You have made your plan and now you need to make sure you have everything you need. Potty chair, books for you, books for your child, treats, drinks...make sure you have everything you need before you get going. Note that potty training can be much easier if your child is drinking enough liquid that she HAS to go potty. That is why having snacks that make you thirsty as well as drinks on hand for your child helps the potty training process. You might be surprised how long a child can hold that pee in. Having too much liquid makes it impossible to hold (which is also why you really want to be around to watch for that potty dance).

5-Mentally Prepare
Your first couple of days are most likely going to be you and your child together the whooollllleee day long. No independent playtime. You might do a nap. No having your child do something in the other room. It is just you and the child. That can be mentally taxing, especially for those whose child is in the "ask one million and one questions" a day phase. 

Plan it as a day of fun. Have movies to watch, books to read, games to play, puzzles to put together...I like to have some activities for my child to do independently while I read or something just so we have little breaks. 

You also need to be mentally prepared because teaching potty training is difficult at times. You can't explain it. You can't demonstrate it. It is like trying to explain what salt tastes like without using the word "salty." Some kids just get it. For others, it is hard! And honestly, if someone took your toilet away and told you that you have to now use the restroom in a totally different way, it would probably take you some time to get used to it. Be prepared to be patient. Be prepared to get mentally worn out. Be prepared to clean up messes. If you are ready for the worst, you will most likely be pleasantly surprised. For great tips on surviving this, see Surviving Potty Training.

Conclusion
Potty training can feel scary, but it is very doable. Start with these five steps, consult the posts below for more help, and you should be well on your way to success!

Related Posts:
Today the BFBN is posting on the topic of potty training. Check them out here:

Monday, November 21, 2016

9 Things to Know About Having Older Children

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Do you ever sit back and daydream about life with older children? How life will be so much easier then? Do you look at that grass on that side of the fence and just sigh?

Okay. Life with older children is definitely different than it is with babies. It isn't necessarily easier, nor is it necessarily harder. It is different. Your take on easy or hard it is will probably vary based on your own personality and the personality of your children. Baby sleep is stressful, but so is the moral (and physical) safety of your child. Here are 9 things for you to know about having older children.

1-You Need to Pay Attention to Them
Pre-teen years are the golden years, at least in my perspective. You don't have naps. You don't have very much attitude. Your child still thinks you are the coolest and still is thrilled to spend a Friday night with the family. You have flexibility and yet maintain innocence. It is easy to kind of ignore this age group. Don't do it! Do not expect your teenager to turn to you when times get tough if you didn't maintain or build something in the preteen years. Do not pay less attention to them just because you can.

2-You Should Continue to Hug and Kiss Them
One day as I put Brayden to bed, he asked me why I didn't kiss him on the lips anymore. I hadn't even realized that had come about. I think we often as adults assume our children are trying to grow up faster than they are trying to, so we step back in an effort to give them space. Keep showing affection for your child. Be the last one to break from a hug; hug long and strong until your child lets go. Hug and kiss unless and until your child asks you not to. 

3-You Need to Teach Them to Work
Your older children aren't likely to ask you to be sure they have chores. They aren't likely to thank you for giving them jobs around the house to do. When you do give chores, however, they know they are a part of something. They know they contribute to the family and that their contributions matter. They need to learn to work and they need you to teach them by working with them. If your child had to be taught how to use the toilet, you can be sure your child wasn't born knowing how to clean the toilet. Continually add types of chores to their lives as time passes. They can learn to do the dishes. They can learn to do the laundry. Keep adding available jobs to your child's repertoire. 

4-They Need You To Follow Through On Consequences
You might think you are being super nice when you go back on a consequence, but that leaves children feeling insecure. Sure, if you overreacted and need to tone a punishment back, go for it. Verbally acknowledge that you have decided to change the original consequence. In general, however, give out consequences that are fair and then stick to them.

Something to note is that older children are very capable of helping to think of consequences that are fair. When they do something they shouldn't, ask your child what would be an appropriate consequence. This often helps them to accept the consequence with grace. I have always found that my children suggest a punishment that is bigger than I would have done myself.

5-Electronics Need to Be Limited
When you let your child play the computer, watch TV, or play apps on the smart phone, your child will be quiet and won't make a big mess. However, I have found the more screen time a child has, the more he or she is whiny and snaps at siblings and parents. Limit screen time. When you do, your child will find other ways to entertain herself. 

6-Your Child Will Do Things on Her/His Own If You Let Him/Her
Try to avoid bailing your child out. If you allow your child to have personal responsibility, she will take it. Just like the preschooler who always has her shirt put on her versus the one who is expected to put the shirt on herself, older children rise up to expectations.

Let's say she forgets her homework folder at home. You can either run the folder to school or you can not. If you run it to school, you are likely to be hearing a request to bring the homework folder to school again very soon. If you do not, then you likely won't see the folder sitting forgotten on the counter again, or at least not frequently.

This of course needs to be balanced with grace. I want my children to learn responsibility, but I also want them to learn what grace looks like. I always tell my children that I will help them out when they forget something, but if forgetting becomes a habit, they will be on their own. I am up front about this and they know. Children are humans, and humans make mistakes. They sometimes forget, just like I forget things sometimes. So I want to allow for mistakes to be made and grace to be applied. I don't want them to neglect learning responsibility, however, and that is where a balance must be struck.

I think every one of my children taps into that grace once or twice each school year, but never more than that. This also helps them to analyze the situation and access real emergencies. Sad that she forgot her library books at home? Yes, but she can bring them back next week. That isn't an emergency she needs to call me for help with. She won't get new ones this week, but this isn't a moment to freak out about and call mom for help. 

7-They Need to Be Able To Make Choices
As children get older, we have to give them more control. This is always a balancing act. This is similar to the waketime length mystery of babyhood. What is enough, what is too much, and what is too little? We can't give too much control, but we can't maintain all control, either. We have to learn how to let them have appropriate control over their lives. This means things like letting them dress themselves. It means letting them have input and even complete control over what their after-school activities are. The amount of control allowed is a trial and error process. Do your best to guess what is right and adjust as needed. Always remember you are the parent, so you get to be in charge, and you can make changes as needed.

Beyond their need within themselves to make choices, they need to learn how to make choices. This will hopefully be an extension of life as a younger child. Let your child take over making decisions. Be a guide and source of wisdom, but let your child make the choice. This is a great time to let your child make decisions and continue to learn what living with decisions looks like. 

8-You Need to Apologize When You Mess Up
You will make mistakes, just like you did when this child was a baby. When you do, apologize. Do so without offering excuses or justifications for why you did what you did. Apologize and ask forgiveness. This teaches your child that you aren't perfect, which helps your child know she doesn't have to be perfect, either. It also models to your child how to behave when he/she makes a mistake. 

9-Life Doesn't Get Less Busy With Older Children
I used to dream of when my children would get older and I would have more time. One day I saw the calendar of a mom with preteen and teenage children. I realized that day that life actually only gets busier. 

Brinley started having preschool this year, which leaves me with 6 hours a week kid-free. You probably think I have all of this free time now and that I am able to kick back, relax, and nap! I had one friend ask me if I have figured out how to fill that time yet. 

The reality is that having those 6 hours kid-free just help me to keep my head above water. I am able to stay on top of all of my commitments and responsibilities without slacking on them. I can do things like sweep the kitchen more than once a week. I have had a cookie or two in those hours over the last six weeks, but I have yet to read a book or chill in any way. 

Even though life is busier, for me, I enjoy it more. I like the variety older children bring to the days. While I am a person who loves routine, I enjoy the subtle ways my days are different now that my children are older. 

Conclusion
Now you know the secrets. You know what to daydream about. I will tell you, I have loved having older children! It is definitely a time to look forward to and a time to cherish when you are there. Life with younger children also has its wonderful perks that you fully lose when your children are older, so cherish those moments as you can. 

Friday, November 18, 2016

Gift Ideas for YOU! {Friday Finds}

This post may contain affiliate links.

Do you ever have a hard time having ideas for family members when they want to know what YOU want for Christmas? I do! There are moments I can think of a million things I might like, but in the end, I have a hard time pinpointing what I might actually want. Here are some ideas for you! I have things in a variety of price-ranges.

I got these to wear at our PTO Fundraiser events this year, and I have loved them! They are super comfortable and cute. You might not feel comfortable walking around in camo pants. If so, you might not want to get them. But I always say, the trick to these styles is to just own it. So if you wear it and wear it like you own it, you can pull it off. Camo is very popular right now and quite hipster.



Combat Boots
These boots are my very favorite shoe right now. Kaitlyn is also in love with them. Every time I wear them, she oogles about how adorable they are. They really are. They are pretty true to size. I would say maybe you could go half a size smaller than what you normally wear, but I would recommend just getting what you normally wear.



Aero Garden
I often post photos of my Aero Garden on Instagram. I very much love it. Fresh herbs year round?!? Yes please! We have also grown tomoatoes and salad greens. My favorite is the herbs. This is expensive, but if you like fresh herbs or like gardening, you will very much love this. I grew my herbs indoors even over the summer.



Gel Nails
I have talked a couple of times about my new-found love of gel nails. You can read more here:

Gel Nail Polish 


and here: 

My Favorite Gel Nail Polish







Hoover Vacuum
One day, this was on a great discount and I had to decide in one day if I wanted it or not. My husband convinced me to get it and I LOVE it! And right now, the sale is the same as it was when I got it. Sweeping has always been my very least favorite chore. With this, I can vacuum my kitchen daily instead of sweep.



Drink Container
Drinking water is so valuable to your health, but it can be hard to be sure you do so! I find it much easier when I have a cup to drink from. There are tons of options. One is the RTIC, which is a Yeti copycat, but by all accounts is just as good as the Yeti. I don't know if that is true or not. I am still in the "think about it" phase. So this idea is more of a "this might be a good idea for you" idea. I have usually had a tumbler I have gotten at Walmart, but the straw always ends up snapping somehow, so I am just in the wondering phase if something more like the Yeti is the way to go. Input welcome :) 

Fitbit
I love the Fitbit and have talked about it a few times

Phone Case Wallet
This is one of my very favorite things. It is a phone case that totally protects your phone. If you drop it, there is no breaking. I don't know about you, but as a mom, I drop my phone a lot. This also has the bonus of holding a couple of cards and my drivers licence. Now I always have everything I need with me without having to carry something big around. It would be perfect for moms who still have a diaper bag going on; you can throw it in the diaper bag but then take it out and put it in a purse. Or you can just carry it by itself. 

Clothes/Accessories
If you still don't know what to ask for, cute clothes are always fun. It can be hard to justify spending money on yourself, so maybe a giftcard to your favorite clothing store so you can't save the cash for something for your kids. It is fun to get something to look a little updated and feel cute.

Books/Music
Another great gift is books. I love to read and love books. Maybe even a Kindle! Music is another fun one; this could be a CD, iTunes gift card, or a subscription to a favorite music service.


Hopefully these either gave you some great ideas or sparked some ideas for you. I know every year when my sister asks me what I might like, I respond, "Ummmm....." no idea. Do you have more ideas? Please share in the comments!



Thursday, November 17, 2016

Face Out Bookshelves {Ideas and Tutorial}

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From the moment I read about the idea, I knew I wanted to implement it in our home. It was genius and I was all in! We have had these in our home for about five and a half years and I love them the same as I did day one. In The Read Aloud Handbook, Jim Trelease talks about how seeing the book cover increases the likelihood that people will read the book.

It makes sense. At a book store, they make sure you can see the cover of any book they are trying to sell. The library typically uses the same tactic; if they want to encourage you to read a book, the cover will be facing you. 

Of course this method takes up a lot more space than stacking them on a bookcase. Never-the-less, I wanted a version in my home! I set out to find the perfect wall, and I found it! Chances are good you have a place in your home that work also. Space behind a door. Space on the wall of a hall. Any wall that can't have furniture up against it. 

If you are looking for gift ideas, either for your children or for yourself, this could be just what you were looking for. 

You can create this in many ways. You can do raingutters. You can do spice racks. You can use Picture Ledges shelves from IKEA. My husband made ours. You can see we don't have a huge profile for these shelves to stick out from the wall before they are in the way of the door right there, so it had to be pretty flat. These would work great in any hall on any wall. We have also put these on the wall above the bed in Brayden's room.


Here is our tutorial on how to do a face-out bookshelf. This is the way my husband designed so you couldn't see a back on the shelves--it looks like they are free-floating. Hopefully I can translate from Engineer-ese to English. Below this tutorial, I will show you some other ideas. 

Materials Needed:
  • 3/4"x1.5" pieces of wood cut to the length you want them on the wall. This is the actual size of the wood. They will be called 1"x2" in the store. You will need two pieces of wood for each shelf. Buy as many as you need to fill the space on your wall.
  • 3" Grabber screws
  • Glue if desired (we used wood glue)
  • Paint and paint brush (we use foam brushes for projects like this)
  • Finish nail gun nails
  • Wood putty
Tools Needed: 
  • Drill
  • Router and/or Table Saw
  • Measuring Tape
  • Pencil
  • Finish Nail Gun
Prepping Wood
1.First, buy your wood. If you are confused on what to buy, see the picture below. Click on it to enlarge. The wood shown in this picture would make one shelf. Cut wood to desired length.



2. Next, you need to router and notch one piece of wood for each shelf. 

Use a router or a dado on a table saw to notch one corner (all the way down the long side) as shown. Again, click on the picture to enlarge.


Use a router the opposite corner if desired. You can do it however you like things done. We used a 45 degree chamfer. You could do things more fancy if you like, or you can do nothing at all.

3. Brush all sawdust off and paint. Allow paint to fully dry. You don't have to paint the 1" (3/4") sides of the un-notched wood. 

Putting Up the Shelves
1. Measure and mark on your wall where you want the shelves. You might want to involve a level.

2. Pre-drill holes in your wall where studs are. It is very important you drill into studs.

3. You can glue one side of the shelf if desired and hold to the wall. We can't remember if we used it at this step or not.

4. Use 3" grabber screws to anchor to the studs. You want the 1" (3/4") side facing out so the long side of the wood is where your book will sit. Countersink screws so that they to just below the surface of the wood. Just make sure you don't go too far and split your wood.





Here are all of our initial pieces on the wall


 5. Uses a finish nail gun to put up the face piece. At this step, we did use glue to secure the two wood pieces together. You want the notched side in and up and the routered side out and down. See the picture below. The notching makes it so the shelf is a bit deeper while providing a lip to keep books on the shelf.

Finishing Touches
1. Use wood putty to fill in holes where finish nail gun put nails in. You want this to just go in the holes and not bump out beyond the hole.
2. Paint over wood putty once it is dry.
3. Put books up!


These shelves are so very worth it. I love having them. My children love them. They look at the books on these shelves all the time. 





But this is not the only way to do these shelves. You can see there are many amazing ways to do these shelves!
 Face out bookshelves
This bookshelf would be easy to put into a room.


Hanging Book Sleeves--easy to make

Flat Wall Book Holders--great for small spaces. Make yourself.




10 Dollar Ledges--make yourself


Raingutters are a very inexpensive and easy way to go.

Another inexpensive option is the spice racks here!


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