Friday, March 31, 2017

Hair Bun Maker {Friday Finds}

This post may contain affiliate links.

If you want a fast and easy way to make a bun in your hair or your little girl's hair, you need to get a bun maker. We have had these for years, but recently when Kaitlyn was playing Tinker Bell, I needed to buy a new one. The one we had, because it was several years old, was starting to get strings coming out of it. Plus I had purchased a dark brown one so it would blend with my hair, and Kaitlyn isn't a dark brunette. We needed blonde. This post contains affiliate links. 

I checked with my local Sally's (where I originally got the brown one years ago) and they didn't carry the type I wanted. So I turned to Amazon where I often go for my shopping needs. I found this three pack of bun makers for about the price of one bun maker at Sally's, so I gave it ago!

They work great! We used the largest size for Kaitlyn's Tinker Bell bun. The smallest size works really well for Brinley's hair. Since she is younger, her hair isn't as thick yet, plus she has a smaller head, so the smaller size works well for her. I love the three pack because all three of my girls can each use one on the same day. They do, by the way, have blonde, brown, or black. 
You can do several different styles of buns using these makers. I will post some pictures on Instagram over the next month showing different ways we finish off this bun. Let me know if you have questions on how to use them. These bun makers are a great hair accessory to have on hand to do fun, different hair styles and get the "full bun" look.


Thursday, March 30, 2017

What Age Should Your Child Be Allowed To Have Social Media Accounts?

This post may contain affiliate links.

As your child comes out of the preteen years and approaches the teen years, you will likely start to get inquiries about when he/she can open up various social media accounts, if you haven't heard about it earlier than that. The minimum age for most social media sites is 13 according to each platform's rules. Despite that, many, many children sign up earlier than that, using a fake birthday to create an account.
"According to The Social Age Study by knowthenet.org.uk, approximately 59% of children have already used a social network by the time they are 10." as reported on the Huffington Post
Brayden is coming up on 12 and recently inquired about social media. Would he get accounts on some of these social media sites when he turned 12? A lot of people at school are getting them as they turn 12 (which I know is true because they follow me on Instagram. Many even started younger than 12). His upcoming birthday has led me to do some researching, digging, and pondering on the topic. While I am not yet at a solid stance, I have come to enough awareness that I want to shed some insight to the topic sooner rather than later so you can also be pondering for your children. I will no doubt write on this topic frequently over the years as we navigate these waters.

The reality is that we are yet to have a generation who has lived through the social media world be able to tell us, verbally or statistically, what is and isn't a good idea. We don't have wise grandmothers to turn to to glean advice from on how to handle the social media beast. We are pioneers on this front. Pioneers build strong foundations for future generations, and we must do the same with social media. 

We do have experiences of some to look to. And we do have opinions of people, like law enforcement, who deal with the potential ramifications of social media issues on a daily basis. Here is what I have found so far. 

SO...WHAT AGE?
Let's say at this point you are dead set on your child getting social media as a child and want to know the best age to do so. Your child must be at least 13. Don't do it younger than 13. At least wait until your child is 13 to set up social media accounts. This post dose a great job talking about some reasons why. In summary:
  1. COPPA: The Children's Online Privacy Protection Act protects children under the age of 13. If your child signs up under the age of 13, but had to lie about his/her age to do so, your child is no longer protected by that act. 
  2. Brain Development: "Research shows that it takes children about 12 years to fully develop the cognitive structures that enable them to engage in ethical thinking." This is a point I have come across time and time again when researching this topic. Honestly, age 13 doesn't go far enough for me. Do we all not remember what it was like to be a teenager? The stupid things that were done? Even beyond 14: "There is also biology to consider. The prefrontal cortex, a part of the brain that controls impulse, finishes developing in the mid-20s. In other words, parents should not be surprised if younger children with smartphones lack impulse control." (What's the Right Age for a Child to Get a Smartphone?)
  3. Lying: If you help your child set up a social media account under the age of 13, you have to lie to do so, and you are teaching your child that's okay. I don't know about you, but I don't want to start my child's social media life off with a "lying is sometimes okay" undertone. 
"The takeaway will not please smartphone makers: The longer you wait to give your children a smartphone, the better. Some experts said 12 was the ideal age, while others said 14. All agreed later was safer because smartphones can be addictive distractions that detract from schoolwork while exposing children to issues like online bullies, child predators or sexting.
“The longer you keep Pandora’s box shut, the better off you are,” said Jesse Weinberger, an internet safety speaker based in Ohio who gives presentations to parents, schools and law enforcement officials. “There’s no connection to the dark side without the device.”"
BUT...EVERYONE ELSE IS DOING IT
Age old issue. What did we used to hear from our parents? "If everyone else was jumping off a cliff, would you?"

Would you?

Our parents asked us that. As teenagers, we often wanted to jump off the cliff to fit in. And now, as parents, we are sending our children to jump off the cliffs because everyone else is doing it. Instead of stepping back an asking our children why they think they need to follow the crowd like our parents did, we are worried about our children being left out of the crowd. 

Stay away from the cliff. Wait until your child is 13.

And then, carefully consider if you want to allow it past then. 

I am glad that I have some more time to ponder this topic before Brayden hits 13. I had thought the magic age was 12, but now that it is 13, I still have some more time. But as I think, here are some points that have been brought to my attention.
  • Social media is causing real problems. I don't think it was by accident that just over a week ago, I was talking with a good friend who works at our emergency dispatch location (she takes 9-1-1 phone calls). She isn't allowed to talk about any details on calls she gets. That day, there was a hearing for a call she had taken. A call where a 14 year old girl was shot in the head by 16 year old boy and his friend. Why? So far, the reason given by the shooter is he was tired of her Snapchatting him so much.My friend was understandably emotional that day as we visited. It is a hard case for her as a parent to be involved in. She shared that based on several calls she has taken over the last several months, she took her two teen daughters' social media accounts away. Fully gone. She agonized over the prospect of doing it for a while before actually doing it. She talked with a detective who strongly recommended she take the social media away. Based on what he is seeing, he said he wishes he could tell all parents to do the same.

    An interesting part to this story for me is that her two daughters didn't even care that social media was taken away. In fact, she said her older daughter seemed relieved and in the weeks since, has been happier than ever.

    This shooting story is just one story that is local where I am. I would guess many, if not most, of you can think of a similar tragic story in your area in the last few years. 
  • Children need a break from the drama. When we were kids, we had a safe place, called home. With social media, home isn't a safe place anymore. No where is. Everywhere you to, your life can be penetrated. There is no break. I read, and shared on Facebook, this interesting article where the father explained they won't let their son have a smartphone because they want him to have a break. "I want you to be free from middle school drama when you’re at home. Of course, our son thinks the phone represents a new rung on the ladder, the next step toward the freedom of adulthood. We think the phone, at his age, is a step down into slavery. It traps kids, just like it can trap adults, into the social game of likes and comments and never-ending comparisons." I have adult friends who can't handle these things--worrying about likes and comparing themselves to others. Some have removed themselves from social media as a result. Others suffer through the insecurities brought on by social media. 
  • Even adults often can't handle the drama. Sometimes it feels like social media has reintroduced the high school culture into our lives. Remember when we left high school and grew up? I know not all of you young mothers were really able to do that unless you don't use social media. But those of us who are older or don't use social media left high school drama once. We put the drama behind us and gained some powerful perspective on life. Look, I loved high school. Fully. I wouldn't even mind repeating it. I had a great time and some of my favorite days each year are the days I get together with my high school friends. However, there was DRAMA in high school! Anyone like me who graduated before social media existed was able to put that behind us. Social media is definitely a way drama has been reintroduced into the lives of adults. Some adults can't handle it. They post things they shouldn't, they overshare, they get their feelings hurt, and they call out people. If adults act like they do on social media, you better believe teenagers step it up beyond that. 
  • Dangers of sexting, pornography, and predators are real. Those all exist. Those are there and always will be. Are teenagers smart enough to avoid those things? Obviously not all. Again, let's step back and remember what it was like to be a teenager. Teenagers tend to think they are indestructible in every way. Even people who were overall very mature, responsible teenagers can look back on teen years and think of at least one event where they recognize that act or decision was really stupid. The dangers of sexting, pornography, and predators are all very real, but that doesn't mean our teens will believe the dangers are real to them
  • Children need to learn to communicate "the old fashioned way." Yes, a lot of communication can and does happen over social media or texting in our modern world. However, in the real world, there is still a lot of communication that needs to happen face to face or voice to voice. More and more people are uncomfortable with people trying to talk to them in person or call them on the phone. We still live in a society where communication skills are important, however. When I was in high school and college, communication skills were number one for employers when looking for an employee. It is still high if not number one today. According to this New York Times article, "James P. Steyer, chief executive of Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization that reviews content and products for families, has a strict rule for his family: His children get a smartphone only when they start high school — after they have learned restraint and the value of face-to-face communication."
BUT...I HAVE GOOD ARGUMENTS FOR SOCIAL MEDIA
Above you find all of my concerns with social media. The more I have researched it, the longer my list of concerns has grown. Now, I am a blogger. As such, I personally have a lot of social media accounts. I also actually think social media can be used for a lot of good. It has its major benefits to life! We are able to connect with people and stay in touch with relatives who live far from us. We are able to find and share great ideas and life hacks with each other. We are able to find like-minded parents and parents going through similar life situations. We can be inspired and uplifted. I personally love social media. My knee-jerk is to let my kids get on it and love the benefits!

On the major flip side at our house, my husband does not have one single social media account. Not one. He isn't against them in general, he just has no interest in it.

As I first started pondering this topic, I thought, "Social media is a prevalent part of life in our modern world. Shouldn't we let children use it so we can teach them how to use it correctly? Won't they be behind if they don't use it and all of their friends are? Won't they feel and even be left out of things without social media? And doesn't drama come home either way? Might as well bring the drama home and not let them be left out."

I would imagine many of you have had similar veins of thought as you have read thus far. Here are some of my refutations to myself.

Social media is prevalent, yes. However, there are a lot of things in life that are prevalent that we don't allow children to do until they are considered old enough to handle it. Let's take driving a car. Most adults drive cars, just like most adults have social media accounts. Does that mean our elementary-aged children need to be driving cars? No. Laws vary from state to state for when teenagers can legally drive, but they all manage to learn to drive as a teenager and still function in society as an adult. I would guess we could safely assume a child can also wait to learn social media as an older teenager or even adult and function just fine. In fact, I have only been on social media for 9 years! This month is my 9 year anniversary of joining social media. That means I was in my mid-twenties when I first started learning. 

Not being on social media can definitely leave you feeling or even being left out. Will my kids be the odd ones out if they aren't on social media pretty much ASAP? Possibly. They might feel like the only ones in the world without social media accounts. I refuse to parent based on what is the status quo, however. I am their parent. It is my job to do what is best for them no matter what all the other parents are doing. 

I have a handful of friends who are not on social media at all. There is a lot we plan as friends on social media because it is easy and convenient. Guess what we do, though, because we are nice friends? We make sure we contact our non-social media friends so they know about our girls' nights and park days. They might not be privy to every conversation that happens on social media, but I don't feel less close to those friends because of it. My children can ask any friends they are close to who are on social media to tell them about events they need to know about that are discussed and planned on social media if that becomes an issue. 

As far as drama goes, yes, your teenage child will bring drama home with him/her at some point. For sure. If there is no social media to continue to fuel that drama, however, there can be a break and a recharging time. There can be time to reflect, take a step back, and try to get in a good mental space. There is time to think about what really matters, to hash things out with mom or dad, and gain some perspective on the situation. There can be solace at home. There can be refuge. The drama can dissipate. 

CONCLUSION
I am not at a full conclusion yet with my thoughts on social media for my children. I don't have a planned set age. I am still gathering insight and wisdom into the whole matter. My husband and I will talk it out and pray about what we think is best. Some day, I am sure I will have wisdom to pass on to you based on life experience. As it is right now, I am trying to best set my oldest up for a positive experience. I am trying to be an adult and parent based on what is right for each of my children. I am not trying to be his best buddy. I am his parent first. He only has two parents and needs us to act like parents. 

You can bet he will not get social media until age 13 at the youngest. That much is sure. I still have time to ponder the topic beyond that date. We will decide from there based on what we feel is best, and what we feel is right as his parents. 

See also:

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

How I Learned The Value of Forgiveness

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Although it can be confusing at times that the date of Easter shifts around so much from year to year, something I love about that fact is that it leaves me pondering Easter through March and April each year. Both months encompass memories of the holiday, and it gives me a lot of time to ponder this significant holiday.

At Christmas, we reflect on the birth of the Savior. At Easter, we reflect on His death. This reflection is not out of sadness. It is out of awe, reverence, and gratitude. He suffered and died for us. He suffered and died for you. He suffered and died for me

"...but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world." John 16:33


His death could have ended in sadness if not for His overcoming of the world. He overcame. He broke the bands of death and came back, a resurrected being. If there is anyone to look to as our perfect example, it is Him. 

He is the Prince of Peace.



The world could use some peace at the moment. What better way to add peace to our lives then to look to Him, His example, and find ways to emulate Him?

One of His greatest examples is that of forgiveness. The scriptures are full of stories of Him forgiving others, even the very men who hung Him on the cross and mocked Him. 

As a mother, something I have grown to love is the love Jesus had for the children. 

"...Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven." Matthew 18: 3-4

If the Savior of the world says I should be like a child, then I need to pay attention to children and see what qualities they have that I need to take on myself! What a gift that we adults are able to have children in our lives to learn from. 

Children have a lot to teach us if we will take the time to learn from them. Children are human, and have their faults, but they exemplify so easily so much of what the Savior taught through His words and through His actions. I have been able to learn much as I have been a mother. Children teach me every day.

Someone in my life who is such a great example to me of the principle of forgiveness is my daughter McKenna. McKenna is probably the most optimistic person I have ever met, and I believe a big reason for that is that she is so forgiving. It is easy to look at the world and see only goodness and hope when you forgive the wrongs that come your way. Her heart is full of happiness and she sees the good because she has truly forgiven the bad. She lets forgiveness take her disappointments, failures, and injustices and washes those from her life. What is left is the good. Her life is full of joy because she lets forgiveness take the rest.

As a parent, this quality in my child is of course amazing! This sweet girl doesn't remember my mistakes and wrongs. She sees me with a heart of forgiveness. It doesn't come without its challenges; I have shared that she can be hard for me to discipline as a parent because she always looks to the bright side of a situation. It is hard to find her currency when she always shrugs things off and looks at the bright side. Despite that difficulty that has come with this quality, I have never wanted to break that forgiving heart and optimistic nature. I have worked around it without trying to change her. I want her to hold on to those qualities through her life. I have great hope she will maintain these characteristics through her entire life. 

When Brinley was almost six months old, McKenna, then about 3.5 years old, was hugging Brinley, As babies around that age are known to do, Brinley grabbed at McKenna, scratching her face. She ended up coming away with a fist full of McKenna's hair. McKenna reacted with an exclamation of "Ow!" That was the first time McKenna found Brinley's grabbing and scratching painful. She then laughed and said, "Oh well. At least hair grows back!"

I love that simple story because it so perfectly illustrates how forgiving McKenna is. Brinley didn't ask for any sort of forgiveness as a 6 month old. I didn't have to explain to McKenna that babies don't mean to hurt you. I didn't have to console her. The incident hurt her, but she immediately looked to the bright side, hair grows back, and went on with her day. She didn't stop going in for hugs with Brinley and never lectured Brinley to not pull her hair out. She turned the other cheek and continued playing with Brinley as she always had. 

I have found children in general are very easy and quick to forgive. We can learn a lot from their example. I am grateful for sweet McKenna and her demonstration of what forgiveness is and to be able to witness what joy forgiveness brings to her life. We are commanded to forgive for our own selves as much as for the benefit of the offender. We may feel we are doing the other person a great act of kindness, but we also do ourselves a great act of kindness when we forgive. 

Forgiveness brings joy, freedom, and happiness. It allows us to live life without hesitation or reservation. We can bring so much relief to our lives when we employ the principle of forgiveness in our own lives. Look to your children and the forgiving nature and learn from them. Look to the example of the Savior, the #PrinceofPeace , and forgive those who have offended you. Having a forgiving heart brings you closer to the Savior. Forgive and find joy.

This post is written in partnership with Mormon.org. All stories and opinions are my own. You can find more about the principles Jesus exemplified as the Prince of Peace at Mormon.org and learn how these principles can bring you closer to the Savior. Watch for the #PrinceofPeace campaign and participate April 9-16.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

How To Organize Meal Time

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On the surface, meal time should be easy. We all want to eat. All you have to do is decide what to make and then make it. Right?

If only.

As mothers, we need time to make the meal we want to make. We might have activities that interfere with the timing for the meal. We might have babies to unexpectedly make dinner prep harder one night. We also need the ingredients for said meal, which means we need some pre-planning and shopping.

So how do moms do it? I went to Facebook and asked for ideas. The main takeaway here is to plan ahead. The most sure path to success for you is to plan ahead. Plan your meals ahead. Plan your trips ahead. Prepare things ahead of time. Here is a list of the tips:
  • Shop a month at a time
  • Shop two weeks at a time
  • Shop once a week
  • Shop during a short window of time
  • Add things you need to buy to your list as they run out so you know what you need
  • Keep a master list of favorite meals and refer to it when making a meal plan
  • Make a list of meals in four month periods and use that plan every four months
  • Plan meals based on what is going on that night. You might need faster meals on certain nights depending on different plans and activities
  • Get out and prepare anything you need for the next day before bed
  • Order groceries online and pickup. This helps you avoid going over budget
  • Check cupboards and fridge when writing grocery list so you don't forget to buy something or over-buy something
  • Get coupons from favorite sites and apps after you make your list and know what you need
  • Keep a list of easy, quick, and healthy meals so you have those to refer to
  • Set aside time to cook each day
  • Double recipes when possible and freeze one meal
  • Find a helpful app to track meal plans and shopping lists
  • Create a meal exchange group
Here is what you said:

PLAN AHEAD
Diedre said:
Until a week ago we lived in a very remote area, and had to drive for an hour and a half to get to the store. This meant we only went shopping once a month, so we had to be fairly organized.

Breakfast and lunch I just kept things like oatmeal, pancake
 mix, PB&J, etc on hand for the month, but there was no set menu. 

I had a "master list" of all the foods we like to eat for dinner. I would sit down and plan enough meals for 4 weeks, making a list of all needed ingredients as I went. When I was done with the list I would check it against what I had in the fridge/freezer/pantry and pare it down to my final shopping list. The final list of meals was more of a list of meal options than a set menu. Depending on how the day/week was going I'd look at the list in the morning, pick what we were going to eat that night, and go from there. 

Now though, we have moved into the city and don't have as much pantry space, so I look forward to seeing others' responses to this question.

Leslie said: 
I have done the monthly shopping as well, I even made a list seperating all of my meals into 4 different months, so we just rotate through the 4 months lists. But now that I'm pregnant, half of the stuff doesn't sound or taste good anymore, so I've had to go back to shopping for 2 weeks at a time, based on what sounds good lol.

PREPARE IN ADVANCE
Casey said:
I use an "old school" calendar and keep it on the fridge and sit down and plan out our meals (dinner only) for 2 weeks at a time. I make the grocery list as I write down meals. I also write in our Family Activities so I know if I need to have a "quick meal" for certain evenings or if we're going out for dinner for a special occasion. Each evening I look at the next day's meals and put whatever meat out to thaw so it's ready for the next day. If I didn't plan, we'd eat out WAY MORE than we should. I also order my groceries from Kroger online and it has really helped me stay on budget. I don't grab unnecessary items and if I'm over budget for the month, I can easily delete items we can get buy without for the next couple weeks.

Abby said: 
I menu plan on Sunday afternoons when everyone else is napping! I have a binder full of recipes I've found over the years, organized by starch (pasta, rice, potatoes, grains, & legumes). I pick recipes for the week, write them down on a menu I printed off from Pinterest, and write down on my shopping list what we'll need (being sure to check the cupboards and fridge so I don't run out of staples or buy something I already have 3 of!) My list a split list from Real Simple, for Trader Joe's and Target. Then I hop on Target's Cartwheel app and Coupons.com and grab whatever coupons I want. If I'm feeling super-ambitious, I check StretchingaBuckBlog.com for their ad & coupon match-ups.

Sally said:
I've just started meal planning on a monthly basis rather than weekly. And it seems to take much less time!! It makes weekly food shopping easier too. If I'm making a slow cooker meal I prep it the night before so I can just get it out the fridge and switch slow cooker in the morning.

FIND QUICK AND HEALTHY MEALS
Susan said:
I've been making weekly plans for meals. And shopping once a week. I keep a list of easy dinners and since I'm home on maternity leave, I'm playing with lots of new recipes that are easy, quick and healthy that I can save for when I go back to work. Also rely on my slow cooker for easy meals when I have both my baby and toddler home.

SET ASIDE TIME TO  COOK EACH DAY
Katie said:
My planner has a small space at the bottom to planmeals (personal-planner.com is where I get it), so i plan them in there in tiny handwriting. The planner shows one week at a time. I plan the main dish and generally what will go with it (like a veggie and a fruit). I make the shopping list in the blank pages at the back of the planner. I shop once a week in the awkward space of time between dropping older kids at school and dropping my 4yo at preschool - there's about a 50 minute gap there, it's perfect.

At the grocery store, I really only pick up what is on the list. Throughout the week as things got low or ran out (or the backup ran out on an often-used item), I added that to the list. Most of our meat doesn't come from our grocery store, it comes from random other sources/farms so I don't worry about sales a lot unless it's on a type of item I use a ton (say, canned diced tomatoes).

As for my day, most days I plan to be home between 3:30-5pm for cooking. It's a lot of time but I love good food so it's worth it to me. Often baking, like muffins if they're needed on a soup night, gets done in the mornings. I often try to make extra of any meal/baked good where it makes sense and put it in the deep freezer if there's room. On the days where the kids have a late afternoon activity, I plan slow cooker or super simple meals. Each week the meals are pretty carefully planned based on what activities are going on each day.

All of my favorite recipes are typed and I print them into a spiral bound book every couple years. New recipes get printed out and put in a thin binder. All my cookbooks are kept in a cupboard in my kitchen and I really like having them there even though it takes up somewhat valuable space.

And I keep things on hand like cereal, oatmeal, PB&J, etc for breakfasts and a lot of the kids' lunches.

FIND AN APP YOU LOVE
Whitney said:
Paprika app! Best recipe, meal planning and grocery list app I have found!

MEAL SWAP
Nicole said:
I make a meal plan first that includes breakfast, lunch and supper 7 days per week. I then make a list for any items I will need during that time. Some things are standard, like apples, oranges and bananas. Other things get added based on the suppers I am planning. I shop twice per month at a major grocery store, plus once per month at costco. My meal plan is for a two week period, then I just repeat it for the second half of the month. On any given day, I choose from one of the meals I haven made yet that I have on the meal plan. It is rare for me to use all 14 dinners in two weeks because we use leftovers or we get invited out, or we eat something else for some reason. 

I'm also in a meal exchange group. We each make whatever meal we have chosen, multiplied by how many people are joining in, then we get together and swap. We are doing it monthly currently, but each person opts in by the 15 of the month, and we swap the last Monday of the month. I add the frozen meals to my meal plan either one or two times per week.

I start making supper between 4-5 pm, we eat at 6. I prefer to make fresh mealsall at once over slow cooker meals. I have a very short list of meals that I think that good when made in the slow cooker. This last year I got a pressure cooker and have been playing around with that. As a SAHM, I feel like I have a lot of options in terms of what we eat. I always have afternoon time when my kids are napping that I can start prepping or cooking for a more involved meal.

Related Posts:

Monday, March 27, 2017

Motherhood Reality Check: Life Doesn't Get Less Busy

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Hi young mother. I used to be like you. I sat and daydreamed about the future--not too far away, but far enough it seemed it might never come. The day when my little ones could do a lot for themselves, be in school, and I would suddenly have more time to get the things done that I would like to get done. Me time. Even just time to clean without being interrupted sounded amazing.

One day, when I had only a 3 and 1 year old, I sat with a group of women in all stages of life. I was the youngest among them, and I had a reality check. We were planning an event for the youth in our church. As we discussed a date, one mom with teenagers opened up her calendar. It was FULL. I mean, full.

"So...you don't get more time in your life as your kids get older?" I asked?

She chuckled, "No."

I felt surprised and confused and wondered how that could possibly be. 


When your kids are all older and in school, you aren't trading your current time with babies straight across. You don't trade your exact time with little ones for sudden free time. The older your children get, the more time they need from you. Sure, they can wipe their own behinds and grab their own glass of water. But they need you to run them to soccer practice. They need you to go sit through their piano recitals. You will find yourself attending assemblies and helping in class. 

They won't keep you up at night as they fight falling asleep or wake up to eat, but they will keep you up late needing to talk out a problem they are facing or as you wait for them to come home from a friend's house Friday night. 

You will have more time in the day to do some cleaning and cooking, and good thing you do, because you will need it! The more people you have and the bigger their clothes are, the more loads of laundry you will have each week. More people means bigger meals and more dishes. When you double a recipe, you increase the time it takes to make it. 

You won't be carrying your child everywhere, but you will be driving your child everywhere. Even if you heavily limit the number of items your child is involved in to one activity at a time, if you have four kids, that is four things you are adding to your week. Things that take practices, performances or competitions, and errands to purchase what is needed for that activity

It all adds up. 

Life only gets busier. 

Over the years, I have had several people tell me life only gets busier as kids get older. I have been counseled to take on big volunteering jobs at the school while my children were all younger because it just gets hard as kids get older (I have heeded that advice).

I  have never been told that life only gets busier like I did the day I registered Brinley for Kindergarten. Friends, teachers, and even the principal at our school told me throughout the day that life only gets busier. Getting your last child in school does not lead to tons of free time. "It never slows down until they all move out" our principal shared with me. 

So what is the point of this? Am I trying to majorly depress you? 

Not at all! 

I think this is a lesson to enjoy the moment. Do not wish your time away. Do not count away your days with young ones in hopes of having some major free time in a few years. It changes. It gets easier in some ways, harder in other ways, but never less busy. Learn to make the most of what time you have, because time is a commodity you won't have in excess for a long time. Learn to manage, prioritize, and work with the time you are given. Live in today. Seize the moment.  Enjoy what you have, because tomorrow you will have different challenges. 

Friday, March 24, 2017

Instapot {Friday Finds}

This post may contain affiliate links.

Last summer, the Instapot  (aff) went on a super deal one day on Amazon, and I rushed into purchasing one. I typically think about big purchases like that (yes, that feels big to me!) for months if not years. Rushing hasn't necessarily been bad for me; some of my favorites were rushes, like my AeroGarden (super love!) and my stick vacuum (love even more than I imagined I would!) . Even with my good luck, I tend to think, think, and think some more.

Perhaps because I rushed into this, for months I used the Instapot just like I did my pressure cooker. Then one of my good friends got an Instapot  and started using it as it should be used. She was raving about how amazing it was and how it was changing her dinner prep life. Here I sat, with one in my cupboard, still thinking about the purchase.

Then a couple more friends started raving, and I knew I had to learn how to use this like I should. I tried a few recipes out and wow! It really does cook food very well. Meat can be cooked quickly and yet so that it is tender.

This isn't like a slowcooker (yet it can be used as a slowcooker, so points for reducing the number of small appliances we need in our lives). You don't fix it in the morning and walk away. It also takes longer to really cook food than you might think. The ravings of it cooking something in 40 minutes do not account for the time the machine took to get up to pressure, so you will be in it longer than you might think. Keep that in mind when you are planning out what time you need to start a meal. The great thing, though, is you get slowcooker tenderness in 1-2 hours instead of 6-10. That means if you forgot to get things started in the morning, you can still make dinner that evening.

With that said, this is absolutely worth the purchase for you. If you are on the fence about this and wondering if you should get one, let me push you onto the side that says yes! My world is just opening up with this and I am excited to see how it can transform my busy nights.




Thursday, March 23, 2017

The Key Element To Starting a Routine

This post may contain affiliate links.

Whether you are starting a routine with your child at one day old or one year old, there is one key element you must put into place if you want to see success. This element is no respecter of age, circumstance, weather, experience...nothing. No one is exempt if you really want to see success and the benefits of a routine.

You must dedicate some time to establish the routine. 

You must dedicate this time with little to no disruptions from what the routine will be. No nap skipping. No late nights. No vacations. You don't even want to disrupt your little one for a trip to the grocery store. 


Does that make you pause? Hesitate? Are you second guessing your desire to have a good sleeper with some sort of predictability in her day?

Don't panic. I said some time. I didn't say forever and ever until the end of days. So how long is some time? Ideally you will give two weeks with little to no disruptions. If two weeks is absolutely impossible, you must do at least one. You cannot logically expect a child to get established in a routine if there is never real time given to developing that habit. Your child cannot be predictable if your child can't even predict what is coming next. The only way to get here is through consistency. 

Here are some ideas to help you have success in your two weeks of dedication to establishing a routine (this post contains affiliate links):
  • Let friends and family know. Be upfront and let them know you will be staying home for the
    next two weeks so you can help your little one get on the path to good sleep.
  • Host at your house. If you can't stand the thought of missing things, host events at your house so your baby can still have consistency at home.
  • Choose a good window. It probably isn't best to plan your two week window over Christmas or during a family reunion. Choose a two week window that you can be most successful in. 
  • Prepare things beforehand. Get as many errands done before your two week window as you can so you can avoid emergency trips to the store. If you have to run errands during the two week window, try to get a babysitter, have your spouse do the trip, or do something like grocery pickup so your trip can be as fast as possible. Services like online shopping (hello Amazon Prime!) can be your best friend during this time period. 
  • Be patient. This time period will not last forever. In baby time, two weeks can seem like forever, but it is a relatively short time period, and fully worth the time it is taking. You will be able to have a life once your routine is set. If you want to be able to have flexibility, you need to have a starting spot for your child to go back to. 
This consistency might sound tedious, but it is a relatively simple step to ensuring your baby or child can get well-established into a routine. You cannot create a routine without setting one up. This is your practice session. That would be like expecting someone to play a piano song memorized just because you mentioned to them the title of the song. You must practice and get that routine in place if you want your baby to follow it. 


The ladies of the BFBN are all discussing routines today. Check them out:

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Morning Wake Up Time {Poll Discussion Post}

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The start time of your day can have more of an impact on the flow of your day than you might think. Let's discuss this start to the day.

Please take a moment to answer the questions below. Doing so will help other parents now and in the future. It is very helpful for me when compiling answers if you at least number the answers you give. You can also copy the questions and answer them. If the question does not apply to you, simply put "N/A."

1-What time does your child get up each day (whether you wake him up or he wakes on his own)?
2-How consistent are you with this wake up time each day? How many days a week would you say you usually have this be your start time?
3-What time is your child's bedtime the night before?
4-Do you notice an impact on the day if wake up time is off? If so, what sort of impact?
5-Any comments on morning wake up time?
6-How old is your child?

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Brayden Preteen Summary {11.75 Years}

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This is a summary for Brayden from 11.5-11.75 years old.

EATING
Eating is good. Things were all pretty much the same. He eats a lot of food (though I know it will only increase). 

SLEEPING
We continued on with no stress issues about sleep, which marks 6 months! He got a little worried at the time change when he was going to bed Saturday night and realized it was like it was later than it was, especially because our church starts at 9 so he can't really sleep in on Sunday. I told him it was okay and reminded him not to stress about it and he was fine.

video



EXTRA CURRICULARS
Brayden continued with piano and swimming. With piano, he has started to arrange songs. You can see a short clip of one he recently did above. He really, really enjoys playing instruments. Swimming is going well. He continually dropped time at his meets. Brayden also played in another basketball league during this period.

A big thing in his life is the school musical. We did Peter Pan JR and Brayden played Captain Hook. It is his favorite part to date, and he executed it flawlessly. It was so fun to watch. 


SCIENCE FAIR
Brayden entered the school science fair this year. He took first place for his project. 

JR HIGH
Jr. High is on our horizon. Ack! He registered for Jr. High a few weeks ago. Next fall you might find me curled up in a ball on my bed crying when school starts as I have my oldest enter Jr. High and my youngest kindergarten. Sniff.


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, March 20, 2017

How to Be Productive as a Mom

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Work smarter, not harder. This is a common piece of advice given to those wanting to be more productive in life. Just how do you go about "working smarter" as a mom? The harder part seems to be part of the nature of the job as "mom." Can we be smarter? Yes indeed we can!

And we have good reason to. It is easy to say "dishes can wait," but at some point, they really can't! You have to do certain chores at some point. We also don't want to let our children's lives pass us by with us having not participated in them. If we can work smarter, we can play some. Here are eight ideas to get you going.

1. Put the Lord First
I promise, promise, promise that if you put the Lord first in your day, your day will be more productive. Make it a priority to read your scriptures and pray. You will see a difference. I do this in the morning each day. I notice a significant negative difference when I either forget or decide I am too busy in the morning and wait until later in the day to read my scriptures (especially because that usually means it doesn't happen since it is out of my normal routine). See my post on Time With God and How I Do It: Scripture Study for more.

2. Set Goals
If you don't have goals for yourself to accomplish, you will pretty much aimlessly wander throughout each day. You will be like a dog running along to fetch a ball who gets distracted by a squirrel. You will jump from task to task as it captures your attention. You might get some things done, but you will likely realize you spent times on things that weren't necessarily the priority at the time. Set some long-term and short-term goals you want to accomplish and then break those down into ways you can work on those daily. For help with goals, see Goal Tips and Making and Achieving Goals. See also:

3. Have a Plan
Once you know what you are trying to accomplish, you can make a plan to get there. Each night, I look through my to do list for the next day to see what I need to get done. I make a list and prioritize it. I know what must get done and what is just "nice" if I have the time. I find it can help if I even just visualize myself going through my day with the plan I have. It sounds corny, but doing that helps me recognize flaws in my plan so I can readjust the plan. Keep a list wherever it works best for you. I like mine on my phone. You might carry a piece of paper folded up on your pocket or write it on a huge white board in your home. You might even be lucky enough to still be able to track things in your head. So long as you can keep that list, it doesn't matter where it is. But experiment. I definitely have preferences on where and how my list is kept.

4. Relieve Your Brain
This is referred to in number three, but have things written down. You won't be as efficient if you are having to worry about remembering the next five things you need to get done. As a mom, you also likely have too many things to keep track of to be able to do so all in your head. Write things down so you can focus on the task at hand and give it the attention it needs. I  have read a great recommendation to spend 15 minutes just writing down everything that is in your head--everything on your mind. You then take all the items and group them by priority and length of time to get done. Do the things you can get done in two minutes or less (it is amazing how many "small" things we carry around on our lists. If we do them, we can relieve them from our brains!). Then make a plan with the rest. 

5. Schedule Things Out
In your planning, schedule things out in a way that works for you. How will you be most productive in your cleaning tasks? Will you do better having specific tasks you must accomplish no matter how long it takes? Or will you do better with a time limit you spend cleaning no matter what gets done? Maybe a joining of both methods--have a specific task you do and then finish up with a fifteen minute speed clean? There is no one right way for all people to do it, but there will be a best way for you to do it. For more on organizing yourself, see my post on how I do it

6. Do Dreaded Tasks First
I just find I am more productive if I do my dreaded tasks first thing. I have my tasks that have to be done because of time constraints on them (for example, my kids have to be ready for school by a certain time). Then I do my cleaning tasks of the day. I have found if I let the cleaning go until afternoon, I often find myself at the end of the day having not done it yet. I work best just getting it done and over with. I also find I need to not let my computer time start until the afternoon if possible. I can easily let the many possibilities of the computer turn into a time suck. I try to do everything I need to away from the computer before I sit down at something that sucks my time.

7. Don't Overschedule Yourself (and don't underschedule either)
I am still trying to figure out the fine balance between stretching and challenging yourself and not overextending yourself. If you have too much to do, you will never be productive (see my post We Don't Need to Live at a Frantic Pace). But I also find if I don't have enough to do, I easily waste time and get nothing done. Why move to the list when there isn't much to do? Candy Crush awaits! I try to find the perfect balance of having things to do to keep me moving and working and not having so much to do I can't do anything well.

8. Be Preventative
Slow and steady work. Do your work consistently to prevent having to put out fires later. Consistently taking a few minutes to do the dishes makes it easier for you to manage that task than ignoring them for a couple of days (or for some of you even just a day or 12 hours) and having to play major catch up. 

These are some ideas to help you be as productive as you can be. This will enable you to find greater balance in getting things done you need to and still have time to spend having fun with your family.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Easter Basket Stuffer Ideas

This post may contain affiliate links.

The older my children get, the more and more I deplore the idea of filling things like the Easter basket with random, cheap items. I am not talking inexpensive; I am talking the items that break after a week, and even the items the lose interest in after a few days. I don't want to fill the basket with randomness just for the sake of it being full. Here are some of my favorite things to put in the Easter basket. Kid friendly, mother approved. This post contains affiliate links.

1-Experience Gifts
The idea of the experience gift is gaining traction in the world, and for good reason. "Stuff" doesn't really lead to happiness. It seems an activity like traveling is more beneficial long-term than owning stuff. That isn't even considering the benefit of not filling your house with things you then have to sort, organize, and clean! Consider adding to the Easter basket movie tickets, a season pass, or  a punch pass. You might even have a vacation thrown in there. Give your child an experience rather than a load of dollar store toys. 

2-Candy
It is Easter. Throw some candy in there

3-Book
I love promoting a love of books with my children, and one way I do that is to give them books as gifts. I feel like if I show I value them enough to gift them, it helps them to feel a love for books. If you need some book ideas, see my book lists. I have chapter books, picture books, board books, and gateway chapter books. I can help you find a great book no matter the age of your child. 

4-Bubbles
Since weather is warming up for us, bubbles make a great little addition to the Easter basket.


5-Chalk
Chalk is another great Easter basket idea. Do not be fooled into just buying the cheap kind; for some reason, I have found Crayola is often even cheaper than "cheap" kinds. Amazon has this 24 pack of chalk for a great add-on item.

6-Outdoor Toys
I often take Easter as a time to add to our outdoor toy collection. Need a new outdoor basketball? Give it as a gift at Easter! Jump rope, toy lawn mower (this was such a favorite of Brayden's when he was little)... for more of my outside toy recommendations, see Outside Toys Worth the Investment (All-Star Toys) and Baby Stuff I Love: Outdoor Toys.

7-Jewelry/Watches/Accessories
For the older children, accessories can make a great addition to the Easter basket. Kids love watches, and can easily make good use of them as young as first or second grade. You might find some fun jewelry, scarves, belts, bows...something you can fit in the basket and can also be useful.

8-Coupons
You know how kids are always giving parents coupons at holidays? They love getting them, also! "One free chore" or "One late-night" or "One movie of your choice" or "One mommy-son date" are all fun ideas that will excite your child. Bonus points for not taking up space in your house! 

9-Media
You might also like to add a new movie or a gift card for music.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Why Doing House Chores Helps Children Become More Successful In the Future {Guest Post}

This post may contain affiliate links.
Today I have partnered with Hannah Tong to bring you this post. This post is written by Hannah. 
Here, we'll explain why doing house chores helps children become more successful in the future. Some parents think that children should be free from responsibility until they near adulthood, but this is a mistaken idea.
A romanticized view of childhood, usually from fiction, portrays chores as an unwelcome aspect of a child's life, and it's understandable if parents want to protect their children from this. On the contrary, we know that responsibility for age-appropriate chores is an essential part of your child's development, and we'll be explaining why in this article.
In short, children who do chores develop good habits that will help them throughout life, they'll develop essential self-esteem by contributing, and they will learn essential life skills.

How Does Doing Chores Teach Children Good Habits?

The most obvious lifetime habit that a child will learn from doing chores is a work ethic; the habit of doing what needs to be done, rather than shirking. This does not develop automatically; children need to learn this.
They also learn persistence from doing chores. Nobody is born knowing how to do housework, and children can be expected to do it poorly when they're first learning how.
When you encourage them to correct the mistakes that they're bound to make, until the job is done to reasonable standards is how children learn to be persistent. This will also instill an appreciation of a job well done, as they learn to take pride in the accomplishment.
Do keep your expectations realistic, though. A four-year-old who is helping you to fold laundry can't be expected to fold fitted sheets without a wrinkle.
They could well fold the t-shirts and match the socks while you're folding the sheets. It's okay to give them chores that challenge them, as long as they're within their ability to do well.
Accepting the responsibility to do a chore like setting the table for dinner is how children develop the habit of being responsible. This doesn't happen overnight for anyone, but the earlier the lesson starts; the better they'll learn it before they are adults, and responsibility become essential.
By doing chores when they need to be done instead of playing or watching TV, kids learn to delay gratification, another habit that will be valuable to them as adults. This is often a challenging skill to learn, so an early start will help them develop it.
Children are naturally going to want what they want when they want it. They have to learn about delayed gratification, so try to be patient with them as they develop this habit.

Does Doing Chores Build Self-Esteem?

Toddlers usually want to help, often with tasks that they simply don't have the physical skills to accomplish. This is a typical stage of your child's development, and you should expect it.
This is both a challenge and an opportunity. Of course, if you do the chore yourself, it'll be done quickly and well, so it's almost automatic to turn down their offer to help.
Accepting their offer, on the other hand, is an opportunity to teach your child some of the skills that are needed for the chore. It takes longer this way, and their early efforts may not meet your usual standards, but this is how children learn.
There are several payoffs from you taking the extra time to teach your child how to do a chore or even part of it.
•    Your child gets accustomed to helping around the house while they are eager to.
•    Your child learns how to do the chore or at least part of it.
•    Play can happen in the context of the chore. Chores are more fun to a team.
•    By contributing, your child accomplishes something that they can feel pride in. It's a thing that they can give back to their family.
•    Learning a skill gives every child a sense of accomplishment, but a skill that benefits the whole family is something that they will value even more.
Contrary to the popular myth, self-esteem is not built by being praised by others. Self-esteem grows when someone sees themselves do something that is worthy of the praise.
Participation trophies don't fool children. They know that recognition is only valid if they've done something that deserves recognition.
Be sure to recognize the value of the housework that your children do, and their self-esteem will grow naturally. A child who knows that they're competent is a child who will find it easier to be self-confident.

What Life Skills Do Children Learn From Chores?

First and foremost, they learn how to do those chores. When a first-year college student turns a load of laundry pink the first time they do their laundry, it's a safe bet that they never had laundry as a childhood chore.
There are thousands of small tasks to do in adult life, and many of us had to learn them as adults because we weren't taught them as childhood chores. Give your children the benefit of your experience and let them get practice while they can ask questions if they need to.
Home Economics is often not taught in school until High School, and there are a lot of housekeeping skills that they don't teach, even if your child takes those classes. You can teach your child those skills, get some of your workload taken off of your shoulders, and encourage your child's development by giving your child some chores.

It's Part of Parenting

Teaching your children how to do household chores and doing those chores their responsibility is a major component of the parenting process. It teaches them several admirable character traits, while they learn life skills.
Skills are only developed through practice. Doing a chore on a regular basis teaches children skills that will help them be adults before they become old enough to go out into the world on their own.
We hope that now you understand why doing house chores helps children become more successful in the future.
Hannah Tong is the founder of Omaby.com, a blog dedicated to providing accurate advice to mothers regarding childcare. She loves taking care of her kids and teaching them the right things. She is also enthusiastic and loves sharing her experiences to teach others about how to care for their families' health. Check the latest article (When To Start Stage 2 Baby Food?) here. 

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