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How On Becoming Babywise Saved My Motherhood

How On Becoming Babywise Saved My Motherhood. Babywise helped me love motherhood and thrive in it.

When I had my first baby, I was sure motherhood would be easy and natural. I would have no problems, my baby would sleep like a baby, and we would live in bliss. I had imagined my life as a mother of babies my whole life. I had spent many hours playing babies and I knew just what to do. Motherhood was going to be perfection.

How On Becoming Babywise Saved My Motherhood. Babywise helped me love motherhood and thrive in it.

Well, some babies come into this world and give their mothers that idealistic experience, but not my first baby! And not even most babies. Real life meant my baby slept like a baby...but the real way a baby sleeps like a baby when he has no guidance--not the sweet phrase way people imagine. He slept while I fed him. We had nights he didn't sleep a single minute all night long, which meant I didn't either. While I loved being a mom, I wondered why we had done this to ourselves already. Things had been so nice before a baby! I had slept. Life was drastically different and I missed sleep and freedom. I missed me. I had imagined having a large family, but now wasn't sure I would have a second child.

Fortunately I remembered a friend from church telling me about Babywise while I was pregnant. I had asked her how she had such a great baby. The answer was On Becoming Babywise (affiliate link). I had politely nodded at the time. That sure sounded nice, but it sounded like work and seemed silly since babies slept like babies anyway. Hadn't she ever played dolls? I didn't pay it much heed and forgot about it. 

In my hour of need, I remembered the term of Babywise and headed for the bookstore (that is how we got books 14 years ago). My baby was only 3 weeks old but it felt like significantly longer than that since I had slept. Time crawls when you are up for most of it.

I read the entire book that night. I put things into practice right away. 

And things got better. 

So much better.

Brayden started sleeping. Actually sleeping! He immediately went to waking only once each night. Things weren't "by the book" perfect immediately--that didn't even happen until he was six months old--but they were significantly better. 

On Becoming BabywiseWhen Brayden was six months old, I found out I was pregnant with baby number two. This was surprising and seemed a bit scary, but I said it was something you either laugh or cry about and laughing seemed much happier. Now, if it had not been for Babywise, I am sure that would have been a cry moment instead. Because Babywise was a part of our lives, we were nervously excited rather than crying.

We sadly lost that boy to stillbirth. I can't tell you how happy I am that I was able to be excited for his addition rather than sad. I would have had immense guilt otherwise. It is another small and simple way Babywise saved my motherhood. It saved it for that sweet boy I lost.

We immediately decided to try to have another child and expand our family. We had 3 more daughters over the years.

Our next baby had silent reflux. Oh the reflux babies! They are so very hard. Again, Babywise saved my motherhood. While my reflux baby didn't sleep as well as the non-reflux baby, she slept incredibly well for a reflux baby. I was able to take care of my two sweet children as a fully-rested mother of two. I was also willing to have a third child.

Baby three was finally that easy baby I had dreamed of. Amazing sleeper. She would sleep anywhere any time. Now, this is in large part thanks to me having a great understanding and grasp of Babywise, but she definitely was a natural when it came to sleep.

As she got older and her personality emerged, it became clear she was a strong-willed soul. It again was a moment Babywise saved my motherhood. She was hard. But I had great foundations for discipline to get me through those hard moments. I knew what to expect and that it was okay to expect it. We made it through and have been able to help focus on the positives of being strong-willed and use it as the great strength it can be.

Baby four was another easy sleeper. As a mom of four, I was able to give her the sleep she needed and still let my older three children have lives and be involved in things. I had predictability and was able to arrange schedules and manage the family so things were as smooth as can be with four children to manage. 
How On Becoming Babywise Saved My Motherhood. Babywise helped me love motherhood and thrive in it.
I am not being dramatic when I say Babywise saved my motherhood. 

Babywise made it possible for me to sleep. I think that right there is enough evidence to say, "yep, motherhood saved," but let's go on. 

Babywise gave me time each day when naps happened. With that time, I was able to sew, clean, cook, prepare learning activities, visit with people, and do things like blog. 

Babywise gave me time each day when independent playtime happened. I was able to do everything listed above and then some. This was an extra break each day. I was able to read. Shower, Exercise. Brush my teeth. 

Babywise gave me predictability and order to my days. This added to my sanity and moral. The predictability allowed me to arrange playdates with friends, which kept me socializing. As an extrovert, that was invaluable to my happiness. 

Babywise allowed me to focus on things beyond my child's sleep. It allowed me to focus on teaching my kids respobisilities. I was able to work chores into our days. I was able to teach morals and character traits. When I had a baby, I still had time to focus on the older children. I was even able to consistently write this blog. 

All of the things I was able to focus on when my children were young has paid off as they have gotten older. The time we spent doing learning time has made it so school has been easier, meaning less homework at home and no issues with school. The responsibilities they learned have helped them to have personal responsibility now and not expect me to track and organize their school work. My oldest has his first job and completely tracks where he should be when without me having to think about it. 

Because of On Becoming Babywise and the books beyond, I have been able to have the large family I wanted and still be involved in my children's lives. It allowed  me to be the mother I always wanted to be. Sure, it is still harder than it was when I played dolls, but manageable enough to be what I had always dreamed of and then some.

Get your copy of Babywise here (affiliate link)

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How to Balance Academics with Relaxation in Summer

How to Balance Academics with Relaxation in Summer. Have summer fun but also take time to stay up on academic skills to avoid summer setback. 

Summer is a great time to relax, take a break, and not worry about things learned at school. If you ignore the idea of school all summer, however, then you will reach the end of summer and realize your child may have lost skills learned in the previous school year. With that in mind, parents wonder how to prevent summer setback, also known as the summer slide.
How to Balance Academics with Relaxation in Summer. Have summer fun but also take time to stay up on academic skills to avoid summer setback.

A summer setback is when the child returns to school in the fall and finds he/she is not at the same level he was when school let out for the summer. When you avoid a summer setback, you avoid a loss of skills.

Despite this concern over summer setback, we are conflicted as parents. We have this opposite pull that makes us want to have a relaxed summer. We want to give our children a break and give them the chance to worry about nothing but being kids for the summer. We want a more relaxed schedule and a shorter to-do list. I know that as my children have gotten older, I have wanted summers to be less and less structured. However, that doesn't mean I want my children falling behind themselves over the summer. 

So how do you balance that desire for relaxation and the need for maintaining academic abilities?

How to Fit in Academics in the Summer and Avoid Summer Setback

You can do some academics each day without turning each and every day into just another school day. One thing you can do is simple math facts and/or math worksheets. Math fact pages can be found all over the internet. Doing a short sheet of addition problems, multiplication problems, or division problems can be done in 10 minutes or less. It can a be a post-breakfast or post-lunch activity. Doing this daily (or as close to daily as possible) can significantly help your child to be on top of math when school resumes in the fall. You can also check out this post for more ideas to help avoid summer setback in math.

If you ask any teacher how to help your child during the summer, she will encourage you to read, read, read. Reading is the simple answer, and there are simple ways to fit reading into your schedule each day. 

Reading programs are a fun way to stay motivated to keep reading up during the summer. Check with your local library to see if they have a summer reading program. If you can't find one, you can always plan your own goals and reward system for reading milestones through the summer. 

One of my favorite things to do in the summer for reading is called Sustained Silent Reading (SSR). This is when you all sit in the room together and read whatever you like for 30 solid minutes (including the parent). You don't talk; you just read. We do this in the afternoon right at the time my toddler goes down for a nap if I have one (or would if I had one). I like the afternoon because it is the middle of the day. It is a time the kids can all take a break from their play and relax a bit. It is also a break from the heat of the day and a chance to cool down. All of my children really enjoy SSR. 

Another way to help with reading is to read to your child each day. If you read stories before bedtime, keep it up during the summer (if you don't, I encourage you to start). Read aloud to all of your children, no matter the ages. During summer, bedtime can really creep up on you. Do what you have to to ensure there is enough time to keep bedtime stories as part of your routine. 

Plan regular visits to the library through the summer. How often you can go will depend on your proximity and circumstances. We go once each week. I let each child choose 3-5 books for the week (I don't want too many books to keep track of). The children enjoy having a variety of books to read. Having a new book keeps them interested in reading. 

Find unique ways to get reading stories or reading practice in. I have had my children read me a book each day while I do their hair. They can finish a book in about the time it takes me to do her hair. This is a consistent time of day that we can remember to fit this reading practice in. There have been times our children have read from Oliver Twist to my husband while he did landscaping. You can also do reading in the car, have your child read to you as you make dinner...be creative. 

Summer often involves time spent in the car while traveling near and far. Something we love to do is listen to books on CD as we drive. It is a great way to get extra reading in while still being able to go do your fun things. 

How to Fit in Relaxing While Allowing Focus on Academics

While you want to do what you can to prevent the summer setback, you still want summer to be relaxing. You can allow down time. You can spend a relatively short time on the learning stuff each day and leave plenty of time for play and rest and relaxation. 

It is important to remember that for children, play is work. Play is more to children than what it is to us. For adults, play is fun and relaxing. For children, play has learning attached to it. My daughter's Kindergarten teacher sent home a paper of things to do this summer. Along with reading and simple math problems, she stressed the importance of play for children. To read more on the benefits of free play, see this post. Do not feel bad about giving your children time to be creative and have fun playing.

How to Balance Academics with Relaxation in Summer. Have summer fun but also take time to stay up on academic skills to avoid summer setback. Another great thing to do during the summer is fun learning ideas. This can be a good time to try out some of those fun pins decorating your Pinterest account. There is so much learning that can happen through fun activities. 

Television, movies, computer time, and video games can be okay at times, but be careful to not let that time overrun your child's time for free play. Limit the time allowed with electronics each day or each week. Make sure you are not letting electronics suck up your play time. 

Make Sure Learning Time and Relaxing Happens

What you don't want is to panic two weeks before school starts with either 1)Ack! My kids haven't done any sort of learning for 2 1/2 months! or 2)Ack! We haven't done anything fun this summer!

Sit down and make a list of things you would like to see happen this summer. What kinds of learning things do you want to happen? Write out how you can work those into each day and make some goals you can keep. 

As you are making your list, write down some fun things you would like to see  happen daily and throughout the summer. Essentially, make a bucket list (but a reasonable one). A bucket list doesn't have to be a list of highly amazing things. You might want to go for a few bike rides. Go swimming a few times. Try some new parks. Go to that new splash pad. Write out your ideas and pencil them into your calendar for the summer. 

With a little bit of forethought and effort, you can make sure you have time for play and time for learning throughout the summer. You might also enjoy these posts I have written on the topic: 

Avoiding Summer Setback in All AreasSummer Planning and PreparationSummer Fun At HomeSummer Structure, and Occupying Children During Summer

What To Say To a Woman Who Has Lost a Baby

What To Say To a Woman Who Has Lost a Baby that will be helpful and what not to say.

They meant well, but it still hurt. I knew people were not trying to be hurtful. I knew they were trying to be helpful. The comments hurt anyway. I wasn't offended. The comments hurt anyway. The comments also frustrated me. I wanted to emphatically explain (maybe shout, but let's stick with explain) to them why their comments made no sense and were actually terrible things to say. I kept quiet. I had enough pain inside of me without pushing away people who were trying to help me.

What To Say To a Woman Who Has Lost a Baby that will be helpful and what not to say.

When you lose a baby to miscarriage or stillbirth, the pain is all-consuming. And it is lonely. You are really the only one who knew you were pregnant on a real level. The baby inside you reminded you every day. The nausea reminded you every day. The massive changes your body went through reminded you every moment of every day. For everyone else, it was easy to forget the pregnancy. 

There are certain things people commonly say to a grieving woman that are intended to be helpful, but really just bring more hurt because it highlights how alone you really are in your pain. You know just how much no one around you gets it. 

The griever knows you mean well. The griever knows you are grasping at anything you can to try to help her feel okay. Here is the revelation we all need when approaching someone grieving. You can't take the pain away. You can't say anything to make that person feel like is all okay.

And you don't need to.

You just need to love and support that person and let them know it is okay for them to be upset. It is okay to grieve. It is healthy to grieve. If you have a friend going through the pain of  a miscarriage or stillbirth, just love and support that person. Don't try to offer wisdom unless she asks for it. 

The best two things to say to someone who has lost a baby are:
  1. I am so sorry.
  2. I will pray for you.
You could add in things like, "I am so sorry. That totally sucks." If you can think of ways to help, you can do them. No matter the situation, whether it is the loss of a baby or for a friend who just brought home a baby, saying, "Let me know if I can do anything!" is nice, but it isn't helpful. Instead, say, "I am going to bring you dinner. Does Monday work?" or "What time does Tommy get out of preschool? I am going to pick him up for you." Think of something you can do and offer to do it. 

I noticed when I lost my baby, the people who simply said, "I am so sorry. I will be praying for you" were consistently the ones who had lost babies themselves. The ones trying to make me feel better by telling me why it was okay or what I had good in my life were the ones who had never lost a child.

What Not to Say to Someone Who Has Had a Miscarriage or Stillbirth

When talking about what to say, I want to be sure to highlight some major things to not say. These things pretty consistently are said because people think they are being helpful. Each year in the United States alone, about 24,000 babies are still born. Each year. That means each year, there are 24,000 women grieving that loss. When you add in miscarriages (which some estimate to be half of all pregnancies) and other fatal endings to pregnancies, the chances are high you will have a friend or family member experience the loss of a baby. Here are some things to not say:

1-At least you have other children!

I think of all the things said to me, this one bothered me the most. This is the thing I desperately wanted to tell people was not helpful. I had Brayden when I lost Braxston. Yes, it was great to have a child. In many ways, having a child to take care of helped me to pick myself up and move forward. In other ways, having a child to take care of gave me a valid reason to bury my pain and ignore it.

Here is the problem with telling someone "at least you have a child!" Each child, including the one lost, is an individual. A pregnant mother knows that. While the lost baby isn't so real to you since you weren't carrying the baby, that baby is very real to the mother. If a mom of four lost one child when the child was 10, no one would say to her, "Well, at least you have three other children!" because it is obvious that the three other children don't replace the one lost. Losing a child is losing that individual child. Having another doesn't make you think, "Ah well. No biggie about that lost one." Children aren't socks. You can replace a sock that disappears into the dryer system with a new pair of socks and move on with your life. You can't replace individual children. That exact child is gone.

2-At least you know you can get pregnant! You can get pregnant again!

All the reasons the comment above also apply here. Again, the mother just lost an individual and she knows it. There is also a new, cold fear settling into the mother. Will I ever be able to have a child again? Just because you got pregnant X number of times doesn't mean it will happen again. For me, I had one successful pregnancy and one failed. Which was my norm? I had no idea. Even if my loss had been my fifth go, I would have wondered if having another child would ever even be possible. 

3-Your baby is in Heaven now.

There can be a certain amount of comfort that can come with this, but there are some things to be aware of with this type of statement. A grieving mother starts to feel like she is unfaithful if she feels sad. You feel like your faith is weak and you are displaying that for the world to see. I shouldn't feel sad! Heaven is great! I should feel happy! Heaven is better than here! Those are thoughts that run through the mother's head. Then the mother feels guilt for feeling sad and also feels like she needs to bury her pain so people don't judge her faith. 

It is absolutely okay to grieve the loss of those we love. When Jesus went to Lazarus, to raise him from the dead, he wept first. "Mourning is one of the deepest expressions of pure love. It is a natural response in complete accord with divine commandments" (Russell M. Nelson).

When a mother is grieving, it is an expression of her pure love for that baby. Don't try to talk her out of her grief. 

4-Sometimes life is hard and it is supposed to be that way.

I know when you read that you will think, "Well, duh! That is a horrible thing to say to someone! No one would actually say that." But they do! I had it said to me and I personally witnessed it said to a friend of mine when she lost her two month old to SIDS. This is the type of statement people say when they are desperately clawing for something to say to comfort people. That is why I said above, don't try to make people feel better. You will likely say something that you just shouldn't say and wouldn't if you were thinking rationally.

5-Here is a story about someone who had or has it worse than you do.

People like to offer stories of their friends, sisters, sister-in-law who went through this very difficult like experience to try to make the grieving person feel grateful their challenge isn't worse. That doesn't help. It minimizes the very real pain they are experiencing. No, I didn't just lose four of my children in a car accident like that poor woman, but that doesn't mean my pain right now isn't very real for me.

6-Inquiries of what happened to cause it.

Every single mother who has ever lost a baby has blamed herself for it. We all come to a conclusion for what caused the death of the baby. The reasons we come to are typically ridiculous because we typically did absolutely nothing to cause it. My own reason I landed on? I had driven the car while stressed. Other reasons I have heard? "I was cleaning." "I got a cold." These are legitimate, real reasons women decide caused their miscarriage or stillbirth and they blame themselves forever for it. It makes no rational sense, yet they believe it. 
What To Say To a Woman Who Has Lost a Baby that will be helpful and what not to say.

A grieving mother does not need anything else pushing the idea that she did something to cause the death of her baby. Even if you don't mean it at all, the mother will blame herself more if it feels like others are suggesting she contributed to the loss. I was fortunate to have a doctor who quickly and immediately made sure I knew I did not cause it, but not all women have this.


I was the first of my close friends to ever lose a baby. I had these things said to me. I knew they came from a place of love. They still were not helpful. I found it interesting over the years the number of apologies I got from those friends as they moved through life and lost babies themselves. Years later I would get the random email apologizing to me for saying one of these 6 things I listed above. The friend just lost a baby herself and now realized how hard it was to hear those things. I think that highlights just how hard these things really are to hear. A woman, years later, would realize she had said the same things and apologize for saying them because she had experience in what it felt like to have them said.

I know lists of "what not to say" can be hard to read if you have said them before. I know they can bring about paranoia in people because they worry about ever saying anything to anyone because they worry about saying the wrong thing. I think it is important to get the message out there to people that, though well-intended, these statements aren't actually helpful (and this is true for any tragedy...I have had friends go through cancer who have talked about the same types of things being hard to hear from people). If you have said these things from a place of love, your friend or loved one knows where it came from. 

If you haven't said them yet, don't. Always remember to focus on "I am so sorry. That sucks. I am praying for you." Love, support, help, and never try to fix. 

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L'ANGE Hair Products Review

It is amazing what a good hair product can do for your hair-do. Hair products can do a lot to protect your hair, boost it up, and calm it down. In this post, I am discussing my favorite products from L'ANGE. I also have a discount link for you to use to get 50% off of everything on their site (that isn't already on sale). If you would like to know how to choose the best curling wand size and material for you, see my post on choosing the perfect curling wand.

L'ANGE Hair Products Review

Grand Debut Root Booster

I will start with my very favorite product--the Grand Debut Root Booster. This helps your hair not be flat. I love it no matter how I style it--with a curling wand, natural curl, or straightened. 
Grand Debut Root Booster

Rival Heat Shield

My next favorite is the Rival Heat Shield. It is great for protecting your hair against heat. You don't necessarily see the results immediately, but I like to keep my hair healthy so this is a must-own for me.
Rival Heat Shield

Sorbet Botanical Smoothing Balm

This is a leave-in conditioner. This is great for cutting frizz. I apply this to my ends every day no matter the hair-do. It helps keep frizz down and helps keep my hair looking healthy.
Sorbet Botanical Smoothing Balm

Whip Volumizing Mousse

My next most-used item is the mousse. I like to use it on my hair to hold curl instead of hairspray. My hair is fine, so extra product just weighs it down so I like this better than hairspray. It keeps the hair nice and light without crunch. I must say, I have use d other mousse from the drug store that works just as well, so this wouldn't be a must-own for me.
Whip Volumizing Mousse

Manage Marula Oil Hydrating Mist

I use this every time I do my hair straight. It is very smoothing and moisturizing. It doesn't take very many sprays to get it all over your hair, so it lasts forever.
Manage Marula Oil Hydrating Mist

Salt+Sea Texturizing Spray

This is something I use when I do my hair naturally curly. A lot of people like to use it to add a more textured look to the curling wand look. I don't love it with my hair for a curling wand, again, because I like as little as possible on my hair, but a lot of people with fine hair swear by it. They say it helps hair look thicker and hold better. I love it for natural curl.
Salt+Sea Texturizing Spray

Deja Vu Dry Shampoo

Before I tried this shampoo, I hated dry shampoo. This one is fantastic. I have very dry hair, so I don't have a lot of need for dry shampoo, but if I am doing a third day hair (washed it two days ago), this is very helpful to help hair look better. It isn't all white and heavy. It doesn't leave your hair feeling coated in grossness. It looks like you just washed it. I love it for Kaitlyn's hair on a second day hair. She has more oily hair, so this is fantastic for her. 
Deja Vu Dry Shampoo

Satin Nectar Nourishing Gloss

This is another product to control frizz. I find the use very similar as the Sorbet. I think this is better to use on second or third day hair. The Sorbet is best on freshly washed hair. So I will use this on second or third day hair. But I think you can easily get by with either this or the Sorbet. I use the Sorbet more often. 
Satin Nectar Nourishing Gloss

There you have it! If you want to get your own products, use my L'ANGE link here (affiliate). You will automatically get 50% off of all regular priced items in your cart! If for some reason you don't have the discount when you checkout, use the code "Babywise" to get the discount applied. 

L'ANGE also has other products I haven't yet tried. They have a detangler, hairsprays, shampoos, conditioners, a shine spray, hair lotion, hair masque, gel mousse, towel, and even products for men.

It is amazing what a good hair product can do for your hair-do. Hair products can do a lot to protect your hair, boost it up, and calm it down. In this post, I am discussing my favorite products from L'ANGE. 50% off all products.

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Brinley Child Summary: {5 Years 8 Months}

Inside: Five year old girl information. Five year old schedule, dealing with emotions, and homework details. 

This a summary for Brinley from 5 years 7 months to 5 years 8 months.

Five year old girl information. Five year old schedule, dealing with emotions, and homework details

Sleep was great this past month. She didn't have any bad dreams at all.

Eating is good and pretty non-eventful. We had a spell while on vacation where she "wasn't hungry" at meal times and then begging for food shortly after the meal was over. We reminded her the time to eat was mealtimes and we didn't allow the "I'm full" at meals for a bit. We typically are fine with the kids deciding when they are full, but she needed to just eat what was available at the meals so she wasn't asking for food at other times. We aren't a "grazing" type anyway, but especially while on vacation and not home with food all around us, it was important for her to eat what she needed at meals. We did of course have snacks while we were out and about, but this was 10-15 minutes later proclaiming she was starving.

Brinley was quite the emotional four year old. This is a common age to be emotional; Kaitlyn was the same way, while Brayden and McKenna weren't extra emotional at that age. Kaitlyn snapped out of it at five. Brinley has eased out of it. She has slowly become less and less emotional over time. I think things have eased up even more in the last month or two. I wonder if she is one with just "big emotions" and might be more emotional than your typical person. Time will tell. Here is a post on helping your child work through emotions.

I had a reader request to know more about when the kids do school work at home in the schedules, so I will address it with each child individually. We have half-day Kindergarten around here, so Brinley is able to easily get her homework done after school. Our routine is to get home, eat lunch, and then do homework right away. I don't like putting homework off until later because I never think of it again. I know some people like to give significant time between getting home and homework time, and I understand their reasoning, but we have always done homework right away for all kids, no matter what grade they are in. 

Of all of my children right now, Brinley has the most homework. I think that is in part due to the fact that we are a state with half-day Kindergarten in a nation of full-day teaching requirements. So some things simply need to be sent home. It is also largely because my older kids get homework done at school during their down time, and Kindergarteners just don't have down time--again, half-day issue (by the way, I LOVE half-day Kindy. I am not upset it is half-day in the least). 

We are able to get homework done well before any other activities need to take place, even on days she has early activities.

This is what Brinley is doing outside of school. She is doing more than she will be able to do when she moves to full day next year, just logistically. It gets hard to fit everyone's things in after school, but right now, I am able to do most of her things while the older kids are at school.
  • Swimming lessons: She had 1-2 this month. She had a little break before that, and her first time going back, she was super nervous. But she did great and was excited after that. We have found Brinley does much better with lessons if no one else is in the building with her. We literally leave her with the teacher. 
  • Gymnastics: She really likes gymnastics and is really loving it! She is progressing. She does little tricks at home. I don't see her ever going anywhere beyond "for fun," but I see so much value in what it is helping her to do at this point.
  • Dance: dance is great! She loves her dance teachers. We have started talking about what she can and can't do next year, and right now she is saying she wants to do gymnastics over dance. So she likes it, but likes other things better. 
  • Piano: Piano is great. She loves the piano, can read notes well for her age, and can play by ear quite well. A funny thing with the kids is they all want to play more advanced songs (of course). They want to play what Brayden plays. So Brinley literally is picking out by ear his recital song. HA! 
  • Musical: The musical ended during this time. She had a lot of fun with it!
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Brinley loves to read and is getting more into chapter books. I feel like since Brayden was 5, more and more beginner chapter books have come out. Her two favorites right now are Mercy Watson and Princess In Black. I love these chapter book series for new readers. They are short enough that you can easily make it through one book in just a few nights (you could even do one if needed), so they don't have to follow the storyline for too many days. I like it being broken up over a few days just to train them to remember a storyline and come back to it day after day. They have fun pictures but are a chapter book. 

7:00-7:30 AM--wake up, get ready, eat, scriptures, practice piano
9:00 AM--school
12:30 PM--home and eat lunch. Homework. Then she can watch two 30-minute shows on PBS  and has independent playtime if desired. Two days a week she has her extra curricular activities. I scheduled her stuff during the other kids' school day so we didn't have our family time so interrupted. 
4:00 PM--Siblings home. Sibling play and family time. 
5:00 PM--Dinner in this hour
7:00 PM--Bedtime process begins.

How To Plan the Perfect Family Vacation

Inside: How to plan the perfect family vacation. Pick the perfect destination, plan everything effectively, and have a fun time making memories. 

I love a family vacation. Traveling has always been one of my favorite things to do. While a lot of people get bored in a car for long hours, I get a thrill seeing the different landscapes as you drive mile after mile. I always said when I was younger that I would love to live in a different area of the world for 4-12 months at a time to get a feel for what it is like there. That sounded fun before I had kids; now I of course prefer stability and sending my kids to school, so we travel. We didn't always travel long distances. When my family as a whole was a younger family, we traveled close to home and for shorter spurts--more "long-weekends" than full vacations. I don't regret that; it was the best for our family of nappers and littles at the time and we still had a lot of fun.

How to plan the perfect family vacation. Pick the perfect destination, plan everything effectively, and have a fun time making memories

Now that my family as a whole is in the middle stage of raising kids life, we are in full-on travel mode. We have a list of destinations we want to hit before Brayden, our oldest, graduates high school (only five years folks!). We are taking full advantage and getting our travel on. 

Prepping for a trip is not easy, and let's be real, for most families, the bulk of the burden lands on mom. Mom plans the trip, mom preps the pets and house to be left, mom packs her stuff, mom packs her own stuff, and mom answers dad's 65 questions while he packs his own stuff. Not to discount the stress or efforts dads put in to a trip, but in most cases, mom puts the most effort into prepping for a trip. 

All of this added burden (for fun, but a burden all the same) to everyday life can lead you to feeling stressed and extra grumpy. My husband and I both really strive to stay as patient as possible as we prep for a trip. We don't want vacations to be dreaded because it means mom and dad go into major grump mode. 

One of the best ways to stay calm and collected is to have a plan for how to prep and plan for the trip. Here is my method for planning the perfect family vacation. 

Decide on a Travel Location and Dates

The first thing you need to do when planning a family vacation is to decide where to go and when to go. I really like having a master list of places we would like to go. We always decide at the end of one trip what our next one will be. Consider things like how far away it is, how expensive-ish it would be and how that would fit in with your budget, and how your kids would handle it at their ages. Not all places are great for kids at all ages. For example, on our someday list is Washington D.C. This is a very far away destination for us, so it is a once in a lifetime type of trip. We plan to wait until Brayden is a senior before we go there. There is a lot of walking involved and we want our kids old enough to be able to physically handle that. We also want them as old as possible to hopefully appreciate what is there. 

Once you know your location, get some date options. Look up online great times to travel to the location. What is a less busy time of year? Those will be less expensive and less crowded. Look at the weather at the different times of year you are considering. Be sure to consider school dates and work needs when considering your travel dates. 

We plan to go to Florida next year. We wanted to go over spring break, but once I started researching, I soon realized Florida has spring break the same time we did...it was literally twice as expensive to book lodging as other times of year we could go. So we are looking at other date options. 

Plan and Book the Details

How will you get there? Drive? Fly? Where will you stay? Rent a home? Hotel? All-inclusive? Where will you go? 

Figure out how far in advance you need to book things. You can shop around and find better deals the earlier you start booking. If you are going to a show or game of some sort, you can get better seats if you buy tickets earlier. Google best times to fly. Search for things in an "incognito" window so the Internet doesn't remember you are looking. Flight prices in particular will jump if you forget this step. 

Plan the Food

We love to stay somewhere with at least a little mini fridge so we can pack lunches when possible. We don't like eating out for every single meal, plus it saves money to pack food. We typically try to eat out no more than once each day, and try to do less if possible. 

Decide where you will be eating meals, and then plan what they will be and where you will eat them. 

Also, in planning your food, don't forget to have some snacks planned. Kids are much more pleasant if they aren't hungry, and often when traveling, you are moving around more and kids can get quite hungry. 

How to plan the perfect family vacation. Pick the perfect destination, plan everything effectively, and have a fun time making memories.If we are not flying, I like to make food ahead of time to take with us. I will boil some eggs to have as snacks. I will bake some banana bread. It is a great way to use up food that would otherwise go bad and have some yummy snacks for your trip. 

Make a Budget and Save

Taking a vacation with the money pre-saved makes the trip a thousand times more enjoyable. I love buying things ahead of time as I can to spread out the expenses. I always estimate how much the entire trip will cost and figure out how to save for the trip so that while we are on the trip, it is all paid for and the money is there to cover what isn't already paid for so we can just enjoy the trip without worrying about going into debt. 

Make a Packing List

Make a packing list for each person so you can check things off as you pack. I try to pack light, but I also want everything we need. I always pack 1-2 extra pairs of underwear and socks per person just in case something happens. I even make a packing list for my husband so he can just consult it instead of asking me what he needs to pack and if there is anything else he needs. Be sure you think through your activities and that you have what you need to do them. I mentally walk through each day so I don't forget anything. Check the weather of where you are going and have plans for inclement weather happening. What will you need if it rains or snows? Do you have what you need for the sun? What is the climate like? Is it more humid? Are there lots of bugs (and bug spray needed)?

Schedule Hair/Nails/Doctor Appointments

If you like to have a fresh hair-cut or you want your nails done, make sure you make the appointments with enough time. If you need to see a doctor for any reason (certain vaccinations, clearance, medications, etc.) be sure to schedule with enough notice. 

Prepare the Home

There are a variety of things you need to prep at home before you go. I always like to put a hold on my mail. You can go here to set up your own mail hold. If you have pets, find someone to take care of them while you are gone. We always get a neighbor. You might need to board your pet at the vet or a boarding place. If you have plants or a garden going, you will want to make sure you have someone lined up to water those things if needed. 

Arrange with Work, School, Family, and Extra Curriculars

Let your work colleagues know when you will be gone. Arrange for your responsibilities to be covered while you are gone. If your child is in daycare, let them know. If your child will miss school, talk to the teacher ahead of time. They will often gather up work your child will miss so he/she can do it ahead of time. If your child is in dance, music lessons, or a sport, be sure to let those in charge know your child will be missing. 

It is also smart to tell neighbors you trust that you will be leaving and your dates. It can help them keep an eye on your house and know if they see things going on that something isn't right. It is also smart to let your family or close friends know when you are going, how long you will be there, and how you will be traveling. That way if something happens, someone knows you aren't where you should be. 

Charge and Prep Electronics

In the last couple of days before you leave, make sure your electronics are ready to go. If you plan to take a Kindle, make sure the movies and books you want on the device are loaded. Make sure your devices are charged fully. 

Prepare Your Vehicle
How to plan the perfect family vacation. Pick the perfect destination, plan everything effectively, and have a fun time making memories

If you will be driving at all for your vacation, clean your vehicle out. Check the fluids and the tire pressure. Get the oil changed if it is due. Fill up with gas. Be prepared and ready to go.

Home Prep Right Before You Leave on Vacation

Just before you leave, there are some things you will ideally do. One is clean up a bit. I love coming home to a clean house and it is so nice to not have a mess on top of the mess you bring home. You will have unpacking and laundry to take care of. 

If you have the time, clean your refrigerator out in the few days before you leave. You can get food out that is bad or about to go bad. It is also wise to empty all garbages just before you leave so you don't have anything in the house rotting and/or stinking up the place. 

Check the windows and doors and make sure all are locked. Do a walk through and make sure the lights are all off and the electronics are unplugged. Turn down or up the thermostat (depending on the time of year). Before you leave, give your pets and/or plants one last check/feeding/watering.

Ultimate Vacation Planning and Packing Checklist

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How to Have Successful Independent Playtime for Twins {Guest Post}

How to get your twins to play independently each day. This is great for giving twins some time alone. 

Independent playtime is important for all children, but it is especially important for twins. Our twins share a bedroom and are literally together 24/7, aside from when they are in independent playtime. It was a challenge to separate them, and we endured many days of tears and them pounding on their doors, calling for each other. It was quite heartbreaking, but I persisted because I believe that independent playtime for twins is essential. They need a chance to explore, play, and grow in their individual personality without their twin to influence them.

How to get your twins to play independently each day. This is great for giving twins some time alone.

Why You Should Do Independent Playtime for Twins

As I mentioned above, independent playtime is important for all children,  but I think that it is especially important for twins. The bond they share is absolutely incredible and it's an amazing blessing to watch it grow and develop. However, let's face it... one day, they're going to be separated! Whether it's for elementary school, high school, or college, one day they will be apart. While it's natural that they will miss each other, I don't want my girls to be so dependent on each other that they fall apart if they aren't around each other.

I also think it's a great way to nurture their individuality. I've noticed that my twins like to mimic one another. Josie will be reading a book and Margo will see her, and decide she wants to read that book for herself. Margo will be playing Paw Patrol, and Josie will come along and need to play with the pups at that exact same moment. They influence each other, for better or for worse. I want them to have a chance to not be influenced by each other for a few minutes a day; I want them to learn what their own interests are and develop their own preferences for play.

Independent Playtime for Twins at the Same Time

Since it is very common for twins to share a bedroom, it can be tricky to find two separate places for them to have independent playtime at.

Separate Bedrooms

This is our current setup. One twin goes in their bedroom, and the other twin goes in their brother, Theo's room. Theo goes downstairs in our playroom, but if we didn't have a playroom I would put him in our guest bedroom. You could even child-proof your master bedroom and do independent playtime in there. A bin of toys could be kept in your closet, or brought in from another room.

Bedroom and Playroom or Living Room

This worked for us in the beginning. Our playroom is on a different floor than our bedrooms, and since they were crying and calling for each other, I tried separating them by floors. Not being able to hear each other cry was extremely beneficial. However, I ultimately wanted them both in the bedrooms because our playroom is off of the kitchen with no door, and I know it's hard for them to see me walking around and not be able to come to me.

Sound Machine

They no longer cry, but I still use a sound machine (with a different sound than they get for sleeping!). The bedrooms they are in are right next to each other, and I don't want them to hear the other one playing and become sad that they aren't together. 

Tip: If you are doing independent playtime for your twins at the same time, do whatever it takes to make it so they can't hear each other.

Independent Playtime for Twins at Separate Times

If your logistics don't work out and you simply don't have the space to do independent playtime at the same time, there are still ways you can do it.

T.V. Time
How to get your twins to play independently each day. This is great for giving twins some time alone.

If you are a work-at-home-parent, or simply have housework to get done, you can alternate T.V. time with independent playtime for your twins. While one twin is having independent playtime, the other can get their T.V. time, and then vice versa.

One on One Time With Parents

You can also use independent playtime as an opportunity to have one on one time with your twins. I try to do this once a week with each child because every parent of twins knows that it's hard to find one on one time with them!

Cleaning Up After Independent Playtime

I've noticed with my girls that when independent playtime is over they are so anxious to see each other that it's like pulling teeth to get them to clean up. I've switched things up a little, and now I let them reunite and then we clean up both rooms together. They are much happier to clean up once they have given each other hugs.

Keep Your Tone Light

When I put my twins into independent playtime, I keep my voice bright and cheery. I say things such as "you're going to have so much fun playing by yourself! Josie will be in the other room playing and having lot's of fun and you can see her when your time is up!" I also remind them of what will happen after independent playtime.

Reward Them

I suppose this isn't specific to twins, but I give them lots of praise when independent playtime is over. Our 'reward' is their television time for the day. My kids all love watching t.v., and it isn't something we do a ton; for us, it is the perfect reward for independent playtime. If it's a snowy day and we don't have plans, I'll sometimes let them watch a longer movie; if we have plans or I want them to play outside, it will be a quick ten minutes of some nursery rhymes (our favorite nursery rhyme show is Little Baby Bums). 

Other Helpful Twin Posts

Caitlin is wife to Ben, and mama to their son Theo (4) and identical twin girls Josie and Margo (2). They live in Rhode Island and she is passionate about healthy living, keeping it honest and real, and bringing encouragement and solidarity to all moms, but especially to twin moms. You can follow the chaos over at her blog, Twin mom and More.