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Masketeers {Giveaway}

Masketeers is simple and straightforward. They offer printable masks for parents to print off for their children.  A really fun thing about them is you can print off the colored version OR you can print off a coloring page version so your child can decorate it himself! Masks are a really fun learning activity to do with your children. 

Masketeers has a fun starting story:

I first had the idea for Masketeers while watching my wife attempt to draw a horsey mask for my little lad Alfie. Now we all know kids have a good imagination, but this drawing was stretching the bounds of even the wildest kid's imagination. If he'd wanted a mask that looked like a potato sack with three holes in he'd have been well happy. On this occasion though he was after a horse and the puzzled look on his face was enough and I lynched the pen from her hand! 
This got me thinking though and it dawned on me that there must be loads more artistically challenged parents and teachers out there whose kids are getting a raw deal on the mask front. With this in mind I thought I'd set up Masketeers to help out. I'm a graphic designer by trade, so I just got doodling away then recreated the masks on computer.The masks have been designed with a child's perspective in mind so they're simple yet striking and are easy for them to decorate and cut out. It was actually harder making them simple!
Anyway I hope you enjoy the masks and stay tuned for loads more in the near future.All the best. 
Ian Nicholls 
 The process is simple. You go to the website and order what you want and get it in an instant download! You can also get three masks free to try out and see if you like them before you buy. Just scroll all the way down on the first page.

Today, you have a chance to win your own Masketeer set. 

For Your First Entry:
Become a follower of this blog. Then leave a comment. If you are already a follower (the thing where your cute face pops up with all the other cute faces of people following), comment telling me so.

Sample Entry
I am a follower!

For Your Second Entry:Go to the Masketeers websiteLook around and come back and comment telling us what your favorite mask is. 

Sample Entry
My son is obsessed with snakes. He would love that one right now.

For Your Third Entry:
Become a follower of the Masketeers blog. Once you have done so, come back and comment telling me. 

Sample Entry
I am now a follower!

For Your Fourth Entry:
"Like" this blog on Facebook. Already do? Tell me so. Comment saying you follow through Facebook.

Sample Entry
Hi! I am now follow through Facebook!

For Your Fifth Entry:
Share on Facebook. Go to the Masketeers website and click on the Facebook icon. You will then be able to share on your wall! Then come back and tell me you did so.

Sample Entry
I shared on Facebook!

For Your Sixth Entry: 
Grab my button and put it on your blog. Then leave a comment saying you did so with a link to your blog. Already have it? Comment saying so. Keep in mind the button is a new version!

Sample Entry
I grabbed it!

For Your Seventh Entry:
Follow me on twitter @valplowman. Once you are following, come back and comment, leaving your Twitter ID.

Sample Entry
I follow! @valplowman

Entry Rules
  • You must leave a comment in order to have an entry.
  • You must leave a separate comment for each entry. This is not so I can get lots of comments--it is because it makes it a million times easier to choose a winner. It takes less time, and less time is good.
  • You don't have to do all seven entries...for example, if you just want to follow this blog, you can just do entry one.
  • One entry per comment.
  • Up to seven entries per person.
  • You must fulfill the rules of each entry for each entry to count. If I see the entry is not valid (did not meet entry requirements), I will disqualify your entry. Trust me, I check.
  • Entries will be accepted until 11:59 PM Friday, August 11 Mountain Standard Time.
  • The winner will be randomly selected at
  • The winner will be announced Firday, August 12.
  • If you would like, you can add your email address to your entry. If you are the winner, I will email you to let you know. You do not need to add your email address in order to win. I understand not everyone wants to share their email addresses with the world. I will announce the winner on the blog, so you can check the blog Saturday to find out if you won.
  • Once the winner is announced, you will have one week to contact me or another winner will be chosen. Be sure to check back. The only thing worse than not winning is to win but not realize it in time!

The Toddlerhood Transition Winner!

The winner of the Toddlerhood Transition bundle is...


You have one week to email me at with your mailing addresss or another winner will be chosen. Many congrats to you!

We have another fun giveaway coming up today. Be sure to check back.

Parenting the Middle Child

image source

Kaitlyn is my middle child. But in some ways, I have no middle child. She is the oldest girl and therefore the "functional oldest." Despite that, I often see things happening to her that are so stereotypically middle-child-esq. 

Sometimes I really can get stressed out about the middle child thing. I think about how I don't want Kaitlyn to feel ignored, neglected, or looked over. I am old enough to be intimate with Jan Brady and her frustrations over Marsha. 

But then I think about how middle children are often the most well-adjusted adults. They are relaxed, easy-going, and sociable. So then I wonder if I should worry about it or not...maybe I should just let her be a "middle child." 

I think Kevin Leman has some great ideas in his birth order book. The basic point he makes is to make an effort to ensure your middle child feels special and important in the family. I think that is great advice. Let the middle child have an opinion in family decisions. Have some special traditions you do with just you and that child. Make time for special one-on-one time with your middle child. 

Make sure your child gets clothes that are not hand-me-downs sometimes. If you can't afford to do otherwise, you could look for ideas on re-purposing clothing on many craft blogs online. For McKenna, I buy her a new outfit at her birthday and other special occasions. I am of course not going to buy her a brand new wardrobe, but a few shirts here and there are doable.

Listen to your child when she talks to you. Also, Leman suggests you have a fair share of photos of your middle child, and also photos alone. 

Most of all, make sure home is a more safe and forgiving place than the outside world. You want your child to turn to her family in times of trouble, not the outside world. 

I think these are great ideas, and equally applicable to oldest and youngest. The thing about the oldest and youngest, though, is they won't usually let you get away with not giving them these things. 

If ever you worry about your middle child, you might appreciate this quote from Leman, "The more I counsel, the more I realize that being squeezed a little while you are growing up isn't necessarily all bad." (Page 319)

Related Posts/Blog Labels:

Developing Talents

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Last month, a lesson I taught in church was on developing talents. Most of the time, lessons I give are on subjects I am by no means adept at. This one, however, is my thing. This is something I have experience with and feel like I can speak on with a certain amount of authority. I don't say it in a boastful way; I just know that I have a lot of talents that I have developed in the last 10 years. I know these are talents I worked hard for, and I know my abilities to do them have been a blessing.

We are all parents here who are trying to be the best parents we can. I think most of us have talents we wish we had, so I figured a discussion on developing talents would be beneficial here.

First, let's start off by pointing out that we all have talents. Each of us has at least one thing we are good at. Not all talents are things that can be displayed at a talent show or on a table. Some have a talent with patience or cheerfulness.

Of course, we also all have things we would like to have as talents. So how to we do that? And why bother?

Why We Develop Talents
You know I like to break things down into why and how.

If you are religious, you simply need to read the parable of the talents found in Matthew to know that we have a responsibility to develop our talents. We sometimes are afraid (of failure, of people rejecting us, of the effort involved, etc.) to use and grow our talents, but fear is not a viable excuse.

When you do not use the talents you have, they eventually wither and die. You share and utilize your talents so that they might grow and flourish.

Removing Excuses
Guess what? Nobody is perfect. No one is good at everything. We all have weaknesses. The manual I taught from had some great examples of people who developed talents despite great obstacles.

Beethoven--great composer correct? He also composed some of his greatest work after he became deaf.  Don't you think he could have thrown his arms up in the air and given up on composing? I don't think anyone would have blamed him for it. Look at what he accomplished through his efforts in face of his weakness.

Shelly Man--Olympic gold medalist for the butterfly stroke. The butterfly stroke is one of the most difficult in swimming. Guess what happened to Shelly at age five? She had polio. She started in a pool just for the help in lifting her arms. She made small goal after small goal until she won that gold medal.She also won a silver medal in freestyle.

Remember a quote I shared with you last month: That which we persist in doing becomes easier for us to do; not that the nature of the thing is changed, but that our power to do is increased" (Heber J. Grant).

You can do it if you want to.

How We Develop Talents
Then the question becomes how? Here is a list (as you go through each step, remember prayer--pray for help):

  1. Discover your talents: ask friends and family as well as ponder to discover what you are good at. You can of course also pray to know.
  2. Be willing to work: to develop a talent takes time and effort. You must be willing to give these things to grow your talent.
  3. Have faith: have faith in you and have faith in the Lord that He will help you.
  4. Learn: you might need to take a class, ask someone you know who has a talent in the subject, read a book, read a blog, watch a youtube video...we are so fortunate in our day. We have so many infinite resources to help us learn new things. Don't be afraid to ask people. I ask people to teach me things all the time. I have learned to crochet, preserve food, and garden from asking people. Also, classes are invaluable. I have taken sewing classes, baking classes, dance classes, vocal lessons--classes help you learn. Finally, don't be afraid to just try it. I make jewelry and basically just fiddled around until I figured it out. 
  5. Practice: this is where the work and effort comes in. Back at step two you decided you were willing to do this. You are going to have to accept in your mind that when you first start your talent, say it is making bread, you will not be as good as the nice woman who taught you. You have been making bread for a day. She has been making bread for over 30 years. You will need to put in the effort to get to be good at this talent. 
  6. Share: share your talents with others. Remember the parable of the talents (Matthew 20)? The servants who used their talents got more. The one who buried it got nothing. Help others learn and serve others using your talent.
Use It or Lose it
I was contemplating my life and the course of my developing talents so far. I think I was born with three innate talents: singing, organization, and intelligence. Like the profitable servants in the parable of the talents, I put a lot of effort into cultivating my talents and increasing in my ability within those. Because of that, I could be trusted with more. 

I still have talents I want to develop. I want to learn to play the piano. I also want to learn to be a photographer. I know from past experience that if I put effort into learning these things, I can do it. 

So readers, what talents do you want to develop? And what resources have you found valuable as you strive to develop talents?

Preschooler Summary: 4.25 Years Old

This is a summary for Kaitlyn in her three months between 4-4.25 years old. Kaitlyn is an interesting child...she is just easy. I don't really run into challenges with her like I do Brayden or huge surprises like I do McKenna (like yesterday when she jumped into the pool fully clothed...kiddie pool with one inch of water, it wasn't dramatic as I make it sound, but she did slip a book in there with her. Seriously!). Not that she is perfect, but things are so calm with her comparatively speaking. She is my angel baby.

One area Kaitlyn is not perfect in is eating. Compared to McKenna who will eat literally anything you tell her is food and Brayden who is not that different, Kaitlyn could be called picky. But I think compared to the general population of 4 year olds, she isn't picky. She is sensitive to certain foods--and these are foods that I couldn't eat while nursing her. They are foods that caused her pain with reflux. I sometimes wonder if they still do. 

She doesn't like anything acidic, so all things tomato-based and orangy--no go. She also doesn't like any berries. Any. Not even fresh-from-the-garden strawberries (have you ever had that? How could she not like it?). To her credit, she tries them constantly. She sees that everyone but her LOVES such things and she wants to like it, but she doesn't. 

The American Innovative Teach Me Time! Talking Alarm Clock and Nightlight clock is absolutely fabulous. Seriously fabulous. It works perfectly. I highly recommend it.

Her naps are at a point where she sleeps usually 3-4 days a week. I was reading through Brayden's preschooler summary (his first ever) today for 4.5, so three months older than Kaitlyn right now. In it I say we had moved to rest time. Rest time! Already! That is coming up fast. Right now, I don't think Kaitlyn will be at "rest time" point in three months or less. But I would guess we are there by Christmas.

Playtime is good. She loves to play with friends and loves to play with siblings. She does great for independent play. No issues. 

Wow! So much has happened in the last three months. Kaitlyn had her first dance review at the beginning of this period. I never took dance, so I have no idea how things work. One of the moms told me Kaitlyn must be the best in the class because she is front and center. She was really cute and really good to watch her teacher the whole time and she knew her moves well. It was one of those moments where you could see at a young age the benefits of simple things you have taught your child, like listening to authority figures. 

You might remember last time I mentioned that an area Kaitlyn really needed work in was her work ethic. The girl has totally changed that. She is a hard little worker now! She is a good cleaner. She initiates cleaning. She cleans after herself. I don't know what flipped in her, but she is fabulous.

Something about Kaitlyn is that she can be a drama queen. Now, I am so far from drama myself. I don't get it and I have never been able to. My husband, however, is quite adept at handling drama (no brothers, three sisters, one mom). Whenever Kaitlyn is having a "moment," he takes over. Logic apparently doesn't work against drama, and that is all I have. I need to analyze the scenarios and get some tips on dealing with drama. Happily for me, both Brayden and McKenna are highly logical. 

Then you have strange moments. Like a couple of weeks ago when Kaitlyn walked up to my husband and I and announced she had just been stung by a wasp. Um, sure you did. If Kaitlyn got stung by a wasp, Kaitlyn would be milking the sympathy for all it was worth. She was perfectly calm about it. But to humor her, I looked her over, and she was right! She had been stung by a wasp! She was not crying, she was not freaking out, she was not demanding she be quarantined in the house, she was fine. I put some baking soda mixed with water on it and she was on her way. See? Drama makes no sense.

I must add, while she is a drama queen, she is nothing compared to the three year old girl she once was. That was major drama. The four year old Kaitlyn is much more rational than the three year old Kaitlyn. I think every mom of a girl 3 or older that I have asked has affirmed their daughter also was an emotional 3 year old. Only 8 more months with McKenna until then.

Speaking of drama, Kaitlyn had a 2-3 week period in there when she was deathly afraid of wind. Yes, wind. Do we live in tornado country? No. Did she ever see anything on the news about tornado? No. It was right as trees were getting leaves--she was terrified. The wind would blow (so yes, this was spring), she would run in the house. She would only come back out if she was wearing her thickest winter coat. 60 degrees and breezy. Brayden and I both tried logic on her to no avail. 

She tried to be brave. She would go sit on the swing and swing for an hour straight in the wind to try to fight against her fear. It must have worked at some point because she is okay now. Yesterday we had the strongest wind I have ever seen here and she didn't bat an eyelash at it.

When I say "bad," I am referring to words like "dumb," "poopey," and so forth. They are words she delights in saying and I do not delight in hearing from her cuteness. This is definitely our current challenge. She will say them if she thinks I can't hear her, but of course I make it my business to hear her. When she can't control herself, she is sent to her room to play alone. 

I thought it through and decided she is abusing her verbal freedoms. The only way to control her verbal freedoms is to control who hears them. So if she chooses to use words she knows are not appropriate, she doesn't get to have the freedom to be verbal around people for a period of time. This is helping. I am glad for that because she doesn't mind playing alone in the least bit. 

This is a hard time period because two months were in "normal school year" with this scehdule and one month was in  our summer schedule. I will do her "normal" schedule here and her summer schedule next time. 

We have variation to this for playgroup and dance class, but for the most part:

7:30: Get up. Read a church children's magazine. Get ready.
8:00ish: Breakfast

9:00: Learning intro. Then some free play with McKenna.
10:00: Independent Playtime
11:00: Learning activity. Then more playing--possible 30 minute of or TV time.
12:30: Lunch
1:00: Play with Brayden
2:00: nap
4:00: up. Play until dinner
5:00/5:30: Dinner
6:00: Free play
7:00: Start getting ready for bed
8:00: In bed

About once or twice a week, she plays or watches 30 minutes of TV.  I also have her help with chores.

Weaning Thumb/Finger Sucking

On Becoming Toddlerwise has some information on weaning from thumb and finger sucking. They stress the importance of substitution. Substitution is when you use something in place of the undesirable action. Your child sucks thumb/finger out of a need for self-soothing, so when you are working to stop or slow down the behavior, you want to find a replacement activity. You want to keep your child's hands busy. This might be with "...a soft blanket or stuffed animal to hold instead" (page 161).

Okay, so step one was to find a substitute when soothing is needed.

But children will also suck purely out of habit. It can be mindless, but not in need of actual comfort. The child might be bored or might not be thinking anything about it at all. You can help minimize this by not allowing sucking to happen outside the bedroom at a certain age. 6 months is a good idea, and easy to do. Give a 6 month old something to play with and she will not be worried about sucking. As they get older, you just remind them that they may not suck unless they are in bed. 

I have an exception to this, however, and that is if a child is hurt or overly tired, I allow it. This is allowing for flexibility in the context of the situation.

Let's review the three basic rules:
  1. Provide a substitute for soothing. This is something to do when you are trying to eliminate sucking, and probably something to do closer to age two.
  2. Give the child something to do to keep hands busy and out of the mouth.
  3. Remind child to take finger/thumb out.
Something we have used with great success is a simple band aid. We put it on the finger and it helps remind the child to not suck. 

Learning to not suck on something for soothing is something that takes time. Think of it as a slow process. Stay in contact with a pediatric dentist if you are concerned. The dentist can tell you if permanent damage is being done or not. Most don't worry about it until after age four (some say three). Start limiting sucking out of bed around 6 months old. From that point, work toward eliminating sucking altogether.

For more information for preschoolers and older, I found this helpful article:

Oh the thumb-sucker’s thumb
May look wrinkled and wet
And withered, and white as the snow, 
But the taste of a thumb
Is the sweetest taste yet
(As only we thumb-suckers know).
Shel Silverstein

Readers Favorites: Children's Books

What is your favorite children's book? I know it is too hard to pick just one! Share one or more of your favorite books. I am talking "you must own this book" favorites. Add it by simply commenting with the title and author if possible. It would also be helpful to list the age of the child(ren) who loves the book. Thanks! (This post contains affiliate links).

Ellyn said...
21 month old boy:One Duck Stuck: A Mucky Ducky Counting Book by Phyllis Root and Jane ChapmanMy Truck Is Stuck! by Kevin Lewis and Daniel Kirk
Lastly, all the books by Laura Numeroff and Felicia Bond ("If You Give a Pig a Pancake", "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie" etc.)

Kristy Powers said...
Hop on Pop (I Can Read It All By Myself) andHug by Jez Alborough

for babies, pretoddlers, toddlers, and preschoolers

Hop On Pop has been one of the all-time most-read books in our house.
Hug is great because it is a good book for giggling at and older siblings can very easily read it to younger siblings.

Janice said...
Quick As a Cricket by Audrey Wood. My favorite, now my 15-month-old's favorite.

Holly said...
The Napping House and King Bidgood's in the Bathtub by Audry and Don Wood

I read them to my newborn, my brother read them in 3rd grade. Entertaining for Mom and Dad too and the illustrations are wonderful.

Jennifer said...
My two year old loves....The Seven Silly Eaters by Mary Ann HobermanIs Your Mama a Llama?  by Deborah Guarino

All four volumes of 
Read Aloud Bible Stories, Volumes 1-4 by Ella Lindvall

Savage Family said...
Snuggle Puppyby Sandra Boyton 1-3 yrs
Read alouds: 
The Princess Bride, The Chronicles of Narnia,Little House on the Prairie (we read aloud often to our 6.5 yr old, the 3 yr old sits and plays nearby, listening a bit)

MommyBott said...
The Going-To-Bed Book by Sandra Boynton for the toddler set. My 2-year-old thinks her Blue Hat, Green Hat is hilarious, too.

Shannon said...
I Love You, Stinky Face by lisa mccourt

Megjaned said...
Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise BrownWherever You Are: My Love Will Find You by Nancy Tillman

Laura said...
I Love You This Much (Songs of Gods Love) by Lynn Hodges and Sue Buchanan (Birth-5).That's Not My Baby by Fiona Watt (Birth and up).

Emily Anne Russ said...
For my 9 month old.On the Farm- Illustrated by Olivia Rayner. It's a pop-up book that rhymes.Moo Baa La La La - by BoyntonBabies - by Gyo Fujikawa

MsSarahNicole said...
1. Fool Moon Rising by Fluhardy

Richard Scarry's The Animals of Farmer Jones (Big Little Golden Book) by Scarry

Over in the Meadowby Keats

MarieEnzaldo said...
18-24 months (girl)Where Is the Green Sheep? (Mem Fox)Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes (Mem Fox)

Jessica said...
Llama Llama Red Pajama by Anna Dewdney. I think the age range is 2-6 but I've been reading it to my son since he was 6 months old and he loves it.

In fact, I memorized it and would recite it to him at night as a 'story' before bed. We don't have a board book version and he was still eating books more than looking at them at that point. Now that he's almost 10 months old, he likes to turn the pages and check out the pictures. The illustrations are stunning! It's cute - he's been gently stroking my eyelashes lately and last night, he reached out and stroked the eyelashes of Mama adorable!

Anyhow, it's the best book we own. She has a few other Llama books that I can't wait to read. Uh, I mean that my son can't wait to read. ;)

Kelly said...
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr and John Archambault. My son is 2 and loves this book! We read it almost every night. The version we have also came with a CD with Ray Charles reading the story and he loves to listen to it in the car. This book was recommended in the Read Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease(thanks, Val for telling us about this book).

Jessica said...
I love reading Millions of Cats by Wanda Gag to my four month old!

MeganRuth said...
Mo Willems pigeon books as well as his Leonardo, the Terrible Monster great all the way to 6 y.oBrown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? By bill Martin for newborns to 5 y.o

Those are just a few of the many AMAZING books out there.

(I was a childrens librarian so I'm clearly all about books)

Jayci said...
My 3 year old girl LOVES her Beginner Bible. I don't know the name or author, but you can find any out there. I am so happy she is interested in these stories. The one we have is short and basic, but also has a discussion question for when they are older. Lots of pictures too.

LKD said...
6-18 months it was Sheep in a Jeep by Nancy Shaw

Since then (now 28 months) if I have to pick two: 
Good Dog, Carl by Alexandra Day and The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear by Don and Audrey Wood.

We love books so this was quite hard!

The Shrayber Family said...
My 26 month old son loves -Corduroy Goes to the Beach (A Flap Book) by B.G HennessyJamberry by Bruce DegenGo Away, Big Green Monster! By Ed Emberley

The Kring-a-lings said...
God Made You Nose To Toes (birth- 2yrs) Leslie ParrottThis Is NOT a Pumpkin (1-2yrs) Bob StaakeHow Do Dinosaurs Laugh Out Loud? (2+) Jane Yolen

amy solomon said...
Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?  by Bill Martin, Jr. & Eric Carle has been my 16 month old twin boys' favorite book since they started crawling. Anytime I sit down and start reading that book they stop what they're doing & crawl (now walk & climb into my lap!) over to me to get closer and listen. I think they love how rhythmic it is. They will often "read" it to themselves, turning pages on their own, as it's one of their only non-board books.

Other big hits are 
B is for Bear, by Roger Priddy, Where Is Love, Biscuit?: A Pet & Play Book, by Alyssa Satin Capucilli, and I Love You Through And Through, by B. Rossetti-Shustak & C.J. Church. We also love Nancy Tillman books for bedtime (On the Night You Were Born and It's Time to Sleep, My Love)

MonstorB said...
Books are a big deal around here!

I have to second the Mo Willems pigeon books as well as his "Leonardo the Terrible Monster." My 3 year old has been enjoying these books for well over a year now.

Anything by Sandra Boynton. A lot of here books are also songs. We love her CDs. Often "read" the song books that come with the CDs and "sing" the board books.

My infant son loves "Hello, Animals!" by Smriti Prasadarn. It's a black and white board book.

My daughter just turned three and this is a list of some of her favorite story books:

The Ladybug Girl series

Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes by James Dean

Angelina Ballerina by Katharine Holabird

Extra Yarn by Mac Bernett

Anything by Oliver Jeffers

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore by William Joyce

Zen Ties by Jon J. Muth

Beautiful Oops! by Barney Saltzberg

Emma Kate by Patricia Polacco

And on and on and on!

Sarah said...
My 2.5 year old loves the Gossie and Friends books by Olivier Dunrea. She requests them over and over.

Another favorite is 
EVERYWHERE BABIES by Susan Meyers (and has been since about 15 months old).