Any links to Amazon are affiliate links. '

Spring Break 2014

You know the saying "If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it is a duck?" Well, that saying doesn't always apply to every situation. The weather may not be looking like and sounding like spring, but never-the-less, it is Spring Break! 

And so I will be taking a break this week from blogging to spend time with my family. Have a great week! 

For some reading this week, I thought I would direct your attention to some of my most popular posts from 2007. There aren't a lot of posts from that year since I started in November, but many of these are still my most popular posts on this blog. These are in no particular order.

When to Move to a 4 Hour Schedule
Growth Spurts
Sleepy Newborns


Consistent Schedule Start Your Day Right

Should You Do CIO?

StaySharp Commuter Cuff {Giveaway}

Today's giveaway is a very nifty invention. It is called a StaySharp Commuter CuffCombining a love for accessories with a passion for products that solve problems, Boston based company Exposed Seam offers a StaySharp Commuter Cuff for those who commute on bicycles. No longer necessary are rubber bands, rolled up pants, grease on clothing, or shoe laces caught in chains. StaySharp's unique shape keeps pants clean and helps keep laces away from your gears and chain – plus riders won’t look like they are digging for clams.

These are made in the USA. They help keep your pants clean and laces out of the gears and chain. It has a reflective strip on the back. Here is some info on how it got started (I love to hear how things were invented):
The Creators:
Jonathan and Jenifer Stark began Exposed Seam out of a mutual love of cycling and style.  Jonathan, who has commuted all over Boston by bike for many years engaged Jenifer's MassArt fashion design skills to solve his constant problem of ruined shoelaces and pants.  Sympathetic to her husband's plight, the StaySharp Communter Cuff was born.

The first production run was made right in the couple's live/work studio at the 300 Summer St. Artist's Building, and they have since grown their business to enlist the help of a local manufacturing facility in Fall River, MA.  Jonathan and Jen are committed to keeping their cuffs made in the USA.

Jonathan's background in video development and marketing coupled with Jenifer's web design and e-commerce skills have also helped make Exposed Seam a home grown venture.  They hope to continue to reach new cyclists each year and spread the word that doing what's good for your body and the planet never means having to sacrifice your style.

Today you can enter to win one of your own!

  • You must enter the giveaway to have an entry.
  • 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 12:00 midnight April 4, 2014 (so that means you will not be able to enter on the 4 at all).
  • The winner will be randomly selected through Rafflecopter.
  • The winner will be announced sometime after the winner is chosen. I will email the winner.
  • Once the winner is announced, you will have one week to contact me or another winner will be chosen. Be sure to check back and/or check your email. The only thing worse than not winning is to win but not realize it in time.
  • I will not use your email address for any purpose other than contacting you if you are the winner (and FYI, I don't have access to the email addresses except for the winner).
  • US Shipping addresses only.

Birthday Friend Party Tips

Birthday parties with friends is basically every child's dream and frankly a nightmare for many parents. I have good friends who never do a friend party all the way to friends who do friend parties every year. There is no one right or wrong way to do parties--just what is right or wrong for your family. Here are some tips to get you thinking about what you want to do.

Choose a Frequency Policy
As I said, I have friends who do parties every year and I have friends who never do parties. I also have friends who land everywhere in between. I find this subject so fascinating that I pretty much ask everyone I know what their policies are. Here are some sample policies:
  • Never
  • Every year
  • Every year. The child can choose either a party at home with friends or to invite one friend to go out and do something "bigger"--like going to a movie or something.
  • Every other year--the family chooses either to have birthdays on odd years or even birthdays
  • Totally random. Whatever suits their lives at the time
  • Have parties at milestone birthdays. "Milestone" is whatever you make of it. Some do 1 and 5. Some do 8 and 16. Some do 5, 8, and 12. Some do 6, 8, 12, and 16. Those are just some examples--a milestone year is whatever you think it is. 
Are you wondering what my policy is? So am I! Seriously--my husband and I have never settled on an exact plan. I see merit to all plans and like almost all of them. My husband's opinions change. A year ago, he thought we should do it every year and didn't think it was a big deal (but I pointed out he wasn't the one planning the parties). This year, he thinks it shouldn't be every year.

I love the every other year thing, but my three older kids are pretty on top of each other so far as when they fall in the year, and they are also all two years apart, so if we did "even" years, then I would still be having three birthdays right in a row to plan. I worry about forgetting who is up if we did it off-set. 

I like the milestone idea fine, but I think we are more of the type to do parties more frequently than many people do in the milestone plan.

I don't even mind the random thing--it makes sense to base it on what is going on at the time and if it makes sense that year for you, but I worry about "squeaky wheel" thing happening--I have some children who would push for a party and some who would politely wait for their turn and get looked over.

I really like the idea of offering a friend party or a fun activity. I think that allows children who aren't party people the chance to celebrate in a fun way without being uncomfortable in a party setting (all of my children so far love parties, but I know some children are shy). The trouble I see with this is how do you choose just one friend? 

So far, one policy we have set firmly is that friend parties do not start until age 5. I find that age to be the age the children are able to participate in games and listen well enough that it isn't usually super stressful. 

We do not do a party at age 6. We just never have. 

Brayden had a party at 7 and we are planning on doing the same for Kaitlyn.

Now, age 8 is a big birthday for us being Mormon. That is the age the child is baptized if they choose to be. Because of that, we decided to do a friend party at 8 also. But then we realized, that doesn't make a lot of sense. Then we are planning a party with friends as well as planning a baptism and hosting the family that comes to that. So it is a lot going on all at once. 

Brayden is one of my "squeaky" children who loves to have parties and he wants one as a 9 year old, also. We haven't decided if he will or not.

Choose a Party Length
The length of your party will depend on what activities you plan to include. As I have asked around, most people have it be 1.5-2 hours long. Some go longer.

For age 5, I like 1.5. When Kaitlyn turned 5, we did 2 hours and at the 1.5 hour point a little girl said, "This is a really long party." My husband and I felt that too! For McKenna's birthday turning 5, we did 1.5 hours and that was perfect. 

For age 8, we did 2 hours and that worked out well.

Choose a Theme
You don't have to have a theme, but I find it makes the party planning much easier. With Pinterest around, this is so much easier than it has ever been. I always go with whatever my child is the most interested in at the time. Brayden has done Indiana Jones, Star Wars, and Nerf. Kaitlyn did Cowgirl and will do Animal Safari. McKenna did Princesses. See my Birthday Parties board here.

Make a Guest List
Talk to your child about who he wants to invite. Brayden often wants to keep his parties smaller. McKenna and Kaitlyn have to be kept in some parameters. With them I have them choose if they will be going with friends from church or friends from school (and some overlap). We usually keep it to 12 or fewer.

Choose Activities
Once you have your theme and have an idea for how many children you want to invite, you can choose your activities. We have found that some sort of scavenger hunt keeps the children focused an interested in the activities. We do a clue that leads to an activity, and then once the activity is over, they get the next clue. They have some overall problem they are trying to solve (searching for treasure or a lost slipper). For Kaitlyn's 5th, we just had different cowgirl-related activities and that didn't keep the children as engaged as the scavenger hunts have been.

For Brayden's Star Wars party, my husband set up an obstacle course in the backyard and did "Jedi Training." So each activity helped them learn to be a Jedi. For his Nerf party, they did shooting training and then split into teams and had a Nerf war.

Be sure whatever you plan, you have an ability to do it inside or outside. For almost every party we have had, it has rained. 

Oh, and of course, Pinterest is a great resource for this, also.
digging for treasure at the Indiana Jones party

Decide on Cake and Decorations
Choose a cake to make and the decorations you want. Just a little tip--young children don't pay much attention to the details adults put into decorations for parties. I do not put much time, effort, or money into decorations. The kids just don't appreciate and it creates busy work for you. If you enjoy such things and it brings you joy, go for it! But please don't feel like you have to go to great lengths just because Pinterst parties are full of those efforts. 

For cake, I like cupcakes for friend parties. They are easy to distribute and eat.

Make Invitations
You can buy invitations at the store or from Oriental Trading (or places like Etsy or Shutterfly). You can also print something up on your computer or make them by hand. 

Deliver Invitations
I like to deliver invitations just over one week early. Two weeks can be good. You don't want it so early that people forget. You also don't want it so close that people have other plans. I like just over one week because I am the type who does errands on a certain day every week. It is challenging to me to get an invitation a few days before a party and have to make a special trip to buy a present. So I do it just over a week to give people time to go shopping. Side note: I have friends who stock up on gifts so they don't have to go shopping. I think this is a great idea. For some reason, I can't bring myself to do it. I think it is because I get satisfaction out of choosing gifts specific to people. 

Choose Party Favors
Not all regions have party favors, but where I live, people do party favors to send home with the guests. I always choose something that is in the theme of the party. I also never do a bag full of dollar store toys. For Indiana Jones, we were able to find some Safari Hats from Oriental Trading. For Cowgirls, we got cowboy hats and bandanas from Oriental Trading. For Star Wars, it was a light saber. For the princess party, we did a wand and bubbles. For the Nerf party, we did Nerf guns. This was an expensive one, but we needed kids to have Nerf guns for the party to work and it was a special birthday. 

Target training at the Nerf party
Go Somewhere
An alternative is to go somewhere! Many places have birthday packages. Bowling, laser tag, trampoline houses, gymnastics gyms, swimming pools, ice skating the time you buy cups, plates, napkins, decorations, invitations, party favors, cake, etc. it is can often be about the same price to go somewhere as it is to have it at home. You pay a little more, but you don't have to prepare your house or clean up after it. 

Take Photos
My good friend Serra offered to take pictures at McKenna's birthday party. It was so great! I hadn't ever thought to have someone be dedicated to it, but it is brilliant. There are so many things I have missed at other parties because I have been managing the party. But having someone whose sole focus in to take photos is a great way to capture many special moments. You can ask a friend, neighbor, aunt, grandma...etc. 

So there are my tips so far! Do you have any tips? What is your friend party policy?

You can follow the ladies in the Babywise Friendly Networked Blogs on Pinterest. See our favorite party ideas here: We are all blogging on birthdays today!

Growing Peas {Watch My Garden Grow Series}

Growing a vegetable garden is significantly easier than you imagine it would be. I promise! There are so many benefits to growing your own food. For one, it gives you a little bit of self-sufficiency--you rely less on others for your living. For another, it saves you money! Another great reason is that the food tastes so much better when you grow it yourself. It will even taste better than food you get at a Farmer's Market. Finally, the nutrition cannot be beat from food you grow yourself. Once a food is picked, it starts to lose nutrients, so if you can pick lettuce and eat it 20 minutes later in the form of a salad, you will get significantly more nutrients than that lettuce in the grocery store that was picked a couple of weeks ago and even more than that lettuce at the Farmer's Market--even if it was freshly picked yesterday.

But growing a garden can seem daunting. I want to walk you through the different foods I grow and show you just how easy it can be. 

I have already written a post on Gardening: Getting Started Tips. Read that post for some ideas on what you need to get started. 

So today, let's talk peas. Peas are one of the easiest plants to grow where I live. They do not die easily in spring frosts. They are definitely hard to kill.
This picture is from 2008

What you need:
  • Dirt
  • Pea seeds (we plant garden peas and sugar snap peas--also called snow peas). My favorite pea seed by far is the Garden Pea Miragreen from Gurney's (others might sell it, too, that is just where I get it).
  • Pea supports--you don't need these right away, but you will want them later on. Some people plant peas without supports, but you will get a higher yield if you use them. Plus, it makes the peas easier to pick.
  • Water
Also handy:
  • Stakes and string to mark your rows (but this isn't necessary)
  • Hand Shovel (but again, not necessary. Peas aren't planted too deep so you could just use your fingers)
When to plant:
For everything we talk about, I will not be able to give you exact dates to plant unless you live in my neighborhood. The rule here is you plant in the spring as soon as the soil is dry enough to work. Peas die and turn bitter in the heat. You want them planted early enough in the year that you can enjoy them before it gets too hot. We plant ours late March into mid-April. They are usually done bearing by mid-July. If you are unsure of when to plant, ask someone at a local garden store. It typically takes about 68 days from the time you plant to the time you pick. I have had it faster.

Where to plant:
Peas like to be moist and they do not like to be hot. They also like the soil to be well-drained. Part of my garden is partly shaded in the day, and I find my peas really do well in the shade. Now here is the caveat--it does well in the shade when it is hot, but you don't want it in the shade initially. My spot works because my tree has no leaves in the early spring. So it gets the warm sun as it is sprouting and the days are shorter, then it gets the relief in the heat of the summer when it is bearing peas.

If you decide to plant different varieties like we do (we plant the kind you open the pod and eat and the kind you eat whole, pod and all), I recommend you plant the two varieties with space between them. At first, we planted the two row right next to each other, but then they grew into each other and I was left guessing--are these the kind you eat the pod? They look very different when you pick them, and neither is all that tasty if you pick it when the other one should be picked. I always have something grow between my two kinds of peas.

How to plant:
  1. Prep your soil. You want it loose--we till our garden. 
  2. Mark your rows for where you want peas. We use wood stakes and string. We put a stake down on each side of the row and tie string to it. You can see that in the photo above.
  3. I plant my peas 1.5 inches deep. I plant them 3-4 inches apart. I put 2 seeds in each hole. That way, if one doesn't germinate, you usually still have the other that does.
  4. Don't be stressed! My kids help plant every year--and if you know kids, you know they aren't super "attention to detail" type. They do things as well as kids can do. That means the depth and spacing isn't perfect and that is okay. The only thing I focus on is that they get planted close to the string. The reason I care about this for peas is so when I stake them, the plants are all in a straight line.
  5. Water after planting. You should see signs of life in about 6-10 days. Sometimes it takes longer if it is cold.
How to care for peas:
  1. Some say to thin peas to 6-8 inches apart once the plants are about 6 inches tall. I used to do this, but my neighbor plants them on top of each other, so I decided to try not thinning. That way I have twice as many plants for my pea area. When I don't thin, things still do great! I will take out one pea plant if both came up that I planted in the same hole.
  2. Keep peas well-watered. We put our grass clippings between the rows. This helps cut down on weeds and helps keep the soil moist. It also acts as a nice fertilizer for the garden over the winter. The downside to grass clippings is it breeds a moist environment--which slugs love. 
  3. If you have a variety that needs to be supported (not all do), put up the supports when the plants are about 6 inches tall or so. We have used wire and we have used livestock fencing. The livestock fencing is much better. See the photo below.
You can see the fencing here. Peas have little tendrils that wrap around things to help it stay upright

How to harvest
  1. Pick the peas when they look right. For Garden Peas (the kind you open the pod for), you want the pod to be swollen and look like there are peas inside. If the peas get too big, they get bitter tasting and have a very fibrous texture. For Sugar Snap (or Snow), you don't want the peas to be large. The pod will be long, but the peas will be small. You can see those in the picture with me and the peas above.
  2. Pick as soon as things are ripe to encourage the plant to continue producing. If you leave the peas on there, not only do they get gross, the plant starts to die.
I will share more photos through this year as the year goes on.

Let me know if you have any questions about peas! And if you have tips for growing peas, please share!

Brinley Toddler Summary {19.5 Months Old}

She loves to be outside and loves to play with her siblings
This is a summary for Brinley from 19-19.5 months old.

Sleep has been okay. The time change has definitely had its impact on her sleep. It has mine, too! She has had shorter naps. Night has been fine, but naps have been shorter than usual.

Eating is the same. She rarely ever drops food intentionally anymore.

Playing is good--there is nothing noteworthy here.

Ooohhh. I do NOT enjoy high-pitched screaming. And who does? That is why babies do it! It gets a fast reaction. McKenna did this and it seemed to last forever (see Yelling/Screaming). I don't remember how long it actually lasted, but if felt like forever. 

Whenever she does it, I firmly tell her "That's a no. Do not scream." I try to be very non-affected by it other than just telling her not to do it. I have already seen some improvement, so that is very nice for me. See The Screaming Non-Verbal Baby/Toddler for more on stopping this.

Brinley had a while where everything was "yes" and then everything was "no" (both of which are normal and most kids seem to do this). She now has them correctly figured out as to when to say yes and when to say no.

As I mentioned yesterday, I recently directed a musical at our elementary school. It is the season for plays and musicals where we live. We went to a musical (Peter Pan) during this time. We just went...and she was not so good. She did not want to sit still. So my husband ended up out in the hall with her for a lot of it. We hadn't brought anything to help keep her entertained--I figured the show would do that. But it isn't like she watches TV, so I guess it was erroneous of me to figure she would be entertained by a show.

The next weekend was the show I directed. For the first night, my parents watched her so my husband could see one night of the show uninterrupted. The second night, my husband brought along snacks and books for her to look at. He almost just stayed home with her, but decided it wouldn't hurt to try. He sat where he could easily and quickly leave if needed. She was great! She sat through the show and loved it.

Brinley likes to sit on the potty. She loves to watch people go potty and before or after baths, she always wants to sit on it. She hasn't ever actually used the potty, but she is showing interest. 

Brinley wants to do almost everything herself. She is becoming more and more independent. 

Brinley also wants to do everything the same way as everyone else. Not to long ago, she was perfectly fine eating food with her fingers, but now she must have a spoon or fork. She wants to sit on chairs (not booster seats) at meal times. She tests bath water temperature the same way that I do. I love seeing little ones start to mimic those around them.

8:15--wake up. Eat breakfast (fruit, cereal, and milk)
Get ready. Clean with mom.
10:00 Independent Playtime.
11:30 Play
12:00 Lunch.
Play with McKenna.
1:00--Nap starts
4:00-4:30--wake up. Snack. Play.
7:30--Sippy of milk, then bedtime. In bed by 8:00.

Remind Children They Are Wonderful {Quotable Mondays}

I remember reading a book when I was in High School called What Kids Need to Succeed. I also remember that in that book, it talked about how children rise to your expectations. If you expect them to be great, they will be. If you expect them to fail, they will. That has always stuck with me. 

I found this quote on Pinterest recently, and it reminded me of the idea that children rise to our expectations:
You do not have to make your children into wonderful people. You just have to remind them that they are wonderful people. If you do this consistently from the day they are born they will believe it easily. -William Martin
Children really are amazing. They are wonderful. Perfect? No. Do they have bad days? Yes. Do they sometimes drive us crazy? Absolutely. But that doesn't mean that they are not wonderful! 

When you believe a child is wonderful and full of potential, he or she will believe it also. I have a story to illustrate.

I recently directed a musical at our elementary school. I really wanted my children to be able to have the experience and I figured if it was going to happen, someone was going to have to be willing to be in charge. So I did it. It was scary and I had no real idea what I was doing, but I had a lot of great help from a lot of amazing people and the whole thing was a success! 

We did it all with a lot less rehearsal time than is ever done for a show. Despite that, we received raving reviews. Afterward, my husband asked me what I thought was unique to what we did that made it so great. Was it organization? Good time management? 

Those things could have been it, but I figured the organization and time management just meant we could accomplish the same amount of work in a shorter amount of time. So that wouldn't be it. 

I pondered on it for a week and decided that I think what made such a difference was that I believed in those kids. I never had a doubt or worry that they would be able to pull it off. I just knew they could. If a student was personally worried, I would work with that student one-on-one and let that student know what I thought he/she could do. As I pondered this, I remembered the idea of children rising to expectations. We never had an expectation other than that it would be great. Those children had a whole team of women who believed in them. 

There is of course always a fine line to things. You can expect children to be many things that they can't be. We can put pressure on children that they aren't equipped to handle. Just like I recently wrote about, you can't expect a horse to sprout wings and fly. It is our job as parents to figure out how much expectations to have in our children. This is a very hard thing to figure out as parents. Do the best you can, apply expectations with a pure heart (don't try to live your regrets through your children), get to know your children, and always remember prayer as you traverse parenting

In the end, remember children are wonderful. If you believe it, your child will, too. 

Surviving an Ear Infection

One of the main causes for a pre-toddler or toddler suddenly not sleeping well is an ear infection. Ear infections can be painful. They can also prevent your child from being able to hear well, which can delay speech development if ear infections are chronic. There are plenty of reasons to want to get rid of an ear infection on top of the basic desire for parents to remove pain from their children. Here are some ideas on how to help your child during an ear infection. Read about some common signs here: Ears

Getting Rid of Infection
  • Antibiotics
  • Garlic oil
  • Herb Pharm Mullein/Garlic Compound Supplement
  • Essential Oils (Young Living Essential Oil Melrose or doTerra Melaleuca Essential Oil)

    I massage all behind the ear and down the eustachian tube to the throat with the essential oil (basil) and coconut oil several times a day. -Salina
  • I've used vinegar! I did it to myself first and, when my ear ached, the vinegar burned but after a few applications (a few hours in between) it went away completely without antibiotics or any other measure. I've also tried it with my son and it worked for him. Now… I'm not suggesting we necessarily do this in lieu of treatment, but it worked for me -Rachel
  • I swear by garlic oil! Cut up several cloves of garlic and soak it in olive oil for a day. Then strain out the garlic and put the oil into a glass dropper. Put 3 drops in ear and make them lie so the oil doesn't come out. (Watch a movie). Within hours they will feel better. I run the dropper under hot water so it's warm going into the ear. It will store for at least a year. Since I started doing this 4 years ago I have never been to a doctor for ear infections. -Ruby
  •  I am prone to them myself and this seriously helps! My nephew also uses this technique (he is 10). The salt draws out the infection and pressure. I still see the Dr. but this bring almost immediately relief. -Shelly
  • Home Remedy for Earwax and Infections Elisha
  • Hydrogen Peroxide -Travis

Helping the Pain
  • Prop mattress
  • Rock and hold child
  • Hyland's Baby Infant Earache Drops
  • I suffered with them chronically as a child. Thankfully, my children have never had an issue.
    A sock filled with dry rice, microwaved for a short time (be very careful because they get hot quickly and stay hot) and then placed over the ear was very soothing. But, my mother was doing this when I was much older, not a baby. -Kari
  • Warm up Olive Oil in the microwave in a small container (20 - 30 secs). Suck it into a syringe and squirt it (gently) in their ear(s). Put a small portion of a cotton ball in their ear to absorb the oil. We learned this trick from our Dr. -Sheri
  • Ibuprofen, Tylenol, Advil 
  • Heating Pad -Beth
  • If you get a hot or warm wash cloth and lay on it it seems to relieve some of the pain for me -Anastasia
  • Daegen got his 2nd set of tubes this past January . Which isn't normal since he is 5. Mothers intuition was right and his hearing was being compromised and he was getting a draining ear infection once a month. His ear drums actually burst. Propping hishead and having him laying on a heating pad was something that gave him quick relief . My pediatrician had told me that Advil works the best for ear pain so I would give him some when he complained about the pain. -Amy
Preventing Ear Infections
  • Eliminate Dairy
  • Chiropractic care
  • Look into what the cause is. This can be tricky, but addressing the cause is always the ideal situation to any problem. For McKenna, a big cause was that her tonsils were huge. She always had them infected and food would get caught in them. Her ENT said this likely contributed to her frequently getting infections. She had her tonsils removed.
  • Ear tubes. McKenna has tubes in and has had them in for two years now. Tubes don't eliminate infections, but they ease pain and they also make the infection drain out instead of staying on the ear drum. They are also supposed to help prevent infections from forming since the ear can drain, but it is not uncommon to get infections while tubes are in (and let me say, it is pretty nasty. It does drain right on out).

    Now, I wouldn't jump to tubes. They aren't risk free. I think surgery should be reserved for high need times. There is also risk of holes remaining even after tubes are removed, which leads to risks with more surgery and possible hearing damage long-term. So I wouldn't rush into tubes--I would try other things first. We went with tubes and tonsils at the same time because I would rather that than do surgery twice. Read more about that here: McKenna Summary: 2.75 Years
  • Both my boys struggled with this and I know there is differing ideas about antibiotic etc. Wells didn't even suffer with a lot of pain but he had fluid on his ear and it wouldn't drain. I found going to an ENT and getting tubes rather than waiting and seeing if they grow out of it was better for me. Wells started talking more and just changed after he had tubes, adenoids, and tonsils out. I did seek a second opinion and I felt good about the decision. I think ENT's have a different take than pediatricians on this subject sometimes. I also think if tubes are in you can treat with ear drops and not put them on antibiotic. I think ibuprofen helps, we spent many nights in a recliner because it seemed to help them to sleep up-right. I do think the warm compress is good also. Pace still has one tube in and I sometimes think mucinex helps if he gets a cold. However he is older and can take that. -Monica
  • Cody has tubes and after a year and a half just got his first ear infection with tubes. Pus oozing everywhere out his ear - so gross! They put him on amox. but all it did was get rid of the strep that caused the ear infection. Now he's on a omnicef (sp?) and that's been our best oral antibiotic for getting rid of his ear infections cuz they're usually so nasty. But tubes were the best decision we ever made for a kid who kept getting EI's and numbing drops are AMAZING -Lacey
Extra Tips

Dr Mom Otoscope--this can help you take the guess work out of whether it is an infection or not. I have loved having one.

Use yogurt during antibiotics.

Lots of water so child stays hydrated.

Once they get antibiotics, be SURE to also give them yogurt or a probiotic! For my 3 year-old, the diarrhea was WAY worse than the ear infection. Also, for what it's worth, the doctor told me that in some European countries, standard of care is not to give antibiotics until three days after diagnosis. Most ear infections will resolve with no medication and no harm to the ear. -Tiffany

 My daughter has had 3 ear infections. She will be 2 next weekend. The best thing has been antibiotics, but sometimes the drainage/lingering cough is worse than the ear infection! We do Vicks baby at night on her chest, cool mist humidifier and steam up the bathroom if we need to help her during a bad cough at night. She also does breathing treatments when the cough is especially bad. Other things that have helped are warmed up lemon and water, limiting milk intake and saline spray/nose Frieda. -Jessica

We do melaleuca essential oil from Doterra behind the ears, hot, damp packs held over the ear, trip to chiropractor. Try to always avoid antibiotics! So often overused and over prescribed. - Hunter

This doesn't deal with the pain or prevention or anything but I thought this tip was brilliant: using a permanent marker, draw a grid on the medicine bottle with a box for each of the doses to be given. As you give one, check off a box. That way you don't lose track of how many doses you have given each day. It worked well for me! After the meds, then it's snuggle time. The only time our kids ever slow down is when they are sick. -Alicia

DIY Doorway Puppet Theatre {Tutorial}

DIY Doorway Puppet Theatre {Tutorial}

Last Christmas, I was thinking and thinking trying to figure out what to get for Brinley for Christmas. Being my fourth child and third girl, she didn't really need much. I finally settled on wanting a doorway puppet theatre (puppet theater) for her. 

DIY Doorway Puppet Theater
My first stop is always Amazon. I knew this was something I could make, but you can often find things for about the same price already made. Here are some I found:

As I write this post, the prices are much lower than they were when I was looking. I knew it was MUCH more money than I could make it for.

So I next turned to Pinterest for ideas. There wasn't much. This was my favorite:

But there were no instructions. Never-the-less, I set out to the fabric store.

I wanted it to be a heavy material. I bought home decor canvas and it was on sale at Joanne's. I bought some fabric based on my best estimate of what I would need.

I told my neighbor of my plan and she let me borrow one her mom had made for her kids. Her mom is super creative and great at coming up with her own patterns. So I ended up studying that for my inspiration. And I want to share it with you!

Fabric Needed:
You can make this as fancy or as basic as you would like.

Base: My base is the striped fabric. You want that as long as you need it for the doorway. I did it the width of the fabric. My finished length is 72 inches. remember to calculate the top casing and bottom casing in your calculations. You should be able to do it in 2.5 yards. 3 yards would be very safe.

Back Fabric: You want a fabric to hand down in the back of the hole so the puppeteer can be hidden. Mine finished is 29 inches long. You also need some fabric for hemming, so I would go with 1 yard. I used the extra for the bottom ruffle on my curtains (not a need, just an aesthetic).

That is the only fabric you need. If you want to fancy it up--add:

Curtain Fabric: You will want 1 yard for your curtains. My friend's mom added tassles along the bottom edge of each curtain. I didn't have any on hand and wanted this to be as inexpensive as possible, so I made it look fancy by adding a ruffle to the bottom of each curtain.

Overhanging Fabric: I also used some fabric to hang from the top and at the bottom of the opening. I purchased one yard--I do wish I had purchased more so the bottom hanging section could be bigger. Again, I added a ruffle to the bottom of each piece of fabric to make it fancier.

Bag Fabric: I made a bag to store this in when not in use. I used some leftover fabric from the project and some cording.

Other Materials Needed: 
You will need a tension rod that is large enough to go in the doorway you want to use this in.

You will also need two dowels--one for the middle just below the opening and one for the bottom. Cut them to the width of your puppet theatre. These keep the theatre stiff and open in place as your children play with it.

And of course, you will need thread.


Cut your base fabric to the size you want it, leaving room for hemming and rod pockets.

Hem the sides. I serged and was just going to fold it over and sew it with the serged side exposed, but my perfectionist self decided the back would be seen enough that I did a double roll to hem it.

Hem the bottom and create the rod pockets. To make the casing, I serged the bottom, then folded it under two inches and sewed it in place.

Cut your hole. My finished hole size is 16.5 inches wide and 24 inches tall. I cut it a little smaller than that. The size of your hole will depend on how wide you make the whole thing. Measure, mark (either with pins or with fabric marker/pencils) and then cut. Cut along each side and the top. Leave the fabric attached at the bottom of the hole. You will later fold this to the back of the fabric.

Once your hole is cut, cut a 45 degree angle in the top two corners. Next, serge or finish the 3 inside edges that are raw. I serged, then folded them over once and stitched it in place. If you are making curtains for the front, they will cover up most of the edges for this hole.

Fold the flap from the hole you made so that it is hanging down on the back of the theatre. Press.

Everything up to this point is very simple and straight forward. This is where I had to stop and uncover the genius of my friend's mother. Next, you will be making the rod pocket for the middle of the theatre.

Turn your fabric over so you are looking at the wrong side (the back).

Fold the fabric up two inches. You will be pulling the fabric up from the bottom so there is a 2 inch overlap on itself. You want this fold to line up with the bottom edge of the hole you just cut. Pin this fold in place.

Sew close to the folded edge of the fabric. Sew close to the other folded edge on the front side.

You will now have a pocket. This is for the middle dowel. 

Next, serge or finish the edge of the flap in the back. I cut off the excess fabric before I did this. 

Okay it gets easier again.

Next, make your back fabric curtain.
  1. Cut your back fabric so that it is larger than the hole in your base fabric. You will want space for it to have a hem on each side. You will also want it to cover the hole with room to spare. 
  2. Hem each edge. 
  3. Pin the back fabric curtain to the back side of your base fabric over the hole. Sew along the top edge so it is secure on top (do not sew any other side).

Next, make your front curtains.

  1. Cut the fabric out. You want them large enough to cover your hole from the front. I decided to gather mind at the top, so I made each curtain wider than half of the hole.  
  2. Hem all sides and top.
  3. Add anything fancy you want to the bottom of each curtain.
  4. Pin each curtain in place on the front. My curtains have a bit of space between the inner ends so that they don't cover up so much of the opening. The flaw to this is that when you close the curtain, it doesn't cover the entire opening. You will have to decide if you want more of the opening showing or if you want the curtains to cover the hole completely. To get both, you could apply some velcro to the curtain to help fasten it shut when they are down. During play, the curtains are rarely down.
  5. Sew in place.

You will next want a way to hold the curtains back while doing your show.
  1. Cut two strips of fabric. I made mine 5 inches wide and 13 inches long. 
  2. Fold under each short edge, pres, and sew in place so there is no longer a raw edge on the end.
  3. Fold the fabric in half lengthwise with right sides together (show in picture below). Press.
  4. Sew along the long edge.
  5. Turn so the fabric is right side out.

Next, you will sew the strips onto the theatre.
  1. Fold one strip in half so the two short ends are connected. Pin into place. The bottom of my strip is 3 inches from the bottom of the hole in the theatre. The outside edge of the strip is 3.5 inches from the side of the hole on the theatre.
  2. Sew the short edges in place. 

If desired, create your top fancy piece of fabric.

  1. Cut the fabric so it is the length you want plus an extra 3 inches (or more if your tension rod needs a larger casing). 
  2. Hem the sides.
  3. Serge or hem the top.
  4. I sewed a ruffle on the bottom edge. You can add tassles or simply hem it. 
You then sew the right edge of the fancy fabric to the top of the theatre base piece. You will have the right edge going out the opposite direction from the base piece.

Next, fold the fancy fabric down so it hangs over your base fabric. You want it to cover up the top of the curtains and just skim the top of the opening of the hole. Press this edge. Sew 2.5 inches from the edge to create your top rod pocket. Before you do this, be sure 2.5 inches is an adequate size for your tension rod to fit through. 

IF YOU DO NOT WANT FANCY FABRIC--create your rod pocket in the same manner as you did the bottom rod pocket above. 

Finally, create your fancy piece for the bottom of your theatre if desired. 
  1. Cut your strip of fabric.
  2. Hem the side.
  3. Hem the top edge.
  4. Add ruffles or other embellishments you want.
  5. Pin just under the rod casing below your hole. Be sure it is straight.
  6. Sew in place.
I then made a bag:

It is tall enough to hold the puppet theatre with dowels, rod, and all. I can also fit the puppets.


I went with the 1 Dozen Velour Animal Hand Puppets and have been happy with them. There are a lot of puppet options out there--including making your own!