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Feed Me Friday: Green Salads

I love a green salad for a side to almost any summer meal. You can also make a green salad your main dish! This summer, with having all of the lettuce we get from the garden, my intention is to have one day a week be salad day, so I would love to hear your favorite salads. As a side note, if you enjoy making salads and don't own a Salad Spinner, it is well worth your investment.

There are many variations to a green salad we enjoy. Here are some.

Vegetable Salad:
We just put in whatever we have around to go in the salad. We enjoy:
  • Tomatoes
  • Cucumbers
  • Carrots
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Cheese
  • Red onion
  • Crumbled bacon
  • Boiled eggs
  • Olives
  • Black beans
  • Grilled chicken
  • Something for crunch, like sunflower seeds, croutons, or slivered almonds
Mandarin Orange Salad:
This one is a bit more fruity. Here are some things you can add:
  • Crumbled bacon
  • Red onion
  • Swiss cheese
  • Mandarin oranges
  • Mushrooms
  • Slivered almonds, toasted
Strawberry Spinach Salad:
This is another fruity one:
  • Spinach
  • Slice strawberries
  • Red onion
  • Slivered almonds, toasted
Poppy Seed Dressing
You must have a good dressing to go with your salad. This poppy seed tastes great with a vegetable salad or a fruit salad--I usually half this recipe:
  • 3/4 cup vinegar
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 tsp dry mustard
  • 1 1/2 cups oil
  • 1 1/2 T poppy seeds
Blend vinegar, sugar, salt, and dry mustard. Then add oil and blend. Pour into serving cup/dish (I use this Salad Dressing Shaker--you can just make it all in there if you can shake hard enough to mix it) and then add poppy seeds and shake well.

What are your favorite salad combos?

Deodorant and Children

One of my most distinct memories of third grade is that of my teacher pulling a boy aside and telling him it was time he started to wear deodorant. She then told us all that many of us would need to start using it during the school year. This is burned into my memory. I don't remember what age I actually started to need it, but I remember this so vividly that I have regularly been doing "sniff" tests on Brayden this year so I wouldn't miss it when he needed it (being in third grade and all).

In about February of this year, McKenna had a friend over. When they came up to me, oh boy what a smell! I assumed it was the boy. Nope. Once he was gone, the smell lingered. I realized it was McKenna! I have been watching my oldest child for signs of needing deodorant and my third needed it first!

McKenna has never been one who showers every day because of her eczema. We do every other day. But at this time, we were doing about every 3 days because this was the time when my ligaments in my foot were torn and I couldn't move much. I couldn't wash her, so my husband was having to do it in evenings before bed. 

I was naturally quite concerned about a 4 (almost 5) year old needing deodorant! I did a bunch of research. 

It turns out it is in the range of normal for young children to need deodorant. People vary--adults vary in how much the sweat and how much it smells and kids are no different. As the child starts to mature and get more hormones then that sweat is the kind the bacteria wants to go after. The result is smelliness. 

Sometimes this can be a sign of early puberty, but it needs to be in conjunction with other signs like pubic hair growth and breast tissue growth. We talked with McKenna's doctor and she doesn't have any of those signs going on, so we don't have concern over it.

I started having her shower more frequently and that helped significantly. Around the same time, Brayden said he noticed he was starting to smell. So we upped his showering.

I asked you readers on Facebook about what deodorants you recommend for kids, and this is what you said:
Here is the interesting thing. As it has gotten hotter, both kids have started to not really smell anymore. Isn't that weird? They used deodorant for about a month and then we just fazed it out because the smell went away. 

What age did you start to wear deodorant? What about your children? Do you have a favorite deodorant?

Growing Tomatoes {Watch My Garden Grow Series}

Tomatoes. Mmmmmmmm..... Garden tomatoes are absolutely amazing. Absolutely. So amazing, in fact, that I just don't buy tomatoes from the grocery store. I can't do it. Even in winter. I do it maybe 5 times a year.

Some people say tomatoes are one of the easiest things you can grow in your garden. Growing tomatoes can be easy, yes, but there is probably no other food grown in gardens that is surrounded by more opinions. People will tell you how to support them, how to prune them, what to plant with them, how often to water them, how to fertilize them...and that is just to take care of a normal tomato plant. Just wait until your tomato gets some problem with it. That opens a whole new world of advice. 

My opinion--tomatoes aren't easy, but they also aren't hard. You can do it. Expect to have to do some experimenting to find out what you like and what you don't like. Ultimately, tomatoes are worth it. If I could only plant one thing in my garden, it would be tomatoes. 

some cherry tomatoes

What you need:
  • Soil
  • Shovel
  • Tomato starts (buy these at your favorite nursery). By the way, I have found the smaller plants actually do better than the larger plants. You can pay more money for the larger plants, but my theory is it is harder for them to be transplanted. I have done a lot of experimenting over the years and consistently find this to be true.
  • Water
Also handy:
  • Tomato cage
  • Wall of waters if planting when frost is still possible
  • Tomato fertilizer
Tomato Varieties
One difficult thing about tomatoes is that there are so many options out there on what to plant. Tomatoes are grouped by two main categories, determinate and indeterminate. Determinate means that the tomatoes will all ripen on the plant at about the same time. Indeterminate tomatoes bloom and continue to grow more tomatoes until the plant is killed (typically by frost). So how do you decide which type to go after?

One factor is when you want to pick them and what you will use them for. If you just want them for general eating, indeterminate makes a lot of sense because you can pick some throughout the season. If you want to can, determinate are popular because they are all ready close to each other. If you get early frosts, determinate can be nice because you just get them all at once. 

Another factor to consider is where you are planting. Determinate are supposed to be able to stand without a cage. These are smaller plants and can be in containers. Indeterminate get too large for a container and need cages to help stand. 

Different tomatoes taste different. If you don't really care about the factors listed above, go for what taste you like. Try different ones and write down what you like and don't like about them. And of course, pay attention to what grows and produces well in your area.

Let me tell you what I have planted and what I think:
  • Early Girl. Indeterminate. This tomato isn't one of my favorite tasting, but it is ready very early (52 days). I always plant one of these.
  • Better Boy. Indeterminate. I have planted this for years, but this year I chose not to plant it. There wasn't really anything about this that made me want it. There are much better tasting tomatoes and they take 75 days to give food, so it isn't fast.
  • Celebrity. Indeterminate. This is one that people often list as a favorite. I have also grown this for years, but chose to not plant it this year. The good things about this tomato is that they are easier to grow--they are resistant to a lot of the problems that plague tomatoes. But they don't yield a lot of fruit per plant and I have found plants I like better.
  • Pink.... Indeterminate. I am not sure which "pink" it is I plant. It is pink, and it is delicious. Last year was my first year planting it and I repeated this year. It is a milder flavor. 
  • Roma. Determinate. These are very popular for canning. In all honesty, a Roma from your garden is not that different than your Roma from the grocery store. An interesting thing the owner of my favorite local nursery told me is that tomatoes in the grocery store are bread to be grown in green houses, so a Roma is a Roma no matter where it is grown. I plant 1-2 plants each year. Not my favorite, but it is good to have a determinate around.
  • Sunsugar. Indeterminate. These are little, orange cherry tomatoes and they are AMAZING. Seriously amazing. Every person I have given these tomatoes to plants their own the next year. We plant one every year. We used to plant two, but they take off in a major way so one is plenty.
  • Cherry tomato. Either. I always plant a cherry tomato each year, but I don't have a go-to each year. I still experiment. I like them to be indeterminate so I can have some throughout the season.
  • Beefsteak. Indeterminate. Similar to this is the Whopper and Goliath. These are giant tomatoes that some people just love because you can slice them and have just one slice on your burger or sandwich. I find them to be difficult because the tomatoes are so large that if the plant is covered in them and a wind storm comes up, the plant has a hard time standing up and not losing fruit. So I do this type of tomato sometimes, but not every year. 
  • Moscow. Indeterminate. This is my favorite tomato. I tried this last year for the first time, and that is why I axed the Better Boy and Celebrity this year. I wanted more Moscows. They are delicious. They are amazing for canning. The only trouble I had with them is that the bugs also much prefer these tomatoes over the others. They are so good. 
When to plant:
Tomatoes freeze very easily. You want to plant these after your average date of the last frost. You can plant them earlier if you use a Wall O Water. Our average last frost is May 10-20 and I typically plant in late April. 

Where to plant: 
Full sun. You can plant some tomatoes in containers, so you can do them on your porch or deck if you don't have a garden.

We plant our tomatoes now in one long row instead of clumped together. This makes it easier to get to the entire plant to pick the fruit. This is our tomatoes this year:

How to plant:
  1. Prep the soil. 
  2. Dig a hole.
  3. Put the plant in the hole.
  4. Add tomato food
  5. Water.
  6. Put wall-o-water over the tomato if needed.
Now, some years, we put the wall-o-water up for a couple of weeks before planting the starts. This warms the soil and reduces transplant shock. The only trouble with this is that the wall-o-water is then warm and we have found then tip over easier if they get moved around because we are planting. 

How to care for tomatoes:
  • At some point, most tomatoes will need cages. Go for the nicer, more expensive cages. This don't tip over. It is better to spends $20 once than $5 each year. You can also use fencing--if you want other ideas for supporting tomatoes, do a google search. We always cage ours as soon as the wall of water comes off. That comes off in early June. 
  • There are so many "do this" and "do that" ideas out there. Basically, you want them watered consistently--letting them get dry and then over watering leads to the tomatoes splitting open. Nice, consistent watering is best. Think of the split as a "stretch mark." Growing too fast causes splitting.
  • If your tomatoes split, have black bottoms (known as blossom rot), or look otherwise "wrong," there is something wrong. Look things up online or figure out what is wrong by talking to someone at a nursery. 
  • You don't want to use too much fertilizer. To much fertilizer leads to lots of foliage and not much fruit. The way I had it explained to me is that the plant is programmed to reproduce if it feels it is in danger, so that is why so many say to stop watering at a certain point. Then the plant puts all danger into ripening fruit so it can reproduce.
  • You can find much more on the internet.
How to harvest:
  • Harvest when the tomato is the right color and it is still firm. 
  • At the end of the season, you can pick them if they are the right size and they are still green or just colored slightly if need be. If tomatoes are outside when it freezes, they aren't so good. It is like putting a tomato in the freezer for a bit. 

Princess Birthday Party

While there are a lot of photo ideas out there for a princess birthday party, there are very few posts full of all the info from a party from start to finish. Since I just did one for McKenna, I thought it might be helpful to some to get some full ideas.

Let's start with the invitation. There are tons of ideas out there, so you can easily "google" or search on Pinterest for "princess party invitation" and find a lot of good ideas. Here is the I did for McKenna's party. I googled for ideas and came up with this.

Like I said in my recent post on birthday parties, I have found a scavenger hunt type of party works really well for keeping a large group of children interested and engaged in what is going on. I searched for princess party games and made a list of all of the ones I thought looked fun. Then I made a list of all of the princesses. I chose a game for each princess. Then I wrote up poems to clue us in for which princess we would go to each time.

As soon as the children were all there, we started our scavenger hunt. Our point was to help Cinderella find her lost glass slipper. I did that because Cinderella is McKenna's favorite princess. Just make sure you hide it somewhere the kids can't easily see it. I had mine hidden on a chair right under that kitchen table, and they found it as soon as I read the introduction! Here is intro. 

Now that the suspense was built, I read the first clue. I put a picture on each clue so I could show the kids which princess it was after they guess (and so I could remember!). So I read the clue, then had the kids guess which princess it was, and then showed them the picture.

We then went and played "poison apple," which is like "hot potato." I used an apple from our toy kitchen stuff. I downloaded some of our favorite Disney songs, put them on my iPod, and played the songs while they passed it around. Before the game started, we explained the rules and that if you had the apple when the music stopped, you fell "asleep" and were out of the game. I was sure to ask, "Is it a big deal if you get out? No. It is just part of the game." We didn't have any sore losers.

Poison Apple

Next clue:

We then played "Magic Carpets," which is like musical chairs. I used pieces of fabric I cut into little rectangles. You could use rugs or doormats or those carpet sample mats. Fabric can be cheap if you don't have anything that will work and are buying it. Again, I used the same playlist of princess songs (as a side note, I hid in the closet while running music so I wouldn't favor anything toward McKenna winning).
Musical carpets. The adult in the picture is my friend Cassie--she is McKenna's primary teacher
and McKenna loves her so much that she invited her to the party :)

Next Clue:

Oohhh the most anticipated princess! We then did freeze dance. This is done by playing a song and then pausing it. When the music pauses, you freeze and hold that position. Then you continue the music and then pause, etc. We of course did this to a song from Frozen and the kids all sang along. This one has no winner--just lots of fun.
Freeze Dance

Next Clue:

We then did "Under the Sea Limbo." This was a huge hit. We used a dowel and hung blue streamers from it. I played the song "Under the Sea" as they did this. As the bar got lower, the kids started to crawl under it. We didn't make a big deal about it. We didn't have anyone sit out nor did we have a winner. They all had fun just going under the bar over and over. 

Under the Sea Limbo
By the end, they got a little sneaky

Next Clue:

We then played "Pin the Kiss on the Frog." I bought a poster board and my husband drew a frog on it. He is a good artist. Then I cut out a kiss for each kid plus some extras (you never know what will happen). 

Pin the Kiss on the Frog

Next Clue:

We then put together puzzles. We have a bunch of princess puzzles, so we did those. You can find puzzles at the dollar store. We had the kids pair off and work together. I hadn't looked closely at the puzzles and some were 100 piece and some were 25 piece. Oops. It didn't end up being a big deal. When a pair got their 25 piecer done, we just said, "good job!" and ended the puzzle activity. The grown-ups there helped the kids with the 100 piece puzzles, but they still didn't get done.

Puzzle Time

Next Clue:

The idea here was to then color a picture, but we were running short on time, so we sent each child home with the picture I printed. I googled "Frozen coloring page" and printed off a page with each Frozen character in it. I thought about varying the pictures, but then I decided that would lead to some hurt feelings, so each child got the same picture. 

Next Clue:

We then read a story. And that story was of course Frozen. 

Final Clue:

Of course they already knew where it was so it was not difficult :). 

We then opened presents. We followed that up with cake and ice cream. I do cupcakes for kid parties. 

Around here, it is customary to send each child home with a small gift. We did a little favor bag you can buy at Walmart (I got ones that are pink with crowns on them). Inside we put a wand for girls, a glow-in-the-dark sword for boys, and bubbles for all. 

There you have it! If you want a copy of the clues, follow this link. We did 1.5 hours and it could have been 2 hours with the number of children we had and number of activities we had. You can cut games shorter if needed, but sending home the coloring page worked great, too. 

Here are some other ideas I considered:
  • Princess Bingo
  • Freeze Tag (instead of Freeze Dance)
  • Decorate Crowns (considered this for Aurora)
  • Read on a Magic Carpet (instead of playing the Magic Carpet musical chairs game)
  • Ballpit to search for stickers on balls (for Ariel instead of the limbo)

Memorial Day 2014

Happy Memorial Day! Isn't that a great picture above? Find it here:

What do you do to celebrate Memorial Day? It was put in place to honor men and women who fought in the US Armed Forces. What are your traditions on this day?

Reading Eggs Eggy Vocabulary App {Giveaway}

We were given this app to try for free to review for this giveaway. All opinions are my own.

Today's giveaway is for the iPad app Eggy Vocabulary from Reading Eggs. I am sure many of you have heard of Reading Eggs apps before! It is used by over 2 million children worldwide. Their apps teach reading, writing, and numerical skills.

Eggy Vocabulary is a hidden picture app. It teaches 252 words as children explore 7 different locations. McKenna has had a lot of fun with this app! It has been a handy thing for her to do as her school year is winding down but her siblings haven't yet. Please note, this app is for the iPad.

Enter to win one for you below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

  • 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 each winning entry to make sure it was valid.
  • Entries will be accepted until 12:00 midnight May 30, 2014 (so that means you will not be able to enter on the 16 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).
  • Open to all countries or origin

How to Have Structure in the Summer Months

How to Have Structure in the Summer Months

Bees that buzz. Kissable dandelion fuzz. And I'll be doing what every mom does in summer...

How to Have Structure in the Summer Months

And what does every mom do in summer? I don't know what every mom does. I know what I do. I start off with big plans of what we will do. There is a mixture between wanting to maintain structure and avoid summer setback while still relaxing and having fun. I think most if not all of us want our children occupied with a mixture of structure and fun. Here are some ideas on how to help you through your summer.

1-Have a Plan and a Schedule
One of the easiest ways to make it to the end of summer and get a stab of guilt that you have let summer fly by without having reached the goals you wanted is to not make a plan and make a schedule. If you are the type who has some goals in mind for the summer, write them down. What activities do you want to do? What do you want to accomplish? What do you want to avoid?

For extensive information on planning a summer schedule, see :

In Action: Planning the Summer Schedule

2-Plan in Fun
How to Have Structure in the Summer MonthsDon't forget to make plans for the fun things you want to do. What activities do you want to do? Where do you want to go? Summer quickly gets planned for you if you don't take some initiative and plan things yourself. 

Remember the big things and little things as you plan in your fun. 

3-Plan in Learning and Reading
You do not want to get to two weeks before school starts and then think, "Ack! How do I make sure my child is prepared to go back to school?!?" There are simple things you can do to keep your child learning all summer. The basics are to keep reading a constant and to realize that there is learning to be had in most activities. Having some structured learning activities through the summer is a good idea, also. Here are some ideas for having learning in your summer:
4-Have Days Off
Take some days off. Some people do no structure and take the first week with pajamas all day and every day. Others might plan for every Tuesday to be a no structure free day. Some might be more random than that. Do what feels right for your family--some children don't handle straying from structure as well as others. Do what works for you. 

Accepting Your Child As Is

When you buy something off of Craig's List of some other classified, it is sold "as is." This means you take it like it is and can't trade it in or get reimbursed for a new one. You can spend some time with it, improving it, but you take it as it is and work with what you have. You can't buy a tricycle and turn it into a tandem bike.

The same is true for our children. We need to accept them "as is." We love and accept that child for who he/she is. We don't try to turn the child into someone he isn't. We can spend time with the child and help him improve and be the best him he can be, but we can't make him be someone he isn't. 

This means we accept our child as is. We accept the child whether an angel baby or a touchy baby. Yes, there are thing we can do to help that baby be the best he can be, but at the core, he is who he is. We accept the child whether she is inclined toward music, art, sports, books, dance, etc. This isn't to say that we don't encourage our child, and even require our child, to try and do a variety of things. We can require a child who isn't athletic to participate in a sport. We can require children to read each day and to take music lessons. We can "expand their horizons" so to speak. We can expect them to do the best they can do in these activities. 

But we have to accept their best. 

I love this quote from Elder Erich W. Kopischke:
The feeling of being accepted by someone we love is a basic human need. Being accepted by good people motivates us. It increases our sense of self-worth and self-confidence. Those who cannot find acceptance from desirable sources often seek it elsewhere. They may look to people who are not interested in their well-being. They may attach themselves to false friends and do questionable things to try to receive the acknowledgment they are seeking. They may seek acceptance by wearing a particular brand of clothing to generate a feeling of belonging or status. For some, striving for a role or a position of prominence can also be a way of seeking acceptance. They may define their worth by a position they hold or status they obtain.
This rings so true to me! Notice the varied ways he listed that people seek for acceptance if they don't have it:
  • They seek it elsewhere
  • They can look to people who don't really care about them
  • They can do things they know they shouldn't in order to "fit in"
  • They can dress a certain way--hello high school? You have a variety of people dressing whatever way they need to in order to fit in with whatever group they are seeking to be a part of
  • They seek to be in the limelight essentially by being in a position of prominence
  • They define their "goodness" by their own position or status
The reaction can vary from outright rebellion to trying to be so good and responsible that acceptance is offered. Now, this isn't to say anyone who seeks or is willing to fill prominent roles are people who are insecure and looking for acceptance. They people who do these things for sincere desire to lead and help are the ones who are effective leaders. I would wager most if not all of us have worked under someone who has sought a position in order to boost self-esteem and have seen how that can turn bad fast. Externally, this seems a better path than the rebelling, but internally, the pain is just as strong.

I am not suggesting we accept anything and everything our children do. They need to be corrected, taught, lead, and encouraged. But at the core, they should always be loved. No matter what they may have done wrong, your love should be constant. Withdrawing love will cause your child to turn to this bulleted list above in order to find acceptance. 

It is also important as your child gets older to recognize who your child is and what your child's passions are. Accept those. Do not impose your past insecurities on your child. If you wish you had done/been something but didn't, don't make your child be that person. If you were something you liked, don't make your child be that person, either. Help your child be the best version of herself--not a clone of your best version of yourself nor a best version of your wished self. Accept your child as is. 

Brinley Toddler Summary {21.5 Months Old}

This is a summary for Brinley from 21-21.5 months old.

I decided to start to test and see how flexible she could be with naps since summer is coming up. I have been doing her nap later some days and she has been handling it well. There isn't really a good reason to do it now instead of trying it in the summer other than I am the type of person who likes to plan ahead. This way, I know I can plan an activity and know she can handle some flexibility rather than planning it and being worried if she will be able to handle it or not. 

She does well overall. Something I have figured out about her is that she gets disobedient when she is tired. She is that way when it is naptime or bedtime.

Eating is still going well. Nothing of interest going on. 

Everything here is going well, also. Brinley is enjoying playing with her siblings more and more. 

This is an age when the super mimic really comes out. The copying is so exagerated and obvious that you really start to notice it and start to notice the things everyone else does that the child is copying. 

Brinley had another hair cut during this time period. She loves to have her hair done and handled so she sits still very well during her hair cuts. 

Her eye teeth are still making their way in slowly but surely. She is handling it better than she was a couple of weeks ago. I feel so bad for the endless teething pain!

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.

Quotable Mondays: Teaching Children

image source
Today's quote is:

"Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I'll understand." Ben Franklin

This is a great quote for any way you are trying to teach a child. Whether it be sports, school, morals, or discipline, involving the child is what helps solidify real understanding. This is one reason the principle of Ask and Tell is so powerful. This principle involves the children in the process of what you are trying to teach them, so it helps them remember. 

Keep this in mind as you are teaching your children life skills like cooking and cleaning (see 

Teaching Children Life Skills). 

You can tell your child how to do something and you can show your child, but the real way to get your child to really understand how to do those things is to just let the child do it (though you want to have adequate teaching and showing before handing the reins over). 

As you are teaching your children whatever it is you are teaching, keep this idea in mind. Figure out how you can involve your child in the learning process.

Bebe PODPants {Giveaway!}

Today's giveaway is for Bebe PODPants. This is designed to work on babies from newborn to 6 months old. The idea here is that if you need to go somewhere, you can slide the PODPants on over the onesie and head out the door with no need for socks, pants or shoes. It is great for the stroller when you are going for a walk and don't want baby's legs exposed to the sun or chill. This was invented by a mom of five who wanted an easier and faster way to get her baby out the door.  You can see some reviews here.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

  • 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 each winning entry to make sure it was valid.
  • Entries will be accepted until 12:00 midnight May 23, 2014 (so that means you will not be able to enter on the 16 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 only.

Best Things: 15-18 Months Old

I have shared before that the newborn stage is not my favorite. I know some of you think that is crazy. It isn't that I didn't love my newborns, it just isn't what I thrive on.  I LOVE the toddlers. Love. I can't get enough of toddlers.

  1. Fascinated with world: I love, love watching a toddler of any age take the world in. They watch everything. They drink in every detail. It helps me to see the world with those new eyes, also. Toddlers want to learn. I love working with eager learners.
  2. Growing independence: They just get more and more they are able to do on their own and they get more and more willing to figure out how to entertain themselves when they need to. I am sure this is in large part due to them having had independent playtime, but at this age, my children would start finding something to do when they were waiting on me. For Brinley, that meant emptying cupboards and that wasn't so fun, but for the rest it was benign.
  3. Still pleasant: This is the pre-possessive age. Right around 18 months, most kids get possessive and don't like sharing so much, so this is the end of the era when you don't have the "share" talk so often with the toddler.
  4. Plays more independently: The child really starts to love independent playtime enough to recognize that they want it. They will start to ask for it.
  5. Easily amused: It is still pretty easy to entertain, amuse, and distract a child at this age. 
  6. Still sticks by mom: At this age, my little toddler still didn't want to stray too far from me, so going somewhere like the park never resulted in any surprise disappearing acts. 
  7. So smart: You just really see how smart these little ones are! It is amazing what these little people can do, and you can watch their intelligence blossom before your eyes.
  8. End of baby: Toddlers in this age range often have a tug-of-war with themselves about if they want to be a baby or a "big kid." So even with this new independence, the child will want to be babied and cuddled at times. It is a weaning process for them, and for you :).
  9. Constant new skills: The new skills are constant with toddlers. New words, new abilities, new emotions...constant. It is an adventure.
  10. Sleeps a lot: Most babies in this range are napping a good bit. Sleep can be a struggle as some drop their naps or are almost ready to drop the nap, but it is usually the last time you will have two naps. I actually love one nap, but two naps has its benefits so it is good to appreciate it for what it is.
What do you love about this age range?

Poll Discussion Post: Adding Baby to Family and Sibling Dynamics

Today's poll is on the dynamics of siblings and a new baby. I think we all worry about how the child will be impacted by a new sibling, especially with the first baby. Here are some questions about the transition. You can answer for any child with any baby dynamic--for example, it doesn't only need to be first with second. It could be your 3rd with your 4th.
  1. How old was your child when the new baby came?
  2. Did you do anything to "prep" the older child for the baby?
  3. If yes, what did you do?
  4. How did your child initially react to the new baby? Were there any regressions or jealousy? Stress?
  5. How did your child act after about a month after the new baby was born? Were there any regressions or jealousy? Stress?
  6. Was there a point of difficulty at any point?
  7. Did you do anything to help the older child accept the new child?
  8. Any words of advice?
You can answer for each child each time a sibling has been born.

If you wouldn't mind, copy and paste the questions and then answer them. It makes it easier for me when tallying results. If you can't, that is fine.

One mom's experience with postpartum depression {Guest Post}

I am excited for this guest post today. This is a topic I have wanted covered on my blog for a long time. I hope this post can give you some comfort and hope. If you or loved ones around you think you might be having some PPD, please do not hesitate to talk to your doctor about it. It is no more shameful than high cholesterol or high blood pressure. And with that, here is the post.

by Paige Lyman

Over a year ago I was diagnosed with postpartum depression. It was surprising and scary at the time because it was my second pregnancy and childbirth, and I hadn't been depressed at all after my first was born (crazy mood swings, yes; depression, no). My pregnancies were healthy, my deliveries were smooth, my children were healthy. I didn't think I was the “type” to get postpartum depression (a line of thinking that was very judgmental of me, I now see in retrospect).
I think part of what made it so hard for me at the beginning was not understanding what depression really was; all the misconceptions I had. That’s what I want to do: help you understand, whether you’re going through it or you know someone who is or even might someday. So here’s a little of what it was like for me.

Let’s pretend that everyone has something called a happy jar. You walk around with this happy jar, experiencing life, and when positive things happen to you, drops fall into your jar and fill it up (I imagine it as a golden-colored liquid that emits a warm glow). Seeing the sunshine, a compliment, a smile from your baby, lunch out with a friend, a moment of spirituality—all of these things drop happiness into your jar.

But you can loose your happiness, too. Negative things evaporate those happy drops away. For every stressful traffic jam, for every awkward social situation, for every frazzled sleepless night, a few drops can be lost.

I used to think that depression meant having a very empty happy jar. But now that I’ve gone through depression, I realize that wasn't right. For me, it wasn't like having an empty happy jar. It was more like losing my jar altogether.

With my jar lost, it wasn't necessarily that I was sad. I just couldn’t experience happiness fully. When others noticed I was down and found out I was depressed, they showered me in love: compliments, girls’ nights out, lunch at my favorite restaurant, shopping trips. But the frustrating thing for me was desperately trying to catch all of this happiness, then watching it slip through my fingers because I didn't have my happy jar. Don’t get me wrong, the positivity and love around me did help. It just wasn't the solution. What I really needed was to find my jar.

There’s another analogy that really helped me. Each day, we experience thousands of things: sights, smells, sounds. Our brains take this info in and interpret it somehow. For example, say you see a dandelion growing in your yard. Your brain could come up with a variety of interpretations or thoughts in response:
  • Look at that little flower—it’s technically a weed, but it’s still so pretty. All of God’s creations are.
  • Aw, I used to love picking dandelions as a child. [Fond memories]
  • Why can’t my yard always look nice and perfect like the Jones’s?
  • Poor little dandelion. Trying so hard to be a pretty flower. But all it’ll ever be is a weed.
You know those old jukeboxes, with the stack of CDs, and you select a song and the mechanical arm inside goes to the right CD and picks it for you? Say there’s one of those in your head. The CDs are the many interpretations for a sight or sound you might experience. Your brain is the mechanical jukebox arm, which selects one of the CDs, forming thoughts from things around you all day long.

In a healthy brain, your personality and your character and your effort all go into which CD the jukebox selects. If you’re a positive person in general, or you’re making an extra effort to be positive that day, you can select more positive interpretations.

Depression is your brain getting sick, just like any part of your body might. And for me, a depressed brain was one that automatically picked the most negative interpretation for all stimuli, always. For example, the last dandelion thought above is one that I would have had (and actually did when I saw a dandelion in the yard one depressed day). 

That’s why when you have depression it feels like nothing is working. It feels like nothing makes you feel better. It feels like everything anyone says or does doesn’t even make a dent in your mood, or maybe even makes it worse. Your brain is interpreting even the positive things in your life as negative. No matter what my brain had to do (including come up with completely irrational interpretations), no matter what I fed it, the output was always negative. That’s why depression is so hard.

But it’s also why it’s so not you. It’s not your character, it’s not your personality, it’s not who you truly are. It’s your brain malfunctioning, and all it needs to do is be healed. And postpartum depression can be treated. You just need to facilitate the natural healing process (with things like medication, therapy, and good self care) to help your brain heal—just as you would do those same things to help a broken leg heal. You wouldn’t just sit at home, blaming yourself for breaking your leg and figuring you have to be like that forever. Depression is the same. It stinks, but it’s not your fault, and you need help to heal.

Still, depression is hard. So, so hard. There’s no way around that. I feel for you so much if you’re going through it now or have in the past. One thing that seemed especially hard for me was being a Babywise mom going through PPD. As Babywise moms, in general, I think we try to be pretty organized, proactive, and diligent.

Getting postpartum depression completely turned my life upside down. It’s just such a hard illness. So in the beginning, it seemed like all Babywise (and good parenting in general) was thrown out the window. My husband and I were in survival mode.

Normal motherhood guilt can be pretty bad. Depression motherhood guilt is like that times a hundred. And add on to that Babywise guilt? Guilt that I wasn’t keeping the log, that I was messing up sleep training, that my mom often rocked my baby to sleep; guilt that I wasn’t continuing independent playtime for my toddler. It was crushing. Literally debilitating.
But, to moms who might feel like I did, I want to say that the guilt is unfounded. Maybe it won’t stop you from feeling it, but maybe at least knowing that it’s irrational can help. My postpartum depression hit when my baby was three weeks old. She wasn’t sleep trained yet. For a long time I figured that I had just “failed” when it came to Babywise and her completely—or maybe I’d have to do some major catch-up because she had fallen so behind. But looking back now (my daughter turned one last month), I can see that it wasn’t true at all. My daughter sleeps through the night; she did at three months. She hit all the normal milestones. She’s happy and giggly and fun and all of us (me, my husband, her brother) love her to pieces and each want to be the first one to get her when she wakes up from naps. Yes, I’ll admit that I think she’s one special baby. :) But the main point is, depression doesn’t make it impossible for you to be a Babywise mom, or to be whatever type of amazing mom you aspired to be, for that matter. It was hard for me to believe that for a long time, but now I can definitely see that it’s true.

All that said, I would definitely recommend staying away from parenting books if they make you feel worse. I know for me they did. I read parenting books and blogs all the time before my baby was born. I took notes. But after the depression hit, each bit of advice I read was just one other thing to feel guilty for, one other thing my brain could point to and say, “See? You’re not doing that! You’re failing!” It was so sad because it wasn’t just parenting blogs that did that: it was lots of things. Like the religious talks that I love. Or even compliments. (“Your baby is so smart!” So smart? Is she too smart? Does that mean I’ve pushed her too hard? I’m such a heartless mother!).

I guess it’s just a very rough symptom of depression. But don’t think you need to feel bad that those things do make you feel bad. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad mom or that you can’t handle it. It just means you’re depressed. So just don’t read parenting books or blogs for a while. Focus on the basics, the essentials. That’s often what we do when we get sick, anyway. Other illnesses (which can be completely awful) still help us grow and learn, strengthen our character. Postpartum depression can do the same.

Read more about my experience with postpartum depression and more specific ways to help those who are going through it: