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My Shark Vacuum Review

When we first got married, we got about the cheapest vaccum you could get that seemed to still be a good one. Based on Cosumer Report reviews, we bought the Eureka Boss for $100 (the price then). Not bad! We used that for a year, totally ruined it (our fault--forgot to change the bag!) and bought another one. So 9 years ago.

Alas, after almost 9 years of use, the Eureka was dying. It wasn't working well. The hose had a hole in it. It was time for a new vacuum. 9 years is a not a bad run! I was totally willing to go with the same vacuum again. But I can't buy something new without looking into all of the options. 

I ultimately looked at Dysons and Sharks. It seemed like the Shark was a less expensive version of the Dyson. Dyson has a good reputation, but I was not sure how much of that was manufactured by themselves. I also saw a lot of unhappy reviews. Now, almost every product out there has unhappy reviews, but considering that the Shark was much less money and had better reviews, I felt more inclined to take that risk.

We settled on the Shark Rotator Professional Lift-Away (NV501). We LOVE it! Now, it isn't really a fair comparison since the Eurkea was 9 years old and the Shark was new, but the Shark cleaned so much better. 

There are a lot of features about this vacuum I love. I love that it is a canister. It is kind of gross because you can see what you are sucking up, BUT it has made me realize we did not change our bag often enough in the Eureka. I am shocked at how dirty the floors get. I shouldn't be when I think logically, but I am shocked. You know how your vacuum works best on the first day with the bag? This way, you can have a "fresh bag" every time you vacuum. You could have on in every room if you wanted to.

This vacuum is much lighter than the Boss was. This is very nice for the children. Then can push it easier. With the Boss, the younger kids would have the part that sucks just off the floor. This vacuum is light enough that they can vacuum the right way. They also can get it up and down stairs themselves. Lots of bonus there. 

It is easy to clean. The attachments work well and are easy to change out. It has a smaller area that actually sucks than the Boss did. I was wary about that. I figured it would take longer to get things vacuumed. However, it means I can get the vacuum into smaller spaces.

I highly recommend this vacuum. We have had it for almost 9 months and it continues to work well. I love how clean it gets my floors. I mean, look how gross this is! (by the way, I didn't get paid for this nor did I get the vacuum for free or discount or anything. I just like it a lot).

When to Do Homework?

Parents with children just starting school often wonder, "What time should I have my child do homework?" Do you do it right when they get home? Do you let the play for a while first since they have been in school all day? Do you do it in the morning before school? What should you do?

I was no different when Brayden was starting school. I worried about making him sit and do homework after being at school all day. I worried about forgetting to get it done if we waited. I am a big "work before play" person, so ultimately we went with doing homework when he got home from school before he did any playing.

My opinion is that you get the homework done as soon as after school as possible. If you allow playing or TV watching first, then you will find yourself battling with the "fun" to get into homework mode. Late at night, just before bed, a child will likely be too tired to get focus well and you will likely be too impatient to handle that with grace. 

Another reason I like doing it the same day rather than before school the next day is that the brain processes information it learned that day while sleeping. Also, being rushed to get homework done before you run out the door leads to more stress and impatient parents. You don't really know how long homework will end up taking, so waiting until before school can lead to homework not getting done, also.

But aren't kids tired when they get home from school? Children can vary, just like adults can vary, but in most cases, you can offer a small break and then get the work done and out of the way. Then you and your child can enjoy the remainder of the evening without anything hanging over your heads.

Really the best time to do homework is the time that consistently works well for your family. Picking the same time of day so that it is part of your routine is wise. If you try soon after school and that just doesn't work for you, find what does. With that said, this is what I have found works for us.

Talk About Day
If your child needs a little break before starting homework, talk about your child's day first. Get some decompression.

Eat a Snack
Give your child a healthy snack before starting homework. This give your child a few more minutes before jumping right in.

Do Homework
After the talking and snack, move into homework. Tell your child she can get it done, get it in the backpack, and then not have to think about it until school the next day. Work before play. If your child still struggles after the talking and snack, try getting some exercise into your child. Maybe you can go for a walk while you talk about the day. Maybe you can challenge your child to a sprint around the back yard or do some jumping jacks. Getting some exercise can help a child be able to sit for a bit longer to finish that homework.

See also

Scheduling Homework Time/Piano Practice Time/etc.

When do you do homework? Do you have any special routines?

Today the ladies from the BFBN are all blogging on back to school topics. Visit their blogs for more!

Lip-Tie and Tongue-Tie {Guest Post}

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Today I asked Lacey to write a post explaining what a tongue-tie is in a baby and how it can affect nursing. When fellow Babywise mom Lacey had her second son and discovered the tie issues, I knew that was an issue Brayden and I faced when he was a baby. Nursing started off horrendous for us. The first three months were pretty miserable for me. I wished multiple times a day that he would give up. He didn't, so I didn't. We pushed through and made it a year. In the early weeks, I went to several lactation consultants ad not one of them thought "tongue-tie." It was more..."I can't see anything wrong. Sorry!" So it was very important for me to provide you with the knowledge about this. Maybe it can help you or maybe you can help a friend in the future if she is having issues and you get this bell ringing in your head. Also, please note that a tie can have a negative impact on bottle-fed babies as well as breastfed babies.

Ties can be a defect but they can also be hereditary. I have a tongue-tie and a lip tie (by the way, my mom wasn't able to breastfeed me). These things haven't had any negative impact I am aware of on my life other than the breastfeeding thing. So if you have one, there is a chance your kids can have one. McKenna had a lip tie, but it never impacted breastfeeding and she has no issues because of it. 

Here is Lacey's info:


by Lacey Olsen

I always heard nursing shouldn't hurt. With my first son, it was extremely painful. Every professional we saw said our latch was great, it seemed there was nothing else we could do to improve it. It took us about 5 months for nursing to feel somewhat painless, however I believe I just accepted that that was the way it felt for me (or that everyone else was lying!). We pushed on and made it to 13 months nursing.  He was my chunky monkey and I have a feeling nothing was going to stop him from getting enough food. He ate great and was sleeping through the night at 12 weeks.

I recently had my second son, and nursing felt familiar. It was painful, but not as intense as with my first. Pushing through painful nursing was something I was used to but my baby was having other issues I was noticing.

A few issues he was having:
- He was still waking twice a night
- He would wake up before his dream feed, about 2 hours after bedtime
- Still wasn't taking full naps
- Only nursed about 2-2.5 ounces per feed
- Could only go about 2 hours between feeds
- His upper lip would always tuck under, even if I flanged it outward myself

First I thought it was a supply issue, then I was worried about snacking. We tried a 3.5 hour routine and then a 2.5 hour routine. The amount of milk he was getting was the big issue that I couldn’t figure out. Nothing we were doing was helping.

Signs of a Tie 
Finally a few friends suggested checking into a lip-tie or tongue-tie. I immediately started researching ties and was overwhelmed at the stories I found. They were all so much like my experience with both my boys.

Some of the symptoms in a baby could be:
-Baby not able to full drain breast
-Baby taking small frequent feeds
-Clicking at the breast
-Difficulty latching on or falls off the breast easily, milk coming out at the sides of the mouth
-Poor weight gain
-Baby pulling away from the breast
-Abnormal Sleep Patterns (due to hunger)
-Unable to keep the upper lip flanged outward
-Has a hard time eating solids once you begin
-Fussing at the breast
-Seeming tired after only a short time nursing

Some of mom’s possible symptoms:
-Sore or cracked nipples
-Pain or discomfort while nursing
-Plugged ducts/thrush/mastitis
-Low supply

With my older son, I had all of the symptoms above. My son had a few of the symptoms, but since he ate and slept great, I never thought to look into it further. His pediatrician did diagnose him with reflux because of him spitting up, coughing, and fussing at the breast; however I’ve never been convinced he had reflux. I had the pediatrician check for a tongue-tie, but he said it looked fine.

With my younger boy I only had a little discomfort and low supply. My baby showed most of the symptoms.

Our Action 
After I researched, it was like a weight was lifted off of my shoulders. I immediately knew that both of my boys had a lip tie and most likely a tongue-tie. I was also really frustrated! The pediatrician never caught the ties on either boys. Five months of nursing pain, useless worry about my supply, all of that could have been prevented if someone properly diagnosed the ties.

I spoke with my local Le Leache League and they gave me a recommendation for a pediatric dentist that was familiar with ties. The consultation was wonderful. The exam was really in depth and took things into account like the strength of the baby’s suck and much more. Tongue-ties can be tricky, because a lot of the time you can’t see it. The restriction can be under the bottom of the mouth, hidden from view. Having a professional who specializes in ties is the best way to get it properly diagnosed. I can’t stress that importance enough!

My baby had a class IV lip tie and a tongue-tie. We decided to revise both. Not only for our nursing relationship (or even our sleep!). There can be issues with a tie as your baby gets older. The procedure was done with a laser and was really fast. My baby cried, but I’m almost convinced it was just from being held down with his mouth open. As soon as they handed him to me (less than 5 minutes later) he gave the dentist a big grin. There was no bleeding and we nursed right after.

Ties in Older Children 
My ODS will have his lip tie revised later this year. Even though he isn’t nursing, he screams when we brush his top front teeth where the tie is.  There are other effects of a lip tie on an older child.

-Pain while brushing
-Hesitation or issues eating solid food
-It’s easier to get cavities because the food doesn’t escape the ‘pockets’ as easy
-Speech Issues
-Gap in the front teeth
-Gagging, choking, or vomiting foods
-Other dental problems
-Pain at the tie site

If you do choose to get a revision done, make sure to do the aftercare. The dentist will teach you stretches that should be done for 4 weeks after the revision. Be consistent with these! 

I also suggest arranging 2 appointments with a bodywork specialist. They help release the muscles that are tight. It’s almost like a mix between a massage therapist and a chiropractor. They lightly encourage your baby to relax those muscles. Our appointment took about an hour and my baby loved every minute of it. 

I also suggest setting up 2 appointments with a lactation specialist for suck training. They’ll teach your baby how to use his newly released muscles to nurse the correct and more effective way. Stretching, bodywork, and suck training will really help get the nursing relationship back on track. Be consistent with it too!

If you think your baby could have a tongue or lip tie, please arrange a consultation with a pediatric dentist or ENT that is known for being able to properly diagnose ties. Your local LLL  or a lactation specialist can help with referrals! If you’re unsure about how much your baby needs it, please meet with a specialist and at least talk it over. It’s much less traumatic for an infant than a 5 year old!

Brinley Toddler Summary {24 Months Old}

Brinley loves to sing
This is a summary for Brinley from 23.5-24 months old, also know as two years old!

Brinley moved into a new stage. She moved into the "try to delay sleep by any means possible" stage. This is when you get to see your child's imagination and genius come out. This is when you teeter between being impressed with how bright your child is and being angry that your child won't just lay down and go to sleep already.

She would ask for a different song in the middle of one the song you were singing. She would suddenly need socks. She would need her drink filled up (she sleeps with a sippy of milk WATER. I accidentally put milk originally, but it is not milk. It is water. I have literally never put a child of mine to bed or nap with milk. That is a slope I don't want to start down. However, I do let them all have water in bed. I like water by my bed and figure they will, too). She would see something out of place in the room that needed to be put back. She would need more kisses and more hugs. Then more kisses again.

Finally, I would feel like a big jerk and tell her no more kisses were allowed and that this next kiss was her last kiss. Then when she asked for "mas" (yes, she speaks Spanish when she says "more" at bedtime), I would tell her she already had more and that was it. Then I would cheerfully tell her good night and to sleep well while she started yelling for "MAS!" She would cry for about 30-60 seconds after I closed the door. Then she would go to sleep.

My husband and I both got very consistent and stuck with the same routine no matter what her requests were. Even after a couple of weeks, she is still persisting in trying to delay her sleep by trying out new tactics. She definitely has some tenacity in her.

Pretty normal here.

Playing was good here. We did have a big development for independent playtime--Brinley learned to open the door. So she was having IPT one day and then showed up in Brayden's room (his is right next to hers). He told her to go back to her room, and she did. Of course, this happened on the one day of the week I shower after she is awake (cleaning day) and I was in the shower. I am glad it was at least during the summer and that she went to Brayden first! He is responsible and he doesn't give in to her (Kaitlyn is responsible, but a sucker for a sad face. McKenna is a party girl and would be thrilled to have Brinley show up during IPT).

The next day, I put her in and told her she needed to stay in the room. She did, but she opened and closed her door a billion times. Each time, she put a toy in the hall outside her door. You can see below--her toys are piling up outside the door.

Then it dawned on me. I suddenly remembered what I did when my other kids learned this special ability of opening doors. I put a child lock on the inside of her door knob. It doesn't take terribly long for them to learn to use the child lock, but it does seem to buy enough time that by the time they are able to open it, they are also better at obeying and having self-control. I am not usually one who likes to do child-proofing--I prefer house-proofing the child. In this instance, however, I really like IPT to be a time I can get things done so that I can give more attention to the child when it isn't IPT. I don't want to battle during IPT (see House-Proofing: Pick your battles).

We had a vacation in Park City with my husband's family (by the way, I have to say, that Park City, Utah is not a terribly family-friendly place to be. I haven't really experienced the dirty looks for having a lot of kids living in Utah, but apparently Park City is an exception. People obviously did not approve of us having more than our allotted 1.5 children).

Anyway, while there, we were in a room with large bunk beds. Nate and I were on bottom and Brinley was on top (in her Pea Pod). The bed was very creaky. Every time Nate or I would move, we would feel so paranoid that our creaking would wake her up. She is a light sleeper. But she did great.

Brinley suddenly got an interest in watching TV during this time period. She likes to watch Elmo's World.

8:15 AM--Wake up/Breakfast
8:45 AM--Get ready
9:00 AM--Walk/Bike ride
9:30 AM--Outside Time
11:00 AM--Independent Playtime
12:00 Noon--Lunch
12:30 PM--Learning Activity
1:00 PM--Free Play
1:30 PM--Nap
5:00 PM--Free Playtime
5:30 PM--Dinner
6:00 PM--Family Time
7:30 PM--Get Ready for Bed
8:00 PM--Bedtime

Quotable Mondays: Prepare Children to Educate Themselves

I have often said that one of the greatest, if not the greatest, benefits I have from my college education is that I really learned how to think and how to learn while there. I think if a person can teach themselves and be a lifelong learner, he or she is set for life. Possibilities are endless for those people, especially in our modern day. With technology, we have the capability to "google," "youtube," or "pinterest" something and learn how to do it.

With that in mind, I love this quote:

"The object of education is to prepare the young to educate themselves throughout their lives." -Robert M. Hutchins

This quote can be applied to any form of education a child recieves--which is basically every realm of life. Teach your children how to improve themselves in their cooking skills, cleaning skills, gardening skills, mechanic skills, and other skills that come in handy in the home. Teach your children that no matter the age or life experience, they can learn something new. They can learn how to sew. They can learn how to bake a pie crust. They can learn how to change their own oil. Lead by example and explain with words that it is possible. 

Teach your children that new talents can be worked on and developed throughout their lives. When I graduated high school, I didn't know how to do many of the things I now do. I hadn't ever grown a garden. I hadn't cooked anything to be impressed with. I had barely learned how to sew during my senior year. I didn't do crafts at all. These are all things I taught myself to do during my 20s. I still have things I want to learn. 

My husband has always wanted to play the guitar. He has talked about it for years. This year for his birthday, I gave him guitar lessons.

Brains that continue to learn thrive and stay sharp throughout a lifetime. Our lives are so much longer than our first 18-22 years. There is no reason to think that once we graduate high school or college that we are done learning and have reached the peak of our abilities. 

Remember as you are teaching your children, you wan to teach them to be able to figure things out and take the necessary steps to learn something if they don't know. If your child asks you a question that you don't know the answer to, say, "I am not sure! Let's look that up and find out." Then show your child how you research something to find an answer. 

Always keep this goal of teaching your child how to learn as you parent. This means allowing your child to struggle to figure something out. This means requiring your child practice. This means allowing your child to do chores you set before them (even if their work is not as perfect as yours). This means teaching them to love to read. This means teaching them to research.

This is all taught a little here and a little there over the years. If you keep it in mind as you parent, you will succeed!

Product Review from Mobile Fun asked me to review a free product from their site. I decided to go with this Quirky Converge Universal USB Docking Station. In our house, we are getting a lot of products that need charging. Kindles, phones, got to the point that we couldn't even plug our lamp in because so many things were plugged in to charge. 

This has worked great! You plug this one thing in and you can charge up to four things. Any four things that charge using a USB cord will work. This is a great space saver! I also thought that once my kids are old enough I start allowing them to carry cell phones (no idea when that day will be), this would make for a good family night charge station (I don't intend to allow them to have phones in their rooms at night). 

Take note when looking at things on, many items, like this one, have a UK plug. I also had to get an adapter to use this product. I put it in the outlet and I can still plug in the lamp. Nice to have light again :) This is a great product that is contemporary looking and suits our needs well!

Teachers, To Request or Not Request?

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When I first had children, I figured that when it came to things like requesting a specific teacher, I wouldn't do any requesting. I would let the cards fall where they may and we would all adjust and deal with it. In all of my elementary on through to high school years, I never had any input into who my teacher was. I came out of it just fine. In college, however, I was able to at times choose which professor I wanted. I found I really learned well from certain professors and I sought to take classes from those professors in future classes. Despite my positive experience in choosing professors in college, I stuck to not requesting for several years.

Then came time for Kaitlyn to go to first grade. Now, the other first grade teachers are fabulous at my school. Really, all of the teachers seem great. We are very fortunate at our school. But the teacher Brayden had for first grade is, in my very strong opinion, totally amazing. Totally. You should see the letter I wrote last year recommending her for an award. I really hoped Kaitlyn would get that teacher.

I was talking to one friend who shared that she had felt like she should request a certain teacher and didn't and her daughter got a different teacher. That year ended up being a bad year for her daughter--it wasn't necessarily with the teacher, but with the dynamics of the class. She had previously had the opinion to not request, but then realized that as her mother, she should be doing things that she felt are best for her daughter. With that in mind, I requested the teacher for Kaitlyn for first grade.

On the flip side of that, if I had requested for Brayden for first grade, I would have requested a different teacher than the one he got--the amazing one. So there have been many times things  have not been as I thought they should and they turned out better.

There are pros and cons that I see to requesting a teacher.

  • You can potentially hurt the feelings of other teachers if they find out you requested a certain teacher.
  • You might miss out on growing opportunities.
  • You might miss out on getting to know a great teacher.
  • Administration might find you burdensome.
  • You can make the wrong choice!
  • You are being an advocate for your child.
  • You know individual needs of your child and can assess what you think is best. 
  • You can choose a teacher who you know will work well with your student and with you.
I used to just pray that the Lord would make sure my child was where he/she should be. This is definitely a good practice, but I realized simply praying about it is kind of like sitting in your car with a flat tire and praying the flat will be fixed. Sometimes we need to do some work and get our hands dirty. 

Now I pray to know if I should request or not. If I feel I should, then I pray to know who I should request. I still try to primarily leave it up to the administration to decide where they think things would be best.  I stay prayerful so that I can know if I do need to step in and make a request. That way, we can benefit from the pros when we need to request and can take advantage of the benefits of not requesting when we do not. 

5 Benefits of Helping in Class

I am a big advocate for helping at the school in whatever capacity you are capable of. Some parents can help multiple times a week while others can do a couple of times a month. When I just had one in school, I went in every week to that class. I still go every week, but with two in school, I did a different child's class each week. I am not sure how I will work out helping with three in the school. I think I will still try to do each child twice a month...anyway, that isn't the point.

The point is that over the years, I have really come to see a lot of benefits for helping in class. It takes time from my day. It doesn't seem like a lot of time, but it is one more thing piled on to the many other things that are happening, so yes, it is a sacrifice of time. It isn't always convenient, but it is definitely worth it. Here is why:

1-You get to talk to the teacher
This is my number one favorite reason for helping in the class. I try to not take up the teacher's time, but throughout the year, there are many times I am able to talk to the teacher. Teachers give so much more information about your child during an informal conversation while you are there helping than they give in the 15 minute parent teacher conference you go to 2-3 times a year. You will be able to talk academics, behavior, quirks, funny stories, social skills...these conversations are so helpful to me as a mom to help me to know how to best help my children at home to have success at school.

If you can't talk while helping, you will at least feel more comfortable talking to the teacher before or after school, and let's be honest, a teacher is going to just naturally have more inclination to be helpful to someone who is always there helping them. I wouldn't say they do it intentionally, but human nature is that we want to help people who help us.

2-You get to know the kids
I love getting to know the children who are in school with my child all day every day. I then know who my children are talking about. I know what type of kids my children are drawn to. I have also at times discerned social stresses that I wouldn't have otherwise known about. For example, toward the end of the year last year, Kaitlyn was feeling very stressed because an old friend was upset that she had  made new friends and Kaitlyn didn't know how to navigate the feelings of her old friend. I picked up on this just by seeing Kaitlyn's face clear across the room as she talked to her old friend. I later asked her about it and she spilled her worries and concerns and we were able to talk out strategies for her.

3-You get to observe your child
Initially, your child is very aware of your presence and tries to show off for you. Before long, however, you kind of blend in to the scenery as you are there and your child acts like herself and you get to see how your child is at school. This can lead to a myriad of emotions, from pride to dismay. I find this valuable because quite frankly in this modern day, many teachers are hesitant to tell parents when their child is anything but perfect. You can tell a teacher to let you know about anything that needs to be worked on, but until the teacher knows you, she will be hesitant to tell you the bad news unless it is a big problem. I am interested in helping my children's character grow, so as I observe my children at school, I can commend them for their strengths and help them figure out ways to improve on the weaknesses. 

4-Your child loves it!
My children LOVE to see me helping in the class. The other children are always excited to see a mom in there helping, too. It just makes them all happy. I am sure they are happy to see their mom, but also happy to know that their mom cares enough to be there to help out. Other children can feel good knowing that a lot of different people are pulling for them. You are a positive influence in the classroom.

5-You are contributing to your child's academic experience
You helping in the class helps your child's education be enhanced. You might help run centers or reading groups. You might help struggling children during a math lesson so they don't fall behind. You might simply do some clerical work for the teacher, freeing her to be more present for the students. You helping makes it better for your child. If your child doesn't struggle, it still benefits your child if the struggling children are helped because then the class can move ahead faster. 

You also will be more aware of the expectations of your child's teacher. I know when I help with some teachers, I help correct papers or help students during lessons and I then know how the teacher is teaching a concept and can build on that foundation. 

Helping in your child's class can defintely be inconvenient at times, but I can promise you that I have found nothing but benefits all around by helping in class. I have helped for the past 4 years and plan to continue doing so.

Test Anxiety Tips for Children

The only thing worse than taking a test is being totally stressed out about taking a test. The reality of school these days is that there are a lot of tests, and they start young. Here are some tips to get your child past test anxiety.

Test Anxiety Tips for Children
Both Brayden and Kaitlyn went through a period of test anxiety when they were in first grade. When McKenna got there, her's was even more pronounced than her sibling's had been. Kaitlyn's test anxiety was initially so bad that she tested as one of the lowest readers in her grade when they tested for placement in the reading program. I knew that was wrong, talked to the teacher, and she was retested and put as the top reader in her grade. Huge disparity there. She then became worried about how she would do on her first spelling test. I was visiting with Brayden's teacher one day when she gave me several test anxiety tips to help her overcome that anxiety. I am happy to say it worked!

Acknowledge Feelings
Do not dismiss your child's worries. Do not make comments like, "What are you so worried about? It is only a little first grade test. It will get much harder than that!" This is big stuff to your child. Be empathetic and recognize that your child is having real feelings.

Deep Breathing
The first thing we worked on was having Kaitlyn close her eyes and take several slow, deep breaths. We did this at home. I told her if she was feeling nervous at her test, she should close her eyes and do these deep breaths at school.

I think the biggest thing that helped Kaitlyn was visualizing something positive. We talked about several things that made  her happy. She loved to draw and she loved her stuffed animals. When she closed her eyes, I had her visualize herself doing something she loved to do. She basically went to her "happy place." 

Be Prepared
As her first spelling test approached, we practiced her spelling list over and over again. It is much easier to go into a test with less anxiety when you know you are ready for it.

Practice Tests at Home
I would give Kaitlyn a sheet and tell her, "This is a test." I would then have her complete it. I reminded her of her coping skills. She learned taking a test isn't so scary.

Good Sleep and Food
It is very important to have enough sleep and a healthy breakfast on test days. Your brain does not work as well if it is low on sleep or nutrients. 

Prepare Child for Getting Questions Incorrect
Other than Kaitlyn's initial big blunder on the first reading placement test, she had 100% on every test clear until the year was almost over. Her teacher often reminded her, "If you get a question wrong, it will be okay. It is okay to get a question wrong on a test." By the time Kaitlyn actually missed something on a test, she had heard that it would be okay so many times that she didn't have any sort of breakdown. She wasn't bothered; she knew it was normal to miss a question sometimes.

Talk to the Teacher
Let the teacher know if your child is having test anxiety. I told Kaitlyn's teacher about it, and she would keep an eye on her during tests to make sure she was okay. She would remind Kaitlyn of her deep breaths and visualization. She also had the great idea of getting Kaitlyn mentally prepared for her first mistake. The majority of teachers are teaching because they love to do it. They want your child to succeed. Be a partner with your child's teacher so you can both help your child be the best version of themselves.

I suppose a "perk" of all of the testing students do these days is that they get so used to taking tests, they soon lose the anxiety. Until then, help your child by utilizing these principles. 

Managing the Paper Influx

One of the hardest things about children going to school is the massive amounts of paper they bring home with them. Massive. I swear a small forest is cut down each year to supply the paper load just for elementary school students.

It was okay when I had one in school. My plan then was I put all of the papers Brayden brought home in one nice pile and then once a week I went through that pile. 

When Kaitlyn entered the picture, I continued that plan with one tweak. I decided I needed to look through the pile of papers each day as they came in and just throw away anything I could. That helped so there weren't so many papers at the end of the week, but I still had a giant pile of papers on the counter by the end. And if I missed a week? Whoa Nelly. Guess what? Spring time is crazy time for us, and I missed several weeks. Then summer came and I forgot about it while Kaitlyn continued to add pictures to the pile as she did art all summer...and by the end of the summer, I had a humongous pile of papers to sort through. Hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of papers.  
Last year, I spent some time thinking up a better plan. I had McKenna about to enter preschool, so I would have three bringing home papers. After much thinking, I decided I wanted to go with a wall file folder. I got the Advantus Panel Wall 3-Pocket Organizer.  I liked this one because it comes with 3 files and each file has 3 pockets to store things in. I labeled the files with "Photo," "File," and "Homework." So I can immediately organize the papers as they come into the house. I also have a place for each item.

Here is the process I follow when the kids walk in the house:

  1. After the greetings, kisses, etc. etc., I have my child get the homework out and get started. We do homework as soon as we get home from school so we can go about our day without something hanging over our heads (or worse--we remember 15 minutes before we are supposed to leave for school the next day). 
  2. I then take the backpack and remove the remaining papers. 
  3. I throw away any papers we do not need to keep.
  4. Anything I want to save, I put in "Photo." I photo everything that I might want to save. That way, I can only actually save a few samples and the rest can be saved in photo memory. 
  5. Anything that I need to keep for reference, I put in "File." This can be instructions on homework or any other information the teacher sends home. This might also include things like a report cards or homework helps. These are basically papers that we will need to reference.
  6. Anything that is homework but is not due the next day, I put in "Homework." My kids seem to always have some sort of homework sheet that is due at a future date. This way, when that date comes up, I know where to look for it).
  7. Once a week, I take out the "Photo" papers and photograph each one. Then I decide which ones to keep and which ones to throw away. I then put the papers to keep in each child's respective box of papers we are saving. 
I love this system. I did it for the entire 2013-2014 school year and I plan to follow the same plan next year with no changes. I was able to stay on top of the paper flow. I never had a huge backlog of papers to do. I did not have that messy counter in the kitchen full of school papers. Amazon has a ton of options for Hanging Wall Files. I chose the one I did because it was cheap and offered a lot of organization options for me. I have loved the system.

If you don't have kids in school, you can use the same idea for any paper clutter you find yourself faced with in your home. I think most of us have at least one spot that turns into a catch all for clutter. I know mail is a difficult thing here and I plan to implement a similar system with the mail if I can. The basics of this are that you want to get rid of what you can as soon as it enters the house, have a spot to put it until you can get to it, and then have a day that you go through it and get it in its final resting place.

Do you have a system you love for organizing school papers, mail, work papers, etc.? Do share!

More great organizing posts:
organizing the bathroom

Organizing kid crafts

organizing your time

organizing tip

hanger tags

Back to School Week

We go back to school this week! This whole week, I will be posting on different topics concerning children and school time. Before I get started, I wanted to point your attention toward the posts I already have about school.

Scheduling Homework Time/Piano Practice Time/etc.

"Sack" Lunch Ideas

Organizing School Lunches

Getting Preschoolers Ready for Kindergarten


Check Me Out on Instagram

I have finally decided to join the ranks of Instagram. You can check me out here:

I plan to try to share anything that I think is pertinent to parenting--the whole realm. I often think of little tips that make my days easier but they don't really ever make it into a full on post. This seems like a great avenue for those. We shall see where the road leads.

Help Kids Balance School and Chores {Guest Post}

It is BFBN switch up day! You can check out my post today over on is titled "Being Grateful for Our Difficulties."

By Maureen Monfore,

It’s back-to-school season! Have you bought school supplies, backpacks, and lunch boxes? Are you thinking ahead to your back-to-school routines? This can be a hectic time of year as we prepare for the school year ahead, but for many of us, the return to a regular routine is refreshing.

As kids head back to school it may be more difficult for them to keep up with chores. Between school, sports, music lessons, and play dates, our kids are busy! And sure, school is their job, so homework should come before housework, but chores should not be neglected.

Teaching kids the responsibility of cleaning up after themselves and helping out around the house is as important a lesson as any they’ll receive at school. Here are a few tips to help them manage school and chores successfully:

Help them prioritize
Learning to prioritize competing tasks is an important skill. Imagine your daughter has a heavy homework load, but she also needs to empty the dishwasher. Sure, homework is more important, but if she quickly empties the dishwasher first, she can devote the rest of her evening to homework. It’s no fun doing homework with a chore hanging over your head. So teach them how to prioritize and how it’s usually better to do the quickest jobs first.

Show them that they have control over chores
The most important chore for kids is to simply clean up after themselves. That can mean putting dirty clothes in the hamper, putting bikes back in the garage, or putting toys away. But when we team them a few simple tips, they’ll learn that they have control over the task.

My kids often make a giant mess with their Legos when they’re playing. And they often like to move onto other toys before they clean up the Legos. But it’s my job to teach them that it’s much easier to clean as you go than to face a giant mess at the end of the day. The same goes with putting dirty clothes in the hamper. It’s much easier to put them in the hamper as you undress than to throw them on the floor and pick them up later.

Avoid “chore bore” with variety
Doing the same chore day after day or week after week can get tiring. You can spice things up and reduce the amount of groans you hear by improving the variety of chores. Rotate the kids through all the jobs. This eliminates any complaining about whose job is harder and who is or isn’t pulling their weight.

One fun way to improve variety is to create chore sticks. Write the names of chores on popsicle sticks and have the child choose a chore. As an incentive, include a “free pass” option.

Enlist their help often
Despite how busy their lives get, there’s always time to help mom and dad out. It’s important to teach them the value of doing a chore when you see that it needs to be done. The only way to get them there is to point out when you need their help, throughout the day. Even if it’s not on their official list of chores, have them help you bring in the groceries, put food away, carry laundry upstairs, throw a load in the wash when your hands are tied, and more.

There’s no reason you should carry the brunt of all of the housework. Sure, it may be easier to do it yourself, especially when all you hear are complaints, but remember that teaching responsibility through housework is an important life lesson that no teacher or coach will ever teach them.

Reward them with an allowance
There are many schools of thought out there when it comes to allowance, but I’m usually of the opinion that we should give our kids an allowance for doing their part to keep the household running. We live in a capitalistic society, and almost everyone gets paid for his or her work. (Moms get paid in hugs and kisses.)

The only time an allowance can get troublesome is when we tie chores directly to a monetary value. The risk is that the child will choose to forego the money in order to get out of doing the chore. So make sure they know that this isn’t an option. They must do chores whether they receive an allowance or not.

Require a happy heart
Speaking of groans and complaints, require your kids to do chores with a happy attitude. They will never do chores willingly or offer to do them without being asked if they are always allowed to whine and complain about them.

When you give a child a chore and are met with resistance, you might give a verbal warning the first time. After that, have the child do double duty. Or if one child meets a chore happily while the other does not, have the complaining child do his sibling’s chore. That way, you’re giving the complaining child a consequence while rewarding the other child for not complaining.

And always be sure to offer a reward (even verbal praise) when a child does a chore without being asked. That’s the ultimate lesson in teaching responsibility, so when it happens encourage it!

Maureen Monfore is a homeschooling mother of two young boys, a marketing consultant, and the author of and the eBook, Live in Harmony with First-Time Obedience. A loyal follower of the teachings of Gary and Anne Marie Ezzo, she is passionate about teaching children to obey to pave the way for fun, love, learning, and essential moral development.

Best Things: 18-24 Months Old

Here are my ten favorite things about children in the 18-24 month age range. I love these toddlers! It is a range that definitely has its share of difficulties, so it is nice to accentuate the positive and focus in on the things to be grateful at this time.

1-Language Explosion: There are a lot of language explosions as these little ones grow, but the one during this time period is probably the most noticeable. It makes the most dramatic difference on the life of the child and those around the child. The sentences start and the new words flow like honey from an overworked bee hive. The child is able to communicate wants and needs and everything is easier!

2-Rose Smelling: These little toddlers stop to smell the roses. Every single one. Through the eyes of these toddlers, I see the world in a whole new light. I notice things I have taken for granted. The world is an amazing place and toddlers appreciate every pebble and are in no hurry to do anything. They are very good at enjoying the moment they are in.

3-Sense of Humor: The sense of humor is really emerging. I love to hear Brinley say, "Hahahaha! I funny." Not only do they love to laugh, they love to make you laugh (which is why you need to be careful about what you laugh at! Something may be funny the first time, but not so funny the hundredth). 

4-One Nap: By this age range, toddlers are down to one nap. I LOVE one nap! You have the mornings for errands and playing and the afternoon is still quiet time you can get stuff done.

5-Mini-me: I love the little mimic that toddlers are. Children mimic you, but this age range and into the next age range the mimic-ing is super obvious and noticeable. Your child looks at just how you are sitting, drinking, talking, walking, and wearing your clothes. Then she assesses herself and makes it so she is the same. You see her studying you and adjusting herself to match you perfectly. The highest form of flatter is to copy someone, so around a toddler, you should feel quite flattered!

6-Close Yet Independent: Toddlers are even more content to do things on their own. Imaginations are sprouting and they are able to entertain themselves without necessarily tearing things to pieces. Even with this new independence, a toddler in this age range still makes sure to stay close to mom. Most toddlers won't stray too far. This is very nice for trips to the park--you aren't doing much chasing of the child. If you sit still, the child stays in a radius. It doesn't mean you don't need to watch the child, but you don't have to get up much.

7-Helper: The toddler in this age range will start to actually be helpful when it comes to helping to clean up if you have required it throughout life so far. If you are lucky enough to have a natural cleaner on your hands, you might even start to walk into Independent Playtime and find your child just finishing cleaning up the room.

8-Holding Hands: I love walking along with my little toddler running double time to keep up with me while she holds on to my finger with her entire fist. She feels big and important, but she still wants to be close to me and make sure I am not going without her. That little hand around the finger is a feeling to memorize and cherish.

9-Easily Excited: I love the excitement these toddlers show. Daddy comes home? Best moment of a lifetime! Grandparents visit? Couldn't be better! Apple for lunch? Wahoo! Brinley is a bit more exaggerated in this than I remember my other kids being. She literally shakes with joy at pretty much anything positive in life.

10-Singer: I love to sing and I love to have a little toddler start trying to sing a song with me. Once their sentence capability comes, they love to try to sing songs that they have heard their whole lives. 

Do you have any favorites with this age range?

Brinley Toddler Summary {23.5 Months Old}

This is a summary for Brinley from 23-23.5 months old.

Sleep was normal here.

Eating was less during this time. I figured out it was because of sickness. More on that below.

Brinley was super clingy during this time...again, sickness.

One day, Brinley got a random fever. I checked for teeth. None. I checked her ears. They looked fine. I thought it was so weird to have this random fever day in July. She was very clingy this day, also. I put her in Independent Playtime and she just put herself on the floor and tried to get comfy. I knew she was really sick at that point, so I went in and got her out and just held her. I sat with her the whole day other than when she was napping.

my view from the video camera

The next day, she was fine. 

A few days later, my husband changed her diaper and said, "It looks like she has a diaper rash." This made me pause because there wasn't anything that would explain her suddenly having a diaper rash. I sat her down on the floor and inspected her feet. Sure enough, on the bottom of her feet were some sores. Ugh! Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease! 

In most cases, this actually sounds worse than it is. Some children do get a really bad case of it and are miserable for a couple of weeks. They don't eat or sleep and don't want to play. Brinley didn't want to wear shoes (I am sure the sores didn't feel great with shoes on) and she wanted me to carry her around. She also didn't eat well--I am sure she had sores in her throat. She also had a couple of spots on her bottom. That was it, so she was lucky. 

I used some essential oils from doTerra. I put doTERRA Melaleuca (tea tree oil) on each sore. I had read this helps immensely and it really did--I put it on some sores and not others one night and in the morning, the ones I used it on were much smaller. doTERRA Lavender is also very helpful. I also used doTerra OnGuard to help boost the immune system. Other helpful oils were doTERRA Oregano, doTERRA Lemon, and doTERRA Frankincense. 

One day, I made a bunch of cookies. I was taking some to a funeral and saving some for a family reunion. I had them all over the kitchen. I gave Brinley a cookie. She ate it and then asked for more. I told her she couldn't have more. Her eyes filled up with tears and she looked at the cookies around the room, pointed to them, and said, "More cookie peez!" I told her one was all for now. Oh how she cried! She was heartbroken. She could not understand why she could not have more of this delicious food that was obviously bountiful. She is used to food running out, but I don't limit her food when it is healthy, so if it is there, she can eat it. She was confused and heartbroken. You can't really explain nutritional value of food to a toddler.

Brinley is old enough to be able to skip her nap and it be okay. She can get a bit cranky for the next day or two, but on the day, she makes it--especially if it is for a fun purpose. We have an amusement park pretty close by and we have enjoyed going there several times over the summer. She loves to go and watch the rides and to play in the water park and she does really well without a nap. She is definitely my most flexible child when it comes to sleep lost. 

8:15 AM--Wake up/Breakfast
8:45 AM--Get ready
9:00 AM--Walk/Bike ride
9:30 AM--Outside Time
11:00 AM--Independent Playtime
12:00 Noon--Lunch
12:30 PM--Learning Activity
1:00 PM--Free Play
1:30 PM--Nap
5:00 PM--Free Playtime
5:30 PM--Dinner
6:00 PM--Family Time
7:30 PM--Get Ready for Bed
8:00 PM--Bedtime