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Love Round-Up

Valentine's is coming up, and when we think Valentine's, we think love. I wanted to make sure you saw some posts that talk about the various aspects of love in your life as a parent. 

With Your Children

Self-Worth Comes Vertically, not Horizontally

There is a period in most people's lives where we are surrounded by peers of the same age range. We get judged by those peers and we judge ourselves against those peers. We got a lot of instant feedback on what was and wasn't socially acceptable. Those were our teenage years--jr. high and high school.

Many of us were able to live life beyond that experience. We graduated high school and were able to come to know ourselves as individuals better. We were not so strongly influenced by peers. The world is very different now than it was when I graduated from high school. When I graduated, not even Myspace existed. Really! When I graduated, 99% of people my age did not have their own cell phone. We sometimes got to take a parent's cell phone out with us. I moved to college and had to wait three days before I could call home because it took the phone company that long to set up our line (but we did have email--at school. We didn't have internet connection at the apartment because, no phone! Back then, the internet was dial up for the average person). 

Now we live in a world where we are able to be constantly connected with people. We share our lives on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube, blogs...all the while, our choice are being "liked" and commented on. Judged. And we judge our own lives against the people we see on these same sites and apps. Because of this constant connectedness, we see behavior from adults that we used to see only from teenagers. Opinions passed off as fact and the only acceptable way to think are posted rampantly. People feel the need to make their judgments of the actions of other people very well known.

Now, more than ever, we need to understand self-worth. I am not talking about self-concept or self-esteem. I am talking about self-worth.

Self-esteem is your confidence in your won worth and ability. Self-respect. What you believe to be true about you.

While self-worth is often used as a synonym for self-esteem, I propose that it is different. Your self-esteem can vary. It can change based on life experience. It can vary based on how many likes or page views you get. It can drop or rise with comments from friends and strangers. 

Self-worth never changes. Your worth is the same no matter how many likes you get or don't get. It is not impacted by the comments people sling your way. It isn't even impacted by your own opinion of yourself. Your worth is the same always. Your worth doesn't come horizontally from peers--in person or e-person. Your worth just is. It comes vertically. 

Your worth is infinite. Your worth comes from above. Once you understand that, your self-esteem naturally follows. Your self-esteem becomes accurate and is not impacted by the ebbs and flows of the horizontal world. 

You are then able to pass that confidence and knowledge on to your children. You learn to love yourself on a pure level and you can teach your children to do the same. You can be an example of finding a true source for a measuring stick rather than what the social world thinks of us.

We used to be able to escape that constant judgement at some point in life, but that time is past. We can lament the days of yore, but that doesn't change what today's reality is. We have to learn to adapt to reality. 

Love yourself, and love yourself the way you should--vertically. 

Today the ladies of the BFBN are posting under the topic of Love. Be sure to visit their blogs for discussions like loving your kids, loving your season, and what love means as a parent. 

Poll Discussion: Sleeping Through the Night

In our sleep deprived states as parents with newborns, we are often anxious to get back to sleeping through the night. Perhaps one of the hardest things about it is not knowing when it will happen for sure. It would be easier if we knew it would be 9 weeks, right? Then we could mentally prepare ourselves. This poll is intended to help people see what is typical, and also that there are situations that are not in the range of typical.

It is very helpful for me when compiling answers if you at least number the answers you give. You can also copy the questions and answer them. If the question does not apply to you, simply put "N/A."
  1. What age did your child start sleeping 7-8 hours uninterrupted consistently?
  2. What age did your child start sleeping 9-10 hours uninterrupted consistently?
  3. What age did your child start sleeping 11-12 hours uninterrupted consistently?
  4. Did baby sleep through the night on his/her own, or did you do something to expedite the process?
  5. If yes to 4, what did you do? Was it successful?
  6. If you tried cluster feeding, do you feel like it helped baby sleep through the night?
  7. If you did the dreamfeed, do you feel like it helped baby sleep through the night?
  8. If you did CIO at night, how many nights did it take to get to sleeping through the night?
  9. What helped baby sleep through the night?
  10. What hindered baby sleeping through the night?
  11. Any words of wisdom or encouragement for parents hoping to have their baby sleep through the night?

Gel Nail Polish

Back in November, we had a fun service auction activity for an activity with the ladies from my church. At the activity, I won a manicure of gel polish from my friend. She isn't a beautician at all, she just does it. When she was done, and I spend 3 weeks with this polish on my fingernails, I could not believe I had made it this far into my life as a mother without having ever tried gel polish. Why is this not in our top ten pieces of advice for new moms? "Gel nails are now your best friend."

I have always liked having my nails painted. Sad but true confession, when I was in ninth grade, I painted my nails a new color EVERY SINGLE DAY. I am not a girl who primps a lot or spends a lot of time getting ready, but I do love my nail polish. 

When I became a mom, it became clear to me that painting my nails was an activity of yore. It soon became a myth. Who possibly had the time to paint nails and let them fully dry before needing to attend to the needs of a child again? When I did take the time to paint, I almost always ended up with a few of them getting noticeably damaged. Then the activities of motherhood mean the polish is coming off in 1-2 days anyway. There were FAR MORE things I could think of to do with my time. 

I had no idea about gel polish. No clue. I had heard of it talked about, but no one raved about it the way they should be. So I am doing it for you. Here are the benefits:
  • Gel polish will take you 30-60 minutes to do to yourself. 
  • When you are done, your nails will be dry. Fully dry. No smearing. 
  • When you are done, the polish will be hard. No denting. 
  • It doesn't chip.
  • It usually lasts 2-3 weeks--even as a mom! That includes cooking, cleaning, bathing kids, washing includes it all. 

It is not much longer than painting your nails with conventional polish, and when you are done, the nails are dry and kid-proof! This post contains affiliate links. This does not increase your cost. 

Getting a manicure can be expensive. No doubt. I had my nails done just in time to ask for my own kit for Christmas. A manicure can run you at the least $20ish dollars. The set I got can be purchased for $80 at the most. When my husband bought if for me for Christmas, it was on sale for $50 so don't be afraid to hold out for a sale. I got the Red Carpet Manicure Pro 45 Starter Kit. It comes with everything you need and instructions that are easy to follow. It doesn't require any more skill than you use to paint your nails. 

Here is the fun icing on top. My neighbor uses Nail Stamps. My mom wanted ideas for me for Christmas, so I told her I would love some nail stamps. You use normal polish on top of your gel polish to do stamps. Then you can remove it anytime and change it out. So your base gel polish can be the same for 2 weeks, but you can change your stamps if you would like to. There are tons of options out there.  To get started, you will just need stamp plates and a stamper. The stamping takes some trial and error and some practice. 

I highly recommend gel nails if you like to have your nails painted. 

Gel nail polish

If You Want a Routine to Stick, Stick to the Routine

A routine sounds really nice in theory. Baby eats at about the same times each day. Baby naps at the same times each day. Life is predictable. You can make appointments and lunch plans with confidence because you know what your day will look like. 

A routine is much harder in practice. You can feel like you are doing what you are supposed to do and yet your baby is not falling into that predictability you have dreamed of. If you are feeling frustrated, say this to yourself...

If you want a routine to stick, stick to the routine.

Chances are if a routine is not sticking, you are not sticking to the routine as tightly as you should be. You are probably having more interruptions than your baby can handle and still fall into a predictable routine. 

Babies are all different. Some can have a disruption each day and still fall into a predictable routine. Others will have a hard time with one disruption a week. You will find the babies who are flexible as a baby will be more flexible toddlers on up. Those who struggle with disruptions will have a harder time with disruptions later in life, as well. You can't think, "Well, my friend's baby goes out every day and does great with the routine! Mine should be able to also!"

The trick is you need to be willing to stick to the routine as much as your child needs it. Do not think you can force your baby to conform to your idea of flexibility. All babies are different and as a parent, you need to recognize your baby's individuality and respect that. Let me share a bit about my four kids and their ability for being flexible. 

When Brayden, our oldest, was born, we thought we would just continue life as it had been and he would tag along. Sure, we would have to pack more stuff, but life would continue on. Oh boy. That didn't work out at all. We added a routine about four weeks in and that improved things, but we still had consistent disruptions. It wasn't until he was four months old and I decided we were being very unfair to him switching life up so much that things improved for him. We were trying to please everyone and be everywhere we were asked to be. I put my foot down and laid some ground rules for how often we would do things. I decided we were going to give him some foundation before we asked him to be flexible. Oh how things improved! 

I have noticed, as I mentioned, that children who were flexible as babies are naturally more flexible as older kids. To this day, Brayden has a hard time when things get switched up. He has a hard time when he doesn't know what to expect. Yes, we work with him to learn to be more flexible, but it is a learning process. You can't just demand that of a person and expect it to happen. I, myself, like routine and predictability even though I didn't grow up with a routine (other than what I imposed on myself. Seriously, I gave myself a bedtime starting in second grade). 

My next two children were far more flexible. McKenna was quite flexible. She was a deep sleeper. She could fall asleep in one place and get moved to another and stay asleep or even wake up and go back to sleep. You could argue she learned to be more flexible because we were on the go more with two older children. There may be some small truth to that. However, let's keep in mind that we asked much more of Brayden when he was a baby than we asked of McKenna. We disrupted him far more. After Brayden, I was always much more careful to stick to the routine because I saw what a benefit that was to him. Today, McKenna is still a flexible person. She is happy-go-lucky and rolls with life. 

Here is the clincher. Along came Brinley. From the beginning, I could tell she was a lot like Brayden in personality. We had a busier lifestyle than any of my other kids had entered into. Like Brayden, however, she did not do well with disruptions to her routine. Brayden didn't sleep through the night until he was 6 months old, and I didn't want to relive that. I made sure we respected Brinley's preference for sticking to her routine. 

I did a lot of carpooling, getting babysitters, and staying home to keep her on routine in the early months (Managing Baby Plus Older Kids' Activities). And like Brayden, she does not handle disruptions well today. Even a Saturday is stressful for her since it is different. Now, as babies, Brinley could handle disruptions with grace. She could miss a nap and stay very pleasant. She could roll with things when I NEEDED her to. That is because 95% of the time I stuck to her routine for her. I only asked her to be flexible when necessary. I stuck to that routine as much as possible so that she could handle the disruptions. If you have a child who can't be very flexible, see my tips here for helping establish some flexibility in life: 

I share that all to illustrate to you that your level of flexibility and having a baby who sleeps well and sticks to a routine and schedule will vary from child to child. You need to stick to that routine as much as that child needs you to stick if you want that child to stick to your hoped routine.

If you want your routine to stick, to be reliable, then you need to stick to it reliably. 

Related Posts:

Tips for Organizing Your Bedroom

This year, one of my major New Year's Resolutions was to declutter my entire house. I find moving to be one of the best ways to declutter--you really are willing to get rid of stuff if it means you don't have to move it. We haven't moved in 6.5 years and don't plan to basically ever, so I can't rely on the move to get rid of the clutter.

Because we haven't moved in 6.5 years, you know there is a build up of stuff around the house. I face another hurdle when it comes to decluttering. I am a major "prepare for a rainy day" person. I can go through my clothes and think, "I know I don't like this and I know I don't plan to wear it, but if we needed to stop spending money on clothes for whatever reason, I could wear it if I had to." 

A little stronger than my need to save things "just in case" is my desire for things to be clean. I like my life macro clean. I do also clean on a micro level, but that is a means to an end because having things micro clean means my macro clean is possible. (see my post on macro vs. micro cleaning if you are wondering what on Earth I am talking about). 

Achieving My Goal
There is a bit of a "fad" going on right now surrounding (affiliate linkThe Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo. I have friends who have read it, applied it, and absolutely love it. Here is the thing, those friends are all 100% friends without children. One of the big suggestions in this method is to do it all at once, not slowly over time. Well, that sounds nice and I see the point, but there is no way I ever have a day long enough and free enough to do all decluttering in one day with my four children. Maybe if I make it a point of decluttering every year once I have finished this 6 year purge (not a bad idea), but not possible right now. Right now, my time is limited to about 2 hour spurts at a time and usually just once a day. 

So for me and my decluttering, I have to take baby steps. I have chosen to tackle one room each month. At the beginning of each month, I will figure out how to break up each room into smaller goals that can be accomplished in my 2 hour chunks. 

We are nearing the end of January and I have already finished room one, which included my bedroom, bathroom, and closet. Pretty good! Now for some tips on the bedroom front.

Everything Needs a Place
When you are deciding whether or not to keep something, you absolutely cannot keep more than you have space for. If you do, things will be messy. The easiest way to keep a house clean when you have limited time available for cleaning is for everything to have a spot and to not have more than you have space for. 

Leave Some Open Space
If you want to make life even easier on yourself, get your stuff down to where you have a little extra space. You might be able to squeeze every shirt into your closet, but if you get rid of 5-10, you will have more room for your clothes and you will find it easier to quickly put things away. 

Remove Everything
It is really easy to look through your clothes and think, "Yes, those are all things I like enough to keep." Don't do it that way. Literally take everything out of your closet. I did one rod of clothes at a time. As you put it back, decide if it is really worth keeping. Do you love it? Have you worn it recently? Is it in style enough you are willing to wear it in public? Is it flattering? If you aren't sure, try it on. Only put the things back in your closet you think you might actually wear. 

Do the same thing with your nightstand drawers, your socks, your underwear, your shoes, your bookcases, your make-up...just remove everything, wipe out the drawer or shelf, and then add it back in if you still need it

I have talked specifically about removing everything before: 

Organizing Tip: Remove Everything

Have a Final Number Goal
I also give myself a number of what would be ideal to keep. The number will vary from person to person and from type of shirt to type of shirt. So I will look at my sweaters and think, "14 is enough. Then I can basically only wear a sweater twice a month." 14 is a great number for keeping the wardrobe interesting. Some might like more, some might like fewer. Choose a number and start by putting your favorites to fill that number. After that number, only add them back to the closet if you LOVE it. 

You can do this for things like socks. You might think, "Oh that hole is fine." If you have 20 pairs of socks, you probably don't need to keep the socks with the hole in them.

Organize By Type and Color
I like to put my clothes together by type. All of my sweaters are together. All cardigans are together. All short-sleeved shirts are together. All long-sleeved shirts are together. All sweaters are together. All jeans are together. All dresses are together. All skirts are get it. 

I also organize by color. I started this in high school. When I worked retail in high school, we organized clothes in a certain color order. They are more pleasing to the eye that way. There are different psychologies on how to organize based on the age of your target clientele. I just keep it simple and go by the rainbow--it is something I can remember. I do red, pink, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, brown, cream, black, gray, white. I do darker shades of each color and work to the lighter shades. 

Find a Way To Track What You Wear
I started my clothing purge by doing a soft removal. I got rid of everything I knew was an absolute no go. This is easier when you are past the "I am 10 different sizes every 2 years" phase of life. Let's be real, being pregnant, nursing, losing baby weight, getting in shape, getting pregnant, nursing, etc. over and over means you have a lot of different clothes that look better on you at different times. A shirt that is flattering when you are nursing a baby isn't necessarily going to look good when you are not more endowed. I am a at a point where I am more stable in my body size, so I can with more confidence get rid of things. So keep that in mind as you are going through clothes. 

I want to also know what I am wearing or not. I might think I will wear it and then never be willing to put it on when it comes time to get dressed. A couple of years ago, there was a great idea circulating Pinterest. It is to hang your hangers backward. As you wear the item, you turn the hanger the correct way. Then you can see after a period of time what you wear and what you don't. 

We all have clothes we know we look good in. We all have others we aren't so sure about. Save the "not so sure about" for days you will be home for the whole morning. Then you can put it on and see how it looks through the day. See how it looks as the day goes on. If it isn't flattering, there just isn't a point in keeping it. Even a cute shirt might not look cute on you. The colors might be wrong and the fit might be wrong.

I have two daughters who are the same height (different by only 1/4 of an inch) and same weight (different by 1 pound). They have different coloring, though, and different builds. I have only been asked if they were twins one time EVER. I have been asked if Brayden and Kaitlyn are twins way more times than that, and they have never been close to the same height. These two girls look very different in the same clothes despite being the same size. What looks fantastic on one rarely looks fantastic on the other. It has been a real eye opener for me that it isn't about size or weight--body type really does have a ton to do with what you look good in and what you don't. So my point is, don't keep something because it is so cute you think it should look good on you. If it doesn't find a friend it will look great on and feel happy seeing her wear the cute thing. 

My plan is next December, if a hanger never was turned around, the clothes will be donated. I live in a place where we have very distinct seasons and temps range from below 0 to above 100. That is why I am giving myself a year. 

When You Buy New, Get Rid of Old
As you move forward now that things are clean, as you buy new things over time, don't add it in without getting rid of an older piece (unless you really need more quantity and have the space for more).  This post contains affiliate links. 

Use Space Under Your Bed
The space under your bed is a great place to store things. We keep extra blankets under our bed. We also keep our wrapping paper under our bed. Use the space, but don't abuse it. Don't over fill it or you won't be able to get to it again or you will forget half of it is there. I really like to use these short Rubbermaid totes to put things that are similar together under the bed. 

Use Drawer Organizers
Drawer organizers are fantastic for keeping things organized. I used these drawer organizers in our bathroom and I LOVE them. I can take them out and wash them in the dishwasher every so often to keep them clean. I use similar things in my nightstand drawers to keep things organized. If everything has a place in the drawer, it is fast and easy to put things away. It is also fast and easy to find things when you need to.

We use drawer organizers in all of our children's dresser drawers. I also use drawer organizers for my makeup. I really like the space definition! Baskets are another great way to keep things together and organized.

Take some time to make sure your room is decluttered. You want your room to be a place that can stay clean so it is a place where you can go and relax at the end of the day (or in the middle!). It can be your happy place where you rejuvinate and prepare yourself for the work that is sure to come the next day.

Disciplining Your Child Without Taking Yourself Too Seriously

Most of us want children who are respectful to us and to those around them. We want our children to obey us the first time without backtalk and sass. We want children who will respect authority figures and follow the rules. 

These are all worthy goals. We can at times, however, take ourselves and the situation far too seriously when our children make mistakes. We can hold them to higher standards than we even hold ourselves to at the same moment. Here are some things to remember when you are disciplining. 

Your Child Isn't Trying to Make You Mad (usually)
Most of the time, your child is making mistakes because your child is a child (see below). It isn't an attempt to make you mad. Now, I know sometimes children do things just to make you mad. Your child is mad and wants you mad, also. If you find this happening often, you are most likely responding emotionally rather than rationally. Respond calmly and keep your cool. Don't take things personally. Don't take yourself so seriously that you think your child's behavior revolves around you. Your child makes mistakes without taking you into consideration. 

Your Child is a Child
Your child is a child and will therefore make mistakes, and a lot of them. Think of all of the mistakes you make on a daily basis. Do not take yourself so seriously that you forget to offer your child even more grace than you need daily. Do you lose your cool ever? Then of course your child will. Help navigate your child through the moments your child needs correction, but don't freak out that your child made a wrong choice or gave into passions instead of controlling herself perfectly. 

Your Child is Not A Personification of You
We can really feel like our children are a reflection on us as parents. Okay, in many ways that is true. But we can't let fear of judgement from others drive our reactions when we are in a discipline situation. We can look at their behavior and think, "Hmmmm....I am clearly getting a little lazy in my reactions because my child thinks she has five chances to listen every time." That is a good way to look at behavior and analyze your current efforts. The wrong way is to think, "Oh my child is making me look like the worst mother right now!"

Granted, other people can make this hard. We can and will get judged by other people. It is lame, but it does happen. You have to get to a place where you accept that and block out the haters. As you gain more experience as a parent, you will be better about ignoring the judging, but you won't be immune. 

Just last week, we were at the store. As we were in the checkout line, Brinley got upset because she had wanted to get something. We were actually at Walmart, and the last time she was at Walmart was when she and I went on a date there a few months back and she exchanged a duplicate gift for a new toy. She had an association in her head that Walmart meant new toy. When she realized we were checking out and she had no new toy, she got upset. 

She started to cry and say she wanted something. Initially, I responded the way I always do to fits like that. "Sorry, sweetie. We aren't getting a toy today." Then I let her work through that emotion. No biggie. 

Then I had this thought. The people around me were likely going to judge me based on my little three year old's reaction. Here she was crying and saying, "I want something!" They are going to think I spoil her and that she can get what she wants by crying. The reason I had this thought was from reading a judging post on social media that talked about someone observing this in a child at the store. Surely other people would draw similar conclusions in this situation. My eyes darted to the candy in the aisle and I wondered what I could offer her to stop the crying. 

It was fleeting, however. Luckily I quickly gathered my wits. I am not a person who gives into tantrums and crying. Not at all. I was in no way going to give her something to stop the crying. Let the people judge (if they were). Me trying to avoid their judgement would just be setting myself up for many more store tantrums in the future. 

I looked her in the eye and calmly explained, "Sweetie, we don't get a toy every time we come. We aren't getting a toy today." She pulled it together in less than 60 seconds (though it felt like more). Remember your child is a child and will have a tantrum in public at some point. 

So be cautious that you do not let your fear of what others are thinking about you drive the discipline decisions you make. Do what you know is best in the situation even if you might get judged unfairly for doing so. It isn't about you. It is about parenting your child. 

You Are Still a Good Parent Even When Your Child Disobeys
Your child will disobey. Your child will have a melt-down at inopportune moments. Your child will make wrong choices. It just will happen. You are still a good parent even when these things happen. Don't take life so seriously that you think everything needs to be perfect. Life isn't perfect. You aren't perfect. Your child is not perfect. Things will go poorly. That doesn't mean life isn't good, you aren't good, or that your child isn't good. 

You Can Laugh About It (just don't mock)
Learn to laugh things off. One time Brayden, as a two year old, wanted to continue playing a video game when it was time to turn it off. I explained it was time to stop. He threw his controller on the ground in anger. I explained to him that he would not get to play the next day since he chose to throw his controller on the ground. Oh he was upset! He threw himself upon his knees, put his hands together, and pleaded to play. My husband and I laughed then and we still laugh about it now. 

Many times, if you can respond with a light heart, your child's heart will lighten also. That doesn't mean consequences don'to apply, but that you aren't all grumpy about it. 

Be cautious you don't mock your child or publicly shame your child, though. Remember your child's feelings are real. It may seem small to you, but the thing that is bringing your child's world down around him is real to him. You can respond in a way that will help him see it isn't really a big deal, but be careful you don't do it in a way that invalidates his feelings.

Not All Consequences Need To Be Big
This is something you get a feel for over time. Not every infraction requires a big response from you. Sometimes all you need is the eye contact, the tilt of the head, and a slight shake "no." Sometimes that is enough to set your child straight. Don't take mistakes so seriously that you blow them out of proportion. 

As you correct your child in life, remember to not take yourself too seriously. You can still apply consequences and expect improvement and keep things happy and positive. 

Related Posts:

Tools for Teaching Children About Pornography and Protecting Them From It

We live in a day when we must be proactive about a great many things--things generations of yore could ignore and most children would get by just fine. Not only do we need to be proactive, we need to be proactive at increasingly younger ages. When Brayden was born, 10 years ago, the average age for exposure to pornography was 11-13. Today, the numbers say more like 7-9. We need to arm children with the tools they need to know how to to respond if and when they are exposed to pornography. We want preventative measures here--not reactionary. 

What Age To Start?
On some levels, you can start arming your child against pornography from a very young age. I will talk about the types of lessons that are great for giving young, innocent children further on. As you teach your child about his/her worth, to stand up for himself, and that you are a safe place to bring questions and concern, your child is being prepared to face hard situations. 

You may have read about how we do a Family Home Evening each Monday night. During a few Family Home Evenings in 2015, we had some lessons to talk about pornography. We did it with all four kids there--ages 10, 8, 6, and 3 (though our 3 year old was not really paying attention to the lessons).

What To Teach? 
Whenever you are teaching a young child about something like this, you want to keep it basic. You don't want to over-share. You don't want to expose them to things. Keep things simple. Teach principles. Empower your child. 

You want to come out of teaching these lessons with your child knowing:
  • If I see something that makes me have a bad feeling, the right thing to do is to leave it.
  • If I see something that makes me have a bad feeling, I should immediately turn it off or walk away and tell my parents or another adult in charge of me.
  • I can always tell adults in charge of me the things that are happening. I can ask questions and tell them things without getting in trouble. 
  • I am of infinite worth. I am in charge of my own body. 
Through our church, we have some fabulous lessons all outlined and prepared to teach children about pornography and what to do about it. These lessons are on appropriate levels for children. I won't reinvent the wheel here--I will link directly to the lessons but give you a summary of each one. The lessons include ideas for object lessons and ways to involve children and preteens/teens. 

In the first lesson we used we talked about how our bodies are from our Heavenly Father. Genesis 1:27 reads that "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them." Our bodies are gifts. We should treat our bodies with the respect they deserve as a gift from God. This is a great lesson for a basis for pornography and also for protecting children from sexual predators.

Unfortunately, we can't just leave it at "your body is sacred" and hope the rest falls into place. We need to provide more information. I would teach this lesson when your child is old enough that exposure is a real possibility. I would do it if your child is spending time away from home without you. I would do it if your child spends time on the internet at all. You never know when something might pop up.

You will need to start with defining pornography for your child. This is an area you might vary things based on age. When my husband taught this to our younger children, he focused on how things make us feel a lot. Children are sensitive. They will know if something they see is not good. Go back to the lesson on the body being sacred. If something comes up that shows the body in a way that is inappropriate--that is not using the body as a person would using it as a gift form God--then it is not a good image. 

How children respond to pornography exposure will impact what place pornography has in their lives in the future. Teach them to turn it off, walk away, and come tell you. The story of Joseph and Potiphar's wife from the Old Testament is a perfect story to illustrate how to respond when something comes up you shouldn't be involved with. 

We talked about the first two with the full family, but this third lesson I feel is often more appropriate for preteens and not younger children. This is basically a simplified version of "the talk." It can be a great help when you are ready to have the talk with your child.

If your child is in a situation where pornography is a reality in life, this would be a wise lesson to teach. A great trouble in the world of children who grow up in a conservative home is often that they feel sex is bad. It isn't talked about openly, so when they get married, they feel like they are sinning and have a lot of conflict and confusion within themselves. 

If a child is exposed to pornography and not taught what healthy sex life is like, then the exposure will be the only lessons the child has. So keep this in mind for helping to teach about the sacred nature of sexual relations in the right setting. There are some good ideas in this lesson for helping illustrate that point on a level for children and teens. 

Prepare Yourself
You need to be prepared for that possible day when your child tells you he has accidentally seen pornography. Do not get angry. Do not accuse your child of seeking it or being too careless. You want your child to be open with you about it, so make the conversation one the child isn't scared to have again. Help your child figure out how to avoid the exposure in the future. Be comforting. Tell your child she did the right thing by coming to you.

Prevent Exposure
Prevention is obviously ideal. You can help prevent exposure through a few simple steps. 
  • Have content filters on your devices. Be aware that anti-virus or anti-spyware software are not content filters. Content filters help block unwanted material. 
  • Use devices in safe mode. You can get an application that helps you control certain things. You can control time spend online and block questionable material. You can also set up things like Google, Yahoo!, and YouTube to filter. Here is a search result on apps for safe kids mode.
  • Have time limits. The more time spent on the internet and devices, the higher your odds for exposure to inappropriate material. 
  • Keep all electronic device use in public locations. Do not allow these things into bedrooms. We had purchased Kindle Fires for our kids to use as an e reader and also as a tablet. We had a rule that only books could be opened in bed. Once we started pondering pornography and keeping kids safe digitally, however, I felt like I was not okay with my kids taking the internet to bed with them each night. So we purchased them Kindle Paperwhites without the advertising (you want to purchase without "special offers") so they can take their books to bed. The Fires stay out where we can all see them.
  • Do not allow electronic devices to be private. You are allowed to take the devices at any time and inspect what is going on and what the history is. 
  • Follow up the lessons. We do monthly Private Interviews with Our Children. During these interviews, the children are asked if they have had any exposure or anything they want to talk about. They know they will be asked questions and they know we are willing to talk about it. 

Happy [Martin Luther King Jr.]/[Civil Rights]/[Human Rights] Day!

image source
I am not even sure what this day is supposed to be called anymore. The latest that I have seen is "Human Rights Day." I was feeling annoyed that the day has been changed from Martin Luther King Jr. Day (though I have a calendar that has that as the name for the day), but I suppose he was the sort of man who would be happy to have people focusing on civil rights or human rights and not him. I would hate to ever see us forgetting his contribution, however. Speaking of that, if you haven't seen the movie Selma, you should definitely put that on your list.

I hope you have a nice day off today--hopefully you have a day off. My kids do but my husband doesn't. Take time to share with your children the reason for this holiday. If you aren't in the US, happy Monday :). And any day is a good day to reflect on and talk about human rights. 

For some ideas for teaching your kids, check out my Learning Ideas board. If you search Pinterest for more ideas, you will find a ton!

December Date Accountability Report

A year ago, Nate and I set a goal to be consistent with our one-on-one dates with the kids. Each month, I reported to you all on the dates to help keep up our accountability for this goal. We have made it our year! Wahoo! We sometimes had to push dates into the next month to make them happen, but we made it work. It has been fun to see how the kids gravitate toward certain things when they get to have a lot of say over what is done. I will continue to update the Dates tab with our date activites monthly so you can have a variety of ideas to choose from as you do dates, but I won't be doing specific blog posts on them anymore (unless I hear a great uproar of objection from you all). On to our December date report.

Brayden, age 10
Brayden and I were together this month. I forgot to take a photo with Brayden. We went shopping for some decor for his freshly re-painted room. He found this fun at first, but he soon got very "male" about the shopping experience and was DONE. We wrapped that up and went out to dinner, which was much more to his liking. 

Kaitlyn, age 8
Kaitlyn and I were together this month. We went to see a musical performance of A Christmas Carol. This was a lot of fun. Kaitlyn absolutely loved it. Before we went to the show, we read A Christmas Carol book together. It was a fun experience and we decided it should be a family tradition to go see that musical each December. 

McKenna, age 6
McKenna and Nate went ice skating together. McKenna loves to ice skate. We have a fun outdoor rink here when it is cold enough (and hovering around 0 is certainly cold enough). This works well because this time of year it is hard to get into the indoor rink with hockey and figure skating going on.

Brinley, age 3
Brinley and Nate went out for treats. Brinley loves anything you call a date. She also really enjoys leaving the house, so Nate took her one evening when she had been home for two days without leaving and so just exiting the house was a big thrill for her.


by Katrina Villegas

Hi Everyone! I am the newest member of the Babywise Friendly Blog Network, and I'd like to take a minute to introduce myself. My name is Katrina Villegas, and I am a former engineer and chemistry teacher. My daughter, Caroline, was born in November of 2014. I am now a stay at home mom, and I am organizing my chaos one babywise step at a time!

I am applying all of my engineering, teaching, and life experiences to making my new job go as smoothly as possible. My new career as a stay at home mom is challenging and so rewarding. I am constantly tweaking things and trying new things to give Caroline the best experiences. Sometimes (a lot of the time) it is trial and error and a whole lot of research and trust. As an engineer, I always said "Don't reinvent the wheel" and "Share best practices". That's the idea of my blog... every post is to share my best practices (or share my "oops" moments) so that you might not have to reinvent! There's also no getting around the fact that we somehow all have mama brain I want to make sure that I remember my own best practices for baby number two someday! :)


From day 1, Caroline left the house as much as possible. We started with weekly trips to the store and have worked our way up to daily outings. As Caroline gets older, it is even more important that we have a variety of outings throughout the week. The outings provide her with a chance to socialize with adults and children (Some she knows, and others she is just meeting). She is able to explore new areas, learn about new things, and get lots of energy out. It is equally important for me to get out of the house. As a stay at home mom, it can be tough being in the house all the time. The outings are a great way to keep me sane. Plus, it can be fairly difficult to entertain a 1 year old in the same environment day in and day out. She gets bored with her toys and likes to see and do new things.

We have come up with several experiences that we like to rotate into our schedule. Most of them are FREE! Here are some fun outings to try out:

1. Playdates at someone's house- This is a great option and easy to do. It is, of course, free. Once you have met a couple of moms with kids around the same age, you can rotate whose house you are at.

2. Playdates at the library- The libraries in the county I live in have what is called a "discovery room". They are free to reserve and have toys in them! We go weekly and meet up with other moms and children for some free fun.

3. Walks and outdoor exploring- This is always our go to activity if Caroline is bored. She loves being outside. We walk, we go to the park, we sit in the grass, and we simply explore. She could do this for days. Unfortunately, with the weather getting colder, this will become more and more difficult to do. We'll still bundle up and go outside, but just for a short time.

4. Trampoline park- We just discovered these! There is a place around here called SkyZone that has a toddler time twice a week. It is very inexpensive and SO MUCH FUN. Now that Caroline is walking, we decided to give this a shot. She walked on the trampoline, ran around, fell into a foam pit and had a blast. This is most likely being added into our weekly rotation! I am so glad we finally went and gave this a shot- I had been waiting, thinking that Caroline was still too young.

5. Indoor playground- Unfortunately, this is one of the things that my area simply doesn't have. I have been to a great one in Atlanta, and many cities have them. The only ones we have around here are the bounce house type places. We will probably eventually go, but perhaps when Caroline is a little older. For now, our only indoor playgrounds are the tiny ones in the mall. LOL!

6. Community programs- Churches and community centers often have free play times set up. We go to one that is at a local church every week. They literally open up the gym and have some balls, tunnels, and hula hoops set out for the kids to play with. This has been a great way for Caroline to get some energy out.

7. Storytimes- Libraries have free storytimes! We go to several libraries in the area, so there is usually one going on every week. They sing songs, read books, say rhymes, and even have some wiggle time.

8. Aquarium/Zoo- These aren't cheap, unless you get to go to the zoo for free like we do in D.C. The family memberships are the way to go, however (as long as you go frequently enough for it to pay for itself and then some). This is easy to do when you have a little one in tow! It is such a nice option to be able to switch things up a bit. The aquarium adventures will be perfect for winter weather!

9. Petting zoo- While these are all closed for the winter, they are something that we will continue to do when the weather gets nicer. This is much cheaper than going to the zoo or the aquarium, and much more interactive as well.

10. Shopping places- When all else fails, we go to the mall, to Target, or to the grocery store. At the mall we do laps with the stroller. Caroline walks with me now, and then we head down to the play area for a bit. At Target, I try not to buy things, and Caroline pushes the cart and explores the aisles. We always need things at the grocery store, so even if we only need milk, we turn it into an outing!

11. Classes- Recreation centers and community centers have great toddler classes. We haven't signed up for one yet, but plan to in the future. They have music classes, intro to sports, and even rhyme times for the little tots.

We rarely have a day that we stay at home. Even if it is just a quick outing to the store, we take the outing. Caroline and I both love to get out and do things, and I think we would go stir crazy if we didn't. It makes us appreciate the days in and really enjoy them. If you have any more ideas for creative playtime and fun outings, let us know!

Find Katrina here at Mama's Organized Chaos.

Poll Results: Chores

As college-aged students get more and more unable to handle the pressures of college, people are starting to try to analyze why this is. As I have read over the many articles circulating on this topic, I have noticed that most (if not all) articles talk about the importance of having your children do chores while raising them. And so, that is the topic of our current poll. You can find full original answers here.

1-What is the age of your child?

2-Do you have your child do chores?
Just Introducing--1

3-What are 3-5 examples of chores that your child currently does?
Take care of pet--3
Cleans up toys--7
Help with garbage/recycling--3
Help with dishes--4
Sort laundry--1
Move laundry--2
Fold laundry/socks--2
Put laundry away--3
Set table--1
Clear table--4
Help clean bathrooms--3
Clean own room--3
Base moldings--2
Clean out car--2
Water plants--1

4-What age did you start chores?
Starting simple as a baby--3

5-Do you think it is important for your child to do chores?

6-In reference to question 5, why yes or why no?
Ashley said: I wholeheartedly believe it is important for a child to do chores. I was never expected to do chores and regret the lack of skills and bad attitudes I left my teen years with. I believe chores are a building block to establishing good work ethic, and also make life as a family more like a family (and less of a group of workers vs. slackers.)

Baylock Bunch said: We are a part of a family and we all have to help out. I want my kids to know how to take care of themselves, and realize that nice things don't just magically happen. You have to work hard to have nice things. I also think there is great satisfaction in accomplishing a project; even if it is just scrubbing a toilet.

Jessie said: It teaches a child that it takes work to keep the house together, responsibility, and taking pride in a job well done.

Kristy said: The attitudes of everyone are more cheerful once the whole family accepts that we are all helping each other when we clean house. It creates a culture of everyone helps, everyone cares.

McMom said: I think it helps teach responsibility, helping others, work ethic, focus and follow through, as well organizational skills. Also, having responsibility inside of a group also instills pride and belonging in that unit.

7-Any words of advice of comments on chores?
Ashley said: Keep on keeping on, expect bad days, reward good days, and commit to moving toward your ultimate goal! As with everything else I have learned from this blog and child rearing in general, practice makes great improvement.

Baylock Bunch said: While I believe chores are important, and there is a need to start early, I don't want to overwhelm my children with responsibility just yet. I want them to spend most of their day playing because they will only get that for a short time. I also had 3 babies in 3 years so maybe when I am no longer pregnant and/ or nursing I will have time to do more chores during the day, and can actually teach my kids how to do them as well. I'm thinking that maybe school age will be a good time to start that.

Jessie said: I don't do a chore chart, I simply ask her to help out when I'm doing chores and it works great. Depending on the day we don't do more than cleaning up toys and others I have multiple loads of laundry and she wants to offer a hand cleaning windows or such. To me it's about learning and helping out at this age and not a check list.

Kristy said: Some chores seemed too hard for my children at different ages, so I sometimes lost consistency in having them do chores. If I had to do it over again, I would choose chores carefully each year and break them down into small steps and repeat, repeat, repeat. I would try not to overwhelm the kids but have them do chores on a very, very regular basis. No system is going to be absolutely perfect, though. :)

McMom said: We have no set schedule yet. I'm not sure when that will come. We sing a "clean up" song pretty much every time we clean up toys in a room we are leaving. They both like that. Some chores are non negotiable (make bed, pick up toys), while others are still voluntary. He chooses to help with these about 80% of the time, if i make them look fun enough :)

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