Any links to Amazon are affiliate links. '

Gateway Chapter Books for Beginners

Despite being very gifted linguistically, Kaitlyn was very hesitant to start reading chapter books. Whether it was that she was experiencing perfectionist worries that she wouldn't be able to read a bigger book or that it was she is an art lover and for that reason had an extra love for picture books, I am not sure. The way I got her into reading chapter books independently was to get her started on what I refer to as a gateway chapter book.
A gateway chapter book is an easy book to read. It is often also usually a series. I call it "gateway" because it is what gets a child addicted to reading. A book series is a great way to get a child hooked on reading--they get to know and love characters who can be counted on to be there book after book. As I have discussed previously, some people hold a belief that a book series is inferior quality, but I strongly disagree. Even if you are in that camp, however, you can't argue with the success rate of a book series turning a skeptical chapter book reader into a chapter book devourer. I have seen it twice with my older two children and I am just starting the journey with my third, who is six.

A book series allows a person to enjoy a book more (once he is on book two or later) and struggle less with getting to know an author's writing style. That can be a limitation, and at some point, you might have to nudge your little reader past one author and onto another (I had to do that with my oldest), but a series is a sure-fire way to get your child interested in reading independently. 

Each of these series rate at about a grade 2-5 reading level. Series usually start at a 2 and get harder as you get further into the series. If you know your child's reading comprehension level, that will help you in knowing if these series can be started by your child independently or not. Any of these would make a good read aloud for a four year old or up; remember children understand at a higher level than they comprehend independently. My children started reading each of these series independently in first grade or second grade. 

I will also add that while a chapter book series is a great way to get a child confident in reading chapter books, it doesn't mean your reader needs to stay in a series. Kaitlyn read a few Magic Treehouse books and then jumped to stand alone books. There are very few series she has latched on to and she typically enjoys the books that are the one and only. So Magic Treehouse served her well, but she quickly found she prefers to not read a series. This post contains affiliate links. 

Magic Tree House by Mary Pop Osborne
This is hands down my favorite gateway chapter book series. I can't even tell you how many books Osborne has written. I wouldn't be surprised if she couldn't tell you. This series is about siblings who go on adventures to different locations and eras. There is a historical fiction aspect to these books that I love. The books are mysteries, which always keeps kids engaged. Each book has a mystery and there is a larger mystery being solved throughout the books, so children are interested in reading the next book to see what happens. A great way to start these books is to read the first one out loud together. Then encourage your child to read one at some point, when you feel your child is ready to take that step. It is good to talk about what is going on as your child starts to read alone so you can be sure your child is understanding what he is reading. This series appeals to both boys a girls. We own the first 12 of these. Then we borrow from the library to continue on when the desire strikes.

Reading level is rated grades 3-7, but my children all started this in first grade.

The  Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner
This series is old enough that most of us parents today read them when we were children. These books are full of adventure and mystery. They are good, clean reads. The text is easy to read and comprehend. I love the aspect in these books of siblings sticking together and forming a tight bond. This series appeals to both boys and girls. These ones are worth owning.

Reading level is rated grades 2-5. 

Mercy Watson by Kate DiCamillo
McKenna, my third child, has always liked the girly books and not had much interest in animal books at all, whether a picture book or a chapter book. A few months ago, Mercy Watson suddenly became her favorite book. This surprised me quite a bit. One thing McKenna loves more than princesses is laughing, and Mercy Watson brings the humor in a big way. This book would appeal to both boys and girls. Any child who likes to laugh will like this series. McKenna got this box set for Christmas and she loves reading and re-reading these books.

Reading level is rated Kindergarten-3rd Grade. 

The Secrets of Droon by Tony Abbott
This is a fun series full of adventure. Brayden burned through this series one summer. It isn't classic literature, but it is a fun read. It is appealing to readers who like fantasy fiction. Kaitlyn has never gotten into them. I would say this can appeal to both genders, but by and large I have mostly only known boys to really get into them. These are books we have only ever checked out from the library.

Reading level is rated grades 2-5.

Nancy Clancy by Jane O'Connor
I definitely didn't give O'Connor enough credit. I very much enjoy the Fancy Nancy books, but I expected very little from these chapter books. Picture book gone chapter? Sounds like disaster for sure. Fancy Nancy was one of McKenna's favorite picture books, however, so I thought it would be a good segue into the chapter book world. I was so very pleasantly surprised! These books are very well written. They are mysteries that involve the familiar beloved characters from the picture books. I am not really into girly books. This series is the perfect balance of a strong female protagonist who is feminine. I would definitely recommend them for adding to your home library.  We own all of the books that have been printed so far. I would say these will appeal to girls.

Reading level is rated grades 1-5

Nate the Great by Marjorie Weinmann Sharmat
Nate the Great is a classic series. They were written in the late 70's, so many of us are probably familiar with them from childhood. The books are mysteries. They are well-written and fun. We have never owned these. Brayden had a short stint with them one summer, but mysteries have never been his genre so he didn't latch on to them. If you have a mystery book lover, it would be a series worth owning. Children tend to gravitate toward books where the main character is their same gender, so this will appeal more to boys although girls can enjoy them, too.

Reading level is rated grades 1-4. 

My Father's Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett
This is a fun story of adventure. It really appeals to children of both genders. This was a book Kaitlyn loved. It is a short series, which can be nice if you are worried your child will have a hard time leaving a series to branch out. 

Reading level is rated grades 2-4.

A-Z Mysteries by Ron Roy
This is another mystery series. This one strongly appeals to both boys and girls. This was one of Kaitlyn's favorites as a second grader. They go through the letters of the alphabet (The Absent Author, the Bald Bandit, etc.). This is a series I wouldn't mind owning, but Kaitlyn had read them all by the time I heard about them. 

Reading level is rated grades 1-4. 

The Never Girls by various authors
The Never Girls is a book series about four best friends who are whisked off to Never Land where they meet Tinker Bell and other fairies. I know, it sounds silly and like it will be sub-par. The stories are fun, however, and written well enough for your beginning chapter book reader. It is a great series for a girl who loves imaginary lands and princesses and fairies. And even though Kaitlyn isn't typically into princess books, she enjoys these books. They have an element of mystery to them and they feel intense for a young reader. We own the first four of these. I would say you might just borrow from a library, but you might own the first few to have them around to get started. That actually reminds me that typically at a library, the first several books in a series often have a long waiting list, but as you get further on, the library typically has the books on hand most of the time. So owning the first few can be handy. 

Reading level is rated grades 1-4. 

Dragon Masters by Tracey West
This is one of Kaitlyn's favorite series. You can see she really likes books with dragons in them. These books are written especially with new independent readers in mind. They are full of adventure and appealing to boys and girls. We own these books on Kindle. 

Reading level is rated grades 1-3.

This series is super, super easy to read. This is not classic literature. The appeal of this series is it is a fun series that appeals to girls. Even beyond the other girly books out there, these series are comprised of a bunch of mini-series books of typically 7 (maybe always 7) books. They have a series on princesses. They have a series on ocean animals. They have a series on sports. They have a series on pets. There is just a wide variety so whatever your little girl has a particular interest in, you can find a series that caters to that interest. 

I talk a big game in letting kids read what they are interested in, but when I first saw this series, my nose was admittedly turned up. Kaitlyn has never been into girly books, so it was easy for me to walk away. McKenna, however, loves girly books. So we gave them a shot. They don't hurt to read and they are super fast reads, which is always rewarding for any reader.

Reading level is rated grades 2-5.

Related Posts:

Be the Master of Your Finances

When my great-great grandfather was about the age of 50, he lost the wealth he had worked so hard to accumulate all due to the falling price of sheep. Prior to this loss, he owned much of the land in the town of Afton, Wyoming. As I read his life story, I felt this sadness for him. How devastating it would be to have to sell off most of your property! How embarrassing it would be to go from being the man who owned the first furnace in town to losing so much.

The interesting thing, however, is that his loss of riches is only a blip of information in his life story. There is no commentary that it was difficult for him. The only thing listed as difficult for him was when his wife died. Other than that, he is described as being happy, kind, and forgiving at all times. Losing his riches did not embitter him. He has far more information on the years he spent working to accumulate those riches and on the life he led following the loss of those riches. 

While we need to be mindful of our money and work to have what we need to care for our families, we need to be careful that money does not slip in and deceive us. 

Wealth is a deceitful thing. We can easily become blinded to things that matter in life as we concern ourselves over riches. We can lose sight of the goals that should be at the top of our lists when we let wealth take a top spot. We can covet the things people around us have. Coveting is an easier thing to do than it ever has been. We can see the amazing pictures on Pinterest and other internet sites and wish we had those things. 

We can also be deceived by money when we think of wealth as as sign of righteousness. We can think people who are are favored will be blessed with money. We can have similar thoughts and think the wicked should not prosper financially because the don't "deserve it. "

Wealth is not the mark of success in what matters in life. So much of how the world measures success is in dollars. We take it to be a sign of how intelligent a person is, how disciplined a person is, how righteous a person is, how savvy a person is, how talented a person is, and how popular a person is. Sometimes, however, money is acquired through nothing more than a string of good luck or even as the result of dishonesty.

We should be the master of money. We should be careful to not put ourselves into unneeded debt. We should work to pay down the debt we do have as quickly as possible. We should temper our wants so we do not spend money we do not need to spend. Budgets are a wise practice. We should be generous with what we have and share with those in need. 

Being the mast of money also means recognizing how money can deceive you and do all you can to avoid that deception. Learn to be happy with what you have. Be cautious that you do not become materialistic. You do not need everything every neighbor has. You do not need all that you see online. 

Be wise with your money and be cautious with how much you let concern over it take over your mind. I hope someday, the wealth I had and lost will be merely a blip in my life history as well. I do not want my great-great grandchildren reading that I spent my time and efforts achieving wealth. I do not want them to read that I lost wealth and became embittered. I want them to read that I was known for helping others. That I was optimistic and happy. That I love the Lord and my fellow men. 

Related Posts:
Follow Babywise Friendly Blog Network.'s board Finances on Pinterest.

Poll Results: 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. "What age will my baby sleep through the night?" 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. I can't tell you when your baby will sleep through the night, but I can help you see what averages are and that there are always babies who fall outside of average. 

You can find original answers here. There were also answers on the Chronicles Facebook Page. Thank you to everyone who helped contribute!

  1. What age did your child start sleeping 7-8 hours uninterrupted consistently?
    4-5 weeks: 3
    6-7 weeks: 5
    7-8 weeks: 11
    9 weeks: 1
    11 weeks: 2
    12 weeks: 1
    15 weeks: 1
    16-18 weeks: 2
    Don't Remember: 2
  2. What age did your child start sleeping 9-10 hours uninterrupted consistently?
    5 weeks: 1
    8 weeks: 3
    9 weeks: 8
    10 weeks: 5
    11 weeks: 1
    12 weeks: 2
    13 weeks: 1
    15 weeks: 1
    16 weeks: 1
    20 weeks: 2
    8 months: 1
    Don't remember: 2
  3. What age did your child start sleeping 11-12 hours uninterrupted consistently?
    8-9 weeks: 2
    10 weeks: 1
    12 weeks: 8
    13-14 weeks: 3
    15 weeks: 2
    16 weeks: 2
    5 months: 3
    6 months: 1
    7 months: 1
    10 months: 1
    1 year: 2
    N/A: 1
  4. Did baby sleep through the night on his/her own, or did you do something to expedite the process?
    Moved baby to own room: 1
    Babywise: 8
    Swaddling: 5
    Pacifier: 1
    Intentional Training: 3
    Consistency: 7
    CIO: 5
    White Noise: 1
    Night Weaning: 3
    Waited a bit before responding to night noises: 1
    On Own: 16
  5. If yes to 4, what did you do? Was it successful?
    Yes: 13
    N/A: 16
  6. If you tried cluster feeding, do you feel like it helped baby sleep through the night?
    Yes: 8
    No: 5
    Unsure: 1
    N/A: 14
  7. If you did the dreamfeed, do you feel like it helped baby sleep through the night?
    Yes: 9
    No: 6
    Unsure: 5
    N/A: 8
  8. If you did CIO at night, how many nights did it take to get to sleeping through the night?
    1 night: 3
    3 nights or less: 4
    Less than one week: 1
    Couple of weeks: 1
    Unsure: 4
    Didn't work: 1
    N/A: 13
  9. What helped baby sleep through the night?
    Eating enough in day: 10
    Good feeding before bedtime: 1
    Sleep in own room: 2
    Have consistent schedule during day: 12
    Babywise!: 5
    Swaddle: 7
    No Waketime For Dreamfeed: 1
    CIO: 5
    White Noise: 2
    Pacifier: 1
    Early bedtime: 1
  10. What hindered baby sleeping through the night?
    Sickness: 2
    Teething: 1
    Gas: 1
    Growth Spurt: 1
    Shortened bedtime feeding: 1
    Not Enough Sleep During Day: 4
    Interruption to Daily Routine: 4
    Pacifier: 3
    Not enough food in day: 4
    Cold: 1
    N/A: 5
  11. Any words of wisdom or encouragement for parents hoping to have their baby sleep through the night?

    Christina said: Good advice for me to give myself as we are expecting #2. Make sure baby eats enough during the day. This is key so that they are less hungry at night! Work on setting up a bedtime routine that is consistent and familiar. Set a routine schedule (doesn't have to be exact times, but a comfortable routine will help). Don't expect all babies to sleep as quickly as mine did (like I said, I got lucky!), but on the other hand, don't underestimate your child, either.

    Adriane said: Getting on a schedule is HARD work. But with the effort you will have a well rested, happy, predictable baby!

    Belinda said: Although it doesn't seem like it now, these times will pass and your bub will sleep longer stretches smile emoticon
    Julie said: If you are consistent it will come. Don't give up. Usually you get one night and then you lose two or three. Then two in a row and lose one. Be encouraged by what your baby can do, rather than discouraged by the interrupted night. It'll get better.

    Jess said: When people say that they will eventually get there, it's true! It can feel like forever when you're in the middle of it but they can learn. Also, don't Google CIO if you're in the middle of it - lots of people think it's a terrible idea and will make you feel like the worst mom ever. Trust a few friends/family who will support you.

    Brittany said: Babywise works! It is a sanity saver. Use this blog! I've used it more than the book itself since my son was born. It will get discouraging and you will have emotional meltdowns, but remember the blessing that your baby is. Some parents would give it all to have a baby crying all night.

    Karen said:  My best advice is to stay consistent!

    Melissa said: Don't underestimate the importance of the day and its impact on the night!

    Wendy said: Make sure bub is getting all the calories they need during the day. Set firm times for daily wake time and down for the night, treat down for the night feed as a night feed, so no wake time between feed and bed. We do feed, bath, EBM top up then bed. Make room dimly lit, and wrap for bed before doing that last feed.

    Cole said: You'll get through it! I promise it will pass. Also, babies are little humans with different personalities. What worked for one kid may not work for another so don't be afraid to try different things. And personally, I don't think all babies are ready to STTN by 12 weeks like BW says. If you've tried EVERYTHING and it seems like your little one just can't do it, then hold on just a few more weeks until the 16-18 weeks mark. Don't be down on yourself thinking that you're doing something wrong smile emoticon

    Naomi said: Night waking can be due to many things other than hunger. Don't automatically feed them as that can extend night waking.  I feel like nothing we did helped or hindered [our second]. He was going to sleep great if he felt good and be up all night if he didn't no matter what we did (apart from giving meds).

    Jessi said: The benefit of teaching your baby to sleep far outweighs the stress of the training period and hearing baby cry. The training period feels like forever when you're in it, but afterwards, you'll look back and think it wasn't that bad and you can't imagine not having done it!

    Jessie said: Stick to your nap and feeding routines so you have confidence their needs are taken care of during the day. As long as baby is eating and going right back to sleep, it's most likely a necessary feeding for them and in the long term, it really isn't forever :)

    Katrina said:  Any words of wisdom or encouragement for parents hoping to have their baby sleep through the night? Sleep training is an investment in your marriage (one of the best things you can give your child is a healthy marriage) and in your child's health. You are not selfish for trying to help your child sleep through the night. Think of how much better you feel when you get good sleep? I believe these are great habits for your child. They will be more alert and happy during wake times thus more able to learn better during wake times. Hang in there! You're doing a great job! Just try to be consistent with naps during the day and remember generally sleep begets sleep. Don't think u can wear them out to getting a good night sleep! Set a timer if you CIO so you know when you have an end and get to go in and comfort. I also would pray that God would lead me to go in if I really ought to. I can't tell u how many times My son would roll over and fall asleep just as the timer went off. 
    I really think it's harder on mom than anyone else. It is an investment in the family to do the work necessary to help your child develop healthy sleep habits.

    Amber said: 
     It is definitely worth the discipline to keep to a schedule during the day. And I agree that it is so key for peaceful home and a happy marriage. ❤️ 

Tips for Organizing Your Bathroom

My master bathroom is small. It isn't just small by today's modern construction standards (hello bathrooms that are as big as my bedroom); it is small by the 1920s "We should carve out some space from this house for some indoor plumbing" standards.
Having a small bathroom means I need it to be organized. I made a resolution this year to majorly declutter my house and I have been through my bathroom. Here are some tips for getting your bathroom organized. This post contains affiliate links. This does not increase your cost. 

Remove Everything
I say it every time that I talk about organizing. I say it every time because it is the number one and best way to make sure things get organized and that you only keep what is necessary. If you love the way things are arranged now and worry you won't remember how to get them back in the same spots, take a picture of it before you begin. However, I will say that I find when I am putting stuff back, I always have a slight tweak to how it was before so that it is better than it was. So don't be afraid to approach your current setup differently. 

When I am removing things, I work on one section at a time. I don't remove everything from the entire bathroom. I will remove everything from one shelf or from one drawer. I do this so the project remains manageable. I have kids. I am likely to get interrupted a few times during the process. I don't want stuff scattered everywhere for hours or even into the next day. I work on one small section at a time so I can get it put back together. 

Wipe It Down
The bathroom is just a dirty place. It gets dusty. It gets hair all over the place--even when you clean regularly. Hairspray and other hair products get sprayed in there. We painted a few rooms over Christmas break, including our master bathroom. Before we painted, we cleaned the walls and base moldings well. The rooms were quick and easy. The bathroom was the smallest of the rooms (by far) and took the longest to prep (by far). You need to clean each shelf or each drawer well once it is empty. 

Throw Away Expired Medicine and Products
When my mom was my age, I was a young teenager. I remember looking through her make-up and perfumes and being horrified to know she had stuff that had been around as long as I had!!! It seemed like an eternity to me an I couldn't imagine having things that long. 

Fast forward to me being the same age and I totally get it. Time flies. It gets faster as you get older and it gets faster as you have kids. One of the last things on your list of things to worry about is, "How old is that eye shadow?" 

The reality is that if it is makeup you like and use consistently, you aren't going to run into it being too old. So if you do have old makeup, ask yourself if you really are going to use it and if you need to hang onto this makeup that is perhaps older than your children...

The same can be applied to lotions, perfumes, hair products...try the items and smell them. Ditch them if they feel, look, or smell funky. 

Throw away old medicine that is expired. They have expiration dates on them.

Keep Only What Fits
You don't want your shelves or drawers overflowing. Keep what you use and what you need.

Use Drawer Organizers
I talk about this often, too. Drawer organizers!  I use 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. They help keep the brushes out of your toothbrushes (we keep ours in drawers because I once read that germs from flushing the toilet go in the air and can land on toothbrushes if they are on the counter. For the same reason, we close the lid to the toilet before flushing). It keeps the hair elastics, finger nail clippers, bobby pins, etc. together. 

Use Storage Cabinets if Needed
Our master bathroom has minimal storage built into it. It has a single vanity with one drawer, one cupboard under that drawer, and the space under the sink. A couple of years ago, we headed to Lowe's and got an upright cabinet for the bathroom. It is a similar idea to this Pantry Cabinet. I could sing the praises of this thing all day long! It is fantastic. amazon has a wide selection of sizes and styles if you just look here: Storage Cabinets. If you order online, just read dimensions carefully and measure that out at home so you are sure you are getting the size you want to get. 

inside my cabinet

Use Storage Containers
I got a few storage containers at Lowe's, also, that I use to hold things that are similar to each other. I keep them in my cabinet. I keep my monthly feminine products in one. I keep all of our medicine in another. I keep hair products in another. The final has some random things--hair removal, extra contacts, extra make-up...

I also use a basket for storing nail stuff in. I also have my Storage Caddy that I used when Brinley was a baby as a breastfeeding supply storage solution and now use to hold my hair products and facial cleansing products. 

Be Creative With Other Storage
If you are looking for ways to store things, you can "Pinterest with purpose" and search for specific storage solutions. I have this cute jewelry holder my husband made for me hanging in by bathroom. It is very handy! I love being able to see it all at once. 

Bath Towels
Side note, since I am talking bathrooms. I recently purchased some bath towels at SAMs Club. They are fantastic. Hands down, they are the best towels I have owned. You can buy them on Amazon (100% Cotton Luxury Bath Towel), but they are cheaper at SAMs. 

Another side note, Daylight LED Light Bulbs are amazing. They really do look like daylight. We put these in our bedroom and bathroom at the end of December and I will be buying them for all lights in the house as we need to change them out. It has been so nice during this winter--we have had a few weeks with only a couple of days with a little sunshine. The light bulbs have kept me on the right side of sane. 

Related Post:

Managing Marriage Slumps

I recently posed a question on the Chronicles Facebook page asking people how they manage those marriage slumps. Having children to take care of, nurture, and raise can take a lot out of you. You can find it hard to stay awake much past bedtime, giving you and your spouse little time together. You can find it hard to think of things to talk about other than the children. You can get extremely impatient because you feel like you are doing it all alone. I asked how people find more patience and how they improve their relationship.

These marriage slumps are real life. Real life is hard. In real life, you disagree sometimes. In real life, your spouse disappoints you sometimes. In real life, your feelings get hurt sometimes. In real life, you get tired. In real life, you get lazy. In real life, things get "blah." That doesn't mean marriage turns into all of those negative things at all times, but there are moments when we feel these things. 

Last year, I asked questions on how to survive certain situations. This is a situation we want to do more than survive. We want to be the master of these situations and manage them.

Make a List
Roesmary said: I write a list of all the things my husband does well. It helps me tremendously to focus on the things that he's great about rather than the little things that might drive me nuts.

Sheena said: PRAY..Christ in me will do it because He promises to manifest HIS PATIENCE LOVE AND KINDNESS thru me and those who believe...anything born og my self effort might work 4 a day but not long lol

Kina said: I remind myself that my expectation should be in God, not my husband. I put the responsibilty on Him!  Saidah Washington from A Proverbs Wife has a YouTube video on her "hubby journal" and she says it really helped her marriage. Check it out!

Alyssa said:  I pray to see him through God's eyes. It really works. I've done this consistently over different time in our marriage and it's amazing how easily we work through the hardest things when I see him and his potential with unconditional love. When I'm not working on seeing him that way life can get really rough.

Golden Rule
Megan said: I was just telling one of my girls- "would you treat your best friend like that? well your sister is your best freind so please think about that before you respond to her in an inapproriate way". It got me thinking about family and marriage and how I respond to my husband- decided to take my own advice and remember he is my best friend. Parenting myself!

Love More
Alyssa said: I've also trained myself to see these rough patches as opportunities to pour out excessive love in his love languages. I make it my goal to smother him with all the love in all the ways I can think of and we both are much closer in a day or two. 

Allow No Other Options
Betsy said: I think on the very roughest days or in the lows, what brings me the absolute most comfort is that there is no plan b for us. we will never give up on each other (no "D" word) and I know that there will be valleys and peaks. we're in the funnel right now...5 months, 2, and a newly turned 5 year old. curious to see what types of responses you get 
wink emoticon

Just Carry On
Susan said: Sometimes I lose it and start slamming pots and pans around and really cleaning the crap out of the house lol. But usually you just carry on, you're bound to have days that aren't stellar. Like a lot of days I think. We talk and try to keep our sense of humor when things get bumpy. I also mentally go through the list of things my husband does that I could never do. I've actually imagined what would happen if he died, how would I cope? He's invaluable to our family:)

Kristen said: I just...manage. I take it as it comes and deal with it when it needs to be dealt with. I don't have any sage advice on the matter unfortunately. Lol. It's just part of life. Part of married life. Part of raising a family. It's hard stuff and you just stick your feet in and ride the waves. 

The best you can do is take time to think, breathe, talk it through when you need to, work it out if it needs to be worked out, and then start again the next day when it will inevitably happen least in my experience.. 

Choose Words Carefully
Traci said: When I know that I want to spew venom, I keep my mouth shut! I only say what's completely necessary. I take a deep breath and try to speak those necessary words in a fairly gentle way. If I'm still troubled after a good night's sleep or the chance to decompress, then I can address the issue with much more kindness.

Take Time to Think
Ashley said: I usually retreat into myself and wait it out. I understand that I'm not being ignored on purpose, but that work, parenthood, and other stressors are creating the rifts. After several days, I usually share my struggles and things work out. It is critical to resort to fun things we have in common (for us it is watching Top Gear UK), and know that it is only temporary.

Dawn said: Sometimes I just wait until the next day. For whatever reason we aren't clicking and I know it will be better tomorrow.

Date Each Other
Katrina said: Try to always have a date night or some other fun activity to do together planned so when things feel mundane and frustrating, some fun and relaxation is around the corner!

Jessica said: Find time to spend alone together. Pray. And communicate

Alyson said: It's hard, but I try to "date" my husband as much as possible. We also have date night once a week and go on kid free vacations. I find that couples get into a vicious tit-for-tat cycle. I take the initiative to look nice, cook dinner, make compliments, etc. when my husband feels appreciated, he returns it.

Show Affection
Skye said:  I try to stay affectionate. I pair requests for help with a kiss and hug! Also, making a point to unplug and connect via date night or something to look forward to.

Janneke said: Pray for God's help to be gracious to my husband. Just as God is more gracious to me

Allison said: I remember that love keeps no record of wrongs.

Understand Cause
Alexia said: I feel it is almost always a communication problem, especially where I felt he acted unloving, so I in turn treat him disrespectfully. This happens in reverse too.

Have Someone to Talk To
Jess said: Sometimes (depending on the issue) I talk to one of our "safe" friends. When we got married, we established two friends (two girls for me, two guys for him) that we could talk to if we were mad at each other. These were friends we trusted and knew wouldn't let us get away with just griping 
smile emoticon I'm a verbal processor so sometimes just talking it out makes me feel better.

Pinteresting Fridays: Spring

I am writing this in hopes that it will inspire spring to come my way. Come on spring! I love you, spring!

Spring Cleaning Checklists 
by Premeditated Leftovers

See more from me on Pinterest:

Follow Valerie's board Learning Ideas: Seasonal. on Pinterest.

Organizing Kids Crafts and Memories

I remember the scene like you would remember any horrifying experience. Summer was winding down, I was about to have baby, and I wanted stuff organized and ready to face the new school year. I pulled out the piles and piles (and piles) of paper of pictures that Kaitlyn alone had created over the last few months. I wish there was some way to transfer my memory to these words so you could experience it with me. Alas, you will have to be contented with knowing it covered the entire floor of my office and it was high. Above my ankles.

This is the moment I realized I needed a much, much better system for organizing the kids' artwork. Up until this point, things had been pretty smooth. Brayden pretty much considered coloring to be torture time even as an 18 month old. I had always just taken a day once a year to photo all of the crafts made in the previous year, keep some, and thrown away the rest. It wasn't super fast, but not super long either. 

The once a year tactic was not going to work any more. Neither was once a quarter, obviously. I had an artist on my hands. Not only that, I was going to have two more children to add to the mix. I needed a better system. This post contains affiliate links. 

Phase 1: The Pre-Sort
Each day, go through your child's backpack or pile of art creations. Throw away anything you do not need any memory of. I won't tell you what you do and don't need--that is for you to decide. When Brayden was in Kindergarten, I kept every paper. When Kaitlyn was in Kindergarten, I kept only tests and art projects. I cut down even more these days--we don't need to remember every score on every test.

I put things I want to keep into hanging file folders on my wall. There they wait until the next phase.

Quick note--kids love to have their work displayed and I love to display it. Kaitlyn and McKenna have a large magnetic board in their room and we also hang things on the fridge. If something will be hung, I hang it. I don't put it into my hanging file folders until the item is done being on display.

Phase 2: The Photo Session
Just about every Saturday, I get all of the papers I have saved out and I take a picture of each one. I put each paper on a white foamcore board and put the foamcore next to a window in my house so the pictures will be nice. 

Doing this weekly means it only takes me about 10ish minutes each week. Sometimes I will skip it on a Saturday if things are crazy and I need to cut something. 

Phase 3: The Sort
Once I have taken the photo of the item, I put it in one of two piles. One pile is to keep and one is to throw away. I only keep a handful of things. The reason is just so the kids have something tangible to look back on their elementary years. I loved looking through my items so I want the kids to have the same experience. I am nostalgic. 

I immediately throw away the throw away pile. You have to act quickly so kids don't see the pile and intervene. 

Phase 4: Storage
For storage, each child has a nice file box. It is just cardboard but offices will use them to file things in. Brayden will make it through elementary school with just one. Kaitlyn might need two. I keep these boxes in our game closet downstairs. The kids often get their boxes out and go through their papers. I don't mind this (as long as they clean them up). Things don't stay as nice as they would, but the point is for them to remember what they did. I also have a photo of everything whether we keep it or not. 

That is as far as our storage has gone so far. A fun idea is to take it a little further and to print a memory book or a picture collage of their projects. For a child like Kaitlyn who loves art, this would be a treasured book to go through. For a child like Brayden, it would be a book on the shelf that rarely got looked at. If you have minimal storage space, this is a good option and you could save just a small handful of hard copy items. 

That is it! This process makes things very simple. I have never been overwhelmed like I was that summer day all those years ago. 

You can get more ideas from my post Managing the Paper Influx

Giving Prime Relationships Prime Time

I recently came across this quote:

"...please scrutinize your schedules and priorities in order to ensure that life's prime relationships get more prime time!" Neal A. Maxwell

That quote was said in 1994--many of you were probably born in that year! Life has changed a lot since then. When that quote was said, I was an early teen. Kids were not as busy then. Parents were not as busy then. Families were not as busy then. We weren't distracted by the Internet at all, much less the Internet in our pockets. 

This quote has just gotten more pertinent over time. It gave me pause and caused me to think. I think it it is wise to frequently evaluate how we are allocating our time. I love the notion of "prime time and prim relationships." 

I think it has long been human nature to give our best to the world. We look our best for those outside of our homes. We act our best. We are more patient. We show more grace. 

As parents of young children, we often feel trapped in monotony. Life is the pretty much the same day in and day out for many years. We start to feel a little disconnected from the world (and so we cling to those electronic devices like a lifeline!). We feel like we aren't contributing much. We think about serving others and will learn about the importance of service at church and feel guilty because we are so focused on our little families we rarely think of those outside of our home. 

We need to always remember that serving our families counts as service. We need to cut ourselves some slack. We are giving our prime relationships our prime time. 

At the same time, of course we want to show our children good examples and teach them to serve others. We don't want to turn our backs on the world around us. 

Life is a fine balancing act, and consistent evaluation of how we are doing will help us make those minor adjustments as we need to. As you choose how to spend your time, be sure you have things balanced so your family can and does get your prime time. Set limits on yourself to do so. Say no if you need to. 

There is no blanket answer here. We can't say X number of hours is correct to be devoting to your family. We can't say "Do only ABC number of things that aren't focused on your family." The answers will vary from person to person. Be prayerful and mindful of how to spend your time and you will know if you need dto give more outside or less outside your family. 

Natural Consequences vs. Grace

One of the swiftest ways to get your child to change behavior is to have consequences in place and to stick to those consequences. It seems simple when you think about it in black and white, but when you are living that idea in real life, sometimes applying consequences seems harsh. Sometimes it is harsh.

As much as we want to raise responsible children who follow rules and take care of themselves, we also want to raise children who are kind, thoughtful, and loving. We want our children to offer grace to others. In order to be able to show grace, they need to have seen what grace is in action. Here are some examples when we can show grace.

When There Are High Emotions
Sometimes your child is having a bad day or feels super intense about something. Your child might lash out at you or another child. Grace can be offered here as you sit and talk with your child about the situation rather than simply swooping in with the consequence. These are good learning moments if you address it with patience and kindness. 

In situations like this, you can offer grace while still having a consequence for actions. You might lessen the consequence or even change it. You can be guided in knowing how much to lessen consequences here by the remorse your child shows. I am sure there have been times in your recent history when you have reacted emotionally and regretted it. Show the grace you would like yourself.

When The Child is Hungry or Tired
Hungry and tired children often make poor decisions--just like hungry and tired adults do! This is especially true for toddlers and preschoolers. Sometimes if I have a cranky toddler or young preschooler, I will change up a typical consequence and just get the child into bed or get food into her. I have had two children who have a very hard time keeping emotions in check as preschoolers when hungry. As soon as they had food, they were both their normal, sweet selves. So when a tantrum started and it was close to meal time, I would feed first and see how the attitude followed. 

As my kids get older, I start to expect them to be able to control their emotions and attitude even if they are hungry or tired. I will offer a reminder of the need to still be kind even when hungry or tired before offering a consequence for bad attitude.

When the Child is Stressed
When life changes, children can become forgetful. When my children start school, there are often times they forget a homework folder or backback somewhere between school and home. I understand the child is stressed on some level with this new life change and having to learn to keep track of things they haven't had to keep track of before. I offer grace and do what we can to remedy the situation.

When It is a First-Time or Rare Offense
A big challenge in this area parents face is around school. If the child forgets homework, do you bring it to her at school? If she leaves her packed lunch on the counter, do you run it to school or have her eat school lunch? Children can forget shoes, library books, jackets, and more on either side of school.

Brayden and Kaitlyn both had some forgetful moments as Kindergartners. McKenna never did as a Kindergartner, which really shocked me. In first grade, however, she forgot her homework folder at school. Being a first-time situation, we went to school early the next day so she could do it and I could sign it off. 

A couple of weeks later, she forgot again. Once again I went to school with her early the next day. This is a rare thing for her after all and first grade is a big transition since it is the first year of full day school for us. 

Shortly thereafter, she forgot again and her teacher called me and I went to the school to pick it up. All along I had been telling her that I would help her out, but if it became a habit, I would stop helping her. On this third occurrence, I explained that if she forgot again, she was going to have to go to school without her homework done. 

It isn't a huge deal--she just would need to work faster through her morning work to do her last night's homework and her morning self-starts in the time allotted. She also wouldn't get a stamp that day for bringing her homework back. But she doesn't want to go to school unprepared, so it is a consequence that works well.

The day came that she forgot again. She begged me to go to the school early "this one last time." I reminded her of what I had told her all along. I reminded her that I wouldn't be doing it again. She still begged and persisted. I explained to her that she needed to learn to be responsible for her things and for making sure her homework made it home. I explained I would rather her go to first grade with her homework undone than to high school. I assured her she would be sure to remember now that she didn't have that safety net to save her.

That was a few months ago and she has not forgotten since that incident. So grace is great initially, but at some point, she needs to learn responsibility. I could have taught her that responsibility earlier by not going in earlier the first time. She probably wouldn't have taken four times then. But she also wouldn't have learned that mom is there for her and willing to help her out. She also learned I love her enough to not help her at certain moments in order to help her long-term.                                        

Grace can be applied even when the child is older and has learned the lesson. One morning this school year, Brayden called me. He had forgotten his homework folder at home. I took it to him. It was the first time in years he had forgotten. Grace was applied. 

When the Child Doesn't Know Better
Many things seem obvious to us as adults, but children don't always inherently know rules. If  you haven't taught your child something, it might be good to offer grace and interfere with natural consequences that might otherwise follow. Here is a simple example. Your child might be on the monkey bars at the playground calling for your help. A natural consequence to teach your child that the monkey bars are not age appropriate could be to let the child drop alone (I don't recommend this for a first-timer or a child who can't drop without getting hurt). Applying grace would be you helping the child down and explaining to either not do monkey bars at all at his age or to only do them if he has asked you first. 

Another example can be with coloring. Your child might be coloring nicely, then decide the table would look nice colored, also. A logical consequence for coloring on the table would be to take away art privileges for a period of time. If you haven't taught you child to not color on the table, however, it is a good moment to teach your child that isn't okay and offer some grace. See Teach What Obedience Looks Like for more help on this. 

How Do You Decide Which is Right?
When deciding which is right, you really are often going with your gut. If any of the above factors are in play, you can err on the side of grace. I am a big believer in consequences and follow through, but your aren't running a business or a school; you are running a family. You are raising humans. It is okay to show humanity and allow humanity. 

What you want to be careful of is not offering idle threats. When your child is obviously tired and needs a nap, you might not apply a consequence for yelling at you. But do not, in that moment, say, "If you yell at me again, you will not get to do xyz after nap" unless you intend to follow that through (oh, she was just tired then. It's okay if she does xyz). When your child is living a moment above, be very cautious about what you say in those moments. 

Offer yourself grace in these situations, also. You might find one day that you have been letting things slide more than is beneficial for your child. You might realize one day you have been too harsh and need to offer more grace. Don't beat yourself up. You deserve grace in this process, also.

Related Posts: