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12 Products I Love for Summer

With temperatures nudging 100 degrees today, I feel summer in full swing. What products are great for summer? Here are some of my favorites. There should be something for everyone here! This post contains affiliate links.

I don't know if I could love the sandbox toys from Melissa and Doug anymore. They are so fantastic. They have fun food sets for sandboxes, which is so fun for the kids. My kids love to play "Chopped" with these various toys. We have the Ice Cream set, the Baking set, and the Cupcake set. For years I had purchased just cheap sandbox toys, but a few years ago I started to get the more expensive and yet nicer toys from Melissa and Doug. It is very worth it! They last much longer, which means you spend less money over the years. 

Lifetime Kayak
For years, we have spent time at our neighbor's property on Bear Lake where they have kayaks. The kayak has always been Brayden's favorite thing to do there. So this year, we got him a kayak for his birthday. He loves it. A whole lot. If you have close enough access to water, this is a very fun thing to own (but you will also want space to store it! If you don't, you might want to go for an inflatable kayak). 

Speedo Rashguard
I super love having a rashguard for my kids when playing outside in the water. That skin on the shoulders and back can be so sensitive and obviously doesn't see sun as regularly and is more prone to burning. I love not worrying about that sensitive skin when we are out in the sun all day. Speedo is a great brand for longevity, which I always care about when buying girl stuff since I can ideally use it through three girls. I got this one for Kaitlyn and she is loving it. It is cute (and comes in multiple base colors) and of course good quality. 

Speedo Boardshort
I don't want the rashguard without the boardshort. Again, I went with Speedo since I have grown to trust it for swimwear for our swimming gear. These are great shorts and even have pockets, which we girls know is a rare treat in female products!

Kanu Surf Swimsuit
This is the swimsuit Kaitlyn is using right now. Oh I love it! It is cute! It is nice and also very modest. It comes in several color options and even some different style options. I got a different kind for McKenna and regret it. It is very low cut in the front. This one, I would get again and again.

Toddler Rashguard Suit
For smaller girls, you can find rash guard sets easily and for decent prices. I got this set for Brinley. When she got it, she said, "I always wanted one exactly like this!" haha! I loved it when we were at the pool because I could easily see her among the many children in the kiddie pool. The coral basically glowed. I highly recommend bright suits or bright features so you can easily distinguish your kiddos from the rest. 

Fitbit Cover
This one is for you. I accidentally came across this Fitbit Cover one day while purusing Amazon. I  have long wanted something with my Fitbit to add some cuteness to it. I was wearing mine one day and a waitress asked me where I got it and commented that now she wanted a Fitbit just to get a cute cover! Ha! She told me she had wanted a Fitbit, but didn't like how it wasn't cute. There are a lot of options out there, so you can find something that strikes your fancy. This is great for summer because you have short sleeves going on. You can make the fitbit look like a cute accessory rather than a utility on your wrist. 

Crossbody Bag
For summer, I wanted a light purse I could stash what we needed when I was taking the kids out and about. I loved the idea of a crossbody bag. That would leave my arms free. This bag is plenty large for my needs. The other night when Kaitlyn and I went to the rodeo, we had both of our jackets among other things in the bag. It also has a small little pocket that can fit some chapstick or keys in, which is nice since if it is full, digging for keys is no fun. I love that it is less than $7.00 because this isn't something I am looking to be my long-term, forever purse. This is my take the kids out without a diaper bag (yay!) purse. 

Coleman Quad Chair
When my husband and I got married, we were given some really nice camping chairs as a wedding gift. We have used those same chairs for 12 years. And we used them for real. They went camping, in our backyard around the fire, and to countless soccer games. They were haggard. It really had gotten to the point where it was embarrassing to sit in them. It was probably well beyond that point. So I decided to bite the bullet and buy new chairs. I had big hesitations. I liked our good quality chairs and haven't been able to find any like them in stores. I have noticed the quality of these chairs steadily declining. You can buy one for $5, but you will buy one again in a year because it will be broken. So after much research and literally pondering on it for a year (guys, I take buying stuff seriously!), I went with these Coleman Quad Chairs. And I love them! They are very well made. I love that there is a drink holder (a must). I also like the cooler pocket. I have yet to use it as it is intended, but it makes a fantastic garbage. You know how moms are the automatic garbage can? Well, when the kids bring me their garbage, I can just put it in that zippered pocket and take care of it at home. 

Heaven on Earth. This hammock has become the number one favorite reading spot for the kids this summer. I went with this one because it can go anywhere, which means I don't need two trees big enough and close enough together for it. We all love it. There are different fabric types for this hammock, so if you decide to get one, be sure to read about the different kinds. I went with the sunbrella because it is supposed to stand up to sun and weather the best. 

Book on Tape
This is my number one tip for driving long distances with children in the car. Last summer, we drove 10 hours each way to Colorado. We listened to the first Harry Potter book as we went. It took the entire drive there and back as well as driving while on vacation. But all of the children loved it, including Brinley who was two at the time. My husband loved having something interesting to listen to as the driver (he likes music, but not enough to love just music for the whole drive. Kind of crazy). Kaitlyn, who had previously been nervous about reading such a long book, came home and read the next three books in about a week. This summer, we will do the second Harry Potter book for our long road trip drive.

Leathercraft Gloves
My husband likes to do projects around the house, and when working around the house, a good pair of gloves is super handy. Nate loves these gloves so much that we purchase them again every time they wear out (which happens in a reasonable time frame) and we have given them to our dads for gifts. We got a pair for Brayden and I to share for working on the home addition we are doing...because, guys, my oldest child and I wear the same size of gloves. That's crazy.

Creating and Maintaining a Schedule {Poll Discussion}

There is a difference between have a schedule, or routine, in your day each day and having a pattern in your day each day. Most people who follow the principles of Babywise want the routine or schedule, not just a pattern from day to day. Despite that preference, many find themselves in a pattern position and can't figure out how to make the jump to the more predictable schedule position.

Enter this poll.

Please take a moment to answer the questions below. Doing so will help other parents now and in the future. 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 you aim for more of a schedule/routine and move away from a pattern?
2. What did you find vital for attaining a predictable schedule/routine? What did you implement that made the difference?
3. What did you find sabotaged your efforts for a predictable schedule/routine? What would you recommend people avoid?
4.Any words of advice for parents out there?

Thank you for participating! Mwah!

You can see the results of the poll on how to create and maintain a schedule here. 

Preventing Jealousy

The green-eyed monster. Jealousy. There is a reason "monster" is in the cute little phrase used to describe that ugly feeling. That is what you become when you feel jealous. A monster. It is so easy for children to get jealous. And let's be real, it is so easy for adults to be jealous. Children are even more prone simply due to lack of life experience. They don't have that experience to draw from to help them calm that little monster.

Children can feel jealous of siblings and jealous of friends. They can be jealous of time, attention, food, privileges, activities, material goods...It is all there. Jealousy is toxic. It is toxic in a family and toxic in a friendship. It is very hard to be around people who are jealous. 

I very much do not want my children to be jealous of others. Will it creep up? Sure. I am positive they will feel pangs of jealousy creep up from time to time. But I am also positive there are many things you can instill in a person to help prevent jealousy from ever taking over his life. I think you can push that pang aside so quickly you might not even notice it was there. So how do you help a child (or yourself!) squash that monster rather than feed it?

Do Not Keep Things "Equal"
I have talked about fair versus equal in the past. Fair is what is right for the individual child. Equal is the same for everyone. Seldom is equal really ever fair. Should an 8 year old get all of the same gifts for Christmas as a 3 year old? Is that really fair to either of them? Perhaps in certain instances, the same gift is appropriate (say you got a season pass to a place). In many instances, it is not fair. 

Children of different ages should not be treated the exact same. If you find yourself doing that, then you are likely simultaneously allowing too much freedom for the younger child and not enough freedom to the older child. Sometimes you can tip the balance all the way one way, but people usually end up in between somewhere. 

When a child is used to having things "equal" just because, then the child cannot handle any time something happens that isn't equal. That can be true in the family and outside the family. A child who has full equality among siblings will struggle out in the real world, and the real world gets real teh first time your child does an activity out of the home. Soccer team, school, dance class...welcome real world.  

Your child might go to a friend's house and see he has different toys. That isn't fair! Jealousy creeps up. Your child won't be line leader one day at school. That isn't fair! There is the jealousy. Your child tries out for a competitive sports team and doesn't make it. Unfair once again!

Really, those things are unequal, not unfair. And equal is not always fair. So keep things fair at home--truly fair--and do not aim for equal. 

For more, read Fair vs. Equal.

Encourage Happiness for Others
Jealousy stems from selfishness. A person who is selfish will feel jealous rather than feel happy for others. Whenever someone gets a new toy, runs faster, gets a better grade, or gets a "good job!", the child will feel jealous. 

I really work on instilling happiness for others in my children. When they tell me about a fun thing or a success a friend has, I talk about how great that is for the friend. 

And I see it works.

One of Brayden's (age 11) best friends is a natural athlete. Seriously fantastic at every sport he plays. He is good at it even the very first time he plays it. For a mile race run among 9 elementary schools, this friend was dubbed the "green dot." This meant that our school said he is our fastest runner. The one to beat. It is a huge honor. 

Brayden was so happy for his friend. He thought it was fantastic. He knew his friend deserved it. When he told me, I was happy for his friend. I knew he deserved it. I talked about how awesome that is for his friend. On race day, the friend had a side ache early in the day. Brayden came to me worried about his friend and what that side ache would mean for his running ability. He wanted his friend to do well. He did not view the success of his friend as a means to devaluing his own success. "Blowing out someone else's candle doesn't make yours burn any brighter." This is what we need to be sure our children understand. 

So when your child comes to you reporting the success of someone, respond with enthusiasm. Talk about how happy that friend must be feeling. Get your child thinking about the feelings of others and not just herself. You want to instill selflessness, kindness, love, civility... all of those great qualities. Those are qualities that will help your child feel happy for others rather than jealous of others. 

Avoid Cheering Your Child Up
That might seem like an odd thing to say. Let me explain. There might be times your child comes to
you to report the success or gain of a friend and be feeling that jealous monster rearing its head inside. At this moment, your knee-jerk will likely be to explain why your child doesn't need that item or why what your child has is better. You will be trying to make your child feel better.

"Your friend got a new pet? Well listen to all the downsides of having a pet."

"Your friend has this family situation that is the opposite of ours? Well let me explain why our family situation is actually the best family situation."

While your intention is to help your child recognize the good in his life and be happy for it, you are actually only perpetuating the comparing, which is leading to the jealousy. Children whose parents respond in that manner often go back to the friends and tell the friend all the reasons why their good fortune is actually bad and dumb and not really good after all. They will then go on to explain why their situation is better. Life doesn't need to be a competition. Focus on the kindness and love toward others. 

"Your friend got a new dog? That is so exciting! I bet she is so excited for that pet. Is she so happy about it?"

Many times, the child will respond positively from there. When they start to think of how the friend feels, they will feel happy for the friend. 

But there might at times be a response of, "But I want a new dog!"

The response to give is NOT, "Oh no. You don't want a dog.  Do you know how much work a dog is? Every time we went on vacation, we would have to find someone to take care of it...." No. Then the child goes to the friend and, in order to make herself feels better, tells the friend all of the horrible things about having a dog. Your child doesn't feel better and the friend feels sad or confused. 

You respond with some sympathy. "I know you want a new dog. That would be really fun. It is hard to want something and not be able to get it. We can't get a new dog right now. But you can still be happy for your friend getting a new dog right now."

Work on instilling gratitude at a different time in life. Yes, you want your child to be happy for what she has, but you don't teach it by putting down others. That isn't true gratitude. Our children look to us to see how they should appropriately respond to life situations, and if our response is to essentially put something down, no matter how well-intentioned our actions, it teaches our children to put things down when they feel that jealousy creeping up.

The process of avoiding jealousy is really quite simple, but it must be intentional. You don't want jealousy to take hold of your child. If so, your child will resent the triumphs of others. You want your child to be able to be happy for others. Think of how much more happiness a person feels who is happy not only for themselves, but for others as well! If you reserve happiness for only your own successes and good news, the reality of this world is it won't even come daily. But if you add in happiness for others and you can feel that happiness multiple times a day. Your child can push that green eyed monster down and be free of those ugly feelings. Squash that monster and enjoy life more fully.

See also: 

Quotable Mondays: Jealousy

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Managing the Family When Your Spouse is Away

This post contains affiliate links. 

I am a faithful Fitbit wearer. On a typical day, I clock anywhere from 10,000 to 15,000 steps. The last time my husband was out of town on business, however, I clocked in 20,000 to 25,000 each day. There is no doubt that parenting solo takes a lot more effort. This effort is not only physical, but also mental. You need to be on all day every day. 

Whether your spouse is out of town, working late often, or working on some big project (hello home addition at our house right now!), tips are helpful. I asked you on Facebook what you do. 

Have Friends Over
This one is from me. When my husband is out of town, my kids get really sad and miss him a lot. I like to have friends over as much as possible during that time. It can be more work having friends over, but the kids get so excited about the friends that it takes their mind off their dad being gone.

If you didn't want to do the friends, you could accomplish the same idea by doing something fun. This might be the perfect time for a movie night. 

Keep Things Consistent
Ashley said: Fortunately we don't have my husband out of the house for long periods of time often. When I am single-parenting, we stick to our normal routine and try to send pictures and/or Skype with Daddy. Sometimes we try to get out of the house and do something unique. For instance, we made haircut night into a fun fast-food dinner night. I really try to encourage and give extra snuggles. Maybe read for an extra five minutes before bed. If bad behavior creeps up, I try to be as consistent as possible. Sometimes I just have to survive. Due to deaths in my family, my son and I have spent a couple weeks a state away from my husband. That can be tricky as I'm missing Daddy a lot, as is J. We try to communicate as often as possible, and stick to the sleep schedule to a T. Again, we try to do something fun, but we almost refuse to sacrifice routine.

Keep Your Chin Up
Christina said:  My husband is significantly disabled, so I can really relate to single moms in that I pretty much have to physically do all of the parenting during the early (baby) years. I just have to keep reminding myself that I will have good and bad days. I have to keep on trying to work on routines and work towards the goal of a good schedule. I try to rest whenever I can/when I need it, which is honestly hard to do with a non-napping 4-year-old. I take any help I can get from outside our home (mostly only my dad and mom). I use my crockpot frequently for meals and take it easy on myself. Housework can wait a day or so later. When I get up for nighttime feedings, I usually watch something or surf the internet on my Nook (less brightness than a computer so it's easier on my son during feedings). And I just tell myself over and over again how many days old he is and that he WILL eventually sleep through the night, get on a schedule, etc. Like I said, you will have good days and bad days. Celebrate the good ones and when you have a bad day, remind yourself that things will probably get better the next day.

Take Time to Rest
Amanda said: Routine stays the same. It muddy stay the same. If I cook we eat it 3 times, but usually we eat really simple. Because we eat simple (or lots of leftovers) we usually get out of the house after naps when I would usually be cooking- library, park, target. Any excuse to get out. I also rest more during naptime vs doing my usual chores. Having 3 under 4 makes me tired, and I need extra rest if I'm not getting reinforcements. Mine actually spend longer in the bath bc they are happy and I can chill while they play in a contained area.

Cook Extra
Jennifer said: biggest hack...When I cook, I cook 4 to 5 times normal and freeze the rest with a food saver. So I only end up cooking a few times a month. The schedule changes by day of the week to give my LO more nap time on days I'm home with him cause he doesn't sleep as well at daycare. He's in bed by 7 every night which gives me precious time to myself. We're also more flexible with nap time on the days we get to talk to my spouse.

Sarah P. said: We skip baths more often... Haha. I try to make sure we get in a play date and something special and fun to do. I also keep cooking super simple. And I try to be graceful with myself! Oh! And of it's a long enough trip, and I can swing it, I get a sitter for a few hours.

Simple Pleasures
Sarah B. said: My husband is about to go on night shift. He works night 7 days out of every 28. It is like he is gone because he obviously has to sleep during the day. We don't have TV so it when he is on night shift I let the kids watch a 30 minute video in the evening or do a special craft. Not as many baths, like Sarah Morris Perez said...and they get to go to Bible Study with me on Wednesday night - it's a women's class. Simple pleasures! I just remind myself that it is only 7 nights AND remember that there are many in his industry who are without work and I'm thankful he has a job to go to.

If you don't already, be sure to follow me on Facebook. I share what is posted here each day along with other articles I find helpful and interesting. I also answer questions and do live Q&As each week. It is a great way to connect!

Must Have Products for Doing Your Daughter's Hair

You would think that we would all find doing our little girl's hair easy and intuitive. We do, after all, all have hair as mothers. We do our own hair each day (or most days). But doing the hair of others is not the same as doing our own.

I loved doing my doll's hair when I was a girl. Super loved it. Now I have three real-live heads of hair do do each day. I really enjoy doing their hair each day. There are some products I use that make the process much easier. These tools can make that hair-do time faster, easier, and less painful (literally).  This post contains affiliate links. 

Wet Brush
The Wet Brush is kind of a big "rage" thing right now. It is probably the most popular product for getting snarls out. I swear the whole time I have had daughters, there has been some "it" gadget brush for getting out tangles. Not too long ago, it was the Knot Genie. Now it is the Wet Brush. I do like the Wet Brush better than the Knot Genie simply because it is easier for me to hold and use. I don't think one is better than the other at doing the intended job. The Wet Brush will NOT get every tangle out. I have a process for getting the tangles out. My girls all have long hair. Even Brinley's is close to touching her bottom. That means lots of snarls. The Wet Brush helps, it is a great tool, but you cannot end there.

Start with the Wet Brush and brush out as many snarls as you can. You won't be able to get everything on many occasions.

While we are talking snarls, you will have fewer snarls if you brush the girl's hair out before bedtime. For younger girls, I also find putting it in a braid at night is very helpful. Young girls move around more as they sleep, so it is helpful. Kaitlyn at age 9 doesn't really need it braided at night anymore.

I next move on to a brush. This kit I have linked to and is pictured has the size brush I like for little girls. I use a paddle brush on myself, but I like the small brush in this kit for my girls. It is a great second step for getting out snarls. The paddle brush is too large and catches many snarls. The small one is the instrument you want for small heads. 
Fine Tooth Comb
Once I can brush through the hair well, I move on to a fine tooth come. That is the one pictured on the left. I sometimes use the other one, also, but I like the fine tooth ones best. The are more fine :). This ensures every snarl is out of the hair. This device is the instrument that will lead to a masterpiece. The hair will be snarl-free. It also is an invaluable tool in creating smooth hair for ponytails and other up-dos.

The funny thing is, the kids think the fine tooth come doesn't hurt as much because when I get to this step, snarls are gone. So sometimes Brinley wants me to go right to this. There is such a life-lesson there. We often don't see that difficulties we go through prepare us to handle things that come up later in life. 
If you just can't get the snarls out, break out the detangler spray. I rarely use this. Maybe once a month total among the three girls. But it is handy when I need it. The other day, I was combing through McKenna's hair after she had been swimming in a ponytail (note to self--ponytail does not work for McKenna and swimming). Her hair was a big knot. The wet brush wouldn't touch it. I was worried we would have to chop her hair off. This great tool saved the day. 

Squirt Bottle

Once everything is all combed out, it is time to do the hair. Let's say you know exactly what you want to do in the hair. If the hair is dry and you want to pull it up at all, squirting it with some water is super helpful. For that, you will want a tool for spritzing the hair evenly. Enter the squirt bottle. This helps keep things smooth and keeps all of those little hairs in place. I use a fine tooth comb when pulling hair up at all.

Even if you are leaving the hair down, if you squirt it some with some water and
then comb through it, it helps it look smooth and fresh again. You don't want to drench it; just a few squirts will do it.

Hair Elastics

These are the elastics we use. Really only Kaitlyn and I use these at this point. McKenna is starting to need it at times. When the girl is younger, the hair bands I talk about next are easiest product to use. The hair is more fine and thinner with younger girls. As they get older, their heads get bigger and the hair gets thicker. I really like these elastics; they hold up very well. They don't have any metal, so they don't get that annoying stretch to them. They are also thick and hold the hair in place tightly.
Hair Bands

I always purchase these from Sally Beauty Supply (though before today, I had never checked Amazon for them). I love these. I have tried these and some from Walmart and these win hands down. They have the clear as pictured, but also have various colors and black or brown. The clear break more easily, but they also slide out without pulling the hair. I use these almost exclusively on three year old Brinley. I like clear because they match anything. We do have a lot of fun with the colors at times, though, and I do always have colors and clear on hand. I also use the black quite often.

Alligator Clips

While you are doing a hair-style, it is often quite handy to have an alligator clip. They can hold sections of hair out of the way while you are working with other sections. I use these pretty much daily. A hair clip can also come in handy, but for the young, fine hair, I like the alligator clips best.


Once it is done, you will likely want to hairspray it to keep it in place. This is especially true for those girls 5 and under--the baby-fine hair just gets fly-aways like crazy. This Kenra hairspray is really great, but if the price leaves you gagging, try Aussie. That is what I usually use on my girls. I have some strong hold and some flexible hold depending on what the hair needs are that day.

If you are new to doing hair of others, you might need ideas. Lucky for you, you live in the Internet age. There are SO MANY ideas out there. And not just pictures, but video tutorials for you to follow. You don't have to start from scratch. I have a hair board on Pinterest. I also post pics of hair styles I do with my girls every so often on Instagram, so be sure to follow me there.

Patience and Practice
Just remember, practice makes perfect. I went several years before I would do fancy braids in Kaitlyn's hair because it just looked bad. I then realized it would never get good unless I practiced. So I started doing it consistently, and now my braids look good! I can do all kinds. So just practice away and have patience for your skills to improve.

The ladies of the BFBN are all blogging today with various hygiene tips. Check them out below: