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Merry Christmas 2016!

Merry Christmas to you all! I hope you have a wonderful holiday. I will be taking the upcoming week off to spend time with my family, but I have rounded up some of my greatest hits from 2011 for you to read during the week. Click on the photo to read the post. If the image doesn't have words on it, you can hover over it and the title will pop up. Have a great remainder of 2016!

 How to Respond to Challenges in Marriage

 How to teach library ettiquette

 14 Tips for Traveling with a Toddler

 Refusal of Favorite Foods

 Behavior and the Heart
 Behavior and the Heart

 All About Children's Eyes
 All About Children's Eyes

 Family Mealtime: Preparing for Success
 Family Mealtime: Preparing for Success

 Upcited and children sleep
 Upcited and children sleep

 Waketime lengths for newborns
 Waketime lengths for newborns

 Text Baby Personality Type
 Text Baby Personality Type

 Bedtime Routine and Storytime
 Bedtime Routine and Storytime

 Sack Lunch Ideas
 Sack Lunch Ideas

 Best Toys for Preschoolers
 Best Toys for Preschoolers

 How I Do Personal Scripture Study
 How I Do Personal Scripture Study

 How I Fit Exercise Into My Day
 How I Fit Exercise Into My Day

 How I Get Myself Ready Each Day as a Mom
 How I Get Myself Ready Each Day as a Mom

 How I get my children ready each day.
 How I get my children ready each day.

 How I do Chores as a Busy Mom
 How I do Chores as a Busy Mom

 How I do mealtime as a busy mom
 How I do mealtime as a busy mom

 How to fit hobbies in as a busy mom
 How to fit hobbies in as a busy mom

Must-Have Items For Your Diaper Bag {Plus a $50 Gift Card Giveaway}

Must-Have Items For Your Diaper Bag

This giveaway is a partnership with Nakturnal, with a prize of a gift certificate. All content and opinions are my own.

While a diaper bag essentially serves one main purpose for all of us, it functions differently from family to family.  For some, it might more of a purse/diaper bag, and for others, it is more just for baby stuff.  In one family, the father might carry around the diaper bag just as often if not more often than the mother, making the style of the diaper bag potentially quite different than for the family where just mom carries it around (some people even get two or three bags so they can go his/hers!). Some people might want space to haul everything, down to the kitchen sink, while others are going for more minimalist and the the bare necessities.

What are the must-haves?
Diaper Bag Checklist
What are the basic musts to have in your diaper bag? You need space for:
  • Diapers
  • Wipes
  • Changing pad
  • Extra outfit (you never know when a leak is coming)
  • Feeding needs (bottles, formula, nursing cover, nursing pads...what do you need?)
What are the good-to-haves?
Once you have your musts, you might consider these items to help improve the baby experience:
  • Burp cloth (for some babies, this might be a must rather than a good)
  • Diaper sacks (good to be kind to those coming behind you)
  • Diaper rash cream (some babies are more prone to rashes, so you might find this a must)
  • Lansinoh or other nursing ointment or cream
What are the maybe-haves?
Not all of these items will be things you find of value, but they are wroth considering. 
  • Hand sanitizer (there is debate on the effectiveness of this. Hand-washing is best, and I have to wonder if a wet-wipe is preferable to sanitzer)
  • Baby toys (for older babies, this moves up in the priority list)
  • Ziploc bags (for putting soiled clothes in, but you could use your diaper sacks if you have those)
  • Snacks (for you, and for older babies)
  • Nail clippers (you never know when that is needed)
  • Medicine (ibuprofen, tylenol, gas drops, teething relief...)
  • Bulb syringe 
  • Jacket/hat/
  • Lotion, shampoo, toiletries
  • Mama things (for many, the diaper bag doubles as a purse, so you might have your chap stick, sunglasses, hygiene items, your own medicine, wallet, etc)
  • Pacifier (even if your baby doesn't usually use one, sometimes it is handy when you are away from home)
Needs can fluctuate over time and even circumstance. Your must-haves will be different for a road trip than they would be to the park down the street. If you feel concnered about keeping everything in the bag easily accessible and organized, I love this idea on how to organize your diaper bag.

Now for the fun. Time to enter to win a $50 gift card. Enter below.

  • You must enter the giveaway to have an entry.
  • Commenting on this post is a mandatory entry.
  • You must fulfill the rules of each entry for each entry to count. If I see the entry is not valid (did not meet entry requirements), I will disqualify your entry. I check each winning entry to make sure it was valid.
  • Entries will be accepted until 12:00 midnight January 3, 2017.
  • The winner will be randomly selected through Rafflecopter.
  • The winner will be announced sometime after the winner is chosen. I will email the winner.
  • Once the winner is announced, you have one week to respond. Be sure to check back and/or check your email. The only thing worse than not winning is to win but not realize it in time.
  • I will not use your email address for any purpose other than contacting you if you are the winner (and FYI, I don't have access to the email addresses except for the winner's).

4 Reasons You Should Set Goals

Goal-setting and New Years Resolutions often get a bad wrap. I know many people who scoff at the idea of setting goals. "What's the point? People don't keep those resolutions anyway." According to Forbes, only 8% ever meet their resolutions.

I get that. I get the fear of failure. I get the desire to not waste time on thinking through goals that won't be met anyway. 

But I disagree. 

I think there is a great point to setting goals. It doesn't have to just be at New Years. It can be at any natural transition, which can be as basic as Monday morning, summer break, the birth of a new baby, or the start of a new school year. 

If you set a goal, you might not achieve it. That's true. That is probably even likely. But what if you achieve part of it? What if by working on that goal, you improve yourself in some way? Isn't a quarter of the hoped progress better than none of it?

And what if you don't set that goal? What do you gain? Maybe you retain some measure of pride? Pride that you didn't fail because you didn't even try?

What if you achieve that goal?

What then? 

Goals reflect our desires. Perhaps that is one reason we can shy away from them. It is scary to reach for something we want in our hearts and then not achieve it. It is much easier on the heart, in the moment, to go along living life without striving for much.

I can't help but wonder how we will feel when we look back on our lives, though. Will we regret not trying? Will we sadly wish we have done more to achieve our potential in life? Will we recognize that we could have done more with our time here?

I am a big believer in goal setting. It is a habit I started as a child and continue today. I set resolutions each year. I also set other goals throughout the year. It isn't a only once a year activity for me, but a new year is a perfect time to make a plan for the next 12 months. 

Four years ago, I had an idea to start a musical at our elementary school. I had so much fun participating in musicals when I was in elementary and I wanted my kids to have the same opportunity. I went through the channels and got it approved.

Three years ago, I put the ball in motion. I was terrified. TERRIFIED. I didn't have any training on how to direct a musical. I reached out to the parents at the school and had a handful step in and say they would help me. I didn't know any of them well, and some I wouldn't have recognized if I passed them on the street. We moved forward.

I secretly hoped it would fall through and our request for a licence would be denied. I hoped we would be delayed by a year. Did I mention I was terrified? 

We were approved in the end. Then right before auditions, I got hurt playing basketball and ripped
the tendons in my foot. I was left barely able to walk--it took me 20 minutes to walk 20 feet in those early days. The whole task seemed even more daunting. I prayed on my knees in tears, unsure of how I was going to make this work. 

By some miracle, it all worked out. One woman I didn't know at all when we first started this journey is now one of my dearest friends in life. The ladies I work with have grown to be women I kind of knew to my close friends. The children have learned and gained so much over the years. It is truly a great accomplishment of my life, and I will look back on the goal to do it with great fondness for as long as I live. Sometimes the scariest goals are the most rewarding. 

Last year, I posted my resolutions for the year of 2016. As I look back on them, I see some are completed and some are in still in the works. For some, big barriers came up that I had no control over. For example, with my goal to organize my photos, I got a new computer, but the computer constantly froze. It made it so I didn't "move in" to it. We took it to computer place after computer place over the course of 7 months. They never found the problem. One random day at the end of October, a friend who just enjoys computers, found and fixed the problem. Wahoo! So I have made some progress, but most of my year was spent not being able to even work on the goal. It can't be helped, and I don't feel like a total failure. I will continue on and the world will also keep moving along without much notice. If any.

I didn't lose five pounds this year. I weigh basically the exact same, give or take a few ounces depending on the day. I am definitely more fit and in better shape. I went down a pants size. I am also more at peace with who I am. I feel really good as I am. As I thought about my goal to lose weight, I acknowledged that I would then just want to lose more weight. I spent some time and effort really working to accept me as me. I met that goal, and that is worth way more than 5 pounds. 

That is the kind of progress we can get from setting goals. We might start with one goal, and as we work on it, realize, that isn't the real goal we should be after. So we adjust and modify to be what makes the most sense.

With those stories said, here are four reasons you should set goals. 

1-Goals Help Us Achieve: Don't be afraid of failure. Yes, you might fail if you try. If you don't try, you definitely fail. 
2-Goals Help Us Identify What Matters: When we have goals, we realize what it is we really want to be doing in life. It helps us cut out things that don't line up with the direction we want to be heading. It gives us a focus on what we really do view as most important. 
3-Goals Give Us Hope and Direction: In Alice and Wonderland, the Cheshire Cat tells Alice that if she doesn't know where she wants to go, it doesn't matter which path she takes. That is true for all of us. Without goals, our day to day lives can follow any path, even paths that lead nowhere, and it won't matter.
4-Goals Help Us Live Without Regret: You will not be happy to look back on life and wonder what your point was. Even if you are living life as "just" a stay at home mom and thinking, "I stay home all day and take care of my kids. No aspirations even possible here," you are wrong. What goals could you make to fulfill that role without regret? When Brinley was born, I made a goal to just enjoy that newborn time. I don't love the newborn period and was always anxious to see it pass with my other children. That isn't to say I didn't love moments or days with them, but overall, I was wishing the days away. With Brinley, I wanted to savor it and appreciate it for what it was. And I did! It sounds simple and it didn't change the world, but it is something I am happy to have learned to do, and mastering that has helped me overall be more patient and content with stages in life. 

Like I said, I love goals. Here are some of my other thoughts on the process. Click on the image to read all about it:

 Making and Keeping Goals

 Resolutions that Matter

 Tips for Making Goals

 Creating a Parenting Plan

 Making and Achieving Goals

9 Ways to Be Happy

Life as a teen and life before getting married can be tumultuous, for many reasons. For me, one of those reasons was the unknown. I didn't know who I would marry, when I would marry, IF I would marry, how many kids we would have, where we would live...I just didn't really know what my life would look like in any way. I am am a planner and this was a source of much stress for me. It was a challenge to be content.

I found comfort in books that inspired me to be better. I could aim for the things I could control and not worry about the other stuff (as much...). One of these books was Way to Be! 9 Ways to Be Happy and Make Something of Your Life. This is a book I still own and it sits proudly on my book shelf. I look forward to handing this book to my own children to help them find peace, comfort, and power to be happy. This book was impactful enough on me that I have a list of these 9 "Be's" right next to my door. It is the last thing my kids see before they leave the house.

1-Be Grateful "And yes, even thank Him for your struggles, for they will make you strong--if you
will let them" (page 20).
2-Be Smart "You cannot bluff or cheat others without bluffing or cheating yourself" (page 26).
3-Be Involved "Nothing of real substance comes without work" (page 38).
4-Be Clean "Everything does look better when it's clean. And that includes us and the way we live our lives" (page 45).
5-Be True "Be true to others and to yourself by telling the truth. Become known as someone who is unfailingly honest" (page 77).
6-Be Positive "Criticism is the forerunner of divorce, the cultivator of rebellion, and sometimes a catalyst that leads to failure. I would like to suggest that we stop seeking out the storms of life and enjoy the sunlight" (page 83).
7-Be Humble "It means being teachable. It does not require us to be trampled upon. It means acknowledging where our strengths and abilities come from" (page 95).
8-Be Still "The world is so noisy. There are voices everywhere trying to influence us. We all need time to think. We need to drown out the clamor and noise and simply be quiet" (page 103).
9-Be Prayerful "You cannot do it alone" (page 109).

"The years will inevitably pass, and pass quickly. Today is your day of resolution. Promise yourself to make something good of the precious life that God has given you" (page 125). 

How To Manage Christmas

It's the most wonderful time of the year! Unfortunately, it can also be the most stressful time of the year. From shopping to juggling families and trying to please everyone, managing the facets of Christmas can be quite stressful. Here are some ideas from fellow readers on how to manage it all.

Family Time
Veronica said: "Every year my husband and I alternate families for the holidays. One year we do his family for thanksgiving and mine for Christmas, and then the next year we swap. It helps not to have to visit everyone for every holiday with three kids! 

If we aren't in our own home for Christmas we do our own little family Christmas before we leave for our road trip. We take the day off work, open presents, cook ham, and eat pie. It makes it so we don't have to use up room in the car for presents. It also let's us make our own family memories, and focus on enjoying the traditions of family members while we visit in their homes."

Stephanie said: "We discuss logistical plans in October, before all the emotions of the holidays set in. The rotation is pretty set (with priority going to any event with our grandparents as our time with them is limited), but it's still worth discussing to ensure we're both on the same page."

Gift Giving
Leigh said: "I just have 2 things I've figured out over the years in regards to gift giving. First, if you can buy or ask for toys that add to a toy set you already own, it makes storage easier and also renews interest in the old set (for example, new toy food for a play kitchen, new Lego set to eventually add to the bin of legos, accessories or clothes for dolls, etc). Second, if you aren't traveling, empty suitcases are a great place to hide gifts from kids 

Kelley said: " As for as gifts for my girls, we give 4 presents: a want, a need, something to wear, and something to read. I love its simplicity and it keeps this momma who loves to shop and give gifts from spending too much and going crazy with gifts 

Carrie said: "We set aside money every month of the year in our "Christmas Envelope" and we still try to keep things simple. 

We do the four gifts (want, need,wear, read) and we typically have 1 shared gift from Santa and stockings. 

For stockings, we typically do: socks, undies, new toothbrush, and leftover Halloween candy that I purposefully save!" 

Kathy said: " 2 thoughts.
1. experiences as gifts- trip to legoland or pedicure or aquarium etc

2.consider number of gifts from santa- if santa at your house gives 3 gifts but santa gives sally next door 20, does santa like sally more?
we feel the heavy majority of gifts should be from parents."

Lowering Stress
Emily said: "Start early!! December is always busy and I hate feeling stressed & not being able to enjoy it so I try to start shopping early, do some baking & freeze it, etc."

Related Posts: 

10 Parent/Child Date Ideas

My husband and I want to have strong relationships with each of our children as individuals. We want to take the time to get away from distractions at home and just focus on each child. A date night can do just that. 

Date nights are also economically helpful for people with "large" families. How so? Let's say one child is really into rock climbing. Your options are to either take that one child rock climbing or to take all children rock climbing. Maybe sometimes you would like to do something like that as an entire family, but with young families, we often have a baby or child who is too young to do something that the older child wants to do, so one parent ends up trying to watch a toddler in a non-toddler friendly location, and you paid a lot of money to do that. Grumpy toddler, grumpy parent, and empty wallet. 

Doing dates means each child can pursue individual interests. For example, Kaitlyn loves rodeos. Because of her great interest in such things, we decided one summer evening to take the family to the rodeo. Brinley was one at the time. We paid a fair amount of money for the six of us to enter for the event. 

It wasn't long before two of our children were asking to go home and one was rubbing her eyes and whimpering because it was past her bedtime. 

Now I just take Kaitlyn to the rodeo each summer. Some day, our other children might have interest and attention span to join in, but for now, it is a Kaitlyn thing. 

Parent/child dates have a myriad of benefits, and it is a tradition our children fully enjoy. As I look at our list of dates we did one year, I see that the really can be rolled up into ten basic categories. Here you have them:

10 Parent/Child Date ideas and list

Want do do dates but you aren't sure how to swing it? Check this out:

 The Why and How of Parent/Child Dates

12 Last-Minute Gift Ideas {Friday Finds}

Christmas is almost upon us! Are you still shopping for some people on your list? Here are some last-minute ideas for you. This post contains affiliate links.

VTech Sit-to-Stand: I am not surprised to see this listed among your favorites. We had something similar to this for all of my kids, and I see great demand for these in local classifieds. It is a great toy for little ones.

Suretrack Train Clips: If you have a train-lover in your home, these can eliminate a lot of frustration. Younger siblings can destroy a masterpiece in seconds. Just regular play can make pieces come apart. Some people choose to solve this issue by gluing the track down, but then you lose a huge benefit of train tracks: the creativity. These clips help keep them together while still allowing things to be moved.

: If you are getting tracks or clips, a train to go with it is a must!

Melissa & Doug Locks and Latches Board Wooden Educational Toy: We love these type of puzzles.

VTech Drop and Go Dump Truck: Filling, dumping, and trucks. There is a reason this is a best seller!

Pie Face Showdown: Fun game the kids will get a kick out of! We love family game time, and it can be hard with various ages of children to find a game everyone will enjoy.

Spirograph: My grandma had this when I was a kid and I loved it! Our kids enjoy their set.

Shopkins: Shopkins are admittedly a toy I will never understand but a toy that is popular none-the-less.

Slim Doodle: These types of things are GREAT for coloring in places you don't want to risk mess. It is also great for somewhere like the car so the pen doesn't get dropped into the abyss on a road trip.

Hot Wheels: These are a classic that can make a great gift AND great stocking stuffers.

Superhero Costume Capes: Um...enough said.

Pretend Play Makeup Set: For the little girl who wants to be just like her mommy.

Chapter Books for Boys

Boys and girls can most definitely appreciate the same books. This is especially true for a book like Harry Potter. Many of the books you see here will also be found on my Chapter Books for Girls list. There are books, however, that tend to appeal more to boys than girls in general. There are also books that will appeal to most boys, so while there will be some boys who have no interest and while there will be some girls who love the book, the largest audience for the particular book is boys. Books of interest to boys are books that are adventurous and/or funny. Most of them have the main character as a boy. 

I have included the reading level guidelines for each book. Always remember that if you want to read it as a read-aloud, your can read a higher reading level than your child can read on his own. This post contains affiliate links. 

Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling
4th grade and up reading level.

How To Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell
3rd grade and up reading level.

The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner
1-5 grade reading level.

The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
3rd grade and up reading level.

Beyonders by Brandon Mull
3rd grade and up reading level.

Fablehaven by Brandon Mull
4th grade and up reading level.

My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George
3rd grade and up reading level.

The Candy Shop War by Brandon Mull
3rd grade and up reading level.
The 39 Clues by Rick Riordan
3rd grade and up reading level.

Janitors by Tyler Whitesides
5th grade and up reading level.

Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
5th grade and up reading level.

Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan
3rd grade and up reading level.

Eragon by Christopher Paolini
7th grade and up reading level.

Spirit Animals by Brandon Mull
3rd grade and up reading level.

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
7th grade and up reading level.

Leven Thumps by Obert Skye
5th grade and up reading level.

3rd grade and up reading level.

Holes by Louis Sachar
5th grade and up reading level.

The Secrets of Droon by Tony Abbott
2nd grade and up reading level.

The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks
4th grade and up reading level. Note that there is some language in this book, so you might want to pre-read to be sure you are okay with it or read it as a read aloud. 

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
4th grade and up reading level.

Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
3rd grade and up reading level.

Five Kingdoms by Brandon Mull
3rd grade and up reading level.

Five Kingdoms by Toby Neighbors
4th grade and up reading level.

 Chapter books for tweens

 great picture books for boys

 gateway chapter books for beginngers

Impact of Disruptions {Poll Discussion Post}

Disruptions are scary simply because you have no idea if a disruption will serve to negatively impact the progress and strides made to date. It is the fear of the unknown.

Every baby is different and some babies handle disruptions more smoothly than others. I thought it would be helpful, however, to get some insight on what real-life experience people have had with disruptions.

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-How would you describe your baby/child's general personality? For example, angel, textbook, spirited, touchy, grumpy, easy-going, etc.

2-How did/does your baby/child handle disruptions to a daily routine? What is the result? For example, go with the flow, sleep gets messed up, increased crying, no change, etc.

3-If your baby/child has some sort of change from disruptions, about how long does it usually take to get back on track once you get back to your normal routine?

4-Is there a limit to the duration of disruptions your baby/child can handle?

5-What is your current policy on disruptions? Do you limit, do you banish, do you allow all disruptions, or do you have some combo or play-it-by ear approach?

6-Any words of advice for parents facing disruptions?

How To Help a Baby With Gas Pain

"Yep, that is gas pain. You need to use some gas drops." Brayden was only six weeks old and I had never heard of gas drops, nor bad gas pain in a baby. I gave it a try, however, and it was a life-changer for him!

Painful gas can make it hard for babies to sleep. Painful gas can keep them awake or even wake them from a sound sleep. It is important to note that not all gas is painful gas. Just because your baby is passing gas with gusto does not mean there is pain associated with it.

A baby having gas pain can arch the back, squirm a lot, and/or pulls legs up to the chest. This post contains affiliate links. 

How to Help
There are a few ways to help painful gas:
  • Try to prevent it: This is done with burping well, keeping the head above the tummy during feedings, and evaluate your own diet if breastfeeding.

    The Towel Method can work wonders for colicy and gassy babies. If you are facing a lot of pain, be sure to check this link out. 
  • Treat it: for some babies, prevention methods might do the trick. For others, nothing but treatment will really help. My first and my third babies were gassy, and gas drops were such a relief for them. We used Mylicon, but we typically used the equate store-brand version of it from Walmart because it is so much cheaper. I found it to be just as effective. You can give this safely up to 12 times a day. I fed it to my gassy babies right after every single feeding.  (Note, the price on Amazon is pretty similar for the two. You might want to check your local Walmart for the equate brand. Chances are it will be about half price).

    If your baby doesn't have constant gas pain, you wouldn't need to do the gas drops consistently. You could also consider using gripe water. I prefer Mommy's Bliss brand (strongly). I would get gripe water for every baby whether there was pain or not. This is fantastic for immediately stopping hiccups or soothing an upset tummy. It can also help with colic and even teething. It can even help a bit with reflux. With McKenna, I used gas drops and gripe water. One tip, for the gripe water, I used a quarter of the recommended dosage. That was enough. 
Gas pain can cause so much trouble with sleep and so much pain in your little one, but it can be so easy to treat. If you suspect gas pain, I highly suggest you get a bottle of gas drops and give treatment a try. If baby settles, you know that was it and you move forward with far more contentment. If not, you look at other possibilities. It is a simple solution that is easy to try. It is very worth helping your baby be comfortable.