Thursday, December 10, 2015

The Basics of a Dreamfeed {Guest Post} BFBN Week

Valerie, who blogs at is guest blogging here today on dreamfeed basics! Many families have benefited greatly in doing a dreamfeed, and she has outlined some best practices for you! 

The term "dreamfeed" comes from the book Secrets of the Baby Whisperer by Tracy Hogg. A dreamfeed is simply a late feeding that happens typically between 10-11 PM. The baby is already in bed, but you go in and feed baby one last time before heading off to bed yourself. The idea here is that baby gets a feeding in just before you go to sleep. When baby starts sleeping 7-8 hours straight without eating, these 7-8 hours then fall between 10-6, giving you a good night stretch to sleep yourself. 

The dreamfeed is not necessary. If you would rather feed baby and put her to bed in the 7-8 hour and then head to bed yourself, go for it. The downside to not doing a dreamfeed is that it will likely be that the 7-8 hour stretch of sleep between night feedings will come between 7-2 instead of 10-6. If you are okay with this, there is nothing wrong with it. What you have to do is be prepared so when you hear stories of the 8 week old sleeping through the night, from 10-6, and yours is still waking up around 2 am, you can not be discouraged. You can remind yourself that your baby is also sleeping well and there is nothing to worry about. 

Some babies do not respond well to the dreamfeed. Some won't wake up and some sleep mores soundly through the night without it. Always do what is best for your baby.  

In general, however, a dreamfeed works well for most babies. Some babies take work to get to take the dreamfeed. I had babies who needed a lot of time and effort put into establishing the dreamfeed. For me, it was something I wanted to establish. I wanted to be able to stay up past bedtime to spend time with my husband. With effort, I established a dreamfeed with those babies. Here are the basics of a dreamfeed.

The time is usually between 10-11 PM. If you get too late, you start to run into disrupting natural circadian rhythms, so experiment with times within that hour. I have had babies who were very sensitive to the time. For example, 10:35 meant the baby slept well that night, but 10:30 or 10:45 meant a fitful night of sleep was ahead of me. I literally set an alarm on my phone so I could get the timing right.

I did the dreamfeed in the baby's room. 

Ideally, you will get baby, feed baby while baby is still drowsy, and put baby back to bed all without ever waking baby up. Do try to burp your baby. 

Younger babies, like newborns, might need to be woken up more for the dreamfeed to eat anything. You might need to unswaddle, but you might find unswaddling wakes baby up too much. 

Many people wonder if they should do a diaper change or not at the dreamfeed. I change a diaper for newborns. In older babies, I don't typically change the diaper unless there is of course a bowel movement. 

The dreamfeed is ideal between newborn and about 4 months old. Most of my babies held on to a dreamfeed beyond 4 months old. Hogg suggests keeping it until 8 months old. Go with what works best for your individual baby. 

The dreamfeed can be something that really helps you to get good sleep at night so you can function during the day. It can take effort to establish it, but it is well worth your efforts! For more information, see my post on Dreamfeed FAQs

Valerie is a mother to four (ages 3-10) and blogs at

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Using The Teachers Classroom Language at Home

The Babywise Friendly Blog Network ladies are all talking about various facets of reading and learning today on their blogs! Go check them out on our pinterest page!

reading one of my favorite childrens books to 2 month old Anslee

This is my 2nd year to have a child in school full time, and I am continuing to learn so much about what the best ways are to support my children in their learning. I am excited to come alongside my girls as much as I can as they learn. I like to think that I will always be their first teacher, and so even though I am not homeschooling, I want to be actively teaching them as best as I can.

One way I really try to make helping with homework after school a positive experience is to find out how the teacher teaches, and use the lingo and language that she uses in the classroom. It was a real game changer for the ease at which homework time went over.

I had a parent/teacher conference with Anslee's kindergarten teacher and as conversation happened, she clued me into certain phrases she would use when teaching the kids how to read. Specifically, I would have trouble explaining to Anslee how sometimes some letters make a different sound in some words than what they "sound out" to say. Her teacher told me that she said some words were "naughty, because they simply didn't follow the rules". This may have been something I should have known myself, but I didn't, and being able to r
epeat this back to her at home helps her to see the word for what it is, memorize it, and move right on - because sometimes this is just how the English language works.

During that same parent/teacher conference I picked up on some phrases she used during math lessons. It was a way she reminded the kids of the instructions without having actually give them the instructions all over again. I use that this year as well. I also would really pay attention to completed work that came home. I would see how things were done and talk with Anslee about how she came to her answers. I needed to do this because the methods that they use are different than the ones we used, so its been different - and I want to make sure she is following the methods being taught in the classroom.

This year, Anslee has been able to communicate to me herself what they are doing and how they go about their day. I can see how her teacher teaches blending consonants and I watch how Anslee uses symbols to help her make sense of it all. When I have a conference with her teacher this year, I plan to ask her about some of her usual phrases or fun tricks/sayings/rhymes she uses with the kids during the day. (Her teachers have both been the next closest thing to angels that a human can be. We are blessed beyond measure here).

On the first day of kindergarten, and again, on the first day of 1st grade Anslee came home with a print out very similar to this one:

photo credit: free download from under research
Seeing the difference in this perspective was eye opening to me, and I love that the information can be presented to parents in this way. I always knew reading to your child was important and clearly beneficial, but to see it laid out like helped me to know the depth of its value.

I feel overly blessed to be able to partner with amazing teachers and administration in helping my daughter grow academically. I feel like we all are setting her up for success, and that is just a gift that a price tag could not be set on. 

Thursday, October 8, 2015

A Weekly Check-In with your Husband {Guest Post: A BFBN post}

 The Babywise Friendly Blog Network ladies are all guest posting on each others blogs this week!

Today I have the honor of having Stephanie from Giving It Grace speaking on the importance of having intentional time set aside with your husband each week. This is time used to dig deeper and move past the mundane everyday conversation and interaction that busy married couples can easily fall into. She talks about how it is especially helpful with small children running around to re-group with your spouse each week.

photo credit: Clane Glessel from 
My husband and I started doing a weekly check-in each Sunday shortly after we got married. I'm all about intentionality and this seemed like a great way to ensure he and I were having purposeful conversations on the regular. After a while of doing the weekly check-ins they became less like an interview and more just a framework for a conversation we have about how our week went and what our upcoming week looks like. 

Doing a weekly check-in with your spouse is a great way to get past the "How was your day? Good" conversation. We've also found a weekly check-in is especially helpful if you have tiny humans in your house dominating the topic your conversations. Having this chat every Sunday encourages my husband and I to push pause and just spend some time face to face before we start a new week. 

Here are the questions we ask and answer to each other each Sunday evening:
  • What is your high and low from past week?
    • I really try to listen to his answer on this question, as often things going on at his job are either his high or his low. I find it worth noting if he's stressed at work so that I can be mindful of that when he's at home.
  • How did you feel loved this past week?
    • I love this question. I am easily susceptible to putting standards on myself as a wife that mean nothing to my husband. I've learned over the years that my husband does not feel loved by a fancy Pinterest dinner or the fact that I make the bed every morning (which apparently I just do for me as he could care less). He almost always answers this question by saying he feels loved by how well I take care of our kids. As taking care of the kids often takes up my entire day, it's such a relief to know that really the only thing I can offer him right is the very thing that makes him feel loved during this season in our lives.
  • Anything I need to be called to repent of?
    • I also love this question, as it prevents me from being a nit-picky wife (most of the time!). If Kyle does something during the week that rubs me the wrong way I make note of it to talk about at the weekly check-in. If it's still bothering me on Sunday night, I tell him about it. If I forget come Sunday, clearly it wasn't worth mentioning in the first place. Obviously if it's something huge we address it in the moment, but most of the time it can wait. I also like this question because Kyle knows it's coming and his heart is in a good place to receive whatever I have to say. And vice versa; when Kyle has things he wants to bring to my attention I'm expecting it and am willing to listen to him more so during this time than I would be in the heat of the moment. 
  • How would you best feel pursued this week?
    • Some might find this question weird because it's aimed at our sex life, but in this season of our lives (having little kids) we find it's imperative to talk openly and often about the most sacred part of our marriage: our intimacy.
  • What does your upcoming week look like?
    • Walking through the upcoming week on the calendar together helps prevent scheduling oopsies. It also helps set expectations so we both know what's going on and there's no "you never told me about that" or "I didn't realize you'd be home so late", etc.
  • How can I support you logistically this week?
    • This question is probably unnecessary to most but we find it's useful to be extra clear about what would be helpful to each of us so that we aren't making assumptions.
  • How can I pray for you this week?
    • Another question I really try to listen to his answer on - and then actually pray for what he asks for. As his friend, I really like to know what's weighing on his heart or what he is rejoicing over and coming alongside him for either. 

Check in with all the ladies at:

Giving It Grace (I am guest posting here this week)

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Wynn is 16 months, and why its more than just another month.

This post and all the emotion surrounding its content has been swirling around in my head since May 28, 2014 - the day she was born. She is 16 months old now. She is walking (well, when she chooses) and has 12 teeth, and talks/jabbers non-stop. She plays with her sisters happily everyday. She still takes two solid naps. She is smart. So smart. Understands so much. Mostly, she is happy. She has been a dream baby, and is easing her way nicely into toddlerhood. We love her with ever fiber of our being. But really, this post isn't at all about what she is up to now, or milestones or anything. Her turning 16 months old is hard different for me.

I have never had a 16 month old in my home without also growing a new baby growing inside of me at the same time.

When Anslee turned 16 months old, I had just come to know that Kensington was on the way. She was no bigger than a jelly bean, but I knew she was coming! When I learned of this one's impending arrival, I was scared to death because I could not imagine it being possible to love another the way I loved her. (If only I could tell my "mom of 1" self what I know now to be fully possible, and that for me, love deepens with each child) Little did I know, that from this point on, until I was done having children, would be longest time I would ever go between pregnancies!

Anslee, 22 months old. 1 month later Kensington joined our family

Anslee 25 months old, and Kensington 1 month

When Kensington turned 16 months old I was putting off moving her into Anslee's bedroom so that we could prepare the nursery for our 3rd daughter who would be arriving 2.5 months later. She had a name, Laynee Blair, but not a bedroom. This time I had no fear of not being able to love her the way I loved her sisters. In fact, what I knew was that this baby would make me love my other two even more. We didn't plan for her, but we are so thankful to God that he knew better. When Kensington was a little over 18 months old, we welcomed Laynee to our family.

Announcing our pregnancy with Laynee. Anslee had just turned 3, Kensington had just turned 1.

Laynee's newborn pictures. She was 3 weeks old, Asnlee was 3.5 years and Kensington was not quite 19 months old yet.

When Laynee was 16 months old I was battling the flu. It was awful and I found myself in the emergency room because I couldn't sleep because I felt like I was having trouble breathing, and I was worried about the 16 week old tiny baby I was carrying at the time. I needed reassurance that my having the flu was not harming her/him in any way. We had sent the 3 big girls to their grandparents house because Tyler caught the flu from me, and neither one of us were able to take care of small children.  Two days later we celebrated the last Christmas we would have as just a family of 5. One month later, we learned another sister would join the tribe.

We found out our baby would be a GIRL! Anslee 5, Kensington 3, Laynee 17 months

The last picture I took of these 3 before Wynn was born. She came to us less than a week later.
Anslee was almost 5.5, Kensington almost 3.5, Laynee just turned 22 months

One of their first pictures together as a sister set of 4. Wynn was maybe 2 weeks old here.

Now Wynn is 16 months, and it feels like the end of a really great story. Instead of dreaming up a nursery or scheduling prenatal doctor office visits, I am making sure Anslee is prepared each Friday for her spelling test. Tyler and I are both working hard with Kensington to make sure she is prepared to be a big school girl next year. We are being stretched and humbled in how we need to discipline Laynee. Tyler leaves for 9 days each month to go secure our state national border.  I am coordinating a Mop's group and going to PTO meetings. Our family is happily moving into the next season of life, and so far, it is sweet. Our life is full.

Here she is, 16 months old. No news to share - my only girl who will never be a big sister.

I know I will re-visit these feelings many more times down the road. Like when we celebrate Wynn's 2nd birthday and their isn't a newborn there to celebrate with us. That has never happened here! It will be so nice to actually potty train Wynn without also having to coordinate an infants sleep schedule in the mix of it. The diaper bag will almost be useless.  I better get used to it. For the rest of our life, our family's seasons will shift and I will need to learn to savor the moment we are in, and move confidently forward to what will be. One day we will send Wynn off to college, and I will be left at home - hopefully still knowing I have purpose and gifts to share and use.

This is really the first of all the many season changes that will occur during my period of time where I am parenting.  Just the first small taste of it all, and it has already made me understand more clearly that the time really does go by quickly.  I am still so early in game, with so much more experience to gain in the future.

My hope is to really be able to treasure the sweet times during years, and not to feel bad about forgetting the not-so-fun times that are sure to come in each new chapter of our family's story.

The final four Fall 2015

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Benefits of establishing a structure in your home before you bring home a new sibling for your child { a BFBN post}

The Babywise Friendly Blog Network ladies are all posting today on various topics involving siblings.  My focus is going to be on how having a routine for your older child(ren) will be helpful to the whole family when you bring a newborn sibling into the home.

Benefits for the older siblings:
Having a routine (and by this I mean having meal, nap, bedtime, and wake up time set at a consistent time each day) allows for the older child(ren) in the home to be secure in their day. They know they will be fed, and it is less likely that meltdowns will happen out of sheer exhaustion. Nap time is coming, and their bodies are well adjusted to that. A child who is secure in the boundaries of their day is a child who will be well adjusted to other changes that may be thrown at them. For example: bring home their newborn sibling. Their day stays the same. The baby will be there when the older sibling is interested to show attention, but its nothing that is going to totally change their day to day activities.
They will still know what to expect. They will still have the security of their routine, and the new baby will not be a cause for any major change that might make them feel uncertain and confused about their world. While caring for a newborn may shake up mom's and dad's world for a while, the other children in the house will carry on without a care in the world as they always have. We have been so thankful that the 3 times I have brought home a newborn to an older child - we have had no behavioral problems arise, no re-training or re-learning of house rules, and no aggression/jealousy/unease about the baby. Who would want to deal with all of that when you have a newborn? The transition with the new baby can be smooth, and a lot of that is a result from having a steady structure already established in your home.

Benefits for the new sibling
When a newborn is brought into the world there is a lot they must learn. They are learning to nurse. They are learning that they are no longer in the womb. They are learning who mommy is. All of these things are easier to learn if they are born into a home that already has stability and structure. Everyone is calm and understands what needs to happen, so helping a newborn to figure out their new world is much easier to do.
They will also naturally fall into a nice routine. If mom is helping to keep older siblings work within the bounds of their day, the baby will also wake and lull into a routine in which they feel comfortable. If the older kiddos always wake at a certain time and mom has to be up with them, baby should wake too and begin their day. Immediately they are starting to understand routine because they have began on one. New babies are difficult because they need so much care and attention, and it is helpful for them to be welcomed in a world that makes sense early on.

Benefits for parents
If older children are not acting out in any way due to bringing home a new baby then parents have one less "thing" to tend to. A newborn baby will always bring enough to tend to, so not having to also help an older child will allow for the transition to be pleasant, and an experience you can really treasure.
If parents have already set a sound day for older kids - they (parents) will also know when they can expect some down time or when the child will want to be fed. They can plan ahead things like trying to get a quick nap themselves or when they can get another to do list item marked off the list. They can know when they can get out and about or a play date or to run errands. They can also be sure that their child will nap. It can be planned that everyone naps at the same time, even. Most importantly, it allows for spouses to know when they can make time for each other - even in the event of a newborn baby being brought home.  It has a made a world of difference to have the peace of mind that everyone in the house is getting what they need out of their day. I can honestly say that having a routine in place is the only reason I have been able to manage 4 children living under my care.

I feel like we all crave structure and boundaries. Everyone wants to live a life that makes sense. It can be so much more than surviving, and with a routine and steady structure you can enjoy each day as it comes.

Go and visit these ladies sites to see what they have to add siblings dynamics

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Safety in the Car {a BFBN post}

The Babywise Friendly Blog network ladies are all talking about different facets of car seat safety today. I am sharing on what the law in Texas requires, sharing my unique experience in this area as being married to a Texas State Trooper, and also showing you how we travel.

As mothers, we may disagree on many parenting topics/philosohies - but I think one thing we all have in common is that we want to do our best to keep our children safe in all areas - and especially when traveling by car. I am especially partial to this because of the unique nature of my husbands job. He is a state trooper in Texas and has an advantage that many of us do not. He sees firsthand both the great benefit and devastating tragedy that can come from using a child safety seat properly or improperly in a vehicle. I feel blessed to be able to have his perspective, as it has guided me in being proactive toward keeping my girls safe while we travel.

When I was preparing to write this post, I asked Tyler for his input. He immediately told me of a tragic event that had a silver lining. In January 2014 Tyler was working a night shift and the dispatch called him out to a crash. It was dark, around 9 pm. When he arrived on the scene, he saw a pick-up truck in the middle of a pasture on its side, driver side down. It was clear the truck had rolled several times before landing in that position. The driver was thrown from the vehicle and unfortunately did not survive. Another passenger, an adult, riding in the front seat was also thrown from the car. Neither of the adults were wearing seat belts at the time of the accident. In the backseat, a 3 year old.

The 3 year old had been properly restrained in her carseat and walked away without a scratch. In the same crash that had a fatal ending to one, another walked away without any injuries. Praise the Lord for this child's safety.

I believe that alone shows the vast difference in safety that a child safety seat in the car can make. A life saving product, and one that has come so far in the past 30 years. The research and technology behind the manufacturing of car seats has really become  so sophisticated, as they have proven to be valuable in the event of a crash like the one I just described.

Car Seat laws may vary from state to state, but this what the State of Texas requires:

Transportation Code section 545.412 "(a)A person commits an offense if the person operates a passenger vehicle, transports a child who is younger than eight years of age, unless the child is taller than four feet, nice inches, and does not keep the child secured during the operation of the vehicle in a child passenger safety seat system according to the instructions of the manufacturer of the safety seat system."
What the rear view is in my minivan

There are no laws against when to turn the child from rear facing to forward facing, but the American Academy of Pediatrics strongly encourages a child be rear facing until at least two years of age. This has to do with the immature development of the spine and neck. In the event of the accident, when rear facing, movement is absorbed into the area of the car seat that surrounds and supports the neck and spine. This is incredibly important for young children who still have an underdeveloped spinal cord. If facing toward the back - when force occurs their bodies will still be moving, but will be moving directly into the car seat that will absorb the movement and force. If facing forward, the child will still be moving forward upon impact, and their tiny bones can't as easily withstand the force, leading to possible life threatening injuries. The AAP recommends age two as a minimum - but also recognize that it is really not until age 3 that children's spinal cord and supporting muscles are fully capable of handling this type of trauma.  I should also note that it is NOT AT ALL dangerous for feet to touch the back of the actual seat of the car while rear facing. Any possible injury from the feet and legs touching the back of the seat are FAR less in detriment than injuries that could occur to the spine, head, and neck if facing forward prematurely - and its highly unlikely that legs being "squished" up against the back of the seat would actually cause any injury whatsoever. It is  really tempting for parents to turn their child around earlier than recommended because in early toddlerhood is common they they begin to get "bored" or "fussy" while riding in the car, and turning them around to have a view seems like it would be more enjoyable for everyone riding in the car. I would suggest that if this becomes a problem, to try having music for them to listen too, or making sure they have a lovey or a pacifier for soothing. They will usually grow out of this stage shortly after it begins. I also recently listened to a lady who was employed by both the Texas Department of Transportation and Scott and White Hospital do a demonstration about car seat safety. She reminded new mom's that toys that are marketed to attach to a car seat are never crash or safety tested, and so its ideal to not use them. No one really knows what damage they could (or would not, for that matter) cause in the event of an accident.

Anslee is 6.5 years old, weighs 44 lbs and is 46 inches tall. She is petite for her age, but is still in a high back booster with a 5 point harness. She fits the height/age/weight requirements and so she stays. She is beginning to ask about regular booster seats (no back and use the car seat belt), so far she is just questioning and we will keep her in a seat like this for quite a while longer.

When it comes to car seat shopping, there are a million options. You do not have to spend thousands of dollars on car seats to be truly safe, and ANYTHING is better than nothing. In our family, we do not buy the cheapest or the most expensive option. We read research and read reviews and trust that not only will the safety seat be a saving grace, but that the Lord will provide protection over our children.

Kensington at 4.5 years old, riding in a high back booster with a 5 point harness. I suspect she will be comfy here for several more years! She is an a Recaro Brand Pro-Ride booster.
Laynee, age 3, in a convertible - forward facing safety seat.  She rides in a Britax Advocate CS car seat that has been passed down from her sister, Kensington. (PS she somehow got an extra comfort cushion and stuffed it behind her head in this picture before I realized and took a picture)

Wynn at 14 (almost 15) months old. She is in an infant carrier here. Chicco Key Fit 30. It is built for up to 30 lbs. (She is 19.9 lbs as of last week) I don't need a "carrier" any longer with her, but she still fits safely in it and is happy. She is still rear facing and loves talking to her sisters during car rides. We will move her to a larger/non-carrier convertible car seat soon, still rear facing. Her feet do touch the back of the seat of the car she is secured in. :)

There are community organizations almost everywhere that will:

1. Provide a family with a free child safety seat that will meet their needs.
2. Train a family member on how to properly install a child safety seat into a vehicle. (Police stations, Fire Stations, Hospitals, and Car seat safety professionals)
3. Will train a family on how to place a child into a child safety seat (Family service centers, police and fire stations) They will show you exactly how much give should be between your child and the safety belt. They will also show you exactly where the chest clip should on the child.

There are several resources available to parents who are actively seeking help in this area.  I have felt so incredibly blessed to be married to a man who will do this for families in our communities that need his help. Please never be hesitant to reach out for help when you need it. So many are willing to partner with you in keeping your children safe while traveling!

Happy and safe travel wishes to you all!

Sunday, August 23, 2015


As another official summer comes to close, I have caught myself wondering if we made the most of our lazy{and busy}days. I don't remember really reflecting on our summer months in years past, so I am thinking this sudden inner interest of mine has to do with the fact that we follow an official school schedule now as my girls are growing. Maybe it is because this will be my last year at home with just one child going to school. Next year, they will be split two at school and two at home. Each year comes with new change, and with new change, new things to prioritize.

We did not go an any epic vacation. We did not take on Disney or a go on a cruise. Heck. We didn't even make it to Sea World or a Zoo. We did not road trip to anywhere. We didn't hop on a plane with bags packed. We didn't count down the days for any great adventure. Oh, but I hope they remember our summer together as if we did. Better yet: I hope that it is never required that we leave to find our fun or adventure.

We learned how to really swim this summer. Two of them ditched the life jackets and puddle jumpers and bravely dove in to the water. Starting out this summer we were scared to go waist deep. Now, we going down slides and jumping off diving boards. I saw confidence grow from not much to so much. I was proud  relieved. Pool side giggles may be what I remember the most from this summer.

We had fun doing new things. We went to art camp. They dabbled into a creative side that I probably could not foster here at home. They learned about mixing colors and painting lines and making something from nothing. They made things beautiful from nothing. It was fun and I am certain they used a different part of their brain that had probably never been tapped into until then. Picasso for the day. I will also keep those sweet canvas paintings of theirs. Maybe I will even get brave and do this one day myself. Maybe with them.

Cheerleading camp. Oh to be loud and excited and part of something bigger than yourself. To learn skills and to be silly in the same setting. To learn from other {way older} children, isn't that more fun sometimes than learning from lame old adults? How much fun did these girls have running and yelling and bouncing? Is it not exactly what they were made to do? The dancing, too. Oh they danced - and to their favorite song: Shake it Off by T-Swift. They were sassy and funny and made new friends. Every girl should wear a cheerleading uniform sometime in their life, and they did!

Reading and Summer Scholars. Keeping their brains sharp and not letting the Texas heat melt away the sharpness to which they can understand. They explored new stories and Anslee read to us. We bought new books and read about them and talked about the characters. We sent our biggest girl to scholar camp to learn about energy and how things work together to just move. They played games and dabbled into robotics programs on computers. She made a race car out of plastic water bottles and straws. They played dress up everyday and pretended to be anyone they wanted to be, and they always laughed while they did this. Some day I will miss having to velcro together those cheaply made, easily tattered, entirely too expensive dress up dresses. We had friends over and played with other children. We practiced sharing, and treating each other with kindness. We took turns and sometimes had to say we were sorry.

We missed daddy on the days when he was away. We watched the tiny sister take her very first steps. We didn't get sick! We all got haircuts. We got our faces painted twice. We got new red, white and blue outfits to wear on the Fourth of July. We went bowling. We went through 3 tubes of sunscreen and have great tan lines. We watched Teen Beach Movie and Teen Beach 2 over and over. We visited grandparents. We made tons of trips to the grocery store and got to eat free fruit (Thanks United!).  We visited a hurt friend in the hospital and made new friends who moved into town.

We were busy and happy. We didn't do much, but we did everything. So thankful for beauty that can be seen in the simplicity of our humble little lives.

Tomorrow starts a new year. 1st grade will be a great adventure. So will pre-school, and for our tiny, her last year just at home with mama. May God bless us and remind of us how is working each day.

So long Summer 2015.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

BFBN Week: A Yes Day {guest post}

It is BFBN Week, and today Brooke from is talking about organizing a fun day for your kids filled with the answer "yes". Read what she has to say and consider doing this in your home!

Are you up for a challenge mama? Go an entire day without saying no to your kids. I know you may be laughing just imagining the madness that will ensue, but honestly, yes day will rock your kid's world.

Many times we say no to protect our kids, but a lot of the time we say no because it is more convenient. Completely ignoring all your plans and to do's for the day to play with our kids is no easy task. It also is not realistic to say yes to everything our kids ask...the world will not treat them this way so why would we set them up to believe this?

But what if for just one day, we only said yes. Cookies for breakfast and a food fight during dinner. Not only will you connect with your kids on a whole new level, you will make memories that will undoubtedly last a lifetime. Here is how you set up your yes day!

Schedule Your Yes Day

Keep yes day special. Schedule them maybe once or twice a year to keep them rare and exciting. If you have more than one kid, you can either schedule different yes days for them or have them work together on the same yes day. Watch them negotiate and work as a team to decide requests.

Not only will yes day surprise your kids, I think it will surprise you too. The madness of course is limited by a set of ground rules which should be established before yes day. The rules should be decided together with your kids and should ensure that yes day doesn't get too crazy!

Yes Day Rules

Set a spending limit
Set a driving distance limit
Nothing that is dangerous
Nothing that causes harm or that is mean
Set a bedtime

Help your kids brainstorm ideas so they are totally prepared for yes day. Make it memorable and fun! Let them think about what they really want to do... prioritizing activities to ensure they do their favorite first. Yes days don't come often so help them make it count.

An entire day with little responsibility for the entire family. A total free for all adventure that will not be forgotten! Your first yes day may have its hiccups, but no worries, there is always next time! Enjoy your yes day and enjoy your kids!

All of the ladies participating in BFBN week are guest posting on each other's blogs, so go check out all of them!

Friday, July 24, 2015

BFBN Week: Claire and Emily

Claire is talking to us this morning about dropping the morning nap. I am so glad she wrote on this topic, because Wynn will soon leave her morning nap behind. For now, I am still holding on to it because she is - but when school starts up for the big girls its going to be much more convenient for her to just have her one fat nap in the middle of the day. It will also be age appropriate by that time so we are looking forward to making that one last adjustment for her nap wise. I am so thankful Claire has given some sweet tips to getting that morning napped dropped! You can read all of her wonderful writings at My Devising!

We also have the honor of having Emily at The Journey of Parenthood give us all basically a go to guide for new parents trying to figure out where to start and what to look for when it comes to sleep, understanding your baby, and figuring out what you as a parent are comfortable establishing in your home. She gives helpful pointers that will help parents trench through those sweet, but sometimes difficult, days with a baby. Following her tips will make any parent feel more confident about the choices they are making for their baby.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

BFBN: Carrie at Wiley Adventures

Today Carrie is walking us all through how to deal with the chronic 45 minute napper. This is something that can make a mama go mad in no time. 45 minute naps are not sufficient for good sound rest in most cases and so this is something most moms will try to avoid. If avoiding it does not work, then you go on to full on battle mode with it. Carrie has some helpful tips on how to get around the dreaded 45 minute nap, so head over to Wiley Adventures and see what she has to say!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

BFBN Week: Brooke and Kimberly

As the BFBN week continues, today we hear from two lovely ladies! First up is Brooke!

She gives us an encouraging word about letting go of the guilt and the fog that the guilt brings when it comes to deciding how you want your house to run. She understands what it is like to see status updates from friends on facebook or random articles that are being circulated around the world wide web that make you question your choices. This week since we are discussing sleep - she is talking about the guilt that can result from wanting to find a solid sleep schedule for you child but battling all the "bad talk" about doing so. Brooke gives us the freedom in her post to move confidently forward in the choice to schedule your child's sleep should you see fit to do so.

Next up! Kimberly from Team Cartwright!

Kimberly is giving great reason to maintaining sleep schedules while being on vacation. She talks about why she still values a well rested child while vacationing! We are still in the swing of summer time, and many of us will be going on vacationing and thinking about how we will possibly handle sleep schedules while enjoying some down time away from home. Check her out!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

BFBN Week - Stephanie at Giving It Grace

Stephanie over at Giving it Grace has an excellent post up today. It is all about how setting up a consistent sleep routine can result in having children who are eager and comfortable when it comes to naps and bedtime. She goes on to discuss how you can easily set a sleep routine in place for your little one!

Go check her out!

Protecting the First Nap in Infancy and Early Toddlerhood

Today is my day to participate in Babywise Friendly Blog Network Week!

I am going to talk specifically about how important the first nap of the day is for infants/young toddlers. I include young toddlers in with infants here because many 12-18 month olds will often still take a morning and afternoon nap most days (so there would still be a "first nap of the day for them).

Why is the first nap important?

This nap is the most important nap for infants, in my opinion, because this nap sets the napping tone for your baby's day. Any subsequent naps are dependent on this nap, and how baby sleeps for the rest of the day will be determined by the success of this nap. Oddly enough, this nap also happens to be the nap that infants can handle the LEAST amount of waketime before. It is common for moms to think that since they have just had a full night (or at least in the early newborn days, the longest stretch of sleep) that they could handle a little time awake before needing a nap again. This is just not true. A baby who is not generally overtired will have the shortest amount of time awake just prior to the first nap of the day. Becoming overtired for a baby can begin first thing in the morning - and can have a domino effect throughout the rest of the day, which makes it a more difficult process to get good solid naps in for the rest of the day. Knowing this, I really do all I can to protect this nap - especially the younger they are. I make it a point to plan my errand running, playdates, and any other activities around this nap. If I have a infant/young toddler in my care, you won't generally find me out and about between 9 am - 10:45 am. I have had to give up some things to make this possible for my nap-needy baby, but I try to remind myself that this is a season and not forever. It has really helped me to have that perspective when making the choice to prioritize good napping habits for my young ones.

Begin the first nap way before it begins - thinking ahead

How do you do that? Well, I have found that success with the first nap will always begin with when baby wakes up for the day. So I have the first nap in mind when my baby wakes up for the start to their day. Begin with setting a super consistent start time for the day with your baby. I know this can be especially difficult in the newborn days when baby is still up for a few night feeds - and in those wee morning hours they wake for one last "night" feed and go back to sleep. This was when my baby's would almost always be in the deepest sleep - and it killed me to wake them to start their day. I promise doing this consistently will be pay off. So even if baby had a 5 am feed, if you want them to begin their day at 7 am - wake them and feed them to begin their day. Their body and metabolism will get used to when they sleep and when they eat as you become consistent in this area.

First Naps for Newborns (0-3 months)

The first nap in these early (and extra sleepy) days will typically be within 45 minutes of having woken up for the day. So if your little one is up for the start to his day at 7:30 am, then it is probable that he will be ready for his 1st nap right around 8:15. This nap is usually the longest nap at this age, but in order to stay on track for the day, it is best for this nap to no go longer than 2 hours. Usually a 1.5 hour - 2 hour nap is sufficient at this age, and will help the baby avoid getting overtired before his next nap. {Side note: wake time lengths can grow by a little bit of time as the day progresses. So they may be able to handle 1 hour waketime lengths after a successful first nap has happened.}

First Nap for Infants (3-6 months)

If sleep is something you really aim high for, at this age, your baby is probably doing well with extended nighttime sleep by now, so it makes setting that wake up time for the day a little easier on mom and dad! Since nighttime sleep is becoming more restful for baby, he might be able to handle a little more awake time now before his naps. Again, his shortest amount of wake time will still before prior to his first nap, but at this age he may be able to handle 1 hour to (closer to 6 months) 1.5 hours of being up before getting overtired. Some higher sleep needs babies will stay closer to 1 hour, and those who are low sleep needs may be able to handle more. Every baby is different, and so that determination has to be made by you - and go with what works best for your baby and your family!

Take into account that "sleep cues" like rubbing eyes, yawning, and fussing are LAT

E signs of tiredness and your baby may be flirting with the line between tired and overtired at this point. Instead, watch for disinterest with playing with toys or the baby not being able to focus on any one thing or person. Use those clues and consider the clock at this age. Use both to guide you into making the decision on if it is time for that first nap of the day.

First Nap for Infants (6-9 months)

I love this age for so many reasons. One of those reasons is that things are typically very predictable by this age. Baby knows what to expect for her day, and so do I. This is the age that most babies will go from 3 naps down to 2, but that first nap will still be a solid part of the little one's day at this age. At this age, you might begin to notice that there is a natural "lull" in the baby's day right around 9 am. 9 am is a very common time for babies this age to be put down for their nap because of their body's natural need for sleep in this hour. Mom and dad are able to depend a little heavier on the clock during these months, which is helpful - but it is still important to watch for how your baby shows you they might be ready for sleep.

First Nap for Infants (9-12 months)

It is likely that your baby has 2 solid naps and good sound nighttime sleep at this age. The sleepy lull in your baby's day is probably still present right around 9 am (This seems to be most true when baby wakes between 6:30/7 am, so if they have been awake earlier than this, its possible they could be tired earlier). They are able to handle closer to 2 hours of awake time before really needing that 1st nap. It is pretty easy to get out and about around nap time schedules at this age, and they begin to be able to battle overtiredness better as they get a little older. Baby's this age (especially as they approach their first birthday) can typically manage 2.5-3 hours of awake time before they need their second nap - and could possibly have a 4 hour wake time length before bedtime. Its wonderful to be able to have that flexibility back into your schedule now!

First Nap as you Enter Toddlerhood

We have made it through the first year of life! It is the quickest, yet longest, year every time you do it! Things can get hairy here, for many, when trying to determine how much sleep your toddler needs during the day, and how much wake time they can handle. Some toddlers are ready to drop that first/morning nap much earlier than the toddler next door. I have 4 kids, my oldest 3 had all dropped their morning nap right before they turned 15 months old. I have an almost 14 month old right now who still loves having 2 solid naps each day. I would be surprised if she dropped her first nap by 15 months like her sisters did - as she is just much higher sleep needs then they were. There is really a broad range here for the age of a toddler who transitions to just one nap in the middle of the day - even among babywise babies.

When the transition does begin to happen, it can happen slowly, to ensure that your toddler still gets the sleep they need while trying to achieve just having one afternoon nap. You can begin to push that morning nap up a little. Instead of putting him down at 9, you can try 9:45 am and just let him sleep for 1.5 hours. This will usually result in an afternoon nap that will carry them through until bedtime.

My favorite theme of babywise is "begin as you mean to go". I love this, as it is something healthy to practice in all areas of our lives. Start with simple steps that are sure to get you to your end goal. Beginning your baby's day with how you want your baby to end their day in mind makes perfect sense. My end goal for most days is have happy, well behaved, and well rested children who value their sleep as much as I do. I think beginning with placing importance on the first nap is my first step to my goal for each day!

Monday, July 20, 2015

Babywise Friendly Blog Network Week

It is Babywise Friendly Blog Network Week this week! The ladies in our network have all decided to blog on probably our all #1 favorite topic: Sleep habits! Sleep is a broad topic, so each of us will focus on different angles of healthy sleep habits and how creating those habits can be beneficial for the entire family.

The week will look like this:

So today, head on over to Valeries blog. She is talking about how healthy sleep principles have benefited her children from infancy all the way into the pre-teen years. 

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Tackling the Pool with multiple Kids {a post on summer time}

Today the Babywise Friendly Bloggers are all blogging about various topics on summer! You can head on over to our pinterest page to see everyone's posts!

Last Summer I had a 5 year old, a 3 year old, an almost 2 year old- and a newborn. Needless to say, going to the pool was not an option for us. Besides giving my everything to nursing a brand new baby at the time, I was scared that someone would die if I took them to a pool by myself. I was overwhelmed and terrified at the sheer thought. So guess what? Besides splashing in a tiny blow up pool in our back yard, my older girls did not get to swim. I really had wished differently, but at the time, this was all I could wrap my mind around when it came to going to the pool. So I did the best I could (tiny blow up pool) and tried to forget the rest. We did not even do swim lessons!

I decided this year was going to be different. For safety purposes, I was not going to skip out on swimming lessons for the oldest 3 girls. I was also determined to let them swim in a real pool. I have so many wonderful summertime childhood memories that involve swimming, and I want for my girls to be able to say the same thing one day.

So as the summer approached, I kept thinking about how I could safely take my 4 children 6 years and under to the pool.

I live in a small town, and there are not a lot of pools available to frequent. We have a large aquatic center- that is big, and extremely crowded. Also- expensive for a family our size to go on a regular basis. The aquatic center is really the city's only option for a public pool- other than a pool in an area of town I am not really comfortable taking my children too.

I had a few friends who were members of our city's Country Club tell me about how amazing the pool was there. They told me that it had a 1 ft deep kids pool and two slides. One slide is for tiny toddler types, and the other one is bigger, and winds around and drops into a small area of 3 ft of water. Above this kid friendly area is a larger, lounge pool. This pool is 5 ft deep at its deepest area.

I felt like this was the perfect solution. So we jumped in.

I chose a pool that was not crowded. Too many people in one pool can be dangerous, and honestly- isn't any fun for anyone. So you can see why this was important to me. I wanted for us to be able to swim freely and be able to enjoy age appropriate/safe pool play, and this really is just that.

I chose a pool that is child friendly, and appealing. There are slides, and even a tiny waterfall falling over a large rock that they can splash under. There is a giant octopus and two fishes that spout out water (think splash park) that the kids can play in. It's a beach front entry, so the kids can ease their way into the water or smaller kids and babies can sit right down in and play with toys or under the sealife spouts and splash in. It really looks like a giant playground- just with water!

I also chose a pool that I would enjoy myself. I wanted to be just as excited as the kids to pack up and go! I love playing in the kids pool, and helping them with their skills in the larger pool. It's just as fun for me as it is for them!

I do have several rules that allow me to be safe and still be at the pool with all 4 babes.

1. Life jacket at all times for my 3 oldest if I am not physically in the water with them- even in the kids pool. (Yes, I will even sit out of the pool, with Wynn in the stroller next to me while the 3 big sisters stay in the kiddo pool and I eat lunch with friends) if I am out of the pool- life jackets are on (and guys- these things are incredibly effective!) and they can only stay in the kids pool. If Wynn is not in my arms she is in her flaotie and right next to me.

2. If we go the larger and deeper pool, they must wear their life jackets- unless I am working with one of the older two on swimming. In this case- only one of them can be without their life jacket- and I have to be totally focused on every move they make. So, I will have Wynn in her floatie that keeps her upright- and I keep my finger on it- while either Anslee or Kensington is practicing swimming back and forth to me. Then- they will switch and the other will be free to play near us in their life jacket.

3. We all stay together (for the most part) the exception being if I have a friend there who is willing to keep an eye on one of mine while I take the others with me to the lounge pool. Life jacket on- always.

My older 2 (Laynee has too,
But she is still so little that she stays in her life jacket the entire time we are at the pool) girls have been taking lessons twice a week all summer long- and they have done great. Since I have been taking them to this pool and allowing time for practice with me, I can really see the strides they have made. This is why if I am working with one at a time I will let them swim for a little while to me without their life jacket.

Being able to be at the pool was something I really wanted to make happen this year, and I feared it would just not be possible. I am so thankful we found the perfect pool, made some reasonable rules, and have worked on our skills enough to make this possible!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Balancing Academic with Relaxation in Summer {guest post}

I have recently teamed up with a group of amazing women in a Babywise Friendly Blog Network. We post guest post on each other's blogs from time to time.

Today I have the honor to introduce to you all Valerie Plowman. She is a mother to 4 children and has been blogging and helping mothers map out the ins and outs of parenting for several years. Her blog has been a resource to me for over 6 years now, and to so many more. You can find her at

by Valerie Plowman

A very common, and very legitimate, concern many parents have during summer months when school is out is how to avoid a summer setback. A summer setback is when the child returns to school in the fall and finds he/she is not at the same level he was when school let out for the summer. When you avoid a summer setback, you avoid a loss of skills.

Despite this concern over summer setback, we are conflicted as parents. We have this opposite pull that makes us want to have a relaxed summer. We want to give our children a break and give them the chance to worry about nothing but being kids for the summer. We want a more relaxed schedule and a shorter to-do list. I know that as my children have gotten older, I have wanted summers to be less and less structured. However, that doesn't mean I want my children falling behind themselves over the summer.

So how do you balance?

You can do some academics each day without turning each and every day into just another school day. One thing you can do is simple math facts and/or math worksheets. Math fact pages can be found all over the internet. Doing a short sheet of addition problems, multiplication problems, or division problems can be done in 10 minutes or less. It can a be a post-breakfast or post-lunch activity. Doing this daily (or as close to daily as possible) can significantly help your child to be on top of math when school resumes in the fall. You can also check out this post for more ideas to help avoid summer setback in math.

If you ask any teacher how to help your child during the summer, she will encourage you to read, read, read. Reading is the simple answer, and there are simple ways to fit reading into your schedule each day.

Reading programs are a fun way to stay motivated to keep reading up during the summer. Check with your local library to see if they have a summer reading program. If you can't find one, you can always plan your own goals and reward system for reading milestones through the summer.

One of my favorite things to do in the summer for reading is called Sustained Silent Reading (SSR). This is when you all sit in the room together and read whatever you like for 30 solid minutes (including the parent). You don't talk; you just read. We do this in the afternoon right at the time my toddler goes down for a nap. I like the afternoon because it is the middle of the day. It is a time the kids can all take a break from their play and relax a bit. It is also a break from the heat of the day and a chance to cool down. All of my children really enjoy SSR.

Another way to help with reading is to read to your child each day. If you read stories before bedtime, keep it up during the summer (if you don't, I encourage you to start). Read aloud to all of your children, no matter the ages. During summer, bedtime can really creep up on you. Do what you have to to ensure there is enough time to keep bedtime stories as part of your routine.

Plan regular visits to the library through the summer. How often you can go will depend on your proximity and circumstances. We go once each week. I let each child choose 3-5 books for the week (I don't want too many books to keep track of). The children enjoy having a variety of books to read. Having a new book keeps them interested.

Find unique ways to get reading stories or reading practice in. I have my six year old read me a book each day while I do her hair. She is able to finish a book in about the time it takes me to do her hair. This is a consistent time of day that we can remember to fit this reading practice in. The other night, our ten year old read from Oliver Twist to my husband while he did landscaping. You can also do reading in the car, have your child read to you as you make creative.

Summer often involves time spent in the car while traveling near and far. Something we love to do is listen to books on CD as we drive. It is a great way to get extra reading in while still being able to go do your fun things.

While you want to do what you can to prevent the summer setback, you still want summer to be relaxing. You can allow down time. You can spend a relatively short time on the learning stuff each day and leave plenty of time for play and rest and relaxation.

It is important to remember that for children, play is work. Play is more to children than what it is to us. For adults, play is fun and relaxing. For children, play has learning attached to it. My daughter's Kindergarten teacher sent home a paper of things to do this summer. Along with reading and simple math problems, she stressed the importance of play for children. To read more on the benefits of free play, see this post. Do not feel bad about giving your children time to be creative and have fun playing.

Another great thing to do during the summer is fun learning ideas. This can be a good time to try out some of those fun pins decorating your Pinterest account. There is so much learning that can happen through fun activities.

Television, movies, computer time, and video games can be okay at times, but be careful to not let that time overrun your child's time for free play. Limit the time allowed with electronics each day or each week. Make sure you are not letting electronics suck up your play time.

What you don't want is to panic two weeks before school starts with either 1)Ack! My kids haven't done any sort of learning for 2 1/2 months! or 2)Ack! We haven't done anything fun this summer!

Sit down and make a list of things you would like to see happen this summer. What kinds of learning things do you want to happen? Write out how you can work those into each day and make some goals you can keep.

As you are making your list, write down some fun things you would like to see happen daily and throughout the summer. Essentially, make a bucket list (but a reasonable one). A bucket list doesn't have to be a list of highly amazing things. You might want to go for a few bike rides. Go swimming a few times. Try some new parks. Go to that new splash pad. Write out your ideas and pencil them into your calendar for the summer.

With a little bit of forethought and effort, you can make sure you have time for play and time for learning throughout the summer. You might also enjoy these posts I have written on the topic:
Avoiding Summer Setback in All Areas, Summer Planning and Preparation, Summer Fun At Home, Summer Structure, and Occupying Children During Summer.

Valerie is a mother of four, ages 2-10, and blogs at