Sunday, October 9, 2011

Tips for the Seasonal Clothing Switch!

Seasonal Clothing Switch
At all times, I keep a small box for each child in the back of the closet. We call these their "too-small" boxes. I have 3 kids sharing one very small closet that is less than the size of a shower stall. 3 medium sized diaper boxes fit across the back of the closet. Whenever something doesn't fit right or a random out of season item is found, it goes into the child's designated box. The 3 and 5 year olds know which box is theirs and when they ask me about an item that doesn't fit right, they know which box I am referring to when I send them to the closet to put the offending item in their "too-small" box. I suppose I could even have them all share a single large "too-small box" but I like having things partially sorted for me by gender and relative size when I get around to going through them, and it's easier to line just the back wall of the closet with 3 small boxes than to have a giant box in there taking up the whole floor, so I have a box for each kid.
The kids' room closet has 2 bars. It has the standard bar right under the shelf that most closets have, and then we have purchased a second bar that is about 3 feet long and hangs by hooks from the first bar, putting it at about halfway between the floor and the first bar. The hangable good clothing goes on the top bar where only Mommy can reach it. The hangable play clothes go on the bottom bar and the 5 year old is responsible for keeping her own play clothes hung up when not in use or dirty.
A good idea I was reading about for if you have more than a couple kids of the same gender with no more than a year or 2 between each and the next, is to have one large box per person. When a kid outgrows something, it gets put into the next-younger same-gendered sibling's box, regardless of season. Then when that kid needs something, there is only one box to look in. This would be helpful in keeping storage containers to a minimum and would also help with perspective on how much to keep. If it doesn't all fit then some needs to be gotten rid of, and having one box per child is a good measure of how much is too much. Of course you may want a bigger or smaller box for each child depending on how far apart the child is in age from the next older sibling, as 3 years worth of hand-me-downs are going to take way more space to store than 18 months worth. If you get gifted alot of hand-me-downs from other families then you might want to have all the kids' boxes be the same size for stackability and just have a limit on the number of years worth of clothes you're willing to store. Another reason this idea appeals to me is that I can write each kid's name in permanent marker all over their box. Easy to find and it won't wash off, and when I take their box to do the seasonal switch, I can put anything that's still going to fit them next year right back in the same box. Less boxes all around makes things much easier. If I am feeling picky about sorting by size and season I can always use large plastic bags like trash bags to sort the clothing out by size and season within each kid's box. I have liked my system so far with the newborn through 18 months sizes but after that I have not liked sorting it out so specifically, so I believe I will implement this one box per child method for the girls starting this year.
For shoes... I pretty much keep them with the clothes. Babies and small toddlers won't be wearing the same sized sandals next summer as they did this summer, so when I pack up the too-small summer clothes, I pack the sandals with them. My oldest is only 5 so I have not yet had her wear the same size shoes for longer than a season. I've used grocery bags to wrap the shoes in to keep any shoe dirt from getting on the clothes, but usually I throw them in the washer before putting in storage. Most sneakers actually wash just fine on delicate in the washing machine, if you don't wash them too often. The most important thing I've found about washing shoes is that the leather ones should be firmly stuffed with socks while drying so they don't shrink as they dry, and don't wash on hot as it can dislodge the shoe glue. Light up shoes obviously don't wash well, but if you have to then use the shortest wash cycle and dry them completely before attempting to light them up again. Don't attempt to machine wash girls' dress shoes or any shiny patent leather shoes as the washing machine is likely to scuff and scratch the surfaces. Shoes dry best in a sunny windowsill or outside. Shoes and clothes dryers are not good for each other. Shoes are mega loud going around in a dryer, and the heat from the dryer will melt the glue while the spinning will warp your shoes' toes by curling them upward. If the washer seems to curl your shoe toes too, stuff them with socks to reshape them and dry in a window for a day or two. When the outsides are totally dry, remove the socks so the inside can dry. Always put your fingers deep into the toe of the shoe and feel for any dampness before putting shoes in a closed storage container. You wouldn't want damp shoes to make moldy spots in your box of clothes or shoes.
Swap Day is an all day job so don't plan this on a day when there are other pressing chores or places to go. Try to be as caught up as possible on laundry and keeping the kids' rooms clean in the days leading up to the day of the switch. If you know you'll have more laundry of a certain load on switch day, make sure you leave enough in the hamper to make a full load on switch day morning.
-Swap Day-
Step 1:
Dress everyone in clothes that are STAYING and not going to be switched. Let them be mismatched or wear holey clothes or even their jammies all day, just so long as what they are wearing is something that will not be switched out. You can change them again later after you finish the switch if necessary.
Step 2:
Get completely caught up on all the laundry. No need to put the items which will be switched away in their drawers/closet - just leave them folded in the laundry basket but IN the appropriate room so they get sorted with the appropriate sizes.
Step 3:
Pick one room to start with. I'd pick the room that has the oldest kids going to the youngest, in case some things that are not seasonal that are too small might be passed directly on down rather than putting them in storage.
Clean the room or have the kids do this the day before so that you have floor and bed space for sorting on.
Go into that room with a notebook and pen to make a list of any missing items, and a bag or box for throw-aways and a bag or box for give-aways. Start in the "too-small" box(es), then move on to the laundry basket, and then the closet, and finally the dresser. Take out everything that's trashed, out of season, or too small. Put give-aways and throw-aways into their respective bags or boxes and make piles by size/gender in the middle of the floor of the out of season clothing you are going to save.
I keep things that are still usable but full of holes or stains out to wear as play clothes indoors, pajamas, underlayers, smocks, etc. If it cannot be used for any alternate purpose and is pretty much trashed it gets thrown away.
Step 4:
Go into the attic or garage or wherever you store the out of season clothes and get the boxes containing the sizes, seasons, and genders you are working with and take them into the room you picked.
Take the clothes you are switching to out of the boxes and put them right into the newly cleaned out closet and drawers. If you seem to have extras of something, either make a small box of "spares" to put on a closet shelf, and put the rest back for a future kid or put in the giveaway box, OR if you use the one box per child method then just store the spares in their box and when they need something you can go shopping in their box before you go shopping at the store in case they have a spare. As you go along, make a list of any items you need to purchase or need more of for the kids in that room.
Take your piles from the bed/floor and put them in the appropriate boxes. Take boxes you're totally done with back to the attic/garage or wherever you store them, and ones that you will use in another child's room into that room.
Step 5:
Repeat from step 3 with the next kid's room. Take your list notebook/pen, and your throw away and give away bags/boxes with you when you change rooms. When you are finished with all rooms, put your list in your purse and your give away bag in the car. Throw away the trash and put away your notebook, pen, and laundry basket(s).

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Does this layout make my blog look fat?

Can you see everything displayed properly with this layout or is it wonky?

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Chores for 3 and 4 Year Olds

 We've recently revamped the chores. My oldest, who is almost 5, was asking for a sticker chart for her chores, my almost 3 year old was starting to show signs of laziness and trying to get by on his sister doing all the work, and I was thinking that I really need to get them into a routine of things we do every day. Before this, chores looked like this:
Mama runs around house like chicken with it's head cut off and gives kids random errands, then gets frustrated having to stop and reteach them how to do errand x since it's been 3 weeks since the last time I gave them that particular job. Mama throws up hands and thinks to self, "Now if only I could remember to make them do errand x every day and had the time to reteach it often enough that they did it as a habit and needed less supervising and nagging!"

The Chart
After grabbing spare moments to fiddle around with making a chart, I came up with this one:
This one is my daughter's chart. We're a bit unloyal with the type of stickers, as you can see. Lol! We use whatever they feel like sticking on there for that particular chore. My drawings are not very spectacular but they serve the purpose of helping non-readers remember what needs doing. If they get less than 10 sad faces in a week, they get to pick an item from the dollar tree. As you can see, there are no sad faces this week so far!
They get an X through an item that Mama has excused them from doing on that day. Some rare days we might not have alot of dishes or laundry at the time of day when I can supervise their assistance with these things so I X-cuse (haha) them from that item that day and save it for the next day if it can wait that long or for after they go to bed if it can't. Sometimes I have a prenatal appointment in the afternoon, which kind of reshapes our entire day. We don't usually do school or much for chores on those days, so many items on the list get an X on those days. We don't do chore chores on Sundays for religious reasons, so everything gets an X but the hygene and caring for the stuff we own that could harm someone if left out. Aka toys all over the floor pose a hazard so if they get them out then they will clean them up before bed so Mama doesn't fall when I take the baby in to her crib in the dark after they've fallen asleep.
At the end of the day, if there was anything that they had opportunity and reminder to do and decided to goof off or refuse to do it or throw a distraction at me or a tantrum or any other reason why they COULD and SHOULD have done it and yet did not... then they get a sad face drawn on that square instead of a sticker. At the end of the week we count sad faces and if they got 9 or less sad faces then we get them each a treat that costs a dollar or less. Sometimes it's a sucker or a chocolate or a toy from Dollar Tree. Now, it might be good to note that a couple months ago when we started this new chart, they could get alot more sad faces. This is because they were not used to doing these things often enough to know how to do them all so I was spending hours a day following them around and teaching them these things, building the habits. I wasn't able to spend my entire day doing nothing but chore training and that would have been overwhelming for the kids as well, so there were alot more X's and alot more :('s on our charts back then. It was a process. I decide how many sad faces are acceptable based on my kids' abilities. When learning new chores there are bound to be more of them that the child will try and not be able to do yet and will be frustrated and have a meltdown instead of putting in the effort anyway. (They don't get a sad face if they put forth the effort until I help or excuse them, only if they quit trying and pitch a fit.) I didn't want to punish them for not being able to do something, but I felt it was important to demonstrate that having a meltdown in frustration was a "sad face." So I found a balance that worked for my family by allowing for enough sad faces each week that their overall goal by the end of the week was never unattainable due to frustration in learning new chores. As their abilities increase, their sad face limit decreases accordingly, so that they only wind up penalized at the end of the week (forfeiting their reward) for actual laziness or rebellion rather than childish frustration over inability to do a chore yet.

The Chores
Chicklet will be 5 years old next week, Bug turned 3 years old in August, and we've been working with these new charts since I think about mid-July. Here is a list of what they each are supposed to do for chores on a regular weekday. There are 13 rows on the one in the picture. I have scribbled in a 14th row at the bottom. I've edited my master copy on my computer but have not printed a new chart out since I made that change, so future charts will have 14 chores worth of rows.
-Breakfast [This means that if I've set out bowls of oats or cereal the night before, Chicklet pours the milk for her and Bug and gets them each a spoon. Sometimes I do this and sometimes I get it for them in the morning, like if breakfast will be leftover fruit, or eggs, or something else that won't sit out all night. I also don't allow her the option of handling the milk jug if it is more than 1/3 full because it's too heavy for a 4 year old to control. Regardless, both kids must scrape any soggy leftovers into the trash and put their bowl and utensil into the sink after they are done eating.]
-Brush teeth [I still have to help Bug with his, and I still check Chicklet's after she's done.]
-Brush hair [Chicklet has very long hair and I'm teaching her how to brush it herself. She doesn't have the hang of it yet. That's okay. She'll get it eventually. It's hard to brush long hair! The baby and Bug like to comb their own hair and both have short enough hair that it doesn't really need anything done with it so I praise them for the effort.]
-Make beds [Bug needs alot of help with his- I pretty much do it for him and then have him help me straighten the wrinkles out. Chicklet has no top sheet, just a comforter, so she can do it herself. When teaching her how, I verbally directed her to pull the comforter off the bed by grabbing one side/end of the blanket and then to walk backward onto the bed pulling the blanket back onto the bed from the opposite side/end it was drug off by. Her mattress is on the floor right now so there is no headboard or footboard to make things difficult, and she has very little if any trouble making her bed alone now. I can tell her to go do it now and then go check it after she's done.]
-Trash/Toilet Paper [Chicklet gets the 3 little bitty bedroom and office trashes and dumps the contents into one of the big trash cans in either the bathroom or kitchen. Bug opens the little TP cabinet that holds 5 rolls and fills it if it is needed. Sometimes he likes to stack the rolls and knock them over like block towers a few times before he puts them in there. ;) He's 3 and he doesn't horse around for too long and always gets them in there after he's done being silly so I humor him.]
-Dust [I give each kid a dry rag to wipe surfaces with. I'm not really concerned about dusting but I praise them like crazy and they think they are so helpful and it's so much fun to dust so that's why it's on here. At least this way my house kind of sort of gets dusted. If it were left up to me I'd dust once a year...]
-Laundry [Chicklet is learning how to fold socks. She can do washcloths and underwear and hand towels/dish towels also. She hangs up her play clothes and puts away her socks and undies. Bug is learning how to fold the washcloths. He's not as meticulous about it as his sister. ;) ]
-Lunch [Usually a PB&J so their job is to wipe up the crumbs afterward. Occasionally it's leftovers so then they scrape the bits into the trash afterward and put their bowl and utensil in the sink.]
-Special [This one is here in case they do something special that I need done that day so they can have a place to put a sticker for it. Sometimes I'll have Chicklet clean up the baby's toys or Bug washes the front door or a wall with a spray bottle of water and a rag. Sometimes something else. Usually with Chicklet it's something I need done that she can do unsupervised, and with Bug it's a project I think he will enjoy and feel helpful doing while I do schoolwork with big sis. We don't have a "special" chore every day or even most days, but it's there in case I need extra help or the kids need a project to get their attitudes back on track. They do not get a sad face for this one unless I give them a "special" chore that is not optional and they refuse or say they will and then don't do it (a lie). I've never had to give a sad face for a special chore not getting done, BTW. :) ]
-Schoolwork [Not really a chore but they like to get a sticker for it. Chicklet has just started My Father's World Kindergarten and we are simultaneously doing Teach Your Child To Read In 100 Easy Lessons, which she's about 1/3 of the way through. Bug pesters me until I let him read a few letter sounds from the first 3 lessons in Teach Your Child To Read In 100 Easy Lessons, so we call that his schoolwork. If he forgets to ask me to do it I just "X-cuse" him from it on the chart that day since he's 3 years old and not really "doing school" yet except when I'm humoring him. ;) ]
-Dishes [Chicklet is teaching Bug how to put away the flatware. I'm teaching her how to teach him with gentleness. ;) Both kids like to stack and hand me the similar cups and bowls to put in the upper cabinet. Chicklet can put away most of the lower-cabinet items herself and I'm teaching her how to load the dirty flatware without putting too many of the same item going the same direction in the same hole (which ends up making a dirt-sandwich and not getting clean between them) and where to place certain types of items in the dishwasher (such as plastic in the top rack, pots and pans and cookware in the bottom rack, bottle parts in the bottle part basket...). I work much faster than them at the dishwasher, obviously. So I just go at it as fast as I can while I set them to doing the flatware. If they finish before I'm done I have them stack cups or put away the bottom rack. At this point Bug loses interest and I thank him for his help and excuse him. Chicklet starts loading the flatware and I load the rest. They take turns getting to put in the soap and push the on button so if it's Bug's turn I call him back for that. It's their favorite part of course. Usually they are slow and barely wind up getting the flatware put away before I'm done unloading and reloading everything else but occasionally they're speedy and motivated and get to do alot more. I don't sweat it. I encourage them to pay attention if they get distracted but I don't really mind if they take the whole time to do the flatware at this point. Someday soon Bug will be capable of doing it all by himself and I'll have Chicklet unloading the lower-cabinet things while he does that. And then she'll be old enough to unload and reload most of it herself and I'll have Bug teaching Babykins the flatware and I'll teach him how to load the dirty flatware, and so on. In time.]
-Clean room [Every evening when my DH gets off work, he calls me and tells me he's on his way, so I know to make sure supper's in the works. When he calls I tell the kids that Daddy's on his way and while I work on supper, they clean their toys up. When they tell me they're done I go inspect at my first opportunity. As soon as possible so I don't forget!]
-Supper [If there's anything little kid friendly to do when they're done cleaning their toys up I allow them to help. I put the dishes on the table and Chicklet sets the plates or bowls out and Bug does the flatware. After supper they scrape their dishes and put them in the sink. Chicklet washes the table and Bug washes the chairs.]
-Brush teeth [At bedtime. Because if it's not on the chart, this is the getting ready for bed thing that always gets forgotten!]

So as you can see, most of it at this point is simple hygene and cleaning up after themselves. A few are actually real home chores like the laundry and dishes. Many are just on there because they are things that kids enjoy, like dusting, and kids love to feel helpful and be praised for being helpful. If they're feeling overwhelmed or we're caught up enjoying each other and everyone is being sweet and helpful on their own I make liberal with the X's so it's a light chore day. If they're having an ornery day I make sure they keep on track and do all their chores so they have less time to get into mischeif. Cranky kids are best kept really busy... ;)

I think I've explained it to death but when I'm pregnant my brain has holes like swiss cheese! So if there's anything else you want to know, feel free to ask and I will answer as soon as I can! :) Thanks for stopping by my little blog today!

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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Homeschooling: Preschoolers don't count?

People keep asking if we're "going to" start homeschooling. This year everyone's been pretty nice about it when I say we already are, but when my oldest was 3 I got some pretty rude things said and things that weren't really rude but were said in a rude way, KWIM? All were said to me BY HOMESCHOOLING MOMS. Pretty much in a nutshell they were insinuating that if my kid is only 3 years old it's not REAL homeschooling and that if I WAS doing "real" homeschool with a poor little 3 year old then that's tantamount to child abuse, so either way I shouldn't try to associate with homeschoolers as though I was really a homeschooler. This originally came about when my 3 year old's favorite game of choice was to write lines and lines of random letters and then show me that she'd written "words! She asked (more like begged, hounded, harassed...) me constantly to teach her to read. I subsequently bought 100 Easy Lessons and decided to putter through it at her own pace and join the local homeschool group to start getting to know other parents and get my nerve up and curriculum ideas for whenever she was mature enough to start more subjects and/or a more regular schedule of schooling. After a very rude UNwelcome, I stopped talking about homeschooling to other homeschooling parents I knew, and I changed my mind about joining the local group, possibly until she was the apparently locally acceptable age 7 (isn't that something that depends on the kid? Are all kids exactly the same that some can't possibly be ready before or even after the magical age of 7?), and possibly permanently. I just thought it was a shame that the newbie homeschooling parents are in need of the support and everywhere I turned I was all but laughed at for calling myself a homeschooler when my oldest was only 3.

My parents didn't send me to preschool- I was basically home-preschooled by my Nana, then I went to public K, and then my mom pulled me out and homeschooled me through graduation, so despite having never done it myself I have been on the receiving end of this type of education so I have a pretty good grasp of the basics. Despite having this advantage going into it, I still felt very nervous and inadequate and it would have been nice to have local support from the beginning.
I've been thinking about that and the experience has had the positive effect on me that I now make it a point to go out of my way to encourage those parents of toddlers who are home-preschooling. I always feel like telling them, and the parents who say they could never homeschool their kids because they wouldn't be a good teacher, that they already ARE! They taught their kids how to walk and talk and use the bathroom and sing and say please and a million more things already. Just because it's not in a textbook doesn't mean it's not taught, right? Just because I'm humoring my (then) 3 year old's request to learn to read by allowing her to repeat the first 3 of the 100 Easy Lessons once a month or so does that mean I'm damaging her? Just because someone isn't using a texbook to teach their 3 or 5 or 8+ year old does that also mean that it doesn't count as homeschooling? I don't think so. I think that homeschooling is alot more of a mindset of discipleship, and an environment of constant learning opportunities, than it is a set of rules to be followed. I believe that children are very much individuals and that if you're going at the pace they need to keep learning, and they are not becoming turned-off of schooling or frustrated, then the textbook or lack thereof is irrelevant. They are not little cookies all cut from the same cookie cutter. One child might be walking at 7 months but not verbally adept until 3 years, or vice versa. Likewise some kids may be ready for books early, and some may be ready for some but not others. Some might be mathematically inclined at 3 but unable to have reading lessons really "click" until they are 9 years old. Some like my daughter might not be ready for math but are ready (and begging) to begin working on simple reading skills as toddlers.

How about you? Do you other homeschool moms make it a point to encourage the newbie homeschoolers, even if their kids are still quite little? It could mean the difference between someone giving up in discouragement/chickening out, or giving them the confidence to not give in to the pressures of whatever is the popular way to school at the time (pushing academics early or likewise in the opposite extreme hold back kids regardless of readiness signs) and just going with how their own individual kids learn best. If I had not experienced the rudeness myself then I would probably not have really ever thought about this and could have unconciously someday been laughing (good naturedly on my part and hurtfully on hers) at the young mom of preschoolers for how stressed she seemed to be over something that really is so simple hahaha and forgotten how overwhelming it seemed when I was walking in those shoes and how far a little positive encouragement would have gone. We need to remember to be gracious not only to those who don't homeschool and don't understand why we do, but also to those who are hoping to and starting to homeschool and want the encouragement and mentorship that those who have homeschooled longer can provide. If they are laughed at or mocked by those they aspire to be, how easy to want to quit and become one of the (thankfully rare) moms I have met who used to homeschool and are now bitter toward homeschooling and/or homeschoolers in general. Lets remember our words can build up or tear down and focus on building others up!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

We're having a...

Are you curious whether we'll be getting out the pink box or the blue box this time?
We had our ultrasound on July 19th. The baby was kicking and wiggling and so so fiesty! It was such a joy to watch! When it came time to peek at the bottom, this little one had their legs crossed. Of course. :) After a little bit of wiggling and poking on my part, and just relaxing on my side for a few minutes while the ultrasound tech left the room for a few minutes to let the baby get moved around a bit, the tech came back and we tried again.
She (the ultrasound tech) asked what I think I'm having, or I mentioned it, I don't remember which. I said I was thinking it is a girl. I said that I've known with all my babies so far before the ultrasound so I was excited to find out if my hunch was correct or if my streak was broken. :)
With Chicklet I was thinking that I wanted a boy first so we were "hoping" it was a boy. But some part of me knew since I kept gravitating to the girl baby clothes in stores and couldn't really bring myself to buy anything boyish. Then one day DH caught me embroidering a pink pansy onto a onesie. I couldn't seem to help myself. I was all about the pink subconciously, while outwardly I tried to be interested in the boy things. Lol! When they told us it looked like a girl, I remember thinking it made sense now how I just couldn't get "into" to baby boy shopping. :)
Then with Bug, I knew it was a boy from I think about 15 weeks on. At our ultrasound he wouldn't uncross his legs!! I was so upset because I had this obsessive need to have it confirmed that I was having a boy so I could start buying all the BLUE I was gravitating to on the store racks. Well DH surprised me with another ultrasound at a special ultrasound studio. Again he wouldn't uncross his legs, but the nice ultrasound tech said to roll on my left side for a few minutes, and then she took another look while I was on my side and we found out that he was indeed a boy!
With Babykins, we switched midwives and the new ones didn't do ultrasounds at all so we just went right to the same ultrasound studio, Fetal Fotos, when I got to 17 weeks. By the time I went in for that ultrasound I was quite convinced that she was another girl. Well obviously she is a girl, which the nice ultrasound tech confirmed for us.
This time, I was curious if God was giving me this sweet gift of knowing ahead of time once again, and it would appear that He was indeed, as the ultrasound tech is in agreement with my guess that it is another girl. :) A precious little baby girl! I can't wait to meet her! As I type she is tickling my insides with her tiny kicks. What joy they bring me! :)

Monday, June 6, 2011

Large Family Logistics GIVEAWAY!

Head on over to 400Things to enter to win a copy of "Large Family Logistics" by Kim Brenneman! I haven't read it through yet but from what I've seen it looks really helpful!!! :)

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Part 1: The Nursery (What Do You REALLY Need For Baby?)

Almost every Master List on the internet that tells you what you supposedly need for baby is affiliated with someone selling something and therefore will push products that you don't need that many of, or don't need at all. When you're considering which "tools of the trade" are necessary, which make life so much easier, and which ones just sound good but in practice miss the mark for practicality and compatibility with the life of a busy mom, it's really handy to get the opinions of other moms who have BTDT (been there done that). If you have a playgroup, pregnant mom's group, due date group, or online community of parents that you associate with, asking them what baby items were pure gold for them and what items were a waste of time or money will give you some valuable insight.

I'm currently pregnant with baby #4 so I have a little experience under my belt with these things. I know, you didn't ask me, but I'm going to pretend you did ask me and I'm going to make out a list of popular baby items and whether I think they fall into the "Necessary" category, the "Handy" category, or the "Cosmetic" category, or the "Waste" category. I'm NOT a minimalist so this could get long. ;) Mirage's Master List of Baby Necessities, version 3.5: Hold on, here we go!

♥The Crib♥ [Handy] Yes, that's right, I didn't put it under Necessary! Why not you ask? Well this is a matter that is different for every family. If you are breastfeeding, then you are statistically more likely to wind up bedsharing (BTW that's not necessarily a bad thing- bedsharing is great if you and your spouse are healthy adults who have no sleep related conditions and do not take any medications or indulge in any substances that could alter your ability to wake up easily and stay on your half of the bed while asleep. Bedsharing can help the breastfeeding relationship, parent-child bond, and actually bedsharing saved my son's life. I would encourage you to research the risks and benefits of bedsharing and connect with bedsharing parents before making your decision.) and if you bedshare, depending on how long it lasts, you might have skipped the crib-stage altogether by the time baby moves out of your bed. In our house, we DO use a crib, but the baby bedshares with us and gradually moves to a bassinet/playpen beside our bed until he/she is about 10 months old. At 10 months we transition to a crib in another room. This is just what seems to work for the personalities, convenience, and emotional health of all involved in my house. So the crib is Handy but depending on your stance on cosleeping and bedsharing and space in your home and whether or not you have something smaller for them to sleep in like a bassinet or playpen plays more of a role than often mentioned in whether or not it will be used. My advice is to get a crib that will convert to a toddler bed so that if baby winds up sleeping in his carseat, your bed, or the playpen for the first 18 months of his life, you won't feel like the crib was howevermany thousand dollars worth of wasted wood and bedding. Regardless of whether or not baby uses the crib for SLEEPING, it can be used as a safe place to put the baby down while you use the bathroom or take a shower if you have pets or are bedsharing (since most adult beds have fluffy things like pillows and blankets that should not be used near baby unsupervised and also have a decided lack of railings to prevent baby from rolling off), therefore it is still handy even if you don't use it for baby's sleeping place until you convert it to a toddler bed. In other cribly aspects, you're gonna want one with a drop-rail that will be most convenient for you. If you can find one with a rail at all. They seem to be going the way of the dinosaur due to manufacturers who use parts from China and consumers who don't know how to read assembly directions making cribs unsafe- and of course since 99% of all cribs had drop rails or gates until recently, when the statistics predictably said that "most recalled cribs had drop rails" (well DUH, right, if most cribs have drop-rails then obviously most recalled cribs have drop-rails. Doesn't take a genius.), it prompted a most annoying boycotting of cribs with drop-rails or drop-gates and now you can barely find them. Drop rails were invented to save mama's back from injury as she lifted baby (and later a younger toddler) in and out of the crib half a dozen times each day. Now they are being "phased out" because of poor craftsmanship, irresponsible ownership, and accidents. I'm afraid I find this stupid because the cribs are still being made with shoddy hardware and parents are still putting them together wrong and accidents are accidents and will always occasionally happen because such is the nature of life. Banning drop-rails won't fix the root problems. (It'll create more mama back problems.) Lets ban shoddy products and have people who are trained to assemble children's furniture correctly like the trained people at Sears come out and install your new stove or dishwasher! If parents can't read the directions, lets get someone who can available for those who don't want to put the effort into doing it right for their kid's safety. Cribs COST enough that they SHOULD come with free delivery and installation! :p That's my two cents. If you wish to put the effort into finding a crib with a drop rail, there are two basic kinds of drop rails. One the whole front side slides downward and it is called a "drop-rail" or "drop-side", and the other type has a small panel along the top of the front which folds down and is referred to as a "drop-gate". Ours has the fold down drop gate and I really have loved it. It works great for us. My sister had one for my nephew where the whole front slides down but the time I babysat I could not for the life of me figure out how it worked so honestly I have no experience with that kind for comparison. Regardless of whether you opt for a drop rail or not, get one that takes a standard sized mattress so you're not hunting all over creation to find said oddball sized mattress and oddball sized bedding to accommodate it.

♥Crib Mattress♥ [Necessary if you have a crib.] It honestly doesn't matter what kind I don't think. I got a cheap one for $30 in WalMart. It feels just as good to me after almost 5 years of use as the Serta that came with our toddler bed. Make sure it's standard sized if your crib is, so it fits your crib and bedding!

♥Crib Bedding♥ [Varies] The sheets and pads are necessary, everything else is cosmetic. You are going to want 3 or 4 mattress pads and 3 or 4 sheets. One to be on the crib, one (or two- depends on how often you like to do laundry) ready to go in case of emergency, and one you just put in the hamper from the last emergency. ;)

♥Bassinet, Cosleeper, etc.♥ [Necessary] Necessary is relative of course but here's why I personally think these are a must. Unless you are in the minority who does not like to have baby in their room for at least the first few days or who cosleeps so exclusively that you never put baby down anywhere but your own bed, you ARE going to want someplace to put your newborn down. Most parents like to have baby in the same room for at least a little while and it's more convenient to have a smaller portable piece of furniture in there than to take the crib apart and move it from room to room. Some mamas like to have a baby bed in the living room so baby can nap within sight at all times. If you don't plan on cosleeping until baby is old enough for a toddler bed, you might also find it handy to "wean" baby out of your bed gradually using a smaller baby bed beside your adult bed. There are a million and one kinds of baby beds that are portable and/or smaller than a traditional crib. Cradles, folding travel beds, Moses baskets, cosleepers, bassinets, playpens, hanging hammocks, travel cribs... on and on the list goes. I have used a moses basket, a hanging hammock, and a playpen with a bassinet attachment personally. I like the playpen bassinet because it can be converted back to just a playpen for later use, and it folds up to take to Grandma's house easily. Not so easy to cart from room to room however. The moses basket is great for carting from room to room but hard on the back unless you have a stand for it, and takes up too much trunk space to take on long trips to visit the relatives. The hanging hammock sounded so good but didn't work out for my babies- they just hated it. :( So figure out whether you want something portable around the house or portable on long trips, something for the living room or just for in your bedroom. When it comes down to it there's no reason why if you're within view you can't just lay the baby on a blanket on the floor for naps while you're doing what you need to around the house. However it's beyond helpful to have something level with the bed and right next to it at 2am when baby cries for a midnight snack and you don't want to actually get out of bed or even sit up to get baby if you don't have to. An important feature to note is the WEIGHT LIMIT on the item you are interested in. My babies have all hit 16 pounds by 6 months and 20 pounds between 10 and 11 months. Some babies grow faster and some slower. For most of those alternative baby sleeping places the weight limit is 10-15 pounds. Keep in mind that your baby could outgrow this by 3 months old. Some babies are BORN 10 or more pounds (my 3rd was 9 pounds 2 ounces) so a baby bed that says to move baby out by 10 or 15 pounds would really be a huge waste for larger babies. Or if you have twins in it, keep in mind that while each twin might only weigh 6 or 7 pounds, together they may be over the weight limit. Whatever you get, make sure you find the highest weight limit you can for that type of item so you get the most use out of it.

♥Bedding for Bassinet, Cosleeper, etc.♥ [Handy] but not necessary. It's really nice to have 3 sheets for the pack-n-play for the same reasons 3 sheets are needed for the crib, but in reality you "can" use it bare. I have tucked a towel in as a bassinet sheet, folded a stiff blanket as a moses basket pad, and used them bare with an ultra stiff burp rag (do you know the kind I mean? It's like a fabric version of cardboard!) under their head and/or bottom.

♥Changing Table and Changing Pad♥ [Handy/Necessary] Oh so handy. For me, personally, this is Necessary! Do you really need a changing table? No, but it sure is a HUGE back saver! It's nice to have a place where all your supplies are there and you don't have to get up and down or bend over to change each and every of the 6-12 diapers a day. I would advise getting a changing table with drawers, or better yet a dresser/changing table combo. You will eventually need a dresser for the kid anyway, right? Shop yard sales and second hand stores for old but sturdy dressers you can turn into a perfect changing table by adding a pad, and later turn back to a dresser. I have a dresser that my mom screwed some boards into the top of in a rectangle to where the contoured changing table pad will fit right inside the rectangle. It's handy to have it be a dresser too where I can keep the crib bedding, the hairbows, socks, shoes, and onesies, bathing suit, pajamas, clothes, even books and toys in the bottom drawer in easy baby-reach. That's just what I like, what's convenient for me. I also have a basket on the dresser beside the makeshift changing table part that has the changing supplies in it, and the "diaper stacker" is hanging to the left of the changing table so I can reach the diapers but it's not over the changing table where it could fall on baby. I would not be without a changing table if I could help it. All it takes to convert a dresser is a nice contour pad which can be found at most department and baby stores.

♥Changing Pad Covers♥ [Handy] Changing pad covers will keep the baby from screaming at the feel of cold vinyl under their back, will extend the life of the changing pad, and can be coordinated to match the room decor. If you want them, have 3. Same Rule Of Threes as for the crib bedding; one to have on, one to be washed, and one to have onhand in case. 
♥Rocking chair/glider rocker♥ [Necessary] These are SOOOOO expensive but you really are gonna want one. When it's a 3:00am cry-session and you're too tired to pace the house even one more time and motion is the only thing that will soothe baby, it's easy to plop in the glider and close your eyes and just rock. It's also great when you just want to sit and watch baby sleep in your arms, it's therapeutic to rock your sleeping baby and just enjoy being a mommy. TRY THESE OUT IN THE STORE!!! If you are going to try breastfeeding you don't want to get a chair that's arms are in a bad position for nursing, and you won't know for sure unless and until you sit in it and pretend you are holding/nursing baby. Even if you don't breastfeed you want to make sure the chair is comfy before you spend $100-$1,000 on a glider with or without ottoman. Keep in mind that immediately postpartum your belly will still be squishy and largeish so you'll be holding baby in front of the extra squishy belly and if the chair leans too far back, you will have to prop the baby up to reach the babyfeeders. In summary, get a chair that you can see yourself spending lots of midnight hours in, looks wipe-off-able, lockable, and has a degree of back slant and height of arms that fit your body type especially if nursing. Oh and when you get it home, put it where you will USE it. Don't put it in the room with your toddler where baby will "eventually" go if baby is currently co-sleeping with you. If you do that, then you'll have the toddler in there asleep and it's midnight and baby's screaming and you are sure as the world NOT going in the toddler's room with the screaming baby to rock and possibly wake said toddler. Ask me how I know... :-s Take my word for it and put the rocker in the living room or in the room where the baby is actually going to be sleeping. It's really nice to watch a movie with DH in the evening while you rock the baby to sleep. Really nice. It's also really nice to be able to calm the crying baby at any hour without being 2 feet from a sleeping person. I personally prefer the rocker in the living room, after 3 babies and much trial and error! Lol!
♥Rugs, Lamps, Curtains, and other Decor♥ [Cosmetic] Yeah they make the room look good. But that's about it. What you really need isn't a rug with butterflies on it to match the crib quilt (which you are afraid to actually use because of suffocation risks), wall hangings (that don't do anything practical but create another item you need to dust), and window valance (that covers so little of the window it can really only be called decoration)... instead, invest in a good dimmer switch and a room-darkening window treatment, and then splurge on a really cute nursery clock. If you're still feeling rich after that then maybe go back for the matching decor.

♥Clock, Dimmer-switch, and Room darkening blinds♥ [Absolutely Necessary] These are the three most important things in a nursery after the rocker, changing table, and bed. A clock because you will wish you had one to see what time the baby woke up during the night to eat and how long it's been since her last feeding. Room darkening blinds or blackout curtains are great because, especially in the summer, sunlight streaming in can wake up the baby or cause the room to get too hot to sleep. Blinds will help. Also when your kid is 2 years old and wants to wake up at 5:00am every morning because this is when the sun comes up in the summer... *ahem* Yeah dark curtains or blinds are a must. And the dimmer switch is AMAZING. Seriously you need one. You can turn the light on just a tiny bit, kinda medium, full blinding bright, or anything in between. Bigtime help when you want to sneak in and check baby in the middle of the night but don't want to blind yourself or wake the baby by turning the light on full bright.

♥Diaper Stacker and Hamper♥ [Handy] Okay yes these are cosmetic. But handy. Technically you can use the diapers right out of the package or keep them in a basket or a drawer and use the hamper down the hall or just take the dirties all the way to the laundry room straightaway. But I love having the diaps in the stacker ready to grab and apply to a freshly powdered little tush. And a hamper is important but I'm probably not thinking of the kind you are. I'm not thinking of the fabric kind that is really pretty and matches the rug that matches the wall hangings that matches the valance. Those are super cute but I'm talking about a vinyl one that won't curl up and stink forever if you throw the onesie your kid's diaper EXPLODED in into it. Or cloth diapers. If you're going to CD you'll want a hamper that's more like a trash can to contain the stench between washes, and you'll likely want a SEPARATE hamper for the soiled baby clothes because if you put them in with the diapers that's just asking for more of serious washload than baby clothes usually are. By which I mean, stains, stink, OxiClean... LOTS of Oxiclean.

♥Diaper Genie or other diaper disposal untit♥ [Waste] Yep I think a special diaper disposal can is a total waste of money. Splurge on a nice looking, sturdy, lidded trash can with a step pedal instead. You'll always wind up with random trash to toss (think wipes wrappers, bags the diapers came in, tags off new baby shoes and toys, the lint or strings that seem to come out of nowhere and randomly wind up on clothes, that baby wipe you used to wash baby's neck after she spit up or hands and chin after first cereal...) and will want a garbage can for that nearby even if you don't CD, so why not get one that does dual duty? To contain the smell, a 1/4 to 1/2 cup of baking soda in the bottom of the new trash bag will suck up the stench, and for added protection you can use little baggies to put the stinky ones in before tossing. Dollar Tree has diaper disposal bags by the box in their baby section. I also take the ziplock baggies from my kitchen that have been used and would be thrown away and put those dirty used ziplocks in a basket on the changing table for the stinky diapers. I used to wash the ziplocks to reuse for food but now I don't bother washing them and reuse for dirty diapers. I have even put some of the cleaner looking ones in the diaper bag for disposal on the go. I wouldn't want to stuff a handfull of ziplocks that had been used for those melty double chocolate muffins in the diaper bad where someone might see them, but you bet I'd reuse one I had almonds or cheerios in in the diaper bag. ;)

♥Fan or White Noise Machine♥ [Necessary] Baby will be less likely to wake up from the sound of it if you're out in the kitchen and accidentally drop a can of soup on the floor while she's sleeping in her room, or your toddler is in the bathtub singing at the top of his lungs, if there's some nice fuzzy white noise happening nearby. A humidifyer might even make a loud enough white noise to count.

♥Clothes and Diapering supplies♥ A given- and for another post!

So I shall leave you with this list for now and a vow to continue soon with more necessary and unnecessary baby goodies! :)

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mother's Day!

I hope you all have a blessed Mother's Day! This year I have yet another reason to celebrate motherhood... a second pink line on that little white test! Yes, I am 8 weeks pregnant! That is why I have been a bit scarce lately. Fighting off the first trimester nausea and fatigue among other things. My husband and I are so happy to be having another baby! Our little ones are pretty excited about it too. :) Chicklet wants to know if it's a boy or a girl. It's a bit too soon to tell yet, sweetie. ;) All we know it's a baby and - Oh baby - are we sure happy! ♥

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Chicklet's Easter Dress

Well at first I didn't quite know where to start. Then I thought for sure I'd ruined it. Then I realized this could work... And finally I was done with it and it came out much better than I feared it would when I was hacking away at it with the scissors! ;)

She had untied the bows at the shoulders just before this pic was taken and I had a grabby baby in one arm and a clingy son on one leg and after a few failed attempts to retye the bows one-handed while fending off cute little grabbers, I just snapped the pic as-is. ;) It's even cuter when the bows are tied!

First I cut armholes out of the waistband of the skirt.

Then I turned it inside out, laid the shoulder strap ribbons in place along the skirt waistband at the armhole cuts, and sewed those armholes and then zig-zagged the edges. The skirt is made of cotton gauze and the built in slip is a knit polyester/nylon. The waist is elastic. I just kept those features and made them work for the dress.
Then I turned it right side out. I used 2 yards of ribbon for the straps. I cut it in half and sealed the ends so I had two 1-yard lengths. I could have cut those in half before sewing but I waited until after I sewed them in to cut them in half. No reason why I waited to cut, I just did. Lol! So they were these big loops like way too huge straps which I tied a little knot in to try on her real quick. That's why the silly knot in this pic instead of bows.

When I tried it on her I decided the armholes were too floppy and big and I'd messed up on the strap placement but I thought topstitching creatively could fix all those problems. I cut my gigantic ribbon loops to make tieable straps- the way they are supposed to be- and heat-sealed the ends. Then I topstitched all the way around the armholes and front and back of the neck, scrunching the fabric up tight to gather it in just in the bottoms of the armholes. It worked wonderfully and surprisingly it came out much better than I'd feared! I was worried that I had made a real disaster of it but God blessed me and allowed it to be fixable. Here's a pic of the finished topstitching:
And a full pic of it laying on the table:

So there you have it. My almost-disaster turned out pretty cute! I will have to get some better pics of Chicklet wearing it for Easter. :) Now I just have to make a peasant top to go under it. The t-shirt she's wearing in the pic does look pretty nice with it though, I must say. What do you think?


Friday, April 15, 2011

Easter Sewing Plans

Well this weekend my goal is to get some sewing done!!! Seriously need to get my older daughter's Easter dress made (wanna see a pic of what I'm going to make it out of? Wanna wanna? Wait for it...) and my younger two's outfits washed up. My son's came from WalMart and is going to dual-duty for my brother's wedding this spring. My baby's dress is a beautiful brand new with tags dress that I actually swapped for on (As an aside, if you're thinking of joining SwapMamas you should know that they are totally revamping their system and relaunching in about a month so if you don't want to deal with their growing pains in the meantime you can wait until the relaunch.)
We have searched for an Easter dress for my oldest and come up empty. We found a few stunningly beautiful ones that when I examined them closer turned out to be pathetic quality and/or workmanship. Since I don't want her Easter dress to fall apart in the wash, I decided to be brave and sew her one. Ahhh! I'm not that great at sewing. I understand the basics but pattern instructions confuse me. I think whoever writes the directions on those things gets a thrill out of making things seem harder than they have to be and scaring off would-be budding seamstresses. I have once or twice just ignored the instructions and pieced the item together without them.
But I digress; I was going to tell you about the dress for my daughter. I am not really good at sewing and I can count on one hand everything I've sewn since I had kids that wasn't a plain skirt. I can also count on one hand all the dresses I've made in my entire lifetime. Scary thought. Considering the fact that I not only have to sew my oldest's Easter dress this weekend, but also a formal skirt for myself for something I have to do in a few days. Jury duty. I don't think my full flowery go-to skirts are quite what they have in mind when they said to wear something court-friendly. Maybe it doesn't matter but to share a little secret I'm kind of paranoid about doing something wrong since someone I know told me about a mom who got arrested for contempt of court because she couldn't find a babysitter! Eeek! So that's got me all in worry mode that if I do something they deem inappropriate they're going to arrest me or something. I'm kinda shy so I think if they merely gave me the dissaproving eye I may well just wet myself in terror. Okay maybe not quite that bad but you get the drift, I aim to please. ;)

Now where was I? Oh yes, the dress! I happened to have swapped (yes on SwapMamas again) for a lovely spring skirt that is definately way too small for me back in the middle of the winter and saved it. See?

So my super secret sneaky plot is to turn it into a pillowcase style dress for my daughter's Easter dress. :D See how well I cheat? Lol! If I can manage not to mess it up too bad it should be fairly easy and not time consuming. The PROBLEM with this style of dress is that, as per my opinions on modesty mentioned in the previous post, I think a pillow case dress is going to be a mite skimpy. So I want to mommy-rig a plain white muslin peasant top for her to wear underneath, using this pattern as a guide:

So we shall see if this takes my time and effort quota into "shoulda-just-made-a-whole-dress-from-scratch" territory. I'll keep you posted...

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

My Immodest Past (and The Modesty Survey)

I don't remember how or when it was that I stumbled upon The Modesty Survey, but I do remember that it was a great encouragement to me, a little convicting, and it gave me some motivation in an area of my life I had been neglecting for quite a few years.
As a little bit of background for you, when I was a toddler my mom put me in jeans. I just didn't like the feel of them pinching my middle, and lavished in the praise I received from everyone I met when I wore dresses. What toddler doesn't like to be told she looks like a princess? So one morning my mom was getting me dressed and I told her I didn't want any more pants at all. Only dresses. I think it took a while before she realized I was serious. I wore sweatpants to bed when all my nightgowns were dirty and rarely did I wear any sort of pants for day-clothes. My dear Nana made my sister and I each a new dress each Christmas and Easter so I wore my pretty made-with-love dresses everywhere all the time. It just felt right. Then when I was a few weeks shy of my 13th birthday we moved and I had to start all over with making friends. My first friend, and for a long time my only friend, lived on a ranch. Baling hay and branding calves were all in a day's work for her, and being in her company I began to be invited to ride horses and such, and she would add, "And um... wear jeans, OK?" because she just couldn't imagine how I'd be able to do anything safely in a dress. So I bought jeans. And wore them when I was visiting my friend. And despite still doing farm chores in dresses at home, pretty soon, when the majority of my public activities went from being done in dresses to being done in jeans, I just only really kept up with buying a dress that fit for Church. The majority of my wardrobe became jeans and tank tops. Practical for sweating out in the sun riding horses but not really modest. But I wasn't thinking of that back then. I am ashamed to admit that my focus was not on being modest. I was becoming a hormone-laden teenager and began to dress to draw the eye and unfortunately I got it. I had alot of guys trying to flirt with me until they realized I wasn't going to do what I was advertising (by my attire) for. I can't say as it really hit with all clarity until I was much older. Teenagers are by nature (or culture?) very insecure, selfish, and attention-seeking. Despite being a Christian, I was no exception. I thought that if boys didn't flirt with me and try to get me out of my clothes then I must be ugly. I was told that they would do just that if I were to show more of myself by wearing less. And so I did. But I always felt uncomfortable, fidgety, and guilty when I was not wearing a modest outfit.
For a little while in my mid-teens, my parents started driving 2 hours to church every weekend to go to a Mennonite-like church. We were expected (by my parents) to wear long dressed and a bandana on our heads to church so as to not offend the congregation or cause their younger members to stumble. I remember that despite the brevity of our time with that congregation, seeing the other teenaged girls dressed so contrastingly to popular culture, and also contrastingly so full of confidence and joy and beautiful radiance, it made a deep impression on  me.
I did not immediately switch back to all dresses. In fact it was long after I was married, and not too distant in the past, when I began to wear skirts often once again. I did have a slow journey to more modest pants-and-shirt wearing before I wound up back in skirts. Part of what propelled me back toward modest dress was the previously mentioned Modesty Survey. I think I was feeling convicted about modesty from a sermon I heard and did a search online to find out if a woman in pants is really a stumbling block to a man! I didn't really expect to find a clear answer, so imagine my shock when I found The Modesty Survey! The quotes, the details, the honesty and vulnerability of the men... well it's really something that I think will blow you away or boost your modesty resolve as it did for me.
Click HERE to view The Modesty Survey for yourself. First take note of how many signatures there are of men supporting us women in choosing to dress modestly. I love that. This is a survey of 1,600 teen boys and men. First click on Overview and read about the men who took the survey and how to read the survey. Then go back and click Survey Results. Select a category from the left column and a "question" from the right column and scroll down to see the graph results and statements from men on this concept. Hearing how some men feel about some types of dress, and about modesty and women in general, brought me to tears. Tears of hope and regret. If only someone had showed this to me as an insecure teen! How much of those awkward guilty fidgety days spent out in public trying to look like a piece of hot sex so I would be worth something (backwards much?!) would have been avoided! How much confidence would I have gained and inner beauty been able to shine through if I had only known! And yes my Daddy did try to tell me how guys think but I wasn't really close to my dad and with the whole world telling me otherwise, I honestly didn't believe him. Or maybe I didn't care, or didn't want to. I thought that whatever his ideas and opinions were, they were of people my dad's age. He wouldn't know anything about what real guys my age now this decade think. Times have changed... I wish there had been a Modesty Survey for me back then. But it's not too late to raise my daughters to be confident modest women! I wasn't raised to wear dresses, grew away from my parents, was expected to date and wear makeup. My parents' change of heart on these matters didn't come until I was around 16 years old. But my own daughters are still tiny. I have a head start at being able to nurture modesty and confidence in them. I have the advantage of knowing now that what I do now and in the future affects my future relationship with my kids, whether they will try my and their father's words of experience on life.

I am drafting a sort of statement of modesty for myself and my girls. It's a work in progress. Perhaps I'll share it in my next post. :)

Monday, April 11, 2011

A Beautiful Rainy Morning

Today is a beautiful rainy day. I'm tired after being up late watching movies with my Better Half and then waking up every hour or two to feed the little one. She's 7 months old now and I've been pondering how to get her to sleep longer at night. She sometimes, pretty rarely, wakes only 2 or 3 times in a night. I am praying those nights become more frequent and the nights of hourly waking less frequent. My kids have all woken up many times a night as babies so this is not unexpected. It's a stage. Other, beautiful parts of babyhood make up for the lack of sleep. :) Giggles and smiles and seeing her learn how to roll around and sit and eat mushed up babyfood. She says "da da da da da da!" but doesn't seem to connect it with her Dada yet. She's so beautiful! Her smiles are amazing! And she's getting ticklish... ;)

My 2 1/2 year old son has been really testing his limits. He's wearing me pretty thin. I lose my temper alot and yell. Then I regret it and pray for grace. Again. He's also talking alot more. He's still kind of hard to understand. He often says things that would be a good sentence if they were in the proper order. Like this morning he was pointing to the bathtub and said to me, "Mama, take a bath where we this it is!" Makes sense in an adorably jumbled up way. ;) If it were in the right order it would be a really good sentence for a 2 year old. He is still so lovey and is always climbing in my lap and giving out hugs and kisses. He has trouble with colors (I hope he's not colorblind- my FIL is!) but he's getting to know all his body parts and we're working on telling the difference between a penny and a quarter.

My 4 1/2 year old daughter is turning into an amazingly helpful and motivated young lady. SHe's 4 so of course she has her moments, but I can see how far she's come since the "terrible twos" and it's a beautiful sight! She loves to help, loves to learn. She has a strong desire to be in charge of every detail so that is something we are trying to tame. She drives her brother nuts trying to puppet his every move. She loves to take care of her siblings which is such a blessing! She thinks she's so special when I ask her to "babysit" the baby for me while I use the bathroom or put the wash into the dryer. She's learning the different coins and how to buckle her own seatbelt. She still draws. For HOURS every day. She loves drawing so much! She has scissors now which she uses to cut out the things she draws. We've had a couple locks of hair find their way into the blades but if a little bit of uneven hair is the worst thing that ever gets accidentally cut, well we're in good shape. ;)
So here I sit today, staring out at the rain and thinking how thankful I am for my little family! :)

Sunday, April 3, 2011

REVIEW: "Journey To Riverbend" by Henry McLaughlin (Tyndale)

TITLE: Journey To Riverbend
AUTHOR: Henry McLaughlin
GENRE: Christian Fiction
ISBN: 978-1-4143-3942-9
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: "Michael Archer is nothing if not a man of his word. Though he was unable to save Ben Carstairs, Michael is determined to carry out Ben’s dying wish: to be reconciled with his father. Unfortunately, Sam Carstairs, one of the most ruthless businessmen on the frontier, has no use for his own son, much less a man of God seeking reconciliation.
Soon after arriving in Riverbend, Michael meets and falls for the stunning Rachel Stone while waiting for Sam to return from a business trip. Beautiful yet guarded, Rachel seems to be running from a past as dark as Michael’s.
When word reaches town that Sam has been kidnapped on the stagecoach home, Michael offers to join the search party formed by the local sheriff. With a budding romance behind him and a dangerous rescue ahead of him, he sets out on the trail, determined to complete his journey no matter the cost."

Well, it has been a very long time since I've been impressed by a work of Christian fiction and I was thus quite surprised to find myself enjoying this book very much!
There are three main characters in this book. Sam Carstairs is all set to be the villain of the tale and winds up a victim of the consequences of his own evil choices. I flip-flopped between detesting him, and pitying him, and even occasionally admiring him. Rachel Stone struggles to continue being a new creation in Christ after being rescued from a life of prostitution. Caught in the middle between the townsfolk's unforgiveness of her past and the Redeemer's forgiveness, she strives to keep a right perspective. Michael Archer has a difficult past of his own but now he's on a mission to make amends with stranger Sam Carstairs on behalf of his estranged and now-deceased son Ben Carstairs. Michael arrives in Riverbend to find that Sam is out of town, and while he's passing the time until Sam returns he falls in love with Rachel. Rachel isn't sure if she has it in her to ever love and trust a man again. Sam doesn't arrive home on the stage- he's been kidnapped! Michael joins the search for Sam and the book takes a turn for the sinister and suspenseful...
As I said I was quite impressed with this book. It keeps it's Christian focus. I find alot of Christian fiction novels throw God in there as an afterthought but this book does not. The main characters were a little less defined than I like and the who's who was a tad hard to follow at times. The story was gripping and I was up until 3am trying to finish this book because I couldn't put it down. There were a few parts that were a bit too descriptive and/or unnecessarily gruesome for me so I would not recommend this book for immature readers. Overall I liked it very much and give it 5 stars out of 5.

I reviewed this book for Tyndale publishers in exchange for a free review copy of the book. No other compensation was received and I was not told what to say. My opinions, good and bad, are my own and have not been coached or influenced in any way.

You can read the first chapter HERE.

Friday, April 1, 2011

April Giveaways!

This is my last giveaway linky. it's a pain in the neck to upkeep when maybe 3 or 4 people use it so I quit. I have better things to do with my time... like tickle this cute boy who is climbing me right now... ;)


Monday, March 28, 2011

Mommy Moments: A child who begs to change diapers?!

~Mommy Moments~
Moments that are the essence of motherhood

My 4 1/2 year old daughter sees me changing her siblings' diapers at least a dozen times a day. And I always try to make diaper changes a sweet time. I know you're thinking, it's poo and pee, how can it be sweet? Well it's not about the poo and pee, it's about the one on one face time opportunity. Not that I'm not cooing in my kids' face acting like a silly goose at other times of the day... ;) It's just that it kind of takes the ick out of diaper changes if I'm distracted by kissing little toes and tickling little tummies and kissing little cheeks while I do it. So I've made it a habit to be so distracted- but don't give me too much credit here. I didn't really do it conciously, but I've just always loved the specialness that makes up for the ick and somehow wound up with this really handy habit of being so busy loving on, praising, singing to, and being silly with my babies.
My 4 1/2 year old Chicklet was no exception herself, in fact her diapers were the start of it. I would play "this little piggy" on one foot when I first put her on the changing table, then after changing her while singing some silly song, I would blow raspberries on her belly before snapping her onesie up and finishing off with a round of kisses on her chubby little cheeks and "this little piggy" on the other foot.
Well apparently in doing this I must have somehow made changing diapers look like a FUN and COVETED experience!!!! LOL!!!!! Because Chicklet began begging me to let her change the baby's diaper a few months ago. I made sure to only let her change wet ones- scared of the disaster that could happen if I were to let her change a #2. I also like to avoid letting her change her brother's diaper just because, well, he's a boy and they're pretty close in age. Not that she thinks anything of the difference, being only 4 1/2, but I think it just makes ME feel weird for her to be changing his diaper when they're so close in age, like it might be something he'd be embarrassed about when he gets older and finds out his only-2-years-older sister changed his diaper as a kid. Might be kinda awkward, KWIM? I haven't made a big deal about it and try to not act like I'm specifically keeping her from changing HIS diapers because I don't want it to be an issue in her mind. So when she asks to change a diaper I sort of reluctantly taught her how to change Babykins' diapers and sometimes allow her to change the wet ones with supervision. She BEGS me all the time to please let her change a diaper, and even CRIED over it one afternoon when I changed the baby for nap without asking her if she wanted to do it.

At the beginning of this week I asked Chicklet if she could think of ways that people tell each other they love them without using words. She looked confused. I told her that when I pet her hair or rub her back I'm telling her I love her without words. She was confused for a minute before a big grin took over her sweet little face and she ran up to me to hug me, saying, "We can say love with HUGS!" A moment later she added, "And KISSES!" I asked if she could think of anything else and she giggled and tickled me, saying, "Yep! Tickles too!"
Thursday morning I was reading my Bible and having prayer time. I had just changed Bug's diaper and given the kids a sippy and a cheese stick in bed to tide them over until I finished my prayer time. My computer is pretty much right outside of their bedroom so I hear everything that goes on and I heard it loud and clear when a short time later Bug hollered out that he messed his diaper. I answered back that I'm almost done my God-time and I'll change him in a minute. Well I'd just finished my prayers when I heard the timer buzz and the toddlers charged out of the bedroom like a herd of stampeding... toddlers. I opened my mouth to verbally direct my little dude to the changing table for a fix on that poo diap but before I could say a word, my daughter says to me, "Mommy, I changed brother's poopy diaper!"
Mommy about had a panic attack. I wondered how much poo was smeared where and opened my mouth to scold her for changing a diaper without supervision, and she KNOWS she only changes wet ones, and HOW MUCH POOP is smeared wherever she changed him, and...
But she again cut me off before I could say anything.

"I did it because I love him."

I froze and tears welled up in my eyes. I was about to chew her out and it's a good thing she unknowingly put me in my place before I did. Wow. Just wow.
Sometimes as parents we worry if we're doing it right, doing enough, doing too much... We hope we're not screwing them up. We pray that God will cover the areas we lack in with His grace. And then there are moments like this when we're just so humbled and amazed and honored to be given this task of raising these little souls.
I'm praising God for these little blessings- especially a certain daughter who knows that love is more than words. ~♥~

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Dear New Mama, (Too Much or Unwanted Advice)

(image from

Dear New Mama,
   Congratulations on your precious new little blessing! I know you're hearing all kinds of advice from everyone right now. Everything you read says something new. Everyone who loves you will want to give you helpful , and even people you don't know will see your precious newborn as a good reason to give you advice. As you're hearing all of these tidbits, some of wisdom and some just born from a need to know it all, it can be hard to know how to respond, to not be hurt or offended or worried by it all. It can be hard not to snap at the well-meaning advice givers that 'I can figure this out on my own thankyouverymuch so leave me alone!' Take a deep breath, say a prayer for grace, and listen with a smile. Then thank them for their opinion, if they persist you can say you will take it home to ponder. Pray and ponder. You can keep the good parts and leave the bad ones. Some advice will be really good and some will be really bad. Something that helped someone else might not help you and vice versa. The best way to weed through it all with a peaceful heart and come out the other side with confidence that you are doing the right thing is to pray and ponder. And most of those advice givers will never know if you take their advice or not.
   Then there are the advice givers who are closer to home. Friends and family. They might follow through to see if you followed their advice. They are a little trickier. They can be frustrating. "Did you ever try what I said...?" Usually they can be handled with a sweetly spoken, 'Yes, thank you for telling me about that! We tried alot of things and what we're doing right now is really working well.' Sometimes though you will have to put your foot down. It won't be easy. Keep in mind that while it is important to preserve the peace within the extended family, it is not to be at the cost of the peace in your own home. If keeping your mom or hubby's dear Auntie happy is causing problems between you and your husband or kids, then something will have to be done about it. There's a little something I like to call the honor order. It means who is at the top of your priorities. When you leave your father and mother and cleave to a spouse you begin a new family so your 'honor order' goes from God-Parents-Siblings-etc. to God-Spouse-Children-etc. Your parents and siblings should still be loved and treated with respect, but now your husband and children come before your other family. If you have to warn off an overzealous family member, keep a few things in mind:
-Pray about it first. God may want you to hold your tongue because He very well may want to resolve it without you. Prayer can go a long way toward resolving it without confrontation or paving the way for it to go over well.
-If you feel that you have no choice but to say something, pray pray pray to keep a right perspective. If it involves your husband's family, pray with him about it that it will go well. Pray in private that if it involves his family that he will feel the need to confront the person himself. It tends to go over better and be resolved faster if the spouse that is related is the one who puts their foot down.
-Anything done not out of love is ineffective for good and probably harmful. Do not allow yourself to be drawn into a confrontation with anger in your heart. Pray for a loving attitude toward the person before you say anything.
-Choose your words carefully so that when you are loooking back on it later, if the loved one in question reacts badly, you will not have any guilt over having said something unnecessarily harsh or petty. A clear concience is a great comfort if there is a rift created over this.
-If it goes well, praise God! If not, pray for healing in the relationship and do not cease praying for it until it happens. God doesn't want us to be estranged from our relatives. God wants us to be at peace, not at war, with those He has given us to and has given to us.

Once upon a time, a certain mama (**) was having her first baby. This mama's MIL wanted to throw her a baby shower and things got heated. You see, the new mama was idealistic, and picky, in addition to having come from an ultra conservative background. The MIL was much more liberal and in her excitement at planning her first baby shower, wanted to make it really awesome and perfect- her way. The mama and the MIL had different ideas about how it should be done and it came down to a confrontation. I did not The mama *wink* did not pray about it first, spoke hastily, out of frustration and defensiveness, and regretted it. The MIL vented to other family members about how rude and picky the mama was, and the rift got bigger. It was not good.
PRAY! Pictures, Images and Photos
Yeah I messed up. I should have prayed about it FIRST, looked at my own motives, spoken out of love and not reacted out of defensiveness, and decided what was really important before I made a stink. Thankfully God can work everything out for good, even the screw ups. My MIL and I are friends again and we've both learned a few things about how to relate to each other. I'm thankfully less picky and bossy. Now I didn't say I'm not at all picky or bossy anymore... Lol! So those of you who know me in person don't think I'm trying to pull the wool over on anyone here. ;) I have alot of flaws and I'm sure not perfect!

So if you take anything out of this story, take this:
Be quick to pray, quick to love, quick to look inward for fault, quick to apologize.
Be slow to anger, slow to speak, slow to blame.
If it comes to it, stand by what's right in a clam loving way, apologize for any wrong you've done, and pray that if there is a rift that it will be healed.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: "Tithing - test me in this" by Douglas LeBlanc

TITLE: Tithing; test me in this
AUTHOR: Douglas LeBlanc
GENRE: Spiritual Growth & Christian Thought
ISBN: 978-0-8499-4608-0

PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: "Stories of people who live a generous and happy life (and why you'll want to live that way too.) Journalist Douglas LeBlanc travels the nation to talk with believers whose lives have been enriched by the ancient spiritual discipline of tithing. He discovers people along the way who do not understand the practice as an onerous law but as God’s call to a life of generosity and compassion. The effect on their lives is dramatic. LeBlanc talks with a variety of believers—from a pastor in the south side of Chicago to progressive Episcopalians, from an Orthodox rabbi to an Eastern Orthodox priest and his wife. By holding their gifts with open hands, they are drawn deeper into a life of joy and sharing that begins in the very heart of God. A volume in the eight book classic series, The Ancient Practices, with a foreword by Phyllis Tickle, General Editor."

I was hoping that somewhere in this book it would talk about the history of tithing in depth. How and why it started. How it became such a taboo in our culture. I was hoping for all this in addition to real life examples of people who have been blessed by tithing...

*to read the rest of my review please go HERE.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Spiritual Warfare

I was in the woods. There were dark skeleton trees surrounding me. The sun peeking through the branches even seemed dim. And there was something up there... in the trees...

"And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose." (Romans 8:28)
So many things have happened since Thanksgiving and I wish I could say they were all good. Actually something pretty bad happened to some of my family recently. Not my immediate, hubby and kids, family. I can't tell you who it is and I can't tell you what it was, until it's all sorted out, but it's very much not good.

Before that, we had a brush with identitiy theft, but God caused my hubby to check his bank account almost as soon as the charges were made and despite the bank doing their best to make a nightmare of it, we were not out any money and the inconveniences from the whole thing are fairly minor in retrospect. I do hope they catch the selfish individual who did it. This person went online and ordered a ton of expensive novelty items from a goth store called Hot Topic. I pray that even if the police never catch this thief, that they will be overwhelmed with guilt until they repent and find something more honorable to do with their time and talents.
And before that we were all sick at some point or another for about 2 months. Some of us... *ahem* Some of us were sick for a week once, and some of us were sick for the whole 2 months.

And I had a dream that I was in the woods. The trees were naked and still and the dim sun peeking through the branches didn't warm the atmosphere. There was something up there. Something in the trees. Some sort of larger predatory bird. Many of them, sitting up in the trees, camoflaged, waiting. Waiting to swoop down and pick at the weak. At the first sign of weakness. Just waiting for a chance...

And that's when I knew that all these things that were happeneing were not coincidence. We were under spiritual attack. Some of my family, not my immediate family, still is. But when I had that dream it prompted me to get back on track in my prayer and Bible reading. I've spent nearly an hour every morning reading and praying lately, and I'm ashamed to say that's the most I've ever spent in my life on a regular basis with God. I was close to God as a small child, and by the time I had the self-government to have a specific time with God, I was a struggling teenager wrapped up in my struggles instead of dedicating time to God. I've come to be closer to Him again only since having kids and those of you who are mamas of only littles know that it's hard to get longer than 20 seconds without interruption to do anything. Many of us don't even get to go to the bathroom alone. My usual Bible readings were as many verses as I could get in on the internet before the next kid crisis, and short one liner prayers throughout the day, and finally I would try to pray as I lay exhausted in bed at night and wind up falling asleep a sentence or two into it. But as I determined to have this Sweet Hour Of Prayer every morning, God has allowed the teething (and usually crying) baby, to either sleep in late, or be happy in the Jumperoo while I read. The toddlers make it very difficult but as long as I get after them consistently, it is doable. I fill cups, change Bug's diaper, and bring them breakfast in bed. Then I set the timer for an hour and put it up on their shelf and they are allowed to get out of bed to get a toy to take back to bed, but they must stay, eat, and play on their beds until the timer dings. I make sure that they know this is because Mommy needs some special time with Jesus every morning, and because they know I'm doing this, they often beg me to read the Bible to them after the timer dings and they are allowed to get up.

If you feel that you or your family is under spiritual attack, I strongly encourage you to start or reinstate your own Sweet Hour Of Prayer! Perhaps if you already pray in the morning alone, you may wish to add a Bible and prayer time in the afternoon with your kids or before bed with your husband. Perhaps a prayer group online or with some other couple or some of your close friends. You will have to pray that God will help you to set this time aside for Him, and that He will show you what hour in your day is the one that you will have the least distrtactions. If you are not sure what to read or pray or where to start, I suggest that you just start at the beginning of the New Testament and read a chapter, slowly, letting it sink in, before beginning to pray. Thank God for His provision, for His love, for whatever you hold dear, and then cast all your burdens on Him and let go of them, in faith that He will work everything out for good to those who love Him. A chapter a day and if you feel you have more to glean from it, you can read the same chapter several days in a row until you feel that it has sunk in enough to move on to the next. When you have finished the New Testament, start over, this time at the beginning of Genesis, and you will be amazed how much more meaning the OT has when you are looking at it and thinking "So THAT's why/where/who/what/when..." after reading the NT. If you are having trouble knowing what or how to pray, I recommend purchasing one or more "Powere of a Praying ___" books by Stormie Omartian. I have The Power of a Praying Wife and The Power of a Praying Parent and I use one of the prayers in each as a springboard for my prayers for my family every day. I have gone through both of them several times over and will continue to do so as they are very good ways to launch a prayer for a specific person for a specific need in their life. A great couple's devotional is Night Light by James and Shirley Dobson- don't let the seeming simplisticness of the early questions throw you. It gets deep fast and some of the discussion questions are HARD to actually talk about!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

March Giveaways! 
First, here are some awesome giveaways I have found! Check back frequently as I will be removing the ones that are over and adding new giveaway links as I can! Please click on a date to see a few select giveaways ending on that date. (If date is not clickable, I have not selected any giveaways to feature for that date yet.)

Giveaways By End Date:
March 01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08 09 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31
April 01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08 09 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30

Linky Time!
••For more places to list your giveaways click HERE
Your turn! :) MckLinky up!
In the space that says Link Title, remember to include 3 things: YourBlogName - Giveaway Title [End date]. Does not have to be in that exact order but I do need all three in some order or another please. Link to the giveaway post specifically, not just to your blog in general.
PLEASE make sure you follow these easy instructions so it is easy for me to maintain and easy for people to view and use. Alot of people have not been doing this and it makes maintaining the list much harder and more time consuming for me. This is not an unreasonable request in the least: most giveaway linkups require this same format. You can use proper format and copy and paste it the same (proper) way to all the linkys you use. If this gets too hard for me to maintain due to people not doing this as I have asked, I will stop fixing them and have to instead delete any that I don't have the time to fix. So you see why it's not only courtesy but is also important to use the BlogName-GiveawayName[EndDate] format. (In any order. You can do End Date - Blog name - Giveaway or Giveaway - End date - Blog name or whatever as long as they are all in there.)
ALSO please note: I will immediately delete any entries that are innapropriate and further links from that blog may be deleted if I don't have time to screen them. A good way to look at it is if you wouldn't want your 13 year old daughter to have one or read the review in your words then DON'T LINK IT HERE. This is supposed to be a family friendly blog and when I've got people posting giveaways for 'romantic props' or something it is extremely embarrassing and upsetting to find that on my blog where my friends' innocent children could see it.
Your link WILL BE DELETED IF it links to a post that:
**Contains profanity, nudity, or inappropriate inuendo.
**Does not contain a blog giveaway.
**Endorses abortion, divorce, adultery, or things that are anti-God, anti-moral absolutes, anti-ten commandments, etc.
**Endorses a product/company that endorses abortion, divorce, adultery, or things that are anti-God, anti-moral absolutes, anti-Biblical commandments, etc.
**Is not appropriate for an innocent child to view.
This is what I believe in, and to allow links on my blog that go against that is something that I cannot do in good concience.

Entries will stay on the list until they expire (until the giveaway ends).
I will try to delete expired giveaways often to keep this list fresh and easy to view.
I will create a new list each month. This MckLinky list will run March 1st-31st. Check back April 1st for a new list.