11 August 2017

Friday Favorites: Back To School Week



It's been a really great week around here getting back in the swing of things with back to school! It has really been different only have Archer home all week. I both love it and get kind of sad missing the other three. I know we will adjust quickly though, and we've got a good three years of this before he starts Kinder so I imagine we'll find a good groove! 

My friend Emily guest-posted for me yesterday about this very thing! 


One of the things I spent some time thinking through and planning out it what our after school time would look like. We are cutting waaaaay back on screen time now that school has started and I didn't want the kids in the habit of turning the TV on right when they walked in the door. And there's also the issue of when to do homework. So I made a plan of whenever we get home, we all sit down at the table and have a snack and share about our days. Then, we can work on homework or if they don't have homework they can color or draw. So I made a little "homework station" using a sugar mold. I found the mold at a Vintage Market here and have just been using it has decoration (I had red berry stems in it before). This plan has worked really well this week! The kids love the homework station and it has actually been a really sweet time to have my little people around the table sharing about their days! 

This cute sugar mold is my favorite and you can get your own here:



For my birthday, Kyle got me what I have been wanting since before they even released this past Spring, and that's the She Reads Truth Study Bible. It. Is. Gorgeous. I love everything about it. The handlettered art, the study portions, the format, the smell (of course I smell it....nothing smells better than a new Bible smell...nothing) all of it. It's my favorite for sure and you should get one too. 



 One of LK's birthday presents this year was the Mix and Match Mama's newest cookbook, Kids In The Kitchen. I finally got around to checking it out and Laura Kate and I made a recipe this week and it was so fun! We made Pizza Boats. They were so easy, set up perfectly for LK to help me and they tasted delicious! Looking forward to trying even more yummy recipes soon because it's for sure a new favorite


Ok, so if you know me, you know when it comes to natural products, I'm pretty mainstream. It has to make sense for our family financially, or it has to be sure cute or pretty or delicious, and to be plain honest, I'm just not super convicted about chemicals and whatnot. (I'm one of those people that reminds you that water is a chemical too.... you're welcome). That being said, I fell in love with a natural deodorant. I love the smell of lavender and Kyle had actually bought this for himself and didn't end up liking it. So naturally, I tried it. And it actually has worked great and I smell amazing! AND we're talking about Southern Alabama humidity. There are several scents, but the lavender + sage is by far my favorite!! 


I made Curry tonight for our date night in, because of course it's our favorite. Kyle had almost inhaled his entire bowl before he even made it to his chair to sit down it. It was so delicious! You can make it too with this recipe >>>>>> Thai Masaman Curry


You can actually order the Masamn Curry Paste online so you don't have to worry about finding it in the store! This little tub will last you through probably 4 of the above recipes!

And, in case you missed it, Part 1 of my Thailand Trip was posted on Tuesday. You can read all about the creepy biker dude who called me "babe" during my 14 hour flight! >>>> Thailand 2017 Part 1
Today, I'm linking up with MomfessionalsGrace and Love Blog, and Little Bit of Everything Blog, for Friday Favorites! 

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10 August 2017

Filling The Day With Your Toddler (When Your Oldest Are Back In School)

Hey friends! Happy Thursday! It's the BFBN swap day! You can find me at Team Cartwright talking about being present in your current season. My friend Emily is here talking about filling the day with your toddler when your big kids are back at school, so basically my life right now with Archer :)



Ahh back to school. I have so many friends rejoicing in the break they now get. No kids at home for 8 hours a day? Such freedom! Then there is me. Me and my 3 year old. She attends a half day preschool program a couple mornings a week but that hasn't started yet so we have all day every day "just us."

Don't get me wrong...I fully enjoy this quality time with my 3 year old. Quality one on one time with any of my children is rare but especially with the third one! However, it's often tricky to plan our days when we are down to "just one" at home. When you have multiple kids under your roof all day during the summer you get into a set routine of how to juggle all those balls at once. Now that school is back in? How can you productively spend your day with a little one still under foot?


Structure

Having a set routine is so beneficial at every stage in life. From sleep training an infant, to surviving home life with a toddler. There are endless benefits to having a consistent schedule to your day. Figure out what items you want to accomplish. Sit down and write out the "unchangeables" in your day (dropping older kids off at school, what time they get off the bus, any after school activities, etc). Also write out the schedule your "at home" child is used to (meal times, nap times, etc). Fill in all the areas and adjust where needed in order to have your set routine for each day.

Consistency

When you have a routine, it's important to stick with it. I aim for at least 3 days of the work-week sticking to that set routine. Some kids need more structure (a high sleep needs child may not be as flexible with nap times as a low sleep needs one), some are more naturally flexible. Know your child, know yourself. If you have a work-from-home job (like blogging) then know when you have to have time to get things done for that too! You need consistency and structure just as much as your child.

Nap Time

Naps are crucial for that much needed "mommy break." They are also still very beneficial for toddlers (and even preschoolers!). When mapping out your daily routine, be sure to have that beloved nap time on your agenda. Even if your child doesn't always sleep the whole time, they can still rest in their beds and allow both of you a break!

Outside Time

Mornings are a perfect chance to get outside and PLAY. It helps toddlers burn off energy and helps you both get some sunshine! We live in South Georgia so the earlier the better in order to avoid the heat. My child still does great in a stroller so we often take a morning walk after dropping off the big kids at school.

Independent Playtime

I like to chunk my time so I can maximize my ability to get the most done. I found that by putting independent playtime with movie time I'm able to have a solid 90 min of "me time" each morning. If you haven't already been doing independent playtime with your child, it's not too late! Here's a post about getting started :)  I like to do my child's independent playtime around 10:00 in the morning. We drop the big kids off and are back home around 8:30 so it gives us that hour and a half to do some outside time or other time together. Then she will go into her pack and play and play for 45 min of independent playtime.

Movie Time

I find that movie time works wonderfully for a reward after independent playtime is over. Usually before she starts independent time she'll pick the movie she's going to watch afterwards. Movie time is usually around 30 min to an hour depending on the day and what we have going on.

Errands

Going and doing with ONE child is SO much easier than with several! It's so fun to take my 3 year old places as all the "aw she's so cute" comments are pretty addicting ;) It's also a chance to teach and train on public behavior. I read somewhere to limit the amount of errands you run to the age of your child. So if you have a one year old...only go to one store. Two years old visit two stores...three years old three stores etc. Typically keeping the errand short results in a better experience for both mama and child!

Age Specific Activities

Having children who are a variety of ages makes planning activities where everyone can be engaged and have fun difficult. I have an 8 year old, 5 year old and 3 year old. Stuff the 8 year old would enjoy is often way over the 3 year old's head and stuff the 3 year old would enjoy is often "boring" for the 8 year old. While the older kids are in school it's a great chance to do activities geared towards that younger age. Visit a zoo, a pet store, a playground, or we even enjoy our local YMCA playtime!

Learning Time

One on one time is also a wonderful opportunity to work on learning. Again, with lots of kids at home it's hard to take the time to point out colors and shapes. To sit and count or sort items. Having that chunk of solo time with your younger child is an opportunity to help prepare them for when school comes. It's great to have them sit at the table with a puzzle or some other learning activity (even just coloring pages!). I like to do this during lunch meal prep time so I am right there in the kitchen with the child and am able to offer help, ask guiding questions, and it's a great transition into lunch time!

Working on Skills

Other life skills are also hard to teach when you're torn into a million directions all day long. Use the solo time with your child to teach and train them. I already mentioned taking outings outside the home and using that time to train in how to behave in public, manners towards others, etc. But many life skills can be taught at home too! Dressing and undressing themselves, cleaning up, small age appropriate chores, etc. It's also a fabulous time to work on potty training ;) 

Quality Together Time

Most importantly, having time with your child is a great chance to bond with them. It's easy for younger siblings to get "left out" when it comes to solo time with Mom and Dad. We know the older kids need that time because they vocalize it but our littles benefit from it as well! Go on a breakfast date after you drop the older kids off at school, sit and play together with your toddler's favorite toy, snuggle up and watch a movie. The options are endless but you'll both love that time together! But be warned: it will make their first day of school even tougher on those Mama Emotions :)


Emily is married to Zach and has 3 kids: Kye, Britt, and Tess. She loves Jesus, loves to travel, is super savvy, a Babywise guru, and loves Disney maybe even more than I do. She blogs at www.journeyofparenthood.com.

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08 August 2017

Thailand 2017 Part 1

It had been over 10 years since I was last in Thailand. I was so excited to go back, especially for an all-ladies trip. The days leading up to the trip were really busy  but I was feeling really good about things. I actually wasn't panicking about leaving my babies and I had such a peace about everything. 

All up until two nights before departure day (which coincidentally was also my birthday). I was literally awake all night. I though I was sick over seafood I had for birthday dinner, but by morning knew it was anxiety/panic attack not a tummy problem. In addition to the tummy problems, I was have hot and cold flashes back and forth (literally sweating and shivering back and forth all night), stabbing pains in my chest, not to mention just all the irrational fears flying through my brain. We had found out earlier in the day that a name on one of our tickets was wrong and I was over-the-top-not-trusting-the-Lord stressed about it. Of course the Lord (and my mom!) worked it out, but for some reason it was such a trigger for me. I started worrying about my babies, literally for the first time since I signed up for the trip, I was worried about leaving Kyle. It all seems so ridiculous now, but at the time it was very real and I was very sick. Thankfully, I had reached out to several friends who were all heavily praying Kyle prayed with me off and on all day and let me just tell you, by the time I arrived at the airport on Thursday morning, I was completely better and back to normal. The feeling of complete peace was back and honestly, after the whole ordeal, I felt even closer to Lord and just a sweetness from Him that helped set the tone in my heart for the whole trip for me.

On Thursday morning, my sweet friend Kayse and her daughter Abigail came over to keep my babies for the day so that Kyle could drive my mom and I to the airport in New Orleans. I had such a peace about leaving them that I didn't even cry when we pulled out of the driveway! I couldn't believe it!


We left our house and went to pick up my mom. We were so excited (and exhausted ha!) and ready to get the show on the road! We drove the two hours to New Orleans, my mom slept and I soaked up the last little bit with Kyle. Saying bye to him was MUCH harder and honestly, I just tried not to think about not seeing him for 9 days. We hugged and kissed and then I just tried to get my mindset on the things coming up. 

When we landed in Houston, we had to change airports. So my sister-in-laws' dad, Julien, offered to chauffeur us between airports. When we got to IAH, we met up with Cassie and Julie who had been there for a while before we were. I was so so happy to see both of them. Obviously we know that Cassie is my sister, but Julie is my friend from our church in Texas. She has done such an excellent job of supporting our ministry with Lifevesting. She calls me, prays for me, and loves our family and this ministry so well. I was SO GLAD that she got to come and experience first hand what she has been praying for and supporting for so long.

Look how cute we all look before our 14 hour flight! ha, we did NOT look the same getting off the airplane as before.

We got on the plane and I was seated between Julie on the aisle and some biker dude home boy by the window whose muscles took up more than his allotted personal space. He called me babe the whole flight and when he was talking to the flight attendant he told her she was so pretty he wanted to jump her. Also, he told me he was popping a Xanax for the flight, which he proceeded to unroll from a tissue, and asked me if I wanted one. I said no thanks. In one regard, I was thankful he was knocked out the whole flight. On the other hand, I was squished in my seat afraid to fall asleep in case I accidentally leaned on him, I was too afraid he would like it! So I stayed awake most of the 14 hour flight. Thankfully I had plenty of entertainment choices.... Gilmore, Victoria, books and podcasts.... I was good.


We landed in Dubai 14 hours later at some time at night. We had a three hour layover that we used to freshen up, change clothes (they stuuuuuuuunk so bad!), and grab a snack before our next flight.


The next flight was thankfully only 6 hours long. Yeah, I say thankfully because 6 hours compared to 14 is nothing. I thankfully slept most of that flight. 


We arrived Bangkok at 8:00 in the morning. I'm so glad I was able to sleep that flight before so I could hit the ground running that day. We got our bags and met up with our other two team members, Dixie and Lauren, and with our dear Thai friends Dui, Gift and Goy. Dui is our National Coordinator for Thailand and is a pastor in the town of Nong Nae. 


Because of the way our flights worked out, we ended up spending most of the day in Bangkok. Starting with brunch at..... Burger King! Our friends told us they wanted to ease our tummies into Thai food.... haha.


After "brunch" we went to a market called Chattachak market or "JJ market" as the locals call it. It is "outdoor" but it is so full of booths inside that it is kind of indoors too? There is EVERYTHING there. EVERYTHING. Like for real, EVERYTHING. Food, trinkets, dishes, soaps, bathroom sinks, clothes, food, everything. I bought some souvenirs for my kids, and some earrings and teacups!




After the market, we decided to get on the road to Nong Nae and our hotel for the main part of the week. On the way, once we were out of the city, we drove around in some of the surrounding communities. We stopped at a train station that my mom used to take all the time when she was growing up there. 


We got all settled into our hotel, which yall, we might as well call a resort. It's tropical and beautiful. Because lodging is so inexpensive (and our friends get such a great deal), we are able to stay at really nice places!

I brought the poster card my kids had given me for my birthday a couple days before our trip so that I could enjoy it for longer. I hung it up right by my bed. :)



After resting and SHOWERING (OH MY GOSH THE STINK FROM TRAVEL), we went to dinner at a "Farm to Table" restaurant nearby. It was so cute! And we got settled into some gooood Thai food. I caught this sweet exchange of Gift and Dui. They are so dear to me and I'm so thankful I got to spend good time with them. 


When we got back to the resort, we settled into our rooms and got ready to CRASH. We had church the next morning and wanted to be well rested for the next day. I went ahead and took a Melatonin so I'd be sure to sleep all night and that jet lag wouldn't wake me up at 3:00am.  We got settled and fell fast asleep... until I was woken ABRUPTLY from sleep.....

This trip to Thailand was with Lifevesting International. LVI is a missions organization committed to helping National pastors move the Gospel forward all over the world by resourcing them with discipleship training, boots on the ground ministry and short term trips, and relationship building. We would love for you to be a part of it with us! To join our monthly email list, email me at wileyadventures@gmail.com. To find out more information about how you can partner with us and support this ministry, you can email me or visit the website at http://lifevesting.org/
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07 August 2017

Benefits Of An Established Routine For Older Chidren

(This post originally appeared at Chronicles of a Babywise Mom on June 8th, 2017)

I first learned about Babywise because of a family that I baby-sat for in high school and college. I was very close to them and I even ended up keeping their kids for a week while their parents went on an anniversary trip. During that week, I had a very close up view of their family routines and I'll never forget my jaw hitting the floor when I would tell them it was time for bed and get this... they just went to bed. No arguments. No "5 more minutes please". We did their bedtime routine and they WENT TO BED. I decided right then that whatever they did, I was going to do when I had kids of my own. Turns out, what they "did" was Babywise. 



Because my first experience with Babywise was actually on the other side of baby schedules, I was able to go into Babywise with my own babies knowing the long term benefits. And now, after having implemented Babywise principles with all four of my kids, I am able to reap some of the benefits of having an established schedule with my older kids. Here are some of the benefits I have experienced:

- Makes big transitions not so big

With all of the big developmental changes we face with each kid (i.e. transition out of a crib, nap time to rest time, rest time to room time, potty training, etc...) having an established routine in place has helped a great deal in making those transitions smooth. Because expectations are pretty clear when you have an established routine, it creates a safety net so to speak for the child to feel secure in when a change is happening somewhere.

The latest example I have of this is when we accidentally weaned my two year old of his pacifier habit. And I say accidentally because that's how easy it turned out to be. I had been DREADING this. He was my last baby, I was a little lazy with him and I just didn't want to deal with the fall-out. I thought it would ruin our hard-earned schedule. Instead, one Saturday afternoon, my husband couldn't find the paci, went through our bedtime routine without it, and he went to bed without it just fine. There were a couple nights of asking for it, a couple bouts of 5 minute crying, but that was it. Without question, I give credit to the established bedtime routine we already had in place.

-  Actually aids in flexibility

This sounds counter-intuitive to some people, how a schedule can make you more flexible. But when you have a routine in place, it allows you to deviate when you need to (because we all know life just HAPPENS sometimes) and fall right back into your well-established routine. And after Babywise, we all know that the beauty of the "Parent Directed Feeding" schedule is that it is a FLEXIBLE schedule not a rigid one. Babywise, from the beginning, sets you up to be a flexible family.

-  A baby-sitter's dream

Having your kids on a solid schedule or routine makes you the dream job for a baby-sitter. And I say that both from the baby-sitter's perspective and the parent perspective. I typically only have to write down the schedule once or if something changes for our sitters. They know our routine and schedule and fall pretty easily into that routine themselves. There is never a question of when something should happen. Our routine is easily duplicated no matter who the care giver is. Also, our baby-sitters know our kids sleep, so when they put them to bed, they go to bed.

-  Can more easily notice or know when something is wrong

This is one of my favorite benefits. Having an established routines helps you know your kids inside and out. You establish a "normal" so when something is not normal, you notice immediately. This is applicable for illness, developmental changes, or even emotional issues. I can spot when something is wrong pretty quickly and address the issue.

-  Helps with strategies for handling developmental challenges

Because you know your kids so well, you can better strategize when challenges arise. If something comes up at school with my daughter, know her "normal" can help me know where to start with making changes or making a new game plan to address these challenges. I have found this particularly helpful as I navigate school for my gifted child.

-  Establishes home as a refuge

When kids have the safety of an established routine, it helps make home their "safe place", their refuge. I always want my kids to feel a sigh of relief when they walk in our front door. I want it to be a warm, loving place, where they feel safe because they already know the expectations of our home. They know to expect consistency. That consistency is one of my favorite ways to love my kids.

- They sleep

Because of those hard-worked Babywise days, my kids are awesome sleepers and I know they are getting the rest they need. Sleeping through the night isn't something they grow out of as they get older... it sticks with them and creates healthy sleep habits for their whole life.

- I can work from home

Having an established routine allows me the ability to work from home as a Travel Agent and blogger. I know when they will be in room time or resting/napping. I know when they will be in bed every night. This creates pockets of time for me to be able to get my work done.


These are just SOME of the benefits that I have personally experienced with my older kids of having an established routine. I'm looking forward to finding out even more as my kids grow older!

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01 August 2017

Tips For Successful Room Sharing

(this post originally appeared on Mamas Organized Chaos as a Babywise Friendly Blog Swap Day!)



Room sharing is the devil. 

Don't ever have your kids share a room.

Avoid room sharing at all costs. 

Stock up on wine and chocolate. 

Just kidding. Kind of. You'll want the wine and chocolate anyway.

The truth is, room sharing is probably not ideal unless you have kids who really function better with a roommate than one without. 3 of our 4 kids function better on their own. Too bad for them because in our current stage of life, it's just not feasible for our kids to have their own bedrooms. But it can get tricky and can rock the boat sometimes with your perfectly scheduled Baby-wise babies. Our kids have shared rooms for a while now and I have found out some things (the hard way) that might make things a bit easier if you are looking to have kids room share.

1. Communicate bedtime expectations

As parents, you need to decide what your expectations will be at bedtime and clearly communicate it to your children. If they are younger, you'll need to establish your expectations by disciplining accordingly.

We have our boys (our current room-sharers), go potty before bedtime, and then we expect them to stay in their beds the rest of the night. We also expect them not to get in the others' bed or to keep the other from going to sleep by talking or playing. Also, we never never wake a sleeping brother.

Don't forget to think through what the morning should look like. Do they need to stay in their beds till you come get them? For our boys, Fischer wakes up a lot earlier than Shepherd and so we let him quietly come out so Shepherd can continue to sleep.

2. Stick to a routine

Just like you do with your babies in their non-shared rooms, establish your bedtime routine and stick with it. Consistency is key for either situation. Continue to communicate your routine to your kids.

Our routine is bath, family worship, reading time, potty break, bed. Figure out what works best for you and stick with that!

3. Use a noise machine

White noise has SAVED US when it comes to room sharing. It helps set the environment for sleep and helps to cover up little noises that come with someone else sleeping in the same room like tossing in sleep or even if one wakes in the night. I highly recommend a noise machine!

4. Consider personalities

If you have multiple kids and have options for room sharing, consider the different personalities and which ones would room best and SLEEP best together. My husband and I were just considering this lately and are thinking about making a change to our current situation.

5. Maybe nap separately

Whenever we started out room sharing in any of the scenarios we have had, our kids surprised us with how well they did at night and also with how AWFUL they did at nap times. It just never worked for us. I don't know if it was the light or just being more sleepy after a full day, but we have never been very successful with room sharing during naptime. We solved this problem by setting up a pack n play in our bedroom and separating them for naptime only. So, if you try it and it flops during day naps, know you're not alone and set your pack n play up!

Even though room sharing might be considered a necessary evil, I do think there are benefits for siblings and I think it is manageable!

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