Category Archives: Topics

Spreadsheet Wednesday: Garden Planning

Before we even had space for a garden, I had fallen in love with Square Foot Gardening.  Never mind that I hate dirt, bugs, and anything resembling hard work.  The possibilities of raising tons of produce with such little effort really caught my eye. (And my husband would point out that it doesn’t hurt that this gardening method takes place in beautiful, little, tiny grids. I can’t deny it.)

Now I’m approaching my third summer of square foot gardening.  I’m working on a major expansion to my garden, and I’ve mostly gotten over my fear of dirt.  We’ve had some successes and some failures over the last two years, but like every spring, I’m optimistic that this is our year.

Like most things in my life, there are several spreadsheets in my files for garden stuff, but this garden planning sheet is the one I’ve found most useful lately.  Simply enter the total square footage of your square foot garden and the total number of squares of vertical space (climbing trellis) available.  Then mix and match plants to your heart’s content.  The spreadsheet will calculate how much room your desired plants should take up and let you know when you’ve reached maximum capacity.

To add new plants, you’ll simply need to know how many fit in a square foot.  You can use this conversion chart to calculate from the spacing on the seed packet.

Once you’ve finished selecting your plant, I highly recommend you take a look at this companion planting sheet by My Square Foot Garden.  It’s a lifesaver that prevents us garden noobs from planting potatoes and tomatoes next to each other. One of the niftiest garden tools out there.

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Filed under Gardening, Spreadsheet Wednesday

Saturday Links – Stress-Free Parenting and Conversations About Drawing

Theory Links

Is Stress-Free Parenting Possible? – Yes, and yes.

Reflecting on How I Spend My Days – Amen to this list of ways to keep your days as a toddler parent joyful, rather than sad.

10 Ways to Make Your Homeschool Run Smoothly – If you’re not into the homeschooling vibe, don’t be put off. I find that homeschooling blogs are a great source for general, organized parenting tips.  Sure, some of this may not apply, but a lot of these are a huge part of making anyone’s day run smoothly.

 

Activity Links

Making Shapes – Beautifully simple homemade toy (popsicle sticks + velcro stickers) with huge potential.

Kids Art: Conversations About Drawing – I’m at this point with Monkey’s fine motor skills.  This is a good technique for dealing with the frustration of “not being able to do it”.

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Filed under Parental Motivators, Preschooler (3 yrs - 5 yrs), Saturday Five, Toddler (18 mos - 3 yrs)

Saturday Links – Two Videos and Fall Art Projects

Theory Links

Video: Are Your Family’s Routines Working? – This is exactly why we have routines for everything in our house.  Routines = expected, planned good times.  Lack of routines = panicky, chaotic frustration.

Video: Baby Teamwork – I’m working hard on letting my kids solve their own problems more.  When things like this happen spontaeously between a 1- and almost-3-year-old, it shocks me.  Check it out.

One-Sided Parental Vigilance – Although I’m not on the food hypervilance wagon, I have to agree that I would like to see more studies about kids and media characters.  Not all character play is bad, mind you–I spent a good portion of my childhood playing Sound of Music with a certain friend.  But it makes me sad when young kids are totally addicted to characters on everything they own by age 3.  Childhood (and adulthood) should be a little less branded.

Activity Links

Floor Block Puzzles – I really like the idea of free form puzzles.  Sort of an easy introduction to tangrams.

Display Seasonal Books on a Stuffed Animal Chain – Good enough to go in the family room, I say.

Fun Leaf Projects for Kids – A plethora of ideas for fall themed crafts.  I’m really loving the leaf mobile.

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Filed under Baby (9 - 18 mos), Family Culture, Infant (0 - 9 mos), Magda Gerber, Preschooler (3 yrs - 5 yrs), Saturday Five, Toddler (18 mos - 3 yrs)

Spreadsheet Wednesday: Baby/Toddler Clothing Inventory

To me, one of the biggest shocks about having a baby around was the shear amount of clothing they went through.  At first, with all the various leakages newborns are prone to, it felt like Monkey was wearing a new outfit every two hours.  After that, he started growing like a weed, burning through the 4-5 sizes of clothes made to fit an infant’s first year of life.  (Can you imagine changing sizes that frequently?) I couldn’t even find time to go shopping for clothing, much less hold out for good deals, before he would grow out of it.

With Sailor, I have all of Monkey’s old hand-me-downs.  It’s nice not to be under so much pressure to shop for clothing constantly, but hand-me-downs have their own hazards.  Like returning from Old Navy with my favorite white Oxford church shirt that I knew Sailor would need soon . . . except that I already had two in that size and none in the size below it.  It is literally impossible to keep track of that many sets of clothing in your head.

Clothign Inventory

Click to download a copy

Which is why I invented this lovely clothing inventory spreadsheet.  It’s made to be printed double-sided, then folded in half to make a booklet you can fit inside your purse.  Just go through your stash of the next few sizes of clothing up, and mark what you have on the sheet.  I even make things too complicated and have separate marks for “clothing I have which is ugly and I want to replace, but which I can live with if I don’t find a good deal.”

Anyway, I keep my inventory in my purse at all times–it’s got plenty of water stains from leaky water bottles, but it’s still legible.  You could keep it on a smartphone or note program like Evernote, but I find check boxes and a pen are easier to keep up to date.  Having this information at your fingertips can be a real money saver.  Not only do you not end up with duplicate clothing, but you also have the advantage of being able to shop end-of-season sales for 1-2 sizes ahead.  You can buy high-quality, brand name clothing for much cheaper if you plan ahead. This piece of paper has been a huge sanity saver for me as well.  Hope it helps you too!

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Filed under Baby (9 - 18 mos), Couponing/Money Saving, Infant (0 - 9 mos), Preschooler (3 yrs - 5 yrs), Spreadsheet Wednesday, Toddler (18 mos - 3 yrs)

Mormon Parenting Hacks: “Mom’s Sick” Emergency Preparedness

Okay, I promise this post is way more awesome than it sounds.  Also, it’s not really a hack just for Mormon parents.  It just seems especially Mormon to me since we’re well-known hoarders of 5-gallon buckets.

I first read about this idea last week on Latter-Day Homeschooling as “Emergency” Homeschooling Survival Kits.  The idea was to have three days of homeschooling lessons packed into three 5-gallon buckets, to be used on days when you’re sick or otherwise un-motivated to teach homeschool.

But, really, what mother with toddlers at home doesn’t need an “emergency sick day” kit?  I’m pretty sure this sounds like the best idea ever to me.  Pack a bucket (or reusable grocery bag) with a days worth of activities for your toddlers, then pull it out when you’re ill, or one of your kids is ill, or when the refrigerator breaks and you need to entertain children at home for the day with minimal effort.  Maybe you’ve all thought of this idea before, but to me, it’s revolutionary.  Why not be prepared for the inevitable?

My goal this month is to put together 3 emergency sick day kits for under $15 each.  Here are my ideas of what to put in an emergency kit:

  • New school/craft supplies – because nothing makes coloring suddenly interesting again like a new box of crayons.
  • Stickers – a great activity I recent read of is to give the kids a million little stickers and a paper with a large shape outlined on it.  Have them fill the shape with stickers.  Sounds like 30 minutes of rest.
  • Printed out craft instructions – something simple and non-messy but time consuming?  Also ideal if it’s at the level a child can do by himself without a lot of help from (miserably sick) you.
  • Coloring books & puzzles from dollar section at Target – really, any thing from the dollar section will work.
  • Cake or cookie mix – both activity and comfort snack
  • Picture book
  • Clearanced toy from “the stash” – Do you guys have a stash?  I keep a stash of under $10 children’s toys for birthday presents; they’re also my current “bad day” go to solution, but doling them out like this will keep them more under control.  You could also do this a more expensive way and buy toys that you want to add to your toy collection, but not give them out until sick days.
  • Children’s DVD – great for the last hour before your husband gets home when you really can’t do any more.  Again, think of it as building your collection in a beneficial manner.

What do you think?  Any other brilliant ideas for what to put in an emergency kit?  I also like the idea from the original post to have emergency meals stored in your freezer.  A great way to do a little freezer cooking without feeling like you have to live that lifestyle.

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Filed under Baby (9 - 18 mos), Cooking & Meal Prep, Family Culture, Infant (0 - 9 mos), Mormon Parenting Hacks, Preschooler (3 yrs - 5 yrs), Toddler (18 mos - 3 yrs)

Theory Thursday: Transitioning away from “Distraction Discipline”

Today’s Theory Thursday is a little pet theory of mine about the best way to teach toddlers to stay away from stuff you don’t want them to have.  I know, it’s not the most profound subject, but it certainly is a time consuming one for SAHMs.  I’d be willing to bet that a mother of a 1-3 year old spends at least 90 minutes every day shooing their child away from dangerous or breakable things.

Of course, the best way to deal with the problem of not-touchable-by-toddlers stuff is to get rid of it or put it out of reach.  But for some things–major appliances, the toilet, computers, DVDs, mommy’s knitting–that strategy isn’t feasible.  You could just keep your baby in a gated room that is baby safe; indeed, I think this is a good practice for at least some of the day to allow a baby/toddler some independence.  However, sometimes you have to cook dinner or brush Baby’s teeth.  Toddlers, with their new-found mobility, are especially likely to encounter forbidden object.

For new babies, there can be no real discipline to keep them away from things, just a re-direction of energy and attention elsewhere, what I call “distraction discipline.”  But on some sad day, this stops working on your toddler and you have to start saying no and dealing with the ensuing tantrums.  As Monkey grew up, I noticed a progression in the discipline I used for dealing with these situations, which I have codified for your convenience.  Basically, I stuck at the lowest level possible until it no longer worked, then gradually transitioned to the next level.  The levels are:

  1. Make the object physically inaccessible, if possible.
  2. Distract, distract, distract.
  3. Say “No” and try to teach them not to touch it, perhaps with a simple reason.  (If you can’t think of a reason, perhaps you’re just freaking out about a new behavior.  Let your toddler experiment a bit.)  But remember, true logic doesn’t kick in until about 3 years old, so don’t expect this to hold from actual understanding so much as from repetition of a key phrase.  Repeat your phrase calmly until the child realizes you won’t give in and gives up himself.
  4. Offer a comparable activity.  If your toddler wants to pour out all of the cereal from the box, chances are that he or she is just interested in how pouring works.  Provide a plastic pitcher and some beans or rice to pour on top of a blanket or cookie sheet.  If he or she wants to drag something against the fireplace grating and create a horrible racket, take the grate somewhere safe and let them experiment with noise, or use cheese graters and metal sieves as a substitute.
  5. Instruct in nature and correct use of the item.  At some point, you’ll have to give into your toddler’s curiosity and teach them how to use the dishwasher, a knife, the sink, the television, etc. etc.  You’ll be surprised to find out how learning to use an item will stick with a toddler.  They very much like to know how things work and how to use them like a grown-up.  (If you’re unsure if a toddler can learn to do something (like use a knife, or put away dishes), I’d suggest checking out a Montessori book from your local library.  Kids can be a lot more self sufficient than we think.)

Viewing Monkey’s curiosity as a progression in discipline and understanding, rather than an act of disobedience, helps us to have a positive relationship about what he’s allow to do.  After all, it’s unreasonable to expect a 2-year-old to hold to the same boundaries as a 1-year-old.  Think how much they’ve learned in that year!  Once he becomes interested in an item we’d previously settled, I know it’s time to move on to the next level.  And once we’ve reached the last level, it’s no longer a problem because he knows the acceptable uses for that object.  For example, here’s how our discipline progression with the toilet looked.

  1. Keep the bathroom door closed.
  2. If the baby wanders into the bathroom, take him out and do something else with him.
  3. Explain “No, the toilet is dangerous.”  Repeat every time Monkey attempts to touch the toilet.
  4. Once Monkey realized the toilet meant open water play, I provided lots of substitute play by filling a large basin with water and setting it on the kitchen floor.  Bring towels.
  5. Explain how to raise and lower the lids gently.  Practice flushing.  Show how toilet paper flushes.  Explain about not drinking the water.  (Eventually, real potty training. :D)

This form of discipline applies mostly to things that children aren’t supposed to touch–stoves, toilets, cabinets, large boxes full of small parts.  But I suppose you could apply this method to social discipline as well.  At first, sharing and turn taking is beyond them.  Swift distraction is the only way to prevent fights.  After a while, distraction no longer works and you can begin to say “no.”  If the child is simply enjoying the act of taking, you could offer comparable activities by playing give and take with the child yourself, or perhaps a tug-of-war type game.  Finally, when the child is old enough to really understand, you can explain the motivations behind good social behavior and expect them to apply them.

Anyway, this though pattern is useful to me, so hopefully, it can help you!

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Filed under Baby (9 - 18 mos), Discipline, Infant (0 - 9 mos), Toddler (18 mos - 3 yrs)

Parenting Book Review: Dear Parent: Caring for Infants with Respect

After reading some interesting posts on Janet Lansbury’s blog, Elevating Child Care, I was inspired to read the book her philosophy of child care is based on: Dear Parent: Caring for Infants with Respect by Magda Gerber.  I actually read the book about a month ago, but I’ve been holding onto my review because of vacations and visitors.  The delay has given me extra time to try out some of the methods in the book and think about their effectiveness.  Overall, my reaction to this book, and my personal implementation of it, has been quite mixed.

My main gripe was that the book contains a lot of mental coaching on how to think about a situation, but was somewhat lacking in how such a mindset might lead to concrete actions.  As I’m a person who demands implementable results, this wishy-washy mindset talk drove me crazy.  It’s all fine and dandy to say that you have to adapt to new developments in your child’s behavior, but how about some concrete suggestions on how to adapt to stranger anxiety or toilet training?  Where there were concrete suggestions, they were brilliant for the most part. Continue reading

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Filed under Baby (9 - 18 mos), Discipline, Infant (0 - 9 mos), Magda Gerber, Parenting Book Reviews

Saturday Links – Inside-out Laundry

Theory Links

Save time while folding laundry: fold it inside-out – While the OCD freak in me shudders at inside out clothing, this post deserves to be shared if only because it turns “Let the wookiee win” into a parenting philosophy.  LOVE.

Infant Sleep “Rules” Don’t Work – The title’s a little misleading, since it’s not saying that techniques don’t do anything.  It’s simply saying that your attitude towards the child matters most of all (which is advice you’ll find in most sleep books).

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Filed under Baby (9 - 18 mos), Infant (0 - 9 mos), Saturday Five, Sleep

Spreadsheet Wednesday: Packing Lists

Edit: Fixed the link to the spreadsheet.  Sorry folks.

I meant to share this before we went on vacation, but I was too busy using this spreadsheet at the time. :D  This spreadsheet is one of the cases where a little effort to design it well once will save a lot of time in the future.  (As opposed to some of my other spreadsheets, which I spend hours making and never use . . .)

Click to view and download a copy

Yes, as the title so brilliantly implies, these are my packing lists.  I’ve only got parent, baby, and toddler lists right now, but I’m sure I’ll add child and teen lists as our family gets older.

I love this spreadsheet because I don’t have to even think about what to pack for a trip anymore.  I print out lists for everyone on packing day, tape them to their door, cross things off as I go, and don’t take them down until everything is packed and in the car.  It takes all the “did I forget to pack black socks?” out of vacationing.

Changing the numbers in the boxes labeled “# Days Total” and “# of Days (w/Laundry)” (meaning days in between doing laundry) will change the numbers on the items of clothing you need to bring, and amounts of food and diapers for the kids.  You may need to tinker around with the formulas to get it to your personal ratio of re-wearings versus laundry done.

I’ve also sorted the packing list by categories so I don’t need separate packing lists for summer and winter or if I’m going to exercise on the trip or not.  Also useful for packing like items in similar places.

Okay, maybe I should stop drooling over my spreadsheet.  See you later.

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Filed under Spreadsheet Wednesday, Travel

Parenting Book Review: 12 Hours Sleep by 12 Weeks Old

So, if you recall, one of my first posts on this blog was my version of the Baby Wise sleep method.  I posted it first to help myself remember for the next time I go ’round the baby wagon, but also because I hate the tone and style of Baby Wise even though their techniques worked like a charm for both my kids.

Well, a few weeks ago, I found my new alternative to Baby Wise: Twelve Hours’ Sleep by Twelve Weeks Old by Suzy Giordano.  (My husband looked at me funny when he saw I was reading a baby sleep book even though both our kids are done with all that.  Yes, I have odd hobbies that include raiding the parenting section at the local library for fun.)  This book has much less of a moral tone and focuses more on techniques and strategies for stretching a baby’s sleep schedule to fit yours.

In particular, I loved the daytime and nighttime “toolboxes” she includes for you to use in the transition from “eat whenever you want” to “stick to the schedule, kid.”  Continue reading

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Filed under Baby Wise, Infant (0 - 9 mos), Parenting Book Reviews, Sleep