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Tuesday, May 22, 2018

I Don't Want to Live in Fear- Yet Here I am Looking Up Home-school Curriculum

"I live in a safe area"
-The denial mom

"Trust in our lord"
-Clearly that's not working for anyone mom

"It could happen anywhere, so we need a new plan"
-Seemingly more and more the realistic mom

"Never letting my children leave the house again"
-Overprotective mom that we all fight off being

Here's the reality... it can, and does happen anywhere. Shootings don't happen in the "unsafe" schools. They happen in all types of schools. Your school is not the safe school that it won't happen in.

Here's the other problem though...

My husband and I 100% do not want to home-school or send our children to private school. It makes me so sad to even look at the home-school curriculum. And we refuse to spend thousands on a private school- even if we could afford it.

It makes me feel so sick to even know that parents are now put in this horrible situation where they feel the need to think about home-school or private school.

I am a former public school teacher. I am a public school graduate. There are so many reasons that I want our children going to public school:

1. Public Education is made up of fabulous teachers. 

I want our children exposed to as many influential adults in their lives as possible. Public school teachers aren't there for the money.

They are there because they have a passion. A passion for their subject, and/or a passion for teaching- hopefully both.

And guess what? It doesn't matter the test scores of the school. The rankings don't matter.

Some of the best teachers out there are the teachers that are at some of the "lower ranking" schools. They work their butts off to do their best. Every single day.

For this exact reason, when we bought our hopefully forever home just now, we didn't even bother to look at the schools.

People always ask me what school our daughter will go to and if we are moving for the school.

NO. In fact, I'd have to look up what school she'll go to. The only reason I have any idea is because the real estate listing mentions it at the bottom.

I trust that the teachers at any school she goes to will be great. And I know that we'll make the best out of any school, and any situation.

Our children will get a great education- no matter where they go.

2. It is what you make of it. 

The child going to a free public school, can get the same great education as the child going to private school whose parents are spending thousands of dollars each year.

Parents set expectations. Children have expectations of themselves as a result.

Is your child bored in a class? Ask for extended material. Enroll in high level classes.

Take initiative and learn more. Run with what you are given.

Is your child behind in a class? Ask for help. Teach your child to advocate for their education. Get ideas from the teacher, and help at home.

It doesn't matter what school they are going to, these are things you might run into. It's how you move forward that matters.

Education should be a collaborative effort with teachers, parents, and students all at the table.

Parents helping to set the expectations and guidance, teachers to teach and do what they do best, and children to rise to the occasion and make something of what they are given by this phenomenal team effort.

3. Diversity and Culture

We live in a very culturally diverse area. I love that.

I loved teaching in that environment, and I love that our daughter will experience it as well. I have no intention of keeping her home where she wouldn't experience such a diverse world.

4. Social experiences

I want our children to learn how to interact with other people- adults and peers. I want them talking to more people than just family at home, and a few select friends from a home-school co-op.

They need to learn about the real world in this way. They need to learn how to make friends, and how to spot people that are not true friends.

They need to learn to follow their instincts, help others, and do kind things.

They need to experience what it's like to not follow the crowd, sit alone, and not always be invited to the party.

They need to learn to include others, and be thoughtful of those around them and how their words and actions affect people.

They need to learn about all of this while under our roof. So we can help them learn how to get through it.

They need to learn how to speak their voice in respectful ways, while standing up for what they believe in. These things happen in social settings.

5. Teamwork & Discussions

One cannot enter the workforce without knowing how to work as a team. You just won't be successful. It doesn't matter what your job.

School is where you learn to work as a team. Where's the teamwork when you are doing home-school? Where are the collaborative projects?

I hated doing team projects in school. But I learned a lot. I learned that my way isn't always the right way.

I learned that other people work at different paces. I learned that I have a hard time speaking up to my peers about things I dislike.

I learned that my natural tendency is to take over. I learned how to overcome that and work better as a team player rather than just doing it all myself.

Those projects were valuable lessons on some of my weaknesses. It was also eye opening to me as to some of my qualities- work ethic, my expectations of a final product, ability to follow deadlines, etc.

And the discussions! Discussions in a class setting are invaluable. Discussions spark ideas. Ideas spark creativity and scientific thought.

6. Exposure and challenges

I was the girl in high school that would get invited to a party, and I'd ask if there would be alcohol. If there was, I didn't go.

I learned the hard way that parties involved alcohol. I also knew I was uncomfortable in those settings.

I had a few surprises where I didn't think there would be alcohol but there was. One time I came home with bloodshot eyes because I walked into a room to meet some friends, and they had a bong lit up that was about 3 feet tall.

It was not pleasant and I left as soon as I could.

Were those experiences fun? No. But I'm so glad I had them.

I was able to draw the line for myself as to what I felt comfortable with. I had been exposed just enough that I wasn't in total culture shock when I went to college. I could handle myself.

I had my parents to call upon when I was in high school. I didn't have that in college.

I'm glad I was exposed to things when I was under their roof and their protection. I found my footing and knew how to handle things.

Is it essential that we expose our kids to these things? No. But the reality is that they will be exposed to drugs and alcohol at some point in their lives.

It can happen under your roof, or it can happen when they leave for college. I'd much rather it happen while they are still living at home.

In a school setting you also have to rise to academic challenges- projects that aren't necessarily your style, learning in environments that may not be your ideal situation and ideal learning style, etc.

You are challenged frequently to step outside your comfort zone and rise to new levels.

Character is built through challenges. Whether it be exposure to alcohol, or dating, academic challenges, or cheating on tests.

Character is built through facing obstacles. I want our children to face some obstacles.

7. Rules, deadlines, and reality

To be successful in the real world, you need to be able to follow rules, meet deadlines, follow instructions, and do high quality work.

You need to be on time, be able to communicate effectively, and even have practice talking in front of an audience.

You need to be able to give presentations, manage your time well, and get things done efficiently.

Children also need to learn how to dress in a professional manner. Yes I said it.

I'm A-okay with dress codes at schools (as a parent and as a teacher). There is a way to express your style and personality, all while keeping your butt cheeks, cleavage, and belly covered up, not wearing shirts that have profanity on them, and keeping your pants belted where they should be.

Sure these are all things we'd teach on our own at home anyway. But public schools provide an extra place to learn about all of the above. And children have an extra push to manage their time on projects, homework, papers, etc.

8. Who am I to think I can teach everything and do it well?

No offense to the parents that home-school, but teachers are teachers for a reason. Teachers are trained experts in not only their subject, but how to teach!

I was a high school chemistry teacher. I certainly won't pretend I know how to teach Kindergartners to read, or how to teach calculus.

Could I figure it out? Most of it, sure. Would I be as good as the teachers? Most definitely NOT.

Public Schools Aren't Perfect...

Public schools are far from perfect. As a teacher I saw that first hand. I'd love for the standardized tests to go away.

I'd love for project based learning to be the reality and not infiltrated with "busy work" requirements.

Elementary schools have far too little time for play.

Class sizes are too large. I taught in a high school with 7 periods, and 35+ students per class. I couldn't make an impact on every child. It took me far too long to learn all of their names.

And clearly, the shootings are unacceptable. The safety of our children should be the number one priority in this country.

It's not perfect, but the advantages far outweigh the negatives for us.

So no, I don't want to live in fear. I know it's far more likely for our child to die in a car accident than it is for her to die in a school shooting.

I know that we could be at a concert, or at the mall and get shot there. I know those things.

But I also know that school shootings are far too common in the United States.

I know that so far in 2018 more children have died in school shootings, than soldiers in our military!

And so, I'm scared. I have nightmares about this reality that has become our nation. I think we all do as parents.

I have nightmares about not feeling able to put our children into public schools, even though I don't feel there is another option.

It makes me sick to my stomach that we have to teach active shooter drills.

As a teacher it was just unreal to do these nonsense drills and to think..."should I be a hero and save someone's child, or go home to my family?" These drills won't save our lives.

And as a parent, I can't imagine our daughter's first year in Kindergarten having to learn something so horrifying. 

Such innocent little hearts learning such scary things. 

There's no good answer. There's no solution right now. I'm sick of hearing thoughts and prayers. I'm sick of moments of silence.

I want to feel like we can send our children to public school- to high school. I want some action so I don't have to make myself sick worrying about things like this.

I want to be able to feel comfortable sending our children to school. I don't.

I have even more than these 8 reasons for preferring public school. Yet this one thing is making me so fearful.

In the end, we'll choose to not live in fear. We'll choose to send our children to public school.

I hope so much changes in our country by the time they are in school. We have a long, long way to go.


When going through the emotional turmoil of having an unborn child with a terminal condition, it is near impossible to think straight. There are a million things going through your mind, and so many things to take care of, yet so little energy and time to do so.

I was incredibly lucky to have a medical staff that was proactive, and incredibly prepared. They helped us prepare along the way, and I'm forever grateful for that.

I've heard so many stories of hospitals, and medical teams being insensitive, and down right acting in disgusting manners when parents choose to induce, or (terminate for medical reasons). 

As in, I've talked with moms that had their baby handed to them in a bedpan. I've talked with moms that have had their moments with their baby forced to be in the bathroom, instead of in a nice comfortable room.

I've talked with moms that weren't given time with their baby to honor them. They were treated so poorly and it's heartbreaking.

There are hospitals and medical staff that will take care of you, however. There are hospitals and medical staff that will honor your wishes. Find one. The one we went to is Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, Maryland. 

We had such an amazing team of medical professionals at this hospital, that I would HIGHLY recommend this hospital. They went above and beyond for us. 

So, even if you are out on the west coast, I'd travel. I'd make sure that you and your baby are treated the way you deserve.

One of the ways they were able to help us so much, was by reading our birth plan. I didn't have to explain what was going on to every shift change. I didn't have to go over the details of our dying daughter for the umpteenth time. 

Thanks to one of the chaplains at Hopkins, we'd been given the idea of creating a birth plan. That birth plan was printed and hung on the board in our room, and another copy was hung outside of our door, and probably one in our chart. 

We were able to think through our wishes and desires ahead of time, and get it all out on paper. I didn't have a birth plan for my first daughter. 

I knew full well that I was just going to have to go with the flow. My only request was an epidural! 

But, with something like an early induction, when you know your child's life will be ending, there are a lot of T's to cross and I's to dot to make sure your plan happens, and happens the way you want. 

So, today I'd like to share our birth plan. A template was given to me by a chaplain at Johns Hopkins. I tweaked it to work for us, and you can do the same. 

I've taken out phone numbers, and some names for privacy reasons, but the important things are still here. I left all of our specific details and wishes so you can get a full picture of what we were envisioning for April's birth.

Please feel free to download a copy of this birth plan (at the bottom of the post), and edit it to make sense for your family. If nothing else, it might just get you thinking about all of the things to include. 

I know I was super thankful to have as many resources at my disposal as possible. This is just one more resource for you to use as well. 

Birth Plan- Katrina Villegas

Our overriding wish is that we keep our baby, April Rey Villegas, pain free. If she is alive for a brief moment, we want to comfort her in our arms and say goodbye peacefully. We want as much scientific learning to be done as possible, and welcome/invite medical students and residents to any and all parts of the induction, delivery, examination and autopsy.

Essential information
Baby's name: April Rey Villegas
Parents' names: Katrina and Joseph Villegas
Older sibling’s name: Caroline Villegas

Contact numbers for family:Mom’s cell (insert name): 
                                                    Dad’s cell (insert name): 
                                                Grandparent’s cell (insert names): 
                                                Grandparent’s cell (insert names): 

Contact numbers for contacts at Hopkins:

Chaplain Kat helping to coordinate birth plan
Katie R. (genetic counselor with fetal therapy group) helping to coordinate tissue donation process

Contact numbers for tissue donation with the University of  MD: 410-706-1755

Contact number for photographer: insert name and cell

Summary of Pregnancy & Diagnosis
April Rey was diagnosed with full trisomy 13 when we were 15 weeks into the pregnancy. Since her condition is terminal regardless of our path, we are choosing to spare her any pain by inducing early (19.5 weeks).

Wishes for labor and delivery

 Vaginal Birth

If induction/vaginal delivery does not work for any reason, I’d opt for a c-section over an abortion procedure. We want her body intact for tissue donation, and to hold her and say goodbye.

 Comfort measures and pain relief for the mother:
Reduce physical pain as much as possible without compromising my ability to deliver April. Would like an epidural. I received an epidural for the birth of my daughter (Caroline), and it was the perfect amount of pain control. I asked for minimal relief (take the edge off).

I wanted to be able to have full control over my legs, and feel when I needed to push. This was accomplished perfectly, and I’d like the same with this birth if at all possible. I have a slight herniated disc between L4-L5.

I’ll be in plenty of emotional pain, so if I can minimize physical pain I’d be grateful to have that relief.

 Cutting the umbilical cord: Can be done by medical staff.

 Support people you wish to be present: Only my husband during labor/delivery
We’d like a photographer present during delivery and after to capture as many moments as possible. We do not want my family to have to worry about taking photos while we are grieving and saying goodbye to our daughter.

Please keep (
insert name) updated as to my status for delivery. She needs to have enough time to make it for delivery, ideally, in case April is alive for a brief moment.

(insert name and cell again)   She’s planning to be on call and will be expecting a phone call indicating that she should come!

 Medical students/residents:
We’d like for as much scientific learning to be done as possible. Medical residents and students are welcome and invited to observe the induction process, delivery, and April’s examination and autopsy.

We would like April Rey to be put in my arms as quickly as possible. 

We do not want her to have any painful procedures.

If she is alive for a brief moment I want that moment to be in my or my husband’s arms.

●  Wishes for our time with our baby:

We would like a few moments to hold April and say goodbye (just my husband and I). When we are ready, we’d like for the baby to be bathed and wrapped in a blanket. We’d then like for our daughter, Caroline, to be brought in to hold her baby sister.

After our immediate family has had our time, we’d then like to invite grandparents to join us in the room and have a moment with April as well. We would like April taken away as soon as everyone that wants to has had a chance to hold her.

 Older sibling:
Caroline is 2.5. She’s asked to meet April and hold her. We’d like to make sure that April is clean and covered nicely so that she is presentable for her.

Caroline will be with her grandparents in the waiting room, and we’d like for just Caroline to be brought in (my husband will likely help bring her in) so we can have a few moments just with her.

We would like our photographer 
(insert name and cell again)  to come in to take pictures during delivery and after April is born.

We want all the memory work we can get. We are interested in the memory box with handprints, footprints, etc. We would also like any other keepsakes we can take with us such as April’s ID band.

 Birth Certificate:
If April meets the requirements, we’d like an official birth certificate. If she does not take a breath and qualify as a “live birth”, we’d still like an in-house certificate to acknowledge her birth. Chaplain Kat at Hopkins (443-223-8433) was looking into all of this for us.

●  Plans for April’s body:

April Rey’s body is being donated to science. Katie R. at Hopkins (insert phone number) is helping to coordinate tissue donation process.

We’d like an autopsy done and for results on findings to be sent to us. Her tissues (brain, blood and skin) are being collected for the University of MD brain and tissue bank. Again, Katie Rock is helping to coordinate these efforts.

Once tissue collection and the autopsy have been completed, we’d like for her body to be sent to the Maryland State Anatomy board for cremation.

We do not wish for her ashes back. We’d like for medical students and residents to learn from April and be a part of her medical examination, autopsy, and tissue collection.

Feel free to copy and paste the above birth plan. 

If you'd like an editable Word document, and a pdf emailed to you, please go to this link:

I apologize... I am unable to upload documents directly to the blog, so Etsy was a good secure way to send this document.

Etsy would not allow me to make this a FREE item as I desired....

As a result, I've decided to charge a minimal fee and ALL proceeds will go to helping moms like you and me get through this. 


Other Posts of Interest: 

See our Trisomy 13/April Rey page here. All of our posts along this journey have been kept on this page.

Baby V #2 Update 15 Weeks- The Longest Wait of Our Lives

Trisomy 13 - The Day After Our Heartbreaking News

Genetic Counselor Questions Asked and Answered

Trisomy 13- Why Would I Ever Consider Not Fighting the Fight?

Trisomy 13- Getting More Information & Our Plan Moving Forward

My Worst Fear That I HATE Admitting      

Trisomy 13- April Rey's 17 Week Anatomy Scan

Summer Activity Schedule for Our Toddler (3.5 Year Old)

I don't know about you, but I cannot sit around and just pretend play with my 3 year old all day long. I honestly can only do it for a short period of time before I am bored out of my mind.

I then take to getting on my phone, finding small tasks to step away for, and not paying as much attention to her as I'd like. With summer rapidly approaching, I knew I needed an activity schedule to keep us occupied, so we have things to do other than just free open play.

Yesterday we decided to make a collaborative list of things to do for the day. The list came about for a very specific struggle we are having right now: our daughter is throwing all out fits at times when we have to stop playing with her for a moment.

She goes through phases where she plays so well on her own, and then phases where all she wants is attention and more and more of my time. I don't blame her, I mean playing is so much more fun with someone else. I get it. But I need to be able to step away for a few moments.

So, on the morning that this list was created, Caroline had already thrown 3 fits. Three. I was not going to have that. The list was born.

Usually when this happens, we focus on doing more independent play. At this age, I simply explain to her that, until she can demonstrate to me that she can do independent play without a screaming fit, we will be practicing it formally every day.

We are casual about it in our house at this point and don't do formal independent play often. The reason for that, is simply because she does so well with playing independently most of the time!

Independent play was going to be on our list, no doubt. It was the reason I decided to do a list.

When it was finished, we had an awesome list. When the day was done, I realized it was the perfect plan. We didn't put set times or even a set order to the list.

After all, I like the idea of a relaxing summer where we can go with the flow. It is a list that can be added to, and it is a list that can be agreed upon in the morning.

We both have ownership of it and get to add things. As a result, the day went super smoothly. AND we accomplished everything on our list!

So, our summer activity schedule is going to be just this- a list of ideas!

I'm planning on keeping a running list, not starting from scratch each day. If we want to add to it, we can. If we have other plans, we'll just look to the list when we are home.

On our list for our 3.5 year old, is the following:

1. Walk/bike ride 

Our plan is to beat the heat. First thing in the morning, I have to take the dog out anyways, so why not make it into a walk/bike activity for all of us!? Caroline is LOVING riding her tricycle at the moment.

She is suddenly an absolute pro at it and can even go up hills. She rides her bike daily, and I walk the dog along side her. It is a perfect early morning activity when the sun isn't at its full force yet.

The goal here is to get energy out and to be outside. However that happens. Maybe that means going to the playground one morning instead.

Maybe that means free outside play (digging in the dirt, etc.). Or, maybe we do all of the above. Whatever it looks like, we want to spend time outside and get moving!

2. Playtime with Mama

I want Caroline to know that, even though we will be working on independent play at times, she will get special playtime with me. I want her to know that it is our time.

I want her to know that I haven't forgotten about just spending some good old fashioned time with her playing whatever it is that she wants. She gets to pick. This also gave her a lot of ownership of this list. She started adding ideas in immediately!

3. Independent Playtime

Independent play was the reason for this list. It had to be on here. We do 1 full hour of independent play. She knows that, when her clock turns yellow, independent play is over.

Sometimes she plays, sometimes she reads, and other times she rests. She can do whatever she'd like, as long as she's doing it by herself.

I sometimes give her ideas of things she can do, but for the most part she comes up with things on her own. She has access to anything in her room.

She's also old enough, that she can go outside on the porch and play by herself there if she'd like. She does choose this at times!

4. Tracing

I wanted to have some sort of focused learning activity for the summer. Writing practice was initially our goal.

It is causing major frustration for both of us, however. But, we both agree that tracing is something that we can succeed at together easily.

Caroline has so much fun with it, and she's getting very good at it, as well. If she chooses to, she can do writing practice on her own, but it is not going to be something I ask of her since it caused some issues. (Read about those writing issues we ran into here).

5. Coloring Together

Caroline added this option. Coloring together is something we had done the night before. We both had a really nice time just doing our own pictures next to one another. We may draw on blank paper, may color pictures, or may draw on whiteboards.

Whatever feels right that day is what we'll do! This could also change into any craft or artsy activity. We might paint, make something, or even draw with chalk outside. The point here is that we are being creative and doing it together.

6. Reading Books Together

Caroline also added this option. She loves reading. It's something we do every day before bed. We used to read a lot during the day as well. We've gotten away from that as she's gotten older and more active. So, I thought this was a fantastic idea of something to get back to.

7. Independent Reading Time

This is another Caroline addition to the list! At school, they have independent book time. At home, we've also done this. I remember when I was pregnant with April, being so tired. I wanted nothing more than to kick my feet up on the bed.

So, I asked Caroline to join me for independent reading time. We both brought a book (her several), and we sat on the bed reading for 30 minutes together. It was lovely!

8. Family Walk

Caroline's final addition to the list, was a family walk. When Daddy is home, we do this as a whole family. I love this. Obviously, it is something that we need to do for our dog, and I think we all really enjoy the outside time together.

When it's really hot, this might change into family pool time to cool off! Somehow we'll have some family time as a whole unit. Other days we might play inside. But the whole family part is key here, and something Caroline really looks forward to.

This list is fluid. We can add to it. We may or may not do everything on our list every day. It was the perfect amount of things to do on our first day, however. It worked out great. On days that we have playdates, we may adjust this list.

Our goal is not to have a set schedule or be locked into anything this summer. Our goal is simply to have ideas up our sleeves of things to do to break up the day. A good variety is key and makes the day go very smoothly.

I love that Caroline had so much involvement making this list. I think that is key. Take turns adding things to the list, but get your toddler's input. That way, they'll be excited about the idea of a list!


Other Posts of Interest

Two Christmases ago, my parents bought Caroline her first game: Roll and Play. This game is amazing for 2 year olds, and I've wanted to make a point of writing about it for quite some time. So 1.5 years later, here we go LOL!

2 year olds are just barely able to start playing games. I was thrilled to get this and very excited to give it a shot. I am a huge fan of playing games as a family, and I love games to teach rule following and patience.

It is hard to take turns. It is hard to not always win. It is hard to follow all of the rules- when you are 2. But it is also so much fun if it's the right game.

This is the right game...

Why this game works:

- It has a physical component:
There is a large stuffed block that gets rolled before each play. We let Caroline roll for us as well to keep her entertained, so she was getting the physical play even when it wasn't her turn.

- The content is the right level: "There are six categories of cards – emotions (giggle and laugh), body parts (rub your belly), animals sounds (bark like a dog), counting (count 5 fingers), colors (find something green) and actions (play pat-a-cake). "

Caroline had just turned 2 and she knew 90% of the content or more. At this age they just love practicing body parts, numbers, animal sounds, etc. They love showing off what they know! This game really engaged her as a result.

I love that this game is teaching so much...

1. Content

  • Emotions
  • Body Parts
  • Animal sounds
  • Counting
  • Colors
  • Actions
2. Following Instructions

At the age of two, it is sooooo so important that your child listens to you well. There is no better way to practice this skill, than by playing a game! They have no idea that they are "listening" and following instructions... because they are simply having fun. All games really reinforce things like this in a passive way, and I just love that. 

3. Waiting Your Turn

Caroline starting learning to wait her turn when we joined gymnastics at 1 year of age. I am so glad she learned it so early, because she is a pro at it. When you are having fun, however, it is hard to stop and let someone else take a turn. This game is active, and fast paced, so it really gets the concept of waiting your turn in, without completely boring your child. It's the perfect mix.

4. Grouping

Each of the categories has a specific color card. So the emotion cards, for example, are all blue. You can play this game by sorting and grouping the cards first as an extra activity. That way, picking a card is much easier than digging through a massive pile to find the right color. We do it both ways!

5. Creativity

I think any game like this really sparks creativity. We can come up with new ways to play the game, incorporate new rules, or even come up with our own (extra) content! If we've done all of the animal noise cards, then when we draw again, we can get creative and come up with new animals that aren't on the cards. 

6. Predictive Skills

Did the block land on blue, again? What do you think the card is going to ask for? That's right, an emotion! Even 2 year olds pick up on things like this. It's a great way to teach them that they are learning predictive skills. 

At the 3 year old age Candy Land, Hi Ho Cherrio, and Zingo are our three favorites!


Caroline has some anxieties- specifically around doing things perfectly. Yes, she's a bit of a perfectionist. I've seen this anxiety and perfectionism come through in several ways:

1. Trying new things. 

She doesn't want to even try something new until she knows she can do it well. She's been this way since she was a baby. She wouldn't try things in front of me until she had it down. Instead, she'd practice in her crib before and after naps. She was like this with everything from rolling over, to standing up, to speaking. 

To this day, there are things she'll do in her bed by herself, but never in front of me. Things that she learns at school, for example. She'll practice singing her alphabet, and singing a variety of other kid songs that she's learned in school, but never will she sing them in front of me. Not until she has it down perfectly.

The same applies to trying new things such as putting her shoes on by herself, or going potty by herself. She refuses to try it until she thinks she can do it. Asking her to try something she doesn't think she's ready for will result in an all out screaming fit- even if it's broken down into steps, or I remind her that it doesn't have to be perfect. She doesn't care if I'm there to lend a hand. She simply won't entertain the idea of trying until it's her idea and she feels comfortable.

2. Writing Practice.

This is our current battle. Caroline really likes learning. She really wants to learn how to read. So I decided that we'd focus on one letter each week. We'd do letter sounds, words that start with that letter, and writing practice. I had no idea the can of worms I was opening with this. I thought it would be fun, but it's causing both Caroline and me to get frustrated and butt heads. I think this might be a glimpse into her teenage struggles with Mama! LOL!

We start by tracing a letter in her wipe clean book. She traces great. But she notices if it's not perfect, and she erases and starts over. She gets frustrated with this.

Eventually, because she does so great with tracing, I have her try and write the letter on her own, right next to the traced letter. If it's an involved letter, I give her dots to connect first. She does great. But, she doesn't think so, even with my praise. She eventually starts doing it incorrectly on purpose. This is what drives me crazy.

My message is always that it doesn't have to be perfect, but we always need to try our best. So, when she stops trying her best, that's when I get frustrated. Then she gets overly frustrated at her lack of perfection, and my frustration... and she starts screaming and throwing things. It has been very frustrating!

But, we aren't stopping, because I think we need to work through this need to be perfect. And, she also has a desire to keep going, even when we get frustrated! She's determined!

3. Social Settings

She gets nervous in social settings. Mostly because of the chaos. She doesn't like loud places, and she doesn't like commotion. I don't think she likes the lack of control in the situations.

So, at the playground at school, she used to get pretty overwhelmed. To the point that she was sitting and staying out of the commotion, and needing hugs from her teacher. She seemed to always be nervous that someone would take something from her or push her.

A little bump from someone running by on the playground, was misconstrued as a push in her mind. I've seen it happen, and she's suddenly yelling "that girl just pushed me!" Encounters like that stayed in her excellent little memory, and she became anxious in settings like this. Read how we helped this social anxiety here.

4. Saying Names.

This is a big one for her. And I was so confused at first. She is an EXCELLENT talker. She communicates insanely well. She is well understood by most, and enunciates very well. She's still missing a few sounds as is normal for this age (S, F, etc.). But even so, she talks very well. She refuses to say names, however.

I thought she was just being defiant and stubborn. I'd ask her to say someone's name (her gymnastics coach as an example), and she'd simply refuse. When you have such a great talker refusing to even try, it's natural to assume she's just not listening. I tried to explain that it is polite to use people's names in conversation. It didn't matter or get through to her.

There was an underlying issue, however. She was nervous. She finally told me that she was scared she would say it incorrectly. I was so shocked, and felt so bad. I'd noticed in the past that when other children in her class would say her name, she'd correct their pronunciation. She didn't want her name to be said wrong. And in turn, she didn't want to say others' names incorrectly. So we worked on this in other ways...

Our Name Boot-Camp: How We Helped Caroline to Feel Comfortable Saying Names

1. Practiced Names of Characters

We started by getting out her little characters. She has tons of them because this is her absolute favorite version of playing. Daniel Tiger characters, Paw Patrol, Trolls, etc. We got them out. She says those names all the time. We wrote the names out on a whiteboard so she could see the letters and associate sounds. We said them together, and she said them alone as she does daily during play. We focused on showing her that she already said SO MANY names.

2. Practiced One Real Name At a Time

We went through her classmate's names first in the same way- writing them out and talking about letter sounds. Then saying the names together and separately. Abby, Emma, Marcelo, Alejandro, Kenyon, Evan, Harith, Eliora. She said every single name perfectly. We all out celebrated as she mastered a name.

The next day, we'd practice all of the character names, and all of the real names she'd already mastered, plus at least one new one. We did this daily until she'd mastered the entire class. Then we moved on to gymnastics coaches, swim coaches, teachers, family, etc.

3. Rewarded Trying

If she didn't want to try, we never gave up. We were clear in our expectations. When she did try, however, she got a reward. Usually in the form of chocolate! We showed her how proud we were of her for listening, for trying, and for doing her best.

4. Showed Her Success

From the very beginning, we let her see success. We started with names she already said. Daniel Tiger, O the Owl, Katerina, etc. We showed her that she was very capable and gave her confidence. And then she nailed it. I mean she said Alejandro without any issues! She did a phenomenal job.

Where We Are Now With Names

We're done with our "boot-camp". Caroline has slowly built confidence. She is still very nervous to say names in front of other people. We don't require it now that we know it is a source of anxiety. We do, however, explain to her how nice it would be for her to try. We simply require that she acknowledge people and talk to them. Hello is fine.

We know she'll get around to saying their names in front of people. In the meantime, she's already using names in her natural conversations. I pick her up from school and she tells me all about her day. She uses her classmate's names without hesitation in that comfortable setting.

It used to be that she'd make me guess who had brought show and tell. Now she uses the names and does so without prompting.

We've seen great success by simply acknowledging her anxiety and working with her instead of against her and making it worse.


Other Posts of Interest

My Toddler's Anxiety Around Other Children

How to Ease Your Toddler's Fears

Helping Your Toddler Be More Flexible

3 Year Old Update (Saying Names and Pulling her Pants down on her own)

When Your Toddler Refuses To Do Or Try Things

Today we have a guest post from Emily over at The Journey of Parenthood. She's a huge advocate of the Dave Ramsey method of budgeting and eliminating debt, and she's also the go to mom to talk to about finding a great deal. So, I asked her to write her tips down on setting up a family budget. I always think it's great to hear several perspectives when it comes to money! We just bought a new house, and also met with a financial planner, so I am very interested in these topics right now.

How to Set Up A Family Budget

I am a big believer in "spending smart" and living within a budget. After reading Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover a few years ago I did a complete and total overall of our family budgeting and how we spent our money. It's been LIFE CHANGING for our family.

My husband is less stressed with work because he knows exactly how much he needs to make to provide for us (he's self employed and commission only). It is less stressful for me as the one who manages our finances because I know exactly where the money he earns is going to go each month.

It takes the guesswork out. It takes the fears away. It allows our money to truly work for us instead of us working for our money. We never have arguments over finances and have enjoyed seeing where our money goes!

If you're ready to set up a family budget you want to get together all your recent bills and be prepared to be a bit shocked at just where all of your money is going. I do not think you have to sit down as a couple to create your budget. I always handle the finances so it made the most sense for me to set up our budget and then discuss it with my husband. This was less stressful for both of us rather than sitting down together to go over it.

It's something that some couples may enjoy doing together, but going through the hard numbers could also be an argument in the making. Don't focus on past spending, focus on the future and use the past only as a bouncing off point to where you want to be!

It is best to go back a full year to REALLY see where your spending has been taking place. Having a full year allows you to see utilities that fluctuate (electric bill may be higher in winter and lower in spring etc) as well as budget for times of the year where spending is higher on extra items (like the holidays).

1. List all Debts: Anything other than your mortgage that you have to pay payments on is considered debt. Car payment, student loans, medical bills, other loans, credit card balances. All of this needs to be listed out. You need to both write out how much you owe AND what each monthly payment is. Do NOT be concerned with interest amounts.

2. List all "Must Spend" Expenses: This category is all of your bills. House payment, utilities, cell phones. All the monthly things you pay for! Again if you list out the amounts each month for a full year you'll be able to get a nice average monthly amount to base things from.

3. List all Extra Expenses: It's important here to be honest. If you pay using credit card it's easy to print off a few of the past months statements and REALLY add it up. How much do you spend on groceries? Entertainment? Eating Out? Clothing for the kids? Activities as a family? Write it ALL down.

4. List all Sporadic Set Expenses: Many bills aren't monthly. You may have an HOA fee due once a year, or your car insurance premium may be every 6 months, school costs once a year. Any bill that you pay for anytime of the year, be sure to write down that amount. I like to go ahead and put it as a yearly amount total, even if it's paid quarterly or semi-annually as that's an easier figure to work with.

5. Consider Holidays and Travel: There are so many holidays throughout the year. Aside from the biggies like birthdays and Christmas you have Mother's Day, Father's Day, other family member birthdays, even teacher appreciation gifts! All of these events add up and cost money and it's important to list out what you typically spend.

I personally list mine out per person, per holiday. So I'll list all the people we buy birthday gifts for and what we spend as well as the same for Christmas, etc.

It's also important to figure in costs for travel. If you go on a yearly trip as a family, you need to specify that in your budget too to make sure you have the funds to have those experiences!

Once you have it all written out you can clearly see WHERE all of your money is going. If you make it so you have a total figure for the year then divide that by 12 you have roughly what you currently "need" a month to support the current lifestyle you're living.

Now that you know what money you are can start budgeting!

Just seeing where your money is going can create a state of pride...or panic. Maybe you're already spending less than what you make each month. But most likely? You're probably not trying to create a budget if you're walking around with all kinds of extra money lying around ;) Chances are seeing the hard numbers of where your money has been going will leave you feeling a bit stressed and possibly even make you want to puke.

It's probably clear right away what areas you can cut back on. Do it! As you write out your new budget for yourself and your family...cut down on the areas that can be cut down on.

1. Keep it Basic: Write out all of those monthly items and their totals. First you write out the unchangeables. Your mortgage is a set amount. Other bills may fluctuate but you can look back at the past amounts and have a solid average to work with.

I have all mine on an Excel spreadsheet. I have the item and then the monthly average cost for that item written beside it. Yes, some months the electric bill will be higher than that average and some months it'll be lower but if I base it off an average and then work to do what I can to lower the bill overall then I should be okay!

2. Set Up an Emergency Fund: It's very important when setting a budget to consider emergencies will, and do, happen. You may find yourself needing new tires. A kid could break an arm. Things come up. Life is filled with unexpected expenses. You need to plan for them!

Dave Ramsey recommends starting off with $1,000 in savings as an emergency fund. Already have more than that in a savings account? Awesome...we'll get to that in a minute. But if you don't have $1,000 to set aside for an emergency fund then this needs to be your FIRST goal in your budgeting. You need to cut back on spending in every possible area in order to get that $1,000 in savings.

Once you have it. Keep it there. When you have to spend it, stop everything else you're doing in paying down debt and refill that emergency fund.

3. Set Up Lump Savings: Remember how we mentioned costs throughout the year that aren't monthly? It's important to set aside money to cover those costs. Since you already divided those costs out to have a "monthly amount" it's not hard to add that into your monthly budget. If you're car insurance is $1200 a year you will need to set aside $100 a month to have the amount needed to cover the bill when it's due.

Often times many bills reward you for paying them in a yearly lump sum. Find out if any of your monthly expenses can be saved by paying them yearly (We save 25%, for example, for paying for our pest control on a yearly basis. And the same is true for our alarm system monitoring service) and then set aside the amounts needed to be able to make that one large payment!

By setting aside the money needed each month, it takes the stress out from when the bill comes due. No more scrambling because the car insurance is due this month. You already have the money ready and waiting to mail off!

4. Tithing: Tithing is a personal topic and one that has to be decided between yourself and your spouse. For us personally we never stopped tithing at any stage in our budgeting process. Our belief is that all things come from the Lord and we knew we could never out give Him.

We tithe before we do anything else in our budget for the month. He gets our money first and we are mindful of that when creating our budget. When I know a total that my husband needs to make a month to cover our expenses, I be sure to add in the percentage with tithe so he makes enough to cover the tithing as well as all our bills!

5. Snowball Debt: Once you have your budget in place (including that emergency fund!) it's important to focus on your debts. First of all, only plan to pay the minimum amount due on each of the debts you have. When we first did our budget we were paying "a little extra" on several of our debts. Dave says not to do this.

Instead you should have your list written out from lowest overall amount due to the highest overall amount due. For example if you owe $10,000 on your car and the monthly payment is $300 and you owe $50,000 in student loans and the monthly payment is $100 you would write out the car payment first on your list because it's the smallest total overall even though it's the higher monthly payment amount.

As you begin to cut corners and lower payments and bills or have ANY extra money that you aren't designate that to paying off the FIRST debt on your list. Every single little extra penny should be going towards paying off that car payment.

This includes any money you currently have in savings. Let's say you have a savings account with $5,000 in it. You need to keep $1,000 in that account for your emergency fund and then GUT the remaining $4,000 in the account and apply that to your lowest overall debt to help get the paying off going quickly!

We were in this situation. We had a savings account set up for our son when he was born and had been saving in that account for him. But when we set our budget? We gutted the account in order to start snowballing that debt. Once your debts are paid off you can set back up those savings accounts! So it's not "gone forever" it's just a PAUSE in the savings in order to be able to save a LOT more in the future!

Then, once your car is paid off (it may sound crazy but this will happen SO MUCH FASTER than you think!!!) you take ALL THAT MONEY you have been applying to your car payment and now apply it to the next lowest overall debt on your list (in this example, the student loan).

So now the student loan would still get the $100 monthly payment but it'd also be getting the $300 payment you were paying on the car PLUS all the extra money you were paying on top of the car payment amount to help get it paid off quicker. Every single extra penny you have now goes to that student loan debt.

It's incredible to watch how the paying off debt truly snowballs. We were shocked and amazed when just in a matter of months we paid off over $20,000 in medical debt we had. It works y'all! Keep at it and before you know it you'll be DEBT FREE!

6. Cut Corners: It can be hard to cut back. When you first write out your budget you will see some obvious things you can do. Maybe you've been overpaying on your cell phone and can get a cheaper plan to save money. Or you realize you have to stop eating out at lunch and can save a ton by packing lunch instead. Some things are easy to cut back on and even the smallest changes really add up when it comes to saving money and snowballing debt!

Some people go pretty extreme in cutting their corners. Dave Ramsey has tons of examples. He suggests selling your car that has a high car payment and instead buying a "junker" with cash until you can save up enough to buy a better car. Some people move into cheaper homes. Or go on savings sprees where they get creative and don't spend ANY money outside of their necessities to live.

You can get as hardcore as you want or be as chill as you want too. Obviously the more intense you are in your savings and paying off debts, the sooner you'll be living a debt-free life.

Personally? We found a balance that suits us. It's important to us to travel as a family and create those experiences so we drastically cut back in other areas (we rarely eat out, always pack lunches, our kids wear clothing from consignments etc) in order to still prioritize our family trips.

I believe a healthy balance is important. YES you can save, save, save and that's awesome but we also need to live for the now too and don't want to look back in our later years and have tons of money in our pockets but have missed out on creating priceless memories with our children while they were young!

There are many more elements to the paying off of debts. Dave Ramsey goes into tons more detail in his book, Total Money Makeover, and discusses what to do once you are debt free (college savings, retirement, charities, etc). It can be overwhelming when you're first starting out so I think it's important to focus on the small steps. One thing at a time to get to that larger goal!

I encourage you to sit down TODAY and set up a budget for your family. Not only will it allow you financial freedom, but it will allow you such a less-stressed life!

Emily is the mother of four who blogs over at The Journey of Parenthood. She is a pro at oversharing (and owning it), can't resist a good bargain, and considers Disney World to be her happiest place.

Other Posts of Interest:

Family Budgeting and Smart Spending

Money Saving Tips for Baby