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Teaching kindness to our children is something that my husband and I didn't have to discuss. We both know it is a priority, and (looking back) we both started down the same path with Caroline right from birth. It is my philosophy that you can never start too early!

There are two main ways that we try to teach this quality to our daughter:
(These apply to all qualities that we are trying to instill in her)
1. Modeling the behavior
2. Direct teaching

These two methods are extremely important for teaching any virtue or quality to our children. Children (and adults) learn best when they see something in action. If you teach one thing, and model something else, it becomes confusing at any age, no matter what the skill.

I'll never forget when I was getting my masters degree in education- I was taking a course where the underlying theme and main point of the entire class was how to engage your students in learning. The main focus every day, was to have hands on learning, group work, and activity based learning strategies in the classroom, instead of always using lecture style teaching. Except here I was sitting for almost 2 hours in a classroom being taught "lecture style" every day, about how to incorporate group work into a classroom. I found myself thinking that this professor needed to take her own advice and model the strategies in our classroom! So simple, and it would be much easier for us to learn that way!

The difference, however, is that our children watch and observe us every day, all day. They are learning from us and mimicking our every move. So, as we model behaviors to our children, we must realize that we need to be consistent all day, every day- or we are sending a confusing message. This does not mean that we have to be perfect. It does mean, however, that when we make a mistake, we need to own up to it and fix it when our children are around to see us do so. This is so very important. It is also important for them to see that we aren't perfect, but that we are always trying our best at things.

We model kindness in so many different ways as adults, and we often don't even think twice about doing it. It is important to think big and small, as we are teaching this concept- after all, the little things matter so much. We want our daughter to learn that every action can be kind.

Here are some basic ways in which to model "kindness" in our every day lives:
- Saying "hello", "thank you", "please", "goodbye", etc. to others
- Smiling and waving
- Holding the door for someone
- Helping someone (put a shopping cart back for them, pick up something they dropped, giving something to lost and found, etc.)
- Saying "excuse me", or waiting patiently
- Sharing with others
- Apologizing if need be
- Making a thoughtful gift
- Giving hugs and kisses
- Giving compliments

The list goes on and on, obviously. There are so many ways in which to be kind and that we do on a daily basis. It is important to do these things for loved ones, and for strangers as well. We want our children to know that kindness goes a long way and makes everyone feel good. It is key that our children see us being kind to them, to our spouse/partner, to strangers, etc.

When talking about "direct teaching", it is teaching the same things as mentioned above, but as an expectation. Caroline can't say many words yet (she's 1.5 years old), and long before she could even understand our words, we were setting expectations that she would need to learn.

It is our expectation that Caroline say "please" and "thank you". It is our expectation that she learns to share and help others. We ask her to do so at the right moments, and have been asking this of her since before she knew what we meant. At her current age, she understands what we are asking of her, and, while she can't say the words, she attempts. That is all we ask at her current age. When we ask her to say "please" or "thank you", she says "yaya". She's trying. She is forming a kind habit, and she is learning our expectation even if she can't say the words correctly. We tell her "good job" and thank her for trying.

We ask Caroline to share her toys with us at home. "Can you share? For Mama, please". She's learned to hand us the object and share. We, of course, do the same and share with her. We say "For Caroline", and hand the object back. We also ask her to do these things when she is interacting with the dogs, and with other adults and children.

We ask Caroline to say "hi" or to wave hello to others. She's in a shy phase, so she doesn't always do this one, but we continue to ask and reassure her that it is ok to say "hi" if mama and daddy are with her.

It is so important to set these expectations early, so they aren't a surprise to our children later. At 17 months, Caroline understands our expectations and does her best to comply. The time and effort that we have put in already is going to pay off soon, when she can actually say the words.

Obviously, expectations should grow as our children get older. Once Caroline is talking and a little more independent, we may ask her to hold the door for someone, or pick something up for someone, and, eventually, say "yes sir", or "yes, ma'am", etc. She will be more involved with thinking of kind things to do for someone. Maybe she'll help make daddy's favorite dinner, or we'll make grandma a card together for her birthday. The more involved they are, the more ownership they have over their behavior, and the more likely it is to continue in the future.

It is also very important to identify and point out the kind things that our children do. When they share a toy, it is important to actually say "That was so kind of you to share that toy.". Or if someone does something kind for us, we can say something to the effect of "Wasn't that so kind of that lady to help us!?". In this way, we are enabling our children to look for kind behaviors and take notice. After all, children love mimicking behaviors that they see- so why not point out the good ones!?

Today is Pinterest Day for the Babywise Friendly Blog Network and the ladies in the group are discussing how to teach certain virtues to our children. Be sure and check out our Pinterest Page and check out the other posts today!
So, it has been awhile since I did an update on potty training. When Caroline was 15 months old, we decided to go all in with potty training! This post describes our method of choice, but basically we stayed home, she was naked, and I put her on the toilet frequently.

She did really well. She peed and/or pooped in the toilet most times that I put her on. She had a few accidents here and there, but all was going really well. The only hold up, was that she wasn't really able to tell me that she had to go. She doesn't have many words, so we tried teaching sign language as well. She was confusing it with "all done" and it just didn't take. Plus, in the rush of the potty moments, it just wasn't a priority- the priority was getting her to the toilet!

Because of the communication issue, I decided to stop the official, focused potty training, and wait until she could communicate better.

She is now 17 months old. She still can't/doesn't say "potty", "pee", or "poop", but she is able to get her point across when she has to go poop. She makes little grunting noises to tell me that she has to go. She waits until we can get her to a toilet and she really no longer wants to poop in her diaper. So, as far as number two is concerned, she is pretty much potty trained!

Caroline also answers me if I ask her if she has to go. She tells me yes or no. Once on the potty, she tells me when she's all done, and helps to try and wipe herself. She is doing so great!

With regards to peeing on the toilet, Caroline does so when she is on it, but she is not yet getting my attention on her own in order to go pee on the toilet, instead of in her diaper. I put her on the toilet in the morning after she brushes her teeth, if she asks to go poop during the day, and once before bed. She pees in the toilet all of those times!

I am still holding off on doing our official "pee" training, until she can communicate to me that she needs to go. As soon as she can say the words, we will be back at it! In the meantime, however, she is very accustomed to going on the toilet when it's offered, and I have no doubt the transition will go smoothly for her.

Another exciting thing to report, is that she pooped in a public toilet for the first time a couple of days ago! This is HUGE! If she ever asks to go while we are out, we go to the bathroom, and she shakes her  head and says "no, no, no" and won't let go of me. She's been very scared to go. Sometimes we don't bother trying and I just tell her that it's ok to go in her diaper, or she can wait until we go home (if she doesn't want to try in the public bathroom). Other times, we put her on the toilet. She usually just sits there, but doesn't feel comfortable enough to go. A couple of days ago, however, she asked to go, I put her on, and she went! Such a big success!

On the home front, we've just been holding her on the toilet. Little miss independent wants my hands off, however, so I decided to get her a seat that she can use on her own (but still on the toilet). We have tried others that we didn't like, but found this Munchkin potty seat that I am in love with! Caroline loves it as well! It means hands free for Mama, independence for Caroline, and it doesn't attach to the toilet, so adults can just move it and still feel comfortable going!

Again, as soon as Caroline can express to me when she has to pee on the toilet we'll be full throttle ahead once more! I am so impressed with the progress that she's made thus far!

I will always remember this smile!
Dear Chelsea,

This letter is so hard to write. I know we did the right thing by putting you down. You were so miserable. It was just SO sudden. Sunday you were fine. Monday you were not. By Wednesday you were trembling in pain all day. I knew it was your last day. I still couldn't give you the attention you needed. I tried and I patiently waited for Caroline's nap. I carried you from room to room so you could at least be with us. Then I got one last thing done, and I held you. I held you and talked to you. We reminisced. I apologized for the lack of attention since Caroline was born. I know you understand, but I wanted more. I wanted more time with you. We were almost to that point where I could give you more of my time again. I told you it was ok to go. It was ok. We'd be ok.

I knew you were getting older. I kept telling Daddy that I didn't want this to be the year. I wanted to give you more time, more walks, etc. And I knew things would get better, so I desperately wanted more time. I wish I could have one more day. One more good day. We'd go for a walk; we'd play; we'd cuddle. I'd make you a steak. We'd go to the park with Daddy, Moose and Caroline. You'd chase squirrels, run in circles, and take a dip in the water. You'd lay in the sun. I just want one more day. I want to see you smile one more time.

I am so sorry that your last few days were so hard. I never wanted to see you in so much pain. I wanted to fix it so badly. I know you are pain free now, and that gives me some peace.

Things just aren't the same without you around. I keep thinking I see you laying on your dog bed. I miss you so much. My heart aches so bad.

Daddy is so sad too. He loved you with all his heart. He loved you before he loved me. You were just so special.

Maybe you could have fought this. I have no idea. Maybe it wasn't time yet. I just couldn't let you do it and be in so much pain. I knew it was time to let go.

Thank you so much for all the good memories. You'll always be with me. You taught Moose so much- so I know he'll be ok. He's confused, though. We are all just so sad. I know you would want us to be happy. You always hated it when I was sad and did your best to cheer me up. So, I put on some bright happy clothes today, I have the radio on and we are singing. We are putting smiles on our faces for you. We love you. I hope I get to see you again one day.

Thank you for letting me hold you on your last day, and in your last moments. I hope I brought you some comfort through all the pain. I'll always love you.

Dear Caroline,

Last night we lost part of our family. You aren't old enough to understand yet, but Chelsea isn't coming home again. She was in so much pain that we had to put her down. She is sleeping and pain free now.

Chelsea was Mama's first love. I found her at a shelter when she was just 10 weeks old. It was my final semester of college, and it was a few weeks before finals. Horrible timing to get a
puppy- but I am so very glad that I took the leap and did it. She became my best friend. I enrolled her in puppy classes, spent countless hours training her on a leash, and spent as much time with her as I could. She was everything to me and she took such great care of me.

Chelsea was in my life for almost 11 amazing years. A third of my life so far! She meant the world to me. It was her and I long before I found Daddy, before Moose joined us, and before you came along. I
never imagined she'd get to meet my first child! While you only got a year and a half with her, and you most likely won't remember her except from pictures and stories, I am so very thankful that she got to be a part of your life.

She taught you so much about love in the last year and a half. She taught you about friendship, loyalty, sharing and more! She showed you how to "come", cleaned up your messes, and let you snuggle on the dog bed with her. I am forever grateful that you had this time with her.

Chelsea loved laying in the sun, and loved chasing squirrels and rabbits. In her younger days she climbed trees, and scaled fences as if
she was super dog! She would run in circles, do figure 8's, and lean as far in as she could on the corners. When we were in Austin, she loved sitting on the top stair of the pool at Nana Bella and Grandpa's. She was afraid of other dogs, but loved people. She took awhile to warm up to Moose, but once she did she was the best big sister he could have ever asked for. She'd pin him down and clean his ears and mouth. She was so loving and almost motherly to him. She took on the same roll when you arrived. She'd hear you cry and immediately get up as if to let me know. She'd check on you and keep an eye on things.

The day you learned to crawl, you decided to crawl right towards Chelsea. She was cornered and it scared her so much! She was not expecting you to be on the move! She growled and snipped. I got scared and told her never to do that again. You had no idea what had just happened. I walked around the house for the next few months asking the dogs "Where's Caroline?", so they'd keep an eye on you and not be startled. I look back on that day and laugh. Poor Chelsea had no clue what you were doing. Little did she know, you'd soon be walking, and running! She figured it out and went with the flow. She was patient with you as you learned to be "gentle". She loved you so much.

Every morning she'd come in while I was giving you your milk. She'd jump up with her two feet on the chair just to give us both kisses. You'd lean in and say "ahhh" with an open mouth. She'd give kisses galore! You'd even try and share your milk with her.

We have such an amazing family, and Chelsea was a big part of it. She will be missed so much. She was always so patient and understanding. So loving and so thoughtful. It is amazing how hard it is to lose her. She will always have a piece of my heart. I will tell you stories about her so you never forget her, either. I feel so honored to have had such a beautiful dog be a part of my life for so long. We had such a great relationship and she was with me through it all- from my single days to being a mama. I love her so much. You love her so much already. I hope this is relatively easy on you once you figure out she's not coming back. We'll all be strong together.

I love you so much.


Welcome to Babywise Friendly Blog Network (BFBN) Day! Each month we will get the pleasure of featuring a guest blogger from the BFBN.

Today, I am honored to welcome Kim from Team Cartwright. Her post is all about her personal experience on implementing schedules with her 2.5 year old and now 2 month old twins! Her life sounds like it is so manageable when you read the post below, although I know she must be super woman to be implementing the schedule so well! Enjoy the read! Thank you for sharing, Kim!

I will be posting about creative ways to involve your toddler (so you can get things done) over at The Journey of Parenthood if you want to check that out as well. Enjoy!

Click here to head over and read my post at The Journey of Parenthood...


I am a schedule person.  I like to know when things are happening.  I like having a predictable routine for my days.  When I had kids, I knew I wanted to have them on a schedule as much as possible.  I know I do really well that way, and I think children do too.  With Ben, it took a few months, but we were able to get into a predictable routine.  I loved it!  I love that I know when he is going to be hungry.  I know when to expect him to be tired.  More than that he knows what to expect from his day.  He goes to bed with a good attitude.  I can predict his hunger and plan accordingly.  I know when we can have events and outings.

When I found out I was expecting I knew I would work hard to get the new baby on a schedule as well.  When I found out it was going to be twins, well, I knew a schedule was a must, or chaos would ensue.  As with all schedules and little kids, our routine is a work in progress.  It isn't perfect by any means, but here is what we are doing so far.

I try to  work the girls' schedule into Ben's schedule.  Yes, we are a little limited in what we can do sometimes.  But Ben has had a major life change just by the girls being born, so I didn't want to mess with his day too much.  Because of this I take a few liberties with some Babywise ideas.  I let the girls nap on the go sometimes.  I didn't start aiming for a real routine until the girls were almost a month old.  We had a lot of visitors and it wasn't worth it to me to try to start a schedule we couldn't maintain.  Plus, these visitors were there to see the girls.  I valued that time together over napping in their beds or sleeping on schedule during the day.

One thing I did start as soon as possible was a wake time.  This is something I can control that helps set a pattern to the day, but doesn't keep people from seeing the girls.  Ben's wake time is 7 am.  (7:15 is the goal, but that doesn't happen much anymore.)  I set the girls to wake at 8am.  I had a few reasons for this.  One, it gave me time to get up and get Ben settled with his breakfast.  I wanted to make sure Ben still felt important and got the attention he needed.  This extra time in the morning gives us a chance to focus on Ben at the beginning of the day.  I think that helps set the tone for his day, getting love and attention right away.  A second reason for this time is I found with Ben that wake time has a way of creeping back.  Ben started with an 8am time.  He is now 7am.  I didn't want to start too early because I know eventually it will move back.  Plus that gave me some wiggle room without moving too early in the morning.  Before the girls were born I could get up and be ready for the day before Ben was up.  My goal is to reach that point with all three kids.  Right now, sleep is the priority, so I am not waking up earlier than necessary.  8 am seemed like a good time to try first.

The second thing I did for the girls was to set more of a parent led timing for nursing.  I know not everyone agrees with that, but I really think it works.  I start with going every 2.5 hours during the day.  (I should note that as soon as the girls were over their birth weight, we started letting them sleep til they wake on their own at night.  Like I said, sleep is awesome, so no waking them up if they aren't hungry.)  Doing this helps give structure to the day.  I try to get as many feedings during the day as possible to help the girls grow.  By trying to nurse every 2.5 hours I make sure to wake them enough during the day to get adequate wake time.  (I have read that babies have one long sleep time in a twenty four hour period.  I want that long time to go along with when I sleep.  So by having more frequent wakings I avoid them having that period in the middle of the day.)  As the girls have grown, I have spread some of those feedings out a bit.  Now during the day the range from 2.5-3 hours between feedings.  We have the occassional 3.5 hour spacing, but that really only happens when we are out and about.

Having a parent led schedule like this allows me to still get us out, because I know when the girls are most likely to eat again.  This is especially important as I do have twins.  Now, I know it is legal to nurse in public.  I know nursing is natural and nothing to hide.  However, I am not super comfortable with nursing in public.  I nurse the girls at the same time during the day (huge time saver).  It is hard to be discrete with two babies going at it.  As such I prefer to be home, or in another private place.  I use the My Brest Friend nursing pillow, which is awesome.  But it is huge.  So having that pillow available is important as well.  By planning out the girls feedings I can nurse them effectively, but still get out of the house.  I want to note that while I do feed on a schedule, if the girls show signs on being hungry at non-nursing times I of course feed them.  I am not a slave to the clock, I try to use the clock as a tool.  I also want to point out that having a parent led schedule does not mean your milk supply will dry up.  I have heard that from people.  I am actively nursing twins on a schedule, and both are growing very well.

With feeding times established I try to follow an eat, play, sleep routine.  It doesn't always work perfectly.  Sometimes the sleep part is a bit lacking.  Sometimes the play part is really just eating, then the girls pass back out.  Evenings are still a bit more fluid, so I will talk about that seperately.

All that being explained, here is our normal day with a 2.5 year old and 2 month old twins.

7am: Ben gets up and he gets breakfast.  He runs around and plays while Pat and I get breakfast and organized for the day.

7:45 am: Girls get up.  Truth, this time varies from 7:30-8.  We are aim for closer to 8, but they usually don't last that long.  Plus if we have to be anywhere in the morning I get them up before 8.

7:50 am: Girls nurse.  I count this as their first meal of the day.  It takes on average 30-45 minutes.  During this time Ben plays on his own.  We watch Good Morning America so I feel like I am caught up on the world.  Ben brings me books and toys to play with and works on his breakfast.

8:30-9am: If we are home for the morning this is play time.  I put the girls on the floor and all four of us just hang out and play.  This is also when we often face time with Meo.  Ben loves to whip out the Ipad and call people.  His chants of 'Call Bo!' are what usually prompts this call.  (His ms sound a lot like bs still.)  If we are leaving the house this is a frantic time of running around and getting packed up to leave.  Well, that's for me.  I get Ben dressed, the girls dressed, and let them play while I get everything ready to go.

9am: If we are home the girls head up to their bassinet for first nap of the day.  A couple of days a week Ben gets a bath, and I clean the bathroom while he is in the tub.  If it isn't a bath day we get things done in the kids' room.  Right now we are still working on organizing clothes for the girls.  They are growing so fast, I am constantly putting aside what doesn't fit anymore, while trying to dig out anything I want to be sure they wear while it fits.  Clothing has such a narrow window at this age.  Ben runs around his room to 'help' while I try to wade my way through the piles of clothes.  If we aren't doing that we are cleaning something downstairs.

9:30am: Ben goes into independent play.  He still does it in his crib.  I have tried him just in his room, but he still prefers the crib time.  I am not arguing.  He can be contained in his crib as often as he wants. :)  While he is safe and the girls are working on their nap, I grab my shower and get myself ready.  I try to get any chores done that I don't want toddler help with.  If we are leaving later in the morning I try to get everything ready to go during this time period.

10:30- 10:45am:  Everyone up some time in this period.  Ben gets dressed if he isn't yet.  I get the girls up and we all head back downstairs.  Girls nurse together.

11:15am: We head out if we are going out midday.  This is when we run errands usually.  It is also when we leave if we are having lunch at the office.  Sometimes we just go play outside.  If we aren't leaving the house, the kids go back into play time.  The girls get some floor and tummy time.  Ben helps me with any chores that need doing.  This is also a time where we might color or try to cook something together.

12pm: Lunch!  If we are home the girls move upstairs to their bassinets for another nap.  Otherwise they just nap on the go.  (I know that isn't ideal, but Ben does better with leaving the house most days of the week.  As this midday nap is one of the early ones to go, I'm not super worried about them getting used to it being in the same place every day.)  After lunch we color, do chores, or have free play.  Some days Ben takes forever to eat, some days he is super speedy, so it varies.

1:15pm: Girls nurse together.  This is usually a longer feeding.  Ben gets to watch Super Why during this time.  I watch it with him and we talk about letters.  He really knows his letters and honestly I think Super Why has helped so much.  Whatever show we are watching I try to pause and ask Ben questions about shapes, colors, numbers, letters, etc.  This way it is a bit of a learning experience, and Ben is happy while the girls eat.

2:15pm: Ben into his nap time.  The girls take their next nap in their bouncers.  When they are better at napping I will move them upstairs for it.  But right now it is easier on my to have them downstairs and nearby.  During this time I pump, prep dinner, and do anything else I need to do (blog, pay bills, make appointments, etc).  I try to work on all the projects around the house that have been put off forever.

4pm: Girls nurse together.  Ben is still in nap time at this point.

5pm: Ben gets up, if he isn't up already.  It is usually some time between 4:30 and 5, but by 5 the latest.  I work on any dinner prep that needs to be done.  Pat is home by this time.  Depending on the weather and what I need to do for dinner, he might take Ben to the park, or the whole family may go out for a bit.  Otherwise just playing and the general evening craziness.

6pm: Dinner.  The girls doze in their bouncers during this time, a little evening nap.

6:30pm: Family time.  We usually watch one of Ben's shows or movies.  Girls nurse together.

7pm: Ben into jammies.  More family time, really just hanging out together.  Girls are generally still awake at this point, but we are putting them into their bouncers to settle in for the night.

7:30pm: Ben to bed.  Either Pat or I go up with Ben, brush his teeth, sit on the potty, and prayers.  The other parent hangs out with the girls, bouncing them to settle in for the night.  The other parent joins bedtime for songs and hugs.

7:45pm:  This time on used to be time for just Pat and me.  The girls aren't ready to go to bed for real this early yet though.  We do work on settling them down a bit.  We try to get them to fall asleep intheir bouncers.  They are mainly passed the need to cluster feed during this time, but sometimes one or both of them need a little snack.  We are fortunate because their 'witching hour' is very light, and sometimes doesn't really happen.  They are a little fussy around this time, but usually the bouncing calms them and lets them rest.

9pm: The girls and I head upstairs for one last feeding, then straight to bed in their bassinet.  This feeding generally takes 45 minutes to an hour.  Pat comes up to transfer them to their bassinet to try to make it as smooth a transition as possible.  Then we go to bed too!  I try to line up their longest sleep with my own sleep time.  Pretty soon this feeding will transition to a dream feed as we will put the girls to real bed earlier.  They aren't ready for that yet though.

During the night they have settled in to only waking once or twice each.  Ali tends to wake around 3:30 and 5:30, Sammy around 4:30.  It sounds annoying to have them up so much, but I actually prefer to have them wake one at a time.  With one I can nurse lying down and still doze a little.  When they both wake up at the same time I have to either sit up awake and nurse them together, or Pat has to snuggle and calm one while I feed the other.  We had gotten down to one wake per girl, but I think they are gearing up for the 3 month growth spurt, because they are back up to two.

A note on the night feedings- now that the girls have gone til 2am or later pretty consistently we offer the pacifier if they wake up earlier than that.  If that doesn't help them sleep, then I will feed them.  I do this to make sure that I am feeding them because they are hungry, and not just because they are awake.  I used to worry about doing it this way, but my mom pointed out that if a baby is hungry they will keep fussing or cry.  They won't just go back to sleep, so you will know that they do indeed need to nurse.  But if they are just fussing they will go back to sleep and you won't create a wake up-eat association.  It worked really well with Ben and I think it is working with the girls as well.

That is our lives with the girls at 2 months.  Of course the exact times vary as the girls grow.  They are starting to be able to have more three hour stretches between meals in the morning.  Their naps are getting better as they get bigger, and their nighttime sleep is improving.  They have both slept through the night for about 8 hours!  This is not an every night occurrence, but sleeping through the night is defined as 6 hours, and they are both hitting that consistently.  Our lives are busy, and I want to point out not every day runs perfectly.  Naps don't go well, someone wants to eat more frequently, or nights don't go well.  But overall the girls are doing really well.  I love babywise because of the structure it gives us.  The girls are eating enough, as evidence by their growth.  They get enough rest.  They are happy girls and fun to be around!  I think the biggest way to help good behavior in kids is to have them full and rested.  I can tell when Ben is too tired by how his behavior deteriorates, and the same is true for the girls.  Their fussiest times come after being awake too long and when they are over stimulated.  Having a schedule takes a lot of guess work out of why my girls cry.  I know when they last ate and how long until they expect to eat again.  I know if they had a bad nap I need to really do what it takes to get them to sleep well the next nap.

Beyond good behavior in the kids, the schedule lets us get out!  We leave our house frequently during the week!  I am comfortable taking all three kids by myself, and most outings are successful.  I really think this is because they are all well rested and the girls are fed on a consistent schedule.  And now they can take a bottle sometimes, freeing us up even more!  Sure, some sacrifices need to be made.  But I know it is worth it.  I think Ben has transitioned to life with two more kids so well in large part because his needs are still being met.  The schedule lets us fit the girls into our lives, and we can make sure everyone gets most of what they need.

It isn't always easy to implement a schedule.  There is a lot to keep track of, but it is so worth it to have one in place.  I do want to emphasize for anyone reading this that just because this is the plan, it does not mean that every day runs perfectly!  Sometimes seeing a schedule can be stressful if we think we have to nail it every time.  Things go wrong, but having a schedule makes it much easier to get back on track when things go awry.  I hope seeing what our day looks like helps others figure out the best way to structure their own days.  And I hope people can see that schedules are possible, even with new born twins and a toddler.  It doesn't hold you back, it gives you the freedom to really enjoy your time and your children!
Every mom does it... we think too much. We worry about when our toddlers should be learning certain skills, etc. We all know not to compare children, but we sometimes do anyway. We all know that they are learning so much every day, even if they don't sit down and have focused learning sessions. We all know that they know so much more than they show us or can even begin to communicate to us. We all know.

I just inquired recently with another mom that has a 2.5 year old, as to when her son started showing that he understood his letters, colors, numbers, etc. She had just been explaining in a blog post about how her son really knew his letters well! The age difference between my almost 1.5 year old (16 months and a couple weeks) and a 2.5 year old is significant, but it still made me think...

Caroline and I rarely just sit and learn letters, colors, numbers and shapes. She is ON THE GO at all times and we hardly get to do any "learning". Focused learning that is. I know that she learns from me as I talk to her all day. And I know that I ask her to get the "orange ball" on the floor, so she is learning colors on the go. Colors and shapes get discussed a lot. Letters and numbers feel like they get overlooked. Although, now that I think about it they probably get brought up more than I give myself credit for.

When we are reading books, I tend to stop on each page and have her find objects. Lately, I focus a lot of my attention on colors. I ask her where the red flower is. 70% of the time she answers correctly! Does that mean she knows what red is? Or is it a coincidence? Same with yellow, blue, etc. Or does she just know that object to be called the "red flower" and has memorized it so? No one knows!

So after all of my thinking... I decided that once a day I want to sit for at least 5 minutes and focus all of her attention on letters, numbers, colors or shapes, and have more dedicated learning times incorporated into our day. While she is old enough that all she wants to do is run around and explore, she is also old enough for some dedicated learning times like we used to do when she wasn't as mobile! Today we did just that, and I was SO surprised!

I got out her alphabet book and sang the ABCs with her. I did this twice and each time pointed to each of the letters. It had been forever since we'd done this. I then said "Caroline, can you find the letter M? M for Mama." She pointed right to it without hesitation. OH MY GOSH MY DAUGHTER IS A GENIUS!!!! LOL

I pulled out my video camera and asked her again. Again she pointed to the letter M!! I asked her to find A for apple. She found A! She pointed to B when I asked her to find D for Daddy. And she had no idea what C for Caroline was. So, while she doesn't know all 26 letters yet.... she seems to know 2 of them! I still can't believe it. You'd better believe we will be doing this every day now, because that was just too exciting.

The lesson, however, is that she knows those letters from me reading to her, talking to her, and explaining things to her. NOT from me reciting the alphabet and pointing to letters- because those moments have been lost on us lately. She learned from listening and observing our every day play and every day conversation.

So to all the mamas that think too much on occasion like I do... You are doing a great job even if you haven't seen the results yet. Just when you start to wonder... they'll do something like point out an M out of 26  letters and be able to repeat it over and over... and it won't be a coincidence!
Our Learning Tower is a HUGE hit so far!!!

So I had heard the term learning tower and decided to look it up one day. Turns out a learning tower is what I would call an awesome kitchen stool- maybe I'd name it the kitchen helper! It is essentially a stool that has a rail so your toddler doesn't fall off. The safety feature is intriguing- especially if you want your toddler focused on a task other than "staying on the stool".

So, while I wish I had, I so did not invent this- got the basic idea from this blog. The learning towers that are pre-made are super expensive. We are talking $200! I was definitely not going to spend $200 on this project. We made this stool using the above directions, however, for MUCH less!

Start by purchasing the Ikea Bekvam Step Stool. Go to Ikea or to their website to do so. Do not try and buy the stool on amazon, as it is much more expensive. At Ikea, the stool is $14.99.

The blog listed above has very specific directions. We kept it a bit more casual and did measurements as we went.

The supplies we bought at home depot were as follows:

Poplar planks 1.5" x 1.5"

Poplar planks 1 x 3

3" Construction Screws

I assembled the Ikea stool and left the top board off so we could work with it and attach the 4 posts easily.

From the top of the stool to the top of our counters measured 16". So, we started by cutting the 1.5" x 1.5" planks into four 16" sections.

We then pre-drilled through the top of the stool and into the 4 posts. The next step was to attach the posts to the top of the board that I had left off of the stool with our construction screws.

You'll notice that our stool has side bars that we built in at the halfway point, and at the top. On the side, we used the 1.5" x 1.5" boards and put them in between the posts. We measured based on where the posts were going to be attached ahead of time (but you could also wait until this step and measure after the posts are attached for your 2 side pieces that are halfway up. Pre-drill through the posts and the 2 side boards, then attach with construction screws.

At that point we had 4 more boards to cut and place: the halfway point across the back, and the two sides and back braces at the very top of the stool. We waited to measure so we could get exact pieces (not everything went together perfectly square, so the cuts were not all the same). These need to be attached with slightly smaller screws since they are not going into the length of the post. We had some on hand that we used.

Once everything is screwed in, we attached the newly built section to the original stool with the provided bolts, we sanded the edges a bit by hand, and painted the newly built top section (since we purchased the stool in white from Ikea).

Our construction differs from the blog above in some of our measurements, and we left out the dowel on the front side of the stool. We decided it would be easier for her to climb in and out of the stool without that in place, and that there wasn't a huge need for it. We can always add another piece later, if we decide she needs the added safety.

Caroline loves her stool so far! She immediately tried it out and helped us wipe the counter down. The next morning, I had her help spread peanut butter on her toast. She also "helped" while I made lunch, by snacking on some cheese for our sandwiches. She loved that she could see everything that I was doing. And today, she buttered her grilled cheese (with mamas help, of course).

As she gets a bit older she is really going to enjoy helping out in the kitchen with clean up and cooking. We are making enchiladas tonight, so I plan to have her help sprinkle the cheese on! Hopefully she doesn't eat it all before we make everything! LOL

It's been awhile since I posted about a sensory activity. Not that we haven't done any- I just haven't kept up with formally writing about them! While Caroline's favorite sensory activity is going outside on nature explorations, I try and involve her with some creative indoor fun as well.

Now that she is old enough to not put EVERYTHING in her mouth (or at least understand the concept of "no mouth, please"), we have started doing more painting and drawing.

I set Caroline up in her booster seat at the table with the following materials:

- Press and seal covers the table and is easy for clean up!

- A paper plate works to hold paint for her

- Thick drawing paper to make her creations on (doesn't easily slide on the press and seal)

- Washable kids paint

- Foam paint brushes

 - Ikea play bibs

She is captivated for a short period of time, but she really enjoys it during that time. She carefully chooses the colors that she wants on her paper and then presses her paint brush onto the page in excitement. I've also shown her how she can use her hands to paint as well. She isn't a fan of getting messy at the moment, so she typically wants me to wipe the paint off as soon as it gets on her!

In addition to just giving Caroline a pen and paper, we've also found some great drawing "toys" that allow her to have even more fun! Unfortunately, these have not turned out to be on Caroline's favorite toy list, but she still enjoys them for a short period of time. It is so interesting to see what their interests are at such a young age. I've heard from other moms that their kids at the same age can spend an hour using these toys if they let them! I have a feeling Caroline will eventually really like these, but right now she's just more interested in running around!

I highly recommend both of these toys because they can be used safely at a pretty young age, are mess free or low mess, and as Caroline gets older she will still appreciate using these items in more challenging ways. A toy that can grow with them is always good!

Doodle pro
While this toy has some small magnetic parts on the side, it is still great for the young age of 1! We just took the shapes off and put them in a baggie if she is using the toy independently. This is an awesome mess free drawing tool and it doesn't matter if the pen goes in her mouth!

Doodle Magic
We just got this art set for her at 16 months of age. The drawing kit is super low mess. The markers wipe off of everything with just a tissue or water. It is great because we can take it on the go as well. I think this is going to be something we end up keeping in the car for those moments when we are out and need a distraction!

Sidewalk Chalk
Chalk is a great way to get outside, yet still involve your child in creative artwork. So far, Caroline is not at all interested. Noticing a theme? LOL My child doesn't seem to be the artist (not yet anyway). I still attempt, because their interests seem to change daily and you just never know what they will enjoy the next day! This activity is so inexpensive it is worth buying and having on hand for some extra fun!

So, as you can tell from above, we are trying to introduce art on a regular basis. Caroline isn't super interested in most of it, but she is slightly intrigued at the beginning of the activity. Just like their tastes change with food on a regular occasion, so can their interests. So, we will continue to make these activities accessible to her and offer up lots of artistic fun (just in case she decides she likes it one day). When she says she is done, however, we also clean up and end on a good note- we never force it! I just love exposing her to as much as possible!

I know that I am not, but today I seriously feel like a failure at all that is motherhood. I know to expect these days, but it doesn't make them any easier. I also know to remember that I am a great mom. I know to remember that feeling - that I am finally doing the right thing with my life- but OH. MY. GOSH.

My daughter is 16 months old. She understands most of what we say. She is independent and very opinionated. She is stubborn and passionate. She is easily distracted,  yet focused. She is curious. She is fearless, yet fearful. She is shy and outgoing. She is brave.

With all of this going on, she is raring to go! She wants to do something, then sees something else and gets sidetracked. She never forgets, though. She gets back to whatever it is that she originally wanted. She doesn't let things go easily.

She can't tell me these things though. She can't tell me her wants and her needs. She walks around whining and grunting and pointing. I ask her to talk and to show me. She tries. We are both patient with the fact that she can't relay her message, and that I can't understand it. It also eventually gets frustrating to both of us.

She screams and cries instant tears now. Sometimes I have no idea why because of the communication barrier. Sometimes I know exactly why, and my answer was and still is "no".

Lately, I feel like the entire day is made up of these crying/screaming fits. She gets angry. She has tried to bite me a couple of times in her rage. She pushes me away when I try to comfort her. She slaps my face, she throws objects she's holding, kicks, slams her face into things, and falls backwards hitting her head.

I try to protect her from hurting herself badly.
I try to not get angry.
I try to be understanding.
I try to empathize.
I try to explain what's ok and what's not ok.
I try to help her through it.
I try to give her the space she needs.

When she's better I show her how to say she's sorry; how to clean up her mess. I show her that together we can make it better. I kiss her head where she hit it on the ground. I try to find a balance of staying strong with discipline, yet helping her understand these new feelings.

Some days it doesn't go well.
The past few days have not gone well.
So much so, that I've tried going back to two naps. I am hoping that might help her. The more rested she is, the less likely she'll be to get so upset.

Today did not go well. It is only 2pm and there have been multiple moments of tears today. The most recent episode was horrible and it was all my fault.

Today I feel like a horrible mother because Caroline suffered due to my irrational fear.

It is Spring. It is the first really nice day today and all of the bees are out nesting. This means that I like to go into hibernation. I desperately wish I could be outside all of the time, but the reality is that the Spring is not my season. I hate bees/wasps/yellow jackets/etc. I have no reason. I am not allergic. I am not even afraid of getting stung. I just hate them. They are sporadic, unpredictable, and mean. I have an irrational fear and I know it is silly, yet there is nothing I can do about it.

Caroline asked to go outside today (like she does every day). I knew it would be hard on me, but I decided to get over it and go outside anyway. She should not have to suffer because of my fear. We love going outside and exploring. It is one of our favorite daily things to do! We did ok at first. We walked and explored. She started walking towards a bush that had bees all over it. I simply picked her up and we went in another direction. It was all good! They were buzzing by on occasion, but I was doing alright.

She wanted to go to the swings. There is a tree near by that is swarming with bees. "It's ok", I thought, "the bees will be focused on the flowers, not us". When we arrive at the swings, however, not only are there bees all over the tree...there are bees all over the swing area as well. There are yellow jackets, too! I saw a set of carpenter bees flying around smacking into one another, and at least 5 yellow jackets. My instinct was to get the heck out of there. Caroline didn't get to get in a swing this afternoon. I swooshed in, picked her up and rushed back home. I explained to her why we were going home. She seemed fine and wasn't upset. I just couldn't do it...not right now when the bees are everywhere.

Then I closed the door behind us. She screamed and cried and kicked and flailed and hit me and pushed me. I knew that all she wanted was to go back out. I couldn't do it. I apologized a million times. She wouldn't stop. I couldn't get her to do anything else. She was so mad at me. She cried. I cried. My heart sank. These days have been hard enough without this. All I ever want to do is make her happy, and all that would make her happy is to go to the swings- yet I can't do it.

Today I feel like a horrible mother.

Tomorrow is a new day. A new day to try and work through our communication issues together. A new day to teach her and help her say words. A new day to figure out how to get through these tantrums and bursts of emotion together. A new day to perhaps get over my irrational fear that I've had for 30+ years??? I hope so. I just don't know how. We'll figure these things out together, and we'll get through to the other side.

Hopefully the bees will settle down soon and we will have our normal outside explorations again. In the meantime, we will go outside first thing in the morning when the bees aren't out yet, and we will go outside every time it rains! LOL

As I write this, I realized that leap 10 of the Wonder Weeks was rapidly approaching the last I checked. I just checked again, and guess what I saw!?! Caroline is 1 day away from her leap according to the app. Dear Leap 10, WELCOME...